All posts by Kavipriya Moorthy

Birds of Prey : Book Review

Birds of Prey Book Cover Birds of Prey
Archana Sarat
Psychological Thriller
Readomania

I just want to say "Just go buy the book, and read it (have tissue papers handy)" to people who are *thinking* whether to read this book or no.

What a fantastic book! God, it took me two days to literally throw the lead character Swarna out of my head. Okay, over to the review.

The novel starts off with an awesome punch, Archana Sarat almost giggles at us in the first chapter saying "What do you think? that you can crack the thrilling suspense in this chapter? No baby!" I was flattered right there at the first twist.

In a matter of a few chapters, if you're an ardent reader - you'd definitely figure out the whole plot but what keeps you hooked is Archana's way of writing.

The novel parts into two - One embarks on an emotional roller coaster ride called Swarna's life. The life history of the person just slaps hard on your face asking "what are you crying over a break-up? or are you sad because you can't afford an iPhone? Do you know what's life?" - The impact of the chapters affected me profoundly.

The second part - About the crime, and investigation. Archana has done a wonderful job here. Bewildering changes and raw details leaves you gasping.

Archana Sarat has touched a very important social crime in the society that questions the cultural climate of the world. She has torn the fabricated illusions about the beautiful world we live in. This novel left a profound mark on me! A very brutal-raw-mind-numbing-clamouring-hard-emotionally wrenching novel. I thoroughly loved it.

These are books that are not to be reviewed or rated but digested.

The Alphabet Killer – Review

The Alphabet Killer Book Cover The Alphabet Killer
Prachi Sharma
Crime Thriller
HALF BAKED BEANS
29th January 2017
Paperback
180

A crime thriller by Prachi Sharma. A clean crime thriller - the story starts off with serial killing and clears the knots of ‘why’ and ‘who’ as you read. I observe that Prachi as an avid reader knows what would work and what might not, she has a clear vision so as to what she wants to do in this novella and just did that. Prachi sets a good benchmark for Indian authors who aspire to write a crime thriller. The language - so simple, grammar - on check, and vocabulary - hand-picked words. Kudos!

Am not diving into the story but to what I liked and didn’t.

What did I like?

  • Mia Santos - a feminist. The word ‘feminist’ -- are you raising your brows? I know, it’s not a ‘wow’ nor is an ‘ewww’ but in-between. (Most of them, not all), In this novella, Prachi has ETCHED this character - You can see Mia Santos fighting like a pro to save a woman - Don’t judge her there, wait up! She walks out of a relationship - she caught him red-handed with his ‘other’ woman. No, unlike most novels, the author did not describe Mia being all against men here, she brings the right emotions - yes, she hates him now because he cheated but, a big BUT, she also misses him, a part of her is still in love with him for what he was to her. This was so beautiful. You grow as a reader who is learning a character with every chapter; each chapter brings an aspect of Mia Santos onto the dias. A feminist is someone who voices/acts towards gender equality - otherwise, the emotions, reactions, etc.. have got to be as that of a normal woman and yes, Mia Santos is that for you. She feels sick and is threatened when she receives a blank call as well. I loved this character etching more than the novel itself.
  • Damien - a cop. Someone to fall in love with. Right from the first scene, we are left with hints that something clicky is about to happen between Damien and Mia, and it so beautifully does. Damien is just picture perfect, a character that one would instantly love. Though the scenes following are a bit slowed down, but there are different ‘what’ factors creeping in. So, in each chapter, there’s something to look for. This indeed is one of the most admirable factors because, there are books where the first chapter deals with a murder and the next few chapters turn a normal drama and suddenly there’s something about the murder. Whereas, Prachi handles the readers and holds them tight with hints that ‘something is out there.'
  • There are beautiful lines that I love from the novel: “Sometimes we make choices we don’t really like making.”

“To laugh at their pain, slice into their skin, slit through their carotid, feel the warmth of the blood that gushed out over him, and to sigh in orgasmic satisfaction as the light went out of their eyes and left their bodies – all was pure bliss,”

“..these misogynists! Can‟t stand strong, independent women; so they think trying to make our lives miserable will compensate for their lack of power,”

  • Prachi has beautifully weaved in lines about ‘people’ who pass insensitive comments on sex crimes against women. About the irritating questions that cops come up with
  • Also, there is a short flashback in the story which is all the more powerful. And, that connects to a scene that makes a lot of sense soon after the read

Frown factors:

  • I didn’t like the ‘second’ killing because it was killing my time. I know that it’s coming and I didn’t want to read more about it
  • Cliche scenes - Mia throwing up after two scenes, shouting ‘Nooooo’ and waking up from a nightmare, the past with her ex to justify why she suspects, etc..
  • The climax -- Pretty much predictable
  • Expected more brilliant execution and investigation - It was not as ‘page turning’ as I expected it to be.  

Overall, a good read. And, as Prachi has said in the book, I hope that she ‘takes the literary scene by storm.'

 

Dirty Martini – Prologue

Are you feeling lonely?

Do you want to talk to me from the bottom of your heart?

A few people have asked me these questions. There was a time when I felt lonely. But now, I have forgotten what loneliness is.

Maybe sometimes, when I am bored or looking for immediate help and scroll through my 159 members strong contact list, and stand there having no inclination to call any of them, I have felt it.

When I entered the pub and asked for a table for one and invited the wondering, curious stare from the bartender, I felt a pang of loneliness.

But now, I am addicted to the peace and calm of being alone. There is something so soothing about solitude that I have no urgent wish to give it up and connect with people.

I wouldn’t deny that at times, it feels awkward to sit alone. I resort to scrolling through my mobile, though I have no new notifications – not even candy crush requests, even after I avail the pub’s free Wi-Fi. It is then that I get these crazy thoughts. If I had a lot of money, I would create a unique coffee shop – just for loners like me, filled with single seats and perfect spots to sit, gazing out the window. Now, that would have a lot of takers. I knew there were people out there who felt like me and would flock there.

Why is it considered so wrong to go out alone? If I walk along the beach stretch, some people suspect that I am suicidal. If I stare at a group of folks, they notice and think I’m jealous. Or, is it just me? Am I the one who feels the phantom stares when no one actually cares?

I wanted to scream at those with the probing stares. “Stop calling me a loser! The way I live life is my choice.” But I stop short, fearing being labelled a psychopath.

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Is it wrong that loneliness makes me attentive? I have stopped looking and started observing. I stare at things with a smile, pondering at the layers of life and the complexities that come, manmade and destined. I look beneath the surface, searching for things that are not apparent to a mind clouded with other, stronger preoccupations.

Sometimes, when I sit alone amidst couples, munching popcorn and sipping cola, I sense their sympathising looks. They know I am alone, and they look at me like it’s a bad thing. Of course, I understand the empathy, but their concern is misplaced. I don’t know if I am hurt, but I am awkward.

The thing is, I can’t brush away this feeling that I am being watched, that I am different from all the others. Even when I tried to check-in on Facebook, it asked me ‘with?’, and I discarded the post. Loneliness was not just the silence around me; it was also the noise surrounding me. I feel the same when the room is empty like I would feel if it were full of people.

I am trying my best. I want to lift my grumpy soul. I am trying to fool myself that my life would change and be filled with adventure very soon. My life feels ludicrous now, at least when I see it through the eyes of others. I am trying to clamber out of this phase. But I guess I’m just stuck with it. When I visualize my life ahead, I don’t see it mapping out in any other way.

The flowchart of my life begins at the small rectangle called Start and stops abruptly. Though there are a few deviations, it is on an infinite loop to the same rectangle, no matter what the input.

Perks of being a computer engineer.

My life doesn’t even have a ‘C’ for ‘clear’. After the mess of these many days, I have boldly risen away everything mundane and decided to live life without complications. The people who chained me down to weights have been cut off from my life like the limbs of an octopus. My family, friends, love life and career inclusive. Oh, wait! That makes it only four? Sigh. I am a mess all over again!

I wanted to stop thinking. I am not doing it intentionally, but I seem to have no stop switch either. My mind constantly ponders over something, even when I light up a small cigarette. I am instantly conscious of the great people of Chennai, and their part-horrified, part-disgusted looks at a girl who smokes. I don’t have proper company to go to a pub. Too many experiences of getting stoned or ending up with a slimy snake around my legs, not to mention the tears, drunk phone calls to my ex and the repercussions, have kept me well away from that morbid scene.

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to change my way of life. I wanted to escape the monotonous runt and do something passionately. I asked a few people in my life if I sounded good while singing. Their sniggers led me to record my voice. I struck off dubbing / playback singing from my list after hearing that.

My cakes and cookies came out burnt, unlike those perfect Pinterest attempts. The paper that was supposed to be filled with masterpiece verses remained blank, like my mind. My gardening attempts resulted in yellowed and withered plants. Early morning sunrise/nature photographs turned out blurry.

After striking everything from the list, I thought for a day and found the one little thing I should have struck in the beginning. Passion.

I had to stop drinking those pints. Beer bloated me up and added unwelcomed puffiness to my face. I promised myself that I wouldn’t lose my size zero. My shape and the spattered freckles on my face made me cute. The greasy shine on my nose was an added attraction. The faces that cross me and turn for a better look gave me that badass attitude.

I have the distinction of being rude to people. I refuse flatly when things are not acceptable to me. It is easier for me to say a big NO, unlike most others. My unbelievably smooth accent is one thing that makes me sexier, and one I use to full advantage, as a defence mechanism, to tower over my opponents.

Clothes like tank t-shirts, tattered trousers, and baggy pants make me look extremely intimidating. With the cigarette, a red bull/beer, spouting words peppered with feminism, I can see the common people, with their halo of self-defined morality (that changes conveniently based on needs), coin a term for me that I don’t quite approve of – Bitch.

But there is something people don’t understand.

My loneliness is a choice, not a situation.

And whenever I ache, I do something. That one thing I shouldn’t be doing.

 

The Deviant – Book Review

The Deviant Book Cover The Deviant
Shankar S Padmanaban
Romance, young adult
Frog Books
Paperback
278

The blurb was a bit interesting on the lines of a novel based on friendship and a clumsy knot that throws the involved in a situation to get out from. The cover is not my favorite but suits the theme and story.

The protagonist - Sam. Nothing new about him. All the more an ordinary youngster who diligently follows what the movies had taught him - school, college, friends, love, love-failure. It was more like reading one’s diary. Other characters involved are also sketched neat, only that the character definition was not on par. It was more like same people with different names at some point. Could have been better. The character ‘Jenny’ is a saver, someone better of the lot.

The novel is about 280 pages that I found a tad difficult for the story. The author might have concentrated on giving a crispier deal for a story with scenes that we are so used to. Though, for a debutant, it is fair enough - I would only advise to keep it simple for the next. The language was decent - and there’s room to improve a lot more. The descriptions were fair enough, only if the author had some portions chunked.

The editor has done an excellent job with the novel. No glaring mistakes as such. But, a few words didn’t sit appropriately, and I thought, maybe, the common newbie syndrome to flaunt some vocabulary. Could have been avoided for the story’s sake.

Many parts fall under the ‘old wine’ category.

I was glad that the author kept in check with the locality, and the language and kind of dialogues between the characters were much real. There were books that I read with Indian premises but language as that of a different country. The author seems to be keen on delivering a good novel with real characters than draw something overdramatic to add more cheesy stuff to the story. Kudos!

I’d also appreciate the author for properly following geography throughout the novel. Familiar places, at least to me. Very native and fresh, it is rare to find down south in novels.

Might be of interest to college goers or those who just finished their college, as it didn’t clearly resonate enough with me, that is.

Expecting a better flick with your next - All the best Shankar.

Secret of God’s son

The Secret of God's Son Book Cover The Secret of God's Son
Pradyumna
Usha Narayanan
Mythology
Penguin
Paperback
272

The Secret of God's Son: That one book which brings together every little thing that I am in love with - Usha Narayanan, Penguin Publishers, A beautiful cover with a peacock feather, and a heartwarming story.

A quest to find the 'Secret of God's Son' and that would change the destiny of humanity -- said the blurb. What had happened?

The minute I started it took me back to good old days when my grandma would narrate stories from the Mahabharata. More than the novel, I love the 'writing' style and the language more. There are beautiful phrases that give goosebumps for the word choices.

The characters are strong, and of course, any would fall in love with Pradyumna quickly for Usha Narayan ma'am has weaved the entire novel with such brilliance. He is powerful, macho, heroic, and what not? Oh! his powers. 🙂 Other than Pradyumna, the character of Kali left an impact.

The dialogues were picture perfect and snappy, pushing the story forward.

The underlined philosophy and food-for-thoughts are a positive takeaway to hold on to - for life.

Pradyumna proves that what it takes is the mortal essence and the finish is picture perfect.

If you're an ardent reader of this genre - you'll love it, and if you're not - this book will be a perfect start!

 

Chennai to Hampi – weekend getaway

Chuck fairy tales, go adventurous! – Is my motto. But with my spinal cord injury, my treks, and trip experience have mellowed down. Hampi being a not-so-tough to hike place, I said “Let’s go!” and three other friends joined.

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Particulars:

  • Where – Hampi
  • For – Trekking, weekend getaway
  • Organized by – Get Beyond Limits
  • Cost factor – 3000 INR per head
  • Cost includes — Bus picks us from Bangalore and drops us back, home stay, sightseeing more details are here

Why I chose this trip:

Selfish reasons, though — I am on the brink of starting my next novel, and I want some change to forget the characters of my previous flick. November being the National Novel Writing Month – I’m likely to start my third novel, tentatively I’ve given it a title – “Aspen Leaves,”

I wanted to meet new people – Of course, am an introvert but am a better observer. So, I wanted to see new people – I did start this trip with three friends and 20 strangers, but am back with 20 odd friends now! Yayy yay!

The gang:

  • Four outdoor leaders
  • 2 Germans, one from China, almost 8+ from Chennai and others from North India

It was a convivial gang of people with our interests aligning to exploring, having fun and to get back home with new friends and memories.

We had photography enthusiasts, a horticulture student, a few who work in IT organizations, a few who sing well, and of course, I was the only published writer, yet, found a few readers/ potential writers over the trip.

How we turned friends:

It started off with an ice-breaking session at the bus when we kick-started our journey from Bangalore to Hampi – we had to introduce ourselves amending an adjective and that in particular had to be a food item, our sweetest memory in the year 2016, what would you do if you get up one fine morning and realize you just switched your gender, and also, share your fear.

Next was the bouldering session – where we got to introduce each other, start talking, encourage each other while climbing on the large boulders.

hampi-228

We were all set to trek, helping each other according to their speed. We explored Hampi — The famous Virupaksha temple, the Sanapur Lake, Vitthala temple, and we also had the chance to hear the history from a guide. Hike to Anjaneya temple was indeed an experience – 575 + 575 steps early in the morning was strenuous, but the view from the summit was mind-blowing.

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I also had the opportunity to talk with ‘Kush’ he is an outdoor leader who also writes poems, and we shared our love for writing, and our teeny bag of secrets.

Personal Experience:

I somehow shed the ‘introvert’ me and spoke to one of the outdoor leader Prajna – I wanted to know about her profile, how tough it is to be a leader, her experiences, etc.. I also shared the plot details of my next novel, and we were in sync. I also told her that I love to travel with people who are not personally close because most who do end up talking about their issues in life. While my agenda of a trip is to give a damn to the problems and to live the trek to the fullest. (and I did)

As usual, I took the first seat of the bus started reeling, plotting, and thinking over the details to understand if I use the details/experience in any of the novels that are plot-ready

It was almost 8:00 PM when I realized that we are running out of time and that I have a train at 11:55 PM from Bangalore Cantt station. The outdoor leaders were thoughtful, and luckily, Kush – the outdoor leader had his plans laid. We got down elsewhere and booked an Ola cab, Kush kept talking to me to ensure I am alright and promised that I’d catch my train and I did.

Before I got down from the bus I sensed most of them are worried about my train, my friend shoved more money in my hand; another said to inform immediately if I miss the train to pick me back from the station.

Having no clue about Bangalore with battery drained phone – I relied on people. I gathered information from the folks around to know the platform number, the coach stops, etc.. I usually take the side upper berth to avoid conversations with people ( Acute and slight Anthropophobia, you see!)

Just when my faith in humanity restored, and when I was about to doze off, the TTR woke me up at 2:00 AM to check the bloody tickets and left the lights on. Goddamn!

Back with:

  • Leg cramps, chapped lips, slight tan, and Hampi Hangover
  • Friends, friends and more friends
  • Google drive with beautiful pictures
  • A mail thread connecting all of us

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Hampi gave me a necessary break to start afresh! Bless me people – am all set to write “Aspen Leaves,” this November.

Synopsis – How to write one?

I’d better write three novels than a synopsis, because, it is THAT difficult. For my next flick Dirty Martini – My editors and I re-wrote the synopsis for almost 50 times 🙁 though we are convinced now, we also know how challenging and painstaking it is. Agents ask for synopsis along with your query letter most of the times.

I thought this post would be of some use to the newbies and also, for the authors to use this as a checklist.

Quintessential a synopsis:

  1. 1-2 pages in length
  2. Single spaced
  3. All the essential details of your novel should be summarized
  4. It must be interesting enough to be picked

Yes, Challenging indeed.

Elements:

  • Protagonist, the conflict, and setting

As I usually say, all the stories are about pushing the protagonist in a situation and helping him/her to come out of it. Make sure it is fresh, new and exciting. Ensure that your elements in your story don’t reflect or imitate any other.

  • Major plot turns/twists

Explain the motivation of your protagonist, emotions of the characters involved during these plot turns should be recorded

  • How the major plot is resolved

The ending, the surprise factors, etc.. should be listed

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Points to remember/ Checklist:

  1. Give a clear picture – the roadmap of your novel (the complete skeleton) the reader/agent should not feel confused. Focus on clarity
  2. Don’t cram too many characters – just your protagonist, antagonist, and one or two major supporting characters
  3. No descriptions – No unnecessary details
  4. No to jargons
  5. Don’t refer other novels
  6. No adverbs and No cliches
  7. A good opening line is a good brownie point
  8. Use active voice
  9. Avoid the character’s backstory in the synopsis
  10. Don’t split your synopsis into sections/don’t use labels as you do while brainstorming

If you have more points to add, please feel free to comment 🙂