Book Review: Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Former Marine helicopter pilot Jack Morgan runs Private, a renowned investigation company with branches around the globe. It is where you go when you need maximum force and maximum discretion. Jack is already deep into the investigation of a multi-million dollar NFL gambling scandal and the unsolved slayings of 18 schoolgirls when he learns of a horrific murder close to home: his best friend’s wife, Jack’s former lover, has been killed. It nearly pushes him over the edge. Instead, Jack pushes back and devotes all of Private’s resources to tracking down her killer. With a plot that moves at death-defying speeds, Private is James Patterson sleekest, most exciting thriller ever.

I’ve long been a James Patterson fan, primarily of his Alex Cross novels – those are brilliant! But it’s been a long time since I read any of his novels, so when this book came across my radar screen, I thought I’d give it a go.

I dived into the book with high expectations – it’s a James Patterson after all, and a series for which he is teaming up with writers from across the world. I thought it would be interesting. It wasn’t.

In this, the first Private novel that serves as the backbone for the rest of the franchise, we are introduced to Jack Morgan – a former helicopter pilot who crashed out of the Afghanistan war with terrible memories and immeasurable guilt (nothing new here). With the money left to him by his father, he set up Private, a detective agency with state-of-the-art equipment and a free pass to do with it as he pleases.

The most interesting case is the one where they are tracking the dead school girls, but the NFL case just seems to be tacked on as an after thought and I didn’t see any reason why the murder of his best friend’s wife was in any way relevant to the story.

The writing is sloppy, the dialogues are forced, the plot twists are quite predictable. The characters are two-dimensional – the women, especially, are horrifyingly portrayed. The lead police detective on the schoolgirl case, for example, is a fat, angry woman, while Justine, who is leading the investigation at Private, arrives at murder scenes in stilettos. The men are all effortlessly good looking and the cops are pretty much bumbling idiots. It’s very reminiscent of a B-grade Hollywood flick.

I give this book a big thumbs down.

Book review: J by Howard Jacobson

J_Howard_Jacobson“Set in the future – a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited – J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.”

Kevern, a resident of a small village called Port Reuben, lives in a state of constant fear. Before leaving his house, he kicks the antique silk rug so it looks like something no one would care about, leaves a mug of tea on the table, and then carefully locks his door. But before he goes wherever it is he has to go, he looks into the house multiple times through the post flap to ensure that the house looks like it’s waiting for him to return at any minute. Why the paranoia?

Ailinn is an orphan who is passing through Port Ruben when someone who looks like a “pig auctioneer” points her out to Kevern and gets their paths to cross. She has fears of her own – she fears the unknown, unseen enemy, who she’s nicknamed Ahaab. She doesn’t know who this enemy is or where this enemy will come from. But she knows he’s out there, that he could come for her at anytime.
Kevern and Ailinn fall in love, but they’re never sure if they met by chance or if they were pushed into each other’s arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?

“Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED.”

And to make sure that WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED does not happen again, Ofnow, the “non-statutory monitor of the public mood”, issues slogans like Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and The Overexamined Life is Not Worth Living. Histories and books have been redacted, and music and culture are controlled by collective consent. The radio plays love songs, jazz is dead because improvisation has “fallen out of fashion”, literature constitutes “rags-to-riches memoirs, cookbooks and romances”, and conversation steers clear of jokes, insults or witticisms. Social media and the internet have been done away with, phones are meant for local calls only and letter writing is back in fashion.

In such a world, where names have been changed to ensure that no one knows anyone’s antecedents, where people say sorry even if they have nothing to be sorry about, where all that you hear are love songs, you’d think violence would be non-existent. However, that is not the case. Brutality has grown commonplace. Snogging (a violent form of kissing) is the norm and rage is on the rise. Because, as it turns out, there is no “other” on whom that anger can be directed. And that “other” is Jews, who have been wiped out, this time for good. So Ofnow steps in with a plan to do something to address the rising aggression, and that plan directly involves Kevern and Ailinn.

The novel raises some excellent questions – on mob mentality; identity and selfhood; belonging, exclusion and “otherness”. There are some incredible insights, like the idea of Twitternacht, which is the event responsible for WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. And the idea is horrifyingly plausible – social media is awash with racism and fundamentalism of all hues and colors. Could we see a mass slaughter of any racial segment of the society? Unfortunately, if the opinions expressed on social media are anything to go by, the answer is Yes. We live in frightening times, where intolerance is only growing. And this novel paints an even more frightening picture of the possible aftermath of such a catastrophe.

An easy read it isn’t. At times, it’s even a tad frustrating. But still, it is highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher, but the opinions expressed in this are my own.

My Favorite Things: New Year Gifts

It’s almost the end of the year, y’all! And the end of the year means that its time for New Year Gifts! So, without further ado, let me present to you some jaw-droppingly awesome gifts for your literary friends.

You know how those literary types (me included) love to say “so many books, so little time”? Well, how about gifting them this gorgeous pendant that immortalizes the refrain.

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Or for the fashionista in your life – this absolutely stunning Jane Austen book bag!

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Not to leave the men behind – how about this super sexy literary t-shirt for the Murakami fan?

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And for your ebook toting friends, here’s a super cool Kindle cover that looks like, well, a good old-fashioned book!

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And for those who still love their physical books, here are two insanely awesome book ends

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Happy shopping! Oh, and feel free to send one (or all of these) my way ;-)

Here are some more of my favorite things

I Stand With Peshawar…And With Humanity

Sometimes I think there is no hope for this world. We are the generation that will watch as people and nations are ripped apart in the name of religion. We are the generation that will, with our own two hands and our hate filled hearts, bring about an apocalypse.

And then I see people quietly standing in solidarity, willing to offer support to the oppressed and those in pain, and I feel hope. But it often gets crushed.

Brutally.

And then I want to just ignore the world and retreat into my own mind, my own life, my most immediate surroundings. But that is no way to live – like an ostrich.

Is there any hope for us? Or are we a generation doomed?

Will they write about us in their history books, condemning our every choice, our every action, pointing us out as the most hate-filled generation since Hitler?

Or will we manage to reverse course? To realize that we are more similar than we are different? That at the end of the day, we are all humans…we all face similar problems…to greater or smaller degrees…and that if we only try, if we extend a hand to those around us, we can make this world a beautiful place.

Will we ever be able to celebrate our one-ness, or will we always be divided over our other-ness?

An evening of fun, food, and technology: Apptasting with Rajiv Makhni and Vikas Khanna

Question: What do you get when you put 150 women into a room with two hot dudes?
Answer: One hell of a fun evening!

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Kissing our phones for tech guru Rajiv Makhni

150 ladies – travelers, lifestyle bloggers, a lot of them friends – got together on a cold winter’s evening for an evening of fun, technology, wine and food. The room was filled with the buzz of conversations and everywhere you looked you could see shades of pink. The mood was built with free flowing wine, and the event was truly underway with the entry of two dashing men – Tech Guru Rajiv Makhni and Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna! And we set off on an odyssey of food and technology.

All the pink ladies

All the pink ladies! Photo courtesy Shalini

Given that it was a Lumia app tasting event, held in association with WOW, the apps were largely travel-related. And there were some interesting apps on display. There was a cool language translator that doesn’t just give you a text translation, but actually speaks the translated sentence in the language of your choosing. You can never be lost in translation when you travel again!

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Laughs, conversations, contests & more

There were three amazing photography apps – one fun app that let’s you swap faces, the other a super cool app that gets rid of photo bombers and random people who walk into your frame, and a third app that gives you moving gif images. Imagine a night spent dancing captured in “moving photos” – how cool is that?

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“No tan in India, only Fair & Lovely”, says Michelin starred chef Vikas Khanna

And for the next time you’re out drinking, there’s an excellent app that will help you decide if you should hire a cab or drive yourself by telling you just how drunk you are based on your walk! But if you want my opinion – don’t drink and drive. Ever. Make alternate arrangements, please! After all, safety must come first!

9.5 weeks of taste

9.5 weeks of taste

Mixed in with all the technology were some fun food-related games. Both games involved blindfolds…and food. One needed touch and smell. The other needed taste. Both games were plays on sensual movies….Nine and a half weeks of taste and 50 shades of pink. Naughty, eh? But that’s the beauty of Vikas Khanna – with all the innuendo and all the leg-pulling and naughtiness, it never got uncomfortable or even the least bit lecherous.

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The dancing chef, Vikas Khanna

It was all done in good (nay, excellent) taste (pun intended), with fun, wit and humbleness. And just as Rajiv was there for the technology, Vikas was there for the launch of his latest cook book – World Feast. And where there is a book launch, there generally are free copies! And when you have the author there, there also are signed copies! And when the author is as charismatic as Vikas, there also are selfies! As the women thronged around him, waiting for their chance to get clicked, I couldn’t help but marvel at his patience. He had a kind word for everyone, he had the patience to take more than one picture when they said “oh, this picture is making me look fat!”, and he graciously signed everyone’s copy too!

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Booklaunch: World Feast by Vikas Khanna

Needless to say it was a fun, exciting evening – one that will stay with me – and with all who attended, no doubt – for a long time to come!