Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: The Reluctant Detective


Yes I am guilty of not putting up reviews at the same speed as I read books. So there were a couple of books which I read and did not end up reviewing, two of them happen to be of good friends’, hence more so the review worry! How to write a review without sounding biased. But the blog was started with the intent of sharing genuine reviews and that is what will be maintained!

I read Kiran’s (good friend no.1) debut novel The Reluctant Detective last month and honestly all through the book I kept looking or waiting to catch her on something where she went wrong with the story but there was absolutely nothing I could come up with. The book was near perfect. The book kept me in splits throughout, right from the word go. Much like her blog, that’s the only minus point I’d give her book, that it is an extension of her blog. Some parts of the book had a sense of deja vu. But then there is a twist in the story, then also her blog is more personal.

The book starts off with Lady Kay aka Kanan Mehra who is the main protagonist of the book. Her curiosity keeps getting her into all kinds of incidents in the book except for when she finds herself involved in not one but two murders that take places in her vicinity. This is when her curiosity turns to her advantage and helps her find out the whys and the whats and the whos behind the murder.
Now wait if you thought this is only yet another whodunit no dear friends that this book is not. This is also the tale of every mum; yes Lady Kay is also a mum to an adorable son and a wife to a macho man! So read her hilarious exchanges with her son and her husband. The best is her exchanges with her self.  It will have you laughing right through the book.

If you have been planning to read this book or wondering whether you should pick it up I’d say go right ahead! A hilarious look at life after mommyhood. A laugh riot from start to the end. Like I had tweeted this has got to be one of those books which I wish wouldn’t end because every page made me happy, made me laugh out loud. Most importantly made me go- hey this is so me!

I have been telling and asking Kiran every time I meet her when do we get a chance to read about Lady Kay’s next escapade and she ends with you will, soon. So, eagerly look forward to the next laughathon from Kiran.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rishad launches his book at Mocha Mojo



Here are some pictures from the lovely session with Rishad Saam Mehta. He not only launched his book 'Hot Tea Across India' at the event but also shared some of his fascinating travel experiences with the guests present at the launch. His book presentation along with the stunning photographs he has clicked of the places he has travelled to, made this event truly an interesting one. 

He spoke about his bike trip to Ladakh, his dream to do a bike trip from Mumbai to London. His favourite travel destination to his interactions with people he met during his travel. His love and passion for travel came across clearly during his conversation with Mrs. Heena Munshaw of Beacon Holidays who launched the book. 

All in all a Saturday afternoon well spent. Here's wishing Rishad all the very best for his debut book. A book which has been garnering good reviews from every quarter! 

We at The Book Lovers would like to thank everyone who took time out to come and attend the event. A very big thank you to Spicy Sangria (http://spicysangria.com) and Shaan S Khanna for partnering with us online for this event. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Q&A with Rishad Saam Mehta author of Hot Tea Across India



You are an avid traveler and a photographer, was writing a book always at the back of your mind?

Yes it was. Because my travel stories were restricted by word count and only relevant information about the place. The book allowed me to bring in the humane incidents, funny stories that were more personal and people based.
  
Tea as a conversation starter, how did this idea germinate?

Tea stalls are an Indian highways institution from the machine dispensed tea at fuel stations to the thatched roof and woodfire shack where the tea is being brewed in a blackened vessel, tea is an integral part of Indian road travel. It starts conversations, refreshes and relives fatigue. And at tea stops on lonely highways you almost always meet fellow travellers and conversation just seems to happen.

Who are your favourite travel writers? Any writer whose work inspires your writing?

I just loved 'One Year In Provence' by Peter Myle, the way the English language has been used to describe and bring in subtle humour is fantastic. Then I like Wilbur Smith's books because they bring about visions of such vast adventure and wild lands.  

What are the qualities that one needs to be able to effectively communicate to the reader through travelogues?

I like my travelogues to encourage and entice. To be able to convince even the most lethargic of readers that there is fun and adventure to be out there. Take a break from routine, unshackle yourself from the daily grind and go out there and live life as it is meant to be lived. 
I would like my readers to belive that travel is not an indulgence, rather it is an essential investment to a fuller and more wholesome life.  
 
The book has been much loved, going by the reviews, must be a satisfying debut for you! Tell us about your future plans; are you working on your next book already?

Yes it has been, the idea was to tell people that India is such an adventure to explore by road and to give them a really good belly aching laugh and I am glad it has served the purpose. Maybe my next book will be on travel or something else, but it will definitely contain humour for sure since I just love making people laugh. 

This was a very India-specific book; while you are quite a globe trotter do you recall any interesting incident during your travels that you would want to share with your readers?

There was one incident recently in South Africa when I was in Kruger driving a little i20 and it was charged by an angry rhino. I remember the first thought that went through my mind was what I would write in the insaurance claim form...Wrecked by one angry rhino.
Then there was that incident in California when I stepped out to stretch my legs on a lonely highway in a forest and a bear came and went to sleep near my door. I had to climb into the car carefully from the boot.  

Any travel tips, photography tips and writing tips for your readers?  Most importantly how do you manage to balance the three roles so well?

All three are co-existent. I travel because I love to photograph and write, I like to photograph hence I travel and I like to tell stories so I travel and photograph.

Do join Rishad Saam Mehta as he launches his book at Mocha Mojo, Bandra on 14th April Saturday, from noon-2pm. Look forward to seeing all you book lovers there!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Launch Invite!

WESTLAND LTD, THE BOOK LOVERS and MOCHA MOJO
Invite you to the launch of
HOT TEA ACROSS INDIA 
By Rishad Saam Mehta
on Saturday, 14th April 2012 between 12 and 2 p.m. at
Classic Corner Building, next to Holy Family Hospital, Hill Road, Bandra West,Mumbai 400050

The Event:
Mrs Heena Munshaw of Beacon Holidays will be in conversation with Rishad. Beacon Holidays is a destination marketing company based in Mumbai (Bombay), India, established in 1996.

About the book:
On Rishad Saam Mehta’s journeys — and as a travel writer and all-round road-trip junkie, he’s been on many — there’s a particular thing he noticed. There’s not a highway, road or dirt track in India where you can’t find a cup of chai whenever you want it. And with those cuppas come encounters and incidents that make travelling in India a fascinating adventure. In this riveting book, which includes stories of honey- and saffron-infused tea shared with a shepherd in Kashmir, and a strong brew that revives the author after almost getting lynched by an irate mob in Kerala, Rishad takes you across the length and breadth of India, from Manali to Munnar, from the Rann of Kutch to Khajuraho, with a wonderful combination of wit, sensitivity and insight.

The Author:
Rishad Saam Mehta Rishad Saam Mehta graduated as an electronic engineer from Bombay University and is a travel writer and photographer. He lives in Mumbai and is especially fond of road trips, adventure sports, history and food, all of which tend to feature in his travel stories.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Review: By Nightfall


Author: Michael Cunningham
Reviewed by :  Purvi Shah

There are some stations in life where you want to wait a while longer and some where a short stop is all you need, and some stations where you just don't want to stop but life's train won't allow you to move forward. 
A long boring middle aged marriage could be one of those, especially if you are a beauty lover and an art critic and are looking for that perfect piece of art or that artist which can make history. To add to the musings of the mysterious mind, there's also the case of confused sexual preference.

In a story of lost and found self identity, a middle aged Peter ( though I don't follow why 44 is so passe) with his not so old, not so young wife ( somewhere in her late thirties) move around life in general. Peter finds his wife to have lost her youth (?) and busies himself in mundane everyday tasks, contemplating every now and then on the whys and hows of his life.

Enter his brother-in-law and his search for a lot of things end here. Be it in beauty or art or even love. He initially see-saws between a hate love relationship with the new found object of his desire.Yet being the so called society man that he thinks he is , he still cannot make up his mind as to what it is.

 If you are looking for a story or a plot or something to actually happen, your search is futile. Although, the frivolities of the mind are portrayed well by the author.

Set up in the suburbs around New York, and showcasing a rich vocabulary Michael Cunningham takes the reader to a joy ride of a lot of places in and around. For the uninformed it is also a window into the world of art and gives you an exact picture of what an art curator does, and how the world of art functions, along with the array of wealthy and eccentric art collectors. You would also get an insight into the lifestyle of the rich and the very rich Americans and their idiosyncratic behaviors.

Though it does nothing to the soul of the poor central character who finds himself a failure as a father, curator, art expert, and to top it up as a husband and lover by the end. All in all, a one-time read on a lazy afternoon.

Guest Review: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves





Reviewed by: Vishal Kale

The Plot
Dragon Island is a Russian Outpost in the Arctic Sea region housing one of the most diabolical advanced weapon laboratories devised by mankind. Unfortunately, Dragon Island is also the home of one of the deadliest weapons ever devised. And even more unfortunately Dragon Island has been captured by a renegade group of thugs calling themselves the Army Of Thieves. Their Agenda: World Destruction, which the thugs prefer to call the revenge of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. The weapon is set to destroy everything in a matter of five hours – and the good guys have 5 hours to save the world. A small matter of travelling several thousand miles in 5 hours, overcoming the “gentlemen” and disarming the weapon. Enter Scarecrow – the hero. Scarecrow is Captain Shane Scofield, a battle hardened marine who is ideally placed a few hours away from the target. With him is a motley collection of people – a few soldiers and a few civilians. The rest of the book deals with how these handful civilians and soldiers save the world. There are more than a few twists and turns along the way that fundamentally alter the way things proceed, which makes for interesting reading.

The Characters
The book has only 2 real characters that have been properly developed: one directly and the other by inference. The direct one is Scofield, whose rugged nature, tough outlook and character is well brought out by references to the ugly past as well as by his actions in the novel. He comes across as frankly too good to be true, almost a superhero. His quick thinking abiities, toughness are all believable in that he is a highly decorated marine, and a battle hardened veteran. The disbelief is only in the exploits described in the novel, which leave you shaking your head in utter disbelief. The second character is the chief villain, who reigns over this novel by sheer brilliance and brutality. This is in keeping with the intentions of the novelist, who wanted an antagonist who was a match for the main protagonist. In this, the author has achieved success.
There are several other characters – Gena Newman, who has been reasonably well developed as a tough sergeant, Zack Weinberg, Corporal The Kid Thompson, Lance Corporal Puzo, Emma Dawson, Vassily Ivanov, Veronique Champion and Bertie the robot. Among all of these, you end up remembering only Bertie The Robot, who turns out to be a useful companion thanks to his armaments. Among the others, Emma, Zack and Newman share space occasionally with Scofield as supporting cast in various scenes.

The Analysis
First,  the good. The book is a good read, written in a fast and racy pace – almost hectic, a page turner. The lack of character development is in keeping with the story, which is only about 2 people. Further, the constraints imposed by the time-span as well as the need for a racy speed meant the character development had to be sacrificed. The entire plan of Scofield's party has been described well, making their progress almost believable. It is almost like reading the graphic, shot – by – shot description of a battle, which is only to be expected if one is travelling a few hundred miles on arctic ice to save the world. Not only that, if you have also managed to hold reader interest while you are describing the battle, then you can pat yourself in the back. And most important is the cliff-hanger climactic scene, which is a real humdinger and a genuine surprise, and totally in keeping with the quicksilver thought process of Scofield.
Next, the bad: at times, it gets a bit monotonous – battle after battle. Next, the entirely avoidable use of profanity which takes a bit of the fun away. Third, the needless torture scenes which could have been avoided.

In summation a good novel, a racy read. Ideally suited for journeys as it is a page-turner!

(Vishal Kale is a mid-level sales professional - an MBA in marketing with a passion for reading assorted fiction and Indian history / development. He blogs at www.reflectionsvvk.blogpsot.in )

Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Review: Dead Man's Grip



REVIEW: Peter James – Dead Man’s Grip
Reviewed by: Ananthakrishnan

Dead Man's Grip is my first foray into the world of Peter James and I believe it is a world that I want to look into further. A quick search on the internet reveals the fact that Peter James' novels are meticulously well-built stories that shower a lot of attention to detail - in the world of crime fiction these would be named as well written police procedurals. The plot and the settings in itself are fairly riveting and the results are a fairly well-paced and well-etched out novel.

The action begins with a four-way accident which leaves an unfortunate cyclist dead. Carly Chase who was driving a car (who ends up not playing any actual role in the accident thanks to her quick reflexes) is fairly shook up but then life goes further downhill when worse news comes calling - the other two participants in the mishap have been brutally murdered after being tortured and all signs point to her as the next one in line. Not to mention the fact that the dead cyclist is the grandson of a jailed American Mafia don. So with this being the mise-en-scene it is a race against time for our protagonist, Detective Roy Grace, to save Carly from the hands of a sadistic killer.

As is evident the plot has all the ingredients for a pot-boiler but I really do have to admit that the book does not do justice in terms of the 'race-quotient'. Though the book is by no means grating I believe that such a good story warranted a lot of fast paced action with a lot of twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Well, that’s the other thing - this is not a suspense / mystery thriller - the killer is known to the reader from the word go, so all that the pages do reveal are a blow-by-blow account of how the perpetrator is apprehended eventually. Having said that there are some things that did grab me - the fleshing out of characters is quite even and is well peppered throughout the book so as to not distract the flow but woven in deftly to keep the continuum (Tooth may be a clich├ęd killer but I still enjoyed all his parts). This being my first novel I did enjoy getting to familiarize myself with all the recurring characters - I hope they continue to be as interesting in the books to follow and are not mere fillers. Also the book was a vindication to the 'devil-lies-in-the-detail' (dug the fact that Angry Birds is featured in the novel along with Friend Mapper - an iPhone game and an application - now that’s contemporary stuff) style of Peter James for this is a well written account of the journey that Roy Grace is set to embark on - the ending, as most of series book do, leaves a nice loose end that leaves the reader wanting to know when the next book will be out - a nice touch.

In summary, I am intrigued enough to explore Peter James' world a little more. A good dose of police procedurals is something I always savor and I might find some of my complaints being negated in the other books. It is clear that this is a good book in what seems to be a pretty strong series - I believe that readers already familiar with his work will be quick to accept this while the new readers, like me, would be lured to take the plunge to understand Roy Grace and Peter James' creation just that little bit more.

(Ananth is a software engineer from Chennai who loves reading but loves even more the dissecting that follows the read)

Guest Review: The Time of My Life


The Time of My Life
Cecelia Ahern
Reviewed by Karishma Upadhyay

If life was a person, would it be a man or a woman? Grumpy or happy? Well, if your life is a Cecelia Ahern novel, then you’d be stuck with Life (yes, in caps) who is grumpy enough to kick your butt. And, he is a man.
Confused? Well, here’s the story of Lucy Silcheste– she is out of touch with her life; hates her job; has lost her gorgeous apartment; hates meeting her family and friends and would much rather stay at home with her cat. Oh, the love of her life has left her to go travelling and make his own tv show. In short, it’s all going South for Lucy.   
Like the proverbial Ostrich, Lucy refuses to deal with her life. She tells herself and others around her, little soothing lies. Lying on her carpet one day when she returns from work is an invitation from Life. She ignores the invitation but soon learns that Life just doesn’t give up on you. Tired of being ignored and mistreated, Life decides to stage an intervention.  When she finally does meet Life, he forced her to take charge and make changes. Together the duo go about setting Lucy’s life right.
Lucy starts off being an annoying, lying good-for-nothing but at some point during the book I found myself rooting for her. Towards the end, there is also a smidgen of chemistry between Lucy and Life. Book stores might stock The Time Of My Life in their chick lit section, but this more than just regular chick lit. Ahern takes a regular theme of reclaiming your life, adds a bit of magic and philosophy with huge dollops of wit to turn the book into a lot more.

(Karishma Upadhyay has been a film journalist for 15 years. When is she not chasing actors or digging for gossip, she is stuck to her books (or now Kindle))


Guest Review: The Eight Guest and Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteriesr


Author: Madhulika Liddle
Reviewer: Ritika Palit

Mystery books often lack the layered prose which usually makes readers pick up their favourite books and re-read them. Yet, readers keep on going back to Sherlock Holmes, keep on picking up those Poirot novels and will still be moved by Father Brown’s impassioned speech to Flambeau. What makes readers return to mystery novels? To look for clues they might have missed in the first reading? To recapture that feeling of amazement and awe when they read the grand denouement by the detective?
Good detective novels, the ones which endure, are firmly ensconced in their humanity and in their atmosphere. Think of The Hound of Baskerville and the loneliness and gauntness of the moors immediately haunt you. Madhulika Liddle’s “The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries” is defined by its atmosphere. Set in 1656, the stories are written in the era of Shahjahan’s ruling. Liddle subtly mentions the class divisions, the gender divide, the debauchery of the aristocracy, the desperation of poverty. She does so without judgment. She is an author content with just building up the world where her detective lives, and we see the same world with her unbiased eyes. And what a world it is indeed.
Muzaffar Jang, described as a ‘Maverick Mughal Nobleman’, is an oddity in his era. He suffers from intense curiosity, is regardless of social positions, and has friends from all strata of society. This combination often results in his being entangled in mysterious situations. He travels all over Dilli, from the house of noblemen, exquisite gardens, the now-destroyed Begum ki Sarai to small villages with detailed explanations of their water supply, the Royal elephant stables and the imperial atelier. We go with him and get immersed in the flavour of Old Dilli. However, Jang himself remains a stranger to us. We never really empathize with the detective’s need to detect or with his flouting of social conventions. Perhaps little biographical details would help readers warm up to the nobleman more.
The mysteries themselves are quite lightly written, some of them rather blandly obvious, while some do have an interesting background story and can grip a reader. ‘A Pachydermal Puzzle’, which takes place in the Royal Elephant Stables, deserves a special mention. But the plot of the stories seems to take a backseat to the more beautifully detailed description of the world in which the mysteries are set.
Madhulika Liddle has done a marvelous job of researching old Dilli and has presented it to us beautifully. But the setting gives her yet more to explore. This is an unknown world to most readers, and details on political, social and cultural conventions from that era would make further tales more welcome. The mysteries are simple and the author can afford to be more adventurous with her content. However, this book can happily be recommended for a little light reading, if only for the world in which the author takes us.

(Ritika Palit is doing her Ph.D. in Development Economics and reads books to get over that)