Friday, October 30, 2015

#255 : Made In India by Biddu : Review


GENRE: Non- Fiction : Autobiography


FORMAT: Paperback

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy as a part of b00k r3vi3w Tours. Thanks guys!

“Made in India”- a song that would stir up fond memories of annual day functions of any south Indian kids from the 90s. That song was such a rage that back then the annual day was incomplete without this song. I remember dancing twice for this song in two hilarious costumes. Having grown up in a family that really didn’t listen or watch Hindi songs back then, this song fascinated me. When this book came up for review I was shocked at my own ignorance – I didn’t know the composer of the song.

Autobiographies almost always end up kicking up the hornet’s nest. They either attract controversies or the ‘positive’ publicity in the form of sympathy and what not. This book was neither. I didn’t feel the intention of the writer to do either. Yes, the writer, Biddu did struggle to make it big in the industry, but what is life without a struggle.  Of course, the writer does deserve due credit for hitchhiking his way through Iraq, Syria, Dubai with meager money. He certainly deserves to be applauded for his grit and determination for not giving up.

Given that an autobiography allows only a limited scope for review, I would like to focus only on the writing. Having heard just one of his songs, I don’t know if the writer has his way with music, but he certainly does have a way with his words. He kept the language simple and the narration filled with enough humor. I did feel he was trying to be a wee too modest there by automatically gaining my attention.  Most often than not, people chronicling their lives end up adding that extra dose of emotion (Whatever the emotion it may be) to hold the reader’s attention. Thankfully this writer did nothing of that sort. Yes, I did feel the writer’s pain and struggle, but it was not earth shattering. It could have been “made” earth shattering!

MY SAY: An interesting read. People who listen and enjoy varied music would find this book a good read.

RATING: 8/10




Friday, October 23, 2015

#254 : Turning to Stone by Gabriel Valjan : Spotlight + Giveaway!


Alabaster Black aka Bianca Nerini returns as an investigation into a public official’s assassination pits Bianca and her friends against a backdrop of financial speculation, female assassins on motorcycles, and the Camorra—the most ruthless of Italian organized crime gangs—in Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE, the fourth book of the highly praised Roma series.
En route to a secret meeting, Aldo Giurlani—the regional commissioner of Lombardy in northern Italy and a specialist on organized crime—is assassinated in the middle of a public square.
More mysterious is the package sent to Giurlani’s hand-picked team of five top investigators within the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), the Italian law enforcement agency that investigates illegal financial transactions, from money laundering to drug trafficking. Within the package are five copies of a book entitled Man of Smoke written by Aldo Palazzeschi.
Then there is Bianca’s tenuous online contact with a mysterious online contact known as Loki, who delivers a cryptic message to her, takes on a new twist with the appearance of a brilliant young obsessive-compulsive man who joins her team.
Complicating matters even further, old enemies and, more problematically, Alabaster’s former employer—Rendition, a murky covert U.S. government agency that does more than just investigate financial crimes—still have grudges to bear against her.
As new mysteries unfold, Bianca’s group quickly discovers that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.
Readers looking for a suspenseful thriller with mysterious twists and turns abounding will love Gabriel Valjan’s TURNING TO STONE.

Buy the book here:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble


Author's Bio:
Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.
Connect with the author:   Website     Twitter     Facebook



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

#253 : The Second Coming by Shubha Menon : Review


GENRE: Fiction
FORMAT: Paperback
HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Signed review copy as a part of The Book Club Tours. Thanks to Rubina & the writer!
The primary characters of romance book these days are 20 something who crave  attention (to be read as love!). What after they get married and turn 40? Does that sizzling romance still stay? Of course not! Even fiction writers don’t attempt to talk about romance and 40 year old women. It’s totally high time that subject is broached in our books! Shuba, the writer of this book seemed to be one among the early birds to write on this subject.

Our protagonist, Mini (aka Mrinalini) is a wedding planner who organizes dream wedding for high profile people. She feels this mighty need to experience a heady romance with a good looking guy (er…better looking than her husband!). She is deputed to Mumbai to organize a no budget wedding of a prince. When she lands in Mumbai she meets the dashing and suave Rustom who happens to head the Mumbai branch of her company. Things quickly escalate between them and mini ends up experiencing that oomph moment that she longed for! But does that satisfy her? Does she experience what she bargained for?

The cover looks quirky and on paper it looks super cool! The title of course is totally justified by the coming of age (coming age may be?!) story!

With humor injected in all the right places, the book was absolute fun to read. Being a twenty something the story had me gaping and wondering if this is how my life would be 20 years down the line. Thankfully the writer choose to have a positive ending thereby giving me a solution for all my worries! All characters where perfect except for Mini’s husband Shyam. I felt he could have actually done more to attract Mini again when he had the chance. Or may be it’s just men! The writing was flawless and the characters emoted to dot.

MY SAY: One fun book to read!
PLOT: 8/10
BOREDOM QUOTIENT: 1/10 (lower the better)

Check more about the book here 


#252 : The Second Coming by Shubha Menon : Spotlight!

The Second Coming


Shubha Menon

The Blurb

A wedding planner who believes in fairytale weddings, Mini yearns for romance in her own marriage. The magic of the initial years has vanished, leaving behind a hunger that she assuages with chocolate. Mini would love to change her situation, but she is over the hill, overweight and under confident. The chances of having a hot affair with a happening man are dim, if not non-existent.
An erstwhile royal scion decides to wed a Bollywood starlet and Mini is sent to Mumbai to plan the celebrations. The manager of the Mumbai office is young Rustom, the answer to Mini’s secret dreams. Goaded by impending menopause, Mini decides it’s now or never. She simply has to take a second stab at romance.
Rustom is a ladies man. He is also married, and a skirt chaser. Mini decides to shape up and get into the kind of skirts Rustom would want to chase.
Working together closely, Rustom and Mini fall into each others’ arms. Meanwhile, her husband gets wind of the affair and tries to reclaim her. Now Mini must choose between heady romance and steady matrimony.
But soon, Mini discovers that her romantic idol has feet of clay. In a dramatic end, the trusty husband stages a timely rescue. And Mini learns that a rock solid husband is worth many a dream lover.

Buy @

Meet the Author

This is her first book. She is currently working as a Senior Creative Director with Ogilvy Delhi. A practising Buddhist, she dreams of living in the hills where she can read, write and grow climbing roses. She lives in Delhi with her husband, daughter and two Dachshunds. 

You can stalk her @


         Check out the Rafflecopter (Only for Reviewers of this Blog Tour) This Tour is Hosted by 


#251 : Yellow Billed Magpie by Nancy Schoellkopf : Spotlight + Giveaway!


Unlike their black-billed cousins, yellow-billed magpies are rarely found outside California’s central valley. So when they begin showing up in Samantha O’Malley’s dreams, she wonders: are they calling me home?
Disappointed by failed fertility treatments and the break-up of her marriage, Samantha returns to her home town and slips into old habits, resuming her teaching career, even hooking up with an old lover. But she also renews her friendship with Craig, the school custodian she honors as her spiritual guide. The work they do together with Samantha’s special education students will lead her to discoveries she never thought possible.
Yellow-Billed Magpie is a love story, a spiritual journey, a quest to look beyond appearances to the mystical rhythms that guide the human heart.

Buy the book:   Amazon 



Author's Bio:
Nancy Schoellkopf has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying she’s needed a second income, so this time around she happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cat, her garden and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

Connect with the author:    Website     Twitter    Facebook  



#250 : Becoming a Novelist By Nancy Schoellkopf : Guest Post

I took a leave of absence from my teaching gig to write my first novel.  At the time I was burnt out on teaching, but at least when I was teaching I knew what I was doing.  I didn’t know how to write a novel, but I started writing anyway.  It took about five months to write the first draft.  It was over seven hundred pages long and it was a mess!

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that first novel is finished enough to publish, but it was good practice for what was to follow.  In the intervening years, I’ve written four more novels.  For this progress, I have to thank Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo is the cutesy acronym for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November.  It started years ago when a group of friends in the San Francisco Bay Area challenged each other to write 50,000-word novels in a month.  Well, actually, not a finished novel, but as Anne LaMotte would say “a sh***y first draft.”  By the way—I know you’re wondering—50,000 words is approximately 180 pages.

Within a few years, this group of friends had taken their challenge to the internet, and before too long tens of thousands of people were joining in.

Before I heard about Nanowrimo I had an idea for a second novel, but I couldn’t seem to get it on the page.  I was teaching again, and most nights I’d come home exhausted.  I’d wolf down dinner then start writing.  Suddenly I’d stop in mid-sentence and think:  this is boring, I don’t like this, I don’t know where it’s going.  Then I’d eat an unhealthy snack, watch something stupid on TV, go to bed, get up the next day and do it all over again.

But Nanowrimo is about quantity not quality.  Your goal is to write 50,000 words.  You hope at the end that you will have something resembling a story but that’s not required.  Just keep writing.

This emphasis on quantity allowed me to turn off my internal critic.  What happened next?  My imagination took over.  Ideas popped up and a plot formed.  That was the most astounding thing to me:  my imagination leaned toward story.  I didn’t have to force it.  It led me there.

Sure, some nights, Samantha (my main character) was given a pie, and I pasted in a pie recipe I’d found on the internet.  That upped the word count!  Other nights Samantha had had a day just like my day.  Did I forget to mention that Samantha was a special education teacher just like I was?  Well, if I’d had a really rough day at school, coincidentally Samantha wanted to complain about her day too.  Funny how that happened.

But when I hit 50,000 words, I had a real story.  In later drafts I edited out the recipes and the venting, but that stuff got me where I needed to go.

I wrote Yellow-Billed Magpie during my first National Novel Writing Month.  For me this book will always represent a leap of faith, an exhilarating thirty days when I let my imaginary friends, Samantha, Charlie and Craig run wild on the page, when I let them have their way with me.  I’ll be forever grateful to them because they’re the ones who taught me how to write a novel.

I hope you enjoy reading Yellow-Billed Magpie as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If you’re interested in writing a novel of your own, I recommend giving Nanowrimo a try.  Here’s a link:  there are lots of folks there ready to support you!
                                                                        Nancy Schoellkopf

Check out more about Nancy's book and her giveaway here!  


Sunday, October 18, 2015

#249 : Threading the Needle (Roma Series #3) by Gabriel Valjan : Spotlight +GIVEAWAY!


Milan. Bianca’s curiosity gets a young university student murdered, but not before he gives her a file that details a secret weapon under development with defense contractor Adastra. Guilt may drive her to find justice for the slain Charlie Brooks, but she is warned by the mysterious Loki to stay away from this case that runs deep with conspiracy. Bianca must find a way to uncover government secrets and corporate alliances without returning Italy to one of its darkest hours, the decades of daily terrorism known as the “Years of Lead.”
“It is even more to Gabriel Valjan’s credit that with Threading the Needle he, as an American, was nonetheless capable of unusual insight into the Misteri Italiani, the Italian Mysteries, without taking any prejudicial standpoint, one way or the other, or putting the blame on anyone, but rather inviting readers to judge for themselves.”
—Claudio Ferrara, Italian journalist and translator
“But after the first few pages, I knew I was committed to the end of the book ... and would be reading the two earlier books…Characters, plot, ideas, background: In Threading the Needle, Valjan weaves it all into an international crime novel worth the read.”
—Beth Kannell of Kingdom Books, a specialty mystery bookshop in northeastern Vermont.Buy the books here: Amazon


Author's Bio:
Gabriel Valjan lives in New England, but has traveled extensively, receiving his undergraduate education in California and completing graduate school in England. Ronan Bennett short-listed him for the 2010 Fish Short Story Prize for his Boston noir, Back in the Day. His short stories and poetry have appeared in literary journals and online magazines.
Connect with the author:   Website     Twitter     Facebook

GIVEAWAY! Win 1 of 10 print or 10 mobi copies of Turning to Stone (open to both USA & Canada)



Friday, October 16, 2015

#248 : Seeking Redemption by Dr.Madhu Vajpayee: Cover Reveal!

Book Blurb:

Story of a girl Meera, who is unwittingly drawn into a conflict from where she finds it difficult to emerge unscathed. It's her journey from being a simple, medical graduate belonging to a middle class family to the uncharted territories of corruption and caste based politics. Her path is crossed by the two men, both compelling yet completely contrasting characters, who are forever going to change her life. If it is Aman who can challenge her ideals and defy her resolves, and makes her the person she finally becomes, it is Abhay's sublime love which enables her to go through the vicissitudes of life. It's also the story of her loss as well as triumph against her own demons to find her true self.

Pre-order from Amazon

About the Author:

Dr.Madhu Vajpayee- the writer was born somewhere in those hospital corridors where she has spent the last two decades of her life. Witnessing life at such close quarters pushed her to capture its enigma in her words and slowly it became her passion. After writing several scientific papers and chapters in books, this book is her first step in literary world.  

Having done her graduation, MBBS from King Georges Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow she went ahead to pursue her post-graduation, MD from AIIMS, New Delhi. She was a consultant at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi having been associated with management of patients living with HIV/AIDS. She is now settled in Melbourne, Australia with her family, where she is devoting most of her time to writing, the passion that she couldn’t pursue earlier because of the demands of medical profession and commitment it requires.

When not creating stories, Madhu enjoys reading and travelling.

Contact the Author:



#247 : Coke by Barun Chanda : Release Day Blitz!

About the Book:

“Can you help me, please?”
Pradipta wheeled around.
Standing behind was an unusually attractive lady. She wore a dark blue, chiffon saree which set off her fair complexion even more. Other than a thin gold chain with a tear-drop pearl pendant on her neck, she wore no jewelery. Her lips were pale pink, with no lipstick. Only the dark make-up on her eyes made her look even more unfathomable.
 “You’re talking to me?”
Thus begins Coke, with this chance encounter at Kathmandu airport. But the plot thickens when the lady requests him to include her suitcase as part of his checked in baggage and then does a vanishing act, once the aircraft lands in Calcutta. What follows is a riveting page-turner, replete with unexpected twists as you encounter gangs warring over narcotics, policemen, functionaries, and a sinister master-mind who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. The furiously paced narrative takes you from the sleepy airport of Kathmandu to the packed streets of Calcutta, a mysterious mansion on the outskirts of town and an unforgettable chase-sequence through New Market.
From the author of the acclaimed Bengali novels ‘Kidnap’, ‘Shaaper Jhaanpi’ and ‘Robibar’ comes a high-octane thriller that’s seriously addictive and keeps you hooked till the end.

Read an Excerpt:

At the first ring, Rustam picked up his mobile. It showed Bob’s number on the screen. He put the mobile to his ear and listened.

“I’m speaking from the loo…there’s news for you.”
“Why from the toilet?”
“Because no other place in the house is safe to talk to you,” Bob whispered back.
“When can we meet, then?”
“In the evening, after my duty’s over.”
“Didn’t you say you have day-night duties from now on?”
“They are letting me go for now in the evenings. But not at your place. It’s too risky.”
“Okay. So, where and when?”
“Hello, someone seems to be knocking at the door.”
The phone call ended with the roar of the flushing toilet.

At eight-thirty sharp, Rustam met Bob at Girish Park.

“Why didn’t you get in touch with me the last three days?”
Rustam looked sharply at Bob.
“There were problems.” Bob let out a thick cloud of cigarette smoke.
“It’s getting increasingly risky to come out and meet you like this.”
Though they stood in close proximity, their faces looked away in diametrically opposite directions. Unless you looked carefully, it was difficult to make out they were actually talking to each other.
Rustam idly looked at the snarling evening traffic, his hands on the railing of the park.
“So, what’s the news?”
On a bench inside the park, a young couple took advantage of the darkness to get cozy with each other. Bob simply couldn’t take his eyes off them.
“The red suitcase…” 
Bob’s voice trailed off as his eyes were riveted on the frenetic activities of the couple on the bench, their bodies wrapped under a shawl. 
“Yes, what about the red suitcase?”
Rustam cast one sharp glance at Bob, before looking away.
“I know where it is.”
Bob’s face got hidden in a cloud of smoke.
“Good.” Rustam’s voice sounded relieved. “In which room?”
“Upstairs, in boss’s bed room.”
“What makes you so sure?” Rustam’s eyes narrowed as he watched Bob’s face intently. For some inexplicable reason, he had never been able to fully trust Bob right from the beginning.
“One of the middle rooms on the first floor…was kept under lock and key all this while.”
Bob’s eyes were still very much on the couple on the bench.
“Bob…why aren’t you saying anything?”
Rustam’s voice sounded impatient.
The couple’s bodies were locked in a tight clinch under the shawl.
“I saw one of the sentries take the suitcase away from the middle room to boss’s bedroom.”
Rustam kept his eyes on the Central Avenue. A traffic jam was forming near the crossing, adjacent to the park. An eccentric man, with a wooden stick in his hand, was trying to regulate the traffic, in the process, making things much worse for everyone.
“Did you get to see where he hid it inside the bed room?”
Bob watched fascinated what the couple was doing on the bench, underneath the shawl.
“Niyogi shut the door after entering boss’s bed room.”
For a while both stood facing away from each other, in silence.
At long last, a cop appeared on the road and was seen trying to control the traffic. Inside the park, the couple was still locked in a tight embrace. Bob puffed at his cigarette and blew another cloud of smoke from his mouth. Rustam fanned with his hand irritably, trying hard to keep the smoke away from his face.
“Anything else?”
“Yes, there is.”
Bob looked directly at Rustam for the first time in the evening.
“I think Harry is going out of town very shortly.”
“Outside Calcutta, or outside India?”
“How should I know that?” Bob answered irritably.
“Somebody came from a travel agency with a sealed envelope. I signed and received it.”
The traffic at the crossing had eased by now. The couple on the bench sat still, exhausted.
Rustam noticed Bob smiling at them. 
“What are you smiling at?”
 Bob took one last puff from the cigarette, flicked the butt end casually towards the footpath and walked away. After a while Rustam came and sat at the bench in the park.   The couple got up from the bench and walked away, each in a different direction. Rustam watched them leave, took out the mobile from his pocket and started speaking into it in a low voice.

About the Author:

In so far as the pursuit of any true vocation is a life in itself, Barun Chanda – advertising guru, actor and writer, may be said to have had three. Born in Dhaka, he did his Masters in English at Jadavpur University. Following a brief stint as a lecturer in English, he embarked upon a career in the creative department of advertising that spanned more than 30 years, won him numerous awards and culminated in his tenure as Creative Director at Clarion McCann.

Acting occupies the second of his three worlds. In 1971, he scorched the big screen as a high-flying executive, playing the protagonist in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Seemabaddha’, and winning a special President of India Award for his performance. After a hiatus that lasted over two decades, he returned to the screen during the 90’s, and has since then acted in numerous TV series and more than 35 movies. Tackling Bollywood and Tollywood roles with equal aplomb, he has distinguished himself in films such as Lootera, Roy, Chotushkone, Aborto, MIshor Rohoshyo, Nayanchampa-r Dinraatri , Bela Sheshe and Jogajog. Chorabaali, where where once again he plays the protagonist, is his latest venture.

Barun’s third passion is writing. A regular film reviewer and contributor of articles to major dailies, in the last eight years he has published four highly acclaimed and successful novels in Bengali. His work has played a major role in establishing the adult thriller genre in Bengali literature.

Coke is his first novel in English.