Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Banana Yashimoto - Kitchen


KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I had wanted to read for a long long time. The price of the book was rather steep and that deterred me from ordering it right away.

I looked for the book in libraries and second hand book shops without any success. Until one fine day I chanced upon an e-book version.

The book came highly recommended and it lived up to the expectations I had built up around it.

Mikage is a young girl who lost her parents very early and lived with her grandmother. When her grandmother also dies, she falls into a sea of despondency. She breaks up with her boyfriend and struggles to pass her days. She finds succor in spending time in a Kitchen. Cooking food, eating and cleaning help her keep her sanity.

Her friend Yuichi helps her by taking her to live with him. He stays with his mother Eriko. Eriko is actually Yuichi's father who is a transgender and prefers to be known as Eriko's mother.

Soon Mikage will have to console Yuichi through very dark times.

The novel is about coping with loss. It is not a cheerful topic. Yet we do not fall into despair while reading the book. The novel works with the idea of dealing with loss instead of falling into darkness, hence it gives us hope, that soon things will be better for Mikage and Yuichi.

The language is beautiful. The story moves lyrically and we are carried along on waves of a beautifully told story.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Arkady Gaidar - Chuck and Geck


Chuck and GeckChuck and Geck by Arkady Gaidar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We know little of world literature. It is not entirely our fault. Very few of the books written in other languages are translated or distributed. One of the offshoots of Communism was the availability of Russian literature. Beautifully produced and translated books in Russian were available at subsidised rates to us. Through one such agency that specialised in Russian Literature - Punjab Book Centre - I read many wonderful books by Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekov, Fyodor Dosteovsky, Maxim Gorky. We may have heard of Tolstoy, but not the others, I am sure, were it not for the 'propaganda' literature distributed far and wide by the Russians.

Among the books scattered around my house, I found this book about two naughty little boys who throw away a telegram by their father. As a result of this, they find themselves in an abandoned camp in Siberia at the end of a very long train journey. The book remained in my mind, a sweet story about two energetic young children and their young mother.

I tried to look for the book, not an easy task when you do not remember either the name of the book, or of the author. On an impulse, a few days ago, I typed the theme of the book into google in an attempt to locate something about the book.

This time, I hit paydirt, and found not only the name of the book and the author, but also a pdf file of the story. I was thrilled. And of course, I read the story through. It was such a sweet little tale of two little boys and their adventures in Siberia.

The book was written by Arkady Gaidar, who wrote several books and was a notable member of the Bolshevik party. He died young, serving his country. From this book, I gauge he was an excellent writer as well.

The story goes like this. Chuck and Geck live in Moscow with their mother. Their father is a Geologist who is away in Siberia. The father wants them to visit him for Christmas and New Year. A few days later he sends a telegram which the children lose.

When they reach the remote camp after days of travel, they find it abandoned. Luckily there is a watchman present. He is a grumpy old man, not pleased by this sudden intrusion. He leaves them at the camp in his hut, with a few provisions and some wood for the fire and goes on a mission.

In his absence the young mother has to work hard to keep herself and the boys warm and fed. They have some adventures too which could turn very serious.

It is a beautifully written book and something all children should read. Alas, it is not a book that we will find on bookshelves of our neighbourhood stores, not any more.

I see that this was made into a film as well. Now my next mission is take a look at the movie as well.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ravi Subramanian - God is a Gamer


God is a GamerGod is a Gamer by Ravi Subramanian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book as a review copy from Vivek Tejuja, though the book is signed by Ravi Subramanian himself. I must confess that Indian writers disappoint me more often than not. Hence I approached the book with trepidation.

It started well. The book was well written. The language was clear and simple. There was no attempt to be 'witty' or 'smart'. This was a relief. Many a good book has been ruined for me because the writer tried to be funny in every sentence. Big Mistake! Not everyone can pull off a P G Wodehouse style.

The story is about three friends, Aditya, Sundeep and Swami. They started their career together at NYIB (New York International Bank). Swami is still with the bank, hoping for the top slot. Sundeep and Aditya have a financial services firm, having left the bank long back.

They find themselves embroiled in a financial scandal of international proportions. There are murders, heists and intrigues that are way over their heads. In fact, the facts are not known completely to anyone.

The story criss-crosses between USA, India and some other countries. There is a cast of characters that include the USA President, Finance Minister of India, FBI, CBI and our 3 friends and their families.

The story goes at a good pace. You are kept turning pages. The explanations are clear and the financial intrigues are understandable to lay readers (for instance, Me!)

Too much information was stuffed into the last chapter. But it did make the story fall into place.

Here is a very very decent thriller by a writer from our own country. We are familiar with many American authors doling out such books. There was a time when I read many of these. But that was when Arthur Hailey and such like ruled the roost. I am not sure who the current hottie is - Lee Child? James Patterson? Some time back I read the "Millennium trilogy" by Steig Larsson. This book falls in the same category.

Bravo! Ravi Subramanian. Keep writing and may you meet great success.

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

Anna Elliott - Pemberley to Waterloo - The Pride and Prejudice chronicles


Pemberley to Waterloo (Pride & Prejudice Chronicles, #2)Pemberley to Waterloo by Anna Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Anna Elliott's Georgiana Darcy's diary. It was among the first books I downloaded on kindle. It was a fun look into the world of Jane Austen.

We look further into the lives of the other characters of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are happy together. Elizabeth is expecting her first child, Jane Bingley has a daughter and is happy in her home.

Caroline is still haughty and aloof, but visits Pemberley from time to time. Georgiana is engaged to Col. Edward Fitzwilliam. They are happy to be together and are looking forward to getting married. But then, Napolean happens. Edward gets called away to serve as the aide-de-camp of the Duke of Wellington.

There is a lot of action and romance in the book. Georgiana takes on the role of Emma at times, playing matchmaker. At times she turns into Florence Nightingale. At times she is just a worried girl pining and worrying for her Fiance.

This book is even more fast paced and action packed than the earlier Georgiana Darchy's diary. The only thing that rankled was how she converts the previously perceived as 'bad' characters into 'good' ones. Spare us the sugar Anna! Give us some spice. We like mean girls.

I found it fun to take a peek again into the world of the beloved characters of Pride and Prejudice and see what's up with them. Next up is Kitty Bennett's diary, where she tries to find a match for Mary. Fun!

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Charlaine Harris - Dead Until Dark - Sookie Stackhouse

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had long wanted to read a Sookie Stackhouse book. A fellow blogger, Priya, was a great fan of Vampire fiction. She would often come out with lovely reviews of several series of Vamp Fiction, and I would go 'meh'. (In a nice way - I loved Priya's reviews but could not warm up (irony?) to Vamp fiction.)

Priya had recommended Sookie Stackhouse to me as a good way to get initiated into Vamp Fiction. I spent years searching for the book on various library shelves. Now that I have a kindle, it was breeze to download the book.

I was not able to read much through September. But yet, I managed to finish the book.

It is possibly a good introduction into the world of VF. Sookie is an engaging character. She is rich, but chooses to live in a small town of Bon Temps in Northern Louisiana and works in a bar as a cocktail waitress. She is pretty, but finds it hard to date. She is put off because she can hear the thoughts of all around her. And listening constantly to her date thinking about her does not appeal to her.

This is a world where Vampires roam freely among Humans, trying to 'mainstream', blend in. They drink synthetic blood or feed on consenting Humans. Not killing them, but just take a sip or two of their blood. And the reverse is possible too, drinking Vampire blood can make Humans strong. There are Humans who do not tolerate Vampires and vice versa.

Against this backdrop, a lot of cocktail waitresses are getting murdered. The Vampire that Sookie is sweet on, Bill, is suspected of the killings, as all the waitresses were involved with Vampires. Jason, Sookie's brother was also involved with all the dead girls. Jason is a bit of a philanderer, but not a killer, or is he? Sookie finds she has to act to discover who is behind the killings.

The book is good for a quick read. It is very well written. The story is fast paced. But of course, you have to be curious about Vampire fiction to do it. If you are crazy about it, chances are you have already read these books.

I am pretty sure the rest of the books in the series are equally good. I suppose I shall be reading them from time to time.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ava Dellaira - Love Letters to the Dead


Love Letters to the DeadLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I could not resist marking this book for reading when I read the name of the author. Ava Dellaira. We share the same first name.

As the title shows, the book is written as a series of letters to dead people who the narrator, Laurel, idolizes. Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, Judy Garland, E.E. Cummings, John Keats, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earheart, Janis Joplin, Allan Ginsberg, Jim Morrison, Elizabeth Bishop.

All these people died young and faced troubles in their life. Yet, they created everlasting art and things of beauty.

Laurel has faced a lot of tragedy over the past few years. Her parents separated. May, her beautiful older sister died. May was in High School and full of promise and beauty. Soon after this, her mother left to go to California.

Feeling abandoned, Laurel keeps her secrets pent up inside her and tries to live. She changes her school and avoids all people from her previous life. But her past keeps looming up ahead and prevents her from any future happiness.

Laurel's English teacher sets them an assignment to write a letter to a dead person. Finding unexpected relief in this, Laurel starts writing letters to dead people and tells her story through them.

The book is very beautiful and emotional. In the end Laurel finds it is not just her, but also people around her - her Father, Mother, Aunt Amy, boyfriend Sky, friends Hannah, Natasha, Tristan and Kristen - who are looking for answers to their problems.

Together they join hands and help each other to make their life more bearable and try to find answers.

The book is pretty heavy and depressing at times. It is not easy to read a book where such young people are so unhappy.

The writing is simply very beautiful. I would recommend the book just for that.

The book is full of references to good art, music, poems, films.

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