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Book Review of “Prey by the Ganges” by Hemant Kumar

Prey By The Ganges

By Hemant Kumar

A gripping tale of friendship, resistance, endurance, power, corruption, and the courage to beat it all, Prey By The Ganges is the debut attempt of Hemant Kumar. And what a debut!

This clearly is among the most captivating books I’ve read in a long time.

Set around the Independence era, the book offers a very real and earthy image of India (esp. Bihar) back then.

This book certainly has it all. From a very invigorating book cover, to the heart-felt and wondrous acknowledgement that got me hooked to the author’s narrative skill, to the story of course.

The taut and gripping plot makes this book “unputdownable”! So, the story opens with the gruesome death of Ravi, Vaidya Shambhu Nanadan’s best friend (in fact the only friend) near the banks of the holy Ganges. Shambhu, accompanied by a very loyal and trust-worthy servant Hariya see Ravi brutally beaten by dacoits. Ravi breathes his last in Shambu’s lap.

The story traces their backgrounds and the reason of Ravi, Shambhu and Hariya being near the river on a full-moon night. Shambhu sets out to complete Ravi’s initial set plan, and to seek answers from the murderer and yes, to avenge the death of his friend. You witness the story of the feudal lords – the two brothers – Thakur Gajanan Singh of Narainpur and Thakur Suraj Singh of Janak Ganj, who thrive on power and lust and emotions that rule the head not the heart; the glamorous thakurain catching the fancy of most men; the mystery of the diamond…and oh so much more!

I do not plan on giving out any details. It is for you to pick up and read and find out. With its language so rich and lucid that it makes you read without a break; a plot so thick that it engulfs you in its depth; suspense and thrill so mesmerizing that keep you at the edge of your seat as you turn the pages; and the characters so real that one could almost see them around you; the book delivers the satisfaction (of reading a thriller) to the tee!

It was a pleasure reading this book. And I, for one, look forward to the sequel.

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Controversial Books

The Macmillan Dictionary describes the word “controversy” as: a disagreement, especially about a public policy or a moral issue that a lot of people have strong feelings about.
Now to think that a book can cause a disagreement about social or moral issues is not all that astounding. Don’t get me wrong, but the multitude of such books has only risen with time. I know we say we don’t need reassurance from anyone regarding our selection of reading/writing books and our interpretation, but some books seem to have unknowingly fueled such flurry among society based on their content, the language used, or if there is too much of (graphic) violence and/or sexual descriptions, traces of racism, religious degradation or extreme political views and opinions.

Some books that I happened to come across include:

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail
A non-fictional read, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, the book states that Jesus was not divine, married and had sex with Mary Magdalene, had children by her, and that these children or their descendants emigrated to Gaul (France), and founded the Merovingian Dynasty, which has two of the most famous Frankish kings, Charles the Hammer, and Charlemagne.

Now, this is sure to upset a lot of Christians, obviously. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the authors backed their information with hard facts. But sadly, all information gathered by them was dubious and notorious.

 

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

 

Surprised? Well, I was too.

Written by Mark Twain, the book has seen the usage of the word “nigger” quite frequently. No wonder this one ranks high amongst the list of book banned by schools. Due consideration should be given to the fact that at the time Mark Twain wrote the book, the word was the most common vernacular used for black people.
Also, the story shows Huck faking his own death, befriending a slave, and they both set out to seek liberation. Issues of equality, justice, human rights surface this children’s book, contrasting childhood dreams and harsh realities of life, mixed with some coarse language makes this one quite controversial.

 

 

The Catcher in the Rye

Written by J.D. Salinger, the book was intended for adults, but many teenagers ended up enjoying the classic because of its central character Holden Caulfield. He represented everything “anti-right” –he became an icon for defiance and rebellion.

Alcohol abuse, prostitution, sexuality, defiance, alienation, blasphemy, undermining of family values and moral codes, offensive language, premarital sex. Aren’t those sufficient reasons for banning this classic novel?

 

If I Did It: Confessions of a Killer

 

 

So O. J. Simpson swears that he did not commit the crime he was accused of, but the description of Simpson’s “hypothetical” scenario is so perfect and pristine that it’s as good as the actual confession. He puts forth the case that had he done it, this is how he’d do it. How weird is that?!

 

 

The Satanic Verses

By far, one of the most controversial of all books –for its controversial topic of course. The mighty unrest this one caused goes beyond measure.
Salman Rushdie tells the story of making an alternate Prophet Mohammad –a dispute between fact and fiction. The book was considered blasphemous since Rushdie referred to the Prophet Muhammad as Mahound, which is the medieval name for the devil.
In Pakistan, there were riots in 1989 over the book where a few people were killed, and many were injured in India. In spite of Rushdie issuing an apology, the Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the author publicly, and went to the extent of putting a $1 million bounty for killing the author, increasing that to $3 million if the assassin was Iranian. Even Venezuelan officials threatened 15 months of prison for anyone who owned or even read the book. Japan imposed a fine on anyone selling the English edition and a Japanese translator was said to be stabbed to death for getting involved with the book. Major U.S. booksellers removed this book from the shelves because they received death threats. Rushdie himself lived in hiding for almost a decade. Such was the animosity towards the book, and in a way it makes it all the more appealing. Despite all this the book was still listed for the Booker Prize in 1988!

 

American Psycho

 

This satirical novel, by Bret Easton Ellis, highlighted the farce nature of the yuppies in America through the story of Patrick Bateman, an insane yuppie and a serial killer. Upon its release, the book garnered huge controversy due to its extreme levels of graphic violence and sexual torture.

 

 

The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s book gives a fictional account of characters revealing a hidden truth concealed by the Catholic Church for centuries, including the divinity of Christ, his celibacy, and the possibility of a genetic heritage. So why wouldn’t it be controversial?!
Many complained that the book has misinterpreted the history of Roman Catholic Church and the basic questioning of the tenets of Christianity. The book was also criticized for inaccurate description of history, geography, European art, and architecture. The book and the movie ended up topping the charts.

 

 

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou’s autobiographical work gives an account of her childhood and youth filled with trauma, tragedy, frustration, disappointment and eventually independence. She describes the racism she and her grandmother encountered, in spite of her grandmother being richer than her white counterparts. She describes how she was raped when she was just eight years old by her mother’s boyfriend and how her grandmother’s influence helped her overcome the hardships in her life.

So what caused the controversy? The graphic nature of the book, depicting details of abuse and rape.
This book was also nominated for the National Book Award.

 

Lolita

Published in 1955 in France, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita caused a storm of controversy that still shadow the book.

This novel explores the mind of a pedophile (Humbert Humbert), who narrates his life and obsession for nymphets like the 12-year-old Dolores Haze.
The book was banned in France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina. But in America, it was a huge success and is said to be the first book since Gone With The Wind to have sold 100,000 copies in the first three weeks.

 

Brave New World


Aldous Huxley’s most popular novel published in 1932 showcases Huxley’s vision of a future based on science and technology. The novel depicts drugs, sexuality, and suicide and reveals Huxley’s disdain for the culture of the United States. People challenged and tried banning the book on grounds of highlighting and accentuating negativity.

 

Then there are books around religion and divinity that have been the subject of discussions all around, like The Book of MormonThe God Delusion, The Quran and The Holy Bible.
If you know of any, please let us know. You may add them here in the comment box below.

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Book Review of “2nd Chance” By James Patterson with Andrew Gross

2nd Chance

By James Patterson with Andrew Gross

 

2nd Chance is a fast-paced thriller by the master of thrillers – James Patterson.

A sequel to 1ST TO DIE, this one definitely is a potboiler.

This Women’s Murder Club series gets more and more gripping with each offering it seems.

For those who don’t remember (or don’t know) The Women’s Murder Club consists of Lt. Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department, reporter Cindy Thomas, assistant D. A. Jill Bernhardt, and medical examiner Claire Washburn. This highly-motivated women’s group solves the ghastly crimes of San Francisco.

This time the action tends to revolve around Boxer.

She is taking a break after resolving a case (from the previous book) and undergoing a personal tragedy. Her vacation is interrupted by the news of an eleven year old girl being shot, in a mad shooting spree in a local church, in downtown San Francisco. And she has to rush back.

With tremendous political pressure all around, (since it appears to be some sort of racially motivated killing) Boxer turns to her Women’s Murder Club to seek help. Things change hereafter.

The killer seems to have a much deeper motive. But the women have no clue except a symbol – “Chimera” representing the lowest criminal element within the state’s prison system.

Tracing back to a previous “suicide” case – where an African American woman hung herself, the presence of a “chimera” seems to be their clue. This woman was the widow of a former police officer of the San Francisco police department and in the new case, the uncle of the young girl was a cop too.

It is further revealed that Boxer’s dad, an ex-cop, is linked to the killer’s past and he re-appears after having deserted his family for about 20 years. Soon the women of the murder club become the next target.

This book has ample focus on the individual lives of the women in the club. You begin to love and care for them. Boxer’s past that disturbed her deeply is brought to light. It is good to know the female POV on the crimes – lending it an emotional touch.

I particularly liked the fact that in this book more light was shed on the personal lives of the murder club women making us care for them, and allowing us to relate to them as individuals who, in spite of their smartness, are as vulnerable as anybody else.

Lindsay’s personal story is highlighted by her having to come face to face with her dreaded past. A seamless interaction is exhibited between her past and the present through her father. She continues to face her share of life threatening moments and has her loved ones by her side to rely on.

The characterization is realistic and strong. The plot is tight. The dialogues are sparkly. The chapters are short. The mystery is gripping. A spray of false leads and twists and weird clues make this a page-turner.

Again, JP’s signature style of writing – short sentences and short chapters, with different POVs, make this a fast paced and an easy read. Co-authored with Andrew Gross, the story does dip in some places. But yes, I overlooked those.

Patterson’s Alex Cross series and The Women’s Murder Club series (mostly) deliver what they promise – a good chilling thrill. It keeps you on the guessing (almost) to the very end. The series is addictive. Somewhat like the Alex Cross series.

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Book Review of “Naked Prey” by John Sandford

Naked Prey

By John Sandford

What a brilliant thriller! The Prey series definitely bring about the adrenaline rush while reading.

Lucas Davenport is seen working for the Minnesota Governor, solving complicated and sensational crimes. He is also a family man now –with a pretty wife and a lovely child.

Things get shaken when bodies of a black man (Jane Warr) and a white girl (Deon Cash) are found hanging from a tree, in the woods of northern Minnesota.

Lucas and his partner, Del Capslock, rush to the scene and so do the local sheriffs, and a few FBI guys. Soon an arrest is about to be made. But the suspect and his wife are found murdered.

Lucas returns to Broderick (a small town in Northern Minnesota) tracing a killer only to find that the town is pumping more crime and corruption than anyone can think. So much so that the homicide is linked to other criminal acts spurting around.

This one an international labyrinth of stolen cars, drugs, gambling and kidnapping.

Along comes Lettie West– a twelve year old trapper who cares for her alcoholic mother – being victimized not once but twice. It is she who becomes the main crime solver towards the end.

Sandford delivers yet another astounding read. The plot is complex, sharp, interesting, thrilling and captivating. The characterization is strong. The way she talks; her attitude; tough exterior hiding the heart of a child longing for love and concern; adds up to make her character one of the most likeable ones. Lettie is a dearie. A great addition to the series.

We also get a glimpse of Lucas’ softer side. The richest cop (since he also designs computer games) is as loving and caring as a father ought to be. A side which we hardly came across earlier.

The murder scenes actually send a shiver down your spine. The pace is terrific. The background details are just perfect. Intervened with sub-plots, surprises, twists, felony, deaths, murders, chase and revenge, this contemporary detective-crime-fiction page-turner, scores high as a “must read”.

 

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Book Review of “Gone Tomorrow” By Lee Child

Gone Tomorrow

By Lee Child

A high caliber “brain candy” – yes that is what Jack Reacher’s “expeditions” turn out to be eachtime he ventures out with his lonely muscular self, and of course his tooth-brush!
The author churns out yet another gripping story set in New York this time. Jack Reacher finds himself seated in front of a woman (on a subway) who fits perfectly in the (14 point) visual checklist for a suicide bomber. He tries talking to her to extract information but it turns out that the lady is carrying a gun with which she eventually shoots herself in no time. What follows is aseries of twists and surprises and a roller coaster ride to find the truth.

Reacher is the kind of man all women dig. A retired army officer so to say but more of a bad ass with a lot of blood on his hand. All with maximum efficiency – minimum remorse.

Lee Child is a master writer. His crisp, impeccable language with intricate detailing take thereader on a different trip altogether. He mesmerizes you into reading the entire book asap to know how it all ends.The character of Reacher is so well etched that makes you pick up the books just to seewhere Jack lands himself this time and how he uses his brute force, mastermind (that can do complicated math in a jiffy and quote some laureates verbatim!) and wits to solve complexities. Honestly, the story is just about average, but it is the addiction for Reacher’s art of getting into solving complex crimes that makes one pick up the book.

And it’s all worth it!

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Book Review of “Deliver Us From Evil” By David Baldacci

Deliver Us From Evil

By David Baldacci

 

 

Looks like David Baldacci got his characters researched and etched right in his mind before penning them for his fans.

This fast paced murder-mystery-crime tale has all the excitement and action you’d wish for.

The main character is a notorious man involved in all the wrong things (of course) who has no idea that two furtive people, with their own agenda, are sneaking up his path. The suspense is too rousing to be let out here.

The spine-tingling plot is sprinkled with ample of brow-raising events and emotions, making it quite an interesting read.

Baldacci’s writing makes it very easy to visualize the events as they happen. This surely is one heck of a thriller released this year!

 

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Book Review of “Wicked Prey” by John Sandford

Wicked Prey

By John Sandford

 

Wicked Prey is a very interesting account of Lucas Davenport and his skills as a detective. This fast paced, intriguing, action thriller is one of Sandford’s best.

The story revolves around three different crimes, one of which targets his daughter (foster child he adopts in the previous book).

There is a gang of armored car robbers looking for a big score; a man with a rifle looking for weaponry for a 750 yard shot; and Randy Witcomb looking to settle some previous score with Davenport.

The characterization is unbelievably true, the writing style impeccable and the plot – just awesome! The strong strategy and mind-work of Davenport keep the action running.

The violence, the language and the setting make the reader visualize the scene to the tee. The plots are garnished with clever and curt humor that keeps the reader hooked on till the very end.

Must commendable – the author’s skill of serving the background of each character without hampering the pace or taste of the plot.
A pretty good read.

 

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