Monday, 31 October 2016

Ashvamedha - The Game Of PowerAshvamedha - The Game Of Power by Aparna Sinha
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ashvamedha by Aparna Sinha, I give this book 3.5 stars. Hats off to a woman author to write an english thriller mystery in India. Thank you Tushti Bhatia and author for a review copy.

Come on a thrilling ride. Please suspend the belief and just enjoy. You will get your money’s worth and much more. The action start from first page with an accident and kidnapping and it is relentless till end. There is no slack moment except the unnecessary love track between Ashwin and Adya. Except that the action and thrill is unending and relentless.

It is a welcome break to see a thriller from an Indian writer that too from a woman (except maybe Ashwin Sanghi). The market is overflowing with mushy romance. It is said that Indian reader wants nothing but romance. So it is very courageous from Aparna to write a thriller mystery in English. There are many thriller mystery writers in Hindi; most prominent being Ved Prakash Sharma and Surendra Mohan Pathak. This reminded me of them both. In international authors I was reminded of Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum and David Baldacci.

As this a thriller mystery I will tread with caution in my remarks so as not to give away any spoilers.

The story start with the kidnapping of a dishonest politician Ashok Kumar Nandi (no need of adjective BTW saying politician says it all hehehe). He has illicit relations with Thandi group chairwoman Sumona. Both of them used each other in all possible ways for personal gains. The master manipulator Hades make sure they are killed. Hades is omnipotent, omnipresent and is able to manipulate things not only of national level but also on international level. Ashwin Jamwal is an honest and passionate Indian. He is brilliant orator and strategist. He wants to serve the country and clears civil services for that. He is honest DM but soon realizes that honesty will take him nowhere. So he start the policy of tit for tat. He digs up past of other dishonest people and uses these for doing the right thing. Soon he is trapped himself and he has to resign. IM Rathi is the founder of nationalistic party and Hades manipulates him to bring Ashwin into politics. Soon Ashwin becomes president of party and his power rises. So much so that Rathi is sidelined and commits suicide. Ashwin is elected youngest PM of India. Then story picks pace and it reaches international level. How Hades manipulates all and the mystery of his being is the crux of novel. In the end all is well (or is it?).

The story get hold of you from page one and once you start you can’t leave it in between. Simply put the book is unputdownable. I read it very fast and finished it in two sittings. The tension keeps building and one is curious to know what happens next.

In Vedic times Ashvamedha Yagna was performed by kings to assert their dominion over all other kings. Lord Ram did it and so did Pandavas. A horse is sent in all directions and if it passes a king’s territory without interruption that territory is acquired. If some king impounds it he has to fight with the King who is performing Ashvamedha Yagna. If defeated he has to give up his kingdom. Thus the king acquires territory of all others and become Chakravarti Samrat, Sehanshan or king of kings. This is the method of asserting domination. There cannot be a better name for this book because Hades is so power hungry he wants to become the King of Kings, Most powerful man on earth. As in the yagna, this madness of Hades leads to so much spilled blood.

There are many inconsistencies though. I won’t dwell much here because it will give away spoilers. One the issue of international relations and international terrorism is too simplistic. In fact the whole treatment of novel is simplistic. The things are not so easy to manipulate as shown in the novel. Some of the facts mentioned in the book are not right. The biggest problem is timeline which is overlapping. There are so many loose ends which were not tied. Some characters were introduced for no particular reason and only thing it did was to slack the pace of book.

All in all a very good book. On back cover it is mentioned that author has some chronic disease. I pray it is nothing serious. Because I am desperately waiting for her next book.

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Friday, 28 October 2016

The Three Wise MonkeysThe Three Wise Monkeys by Jeet Gian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid 3.5 starts. Thanks Saheli Chatterji and author to provide me a review copy.

The author is a CA and the book is about money laundering. Though the book is light heated in approach but it deals with a serious issue of money laundering through bogus off shore companies. The book explained the concept in such a simple and interesting way that even a layman like me understood. There is an ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) or you may also call him/ her Unknown Beneficial owner ;). Then a chain of bogus companies is set up in countries like Belize, Panama, British Virgin Island, Cyprus and Cayman island etc. Then through these countries the money is finally parked into Switzerland. Even the name of UBO can be hidden by using share register or MOA. These countries are called tax heavens and they have double taxation avoidance treaty with India. So if the money is taken through this route it is almost impossible to trace it back to the original owner.

There are three main monkeys oops protagonists Amar, Akbar and Anthony. They are born losers and pass their CA exam after billion attempts. They are idiots and even after they set up the company, they don’t get work. At the same time they are honest and honest CA doesn’t last. Then there are twin brother Raj and Suhas who are married to Ruma and Suma. They are hen pecked husbands and has a common concubine Shobha. They have secretaries Farah and Meghna. Raj and Suhas have no morals and they are ready to do anything for money and bend any rules. There is a wily banker Ashwin who has assistant named Sarah. As expected all these people paths cross and AAA falls in love with Meghna, Farah and Sarah respectively (I failed to understand why in 2016 author is compelled to pair them as per religion). Anyways the Trio is set up in the money laundering scheme of Ashwin. Then all hell breaks loose and they are arrested for no fault of their own. There are many other characters and many sub plots. Finally all is well in the end.

I like the humor of the book. The book is hilarious. There are many tongue in cheek one liners. Sample these:
1. Tax is a burden but tits are a beauty.
2. Rakesh Manjrekar could not pronounce hard consonant ‘k’; instead he would say ‘t’.
3. There is only one way to convince a woman, whether she is your wife, mother or daughter. Don’t try to persuade her. Ask for her forgiveness.
4. Suhas intercepted that common unappealing look that adorns the faces of all women when they are pissed at their husbands.
5. The ACP shushed them, which was also a mistake, and it was against the United Nations support for women’s right.
6. Ashwin sold his Ferrari and became a monk; now he lives in baba Ramdev’s ashram.

Not all is hunky dory though. There are so many subplots and multiplicity of characters. This confused me and it became difficult to keep track of all of them like Shetty brothers track. Also many characters were introduced very late in the story and that became cumbersome. The climax is prolonged and three monkeys track albeit hilarious but it was exasperating. It read like a Bollywood script in the end. The author had such a wide canvas and in the end it was a desperate attempt to bring together in the climax. Generally in every novel there is one epilogue but here we have 5 epilogues which runs into almost 7 pages. In epilogue also there is story progressing which was too much for my taste. Maybe it would have been better that author would have written a part two instead of wrapping up everything in a jiffy.

All in all a very good book. If we ignore the deficiencies pointed out in above para the book is very hilarious and educational about money laundering in particular and corruption in general. I had a blast reading it and I recommend you also read it at the earliest. I am planning to read the three U-turns of my life soon.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review of Raven Song by Ashcroft

Raven Song (Inoki's Game, #1)Raven Song by I.A. Ashcroft
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Raven Song (Inoki's Game, #1)
by I.A. Ashcroft
Format : Epub
Review copy provided by: Author Assistant
Star Rating: 3 stars
I was provided a review copy and thanks Author Assistant for that.
The book is set into not so distant apocalyptic future. There is radiation harming humans. The Geiger counter is everywhere. The main protagonists are Jackson and Anna. The story is meandering and confusing. It reminded me of Kurt Russel movie Escape from L.A. One reason maybe that it is just part one of four part series. So the story is just building and it will pick up pace later on. It is strictly a one time read.

Some excerpts:
The men are disposable machines as explained beautifully below:
“Besides, the Coalition will need your services in the future. Sort of stupid to poison you all now.”
The argument was quite logical.
Anna wakes up in a daze naked:
“She noticed then, in a distant way, that her palms felt only bare skin. Anna looked down, blinking, recognizing suddenly the warm brush of wind on her thighs, the hot scrape of earth on the soles of her feet. Her clothes were completely gone. She made a raspy, shrieking noise, sinking to the ground in a ball, covering herself as best as she could with her arms, the world tipping and rocking again.”
Anna wanted to live in a trance but ultimately face reality:
“Anna didn’t know what to say. Her denial of her reality had only recently fallen away. And then, as the memories came back, as every new, impossible thing kept piling up, she’d even started to wonder if she’d gone crazy. Heck, she’d considered reincarnation. But… she was real. She still had her DNA and fingerprints. She was fundamentally Anna. And, this thought almost made her cry with the comfort it provided.”
“Anna had been spared that, at least. The debris had bounced from her, bruising her, but causing no serious harm—and the hurts it did cause felt as if they were healing already. She bounded ahead of the soldiers, snagging a handhold in the maimed dirt. Her arms screamed as she pulled herself up, forcing her hands into new nooks, finding purchase for her feet. She never would have been able to do this in her past life. And yet, now, it seemed like she should, and she was hardly surprised when it worked.”
Love can blossom even in time of dystopia:

“And, for just a moment, he’d been wired directly into Anna’s being. What she’d done had taken that strange sense of familiarity he’d felt with her since they’d met and amplified it a hundred times over. The connection had been electrifying. And, so help him, he wanted to feel it again. He wanted to lean in close to her giggling, bright face dusted with ash and dirt, and he wanted to kiss her, wanted to run his hands through her hair, wanted to hold her to him until the militia got there and dragged them both away.”

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016



2 Oct 2016
Dev Chakravarti was having coffee with Aditi at Starbucks.
‘Dev, don’t you become bored with chasing all these drug lords and criminals. It is such a boring field I guess. How do you feel being ACP, Homicide, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)?” Aditi teased him.
“Dear what you do by the way? MAM of Spiel advertising.” Dev asked.
“I study consumer habits and spot trends.” she said.
Dev phone buzzed. Name of Mohammad Najeeb, ACP, anti Narcotics branch of NBI flashed. He listened the call for full five minutes. Then he remained lost in thought. After five minutes when the silence became too much Aditi touch his hand lovingly. He came out of his reverie.
“What?” She asked.
“That’s cool yaar. Can you do a study of consumer’s trend of a drug for me Aditi.”
“Which one?”
“What is the need?”
“There are murders committed because of this as far as I know. Ganesh and Najeeb are already there. I have to go now.”
“I want to come with you.”
“OK. Tag along. We have to reach Munka village”
Dev and Aditi reached Munka village within 15 minutes. Najeeb and Ganesh greeted them.
“Najeeb! Why are you here if it a case of murder.” Dev asked.
“Dev it is not just murder. It is drug deal gone bad. The victims are identified as  Salman and Kallu. We have found 2 kg of Ketamine. Apparently whosoever has to take it further got into a tiff with them and killed them.” Said Najeeb.
“”Look they are very powerfully built persons and it is not easy to kill both even with a gun. So it seems the killer is very quick, ruthless and strong.”
Forensics (National forensic crime lab NFSL) people has come to crime scene. Ganesh told that this building is on rent and nobody cares about neighbors. So even if somebody saw anything there are no witnesses.
“We have to tackle it old fashioned way. And I hope we get some idea from forensic evidence.”
They all reached NBI headquarter.
They settled in Najeeb’s chamber. Najeeb ordered tea for all.
“Najeeb please tell what you know about this drug” Dev said.
“Ketamine (Ketalar) is a dissociative general anesthetic that has been available by prescription in the U.S. since the 1970s for human and veterinary uses. It has also been used for pain control in burn therapy, battlefield injuries, and in children who cannot use other anesthetics due to side effects or allergies. Ketamine has become a drug of abuse and recreational drug. Ketamine for recreational purposes is sourced illegally via the diversion of the prescription products. Ketamine is available in a clear liquid or off-white powder form. Ketamine may be injected intravenously or intramuscularly, consumed orally, or added to marijuana and smoked. Abuse of ketamine can lead to powerful visual hallucinations that are intensified by environmental stimuli. When higher doses of ketamine are abused, it is reported to produce an “out-of-body”, “K-hole” or “near-death” hallucinogenic experience, often reported as terrifying. More recently, ketamine has become popular in the U.S. as a “club drug”, often used by teens and young adults at dance “rave” parties. Ketamine has also been used in instances of “date rape” due to its strong side effect of confusion and/or amnesia.”
“Wow that is so fast. We did not get half of it” Aditi said.
“In short you can say that this is a prescription drug but is being misused as a recreational and narcotic one. This is a menace and we are trying to stop it. Dev as this is the case we need your help too. We will from a team with the orders of Jt CP” Najeeb said.
“I want to hire Aditi as a consultant because we need to know the consumer behavior too”. Dev said.
“Let’s do it” said Aditi with enthusiasm.

5 October 2016
Aditi has done a lot of research in the intervening period. Also NBI has done the work in their own way. Once again they were in the chamber of ACP, Najeeb.
“Listen guys I have found an interesting pattern here. Maybe it can help you.”
“We are all ears” replied all three.
“The drug is popular in party circuit of Bangkok, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong kong etc. it is also used in Australia, Eurpoe and USA. As it is apparent Europe and USA are too far and supply there is from other centers. So from India supply can be to Bangkok, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong kong and Australia. A report says India's strategic location — situated between Southwest Asia (the Golden Crescent) and Southeast Asia (the Golden Triangle) — makes it an attractive transhipment area for contraband bound for Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and North America. The Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia's two principal areas of illicit opium production (with the other being the Golden Triangle), located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia. This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent.” Aditi took a pause.
“You are right Aditi. While much of the contraband like heroin, opium and cocaine come from abroad and use India as a transit point; Ketamine is largely sourced domestically. The modus operandi, say Indian drug enforcement agencies sources, is illicit diversion of stocks engineered by licenced Ketamine manufacturers from states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is estimated that about four-five tonnes of ketamine go missing every year from legitimate production.” Added Najeeb. “We need to closely monitor legitimate Ketamine production and stop illicit diversion. The clandestine manufacture of Ketamine is a complex and costly process, therefore the main source of illicit Ketamine is through the diversion of legitimate pharmaceutical products,"
Dev and Ganesh are listening attentively.
Najeeb continued “Much of this diversion is taking place from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. Himachal in particular has an industry-favourable tax regime that has led to proliferation of Ketamine manufacturing companies. Several of these firms have been found to be unscrupulously diverting Ketamine to illicit markets,"
All were silent for a while. Then they proceeded to Joint CP Brijesh pande Office.

“Sir we now have several leads. This is not a case of simple homicide. It is a drug deal gone wrong” Dev said after briefing him of the information already obtained.
“Dev and all you have done a good job so far. What do we know about Salman and Kallu?” asked Pande.
“Sir they were low level dope pushers and carriers. I guess they became greedy or liability and so the boss asked them to be eliminated. But this is a dead end as we don’t know who ordered hit or who killed them. We contacted their families but they have no idea and they do not live in Delhi.” Ganesh updated. “The slugs removed were 0.32 caliber gun but in absence of gun we can not trace the killer”.
“Dev and Najeeb forget about killer. I think we should approach it from supply side. Let’s find out where they are supplying and how. If we can catch their carrier all will be well. There are reports coming from Calcutta, Goa and Chennai that ketamine carriers are nabbed. It seems it is an international level ring. Najeeb you go to Chenaai, Ganesh you go to Calcutta and Dev & Aditi you should go to Goa. I shall tie up there for all cooperation. Interview the nabbed carriers and then when you three come back we will compare notes. I am hopeful we will crack this one.” Said Pande.
When Dev and Aditi came out a mischievous smile was on her face as she was going Goa, land of fun and frolic, with her crush Dev.

10 October 2016
In Goa they went straight to the nabbed pusher Joseph. He told them to talk to Bajrangi Mishra in Delhi. He is the one who used to give him orders. Ganesh and Najeeb also got the same name. Dev and Najeeb carefully set up surveillance on Bajrangi. After careful investigation they got warrant against him.
Then they all four went to his palace like home in south Delhi.
“Bajrangi, How are you?” asked Dev.
“Never been better”.
“You won’t be any longer. We know all about your Ketamine business. Are you telling me now or later at HQ.”
“I guess I will talk here first. Maybe we can settle something”
“That depends on what you can offer me. And I am not talking of money. Start singing how you do it and who killed them”.
“I guess you know everything Dev. I will not say anything. Do whatever you want.”
He was sitting in interrogation room of NBI and Dev and Najeeb were sitting in front of him.
“How you take these drugs outside?
“I am not talking. Do whatever you want and get me a lawyer”
Dev knew that Bajrangi is a seasoned asshole.
“Listen carefully you Madarchod. I hate crime and criminals like you. I despise you from all my being. This is not America. I will beat you black and blue and keep you locked for as long as we want. You can either tell now or later. But later it will be painful. Choice is yours. We will come back after five minutes” Dev eyes were red and Mishra understood he meant business.
“Sit Down Dev. Salman and Kallu were being very greedy. They were stealing from us and selling it in party circuit of Delhi. In our business we just can not allow that. This is based on fear. So I ordered my hitman Shamshad to take care of them.”
“Hmm where can we find him?”
Bajrangi gave them and address and Dev gestured toward Ganesh and Aditi who were looking from one way glass. Ganesh was on his way to arrange his nabbing.
“How do you manage to take these drugs outside?”
“These are many methods. In south India there are many established red sanders smuggling ring. We use them for ketamine also. There is no problem and modus operandi is almost same. That is why you got tip from Chennai about me.” Mishra said “With the law catching up, we are trying innovative means to stay ahead. We are peddling drugs through the foreign postal department.
recently we hid 
Ketamine in a set of earphones and in a pack of bedsheets to be sent out to Australia. This is our new modus operandi.”
“How innovative. Najeeb take his full statement. I will go check on this Shamshad”.
In national level raids around 5000 kg of ketamine and a big lot of red sanders were seized. Shamshad was arrested and the gun was found. They have made around 150 arrests. The whole operation was brought down. All four were praised and as usual Dev Chakravarti ended up on top.
 When Dev and Aditi were alone she looked at him wistfully.
“What?” He looked into her eyes.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. I just need a JD. Let’s go to a bar. I am a market analyst not a daring officer like you Dev!”
“Oh you are very brave Aditi. I know it.”
Was it adoration or something else in his eyes? Aditi thought maybe someday she will know. Maybe……..

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Stolen hope

Stolen Hope (Ramayana: The Game of Life, Book #3)Stolen Hope by Shubha Vilas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A solid five hundred stars. The copy is provided to me by Sh Shubha Vilas as a token of affection with these remarks.

“Dear Rajan! Here is a book that integrates Ramayan with our lives….and hoping that these life lessons become your life time companions.” Regards Shubha Vilas

This is not an ordinary book. This is a gem. This is an epic. This is not merely a retelling of Ramyana. It is interpretation of it. It has pearls of wisdom. You can not give it a casual reading. It is so intense and enlightening you have to read each page 5-6 times so as to get the full meaning. It gives the deeper meaning of actions of various characters especially lord Rama.

Sample some of the pearls of wisdom:

1. At the right time, when the desire to control is not given up voluntarily; it will be taken away involuntarily.
2. Responsibility is not a choice it’s an honor.
3. Nonfulfillment of our desires is not always someone else’s fault.
4. The lowest nature of a leader often becomes the highest hallmark of a follower.
5. Surfing is the art of focusing on one wave at a time. Happiness is the art of focusing one joy/ aspiration at a time.

There are countless others. I became a better person after reading this. Hoping to read others in the series soon.

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When my father cried

When My Father CriedWhen My Father Cried by Manisha Bhatia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A solid five stars. This is a debut novel of extremely talented Manisha Bhatia.

The copy is provided to me as a token of affection with these remarks

“Dear Rajan! With lots of love and best wishes for today and glorious future tomorrow. God bless.” Manisha.

From here itself the compassion of author is evident. For a debut novel quality is first rate. You don’t feel you are reading a novel of a first time author. It reads like a work of a veteran.

This is a tome of a book. It is thick and above that the font is small and line spacing is single. There are almost 400 pages. So when I first got it I felt daunted by its sheer size. But once you start you will fall in love with Malini Malhotra and you wish that the book never end. It is simply unputdownable.

I identified with her and her emotions. To tell you the truth I cried with her and laughed with her.

Ms Bhatia has written with a lot of heart.

In the end I reproduce the part poem “my father cried”:

Darkness ceased affairs retrieved
Ordeals overcome
Debacles healed
Universe celebrated the success
I cried…..
My father cried!

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