Category Archives: Hodder and Stoughton

Misery by Stephen King

misery-by-stephen-king Title: Misery
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, Hachette UK
ISBN: 978-1444720716
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 400
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: 5 Stars

There is this insane, crazy, bordering psycho side to all of us, which is conveniently hidden and tucked for good (or so we think) till it snaps. When it snaps, I think, or rather I most certainly believe that all people are capable of harming, of doing things beyond their wildest imagination and some of us also regret what we do and some don’t. That’s really how the world functions sometimes and you live with it, as you do with everyday kindness. Scarily enough, at times you also live with everyday cruelty and that’s what the master of horror, Mr. Stephen King reveals to us, book by book.

My affair with King’s books started when I was thirteen. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I thought I had read all his books (not the ones written as Bachman – I cannot stand those) and then I realized very late in life (as late as last month) that I hadn’t read Misery. Had this been me two years ago, I would have flipped knowing how I missed this, but today I looked at it as an opportunity to read this one and boy oh boy was I in for something!

“Misery” is almost Meta and then again it isn’t. You would almost be fooled into believing that King was drawing from his experiences (and maybe he was) but some of them could be taken from his life – the way a writer thinks, agonizes over and finally ends up writing a book or more than just a book. “Misery” is about a writer – Paul Sheldon and his so-called number one fan Annie Wilkes. Paul is a very successful writer because of his Misery Chastain series, but now Paul has had enough of her and kills her in his new novel. Unfortunately for Paul, he meets with an accident and is rescued by Annie, who is very very unhappy about Misery dying and wants to take matters in her own hand, by keeping Paul captive and asking him to write a new Misery novel for freedom. This, in brief is the plot of Misery.

Now to the characters: Annie Wilkes gave me the chills. I don’t want to meet someone like her ever, not even for the curiosity of it all. I would rather be safe than sorry. King knows his characters inside out – well of course, but the edginess and knowing that they can fall off the sane balcony any given day is what intrigues me to his books. His writing we all know is impeccable; the eye for detail, the scenarios and specifically in this book to imagine the torture inflicted on Sheldon is simply stunning. I couldn’t stop reading this one – and there were also times when I just had to stop because I was scared and mind you, this one is not a horror novel, but pretty much there.

Us by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9780340897003
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There was a lot of buzz around “One Day” when it first released in 2009. I remember all the hype around it and decided not to read the book at all. I had of course bought it, but somehow did not want to read it or could not get into it, because of all the acclaim and the fact that almost everyone was reading it. The movie released in 2011 I think. I watched it in Bangkok, all by myself and hoping there was someone to share the experience with. “One Day” was a brilliant film according to me and then I read the book and was wowed by it in more than one ways.

Last year I received an uncorrected proof of “Us” and could not wait to get into it. With work and other matters pressing priority, the book took a backseat so to speak and I managed to read it only this month. And boy oh boy, did I love it! “Us” is written in vintage Nicholls style – with humour, some tragedy and also profundity in so many sentences that shine through the pages.

“Us” as the title suggests is about a couple and the story of their lives, quite literally from the time they met to when Connie Petersen announces to her husband Douglas that she wants out of their marriage. This is after three decades of their strong relationship. They have a moody seventeen year-old son Albie who clearly is more inclined towards his mother than his father. Connie has already planned a month-long tour to some European capitals. The timing is terrible but Douglas hopes that this will rekindle their relationship and things will change.

“Us” is a book full of hope, humour and one man’s attempts to save his marriage. The writing as I mentioned earlier is quirky, a little bit sad and told from a perspective which moves into the past and present and absolutely heart-breaking at times. “Us” is the sort of book that will make you look at your relationships differently and also make you want to work on them a little harder. The story could belong to anyone. It is because of this universal appeal that the book works on so many levels. Nicholls’ eye-for-detail is absolutely stunning. He makes you see the setting differently and the dialogues that are plenty do the rest of the work. “Us” is a heart-warming book to be read on a Sunday with lots of hot chocolate.

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Us

What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

What If by Randall Munroe Title: What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9781848549586
Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Humour
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If you’ve heard of “XKCD” and if you also know of their “What If” section, then you do not need an introduction to this book. You know that it will be funny, sometimes hilarious as well, and at the same time informative (that sounded a little preachy, but what the heck!). The book is not your usual comic fare and it is not even meant to be that. If you have gone through the “What If” section of the site, then you know what is in store for you, if not, then please allow me to tell you.

“What If” takes on absurd questions and provides answers to them in the most rational manner, and in the bargain ends up being funny. And then scientific explanations in the book are not difficult to grasp. They are simple and end up providing some good perspective.

The book may interest science freaks and at the same it might also interest people like me who know nothing about science and still aspire to. “What If” attempts to make science fun and it does succeed to a very large extent. There are some fascinating questions like: “What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity?” and “Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee?”

Most questions were also asked by a lot of readers and the book is a fantastic compilation of what is available on their site. “What if” is the kind of book that can be read from any page and you will definitely break into a guffaw or two.

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Book Review: Ape House by Sara Gruen

Title: Ape House
Author: Sara Gruen
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, Hachette
ISBN: 978-1444715996
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 320 pages
Price: $15.00
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This book inspired me to do something I haven’t done in a long (long) time. I stayed awake! Until 3 in the morning! I can’t remember the last time I did this, it’s been a while since a book has grabbed me like Ape House. In fact, I think the last one may have been Sara Gruen’s much applauded Water for Elephants. This woman just has a way of pulling me into a book that makes me never want to let go.

Anyway, the blurb would have you know that this “is an absorbing, heart-warming and ultimately uplifting tale of how six bonobo apes change the lives of three humans”. Isabel Duncan works as a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, a scientific research facility which examines language acquistion in primates. She clearly has a better rapport with the bonobos than with humans and she is devastated when the facility is blown up, allegedly by animal liberationists and her beloved animals end up being used in a particularly sick reality tv show named Ape House. John Thigpen is a down at heel journalist who finds the bonobo story fascinating. His fiancee, Amanda, is trying to carve a career as an author but she’s not handling the rejection letters very well. Throw in a briefly appearing green haired vegan, a pink haired animal rights supporter named Celia who becomes Isabel’s ally, some lapdancers, a salivating pit bull terrier named Booger and you have a extremely quirky backdrop. What ensues is a madcap race to save the bonobos with many plot twists and turns along the way.

Ape House is simply an amazing novel! It tells the story not so much of a group of individuals, but the story of a family who manage to influence everyone around them. These apes are awesome and I loved that Gruen let the bonobos be the center of everything, even while we were worrying over John’s crumbling world and Isabel’s injuries. The apes were there to give everyone something to love and to save. Actually, they gave the book its entire purpose! (Obviously…moving on…) I thought it was great that we got to see into their (the apes) lives and were even treated to glimpses of the strange human world from behind their eyes. I loved how much I learnt from this book! Gruen did a fantastic amount of research and I could definitely feel that coming through in the stories, the actions and the descriptions of the apes.

Alongside the apes we have Isabel and John. Now that I’ve had some time to think about their characters, I actually don’t think I actually liked either of them very much. They were nice, but they were just… a bit boring to be totally honest. Luckily, Gruen placed an eccentric and fun cast of supporting characters alongside these slightly bland protagonists. First, we have Isabel’s vivacious intern/research assistant Celia, who added some needed oomph to Isabel’s chapters and who I adored! She even comes armed with a group of nerd minions who were very entertaining. Then we have my favorite random character, John’s upstairs neighbour, Ivanka the Russain stripper who watches the opera singing meth lab dog while John was off doing some reporting… you’re intrigued now, aren’t ya?!

Final thoughts: Ape House kept me turning the pages into the early morning with a gripping and unique plot that my sleep muddled brain didn’t manage to work out until practically the last chapter! It’s one of those books that had me flipping the pages, desperate to find out how it would all end, and then made me mourn the loss of the characters for days. Can I go meet some signing apes now, pretty please? Overall, another great book from Sara Gruen and I would recommend it to everyone.

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Book Review: Carte Blanche (James Bond Novel) by Jeffrey Deaver

Title: Carte Blanche (James Bond Novel)
Author: Jeffrey Deaver
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton, Hachette India
Genre: Thriller, Crime Fiction
ISBN: 978-1444716474
PP: 448 Pages
Price: Rs. 499
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

James Bond returns, rebooted, in this new novel set in the modern day, where he works for the ODG, a secret agency of the British government whose task is the ‘protect the realm’. When a text message is intercepted mentioning an attack and potentially thousands of deaths, 007 is called in and given carte blanche (the modern equivalent of his old licence to kill) to save the day.

The novel is presented as an interesting blend of author Jeffrey Deaver, and Bond-creator Ian Fleming’s writing styles. For the most part, Deaver’s language and plot structure comes through, but there are a few passages that are distinctly Fleming, some to the extent that I felt they could have been lifted straight from the original Bond books.

In this story, we will never look at our binmen in the same way again. Yet another eccentric businessman is intent on world domination – in his own way but thanks to the author’s craft, all is not what it seems. Most of the action takes place in South Africa with side trips to Belgrade and, of course, London itself. Bond has his usual fling though there seems something lacking in this part of the character’s behaviour. Not sure what but to his credit, the author manages to find odd but interesting names for some of the female participants. Of course, Moneypenny is still around though they’ve all undergone a radical rejuvenation to fit into Bond’s ability to deal with the all-action scenarios.

The characters, while slightly updated for the contemporary setting, are exactly those that Fleming gave us, especially Bond himself (fortunately not Daniel Craig) and M (back to the original male version), and a number of other familiar names crop up. This does become something of a cliché though in the first half of the book, where I found myself wondering which classic character would show up next rather than focussing on the plot.

I was very impressed by Deaver’s plot, which departed somewhat from what I had been led to expect from some of the early publicity around the book (a little distracting as it meant I was constantly expecting something that never came). It moves at the perfect pace to hook the reader while remaining true to the attention to detail of Fleming’s prose.

Twists and turns fly rapidly off the pages, however this is actually where I think the book is let down. There are several instances of what I consider to be Jeffery Deaver’s trademark suspense technique – resolving a cliffhanger by utilising something that happened earlier but his narrative didn’t tell us about. I find this really frustrating and it comes across as extremely lazy writing – especially when it affects a major part of the novel. In other places however, plot points are resolved without resorting to this method and I just can’t see why Deaver does it.

Overall though I must confess to being impressed – my feeling from reading a couple of other Deaver novels recently was one of trepidation, but this book has managed to impress. The die-hard 007 fan may not appreciate the effort Deaver has gone to in order to update the settings, but I found it tastefully done, and look forward to finding out who the publishers will select when James Bond returns.

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Carte blanche

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