Book review: Penumbra

Book review: Penumbra

Everyone one of us would have tried playing the sleuth when we were young, thanks to the Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene books like the Secret Seven and Famous Five and Nancy Drew. Even Scooby Doo and friends helped us to imagine ourselves as the clue finders, that we were not. A few days ago, I unlocked my house to find the living room a mess. Of course, I had to be the detective that I always wanted to be, to deduce and choose between the hot wind or the mouse as the culprit behind the ransack. I carefully analysed the window placement and probable direction of the wind and decided to blame it. I also was joyous that it could not have been the mouse, as there was no other damage found around the house. I do not know if I should feel happy or foolish that I didn’t think of any other possibility for having a mess inside a locked house, like a thievery or a ghost phenomenon.

Nothing better could have made me choose this book for a read than the above incident. Yes, after I solved a classic whodunit I wanted to read about one. So here I spent a little over two hours to read this short story. So how did it fare on the scales of a real life detective (that’s me, ahem ahem).
Book Name: PENUMBRA

Author:   Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Genre: Fiction Thriller

Characters: Prakash Ray, Rajendra Mukherjee,

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for the free copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

Prakash Ray is invited to celebrate his uncle Rajendra Mukherjee’s 60th birthday, whom he has never heard of before. He is intrigued by the scenario and not having much to lose; Prakash travels to the secluded villa, located far away from the city limits. He meets a mix of characters who have also been invited by the gregarious and artistic Rajendra. As the night wears out, he gets to know about the guests and learns more about his uncle and his life. All seem fun and frolic until they find a dead body. Cut off from the outer world and stuck in a closed environment with somewhat unknown people, tempers flare and suspicions on each other swell. Each of them tries and play detective to solve the murders and absolve them of the suspicion. So who, when how and why forms the rest of the story.

The writing is straightforward and direct as suited to the genre. The editing was crisp. The plot is relatively tight, though I had a few reservations, and the end connects well without leaving any loopholes. The protagonist Prakash is a simpleton who plays Watson to the characters who want to play Sherlock (mind you there are two), whose naivety seem to be a little too simple for my liking.

The subplot about Prakash and Suhashini is an interesting addition to the story about but makes us understand why Prakash had to take the trip. There are several cliches, and I was able to guess the culprit before the cat was out of the bag, though the reason was not clear until the end. The timeline of the story did not bode with me well, maybe it was just me.

The primary feature for a whodunit to win the hearts of the readers is getting them involved in the plot and when the mystery unravels it should be an ‘I should have seen it‘ moment. Most of us who grew up reading Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes (or even watching, in case of the latter) might relate to what I am saying about being involved in the story and only for that reason ‘And then there were none’ or ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ stays the top favorite among hundreds of detective short stories for many readers.  So how did ‘Penumbra’ fare in this aspect? I would say it did this in part, except for the *key clue*, which was not available for the reader to help solve the puzzle.

Growing up we would all have played the classic detective board game, ‘Clues’. The game consists of six suspects, six weapons, nine rooms, and a murder, the players take turns to guess the murderer, who is randomly selected among the players by a pick of cards. This book is similar to the game and has similar characters. It follows the classic whodunit style. If you were looking for an Indian version Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie or our very own Byomkesh you might pick this book.
Meet Me in Paris: A Book Review

Meet Me in Paris: A Book Review

One of the many reasons we read fiction is to escape the reality called life. Reading a memoir is like reading fiction for me, as it doesn’t happen to me or anyone I know. For instance, I didn’t realize Memoirs of a Geisha was an actual memoir until I completed it (yeah I kinda missed the point while reading the title) and it did feel like a fiction while reading it. Rarely does a memoir make me feel that the writer did go through these, and they know what they talk about. So when I received Meet Me in Paris from the author I did not expect anything different. So how did it fare on the scale? Read on.

About Meet me in Paris

Meet me in Paris review

Book Name: Meet Me in Paris

Author:  Juliette Sobanet

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Memoir

Characters: Danielle (Juliette), Nick

Setting: Paris, France

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Author for the free copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

This review has been published in the CBC Magazine

Plot Summary of Meet me in Paris

The memoir traces about two to three years of the author’s life, who is a successful romance writer, someone in love with Paris. She is married to her high school sweetheart and their marriage is beyond salvage. Despite their love for each other, she feels she is trapped in her marriage and is seeking an escape. That is when Nick enters into her life and shows her what is to be adored and loved in the two days they spend together away from their spouses.

Yes, Nick is married and has no intention to leave his wife, despite their open relationship. Yet for Danielle it is an eye opener, and she finally decides both she and her husband deserve better, they proceed to separate. Danielle travels to the only place that could offer her the solace and the excitement she needed in her life, where Nick travels just to spend two weeks with her. What happens then? Do the star-crossed lovers spend their lives together? Or is Nick just a rebound?

Book review of Meet me in Paris

I should start with how amazed I am at the author’s courage to wrote about her personal life, especially one that talks about her separation and an affair with a married man. The memoir talked about the period when she was at her most vulnerable when she was in love with someone who would never leave his wife and she has left her husband, albeit not for her lover. Though I didn’t like Danielle’s nor Nick’s character as a person, I understand that is how life is. There are no black and white squares to peg people in. Her memoir takes us through her heartbreak, divorce, hopelessness, depression and also falling in love, figuring out the future and of course travelling, baring her emotions as it is, it can not get truer than this.

Juliette’s writing shows that she is a seasoned romance novelist. I was resonating with her plight to be stuck in a suffocating loveless marriage and having an affair before and during her separation even though it is such a taboo. I think it was only due to her writing style that she made me empathize with her and even, justify her actions. Her love for Nick and his for her could not have been captured any better. Even the intimate scenes were beautifully written and honest to say the least, (Note: not suited for young audience – PG rated.)

A few days ago, one of my friends was saying (read as complaining) that he dropped a book mid-way as it had too many characters while none of them had impact on the storyline. I was genuinely shocked and kinda miffed as well. But I was able to relate to this emotion when I was reading this one. Wow Juliette, you do have so many friends! While I am happy for you, but after a while, it became hard even to remember anyone at all, and you know what, it still didn’t matter as far as the plot was concerned.

Did I relate to her? No.

Did I like her actions and choices? No.

Did I understand her? Yes, and I think that is where a writer in her shone her best.

And yes there were times that I wanted to throw the book at her, for her choices exasperated me but again, that is people do in real life – mess it up and pick the dust to move on. We all mess up, we all do things that in reflection understand we should not have. But to gather what is left and move ahead to make better choices is what Juliette did. That is what I feel about the memoir, a brave and honest attempt.

Bottom line

If you like Eat, Pray and Love – you might like this.

The plot about discovering oneself through travel post-separation might be vaguely similar, but give it a chance you will find it grow on you.

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Have you read Meet me in Paris by Juliette Sobanet? What is your favorite memoir? Do you like memoirs more than fiction? Let us talk.

Book Review: Mummy’s Little Angel

Book Review: Mummy’s Little Angel

Last week a friend was discussing in one of the forums about how if a plot had identical twins, then it somehow it involves a case of mistaken identity in most regional movies for ages now. We though proved to him otherwise, had to agree it was the case of the majority. Now if there were identical twins, it could be acceptable that there could be some confusions due to their appearances, but how different can they be based on their interests, personalities or habits. If you have ever wondered how siblings who are born and brought in similar conditions have entirely different personalities, can twins vary so much given that they have been together even prior to birth? This precisely brings us to the crux of this book  Mummy’s Little Angel by JW Lawson.

Book Name: Mummy’s Little Angel
Author: JW Lawson
Genre: Fiction Thriller
Characters: Annie, Maggie, Joanne (Kristy) Stokes, Jonathan Davies
Setting: The USA
Disclaimer: Thanks to the iRead Tour for the free copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.
 
The story begins with the confused diary entries of the mother Joanna and followed by the twins Annie and Maggie, all talking about mis-fortunate and horrific events that has blown the family apart. Joanna is mobility impaired, her husband is shot and is labeled a pedophile, one of her twin is disfigured and suffers from amnesia due to a fire accident and the other twin is blamed for it all and is imprisoned.  Both the daughters love their mother and the mother loves both of them unconditionally and equally, though the daughters do not agree on that. They both have been competing for being ‘Mummy’s Little Angel’ all through their lives, even while they were particularly close to and fond of each other – or were they really?
 
Joanna does not want to seek the truth but she is pushed to, because one of the twin is lying and the other is innocent but how does one find out when both her daughters have the capability to manipulate everyone around them and get away with it as well? Or are they both equally guilty and trying to hide some more dark secrets? Timing could not be any worse for her schizophrenic mother who had abandoned her twenty years ago, to come back to their lives. Is the Gran somehow connected to all these incidents? It is up to Joanna and her brother Rob to face theirs fears and find the true culprit.
 
The writing alternates between the diary entries and narrations of the the main characters and their mother . It took me a while to get into the story because of the variations in the voices and these changeovers were too soon for my taste. But once I got into the plot after about 30 pages, I did not drop the book even once for the next two hours. The story thrusts upon the reader mystery after mystery and holds the same suspense and thrill till the last page. More than once I changed my guess on the guiltier person, and the plot thickened even after I completed about 80% of the book, which is highly commendable.
 
I felt the book could have had some dates to help the reader to form a timeline of the events in his mind, especially since these were diary entries. Though the author had the clarity regarding her plot, there were some untied knots or rather some knots needed better explanation. I wish there had been a clearer narration of what happened on the fateful, yet all I received was biased view from both the sides. Okay, now I am just nitpicking, the last chapter or epilogue could have been done away with and a slightly open ended narration could have let the reader’s imagination run riot.
 
There may have been places that made me feel the writing could have better but hey the making-me-sit-on-the-edge-of-my-seat plot makes up for everything else. Also be warned of the explicit contents like gory violence and rape, scenes related to pedophilia, ritualism and BDSM and mildly abusive language involved. The first book that I could relate this book to is the Gone Girl, though the plots and the writing are nothing similar. If you liked the Gone Girl and you are in the look out for your next psychological thriller, then here is your next book. 
 
Watch out the space for the review of a popular memoir soon! 
Book review: The Devil’s Prayer

Book review: The Devil’s Prayer

I once got caught red handed by my Science teacher in my fourth grade for reading Archie’s while she was teaching. (Yea I live on the edge like that.) A friend had brought her book for me to read and I wanted to finish it before the evening. No wonder I stood without feeling guilty and in fact I was proudly standing when she called out me.

Now that I think about it, I realize she didn’t scold or punish me; she just forbade me from reading during class hours. Thanks to teachers like her, my love for reading has not burnt or faded out, like everything else in my life. 

You know what,  I still am the same, I love Archie’s and I don’t stop reading even when I am reprimanded or scorned upon. Yet, I can’t think of the last time I picked a book and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. Thanks to ‘The Devil’s Prayer‘ by Luke Gracias, I stayed awake up to the wee hours to complete this one.What makes a novel un-put-down-able?

Is it the fast-paced and well-knotted plot? Characters that you can relate to or intrigue you? Or crisp and engaging narration and language? Or just the fact that it has the name of an author that you like? Well, I can not hold it anymore. This book has it all, erm, except the last one.  I hadn’t heard of Luke Gracias before I picked the book and now I can’t wait for the sequel. Says much about the book and his writing, read on to know more.

Book Name: The Devil’s Prayer 

Author: Luke Gracias

Genre: Fiction – Historical Thriller

Characters: Siobhan, Denise, Jess

Setting: Brisbane, Australia

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Author, Netgalley and Writer’s Melon for the free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.  

The story begins with Sister Benedictine’s suicide leaving a group of monks on a trail in Spain. Siobhan watches the story on the television to realize that it was her mother who went missing six years ago.

She begins her journey to the isolated convent her mother seemed to have belonged to in a quest to search answers for her questions. She is tailed by the mysterious monks when she finds her mother’s confession and a mysterious key.

What she learns leaves her confused about her mother’s sanity and makes her start doubting her loyalty to her family. Whom would you choose to believe and trust – your mother who abandoned you six years ago or the person whom you have loved and protected until that moment?

The book takes us through two parallel stories from different realms, her mother’s story leading to the suicide and the daughter who is trying to solve the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance and the subsequent public death.

Denise’s story and her deal with the Devil had me engrossed and sleep defied me until I completed it. Of course, as always I rooted for the so called bad guy, the Devil and was waiting for him to get his share back. There are  some graphic scenes of violence, so a word of caution for the faint hearted.

I loved that Lucas’s storyline never dropped its momentum anywhere in the story. But I did find a difference in the writing between Denise’s and Siobhan’s stories, may be it was intentional – or not. The ending seemed to be a little bit hastened and cluttered though that did not affect the reading experience much. I repeat, I can’t wait for the sequel. Even though the book did not leave a cliffhanger, there are too many answered questions.

Do you remember the frenzy that the number ‘666’  created when the Omen came out, or the Mona Lisa garnered with the release of ‘ The Da Vinci Code’  and somehow everyone wanted a piece of Da Vinci’s history? That is how I felt about Genghis Khan and the solar eclipses.

You might find the plots to be quite similar, an untimely death, followed by a family member frantically trying to make something sense out of the death and unraveling of the mysteries related to the religious cults supported by history and fiction. It is the execution that makes all the difference.

If you like historical fiction/thriller, grab The Devil’s Prayer already.

Book review: The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur

Book review: The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur

My countdown of the number of days for summer holidays to begin starts right from the day our school reopens. I guess every Indian child would have done this. Summer vacations are all we wait for. For me, summer reminds me of the lazy afternoons with no fixed schedule. One day could be playing in the streets with friends without even realizing that the sun usually works at his best or just wondering what snack my Paati (grandmom) was going to make that evening.

 

Summer and its scorching hot days sure did bring out the mystery seeker in me. We used to invent stories in our heads, decide to enact them and all that, without the adults finding out them somehow made me feel adventurous and excited. There are very few books that take you back in time make you feel nostalgic and make you miss those good ol’ times. The Speaking Ghost of Rajpur by Priyonkar Dasgupta promised to do just that. Read on to know if it delivered what it promised.

 

Author: Priyonkar Dasgupta
Genre: Fiction – Thriller
Characters: Shoumu, Shoumik, Joy, Pinku
Disclaimer: I received the book from The Tale Penseive in exchange for an honest review. 
 
It is summer vacations and Shoumo and his brother Shoumik are visiting Raipur, their cousin’s place. Their thirst for adventure triggered high, they roam the streets and try to chase some mystery until they come across a ghost. If you were like me having elder cousins and sibling that you had had to work hard to fit into their group when you were young, you would be able to relate to the protagonist, just like I did. I felt he was adorable, and his acts to fit into the older teenager gang were likable because the voice of the narrator seemed a little bit more matured than the so-called normal 13-year-old kids.
 
I loved the writing and the idyllic tone the novel was set in. The language is quite simple, and the pace was a tad bit slow for my liking. But for what is lacked in pace was made up by the interesting and quirky characters. Though some might find it little difficult to get past the vivid descriptions and loads of extra details that do not add to the story, when one might enjoy the book if one reads the book as a gateway back to your past. Kudos for the writer to have tied all the loose knots and made it a well-knit story. There were few places where the editors could have done a better job and could have avoided words like ‘stuffs’, ‘wetting in the rains’.

 

 
I was reminded of the Malgudi Days and Swami and Friends while reading about Rajpur. In fact, I had too many visits and revisits to memories from the past thanks to the book. I remembered one crazy night when my cousins decided to share ghosts stories claiming it real and the many nights that I was afraid to go to my aunt’s house which was about 20 ft away from mine. So I guess the book fulfilled the promise to bring back the nostalgia.
Bottomline: If you like Enid Blyton’s series like Famous Five, Secret Seven, don’t think, just grab the book.
 
P.S I loved the cover. It is not only beautiful but also intrigues the reader hinting at what to expect.