November 07, 2014

Is Revenge the Best Solution? - Review of God is A Gamer by Ravi Subramanian

God is a Gamer (English): BookGod is A Gamer -  Ravi Subramanian 
Publishers - Penguin Books India                              
Genre - Contemporary - Thriller

Paperbook - 210  Pages
Price: Rs 299

Available at Leading Indian Stores and Amazon 

What happens when you cross gamer, banker, politician and terrorist with virtual money? God Is a Gamer is a world where money means nothing, martyrs are villains, predators are prey, assassination is taught by the ancient Greeks, and nothing is as it seems.

 Ravi Subramanian is considered the Indian John Grisham of financial/banking thrillers and there is no question about his insider knowledge of the banking system and the industry at large.
In fact, I bought one of his bestsellers "Bankrupt" for my dad (a banker himself). Unfortunately, he fell sick and never got a chance to read it. It stills lies on my book shelf, unread. Given my audit and finance background and my interest in technology, it's only natural I grabbed at the chance to review his latest thriller offering. 

Review -
The book didn't disappoint when it came to the goings-on in the banking sector - the card processing and scamming aspect of the business, to be specific. The addition of the bitcoin trail was a welcome move. 

The book starts off with a worried head honcho (or should that be two worried head honchos) of one of the biggest card payment processing companyies in the world - MasterCard (no prizes for guessing right) planning a meeting with his business rival. Senator Gillan Tan, who has the President's ears, steps in and diffuses the sizeable threat to profitability of the comapnies but traps the two men in a reciprocrity bond. We are given a glimpse, not only into the discreet lobbying in Washington, but also a peek into the Senator's daily routine. As you wonder where this is headed, trouble erupts, rather explodes, claiming th elives of Senator and his entourage. This is rapidly followed by an ATM heist in NewYork that have the bankers in a twist and pulls the FBI into action. The case picks up new scents including a bitcoin based dark web network, scams in multinational banks, hacking within/through gaming companies before dropping us into a world of deceit - a dark place where family members, colleagues and friends wear masks disguisng their true character and intentions.

The actions is spread over many locations and moves from the power corridors of Washington to the banking zones of Mumbai, the drug addled beaches of Goa, the Finance Ministry in Delhi; and to a lesser extent New York City, Stanford, and Ukraine. It reveals the banks' recurrent battle with phishing, sponsored heists, hacks, internal scams and ego-driven bickering within in the upper echelons of these financial giants.
Despite the brutal killing of a US Senator Tan, the murder of an Indian CEO of an MNC bank Malvika Sehgal, the hit-and-run death of her immediate but defiant subordinate Swamy, the story is essentially about greed, deceit, acts of betrayal and revenge.

When Aditya, ex-boss at NHIB - the MNC bank and now owner of two successful companies, welcomes estranged son, Varun back into his life, he never quite imagined the nature of events that followed. Neither did his ex-colleague and current CEO, Malavika forsee her downfall. 
Varun hits off with Malvika daughter Tanya while in Mumbai; their acquaintance established on a previous visit to Rio, Brazil. The lives of Malvika, Swamy, Mike, Josh, Nikki and the rest of the characters are inadvertently tied to each other through their actions.

But both Varun and Tanya have secrets hidden from each other and the rest of world, secrets that have deadly consequences for everyone involved. They have seperate agendas and yet share a strange link with Senator Tan.

The book is pacey enough and has a lot of short and single page chapters. The author has done his research when it comes to the banking and gaming scenarios. There are no black and white charcters here, except for Sundeep, as the rest are realistically presented in varying shades of grey. There is a bit of technical stuff that may distract a reader unfamiliar with either systems but is necessary enough for the plot.

Things that bugged me include: a step-motherly treatment to bitcoins, info dump on gaming, more of "tell versus show" style of writing, clipped dialogues, too many sub plots, and a blotchy, narrative ending. Not  a single character was worthy of readers empathy or cheering, except perhaps for Swamy and Aditya. Varun and Tanya's choices (revealed at the end) left me cold and with ambivalent feelings for both of them.

In short, it's a good one-time read and gets a 3 star rating from me. (Goodreads version - I like the book) Will I recommend it to others? - Only to friends who prefer Indian authors and family menbers in the banking sector.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book as part of the Book Reviews Program of

August 16, 2014

The Dohmestics Book Trailer

Mohana Rajkumar is a prolific writer ( no exaggeration) based in Doha, Qatar. Her books, including the ones I've reviewed on this blog, usually focus on Arab and Asian characters within a Middle Eastern setting.

Her books give you more than a glimpse into the lives of the natives in oil-rich Qatar and South Asian diaspora  elsewhere. I am hoping this book is on similar lines but brings something extra to the table.

As part of her blog tour entourage, I offer this trailer of the recently released book -
The Dohmestics
Displaying DohmesticsNew.jpg

The Dohmestics explores the ups and downs of six women thrown together by fate in the quintessential Middle Eastern compound; a neighborhood enclosed by a boundary wall with a security gate. Emma, Nouf, Rosa, and Maya are part of the sophomoric fish bowl no one can escape, where rumors can ruin marriages or jobs.

Available in paperback or eBook. at Amazon

June 11, 2014

Ramayana - The Game of Life: Rise of the Sun Prince - a Book Review

Ramayana - The Game of Life : Rise of the Sun Prince (Book 1) -  Shubha Vilas                     
Publishers - Jaico Publishing
Genre - Contemporary - Mythology

Paperbook - 217  Pages
Price: Rs 250

Available as eBook at Amazon Kindle Store

A common childhood memory for older generations is the faithful retelling of the Ramayana by the elders in the family and the gradual progression to reading numerous adaptations of the epic.
The current generation is probably more familiar with the basic story and concepts in comic form. While the mythological tale has been revisited countless times, every new rendition – fiction or philosophical lends a unique flavour of its own.
One such modern rendition combined with traditional theological elements is the first one in the book series - Ramayana - The Game of Life: Rise of the Sun Prince by Shubha Vilas

The book starts as every Ramayana narration begins; with the Bala Kandha or the childhood exploits of Prince Ram and his brothers. The book draws largely from the Valmiki's masterpiece but artfully weaves in the poetic analogies found in the southern version by Tamil poet Kamban and folk tales.

The book begins with sage Valmiki and rightly so. The original narrator is analysed in detail. This detailing of characters, their actions and situations that they face is something that is retained throughout the story.
Sage Vishwamitra, a unique personality in his own way, is accorded ample acknowledgement as both spiritual guide and mentor of the celestial Prince.

The lessons of childhood shape our future actions and the sage plays an important in moulding the character of the princes and helping them earn their rightful place.
Readers familiar with the tale are well aware of the father, king Dashratha - his hopes, foibles and agony. The same has been well captured in this narrative, as well.

The famous ceremonial fire and battlefield scene has been captured in all its serenity and pathos. As the reader watches the young Rama and his siblings grow up under the sage's tutelage, he/she is swept along by the immersive storyline. Every character gets a place under the sun including minor ones. The parts involving Ahalya and Sita move you and make you question the customs and traditions that dictate their lives.

The Ramayana is a serious but engrossing tale and the author provides a version that mirrors the original while retaining a unique voice. The book cover is attractive and draws you in. The author has adopted a simple but effective writing style. He handles the complexity of various situations with the ease of a skilled narrator.
The detailed explanation in the form of footnotes is a welcome addition. You learn and unlearn as you read some of the explanations.

As a neutral agnostic with a fairly religious upbringing, I liked the explanatory parts more than the preaching aspects. Seen from a dispassionate point of view, the book manages to motivate on a humane level through the "laws or key lessons" and provides a path of life that can be assimilated without adding colours of faith.

If you are seeking a mythological fiction series such as Ajaya: Roll of the Dice by Anand Neelakantan, you will be sorely mistaken.
The author Swami Shubha Vilas is a motivational speaker and spiritual seeker. His book reflects this; it is a modern rendition of the timeless epic.

I give this engrossing and intellectually stimulating book, a four star rating.

 This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. 
April 09, 2014

Short Messages to Dad -

My A_Z journey ends here. I have been down with a heat related stomach infection for a couple of days. Having missed three posts in a row, it's only fair I quit. I will continue to post a-z tidbits when I get better.

A big thank you to Alex, Michelle and others who visited and tried to make me feel better.
April 07, 2014

Short Messages to Dad - Letter F

Letter F - Future

Conversation to Past & Future

Image courtesy -InspirationBoost/quotes

Life goes on... Nothing's changed, snail paced at times and missing an important element - you.
Someone said,"You don't die with the dead". True enough. You can - you just don't. 

Mom is coping badly...Work keeps my grief at bay but for someone who made you the focus of her life, time has slowed down. 
Rifled through your clothes - found the birthday ones with shopping tags intact - planning to give them away.

All I need is a future plan to bring a smile on mom's face - one not dependent on your grand kids.  

Any ideas, dad? I am desperate. 
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