Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Book Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

This was a book which I picked up solely based on the title and without a doubt this is one of the most hilarious books I have ever read! The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is originally a Swedish novel authored by Jonas Jonasson and published in 2009 – I of course picked the English translation. I have never been a fan on translations till now, but now count me as a convert.

Allan Karlsson is no mood to attend his 100th birthday party and disappears from his old-age home. Along with him a suitcase full of money also disappears and so we meet a criminal gang, an elephant, a hot-dog vendor who has unlimited knowledge, an overzealous prosecutor, a foul-mouthed beauty, and many more intricately woven characters. And this is just the present. After all the protagonist is 100 years old, and has a lot to tell.

We revisit Allan Karlsson’s life and get a completely new perspective on the major events of the 20th century. While he is a completely apolitical person – he loses the conversation thread as soon as politics make an appearance – Allan has played a pivotal role in the world politics. He has a hand in rise of General Franco in Spain, Mao in China, and Charles de Gaulle in France. He has foiled an assassination attempt on Winston Churchill, he has sung songs with Stalin, and is indirectly responsible for the fall of the Soviet Empire. Oh and did I mention he made the atom bomb at Los Alamos while working on the Manhattan Project and later spilled the secret to Soviet Union over a bottle of Vodka.

Wish this book was a few hundred pages longer and wish I could take a 15 year vacation like Allan. Go pick this book today, you would not be disappointed.

P.S.: Posting a book review after a year! 

Book Review: Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka

As soon as I had read Chinaman – The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, in spite knowing that the book is a work of fiction, I googled for Pradeep Mathew. That is the power of the book. I knew that there is no such person, but the way the story has been weaved and the way it evolved it leaves you thinking, wondering “What if?” And the writer, Shehan Karunatilaka, has also taken care of all the details. He has created websites where you can find mention of this bowler, he has a few pages where the different balls bowled by this mystery bowler have been detailed, and there is an even fake Cricinfo profile. (I am too lazy to link to those articles, but a simple Google search should yield all these things)

Chinaman is the story of an aging Sri Lankan sports writer W. G. Karunsasena and his search for the best cricketer that Sri Lanka has produced, supposedly Murali learned his tricks from Pradeep Mathew, Ranatunga got his confidence to stand up to Australians from him, and our mystery cricketer is the one who gave wings to Sanath Jayasuriya’s aerial shots.

There are a few books which when you read you get lost in its world. The writer has such a grasp on you that you feel whatever is happening in the book is real, not fictional. For me it has always been a problem that I get too involved in a book, and here also I was so engrossed in the book that I would like to believe there is a guy named Pradeep Mathew and he is the best cricketer that Sri Lanka produced. The story follows Wije as he tries to find the cricketer who has vanished, and along with his search there are glimpses into the life of Sri Lanka.

If you have not read this book, pick it today. It is a compulsive read.

P.S.: Wrote this  last year November, posting it in May :)

Book Review: The Canyon Of Souls – Ronald Malfi

There was a line in the book, “Mountaineering is one of the last remaining extreme sports” and I cannot agree more with this statement. But sometimes I wonder why it is called an extreme sport, I don’t understand that. This is something where people die regularly and even then it is called a sport. I am no serious mountaineer, but then I am not completely naive about it either. I have done a fair bit of hiking/mountaineering and I can vouch for one thing – mountaineering is not just a test of one’s physical stamina, it is a test of one’s mental strength too. It takes a toll on the mind and the body. And this thing has been captured perfectly by Ronald Malfi in The Canyon of Souls.

The book follows the journey of a gifted sculptor Tim Overleigh as he tries to come to terms with the untimely death of his wife who had left him and loses his drive and talent to sculpt. He consumes himself with extreme sports, facing death at every turn to and avoids confronting his demons and keeps living in the past. He gets invited to visit the elusive Canyon of Souls along with a team of six. And soon death makes an appearance as the team struggles to remain sane and alive.

The protagonist has been sketched wonderfully. You can feel his pain when he reminisces about his dead wife, you can feel his frustration that his skill has deserted him. Ronald Malfi has breathed life into Tim Overleigh and you can easily empathize with him.  The flow of the story while not linear completely, is not difficult to follow. Another thing I completely enjoyed about the book was the description of the locales – it makes one miss or dread the majestic Himalayas depending on your appetite for mountaineering.  If somebody were to adapt this book into a movie it would make a really grand spectacle.

I wish the primary antagonist was characterized better. I would have loved to have this book narrated from his perspective too. It too would have made for an interesting read – Why the antagonist does what he does? There were a few time when I felt the book was a few pages too long. While the story never drags – you keep turning the pages, but there were a few incidents which could have been skipped altogether. Also for someone not familiar with the mountaineering jargon or techniques few paragraphs would not make any sense at all.

All in all The Canyon of Souls is a captivating thriller. What especially stood out was the locale which the author picked for the book. Imagine yourself in middle of a climb to a mountain where the closest civilization is at least a few days’ trek away and all you can rely on is yourself, and now imagine death lurking about, awaiting around the corner sharpening his knife especially for you. This is what this book made me feel like.

Addendum: This is a requested review. I was contacted by the publishers of this book for reviewing it.

Book Review: God Save The Dork – Sidin Vadukut

Update: So this comic trilogy has its final installment out. Can’t wait to read “Who Let the Dork Out?”. Hope it is as enjoyable as the previous two books.

Sequels are tricky business – be it movies or books. Most of the movie sequels fade in comparison to the original. Very few sequels do justice to the original. Similarly with a book, the sequels first of all need to live up to the reader’s expectations (the readers are definitely going to have high expectations, as the first book would be invariably good to warrant a sequel) and the author would need to build on the existing concept to keep the reader engaged. Thankfully these days the sequels I’ve been reading – all of them are engaging enough. Maybe it is easier to write a sequel to a book since the author remains the same; with a movie the director can change, the editor may change, and many other external factors impact the end-result. But then I am a layman to sequels, except reading/watching them.

On Saturday morning I lay my hand on the sequel to Dork, Sidin Vadukut’s second book – ‘God Save The Dork’, and I spent the weekend reading the book and I can say with assurance that my weekend was good. The protagonist Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese is now in London and a new company is at the mercy of his consulting antics. Following a storyline similar to the first book, here too Robin strives to be a star-performer and how he manages that among his innumerable goof-ups is what makes the story.

I’ve always maintained it is difficult to write humour, and very few people have a knack for it. Thankfully Sidin seems to have a few funny bones in his body and comes up trumps in handling the humour. Although there were a few old jokes which I had read on internet earlier, but then those were just 2-3 instances. The story is mostly easy to follow, but since this book is in the form of diary entries there are a few gaps and keeps going off on tangents – but then that is what makes the book different from any other book.

If you enjoyed ‘Dork‘ definitely pick up ‘God Save The Dork‘, you would not be disappointed. Now hoping that Dork-3 is equally hilarious and continues the fabulous topsy-turvy journey of Robin Varghese.

Book Review: Puppet On The Fast Track – Ilika Ranjan

There have rarely been times when I’ve not been sure of what to think of a book I just read. The only time I remember having that problem was when I had read The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time. Even today I am not sure whether I liked the book or not. I am facing the same dilemma again now while reviewing another book.

Ilika Ranjan has penned the book “Puppet on the Fast Track” which tells the story of a bank where politics is as common as potholes on an Indian road and everyone in the upper management hates everybody else in the upper management and all of their common aims is to ride on the shoulders of their subordinates to success and subsequently the next promotion. Told from the perspective of the people on the lower echelons, this book would resonate with anyone who has faced office politics.

The story of the book is quite simple, and it is quite easy to empathize with the primary characters as almost everyone in the corporate world has faced one of the situations depicted in the book. The pace of the book is quite steady but owing to a few repetitive incidents it actually feels slower than it actually is. The plot is not complex, but what lets the book down is the abrupt flow. At times I did not realize that one conversation was over and a new one has started between two other characters. The editing leaves a lot to be desired, there were instances when two different conversation topics overlapped and it became a confusing read. Few of the characters have been sketched out pretty well, and you can easily love or hate them. The writing actually improved a lot as the chapters progressed.

There were times when I absolutely enjoyed the book, and there were times it became a lethargic read – that is the reason I feel this book has me in two minds. This book seems aimed at management professionals and students considering the bits of jargon and the work environment and it is an interesting read for the target audience. For others it may get a tad tedious if they are not able to relate to the characters or the scenarios in the book.

Addendum: This is an author requested review. I was contacted by her to review the book.


Meet the Blogger…

I write! Topic does not matter, can be my life, or my travels, or any match I saw, or the Hyderabadi life, or reminiscing about Raipur, or penning Short Stories & 55s.

I can be contacted at kunalblogs[at]gmail[dot]com.

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