The Saturday eReader: When was the last time 2 million people were wrong?

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Sorry folks! This one’s going to be a rant. I promise to publish a long list of recommendations next Saturday.

Ever get the feeling that you’re reading the wrong book? Like, everyone who has read it, says they absolutely love it. So you buy it and start reading but it just doesn’t have the same effect on you…

I’m reading The Devotion of Suspect X at the moment and I just don’t see what the fuss is all about. A translation of a Japanese novel by Keigo Higashino, the book is a mystery/thriller about a mathematician who helps a woman cover up a murder.

I have some issues with the language, which has grammatical errors and often jumps details. But that is probably an effect of certain things getting lost in translation. I also don’t like the characters very much. It’s hard to simpathise with them. Everyone from Yasuko, our damsel in distress to Ishigami, the genius mathematician, is unidimensional. Then there’s the amazing physicist Manabu Yukawa, also known as Detective Galileo to the detectives of the local police for being able to solve crimes they can’t.

But if you ask me, the detectives are pretty stupid to begin with if all they’re doing is following up on one suspect and her supposed male accomplice. I mean, are we in a fast-paced thriller that was lauded as a fine example of its genre and turned into cult Japanese film, or what??? The entire novel so far, I’m 70% through, focusses only on how Yasuko’s story doesn’t add up even though she has an alibi, proof and witnesses to back her up because… instinct, and yes, Detective Galileo thinks something is fishy too.

I was also waiting for more background on the murder victim, a character who is undoubtedly deplorable and definitely deserved what he had coming. But where is his motive for wanting to return to his ex-wife after all these years? He’s said to have had shady dealings in the past. Why aren’t the cops also exploring those connections?

Sure, we know this isn’t a whodunit because we already know whodunit, but I sincerely expected what followed to compliment this aspect of the plot. Instead, everything that unfurls after the murder is rather obvious.

Apparently, Higashino is the “Japanese Stieg Larsson”! Let me just break it to you right now – he isn’t. There is no similarity between him and to the author who gave us a trilogy with layers that went so deep you thought you were going to drown until he pulled you out again and threw you right back in. Larsson was a genius who had mastered the art of intricately woven, seemingly unconnected sub-plots. Most importantly, Larsson gave us Lisbeth Salandar and to place Hishagino’s Galileo anywhere around that orbit is an insult to his memory!

But then again, what of the acclaim, those glowing reviews and recommendations from so many friends who loved not just this book but also the two that followed in the series? You can see why I  currently feel like I’ve downloaded the wrong the book. A cheap knock off, that’s what my copy probably is. Mystery solved. And I didn’t even need Detective Galileo to help me.

Because seriously… when was the last time 2 million people were wrong?

The Saturday eReader: Sea of Poppies by Amatav Ghosh

poppies As someone who owns a signed copy of the Ibis trilogy in hardcover, I know it may sound a bit patronising to recommend that you purchase the ebook version of The Sea of Poppies. But as someone who owns the Ibis series in hardcover, let me just tell say, reading these books comfortably is quite a workout. Of course, if they’re signed by Amitav Ghosh, and you’re in desperate need of some definition in your shoulders, the hard copies are totally worth the effort.

However, if I was one of those people who has one set of books for show and another for wear and tear, I would purchase the trilogy on the Kindle as well. It’s just more comfortable to read and convenient to take on the bus, train, across the universe, the works! But I’m not rich or snooty enough to justify such duality in my reading habits so I’ll just stick to my hard copies – they’re signed! Did I mention that? – and leave it to you to decide between hardcopy and ebook.

Sea of Poppies is one of the best books I’ve read inside and most definitely outside of Indian Literature. The first in the Ibis trilogy, it transports us to the period of India’s burgeoning opium cultivation and trade which rendered the British extremely rich and the Indian farmer destitute. With this historic backdrop, Sea of Poppies introduces us to a slew of fascinating characters caught in the midst of this – from the grey eyed Deeti who sees the Ibis in her dreams way before she has even seen the ocean, to Babu Nob Kissin, who is convinced the ship’s second mate, an American named Zachary Reed, is a reincarnation of Lord Krishna. There’s also Raja Neel Rattan Haldar, whose family lives opulently but can barely manage to hide the fact that they have indeed fallen on hard and troubling times. And the most fascinating of them all is Paulette Lambert, the daughter of a French botanist, raised by a Bengali Muslim wet nurse, who uses her Indian upbringing to her advantage when she wants to escape the manipulative, but very influential family, who takes her in after her father’s death.

What I love about the book is how vividly it paints India in the 1800s. At one point you can actually smell the opium factories, with their listless workers waist deep in the stuff, churning it around continually. You can actually visualise the old port of Calcutta, bringing in ships like the Ibis and little boats like the one Paulette was born in, to dock in stability before returning to the fearsome seas again. It’s also fascinating to read about the opium trade, production and the lives that it wrecked on one hand and made rich and powerful on the other. Through the journey of the Ibis we also get to read about lives on freights during that period and a bit about the slave trade.

I’ve read this book twice and am currently crawling through River of Smoke. Honestly, I truly love that my books are personally autographed – I stood in very long lines to make that happen! But if I were you, I would totally go for the ebook over the hardcopy just because of how convenient they are to lug around everywhere you go because believe me, this isn’t the kind of series you can put down too easily.

This isn’t a review. It’s part of a series I call The Saturday eReader which focuses on recommending a different ebook every weekend. Read more posts from the series here.

The Saturday eReader: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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Very rarely do you come across a book that has you hooked the minute you read its name. If you’re a fan of horror, witchcraft and the occult, download this book without a second of thought — if the name and jacket art haven’t peaked your interest already.

It’s a bit ‘high school’ at times, but not in the usual, formulaic way you might imagine. Well, maybe in the similarities to the once-carefree-now-totally-rogered group of friends who have foolishly kicked the hornet’s nest. It deals with some pretty dark stuff too so don’t waltz in looking to get a kick out of a forbidden romance beyond the grave.

Of course, Anna Dressed in Blood, quick, fascinating read that it is, is probably not the best representative of its genre. But it’s a pretty damn good attempt nevertheless! TV series worthy, I would say, once The Vampire Diaries stuffs it once and for all. Read it on your Kindle before that happens.

Download & read Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

The Saturday eReader: Eleanor & Park

Putting into words how I felt after reading Eleanor & Park is one of the most personal things I have opted to write since The Silence of the Goats. That is why I have avoided it all these months. Even now, as I get ready to write this recommendation, I am trying really hard to control myself from getting overtly lyrical because it is one of the first books in a long time that has moved me so much.

Still, it wouldn’t be fair for me to romanticise it too much because your experience might be completely different. My only concern is that my gushing may ruin the experience for you, as has happened to me many-a-times from reading reviews and recommendations.

Trust me? Read no further and go download this book RIGHT NOW!

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: Love in the time of the Walkman and double A batteries

The first thing that runs through Park’s mind when he sees Eleanor is that she looks exactly like the kind of person this would happen to. ‘This’ being getting rejected by every person on the bus who has an empty seat next to them.

Everyone that is, except Park who is most definitely not in love at first sight or even the local do-gooder. Just a social Inbetweener trying to keep the peace.

Also, Rainbow Rowell would have no story if these two teenagers didn’t end up together on that seat of that bus because everything of note to the pain, pleasure and chronic confusion of first love starts right there.

This is probably when I say that this is no ordinary love story, but I won’t. If you recall falling in love with someone at the age of 16, you know it’s immensely ordinary, but that is what makes it extraordinary.

Like the first time Park reaches out and holds Eleanor’s hand and she “disintegrates”, that is one of the most intense, moments in the novel. You forget, in the process of growing up, how intimate early hand holding can be.

Or when Eleanor refuses to borrow Park’s Walkman (it’s set in the 1980s, by the way), instead just emptying out its batteries, and Park goes home and calls his grandmother to tell her that he doesn’t want any presents for his birthday… Just a large supply of double A batteries.

I downloaded Eleanor & Park on a Saturday night with a glass of wine and read it until the early hours of the next morning. I don’t know if it was nostalgia or the wine but I wanted to fall asleep hugging my Kindle that night. It has one of those innocent yet intense first-love stories you just wish was yours, because what makes it so perfect is the knowledge that it will eventually have to end.

Eleanor & Park is a YA novel about young love. But it tells a story that would resonate with audiences across genders (yes, despite all the hand holding) and age groups. It would be one of my top recommendations for anyone looking for a relaxing read that takes you on a wistful journey down… Oh no, I’m gushing, aren’t I?

Anyway, I sincerely hope you will read this book and then return here to share your impressions with me. I would really, really like to know what you think of it!