Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Salvation of a Saint...

Title: Salvation of a Saint (Detective Galileo # 2)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group, 2012
Pages: 377
Price: Rs. 350
Genre: Crime thriller, Fiction
My Rating: 4/5!

This book has been translated from Japanese.

Salvation of a Saint is the second book in the series, the first being The Devotion of Suspect X (which I've read and trust me, it's amazing! Read review here). Because of the first book's awesomeness, I had a lot of expectations from this book too, which I can safely say were well-fulfilled! :D

Goodreads blurb! 
In 2011, The Devotion of Suspect X was a hit with critics and readers alike. The first major English language publication from the most popular bestselling writer in Japan, it was acclaimed as “stunning,” “brilliant,” and “ingenious.” Now physics professor Manabu Yukawa—Detective Galileo—returns in a new case of impossible murder, where instincts clash with facts and theory with reality.

Yoshitaka, who was about to leave his marriage and his wife, is poisoned by arsenic-laced coffee and dies. His wife, Ayane, is the logical suspect—except that she was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered. The lead detective, Tokyo Police Detective Kusanagi, is immediately smitten with her and refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime. His assistant, Kaoru Utsumi, however, is convinced Ayane is guilty. While Utsumi’s instincts tell her one thing, the facts of the case are another matter. So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied—she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.

But even the brilliant mind of Dr. Yukawa has trouble with this one, and he must somehow find a way to solve an impossible murder and capture a very real, very deadly murderer.
Salvation for a Saint is Keigo Higashino at his mind-bending best, pitting emotion against fact in a beautifully plotted crime novel filled with twists and reverses that will astonish and surprise even the most attentive and jaded of readers.
My Thoughts!
Narrated in third person, Salvation of a Saint is a mystery of Yoshitaka Mashiba's murder by poison. Married to Ayane Mita since the past one year, Yoshitaka was a successful businessman, but his friends cannot think of anyone hating him so much that they'd want to kill him. Now, Keigo Higashino's books have a uniqueness factor, I think, where the mysteries are such that a perfect crime takes place and it takes a whole book, along with the investigators, detectives (Kusanagi, the prime detective-character), an extraordinarily intelligent University professor, Yukawa and innocents to figure out how it was done. The thing that has a huge risk of ruining the book, but doesn't, is that the crime takes place in the beginning and we know who did it! No mystery there! The readers would then be stuck to the book, reading about how everyone's baffled with the crime, the killer included. 

There aren't a lot of characters in this book, which I really preferred. The crime was simple: Yoshitaka died of poisoning in his coffee and we even know who did it! But no one has any idea how it was done. As scene after scene unfolds and as the investigation goes deeper, we don't seem to go anywhere near how it was done. You might find yourself remarking over the killer's ingenuity and cleanliness. There's just not a trace! Moreover, you'd be reading more carefully about the killer's actions, wondering where each of those actions might give a clue, but it doesn't. Maybe I'm dense, but I don't believe that! :P I've read quite a good amount of mystery, but none like this before. Apart from the obvious fact everyone knows about, the killer, it's not predictable. It's a battle of wits, really. Heard people say criminals have the brightest minds? Read this and you'd be forced to agree.

Each chapter ends at a heart-stopping sentence and it's not easy to put down. Or wait, maybe after something astonishing happens, you'd actually stop to marvel over the developments! It's full of surprises! I found myself reading certain passages over and over, just to understand the perfect logic. The writing style is excellent: well described, detailed, providing information in such a way that seems just perfect. No information overload anywhere. Even new characters are introduced in intervals. Trust me, I've been thinking quite a handful as to what were the negatives of the book, but I don't have a point, save for one. It's such a simple story with so much of masala to it, I loved it! The details are especially noteworthy. Makes you understand that catching a crime isn't as much as finding proof as it is about understanding the human psyche. That's what I like best! The crimes are so perfect that the only way to know who is the culprit would be if you understand psychology and if you observe closely. 

The only thing I found not-so-good was that the crime seemed too simple. That might be because I'm finding myself comparing this book to The Devotion of Suspect X, but still. This is much simpler than the previous one. Then there's this moment of understanding where you finally understand the meaning of the book's title! Awe-inspiring moment! You've heard that famous saying, 'Good books don't give up their secrets all at once'? Maybe because it's mystery, but I'm sure I've missed something which I'll find when I read the book again after some time! 

Some lines from the book I marked:

Kusanagi had met plenty of good, admirable people who'd been turned into murderers by circumstance. There was something about them he always seemed to sense, an aura that they shared. Somehow, their transgression freed them from the confines of a mortal existence, allowing them to perceive the great truths of the Universe. At the same time, it meant they had one foot in forbidden territory. They straddled the line between sanity and madness.

'Sometimes, it's as important to prove there is no answer to a question as it is to answer it.'

Recommended: If you think you'd like a thrilling thriller, Salvation of a Saint is the one for you! For Young Adults, Adults, mystery lovers.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program for Indian bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: Sail by James Patterson

Howard Roughan
James Patterson

Book Title: Sail
Published: 2008 by Arrow Books (Random House)
Pages: 448
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
Genre: Crime thriller
My Rating: 4/5!

I was interested in reading Sail because one, it’s a story of a sea voyage. Even though I haven’t even seen any sea in real life, I’ve always enjoyed stories of voyagers and sailors and pirates! Two, it is a crime thriller by James Patterson, whose previous thrillers I’ve loved! This one has been the best so far! :D

Goodreads Blurb!
As Peter Carlyle, a smooth-talking, super-successful lawyer, waved his family off on a sailing holiday, all they had in mind was lying back and relaxing. But as a violent storm broke out, an explosion caused the boat to vanish without a trace and the family were lost, presumed dead.

Until now. When a message in a bottle is washed up on a shore, it becomes apparent that there must have been at least one survivor.

But all is not as it seems. The race is on to rescue the Carlyles, but does everyone looking for the family really want to find them alive? Survival may be the least of their concerns. In fact, being found may be the last thing they should be hoping for.

My thoughts!
Sail is a thriller that thrills at so many levels! It begins with Katherine Dunne, a heart surgeon planning a family trip that involves setting sail on their boat, The Family Dunne with her three kids, Carrie, Mark and Ernie along with her brother-in-law Jake. The Dunne family, after the death of the father, Stuart, was falling apart. The kids turned even more bratty, Katherine spent most of her waking moments at the hospital, and provided the kids Peter Carlyle, a wealthy lawyer, as their stepdad. As they set sail, with Jake as captain (whom the kids like!), no one is particularly very happy. The story goes on to describe the suspenseful and heart-racing events that take place in the sea. More like tragic, action-filled and scary that keeps you on edge.

The story has been narrated in first person from Katherine’s point of view in the chapters that talk about the sea voyage and wherever Katherine’s role falls, while the rest of the chapters describe in third person narrative, all that goes on back home, the killers, the conspirators, their allies, the police, the coast guard, Peter Carlyle, etc. This is a method James Patterson frequently adopts and surprisingly, it feels comfortable enough; gives you clarity on the protagonists and other characters. Talking about the story, I loved it for the most part! Specially the scenes depicting the sea and the series of events that take place: storms, disruptions, how the family handles them and how they come out being better and understanding (and loving, too) human beings. I liked the way when the real crime conspirator is revealed (though a bit too early in the book, I think), it made me shudder and left me shocked!

 The descriptive part is amazing. Even if the chapters alternate between the sea scenes and the scenes back home, it was so picturesque and clear! I give 5/5 to the writing style, for being such an easy read and having such a flow that I actually finished the book in a day! :D Coming to what makes Sail the thriller that it is, there is action and suspense, it will keep the reader feeling on edge, which in reality isn’t a very good feeling, but works insanely well in thrillers! It’ll keep you hooked onto it. You would get thrown overboard or get hungry and hot with the characters, feel anger and hatred towards the criminals, you would egg on the mystery-solvers, feel hopeful or helpless with the characters and would be hoping for the best. It’s so engaging. :’)

Another aspect important to the book being a thriller is the predictability. It’s actually not much predictable. When you get attuned to a certain way of thinking about a character, on the next page there’s a surprise waiting for you! Some such twists were oh-so-heart-stopping! I love it when books control how you’re supposed to feel, making you shift your emotions just as it’s going. The ending was satisfactory. I wouldn’t say amazing because one, I somehow don’t like how characters kill each other off so easily. I know it’s not like it doesn’t happen in real life, but still. And two, even though it was all okay at the end, and Katherine’s initial wish of the family being close is fulfilled, I still didn’t think it was 100% fair. Still, it was worth it.

"How is it that the more life throws at us, the stronger we become?"

Recommended for: If you like crime fiction, thrillers, and mysteries, I’d highly recommend this book! There are some ‘that’ kind of scenes as well, so I’d suggest if you’re not comfortable with adult stuff, leave it out!

Thank you Random House India for this amazing book!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Witch and Wizard!

Gabrielle Charbonnet
James Patterson

Title: Witch and Wizard
Pages: 329
Published: 2009 by Century (Random House)
My Rating: 3.5/5!

The first time I came to know about this book was when a friend was buying a copy, saying she had heard it’s a good one. Now when someone says that, that too the friend whose reading taste somewhat matches mine, my expectations from the book turn incredibly high. Now that I’ve read it, I think she was right, it is indeed a good story, but it didn’t reach my extended level of expectations exactly.

Goodreads Blurb!
The world is changing - the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now kids are disappearing. For fifteen-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside-down when they are hauled out of bed one night, separated from their parents, and thrown into a secret compound for no reason they can comprehend. The new government is clearly trying to suppress life, liberty ... and the pursuit of being a normal teenager.

Imprisoned together and condemned to death, Wisty and Whit begin exhibiting strange abilities and powers they never dreamed of. Maybe there is a reason they were singled out. Can this newly discovered witch and a wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents - and maybe the world?

My Thoughts!
Witch and Wizard is fantasy, magic, humor, surprise and innovative too! I really like the story, the concept of different worlds and half-lights and curves. The New Order and all “The One”s was what I found were something new and refreshing. Creative, more like. Gradually the New Order has been accumulating power and control of the world(s), banning all sorts of books, movies, art forms, etc which seem to be too 'liberal' according to their new standards. Wisteria (Wisty) and Whitford Allgood (Whit) are siblings, 15 and 17 (almost 18) respectively, who wake up to find that they’re getting arrested by a total bunch of lunatic-like people. There’s something wrong, as their parents seemed to know what was happening, scared faces not being much of a help, except that they give both their kids one thing each: Wisty gets a drumstick and Whit an empty journal. They’re confused and aggressive and trying to break free of restraints while they’re carried into a criminal court in the New World, and later on dumped into a Hospital, which has been modified to restrain magic.

The rest of the events are surprising, fast-paced and it’s not predictable. You can’t know what’s happening, which is good as it makes a reader want to read further more. The sequencing was also well planned, as it did not feel like jumping from one scene to the next, even though the book alternates between Whit and Wisty’s viewpoints. This can get a little bit confusing, though. Because when you’re totally into that reading flow (which would happen easily here, thanks to the fast pace), you don’t want to stop at each chapter and condition your mind to think about whose POV it is.

What I think made the book seem lower than what I had expected is the writing style. It is too plain, there are very little descriptions in parts, so that in some places you don’t even know what is being talked about. Yes, there was some kind of a flow that made me read the book in less than two days (and it can be read in a day as well. It’s that fast), but I would attribute that quality to the continuous storyline. It’s engaging, it makes a reader curious, it can be read in a breeze! The only trouble was the clumsy way it was written. I have read a few other James Patterson books and those were lovely, maybe that’s why I had high expectations? If just there would have been more descriptions, I’m sure it’d have been much better.

The other thing I had a tiny trouble with was the way Whit and Wisty didn’t seem to be 18 and 15! Wisty, especially. She’s a smart-mouthed girl, and on top when it comes to wit and humorous dialogues. I loved that quality, but she seemed more like a young teenager, not even 15. That’s just my perception, though. That might not even be the case for everyone else. Overall, it’s a good, light read. It’s fast, engaging, innovative and yes, I think original too. I loved the parts where they discover and use their magical powers. I liked even more the connection and love between Whit and his ‘girlfriend-who-went-missing’, Celia. I’d recommend this book to young adults, teenagers and maybe even kids. It’d be a fun read for them! :)

Some note-worthy quotes from the book!

‘Sometimes people are afraid of those who’re different. Being afraid makes them angry and unreasonable.’

‘Funny thing about concentration- you don’t realize how little you do it until you finally do it.’

I found this one really funny. It’d give you an idea about Wisty’s POV narration:

‘I didn’t like it one bit inside Whit’s pocket, especially once he started to run. It was like being on a boat in a tough sea: up and down and up and down. Within a block I felt myself going green and I half wondered if there was a spell I could mutter for mouse-size motion-sickness pills. It would not be cool to barf in my brother’s trousers.’

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Liar, Liar.... Pants on Fire!

This is a mini-review!
Book title: Pants on Fire
Author: Meg Cabot
Pages: 260
Published:2007 by Harper Teen
My Rating: 3.5/5! 

Pants on Fire also comes by the name, ‘Tommy Sullivan is a Freak’. It’s the same story! You know how I can practically read any book just because it’s written by Meg Cabot. #diehardfan.

Goodreads Blurb!
Katie Ellison is not a liar.

But she can't exactly tell the truth, either--not when she's juggling two boyfriends, secretly hating the high school football team everyone else worships, and trying to have the best summer ever. At least Katie has it all under control (sort of). Her biggest secret, what really happened the night Tommy Sullivan is a freak was spray-painted on the junior high gymnasium wall, is safe.

That is, until Tommy comes back to town. Katie is sure he's going to ruin all her plans, and she'll do anything to hang on to her perfect existence. Even if it means telling more lies. Even if, now that Tommy's around, she's actually--truthfully--having the time of her life.

My Thoughts!
Okay, this die-hard-fan would admit that this isn’t one of the best Meg Cabot books. Of all her books, I like this one least. It’s a good read, fun, light, humor: all the elements found in a good Meg Cabot novel, but there was something missing. The protagonist, for example, was someone I just could not like, no matter how hard I tried. She cannot stop thinking about guys, least of all hot ones. She’s otherwise smart, talented and witty and I liked those things about her. She’s also kind and somewhat considerate, passionate about her love for photography, but her character seemed too flawed to me, boy-wise. I understand that’s the main story, how’s she’s such a liar and gets in trouble for lying all the time, also for being so boy-crazy! 

On the other hand, I liked Tommy Sullivan’s character, right from how he was in the eighth grade to how he’s the new hottie in town.  Apart from all this, it made me wonder if high school kids really are like this? So focused on creating their social “images”, partying, gossiping and bitching! The writing style is as usual, great, which makes the book a light, breezy read. I loved the ending too! It actually got way better towards the end. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, light, girly read, to young adults, late teens and adults.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Tantra by Adi!

Title: Tantra
Author: Adi 
Pages: 344
Price: Rs. 195
Published: April 2013 by Apeejay Stya Publishing
My Rating: 3.5/5!

From the book’s cover!
Anu is a leather wearing, no-nonsense professional guardian with a reputation for killing the most dangerous vampires in New York City. But when her enemies murder the one person she truly cared about, all she wants is vengeance. The only clue points to New Delhi, so Anu puts in for a job transfer. In India, she finds more than she expected. For one thing, her fellow operatives have made a truce with the vampires. For another, it’s way too hot to wear leather.

At first, it seems Anu’s biggest challenge will be evading the nice boys her aunt wants her to marry. But when children start disappearing, she discovers forces older and darker than anything she’s faced before. All of Delhi is in danger, especially the sexy stranger who sets Anu’s pulse racing. To prepare for the coming battle, Anu must overcome her personal demons and put aside years of training. This time, her most powerful weapon will come from her mind, not her weapons belt.

My Thoughts!
What made me apply for this book when it was up at blogadda for review was the fascination I had thinking about a fantasy story, a vampire fantasy no less, by an Indian author! The silhouette of the super-woman-hero on the cover, crouched atop a roof, keeping a steady lookout was intriguing enough. I supposed it would be a story about guardians hunting down vampires, battling and biting in the sneaky corners of dusty lanes. It seemed like it would actually be like that, considering the way the story started, mysterious happenings, feelings for vengeance and all, but turns out it was best only in the beginning, after which it began to lose focus. Or maybe the focus was supposed to be on all the hocus pocus, considering the title. That was confusing. Vampires or tantra? Because both together do not seem to fuse and that was what happened in the book. 

Initially, the book had me engrossed. I liked the way Anu is shown as super-talented and how she’s able to defy normal hunters’ limitations and have her own. I liked the mystery surrounding it all, I liked just the idea of vampires and hunters in New Delhi! I thought it was innovative, a good experiment on the part of the author, to venture into topics Indian authors generally don’t get into. It wasn’t predictable, I have to give it that much credit. As a curious reader I tend to anticipate and guess the future events, but this didn’t seem possible over here. Either it was because it left me confused, what with the story doing a round-about , leaving vampires in the background and getting fused with tantra, or the fact that it actually had scope and the ability to surprise!  It left something to the imagination, at least. That’s what I think is good.

Next, the book was successful in involving me in the story, having a sense of dread when the villain, Baba Senaka (the evil-guy-who-uses-his-tantric-knowledge-to-rise-to-power-and-achieve-greatness, and who seemed just like Voldemort to me, having a decent fan following and converting vampires to do his bidding, making the vampire society fall apart) did something sinister, such as appearing in Anu’s drawing room. Yep, I shuddered almost all times he appeared. I wouldn’t say much on the characters as I was slightly disappointed with the choice of names. I understand that might be done deliberately, to keep the focus on the story, but sorry, names are important. They help readers connect with them, which was hugely missing. The fact that the characters were shown as super richie brats who only visited five star places for coffee, didn’t help much either, more so because it seemed overdone.

That’s the biggest problem with this book. It’s a very good first-attempt-at-a-novel kind of a book and I really enjoyed getting to know all about sattvic and tantric styles, the mind-spirit-soul thing and how it actually has stuff like shifting, but I feel almost everything seemed overdone. Anu was special, but then became a prodigy at everything, Nina and Smiti seemed pestering, but cute. Even then, they became “too much” to handle. Tantra and rituals were interesting, the astras and mysterious speedy fights, but in the second half of the book, became overpowering. I did not want to read more. I felt I was reading something like The Krishna Key, I lost focus a lot of times. Senaka seemed to go down easily (not really, as most of the book was focused on preparing Anu to fight against him, but in the grand finale, it was almost like a slightly extended “poof”), there were too many deaths (always a turn off) and I also found some grammar errors (personal problem with grammar errors).

Another point that came to mind was, there were those fantastical terms, like shifting, guardians, etc, about which readers might not know, especially those who haven’t read a vampire story before. There seemed to be some attempt at humor, but in some places it was in bad taste and in some places it just didn’t make me smile. I did not like the ending. It made me o.O what? You crazy or what? Now there’s the next book in the series to look forward to. 

I’d recommend it to young adults, especially those willing to experiment with their reading. It’s something new (maybe the fusion didn’t work out, but still. It’s an applaud-able attempt at least) and you might like the tantric mantras thing more than I did.  

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Vampire Academy

Author Richelle Mead
Title: Vampire Academy # 1
Author: Richelle Mead
Published: in 2007 by Penguin Books
Pages: 332
Price: Rs. 399 
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5!

You know, I’ve had this whole series since early November, but kept putting this one off for a time when I had lots to spare, which never came. Finally, a few days ago, too worked up to read anything ‘heavy’ and feeling like taking a break from the review books, I picked the first book and now I’m cursing myself for not having experienced its awesomeness earlier. It’s just going to be my top favourite series (after Harry Potter), I’m definitely sure. Reader alert: This book is addictive, in the sense that you wouldn’t be able to stop reading, so I suggest you read when getting lost in the book would not endanger any other vital work.

Summary of the book!
St. Vladimir's Academy isn't just any boarding school it's a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They've been on the run, but now they're being dragged back to St. Vladimir's the very place where they're most in danger. . . .
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy's ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi the world's fiercest and most dangerous vampires make Lissa one of them forever.
Why I’m drooling over it!
A well-meaning friend once suggested that I do not write reviews right after finishing the book, as it tends to be more emotional than professional. I tried that too, it works only sometimes. For books like these, that have left me breathless, and I’m not even talking just metaphorically, it’s not possible to wait. I just-have-to-write! What’s better than sharing a book’s awesomeness?

Vampire Academy starts with a suspenseful scene, then moving on to action and life at St. Vladimir’s Academy. That’s where vampires (the Moroi) live with their guardians (or dhampirs), who're trained to save the Moroi from Strigoi, or the immortal vampires who like to kill Moroi. Now, like I had predicted, it wasn't very "bright" and "sunny" as a book and I usually get that depressing feeling with darkness. But that wasn't the case with this book. Actually, I don't think there was anything to make your mood depressing. Yes, there was some gory stuff, but it acted out well in whatever context it was written. 

I think the storyline is amazing. The sequencing seemed well planned and measured, as the story supplied the background information in parts, wherever they were necessary, but it was subtle. So much so that you can never feel bored or feel your head spinning from all the shifting from the past to the present. Like I said before, it was balanced. There are adequate surprises in the right places, which makes it harder to predict what’s going to happen next. I mean, when some character actually turns out to be someone who couldn’t dream of, it does get intriguing (and slightly scary), I have to admit. 

And oh, those characters! The first thing I noticed is that every character has a role to play. You’ll hardly come across a name in passing. Everyone has their own significance. Apart from the basic impression they give out, that of being relevant, they tend to exude an aura of “strength”. I don’t know if it is because of the impression of ‘a-school-for-vampires-and-guardians-who-attend-school-at-night’ or because of the descriptions of those characters, but you can’t find a weak one. Even though they have ‘vampiristic’ powers (don’t bother to check. I made that word up), they seem pretty much realistic and human. (Except for when they’re learning about different shape-shifters and battle techniques or whatever). Lissa, the vampire-princess is likeable in general. I just thought she seemed too vulnerable in the beginning, but that’s a part of the story. Turns out she is actually quite smart.

Rose is someone I like best, as I was able to connect so strongly to her. She’s one kickass guardian, smart, hyper-active too, deeply caring for Lissa, her best-friend-cum-charge and a knack for recklessness. I love the way romance brews between her and Dimitri Belikov (who by the way, is generally considered hot. I feel the same way, though I’d still give more points to Mason, who seems like a charming young guy!). Yes, the characters were great, the setting is enchanting, the writing style and level something close to remarkable, but I would still say the hugely addictive story, plot twists and turns, details, action, humor, heart-stopping moments of panic and surprise are what made me love the book so much! I don’t know how I am still waiting for holidays to read the rest. I just don’t want to have a break in between, I’m sure the rest of them would be as great too. 

Recommended for: Young Adult fantasy lovers, vampire story lovers (trust me, much better than Twilight), adult readers.
How to buy: Get the boxed set for the first three books in the series from Flipkart or Homeshop18 or wherever you want! It'll be cheaper and you get more books! :D


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