Monthly Archives: March 2011

Book Review of “Gone” By Jonathan Kellerman

Gone

By Jonathan Kellerman

Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series never misses out on action, adventure and thrill.

Gone is a good mystery plot.

A naked girl is found running across the road seeking help. Finally she manages to get an old truck driver to help her. She claims that she along with her boyfriend had been abducted. They even have some marks to prove it. Turns out that this pair (Michaela Brand and Dylan Meserve, twenty something year old acting students of an LA acting school) was seeking their “15 seconds of fame” by pulling up a hoax. But all said and done, the authorities press charges and Alex Delaware (an LA child psychologist and a consultant to the police) is on the case to examine Michaela Brand’s psychological state. A plea deal is eventually reached and life seems to come back to normal- until Michaela is found murdered. And Dylan Meserve goes missing.

Things go haywire from then on.

LAPD detective Lieutenant Milo Sturgis seeks Alex’s help as the body count increases. Seems like the serial killer on the loose must be put to rest. Everyone is under surveillance – from the students to the owners of the acting school to acquaintances to relatives – everyone.

As tempted as I am, I won’t be giving out the climax. Yeah thank your stars I’m not spoiling the suspense.

The characters of Alex and Sturgis show depth and a lot of development. Together they combine intellect and experience to solve cases that seem as complex as finding a needle in a hay stack. (Oh never mind the cliché here.)

Their friendship brings in warmth and fun. Their personal lives bring in a lot of drama and of course smiles.

It is not as predictable as it may seem. You are sure to be surprised at the revelations.

Gone is high on intensity, drama, suspense and thrill. Apart from the forgivable long descriptions of people, places etc. by the author, Gone does make for a great read. The plot is taut and it literally keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Kellerman seems to get better and better with each book. No wonder each of his Alex book (compelling and psychologically deep) eventually ends up being a bestseller.

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Book Review of “Chai For Beginners” By Jane Ainslie

Chai For Beginners

By Jane Ainslie

 

This really was an easy-breezy read. And quite impressive.

Sita Sinclair’s life is falling apart – she is dumped by her boyfriend (Mark) and also lost her job – thanks to Mark again. He was a client of the ad agency where she worked, and on leaving her (for another “cow”) he managed to get the agency “let go” of Sita – to avoid awkward situations/meetings.

Life in Sydney (Australia) is not the same for this twenty-seven year old. She manages to get herself a new job at Duncan & Associates Direct Marketing Agency and of course very nice new colleagues – Gerome and the handsome art director from Scotland, her new love. Gerome helps Sita find a new house at Glebe Point Road. The apartment is everything anyone could ever dream of. Fully equipped, spacious and serene. Sita ends up meeting her next door neighbor – Mrs. Sharma, an Indian.

Their friendship develops over cups of Indian “chai” (tea) and before long they become good pals talking about India, its customs and its vibrancy. Mrs. Sharma’s kids, now settled in different parts of Australia, seldom visit her or pay attention to her wishes. But in Sita she finds a companion. And Sita too begins to learn about her namesake in The Ramayana, the different parts of India and much more.

Mrs. Sharma and Sita plan a trip to India together but Mrs. Sharma dies of a heart attack a bit before they embark on their journey. And as she lay on her death bed –she entrusts Sita (and not her children) with the task of taking her ashes to India and putting them in the flowing Ganges.

Sita is bound by her promise and considers it her duty to fulfill Mrs. Sharma’s last wish. Though very scared of traveling alone and very skeptical about India and Indians in general, Sita finally flies off to Delhi with all her essential “life-saving” necessities, courtesy Gerome and Lawrence; and of course the motivational boost by Callum.

Sita’s visit to India opens up her heart, mind and soul. Her journey and her experiences are very beautifully described. Having seen those places personally I could visualize the entire setting. And it was a lovely experience.

I also liked the part in chapter three where Sita fixes an appointment with Charlotte Clearwater, a healer and counselor. Charlotte’s insight to the theory of Karma is so easy to understand. “The law of Karma is like the law of Physics.” I remember those same exact words being told to me by a spiritual healer recently. And reading this novel re-enforced my belief and faith in my spirit guides. There is no direct connection in here – it is just that instances shared and experienced by Sita reminded me of a certain journey that helped me grow emotionally and spiritually.

The writing is crisp; the plot is unique; and the characters all feel very real. Gerome comes across as a friend that everyone should have. Ever helpful and funny. His partner Lawrence is always supportive and as helpful. Sita is like every other girl who has been in love and unable to move on (for a while) after a break-up. Her fears, worries and thoughts are relatable and so are her apprehensions towards certain places/people.

It is a moving (and fast paced) story taking the reader from Sydney to New Delhi to Varanasi to Mt Abu without any loose strings. Spanning different continents, cultures and colors, it leads to self discovery and growth of Sita’s emotional self. It focuses on her spiritual growth and helps her grow as a person and as a traveler too. The metamorphosis of the character is done with ease and precision. I’d say do give this a read. It won’t take much time and it surely will entertain you. Jane Ainslie surely captured a fine essence of India – right from the cover page till the very end.

 

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Interview with Aditya Sudarshan

We did not know much about this brilliant, “new-age” author, Aditya Sudarshan, apart from the fact that he has penned two books – A Nice Quiet Holiday and Show Me A Hero; written a play, Sensible People, and several short stories and television scripts. He also writes literary criticism for The Literary Review and other publications. Having reviewed his second novel – Show Me A Hero recently, we managed an interview with the tall, dark and handsome young man.

Describe Aditya Sudarshan in three words
An ordinary guy.
From law to writing, what triggered the break-through?
It wasn’t a breakthrough so much as a gradual process, of realizing where my interests lay. I used to write on the side during law school (I wrote my first novel in my final year) and then also during the nine months that I was practicing law. By then, I knew that I was quite deeply invested in fiction writing, that I had a feel for it, and it was important that I should focus on it. And after I got my first novel accepted for publication it gave me the confidence to make the actual career shift.

Most young “new-age” authors steer the safe route by choosing contemporary fiction and write clichéd stories, but your novels – A Nice Quiet Holiday and Show Me A Hero are both murder mysteries. What tempted you to start off with this genre?
When I began writing, I didn’t think much about the question of genre- I just wrote what attracted me at the time. I find suspense and mystery very effective as moods- as the colouring of a story. And I also like exposition- to be able to deliberately engage with strange and striking human behaviour, and try and explain the secrets of it. Crime fiction (at least traditionally) encourages not just raising questions, but also answering them- or trying to. That’s the sort of challenge I enjoy.

Which of the two novels was easier to write?

I would guess the first novel, A Nice Quiet Holiday, because it is less complex than the second and I wrote it more instinctively. I think first novels tend to be more fluent in the writing (maybe not in the reading.)

Any aversions from the critics that you faced for any of your books?
There have been positive and negative reviews, but the truth is that most critics haven’t engaged with either book enough to talk in terms of either acceptance or aversion.  This is nothing to do with my writing in particular either- it’s a general malaise. Our English fiction critics are pretty poor at handling ideas. Unless they have guidance from elsewhere- which they won’t, for a home-grown, non-big-ticket book- they don’t seem to consider it their job to engage with the substance of a story. Instead, they concentrate on language, ‘literary-ness’, sentence construction, style- and invariably these things hi-jack the more basic and in my view more fundamental issue of what a book is saying. Perhaps this stems from the perennial doubts about the ‘correct’ use of English and the validity of English writing in India- but whatever be the reason, it’s a crippling state of affairs. You can’t get anywhere if you are forever wondering whether the right foot goes first or the left.

What’s your take on the current literary scene in India?
I can speak about Indian English fiction. The scene is poor. There are the ‘youth novels’, the lad-lit and the chick-lit, which are commercially successful, but are written by authors who aren’t really writers and read by an audience that doesn’t really read. But that’s all fine- that’s not what makes the scene poor. What makes it poor is that among the set of people who do genuinely love books and writing- and who use English as a first language- there is a tremendous lack of confidence. This is the community which should be expressing itself, talking to itself, creating a deep body of work- but unfortunately, an intellectual dependence on the West and a general sense of self-loathing have prevented that from happening. It’s a sure sign of weakness when you are always clamouring for the ‘next big thing’- instead of putting your head down, introspecting, and just doing the actual work.

Name one book (or author) that has had the most impact on you?
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays.

What next do we see from your desk?
At the moment I’m writing a play. Plays are difficult to publish, but hopefully it can get produced.

 

 

From law to writing murder mysteries to plays to televeision scripts; Aditya seems to be well versed with the art of capturing the attention of his audience. We surely look forward to reading more of his work. And a chance to watch the plays.
To know more about Aditya, check out his
blogs/reviews.

 

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Book Review of “R” Is For Ricochet By Sue Grafton

“R” Is For Ricochet

By Sue Grafton

I don’t know what to say about this one. Grafton has delivered stupendous work in the past (and hopefully will keep doing so) but R for Ricochet got a bit messed up I believe. There is a bit too much going on in here – and it is not all that captivating.

Santa Teresa detective Kinsey is hired by a wealthy man Nord Lafferty to drive his daughter (Reba) home from prison.

Reba has been a brat – a spoilt child. Now that she is released, her father is concerned and wants her to stay away from trouble. She had committed a fraud and admitted the crime, for which the judge had given her a four year sentence, but she is released early for good behavior.

Kinsey and Reba talk, share stuff and crib together and of course become friends.

Reba admits to her gambling habits. She promises her parole officer she would stay off gambling and drinking during her parole time.

Kinsey takes Reba for dinner that evening where they bump into Reba’s ex-employer Alan Beck. Kinsey realizes this is a set up. Beck was the one who put Reba in the prison in the first place. She pretends to leave but hides and watches Reba and Beck making love in the backseat of Beck’s car.

Reba wants to elope with Beck but the cops are closing in on Beck for some money laundering stunt.

Kinsey’s baby-sitting task turns out to be a bit more complex – like her other cases.

A fed agent visits Kinsey and wants her to convince Reba to turn witness for the FBI and put Beck behind the bars for all his hideous acts. He even has photographs of Beck in bed with another woman.

Reba decides to avenge herself (after seeing the proofs) but the feds want things their way. Kinsey to tries to coax Reba to listen to the authorities before things go out of control and she is put back into the prison.

This suspense-thriller, set in the 80’s, lacks the usual action. Not to say there is none – but I liked the earlier series better. This one has many predictable parts. The characters have been etched fine and you do end up caring for Reba. She is fun, reckless and seems hopelessly in love. Kinsey is more mature and serious and also gains a love interest in this one.

But there was no fun in knowing about Kinsey’s old landlord/neighbour’s love interest; or his brother’s case; etc.

Read it only if you have bought the book. Else skip it – no loss.

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Book Review of “The Defector” By Daniel Silva

The Defector

By Daniel Silva

 

The Defector looks like Silva’s best and strongest work in the action/adventure genre.

Gabriel Allon – a tough (yet sympathetic) art restorer and preeminent Israeli secret agent, is sent on a secret mission – to get back a man he previously rescued, who is now kidnapped by a Russian arms dealer.

First time readers of Silva’s work will have no trouble catching up with the plot as there is enough background detail to illustrate the real motive of the actions of all the characters and the plot.

The author’s impeccable writing skills bring in a horde of suspense and thrill and unending excitement with splendid twists, keeping the pace of this multi-continent mission sleek and fast. The rich content and quality of the otherwise stereotypical Russian military show a new flavor of his writing and ideation.

Tension builds with every word. The plot is captivating and definitely thrilling.

Apt descriptions and believable plots/situations/characters make it a quick read for all of Silva’s fans. His brilliance in portraying emotions, motivation and appeal are simply aweinspiring.

The compelling political backgrounds; the complex yet charismatic character of Allon; the appealing characters; the links and revelation of plots – sometimes seem predictable but they still seem better off than many other thrillers provided by other authors.

 

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Book Review of “Promises In Death” By J.D. Robb

Promises In Death

By J.D. Robb

 

This one scores as one of J.D. Robb’s really intense and well balanced work spun with a lot of emotions and meaningful interactions.

Detective Amaryllis Coltraine is murdered with her own weapon right in her building. What makes the case all the more special is that Coltraine isn’t just a cop, but Morris’s girlfriend. Clues lead to everyone who was close to and trusted by Coltraine.

Detective Eve is set to solve the mystery with additional pressures of having to disclose the death of Coltraine to Morris and also host Louise’s bridal shower.

The book features Eve’s evolution as a person – focusing on relationships, striking a balance between friends and profession and opening up to people.

Other highlights of the story include – Roarke and Eve’s ever evolving relationship; hilarious moments shared by friends during the bridal shower (and otherwise); and the touching and emotional moments that Morris undergoes.

A fantastic read for all Robb fans.

 

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Book Review of “One Afternoon” By Roma Bansal

One Afternoon

By Roma Bansal

 

Never judge a book by its cover…and don’t just buy it ‘coz its cover page is glamorous enough! The ideation is bold and readable.

A slow start with complex sentence formation, but a clear thought process (reflecting a bit later) makes the book readable.

For Amdavadis, the situations, places and people would be relatable but for others it might take a bit of time to get into the setting.

The story is about – Ria and her flamboyant ways of life vis-à-vis uptight Radha. It takes the reader through the highs and lows of a relationship, penetrates into the only real thing called “love” and depicts Roma’s perception about women and their emotions.

It is a slightly unconventional story (of same sex love) with a conventional climax, portrayed with utmost lucid ideas, considering the backdrop of a highly conservative city (Ahmedabad).

The characters are pretty real and relatable, all with ample of freedom of expression given to all. No sleazyness reflects in the explicit sexual glory that advance boldly as the plot progresses, maintaining the Indian sensibility throughout.

A good effort to break open the chains of social and moral perspectives that still exist in our society.

 

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