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riteshkala

riteshkala

I am an avid reader and book blogger and live in Mumbai, India. I work in the financial consultancy industry when I’m not reading books. I really like SF and Fantasy!

Currently reading

Bring in the Peacocks, or Memoirs of a Hollywood Producer
Hank Moonjean
Insurgent
Veronica Roth

Generation

Generation - William  Knight The story of Generation follows Hendrix Harrison who is a reporter for a paranormal magazine called Strange Phenomena. Hendrix starts investigating ghost sightings and he is pulled deep into a mystery which is far bigger then he initially realized. As bodies start disappearing and Mendel Pharmaceuticals starts taking a particular interest in this, the mystery deepens. Sarah Wallace, who is an entomologist and is the head of the research facility from where the bodies have disappeared, also gets involved in the mystery. Sarah soon finds that the mystery is far more sinister than initially imagined. As both Hendrix and Sarah start to dig deeper, a story of corporate greed and a drug trial gone horribly wrong starts developing. With neither of them willing to let go and Mendel Pharmaceuticals hell-bent on protecting its investments, a clash between “David and Goliath” begins. They have to race against time and unknown enemies to solve the mystery in time to stop Mendel from launching a suspect treatment which would have global implications.

All the characters in the book are very well developed. Hendrix Harrison, a technophobe journalist, was portrayed perfectly. He is someone we want following a paranormal story. He has an eye for the unusual and knows when to keep pursuing a story to its conclusion. His military background comes in handy in difficult situations. What I liked was that the author gave us the background story about why Hendrix has an aversion to mobile phones which was extremely believable. Sarah Wallace, who is an entomologist, gets pulled into the mystery when bodies from her research facilities are stolen. Sarah is shown to be at the top of her field. She has an eye for detail as far as dead bodies are considered. Sarah and Hendrix form the perfect team to solve the mystery.

The relationship between Hendrix and Sarah proceeds along a well-worn path. They clash in the beginning, with Sarah taking a strong disliking to Hendrix, but also being attracted to him. Then, as circumstances put the two together, and they start working together towards the common goal of solving the mystery, they begin to develop feeling for each other and end up in bed together. I have to say that the scene depicting the sex they have was unnecessarily graphic and a bit crass. The author should have left the vivid description of the act out of the book, considering that he does not have a talent in writing such scenes.

The book is set in the UK, where the author also hails from. There are certain words which creep into his writing which would be familiar to someone staying there, but are a little difficult to grasp for someone who is not. I also had some problem following the protagonist around as he drives from one place to another. I frankly don’t know why this happened. Generally, I have no problem following books which are set in various locations around a country. Being in India, I am definitely not familiar with places in either UK or USA. So, it was definitely not about being in unfamiliar territory, it was something else altogether. I suspect it was the way in which these scenes were written (or it may have been the fact that I was reading this book really late at night).

Throughout the book, cases of people on whom this “treatment” was experimented, are interspersed with the current events taking place. These were sections which bring out the horror element of the book. Although, not particularly scary, they are gruesome. These people are shown to be in limbo, where their body has died and decayed, but their mind remains alive. This is a horrible state to be in. Imagining their plight sent shivers down my spine. Being trapped in a decaying body and being able to feel each and every step which takes place in that process is something which is bone-chilling. We can actually feel their pain and despair as they are stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of decay and renewal, which may never bring them back to life, but will also not let them die in peace.

This book had so much potential to go above and beyond being a simple medical-thriller. There were hints of there being so much more to the story which were never explored. In fact, the author ends the book with a major cliff-hanger. This is never good in a standalone novel. I don’t know if the author wanted to keep the option of converting this book into a series open, but this left a bad taste. The horror part of the story could have been developed so easily and so magnificently, but was not. The book had all the elements in place to create a zombie apocalypse. I can understand not going down that route, but in this case, the author should have closed down that possibility by the end of the book. This never happens.

I did find a lot of thinking points in the story. To what extent will people go to live forever and what is the price they are willing to pay? How safe is genetic engineering, and what would happen if something goes wrong? How far are companies willing to go to protect their interests and those of their investors? How will humanity evolve, will evolution and science take us to a place where we will be able to defy “God”, or nature itself? I love a book which makes me think about the implications of the story, where the book does not end with the end of the story.

Overall, I loved the thrill ride. The book was able to create and maintain the tension required of every thriller. There were parts of the book, where I was holding my breath, unable to continue reading, fearing what would happen next. I also loved the fact that the book had a happy ending for most people involved. If the book could have been developed up to its potential, I would have blindly given it 5-stars. But as it stands now, with no sequel in sight, I rate the book as 3 stars only.

Nate Rocks the World

Nate Rocks the World: 1 - Karen Pokras Toz I really did not know what I was getting into when I picked up this book to read. The only thing I knew was that it is absolutely and completely outside the genres I generally read. Why did I pick it up then? For one, I have been trying to expand my reading by getting into completely different genres. You will most likely see me reviewing a chicklit soon! Also, I imagined this to be a ‘superhero book’ and I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity. So, here’s what I found out through this experiment. I can read genres other than fantasy / scifi / mystery and like them. Also, I found that this book which is suitable for 9-12 year olds to be very interesting. And lastly, this IS a book about superheroes, but not in the traditional “flying, super strength and crime fighting” sense.

Nate is a normal 10-yearold. He has all the problems which every kid that age faces. He does not like sports and is always picked last for everything. His sister, Abby takes pleasure in torturing him at every opportunity. He tries to run away from his mother’s horrible cooking, but rarely succeeds. His mother insists on making his Halloween costumes even though she can’t sew. His dad is quite cool, but he keeps reminiscing about his childhood and boring the kids with oft-repeated stories. And finally, there is the bane of his life, his classmate Lisa Crane who he just can’t stand.

So what does he do to escape from all these problems? Nate has a passion for drawing and gets lost in the world he creates and draws as cartoons. In fact he keeps getting into trouble as this results in him daydreaming in school, at home, with friends and even while playing games. His stories, which are inspired by life around him, feature him as the hero routinely saving the world from destruction or helping the President in finding a spy. I really liked the fact that in each chapter, we find Nate going on another adventure in this world which he creates. I think this will keep the young readers interested, as they move from one adventure to the next. This also allows the book to be read in parts and helps in kids not getting bored with the story. The author has done a wonderful job of tying these discrete adventures into a wonderful story.

All the characters in the book fit perfectly in their roles and no one seems out of place or forced. Although the story is about a normal family with normal issues, the story moves through at a fast pace and does not drag anywhere. This, I think should be necessary for all MG books. Any place where the story lets up even a little bit can result in kids losing interest and not wanting to push through those sections. With kids reading less every day, a book which can keep them hooked throughout should definitely garner interest from parents.

Finally, I’d like to say that I loved the ending. While reading the book, I was hoping that the ending does not fizzle out. The author definitely did not let me down on that count. When the time comes and real life calls Nate to action, does he step up to the plate and deliver? Can he be a real life hero and actually save the day? Will he be able to step out of his imaginary world, into the real one and do the right thing? I won’t give the ending away, and I’d ask you to read the book to find out. All I will tell you is, I loved the ending where two enemies finally seem to become friends, if only for a little while.

The World Among Us: Prince of Darkness

The World Among Us: Prince of Darkness - Beth Ann Masarik ‘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.

Double-take Tales

Double-take Tales - Donna Brown I have not really read any published short stories, and when I came across Donna’s Double-take Tales the title intrigued me enough to check it out. I have to now say that I was missing out on an important part of written fiction by ignoring short stories. After reading Donna’s three shorts, I’ve realized that these are really different than the full-length novels or even the shorter novellas. The space available to each story does not grant the author too much time to develop characters, or a back story. But a good short story can overcome these restrictions and make us care for what happens in the story as well as the characters.

This is what Donna is able to achieve with each of her stories in this book. The book consists of three unrelated stories each of which is tied off with a common theme. That theme is the double-take which the stories require from the readers. We start off believing something about the stories or the characters and by the end, those beliefs are turned on their heads and we are left with the thought, “What just happened? Did I read the conclusion right?” I had to in fact go back and read the stories a second time to see how the new conclusion affected the stories. This makes the book extremely enjoyable as we get to read almost completely different takes on the stories a second time. I have to commend the author at being able to achieve this. I was definitely not able to think up the conclusion of the stories, and the double-take was an amazing way for each of the stories to end.

The first story of the book follows the journey of an everyday object which travels from person to person. The author is able to bring each of the persons who are touched by the object to life for the very brief moment when the object is with them. Their hopes and aspirations, dreams and troubles are all laid bare. I always thought that this was not possible with the few words the author uses, I stand corrected and enlightened.

The second story revolves around a married housewife who seems stuck in a boring, even loveless marriage. The story of her plan to get out of this situation and the actual facts of how this happens are magnificently crafted. I could imagine her plight and her pain, but could not really come to grips with her actions. The ending left me in two minds, where I did not really like her, but was amazed at the turn of events for her. As usual, I had to go back and read the story again to truly appreciate the craft of the author.

The third story is a doozy. It is about a murder investigation being followed by someone who is closely linked to the event. The detached yet expectant way in which the person follows the investigation was brilliantly described. The ending of this story left me confused at first. But I was shocked when it actually sank in. Wow! This is all I can say.

If you want to read three terrifically crafted short stories which will make you keep coming back, get this book! My only complaint is that I wanted to read more stories by the author but had to be satisfied with JUST three. I really hope that she gets her next book out sooner. I just can’t wait too long.

Air (The Akasha Series)

Air (The Akasha Series - Book #2) - Terra Harmony Posted on: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

Spoiler Warning: If you’ve not read the first book, 'Water', you may be seeing some spoilers. You been forewarned!

Air is the second book in the Akasha series and is a more than worthy follow-up to Water. The book starts off with Kaitlin’s pregnancy having progressed along. Also, Micah and the others are in hot pursuit of Shawn to shut down his rogue organisation. With no one other than Susan knowing about the pregnancy, Kaitlyn gets sent on the missions as well. These missions are action packed and extremely interesting, but they are just the prologue to what is coming next. As the book progresses and both Shawn and Micah come to know of Kaitlyn’s pregnancy, they are left dumbfounded not knowing whose baby it is. I just loved the scene where this happens. I could literally see the looks on their faces. This is the talent of Terra. She can bring the characters to life, living and breathing right before us.

Kaitlyn now gets left behind with Alex to do research on Shawn’s whereabouts and support the team remotely while the others keep looking for Shawn. With idle time, we know what Kaitlyn will be upto, getting in trouble of course! I’ll try to not give out spoilers, but during her research, she stumbles on a way to learn about her powers and to control all the other elements. There is an extremely unique way in which this is accomplished. No way could I have imagined this! But this is also the place where the story slows down quite a bit. Both Kaitlyn and Alex spend a lot of time (and a lot of words) researching, learning and preparing for the showdown with Shawn.

But, Air is not perfect, like Water was. I generally expect the first book in a fantasy series to be big on character development. But Terra has taken an unusual route, and it is the second book where we see how Kaitlyn develops her powers as a Gaia. This is what made the first book big on action, but I knew the character development was coming. But still, the sudden drop in pace due to this left me a bit underwhelmed. This is the small gripe I have with the book. The pacing of the book was a bit too slow for me. I had to get through quite a bit if the book to really get to the action. I think Water created some unrealistic expectations with its edge-of-the-seat action throughout. Now, I can totally understand having to develop a character in fantasy books, showing us just how the person became who she is. But, certain parts felt dragged out, and could have been pruned a bit.

This is definitely not something which will deter me from loving this instalment of the series. Why? Because the action in the final part left me breathless. It was a culmination of EPIC proportions. That part of the book more than redeemed the slowness of the build-up. I can’t just give the ending away, but I am really tempted to. Oh well, maybe just one line. We know that battle lines had been drawn. This book ends with one instalment of that on-going battle between Shawn and the Seven.

So, here’s the final word. This is one of the best new fantasy series I have read. You would be missing out on an awesome experience if my small rant stops you from reading the series. I am sure that all this preparation will tie into the series and will seem necessary when the next book comes out. So go ahead, dive into both the books in the series, you will definitely not regret it.

Gold Train: (Jade Snow Russia Adventure)

Gold Train: (Accidental Spy Russia Adventure) - Lada Ray Posted at: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Let me start this review by saying that I would have given this book a definite 4 stars. The why three stars, you ask? I’ll get to that as the review progresses. But to clarify, the story and the book were definitely four stars. There were a few parts of the book I did not agree with or could not believe and so, I had to deduct the one star for that. What were they? That too shall be revealed in due course.

With that being said, let’s get to the review. The story begins with a flashback to 1918 and the great train robbery of the entire Russian gold reserve during the revolution. It revolves around Jade Snow a reporter who begins to look into this disappearance and ends up in Russia. This is where her adventure begins. Jade finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the royalists and the current government for control. In the middle of all this drama, she finds her soulmate Alexei, and a hot romance ensues. I however, did not like the fact that Jade jumps into bed with Alexei immediately, without a second thought to the loving husband and her daughter waiting for her back home.

As both sides try to recruit her and make her a part of the conflict, Jade has to pick a side and this is where the situation gets dangerous. She now becomes a Russian spy and a double agent. As she races to find the gold, she gets into and out of a lot of trouble and does lose friends along the way. There are a lot of twists and turns as she tries to get all the clues together to get to the gold. After all these twists, I did feel that in the end, the mystery of finding the gold was solved too quickly and it ended up being somewhat underwhelming. This however, did not impact the adventure one bit and it continued right on.

I loved the ending of the book. It clearly resolved all the issues I had. The conflict for Jade having to choose between two loves of her life was resolved quite nicely and the author was actually able to end the book on a somewhat pleasant note and without too much continuing heartbreak, while at the same time provide us a glimpse of what would be coming next. For this I would have to commend the author, as it was really nicely done.

So, here’s the problem I have. I generally tend to ignore grammatical and spelling errors in most books, but upto a certain extent. However, there were some errors here where I had to go back and read the lines a couple of times to make sense of what was intended. These errors basically broke the flow of the story for me. That is something that really takes away from the pleasure of reading the book. For this, I have to deduct a star from my rating of the book. A better edited book would have been a pleasure to read as I loved the idea behind story. I, in fact loved the writing style of the author. I hope she can read this and get the book edited again, maybe bring out another “edition”.

Overall, I’ll say that I quite liked the book. The story was very engaging and the characters clearly stood out for me. It could have been told without all the ‘paranormal’ in it and I would have enjoyed it more. I do believe that the tarot cards were a completely unnecessary distraction and I could have done without souls talking to each other too. I clearly have no idea why the author included these in the book as they do not add anything to the story-line. If I judge the story without any of this, it is a terrifically written thriller.

I would love to read the next book in the Jade Snow series. The author does hint at the next book being set up somewhere in Asia and I can’t wait, especially as it will practically be in my backyard!

Alias Thomas A. Katt

Alias Thomas A. Katt - Bob Stewart *** Review coming soon! ***

Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations)

Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations) - Michael J. Sullivan Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

The Riyria Revelations follows the exploits of a unique couple of friends. They are unique in the sense, that one of them is a talented thief while the other is a former mercenary adept at warfare. They are famous (or notorious, as the case may be) for taking on the toughest jobs, which no one else will touch, and succeeding at them. Both the books in the Theft of Swords omnibus have such jobs as the starting point. Their reputation of being invincible has been carefully developed by the author. It really seems that this reputation is well-deserved as we see them getting out of impossibly difficult situations with skill and a lot of luck.

Both the books have an amazing adventure, which in itself would make a great story. But, what improves both of them further is the numerous threads which start off from the stories and paint a picture of the direction in which the series will run. In the first book, Royce and Hadrian take a job and step into a trap. They end up getting blamed for the king’s assassination, but somehow escape. This is where their adventure begins which takes them on a journey which ends right back where they started. In the second book, they go to help a young girl save her father from a monster. This again takes them on an adventure where a lot of the characters from the previous book return and they finally end up defeating the monster with their friends’ help.

There are quite a few points I love about the books. One is that even though Royce and Hadrian are on the ‘wrong’ side, being thieves, they always end up doing the right thing, to a great extent due to Hadrian’s conscience. Another great thing is all the fight sequences in the books. Swordplay can be extremely difficult to get right, and an author can end up describing too much or too little of it. But, here Michael Sullivan gets the balance just right and these are a pleasure to read. Hadrian’s skill shines through in oodles of grace and talent. But by far the best thing about the book is the relationship of Hadrian and Royce. I really liked the banter they have and the jabs they keep taking at each other which makes them immensely likable. They both complement each other beautifully and together they make a really scary duo against whom few could stand a chance. Their relationship has been nurtured and developed over years of knowing and trusting each other. They both share a will to survive and a murky past. The mystery behind their pasts has been kept rigorously under wraps, and this is one revelation that could really charge up the series.

Personally, I believe that Orbit has got it absolutely right in creating this omnibus. As a standalone story, the first book, ‘The Crown Conspiracy’ is very interesting but does little to introduce the reader to the story arc of the series. Although the main characters get defined here, there isn’t enough there to judge what role they will play in the series, or how important they will be. The first book, to me seemed more like a preamble to the series, as some of the main characters in the series get introduced in the second book of this omnibus. Also, there are not many fantasy elements in this book and it reads more like an adventure.

The second book in the omnibus, ‘Avempartha’ does more to introduce the reader to the series. It is here that the real story begins to get developed and readers start getting a sense of where the story is heading. All the fantasy elements shine through and the huge history behind the world becomes apparent. I have to say, the author refrains in overwhelming the readers with a history lesson and just enough information is given out, so that the events taking place currently can be put into perspective. We can see glimpses of how all the diverse characters with such diverse backgrounds such as a princess, a thief, a mercenary and a poor girl living in the middle of nowhere come together.

All the traditional fantasy races of elves, dwarves and wizards make an appearance in the books. As usual dwarves are highly talented at stone work, elves have their magic and really long lives, and wizards are the masters of all things magical. All the fantasy elements start to become apparent in Avempartha as the book has a number of fantasy creatures, has magic in it, we come to see some of the characters in a new light and finally get to understand how the story might progress. By the end of the second book we can hazard a guess about who will be playing crucial roles in the coming books. I can see both Arista and Thrace being a strong part of the next books. It was after I finished reading Avempartha that my mind started putting together my version of the coming story. There are a lot of amazing supporting characters in the series, but they are just too many to name, though Esrahaddon, the wizard and Myron should get a definite mention here.

The world created by the author is extremely diverse, detailed and complex. There are a large number of small and big empires all jostling for their space in the world with each following a different political system. This is where the detail of the world really shines. There are empires ruled by kings, democracies, those administered by the church and some which have no ‘government’ at all. They all do have a common history and were once part of an empire which controlled the entire world.

There are no good or bad guys in the books in the traditional sense, which may seem completely wrong to the die-hard fantasy fans. There is no evil mastermind against whom the world is rallying. No doubt, there are a lot of grey characters, and they do a lot of ‘bad’ things. But their motivations may not be all bad (atleast at this point it seems so. Of course, I do not have enough information to judge a character based on these two books alone). There is always a doubt whether to put a character in the in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ category. I don’t think this will be cleared till the series actually ends.

It is by conscious effort that I am refraining from discussing the plots of the two books too much. All I can say is that this is a mighty fine introduction to the series. I can’t wait to get to the next book. This book does a great job at getting the readers interested in the series. With such beautiful writing and clearly defined characters, there isn’t much here that I do not love. This is definitely in five-star category and I just hope the other books, which I still have to read, are just as good.

Water (The Akasha Series)

Water - Terra Harmony Water is the first book in the Akasha series by Terra Harmony and it is a huge… massive… humungous first book! Well, you now know the direction in which this review is headed.

The action in the book starts right on the first page, with the protagonist, Kaitlyn caught in an avalanche. She is rescued by the Seven, but finds herself captive in an unknown location. She is soon given the reason of her abduction and that is where the book turns from a mystery to an eco-fantasy. Kaitin is a Gaia or ‘Mother of the Earth’ with powers over all four basic elements of nature, water, air, earth and fire. She soon realises that escape is impossible and reluctantly starts her training to become ‘the Gaia’. A romance is thrown in the mix, as Kaitlyn starts falling for her trainer and a whirlwind relationship begins.

The Seven is an organisation which is trying to save the environment and takes it on itself, the responsibility to train the next Gaia. There is a mystery surrounding them and I can’t make up my mind yet, whether they will be the good guys or will turn rogue in the next books. They want to save the earth, but their actions seem to put them in the extremist category, what with the abducting and killing people. To what lengths will they go to achieve their mission? I don’t know and I’ll reserve my judgement till I know more.

Coming back from this digression, Kaitlyn is soon sent on her first mission, along with her team. The mission is you every day ‘save the environment’ kind of mission. Everything seems to be going along smoothly, when BAM! The biggest twist in the plot. I did not see this coming and was beginning to imagine the book being only about environmental do-goodness. I can’t give out a spoiler here, but I am really tempted! All I can say is, Kaitlyn has to find an inner strength to get through what comes for her next. This is the part which had my stomach in turns. But I still could not stop reading. I wanted to know what happened and how Kaitlyn would get out of the mess of epic proportions she found herself in.

Initially, I found Kaitlyn to be someone who took too many risks, without really thinking about the consequences. Right from the start she seemed to have an inner strength, but it seemed misdirected. As the book progressed, I began to see her as someone who fought for herself and her beliefs. She has got some of the best dialogues in the books and her comebacks are awesome at times, and fall flat at others. This made her really adorable. All the other characters are really well developed as well. I have to say that I wanted to know more about Micah’s history, his back story. I hope there is much more of that in the books to come. Shawn’s character was terrifically developed. We can feel a pure hatred for him right till the end, when we get a little back-story, and begin to have doubts. However, I cannot see him as anything but the bad guy in the series.

There are a couple of very steamy scenes in the book. There are also a couple of scenes which involve non-consensual sex which a very subtle way of saying that there are scenes where the protagonist is r*ped. But, I have to commend to author for describing these scenes in a way which did not turn this book into a pseudo-erotic romp. The description is just enough to get the impact of the act though. There were parts which had me cringing and afraid to continue reading. I think this shows that the author succeeded in getting the ‘image’ she was trying to portray, across. Consider this my disclaimer! If you can handle it, stay away!!

This may be an eco-fantasy, but the author, for most part, refrains from preaching to us on how to help the environment. The awareness about the environment she tries to create comes through as being intricately woven into the story. Just the way I like it!

I was somehow disappointed by the ending and it all happened too abruptly for me. I wanted some more action! And … the author has chosen the ‘worst’ moment to end the book. It is a cliff-hanger which will leave readers waiting in anticipation for the next book. All I can say is, get the next book out faster!

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble

Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble - D. Robert Pease Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

The story of Noah Zarc is set in a future post-apocalyptic world where a cataclysm has rendered earth uninhabitable and killed off all plant and animal life. Mankind, being ingenious and highly adaptable, survive by moving to Mars and Venus. The Zarcs have been given the mission to travel back in time and bring back a male and female of each of the lost species to re-populate earth with the lost animals. This is of course a direct reference to the bible story of ‘Noah’s Arc’.

The Noah family consists of the three children Sam, Noah and Hamilton and their parents. On one of their sorties to rescue an extinct species in the ice age, the parents encounter their arch-enemy Haon, who captures Mrs Zarc and leaves father Noah stranded in the past. As the three kids rush to rescue their father, their ship gets damaged and they have to live for a few days in the ice age. There, Noah becomes friends with a girl named Adina who stows away in their ship on their return. There is a budding romance here between the two friends which has however not been fully developed. The rest of the story revolves around saving their mother from Haon’s clutches and stopping him from destroying all they have worked for over the years.

Noah is a paraplegic who I found to be a bit immature but extremely brave. He does not wallow in his disability and the technology of this future world helps him take care of himself. He is also a very accomplished pilot and his flight sequences are extremely well dramatized. He is somewhat socially awkward and struggles to find the right words while talking with Adina when he first meets her. All the other characters are quite likable as well. Hamilton, the brainiac of the family develops and maintains all the technology around and Sam takes care of all the animals in the absence of their parents. Adina is quite amazing, maybe a bit too amazing for my liking. Even though she is from the ice age, over 11,000 years in the past, she has no trouble accepting and understanding all the technology she is bombarded with. This was the only thing I found unbelievable in the entire story.

I loved all the technology used to develop the story further. I am not a sucker for ‘correct’ scientific application in fiction and I tend to give authors a lot of leeway with their use of technology. Being set a thousand years ahead of our time, I can believe that a lot of technology used here could be developed by them. This includes the generous use of time travel through the story. Then there is Noah’s ‘wheelchair’ which can tackle all sorts of terrain and suits which can help a paraplegic walk. Also included here are machines operated through commands relayed through thought and suits which can fly and bear the harsh climates on other planets. The biggest one of course is the Arc itself. It may seem unnatural that the Arc can hold all the numerous creatures along with the extensive environments needed to maintain them in the dimensions of a few hundred square kilometres which are given by the author. Can you imagine having a ‘sea’ big enough to house giant whales and a savannah to house elephants as well as lots of other species in this small area? Well, I would not argue with the author on this as it does not hamper the story in any way and I know this is fiction after all. But, this is one area which could definitely trip science aficionados.

The story does touch on a number of issues which could merit a serious discussion even today. Firstly, there is the way in which current human development is going on and the exploitation of natural resources for this purpose. Will this lead to the deterioration of the environment to such an extent that human existence could be threatened? The debate whether humans and other species have equal right to earth’s resources and should we look to save species from extinction (or even bring them back) is also prevalent throughout the story. One thing I liked here was the politics of this ’evolved’ future world. Man does not evolve enough to solve all their problems and people are still dissatisfied with the politicians and there is still favouritism in the world.

The story of Noah Zarc, although set in a science fiction world is really a thriller, and I can say that the action never stops! Devoid of any major fight sequences, it still does not lack action. Some of the flight sequences are edge-of-the-seat affairs, as Noah is seen trying either to follow someone or at other times, run away from people following him. The story also has a number of twists and you really don’t know the intentions of the bad guy until quite late in the story. There are a couple of big twists in the story which really define the direction the story takes. These, of course I will not discuss and let you find out about them by yourself.

I did have a problem digesting the fact that people in the ice age would be so intelligent and willing to accept such alien technology. Also the fact that Adina, who is from the ice age, can actually understand time travel seems a bit too far-fetched. Such ready acceptance of the technology without really being completely awed (and somewhat frightened) by it did not go down too well with me. I think the author scrimped on words here, and some, maybe a lot more description of how Adina felt could have made things better.

Finally, I believe the author leaves the story at a place where it can be carried forward by a sequel and I can see one coming out. Overall, I just loved the story as well as the characters and hope to see it continue soon!

Kiwi and the Living Nightmare: Book 3 of The Kiwi Series (Volume 3)

Kiwi and the Living Nightmare - Vickie Johnstone Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/
The Kiwi series by author Vickie Johnstone continues as Kiwi and her friends enter another adventure. For those who are new to the series, here is a little background. Amy and James, two kids own a cat named Kiwi, who is magical, and can turn the kids into kittens and take them to Cat City. Over the last two books, they have met a number of ‘catizens’ there, who return to this story.

This book starts with Amy, James and Kiwi having the same nightmare about a three legged grey cat, trapped in a big scary house. As they begin to investigate, they realize that the house in their nightmare actually exists and was involved in a fire. Kiwi and the kids start to search for the house and this leads them to meet a number of new animals in the forest where the house was situated. These include a robin who helps them on their way and squirrels that now live in the tree that exists at the place where the house was previously located. As their search continues, they find their three-legged cat that is named Misty, and also find the reason why she is trapped in the house.

What they do not realize is the danger lurking there, and they manage to get trapped. Amy and James somehow escape and run back to Cat City to get help. This is the only small part in the story which takes place in Cat City in this book. Most of the story plays out in the human world. I really loved the scene where the catizens get to ride on the bus. These scenes had me laughing out loud.

The catizens, along with Amy and James work hardtop rescue Misty, and after a few scary and tense pages finally succeed. In the end the mystery of the house and its ‘bad’ magic is solved, but to find out how, you must read the book.

This may be a somewhat scary story, but the adventure and the fun does not diminish one bit. And fear not, as with all good stories, the ‘good’ side wins in the end (this is after all children’s book and not high fantasy where authors relish in killing off one of their main characters).

Finally, I have to say that parents now do not need to compromise and read the ‘juvenile’ books meant for kids as here is an option which would be interesting for the kids as well as their parents. I may be an adult, but I still read each of Vickie’s stories with bated breath and expectation of new twists and newer characters in every book. With the coming introduction of illustrated paperbacks for the Kiwi series, the books may well move beyond five star category.

Rapture

Rapture  - Phillip W. Simpson Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

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.

Leximandra Reports, and other tales (Draykon Series)

Leximandra Reports, and other tales - Charlotte E. English Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com

Draykon is a story which revolves around a girl named Llandry. She is portrayed as being extremely socially awkward to the extent that she starts having panic attacks when she is among anything resembling a gathering. Llandry is a jewellery maker and is relatively unknown until she stumbles across a new stone which she calls Istore. This stone makes here instantly famous as the stone captures the imagination of the world and becomes the most sought after piece of jewellery after Eva is seen wearing it.

Eva, who is the other main character in the book, is a woman of high social standing and is a high positioned ‘government official’. She is in many ways the exact opposite of Llandry. She is charming and beautiful and knows just the right thing to say at the right moment.

The story is set in a fantasy world. This world is not like ours, where night follows day. The world is divided into Daylands and Darklands, which perpetually lie in light or darkness. This is just one of the intriguing aspects of the world. There are a number of amazing creatures throughout the book. Each of these creatures has been created beautifully and this portrayal really brings them to life. Although the author has been inspired by real world animals, she has enhanced or modified their abilities enough to create an array of creatures which is quite impressive. Oh, another thing is that some people here have wings and can fly. How cool is that!

As the book continues, it starts becoming apparent that Istore is much more than a simple popular gem. The story takes a mysterious turn when people who have Istore jewellery, start turning up dead. This is where Eva steps in to investigate and is pulled into the fantastical world which comes up next. The point at which the true nature of the ‘stone’ is revealed, the story turns into an all-out fantasy novel.

The novel ends with a cliff-hanger with a number of questions left unanswered, the answers to which, I suppose will be revealed in later books.

I did have trouble initially following the structure of the world and was expecting a map to make things clearer, but none was forthcoming. However, as the story progressed, things started to clear up, and I realised that a map would have been quite difficult to make, considering the twists the story goes through.

I really liked the story-telling style of the author and the two different story-arcs run smoothly along till almost then end when they collide magnificently and culminate in a crescendo. Now, all I can do is wait for the next instalment in the story.

Bleedover

Bleedover - Curtis Hox Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com

Bleedover is a novel which has elements of both fantasy and science fiction, just the way I like it! Let me start by talking a bit about the concept of ‘Bleedover’ which the author has created. All kinds of art such as books, movies as well as company logos are starting to get altered unexplainably. For example, the text of published books is altered, or new scenes get added to movies. The book’s protagonists find a way to harness this Bleedover and end up bringing the fictional world into reality. Once this fact is accepted, the book becomes a fast paced suspense thriller.

Both the main characters subscribe to different views of what Bleedover is, how and for what it should be harnessed. Both of them live completely different lives. Dr Harriet Sterling is a tenured college professor who lives in her basement office, while Corbil Lyell is the head of a large conglomerate. This is a story about each trying to prove their worldview and their methodologies right. Their ‘war’ ends up hurting a number of people who are caught in the middle, with people ending up dead. The stark difference in attitudes of Dr Sterling and Corbin Lyell is beautifully portrayed. Dr Sterling plays by the rules mostly and is unwilling to hurt anyone in the process of proving her point. On the other end of the spectrum, Corbin Lyell is ready to do anything to prove himself right, including murders. He is so obsessed with beating Dr Sterling, that he ignores all risks and ends up paying dearly for it in the end.

As the story continues, there clashes become more intensive and the use of fictional characters in these fights was quite entertaining. It is something every boy has thought and argued about, who would win a fight between Superman and Spiderman, Fantastic Four and X-Men (Sorry, but these questions are NOT addressed in this book).

I would have given this book five stars if it was just a suspense thriller with some elements of science or fantasy. The writing is excellent for most parts, and the story is well constructed and fast paced, the way all thrillers should be. The relationship of both the main characters was developed in detail, clearly describing the history which leads them to be at loggerheads with each other. I also thought the emotions of each person came out very well (which many science fiction novels lack). The place where I found the story lacking was in the explanation of the concept of Bleedover. It remained unclear for large parts of the book, and how it went from the alterations of media works to the physical manifestation was not well brought out. This being the central idea on which the book is based, it was inexcusable. Also, I got somewhat lost in the pseudo-science as most of the science fiction parts were created rather than being based on scientific fact. I understand that the author had to develop a whole new language for the science stream he created, but here as well, better explanations would have made the story more enjoyable.

Overall, I would rate this book a solid four. However, people who cannot enjoy science fiction should stay away as they will not find this to be light reading, and would end up referencing Wikipedia repeatedly.

Lokant (Draykon Series)

Lokant - Charlotte E. English Posted here: http://riteshkala.wordpress.com/

Lokant is the second book in the Draykon series and it is a fine sequel to the first one. I had reviewed the first book, ‘Draykon’ earlier here. As hoped for and expected, the second book continues with the story of Llandry, with all other characters making an appearance as well. There are a plethora of new characters, who add completely new dimensions to the story.

After reading the first book, I had built up in my head, a direction the story would take. I have to say that the story moved in a completely different but equally nice direction compared to what I had imagined. The book definitely moved into science fiction territory, which I love. SF and fantasy are my two favourite genres and any combination is always welcome (The SF parts are not overwhelming or unbelievable and are credible enough to go down smoothly with the reader). This book really expands the stage on which the story is played out. We find that the three conjoined worlds in the previous book are just a small part of what is really happening. This, at first seemed to me, to be an unusual twist which I could not really digest. But as the story moved forward and things became a little clearer, the roles of everyone in the story became a lot more defined and that is where the fun began.

There are a lot of new characters introduced in the book. There is Kray who is after the Draykon bones and is willing to do a lot of dastardly deeds to get to them. There are all the Lokants each of which seem to be human emotionally, but has powers that no human can match. Others as well, all of whom add new dimensions to the story. The heart of the book, to me, is the development of the character of Llandry. She finds herself in a new form, a new world and with a new mate. Her change from the shy and reserved girl in the first book to a fearsome Draykon in this one is just brilliant. She does retain a lot of her human emotions which had endeared her to me in the first book.

The mystery elements of the previous book continue in this book as well. The mystery of the istore stone of the previous book is just a small part of the larger mystery which plays out in this book. I will, of course, not tell you what the mystery is and let you find it put for yourself. The plot has been magnificently crafted by the author and this book definitely promotes this series into the epic fantasy arena. The author’s talent in keeping the reader guessing and wanting to come back for more is simply fantastic. As usual a number of questions are left unanswered at the end of the book (I expect nothing less from a book in the middle of the series). Why do some people want to reignite an old war? What will happen to the enmity between Krays and Limbane? What is Llandry’s role in all this? What will happen (or not happen) between Eva and Tren?

As the book progresses and the differentiation between Lokants and Drakoni is established, it becomes absolutely clear that a war will be coming soon. The resurrection of Drakons and their proclamation of war is where this book ends. I am waiting to see what role each character will have to play in the coming war. In the end, all I have to ask you is, “Are you ready for the battle?”

Kiwi In Cat City

Kiwi in Cat City - Vickie Johnstone Who would have thought that I could read and enjoy a book written mainly for children! This is one book that will hold the attention of the most fidgety child and captivate and entertain them.

The ‘Kiwi’ series by author Vickie Johnstone revolves around Amy and James, two young children who own a cat named Kiwi. One night, as they see their cat outside staring at the moon, they go down and start following her, until she disappears in a cloud of purple smoke! As she returns and starts talking (Of course, a talking cat, this is a children’s book after all), she instructs the kids to do to mimic her and suddenly they find themselves turned into kittens and this is where their adventure begins.

Kiwi takes the new kittens to ‘Cat City’ which is quite similar to our world with cafes and shops, roads and cars and even a police station. This is the ‘double life of Kiwi, where she works as a detective. The trio is handed a case by Inspector Furrball as soon as they enter this new world, one involving ‘catnappings’. They are joined by the inspector’s nephew, Paws on this case. As they start investigating, a mystery evolves and the rest of the story is about how this unusual group solves this mystery.

This is a really clean mystery, you will not find people (oh sorry, cats) getting hurt. Even the guns are freeze guns to avoid any bloodshed. However, the suspense is amazingly created and maintained throughout the book. I was quite surprised to find myself not willing to put the book down. The mystery of the story has been really well designed and has enough twists to keep everyone guessing.

The author has modified a number of words enough to give them a ‘catty’ twist. This was something I found quite amusing and I liked the imagination it involved. Also the world, although familiar to us, is adapted for the cats that inhabit it. For example, you can find mouse treats and fish biscuits, milk instead of soft drinks, scratching posts and cat toys littered for their entertainment.

I was somewhat disappointed by the abrupt end, but knowing that this is a series, it is something I should have expected and accepted. I am not saying the mystery was not solved, but the author has left a few strands open to continue the series. I am amazed to be saying this, but I would love to continue reading about the new adventures these kids/kittens get into.

I can say that this would make an excellent book for parents to read along with their children. This is a great place to start to get children interested in reading and wean them away from Facebook television and their gaming boxes.