Book Review: Shanti and the Magic Mandala


About the Book:




Shanti and the Magic Mandala is an adventure in which fantasy and reality are mingled. The book tells the story of six teenagers, from different religious and cultural origins and different parts of the world, who are mystically recruited to form two groups - one in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the Southern. They eventually gather in Peru, and through a single alliance, begin a frantic chase for the sacred object that can stop the black magician's final plan.

About the Author:
F. T. Camargo is an Italian Brazilian living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An award winning architect and author, he also studied Arts and Media and has a post degree in Economics and MBA in e-commerce. He is a vegetarian because of his love for all animals and has been deeply involved in causes for their protection and freedom. He is a world traveler adventurer, outdoor sports lover, speaks 4 languages and has published a travel book “Rio, Maravilha!”
For many years he has been practicing yoga and meditation and studying the Kabbalah. His exploration of spiritual teachings motivated a commitment to self-development which in turn created a new path and goal in life. Shanti and the Magic Mandala was born from his inner journey.


Contact the Author:


Awards & Recognition for the Book:
- Winner of 2014 London Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards: Bronze Medal at “Young Adult Fiction – Spirituality” category
- 2014 New England Book Festival in Boston:  Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 Paris Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 International Book Awards in the category “Fiction / Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 New York Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 Los Angeles Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 San Francisco Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles: Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.

The Review:

What drew me to agree to review Shanti and the Magic Mandala was the fact that I am sucker for Young Adult stories. Plus, with the protagonist being named Shanti, I just knew this would be a story right up my alley.

Shanti, Helena, Itai, Antonio, Tadao and Nasir are the six teenagers who are brought together due a common thread of their past life, and their shared destiny. I really liked the multicultural aspect to the story - with all six of them being very well developed and defined as characters. It was nice read the struggles they faced, as they battle the odds to keep the Black Magician's final plans at bay.

If you are in the mood for something light and breezy, and a little adventurous at the same time, do pick up this book!

I do believe that twenty-somethings are not the target readership for YA books, and therefore, it is unfair on my part to even tell you what I might not have liked about the book. It had been written for an audience who is way younger than I am, for them, the book is full of magic and realism, and the adventure that six teenagers from different backgrounds go on would be for them completely believable.

I really enjoyed the three days it took for me to complete the book. Here's wishing F.T. Camargo all the best with all his future endeavours.

MY RATING:






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Interview: Dr. Madhu Vajpayee, Author of Seeking Redemption





Book Blurb:

Story of a girl Meera, who is unwittingly drawn into a conflict from where she finds it difficult to emerge unscathed. It's her journey from being a simple, medical graduate belonging to a middle class family to the uncharted territories of corruption and caste based politics. Her path is crossed by the two men, both compelling yet completely contrasting characters, who are forever going to change her life. If it is Aman who can challenge her ideals and defy her resolves, and makes her the person she finally becomes, it is Abhay's sublime love which enables her to go through the vicissitudes of life. It's also the story of her loss as well as triumph against her own demons to find her true self.





Buy a Copy from Amazon

About the Author:
Dr.Madhu Vajpayee- the writer was born somewhere in those hospital corridors where she has spent the last two decades of her life. Witnessing life at such close quarters pushed her to capture its enigma in her words and slowly it became her passion. After writing several scientific papers and chapters in books, this book is her first step in literary world.  
Having done her graduation, MBBS from King Georges Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow she went ahead to pursue her post-graduation, MD from AIIMS, New Delhi. She was a consultant at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi having been associated with management of patients living with HIV/AIDS. She is now settled in Melbourne, Australia with her family, where she is devoting most of her time to writing, the passion that she couldn’t pursue earlier because of the demands of medical profession and commitment it requires.
When not creating stories, Madhu enjoys reading and travelling.

Reviews for the Book:

It was a perfect book and can motivate one. ~ Nidhi Author on Goodreads

Wonder full book.Clearly highlights the current problems faced in India as a result of reservation! ~ Nikhil Dave on Goodreads

It is one of the amazing fiction I have read in the near past. Highly recommended. Cocktail of Corruption, politics and love. ~ Akshay_Tripathi on Amazon

What Madhu does well with this story is to highlight many factors that need change. She brings out facets like reservation. She talks about the more rigid mindset of an Indian family ~ Vinay Leo @ Booworm's Musings

In Conversation with Dr. Madhu Vajpayee:


Hello Madhu, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me. 
1. First things first: how did you take up writing?

From early childhood, the wonderful habit of reading that was inculcated by my father gradually turned into writing expeditions. What I couldn’t say in words or express myself in its wholeness would find its way to paper and thus began my journey as a writer from an early age. My romance with words would transcend me to the amazing world of ideas, make believe stories and ways to assuage my pain and anxiety.

2. What was your very first attempt at creative writing?

Around the age of 15 or 16, I wrote a poem. Perhaps that was my first attempt at creative writing.

3. Where did you get the ideas for your stories?

It depends. Sometimes from lives of the people I know about, sometimes from any incident, any story in newspaper, sometimes from any book or movie.

4. What in particular gave you the idea for Seeking Redemption?
The idea for Seeking Redemption came from what I was observing, the things that were happening around me. It is a story of every youth of the country who is trying to win a losing battle in backdrop of caste based reservation and corruption prevalent in education and medical sector. It’s their effort to seek redemption from the curse that is eating away the inner fabric of such a beautiful country. The story revolves around the three main characters. There are Meera and Aman who are deeply in love and who unwittingly found themselves pitted against the system. Justice eluded her as well as Aman in their struggle for achieving the life they dreamt, the life they deserved. But, ironically while Meera rises in such difficult times, Aman falls. She tries to help him in spite of her own dilemmas but he misunderstands her. And there is Abhay, the other man in her life, a friend but who secretly loves her and gives her unconditional support through all the ups and down.


5. Do you have particular schedules or writing routines when it comes to your work?

No particular time. Whenever my creative instincts push me to play with words and create some magic in the process, I spontaneously start scribbling. When not writing, most of the time, story is going on in my head and I am busy creating and recreating the scenes and dialogues.

6. A lot of authors are taking the indie publishing route. What’s your view about it?

I believe that it’s a great alternative to the traditional publishing. Somehow I feel that process of publication is very unpredictable one. There is no set rules to get traditionally published. Sometimes it’s just sheer luck and coincidence to be picked by big publishers. You have no idea what’s going to click with publishers here. It’s completely uncharted territory where nothing is defined. Indie publishing provides a good opportunity for authors who believe in their work and have courage to go ahead on their own. Only thing that is limiting factor here is promotion. The promotion one gets through traditional publisher is simply unimaginable in self-publishing. But having said that, I believe no one can stop talent and hard work from shining, albeit it may take some time.


7. If your story got turned into a movie, who would you like to see star as leads?

Shraddha Kapoor as Meera
Aditya Roy Kapoor as Aman
Shahid Kapoor as Abhay

8. What are your future plans for writing? Can you give out a teaser or two for your readers?

I have already finished my second one. It is under consideration for publication. Currently I am writing the third one, a romance.
Teaser of the second book:Dev Khanna is a dynamic young man in his late twenties thriving on his life as an immigrant.   He adores his tranquil suburban life with his beautiful wife Radhika and an infant son Neel in Melbourne after migrating from New Delhi five years ago. This is until he receives an unexpected letter from a woman named Saira from India which forces him to travel to country of his birth.  He had vowed never to return but as it is said some promises are meant to be broken. He has to go back to India to return a favor  to Saira who strangely enough is the same woman who was the cause of his predicament while he was living in India and incidentally also a reason for his decision to not to stay in India. However she is the only one because of whom Dev was able to ensure his mother died with a smile on her lips. He, is indebted to her for this and now he has to return the favor.  The test is tough as Saira’s daughter is missing during the communal flare up in Moradabad. There is no breakthrough in the case and Dev has to help Saira in finding her. But the ethics imbibed in him by his mother are tougher and he soars through all that comes his way to reach his destination. The story spanning across eight sections traverses from India to Australia and then back to India again as Dev returns to fulfil his promise in the city that has been ravaged by communal violence.  In the process, not only he has to deal with the dark realities of life, the pain, the fear, the agony and death of people who are unwittingly entrapped in such difficult situation but also has to risk his own life in his search of the missing girl.
Will he be able to find answers to those questions that keep haunting him about his quest? Will he be able to save his marriage that is tested beyond Radhika’s love and endurance? Will he be able to find the missing girl?Will he be able to return the favor he owes to Saira in a situation where it’s just impossible to survive?
Besides touching the sensitive issue of communalism arising from social milieu of Hindu-Muslim in India, the story touches the depth of emotions of its characters.  It elucidates the complex nature of human relationships in backdrop of challenges that promise to test every ounce of their patience.




9. Do have any particular authors who inspire your work?
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini,  Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Exodus by Leon Uris, Fault in our stars by John Green to name few of them.



10. What would your advice be to aspiring authors?

Never give up. We are bigger than anything that can happen to us. Write because you love it. Not because you want to become author like everybody else. To get opportunity to be a published author will just be a coincidence and perhaps also your good fortune!



11. What would be an ideal gift for you?

A good book.

12. And finally, if there was a book you could turn into a movie, what would it be and why? 

Looking for Alaska by John Green


Thank you once again for talking me. I wish you all the best with your current work and future works.

Contact the Author:


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Review: unTamed by Laxmi Hariharan



Story Blurb

Wolf girl Leana Iyeroy, the first half breed in her family, only ever wanted to be 100% human. When she inherits her grandmother’s ancient sword, she decides take it back to Bombay; to the temple where her grandma had touched the sword to the altar and set off a tsunami that had changed the course of mankind. She hopes this will uncover truth about her origins. Along the way, the sword is stolen and she is beaten up and left for dead; when an unexpected encounter with the Hugging Saint of Bombay, forces Leana to face the wolf inside her. Will she finally make peace with herself?

About the Author



When Laxmi Hariharan had a near death experience, she was told to write. Laxmi is the creator of THE RUBY IYER SERIES, which has won various awards including the 2015 Readers' Favorite award in the Young Adult category. She writes fast paced action-thrillers with a coming-of-age theme, and a dash of fantasy, while listening to electronica and downing ginger-chai. She is an avid street art photographer and blogs for the Huffington Post. Receive a free copy of THE RUBY IYER DIARIES when you sign up to her newsletter here

Reach Laxmi on Instagram | FB | Blog | @laxmi

The Review

So, I finally finished reading Laxmi Hariharan's short story, unTamed. She had asked me if I'd be interested in writing a pre-release review. But I guess I am writing a day of the release review. I guess beginning to work really does mess up your reviewer's schedule, eh?

I loved the world Laxmi had created with her Ruby Iyer series, and I wanted to know more about it. And when offered the chance to see it through Ruby's granddaughter's eyes, I said yes. (By the way, Ruby's granddaughter's very existence got me worrying about my very mortal life. :P And it was a scary thought.)

That aside. I liked this short story because it focuses on Leana's struggle to accept the fact that she is not a full human. She's not at all happy with the fact. She seeks out the sword that wreaked havoc over her city years ago and tries to find an answer to her inner turmoil.

Laxmi Hariharan conveys this struggle beautifully and writes Leana's world so engagingly, that one feels as though they are part of the story...I always admired the Ruby Iyer-verse, and Leana takes us back into that world.

Special Mention: The Hugging Saint of Bombay. Hugs are therapeutic. And God knows, I need a hug from the Saint!

If you happen to find the Uncommon Bodies book, please do pick it up. unTamed is definitely worth everyone's time.

Rating



Author Interview: Sachin Dev


~ Author Interview ~


About the Book:
The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound - of older forgotten powers stirring.

Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.

In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.

About the Author:
Sachin discovered Tolkien in his teens, alternative rock as a new adult and digital marketing in pretty much his late twenties. These still form a large wedge in his circle of life. Travel, radio and theatre have also figured in that ever-expanding and diminishing circle.

On perhaps a more prosaic note, he is an engineer from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from Indian School of Business. Attribute the love for numbers and pie-charts to this. He is currently based in Bangalore and happily married to Harini. He spends an inordinately large amount of time chasing after his two dogs (who love the free life a bit too much) when he is not busy dreaming up fantasy worlds full of monsters. And beautiful Yakshis, of course.

He can usually be found ranting on twitter under the handle @xenosach, devouring books and talking about them on his blog. You can always stalk him online at his official website


Hello Sachin, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me. 

1.   First things first: how did you take up writing?

S:Well, there was no clear “the pennydropped and realization dawned” kind of moment that told me I had to follow my heart and be a storyteller. I have always been fond of reading. And somewhere along the way, that love translated to writing. Sometime in my early pre-teen years, I thought I should write my own version of a story that is perhaps more exciting than the Secret Seven, Famous Five series. And I haven’t looked back since.

2.   What was your very first attempt at creative writing?

S: I must have been all of eight or nine when I penned my first story that I called the Famous Trio series#1. A bad mash up of some Tintin adventures and my over worked imagination set in Florida and the Amazon jungles – featuring three sixteen year-olds who keep getting into trouble – in the process, solve a mystery involving stolen diamonds and Incan statues.

3.   Where did you get the ideas for your stories?

S:While I’m heavily influenced by a lot of the stuff that I read – I keep myself updated on the latest in speculative fiction as I get sent books for review all the time, so a lot of my writing style is inspired by the authors I love.
The Ideas – well, they come fast and furious all the time. For every novel I have an “idea” file where I collate all those cool little nifty ideas that strikes me whenever (you could try Evernote app to tag such!) and I always do a “story outline” – and “character” outline – then divide stories into chapters filled with side notes what characters POV is featured and which major plotline would I write about.

It has helped me so far! Books on Indian mythology (For example, the legend of the Andhakan killed by Shakti – was a demon who could re-generate from every drop of his blood spilled on the ground. This caused me to start thinking about ‘rakshasas’ – as demonic creatures born of the union of the left over traces of Maaya that originated from the seeping wounds of a Goddess punished to sleep buried deep inside the Earth and spirits from the netherworld. Different forms arise depending on contact of the blood with different substances!) Different folklore and world mythology stories from books and the internet - they all help form different parts of my own world building.

4.   What in particular gave you the idea for The Faith of the Nine?

S:Vaishnavism talks about the ten avatars of Vishnu – the tenth being Kalki, who will cleanse the world of “foul filth” bringing an end to this Kali Yuga. This got me thinking about a world – entering its last yuga and also this question: What if the Gods who created the world have been forgotten and the older ways of faith lost? And what if it’s not clear whether the Avatar (that is the descent of the divine to the material realm) will save the world or not. What if the prophecy is unclear? The avatar’s appearance in the world can either plunge the world into ashes and blood and destruction or save the catastrophe. And what is the cost of ‘saving’ the world?
While this was mostly the premise to the series – my first book, Faith of the Nine is actually a back-story fleshed out with world building details and history – for a short story that I had submitted some years back for a fantasy anthology in UK. The feedbackI got on the story was that readers would love to get connected to the two main characters’ back-story and the history of the world where the story is set in.

So I knuckled down and wrote that back story and fleshed out that world – and lo! Behold! Part One, Faith of the Nine was born! 

5.   Do you have particular schedules or writing routines when it comes to your work?

S: For most parts, I’m disciplined for short periods of time when I write – like for a spurt of 3 months I try and get my writing done in the early mornings, sticking to a schedule of 1000 words a day. Then I slack off and write in spurts.  But there has been little tidbits that has helped this “process”

For example, for every novel I have an “idea” file where I collate all those cool little nifty ideas that strikes me whenever (you could try Evernote app to tag such!) and I always do a “story outline” – and “character” outline – then divide stories into chapters filled with side notes what characters POV is featured and which major plotline would I write about. It has helped me so far!


6.   A lot of authors are taking the indie publishing route. What’s your view about it?

S: It’s exciting times to be an author. You are no longer shackled down by the distribution reach of a big league publisher. I love the freedom enabled by the power of the Internet – and plan to use the same in the future for sure. It’s a viable option but it’s tough. Book discovery without the muscle of a publisher backing you purely on digital is tough. With the deluge of books being churned – even in a market like India where English reading is just about reaching its potential in terms of maturity. It probably requires an army of Avengers to get this right – and people who opt for this route better be ready for tons of hard work.

For my first book, though, I was sure I will go the route of a traditional publisher and see my baby in print – bright and shining on the display counters of retail bookstore window.

7.   If your story got turned into a movie, who would you like to see star as leads?

S: That is one of my favorite questions. Because hey, license to dream! And dream big I will.

So assuming it’s going to Hollywood:
I would have Ridley Scott or Darren Aronofsky direct this one as a movie as it would have to obviously be a big budget big banner EPIC movie!

Russell Crowe brings the right amount of pathos and grit to the role of General Fateh, an ageing soldier who questions his faith and loyalty to the empire.  I will have perhaps fill up the Rakht-dhaaris (the personal protection detail for General Fateh, twenty of the them sworn to protect him with their lives and blood) with the likes of Chris Evans ( Captain America) Chris Pratt ( Guardians of Galaxy), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) Chris Pine ( Star trek 2009) Tom Hardy (Dark Knight Rises) – I could go on! But all of them hunks would do great filling up the boots of Fateh’s lieutenants kicking ass.

Joseph Gordon Levitt is one of my favorite character actors and he would fit in admirably well into the role of the monk, Abhaya Samanna – whose questing for the truths about the world and all that he finds might not be what he likes. He is just such a great actor for a young guy!

Christopher Waltz (inglorious bastards) will make a leering Tamanjinn Nasri who is the mysterious new general promoted to be part of the triumvirate in Nam alongside Fateh – enough dripping menace in that guy to qualify for this role. It’s a role shrouded in secret !

I really don’t know any of the famous child actors now in the industry – but I would have liked Daniel Radcliffe play the character of Ishan ( precocious youngster!) when he was younger.

On the other hand – if it were in Bollywood or just any other movie enterprise in India, I would let SS Rajamouli handle pretty much everything from casting to camera. I would trust his instincts given that he’s given the world the first Indian magnum opus blockbuster that can rival any epic fantasy production – Bahubali!


8.   What are your future plans for writing? Can you give out a teaser or two for your readers?

S:While I have always wanted my first book to be an epic fantasy ( that’s the genre that I love the most!) I want to try and experiment across genres. So for starters, I would like to wrap up my first trilogy – Wheels of Janani, onto book-2 and 3. I am sitting on an incomplete manuscript for a contemporary boy-meets-girl falls-in-love Cinderella story set in modern day India – as well ideas bubbling up for countless other sub-genre stories. Like a zombie apocalypse set in Kochi, a space opera that I’ve started writing, a historical fiction about the port city of Muziris in Kerala. So, as Calvin tells Hobbes, the days are just packed!

9.   Do have any particular authors who inspire your work?

S: This book has been heavily influenced by some of my current favorite fantasy writers doing a brilliant job out there. Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch. My all- time favorite would probably be Stephen King for his ability to spin magic and infuse realism with words. Among Indian writers, I love Krishna Udayasankar’s work on her nuanced thought provoking series Aryavarta Chronicles based on Mahabaratha. Of course, Tolkien set me up on this fantastical journey and George RR Martin only fueled the fire sky high.

10.                What would your advice be to aspiring authors?

If you keep waiting for a good time to start writing, then that day will never arrive!
All those nebulous ideas you start jotting down in your little red diary thinking one fine day you will write a book, unless you start on them today, like right now – it’s never going to happen. So believe in yourself and pump yourself up and get going.  The journey might be long and arduous but the reward of getting it published in itself is worth it. Also don’t write for an audience, write for yourself. Don’t write to impress, write to express yourself. Take part in a NaNoWriMo. Push yourself and get that story out. All of us have one or more inside us!

11.                What would be an ideal gift for you?

A vacation – either in the Mountains or a beautiful isolated beach where the sun doesn’t set but stays frozen in the twilight zone. Heck, since we are talking ideal, where time itself is frozen like that. Broadband connection of course – and my loaded up Kindle. Along with my laptop for me to write.

12.                And finally, if there was a book you could turn into a movie, what would it be and why?

A book I could turn into a movie?
Hmmm….picking through my recent favorites that would have to be The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. The very definition of EPIC fantasy. Mesmerizing magic, absolutely breath-taking action sequences, sprawling battle-scenes, three main ‘heroes’ – and tons of visual spectacles in the way the world of Roshar will be shown on screen. Some badass CGI effects. Did I mention, some ass-kicking fight sequences? Oh I did? You should read that book if you haven’t!

Thank you once again for talking me. I wish you all the best with your current work and future works. 




Cover Reveal: Faith of the Nine by Sachin Dev


~ Cover Reveal ~


About the Book:
The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound - of older forgotten powers stirring.

Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.

In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.

About the Author:
Sachin discovered Tolkien in his teens, alternative rock as a new adult and digital marketing in pretty much his late twenties. These still form a large wedge in his circle of life. Travel, radio and theatre have also figured in that ever-expanding and diminishing circle.

On perhaps a more prosaic note, he is an engineer from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from Indian School of Business. Attribute the love for numbers and pie-charts to this. He is currently based in Bangalore and happily married to Harini. He spends an inordinately large amount of time chasing after his two dogs (who love the free life a bit too much) when he is not busy dreaming up fantasy worlds full of monsters. And beautiful Yakshis, of course.

He can usually be found ranting on twitter under the handle @xenosach, devouring books and talking about them on his blog. You can always stalk him online at his official website