12 January 2017

The Reptile Room or Murder! - (Book #2 in the 'A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

A children's book is a wonderful way to begin the new year. I enjoyed this book as much as the first book.

This book deals with the Baudelair children, who were orphaned and now are being shunted to another relative's place after the disaster with the first relative, Count Olaf. The new relative is a nice herpetologist, who is kind, considerate and sometimes, forgetful. However, Count Olaf makes another attempt to get hold of the children in order to gobble up their vast fortune, and the book tells us the story of what happens then.

I like the way the writer describes the meaning of slightly complicated words to the young readers, without it sounding condescending.

I took the shorter route to achieve my book reading goals by choosing a seemingly simple and a small book (170+ pages), but I am not sorry I did. :D

Chain of Custody by Anita Nair

Although I began this book in the last three days of 2016, I will officially count it as the first book of 2017 as I finished it on 5th of January.

Chain of Custody can be called a noble attempt to tackle a complicated and a dark subject - of child trafficking and human deprivation. Much as I like Anita Nair - she is one of my favourite Indian writers - I struggle to come to terms with the way this book falls just little short of the expectations. It is a crime thriller so you expect a water-tight plot and a gripping story line. I wont say she has failed in here, but neither did she excel. There were many passages of wonderful writing, but in a genre like this, its the weak passages that break your attention. 

For example, the insights on Inspector Borei Gowda's personal life is quite interesting and makes the story alive, but some portions feel unnecessarily forced upon. The way his son is a friends with the one of the exploited girl's brother - it all feels too convenient and in the end, didn't make much of a difference to the story. The story of Krishna, the right-hand man of 'Tekhedar' almost got to the point of being interesting and then fell along the way. 

I felt the main subject was touched upon only superficially - may be I am being too harsh here - this is not supposed to be an essay or an expose' but, I would have loved to get more information on the how child trafficking has evolved over the years in India and what progress is being made by the law towards curbing it or, how badly they have failed in doing so. Probably this whole story will continue in the next installment, I don't know for sure, but it did feel incomplete. 

Despite my misgivings, I will still wait for the next book because this book was better than the first in the series and I hope the same rule applies to the third one. And, because she is a damn good writer attempting something very different. I have faith in her.  

06 January 2017

2017

2017. The Year of Rooster. The Year of Hope. The year that may turn out to be better than the previous year. (In hindsight, it looks like 2016 was bad for the entire universe.)

I have some milestones to cross this year and it is with a mix of joy and apprehension I am looking forward to the year ahead.

My reading goals have become ambitious - One Book a Week. It isn't easy but it is not impossible either. Sash is the inspiration: he could read, even with a full-time employment.
I also plan to be more meticulous in writing about the books I read - this time, I want to be comprehensive. Maybe I should change the writing format as well, I don't know.
This year too I have planned to read Kannada books (bought four new Kannada books).

For the first week, I have already finished a book - Chain of Custody by one of my favourite writers, Anita Nair.


26 December 2016

The end is near - 2016

It's been a mixed bag, really.

Personal front has been disastrous. Professionally, nothing much at all - except I am happy I am not working anymore.
On the reading front, I have not been able to reach the goal of 50 books but the current number is not a bad stat either. I have been borrowing books from the library and also bought a few. December, I even got a gift - a wonderful book called Birdcloud by Annie Proulx. I am reserving it for the new year.
On the writing front, I didn't win the Nanorwrimo challenge (of 50K words to complete a novel.) Instead, I managed to finish 24K words and the story is still not done.
I decided to continue writing in December, but I wasn't very successful either - have managed just an addition of 6k words to the total. The last week is again another round of travel and so, my progress is going to be bumpy. My hopes of completing the novel seem to be less and less probable.
So, overall this year has not been very satisfactory. But loads and loads of lessons learned - both on the reading and the writing front.

I plan to be more organized in the year 2017 and achieve my reading and writing goals.
That reminds me, I need to think through the reading and writing goals before the year ends.

Happy new year in advance, virtual world. May the new year be better in all aspects. 

09 November 2016

Nanowrimo - Post Week 1

10,024 words.
I never thought I could get there. I had fun, anxiety, worry, pressure everything mixed in a blender and poured over me over the last one week. I want to do more. I hope I will.

01 November 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

I have been trying this for years with no success, yet this year I am going to try once again.

I have an idea (for a change!)and I will see where it will take me.

My reading may take a backseat but I hope not. I do enjoy reading more than writing (the horrible truth) I also have a week's worth of vacation planned in November. With all this, it is going to be difficult but I am sure, not impossible.

Good luck to me.

23 October 2016

Short Notes - Part I

Here comes the post on pending activity: A high-level note on each of the books I read in the last few months

1. Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

I had not tried historical fiction mainly on the assumption that they are tedious and are written in complex, old English (like all those Victorian novels). The story blurb of Girl with a Pearl Earring was so intriguing that I decided to give it a try and promptly borrowed it from the library. 

I was not disappointed. The theme of the book is based on the famous painting of the same name by Johannes Vermeer. The story is narrated from the model’s point of view – a maid who worked in Vermeer’s house – about how the whole painting came into existence. It delves into the delicate and budding relationship between Griet (the maid) and Vermeer (the master) during her stay in his house. It is never once boring. Griet comes across as a silent, strong girl with a natural flair and curiosity towards art and colours. She also has strong moral values and is troubled by the ambiguous and changing nature of her relationship with Vermeer, others in the household, and her own family. The writing is so fluid and masterful that I didn’t realise how quickly I ate up the pages. 

This one is worth my shelf space at home, so I am planning to buy a copy for myself. 

2. Bloodhounds - Peter Lovesey
Peter Lovesey’s book was an impulsive selection. I had never heard of the author, nor did anyone recommend the book to me. When I googled his name, I was surprised to find he was a prolific writer and British. (I have become interested in British novels of late) 

Bloodhounds blurb says this: 'Darling, if ever I've met a group of potential murderers anywhere, it's the Bloodhounds.' Thus says one of the members of the Bloodhounds of Bath, a society that meets in a crypt to discuss crime novels. But to their latest recruit, they seem just a gaggle of dotty misfits, until one of them reveals that he is in possession of an immensely valuable stamp, recently stolen from the Postal Museum. Then theft is overtaken by murder when the corpse of one of the Bloodhounds is found in a locked houseboat, with the only key in the possession of a man with a perfect alibi. Burly Peter Diamond finds himself embroiled in a mystery evoking the classic crime puzzles of John Dickson Carr.

Bloodhounds is an efficient detective novel, if I can call it that. It ticks off various requirements of a good detective novel (taut writing, decent plot with good twists, memorable characters and a conclusion that keeps you guessing till the end). Worth one’s time if one is in the mood for reading a mystery/thriller.

3. Diamond Dust - Peter Lovesey
This was the second story (two-in-one novels) in Peter Lovesey’s book.

Blurb says this: A detective learns to suppress his feelings when a verdict is announced, and Peter Diamond reveals no joy when Jake Carpenter is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. But the next day, when a woman is shot dead in the Royal Victoria Park, Diamond's self-control dissolves in an instant. The dead woman is his own wife. Barred from taking part in the investigation, Diamond begins a parallel one of his own - with very different results to those of his erstwhile colleagues.

Again, this book was a good read – I could never guess the culprit – with a satisfying end. I wish my library stocked more of Peter Lovesey. I would have loved to read others as well.

4. Daddy's Gone a Hunting - Mary Higgins Clark
Another suspense/thriller novel, Daddy’s Gone a Hunting has a very interesting plot.  

The story exposes a dark secret from a family’s past that threatens the lives of two sisters, Kate and Hannah Connelly, when the family-owned furniture firm in Long Island City, founded by their grandfather and famous for its fine reproductions of antiques, explodes into flames in the middle of the night, leveling the buildings to the ground, including the museum where priceless antiques have been on permanent display for years.
Although I enjoyed the book, something was amiss. I was underwhelmed by the writing. I must confess I was suffering from high expectations, since I had read so much about Mary Higgins Clark and her prominence as a mystery/crime writer. I cannot really pin it on anything specific but there was something lacking in the writing – a tad too long, a bit too descriptive – that was showing up constantly throughout the book.

I guess I chose one of the lesser ones from her repertoire. I am planning to read another book of hers to see if it is me or the writing.