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October 1, 2018

Book: The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:01 pm

imageOne of the better books from the master of suspense of yesteryears, Sidney Sheldon. Ranks up there with Rage of Angels  and The Master of the Game

 

Armand Gautier the famous director, Dr Israel Katz the famous neurosurgeon all go to see the trial of Noelle Page. Also Philippe Sorel an actor, Auguste Launchon a weasel of a man and William Fraser hating her guts.

 

The story shifts focus to the other lady in the story, Catherine Alexander, wanting to be a model from a young age, and wondering if she is beautiful enough. She is considered cold or a lesbian because she does not encourage men and she did not even realize it. She has her eyes on the football star in her college and he does not even seem to know that she exists.

 

Noelle Page was the daughter of the owner of a fishing company in M         arseilles. Her parents were ordinary looking, ugly even, but she was an exquisite beauty – blond to boot. Daddy wants to set her up with a rich man as a mistress and is thrilled when he hears that she wants to be a model. He sets her up with Auguste Launchon , who owns a shop in Marseilles – as a shop assistant. Once she understands that she is to be a whore for him, she runs away to Paris, with money given by him to find an apartment in Marseilles and set herself up, ready for him whenever he needed her.

 

She meets Larry Douglas an American soldier fighting for Britain in World War II and falls in love with him heavily. She is led up the garden path until he suddenly disappears. Interesting how in all Sydney Sheldon novels the girls fall for a great man and are totally disappointed. (Remember the Rage of the Angels?). She falls sick and is taken to the hospital where she meets Dr Israel Katz.  She discovers she is pregnant and waits until the last moment and kills the child with great pleasure through a quack and nearly gets killed in the process.

 

She then climbs the ladder through series of liaisons, first to Pierre, a talented but not handsome actor and then moves on to a famous director , Armand Gautier, sleeping her way to the top. Since she is in Paris, and the story unfolds in the forties, there is the Nazi occupation in the backdrop. She meets ‘the cockroach’ who is Israel Katz. After saving him and getting into trouble with the German commandant who admires her, she still decides to evade her followers and help him.

 

Catherine in the meanwhile has fallen for Bill Fraser, her employer in Washington DC but finds the sex disappointing. She meets Bill’s parents but finds herself not fully engaged. She meets the selfsame Larry and marries him!

 

Exhilarating scenes where Noelle uses the German general to smuggle Israel Katz right under the noses of the Nazis.

 

The Larry who comes back to Katherine after WW II is not the same man she married – temperamentally. Not interested in work, fighting all the time, a savage thrust whenever he wants to make love, Katherine is confused. Fraser stays a true friend through all this.

 

Larry goes into a jealous rage whenever Fraser is mentioned and loses his job due to an anger issue. He loses many jobs mysteriously but goes to Greece to work for Demetris. Noelle is the puppet master in all this. She keeps insulting him. He has completely forgotten her and she wonders why.

 

When she pushes him too far, he violently beds her and she falls in love all over again with him and hides her affair from the mighty Demetris. When Larry asks for divorce, Katherine says ‘never’ and so Larry and Noelle plot to kill her. Larry is now remorseful and wants to take her to an island for a “vacation”. After several attempts, Catherine tries to escape him and Noelle by boat and drowns. The police arrest both and Demetris hires the best lawyer in town to save Noelle if she promises to get back to him and she does. The trial is fantastic and the final twist is breathtaking.

 

Another of Sheldon’s great books!

 

This is one of the top 3 early books from Sidney Sheldon as we said in the beginning  and I think it deserves a 8/10

– – Krishna

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Movie: Searching (2018)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:44 pm

imageWhat an interesting movie! There are multiple things to tell you about this movie before we even get into the story. First, the hero : There seems to be a trend of all sitcom and comedy movie stars to move to serious roles.

First it was Bryan Cranston who made the switch memorably in Breaking Bad. Yes, before that Jim Carey tried to do the same switch with miserable results – maybe he was ahead of his time? No, because, in British Television, Patricia Routledge made the switch from the hilarious Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances to the equally appreciated serious detective role in Hetty Wainthrop Investigates. Not to mention  Ed O’Neill who successfully made the move to Law & Order, and later, to the West Wing. And yes, Bryan himself he made the transformation  through a small role in X files that showcased his serious side. Then recently, we mentioned John Krasinski making the move in a prominent fashion in A Quiet Place.

Now John Cho has made a similar transformation from the comedy film series of Harold and Kumar.  He too made the change via the role of Sulu in Star Trek but still the performance in this is impressive.

 

The second surprise is that this movie takes place completely on either a laptop, or a tablet or a cell phone. There is not a single scene that is shown outside of the frame. Which is a phenomenal feature. And everything is shown in detail. You know how they use all the social media, including how they recover a lost password, how to send money through Venmo etc. Nice. Except that the computers and other gadgets perform flawlessly and instantly, unlike mine which often buffers and behaves unpredictably.

Also in this movie is Debra Messing, of the Will and Grace fame. But the story is all about John Cho’s character, David Kim. He finds his daughter has gone missing and when he digs deep he finds that he did not know his daughter. A sympathetic investigator who comes to help him suggests that youngsters sometimes run away and he is devastated, saying ‘I don’t know my daughter’. Ever since his wife died of lymphoma, his daughter has withdrawn into a shell and he is surprised to find that she had no friends and struggled to fit in.

 

The anguish of the father comes through very well and there are touching and kind of funny moments where her friends shun her until she becomes a news item when they turn to be ‘her best friends’. There are also lots of twists and turns and how he slowly unravels the mystery is phenomenal. It is also real where he initially writes a flame email to his daughter when he ‘learns’ that she had gone camping without telling him and then reconsiders and rewrites it.

The fact that he never gives up and also the fact about his week smoking brother all come together in a nice way.

What happened to his daughter? It is an amazing twist and I do not want to reveal it. How he recognizes small clues about his brothers shirt, about the detective herself and how he gets to the bottom of it all are fantastic.

 

I know I am not saying much but the story is interesting and very well presented in a fashion that keeps the tension alive all the way through.

Worth seeing, for sure.

 

8/10

–  –  Krishna

September 9, 2018

Book: 11/23/63 by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:50 pm

imageMy God, is there no end to the varied stories Stephen King can write and make interesting? ­­We have reviewed many of the author’s books here. See Under The Dome and Revival for but just two examples. This one is about time travel and is fascinating to read.

 

The narrator Jake Epping, a teacher, does not feel emotion enough to cry for anything and his wife Christy leaves him citing that reason. He reads a heartrending assignment from an ESL student called Hoptoad Harry or Harry Dunnings really, who limps (hence the nickname) and was a victim of a mass violence in his young age. He meets Harry’s graduation.

 

There is subtle humour, as in some of his best books, like the bar owner Al Templeton considering himself a good “Catlick” When Al Templeton uncharacteristically calls him to come and see him immediately, Jake does not know what he is getting into. Al is thinner and older than he should be, given that Jake had just seen him the previous day.

 

He goes into a corner room that seems to be too small for him to stand straight but when he goes in, he feels steps that are not there. After several disorienting moments, he climbs down the stairs, and finds himself in the past. He is outside in sunshine and the whole world has changed.

 

He goes and comes back dazed and finds that every time he goes, he goes to the same time, and no one else out there has any memory of him and the same events happen again and again like Groundhog Day (the movie) and that the only way he can change the dialog is if he asks something else the next time.

 

Al says that you can go and change things, and given the time he goes in, the best is to attempt to thwart the assassination of JFK.  Al talks about meeting Oswald close up where he tormented his absolutely gorgeous wife and was generally a bully.

 

He explains how he saved a girl from an existence in wheelchair by averting the shooting accident and also it is interesting to see how, every time you go down the portal, it is a total reset.

 

Jake wants to try to save Hoptoad Harry from the accident that befell his family as an experiment before he agrees to go change history. He goes down the portal with fake ID and cards and cash.

 

The description of the difference between 2005 America and 1958 America are really interesting. The storytelling power of Stephen King, which never ceases to amaze me, really shows here.

 

He goes and tracks the father Dunning, whom he finds with difficulty, befriending two youngsters dancing. He goes to the supermarket and finds that Frank is a charming man and a butcher. He follows him to his rented apartment.

 

When he tries to plan his attack on Frank and bivouacs outside the Dunning house on Halloween, he is surprised by Duffy who, it turns out, had his sister married to Frank and suspects him of having murdered her and covered it up. He manages to outwit him and due to this, is late to the rescue and sees the wife’s hand crushed and one of the kids dead. He manages to save the others but gets scalped in the process and rescued by Duffy.

 

He returns and checks the altered history. No Hoptoad Harry in the school as a janitor anymore. But when he reaches her sister after a long search, he learns that Harry was killed in Vietnam after enlisting in the army. Back he goes again, and this time takes care of Dunning by shooting him before he even gets a chance to go to his family to kill. Then he goes to save a crippled girl from accidental shooting.

 

He does it by having the husband teach him a card game. And then he goes to Dallas. Here, for a bit, the story sags. He gets involved in a school play and brings out the best in kids.

 

He falls in love with Sadie, a new teacher who is still finalizing her divorce with a bad man. When the man disfigures Sadie and is killed by him, he misses seeing Lee take a potshot at General Walker and miss. He then tells partially the truth to Sadie and takes her to a boxing match to prove his predictions. The story sags with details of who did what before Kennedy assassination but if you are bored, plough through it. It is only a small but and even there you have interesting bits like the the parallel story of Sadie, and the relationship between her and Jake. It gets better and better and towards the end, it is truly gripping.

 

His betting habits catch up with him when he is caught at his home alone by thugs hired by the betting Mafia. He loses his memory and as Kennedy visit nears, the tension ratchets up with his struggle to even remember what he had to do. Nice. His car breaks down and he narrowly avoids getting killed. Then a big accident in a bus and he survives.

 

They hijack an old car and proceed. He just manages to thwart Oswald but in the melee Sadie gets hit and dies. He goes back to reset everything when he meets the ‘green card man’.  That explanation is just amazing. That part makes up partly for all the saggy bits of the story. In fact you realize that the story is not about Kennedy at all.

 

From there the entire story and his struggle to do the ‘right thing’ and the sacrifice he has to make for it, and the ending are all top class. Just for the saggy bits, I am going to reduce the rating to a 7/10

 

  – – Krishna

September 2, 2018

Book: Santorini by Alistair MacLean

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:14 pm

imageAlistair MacLean writes well, has a penchant for aristocratic language which nevertheless did not seem odd even in the eighties when he was at his peak. In addition, the twists and turns keep coming and keep you turning the pages. Normally.

 

He himself is an interesting person. He is the son of a Scottish minister. English was learnt as a second language (after Gaelic, his mother tongue). He worked as a teacher in England. He also, suddenly, decided to stop writing and run a hotel business in England. Three years later, he returned to his writing.

 

Alistair can also be unpredictable. Some of his books are excellent – The Guns of Navarone or Force 10 from Navarone , for example, or Where Eagles Dare and some can be downright boring and I am not even talking about his last novels like The Way To Dusty Death which was a disaster. Even things like Ice Station Zebra seemed to drone on and on.  Where does this book stand? Let us see.

 

First, I will keep an open mind and will not judge it by when it was written. (This was the last book published by him).

 

The story starts interestingly enough.

 

A ship is in flames and sinking and a plane, which could be a military plane (Did it attack the ship?) or civilian, also is sinking. A British naval ship goes to investigate with O’Rourke, aristocratic Lieutenant McCafferty (who is an electronics genius), Van Gelden and the boss Talbot. They realize that the downed plane was a US plane on a secret mission.

 

The cat and mouse game begins with the survivors in the submarine and a mysterious death of chef and engineer in the engine room.

 

Experts come in a hurry from Washington and we learn that the plane that drowned was American, carrying nuclear weapons (including a Hydrogen bomb inside). I will give this much to Alistair. He knows his facts. He makes a character correctly mention that the hydrogen weapon’s fusion is started off by the fission of a normal atom bomb within it.

 

Lots of blather about how seismic activity can trigger a mega explosion. Then comes suspicions about the oh so clean skipper of the vessel, which is interesting. But too much conversation about technical mechanical things that get boring after a while, despite his characteristic light veined, aristocratic humour running through it.

 

The President of USA promises to help. Lots of fresh blather about how brave and knowledgeable and reliable everyone is and how mysterious Andropoulos is. It is funny how when Van Gelder is asked to use his charms to learn secrets from the pretty woman on board, he behaves. Unbelievably corny and unnatural in the context of the modern world.

 

They all learn the Andropoulos is perhaps involved in arms smuggling as well as drug smuggling.

 

I tried to keep an open mind but all those excruciating details about pulling up a plane by a pulley and careful measurements and markings and moves etc.. No, this is not a great story to read

 

The ending is full of twists, vintage Alistair McLean. However, it is too much of a travel to reach there. Thank God it is a small book.

3/ 10

–  – Krishna

 

August 26, 2018

Book: The Mistress of The Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:32 pm

imageInitially, I thought it was a disjointed, rambling, book. If you do too, have patience. It all comes together beautifully shortly and you will be rewarded with a great story for your perseverance.

 

It also turns out that this is the start of a series by the same name.

 

What it does well is mingle modern forensic concepts with a historical tale and does it very well.

 

Prior Gregory in a procession. He and the prioress do not see eye to eye. This is England in the Eighteenth century.

Scene change.

 

Henry II is livid with the collections from his realm not being enough. In the meanwhile infants are being murdered in his palace by someone.  Henry II asks the Jewish administrator Aaron to find out who is killing the babies in the palace – failure to do so would result in expulsion of all Jews from England (which is one of the only safe havens for them in the world).

Scene change.

Gordinus, the African medicine man is met by Moredecai, the principal secretary of the King of Spain. Moredecai is furious when he learns that the worst possible escort is sent with Simon Menham of Naples when he was sent to England.

Scene Change. Prior Gregory is dying. Adelia, a medicine woman, is nearby. She decided to save the prior even if failure would mean their deaths with the antagonistic disciples.

 

It is enough to make your head spin. Finally, when Adelia tries unconventional remedy for prior who cannot pee and is in agony, the story really takes off. A bit.

 

They have come to investigate the child murders. She is an expert in biopsy to figure out how they died. When Sir Rowley turns nosey, she keeps him there helping her! Finally they realize that the killer must have seen them and then moved the bodies from where he had buried them, which is the limestone covered hill that they trekked through.

 

The additional background of a woman doctor masquerading as an assistant to a “doctor” who is really her assistant, due to the chauvinistic nature of England, the primitive beliefs of the local people which causes frustration to Adelia, her passion for medicine – all add considerable colour to an already interesting story.

 

She learns that the first boy was left on Chaim’s lawn – and they decided to get rid of it in the sewers out of fear that the Jews will be blamed – and got hanged for his pains. Question is : Why his house, which was well lit and was in the midst of a party, while several Jewish houses were in darkness and also more accessible?

 

She goes to a party decked up and resplendent. When she learns that Simon has been killed, the whole thing strikes close to home. She realizes that he has been murdered by being pushed underwater and held there until he drowned.

 

Rowley Picot reveals that he is also after the same killer, who had killed in Arab lands and was called Rakshasa as a nickname. Rowley is almost killed defending Simon’s grave from the zealous Christians and wins the love of Adelia. The story of Picot, how he left two hostages and found one on the tree and the other used in despicable ways by Rakshasa are fantastic. How he traces him to Cambridgeshire (the mynah’s accent!) is fabulous. Great book. Absorbing.

 

When Ulf goes missing, Adelia crumbles. Picot is injured in a melee and is saved by the dedication of Adelia and he realizes that he loves her.

 

Fabulous descriptions, amazing twist near the end when Adelia discovers the den of the Rakshasa where her beloved Ulf has been kidnapped and kept only to be knocked unconscious and wakes up chained to the wall. What follows is an encounter with a masked Rakshasa that is very creepy. She barely escaped and uncovers another treachery.

 

Even after Rakshasa was unmasked and killed, her battle to prove the guilt of the accomplice continues. When all else seems lost, Henry of Plantaganet makes a dramatic appearance. She refuses the hand of Rowley, the only man she loved, to continue tending to the sick but Gyltha solves that problem for Rowley by an ingenious piece of advice.

 

Very well written a fine yarn that includes strands of love, mystery all served up in a medieval background. Superb.

 

9/10

 

– – Krishna

July 8, 2018

Book: Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:02 pm

imageThis is my first book of the author. I did go in knowing that he writes thrillers, and it is likely to be a pure entertainer at its best and all fluff. So, at the end, I was happy and got what I wanted. This is not for the thinking man or for those who are after education with entertainment. But entertain it does, and well. Let us look at the plot.

Luther Whiteley is a high end crook who burgles rich people’s houses. He is getting ready for another job.  But just as he reaches into the house there are unexpected visitors and he is forced to hide inside the safe he had opened. The force being an one way mirror, he realizes that the lady of the house has brought a stranger who is violent to her and when she tries to attack him, the stranger’s aids come in and kill her.  The stranger turns out to be the President of USA.

 

In the meanwhile, Jack Graham dated Kate Whitney but is now with the beautiful and brainy heiress Jennifer. He is a lawyer and Kate walked out as he defended criminals and adding insult to injury, he liked her estranged father.

 

As Luther watches from the hiding place, they try to cover up the murder. But not before the secretary has sex with a President out like a light in a drunken stupor, right with the lady’s corpse lying nearby.  Hearing a regular patrol car, they clear out but not before Russell, the lady assistant, pockets the knife with the President’s fingerprints all over it.

 

But Luther gathers it and runs away with them in hot pursuit. Lovely stuff, this.

 

Jack, a lawyer, is preparing to go to a Presidential dinner. He shakes hand with the President and hates every moment of being with his fiancee who is all about power and money. He contrives to ‘bump’ into Rebecca again. In the meanwhile, the fleeing Luther is enraged that he let the President get away with murder, literally.

 

Seth Frank is assigned as a detective when a routine security patrol notices the dangling rope from the window, calls the police and they discover the body of the woman.  Seth is puzzled by many things : the alarm disabled but still the rope dangling down the window, the fact that there were two attackers, the fact that she was kneeling or lying down when she was shot, the fact that the second bullet was carefully removed, the fact that the place was professionally cleaned.

 

The grieving husband hires a professional assassin cum investigator McCarthy to find and kill the person who killed his wife.

 

While Seth tries hard to piece the evidence, seeing the President hug Walter Sullivan and ‘promising’ to get the killer who killed his wife, an enraged Luther returns. Meanwhile, the assistant lures one of the guards – Collins –  with sex but he blurts out the whole truth to the senior aide, Burton.

 

Burton befriends Seth and when he gets a fingerprint by the superb forensic expert from the police, identifies Luther. He stakes out the house and sees the daughter Kate visit the house.

 

He persuades Kate to lure his father to a rendezvous to be handed over to the police and she agrees. The plan by Burton is to ‘accidentally’ kill him so that the President is never implicated, which Frank does not suspect, nor does Kate.  When the husband hires a professional killer, the plan fails and Luther is arrested. Jack learns of Kate’s treachery from Kate herself.

 

Luther clams up and Seth, disturbed by what he finds in Luther, decides to confide in Jack who is representing Luther against the will of both his law firm and his fiancee Jennifer.  Jack is unsuccessful in getting Luther to open up and he realizes that Luther fears for Kate’s safety if he opens up.

 

With reason, it would seem. Right in plain sight of the police and agents, Luther is killed from afar by two bullets to his head. Jack is astounded – he was escorting Luther to the courthouse.

 

Walter Sullivan tries to call the President from his hideout to tell him that he knows about the President and his wife but is killed by Burton who had followed him over. Seth creates trouble for the President by refusing to let go of the case.

 

Jack realizes that he needs to break up with Jennifer and does. ‘There goes his career in flames’.

When Jack finds that a package has been deposited in his office, he goes in the middle of the night and gets it, Walter Sullivan is there with a mistress. He narrowly escapes the assassins, who kill Sullivan and the girl, destroying the career of the high and mighty lawyer in his office.

 

When Jack is framed for this, he goes to a private place to give the letter opener to Seth and he then is again confronted by the assassins. He escapes again but loses the evidence.

 

How he outwits the agents and the President is the rest of the story. Beautifully told. This story is like James Bond or Jason Bourne. You just do not question it but take it as it comes. Then you are sure to enjoy the ride.

 

I enjoyed reading this, even if this is pure fluff. I would say a 7/10

–  –  Krishna

June 10, 2018

Book: Rage Of Angels by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:13 am

imageEqually famous as Master of the Game, this book ranks very high on Sydney Sheldon’s books. Expertly crafted with the unique style of storytelling that the author has perfected, it holds you in its thrall until the very end.

 

The first scene, where Robert Di Silva  is trying to nail Michael Moretti the mafia boss and it all rests in the hands of one mobster, Camillo Stela, who has agreed to testify against Michael. Jennifer Parker, a rookie law assistant, gives an envelope to the witness in a break – the envelope that was handed to her by Robert via an assistant to give to Stela –  and all hell breaks loose from that moment on. What she delivered was a dead canary with the neck broken and the case, along with Robert’s hopes of being elected governor on the strength of the victory in this case, both end up in smoke. Jennifer wanted to be a lawyer like her dad from a very young age and this was a devastating blow to her that her official career was over a mere four hours after it started.

 

When she tries to survive by the lowly act of issuing subpoena, she is informed that disbarment proceedings are to be launched against her by a livid Robert Di Silva. He asks a top attorney in town to personally take care of it. He gives it to Adam Werner, who is his son in law angling for the District Attorney post. After Adam checks everything out, he recommends that the proceedings to disbar her be dropped, much to the anger of Robert.

 

She devises clever ways to serve difficult subpoenas.

 

When she takes up an impossible case to defend a murderer, she finds to her horror that Robert de Silva himself comes to court as a prosecutor, to crush her once for all. She triumphs and is noticed by Michael Moretti.

 

She also has fallen for Adam Warner and has constant sex with him even after knowing that he is married already, despite her mother’s life being earlier ruined by her father’s infidelity. Meanwhile Michael is thinking of hiring a young lawyer for the Family and increasingly thinks of Jennifer.

 

She gets a paternity suit decided in her favour by undoubtedly questionable means, which may not stand up in a real court! (Was DNA evidence not available when the book was written? God, is the book that old? )

 

There are episodes obviously put there as fillers: they do have a twist but have absolutely nothing to do with the story itself. For instance, the nice woman whom the daughter and the son in law had admitted to an asylum that Jennifer is determined to release; the accident victim from a truck company – the company having almost gotten away with the crime.

 

Main story? Adam is surely in love with Jennifer but stands for the Senate and can have no blemish in the past including any affairs. Michael Moretti is intrigued and increasingly drawn to Jennifer.

Adam’s wife tricks Jennifer into believing that she is OK with Adam marrying Jennifer and when Jennifer finds herself pregnant, also reveals that she is pregnant. Now Adam is trapped into the marriage and Jen has the child in a faraway place.

 

Michael Moretti charms her in a dinner one evening. When her son is kidnapped by a vicious murderer who is enraged about her, she calls Moretti in desperation and he pulls all the stops to get him back. So starts her relationship with Michael, alienating all her friends and well wishers. One by one they leave her.

 

She connects with Adam and instantly has sex with him, throwing consequences to the winds. But Joshua’s head injury, when they return back, causes him to die, she completely loses it.

 

She then loses her son Joshua and Adam learns that she is the Mafa’s counsel as well as the fact that she has a son, both of which devastates him. This is done by the testimony of the previous lawyer of the mafia who, when he realizes that Moretti wants to kill him, goes straight to Adam Warner and spills the beans.

 

Moretti wrongly suspects and kills his loyal deputies until he realizes that Nick Vito lied to him saying he had killed the lawyer. Jennifer is arrested in Singapore.

 

The events gather frenetic pace where Michael finds out that Jennifer was the girlfriend of Adam and thinks she has been betraying him all along and his plots to kill both Adam and Jennifer and how it all exhilaratingly ends.

 

Great story. Well told. Lightweight but who cares? All Sheldon’s stories are lightweight.

 

8 / 10

–   –   Krishna

January 26, 2018

Book: The Sky Is Falling by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:51 pm

imageYou can get lost in Sydney Sheldon’s books. I admit that he is an old author and is not as sophisticated in his storytelling as, say, Dan Brown (Whose Angels and Demons, just to cite one example outshines most of Sydney Sheldon’s book) but there is a raw power in Sydney’s storytelling and if you pick up The Master of the Game, for example, or The Rage of the Angels, it is really hard to put down as he takes you on an emotional roller coaster that seems to whisk you away at top speed until the book end. Unfortunately, this book is not one such. Mind you, this is also interesting and racy but does not reach to the heights of the two books named above, for example. What is the story?

 

Dana Evans is a .TV reporter who covered Sarajevo war and was traumatized by it too. She is in love with Jeff Connors, an ex-sports star who works for the same company as Dana. Matt Baker ran the department but Elliot Cromwell owns the whole organization, having bought it recently from the previous owner. Jeff’s ex-girlfriend is a gorgeous, intelligent and brilliant conversationalist, Rachel Stevens. Gary Winthrop, a billionaire who donates a magnificent amount to a university is brutally murdered and we learn that his entire family a political First Family, was wiped out in different incidents.

 

Her adopted and disabled son Kemal, lives in perennial doubt that he will be sent back and is taunted by classmates and therefore rebellious.

 

When she tries to probe the killing, she is firmly told to desist. She finds one chink in the impenetrable armour and talks to an ex-employee who had filed a suit against the father. She is stunned to see that this secretary lives in a palatial mansion like a millionaire, but refuses to talk about the lawsuit at all, looking very frightened when Dana mentions the subject suddenly in a meeting.

 

After a couple of days, in an apparent attack of conscience, Joan Sinisi, the employee calls her from a public phone in an apparent attack of conscience, and never turns up for the rendezvous. Dana is stunned to learn that she ‘accidentally’ fell from her own balcony to her death. Marcus Abrams is the detective in charge of that investigation.

 

She is tracked at every step by persons unknown. We realize that her house is bugged and her rental car is too. When she realizes that the ski accident of Julia Winthrop and the car accident of another son is also suspicious, she realizes she is in dangerous territory.

 

Meanwhile, Kemal’s new housekeeper seems to be a dream come true.

 

Overall, this is strangely tedious for a Sydney Sheldon story. Yes, the narrative style is there; the superficial descriptions of everything and the suspense building is done. But unlike his other – and better – books, this is all about a reporter following a story and someone desperately trying to thwart her efforts. Where are the stunning twists we saw in The Master of The Game or The Rage of the Angels, just to name two?

 

Well, she finds three people who describe Winthrop as a monster and have motive enough to seek revenge on the whole family. She hears of a Russian situation and heads to Moscow. Finds (purely by accident) and destroys the tracking device embedded in her pen in Moscow airport.

 

After being stonewalled in Moscow by commissar Sasha Shdanoff despite his brother Boris trying to drop hints, she is about to give up when an envelope arrives with a promise to reveal all, and asking her to come back to Moscow with little trace of this to anyone. She goes. Meets the surprising person. And has an enormous plot revealed by that person for a promise of help in smuggling the person out of Russia before that person is killed.

 

She is too late to save him  (OK it is a man) and is now openly the target of assassins.  The twist of who the evil kingpin is as well told as in other books by Sheldon.

 

The last few pages are vintage Sheldon, with everyone trying their best to kill Dana and she successively outwitting them each time.

 

But the entire action is placed in just the last few pages and a hurried ending needs to be arrived at, so this whole thing is not as exciting as his other books are.

 

5/10

 

–  – Krishna

August 13, 2017

Movie: Get Out (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:40 pm

imageWhat an unorthodox movie! A movie that tackles race relations either goes down the serious path exploring the race question or is a film with all out African American characters and it just goes on with the story, sometimes in an exaggerated fashion. Here is one film that is refreshingly different. It is a horror but does not take itself seriously and just goes with the flow, with humour.

And this story has a punchline / twist that is extremely unusual. It bursts on you and I did not expect it at all because the twist is really a very unusual view on things and I bet you or at least 99% of you will not guess it either.

In addition to it they drop all kinds of clues on what is going on, with misdirection enough, like a finely crafted mystery thriller, which is what this is. I love the way they have developed the story, from the very first short scene to whet your interest to the final denouement.

Enough of a preamble? Let us see what the story is all about. First the small little preface I mentioned. An African American man called Dre is walking alone in the night. A car slowly follows him and he is creeped out. (Imagine this – an African American apparently stalked and spooked  From a stereotypical point of view, totally unexpected. See what I mean?) He then decides to change directions – it is a small street and the car cannot make a U turn.  After going several paces fast, he cannot resist turning back and seeing what happened to the car. It is now standing with the driver’s door open and a mediaeval knight has come out of it and is following him! (Yes, they mean a man in a knight’s costume). It is too late to run and he is attacked and his unconscious body is dragged into the car.

The main story is about photographer Chris Washington and Rose Armitage whose relationship has progressed to a point where Rose wants Chris to meet her parents. The problem is that Rose is white while Chris is black and he is very worried that her parents may not like it. Rose assures him that they are very liberal and would love him.  Even though he is the only black man she has dated so far, they will be  pretty cool with the idea.

He reluctantly agrees to go, against the advice of Rod Williams his closest friend who works for TSA not to go to ‘white people’s house’. He finds the family welcoming; if anything it is overly so. Strange things start happening to him slowly. The only black people he first meets are  servants in the house seem to be stiff and overly proper and look at him very strangely. He wonders if they are being kept under bondage but they do not seem to agree or is it that they do not want to confess?

And then there is the other black man who comes visiting. He seems to be married to a much older white woman and seems to have totally bought into the aristocratic life (never mind a white man’s life) with a hat and three piece suit at all times.

The father is all friendly. He is rich, a neurosurgeon but the mother strikes him as a bit cold. So when she offers to cure him of his smoking addiction through sheer hypnosis. He rejects it saying that he does not like people tooling around inside his head. Other friends of this family also seem very friendly.

When one of the maids behaves really oddly suddenly while pouring tea, the suspicions of Chris are aroused and then the other black gentleman who came to the party also “kind of goes crazy” when he was photographed by Chris. Chris is freaked out.  There are weird stuff like some of the friends admiring the “strength” of Chris and people praising the long distance runner Chris Owens showed up all those racist Nazis and beat out all the white folks in the Olympics.

 

Before he is aware of it, Chris is hypnotized by Rose’s mother, while he is still mocking the idea of hypnosis. Then the movie takes many scary turns and you watch Chris trapped, helpless and under every command of the family, losing consciousness.

He is freaked out when he finds his cell phone repeatedly unplugged when he is not in his own room. It is as if someone is trying to stop him from communicating outside.

When Chris and Rose agree that something weird is going on and that she should make up some excuse so that they can leave, we see an auction happening. The object of the auction? Chris himself. The auction is conducted by Rose’s dad, the neurosurgeon and the whole community seems to be bidding for him. For what?

If I tell you more, I will give it up. Trust me that the whole movie is one tense ride and you don’t relax for one little bit. And it all hangs together. Every little, weird, bit of it.

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris and his comic friend Rod played by LiRel Howery carry the whole movie well. But the real stars of this movie are the writers and the director, who present a splendidly crafted entertainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not say realistic; I did not say thought provoking; I said entertaining. If you keep your reasoning half of the brain quiet and just go along for the ride, there is not a boring moment.

The last line is phenomenally funny – when whatever is happening is all over.

 

8/ 10

–  –  Krishna

April 30, 2017

Book: Master of the Game by Sydney Sheldon

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:51 pm

imageEven on a re-read, even after all these years, the story simply sparkles!

 

We have reviewed Are You Afraid Of the Dark and The Sky Is Falling by the same author earlier.

 

Starts with Kate Blackwell’s ninetieth birthday. She remembers her long life, and the story is fully in her reminiscences.

 

Awesome storytelling. What else do you expect from the master of the storytelling game? Starts with Jamie McGregor trying to strike it rich and going from famine stalking England to South Africa to make his fortune, alone, a nineteen year old boy.

He happens to somehow go to South Africa and meets Solomon Van der Marwe, his big African slave Bantu and his daughter Margaret and manages to get himself equipped with spending almost all his money (he had told Solomon how much he had). He goes and almost dies but manages to find diamonds, comes back rich, only to find that he does not own a thing. Solomon had tricked him into signing a contract that gives him everything!

 

When he protests, he is beaten up and left in the desert for dead but Bantu rescues him and they make a plan to just take the diamonds in an extremely heavily guarded island.  They go in a raft against all odds but reach the island with the raft smashed up. They collect the islands and the way they exit with no raft or an apparent  way to exit is wonderful.

 

He comes back to destroy Solomon Van der Marwe but also destroys his daughter Margaret in the process. She wins his grudging admiration with the boy and he is forced to offer her marriage to keep his son with him. He never offers her love, sadly.

In a drunken stupor, he gives Maggie a girl, Kate, and when in a mine one of his supervisors kills a native, his son is killed in revenge and Banta saves Kate from a similar fate. Jamie gets a stroke in agony and dies. Maggie runs the empire and brings up Kate with David’s assistance and Kate is determined to marry him! She is a wilful but a genius child.

 

When David falls hard for Josephine O’Neill, daughter of Tom O’Neill who has invented a way to revolutionize food industry and agrees to move to San Francisco to marry her and take care of the new company, Kate is crushed. But his plans fall apart when a major food conglomerate buys off his idea and he stays back in Kruger Brent. Did Kate have somthing to do with that reversal?

 

The twists in the story are incredible. How the young lady twists and plots and outwits them all is great to read. (Even the third time)

 

David marries Kate and discovers that they disagree on how to run the company. For instance Kate forces the company to make and sell armaments to the First World War, which David is vehemently opposed to.

 

When Kate suddenly finds she is pregnant and gets a son named Anthony, she is ecstatic but David dies in an explosion in South Africa. Her son Anthony wants to be an artist and has no interest in running the business which is Kate’s life. She manipulates him by sending Dominique to be his girlfriend to keep an eye on him and gets a master critic criticize his work to get him to give up painting and get back into running the company and his heart is simply not in it.

 

He hates his mom and how she still maneuvers him into marrying exactly the girl she wants for him is brilliant. The book reads well even the second time but it is really all fluff. The story is told straightforward, like a children’s tale and there are no subtle layers there. It is all anchored on sudden twists and surprises and it definitely works at that level. But then this can be said of all of Sydney Sheldon’s works.

 

She finds out that Marianne, the wife of Tony may die in childbirth and decides to hide it from Tony as well. All of her schemes are exposed to Tony on the same day that he learns that Marianne dies after giving birth to twins, Eve and Alexandra. He shoots his mother and goes plumb crazy and has to be lobotomized to keep him calm.

 

Eve is the evil one and tries to kill Alexandra several times from the tender age of five, and every time Alexandra narrowly escapes. Several times over.

 

When Eve goes wild with men and seduces a long time friend of Kate, her gig is up and she is cut off with a tiny allowance. She plots revenge and meets a gorgeous hunk of a man called George Mellis with a vicious temper. Perfect. She plans to “give” Alexandra to that man.

 

The scheming evil of Eve comes out well even in this fluffy narration. The plan is set in motion and Alexandra is hooked hopelessly by George Mellis. Marries him too.

 

George and Eve plot to take all the money of Kate after killing Alexandra. When Kate hears that Eve was near death and “out of concern” for her grandmother, wanted to keep it secret, she has a change of heart and takes her back in life. George knows that he may be written out of everybody’s life and wants to go ahead and kill Alexandra anyway, and the plot turns are brilliant.

 

When George Mellis takes Alex out on the boat to execute his evil plan anyway, knowing that if he did not, he himself would be sidelined by Eve, he is outwitted and outplayed completely by Eve.

 

The ending is exhilerating too. How Alexandra finds happiness, how Eve ends up, how Kate keeps planning tirelessly for the best of the company – it is all written brilliantly.

 

Sure, this is fluff. But good, absorbing, fluff.  8/10

– – Krishna

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