books · reading

The Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsom


Paul Osborn is damaged. When he was ten years old he saw his father murdered in front of his eyes. There were other witnesses back then but the killer had walked free. After all, who would have believed the eye-witness account of a ten year old boy? Now, thirty years and three divorces later, Osborn, a doctor, finds himself in Paris, incredibly in love with a woman who has a clandestine affair with the French Prime Minister and thus cannot commit to Osborn. There he finds himself face-to-face with his father’s killer from years ago; a face he can never forget and a person who doesn’t know him. Thoughts of revenge stemming from disappointment at the American judicial system lead Osborn to plan out the murder of his childhood nemesis. But even as Osborn prepares to take the leap that will forever change his life and finally give him the answer to his most haunting question (WHY was my father murdered?), things beyond his control are starting to take place and the cogs of a large, invisible machine have been set into motion.

Meanwhile, retired Detective William McVey is invited to Paris to investigate certain homicide cases where a victim’s head (without the body) and another one’s body (without the head) have been discovered, both removals having been performed with surgical precision. As McVey looks desperately outwards through the throngs of Paris’s anonymous, he finds himself confronting Paul Osborn- a Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon roaming in France for no visible reason. What is he up to, Mcvey asks himself and so becomes involved in something which is quite above his head.

And when Paul and MvCey cross paths, they find themselves entangled in a case of global proportions.

The good thing about The Day After Tomorrow is that it has likeable and believable protagonists. Both McVey and Osborn could be real people with real fears and real ghosts haunting them. In the beginning of the novel, I was immediately gripped by Paul’s compulsive need to find answers and plan a murder and then simultaneously by McVey’s jump to the conclusion that there is something fishy about Paul and the subsequent battle of wits that ensues between them But when the clouds clear and the smoke settles, the plot turns horizontal and there is very little left to look forward to.

Thrillers are usually meant to grip us and then keep us gripped until the last page but The Day After Tomorrow grips you and then midway, it simply lets you go. Osborn’s vendetta loses its passion because other characters and a branched out plotline take over the story.

Sure, we’re intrigued by the concept of a neo-Nasi organization involving all the top German businessmen, industrialists and celebrities who are on their way to uncovering something huge and calamatic. But it is as if Allan Folsom took one thing which was really pulling his readers forward and having withered it after the first hundred pages, say, picked up on a global scale without a smooth transition, without any great incentive for the reader to keep reading.

By the time you start to see the large picture of the story, you’re too far into the book. I enjoyed some of the revelations that come later on but what I had hoped for had been a revelation which would blow my mind. The climax of this book, in fact, was a study in Hollywood- something made good for the silver screen straightaway.

The last line of the last chapter of this book is the final offering which can easily haunt you long after you’re finished.

So if a thriller-that-slowly-turns-into-science-fiction appeals to you, this book will be easily enjoyable. Its a book you can bear to keep reading till the end, despite its short-comings. And the ending is the thing that keeps you going, though you might not know it if you pick up this book just randomly. So there you go, I’ve given you a reason to keep reading till the last page!

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Television

The Beginning of the End—Dexter


Dexter‘s last season is coming out, starting this weekend.

Every time I think about how Dexter should end, I imagine the best kind of closure for a show like this can only come from Dexter’s death.

After all, how else do you justify the end of a show where the protagonist is a serial killer? Admittedly Dexter tries to channelize himself and keeps to killing only the really bad guys out there (which is what keeps us hooked and just enough attached to him to keep watching the show), but its hard to argue with the logic that he operates in some very grey areas.

I’ve watched some really good TV series, but for some reason the shocking murder of Dexter’s wife Rita Bennett really hit me and for that reason perhaps, I am a little too involved in where the Dexter plot is going.

This is one story I want to actually watch pan out on the screen, rather than indulge in any kind of book reading (even though I also said that about Game of Thrones earlier).

For a deeper analysis of Dexter, click below:

The Psyche of Dexter

 

books · Fiction · Love · reading

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Nick and Amy Donne have been married for five years. They’re normal, like any other couple. But something’s not quite right because on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary when Nick is at work, he gets a call from a neighbour. He returns home to find the door flung open and Amy gone.


Nick, like the good husband that he is, calls up the police immediately. At the same time, we are taken into a flashback of Amy’s diary as she details how she met Nick and how they courted and got married. Like the book’s title claims, every story has two sides.

But the deeper the police delve into this mystery, the more clues they seem to find that lead right up to Nick. There is chaos in their living room and considerable amount of blood in the kitchen. There are clear signs of a struggle that someone has hastily tried to cover up. There are strange searches on Nick’s computer and mysterious calls that he keeps getting on regular intervals on a disposable mobile that he seems to carry around. There are aspects of Amy’s life that Nick seems to have no clue about. But more than anything else, there is the fact that Nick seems to show little or no emotion regarding his wife’s disappearance. As the whole town pools their resources in a quest to find his wife, more and more people start becoming antagonistic towards Nick in their conviction that somehow, he is the one responsible for Amy’s disappearance.

As we see from the beginning, something is not quite right between Amy and Nick. A sense of dread envelops their relationship. This sense did not just suddenly pop into existence; it was built over the course of their five year marriage. But the exact nature of their marriage is drawn out slowly, as are their personalities. Amy’s diary follows the course of their relationship.

One of the underlying features of their marriage is a treasure hunt that Amy arranges for Nick on their every wedding anniversary. This treasure hunt has clues based on the important experiences and moments that the two of them have had throughout the year. The thing about it is that Nick dreads this treasure hunt because he almost never seems to be able to crack the codes and understand exactly which events were important enough to Amy to warrant her attention and be drawn in as a clue. This year however, though Amy is gone, the treasure hunt still exists and Nick finds himself surprisingly able to solve his way through her clues towards his anniversary present. And as he proceeds, something inside him starts to shift.

Gone Girl is a book of slow revelations. It plays with your head, it grips you from the beginning. After finishing with the first three chapters itself, you know that something or someone dark and sinister is at play here. The thrill of wanting to know how or what has you in its hold from then on.

The best aspect of this book is that Amy and Nick take turns at pulling the narration forward. What this creates is a sense of differing personality, whose accounts are at odds with each other. Its engaging because it manages to combine aspects of a thriller together with aspects of a book about love and link them together intricately in a manner that makes it hard to put down.

The beauty of this book lies in the tiny details. After all, Amy and Nick could be just about anybody. And the supporting characters here are just as gripping; be it Nick’s sister Go or Amy’s parents, the local police or Amy’s old stalker boyfriend.

Gone Girl is one of those books which keep you hooked. Though the suspense is somewhat predictable, especially for novel veterans, its still thrilling to know where the story is going, how it got there and how its going to wrap up. And this book does wrap up in a slightly unconventional fashion.

This is one book that will leave you gasping for fresh air by the time you turn over the last page.

books · Fiction · history · reading

Inferno by Dan Brown


I have never really done any Dan Brown bashing before and right now I am ashamed to admit that I have read every single one of his books. I would have probably been better off had I invested the same amount of time and money in some other author but in my defense, I was too young to have known better. Now I do. And I pity the adults who still think his books make some sort of sense.

Inferno, aside from insulting Dante’s The Divine Comedy by taking on the same name, reveals in the title itself that Dan Brown has run into an imagination rut. He cannot come up with a suitable title for his book by himself, so he rips off from Dante.

The paperthin storyline of Inferno takes us back to Dan Brown’s Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as he races through Florence, Venice and Istanbul to deal with a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. Filled with cliches galore, Inferno is a messy ride  which falls flat from the beginning as Brown gets confused about what to do with his characters as his “plot” proceeds.

I cannot stop emphasizing on how chaotic this novel was. The author seems to be clinging hard to his theory of somehow making every single piece of art and architecture speak to us about mysterious calamities and secrets of faith, religion and science that are critical and global. Whereas the Da Vinci Code offered something new at the time, his other books are bombing because they are basically the same plot line, fine-tuned to appear more appealing.

So Robert Langdon wakes up with amnesia this time around. Nothing has changed about and around him. He still stops to remember his famous lectures in the middle of crucial moments while he is being chased by villlians on bikes. He is a babe magnet but he cannot seem to stop contemplating how old he is getting. Robert Langdon is weak and seems to keep making mistakes over and over again. The only convenient thing about him is his eidetic memory, which, is apparently the most important thing in Dan Brown’s novels. The ability to remember paintings and artifacts because all villains are pompous and crazy and love wasting time and energy in leaving behind clues that can  potentially unravel all of their work.

This villain however, speaks to us from the grave. Through an overly reused (until its battered) video, the villain tells us about overpopulation and how he has decided to come up with something mind-blowing to stop our population explosion. But since science is conveniently beyond Langdon’s range, Dan Brown assumes safely that he can skim over it and leave his reader in the blank while he unnecessarily describes paintings and buildings which halt the so-called story line from moving along.

And on top of that, he chooses to indulge in rapid repetition, not just of words and lines but entire paragraphs.

There is no suspense here, the characters are wafer-thin with no backbone, his heroine is slender, charming, beautiful and talented, the villains take a sudden (and unexplained) turn for the better, after having left enough clues to lead Langdon right into the heart of their symbolically ominous lifework.

This book gave me a headache.

books · reading

The Perks of being a Wallflower


When I started reading The Perks of being a Wallflower, I thought it would be an ordinary book. Because, how good can a book about being a teenager really be when you’re no longer one and the memories of adolescence bring back only embarrassment and bits of regret? I almost gave up less than one fifth into the book and decided to take the short cut and watch the movie instead. But my experience and belief in the age old saying “The book is always better than the movie” kept me reading and boy, am I glad I did. Let me say it once again if you don’t already know: Always, always read the book first and then watch the movie. If you cannot appreciate a story in this order, then it means you haven’t really understood it, felt it-maybe even lived it.

Because The Perks of being a Wallflower is a book (and a movie) that deserves to be lived.

 

Charlie is a kid. He’s writing letters. We don’t know who he is addressing them to, or if he is posting them at all. And it doesn’t matter.He is not good at telling people what they mean to him. Even if they don’t mean much, he isn’t good at letting them see how a particular experience with them could mean a lot to him. He doesn’t like the limelight. He hides in the shadows and observes people. He doesn’t judge, he doesn’t make first moves. He won’t do anything if he feels the other person doesn’t want him to. He will restrict his actions, cut back on his needs if he can just stay in the background. And he has the best, most golden heart a kid can have. You can’t help but love Charlie.

But Charlie has problems. He has lost his aunt Helen, the most wonderful person he ever knew (according to his memories of her) and he can’t seem to get over it. In fact, he has black outs and he is an introvert. He doesn’t know how to interact with people. Charlie is a wallflower.

Then he meets Sam and Patrick. Two seniors who teach him how to live, to participate and to be there, in the moment. They make him feel infinite, they teach him what its like to have friends and what is needed to be a friend back. They teach him about songs and his English teacher teaches him about books. As Charlie finally starts to stop being a wallflower and interact in his own life, he starts to learn things about others that change the way he wants to live. Then he starts to learn things about himself that he never knew.

About the movie:

I have a couple of complaints from the movie. There was too much of Sam in it, just because Emma Watson was playing the role. She is great and everything but The Perks of being a Wallflower was about Charlie’s discoveries and yet they chose to cut down on important things that Charlie picks up from other people. Such as his English teacher inviting him over for dinner (I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I think Paul Rudd is very cute). During dinner his teacher tells him, ‘I don’t know if anyone’s ever told you this and that’s why I want you to know that you’re very special. You should remember this.’ (rephrased). And knowing this was very important for Charlie because he kept losing himself in other people’s lives (being a wallflower) and the last person who had said this to him had been his aunt.

They also cut back on Charlie’s sister’s role (this has nothing to do with the fact that I think Nina Dobrev is a great actress who didn’t get enough screen time and came across as irritating in the movie instead). In the book, his sister has a major role of her own and goes through an abortion. Charlie helps her out. This was an important part of the book as well because it helped Charlie understand his family history better. It also brought him closer to his sister and helped them bond.

The movie overshadowed all of this and focused a lot more on other things which were less important, just to bring Emma Watson into the limelight more. And and and also, I don’t like her with her hair cut so short.

Also, the letters haunting effect didn’t hit me through the movie. The movie was a comedy with touches of emotion. The book was a haunting emotional ride with the revelation of a devastating truth in the end. The effects of the book stayed with me more because of the way Charlie came through. Everything came to us through his eyes. But in the movie we were allowed the freedom to form our own opinions about the characters. We can immediately see what a douche Craig is and how mind-numbingly boring Mary Elizabeth is. In the book, we see everyone through Charlie, who believes in the goodness of each and every human being. So the impressions hit us harder, we understand Charlie better.

Still, I would recommend both the book and the movie to people, if it sounds like something that could appeal to you

PS: I will be on vacation for a bit so may not be able to post in the near future! Will be back soon.

Currently reading: Inferno by Dan Brown.

 

books · Fiction · reading · Television

Rains of Castamere


[Spoiler alert for Game of Thrones the HBO series]

Walder Frey, you sick old man, sitting there on that throne of yours in the Twins and cackling in that evil, disgusting way.

Well, they did it. The dreadful Red Wedding is over.

The thing about the Red Wedding is, there are so many spoilers about it online that people like me are bound to come up against them. And I did. And that’s how I found out about it. Not through the book, not through the show but through Google. Nothing can be worst (but then I just read that the actor who plays Robb Stark found it out the exact same way!).

Anyway, it was reading this spoiler that made me finally pick up the Song of Ice and Fire books. And then I read through the wedding.

Brilliantly acted, Michelle Fairley

And last night I saw the show. Even though I knew what was coming, it was horrible. Watching it played out in flesh and blood was worst than reading it. I think, if I hadn’t known about it beforehand, I could have had a heart attack. It was that heart-wrenching, both performance-wise and story-wise.

As I have proceeded with reading the story (having finished The Feast for Crows so far), I have begun to feel more and more attracted towards the possibility of Jon Snow’s importance in the story line, along with Daenerys Targaryen and Brandon Stark. So far I feel, these are the people who’re leading up to something. In fact, at the end of the Feast with Crows, we find Aemon Targeryen placing all his hopes on Daenerys, having just found out about her existence.

However, much as Ned Stark’s beheading, the Red Wedding reminds us once again that we should not fall too deeply in love with any of the characters in Westeros because this is a cruel world.

The Red Wedding is still playing in the back of my head somewhere; it was beautifully shot and tragically portrayed. Killing Robb’s wife with a vicious finality was another devastating touch which only outlined the delicious grief that poured out from the Rains of Castamere.

I am sure that for first time show watchers, this was one heck of an emotional night. But fans of GoT should not give up on the series because of its tragedies. GoT is representing cruelty the way the real world does and its not holding back on any of this, which makes it all the more interesting for me. The only thing I ask for is to protect the youngest Stark children- Brandon, Rickon and Arya but even that seems like too much to expect from George R.R. Martin. After all, he has already promised us a bittersweet ending to A Song of Ice and Fire. There will be many more deaths, sure. POV character deaths as well. But we hope the end of this saga will be an act of vengeance, even in death.

books · Fiction · Life

Popular Culture and Zones to Lose Yourself In


We all have places we like to go to in order to escape reality. Zoning out is a different process for everyone but basically, its about letting go of the world and going somewhere else. Maybe like sleeping. Yeah, sleeping could be a way of zoning out and sometimes that’s how I do use it. In fact, once I saw this quote on Facebook

Which happens to be something I totally agree with. But here are some other ways that I use to zone out:

1) Books!

I think most people know this but it can’t be stressed enough. Reading opens up a world of imagination that nothing else can ever hope to match. Watching something on television aside, when you’re reading the words you’re thinking up. You’re imagining people and places and building them in your head. If you’re a reader, most likely than not the movie of an epic book will disappoint you. Why is that? It is because most often than not they cannot create things in the exact way as you did in your head. Its probably better in your head too, because you’re not limited by technology.

What a great way to just zone out of the world and be somewhere else! Though most books work for zoning out, the ones which are most successful are the ones which take you away from this world. And books like Harry Potter, LOTR, the Inheritance series, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hunger Games and so on are the best for those purposes. So read away and find new places inside your head that you can be in!

2) Sketching and Art

There is something about these things. You don’t have to be very good or even good at all. All you need is a paintbrush and a pencil or maybe just some pieces from old magazines! Here’s some of the zoning out stuff with art that I’ve done in the past:

IMG_0295 scan0001

 

 

3) Swimming

In water lies one of my favourite ways to zone out. Its relaxing, good exercise and a great escape from life.

If you’re one of the people who don’t like swimming or are scared of water, seriously you’re missing out on something really great. Just try the water once, you’ll take to it like fish to a sea.

 

 

Life · Love · philosophical

That Silent, Vacant Place


The Daily WordPress Prompt-

Write about something you consider “ugly” — war, violence, failure, hatred — but try to find beauty, or a sense of hope, in your thoughts.

 

When we’re small our parents try so incredibly hard to protect us from things we shouldn’t be seeing- war, death, violence, rape. Isn’t it a shame that the world is such that we cannot tell our children certain things because these things will spoil their innocence and expose them to things that are too painful, horrifying for kids to comprehend? How can we let our children realize how unhappy most adults are in their day-to-day lives, when they go around wanting to be their parents, dreaming about the wonders of that sweet freedom which is denied to them! Adults can sleep as late as they want, they can party, they can drink, they can drive, they can go places. Children don’t know how utterly disturbingly, sickeningly depressing life can be and they can’t imagine the need for life to ever be that way! Most of our children don’t know hunger the way poor ones do, they don’t know what its like to sleep without a roof over their heads. They don’t know how devastating wars can be. They don’t know what its like if their dad leaves one day and never comes back in the evening.

And we feel its important for them things to stay this way!

How can we explain to our children something like death, which all of us must inevitably face one day when we ourselves do not know what lies beyond! As children we are promised heaven after earth but the grown-ups making these promises haven’t been there, done that themselves. But children don’t need to know that.

How can we explain to our children what assault and violence and rapes and murders are like? We can pray our children will never face the likes of Jack the Ripper or be exposed to the sort of domestically abusive conditions we read about in newspapers. We can hope our children’s drivers or lovers or best friends or colleagues won’t go paranoid enough to want to murder them when they’re older. And these are the hopes on which we teach our children to grow, despite our thousand fears to the contrary.

Because our parents will always fear for us. They love us and they want us to love ourselves and not go through life expecting the worst. We’re supposed to expect the best, but we know that so were those people in the towers of the World Trade Center when it collapsed.

How ironical it is, therefore, that our parents refuse to touch on one topic which has the highest probability in the world to scar us, break us, tear us apart. And yes, that topic is love.

An Indian parent will die before they give you the Talk. For an Indian parent, their child’s love life is simple. It is non-existent until they’re in the ripe age group for marriage (25-30 years) which is when slow teasing turns into a full-fledged search for a suitable match for their precious son or daughter. Once the parents have gone over the preliminaries, the lucky couple is allowed to meet and talk, maybe have coffee and go on a few carefully supervised dates, all the while reporting back home. Then when you’re married, its all a closed book once again.

Well, they need to wake up. Admittedly, many have. But its not just about accepting that your kid will one day meet the perfect match and bring them home and you can work on the rest of the fairy tale together.

Lives are complicated. Isn’t it ironic that parents who shield us from physical harm and mental break down by hiding the details of death and war from us, may go far enough to chip away at the Stork Myth but they won’t go further to talk about love, shield us from the songs and movies and books that detail love lifes both successful and devastating?

Shouldn’t a parent have a Love Talk as well as a Sex Talk with their children? What is love after all. We know as little about it as we do about death; but every third reference in popular culture takes us back to the topic of love. Love in all its varied forms does exist, then why do we perpetually ban one form from conversations and discussions?

Why is everything else considered radically modern? Why will people raise their eyes and think that this post is too out their and even those who think its not will still walk down the same battered path!

Children WILL figure out their own truths. Like anything else, pretending ignorance about this silent, vacant place called love will help parents shield their children until Google opens their eyes but songs ain’t gonna hold the truth back no more. Like everything else, love stories take their martyrs but those who can still swim emerge stronger, more careful and better armed to put aside their adolescence angst and take on the world!