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Review: eStories Audiobook Service & Android App

***I received an audiobook copy of Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern in exchange for an honest unbiased review of the eStories audiobook service & Android app. I’ve written my review based on my experience of the app for only this book.

eStories Audiobook Service Home Page ScreenShot

Summary

 
I enjoyed the book and Jim Dale’s narration, there is no doubt about that. But over 13 hours of listening gives a user a good amount of time too to try out all an app had to offer and I got a good sense of the app. eStories.com is a good service, cheaper currently that Audible and AudioBooks.com and a contender if you are looking for an audiobook service. However there a still areas for improvement.

Read on for a more detailed review…

eStories Audiobook Service User Interface

 
The user interface takes some getting used to and I took a while to find all the options available. A tour of the android app would have been helpful.
There are three ways to interact with the app when listening to a book.

1. The Lockscreen

eStories Audiobook Service App on LockScreen

On lock screen the app displays the book details, last played time and a play/pause button. This is enough at a basic level but I would have liked to have a reverse button too so I could quickly go back when listening without having to unlock my phone every time.

2. Notification Bar

eStories Audiobook Service App in Notifications

In the notifications bar the app offers book details, last played time, play/pause button and forward & reverse buttons. A little more control than the lockscreen.

3. App Playback Screen

eStories Audiobook Service App Playback screen

The playback screen on the app is quite comprehensive. It gives book details, current progress through book as – a bar, in time and percentage of book remaining. Apart from the play/pause, and reverse/forward options there are also buttons to skip to beginning or end of chapter and also to navigate chapters. Also on the screen are buttons to control speed, volume, set sleep timer and make notations. (More options can be accessed from the menu)

Using the eStories app took some getting used to, as I had to get into the habit of unlocking my phone every time I missed a sentence and wanted to rewind. That was a bit of a pain. It was also only at the end of 13 hours of listening that I found the chapters navigation button. Before that I’d been rewinding multiple chapters with the chapter end/beginning buttons. 😀

Listening Experience on the Android App

 
The audio quality of the app is great, even on the phone’s speaker which I used for listening as I went to bed. However when listening on my headphones I would have liked the ability to configure headset buttons for shortcuts, an option that’s not available. I would have also liked an auto reverse when playback was paused and pauses for notifications and calls, as the app does not auto pause. That means having to pick up a call and then manually pause the book.

Features of eStories Audiobook Service

 
The eStories Audiobook Service app has quite a few features like chapter navigation, notations, sleep mode, and variable playback speed. The book details section is rich in information about the book and recommendations based on it. There is also an option to mark the book as finished and to rate and review it.
However it does not have day & night mode, audio equaliser or volume boosting options.

Tech Stuff

 
The settings section of the eStories Audiobook Service app allows users to choose streaming playback and download over wifi only options. eStories also offers unlimited cloud storage for you to upload your existing library and drm free books that you may have got from elsewhere to play with the app. The app also syncs across devices and connects up to 5 devices, so you can start on one and pick up listening on another.

One of my biggest complaints with the app was its stability. It crashed quite often and did not run well in the background both while downloading and playback. That meant that I could not use my phone while the eStories app was running, and that was a sore point. The app also didn’t do well without internet access as it did not load fully and accessing my already downloaded book became almost impossible.

eStories Audiobook Service Plans and Pricing

Price and Value – eStories Audiobook Service

 
The eStories audiobook service has over 80,000 bestselling titles and new releases to choose from and you get your first audiobook free when you subscribe (30 day free trial). Most books are priced $15 and above but their monthly subscription is just $11.99, which is lower than Audible and AudioBooks .com.

For $11.99 each month (basic plan) you get 1 credit which can be used to buy one book and you have a credit rollover of 6 months. Over 80% of the audiobooks on eStories are DRM-free so you are free to do what you want with them after buying. They also offer a 30 days return period if you are not satisfied with your book and your reason in valid. :)

———
Over all, eStories a usable app and audiobook service, that you should try out if you are into audiobooks and find the other two giants pricey. I’m looking forward to the app getting more robust and user-friendly.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Which service do you use? Have you tried eStories? Do you like it?

March 31, 2017   No Comments

Review: Bookling’s Crate Book Subscription Box

Bookling's Crate Feb. 2017 Box

When I bought my first box there was no plan of unboxing boxes through the year, I just wanted to try out one box, so I started out with the cheapest box I could find, the Bookling’s Crate. But when the box arrived there was nothing cheap about it, instead it started an addiction I’m trying hard to keep in tight rein. 😉

Until now, I have unboxed two of the Bookling’s Crate boxes. The first in January, themed ‘Dreams of Heart’, left me unsure and I decided to withhold review until I could budget in another box. But I got lucky and I won a second box. 😀
**This is to say they have cool contests and that the following is an unbiased review. :) **

Bookling's Crate Jan. 2017 Box

Affordability

★★★★★

The Bookling’s Crate boxes are priced at Rs.799. If you have a code, then you can get a discount on that too! And if you buy a 3 months or 6 months subscription, you pay less that 799 a month.

What can I say, it screams “I’m affordable!!!”.

Value for Money

★★★★★

One of the cool things, the Bookling’s Crate box contains, is a list of items with prices, so I didn’t have to hunt the prices down. Here’s the numbers of each box –
January – 5 items – worth Rs. 1029.
February – 7 items – worth Rs.1196

In sheer numbers, I’ve got my money’s worth. And more I’d say, based on their second box.

Quality of Packaging

★★★★★

Both my boxes came packed well with lots of padding and bubble wrap, arriving in perfect condition. Each item packed well and tucked in well, so as to make for safe transport and an interesting unboxing.

Theme and Book Choice

★★★★☆

The January box was themed ‘Dreams of Heart’. The book was Heartless by Marissa Meyer, an excellent choice in my opinion as I’ve heard good things about the book from friends and it’s rated highly on GR – 4.09. Along with the book was a heart shaped scented vanilla candle from D’Lite Decorative, two sachets of green tea from Tea Treasure, a pack of golden playing cards, a small dreamcatcher on a keychain from MeSha Creations, 4 Harry Potter themed bookmarks, 2 Heartless themed bookmarks and a quote card.

All the items connect to each other and the theme in some way, but somehow it all didn’t sit well together for me, or maybe it’s because I’m not much of a candles and cards person. Hmm…

The February box themed ‘Ready for Anything’ had Freeks by Amanda Hocking as it’s book. I haven’t heard of this book but I have heard of Amanda Hocking and aside from that, this book has such a gorgeous cover. The book also resonated with me because I’ve just finished listening to Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Freeks I think will help with the Night Circus hangover I’m experiencing. 😀 (GR rating 3.68)
Apart from the book, the box also had a pencil cum wand from BlitheringCannon, two blends of coffee from BeanStalknLeaves, a leaf shaped metal bookmark from MeSha Creations, two Yoga bars, a Harry Potter themed tote bag and two bookmarks with quotes on them.

Unlike the January box, this box had me instantly connecting. Every item had me grinning gleefully, the items all connected and sat well with the theme; I don’t know why, they just did. 😀
I’d have given 3 stars in this section based on the January box but February bowed me over to 4 stars.

Joy of Unboxing

★★★★★

I absolutely enjoyed unboxing both my Bookling’s Crate boxes. The second one even more I think because I knew of some things in the box and I’d had to wait overnight to open my box. 😉

The videos above are the best gauge of my joy. I felt like such a child opening these boxes, experiencing pure unadulterated happiness for a little while as I immersed myself in each box.

Summary

.
I definitely recommend the Bookling’s Crate book subscription box. It hits all my checkboxes.
I’d like to see that something hatke in the theme and packaging that would make them unique but that would be a bonus. Just as it is, the Bookling’s Crate box is bang for your buck. Get it! :)

You can book your Bookling’s Crate box for just Rs.719.10. Use the code FREYA10 to get a 10% discount. (The box costs Rs.799/-).
{Please use the code or let Uthara who runs Bookling’s Crate know you came from me. They have a referral program too with goodies to be won. :) }

February 20, 2017   2 Comments

A Year of Unboxing and Reviews of Book Subscription Boxes

A Year of Unboxing Book Subscription Boxes

Last year I discovered Bookstagram, a large community of bibliophiles and book lovers on Instagram, and a new world opened up. Among challenges, book tags and what not’s, book subscription boxes also started to pop-up on my stream and I was enthralled. I drooled as I checked out the boxes, my heart craving and longing but the rational mind reminded me that shipping to India was way out of my budget. :(

Book Subscription Boxes, are a curated collection of books and bookish goodies based usually on a theme, packed in a box. The key to these boxes is the surprise factor and the simple joy of presents, materialistic ones, but hey, what the hell! :) And then some boxes like the ‘Once Upon A Book Club’ box go the extra by making the theme the book, so you get a bunch of goodies that come wrapped and marked with page numbers, and you open them as you read the book! (Gawd, I can’t wait to try this one.)
 
The Bookling's Crate and BooksnBeyond January 2017 Boxes

Then suddenly in January, I discovered Indian Book Subscription Boxes, first one, then another and then a flood of them. These were now affordable and I wanted all of them but that damn rational mind kicked in again to say, in those numbers they were again unaffordable. However this time, the bugger also had an alternative. How about one box a month through the year?

And there in lies the seed. So, this year I’ve set a budget of a 1500 bucks a month to buy a book box. That money can move around based on cost of boxes, what I mean is that whatever I save each month (if a box is less than 1.5k), will collect and I’m hoping to use it in the end of the year to treat myself to some of those US and UK based boxes. Yay! 😀

 
Watching my first unboxing video, I discovered the joy of watching a joyful experience, my own experience at that. It struck me that I should document my year of subscription boxes, in text, images and video. So, this year there will be at least one unboxing video a month, one book subscription box review and lots of photos and stories on Instagram of book boxes and their contents. :)

Review Parameters

 
In the spirit of fairness, I put some thoughts down on what I’d be reviewing a box on, plus it would help in writing the review. 😉

1. Affordability
2. Value for money
3. Quality of Packaging
4. Theme and Book Choice
5. Joy of Unboxing

Unboxed Book Subscription Boxes

 
Here’s the list of boxes I’ve unboxed by month (I’ll keep adding to it as I go along :) )

January

Bookling’s Crate

February

BooksnBeyond

 

Bookling’s Crate

(coming soon)
 
I’m already enjoying myself so much with these boxes, I can’t wait for the next month to arrive. :)
What do you think? I’d love to know. Have you tried subscription boxes? What was your experience? Any recommendations for me?
 

Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

February 18, 2017   No Comments

Food Review: FreshMenu – The Food and App Experience

This is Che’s first guest post on my blog (let’s hope more comes from his pen). He has become an addict of FreshMenu and has been ordering from them every chance he gets. Here’s his thoughts about them from when he first started out about 15 days ago… Please leave your comments, if for no other reason then just to make him feel good. 😛

Written on July 30th 2015

Last evening I get a message from my local Electricity board engineer that they are going to pull the plug for most parts of today (nearly 8-9 hours). Starting 9pm I got into a frenzy working like a machine to finish a batch of Granola that had to go in the oven before the electricity gods took a break. The thing with putting anything in the Oven is, you spend a fair bit of time twiddling your thumbs waiting for the magic to happen. One aimless click led to another and there, I was on Freshmenu’s website. In the past friends had some good things to say about their service, food, blah blah. But..hey ! I live outside the city… In most cases I am out of “Coverage Area” which includes my Airtel mobile connection. I was thinking to myself “hmm..pretty cool service to have if I lived inside the city”.

What started out as an attempt to check the area they serve food to, ended up in me signing up on their website. The Website signup experience pretty much sucks compared to the same on their app.

Now that I’d signed up… I still couldn’t find details on which areas in Bangalore Freshmenu serviced. The photographer in me perked up to all the cool food images on their app and in an attempt to “test waters” I placed my first order for lunch at 12:30 in the night. I was pretty sure that I will either get a mail or a call in the morning saying “Sir, We don’t serve food to your area”. Selecting the Cash-on-Delivery option, I had nothing to loose.

10:10 am today I get my first call from Freshmenu. “Sir, Can you give us the landmark to reach your house please”. I was pretty sure even now that once I describe the jungle I live in, I will get the “Sorry Sir..”

My first surprise… ”You are a little far…but not that far from our Hennur Kitchen…we will send you your food soon”.

My second surprise came another 30 minutes later from the delivery personnel “Sir, I will be there a little early…Hope its fine by you”.

My third surprise..They were the first service provider who didn’t call me for directions and landed straight at my gate! Boom… I was completely bowled over! So was the wife… After a few customary images I got down to eating the food.

Asian BBQ grilled Chicken (Non Veg)

Rs. 250.00

Cinnamon, Star Anise mixed with beaten Lemon Grass, Galangal, Celery Stick, Kafir Lemon and sauteed. It is then added with BBQ sauce, chilli paste, dark soy and simmered for 15 mins to prepare the sauce. Boneless chicken is marinaded with the sauce, grilled and served with a drizzle of the same sauce and noodles. (Source)

The food was warm and well packed when it arrived. The chicken was juicy and grilled to perfection. I even fought off the wife from digging into my plate and licked the BBQ sauce clean. Lunch done by 1:00 pm… Burrrp…

5:30pm The wife and me agreed that we shall try Freshmenu again for dinner and see if things work out the same way. This time I paid up online and the whole ordering process was a breeze. 5 minutes from me placing the order, I got the customary “Where do you live Sir” call. I really hoped that post my last order a coupla hours back they should have known that.

6:00pm I get a call from the same delivery guy (Syed), stating that there was a little confusion over whether I was under the service area. He confirmed all is fine and the food will come a little late by 6:30pm (I was promised 7pm delivery when I placed the order).

6:30pm The food gets delivered on the dot… The gluttons we were, the wife and me under estimated the portions. Between two of us we ordered the following for dinner…

Tex-Mex Titanic Chicken Burger (Non Veg)

Rs. 250.00

An all-American jumbo burger with home-pounded chicken patty spiced up with chopped jalapeno and cumin. It is then layered with cucumber, tomato, lettuce and mustard mayonnaise and nestled between a sesame bun. (Source)

Greek Salad with Roasted Chicken (Non Veg)

Rs. 150.00

Earthy combination of garden fresh onion, cucumber, tomato, peppers graced with feta cheese and olives tossed in lemon vinaigrette. (Source)

Spicy Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich (Non Veg)

Rs. 200.00

Chicken breast marinated in salt, pepper, herbs and garlic which is then pounded, coated with bread and pan-fried. It is then layered with cucumber, tomato, English cucumber, iceberg lettuce and nestled within a home-made bread. Served with a house salad. (Source)

Summer in a Jar

Rs. 300.00

A bright arrangement of vanilla sponge topped with strawberry mouse and then strawberry crush, vanilla sponge, blueberry mouse and blueberry crush. Wait it gets better, on top of those layers, vanilla sponge topped with mango mousse and mango pulp. Before being closed it crushed nuts and cookies are sprinkled over it. (Source)

Everything was packed to perfection… A few pictures later, we were ready to dig in.

The wife’s Tex-Mex Titanic Burger was humongous!

My Schnitzel Sandwich was very good indeed. My only grouse was that the bread was a tad soggy and I couldn’t hold it while chomping away. The house salad that came along was fresh and crunchy! The Greek Salad with the Vinaigrette was spot on!

Summer in a Jar was outright sinful! We expected a tiny “jar” but it turned out to be quite big. I ate my half of the Jar at the end of my meal and Nirvana it was! The wife couldn’t get to the Summer in a Jar as she was stuffed by then.

We both were in a food coma at the end of our so called “light” dinner. At 900 bucks it was a tad pricy. But totally worth it for the great bistro quality food at my doorstep!

Overall… Freshmenu.com… Chapeau… You guys bowled me over every step in the process from the ordering to the grub hitting the spot bang on! You have a fan boy in me!

August 18, 2015   7 Comments

Friday Review: Woodpie( ver 2) – A Paper-Book Sharing Site

About two years ago I came across the site ‘Woodpie’, a site for the exchange of books. The idea was very interesting and so I explored the site and wrote my views and review on it.

After the initial week or two of use the site fell away and over time I forgot all about it. Then a couple of weeks back I received an email telling me Woodpie was all updated and new and shiny now.

I figured another review was due. I was also curious to see what the improved site looked like and how many of the issues I’d raised, had been sorted. 😀

Welcome Page

The new welcome screen is clean and engaging. It’s well laid out with enough information to show that the heart of Woodpie has stayed the same through all changes. The site is all about book exchange.

And guess who’s testimonial was up there 😀

Home Page

The first thing I notice after the home page is it simple clean lines. It feels nice on the eye and makes we want to explore more. A pinterest type layout that is easy to navigate.

This page tells you all about what other users of Woodpie are doing in a nice cards layout. It feels good to scroll through all those book covers and see which ones catch my eye.

The page also has little widgets/column’s with lists of popular books and popular people, to help you find books to read and make friends in the community.

‘Me’ Tab

The ‘Me’ section has all the books I’ve added placed on shelves. There is also options to check out the ‘Reviews’ I’ve done, my ‘Wishlist’ and my ‘Friends’.

The page looks clean and I like how it is laid out. The bio section with numbers of reviews, books and wishlist is a handy thing for a quick appraisal.

Editing the profile is also easy and intuitive. On your Woodpie profile you can currently list links to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and your Blog. What you see in the Me is what everyone else sees too when they come to your profile.

The Friends section has three divisions – the people you are connected to,people who are connected to you and Facebook contacts. The first two work quite like the following options on Goodreads or Facebook.

Clicking on Facebook contacts lists out my Facebook friends with an invite button next to each profile. As of now the listing seems limited to 32 friends and the site can’t load beyond that. I would have also liked to see a search option so I could get past the letter A quickly. 😀

Library

Clicking on the Library option takes you to a page filled with books. Here there are some excellent options to choose from. You can take a looks at all the books shared on Woodpie or look at just books in your city. You can also choose to view books from a list of 20 countries and active cities in it.

Trade

The Trade section has a listing of exchange offered made by you and to you. Since my trade section was empty I decided to try requesting a book and see how it worked out.

You can choose the book you want from your Wishlist section or click on any book in the Library. In your wishlist if a book is available (someone has it) you’ll see a ‘Get It’ note below the book details. The library of course has book that someone already has.

Searching for a book isn’t a great option as the results show all editions of the book and if you do not choose the same edition as other users, you will not be able to request the book.

Clicking on the ‘Get It’ option causes a drop down with the flow of getting the book. You first see a list of users who have the book. After you have chosen the user, you next have to choose the book you want to give in exchange on your list or books the user has requested. Finally before you confirm, you can suggest a place and time to meet up.

The exchange process is well laid out and simple. Once a exchange request is placed it shows up in the trade section. I would have liked to see options to mail or courier books too. That way I’m not limited to any city.

Adding Books

There are also two little buttons at the top to Add/Review Book and Invite Friends. Clicking on the Add button leads to a search box, and the results of a search give you a listing of various editions of the book.

The listing also has a lot of books related to your search topic. That’s means aside from the usual title, author and ISBN, you can also search by topic, though you may have to scroll through a lot of stuff.

Each book listing has options to add it to your library, request it or review it. If the book is already in your library, on your wishlist or reviewed the buttons will be depressed. The difference in the buttons being active and inactive is very slight. I’d have like it to be more prominent.

Invite Friends

The invite friends option leads to a page with three ways to find friends – Facebook, Email and Woodpie. The Facebook option here works well and lists all friends in a never ending list. Here too a search option would have been helpful.

The email section asks for a list of email ID’s. I would have liked a way to import email ID’s rather than type or copy paste them individually. In the preview email invite sent out goes from Anuradha Bajpai. I’d have liked to send the email out with my name.

The last option is to connect with users on Woodpie. This is a great way to find new book friends and create a new network of friends.

Apart from all of this in the top right hand corner you have settings and notifications. Settings allows you to choose what notifications you get and control Woodpie’s posting on your behalf on Facebook. Notifications is the usual listing of alerts. I would have liked to see date and time here tomato each alert more relevant.

Summary

Over all Woodpie looks and behaves way better than when I saw it two years ago. The usability and smoothness is good and I enjoyed going through the page. There are still some glitches to be smoothed out but nothing that majorly takes away from the experience.

The biggest drawback I see is not in the site but the concept. I don’t know how many people today want to metope and exchange books. That needs to the core missing piece I saw. There aren’t enough users right now and until the critical number is reached the site isn’t going to be very helpful.

That said, I would like to see a future for Woodpie as it would bring book lovers closer and revive paper books to some extent.

P.S. – I also hope they move their Social Links elsewhere. On a page with unlimited scrolling trying to click on links at the bottom of the page is a b*tch. 😛

 
P.S. – Day Eleven of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

May 15, 2015   2 Comments

Friday Review: Afghani Qabuli & Biryani

I consider myself a foodie even though I am quite a fussy eater. Well, you know like haggis, there’s going to be a lot of fuss before I eat that. 😀

But seriously, I do love trying out new food and exploring flavours so when I am offered an option to go to a new restaurant, I’m not one to say no.

We’d heard of Afghani Qabuli & Biryani from friends who recommended it highly and so one afternoon we headed out to check it out.

Situated on Nehru Main Road in Kammanahalli, this little Afghan place is hidden away and yet easy to find. The layout on the inside is simple with a comfortable seating arrangement that can accommodate a couple or even a large group. The walls are covered with paintings and pictures of Afghanistan.

We settled in and ordered what we had been told was the best dish in the house. The Afghani Traditional Mutton Gravy with Qubus and Chakni. It comes with a mug of Afghani Traditional Dogh so we asked for that to be made two.

The mutton gravy was served in a large dish what facilitated the tradition form of community eating. We broke bread and dug in, breaking off only to sip on our dogh’s. The gravy was lovely and yum with about 7-8 pieces of boneless meat. The dogh is something else, refreshing and quite close in taste to our raitha and yet so very different.

Service is fast with minimal waiting time. Service is also done with courtesy and a smile. We enjoyed lunch but that wasn’t all we ate. We were also served a complimentary plate of firni, boy you should have see the smiles on Che and my face. 😀

We enjoyed our experience so much, we’ve been there again, and this time along with the mutton gravy we also tried the Afghani Traditional Biryani. This was also great in taste but maybe not my favourite since I don’t like sweetish food too much.

Over all this is a must visit place if you like Arabian/Afghani food. A nice ambience, well lit, simple and clean. Not noisy music, delectable food, impressive service and light on the pocket pricing (Our bill was about Rs.500 for 2 people). This place has it all!

My Rating –
Ambiance – ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷
Music –        ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷
Food –          ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷
Service –     ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷
Price –         ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷ ✷

 

Afghani Qabuli & Biryani – Zomato

Phone – +91 9008735522

Location – Shop 21, Nehru Main Road, Kammanahalli, Bangalore 560084

March 6, 2015   No Comments

Friday Review: #WhatNextAmish?

This is an odd review but WTH, it’s still related to books. 😀

Two weeks ago I received an email from the Westland Publishing team asking me if I’d like to participate in solving the mystery of Amish Tripathi’s new book. Is there any way I could have said no. 😀

Anyway to cut a long story short, after a long wait my surprise arrived two days ago. Here’s what I saw when I opened the carton. A pretty little treasure box.

Inside the box there was an instruction leaflet, a bottle with stuff that looked like mud and a scroll.

The leaflet is the usual type with a welcome message and instructions on how to make entries in the contest.

The scroll however has some interesting clues…

The scroll reads – “A blazing torch in the dark, the city I come from is that of knowledge, and knowledge shines through. Hold me with reverence, good people. I am a bigger clue than I might appear to be. Speaking of rising from the element, as opposed to letting it eventually consume you, the history of my place of origin is as colourful as the traditional art it is known the world over for. A city with a productive present, its yields in the past went on to change the face of ancient India.”

So what’s this all about? Basically this is Amish and WestLand promoting Amish’s next book and doing it in style. I’m glad to see stuff like this finally happen in India in the book space. WestLand is sending 150 or so fans clues that will lead to the subject of Amish’s next book. 5 winners will get gift vouchers worth Rs.500. The prize isn’t compelling enough, I’d have preferred early editions of the book or such but just using the mind to solve the clues in the reason for why I’m participating.

Now on to solving the clue… At the end of the Shiva series I remember having a feeling that his next book would be based in the South of India, I even mentioned it in my review of the Shiva Trilogy but I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the clues.

And this isn’t the only clue. There are two others sent out to others participation. Here are all three…

Most people seem to be of the opinion that it will be either Ramayana, Mahabharata, Buddha or Ashoka. Most weightage is being given to Mahabharata since Amish mentioned it in the second book of the Shiva Trilogy.

But as of now I’m inclined to think his next story will be based in Kancheepuram. If you ask me why, I don’t have all the perfect answers. I started out with the feeling that his next book/series will be based in the South. With that in mind I went hunting for learning centres in the South and came upon Madurai and Kacheepuram as probables. But Madurai does not have any world famous art, Kancheepuram on the other hand does. So.. That’s my guess. How the other two clues fit in I can’t figure out. 😀

Two other places I have on my shortlist of three guesses are – Madurai and Tanjore.

Amish will reveal his next book’s teaser trailer on 23rd January at 6:00pm at the Jaipur Lit Fest and that’s not to far off, it’s just a couple of hours away. Let’s see what comes up…

Back to why this fits into the review category… This is a review of the promotion of Amish’s next book and I am impressed by what the WestLand Team is doing. It’s a well planned event that is causing the right amount of hype in the right circles. Kudos and 5 stars for their efforts. 😀

Update: Amish revealed the title of his next book. It’s Scion of Ikshvaku. I’ve kicking myself coz I have another book on the same topic on my reading list right now. 😀 But really I’d never have guessed that and reason is that I’d thought Amish would be more, that he would not take up the same old ghisa pitta Ramayana story and rewrite it. Maybe he make that fun too. Who knows, time will tell. For now, here’s the teaser trailer…

Additional Info: The book is expected to be released before October 2015 and there will be 4 to 5 books in this Ram series! 😯

January 23, 2015   No Comments

2014: The Year in Books

Though I read over 50 books last year, it wasn’t the best of years in books for me. I started the year with a back log of books to review and with all that was happening, I just didn’t find much reading time in the first half of last year.

Not reading enough leaves me cranky and grumpy. I need my escape time in each day where I leave my mundane life behind (not that it’s boring in any way) and slip away into a world of fantasy, where I can be a Bridget Jones, fall in love with a Darcy, solve a mystery with a Mason, and all such stuff.

I spent until about May scrambling, trying to catch-up with the lists, unhappy while doing what I love the most, then it broke and I gave up. I realised that I was unhappy because I wasn’t reading what I wanted in the little time I had. Not that I didn’t like the books lined for review, I had chosen them but I felt I wasn’t reading enough of what I wanted to read.

I let go and started reading what I wanted to. It definitely made me happier in the little reading time I used to get. I did a few reviews in-between but they weren’t much at all.

I enjoyed reading impulsively, choosing what I wanted with randomness and picking stuff from my Forever-TBR without feeling guilt. It’s how I landed up with the Perry Mason series.

Perry Mason was on my TBR in college but somehow there was always something else to be read and I never got down to reading Mason. Now years later I’ve started and got hooked. Of course it helped that these are fast books so I could read more and catch up a bit with my book challenge numbers.

Two years in a row I’ve tried to read a 100 books in a year and haven’t managed it. I was hoped the Mason series would work out as a good cheat but well, it didn’t. :(

But it did help cross the 50% mark though. 😀

I managed to read 59 books out of the 100 I had targeted. Not too bad considering the chaos of 2014. That said, this year I’m back to trying for the 100 number but with a few learnings.

Biggest learning – I need to reduce the number of books I review and read more books from my Forever TBR. 😀 With that in mind I’m going to be turning down more books for review (I hope), finishing the pending review list and reading lots of stuff I want to.

Ok this post has gone on too long. A post on stats and books and another on my learnings is due but that’s later. For now I’m heading back to reading. ;D

January 22, 2015   1 Comment

Friday Review: Quikr – Another Classifieds Site

A couple of weeks ago I came across an activity on BlogAdda to review Quikr, the offer was to buy something worth Rs.5000 or less, blog about it and get the amount reimbursed. Sounds cool no? So, I applied and got selected. (OK, I gotta say this, so here goes – This post is a part of Quikr activity at BlogAdda)
However let me say this upfront, I didn’t buy anything even after a lot of searching, but since I’d done all the homework, I figured ‘review toh banta hai’. :)

Let’s begin where it all begins, at the beginning… 😛
In the hope of buying something [for free :D] I headed over to Quikr. The site prompts the first time visitor to choose the city they live in, it offers a match and a lot of options.

Choosing a city causes the pop-up to disappear and the next pop-up to appear.

The pop-up for choice of city made sense but the pop-up about the latest TV ad was irksome. I didn’t need to see that or waste my time getting past it! I’d have preferred heading into the site directly.

Once past the TV ad, I landed up on the main page. The page is well laid out and quite clean. A quick route to seeing something is offered along with category choices for buying. There are also the most popular categories listed out if you need it.

Clicking on the Sign-in/register option led to another pop-up which gave me options to login or register. The sign-up process is simple and short with just the right questions being asked. You’ll need to intimate if you are an individual or a business, provide your email id, mobile number, current city and create a password.

Since a login is not needed for buying and really only needed to tracking a sale, an extra step to register or sign-in makes sense. However I’d have liked to see the city being choose by default, especially since I choose that as soon as I landed on the site.

The buyer or seller can verify themselves by giving a missed call on a number provided using the mobile number given at the time of registration. I’d have preferred an MS or a call from Quikr to the number I gave as my calling them didn’t work out and I couldn’t complete verification.

Completion of registration took me to ‘My Dashboard’. Like I said before registration works best for selling, the dashboard does not have much utility for buyers, unless you have email alerts for products maybe.

Sign-up complete I headed back to the home page to see what I could find to buy. I had a couple of things I wanted in mind. 1. a Bose speaker with iPod dock, 2. a Kindle

Quikr offers three ways to find a product –

1. Search

The search option which when you start typing gives you recommendations.

2. Categories

A grid of categories to choose from on the home page that help you find your product of choice. Clicking on a category brings up a list of further options to choose from in the category.

3. Alerts

Creating an alert for something you want.

I chose the Electronics & Appliances category which led me to further choices between laptops, kitchen appliances, and other options. There is also a fast search option where you can choose the appliance, the locality and your budget to get quick results.

Next I chose the music systems option. Quikr offers further options to refine your search in the sub-category. You can choose the brand, the price-range, the condition, the location and posting time to help you condense the results.

A choice of Bose and pricing in ascending order led me to a few Bose docks. Most of them were out of my budget but I did find one at Rs.4,000. (A quick note – the brand option to refine search worked but most other options didn’t make any difference to the results, especially when I tried defining my budget.)

However as soon as I sent the seller a message, the ad disappeared and I couldn’t find it again after. :(

After this hiccup, the search began anew to find something to buy and I next headed into a search for Kindles. This time I choose to search using the search bar.

I got 26 results but when I tried sorting based on price, I got thrown out with the message “Unfortunately, there are no ads in this category right now.”

Not to be deterred I started to manually scan for price on the list and started calling sellers in my budget. I called 4 people selling kindles and each one of them said it had already been sold. :(

And with that ended my saga of trying to buy something on Quickr. But before I go into a list of pros and cons, let me also list out my experience with the Quikr mobile app for android.

I found the Quickr app in the Play store and clicked install to get a list of permissions the app required. The list of permissions is really long, even longer and scarier than the Facebook Messenger list!

I’m still undecided on whether I did the right thing when I gave the app all those permissions.

The app works quite like the site and is easy to use. However I think the app would work better for selling than buying as you could take a picture of the product with your phone and upload it right from there along with details.

Selling anything on Quikr is a simple two screen process. The process as it is is easy and quick but since I haven’t sold anything, I can’t say much about the quickness of the sale. 😀

Pros –

  • The site and app are simple and easy to use.
  • The system to setup something to sell is easy.
  • The layout of the site and products in easy on the eye.

Cons –

  • Most products though listed are already sold. A way to track and remove sold items from the site would be helpful.
  • Some of the filtering options do not work when scanning listings.
  • Though the catalogue is extensive and categorised, finding what you want is still difficult. Searching is easier but even that does not work to perfection.

Overall –

Quikr is just another classifieds site, nothing specific that makes it stand out or be special. For that matter it would makes sense both when buying and selling to spread the net and use other classifieds sites too. That said Quikr could be a useful site, sometimes. 😀

Have you used Quikr? Bought or sold anything? What did you think of it?

November 12, 2014   No Comments