Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: A Mango Tree in the Courtyard by Shweta Gour

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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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Regional Book Reviews: Mystic Mountain, 307.47

               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!


Saturday, July 13, 2019

QBR: The Wicked Go To Hell by Frederic Dard

                                                       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!


Friday, July 12, 2019

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

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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Sunday, July 7, 2019

#Review: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

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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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt

                 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!


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Dork: The Adventures of Robert Einstein Varghese by Sidin Vadukut

                    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.


Pradhamadrishtya-Malayalam Crime Thriller: Update

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