Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review : Death Under The Deodars - The Adventures of Miss Ripley-Bean

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Title: Death Under The Deodars - The Adventures of Miss Ripley-Bean
Author: Ruskin BondGenre: Fiction, Mystery, Murder
Pages: 208
Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Rating: 3.7/5

After being on my wishlist since it's release, Death Under the Deodars finally arrived and I was over the moon! I get excited about things like the book being a hardback instead of a regular paperback and that each story began with a small sketch of deodar trees drawn in freehand. The cover is as mysterious as it can get, but if it is Ruskin Bond, you cannot expect any less, can you?

The book is the latest one from Mr. Bond and is a collection of 8 short stories. The characters remain the same in all the stories, with events evolving around them. Miss Ripley-Bean is the central character in the book. She is seventy plus and has many stories to share. She lives in a portion of the Royal Hotel in Mussorie, which belonged to her father, but later sold to the current owner, Nandu. Mr. Lobo, another permanent resident of the hotel, entertains the guests by playing tunes on the piano. All these characters, in addition to the author himself and a few others, appear in all the stories. When Miss Ripley-Bean witnesses a murder, she is sure the murderer has recognized her. In another tale, a dead body is found in a box bed in one of the rooms of the hotel and one time, a big black dog seems to follow Mr. Bond to a party only to vanish, never to be seen again. The Daryaganj serial killer checks into the Royal Hotel. Who among the occupants would be his next victim? The hills sure have a lot of mystery hidden in their shadows. While that is the kind of inspiration writers are looking for, it can sometimes also act as a convenient setting to inspire a murderer.

I absolutely relish Mr. Bond's works and this one isn't an exception. There were a few stories that I thought could have been more twisted or tweaked up. Half of the stories were of the classic Ruskin Bond style but the others kind of lacked the stunning end that we are so used to. Nevertheless, I found it to be a mixed bag but the reader would definitely enjoy the few good stories that had all the necessary ingredients for the perfect mystery.

More than the stories themselves, it is the writing style that I so admire. Ruskin Bond has the knack of smoothly taking the story forward and then suddenly arriving at a shocking end. Almost like Hitchcock! I can keep on raving about how good Ruskin bond is but I guess, everyone knows enough, so I'll try to stop my ramblings here.

Last word. A bit disappointed but I wouldn't write it off completely. It still makes for a good set of mystery stories further accentuated by the eeriness of the misty, dark and lonely roads of the Himalayan hills.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: Smugglers & Scones (Moorehaven Mysteries #1)

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Title: Smugglers &Scones (Moorehaven Mysteries #1)
Author: Morgan C. Talbot
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Murder
Pages: 222
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Rating: 4/5

My first impression of the book was that this is going to be an interesting read. Why? One look at the cover and I instantly fell in love! Doesn't it look cute and pleasantly old school? The powder blue and the picture of scones and coffee, made me want to reach for the book that very moment. I was waiting to finish the previous book so that I could finally tuck my hands into this one. Settle down with a mug of coziness and you're all set on this mystery!

The story is about Pippa and the curious happenings in the little seaside town of Seacrest in Oregon. Pippa runs a B&B named Moorehaven, the residence of the late mystery writer Raymond Moorehaven. The place is a regular with mystery authors who come here to find ideas and inspirations for their books. The story begins with a boat accident, out of which Pippa successfully rescues Lake, a handsome young man. Pippa offers him a stay at the inn as Lake needs medical attention and is unable to recollect the events leading to the accident. Cecil, Lake's boss and the owner of a boat tour company, is found dead soon after and all suspicions turn towards Lake but he maintains that he cannot remember anything from the accident. While Pippa and Lake find a thing going on among themselves, another death occurs and Pippa and her author residents form a team to help track down the killer. From a break-in at Moorehaven to looking for an old treasure down a long lost tunnel, the story keeps the readers on a gripping hook, all the way till the end.

I simply loved the book but to the technicalities now, just for the heck of it. The narration is in first person, from Pippa's point of view. The story flows smoothly, with delightful specks of humor and suspense now and then. The main character of Pippa is a bubbly, loves-her-work kind. But the rest of the characters are given enough background too, to make it a complete and comfortable read.

The book dimly reminds me of the Five Go To Smuggler's Top series of the Famous Five. No, it is not childish in any way, it is just that I felt the same kind of adrenaline and excitement with this book. It is a cozy and delightful read, perfect for a weekend or travel. 

I have to mention the role of scones in the book, or my review would be incomplete. The appearance of scones and other delicacies that were being whipped up effortlessly, made me wish I was in Moorehaven myself. The scones feature in the background but are essential to fuel the curious minds that are at work in the story. I finished the book and thought it had a perfect ending, complete with recipes for two of the featured scones! And here I was googling recipes for them! I am stunned and surprised at the intuition of the author who kindly thought about us readers and provided an amazing flavour to the story (forgive my pun!), apart from the compelling climax.

Smugglers & Scones is a fun, interesting and absorbing read, a definite yes for mystery lovers.

*** This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. ***

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review: Palm Beach Deadly (Charlie Crawford Mystery Book #3)

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Title: Palm Beach Deadly (Charlie Crawford Mystery Book #3)
Author: Tom Turner
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Murder
Pages: 278

Rating: 4/5

When there's a murder mystery around, I just can't wait to dive in. It is a perfect stimulant to the weary, bored mind and perks me up instantly. Palm Beach Deadly by Tom Turner is one such book. Although it is a part of a series, it is a standalone and an enjoyable one at that. After long I have come across a mystery so good, I feel I should do a mystery marathon and read all the ones in my wishlist. But, sadly, that will have to wait. Prior commitments, you see. Anyway, I think I should stop with my ramblings and get down to business. Right!

Detectives Charlie Crawford and Mort Ott are called upon when a wealthy talk show host, Knight Mulcahy from Palm Beach, is murdered. The body is found in the pool house with a bullet to his chest. Knight Mulcahy had debased so many guests through his show that putting an end to it all would have been an irresistible opportunity for anyone. Crawford and Ott, in a true homicide detective fashion, follow the leads and evidences to find the culprit. Could it be one of those whose dirty secrets Mulcahy had revealed? Or could it be someone in the family (for the money, of course!)? And then there is the mystery man who shows up at cocktail parties, uninvited - the man in the double breasted blue blazer. Meanwhile, an Arab's nephew gets killed in what looks like a car theft and Crawford and Ott are simultaneously trying to crack that case too. Through false alibis, revelations and twists, the story takes an unexpected turn and old skeletons are unearthed from the secret closets of many.

Palm Beach Deadly is a fast paced murder mystery. Right from the beginning, I was hooked on to the story. A no-nonsense, straight to the point narrative, which is highly appreciated. There isn't a dull moment in the book and the story just flows smoothly all the way till the end. It is a classic who-dun-it, with one murder and several suspects, but solved in a contemporary manner.

The main character is Charlie Crawford who is shown as a matter-of-fact guy, someone who enjoys his work. There isn't much detail into his character in this book, at least. Perhaps the earlier ones in the series brushed that part. But the absence of such a detail doesn't affect the story in any way. Mort Ott, another important character, is an older but a thorough cop. The relationship between the two results in a good partnership and makes for the light moments in the story.

As for my opinion, I thoroughly enjoy such fast paced mystery stories. And this one is no exception. A modern day mystery with the ever intriguing string of clues and suspects, what more can you ask for, eh?

Highly recommended.

*** This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. ***

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Half Pants Full Pants : Real-Life Tales from Shimoga

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Title: Half Pants Full Pants: Real-Life Tales from Shimoga
Author: Anand Suspi
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 221
Publisher: Hector Beverages India Private Limited

Rating: 4.5/5

Paperboat always sends books and stuff, but what I look forward to are the cute little notes that come along! It adds a personal touch and is truly humbling. Thank you Paperboat for sending me this treasure of a book! I'll get to the review and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Half Pants Full Pants is a collection of childhood reminisces by Anand Suspi (the author), set in the town of Shimoga in Karnataka. The book begins with a short introduction of Shimoga before getting along with the stories. The author shares some unique experiences from his childhood such as inventing capris, making magnets, kung fu with mosquitoes and eating blades. I do not wish to indulge you in detail as it will take away the fun out of it. All I would like to mention is that it takes us back to our childhood days and people born in the 70s and early 80s will definitely relate and give out that nostalgic sigh!

The stories transport us back to the age when they were no attention seeking gadgets at our disposal. And yet, somehow, we never got bored. The era when a five paise had value, when TV was a luxury, when time was utilized, not ignored. Those were some precious times that made precious memories. Life back then, without any luxuries, was actually fun!

Coming to the technicalities, the narration is a heady mix of bluntness with a extra helping of humor. The author has nailed the narration! The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is Half Pant Tales, which includes experiences as a child, and Part 2 is Full Pant Tales, where stories range from his teenage and onwards. The author has so accurately described the mentality of parents back then and the nitty gritty of our lifestyle, that it has touched a nerve. A nostalgic nerve that gives me the warm fuzzies! 

Half Pants Full Pants is a book about childhood that is a must read for everyone, especially for children today. They may not relate but perhaps this book may help them gain a different perspective about innocence, being stupid and ridiculous, just being ourselves. 

As for the mosquitoes, well, nothing has changed in that respect. We still have to kung fu the suckers despite the Good Knight Advanced and all! But it could surely make for some interesting stories for our grandchildren!

Thank you Anand Suspi for this idyllic peek-a-boo into our glorious past. A definite read!

*** This book was sent to me by Paperboat in exchange for an honest review. ***

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Book Review: Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him

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Title: Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him
Author: Mukul Kumar
Genre: Fiction, Religion, Spirituality
Pages: 265
Publisher: Frog Books

Rating: 4/5

This is the author, Mukul Kumar's, second book. The title caught my attention instantly because this is a mantra I myself believe in. Religion and beliefs are so varied and personal for each of us and it is best that we discover our faith ourselves, through experiences. There are a lot of self proclaimed institutes/people out there that sell religion that, if we decide to trust them, leave us hollow from within. This is what the book is all about.

Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him is the story of Mukul. He is born into a joint family in Bihar. Mukul is a bright child but is brought up inattentively by the joint family. Soon, the family separates and despite the financial problems, Mukul gets into an engineering college and is sent off to college in Delhi. The author thoroughly describes the challenges faced and also the distractions that lead Mukul away from his goal of completing his degree with flying colors. Nevertheless, he finds himself a job and is working in Delhi when he is drawn towards a spiritual group headed by a Brazilian missionary and his wife. The followers preach about abandoning worldly pleasures and focusing on one God. Ever the curious type, Mukul gets sucked into this vortex. He is so influenced that he ignores his family, his work. Mukul wonders how ignorant the world is as he and his follower friends gear up for the Apocalypse due to befall soon.

I found the book to be a quick and an interesting read. Being in India, it is common to see religion being proclaimed and sold off using advertisements and high pitched voices on the roads. But, as I said earlier, it is a very touchy topic, because it is personal. There is a very thin line between faith and fraud. Detecting that line is the challenge.

The narrative is simple and moves at a good pace. Not in one place would the reader find the book boring. All this talk about religion and spirituality might drive some of you away but trust me when I say this, the book is NOT boring at all. The protagonist, Mukul, comes off as an innocent person who is keen on learning and experiencing new things through different stages of his life. His emotions, when he joins the cult is very descriptive and real. I just wish there was more to the story at the end. The author could have enlightened us more about the character's current way of life and thought process. He does write about that, but I wish it was more elaborate.

This book is not about some godly experience an ordinary person has that makes him believe, but on the contrary, it is about the experiences that lead him away from his self, away from his duties and responsibilities.

Anyway, it is a good read that might be useful for many people out there, young or old, who try to find answers and solutions, the easy way. But even if you aren't among those people, do read the book. It is sure to give you a fresh perspective about certain entities that "hack into the human psyche", as the author quotes.

Definitely recommended.

Read the author's interview here.

*** This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. ***

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Author Interview : Mukul Kumar

Image Courtesy: Mukul Kumar

Q. Hello Mukul and congratulations on publishing your second book 'Don't Believe in God Till You Experience Him'. Please tell us what the book is about.

Mukul: Thank you Chitra. All of us in our own way make some choices around our belief systems. The search for supreme, spiritual quest and faith in supernatural have a lot to do with our life events, conditioning that we receive from the society and early influences. In the end, we also reach a stage when we have to decide on our own. We do not have a guide, a role model left. The book narrates the life of an ordinary person who also reaches that state where he needs to reflect on his life learning.

Q. The protagonist's name is Mukul in the book. Is the story based on your personal life experience?

Mukul: The story has inspirations from real life.

Q. How did you begin writing?

Mukul: Writing for me is a means of distressing and expressing my real self. I realized that I was feeling bottled up and uneasy in my life due to the information I was holding. I found lots of solace in writing and it was a process of self healing for me.

Q. Which authors would you recommend to your readers?

Mukul: I like Richard Bach, Yogananda, and a lot of self help and psychology books around emotional intelligence, transactional analysis and mind functioning. I believe all of us have our own likes and preferences and we should read more of what makes us happy.

Q. Have you started on your next book yet? If so, when can we expect it?

Mukul: Not yet. I will request my readers to send me a lots of feedback on how they perceived my work. I want to recollect and reflect on all the feedback to come up with the theme of my next book.

Thank you Mukul for your time and wish you all the very best for the future!

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Read my review of the book here.

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