31 December, 2017

Destined by Rubina Ramesh - [Book Review]

Blog Tour by The Book Club of DESTINED by Rubina Ramesh

Rubina Ramesh

Blog Tour by The Book Club of DESTINED by Rubina Ramesh


Esha Mehra could have taken care of her father, only if she had some support from her fiancé. But he had his priorities set and her sick father was nothing but a burden. Esha didn't have any other choice but to apply for a loan from her office. But she had not banked on the fact that the Head of Geno Technologies needed her for other reasons.

When Rohan Sharma saw Esha for the first time, he felt she was the one. He had no intention of falling in love with her for the pain of the past was still too much to bear. 
But he did need Esha as a decoy to his plan. But Esha was not a damsel in distress who would bend to his will easily. While he was sure that he would marry her only for six months, he still couldn’t understand why he felt a searing jealousy every time, her ex-fiancé Ayush’s name was mentioned.

While these two souls had other plans in their lives, Destiny conspires to bring them together. But will the stench of Death let them live their lives? 

My Review

The Plot:
The story starts with Esha getting a bad news that her father is diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. Her life turns upside down as it is difficult to get treatment for him with her meager salary and she has no one to ask for help. When it is time to show support, her fiancee and her longtime friend 'Ayush' shows his true colors and abandons her. 

In these turbulent times, her boss 'Rohan' proposes to marry her in exchange for the responsibility to finance her father's treatment. Esha doesn't have any other option. While she also gradually falls for Rohan, she finds out the true purpose of Rohan marrying her. Only destiny can decide if Esha and Rohan can win their love for each other and clear their misunderstandings. 

What I liked?
Of course, the romance. That is the first thing to mention. Esha is straightforward and bold, whereas Rohan is handsome, rich and kind. The chemistry, conversations and the attraction are all natural. The issues in their relationships and misunderstandings are relatable.

The next important highlight of the story is the concept behind it. This is not a usual romantic story. It makes the readers empathize the families that take care of their ill family member whom they love more than anything in the world. It talks about the sacrifices the families take for that person and the problems they face. This story also highlights the problems women face when they decide to support their parents financially after they are committed to marry.

I liked the narration and pace. I completed the novel in one go because of that.

What didn't impress me much?
The climax seemed to have wrapped up very quickly. I expected to read more about Zaira and Rohan's father. Rohan proposing Esha for the first time itself didn't look very convincing. 

Overall, A good read for nook readers who love romance with a good story and relatable characters.

My Rating: 4/5

PS: I have received this book from the tbc blog tours in exchange for a review and this is my honest opinion on the book.

Read an excerpt:
On seeing her, he grinned. "There goes my dream of my bride sitting on the bed with a long veil over her face that I could slowly lift up."

Esha laughed. "Do it in your real wedding."

Rohan felt a jolt at her words though his feelings had stopped making any sense at all. He found her pajama-clad wet avatar very sensual. Her hair was wet from the shower and a few droplets fell on her collarbone, like dew drops on a rose petal. Now that he was finally alone with Esha, he wanted to further muss up her hair and kiss those wet pearls away. But never had he imagined that he would be alone in a room with her amidst roses and that her intoxicating perfume would drive him crazy. Theirs wasn't a marriage in the true sense and yet her lips were calling out to him to feel them with his own.

But he was sure that she wouldn't appreciate it. He forced himself to lean back on the pillow and give her an easy smile to fight his raging hormones. "So, which side of the bed is yours?"

She looked at him sharply to check if he was laughing at her predicament. She then went to her purse and took out a tape—a big, brown one.

"Naughty, naughty," he said sitting up, suddenly feeling the air crackling between them with an invisible electric thread that was slowly pulling them towards each other. "What's your intention darling?"

Esha gave him an evil grin and sashayed towards him, all the while opening the tape. "You didn't think I would be prepared?" she asked, her voice husky. Any hot-blooded man would find this a big turn-on but Rohan sat up straight, wondering if she was drunk.

"Esha, I think we should go to sleep now." He gave her a sheepish smile. "It's getting very late."

She threw back her head and laughed, "The night is still young, darling." She opened the tape further and climbed on the bed, inching slowly towards him as she rolled it out. Rohan could feel his heart skipping a few beats. He wanted her no doubt, but he was not expecting this and her strange behavior made him uncomfortable.

 "Do you want something to eat?" He sounded lame even to himself. She threw her head back and looked at him, her sherry colored eyes darkening into molten chocolate, and the light breeze from the window caught her silk tresses and made them dance to a tune of their own. She bit her lower lip and leaned in front of him, staring deep into his eyes. "Are you nervous?"

"Why are you behaving like this?" he asked, trying to get out of the bed. He felt an invisible hand clutching his stomach but he kept his tone breezy. "Are we taking this night to mean what it is meant to be? I'm ready if you are."

If she took another step forward, her breasts would touch him. What the devil was she playing at? He couldn't even lean back further since the head rest was stopping any further movement. She leaned forward but instead of coming towards him, she went beyond him and stuck the edge of the tape to the middle of the bed post. She then pulled the tape down – further and further and a line was drawn along the middle of the bed.

Grab your copy @


About the author

Blog Tour by The Book Club of DESTINED by Rubina Ramesh

Rubina Ramesh is an avid reader, writer, blogger, book reviewer and marketer. She is the founder of The Book Club, an online book publicity group. Her first literary work was published in her school magazine. It gave her immense pride to see her own name at the bottom of the article. She was about 8 years old at that time. She then went to complete her MBA and after her marriage to her childhood friend, her travel saga started. From The Netherlands to the British Isles she lived her life like an adventure. After a short stint in Malaysia, she finally settled down in the desert state of USA, Arizona. Living with her DH and two human kids and one doggie kid, Rubina has finally started living the life she had always dreamed about – that of a writer.

Click here to check out all the titles by the author...

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Black Peppers by Madhu Purushothaman - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: Black Peppers
Author: Madhu Purushothaman
Genre: Suspense Thriller, Historical Fiction
Length of the book: 226 pages
Source: A free print copy from the author


Gowri’s world is jolted when a spate of murders of teenaged girls in her village seems inexplicably connected to her family’s mysterious past. Her problems are compounded when her sister is subjected to smarthavicharam, a trial for adultery for Namboodiri Brahmin women, after being accused by her sister’s husband Balaraman. Her sister is convicted, deemed a sathanam (an inanimate object) and given away to the untouchables. Contact with untouchables was forbidden for a Namboodiri, yet Gowri attempts to rescue her sister from the untouchables. For that she needs to fight the Namboodiri social system despite the limitations of a Namboodiri woman.

Gowri and her teenaged friends put their own lives in danger as they try to uncover the mystery of their society, which is embedded deeply inside a complex social setup. Black Peppers is set in 1742 AD in a cluster of hamlets in the southern region of Kerala in India around the time when the then nascent kingdom of Travancore was taking shape. It also marks a period when European powers were jockeying with one another to establish a foothold in Kerala and take control of the spice trade.

My Review:

A gist: 
This is the story of 5 girls whose lives are connected by the cultures, customs, traditions, and politics of Kollam kingdom. I would say, it is very difficult to give a gist of this story as it is complex. It covers the time period of 1742 AD when Kollam is under the power of King's niece with Dutch's support whereas other parts of South India are under the control of Venad King Marthanda Varma. This is the story of struggles of women in those times when they don't have any say in the important decisions of their lives including marriage. Those were the times when caste system has deep roots and even the women of higher caste-like Namboodiri Brahmins have a lot of restrictions to study or to even go out on their own.  

It is fascinating for me to read and know about the struggles of women in those times. All the characters of this story, especially Nayi, Gowri, and Valli are very brave to go against the traditions to save their families or save themselves. I didn't even read the blurb of the book before starting to read as I want to have a fresh perspective. Since I am not from Kerala, I felt some difficulty in the initial pages to get used to the place names, the territory, the customs, and politics. The map at the beginning of the story and prologue are very helpful for people like me who don't know much about this part of India. Even though the author tried his best to explain the terms like 'Sathanam', 'Smarthavicharam' etc., as part of the story, an index of these terms and their meanings separately at the bottom of the page / at the end of the book might have been helpful. 

What I liked?
I loved the way the author connected all the dots and explained the mysteries with logic. My favorite part is that the suspense element is maintained until the end. The narration is gripping and I completed most parts of the book in one go. It was difficult to put it down in the middle. The characters are etched so well with different layers that they stay in our minds even after we finish the book.  

The narration and the tone are friendly. The pace of the book is just right. I appreciate the author for the amount of research he might have done about the territory, politics, and traditions of the land. 

This is another good historical fiction I read this year after reading the translated version of "Ponniyan Selvan" by Sumeeta Manikandan and "Empire" by Devi Yesodharan both of which are set in South India. 

What didn't impress me?
As I mentioned earlier, the meaning of Malayalam terms at the bottom of the page would have been helpful. It was difficult for me to understand the initial pages with many new terms. Even though the title of the book is relevant with inherent meaning in the story, I expected a better title. The book cover might have been more relevant to the story. 

Overall, I recommend this to all who love to read historical fiction and want to know about the struggles of women in South India during Marthanda Varma's reign. 

My Rating: 4.5/5

Ps: I have received this review copy from the author in exchange for a review and this is my honest opinion on the book.

Purchase link: 

About the Author:
Madhu Purushothaman was born in Kerala, India. He currently lives with his family in Colorado, USA. He can be reached at madhu@booksmp.com. Visit his website at www.booksmp.com.

Until next time,

28 December, 2017

Word of the Year and 3 ways to stay positive #WOTY2018

Word of the year is some word that you want to focus on in the coming year

I have set the Word of the year in 2017 as 'Aggressive' even though I didn't publish on my blog. It seems negative but I wanted to move things fast from my end. I wanted to make drastic changes, leave monotony and adapt to new things by taking more initiative. I could implement a lot like starting dance classes, searching for more freelance software testing work, getting a driver license and driving to places on my own and learning a new art like Zentangle. 

This time, my word of the year for 2018 is "Positive spirit/ Positive Attitude". I want to accept things in my life as they come and be positive throughout irrespective of successes/ failures. I am planning to be more grateful for every small thing and count my blessings than worrying about things going wrong.

I think these 3 ways help me to stay positive in the coming year. Let me know in comments what makes you stay positive in your life.

1. Being Grateful
I observed from the last year that counting my blessings is an effective way to stay positive. I feel blessed to have a good family, time to pursue my hobbies and to have food and clothes that are needed. I am happy for my health and happiness. When I browse my old photos, I feel grateful for the memories that I have created with family, friends, and colleagues. Positivity is everywhere, just we have to pause and appreciate.

2. Pursuing hobbies
Any art form is a blessing. Dance, music, and painting let me forget all negatives and take me into a new world of happiness. It is difficult to explain how any art impacts our heart and brain, but we have to experience it to understand. When I feel low and stressed, 30 mins of drawing a Zentangle will remove the gloominess for me.  Even gardening and reading books help me to cheer up quickly.
A recent Zentangle of mine

3. Travelling
Fortunately, I could travel more in 2017. I hope the same with 2018. Travelling is like opening myself to new environments and constantly learning something new. An Added bonus is the beautiful nature. I am amazed at the beauty of mountains, lakes and different hues of the Sky. Travel at least once in 3 months to stay positive. Change in the routine work and place is relaxing. Even though it's tough to travel with 2 kids (one is a toddler), it helps me to escape from negative thoughts. 

Did you set any word for the coming year? If not, Is there something that you want to focus on this new year? Do let me know in comments.

Until next time,

Linking this post to #WOTY2018 link-up hosted by Corinne @everydaygyaan.

The Vengeance of Indra by Shatrujeet Nath - Cover Reveal

~ Cover Reveal ~
The Vengeance of Indra 
(Vikramaditya Veergatha #3)
by Shatrujeet Nath


In their greed to possess the deadly Halahala, the devas and the asuras have employed every dirty trick against Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine. But the humans are still standing, bloodied but unbowed.
When the wily Shukracharya discovers the secret to breaking the Council’s strength and unity, he forges an unlikely alliance with his arch-enemy, Indra, to set a deceitful plan in motion.
As cracks emerge between the councilors and their king, ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Vikramaditya and Kalidasa’s friendship, signaling the beginning of an eclipse that will cast a long shadow over all that Vikramaditya holds dear. And into this shadow steps Indra, bearing an old grudge — and a devastating new weapon.
How much longer before the Guardians of the Halahala finally fall apart?

Other Books in the Series:
(Click on the Covers for more details)

About the Author:
Shatrujeet Nath is the creator of the runaway national bestseller series Vikramaditya Veergatha, a four-book mytho-fantasy arc which includes The Guardians of the Halahala, The Conspiracy at Meru and The Vengeance of Indra. Described as “a new face to Indian mythology” by DNA, Shatrujeet writes for movies and web shows as well. He is also the author of The Karachi Deception, an Indo-Pak spy thriller.

Until next time,

27 December, 2017

Unique and Robust - #ThursdayTreeLove

This tree by the lake looks unique and robust, right?

Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop. - Rumi

Until next time,

Linking this to #ThursdayTreeLove hosted by Parul.

26 December, 2017

A road that goes far #WordlessWednesday

This road is amazing with many ups and downs.

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
Won't you agree?

Until next time,

Linking this to #WordlessWednesday hosted by Esha.
Also, linking this to #WordlessWednesday hosted by kewkew.

Real Wordless Wednesday

25 December, 2017

2017 in Review and Word of the year for 2018 #ChattyBlogs

We reached the last week of the year 2017. It seems like the year has gone fast when I review, but I had a good time overall. 

The first half of the year was not something significant but only good thing is that I started teaching dance in 2017. I cooked and experimented new recipes while cribbing about all the kitchen work I hate. 

Life seemed interesting from May when I got my driving license. The unlimited library visits made me happy. I took kids to a lot of activities in different parts of the town and we attended many fun events. 

More freelancing software testing work poured in and kept me busy. I have participated in many Instagram photo challenges and Writing challenges on my blog. My readership base grew and I focused on improving my network of friends. Diwali dance performance was good and because of this event, I made a lot of new friends. My kids got new friends too. 

In December, there are a lot of things to be grateful for. I started a new art form "Zentangle" and I am enjoying it to my heart's content. Of course, my reading time is replaced with Zentangle but it is very relaxing to my mind to draw at least for 30 mins a week. I started teaching dance to more students which also reduced my reading time. Many book reviews are pending as of now, but I don't want to rush myself reading them. I want to enjoy reading each book instead of just picking it up for review and finishing it in hurry.

So, that was about my 2017 which is both satisfying and happy. 

I don't usually set any new year resolutions as I believe that any good work should start as quickly as possible without waiting for any day. But, I want to pick a specific word for the next year which keeps me motivated and focused.

My word of the year for 2018 is "Positive Spirit". 2017 is definitely better than 2016 for me. My positive spirit made it the best. I want to continue the same for the next year too.

Do you set any word for the year? Or do you set new year resolutions? Do let me know your thoughts in comments. 

Until next time,

Linking this to #ChattyBlogs hosted by Shanaya

20 December, 2017

Empire by Devi Yeshodharan - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: Empire
Author: Devi Yesodharan
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Juggernaut
Length of the book: 328 pages
Source: A free review copy from Juggernaut

A woman of courage, with dagger and bow,
Will do countless deeds: dark and light, right and low.
Her armour dark, her armour gold,
Around her red rivers will flow.
An Indian empire at the peak of its power. A great port heaped with spices, silks, jewellery, perfumes, weapons. Everyone wants a share of the riches of Nagapattinam. When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis.
Aremis grows up to be a skilled warrior, a great asset to the Cholas. But she is a foreigner among her captors, even though the emperor trusts her to guard his person. Anantha, the man who took her captive, the supreme commander of the empire's armies, is a wily strategist. But he no longer has the stomach for war. The emperor's ambitions weary him. Rajendra Chola has conquered Lanka, now he wants to rule the Indian Ocean. Their future is set: a dangerous journey across the seas and a bloody, brutal war they cannot survive undamaged.

My Review:

A gist: This story is set in Cholan period in South India. Under the rule of King Rajendra Chola, Nagapattinam is flourishing as a major seaport. When a Greek pirate ship is defeated by the Cholan navy, along with the other soldiers, a 12-year-old girl 'Aremis' also surrenders to Cholas as a war refugee. She is trained with other Cholan army soldiers and wins the trust of the King as his royal guard through her archery skills. Even though she is punished for helping Ananta, the supreme commander of Cholan army for his personal revenge, she gets to show her mettle in a war with Sri Vijayans. This is the story of her, who being a foreign girl and an outsider to Cholans is discriminated at all levels being a female warrior in those times when women were only meant for pleasure.

What I liked?
I enjoyed reading about the people, places, and culture of ancient times in South India. I have read the translated version of 'Ponniyan Selvan' earlier and this story is also around the same time period. I love the way the author has dwelled deep into the characters of Aremis and Ananta going through their innermost fears and problems. This depth in characters connects me to them very well as a reader. 

There is not much story in this book but a good amount of history and information about the people, kingdoms, hierarchy, culture, and mindsets of people in those days. The wars, preparation before the wars, the strategies of King and the ministry, the struggle of soldiers on long sails in those days, the effort of everyone else to satisfy their king, the loss during wars are explained very well. I don't know about the problems on sailing long distances with less food and water until I read this book. 

The map of the empires in those times, sea routes and the brief about each character in the starting of the book are really helpful. 

What didn't strike a chord with me?
Since the author shifted between the perspectives of Aremis and Anantha in every 20 pages, it seemed confusing while reading.

I felt, there are some loose ends to be connected at the end like the mystery behind the returned Queen and the future of Aremis or to know if she wins King's favor again. I think, there is a sequel in the author's mind. 

Overall, I recommend this to all who love to read a historical fiction based on Cholan period.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Ps: I have received this review copy from the author and this is my honest opinion on the book.

Purchase link:

About the Author:
Devi Yesodharan was a speechwriter for Narayana Murthy. This is her first novel.

Until next time,

Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal - Book Spot Light

Blog Tour by The Book Club of BRAHMAHATYA by Rajiv Mittal

Rajiv Mittal

Blog Tour by The Book Club of BRAHMAHATYA by Rajiv Mittal


A story of revenge and redemption and deeds shaped by forces that humans believe they have defined through mythology and scriptures but still struggle to understand. 

A woman employee of a retirement home is shocked to discover that a new resident is in fact the son impersonating his father. The son is seeking revenge. She, by her past actions, is unwittingly complicit in his being there and now tries to thwart his peculiar plans. A senile woman-resident and an enigmatic founder offer him sage advice. The samudra manthan (a major episode in Hindu mythology), a slightly dim secretary and a sinister boss play their part in ensuring justice is finally served but in an unexpected manner. 

The novel quotes frequently from the ancient Hindu scriptures and stories that the protagonists use to justify their actions. The treatment of the elderly in society is a major theme. 

‘I found Rajiv's novel completely charming. The story is always interesting and is funny and moving by turns. It has really original elements with its setting and his use of the Hindu stories. I think it is such a good novel and with such appealing characters. I loved it!’ - Rebecca Smith, author of 'The Jane Austen Writers' Club'.

Grab your copy @

About the author

In Rajiv Mittal's own words:

"I was born in Chennai, India in the early nineteen sixties. I am an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and a CPA from Australia. I now live in Melbourne after a stint of several years in the Middle East. 

Writing was a vague aspiration. It became reality thanks to a stranger who said I reminded him of the main character from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. He quoted from it, ‘Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.’" 

Stalk him @  


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14 December, 2017

Mamá Graciela’s Secret by Maura Calvani - [Book Review]

Mamá Graciela’s Secret
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Written by Mayra Calvani
Illustrated by Sheila Fein

MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing
36 pages, 3-7 year olds
Reading guide at: www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com

Mamá Graciela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town...
Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.

My Review:
The story is about Mama Graciela and her cats. Mama can make the best bacalaitos fritos which are the best in the town. She has the heart of gold and she is kind to stray cats and dogs. When thousands of cats gather at her shop to enjoy fritos daily, the health officer tries to close her shop for the same reason. But, Mama Graciela has to take a difficult decision to save her shop without shoeing away their cats.

The story is unique and unpredictable. It has good morals for the children. The narration and illustrations are good even for my 3 year old. The font seemed small in my ebook but i think, a print copy is clearer.

I have read many children's books to my kids but this story stands out from others. It is good that the story teaches kids to love animals.

Overall, a wonderful book for 3 to 6-year-old kids.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Ps: I have received this book from the author for review and this is my honest opinion on the book.

About the author:
Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her children's picture book, Frederico the Mouse Violinist was a finalist in the 2011 International Book Awards; her anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses was a First Place winner at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards; her nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a Foreword Best Book of the Year winner. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications like The Writer, Writer's Journal, Multicultural Review, Bloomsbury Review, and others.

She lives in Belgium with her husband of 30+ years, two wonderful kids, and her three beloved pets. When she's not writing, editing, reading or reviewing, she enjoys walking with her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family. www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com

About the illustrator:

Born in Queens, New York and living in Los Angeles since 1987, Sheila Fein has always been inspired by the changing world around her. Earning her BA in Design from Buffalo State College of New York, her concentration was on drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. Sheila's education as an artist has taken her everywhere from Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia to Bath University in England. Today, Sheila Fein runs two figurative workshops, Imaginings Sketch in LA and People Sketchers in Thousand Oaks. She has been featured in numerous collections, magazines, books, solo and group exhibitions. Her paintings and drawings reside in public and private collections.

Sheila loves to make the imagination of others a reality and has done so through her commissioned Fein Fantasy Portraits and Interactive Paintings. In addition to being a fine artist Sheila works as an illustrator. She just completed the book "Mama Graciela's Secret" for Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Book info:
HC 978-1-365-86153-6
SC 978-1-365-86155-0
ISBN Dyslexic Font Version:
DY HC 978-1-365-86154-3 DY SC 978-1-365-86156-7
**This book also has version printed in the Dyslexic font, the typeface for people with dyslexia. Go to www.dyslexiefont.com to find out more about the typeface.
Suggested Retail Price - 17.99 Hardcover & 13.99 Softcover 40 % Discounted Price – 10.80 Hardcover & 8.40 Softcover
Available through - Ingram - Discount 40% Returnable – Yes
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing – Discount 40% - Orders@maclaren-cochranepublishing.com Returnable – Yes
Publishing company Contact Info: MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 1024 Iron Point Rd 100-1478 Folsom CA 95630
Tannya@Maclaren-cochranepublishing.com www.maclaren-cochranepublishing.com
MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 620 Buchanan Way, Folsom, CA 95630

Until next time,

All Systems Down by Sam Boush - Book Spot Light

Date Published: 8 February 2018

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

24 hours.
That’s all it takes. 
A new kind of war has begun. 

Pak Han-Yong’s day is here. An elite hacker with Unit 101 of the North Korean military, he’s labored for years to launch Project Sonnimne: a series of deadly viruses set to cripple Imperialist infrastructure.

And with one tap of his keyboard, the rewards are immediate. 

Brendan Chogan isn’t a hero. He’s an out-of-work parking enforcement officer and one-time collegiate boxer trying to support his wife and children. But now there’s a foreign enemy on the shore a blackout that extends across America, and an unseen menace targeting him.

Brendan must do whatever it takes to keep his family safe. 

In the wake of the cyber attacks, electrical grids fail, satellites crash to earth, and the destinies of nine strangers collide.
Strangers whose survival depends upon each other’s skills and courage.

For fans of REVOLUTION, Tom Clancy, and Thom Stark’s MAY DAY, ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is a riveting cyber war thriller which presents a threat so credible you’ll be questioning reality. 


The sun rising over the Yalu River was the best part of Pak Han-yong’s day.

It began with darkness. In the distance, on the far side of the river, his homeland lay swaddled in unbreaking night. The fields and the factories, the port and the mills all slept. Then the horizon would lighten, from black to blue to gold, and the three faraway smokestacks appeared from the port city of Sinǔiju; first as silhouettes, then as gray fists, casting long shadows.

Next, the sun. Crimson light burned at the edges of red pine forests and reflected off the rice paddies. River, land, and air awoke to the glory of the Supreme Leader and the world’s chosen people. Tears sprung, as they always did, as light brought his beloved North Korea to life.

He observed it all from his desk on the tenth floor of the Shanghai Hotel in Dandong, China, across the border from the land of his ancestors.

China. After two years, Han-yong still had trouble internalizing the wealth of this nation. The Chinese lived in skyscrapers, profligate buildings of steel and glass. So different from his home city of Chongjin, where families lived modestly in single-story “harmonica homes,” so named because of their resemblance to the tiny boxes that make up the chambers of a harmonica.

On Fuchun Street, ten stories below, cars bustled. Unnecessary, extravagant. In Chongjin, nearly everyone was content to ride a bicycle or take public transit. And when they did drive, his people didn’t smoke like the Chinese. If you smoked, you wouldn’t catch the constant engine problems of your soviet-made Volga or ZIL.

Even from thirty meters above, it was apparent how the well-fed Chinese had been made soft by water that flowed reliably and electricity that ran all day. Food here wasn’t rationed by the gram. No one in China grew strong and clever from struggle and strain. There were no hardships here. And for that, he despised the Chinese, military allies or not.

“Long live the Shining Sun of North Korea,” he said. These people aren’t better than us. We have nothing to envy in the world. He lowered himself into the seat of his desk, rearranged his mouse so it squared perfectly with his keyboard, took a final sip of tea, and continued to monitor the attack that had started hours earlier.

Today, Han-yong fell into his routine, despite the enormity of the day’s events. Routine was the scaffolding that held his life together. He had woken in the earliest hours, barely speaking to his five roommates in the converted hotel room, had slipped into his pressed uniform, and spit-polished the single silver star on his shoulder. Then, after quickly wiping dust from the portrait of the Supreme Leader that hung alone on the wall, he’d moved to the common area to drink his tea and work until sunrise.

Two years of waiting, and today it has finally begun. He rubbed his hands together. Every day Han-yong worked here, visited the canteen, and bunked in his room. He rarely slept more than five hours. And never, in those two years, had he left the tenth floor of the Shanghai Hotel.

For all the differences between China and North Korea, there was only one that mattered, and it was why Han-yong was here at all. The Internet. On the North Korean side of the river, the global Internet, for all practical purposes, did not exist. There was a limited internal network that pointed to a handful of websites. But North Korea had fewer Internet protocol addresses in the whole country than could be found on a block in some Imperialist cities.

Here in China, though, the Internet reached nearly every corner of the globe. And because of that, Han-yong and the other elite hackers of Unit 101 could touch a banking system in London, a hospital network in New York City, or a data center in Tokyo.

“Junior Lieutenant Pak!” The gruff voice of the senior lieutenant shattered Han-yong’s reverie and brought him spinning from the window, springing to his feet, fingertips raised to eyebrow in salute. “You are to come with me.”

The senior lieutenant was very different from Han-yong. He was loud and assertive, tall by North Korean standards, and good-looking enough that he probably did well with women when he took leave—an amenity provided only to senior officers. But, most grating, he was a traditional military officer, untrained in online warfare, and knew just enough to stick his fingers where they didn’t belong.

Still, there was nothing to do but obey.

They waded the corridors in silence, past the desks where scores of other hackers from his unit sat immersed in a war that had begun with an attack on an Imperialist supercarrier only hours earlier. As Han-yong sauntered through the ranks of Unit 101, his pulse quickened with pride. They were the elite, plucked from grade school from across the country and enrolled in Command Automation University in Pyongyang. They had trained with the singular focus of learning to hack into secure enemy networks. They had become warriors. Instead of tanks or drones, their weapons were in code. They had mastered digital viruses, worms, the dedicated denial of service attack, trapdoors, and botnets. They had simulated cyber war amongst themselves and infiltrated foreign targets. At every stage, they had been tested and evaluated, and only the most gifted had come to wear the uniform.

The senior lieutenant stopped the door that led to the stairwell. “The colonel has ordered a meeting with you,” he said, one hand placed haughtily on his hip, not bothering to meet Han-yong’s eyes. He’d assumed the pose of a Manchurian guerrilla fighter from the war movies. “You will speak when spoken to and answer all inquiries in full.”

Han-yong couldn’t help himself. “Sir, what inquiries?”

“About the interconnect logic bombs,” the senior lieutenant snapped, unlocking the door. The stairwell beyond was devoid of decoration, except for a creamy swirl on the vinyl tile, like the pattern on the lid of a paint can. “Hurry now.” And he started up the stairs, feet tapping a marching rhythm.

The Imperialists of North America had many weaknesses, but Han-yong had been ordered to focus on the power grid. The system was a relic of the 1960s, set up with no thoughts for security, but instead as a way to balance the supply and demand for electrical power across vast swaths of territory. In their arrogance, the Americans had organized just five power-grid interconnections across the entire country, electrically tied together and operating at the same frequency.

While it may have so far proven a sufficient way to balance loads—power companies with little demand could transfer electricity to areas with greater demand—the reality was that a single significant disturbance could collapse all of the systems tied to the interconnection. And Han-yong did not have the means to cause just a single disturbance.

He had the means to cause thousands.

The project was code-named Sonnimne, after the smallpox gods of Korean mythology that long ago crossed the Yalu River. It was both a nod to the new pestilence they would unleash and a reference to how the plague had already spread in secret, machine to machine, substation to substation.

Han-yong had planted logic bombs—malware that could be triggered in response to an event—in substations across the United States. It had taken months of steadfast work. The difficulty was writing the combustible code within a Trojan application in a way that was at once difficult to detect, easy to spread, and powerful once deployed. While the wait and the work had been excruciating, the payoff would be enormous. And imminent.

They reached the top of the stairs, and the senior lieutenant produced a key to open the gray-painted industrial steel door. The eleventh floor was reserved for high-ranking officers, their quarters, and computer servers that required additional security.

Sweat beaded on Han-yong’s brow. The colonel ranked just three steps below a general, and was likely the most senior military official Han-yong would ever speak to in his career. A slipup here might find him dishonored and discharged, or eating rats in a reeducation camp.

They rounded the first corner through the carpeted corridor, where Han-yong noticed, with more than a little satisfaction, that the smell of mildew pervaded every bit as strongly as in the floor where the junior officers worked. The senior lieutenant pulled up short in front of a door with a brass room number in the Western style. Before they could knock, a man inside bellowed, “Junior Lieutenant Pak Han-yong. Come in. Come in.”

The voice was not what he’d expected. Friendly. Jovial, even. Han-yong poked his chin through the doorway.

Nothing about the scene that greeted them was as he had imagined. The hotel suite was gaudy by North Korean standards. The walls, which should have been bare except for the requisite photograph of the Supreme Leader, were decorated with paintings of mountains and birds in a style that Han-yong vaguely recognized as Japanese.

The room was not sleeping quarters, but an office far larger than the room Han-yong shared with the other soldiers. At the center of the space, a heavy-grain oak desk displayed unrecognizable artifacts: three swords on a wooden rack, an unfolded fan with red tassels and a painted orange sun, a clay jar in the shape of a boar, and a half-dozen other oddities that Han-yong had never seen. They were beautiful, and he felt guilty for admiring the work of foreigners.

The colonel himself was also a surprise. A crisp military uniform did nothing to hide his bulk. No one Han-yong had ever met carried more than a few pounds of extra weight. How could they, when even prison guards and soldiers, who received the best rations in the country, still lived off just enough to fill their bellies?

“Junior Lieutenant,” the colonel began, leaning back in his chair, “your commanding officer tells me we are ready to move forward with project Sonnimne. And I understand that you have implanted code throughout the US system of interconnects?”

“Not exactly, sir.” Han-yong hesitated, unsure of how much technical detail to provide. “I created a zero-day exploit. A new kind of virus, sir. It uses entirely original code.” The colonel raised an eyebrow. “That means it can’t be detected by malware filters,” Han-yong continued. “The virus triggered a patch update in the operating systems of the high-voltage distribution facilities and spread throughout.”

The colonel inclined forward, his chair squealing under the weight. “What do you mean by ‘spread throughout?’ How many facilities have the virus?”

Han-yong paused, careful to give the correct information. “All of them, sir. All of the distribution facilities in the United States now have the virus.”

The senior lieutenant let out a dry cough. Otherwise, for several seconds no one moved or spoke. Han-yong shifted his weight between feet.

“But … that must be thousands,” the colonel said.

A trickle of sweat trickled down Han-yong’s brow toward his eye, but he ignored it. “Yes, sir. There are over nine thousand electric-generating facilities and over three-hundred thousand kilometers of high-voltage lines spread between them. These substations alone carry seventy percent of the most-hated nation’s electricity. They all have the virus.” The sweat droplet fell into his eye. He blinked it away.

“Do you mean to say that we have a virus that can wipe out seventy percent of the American electrical grid?”

“No, sir. When the majority of the US power grid goes down, the lower-voltage lines won’t be able to sustain the added load volume. They will topple under the stress. This virus will wipe out one-hundred percent of the American electrical grid.”

The colonel’s mouth hung open as if he were about to speak, but couldn’t, while the senior lieutenant wore a self-satisfied smirk that reminded Han-yong of a least weasel with a bellyful of stolen eggs.

The colonel’s jaw tightened below a layer of fat. “If the virus is dispersed so completely, then why has nothing happened? The lights are still on in the West.”

Now it was the senior lieutenant’s turn to explain. “The virus has two stages. The first is the spreading stage, which is only recently complete. The second stage is activation, when the logic bombs that have been hidden in the code will deploy. We are ready to deploy that on your order, sir. Today, if desired. Along with the hundreds of other attacks Unit 101 has prepared.”

Han-yong nodded, proud that his efforts fit so well with the whole. Each team member had his own projects designed to attack global enemies; separate and equally deadly projects to take out Imperialist infrastructure. Some cyber soldiers had built malware to disable railways. Some had built code to choke airline traffic. Still others had built viruses to cripple the Imperialist military communications.

“At your command, we can activate the logic bombs with a keystroke,” the senior lieutenant continued. “The virus will cause the power grid to overheat and self-immolate. I have no way of knowing how long it would take to repair, but every time the Americans try to rebuild the lines, we can bring them down again.”

At that, the colonel laughed heartily, the fat of his jowls jiggling with mirth. “You both are too young to appreciate the irony in what we are about to do. You see, when the Soviet Union collapsed decades ago, our system also faltered. The subsidies that had sustained us fell away, and our power plants rusted into disuse. Our streets went dark. And many of our cities are still without power, as you know. The fatherland is still in the dark.”

Han-yong nodded. All too well, he knew of the humiliations his countrymen had suffered under the sanctions of their enemies.

“But our time has come,” the colonel continued. “Like the thousand-li horse, we are too swift to be mounted, too elegant to be cowed. At last, it has all come together. The fight has only begun, and already the enemy falters. So now we will strike at the heart. Today we will lash out with this and everything we have. This is our chance to repay, blindness for blindness, a world that sent us into blackness.”

About the Author

Sam has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice.

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