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Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books under Ghostwalker series: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A definite pick if you are into paranormal romance with a touch of eroticism and the unbelievable.

Night game is the third instalment in the Ghostwalker series by Christine Feehan and published in November of 2005. Ghostwalkers are a group of women and men who are sent on special missions. They have psychic abilities, physical abilities (both enhanced genetically and natural) and some abilities more rare than others. However every Ghostwalker would need an "anchor" to draw back the psychic backlash from other ghostwalkers, especially that would instigate violence. As the series proceeds we get introduced to four teams of Ghostwalkers each enhanced in more ways than one can think.



The plot revolves around the pair of Ghostwalkers - Raoul "Gator" Fontenot and Iris "Flame" Johnson.  Gator gets called to his homeland - bayous of New Orleans - by his Nonny (grand mother) to help his grand-mere and his brother Wyatt to find one of their friend, Joy Chiasson who went missing. The day he was leaving, Lily Whitney-Miller (wife of their Captain Ryland Miller and the adopted daughter of Dr. Peter Whitney) asks him to look into another one of the girls her father had experimented on - Iris "Flame" Johnson. She believed that Iris was in the same neighborhood as where Joy went missing and that Iris was also looking for the girls from her father's experiments.

After her father, Dr. Peter Whitney, gets murdered, Lily finds out that Dr. Whitney had taken orphans from around the world who had psychic capabilities for his experiments - long before he had started them on grown men and women. And when they failed, or more importantly an incident with Lily made him decide to disband his experiment, relocate the girls elsewhere but adopt Lily as his own. Despite the sorrow it caused, Lily was determined to find each and every girl and bring them back to safety. She found Dahlia recently (in the book Mind Game) and now she is asking Gator to find Iris. Gator agrees to do it and if he found her will bring her back to safety. But Gator neither Iris know that they both are being hunted by unknown enemies who want to terminate them. Iris with her ability to use her voice in unimaginable ways and Gator with his talents that no one on his team know to the fullest start the dangerous path that both the ghostwalkers walk on.

What was different about this book was the element of humor. So far we have been seeing mystery, romance, eroticism, paranormal and the undefined. But with this book, Christine introduces the fun element. Gator, with his charming cajun accent sprinkles laughter around loosening up Iris along. Iris, known to be an anchor, butts with him head to toe, in all levels - sexual, elemental, strength, heart and mind - enjoying the ride. Two alpha ghostwalkers when paired would bound to cause fire and electricity and so do these two.  Christine has masterfully spun this web around them enticing us with their relationship which is fun one moment and hot the next. Also we get introduced to Jack Norton, Ken Norton and some of the other deadly ghostwalkers from Team Two in this book.

A definite recommendation to continue the series and adults only please!! :P
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: For that rainy lazy day, just flick to this movie and watch it for some very good sense of humor.

Loins of Punjab is a 2007 Indian film in Hindi/English language directed by Manish Acharya. It is a mockumentary on a singing competition called "Desi Idol" hosted by a meat company based on the Indian Idol / American Idol and the likes. This was the director's debut film. The director captures the audience with the peppy prelude of the famous song "Apni Toh Jaise Taise" from the 1981 hit Hindi film Laawaris ( = Orphan or Bastard) for his opening credits. Smart move!!



Loins Of Punjab is a meat company that hosts a singing competition occurring during one weekend and catering to South Asians predominantly Indian community from New York and New Jersey areas. Bokade Event Management is given the contract for this event. Enter the candidates who are participating in the event:

Preeti Patel from Edison, New Jersey (whose passion is to sing, but her parents are pushing her into mainstream engineering and medicine just like any typical desi family)




Sania Rahman from Lower East Side, New York (an Indian born and brought up in US, aspiring to become an actress but does not understand or read or write a single word in Hindi)



Balraj Deepak Gupta from West Village, New York (a gay rapper who can RAP only with swearing words but looking for a name in the music industry)



Rrita Ishaan Kapoor from Kings Point, Long Island, New York (a socialite who always want to one up another socialite - Bubbles Sabharwal - and joins the competition only to prove that point and has little no knowledge of music / singing)



Vikram Tejwani from Gramercy Park, New York (who lives and breathes facts of all kinds and his job is being outsourced to India soon)



And finally Josh Cohen from GlobalCap Partners, Midtown, New York (an aspiring singer and loves India, in love with Opama Menon - an Indian girl).



The plot follows the candidates and their effort to get through the competition and win it. But they are not without their quirks. The Patels are very miser but they go as far as bribing the judges so Preeti can win. Sania faces her troubles with Hindi and has mishaps through the way. Josh Cohen only knows two songs - Aye Dil Aye Mushkil from the 1957 classic Pyaasa and Indian National Anthem. However, he loves Indian movies and in love with Opama. However they do face ridicule from other desis and to the extent that Opama gets frustrated. Then there is Rrita Kapoor who tries to persuade, blackmail, buy or threaten the other contestants to leave so she can win the ultimate prize - $25,000 in cash. And finally the event manager, Mr. Bokade, with his unique way of handling the entire episode.

As everyone try to outdo each other, we fall in love with the characters. There is no basic story other than the contest, but each character shows a glimpse of their life that leaves us wanting to know them more. Manish Acharya has directed the movie very well and a brilliant job with the actors he picked. Incidentally Manish Acharya acted in the movie as Vikram Tejwani. Pity that he lost his life to a horse riding accident at a very young age. Singers Shaan and Anushka Manchanda appear as the celebrity judges in the finals. The closing credits finally gives a chance to the rapper Balraj Deepak Gupta with the song Dhaki Naki Naki Naki Dhin Tara.

Loins of Punjab Presents is a hilarious comedy even though there were a few moments of lullness that might have cause you to lose a little. Yet worth a pick. Look to Netflix or online on Youtube to enjoy this movie.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books under Ghostwalker series, Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A definite pick if you are into paranormal romance with a touch of eroticism and the unbelievable.

Mind Game is the second book in the Ghostwalker series by Christine Feehan and published in August of 2004. Ghostwalkers are a group of women and men who are sent on special missions. They have psychic abilities, physical abilities (both enhanced genetically and natural) and some abilities more rare than others. However every Ghostwalker would need an "anchor" to draw back the psychic backlash from other ghostwalkers, especially that would instigate violence. As the series proceeds we get introduced to four teams of Ghostwalkers each enhanced in more ways than one can think.



Shadow Game left us off at a juncture where Dr. Lily Whitney-Miller and Captain Ryland Miller find the video tapes of several other girls that her father Dr. Peter Whitney had experimented on long before the Team One of Ryland Miller came on. And they were also unsure if Team One was the only team that Dr. Whitney was involved in. To add to the blow Lily finds out that Dr. Whitney was not her biological father and she didn’t have a clue of her birth of where she came from. Whitney had taken orphans from around the world who had psychic capabilities for his experiments. And when they failed, or more importantly an incident with Lily made him decide to disband his experiment, relocate the girls elsewhere but adopt Lily as his own. Now Lily takes upon the task to find these girls, provide for in terms of money and shelter and also give them support to control their abilities.

With much search she finds one called Dahlia Le Blanc in a private sanitarium in Louisiana run by the Sisters of Mercy but owned by Whitney's Trust. Nicolas "Nico" Trevane takes upon himself to find her and bring her back to safe haven in Lily's mansion. Dahlia possesses an extraordinary telekinetic gift among other gifts that Dr. Whitney enhances it to the fullest. She was the fire with her emotional imbalances to Nico's ice. Despite the fears that Lily has for Nico with his flat and cold eyes, she had no choice but to comply with them. Nico sets on his search but lands into far more bigger trouble than he imagined. Someone is after Dahlia to terminate her and he has no clue who that is. And neither does Dahlia. But she has to trust Nico to help her get out. Thus the plot begins.

With the trust gradually building between them, the heat of attraction builds. Lily had feared that Nico would be unemotional. However, in the book we see how slowly inch by inch Dahlia melts away Nico's ice and stamps herself permanently in his heart. He clearly falls for her and willing to give his life for her safety and to keep his promise to Lily. No two characters have been better suited than these two in this book. However, they do have to overcome the secrets that they hold hidden with each other and fight as one with the unknown enemy before to reach safety of Lily's home.

Another fun read by Christine and I was left on the edge of my sofa (precisely) watching these two travel through dangers and survive. I hope you will enjoy it the same way I enjoyed.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A definite pick if you are into paranormal romance with a touch of eroticism and the unbelievable.

Shadow Game is the first book in the Ghostwalker Series by Christine Feehan published in August 2003. When I saw the movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine (re-run on the TV sometime in 2011), it spiked my interest in super-soldiers and genetically engineered humans. I was already reading Christine Feehan's The Carpathian Series. Incidentally she has written quite a few novels on super-soldiers too. And that's how I ended up reading this series.



Ghostwalkers are a group of women and men who are sent on special missions. They have psychic abilities, physical abilities (both enhanced genetically and natural) and some abilities more rare than others. However every Ghostwalker would need an "anchor" to draw back the psychic backlash from other ghostwalkers, especially that would instigate violence. As the series proceeds we get introduced to four teams of Ghostwalkers each enhanced in more ways than one can think. The imagination of the author in bringing on new abilities injected to these super-soldiers is amazing. In the first book, Shadow Game, we get introduced to Team One and the pairing between Captain Ryland Miller and Lily Whitney.

Dr. Peter Whitney successfully enhances the psychic abilities of a group of men working for the Special Forces. However there are problems with their enhanced abilities especially being unable to block the psychic overload around them. Captain Ryland Miller heads this team and feels himself responsible for any success or disaster of his men. He had made the decision and his men had followed into this experimental nightmare. As the experiment progresses and Dr. Whitney fails to stop mishaps (some men lose their lives), he brings in his daughter Dr. Lily Whitney for help.

The instant attraction that she feels for Captain Miller is above charts which confuses her a lot. However she also feels Miller's hate towards her father which she doesn’t understand. However she eventually learns that Dr. Whitney had separated he men from anchors and might have murdered the ones that were failures. And he suspects he would be the next. She also notices that there is open animosity between her father and Colonel Frank Higgens, Miller’s immediate commanding officer. That night when her father misses the dinner date with her, she takes it as a normal thing as it had happened several times before. However although being having no psychic abilities he somehow contacts her right before he dies or she thinks him dying. Before she feels him being dumped into the ocean he tasks her to help Ryland Miller and his team and also find "the others". She is left at a loss for words and emotions before she realizes that someone at the Donovan's (the company for which Dr. Whitney and Lily worked for) could be the one murdered her father.

After getting her emotions and feelings gathered she confronts Ryland Miller as to why he had come in between and broke the contact with her father. She learns lot more about the situation his team is in during the time. As promise to her father and honoring his dying wish she opens up her home for Miller's team. Fearing that they will be killed, she helps them escape the facility and into her huge home. She helps the men by teaching them techniques and exercises to rebuild their mental barriers. In parallel she also tries to find who has killed her father with help of Ryland Miller. But there were still so many pieces of puzzles to be solved. Who were "the others" that her father spoke of in his dying wish?  Can she find them? And if she found them what will she do with them? How could she even begin to look for them? What happened in the experiments that killed Miller's men? Will the remaining men survive and be able to live in the outside world by themselves? Who killed her father? Was Colonel Frank Higgens responsible for it? Or someone higher than him are behind all this? And to add to all of this she could not understand if the tremendous attraction she has towards Ryland Miller, is it true or has been enhanced thru pheromones injected between them?

Certainly a complicated plot with complex characters involved. I cannot deny that there is definite eroticism in the book as a parallel plot between the lead character along with the main story going along. However I do have to tell that I fell for the actual plot rather than the eroticism for me to continue on with this book as well as the series. As always there are some repeat paragraphs through the book where the author writes again and again about a character, but that's how her books are written so they are there - You can skip them or read on.

All in all another series to definitely read and know about the generic experiments that are done (most of them secretly) through these stories, know the people and watch their fight to live normal closer.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: An excellent work that revolves around the basic emotion between two people - believe.

At First Sight was the sequel to True Believer published in 2005 and written by Nicholas Sparks. The story here begins a few months after where True Believer ends. Plot opens with Jeremy Marsh and Lexie Darnell getting ready to have Jeremy move from New York to Boone Creek, North Carolina. We know that in the conclusion of True Believer, Lexie tells Jeremy that she is pregnant and it would be a girl per Doris (she is the resident psychic). But they don’t share with anyone except Jeremy's friend Alvin and Lexie's grandmother Doris.



Now back in Boone Creek, Jeremy comes across a writer's block while the stress around him builds up - setting up a new house; keeping the baby a secret, planning for wedding, and above all the friendship between Lexie and Rodney. If you remember Rodney from the prequel, he is the deputy sheriff and had wanted Lexie for a long time until Jeremy came along. In this plot, Rodney is in relationship with Rachel, Lexie's longtime friend but have trouble. To add to all this, Jeremy receives an anonymous email with just a line "how do you know the baby is yours?" Already stressed Jeremy fights with Lexie over this. In the meanwhile Rachel goes away without telling anyone leaving Lexie supporting Rodney as a friend more and more. Much to the frustration of Jeremy, a follow-up email arrives a few days later that says "Hasn't she told you the truth? Read Doris's journal. You'll find the answer there."  Given the fact that Jeremy had got divorced because of his inability to have children, these emails cause more suspicion in his mind. This time around when Jeremy confronts Lexie they end up in a bitter fight and he leaves Boone Creek to New York albeit to attend his bachelor party.

Will Jeremy come back? What is the truth in Doris's book? Who is sending those emails? Will the problems between Rachel and Rodney clear or will they cause more rift between Lexie and Jeremy? What about the baby? Is she really his? What is the fate of Jeremy and Lexie? Will Jeremy get over his writer's block? Do read to know the answers.

I must say that this was a heart-wrenching book. So much grief and so much sad happens with brief glimpses of happiness that this book left me with a heavy heart than his other books. Typical of his writing style that someone has to die in the end, here also someone dies. But not necessarily I have to agree with the writer on the ending. I would have loved it to be a much more happier ending. However, his title says it all - At First Sight do you believe everything you see or have patience to believe others to give you the sight. That is the crux of the plot so it perhaps makes sense with the ending.

All in all a good book pursuing that very basic human emotion.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 2.5 / 5
My Recommendation: A confusing character for me but a good pick for a one-time watch.

Deadpool is the eight installment in the X-Men series based on the character of the same name and released in 2016. It was portrayed by Ryan Reynolds. The movie is about a superhero who doesn’t want to be called a superhero and at the same time tries to help everyone in need as best as he can.



Despite the humungous box office success, I can say that I am not a fan of this super hero. Why you ask? Well, go on and read my take.

The basic plot revolves around a former special forces operative Wade Wilson who works as a mercenary in New York city. He helps people in his style and doesn’t like to be called as a superhero. He meets an escort Vanessa Carlysle, dates her and proposes to marry her. However he gets diagnosed with cancer and moves apart from Vanessa. When a mysterious recruiter approaches him to give him an experimental cure for his cancer, he goes for it so he could be with Vanessa forever. He meets Ajax and Angel Dust who inject him with serum supposedly to cure cancer. But he learns that they are creating super-soldiers with mutant genes and to be sold as slaves to rich customers. Wade tries to escape but he gets converted to a creatures with burnt like scars all over his body although his cancer gets cured.



What follows next is his acceptance of becoming Deadpool, his attempt to get back to Vanessa, his attempt to use his powers for the good and finally his goal to destroy the laboratory where Ajax was producing more such super-soldiers and eventually get rid of Ajax and Angel Dust.



This was the first time I had seen this character in a film and not having read about him before as well I went in with no expectations. I can say that I liked a few things about Deadpool and a few things I didn’t.

What I liked about the movie:

1) The non-superhero complex of the Wade - someone who doesn’t want to be recognized even though he has done good for others. That grabbed my attention.
2) The opening credits - Super clever by the director and cinematographer. Who would put on screen "Produced by Asshats"? Super brilliant. Not only an eye-catcher but also a conversation point.







3) The flow of the story - Its part flashback and part current. The mix tied the entire plot very well.

What I did not like about the movie:

1) The constant bickering and yapping of Wade was getting on my nerve after a certain time. He just doesn’t shut up. I wished that he could keep quiet for at least two minutes on the screen when he is shown. But no, every frame he was in he was talking. Aargh
2) The "f" bombs - Oh there were so many of them. At a point I thought that if this movie was playing in India more than half the movie would be just "beeps".
3) Connecting to the character - Normally when I watch a movie I end up connecting to the characters so I can enjoy the emotions and words much more. Here I just couldn’t connect to Deadpool. No matter how much I tried he just ended up on the outside of my border refusing to come in to connect.
4) Deadpool appeared in X-Mens Origins: Wolverine first before he had his own movie. But since I could not connect to the character I couldn't place him in that movie either until I read online.

All in all a good one-time entertainer if you can survive the "F" bombs.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A good book for all critics out there who look for proof for everything

True Believer was written by Nicholas Sparks and published in April 2005. This was the first book of his that I had ever read. An accidental pick up book I must say that put me on track to read some of his books (7 in total I have read so far). Initially when I had started this book I clearly remember trying to connect to the author's style, the plot, the characters and the setting; and some chapters I was bored. But as I plowed through the book, somewhere in the middle everything started falling into place. All of a sudden it just clicked to me. And there after this book and six others I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Here is my take on this book.



Jeremy Marsh, a debunker on the supernatural, was from New York; 37-year old handsome, divorced and part of media elite, living and breathing New York. He also had his own fame on National Television. So what was he doing in Boone Creek, North Carolina? That's exactly what Lexie Darnell thought about him when had first arrived in the town. Jeremy had come to Boone Creek to investigate the ghostly lights that appear in the town cemetery but only on certain moon phases. Lexie runs the town library and was left orphan when her mother was killed in an accident. She has her grandmother Doris McClellan to take care of. Doris was the one who had invited Jeremy to investigate.

Jeremy, being a natural debunker, had his reservations on the truth about ghost lights but couldn’t resist from coming. However, meeting Lexie, spikes his interest further towards her. Lexie however stays guarded of him, even though she agrees to be his tour guide. Jeremy expected this to be a quick work and head back to New York. But Lexie had changed his plans and thoughts. Through trepidation and hesitation, both Lexie and Jeremy grow closer to each other and eventually start falling in love. But Lexie knows that Jeremy is an outsider and wouldn’t stay while her future is with Boone Creek.

Will Jeremy crack the secret behind the ghost lights? Will the media be exposed to it? Will Jeremy go back to New York or stay? Will Lexie go with him or stay in Boone Creek as she wanted to? Will they over come their skepticism about love and heart, give-in to their feelings? Well, needless to say you have to read it to know.

As I said, it started off a bit rocky for me, but once I got into it I loved the book. Hope you enjoy too.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
My Recommendation: A perfect Valentine's Day gift for that one love in your life. Or simply for that lazy day when you want to just cuddle up and watch something magical and beautiful at the same time.

An Affair to Remember is a 1957 American classic starring Cary Grant as Nicolò (Nickie) Ferrante and Deborah Kerr as Terry McKay. It was a remake of the 1939 hit film Love Affair starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Incidentally both movies have been written and directed by Leo McCarey. And both movies are the first and original remake to win an Oscar nomination for Best Song.



Although An Affair to Remember was nominated for four Oscars ( Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Song and Best Original Score) but walked away with none. An apt movie for my post marking the Valentine's Day in my review blog for this year.


More with pictures behind the cut...Collapse )
PS: I have yet to watch the 1939 original Love Affair that started all this obsession, love and emotion towards this movie.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Yes, go for it as it will give one to look at the same scenario from different vantage points and how a bend in the road changes courses

Nicholas Spark's fifth novel was titled A Bend in the Road and published in 2001. When one reaches a crossroad one has multiple choices to make and move forward. However when the road traveling has just one bend, what do you do? Take it and move on or walk back? That's exactly what happens for Miles Ryan, not once but twice. Once when his wife Missy Ryan is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The second time when he has to make a choice between the love found second time around and bringing justice to Missy.



Sarah Andrews moved to New Berlin from Baltimore after her divorce because she was unable to give birth to kids. She settles down as a second-grade teacher. Miles Ryan is the deputy sheriff of the town who was still coping from the loss of his wife yet a doting father to his seven-year old son Jonah. Sarah incidentally is one of Jonah's teachers too who helps him bring up his grades. Through Jonah, Sarah and Miles meet, get to know each other and eventually fall in love. All is rosy and good until they reach the bend in the road.

New evidence in a different case connects to Missy's hit-and-run accident. Miles gets obsessed with it and almost goes over the bend that gets him suspended from his duty. Sarah also finds a big secret that pertains to Missy's hit-and-run accident. What will Sarah do? Will she share it with Miles? Will Miles go for justice in his way? Will the road for Miles and Sarah end here?

Sparks spins the story weaving the emotions and feelings between the three primary characters very well. He writes the story in a third person's point of view so we do know that there is a fourth primary character too. Also he gives the reader a choice to view the crux of the story from different vantage points, thus giving the reader an ability to come to their own conclusion despite the ending. Another book of his that leaves me to tears and breaks my heart every page I flip through - sometimes in a good way and sometimes wrenching it off my soul -  even though it makes me want to watch a cartoon after putting the book down.

All in all another good book from Nicholas Sparks. I wonder why this has not been made into a movie yet.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For Review on Morrigan's Cross (Book I): Go here.
For Review on Dance of the Gods (Book II): Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Yes go for it for you will be left not knowing what happened to the delicious Cian.

Valley of Silence is the third and final instalment of the The Circle Trilogy written by Nora Roberts and published in 2006. I had written the reviews for the first two books a year ago which can be found at the above links. Although had read the third book a long time ago, I finally got around to write the review now. Hope that you will find it interesting to pick up the book.



In Morrigan's Cross (Book I) we got introduced to the crew of six people from various times, worlds and skills to fight against the ancient Vampire Queen, Lilith – A 12th Century Sorcerer, Hoyt Mac Cionaoith (McKenna), the first of whom the Goddess recruits and transferred to 21st century thru a portal. The Witch, Glenna Ward, from the 21st century on this world. The Scholar, Moira, Princess of Geall from the 21st century another world. The Shape-Shifter, Larkin, brother-kin to Moira from Geall, again 21stcentury another world. The Warrior, Blair Nola Bridgit Murphy, a demon-hunter from 21st century on this world. And finally, the Vampire, Cian (Cain) Mac Cionaoith (McKenna), Hoyt’s twin-brother who was turned to a vampire in 12th century but now resides in New York city in 21stcentury on this world. The Time of Testing has passed and the crew learn friendship and love (Glenna and Hoyt fall in love with each other and get married) along with the key behind them being brought together.

In Dance of the Goods (Book II), prepare for war taking them to the second month, The Time of Learning. They forge a bond, become a unit and travel to Geall where the final showdown would happen. Even the Vampire - Cian - gets entry into the Valley of Geall through the portal further more cementing that he is indeed needed to fight Lilith. Again love is found between Larkin and Blair. My original opinion was very less for this book of the trilogy but in retrospective I believe that Blair's strong personality complemented Larkin's tenacious and yet soft nature perfectly.

Now the final month of preparation, The Time of Knowing has come. It’s the time for the six of them use their head and heart together, know everything they can they have to do even at the cost of their personal sacrifices, know that without that Lilith will be undefeated. Just as the six had come through the portal with their weapons and elements, so also did Lilith got through the portal with her minions and vampires. How she could get through even being a Vampire Queen could not only attest to the amount of power and magic she wielded but also that she has a powerful sorcerer in cohorts with her. Who could that be? Another item for the six to know. Most times the knowing comes to them with a shield to protect or a sword to shred the vampires. But sometimes knowing comes with a slice of knife too just like when Moira finds out that not only her mother but her father who was killed by Lilith's vampires years ago when she was just a child.

The book opens with Moira going through the ritual of pulling free the sword from its stone scabbard. If she was a true Queen of Geall she would be able pull the sword out and be crowned the queen. The base of the scabbard had inscription thus:

SHEATHED BY THE HAND OF GODS
FREED BY THE HAND OF A MORTAL
AND SO WITH THIS SWORD
SHALL THAT HAND RULE GEALL

In every sense Moira made a queen that day when she pulled the sword out and the symbol of claddaugh forms on her arm. And no wonder Cian's unbeating heart fell for her - slender and slight but magnificent as any Amazon warrior; regal, fierce and suddenly beautiful with brilliant eyes. And it was time for Moira to know what she would be doing as a queen and also know for herself as a woman and a heart calling to the unbeating one.

Cian, the most complex character of all the six, falls for the dove fray eyed Queen Moira.  Complex definitely since he was human before he was turned a vampire; a sorcerer before he became an entrepreneur; a warrior before he became a lover - filled with pride that he would not bow to Lilith;  loyalty that he has towards his brother Cian; kinship he had towards King and Larkin; brotherly love towards Glenna and Blair; courage to stand against the one that made him; brave to stand with the six even though he knew many feared and love towards only one. Complex indeed.

As a Queen, the first and foremost responsibility for Moira would be to defend her world against Lilith and save her world and other worlds alike with help of her five warriors. With reluctant but complete support from her uncle Riddick and his family, her soldiers like Tynan and her people she forms an army to move forward; a strategy in place to the face the Vampire Queen. In the midst of this Cian and Moira reach out to each other to grasp at the love they have in the event they don’t make it out of the war. This was the knowing for both of them too.

Now, how they will fight Lilith, what more steps they will take? What about the loss they face? The hurt and pain? The consequences and decisions? All this molded into an intricate plot by Nora Roberts finally culminating at the Valley of Silence. I will say no more and urge you to pick up the book to read and know for yourselves the rest of the tale. Happy Reading!!
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For the review of all the books: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A thoroughly enjoyable book and definite pick for young readers

The fifth and final instalment in the series Percy Jackson & The Olympians is titled The Last Olympian published in 2009. Rick Riordan concludes the adventures of sixteen year old demi-go Percy Jackson (son of mortal woman and Greek god Poseidon) with this book in which he leads his friends to defend Mount Olympus. This book also reveals the Great Prophecy that everyone feared would come true and cause a war between the three gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (also known as The Big Three).



And here is the Great Prophecy:

A Half-Blood of the eldest gods,
Shall reach sixteen against all odds,
And see the world in endless sleep.
The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap,
A single choice shall end his days,
Olympus to preserve or raze

Very obvious with the prophecy that the Mount Olympus is the primary stage here and no question there about who the half-blood of the eldest gods would be. It's Percy and no other. However one wonders who is the hero whose soul is reaped.  Well to know that we need to go to the beginning of the plot in this book. It opens with Charles Beckendorf (a demi-god and son of mortal woman and Greek god Hephaestus, a master smith) informing Percy and Rachel Dare to enact their surprise attack on The Princess Andromeda. While Poseidon's underwater palace is under siege by the Titan Oceanus. The half-bloods also come to know that they have a spy in the camp who was giving the information to Luke - whose body is now the host to Kronos, the youngest of the Titans. In all the midst of this Percy is confused with his feelings towards Annabeth. And Ares and Apollo cabins half-bloods are at war with each other.

With so much going on around him, unable to take the emotional hit, Percy decides to leave the Camp with Nico (a demi-god and son of mortal woman and Greek god Hades) to understand how to defeat Kronos / Luke. Nico had revealed at the end of The Battle of Labyrinth that he knows how to kill Kronos / Luke forever. In the journey he bathes through the River Styx to come out invincible except for one spot even though Nico tries to betray him for a little while. Percy comes out of the Underworld in New York City and sends Nico back to convince his father Hades to fight against Kronos. Will Nico be successful? Time only will tell.

In New York City, Percy calls all his campers (Ares cabin half-bloods don’t join initially due to their war with Apollo cabin half-bloods but eventually join forces) to prepare for the battle. But the gods refuse to help them defend Olympus much to the shock of the half-bloods. Now all falls on their shoulders to not only save Mount Olympus but also defeat Kronos / Luke and save the earth from a much much bigger war. What follows is a strategy that Percy sometimes tries to make it up on the fly and other times with aid of his friends moves forward in the battle closing in on Kronos / Luke.  Follow this final adventure through the steps and eyes of these brave half-bloods. Know what key role Rachel Dare would play in here, whats the relationship between Luke and Annabeth, how they save the humans from the battle, who all ally with Percy Jackson in the fight, watch their stand-down with the Titans Prometheus and Hyperion, and despite the losses at their end how they endure the battle. In parallel to this fight the gods on Mount Olympus are having their own battle with the ancient and terrible monster Typhon.  Everyone in the end learns that all this battle could have been avoided if the gods had simply claimed their half-bloods and given them as well as the minor gods the respect they needed.

Rick has brought everything to life with this tale and the previous books. Some moments and situations it was definitely difficult to imagine while reading yet they were so capturing that once cannot put down the book for want of imagination. A successful series completed with this book and concluding the journey of Percy Jackson.

Or so we thought until Rachel who becomes the new Oracle reveals the next Prophecy:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call.
To storm or fire, the world must fall.
An oath to keep with the final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

And Rick continues the journey of Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase with the book The Lost Hero in the Heroes of Olympus series. Now we just have to read the series to know who the seven half-bloods would be and what entails them in this journey.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For the review of all the books: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A thoroughly enjoyable book and definite pick for young readers

The Battle of the Labyrinth is the fourth instalment in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan which was published in 2008. In this book the demi-god Percy Jackson (son of mortal woman and Greek god Poseidon) is fifteen-years old and his adventure starts in the high school he joins as a freshman. As always his friends Annabeth Chase (a demi-god - daughter of mortal man and Greek goddess Athena), Grover Underwood - a satyr and Tyson - Percy's half-brother and a Cyclops.



At the school orientation Percy and his friend Rachel Elizabeth Dare who can see through the Mist (an illusion that demi-gods create around them when they are facing battles and monsters or doing things that a human being would not consider normal) are attacked by two Empousai - Greek monsters controlled by Hecate. They fight the Empousai but in the process set fire to the school causing Percy to flee back to Camp Half-Blood.  Things are not as smooth at the Camp either. Annabeth is upset with him that he had befriended a mortal. Grover is in trouble with the Council of Cloven Elders as he is unable to provide proof of Pan - Greek god of wild, shepherds and flocks - that he had felt in the previous instalment, The Titan's Curse. Annabeth is also working on a secret project with Clarisse. New sword instructor is added to the Camp called Quintus - who no one knows where he was from or what he is.

Troubles seem to not end yet for Percy. During a competition at the Camp, Annabeth and Percy discover the entrance to The Labyrinth - An elaborate structure from Greek Mythology that was supposed to be designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Annabeth and Clarisse mention to the Camp Council of War that they suspect that Luke (a demi-god and son of mortal woman and Greek god Hermes) will use that entrance to attack the Camp and will use Princess Ariadne's magical string that was assumed to be in possession of the inventor Daedalus (who built the Labyrinth in the first place).  Shortly after the Prophecy is spoken by The Oracle and given to Annabeth. Here how the Prophecy goes:

You shall delve in the darkness of the endless maze,
The dead, the traitor, and the lost one raise.
You shall rise or fall by the ghost king's hand,
The Child of Athena's final stand.
Destroy with a hero's final breath,
And lose a love to worse than death

Thus begins the journey again for the young heroic demi-gods. Despite the warning Chiron gives that three is the traditional number for a quest, Annabeth insists on making it a four-member team by including Tyson, Percy and Grover with her.  The same night Percy also receives a message from Nico (a demi-god and son of mortal woman and Greek god Hades) that he will bring back his sister by exchanging her soul with one who cheated death. The following morning the four demi-gods descend into the Labyrinth per the prophecy to face Luke and any other hurdles or monsters in store for them.

Rick has very intricately wove this plot as before connecting all the strings at the right place. Never once I got lost in the book just like the questers who couldn’t or rather refused to lose in the Labyrinth. The questers come across Hera - wife of one of the three sisters of Greek god Zeus, monster Kampe - a fearsome she-dragon - and her captive Briares - one of Tyson's personal heroes, escape the telkhine from the forge of Hephestus, Calypso - daughter of Titan Atlas who is cursed The Fates to fall-in love with the heroes that crash land in her island, face another Greek god Antaeus - son of Poseidon and Gaia and other Greek gods and monsters. All along the search for Pan continues in parallel. Rachel Date joins their  quest too aiding them.

Who would be the traitor per the prophecy? What about the Ghost Kind? Annabeth fears that she would lose Percy to death per Prophecy's last line. Whom do they lose? Does Percy face Nico to defend his soul from being traded for Nico's sister's soul? Will Grover find Pan? Who is Pam in reality? Will they endure the battle at the Camp with the flood of monsters coming thru the Labyrinth and defeat them?

Tale so well spun where the demi-gods are stuck between the Titans and Greek gods war, one wants to rush to the next and final instalment to see the fates of all the demi-gods and the gods. But, don’t rush yourself. Go through the adventure, be with Percy and his questers, one step at a time and I promise you it will just be much more  sweeter in the end.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For the review of all the books: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A thoroughly enjoyable book and definite pick for young readers

Titan's Curse is the third installment of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan and published in 2007. Looks like the trailer for the movie version of this book has been released in February of this year although there has been no official release date. I am not even sure if the trailer is a valid one. Here's the first look at the trailer.



However, here is my take on the book. In this book the plot revolves around now fourteen-year old demi-god Percy Jackson (son of a mortal woman and Greek god Poseidon) as he takes help of his friends to rescue Annabeth Chase, another demi-god and his love interest - daughter of mortal man and Greek goddess Athena - and the Greek goddess Artemis - Goddess of Hunt, Forest, Hills, Archery and the Moon - both being kidnapped. This book also shows the remaining journey for Thalia Grace after her soul has been restored and her body is returned in the previous book, The Sea of Monsters.



As chaperones in delivering the two sibling half-bloods Nico and Bianca di Angelo; Percy, Annabeth and Thalia face the manticore named Dr. Thorn - Persian legendary creature similar to the Egyptian sphinx. It has the body of a red lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth. Dr. Thorn kidnaps Annabeth in the fight the ensues even though Artemis and her hunters come to aid. Artemis goes on her own to hunt an Olympus-destroying monster while the hunters and the remaining half-bloods are sent back to Camp Half-Blood along with her brother Apollo - Greek god of Sun. While at the camp Percy and Zoe Nightshade - lieutanant to Artemis - have similar dreams about Artemis and Annabeth being in danger. Another prophecy by the Oracle is delivered to Zoe shortly which is as follows:

Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan's curse must one withstand,
And one shall perish by a parent's hand

Thus starts the journey again for Percy, this time a lot more at stake than he could bargain for. He along with his friends travel West per the prophecy to free Artemis. In the process they meet monsters and foes / allies alike - more than one confrontation with Luke Castellan (a demi-god son of mortal woman and Greek god Hermes); Atlas - the general of Titan army; Nemean Lion; Ermythian Boar; encounter with Greek gods Ares and Aphrodite; Spartoi - skeleton armed with weapons; Nereus - eldest son of god Pontus and Gaia; Frederick Chase - Annabeth's father and the dragon Ladon. Also one gets to see the lives and paths of Thalia, Zoe and Nico along-side; all working to prevent the onset of the Great Prophecy.

This returns me to the prophecy proclaimed in this book. There was so much grief, hurt and loss in this prophecy that I had actually taken a break to read this book after this chapter. However, I renewed my feelings towards it and finished reading it successfully. Glad I did because there were so many places I visited and so much more about the characters I learned. That has made me continue reading the series.

All in all another good book to pick up and read.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For the review of all the books: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A thoroughly enjoyable book and definite pick for young readers

The second book in the series Percy Jackson & The Olympians was titled The Sea Of Monsters and published in April of 2006. Rick Riordan continues the adventures of the demi-god Percy Jackson (son of mortal woman and the Greek go Poseidon) in the new school that Percy joins the following year. He is thirteen year old in this book. The movie version of the book was released in 2013 which I havent watched yet. So my take is solely based on characters imagined from the first movie/book and new ones introduced in this book.



The story starts with Percy in a new school where an odd kind of child - Tyson - is being bullied by kids who are human-form of Laestrygonians - giant cannibals from Greek mythology. Annabeth comes to Percy's rescue when he tries to defend Tyson and takes them to Camp Half-Blood. They arrive at a point when the camp is being attacked by two bronze Colchis Bulls. Tyson defeats them and saves the camp. However Thalia's tree has been poisoned so the camp is left vulnerable to attacks. Percy dreams of Grover and realizes that Grover is captured at some place where he found The Golden Fleece - the fleece of the gold-hair[a] winged ram, which was held in Colchis - that can help cure Thalia's tree of it's poison. The camp also has new counsellor - Tantalus who refuses to send Percy on a quest for the fleece. Instead the prophecy is given to Clarisse La Rue - daughter of mortal woman and Greek God Ares. This time the prophecy reads:

You shall sail the iron ship with warriors of bone,
You shall find what you seek and make it your own,
But despair for your life entombed within stone,
And fail without friends, to fly home alone.

Clarisse sets on her quest to find the Golden Fleece while Percy, Annabeth and Tyson runaway from the camp to find Grover. Thus begins the second adventure for Percy Jackson. He comes across Luke again in this episode but not as an ally but as a foe. They - Percy, Annabeth and Tyson - get attacked by various monsters through this adventure - a hydra on a swamp; a sea monster named Charybdis; Scylla - another sea monster who lived on the opposite side of where Charybdis lived; the sorceress Circe - daughter of Hekate - who runs a spa and resort luring men to her island and turning them to pigs; crew of notorious pirate Blackbeard - son of Greek god Ares and finally the Golden Fleece.

An amazing ride it was for me through the wonders - some astonishing and some frightening - of this book. Read through it yourself to see what the prophecy given to Clarisse means. How it impacts their search for Golden Fleece and what do the camp half-blood demi-gods learn in the end. It wasn’t too hard to visualize the characters and at one point they became too real for me. All this had put me on edge and craving for the next book in the series to see what the fate of the rest of the half-bloods would become of.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A thoroughly enjoyable book and definite pick for young readers

The Lightning Thief is the first in the five part series of books titled Percy Jackson & The Olympians. Published in 2005 it was written by Rick Riordan, first young adult novel by this author. The plot revolves around 12-year old Percy Jackson, a demigod - son of a mortal woman and the Greek god Poseidon; Annabeth Chase, another demigod  - daughter of mortal man and the Greek goddess Athena and Grover Underwood, a satyr with goat-legs.  All three are sent on a quest to prevent a war between the Greed gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. The book has been made into a film so pretty much everyone knows the detailed plot. I had watched the movie first before I read the series. The movie provided a lot more meat for me to add to my imagination that I would have missed out on. The book is written in first-person narrated by Percy Jackson. Here is my take on it.



The plot opens with Percy Jackson, a 12-year old with ADHD and dyslexia living in New York City, on a field trip to Metropolitan Museum Art. His confrontation with class bully while standing up for his friend lands him in trouble with Mrs. Dodds, algebra teacher. She takes him away inside the museum, possible for punishment. But to Percy's horror she turns in to one of the three Furies from Greek Mythology and attacks him. In comes his Latin teacher Mr. Brunner, on wheelchair, and throws his pen at Percy that changes to a strange sword. Percy uses the sword to defend himself and kill the Fury. And magically the sword disappears and so does Mr. Brunner.

Thus starts the adventure of his life that he could ever imagine. Beginning with a summer trip to beach with his mother, when all seemed good, Grover comes in the middle of the night to take them to a summer camp of a different kind so he could be saved from danger. They are attacked by a Minotaur - Greek creature with the head of a bull and body of a man - that Percy kills with the Minotaur's horn after losing his mother. He arrives with Grover at Camp Half - Blood - the weird camp he thought - that is a camp for training demi-gods. He finds that he was not the only demi-god alive. But what he doesn’t understand was what was stolen and why is it that he is being targeted. As he settles into the camp, after one particular incident involving another monster, he gets claimed by the god Poseidon.

And the journey / adventure continues for Percy along with Annabeth and Grover in search of the missing item, trying to prevent a war between three powerful gods and also restore the stolen item. He finds out that Mr. Brunner is infact a Centaur - Greek mythological creature with human upper body and horse lower body. He is sent on a quest to the realm of Hades, assuming he was the most likely culprit. Where does the journey lead Percy to? Is Hades really at fault? What was stolen? And who stole it? Are the assumptions that Percy and his friends make of the prophecy same or different?  All that we get to see in this fantasy story spun by Rick Riordan

Finally, here is the prophecy given to Percy in this book.
You must go west, and face the god who has turned.
You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.
You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.
And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Definite pick if you are looking for a good mystery.

Domestic Malice was the 38th book published in the series based on famed TV Series Murder, She Wrote. Written by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher the book was released in October 2012. Most of the books as part of this series are pretty easy to read and fun. However, this particular one touches one of the dark corners in human nature - explores about domestic abuse. Per statistics there are so many people abused on a daily basis in their own homes - be it a child, man or woman it didn’t matter for the abuser. I was glad that Donald touched upon this grim topic in this book.



The book opens with a heated debate at the town council meeting on whether funding should be provided to the women's shelter. Richard Mauser, an elected member of the Town Council and owner of a metal-fabricating factory was the only one against the funding. Edwina Wilkerson - who had spearheaded the establishment of the shelter two years ago -  and Seth Hazlitt had shared their strong points on why the shelter should continue getting funds that tipped the voting scale. Jessica Fletcher who also aided and supported the shelter was very pleased at the outcome. She showed her support by volunteering at the shelter once a week. And she also knew first-hand that the shelter had indeed helped many wives, children and in one case a husband who were abused by the people they had trusted and loved.

One such day when she was volunteering along-side Edwina, in walks a battered and beaten Myriam Wolcott. Her husband Josh Wolcott, a well known (not necessarily well-liked) business person, had been at Myriam particularly bad that day which caused her to run to the shelter for help. Despite kind words and hopeful options provided by Edwina, Myriam refuses and goes back to her home - which was typical of any victim / survivor in such a situation. A few days later Josh Wolcott is shot in their drive-way by his car. Investigation leads to Myriam Wolcott getting her arrested much to the shock from community - although some agreed that she could have done it unable to take the abuse anymore. Jessica and Edwina were the ones who believed in her innocence and turned every stone to help her even though roadblocks were put across. Her friend Harry Mcgraw comes to her aid inadvertently when he was hired by Myriam's lawyer Cy O'Connor for investigating if anyone else knew about the abuse.

What surprised Jessica was that Myriam's mother, Mrs. Warren Caldwell, had hired Cy O'Connor was not a criminal attorney. What was the reason behind it? Why did Cy O'Connor even consider taking this case? Perhaps to go up the ladder as he always wanted? Why was Mrs. Caldwell so bent upon changing the story that Myriam had stuck to all along - that she never shot her husband? Why was Richard Mauser so much against the women's shelter? What was his hidden motive? Or was he just being a bully that he always was? Why is Mort Metzger reluctant to explore other avenues and find other suspects? Clearly Josh didn’t have a successful business and with his shady schemes he definitely would have had one or two enemies needless to say. And above all why was Myriam succumbing to the pressure by Mrs. Caldwell and her attorney? What is the secret in her family that she is hiding from the world?

An intense journey through life of Myriam Wolcott and the efforts by Jessica Fletcher to prove her innocence. Well written and portrayed right in all aspects. Although it left me with a tear in my heart, I still liked the flow of the plot, the journey and the results. A definite pick if you are looking for a good mystery.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 2 / 5
Recommendation: Not something I would pick even it seems an easy read.

Manhattans & Murder was the second book by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher based on the famed TV series Murder, She Wrote. First published in 1994 the plot in this book takes places in the Big Apple. This was not a particular favorite of mine. Perhaps Donald was still trying to bring the TV Jessica Fletcher into the book accurately (his first book Gin and Daggers had inaccuracies much to the disappointment of fans) or the plot was too scattered. Whatever the reason the book took a while for me to finish even though its under 300 pages.



Jessica Fletcher goes to New York to promote her new book for Christmas. Amongst the book signings and appearing on Larry King Live she had planned to do some much needed shopping - buying Christmas gifts for her friends and items that they have asked her to bring. Little did she expect to meet an old resident of Cabot Cove there and pulled into solving his murder. Waldo Morse who was a resident in Cabot Cove had been last seen ten years ago. Nobody knew where he went but he hadnt left Cabot Cove in good terms. There was conspiracy surrounding him that added to the mystery. Accidentally Jessica bumps into Waldo who at first gets irritated and angry that she recognized him but later asks to meet her the next day. What does happen the next day? You guessed it. Waldo gets shot right in front of Jessica. And the Detective on the scene, Alphonse Rizzi, happens to be a Narcotics one. What surprises her was why a Narcotics detective was on a murder scene and more so how he had arrived in such a short interval of time. While she was still reeling from the shock, she gets bombarded by the reporter Bobby Johnson who doesn’t take no for an answer.

With all that was planned for her visit, she couldn’t afford to miss it. However, she was determined to find out why and who killed Waldo Morse. She meets Joe Charles an acquaintance of Waldo Morse and his  girl ends up dead later. She meets Nancy Morse and she ends up moving away from her current location. Ruth Lazza, the publicity director for her publisher Vaughan Buckley wasn’t making her life any easier. She was all set to cash-in on the news item that Jessica had become because of the murder no matter how much Jessica didn’t like it. What was the connection between Detective Rizzi and Joe Charles? What was Nancy Morse hiding? Where has she disappeared? Was she dead too? And why is Detective Rizzi acting strange?

Jessica's head spins thinking about all the things going wrong around her from the day she saw Waldo Marsh on the street dressed as a Santa. So does our head when we read through it. The folds in the plot were so many, that some of them stuck together thus making the reader miss the lines in between. And don’t forget the fact that the author made Jessica travel from New York to Cabot Cove and back to New York in a matter of 12 hrs which included her meeting the wife and also settling in her home. How can that be possible unless Jessica was using a time traveling machine? Huh! The finale - well what can I say. I like a good ending where the victim or their family gets justice. Here the justice was mis-guided and was not something my stomach could take it. And above all the character Jessica Fletcher itself came with so many flaws. Someone who is portrayed as a genteel and poised, she was shown as scattered and dull.

Well, all in all a book that I could have missed reading it and wouldn’t have regretted it. Sadly!
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Definite pick if you are looking for a good mystery.

Mara's Luncheonette was the one hang-out place in Cabot Cove, Maine along with Worrell Mansion. An agreement that was written between then town and the Worrell family's patriarch 100 years ago, it had been held in trust with the town provided it is maintained and used by the town as a conference center, park, retreat and playground. The agreement gets renewed every five years. As the last surviving family member, Jared Worrell, had been fulfilling those terms. However this particular year, he announces that the Worrell Mansion has been sold to an investment banking firm who would renovate the mansion into an art colony. That, my dear readers, is the center of the plot for this 1995 book Brandy & Bullets written by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher.



With much opposition from the town, Corcoran Group renovated the Worrell Mansion into Worrell Institute of Creativity. During the opening gala tour, Jessica learns that the art colony was not just for artistes and writers to pursue their passion, but also give them ability to get over the block, if they face any. All sounds well and good except that a classical musician by name Maureen Beaumont kills herself with a gunshot to head. Followed by an attempted suicide by another resident artiste. What made it worse was Jessica's friend Norman Huffaker admitted himself into the institute but goes missing a few weeks after he starts staying there. And surrounding all was the political conspiracy that Jessica gets pulled into by Sybil Stewart, Cabot Cove's new mayor.

Enough was enough for Jessica, and she plunges into the suicide / murder mystery to solve it and as well find her friend Norman hoping that he doesn’t end up dead too. What exactly went inside the four walls of the so called institute? How is Norman's disappearance linked to Beaumont's suicide? Why is Sybil so against Jessica's opinions? With her tenacious brain, she marches forward to find the answers even goes to the extent of putting herself in the institute for a weekend just so she is closer to the scene of crime. Will she find her friend Norman? Will she conclude that Maureen Beaumont was murdered as opposed to suicide as it seems? Well, read through this wonderful book to know more.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Definite pick if you are looking for a good mystery.

A trip to San Francisco to promote her new book - Blood Relations - lands Jessica Fletcher in the midst of a closed case, attempted murder and media frenzy that she might right books on real murders. Needless to say she ends up meddling with the law, so to speak, in solving the cold case too. That's what the story plot revolves around in this 1995 book Martinis & Mayhem written by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher.



Jessica Fletcher was more than happy to go to San Francisco to promote her new book, giving her a chance to escape the heat wave in Cabot Cove. She was also looking forward to spend a few days with George Sutherland, her friend that she had met when she was in England at her dear friend Marjorie Ainsworth's home. Incidentally she and George worked together to solve Marjorie's murder. Visiting the Fisherman's wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Ride on the Cable Cars and also a bit of romantic rendezvous with George - these were on her list. Little did she know that she would be tangled with a murder, albeit this was a closed case.

All of it started when she visited the women's prison to talk about writing and benefits behind it to the prisoners. All though the talk / discussion went well - more than she had expected - she walked out with a diary in her bag, unawares. A diary belonging to one Kimberly Steffer convicted of murdering her husband Mark Steffer. She was a noted author of children's book. Intrigued by the diary, Jessica peruses through it and decides to help Kimberly in anyway she can to prove what Kimberly stated in her book - that she was not guilty of the murder.

In the process she meets with Bobby McCormick, a reporter who had covered the trial, and believed in the innocence of Kimberly. Mark's partner in the restaurant "What's to Eat?" in Sausalito, Robert Fredrickson - a character that Kimberly describes as "he was capable of doing anything to get what he wants". She has a tense encounter with Nancy Antonio and Joan Steffer (Mark's first-wife) which doubles her determination to help Kimberly and her step-daughter Ellie. As her investigation moves forward with help from George and Bobby, she encounters another murder/ suicide of Brett Pearl - an illustrator who had worked for Kimberly Steffer. Is his murder / suicide connected in any way? Who killed Mark Steffer? Why was someone trying to kill Jessica Fletcher? Despite the risk to her life, Jessica works through the hurdles with aid from George and Bobby and eventually solves the true crime.

As opposed to the other books published in recent years, this plot was a bit more complex and had well enough twists to make it interesting. Keeping the element of surprise till the end was perhaps the key for this plot to be enjoyable. Another good book for a lazy night.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick read pick it up.

Another book written by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain based on the Universal Television Series Murder, She Wrote is Skating on Thin Ice published in April 2011. Typical like any of the books written this one also keeps close to the spirit of the TV show. This time the story revolves around Cabot Cove, where the mystery writer Jessica Fletcher lives.



The Ice Arena at Cabot Cove gets refurbished and the owner Eldridge Coddington has great plans for the arena. Not only it being modernized, he added a second rink to the arena to accommodate Hockey so he could being in a semi-pro team that he would like to call as Cabot Cove Lobsters. Apart from that he also was going to open a world-class figure skating school. He brings in Brian Devlin, a former gold medalist to head the school for elite athletes. The two members of the pairs team that Devlin was going to coach were 18-year old Christine Allen from San Francisco and 24-25 year old Alexei Olshansky from Russia. The second pairs team that Mark Rosner, the other coach, trained were Marisa Brown and Jeremy Hapgood. And then there was the ice staking arena itself open for public to have some good fun nights.

All seems well with the arrangement until Alexei Olshansky turns up dead in the pit that collects the cleaned up snow and water by Zamboni. Who would have wanted to kill this young skater even though he was obnoxious and rude most times? Mrs. Fletcher couldn't wrap it around her head and digs deeper specially after she was one of the persons who had found Alexei. Would it be Irina Bednikova, former partner of Alexei who was in town to take him back? Her rumors that she was spreading about Marisa and Alexei - could they have triggered someone to put Alexei permanently to bed? What were the constant bickering going on between Mark and Brian? Was Eldridge up too deep in the efforts to fulfil his dream? What was the secret that Alexei knew about Brian? What about Jeremy Hapgood - have his affections towards Christine caused him to eliminate Alexei as the competitor both off and on ice?

A semi-convoluted plot that would point us to all answers for questions in Jessica's mind and eventually to the actual murderer. Well written and an easy read although the suspense has been kept till the end in this one. Good closing.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: *
My Recommendation: Not worth watching.

One lazy evening browsing through the Netflix came across this 2004 American super-hero film Catwoman based on the DC Comic book character of the same name. Portrayed by Halle Berry, the movie centered completely on how Catwoman came to be so and what she does after. Directed by Pifot the movie although started off well turned to worse as it progressed. A waste of an hour and a half of my time.



Plot revolves around a meek Patience Phillips (even the name is so unsuitable) portrayed by Halle Berry, working as an artist and graphics designer for the cosmetics company Hedare Beauty. Constantly rubbed on by her boss, she tries to please him with her work. One night she overhears a conversation the scientist, Dr. Ivan Slavicky, and Laurel Hedare, the wife of company-owner George Hedare, about the dangerous side effects from continued use of the product. Laure's guards find her and kill her by drowning her in a conduit pile. However she is brought back to life by a mysterious Egyptian Mau cat (that had been tagging along her for quite some-time) giving her cat-like abilities. She realizes that she is not a Catwoman with abilities that are both a curse and a boon. Disguised as a Catwoman she hunts to find who had killed her. In the process she resorts to thievery as well. Rest of the movie shows how Patience finds her killer, has several run-ins with the law, falling in love and sacrificing the same and eventually bringing justice to her murder. In the end she continues to live the life of an out-law giving into the freedom that she experiences as a Catwoman as opposed to being Patience Phillips.

I cant imagine why the director ever considered Halle Berry for this character. Granted that Catwoman is an antiheroine with a taste for high-stake thefts. But the character eventually tries to reform herself. Contrary to the original character Halle Berry's Catwoman was more of a Supervillian than an anti-hero. She could not portray it as effectively as other actresses had done over a period of time. Her antics of showing cat-like movements caused me to cringe a lot since they were more provocative reminding me of a pole dance rather than a cat. Couldn’t remove that image from my mind. Costume is bondage-inspired rather than a traditional cat suit. Benjamin Bratt couldn’t shine as Detective Tom Lone even with all his charm and charisma. Sharon Stone is wasted as Laurel Hedare, a business tycoon who will take any steps to release her product even though it has dangerous side-effects. She could have been much better if scripted well. Several scenes were not edited correctly either.

All in all a perfect movie to win Worst Actress, Worst Picture, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay that year. Not a worth watching it.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A must read but be cautious of the complex plotting in the series.

For review on Book 1 (The Golden Compass), go here.
For review on Book 2 (The Amber Spyglass), go here.



Philip Pullman released the final instalment of His Dark Materials series, The Amber Spyglass, in 2000. In the second part we are left at the point where Lyra goes missing and Will refuses to go with the angels, Balthamos and Baruch, until he found her. Now what has happened to Lyra?  And that’s where this book begins.



Lyra is kept  hidden in a cave by Mrs. Coulter from the Magisterium so they wouldn’t kill her. Lyra is prophesied to become the second Eve and bringing the Fall of Man. In the meanwhile when Will is being taken to Lord Asriel by the angels they are attacked by the soldier of archangel Metatron. Will uses the knife to escape to another world.

Dr. Mary Malone, introduced as the "serpent" in the previous book, is followed by an assassin appointed by the Magisterium. However she enters a different world through a window where she meets elephantine creatures called Mulefa. Here she constructs a Spy Glass to study the Dust that no longer nourish the seedpod trees and the trees are dying.

Will forms an army with Iorek Byrnison, Lord Asriel, and the angel Balthamos to reach the cave where Lyra is kept drugged and hidden. Magisterium forces also converge at the same time. Will wakes up Lyra but loses concentration when he sees Mrs. Coulter and breaks the knife. Lyra, Will and two spies , Tialys and Salmakia - escape to the world of dead, opened by the knife before it was broken.

What is the purpose of Lyra to go into this realm? Will they all return back? What is the result of the war with Magisterium? Why is Magisterium so afraid of the prophecy? Is it really the Fall of Man? Yes, another twisted plot that leads to the beginning of man and woman, that is well spun.

Although I would have liked to have a little lesser twists in this book. Also the journey thru the dead realm could have been avoided as it really did not join to any thread in the plot. Other than that, certainly worth reading to finish the series.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A must read but be cautious of the complex plotting in the series.

For review on Book 1 (The Golden Compass), go here.



The Subtle Knife was the second book in the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman released in 1997. True to its subtext on the book the boundaries of the worlds crumble in this plot. The adventures of Lyra Belacqua in investigating Dust phenomenon and finding her father, Lord Asriel, continues here.



I always thought the first part of the book released as a movie was a successful one because I had a good visual of what Dust meant, what the parallel world looked like, what daemons meant, etc. It had come to me as a surprise when the movie failed at box office. After the reading the book I understood why. However with so many other movie series that get continued even though one part failed, it never happened so for this series. The second part "The Subtle Knife" never got revamped into a sequel. And now it is never going to happen. Pity since the series is a good read in book though. A trailer was released though before the project was shelved.



Coming back to the book, Lyra's partner in crime in this book is Will Parry who accidentally discovers a portal to a parallel universe. The same universe that Lyra enters following her father Lord Asriel. These two wander thru the city of Cittàgazze and encounter Sir Charles Latrom who steals the alethiometer from Lyra. He will only return to them if they can retrieve a mysterious knife from Cittàgazze. In the process of retrieving the knife, Will loses two fingers making him the next bearer of the knife per the knife's true guardian. The knife can cut through anything physical or spiritual and can be used to cut holes between worlds.

While Lyra and Will are having these adventures, a witch Serafina Pakkala discovers that Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium are torturing a witch to discover the prophecy surrounding Lyra. Also Will has his own agenda in this travel that he embarks with Lrya - finding his father. And Lyra's ally Lee Scoresby ventures out to find the explorer Stanislaus Grumman to retrieve an object that gives protection to whoever it holds.

Will Serafina protect Lyra from Mrs. Coulter? What is the prophecy surrounding Lyra? Who is Will's father and will he find him? What is the motive of Sir Charles Latrom?

Another web of tales within tales forming a complex plot taking us through various worlds unknown and characters unmet. Philip again mastered at his writing and left us on the edge at the end of the book making us looking forward to pick the third and final instalment in the series.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A must read but be cautious of the complex plotting in the series.

After watching the movie Golden Compass, my curiosity piqued and made me read the series. I must say the movie was much more visually appealing than the book. Perhaps that was what made me like the series as well. The book titled as Northern Lights elsewhere but as The Golden Compass in North America was written by Philip Pullman published in 1995. It is the first book in the His Dark Materials Trilogy.



The story is set in an alternate universe  where every human is associated with their daemon. Daemon is one's inner self manifested externally in the form of an animal. One such 12-yr old girl is Lyra Belacqua who has Pantalaimon as her daemon. Unawares of what the perils are lurking closer or where the next day takes her, she runs around wildly in Jordan College, Oxford under the shelter of the college's Master. Until one day she comes across the Master poisoning the wine intended for Lord Asriel, Lyra's uncle. Warning her uncle, witnessing his lecture on the mysterious elementary particles called "Dust", listening about a parallel universe seen through Northern Lights and when her friend Roger goes missing - presumably kidnapped by Gobblers - puts her into a path of dangerous and thrilling adventure.



In this path, she gets adopted by Mrs. Coulter who is charming but has a hidden secret. However with the alethiometer given to her by the Master, she keeps herself away from danger at every step. When she learns of Mrs. Coulter's secret, she escapes to join Gyptians - canal-faring nomads, where she learns that Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are her parents. Thus begins her adventure of finding the missing kids. She meets Iorek Byrnison - the dispossessed royal heir of the panserbjørne armoured bears, learns about Intercision - separating the daemon from the child, aids Iorek in fighting  Iofur Raknison to get his throne back, watches Asriel walk into the parallel universe and finally follows him to find more about Dust and stop Asriel from making drastic decisions. Book 1 ends leaving us at the edge of the unknown Subtle Knife.

Although the movie hadnt made it big at Box Office in US but gathered masses outside of US. However its failure had not deterred me to read the book. The movie gave me the visual effects for the book that otherwise I might have had taken a little time to grasp. The book in itself was well written, taking us thru parallel universes, introducing us to fantastic beasts and the enigmatic Dust. The complexity behind is well explored and put in front from layman's perspective.  Per Wiki, Pullman wrote the series as a retelling and inversion of John Milton's Paradise Lost, commending humanity in the series. The title of the series as well as the first book (American release) have thus been taken from the poem.

All in all a must read but be cautious of the complex plotting in the series.
Murdoch Mysteries: Famous Personalities, Inventions and Stepping Stones for 21st Century items - Season VII

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Introduction of the Murdoch Mysteries series in my words, go here.
My take on Season I, go here.
My take on Season II, go here.
My take on Season III, go here.
My take on Season IV, go here.
My take on Season V, go here.
My take on Season VI, go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
My Recommendation: A must watch

And here is my take on Season VII of this series - some of the unique stuff from the episodes with pictures for more effect.


Review behind the cut with pictures...Collapse )
Murdoch Mysteries: Famous Personalities, Inventions and Stepping Stones for 21st Century items - Season VI

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Introduction of the Murdoch Mysteries series in my words, go here.
My take on Season I, go here.
My take on Season II, go here.
My take on Season III, go here.
My take on Season IV, go here.
My take on Season V, go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
My Recommendation: A must watch

And here is my take on Season VI of this series - some of the unique stuff from the episodes. The show enters the 20th century.



More behind the cut with pictures this time....Collapse )

Egg Dosa

Working from home sometimes has its perks, mainly with regards to what I eat. However, I am not discounting those days when I end up not eating at all due to loads of work (and those days I wish I was at work cause at least I would take a break for lunch). Today was pleasantly one of those where I had time to cook breakfast and lunch. What did I make for breakfast, you ask. Well, another experiment in Kitchen ofcourse!! :) Egg Dosa it was all-around from an online recipe to which I added spin of my own. :)



Ingredients:

2 Tbsps Urad Dal (Split Black Gram) - Soaked for 10 mins and ground to a paste in a mixer.
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Rice Flour
2 small Green Chillis - finely chopped
1 small Onion - thinlychopped
1/2 medium sized Tomato - diced into small pieces
1/2 a small bunch of Cilantro / Coriander Leaves - chopped finely
Eggs - one per Dosa
Oil for shallow fry
Salt per taste
Water - enough to make into a Dosa batter
Gunpowder / Chutney Powder - for sprinkling

Recipe:

1) In a bowl mix all the ingredients except Oil, Eggs, Coriander and Gunpowder. Make sure the batter in thinly run enough to spread on a frying pan (a bit thinner than pancake batter consistency).
2) Heat the frying pan and lightly smear with Oil.
3) Pour a ladle full of the batter on to the pan and spread it around.
4) Break an Egg on the batter and spread it lightly on the dosa batter.
5) Sprinkle Gunpowder / Chutney Powder and few leaves of chopped Cilantro / Coriander Leaves.
6) Lower the flame a bit and leave till Dosa is thoroughly cooked.
7) If the batter ends up a bit thicker, turn it on the other side to cook, else not needed.
8) Serve hot as is or with a side of Chutney or Pickle.

Noodles Dosa

I love Noodles and I love Dosa. So thought if I could mix them together. Traditionally one would think put the noodles as a stuffing for a regular dosa. True. But I am not good at keeping dosa batter stored and since it needs to be prepped a day before, most of the times I am fresh out of dosa batter. So, my usual avenue would be to make it instant variety. And thus the spin I have for my Noodles Dosa. Voila!!



Ingredients:

1 Pack Maggie Noodles (traditionally we Indians use these. But any noodles could work) - Cooked per instructions along with the spices it comes with.
1 cup Besan (Chick Pea Flour) - I used Besan because I ran out of Rice Flour or All Purpose Flour. But this can be made with Rice Flour or a combo of Rice and All Purpose Flour
instead of Besan.
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Red Chilli Powder
Salt per taste
Water enough to make the batter into runny kind to make Dosas.
Oil for the Dosas

Recipe:
1) Cool the cooked Noodles and pour it into a mixing bowl.
2) Add the remaning ingredients except Oil and mix into a thin runny kind of batter.
3) Heat a pan and smear with a little Oil. Pour a ladle full of the batter on the pan.
4) Cook on both sides.
5) Serve hot with Tomato Ketchup or any Chutney.

Raw Banana Sambar / Aratikaya Sambar

What would you want to do other than a curry when the lone Raw Banana in your fridge is close to turning to ripe? Well, I had a bulb glow up above my head. Why not make Sambar? And why sambar, you may ask. Well something is close to turning to ripe it is easier to put it in a savory soup of vegetables and still remain as tasty as ever. :) Lo and behold! Raw Banana Sambar / Aratikaya Sambar is ready to eat and enjoy!!

I used the same recipe as Sambar that I make always, except added Raw Bananas after adding Onions. Make sure they are sliced thinly so they get cooked evenly. Have fun creating my version in your kitchens too. :P


Maida Dosa

A lazy Sunday morning always wants me to hunt for easy recipes for breakfast. Here is one that I found online that was not only easy to make but very very very yummy.

Recipe:

1) In a large mixing bowl, add 2 Cups of Maida (All Purpose Flour, 1 Cup Mik (Make sure you have had already boiled it once and cooled), 2 Tablespoons of Rice Flour, Salt per Taste and Water as needed.
2) Mix all the ingredients into thin batter enough to make a Dosa. It should not be too runny or too thick.
3) Heat a pan and rub it with little oil. Pour approx 1 1/2 ladle of the batter.
4) Cook on both sides.
5) Serve with Chutney, Chutney Powder, Sambar or Pickle.

Pictured: Two Maida Dosas with fresh Tomato Pickle and Karivepaku Powder (Curry Leaves Powder) sent by mom in a care package. (Thanks mom!!)


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