crime fiction

Thoughts on Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

6:14:00 PM

(This post is not going to be a detailed review of this book.If that's what you are looking for,please visit this link)


          Cuckoo's Calling is the first Cormoran Strike Novel.The book,though marketed as a crime thriller,reads more like a character study of it's principal characters-Cormoran Strike,the Afghan war hero-turned-private detective; Robin, his dedicated secretary and assistant and 'Cuckoo' (Lula-the victim),the troubled celebrity.Galbraith's debut work is not your conventional crime thriller with twists and turns happening at regular intervals,has an underdog as it's hero and also takes his own sweet time to settle down,but that doesn't make Cuckoo's Calling less entertaining or boring at any point of time.

         The book traces the life of supermodel Lula Laundry,through the eyes of detective Strike.The whole of Britain might have dismissed her death as a case of suicide,but not her millionaire brother, John Bristow.That's the reason why he turns up in front of the private dick Strike,one chilly morning.Though initially apprehensive to take up this high profile case,Strike relents later owing to Bristow's compulsion and also because of the personal equation which he develops with him(thanks to John's deceased brother Charlie Bristow).

       Some readers might feel that there is more of London darshan than any real investigation happening in the first 150 pages of this book.Well,you can't blame them for that!The reader is repeatedly reminded of Strike's feelings for his ex,Charlotte,but never gets to know the real reason why she dumped him.Likewise,I also felt that Galbraith has stuffed too many twists/surprises towards the fag end of the book.As expected in any detective story,the least expected person is made the culprit in the big climactic revelation.(Frankly speaking,I could guess the murderer midway through the book,but the motive was indeed surprising)

     On the whole,if you have a taste for slow thrillers,you will definitely like Cuckoo's Calling.I liked it.Looking forward to reading it's sequel!

-nikhimenon

General/Indian Fiction

Life less lived by Saumya Misra

10:23:00 PM

Life is full of miracles and weird coincidences. Life is unfair at times but have we ever stopped being hopeful about happy endings ?

Life Less lived is a story of a girl who out of kindness , involves her parents in taking care of an old man from streets. They bring him home when he is critically ill and not just help him recover physically but talking to the girl and her family of his past also heals him mentally. The old man is Panna , the eldest son of a village Pradhaan who has always seen and ruled with a steel hand. Panna is the idealistic sort who gets invlolved in a decietful plan of rivalry and hatred between two villages and loses everything in the process. This is a story of how he and his people cope with loss and hopes in their life.

Then there is Rati , Aparna's best friend caught between uncaring parents and more scarred by her greedy mother than the absent father. She has everything money can provide but not the love she craves for and one day she decides to run away from all this. The twist in the story is bit stretched but then the book is generally a hopeful story of miraculous ending.

The novel is a short and sweet read , if you like simple family dramas with happy endings and a lesson thrown in the mix.

My rating : 2.5/5

author requested

Two for the Heart by Ekta R Garg

12:28:00 PM

(Stories in Pairs is a new series by publisher-turned-author Ekta Garg.The series will essentially feature two novellas which will share two things:a theme and a link.To know more about this series,visit the author's website.This post is going to be a review of the first book in this series)



        The first book in this series,'Two for the Heart' narrates two tales which emphasis the impact of love and it's power to cross boundaries, overcoming all the negative feelings within us.The book opens with 'Proposal' which tells the story of Akshay Mehra and Dr Pooja who are into a marriage of convenience.Akshay's mother is a terminally ill patient and that was the reason why he chose to enter into a wedlock with the famboyant Dr Pooja,though they share nothing in common.Akshay also has a troubled past and the duo are in an agreement to free themselves out of this 'strange arrangement',once his mother succumbs to cancer.'Proposal' is all about their emotional struggles and how they alter their destinies in a positive way.The second story,'Remembrance' is about two sisters,Rose and Helen.Their relationship is on the verge of collapse but that doesn't deter Rose from lending a helping hand to her sister when she needs it, the most.Blood is indeed thicker than water! 

       Ekta's writing is of superior quality.Though the stories are a bit predictable,the emphasis is clearly on the way they have been told.The first one is more of a mature love story between a doctor and a corporate lawyer while the second one portrays the emotional bond between two sisters in a pretty realistic and touching manner.The writing never becomes cheesy or emotionally manipulative which proves that Ekta is indeed a writer to watch out for.There aren't too many characters in either of these stories but that doesn't make these tales dull or boring at any point of time.

      The book has it's own share of flaws though.Some characters felt half-baked and lacked purpose.For instance,in the first story,there is a character named Patrick.The reader never gets to know what kind of a person he really is and only gets the feeling that he is a stalker who is harassing Dr Pooja.Likewise,the situations which made Pooja accept Mehra's proposal to get into their 'strange' agreement is also left un-explained.May be,their characters will recur in the future books in the series,I don't know.

These minor flaws apart,'Two for The Heart' is a decent debut work.Looking forward to the future works by the same author.

Verdict- A decent debut.Rating-3/5

(I received a review copy of this e-book from the author.This post is not a paid review)

Title:Two for Heart
Publisher:Prairesky Publishing
Price:185 INR/-
Author:Ekta R Garg
Pages:70+
Format:E-Book
amazon

-nikhimenon

crime thriller

A Three Faced Coin by Bhalindra Singh

11:44:00 AM

Title:A Three Faced Coin
Author:Bhalindra Singh
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages:281+
Price:350/-
Source: review copy via Tales Pensieve

          I accepted this book for review expecting it to be a corporate thriller(I don't know what made me think so, may be it was it's cover page!)but what I got was something entirely different.This debut work by banker-turned-author Bhalindra Singh, is essentially the story of a U.S. settled upper-middle class couple,Zubien and Mekha Arora.They have decided to shift back to India and soon after,they chance upon a mysterious man named Adeeb.The chain of events which ensues and how it afffects the life of the young couple is what 'A Three Faced Coin' is all about.The story which starts off as a cliched,predictable horror story soon shifts gears(for it's own good!)and metamorphoses itself into a crime-thriller(yielding mixed results!).

        As I have mentioned in the beginning of this post,'A Three Faced Coin' is Singh's first work as an author.It's pretty evident that the author has got a rather innovative premise and an interesting concept to convey but the way it's told leaves a lot to be desired which is the biggest issue I have with this book.Anyways,let's look at the good things about this book first.

       First and foremost,the basic thread of this novel is quite appealing.Full marks to Singh for that.Though the language used is pretty functional,I liked his writing style-it's simple,yet effective.There aren't many lengthy descriptions and tiring blocks of prose which might weigh down the average reader.As a result, this work easily qualifies as an easy,light read.Having said that,I should also point out that that the book tries too hard to sound philosophical at times and ends up being preachy towards the middle portions (the conversation between Adeb and Mekha,for instance).These 'intellectual' pretensions stick out like a sore thumb,not gelling with the overall mood of the narrative.

       Singh has divided his first work into three parts and this is exactly where he has faltered.There is absolutely no connection between the first and the 'second' part(which narrates the story of the cunning Charlie)and the reader almost gets the feeling that he has suddenly started reading an altogether different tale.The 'flash-back' portions of Charlie are not only poorly written with lengthy,bland (gambling/betting) sequences coming one after the other but also kills the curiosity of the reader and only results in testing his patience.I hope the author edits out these un-inspiring sequences in the subsequent editions of the book and thereby make his debut novel more racy and entertaining.The way Charlie executes his ponsy schemes are entirely unconvincing(even silly at times).C'mmon,in this age of digitalization where there is easy access to information,why would someone risk all his life savings in a half-baked,ill-conceived scheme as proposed by Charlie?

      It's in the third part that the tale regains it's pace again(to a certain extend) where the missing dots are connected before it culminates in a rather ordinary climax.But by this time,I'm sure that half the readers would have lost their interest in the proceedings.The characters are also poorly developed with the reader not getting a chance to know the 'real' Charlie at any point of time.The 'Villains' are pretty weak and it's not very clear why 'Rambo' chose 'Charlie' for his illegitimate activities. 

      The book has got a decent lay out and cover design (hats off to notion press for their quality work!).The formatting is also good.

     If you are ready to overlook the occasional grammatical errors,the few illogical sequences,half-hearted 'comic' lines and the bland writing in the second part,you might find this as an okay,one time read.It definitely has it's own share of flaws,but is not a bad work by any stretch of imagination.Lend it from your nearest library.You won't regret it!

Verdict-An okay,one time-read.Rating-2.5/5

The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve

-nikhimenon

cover reveal

#Cover Reveal : She loves me,He loves me not by Zeenat Mahal

8:56:00 AM

ZeenatMahal is back with another book  , and since we loved her previous books , We are so looking forward to her latest one.

Presenting the latest book "She loves me,He loves me not" :


Book Blurb

Zoella’s been in love with Fardeen, her best friend’s gorgeous older brother, since she was ten, but he’s always seen her as a ‘good girl’—not his type—and he can barely remember her name. Besides, he’s engaged to a gorgeous leggy socialite, someone from the same rarefied social strata as the imposing Malik family.

Zoella has no chance with him.

Until a brutal accident leaves Fardeen scarred and disfigured, that is. Suddenly bereft of a fiancee, Fardeen is bitterly caustic, a shell of the man he used to be, a beast that has broken out of the fairy tale world he once lived in. And a twist of fate lands him his very own princess—Zoella.

The beast, however, is a far cry from the Fardeen of her dreams. Stripped of her illusions, Zoella creates her own twist in the fairy tale, beating him at his own game.

About the Author

Zeenat Mahal (@zeenat4indireads) is an avid reader and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and holds a MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. She won a BBC short story competition in 2001 and has been a regular contributor to newspapers. Zeenat has eclectic tastes and an insatiable desire to learn. Her romances are a heady mix of the traditional and the contemporary, old world values face the challenges of a shrinking globe that impinge upon and help shape South Asian sensibilities.


‘Haveli’ is Zeenat’s first published novella. Currently she is working on a literary novel with elements of magical realism, while continuing to write romances. She can be contacted on her FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Zeenat-Mahal




memoirs

TaT Tvam Asi by Pinky Acharya

10:26:00 AM

Title:Tat Tvam Asi
Author:Pinky Acharya
Publisher:becomeShakespeare.com
Year:2014
Source:Publisher
Pages:110+
Price:150 INR

            I received a review request for this book from the publisher, a couple of weeks back.I must admit that the decision to accept it was more or less an impulsive one because even after going through the blurb of the book, hadn't got much idea about the tone/genre to which it belonged to.Neither the book cover nor the blurb revealed much about the actual content .All I could make out was 'TaT Tvam Asi' would be quite different from the usual stuff (atleast aspired to be!).Actually,reviewing a book which belongs to self-help/Memoirs is quite tricky.There is always the risk of the reviewer inadvertently penning down his opinion about the author rather than the content of his/her work.I have come across a lot of reviews which have fallen into this trap.Now,for those of you out there who are wondering about the reason behind these sudden rants,I'll state the obvious,'Tat Tvam Asi' belongs to the afore mentioned genre.Well,almost

        For a debut work,'Tatvam Asi' is quite decently written.Pinky has put down her thoughts and opinions in the most sincere and livid manner.There are about two dozen chapters in this small book(well,it is infact only half the size of the 'Tablet/Phone' which you are carrying to your office everyday!),each one stressing on an important virtue.Going by the the size of the book,you may be tempted to finish it in one setting,but I feel it will be better if you read not more than a couple of chapters at a time.That way,you'll be in a better position to assimilate and even critically analyze the content of each one. Peppered with real life incidents(I think her experience as a graphologist has helped her immensely in this regard) and inspiring anecdotes,this work is quite relatable for the average,'desi' reader.From the honest carpenter who loses his sleep on possession of undeserved money to paatiwalas who are more than satisfied if they can earn a paltry sum of one hundred and fifty rupees per day,the real life 'stories' narrated in this book are very much thought provoking.The story of the 'prodigal son' deserves special mention.Crisply edited(with each chapter running to not more than two pages) and beautifully illustrated(Ashni Acharya),at 110+ pages,it is indeed a quick read.The writing is pretty simple,devoid of any unnecessary literary pretensions or heavy duty philosophical lines which infact increases the potential reach of this book.The cover design is also quite appealing and suits the tone of the book.The same applies to the overall layout and print quality of this work.

       On the downside,I felt that some of the incidents and examples were actually not worth narrating in a printed book.Some chapters (Man'doct'ary)also tend to lose direction after a promising beginning.(as a blog post it woud have been fine,but in a 110+page book,well,I have my own reservations!).

Verdict-'Tat Tvam' Asi is a well intentioned,thought provoking work.It might not be the best work in this genre,but is a good one,definitely.Rating-3.25/5

-nikhimenon

hachette india

Breach by Amrita Chowdhury

11:10:00 AM

Title:Breach
Author:Amrita Chowdhury
Pages:352
Year:2014
Source:review copy via Think Why Not
Publisher:Hachette India
Price:350 INR
amazon


    The Market for Indian writing in English is booming.The last couple of years has seen an unprecedented surge in the number of books releasing in the (desi) pulp-fiction genre.Be it military/banking/historical/horror/science fiction thrillers,you name it,an Indian version is readily available for you,at a mouse click.(thanks to that awesomely awesome device called Kindle!).Almost all the internationally best selling thriller sub-genres have been tried out by the Indian writers,with varying degrees of success.Having said that,I would also like to remind you all that 'medical thrillers' is one sub-genre which hasn't got the fancy of these desi writers,till date.'Breach' is one work which bravely steps into this hitherto unchartered territory and comes out with flying colours.

Acel,the pharma-giant is all set to grab a global patent for it's newly discovered path breaking anti-cancer drug,'Colare'.In an unexpected turn of events,Acel's offshore centre in Mumbai is attacked by hackers and a lot of sensitive,confidential data are stolen.The dynamic,young country(India) head of the Company,Dr Udai is blamed for this serious security lapse and he finds his life and career turned upside down all of a sudden.Now,the onus is on him to prove his innocence.It's not only his reputation and career at stake,but also the future of a potentially life saving drug which can benefit millions of cancer patients across the globe.'Breach' is an inter continental tale which is all about trust,deceit,blatant greed and medical ethics.

Though the cover page(quite decently designed) screams that it is a Cyber thriller,for me 'the Breach' worked more as an emotional rollercoaster ride set in the back drop of the pharmaceutical industry than as a full fledged cyber/techie story.A lot of technical stuff is explained in the book in a very simple,easy to understand way.Kudos to the writer for making them (the hacking part/patent related portions) as simple as possible.Through the book,Amrita tries to highlight the flaws in the patent laws and the deteriorating work ethics in this highly cut-throat,competitive world.The irony of the mad rush for profits among the drug companies at a time when the lives of millions of poor and unpreviliged are at stake has been etched out well by Mrs Choudhury in this book.For that matter,I think 'Breach' is a very relevant work.It throws light in to the rot in the pharmaceutical sector and also suceeds in reminding us that all is not lost,yet!

There are quite a number of characters in this novel.I can confidently say that the writer has derived them from her real life experiences.From high end executives,corporate honchos to small time movie pirates and school students who don't hesitate to make a few quick bucks by indulging in online piracy and unethical hacking,this tale finds a place for people from the different strata of the society.Infact,Amrita's characters are tangible and believable.

The book is undoubtedly an easy-to-read page turner.The Chapters are short(with each running to not more than a couple of pages)and crisply edited.The writing is racy and suits the overall mood of the book.The average reader might find the first couple of chapters to be a bit confusing as atleast a dozen characters get introduced here in rather quick succession.Even then, it cannot be overlooked that the writer succesfully manage to set the tone of the novel right from it's first couple of pages itself.There is also a short romantic track thrown into the narrative which,I personally believe could have been done away with.On the downside,I feel the book deserves a little bit of editing in it's middle portions.May be they can rectify it in the coming editions!

Verdict-Go and grab a copy of this unputdownable thriller at the earliest.It's actually worth every penny you spend on it.Rating-4/5

-nikhimenon

Indian fiction

Blame it on Destiny by Soorina Desai

11:16:00 PM


A disturbed counselor who is caught in a violent love triangle, a sculptress looking for an invisible God, a medium for spirits who wants to be loved, a real estate dealer who strives to be a good son and a writer penning an interesting plot are five strangers who never come face to face but influence one another's lives in a manner which alters their circumstances.The protagonist finds herself being questioned about the unpredictability of life. It compels her to explore the possibility of a human link between life and the events that shape it. Is it an intricately woven web of human actions that determine ones future or is it easier to simply blame it on destiny?


My review : Sharmila decides to write a novel , about different people living in her old grandfther’s home. These people are based on random characters she has heard about or knew of from the past. Based on her assumptions about how these people would have fared , 10 years later , forms the basis if her book. Her belief is that the character of a person , and not the circumstances decide how our life turns out to be ultimately.  Engaged to a successful author , Sharmila writes about his ex girlfriend; a friend of her friend who is a medium for the spirits from other worlds ; of a theater couple she recalled since she had a crush on the guy and a rogue character who dated one of her cousin’s friend and supposedly stabbed a guy.  According to her the rogue guy would end up in jail , the theater couple would be happily married , the ex girlfriend is probably the delusional rebel of the society and psychic would never have a normal life . what follows is an account of each of these lives as it happened and as they cross each other’s paths sometimes by name , sometimes in real and how they all ultimately alter Sharmila’s life with Abhishek.

Blame it on destiny , aptly describes Destiny as the Chasm between what we expect and what the reality turns out to be. The beauty of the book is that the relations and relationships between the characters are so beautifully layered that when ever I made one connection between these lives , it kind of made me more eager to read further. The story just pulls you in and doesn’t let you go unless you have closed the book. Perhaps not even then. Soorina has created a fabulous casts and set up a brilliant game of life moving these people like a game of chess ! Isn’t it what Destiny does ? There is love , loss , tragedy , irony , mistakes , death and above all , the human nature to associate with one of these even as strangers. 

I loved this book and now I am going to mark Soorina’s previous book in my to-be-read pile !

My rating : 5/5
What a lovely start to 2015 J

General/Indian Fiction

When she smiled by Ritoban chakrabarti

10:30:00 AM



This is a story of Joy who like any other teenager has a lot of hopes and dreams for the school year - rekindling old friendships, making new friends, impression on teachers, good marks and probably in middle of all this live up to his parent's expectations.

Joy is from a family of a very strict father, loving and perfect elder sister, a really cool elder brother and a mother who balances the equations between the kids and the father. While Joy is almost perfect guy - intelligent, talented and helpful, he is way too nice and almost borders on being a little unreal at first. That said, his ideas about life, nature and the poems that he pens made me think of a friend of mine and I could relate to him after that. I loved Sid, the elder brother a lot. While we know about him only from what Joy shares, it’s enough to like him more than Joy.

The book has some really heartfelt and almost true portrayal of relationships, the confusions and the effects that smallest of events can have on changing one's destiny. For me it was almost like a trip down memory lane, as some old music, cartoons and tv shows were referenced. Description of Shimla is very beautiful and transports the reader there at times.

My problem with the book was that it took me almost 70 pages to get interested in finishing it. Some of the parts could be removed or cut short so as to keep the story's pace steady. I also did not like much of background stories coming up in the current flow. A plot that looks a little predictable, but promising too. A guy character who is very emotional and probably thinks a bit too much ( of himself and everything else ). A girl character who is not only moody but at times I just wanted her to be little reasonable (too much to ask perhaps! ). And personally, the end did not justify the title at all. But perhaps that's an adult's opinion. For Joy, it mattered and that’s how it would be.

All in all, this is a book to finish in maximum two sittings once you get into the rhythm. A decent one to go and think of your teenage and smile at the stuff you probably thought as big deal then.


I will rate this 3.5/5

Contemporary Romance

Fade into red by Reshma K. Barshikar

9:00:00 AM

Ayra always wanted to be an Art Historian. She saw herself flitting between galleries, talking Michelangelo and Dali with glamorous ease. At twenty–nine, life has decided to make her an underpaid investment banker juggling an eccentric family, a fading career and a long–distance relationship that is becoming a light-year one. On a monsoon day in June, she is suddenly sent packing from Mumbai to Tuscany to buy a vineyard for a star client. What should have been a four day trip turns into a two week treasure hunt that finds her in the middle of midnight wine deals, dodgy vintners, rolling Tuscan hills, a soap opera family and one playboy millionaire who is looking to taste more than just the wine. Towards the end she finds that the road to true happiness is almost as elusive as that perfect glass of Chianti.

Nimue Says: Fade into Red is the story of Arya but somehow it captures a lot of moments and thought of  many independent modern indian women who some times get too caught up between a successful career and being available for the people you love and value. The story for me was kind of predictable with two possible endings , which was finalized after three-fourths of the book. But what kept the book going for me was the way it was written. Some times the books tend to get uninterested when they talk of the business details and of a particular process. But not this one - the locations , the wine making process and traditions , the investment details all were so beautifully woven into the story that everything was a neat package. I fell in love with the countryside and the vineyards I guess , after this book ,Tuscany definitely made into my list of places to visit in this lifetime.

Reshma has given a wonderful sense of humor and wit to Arya, sarcasm and charms to Ishaan and so much credibility to the family and friends. I liked Arya's friend super much and some of the conversations reminded me of my bestie. Arya's traditional family and the beauty of their bonds was very warm. I loved Arya's boyfriend as he was the much needed balancing guy in Arya's life. The book kept me smiling and engaged till the last line.

My rating: 4/5

Book Links:
Amazon : http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/8184005547/
Flipkart : http://www.flipkart.com/fade-into-red-english/p/itmdw3t5jtkttzjm
Crossword : http://www.crossword.in/books/fade-into-red/p-books-9788184005547.html