The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz – Book Review


TheGirlInTheSpidersWeb

Goodreads blurb: In this adrenaline-charged thriller, genius-hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist face a dangerous new threat and must again join forces.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a trusted source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female super hacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering.

Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Lisbeth for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web, the duo who thrilled 80 million readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest meet again in an extraordinary and uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

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When I first saw the promos of The Girl in the Spider’s Web I literally fell out of my chair as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the books responsible for me restarting my crazy voracious reading habit all over again, and it had been quite a while after I had finished reading the Millennium Trilogy, almost all of four years now. And therefore when I heard that the series itself was going to be continued, albeit by a different author David Lagercrantz given that Stieg Larsson, the original author had passed away, I more than looked forward to what Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the protagonists would be upto in this book.

And to be fair to the author, the book didn’t disappoint at all, although it didn’t quite blow me away like the books in the original trilogy. While those books dealt more with the inner personal demons that both the protagonists were fighting in parallel with the evil designs of the antagonists, this book more or less focuses more on the narrative itself rather than delve too much into either Mikael or Lisbeth themselves. Well, given that a genius like Stieg Larsson created these characters and made them memorable, I completely understand why David Lagercrantz couldn’t quite live up to readers’ expectations in this regard. Both Mikael and Lisbeth are fairly complicated characters with extremely muddled up psyches, troubled pasts, extremely complex minds and therefore it followed that the author would not be able to add too much more value there.

However, where the book worked really well for me was the fact that the author took these two characters with all their strengths, failings, unique little quirks, made them his own and crafted what is truly a well-paced, cohesive and contemporary narrative. The overarching story is something that all of us are familiar with, the NSA and its ‘Big Brother’ snooping activities around the world, and the author injects a whole lot of energy into the book and proceedings simply by playing to Mikael and Lisbeth’s strengths. Another big plus for me was the presence of an extremely strong antagonist in this book, somebody from Lisbeth’s past, somebody scary, who made proceedings extremely interesting, and also ensured that there would be more books in this series as well.

In a nutshell, this book is a must read for all fans of the original Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, although they must be warned that this book is not as deep or layered as those books were. That being said, even readers who have not read the original trilogy can read this book and I can vouch that they will go ahead and read the trilogy after they finish this book.

Click here to purchase this book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

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For Love and Honour – Anand Ranganathan – Book Review


ForLoveAndHonourGoodreads blurb: Even as Kapil Dev lifts the 1983 World Cup, thousands of miles away, in the dense jungles of Mizoram, a secret mission stands compromised. At a terrible cost. Forced to engage in fierce combat with a group of insurgents, Captain Akhil Mehra loses his right hand. Leaving the army, he arrives at Carlington tea estate, owned by the dignified and wealthy Rai Bahadur, hoping to start a new chapter. His troubles, though, are just beginning. Here he meets Norden, the Rai Bahadur’s reticent and faithful assistant, the beautiful Indrani and wheelchair-bound Ipsita, the Rai Bahadur’s free-spirited daughters, whose cloistered lives are turned-upside down upon his arrival.

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I had a couple of issues with this book right from the outset, and trust me when I say this, the issues were more of my own doing than with the book itself – one, I am not a big fan of the romantic genre of books and two, the blurb doesn’t quite let readers know what the book itself is all about. And in this case, for me, it was a classic case of judging a book by its cover and I got it horribly wrong this time around.

Don’t let me dissuade you from reading the book itself, but the fact is that given that this book firmly falls within the romantic genre, it didn’t work for me at multiple levels. Yes, the book is well written and decently plotted, but the huge mental block I have against this genre worked against the book big time.

And to add to it all, the ending seemed very ambiguous to me and ended up leaving an overall bitter taste to the entire reading experience.

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest and unbiased review of the book.

Paradise City – Elizabeth Day – Book Review


ParadiseCityGoodreads blurb: A novel that seeks to answer big questions—of love and death, ambition and failure, responsibility and guilt—with a rich cast of characters from every strata of society.

Four disparate characters find themselves linked together in Paradise City. Howard Pink is a wildly successful businessman still struggling to cope fifteen years after his nineteen-year-old daughter disappeared. Beatrice Kizza fled persecution from Uganda where homosexuality is illegal. She now works as a maid at a hotel Howard frequents. Esme Reade, an ambitious staff reporter on a Sunday tabloid, is desperate to get the Howard Pink interview for which all London reporters froth at the mouths. Carol Hetherington, a widow who has time to keep an eye on her neighbors’ actions, makes an astonishing discovery.

Paradise City explores what a city means to those who come seeking their fortune or a better life. It is also a story of absence and loss, of how we shape ourselves around the spaces that people leave behind.

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Let me first confess that although I kind of liked how this book began I was kind of disappointed with how it all ended up. While the premise of four different characters who are from different walks of life, different stages of their life, different careers and entirely different backgrounds strung together by a peculiar series of events in their lives is interesting, I guess the characters themselves lacked enough of depth, at least in my opinion, to make it an interesting book overall.

While the writing is extremely competent, the pacing good, what the book lacked was an overall overarching structure against which the characters and the overall plot had to be put up against. The fact that the proceedings of the book kept moving on despite the lack of an overall coherence to what was happening put me off at multiple times during the reading of the book. Yes, while the book does provide a commentary on the existing subtle layers of class differentiation in modern day London, it is not quite brought out starkly and harshly enough to leave an impact on the reader. The author would have been well advised to use her dramatic and creative license to make some of the occurrences in the book more hard hitting rather than take the subtle approach to her story telling.

In a nutshell, this book was not quite my cup of tea, although I suspect that people who have a flair for enjoying the ‘literary fiction’ genre of books might find this book to be a good read.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

Junkyard Planet – Adam Minter – Book Review


JunkyardPlanetGoodreads blurb: When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday’s newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don’t want and turn it into something you can’t wait to buy. In Junkyard Planet, Adam Minter—veteran journalist and son of an American junkyard owner—travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, multibillion-dollar industry that’s transforming our economy and environment.

Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to high-tech facilities capable of processing a jumbo jet’s worth of recyclable trash every day. Along the way, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters who’ve figured out how to build fortunes from what we throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy “grubbing” in Detroit’s city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China. Junkyard Planet reveals how “going green” usually means making money—and why that’s often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren’t pretty.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, and the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche, Minter traces the export of America’s recyclables and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. What emerges is an engaging, colorful, and sometimes troubling tale of consumption, innovation, and the ascent of a developing world that recognizes value where Americans don’t. Junkyard Planet reveals that we might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.

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Anybody who has ever been to a mall or to any IT Park would have surely noticed separate colored plastic waste baskets with a green one marked as the ‘Recycle Bin’, and most of us would have also probably used it as well, even feeling a little good about ourselves for ‘having done some good for the planet’. But how many of us have ever stopped and wondered where all that ‘recyclable waste’ actually goes to, what happens of it, does it have a way of ever finding its way back to us in a different form? And these are probably some of the questions that Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter answers, although not quite in as straightforward a manner as I have suggested above.

The author himself grew up in a metal scrapyard in America and his association with scrap therefore began at a very young age. He, however, did not join the family business and instead moved into journalism and given his precedents it therefore quite naturally followed that he started reporting and writing about scrap. This book is the result of his travels to various scrapyards around the world, from America to China, from metal scrapyards to towns in China which are probably the biggest handlers of e-waste, and so on.

While this book chronicles what essentially remains a lesser known industry, that of the processing of scrap material of various items, to me, the major takeaway from this book (and this is something that the author emphasizes in the last chapter as well) is that while recycling as a concept is important, what is more important are the two R’s preceding recycling, Reduce and Reuse. And while this important tenet of the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – is very critical for American consumers in particular, the day is not too far off when Chinese and Indian consumers will also have to be taught to internalize the same.

Given the development boom currently underway in China, and India nipping at its heels with initiatives such as Make in India, this part of the world finds itself in a situation with large consumer markets and in China’s case a large manufacturing hub as well. The result would be a large supply as well as a demand for scrap material of all forms. This book therefore assumes that much more importance in our part of the world for us to get a better understanding of junk, its processing and the various other facets of this business as well.

A refreshingly different, well researched and well written book.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link]

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review of the same.

The House that BJ built – Anuja Chauhan – Book Review


TheHouseThatBJBuiltGoodreads blurb: I’ll make my sisters squirm like well-salted earthworms. I won’t sell. Even my jutti wont sell. And if I die na, then even my gosht won’t sell!

The late Binodini Thakur had been very clear that she would never agree to sell her hissa in her Bauji’s big old house on Hailey Road. And her daughter Bonu, is determined to honor her mother’s wishes.

But what to do about her four pushy aunts who are insisting she sell? One is bald and stingy, one is jobless and manless, one needs the money to ‘save the nation’ and one is stepmother to Bonu’s childhood crush-brilliant young Bollywood director Samar Vir Singh, who promised BJ upon his deathbed that he would get the house sold, divvy the money equally and end all the bickering within the family.

The first word baby Bonu ever spoke was ‘Balls’ and indeed, she is ballsy, bullshit-intolerant, brave and beautiful. But is she strong enough to weather emotional blackmail by the spadefull? Not to mention shady builders, wily politicians, spies, lies and the knee-buckling hotness of Samar’s intense eyes? Sharply observed and pulse-quickeningly romantic, this is Anuja Chauhan writing at her sparkling best!

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If I had to describe The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan in one word, it would be “juicy”; yes, you read it right, juicy would be the word that would best encompass all the characters, situations and emotions this book deals with. Writing with the panache of a mega serial / Bollywood screenwriter and the humor that probably is inherently Anuja Chauhan all the way, this book for sure is a must-read for anybody who has already read her earlier work and are fans of hers. As for me, given that this was the first book of hers that I have read, I am making a beeline to get my hands on the rest of her work and devour them with as much gusto as I did this one, if not more.

As the blurb states, the main narrative of this book revolves around the house that ‘The Pricey Thakur Girls’ have inherited from their father BJ. Actually make that four sisters and one common niece who have inherited the property and are now sitting on a potential truckload of money given that a builder now wants to purchase the property for quite an astronomical sum of money. However, things are not quite as straightforward as they seem, and BJ’s brother seems hell bent on making the lives of the sisters miserable with diabolical plans of his own. Do the sisters manage to sell the house and get their money forms the main spine of the narrative around which the more interesting and juicy (I am using this word quite a bit now, ain’t I?) bits of the story are woven around.

Throw in some interesting childhood politics between all the sisters, a sizzling romance between the niece and her step cousin, a movie being made by the said step cousin which is based on BJ’s story, yet another sizzling childhood crush between one of the sisters and the builder, and lo and behold, you have all the ingredients of this potboiler of a book. Suffice to say that the author doesn’t let the pace slow down even for a bit and has enough action happening with all the principal characters (who are ‘characters’ in every sense of the word) throughout the 400 pages of the book.

With enough twists and turns built into the narrative, Anuja Chauhan would make even seasoned screenwriters squirm in shame with the expertise with which each and every one of these twists and turns add more ‘masala’ to the narrative. She knows what works, and more importantly, she know when they work well, and that to me, is where she scores really high when it comes to this book. As I said earlier, I surely am going to grab the rest of her work and surely enjoy them as much as I did this one.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review.