Warcross by Marie Lu: Book Review

Book Blurb:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

 

Oh wow! What an unexpected surprise Warcross turned out to be. I will not summarize the plot here. After all, I went in blind too. And by blind, I mean I didn’t even read the blurb. I just jumped in. And I couldn’t jump out till I finished the whole damn book.

First, about the main characters.

Emika is an awesome protagonist; intelligent, street smart, independent, with a healthy sense of self preservation. The book is written in Emika’s point of view and captivates till the end. I developed a little girl crush on this girl, what with her hacking prowess and debugging abilities (I am a coder ha ha), though plot wise, things do work out for her a little too much. I don’t mind that. Emika is as far from a wilting violet heroine as can be. Which is great. There is a romance. This romance does not dictate her life and ideas. Which is refreshing!

Here’s a sample of her life process-

But sometimes, people kick you to the ground at recess because they think the shape of your eyes is funny. They lunge at you because they see a vulnerable body. Or a different skin color. Or a different name. Or a girl. They think that you won’t hit back – that you’ll just lower your eyes and hide. And sometimes, to protect yourself, to make it go away, you do.

But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back.

See how more people (cough girls cough) need to think this way?

Read complete review here-

Click to read Warcross Book Review

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My first spy thriller! Let Bhutto Eat Grass: Book Review

Without giving away spoilers (any more than I already have), I want to say that Let Bhutto Eat Grass blew me away and kept me coming back for more. The story flows seamlessly, sets a good pace and doesn’t slack whatsoever. The characters are well fleshed out, their progress natural. Once I started on the first chapter, I could not put the damn thing down. I read it while – brushing teeth, burning toast, doing the dishes, hopping on my feet to calm down a very cranky 2 month old followed by reading the story out loud to the same but considerably mellowed down two month old… etc etc… you get the picture. I loved Agarkhedkar’s dry sarcastic humor. It was the perfect voice to paint a picture of the sorry state of Indian politics in the seventies, and very realistically capture how relatively normal people might deal with the horrific.

Click to Get to the Review

Love and Decay, Volume One by Rachel Higginson: Book Review

Book Blurb by author:

Zombies- as if that wasn’t enough to ruin any girl’s dream of a happily ever after.

A vaccination gone oh so wrong and a huge portion of the world’s population was turned into Zombies. Reagan Willow is forced out of her home when her parents become casualties of the horrid Zombie Apocalypse. With the help of her best friend Haley, they’ve become somewhat of experts on surviving the dangers of a world thrust into chaos and decay.

Reagan and Haley are on a vague mission to find somewhere safe to live out the remainders of their terrifying life when they stumble upon the Parkers, a pack of brothers that seem to have the survival thing down in a much more efficient and successful way than Reagan could ever have imagined. They are also protecting their eight year old sister, Page, and will do anything to keep her safe.

The brothers decide that Reagan and Haley need help with being kept safe as well, and as a group they set off to find the Zombie-free utopia Reagan is dreaming of.

Zombies are a daily problem, constantly threatening the lives of their group, but they’re not the only peril on the journey ahead. Militia groups of power hungry men are also a constant concern. And settlements of paranoid, suspicious people turn out to be just as hazardous.

Admit it or not, apocalypses, end of the world scenarios, destruction of the world as we know it, all of these are subjects that fascinate us all on some level. Maybe it is about a morbid curiosity of watching a train-wreck. For some of us, it may be because of a doom and gloom kind of personality. Or maybe, the subject is so fantastically impossibly probable, that we can’t help but think about it every once in a while.

Love and Decay by Rachel Higginson is a dystopian drama, set in a world where a cure for STDs involuntarily triggered a mass infection turning humans into zombies. Right off the mark, here’s a few things that hooked me to this story-

  1. Narrators are two badass twenty year old women who fight zombies, face humans worse than zombies, are not whiny complaining sob-sters and have a deep friendship that does not shake.
  2. Zombies.
  3. Great and believable action sequences.
  4. Freaking zombies!

Continue Reading…(Click here)

 

Mortal Instruments Fanfiction: Secret Shadows

So Mortal Instruments. New fandom for me. I have read the books and quite a bit of fanfiction there is. Saw the movie and the TV series and developed a fascination with the TV Alec – Matthew Daddario. That boy is something else!

Anyways, so I was toying with this story idea for a bit now and today I finally decided to put it out there and see where this thing goes. I am trying a hand at writing a historical. It is actually fun when I can’t cuss in writing and have to come up with good words to express something instead.

Here we go then. The summary and first chapter of my new fanfiction “Secret Shadows”

Summary: What if the down-worlders ruled the world? What if the all powerful Fae, Vampires, Warlocks and Shifters made sure that the Half angel warriors, the Nephilim, were crushed and forgotten and relegated to myth by constantly hunting them down and killing them indiscriminately? In this world where most nephilim don’t know their true identities, there is a secret society of Warriors who still keep the knowledge of Angels alive and fights in secret, trying to keep their legacy alive.

In the town of Idris, somewhere in London, Clarissa Fairchild lives a sedate and mundane life with her proper law abiding parents, unaware of the fact that her strange but taboo fascination with the new history teacher Jace Herondale, is going to be her first step into a world she couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams – a world of dangerous secrets, broken rules, unending war, mythical magic and all consuming love.

Rating: M ; AU

Do let me know if the idea holds intrigue and if you guys are interested in reading more of this story.

Chapter Link – https://sakshichopra.wordpress.com/fanfiction/secret-shadows-chapter-1/

 

 

 

Kulti: Book Review

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Book Blurb: 

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.

A seven year old football nut (I won’t call it soccer because I am not American and everybody other than Americans calls the sport football because see, foot meets ball is football) Sal watches the debut of a nineteen year old German footballer Reiner Kulti on TV, watches him score an impossible goal and take his team to victory, and she is hooked for life. Literally. To football and to Reiner Kulti.

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Sal did what the best of us with a childhood obsession, that stretches into teenage, do. Covered her bedroom walls with Kulti’s posters, wrote him fan letters declaring she was his #1 fan, had an imaginary relationship with him and informed her parents that one day she, Salome Casillas, was going to marry Reiner Kulti. Sal dreamed of playing with Kulti one day, no matter how out of the world her dreams looked like. So with the single minded focus of a girl on a mission, she played football, put her heart, soul and life into it, till her dream took a life of it’s own.

Of course, while Sal was busy perfecting her game, Reiner Kulti rose as an international superstar and became a world renown celebrity. He married when Sal was seventeen and in anger, she tore down all his posters from her walls. Then Kulti got divorced (but the damage was already done for the passionate teenager in love/hate with him), won more world cups and player of tournaments, allegedly got injured and retired. All in the course of 20 years.

The story starts however, with an announcement of a new assistant coach for a twenty seven year old Sal’s WPL soccer team- the Pipers. In a fun twist of fate, the new coach is none other than Reiner Kulti. But, and that was a big juicy but, Kulti is nothing like Sal and everyone knows and expects him to be. He is silent, distant and uninterested. Long past her childhood crush, the most aggravating thing for Sal now is, he does not even want to play football with any of them.

Thus starts ACT 2 of Sal and Kulti’s story (Kulti of course has no idea of Sal’s obsessive ACT 1).

Reiner Kulti is rude, infuriatingly taciturn and generally an ass. Sal, when she can’t take it anymore, calls him out on it. The after effects are good and bad. Kulti starts paying attention to the team. Which is good. He takes a special interest in Sal. That starts the bad (initially at least). Because when Kulti really starts coaching, he is relentless.

 

He kept going. “Twenty-three, this.” “Twenty-three, that.” Twenty-three, twenty-three, twenty-three…

Shoot me in the face, twenty-three.

There wasn’t affection in his tone, much less pride.

Every single time I looked at him when he called my number, his face was set in a rough expression. Glowering. He was glowering at me.

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But my favorite thing that came out of his mouth was “Is that how girls play soccer?”

Oh man.

I’d heard that one before. It still got me every time.

But if what he wanted, was for me and the team to show him just how girls played, he got his wish. We were all out for blood.

 

Tough love apart, over a period of time, Sal and Kulti form a tentative friendship when Kulti unexpectedly starts spending time outside practice with Sal, starting with Sal kicking a ball to Kulti and him kicking it to a goal (not) followed by a one on one match between the two when Reiner Kulti plays football for the first time in two years.

For all his standoffish rudeness, Reiner ‘the King’ Kulti is not as uninterested as he comes off to be. His interest in Sal’s career comes through in how he rips her a new one and threatens to bench her when she does not play as well as she can in a match. He protects her, even if no one sees it. He stands by her and through sheer stubbornness that rivals Sal, fights to be her friend even when she doesn’t want him (outwardly of course).

 

He might have started pulling on the shortest of short ends of his hair in what was a mix of annoyance and frustration. “Yes, goddamnit, get mad! If my coach had ever even hinted at taking me out of a game, I would have lost it. You’re the best player on the team—“

I’d swear on my life that my heart stopped beating. Had he just said what I think he said?

“You’re one of the best I’ve ever seen, period, man or woman. What kills me is that you are a complete fucking pushover who’s hung up on worthless words in front of a person that doesn’t matter.” His cheeks were flushed. “Grow some balls, Casillas. Fight me for this. Fight anyone that tries to take this away from you,”

 

The friendship becomes deeper. It thrives. Over the course of a season, Sal comes to know the real Reiner Kulti, not the superstar, not the celebrity. Sal pulls Kulti out of his iron barricades, inch by glacial inch. The silent German makes his way into Sal’s heart, inch by precious inch. Their relationship grows over sharing runs and workouts, sharing games, sharing ice packs and arnica oil, sharing meals. Oh and small rebellions against their PR department and team managers after pictures of them start appearing in the press and Sal is threatened that she’d be traded with another team if she doesn’t keep a low profile. But by then, Sal is fighting for this burgeoning but fragile bond too.

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Best thing about the heroine, Salome Casillas doesn’t do anything by halves. When she breaks her walls for Kulti, down the walls go with aplomb. She realizes she never really stopped loving her idol ‘the King’ and now, he means much more to her than a distant dream.

And by the Gods Reiner Kulti doesn’t half ass stuff as well! He loves Sal back with an intensity that took my breath away. He is tenacious, protective, possessive, obnoxiously honest, devious, a little needy and amazing with Sal and her family.

Yep! I swooned. I fell in love with Kulti too. Who wouldn’t? Reiner Kulti has now joined the ranks of my best book boyfriends. With honors!

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Things I loved about Mariana Zapata’s Kulti-

  1. Salome is the best kind of heroine- never quits, works harder than possible, fights with the bitchiest of them and still has honor. She is completely awesome. Reiner Kulti is pretty awesome too. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
  2. This is the best slow burn romance I have read.
  3. Sal’s relationship with her family. Both her parents are involved and loving. Her dad is a drama queen but her best friend. Her mom wanted something other than football for Sal, but supports her nonetheless. Her older brother Eric, also a footballer, is protective as brother should be. There is even a pest of a younger teen sister. They all talk to each other, matter in each other’s life and are as close knit as they can be while living cities apart.
  4. The book beautifully pictures the lives of athletes, one who is a superstar in contrast to the one who is as good but not valued as much as the other one. The sacrifices they make, the discipline they self impose, the everyday pain and sweat of keeping their bodies in top form to keep up their relevance, even the early bed times and careful food selections, everything reads genuine and real.
  5. The humor. Sal’s inner voice is hilarious.
  6. All characters are well written, well fleshed out and fun to read.

Things I didn’t like about Mariana Zapata’s Kulti-

  1. Not a damn thing…

Angels of the Night and Day: Last Chapter + Epilogue

Oh Wow!

Ok. This is the first story I am finishing and it’s a feet for me. Angels of the Night and Day was my first foray into writing fiction (ok fanfiction but so what!) and it might be a blip on the radar for bigger things to come but it means something and I will be shameless and blow my own trumpet over it 😀 😀

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Click on the link below to get to the last chapter – Alive and then use the next button for the Epilogue

https://sakshichopra.wordpress.com/fanfiction/svm-fanfiction/angels-of-the-night-and-day/chapter-32-alive/

 

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Book Review

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Book Blurb:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

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Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
                                                                                It did not end well.page_end

Such a beautiful book. This is how fantasy should be written. This is how fantasy should flow- like lyrics…

Right of the bat, I was immersed into Karou’s world, which is as colorful as her natural bright turquoise hair. She is an exceptionally gifted artist, living in Prague, and what she draws or paints breathes like it is alive. Damn, even I am writing like poetry now and that is the effect this book had on me.

Karou is raised by a set of mysterious, out of the world creatures she doesn’t fully understand, though they are the normal of her life – a horned half man she calls Brimstone, a half snake half woman Issa, and a few others. She straddles two worlds, the human one and the other one where her mysterious family belongs.

Karou runs errands for Brimstone in return for small wishes. And like all mature seventeen year olds, uses them for mature far reaching wishes like an itchy crotch for her douchy ex boyfriend. While he is in the middle of modelling. Nude. Surrounded by her entire art class. Or giving her ex boyfriend’s current girlfriend bushy eyebrows and so on and so forth…

Karou has a mostly normal familial relationship with Brimstone. Brimstone  is taciturn, strict and sometimes scary. But he cares for Karou in his own way. Even if we know early on that he is a demon, their conversations are pretty standard for a seventeen year old rebellious teen and their maybe parent figure.

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“I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and…no inessential penises either.’

‘Inessential penises?’ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’

‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.”page_end

But then Brimstone sends Karou on a dangerous quest in Marrakesh and the colorful story starts getting deep. There, Karou comes face to face with her past, her present and her likely future. She sees Akiva, she knows he is not human, she knows he is not even one of her friendly family demons, her body wants to get away from him. But Akiva sees Karou too, knows she is not human, knows she is not his kind either and his body doesn’t want to let her get away. So he follows her.page_end

“Until a few days ago, humans had been little more than legend to him, and now here he was in their world. It was like stepping into the pages of a book — a book alive with color and fragrance, filth and chaos — and the blue-haired girl moved through it all like a fairy through a story, the light treating her differently than it did others, the air seemed to gather around her like held breath. As if this whole place was a story about her.”

“She moved like a poem and smiled like a sphinx.”

“I came back to find you,” Akiva said. “I don’t know why. Karou. Karou. I don’t know why.” His voice was so faint she could barely hear him. “Just to find you and be in the world that you’re in…”

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All is not unicorns and rainbows. War is brewing. And this war will expose all that was yet hidden from Karou’s mostly human eyes. A war that at once destroys her world and remakes it into something she couldn’t have lived without if she knew. There was so much story here. Intrigue and mystery and layer by layer the history of Akiva and Karou unfolds and enfolds.

A rather huge secret (and plot point) is revealed. (I won’t tell! Read the book for it.)

Sides are picked. The oldest foes come again at arms against each other. Questions are asked, such as does being born a monster makes you one or does choosing to fight a holy war and massacre hundreds make you an angel? What is evil and what is good and what makes us one or either? Is it our family? Our upbringing? Our choices? Or simply if we have wings or blue hair? If both light and dark are the two sides of the same coin then what gives one the right to vanquish the other?page_end

“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters? I’ve seen things, angel. There are guerrilla armies that make little boys kill their own families. Such acts rip out the soul and make space for beasts to grow inside. Armies need beasts, don’t they? Pet beasts, to do their terrible work! And the worst part is, it’s almost impossible to retrieve a soul that has been ripped away. Almost.” He gave Akiva a keen look.”But it can be done, if ever… if ever you decide to go looking for yours.”

“Once upon a time, a little girl was raised by monsters.
But angels burned the doorways to their world, and she was all alone.”page_end

The magic was in the story as well as in the writing. Sure it followed a lot of YA tropes like – Teenager without a stable family and into all kinds of nefarious activities but feels alone and not understood. Overtly good looking guys falling in love with the teenager left and right. One of the overtly good looking guy is an actual honest to god angel! (yes wings and all). Tortured hero with tortured past. A few surprises that I don’t want to reveal…

But the thing is, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was fresh and beautiful and funny and gut wrenching despite all of this. The author Laini Taylor has a definite gift with words. Lovely that this is just the first book of the series and I have more to go. homerdance

Amazing find this one!