Rising Sun- Michael Crichton’s Japanese fling

Those of you who are reading me for quite some time know that I am a big fan of Michael Crichton. That man was brilliant with his pen and to this day whenever I think that he is dead, I feel sorrow, deep deep sadness. I think all children of the 90s owe him their childhood fascination of dinosaurs and the dreams that anything could be possible. I have read  a lot of his books (not all yet) over the years and I was mildly surprised when this turned out to be murder mystery woven into corporate creepiness combined with cultural nuances. It is well executed, well paced and well balanced. Except, I wasn’t really hanging onto every page reminding myself to breath, because he has been so good in the past, I have forgotten to perform a basic autonomous function like breathing.

The air is like a modern Clavell’s Taipan, except the setting is Los Angeles and there is a beautiful escort who is entwined in some dangerous habits along with secret liaisons who gets murdered in a conference room at the opening of a landmark Japanese building. There is this Sherlock Holmes and Watson thing going on with the two main protagonists, one of whom is named John Connor, so when I imagine him, I see either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Christian Bale, neither of whom fit the description and mess around with my visualisation of the story. Anyhow, the other dude has recently moved to the foreign liaison department and gets called and tags along Connor who is more attuned to all things Japanese. Tensions start to rise within the police department and the attaches and trivialities unravel into winding ways and if you think you know who did it, well, let me tell you, you didn’t.

It is a really good read. I enjoyed learning about Japanese culture and some history and I know I am gushing but Crichton’s voice is too strong to ignore.

Rising Sun- Amazon

P.S I know there is a movie version out there with Sean Connery…gasp… but I don’t think I am ready to watch it just yet. In a swirl like the creepy cat below…lgr0anxjbro4e

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Arghhh… Can I please know if I am sane? Please post below if you have had a love hate relationship with a book recently and hung over the fact that you like it one minute but then when you turn around on your pillow on the other side, you go, seriously?

I have been meaning to meander away from the genre I usually read… which is, mystery murder thriller and yadayada, you catch my flow. This book had been making some waves. I heard something of a light version of Gone Girl mixed with comedic craziness and said, Well why not? It is written by Maria Semple, who also write for Arrested  Development and some other shows and she has brilliantly crafted the book as series of documents, emails, text messages, journals etc. That was actually really fun to read (I tend to like epistolary forms and I would kind of refer to this as somewhat that with mixed media).

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It was witty, insightful, interesting and maybe perhaps a little scary because I find myself in the same place as the protagonist is when she is at the center of the novel. So this woman, Bernadette, a bright young architect who won a big grant but someone destroys her creation is twenty some years later a recluse who has outsourced her trip planning to Antarctica (a promise she needs to fulfil for her girl who has completed school with all A’s)  and finds herself in a convoluted mess the more she tries distancing herself from other moms and the society in general. We get a comedic glimpse of Seattle’s suburbia, the people, the Microsoft culture, outsourcing your life to India for a few cents an hour and the difficulties of communication between someone who has been married for too long.

Most of all, it is about being stuck in the past and not knowing how to rid yourself of it. It is about just ticking those days off the calendar, day by day, month by month and year by year. I understand being in this vicious cycle and being completely unable to break it. When a few small projects like going to the grocery store occupies the entire energy and concentration of the whole day.

So far, I am loving it… but then I think of her husband and it reminds me of Torvald Helmer from A Doll’s House that I read not so long ago. I mean Elgie is unbelievable if he is blind to the conditions they are living in. He is supposedly so brilliant (having the fourth viewed TED talk of all time, a fact that is repeated again and again by his star struck secretary Soo-Lin whom he manages to get pregnant (arrgggg))… and he is supposed to be intelligent! The tie with the Indian outsourcing, the Russian mafia and the FBI… a bit too much? Initially I thought that it was humorous in a noir comedic sense, building on the crescendo of the time when Elgie “intervenes” to get help for Bernadette and tries to “contain her“.

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Except for B, their daughter, I don’t think any of the characters are likeable even with the empathising factor that I share with Bernadette, and having this whole book revolving around her, she lacks some sort of depth that I cannot put my finger on. Also, she doesn’t really disappear until ….well a good way past the halfway mark, so think of the first half as a build up… that . is . long . pretty . long .

Overall, I am glad I read it. I don’t think I would ever re read it though I would probably venture out on a limb here and say I would read the author’s other works.

If you are still interested in this,

Get Where’d you go Bernadette?

Even though I purchased this book’s audio from audible, I was youtubing (as usual) and found that the original audiobook has been kept there by someone… FYI. I am not providing the link here, cause well, I don’t know, I don’t feel right about it, but I am just letting you know it is out there.

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The Luminaries- a long invested ride

The Luminaries is a brilliantly written book by Eleanor Catton. Her language and its usage is artfully crafted. Then there are streaks of genius and insight. There are nearly 800 plus pages worth, nearly twice the size of a novel invested to an interesting murder mystery at the center but more of a historical retelling of the times and lives and characters of gold mining towns in Hokitika and Dunedin. I read this around two months ago but could not bring myself to review it….mainly because I when I read, I read for the crux, the center of gravity. This beautifully created house of cards is like an era opening up to you where you can physically go and indulge your senses. If you are looking for some particular answers, you might leave frustrated like I did at the end.

This is not only a bestseller but is also the winner of the Man Booker Prize. That being said, you know that you will not like all Oscar winning movies. That is just the way it is. For those who are authors and like to explore different writing styles, this is A MUST READ. I learnt so much about the way that Catton crafts this book in the style of the early novelists but adding her own flavor to it. She painstakingly  and meticulously brushes back and forth until her vignette is complete. Then she puts it in an intricately elaborate gilded frame for the viewer to see an cleverly formed art work.

To get the Luminaries- Amazon

To read other books by Catton

 

A Doll’s House- Henrik Ibsen

Sometimes, whims and fancies lead the Alice down wonderful paths. I had heard of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in passing many times and it just somehow clicked when I saw it on a deal at Audible. So what I heard for nearly two hours was a wonderful performance by L.A Theatre Works starring Calista Flockhart (star of Ally Mcbeal and Harrison Ford’s wide I think) playing Nora and Tim Dekay as Torvald.

I guess I am a bit late to the party, since after reading I spent my entire afternoon reading up on background and criticism and praise ranging from audience shock, to the play ending changing against Ibsen’s wishes in certain countries (to make it more acceptable). One thing I believe is that the ending is perfect just as it is. Nothing else would or could make more sense.

In a nutshell, it is about a woman who is treated childishly by her husband, even after she has had three children, worked when they were in trouble and unbeknownst to all, has sacrificed a great deal for her family. The story mocks the law of required guardianship signatures for a woman who wants money and shows how Nora deals with things in her unique way to meet her ends.

But for me, this book is about a woman-girl who has just come out of the caves and seen a glimmer of light and with it, she is seeing a faded reflection of herself. Her soul, touched by the glow, knows for certain that she must look at herself completely or be crushed completely and lose her sense of self.

The beauty of this play is that Ibsen  was a sly old thing. He portrays the husband as a chauvinistic, yet loving , yet patronising, yet insufferable smother of a thing. He has always kept Nora in the palm of his hands, protecting and nourishing her and also encapsulating her. He is not a villain, but by far he is no hero, nor the hero Nora needs him to be. The conceited husband is an obstacle but the children are the main hindering block to her self discovery. How does one abandon three innocent children? That is something every reader would have to figure out on their own.

Then there is the side story of Nora’s friend and the man who lent her money and the whole drama that comically ensues. Did I mention, that will all these grave themes in play, it is more of a comic situation than the deep, dark and dense issues that it addresses? That, in itself was perhaps the best thing about this performance. I heard this over 2 weeks ago and was marinating all the ideas in my head and even now, it is all swimming around (that means it is a sign of its Chi (Chi test in statistics is goodness of the test…. me and my imagery…sigh)).

I recommend this to men and women. However, you need to be a certain age I think to understand this play. I read this review where students were required to read this play and they were cribbing about it being ‘lame’. This is the cleanest non rated drama that requires PG 28 and above…just because some things are best understood when we reach a certain age and not before then.

To get the :

Audible Performance that I listened to: A Doll House

The written text: A Doll’s House

 

 

Career of Evil

What a title! Just looking at it got me so excited and I really wanted to read J.K Rowling AKA Robert Galbraith’s new book. It starts of nostalgically reminding me of Sherlock Holmes. The office and home set up, the sidekick and the relationship struggle (albeit here, there is a confusion and inner struggle between their relationships on a gender level) and most importantly, a mysterious package being delivered!

So body parts are getting mailed and there are alternate narrations between what is happening with Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin Ellacott and the perpetrator. Through out the book, it is a back and forth on who is it and who is it not. The novel is a bit stretchy … I think there was a point it had become really obvious but JKR still tried to confuse the reader to keep them in self doubt. The novel however I think is more about the individual histories of Strike and Robin. We get to have a good look who these people are and where they are coming from. We had an inkling that Strike’s childhood/ teens were troubled, but here, we see what really shaped him as a man he is today. His tumultuous relationship with his step father and a broken mother and the memories he had buried deep are gushed out and put right in his face. He has to deal with two more memories. One wherein he put a man in jail and the other where he is accused of giving a terrible tormentor some serious brain injury. He reckons it is one of three that are out to get him , or rather Robin.

I have more respect for Robin in this book. She seems no longer a naive, eager puppy. Instead the way she deals with her childhood mishap and the way JKR deals with it in the book, the lack of overemphasis is more effective. I mean, this whole thing could have been more dramatized and made soppy, instead, what I am trying to say is that it is dealt with maturely. Okay so will all these things resurfacing, the present is packed with the impending doom and gloom of her wedding and I kept thinking ….okay she is going to break it off on this page, now this page …now…now….and then … tadaaa….hold on… are they back at it? Okay now what ? Hmmmpfff.

I am not saying whether she chooses her fiance or she hops over to Cormoran’s lap. Sorry folks, you will have to read it to know it or head over to one of those sites that tell the whole novel in a paragraph or two. But if you are willing to take a chance, this might turn out to be a very interesting afternoon read.

Amazon – Career of Evil

More Books by Robert Galbraith

The Lincoln Lawyer

I find myself coming back to the mystery thriller genre subconsciously every time I think I should read something else. I know if the there is a thread being spun that is logical, there is a challenge in my mind to see if I can guess the next move. It is like a game of chess to see who can get there first.

I had already seen The Lincoln Lawyer many years ago and I remember liking it a lot. I also remember it to have some similarities with this movie in which Edward Norton faked a split personality… cant remember the name and I don’t dare stop writing to look it up on another tab because I know the first click that I tap, I will end up getting lost for half an hour doing search upon search upon search and end up somewhere else entirely. So back to the question of why I read this book when I already knew the story? I usually read the books and then watch the movie….seems logical, right? I don’t remember doing the opposite though and wanted to estimate whether Michael Connelly could still hold my interest even when I knew what the plot would be.

So did it? Yes. Was I imagining Matthew McCaugheney (will not do google search for correct name) as Mickey Haller. Surprisingly, no. I really like Matthew. I mean, look at him in the past couple of years, he has really out done himself. He broke free of his stereotype but in my head, Connelly’s Haller is more conflicted, like tugging between earthy and slithery.

So just to refresh what this book is all about… Mickey Haller, criminal defense lawyer gets a case. A man-boy-something has been arrested for beating the living hell out of a lady of the night. Pretty straight forward so far? Except he didn’t. Or did he? His word against hers. Starts to look like a setup to get money out of him. But then things start going sideways. And then history starts brimming up. Then a murder. Except who has done it? Everyone has an alibi. Except Haller. Now he starts getting stuck in a really messy quagmire. How will he ever get out? He so desperately needs a rope to pull him out.

Michael Connelly… I shall read you more. Till the next one!

On Amazon- The Lincoln Lawyer

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Lisey’s Story

I am a newly initiated Stephen King fan. Lisey’s Story is my third book and I have not read his early works. From reviewers to critics, Lisey’s Story comes as unKingly but I believe since I don’t have the shadow of his other works hanging around, I could give a different perspective.

Lisey’s Story, for me not a horror but more of a psychological investigation (I wouldn’t term it as a thriller either). The action was minimalistic and the story was mainly driven by the protagonist, Lisey’s flashbacks and memories. The widow of a celebrated author, Scott Landon, through Lisey’s mind, the reader delves into dynamics of a marriage that is not very simple.

We are shown the brilliance of Scott Landon’s genius as well as the weaknesses and cracks that lie just beneath the surface. Her husband has a family history of some psychological illness that we are not really sure of. This illness is so severe that it leads Scott to do things that he is going to have to live the consequences for, for the rest of his life. But that is not all. What haunts him, is also his muse. Call it Neverland, or Narnia or in his childhood makeup work, Boo’ya Moon, Scott travels to another land which is full of sweet delights and rewards but can also be equally dangerous. This land will give him refuge but also eat at his sanity.

Lisey pines for her husband who has been dead for two years when the story first starts. She needs to clean out her husband’s things_unfinished manuscripts, journals, memorabilia. The reader empathises the need for hanging on to the things of people who are no longer with us. Lisey is a strong woman with a sensible head and that makes her easy to relate to when she submerges herself into the other-world of her husband’s imagination. The novel weaves in the past and present as she struggles to overcome her trepidations and to ward off the eminent attack of a psychopath.

The novel is beautifully written. There is no doubt about it. If you read reviews online, the verdict is an extreme, either readers have loved it or hated it. Avid fans of King, have come away repelled. SK acknowledges the fact that his favourite and most personal book has not been taken in well. In his afterword he mentions that many people wonder what his editor was doing and in his defence he says that the book could not be further edited, and with more skill. I like the fact that SK stands up for his work and writes not to please but to create.

Good things are not perfect. I think they shouldn’t be. The flaws are sometimes just as powerful and sometimes it takes a level of maturity for the reader to grasp that they aren’t flaws at all. However, I do share some misgivings with other readers out there, mainly,  his repeated use of some words, like smucking, Manda Bunny, Boo’ya, bad gunky, babyluv (list goes on). Somewhere in the middle of this book it did tick me off but on the whole it’s just a little to forgive for something that holds much depth. One has to remember that we are looking not into an adult mind but also through the eyes of a very young Scott who has partly not grown up. King uses just the perfect language, simple and graceful for the telling. He can write the three year old, the eight year old, the middle aged man who thinks like his ten year old self and a woman who has lost and needs to overcome grief. I am just amazed at the structuring of this novel. Inside Lisey’s head, the present blooms memories of the past and the forgotten. This then gives passage to the present again and wakes Lisey’s inaction into movement. The past and the present and the need to shape the future are dealt with an expertise of a BlackJack dealer.

SK does not mar the pages with literary devices but subtly weaves them in. The color purple, the hot sweltering weather, the cold fury of Maine and the looming sickening beauty of the moon in Boo’ya Moon builds an alluring darkness in the background. There are things which are always looming around the pages, the Afghan (Scott calling it the African) which Lisey’s mother had woven as a wedding present, or the silver spade which literally and symbolically digs Lisey and Scott out of the clutches of death.

The book could have been shorter. Definitely shorter. There were times in the last quarter where I felt that the story should end here. Too much explanation or resolution just makes the story forgettable and Lisey’s story falls victim to that. When a good book ends, I like to think about it, to slowly go back in my head and digest things and to make connections which I missed whilst reading. SK you should’ve known that less is more.

Nevertheless, the novel is filled with poetic passages which redeems all the bad-gunkiness. Some of the lines are heart achingly beautiful.

“Sometimes she’d go a whole day without thinking of him or missing him. Why not? She had quite a full life, and really, he’d often been hard to deal with and hard to live with. A project, the Yankee oldtimers like her very own Dad might have said. And then sometimes a day would come, a gray one (or a sunny one) when she missed him so fiercely she felt empty, not a woman at all anymore but just a dead tree filled with cold November blow. She felt like that now, felt like hollering his name and hollering him home, and her heart turned sick with the thought of the years ahead and she wondered what good love was if it came to this, to even ten seconds of feeling like this.” 

or

“Because who would ever want to get close to another person if they knew how hard the letting-go part was? In your heart they only die a little at a time, don’t they? Like a plant when you go away on a trip and forget to ask a neighbor to poke in once in awhile with the old watering-can, and its so sad—” 

SK’s prose expresses some stark truths, some questions, some answers and yet some more questions. What the reader takes away is that a beautiful relationship is not without its own trials, that a love that lives for decades changes its forms and may be lost and found, that a love could transcend the span of a lifetime and beyond.

If I were to describe Lisey’s Story by using a passage from itself_

“And the purple parted before it, snapping back like skin after a slash, and what it let out wasn’t blood but light: amazing orange light that filled her heart and mind with a terrible mixture of joy, terror, and sorrow. No wonder she had repressed this memory all these years. It was too much. Far too much. The light seemed to give the fading air of evening a silken texture, and the cry of a bird struck her ear like a pebble made of glass. A cap of breeze filled her nostrils with a hundred exotic perfumes: frangipani, bougainvillea, dusty roses, and oh dear God, night-blooming cereus… And rising above one horizon came the orange mansion of the moon, bloated and burning cold, while the sun sank below the other, boiling in a crimson house of fire. She thought that mixture of furious light would kill her with its beauty.” 

My Verdict: In years to come, this novel will stand the test of time.

Amazon- Lisey’s Story

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