Book Review: The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller

Romance is a genre I do not read much. Over the past few years, this novel had been recommended by many friends. But I hadn’t taken it up for reading. When a new friend expressed her admiration for the novel very strongly, somehow I felt drawn to it. The cover art too appealed to me. I bought the book without much thought and started on it.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller”

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Book Review: Private India, by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi

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If you put two brilliant authors together, does the book become doubly brilliant? I hadn’t read my co-authored books before, and when a chance came to read such a book, I jumped at it. Private India is written by Ashwin Sanghi (author of The Rozabal Line) and James Patterson (of Alex Cross series fame). Two good authors, writing a book in the genre I love the most, crime thriller fiction.

Detectives: Private is a private investigation firm with offices in various countries. Santosh Wagh, head of Private’s Indian office is someone who has been traumatized by an accident in his past, and as a result, has become an obsessive drinker. He also has a cane, which kind of reminds me of Dr. Gregory House. He’s friends with the police, has a team which respects him and a team which is equipped in every aspect possible… tech head Hari Padhi who takes any way he can to find a connection, medical examiner Mubeen who has a strong work ethic, Nisha Gandhe who is very observant etc. Frankly, though each of the Private India unit has a notable trait or two, none of them have anything memorable or different in their character. Neither did any of the other characters for that matter.

Victims: Starting with a doctor based in Thailand, the victims feel totally unconnected. I try to find who’ll be next, in such novels. I think not being able to guess that helps in keeping the pages turning. The sub-plot that later connects all the victims felt very odd. A lot of wide open threads sorted out with some very quick thinking. The silver lining perhaps is that the oddness is lost in the fast pace of the ending.

Motive: The motive is the tried and tested one. Revenge is what drives most murders; these are also driven by that. When it is all crystal clear at the end, the motive feels right. It feels believable to some extent.

Pace: The first few chapters have no pace in them at all. It reads very heavy and it made me wonder if I’d finish the book if that was the pace throughout the book. That the book is split into very small chapters makes it no easier to read. Especially with the killer coming in with a first person view chapter in between other chapters that are in third person. Though I have seen that in some Alex Cross novels, I do not feel that it worked in this. The pace does become quicker once we get into the crux of the mystery, but it does get affected by the sub-plot of the planned terrorist attack.

What’s different? The book that I expected would be absolutely amazing ends up mostly falling on its face. The novel is not only about PI investigating a series of murders but there’s also a somewhat unneeded sub-plot where there is an attempted terrorist attack. The villains are somewhat comically named like Munna and Nimboo Baba which end up giving it a very Bollywood-ish feel, even with an interesting connection between the victims by the way the killer leaves his signature. One must be thankful that Santosh Wagh had read a book which explained the 9 Avatars of Durga, and had the presence of mind to realize that a bull’s horns on a Viking helmet could be the similarity between a victim and the first avatar. The way Santosh uses a team of beggars to keep an eye out on the entire city reminds me so much of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars. I still don’t know why a certain character, who dies, had to die. It didn’t make sense to me.

Verdict: Perhaps the book would have been much better had the murder case been developed more, and the sub-plots like the terrorist attack, revenge against Wagh, his memory flashbacks etc. left out. A one-time read, and nothing more than that.


Rated a 6/10
Rated a 6/10

Book Details:
Title: Private India
Series: Private Other Offices
Author: James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi
Genre: Crime Thriller
ISBN/ASIN: 9780099586395
Publisher: Arrow Books / Random House India
Price: Rs. 350

 


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!
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 2014 at Tales Pensieve.


(27th August 2014)

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Book Review: Carry On Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse

I sometimes wonder which author is the best to read in a particular genre. Though there are many authors in fantasy genre, no one feels quite as good as Rowling and Harry Potter. For thrillers, I seek a Lee Child more often than not, because it’s the unruly Jack Reacher that makes thrill feel alive. For humor, there is only one author that comes to mind, and that’s P. G. Wodehouse. The character… why, Jeeves of course!

carry_on_jeeves_wodehouse

I’ve read a couple of Wodehouse books earlier, but I don’t quite remember which. So to read this book was joyous. These are short stories featuring the inimitable butler, and each story is comical. Well, almost. The stories go from when Jeeves first came into the employment of Bertie, to characters that need saving, or even as demonstrated in the opening short story, Bertie himself needed saving.

What makes Jeeves so funny? I can’t quite place my finger on that. Maybe it’s the quiet confidence in what he does, the rummy-ness to his remarks (as Bertie puts it) and the dialogues, oh yes, the dialogues. He’s that perfect English butler to boot. Reading from Bertie’s point of view, sometimes, you even love to hate him. But you can’t really hate him either. And this brings another point into focus. Narration… and how used to a particular narration we can become. And how odd it seems when that is not there anymore.

The last story in the book sees Wodehouse attempting to narrate from the point of view of Jeeves, rather than Bertie. And it works in one way, and doesn’t in another. Whereas it brings about a refreshing change in the narration, it also shows humor doesn’t always work in first person. It doesn’t feel as humorous when Jeeves tells the story. It does have humor, but not as much as when Bertie does it.

A collection of short humorous stories that bring to us, the comedies of an employee who’s not afraid to, and mostly does what he feels is right for his employer. It is enjoyable to the most part, and Jeeves will become a character who will be evergreen in literature I feel.

IN A GIST:
Positives: Humor, likeable characters and light reading
Negatives: The narration from Jeeves’ point of view didn’t work very well.


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

Book Details:
Title: Carry On, Jeeves
Author: P. G. Wodehouse
ASIN: 9780099590743
Genre: Humor
Publishers: Arrow Books
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.


(22nd Nov, 2013)

Book Review: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, by Tarquin Hall

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About the author:
Writer and journalist Tarquin Hall has lived and worked in much of South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the US. He is married to journalist Anu Anand and lives in Delhi. This is the third in his Vish Puri series.

Cover and blurb:
I guess it’s a generic cover for the series, featuring the silhouette of the potbellied, bespectactled detective. The blurb brings an impression of known yet unknown. I feel I’ve read the story somewhere, yet this is the first time I’m reading Tarquin’s writing.

My thoughts on the book:
A crime fiction with an Indian detective written by a foreign author… how different! That’s what intrigued me about the book the most. The cover didn’t appeal, the blurb sounded more humorous than deadly as did the title, so the author’s background added to the little appeal of the humorous plot. I feel crime fiction needs four main things: pace in narration, a good detective, likely suspects and the motive.

Well, there is pace in narration when the case makes a head start, but till then it’s a little slow, and depending on the omnipresent humor to take it along. The sub-case, The Case of the Missing Moustache does make you chuckle, if not laugh out loud, and the introduction to the portly detective and his battle against the weighing scales was also fun.

Vish Puri, the portly unorthodox detective, witty and battling his wife (who calls him Chubby) to avoid a diet, taking on small cases to keep his brain active (reminded me a little of Holmes and his cocaine solution) is a treat to read. He has amusing nicknames for his staff, and very different ways to meet his clients. He has a passion for cricket, and this story has a cricket case in the making for him. Oh yes, he also has a moustache that he grooms to perfection, and is a member of the Moustache Organization of Punjab (MOP).

Suspects… well, this is a long case, and has a sub case, so we are taken on a ride at times by Tarquin, especially across the border. With the recent controversies that brewed in cricket, in the subcontinent, it felt right the way it ended. It felt predictable, but right. I guess you will enjoy this crime a little, though it might make you a little uneasy about butter chicken.

Motive… not sure about the main case, but the moustache case I felt had a seriously funny motive! So partly there yes.

I liked Puri’s character, and his Mummy ji’s character as well. The information on India and Pakistan is also well done. Overall, the book holds you in its humor. I liked it.


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

Book Details:
Title: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken
Author: Tarquin Hall
Series: Vish Puri #3
ISBN: 978-0-09-956187-3
Genre: Crime Fiction / Humor
Publishers: Random House India
Price: INR. 399
 


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 First Reads at b00k r3vi3ws.


(Sept 9th, 2013)

Book Review: Death du Jour (Temperance Brennan #2), by Kathy Reichs

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About the author:
Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec.

Thoughts on the cover page:
Frankly, I’ve seen better designs, and some of the other editions of the book have better covers too. The hand inside what seems like a shallow grave does invoke curiosity but doesn’t do much else.

Impressions from the blurb:
The forensic anthropologist, exhuming a set of remains for non-criminal purposes, later gets called to the scene of an arson case. The case might tie in to the non-criminal thing she was earlier doing, because the blurb indicates a cult activity. It certainly seems to be an interesting plot.

My thoughts on the book:
Never read Kathy’s novels before, didn’t know what to expect, but the plot really caught my attention. This is the second book in the series, so needless to say, I’ve put the first one on my to-read list.

When the story begins, Temperance Brennan is exhuming the remains of a nun whose name has been put for beatification. Reichs, herself an anthropologist, puts a lot of detail into the narration here. The exhumation doesn’t go to plan and she’s there longer than needed. It’s late by the time she reaches home, but she has no time to rest. Her boss calls, tells her there’s a big arson case that needs her attention. She gets picked up early morning and goes to a badly burned down home to find that one of the victims might not be the victim of the fire. From there, she shunts between two cases.

The plus points in the book are its pace and narration. The minus, its flow is somewhat predictable. Unsure if I liked the ending or not. Overall, not a bad book, but I’ve seen better.


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

Book details:
Title: Death du Jour
Author: Kathy Reichs
ISBN: 978-0-0992-5519-2
Publishers: Arrow Books
Genre: Crime Fiction / Thriller
Price: INR. 399

 


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 the First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws.


(May 6th, 2013)

Book Review: Alex Cross, Run (Alex Cross #20); by James Patterson

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About the author:
James Patterson is an American author of thriller novels best known for his series on the fictional psychologist Alex Cross.

My thoughts on the book:
Even when a book is your first of a particular author, if that particular author is a very famous one, there comes along a certain expectation from the book. When I got this book to read, I had an expectation of the book to be a damn good thriller.

We begin with Alex Cross busting two guys, Elijah Creem and Josh Bergman, and in the process, outing them and bringing them into disrepute. The plot then revolves around the two of them seeking retribution, by beginning to kill, and kill at random, however leaving distinct signatures on their victims.

Alex Cross is called to investigate on the first three victims of Creem and Bergman’s killing spree. In the meantime, he’s having problems at home, with his foster child Ava not settling in. Unknown to him, he’s also being stalked by another person who wants to make Cross’ life miserable, and finally end it.

With the “who” and “how” parts of the crime already obvious in the plot, the story depends largely on the “why”. The characters sync with each other, and the personal aspect of Cross’ family life also seems very believable, that such incidents could very well have happened in any other criminologist’s real life.

Positives:
Even with the story dependent largely on the “why”, the thrill factor is quite good. Like the back cover says, “The pages turn themselves”, it flows quite well, and you don’t feel any drag factor whatsoever. I never felt like putting the book down, and finished it quite quickly.

Negatives:
Some parts seem to be left unsolved still. Not sure whether it’s a ploy to continue on to the next novel in the series, but it felt odd to me. These parts though, don’t stand out obviously unless you are looking at it too closely.

Overall:
A real page turner, with nothing much holding it back other than just minute details that may or may not mean much on a larger perspective.


Rated a 9/10
Rated a 9/10

Book details:
Title: Alex Cross, Run
Author: James Patterson
ISBN: 978-0-099-58066-9
Genre: Mystery/Crime Thriller
Publishers: Arrow Books
Price: Rs. 350

 
 


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 the First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws.


(March 5th, 2013)