Book Review: The Tournament – Matthew Reilly

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In later life, Elizabeth would rarely lose at chess. And on the far more dangerous chessboard of her life- at court in London and on the high seas against the House of Castille – she never lost.

 I had visited a friend a few months ago and in due course of conversation she handed me The Tournament by Matthew Reilly. I love historical fiction and soon found myself borrowing the book to read.

The year is 1546 and the young Princess Elizabeth is third in line to the throne. After a sudden burst of plague in England, she is taken to Constantinople by her tutor Roger Ascham to attend a chess tournament hosted by the Sultan. What follows is an exciting tale of murder, mystery and above all, chess.

The balance between the two major plot-lines ties up beautifully and there isn’t a moment when the reader can loose focus. On one side, we have the chess tournament where players from around the world compete against each other for the title of the “best player in the world” and on the other, we have the investigation of the murder of a cardinal. All together it makes a brilliant historical thriller. The tournament scenes keep you at the edge of your seat and the whole investigation keeps you hoping our main characters make it out alive.

Though it starts a little slow, The Tournament gains pace as you progress through the pages and is guaranteed to keep you hooked until the last page.

My copy is 410 pages long and ends with a short interview with the author. It also has a map of the city of Constantinople and of the Sultan’s palace. It is an easy read for any type of reader. The book does contain some strong adult themes (sexual and abuse) so I wouldn’t recommend it for young readers as it may cause some distress.

So what is real? Did Princess Elizabeth really travel to the Ottoman Empire in her childhood? As far as being historically accurate, The Tournament is purely fiction. Apart from a few of the major historical characters mentioned in the book who did exist in the past, everything else is pure imagination and is meant for our enjoyment.

The Tournament is a great read and has introduced me to the works of Matthew Reilly. I can’t wait to read more.

About the Author

Matthew Reilly is an internationally bestselling author who’s books have been published in more than twenty languages and sold nearly five million copies worldwide. His works include Contest, Temple, Area 7 and Hover Car Racer among others.

 

 

 

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Book Review: Fall of Giants (Part 1 of the Century Trilogy) – Ken Follett

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AN EPIC OF LOVE, HATRED, WAR AND REVOLUTION.

Five families are brought together through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for votes for women. FALL OF GIANTS combines richly developed historical detail with fast-moving action and powerful emotion to deliver this absorbing narrative. 

Fall of Giants is the first book in the Century Trilogy written by Ken Follett. Set between 1911 and 1924, it follows the lives of five families through the shattering events of the early century. I love historical fiction. The events that took place in the past century have changed the course of history and of mankind forever. I remember learning about the First World War in high school. Never did any event in history captivate me as much as it did. Ken Follett has once again proven himself as a master in writing and this book only increased my interest in the subject. He has written the events in such detail, you will find yourself googling places and events to help you along the book. 

FALL OF GIANTS will captivate you and amaze you. There are many instances in the book where you will find yourself gasping in horror, crying in disbelief and sighing in despair. It is a book that will take you to the Battle of Somme, on a walk through London demanding for votes for women and onto the streets of Russia during the Revolution. It is a history lesson in itself and you will never want to put the book down. The book will take you from the trenches in France to the poor neighbourhoods in Russia, from London’s high society to the White House. Every page leaves you wanting more. 

Each character relates the story through their point of view and in many situations two or more characters experience the same events. This way we get to know both the sides of the story. The book follows the storyline in a beautiful manner. Every character is somehow connected to the other and there is never a dull moment as there is never any chance for the plot to fall through. 

The book puts every thing revolving around WW1 in perspective. It makes it easy to understand even though it is a work of fiction. Ken Follett has tried to include every single possible explaination regarding the historical events of the time. There are many true historical characters and most of the events are not that much of fiction.

Being almost a thousand pages long( yes you read that right) Fall of Giants is a heavy read. My copy has 852 pages to be exact and that is not including the introductory pages of the book. The initial pages list down all the characters you will come across and how each are related. This comes in handy when you forget who’s who mid-way, and who can blame you? It is an epic read. I wouldn’t recommend for novice readers though, the sheer size of the book would scare anyone new away.  

 If you love history, this book is for you. If you love the early 20th century then this book is for you. Basically, if you have a passion for the past Fall of Giants should be on your reading list.

About the Author

Ken Follett is an award winning English author. Most notably known for his works in Thriller and Historical Fiction, many of his books are bestsellers worldwide.

 

Book Review: The Sunlight Plane – Damini Kane

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When Tharush meets Aakash his life changes forever. His new friend has scars and the truth behind it ties them in a secret that could slowly consume them both. 

The Sunlight Plane is the first novel by budding author Damini Kane. She has taken the day to day lives of a rich suburban family and put it down into a story that brings out many of the unseen problems that take place behind closed doors.

Told from the viewpoint of nine-year old Tharush, The Sunlight Plane isn’t your typical “growing up” story. It isn’t a happy story, it is the harsh truth that so many of us choose to ignore. It is the story of a nine year old whose world changes when he meets another nine-year old from a different background. It is a story of pure friendship between two boys who couldn’t have been more different and yet who are so similar in what they choose to face together. Tharush leads a happy protected life under the watchful eyes of his parents. Aakash on the other hand, knows perfectly how the world really is and is fully aware about how hard life can get. Beautifully written, each page blends into the next easily and is able to keep the reader hooked. The raw emotion on the pages draws the reader to the main characters.

Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around two boys, Tharush and Aakash. Tharush is a quiet kid who would rather spend the afternoon playing with his toy planes and making up imaginary stories than go out to mix with the other children of Reyna Heights. Aakash is the mysterious new kid in the upscale building and one summer afternoon the two form an unlikely friendship. As the months go by, both boys learn about the other and the secrets they carry along with them. When Tharush finds out about Aakash’s bruises he is torn between helping his friend and staying loyal to him and this toxic secret stays between them until its almost too late.

Midway through I got so consumed by the plot. I really wanted it to end well and it did. But not in the way you’d expect. The suspense is thrilling. The language is beautiful.

What has really drawn me to the book is the underlying story, things that we all know about but would rather not talk about. In the span of 311 pages, Damini has brought so many social issues to our focus. There are a bunch of serious topics like bullying and abuse that none of us would like to even think about, that we would want to forget. It is a reminder that things like these go on and most of the time right under our noses. And when it’s told from the viewpoint of a nine-year old she makes it really easy for us the understand the seriousness of it. Through the eyes of a child we see reality.

The Sunlight Plane has the makings of a bestseller and I would definitely recommend this to everybody.

About the Author

Damini Kane is a 23 year old author from Mumbai, India. She is one of the winners of the nation-wide talent hunt in the writing category and was named as one of “Campus Diaries 25 under 25”. Having an interest in writing since childhood, Damini has written numerous poems and stories over the years. She is currently doing her MA in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex.

 

Book Review: The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Charlie Laidlaw

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Lorna Love is a promising Law student who’s life was brought to a halt in a road accident on the day of the London tube bombing. Heaven isn’t what she expected and the afterlife gives her a choice. But what will she choose?

I just finished reading this book and I cannot even begin to describe the emotions that are going through me right now. The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is my first author collaboration and I am so excited to be writing this review. The book isn’t what I am used to. Going through my past reviews you should know by now that I mostly read Historical Fiction so reading a book from another genre felt refreshingly different. A cross between science fiction and fantasy, the book is an amazing read and each page will keep you hooked onto the next.

The story begins with the untimely death of Lorna Love, our main character and takes place between flashbacks of her life on Earth and the afterlife. We see various moments in Lorna’s life as she grows up. We see her go through good memories and bad, and at the same time we get a peek into heaven and her life after once she’s dead. It is a story on friendship, on love and on life as a whole.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz. Lorna, just like Dorothy, finds herself in a new world faced with a choice. Should she choose Eternity? Or a second chance at life? A second chance to mend broken relationships and a second chance to look back and live life in a better manner.

What I really loved about the book is that it shows us how one person’s life, how the choices one person makes can impact everybody around them and makes you stop and think about your own. The book is an emotional roller coaster, one minute I was laughing at the absurdities of the afterlife and the next I was on the brink of tears when tragedy took place in the real life.

All in all, it is a brilliant thought provoking book that I completely enjoyed. Would I recommend reading this? Of course!! In fact, it will be available FREE to download on BookBub between the 13th and 27th of June so mark your calendars.

About the Author

Charlie Laidlaw is a Scottish author. His other works include “The Herbal Detective” and has a third novel due for publication.

 

 

Traditional Books vs Ebooks?

As all of you should know by now, I LOVE to read!! The whole point of me starting my first blog all those years ago was to show the world my love for reading. My favourite time in school was where I could spend my time in the library, just so I could go through the shelves and pick something to read. And trust me when I say I go wild in a bookstore, so many books, so many options to choose from and read but such a little time *sigh*. I have been a traditional book reader all my life and I could never imagine myself otherwise.

But with my love for reading comes a few problems as well, not only is it an expensive habit but I have started to run out of shelf space back home. There are literally books everywhere! There are books on the table, on top of cupboards, inside wardrobes and even on the floor in a few rooms. And as much as I would love to buy some more and increase my TBR, my house is saturated of shelving space. This necessity has made me turn to ebooks. Now, Ebooks are something of a technological marvel. With today’s tech you can have a huge novel on your phone or tablet with you at all times! Why carry a book with you when you can have it in your pocket instead? I’ve started to love reading digitally so much that I have finally talked myself into saving for a kindle by the end of this year.

So this got me thinking. What would be better? Reading a traditional book has it’s own charm whereas an ebook is convenient. After comparing the two I came up with the following points, both in favour and against traditional books and ebooks.

Traditional books, the pros are endless and this will always be my favourite. There is something about going book shopping in a bookstore, smelling the sweet fragrance of ink as you pick up a book from the shelf, holding it in your arms and gently flipping through the crisp pages of a brand new book. I don’t know what it is, but it gives me a strange sense of satisfaction. Anybody else?

Traditional Books make you “look smart”. Ever looked at someone looking into a tablet/smartphone and went “Wow! Don’t they look smart with that phone in their hands?” No, you haven’t. Nobody has, because this is something that I’m sure most of us do on a daily basis. But when you walk by someone reading a book, when you see someone holding a bunch of books, your mind immediately tells you that this is a smart person. Also, the thicker the book, the smarter you look and more curious reactions you will get from people.

Traditional books make beautiful backgrounds. You can decorate your house with them and show off your reading habit with pride! Books make a house look cosy and welcoming. Have an empty spot on a table? Fill it up with books and it won’t look so plain anymore. Bookshelves give a dull room a splash of colour and can brighten the darkest spot.

Traditional Books can be used in many other useful ways. Loose paper? Use a book as a paperweight. Need to prop something higher? Put it on a pile of books! Want to watch something on your phone but don’t want to keep holding it? Lean it on a book and sit back.

I guess the only three cons of a traditional book that I have are one, they are expensive! Any bookworm on a budget will know what I mean when I say books are expensive. All the more if it’s a first edition or hardback. Two, it takes up a lot of room in storage. Proper care and storage is needed if you want to preserve the books you have. Being natural, they are perishable and the slightest dampness and mould can destroy even the toughest of books. Lastly, books are made from paper, which is derived from trees. With the way we are going now, we need those trees to preserve the environment more than we need those books. This can be solved with recycling but still it is a problem.

Coming to ebooks, there are many good things about this platform and with how technology is getting more and more included in our daily lives, I’m pretty sure there will come a day when everything will go digital and there won’t be any traditional books left! Depending on the size of the ebook and the storage of your device you can have hundreds of books at your fingertips. Not only does this solve the issue of running out of storage space but it gives you a lot of material anytime you want it.

Comparatively, Ebooks are cheaper to buy. Most online sites will sell the ebooks at a far lesser price than they would for the traditional book.

Ebooks can be read anywhere and at anytime. You don’t have to bother about there being less lighting or room to carry a book in your bag. It’s very convenient to read a book on the go when it’s in an ebook format.

Of course, you cannot decorate a room with an ebook, or use it as a prop and that does take away the usefulness a bit for me. Once the battery dies of your device you will need to put a halt to your reading until it is fully charged up again, but this does depend on the kind of device you use and is not really a fault of the ebook format so it can be excused. And unless you are used to reading from a digital device, reading for long hours at a stretch can lead to headaches and eye strain which can be avoided with regular breaks. Most Ebook readers are pretty much budget friendly these days but with basic features, if you want a good one then it may fall expensive, but then again, it is a one time investment. (As I write this section of my blog I realise that most of the cons are regarding the device and not the actual format of the book so I shall leave it here.)

At this point im pretty much undecided over which I prefer over the other. Have you tried other formats of reading? Let me know and maybe I could do a part two of this blog and continue the debate. Till then carry on reading and spread the habit!

Book Review: How to be a BAWSE – Lilly Singh

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A guide to conquering life. Success and happiness require real effort, dedication and determination. In Lilly’s world there are no escalators, only stairs. Get ready to climb”

I have been a fan of Superwoman aka Lilly Singh for the past four or five years now. I was introduced to her videos through a friend and have been hooked ever since. When she said that she was writing a book I knew I had to get a copy for myself and kept watching her vlogs for regular updates. She is such an inspiration to me and to many around the world.

Coming to the book, just like her videos on YouTube it is funny and inspiring. Written in first person you tend to read it in Lilly’s voice. There are 50 chapters, each around three or four pages long and these cover various things that we all feel in life. The most recurring theme in the book is to be confident in yourself and love yourself no matter what. It is written in such a way that you can pick up the book and read any chapter, whichever you need to read the most at the moment and if needed, you may catch yourself re-reading chapters again and again.

How to be a BAWSE is blunt and straightforward. You hear what needs to be heard and Lilly hasn’t sugar-coated anything. Which is needed when it comes to a self help guide to life. She has covered topics ranging from relationships to workplace situations, personal goals and everything in between!

The book is colorful and the font is big enough for you to read without tiring your eyes. I would not recommend for the reader to rush through the book or to binge read. It is a self help book so it needs to be read in a self paced manner in order for you to make the most of it. If you have been a fan of her and are following her on Youtube then get this book!! Even if you aren’t a fan and haven’t heard of her I’d still recommend this book. It is for everybody and is an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Lilly Singh is an award-winning Canadian YouTuber. Better known as “Superwoman”, she has over two billion views and 13 million subscribers. Her videos range from comedy to inspirational. In 2017, she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for her work in children’s rights.

 

Book Review: Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

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Before the beginning there was nothing – no Earth, no Heavens, no stars, no sky. Only the mist world, and the fire world, always burning.

I am a big fan of mythology. The stories tell us of a time gone by and of heroes and villains with powers unimaginable. The stories tell us about life and death and of adventures into the unknown. I have a fair knowledge of Greek and Egyptian mythology but I knew nothing of Norse. The only thing I heard of Norse Mythology was from Marvel’s Thor, and that too not much of it.

I was browsing through Instagram and came across a giveaway for the book. I hadn’t really read any of Neil Gaiman’s books before but this one interested me. I needed this book and I didn’t have the patience to wait for the giveaway so I logged onto Amazon and put the book in my wishlist. It remained there for a month or so before I decided to purchase it and don’t I wish I did it sooner.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a collection of short stories. Each story is as enjoyable as the next and I found it very hard to put the book down, even for a second. I don’t remember when was the last time I read a book that I enjoyed so much and even while I write this review my mind keeps going back to a particular story that I loved. He captures your imagination and every single word brings our heroes to life. The stories will make you laugh, will make you wonder and maybe even cry. You watch the story of creation unfold before your eyes and you shiver when Ragnarok approaches.

The book is 283 pages long and isn’t a heavy read. In fact, it is so enjoyable you will be surprised as to where did the time go when you read. It is a refreshing read and is perfect for the time when you are stuck between books or when you don’t feel like reading something heavy and deep. I wouldn’t recommend reading this to young children because as with all mythology, this too contains violent and adult themes. You can read it to them if you want to, but be prepared for a lot of questions once you are done.

My edition is the Bloomsbury India 2018 edition. I love the gold on white cover and the Mjollnir really gives a minimalist but attractive look to the book. The font size is comfortable to the eye.

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is a bestselling and award-winning author from England. He is best known for his works in Science Fiction and Fantasy. His works include American God’s, Coraline, The Graveyard Book and Stardust.