Saturday, May 18, 2019

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

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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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

             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 


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

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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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Stranger In the House by Shari Lapena

                      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


Monday, May 6, 2019

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

                             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.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

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

             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!


Pradhamadrishtya-Malayalam Crime Thriller: Update

I'm really glad to share the latest update of the upcoming Thriller , 'Pradhamdrishtya' here.The latest teasers of...