The Great Indian Reading Challenge

BeFunky Collage

 

Its year end and already there are several 2019 Reading Challenges doing the rounds . I am currently reading Gone with the Wind and enjoying it thoroughly. What I love particularly about this book is its narrative that captured the Civil War period so well that it is really informative. Sometimes, fiction teaches us history in ways a history book cannot and sometimes gives us a glimpse of the alternate history which did not make it to the history books….

This spurred in me a renewed interest in picking up some historical fiction from India which I have been meaning to read for a good period of time. Then I got a better idea to draw up a Reading Challenge list where the readers are allowed to pick up only books by Indian writers . And then , I got an even better idea to post it on my blog  so that I have some company (hopefully..) to keep the reading challenge interesting and going on… I would definitely need all the enthusiasm you guys would bring into the challenge to help me complete it . So,here goes my list –

A book in your mother tongue **

A book set in the colonial era

A biography of a leader in post-independence era.

A winner of the Man Booker Prize from India.

A book that made to the Man Booker Prize shortlist from India

An acclaimed debut book of an author

A book that is set in your home state**

A book translated to English from any vernacular language

A book that won the Sahitya Academy Award for English

A book that won the Sahitya Academy Award for any vernacular language**

A book that inspired a movie adaptation

A Pulitzer Prize winning novel

Any work of a Nobel Laureate from India

A graphic novel

A book set during Partition

** The items in the list marked as shown require the reader to pickup a non-English book. For non Indian readers I have included additional options to complete your list of 12 items…

If you are ready to take up the challenge with me please leave a word in the comments section below . I would be thrilled . Now that you are here , just have a look around my blog …..

 

 

 

A quick update on my reading…

Its been a long time since my last post . So , I thought I would just drop by with some updates on my reading . I have shared the TBR books on my bookshelf and Kindle shelf . Do look up these titles – you might get your next read or a list of books to be added to your TBR list . Here we go  –

Books on my Kindle shelf

All the books in my Kindle shelf are psychological thrillers except for The Haunting of the Hill House . Yeah, it is an addiction that I can’t  break 😉

The Good Daughter -Karin Slaughter

The Visitor – K L Slater

The Proposal – S E Lynn

The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

The Haunting of the Hill House — Shirley Jackson

I should say I have not taken to Kindle very well. I made every single purchase here because I couldn’t resist the temptation of a superbly written blurb for yet another psychological thriller (is there anything  that is not a “psychological” thriller nowadays ?? I just don’t get our crime writers’ fascination for the word psychological . Even books with no psychology element come with the description ” a psychological thriller” – beats me!! ) The Kindle copies came at a much better price than the hardcover/paperback and that sealed the deal . But getting the reading done is a different story –   I am currently 10% into the Karin Slaughter thriller, The Good Daughter. Trust me, I have never plodded through a thriller (or any book for that matter) in my life but reading in Kindle is not the same as reading a physical copy and it’s definitely not my style of reading . I am not able to identify the thing that puts me off Kindle but so it is….There is no inclination I-need-to-finish-this-one hookups with Kindle books.  The immersive reading experience that make book-reading an experience by itself is not there for one .  I might pick them up when I have no other books to go to…The Kindle haul has become a costly mistake ( Never again ….) . Currently , my bookshelf too has a good number of books from my pretty long TBR list. I guess that would do for the present. So here are the books from my bookshelf –

Thinking Fast Thinking Slow -Daniel Kahneman

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

Shades of Saffron – Saba Naqvi

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Currently reading) – Rebecca Skloot

Jasmine Days – Benyamin

Until the next post then..

Instructions for a heat wave

One summer morning of 1976, Robert Riordan has walked out of the house under the pretense of buying a newspaper only to not retudownloadrn home. The Riordian children – Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife return home trying to find any slightest clue that could throw some light on the motive/reason for this disappearing act or where to start looking for him. As the story progresses, we get to know about the family dynamics, the personal lives of each Riordian, the past and the secrets it holds…..

Michael Francis’ marriage with Claire is currently going through a rough patch. After being a doting mother to his kids and a devoted wife to him, Claire has begun the process of rediscovering herself and a step towards it she has decided to complete her degree. To say that Michael is not-so-pleased and confused with all the transformation in his household is an understatement – bewildered / clueless would be a better word for it.Nowadays, he is coming to a house in disarray with his wife who has locked herself up in the room with her books with instructions to be called only “in a matter of life or death “. He and his kids (specially) do not have her entire time and attention nowadays – the new Claire has too many demands on her time. The kids are getting used to the idea but Michael cannot easily do so. He suspects that the reason for Claire’s new direction in life is sort of a rebellion against him or maybe there is more to it than some new found enthusiasm for academia and social life…..

Farrell beautifully describes the crisis Michael finds himself in – What he finds hardest about family life is that, just when you think you have a handle on what’s going on, everything changes it.

Monica, Gretta’s favorite has her own domestic hassles which she is trying to right it out but does not seem to succeed at it very well. She is currently living with an antiques dealer and is trying to gel with his two daughters but is clueless as to how to clear the animosity they feel towards her and to win them over. She is determined to live a picture-perfect life and is determined to rough it out …

Aoife, the black sheep of the family has moved to America to lead a normal life like others free from the judging looks of the family. She is a functional illiterate (the descriptions fit the symptoms of dyslexia perfectly!)  working as an assistant to one of the photographers who is expected to manage the financial stuff too .But how could she confide to her employer about her problem? She has learned to manage the cheques by shoving them in a file and putting it out of sight. For her struggle with the written word, she has a stock of reasonable sounding excuses or casual phrases that help her out easily. Even her boyfriend has never come to suspect her. But, how long can she keep up the charade? Won’t it be better for her to ask for help atleast now?

We see that each of them have their own secrets (including the eccentric matriarch of the family), their private struggles in the course of the book. The characters evolve through reminiscences about each other and their shared past and we get to know their past and pivotal incidents that might have shaped the family history. What I absolutely loved about this book was its beautiful language, evoking a vivid picture of the summer long gone. The narrative is fluid despite alternating between past and present. The narrative is interesting with several techniques employed tactfully – memory, perspectives, bird’s eye view of domestic scenes and city life… For me, there were a few instances which I had encountered in my own life and which the author had described perfectly in relation to one of the characters

Along with the Riordan children we get to know a shocking family secret and how they deal with it forms the crux of the story…..

One minor theme that struck a chord with me is that some of us might judge our friends/family quite harshly for their conduct in certain circumstances while our own behavior under similar circumstances might not be very honorable. Yet, we have excuses for ourselves but would vehemently deny others their excuses. Farrell explores several such interesting aspects of relationships and families and it’s a treat to let the story unfold at its own pace. Here are few excerpts from the book that bear testimony to Farrell’s superb narrative

“Strange weather brings out strange behavior. […] so a heatwave will act upon people. It lays them bare,it wears down their guard. They start behaving not unusually but unguardedly. They act not so much out of character but deep within it

She’d whispered, ‘Make it deep,’ to him, before realizing that she’d heard those words before, in similar circumstances. Always strange, to catch yourself echoing your parents’ words, to find experiences coming round again. The same yet different.

Melodrama is her specialty, like the time Aoife returned home from school to discover her mother had been to visit a funeral parlor after finding a lump in her throat. She knew she was dying, she knew this was it, she could feel it in her bones, and wanted a ‘ good send-off’ at the ‘right sort ‘ of funeral home , with plenty of early afternoon slots, so that there was time for a Mass to be said beforehand and time for a wake back at the house afterwards. It was the least she could do for them all. Aoife requested to see the lump, examined the place beside her mother’s collarbone and told her it was an insect bite. […] the first time Gretta had a proper crisis to grapple with, she seems to shrink in the face of it, to abandon all of her usual tricks.

His father minus his mother is an unsolvable equation. His silence is leavened by her loquaciousness, his order and impassivity the counterpoint to her chaos and drama.

For some of the most beautiful quotes on parenthood –

The air for Gretta, still rings with their cries, their squabbles, their triumphs, their small griefs. She cannot believe that time of life is over. For her, it all happened and is still happening and will happen forever. The very bricks, mortar and plaster of this house are saturated with the lives of her three children. She cannot believe they have gone. And that they are back.

[Michael on the passing of infant hood of his children]

[..] he mourned it’s passing too: the sense of the children’s intense, zealous need of you, their overwhelming urge to be near you, to study you,to watch you as you peel an orange, wrote a shopping list, tied your shoes, the feeling that you were their study in how to be human.[..] yes, it’s gone, but life holds other things, when everything changed again.

There were a few narrative threads like Monica’s future which seemed to be an abrupt conclusion which raised too many questions. That is my only complaint with Farrell’s book. It is hinted that the man who went to get newspaper and disappeared finally made his appearance at the last page of the book!!It is a beautiful read and I would urge my readers strongly to pick up the book.

Do share your thoughts on the post or the book in the comments section below.Until the next post then…

 

 

Seriously under-rated Christie must-reads

September 15th being Agatha Christie’s 128th birth anniversary , I  revisited the Christies’ in my bookshelf over the previous week . It might sound a bit odd to revisit mystery fiction when you would already know the culprit but trust me , rereading Christie did not prove to be dull . She managed to throw the spotlight on some of the storytelling elements which had gone unobserved during the fast & furious one sitting read .

Sans the pitfall of too-descriptive / metaphorical  language or other innovative narrative elements/styles of today’s thrillers or the “psychological” elements of the psychological thrillers Christie’s straight narrative still had us hooked to the book even more than books with the above mentioned fuss n feathers . When we hear the name of Christie , some of the most popular titles like And Then There Were None , The Murder of Roger Ackroyd need no introduction for readers .  So , here today, I have a list of some of the most underrated Christie titles which most of us tend to miss out with all the noise the popular titles are making.

sad cypress

#1 Sad Cypress

Elinor Carlisle and Roddy Welman , an engaged couple ,  arrive at Hunterbury Lodge , Mrs. Welman’s estate on receiving an anonymous letter accusing someone of taking advantage of their aunt . Both are looking forward to a substantial inheritance on Mrs. Welman’s demise who is now an invalid following a stroke . Unfortunately , Rodney falls in love with Mary Gerard , the lodge-keeper’s daughter  whom Elinor suspects to be the person whom the anonymous writer meant . Elinor breaks her engagement to Rodney .

When the story begins Elinor is being tried for the murder of Mary Gerard – did rivalry in love prove to be a compelling motive for Elinor as everybody believe ? As Poirot tries to save Elinor from the gallows he uncovers several startling truths ….. Is Elinor truly innocent or a cold blooded murderess?

The solution to the puzzle simply left me speechless . I would strongly urge you to pick up this one .

#2 Sleeping Murder

sleeping murder

Miss Marple’s last case involves solving a ‘sleeping murder’ – a murder that has evaded detection for 18 years . Gwenda and Giles Reed  move into Hillside which turns out to be Gwenda’s childhood home . An evening at the theater triggers a childhood memory of being a witness to a murder – but where? .Who was the victim ? Who was the murderer ? Gwenda draws a blank for these questions except for a single name that she gives for the victim . As  they start piecing together the past they seem to get too close to discovering the murderer’s identity . For somebody who has committed the ‘perfect’ murder , the past should not be dug up and he/she will resort to anything to keep it so – including killing again .

Like  several amateur detectives , the Reeds are gung-ho about snooping around and do not realize the dangers they put themselves into . So, enter Miss Marple , ‘ the perfect Victorian piece ‘  to ‘ look after them ‘ ( to quote her ) . As a crime – Miss Marple realizes the dangers of delving too deep into the past – a murder , more so . But , an unsolved and ( unsuspected ) murder from the past proves to be too intriguing even for Miss Marple ( and not to mention , definitely dangerous )….

#3 Why Didn’t they ask Evans ?

evans

The last words of a dying man ” WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS ” spur Bobby Jones and his friend Frankie into  snooping around  trying to find the identity of the dead man and also , what did he mean by those words ….

Again we have two amateur detectives  here but what made the duo lovable was the fact they did had a good amount of luck in stumbling upon clues and they were like two kids playing the guess-who game – bringing in some good humor , at times  bungling up just like an amateur would ,  putting together pieces when there is a sudden brainwave –  I especially loved Frankie . Let me put it down here that amateur detectives don’t mean no logical explanation to their deductions .  What I love specially about them is that you get a good dose of drama and a change from our very business like Poirot or astute Miss Marple – but still Christie makes sure there is one of the pair who is bright enough to provide the readers with the logical explanations to their findings . The fun-loving sleuths meet their match in a villain who is all at once – suave , diabolical  and blessed with ( equally ) good humor who comes up clean in a most characteristic way … After reading the villain’s confession , I was equally amused with the villain too -we don’t comes across such interesting and if I may say , charming villains often….

#4 Death Comes As The End

the end

Set in 2000 BC Thebes, the story follows a spate of murders in the house of Imhotep, the Ka mortuary priest. It all began with the death of Nofret, his young concubine from Memphis. Her arrival at Imhotep’s house had not been without some animosity . She antagonized Imhotep’s sons and their wives – only the threat of disinheritance seemed to keep Yahmose and Sobek’s wives from bullying her any further. Her death seemed to bring everything back to as it was before Nofret’s arrival –  BUT IT WAS NOT SO .

Soon , as Renisenb , Imhotep’s daughter witnesses , the family members become victims to the unknown murderer one by one – Or is it the vengeful spirit of Nofret exacting her revenge on the family?

Christie puts together a really convincing ,  racy thriller in a timeline that we don’t have much idea about .  I think this book alone can establish  Christie’s unsurpassed mastery in crime fiction writing – I can’t recommend this enough .

Let me know in the comments section which books you loved from the above list if you have already read them or which books are you planning to pick up ? I would love to hear from you guys about your thoughts on the Christies you have read too . I am planning to have the entire month for Agatha Christie themed posts.. Stay tuned !!

 

BELIEVE ME -A review

I have finished J P Delaney’s latest just now – BELIEVE ME . I went into the book with some expectation based on his debut novel THE GIRL BEFORE . But , truth to be said , this has become yet another hastily-cooked-up-second-release-after-a promising-debut book .

Plot summary : 

Claire Wright likes to play other people. For Claire every day events play out like a movie scene in which she is an actor . She is also constantly on the lookout for gestures and nuances – both in others and herself which would be “ gold dust “ for her future roles . Picking up nuances is something that Claire does as everybody breathes , yet consciously she commits these nuances to memory to use them later in the appropriate circumstances – reel or real . An undocumented British drama student , she is employed by a firm of divorce lawyers to get incriminating evidence on straying husbands whose wives are the clients of the firm . Claire ’ s narrative is juxtaposed with movie scene script snippets which is an interesting twist to the regular narratives. She throws up words like jump cuts, montage scenes, acting styles…. – in short , a hardcore passionate student of theater who got her big break not in theater but in assisting the NYPD in unmasking a  killer .

When Stella Fogler is  found murdered in her hotel suite ,  Claire comes under police radar as she was one of the two people who last saw Stella alive .  As we all know , when a married woman is found murdered , its always the husband who becomes  the de facto suspect in the investigation and Patrick Fogler is no different . Patrick is incidentally the only husband who had rebuffed her advances when Claire  has put up her easy pick-up act . When a forensic profiler comes up with what she believes substantial evidence against Patrick Folgate ,  in not one ,  but several gruesome murders , Claire is asked by the police to entice Patrick into revealing his darker side ( is there one first ?? ) .

As Claire begins to forge an intimate relationship with Patrick  and the more she gets to know him , she begins to doubt the police theory and eventually the police force itself . How could such a faithful husband (despite his wife ‘ s doubts ) be a cold – blooded killer? Is there more to this whole ” operation ” as the forensic profiler terms it than what she has been told??

Does she know the actual picture ?

Or

The real Patrick ?

Review :

There are a few elements to the plot which however made the phrases ” No…not again ” , “ seen this before ”  circle my brain while I was reading this book too often . Frankly , this mix always goes for a very predictable ending – the unreliable narrator , the limited number of suspects , the very obvious motive(s) in some cases . It’s no surprise considering that there had been very few jigsaw puzzle pieces and the narrator had to play it up several ways deliberately before putting together the pieces  of the puzzle in the right place .

To begin with, the unreliable narrator trope – it has become something of a rage  staple for almost every ” psychological ” thriller that is being published nowadays . Maybe it goes the other way round too I guess – Get an unreliable narrator for your story and you have a psychological thriller .

It would be really good if our modern day suspense writers try to get the tone of the characters right to set a strong foundation for a psychological premise of the story  instead of relying solely on  the narrator . While Claire seemed to be characterized pretty well , the author hasn’t got the tone right for Patrick .

The book packs good number of twists to keep the reader continuing but the ending became very predictable and few elements were downright stupid . A random character pops up with obsessive tendencies ( however similar it may be to the  profile of the killer ) and attempts a murder . The plot just gets too obvious that I need to get to the final pages for a dramatic ending with the killer and this is just a decoy . If you actually want the reader to fall for your red herring atleast make it sound convincing . Sans motive , sans good number of pages / appearances the red herring becomes laughable .  And red herrings are meant to make the suspense game intense – not defuse the tension .

In all , I am in the mood for a good old fashioned detective story or a regular psychological thriller where the police are in the ground looking for clues and being just in time to foil the killer ‘ s plans for another murder or to simply haul him up reinforcing our faith that justice prevails ( atleast in fiction ) .  The unreliable narrators in the books I have read this year have made me wary of them for some time in the future definitely – the mere idea of yet another makes me run away from whodunits .

Rating :3 / 5

Guys , you can definitely pick up The Girl Before  by the same author . You can read the review here

The Girl Before – A review

Epigraphs

Like all addicts signature killers work from a script , engaging in repetitive behavior to the point of obsessiveness .

Robert D. Keppel and William J. Birnes , Signature Killers

We may say that the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten or repressed , but acts it out . He reproduces it not as a memory but as an action ; he repeats it , without , of course , knowing that he is repeating it .

Sigmund Freud , Remembering , Repeating and Working – Through

______________________________________________

The Girl Before has been literally a (page) – tearing read . The copy had almost every alternate page stuck to the next page  and I was actually prising the pages apart and very often I ended up with torn pages . You can imagine how frustrating it is when you want to race through the pages but you are sitting and carefully prising open the pages stuck together – some way to read a suspense novel … I would not have minded if  it was any other genre.  I guess that ‘ s enough of a rant about the reading woes .

The story alternates between first person accounts from Emma – the Girl Before and Jane – the Girl Next . I picked up this book after Bring Me Back  and found that the same Then and Now style of narrative has been followed here too . There is yet another trope too that has become one of the go-to for suspense writers . Let me give a hint – Gone Girl took full advantage of this trope ( maybe I should say actually popularized this trope ) . Well , you need to pick up the book if you want to find it out – I have a strictly no spoilers policy !!

Plot summary  :

Jane gets a chance to occupy an aesthetic minimalist house . Now , One Folgate Street is a house where you have rules to be followed and any violation of the rules mean termination of the tenancy . The rules are laid out by the architect of the house – a man for whom perfectionism and minimalism are almost an obsession and  One Folgate Street is a reflection of his ideas and aspirations .  Jane discovers that her predecessor Emma  died under mysterious circumstances and starts putting together Emma’s life to  find an answer to the question – What happened with Emma ? Who is actually behind her death ?  Meanwhile we have Emma ‘ s parallel  account of her life at One Folgate Street and the readers get to know the truth behind her death . Jane ‘ s experiences  can be best described as reruns of Emma ‘s . But would Jane stumble upon the truth on time to save herself from the killer ?  Or does the same fate await her ?

JP Delaney has given a  neat psychological thriller – nothing more to say . What I loved about this book was the writing which shows that the topics have been  researched meticulously .  It was really interesting how cultural references took the narrative as well as the plot further .  The author packs a twist in every chapter and  you would be thinking about yet another angle within few chapters almost every time .  The characters , the setting of the story – basically The House and  narrative style have all been handled beautifully . Special mention about The House definitely – it is sure to pique the readers’ interest about minimalism . The reader engagement and the guess-it-who quotient is always maintained . An engaging read from first to last although I found the climax a bit too seen-it-before in other psychological thrillers . But you wouldn’t guess who until Emma finally reveals her killer. The narrators themselves have their own secrets … So , this book actually packs in a lot …

Rating : 4 .25/5

I highly recommend this book for all the suspense / thrillers buffs out there . Along the lines of The Girl in the Window this is another psychological thriller set to hit the screens soon –  You had better hurry up !!

The author ‘ s latest book has  Believe Me has got released recently . I will be reviewing it shortly . Click on the below links to check out the books at Amazon ( for Indian readers ) –

Believe Me

The Girl Before

Other readers can check out the below links  at Amazon –

The Girl Before

Believe Me