A L Sowards

Review: The Redgrave Murders by A. L. Sowards

7:07:00 AM

The Redgrave Murders The Redgrave Murders by A. L. Sowards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes it is not the big picture but what is happening within that frame that makes a story work for the reader. This is a story of two people with different past working for a common future - a future together.
Evie and Gary are an unlikely couple for the 1950s and coupled with Gary's past it was not easy for him to be the kind of boyfriend he would have liked to be. Evie's father is murdered and the blame falls on Gary. Evie works on finding the alibi for him and clearing the blame and along the way she gets a better picture of the man she is dating. This is actually the core of their evolving relationship and their struggle to make it work.

The murder mystery is well crafted and easy to follow as they together go through the list of possible suspects. It reveals the bias and the struggle the minorities face in society and how love can heal it.

An easy read that has a lot of heart in it.


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monsters of verity

Review: This Savage Song [The monsters of Verity] by Victoria Schwab

1:40:00 AM

This Savage Song
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Savage Song is a Young Adult fiction set in a city full of monsters and human. The city is divided into two sections - one ruled by Harker who has made monsters his slave and now sells his protection to humans, other section ruled by Flynn who saves the humans by fighting the monsters and the evil humans alike and keeping them out of his part of the city. There are three kinds of monsters - and one of them is August - the boy who loves music but can not play at his will as his songs can steal a human's soul. Harker has a daughter - Kate who he keeps away from the city as much as Kate struggles to return home and eventually succeeds too.

“She cracked a smile. "So what's your poison?"He sighed dramatically, and let the truth tumble off his tongue. "Life.""Ah," she said ruefully. "That'll kill you.” 

This is a story of these two and how one saves the other from acting like a real monster and ultimately saving the city, perhaps temporarily. Maybe this is about choices we make - to be the monster or not and to shape our own destiny even in the bleakest times. But what moves the story forward so seamlessly is the dialogue and the pace of the story. Supported by some really amazing cast on August's side and the conflicts on Kate's side, this is a really good quick read.

I did not love the book, but I did like it enough for one of the main characters - so that I am curious about the second part of the book to know the story further.

“I read somewhere," said Kate, "that people are made of stardust."
He dragged his eyes from the sky. "Really?"
"Maybe that's what you're made of. Just like us."
And despite everything, August smiled.” 

The story ends at a point where it is satisfying to be left without reading the sequel.


Here is the link to the audiobook from youtube.

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Nature

Review: A Mango Tree in the Courtyard by Shweta Gour

8:48:00 AM

A Mango Tree in the Courtyard: Fifteen comforting stories of nostalgia, humour, irony and macabre. A Mango Tree in the Courtyard: Fifteen comforting stories of nostalgia, humour, irony and macabre. by Shweta Gour
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


"Always be aware of men who make you feel miserable, who always put their needs above your wishes and stand for yourself, without hurting anyone; but, also be wise enough never to become the woman who compensates for their suffering by instilling the same onto others."



This book is a collection of short stories divided into two sections - 1. Nature and Nostalgia and 2. On the dark side. As the name shows, the first one has stories of the author's childhood and growing years coupled with a love for nature. These are the stories that appealed more to me as it clearly shows that the author is passionate about these memories and the way nature has left an imprint on her life. There is certain warmth in the stories, even if sometimes they fail to have a proper closure. 

My favorite story is the first one which is also the name of the book. A dream in a dream is a really sweet story that has inception like feels but thankfully not that twisted. Misfortune is another story I liked a lot in the book.


In my more rational days, the polarities between the existence of wildlife and those of humans come forth clearly. The former in its very process of just being in making this planet worth living while the latter in all its intelligence is only making it ugly. The view of trails of trees and plants rejoicing with various avians and squirrels against the high concrete blocks, standing sullen strengthens my conclusion.

The second section has some interesting plot and moments that make you think of creepy moments you have encountered. The perfume is one of my favorites stories in this section while the last one could have been a little better plotted. It leaves you with wanting for more. 


Overall the book has some misses but most of the stories can make you a little bit nostalgic and think of the simpler times of summer vacations, train journeys, and some spooky tales. A good debut attempt by the author. 


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indian crime

Regional Book Reviews: Mystic Mountain, 307.47

8:34:00 AM


               Malayalam Pulp Fiction is going through a golden phase now. More and more youngsters are bringing out their works and mainstream publishers are picking them up without any inhibitions (there used to be a phase when A-List Malayalam publishers kept a 'safe' distance from 'popular/pulp' writers and wanted 'nothing' to do with their 'works') .They are not only vocal about their works in the online platforms but also aggressively cross promote each other's works. It won't be an overstatement to say that Malayalam popular fiction is witnessing what desi writing in English experienced in the 'Chetan Bhagat' phase (ofcourse, Chetan Bhagat is still hanging around, but the many pale imitations have slowly faded out,by now!).This week, we are reviewing two books which are making waves in the social media- Mystic Mountain by Sree Parvathy and 307.47 by Ashish Ben Ajay. In more ways than one, both these works have a couple of things in common.
               Mystic Mountain is a novel which tries to explore Devil worship, Lesbian Love and adventure travel. Thara and Agnes are a lesbian couple who are madly in love with each other and desperately want to start a life together.To tide over her personal crisis, Agnes decides to go for an adventure trip to Mount Aleena with her friends but there she chances upon a mysterious church (church of insanity) and decides to go after the secret behind this abandoned Church. But little did she know that the place had been taken over by dark forces. 
            On a concept level, this theme/one-line might sound exciting.But the plain narrative and below par treatment makes this one a not-so-pleasant reading experience.
             Plagued by poor character development, a back story heavily borrowed from a Malayalam Comedy Film (the track from 'Romans'), illogical plot twists and loopholes in the narrative (the entry of Devasi Achan, the 'conveniently placed' mobile phone in the climax , the 'keys' appearing from nowhere, to name a few),'Mystic Mountain' ends up as a royal mess. The scenes depicting the Devil worship are so unimaginatively written that they end up being cringe worthy and outright boring.

On the whole, I'm giving it a 2 out of 5.

           Asish Ben Ajay's 307.47 is a work which tries to blend different genres. It has elements of horror, travelogue and mystery.The plot goes something like this-Abhisekh is a young banker who has recently got transferred to Kochi. There , he chances upon a book written by someone named Asish Ben Ajay which basically is an account of the travel which Asish and his friends had made to Munnar (Chinnacanal).Not very much later, Abhisekh and his friends also decide to go on for a pleasure trip to Munnar (Chinnacanal). In the course of the journey, Abhi soon realises that they are also going through the same experiences, as described in the book, one by one!
          Coming to the positives, this book is undoubtedly a light and easy read.For the most part, 307.47 works well as an atmospheric ,suspenseful read.
The illustrations accompanying the text deserve special mention.It did help in elevating the reading experience to a great extend.
          On the downside, the book is not devoid of flaws either.A travelogue becomes more enjoyable when it describes places we haven't been quite acquainted with.But when it's about familiar places, you don't 'feel' much about it.In that sense, it didn't quite work for me.The mystery about the 'Thamizhathy' was also quite predictable.The climax and tail end portions could have been better thought out, though!

I'm giving it a 2.7 out of 5. Asish Ben Ajay is a promising talent as far as Malayalam Pulp Fiction is concerned!

 -nikhimenon

Frederic Dard

QBR: The Wicked Go To Hell by Frederic Dard

8:31:00 AM

                                                       Noir/Thriller
                                                       152+ pages
                                                       Pushkin Vertigo (2017)
                                                       RT Rating: 3.5/5

The Verdict: 'The Wicked Go to Hell' is a classic tale of friendship, betrayal and redemption.
Synopsis: Two Convicts escape from a high security prison.The police is after them but they have succesfully deceived them so far. But there is one small issue- one of the escaped prisoners is a police mole himself.Will 
The Good:The setting is perfect, the narrative is fast paced, the suspense is terrific and the ending is quite unexpected 
The Bad:Nothing really!

RecommendationsBuy it!

-nikhimenon

Anne Bogel

#BookReview: I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel

9:06:00 AM

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year, I accidentally picked The uncommon reader from my library on my first ever visit. This book then led me to explore more books in the genre - Books about Books/reading. And surprisingly the second book I picked was "I'd rather be Reading" I was vaguely aware of Anne Bogel's name but I had not matched it to her very famous podcast - What should I read next till I started reading the book.

This book was like a trip down memory lane - through Anne's life in reading and surrounded with books, I traced my own as I read through each chapter.

From the time books come into a reader's life , to early influences on the reading habits , managing to get hands on the books within your small town (for me) or within your pocket money , exploring new genre, reading classics and to actually like them, passing the love for reading to others (friends in my case, kids for Anne),  Book Clubs, book twins, book meets and dilemma of not liking a popular book - Anne wrote about it all in a warm, loving yet really fun way. I really can not think of any aspect of the reader's life that Anne missed writing about.

Though the concept of the library was unknown/starkly different from my imagination until I moved to Canada, knowing about it and reading about it in her book gives me a goal to have a library someday that can boast of introducing literature to some young ones and inspire this blessed habit.

I am also glad of the names of books added in the end, of the ones that were referenced within the different chapters. The book is a delight to read. It is what it is - a reader's life. There is nothing too flashy about it or a message to readers. It just feels more like a guide to non-readers how readers operate in the world. And we are sure, a little crazy bunch! This book describes us perfectly.



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gay love

#Review: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

3:35:00 AM

We Contain Multitudes We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75 / 4 to be precise ;)

I actually did not read this one but listened to the audiobook version and I must mention that it is one of the books that perfectly done in the audio. The book is written in the form of letters exchanged between the two characters. what starts with an assignment for English class between two strangers, become a friendship that saves them both from their fears and results in a relationship that's is a beauty in itself to see grow. This was also the first time I read a book where one of the characters is not sure of his sexuality and it made for a different experience for me to see the struggle and the mental stress it creates for the person and the partner too. 

The other characters in the book are not mere caricature and fleshed out well, especially Jo's family and friends. The story of his parents made for a good twist but nothing to justify the reaction of Jo's sister. On the other hand, I felt that Kurl was handed the raw deal in terms of family and history though it kind of turns out good in the end?

The book does ask for a certain amount of belief from the reader for certain plot points but overall it is an engaging and entertaining read even when it is not a purely happy read and has its own share of flaws and troubled parts. Finishing this book over a solitary dinner at my favorite restaurant was a perfect Friday evening for me. The writing is really beautiful and at times I paused to really admire the observations and the metaphors that the author used were awe-inspiring. Plus point for this book introducing me to Walt Whitman in a completely new and personal way and leading me to explore his poetry.

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Classic

The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt

8:38:00 AM


                 The Pledge is a classic Novella by the Swiss Author ,Friedrich Durrenmatt, recently re-released by Pushkin Vertigo.Though on the face of it, it's a crime /mystery thriller, it's much more than that and delves more into the obsession of a criminal Investigator.
                The story is narrated by a character named Dr H (the former chief of Zurich Police) to a writer(who remains unnamed) of detective fiction. It's basically a tale of a man's (Matthai's) solitary search for a serial killer. A young girl, Gritli is found murdered in the woods close to a Swiss Mountain Village and a local felon is arrested for the crime.But Matthai is convinced that the real killer is someone else and he might also have been responsible for two similar murders which happened a couple of years back. Matthai's hunt for the real killer doesn't yield fruitful results and soon his obsession takes him to borderline insanity. How Matthai overcomes his obsession and how he manages find the truth behind the murder is what 'The Pledge' is all about. 
                The Pledge is what can be called as a realistic take on detective stories. Durrenmatt's disdain for formulaic crime novels which proceed like mathematical equations with a definite solution is pretty evident through out. Infact, the origin of this novella itself stems to the fact that Friedrich was unhappy with a formulaic screenplay he had written for a crime thriller film!
                The characterisation of Matthai is flawless. An aloof ,highly intelligent man who values his 'pledge' more than anything else is what Matthai is. It's brilliant characterisation which makes us root for him and it's again these character traits which makes his obsession look convincing.There aren't many other characters in this book and the climactic reveal is also decently done.
                What makes this book a masterpiece is the author's brilliant vision and his razor sharp observations about formulaic mystery thrillers. Most of his observations remain true to the day and it's quite difficult to believe that this book was written almost 60 years ago!

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

-nikhimenon

Humor

Dork: The Adventures of Robert Einstein Varghese by Sidin Vadukut

8:18:00 AM



                    Sidin Vadukut's 'Dork' is a book which came out in 2010, at a time when the Indian writing in English for the young Urban readers was 'trending'. I had chanced upon this book soon after it's release, but for some reason, never felt like picking it up for reading. But after all these years, finally managed to get a copy and finished reading it in a couple of sittings.
                  As the title suggests, Dork is all about the adventures of Robert Einstein Varghese, soon after he joins his new office.How he manages to get into the company, how he bonds with his fellow team-mates and what happens to his non-existent love life with Gouri.Written in the form of diary entries, Dork is the kind of book which works in parts. For a satire which doesn't have a plot per se, the writing should be sharp and witty for it to work. But 'Dork' is only funny in parts and doesn't manage to be a laugh out loud kind of work.
                 The book begins well, but once the novelty wanes, the diary entries did get monotonous and even plain boring. so ,by the time Robert manages to be an 'associate' following an illogical  'twist',neither the reader nor his team-mates do care much about it!

On the whole, I 'm giving it a 2.5 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

crime thriller

Don't Let Go by Michel Bussi

10:36:00 PM


                   Michel Bussi's 'After the Crash' was an International Best Seller which had a unique theme.I had reviewed it here, sometime back. 'Don't Let Go' is another gem from this French story teller which has enough twists and turns to surprise you.
               Marshal Bellion and Liane Bellion are on a holiday in the reunion Island with their Six year old daugher, Josapha Bellion. But Liane Bellion suddenly disappers and the blood stains in the room makes Marshal Bellion a potential suspect. Soon after,the police digs up Marshal's blotted past and are quite convinced that he is the killer. Finding himself cornered, Marshall decides to go underground with Josapha. But if Marshal is not really the killer, why does he appear so guilty? Don't Let Go is Marshal's race against time and is all about his attempts to escape from the Police with his beloved daughter by his side.
                Don't Let Go is the kind of book which rightly deserves a screen adaptation. It's such a visual experience and almost every chapter ends up with a cliff-hanger.The narrative is so fast paced that an average reader can finish it in one or two sittings.The book is definitely more fast paced and enteraining when compared to 'After the Crash' and 'Black Water Lillies'.
               On the downside, the book is not devoid of illogical twists either. The scene in which Christo recognises the killer's handwriting on the windowpane was a bit of a stretch.

On the whole,I 'm giving a four out of Five for this thriller.

-nikhimenon

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






     



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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