Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Killing Floor by Lee Child

Title: Killing Floor 
Author: Lee Child
Published: 1997 by Bantam Books (Random House Group)
Pages: 524
Price: Rs. 350
My Rating: 4/5!

Killing Floor is the first book based on the life of a mysterious fictional man, Jack Reacher. It's a thriller, a crime fiction of the kind I hadn't read in a long time. I'm so glad I got to read this one. It was a welcome break from my usual fantasy stories, I learned a lot and I now know that I can handle gruesome descriptions of killings and murders, contrary to what I believed, that I'll get all 'Oh-my-God!' reading those gory scenes! ;)

Blurb from Goodreads
(a very nice summary! :D )

Welcome to Margrave, Georgia—but don't get too attached to the townsfolk, who are either in on a giant conspiracy, or hurtling toward violent deaths, or both.


There's not much of a welcome for Jack Reacher, a casualty of the Army's peace dividend who's drifted into town idly looking for traces of a long dead black jazzman. Not only do the local cops arrest him for murder, but the chief of police turns eyewitness to place him on the scene, even though Reacher was getting on a bus in Tampa at the time. Two surprises follow: The murdered man wasn't the only victim, and he was Reacher's brother whom he hadn't seen in seven years. So Reacher, who so far hasn't had anything personal against the crooks who set him up for a weekend in the state pen at Warburton, clicks into overdrive.


Banking on the help of the only two people in Margrave he can trust—a Harvard-educated chief of detectives who hasn't been on the job long enough to be on the take, and a smart, scrappy officer who's taken him to her bed— he sets out methodically in his brother's footsteps, trying to figure out why his cellmate in Warburton, a panicky banker whose cell-phone number turned up in Joe's shoe, confessed to a murder he obviously didn't commit; trying to figure out why all the out-of-towners on Joe's list of recent contacts were as dead as he was; and trying to stop the local carnage or at least direct it in more positive ways. Though the testosterone flows as freely as printer's ink, Reacher is an unobtrusively sharp detective in his quieter moments—not that there are many of them to judge by.

Despite the crude, tough-naïf narration, debut novelist Child serves up a big, rangy plot, menace as palpable as a ticking bomb, and enough battered corpses to make an undertaker grin.


My Thoughts!

Okay, by now I guess you must have had a little idea of the story. There's a man called Jack Reacher, who got tired of his military life and since the past six months since he retired (kind of, as he's in his thirties) he's been simply travelling to different places, wherever his heart takes him. Until he randomly picks up a dot on the map and reaches Margrave. It was as he was having his first breakfast at the place that he was arrested. What follows is a mysterious follow up of an already mysterious scene! 

When the book started, all we knew was that the protagonist of the story has been arrested for a murder. In a town he's been for less than 8 hours. And he's totally innocent. The story is narrated in first person, from Jack's viewpoint, which makes it interesting and 'different' in a way. How? Because Jack is a person who lives alone (no family, a brother near Margrave with whom he hasn't been much in contact with) and he hasn't spoken much for a long time either. That's why his sentences are short. Very short. It sometimes got disruptive. Short ones break the flow. I wasn't used to it. See? Sentences like these, all through the book! Personally for a reader like me, who's in the habit of reading (and writing) stuff in very long sentences, it was disruptive in the beginning. Like you have to stop after every short breath. Not much my type.

The main idea of the plot gets clear only after you move ahead gradually (it's a long book!) and there are new characters, most of whom you can't distinguish as either innocent or guilty. I'm happy with the other characters though, who've been properly defined and that makes it easier to imagine everything. That wasn't the case with Jack, though. I found it hard to imagine the guy (and I found mid-way that his bio is on the first page, before the story starts :P) as there was always an air of mystery behind him. The point is, we don't think of such people as 'normal', right? But he is. So what if he chooses to travel and has no home or family? Point taken, but sometimes we need an image in mind. I might have missed something, I guess, but I still wanted a picture. So I went with the author's picture only ;)

Alright, those were things that bugged me a little. (I know I should mention the good parts first, everyone does. I usually do, too. But I can get weird sometimes :| ) Now over to why this book is worth a sure shot read! One, the story and the mystery. The main reason why the murders were happening and the scam was interesting. This book gives you the feel that you're learning about something very important from a person's perspective. There's a lot of interesting information based on the prime scam, which added a lot of positive points for this review. I totally love books that do make us learn stuff on new, interesting topics. Also, the way the events were sequenced was quite logical and there were definitely some surprising surprises along the way, which made me hooked to the book especially after half of it was over. I mean, it was 'unputdownable' in the later half. Really. 

Talking about the later half, that's where the real action actually began. Reacher's involved now as he knows his brother was killed by those controlling a secret scam in Margrave and he's bent on revenge. Paired with Roscoe, the female police officer (who's also his love interest) and Finlay, a smart 'chief of detectives', Jack's doing a lot of thinking and making use of his military background and work to solve the crime. It's thrilling! (And the sentences do get longer!)

There aren't many 'quotable quotes' in the book, but I found some thoughts quite interesting.

'Evaluate. When the unexpected gets dumped on you, don't waste time. Don't figure out how or why it happened. Don't recriminate. Don't figure out whose fault it is. All of that you do later. If you survive. First of all you evaluate. Analyse the situation. Identify the downside. Assess the upside. Plan accordingly. Do all that and you give yourself a better chance of getting through to other stuff later.'

The ending was good. I like good endings. Though now it makes me want to read more of Jack Reacher, this was only the first book. And there are a lot of books on Jack! (Yay!) I would recommend this book to fans of crime fiction and thrillers, though according to me, you have to be an adult for this kind of a reading. There are details, gory details of the murders (again, I'm glad I know I can read this stuff!) and some unpleasant thoughts from the point of view of killers and from those who want revenge. But hey, the mystery is really good and lovers of mysteries would stick to Jack Reacher, I guess! ^-^

PS- I got to know from the author's website that 'Jack Reacher the movie' comes out in December, 2012! Eeeeppp!! I'm so going to watch it!! :D

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)


Thursday, November 15, 2012

KOMF Prompt # 3: 'The Chase'


Knights of Micro Fiction is a bloghop hosted by Kathy (Imagine Today) and Jessica (Write. Skate. Dream) on the 15th of every month. They came up with it as a way to meet new friends, help build the blogosphere and (hopefully) spark some creativity. So, here's the prompt:


In 300 words or less write a scene where the main character realizes he/she is thankful for something.  Include the words "turkey" and "Mayflower" (this could be May flowers too or other creative variations).






                               *** 
                            The Chase

I squinted into the bright glare of the sun, the weather sending comfortable warmth all over me after the torrential cold rain of the South. Adjusting my black non-shiny leather jacket, cross checking all papers and ID, I flagged down a cab from right out of the airport.

“Where to, ma’am?” the cabbie questioned through his interior rear-view mirror.

“Minion Street, the Blake Fair entrance”

“Straight away? No hotel?”

Quite hospitable, these Northerners. “No. Straight away.”

An hour to pass. I used the time to pore over the papers the big baboon had stupidly handed over. Best (or worst?) thing about keeping important documents with partners-in-crime who’re natural boasters, they give the secret away soon. Don’t need much effort. A bit of smart talk would do. There was just one nagging thought, a code he didn’t reveal, without which we might just lose the game. It was 18 hours to Monday.

My phone beeped a call from base. Frank.

“Hey Frank”

“Hey. A half hour to target? You remember what he described?”

I couldn’t help smiling, despite the nerves. He’s as smart as one could get. I remembered the baboon talking through a mouthful of turkey leg, “You gotta find ‘im at the fair. Big as a buck, wavy black hair, wheat-skin Asian.”

“Yes” I breathed into the receiver. “But there could be anyone who fits the description.”

Frank smiled. I knew it, because of the pause and his breathing.

“Tell me Frank, what is it?”

“I got the code.”

A gasp escaped me. “What!”

It filled me with happiness. Mostly as I could connect. It was going to be easy. Look for a big guy with a mayflower, easy to spot. Mayflowers don’t grow up here. I’ll find him, show the papers, police ID, my name: Mayflower. Pretty.

Busted.

                              ***

That was really fun! If you're interested in participating, follow the links to the hosts' blogs and join in the hop! :)


Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: The Wildings

Author Nilanjana Roy
Title: The Wildings
Author: Nilanjana Roy
The book's websitehttp://thewildings.net/
Published: 2012 by Aleph Book Company
Pages: 310
Price: Rs. 595
My Rating: 5/5! 

As perplexing as it may seem to be, this book is quite some surprise! I wasn't sure about it when it was up for review at blogadda.com, what with the scary cat on the cover and the premise of the book being cats and their lives in Nizamuddin, Delhi, from the perspective of cats themselves! Lion King types, just minus the lions. However, I'm so glad I asked for it. This book is totally worth your time. I loved every bit of it!

Goodreads blurb!
A small band of cats lives in the labyrinthine alleys and ruins of Nizamuddin, an old neighbourhood in Delhi. Miao, the clan elder, a wise, grave Siamese; Katar, a cat loved by his followers and feared by his enemies; Hulo, the great warrior tom; Beraal, the beautiful queen, swift and deadly when challenged; Southpaw, the kitten whose curiosity can always be counted on to get him into trouble… Unfettered and wild, these and the other members of the tribe fear no one, go where they will, and do as they please. Until, one day, a terrified orange-coloured kitten with monsoon green eyes and remarkable powers, lands in their midst—setting off a series of extraordinary events that will change their world forever.

My thoughts!
The Wildings is the kind of book I hadn't read in a long time. Based on the lives of a small band of cats living in Nizamuddin, among humans whom they call 'Bigfeet' (cute, no? ;) ), this is a tale spun around creatures, stray and otherwise, whom we mostly don't give a passing thought to. Really, what I could think about later, after reading this book was, 'Are we really so engrossed in our lives that we don't even notice these animals?'

It's quite a simple story. There are these wildings, stray cats who love their territory in Nizamuddin, then there are the dargah cats, the ones from the canal, and the most dangerous of all, the ferals in the Shuttered House! The wildings are living their routine lives, when they have a newcomer with the powers of a Sender. Beraal, the queen cat with amazing fighting ability, is sent to find and kill the intruder. But she finds a tiny orange kitten rescued by some Bigfeet, living in their home and unaware of its powers or how to use them! Beraal is charmed by Mara and she decides that she'd train her. Other cats reluctantly agree. I have to say, I loved all characters, they're so well defined! I mean, you'd think how one can define a cat, but here is an author who seems to know cats inside out! And she made them seem so interesting. I never noticed cats (or any animal, for that matter, being wary of them all) and now I don't think I'll ever be able to ignore them anymore. 

Nice cover! ;)

That's where the second best part comes in, the descriptions!!! As you read the book, you're thinking from a cat's perspective and it is quite fascinating. The way they wash themselves, focused on keeping themselves clean, the way they bring up their litter, the way they attack or make loving gestures, the way they hunt, the way they live, basically. It's fascinating. (Oh, I've said that already! Know what I mean?). As I read through, I loved the Nizamuddin cats more and more, especially young Southpaw, an orphan kitten being taken care of by Miao, Hulo and the older cats, with a tail for trouble. The way he's been described, his antics and the way he talks, I grew to love this fictional cat! Then there's the Sender, Mara, with an innocent heart of gold. I really liked the parts where the kitten goes and travels out through her powers, over to the zoo where she makes friends with a pair of tigers and their cub, Rudra. That was something cute, innocent and very child-like, a perspective into the story I really enjoyed. When Rudra gets a new playmate and realizes that he could be hurtful to Mara and his langur friend Tantara, there's a heart breaking moment when Mara realizes he's asking to bring their friendship to a pause. 

Which leads to the next best part about this book. It gives you a lot to think about and is related to the way humans think, too. Rudra is of a different species, and so is Tantara and Mara and she can't understand why it has to be a deterrent in their friendship. Just like humans, like we create classes and categories. There are a few lines and paras I jotted down, just because of their similarity to human life and the philosophical angle, if you look at it that way. 

'In her experience, it was never the bulk of the cat that counted or even the speed of the paw, the sharpness of the claw, as much as it was the ability to conquer one's fears.'

'Some animals are rogues. We don't know why that happens, but its'a bad thing when it does. Those creatures are born with something broken, inside them. If you ever link with their minds, you'll smell it; madness and evil have their own stench, like rotting flesh, and it's best to stay away from the stink'.

'You ought to be careful of the fascinating ones, young Southpaw, they're the most dangerous.'

(I realized all these are related to Southpaw. No wonder I adore that kitten! ;) )

There was a moment where Southpaw, when he meets Mara the first time, tries not to seem less-than-fascinating to this new friend of his. See how he tries to impress her? 

'He saw the adoration in Mara's eyes dim. His ears drooped. He thought fast, wanting to see those lovely green eyes light up again. (says a lot of things). He wondered whether he's overdone it, but Mara's eyes shone with ecstasy.'

Most of all, there's emotion. I loved this aspect of the book, it's totally realistic, takes into account the love and feelings of care among the cats. And not just the cats, there are other creatures too, the dogs, the cheels, the mice and rats and mongoose and bandicoots, the Babblers and the crows and the bulbuls. I can't help stating one cat characteristic I really admire (I'm not sure if it is for real too, having no cat-knowledge) but when Miao takes Southpaw on his first hunt, she tells him, 'Never kill for fun, Southpaw, only for food'. In other instances too, they respected other lives, killing only when they were hungry. Otherwise they lived in peace. Also, I did not like the Shuttered House ferals and their story, but that's how it is. The book is a great read, kind of cute too (in a very different way, not the sickly or cheesy kind of cute) and gives you a lot of perspective. It's very well written, totally engaging and makes you feel things you never thought you would. Mourning the loss of a cat? Yes, I did. Getting happy over a friendship with tigers? I did. The characters were all solid, even the ferals and the mongoose and the cheels. The best part is, humans weren't a part of the story, except for Mara, whose two 'Bigfeet' loved her, that's all. Oh, also the fakir at the dargah who loves cats! And the old Bigfeet in the Shuttered House. 

What made it even more interesting, if possible, is the fact that the book has so many illustrations (by Prabha Mallya)! Of the cats and rats and others, according to the story. They were absolutely wonderful! :)

This is an amazing book, I'm telling you. The cover says, 'The Wildings is bound to be hailed as the most imaginative and accomplished debut by an Indian novelist in years.' You know what? I have no doubts about it. I was never really a fan of Indian novelists, now I guess I can change that thought. :)

I've never before included book trailers! But see this one! 


PS- I wasn't sure where I could put it, but I was so interested with the description of how cats communicated, using the links. The Sending and those powers also perplexed me, though I guess that's fiction. Loved the telepathic idea, it's very innovative!

Recommended for: Everyone, really. Especially experimental readers who'd like to read something refreshing! :) No inappropriate content, so it's for everyone, across all ages! 

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com! Participate now to get free books!

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