Category Archives: Guest Post

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.

d2dcb364-43ef-45a4-8e9b-a35c3fccc00e

Image Source

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

go-set-watchman-book-covers

Book Covers

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

m-m-front1

Book Cover

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.

Guest Post: The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania | In Public Interest by Abhiroop Banerjee

Biblio – of or that relating to books 

Maniac – A person who has an obsession with or excessive enthusiasm for something (Syn: lunatic, madman).

When my mother brought home a copy of Gulliver’s Travels one hot June evening many years ago, it was simply meant to keep me out of mischief during the summer holidays. Little did she realize then that she’d just doomed her 6 year old to lifelong lunacy of another kind, one that eventually turned him into an incorrigible bibliomaniac. Today, it seems to be a lost cause as he spends his afternoons drifting through time and space with the phantoms from his latest novel, looking up occasionally with glazed eyes at an unfamiliar world, his office work desk.

Deep introspection and careful scrutiny of individuals suffering from this insidious malaise has revealed some truly alarming symptoms. For the savvy readers of Books and a Lot More, I present an exclusive list of results from the ongoing studies for my research paper, The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania. Remember, even one of the following common symptoms is a sure sign of full blown BM!

  1. You may have turned into a crusty old book snob. “People who read Chetan Bhagat are absolute philistines. Second only to Dan Brown fanbois. Why, those clods are sub-human.”Cartoon 1
  2. You never have any extra cash/credit. This may result in you becoming a biblio-bandit. Ebooks are stupid, of course.
  3. You have those crummy, free bookmarks lying around everywhere.
  4. At some point in your life, you have been a Howard Roark wannabe.
  5. You waste 30 minutes on the potty every day, setting up your imaginary bathroom library.
  6. Being asked to lend a book can cause respiratory problems and, should you actually agree, cause you to lend grandiose sentiments of renouncement and detachment from worldly possessions to the simple act of lending a book to a friend.
  7. You’ve never quite forgiven your mother for giving away your almighty stash of Nagraj and Champak to the raddi walla when you were 13.
  8. You buy books from a bookshop 12 miles away because the one nearby puts a tiny rubber stamp on the flyleaf. You have no issue, however, buying cheap library discards with rubber stamps on every centimeter of the flyleaf.
  9. You’ve begun dreading the arrival of the Sunday paper because there’s just too much good stuff to read and you’re not even done with Saturday’s.
  10. You start carrying a book everywhere, including to your own birthday party. Which you’re hosting.  For your imaginary friends.  And the Flipkart delivery man. Cartoon 3
  11. You pause a movie just to make sure you get the name of the book which somebody in the scene is reading.
  12. Multitasking is being able to turn the pages with your chin while holding a book with one hand and hanging on to the Metro rod with the other.
  13. You start living as far away from your office as possible, just so you can read during the commute.
  14. The biggest fear in your life is breaking up because then they might want their books back. The rascals.
  15. Your steamiest fantasy is cuddling up with her and reading Dostoevsky. Together.
  16. You have a regularly updated list of fictional people you want to date. You have actually gone on dates with them. Fictional? Ha, why you can still smell the filter coffee from your last date at the coffee house, in Malgudi.
  17. You actually start believing that you are smarter than the guy on the street because you managed to finish Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.
  18. You have researched perfume that smells like old books.  And have prepared an ad for the matrimonial section seeking a girl who sleeps on a bookshelf and will fetch her grandfather’s collection of Jughead Double Digests as dowry.  That dowry is cool.
  19. Moving house is impossible because your book rack is heavier than the truck.  Actually, your book rack is your house. Cartoon 2
  20. You wish Indian Railways would add a Library Coach to their trains. You also wish for waterproof books that you can read in the rain and biscuit packets with tiny short stories printed on them because you read biscuit packets (and whatever looks like text on the last 10 Rupee note you have after the other day’s ruinous trip to the bookshop).

Intensive research into what is now a worldwide epidemic has failed to reveal a cure. Bibliomaniacs are a part of society. They could be anyone. They are everywhere. Some are known to be armed with paperbacks and camouflaged by spectacles. Or not. That is the most diabolical aspect of bibliomania. A regular guy walking down the street in front of you could suddenly bend down without warning, pick up a crumpled wrapper and start… reading. There is, simply, no way to know.

The list above is meant to be used as a quick check list to see if, holy printing mistakes batman, you too are a *shudder* bibliomaniac.

Are you one then?

Issued in public service.

About the author of this post: Abhiroop is an avid follower of current events and enjoys debating issues of such burning importance as to whether the graffiti on Delhi walls that forbid sundry passers-by from taking a casual leak on them should also be in Arabic, Gurumukhi and Roman scripts. He lives in New Delhi and has a not so secret affection for cows.

If you’d like to be featured on this website as a guest author, please write in to me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com. Your contributions should preferably be about books, although other topics are also welcome.

Cartoons courtesy jasonlove.com