Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#Podcast : We only talk books - Ep 1 : Favorites



Three book lovers and endless conversations = Podcast.
Because why not!

I have a new podcast with two of my favorite book bloggers - Leo & DDS. Check the first episode about us here -





Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Believe Me By J.P Delaney


                         'Believe Me' was first published a few years back in another name by ad-man Tony Strong.The book was not a very big success and was soon forgotten. But after his new found success as the author of 'Girl Before' under the pseudonym, J.P.Delaney, he decided to extensively rewrite the book and the result is 'Believe Me'.
                         Claire is a small time actress who because of immigration issues is working for a divorce law firm.Her job is to entrap straying husbands.But when one of her clients get murdered and her husband becomes the prime suspect,the investigating team decides to make use of her talent to lure their suspect into a confession.But pretty soon, she realizes that she has fallen in love with her target.Is there a way out for her?
                        'Believe Me' aspires to be a psychological crime thriller(of the 'gone Girl','The Girl On The Train',kind).The Protagonist,Claire Wright,having a troubled past and personality issues is one with questionable intentions and the reader never truly 'trust' her or her actions.Patrick, her counterpart, the translator of controversial French Poet Charles Baudelaire, is also portrayed as a man with grey shades and dubious intentions.I kind of liked how J.P Delaney has tried to draw parallels between Claire's story and Baudelaire's life and his encounters with the women he loved.
                      To be very honest, the book works in bits and pieces.One of the many issues I have with this book is it's length and the illogical sequences. After a point,the whole set up looks quite artificial. Even the reason/circumstances leading to Claire going under-cover to trap the culprit is also hardly convincing.Delaney has tried to cover the logical issues in his plot by throwing twists at you in regular intervals. While some of them works, quite a few don't. Neverthless, this one is a decent thriller if a twisty,mindless psychological thriller is what you are looking for!

On the whole,I'm giving this one a 2.9 out of 5.

-nikhimenon


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Regional:19 cANAL rOAD BY sREEBALA k mENON


19 Canal Road is an award winning collection of personal experiences of Sreebala K Menon, when she was a paying guest in Chennai.The book is a satirical take on life in Chennai in the late 90 s and has a host of characters who are funny as well as genuine.Though these write-ups first came in Gruhalakshmi almost two decades back and in the book form 16-17 years ago,it hasn't taken the life out of it.The book is indeed an interesting read!

-nikhimenon

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Best Seller By Ahmed Faiyaz


                     Indian writing in English (the popular/urban pulp kind) did get an enormous boost in the early 2000s, when Chetan Bhagat brought out his record breaking best seller, 'Five Point Someone'. It not only proved that there was a market for that kind of stuff (read urban fluff) but also paved way for many new publishing houses and revived quite a number of old ones.Best Seller from Ahmed Faiyaz is a satirical take on the new age Indian(English) Publishing arena and how things work out in the back end.
                    Akshay Mathur, is an out-of-work editor of a defunct literary magazine in UK.His debut work as an author has just flopped big time and he also has debt running to half a million in London.So when he is assigned to India to turn around Kalim, an ailing Indian Publisher, he is not left with too many choices.In a world of misfits and has-beens , Akshay has to work really hard to find his own voice. Also joining him in his mission are Anya Malik, the pretty lass,the practical and street smart Zorah Kalim , a Bollywood heart throb who wants to get his work published.Will Mathur succeed in his mission to turn Kalim into a leading publishing house?
                    Coming to the positives, Ahmed Faiyaz has written a fast paced,slick book which shows some light on the cut-throat world of Indian Publishing.There aren't too many characters and the overall tone of the book is largely light hearted.
                   On the downside,though the theme of the book had a lot of potential,for some strange reason,the author hasn't really bothered to go much deeper into the murkier world of publishing.The characters are quite shallow and one dimensional and for the large part of the book I couldn't fathom why the world was so seemingly obsessed with Mathur and his small publishing firm.

Overall I'm giving a 2.5 out of 5 for this book. It's a light,harmless read! 

-nikhimenon

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Moving Shadow -electrifying bengali pulp fiction

                   
                  A few years back, Westland released a book titled : The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. If my memory is right, the book came out in two volumes and it apparently featured the English translations of  some of the most celebrated works of 70 s-80 s Tamil Pulp Fiction.I badly wanted to read those books then, but for some reason I have never been able to read them yet.
                The Moving Shadow, is a similar attempt on Bengali Pulp Fiction by the award winning translator ,Arunava Sinha (incidentally the jacket cover of both books are also strikingly similar).
                 The book is basically divided into two parts. While the first half is a collection of four crime stories written by some of the biggest names of Bengali Pulp(Premendra Mitra,Swapan Kumar,Vikramaditya,Muhammed Zafar Iqbal) , the second half (Satyajit Ray,Adirsh Bardhan,Gobindolal Bandhyopadhyay,Bhabhani Mukhopadhyay) comprises of an equal number of carefully hand picked horror stories. Though some of the stories were first written almost 60-70 years back (evident from the descriptions and the dates mentioned in them), they never fail to engage and intrigue the average reader.
                 Of the four crime stories featured in the first part, I liked the first one the most (Parashar Sharma makes a bid).It tells the story of a multi-millionaire and his spoilt son. The suspense was good and the climax twist was also un-predictable. The second story, ‘Moving Shadow’ about the escapades of a mad scientist, though too far fetched was also entertaining (provided you don’t take it too seriously).The third one, ‘The Secret Agent’, incidentally the longest one in this collection is some sort of a spy-crime-thriller which badly needed some better editing. It’s not only over-long but also gets monotonous after a point. There are too many characters also in the story which confuse the reader after a point.However the loose ends get tied neatly towards the end and the twist is also neatly done. Copotronic Love is about a robot which is madly in love with a woman. An illogical,yet interesting short story, this one is.
                 Among the four horror stories ('Bhuto','The Moon is Back','Saradindu and this body','Foreshadowed' featured in this book, my pick is 'Saradindu and this body',about a doctor with mental illness penned by Gobindolal Bandyopadhyay.The story has got a killer twist which manages to send a chill down your spine.
               Arunava Sinha deserves accolades for his wise selection of stories as well as for the translation which is quite neatly done. The language is pretty easy-to-read and the editing is also crisp.

On the whole, I’m giving a 3 out of 5 for this anthology. It’s a fun read!

-nikhimenon
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Review: A Dead Man's Trials by Jagadesh Sampath

A Dead Man's Trials
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a story of Mr December who is sent to hell after death. Since he questions it, he is given a chance to judge five cases to decide whether the person needs to be sent to heaven or hell. If he correctly decides the case result, he is promised to be sent to heaven.

Through these five stories, the author has raised some questions on human nature, beliefs, and intentions behind an action. In the end, Mr December realizes that he had been correctly sen to hell, even though he had always thought himself to be on the right path. This is a short and powerful collection of stories that make one look at yourself and the world with a new light. I would have liked to know more about Mr December and the reason he was sent to hell. But, perhaps in the next book. This 58 page long (or short) book is one of the most memorable ones for me this year.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 14, 2019

Opening Night by Diksha Basu


                         Diksha Basu is better known for her satirical , moving take on Indian Urban Middle class,'The Windfall'. 'Opening Night'(2012), Basu's debut novel which came out much before her break out work is an average chic-lit ,at best. It is the story of twenty something Naiya Kapur and her life in Mumbai.
                     Naiya Kapur, our protagonist is a Non Resident Indian who after suddenly getting hit by the acting bug has migrated to Mumbai and is on the look out for that 'big break' in Bollywood.Sadly, as any other newbie (read the non-filmi background), she has to face multiple rejections and try her luck at 'dubious',sleazy auditions.Meanwhile she gets into a relationship with Jay, the ex-model-turned producer. 'Opening Night' is all about Naiya's tryst with page 3 parties, fake auditions,fame and her neurotic boyfriend.
                     If you have read the above para, you might have figured out by now that there is nothing that differentiates 'Opening Night' from the n-number of Bollywood chick-lit works which came out in the earlier part of this decade.That exactly is the problem with this book.I myself have read atleast half a dozen books with similar story line.But to give Diksha due credit,'Opening Night' by and large maintains it's light hearted tone and never takes itself too seriously.It is a harmless,light read .Nothing more,nothing less!

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

-nikhimenon

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Murder Games by James Patterson and Howard Roughan


                     I am no big fan of the assembly line thrillers that come out of the James Patterson syndicate. As a matter of fact, I try to avoid them as far as possible since most of the recent works from the JP factory (books written by one of his many collaborators , but invariably featuring 'his' name in 'bigger fonts' in the jacket cover)have been pretty medicore. I picked up 'Murder Games'(also published as 'Instinct' in some territories) as it had been recently made into a successful television show. I must say that the book turned out to be much better than I expected.
                   The setting and the basic premise are pretty generic.There is a serial-killer on the run and our protagonist ,Elizabeth Needham is an NYPD detective who is in charge of this case .She turns to the brilliant professor, Dr Dylan(whose book on criminal behaviour the killer seems to be following) for help .Meanwhile the upstate tabloids have found a nick name for the killer, "The Dealer".Murder Games is basicallt the cat-and-mouse game between "The Dealer" and our investigators-Elizabeth and Dr Dylan.
                  The twists were interesting and the climax was also pretty decent.I kind of liked how the author(s) etched out Dr Dylan's personal life.Like anyother book from the JP syndicate, the language is pretty easy-to-read and the chapters are also short.

On the whole, I'm giving it a 3 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Review: Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Beyond All Dreams Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“After all, everything in here is just pieces of paper with words and lines on them. 
They're not even very valuable. Pieces of paper with words and lines on them have the ability to change the world...They always have.”

Beyond all dreams introduces us to a librarian Anna who lost her father and has never been able to accept the official explanation for her father's death on the ship that disappeared in the sea. During her work in the library of Congress, she meets Luke Callahan who was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen until he picks fights with the speaker and is eventually sent to the house of commons. Though opposite to each other in many ways, they strike a friendship easily. Luke wishes to impress Anna so he joins forces with her to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Set against the backdrop of Spanish-American war , the story showed many aspects of peace efforts and how the price for peace is sometimes too high on the people responsible for it.

I have always liked a story that could add people's view of some of the famous historical events. I have always wondered about normal folks impacted by wars, peace talks and some of the unexplained events in history. This is one of those stories where the hunt for truth by Anna leads her to make unexpected alliances and the truth is not easy to keep a secret. This is also a story of troubled families struggling for generations to fix themselves and be better for the kids. There was an easy comfortable friendship, some romance and a lot of mystery and passion for the ideals to keep this book going.

Such stories with a strong female cast also shows the paths our ancestors have taken to break out of the norms and open opportunities for generations to come. 

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"In total, four hundred thousand books in Central Library were destroyed in the fire. An additional seven hundred thousand were badly damaged by either smoke or water or, in many cases, both. The number of books destroyed or spoiled was equal to the entirety of fifteen typical branch libraries. It was the greatest loss to any public library in the history of the United States.” 


The Library Book, tells the story of the fire in April of 1986 that damaged or destroyed more than one million books in Los Angeles' Central Library.  It is a sad account to read in the beginning as the author catalogs all that is lost in the fire - the manuscripts , the first editions , the music, and the theater plays recorded in the library that are lost forever. But as I read the book, it also shows the power of books to bring people together and to make a real difference. The book starts with the author first listening about the fire on a tour of the library and she then starts reading more about it. So we get to read about a usual day at the library and what happened on the day of the incident. We get to know of the prime suspect in this case and how the case finally ends. 

The book goes into many tangents - how libraries are run, history of the LA library, its prominent librarians and their contributions to the library, different times when the books were destroyed and burnt as acts of terror or attempt to prove one culture's power over the other. It is like a collection of stories that revolve around books, reading and the growth of LA library from its inception to where it stands today. Along with all this, we also witness some historical lessons and how all systems stand on the shoulders of visionaries who have toiled to make the world a little better. Some of the librarians were inspiring and I felt my admiration for them grow immensely.  

The book might get a little boring in places but then the very next chapter hooks you back to the story. It is not a casual read but it will definitely interest many readers who like to read about books and reading. I had only heard of libraries as a place where we could find books to borrow but before coming to Canada, I never knew what a heaven the library system in Western countries is and how it is a safe community space for all - readers or not.  This book has made me more resolute to build something similar one day in India - even if it starts with a personal library first. 

Here is a youtube video on this fire and the events after that transpired. 

View all my reviews

Monday, October 7, 2019

QBR: SUSPICION BY FRIEDERICH DURRENMATT

   
                                                       Suspense
                                                       156 + pages
                                                       Pushkin Vertigo
                                                       Originally Published in 1962
                                                       RT Rating: 3.2/5

This work first came out in the 1950's, almost two decades ago, but still it makes for an interesting read. 

The Verdict:This vintage thriller is quite an engaging read!
Synopsis: Inspector Barlach is suffering from Cancer. He notices that a successful Swiss Surgeon bears a striking resemblance to an infamous war criminal.Suspicion is Barlach's journey to un-mask the criminal hiding in plain sight. Or is it all a ploy by someone with vested interests?

The Good:the setting, the characters,suspense

The Bad:predictable at times
RecommendationsBorrow it!

-nikhimenon

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Regional: Kattima by Jayan Shivapuram


'Kattima'  is the kind of book which looks like something but ends up being something else altogether. If you go by it's cover, in all probability you might get deceived into believing that it's a work of detective fiction. I'm sorry to say that it's neither a time pass enjoyable pulp nor a flawless literary gem. I seriously don't know to which category this one belongs to(or who will enjoy reading this kind of stuff,for that matter). At the end of 150 pages or so, what I was left with was sheer exhaustion and absolute boredom!

The plot goes something like this-Devi Aunty is found killed in her room with the murder weapon (a shining butcher's knife is also lying close by) and her roommate, a twenty something girl tries to figure out who (what) killed her beloved aunty. From here, rather than going into a full on investigation mode or an interesting character study, the narrative meanders on through the girl's memories and about the sexual escapades of a lady named Rajamma!

To give it's due, the novel had a killer opening sequence.Nothing less,nothing more!

I'm giving this a 2 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Regional: Kapalam by Dr B.Umadathan



            I had read Umadathan Sir's 'Oru Forensic Surgeon nte Ormakurippikal'(Memoirs of a Forensic Surgeon), a few years back  which was undoubtedly one of the few authentic works pertaining to Forensic Science which had come out in Malayalam till then.The book basically was a memoir and dealt with some of the cases Umadathan sir had solved during his service. 'Kapalam'(The Skull) is it's follow up which has been brought out by D.C.Books (incidentally the book came out soon after Dr Umadethan's death in July, 2019).Unlike it's predecessor, this one is a fictionalised version of fifteen other cases which Dr Umadethan had worked on. 
            Forensic Surgeon Dr Unnikrishnan,his wife Mrs Mani ,Chief Chemical Examiner and Investigator Hari are the recurring characters featuring in the fifteen stories in this book. Though the book claims to be a fictionalised take on some of the cases which Dr Umadathan had worked on during his life time, it's pretty evident that most of the characters in these stories are fictional replicas of real-life personalities. Kapalam' has 15 'stories' of criminal investigation ranging from poisoning,fire-arm homicides and deliberate self harm.
            The writing is quite crisp and fast paced and never lets you down.Though some might find the repetition of some basic tests(diatom,DNA ,nitrate test) and techniques in some stories irritating, it's pretty fine, considering the limited resources the investigators have at their disposal,especially in a resource limited setting.
             The book covers some important aspects of forensic criminal investigations like diatom tests (traditional test, but still very effective), Haemoglobin analysis, forensic toxicology, DNA Fingerprinting and chemical analysis of viscera.The descriptions and explanations are never over-long and don't tire the reader at any point of time.

On the whole, 'kapalam' is an engaging read.

-nikhimenon 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Letters to my Ex by Nikita Singh


At times, You pick up a book , knowing fully well that you might not relate to it in any ways, but still try your luck with it. 'Letters to My Ex' was one such book for me and frankly speaking,this one didn't entertain or engage me in anyways.

Basically this one is written in the form of letters between two ex-lovers(no prizes for guessing that!)and through these, the readers also get to know what happened to their relationship and why the young couple broke up in the first place. Totally predictable and intermittently annoying, this work might work with teenage readers. For the rest of us, this one is a safe skip!

I'm giving this one a 2 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Regional:Shareera Shastram by Benyamin


'Shareera Shasthram' is quite different from Benyamin's earlier works(Goat Days,Jasmine Days). Unlike his previous books,this one is more of a crime novel and tries to trace the organised conversion and crime happening in the name of religion.The story begins with the accident of Midhun, a youngster who gets hit by a mysterious vehicle and dies in the hospital later.His friends Sandhya, Rajesh, Pretty set out to find the truth behind his death only to realize later that their lives are also in danger.

Positives- This one is a decent crime novel and also explores some hitherto unexplored aspects of organised religion.

Negatives- the pace slackens a bit at times,some loopholes in the plot,there is nothing 'new' in the motive!

-nikhimenon

#PratsReads - Top Ten Tuesday : Favorite Quotes from books read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday used to be a weekly post hosted by The Broke and the Bookish , but was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl . Luckily for me, ...