Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review: Bones Of The Lost by Kathy Reichs

Title: Bones Of The Lost [Temperance Brennan # 16]
Author: Kathy Reichs
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 336
Price: Rs 599
Genre: Fiction / Crime / Thriller
Rating: 7/10
Format: Paperback

About the Book [from the blurb]

The body of a teenage girl is discovered along a desolate highway on the outskirts of Charlotte. Inside her purse is the ID card of a local businessman who died in a fire months earlier.

This is no ordinary hit-and-run. Who was the girl? And was she murdered?

Dr Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist, must find the answers. She soon learns that a Gulf War veteran stands accused of smuggling artefacts into the country. Could there be a sinister connection between the two cases?

Convinced that the girl's death was no accident, Tempe takes courageous action to find justice for the dead. But her search throws her to the centre of a conspiracy that extends from South America to Afghanistan – and places her in terrible danger.

My thoughts:

First few pages were a blur for me, may be because this is my first book featuring Tempe Brennan [this is the 16th in this series, by the way]. But I quickly got the hang of the plot.

Dr Brennan, like the author herself, is a forensic anthropologist. It is intriguing how much she finds out about people only through bones, sometimes badly damaged bones.
Dr Brennan actually finds herself amid three completely unrelated cases [on the face of it]. One is about a hit-and-run victim, a young girl. Since Tempe also has a young daughter, far away from her; this case tugs her emotionally because she wants to find out who the victim is and send her [her body] home to her people. It disturbs her all the time to think that somewhere the girl’s parents would be waiting for her.

Second case is about seized mummified dogs and a possible case of smuggling. The third case takes Dr Tempe Brennan to Afghanistan, where a Marine has been accused with the murder of 2 Afghan nationals. She is supposed to conduct skeletal autopsies of the dead and find out if the victims were shot from behind or from the front.

On personal level, Dr Tempe’s life isn’t really settled. Her only daughter, Katy, is in Afghanistan. Her current boyfriend Ryan is non-existent, while her ex Pete [though officially still her husband] is about to marry a bimbo.

Over all, though the book wasn’t as addictive as several thrillers are, yet it was very, very interesting. Every chapter ends with a compelling sentence that would make you read the next chapter. 

It was only towards the end that I found that the American crime series ‘Bones’ is based on Dr Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs. I certainly look forward to reading more in this series. The only thing I was confused about was that why was Dr Brennan solving the cases. She isn’t a detective; she is an anthropologist. But frankly, if forensics intrigues you, this book [or the series] is for you. This book will also appeal to those who read crime / thriller genre, in general.

Here are a few lines quoted from the book:

"I see violent death on regular basis. I know the cruelty and stupidity and insensitivity of which humans are capable. And yet, every time, the same question.

"I try to be open-minded, to judge each individual on merit and accomplishment. I hold no bias against any belief system, sexual orientation, or skin color that differs from mine. I do not hate in stereotype."

" Some burials were still mounded, but most slumped. The newly dead, the long departed. All were aligned in rows, as in farmer's field. But bones, not seeds, lay beneath the ground."

Note: You can also read a Free Chapter Here.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Title: The Storyteller
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton [Hachette India]
Pages: 480 
Price: Rs 695
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction 
Rating: 8/10
Format: Paperback

About the Book [from the blurb]

Sage Singer has a past that makes her want to hide from the world. Sleeping by day and working in a bakery by night, she kneads her emotion into the beautiful bread she bakes.

But when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with Josef Weber, a quiet man old enough to be her grandfather, and respected pillar of the community, she feels that finally, she may have found someone she can open up to.

Until Josef tells her the evil secret he's kept for sixty years.

Caught between Josef's search for redemption and her shattered illusions, Sage turns to her family history and her own life for answers. As she uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between betrayal and forgiveness, love and revenge. And ask herself the most difficult question she has ever faced - can murder ever be justice? Or mercy?

My thoughts:

To begin with, it is a big book, which deals with the subject of forgiveness woven around the Holocaust. Though I have only read [and loved] ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ by Jodi Picoult, yet I feel with this book she has attempted a major feat. Writing historical fiction cannot be easy. There are many things to consider – the factual correctness, the characterizations, the story graph, keeping the readers glued; in no way it could be a small feat.

On the face of it, Sage is the main protagonist of this book. A recluse by nature, she is drawn inside her shell by the ghosts of her past. A baking job ensures she works through nights. In her self-pity mode, she is also involved with a married man because she feels she does not deserve better, and this could be her only chance at love. Sage is part of a group therapy class, where she befriends a nonagenarian Josef Weber. A respected figure of town, Sage feels that in Josef she has found a friend who understands her.

But things take a surprising turn when all Josef confides in her about his role in the Holocaust and asks her to help him end his life. Since Sage is a Jew, Josef believes that it will be his redemption from the several crimes he committed during Holocaust as a Nazi SS guard.

Sage also has a paternal grandmother Minka who is a Holocaust survivor. Minka’s story, in fact, is the central part of this book. While Josef gives an account of his role in the Holocaust [perpetrator’s perspective], Minka’s story offers a victim’s experience through those terrible times. This book delves into the psyche of the perpetrator; what made them do what they did, how so many men went about systematically killing fellowmen. The nature of crime is so inhuman that sometimes it feels that it really never happened, but there are survivors to tell the disturbing stories of those horrifying times. Minka’s story will unsettle you, even move you to tears for the sheer helplessness of the situation.

Once you read Minka’s story, Sage’s character feels frivolous. I felt Sage was too caught up in self-pity. Sage eventually finds love in Leo, the Deputy Chief of Human Rights and Special Prosecutions, who she teams up with to bring Josef Weber to book; but that looks very convenient for a happy ending.

There is a third story that runs almost parallely with Sage’s and Minka’s stories. It is an allegorical story created by Minka - of Ania, her baker father and a monster [a bloodsucking upiory] - which in a way is a reflection of her own life.

There are portions which may drag for a bit but trust me, your patience will pay off. It took me a couple of pages to warm up to the story, [and though I am not 100% happy with the ending] yet the book was certainly worth reading. I will recommend it to others too.

Here are a few lines quoted from the book:

“That’s the paradox of loss: How can something that’s gone weigh us down so much?”

“He listened so carefully that it made me forget that outside there were guards abusing prisoners and people being gassed to death and men pulling their bodies from the shower rooms to stack like wood in the crematoria. When I was reading my own work, I got lost in the story, and I could have been anywhere….”

“Sometimes all it takes to become human again is someone who can see you that way, no matter how you present on the surface.”

“If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it.
And if you didn’t, you will never understand.”

Review Book courtesy: Hachette India
Image source: GoodReads

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Art of Reading Multiple Books

Of late, I have started reading several books simultaneously, which does not mean I have a book on my right hand and another on my left. It just means I pick up a book, read a few chapters, and then I pick another and read a few chapters / pages from that and so on. And why would I do that? It saves time. 

Image courtesy:
Certain books like thrillers or chicklits can be read in one sitting but there are books like the ones on health or parenting; they demand slow reading. Then there are travel books which can be read chapter-wise. There are some heavy duty books, about complexities of life, which you need to read after breaks. There are some big books like the one I read recently, Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar; they deserve some leisurely time and attention. 

So, if you love reading, you can easily bunch up different genres and make the most of your time. Since I am always short of time, so I thought of this ingenious way to read more books in the available time. It is not that difficult really. If you read 2 books from the same genre, it will be tricky. I am reading a parenting book, a health-related book, a non-fiction on Afghanistan, a book on English language and a Fiction. Simultaneously. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

In the Mailbox

Though I buy [both for me and my 2-year old son] and receive a lot of books, I hardly ever do 'In The Mailbox' post. But yesterday, we received a bunch of our toddler's books which I had ordered a few days back [3 are yet to come], and both of us were equally excited. He was delirious with joy, opening all the packages and looking at so many new books. 

All the books were for him except one review copy of 'Aisle Be Damned' by Rishi Pipariya from Jaico Books. It looks like a fun book and I cannot wait to start it. 

His bunch includes:
  1. The Gruffalo's Child: He already has 'The Gruffalo' and loves it, so naturally I got him this sequel to the very popular first book. 
  2. Room on the Broom: I have already finished reading this one and it is another lovely story from the same authors as above.
  3. Dear Zoo: This is a Flap book and it has already been opened 25-30 times. He gets so excited looking at the animals hidden behind the flaps. It is a must have. It has simple and minimum text. I think it can be enjoyed around 2 years of age. I have realised that though he had flap books earlier but now he is enjoying them much more. 
  4. The Snail and the Whale: Another wonderful book from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
  5. Love You Forever: I remember I first came across this book in one of the episodes of FRIENDS [the American sitcom] in which they are celebrating Emma's first birthday. Joey forgets to bring any gift, so he picks up this book and reads it to them. It makes them very emotional. And certainly, it is a lovely and very, very emotional book. This is a book which your child [and you] can read for a long, long time. I could get only a Paperback so I am really worried if this will survive for long. The Hardbound edition was really expensive.
  6. Hide-and-Seek Pig: This is another flap book and an instant hit with my son.
C.S.Lewis said "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” And if you have read children's books, you would know that it is true. Just take 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' for example. I am amazed by this little book. How much of information and knowledge is packed in this fascinating story which is about a caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly at the end. Or take 'the Gruffalo'. It is another wonderful story.

Now the problem at hand is that our toddler thinks he can read his books on his own. What ensues is he would read the alphabets or tell the prominent colours on the pages or tell the various things on the page, and sometimes even try telling the story. For now, I let him be. I read him the stories when he is busy playing with his puzzles and there are less chances of pulling the books. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Recommendation: 10 Takeaways from 'Raising Boys'

Taking the discussion forward from my last post on this wonderful Parenting book called‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids’ by Laura Markham; in this post, I would like to offer glimpses of another recommended read called ‘Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men’ by Steve Biddulph.

I chanced upon this article several months ago, which eventually led me to look up resources for ‘raising boys’. Well, I completely look down on gender stereotyping [incidentally, that was the subject of my first post here] but it is also true that boys and girls are wired differently [ok, so it is debatable but, I would lean a little on this assumption because of general observation about girls and boys], and when we attempt to understand those differences, we help our children thrive better. You know, as women when we are raising girls, atleast we have our own experiences to fall back on; but when we are raising boys, many times we find ourselves in a quagmire.

Please click here to read the complete post.

Image source: Amazon