Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef by Vibha Batra: Book Review

Title: Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef
Author: Vibha Batra
Format: Paperback
Genre: Children (8-12)
Publisher: Scholastic India

Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef is funny and entertaining while also nudging out gender stereotyping. It’s an endearing book for children with lovable characters, laugh-out-loud situations and ‘fantasmazing’  language.

Pinkoo, the boy born with impossibly pink cheeks, prodded to become a shooting champion to fulfil his grandfather’s dream, has his heart set on baking scrumptious desserts.

The book is about his mission to avoid shooting and prove himself to be a MasterChef. He’s helped along by his loyal and talkative cousin Tutu, who is also the perfect side-kick. His friend Manu provides help and moral support and Nimrat clears Pinkoo’s path to success and glory.

Chocolate nougat cake, almond mocha cookies, motichoor ladoo white chocolate brownie, gulab jamun cheesecake – these mouthwatering are the real stars of the book with every page and dessert description getting you drooling.

Papaji, the strict dad, Beeji, the benevolent matriarch, Chachiji, the phone-peering aunt, shooting coach Aloo…Walia, Daljeet, the school bully, Chef Khanna and loads of other characters are drawn to perfection.

A special mention to the fantastic words coined by the author that kids I am sure, love everywhere. Wowmazing, tremenderously, yummysome are just some of them, capitalised in the text, catching the attention and delight of young readers.

Also refreshing is the way gender roles are confronted and demolished for the shams they are. Baking is considered girlie by Papaji who comes around by the end of the book. The school bullies would be silenced because of Pinkoo’s baking prowess. And Tikki, Tutu’s little sister is the next shooting star, a sport usually considered masculine.

As events unfold and the story progresses, everything gets funnier. To quote the funny passages would require quoting at least three-quarters of the book.

The quirky illustrations by Shamika Chaves add to the fun factor.

The children are just going to love all the action, friendship, challenges and the special feeling of doing just what they want. Pinkoo Shergill Pastry Chef is a star of a book.

You can order your copy from Amazon.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon powered by the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas

The book title has 2 things that I absolutely am fascinated with. House and Sea. Not to mention the completely enticing book cover that shows a lovely house with a wrought iron gate that’s open a little bit as if inviting the reader in. And that’s how I chose to read it when I found it a few weeks back.

Edie is walking the dogs near the river when her friend calls to tell her that her mother-in-law Anna DeLuca is dead. She’s bitterly relieved and we learn of her estrangement not just with her mother-in-law but also her husband. We also learn of her son Daniel whom she lost many years ago and how she blames Anna for it.

It seems it’s the time to go to Sicily and claim and settle what Anna has left her – the family villa that Edie was supposed to have visited with child Daniel but never did. It also means she would have to work out the inheritance details with her husband Joe, leading to an awkward time that she absolutely wants to avoid.

However Edie turns up at Sicily and falls in love with the now-neglected but still beautiful house surrounded by verdant grounds, now overgrown, and the sea.

It’s the mood that Louise captures that kept me enthralled. The house of course is described so beautifully, from its architecture to its flora to its supposed ghosts.

The book has a little bit of a supernatural element, just a very little, enough to keep you feeling the charm and the magic of the place. There were times when I wondered what was I reading. Was it a ghost story, was it a romance, was it a murder mystery, was it supposed to be a thriller? There are elements of all of these and as I turned the pages, keeping pace with the unfolding story seemed the easiest thing to do. There’s no point obsessing over the genre or slotting the book into a particular type. That it is extremely well written and engrossing should be enough for the reader.

The handling of emotions and the way the transformation comes in Edie’s and Joe’s lives had me rooting for them all through. The house is a living creature of course, I too could feel the little graveyard, the ghosts of the generations gone by, the places where so many happy moments were spent, I haven’t had this connection with a house since I read and dreamt of Rebecca’s Manderley.

This post is part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Along Came a Spyder by Apeksha Rao: Book Review


Title: Along Came a Spyder
Author: Apeksha Rao
Genre: Young Adult

‘Along Came a Spyder’ has plenty of teenage spies and enough mysteries to solve vicariously as you turn the pages of this satisfying book that’s entertaining, funny and sassy.

The Story

17 year old Samira is aiming to be a spy because her role models are her parents who are elite RAW agents. She has been trained in the craft even since she was a toddler and by the time she hits her teens she has seen a fair share of missions, conspiracies and danger.

The twist comes when her parents stop supporting her and want her to take to a traditional and safe career choice. More than anyone else, she has to convince them of her capabilities. Would joining a sisterhood of spies and proving herself be enough?

Review

I read this book after my teenaged daughter raved about how much fun and cool it was. She was totally taken in by the protagonist Samira, her wiliness, her courage and unconventional life.

Along Came A Spyder turned out to be a thrilling and quite an entertaining read, taking the reader on an interesting journey which includes lots of spy missions, and also guns, hidden communication and tracking devices as well as witnessing the dark side of the world.

Spyders HQ is just the place for all the Spyder sisters where they practice, stay and yo! enjoy each other’s company.

What Works Well

There are many pluses about the book.  The characters are fantastic. Samira is drawn very well, confident but with her own set of insecurities and fears. Her language as a teen is very relatable. Others of the spyders, Tina, Millie, Debbie, Dr. ‘Mila’ Sen, the secretary Evelyne, the list of memorable characters is long.

Samira’s chatter about her parents and her back and forth with them is really enjoyable. She is a part of a lot of adventures, both with her parents and with her gang of spies. The HQ seems like the place every teenage would dream of, independence with discipline, adventure with danger.

The book has good pacing throughout and has many missions, twists and turns so that the reader never loses interest.

The best part is Samira’s coming to terms with her fears and deep rooted trauma that eventually helps her prove her mettle as a spy.

I also liked reading about the various spy secrets like surveillance, the hi fi gadgets that are used, training techniques and more. Drugs, pimps, undercover missions, rouge nuclear states, underworld dons, vendetta within the gangs, dark web, abductions, terror attacks – there’s all this and more.

While discussing this book, my daughter mentioned that story gives a glimpse into the lives of spies who do all they can for their motherland . Not only has the book been written completely from a teenager’s point of view but even the language used is just what a teenager says ( like getting used to adding all the yos you can to your language 😜)

Verdict

Along Came a Spyder is a well paced novel with an uber cool teenage spy who has a load of interesting adventures. As per my teen, it’s totally ‘engrossing’.

If the book has a sequel, I would definitely read it. In fact, I am planning to read the prequel, ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spyder’ soon.

You can buy the book here.

This Book Review is written as part of BookChatter, Blogchatter’s Book Review Program.

The Gunslinger by Suchita Agarwal: Book Review

Title: The Gunslinger

Author: Suchita Agarwal

Genre: Western, Fiction

The Gunslinger is a fast paced, action packed Western with trigger happy gunslingers, chases and unusual relationships. It has a wonderful storyline and subplots that are tied up neatly towards the end.

The story

Lola, a ten year old is on the run after her parents are murdered brutally. She finds an unexpected protector in Hunter, the dreaded Gunslinger. It seems hate and revenge would catch up with them very soon as they run from impossible situations and formidable enemies. However, there are surprises in store. People who have been thought dead show up, enemies turn protectors and the final battle for revenge is much deeper and goes back much in time.

Review

The story sweeps you along in a great rush of words. It starts right in the middle of the action and works backwards and forwards with such ease that you are taken along with the flow of words.

Like a true western, it has great action- guns, killings, chases and the pace never slackens. The backstory too has a brevity that would be typical of a laconic gunslinger. There is a detachment as well, especially in the scenes that show violence and again that suits the story and the setting very well.

The first few pages sets the stage for a seemingly simple chase and escape story, with a generous dose of revenge but as the story moves on, it surprised me with its twists and turns.

“She should have known Eastwoods took their quests, love and betrayal very seriously.”

And herein begins the saga that has its genesis before Lola’s birth to the present-day.

Nature’s elements are present in full form. This element of dependence on and oneness with nature is a recurring element.

“When you live with nature, you learn to read the signs. And as a reward, nature warns you when trouble is headed your way.”

The story has a very satisfying closure in terms of redemption, both material and emotional. The relationship of Hunter and the kid is very delicately handled, bringing out the nuances of the unusual and unexpected attachment between them.

What works well

The setting is superbly drawn out. The Gunslinger has every element of a Western thriller. The landscape, the chases and the fights add to a feeling of authenticity for the reader.

The characters are very well developed, not just in terms of their physical characteristics and linguistic quirks but also in an emotional sense. There are little touches that make the characters come alive for you- Lincoln and his weak eyesight, Lanky whose tongue has been cut off, the anger that Lola gives in to by throwing chairs at windows.

There is a wit that shines through the narration. The names of places, Highso and Lowso and their apparent discrepancies, characters like Twitchy-variant and boy-variant made me appreciate the writing even more.

The language is beautiful. Every now and then, it slips into the lyrical.

“She could hear the house scraping, like an old man trying to settle in an equally old chair.”

I liked the brevity and the efficiency of words. The writing is very crisp; there is absolutely no verbosity to slow the pace.

“Once they were sure she was safe, and out of earshot, the good cheer was thrown away like a mask at the end of a masquerade ball. Lines were drawn, Maggie with Fences, Romeo undecided, and Hunter, back to being the lone wolf that he was so comfortable being.”

Verdict

A fast paced thriller with an adroit plotline and memorable characters, The Gunslinger delivers the very best that a Western can.

You can download the book here. It is free for a very limited time.

Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty: Book Review

Title: Three Thousand Stitches

Author: Sudha Murty

Genre: Non fiction, Memoir

Book Cover of Three Thousand Stitches
Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty

The book, Three Thousand Stitches is a collection of non fictional pieces, snippets from the author’s own life and from other people whom she encountered.

These are 11 true stories, many of them Sudha Murty’s experiences as the chairperson of the Infosys foundation. A few talk of her childhood and early adulthood and of her educational background.

The stories have an overarching theme of empathy and service to the society.

The title story, ‘Three Thousand Stitches’ is a moving account of the Devdasis and their plight. Their rehabilitation was the first social service/impact project Sudha Murty took on and she talks of her initial failures quite candidly. However, the difference the foundation makes in the lives of this marginal group is noteworthy and Sudha is presented with a very touching memento that reflects the gratitude of the Devdasis towards her.

How to beat the boys‘ is a spell binding account of Sudha’s engineering days where she was the only woman in the entire college. It is clear that she was a trailblazer and an independent thinker from her formative years.

Three Handfuls of Water‘ is the most vivid account of her early life, her childhood memories of her grandparents and their religious beliefs. When Sudha visits Varanasi in her adulthood, she feels as if she is fulfilling her grandparents’s wish of pilgrimage to this holy land.

Cattle Class‘ is a hard hitting reality of economic snobbery and way Sudha metes out justice in her own way.

No place like home‘ talks of expatriate women and their difficult, abuse riddled lives and highlights the freedom that we enjoy and the little liberties that we sometimes take for granted in our own country.

I Can’t, We Can‘, is the account of many individuals and their families who have been adversely affected by alcoholism and the way Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) helps them rebuild their lives.

A Day in the Infosys Foundation‘ was the account I was waiting to read, my curiousity sufficiently aroused to wonder what constitutes the day of the head honcho of the Infosys Foundation managing the Corporate Social Responsibility.

I liked the simple narration of the book. There is an honesty that shines through the telling of the stories. With an undercurrent of an emotional strength and the desire to uplift others, the writing touches the reader with its sincerity.

DareDreamers by Kartik Sharma and Ravi Sharma: Book Review

Title: DareDreamers: A Start-up of Super Heroes

Author: Kartik Sharma and Ravi ‘Nirmal’ Sharma

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

DareDreamers is a book about a venture that brings together a team of superheroes. It is a story of a corporate dream, that goes hand in hand with service to the society, keeping in line with high comittment and an even stronger adherence to ethics. At the same time, it is an exciting story of fantastic adventure and innovation.

Blurb

India’s first start-up of superheroes with a mission of saving lives is here to kick ass. Rasiq is riding the highs of life thanks to his successes as an investment banker. But his arrogance soon gets the better of him and he ends up losing everything he holds dear. Managing to salvage only his grit from the wreckage, Rasiq reboots his life and teams up with five uniquely talented superheroes to start a rescue venture DareDreamers. These superheroes Nick: a crazy inventor; Halka: an inhumanly strong man; Arjun: a champion shooter; Natasha: a Bollywood stunt-double; Dr. Vyom, a medical Sherlock Holmes; and, of course, Rasiq: the mastermind combine their unique talents to deliver spectacular rescue operations. Their skyrocketing success, however, comes at a price an enemy hell bent on tearing down their fame and reputation.Will DareDreamers defeat its wily adversary? Or will it become yet another failed start-up?Treachery, action and adventure come alive to make DareDreamers a page-turner.

Review

It is the story of Rasiq, the investment banker who throws away everything that he has worked hard for because he feels his dreams are being strangulated.

Enter his new avatar, the entrepreneur who has a novel idea to help save lives. Rasiq puts together a fabulous team of near superhuman individuals and therein begins a roller coaster ride of adventure and daredevilry that borders on the fantastic.

The situations and the incidents range from jaw dropping freakish to a laugh riot. It seemed to be a cross between the adventures of a Louis L’Amour protagonist and the hi tech Flash Gordon.

What works well

The writing style is excellent, the pacing never drops and there is plenty of romance and sentimentality to balance things out.

The characters are fleshed out very well. My favourite was Rasiq’s father with his jokes that were sometimes meant to fall flat. Rasiq’s team takes over from him in the second part of the book and the narration belongs to their exploits. I also liked other characters like Sandra and Ruchika who are sketched with intelligence and sensitivity.

The rest of the team in the DareDreamers are very relatable even though they mostly have extraordinary capabilities. Their dreams, aspirations and fears are presented in a way that they seem like the rest of us. The second part of the book rests on their shoulders and rightly so, because the start-up is about a team, not just about the leader.

The locations are also used very realistically. The beginning of the book captures the essence of the city of Mumbai, with the promenade of Marine Drive and the crowds on the roads. France is described not only through the places but also as an attitude, through the people who are there.

The book has been written jointly by the father-son duo and the storytelling and the dialogue is seamless. The story is paramount in the book and it has been developed extremely well.

Verdict

DareDreamers is a spicy, entertaining read that does not let you go till the last page.

Read it for the seamless storytelling of adventure.

Buy the book from Amazon.

This post is part of #MyFriendAlexa, an initiative by Blogchatter. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

Song for a Lost Kingdom by Steve Moretti: Book Review

Title: Song for a Lost Kingdom

Author: Steve Moretti

Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb

Music is not bound by time…
Adeena Stuart is a struggling cellist ready to give up on her dream of landing a spot with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. All that changes when she receives a musical score, lost for almost 300 years in a Scottish castle, sent by her dying grandmother.
When the score is played on the oldest surviving cello ever made in the UK, the music connects Adeena directly to the past as Katharine Carnegie, struggling to find words to complete her symphonic tour-de-force in the midst of 18th Century political rebellion that is tearing apart Scotland and England.

But Adeena is not a scientist or historian. What she wants more than anything is to create and compose. As she is buffeted back and forth between the past and present, she grows to want more of the past, even though the promise of her most yearned-for professional dream is coming true.
With a clear voice that sets us in modern day Ottawa and old world Scotland, Song for a Lost Kingdom, Book I, begins a journey of discovery between two women who share the same musical soul and love for the same doomed man.

Review

Song for a Lost Kingdom is the riveting tale of a brilliant musician who travels through space and time due to a mysterious piece of composition, an ancient musical instrument and a legacy that has spanned centuries.

Adeena, the nearly 30 yr old cellist has a dream of making it big in the world of music and finishing the composition that has been running in her head and dreams since her childhood.

Through her work place, she lays her hands on the centuries old Duncan cello and plays it out of curiosity. She never expects to travel through time and space and to transform into another person, Katherine Carnegie, in the 1700s.

In the span of a few days, Adeena is drawn more and more into Katherine’s life and she goes back into time again and again to resolve the mystery of Katherine’s life and the meaning of her own vague dreams.

What works well

The places, oh the places. The names simply rolled off my tongue. From Ottawa in Canada to the picturesque Scotland and the historical castles when Adeena travels back in time are very well described. There are sea side villages, shepherds with flocks of sheep, soldiers and Scottish royalty to name just a few in the range of setting.

The characters are very well crafted. Apart from Adeena, her boyfriend Phillipe, her friend and boss Tara, her parents, the characters in the 1700s are also delineated really well. For the minor characters too, there is much depth in character motivation.

Any book that is historical has to get the history, attire and dialect of the characters just right. The Song for a Lost Kingdom does it brilliantly to produce a piece of fiction that feels very authentic.

The most soul stirring part of the book is the music itself. The world of musical instruments, of musicians and of haunting melodies came alive for me.

It’s also a very gripping story that has a strong narrative voice.

About the Author

AUTHOR BIO
I have always been drawn to passion and creativity in all its forms. I am equally fascinated by the mechanics of the universe and the characters of history. I have a special affection for the power of music which I believe is the universal language of human emotion.

My writing journey started in journalism, public relations and advertising then continued into software development (yes that involves writing)! Recently I finished a screenplay and my first novel, and am now embarking on this a full-time career.

I grew up in London, Ontario and also lived in Pompano Beach, Florida as a teenager. I moved to Ottawa and attended Carleton University many years ago and now live just south of the city with my wife, daughter and four dogs with attitude.

I look forward to your feedback. Sign up for my mailing list at stevemorett.ca and I’ll send you a FREE copy of the Prequel to the Song for a Lost Kingdom series

AUTHOR AMAZON PAGE
https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Moretti/e/B07DX4H6Z3/

WEBSITE
www.stevemoretti.ca

INSTAGRAM
www.instagram.com/moretti.steven

TWITTER
www.twitter.com/morettisteve

FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/stevemoretti.ca/

Blog Tour

This Book Review is part of the Blog Tour conducted by Digital Reads Blog Tours.

Here is the schedule for the Blog Tour.

BOOKLINKS
Read for FREE with Kindle unlimited. Paperback version also available. Or, get the FREE 10k word Prequel to the Song for a Lost Kingdom Series.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JtHNpr

FREE Prequel: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/5mcpwxa6p0

My Haunted Bed & Breakfast by Phyllis Moore: Book Review

Title: My Haunted Bed & Breakfast

Author: Phyllis Moore

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Destiny Series

My Haunted Bed & Breakfast is a delightful novella of hauntings and ghosts and magic that bring in more fun than chills.

Eleanor Rune is a woman running from memories, wanting to bury her past and get on with her life. Trying to get over the sorrow of the death of her partner, she comes across a damaged house that she feels she can convert into a B & B and earn a living. What she does not know is that the house is haunted; it has three friendly ghosts who turn her sorrowful and purposeless life into a roller coaster of fun: earning money, finding a husband and the biggest of all: magic in her life.

Review

The best part of the book is the fun factor. The MC is able to accept the ghosts without much trouble. Even her guests at the B & B have more fun with the capers of the ghosts than feeling afraid because they feel that these are just special effects.

There are many other incidents of ghosts and magic that just bring a lot of childish fun and joy in people’s lives. So, the reader settles down to enjoy the good side of the magic.

The three ghosts and the haunted house guide the MC to unlikely places and people who are to become an important part of her life.

I liked the characters very much; they are well etched out, intriguing and engaging. Sarafine as the eccentric woman is the most lovable. The twins, Eleanor’s children, have very strong characterisation. The ghosts are well rounded too. I only wished that the husband Codere was etched out better.

The story is very interesting, engaging and at no point does the pace of the story slows down. Phyllis has a way of getting straight to the point, without much awkwardness and really that is a very strong point of this novella. It could have been a simple book about the ghosts at the haunted house, however, the author manages to bring a large chunk of the MC’s lifetime to this book, setting the story for further books in the series and for a deeper story and conflict.

Verdict

An entertaining novella about haunted houses and magic that brings more joy than scare.

Download the book from Amazon.

How I Wrote my Comic Book by Priyanka Vermani: Book Review

Title: How I Wrote My Comic Book: The Journey

Author: Priyanka Vermani

Genre: Memoir

How I Wrote My Comic Book is as bookish as can be. It is a book about the creation of a comic book- the fulfilment of a long cherished dream and the culmination of an often arduous journey.

Review

Priyanka, the new Mom, has a dream. She wants to create a book that serves as a guiding light and legacy for her one year old daughter, Samaira. And thus starts the journey of creating a graphic novel or a comic book, with limited resources but with limitless imagination and creativity.

This book is a chronicle of all the stages of creating the book, right from the conceptualisation to the finished book.

It is an exhilarating read for creative people, for designers, for artists dabbling in the visual arts and for writers. Each chapter is a gem, touching on one or the other part of the book’s creation process.

What works well

The cover art is lovely. Much work has gone into designing it to showcase what the book is all about. In fact, an entire chapter has been dedicated to how it came together.

The format is well suited to the story of a comic book. The colour scheme and the fonts were a definite change as were the two column format.

There is also a lot of learning if you are into writing. The chapters talk in detail about the conceptualisation, about the innumerable rounds of editing, about the challenges of collaboration, about the hurdles and the self doubts. There is plenty of encouragement too, from the little victories, the undying commitment and the unconventional way Priyanka sets out to achieve her dream.

On the other hand…

I did wish that more care had been taken in proofreading this book because there are many references to the A to Z challenge. Also, a couple of chapters were a little out of sync with the rest of the book like the mother in law’s illness.

About the Author

A Content Marketer with a creative streak, Priyanka has written content for corporate films and many kids learning applications. Based on her experience of her stay in London, she has authored a comic book – ‘Samaria and the Gang in London.’

Verdict

How I Wrote My Comic Book is a behind-the-scenes book about a creative process. Read it for the vicarious pleasure of being part of this journey.

Download this book here.