Thursday, 12 November 2015

Kim's Review : Queen of Someday - Stolen Empire Series

Sherry Ficklin's Stolen Empire Series is the story of Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg and her journey to becoming Catherine the Great of Russia.

While the subject matter itself is extremely exciting and I was really looking forward to some Historical Fiction set in Russia, however Sherry's treatment of the subject is more reminiscent of Reign (featuring Queen of Scotland Mary Stuart), than The Tudors or The Borgias.

An innocent naive child thrown into the political intrigue of the Imperial Russian Court as a possible suitor for Peter the III, with a mother spying for the Germans, an aging Empress wanting to secure her own line, young and old men attracted to her beauty and an unreliable and slightly manic Royal suitor.

This book might appeal to a younger audience, but for me personally I wished that it had a little more substance than romantic dalliances.

I loved the concept of a youtube video link at the end of some chapters, that showed original paintings of the time and an actress playing the role of Catherine. However, I would not be picking up any more books in this trilogy.

Rating : 3/5

#100BooksPact 10/100

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Kim's Review : The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons

No, I'm not reading Dan Brown's novel a decade late, this book is a compendium of short stories on the Supernatural beings - Angels & Demons. Of course, it was George RR Martin's name in the credits that made me pick it up. I'm restless with waiting, for the next book in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series (more popularly know as "The Game of Thrones")

This compendium of stories concerning Angels & Demons is a mixed bag. Some of the stories were hugely fascinating and made me want to read other works by the authors like Richard Parks, Caitlin Kiernan, Tanya Huff and Chelsea Yabro. There were other stories that I really enjoyed, but some were not too exciting. But that's what happens when you pick up an anthology, you love some stories and could be indifferent to others, even going so far as to hate some of them. Fortunatley, my reactions were not so extreme on the negative side.

I loved the little introduction that the editor of this collection - Paula Guran provided and the beginning of each story. It was a lovely way to create a setting and provides an insight into specific beliefs concerning Angels & Demons in other religions and traditions.

Its a great collection if the subject matter interests or fascinates you.

Rating : 3.75/ 5

#100BooksPact 9/100

Monday, 9 November 2015

Kim's Review : Sita's Sister

Kavita Kane's Second Novel (after Karna's Wife) - Sita's Sister, demonstrates how much she has grown as a novelist.

This book tells the Ramayan from the perspective of Urmila - Sita's Sister, the natural born daughter of King Janaka of Mithila and Queen Sunayana - the wife of Lakshman - the Princess who supposedly slept away the 13 years of exile, so that her husband may remain ever alert & awake. She is often ignored in the main retellings of the Ramayana.

However, who is to say whose trials were worse - that of young bride Sita who accompanied her husband for 14 years in the forest or those of newly married Urmila forced to live away from her husband for 14 years while e followed his brother dutifully?

Sita's sister makes some excellent points. And unlike most retellings that say that Urmila slept for the 14 years that her family was away, here Kavita Kane's Urmila is the essential lynch pin who holds the rest of the family in Ayodhya together for 14 years. Kavita's Urmila is responsible beyond her years, a well educated scholar in her own right, grounded, sensible, emotionally stable Princess. It was a pleasure to see the Ramayan through her eyes.

Kavita also touches on Mandavi & Shrutakirti - their cousins who were married to Bharata & Shatrugna - and how the exile affected them too.

However, the most poignant redemption in this book is that of Kaikeyi.

This is a lovely book, well worth reading, especially if you are interested in different narratives of the epics.

Rating : 4 / 5

#100BooksPact 8/100

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Blood Red Sari

While we have Ashok Banker’s entire Ramayana series on our book-shelf, I haven’t had the courage to pick up an 8 volume series. I really turned fan of Ashok Banker through the beautiful Ten Kings.

When I saw that Kindle was offering “Blood Red Sari” for free, I downloaded it to see how a master of historical fiction would treat a pure modern fiction. In the end my response to this book is kind of mixed. While I love the characters and speed of the narrative. I simultaneously felt the actual story line and situations were really far-fetched and believability was a big challenge.

The other irritation for me was to figure out at the end of the book that this was first in a series and most resolutions were left hanging for the sequel. I felt cheated that an author of this repute would hide the fact that the book is not complete and lure me to the last page and then leave me hanging. If the attempt is to make me buy the next few books (first being free on kindle) I must say the author and publisher both have failed miserably as they have an irritated reader at hand.

Rating : 2.5/5

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Being Global - How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World

I was gifted "Being Global - How to Think, Act and Lead in a Transformed World" after a guest lecture. The idea looked exciting and when I was called back to give a similar guest lecture to the next batch of participants, I decided to challenge myself and instead of going for the same content, I decided to use this new book by Angel Cabrera & Gregory Unruh as the straw-man for my next lecture.

I must say the frame-work was interesting and gave me a great thought to build upon. Having lived and worked outside of India for over quarter of my work-life, I was comfortably able to relate to most of the challenges and solutions outlined in the book.

It gave me rich material for my next presentation and you can get a quick glimpse of the book summary through my notes in the next picture. The book is a good guide for managers attempting to grow a global mind-set or for those who are planning to work in a foreign location for the first time.

I also found some good strong morally rooted suggestions for today’s leader around ethics and code of conduct which are increasingly becoming relevant in the modern business sphere.

Rating : 3/5

Friday, 6 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Watchmen

Last year when I was getting excited by the world of graphic novels, I asked a few literary friends for recommendations on the Best Graphic Novels. Watchmen was a recommendation by many of my friends and on ordering the book, I also realized that it is one of Time Magazine’s 100 best novels of all time.

I started this book three times before I could finish it this month. The fact that the book kept on pulling me back to it, inspite of so many stop-starts is a testimony to the magically complex, morally ambiguous and ethically debatable world of late 20th century.

The book starts with the death of a masked-super-hero in America around 1985 and moves back and forth in time and space in a beautifully languid and fluid manner, which can only be experienced through the book. Each chapter of this massive book is a story in itself and I would recommend each booklover to give this book a shot.

Text only narratives, in between the chapters act as background explainer, pace amplifier, or at times open a completely new dimension to a character or concept. The book totally lives up to its reputation of a classic. You can experience a sliver of watchmen beauty through the next few pictures in this album.

Rating : 5/5

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This being the 150th year since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson published this ageless story of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" - which was originally narrated during a boat ride on river Isis in the University town of Oxford.

Over the last year during my many trips to Oxford, I have heard about the story and seen the places where the story unfolded. Strangely while I got to know all about the history of the author, book related scandals and experienced the city, I had not read the book! So when Kim gifted me a Kindle on my birthday, the first book I downloaded was the original edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

My first reaction after reading the book was of amazement that this is classified as a children’s book. I found so many layers and such profound subtlety of social and moral commentary that I used the highlight function of the new Kindle quite liberally. Hoping to use these passages in my future lectures and presentations. A sample of these highlights is in the next picture. A great start to my new e-reader journey with this lovely timeless book.

Rating : 4.5/5

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Scion of Ikshvaku

I am a huge fan of Amish Tripathi, and was delighted to get my copy of Scion of Ikshvaku in London, through my parents. I finished the book in 3 days and continue to be excited by his unique rendition of the historical epics.

Many of the usual tricks return from the earlier trilogy of Meluha in the form of DeviAstra, Somras and Nagas. While one is by now quite familiar with the tricks and plot movers, the unusual take on such a familiar epic and subtle but significant movement of key plot-line with really strong character definition makes this another lovely read.

The references to the coming of a strong suryavanshi society in a city named Meluha give joy to the readers of the earlier trilogy. Economics and power remain at the centre of the plot while subtle conversations and hidden agendas lurk in the background.

Overall this book remains a page-turner and I just can’t wait for the next book. Amish you are truly the modern literary rockstar of India.

Rating : 4/5

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Hedge Knight (Song of Fire & Ice)

I am sure all “Game of Throne” fans continue to wonder if (a key character in GOT, not to be named as spoiler alert) is dead or alive. I am also sure we all are trying to find innovative ways to deal with our respective withdrawal symptoms. As the next series if still over 10 months away, I decided to go find solace in a prequel graphic novel by GRRM.

While I never read the original series given the sheer size of the books, I decided to give this short graphic novel a shot.

Now that the book-worms (like my wife) no longer have the snob advantage over us the TV types, I decided to take the advantage through the graphic novel route. Unfortunately the book added nothing to the intrigue or mystery. Even as a stand-alone, the story wasn’t very strong. The drawing too was nothing special. However the book does end at an interesting place and GRRM clearly has a new franchise in mind through the journeys and exploits of the hedge knight.

Rating : 3.5/5

Also see Kim's reviews of :
1. A Game of Thrones
2. A Clash of Kings
3. A Storm of Swords (Steel & Snow, Blood & Gold)
4. A Feast for Crows
5. Dance with Dragons (Dreams & Dust, After the Feast)
6. The Hedge Knight

Monday, 2 November 2015

Brajesh's Review : Blood Line

John J Davis, Blood line has a really interesting cast: Ex-CIA hit-squad agent married to a female Mossad assassin. No wonder their daughter is greatly gifted in all the cloak & dagger stuff. The book is the first in the Granger Series, and sets it up well.

The characters which will continue are all interesting, the history of the family intriguing although the plot of a rural defence supplier being blackmailed by a rogue FBI computer analyst is seriously clich├ęd. The best part of the book is when the parents go over their personal & family history to being the daughter uptodate. I might just pick-up the next one in series (Titled Bloody Truth), to see where the plot goes.

Rating : 3.5/5

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