Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Winner's Curse by Dee Walker : A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Winner’s Curse
ISBN: 9789382665243
AUTHOR: Dee Walker
GENRE: Fiction/ Political Thriller
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
          I thank Nimi Vashi of Readers Cosmos for this review copy. Special thanks to the author for his autographed message.
          A political thriller about national ID numbers, power and greed.

          Orphan Harsh makes it to the billionaire club with a burning vision, sheer intellect and the blessings of his political Godfather. The favours must now be paid back through a huge Guru Dakshina. To honour his Master’s wish, Harsh, with the help of his fellow IITians, sets out to create a never-seen-before governance technology around the national ID numbers, that will change the face of democratic India.
          Everything is at stake: money, reputations, egos and morals. Even lives.
          Will they succumb to insatiable greed in the murky games of politics, backstabbing and subterfuge or will they be redeemed by the ‘Ten Commandments’ that once forged their ideals at college?
          If you thought that supreme technology and unalloyed power can bring lasting change or that e-governance and transparency can address the ills of our system, The Winner’s Curse will force you to think again. For what’s at stake is: YOU.
          The Winner’s Curse: the turbulent voyage of talent and intellect in the morass of turpitude.
          First Impression: For a seasoned reader, I shamelessly admit that I still give brownie points for a well designed cover and aptly worded book back blurb. In this day and age, the packaging and the promotion need to be done meticulously and eagerly – writing the book is half the battle, selling it is the other half. So good covers and blurbs make people pick your book from the thousands of other choices they have.
          I usually give points in excess for an aesthetically designed cover, the first impression. But the same generously given points will be reassessed and changed based on the relevance of the cover image to the content and the adherence of the plot to the summary. Thankfully, The Winner’s Curse manages to keep each and every single one of its well deserved marks for this.
          Not to mention too much about the plot, it includes everything that is given in the book blurb. And to manage all that within 300 pages, while introducing Ten Commandments and too many characters would have been a feat by itself. A political thriller should have enough elements to keep up the pace and add the intrigue factor, while making sure people relate to the characters.
          The Winner’s Curse sounds like exactly the title for a book where the lead character would pray a heavy price for finally achieving what he had always wanted – victory. And yes, I am not going to disappoint you by saying anything else. The book shows you what it means to be cursed – that hopeless curse of having everything you ever believed, you ever stood for being shattered right in front of your eyes. Harsh and the Master – and their introduction scene, wow!
          Well written, seamlessly executed political thrillers are rare, agreed. But politics and a mild suggestion of some undercover activities by seemingly genuine people would always elicit an interest in the reader’s mind – mostly because the maximum they can do is read about it, in newspapers, books, and TV news scrolls, without actually doing anything. This book banks on that aspect and manages to deliver all those ‘Masala’ elements in healthy sized doses. Maybe that is one point in its favour when it has to compete against many other books of its genre.
          The book manages to hold interest mainly due to its fast pace and a myriad of interesting characters that capture each reader’s attention in their own way. But the same in depth characterisation will be a bane and pace dampener for this book. No one likes to remember too many characters and simultaneous plot lines and most often than not, only seasoned readers can breeze through the book at a comfortable pace. General readers would have to keep going back pages to regain their equilibrium.
          The plot is racy, the story is different, though not unique, and the characters are developed well. Or rather, developed in too much detail, thereby bringing the narrative to a snail’s pace sometimes. It is actually best to leave certain aspects of a character to the reader’s imagination! Mr Dee Walker please do take note. Though I enjoyed reading this book very much, too much information dampens the pace.
          The incredible amount of research that has gone into the whole concept of ‘UID’ – and the excellent explanation as to how this is a weapon that has the most power in the hands of the person who wields it.
          If you have so far been ignorant, you would start looking at every single piece of data collection equipment (starting from the phones to the automatic teller machines) in a new light hereafter. If you are already paranoid, it will make you even more so.
          The process where they took not only your finger prints but also your iris (eye) scan when they gave you that card.
          Remember the most personal details about you stored in some impersonal computer somewhere. All everyone would need is the QR code that comes in your card to know your house address and your bank account details. It isn’t probable, but it is very much possible.
          Remember that time when you enjoyed having all your accounts (both email and bank) in your single Smartphone – everything synchronised seamlessly in third party apps. Imagine that falling into someone else’s hands. Don’t blame Dee Walker if you start being paranoid about linking your AADHAAR number to your LPG cylinder connections! (Local reference understandable to Indians)
          The Ten Commandments ring so true and are apt for a peaceful life in modern days.
          The characterisation detail, though too high, will really help if the book gives way to some sequels or something in similar lines.
          Divvaakar, oh, my bad, Dee Walker has managed to turn every famous person/ corporation/ event into a ‘pun’.
          While you are reading the story, you would be struck dumb by the ‘similarities’ of the book’s characters to real, living people, though it might be entirely a coincidence (Disclaimer)
          So the next time you see ‘Doodle’, forget that it is, in fact, a very much recognised, registered trademark of a famous company and instead substitute a few letters to shine ‘light in a new angle’ upon what it actually refers to. I burst out laughing (inappropriately, in a public transport, for that is when I was reading the first few pages of the book!) at this reference.
          ‘Coolmail’ anyone? Antonyms, probably. ‘CoolSMS’ would have done the trick!
          The detailed research, the story that does justice to its summary.
          Too many characters in short spans of time mean the characters don’t leave lasting impressions. And the puns. It would have been better to generalise than substitute each name with a easily recognisable pun.
          If political intrigue and the constant tug of war between good and evil is something you like reading about, give this book a try.
RATING: 3.5/5
          SV Divaakar has written this book under the pseudonym Dee Walker.
EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback.
PRICE: Rs. 132 for paperback

This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Blog Tours. To get free books log on to

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Accidental Fiancee by Zeenat Mahal: A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Accidental Fiancée
ISBN: 9781927826690
AUTHOR: Zeenat Mahal
GENRE: Fiction / Romance/ Short Story.
FORMAT: Digital / ePub
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: The author contacted me via goodreads and sent me a review copy. Thank you, Zeenat!
          ‘…Tell me why exactly you want that ring on your finger so badly that you’ll even succumb, pitifully I may add, to your arch enemy?’

          ‘Bad boy’ Akbar and ‘firebrand’ Khayyam were rivals and enemies back in college, while studying architecture. While he laughed at her feminist sentiments and views on preservation, she denounced him as a commercial sellout with no originality or talent. Humiliated in front of his admiring hangers-on, Akbar will not pass up the chance to get his revenge when fate presents Khayyam as his unlikely fiancée.
          Read this delightful story to discover what happens to these wildly different personalities when they reluctantly exchange rings.
          How long should my review be for a single short story of 20 pages? How best to phrase the review to reveal the simple elegance of the story and the writing without revealing too much of the story itself? How am I actually going to bring out the pluses and minuses of the story in a few short words, much like the author has brought out the features of her characters?
          The Accidental Fiancee is a good read. In trademark Zeenat style, the story is about two people who are at loggerheads, and are accidentally brought together by fate. The reluctance of the main characters, the oblivious attempts of others around the lead characters and the well written story with in depth character development make this story a treat to read.
          Zeenat has managed to give a decent and understandable character sketch with enough details to form an impression but with enough details hidden to create just the right amount of enigma and excitement. The basis of the story is simple enough but the magic lies in the development of the plain story line.
          On the lee side, if you skim across one paragraph almost near the end of the story, you will miss the whole plot line. Read every line fully, for the surprise reason behind firebrand Khayyam’s subdued manner is revealed in a veiled manner.
WHAT I LIKED: The plot line and the character development.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: The way the reason is revealed could have had a bit more credibility.
VERDICT: Go for it. It is short, sweet, romantic, and ends well!
          Zeenat Mahal (@zeemahal) is an avid reader and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. She won a BBC short story competition in 2001 and has been a regular contributor to newspapers.
          ‘Haveli’ and 'The Contract' are Zeenat’s first two published novellas. Her next novel. She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, is due for release on 14th February, 2015.

She can be contacted on
PRICE: Rs. 49 for Kindle Edition.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rapescars... They Never Heal by Gaurav Sharma : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Rapescars… They Never Heal
ISBN: 9788192982748
AUTHOR: Gaurav Sharma
GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
REVIEW BY: Dhivya Balaji
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Readers Cosmos for the review copy.
Rape Scars… They never heal
          A girl is raped! Her parents insist to report. Police tries to scuttle the case. Her fathers influence works! Doctor, the fourth man, sees her bare. The defense lawyer encounters with obnoxious questions. As if, she had inveigled the innocent boys. As if, shes the one accused and her violators are seeking justice against her. She feels & experiences being raped in public again. Her lawyer manages to seek conviction! Akriti wins the case but refuses her culprit to have imprisonment.
          Why does she do this?
          What does she decide then?
          Is this the decision of her or raped mind?
          Rape Scars is the voice of a rape survivor who thrives to stand against the violation of her persona.
          Before I start the review in detail, I would like to talk about why and how I took up this book for review! We at Readers Muse have reviewed the author Gaurav Sharma’s earlier book Love @ Airforce. (Find the review here). And we have know this book since it was in the conceptual stage. So we were glad to have had an opportunity to review this book.
What to expect when you take this book up:
o   If you have read the author’s previous book, please don’t expect this to be the same. They are radically different.
o   This is a book about a girl who is subjected to rape, and the decision she takes after she goes through the horror. As the disclaimer at the end of the book says, this book does not suggest the correct decision to be taken for every such case.
o   The book takes up a caustic approach towards the holes in the legal system of our country, and most lines are acerbic, too.
o   There are a few logic holes and eyebrow raising moments. Only the readers who could take them in flow would be able to enjoy it.
Now for the story:
          Akriti falls for a boy while studying in college. Ram Chaudry takes advantage of her and gets intimate with her. Once she is confident with him, he invites two of his friends over to the flat where he is alone with Akriti and she is raped. All this is only the first part of the story. The part where it all starts getting interesting is the part from which Akriti’s parents are supportive of her and immediately try to report the matter to the police. Naturally, the police advise against it but they firmly lodge the complaint.
          Soon the legal process starts, with Akriti bearing the humiliation from arrogant doctors to Lawyers who are intent on defaming her character. But her parents and Lawyer are standing with her through the ordeal. Finally Akriti ‘manages’ to prove that she has been raped. But Akriti refuses the conviction of the primary accused. She makes a drastic decision instead. She chooses to marry him. Her reasons are neither meek nor thoughtless.
          What is to be appreciated in the book is the description of the entire humiliation of the victim. Not only during the rape but also when having made to live the whole ordeal again and again through the court processes. The words are not exactly clearly formed but they give the illusion of having poured out of the victim in a rush. (The story is a first person narrative).
          This is just one version of the things that could have happened’. There is no point in pointing out the improbabilities. There are, however a few inconsistencies in the given storyline. Sometimes, readers wish some things had happened differently and made more sense. The book is a good attempt at trying to portray the emotions of the victim but could have had a stronger female protagonist.
          The apathy of the legal force of the country, not to mention the medical examiners and the lawyers are brought out well. It is sadly, the truth behind that portrayal is what hurts the most.
          The story falters in some places, and some tough words hamper the flow of the reader. But basically it has some powerful dialogs too. Some lines are memorable, some are cringe worthy but are needed to bring out the brutality of the incident of rape.
          The cover page looked novel and unique, but on closer look revealed that the text itself was not translated to English. Hope the future editions correct this mistake.
WHAT I LIKED: The whole attempt – that of giving voice to the woman who is raped.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: The language is inconsistent in some places. But the dialogs are powerful. It would have been even more enjoyable if the language had more structure.
VERDICT: A good attempt on a very sensitive topic that is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Kudos to the author for attempting this on such a sensitive topic.
RATING: 3.5/5
          Gaurav Sharma, a Mathematics teacher by profession and a writer by passion. His first novel is ‘LOVE @ AIR FORCE’ which is a bildungsroman literary novel, brought out by Blackbuck Publications.

          He also contributed a poem in ‘THE ESSENCE OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS’ which is a collection of poems from 29 poets from six countries.

          Lunacy for his dreams, he claims, has helped him being a published writer. As a writer, he doesn’t want to be just a storyteller but yearns to create a stir.
          He can be contacted at,
PRICE: Rs. 130 for paperback

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview with Sandeep Sharma and Leepi Agrawal, Authors of 'Hey Dad! Meet my Mom...'

Hello Sandeep Sharma and Leepi Agarwal! Guys, I really enjoyed reading your book. Finished it in one sitting! You have written a nice book with a unique plotline. I have a few questions for you J
1.   Why such a unique, eye catching title? Who suggested it?
S.S.- The first thing which catches the eye of the reader about the book is its title. I think title should always be tricky; it should be able to explain the theme of the book. ‘Hey Dad! Meet my mom’ sounds funny, is having little bit of suspense and also shows traces of romance as well.
L.A.- Before this book was offered to me, Sandeep was ready with the title, actually whenever people interview me, I am much more eager to answer one favourite question, how did I met my co-author and how this book was offered to me. Well not opening up the whole matter again, but yes it was decided by my co-author.
2.   The story itself is based on a lot of assumptions and concepts unheard of. This makes it all the more exciting. Especially the verses at the start of every chapter. Can you tell us more about the author (poet)?
S.S.- I love to write fiction with some flavour in it. I love to leave the characters of my book wandering in the situations that are totally unheard of and then I watch them emerging out of that scenarios. It’s a totally fantastic and fantasizing process.
The verses at the start of the chapters, in the first half, are written by Payal Srivastava. She’s a brilliant poetess and this book is her debut work. I think everyone’s going to love her work.
L.A.- Actually I am very fond of poem and haikus, so it was like we both were having in mind that keeping verses will create more interest in our readers. Also that will enhance the quality of our writing. One of my favourite verses from the whole book is, “The world of glamour is not defined by walking with high heels, it’s defined by walking in front of people with high dreams”. Being into the world of glamour I knew what the pain of walking with high heels is, and I have to portray about Roshni who was again a model in our story, so I was trying to pen my feelings and my feelings are always expressed in terms of verses. And for the first half, I would also like to mention the name of Payal Srivastava, who wrote some beautiful verses for us.
3.   Writing a full story in the first person narrative is a really hard job, especially maintaining the continuity. Is there any particular reason for writing this in Puneet’s perspective?
S.S.- I think, when writing about love, heart should hold the pen. I gave the pen in the hands of Puneet and let him write about his feelings. I wanted that the reader should look at the story from one perspective only but they were also free to assume other’s perspectives. That adds the element of surprise while reading. I wanted my reader to sense every feeling attached with this character and witness the turn of events around him only.
L.A.- First person narration was a real challenge. Sometimes I used to forget what I am supposed to write, and then I call up and ask “Arrey Sandeep mein plot bhul gai”, Sometimes I forget who is Roshni and Myra due to this first person narration. Thank god that I am co-authoring with Sandeep, someone else would have kicked me off if I would do silly mistakes like forgetting the plot. I think while writing the book, whenever we talk with each other everytime he used to make me remember Leepi, this is the plot. And I was like “Ha baba pata hai, taunt mat mar ke mein phirse bhul gai.”
4.   Now to delve a little more into the story. What inspired the character of Rishi?

L.A.- Hahaha! Thanks a lot for asking this, even I want to know Sandeep, how this Rishi came to your mind, today I would like to listen the truth about Rishi. Sometimes I feel like it’s your own story, like you must be seeing Rishi and used Puneet’s name!
S.S.- Actually no-one in particular. Rishi’s character was a kind of character that needed to talk and behave like a 10 year old child, but sometimes he should leave everyone bewildered by his sudden change in character. He was written to adapt two characters in one, a dual personality of its own kind. He’s the cutest, horrible and sensible character of our story. 
5.   Who was your favourite character to pen? Mine was Myra. I liked reading about her!
S.S.- My favourite was Rishi. I loved to explore this multi-dimensional character. If ever I had a son in future, I would love him to be like Rishi.
L.A.- I loved the character of Roshni. That was strong and bold with a soft heart inside.  
6.   Which part of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
S.S.- I think, the most enjoyable part was the climax. Leepi and I had to think a lot about it to make it convincing. The whole story unfolds pretty drastically and it was a huge task to maintain the balance between the characters. We had 3 possible endings for the book and it was pretty difficult to go for the most promising one. We had pretty long discussions and then finally, I think, we got the one.
L.A.- I loved the part which I wrote, that is the part where Roshni’s life unfolds.
7.   They say that every story ever written is based on a true event. Is this the case with HDM3? If so, can you share it with us?
L.A.- Sandeep, now please accept that you too saw your future son, because when you narrated me the story same question what she asked was in my mind. Today lets clarify this and yes it would remain a secret that “Gangadhar hi Shaktimaan hai”. I hope people would have come across this and would relate me what I am trying to say.
S.S.- *Laughing* no, it’s purely fictional.
8.   According to you which would be the best environment to write? Calm solitude or crowded hustle?
S.S.- I love to write at nights. When every sound around us lowers down, the heart begins to speak and I love to pen down those voices.
L.A.- I am a peace lover. So I generally prefer a calm environment where its only me and my world of imagination.

9.   Are there any more books in the pipeline?
S.S.- I am currently writing a crime cum historical fiction based on the history/origin of Chess named ‘Let the game begin!’ We are also working on the sequel of HDM3 and hopefully we will come up with yet another entertainer.
L.A.- Yes, we are planning a sequel of HDM3, hoping that my office timings don’t become a barrier.
10.       Any tips for first time writers?
S.S.- Have patience and keep on working hard. The right things will happen at the right times.
L.A.- Whether you are a first time writer or not, what matters is how you can pen down your imagination. So keep on trying and keep on writing.
Now for some quick fire questions to both of you…
(Please feel free to answer in a word or two!)        
Favourite hobby?
S.S.- Reading and Writing.
L.A.- Sleeping :P
How do you unwind?
S.S.- By spending time with parents.
L.A.- By sleeping.
Music preference?
S.S.- Bollywood love songs.
L.A.- Sufi and rock too (Mismatched combination, don’t mind I am little weird).
Favourite singer / band?
S.S.- Arijit Singh 
L.A.- My Father, and one of my brother.
Your favourite books?
S.S.- Are you afraid of dark (Sydney Sheldon), The Innocence (David Baldacci) and many others.
L.A.- Have not yet read any full book till today!
One book you feel is totally underrated?
S.S.- Embers of Light (Abhi)
One book that is over rated?
S.S.- Half Girlfriend
One book you would suggest all of us to read?
S.S.- Of course, ‘Hey Dad! Meet My Mom…’
L.A.- HDM3
One author who inspired you?
S.S.- Sorry but I have three names here; Suhail Mathur, Mallika Nawal and Vishwas Mudagal.
L.A.- Ivan Reubens ( The Director of my school)
Three words that you use often?
S.S.- Let me think.
L.A.- Oh, okay, cool, ssup
Your favourite movies?
S.S.- Lord of the rings (series), Harry Potter (series)
L.A.- Aashiqui 2, Ye Jawani Hai Deewani, 2 states
CCD or Pizza Hut? (yes, this is a pointed question! :P )
S.S.- Hahaha…. Whatever you like.
L.A.- (yes, this is a pointed question! :P ) Obviously my CCD.
Your most defining character?
S.S.- Silent Observer.
L.A.- Chatter box
Are spectacles the perfect accessory for the nerdy look?
S.S.- Nope but a foolish smile over lips is.
L.A.- Yes!
Where can we find you on a sunny day / rainy day?
S.S.- In both scenarios, I’ll be in my room behind my Laptop screen or a novel.
L.A.- My college campus, the most romantic place TO BE IN ANY MOOD OR ANY SEASON, (I guess you have read about St Xaviers college in HDM3)

 Thank you guys for your excellent answers!

Watch the exciting Trailer of the book here!