22 April, 2019

#SpecialFeature :: #GuestPost - Written Words - The Past and The Present by Ruchi Singh


*** Special Feature - April 2019 ***

About the Book:
Someone wants Vikramaditya Seth Jr. dead. 

He refuses the Z+ security option offered by the government. With too many variables trust is hard to come by…

Esha Sinha prepares for her first assignment outside of active army service, oblivious to the fact that she has to baby-sit a man who has no respect for rules or protocol—a man who is headstrong, workaholic and a tenacious flirt. As the attraction between Vikram and Esha simmers and sizzles, another attempt is made on his life. 

The killer is resourceful and determined. 
The motive is unclear and perplexing.

Will they be able to nab the assassin before he gets to Vikram?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Written Words - The Past and The Present


As far as I remember, I have always been reading… and reading a lot. My mother used to threaten that she would burn the books one day, and my husband is still jealous of the time I spend with them.

When I look back at my reading history I realize I have always loved fiction, be it any genre; romance, suspense, crime, mythology, fantasy or a mix of any of these. It has fueled my imagination and entertained me immensely. 

Major contributors and influencers have been my school library and my father’s collection. I read both in English and Hindi.

The magic must have been in the air when I found Nancy Drew ‘The Mystery of 99 steps’. Though I don’t remember the entire story, I can still feel the lingering euphoria when the mystery was solved. Nancy Drew was my first mystery/ suspense heroine. 

The second wave of magic weaved its spell when I issued Georgette Heyer’s ‘The Reluctant Widow’ from the senior library, which was the only novel in the library apart from classics. With Lord Carlyon the handsome hero and Miss Rochdale a courageous heroine, I was hurled into the world of adventure, suspense, and romance, in that order. 

I was addicted!

When there were no books available I read Daphne Du Maurier, Prem Chand’s novels in Hindi, from my father’s collection, and ChandraKanta Santati (the first fantasy series for me).

As the time went by I came across two authors Jeffery Archer (Prodigal Daughter) and Frederick Forsyth (Day of Jackal) and read all the books published by them wherever I could lay my hands on them. I came to realize I am loyal to one author at a time.

So, after my reading affair ended with the above two, the sequence of my author-fan phase went something like this; Mario Puzo, Ayn Rand, Robert Ludlum (great writer), Sydney Sheldon, John Grisham, Harry Potter series, Dan Brown, Judith McNaught, Meg Cabot (courtesy my daughter) Georgette Heyer, Nora Roberts, … the list is endless.

As I switched to the other side without any credentials (I am an IT professional) and won a few story contests, I realized storytelling came naturally to me. When I began to get good reviews for the novels too I knew its all because of my multi-genre reading spree. And the credit goes to the authors who have showed me how to weave a motion picture with words. I salute them on this day for painting such a rich story-world for me to absorb, learn and put the knowledge to my writing.

Needless to say, I strongly believe a person who wants to be a good author has to read a lot. The knowledge on pacing and structuring of a story comes only with reading good stories, thereby getting to know the nuances of storytelling.

The power of written words is to fire up the imagination of a reader, and that is what I plan to do with my stories and novels.

And read I will…

Till we meet next…



About the Author:
Author of the bestselling romantic thriller ‘The Bodyguard’, Ruchi Singh is an IT professional turned novelist. Her other published novels are ‘Take 2’, ‘Jugnu (Firefly)’ and the recent one ‘Guardian Angel’ a spin off from ‘The Bodyguard’. Winner of TOI Write India Season 1, Ruchi has also published short stories under the collection, ‘Hearts and Hots', besides being a contributing author to many anthologies.

A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is 'romantic thriller'. She has also reviewed many contemporary works of authors. The reviews are published on her website www.ruchisingh.com

Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling in Indian classical dance forms.

Contact the Author:




Giveaway:

  • Rs. 250/- Amazon Gift Card + Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the first lucky winner
  • Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the second lucky winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway

19 April, 2019

#BookReview :: The Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin #1) by M.C. Beaton

Putting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry--but falls over dead! After her quiche's secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner's tag on her toe… 


Goodreads * Amazon


I was introduced to M.C. Beaton and her protagonist Agatha Raisin when I received a review copy of ‘The Blood of an Englishman (Agatha Raisin #17) from Hachette India couple of years back. I am slightly biased towards stories small town murder mysteries thank to my early love for Miss Marple and Agatha Christie’s story telling. I took to the series very quickly.

The Quiche of Death introduces M.C. Beaton’s protagonist to the world. Agatha Raisin is a middle aged lady who had a high flying career in public relations. After selling off her business and her flat in London, she decides to retire early to a quaint old town of Carsley in Cotswold. Life in the village of Carsley turns out to be something she hadn’t been prepared for. When the village prepares for a baking contest, Agatha Raisin, who hasn’t baked a single thing in her life, decides to enter the contest. Winning the contest would bring her popularity among her fellow neighbors. Or so she thought! When the contest judge keels over dead… she realizes that there was a secret ingredient in her Quiche – Poison!

There’s murder, there’s village drama and there’s a love interest for Agatha Raisin. This cozy mystery offers up a lot of funny and dramatic moments for its readers. The dynamics of the small village where everybody knows everybody else’s business was interesting to read about. The local gossip mills turns the investigation cycle all around and Agatha Raisin ends up solving the murder purely by luck – or that is what her friends believe.

What I found endearing was the fact that Agatha had a highly successful career in Public Relations. She can work wonders for her clients. But when it comes to her personal life, she is in hot soup with the villagers of Carsley. A woman who is used to the busy life of London and getting things done her way, she is at loss at building connections in the place she now calls home. As she investigates the case, not once does she pretend to be a qualified detective. Instead she stumbles upon clues and fumbles across facts of the case. 

The plot itself is simple. The narrative, the characters, the setting and the delivery of information makes it interesting. It is a well balanced book where each aspect of the book plays an important role in shaping it up. A quick and witty read that you would want to read on a leisurely afternoon with a glass of ice tea.


This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z


18 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts by Anuja Chandramouli


Prithviraj Chauhan was destiny's chosen one, singled out for glory and greatness. During the course of an extraordinary life, he transcended the limits imposed on mortals and achieved Godlike luster. The conquering hero dreamed of a united land where peace prevailed over war and love over hate.

Princess Samyukta loved him from afar, and when Prithviraj Chauhan claimed her for his own, defying the wrath of an implacable foe, their happiness was complete. Victorious in love and war, Prithviraj Chauhan was soon to discover that success came with a terrible price - trouble, treachery and tragedy. What happened next? Read the tale of the legendary warrior who lives on in the hearts of those who remember his unmatched valor and timeless heroism. 



Goodreads * Amazon


Prithviraj Chauhan is a historical name that I knew very little about before I picked up this book. Though yes, Prithviraj and Samyukta’s story is a well known one.

The book begins with a scene where the kingdom is anticipating the birth of a royal baby. Would it be an heir to the throne? And the author has us hooked from the word get go. We see how Prithviraj grows up and the education and training that he gets. The life lessons that he learns comes from all quarters and the inherent quality that he has of attracting people to him is undeniable from a young age.  He is charismatic and he is brave. The tales of his heroic acts spread through the land and a young Samyukta falls in love with Prithviraj from those tales. Then they meet and Prithviraj is smitten at first glance. Little do they know that their lives are going to change forever… There is love and there is treachery and betrayal too. 

I cannot say this enough and if you have read more than one of my reviews of Anuja’s books, this may feel a bit repetitive. But Anuja can sure tell a story in a way that entertains her readers to the fullest. The book tells us of the life of this charming and fascinating king who belonged to the Chahamana Dynasty.  The book only covers his life, but also covered the lives of all those who influenced him in some way or the other. While the romance of Prithviraj and Samyukta plays a crucial role in the story, it is not the author’s main point of focus as she has told the whole story of the short but eventful life of Prithviraj Chauhan.

This book offers a good look into the political and cultural situation of the times and it wouldn’t surprise many readers to know that not much has changed in our core values when it comes down to it. Whether it’s the character of Someshvara, his father, or Karpuradevi – his mother or Kanchanadevi – his grandmother; through each of them, the author has painted a picture that is hard to overlook. And the influence that it had on Prithviraj is undeniable too. Karpuradevi made for an interesting character with shades of grey. 

Overall, the book is a refreshing take on our history. It is both informative and entertaining. It is clear that the author has taken certain liberties at place, but for most parts she has stuck to historical facts. If you love historical fiction, do give this book a try!


Review Copy received from the Author

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z


17 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Obsessed by Ruchi Kokcha




Investigative journalist Avik has finally found the one case that could bring him glory. Or death. As the mystery behind millionaire Kalki Rajput's murder grows thicker, Avik is forced to risk it all to bring out the truth that has eluded many before him. If only he could uncover what the victim's daughter had witnessed. Of course, that would mean diving into the depths of her madness. He had thought he could resurface with the truth. Now he will count himself lucky if he makes it out alive. And sane.


Goodreads * Amazon





Investigative journalist by profession, Avik is still struggling at a professional level. He thinks he has caught a break when millionaire Kalki Rajput is found murdered. He has a chance to work closely with the victim’s daughter Ananki who was a witness to the murder. Sounds, simple, right? Only Ananki is not all there and she is someone whom the world calls mad. Retrieving the information of what she has witnessed is tougher than what maybe Avik can handle. 

There are two aspects of the book that I really liked. I loved the character portrayal of the two main characters – Avik and Ananki. Avik, as the protagonist, is someone we should be championing for. Yet the shades of grey in his character are so dark at places that it is difficult to really care for or about him. He has next to no care for anyone other than himself. The way he treats people is simply gross. And he has some demons of his own. Ananki on the other hand made more sense to me. Crazy as it sounds, the ‘mad’ character is more coherent and logical at times. It made me think of the world that we live in.  Second is the psychological element of the book. It is what kept me turning the pages. From the way each character is portrayed to the theme of the plot, the psychological elements kept me going.

While the characters kept the book going, there was little else that gave me a reason to turn the pages. The narrative was tedious to keep up with and it got really boring mid-way. I had to put down the book at one point. It is only my weakness of not wanting to leave a book unfinished and the pull of Ananki that ultimately kept me going.  The climax was quite a letdown as well.

Would I recommend this book? That is a difficult one to answer… Maybe if you can borrow it from a library or a friend, then yes. I wouldn’t recommend this one to be a part of your book buying binge at all.


Review Copy received from Harper Collins India

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z



16 April, 2019

#BookReview :: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry




Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life.




Goodreads * Amazon




I read this book between The Diary of Lena Mukhina by Lena Mukhina and my re-read of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I also read all the three books in a span of seven to ten days. Needless to say, things got really depressing for me for a while. Each of these books is tough to read and they make you think and feel. Reading all three within that short span of time wasn’t a good idea at all.

In Number the Stars, Lois Lowery tells us the stories of a ten year old girl, Annemarie and her best friend Ellen set during the World War II.  Annamarie lived in Copenhagen and Nazi soldiers marching through town was a common thing. The story continues to tell how Annamarie and her family help Ellen escape to Sweden in order to avoid the concentration camps. 

The book is written for a younger audience and it is very evident in the author’s narrative style. The book is basically a look into the Second World War through the eyes of a ten year old. As the voice of Annemarie is clear and vibrant, it just makes it a tad bit more difficult for the readers when they realize the enormity of the situation that no ten year old should have to face. It is sad and hopeful at the same time because the combination of Annemarie’s bravery and innocence wins over the readers. It is so inspiring at places.

“Outside, she knew, the sky was speckled with stars. How could anyone number them one by one, as the psalm said? There were too many. The sky was too big.”

Unlike The Diary of a Young Girl, this book offers a happily ever after partly. So, the outlook of the book is more hopeful than anything else. Lois Lowry has painted pictures with her words as always. It was a complete pleasure to read this book.

I cannot stop wishing that I had read this book as a kid. I wonder what I would have taken away from the book if I had. Would I have caught on to the nuances of the story? Would I have been as horrified or would I be only curious about how the smell of cocaine numbs the dogs’ sense of smell? I recommend this book very highly – to both kids and adults.

If you have read this book both as a kid and as an adult, tell me the difference in your reception of the book.


This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z




15 April, 2019

#BookReview :: My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories by Ashok K. Banker

An eclectic collection of short stories inspired by mythology, fantasy, sci-fi and the paranormal.

A bag travels the universe looking for evil, bigoted civilizations to consume. The machinations of a dark and terrible goddess lead to unexpected outcomes. A girl child is married off in a technologically advanced dystopic world steeped in prejudice and intolerance. A desperate mother tries to bring her children back to nature from a digital existence.

In each of these stories and more, Ashok Banker assaults the senses through shock and awe. Exploring overarching themes of love, feminism, equality and social justice, these eleven refreshingly original works of imagination are powerful, dark and haunting.

Published in a collection for the first time in India, the tales are macabre yet stunning, honest parables of our world.


Well, I have to admit that I was taken aback by the title of the book. It sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? At the same time, it is sure to get your attention too. 

There are 11 stories in the book where each story is different from the other. Yet they are connected by the bizarreness. The author touches upon different genres of mythology, religion, history, sci-fi, dystopia, fantasy and satire to bring together these 11 stories that simply blow your mind. The very first story of the book is the title story of ‘My Father Drank My Lover’ which combines historical and mythological elements and deals with the Ausras and Devas. After finishing each story my thoughts were that of how could the author possibly top this one. And each time I was taken by surprise. My favourite stories in the collection have to be Tongue and Blood Mangoes.

The USP of the book has to be the way the author has reflected the realities of our world through pure and tangible fiction. It is a book that will feed your mind with each story and then put it to work. None of the messages are delivered in an ‘in-your-face’ manner even though they are very clear. Stories that highlight the way our society looks at women made me smirk through them because it actually highlights the ridiculousness of the thought process of the society that we live in. 

There is no doubt that Ashok Banker is a master story teller after delivering a number of best sellers. But through this book he reminds us how a master storyteller can tell a fantastical story that everyone can relate to if they are being honest.

An engrossing collection of stories that are must read for people who like meaningful stories and for people who appreciate a masterful story telling style. It will make you keep wanting for more.


Review Copy received from Pan Macmillan India

This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z



#SpecialFeature :: Read a #DeletedScene from The Bodyguard by Ruchi Singh


*** Special Feature - April 2019 ***

About the Book:
Someone wants Vikramaditya Seth Jr. dead. 

He refuses the Z+ security option offered by the government. With too many variables trust is hard to come by…

Esha Sinha prepares for her first assignment outside of active army service, oblivious to the fact that she has to baby-sit a man who has no respect for rules or protocol—a man who is headstrong, workaholic and a tenacious flirt. As the attraction between Vikram and Esha simmers and sizzles, another attempt is made on his life. 

The killer is resourceful and determined. 
The motive is unclear and perplexing.

Will they be able to nab the assassin before he gets to Vikram?


Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon


Deleted Scene from The Bodyguard:



September
Alibaug, Mumbai suburbs

The elegant bungalow with red-tiled, sloping roof, buzzed with silent energy. There was anticipatory alertness amongst the uniformed guards and elegant servants, going about their duties. 

In the unlikeliest event of anyone getting a glimpse inside the premises, they would notice the guards outnumbered the servants. One would also rule out a family function or a festival, for there were no brightly clad, happy children running around or stylish ladies hurrying about looking important. No music played in the background, and no one could hear any bustle of gay conversation. The two Dobermans, though leashed, patrolled the premises with their handlers.

The owner of the bungalow could be seen chain smoking his health away, in one of the back bedrooms overlooking the beach. Perfect rings of Marlboro smoke floated and faded in the darkened room. A tall man, he stood with his legs slightly apart, in front of the bay window gazing at the sea swirling with evening currents, oblivious of the cigarette ash ruining the expensive Persian carpet. 
Vikramaditya Seth, known as Aditya Seth, carrying the same name as his father's, carrying the same burdens as his father's with consummate aplomb after the old man's death, eight months back. Today's meeting was a culmination of his father's efforts and desire to serve his country and contribute towards a better tomorrow. 

He groundout the cigarette on hearing the hum of a powerful machine.

Seth Industry's helicopter bearing its elegant logo landed on the helipad located between the landscaped gardens, breaking the fragile silence of the farmhouse as the evening sun merged with twilight dusk. In accordance to pre-choreographed steps, someone switched on the living room and front porch lights. The guest and his entourage of three men in black suits stepped out flanking him under their shadow, for he was a small dignified man, in his sixties. 

Aditya Seth stepped from the shadow of the porch as the old man reached the end of the paved pathway. They shook hands and he escorted the guest into the recessed living room of the bungalow.
They remained inside for not more than fifteen minutes, enough time to share a drink and the old man left as he had come. Someone switched off the porch lights and the villa plunged into the dark once again as though the past hour was a figment of one's imagination. 

One could hear the sea roaring in solitude and occasional barking of the unleashed canines.


* * * *

About the Author:
Author of the bestselling romantic thriller ‘The Bodyguard’, Ruchi Singh is an IT professional turned novelist. Her other published novels are ‘Take 2’, ‘Jugnu (Firefly)’ and the recent one ‘Guardian Angel’ a spin off from ‘The Bodyguard’. Winner of TOI Write India Season 1, Ruchi has also published short stories under the collection, ‘Hearts and Hots', besides being a contributing author to many anthologies.

A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favourite genre is 'romantic thriller'. She has also reviewed many contemporary works of authors. The reviews are published on her website www.ruchisingh.com

Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling in Indian classical dance forms.

Contact the Author:




Giveaway:

  • Rs. 250/- Amazon Gift Card + Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the first lucky winner
  • Kindle Copy of The Bodyguard to the second lucky winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 April, 2019

#BookReview :: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich - they're the only ones worth stealing from - but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

Together their domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it's a city of shifting revels, filthy canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemeteries. Home to Dons, merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples, and feral children. And to Capa Barsavi, the criminal mastermind who runs the city.

But there are whispers of a challenge to the Capa's power. A challenge from a man no one has ever seen, a man no blade can touch. The Grey King is coming.

A man would be well advised not to be caught between Capa Barsavi and The Grey King. Even such a master of the sword as the Thorn of Camorr. As for Locke Lamora ...


“There's no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.” 

I picked up this book on recommendation from a very trusted source. Though it was a recommendation, all I was told about the book was that it was something that I may like. So, when I picked it up, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from it.

Locke was mentored by ‘Thiefmaker’ very early in his life. But soon the pupil became more than what the mentor could handle and was passed onto ‘Father Chains’, a blind priest. Needless to say, Father Chains is not a mere priest but is the leader of ‘Gentleman Bastards’ group. This group operates in the underground as a group of menial thieves who earn their living mainly by pick pocketing. Capa Barsavi is the equivalent of a don in the criminal underworld of Camorr and the ‘Gentleman Bastards’ pay their tribute as the minor players that they are known to be. The thing is, they are not what they seem to be… especially under Locke’s leadership, they plan and execute intricate con jobs that are usually attributed to the ‘Thorn of Camorr’. But things are about to change as Capa Barsavi has a challenger in The Grey King, a man no one has seen and lived to tell the tale. With the underworld and the Secret Peace threatened, The Grey King threatens everything including the way of life in Camorr. Will the Thorn of Camorr be enough to stop The Grey King? 

The world setting is the most fantastical thing about this book. The author has woven in fantasy into the setting with a number of threads. A lot of things are shown and some are only hinted at. I did wish that a little more of the fantasy elements were utilized in the plot and that probably is the only point I can nit-pick about in this book. Those elements that were introduced in the world setting were barely used leaving me to believe that maybe they have been set up for the rest of the series. 

The characterizations were absolutely perfect. The main characters in the book are that of the group of Gentleman Bastards, Capa Barsavi and The Grey King. The author has developed these characters in a way to optimize their personalities and their roles in the story. I loved the characters of Locke and Jean the most, followed by Bug and The Grey King. The author has also put in some kick ass secondary characters whose part in the story line is undeniable.  I would also like to take a moment to mention the representation of women in the book that’s the first in a series titled ‘Gentleman’ Bastards. Granted that they are not very well represented in the primary set of characters, but there are some secondary characters that are amazing and it is made clear that the city of Camorr is basically run by some very powerful and influential women. 

The author language and narrative style is just perfect. Having finished the book, I cannot imagine it being told any other way. The narrative jumps timelines – one in the present, and another to give us the back stories of the important characters. The best part of the book is that Scott Lynch has managed to pack in some twists that even I could not predict! It is a complete roller-coaster with shifting allegiances and ever adjusting course of action.

I am looking forward to picking up the second in the series and in the meantime I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, thrillers and are fans of a good story telling style.



This post is a part of A to Z Challenge and BlogchatterA2Z