Posted in Books

Book Review: The Lost Years of Sherlock Holmes, by Ted Riccardi

About the author:
Ted Riccardi is professor emeritus in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He has served as the counselor of cultural affairs at the United States embassy in New Delhi.

Cover and blurb:
Just a girl in a red veil on the cover, and the blurb speaks of Holmes’ travel in Asia and the cases he found there.

My thoughts:
When you take a classic and try to reinvent it, the essence of the classic still stay in the mind. The challenge is to put your idea across, yet not change that essence completely. It’s like what Ashok Banker has done to Indian mythology perhaps. Take the story, own it, retell it but not lose the magic. But that’s Indian mythology. When it’s a world renowned criminal detective, that challenge is a little harder. Over the last two years, I have read a couple of Sherlock Holmes fiction written by other authors. One has been loved, the other not. But it’s the character of Holmes that attracts me, so I didn’t hesitate to read.

The book’s premise is that Sherlock Holmes is not dead. He’s survived at the Reichenbach falls and traveled through Asia by himself, perfecting his skills and finding himself in new adventures, but without the good Dr. Watson at his side. He returns to Baker Street after his adventures, and on Watson’s curiosity being piqued by a letter, and crimes in London not piquing his, Holmes narrates stories starting with his adventure in India titled The Viceroy’s Assistant. The other stories include The Case of Hodgson’s Ghost, Envoy to Lhasa, The Singular Tragedy of Trincomalee, The Case of the French Savant, The Mystery at Jaisalmer, The Case of Anton Furer, The Giant Rat of Sumatra and Murder in the Thieves’ Bazaar.

For a Holmes fan like me, the stories lacked the Sherlock feel to it. The triple narration in the story is what brings it that confusion I guess. At one time, Holmes is saying a dialogue. Then Watson comes in saying Holmes is saying it, and then the character that features in the story starts a dialogue in first person. So the thrill that a scene begets, that’s kind of lost. The sense of thrill does exist, it hovers over the stories in a Holmes manner, but it doesn’t come to life like a Conan Doyle does. The author’s effort to bring that gripping narration is evident, and he succeeds in telling us the stories in simple language, and also manages to successfully is to create the setting and bring that to picturize in my mind easily. Overall, the stories were decent. Not fantastic, but not a flop either. Starts out well, but becomes slow toward the end.

I think I should mention that the cover design also felt strange. It is a Sherlock Holmes story. A girl in a red scarf or veil didn’t quite fit that magnitude in my opinion.


Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book Details:
Title: The Lost Years of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Ted Riccardi
ISBN: 9788184954340
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publishers: Jaico Books
Price: INR 275

 


This book was given to me for review by Jaico Books. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws./p>


(Oct 8th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Classic Tales from Mystic India, by Kamla Kapur

About the author:
Kamla Kapur is a well-known poet and playwright from India. She has written for The Times of India and India Today before. She has won two national awards for her plays and has published two books of poetry.

Cover and blurb:
A wonderfully appealing cover to mythology buffs, and the stories inside I was sure would be just as appealing.

My thoughts:
Mythology is something that’s set deep in every culture, and especially I feel, in Indian culture. The various stories and tales related to gods and goddesses, world-saving avatars and demons (asuras), kind hearted kings or wise sages… they are part of our childhood that are difficult to forget. They’re magical, endearing and fun to hear. And fun to read too.

When a book comes with tales from mythology that I love and have sometime heard of, there is both a positive side to it, and also a negative side. The positive side is that I look forward to reading and recollecting those stories. I know what might happen because I have an inkling of it already in my heart. That kind of sets the negative side to it, I guess, because when it is something that is beloved and part of me, I have an expectation from the stories that they be just as magical and beautiful as I have pictured them to be. Tales from folklore and mythology calls for that tone of narration that bring the scene to life.

Classical Tales from Mystical India is a beautiful collection of stories, most of which I have heard of from my grandmother in my childhood. So I loved returning to them and picturizing them in my mind. Yes, the author brings the scene to our mind. That being said, the first thing that came to mind as I read the stories of Vishnu, was the lingo. Sage Narada has been shown calling Lord Vishnu as “Vishnu”. As far as I recollect, and have asked my family and friends too, Narada’s beloved phrase goes “Narayana, Narayana”. I’d have liked to see that as-is and not made to “Vishnu, Vishnu”. The introduction has the translation of Narayana and that it is Vishnu’s name itself, so I believe that would have been understood to the readers anyways. I loved the story of how Ganesha got his head, and I wasn’t actually aware of the legend behind it. All I had known was that Lord Shiva had to find a head facing a particular direction to merge into Ganesha’s body (beheaded by him). I enjoyed reading Sudama’s visit to Krishna and the story of Hanuman’s devotion to Rama as well.

Very enjoyable book, and I’d be re-reading it often as well. Oh, nearly forgot. The images inside the book are absolutely magnificent as well.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book Details:
Title: Classic Tales from Mystic India
Author: Kamla K. Kapur
ISBN: 9788184954463
Genre: Mythology
Publishers: Jaico Books
Price: INR 225

 


This book was given to me for review by Jaico Books. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Oct 8th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

About the author:
Jhumpa Lahiri is an London-born Indian author, whose work has won international acclaim including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and being shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize. She is also a member of the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, appointed by Barack Obama.

My thoughts:
Life… life isn’t always only roses without the thorns. It usually never is, but sometimes, if things seem to be going well, then it would feel like it is. Most novels hinge around getting that rosy, all-is-well, happy ending that life, in that situation, might not get. We’re happy to read that, I guess, because we know that alternative thorny ending, and we wouldn’t want to wish it upon anyone, not even a fictional character. Reading a story that takes us into the skin of a character makes us feel like that character is more than that.

This is the first time I’m reading a Jhumpa Lahiri creation. I’ve heard of her works, and a couple sit in my wishlist still. The first thing I found linking the stories was the Bengali backgrounds, and then immediately, the foreign setting. This was both a positive and a negative about the book. Whereas I liked that the characters had accomplished something, were settled in life and had good things going their way too, the common backgrounds after a couple of stories became repetitive. Different, distinct characters yes, but they felt same after a while. The other thing that links the stories of course is that not all endings are happy. They’re more realistic than fictional. It was a twist perhaps, but one that went with the flow. So it felt nice to read even with the depth. For me, the best story, though I liked the story Unaccustomed Earth, was the one titled Only Goodness. A sibling’s world perhaps, but not one that I would find understanding in my life.

The book goes into the intricacies of relationships and pulls us in easily. Not a fun read, but it makes us return to it, mull over it. Thought-provoking and realistic, a book that’ll stay in my bookshelf for a long time to come.


Rated a 9/10
Rated a 9/10

Book Details:
Title: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
ISBN: 9788184000603
Genre: Short Stories / Fiction
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR 295

 


This book was given to me for review by Random House India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with
1) First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws
2) Indian Quills Reading Challenge at Tales Pensieve.


(Oct 6th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Chokher Bali, by Rabindranath Tagore

About the author:
Rabindranath Tagore is possibly the most famous poet to come from India. For his beautiful, profound and sensitive verses, which expressed his poetic thought, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

My thoughts:
There are some stories that have you hooked by the characters, the setting of the novel and the simplicity of the language. These books, I feel, are very rare. One such book I came across was written by one of my favorite poets, one of the greatest writers and one who is well respected around the world. Rabindranath Tagore is known more for his soul stirring verses perhaps than his novels, but a book by him still appealed to me and it was as good as poetry in prose.

Chokher Bali is not a story that all would love. It doesn’t flow quickly, and neither can it be finished in one day. It’s a family drama, set in the time when families were more orthodox than they are now. It speaks of traditions and superstitions. It is the story of the young widow Binodini, who follows the customs by returning to her village to live there for a couple of months after her husband’s death, yet accepts the invite into the house of Rajlakshmi, who lives with her son Mahendra and his wife, the young and naive Ashalata. The story is about the intricacies of emotions like love, passion and desire. Not just the love of Mahendra for Ashalata, but of Mahendra’s love for his mother, his mother’s affection for Binodini, Bihari babu’s deep friendship with Mahendra, the odd friendship formed between Ashalata and Binodini and a lot other inset emotions. But most of all its of that love of Mahendra towards Binodini, who he thinks is more a match for him than Ashalata.

The story weaves in and out of the lives of these characters with consummate ease, stitching culture and love together. Tagore creates deep characters and tells more with simple words better than any writer I know of. He takes us back to the time of British India flawlessly. If I knew to read Bengali, I would read the original. There’s always something different in a translation. I’ve to read some of his other works now, prose ones I mean. It’s beautiful to have a story speak to you.


Rated a 9/10
Rated a 9/10

Book Details:
Title: Chokher Bali
Author: Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Radha Chakravarty
ISBN: 9788184003048
Genre: Fiction/Drama
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR 299

 


This book was given to me for review by Random House India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.


(Oct 6th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: A Vision of Angels, by Timothy Jay Smith

About the author:
Timothy Jay Smith is an American author. His ceaseless wanderlust that took him around the world many times brought him unparalleled experiences, which in turn affected the breadth and sensibility of his work. He continues to collect short stories while splitting his time between Paris, Greece and Miami Beach. The same energy that makes him travel, he brings to his writing.

Cover and blurb:
Not sure what attracted me in the cover, which is a simple one, but there is something in it. The description promised a war thriller and lots of interesting, diverse characters. I felt that was a genre I could read on Kindle, given my slow reading speed.

My thoughts:
War books are something I think before I take. A war thriller, and a Kindle copy at that, I did think a moment more before I agreed. In retrospect now, I feel that extra moment was unnecessary. The book was quite a wonderful read, and I take something out of it. I think any book, if it brings you something more than a story, is a good one.

We start in Jerusalem, the people headed for prayers, and the security a little more tight than it usually would be. We are taken through the Old City first through the eyes of David Kessler, a journalist, who is stopped by a soldier, then through Issa, a shopkeeper and his father-in-law Azzedine. We’re taken to the mosque, and we hear the mullah’s speech before soldiers enter and shots are fired. A bomb explodes. We’re back to David’s eyes as he captures the carnage. We can almost walk with him, see what he sees, feel the beats of his heart. It’s quite visual.

We then look at the scene through the eyes of Major Jakob Levy, who closes the border after the bomb. The closing affects Amin Mousa, who learns even his pass, signed by the Major himself has been revoked because of that incident. We are introduced to Katya, David’s neighbor and her son Joshua, Efrahim who is an old painter and storyteller and then the family of the Major, who is reputed in the country and is dubbed the Saint of Sinai.

If you notice, I’m not telling you of the plot or its movements, but some of the various characters that we come across in the book. I’m doing so because I feel, in this instance, the book is more than the plot, it is not only how that moves that makes this a good book, but it is how the characters move you. It’s the energy of David, the journalist, to do what he has to do to get his shot that captured my attention, then his bravery when a young boy falls victim, and of course, his fondness for his neighbour Joshua. It’s the adamancy of the Major that attracts, and the same for his courageous son Mishe who opposes his father’s decisions vehemantly. It’s the dialogues between Issa and David, between Mishe and his father, the interaction between various characters that captures a depth in this novel. It’s a thriller, and I read it like I would any fiction. But it still makes me ponder more about characters, and their actions. I don’t feel it’s easy to write in the given setting either, so that’s another thing I liked.

In this case, the positive also becomes a negative. When we’re taken through the viewpoints of many characters, the narration becomes a tad confusing, a tad slow. It works to the most part, but not completely. It’s a heavy read though it’s a thriller. And that heaviness isn’t changed by the ending, which feels hopeful but doesn’t carry through after the read ends.

Did I love it? Yes. I did. If there was a paperback of the same, it’d be on the bookshelf with some of my favorites.


A rating of 8/10
A rating of 8/10

Book Details:
Title: A Vision of Angels
Author: Timothy Jay Smith
ASIN: B00DONHZZI
Genre: Thriller
Publishers: Owl Canyon Press via Amazon
Price on Amazon: INR 295

 


This is an author-requested review, given for a review copy of the book, but no other payment.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.


Shared with First Reads Challenge at b00k r3vi3ws


(Oct 2nd, 2013)