crime

Riley Sager's Last Time I lied

8:34:00 AM


                      Riley Sager's 'Last Time I lied' is a slow burner. It's one of those books which moves at a leisurely pace in the beginning but still manages to hook your attention and never let you put it down or move on with something else!
           Camp Nightingale is a summer camp run by one of the multi-millionaires of the town ,Franny-Harris- White. She has two adopted sons, Theo and Chet. But when three of the young girls from the camp Vivian, Natalie and Allison go missing from the camp all hell break loose and Franny is forced to shut down the camp, also leaving behind Emma, the only other roommate of the three missing girls, traumatized.
          Fifteen years later, Franny decides to reopen the camp and she decides to invite , Emma  also to the camp as the instructor-in -charge of the present occupants(Krystal,Sasha,Miranda) of the cabin (named Dogwood,) from where the three girls went missing fifteen years ago. Emma manages to form a bond with the three young girls,but pretty soon she realises that Camp Nightingale harbours many sinister secrets which might have led to the disappearance of Vivian and her friends.
          As I mentioned in the beginning , Riley Sager takes his own sweet time in setting up the plot and establishing the characters.The first one hundred pages or so are a bit dull and the narrative mostly moves at a lethargic pace,but once the mystery begins unravelling slowly, there is no looking back.In the layered narrative,Riley Sager manages to pack in as much intrigue and mystery as possible ,unravelling them, at regular intervals.
         The tail end twist was splendidly done and I never saw it coming.But I wish Sager had given some more detail about the circumstances that might have led Katherine to take up that drastic challenge! 

On the whole,I'm giving a 4 out of 5 for this genuine psychological thriller!

-nikhimenon

crime

Hydrangea by Lajo Jose (Regional)

9:26:00 PM


           Hydrangea is Lajo Jose's follow up to his highly successful 'Coffee House', the second book in journalist turned private investigator Esther's crime series.Like his previous work, Hydrangea is also an investigative crime thriller, but unlike 'Coffee House' which had a heavy 'S.N. Swamy-K.Madhu' movies' hang over to it, 'Hydrangea' is modelled mostly on the western 'stalker' crime thrillers(Lars Kepler's book with the same name seems to be Lajo's reference point for this work, as the similarities and inspiration are pretty much evident).
           So, the plot goes somewhat like this- A serial killer is threatening the city with his maverick crimes and the modus operandi is pretty weird, he shoots a short video of his unassuming victim pretty much before the actual act of crime and sends it to the city police chief ,virtually challenging them to stop the crime from being committed. But since the videos don't leave much clue about the victims except for a grainy image of them in their cabins, the police also can't do much about it.Private Investigator Esther and the firm which she is working for,headed by Ali Imran also gets entangled in this rigmarole and their task is cut out as the killer is on his violent spree!
           Lajo Jose has definitely improved when compared to his debut novel and this time around his plot is sharp and the narrative is also quite fast paced.The pointless banter between Aparna and Esther has been trimmed down for good this time around.The characters of Ali Imran, the lady IPS officer and that of Esther were quite poorly developed.And last but not the least,Lajo's obession with his debut work is quite evident with multiple instances of that book being referred to in Hydrangea, which to be honest, was a bit irritating, after a point.
         But whatever said and done, I enjoyed reading Hydrangea.Though it's heavily inspired by the Western thrillers of similar genre , Lajo has delivered a decent addition to the almost extinct Malayalam Pulp Crime genre!

I'm giving it a 3 out of 5!

-nikhimenon

family

#BookReview: Physical: The catastrophe of desire by Mari.Reiza

9:09:00 AM

Physical: The catastrophe of desire by mari reiza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Some times you begin a book with little expectation and find struggling to identify with the character, any character actually. This happened for me with Physical as I just could not empathize with Kiki - whose breakup has left her a little mad and the lonely craziness is just eating her up. I felt her hurt and understood her true self behind the angry mask but she still made me feel frustrated with her. Then the story flips to Fatima, Kiki's best friend, a new mother of twins who is stuck at home after pregnancy and feels her worth fading away. Now that's a feeling I so very well know - by thinking of a time when I simply slip out of others memories and left alone. And gradually I got engrossed in the book. I wanted to see what breaks / makes these two ladies and their friendship evolve.

At a certain point in the story, it became my story. I could feel this play out between me and a friend of mine wondering together, where we walked our own way and this book showed how we can miss the signs even in our closest friends.

A short read, this is emotioanl, fun, beautifully true and so relatable story of Love and desire i  in modern times.



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CJ Tudor

Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

12:34:00 AM

             The Chalkman by C.J Tudor was one of the most hyped books of 2018. Had read much about this debut work by Tudor and was quite excited to grab a copy.I must confess that the book did meet my expectations to an extend. Set in the small town of Anderbury, a fictional town in England, Chalkman is a decent weekend read but with a confusing ending! 
          The story is set in two time frames, 1986 and 2016. Ed, Fat Gav, hoppo, Nickey are a gang who spend their time fooling around. One of them receive a box of chalks as a birthday gift and soon they devise secret codes to communicate between themselves. But little did they realize that this sweet little game of them was going to land them in big trouble!
          It's 2016, thirty years have passed and Ed is now a school teacher. When Ed receives a letter reminding him of the 'Chalkman',he figures out that nothing is over yet and he has to find out who killed the 'Waltz girl' all those years ago!
          While I was reading this book, I was reminded (on more than one occassion) of Joel Dicker's Baltimore boys and Stephen King's iconic 'IT' which also delt with  childhood gangs and their sinister secrets. Infact, the narrative and plot structure of 'The Chalkman'  (which alternates between two time frames) are also pretty much similar.
         Tudor's debut work is a pretty easy read. There aren't too many characters the most striking one being, Mr Halloran. This character could have been better etched out though.Though his entry does manage to elicit dread and fear, it fizzles out soon.This one is a pretty violent work with gory deaths and bizarre imageries, the scene depicting the Waltz girl's (Elisa) death being a typical case in point.The 'spookiness' quotient is also quite high.The parallel's drawn between Ed's father's condition and that of Hoppo's mother has been quite competently done.
           The basic theme of cryptic messages indicating something sinister/ a harmless children's game ending up in something gruesome is not new. Infact it has been explored before (Want to Play? by P.J. Tracy , works by Stephen King to name a few) by even experienced authors.The childhood timeline in 'Chalkman' is heavily inspired by Stephen King's 'IT' ,I guess! But still ,what makes 'Chalkman' interesting is it's layered narrative and compelling situations which infact gets the reader hooked into it. Even though there are multiple twists happening in both the time frames, the author has succeeded in not confusing the reader ( and thereby losing track of the events) for the most part. But where Tudor's writing falters heavily is towards the last twenty pages of the book.
          The biggest weak point of the book is it's climax. It is a big mess and reads like a hastily written first draft. Honestly, I was not that surprised when the big reveal about Eddy was made (but what was the whole point about that 'big reveal'?Was he suffering from a medical condition? Or was it a plain case of Kleptomania?But then ,how do you explain the bouts of strange dreams Eddy was experiencing every now and then?).There are far too many loose ends and quite an implausible climactic twist.

Why did the villain wait all these years to attack them? 
Was he faking his concussion?
Who was the one who was drawing the chalkmen? Was it Nicky?

         The recurrent (lucid) dream sequences involving Eddy was also quite boring and repetitive after a point. As I mentioned before, some of the other twists were also quite unbelievable. It's quite startling that noone  bothered to find out the truth behind the attack on Reverend Martin.Likewise, Fat Gav's accident (and the events leading to it), Mickey's murder was also not looked upon by the investigators seriously.
          Well, for those of you who are too lazy to read the whole review which I have written and have just scrolled down to see the verdict/bottomline, let me quote Fat Gav (from the book) - this one is definitely not a pile of stinking Buckaroo! There are many good things about this book, it's (though a bit formulaic)  an engaging work for the most part, but has a grossly underwhelming and confusing climax. I am giving it a 2.9 out of 5 

-nikhimenon

Historical Fiction

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

2:36:00 AM

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I started this book and my initial thought was that this is another happy go lucky adventure story of a rich spoilt kid with his best friend who he also loves romantically. Within three chapters, something about Henry "Monty" Montague gave me a feeling I was in for good fun. Yes, this book is a fun ride but it has a good handle on the emotional side of the trio (Monty, Percy and Monty's sister Felicity) who accidentally get veered towards this adventure.

Set in the 1700s it takes inspiration from the society's belief at the time about gay love, rights of the black folks and of women. As we travel across cities, it beings the beauty and culture of the cities to surface, even if briefly.  I totally adore Felicity in this story as the girl who has dreams and the brains to match but is being forced to go attend a school where her talents would go waste. She is the voice that actually helps the readers connect to Monty along with the story.  It is a coming to age kind of story that has a bit of predictable end but its the journey to reach there that is worth your time.

I am interested to read the next part of the book now to know of the story from her eyes and perhaps just to see her make her dreams happen.

It is a quick , funny , crazy and sweet tale which is even more fun as an audiobook, narrated by Christian Coulson (sample here)


 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars






     



View all my reviews

domestic thriller

A Stranger In the House by Shari Lapena

10:03:00 PM


                      I had read 'The Couple Next Door' by Shari Lapena last year and found it to be an okay work, at best. So when I picked up her follow up thriller,' A Stranger In the House', my expectations were quite minimal. Even after getting half way through the book,my opinion didn't change that much. Initially I almost thought that I had figured out the suspense! However  towards the end, the book totally bowled me over. The two twists towards the end took me by surprise and I don't remember when was the last time that I had felt this way about a thriller. Most of the thrillers I read recently started off with a bang, plateaued in the middle to fizzle out towards the end.
               Karen and Tom live a happy life. Brigit Cruikshank is their next door neighbour and Karen's best friend. But when Karen Krupp crashes her car into a pole after running out of an old dilapidated restaurant in the shady part of New York,it leaves not only Tom but also those who know Karen quite shaken. The mystery deepens when it is revealed that a man's body is also found in the restaurant from which Karen has run out of. Why did Karen go to that abandoned restaurant in the first place? Has she got something to do with the murder? 
               Like I mentioned in the beginning, the novel starts off like any other recent domestic-noir s. A seemingly perfect couple with their share of secrets, the wife with a dubious past, fake identities, extra-marital relationships and a neighbour who has got dubious intentions, the book does have all the thriller tropes in place. But Shari Lapena has 'twisted' all these cliches to deliver a neat ending! (Spoiler Alert: I didn't see the pregnancy twist coming!) The book is also a light,fast paced read,devoid of long, unnecessary descriptions but replete with plenty of twists and turns.(just when you think the plot is moving in a particular direction, comes a decent twist!)

 On the whole, I'm giving it a 3.2 out of 5

-nikhimenon

crime

Trials Of Truth: India's LandMARK Criminal Cases by Pinky Anand

8:00:00 AM


                             Trials of Truth :India's Landmark Cases is a work of non fiction co-written by Pinky Anand, senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India which discusses some of the landmark cases in the history of independent India. The book also attempts to look at the different facets of human criminal mind which might have instigated these gruesome crimes.
                   Nanavati Case, Jessica Lal Murder , Tandoor Murder, the infamous Billa-Ranga Case, Priyadarshini Mattoo Murder, Rajeev Gandhi homicide,Cyanide Mallika, Nithari Killings,Nirbhaya Case,Terrorist attacks of 26/11 all find it's place in this book.Each chapter opens with the author's opinion on the circumstances, the description of the crime itself and it's aftermath.For those readers who are hearing about these cases for the very first time, this book is undoubtedly a must read.
                  The basic problem with this book is that all the cases which are discussed in this work have been in the public domain for quite long and it doesn't help that the book seldom rises above their detailed wikipedia entries which anyone can access free of cost. The author hasn't really tried to give a lawyer's (insider) perspective to these cases either.However as I mentioned before, for the non discerning reader who is perhaps hearing about these cases for the very first time, this one is indeed a must buy.The language is pretty simple and at just about 200 pages or so, this work is not a very lengthy read by any stretch of imagination! I'm giving this a 2.75 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

nikhimenon

Book Reviews (Regional) : Kodakarapuranam, Amminipillai Vettu Case, Ozhivudivasthe Kali

11:54:00 AM


             Sajeev Edathadan is a known name in Malayalam Blogosphere. Infact his 'Kodakarapuranam' is one of the blogs (the other one being Berly Thomas's 'Berlytharangal') which led to the blogging revolution in Kerala in the late 2000s. While most of the 'superstar' malayalam bloggers have quit blogging since then ,Vishalamanaskan is still active in the malayalam blogging arena. Though his works have got published earlier also, I have never had a chance to read any of his works till date. So when I got an opportunity to read his complete works , I literally grabbed it!

           Contrary to it's title Kodakarapuranam, is not a history of the place called 'Kodakara', the small idyllic place somewhere in Kerala.It's about the small incidents (real and fictional) that have apparently happened in Edathadan's life as a 'kodakarakkaran' .Sajeevan's Kodakara is inhabited by people who are funny, innocent,honest and believable, yet with their own sense of small world 'crookedness' and 'street smartness'. Be it the over enthusiastic Giri who ventures to make 'Kerala Porotta' though he has absolutely no clue about the 'mechanics' behind it's making or the BBC chettan of Kodakara who honestly believes that it's his moral duty to 'spread the word'! At 350 + pages, 'kodakarapuranam' is a sheer joy to read and I bet you will laugh out loud atleast for half of it's stories! 

               AmminiPillai Vettu Case is an anthology by G.R.Indugopan .The stories are realistic and deeply rooted in human values and explores themes like love,longing and revenge.However there is a strong satirical tone to most of the stories and is pretty much prominent in the title story.Don't get deceived by the title though, this one is not a murder mystery by any stretch of imagination!

              Perhaps the most famous work of this lot, 'Ozhivudivasathe Kali' is a collection of short stories by Unni R.The title story has been adapted to a stage drama as well as a Malayalam Feature Film. Like Unni's previous works, the stories in this collection are also quite contemporary and deals with socially relevant themes. My pick of the lot is the opening story which is aptly titled 'Alice inte Albutha Lokam' which deals with a very serious theme of child abuse, albeit in a very subtle yet effective manner. 'Neela Chitram' is another gem which explores the theme of exploitation in two different contexts.'Ozhivu Divasathe Kali' is all about the intoxicating effect of 'Power'! "Pathu Kalpanakalkkidayil Randu Per' and 'Prani Lokam' are the other two stories in this collection. This one is definitely a must read book!

-nikhimenon

crime thriller

Peter Swanson's 'Her Every Fear'

8:43:00 PM

                                                        Her Every Fear
                                        Peter Swanson
                                      Thriller/Psychological Thriller
                                        400+Pages

                         I had read Peter Swanson's previous book 'The Kind Worth Killing' sometime back and absolutely loved it.So, when I got a chance to pick up his follow up to that work,I never felt the need to think twice.'Her Every Fear' revolves around the life of Kate Priddy who is suffering from PTSD.

                        Kate has just agreed for n house swap and she has just relocated to Boston from London, to her cousin's (Corbin Dell) apartment whereas he has gone to her at London.But a day after her arrival at Boston, she figures out that her neighbour,the twenty something girl has gone missing and in all probability might have been murdered. Pretty soon she realises that her cousin, Corbin might have had something to do with the young girl's disappearance. Enter Alan, the stalker-neighbour who lives just next door and Jack Ludovico, the mysterious man (with secrets) who claims to be the missing girl's friend and the proceedings get murkier.

                     Like his previous work,'The Kind Worth Killing', 'Her Every Fear' is also pretty long at 400+ pages, but that doesn't mean that the narrative is slow paced. Infact the writing is crisp and replete with twists and turns and most of the chapters end with cliff-hangers! The pathological relationship between Henry Wood and Corbin Dell has been beautifully described but the repetitive detailing of the same events from each of the principal character's point of view could have been done away with at times (especially towards the end).There aren't many characters in the book and the main characters like Kate, Corbin ,Henry have been etched out well.

On the whole, I'm giving it a 3.6 out of 5.This one is an engaging read!

-nikhimenon

nikhimenon

Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography by Richa Kaul Padte

9:51:00 PM


          Pornography is something which everyone Loves to watch/read but no one openly admits in the public. Richa Kaul Padte's 'Cyber Sexy' is a book on Pornography, a bit 'scientific' one at that. In what can be termed as a nuanced account of the evolution of porn, 'Cyber Sexy' tries to look at the various aspects of 'pleasure'.
         Well, this is the kind of book which is quite difficult to review.Obviously, a somewhat authentic account of the hitory of pornography was what I was hoping for when I picked up this book.But to say that the book entirely lived up to my expectations would be a bit of an overstatement.First and foremost, though the efforts of the author to take up a subject like this for her debut work as an author is laudable, the way it has turned out leaves a lot to be desired.May be a little bit of humour in the narrative might have did the trick.
          The book opens with the writer's first encounter with 'porn' and soon goes on to discuss more serious topics like consent, pornography in literature,exhibitionism,mass intimacy and so on.
          The basic problem which I felt with this book is that though it deals with a topic which is hardly boring, the way it is narrated makes this work of non-fiction quite bland and even uninteresting at times. The book has references about some of the biggest online MMS scandals which shook the country in the early 2000s and later, but it never rises above the numerous discussions happening in the online platforms like reddit and quora on a daily basis. The last couple of chapters delves into consensual porn and non consensual sex. As I mentioned before, the basic problem I felt with the book is the jumbled narrative. Instead of discussing one issue at a time and taking it into it's logical conclusion/ writer's opinion on the same, the debutant author jumps from one thing to the other citing 'experiences' of random people.

On the whole, I'm giving this work a 2.75 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

3:13:00 PM


              Anthony Horowitz , one of the most sought after authors of children's fiction is also someone who has made a smooth transition to writing adult's fiction. His Sherlock Holmes novels, 'The House Of Silk' and 'Moriarty' were not only highly successful but also critically acclaimed.'The Word Is Murder' is a stand alone crime novel and interestingly has the author himself playing a prominent character in it.
         Detective Hawthorne is the protagonist. He was working with the Police once upon a time ,but is now working as a private detective. Diana Cowper, a wealthy lady and mother of the popular actor, Daniel Cowper is found strangled in her apartment. But the strange thing is that she had planned her own funeral less than 24 hours back. But is there more to the murder than what meets the eye? Detective Hawthorne investigates with the writer Anthony giving him company.(Anthony has been assigned to write about the investigation.
            The book has got some smart lines and interesting refernces to real life persons and movies.The meta-references are also quite brilliantly done.The scene featuring Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson and the author himself is a scream. Though it's unclear whether it was an entirely fictional scene, I hope Anthony Horowitz gets assigned to write the next film of the Tintin franchise. Though the book is a tad too long at 390+ pages, there are enough twists and turns happening at regular intervals making the proceedings interesting.

On the whole, I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Chic-Lit

Pyjamas are Forgiving by Twinkle Khanna

9:07:00 PM


                      I had read 'The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad' by Twinkle Khanna some time back. One of the stories from that book was inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham (Twinkle herself produced a movie based on the same titked 'padman' which had her husband, Akshay Kumar playing the title role).The 'legend of 'Lakshmi Prasad' was an interesting read. 'Pyjamas are forgiving' is Twinkle's latest work. Unlike her previous two works (Mrs Funny Bones and the 'legend...') which were about real life people and real life incidents, 'Pyjamas...' is an entirely fictional tale.
                       Anshu , the protagonist  is a middle aged woman with sleep issues.She has come to Shanthamaya Sthalam, a spa situated somewhere in Kerala. She is on a mission to reduce her weight, besides other things. There she unexpectedly meets her ex-husband, besides other people. What happens in the spa during the course of next one month or so is what the story is all about.
                      The characters are shallow and half baked. The protagonist doesn't come across as an entirely likeable character. Some one-liners are witty but quite often they tend to be borderline vulgar and quite crass(those pertaining to orgasm and sexual act were very quite crude, to say the least).
                    There is no story per se, the plot moves at snails pace and wholly relies on the day to day activities at the spa. It would have been fine if the narrative was replete with genuinely funny moments but that was far and few in between.The book is mostly about the self realization/ self discovery of a few of the residents at the spa over a period of one month or so.But at the same time, some of the key characters never get their due.The relationship between Anshu and her ex-husband is not properly explained or explored. We get to know that they went to a few vacations together, but then what really happened between them/or in their relation is hardly explained.
May be you can give it a try if a slow paced, leisurely read with a few witty lines and hardly any surprises is what you are hoping for. I'm giving it a 2.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon


book blast

#Bookblitz : Physical by Mari.Reiza

6:32:00 AM

~ Book Blitz ~
Physical by Mari.Reiza
 Women's Psychological Fiction

About the Book:



A feminist read that won’t disappoint. 

In a small town in Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalizing desires that will bring them to risk everything.





Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon


Read an Excerpt:

Finally, I got my boss on the phone.
‘Relax, you just had twins,’ she sounded shifty. She hurried to say there was no rush for me to come back.
‘Thanks, but I’m ready.’ I did not like how this conversation had started. Should I call again? Maybe we could do take two.
‘Orso can take care of you now,’ she replied to me.
I told her to go fuck herself, which I had told her enough times before, when we had worked together. She was used to it. She had said the same to me, as often. It was taken as a sign that we respected each other. ‘I do not need anyone to take care of me,’ I elaborated given her silence. Of course I did. But it felt so good to say utter bullshit aloud, like it made it more believable.
‘We’re making one hundred people redundant in the department,’ she came clean under duress. ‘Fátima you are on the list.’
Fucking hell! The temperature of my body had gone up by five degrees in a hundredth of a second. The cold white wine was flashing fast to cool me down, but I still felt the phone melting in my hand. I knew I should not cry with her on the line, and I was speed thinking a good punch. But I was out of practice. She was anticipating me. She was thinking faster than me what I was thinking.
‘Do not even think to sue, Fátima. They are giving some good money. Take it and go. You do not even need this job anymore,’ she said.
Who the hell was she to tell me what I did or did not need, what I was supposed to do with my life?
I was incandescent, my skin tingling like the filaments of a bulb. I certainly was not up to snappy ‘do not worry about it you little daddy’s girl from Notting Hill’ remarks. Yes. I had Dad and Orso spitting gold coins like crazy for me, but living in my brain was hell, because it seemed that whatever I did, it wouldn’t count for shit. I preferred to be spitting gold coins with them.
‘You should feel emboldened by your new life. Focus on that. You have been blessed,’ she added. She was trying a solid voice but I could perceive a quibble. This conversation was not easy for her either.
Yet she would be able to forget it as soon as she hung up. She would maybe pop out for lunch somewhere nice, perhaps with Mark or Rachel, and pride herself for how well she had managed a difficult firing earlier in the morning. And Rachel would know that it was me and say, ‘Poor cow!’ And Mark would add, ‘Well, she had it coming. You can’t have it all.’
The fuck you can’t! Emboldened by my new life... It was going around my head.
My new life as a mother? Blessed for having offspring? How did she know it was a blessing? She did not have any. By choice, I thought. She had chosen not to be blessed. Maybe blessings got in the way. Of course they got in the way.
I decided to stop my tears in their tracks. It even felt like the ones on my cheeks were going back into my eyes, and all the scum that had come into my mouth, driven by rage, disappeared down my throat. My temperature was going back to normal, perhaps colder. It was like we were rewinding the tape. And in a voice icy as Lady Death’s, I only said five words, ‘Just send the papers through,’ and hung up.


About the Author:

Mari.Reiza was born in Madrid in 1973. She studied at Oxford University and worked as an investment research writer and management consultant for twenty years in London, before becoming an indie fiction writer. Also by her, Inconceivable Tales, Death in Pisa, Sour Pricks, A Pack of Wolves, STUP, Mum, Watch Me Have Fun!, Marmotte’s Journey, West bEgg, Room 11, Triple Bagger, Caro M, Opera, the Retreat, sells sea shells and aberri (homeland), all available on Amazon.



Author Links:
Website * Twitter * Instagram




Anthology

Tell Tale by Jeffrey Archer

8:52:00 AM


                     Jeffrey Archer's short stories are a pleasure to read. They are mostly easy reads, draw inspiration from real life incidents and almost always end with a small twist.'Tell Tale' is Archer's latest short story collection and like his previous works, the stories in this latest anthology are also quite interesting.
                    The collection begins with the story titled 'The Death of The Mayor'. As the title suggests, this story revolves around the mysterious death of the Mayor of a small town and the investigator who is brought to find out the truth behind the crime. The case is almost left unsolved until the officer stumbles upon a startling revelation.A surprising twist indeed!
                    The other stories are also equally good with quirky and relatable characters. Be it the smart couple who devise the 'crooked' plan to make money 'through' their 'summer holidays' or the car park attendant who makes a living out of an abandoned council property, Archers characters are tangible and believable.My favourite story in this collection was 'The Senior Vice President', which incidentally was also the longest one of the lot.

Verdict: On the whole, I'm giving 'tell Tale' a 3.5 out of 5.This one is an enjoyable book! 

-nikhimenon

crime fiction

Masako Togawo's 'The Lady Killer'

8:22:00 PM


           Pushkin Vertigo has brought out the English translation of yet another Japanese crime classic by the queen of Japanese crime fiction, Masako Togawo. 'The Lady Killer' was originally published in Japanese in the 1960's and the action is seti in Tokyo of the 60 s.

         Ichiro Honda is a hardworking professional and a dutiful husband by the day and a hardcore womaniser by the night. He never 'uses' his female companions for his pleasure more than once.The pervert that he is, also has the habit of maintaining a 'Hunter's Log' which depicts graphic details of his sexual conquests. However, his preys soon start getting killed one by one and soon, the hunter becomes the hunted.This is the basic premise of the book. Agreed, a couple of books have come out with similar themes later (Masako Togawo's work originally came out in the 1960 s) in various languages, however what makes 'The Lady Killer' a must read work is the smart writing and intelligent plot twists ( due credit goes to the translator as well who has made sure that the soul of the work is not lost in translation).

        The writing is taut and as I mentioned before ,though the book was originally written almost 50 years back, the plot still feels fresh and contemporary. Infact, I found it quite surprising that a woman writer had thought about Vaginismus (which is considered a taboo topic even in this era) and was bold enough to make it as one of the core plot points in her work .Obviously, Masako Togawo's thought process was very well ahead of her times!

        While the first half of the book is mostly about Honda's sexual pursuits, it's towards the latter half that the book that it turns to a criminal investigation/procedural. On the whole, 'The Lady Killer' is an engaging thriller with a brilliant twist towards the end.I'm giving it a 3.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

domestic thriller

Frederic Dard's 'The King of Fools'

9:09:00 PM

                 
                 Frederic Dard was a French Writer, who had written more than two hundred thrillers. Thanks to Pushkin Vertigo, one of his masterpieces (King Of Fools) has been translated to English, long after his death in 2000.Originally Published in French in the 1950 's, King Of Fools is one of those rare works which doesn't have a ' dated ' feel to it.Even in 2019, the work feels quite fresh and engaging!
                Jean-Marie has just befriended Marjory (a British woman who is on a French holiday) after a chance meeting in France. Pretty soon, they fall in love and Jean- Marie follows the beautiful Marjory to her native country, Scotland. But all is not well as Marjory's husband soon finds out about their 'affair' and the desperate lover that he is, Jean-Marie does what any other 'foolish lover' would have done in a scenario like this.Will he be able to wash off the blood on his hands?(go, grab a copy and figure out!)
              As I said in the beginning,'King Of Fools' is a racy thriller.There are twists and turns happening at regular intervals and the suspense is maintained well through out.The climax is also well thought out and at 156+ pages, the book is quite slim and engaging.The avid readers might feel the lack of detailing a bit disheartening though.Looking forward to reading more works by Frederic Dard, the master of French Crime Fiction.I'm giving this book a 3.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Drama

QBR: The Windfall by Diksha Basu

7:56:00 PM

                                                     
                                                       Satire/Drama
                                                        376+ pages 
                                                   Bloomsbury (2017)
                                                       RT Rating: 3.5/5

The Verdict: 'The Windfall' is a humorous take on the life of a typical middle class family from East Delhi.Told in a honest and hilarious manner, 'The Windfall' is definitely a must read!
Synopsis: Mr Anil Jha and family have been leading a middle class life in East Delhi. Mr Jha recently sold his website for a whopping 20 Million US Dollars making the Jha family rich all on a sudden.Since they have succesfully climbed up the social ladder,the family decides to relocate to Gurgaon, the place for the super-rich.How the neo-rich slowly get acclimatized to the new neighbourhood and how they make new friends is all the story is about.Though on the face of it, it looks like Mr Jha and Mr Chopra are in a constant race to out do each other,pretty soon we realize that they do have a lot of things in common.
The Good:The setting is perfect, the jokes are fine and the characterizations (Mrs Ray, Johny, Rupak, Mr Jha) are brutally honest, Diksha's prose manages to be a social commentary and a satirical (Mrs Ray and her stolen Yoga Pants, a perfect case in point) take on middle class ambitions at the same time.
The Bad:The ending was a bit abrupt and ambiguous (may be it is intentional and the author is planning for a sequel?)

RecommendationsBuy it!

Manu Joseph

Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph

5:58:00 PM

                          

                         Manu Joseph's award winning 'Serious Men' and it's follow up ,'The Illicit Happiness Of Other People' were books which I enjoyed a lot. So, I was eagerly looking forward to reading his latest work,'Miss Laila....'. Infact I was very pleased when I could finally get hold of 'Miss Laila'  A good couple of hours and a 200 + pages later,I should confess that I have been left with missed feelings.
                          'Miss Laila,Armed and Dangerous' is the kind of book which is very difficult to review. First and foremost, it's almost impossible to consider this book as a pure work of fiction.May be because of his background as a journalist, Manu Joseph has an opinion about almost everything which has happened in our country in the last decade or so(which in my honest opinion ,is a perfectly fine thing!). But when he tries to pack in too much of his opinions into his latest work and try to pass it off as fiction ,without even bothering to change the 'real-life' names of the personalities involved in a jumbled and often confusing narrative, it results in something like 'Miss Laila'.
                        The Plot goes something like this- A building has collapsed somewhere in Mumbai and in the midst of the ruins, there is a man who is mumbling something about a potential terror plot. A social media prankster, Miss Aiyer is one of the first persons to reach the spot and with her help , the IB and the officials soon spring into action and commence their 'mission' to nail the potential terrorist. What happens to their 'secret mission' is what the story is all about. 
                       The story line is quite plain and the book is hardly 200 pages long. The language is  simple and Manu Joseph's trade mark humour and sarcasm are quite in place which tries to make up for the dullness in the plot , to an extend. Aiyer's 'Pranks' are often quite hilarious. Using Aiyer's character, Joseph  has tried to poke fun at almost everyone, be it the media , the so called 'fascists' , 'activists' or the 'neo-liberals'. (Mind you , even the economist Raghuram Ranjan is not spared! The scene involving activist Sathya and his bid for the Nobel Prize is particularly funny! BTW, what was Bill Gates doing in this work?). But the basic problem is , all those funny bits remain as isolated set pieces and they never particularly gel with the story line nor do they add anything to the core plot- they just stick out like isolated, random scenes!
                      As I mentioned in the beginning, it's very difficult to categorize this book as a pure work of fiction.It's mostly like a string of opinion pieces on some of the important incidents which has happened in our country in the last one and a half decades or so.The author has taken the convenient route of masquerading it as a work of fiction.However, some of his observations and one-lines are quite interesting. Sample this- When the elite of a system become the underclass in another system,they search for a moral cause to restore balance of power. This is popularly known as activism
            or thisAn erection is the same hydraulic event in political economists as it is in jackasses
           or  thisIt appears that if only passenger trains were equitable systems, many revolutions would not have occured.

Verdict- On the Whole, Miss Laila is an okay read. But a writer who has given us gems like 'Serious Men' and 'The Illicit Happiness....' is defintely capable of much more!

-nikhimenon

fantasy fiction

Review: A Flight of Broken Wings by Nupur Chowdhury

5:17:00 AM

A Flight of Broken Wings A Flight of Broken Wings by Nupur Chowdhury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Six hundred years ago, humanity rose up in revolt against the Aeriels, who were driven from earth and back into their homeland of Vaan after a bloody and glorious war.

Eight years ago, Ruban’s home was destroyed and his family murdered by an Aeriel.

When a new Aeriel threat looms over Ragah, the capital city of Vandram, Ruban Kinoh must do everything in his power to avenge his family's past and protect the future of his country.



I have been a fan of fantasy fiction genre long before I realized that it is a genre of books ! And for a long time I read mostly foreign authors. So it is always a good feeling to see an Indian author do justice to the genre and good story in general. To say , that I read this book without expectations would be a lie and I am always a little too sceptical of the fantasy fiction books that seem to be part of a trilogy.


So , it was very fortunate for me to chance upon this book as this one totally lives up to its promise. Fantasy fiction mostly survives on the world you set for your characters  , the rules , the past , the present and tying them all in the near future.


Nupur set up a world that wasn't too far from reality and mixing it with her out of the world creatures, some of them,  I must say have such amazing sense of humor that I was immediately hooked to the book. The best thing about the book is the light banter that keeps flowing in the story keeping you smiling and engaged. The friendship and the loyalty that develops by passing some hard times together is amazingly shown as is the author's understanding of relationships in general. The action scenes are totally on point and do not lack the punches that are needed.


I would love to see Ruban and Ashwin together again if they promise to give me same dose of fun in every single book. And on that note , I must add that whether the author decides to write another part or not , this book in itself is complete and the reader would not be disappointed at the end.






     



View all my reviews

augusto de angelis

QBR: The Mystery of The Three Orchids by Augusto De Angelis

9:41:00 PM


                                                       Vintage Crime
                                                        186+ pages, 
                                                    Pushkin Vertigo (2016, originally 1936)
                                                       RT Rating: 3.2/5

The Verdict: 'The Mystery of The Three Orchids' is an engaging mystery.It is indeed a proof of the genius of  Augusto De Angelis, the man widely regarded as the father of Italian Crime Fiction.
 
Synopsis: A Murder has happened in one of the fashion houses in Milan. Valerio, the right hand man of Christina, the owner of the Fashion house is found dead in her room.Inspector De Vincenzi is called to investigate the crime.But pretty soon, the bodies start piling up and within a span of 48 hours, there are three murders with Orchids beside these three bodies.Will De Vincenzi be able to solve the crime?
 
The Good: the setting, twists and the climatic reveal. Never did I feel that this work was written almost 80 years ago! 

The Bad:The reader never gets to know much about Inspector De Vincenzi (may be one should read the first books in the series for that!)

RecommendationsBuy it!

-nikhimenon

crime

QBR: Don't Let go by Harlan Coben

9:09:00 AM

                                           

                                                    Crime/Thriller
                                                    386+ pages
                                                     Arrow (2018)
                                                     RT Rating: 3.2/5

The Verdict:'Don't Let Go' is an engaging stand alone thriller from Harlan Coben, one of the most successful crime writers of our times. Definitely worth a read!
 
Synopsis: Nap is a cop who has lost his brother(Leo) and his lover(Diana) after a freak accident 15 years back.The incident forced Maura, Nap's girl-friend to go into a hiding.Now years later, there is a series of killings and Maura has suddenly made an appearance.Nap is convinced that there is some sort of connection between his brother's murder and these recent murders.Will Nap be able to uncover the truth?
 
The Good: As usual, Coben's narrative moves forward at a breakneck speed,there is never a dull moment and the twists happen at regular intervals, the CIA-Military base angle was well done, the 'sleeper-cell' twist was also believably done,the Bolitar cameo was a pleasant surprise. 

The Bad:Nap's characterisation reminded of Myron Bolitar at times,towards the middle portions,the book dragged a bit.

RecommendationsBuy it!

-nikhimenon

Cate Woods

Review: Just Haven't Met You Yet by Cate Woods

6:30:00 PM

Just Haven't Met You Yet Just Haven't Met You Yet by Cate Woods
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story that tries to seek answers for the quest we have to find our soul mate. What if technology can accurately match you to your soulmate ? Does it really have to be a romantic link up always ? and what it takes to find love otherwise ?
 
Percy is in a steady relationship when she is made aware that she has a soulmate and if she wishes , she can meet the persona nd decide what to do about it. Finding herself a little bored and in need of an adventure , she goes for the date and her life changes after that.    

A really fun read , part relatable and part wise yet fun enough to make you smile. This book made me read till 2 am just to know the end and to see where the heart actually fits for Percy. I liked the friendships , the moments of connections with a stranger or the ways our heart and inner voice lead us to right decisions , only if we keep our heads clear. This is a very current time read and without being preachy , it's a wonderful story.


Later when I reflected on the title and the story , it also felt that perhaps its about finding yourself in a new light. Maybe You haven't met the better version of you yet !





View all my reviews

Anthology

QBR: Boo- edited by Shinie Antony

8:51:00 PM

                                        Anthology/Horror Fiction
                                           209+ pages, 
                                     Penguin Random House India (2017)
                                          RT Rating: 2.6/5

The Verdict:'Boo-Horror Stories..' is an okay read at best! Though it is marketed as a horror anthology, most of the stories fail to create a chill down your spine(contrary to what it's tag line promises!).The basic problem with the book is that though the book features writings (translations) by some of the big names in new-age writing (K.R. Meera, Shashi Seshpande to name a few), the essence of their stories seem to have lost in translation!  
 
Synopsis: The stories try to explore the para-normal.A work of Psychological horror is what the book aspires to be ,basically.
 
The Good: The stories which some what stay true to the tag line are 'The Face' by Manabendra Uphadyay , 'The Claws' by Durjoy Datta and 'The Monkeys in the Orchard' by Kanishk Tharoor.

The Bad:horror element missing in most stories, infact the book shouldn't have been marketed as a compilation of horror stories(suspense/psychological short fiction,may be), the ambiguous ending/'literary value'  of some of the stories will not go down well it's target reader group. 

RecommendationsBorrow it!

-nikhimenon