Friday, April 26, 2013

Book review : Salvation of a Saint

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books ! 

Salvation of  a Saint is the latest novel,  by the Japanese author Keigo Higashino.Keigo Higashino's earlier thriller novel "The devotion of Suspect X " was an astounding success ! As per review by the Times,Keigo Higashino is the Japanese Stieg Larsson. The Salvation of a Saint is the English translation of the  Japanese murder mystery.The translation is by Alexander O.Smith with Elye J Alexander.The translation is very  good . Hence, the original must be simply superb !

The cover of the book shows a Japanese lady with down cast eyes.Only her face can be seen & that too partly as it is covered with her jet black hair  falling on her cheeks & beyond.Her lips,nose,eyes, forehead can be seen & one gets to see just a glimpse.

The story begins with a small party .Within two days ,the man of the house lies dead. Autopsy reveals death by poisoning.His wife Ayane was away from the house where her hubby lay dead.So ,her involvement is ruled out.The investigating officer,Kusanagi, is attracted towards Ayane .He is getting  closer to her as the investigation progresses.

Aayne runs a quilting class & Hiromi is her favourite student. Aayne 's creations are very eye catching .Aayne is very fond of flowers & grows them around the house.Even when she is being questioned,she needs to water her flowering plants.No wonder,Kusanagi has fallen for her !

The fresh detective Utsumi has her womanly instincts intact & she suspects Ayane & even Hiromi,Ayane's student who had discovered the body.She feels that her boss,Kusanagi is blinded by love for Ayane .This Utsumi feels, is clouding his probe into the death of Aayne's husband ,Yoshitaka.

The investigation is proceeding & yet there is no outcome.What was the motive behind the murder ? Who murdered Yoshitaka ? His wife Aayne, who seems crestfallen by his death ? Is she acting her part ? Is she involved ? What about Hiromi ? How & why did she discover the corpse ?

Utsumi decides to bring in a physicist  Yukawa, to solve the case.Utsumi is in awe of Yukowa as he has solved so many cases before by unraveling tricks .Utsumi feels that was just magic.Yukowa is not so sure if he can solve this case.He is of the opinion, that criminal minds think differently & there are no tricks.Yet ,he agrees to help .

Will Yukawa be able to see through the plot ? Will the murderer be discovered ? Or was it just a case of suicide ? Has Utsumi done the right thing, by bringing in Yukawa ?

Where was the poison concealed - in which ingredient ? Maybe something like garam masala which is added to enhance taste ? Did Yoshitaka take the poison himself ? If not ,then how was it administered to him ? By wife or someone else ? When was it given to him ? Is Kusanagi justified in feeling that Aayne is a saint ?

The novel of 373 pages is arranged in 33  chapters & very neat.One gets a peek into the life in Japan - high society life of Aayne,her quilt class,Hiromi who is her student,& the lives of the police who are probing the case.Japanese seem to enjoy various teas.Aayne is depicted to be delicate though she comes off as very strong. Hiromi is more vulnerable .Aayne's pointed questions & answers throw the police off track  many times.

The translation as said earlier, is superb.It  keeps the reader on the edge.The thriller is mysterious though the characters are few &  the story is simple.A simple story told in a very mysterious manner ! After this book,I am sure ,I would very much love to read "The Devotion of Suspect X " by the same author.

I would recommend this book  to all readers of murder mysteries.Needless to add,a   completely engaging book.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Review : Tantra

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books !

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This book "Tantra " by Adi is a novel wherein the protagonist is a girl, named Anu .It is about vampires,vampire slayers, god men ,scholars etc.The cover of the book has a blue colour symbolizing the night sky wherein a girl in skirt & top & ballerina shoes is crouching on a rooftop.She has a dagger which has tasted blood just then, as it is red towards the sharpened end.She is looking out for someone whom she must slay.Her hair is short & flying in the breeze.

 The publisher is Appejay Stya Publishing Pvt Ltd,New Delhi.Kudos to the publishers for the paper quality is very good.It is nice to touch.The chapters are neatly arranged & printing is very good .The book comes with a bookmark attached by a red satin ribbon bound with the book.At the end of the book ,twitter id & facebook pages of the author Adi have been stated.This is the first novel by Adi ,the author .He has a poetry book & text book to his credit before this novel.

 The story is set in Delhi wherein Anu has arrived from New York on purportedly official duties.She has taken a transfer.She is staying with her aunt.Like all Indian parents,aunts,uncles,etc Anu's aunt is hunting for suitable boys for Anu. This makes for lots of humour in the tale. Anu is a vampire slayer .She meets her colleagues.She learns that there are some, who are more dangerous than the vampires.Will fighting them be the same as vampires ? Will she accomplish her personal agenda ?

 Kids go missing in the city. Anu knows that this is no ordinary foe.The enemy cannot be fought by her knives & daggers.Moreover ,the foe has befriended many vampires as well. Anu is in need of a guru who will teach her, the mantras to fight the bigger enemies who have laid siege to Delhi.She meets them.They teach her & she works hard to learn the astras -the weapons that are needed.And yet, she is unsure about the last steps which she has to manage on her own.Will her sadhana do the trick ? Is  her sadhana enough ?

 Meanwhile her aunt fixes the dekhan dikhai with a suitable boy. Anu is smitten by another. Anu has to fight temptation to focus on her mission. Anu 's colleagues have become friends with her. Anu realises that she cares for her chums as also her relatives.Is this care & affection ,a sign of weakness or strength ? The vampires & the vampire slayers are on one side & yet no one knows if the enemy can be vanquished.How has the enemy become so powerful ?

 Anu is special as she is a quick learner.The foe sends feelers,threatens her & attacks her. Anu remains steadfast .Will she be able to prevent the horror,  that is waiting to happen ?

 I loved the book.The author has penned a novel about a new genre -vampires ,slayers,etal. Moreover ,the pretty heroine ( she turns heads in bars,hotels etc ) appeals to me.Most books have a macho hero. Anu is impressed by the Delhi metro as it makes "New York looks third world ".

The book is inspired by the Bhagwat Gita as one must only do one's duty & not worry about the results. Sadhana is tapasya. Sattvic,karmic,tantra,mantras,astras,agni astra all find mention in the book.Very creative use of mythology to pen a novel set in this age.The language used is easy & quick to grasp. This is author Adis' first novel.A great start to a sequel .The ending lines of the novel seem to suggest that a sequel is very much in the offing ! In conclusion,at 335 pages,it is a breezy read ! I am sure, this would be lapped up by teenagers as well , as they are crazy about Twilight,Harry Potter series etal !

Monday, April 1, 2013

Women & the city.

IndiBlogger has come a long way .IndiBlogger is ushering in change, by being pro active about changing mindsets in Bharat, that is India.Towards this end,IndiBlogger tied up with Times of India,Mumbai & organised a discussion in the heritage building housing the Times of India ,Mumbai at Fort,Mumbai.This was on the 30th March,2013.

It was heartening to see that many men had registered for the meet & they did turn up at the meet.The meet began with our very own  Blogwati G who kickstarted the meet & how ! She made sure, that we kept smiling throughout, by her cheerful banter with the participants.

We were introduced to the drive "Mumbai for women " by the a panel of lady journalists ,who work at the  Times of India ,Mumbai.In this drive,the newspaper has been focusing on the various issues which affect the women in this metro. The precursor was  the Nirbhaya case Recall, that the girl was named Nirbhaya by the Times of India as she was a fighter.

The newspaper team who were working on the numerous stories affecting ladies in Mumbai addressed the meet .They were all ladies & very modest.They are doing stories concerning crime,education ,finance,health ,etal & how the said issues affect women in Mumbai as also the consequences.

Crimes against women are rising in all places & Mumbai is no exception.The TOI panel as also the bloggers agreed that Mumbai was one of the safest among st all the Indian metros though it was no longer as safe as before.I recall that while I worked in an office ,I used to travel by local trains.Once as the train stopped ,a man just rushed towards me from the door in the train & tried to feel a chain around my neck.I was too shocked to react.Before I could even scream ,he had fled by the same way he had barged in ! He came searching to snatch a chain.Since ,I wasn't wearing any ,he ran away disappointed.And that too in the blink of an eye ! Speed is the name of the game ! I have experienced touch & pulls in crowds as many women have.Like others,I have just shrugged & walked away.This is wrong as I am trying to ignore .Men get emboldened by our tolerance.Moreover,I have to admit that I would like the city to be more safer & if possible the safest, as I have a daughter now.I am  selfish to the core!

The TOI was kind enough to share a number of the Railways which is a helpline number that is 983331111.This was to make us aware, so that we in turn, could make our friends & readers aware that Railways ( Central ,Western & Harbor ) are indeed concerned about the safety & security of  the people in the city.This helpline number can be dialed to ask for assistance from Railways security.This would be when there is theft,assault,violence et al on railway property. TOI journos informed us that this helpline is indeed workable & they have had very good experiences .

Ladies ignore their aches & pains as they are too busy & stressed out.They are busy nursing others & rarely take care of their own  health.This needs to change.This reminds me, that I must go for my annual health check up of sugar, cholesterol,& the like.Though I don't like that bit, wherein, I have to starve from 8 in the night to 8 in the mornings ( for sugar test ) but then, I must, if I wish to remain in the pink of health !

The TOI panel informed us that many women -even those earning hefty salaries seldom take decisions regarding investments of their hard earned money.Participants opined that assets are seldom created in the name of women even in Mumbai.I am lucky ,as my husband has allowed me to invest in public provident fund .And this continues even now, when I am a home maker & he gives me his hard earned money to invest in the same fund in my name.This is very surprising, as he is  an investment manager himself.He just invests a token amount in the said fund .He perhaps thinks rightly that his headstrong wife would seldom invest in what he says & does.He has told me umpteen times that I am penny wise & pound foolish ! Like he says, that I will waste money on a long phone call to ask "his permission" to spend a few hundreds.By the end of the call,the price has moved into four figures ! And he would get furious when I invested in chit funds in my office where I worked.I stopped because I was very tired of his lectures on the subject as to how illiterate I was regarding money matters.He felt, that at last, he has been able to drill in some sense of financial acumen into my head though later, he learnt  he has failed miserably ! By the way,he is one of the best at the office & yet I am like that.I seldom seek  his advice .

We were informed that TOI has arranged for a job fair for women at Podar College ,Matunga on 6th & 7th April,so that many ladies can get back to work .This is especially true for those women who had to leave careers midway due to any reason.I am eagerly looking forward to this as I want to get back to work after a haitus of nearly five years!

I have felt that ladies who have qualified in   law can be appointed as judicial officers in the lower rungs of the judiciary.This will mean that cases will get disposed faster as cases pile up due to vacancies which continue unabated.I would of course support appointment of women at the highest levels of judiciary as well.A beginning can be made by appointing them at lower levels even when the said ladies have no experience .This must be allowed as part time jobs as well.So the first half of the day there will be one judicial officer & the remaining half of the day ,another judicial officer.This will help many women get back to work.Moreover ,technical issues in law can be tackled at the higher level as happens in case of appeals.I have felt that basic L.L.B degree is enough to hear & dispose of matters.I have talked about this, as I am a law graduate & this initiative will benefit me immensely.

Even in case of colleges & educational institutions,many ladies who are qualified can do wonders.Ladies are very good at teaching & nutrturing. So many women can work as also look after homes .Yet our rules do not allow this.So ,there are many qualifying tests & degrees like D.Ed,B.Ed,M.Phil & SET,NET scores before any one can become a lecturer .Many institutions use these rules to appoint people who do not qualify as per rules & give them a pittance of a salary & other benefits,if any .We can make a beginning in Mumbai about this & then emulate it at other places,if it succeeds which in all  probability it will.

In conclusion ,it was a lively discussion in the heritage building( the Times of India building is  175 years old )  by the widest circulated paper ,the Times of India & the bloggers .Maybe this symbolized,   that women who traditionally have been playing role of being home makers in the changed scenario, are emerging as the breadwinners as well !

The TOI also showcased a short film, in which women from all strata of society wished that their city Mumbai could love them just a bit more  ! Like for example, there could be clean public toilets for women which are hardly there.As one song goes,"Thoda hai ,thode ki zaroorat hai......Zindagi phir  bhi yahaan khubsoorat hai ......"
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