Dread by Aseem Rastogi: Book Review

Title: Dread
Author: Aseem Rastogi
Genre: Horror

Fear is the background of this collection of short stories. Dread explores the dark emotions that arise out of unexpected encounters and circumstances.

The Book

This collection explores fear and dread in a range of situations. A jungle safari for a tourist couple turns a nightmare because they are adventurous enough to venture into unsafe territory.

Book cover of Dread. Dark pathway with mist
Dread by Aseem Rastogi

A flight across continents becomes an air disaster and turns the life of the lone survivor upside down.

Modern corporate offices are not the safe and secure places they are nade out to be.

The fear of the night, dark places and being in secluded buildings is a very real one for many. And so are nightmares.

Lives can change in the blink of an eye. The author looks at how tragedies like an airplane crash or a bomb blast in a train can affect an ordinary person. The fear of being thrown in jail or being mistaken for a terrorist are all fears that we have had a brush with at sometime or the other.

Review

It’s a short book but packed with punch. The thing that leapt out of the pages was the original viewpoint which made it a good read.

The stories explore many scenarios of fear. The narration and pacing of the stories is good.

The characters are well developed in 3 of the stories. The Night That Was has the snapshot of an entire family. The flashbacks of memorable moments interspersed with the protagonist’s dark reality makes a very good contrast. It reads like the memory roll of a person about to die.

Dark Places and Into the Night are similar in tone and concept. However the modern reader can connect the story sequence and circumstances with his own life. Without using too much description, the author manages to induce fear. Empty office buildings at night are never going to feel the same again.

The Dark Secret of the Grasslands conveys the spirit of adventure adequately. The author has sketched the couple well, presenting the typical scenario in third world countries of a first world couple. This story has the potential to be developed further. Clues, action and what-happened-next can be extrapolated.

Flight or Fright shows how life can change in the blink of an eye.

What works well

The characters and backdrop are well etched in the stories. The reader can connect with the characters well. The language is good and the treatment of the subject feels very original.

The point of view of the characters is clear and the stories do not meander developing other threads or possible happenings.

What could be better

Some of the stories could be longer and the situations be better explored. The Dark Secret of the Grasslands can have more detail of the crime and the subsequent chase to get the criminals for a well rounded story. Into the Night and The Dark Places can also be developed further.

Verdict

A well written collection that chills without being macabre or overly fearsome.

The book is published for Blogchatter Ebook Carnival and is available for free download for a limited time. Read it here.

Ringa Ringa Roses by Neil D’Silva: Book Review

Title: Ringa Ringa Roses

Author: Neil D’Silva

Genre: Horror

Ringa Ringa Roses is a collection of 3 stories bound together by the element of horror, each having children as protagonists.

Book Cover of Ringa Ringa Roses

The Stories

Children of the Walls has precocious Nitya at the heart of the story, fighting demons all alone. The Clay Mother has an eerie replacement for lonely Nikhil’s dead mother. Two-tail is set in an orphanage with a bevy of children and odd characters fighting a mysterious two tailed monster.

The title of the book is taken from an innocuous sounding nursery rhyme which has chilling origins. It’s very reminiscent of disease and at a time when the world is grappling with a pandemic, strikes terror in the reader’s heart. The rhyme makes its appearance in at least 2 stories and the fading melody stays with you for a long time.

Review

These stories are meant to horrify with the supernatural but in fact, the very real emotions associated with parental neglect and absence is the central theme of these stories. It is the children who save the day; adults don’t rise to their duty or responsibility. The children do seem mature beyond their years, displaying remarkably quick thinking and courage in the face of threat and fear.

I somehow couldn’t miss the fact that all the child protagonists had similar sounding names. All of them also displayed courage in challenging situations.

Nitya could handle the strange boy in her room who was always drawing on the walls that seemed to portend something and save herself from the black demon that had inhabited the wall of her room for ages. The wire mesh and the nails were the most chilling part of the story, strange enough to strike terror in your heart.

Nikhil could manage to take revenge on his mother’s honour and save her from the cruel family who were hell-bent on crushing her yet again, in another lifetime.

Nihar and Nupur, the brother and sister duo with secrets of their own, move to Little Paradise which has bigger secrets and surprises in store. It is Nihar who strikes the final blow to the monster and solves the entire mystery of children disappearing from the orphanage, every once in a while.

What Works Well

The descriptive passages are a treat. Children of the Walls has Nitya’s mother in the kitchen, hurriedly cooking. The scene where the pressure cooker goes out of control is so commonplace but described so magnificently. In The Clay Mother, the dining table and the ritual of eating together is the wonderful part, the food, the flavours, the smells and the patriarchal behavior leaving an indelible mark.

What Could Be Better

The plots seem convoluted at times, especially in Two-tail where the story gets curioser and curioser, leaving me to wonder if the idea was only to put in the element of horror completely and in all ways.

The dialogue in The Clay Mother seems to be in a vaccum, with no accompanying visuals to support the conversation.

Verdict

Read it for the joy of storytelling and the fact that stories are meant to entertain. The horror element is thrilling yet not macabre. The imaginative scenes are sketched well enough for adolescent readers to give it a read.

This book review is written as part of Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Deal of Death by Sonia Chatterjee: Book Review

Title: Deal of Death

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Detective

Deal of Death is an exciting mystery with a an intricate plot and an unconventional detective solving this whodunit.

Review

Raya Ray resigns from her hi flying marketing job when she encounters a personal tragedy. Moving cities and changing occupations, she starts her own detective agency. Battling the ennui of mundane cases of cheating spouses and missing pets, she decides to step out of Kolkata to help her housemaid’s sister who lives in faraway Munshiganj.

For Raya, it starts as a case to trace a missing newborn from a hospital but leads to being a labyrinth of lies and deceit that goes back generations. Evil thrives in this seemingly simple town and by the time Raya is close to solving the case, she discovers that things are not as they seem and people are not who they pretend to be.

What works well

This is exciting detective fiction, fast paced and well plotted with a refreshingly different setting and a well etched out protagonist.

Raya Ray, the corporate hi flier turned detective, battling her grief, concerned with body issues, helpful, trusting, deducing, relying on observation and instinct, is the well sketched protagonist that gets the reader attention and loyalty.

The setting is the quaint Munshiganj on the banks of the river Annapurna and a twin ghat of Diwanganj. It looks like a peaceful, sleepy town but there is plenty of royal intrigue woven into the town’s history. There is also the curious temple and the mosque flanking the sides of the Nawab’s tomb. The photos included in the book bring alive the place for the reader.

The plot is intricate. Like any mystery, there is a crime and there are unexpected perpetrators, yet the backstory and how events came to pass is novel.

This is an impressive debut book and the author, Sonia Chatterjee finished writing it in a record six days.

On the other hand

The protagonist is well etched out but sometimes she is plain lucky. She gets a lot of information too easily and too fast. Also, Raya seems to know too many things without a real knowledge of the events themselves.

The plot is well built but the execution seems rushed. Towards the end there is a lot of information, which also keeps shifting because of the different povs.

There are too many characters towards the end of the book. It would help if these characters are introduced early on.

Some things need to be figured out clearly in the plot. The events and incidents are sometimes not believable.

A few characters are sketchy. Adding physical characteristics would help a little bit of context and relatability.

Chapter length does not seen uniform, which is a little jarring. Some chapters are very short, just a few paragraphs and they seem hurriedly done just to give information to the reader. The formatting needs to be looked into. Some chapters don’t even start from a different page. The chapter names too seem a little random. There are days 1-4 and then we move on to day 8.

Some scenes would flow better if there is more of description and ‘showing’ the reader rather than ‘telling’.

Also, giving meanings of words, like jhalmuri, tonga in brackets affects the flow of the story. It would help if they are put as footnotes.

About the Author

An ex-banker and a self- confessed bibliophile, Sonia inherited her love of the written word from her Professor father. As a tribute to her late mother and a gift to her son on his second birthday, Sonia started blogging from September 2017. Married to a Doctor, Sonia is crazy about four things in life – books, food, travel and her uber-cute toddler. She currently works hard to realize her dream of becoming a best-selling author while secretly wishing harder for twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Her work can be found at soniasmusings.com. She blogs about food, travel, movies, parenting, personal journeys and social issues.

Verdict

A fast paced detective story with an endearing MC and an intriguing setting. This debut book hits the right notes in the crime fiction.

Download the book here.

Eighty Hours To Save Karen by Sitharaam Jayakumar: Book Review

Title: Eighty Hours to Save Karen

Author: Sitharaam Jayakumar

Genre: Crime fiction, Thriller

Eighty Hours to Save Karen is a racy, engaging thriller that keeps the reader hooked and spooked till the last page.

Review

Retired Air Commodore, Matthew Williams lives in a remote hill village with his only surviving family member, his little granddaughter, Karen. When Karen is struck by a mysterious ailment under very suspicious circumstances, Matthew takes it upon himself to get to the root of her problem. It seems that there are forces beyond the natural that have a hand in unfortunate incidents; not only Karen’s illness but also a doctor’s death.

What works well

The title of the story sets the tone of urgency for the reader. The cover art is very apt for the book.

The characters are very well etched and are brought to life by an extensive backstory and an impressive attention to detail. The protagonist, the mature war veteran-turned-detective to save his granddaughter is very convincing.

The plotline is very credible and the setting of the little village is created well.

There is a good balance between the backstory and the action in the present so that the pacing stays fast. The tight narration ensures that the reader can finish the book in a single sitting.

The spook factor is high; there are plenty of thrilling moments sprinkled in the book. There are blood covered mysterious objects, cats tapping on windows in the middle of the night, unexplained accidents and many more. Yet, there is no morbid blood and gore.

On the other hand…

I kept waiting to understand the relevance of the no. of hours mentioned in the title to the book. It was only when the book was over that I realised that it probably refered to the entire timeline of the book.

I also could not get a clear picture of Karen from the book. It would have been good if her age and appearance had been mentioned so that she could be brought ‘alive’ in the reader’s mind.

I really enjoyed the traveling of the MC from the village to the state capital Shimla and then to Mumbai. But it rankled that a remote village in Himachal had shopkeepers selling ice, where it is probably cold the year round. Also, a retired Inspector living in a villa in Mumbai sounded far fetched.

The story moved very well but somehow I felt that Matthew held the cards too close to his chest. The case was cracked through his research on the internet. I wished the part about scientific research and cult leaders was expanded further for the story to have more nuances.

About the Author

Sitharaam Jayakumar is an Information Technology professional. He is a passionate reader of books on both fiction and non-fiction. He takes a keen interest in sports, especially cricket and tennis. In addition, he is also interested in politics and music. He loves to write about anything that catches his fancy in everyday life. His repertoire includes articles on social issues, crime, women’s empowerment, fiction and several other topics. He is a
published poet.

Verdict

Pick this fast paced crime thriller that turns spooky and psychological in turns. Very entertaining.

Download the book here.