Monday, March 24, 2014

#62 : Muffin Man by Stephen Collina : A Review

BOOK TITLE: The Muffin Man
ISBN: 978-1480078062
AUTHOR: Stephan Collina
GENRE: Fiction – Political drama
REVIEW BY: Shree Janani
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Part of the virtual author book tours.
          The Muffin man atmospheric tale from the 1970s, mostly set in the UK and the east coast of the USA.
          The tale begins with a premonition that leads to the formation of a secretive political organisation, but the story unfolds in twists and turns through the ordinary lives of innocents who are sucked into an accelerating and dangerous vortex of drug dealing, assassination and murder that leads up to the present day. Outline
          Highflying US Army Colonel returns from Vietnam disillusioned. He is recruited to form the covert arm of a secretive political organisation. The Colonel’s alienated daughter Anne runs away from home. Tailed by one of her father’s operatives, she gives him the slip. Anne ends up in London, unknowingly working for her father’s organisation in England.
David, a bright, middleclass young Englishman becomes by accident a major drug dealer, when a friend has to flee after killing a snitch. David’s beautiful but manipulative girlfriend Louise assists with the drug dealing but leaves him for the corrupt police inspector who supplies them. The inspector is blackmailed into becoming the secretive organisation’s man in the UK. He in
turn recruits David and a returned friend then initiates a series of successful assassinations. David meets Anne and they fall in love, but the jealous Louise wants him back. The Inspector is well rewarded, which leads to arrogance and an early death, or does it?
When this book came up for review my co-blogger who knew my tastes, jumped up to the chance and got me this book to read. A person like me can never get enough of thrillers and political. What could possibly be a better company than such a book while on travel?
Somehow the book really didn’t live upto my expectations. The book indeed has everything that could make it a huge success yet I felt something missing. I really can’t seem to lay my finger on that missing element.
The plot consists of two separate story lines, one set in UK and the other in US. The US plotline like any other political drama has references to Vietnam and of course, the UK plot line has references to drug peddling as anticipated. Now don’t go about asking me if the two story lines become one in the, I ain’t giving out spoilers.
The language was simple and the plot line was consistent. Thought initially the switching between the two story lines was disorienting, as the plot line grew the feeling of disorientation disappeared.  In sense, the writer seems to have thought pretty much about every other optimal scenario to finish off the book and picked this scenario.
Anne’s story line reminded me of the US television drama ALIAS. This can’t really be let off as a coincidence. Her characterisation seemed really predictable to me as I couldn’t help but draw similarities. But the overall, plot had enough number of unpredictable twists to keep the story moving forward.
My biggest complaint would be the print. I love paperbacks for one reason only – the big and beautiful print! It’s so satisfying to hold a nice book with beautiful print, but when I picked up this book, I ended up getting a headache. The print was insanely small. I have no idea as to why the writer went to such lengths for cost cutting.
In short, If you are picking up the paperback, in spite of the book being a good read you are bound to feel disappointed.
VERDICT: Only for people like me who like political drama and can tolerate small prints.
RATING: 3 on 5
Stephan Collina grew up in the 1970s: a troubled time of recession, poverty, industrial disruption, political tension and terrorism. But for younger people, it was also a post-1960s wide-flared, drug-enhanced and extravagant-haired innocence.
Stephan later became a prominent businessman, acquainted with a number of high-ranking politicians. Stephen ran international technology businesses, spending a great deal of time in the USA and various European and African countries.
The Muffin Man grew from a combination of these unique experiences: his early knowledge of the sometime innocent business of drug dealing (although he never inhaled), and of the much dirtier businesses of covert political and military action, and of international business practices.
Stephan’s first novel explored the nefarious and complicated emotional and sexual relationships of a remote village in Wales, where he had spent his early years.
Stephan holds a degree in Philosophy. He is also a qualified commercial ship’s captain. He now lives quietly by the sea, and concentrates on his writing and related filmmaking activities.
PRICE:  $8.09 for paperback


Friday, March 7, 2014

#61 : A Life Less Ordinary by Victoria Bernadine : A Review


BOOK TITLE: A Life Less Ordinary

ISBN: 9780991810208

GENRE: Fiction – Chic Lit


FORMAT: Digital


REVIEW BY: Shree Janani

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review Copy sent as a part of Buy the book tours

SUMMARY : For the last fifteen years, Rose “Manny” Mankowski has been a very good girl. She turned her back on her youthful fancies and focused on her career. But now, at the age of 45, she's questioning her choices and feeling more and more disconnected from her own life. When she's passed over for promotion and her much younger new boss implies Manny's life will never change, something snaps. In the blink of an eye, she's quit her job, sold her house and cashed in her pension, and she's leaving town on a six month road trip. After placing a personal ad for a travelling companion, she's joined in her mid-life crisis by Zeke Powell, the cynical, satirical, most-read – and most controversial – blogger for the e-magazine, What Women Want. Zeke's true goal is to expose Manny's journey as a pitiful and desperate attempt to reclaim her lost youth – and increase his readership at the same time. Leaving it all behind for six months is just an added bonus. Now, armed with a bagful of destinations, a fistful of maps, and an out-spoken imaginary friend named Harvey, Manny's on a quest to rediscover herself – and taking Zeke along for the ride


The book seemed just the sort of book I would want to read when I am down in dumps. When I actually finished reading the book I sort of felt bland. In sense, It didn’t create that big impact which I sort of expected it to. But then the book wasn’t that bad too.

The writer has done a fantastic job with Manny & Zeke’s characterisation.  I loved the way the writer handled this whole mid life crisis issue. If you ask me the whole concept of mid life crisis is overrated.  I’ve know people having a nervous breakdown and even other serious health ailments. Such people should take a page out of this book.

One thing I absolutely loved about the book is portrayal of relationships. Be it the friendship between Zeke and TJ or the relationship between Rebecca and Tris. The writer surely values relationships a lot and that has reflected in her book.

The other thing that stood out was the way in which parallel stories were woven. There are a lot of characters with their own story, weaving them cohesively is no easy feat. The writer has worked here magic and woven them beautifully.

The writing was simple and clean. The book was certainly a page turner in spite of that breezy genre that it belonged to.

I do have a few complaints – Manny’s reaction to Zeke’s betrayal could have been a wee bit more emotional.

Also, the ending, I felt it lacked a proper closure. A closure for Manny’s mid life crisis.

Overall, NEAT would be the word to describe the book.

VERDICT: Why not?! A good light neat nice read!

RATING: 4 on 5

Victoria Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a “woman of a certain age”. After twenty-something years of writer’s block, she began writing again in 2008. She began with fanfiction about a (now-cancelled) TV show called Jericho and particularly about the characters of Heather Lisinski and Edward Beck. From there, she expanded into writing original fic and she hasn’t stopped since. Victoria enjoys reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody’s guess.Victoria’s real first name is ShirleyAnn, and she is also the founder of Love of Words Publishing Inc.  Her initial goal with the publishing company was to expand to publishing other people’s work instead of (or in addition to) her own.  The future is, as always, uncertain.She lives in Edmonton with her two cats (The Grunt and The Runt). A Life Less Ordinary is the first novel she felt was good enough to be released into the wild.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Paperback & Kindle

PRICE: Rs.332 (Kindle)


Note : This review was first posted in Readers' Muse