Book Review : Murder with Bengali Characteristics by Shovon Chowdhury

Shovon Chowdhury’s Murder with Bengali Characteristics is a sequel to his book The Competent Authority (Book Review | Author Interview). Although a sequel to the book, it is a stand alone novel. While The Competent Authority was a purely satirical novel, Murder with Bengali Characteristics is part sci-fi, part satirical and part crime fiction.

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When I picked up this book, Murder with Bengali Characteristics by Shovon Chowdhury, I was fascinated beyond belief with the title. It’s a very well thought out, attractive title, much like the book itself. It invites a reader to be curious about the content of the book.

The book focuses on Bengal in the year 2035, when it’s no more a part of India and is in fact a Chinese protectorate. The plot revolves around a certain inspector Li who is investigating the murder of a teacher, suspected to have been carried out by the New Thug Society, an organization which has resolved to liberate Bengal. Also involved are two businessmen Verma and Agarwal trying to save their business which wouldn’t benefit if the Indians and the Chinese weren’t on good terms. Along with other intriguing characters like Sexy Chen, Big Chen, Governor Wen, Propagandist Wang and General Zhou, the book has an interesting premise. But the best thing about the book was the author’s extremely witty humour; the kind which deserves great respect.

I felt the book was ferociously inventive. There were no limits to the imagination of the author, which should always be the case when one attempts to write fiction. The talking, flying car was kind of cool but the talking magazines were highly amusing.

But apart from all of this, the book lacked the one ingredient necessary for all kinds of books- Grip. The entire journey through the book felt like I was dragging a heavy bag across the floor while ostensibly laughing about it. The crime fiction genre of the story was unfortunately unsuccessful to sell itself. The book isn’t a page turner, no matter how funny it is.

The book lacks a compelling story although you can still experience Shovon Chowdhury’s satirical brilliance in the book. He still makes fun of our famously twisted political ethos, in his typical style. However, one can’t help but compare it to The Competent Authority which introduced us to his sardonic humour and in that case, Murder with Bengali Characteristics seems a let down when you have experienced once, what a writer like Shovon Chowdury is capable of.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress), with inputs from the administrator.

About the book: Murder with Bengali Characteristics | Shovon Chowdhury | Aleph Book Company | Fiction | 204 pages

 

Note: This book, Murder with Bengali Characteristics by Shovon Chowdhury, was provided for free, by the kind people at Aleph Book Company.

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

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Amazon listed Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee as their most pre-ordered book since Rowling’s final book in the Harry Potter series – The Deathly Hallows (2007) and I’m not surprised why. In fact I think it was one of the most anticipated books of 2015. So, naturally, the expectations from the book were sky high. The book is the sequel to the major American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, which is personally one of my favourites and it drove everybody crazy when its release was announced.

Go set a watchman by Harper Lee focuses on Scout Finch who is no longer a six year old. She is now a twenty-six year old Jean Louise Finch who returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York. The book is about her struggle to understand the perception of her home county. Just like its prequel, Go Set a Watchman raises the issue of racial inequality and talks of the political view of the city through the eyes of a young woman.

Jean Louise Finch starts to question the beliefs her father had instilled in her when she was a child and the things she learns which in my opinion, make her grow as a person. It makes her separate her conscience from that of her father and thus, helps her create her own identity.

The book starts off at a very slow pace and isn’t as captivating as one would expect it to be. Many minor characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are seen as major characters here; yet character development was rather scarce. However, the best part about the book is that it will, along with Jean Louise, make you learn something. You’re reading about Jean Louise and her problems with perceptions, opinions of her own and others, and you’ll realize that it implies to us all. Some parts in the book left me awe-struck. Like when Uncle Jack is speaking to a grown up Jean Louise, he says, “It’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.” This was indeed a very wise advice. Speaking of wisdom, I was disappointed that we did not see much of Atticus Finch in the novel, but the fact that it serves a purpose in the book, makes it bearable.

In an honest conclusion, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is not as brilliant as its prequel and is rather slow; but it is in entirety a good book and everybody who devoured To Kill a Mockingbird should definitely read this once, however with lower expectations.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress )

About the book: Go Set a Watchman | Harper Lee | Harper Collins | Fiction | 278 pages

Book Review: Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

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In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what this book was supposed to be about. By the end of it, the purpose wasn’t clear as crystal, but I did have a slight idea as to what the aim of the book was.

The plot of Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera seems heavily based on Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. It revolves around a certain supermarket, called Bains Stores, located in Wolverhampton and the family running it, taking us through two different decades. It was a bit confusing in the beginning, trying to connect the dots, shifting from the 1960’s to the 2010’s but after a few chapters, the reader gets used to it. Now, while this addition is rather intriguing, I found it a little hard to get into the book.

A lot of things in the book are stereotyped – Girls, Punjabis, Muslims, The British, etc. Basically, there might come a point where it might turn you off. Although some stereotypes literally went over my head, the book definitely did present me with staccato bursts of laughter; I laughed out real loud on a few parts. There was one quote that I liked in particular, enough to write it down – “Families are the last people who should be entrusted with the task of finding you a spouse, given that they are incapable of appreciating that you may have changed since the age of twelve.”

The content of the book reflected the extensive research done by the author, with him scouring through the archives of Wolverhampton, mentioned in the Acknowledgements section, which is commendable.  I didn’t learn anything significant from the book, but the sarcastic tone used for the present day storytelling and the ambitious, independent one used for the 1960s’ was what helped me survive the book. The ending felt rather disconnected, providing us with a suspense which didn’t really hit me hard because of the lack of an element of mystery in the entire book.
The characters I believe were realistic but not entirely likeable. Except for the character of Surinder, which saw a lot of improvement over the years, being present in both the decades the story focuses on.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress )

Sherry is a self proclaimed quintessential nomadic bookworm. She reads anything and everything and does not restrict herself to specific genres or authors. She loves how words have the ability to tell tales beautifully and is practitioner of the same. Currently, a Journalism and Mass Communication student, Sherry will be visible on this website frequently.

Note: The book, Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera, was provided for free by the kind people at Random House India.

If you want to review for this website, please get in touch with me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com.

When I just can’t stop spending money

People say that Mumbai is a crazy place to live in. The traffic and the morning rush will kill you. The city is choking and dying slowly, bit by bit. Not to forget, it’s always smelly. However, my visits to Mumbai have always been refreshing. There are few places left where you can roam around, without being afraid. I have never felt afraid in Mumbai.

So yes, I went to Mumbai not so recently. Met friends – old and new, celebrated birthdays, ate good food (always the highlight of any trip) and did some bonding with my sister.

The one thing I never miss out on, in Mumbai, is going to Flora Fountain. Here’s what I bought in this trip.

1. BLINDNESS by Jose Saramago

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Blindness has been written by award winning Portuguese author Jose Saramago, known for the controversial book ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ’. In his books, Saramago loves to throw people into catastrophic situations and write about how they behave in such a setting.

Check it out on : Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

2. HOW TO SAVE YOUR OWN LIFE by Erica Jong

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Erica Jong is most famous for her book ‘Fear of Flying’ which became controversial for its frank attitude towards female sexuality. She coined the term ‘Zip-less fuck‘, in her book which has become an important part of second wave feminism.

Check it out on : Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

3. WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith

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White Teeth is Zadie Smith’s first book which she finished writing whilst in Cambridge, at an age of 22. Here’s an interview with her, talking about it.

Check it out on: Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

4. MARILYN MONROE – THE BIOGRAPHY by Donald Spoto

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“Be your own kind of beautiful’, said Marilyn. That thought is inspirational to millions of girls on this planet. Having always been piqued by her short life, I picked up this book when I found it.

Check it out on: Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

5. MOTHERS & SONS by Sarat Chandra Chatterji

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Mothers & Sons is a collection of five short stories by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, most famous for writing Devdas, one of the most celebrated novels in Indian Literature and an inspiration for countless film, TV and theatre adaptations.

 6. THE GROUCHO LETTERS by Groucho Marx

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Groucho Marx was one of the most celebrated comedians in American History. His trademark eyeglasses, fake eyebrows and moustaches and quick wit gave him cult-like status. This book is a collection of his letters to different people.

Check it out on: Amazon  | Flipkart | Goodreads

I just can’t stop spending money on books, but then, who is complaining ?! 😛

Books and a lot more in Kolkata

Lot of things have changed in the last few months…I am coming out of my rut and learning some important truths, especially because of changes on the work front, among other things and not to forget, the presence of some people in my life who have helped me do so. It is time I took charge of some things. There’s an important person that needs my attention – and that person is ME.

In my attempt to do so, I am learning to give more time to myself. And that includes travelling to new places, meeting new people, and spending time with people I love, even if it means going out of my way to do so. Mostly, I have to learn to not be too hard on myself.

Last month, I went to my friend Eesha’s wedding in Kolkata. It was a lazy weekend, spending time at the wedding venue doing nothing but looking good. Eesha made a very pretty bride and she was especially in high spirits on the night of the wedding. Having never been to a Bong wedding before, it felt like an adventure of sorts – observing and participating in different rituals and eating food I have never had before ! The high point of the holiday has to be the food – I had fish, lots of it actually, each dish different from the other. Shaileja and I gorged on the food while Riddhika sat on the side with the vegetarian fare and Anant took selfies.

The next two days after the wedding were spent in lazing around and occasionally visiting places of note. 😛

We started with lunch at a place called Mocambo on Park Street, followed by a visit to the Presidency College area where we spent a major part of the afternoon looking for second hand books.

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I ended up buying two books (Russian and Soviet Story by Dostoyevsky and Penguin Modern Poetswith poems by Kingsley Amis, Dom Moraes and Peter Porter) while Shaileja browsed through the different books trying to find something she liked. Anant was heavily disappointed as he couldn’t find a particular book on sea diving that he wanted at a book store which claimed to have all the titles possible. Amit was too busy bouncing around, very happy with a book on cricket that we found. It was such a delight looking at him, browse through the photographs like a child who’d just been given a toy. I used the negotiation skills learnt in my sales job to maximum advantage and got the book seller to give away the book at Rs. 500. Amit owes me big, for that one ! 😛

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After spending so much time in the Kolkata humidity, we went to the Indian Coffee House for a quick cup of coffee. Some cities have a distinct identity. However, Kolkata seems to have a soul.

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The day ended with a quiet dinner at Flury’s and a drive to the Victoria Memorial. I was a little surprised how most restaurants in Park Street close at 10 pm. We got a cab who was enthusiastic enough to drive us to the Howrah Bridge. It was just touch and go, but I felt like my life’s purpose had been fulfilled. 😛

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The next day, after a hearty breakfast, I made the others go to the Indian Museum, which in hindsight was not a very good decision. Although the building is quite beautiful, architecturally, the museum is quite boring. The natural history section is quite creepy. Seeing an embryo of a human child preserved was quite chilling. Somehow, it gave me the creeps.

So, after that, nobody really listened to me as to what we should do next. And I followed good advice received from others by having lunch at this small place called The Blue Poppy at Sikkim House on Russel Street. We found it after a bit of an effort but having some thukpa there, made me feel so happy and contented, as if everything was quite alright. We spent the rest of the day, lazing around at Aqua, The Park, having bloody mary’s and enjoying the beautiful ambiance of the sitting space near the pool.

IMG_20150301_180553The next morning was hard. Taking that early morning flight back to Delhi seemed like such an impossible thing to do, especially the thought of going directly to work. It was only the promise of the next weekend made me take the flight (and the money spent in booking the return flight at the last minute along with the imagined look on my boss’s face if I didn’t turn up for work :-P).

Sigh, Life is beautiful, isn’t it, when you have the liberty to do the things you like doing, visit new places and the love and company of good people?

Never say never

It’s been a tough time. I think I am having a mid-20s crisis, if there’s anything like that. Probably it’s caused by having too many expectations of what life should be. Sometimes I think the MICA hangover still continues. Or maybe there is no cure for one.
Some of my batch mates would probably scoff at me and try to reaffirm the idea that they still lead cool lives and are doing exactly what they wanted to do. Or at least keep up the pretense on Facebook.
But then I wonder, has MICA spoiled me? I find it still absolutely impossible to move on. I still want to have the same freedom of thought, the optimism of there being a world outside which was just waiting for me to step out and be conquered and the same life style, which I now realize is not quite possible. What I miss most is the time I had to do nothing but what I like. The things I love doing. I now realize that the world is not conquerable. In fact it is stubborn and difficult, amazingly selfish and self absorbed. In effect, it doesn’t give a shit.
Much of what life keeps on bringing is beyond my control.
How do you deal with the world forcing you to make decisions which you are not ready for? It almost feels like slowly sinking into quick sand.
What’s the point that I am trying to make, you’d ask now, reaching the point where you see no sense in wasting time reading this?
I guess this is a way for apologizing to myself for having stopped doing what I love. I am sorry, books and a lot more, for ignoring you since some time. I am sorry but I am just finding it hard to focus right now. Have I fallen out of love with you?
No, my dear, never. I am on my way back. I hope you’d understand.

Over and out.

But no, wait! Since I have named this post after this fantabulous and *inspiring* song by JB, here’s a youtube video of the song ‘Never Say Never‘ (:blush:, don’t judge me) featuring Jaden Smith. You need to watch it for Jaden Smith, such a kickass kid he is!

Okay, now you can go back to doing something productive like stalking people (if you’re single) or putting up Honeymoon/Karvachauth pics (if you’re married) on facebook. Bye.

Book Review : Love potion no. 10 : A Jana Bibi Adventure by Betsy Woodman

I was introduced to Jana Bibi last year when Random House India sent her first book ‘Jana Bibi’s excellent fortunes’ to me for a review. (Click here to read the review). I found Jana bibi to be an adorable creature.

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The second book in the series, Jana Bibi returns with the same penchant for a life away from the mundane. And nothing mundane can actually happen in Hamara nagar, with a creepy fellow wanting to get his hands on Mr. Ganguly. At the same, love seems to be blooming behind the scenes for Jana Laird and some of her friends.

I am not sure what genre Jana Bibi falls in. Is it for children or adults? It’s amazingly light, simple at heart, but sometimes, has a very mature tone. Overall, it leaves a positive feeling in your stomach and is never a bore. However, I fear that Betsy Woodman may just get a little repetitive in the series, with almost the same plot line in every book (where there is something that threatens Jana and how she deals with it).

About the book: Love Potion no. 10 – A Jana Bibi Adventure | Betsy Woodman | Random House India | Fiction | 320 pages

Note: A copy of this book was provided to me for review by Random House India.