Thursday, January 30, 2014

Robert Galbraith - The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book is the first mystery novel by J.K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym
Robert Gailbraith.

No matter what Rowling writes about now, she will constantly be measured against her blockbuster Harry Potter series.

The Cukoo’s Calling is no Harry Potter. Yet the book draws you in right from the first chapter. It is a page turner for sure.

A famous model, Lula Landry, has plunged to her death from her pricey London penthouse. It is being seen as a suicide.

Robin Ellacott has just moved to London from Yorkshire to be with her newly affianced boyfriend, Matthew. She is temping as a secretary till she finds a proper full time job. She has been assigned to Cormoran Strike, a private detective.

Cormoran Strike has just been chucked out of his girlfriend’s apartment and is living in his office. His work is not going too well.

Into this situation walks John Bristow, brother of Lula Landry. He is convinced that someone pushed his sister off her balcony, that she did not commit suicide. He wants Strike to take the case up.

The story has a brisk pace. As I mentioned before, it is a page turner. A lot happens. We learn a lot about Cormoran Strike and the kind of problems and troubles he faces, both internal and external, as he tries to get to the bottom of the Lula Landry mystery.

At times, all the information thrown at you becomes overwhelming. Strike ruminates less and uncovers more. So we get bombarded with a lot happening.

If Rowling/Galbraith is planning another in the Strike Mysteries, I am in. I am hoping the next mystery will be as compelling, and a tad less crowded.




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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nick Hornby - A Long Way Down

A Long Way DownA Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My interest in this book was piqued when I read that it was being made into a movie. I put it on my TBR (to be read) list, and Lo! I found it at the first try on the library shelves. That hardly ever happens. I have been trying to locate Choclat by Joanne Harris for a long time now, but its a no-show.

The book is about four people who land up at the top of tower block with the express intention of hurling themselves off it, on New Year's Eve.

Martin is a TV presenter who is mired in trouble. He is divorced and was imprisoned for sleeping with a minor.

Maureen is a single mother of a 19-year old boy who is a vegetable. She is tired of her life and wants to end it.

Jess has been dumped by her fiance and is severely depressed. She has many other things bothering her, but at the moment it is this that makes her want to jump off the tower.

JJ's life is over. He cannot bear carrying on delivering pizzas any more. He just has to jump.

These four find themselves lumped together by chance. The only thing that bonds them is that they chose the same time and spot to end their lives. Now, in a weird way they feel responsible for each other.

They set deadlines to see if they can survive another week, another month without killing themselves.

The theme is hardly a cheerful one, but Nick Hornby injects wit into the prose and makes us chuckle. The four protagonists get a passage each to speak out their thoughts and their version of the story. They speak in different tones as befits their characters. Maureen is the pious one, the oldest. Her voice is sedate, conservative. Martin gets the wittiest lines (I am glad Pierce Brosnan is playing him, but he is a tad old. I wish it were Hugh Grant.) Jess is a motormouth, spewing obscenities and speaking without thinking. People have a hard time getting along with her. JJ is the thoughtful one.

It is a different sort of a novel and I enjoyed reading it. Nick Hornby also wrote 'About a Boy' which was made into a delightful movie starring Hugh Grant, Toni Colette, Nicholas Hoult and Rachel Weisz. On my next trip to the library, I intend to hunt this one out. Or any other book by Nick Hornby.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Hilary Mantel - Bring Up The Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published by Macmillan
Gifted by daughter

This book was high on my 'to-read' list as I loved Wolf Hall. It is much darker than Wolf Hall, but more engrossing.

While Wolf Hall was about the ascent of Anne Boleyn and how Thomas Cromwell works to put her on throne beside Henry VIII, Bring up the Bodies charts the descent of Anne Boleyn till the time she is beheaded and the king shows unpleasant haste in marrying Jane Seymour.

Though we know the sequence of events already, its how Hilary Mantel presents it and fictionalizes it that keeps you turning the pages.

The center of the story seems to be Henry and his wives, but it is really about Thomas Cromwell. Through Thomas Cromwell we get an intimate, up-close and personal picture of what the life was like in the English court during those times. We also get to know what the life was like for the common people.

If Thomas Cromwell was even half the man Hilary portrays, he was truly someone Henry should have treasured, instead of someone he summarily beheaded.

I cannot wait to read the third part of this trilogy.

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mohyna Srinivasan - The House on Mall Road

Published by : Penguin
Borrowed @ Central State Library, Chandigarh.

I picked this book up at the library. It had a complimentary blurb by none other than Pico Iyer, "What a rich and wonderfully accomplished debut! I'm envious".

The debut is good, very good.  Not enough to warrant envy on the part of Pico Iyer who has books like "Falling off the map" and "The Lady and the Monk" under his belt.

Yet.

I was charmed immediately by the book.  It starts on a poetic, languorous note, as the narrator of the story describes the house she lived in as child. The house was in Ambala Cantt where her father was stationed at the time. A great tragedy befell Parvati Rana there. During an air raid in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, her house was bombed.  Her mother and her grandmother perished in the bombing.  Parvati, a child of 7 then, survived because she was sheltering in a trench at the time with her nurse and an old servant. Her father went missing in action the same day in Kargil region.

Parvati has swept the emotions of the time aside for twenty years.  An encounter with an old friend of her father's brings the old memories alive.  She decides to revisit her house in Ambala once more.  The visit triggers a chain of events that turns Parvati's life topsy turvy.  The young Captain who is assigned to help her, Pratap becomes special for her.  But is she ready to let love into her life?

For a while the story seems to meander aimlessly, especially during the middle part.  But it picks up dramatically towards the end and contrary to its poetic, languorous start, trots smartly and rather melodramatically to a finale.  I did like the last chapter of the book a lot.  The protagonist grows up, and shows a lot of maturity.  There are no convenient endings. I liked that too.  The language is spare and fairly elegant. At the start, the protagonist is reeling from emotional turmoil but there is no attempt at embellishing her pain. Even at the end when a lot is happening, the emotions are kept quite in check.

The love angle is not allowed to flourish much.  Even though we are given to understand that the heroine likes the Captain, their romance does not get center-stage.  Fair enough, as the story lies elsewhere.  Even though his vanishing from the story for long stretches towards the end was not a good move.

Parvati keeps going into flashback throughout the novel, this helps the story to unravel gradually.  There were some episodes that I could not quite understand.  What were Parvati's feelings towards Badri Nath.  Was she attracted to him?

At places the pace of the story flags.  At places it seems a bit too melodramatic.

Yet, in all, it is an unusual and a very interesting book.  One of those rare instances when I was turning pages and unable to put it down.

 
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