Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson : A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Christmas Wedding

ISBN: 9780316097390
AUTHOR: James Patterson
GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: A friend lent me this promising a good read!
          The tree is decorated, the cookies are baked, and the packages are wrapped, but the biggest celebration this Christmas is Gaby Summerhill's wedding. Since her husband died three years ago, Gaby's four children have drifted apart, each consumed by the turbulence of their own lives. They haven't celebrated Christmas together since their father's death, but when Gaby announces that she's getting married--and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day--she may finally be able to bring them home for the holidays. 
          But the wedding isn't Gaby's only surprise--she has one more gift for her children, and it could change all their lives forever. With deeply affecting characters and the emotional twists of a James Patterson thriller, The Christmas Wedding is a fresh look at family and the magic of the season.
          When you are used to reading gory thrillers from an author famous for them, a normal, mellow book comes as a surprise. So it is with mild apprehension that I took up this emotional book by James Patterson famous for his Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club books. But as is true with any author, only the words and the knack for story telling matter. And of course, James Patterson has the hang of it!
          Gaby, a fifty four year old mother of four, decides to marry again after the death of her husband three years ago. She decides to coincide her wedding with Christmas. Gaby proceeds to send the news to her four children as video logs. These have been written well and are endearing as well as getting on the nerves sometimes. Typical James Patterson protagonist.
          What gets on the readers nerves? The fact that there will be a wedding, but the groom will be revealed at the altar only. There are three suitors, somehow related to/ friendly with Gaby and known to all four of her children. The guessing game continues in line with the lives of all the four children as the narrative switches to give us a glimpse into their lives on the days preceding Christmas and the big wedding.
          A woman dealing with an abusive husband and troubled teenaged kid, a woman helping out a terminally ill husband, a woman who faces life’s difficult career choices and is faced with a dilemma and finally a man who wants to do one thing that makes him happy but is repeatedly rejected for his talents. This is the short synopsis of Gaby’s four children.
          But the story is more about learning to live with the faults and helping each other through. Gaby starts of irritating but blooms out to be a very well liked mother, grandmother and bride. The excitement and suspense is built up till the penultimate chapter, making the reader really cross. At one point of time, I convinced myself that the wedding was a hoax to bring the family together. But *spoiler alert* no, that is not the case. There is more than a wedding underway.
          The plot is… for want of a better word… unique. The characters are well sketched (if you are in any doubt, the author has included a character gist of sorts at the start of the book to keep track of who is who. There aren’t many to confuse, but still). The overall story is well written and coherent. And the book does deliver what it promises. But if you have typecast the author in the Mystery/ Detective genre, prepared to be surprised (like I obviously was… No, honestly, who would have imagined?)
          The story and the whole concept of Grandma being video friendly and tech savvy! Gaby did have me in splits sometimes. A typical strong female protagonist. Endearing, irritating, the works!
          The suspense is simply too much and not probable at all! But still, I didn’t expect the author to reveal his secrets so soon. After all, he is the master of twists.
          Noting this day as the “Day I realised James Patterson wrote Romance and Feel Good novels too!”
          How can an element of thriller be induced into a Feel Good book? Read to find out!
RATING: 4/5 (simply because I loved the story. I got what I expected).
          The subject of a Time magazine feature called, "The Man Who Can't Miss," James Patterson is the bestselling author of the past year, bar none, with more than 16 million books sold in North America alone. In 2007, one of every fifteen hardcover fiction books sold was a Patterson title. In the past three years, James has sold more books than any other author (according to Bookscan), and in total, James's books have sold an estimated 220 million copies worldwide. He is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children's lists and is the only author to have five new hardcover novels debut at #1 on the list in one year—a record-breaking feat he's accomplished every year since 2005. To date, James Patterson has had nineteen consecutive #1 New York Timesbestselling novels, and holds the New York Times record for most Hardcover Fiction bestselling titles by a single author (63 total), which is also a Guinness World Record.

          From his James Patterson Pageturner Awards (which rewarded groups and individuals for creative and effective ways to spread the joy of reading) to his website (which helps adults find books that kids are sure to love) to his regular donations of thousands of books to troops overseas, Patterson is a lifelong champion of books and reading. His first foray into books for all ages was the critically acclaimed Maximum Ride series, which debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list at #1 and remained there for twelve straight weeks. The series has so far made appearances on The New York Times bestsellers lists ninety-four cumulative times, proving that kids of all ages love page turners. He captured the attention of boy readers with the Daniel X series, and his third series for readers of all ages debuted in December 2009 with Witch & Wizard, which spent five consecutive weeks atop the New York Times bestsellers list.
          Patterson is the creator of the #1 new detective series of the past dozen years, featuring Alex Cross and including the Hollywood-adapted "Along Came a Spider" and "Kiss the Girls," starring Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman. He is also the creator of the #1 new detective series of the past five years, featuring Lindsay Boxer and the other members of the Women's Murder Club, from which the ABC television drama series was adapted. He has authored books behind six films on the Hollywood fast-track, including the upcoming Maximum Ride movie forthcoming from Avi Arad, the producer of X-Men and Spiderman.
          He is the author of novels—from The Thomas Berryman Number (1976) to Honeymoon (2005)—that have won awards including the Edgar, the BCA Mystery Guild's Thriller of the Year, the International Thriller of the Year award, and the Reader's Digest Reader's Choice Award. And, he has won a Children's Choice Book Council's Children's Choice Awards "Author of the Year" award (2010).
          One of Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100, James made a guest appearance on the popular FOX TV show "The Simpsons" in March, 2007.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
PRICE: Rs. 656 for paperback

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tales From a Vending Machine by Anees Salim : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Tales from a Vending Machine

ISBN: 9789350296899
AUTHOR: Anees Salim
GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Won this in a Readers’ Cosmos giveaway
Hasina Mansoor is many things: devoted sister, blushing lover and ambitious young woman. Unfortunately, a stint at the airport lounge's tea vending machine does not seem to be getting her any closer to her dreams. To pass the time she daydreams, chats with air-hostesses and takes part in mock anti-terrorist drills. At home, she studies her English, fights with her twin and engages in a secret love affair with her cousin and neighbour, Eza. But when a scandal threatens her tenuous happiness, she must pull out all stops on her overactive imagination, and seek a terrible revenge.
          A simple girl handles a vending machine at the Domestic Airport. She sees flights everyday and dreams of being on one soon. Hasina Mansoor is a girl with a creative, imaginative mind to boast of, and handles the vending machine for her distant uncle, Haji Osman, whose only motive is profit. Hasina envies the air hostesses with their fancy, rich looking dresses and their plastic smiles.
          Things don’t look too well for her at the home front. She has a twin who goes to complete graduation while she works away. There is a kid brother who has a Learning Disability and there is her cousin Eza who she loves. But lo, Eza’s mother and her own father are caught in a property duel. In such a confused life, with the raging hormones of adolescence and her own dreams, Hasina goes about her job with both a resigned defiance and a burning ambition.
          The characterisation of the narrator/ lead warrants some discussion. Hasina has been created neither to be loved nor hated. She is a girl you could come across anywhere. She lies her way through her job and also tries to jump ship. Her life is much more interesting in her head than the mundane daily routine. She makes sure that you think of her, love or hate, either way.
          Her wrong pronunciations and the way she talks about ‘juice’ (Jews) and how the microbes were found by Bill Gates (Microsoft, I guess!) she comes across as a stunning simpleton. But the climax surprises the reader and leads to more confusion. It is like we have been taken on a funny uphill ride and let go of at the cliff.
          There is no actual plot, but as the title says, this is a book of tales from a vending machine. It is about Hasina’s learning experience and the life and feel of a girl from a simple family. The summary sounded exciting and intriguing, but the book is not as enticing. It carries you forward with the bits of wit and humour and simple innocence. The narrative lags occasionally but the sentences take you through. The characters are easily graphic and well etched. This book is Hasina’s journey, and you can enjoy the ride if you don’t judge her!
          The wit and the nice flow of words. Though irritating occasionally, Hasina’s misinterpretations are funny, if you have the right outlook towards the author’s idea of a joke.
          There could have been some more thickness to the plot. There is actually no set plot or idea of where the story goes.
          Go for it, learn about the juice and microbes! It is fun!
RATING: 3.5/5
Anees Salim is an advertising professional and is employed with Draft FCB Ulka. He loves being invisible and lives with his wife and son in Kochi. Vanity Bagh is his second novel.
PRICE: Rs. 221 for Paperback


Monday, June 16, 2014

Whole Latte Love By Rachelle Ayala : A Promo

Investment banking intern Carina Chen doesn’t need any distractions - especially the sexy, guitar-playing barista she rooms with for the summer.
Free spirit Dylan Jewell appreciates the delightful universe of women who vie for his attention. His goal in life is to do good, make happy coffee, and help the homeless.
When Carina moves in, she insists on rules of conduct to quell her instant attraction to Dylan. But when her boss asks her to turn Dylan into a businessman, she can’t think of a reason not to take advantage of his hospitality.
Their chemistry is white hot, but Dylan refuses to play Carina’s game, unable to understand how he can fall in love with a woman who puts profits in front of people. When Carina realizes Dylan isn’t budging, she risks all to gain a single night with him. Will her gambit backfire or will Dylan discover Carina’s true heart before she runs away with his?
Set in Berkeley, California, Whole Latte Love is an opposites-attract romance mixing bluesy rock music, hot, steamy love scenes, and financial shenanigans.

Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | ES | IT | IN | JP | AU | BR | MX | CA 

Rachelle Ayala is the author of dramatic fiction crossing genres and boundaries featuring strong but flawed characters. She writes emotionally challenging stories and is not afraid of controversial topics. However, she is an optimist and laces her stories with romance and hope.
Rachelle is an active member of online critique group, Critique Circle, an active member of the California Writer’s Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has three children and has taught violin and made mountain dulcimers.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Safe and Sound by T S Krupa : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Safe and Sound

ISBN: 9781599324654


GENRE: Fiction/ Romance


FORMAT: Digital


REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: The author sent us a digital copy for review, we thank her for it.

          When Jill met Jay Greenfield she knew she had found her forever love. She was a kindergarten teacher, he was a high-powered attorney and their lives were perfect. But when a tragic accident takes Jay’s life, this young bride is left to pick up the pieces.

          Jill finds herself a young widow facing multiple decisions she thought she had a lifetime to decide. With support from her childhood best friends, Lanie and Stella, Jill attempts to piece her life back together. With nightmares plaguing her dreams and the struggles of constant grief over Jay’s passing, Stella and Lanie keep near constant vigilance over her.
          In the process of settling the estate, Jill learns that her husband was not quite the man she thought he was. She finds herself transported to the small beach town of Oak Island, North Carolina. But the fairy tale ending she envisioned no longer exists. She must face the reality that Jay is gone as she finds herself having a chance at love one more time.
          Safe and Sound follows a yearlong journey of love, loss, friendship, and conquering the unexpected.

          It is not often that a book (or a movie) manages to be romantic without being mushy, poignant without being sad, and enlightening about death and loss without being depressing. Safe and Sound manages to be the combination of all the good ways to traverse in all these genres.
          The story of Jill Greenfield starts with the day her husband meets with an accident and dies. For a story that started with such a shocker, the book progresses beautifully. Jill, a school teacher, loses her husband, Jay, a lawyer in a tragic accident. As she learns to cope up with the loss, her two friends Stella and Lanie, help her by being there for her during her hard times and pull her through it.
          The secrets of Jay’s investments are revealed in instalments and we are equally surprised by the revelations as Jill. Jay is not the man he seemed to be, and the surprises keep you constantly on the verge of overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised. We travel with Jill as she finds a way to cope up with love, loss and find new love. She has true friends (not many people are lucky to have such devoted, determined friends. ‘Yours truly’ being one of the lucky few! Co-blogger, here is your cue to blush!)
          Jill copes up with the loss by finding a new love, a man who had suffered another loss. But in the meanwhile, she helps plan her friend’s marriage and keeps herself busy. This is the perfect read for people who have gone through loss. You start with ‘clueless’ and move on to ‘in control of all affairs’. The sudden abruptness of the accident in one’s life, the medical decisions that become yours to take in case a loved one is unable to, and the weight of doing alone all the tasks you shared are all described perfectly.
          For those readers who complain Jill’s grief period was too less/ too over/ too melodramatic, each person has their own way of grieving. Some do it by shutting themselves up, some do it by taking it all in, some do it by never visiting common memories, some do it by staying alone in places where they stayed together. This is human nature, and this variety is what makes life spicy.
          The story is a sure page turner with not a dull moment. The plot is simple, clear, and very tight. The characters are well defined, mature and each representing a different character that sticks up for a friend no matter the situation. The language is clear, pleasant to read and the tale is bittersweet. Life does hands you lemons, but it is you who can make the lemonade!

The tale itself, and the way it talks about loss without being preachy, depressing or heavy. This makes you laugh as much as it makes you cry.

Too good to be true? Or is this how life usually is?

Go for it! Don’t classify it to one genre and miss it.


T.S. Krupa was born in New Haven, CT. She was raised in a blended Polish-American household. She has one younger sister who currently lives abroad with her husband and daughter. T.S. Krupa earned her Bachelor's degree at Franklin Pierce University, Master's at Texas Tech University and will earn her Doctorate of Education from North Carolina State University in 2014. She played field hockey at Franklin Pierce University for four years and is in her sixth year of coaching a local club team. She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and dog.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback, Kindle.

PRICE: Rs. 1246 for Paperbacks


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Losing My Religion by Vishwas Mudagal: A Review

BOOK TITLE: Losing My Religion
ISBN: 9788172344931
AUTHOR: Vishwas Mudagal
GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: The author sent me a review copy when contacted via Goodreads.
          Racy, unpredictable, romantic, and inspiring, this is a novel that is bound to get you addicted and stay with you forever.
          When gamer and entrepreneur Rishi Rai sets out to revolutionize the gaming industry, something somewhere goes terribly wrong and, like dominoes, the blocks of his life fall down one after the other.
          An unexpected meeting with Alex, an unpredictable, crazy American hippie, changes his life forever, as he decides to quit everything and join him on an unplanned, uncharted journey across India.
          From getting irrepressibly high in the mysterious Malana Valley in the Himalayas to starting a shack on the bewitching Om Beach on the West Coast, they do it all. But their adrenaline-charged adventure takes a turn when Rishi meets Kyra, a beautiful and enigmatic gamer. As passions surge and sparks fly, Rishi gets drawn to Kyra . . . unaware of who she is and where she comes from.
          What follows next is something nobody could have ever dreamed of . . .
          Who is Kyra and why are the paparazzi after her? Can Rishi connect the dots in his life to protect the love of his life? While the world becomes a spectator, can he mastermind the fall of a ruthless giant to become a global icon or will he become the biggest loser?
          Losing my religion
Ø Has nothing to do with religion.
Ø Does not preach like a self help book.
Ø Strikes the chord with many youngsters of the day.
          Rishi Rai is a gamer, an entrepreneur who had built a company out of his sweat and blood. When that is dissolved, he is faced by a serious case of crisis. He abandons his former life, and takes his car to a long drive. On the way he meets hippie Alex, who is everything he is not, and changes his life. The journey that takes Rishi through hillside villages and lesser known places, and each new moment is a new experience.
          Without preamble, Rishi meets Kyra, a beautiful woman who poses as an enigma to him. He is hopelessly drawn to her and falls in love with her. But Kyra’s past and present entwines, and she leaves him. The part of the book where Rishi gets back with Kyra is an unexpected overdose of clichéd moments. The rest of the story where Rishi goes on to become a reality show star and travels from India to NYC, does not suffer from the clichés or predictable twists. Revealing more of the story will ruin the suspense.
          The plus points and the minus points of the book are clearly panned. The plot is beautifully crafted, the story unravels in a coherent format. The characters of all the three protagonists are well written, each being given the importance and the depth that they require to make an impression. The language is really good, even the inclusion of vernacular words.
          The events are also unpredictable mostly, surprising even a seasoned reader. The story feels the pulse of today’s youth and also reflects the thoughts of the author himself, an entrepreneur who seems to know what he is writing about. The summary is enticing and so is the cover. There are some noteworthy quotes in the book, reflecting the mindset and ideas of today’s gen x.
          The minus points are not dampeners, though writing a perfect 5/5 book would be a difficult feat. What did affect me was, the story is just that. A story. Not something that happens everyday. The book drags in some places, though we have to agree that the author has really cut back on geographical descriptions of places that are mentioned. Given that, it would extend the book by another 50 pages from its current length of 350 pages, which by itself is long.
WHAT I LIKED: The story, concept of burnout, relatable, strong characters
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: The length could have been slightly less. Some clichés could be avoided.
VERDICT: Go for it. This one is a sure thrill ride. And also don’t miss the fingerprint diaries, the ‘appendix’ of the book.
RATING: 4.2/5 (Points taken for the length and some improbable situations)
          Vishwas Mudagal is a serial entrepreneur and a CEO with a history of building innovative technology brands and companies. An alumnus of RV College of Engineering, Bangalore, he started his first company at the age of eighteen to educate students in rural Karnataka. He is currently the CEO and co-founder of GoodWorkLabs, one of the hottest technology firms.

          Writing is his passion, and he has embraced storytelling as his parallel career. Losing My Religion is his debut novel.

He blogs at:
PRICE: Rs. 185 for Paperback

Future Past by Subrat Sahoo : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Future Past
ISBN: 9789382473909
AUTHOR: Subrat Sahoo
GENRE: science fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone / Short stories
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: The author’s representative sent us a Review Copy. We thank her for this!
          Future past is a book of eight short stories and a poem, each with a different theme.
In An Outside:
          A spaceship and its crew find themselves faced with a queer barrier in space. A time warp pushes them into an outside. The crew has no idea what constitutes the barrier. It seems to be living and pulsing. Meanwhile, a patient onboard gets seriously ill and no treatments seem to work. When the connection between these two is revealed, the reader is surprised. Well written, though really unpredictable story.
Never A Next:
          A test for the feasibility of a robot. A thrilling chase and a twisted end make this short story readable, though the sudden jump in context is confusing. Easy language, narrated in first person, so the twist in unforeseen. Clear visuals all through the story.
Rites Of Passage:
          A beautiful female from another planet visits earth for research. Her host, a young man, is naturally attracted towards her. But when the decent man decides to act upon his attraction, the consequences are far reaching. The story is descriptive, gentle, explanatory and the ending, though vague, fits the short story mould well.
Future Past:
          The title story. A scientist in earth creates an experiment for time warp and when he tests it, something from the past hurtles forward, breaking down the boundaries of time. Based on an unexplained fact of history, this story is one different experience that leads us to delve into research for the historical fact. The language is good, the last paragraph is excellent.
The Good, The bad and the Gone:
          A kid tries to raise a pet and is given one by his father, who is a scientist. The mother, who is against creature abuse, is torn between seeing her son happy and freeing the creature. When the suspense of the creature’s species is revealed, the story takes the reader for a nice bumpy surprise. Nicely written, far fetched, teases the alternate perspective of the mind.
Simple Physics:
          A substitute professor teaches a class simple quantum physics. On one topic, an average grade student brilliantly provides a simple solution for a very complex war. But as they say, simple physics can be used only once, and better methods should be used for better results the next time. Too much of technical jargon makes the story less interesting for anyone who doesn’t like physics. To understand the crux, you need to read till the penultimate page, and you will have the patience only if you love physics, or hate leaving stories unfinished.
Mastering God:
          A short but heavy poem about the concept of God creating Man and Robots being Man made creations. Depth of meaning, clarity and brevity make this one of the best pieces of the book.
          Shortest story. A spaceship is bounded towards an unknown planet that has resources aplenty. But the crewmember of the spaceship decides to buy the planet some more time. Nicely written, but abrupt and leaves you gaping to search for a page more.
The Story Of The Greatest Event That Never Happened:
          In future, a part of a spaceship acts as a time warp. Crew members age dramatically, the engines are running but the ship is not moving, stuck between two time frames. Back in the present, in earth, a random man hears the messages from the spaceship and the logs of the captain. Longest story of the lot, with emphasis on time warp.
WHAT I LIKED: The bold, new concepts.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Some technical jargon and abrupt endings, though interesting to a sci-fi enthusiast are not entertaining to a normal reader.
VERDICT: Go for it if sci-fi is your fare.
RATING: 3.8/5
PRICE: Rs. 125 for paperback