Category Archives: Book Reviews

Kolkata or Calcutta is always a dilemma #atozchallenge

Review: Calcutta by Amit Chaudhuri

Summary: Although it appears to be a travelogue or an autobiography, it does not fit perfectly into either of the two genres. Chaudhuri’s succinct and elegiac account of a global city, that tries very hard to hold on to its identity, amidst the rapid globalization of a rising economic power is a mesmeric read as diverse as Calcutta itself.

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This is the cover of the book in the Indian Sub-continent. The one I own was bought in London, UK and has a garish orange cover, which is very unlike Calcutta. Kolkata or Calcutta has moments of flamboyance and high drama but never garish!

Main review text:
To a non-resident Calcutta-n this book will evoke extremes of emotions. Some, like me, will be taken on a nostalgic trip through Calcutta, a city that was British India’s capital until 1911, the dilapidated metropolis, which had once defined India’s future and national identity. Without its freedom fighters, social-reformers, philosophers, scientists and artists, the India as we know today would have been a different place.

Amit Chaudhuri’s social commentary and economic history of Calcutta are interspersed with character sketches of a derelict city and its inhabitants, who are still clinging on to its colonial past. The Ingabanga community, as coined by Chaudhuri, is the remnants of a culturally elite class that after much intellectual turmoil chose the communist ideals and was then crushed mercilessly by India’s government. Bengalis built their history during their relationship with the British Empire. With the departure of British and the decline of its industries, all its connections with the world were severed.

However, politics is not the book’s major concern. Chaudhuri speaks of the aftermath of politics in Calcutta, commenting on the costs incurred in its battle to preserve the connection with the world outside.  On reading Calcutta, I realized that Chaudhuri wants to impress upon us that we are not living in a world very different from Calcutta. Calcutta is just a case study of the aftermath of globalization. Towns and cities culturally destroyed by commercialization – chains of supermarkets and technological highways are all that connect us – just like in Calcutta.

The other cover

The other cover

Chaudhuri discusses the disconnection that Globalization has to offer. An Italian chef in Calcutta expresses his frustration, that people in Calcutta don’t want his fresh olives and tomatoes. Why would they? I wonder, Italian food is what globalization brought to Calcutta, which already had a mature and developed cuisine, which transforms tomatoes into chutneys!
This book is going to enrage a lot of people. However, it is a kind of book that India truly needs. A book sans the glamour of Bollywood, the mysticism of snake charmers, spices and forgotten villages is not quite the usual fare for literature from the sub-continent. Devastating, it may be, but reading Calcutta will give you an insight of the real India that travelogues will not.

Further reading suggestionA Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta by Paul Theroux, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy

Disclaimer for reading suggestions: I haven’t read all of these, but I will read them at some point of time. After careful research they looked like books that are similar in theme or style to Calcutta by Amit Chaudhuri.
 

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Rachelle Ayala’s Taming Romeo

Rachelle Ayala was a software engineer until she discovered storytelling works better inrachelle-rico fiction than real code. She enjoys writing love stories and has always lived in a multi-cultural environment. The tapestry of characters in her books reflect that diversity. She is an active member of online critique group, Critique Circle, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. Check out her four romantic novels. Michal’s Window is a powerful, emotional journey as lived through the eyes of Princess Michal, King David’s first wife. Broken Build is a story of healing where a man learns to love and trust the woman who destroyed his life. Hidden Under Her Heart is a heartfelt love story combined with controversy over difficult decisions, and Knowing Vera is a suspenseful, cross-cultural romance mixing an unsolved murder, adventure, and hot, steamy love scenes.

Connect with the Author

Website | Blog | FacebookTwitter | Goodreads 

TRAbout Taming Romeo

Evie Sanchez is recovering from heartbreak by working at her parents’ Filipino restaurant when in walks Romeo Garcia, the boy she left behind. Only now, he’s a hot movie star surrounded by gorgeous actresses and adoring fans. Bad boy Romeo Garcia never understood why Evie stood him up at the prom. When he rescues her from a flying coconut in the dumpster, he is determined to dig into her heart for the reason. Their mutual attraction and unresolved feelings ignite in a scintillating night of daring sex, and Romeo shows Evie what she’ll miss the rest of her life if she walks away again. Evie lands a part as Romeo’s co-star and falls into her role, totally in love. He plays his part, too, with his romantic gestures and skillful lovemaking. But is the fantasy real or revenge? Evie and Romeo are about to discover if their buried feelings will explode in pure delight or utter disaster.

Goodreads

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon IndiaAmazon Canada

 Barnes and Noble | KoboSmashwords | iTunes

Review

Rachelle Ayala’s Taming Romeo could be classified as a Filipino soap opera. Although I haven’t seen a Filipino TV drama, I think the characterization and high drama in this sizzling romance has all the essential qualities. What I enjoyed about this book are the detailed descriptions of Filipino cultural practices, sometimes quite ridiculous, like the three dates rule and also the delectable references to Filipino food.

Taming Romeo has mastered the art of being a sizzling romance and also a window into an ethnic community living and practicing their way of life. The characters and their individual relationships are skillfully created and Evie and Genie, her sister’s sibling rivalry makes it all the more real. Evie’s relationship troubles with Romeo and her ex-boyfriend Eric are all too characteristic of romances in your early twenties. The indecisiveness and the need to get all the attention you can is quintessential young adult behaviour, which is not confined to any particular culture. Rachelle Ayala’s treatment of these well rounded and flawed characters is to be applauded.

Although Taming Romeo is quite evidently an adult  romance with explicit sexual references, the book’s gastronomical, cultural and strong line-up of characters give it a whole new dimension. However, having said that, I also believe that the story line needed a stronger plot to make it even better. As you mentally eat your way through the story and go along with the hedonistic behaviour the story suddenly ends! Yes. quite abruptly. It is as if, suddenly, all their lives were fast forwarded. Romeo’s arrival in a street near where Evie lived could have had a gradual build up, instead, everything that happens after Evie goes back to University is crammed in the last few pages. If the author ever decides to rewrite the end and make the book longer I will definitely support it. In it’s current state I would rate it 3.5/5.

Taming Romeo is not for under 18’s although, I am quite sure ratings are there to make adults feel better!

I have intentionally not narrated or summarized the story for you because if the blurb, the cover and the review interests you, please read it. Also, don’t forget to participate in the  a Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win one Paperback, Winner’s Choice, of Rachelle Ayala’s Books.

This blog post is a part of a blog tour and I received an ARC to read an give my honest opinion of the book.

Taming Romeo S2

Review: For the Love of Murphy

Murphy cover

For the Love of Murphy

Genre: Romance Anthology (Sweet)
Release Date: March 17, 2014
Keywords: Romance, Anthology, Sweet, Murphy’s Law, Short Stories

Description: They say love conquers all, but whoever “they” are, must not have heard of Murphy’s Law — whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

These five tales of sweet, accidental romance prove Cupid’s arrows are a lot tougher than they seem, and sometimes it pays to be unlucky.

No Wrong Turns by Lisa A. Adams
Falling For You by Michelle Ziegler
Coffee and Cufflinks by Annabelle Blume
A Slippery Slope by Rebecca Hart
The Shamrock Incident by London Saint James

Buy Links

Print: Createspace | Amazon

Ebooks: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | Smashwords

For the Love of Murphy is the perfect collection of short stories that you should read on your daily commute to work or while you are waiting in a long queue. It has all the characteristics that might improve your mood. The stories are exactly as the title suggests, a take on Murphy’s Law, ‘Anything that can go wrong will go wrong’.

From nearly getting married to the wrong friend and then being jilted at the altar to rebelling against your parents, leaving home and immediately losing your wallet half way down the street is what all the stories are about. Every character is believable and either we are them or we know of people who are quite similar.

You will invariably do something silly or get a bump on your forehead in front of a very interesting and date-able guy like in London Saint James’s The Shamrock Incident.

Olivia of Coffee and Cufflinks has a high powered job and she meets this wonderful guy everyday at the same coffee shop. They know nothing about each other, other than their coffee orders and her love of expensive bottled water. How fate brings them together after a series of disasters proves that once everything that can have gone wrong has gone wrong, something will go right!

I will not go into great details of each story as that would spoil the fun of a short story. I believe all of these authors have a lot of potential and I hope they’ll write more in future.

These stories are extremely short and just right. They are quite predictable as well if you are a champion romance reader. However if you do read a lot of romance then you must love happily ever-afters as well. I would recommend that you read For the Love of Murphy if you are after something sweet and uncomplicated to read. If you are having a moment when you don’t want to be logical and practical read this anthology. However if you are after stories with a lot of complications in plot and denouement I would suggest you don’t read it because it would be an injustice to these authors, the stories and to you.

However, when I finished the book I wanted to read a few more stories like these. These are times that I miss paper books, you can’t flick the pages to the best bits. E-books have made life a lot easier and cheaper for debut authors and PR’s to get the word around but at the cost of the reader not being able to flick pages!

This blog post is part of a blog tour and I received a free advanced review copy of the book to review. All opinions are my own and I wasn’t influenced or asked to write it.

murphy blog tour

Review: Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

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 ‘A bone-chilling debut novel with unexpected twists. Sarah Hilary has opened new possibilities and perspectives in the realm of crime fiction with her novel Someone Else’s Skin.’

As a crime and mystery aficionado I always play a guessing game with myself, while reading crime fiction. I am thrilled to say that I failed this time. Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin is eerily unpredictable. With quite a few story lines, it is not until you are half way through, that you see light. The beginning is like a mass of untidy knitting where every tangled yarn confuses you more. However, when you see light at the end of the tunnel, you have unraveled the mystery just like DI Marnie Rome and you also realize, that the confusion in the beginning is not confusion at all, but exactly what the characters feel.

The multiple themes of crime and violence are dealt with very well and you understand how skilled Hilary is. The author did not tread softly around sensitive issues like gender, culture,race and sexual violence, instead she had a very sympathetic approach to it, which made the plot and the characters very believable and real to the readers.

Ayana Mirza and Stephen’s story was left hanging in the air and I wish there was more to it because the story starts with these two characters in a pivotal role. They are abruptly cut off as soon as DS Noah Jakes and DI Marnie find the not-quite body in the refuge.

However Sarah Hilary has shown a lot of promise and talent and I will definitely recommend the book to Crime Fiction and contemporary novel readers.

I am a Lovereading Reviewer Panel member and  I received this book in return of my honest opinion. This review can also be found on  Lovereading.co.uk

Amrita Dasgupta

Review: The Ruby Slippers by Keir Alexander

Ruby slippers

How can a smelly old bag lady change your life? That is exactly what the characters in this social drama thought about their unkempt acquaintance, Rosa. But things changed after her death when a pair of Ruby slippers were found in her possession.

Not unlike Cinderella’s glass shoe and Dorothy’s magic shoes, the shoe metaphor has a pivotal role to play in this urban fairy tale. The Ruby slippers entranced everybody and drew out the good, bad and ugly in everyone. It enticed, teased and gave them new hopes and desperate dreams.

Michael the Grocer goes on a journey of self exploration, where he learns more about his life and his Aunt Rosa’s. Despite the odds and pressure, unlike some others, he remains resolute that the ruby slippers is a sign of beauty and hope in their lives and not a sudden windfall.

Keir Alexander’s debut novel has shown mastery over plot and character building. Creating many multi-dimensional characters in a compelling and convoluted story is no mean feat. Although I found the novel well paced, it might appear slow to some. But I believe the plot and the build up needed the gentle walk-in-the-park treatment quite unlike the mad rush of New York City.

I am a Lovereading review panel member and I received an ARC for my honest and unbiased opinion of the book. Published by Constable and Robinson the book will be available on Amazon and Lovereading.co.uk from 20 March 2014.

An Appointment at the Edge of Forever

Appointment Cover 12-13

Overview

Filion felt safe in his role as a Dream Searcher. He was paid to venture into other’s dreams and exert influence over individuals whom he would never meet in the flesh.
But that was until he received The Summoning. Filion has been called to track down and protect Ryo, the last of the Chozen. She is the only hope of preventing a tide of evil driven by the Afortiori and the prospect of universal slavery if they aren’t stopped.

Time is ticking and Filion has no idea of how to find Ryo let alone how to protect her, yet destinies of planets rest in her hands. Enlisting the help of a rag-tag band of mercenaries, Filion will set out to search the wastes for Ryo. Together they will confront an evil whose power they just might have fatally underestimated.

Review:

It’s been a long time since I last read a sci-fi that didn’t feel like I’ve read it before. Perrin Pring with book one of the Ryo Myths has managed a near perfect combination of sci-fi and magic. The concept of the series is based on a set of super-beings the Eoans who have created the universe, planets and its inhabitants. Ryo is a special creation who can make or break the universe as they know it. The race against time to reach Ryo before she is captured by their enemies is the main theme of the story.

Following the recent trend of strong female leads, Pring’s major characters are female. Filion, the scrawny giant with beautiful fur is the protagonist in this particular book but isn’t exactly leader material. Captain Erin and Wiq are well rounded characters who support Filion in his race with their timely intervention.

Perrin Pring has a vivid imagination and has managed to bring to life a world where technology and nature coexist with tenuous harmony. However certain areas could be improved upon. I would have liked more details about the different races mentioned. Details about the Keepers and their magical abilities could also be elaborated upon and I believe the author has the imaginative ability to do so. I am just more impressed with the concept than with the plot. To avoid a spoiler I won’t tell you what happens in the end but did it need to be that drastic? Although the end limits the abundant possibilities for book two I would definitely like to read all the books in the series.

I hope Perrin is already writing book two!

Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author

My name is Perrin Pring. My first novel, Appointment at the Edge of Forever, is the first book of the Ryo Myths, a science fiction trilogy. I’ve also written a handful of shorts, one of which, Enabled, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ve had a variety of adventures which have given me a lot of subject matter for my writing. I’ve worked as a dish washer. I’ve been a volunteer ski patroller. I’ve represented in the United States in international white water kayaking races. I’m learning Italian. I’ve lived on Maui, and in college, I worked as a raft guide in Grand Teton National Park.

I love to read, write and be outside. I hope you enjoy my reading my work as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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Review: The Weight of a Feather and Other Stories by Judy Croomer

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Buy: Amazon Paperback | Kindle | Barnes & Nobles

Synopsis:

“The promise implicit in an anthology is that it aspires to present something different, unexpected” Joyce Carol Oates (Introduction to The Oxford Book of American Short Stories) From the classical form of ‘The Weight of a Feather’, first published by The Huffington Post (2013), to the suggestive allegory of ‘The Leopard and The Lizard’, this collection of short stories by South African author Judy Croome is an ideal mix of the familiar and the startling. These vibrant slices of life testify to the mysterious and luminous resources of the human spirit. Whether feeling the harrowing emotion in ‘The Last Sacrifice’ or the jauntiness of ‘Jannie Vermaak’s New Bicycle’, the reader will delight in a plethora of stories that cross boundaries to both challenge and entertain with their variety.

Review:

Judy Croome is a fantastic storyteller. She takes the reader on a journey through life and its various nuances. All of Croome’s stories have a message that the reader can take away, the sign of a brilliant short story. If a story makes an impact on you then, you are more likely to repeat it to your friends and thus spread its popularity. The anthology starts of with ‘The Weight of a Feather’, which deals with the sudden milestones of growing up. Learning curves which are not necessarily forgivable.

In a flowing but often brutal style the characters and their tangible emotions leap off their pages. ‘One can feel like a voyeur peeking vicariously into a person’s life, or be swept into a nightmare.’ as one Goodreads reviewer wisely states. Even stories like The Biter Bit and The Negotiation, short as they are, reverberate with your conscience a long time later.

The stories in this anthology are something you would read in a newspaper with your morning cup of tea, or the last thing you read on the train and often think about it at work. It is very easy to imagine what the characters might have done next after the story ends. Such is the beauty and poignancy of the authors writing and the versatility of the genre.

Judy Croome

About the author:

Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, Judy’s short stories and poems have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, such as the Huffington Post and the University of the Witwatersrand’s Itch Magazine. Her books “The Weight of a Feather & Other Stories” (2013), “a Lamp at Midday” (2012) and “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” (2011) are available. Judy loves her family, cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, cats, rainy days, ancient churches with their ancient graveyards, cats, meditation and solitude. Oh, and cats. Judy loves cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) She is currently researching child murders for her next novel and you can visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome , Facebook and Goodreads.

Book Trailer

As part of CM Book Tours
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