5

Excerpts of a conversation between Mom and Me

We Begin!! Courtesy - The  Internet

We Begin!! Courtesy – The Internet

Me: Hullo… Ma!!

Mom: How many times have I told you not to throw things on the kitchen floor!!

Me: Ummm….

Mom: Oh not you.. I was talking to the maid. What are you up to? Is your nose blocked??

Me: Nothing much. Caught a cold.

Mom: How? What were you doing?

Me: It’s so cold here at 2000 meters above sea level Ma….. haven’t seen the sun in a week, continuous drizzle and the cloud that refuses to lift leaving us with a visibility of less than 20 meters. It was inevitable.

Mom: But, what were you doing? Why won’t you wear warm clothes or take a quilt at night?

The opening volley!! Courtesy : the Internet

The opening volley!! Courtesy : the Internet

Me: Ma the quilt is damp and not really very clean it seems.

Mom: What do you mean it’s not clean? They are all clean! I have put them in the cupboard.

Me: Ma.. remember I am not at home?!

Mom: Ohhhh yeahhhhhhh…. I don’t know why you want to do that?? Catch colds in summer, not wear proper clothes…. never listen to me….

Me: By the way Ma… Happy belated Anniversary!

Mom: Ohhhhhhhhh .. SO you remembered now! I was waiting to see when you would.

Me: Ma….

Mom: Your Dad never remembers! In all these decades… never once! Only Golf, Golf, Golf!

Warming up!!! Courtesy : the Internet

Warming up!!! Courtesy : the Internet

Me: Ma….

Mom: Even your Mosa (Uncle) was here that day… He also had no idea!

Me: Ma….

Mom: Rusty (my little cousin brother staying with mum) and Abhinav (my brother away at college) will always stay in their own worlds.

Me: Ma.. do you want to say ‘Same to you’?

Mom: You!! I expected better from you! You called me that day and spent an hour telling me all your stories, but you never remembered! I was waiting to see if you would!!

Courtesy : The Internet

Courtesy : The Internet

Me: MAAA! Do you want to say ‘SAME TO YOU’???

Mom:……….silence………….

Me: Maa???

Mom: heheheHAHAHAHEHEHEHEheheheheh(gasps) hohohohohehehe

Me: Ma…

Mom: hehehahahaha…. RUSTYYYY..(sounds of running feet toward Rusty’s room)…..hehhehehehe

Me: Yup! People who throw stones must check the strength of their glass walls!!

Mom: Nonononono!! Ask Rusty! Me and Rusty and Papa called and called you guys, but your phone was not reachable! Who told you to stay in those mountains??

Rusty: YES WE DID!!

Me: Ma… I also called you and Rusty that day. Both of you spoke to me for an hour each with all your stories and never remembered.. ok?!

Mom and Rusty: sotto voice  Mom: Why didn’t you remember?

                                               Rusty: Why would I remember?

                                               Mom: Hah! Otherwise you remember everything!

                                               Rusty: She is your daughter!

                                                Mom: She knows we didn’t call.

                                                Rusty: Don’t admit it!

Me: I can hear both of you… you know!

Mom and Rusty: …….Silence…………

Me: Well?!

Mom and Rusty: ……….snorts and giggles …….. HOHHOHHOAHAHAHAHAHAHAHEHEHEHEHEHE

Me: ……Sigh…….

P.S. Mum’s and Dad’s wedding anniversary was on the 19th of July. Mine was on the 24th of July.

8

Manhattan Mango – Madhuri Iyer

This book was sent to me by Fingerprint Publishing in exchange of an honest review.

I was very appreciative and extremely honored that Fingerprint Publishing thought of sending me a copy of their book for review.

First, I thought the cover is really eye-catching and does complete justice to the story line. For example, I immediately know its a story about the friendship between boys, which is a completely different animal from that between girls, and is set in New York, the city of our dreams thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker and Karan Johar.

The book is extremely fast paced and my immediate thought was, ‘Who bought the movie rights?’ Essentially, the story revolves around three young men, for they are certainly no longer boys, who have been friends for years and now find themselves in the land of opportunity in the city that the world loves almost as much as Paris and Mumbai, although definitely for completely different reasons. It is a coming of age narrative in its simplest form. Neal is the most handsome, most extrovert and the apple of his gang’s eye, but I just wanted to give him a slap or two and tell him to grow up. He feels entitled to most things in his life, fawning females included. It is almost ludicrous to see how shocked he feels when he actually meets a few women who don’t immediately fall at his feet. It will be terrible if whoever directs the movie decides to give him maximum footage as the main hero of the book. Shanks is the quintessential South Indian guy, loves his mom, is serious about his job, wants to marry the first girl who smiles at him, and is loyal, responsible and honest to boot. And the idea of a staunch Tamil Brahmin marrying a Chinese woman is absolutely hilarious. I can almost feel the millions of South Indian readers cringe in sympathy when he falls for her in anticipation of the blood-(tear)-bath that will follow. And then comes Shri, the one with the dark secret (which is not very hard to guess) and the one who holds the group together with his down to earth attitude and yet needs some off-time for his own anxiety attacks. Then there is Shefali, the rich Gujju girl who joins the group and adds another angle of glamour to the gang. She turns out to be surprisingly intelligent and practical for a rich girl and I found myself rooting for her throughout the book.

This book definitely falls under the ‘Chick Lit’ category even though it is about men. It covers all the essential talking points for the new generation, marriage to a guy of your own community, job insecurity, peer pressure and the freedom of living in a completely uninhibited society. Although I wish at least one of them would have had an affair with an Indian; its a bit too rebellious for the entire group to reject the possibility of being with any Indian partners. It is a quick and fun read and, even if it feels a bit stilted and over-the-top at times to an oldie like me, I am sure most young people will simply love to gobble it up.

I saw the front page citation by non other than Sonam Kapoor and, to tell you the truth, I detest that spoilt brat so much that I almost did not read it. I am sure there are many who absolutely swoon over her, but I feel a recommendation by no one is any day better than one by her.

1

The Murder Bag – Tony Parsons

  This book was provided to me courtesy of Random House India in exchange of an honest review

The tagline of the book, ‘Do some people deserve to die?’, is one of those moral questions that never seems to have a clear answer. There are many who would say that mere mortals are not qualified enough to pass judgement on the crimes of others, however heinous they may be, whereas others stick to their philosophies of an eye for an eye. But how does one decide what is adequate punishment for someone like the butchers who killed Nirbhaya. Should they receive a quick, humane death after first living through possibly decades of appeals in rent-free accommodation with free food and lots of company? Or should they be released on a technicality which the whole country knows to be false? What about those who kidnap little children or young women and keep them as slaves for years together? Should they be thrown into a dark cell for the rest of their days with minimum rations and no outside contact and tortured on a daily basis? The decision seems impossible in the face of the myriad ways with which the human mind makes up ways to commit atrocities. The debate remains academic for most of us as long as the victim is an unknown name on the 9 o’clock news and will probably continue in this way leaving every individual to make their own choices if fate should ever choose to test them.

The plot of this book definitely had me agreeing to the question. Sometimes forgiveness just does not seem to be the correct answer.

After two very different and chilling introductions, or a prologue and an introduction, the plot opens with a man who has been brutally murdered in his office leaving the police scrambling for clues. When another murder occurs in much the same way, it is decided that there is a serial killer on the loose. The brutal and terrifying prologue of the book gives the reader enough of a clue to be almost 10 steps ahead of the police for a part of the story until they also figure catch up to what we already know . Max Wolfe has just been transferred to the homicide unit after managing to stop a terrorist on the basis of pure gut instinct. I am not sure whether that is a promotion or a reprimand as he acted on his instincts and against the orders of his superiors. Max is just too human a superhero, as is confirmed by his getting beaten black and blue by villains, also managing to get stabbed and then shot in the face on separate occasions. He is kind to his young colleagues and not very confident at times, almost seeming to be ready to fade into the background even as he goes about doing his work. He comes across as a thinker, one who would be most comfortable behind a desk and it almost feels wrong to see him in confrontational situations that seem out of his league. He has a daughter and for most of the book I thought the mother had died in some tragic incident that has left him the way he is, sort of as a switched-off person. He seems to be a good father, although he worries about not being a proper family for his daughter’s sake and sometimes for his own as well. Also, he is a bit of a chick magnet I think though he certainly does not seem to encourage that behaviour.

I found the name of the book ‘The Murder Bag’ slightly incongruous. It didn’t seem to tie in with the rest of the story and I never understood why the murder suspect had one with him. And who goes to a museum to look for clues nowadays? Any and every kind of information is available on the internet. The frequent trips to the museum were frankly a waste of time, or so it seemed to me, just to lend credence to the somewhat debatable title of the book.

However, but for that little hitch, it was a great read and I felt the author has done justice to all his characters, right down to the daughter and the dog.

2

Bad Luck And Trouble – Lee Child

I have loved all the Lee Child books I have read to-date and this one was no exception. Jack Reacher is a an exceptionally well-crafted character, with just the correct mix of machismo and vulnerability coupled with a romantic vagabond lifestyle to tug at the thickest of heart strings. Imagine a tall, dark, strong and silent, mysterious stranger swooping in to kill all the bad guys and then disappearing into the sunset. I also admire his quirk of being a mathematical aficionado, I suppose because I was always so terrible in maths at school. A man with so many epithets to his credit cannot help but be dashing and suave and an out and out heartthrob, which is probably why Tom Cruise chose to play this part. The movie, however, did not do justice to the book at all. For one thing, Jack Reacher is tall and Tom Cruise is not. Reacher’s physical appearance has always played a very important role in all his escapades, tending to intimidate most people before they choose to take a swing at him, and taking that away from him was just not fair. But then, that is what I suppose one would say ‘taking artistic license’ means and as they (the film people) did the same thing with Robert Downing Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, which worked very well, I think I should not complain overmuch.

‘Bad Luck and Trouble’ seems a very appropriate title for the book as Reacher reminisces about his experiences in and out of the army and pretty much covers all the shenanigans he falls into, voluntarily or involuntarily. The cover design is alright and looks very much like a still from the book.

In this book, Jack Reacher is contacted by an ex-army colleague when a member of their old elite team is found murdered. As the remaining members gather together with a bit of ‘all for one, one for all’ mojo working for them, it becomes increasingly clear that someone has taken the time to eliminate more than one member of their team. The conspiracy that the author unfolds is actually so simple, it is brilliant. And just as plausible. How do you think terrorists lay their hands on military grade weapons from all over the world? Lee Child’s theory may well be the truth, when you put your mind to it. The loyalty that the team feels toward one another is the driving force behind all their actions and seems to epitomize the American culture of refusing to give up one man for the benefit of many, an idea that is indeed honourable and brave and may at times be stupid at the same time. Jack Reacher though is intelligent enough to realize how much time he can dedicate to saving his comrade before he must rush to detonate a proverbial time bomb that could kill millions.Usually, in a large group of co-conspirators, the reader expects at least one who would have been ‘turned’ by the end and would stab his friends in the back and since that never happens it lends a quiet dignity to the antics of these aging veterans. Loyalty, honour and friendship are the foundations of this story and Lee Child delivers on all three.

I loved the book and would recommend it to all fans of the thriller genre.

1

The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johanssen

 

This book was provided to me by Random House India in lieu of an honest review

I received this book courtesy of Random House India and promptly fell in love with the cover. What at first look appears to be a metallic crown on a cushion is actually a bear trap on a cushion. The image immediately conveys to the reader that the ‘Queen’ we are going to get acquainted with does not have an easy road ahead of her and is probably surrounded by people averse to her continued good health. I find that a good cover usually makes for a good book.

Then I turned the book and read the print three times, confirmed the date with my husband, read it again and then almost burst with pride and self-importance (so few moments like that in life). Random House India sent me a book for review before it actually hit the markets!! I was ecstatic! That was not the end of it though. I opened the first page and frowned at the scrawl at the bottom. Was it part of the design, me thinks. Turned the page and felt the indentations and realized it was a signature and, if you knew what you were looking for and screwed up your eyes, would read ‘Erika’. It was a signed copy!! Thank you Random House India! You guys are gorgeous!

Now, I just prayed that I would like the book. (You know a review is going to be good when there are so many exclamation marks in the opening paragraphs.)

Spoilers ahead! (Not too many, but a fair amount).

 I read somewhere that the PR team said something about the book being a cross between the Hunger games and the Game of Thrones. That was a silly thing to do. Because it is not. It is much simpler than the Game of Thrones and I thought better than the Hunger Games.

The story begins with Kelsea Glynn beginning the journey to take her place as the Queen of the Tearling in Tearling. Why the name ‘Tearling’ though? Tearling sounds as if these people originated from the teardrop of the lady in the moon. I don’t know why I thought ‘lady in the moon’. She has been brought up by an aged couple Carlin and Barty Glynn in isolation, and on the day of her 19th birthday must venture forth and seek her right to ascend the throne of Tearling. Here she meets for the first time the members of the Queen’s guard, who had once worked to protect her mother, the Queen Elyssa, and goes on to form deep bonds with most of them. They race across the countryside, dodging the assassins her Uncle has sent, meeting the most notorious thief of the kingdom, being attacked by trained hawks and finally reaching the palace on the day of the ‘shipment’, which leads Kelsea to take decisions that will eventually lead to war with the Red Queen of Mortmense (again, the name, a play on words). Kelsea must learn to run a kingdom, much more difficult than simply studying to do so, contend with the members in the court and the truly evil Thorne, and fight the corruption and poverty in her kingdom.

The story is spell-binding. I do not lie when I say that I read the book in one day, even managing to starve my family that day as there was no time to cook! The magic introduced almost in the beginning, but the reader is not really sure if he/she is reading the signs correctly. The magic is not too intrusive in the story. Kelsea is instantly lovable. Even as a 19-year-old, she is never truly irrational or unnecessarily obtuse (remember the times you have found yourself screaming at a character, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it”, to no avail). She is honest and becomes more and more aware of the responsibility that rests on her shoulders even as she refuses to back down in the face of her numerous enemies. I loved the part where she rushes to the rescue of some kidnapped tearling. It was brave and totally what one expects of a Queen. Lazarus was just the kind of person every girl needs in her life. As for the love interest, I withhold my judgement until I get to know him better. I don’t think he is good enough for her, too arrogant and too good looking. Kelsea grows on you, with her ideas, her zest for life, her sudden childish insecurities and the laughing in the face of death attitude. The Red Queen has not really done anything as terrible as I expected (immediately remember, ‘Be careful what you wish for’), but then she did not get enough space on the pages, which is understandable.

However, the most interesting bit in the story is ‘the Crossing’ and ‘the Landing’. I was a bit confused as to the setting of the novel. Was it a fantasy planet? Or was it set in medieval Earth? But then I came across the references to machines and ‘pre-crossing’ and even ‘J.K. Rowling’. So I surmise that this is a parallel universe where people have fled when something terrible happened to Earth. The author never explains it and I thought that was brilliant. It assumes a certain intelligence on the reader’s part and is definitely an intriguing idea. Eventually, of course, she will come around to it, but, for now, I am pretty satisfied.

Must, must read!!

Also, disturbingly, Emma Watson is supposed to play Kelsea in the movie adaptation. What? Nooooo! Over and over again in the book the author emphasizes Kelsea’s problems and insecurities about her looks as well as the comments by other people on the same topic. She is tall and muscular, whereas Emma is petite and too pretty. Its not fair or correct! But I guess that is cinema.

10

The Random House May-June Book-Bag

This time Random house pulled out all the stops in the selection of books that they sent me.

First is the box that the books came in. It was huge! I just wanted to sleep with it for a night or two before I opened it, but then I just didn’t have the patience or the discipline for that. Thank you Sachee and Anindita! You are the my very own Summer Santas!

And look, look what they sent me. All the books are really really great picks. There is fantasy, murder, thriller, romance and even a little bit of matters-of-the-state stuff in this bag.

I am happy!

So the books in this bag were:

1) Tony Parsons – The Murder Bag

2) Erika Johansen – The Queen of the Tearling

3) Anita Desai – In custody

4) Reshma K. Barshikar – Fade into Red

5) Lee Child – Bad Luck and Trouble.

Whew! My eyes grow moist with unshed, happy tears just reading that list.

To be honest, I have already finished reading three of them. I didn’t mean to! I just opened the package and picked up one book to see how it was and, before I knew it, I was three books down. All of them were absolutely fabulous, just the kind of stuff that powers my engine and revs my motor (not very sure about those analogies) as some would say (and I actually know nobody who speaks like that)!

Also, Bookworm in McLeod Ganj yielded some great books too.

I have read almost all the fiction books. ‘Trespass’ was excruciatingly boring straight from the first chapter and I left it there. The top two books are my husband’s choices and will take me a long time to get around to, if ever.

So, what does my summer/almost-monsoon reading list seem like to all you bibliophiles out there?

1

Gone – James Patterson

Gone_James-Patterson

This book was provided to me courtesy of Random House India in return for an honest review

A truck idles along a dark suburban street, and pulls up under the shadow of a large oak. For a few minutes there is complete silence but for the comforting sounds of night crickets ( or whatever those night-time creatures are called ). Suddenly, a group of some 25 black-clad individuals jump out of the truck and rush toward the tall walls of a palatial home some 15 feet away, soundlessly throw ropes with grapple hooks and shimmy across the walls. A few muted flashes are the only signs of activity within the walls. Who are these people? The police? Or an elite mercenary task force? Ta da da daaah!

This is how most of the novel reads to me. It is strongly reminiscent of how I would imagine a screenplay for an action movie reading right from page 1; and once that idea got into my head it just refused to walk out again. The story revolves around Detective Bennett, father to a brood of 10 children, who once captured a dreaded mafia boss and then watched him escape, is currently in hiding under the witness protection program and has just been recalled to active duty to look for the same criminal who has now managed to create havoc by sending armies of mercenaries into the US and Mexico and eluded all the best investigatory forces of the United states.

I absolutely failed to detect any charm in the entire narrative and considering that it was part of the April book-bag and it is now June, one can understand the pain and the sheer determination it took me to finish this book. The dialogues are short and staccato and the story never really flows with any degree of effortlessness. The plot was unnecessarily forced and better fit for an episode of Miami LAPD. The love interests were presented with absolutely zero chemistry and  I knew from the cover itself that this was not going to be my kind of read (alright, maybe that last bit is too judgmental).  But really, when I pick up a series from a well-known author, I usually expect the book to be worth my while. To be so severely disappointed sorely tests my nerves. I think this a sad case of an author pandering to a menu for the sake of a 10-book contract without worrying over much about the content of their writing.

My humble advice, please stop. Either kill the character off or just take a break and write standalone novels for a bit. Michael Bennett needs a rest.