Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Remember Yesterday ( Forget Tomorrow #2) by Pintip Dunn

When I was approached for a blog tour of Remember Yesterday, I jumped for the chance. As I had really enjoyed the opening chapter in the series, Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn and along with the rest of the world, was waiting with bated breath about the fate of Callie Stone and the world she was trying to save.

A YA sci-fi with time-travel forming a critical part of the narrative, the first book was definitely a hit with the readers - mainly because of the delightful world built up and also how Pintip chose to portray her heroine, Callie Stone - a strong and level-headed girl, selfless to a fault; her ultimate sacrifice that probably prevents the world from plunging into a disaster. But after that ultimate shocker of an ending, Pintip comes back with an even stronger sequel - raising questions about time-travel with some breezy recap on this world-altering incident. Did it really save the world and her sister Jessa ?

As I plunged back into this familiar, well realized world, set sometime perhaps in our own near future, I thought that a quick brush up of acronyms from book one would have been helpful. FuMA, the now disgraced Future Memory Association tasked with making sure the memories get assigned to people on their designated date. TechRA - Technology Research Agency, working to "re-invent" future memory after Callie's momentous decision and action change the future course of this world. There, that is now out of the way. Trust me, the whole book centers around these two agencies that could define the future of this world.

Right in the beginning, the switch in POV to Jessa, Callie's sister who was all of six in book one, grown up to a rebellious and headstrong sixteen year old  by the second book, is an interesting plot device. So the beginning of the book feels really different from the rock-solid, fun caper that defined book one. We are talking about teenage crushes, rebel yells, the angst and confusion and the hormonal overdrive that defines typical sixteen years going through their transformation stage and a lot of the initial narrative is basically Jessa trying to live beyond the shadow of the legacy that Callie has left behind in this world. Coupled with that are twinges of jealousy and guilt that makes Jessa basically run away from the civilization to join a nomadic group called Harmony - who are the voice of dissent against the tyrannical government agencies.

She forms her most meaningful relationships here in the wild, With Ryder, a boy her age adopted by Mikey (Logan's brother from book-one) who is sort of the head of this rebel group. Now Ryder I thought had great potential, to be this side-kick who teaches all sorts of physical sports to Jessa including neat hover-board tricks. But as the book proceeds, this one goes to the sideline. In favor of the more candy-floss teenage hormone-driven romantic allusion she has with Tanner Callahan, a boy-genius and a scientist working at TechRA.

So put Tanner - the quintessential good looker with the IQ off the charts and a cocky attitude to boot. And Jessa - a punk rebel, headstrong and brash who is desperately trying to find her own purple haven - together, there is bound to be romance. In fact, in this aspect, Pintip does a xerox copy of the love-story that was building up between Logan and Callie from book-one. But somehow, this one really struck a chord with me as a reader. There are plenty of things happening through the book - twisted events that helps answer the questions about the damaged past, beautifully interjecting time-travel into the narrative. The romance builds up naturally even as these events transpire and define their characters in the story.

In fact Remember yesterday is pretty much the motto that Jessa lives by - Callie's sacrifice that rewrote the timelines and the solution to their problems might lie in the past. The breezy second part brings back some "crucial" characters who shape the destiny of this world and I thought this was really very clever.  And while I have to say, I saw the end coming, Pintip's energetic writing still makes this reading all sorts of fun - tying up a lot of threads neatly. The time-travel paradoxes are cleverly handled and the room is left wide open for an interesting climax by the series ender, definitely looking forward to wrap this one up as Jessa and her friends head for one hell of a showdown.

Overall, an extremely strong sequel to a wonderful sci-fi YA series that definitely will be remembered, today and tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Tour: Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn

So I loved NYT Bestselling and RITA™ Award-winning book Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn that came out roughly the same time, last year - and am super excited by the next part in that series, Remember Yesterday that released on Oct 4th, excited enough to sign up and be a part of the tour!

The full schedule can be found here. Oh and don't forget to read on to the end - to take part in an exclusive give-away associated with this tour.

Book Details

Book Title: Remember Yesterday (Forget Tomorrow, #2)
Author:  Pintip Dunn
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Genre: YA Sci Fi

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Sixteen-year-old Jessa Stone is the most valuable citizen in Eden City. Her psychic abilities could lead to significant scientific discoveries, if only she’d let TechRA study her. But ten years ago, the scientists kidnapped and experimented on her, leading to severe ramifications for her sister, Callie. She’d much rather break into their labs and sabotage their research—starting with Tanner Callahan, budding scientist and the boy she loathes most at school.

The past isn’t what she assumed, though—and neither is Tanner. He’s not the arrogant jerk she thought he was. And his research opens the door to the possibility that Jessa can rectify a fatal mistake made ten years earlier. She’ll do anything to change the past and save her sister—even if it means teaming up with the enemy she swore to defeat.

You could get your hands on the book here: 

About the Author

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journel.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, Forget Tomorrow, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include The Darkest Lie and the forthcoming Remember Yesterday.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland

A few seconds later, Tanner comes barreling down the circuit, just as my best friend predicted. Ryder gives me a little shove. "Quick, do another one of your tricks."

My mind whirls. "Which one?"

"Does it matter? Just go!"

Moving fast, I set my hoverboard on the coping. But when I push off, my balance is wrong. The board doesn't feel glued to my feet. Instead, it slides out from right under me.

Keep loose! I hear Ryder's voice in my head. Roll.


I hit the concrete with my shoulder, keeping my elbows tucked in. I roll with the fall, spreading out the impact. I do everything right, but curse the Fates, it hurts. A LOT.

"You okay?" a voice says from above me.

Squinting against the sun, my eyes travel up a pair of baggy cargo pants. I hit the low-slung waist, and my breath -- what little there is of it -- catches. The light grey thermal shirt hugs his abdomen, and I can see every line, every ridge of his six-pack. My gaze continues up, and I see a broad, well-defined chest and long, ropey muscles. I swallow hard. Whoever my rescuer is, he's hot. Really hot.
Almost in a hurry now, I drag my eyes further up. Surely, his face will be as pretty as the rest of him. Surely, he'll have the kind of eyes that will pierce right through me. Surely --

I see a lean, chiseled jaw and soft, kissable lips. Black, tousled hair brushing up against dark eyes. But the eyes don't pierce right through me. Instead, they're . . . laughing . . . at me.

Oh, good Fate. Was I actually checking out Tanner Callahan? What in limbo is the matter with me?

He holds out a hand to help me up. "You know, the six-inch curbs are over by the entrance. Maybe you should master those before you attempt a real drop-in."

My cheeks flame. "I'm not a beginner. I've been dropping in practically since I could walk."

"Oh, really?" His eyebrows raise, disappearing under his fringe of hair. "Could've fooled me."

I stare at him. This was not going the way I expected. "Did you not see me land the heel-flip trick? That's the sickest stunt of the day."

"Guess I must've missed it." He smirks. Did I think those lips were kissable? More like smackable. Of course he saw me land the trick. He was standing right there.

Ignoring his hand, I push myself to my feet, even though my elbow stings and my knee burns. What a condescending jerk. He's just trying to get a rise out of me. No wonder everyone says he thinks he's fate's gift to the world. He's just like every scientist I've ever met.


·         One (1) winner will receive a limited, annotated hardcover of Forget Tomorrow

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

I was lured into A Mortal Song purely because of the Japanese Kami folklore appeal. Period.

Now maybe "lured" probably sounds like a negative word but trust me, A Mortal Song soars on the back of the kami essence that peppers this whole book. and it's blends fantastically well to create a unique urban fantasy story set in modern-day Japan.

So I didn't really notice that it was firmly, a YA book aimed at younger audiences and so it did take a while for my 'adult' senses, tuned in to the grim, dark violence and all the gritty circumstances that typically 'define' my favorite books of late, to be turned off. And sadly for me, it never really turned off. And that interfered a bit with my love for this book.

A Mortal Song by Megan Crew is my first book of hers - and it has got a great premise for it going. What if you aren't the chosen one and your whole life ( all sixteen of it spent honing up and prepping for responsibilities and... magic!)  just got whisked away from under your feet on the day of your birthday?

Sora, a young Kami ( Spirits of nature, divine beings as believed by the shinto faith) goes through this revelation/shock of her young life at the exact time that her place of abode on Mt. Fuji is attacked by ghosts. It's a period of extreme transformation for a soul, so young at sixteen but Sora is a fighter at heart. And she takes these shocks head-on.

Aided by her bodyguard from her days in the palace, a handsome young man called Takeo ( Yeah. The right hand corner of that "triangle") she sets out to save her people up on Mount Fuji, including her own family from this vengeful demon who's escaped from hell to rain hell-fire on everybody on earth including the handful of people who had killed him. [ psycho, right?]

So to actually save the people and to keep Mount Fuji from erupting as all the kami around are dying or being killed by ghosts or ogres, Sora has to go on a quest - to find the right heir to the Palace, the girl who is the chosen one. Who is currently unaware of her powers and is in high school in Tokyo city. Does she convince Chiyo, the actual heir to come back to save her spirit world and how they actually do it, forms the rest of the story.

So in terms of narrative, it goes like a straight arrow - not too many unpredictable twists or turns. And the love-triangle that Sora gets trapped in, was a bit flimsy, more of a distraction than actually ingrained in the story. But there are quite a few pleasant ideas explored in the book, backed by solid research and that shines. There are tons of action - with ghosts taking ethereal forms and switching to their corporal forms, ogres and demons of various sizes and shapes. Pretty engaging and novel concepts of fighting. Much like the song, I pretty much soared through the book as its a pretty light read and Megan, with so many YA books under her belt, can definitely spin a yarn.

Coming down to the characters who live the book, Sora was the sole one who mattered. And she's a fantastic person - a first person narrative helps us get into her conflicted confused head. A brave, selfless person who knows her priorities and will stick by it. Keiji, the geek-boy who follows Sora and gang from the city into the Mountain side, was an interesting character as well but sadly didn't go through so much of a development. There is no time really - the pacing of the story was such that we are all carried away into the thick of things with the Mt.Fuji threatening to explode and the ghost-lord hell-bent on his revenge. The conclusion of the whole drama, though was too simplistic and easy and that definitely disappointed me.

In addition, the other characters like Takeo, Chiyo or Hiro were all cardboard cutouts with no real depth. especially the chosen one, Chiyo was a royal pain in the backside with her flippant attitude towards her own responsibilities and power. Almost blew me off the read.

So while in itself, the book had a pretty interesting concept, the story that wrapped around it, was way too simple to leave any impact on me as a reader. It's a light easy read and probably, a younger audience would totally dig this one but for me, it was a one-time affair. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

So The Vagrant by Peter Newman has been on my TBR - now, for over a year or more. It actually came out last year in May and ever since I read all the initial reviews of this one, I have been itching to get my hands on this one.

So finally this year, I picked up a paperback version and set down to read it - a few months back. Unfortunately, the e-books on my kindle kept piling up and screaming for my attention; so despite being extremely interested in the initial couple of chapters, this intriguing, new-weird post-apocalyptic mishmash of a knockout story slipped away from my attention. I finally decided I will come back to the story earlier this week but trust me, despite this being a modestly sized fantasy book, the details are overwhelming and pretty dense if you glaze them over. So nope, I had to do a re-read to get my bearings right. And man, am I glad I did this.

So a mute hooded knight, a delightful baby, a super-sword and a stubborn goat traveling across a desolate, war-scarred landscape over-ridden by demonic apparitions towards an unknown location.

I loved Jay Posey's Three. This one drew comparisons to Jay's debut, Peter V Brett's debut ( The Warded Man) and the extraordinarily brilliant Road by Cormac McCarthy - which pretty much raises the level of the book beyond the ordinary. And trust me, this book gets full points for infusing originality into this setting despite the heavyweight comparisons. Peter's writing is spot-on and absolutely top class and keeps you swimming through this lovely, dark land of demoniacal taints, broken technology that is at once, futuristic and nostalgic and a stunning cast of warped and twisted humans, wasting and fighting to stay alive.

So a mute for a protagonist? The Vagrant, the titular character really grounds you in this whole adventure. Mute doesn't matter. Actually, it becomes the strength of the overall narrative. He is part of some order of knights on a mission - and nothing deters him from his goal. Except perhaps, his good heart. We really connect to this character, despite the fact that the author gives us little of his thoughts or real intentions. And this was the biggest draw of the book for me. As I'm obviously getting sucked in deeper to understand who this guy is, is that baby his, what's the deal with that stubborn-as-hell Goat and will this sword save the world from an apocalypse?

Chapters switch back and forth between the historical reveals and the present action. Starting with Eight years ago, till the gap is completely filled and the POV switches firmly back to The Vagrant. The rise of the demons into this technologically advanced world that later leads to the downfall is beautifully chronicled in those flashes of the past - but if not careful, you tend to lose grasp of the larger plot. The demons, or the beings that rise up to take control of the world are many. And their powers are deadly - including mind or will-control. Contact with such, actually leads to 'taint' - or mutation and hence, humanity is a sorry bunch quivering in underground holes or squalid cities under the direct protection of the biggest of such demons.

The world ( or the mutilated, mutant carcass of what was once a beautiful land) is uncertain and extremely dangerous - and so, The Vagrant is frequently involved in spectacular action set pieces that Peter Newman draws out expertly and vividly. Loved the battles but it was the story and the lovable characters who kept me hooked to the end. Some like Harm, the side-kick who becomes another foster-uncle for the baby and Captain Axler, who makes his entry late in the book ( And is the champion warrior for The Goat's cause!) are some of my favorite characters. But I guess, the Baby and The Goat - they are truly the delightful bunch who bring in the much-needed charm and light to this often brooding, dark and dangerous quest. The ending of the book, personally for me was underwhelming and sort of an anticlimax but perhaps, the most logical way to end at least this story.

This book is demanding in its style of storytelling - and the amount of staggering detail in this bleak and war-torn world that the story is set in, is a lot of take in. That is indeed my biggest grouch. The pay offs are lovely though- as the reveal happens in excruciating slowness, so stick with it. There are still questions left to be answered - and Peter does a bang-up job of getting us invested in this demon-infested, plagued universe of his for a longer run. Winged swords, demons who can subjugate you to their wills or harvest bodies to create a super-structured demon-child and lots more! There's a lot to love in this emotionally jarring, dark intense and highly original fantasy novel. You should be reading this book!

And the best part? Second book in this series, Malice is out now !

Monday, September 26, 2016

Necrotech by K C Alexander

Angry Robot has had a way of rewarding us readers with the new and the unexpected when it comes to genre fiction, fantasy or science fiction. Books that break current boundaries, set the stratospheric new heights and also define new sub-genres in that process, giving us fiction we didn't know we needed

Necrotech is the prime shining example of good things to have come out of that process. Rebelliously, ridiculously good things that rank definitely up there among the best. Re-defining the scope and boundaries of cyberpunk science-fiction thrillers. I cannot believe this is a debut. I cannot believe K C Alexander hasn't written a book before. If this is Chuck Wendig writing under a false pen-name, I wouldn't be surprised. But heck no, he;s written a glowing endorsement for every foul word that has fountained from under that pen. 

So if you loved Miriam Black series, then you will love Rikko. The female protagonist whom you will choose to love or hate but just cannot get out of your hair.  Snarky from deep-inside-to-outer-core. shockingly violent and as free-and-foul-mouthed a person can ever be. She wears her sexuality like a badge, doesn't really distinguish between a girl or a guy but just folds it unto her designs to get to her goals - with a personality that doesn't win points for being polite or even remotely like-able, it's a wonder how Rikko gets called up for jobs on the street. 

And what job do you ask? She's a "splatter" specialist in the street. Something like an obstacle remover or assassin, perhaps. In this world, where tech-integration into your body is an essential way of living, religion is just a way to ease up your conscience at the end of bad day and the environmental degradation has forced humanity to seek refuge in Mega-cities, a bad day for Rikko means she ends up with her memory slate wiped clean, watches her lover/girl-friend get turned into a "tech-zombie" (where the tech or AI sneaks over and takes control of the body through her mind bidding her do ghastly stuff!) and her reputation on the street, goes for a toss - she's branded a traitor to the cause of having sold out and abandoned her entire team for money. 

Second book that uses amnesia as a plot device in this month that I'm reading - but both couldn't have been any more different. Necrotech is like the eruption of Mt.Fuji, drowning you in scalding lava - and yet forcing you to suck it up and keep moving forward. It's explosive and it's raw. KC's writing is like a solid right-and-left-hook combo that leaves you breathless. Pacy as hell, an engrossing mystery brewing beneath all that blood, gore and curses flying all around that kept me hooked to the end. 

The ruthless futuristic world that Rikko is a part of, comes alive in a glorious manner throughout the story - the tech-enhancements, the nano-tech that helps heal your body, the genetic experiments are messy ( So most characters are characters of color - so yeah, a lot of diversity here and the names for me, distinctly sounded like a mangled up version of Indian names. Krouper = Kapoor? Mallik ? Nanjali!) the world itself minus the ozone layer being burned away and prolonged exposure leading to cancer - It's all effortlessly a part of the narrative without standing out and I thought this was absolutely cool. 

Coming to the characters, of course Rikko stood out. First person narrative, that allows the readers to get up close and personal insider her flawed and angry head - Rikko is an intense character that will overwhelm you. With her eruption of feelings and anger issues, she's not the most suavest, savviest person in the book (Nope - that title belongs to Mallik 'cool cucumber' Reed!) but that only made her more appealing to me. But along with Rikko, there were other shining stars. Starting with Indigo, the 'linker' on her team, who's supposed to be the 'brains' of all operations and guide the team on their mission as he's plugged into the information highway and accesses every info-bit available about such, wasn't the strongest or the coolest around. But the raw anguish of having lost his sister to the "Necrotech" and his mammoth trust issues with Rikko makes for a brilliant characterization. Mallik Reed, the "corporate" connect for Rikko, who decides to fund-roll this new operation for Rikko to uncover her memories and thus, the mystery of what really happened to her and her girlfriend, now he is a sinister cat alright. Ice-cool temperament and nerves of steel, this guy is someone you don't want on the opposite side of the ring.  

This definitely reads like the first part of a series - and therein, lies the only grouch I had. No payoffs at the end of this book for the mystery - Oh we get teasers alright and it only makes life harder. There are dangerous glints that can lead off into the speculation alleys but I will rein it in. It's a book that you should read. Satisfying that massive itch about hard-hitting cyberpunk you never knew you had. Truly an unexpected pleasure this year. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Grace of Kings ( Dandelion Dynasty # 1) by Ken Liu

Growing up, history was my favorite subject (Given that my mother was a history teacher and at least till Tenth I absolutely loved sinking back into the legends that make up our world in the annals of history! After Tenth grade though, the sciences took over!) The Grace of Kings is epic fantasy yes - but it oh so beautifully reads like my favorite historical lesson. (Impossible not to draw parallel with the Classical Age of Ancient China, the rise and fall of dynasties that make up the rich layered tapestry of this nation's history!)

Ken Liu has swept through every award possible with his short fiction - and we were so glad and super excited that we were finally getting a full fledged novel from him! So with respect to the expectations, it was of course stratospheric and breaking beyond the outer edges of every space-barrier discovered or not. But with The Grace of Kings, the opening salvo in the Dandelion Dynasty, Ken proves beyond any spec of a doubt that he can walk away with his head held high. And we also know that he's just getting started with this. He's building his own dynasty in this genre fiction, full of gems, burning bright and carving that space unique to himself.

His first novel is a riveting tale of war & politics, love & friendship, honor & betrayal mixed up with some annoyingly meddlesome Gods in a landscape that draws parallel with perhaps, an alternate version of ancient China and yet, is a wholly original, fresh and brilliantly imagined world. It's a rip-snorting fantasy ride, epic and grand in scale that thumbs its nose at the currently-in-fashion gritty, dark, in-your-face narrative style common to many of our favorite stories ( am thinking Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks and the ilk) and instead, settles for a rendition that unfolds much like a history text-book opening, page after page. It probably takes away the intimacy that I am used to with my fantasy protagonists but it works so beautifully to draw out a well rounded view of the grand scheme of politics in this world that is just mind-blowing! Fringe characters who influence the events and have a say in the turning of the wheels. Minor events that can catapult the world into apocalyptic wars. It's heart-wrenching and haunting, then it goes cold and remote in parts, then takes up a pedantic approach at times, in terms of methodologies of war and deceit detailed and then it's shocking and emotionally draining. Its a roller coaster of a ride through this amazingly detailed and immersive world of Dara. Religion, culture, mannerisms, symbolisms, traditions, vocations, food and culinary quirks, logistics, the clever and cunning inventions - the smallest of the details that make up each of the different island kingdoms of Dara, all brought alive so unobtrusively and so well. The world building, it is just friggin' brilliant. Period.

The plot, simplistically, is about the rise and fall of fortunes of two men - favored by the Gods, admired, feared and loved by the people of Dara in equal measures who grow up to overthrow the yoke of tyranny and then by a strange twist of fate, end up as enemies fighting for different ideals.
As I said before, Ken's style of narration might just throw you off as you tend to be distanced from events and people and yet, Ken invests readers to care much about his two leading men. Two men who are as different as can be. Kuni Garu, a young man with no fortunes and confused about his future, whose compassion and quick thinking are his greatest assets. Mata Zyndu, son of a deposed duke, thirsting for revenge, an angry young man for whom nothing is greater than his ideals and honor.
In the fight against Emperor Mapidiere who broke the pact between the different kingdoms to conquer and annex all of them under one rule, Mata and Kuni join hands through different twists and turns of the fate to unite and take the fight to the empire. The two main leading characters go through a whole process of evolution as the world around them changes by turns. It seems like there is a clear black and white to the proceedings by the second half of the book but there again, Ken introduces new characters whose entry changes our perspectives of these two. Especially Mata. I really really loved this guy! Zealot, idealistic, hot-headed and impossible.

But more than Kuni or Mata, there are fringe characters who actually stole my heart. Luan Zya, a philosopher and strategist who tries to murder the emperor by dive-bombing at this imperial procession right in the beginning of the book - and later pops back into Kuni's life to be one of his main-stay advisors. Or Rat, Mat's die-hard follower whose ideals are defined by his hero's towering acts of valor. Princess Kikomi, a short but powerful cameo whose actions redefine the term 'sacrifice' and which boomerangs back on the imperial forces. Kindo Marana, merchant, accountant and then peerless military general and strategist, whose habits of seeing logic or structure in anything around him serves him well on the battlefield. Gina Mazoti, the shrewd military general (a lady!) who makes her entry in the last quarter of the book and stays firmly in our hearts! There are quite a lot of these characters who actually pop into the narrative at random intervals and set the ball rolling in completely directions.

Ken straddles a dangerous edge, opting in for an omniscient point of view of narration to do justice to the grand scale of things in Dara but for me, it worked. Big time! There was no other way he could have turned this tale around.

As I finish the last few chapters of Grace of Kings, (which by the way is sort of an emotional tsunami and the rise and fall in fortunes is dizzyingly twisty!) I knew this is a special tale. A tale that is just beginning, grand in scope and equally so, in execution. And I know there is no one better than Ken Liu to wield the reins here and guide us down this history. Blending mythology with history seamlessly, Ken's Dandelion Dynasty continues with The Wall of Storms coming out on Oct 4th. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

September Books ( Better late than never!)

Better late than never, I say. Swamped down and struggling to plow through the list of to-be-read pile of mine, I wanted to let you guys know these are the gems from September that I want to definitely read up and for which, am super excited about!

Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P Beaulieu

A prequel novella in the same world as The Twelve Kings that brings back Ceda and her gang, and this time three inter-connected adventures set in the bustling Sharakhai - bring back the blood soaked prophecy, the magic, the sheesha-dens and amazing adventures in the desert. Bradley is doing it again. Twisting the tropes, rewriting the rules of this genre. I loved it. You should get your hands on it. Out now, from DAW books.

Cold Forged Flame by Marie Brennan publishing is experimental to the core - Marie Brennan takes a break from the adventures of Lady Trent and Co. to write about this absolutely nutty fantasy-thriller about a woman, with no memories of her past sent out on an improbably quest in a landscape that might not be what it may seem like. More power to her imagination, I was hooked and will be looking forward to more of her stuff.

Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

Touted to be a breakout debut fantasy of this year, the premise of this sounds too good to be true. An immortal ferryman who assists souls to make their journey over to the 'other' side as the protagonist? Who meets this young girl whom he inadvertently saves - his best decision or his worst nightmare. Ahem, Sounds a bit like Transporter in the undead lands, reel me in baby!

Comes out Sept 27, Gallery Books.

Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

I am usually intrigued by all things Japanese - starting with Shogun by James Clavell that influenced my young mind in school. So when this 'thrilling & heart-wrenching" YA fantasy set in modern-day Japan came into my radar, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Looking forward to read this soon.

Comes out, 13 Sept 2016 From Another World Press.

Cloudbound by Fran Wilde

Fran's debut won a truckload of awards, Updraft. Set in a brilliantly realized world up on the clouds (set on living bone!), populated with heroic and gritty protagonists, the series continues to build on it's strengths in this sequel. I never did catch up on Updraft but this month, I am rectifying that mistake. And soon!

Comes out Sept 27, Tor books.

Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

I loved The Invisible Library, that was Genevieve's first book in this series and her dazzling debut. Pure exhilarating fun read. And I cannot wait to get back to the world where these librarians maintain order against the chaos and of course, the amazing characters in it. So this was a no-brainer for me, the paperback version releasing in the US this month.

Necrotech by K C Alexander

Hardocore, post-cyberpunk in a tech-plagued future dystopia. You had me at cyberpunk! So this smacks a bit like Altered Carbon from Richard Morgan and promises to be hair-rising ride through this altered futuristic world where flesh-and-machine fusion enhancements are a way of life.
Next up on my TBR!

Came out Sept 6, Angry Robot. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Of Sand and Malice Made ( A Shattered Sands Novel) by Bradley Beaulieu

Bradley Beaulieu is one of my go-to-authors in present day fantasy - breaking new grounds with every single release of his - and so, it was with barely restrained excitement, that I plunged back into the ruthless but gloriously realized desert world of Sharakhai, Of sand dunes and dark horrifying prophecies, of blood magic and the terrifying consequences. Of demons and their curses. It was a welcome return back to the wind-lashed sand-dunes in the Mother of Sand, the sheesha-dens and the roaring fighting-pits - right back into the lives of Cedahmin Ahyanesh and her friends, one more time.

Ceda was one of the most formidable heroines/protagonists introduced to the fantasy genre last year and I was more than happy to partner up again, this time against demoniacal forces formed of the whims of the desert-gods who decides to wreck havoc in her life. Of Sand and Malice Made is a three-part novella that traces the life of our protagonist, a couple of years before the events of the Twelve Kings. And this mainly is her story of her being pitted against an ehrek, a djinn of sorts with twisted desires whose fate gets intertwined with Ceda's.

We meet Ceda as a sixteen year old up-and-coming fighter in the pits, popularly known as the White Wolf, setting out for her fight as the novel opens up. Ceda, also has recently started her night-runs, smuggling messages and artifacts for Osman, an ex-fighter who's made the big league and has his own businesses now with a stake also in the pits. one of her missions gets thwarted and lands her in trouble with a high-society lady, who unfortunately is also under the protection of Rumayesh, an ehrek or a mythological magical creature formed of the whimsical fantasies of a deranged desert God.

Ceda's adventures puts her in direct conflict with Rumayesh and she also attracts the attention of a couple of Godlings or God-children, in this city for their own vested agendas. The webs run deep and wide and soon, Ceda finds herself enmeshed in this unexplained game of cat and mouse with the ehrek in her city and it's not just her own life at stake but her loved ones.

As you can make out, this tale is deeply, richly and un-apologetically magical. Gods, curses, blood magic and prophecies; Bradley owns all these elements in his rollicking desert tale in a manner so original that it didn't feel for one bit, unnatural or forced. For new readers, this book forms the perform pit-stop to hop on into Ceda's life without feeling overwhelmed. But if you haven't read his Twelve Kings yet, then you should be rushing off to buy it.

As you can imagine, this book is solely about Ceda and her fears and misgivings make her a realistic protagonist to back up. The uncertainties of a sixteen year old living in this harsh desert world and the deals she makes to get by in life. Of the other characters, I really liked Brama. The boy, another gutter-ren growing up in the streets of Sharakhai was a nicely etched out character who gets caught up in the schemes of Rumayesh through his own folly and greed. Emre and Osman, some familiar names from the first book in the Song of the Shattered Sands series make their appearances as well in this world that is already familiar to fans of the neo-arabian-nights-esque tale.

A fitting addition to this absolutely gorgeous and lush epic fantasy, if you haven't read this series as yet, then Of Sand and Malice Made is an apt springboard into this magical world of sand dunes and killing fields. You won't be disappointed. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Movie Review : Mouna Guru ( Tamil, 2011)

Been a long time since I saw a movie that I came away impressed and wanted to write about. One of the new movies that I have been wanting to watch, is this hindi action-thriller called Akira, starring Sonakshi Sinha.

Hyped up as a high-octane action thriller from the makers of Ghajini, A R Murugadoss directed Akira promos looked pretty promising. But the initial reviews I read, really put me off. But good things are worth waiting for, huh. So I did find that this one's actually inspired by a 2011-Tamil thriller, called Mouna Guru. I had never heard of this movie but figured, I might as well watch the original. remakes never do justice, we know that by now right?

First day of the long weekend, finding myself alone at home with the doggies for company, I did just that. Verify that the original beats the remake, by a far bigger margin that I had expected. Relatively low budget, this one doesn't have any 'stars' and is also the debut directorial by Santha Kumar. Apparently this went onto become a sleeper hit and has been remade across other south indian languages. This really piqued my curiosity and I knew I had to see the movie. Even so, I kept my expectations in pretty much a tight rein.

The movie starts off very un-dramatically, focusing on this serious college youth, Karunakaran ( Played by a stoic looking Arul Nidhi) who's life revolves around his studies in Madurai. We learn nuances about the young man - in terms of his kind heart ( A scene early on where he rescues a cobra and sends it to out the wild) and that he's an extremely righteous man who cannot abide by to see any wrongs committed. A bit hot-headed as well, this combination obviously doesn't bode well for him in this restrained society. A scuffle with a policeman lands him in trouble, getting rusticated from the college and thus, having him move into the big city Chennai pattanam where his brother, manages to find him admission through his contacts.

Initial forty minutes, the movie plods along at a sedate pace - setting us up with Karuna's character, a nice but brief love-story with Aarthy, his sister-in-law's sister ( Iniya: Immensely talented in this bit-role!), the brief conflicts at college with the good-for-nothing ruffians who disrupt the classes and likes. The pace really perks up (literally plunges down into a rabbit-hole with no brakes!) with the introduction of John Vijay's character. He's mean, to dirty rotten core of his character's heart and plays the nasty cop role with aplomb, giving menace a new meaning. That's the start of where the movie really started to shine.

ACP Marimuthu and his close coterie of cops, three others, witness a road accident - and decide to hush it up and make away with a bag full of money in the car. But the secrets spill - and the body count starts to go up. The screenplay is twisted but taut, never letting up - leading different threads to entwine and enmesh, further plunging the movie down darker places. One thread ends up at Karuna's hostel one night and implicates him as the one trying to exhort money from the ACP to keep things hushed up. Karuna is taken away by the ACP's gang and they decide to do away with loose ends through a staged encounter, deep in the forest reserves on the TN-AP Border.

Hats off to the cinematographer Mahesh Muthuswami and of course, the debutante director Shantha Kumar for sticking true to the dictates of the thriller genre. I was on tenterhooks throughout the movie, despite the cliched settings. The encounter scene deep in the forest, is testimony to this. It's a creepy, hauntingly claustrophobic scene where the gun jams just as the Inspector Rajendran is about to shoot Karuna in the head. Timed to perfection and a proof that, in such relatively unknown small movies, thriller as a genre still thrives and flourishes in Tamil.

Things fall off the edge of a cliff after that - with the narrative just rushing ahead like a steam-engine at full throttle with too many things happening all at once. Karuna is the unwitting victim of the twisted egos and deep-seated greed in the heart of people who run the political system. But he isn't taking this lying down. Things explode after a particularly well-shot escape scene in the mental asylum after which Karuna decides to take things into his own hands and takes the fight to the people who screwed up his life.

Arulnidhi who plays the lead character, does well in flashes and bits. He has to play this restrained character who is chomping at the bits to let go and fly off his handle, but lives within the constraints of living in this society that turns a blind eye to wrong-doings. Initially this act comes across as forced, wooden and stoic but he gradually settles into the role. Especially the parts of a short romance which I liked purely because of Iniya's lively act, I would have liked this chap to live it up a bit. But hey after the first half, he really does come into his own. Definitely maturing as an actor but long way to go.

The supporting cast is absolutely brilliant. Each cameo done so well, memorably etched out in that script. The Father who is the head of the school or the mentally unstable friend in the asylum who helps Karuna escape, the police-gang in cahoots with ACP and best of all, crime-inspector Palaniamma ( played by Uma Riyaz Khan) who really stole the scene with her character of that 'one' morally upright police-woman in the system who strives to do the "right" thing. Wonder why she doesn't get more roles ?

To sum up, if this weekend you decided to shell out a thousand bucks on your neighbourhood cineplex - then don't! I think you are much better off staying at home, watching this movie which is the original of the Sonakshi-Sinha action-fest Akira ( which by the way, is a damp squib that even Sonakshi-rambo-Sinha's pyrotechnics cannot save! Yes. Despite Anurag Kashayap. Despite A R Murugadoss. This female-lead Ghajini is better off with full on memory-loss!)

A seriously under-rated well-made thriller that is a gem to have come out of this movie industry too busy worshiping "super-stars" delivering illogical blockbusters. Hats off to Santha Kumar and his team. Afternoon well-spent. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday ( 08.31.2016 )

A recurring meme, every wednesday in the blogosphere (Hosted by Breaking the Spine) , here is where I list down some of the most anticipated titles I am waiting to my  hands on and read! 2016 till now has been a stellar year in some of the best titles coming out in this genre.

This week, my pick would be, The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu, the celebrated writer whose 'novel' debut last year rocked the genre fans worldwide ( Grace of Kings, by Saga Press) releasing on Oct 4, 2016.

"In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.
Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.
But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.”