Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Delhi by M Mukundan

M Mukundan, the storyteller from Mayyazhi, has given many exceptional works to Malayalam. His novel, "Mayyazhipuzhayude  theerangalil", is a classic.

Delhi has been a backdrop of many works of Mukundan, who has spent a large part of his life in the capital city. This is the story of a youth who reaches Delhi dreaming of a better life. The novel describes the dilemmas faced by him in his journey to self discovery, the tug of war between being idealistic and practical, the indifference of the big city  and  the various faces he meet in his journey.

Another story about disappointments of youth from  Mukundan. 3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

The first one in the Shopaholic series. I was not disappointed by the book as I was not expecting much in the first place.

Rebecca(Becky) Bloomwood is a financial journalist with zero interest in finance and one hundred percent interest in shopping. She is in debt thanks to her addiction to shopping. But this does not stop her from shopping for more designer clothes, cosmetics and homeware. As her credit card bills amount to thousands of pounds she tries to cut back her spending but is not able to do so. For example when Becky tries to make her own curry to cut back her food expenses, she ends up buying a lot of new things like a recipe book, a spice grinder and lots of spices.
 Her attempt to make more money also does not work out as planned.  Now what will Becky do as her bills mount up and she has to somehow avoid a meeting with the bank manager?

This is a simple, humorous, well-written book. Do I want to read the sequels? I don't think so!  3 out of 5.

Trivia: This novel was initially published as The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi

I lost my interest in national best-sellers after reading a certain best-seller, so I was a liitle hesitant to start reading this novel. Surprisingly, this was a good read.

The novel tells the tales of two king-makers, one named Chanakya, who lived during 300 BC, the other one named Gangasagar Mishra living in the present day in Uttar Pradesh. Both of them are shrewd and cunning, and do not hesitate to deviate away from set moral standards to achieve their goal. Chanakya masterminded the ascent of Chandra Gupta Maurya as the emperor of Bharat whereas Gangasagar is set on making Chandni, a former slum kid, the prime minister of India. The narrative moves back and forth between the two timelines, drawing parallels between the plots used by the two king-makers who lived centuries apart. 

Sanghi mixes mythology, politics and history well in Chanakya's Chant to give us a fast-paced thriller. Chanakya's story is supposed to be based on historical facts with a little amount of fiction added to it. The author has used one-liners from many other sources but also has acknowledged them at the end of the book. Overall, Chanakya's Chant is a well researched and well written thriller.

A good read, 4 out of 5.

Trivia : Ashwin Sanghi originally published his first novel under the pseudonym Shawn Haigins.

Friday, September 28, 2012

In High Places by Arthur Hailey

This book by Arthur Hailey deals with politics in "high places".

The novel is set during the Cold War, in Canada. The story describes a fictional crisis and how different people in important and responsible positions react to it.  The plot mainly revolves around James Howden, the prime minister of Canada.  He is a man of values , but has a few secrets to hide. The story also follows the life of some of his political aides as well as some of his political adversaries. Hailey gives some instances of the games being played in politics, during the process of  forming a government, keeping it in power and some times pulling down a government.

As usual, Hailey has written a well-researched and  realistic book. Though the end is somewhat abrupt,the novel keeps you glued.

Not an Airport or Hotel, but still a good read from Arthur Hailey. 3.5 out of 5.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish

My 50th blog entry..so bad that I didn't like this book!! Hope my 100th entry will be better...(and sooner!).

The story is about Shiva, the Tibetan immigrant to Meluha, an imaginary city in Indus Valley civilization. Meluha is a near- perfect country, now under terrorist attack from its neighbours. They soon start to believe that Shiva is indeed Neelkanth, their saviour. Shiva, though reluctant to accept himself as a saviour and a god, decides to help the people of Meluha in all ways that he can. His job is not going to be easy with the Chandravanshis trying to attack Meluha, supposedly with the help of Nagas.

This is the first book in Shiva trilogy by the debutant writer Amish Tripathi. The author is an alumnus of IIM and has used his selling skills very smartly. The hero, modelled after the well worshipped Hindu god, is portrayed in true "filmi" style. There is also the "filmier" love affair between Shiva and Sathi. Bruhaspathi is a scientist in Meluha, Somras, or Amruth,  imparts immortality to Meluhians because of its anti-oxidising properties and Shiva, an "ordinary" human being swears every now and then! Really, Immortals of Meluha is a mix of both worlds! And the new best-selling author of Indian English Writing should rather rethink his writing style (and do a carefull  proof-read next time).

Not recommended, 1.5 out of 5.

Trivia : More bad news... Karan Johar has brought the rights for making this into a movie.


Bharathaparyatanam by Kuttikrishnamarar

Yet another work related to the great epic, Mahabharatha.

This is a collection of essays based on Mahabharatha by Kuttikrishna Marar. This book is unique in the impartiality shown by the author in analyzing the different characters and situations in the epic story. Rather than reinforcing the black and white characterization that is promoted by majority of people, Marar  dares to bring out the gray shades of all the characters. He also challenges some of the common interpretations of the epic, quoting reliable sources.

The essays are typically based on different situations from Mahabharatha. The first one in the book is about Bhishma's pledge. You really get a taste of what lies ahead in the book when Marar contrasts that with Rama's pledge in Ramayana. Some of the other essays are about Amba, Krishna's attitude towards Pandavas and Kauravars, Duryodhana's sense of Dharma, the impartial Balarama, cowardice of Yudhishtira etc.

 One of the best books about Mahabharatha. 4 out of 5.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Floating Admiral by Detection Club

Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers including Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterson etc. The club gave an opportunity for the members to meet over dinners and discuss plots and help each other. They even had an oath and agreed to adhere to a code of ethics so that the readers have a fair chance of guessing the culprit in their detective stories.

The Floating Admiral is a collaborative work done by many members of Detection Club including Chesterton, Whitechurch, Cole, Henry Wade, Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane and Anthony Berkeley. 

This novel was written by the members of Detection Club as an answer to the critics who think the job of a mystery writer is very easy as they can always formulate the plot and the clues, the way that suits them. Each chapter was written by a member of the club, according to some rules.  Each writer even wrote a solution to the mystery, all of which are given at the end of the book. Among these, the one given by Agatha Christie is considered the best.

Now, the bad news. "The Floating Admiral" is a brilliant experiment carried out by many of the finest people in detective fiction but sadly it fails to impress as a fine work of mystery. The same reasons that make it stand apart also fails it. There are so many clues, so many people involved and add to it the different styles of writing, you get a sort of "semi-mess"! This book is indeed an intellectual exercise for the writers and readers alike and it remains only that.

A perfect book for a collector, read it only if you can appreciate the effort behind it...3 out of 5.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

Yes, a Christie again. (This time I travelled to Coorg).

In the tiny village of Sittaford, Mrs Willett and her daughter, the new tenants, have invited some guests for tea. After tea, someone suggests a game of table turning and during the game the "spirit" declares that Captain Trevelyn, Major Burnaby's friend is murdered. Major Burnaby is very disturbed by this and  decides to go and see his friend, in spite of the heavy snow fall.  And yes, The "spirit" was true, Captain Trevlyn is murdered! In the next two days, James Pearson, Captain's nephew is arrested for murder. Enter Emily Trefusis, his fiance, who is determined to solve the mystery and save her love. This amateur sleuth soon encounters many suspicious characters which turns out to be mere red herrings.

This is a typical Christie mystery. A good plot, well etched characters, enough amount of suspense but sadly most of these falters towards the end.  The story is still good but surely Christie has written better mysteries.

You can guess the murderer if you have read a good amount of Christie novels. 2.5 out of 5.

Trivia: This novel was adapted for television as a Miss Marple mystery.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The fact that this book is being made into a movie with Julia Roberts in it, was enough reason for me to buy this book. But by the time I started reading, the movie had come and gone and I had resisted my temptation to watch the movie.

The tag line of this memoirs read "A woman's search for everything". Can you search for everything you need in one year? Apparently, Elizabeth Gilbert thought so and started on an year-long journey across Italy, India and Indonesia, searching for pleasure, spirituality and love respectively. Her life before this journey was not going through a good phase, after a bitter divorce and a failed love affair.  So she considered these three aspects of her life to be those that will make her life balanced.

The journey,  started with Italy, where Liz ate a lot of pizza, learned Italian and watched soccer. What a way to unwind after a bitter divorce. Then she traveled to India to search her inner spiritual self. I felt this part of this book was a little dragging. Well, Liz did find inner peace. Next she reached Bali, in search of balance. Can she find love there? Even if she finds someone to love, is she ready for further complication in her now-peaceful life ?

The memoirs started great and engaging but later became dragging at places. Towards the end, there is a struggle to somehow make the journey eventful. There are many touching moments, like when Liz and her friends signing a petition to God. The book is worth reading for such tender moments. And who knows, may be this will be an inspiration to start your own soul-searching journey.

Worth reading once, 3 out of 5.

Trivia: Gilbert's travel was funded by the publishing house.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

A long stressful week and I know I have to pick up a mystery from Christie in the weekend.

Gwenda, a newly married girl, is searching for a house  to settle down in England. She is new to England and finally finds her perfect home in an English countryside. Everything was going on well till she understands that she seems to know much more about the house than she should know. She almost believes that she is mad when she remembers seeing a dead body in the hall. It is now that Miss Jane Marple comes to her rescue. She helps Gwenda to realize that she had actually lived in the house as a small child and that is how she knows about the house so well. And the next important question is : Was a murder  really committed in the house?. Miss Marple tries to discourage them from digging into the "sleeping murder" but Gwenda and her husband are very enthusiastic about it. Unknowingly, they were inviting danger to their doorstep. But there always is Miss Marple to the help.

This is one of my favourite Hercule Poirot mysteries and there is no one like Christie who can handle murder-in-the-past plots. Sleeping Murder just establishes her as The Queen of Crime beyond doubt.

A good mystery from Christie, 3 out of 5.

Trivia : This is the last Miss Marple mystery, published posthumously in 1976.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Manju(Snow) by M T Vasudevan Nair

This short novel by one of the most gifted Malayalam writers made me think about something very inevitable in our life; something  that will make you excited,  sometimes desperate, sometimes disappointed. It is a verb, a noun, a pronoun and a feeling...Yes, Manju made me think about "waiting". 

This is a story of people, in a faraway hill station, each of them waiting for someone. Vimala, a teacher in a residential school, is waiting for  Sudheer , who, touched her heart years before. Buddhu, the boatman, is waiting for his father, who he has never seen, to come back.  When the hill station is getting ready to welcome tourists, these people are waiting for some tourists to come back and give meaning and hope to their lives.

In spite of being a novella, the main protagonist, Vimala, is a well-defined character. Her life, family background, emotional setup etc are well-etched. The other characters who appear in between somehow supplements her loneliness.

A well narrated story. 3.5 out of 5.

Trivia: made into a movie later.

Picture courtesy: indulekha.biz

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Now Let Me Sleep (Ini Njan Urangatte) by P.K Balakrishnan

Mahabharatha is undoubtedly the great epic of India.  But I would always like to see it as a great text of human psychology, strategy , politics and diplomacy. This is my second book related to Mahabharatha after this.

Kurukshetra war is over, Pandavas won the kingdom, although they lost most of their allies and relatives in the war and the post-war massacre. It is at this point that Kunthi reveals to the Pandava brothers that Karna is her eldest son. Yudhistira is devastated hearing this and decides to renounce his throne.This is a shock to Draupadi who was hoping to finally find justice after war. A sudden declaration from Kunthi is not strong enough for Draupadi to consider Karna in a new light. The way she always picturised Karna was how he sat in the Kaurava court and laughed when she was being disrobed by Dusshassana.

Now the story of Karna gradually unfolds, through Draupadi's eyes. In the words of many of her friends and relatives, including Krishna, Kunthi and Sanjaya, Draupadi starts to see the real Karna. Karna is growing now, in Draupadi's as well as readers' eyes.

Unlike Randamoozham, this work is based on well known facts. Though Karna is a much-written-about epic figure, Karna-in-Draupadi's-perspective is a refreshing take on his life.

Will not replace Randamoozham as my favourite work in this genre, but still a good work. 3.75 out of 5.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie.

I am usually particular about the first book  I read in a year. I always try to start with something which I think will make it to my list of top-rated books. This book was not one of them. But a long train journey forced me to pick this from the queen of crime.

Miss Marple, the elderly sleuth is on a vacation in exotic West Indies. Though a little bored at first,  her vacation is soon spiced up when Major Palgrave offers to show her a photo of a murderer. But at the same instant, Major sees someone and changes the subject. Later the Major is found dead in his room, supposedly after a heart failure. But Miss Marple is suspicious, especially after she finds out that the photo that the Major was previously talking about is missing.She started investigating. Soon there is a second murder. Who among the harmless-looking guests is the murderer?

The book has all the ingredients of a good Christie mystery but some  incidents are kind of repeating in  every story esp. the second murder following a blackmail. Also I was able to guess the murderer after a certain point in the story.

A typical Christie mystery. 3 out of 5.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011: A Retrospection

No. of books: 14 :(
Most Read : Agatha Christie (Again...!)
Non Fiction : 2 (Sigh!!!)

Let downs :


Favourite of the year:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sathyan Anthikadinte Grameenar by Thaha Madai

Sathyan Anthikad is one of my favourite directors in Malayalam cinema. The simplicity with which he tells stories is really wonderful. 

A village backdrop and some members of the cast who are always repeated in most of his movies is kind of a signature of Anthikad movies. In this book, he tells about those people (Oduvil, Nedumudi Venu, SrinivasanInnocent etc) who portrait the villagers in his movie, thus giving it the soul it needs.

I have observed that Malayalam movie industry has something which might be unique to it: a bunch of talented supporting actors who retain their identity even when the story revolves around the main actors. May be the absence of these talented lot is the reason our movies loses its charm when remade into other languages. It is sad that we don't have some of them amongst us any more, but it is of no doubt that they will stay in our memories by the roles they essayed on the silver screen.
This book was a perfect way to say good bye to 2011.  3.5 out of 5.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

This novel, initially written in Swedish and later translated to English, is the first in the "millennium trilogy". Sadly, the author, Larsson, passed away without seeing his books becoming international bestsellers.

The story has two main protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist - publisher of Swedish financial magazine Millennium and Lisbeth Salandar - the girl with the dragon tattoo.It is interesting to see how these two parallel lives gets entangled in a crime investigation when Blomkvist is given the job of investigating the disappearance of Harriet Vanger  by her uncle, Henrik Vanger. They soon realise that they are actually searching for a serial killer, who might have harmed Harriet also.The other track of the story is Blomkvist's fight with corruption through his magazine.

The central undertone of the book is violence inflicted on women in different strata of their life. It shows that women, be it a girl under legal protection by the government or a girl in a supposedly protected environment of her family, are always prone to abuse. The other major themes in the book are corruption in Swedish Finance and the inactivity in Swedish financial journalism against it. It also touches on matters like Nazi movement in Sweden. Most of these themes, it seems, were really close to the late author's heart who himself was a finance journalist.

The book is an excellent thriller; I felt that the mystery of Harriet could have been unravelled a little later only. Once the mystery was solved the rest of the story was a little dull.

Looking forward to the remaining books in the trilogy, 4 out of 5.