Month: August 2014

Private India, by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi

Thank you Team Blogadda for sending me this lovely treat – it’s two interconnected but distinctly different thrillers rolled into one. Now, who could resist that, right?
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Spy, Mystery
Summary: Multiple murders take place within a span of a few hours, and each time the killer leaves little clues or tokens at the crime scene. In a parallel storyline, there’s also the mystery of a bomb planted by terrorists at an unknown location.
Characters: Santosh Wagh: Chief detective at Private India, with a past that haunts him and drives him to down bottle after bottle of whiskey. Nisha Gandhe: His assistant. Jack Morgan: His boss at Private. Rupesh: Works with Mumbai police and Santosh’s former best friend. The killer: About whom I will not say anything.
The writing technique: This is a gripping plot, no doubt about it (unlike the disappointing Krishna Key). The pace is just right – not too fast, not too slow. The narration is crisp and the suspense has been maintained quite well till the climax. However, the characters leave something to be desired. It’s almost stereotypical for a main character to have a haunting past – that is how many times it has been repeated. Can’t a main character operate if his past has been normal? Is it that people with normal histories don’t do that well professionally, because they don’t have a place to drown their miseries in? Or are there just no new back stories?
The buildup towards finding the murderer has been executed so perfectly, but once the murderer has been captured, the climax is lackluster, in my opinion. This is a psychopath who has killed so many women in such, for lack of a better word, “creative” ways. One he or she is captured, (and this is a work of fiction, no less) is he or she gonna go down without or hardly any noise? That does not sound too convincing (or fulfilling from a reader’s point of view).
The bomb scene, on the other hand, with Jack, seemed to over-compensate (unnecessarily) and thereby gave it a very bollywood-ish feel.
The scene with the vultures was quite chilling and stands out from the rest of the book. The way it’s been written, and even the imagination of the writer to write a scene as that one is simply superb.
I don’t know if any psychopaths leave deliberate clues in real life, because I have read a lot of spy novels earlier in which this happens. Are they challenging the intelligence of those bringing them to justice or do they want to get caught? Well, in the books they always do.
This book, in more ways than one, bears a resemblance to Anita Nair’s Cut Like Wound. While I am an Anita Nair loyalist, I must admit this is a better book.  I have read two of Ashwin Sanghi’s previous works but this is my first James Patterson. This book certainly makes me want to read more of his work though!
This book is available at: Amazon
Overall rating: 3.5/5

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That’s My Love Story, by Santosh Kalwar

This is one of those books that I had to finish because I made the mistake of starting it. Out of habit, I do not abandon books halfway, no matter how bad, unless the book is Oh Shit Not Again, by Mandar Kokate, which is, in my opinion, the worst book ever written. This one is a close second.
This is the work of a wannabe and a pseudo gyaani. Like all wannabes, this man does not seem to have an idea what to write about, but rambles on like a man high on alcohol, mixed with Red Bull, mixed with cough syrup. With Valium added for good measure
Genre: Pure crap. LOL, I meant bullshit. Okay! I’ll stop. Genre: Pseudo gyaanism.
Summary: A misogynist climbs a mountain to commit suicide.
Characters: Prem: Above mentioned misogynist whose sole aim in life is to check out the “boobs” and “butts” of women, cos, as he has repeatedly mentioned since page 1, he’s curious about their bodies. Old man: There to spout the “wise and inspirational lines” cos who would take a suicidal, horny, chauvinist seriously?
Language: The author says that the book has been edited and proofread several times. Clearly, “several times” weren’t enough. The author also says that the reader must forgive him for any “minor grammar mistakes”. What about a hundred major ones? I struggled to even get past the first page. Here’s something that’ll help you in future, Santosh, esp pt. 8:
There are parts of the book that sound like a 5 year old’s essay, “My grandfather came to visit. He told me some really nice stories. I loved my granny and grandpa very much.” 
Check this one out: “I was dreaming since I was a great dreamer.” You don’t say!
When the grammar is terrible, the thesaurus (used multiple times in every paragraph) makes the resultant sentences look hilariously bad.
Dialogue/Layout: Sloppy. It follows a flashback/flash forward mode. The protagonist thinks about his love/lust stories while climbing up the mountain and tells the old man to shut up after every story (despite being the one to start a conversation each time). Afterwards, when the old man tells Prem to tell him his story, Prem agrees but says “Don’t disturb me until I finish talking.” Self-centred little boy? There are some dialogues which make you angry enough to slap the protagonist and/or the author. Consider this, “Look at her. She’s beautiful, charming and sexy. She’ll make a good housewife.” Wouldn’t you like to know! Also consider this, “I started to think of her as my future girl, my wife who would sleep with me, give me babies and take care of me.” (as opposed to his wife who would not sleep with him, and have someone else’s babies?) Self-centred, shallow, chauvinistic, yada yada yada.
Somewhere in the beginning, the author has mentioned he wrote this book because many youngsters go through “mental stress” due to problems in love. Well, I have some serious stress-like symptoms right now because I read this pathetic excuse for a book.
You can buy this book from: Life’s too short; don’t waste your time with this one.
Rating: 0.5/5

Solitude’s Fine, by John Porter

Genre/Themes: Short, Fiction, Homosexuality, Teen
This is the story of an 18-year old teenager, John Porter. This short story shocks the reader. It is brutally honest and what you notice at first is how “raw” the writing is. I truly cannot think of another word to describe the writing style.
As this is a short story, I cannot write much about the characters without revealing the plot. The author tries to keep the identity of the protagonist a secret in the beginning, and right from the revelation of the protagonist to the end of the story, there are unexpected twists, which have been written superbly. The ending was completely unexpected.
The author’s exploration of emotions (and also the lack of them) is commendable. It is something that each reader can relate to, because we’ve all faced situations that we couldn’t wrap our heads around, we’ve all been unable to feel sad when the people around us expected us to, we’ve all felt sorrows that we couldn’t explain. The protagonist’s thoughts and feelings are well described. However, I do feel the descriptions of the sex scenes were overly graphic. At certain points, it seemed unnecessary. While it all contributed to the twist at the end, it could’ve been toned down a little, because the story has enough substance to carry itself without getting tagged as borderline porn.
This story is a part of several other short works of fiction. I look forward to reading more of the author’s work.
Overall Rating: 3/5
I thank the author, John Porter, for sending me the ebook.
This book is available on: Amazon (Kindle Edition)

Flying Cats and Flip-Flops, by Paul Johnson

I’d like to thank the author Paul Johnson for giving me the opportunity to review Flying Cats and Flip Flops, which is one of the best books I’ve read this year!
Genre: Non-fiction, Cultural, Memoir, Travel, Africa, Crime
Summary: This is the story of Terry Johnson. A middle-aged man with who takes a vacation to Kenya, only to realize this was more than just a vacation – it was a love affair with a different kind of life, a different kind of freedom – one that he longs to experience again, for a longer time. The vacation makes him realize he could either lead a monotonous life tending to his garden, while trying to stay out of his bossy wife’s way OR he could go on an amazing adventure. He chooses the latter (of course!). But (there’s always a ‘but’) what battles will he face while on this adventure, leaving behind the safety of his home and his land?
The characters: Terry Johnson: A risk-taker, traveler, adventurer, philanthropist, and sometimes (in his own words, and what got him into trouble more than once:) a nose-poker! Ann: Terry’s wife. Bossy and fierce. Short in frame, but sharp with words. This one can make you cringe in shame without using a single expletive, or allowing you to use one! Madam: A street-smart Kenyan girl who wins the reader’s heart with her sense of humor and sharp wit. There are some other characters whom we meet as well along the course of the book.
The technique/layout/language/writing style: Whenever I read a book, I judge it based on the detail – if it’s there where it’s needed, and if it’s been edited out where it’s not. The author’s writing technique is what won my heart! The author’s ability to describe a scene vividly is marvelous. I could imagine the scenes so clearly. I cannot praise his writing style enough.
We also see the non-touristy, non-rose-colored glasses version of Kenya. The way it’s written (not the story, but the style) can be compared to Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City (where he explores the not-so-pretty side of Mumbai – the corruption, the crimes etc.)
The language used is pretty straightforward. The sentences do not look overly colourful or “decorative” by usage of words straight out of a thesaurus.
I recommend this one as a must-read for those who enjoy non-fiction. With the brilliant style in which its written, and the kind of suspense you feel, this one will make you turn pages and be with Terry throughout his journey (with your heart in your throat at certain times!)
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

The Archers Revenge, by Destination Infinity (Rajesh Kollu)

Before discussing the finer points of this novella, I would first like to express my gratitude to the author for giving me a chance to review his first book.

The Archers Revenge is a story which deals with power crimes, revenge and a battle of conscience and humanity against impulse and violence.

The title: One minor flaw can render a sentence or title meaningless. Ideally the title should’ve been “The Archer’s Revenge.” But the missing apostrophe makes the title ambiguous.
The characters: First works of most authors give me an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical vibe, as though the protagonist is in some way molded out of the author’s own character and behavior. Gladly, the characters in this book did not make me feel this way. The characters seem believable, yet not familial to the author and that displays good storytelling skills. However, I did feel the characters have not been sufficiently described or explored. For example, Guru is described as a God-fearing, humble yet resourceful man in the beginning. While it’s true that money and power corrupt, his transformation to an utterly ruthless politician capable of cold-bloodedly murdering his rivals has been described very briefly. Also, we do not get to know Aryan and/or Divya well. Both seem intelligent on an equal level, but that seems to be the flaw – they seem too similar to be different people. Different aspects of their character could’ve been described, so the reader would know their thought processes as individual characters and relate more to them.

The language/technique: Colloquial terms/phrases make several appearances in the book. While colloquialism may be (if unavoidable in the scene being described) used in dialogue, its use in the descriptive portions must be avoided. Also, in some places, there was a redundancy of terms (one example I remember is “fled away” where “fled” was sufficient). Some minor errors in singularity and plurality of subjects (off the top of my head – “their life” where it should’ve been “their lives”), prepositions and tenses were noticed.  
Ideally, meanings of terms must not be given in brackets. If a book is being published for academic purposes, a Notes page at the end may be included where uncommon terms may be defined, but otherwise even this should be avoided. The reasons why meanings of terms must not be included are 1) it makes the layout messy and 2) it may unintentionally make the reader feel that the author is underestimating the former. If a term is unfamiliar, the reader will look it up.  The author need not explain it in brackets. For example, the explanation for the word “arrowhead” was given in brackets.
Another thing that makes the layout messy is usage of quotation marks in a sentence that’s neither a dialogue nor an emphasis. For example, there was a sentence “The minister “managed” to get rid of them.” Here, managed need not be in quotes, because it makes the reader not take the situation seriously, if you know what I mean. The word “managed” almost makes itself sound sarcastic in the context.
Some phrases may be shortened to keep the sentences crisp. For example “blood began to flow” could be shortened to “bleeding”.
The loopholes: Divya accidentally mentions about her father to the prospective groom. Also, Divya is a strong person. I found it unconvincing that she broke down so easily while in custody.

All in all, considering this is the author’s first work, I must say it impressed me considerably. This book has scope for expansion into a full-length novel, where the characters are fully explored and the plot is more detailed. It has a good story and hope to see it soon in print. 
The ebook is available on Amazon.

Rating: 3/5