Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Not so 'precious' after all

Review of ‘Precious Thing’.

I have a grouse with Gillian Flynn, after her thriller every second FPM (Female psychological mystery) is touted as a story in the tradition of Gone Girl’. The blurb of this book made the same claim vis-à-vis a quote from the Sunday Mirror. I think they would have done much better if they just let it stand on its own; as it builds up too many expectations.

Clara and Rachel have been friends from school. They did everything together and Rachel can’t believe her good luck that Clara actually recognizes her as a friend. Right from the first chapter we know that something has changed in their relationship. Clara is back after being sent away for treatment and she is different now, she is cold and aloof and wants to cut herself off from Rachel who despite being a successful TV anchor in her own right wants nothing more than having Clara as part of her life again.
Clara seems to relent but then she disappears as does Johnny, Rachel’s boyfriend.

The story keeps skipping from past to present to try and give us some background of the two girls. There are smoke screens and red herrings but somehow the book never ever seems to pull off the deep, menacing atmosphere that Gone Girl’ managed or the twists and turns in the story either.

I give it three stars because I liked it (in parts) but not enough to recommend it to someone else to read.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Review of Death of a Red Heroine

This book by Qiu Xiaolong has received a slew of recognition and is also a BBC Radio show, so was really looking forward to reading it.

Set in post Tiananmen Square, Shanghai; it follows the main protagonist Inspector Chen in his bid to solve the mystery behind the murder of a ‘National Model Party Worker’…. whose naked body was found floating in a canal.
The character of Inspector Chen is quite contrary to the typical Inspectors you find in western fiction. He is not the broody, dysfunctional loner, whom the system in constantly trying to put down. Chen is a product of the system and by the system. He is the favored one, getting a house allocated earlier, fast track promotions etc. He does not flaunt it but he does enjoy his privileges despite some sporadic, half-hearted soul searching. It was an interesting take.

As a detective mystery it scored very low for me, however as an eminently readable book it was right up there. The suspense didn’t quite build up, maybe because the detective kept spouting poetry in between (good verse at that). Halfway through the book you had a very good idea as to who the murderer was and the rest of the book was just spent in getting the case built against him and dodging party politics. The book is more about Shanghai and society at that time: relationships within the party and outside it. Life for the ordinary Chinese citizen, families and the mundane; love lost and gained. That is why I say it is an eminently readable book. It moved slowly for me but not a boring slowly but rather a beautiful ride in a horse drawn carriage which relaxes you and draws you into all the scenery you are passing. There were a lot of descriptions and explanations and a lot of poetry (which might be a downer for some people) but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it all. There were so many interesting vignettes’ of Chinese life which I had absolutely no idea of and such interesting phrases.

So if you are looking for a book that has some insightful descriptions and is partly pan-historical (China 25 plus years ago) and partly realistic fiction, then go for this. If you are looking for a nail biting detective mystery, this is not for you.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Review Of 'An Autograph for Anjali' by Sundari Venkatraman.


Anjali, Jayant and Parth, you would think it is the same old love triangle but it isn’t. I would rather think of them as three separate bodies with their own little orbits.
Jayant is the very self-centered, business-man husband and Anjali is the wife who starts off as a dominated, dutiful wife and gradually comes into her own. Parth is the dashing, worldly author who retains his gentle core; even though life has thrown him some hard knocks. Then there is Arjun; Anjali and Jayant’s son, who brings a calmness and balance to the story and serves as a bridge connecting all these diverse characters.

The book starts with the discovery of the murdered body of Jayant and then the rest of it is about how matters got to that point.

The first thing that struck me about this story is that even though Jayant is painted as a completely selfish character, (I do not go with the traditional Indian male bit as I feel an Indian male can have traditional values but that does not necessarily mean they have to be as selfish as Jayant was) yet Sundari tries to bring in a sense of balance in his portrayal through the eyes of Arjun, who understand where he comes from. Anjali has lived vicariously throughout her life through the life of her husband and son and yearns for change. However, when she reaches tipping point, she prefers to make her journey to the light at her pace. Sundari has not allowed the story to slip into total clichéd territory of an abusive relationship or a love triangle. Despite everything, even Jayant has his boundaries and he knows it.

The second part is how Ms Venkatraman has dealt with the mental health issue. She has aptly brought out the causes and effects of these issues and how they tend to be viewed unfortunately by the general public and deftly woven it into the story. This is another reason why I like reading Ms Venkatraman's books; she always has some strong underlying issue in her books which she does not gloss over but rather deals with it in a very sensitive manner.

The strong part of this plot is the romantic parts. Romance is Sundari Venkatraman’s forte and she has proven that yet again. Those parts are soft, sensual, poignant and exciting. Anjali and Jayant are two very strong characters in the book and if anything Parth seems to suffer in comparison, which is rather odd as there, is a lot of word space devoted to him as well. However his character somehow doesn’t quite jump off the pages the way the other two do.

At the end I would like to borrow the words of Arjun, ‘it’s just two people who are very different from each other’.


Sundari Venkatraman


Jayant Mathur is found murdered in his bed, shot at point-blank range with his own revolver. Though she’s extremely disturbed by his death, Jayant’s wife Anjali is way more upset about something else. Who stands to gain by killing the multi-millionaire businessman?

Parth Bhardwaj is a friend and neighbour of the Mathurs. Parth is an author who goes by a pseudonym. He appears more than a friend to Anjali; while he’s also on good terms with her son Arjun who lives and studies in the UK. What role does he play in Anjali’s life? Jayant’s relatives are curious to know.

Jayant’s brother-in-law Rana is convinced that Parth and Anjali are the murderers. But Inspector Phadke has his own doubts about this theory. In comes Samrat, the private detective who appears as quiet as a mouse. Will he be able to find the murderer?

Will Anjali find happiness and peace?

Grab your copy @


In 2014, Sundari self-published The Malhotra Bride (2nd Edition); Meghna; The Runaway Bridegroom; Flaming Sun Collection 1: Happily Ever Afters From India (Box Set) and Matches Made In Heaven (a collection of romantic short stories).

2015 brought yet another opportunity. Readomania came forward to traditionally publish this book - The Madras Affair - a mature romance set in Madras.

An Autograph for Anjali, a romance with a touch of suspense, is also a self-published novel. Going a step further, the author has published the paperback version through Notion Press.

Stalk her @


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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Batman vs Superman vs ME

I love watching all the 'super hero' movies, so trotted off for this as well.

OMG! still wondering what hit me. It was a long movie or maybe it just seemed long as the story didn't seem to be going any where. Superman flew around, did his laser eye thing and created chaos. We had super sonic sound effects every time he landed or took off. A buffed up Ben Affleck hung around devising ways he could take revenge on superman and even Lex Luthor was extremely contrived in his role of a psychotic villain. As for his eventual 'piece de resistance' DOOMSDAY.....YAWN!!! He did not come across as the extremely menacing and dangerous character he is supposed to be. Lights, sparks and loud roars do not necessarily a deadly character make, unless you are an 8 year old.

The audiences have changed, they are now used to visual effects the standard which was seen in Star Wars : The Force Awakens, Mad Max or even The Martian and Planet of The Apes. This does not compare. As for their suits, they have become more sculpted and moulded ; makes me think of a cross between Fifty Shades and Katniss's outfit in the Hunger Games.

Saving grace...WONDER WOMAN!

Hopefully she can save the day in the next offering.