Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rain: A Survivor's Tale - Sriram Subramanian (Book)

Rain: A Survivor's Tale - Sriram Subramanian.

I believe a book or a movie works for me big time when I have zero expectations from it or mostly when I have no idea what to expect or the last thing that I have no background either as what they are based on. Also, after reading close to 200 books in last two years or a little more - I exactly know (at times) what to expect from an Author's Debut :). And let me say this with a pinch of salt - this book proved me so wrong. Thanks to Sriram himself that I finally got to lay my hands on a copy of his book as unfortunately it wasn't available in any book stores near my place and I had to get a paperback as had a golden opportunity to get it signed by him in person. As we met briefly last week and I was glad that he was carrying a couple of copies with himself. Although I wanted to read it before meeting him so I could talk to him on the book, story and its effects but I guess all that will have to wait for couple of weeks more till he is available to us again for a meet to answer my questions. I picked it up casually last night thinking that I will be able to stretch it up to the weekend (200 pages) but the pace was such that it had to end in bloody flat 24 hours as Jai's story is so intriguing that I had to know how it ended before I could hit my bed (I actually read it last night after my night shift too - just imagine) Finished it today.

We all read a lot of books now and then which give us all kinds of pleasures, some cheap thrills, some guilty pleasures but there are a very few books or stories which sort of show you a mirror or give you quite a good quantity of food for thought, this was one of those. Its written in such a simple yet intriguing way that it actually connected with me on a lot of counts. For example the way Jai the protagonist turns on a switch by pressing the protruding end of a switch by the tip of his finger making the "Click" sound and not by sliding down his finger on the switch :) that's a very small instance but thats exactly we were taught by our Dad and I would never be able to forget this ever. Special mention of case of sibling rivalry where the elder one has to make all the sacrifices. And there are so many instances like that in the story especially between the husband and wife, dealing with in-laws and all that it feels as if our own life is what we are reading in Jai's story. Moreover the challenges that he faces, the targets that he has, how he goes about trying his level best to fulfill them, the way his wife goes through her own job, challenges, household duties and all that. We all have the "Ravi's" in our lives like Jai has - the best friend :) - if you have read the book, you would know what I mean. Society troubles especially for tenants, I was like shocked to see so much reality and found it hilarious too at times on the mention of pesky neighbors who do come for the rescue too when needed. On top of that the story is actually taking place in a city that I live in so the geographical details too worked for me.

As I started reading and as the title suggests "Rain A Survivor's Tale" I initially thought I will be able to predict (may be certain things) but barring the Rain it is simply unpredictable. Moreover at times I wish I could actually help Jai in someway or may be that my thoughts connected with his or the Author's so he would do as I wanted him to do..... but to no avail. He does what he thinks is right, how he fights with his own dark past or the haunting memories refreshed by his dad's diaries is something kept me glued to the very end. I would say this is a perfect book for someone going on a long overnight train journey of sorts and needs to be finished in one shot. Totally good story and I will definitely look forward to his next whenever that is due now. And again my brain will start working on what to expect from him :) and would love to be proven wrong yet again.

Do read it guys and do let me know how you like it if you have already read it.
I will look forward now (eagerly) to meet Sriram again to answer some of the questions his book left unanswered. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Khoka - Moupia Basu (Book)

Khoka - Moupia Basu.

How many times has that happened with you that you actually meet someone in person casually and are told by some else that this first someone too has written a book :) and guess what - you end up getting a copy from them, read it, love it, cherish and never want to return it back :). This is exactly what happened with me when I met our own "Moupia Basu" at her own place as she invited quite a few of us over tea and snacks to talk about books and what not. Till then I had no idea and as I was told while meeting by one of her own friends who found a copy in her book rack and gave it to me I was shocked. Literally I finished what I was reading (A Jodi Picoult book) and grabbed this one as fast as I could and let me sum it up here - I totally totally loved it. She herself wasn't that happy with the publisher who has made some mistakes in the book and it isn't at par from her standards that I too noticed during the course of reading but let me tell you - that takes nothing away from the heart warming story which took me back in time almost six decades or more and was totally fantastic. As I met Moupia, I was delighted as she is one person with whom you can talk about Books, Literature, Bengal and of-course my favorite personality Satyajit Ray - all day non stop without break and her book actually reminded me so much of Ray's simplicity as depicted by his books, movies and whatever he touched and did. Now my wife and kiddo too are reading it plus I am going to impress my mother tomorrow as she arrives first thing in the morning by giving her a copy :) she always made us read those books related to India's struggle of Independence. Oh and I ordered a copy from National Book Trust too which should be coming shortly so I can get it signed by the Author in person as I meet her again soon.

Khoka as the name suggests is a young kid and these are his adventure stories told by a mother to her own teenage son in flashback mode. I had another great connection with the story as the name of this kids father is actually "Rohit" you see what a coincidence :). They live in Hyderabad around the year 2006 and that gives us a perspective of present situation as well as the past. Khoka's story is of-course pre-independence giving us a glimpse of that time and a brief but damn good mention of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Indian National Army as well as the mention of Jagdish Bose was such a refreshing story, it indeed took me back in time as I am sure we all have forgotten those great people. Simple stories with great meaning - I mean who doesn't have a memory of childhood climbing up far fetched hills to climb up and reach a  temple up there :) or cross a gushing river with friends making a human chain of sorts. Also, spending some time in a jungle full of wild animals - current generation may not have experienced but people born before 70's or 60's will definitely know what I am talking about. Khoka does all that too with his cousins and friends and that too in style - how Prahlad the kid who is reading his stories learns important lessons of life is the book all about. Although its written in short story format but doesn't feels like that with a single protagonist it actually feels like one big story. The book cover says its for 12-14 year old but worked big time for me too as its no less then a perfect story and I was hooked like anything and end up finishing it in one shot (150 pages). Even the illustrations are too good and very beautifully done, I am glad that the maker too is credited right on the cover of the book.

I had a great time reading it and I will highly recommend it to all to read it. The only way to get the book is the National Book Trust website.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Perfect Match - Jodi Picoult (Book)

Perfect Match - Jodi Picoult.

Third book from Jodi Picoult and I must say as the name suggests - it was indeed a perfect book and the best of three that I have so far read (and of course last from my collection). Terrific story, too good narrative, superb lovable characters, engrossing, unputdownable and a working ending (subjective). It worked for me big time and I loved the twists and turns as wasn't expecting that many in her book though. And the ending actually shocked me, I was happy the way it ended and I am sure most of you who have read it will agree with me that she didn't go overboard in this one to give a different ending which didn't work for me in her earlier books. After reading three books back to back - I do realize that she has a way with words as well as a knack to pick up some real interesting subjects and wove around a convincing story to put her point forward and it has to be always a court drama in the front :). Guess she always wanted to be a lawyer by default but may be was destined to become an Author and a good one at that.

Surprisingly she has written all these books in one heck of a tricky way that if you write more than a line about the book - you feel like you are actually giving away the whole plot. As it happens in this one too - protagonist is a Public Prosecutor and someone hurts her five year old son in such a way that she is convinced that there was no way she could have gone the legal system way about it. She has to take the law in her own hands to avenge, what and how she does it and the following twists and turns when she realizes what she has done wrong, what she is actually going to get by the time it all ends and what is she going to lose - is a little too much then either she expected or we as readers foresee, if you know what I mean :). Confused? Yes, I too was as it progresses - it is actually too good a read as she reveals everything with perfect timing. One just cant not fall in love with the characters. Nina as the mother and Public Prosecutor, all she has done her life is to send the deserving people to serve in prisons. Her caring and lovable husband Caleb who is a contractor or their cute son Nathaniel around whom the story is revolving around or the police detective Patrick (who I loved more than her husband:)) is their childhood friend whose still in love with Nina. Jodi has to have a love triangle in most of her books I believe as this is second time in a row in her books for me but I am not complaining.

And I can't even talk about the title of the book :) as that's what you've got to read the book for as disclosing that will be a spoiler of sorts. I wasn't expecting a kind of thriller it turns out to be and it was fantastic as she discloses everything in very first page and you actually have to race hard to get the point where the "why's" are answered. Too good. I am going to read her other couple of works shortly after a break as have got quite a few more commendations left :). If you haven't read this - I will recommend it big time and if you have - do let me know how you like it and if there is a better book than this that she has written - I would love to read that too.

This is a first that I actually noticed some mistakes (may be printing) in the end and found the dates to be wrongly mentioned plus it all was happening around October 2001 and no mention of nine eleven? that was a little indigestible even in work of fiction I was expecting some mention or relative effect. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult (Book)

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult.
This is my second Jodi Picoult book that gave me a sort of underwhelming feeling after what I have heard from people on her. The first one was superb - I totally loved it barring of-course the ending like I said in my review earlier which left me shocked and totally unhappy with the way things turned out (in the ending). Now this one has a perfect thrilling start, with so much to look forward to, unfortunately becomes a huge drag mid ways and goes almost nowhere but the saving grace is perfect ending. Not at all predictable, kept me hooked to most part barring the mid 100 odd pages I guess which were totally not required. The book could have been shorter and precise talking about the kidnapped girls dilemma, confusion on finding the lost past of three decades, love triangle and the final outcome. But as the fate had it - Author takes a dive (unnecessary) in the life of a Vodoo neighbor and very unfortunate accounts of blacks in Phoenix jail which not at all helps in taking the story forward. Although no doubt - this is one of those very few books that I have read on father daughter relationship, it was too good to see their chemistry. Being a father of a daughter I could imagine what her dad must have gone through in past to do what he does in the story.
The very first chapter after a lacklustre start blew my mind off the way it ended as I missed the very punchline on top of the book saying "Your Father is arrested for kidnapping. You were the child he stole. What would you do?". And I realized what's in store for me in it. As I usually do not read the front as well as back of a book ever especially the ones I consider reading. Delia was kidnapped by her own father when she was four years old, she lives her entire life being told that her mother died in an accident. But the things take a terrific turn when she is told the truth, as she goes in search of her past and dead mother with her own young kid and fiance' who happens to be a lawyer in New Hampshire, leaves a job of "Search and Rescue" to know the truth and get her father released from a Phoenix prison where he has to serve time till the court decides if he was innocent. On top of all this - we have a perfect love triangle with Delia, her to be married husband Eric (the lawyer) and Fitz the ever available friend who works for a New Hampshire daily, always at her rescue. And she has a superb Dog too and a loving dad. Imagine with all that right in the initial 50 odd pages - I was looking forward to a terrific book but as I said, somehow it becomes a drag with her Dad's jail account and her neighbours story and local customs of Arizona thrown in good measure which takes or help the story in no ways. Fortunately it had a great ending and a damn good courtroom drama (although not too long but good it was).
I have one more book from Jodi Picoult to go before I decide whether I should continue reading her books or not :) as this one has left me with a dilemma. I would really love to know if you have read this one, did it work for you? And if you have read any or all of her works - do tell me - which one as per you is her best work, I would love to pick that up and see if that works for me.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Matter of Honour - Jeffrey Archer (Book)

A Matter of Honour - Jeffrey Archer.

I seriously love the people in my life who precisely know what I want as a gift and I feel all the more delighted when they ask me a right question like my darling Sister in law asked me last week while coming over for a little summer break as she called me I guess from a book store. She knew that I had wrapped up seven Jeffrey Archer books back to back hence it will be perfect to pick up one more and called to ask whether I had read it or not :) - this is how I got this superb thriller and another Archer book got checked out from my ever long TBR. Also, I needed a break after finishing the last emotional ride with a Jodi Picoult book before going ahead with two more of her works which I presume will be no less than the previous one. This was a perfect thriller unfortunately I wanted it to last long as this was the last Archer book from my collection but as the fate had it - its just an unstoppable thriller that end up ending in flat 48 hours.

If you have read this one I am sure you will agree with me that Archer actually tried writing one in Dan Brown's style. I just couldn't not compare it with usual Dan Brown thriller, where there is always some classic old painting in the background, the whole story revolves around it. There may be some codes or hints hidden behind or inside the Art work and will always require a professional decoding, it even takes us briefly to Dan Brown's favorite Louvre in Paris too. With couple of groups (Countries in here) are chasing after the same stuff. One good guy who owns or it belongs to him with one equally good (read fantastic) enemy behind him throughout on killing spree left right and center. A total free hand to go to any extent to extract the Art work that too in a limited time frame as a lot depends on it. This time its none other but America against its arch enemy Russia in picture with Germans, Brits, French and Swiss thrown in between for a good measure. Imagine the travel, running around, KGB, CIA, Swiss police and it all starts with opening a simple "Will" of an almost unknown army man who leaves his son a mere 500 pounds and a letter directing him to something he himself doesn't know the real value off. The cat and mouse game between the protagonist an Ex Army Captain and a Russian KGB operative is so damn nice that they almost get neck to neck before the fantastic finale which makes the reader breathless by the way they keep coming close to each other again and again.

Jeffrey Archer is a class story teller - no doubts on that as not only the main track, even the parallel tracks and characters do make a lasting impression on the reader. I was totally impressed by the way he carved out so many of them in this 400 page book which again felt too short to me as it finished itself so fast, wanted to keep going for more but as all good things come to an end this one had too.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult (Book)

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult.

Before I finished the book: I always wonder(ed) can there be a book where you actually end up falling in love with almost all the characters, writer included. This became one of those very few books, where not one or two or three but almost all the characters leave a damn good mark on the reader - at least they did that to me. I hadn't read any of her works before this and fortunately this one just happened to be loved by so many people and I kept pushing it up on my "to be read" list - this weekend a very dear friend dropped by carrying three of Jodi Picoult books including this one (Yes! I have friends like that :)). The book was a breeze and is no less than a perfect thriller as I just couldn't put it down till the very end (more on that later) as my heart and mind both kept asking for more. She has written it very smartly giving the reader all the angles from almost all the character's sides, totally loved that idea and it works wonders, making it more clear for the reader. As I said I had no idea of what this book was all about hence found the story to be too touchy as we have lost quite a few people fighting with one or the other form of Cancer. One of my own Aunt passed away last year and we saw everything up close and personal, how its depicted in the book.

I was so much in love with the characters and the way story develops, the dark secrets revealed, agenda's disclosed and what not - But unfortunately the way it ends - it actually made me feel cheated - I mean C'mon - she could have ended it the way reader predicts it - would have worked wonders, why that filmy ending? If you have read the book - I would really like to know your views on the ending rest everything works perfectly well. Anna as the teenage girl ever helping her sister (knowingly and unknowingly), brother, parents and even strangers who gradually become her friends is a character that you just can't not fall in love with. Kate as her sister who is suffering from Cancer is another strong character and so is their destructive brother Jesse - I totally loved his histrionics and the way he lives, behaves, goes on rampage, so much like every other kid does in real life at that age. Their parents Brian (a fire fighter) and Sara (an x attorney) are an ever loving caring parents. But as the reality hits the reader on face behind this happy go lucky family it actually made me think hard - if it was really wrong or right on the parents part to do it, going for a daughter just because she will be a perfect donor for their elder daughter who is suffering from a rare form of Cancer, to what extent and gravity it goes - you've got to read the book for. I was shocked, surprised, sad, judgmental, at times happy too and what not as I kept going further.

The pace of the book is so damn good as its a story which is told to us in the course of only ten days, going back and forth in the past and coming back to present from so many angles that it keeps the reader in toes totally hanging by the edge of the chair not letting go off the book so as not to lose anything. Also even the supporting characters are written in such a nice way that I even loved them totally. Like the way Anna's Lawyer Campbell is carved out plus his ex girl friend who too comes back in the picture as story taking place in a very small town of Rhode Island, where everyone knows everyone. I even liked both the Judges :) and the way they go about the case. All in all - its an amazing unputdownable book with a ending which sucks otherwise it works very well on most counts. The way story of Anna and Kate goes back and forth in time - it actually made me think a lot of my own brother who I haven't met or spoken in couple of months - as we really used to have those times what these sisters do it. I have smiled, laughed, cried, got lumps in my throat, closed the book and thought about our own past and what not during the course of the book. I even brought it to my office and kept reading during breaks as well as here n there to not to lose the momentum. Its a fantastic read - I will definitely rate it at least a good 4/5 if not more. Barring the ending. But I am definitely going to read a couple of more books from her as I already got two more :) and see if they work for me or not.

This is my second book in a row which  talks about flawed or say "Selfish Parents", although both are works of fiction but still it did shake me to believe it as in the story. Can there really be people like that? Like in Danielle Steele's "The Long Road Home" where they never wanted the daughter, dump her in a Convent and conveniently move on with their lives, get married have more kids that they wanted and still be at peace with themselves. And now here, in this one where they "Conceive" that too artificially to have the perfect genetically balanced "Girl" who could be used as a donor to save their other daughter - how heartless one could get? In reality if that happened to me - I would have rather sacrificed my own first child then have another one who will be used to save the first. How and what is the kid going to feel once he or she realizes why he or she was conceived? Wow. This left so many questions unanswered by the abrupt ending and I was so turned off by all that - that I didn't even read the answers Jodi Picoult gave to the questions asked by some followers, reviewers and critics I guess in the last few pages of the book. I was so angry - may be I will pick it up again and see what she has to say but no ways I believe she can justify it.

Do let me know if you have read it, how did you feel overall and how about the ending? Did it work for you? or there are people like me who didn't like the ending one bit, could there be a better end? like the way it ends in the movie? 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Long Road Home - Danielle Steel (Book)

The Long Road Home - Danielle Steel.

Fortunately this is my first Danielle Steel book and I was forewarned by quite a few friends that they are a tear fest, I am unfortunately anyways a very emotional personal so it doesn't even matter as my eyes do well up at the drop of a hat. But this one was something else - WOW - it just made me think so much about the whole thing. And a question kept hanging on top of my head throughout - Can there really be parents like that? Who actually hate their children and go on to an extent of actually beating them up black and blue or may be kill them in reality as the child in question - Gabriella in this story is almost killed by her own mother and her father abandons her just like that. Unfortunately he couldn't take it anymore what all his wife was doing to the little girl and just walks out on both of them - gets married again to someone else and keeps no contact with them - how insensitive one can be. What happens next is the story of our little Angel Gabriella full of courage, hope and love. But the book made me think a lot and I shuddered with the thought of  raising my hands ever on my own child - I still haven't forgiven myself for shaking her holding both of her arms long long back in utter frustration one day. Just can never forget those cute eyes, shocked with my behavior and the way tears rolled down her eyes - although she was too young to understand or even remember what happened but that hasn't helped me even today to get over the moment.

Unfortunately we were beaten black and blue just like Gabriella by not only our own parents, uncles or even teachers back then made me think - did they never loved us the way we love our kids now a days? Or we were one too many for them so they had choices as to who to love and who to ignore or hate may be. Like Gabriella again because her mother never wanted her in the first place and she was an unwanted child. Although her dad loved her like anything making her mother jealous of her. But as he abandons her and her mother dumps her in a convent right like the way we were dumped in a hostel to make our careers or to straighten us as we were spoilt brats, I know I am never going to get the answers to these questions as they will be never asked - unfortunately its too late and too futile to ask. But hasn't that fact crossed your mind ever exactly like the way it crosses Gabbie's mind all the time that she was "Unwanted", "No One cares about me", "Even God doesn't exist for people like me", "Why am I not dead yet?", "Would life be any better on the other side If I get killed?". It just sent me back in time and I realized unfortunately that's exactly what the reason was that I and my brother walked out of our homes never to go back but a parent may have a reason to do what they do, they may have a rationale justification to give to themselves but a kid will always be a kid - so we did forgive / forgot and what not and its all dusted and trashed below the carpet to be never opened again. I could actually get into the skin of little "Gabriella" in this story like the way she thinks that she is so bad that its all happening because of her as if she deserved it all in the first place rather she made it all happen to herself by being so bad. But as life is I am still looking forward not to her homecoming....... I don't even know what I expect (yet) as I am yet to finish the book but anyways I will do it - how bad it can get from the way it has come this far.

The book surprisingly invoked so many emotions in me as it progresses and Gabbie's struggles come to no end. Almost every-time she hits another hurdle or shock or pain she blames herself for it as she did it to herself or deserved it one way or other. My heart cried out so many times that I lost count - I was shocked, touched, hurt and what not to know it wasn't coming to an end at all. Also, I kept my hopes high one way or the other - she was bound to get what she deserved. How it all ends and whether she gets answers to all her questions as what happens to her parents after they abandon her and resume their own lives, is heartening, unbelievable and on your face truth so direct that it indeed hit me like a freight train. Wow - I thought this is going to be a romantic read but it turns to be a totally different story. Of-course need I mention that I am now in love with Danielle Steel and her books will now onward work like "Fillers" when I need to shake off the memory of heavy hard-hitting books :) - I am glad this one has helped me big time in getting over the gloomy "The Handmaid's Tale" Finally.

So if you haven't read this one or any of her works - now you precisely know what to expect but do read - I am sure they are good and this one may have a silver lining in the end not only for Gabriella but for us fools too. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Kill List - Frederick Forsyth (Book)

The Kill List - Frederick Forsyth.

When you start a book with huge expectations knowing that the Author behind it is a name to fall back on with full trust that he is going to transport you to a thrilling world with a chase you are never going to forget. Unfortunately by the time you reach mid-ways - you know it isn't working the way it was expected and by the time it ends - you totally feel that this isn't his best work and you have definitely read way better than this one for sure in the past - Does that happens with you too? This book came highly recommended by two of my friends who I can trust with my eyes closed when it comes to books and Frederick Forsyth right from my college days has been a personal favorite too. I wanted to start again with his books starting from his latest (guess this one is the last he wrote) unfortunately felt not that impressed - it works but fails on more counts to keep me engaged looking forward to more, also was a bit predictable at times. Anyways I am going to go ahead with some of his earlier works yet again as I know he had thrilled me big time back then.

Fortunately the story is way too relevant in today's time and was very well able to transport me back in time to get the facts refreshed in my mind and straight comes to the point - You see no hanky panky stuff in a Forsyth book. "The Tracker" is chasing a Hate "Preacher" who is killing people by dozen all over the world especially in US of A and in Britain with his speeches to his Jihadi followers. "Ariel" is a hacker who can get into a system with the drop of a hat although he doesn't go out of his cocoon ever. Tracker totally my favorite character of the book has a personal score too to set with the Preacher and how he does it all with the help of so many other good guys all across the globe makes up for a good Cat and Mouse chase story but not a great one as I said, something was seriously amiss. Although I was able to finish it in flat 3 days and almost lost the book while travelling fortunately the too good cab driver found me to give it back (altogether a different story) and I was able to finish it.

Now after reading a "Steel(y)" thriller I need a mushy old school romantic book to change the mood. Unfortunately the gloomy memory of my earlier read "The Handmaid's Tale" still refuses to go off my mind - so picking up a hardcore romantic tear feast I believe.

Do let me know if any of Frederick Forsyth book that DIDN'T work for you So I will stay away from it as well and which is your favorite (my all time favorite will of-course be "The Day of The Jackal").