Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Aadujeevitham(Goat Life) by Benyamin

It had been a long time since I read Malayalam fiction. I heard great reviews about this book. But I could not get one copy in Bangalore. As I didn't get it I became more and more interested in reading it. Finally I got it and read it and ...it was really worth the wait!!!

Being from Kerala, many people I know work in Middle-East countries. I remember when I was a kid, many people I knew replied "Gulf" when asked about what work they were doing. For many, the word "Gulf" itself implied a career. What they actually "do" there was not relevant at all.  You are going to be happier and richer if you or somebody from your family is able to reach somewhere in Gulf countries. But for many,(or, maybe most of them) this was not true. Aadujeevitham says the story of one such man, Najeeb, who reaches there with lots of dreams which soon turn into nightmares. He is taken into the desert as a shepherd where he is treated inferior to the sheep. Enslaved and cut off from the rest of the world, his life gradually transforms into that of a goat. But somewhere deep in his mind, he still has hopes to return to his family.

No book I read recently has affected me as this one did. The  most shocking moment was when I heard that the book is based on a real story. As the tag line of the book goes "Lives that we haven't experienced are tall stories for us"!

One of the few books that have shaken me. 4.25 out of 5.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.

This is the debut novel of Agatha Christie. The first Hercule Poirot mystery. How can I not read this?

The story is narrated by Hastings, who is going to appear in many more Poirot mysteries. After being wounded in the war, Hastings is in Styles staying with some of his friends. Emily Ingelthrop, who is the mistress of Styles, is murdered by poisoning. Enter Hercule Poirot, an old friend of Hastings, who happened to stay in the same village. As usual the husband, Mr. Ingelthrop, who is going to be most benefited by the lady's death is the prime suspect. But as you know, the prime suspect is never the actual culprit in detective novels. So once Mr. Ingelthrop's innocence is proven, what will Poirot do next?

This first novel of Christie was a best-seller and was rightfully so. It started this golden era of crime fiction and introduced, maybe, the most loved detective till date. Christie is very close to perfection in this one with the plot and methods. 

Don't miss this one if you like Christie. If you haven't read Christie before, this will be a perfect start. 4 out of 5.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mukesh Kathakal, Jeevithathile nerum narmavum by Mukesh

Seems like memoirs are the current best sellers in Malayalam. Everybody is writing memoirs now a days.

This book has memoirs of Mukesh, the famous Malayalam cine actor. This book proves that Mukesh, famous for his humorous  roles in Malayalam movies has a great sense of humour in real life also. The book mainly has incidents from his college days and some from his initial days as a cine artist. Mukesh has really combined truth and wit to form entertainment.

A light and easy read, recommended especially if you are travelling. 3.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

I have a "thing" for books that had been made into a movie. May be because of the very obvious logic that "It has been made into a movie; so it should be good". It will be a good idea to add a tag for such books.

Andrea Sachs, recently graduated with a degree in English aspires to be a writer in some place like "The New Yorker". But she ends up in a fashion magazine as the editor-in chief's personal assistant. Her boss, Miranda Priestly, is a powerful lady in the fashion industry and Andrea's job is supposed to be one "million girls will die for".  But, an alien to fashion and fashion industry, Andrea finds it uncomfortable in her new environment, surrounded by superskinny colleagues in branded clothes. Adding to her misery is her boss, Miranda Priestly, who expects her assistants to be at her service 24X7, sometimes taking care of her laundry and sometimes hiring a new nanny for her kids. Andrea, anyhow, wants to keep this job because continuing in this job for at least a year will make her chances to get into "The New Yorker" bright, because of Miranda's contacts in Magazine publishing. But she has to struggle to keep her identity in the new place as well as to keep her personal life from falling apart. Will she be able to do that? 

The highlight of this book will ofcourse be fashion. Pages are dedicated to explaining the life in fashion magazine publishing.(The character of Miranda Priestly is rumoured to be  based on Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue. Interestingly, Lauren Weisberger was her personal assistant) The storyline easily blends with this. A negative will be that the middle chapters do not add anything to the story but keeps on stressing what is said in the initial chapters. You can easily read only the first and last two chapters without missing much.

Read this if you feel like reading something light. 3 out of 5.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The All Bengali Crime Detectives by Suparna Chatterjee

There are books that you haven't heard about but you end up buying just because  you found the title interesting. This is one of such books; especially the words "Bengali" and "Detectives" in the title reminded me of Feluda, one of my favourites.
The story is about four retired Bengali gentlemen, who suddenly find themselves a little insecure  and unwanted in the retirement life. Devoid of their professional activities and the power and responsibilities that come with it, they feel they are not taken seriously by others, especially the younger generation. So they have to do something to boost their self respect, why not some detective work? There is a crime that was committed in their neighborhood and most importantly, these four are the only witnesses. In short, the foursome go ahead and solve the mystery of stolen diamond.

Suparna Chatterjee has told that she has been influenced by Christie and Satyajit Ray and the influence clearly shows in her first novel. Unfortunately, what she lacks is the "punch" in their writings. The mystery is not so appealing in that I was able to guess it from the start. Also the parallel stories of durgapooja, matchmaking etc. fails to blend with the mystery and does not impress much. 

A fairly good attempt. 2.5 out of 5.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side by Agatha Christie

Another one from Christie, a Miss Marple mystery.

People of the small village, St. Mary Mead are really excited that Marina Gregg, the famous actress has come to stay in their neighborhood. So, naturally there is a large group of people who come for a garden party at her new house, including Heather Badcock. But the happy mood of the party doesn't persist when Heather Badcock dies after consuming a poisoned cocktail. The cocktail, it becomes known later, was originally meant for Marina Gregg. So who is trying to kill the beautiful actress?

Miss Marple (as usual) unravells this mystery after listening to many witness' accounts. Interestingly, the story of Marina Gregg is same as real-life tragedy of Gene Tierney. The story also features Gossington Hall, which was earlier mentioned in "The Body in the Library", another Marple mystery.

Christie never disappoints, 3 out of 5.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan

The tagline of the novel reads " a giddy, glorious mix of cricket, cola advertising and true love" and there isn't a more accurate description for this story. Anuja Chauhan has made sure that her debut novel has all the ingredients of a best seller.

Zoya Solanki, an executive in a leading advertising agency, is shooting an ad with the Indian Cricket Team for the Zing Cola campaign. The youngsters of the team, on knowing that she was born on the very same day India won the world cup in 1983 and noticing that the team wins the match if she breakfasts with them, start to consider her as a lucky charm. The belief is strengthened when the team starts losing when Zoya is not on the breakfast table with the team. Soon Zoya is pressurised to accompany the team for the world cup in Australia. Her work- to breakfast with the team before every match. When the team wins every match, Zoya finds herself catapulted into a goddess-like status and now it is important to her to stay grounded. And also there is Nikhil Khoda, the captain of Indian cricket team, trying to make the team believe in themselves rather than in lucky charms. What does the young and dashing captain feels about Zoya? Does he loathe her for playing with the morale of the team? Is he  pretending to like her as she is lucky? Or does he really love her?

The characters and situations are heavily inspired from real life, with the Zing cola which is nothing but Pepsi (Interestingly , Ms. Chauhan, a VP in a leading ad agency herself,  has worked on many Pepsi campaigns like "Oye bubbly", "Mera number kab aayega" etc), Nikhil Khoda-the brown skinned captain from a small town- reminds you of M S Dhoni and many characters in the Indian Cricket team are also inspired from real life people.  Anyway, the first time author has just got it right with thrilling cricket, M&B-esque romance and generous servings of humour.

A light read with the right mix of humour, romance and thrill. 4 out of 5.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Susanna's Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond.

The motivation to read the book was the movie. Incidentally, the book has three versions of the same concept. The original short story which was written first by Ruskin Bond, the novella which is an expanded version by himself and the movie script written by Vishal Bharadwaj and Mathew Robins.

Susanna- a rich lady in search of a perfect husband. Being good looking and rich, she always attract men towards her but she cannot find the father figure she is searching for.  But conveniently for her, all of her husbands die sometimes after their marriage. Is  it the beautiful lady who is murdering her husbands? The author clearly hints so. Then what happens to her? Well, the story progresses as well as ends in different ways in the different versions of the story ie. the short story, the novella and the movie script. I read the novella first; maybe that is the reason I liked it most. But it is the short story that actually carries the Ruskin Bond touch. I didn't read the script as I didn't have the patience to read through the Hindi dialogues. Anyway, I thought it won't be so good too as the movie flopped.

A nice and short read, 3. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bones by Jonathan Kellerman

It all begins with an anonymous phone call, saying that there is a dead body in the marsh. Although at first ignored as some prank, the call later confirms to be true as the body of Selena Bass is found in the marsh. To make matters worse, three more bodies, in a much decomposed state, is also found implying the presence of a serial killer.

The decomposed bodies are found to be of prostitutes, so Selena Bass, a piano teacher, is surely a major deviation from the pattern. This leads to many disturbing questions, Are there more than one killers? Why was there an alert on only the last murder? And where have Vanders, Selena's employers, vanished?  The investigating team involving Moses, Milo and the psychologist Alex Delaware have to answer all these questions. The suspect is the estate caretaker of  Vanders,Huck who have a past criminal record. The story will go through many twists and turns before the criminal is caught.

This is the first book of Kellerman that I have read. The book says it is a Alex Delaware mystery but I didn't quite understand the psychological aspect of the mystery. Other than that this can be passed off as a decent thriller.
3.5 out of 5.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup.

After the best seller Q & A, which was eventually made into an oscar winning movie, Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup comes up with his second novel which is a murder mystery.

Vickey Mehta, a rich, notorious playboy and the son of home minister of Uttar Pradesh was not new to crime. He had taken the lives of many people in a hit and run incident when he was young and later had been charged in a black buck hunting case. In all these occassions, he had managed to get away with the help of money and his father's political power. His latest "achievement" will be his acquittal in the Ruby Gill murder case and in the party he throws to celebrate it, Vickey Mehta is shot dead. There are six people in the party who had a revolver in their possession and surprisingly it turns out that all of them had a motive to kill Vickey. The chunk of the book unravels the lives of these six suspects and their motives and finally, the "moment of truth"which without doubt is surprising but which I  thought is not so exciting.

Like in his first novel, Swarup has touched all aspects of life, all strata of society with the story revolving around very diverse personalities such as a bollywood diva, a corrupt politician, a tribal, a mobile thief etc. He has also modeled many incidents in the novel on real incidents like when the Ruby Gill murder case is modeled on Jessica Lal murder case. The pace of the story is lagging at a few places. Vikas Swarup hasn't delivered a perfect "whodunnit" but still this one gets a front row seat among the thrillers by Indian authors.

Looking forward to more from Mr. Swarup, 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Aunts aren't gentlemen by P G Wodehouse

I just came to know that this is the last book completely written by Wodehouse and the last one in which Wooster and Jeeves appear.

Bertie Wooster finds that he has spots on his chest and hops off to Doctor to see everything is fine. The doctor while assuring him that everything is fine, suggests a quiet stay away from the city. Thus Wooster finds himself in a village called Maiden Eggesford, where his aunt Dahlia is also staying. But what Wooster cannot expect in this "quiet" countryside is a peaceful stay.

First, there is Wooster's old collegemate Orlo Potter who arrives in Maiden Eggesford to see his lover, Vanessa Cook. Potter starts suspecting Wooster to be after Vanessa and immediately gives him the warning that if that is true he is going to tear him apart. To make matters worse, Vanessa's father accuses Wooster of trying to steal his cat. Now enters aunt Dahlia who proves that she is not a "gentleman" by plotting a plan to actually steal the cat so that Cook's horse will lose the race and she wins her bet.

Now Wooster finds himself amidst many undesirable situations when Vanessa asks him to marry her, Potter is all ready to tear him apart with bare hands, Cook comes to him accusing him of stealing his daughter and stealing his cat. In these unfortunate situations, Wooster  has no one but Jeeves to help him out. Will Jeeves save his master?

The novel carries the "Wodehouse signature" with hilarious situations and subtle humour. The story belongs more to Wooster as  Jeeves does not have a huge presence in the story. Will recommend this book to everyone, 4 out of 5.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Emma by Jane Austen

 I now know that Jane Austen has written six novels, two of them published posthumously. That means I have four more to go.

Emma Woodhouse is a rich girl, with nothing much to do with her life but thinks herself an important and intelligent person.When her governess gets married to a gentleman whom Emma had introduced to her, she starts to think of herself as a perfect match maker. So she introduces an orphan girl, Harriet, to the first class society she belongs to and tries to find an eligible match for her. Mr Knightly, Emma's friend and relative observes her and on understanding her intentions criticises her for the same. But Emma remains adamant and goes on with her mission. But her plans are to go wrong more than once.

It seems that each of Austen's characters are so well-sculpted that after some time you feel like you know them in and out and can easily predict what Mr. X will do at a given situation. But this does not make the story boring or predicable.

Another story of intricate man-woman relationships from Austen. 4.25 out of 5.