Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #126: The Man in the Trench Coat


Author: Ashutosh Dixit
Pages: 283
Publisher: Frog in Well
Cover Design: Vishwajeet Sathye

  • Ratings-

Cover : 4/5
Title : 3.5/5
Blurb : 4/5
Theme : 4/5
Characters : 4/5
Story : 4.5/5
Overall : 4.5/5

  • Blurb:

India. The world’s largest democracy. A cesspool of corruption and apathy. The people helpless, the media ineffective, the government indifferent and the crusaders forlorn. But all that was about to change… In 2014, just before India’s massive general elections, a Member of Parliament accused of being involved in multiple scams is shot right outside his residence. ACP Rajeev Shekhar, an honest, upright cop with a tragic past and ACP Digvijay Raut, a veteran legend of the Delhi Police are tasked with investigating the murder. However, more such corrupt officials begin to die throughout the country, expertly assassinated by a mysterious vigilante they call ‘the Man in the Trench Coat’. As the political pressure mounts, the CBI steps in to work with the Delhi cops. The vigilante, aided by the shadowy man known only as Control, steps up his game. As the situation escalates, the investigating lawmen find themselves embroiled in a web of scheming and deceit. Nothing- and no one- is what they seem to be… Who is the Man in the Trench Coat? Why does he do what he does? Who is the master manipulator called Control? And above all, can they succeed in their mission to free India from corruption? Inspired by the notion of vigilantism in popular culture, The Man in the Trench Coat is a story about the fight against corruption in India.

  • Review:

The Man in the Trench Coat by Ashutosh Dixit focuses on India’s state of affairs concerning politics and corruption. It all begins with the assassination of one of the members of Parliament, right in the heart of Delhi, with the Delhi Police being unable to trace any link to the murderer except for a note left on the spot — mentioning the crime and verdict of the MP. ACP Rajeev Shekhar, the protagonist, is paired up with ACP Digvijay Raut to resolve this mystery. Together they interrogate the MP’s widow who had surprisingly been rather happy with the murder but are convinced she had nothing to do with the entire episode. They then dive into information provided by the MP’s personal investigator for whom the MP was just another client. His knowledge of Rajeev’s personal life pisses off the latter while Digvijay is still not completely trustworthy of Rajeev. Amidst all this occurs another assassination of the MP of Karnataka, in the heart of Bangalore, with no trace of the murderer yet again but a similar note on the MP’s crime and verdict. Given the gravity of the situation and the intensity of the case, the Central Bureau of Investigation steps in to take over from Rajeev and Digvijay. Rajeev, for the first time post the death of his wife a couple of years back, feels something for the the CBI officer Maya. Will something sprout between the two? Rajeev’s personal backstory and ongoing interest in Maya provides a breather from the intense murder investigations while also adding context to the ongoing situations and proceedings.

Meanwhile, minor details on the assassin come to the fore with a rough sketch of his being made and a few documents of historical evidence being found. Everyone is convinced that the assassin is a highly trained and equipped player who will leave no stone un-turned in achieving what he has set out for. But he is not alone; a man who calls himself Control provides targets after targets to the murdered by the assassin who is always wearing a trench coat and hence his identity ends up being “the man in the trench coat”. A small narration on the initial days of his career and training intrigued me to the core and I literally got goosebumps when the identities of the assassin and the Control were revealed! An absolute treat of a read, The Man in the Trench Coat will not disappoint you!

  • Let-downs:

A few times the plot became too complex too understand because of the involvement of multiple characters; it was confusing as to which dialogue was being said by whom and that made it difficult to understand a few instances and the characters’ part in the plot.

  • Appreciations:

Amazing story-line coupled with perfectly crafted characters made the book a delight to read. Every page brought in new information thus twisting and turning the story-line, making it more intriguing. The vocabulary was decent and the editing in terms of parallel stories gave the book a different outlook. What I loved most about the book was that it just didn’t end at narrating the story; it left me with a thought that lingered on quite a while even after I was done reading the book — the thought of our countries state of affairs and other such matters. I believe that when a book manages to push you to think beyond the story-line, it has done its task in a way better manner! I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and wouldn’t mind giving it a second read!

  • Verdict:

A revolutionary thought-provoking narration which shouldn’t be missed! (4.5/5)

Click here to read my interview of Ashutosh Dixit.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #125: Strangers With Known Faces


Author: Gautum Dutta
Pages: 257
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Invincible Publishers

  • Ratings-

Cover : 2.5/5
Title : 4/5
Blurb : 3.5/5
Theme : 3.5/5
Characters : 4/5
Story : 4/5
Overall : 3.5/5

  • Blurb:

Rajat, Meenakshi, Sadaaf, Amol, and Shanaya are five University students with nothing in common- who should never have met in the first place. They meet after winning a lucky draw- the prize of which was to take part in a puzzle game. Though the game was engrossing, they were unable to solve the puzzle in the stipulated time. However, this lead to the beginning of a deep friendship between them. Their friendship blossomed. But ego and misunderstanding led to an acrimonious break up. They meet again- two decades later- when Shanaya is murdered, and the other four are suspects. The four soon realize that in spite of being estranged for so many years, there were unknown ties that bound them- ties of treachery, deceit, and subterfuge. Ties that have led them to come together in circumstances that no one could have foreseen. And the game that they had left incomplete two decades back has to be played yet again – on a much bigger canvas. Now they have to trust each other, clear their names, and get to the bottom of the mystery, which threatens not only their lives and relationships, but also the fabric of democratic India. As their travels and travails continue, they discover hitherto unknown facets of the people around them, as well as their own selves. Can they succeed in resolving the puzzle this time? Or is history doomed to repeat itself? As hidden aspects of the human personality are revealed, they realize that no one is what he or she appears to be. For the world comprises of ‘Strangers With Known Faces’.

  • Review:

Strangers With Known Faces by Gautum Dutta is a mystery thriller involving 5 friends who first meet during one of their university events wherein they are randomly made to come together as part of a team and resolve clues to escape out of a mystery room — a chance encounter that leads to a deep-rooted friendship. Over the months, during university elections, Rajat is promoted by his friends and a few others to become the president of the university’s student body. As the president, Rajat finds himself entangled in the web of relational boundaries. His love interest — an older lady named Neelam — drives most of his thought process and Rajat ends up acting in her favor almost always. Although he doesn’t let power and ego get into his head, each and every decision that he takes creates a domino effect of disasters, having repercussions on his friendship with every member of the group and his relations with acquaintances. Everything together not only taints his image as the sincerest guy on campus but also puts into jeopardy his career prospects.

The hatred between the 5 friends increases to the extent that neither of them can see the other eye to eye and each one heads his own way. Years later, destiny brings them together yet again to resolve clues to escape and free themselves out of a mystery, this time a real one — the murder of Shanaya for which each of the others is a suspect. The suspense lineup of the book will definitely not let you keep the book down until you’re done with it!

  • Let-downs:

My only concern with the book is the amateurish narration style, language, and vocabulary. There is huge scope of improvement when it comes to editing as the essence of a mystery thriller lies in the fact that details are to be revealed at the right time, whereas, in Strangers With Known Faces, quite a lot of times an upcoming event was subtly hinted, somehow spoiling the fun for me.

  • Appreciations:

Strangers With Known Faces is an interesting read mostly because of the characters that have been crafted — be it Rajat’s love interest’s British boyfriend, or someone as trivial as the businessman proposing an unrealistic scam, the perfection of the characters brings color and life to the book, making it an enticing read. The story-line is amazing with all the twists and turns that keep you hooked on to the book, making you question at each step about what will happen next.

  • Verdict:

An interesting murder mystery testing friendship, love, and the credibility of the Army (3.5/5)

Click here to read my interview of Gautam Dutta!

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #124: Yama’s Lieutenant


Author: Anuja Chandramouli
Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House India

  • Ratings-

Cover : 4/5
Title : 4/5
Blurb : 4/5
Theme : 4/5
Characters : 4/5
Story : 4/5
Overall : 4.5/5

  • Blurb:

The inhabitants of the thousand hells of Yama have broken free from their prison and vowed to wreak havoc on the heavens, the earth and hell. With the fiendish Hatakas and Narakamayas teamed up with Naganara, a terrifying necromancer hungry for power, the universe is headed for war and destruction unless one human has something to do with it.
Agni Prakash, a debonair young man whose world has been turned upside down by the death of his twin sister, Varu, has been enlisted to stop these forces and be Yama’s very own lieutenant. As the mythical world clashes with his own, Agni discovers a manuscript left behind by his sister. Hauntingly, it draws parallels to the treacherous path upon which he has been thrust. Equipped with an acerbic wit and winning charm, Agni undertakes a battle, where the odds seem tipped wildly against him, and finds unlikely companions along the way.
Will he be able to uncover the secret behind his sister’s writings? And more importantly, will he be able to avert the destruction that seems imminent?

  • Review:

Yama’s Lieutenant by Anuja Chandramouli is an enthralling amalgamation of mythology, science fiction, and action thriller. It is the story of a young lad named Agni whose life changes completely post the death of his twin sister Varuna. Mourning in her memories, Agni stumbles upon his Varuna’s manuscript: a detailed research on mythological characters Yama & Yami, their strong bond as siblings, and Yama’s journey of being the king of hell (famously known as Pataal Lok in Hindu scriptures). Agni believes that there is a gateway to heaven, the path to which lies in Varuna’s manuscript. He is confident that if he is able to find that path, he will be able to bring Varuna back to life.

On the other hand, in Yama’s land, there is an evil named Naganara who wants to destroy the world. He is powerful enough to summon ancestral evils and even the most fearful creatures from the dungeons of hell. His ultimate motive is to destroy humanity & rule the world. Yama cannot stop the prisoners of hell from escaping owing to his weakened powers due to an ancient curse, and is hence in dire need of an assistant. Agni, armed with grit, determination, and Varuna’s research, comes to Yama’s rescue by fighting the evils, meets with Minothi — Mother Earth’s favoured daughter with divine powers, and sets on to save the world. While Gods, Goddesses, and humans together fight to save humanity, a brilliant twist changes the course of the story. What happens next, will only be best experienced upon reading the book!

  • Let-downs:

The 0.5 from overall rating has been reduced only because a lot of information has been put out there in the book but no guide or appendix to refer to when one is needs to recall a few characters or places.

  • Appreciations:

Yama’s Lieutenant is one of the very few books that I have rated 4.5/5 and fairly so. It is an enthralling mystery beautifully carved by Anuja with her weave of vivacious vocabulary. The sentence structure, character crafting, and plot planning have made a positively remarkable impact on the script as a whole. Narration has been done in a way that serves the purpose of a mystery novel — including right amount of detail at the right time to ensure that the tinge of mystery is persistent throughout. The script advanced smoothly on just the right pace, leaving the reader to guess what would happen next and that is the biggest asset of a mystery thriller.

  • Verdict:

An enthralling amalgamation of mythology, science fiction, and action thriller (4.5/5)

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Book Review #123: From Zero to One


Author: Maneesha Agrawal
Pages: 160
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Notion Press Inc.

  • Ratings-

Cover : 3/5
Title : 2.5/5
Blurb : 2.5/5
Theme : 3/5
Characters : 3.5/5
Story : 3.5/5
Overall : 3/5

  • Blurb:

According to the popular folklore, after the great floods, a lonely and desolate Manu had tied his boat to a high Himalayan cliff at the modern day Manali (which derives its current name from Manu – namely Manu’s Sthali – the land of Manu).”
“He leads the way for a new civilization to ultimately emerge as the progenitor of a new race known after him – the Manushyas, or Manavas (meaning followers of Manu – the Hindi term by which human beings are addressed ever since)!

  • Review:

From Zero To One by Maneesha Agrawal is an enthralling amalgamation of ancient history and storytelling, the tale of how human civilization built up from scratch. A 52-nights and 53-days long rainfall had washed off the very existence of living beings. Shradhha Manu, the son of God Surya, was the only one alive. Wondering as to what his existence meant, he met the 7 holy sages — the “Saptarishis” as they are referred to in Hindu mythology — who informed him that he was no longer anyone’s son or family member but only a simple man whose only objective going forward should be to establish civilizations and build humanity across the world. A few rough days before he meets Kamayani, a magical lady whose grace and beauty had enchanted Manu the very first time he saw. Together, they set on the expedition of rooting civilizations. They continue encountering people one by one and together this large cohort takes on troughs and dungeons to fulfill their purpose. But would they be successful? How will they align what each one of them wants to achieve? A thrilling ride awaits you!

  • Let-downs:

I would have loved to see the more creative side of the story; Maneesha could have experimented with the story-line and made it an exciting read with twists and turns. Since the book lacked this, I found it a slightly monotonous read.

  • Appreciations:

From Zero To One is one of the very few books on ancient history that I have read and found interesting. There is something about the way Maneesha describes the entire plot that hooks the reader onto the words and gets them mesmerized. Although there was very little deviation from the actual history, I absolutely appreciate the fact that Maneesha explored and researched every bit of the ancient civilizations else the script wouldn’t have been half as enthralling as it is. The vocabulary and language sense used by Maneesha is music to a grammarian’s ears and for everyone with a love for literature. All in all, I enjoyed this book for its sheer poise of language and narration style!

  • Verdict:

An amazing pick for ancient history enthusiasts (3/5)

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Book Review #122: Niharika


Author: Shuchismita C
Pages: 296
Publisher: Self-published at Smashwords
Cover Design: Studio9’s

  • Ratings-

Cover : 2.5/5
Title : 2/5
Theme : 2.5/5
Characters : 4/5
Story : 3/5
Overall : 3/5

  • Review:

Niharika by Shuchismita C was formerly published under the name “Loving Sri” and is the 2nd version of the same book. It is the story of a young happy-go-lucky girl named Niharika who studied and worked in Delhi until her mother’s health began deteriorating, leading Niharika to move back to Kolkata, her hometown. With the help of fatherly figure and her late father’s best friend, Nikhil, Niharika managed to land a job at one of the MNCs.

One morning as she was late for office, she stumbled into a handsome guy in the office lobby and kept chatting with him in the lift, only to realize later that he was none other than Srijit, the Managing Director of the company. Srijit fell in love with her at first sight but couldn’t make a move as she was way younger than him. Also the fact that he was widower wasn’t playing in his favor. Niharika, however, had no idea of his history and had a huge crush on him irrespective of his age and professional stature. Eventually they ended up hanging out and got close to each other enough to reveal insecurities and secrets. But a few misunderstandings on Srijit’s part, including Niharika’s close friendship with Srijit’s younger brother, caused Srijit to ice out Niharika completely. She tried everything in her control to work things out with Srijit but finally gave up. During this time, she also learned about the relationship between her mother and Nikhil, but she was mature enough to understand and comprehend how platonic their love was. She totally supported their decisions and was happy for them.

Being unable to get together with Srijit was troubling Niharika and she decided to move back to Delhi as she could not stand to be in the same city as Srijit. Almost a year later, Niharika received a call from Srijit’s sister residing in Mumbai and learned of a grave news. She couldn’t wait back even for a second and packed her bags to fly out to Mumbai in the next available flight. What could the news have been? Was Srijit’s brother responsible for their separation? Would Srijit and Niharika ever get back together? What was it about Srijit’s past that held him back in committing to Niharika? All these questions and many more paced my mind as I read through the last few pages of the book. A few revelations intrigued me while others made me wonder as to what would happen next.

  • Let-downs:

I found the writing style to be very basic, even amateurish to some extent. There were certain typos, misplaced names (Asha was referred to as Anita in certain places and vice versa), and grammatical errors that created confusion and should ideally have been taken care of by the editors. Same goes for certain phrases and sentence structures that made the content repetitive and decreased my interest in reading. Everything combined gave the script a look of the 2nd or 3rd draft, but not the final one for sure.

  • Appreciations:

Niharika is one of the most innocent and cute love stories that have read in a long time. The emotions that one goes through at various stages of falling in love have been beautifully portrayed with the play of words. I liked the vivid descriptions of nature and the vocabulary used for the same that painted a picture and made it easy for the reader to imagine the scene. Characters have been crafted to perfection and each one of them made the right contribution to the script. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot that moved with a steady pace, giving me the time to absorb the feelings and sometimes even reminisce personal incidences. In short, the book is totally relative and the reader would enjoy Niharika and Srijit’s journey.

  • Verdict:

A cute & innocent love-story for a pleasing read (3/5)

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Posted in Book Reviews

Teaser Review: Politico


Author: MH Rahman
Genre: Political thriller

  • Ratings-

Cover : 3.5/5
Title : 3.5/5
Theme : 4/5
Characters : 4.5/5
Overall : 4/5

  • Preview:

After a really long time I was able to spare a while to read and here was a request from an author, whom I have worked with in the past, to review the teaser of his upcoming book Politico. I took it up instantly as it was a short read, just 4 pages, and trust me, by the time I was done, I wish it wasn’t the 4th page. Politico is themed to be a political thriller. The teaser lays the plot with the Prime Ministerial candidate of India’s 2019 election being shot 3 bullets in the chest and the death of USA’s President.

This being a political thriller, a large number of characters are involved in every plot, making the narration complex and confusing at times. But it could be the case that I felt so because I read only 4 pages; a prolonged read would have etched the characters in my mind leading to ease of understanding.

Rahman’s writing style complements the genre of the script; revealing just enough information to keep the readers glued and expressing thoughts in simple yet gripping words. The flair of language and emotions take the narration to the next level and arouse interest among the readers.

Politico will premier on August 25 on WritersTV — the GenNext of Entertainment.

  • Verdict:

A promising thriller to look forward to! (4/5)

Click here to read M H Rahman’s exclusive interview by me.

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review #121: There Are No Gods in North Korea


Author: Anjaly Thomas
Pages: 236
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Niyogi Books

  • Ratings-

Cover : 2/5
Title : 2/5
Blurb : 3.5/5
Theme : 3.5/5
Characters : 3/5
Overall : 3/5

  • Blurb:

Lawyer turned travel writer Anjaly Thomas takes a solo journey through the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the guise of a kindergarten This book examines the people and culture of North Korea “To be able to learn real life lessons is far greater than reading the stories one finds between the pages of a school book” Anjaly Thomas The uniqueness of the book lies in the simplicity of narration and the author’s real life experiences as she goes about her solo journeys around the world. These journeys do not dwell on destinations, but life moments which define the purpose of travel and create the richness of experience, leading her to a completeness not experienced by any other form of entertainment. Be it freezing in the cold in Turkey, capitalizing on the kindness of strangers in Mongolia, redefining the limits of individual freedom in the iron-regime of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or whether it is about learning to give, take or being humble or, most importantly, whether it is about being able to shed prejudices and being able to adapt and accept change the author’s journeys to random countries around the world will take the reader to a new level of understanding travel. It will instill a sense of responsibility and the importance of being a part of the world we live in.”

  • Review:

There Are No Gods in North Korea by Anjaly Thomas is a travel narrative of her experiences. Wanderlust led her to plan a trip to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea as the media addresses it, but her dreams were shattered when she received an email from an authority stating that won’t be able to allow her to enter North Korea for any purpose other than tourism. Anjaly had nearly lost hope and felt bad about being a writer, the category that wasn’t allowed into North Korea, but her hope was still alive and she managed to fake the profession of a kindergarten teacher to make way for her dream travel. Her family and colleagues did everything in their power to stop her from taking it forward but her determination strengthened when she finally received an official approval letter for her entry into North Korea.

Anjaly’s journey began much before her flight to North Korea, precisely when, along with the formal confirmation email of her entry approval, she received a series of documents to read and sign on, followed by numerous cross-checks, document submissions, background verification, et al. And finally when she did get on to the plane to North Korea, she was surprised to find the picture of North Korea’s king Kim Jong-un on the cover page of a magazine. Upon her arrival, she was grouped with a set of people and wasn’t allowed to take pictures, dance in the rain, indulge in a conversation with the locals, along with other restrictions. Her curiosity was at its pinnacle and she took a step to explore the story behind the mystery associated with North Korea. Thus began her tryst with her most memorable travel.

  • Let-downs:

The narration is quite exhaustive; all details of each and every experience which are surely not relevant to the script on the whole should ideally be eliminated. Also, the title is something in which more thought should have been put; I didn’t quite understand why the book’s title is so because it’s not just the experience of North Korea that Anjaly has narrated but also other countries and continents.

  • Appreciations:

Right from the first page of the book, I could feel the enthusiasm and excitement with which Anjaly wrote the book, such is the power of her words, and I was glad that it didn’t die down even as she concluded with the acknowledgements on the last page. I loved the utmost innocence with which a few minute feelings and thoughts have been shared because I am sure that it’s purpose was only to connect with the audience, to make them experience the same feeling that Anjaly herself went through during her ordeals and explain why traveling is much more than just a holiday or a vacation; it teaches you to learn, change, and adapt in a way nothing else can. Honesty and simplicity are two traits of Anjaly’s narration which have been consistent throughout the book and also the two things which will make your reading time worth it.

  • Verdict:

An honest view of a part of the world from the eyes of a traveler (3/5)

Coming soon: Anjaly Thomas’ interview.

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