Monday, December 15, 2014

Aoleon The Martian Girl by Brent LeVasseur : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga - Part 1: First Contact, written and illustrated by Brent LeVasseur
CATEGORY:  Middle-Grade, 94 pages
GENRE: Science-fiction and Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Aoléon Press
RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2015

          Crop circles magically appear in Farmer Johnson’s field. A mysterious light sweeps over the night sky and awakens Farmer Johnson and Gilbert, the boy next door.
          Curious, Gilbert ventures out to discover the source of the light and stumbles into a beautiful Martian girl sitting in a crop circle. Farmer Johnson also investigates the strange light, and thinking that Gilbert and Aoléon are vandals, he chases them. But they sprint to Aoléon’s saucer and escape only to be pursued by the U.S. Air Force. 
          Gilbert has never been attacked by swarms of giant killer robots. Never met strange aliens from other worlds. Never skyboarded across a megalopolis hidden deep inside an extinct volcano. Never trekked across a vast Martian desert. And never been eaten alive by a gigantic slor (well, almost never, unless you count Billy the fat bully at school). 
          And luckily, he has never ever confronted an evil ruler of Mars bent on conquering the Earth to steal its cows.

          Never...until now! 
          This may be the adventure Gilbert always wished for.
          If only he can survive.

          Aoleon – The Martian Girl, is a science fiction novel written for and enjoyed by children. The story has everything in a story you would expect a sci-fi novel about Mars to have. There are your crop circles, the UFO and the blue skinned, antennae headed, large eyed Martian, Aoleon (a word resembling, Alien, for the uninitiated) and the tough sounding science terms. It is enjoyable for those who like science fiction novels.
          Aoleon is a novel rich in graphics and that is the most notable feature of the novel. Whenever there is a difficult to understand scene, or you just cannot visualise a character just right, there is a picture to help you bring the description to life. From the simple character of Gillian to the Martian, and the crops on earth to the modern Martian city images, these are vivid, 3D and littered throughout the book.
          A little girl from Mars, Aoleon, takes a high tech spaceship and enters the earth’s orbit, choosing a field in Nebraska, USA to create crop circles in a wheat field. The reasons for why she does that are interesting. Meanwhile, Gillian, a small boy with a troubled house gets repeated dreams of strange lights, Aliens in space suits and when he wakes up from these, he is disoriented and afraid.
          On seeing the strange lights one more time, he decides to follow the lights. Within minutes, he bumps into Aoleon, and they communicate in English. (Aoleon and her race are advanced enough to learn our language). But soon, another farmer, whose field Aoleon had just ‘vandalised’ chases them and they get into Aoelon’s spaceship (the size of a sports car) to escape. Aoleon takes him out of the earth’s orbit to Mars. They are chased by the USA military in a scene worthy of hi-fi military and spy movies.
          Evading authority, Aoleon smuggles Gillian into Mars and while she shows him around the place, he notices that Mars is a society dominated by Artificial Intelligence and it has plans to somehow steal all milk bearing cows of the earth and over power us. What happens next? Well, read part 2 of the story, soon to be released.
1.    Easily understandable story line.
2.    Good effort with graphics – helps children visualise better
3.    Interestingly worded – words are as good as the graphics used.
          On the other hand,
1.    The much beaten appearance of ‘Alien’, ‘Martian’ and spaceships are repeated
2.    The Premise that Martians are way more cleverer and are more advanced than us as a race (though that might be critical to the story)
3.    The fact that absolutely no aircraft from earth or highly trained military professionals can even come near to beating a little girl from Mars.
          A good read, given the fact that the book was advertised exactly as what it was. Expect a science fiction novel with lot of graphics and everything exactly as you would expect a novel about Martians to have – you won’t be disappointed.


Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

For more information about the book:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

From the streets of Kathmandu by Basu Rai : A Review

BOOK TITLE: From The Street of Kathmandu
ISBN: 9789382711407
AUTHOR: Basu Rai
GENRE: Non Fiction
FORMAT: Paper back
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK:  Review Copy from Vitasta Publishing.  Thank you guys!
SUMMARY : A little boy climbs down the stairs and runs out of his house. Most little ones do that. But this little boy has no one to stop him. He does not have a name. He only has the memory of a story his father has told him over and over again, from the time he was just six months old until his dying day, when the child was about four years old. It is the story of his father's love affair with his mother and betrayal.

From the streets of Kathmandu, this is the story of a child who names himself Basu Rai, and who travels the corridors of the world, takes part in the Global March against child labour and arrive finally in the country he identifies as his own—India.

Though Basu has found his country, his quest for family is not over. His search for identity begins with his book which maps the step by step progress of a reticent toddler from a well-to-do family through being a violent street child and a child labourer returning from the jaws of death several times, to his fights to go to school, being school captain and finally at 26, with the telling of his story in a book.

This is an inspirational story which tells about nurturing by a father. It is also a story that tells us here was a case for nurturing by the state, which was completely missing. It, instead, points to the loopholes in the systems in place, the social welfare systems, the education systems and the family systems that the subcontinent so boasts about but in reality, does not exist. It directs us to the vacuum children are often forced to grow up in. To get an enlightened and educated young citizen from nothing is nothing short of a miracle
Having worked with children with a horrible history in terms of upbringing, I can associate with Basu's story.Not all street kids who are placed into a rehabilitation center are as successful as Basu is. This is just not yet another story of an abandoned child. This is a rather inspiring tale of an innocence lost to the devils of the this world which certainly needs a bit more of compassion. 

Abandoned by his mother and left homeless after the death of his father, not even knowing his name, 4 year old innocent and sweet looking kid who names himself Basu Rai (after his parents' surname) survives the streets of Kathmandu, travels all over the world to represent kids bonded by labor and finally lands in Delhi. This story is the detailed account of this innocent child whose innocence is lost, thanks to the society. 

For someone who didn't have a formal education like a normal kid, the writer has come a long way. To put up a novel and narrate a story, be it a tale from imagination or be it an account of life experience, is not an easy task. I would be an oxymoron to point out the flaws of this books - which weren't exactly the unforgivable sort.

The narration was captivating to an extent, the slippages can be overlooked owing to a fact that it was conveying a very important message - A first-hand account of a street smart kid who survived the bad bad world. The language as expected was simple and filled with references of Hindi dialect. 

We do know of the cruelties that a street child is subjected to. Haven't we seen the poor little chai wala boy being bullied by the tea master or haven't we seen the little girl selling coloring books in traffic signals being harassed by commuters. What have we ever done about it? The story asked me that question. I am sure the writer didn't intend for that to happen, but his account of brutality endured by a small kid was so vividly narrated that I felt small in comparison. This book reinforced my sense of gratitude to god that I have a roof over my head, parents who adore me and 3 meals a day.
One thing that thoroughly surprised me is a fact that the writer, in  spite of being closely associated with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr.Kalish Sathyarthi, hasn’t taken one bit advantage of him for the publicity of his book. I guess even the publishers should also be given enough credit for not pushing that angle of publicity!

My only disappointment with this book would be the way that the writer ended it. Yes, I do understand the reason why the write might want to provide a luxurious life to children like him, but I feel providing them with education and skills that can make them a successful person is a higher act of morality.
VERDICT: Tear Jerker. Must Read. DOT.

RATING: 4 on 5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Er……that would point to the summary.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback , Kindle

PRICE: Rs.130 (Paperback)


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Swans Are Fat Too by Michelle Granas: A Review


BOOK TITLE: Swans Are Fat Too
AUTHOR: Michelle Granas
GENRE: Fiction - Romance
FORMAT: Digital
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Requested a review copy and the writer obliged. Thank you Michelle!

Natalia Lanska, formidable Polish pianist, is dead. No one is really sorrowing, except maybe her granddaughter Hania, whose own career as a concert artist never took off due to a terrible weight problem. Feeling unwanted, Hania arrives in Warsaw for the funeral hoping for a warm welcome from her relatives. Instead, they saddle her with their appalling children, decamp, and refuse to return. Hania’s situation is at first improved and then complicated when a neighbor--the very correct, very austere descendant of an old Polish family--asks her to proofread an amateur history project. Hania sets to work with a will, and Pan Doctor Prince Konstanty Radzimoyski is surprised when his ideas get more editing than he bargained for. Typing pages of the past, rediscovering her native city, and playing the piano all contribute to taking Hania’s mind off her problems, but can’t change her awareness that the children need help and that her growing attachment to her employer will only give her pain. The summer Hania spends between love, hostility, and the weight of history tests her resourcefulness, but her fresh ideas and readiness to carry on brighten the lives of her new acquaintances. Still, no one, least of all Hania herself, expects that her beautiful qualities will make Konstanty forget her figure and other excess baggage. 

This book contains a history of Poland in a nutshell and is about seeing beyond the conventions

The protagonist, Hania is an "healthy" ex-pianist who arrives in her homeland, Poland to attend the funeral of her Grandmother. Fate has other plans for her for her uncle has left his kids alone in his house thereby forcing Hania to baby sit them. Hania adapts to the situation and takes care of the kids until her uncle returns. Along the way she meets the much eligible bachelor Konstanty who happens to be a doctor by profession. Konstanty is on a project to write some history articles for his sister. He offers Hania the job of editing the articles he wrote for Hania is in search for a temporary job in Warsaw to keep her occupied. They find love in-spite of Hania's Excess Baggage. 

The writer taught me a good bit of Poland's history and architecture through Konstanty's history articles. It is apparent that the writer has done a good research. The whole Hania-Konstanty's courtship was written beautifully. It is very heart warming to read a tale where a man actually falls for a woman for her heart and intellect. Beauty plays more than a vital role in relationship, to look beyond beauty it takes immense maturity.The writer managed to drive home this point. 

The characterization was bang on. I loved Hania's characterization. In Spite of being overweight and clumsy she is confident in subtle ways and handles offensive comments patiently. Her character is an inspiration to people with low self esteem. The other thing that Hania taught me was patience. I don't think I would be as patient as Hania when she handled those kids.

The narration was perfect with an equal balance of emotions. The one thing that I loved was the wry humor.Not many writers attempt that owing to its very nature, but this writer managed to get it right. 

There are a couple of things that could have been handled better - The history articles and Teen pregnancy. The history articles sort of pulled down the narration midway. They could have been accompanied by pictures or may be could have been written in a better way. Teen pregnancy is a rather sensitive issue that needs to be handled with care. They is a huge scope for emotional maneuvering. I felt the writer didn't make good use of that ground. 

A epilogue in the end continuing the subtle romance between Hania and Konstanty could have worked wonders. 

VERDICT: It's worth a read - but only for slow romance lovers. Not for those "instant romance" lovers who can't appreciate the beauty of proper courtship

RATING: 4 on 5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Granas was born in Alaska and lives in Warsaw. In addition to writing novels, she works as a translator, including for UN and EU bodies, past and current presidents and prime ministers, and various Nobel nominees. She is happy to receive friend requests or correspondence.
PRICE: Rs.59.00


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Scandalous Proposition by M.M.George : A Review


BOOK TITLE: A Scandalous Proposition
ISBN: 1927826039
AUTHOR: M.M.George
GENRE: Fiction - Romance
FORMAT: Digital
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review Copy from Indireads in exchange for an honest review. Thank you guys!
SUMMARY: “What is your price, Mira?”
“You’ll never be able to afford it!”
Feisty, small-town girl Mira Talwar is just finding her feet in Delhi when she encounters the hottest bachelor in the country, Ranbir Dewan. The sparks flying between them sizzle with sexual tension, but when Ranbir puts a scandalous proposition before her, she turns him down spiritedly.
However, they have to work together to engineer a happy ending for their siblings, who have fallen madly in love but are too afraid to tell their respective families. The plan they cook up throws them more and more into each other’s company.
Can Mira overlook Ranbir’s indecent proposal and give love a chance?
A hot tempered sharp mouthed spicy middle class girl and a suave classy millionaire - throw both characters together in an Indian setting and La! you have a spicy romance. 
Ranbir, our super hot protagonist is this well mannered cultured guy on the outside but is quite the opposite.Being a millionaire, he is this Alpha male who can't take no for an answer. Sparks fly when he first meets Mira, our "just landed from a small town" girl. He comes up with a scandalous proposition to bed Mira "to get her out of his system". He obviously knows suggesting that to Mira would be akin to go searching his own doom. 
Mira, who is also attracted to Ranbir tries to keep her emotions in check for she has a fair idea that the mutual attraction is merely physical. Fate has other plans for her when she is forced to live under the same roof as Ranbir and his family. 
The narrative was racy and laced with humor. The tirade between Ranbir and Mira has me in splits. But then the writer has overused those traditional cheesy romantic clinches which ended up eclipsing the well written characters and dialog. This is certainly not the book for people who like serious romance. This book is akin to that instant coffee which gives you a zing and a jolt. Nothing beautiful about the romance or the relationship between characters.
The one thing that ticked me off is the overuse of clinches and the lack of a proper reasoning for Ranbir's commitment phobia. 
VERDICT: Pick up this book if you prefer some instant spicy and humors romance. Not for the classic romance Lovers
RATING: 3 on 5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mimmy Jain lives in London with her husband. For the moment. Never too hot on planning, she lives in the now, here, this. Fate, or God as most of us know it, has plans and they usually win over her most carefully conceived travel routes in life, so she decided early on to go with the flow.
Mimmy was a journalist in New Delhi and has worked with mainstream publications such as The Economic Times, The Financial Express, Mint, Down To Earth and The Times of India. Editing has always been her first love and, in 2003, when she’d got high enough up on the ladder to be pushing paper more than actually editing, she quit full-time journalism to set up her own editorial consultancy, Age of Aquarius. Since her move to London in 2010, in pursuit of a PhD for her husband, Saachi, she has been editing articles for academic journals published by Taylor & Francis.
Mimmy turned novelist recently. Well, she was always writing, as this blog proves. But now she’s got a new avatar, M M George. M M George’s first e-romance, A Scandalous Proposition, was published recently by, a hot new website for South Asian romance. And her second romance is half-way to finding its happy ending. More on that later!
PRICE: $3.49


Monday, December 1, 2014

Butterfly Season By Natasha Ahmed : A Review


BOOK TITLE: Butterfly Season
AUTHOR: Natasha Ahmed
GENRE: Fiction - Romance
FORMAT: Digital
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review Copy from Indireads in exchange for an honest review. Thank you guys for the book!
SUMMARY : On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.
Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny
A story about/set in my warring neighbor country - Pakistan never fails to pique my interest. After all, Pakistan was supposed to be a part of my own country and from what I have read and heard our cultures aren't different, yet there is subtle difference. To me, that subtle difference is beautiful. The writer has woven her story around the cultural mindset of the Pakistani culture. 

The story opens with the protagonists Rumi and Ahad having a friendly banter about Karachi along with Rumi's friends Mahira and her husband. Mahira is apparently trying to set up Rumi with Ahad, just like a normal best friend would. Love eventually blossoms between them, but that have a huge price owing to the so called perception of culture by certain narrow minded individuals.Do they find themselves? Read the story to know that!

Being from India I could relate to the though process and culture that initially binds our protagonist. It is no big secret that the concept of dating is still frowned upon from the society that I come from.  The writer has beautifully portrayed Rumi's initial hesitation to get into a physical relationship. At one point in the story I could relate so much to Rumi's character for I also live amongst people with the same thought process in spite of being educated. Not that there is anything wrong with that line of thought. For example, pre-marital sex is a taboo. This stigma according to me was created so that women wouldn't be exploited by men who simply lusted after them. Every taboo/rule that a society imposes, according to me has a logical reason which is seldom thought upon.But at times flouting these rules for a wholesome good shouldn't be labeled as being rebellious. 
The characterization was perfect. It is evident that the writer is a big fan of Rumi. The writer also managed to convey all emotions perfectly. I could almost imagine the expressions of Rumi! 
The language with simple though few native Urdu words were infused in the story to make it sound a bit more realistic. 
VERDICT: Nice Light Feel Happy read!
RATING: 4 on 5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natasha Ahmed is a pen name. In real life, Natasha is a graphic designer, a businesswoman and occasionally writes art and book reviews for publications within Pakistan. 

She works in a small office at home, not far from Sea View, Karachi. From a tiny window, she can see the Arabian Sea sparkling in the distance, and small fishing boats trawl up and down the water throughout the day. When she’s not writing books, she’s dreaming of setting sail towards the horizon and never looking back. Great adventure, she believes, starts with great daring.

Butterfly Season is her first novella, though not, she hopes, her last.
PRICE: Rs.213

Friday, November 28, 2014

Interview with RV Raman : Author of Fraudster

          Author RV Raman, author of the crime thriller, Fraudster, opens up to Readers’ Muse in this interview. We @ Readers’ Muse thank the author for his candid answers that tells us a little more about the man who created such memorable characters. We thank you for your insightful answers, sir!
1. Please tell us a little about yourself (preferably something that is not in your goodreads Profile!)
There is so little to say …
I used to be an ardent follower of cricket, with India and the West Indies being my favourites. A minor dream was fulfilled when I watched test cricket at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica (I went on to watch many more matches there).
I’ve had the good fortune to have travelled widely and seen different cultures. I’ve also had the ill fortune to have had my car hijacked, not once, but twice.
2. What was the basis for writing Fraudster? Was there a specific event or a group of events that was your inspiration?
Fraudster was an experiment with two objectives:
First, I wanted to see if I could come up with something that would go down well with Indian readers. My earlier attempt at another genre (epic fantasy) had found favour with some global readers. I then wanted to write something very Indian.
Second, I saw a gap in the crime fiction genre – few people write novels with the core in corporate India. And those who do are a generation younger than me. In my writing, I wanted to offer a more tenured perspective of the temptations and challenges in the corporate world.
No, Fraudster was not inspired by any specific group or event. I chose banking for my first novel as it is perhaps the easiest arena to showcase varied motivations, and to construct a white-collar crime. On the one hand, you have upright, incorruptible people like Visht and Subbu. And on the other, you have opportunistic men driven by greed.
3. Of the characters of Fraudster, who is your favourite and why?
Varsha. Had I had a daughter, I would have liked her to be something like Varsha.
4. Which character was the most difficult to frame/ create?
Ranade. For one, I don’t know any police detectives, and my perspective of these guys is entirely based on novels set in the western world. All the other characters are quite common in the corporate world – the kind, upright Visht; the caring but no-nonsense Subbu; the helpful IT support geek in Ashwin, the lecherous middle-manager in Vincent Shain; and a bright, vivacious girl in Varsha.
5. For someone with your experience in this field, how easy or difficult was writing Fraudster?
While the basic elements of content were not new, assembling them into a credible crime and an industry-wide scam took some doing. I found that writing crime fiction requires a lot more rigour and care than epic fantasy does. Multiple components and several causal chains of events have to fit seamlessly and credibly. I didn’t want an informed banker or corporate executive discovering logical flaws.
6. I had a really good time reading the book. For a computer enthusiast who is interested in reading fast paced thrillers, Fraudster was a really engaging read. But I couldn’t really classify it in one genre. It was too realistic to be fiction (of course it was fiction, this is a compliment!) How would you classify your book, and why?
I see it as a combination of a mystery and a thriller. The first murder is a classic locked room mystery, and the rest of it is a thriller. The blurb focusses on the thriller element.
7. What is your writing habit? In calm and silent environments or even the hustle and bustle of traffic?
I need a good measure of calm to write and edit, and the mind must be free of cares. But formulating scenes and events can be done anywhere. I find that walking promotes imagination and non-linear thinking. I tend to do a lot of my thinking on my feet.
8. Are there any plans for a future book? What more can we expect from you, sir? We’re eager in that regard.
I am in the midst of the next novel, which is set in the Indian stock market. As a computer enthusiast, you will find the core crime a little more IT driven (more than just Blackberry and email).

Now a set of short rapid fire questions for you, sir!
Favourite classic book: The Three Musketeers
Favourite authors: Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle, JRR Tolkien, PG Wodehouse
Books that influenced you: The Foundation Trilogy, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Lord of the Rings, The Four Just Men
Top five books on your bookshelf (it might even be related to your profession!):
1.    The Golf Omnibus by PG Wodehouse
2.    The Complete Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister
3.    The Complete Sherlock Holmes
4.    The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
5.    The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
Classics or modern literature? Either, depending on the mood.
What is your opinion on the books that come out these days as compared to classics? I read to get away from the misery that surrounds me, not contemplate it further. I find that modern literary fiction depresses me. But I still do read some of it.
What do you do to unwind (other hobbies): An evening out with friends, or I read.
Something that ticks off your nerves immediately: Duplicity.
Your advice to young authors? I am a rookie myself. I can’t advise others. What I tell myself is to write for the pleasure of it, not for fame or fortune.

 About the Author:

Over a career spanning three decades and four continents, RV Raman advised several banks, financial institutions and corporates on various matters. He has now turned to writing fiction set in corporate India, based on his insights and observations.

Having moved away from full-time roles, he now teaches business strategy at an IIM, mentors young entrepreneurs, advises select clients and writes.
Tired of extensive physical travel around the world, he now prefers less punishing mental excursions into fictional worlds of his own creation. He lives in Chennai.
Fraudster is his first corporate thriller, and is available in most book stores including Flipkart & Amazon.