I have lived in Mumbai all my life and I am someone who is used to everything that this city has to throw at me. By this, I mean that I fail to reallyI have lived in Mumbai all my life and I am someone who is used to everything that this city has to throw at me. By this, I mean that I fail to really see the city and everything that is wrong with it. I am immune to the pain and the poverty, the recklessness and the “my d*ck is bigger than yours” attitude of the rich, the ineptitude of the politicians and the police. I am happy to travel in my air-conditioned car to work and back, making a living which can buy me the comforts of life.
So I was interested to see what happens when the tottering city finally collapses. And this book brings it out perfectly. Under the garb of a fast-paced YA thriller, the author writes a story which goes beyond that and removes the gloss and shine which the city is always bathed in to show us what is truly possible.
The characters are pretty well developed, though the book left a lot of questions unanswered, not just in how things end, but also about each of the characters’ lives. I am sure all of this is something which will be revealed in the coming books. I have found out that there is a very short piece put up by the author on the main character which presents some of the back story. That, I suppose should also help.
The broad story line is not something which is unique, really. Boy and girl travelling through a crumbling city to stop the evil before it can strike is something which has already been done. What is unique is the really deep insight into the main character’s mind which the author is able to present through the use of first-person writing. It feels like you are in the mind of the character, and can literally taste her emotions.
The main character is like any other teen, rebellious and act-first-think-later. She seems quite immature at times, but is someone who is willing to take action and move ahead in the committed direction. Two things I would not have thought possible together, but which gel really well. The emotional turmoil she goes through is amazingly well brought out. I just loved how the book was able to place me solidly in her mind. There is so much potential here, I’d love to see where she goes from the end of the book.
The sights of the city are just breath-taking. Each new imagery evokes a sense of forlornness which is hard to keep in check. I think that the way the city is shown to react to the events which unfold in the book are quite right. I know that this is how things would unfold. There was a lot more which could have been shown, but I know that it would not really have added to the story meaningfully. The book made me wonder what I would do in such a situation. I think the people I know, me included, would take this sudden availability of free time by planning a holiday to one of the nearby getaways. You know, go stay in a nice 5-star hotel away from the city. This apathy to what happens to the city is something which the author is able to tap into.
The end was quite dramatic and wasn’t something I had expected, at all. It ended in absolutely the opposite direction of what I could have predicted. But, now that I think of it, I see that the ending was just perfect. It also leave me with a dramatic cliff-hanger and I really want to know what happens next. I do not want to give away anything from the book, and so will keep myself in check and not discuss this in the review, even though I am itching to.
Overall, a great start to the series, which leaves me wanting more. Definitely a series I am going to be following to the end....more
The Chosen One revolves around a young autistic boy named Gage, who does not have friends and feels isolated because of his autism. All this changes when he meets Eve and comes to know about another world called Grimsley Hollow where all the magical beings we read in books about, reside. This is the start of an adventure which involves witches, werewolves, vampires, pixies and dragons. This is a classic good vs. evil story as Gage and all his new friends unite to fight against an evil witch Inari, who has captured their parents.
I loved the world which the author has created. The beauty of the descriptions had me stunned. I could see myself walking through these woods and actually meeting all these magical beings I’ve read about. The idea that all these creatures can live together in peace somehow was quite intriguing. In this world, each of the magical beings has a separate area in which they reside, which is attuned to their needs. This leaves a huge amount of scope for the next books in the series. I can expect to meet new beings and see the different areas in which they reside in the coming books in the series. I would love to visit the areas in which the vampires, werewolves and dragons stay. That would be amazing. I could also relate to each and every character in the book. They may be so different, but they each have similar problems. They’re each looking to be accepted and be loved. This is why Gage was able to feel right at home with them, I think.
I was truly amazed at the transformation that Gage undergoes through the course of the book from the lonely boy without any friends into someone willing to risk it all for the sake of his new friends. His character really shines through in the end when it is time for him to step up.
I have to say, somewhat shamefully, that having never experienced autism first-hand, I had the same impression about people suffering from it, that the author here is trying to battle. I did think of them as somewhat quirky, somewhat eccentric and at times ‘crazy’. But, this book has changed that completely. I now understand that they’re just like us and have the same wishes, to be understood, to be loved, to have friends and to not be treated differently. I really commend the author for having opened my eyes.
Even if I were to ignore the amazing message this book is trying to get through, I would still rate this book as 5 stars. The story, by itself is engaging and really fun. There were times when I could not read fast enough to be able to see what happens next in the story. At other times, I dreaded moving on, as the feeling of the coming trouble crept over me. Don’t get me wrong, this is a middle-grade book and the violence is not something that you need to be wary of, per se. It was just the suspense and the great build-up to all the critical parts of the book that had me on this roller-coaster.
This book can be the perfect introduction for children to the world of fantasy, a world I wish someone would have introduced me to sooner. All I can now say is, I want to get to the next book in this series sooner to know what happened after the cliff-hanger the author left us with....more
‘The World among Us’ at first glance seems to be seeped in mythology and urban fantasy. There is the entire gamut of Greek Gods here, right from Gaia‘The World among Us’ at first glance seems to be seeped in mythology and urban fantasy. There is the entire gamut of Greek Gods here, right from Gaia going all the way ‘down’ to Hades. They all play their traditional roles as well. Besides the horde of Greek Gods, there are the usual urban fantasy characters consisting of werewolves, vampires and wizards. When such a cast of characters is assembled, it is obvious that a war will be brewing and who better than Hades, the God of the underworld to start it in his attempts to take over and rule the world?
This all, of course has no bearing upon the wonderful story which the author has created. It is a time tested formula of two people who can never be together, but yet fall in love. Complicating their relationship is their families who are ready to go to war.
Hades is bent on world domination and to set his plan rolling, he puts his only son and heir, Damien in a position, where he has to kill his one true love Selene. Selene being a Goddess is reincarnated and Damien realizing his mistake leaves his father’s side and his twisted plans behind. He vows to protect Selene from his father and switches sides in the coming war. Being a demon, he is now shunned by Hell and is distrusted by the Gods. Caught in the middle, we can see him treading a fine line as the creatures of Hell try to lure him, but his love for Selene holds him back. Much of the remaining book is dedicated to Selene growing up and we see little glimpses of the plans afoot to start the war between the good and evil sides.
All the Gods in the story are wonderfully adapted to the modern world. They are portrayed as being almost human, who use cell phones to communicate (albeit ones which can cross the boundaries of the mortal world and make calls to ‘heaven and hell’). They also live in the mortal world at times and are seen having relationships with mortals. They have all the fallibilities of humans even though they have some superpowers. They have emotions like love and hate, jealousy and pride and can be injured and killed. They are quick to judge and quicker to react. They have wants and desires and they are willing to work towards making them come true.
Even the urban fantasy characters are adapted to this ‘divine’ tale. The vampires are demons from hell, while the Gods look to create werewolves to fight them. The wizards are the only humans playing a role in the story.
I was quite disappointed at the place at which the story in this book ended. The book feels like one long prologue to the actual story. There are huge indications of the coming war between good and evil right from the first page. However, we never get to it till the end. In this book, just the ‘warning shots’ have been fired and the book ends right before an actual war is declared, and that just seems wrong. I would have the author to commit to the war in this book, rather than leaving it to the reader’s imagination and asking them to wait for the next book to find out how and when it all starts. This by far is my biggest gripe against the book, one which takes it away from a five star read. It is like hanging the proverbial fruit right before us, but keeping it just out of reach. I can understand the need to set up a series with the backstory and help readers understand the ‘why, when and what’ to give depth to the series, but devoting the entire first book to this resulted in it ending in a frustrating note for me.
I am sure the remaining book(s) will continue this wonderful story, and for that I give it four stars....more
Set in a world where the Biblical prophecy of the Rapture has come true, the story follows the protagonist Sam. Sam is half-demon and-half human, having characteristics of both. He is stronger and faster than most humans, heals faster and is difficult to hurt. He of course has horns protruding from his head, which makes interacting with people a little difficult. Like a demon, he is burned by contact with anything holy and cannot venture near a church. But, he has all the emotions of a human. He is awkward and shy, gets angry and ashamed and feels loyalty and love.
Sam’s entire world revolves around Hikari, his mentor and father-figure and his daughter Aimi. Sam is mainly confined to their house and only steps outside in the dark, or when he is wearing a cap or a hood to cover his horns. Sam has been trained as a warrior right from a very young age and is extremely proficient in using various weapons as well as hand-to-hand combat aided by his inhuman strength and speed. He is portrayed as fumbling his way through almost everything else. He has difficulty expressing himself and is positively disastrous in his interactions with others his age. Sam is in love with Aimi, and she is the only person with whom he interacts somewhat freely. This love story develops throughout the book, and I suspect it will have much larger role to play in later ones.
His true destiny and the reason behind this training only come to light, when he learns about the rapture and the role he will have to play once it happens. As the story went on, I developed a liking for this ‘demon-child’, and his pain in knowing that he would lose all the he held dear in the rapture really seeps through the writing. We begin to feel sorry for him as we realise that he is expected to endanger his life for not for the people he loves but for people who have constantly feared him, ignored him and hated him for what he is, without knowing who he really is.
The post-rapture world created by the author is filled with natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, fire raining from the sky, ash pouring down continuously and infestations of innumerable demons from hell. The descriptions by the author are really vivid, and you can clearly see the morose world where one can only think of survival. In this world Sam sets out to meet his destiny to protect the innocents who have not been taken up to heaven. Sam’s strong character shines through in this world as he willingly puts himself in danger a number of times in order to save every innocent person he comes across, so much so that he is willing to follow the demons into hell to protect a friend. The number and diverse nature of the demons in the book made it really interesting. They were described well and there characteristics clearly defined.
Sam sets out to find and fight his ultimate enemy, the leader from hell. Along the way he gets help from a number of people. A couple of teenage companions also join him in this fight. He finds divine help along the way and is guided by an angel to the right path.
I have to say that the author is a master at describing Sam’s fight moves with his swords. It is easy to get into monotonous repetitions, but I never felt that happening anywhere in the book. The fight sequences have been terrifically choreographed and I just loved getting immersed in them. Another thing I really loved about the book was the alternating description of current events which we read with bated breath and the flash backs to the past where we found out how Sam ended up in the current state. The book is amazingly fast-paced and action-packed and I did not once feel the story slowing down.
I should note a couple of points which could trip up readers. Firstly, this book draws substantial parts of the story-line from the Bible. At a number of places, the sentiments of a number of people, who ignore the fictional and fantastical nature of the story, could be hurt, especially atheists and people of other religions. Try and remember that this is a fictional account and is not a philosophical statement (atleast I think it is so). In fact, initially I was feeling offended at a number of places, but as the story continued and I came to accept that this is foremost a fantasy book, I started feeling comfortable with the story and was able to really get into it and start cheering for the characters, even if one of them was half-demon. Another point of contention is the long and numerous battle scenes. Although vividly described, the detail can get overwhelming. Following all the action can get tedious and getting through the longer scenes can get boring, especially for those who do not like action sequences. Don’t get me wrong, I just loved these parts in all their detail. Personally, I would not have wanted it to be any other way. But I can see a number of people being put off by these. You have been forewarned!
Overall, I give the book four stars and want to see how the story develops in the rest of the books. I would love to see all the characters coming back and of course, for the GOOD side to win. ...more
When I picked up this book after looking at the description, I thought that it would be a run-of-the-mill dystopian novel. Boy was I wrong!
There were parts of the book which had me going, “What? That did not just happen! This is impossible.” There are some hard-to-believe segments in the book if you are expecting a normal story grounded in reality. But once you accept the fact that this is mainly a science fiction / fantasy novel, things start to get very interesting.
This novel is set in a dystopian world where a pandemic is raging. All over the world, cancer has gripped people and is progressing at an alarmingly fast rate with no traditional treatments working against it. In this situation, a new business which helps suffering people die in peace has sprung up. The protagonist, Olivya's home has been converted into a hospice, catering to such patients.
Olivya is portrayed as a teenage girl who wants to maintain a semblance of normalcy in this messed-up world. She is quite stubborn and independent, does not listen to anyone most of the times, and is hugely confident in herself and her abilities. Her ‘colourful’ language had me laughing at times. Her deceased Japanese father had trained her in martial arts, and she does have skills with a nagamaki. But above all, her defining characteristic is that she can see other people’s auras, which enables her to see how a person is feeling, what emotions are welling up inside of him. Her love interest is Mikah, a kindred. Kindred are supposed to be descendants of a demon, and tend to not mingle with regular humans. They each have certain abilities which no normal human would have. Mikah’s ability is that he is a powerful telempath who can alter a person’s emotions. His love for Olivya comes out on many occasions as he disregards his elders to meet her, and attempts to protect her on numerous occasions as they both face immense danger throughout the book. The book is littered with mythical creatures, all of which have been beautifully woven into the story. The authors come up with a unique explanation for their existence in our world, making them extremely real and weaving them into the history of the planet rather than the stories in which they have, till now belonged. There are a lot of other strong characters in the book, whose allegiance is always under doubt. There is no way of knowing who the bad guy really is, until the very last page of the book. Let’s start with the Neo-Twins, Kaiman and Ash, who are ‘bad guys’ personified, mocking Mikah and pushing him to make mistakes. It is quite easy to hate them. Then there is Mrs Wright-Ono, Olivya's mother, who is extremely strict, but her love comes through in all the rules and boundaries she sets. She does try to raise Olivya well, but keeps running headlong into walls of resistance from her. Chanagrai, Mikah’s father figure is extremely wise because of the millennia of experience he has (that’s right, millennia!). Prime is the leader of the kindred and we do not know much about him for large parts of the book, other than that he is a ‘monster’ and is feared by Mikah. And last, the largest character of the book, Lylobriel. He is the ‘alien’ in the book, but is extremely humane. Lylobriel and Morfexio (the other alien) are the perfect example of what friends should be like. Of course, any more description would be considered a spoiler.
I will not be going into any description of the story, as it would give away too much of the fun in the book. So, NO SPOILERS. I’ll just let you know that this story is spread over millennia of the earth’s history. Be ready to be introduced with mythical creatures, aliens, mystics and all the other wonderful science fiction characters. Even with this parade of characters, none of them will feel out of place, or unnecessarily included. Well, we’re coming to the end of my review and you still don’t know what the story is about? That means I have achieved my aim! But know this, the story is about how all the characters join together to defeat the pandemic and return earth to normalcy.
The twists and turns in this book really made my head spin, and story kept moving into unthinkable directions. These unexpected changes kept me hooked and there is not a single part, where I could say that I had anticipated the authors’ moves beforehand. This according to me is a huge compliment and testament to the authors’ wild and uninhibited imaginations, as most stories tend to run along fairly regular lines and end up in ways that everyone expects. As the story progressed, I kept increasing the number of stars I would give it, and the mega-finale finally pushed this book into five-star category....more
The short introduction to this book got me intrigued enough to get myself a copy and start reading it. And I have to say that I could hardly put it down. The author is able to weave a story which kept me wanting to know what would happen at the next turn. There is not a single dull moment in the book, and the story moves along at a fast pace.
This book has all the elements that a good fantasy series should. It has an unlikely hero, upon whom the responsibility to save the world has been thrust. He gets a number of companions to help him on his quest. He also gets a guide to teach him and ready him for his final showdown. And finally, there is the bad guy with an all-encompassing power who seems invincible.
The various scenes in the book have been so well described that it feels as if you are a part of the book. The author’s amazing imagination comes to the fore in the multitude of creatures throughout the book. They have been terrifically described and you can practically see them in front of you. The pictures of these creatures throughout the book come in handy as well.
Each of the characters in the book has been created beautifully, with their own unique characteristics. Andrew, the central character of the books, really grows through the book. He is initially not sure of his gifts, but as the story progresses, he becomes more confident, but not before making a few blunders. I can see him progressing to become the courageous leader that his quest is surely to demand. Ivory is portrayed as being very inquisitive, which gets her in trouble a number of times. She keeps wandering off and has to be rescued resulting in the story taking a number of side tracks. This however gives Andrew a chance to get in touch with his gifts, to understand and develop them. Ivory also seems to be attracted to Andrew and I see their relationship getting deeper in future books. Rhapsody is Andrew’s guide and teacher and provides Andrew the confidence to use his gifts. He is the mature adult in the group of boys and keeps them in line most of the times. Lancedon is a price who has been banished from his kingdom. He is very brave, but has a soft side to him as well. I believe that he will have a much larger role to play in the remaining books of the series.
As far as criticisms go, I was a bit disappointed, as the group’s journey to find the Fallen begins right at the end of the book. This does not give us a chance to understand him and his powers a bit better.
Overall, I loved the book and I can’t wait for the next book to come, and for the adventure to continue. ...more
Before I started reading Hunger Games, I had read some reviews going gaga over the book, but I was still not ready for it. The basic story premise goes something like this: Set in a post-apocalyptic future, America is now divided into 12 districts ruled with an iron hand by the Capitol. The 12 districts each supplies the Capitol with different products such as coal, agricultural goods, etc. Years ago, there had been a rebellion by the districts against the Capitol which had been quashed mercilessly and utterly by the Capitol. As a reminder of the power the Capitol holds over the destinies of the districts, every year the Capitol chooses 2 children from each district, between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight in the ‘Hunger Games’, a fight to the death. The winner is treated as a hero uplifted from the poverty that hounds everyone else in the districts. The event is of course televised, with compulsory viewing by the people in the districts. The inhumanity of this comes out when the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister, with no survival skills is chosen for the Games. Long story short, Katniss volunteers to take her place and enters the Games.
The way in which Katniss and Peta are readied for the Games, they seem like lambs being fattened before they are sacrificed at the altar. Though well-meaning, the team provided to them comes across as being immune to the horrors of the Games. They can only see the glory this could get them. Not to be overly critical, they do help both Katniss and Peta get into a position to win the Games.
Each character has been perfectly created and moulded. Katniss comes across as a hugely determined girl, who is extremely competent for the task for which she has been chosen. Her training in hunting and survival skills holds her in good stead during the Games. Her unwavering need to get back to her family, who she believes would not survive without her, keeps her focused on winning the Games. I found the moral tug-of-war going on in her head to have She does come across as brutal and manipulative in the way she uses Peta’s love for her to win support from sponsors during the games. Peta Mellark, who is the other contestant chosen for the Games from Katniss’ district, has been in love with her throughout his life. This is initially used as a tactic to garner sponsors for them by their mentor, but it really comes across during the games, where he sacrifices himself on a number of occasions to save Katniss’ life. Katniss and Peta seem to be on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Katniss is brutal while Peta Is lovable, Katniss is competent, while Peta seems to stumble along, Katniss is driven by the love for her family while Peta is driven by her love for Katniss. Haymitch is the team’s mentor who initially comes across as a highly incompetent drunk. He however, has a big role to play in the team’s winning the Games. Gale is Katniss’ best friend and hunting partner. They have a relationship where they can tell each other anything, and there seems to be a connection between him and Katniss. This gets sidelined due to the publicised love story of Peta and Katniss.
This is a story that touches on so many of the social aspects that everyone seems to just glide over and brings them into the spotlight. Each part of the book is a subtle reference to the ills in our society today. The description of the districts gives us the stark difference between the haves and have-not in the world today. While people in the Capitol, without realising it, have too much of everything, those in the districts barely subsist from one day to the next. The broadcasting of the Games seems like a direct reference to the excess of reality shows on television today, and how they seem to pull in viewers and get them addicted to even the grossest and meanest of images. Katniss and her friend Gale are afraid of talking ill about the Capitol in their district and have to go into the jungle to vent their anger. This alludes to the growing Big Brother attitude of governments today, where everyone and everything seems to be tracked. There is a section of the story, where people in the Capitol regurgitate whatever they have eaten, so that they can stuff themselves some more. Not being satisfied ever, no matter what you have seems to be the mantra of today’s materialistic world with ne end to ‘the want for more’ in sight.
Although the build up to the Games seems to stretch out a bit, the Games are fast paced with not a single dull moment. I found myself holding my breath on a number of occasions to see what would happen next. The killings are not unnecessarily brutal, and the blood and gore which is there in the book seems necessary to get the message across. The description of scenes is beautiful and left me imagining them as happening right before my eyes.
The book had a hold it had on me and I could not stop reading it, once the actual Games started. The story, though brutal left me rooting for the underdog and when, towards the end Katniss defies the Capitol, I was cheering for the humiliation this caused the Capitol. It has gotten me thinking of the direction our world is heading and whether it is something I endorse or oppose. For this I give the book 5 stars. ...more
Storm Front is the first book in a currently on-going series, Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. There are currently 13 books out in the series with another one on the way.
The premise of the series is very simple: Harry Dresden is a wizard (it is a fantasy book, remember) who lives and works in Chicago as a private investigator. He is a serious practitioner and not someone who would do magic tricks at a party. He also helps the Chicago Police Department’s Special Investigation unit (led by Karrin Murphy) to solve crimes which cannot be easily explained and seem other-worldly. Magic is an integral part of the world created by Butcher which also includes creatures such as vampires, demons, spirits, faeries, werewolves, and other mythical monsters. Most people are largely sceptical of Harry’s abilities and believe him to be a charlatan out to make a quick buck. Harry comes across as very human with everyday problems like getting enough work to pay his bills and doing something about is non-existent love life.
The magic in this book does not involve any extreme unbelievable stunts, and can easily be accepted as part of a fantasy creation. I found the magic to be logically explained, and the idea that it uses energy and hence has limitations really appealed to me. This meant that Harry was not capable of performing superhuman tasks without any thought and each time magic was used, it took a toll on him, leaving him a little weakened.
Harry’s character is pretty negative and has a tendency to assume the worst. He is quite careful and does not like to be blindsided if he can help it. He tends to take on more than he can handle at times (especially if a woman asks him). This leaves him working overtime and generally tired. His ethics make him always do the right thing and he refuses to lose, give up and let the bad guy win. He is not someone who likes to take to orders and cannot be easily intimidated.
The story of Storm Front had a lot of twist and turns and kept me guessing what would happen next. It is not all serious business and there are a few light moments sprinkled across the pages. It involves two separate investigations about a missing person and a couple of gruesome murders. The way in which everything comes together in the end to solve both, the crime Harry is investigating and his personal problems in just beautiful.
I have come across the series pretty late and have a lot of catching up to do. Just hoping the other stories in the series are just as good. ...more