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Showing posts from January, 2018

Book Review: Tell Tale by Jeffery Archer

Well, it’s common everywhere that Jeffery Archer is a master storyteller and his die-hard fans acknowledge this feat of him because of the love for the characters he's created in his novels. Those who have basked in the glory of reading his great novels now can try trusting him with short stories. For sure, the thrill will be the same. That’s the genuine veracity of a master story teller.

Tell Tale by Jeffery Archer is a collection of short stories. Those who have read short stories often from authors like Anthony Doerr and John Boyne can make out that Archer is crisp with his stories. He writes to the point and leaves some part for readers’ intelligence, in a sense the stories are not spelt out, rather slightly subtle with the meaning and messages.
The stories in Tell Tale are an extensive collection with subjects ranging from love, murder, deceit to war. A few stories are pure fiction; most of the work being inspired by incidents in his life during his world travels. What reade…

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in the Millennium series. The book is staged against Sweden and it gained prominence for depicting the rather dark and gloomy side of the country that persists within its citizens may be incoherently. According to the author, all within the novel it has been put forward: an ugly state of the human nature of the countrymen with the matters like ill treatment of women by men, sadism, sex trade, and domestic violence, suicide, deplorable and depressing state of people.
Despite the title, the lead character, in many ways, is Mikael Blomkvist. He runs an investigative cum political magazine called Millennium where he often publishes the scandals and enjoys tarnishing the public image of heavy figures. But this time, the tables have turned on him, he has been charged with a written defamation case against a billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Blomkvist not only pays the hefty amount as a fine but also serves in the prison for t…

Book Review: To the End of the Land by David Grossman

To The End of The Land by David Grossman, Israel’s finest contemporary writer instills a new literary life into Israel’s anguished soul, the book piercingly scrutinizes the ubiquity of death in the lives of Israelis in this age of intifadas, the existential anxiety that it spawns, and the horrendous price that Israeli macho military ideology extracts.

At the heart of the book is a mother’s anxiety about her son in the Army – a feeling with which most Israelis identify as there is compulsory military service of three years in Israel. In an interview David Grossman remarked that in Israel most families plan for three children so that even if one is killed in the Army, they have another two.
Ora is a 49-year old mother and her younger son Ofer has just finished his compulsory military service. Adam, her elder son, has already completed his Army tenure and is currently in Bolivia with his father Ilan, Ora’s estranged husband. Ora is well aware from her experience with Adam that it is no…

Book Review: The Book of Chocolate Saints by Jeet Thayil

Through this book the author tries to get into the commitment of revisiting the forgotten Bombay poets of 70s and 80s.
The novel explores the genius, yet psychotic, Goan-American poet-painter Newton Francis Xavier. The uncontrolled high-lows of Xavier's life have been narrated in two tones. First, as a series of interviews with his loony mom, neighbors, ex-wives, teachers, and a host of other characters by Dismas Bambai, a multifarious journalist who was recording an oral history of Xavier. Second, as a chronicle of Xavier's journey from New York to Mumbai and finally to Delhi where he’s travelling for one last hurrah, an exhibition before being consigned to oblivion.
Thayil is a brilliant writer. His flow, the language, his ability to summon up a vision or emotion at will, his masterful use of a misplaced word that shakes you up, his exceptional knowledge of poets, poetry, painters, art and superb research. The use of poetry in the novel is again, brilliant.
Different people…

Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is a modern tale of a couple whose baby goes missing. Anne Conti and Marco Conti are beautiful and their six-month old daughter Cora is amazingly cute and sweet. She has beautiful, round blue eyes, chubby cheeks, blond hair with curls. And Cora is another amusing name to fall for.


Anne and Marco are invited to a birthday party without carrying children by the next door neighbors, Cynthia Stillwell and Graham Stillwell. It is Graham’s 40th birthday, and Cynthia wants to do something simple. Cynthia and Graham are childless by choice. Moreover, Cynthia doesn’t like children and Cora is a faddy baby.
To put through the problem, Anne and Marco hired a baby sitter called Katerina; she would take care of the child while they attend the party next door. But unfortunately her grandmother dies just in time, thus forcing Katerina to call them to cancel her arrival at 6:00 PM. But the party is at 7:00 PM. Out of nowhere, Anne offers to stay home with the bab…

Book Review: Maidless in Mumbai by Payal Kapadia

Lazy and ambitious people living in the metro cities that are totally depended on maids for every inch of work will definitely love this book because it explores the behavioral nature of urban maids and how people suffer when they fail in finding the perfect one. Well, the tone of the book is quite humorous…indeed!
Anu is a first-time mom in Mumbai, by profession she is a journalist. She has tough life post being mother and it becomes difficult when she finds no capable or credible maid coming to support her early mommy days. The story has been told from a new mother’s point of view. At one instance it has been mentioned subtly that men are lucky that they aren’t too dependent on maids for chores and fatherly duties.
Payal's language is simple and refreshing as she describes the protagonist Anu's life right from the day of the birth of her daughter to a year and a half later. Her writing style seemed a bit like Mrs. Twinkle Khanna.
At times it happens that a maid, who is in s…

Book Review: The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

The Light of the World is a memoir that Elizabeth has written with rare elegance in which she reminisces about her marriage, her grief, and how her art helped her transform her loss into a gorgeous treatise of love. Her poet’s aesthetics shine incandescent in passage after passage that is nothing short of a miracle.
“What if the mightiest word is love?” Elizabeth challenges in the poem that she recited at the Presidential inauguration. We now know that in their short life together, this indeed was the case; from the “visceral torque” that she felt the first time that she saw her husband Ficre, to that final moment when she tried to breathe life into his already dead body minutes after he fell on the treadmill exercising in the home gymnasium barely four days after he turned fifty. Their life together was touched by extraordinary love.
Ficre was born into a large family in war-ravaged Eritrea from where he fled to Sudan, then to Europe, before he found his way to the US. He settled do…

Book Review: The Shakespeare Murders by Sharon Gupta

The Shakespeare Murders by Sharon Gupta is a historical novel with Shakespeare as a central character in the book. Well, for an Indian writer, writing a cross cultural historical fiction is a thing of distant dream, but Sharon has done it like an expert historian, as she was born in that era, in that country.


The story is staged against seventeenth century England - the year is 1602. That time in England playhouses were used to be great source of entertainment for people, like today we have cinema halls and theaters. The playhouse Globe is a super hit one because Shakespeare is associated with it as a playwright and all the plays that are performed there are original ones, otherwise many playhouses are also in the business of making money by running false stories under the original titles. He works for Lord Chamberlain’s Men. There is a healthy competition among all playhouses, but Shakespeare’s playhouse leads the race.
The peace and success of Globe is piqued when two of its actors…

Book Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson is the second book in the Millennium series, the first being The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This story is about Millennium Expose, for those who haven’t read the first book, it is for them that Millennium is a name of magazine that exposes the scandals and vile rackets in Sweden.


The story mainly shuttles between two main characters Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. Lisbeth is a young woman with psychotic behavior and unpleasant past like murdering her father brutally, involvement into sex work, and hacking computer data. In all senses, she is a genius with a strong character with too many revolting peculiarities.
After solving the Wennerström affair in the first book, Lisbeth disappears for a year and tours Europe, and when the novel opens she is found vacationing in the capital of Grenada, where she kills a man who was tormenting his wife, and tutors an orphaned teenage boy and also beds with him.
Mikael Blomkvist is an investig…

Book Review: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

It is very rare to have read a book just because the first sentence of the book is strong enough to generate tremendous interest. If you picked up Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, you will be hooked by its first sentence. Though the book is non-fiction but highly riveting because it delves deep into the subject of death, which humans fear most.

Caitlin Doughty was eight when she saw a girl fall to her death from the second floor of a mall. In response, she developed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which among others, had her walking around her house three times before feeding her dog, checking five times to make sure a door is locked and jumping from three feet into bed.
Doughty managed to overcome the disorder as she grew up but developed something else, instead a strong interest in the funeral industry. It was her way of coping with the realization that everyone, including her, would die one day and could, in fact, die at any moment.
When she turned twenty three, sh…

Book Review: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

Three Men in a Boat is a story of three men (George Harris and J) and they are friends. The men are suffering from over work and they feel like to take a much needed break from their monotonous routine. While in a cottage lying idle they decide to take up something for sure. First they discuss the possibilities of having a stay in the countryside and then a sea voyage. But none of the things look plausible to them due to various reasons mostly for the fear of sickness.

After much discussion, they arrive on a boating trip to be taken in the Thames River for the duration of two weeks. They plan to start the trip the following Saturday. Since George has to work on Saturdays till two in the noon, the two of them has to go to Kingston by train. After some difficulty they manage to reach Kingston because that is their starting point of journey. They take up all necessary items along with them and decide to camp on the ground during night. With them is also a dog called Montmorency for comp…

Book Review: Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Writing a book on mental illness has never been an easy subject. Most people tend to shy away from reading stories that attempt a peek into the tortured minds struggling with depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, or many of its other insidious manifestations. This reluctance arises not on account of lack of compassion, but mainly because such stories are not optimistic or uplifting. Some of those who may have experienced mental illness in the family, view such narratives as a painful reminder of the impossibility of the situation, their own grief and anger, possibly guilt also, and their powerlessness to mitigate  the lives of the people they love.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett is the story of a couple, John and Margaret, and their three children Michael, Celia, and Alec. Quite early during their courtship Margaret becomes aware that John suffers from episodes where his mind goes blank that is how the doctor explains John’s situation to Margaret. When she informs the doctor that …

Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pick up any book of Ishiguro and you will crave for other novels of him. Even if you begin with ‘The Remains of the Day’, any day you would become a fan of him even before completing the book. Ishiguro is a fantastic weaver of words and a brilliant storyteller. A simple life chiseled to stand out, a story of a person who has been an integral part of the old English aristocratic families.

The book delves into the life of a butler. Can this turn out be an interesting read? That’s the challenge which Ishiguro took up and succeed like anything.
The protagonist is Stevens. He sets out on a motoring expedition on the behest of his current master, an American gentleman, Mr. Farraday, a kind and generous man, who also lends him his Ford to travel through the naturally beautiful countryside of England to the West Country.
As the journey of Stevens proceeds, his memories unfurl like the winding and the unwinding roads, blending perfectly the past and the present where readers get to know abo…

Book Review: Dongri to Dubai by S. Hussein Zaidi

Dawood doesn’t need any introduction. The man whom every Indian hate, despise, but beyond that there is something more about his life awaiting to be revealed, the struggle he made to rise in the mafia world. Despite all odds, people may admire his rise to the power, the life he lived, the talent he developed to become something from a very ordinary life. Well, the question is – what’s his real take? Was he a genius in the world of crime, an entrepreneur by fluke, or a talent that went totally in a wrong direction? Zaidi tried to answer many questions like these in his book, Dongri to Dubai.

Dawood shot into untoward fame internationally following the 1993 Bombay blasts, since then he is the most dreaded gangster who shamed India many a time. Prior to him, the mafia landscape of Bombay was ruled by powerful crime bosses like Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. Yet he managed to capsize them to become the informal boss of the Indian mafia.
The book uncovers the journey of this don. Though the…

Book Review: Pariksha by Munshi Premchand

Pariksha (Test) is a short story written by Munshi Premchand. It is an ordinary story with a strong moral message. The story is all about selecting an honest and dedicated candidate for the post of Diwan for the state of Devgarh. The current Diwan, Sardar Sujan Singh, who has already served forty years in the service of the king, has now grown old. He is to retire soon. But before that, he has to select the new Diwan as directed by the King.

Following an advertisement in the country’s leading newspaper about the post, hundreds of candidates swarmed the palace. It was stated that for the post of Diwan being graduate was not mandatory, rather the candidate should be well-built, dedicated, and honest. And people with sick stomach were not allowed.
All the candidates were arranged to accommodate in the palace where they would stay for a month under observation. A variety of aspiring candidates poured in since academic restrictions were off. Some candidates were simple, others fashionab…

Book Review: The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran

The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran is a historical fiction. Many readers might have picked up this book thinking that it is based on the queen Rani Lakshmi Bai. Though the title suggests that the book is about the great legendary queen Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, well a close look reveals that she is in the center of the protagonist of the book, Sita. The focus is not on her life it becomes clear when the story proceeds.

The lead character is Sita, and the story revolves around her. She is born to a poor family in a village near Jhansi. Her mother died during the birth of her younger sister. Now the girls are on the shoulders of grandmother. Well, a twist pours in unexpectedly when she plans to sell Sita to a temple as Devadasi because she is of the opinion that she (the family) will never have enough dowry and money arranged to get both the girls married into decent families.
Sita’s father is a soldier. He lost his hearing capacity and thus resolves to train Sita to be able t…

Book Review: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

The book deals with the challenges that immigrants face in assimilating into a post-colonial Britain, readers must be curious to see how relevant the plot is today in this post-Brexit period.

Set in multi-cultural London, the book’s layered plot is sprawling, both geographically and historically. Archie Jones, the indecisive forty-seven years old English man, wants to take his own life after divorce from his Italian wife Ophelia but is saved by Mo Hussein-Ishmael, a halal butcher. A little later, he meets and marries a much younger Clara Bowden, a Jamaican, who is trying to escape from the clutches of her religiously fanatical mother Hortense Bowden. In the meantime, Samad Iqbal, Archie’s friend from Bangladesh, whom he met in a British tank during WWII somewhere in Europe, immigrates to London with his wife Alsana and takes up residence close to Archie. Samad is paralyzed in one hand and works as a waiter in an Indian restaurant. Samad and Alsana have twins - Millat and Magid, and t…

Book Review: Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh

Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh is a terrific story staged against the recent war situations and the refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

Be it any kind of war, wherever it happens. It causes havoc on innocent people. Amidst such one war it is the story of a family that runs away from their native country in search of freedom and safety. Under the Almond Tree is a treat for readers seeking fresh and substantial stories from the war-ravaged zones. It is painful to see how once a beautiful country descends into nothingness of war and becomes void.
In the unnecessary misery of war, their world turns upside down, with many things and joys of lives losing for no apparent reason. Fifteen-year-old teenage girl Samar from Afghanistan is travelling on a Trans-Siberian express, they are going to Moscow in search of freedom and safety. There are two streams of narrative – one is in the train and second from the past life of Samar in Afghanistan. Samar has prodigious memory that’s the reason sh…

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The book falls in the genre of historical fiction that narrates the tale of two sisters (Vianne and Isabelle) during WWII when France had been occupied by Hitler-led Nazi.
Like Edith’s Story, this book is too about women survival in the wartime. Both sisters come across many types of hardships and heartbreaks, despite that both go ahead with chin up courageously. Their intentions are to help others in such dreadful time when people have become selfish to save themselves or their means of sustenance. All they want is to contribute for the good for common folks. 
Vianne engages herself to help and save Jewish children, while Isabelle works out to help many Allied pilots to escape out of France by escorting them. Her character is inspired by a Belgian woman, Andree de Jongh. Isabelle traverses through perilous time for this task. During the same time, she finds love (falls in love with a pilot). Though both sisters differ in personality but they are very much similar when it comes to v…

Book Review: The Glass Blowers by Daphne Du Maurier

The book takes one back to the history of Du Maurier’s, ancestors who were in to glass making business in Central France in eighteen century, and how the family coped up with the clamours post the French Revolution.
The book is more a memoir of Sophie Busson-Duval, to apprise her nephew Louis-Mathurin Busson, about his late father Robert Busson, who himself was a master glass blower but had fled to London during French Revolution. The narration spans a period of almost hundred years, starting with wedding of her parents – her mother Magadalenine, daughter of a Ballif and Maurine Busson, from a glass maker’s family. Their trials and tribulations in life, right from glass making foundry to her father’s rise as a Master Glass Blower with childhood of their children Robert, Pierre, Michel, Sophie and Edme, and later incidents are dealt in detail.
Seeing progress of her father and mother, by dint of their hard work, Sophie having imbibed best of both, comes across as a strong individual y…

Book Review: Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino is a crime thriller first published in Japanese in 2008; later in 2012 it was translated into English. The novel is based on a famous detective Galileo. He has been featured in the previous book The Devotion of Suspect X as well.

As the novel opens, Yoshitaka Mashiba is found dead and the reason for his death was poison in his cup of coffee. Yoshitaka Mashiba was murdered just before leaving his marriage and his wife Ayane Mashiba, who was miles away from the crime scene. The obvious suspect is she – his wife Ayane – but the Police Detective Kusanagi does not believe this. He intends to find more; he assumes there is someone else. On the other hand, his junior Utsumi has gut feeling that the killer is Ayane. This is the time when Utsumi feels stuck and she calls her favourite professor Manabu Yukawa, also famous as Detective Galileo. Soon it becomes clear ‘Who and Why’ about the murder but ‘How’ is the rest of the narration.
The involvement of …

Book Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a debut novel of Afghan-American writer Nadia Hashimi. In the wake of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, many more writers of the same descent have come up with similar stories where the plight of Afghanistan’s women have been a subject of sympathy for readers. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is one such story: it can be assumed that it is, at some point, influenced by The Thousand Splendid Suns of Khaled Hosseini.

The story is about girls and women of Afghanistan. Rahima and her sisters are often depressed and alone by the fact that they don’t have a brother who could have run errands for the family. On the other side, their father is an opium addict and is good for nothing. So, the need for a male chaperone in the family is their missing point. As suggested by her Aunt Shaima, Rahima has to become a bacha posh (a sort of boy to do all things until she gains maturity). She is send to school as a Rahim and there she joins the gang of boys, wears pants…