bookspluslife

January 29, 2014

Book: 1st To Die by James Patterson

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:23 pm

imageJames Patterson has written a number of books that are in a series, like most others. This is one of them. Like Sue Grafton, who used letters of the alphabet to find titles, this particular series has numbers. ‘1 st to Die’ is the first book (duh!) in the series and the detective team is introduced and formed in this book and they go on to the books titles with other numerals later.

Very typical detective work. Lindsay Boxer is the superhero(ine) detective in this book but the book starts with her contemplating suicide. She wants to die when she has learnt from the doctor that she has a life threatening disease, with low blood cells.

The story shifts to the crime that starts  it all – David and Melanie Brandt are a newlywed couple, who have reached their hotel rooms right after the wedding, and a waiter brings a complimentary champagne bottle when Melanie has just gone into the bedroom to change out of her bridal dress. David opens the door and the waiter turns out to be a murderer in disguise, called Phillip Campbell. He kills them both and exits, and comes back with the crowd that forms to exult in his thoroughness and how neatly he got away with murder. A typical murderer who thinks he can outwit the police forever – a staple of so many thrillers.

Cindy Thomas is an aspiring reporter. She is new to her newspaper office, and is usually assigned society pages – the lowliest work in any organization, because it is the easiest and is usually assigned to rookies as a safe training ground. But the crime reporter is away and the hotel crime is big news, so Cindy gets to go temporarily. When she is denied entry into the hotel by the police, as they do with all other reporters, she shows remarkable ingenuity in getting in and getting an exclusive scoop.

The fly in the ointment is, of course, the organization. From the head office, they send Charles Raleigh, who is a highflying big shot. When this story threatens to become huge for the newspaper, he comes in to offer to “work with her” in a “partnership”. She suspects he is in to corner all the glory for himself.

Claire Washburn, chief medical examiner and buddy of Lindsay is another woman of extraordinary talent.

Claire, Cindy and Lindsay form the Women’s Murder Club, the theme of the whole series

While they are investigating the huge murder case, more bodies start to fall and they realize they have a serial killer in their midst.

Newlyweds Becky and Michael de George were lured into a limo by the killer and shot while making love. The investigations by Claire turn up the clue that the killer has a red beard

Kathy and James Voskuhl are next.  The Murder Club realizes that he is targeting newlyweds.

They pin the murder on Nicholas Jenks, the author. In the first murder, there are several items that link him to the murders. The champagne served in the first hotel was from a case he owned; he was in Saks the wedding shop where the bridal suits were tried by the second couple and also knew the third victim. Of course, in stories, you immediately say that ‘with this many arrows pointing to him openly, he cannot be the murderer!’

Lindsay in the meanwhile has constant sex with Chris, who she is in love with, despite her gloominess regarding cancer. Then it turns out that he is framed. They suspect his first (divorced) wife Joanna who is fit as a fiddle but she ends up murdered. She almost gets Nicholas. But Chris gets shot in the bargain and dies.

A terrible twist at the end when Jenks comes to visit Lindsay may surprise you. But I will not give it away.

I think this is a reasonable mystery yarn, if you like James Patterson style of writing. But nothing truly extraordinary. Entertaining? Surely, yes.

 

Let us say 6/10

 

— Krishna

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January 23, 2014

Book: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:06 pm

imageThis is a children’s classic. I am confused about the children it aims for. Sometimes it seems to address really small children like the books that say ‘See Jane. See Jane Run’ or ‘Mickey goes for a walk. He sees a plant. There is a bug on a leaf’.

It is very popular and is highly thought of, so I guess I may be one of the few who doesn’t “get it”. To me, it sounded like a lot of rambling discourses about very many things. I was given to understand that this is about seeing how weird adult behavior can be, when viewed from the eyes of an innocent, pure, child. To me, it did nothing of that sort. No revelations to me.

A very short book, a quarter of which is filled with pictures, so it is an easy read.

What is the story about?

It is about the narrator, who is a man who knows children are pure and adults, who get adulterated with life’s experiences cannot see the simple truth as children do.

He crash lands in a desert and thinks that he is done for, as there is no one to help him. He meets the Little Prince, where the latter tells him of the smallest planet where he lives. In the Little Prince’s home planet, he can see sunset as many times as one wishes by moving the chair just a little bit (since the planet itself is tiny). He asks for a drawing and our narrator draws one of a sheep.

It seems to give great pleasure to the prince. In a disjointed manner, the Prince describes the grave danger to his home planet, which is  threatened by a fast growing weed-tree thing called Baobobs. Solution? The people in the planet weed the plant out constantly. If they relax or forget, the planet is gone.

Such things, pleasant but silly, meant for kids

If you have read this much in the book, you know what to expect next. The Prince goes about meeting a whole series of people, a businessman, a man who has to light a lamp and snuff it since the day and night lasts a few minutes at most, a fox who wanted to be tamed .. oh God, let the misery end!

Then the little prince makes a pact with a snake “to go back to his world by dying”.

Didn’t get the logic of that either.

Sorry, I did not get what people are raving about. I would give it a 2/10

 

— Krishna

January 17, 2014

Book: Night Frost by R D Wingfield

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:23 pm

imageThere is a genre of stories that shows a detective who bumbles all the time but stumbles on the truth, a kind of Don Quixote of the detective world who is successful despite his total bumbling. The famous Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther series is perhaps the most famous example. This book is reminiscent in some ways of that but not quite in the same category.

Here the chief character is Inspector Frost. He may be really skilled, one is never quite sure because he keeps dashing off on hunches and makes big bets on insufficient evidence. So, one is never sure if he is skilled or lucky. But he has his annoying quirks. He shirks work – so completely that he does not even want to get basic administrative work done. He is very slovenly and disheveled and also always makes raunchy and grossly inappropriate comments about everyone – colleagues, people involved in crime and even dead people that annoys everyone around him.

Frost is a centre of a whole series of books, this being just one of them.

In this book, into this world steps Frank Gilmore, who is a new detective promoted and transferred to Denton. He could not be more different even if he planned it meticulously and finds it appalling to work with Frost.

But the story has nice twists, reminding one of Jeffrey Deaver’s thrillers in some way.

There are multiple threads running through the story. For instance we find that letters are sent to people threatening to expose their secrets and totally  discredit them. We find  tombstones defaced. What could have been vandalism or pranks turns serious when girls start getting killed and burnt and raped.

Frank Gilmore’s Lisa is initially happy too. But he works under the slob of a detective Jack Frost, who thinks his boss Mr Mullet is an idiot and is his usual self, making lewd jokes that Frank finds totally distasteful and is generally sloppy in both appearance and work.  And he seems to keep no timings, dragging Frank along in all sorts of hours, making Lisa more and more unhappy with Frank.

On top of it, Frost seems to get easily distracted from the main priority, spending time in catching a porno shop owner on the fly.

Meanwhile the murders continue. One old lady was stabbed brutally and killed when intruder was surprised.

Frost bumbles along, foul mouthing, wisecracking, inefficient, until he notices something interesting : In the case of a paper delivery girl who was raped and killed. One of the papers that she was supposed not to have delivered has a tear in the folds consistent with delivery and return to the bag

He also correctly deduces who  the poison pen letter writer is, finding the typewriter hidden by a neighbour in a vain attempt to protect the culprit.

He catches the burgler who accidentally killed an old woman but then the other murders have not been committed by him and continue even after he is held. Everytime, of course, his superior Mullet thinks he has caught the mass murderer, and is upset when Frost points out that this is not the case.

How he finds wife involved in husband’s murder is very nice, when the mistress was being accused. You realize that Frost acts idiotic and seems to easily be charmed by every girl he meets but in reality, he does not let his sex instincts and fondness of the risqué quotes interfere with his sense of what is right and wrong.

Again, brilliant work in getting the mayor of the city to own up to the racket (child porn) he was conducting behind the scenes. He goes on to proceed on hunches, employs unorthodox and risky moves but they seem to pay off, and he catches the killer in the girls murder.

Towards the end an interesting, action packed finish.

As you can see, it is an interesting and entertaining read but this is in no way a thinking man’s book. The story is not woven tight with everything explained or clues followed. It is rather like James Bond movies. Better keep your brains in the locker when you read this.

In summary, a detective who does not want to read any reports (about the very crimes he is trying to solve) and jumps far out based on his hunches, in real life,  would be a disaster, and in a comedy he will be like Inspector Clouseau, as I mentioned .

This one? A talented detective in a serious thriller. Go figure.

Let us say 6/10

Movie: Red Lights (2012)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:32 am

imageThis movie sets up high expectations. Consider the facts : It is billed as a psychological thriller (you expect something along the lines of Fracture or Side Effects; It has a big star cast – you have Robert De Nero, Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver in it.  And I had heard that there is a twist ending. (Again you expect something like Frailty, not  to mention The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects)  But does it live up to it?

Dr Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) has made it her life’s ambition to debunk the so called paranormal phenomena, especially faith healers. He is ably helped by the equally dedicated but younger Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy). The first few scenes of the movie show how they debunk faith healers – they employ  high tech gadgetry to detect fraudulent techniques employed. A faith healer seems to call forth names from audiences seemingly at random and knows intimate details about them that amaze the entire audience, until the  duo find out that he has a tiny speaker in his ear and there is a whole backroom operation feeding him information based on what they have found out – and expose him. Nice stuff. All interesting and intelligent.

Enter Simon Silver in the picture. One of the greatest psychics with multiple talents for reading minds, he was the best known and retired several years ago amid allegations that one of his subjects died after his ‘treatment’.  It is even more amazing since he has this power almost as if in compensation for being fully blind.

When he announces a comeback, Tom is raring to take a crack at him – here is an opportunity of a lifetime to debunk a legend like Simon. But curiously, Dr Matheson is reluctant. It turns out that a critic of his died when he tried to debunk and even Dr Matheson was unsuccessful in the past. She warns Tom that he is too big and dangerous to bring down and asks him to leave Simon well alone. Tom  decides to pursue it on his own and with the help of a colleague and his girlfriend Sally Owen (played by Elizabeth Olsen) he decides to pursue it.

Strange things start happening to him, noises, things flying out, his room ransacked when no one could have absolutely entered his room – and he is undeterred. When Simon agrees to a scientific experiment where he is wired up by scientists and performs a miracle of guessing what another person in a far away room has chosen from a set of switches (numbered) correctly, he knows there has to be  a twist and obsessively watches the footage until he figures out how he does it.

Therein lies the first twist of the movie. Then, he goes out to a meeting of Simon to expose him and therein lies the second twist of the movie, that, in a style similar to the movies mentioned above, makes you look at the whole movie in a different light.

Not as good as some of the movies mentioned above but still, not bad at all. The movie is enjoyable, despite moments of puzzlement and somewhat disjointed narration at a couple of places.

What jars is seeing Cillian Murphy paired with Elizabeth Olsen. She looks so young that it looks like he is interested in underage girls and that feels weird at first.

While on the subject of Elizabeth, this role gives very little scope to the talented actress who showed off what she is capable of doing in movies like The Silent House.

Credible performances from everyone, good narration, good presentation with a couple of exceptions. I would say it deserves a 7/10

— Krishna

January 6, 2014

Book: Redwall by Brian Jacques

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:10 pm

image

This is also the start of a series, all about Redwall, a monastery populated by mice, weasel and other animals which are anthropomorphic, in the best traditions of Watership Down and Winnie the Pooh

Mathias Mouse is in the Abbey belonging to Abbot Mortimer.  He is a young mouse, yet special in his inherent lovability and chivalrousness.

Cluny the terror is coming to these parts. He is a terrible large mouse and wreaks destruction everywhere he goes.

Mathias is courageous and defends Redwall against Cluny and his hoards. Populated by Cornflower, the love interest, and other characters like a big Hare, and a Vole Family, it reads like a children’s book that it is.

Constance the badger is a fearsome defender of the RedWall.

All of Cluny’s inventiveness is no match for the intrepid defenders of the Redwall. It does not help that a prophecy has predicted that a successor to Martin the Warrior, the greatest warrior mouse of the old times will come to defend the wall and Cluny knows it. No prizes for guessing who that might be.

To demoralize the defenders, Martin’s picture, considered a talisman by all in the abbey, is stolen by Cluny.  Sela the sly fox and Cluny’s incompetent and feuding deputies complete the picture of characters in the book.

Cluny gets injured and Mathias goes in search of the sword of Martin. Sela the fox tries to be a traitor to Cluny, but he is too wily for her and she is killed for her pains.

Cluny tricks the abbey into thinking the next attack will come from a different quarter while planning a tunnel attack. This would have foiled even the cleverest defenders. Not for nothing is Cluny called the Terrible!

In the meanwhile, Warbeak, a sparrow, is held captive and Mathias takes the bird up to the top of the tower to retrieve Martin’s sword, only to fall into the clutches of mad King Sparra. He learns that his quest was futile. The sword is in the hands of the mesmerizing and evil Python Asmodeus. To add insult to injury, King Sparra confiscates the sword sheath from Mathias and imprisons him. Mathias is saved by Warbeak and her mother. Warbeak’s mother creates a diversion for the king. Mathias takes back the belt and the sheath (from King Sparra’s room) He tries to escape but is attacked by a returning King Sparra. Both he and the King fall into the pond. King Sparra is killed but Mathias miraculously escapes.

Mathias sets off in search of the Snow Owl which will tell him about Asmodeus. The rabbit ensures that he is safe by giving him a medallion ID that will make the owl realize that he is the friend of the rabbit who saved the owl’s life all that time ago. Mathias meets and befriends a shrew band on the way.

Goes in search of Asmodeus, the Poisonteeth who has the sword. Finds his lair with the shrew band in tow.

Cornflower saves the day by discovering a ladder and burning it. First she pours hot soup in the eyes of the rat who was on top.

By treachery of a mole who was trying to save his family, Cluny gains entrance to the Redwall Abby but all ends well, as is the custom in these stories.

Gingeviere cat, Snow Owl etc are other characters who populate the story and are befriended by the charm of Mathias.

Good story for kids. So it deserves a 6/10

n  Krishna

Movie: Frozen (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:49 pm

imageThis movie is fun. A musical like the old Disney musicals reminding one of The Jungle Book or The Little Mermaid in style but fully animated 3D fare, corresponding to today’s technology and tastes. The result is a very enjoyable romp and it works beautifully. Disney has taken to introducing twists in its movies – witness The Princess and the Frog, where the Princess-to-be is of African ancestry (since the story does not take place in America, I cannot call her an African-American, now, can I?) and when she kisses the frog, expecting it to turn into a prince, the unexpected happens. In addition, that one  is an old fashioned cartoon in the world of 3D animations. But enough about that movie!

Similarly, there is a deadly twist in this movie, and if you have not read reviews with spoilers, you will find it unexpected and refreshing.

The story revolves around a King and a Queen of the Kingdom of Arendelle. They dote on both daughters as do the daughters on each other, but find that the elder, Elsa, has a power to freeze anything (create ice). The royal couple fears that this power will cause panic in the kingdom and keep the elder daughter isolated and behind closed doors, separating her even from Anna, who is puzzled as to why her sister is pushing her away.

The doctor (a troll) advises to keep it a secret and warns that Elsa should control the power and keep it hidden.

When the parents are lost at sea, Elsa, as the elder one, has to rule as the new Queen and all hell breaks loose, as any emotional outburst causes Elsa to create snow and ice. The populace finds out and Elsa runs for her life, creating a Winter World far away up in the mountains, where no one can reach her. Finally, she is free to live as she likes.

Meanwhile, Anna vows to find her. She falls in love with the handsome prince Hans, who is everything that Anna wanted in a man. Elsa, prior to her disappearance, has forbidden Anna to marry Hans for no apparent reason.

Anna goes after Elsa to rescue her and bring her back, taking the help of a lumberjack Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. (All names are Norwegian?). She meets with resistance and almost dies, with only an act of true love that can save her. It is not a kiss from Hans as you think. There is a double twist in the story.

Well, the characters are amazing, Olaf the Snowman who dreams of life in the sunny tropics (“Somebody should tell him”, says Kristoff). Lovely animations of frozen empire especially where Elsa runs over water and creates steps to climb up to the mountains, trees with frozen raindrops reminiscent of the ice storms in Toronto (ironically, this movie was running at the same time), very nice characters with Anna being the goofy, exuberant girl, Olaf the clown, Kristoff the man unsure of himself, Sven who always tries to eat Olaf’s nose (a carrot, of course) and Olaf always mistaking it for affection, the sleazy Duke of Westleton (“Weasel Town”) and his minions… Just lovely. Just when you think that Kristoff is totally bonkers for pointing out a field of boulders as his friends and family,  you are shown what they really are. Nice.

The songs are excellent, especially ‘Let it Go’ by Elsa and ‘In Summer’. Lovely picturization and excellent narration and direction make this a very enjoyable experience. Loved every moment of it.

I would say it gets easily a 8/10

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