Collection
Books
by @persiakarema
Book Review: The Woman in The Window by AJ FinnI am drawn to psycho-thrillers, the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A recent book that had me hooked was The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. A debut novel by the author, yet this book scores on almost all fronts. I loved the narration, the story, and most importantly the brilliance in the execution of the suspense. Anna Fox at the window Anna, psychologist by profession, lives alone. Ten months since she left home, and in a new neighborhood, her days are spent in loneliness, watching old movies, drinking wine, counseling patients through an online portal. She suffers from agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces), thus restricts herself to the four walls of her home. Her window to the world is the real window of her home. Every day Anna stands by the window, watching the world go by. She knows her neighbors-their daily routine, what they do and where they go. Soon the Russell’s move in across the street and Anna from the very beginning is drawn to them. It all seems so perfect, until the evening when she hears it- a scream that gives her the shiver down the spine. She sees it all, witnesses something that’s surely not to be seen. There are secrets she isn’t supposed to know… “You can hear someone’s secrets and their fears and their wants, but remember that these exist alongside other people’s secrets and fears, people living in the same room.”  From false clues, to false leads, the book traces a path that keeps you guessing. What is the real thing? Or has she been hallucinating? When all seems wrong, Anna Fox struggles to understand, trying to make things go right. Nothing short of a page turner There are twists and turns, and those moments when you are really sure, of the culprit. Yet, at the end of it you realize the story has an all-together differing offering for you. For a debut novel, I must say AJ Finn has delivered a fairly good read. The book does keep you hooked and, well, sort of addicted too, ‘cause you surely want to keep reading it till that last page. Give yourself a little time, and pick up this engaging novel; you wouldn’t regret it! It is immersive and would totally pull you into it. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Disclaimer: This blog post contains an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission, if you click through and make a purchase Related
1
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- Winner of Man Booker 2017Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is no easy read. It is a book where the voices of spirits serve as the narrator; leaving you perplexed at most times. No wonder, I took over a month to complete reading it. The narration shuttles between subtle humor and being intense. Thus the book can surely not be categorized as a breezy read. So is this book worth reading after all? Let’s get to the story first In 350 odd pages, “Lincoln in the Bardo” recounts happenings of a single day- 25th February 1862. It was the day, Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln succumbs to Typhoid. In a cemetery in Washington DC, the young boy is laid to rest. Amidst cold stones of the graves and the eerie silence of the night, spirits of many others laid to rest in the very same cemetery rise. They rise to babble about life and death, about the state of society in times of the unpopular American civil war, under the governance of the then American President Abraham Lincoln. This cacophony of graveyard voices, describes situations of a small American community, living and struggling to overcome the difficulties inflicted in times of a civil war. The voices speak amongst each other. They meet, greet argue and discuss. Where some spirits such as the one of Hans Vollman lend an interesting tone to the conversation, a few other menacing ones drag conversations making you yawn a bit, well skip pages too. Let’s get to the title A Bardo is considered to be a transitional state between death and rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo draws metaphoric connections to Willie and his father Abraham Lincoln. Willie is the Lincoln in the Bardo by virtue of having succumbed to death; Abraham Lincoln his father too is considered to be in a Bardo as, not only is he grieving his son’s death, he also needs to put up a brave front and lead the country through trying times. The Critical Acclaim Lincoln in the Bardo was critically acclaimed and also won the Man Booker Prize in 2017. This experimental fiction was also in the list of top ten 2017 novels on Time magazine. This was reason enough for me to pick this book up. However, it failed to leave an impact. The primary reason was that I found the super natural chattering tedious to read. Most portions seldom made much sense, and it took me a while to piece conversations together. The concept seemed weird and I felt there was a lack of a clear-cut plot. The book also seemed to be oddly punctuated, which added to my confusion. Lincoln in the Bardo wasn’t my kind of read. If your interest lies in American history, this experimental writing may appeal to you. *The book is available in paperback as well e-book format. Related
1
Gender Role Reversal in Today's TimesWhat’s gender role reversal all about? Is it when we get into the other gender’s skin? Or is there something more to it? This morning as I sipped my coffee, a news in the local daily caught my attention. *It was the reversal of a wedding practice, in Maner near Patna. Instead of the groom, it was the bride who took the baraat in a horse chariot, to the marriage venue where she was greeted with great pomp by the groom’s relatives. This reversal of roles was planned much before their wedding was finalized. And it got me thinking. Is this just a mere inter-change of a tradition? Or is it communicating something more- about gender roles reversal? Surely it was worth a scrutiny. Gender roles are predominantly rules laid down by past generations and carried forward, either in the name of tradition or culture. For generations together, with absolutely no anomaly whatsoever, men have been considered to be the best providers. To ensure the home functioned efficiently, the women were the caregivers. When decades back Smriti Irani took the small screen by storm, she was depicted as the epitome of how a woman must be. Beautiful, meticulous, a whiz in the kitchen, home and family, the sanskari bahu and the nurturing figure. More than a decade later, though soap operas have taken a modern avatar, the ambitious woman is still seen as the brash and aggressive bahu, in contrast to the demure sanskari one. Despite many brands coming out with more non-conventional themes for their advertisements, a major chunk still portrays women as the caretakers, instilling traditional gender roles in minds. Thus, it didn’t come as a surprise to me, when at a fine dining restaurant with my family; the bill was first presented to the man of the house. Is there anything wrong with this? On the surface, it may seem to be no big deal in continuing the age old system of gender roles. But if you scratch deeper, you would find that it isn’t actually so. A couple of generations back, men would hesitate to marry a woman with an aspiring career. Things have surely changed now, and both genders live similar lives. Both have career aspirations and seek equal opportunities. However, the equations seem to change once the child arrives into the picture. A large percentage of these once ambitious women, drop out of the work force or cut back considerably. Of course one may well argue that this is a personal choice, to be with the child in the formative years. But when one looks at the corporate world, there is continually a wide gap with regards to women in leadership roles. This is despite the growing break down of gender barriers. So what stops women from climbing up the corporate ladder? The answer to this may lie in the fact that most are loaded with domestic responsibilities, and are entrenched in patriarchal rules. Career advancements are thus pushed into the back seat, and embracing leadership roles become far-fetched. We seem to have a double sided issue at hand here. Where on one side, society’s rule book pins down the woman to the home front, on the other side, women themselves allow their aspirations to be crushed by the stereotypical gender roles. So does this mean the conventional gender roles must be shed in entirety? Well, it is not exactly that way. It is all about having the freedom of choice, for men as well as for women, to choose what suits their life and situation the best. Whether it is reversal or embracing traditional gender roles, or probably even a mix between the two, it should not be based on the biological aspect of one being a male or female, but the couple together must decide what would be suitable for them. Surely, roles are changing in recent times, albeit these are mere exceptions.  At the end of the day, we could preach and argue at stretch about the unfairness in gender roles and expectations. But we must bear in mind that cultures do not change overnight. Patience along with a progressive outlook should be the order of the day. *News Source: Deccan Herald 26-Feb-2018 Featured Image Source: Pixabay Related
1
Vendetta & More in The Second Lady #AtoZChallengeThe Second Lady was written at a time when there existed the Cold War between the two great powers of the world- Soviet Union and the United States of America. It was at a time of political Vendetta, conspiracies and spies. Billie Bradford is the First Lady of the United States. She is the ever charming glamorous woman, intelligent and is loved by the people of her country. In a good will visit to the Soviet Union, Billie Bradford is kidnapped by the KGB and held captive. The First Lady is replicated with a con artist Vera Vavilova. Impersonating Billie Bradford, Vera has a task at hand- to enter the White House, live life as the First Lady and lay her hands on sensitive and classified information to be handed over to the Soviets. With their spy in American territories, the Russians think they have the perfect weapon against the Americans and all the info they seek is easy to obtain. Or so they think. For Vera Vavilova, despite being adequately trained as the First Lady, there still are areas, she is not prepared to deal with. She knows everything about the President and his wife, except for his sexual behavior. Time is ticking away for the Russians, and impatience growing to get the information that they require. Billie Bradford, intelligent as she is, senses the situation. She misleads the Russians with respect to her husband’s sexual behavior. However, being a lady with equal intelligence, Vera manages to overcome the situation without arousing any doubts. It’s the sheer intelligence of both the women involved that actually bowls you over. Billy Bradford, with her fighter spirit, pretends to be in love with a Russian- for her freedom, her honor and, for her country. On the other hand, Vera Vavilova, stuck in enemy territory, plays it cautious, in a shrewd and smart way. The Second Lady is Irving Wallace at his best. It is a book with twists and turns, and an ending that could just throw you overboard. The book is a powerful story of vendetta and two intelligent women, served on one platter together. This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Related
2
Weird She May Seem- Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train #AtoZChallenge“let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.”  ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train   Rachel Watson is not your typical protagonist. In fact, she comes across as a girl with a low self-esteem and a drinking problem. She could get angry, violent and destructive too, to the point where she seldom remembers anything that ensues. So, why am I including her in this series of mine? This is because, The Girl on the Train was a book I enjoyed reading, and Rachel’s characterization with all her weirdness, made the book what it is. It is Rachel and her hyper active imagination that made The Girl on The Train worth a read! Thirty-two year old Rachel is just out of an abusive marriage. Her ex-husband Tom leaves her for another woman –Anna. With her drinking problem, Rachel loses her job and, frustrated she frequently harasses Tom, though she seldom has any memory of it. Tom is now married to Anna and has a daughter Evie. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night, and as her train slows down daily, passing her old house, she watches Tom, Anna, and Evie. Every day it’s the same route, moving past cozy suburban homes, and stopping at the signal that allows her to catch a glimpse of another couple, a few houses away. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not like the life she had recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough for everything to change. Soon she is deeply entangled, in her own life as well as in the lives of many others. I wouldn’t want to divulge too much on the plot, but similar to other thrillers its best for readers to dive in on their own. As much as she has been portrayed as being weird and whacky, Rachel Watson also comes across as a person who is hell bent upon being helpful. She lends a ear to Scott, when his wife Megan disappears. Scott and Megan are the couple she’s been watching from the train every day. What clicked in the book is that element of suspense the narration held within it all along. Yes, indeed towards the end the book did get predictable, but otherwise, it did have the right amount of clues thrown in at the right time. The Girl on the Train and the Watson girl worked for me. This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Related
2
An Evening with a Boring BookIt was 4 pm and the heat of the afternoon sun had magically transformed into a gentle yet, cool breeze. The kids had been packed off for the weekend to a friend’s place, which meant a couple of golden hours, all to myself. Sitting in my verandah with a book in hand, and a cup of coffee, it seemed to be the best way to enjoy the bonus time, reading and watching the setting sun go down. But, I was in for one big disappointment. I sat reading “The Obsession by Nora Roberts”. And boy, my patience was surely tested. The Obsession in brief The book narrates the story of Naomi Bowes. At 12 years of age, she follows her father one night into the woods, to discover that he is a serial killer. Naomi ends up saving a young woman from his clutches and also plays witness, sending her father to jail for life. Despite her good deed, the trauma of having seen it all begins to haunt her. The world just doesn’t seem to let her rest in peace either. Her story becomes a slice of meat for the media and the tag of being a monster’s daughter stays for long. From moving homes to changing her surname Naomi does it all. She grows up into a fine lady, an aspiring photographer in the making and, moves far away to Sunrise Cove. However nearly twenty years after the incident, yet again a serial killer is back. A stalker he seems to be, collecting victims until he tries to get to her. The book begins on a good suspense mode. However as it progresses, the plot fails to thicken, and begins to fall downhill. Unevenly scattered facts fail to hold the suspense within. There are needless descriptions and characters that don’t seem to fit into the wide frame of things.  Not only does this slow the pace, but they also make the final suspense element fall flat. In fact, the ending was way too predictable, sans any twists. I can seldom call this a suspense novel. I was bored to the core, yet I continued reading it till the end (ok I did skip a whole lot of pages in between) Confession time It isn’t uncommon to encounter books with endless narrations; descriptions beyond ones comprehension, poorly dealt with plots and badly edited content. Such books could be quite an agony and can bore you to the core, forcing you to abandon them midway. Despite a part of me wanting to abandon this book somewhere midway, I decided to continue with it. Now why would I do that? I am a completist of a sort, when it comes to books. There has been many an occasion when I have pushed myself to finish even the most mind-numbing books, albeit with pages being skipped. This is primarily because, having invested money on a book, I find it wasteful to toss it over, without giving it a chance to prove itself completely. There is always the hope that the book may turn out just fine as it makes its way towards the end. Lessons from my evening with a boring book A boring book is a relative term. For, what appeals to one may not appeal to another. Which also means every book in this world will have a reader somewhere! A boring book in hand could spoil the mood of the evening. I had to lay my hands on the stock of red wine at home to digest the boredom created by The Obsession. A boring book is a perfect way to look engrossed, yet let your mind wander away. While reading The Obsession my attention constantly kept wavering off, and I dreamt of interesting things. The whole experience of reading could be considered as enjoyable only if you are engrossed in it. What do you do when a book doesn’t emotionally or intellectually stimulate you?  Related
2
Seven Mysteries to Thrill You Over the Week!Spread the love 231 Fast paced and edge of the seat kinds, mystery and thriller novels are a great way to break a monotony of sorts. They keep you engrossed in your reading, keep you guessing and pump up your heart beat. Here are a few of them that come with oodles of suspense and thrill. Private Delhi By Ashwin Sanghi & James Patterson The former CIA agent Jack Morgan runs an investigation agency called “Private”. With branches around the globe, the agency, investigates intriguing cases, with utmost discretion. They possess an incredible team of investigators, and boast of the latest technology and forensics to crack cases and get to the perpetrators. Continuing in this series is Private Delhi, by the popular crime fiction writer James Patterson, in collaboration with Ashwin Sanghi. There are a series of gruesome murders, brutal in every extent, in the capital city Delhi. As bodies pile up, the head honcho of “Private” in Delhi, Santosh Wagh is called in to investigate. Clearly for Santosh it is evident that there is a master serial killer at work. As Santosh and his team get cracking and open up the Pandora’s Box of clues, tumbling out are secrets, of some high profile individuals in society. These could implicate some of the highest members of the government- the Lieutenant General of the State or even the Chief Minister. How is the team going to crack the case, as the brutal murders continue to happen, along with the discovery of illegal organ harvesting? A fact paced thriller, Private Delhi boasts of a plot with murder, corruption and kidnapping. Memory Man by David Baldacci This is the first book in Baldacci’s Amos Decker series (there have been four so far in the series). Amos Decker is the detective at play, solving mysteries and murders. Having suffered a head injury that ended his football career, the trauma induced a condition called hyperthymesia and synesthesia. The result of this- is never being able to forget anything! Weird as the condition may sound, it is this ability that gets him to crack cases and get behind those involved in some heinous crimes. As Decker returns home one evening, he finds his wife, young daughter and brother-in-law, brutally murdered. His family destroyed, and the identity of the killer being a mystery, Decker’s world comes crumbling down. He leaves the police force, loses his home, and winds up on the streets. But a little over a year later, all of a sudden, a man turns himself up to the police, confessing to the crime. It is around the same time, a high school shooting rocks the town, where innocent lives are snuffed out. Decker has to jump in, as he realizes that the school incident is related to the killing of his family. Plus, Decker is sure that the man who surrendered is not actually the one behind it all. There is someone else. Decker has to uncover this stunning truth before it is too late. In a constant chase of clues, Memory Man is a thriller that you would not want to put down. Fast-past and an edge-of-the-seat kind read, it will keep you hooked right till the end. Murder in the Mews By Agatha Christie There are murder mysteries and then there is Hercule Poirot! This Belgian detective is surely AGATHA Christie’s greatest creation. Charming and not so modest about it, Hercule Poirot is known for his eccentric mannerisms. But well! He sure does manage to solve each of his cases with a dramatic twist. No wonder he has been the centerpiece in many of Christie’s novels. And as the man himself says- “My name is Hercule Poirot, and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.” And we don’t doubt that, do we? Murder in the Mews is essentially a collection of novellas that are light-hearted British murder cases. Four whodunit cases, each with an unexpected ending. It is a book that you would simply not want to put down. The stories are set in the early 20th century, and give you a quick peek into British culture too. Señor Hercule Poirot with his razor sharp mind is all out to solve the four cases. The stories are short and crisp, yet loaded with with vigor and suspense. Brilliantly paced tales of murder and deceit. A must for all Agatha Christie’s fans!! And Then There Were None Another one for Agatha Christie fans. Ten people, strangers to each other, are invited to a remote island through a mystery letter. They find themselves stranded together, just to figure out that each have a connection- a grave and deep connection. None are aware of their mysterious host, yet all ten have received personal invitations to be on the island. Soon, each of the guests begins to succumb one by one, to fate- to the foulest murder. Each one of them is a victim, and amidst them is the killer too. Each has a secret of a murky past. Who wants them all killed? And who would be next? As you grapple for answers, you traverse through the brutal murders, vital clues, and a suspense that would blow your mind away. And then they were none is a “locked-room” mystery at its bet. It can’t get any better- strangers on a stranded island, ten murders, and no sign of the killer. For all those mystery fans, this is a master piece. If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon Meet Tracy Whitney, the young woman, who is smart and independent. She is warm and compassionate too. An idealist in every way, yet when her whole life goes topsy- turvy, Tracy lets go of her idealism, and all that see seeks is vengeance. A successful banker in Philadelphia, she is engaged to a wealthy heir. When her mother commits a suicide, Tracy realizes there’s more to it, and that there is a big mafia nexus behind her mother’s death. Tracy tracks down Joe Romano the main person responsible, but he tries to rape her and is wounded in the struggle. A case is filed against her for a theft by Joe Romano. Her attorney convinces her that she will get a much shorter sentence if she pleads guilty, but the judge sentences her to fifteen years, and she realizes that the judge and the attorney are both working for Romano. As she goes to jail, her employer and her fiancé abandon her and the unborn child. However she miscarries the child. Filled with rage, Tracy now decides to seek revenge on all the men who have ruined her life. Framed for no valid reason, Tracy fights her way out of all turmoil, and gets behind each one of them. If tomorrow comes is a tale of betrayal and of revenge. The Second Lady by Irving Wallace Billie Bradford is the First Lady of the United States. She is the ever charming glamorous woman, intelligent and is loved by the people of her country. In a good will visit to the Soviet Union, Billie Bradford is kidnapped by the KGB and held captive. The First Lady is replicated with a con artist Vera Vavilova. Impersonating Billie Bradford, Vera has a task at hand- to enter the White House, live life as the First Lady and lay her hands on sensitive and classified information to be handed over to the Soviets. With their spy in American territories, the Russians think they have the perfect weapon against the Americans and all the info they seek is easy to obtain. Or so they think. For Vera Vavilova, despite being adequately trained as the First Lady, there still are areas, she is not prepared to deal with. She knows everything about the President and his wife, except for his sexual behavior. Time is ticking away for the Russians, and impatience growing to get the information that they require. The Second Lady is Irving Wallace at his best. It is a book with twists and turns, and an ending that could just throw you overboard. The book is a powerful story of vendetta and two intelligent women, served on one platter together. The Girl On the Train By Paula Hawkins Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day it’s the same route, moving past cozy suburban homes, and stopping at the signal that allows her to catch a glimpse of the same couple. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough for everything to change. Soon she is deeply entangled, in her own life as well as in the lives of many others. I wouldn’t want to divulge too much on the plot, but similar to other thrillers its best for readers to dive in on their own. The plot was cinematic indeed with vivid descriptions that played on my mind. None of the revelations in The Girl on the Train are straight forward. They keep you guessing, so as you read, the plot may seem to get murkier indeed. Spread the love 231
5
Historical Fiction: Painter to the King by Amy SackvilleIn a constant quest to read something different, my eyes have been wandering about trying to pick up different titles. These days I have been picking up the not so popular ones, across genres from different parts of the globe. Though I may often not really find the plot completely palatable, I have begun to appreciate the books for various other aspects. I have begun to notice the varied writing styles adapted by authors, each with their own uniqueness. A recent book I read- Painter to the King- was a book from across the globe. Written by Amy Sackville, it was recommended by my favorite bookstagrammer. Not sure if it was the image of the book or just her description of it, I picked it up without giving it much thought. A historical fiction, the book turned out to be fairly decent. I wouldn’t categorize it as an absolutely must read, nor would I term it to be totally detestable. For a one time read, portions of it stayed with me. It brought about some learning, of history, of Europe and times of en era, where art spoke volumes. The book seemed akin to visiting an art museum in some obscure part of Europe. You may not understand the depth of it, yet your eyes seldom fail to appreciate its beauty. Painter to the King is exactly like this. You may not get the depth of Amy’s plot in entirety, but your mind will appreciate her loosely woven words that seem no lesser than the art of Diego Velazquez. Who is Diego Velazquez? Diego Velazquez was a renowned Spanish artist in the court of King Philip IV. Painter to the king is a partially fictitious account of his life, from the time he arrived at the court of the King till his death, after 38 years. The years described in the book are considered to be his best when he created the famed creator of Las Meninas. Diego Velazquez finds his spot in the great Spanish Golden Age. What is Painter to the King About? Imagine filling in pages about art- not with colors but with words. What ensues is a narration of a different kind, a prose as beautiful as the art in itself. The book is a portrait of people, and words that speak volumes about the relationship between Philip IV and Diego. It isn’t your usual friendship. A ruler always on duty and under stress of coping up with the expectations of his subjects, Philip IV displays a pitiable character. Diego is the master on his own, who works his way through strokes and sketches. Amidst art, and a growing relationship between the king and his artist, the book traces seventeenth century Spain- the rituals, the patronage, the complicated politics of the royal court, succession of births and deaths and marriages. What Scored and What Failed? The sheer imagination of Amy, I appreciate her choice of words, the smooth narration and the merging of history with art. It makes one imagine Diego and his strokes, as he creates his masterpiece. There is an element of brilliance in the descriptions. Yet, it is these very descriptions that let the book down too. Way too elaborate, in a couple of sections, seemed wasteful, and failed to hold my attention completely. The book is slow, with hardly any concrete plot. Though I loved Amy’s unconventional style of writing, the pace wasn’t suitable to me. Also for a book that deals with people, it felt inadequate on the emotional front. Painter to the king is not your usual fiction. It is for those who devour anything and everything about art. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Featured Image Source: Granta.com Disclaimer: This blog post contains an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission, if you click through and make a purchase. Related
3
1
1