Book Review: The Facility

Title: The Facility
Author: Simon Lelic
ISBN: 9780330522724
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis: The book is set in the near future where a “Unified Security Act” has been passed in the UK which essentially allows the government to go to any length in the name of maintaining security. A secret facility/prison is established and a number of people are detained without any explanation. The book follows Arthur Priestly – one of the imprisoned, Henry Graves – governor of the facility and Tom Clarke – a journalist approached by Priestly’s wife, Julia, who believes her husband has been detained under false pretences.

My Review:

I had read good reviews about Lelic’s debut novel, Rupture (which I haven’t read yet) so I was eager to get my hands on his second book. I am usually not too keen on reading political thrillers but this plot sounded interesting enough and so I chanced it.

This is a fast paced thriller and is gripping throughout, well almost. It wasn’t very thought-provoking and I felt that this complex issue of government confidentiality could be investigated further. The book revolves around these 3 protagonists and how they react to this situation. Instead of a typical frameworks of such novels which reveal more as they progress, this is an inverted projection of this kind of story in that it doesn’t reveal the big conspiracy and aimed at keeping things hidden.

We don’t really know why the facility is established until a third of the way through the novel. The difficulty with this approach is that it is difficult to examine the issues in-depth. The writing is good, there is a creepy murky feeling throughout the novel but it doesn’t really stand out as an exceptional thriller. It is an absorbing fact paced read but it doesn’t end up leaving you satisfied with the outcome.

Book Review: A Moment of Silence

Title: A Moment Of Silence: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent
Author: Anna Dean
ISBN: 0749079940
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Miss Dido Kent is 28 and unmarried and hence heading towards spinsterhood. Her beloved niece Catherine sends her word that Catherine’s new fiance, Richard Montague, has upset her. Dido rushes to her niece’s help to Bellfield Hall, home of the Montague family. She discovers that Richard has secretly broken off the engagement without any proper reason and since then disappeared. Then, a dead body of a woman is discovered in the garden. Are these incidences related? Dido wants to find out.

My Review:

Given my love for Agatha Christie, more so for Miss Marple, I was really looking forward to this addition to the ranks of worth female sleuths. I wasn’t disappointed. Dido is smart, resourceful and very sure of herself. She is extremely pleased with herself when she deduces something about the mystery. Her letters to her sister are very amusing and she doesn’t mind blowing her own trumpet. Her cleverness and show-off only add to her character, gives it more spunk and personality.

She does a great job of making people confide in her to solve the mysteries. She is no Miss Marple who relied on human psychology. Dido here gathers so much information and confidences of the residents of Bellfield Hall that by the end of the novel it is very easy for her to figure out what the whole matter is.

There twists and turns, the mystery is puzzling and leaves you guessing at every turn of events. The conclusion is happily surprising. Dido is a fun character. The novel is well written and clever. It ends on such a note that I am hoping there is much more to happen in Dido’ life. This is a first in the series and I am looking forward to read more.

Book Review: Cracked Up To Be

Title: Cracked Up To Be
Author: Courtney Summers
ISBN: 9780312383695
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Parker Fadley was once perfect – a straight A student, captain of the cheerleading squad, girlfriend of the hottest guy in school everyone wanted and a very popular girl. One night, everything changed and now she is a mess. Parker is now destructive to herself and others around her. She has abandoned her friends, broken up with her boyfriend and is lagging behind in her school work. Why would a girl who had it all do such a thing is the mystery.

My Review:

I picked up this book since I wanted a light right with some mystery thrown into it and it didn’t let me down. I haven’t read much contemporary YA but after reading this book, I have suddenly turned in to a fan of this genre. The summary made me think it would be an emotional novel but it turned out to be shockingly heart wrenching.

Parker is such a likeable character, although she is mean to everyone, selfish at times and very self-destructive. She is damaged but what is endearing though is her brutal honesty, wit and her inherent intelligence that shines through in certain situations. Parker has flashbacks of one night that changed everything for her and since then she has put on this facade of being strong and difficult. It’s only through these flashbacks that we understand what really happened and why Parker is hurting so much while being mean to everyone.

This novel explores the complex and difficult world of teens – homework, projects, best friends, petty disputes, teen love and parties. However, Parker’s raw emotional state and the edge on which she is balancing is real anguish. Drugs, alcohol and sex surround her and she is really holding it together for her studies when in fact she may fall apart anytime.

But teen life is also about friends and their true friendship. Amidst all her pain and suffering, she has her ex-boyfriend Chris and the new guy in school Jake who refuse to give up on her and want to help her by breaking through the barriers she has created.

Everyone faces the pressure to be the best and excel but sometimes it is too much to handle and one may crack, like Parker did. This is a gripping, fast-paced read and an emotional one at that which is beautifully written with endearing lead characters.

Note: This post has been cross-posted at Bond with Books.

Book Review: These Things Hidden

Title: These Things Hidden
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN13: 9780778328797
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis: Allison Glenn was once Linden Fall’s golden girl in every way. She was perfect daughter, the model student, she had the good looks and good grades with aspirations of college and beyond. All that changed one night when she was sent to prison for five years for an unforgivable crime. Now, she is released on parole and wants to lead a normal life and re-establish her relationship with her younger sister, Brynn. Brynn, on the other hand, has faced the burden of what happened that night for all these years. All she wants to do is bury the past and forget Allison.

My Review:

This is a very intriguing and absorbing read. Even though Allison committed a crime, I couldn’t help but care for her. We don’t really know what she did in the beginning of the novel but we know it is heinous by the sound of it. However, her character is written so well and with so much care that you cannot help feeling sympathetic about her by the time you find out what she did.

The book is written in alternating viewpoints between the four central characters and it is a style I have come to love as it offers brilliant characterisation. All the central characters are very well drawn out and you can relate to them for their beliefs, faith, their past sufferings and the choices they make because of them.

As the story progresses, the past is revealed at the perfect moment. The suspenseful writing makes it very interesting and I was hooked from the beginning. The writing is also almost lyrical and poignant.

The book deals with a lot of realistic issues about teenage life, sibling relationships, secrets and guilt, and parenting. It also deals with the complex mother-child relationship and how different women react to it. Apart from our parents and upbringing, the choices we make affect our lives. While bad choices may ruin it, good choices might just as well take their toll.

I would highly recommend this book if you want to read about contemporary issues with a blend of suspense/mystery to it.

Note: This post has been cross-posted at Bond with Books.

Book Review: The Tenth Circle

Author: Jodi Picoult

ISBN: 978-0743496711


Synopsis: When Daniel Stone was a child, he was the only white boy in a native Eskimo village where his mother taught, and he was teased mercilessly because he was different. He fought back, the baddest of the bad kids: stealing, drinking, robbing and cheating his way out of the Alaskan bush – where he honed his artistic talent, fell in love with a girl and got her pregnant. To become part of a family, he reinvented himself – jettisoning all that anger to become a docile, devoted husband and father. Fifteen years later, when we meet Daniel again, he is a comic book artist. His wife teaches Dante’s Inferno at a local college; his daughter, Trixie, is the light of his life – and a girl who only knows her father as the even-tempered, mild-mannered man he has been her whole life. Until, that is, she is date raped…and Daniel finds himself struggling, again, with a powerlessness and a rage that may not just swallow him whole, but destroy his family and his future.

I’m  not really sure if I like this book as a whole. There were parts that I enjoyed, but there were parts that I hated as well. I did not like the ending. After a few pages into the book and I wanted to whack all the characters in it. I mean all of them were so twisted but I could cut some slack for Daniel. The change in him after he becomes a father is heartening. However for Laura and Trixie, I could only ask – what the hell were you thinking? Also there was so much extra in the middle that didn’t add anything to the book. I felt like I was suffering through the book. I think she could have edited to remove some of the extra and explored the ending a bit more. There was just too much of chaos going on. The comics were kind of a neat addition. They were dark, but they were fitting.

The characters – It was as if Trixie’s parents were attempting to learn about and express themselves through their jobs (Daniel with his dark cartoons, Laura with her discoveries through Dante’s Inferno, the book she lectured about). However, it was through the chaos that centered around Trixie that forced them to really learn about themselves. The Trixie character kind of disturbed me. It bothered me that she was a 14-year old girl going through all of this. But honestly I couldn’t come to care about her. Surely the author hoped that it would evoke sympathy from the reader but I felt Trixie was just a brat. But I do hope this is not something that happens to a lot of girls her age. Here’s the thing that really bothered me about this story if a young girl is forced to have sex by a guy she’s dated and has read this book, it doesn’t encourage her to talk about it with her friends or report it to the authorities. On the contrary, it shows her that if she doesn’t want her life to be completely destroyed that she should keep her mouth shut. That is a sad message.

I was hoping for some justice through story. It didn’t come though. Personally, I thought the guy getting killed was a lousy addition to the story. I thought the guy she met when she was running was a great part of the story. He made her feel safe in situations that had let her down in the past. I was disappointed that this part of the story did not get explored more and was just dropped before the ending. Meet me in Florida some time. Really? I think better could have resulted from that story line. Not developing it almost made it pointless. This is my third Jodi Picoult book. I liked Picture Perfect better, but I’m still not sold on this author. I know people love her though. Her writing is good and the characters are so vivid and have a lot of depth. I’ve just been bored with the extra stuff that isn’t needed and the endings. I always have this feeling that the story is incomplete somehow. The essential conversations never take place between the protagonists and their loved ones. It feels very superficial given the gravity of the subjects that she writes on.

Book Review: Picture Perfect

Author: Jodi Picoult

ISBN: 0425185508


“To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, and Alex Rivers, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, meet on the set of a motion picture in Africa. They have a whirlwind romance and declare their love in a fairy-tale wedding. But when they return to California, something alters the picture or their perfect marriage. A frightening pattern takes shape – a cycle of hurt, rage, denial and promises, thinly veiled by glamour.”

The synopsis doesn’t really give you a clue about the book.

Cassandra Barret wakes up in a cemetery, bleeding from the head and suffering from amnesia. She cannot remember who she is, or where she lives. Will flying Horse, a new LAPD officer, finds her wandering aimlessly near a graveyard and takes her in. Days later when her husband comes to claim her at the police stations, no one is more stunned than Cassie to learn that not only is she a renowned anthropologist, but she is married to Hollywood’s leading man, Alex Rivers.

As Cassie gets accustomed to her fairy-tale existence, fragments of her memory return, her whirlwind romance in Africa, her major anthropological discovery, the trajectory of Alex’s career. Yet she finds uneasiness nagging at her. When she finds a positive pregnancy test, all the dark memories come rushing back to her. To protect her unborn child, she runs to Will, who agrees to take her to live with his grandparents in South Dakota. Cassie is exposed to a culture and a lifestyle that is completely new to her. It liberates her.

Alex, Cassie and Will all had difficult childhoods, and all try to run away from their pasts. They struggle with the question of nature versus nurture and how it defines and individual. I loved this book. I loved the way she described the psyche of the victim, the helplessness of the abuser, and the tragedy of such an illustrious life.

This is my first Jodi Picoult book and it was interesting enough to want me to read more.

My rating: 3.5/5

Birthright – Book Review

Author: Nora Roberts

ISBN: 978-0-7499-4042-3


At a housing construction site, in the small town community of Woodsboro , a worker unexpectedly digs up some human bones. This causes the Antietam Creek Project to come to a sudden halt. It is said that the plot holds that part of the land in dread because of the haunted pond called Simon’s Hole. The bones are found to be more than 5000 years old. Lana Campbell, a widower with a son, a lawyer and member of Historical Preservation Society, releases a court order to stop further construction on the site. First to arrive on the scene is the famous archeologist Dr. Callie Dunbrook. She brings in many other university grads and undergrads to dig on the site, including renowned anthropologist and Callie’s irritating but irresistible ex-husband, Jake Graystone. Forced to work together on the project, Callie and Jake set aside their mutual differences temporarily, and intend to discover what the bones of people long gone have to say. Since a lot of people’s living depends on the construction site they don’t want these archaeologists on the site and hence decide to make life hell for them.

Little does Callie know that her passion for finding out the secrets of the dead is on the verge of becoming a mission of finding out answers to the questions of her own past. An unknown and distraught woman, Suzanne Cullen, turns up at her motel telling her that Callie is her long lost daughter. This turns Callie’s life upside down and though she is sure that she was not adopted she still insists on finding the truth because it’s her birthright. Jake acts as the strongest and only support in Callie’s mission of unravelling the secrets of her birth,which actually makes them realize that their divorce was a biggest mistake that they made in their relationship. While they are at it and digging the site, the people in their team start dying, one by one.

Is someone out to sabotage the work of the archaeologists or are there supernatural forces at work and haunting the ground?

Is Suzanne Cullen telling the truth?

‘Birthright’ is a superb work by Nora. This was the first time I picked her book and I’m sure I’m going to pick her other works. The novel takes you through lot of twists and turns of the puzzle and in the meanwhile through the relationships that are entangled in love, emotions and questions. How the families come together and the role of each family member is given fair importance and justice. All characters are perfectly etched out. Everything is in place as a suspense thriller. Not as stupendous as an Agatha Christie, I was still trying hard to guess the culprit, though I could tie up a few ends and could come up with a hypothesis. I guess after forty odd Agatha Christie’s that’s the least I should be able to do. But still it’s a very good read.

My rating for this book is 3/5.

The Thorn Birds: Book Review

Thorn Birds

The book starts with the legend of the thornbird – a bird who searches all his life for a thorn bush and once he finds it, impales himself on the thorn and while doing so sings the most beautiful song, even better that that of a lark or a nightingale and the song is so beautiful that even God smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain. This single sentence seems to sum up the common element binding the entire book.

The Thorn Birds, is the story of Paddy Cleary and his family and their journey from New Zealand where they worked as sheep shearers, to the huge sheep Drogheda farm in Australia, owned by Paddy’s autocratic sister.

The story spans 3 generations from Paddy Cleary and his wife Fiona, their sons and only daughter Meggie and the Catholic priest Ralph De Bricassart, to Meggie’s children. The story majorly dwells on Meggie and her relationships with her parents, brothers, Father Ralph and her children. Fiona, Meggie’s mother has suffered disappointment in love, has lost the one child she loves dearly over all others and realises only after Paddy’s death that she loves him dearly. Meggie’s story is on the same line who has a bitter realisation that the man she truly loves and wants, Father Ralph is beyond her reach and has chosen God over her.

Though I can identify with the characters of Meggie and Father Ralph, I find them faulty. The first time Father Ralph meets Meggie, she is 10 and he is 28. They form a close relationship from that time itself with Meggie looking up to him and loving him like a father-figure. But then progress from that relationship to being in love with each other! This is the weakness in the priest’s character that inspite of taking the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, he consistently breaks those vows and that too for a girl who is young enough to be his daughter. He then regrets and even after breaking all those vows considers to be truly and completely devoted to God. He later realises that he is a man first and a priest later but does not give into the relationship.

Meggie, who knows that Father Ralph is a priest, falls in love with him. It started as an innocent relationship and in time, developed into a serious forbidden love affair. Meggie, however, never understands a priest’s vocation and what it truly means. She thinks about herself and never of Ralph’s struggle with his love for her. Also she has anger towards God for Ralph choosing Him over her and it continues when her son decides to become a priest.

All in all it is a poignant love story, a powerful epic of struggle and sacrifice, a celebration of individuality and spirit.

The books I have read..

I have seriously taken up reading quite recently and I am proud to say that I have read 2 books in one month now and close to finishing the 3rd one.

The first was The General’s Daughter by Nelson DeMille. It is about a military investigation agent, Paul Brenner, who is put in charge of investigating the death of Ann Campbell, the daughter of a legendary general. This is a professional military woman who is found raped and murdered and a preliminary search turns up paraphernalia and sex toys that point to a scandal of major proportions. The investigating officer is reluctant to take the case when he learns that he is paired up with a woman with whom he had a tempestuous affair and an unpleasant parting. But duty calls and these two work together to reveal the dark secrets of this “golden girl” which involve several top level people who may have wanted her dead. Her murder is only the beginning. It is a fast paced novel and good for a one time read.General's Daughter

The next I read was The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This one was recommended by Amit in his Best Eateries for bookworms. And I was not disappointed. You can read the entire book here.The Scarlet Letter

The third one that I am almost close to finishing is The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. It was first published in 1977 and went on to become worldwide bestseller. It is a sweeping saga of dreams, titanic struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback.The story focuses on the Cleary family and spans the years 1915 to 1969. More about this later.The Thorn Birds

I will probably be writing a review on The Thorn Birds cause it has evoked a lot of conflicting feelings in my mind though I have enjoyed reading it thoroughly.