Monthly Archives: February 2011

Book Review- “Change of Heart” by Jodi Picoult

Change of Heart

By Jodi Picoult

Essentially a fiction writer, Picoult picks up controversial topics for people to either dig deeper into the subject, or simply enjoy a highly entertaining read. Must say, Picoult’s in depth research before penning down the story or the characters (almost) authenticates the subject to the tee, making the viewpoints of the experts (in the story) (almost) credible.

This thought-provoking novel features a mix of stories. June Nealon has an eleven year old daughter (Claire) who is in dire need of a heart transplant.

 

June is desperately seeking a donor. And the one available is a death row inmate- I.M. Bourne a.k.a. Shay Bourne.

But here’s a twist. Shay is the same guy who had killer June’s ex-husband (a case of drunk driving) about ten years ago.

While in prison, Shay is known to have conducted miracles – like turning water into wine, reviving a dead bird, healing terminal illness, making him almost a “messiah”.

June is stunned and confused about the offer. But can’t seem to let go of what seems to be the only chance for her daughter’s survival.

The only thought she cannot fight is – whether she can forgive the killer of her ex-husband (and younger daughter) and accept his organ to save her dying child?

(I did not understand how an adult’s heart would match that of a minor?)

One incredible factor attributing to the success of this novel is the inclusion of Gnostic texts – namely the Gospel of Thomas that is not a part of the Bible, since it was believed to be written after 175 AD. Though somewhat misleading in claims, the work comprises 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Shay Bourne is portrayed as a man eerily similar to that described in the Gospel of Thomas.

Picoult does a good job of gripping her readers while striking the emotional cord through the short chapters of the book. She weaves in moral dilemma, courtroom drama, death penalty, crime, with surprising twists and ease – with the central theme of restorative justice.

The story is seen from different viewpoints which keep the pace going.

The characterization could have been a bit more developed, but that’s just my point of view.

But as Picoult puts it, in the bold, high-concept idiom of movie ads: “Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy’s dying wish?”

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Book Review- “Dark slayer” by Christine Feehan

Dark Slayer

By Christine Feehan

Forever evolving the Carpathian series and raising the bar for herself, Feehan has managed to stick another feather in her cap with the Dark Slayer.

Dark Slayer is darn unique compared to the rest of her ‘Dark’ Carpathian books. This one has the villain Razvan capture the spotlight along with leading lady, vampire slayer Ivory Malinov. An atypical pair with interesting backgrounds and dark sides. The dynamics between such strong characters is full of substance and emotion that results in a passionate romance and love.

Ivory is a myth, a rumor, a secret whispered about in the dead of night by the Carpathian’s (a race of super natural people who are close to extinction and live in the Carpathian Mountains).
Is she friend or foe? Is she real or legend? And what can she possibly offer the Carpathian people in their hour of need? Will she bring them harm or help them in their most desperate hours?

These lines set the foundation of a thrilling, exciting and action-packed plot that brings in the much needed suspense, drama and of course romance!

The story is mainly about Ivory. She was deceived and left for dead. She ends up spending a considerable amount of time with the wolves. No wonder the magical connection she shared with them made for such an interesting read. Her grit to survive only to seek vengeance makes her the fiercely independent character that she is. And it is not just her physical strength that makes her a heroine – her intelligence and perseverance give her more competence in slaying vampires and unraveling spells than anyone else.

As with all Carpathian’s, she has the potential for one true life mate – the only other person in the world that will complete her.

Razvan turns out to be her true life mate – quite an unexpected, unthinkable but a great turn of fate. It was quite (un)natural to see Ivory discover her feminine side and withdraw in to a shell for a bit.

Razvan was hated by the Carpathian people for his betrayals against them, and Ivory the Dark Slayer, was branded a legend. They are tested beyond endurance and they face seemingly insurmountable odds which bring in mystery, intrigue and paranormal romance in bulk.

The characters of Ivory and Razvan are very strong in their own way. While she is a seasoned warrior, Razvan is the brilliant strategist. Their partnership helps them battle their enemy.

They fall in love as destined. It was not forceful, expected or strategized. Respect, devotion and courage highlight their relationship and they live every moment of togetherness as if it were their last.

The quality of work is consistent and apart from some minor flaws (repetition of incidences), it makes for a great read. It is a very crisp and well written fantasy.

The mythology and world building is imaginative and smart. The beautiful personalities of the wolves and their loyalty to Ivory came out as strong moments.

Coming to Razvan – he’s the sort of character we have hated, loved and pitied in the past. It is commendable how Feehan has turned such a villain into a hero. The backdrop of his story is created wonderfully.

Dark Slayer is a moving, daunting, tempting, emotionally gripping and a fantastic book overall.

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Book Review- “Ford County” by John Grisham

Ford County

By John Grisham

You have to agree that John Grisham is a master storyteller, penning mesmerizing tales that make for a good Sunday afternoon read.

Ford County comprises seven short stories- all highly captivating without an overdose of sex, violence but simple mysteries and puzzles that leave the reader utterly satisfied by the end of it all.

His style of writing, though, regular and weird at times, has a subtle charm to it, making it a page turner. He characters are real, sympathetic, compelling, warm, witty and pretty much relatable. 

 

The common themes and plots are intriguing and believable. Overall, his sense of observation is commendable. Very fine details, that generally are taken for granted by readers and writers alike, are beautifully depicted by Grisham.

The stories – “Fetching Raymond”, “Michael’s Room”, “Quiet Haven”, “Fish Files”, “Casino”, “Funny Boy”, “Blood Drive” – all set in rural Mississippi, bring in a very different feeling with each read. It sparks hidden human emotions enriching the human spirit. They grab attention and keep you hooked on until the last page.


The stories make for an easy read. They are brilliantly engaging and give us a taste of Grisham’s renowned thrillers.

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Book Review- “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes By Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes

By Jodi Picoult

A thought provoking piece by Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes centers around a teenager who goes on a shooting rampage in his school.

Peter Houghton was never the “popular” kid in school. He always ended up being bullied by someone or the other, with no friends to his rescue…rather no friends at all.

 

The story is about how his elder brother never came to his rescue right from the first day of kindergarten; his childhood friend Josie abandoning him to join the “popular” cheerleader gang; his parents not understanding him through his worries. The peak of his patience is reached when he is gravely insulted and he ends up killing about 10 people and injuring 19 others, in nineteen minutes.

Josie’s mother presides over Peter’s trial and as the events are uncovered in search of truth, parents and children are shocked to realize the actions and behaviors that led to it all.

Picoults tact of smooth prose and driving narrative pace is one of the reasons it is difficult to put the book down once you start reading it. She portrays the emotional battles of the all the characters realistically, with a lot of ease.

The ideation though simple was delivered in a very impressive way. Hoards of emotions were explored addressing sensitive and difficult issues that are usually not discussed openly in the fear of bringing them to reality.

She spins a grasping tale of intolerance, fear, horror, insight, rage, depression, and varied other emotions that people generally choose to ignore.

The author’s extensive research on the subject reflects in the sensational plot (based on true scenarios). She coaxes readers to address issues that affect society at large.

Peter was driven into a situation where he took extreme violent measures. Had someone lent him a listening ear, or helped him overcome his fear, or stood by him, the tragedy wouldn’t be as drastic.

The book can truly help make the world a little kinder, stronger and maybe more safer for kids to grow up into understanding adults who respect and make space for others.

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Book Review- “No Place Like Home” by Mary Higgins Clark

No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark

MHC is known as the “Queen of Suspense” and rightly so. No Place Like Home is a fast paced riveting suspense story of Celia Nolan and how the ghosts of her past re-visit her.

Celia Nolan and her four year old son Jack think they are going to see a horse show when Alex Nolan (her husband) takes a detour to Mendham. He discloses that he has bought a new house for Celia as her surprise birthday present. Standing in front of the house Celia is speechless – as if living a nightmare. It was her childhood home where she lived till she was ten.

As a child Liza Barton had it all – loving parents, a wonderful house huge with horse stables. But things fell apart. When she was ten, her father mysteriously died and soon after that she caught her step father Ted Cartwright harassing her mother Audrey Barton, and trying to kill her. In an attempt to save her mother Liza, on having grabbed her father’s gun, ended up firing multiple rounds into her mother’s chest and injuring Ted. Though Liza was acquitted by the Juvenile Court, the media branded her as “Lizzie Borden” (the infamous murderess) pointing to the similarity of their names. And the house earned the appellation “LITTLE LIZZIE’S PLACE. BEWARE!”

As on orphan Liza spent time in juvenile shelter till some distant relatives adopted her. They genuinely loved and cared for Liza; and changed her name to Celia Kellogg. After graduating from college, Celia opened a design studio in Manhattan where she fell in love with her first husband Laurence Foster, a philanthropist and a childless sixty-year-old widower, with whom she had a son, Jack. Two years later Laurence dies leaving her a young widow. But on his deathbed he makes her promise him that she would never reveal her true identity (as Liza Barton) to anyone in order to protect Jack from the stigma of her past.

Two year later she marries Alex Nolan.

Now standing in front of the same house Celia can feel her mind shattering as if she is “returning to the crime scene”. She notices the words “little lizzie’s place – beware” painted on the lawn, splotches of red paint all over the house, and a skull and crossbones carved into the door.

Georgette Grove, the realtor, informs Alex about the history of the house. Thanks to a real estate code obligating agents to notify prospective buyers if a house could be considered “stigmatized property”. Soon Georgette is found murdered and Celia becomes the prime suspect. And she, along with her son, becomes the targets of the killers. The body count increases as their local landscaper, Charley Hatch, is found murdered too.

And someone keeps calling Celia over the phone calling her Little Liza. It seems like someone knows about her past.

Celia is hounded by an obsessed, over-zealous detective; and has a reporter, Dru Perry tracking her relatives in Florida. The District Attorney believes that Celia is innocent but his department discovers that she is indeed Liza Barton. She tries many a times to reveal the truth to Alex but never finds the right time. Celia decides to find out why Ted was in the house the night of the tragedy before coming clean to Alex.

As the mystery is finally solved, after an unexpected twist, Celia’s life is no longer the same.

Most of the characters look guilty leaving you guessing till the very end. This intricate mystery, with shady murder suspects, lies and deceit makes for an entertaining thriller. A worthy read.

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Book Review- “Silver Borne” by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne

By Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne is the fifth book in the Mercy Thompson series.

I’d suggest being familiar with the series if you wish to read this one, since this one connects a lot of loose ends from the past, esp. the mate bond between Adam and Mercy and its consequence for Adam’s pack. Mercy and Adam’s relationship is under scrutiny by the werewolf pack. Mercy is known to be witty and bold. But this book highlights another aspect of her nature – love. Mercy is a mechanic in the Tri-cities area of Washington, dealing with the repercussions of being in a relationship with an Alpha werewolf –Adam.

Their relationship is beautifully shown in full swing but they face a fight for dominance from within the pack.

Secondly, the bit about Samuel’s growing depression. Samuel as we know is Mercy’s ex-boyfriend/werewolf/room-mate. Samuel is the son of Marrok. Marrock rules all North American werewolves. Sam is a doctor with the local hospital, but he is on the verge of killing himself. But his wolf over powers him and takes control for so long that Mercy and Bran feel the need to do so. It is surprising how towards the end a fae (and Samuel’s long lost love) saves him.

And thirdly the secret behind the fae book. Mercy seems to have caught hold of the secret fae book which is now desired by the fae queen – creating trouble for Mercy all the way.

There is more momentum in this one than any of the previous four books. Though there aren’t any vampires in this one it makes up with a skin-walker, a pack of werewolves, a fae fairy queen and a grumpy gremlin and many other fantasy creatures to keep up the pace.

The powerful action packed plot and good character development make the story flow seamlessly. Briggs’ taut writing brings in a whole lot of excitement in this supernatural thriller. Uncompromising on quality and immaculately mixing romance, fantasy, mystery, adventure and a lot of action Briggs’ proves her mettle yet again.

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Book Review- “The Whole Truth” by David Baldacci

The Whole Truth

By David Baldacci

David Baldacci’s “The Whole Truth” makes you ponder over the authenticity of news delivered nowadays and the big players behind it all, who fabricate the truth, manipulate public opinion and deliver cleverly crafted lies for maximum media impact.

Multi-billionaire Nicholas Creel, the head of the world’s largest defense conglomerate, Ares Corporation is hell bent in pitting superpowers against one another in the hope of generating an arms race. 

 

He hires a “perception management” team to stir the peace and create havoc. Dick Pender, a former employee in the White House press office, is an expert in perception management.  His motto is: “Why waste time trying to discover the truth, when you can so easily create it?”

Pender hatches a scheme to create an international incident that will result in a number of superpowers on the verge of war. These countries will then increase their defense spending and order weapons and equipment from Ares. Along with his staff, Pender starts planting false stories about the Russians in the news and over the internet. Not falling for this trap are: journalist Kate James, consultant Anna Fischer and operative A. Shaw.

Shaw is a globe-trotting troubleshooter for a shadowy international law-enforcement organization with in depth knowledge of surveillance, hand-to-hand combat, and weaponry that makes him an extremely valuable asset. His strong and physically imposing persona, acting ability, intuitive vision and undying courage have helped him overcome many a dangerous situations.

Award-winning investigative reporter Katie James has turned alcoholic after a traumatic experience in Afghanistan and now works on the orbit desk of the newspaper.

A chance encounter (and escapade) with Shaw, in Scotland, puts James in the middle of the biggest story of her career, that is if she lives to tell it!

The plot is well thought of and delivered with ease. Though a bit complicated and melodramatic it holds a great deal of suspense and thrill. The Whole Truth is a fast-paced, unusual thriller from the desk of an ace writer – David Baldacci.

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