Monday, August 28, 2017

Book Review: The Last of the Firedrakes (The Avalonia Chronicles Book 1): Volume 1 by Farah Oomerbhoy

Title: The Last of the Firedrakes (The Avalonia Chronicles Book 1): Volume 1
Author: Farah Oomerbhoy
Category: Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Date: 2015
Price: Rs. 349/49 (kindle)
Pages: 416

Book Blurb: 16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn't seem so bad. 

Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms--including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora's arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear.

With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.
The Review: The story begins with an orphan girl Aurora Darlington's pitiable life story as a non-popular child, both at home and school and a repetitive dream. She longs for her birth parents as she is an adopted child, to free her from the current misery. Fate has other plans and her uncle brings her on a vacation to Redstone Manor. Her life would never be the same from this point on.  She is sold to a strange world here through a portal, one she knows nothing about. One thing leads to another in this mystical place where she is to discover her true identity, the meaning of her recurring dreams and discover her purpose, which is what the rest of the story is about.
Aurora is a regular teenager with no special skills but this new world asks a lot from her. Not just that this is where she belongs but her entire family was killed here once and only she was sent away into another world. Who wants to kill her family and why? Aurora learns her parents and herself are magical beings and she begins to understand her true identity. She must learn here to find her magical prowess and grow it, for her enemy is none other than the most cruel queen of Avalonia. Why did she start getting those visions about her parents? Who is Aurora? Will she be able to save herself in this new world and fulfill her purpose? To know all these layers of mysteries surrounding the story, read the book.
The books cover is aesthetic and gives you the right feeling of the backdrop making it perfect as a book of this genre should give you a mystical feeling right when you pick it up. As I began reading the book I loved the writers easy manner of writing almost immediately making me visualize the backdrop, though mystical and relate to the characters. The other part I loved at this point was that none of the characters were perfect or God-like without flaws as many writers aim to make them "too perfect" to be true, this one depicted them as natural and therefore one could relate to them. The setbacks were however that the story was an amalgamation of many most popular stories in the genre an orphan girl, the school of magic, even description of professors resembled Harry Potter the most. While on the evil side the powerful and ruthless queen, the travel portal and dark forces reminded me of Narnia and I was a little disappointed thinking this was it, its going to be a mix of all I have read so far. Nonetheless the writing made me kept going. 
Despite the similarities mentioned, the story has very unique magical elements and a very different plot from the books mentioned above and it was revealed layer by layer as the story continued. The fast pace of the book, never stopping at one destination and altering between highs and lows, easy and tensed scenes gives you a complete fantasy experience. To top it up there is romance, friendship and betrayal to keep one flipping. The editing is fantastic and writing once again vivid and descriptive giving you a visual experience. This book would be an amazing experience if it were an audio book. 
To conclude I couldn't put the book down and did nothing until I finished it. That itself sums up the review and makes you grab a copy immediately, doesn't it?
Tv show producers if you are reading this review, this is a recommended script to pick.  It is an incredible job on the writers part to deliver this quality of work as a debutante. I am anxiously waiting for the sequel. 
Rating: 4/5
About the Author: Farah Oomerbhoy is the international bestselling author of The AvaloniaChronicles. Her first book, The Last of the Firedrakes, was originallypublished on Wattpad where it gained nearly two million reads and aWatty Award. Since publication, her debut has gone on to win a silvermedal in IBPA's Benjamin Franklin Awards and the Readers' Favorite BookAwards, along with winning a finalist placement in the USA Best BookAwards. Farah loves the fantastical and magical and often dreams ofliving in Narnia, Neverland, or the Enchanted Forest. With a master'sdegree in English literature from the University of Mumbai, Farah spends her creative time crafting magical worlds for young adults. She liveswith her family in Mumbai, India.

Farah loves to connect withreaders. Find her at her website (, Twitter(@farahoomerbhoy), Facebook (/FarahOomerbhoyAuthor), Instagram(@farahoomerbhoyauthor), and Pinterest (/FarahOomerbhoy).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Boy From Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra

Title: The Boy From Pataliputra

Author: Rahul Mitra
Category: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fingerprint Publications
Date: 2017
Price: Rs. 295
Pages: 383

Snapshot: It is 326 BC, and Alexander, the barbarian king of Macedonia has descended upon Bharatvasrsha with a multinational horder of Yavanas, Pahlavas, Shakas and Bahlikas.
As the invaders advances relentlessly and wins bloody battles in quick succession, as local rulers fall over each other to shake hands with the enemy, and as the students of Takshashila University break into open revolt, one young man is faced with a terrifying choice, a choice that threatens to tear his carefully constructed world apart. For Aditya is the boy from Pataliputra, the boy who was once a reckless and carefree aristocrat, but who has now been forced to become a man with a purpose- to fight for honour and love. With a sweeping narrative and interesting everyday characters like the smelly old dhaba owner Tanku; Philotas, the unlucky Greek soldier; the no-non sense medical student Radha; Pandi, the hard drinking mercenary and the lovely Devika, The Boy From Pataliputra is not just the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.

Review: The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra offers a brilliant yet rare window into the 4th century BC- its people, power and glory by knitting a fictional character into the threads of an existing history. Places and names like Magadha, Pataliputra, Macedonia, Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya and Alexander are etched in our minds and bloats up from the corridors of history in this book. The cover picture is designed nicely showing the boy- Aditya, a rebel with his horse Ashvaghosha depicting his extraordinary journey.

The protagonist- Aditya is a young reckless blithe boy who resides with his elder brother Ajeet. Ajeet stays perturbed for his younger brother’s future. One day misfortune and fate strikes hard on Aditya when his brother dies amidst political conspiracy. Ajeet’s acharya and best friend Navinda sends Aditya away to prepare for the hardships of life. They genuinely believe that he is strong enough to change the course of history. He leaves Magadha and heads to Takshashila in a caravan with Navinda’s trusty Pandi who is vivid, rich and outlandish. So when Aditya goes out into the real world, he is not familiar with its workings, and is often stumped by Pandi. With a character like Pandi, the author has explored a teacher-student and a father-son relationship. Slowly and steadily, Aditya’s talent blaze more fiercely as he encounter with life’s challenges. The author skilfully creates moments that are at once tender, funny and fragile. However, once the boy has his able to fathom the world around him, the plot virtually draws from him to Rishabh, Radha, Tanku, Charaka and the twins. The author has knitted a fantastic tail of characters in all these that takes his readers to the fun loving college kinda-young cool life. Rahul Mitra’s characterization is stupendous in a way that it successfully strikes the chord unfolding the story. And then, there is the beautiful Devika, the love in Aditya’s life. The author has done his reaserch well and it shows in his deep detailed writing. Be it the sword training or the Akhara fights or the horse race during Vasant Utsav that turned out to be a most pleasing moment. It’s written to be memorable.

When Aditya is facing and bracing with his own life, a great ruler Alexander is waiting to invade Bharatvarsha. At the same time, there is a rising uproar of students, monks and acharyas to rebel against King Ambhi for Utthisht Bharat (Unification of Bharatvarsha). The verbal showdowns by Acharya Chanakya, Acharya Pundarikaksha, Rishabh, Tanku and Radha enlightened by state of affairs, and Aditya shackled by responsibility are interesting. It’s an intriguing fraction recounting the biggest showdown of history- the fight between Alexander and Porus. The storytelling and narratives are strong making the stakes feel worthy and real with all the heroic overwhelming.

In essence the book is an interesting read and flips through the pages of history in a convincing way. It virtually plays out well and by the end leaves its readers almost daring to wonder how the course will occupy an entire saga after this for Aditya.

The writing and narratives are strong compelling its readers to stay hooked till you reach the last page. I would also like to appreciate the author for going through the meticulous research and introducing and knitting his characters so well into the story that it looked so real.

The book is written well, however the use of some modern day words like yaar, freebie and awesome along with few others seemed pretty implausible in the context and could be easily avoided.

If you’re a history fan and want to get mesmerized by the era once again, do read ‘The Boy from Pataliputra.’ 

Rating: 4/5

About the Author: Rahul Mitra grew up in Delhi and is currently working as an IT Marketing Professional with a multinational company in Mumbai. Passionately, interested in all things Indian, Rahul is vociferous in his opinions about India, its people and its culture. Like many other before him, he believes he can change the world and influence people through his writings.

Book Reviewed by Shaily Bhargava:
Shaily is an Equity Technical Analyst by profession and an ardent reader, freelance writer, book reviewer by passion who enjoys most of her jolly little life in her cocooned dreamland cooking up stories. Her short stories are published by online literary magazines of repute like Storizen, eFiction India and in anthologies like- ‘Tell me a Story’ by Penguin India and ‘The first Brush on the Canvas’ by Half Baked Beans. Shaily finds her strength in the 3Cs-Coffee, Chocolates and Candy Crush. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Harappa by Vineet Bajpai

Title: Harappa - Curse of The Blood River
Author: Vineet Bajpai
Publisher: VB Performance LLP.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 130/free (kindle unlimited)

Pages: 316

The story begins with the current time when a young business tycoon Vidyut Shastri is summoned by is dying grandfather Dwarka Shastri, to a land he was not supposed to visit, Banaras. The sudden summoning makes him tensed and suspicious as he was always to be away from the curse his family carries. The roots of the curse lie in the past, buried centuries ago in the most developed civilization unearthed, Harappa, justifying the books title. These two are the timelines on which the story majorly runs as Vidyut reaches Varanasi and is told about his true origins. In between the story is a small yet significant third timeline, somewhere in the not so distant parts of the 16th Century, when the secret was unearthed and attempted to be destroyed. The writer boldly trudges the story across these three timelines with a beautiful coherence of revealing the story, in a manner that the reader feels completely in sync with. This to me was the best part of the book. 

The secret has to do with Vidyut's most powerful and respected ancestor, one who was thought as "God-like", and is so dark that it brought then the destruction of the entire mighty civilization of Harappa. What is the secret? Why Vidyut was kept away from it? Why should he know it now? What led to the destruction of Harappa? To know the answer to all these intriguing questions, grab a copy.

The author has managed an interesting amalgamation of story of history, mythology and fiction which is revealed slowly as the story unravels, one layer at a time. The story writing is similar to that of Ashwin Sanghi's book Chanakya's Chant, with a level of complexity above it as the writer runs the story on a track of not two but three timelines as was the case with former. The writing is lucid, crisp and the story is enriched with complex emotions of love, brotherhood, hatred, lust and trust. The writer ends every chapter on a note that leaves the reader waiting for more. The icing on the cake is the description of Varanasi, which to a traveler soul like me who hasn't visited the city was a perfect delight. There are a few spelling errors which aren't major yet could be avoided and the end could have been less abrupt. 

Overall a delightful one shot read.

Rating: 4/5

        About the Author:

Vineet is a first-generation entrepreneur. At age 22 he started his company Magnon from a small shed. Today Magnon is among the largest digital agencies in the subcontinent and part of the Fortune 500 Omnicom Group. 

He has led the global top-ten advertising agency TBWA as its India CEO. This made him perhaps the youngest ever CEO of a multinational advertising network in the country. He has won several entrepreneurship and corporate excellence awards, including the Entrepreneur of the Year 2016. He was recently listed among the 100 Most Influential People in India’s Digital Ecosystem. 

Vineet’s second company talentrack is disrupting the media, entertainment and creative industry in India. It is the fastest-growing online hiring and networking platform for the sector. 
He has written three bestselling management and inspirational books – Build From Scratch, The Street to the Highway and The 30 Something CEO. He is an avid swimmer, a gaming enthusiast, a bonfire guitarist and a road-trip junkie. He is 39.

Balraj by Manoj V. Jain

Title: Balraj
Author: Manoj V Jain
Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 195/99 (kindle)

Pages: 150

This is the story of a man in his late forties, Inder, who has a decent lifestyle, having worked hard for it all his life but lacks fulfillment. He is in the middle of his life, the age where ones son has started working and one has a stable finance, yet life lacks satisfaction for there is an accumulation of all that was not done. All that was supposed to be different but it isn't. Like many of us at various stages of our lives, he too ponders over the roads not taken and the journeys not made, albeit too seriously. Then one day he just decides to take the plunge and go on those roads, he never knew existed with some planning ad some serendipity. The entire story is about his confusion, thoughts, journey and experiences.

The book is written in a very simple, lucid style. The first few chapters sketch the characters very effectively and one is able to visualize the events as they happen. This is where the book passes its first test of engaging the audience well. Beyond those words that the author has used to describe the feelings of the central character, one actually begins to live and think as him and this makes the reader travel with Balraj and take the journey. The book is not very heavy on philosophy as one might expect but it is just an alternate life path that the author paints for us to imagine and relish more than think. The reader lives more than thinks which is the best part of this book.

Does Balraj reach a destination? You have to read the book for that. Though I found the writer getting a little bold in the end with un-realistic almost bollywood movie ending, which was a downhill experience to this otherwise interesting pursuit.

Overall a good read, recommended especially for the journey he takes.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Personal ROI : Discover The Way To Inner Wisdom by BK Jayasimha.

Title: The Personal ROI : Discover The Way To Inner Wisdom
Author: BK Jayasimha
Publisher: Adhyyan Publications

Genre: Self help

Date:  2016

Price: INR 187 (free on Kindle Unlimited)

Pages: 140

This is the second book of BK Jayasimha that I am reviewing; unlike the first, which was a mix of a knowledge and realization based treatise, this one is an out-and-out soul searching self-realisation. At the outset let me make it quite clear that this is neither an easy book to read, nor to understand; it requires the reader be already on the “path” in order that the contents be fully understood, imbibed and acted upon with vigour.

The concept is deceptively described as “Reverse Order Enquiry”: but entails something that ought to be called a 360-degree analysis. The reason for this is that any internal introspection is bound to give confusing, incomplete or misleading results unless the external factors are under a reasonable amount of control of the individual’s mind. The reason for this is that the external factors tend to taint the individual’s perception of the internals this book focusses on, a point that this book completely ignores, or rather – neglects to specify in so many words. As a person who has walked this path of deep self-introspection, I can testify that this is hard to do, letting go of everything to meet the real you.

The concept entails this as a starting point – the real you; the who am I. If this doesn’t make sense to you, or fails to kindle even a minor chord in you, or gives rise to ridicule in your mind, my advise to you – stop reading, and move on. I mean no insult; you may be already equipped, or you may not be ready for it. Either way, you would be better off walking away. This isn’t for you. But, for those to whom this first question – who am I – makes an immediate connect, read on!

The book sequentially takes us through various pertinent parameters, which will, to the perceptive and thinking person, be an invaluable guide. If you are, like me, already on this path, then it will also serve to point out further developments to you & to guide you in a direction. These parameters are : The quintessential starting point : Who am I; Pattern Paralysis; Your Comfort Zone; Psychological Time; Idealism; Self Vs Selfishness; Forgiving; Happiness & Peace; Trust & Simplicity

Straight off : this is one of the hardest books to review, as the code of life of each individual is different; each mind is different, and each perceptive reality is divergent from others. There can be no right, no wrong in this, the realm of introspection; only ideas, directions, morals & ethics – and your values. And that brings me to my first but minor grouse – the relative lack of emphasis on Values & Beliefs in this excellent discourse on the mind. This is a constant problem I am finding with people from the field of Psychology and matters of the mind – they tend to ignore Values, and Beliefs. That doesn’t make any connect or sense to me, as thoughts, perceptions, realisations and actions are defined by your internal value system, and belief matrix.

Unless you as an individual come to terms with, and accept your value system, understand & clearly identify your beliefs, I cannot understand how deep self-realisation is possible. This may be regarded as obvious by the experts in the field; my humble submission to them – trust me, please; it isn’t obvious, not by a long shot. You need to be very, very specific and clear on this point. Now as to whether this means that during this introspection you can challenge, question and alter your values – this is not a question I can answer, for the simple reason that I haven’t yet found an answer to that yet!

As to the rest, the book is an excellent teacher, guide, resource on become more self-realised, comfortable in your skin, and calm-collected. The part on Pattern Paralysis, for example, is the piece-de-resistance of the book, as it correctly identifies the penchant of the mind to fall into the pre-judged belief-led responses, a pattern of behaviour & responses, so to speak. It also tantalizingly raises the possibility of change in the underlying beliefs, but that is beyond my level of perception, as I am currently struggling in this phase, having just recently clearly identified my own value/belief system in clear, specific terms

Every chapter in this book is pertinent; every chapter gives a deep learning, of that there is no doubt. This is an excellent value addition to the discerning individual, and comes highly recommended. I  recommend reading it as and when your mood permits; force-reading is pointless. I took well over two weeks for a book that is just a 60 minute read for a fast reader like self. Further, while the book is written in a specific order – that does not mean that your learning will progress in that order; you can simultaneously be growing in various parameters at the same time.

The other chapter which has the strongest connect, the most powerful message is the one of Self Vs Selfishness, with its superb examination of the the concept of self, of a deep inward examination of one’s own strengths and weaknesses; and one’s own effort to grow from Self-awareness to Self-Mastery. Of even greater interest to me was the segment on getting in touch with your inner self, and the lovely heart-warming concept of a balance between survival of the fittest with being provided for from the nest : a touching look at today’s reality of cut-throat competition, which is in dire need of balance.

There are many other small tit bits & gems hidden away in these pages; nearly each chapter has at least one of two memorable observations, deep learnings, and powerful social messages. Collectively, these prove very helpful in giving you ideas, new directions, refreshing and re-energising your existing efforts; and all of this is achieved with a minimum of words, in a short but very sharp book. This is a very eminently readable book with a powerful central theme of self-realisation, and a connected but minor theme of social awareness. 

Readers Cosmos Rating: 4.5/5

The book review has been written by Vishal Kale. He has an MBA in Marketing with 16 years of experience in Sales, Marketing & Operations across various industries, with end-to-end specialisation in telecom sales and marketing. 

He is an Indian Top Blogger {on ITB Website} for the past 2 years and counting; Nominated in top 5 Political Bloggers by Blogadda in Win-15 & Among the top 200 bloggers worldwide on Invesp. He specialises in deep politico-economic analysis; Books off the beaten track, and a value & fundamentals-based approach towards the Indian Economy, Corporate India - And Especially Indian Colonial History"

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review : My Journey With Vadapav by Venkatesh Iyer

Title: My Journey With Vadapav
Author: Venkatesh Iyer
Publisher: TV18 Broadcast Limited (CNBC TV18) 

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Business

Date:  2016

Price: INR 216 (free on Kindle Unlimited)

Pages: 150

Before I begin to write about the content of this book I would like to tell you that its rare these days for a book to have a great feel, like a product would give you, made with perfection, keeping its entire feel in mind . The hard bound edition of this book is one such creation after a long time in the business genre.

Its coverpage design, giving the feel of Mumbai, the city where the dish originated, where a lot of lives survive only on vadapav in the struggling days; drawn in sketch (I am a fan of what sketch can do  to depict a concept in my opinion is ideal for concept depiction), in the colours of vadapav gives you a feeling of being at the place where it all began.

For a brief introduction "Goli Vadapav" is one of the most unique business concepts that put indian vada-pav on a pedestal similar to the western burgers (like Mc Donalds and KFC) did. It's success as a business model is depicted by the fact that Harvard teaches it in its B-school and so do many other good business schools worldwide. All this happened because Venkatesh Iyer was a non-classical thinker in his family and had a crazy dream of doing "the one thing" worthwhile in the Indian food industry.

Venkatesh Iyer begins his story from the beginning, a description of his own traits in early life and career and his love for one dish that was central to Mumbai "vada-pav" as opposed to "idli sambhar", the more expected choice from anyone hailing from the south of India. He begins to describe his idols in people even bollywood film stars which makes you immediately connect to him as a person, for nobody in India cannot be left untouched by the fevers of Indian cinema. Despite being a tycoon his entire story has this tone maintained, that of a commoner which inspires one emphatically. 

The  story then ofcourse moves into the details of successes and failures in creating this venture. The lessons to learn are to go on despite no matter what, to believe in your niche idea, where and where not to take suggestions, the challenges and merits of collaborations from his point of view and his journey. What I however found extremely bizzare in the story was "how did they not thing about uniformity of formulation problem before starting it all?". 

Overall it is the journey of a common man in making a street food product hygienic and standard. Read it for the love of vada-pav.

RC Rating: 4/5. 

Grab a copy here:

Book Review: The Mask Diaries by Abhinav Goel

Title: The Mask Diaries
AuthorAbhinav Goel
Publisher: Bennet Coeman (Times Group)

Genre: Fiction

Date:  2017

Price: INR 193/ Kindle- INR 206

Pages: 232

The Mask Diaries begins with the story of a child, a not so bright one who has various issues. His life has no love as he losses his mother at a very young age, is not valued by his father for being below average at grades, has a slight limp in his leg, so on and so forth. Like every being he wishes to be loved and adored. One day while facing a circumstance, he discovers a friend that helps him conquer his monsters. The sad part is this friend is within him and calls himself "the mask". The entire story then moves around the relationship of this boy with this mask as his life progresses and how it evolves or changes him. The boy both loves and hates the mask and the same is true for the mask. They have a relationship of being symbiotic and parasitic beings for each other.

The concept begins beautifully as the boy discovers this mask, their initial conversation, understandings etc. are very philosophical in nature. The whole concept of giving "the mask" an identity of "a being" is amazing. The story then take various turns which challenge the character and the mask getting the reader intrigued. Right in the middle of it all when you think this book is a perfect philosophical endeavor all goes on the downhill slope. I believe the author is lost here unable to expand the concept, the battle and it just becomes a mundane story. Also the entire path of conversation, growth etc. just stunts at this phase and there is a huge disconnect leaving a huge craving emanating from the hope the author himself created in the beginning. I found the style very similar to the trajectory Paulo Coehlo takes often with his philosophies, but in my opinion justice isn't done to the concept that looked promising in the beginning. On the whole story did have a potential to be a good work but it misses the point in the second half.

The plot is amazing and the book should be read by everyone who likes a philosophical jigsaw puzzle or is planning to write one. For the author I can just suggest a thinking through and a good agent at this stage.

RC Rating: 3/5. For the concept and the effort. Read it when you need a different flavour in your story. 

Grab a copy here: