Sunday, February 11, 2018

Books: Between the Assasinations, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, The Summer Book

Between the AssasinationsBetween the Assasinations by Aravind Adiga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aravind Adiga brings to life a fictional town in south India with this 2008 collection of short stories about the residents of Kittur on the country's southwestern coast. Set between the assassinations of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, this follow-up to Adiga's Booker-winning 'White Tiger' contains vignettes and memorable characters from different strata of society.

View all my reviews The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam (Good Thief's Guides Book 1)The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Ewan's debut novel, the first in a series of 'Good Thief's Guides', is witty crime fiction at its best with its protagonist a professional writer who moonlights as a thief. The setting here is Amsterdam, with a mysterious death and three monkey figurines. But Ewan's humorous take on events never lets the proceedings turn morbid. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and you just can't stop reading.

View all my reviews The Summer BookThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finnish writer Tove Jansson, best known for children's fiction, wrote 'The Summer Book' (1972) for adults. Written in deceptively simple language, the book contains vignettes about a young girl and her grandmother living on a remote island for the summer, with the author's own deep love of nature seeping through the pages of this slim volume.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Book: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome is trying to find a life partner by handing out questionnaires. Despite failing his compatibility criteria, Rosie turns Professor Don Tillman's life upside down - as he helps her uncover the identity of her biological father. This is a charming, feel-good romantic comedy that Bill Gates included in his list of "Six Books I'd Recommend". A Hollywood adaptation is in the works. Recommended.

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Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The protagonist of Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-winning first novel is an overweight Dominican-American nerd who finds himself caught between two cultures. The coming-of-age novel also traces his family's history, life under dictator Rafael Trujillo, and a curse that has haunted his ancestors. Diaz occasionally sprinkles Spanish words in his work, along with a wide array of references that I believe enhanced the reading experience. Take it slow and immerse yourself in Oscar's life.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Book - Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century

Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth CenturyFarewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vladimir Vetrov, a high-ranking KGB spy in Moscow during the Cold War, was assigned the code name 'Farewell' by the French intelligence service that recruited him. This is the true story of Vetrov, presented with balance and objectivity, and the Farewell dossier handed to U.S. President Reagan during the Ottawa G7 Summit by Francois Mitterrand, the newly elected president of France. A 2009 French film was inspired by the 1997 French book, while an updated account was translated into English in 2011, a quarter-century after Vetrov’s death.

"Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century" is an otherwise pacy thriller that occasionally falls victim to its own verbosity. Yet, the writers succeed in painting a vivid picture of Vetrov from the accounts of his family, acquaintances and handlers. Does the KGB discover the mole? No spoilers here, go read the book.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Books: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first story in "Olive Kitteridge" is spell-binding and is among the best things I have read. Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for this novel of 13 vignettes featuring the inhabitants of Crosby, Maine and linked by the title character, a retired math teacher. The other vignettes never match the brilliance of the first, but serve to breathe life into the characters in the lead-up to the final story, another masterpiece. Recommended. Yet to watch the four-part mini-series starring Frances McDormand.

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Book: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The Days of AbandonmentThe Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a short but powerful novel about a woman who is deserted by her husband and how her life goes to pieces. Olga the protagonist is trapped in a visceral struggle, even as her children and the family dog get caught up in her delirium. At times, I wished I could be there to shake Olga out of her stupor, to forget her unfaithful husband and start life afresh. Easier said than done, and yet, I couldn't help rooting for her to survive and move on.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bigg Boss 11 recap: (Day 29) Luv the new captain and love is in the air

[UPDATE: This is my last post with recaps for the current season of Bigg Boss 11. Too few people are reading the recaps to merit my writing about each episode. I'll continue watching, of course, but I no longer have to worry about having to write about it. Catch the latest on Colors TV or on ]

The overnight captaincy task continues despite Bihari lass #JyotiKumari's exit from the house. Folk dancer #SapnaChaudhary is chosen by the housemates to join #LuvTyagi and #BandgiKalra in being tethered to a semi-circular contraption.

Whoever stays attached to it till the end will be crowned the next captain of the #BiggBoss household.

Sapna doesn’t last too long and gets disconnected when she is trying to pick up a pair of socks for the night. Queen bee #HinaKhan stays up to ensure the task gets done and tells the contestants to try harder to loosen the other person’s hold. Finally, at 5.45 a.m. Bandgi gets detached from the contraption and Luv is declared the next captain of the house.

It’s not a result that rapper #AkashDadlani is comfortable with. After all, he’s had captaincy aspirations of his own. And he hasn’t forgotten Hina didn’t vote for him. Both Luv and Hina become subjects of his improvised rap. His child-like antics irk #DhinchakPooja as well. She loses her temper, but Akash is quick to apologise, and all’s well that ends well.

Sapna and bhabhiji #ShilpaShinde are criticising #ArshiKhan’s "provocative" dress and bare legs. The latter is not talking to them either. But it’s Shilpa/Sapna 1 - 0 Arshi in this round. They move away from the kitchen when Arshi walks in and wonder aloud where the bad smell is coming from.

#PriyankSharma hasn’t learned his lesson from the weekend scolding he received from host Salman Khan for revealing personal details about the housemates. This time he’s talking about something that appears to involve #VikasGupta. Vikas tried to make Priyank understand; Priyank walks off at first but later agrees he’s in the wrong and apologises on camera.

It’s nomination day and the housemates are called in pairs to the confession room where Mr. Bigg Boss tells them to decide in secret which one of them will be nominated while the other stays safe for the week. The mutually agreed decision has to be announced in the confession room itself and not revealed outside. Captain Luv is safe and cannot be nominated by the housemates.

#SabyasachiSatpathy sacrifices himself for #MehjabiSiddiqui, probably sealing his fate in the week’s nominations. He seems to be a decent fellow, but is rarely in the spotlight. Was this the right move?

Shilpa does Akash a good turn by agreeing to be nominated. Priyank and #HitenTejwani are both OK with nominations, but TV actor Hiten convinces him to stay safe for a week. Of course, his efforts come to naught later in the day when Mr. Bigg Boss punishes Priyank with a nomination of his own -- for revealing personal details of the housemates as also the nomination task when he asked audiences to safeguard Hiten.

Vikas and Sapna both offer to be nominated when their turn comes, but Sapna has the upper hand. Vikas warns her that indifference to being nominated could be a sign of her over-confidence, but Sapna doesn’t change her mind and keeps Vikas safe from the week’s nominations.

Hina and #PuneeshSharma are up next and I was surprised by how Puneesh begged her to safeguard him from being nominated. He even jokes about getting a Hina tattoo on his chest, but Hina is unmoved. It looks like a stalemate until Puneesh apologises for inadvertently abusing Hina the previous week and promises never to get personal with anyone in the house. A teary-eyed Hina then agrees to be nominated, dedicating this decision to her parents - of giving the guy who abused their daughter a second chance in the house. Bringing Puneesh to his knees is something Hina feels strongly about and she recounts the incident with great pleasure to her friends later in the garden.

Arshi and Dhinchak, who seem to be on friendly terms, are called to the confession room and Dhinchak is quick to nominate herself. Over-confidence again? Maybe, but I was disappointed Arshi accepted it so easily, even though Arshi later tells the cringe-pop sensation she shouldn’t have been so quick to get Pooja nominated in her stead.

VJ #BenafshaSoonawalla and model #BandgiKalra are the last remaining pair and neither is ready to make the other safe. In the end, Mr. Bigg Boss nominates them both for failing to come to a decision.

Love is in the air in the #BiggBoss house. Sabyasachi tells Priyank he really likes him, causing Priyank to blush. Sapna, who appears to be unaware of the concept of homosexuality, tells Sabyasachi he should have been born a woman.

Meanwhile, Dhinchak Pooja has apparently told her friends she loves captain Luv. The lights are off, but that doesn’t stop the news from spreading from wildfire from bed to bed. Cupid sure is in overdrive.

Who will be evicted from Bigg Boss this weekend?

Bigg Boss 11 recap: (Day 28) Jyoti is out and Priyank gets a scolding

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Book: "It" by Stephen King

ItIt by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen King remains the undisputed master of the horror genre. His 1986 horror novel "It" sent chills down my spine. At around 1,200 pages, this was a long-but-engaging read about a monster (often manifesting itself in the form of a creepy clown) lurking in the sewer system of Derry, Maine. Seven children who wounded the monster in 1958 will battle it again as grown-ups in 1985. With a big-screen adaptation of "It" out and "Stranger Things 2" streaming on Netflix, there won't be a better time to enjoy this thriller. I think the book could have excised an underage orgy scene that didn't add anything to the plot - I'm glad Hollywood didn’t feature it in the movie.

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Bigg Boss 11 recap: (Day 28) Jyoti is out and Priyank gets a scolding

I have always found the #WeekendKaVaar episodes tiresome. We have host Salman Khan lecturing contestants, unfunny gags with Colors TV actors promoting upcoming programs, Salman talking to boring guests, and what seems to be less than 10 minutes' actual footage from the Bigg Boss house. Not stuff a true Bigg Boss fan would like.

Which is why I am keeping the Sunday episode recap short and waiting impatiently for Monday’s episode.

All you really need to know is that Bihari lass #JyotiKumari was evicted from the house after a unnecessary interlude where Salman pranks VJ #BenafshaSoonawalla into believing she had been evicted. Then it was  #LuvTyagi’s turn to go - until Salman relents and announces it’s actually Jyoti who got the least number of votes and has to leave the show. Looks like TV producer #VikasGupta will miss her the most.

Earlier, the housemates discussed the three nominations for the captaincy task. #AkashDadlani is pissed he wasn’t chosen - with queen bee #Hina Khan saying she wouldn’t vote for Akash. The captaincy task eventually saw Luv, Jyoti and model #BandgiKalra locked together attached to a semi-circular thingy - whoever can stay the longest will get to be the captain. With Jyoti’s exit from the show, only Luv and Bandgi remain in contention. Both go around the house tethered to the contraption - both claim they are ready to pee in their clothes if necessary. Ugh! I am hoping this task doesn’t last too long.

The housemates were also asked to use placards to describe a certain housemate (in most cases, their bete noire on the show) with the rest having to guess the name of the person being described. No surprises that the worst adjectives were used (kamina, kaamchor, chatur …) -- there seems to be no love lost among the housemates and all the names were guessed correctly.

Anything else? Well, when Salman was speaking to previous season contestants Lopamudra Raut and Manu Punjabi, the question of #PriyankSharma revealing personal details of #ArshiKhan’s life on the show came up. Salman scolds Priyank for doing so, and Priyank apologises to a teary-eyed Arshi. Bandgi asks Priyank again in #PuneeshSharma’s presence if Puneesh has a son. Priyank sticks to his statement, but Puneesh denies it and says even if it were true, it shouldn’t have been discussed on television.

Bhabhiji #ShilpaShinde seemed especially happy to see Arshi weep. Shilpa herself was pulled up by #MehjabiSiddiqui for a comment saying Mehjabi left her two-year-old to come on the show. Salman placates Mehjabi, saying the comment was actually a positive one and was taken out of context.

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