Jagadesh Sampath

Review: A Dead Man's Trials by Jagadesh Sampath

3:18:00 AM

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.

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Chic-Lit

Opening Night by Diksha Basu

8:27:00 AM


                         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

crime

Murder Games by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

5:14:00 PM


                     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

Contemporary Romance

Review: Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

8:26:00 AM

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. 

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book about books

Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

5:40:00 AM

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. 

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crime fiction

QBR: SUSPICION BY FRIEDERICH DURRENMATT

1:30:00 AM

   
                                                       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

crime

Regional: Kattima by Jayan Shivapuram

1:00:00 AM


'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

crime

Regional: Kapalam by Dr B.Umadathan

7:08:00 PM



            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 

Chic-Lit

Letters to my Ex by Nikita Singh

10:45:00 PM


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

nikhimenon

Regional:Shareera Shastram by Benyamin

7:51:00 AM


'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