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Mith's Bookshelf

Just testing the waters here, and still hoping GR gets it together soon!

Currently reading

Jay Kristoff
The Dream Thieves
Maggie Stiefvater
V.E. Schwab
Flat-Out Love  - Jessica Park All in all, a good book, but, come on, who didn't see the plot-twist coming a mile away?!

The ending was a bit lackluster for me, since after the big reveal there was a sudden change in the tenses (People who were, till then, saying "Finn is" abruptly began saying "Finn was" instead), as well as, character behaviour (Celeste, especially. In the beginning she behaved as though she was completely oblivious to her kookiness, but at the end we got the "I'm not crazy, you know, I know how I behave" speech, which felt very unreal to me).

I sort of found Matt utterly unbelievable. I mean, according to the blurb, he had "the social skills of a spool of USB cable" but throughout he was going around flirting with Julie, making smooth, witty retorts with complete ease, and even went on a date which ended in a make-out session(!). Not buying it, Park.

And who is Julie, anyway? I felt her character exploration left a lot to be desired - her relationship with her father, especially!

Bottom line - Could have been a lot better.
The Oath of the Vayuputras - Amish Tripathi image

I am sad. Mr. Tripathi... what happened?

After the first two books, I had high hopes. The writing was good, the plot was good; it had purpose - "Evil" had risen in Meluha, Shiva had to stop it. Simple, yes? Throughout the first two books, we were given the impression that evil, in the form of some not-so-nice people, was lurking in the shadows, ever-growing, ever-menacing, threatening to disrupt life as they knew it,and it must be stopped at all cost.

And then came the third book.

As soon as I started the book, I knew something was wrong. Instead of the story being about Shiva and his ultimate, glorious triumph over evil, we were being told that, suddenly, the balance between "Good" and "Evil" had been destroyed and that Shiva must rise to the occasion quickly and remove "Evil" and restore "Good" (All this was told over 50 or so pages with the words "Good" and "Evil" being thrown in my face about 20 times per page. It is safe to assume by the end of it, I was nursing murderous feelings towards the author/editor)

Only, turns out "Evil" is not a person, or even persons, but, in fact, is the Somras.
I know right? Ooooh, an elixir that gives you immortality and perfect health! SO EVIL!!!!


(EDIT : See what I mean?)

A vague and half-assed explanation was given about how that though the Somras is beneficial to some, it can cause side-effects among others (Nagas, Brangas) and so, even though it started out as "Good", it has now (out of nowhere) been declared as "Evil" and must be destroyed. Actually, no, let me correct myself. It wasn't declared "Evil" out of nowhere. It was declared "Evil" only when Shiva came to the conclusion (THIS was out of nowhere) that Somras was "Evil".

Don't even get me started on the contrivances in this book. Apparently, it was all planned from the beginning that Shiva was going to be the Neelkanth. His Uncle had given him some drink when Shiva was a kid (which Shiva conveniently remembered just now) that would ensure that his throat would turn blue when he drank the Somras, which would happen only if he drank it at the right time (Was his uncle psychic?) and that "Evil" would be recognised, or something would be accepted as "Evil", ONLY when Shiva decided it so (Does this mean, he could have pointed at a rock on the ground and declared it "Evil" and people would have accepted it blindly?!)

The good thing is, Amish has Shiva think like the readers and question the credibility of this whole shebang. The bad thing is, Amish tries to explain it away with a feeble "everything happened exactly the way it should because the universe conspired it so". Ugh.

Let's talk about Kartik, Shiva and Sati's son, a bit here. In this book, we find him as a superior warrior, defeating even the likes of Ganesh; leading vicious, bloody battles ending in victories; preaching and counseling even wise men like Maharishi Brighu. Which should sound perfectly fine - history is rife with brave, wise men like this. My problem? HE IS SIX F***ING YEARS OLD

Ultimately, what was most disappointing about this book (I had put it down for two days and completely forgot it pick it up again, I was that unenthusiastic) was the terrible ending. Sati is killed in what was one the most unnecessary deaths I've come across in a book in a long time and Shiva goes crazy and decides he's going to destroy the entire city along with the people who knowingly, as well as unknowingly, have contributed to her death. He has King Daksha and his Meluhan soldiers remain in Devagiri, while getting most civilians, including Brahmins who were involved in making the Somras, safe out of the city. He then sets a nuclear weapon on Devagiri and annihilates the entire place.

Let me get this straight. The goal was to destroy Somras or at least stop its consumption, but instead they save all the people with the essential know-how of the Somras and demolish a city, with innocent people STILL INSIDE, for no other reason than to avenge Sati. The end.


I give up.


P.S - What oath? What Vayuputras? Holy misleading title, Batman!
The Runaway King - Jennifer A. Nielsen So, SO, much better than the previous book! LOVE EVERY CHARACTER!
A Calendar of Tales - Neil Gaiman Never, not for one moment, can you point out while reading these twelve, brilliant, short stories, that each of them are written by the same author.

Hat tip, Mr. Gaiman, and all my respect.
Hysteria - Megan Miranda 3.5 stars out of 5
Here I Go Again - Jen Lancaster A bit (OK, maybe more than a bit) clichéd, but still, quite a funny, decent, feel-good book for when you're down in the dumps.
The Hitchhiker's Trilogy - Douglas Adams Bought this book because I like to pretend the last two three books in this series, don't exist.
Erebos - Judith Pattinson, Ursula Poznanski Ever since I finished reading Ready Player One followed by some furious spamming, recommending the book every Goodreader I know, I've been lying in wait for a similar book based on virtual worlds and video games that'll blow my mind.

Yesterday afternoon, I came across Erebos. By evening, I had obtained an e-copy. Come midnight, I was fighting sleep trying to finish it in one go.

Does that mean it was as good as RPO? No, not by a long shot. BUT STILL, the first three-quarters of the book was fast and furious enough to keep me glued to the edge of my bed.

So, we have mysterious DVDs being distributed throughout Nick's, our MC, school, fellow students are mysteriously failing to turn up to classes and when they do, they seem beyond exhausted but nobody is willing to talk about it, not even his best friend. Nick is desperate to know what's going on and to get his hands on one of the DVDs, but it seems to be an invite-only thing.

Finally, finally, he manages to get the DVD from someone who makes him swear to certain rules of secrecy. Turns out, the DVDs contain a game called Erebos. It is an MMORPG which happens to be insanely addictive, and also...very much alive?

Nick finds out that all of the characters (apart from the players) in the game hardly behave like your regular video-game characters with a limited number of replies and reactions. Instead, they are acutely aware of what's going on around them and can have conversations with the players much like a normal person would.

Intrigued, Nick begins to play, slowly rising in levels, thanks to the mysterious Messenger who seems to be in-charge of the game. The Messenger helps the players increase their abilities and strength, in return for carrying out his orders that get stranger by the minute, for, these orders seem to take place in the real world, and the players are addicted and desperate enough to follow those orders without question.

Nick is initially asked to carry out mundane tasks, like, moving a package from point A to point B, or going out on a date with someone, but then things progress quickly to him stalking a strange man and taking his pictures, until finally, Nick is asked to poison, and possibly kill, his English teacher! Will he do it?

It was immensely fun reading about how the players get to pick their avatars, go on quests, collect "wish crystals" and fight in the arenas, always, with the Messenger lurking menacingly in the shadows. But, the last quarter where we figure what's going on, who created Erebos and what the point of it all was, is a big dampner. The twist is such a cliche that I was quite disappointed; I was hoping for something bigger and fantastic.

Apart from the slightly-lame ending, this is well worth a read, especially if you happen to be an avid gamer!
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer Excuse me, Cadet Captain Thorne?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  - Agatha Christie The best parts of re-reading Agatha Christie books, as has been mentioned numerous times before, are the extremely fun and, also, awe-inspiring moments when you comb through the chapters and notice the subtle, right-under-your-nose, read-between-the-lines clues, Christie will have sprinkled throughout the book about the killer's identity that'll make you smack your forehead and scream, "GAH! IT WAS RIGHT THERE ALL ALONG! WHY DIDN'T I SEE THAT HINT BEFORE?! STUPID STUPID! ASBAJY*ERKUWVRJ@HVWJEHRFW6$#%2PBTKGTVL3IGT&Y3K5!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

All hail Queen Christie.
The Archived - Victoria Schwab I'm not really the sort of person who needs to have all her questions answered by the end of the book. I don't sit and dissect every book I read, trying to figure out the allegories, once I'm done - I'm mainly in for the ride. Make the story and the world it's set in (not to metion the writing) plausible and I'm a happy camper. So, it's not wonder that The Archived (where, though the world-building is not fully explained away, it is enough to make you think "A library for the dead? Sure, why not.") compelled me to stay up half the night and finish it in one sitting by reading it for 5 hours straight. Yep, for me, it was THAT good.

How do I love thee, dear book? Let me count the ways....

1. Lovely characterisation. All the (main) characters are neatly fleshed out. Even Da, who is only seen in flashbacks, is written about in such a way that even the few scenes he's in, speaks volumes about him.
2. Oh, the brillaint writing! The crippling pain of the loss of a loved one, the aftermath where you deal with it and try to move on, and the mental anguish of seeing them again but knowing it's them but also not them, but just a record of their memories, is captured so beautifully that if you don't shed a tear or two at a particular point in the book (you'll know which one when you come across it), then I DECLARE YOU HAVE A HEART OF STONE.
3. Not only is the male romantic interest a charming, sweet, witty, eyeliner guyliner-wearing goth, who is also NOT tortured or angsty or broody, and has had a completely normal childhood (all things considering), THANK GOD, but also, also, the romance in the book is so subtle that it, refreshingly, doesn't intrude upon the main story. One extra star for this book, just for that.
4. I admit, I could have done with more info on the Archive, the Returns and the Narrows, how things work, how the Keepers, Librarians and the Crew are chosen, etc. etc., but did I mention it's a LIBRARY for the DEAD? (If you had the chance to see a loved one, who is long gone, again; remember how they looked, how their touch felt, again; spend just 5 minutes with them, again, even though you KNOW it's not exactly them but just an echo of who they used to be when they were alive, would you take it?)
5. The mystery of the Archive, the rouge Librarian, the source of all the chaos happening in the Narrows was neatly done. It kept me guessing till the end (I was half-right) but the final reveal did shock me - it was not even close to what I was expecting. I think I've said too much.
6. IT HAS A SEQUEL!!!!!!!!!!!!
Prodigy - Marie Lu Much, MUCH better than the prequel, but still falls way short of the mark.
Murder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot, #10) - Agatha Christie (Apart from the slightly contrived ending here I mean, come on, the mother, the god-mother, the husband's best friend, the husband's batman/valet, the sister's husband, the driver, the cook, the nurse, the governess, the dead nursemaid's lover, the dead nursemaid's father, the DA's son - this particular eclectic group of people just decided to sit down one day and plot murder and managed to carry it out nearly flawlessly? I find it a tad unbelievable...) Agatha Christie can do no wrong in my books.
Genesis - Bernard Beckett This, then, is dystopia.

A short, but compelling story that will make you think and question the world you've come to know and trust. Actually, no, let me correct myself. It is not so much a story as a subtle revelation of the fragile existence of mankind which throws a harsh light on just how much we think we know and how much we actually do, on how everything we think or say or do has consequences but how largely ignorant we remain of that fact, and how we still fear that which is unknown and to what extent we let this fear govern us.

Here's one of the better reviews for this book - http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/344378539 .. I have nothing else to add to it.

Please do pick up Genesis, if you are the kind that likes a book that makes you think and turn everything you think you know, upside down. If you aren't the kind, pick it up anyway. Afterall, "A society that fears knowledge is a society that fears itself."
The Krishna Key - Ashwin Sanghi I hadn't read any of Sanghi's books before picking this up, but if his writing skills in the Krishna Key is anything to go by, then I can safely say I dodged a couple of bullets. I won't waste space pointing out the innumerable similarities between the Krishna Key and the Da Vinci Code, as it's been done to death by the other reviewers on Goodreads. Instead, let me put together a list (in no particular order) of stray observations I made while reading this book. It's going to be a LONG one, so please bear with me (Or skip to the end for the TL;DR version) -

1. If anybody is labouring under the delusion that this is a book with a plot or a story, filled with action, intrigue, conflicts, resolutions and happy endings, let me stop you right here. This isn't so much a novel as one giant-ass lesson in history, mythology and theology. EVERYTHING that happens in the book is done for the sole reason to allow Sanghi to include as much of his research as possible into the book.

2. While the amount of research gone into this book is commendable (and I admit there is no way I can read through all the material mentioned in the appendix to verify or refute his theory), at times it feels like Sanghi is just trying a little too hard to connect everything (literally) to India/Krishna/Vedas (I mean, Noah (He of the Ark) actually comes from Naoh (Hindi word for boat)? Really?)

3. Sanghi has made use of the omniscient POV (my least favourite kind) while writing this book. This means that we get to know everything, everyone of the characters is thinking or saying or doing at all times - which can be an overload of information. It also means, we don't get to spend enough quality time with any of the characters to be able to develop an attachment to them, and end up not caring about anything that happens to any of them -

One of the characters nearly dies in an avalanche! (Don't care.)
He is bleeding to death! (Yawn.)
All of a sudden, with nothing leading to it whatsoever, they're in love now! (Watching paint dry is more exciting than these two.)
They are trapped in a cave-in! (Can we get on with the story already?)

4. The writing is awful. Just...no. The descriptions of characters are extremely cringe-worthy and give the impression that Sanghi has only the vaguest ideas of how most Indians look like -

- [He] had been blessed with godlike physical charms and unblemished complexion...
- [She] had the body of a Rajput warrior queen and the analytical mind of a Tamil engineer...
- [His] outward appearance was that of a geek - ill-fitting clothes, uncombed hair ... face was blemished with acne and his personal hygiene left a lot to be desired... (this last one made my blood boil a little because, not only do I consider myself a geek and find this extremely offensive, but, also, it is SO CLEARLY stereotypical and LAZY, that it leaves no room for any doubt that Sanghi doesn't give two hoots for his characters - he only needs them as a mouthpiece to show off his research)
- On his balding head was a straw hat that gave him the appearance of a mafia don...

Half the time, the characters say things that are so unbelievable, that even suspension of disbelief doesn't quite work here. Imagine, if you will, an Indian cop who says things like "Cat got your tongue?... Your femme fatale friend...[Talking about jail] Welcome to Hotel California. You can check in any time but you can never leave!"

5. The editing is careless, to say the least. I can recall two instances (page 301 and 389) where Radhika and Saini are referred to as Priya, respectively.

6. At one point, Saini, an Indian professor, says to Priya, fellow Indian - "For your information, a yojana is about nine American miles...". Excuse me?? Since when did Indians stop using the metric system?? It is things like this that make me loathe to pick up books by Indian authors! From this one statement, it is SO OBVIOUS that Sanghi has written this book keeping (probably non-existent) American readers in mind, while the truth is that almost all of his readers will be Indians (because, c'mon, which American in his right mind will want to read a Da Vinci Code rip-off?). Know your audience Mr. Sanghi. DO NOT ALIENATE THEM.

7. Sanghi has a habit of over-sharing. Throughout the book we are told that the characters are wearing Reebok shoes or Levis jeans or carrying a Samsung Galaxy XCover or using an Apple iPad or driving a Yamaha bike with a 150cc engine or smoking a Cohiba cigar....!! Are you being paid to endorse these products Mr. Sanghi? No? Then quit it, because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, NOBODY CARES. Give us a gist of the scene and settings, and leave the rest to our imagination. Do not spoon-feed us and insult our intelligence!

8. Speaking of insulting the reader's intelligence, Sanghi also has a habit of re-iterating key passages of the book during a big reveal. In italics. I can almost hear his voice in my head going, Look! See! Here's the twist in the story BUT I HAD ALREADY HINTED ABOUT IT BEFORE. See how smart I am?!?!?! And since you're too stupid to figure it out on your own, I'm going to remind you about the hint by typing it again! In italics! Because that's how it's supposed to be done!!!!!!!

9. Finally, let's talk about the plot. Can I say, contrived much?

So we begin with a Mr. Varshney, who starts off the whole thing by giving Saini a VERY IMPORTANT ancient seal. He tells Saini to safeguard it for him as he is afraid his life might be in danger. Question, WHY is his life in danger, Mr. Sanghi? What gave him the idea? What did he figure/find out that led him to believe that what he has in his possession is also wanted by dangerous people who will stop at nothing to obtain it, and that he has to give it to FOUR different people to keep it safe, all of whom HAPPEN to be descendants of Krishna? How did he convince those people to do this favour for him?

Also, Every character we ever meet conveniently has an abundance of knowledge on Indian history and can spout them at will. Even the so-called "mob boss" knows the ins and outs of Krishna's escapades, as well as detailed info on nuclear transmutations(!!!!!)

Don't expect us to just go along with your story, Mr.Sanghi, make it believable!

10. The ending. Oh God, the ending! The norm in reading a book is that the ending is supposed make the rest of the journey worthwhile. That's the whole point of the book. Sanghi spectacularly fails in this. The ending is so abysmally done, you feel like tearing at your hair and throwing the book at the nearest wall, for having wasted your precious time on this drivel. Through the whole book, they gather the seals, escape from death, travel across the country, only to be told, and in turn tell us, that (paraphrasing) "we should aim to be better people in life and only then we can be happy". Not a peep about the seals or the Krishna Key after that. So everybody in the book died for this?! I read through all that crap for this?!

TL;DR - Less thrills and more facepalms. Terrible writing. Shoddy editing. Contrived plot. No story. Severely lame ending. Too much historical information stuffed into one book. Don't bother reading unless you're a Indian mythology/Conspiracy theory buff.

P.S - I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't see the reveal of Mataji coming. But that might be because I really didn't care about the story at that point.
The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken A decent enough YA read, nothing too spectacular. One of the places where the author slipped up was the MC. When we first meet Ruby, she is a shivering, shaking, scared thing who can't even stand up for herself, let alone others. But later in the book, she suddenly develops Mary Sue-ish abilities to be insta-awesome and has two guys fall in insta-love with her. Sigh. On the other hand, the characters of Chubs and Zu were actually sort of neatly thought-out and were about the only things compelling me to finish the book.