Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall

Title: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken [A Vish Puri Mystery]
Author: Tarquin Hall
Publisher: Arrow Books [Random House India]
Pages: 368
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Fiction / Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Literary Fiction
Rating: 8/10
Format: Paperback

From the Publisher’s website:

Vish Puri is as fond of butter chicken as the next Punjabi. And when there's plenty on offer at the Delhi Durbar hotel where he's attending an India Premier League cricket match dinner, he's the first to tuck in.

Irfan Khan, father of Pakistani star cricketer Kamran Khan, can't resist either. But the creamy dish proves his undoing. After a few mouthfuls, he collapses on the floor, dead. Clearly this isn't a case of Delhi Belly. But who amongst the Bollywood stars, politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists poisoned Khan is a mystery. And with the capital's police chief proving as incompetent as ever, it falls to Most Private Investigators to find out the truth.

Puri is soon able to link Khan to a bald bookie called Full Moon and all the clues point to the involvement of a gambling syndicate that controls the illegal X billion dollars betting industry. The answers seem to lie in Surat, the diamond cutting and polishing capital of the world (where Puri's chief undercover operative Tubelight meets his match) and across the border in Pakistan, Puri's nemesis, the one country where he has sworn never to set foot. Or do they?

A certain determined, grey-haired lady with a unique insight into the murder believes that the portly detective is barking up 'a wrong tree.' Is Mummy-ji right?Is there more to the murder than meets the eye? And why, to make life even more complicated for Vish Puri, has someone tried to steal the longest moustache in the world - from right under the nose of its owner? Literally.

My thoughts:

I had read about Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall earlier but I never really paid attention to the fact that he was a British writer and journalist [read more about the author here]. Now that I have taken the plunge and read the third book in the series [though my first one], let me tell you what a feat the author has achieved in writing an essentially Indian book; with a desi, unconventional detective figure, who is in his early 50s. This book wonderfully captures the eccentricities of people from Delhi and the way Indians converse in English peppered with Hindi words. On one hand it makes the book really cute and warm, and on another it captures the cultural essence of Delhi perfectly. I must say, the author has done a commendable job.

At the centre of this well-written, suitably-paced, engaging book, is the death of a celebrity Pakistani cricketer’s father in the middle of an after-match Dinner, while he was in the company of film stars, industrialists and politicians. As chance would have it, this happens in front of ‘India’s Most Private Investigator’ Vish Puri. Just when he was itching to investigate the mystery, the case falls into his lap. I don’t want to dwell too much into the story but, trust me; there is enough to hold your attention. The story has shrewd politicians, sauve industrialists, underworld connections, blood diamonds, cricket, betting, while also connecting with the disturbing times during Partition.

Vish Puri’s Mummy ji [mother] takes it upon herself to investigate the murder in her own way. She believes that the answer lay in her experience during India’s Partition.

Also running parallely is another case about moustache theft of Satya Pal Bhalla, who holds the record of the longest moustache; and later of Gopal Ragi, the second-in-line for the title. The murder case has nothing to do with this case, but this one keeps us amused.

In short, this book offers so much more than just a murder mystery. As rightly summarized by the author himself in one of his interviews; “the idea is that you get to learn about India as well as read a good mystery. And there’s a healthy dose of humour as well.”

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in a good literary fiction.    

The author's first two books in the Vish Puri series are [which straightaway go to my Wish List]:

By the way, Vish Puri has a charming website too. Check it out here.

Here's also an author interview about this book, which was quite informative..

Review Book courtesy: Random House India
Image source: Random House India

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Books Wish List

Image courtesy:
If you are a Book Lover who buys a lot of books, you would know how exciting it is to make a books wish list, almost as good as buying them. So, I, ever the list-maniac  created this Wish List page, to make my book hoarding easier. Buying books are my instant pick-me-ups, and I also love giving and of course getting books. So, check out my Wish List here. You can suggest a few too.  

Book Sale: Pune

On 15th August, I visited this annual Book Sale at C M Shah Hall Inst Of Engineers, Next to COEP Ground, Opp. Modern cafe at ShivajinagarPune. It is organised by Broadway Book Centre [Panaji, Goa]. Several books were available for flat Rs 50. This was the 5th year I was attending this Sale. Earlier, I used to visit it during our lunch breaks at office since it was very close from there. There would be no crowd on Week days and therefore, enough opportunity to scan through all the books. I have even taken my son there when he was 3 months old. My husband is very accommodating that ways. Though this venue is quite far from my place, and though I have and I buy several books all the time; he always agrees to take me to this Book Sale every year. He would not even ask me to hurry up.

I always believe that it is pure luck what you would find in a Book Sale. The books are laid out mostly at random. It is luck that leads you to the right kind of books. 

In this Sale, like every year, there were several Popular fiction titles of foreign authors in thriller, chicklit and romance genres, who I had never heard of. But there were also books like Little Princes for Rs 100 or Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent for Rs 50. 

The Sale is still going on and will be there till atleast next month, I suppose. I wanted to buy some books for my son but there weren't any for his age. They told me, they would get books for young kids in October. 

I selected 11 books for Rs 50 each and 3 were for Rs 100 each. I even bargained on that and got them all for Rs 800. They also have some offer where for every purchase of Rs 200, you would get a free book. Free books, as usual, are worthless. You can see the bunch below, and can easily spot the free books [I got 3].

Here's my loot, all for Rs 800 :-)

Every year, it is pure luck that I find out about this Sale. I hardly read paper, and they have very tiny ad about this Sale on one of the days. And I always happen to see it. There is no information about this Sale anywhere on the internet too. I think, it is mostly frequented by College crowd or people who live / move around the vicinity. 

If you are in Pune, do check it out! We hardly get any Book Sale here :-(

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Sale: Amazing Independence Day Offers at Amazon India

Trust me, you would not like to miss these offers on Amazon India. These offers have not been advertised too well but I happened to catch them.

There are a selected list of titles which are at 66% discount. There are many good books on this heavily discounted list. I already have several of them, so I settled for 2.

1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hossieni at Rs 203: This has been a much-awaited book and has been on my wishlist for sometime now. It is originally priced at Rs 599, and I bought it for Rs 203. You can say, this was just the offer I had been waiting for.

2. Lost & Found in India by Braja Sorensen: Bought this for Rs 101 [originally priced at Rs 299]

Click here to reach the offer page.

I had almost missed this one. I chanced upon this offer while searching for a book and finding its ebook at Rs 66. I was delirious! You must check out this list because several bestsellers are there. If you do not have a Kindle, simply download the free Kindle App on your device. I have the Kindle App on my Tab. 
These are the e-books I got.

1. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid: This is the book I was talking about. This was another book, alongwith Khaled Hosseini's latest which has been on my list for a while.
2. Such A Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry
3. Their Language of Love by Bapsi Sidhwa
4. Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Click here to reach the offer page.

Note: The details of the offers have been taken from the Amazon India website.

Happy Independence Day :-)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson

Title: Alex Cross, Run
Author: James Patterson
Publisher: Arrow Books [Random House India]
Pages: 416
Price: Rs 350
Genre: Fiction / Crime / Thriller / Mystery
Rating: 7/10
Format: Paperback

It’s not every day that I get a naked girl answering the door I knock on.”

That is the first line of this book. And you are hooked to it, till you finish the book. Not for nothing, it is mentioned on the back cover, below the author’s name ‘the pages turn themselves’.

This book was my constant companion in the 2 days I read [and finished] it. ‘Alex Cross, Run’ by James Patterson is an extremely fast-paced crime thriller from ‘Alex Cross’ series.   

Alex Cross, from Metropolitan Police Department, is in charge of three investigations while also going through a troubled time at home related to his foster teenage daughter. The bodies are falling one after another, which look like cases of serial murders. With 3 serial killers to chase and stop them from doing more damage, Alex Cross has clearly his hands full. While he is unraveling the mystery of serial murders, Alex Cross is also being closely watched by someone, inflicting personal and professional setbacks on him. Alex Cross’ personal life is also drawn into the story that involves his foster daughter. In his wife Bree, who is also a cop, he has a companion who empathizes about his work while also becomes an ally in times of crisis.

Though this book is unputdownable but it has its flaws. As we read the story, we know who are the killers but I felt the ‘why’ part was not clearly explained in the end. Though Alex Cross is sharp and passionate about his work but a few times I found his actions quite na├»ve. A few times when the narrative would focus on one particular murder or series of murders, the other ones would seem forgotten, making you wonder what was happening over there. But that is a small glitch in the narrative.

Alex Cross, Run is for anyone who enjoys the good old crime thriller genre. If you are looking for a quick read, this one is for you.

Here are a few of my favourite lines from the book:

"If speed was my number one priority right now, discretion was a close second."

"... and for just a little while, I could pretend that my biggest problem was deciding between the salmon and the New York strip with Kinkead's Scotch whiskey sauce."

"It was a game of political football, and right now, I was the ball."

Note: The text in italics have been quoted from the book.

Review Book courtesy: Random House India
Image source: Amazon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

5 Tips for Raising Book lovers

Every book lover dreams of having a book lover in his or her child too. Though many kids take to reading themselves but there are certain things which you can do to pave the way for your child into the world of reading.

Here are a few tips to raising book lovers:

1. Start Early. Make it a way of daily life.
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The best time to introduce reading to your child is now. Yes. The sooner the better. Even one month old baby benefits when they are read to. At that age, you can read just about anything to him. I remember I used to read aloud whatever books I would be reading at that time. Once it was 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish' ha ha! Jokes apart, make reading to or with your child part of your daily routine. The formative years are the time to instill habits in kids. Make the best of it. We usually read during afternoons since my son used to be quite hyper just before sleeping. We had to switch off the lights for him to sleep. But recently, I started reading before bedtime and he just wouldn't let us drop that even when we are tired or late. He will get the bunch of books. Sometimes it is too funny!

2. Surround him with good books. 
Today there is an extensive range of books for each age-group. With imported books available at online stores and with several Indian publishers [like Duckbill BooksTulika PublishersTara BooksKaradi Tales] creating books for Indian kids, it is a wonderful time to be a young reader. Take time to research and find books that are appealing and according to the child's age. I had shared a list of Fiction books which I have been reading to my son [ he just turned 2]. I will suggest you must read the book yourself first before passing it on to your kids. Not all books available for children in the market are good in quality and content or preaching the values you would like to inculcate in your child. I had shared my bad experience with a few kiddie books here

Image courtesy: Pinterest
3. Provide enough opportunities for reading. 
If you have good books but your TV is blaring all the time, chances are your child wouldn't be drawn to opening the book. TV is a visual medium - bright, attractive, dynamic. Compare it with a book. But of course, TV will dumb you down, books will make you imaginative. And I am sure, that is what you want for your kids. So, fix a time for TV [not more than 40-45 minutes for young kids]. 
If possible, create a reading corner for your child. See the picture. Even I would like to spend hours here. This place looks cozy and welcoming. We have a playing area in a corner of my living room. This place is for Dining Table but I have decided to wait for a while before I invite more trouble for myself. He will stand on top of the table or jump around the chairs. This place is just across the kitchen, so if I am doing something, I can keep an eye on him. I wanted to create a reading corner in another room with an open bookcase but at the last moment we felt he would start climbing up the shelves. So, we have dropped the idea for the moment. But I am going to get it may be in another year. 

4. Set an Example. Read yourself.
 Like in everything else, the child is going to copy you. If you are a voracious reader yourself, read all the time, love your books, care for your books; then chances are it is going to rub off on your child too. So, do what you preach. 

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5. Join a library. Visit bookstores together. 
A library will provide you a wide range of books. There are different kinds of libraries these days. There are also the ones in which you can order online and get the books delivered at your doorstep. And there are good old libraries where you visit the library, spend time, select books and issue them. I would suggest prefer those libraries. A library is a place where you will find other readers. It is inspiring to find other young readers. 
Along with library, also visit bookstores together when you go to buy books. When the kids are a little older, allow them to choose some of the books [with your approval of course]. 

So, have you got any tip for me? 

Note: This post has been cross-posted from my other blog.