A Bad Character

A  Bad Character, Deepti Kapoor, book reviewFor a long time the bad character in Deepti Kapoor’s debut novel seems to be Delhi which, with its coffee shops, its sleaze and its Sufi gathering dominates the book in poetic prose quickly delivered and very easy on the eye. The mysterious ‘he’ with his bulging eyes, dark skin and mouthful of teeth could quite easily be a metaphor for the city where a girl ripe for marriage and hemmed in by her Aunty looks for a chance of excitement and escape. Rana Dasgupta says as much in his blurb, this is 21st century Delhi shown up warts and all. Kapoor’s is a story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, a search for self and a wish to damage on the heels of lost love.


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Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line, Kerry Wilkinson, book reviewReleased earlier this month, Crossing the Line is the eighth novel in Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series. I haven’t read any of the previous novels, but this one is intriguingly pitched as the start of “season 2”, a place where the plot arc allows new readers to more easily jump on board without feeling lost. For me this worked well; characters were introduced smoothly and gradually, while past events were referred to where necessary without ever feeling you were in the middle of an info-dump aimed at new readers. I had no problems picking this up as a newcomer, and indeed liked it enough to make me want to investigate some of the previous seven books featuring Jessica. It does make me wish that some other long-running novel series would think in terms of “seasons” to help bring new readers into their books without first trawling through an intimidating amount of back story, though.


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The Tea Chest

The Tea Chest, Josephine Moon, book reviewThe Tea Chest is Josephine Moon’s first novel and it really is a welcome treat. It is the sort of book that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time as you get to know the characters and get drawn in to the story.

The Tea Chest in question is actually an old fashioned tea shop which sells a wonderful range of teas to suit every palate. Its former owner and inspired designer Simone has left her half share in the Tea Chest to her trusted employee Kate whose task is to continue the inspired and original concept as she tries to set up the store that Simone had planned in London. For this she will need a great deal of help and luckily two other women, Leila and Elizabeth, are both at a time of crisis in their own lives and are looking for employment.


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One Step Closer to You

One Step Closer to You,  Alice Peterson, book reviewI love Alice Peterson’s books – what more can I say? I have never yet been disappointed by any of her books and each time I read the next one I can’t believe that it will exceed my enjoyment of the last – but it always does. Which is why I am heartily declaring One Step Closer to You as my favourite read of the year so far.

One Step Closer to You tells the story of Polly Stephens, a recovering alcoholic, and her young son, Louis. She has managed to put her troubled childhood and an abusive relationship behind her and is now a good mother to her son and also enjoys her job working in a local bakery. She still needs the support of her sponsor and her weekly AA meetings though and at one of these meetings she is surprised to see a fellow parent, Ben, from the school that Louis attends.


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If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley, book reviewIf you are the sort of person who wonders when women started wearing knickers, what people did before the flushing toilet became standard, or why people in much of the past seemed to have feared eating fruit, then If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home is probably the book for you. Written by Lucy Worsley (Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces), it was prepared to accompany a BBC4 documentary of the same name that was first shown about three years ago (and which I unfortunately missed). Having seen several of Worsley’s other documentaries, though, I hoped that her engaging, chatty style would be as evident in her writing as it was in her presenting.

Divided into four sections, If Walls Could Talk gives us an informative and often surprising history of the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen from the earliest sources available to the present day.


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Private India

 Private India, James Patterson, Ashwin Sanghi, book reviewThis is a continuation of the Private series, one of James Patterson’s most popular worldwide which is based around the exclusive detective agency, Private, headed by Jack Morgan with offices across the globe. In India, the setting is Mumbai, the centre of Bollywood glamour, glitz and finance which results in a collaboration between Ashwin Sanghi and the world’s No 1 thriller writer.

Ashwin Sanghi has been making headlines with books like Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. Given the fact that the thriller focuses on whisky swilling Santosh Wagh who is the Indian head of Private India, it is obvious that Sanghi’s contribution is vital to pad out the Mumbai crime details and to provide information that Patterson would not have had access to without in depth research. And one is tempted to give Sanghi credit for the Durga connection in the novel, which is probably not too presumptuous an assumption.

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A Cut Like Wound

Cut Like Wound, Anita Nair, book reviewA Cut Like Wound is the latest book by one of my favourite Indian writers, Anita Nair, and it’s a very new direction for her to take.She normally writes about the rotten lot of Indian women or complicated emotionally-charged romances between unlikely people. I certainly wasn’t expecting her to suddenly come out with a crime novel, apparently the first in a yet-to-be written series if the cover blurb of ‘Introducing Inspector Gowda’ is to be believed. I didn’t expect Nair to pack in all her literary fiction and go down the crime route – but of course I knew she’d do it well.

In a dark alley in Bangalore, the charred body of a young male prostitute is found one night by a passing photographer. Whilst initial suspicions are that the man has ‘just’ been set alight, an autopsy shows he shares the same marks around his neck as another man, found elsewhere and killed the same night.


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Adultery

Adultery by Paulo Coelho, book reviewAdultery by Paulo Coelho is a beautifully written tale of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to each other in the name of love, lust, boredom or depression. It’s a story where you’ll have to look quite hard to find anybody to like in amongst its cast of spoiled and over-privileged characters.

Linda is Swiss. She’s successful in her journalism career, she has a fabulous marriage to a man with lots of inherited wealth and whom she loves. Her husband who’d happily give her anything she wanted, and they have two beautiful problem-free children.


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Conquest

Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, book reviewThe Illyri had been waiting and watching for many years – using the very technology that Earth had created – before they came. They arrived through wormholes that allowed them to travel across vast reaches of space in the blink of an eye, invading and conquering Earth in a matter of mere days. Some of the advanced technology that they brought was to the benefit of humanity, bringing with it more reliable food and energy sources. But they also set themselves up in governance of the planet, taking resources and harvesting young people to fight the Illyri’s wars on other planets they had conquered. Seventeen years after their conquest and humanity is still fighting back against their new rulers, with resistance movements springing up in almost every country across the globe. Some parts of the world prove too hostile for even the Illyri to effectively govern, though: Afghanistan and the Scottish highlands being notable amongst them.

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How To Eat Out

How to Eat Out, Giles Coren, book reviewWhy would anyone read a book entitled How To Eat Out? I know how to eat out. You pick somewhere and book a table. You turn up at the agreed time and sit at the aforementioned table, pick what you want off the menu, then eat it and go home having spent quite a bit of money and often feeling a bit disappointed/anticlimactic/heartburny, wondering why on earth you bothered leaving the comforts of your own home in the first place. Oh yes, you fancied not having to wash up that evening. Well, that was worth the difficulty parking, the taut discussion on whose turn it was to be the designated driver, and the soggy-bottomed starter that will be reappearing sooner than you would have liked. My book on How To Eat Out would probably run to two words – don’t bother. But this is not my book, this is a book by The Times’ restaurant critic and sometime TV presenter, Giles Coren.


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In the Light of What We Know

In the Light of What We Know  Zia Haider Rahman, book reviewA mysterious Bangladeshi friend thought long lost materialises at the door fresh returned from Afghanistan and a myriad wanderings. The friend is Pakistani and as pedigreed and privileged as the Bangladeshi Zafar is not. However rumours are rife about Zafar, ‘that that he had been spotted in Damascus, Tunis, or Islamabad, and that he had killed a man, fathered a child, and, absurdly it seemed, spied for British intelligence’. The list, tantalising as it may sound, is totally misleading. The conversations between the two friends consist of references to higher mathematics like Gödel’s incompleteness theorem which talks about claims that are true but cannot be proven. And in between the chapters are trending topics like the Wall Street crash, geopolitics, terrorism, the Bangladesh war.


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Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girls’ Survival Story in Berlin

Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girls’ Survival Story in Berlin, 1933 - 1945  Rita KluhnBroken Glass Broken Lives is Rita Kuhn’s first hand account of growing up in Berlin in the 1930s and 40s during Hitler’s Nazi regime. Rita is Jewish, brought up as a practicing Jew, going to a Jewish school, wearing her yellow star along with all the others marked out for attention by the regime. The difference was that in the eyes of that same regime, Rita was somehow not quite Jewish enough.

In Rita’s case, her mother was a Jewish convert who gave up the religion she’d been born with in order to marry Rita’s father. As such, Rita’s mother was exempt from much of the abuse that was perpetrated on ‘born and bred’ Jews and Rita and her brother were classified as a Geltungsjuedin – or ‘Jews by law’.


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