Book Review Books

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on The Shore, written by Haruki Murakami and translated to English by Philip Gabriel. It tells the stories of Kafka, a young boy of 15 who runs away from home and an old man Nakata, who has an uncanny ability to talk to cats.

Kafka runs away from his father’s home and finds shelter in a private library in Takamatsu, run by Miss Saeki and the intelligent and more welcoming Oshima. There he spends his days reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of One Thousand and One Nights and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki until the police begin inquiring after him in connection with the murder of his father that he is not sure if he has committed or not. Oshima brings him to the forests of Kōchi Prefecture, where Kafka goes through an other-worldly experience and is ultimately healed.

Nakata’s story starts with military reports of a strange incident where multiple children, including Nakata, collapse in the woods. Nakata is the only one who came out of the incident without any memory and unable to read and write. Later on it is shown that due to his uncanny ability of being able to talk to cats, Nakata has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats. As his story progresses, Nakata kills a man named Johnnie Walker, a cat murderer. After that, he goes on the road for the first time in his life, unable even to read a map and without knowing where he will eventually end up. He befriends a truck driver named Hoshino, who takes him on as a passenger in his truck and soon becomes very attached to the old man and both head for Takamatsu, an unknown force driving him there.

Kafka on the Shore mixes magical realism, mystery and sexuality and with a young boy and an old man at the centre of the story, it piques the interest from the very beginning. As the stories of Kafka and Nakata unfold, it is clear that at some point their lives will intertwine. Kafka’s father is murdered and though Kafka is miles away, he finds himself soaked in blood when he wakes up and Nakata too has killed a man called Johnnie Walker. The mystery of Kafka’s father’s murder follows them both throughout.

I started the book with some apprehension as it is somewhat large but as the pages turned the story kept me hooked. There is just the correct blend of mystery and magic in the book. What happens when the line between conscious and subconscious dissolves? Kafka on the Shore answers this question through the characters. This was my second Murakami book and I loved this one too. A must read for everyone.

My rating: 4.8/5

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Book Review: The Hollow

What is the first thought that comes to the mind of a famous detective as he walks in for a luncheon and finds that a man is dying of a gun shot wound and someone is standing next to him with a gun?

Agatha Christie is a name that needs no introduction. She is arguably one of the best crime writers of all time and Hercule Poirot a formidable detective. A group of relatives and close friends have gathered to spend a weekend together at The Hollow and one of them is killed just when Hercule Poirot arrives for a lunch party at the house of the Angkatells. The wife stands over the dead body with a gun in her hands and everything seems simple enough about the case until it isn’t.

There are many twists in the plot and police’s and Poirot’s suspicion moves from one member of the party to another. Some family secrets are revealed during the investigation and everytime Poirot seems to be getting close to the answer, the facts bring a dead-end. The simplicity of scene of the murder confuses Poirot and this simple murder creates the biggest twist in the story.

Agatha Christie’s characters are as always perfect and meant to be there. She creates the perfect suspects and all of them have a motive for murder. Hercule Poirot is as always dynamic in his presence but this time he doesn’t have much investigation to carry out. Compared to her other works with Poirot at the helm, this has lesser presence of him and most of the story revolved around the Angkatells and their guests at The Hollow. The Hollow is more of a victim’s and suspects’ story rather than a story of Poirot’s investigative prowess. But, it is a good and enjoyable murder mystery.

My rating: 4.1/5

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Book Review: The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Confessions of Frannie Langton has affected me more than I thought it would. Frances Langton, our protagonist, a “mulatta” girl – as she is often referred to as – is charged with the murder of her master and mistress, George Benham and his wife Marguerite Benham. The story starts with the trial of Frannie who is being called The Mulatta Murderess by the press. She is writing her story on advice of her lawyer who has given her some papers, pen and ink to occupy herself while she is imprisoned.

Her story begins with her childhood, while she is a slave at “Paradise”, a Jamaican plantation where she is an reluctant assistant to Langton, who conducts horrific experiments on the slaves. He then gives her away to Benham in the hope of gaining some favour after his wife and her brother turn him out of Paradise.

As her new journey begins, with new kind of chores, Frances finds herself in love with her Madam and from hereon nothing is as simple as it should be. And, suddenly Frannie finds herself implicated for the murders of her master and mistress.

I never would have done what they say I’ve done, to Madame, because I loved her. Yet they say I must be put to death for it, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?”

Frances Langton’s story starts with these lines and with this our author, Sara Collins has built a wonderful, moving and engrossing story of a slave who falls in love with her mistress. The fact that she doesn’t “believe” that she has killed them instead of saying that she “has not” killed them is in itself beginning of a most intriguing story.

Slavery, slave trade and macabre of all that used to happen in such estates as Paradise in the name of Science has been intricately woven with the life story of Frannie Langton. Sara Collins uses various shades of gothic novel in this period novel and she is not afraid to write about the grotesque.

Depression, drug addiction and homosexuality are also some of the taboo topics that this wonderful work talks about. The love and attraction between Frances and her Madame are not only central to the plot but is also a reflection upon the dreary nature of society of that time and even now.

In this fast moving novel, the journey we partake with Frannie through Paradise and then London to the gallows where she is being held during her trial, is a memorable one and kudos to the writer for writing such an awesome story. This is one intriguing work and I loved it a lot.

I will not declare the murderer or what the jury decide at the trial, and end with Frannie’s words –

“A man writes to separate himself from the common history. A woman writes to try to join it.”

My rating: 5/5

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Book Review: A Map of Days

The fourth part of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs does not disappoint. Having finished the first three parts back in early 2017, I came to know of this fourth instalment only last year. Since then, I have been meaning to read this but never actually managing to squeeze this in my never ending TBR pile. But this July, I finally managed to read the book and enjoyed it.

A Map of Days starts where Library of Souls left, the Peculiar Children appearing at Jacob’s door to save him from his parents who were about to commit him to asylum. The Peculiar Children are now ageing at a normal pace, just like normals and they wish to use this advantage to blend in with the others in today’s world.

What starts for Jacob with a commitment to help the children and the ymbrynes soon transforms into his desire to be a hollow – hunter like his grandfather. He now undertakes a mission to help another peculiar with some of his friends.

A Map of Days, like it’s previous three books is very interesting and full of unexpected twists. Ransom Riggs has continued the story in the same engrossing way and the pictures he uses add perfect surrealism to the story.

Transition between years as the children and Jacob move from one time zone to another is seamless and attention to details of a particular era is commendable. Emma & Jacob’s relationship is also worth mentioning. Though Jacob had loved his grandfather, Abe, ghost of dead grandfather as Emma’s lover is still haunting him & Emma as deep down Emma is still not over Abe.

Personally, I think the book could have moved at a faster pace. The attention to details is important here specially when you are “loop” travelling but it also slowed down the plot a little. A little more action would certainly have given the readers some more fun. But, other than that, I can find no fault in A Map of Days. It is a must read series for all.

Two of my favourite quotes from the book:

“All my life, normal people had mostly baffled me-the ridiculous ways they strove to impress one another, the mediocre goals that seemed to drive them, the banality of their dreams. The way people rejected anything that didn’t fit their narrow paradigm of acceptability, as if those who thought or acted or dressed or dreamed differently from them were a threat to their very existence.”

“it’s a lot of cheese.” “It’s the pinnacle of human achievement,” he declared seriously. “I thought Britain was an empire. But this—this—is world domination!”

My rating: 4.8/5

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Book review: Thirteen Reasons Why

You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.” – Hannah Baker in Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. In the month of mental health awareness, I picked up this book. Having heard so much about the book, I was quite excited to read Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s about Hannah Baker, the girl who committed suicide and her tapes that she has left for some of her “friends”, 13 people who are in some way responsible for her final act.

The story begins with Clay receiving a shoe box full of tapes which he realises are from Hannah who has been dead for a few weeks now. In the tapes, she talks about all that happened to her and why she took such a drastic action.

The author, Jay Asher has built an amazing story with a continuity that forces one to turn to the next page to know what happened next. Hannah’s account along with Clayton’s narrative of the same time period makes this a very intriguing read.

Though you know what happens in the end, the story grips you because it’s not about what happens but about how it happens. The mental trauma that certain acts can have on others is depicted in a very real manner.

Hannah declares in the first cassette itself that she is making the tapes for people who were responsible for her suicide. From that moment on Clay is intrigued and worried because he liked her and can’t figure out when and how he hurt her so much.

First person narration of both Hannah’s and Clay’s stories is what makes this one a different and intriguing experience and really leaves a mark. I feel that this book is a must read.

My rating: 4.9/5

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Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

This February I picked up a romance to read. I don’t dislike the genre and there have been a few good books that I have read. So this year, on the occasion of Valentine’s Day, I read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.

The story is about a successful career oriented girl, Stella who is awkward in social situations and a good looking guy, Michael who works as a part time hooker. She hires the guy to teach her certain skills that she doesn’t have and also to teach her how to date.

The premise of the story is fine and there are times when it’s even interesting for a few pages. But mostly I didn’t like it. The characters are not relatable. There is so little time spent with them and so much is spent on sex that it reads more like a M&B book. And I personally outgrew them in high school.

What Helen Hoang needed to do was spend some more time with the lead characters. A successful autistic heroine is a good start but all she does is stay lost in her work and think about sex. There is nothing else to her.

The Kiss Quotient did not leave a very content feeling for me. So yeah, I won’t recommend it to anyone.

My rating: 2.5/5

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Book Review: Dream Beyond Shadows: No Ordinary Tourist

A lot of times, we go through in our lives what is called an existential crisis. This is when we start questioning all that we do, the way we live, where we work, every aspect of our lives.

The author, Kartikeya Ladha goes through the same and goes out and about to explore himself. He has a good job, with great opportunities for him to grow but one day he realises that he wants more from his life. He wants to search in himself and the world what is it that he truly seeks. The book Dream Beyond Shadows: No Ordinary Tourist is about that journey.

The book is a recollection of the journey he undertakes to Peru. He quits his job and goes on to a country with very little to no knowledge of the language. It’s about the difficulties he faces and how he manages to overcome them. Living in a foreign country, earning his livelihood there, meeting and interacting with new people add to his journey and he gains a knowledge of himself and the meaning of life that we are living.

The writing is quite interesting and takes us on a journey with the author. The poems and illustrations are the added joys of the book. Do read it for a peek into the fruitful experience of the author.

My rating: 4.1/5

P.S. I would like to thank the author for review copy of the book.

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Book Review: Devourers from Suryaksh

She makes people dance around the fire …
… before she kills them in cold blood.

No one knows her true origin. Time readers can’t read this ruthless telekinetic, who snaps necks with a mere hand gesture.

Tej, once a simple villager, now a time traveler, is pulled into conflict as she attacks him in 3057 BC, hunting for his friend. Dead bodies of his loved ones pile up as she ravages through his village. Intending to seek justice Tej races against time itself to fight her: an entity so vile, even her own kind fear her. But can he do this alone?

Devourers from Suryaksh, Part two of the Time Travelers Series starts from where the first part ended. Rigu’s treachery has been discovered and he has been punished. Tej is making peace with the consequences of saving the world and everything seems to be settling down when another attack happens.

Tej’s deadly new nemesis, Nefe has turned up and she has telekinetic powers that Tej hasn’t even seen in anyone else. To destroy Nefe and her army, Tej must ally with Rigasur or the planet earth and the humans will all be taken over by Nefe.

About the story: Science fiction and mythology once again blended together to create an interesting book. The time travelling, telekinesis, possession and technological advances like AI and robotics together create quite an impact and it surely makes for a gripping read. The author, Varun Sayal has carried forward Tej & Rigu’s story and the transformation in their mutual relationship has been depicted well. Tej has been used as a pawn by Rigasur/ Rigu and the betrayal is yet fresh in his heart but Tej lets go of his personal issues and decides to work with Rigu for the greater good.

At times I felt that certain scenes were highly inspired from Dr. Who, the television series. If you have been watching the series, the resemblance will dampen the reading experience at times. But other than that, I would say that Devourers from Suryaksh will not disappoint you.

The ending has hinted towards another part and it should be interesting to read how the story of Rigu and Tej moves on.

My rating: 3.8/5

PS: I would like to thank the author for review copy of the book.

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Book review: KaalKoot

KaalKoot – A deadly venom powerful enough to wipe out the entire human race. So, what happens when someone tries to unleash such a weapon with such monstrous consequences on earth?

That’s where this story begins, a person known as the Maestro has hatched a plan to unleash the weapon at a public gathering to create terror in the world. It has fallen upon our hero, Sam and an ACG agent Damini to stop the attack and save millions of people.

There is a lot at stake, more than anything he could have imagined and it has fallen upon him to save his girlfriend, Ananya and the world by finding the antidote to the bio weapon.

The narration of the story is fast and captivating. S. Venkatesh has created a good thriller with very realistic characters. The parts where the Maestro or Doc is present have a very sinister feel.

As a reader, you will feel sympathy for Sam and root for him to succeed in his venture. Damini is relentless and good at her job. She wants to get her work done at whatever cost because as she puts it “end justifies the means”.

There is also Prof Bhabani who had started his search for the antidote as a challenge. Each character develops as the story progresses and within a span of few days, they each find a realisation within themselves as to what they really want with their lives.

As a story woven through a myth and landscape of Himalayas, this one is remarkably good and for the lovers of thrillers, this book delivers.

My only concern was that the end seems a little rushed. We reach the conclusion in a jiffy which left me a little disappointed. But otherwise, it’s a good read.

My rating: 4.3/5

P.S. “I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset”

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Book review: Chronicles of Kali

Chronicles of Kali: The Secret Book of Asurs is about a young girl, Kali who has supernatural powers, which is her ability to talk to plants and animals and understand them. She has the power to stop the Asurs and save mankind from self destruction.

I started reading this book and by the end of first chapter, I was a little apprehensive. There is this girl who understands animals and trees and can talk to them. But then I continued reading and before I realised, I had crossed 50 pages. This clearly indicates that I was drawn into the story.

Chronicles of Kali by Prithvi Raj is about Kali, a girl found floating in the waves of Ganga and adopted by the great sage Vyas. She is destined to bring about the fall of Asurs. On the ghats of Varanasi, she meets Pat who fosters her after they are forced to flee from Varanasi because of the Asurs.

The writing is simple, the author keeps the plot fast and interesting. He has added just the right amount of supernatural and fantasy and it is an interesting take on Goddess Kali. I recommend reading this book.

My rating: 4.5/5

P.S. Thank you @vinfluencers (Insta handle) for the review copy of this book.