Book Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a good ol’ murder mystery at heart. But while the narrative gets there, we also get a quick primer on domestic violence, on bullying in schools and, here’s the part that freaks out the mother in me, kindergarten politics! 😀

See, I have a son who’ll be starting nursery school in a few months. Every time I think of it, my heart skips a beat, there’s a lurch in my stomach and I need to sit down and take deep breaths. Yep, almost a panic attack. I’m pretty sure I’ll be the bundle of nerves on the first day of school, not the child.

And here comes Liane Moriarty with a book that deals with exactly that – how a bunch of parents navigate this minefield that is kindergarten, with their own personal struggles and having to stay strong for the children while still managing to remain sane. And oh, someone is murdered amidst all this. Oh, calamity! 😉

I liked the book. There are parallel threads going on, sort of a countdown to the D-day (or should I say M-day?) and even though it was a bit off in the beginning, I could get into that after a while. But throughout the read, all I kept thinking was dammit, this can happen to me! I mean, what’s worse – being the mother of the bully or being the mother of the bullied? I don’t know! I’d have a heart attack with either, thank you very much.

I don’t mean to take away the spotlight from the murder, but that’s how the book progressed and maybe that’s what made it a page-turner for me. I doubt if (at the risk of sounding severely cliched or stereotypical or just plain condescending) a non-mother would feel about this book the way I do. There, I said it. Troll me, pretty please. It’s every mother’s worst fear – having the school call you and say your child is hurt or your child has hurt someone else. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Bullying is every mother’s worst nightmare. So yeah, the book freaked me out a little bit and made me that much more nervous about the day my son goes to school.

The domestic violence part – yes, I’ve read it in some other book (I forget which, maybe a Mary Higgins Clark book) and it’s a typical silent killer of most marriages. It’s also one of those things where it’s very easy for a third person to say get out! get out! but in reality isn’t as simple as that. Or maybe it is and that’s why it’s so hard. I’m rambling.

Ok, so read this book if you want an every day family-drama based murder mystery. Say a Desperate Housewives type book. I finished it in less than a day, so it’s not going to hog up your time. A light read, maybe you can fit it in between a Murakami and a Saramago book? [No matter what you read, do not touch Jose Saramago’s Blindness if you want to be a happy person without any suicidal tendencies and/or depression. Just saying.]

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Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Locke Lamora! I like you. I more than like you. I don’t LOVE you yet, but maybe by the second book I might. There’s a bit of a resemblance to the Scarlet Pimpernel and/or Robin Hood, but I’m willing to overlook that if the adventures are brand new!

First off, it doesn’t feel like the author’s debut novel. Good narrative, strong characters and a reasonably good plot (although I personally would have preferred more shocking revelations with regard to the bad guys!) make this book, and I hope the series, a good read. The book falls in the same genre as Game of Thrones (or ASOIAF), The Kingkiller Chronicles, etc. and well, it may not be in the same league as the uber-elaborate ASOIAF, but it does have a promising start. I have the second book in the series and I’m going to start reading it once I read a couple of different genres in between, so it doesn’t feel monotonous! (Yes, I do things like that. Crazy? Maybe. Who cares!)

But hey, biggest grouse – no major female characters, dude. Like, none. Just a reference to a long lost ex-girlfriend, but nothing beyond that. I hope that’s taken care of in the next book, because we need more ladies please! Don’t ask me why. We don’t need any sentimental stuff, but a Xena Warrior Princess or Lara Croft type person won’t hurt. 😉

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Just another day at the office! #not

I’m going to rant now because it’s been an awful while since I did. And because I can.

So I get a call from some guy claiming to be from the insurance company I took a policy from and saying it was about my policy. He starts speaking in this really heavily accented Hindi and at a speed that would put a bullet train to shame. Before he could get to any specifics I told him, “sorry, can you please speak in English? I’m not comfortable with Hindi.”. The guy then says, “And I yam not comfoRtaybel in English” and hangs up. And I’m left holding the phone, wondering what the heck just happened.

Seriously, what does it take to have an English-speaking person to man the f***ing customer service lines? Or at least ASK me what language I’d prefer? Just because your service rep is sitting in some hole in Gurgaon or Noida (or Bangalore? Chennai? I don’t know! I don’t care!) doesn’t mean the rest of the country should suddenly be well-versed in spoken Hindi, that too with a heavy accent. You can’t call up a customer, say it’s about something they’ve bought from you and then hang up on said customer because he/she couldn’t understand what you were saying.

I know there are folks who will now pull the “Hindi is our national language, how come you don’t know it, blah blah blah” card. Wait, ok? Firstly, this whole national language thing is highly debatable. Let’s leave it there. Secondly, I know Hindi. I’ve taken all those Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha exams, all the way from Madhyama to Praveen and it actually qualifies me to teach Hindi in some places. It’s not a question of not knowing the language. My problem is I’m not comfortable discussing important things (like my life insurance policy!) in a language that I don’t really converse in on a daily basis. The most Hindi I speak is to my temporary house-help and the most technical words in that conversation are jhadoo, pocha and bartan.

See what my problem is? And you know what’s worse? I get this exact same type of call every bloody week. It’s the same thing all over again – I tell them I need an English speaking person and there’s this long pause while the person takes offence and then hangs up. Dude, what the eff?

I still don’t know what it is about my policy that they want to discuss so badly. Maybe I should call THEM up and ask in Telugu. Every damn week.

But it’s my insurance policy. Dammit.

A post without a photo is a bit sad, so here’s a pic of something I would love love love right about now – mocha coffee!

Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The Book of Lost Things” is a new-age fairy tale of fairy tales. You know, the ones we enjoyed as children – Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel – and others have all had a little makeover and make an appearance in this book, in sinister forms, with villains becoming heroes and vice versa. There’s adventure, monsters being killed, people being saved – the works! And I found this a good change, between all the reality-based fiction I’ve been reading of late.

It could very well be a children’s book, actually. But something adults can enjoy if one loved fairy tales, what they symbolized and especially if you didn’t quite believe in the happily-ever-after once you grew up and life had thrown enough lemons to fill the Pacific with lemonade.

Oh, at the risk of being a spoiler, THIS fairy tale’s happily-ever-after is pretty much that – happily.ever.after. Small mercies, eh? I personally don’t like my book ending in a tragedy – what with all those hours we invest in reading the darn thing!

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fairy tale. That’s probably an apt genre for this book. It leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, a little sadness and ache but with a feeling of hope and of beautiful friendships. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters and experience their emotions as you read on.

It’s a beautifully written book! It’s at once happy and sad – if that’s even possible! Like a friend said, it will take a while for this one’s hangover to end.

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Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

First off, I’m the girl who gave up Gone Girl midway ‘coz I found it boring and then finished it only after it started getting rave reviews (mostly because I was curious wondering what I missed that the rest of the world didn’t seem to!). That said, it’s still a well-written book compared to ‘The Girl on the train’, which, sadly, is a cheap imitation.

There’s nothing unique about this book: the PoV method of story-telling, done before and done better; the alcoholic-with-memory-blackouts angle, done already (I think there’s a really spooky Mary Higgins Clark book with the same thing); running through all characters as a list of suspects – done to death in every darn whodunit book till date; so, what’s left? Nothing. A lot of the writing appeared forced, added to fill up space and reach the page target perhaps – there were entire portions that were repetitive and unnecessary and very tiresome!

I still finished it, yay! More to get it done than anything else.. guessed the whodunit bit too early, so there wasn’t much of a surprise at the end. It all seemed very familiar – like I’ve read this already. Maybe I have. :-\

If you loved Gone Girl, skip this. If you hated Gone Girl, skip this. If you didn’t mind Gone Girl, then yeah..maybe you can give this a go! 🙂

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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction. One needs to remember that. But it’s difficult. I started reading and the dystopian society portrayed, well, it doesn’t seem all that fictional or improbable to me. Which is actually pretty scary because in that society women are merely vessels for having progeny. No rights or freedom. Just a body, to be impregnated by a Commander, bear the child with zero medical help, hand over the child to the family and go to the next, to repeat it all over again for some one else. Scary.

The women don’t even have their own names anymore. They cannot own property, they cannot hold bank accounts, they don’t have free will – they are merely properties held by the men. Sounds vaguely familiar? It’s not the far and distant future, mind’s just around the corner, this new system, this Gilead. It could be happen in India. Sure, it can. Maybe it’s already started.

It’s a powerful book. A lot of the situations (for want of a better word) written actually turn up in our newspapers as news. Like the Handmaids being made to recite that being raped is what they deserved, it’s the victims’s fault and they shouldn’t have ‘provoked’ the men – how many times have we heard this same drivel from the mouths of these so-called leaders, cops or Govt officials every time a heinous rape happens? Atwood has so uncannily portrayed reality as fiction. And that’s what scares me the most.

This is my first proper Atwood book (I’ve read a little bit of The Blind Assasin a while ago) and I love her style! I love her prose and I like just how powerful her simple words are. How impact-ful. She can say so much by saying so less. And sometimes, by not saying anything at all. I only remember reading with such an urgency, as if the story will fly off the pages if I didn’t read it soon…as if something would happen and I would miss it! I haven’t had a book do that to me in a while now. So, yeah, I really liked this book.

Maybe it’s not a dystopian book at all. Maybe an eye-opener to where we could be headed. It’s just around the corner, Gilead. Be scared.

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