Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-episode-2-mission-unpluckable Title: The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable
Author: Aaron Blabey
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1407170572
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The bad guys who want to do good desperately and change their image are back. Of course the second book isn’t as great as the first book; but nonetheless hilarious and your child will finish it in ten minutes or so.

“The Bad Guys – Episode 2 – Mission Unpluckable” by Aaron Blabey is about the wolf, shark, piranha and snake wanting to save ten thousand chickens that are kept under heavy-duty lock and key. I love the pace of this children’s book. Of course it is a picture book for kids, but I think as an adult I loved it more – only because it is the perfect de-stress technique.

Aaron Blabey’s creations are hilarious, the puns are just perfect and so are some of the new characters that have been introduced in this one (I loved them and hope so do you). I honestly believe that if a so-called children’s book can also be enjoyed by adults, then that says a lot about the author and the creation at hand. I would highly recommend “The Bad Guys” series to everyone. It is a must read, which is not very well-known but I am sure will soon become immensely popular.

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Winter by Christopher Nicholson

winter-by-christopher-nicholson Title: Winter
Author: Christopher Nicholson
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609452957
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I was in college and I remember devouring everything by Thomas Hardy. He was and is one of my favourite writers. I know that most think that he doesn’t fit in today’s scheme of things but I beg to differ. I think the topics that he raised in his novels are as relevant today as they were then. Feminism though is at its core, if you read his works closely enough. But I digress, or maybe not, given this review is about a book titled “Winter” where one of the protagonists is Mr. Hardy himself.

“Winter” is in turns a charming, a terrifying (some of it) and most graceful read. It is set in the last years of Mr. Hardy. He is in his eighties and lives in Dorset with his second wife Florence. Enter Gertrude, the lovely eighteen-year old actress who has been cast to play Tess in a local performance. Hardy cannot help but fall for her. She is young, nubile and everything that he cannot see in Florence. Thus begins one of the best marital dramas I’ve read in recent times. Marital dramas are not written about all that much and when one does attempt to try his or her hand at it, it has to be perfect and almost precise, which is what “Winter” manages to achieve.

There are three shifting views and narratives to this novel – of course, of the three protagonists. Hardy’s view though is always third person. Gertrude and Florence have first person narratives. It is as though Hardy’s voice is just reduced to those in his books – background and full of insight. There is love between Florence and Thomas – but it cannot be expressed. Most love is inexpressible or reaches that stage as the novel progresses.

Gertrude is married to her cousin who is a butcher and Hardy cannot help but feel sorry for her and at the same time envious of her husband. Florence wants to make her husband happy but is unable to do so. At the end of the book, I could not really take sides but I did feel sorrier for Florence. My empathy was tilted in her direction.

The tone, atmosphere and feelings of characters are most precisely etched by Nicholson and those add to the layers of the novel or merge and become one with it. “Winter” is a story that is of the past – of love, secrets, lies, stories we tell ourselves in order to live and Christopher Nicholson does a super job of communicating its raw and almost unseen parts.

People – His Finest Portraits by Raghu Rai

people-cover1 Title: People: His Finest Portraits
Author: Raghu Rai
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9383064137
Genre: Photography
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A picture does say a thousand words and sometimes even more. No one better than Raghu Rai to demonstrate that through his brilliant photographs of people over the years. The portraits in this collection are mostly black and white.

image-1-people

It is not a book which can be read in the technical sense of the word – but yet it is something you read. You read the faces of common people, the faces of celebrities and common people – people who come to his house, his family and people who you and I wouldn’t look at twice. Raghu Rai, being Raghu Rai manages to capture each and every face so beautifully that is feels surreal and almost magical.

image-2-people

Most people might think that it would be easy to read (sic) a book of this nature. It is a fast page-turner literally and then you forget about it. If you one of those who would forget about it, then perhaps this book isn’t for you. I don’t mean it in a condescending manner. I just mean it as a matter of fact.

“People” are portraits that will leave you stunned and I am not just saying it because some of them look nice or glossy or pretty or all of them. Most of them are also just caught in the moment and you can see that – the sense of imbalance of the picture, of what it hides and what it conveys and mostly the gaze of the master photographer at work.

image-3-people

I am not a fan of books such as these but this book has changed it for me. I also have his other book “Picturing Time” with me and I will get to it soon. But for now, I will bask in the skill of this book and how it has managed to convert me. And you must most certainly read the foreword by him on making pictures. It is a concise piece on what photography means to him.

Hide by Matthew Griffin

hide-by-matthew-griffin Title: Hide
Author: Matthew Griffin
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408867082
Genre:Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

LGBT fiction has come into its own. A lot of young adult novels are also exploring queer love as constant themes – also coming out. “Hide” by Matthew Griffin is a book that is full of wisdom, tenderness and a love that cannot be spoken of. It is a story of two men and their love – togetherness, companionship and above all hiding the truth, which is where the title comes from. Actually, to me the title is a lot more than just that and I will talk about it in a bit.

“Hide” by Matthew Griffin is a love story of two men. I can call it that – a love story or I could just say that it traces the lives of two men – but that is not what it is. Frank Clifton has returned from WWII. He meets Wendell Wilson and their lives are forever changed. Given the time and place, their love cannot be shouted out loud. They then decide to live together. Years pass. Some more years pass and then something happens which will again change the course of their lives. Frank has a stroke and begins losing his memory and Wendell is left taking care of him through it all. What happens next is for you to read and find out.

This novel is delicate and takes its time. It isn’t rushed and there is no need for it to be that as well. “Hide” is love in the shadows – a bittersweet story of restraint and to want it all. Homophobia is all around you, even today, more so in the Indian society where I come from and yet when you read books such as these, it just makes you feel that everything is possible – even queer or same-sex love, because love is love and should not be judged.

Griffin’s writing soars in most places – the piece about the fear instilled in Frank and Wendell about being homosexual is heartbreaking – not because of the phobia or prejudice but because they just don’t want to live without each other. How can you then not choke up while reading such a book? I am a gay man, so maybe I am an easy reader for this book, but I think this book speaks to everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation.

“Hide” is about love between two men – the companionship, the marriage, the need to be with and want each other. It is as simple as that. Griffin tells a tale that will resonate, that will break your heart and make you hope and pray that it is all okay at the end.

Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

Layout 1 Title: Shelter in Place
Author: Alexander Maksik
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609453640
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I thought that “Shelter in Place” would be an easy read. I thought it would not be a demanding book. I was so mistaken. “Shelter in Place” by Alexander Maksik is not an easy read, not because of the language or the complexity of the plot, but because it is scary – it is scary because at some point or the other, we have literally or metaphorically been on the brink and back. The story is about madness, love, family and deeper contemplative thoughts of everything in life and whether it is really worth it or not.

Alexander Maksik also does not give everything to the reader on a platter. The narrator does seem pretty reliable but you never know. There is always this sense of doubt and apprehension as to what will happen next but it is not that difficult to not fall in love with Joseph March.

The story begins with Joe telling us this: His mother beat a man to death with a hammer, he fell in love with a woman named Tess and he battles something black and dark inside of him. With this start the story propels to the summer of 1991 when Joe is all of twenty-one and all of these facts occur in quick succession.

The bipolar disorder (which he assumes to have inherited by his mother) hovers and engulfs him, he tends to a bar in a small Oregon town and there he meets Tess and his mother Ann-Marie kills a man to death, after seeing him beat his wife and kids. Joe leaves Oregon and Tess to be with his father in White Pine, Washington to be near the prison where his mother is serving a life-sentence. I will only say this much about the book or else I would be giving away the plot if more is added.

The book takes on from there with more incidents that span the past and present and narrated by Joe. The writing is so razor sharp that it will cut you. There are passages, more passages and some more that you cannot help but highlight while reading this book. The characters are as human and flawed as anyone you might meet in the middle of the street. From secondary to primary, all characters are often caught unguarded when it comes to their emotions and what decisions to make.

“Shelter in Place” – the title itself says so much about the book – a place of safety, the process of actually selecting a small room with no windows and taking refuge there. To my mind, all characters are looking for their own “shelter in place” – literally or metaphorically. They all want the assurance that everything will be okay and life will be led normally. Maksik’s writing is carefully orchestrated. At no point, the shift between the past and present events seem forced or out of place. The book will take you to your own deep dark recesses and bring you back – wanting to know more about the person you are.