Sunday, 29 March 2015

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

George R R Martin's "Hedge Knight" is a prequel to his best selling series - "A Song of Ice & Fire" popularly known as "A Game of Thrones".

This Graphic Novel illustrated by Martin Avery and Miller Crowell is a collectors / fan's delight. Set 100 years before the Popular series.

The main character in this set of 3 prequel Graphic Novels is "Dunk" later "Ser Duncan the Tall" who grew up in Flea Bottom, squired for the Hedge Knight - Ser Arlan of Pennytree, proclaimed himself a Hedge Knight and progressed to Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under Aegon V. the next 2 books in this series are The Sworn Sword & The Mystery Knight.

If you loved the books, you will love these graphic novels which cover a few stories that are only mentioned in passing in the main novels. A bit of a historical background, you could call it.

The art work is beautiful and realistic rather than over-stylised and the story moves forward linearly through the eyes of Duncan (so no moving back and forth between character perspectives, in these books)

If you are a fan, do pick these up. I'm waiting to order the next 2 in the series.

Rating : 4.5/5 (-0.5 for leaving me waiting indefinitely)

Also see my 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)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Mime Order & On the Merits of Unnaturalness

Samantha Shannon's "The Mime Order" is second in her 7 part anachronistic, Dickensian, dystopian, steam punk, fantasy combination series after "The Bone Season", which released in mid-March this year. I absolutely LOVED "The Bone Season" and was really looking forward to The Mime Order and this one was very very good too, but it didn't have the impact that the first book did.

I guess my reaction was something like with "The Matrix" movies. The first one blew my mind because of the concept, the following ones were very good, but didn't have the "blow your mind" effect of the first in the series.

I must warn you, that if you do not remember too much of "The Bone Season", then you may need to catch up on the highlights, because The Mime Order doesn't really reintroduce characters, it just picks up where the first book left off. There are a few terms explained in the glossary at the end of the book. But if you don't remember characters and relationships, then you need to catch up on them before starting this one.

Paige Mahoney - The Pale Dreamer is back in London after escaping Sheol and concerned with how to bring awareness about the Rephaim and their plans to the population, while also being hunted down as "Most Wanted" by the administration.

Samantha's love for London, shines through this book and its details on local markets and landmarks.It's surprising that I haven't yet seen any "Bone Season" walking tours on the market yet.

There was a special limited edition offer for those who pre-ordered the book. And I'm very pleased to say that I am the proud possessor of "Copy 210 / 500" of "On the Merits of Unnaturalness - being an extraordinary treatise upon the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance" by an Obscure Writer.

This pamphlet is exactly as it is described in the series and while its not really a reference for the books, its a nice accompaniment, which details exactly what the title says.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Friday, 27 March 2015

Kim's Review : HiFi in Bollywood

HiFi in Bollywood is Rishi Vohra's second book after "Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai"

My autographed copy reached me through a long journey and courtesy the generosity of friends from Bombay to London via Ahmedabad.

In this book, Rishi keeps up his comfortable writing style which makes the book easy to breeze through, but the story itself is much more interesting and told with a lot more authenticity. This genre seems like a natural one for him, given his background and the writing clearly reflects his comfort with his subject - Bollywood aka HiFi (Hindi Film Industry - a term introduced by Salman Khan, that has not yet caught on in the public imagination)

Rayhan Arora is a very identifiable lead character -forced to take up "professional" studies by a domineering father when his real interest lies in  the creative field of film-making. Rayhan isn't one of the millions wanting to be an "actor", he wants to become a "director".

The characters he meets along his journey may seem stereotypical, but there's also something genuine about each of them. He doesn't focus so much on the big stars, as he does on the "aam aadmi". He again brings home the reality of life in average middle class Mumbai

I did enjoy this book, much more than  "Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai", but then this isn't such a "difficult" subject either. Empathising with Babloo was a little difficult as there was a bit of pity thrown into the mix. In "HiFi in Bollywood", its much easier to empathise with Rayhan.

Given the sheer improvement in the last year and a half, I look forward to reading more of Rishi's books in the future, especially as he seems to be getting more comfortable with his voice and the characters he puts down on paper.

Rating : 3.75 / 5

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Kim's Review : Imdalind Series - 5. Burnt Devotion

Burnt Devotion by Rebecca Ethington is the 5th in her Imdalind Series that was released on March 22nd. Her books are still primarily available as ebooks rather than printed copies.

I had pre-ordered my copy on kindle and was quite impressed to see it pop up on my screen by 12:05am on 21st night/22nd morning. I'm not yet converted into a digital book aficionado, but I was impressed. (The current spree of ebooks that I'm reading is to lighten the load of my back when I travel by tube, for my favourite books and authors, I still prefer printed paper)

Burnt Devotion follows along the lines of the previous 4 books. The first half covers the same timeline as Book 4. - Soul of Flame, but this time from Wyn and Ryland's perspective and frame of reference. It was good to read about Wyn's background from herself and to finally understand from Ryland what is going on inside of his mind. The chapters on Ovailia really provided insight into her motivations for her behaviour.

Joclyn's voice comes back in the second half and the story moves forward from there, returning back into Prague, where there are quite a few surprises in store for the characters and for the reader. This part of the story is told through Joclyn, Wyn, Ryland, Ovailia and even Sain.

If you buy the book right now, there area couple of bonus chapters available as told by Ilyan and Rosaline. The Rosaline chapter is worth buying this book "right now".

Now its just a matter of waiting another 3 months for Book 6 - Dawn of Ash to come out.

Until then, I thought you may like this picture that I found on pinterest It doesn't have ribbons running through it and the roses are made from hair itself, but it did bring the book to mind.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Hanover Square Affair - Captain Lacey Series

The Hanover Square Affair is the first in Ashley Gardner's Captain Lacey Series set in the Regency Era. Its currently available as a free download on kindle, iBooks and Google Play.

London, 1816
An impoverished cavalry captain returns injured from the Napoleonic / Peninsular wars at odds with himself. Then a missing girl possibly kidnapped by a prominent member of Parliament and her distraught father set Captain Gabriel Lacey into investigating the dark underbelly of Regency London.

Lacey's search leads him on a merry chase to the discovery of murder, corruption, and dealings with a leader of the underworld. He faces his own disorientation transitioning from a soldier's life to the civilian world while making new friends, from the top of society to the street girls of Covent Garden and enemies too.

Captain Lacey tries his best to be an honourable man in a less-than-honourable society, one in which wealth, privilege and position are always right. So, he fights for the underdog, the forgotten, the neglected. He does come across as a very strong character.

Plot development is really good, but there were some characters like Janet Ingram and the widow Dawson, who I'm not sure why they were even brought into the story, I'm not sure if they become major characters in the later books, but their miniscule guest appearances in this book, were distracting.

Other than this, I quite enjoyed the read. The insight into society in the 1800's is often uncomfortable, but essential to the plot.

I think Ashley has come out with 9 books in the series so far. I look forward to reading some of the others as Captain Lacey inspite of his quirks and easy temper, is quite an endearing hero.

Rating : 4.25 / 5

Brajesh's Review : Half Girlfriend

Not a Chetan Bhagat, I got this book as a free download from a friend. As I am not a great e-book reader, it took me some time to finish this one - over train-rides and bed-time reading.

The book started well for me, and I specially related to the struggle of a non-English speaker in the DU collage. Unfortunately for me that was the only part which sounded real. Post the first break-up of the lead characters, the novel turned from absurd to incredulous to down-right stupid at break-neck speed.

Rating : 2 / 5

Friday, 13 March 2015

Kim's review : The Good Knight (Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mystery)

The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury is part of her Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mystery series. This was the first time I was reading a tale set in Wales, added to that was the fact that it was Historical Fiction and a mystery to boot. Quite a potent combination.

The story is set in the court of Owain, the King of North Wales in 1143AD with a bit of the action spilling over into Ireland. Its not easy to find fiction set in Wales (or maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places), so it was an absolute pleasure to discover this book.

The kingdom is preparing for the marriage of the daughter of King Owain with an allied King Anarawd. But the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding. Gareth - a knight, and Gwen - the daughter of the exiled court bard — are tasked by the brides brother with bringing the killer to justice.

Behind-the-scene political machinations, intrigue, rivalry and suspicion run amok and suddenly the blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, leaving Gwen to continue her search alone, until Gwen finds herself kidnapped and held to ransom.

There is a hint of a romance in this book, but its not too integral to the story. Think early seasons of Castle or Bones.

There are some mysteries hinted at in this book, which are covered in the prequel - The Bard's Daughter - the setting of that book is how Gwen turns into a spy / sleuth.

The pronunciation guide and the historical map of Wales are a good bonus at the start of the book.

I read that Ellis Peters is the author to read for believable medieval detective work and his "The Summer of the Danes" is set in the same time period. So I'm going to have to pick that one up next now.

Rating : 3.75 / 5

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Kim's Review : Imdalind Series - 1. Kiss of Fire, 2. Eyes of Ember, 3. Scorched Treachery 4. Soul of Flame

I was introduced to the Imdalind Series courtesy a free download of "Kiss of Fire" on kindle. It was so amazing, that after finishing Book 1 by Rebecca Ethington, I promptly bought Eyes of Ember (Book 2), Scorched Treachery (Book 3) and Soul of Flame (Book 4) in the digital form because I couldn't wait for the paperbacks to reach me.

Burnt Devotion (Book 5) is due on March 22nd - already pre-ordered and Dawn of Ash (Book 6) is due in June 2015.

If you are the type who cannot teeter on the edge of suspense while waiting between books, then I heavily recommend that you wait until they are all out. I read the first 4 books in 2 days flat and can't wait for the next 2.

The Imdalind Series is fantastic. The first time I got a feeling was when I read Harry Potter, the next was Hunger Games, the Immortals of Meluha, then Samit Basu's Gameworld Trilogy, and now this one. The feeling I got was that these books would be phenomenally popular (I had read them much before they exploded on the scene) Samit Basu's Gameworld Trilogy is still waiting for its big break, but once it is "discovered" by the right people, there will be no stopping it.

The Imdalind series is in the same league and will soon become a phenomenon. Mark my words.

The series is much better written than "Twilight" and will connect instantly with most Young Adults. All the standard plot staples are very much present.

A teenage girl who feels alienated from the world around her, except for one special friendship. The discovery that she is special with paranormal abilities. Early loss of parental figures. The discovery and training of her powers. An impossible love triangle. A terrible persecutor who is bent on destroying the world. While these might seem like staple plot lines, they are woven together beautifully.

Well etched characters, well thought through plots (though I do have a few minor issues that haven't been explained yet, like if Ryland knew he was being watched through cameras, why did he take Joclyn to his room where he knew they would be watched. If they didn't realise who Joclyn really was, why was Cail watching her apartment for over a year) and an engrossing style of story telling.

The first 2 books are from Joclyn's perspective. But in Book 3, Rebecca switches to tell us the tale from Wyn and Ilyan's perspectives. So a part of the story is a repeat of Books 1 & 2, but with more insight and information from a different point of view. (so its not pointless, unlike Four - A Divergent Collection). Book 4 goes back to Joclyn's perspective and while its all set in one location, the story does move forward. I however did feel that book 4 is the weakest of the lot and could have been made shorter, maybe combined it with book 5, but since book 5 isn't released yet, we'll just have to wait and see.

Pick these up as soon as you can. As far as I know, the author is self publishing, so its quite hard to get your hands on paperbacks, but the e-versions are quite easy to download. Kiss of Fire is currently a free download on flipkart too.

Rating : 4.5 / 5

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Duchess War

Set in 1863, The Duchess War could easily be mistaken for another wannabe Historical Romance in the Georgette Heyer fashion, but Courtney Milan's (pseudonym for Heidi Bond) novel is much more than that.

Ms Wilhemina Pursling / Minerva Lane is quite a solid heroine. She is a much stronger heroine than most of those in novels set in this time period. Her history - as it is revealed is quite unique and interesting. So there is obviously a Duke - in this case, Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont - who is trying to unravel her story.

What is interesting about this novel is that historical events like the workers rights movement, founding of food co-operatives, civil unrest due to suspicion against vaccinations, Gregor Mendel's early discoveries in the field of genetics are woven very well into the story itself.

The author has made a few tweaks to history to get a better flow for her story, but she owns up to each one of them in a note at the end. Quite an interesting read.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Killing League

The Killing League by Dani Amore / Dan Ames is quite a gripping read right from the first paragraph.

This is a thriller, so I do not want to give out too many plot lines.

The first chapter begins with the terror of the situation that Nicole finds herself in, before moving forward 3 years. We later learn that she is rescued by Wallace Mack - retired FBi Detective who stars in many of Dan Ames books.

We are then introduced to a couple of serial killers and their techniques before they are brought together for a competition - "The Killing League"  - by a mysterious Commissioner to decide who is the most bad-ass serial killer of them all. There is no opting out, you either win or you die.

The Killing League is perfect for reading on train journeys, where you can stop at the end of each chapter without getting too bugged at the distraction of having arrived. Yet, the story is captivating enough, to get you back to it quickly.

This isn't great literature, but its an easy read and ideal for those who like a bit of blood and gore in their books.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Kim's Review : To Catch a Bad Guy

To Catch a Bad Guy by Marie Astor is a very straight simple story masquerading as a detective novel.

Within the first few pages, you know which way the story is heading, who are the bad guys and who are the good guys. No surprises at all, other than the fact that I actually read until the end. Sigh!

And to think she made this a series (Janet Marple Series - hoping to cash in on Agatha Christies Miss Marple?)

This books is fine if you want a bit of summer fluff to read on the beach without taxing your mind, otherwise, don't bother.

Rating : 2 / 5

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Brajesh's Review : Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs

Ansel Adams quote of “You don’t take a photograph, you make it” caught my attention, and I speed read Henry Carroll's "Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs" at the book-store.

A simple book, without too much jargon and complexity touched all the basic aspects of taking good photographs. The beauty of the book is that it gives proper weight to non-technical aspects of photography which is often neglected. I would recommend all budding photographers to invest in this book, or you can just look at my notes in the photo collage

Rating : 4 / 5

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Queens Vow - Isabelle of Castille

C W Gortner's "The Queen's Vow" was my first book of Historical Fiction set in Spain, so there was an added sense of discovery while I started reading this.

Isabella is well known for being Columbus' Financier. Along with her husband Ferdinand, she was also recognised for routing the Moors out of Spain, but they were also responsible for the horrific Inquisition.

Gortner tries to humanise Isabella in this book, by putting all the circumstances together to build a case as to why she was helpless in stopping the Inquistion, but I'm not entirely convinced. I've just downloaded a 12 part TV series centering around her. It will be interesting to see what light she is covered in, in that.

Isabella had to grow up in trying times. As King Juan II's second wife, her mother was forced to flee with 3 year old Isabella and her 1 year old brother Alfonso when the King died and his son Enrique IV from a previous marriage took the throne. Inspite of Enrique's wife - Juana being a close relative of Isabel and Alfonso, she did not want them anywhere near the throne. So they were forced to live in near penury away from the capital until Juana herself bore Enrique a son and heir to the throne.

Enrique unfortunately was as weak a ruler as his father and was not a very popular ruler, which gave the dissidents a reason to rally behind Alfonso, which then plunged the country into war. Alfonso's untimely death led to another period of confusion with Enrique condemning his wife as an adulteress and denouncing his own daughter Joanna. A truce of sorts was arrived at with Isabellla refusing to take the throne until her half brother died a natural death. But courtiers kept playing the two against each other and Enrique's death set up "The War of Castillian Succession" between supporters of Isabel and those of Joanna.

Isabel of course, ascended the throne and married her cousin Ferdinand of Aragon, thus uniting the lands of Castille and Aragon against the French.

Through her trying times, Isabel was strongly Catholic and took strength from her faith, so when she came to power she did her best to clean out the rot within the Catholic Church in Spain, but that wasn't enough for her confessor Torquemada - who insisted that most Jews who had converted to Catholicism, were actually still practicing their old religion and he wanted them out of Spain. The Jews were integral to the society of that time, but Torquemada wanted them out along with the Moors and supporters of this view whipped up mob frenzies around the country.

In her drive to create a united nation, Isabella had to bow to these wishes and thus began some of the worst excesses of her regime, which at times even overshadows the leaps she fostered in the fields of education and exploration.

Isabel lived in complicated times, but her youngest daughter Catalina has surpassed her mother in public memory. Catalina is better known as Katharine of Aragon - the first wife of Henry VIII.

The Queen's Vow is a well written book, that immerses the reader directly into an extremely interesting period in Spanish history. He has written one more book centered on Spain - The Last Queen - features another daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand - Juana - their eldest surviving child at Ferdinand's death - also known as the Mad Queen. This is also now on my "To Read" List.

He has also written 3 books on the Tudors, one on Catharine de Medici and one on Coco Chanel.

Rating : 4 / 5

Monday, 2 March 2015

Kim's Review : The Wrong Girl (First Freak House Trilogy)

The Wrong Girl, is one of the Books that I downloaded for free online. There are loads of books that are offered free on ibooks daily and they work out as ideal reading for the tube for me. (I don't have the added weight of a book and I get to try a lot of new authors)

A lot of authors, offer their first book in a series for free, for a limited period, in the hopes that you will buy their other books if you like what you read. C J Archers "The Wrong Girl", is the first book in the last two months that spurred me to purchase the next 2 parts immediately.

The blurb almost made it sound like a Historical Teen romance novel, but it was categorised as paranormal, which was why I read until the end : It’s customary for Gothic romance novels to include a mysterious girl locked in the attic. Hannah Smith just wishes she wasn’t that girl. As a narcoleptic and the companion to an Earl’s daughter with a strange affliction of her own, Hannah knows she’s lucky to have a roof over her head and food in her belly when so many orphans starve on the streets. Yet freedom is something Hannah longs for. She did not, however, want her freedom to arrive in the form of kidnapping.

Taken by handsome Jack Langley to a place known as Freak House, she finds herself under the same roof as a mad scientist, his niece, a mute servant and Jack, a fire starter with a mysterious past. They assure Hannah she is not a prisoner and that they want to help her. The problem is, they think she’s the earl’s daughter. What will they do when they discover they took the wrong girl?
Yes, fire- starter did sound promising. So I downloaded the book and I'm glad that I did.

The book was fast paced and intense. The Romance in this book at least, is 'All Audience', though it does promise / threaten to get a bit more 'involved' in the next 2 books. The characters were quite interestingly developed. Archer uses a technique of hinting at much much more than she reveals, which is what kept me hooked.

I cannot really say much more without revealing quite a few spoilers,  so I'll stop here and let you know how the other 2 books go.

Rating : 4 / 5

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