Cocktails For Three – Book Review

…by Sophie Kinsella (writing as Madeleine Wickham)

This is a story of 3 British women who are close friends. For years they have maintained the tradition of meeting at a cocktail bar on the first of every month. This bar has strengthened their friendship and given them lot of memories to cherish.

They lead happy lives till an outsider by the name of Heather comes into their lives. She enters their lives at a time when each of them is at the brink of personal crisis.

This is the story of sweet Candice, rash Roxanne and intelligent Maggie. Candice is the ‘baby’ of the lot. She is cute and generous to the extent of being fooled easily. She harbours a pest from the past. To get over her age old guilt, she invites Heather into her life with open, welcoming hands. She showers her with all the help and love she can so that she can make good what her father spoilt years ago. Heather appears friendly on the surface. Maybe, too friendly. Soon, Candice is dealing with her self-obsessed ex-boyfriend, a crooked flatmate, lots of dilemmas and above all, the dangerous distance that is developing between her and her close friends.

Roxanne is in love with an older man whom she refers to as Mr. Married with Kids. Her two best friends do not know who he is. The affair that has been lasting since 6 years doesn’t seem to be coming to a decent conclusion. Still, she is willing to live with it. But one fine day, her lover ends it all. She is devastated. And she has no one to talk to. After all, she managed to lose both her friends too.

Maggie is the editor of a magazine. She is used to being in power and being busy. But in a month’s time, she would be delivering her baby. She and her husband have moved to their palatial house in the country. After her maternity leave begins, she only as the silence of the big house, large grassy fields and anxiety of handling a baby to accompany her. Roxanne and Candice seem to be moving on with their lives without her. And once the baby comes, she is at a complete loss of control. Despite working hard and spending sleepless nights, she is unable to handle her baby well and for that, she feels pathetic about herself. Her decreasing self-esteem isn’t helped much by her mother-in-law. And there is no one who can understand her.

Three closest of friends and yet so lonely.

But bad times are never to stay forever, ain’t it? Lost friends are won back. Lost trust is regained. Loves are lost but new loves are won.

It is a beautifully written story of women you can relate to. They face the same issues that we face in our lives. This book taught me two lessons. One, do not condemn yourself for who you are not. Accept and love who you are. A successful, working woman like Maggie, for example, cannot be expected to become a perfect mother from day one. Accept the fact that you cannot be good at everything. Second, keep your friends close in times of need. When you have good friends, you never have to feel lonely.

I did not enjoy some of Madeleine Wickham books but this one is a winner for me. It is an easy, engrossing, thoughtful read. I had difficulty parting with this book. I dared to leave all my work pending for the sake of this book. In fact, I would read it again some day!

My rating: 4

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Book Review

Ravi Kapoor, a London based doctor is fed up of this Father-in-law, Norman and his absurd, vulgar, dirty ways. Overworked and frustrated, he feels life will be much better when his FIL is out of the way. Good news comes in the form of his distant cousin, Sonny, who works up a business partnership plan for both of them – a retirement home in Bangalore, India. With profit comes freedom from Norman. Ravi is excited about the plan – a new energy fed into him. His wife, Pauline, objects but realizes that if her father doesn’t go away, Ravi will.

And thus, Best Exotic Hotel Marigold comes into existence. A mottled bunch of widows, widowers, divorcees and elderly couples come together to put this retirement home into full action. Evelyn is an observer and the most amicable person around. Norman has managed to become a pain in everyone’s neck here too. Chain smoker Madge is looking for a rich Maharaja who can be her last and final partner. Muriel is aggrieving her son’s disappearance and resorts to ancient Hindu spiritual rituals to reunite with her son. Jean and Douglas have been married for 47 years and are busy exploring the city on foot. Add in Evelyn’s cowardly son Christopher and confused daughter Theresa, the hotel’s manager Mr. C and his fierce, aggressive, tantrum-throwing wife, the hotel’s head bearer Jimmy and other recurring characters like the mali, the legless beggar outside the hotel, the call center kids and other resident members and you get a funny, thought provoking sometimes confusing tale of how old Brit people take to a country like India.

The individual stories build up well – how and why each individual lands up at the hotel. And you want to know how each of them ends up. But I really wonder why anyone would leave their country and come to a strange land (that too, an underdeveloped country like India) to spend their last days? Especially people who have lived in Britain for their whole lives!

India is shown in a poor light many times – for example, the kids at the call center want to know how Britain is like. There is poverty and garbage all over. People are desperate and funny. Not to mention, the famous spiritual beliefs and practices. But several times, the Indian hospitality, good nature and warmth are appreciated.

Part 3, which contains climax and conclusions, is a big letdown. Unexpected people couple up in the end. People die and separate suddenly. There are so many loose ends. Characters change behaviors like it’s no one’s business. Overall, the story can be perceived as superficial.

I was disappointed. I was expecting more deep rooted emotions and innate conversations given that the story is about elderly people, coming together to spend their last days in a spiritual, stimulating country like India. Instead, there are shallow performances and frivolous thoughts.

The book did manage to hold my attention on a long flight; I finished it in one go. But I would only rate it 2 on 5.

 

Cupcakes At Carrington’s–Book Review

By Alexandra Brown

At last, a chick-lit that did not get on my nerves or put me to sleep. It caught my attention when I saw a 3.82 rating on Goodreads.

This book is centred around Georgie – A salesgirl at Carrington’s department store’s designer bag section. Georgie’s life isn’t easy. She is broke. And single. Her mother’s death and father’s bad name haunts her every day. Your heart kind of goes to her. After all, she has a heart of gold and everyone loves her.

Her boss, James, has caught her eye. And recently he has been acting flirty with her. Put in 2 adorable friends, Eddie and Sam, and you have a wonderful tale of friendship, among other things. Just when things are looking up for Sam, a threat by the name of Maxine is posted at the department store, threatening her job, friendships and love. Carrington’s is going through a make-over due to tough times which is why Maxine, a sultry, mean, man-eating woman is placed on the top. Georgie finds herself pitted against her love, James and the newest hottie, Tom for retaining her job. She desperately needs the job – she is almost bankrupt! At the same time, she loves James.

What will Georgie choose? What does Georgie get in the end? What is all the dishevelment happening suddenly at the usually peaceful department store? Who is good and who is bad here?

Georgie’s character is so adorable. She is sweet, helpful, warm and a great friend. Her friends and a host of interesting characters – evil Tina, her confused fiancé Ciaran, shrewd Malikov and kind hearted Alfie – create this sweet roller-coaster of a tale. You will fall in love with the characters!

What I liked most about the book is that it doesn’t have unnecessary bedroom romance to spice things up. It is also pretty fast paced. Though it comes across as a chick-lit, this novel has an element of whodunit weaved into it.

The tale may seem unnatural in some places but then, which fiction novel is totally realistic. And if they were so realistic, would they be fun to read??!!

I will give this book a 3 on 5.

Gifted

…by Nikita Lalwani.

14 year old Rumi Vasi is a maths prodigy. Living in Cardiff in the 1980s with her parents Mahesh and Shreene and her younger brother Nibu, she faces the challenges that most children of migrant parents do: caught between two worlds. Rumi though has the added pressure of being gifted in maths and consequently, has been pressured to do well academically since a young age by her parents. After years of putting up with her father’s regimented tutoring, Rumi finally begins to crack. She starts to long what most teenagers do: a life beyond numbers and academics. But unfortunately for her, longing and desire have no place in the Vasi household.

I really enjoyed this book. My heart went out to poor Rumi who had to put up with the pressures of parental expectations and being a first generation migrant. She tries to find herself and her own identity without much help from her family. A father who is rigid and aloof and whose only role is to push Rumi to succeed acadenically on all accounts is probably not uncommon in Indian households. Shreene though was an interesting character in that she is traditional and a prude and yet, at some level, you wonder whether she wanted Rumi at all. She pushes too but it’s her punishments and cruel words that cut through you as a reader. What I liked about the book was that unlike other books by Indian authors that portray the west as being negative or that the rebellious Indian girl eventually finds that all things Indian are the only right things in life, this was balanced. Yes, the parents are deeply rooted in Indian tradition and see the west as being a negative influence. But Rumi…while she enjoys Bollywood and feels a connection with India, also seems to realise that independence and a life of one’s own is just as important. I think because I see a lot of clients like Rumi, I was able to identify with her a whole lot more. And kept rooting for her. Nikita Lalwani has done a wonderful job in portraying her characters as well as unveiling the story.

It’s the kind of book I would have loved to write. My rating: 4

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

***This review originally appeared on my personal blog***

Mockingjay

…by Suzanne Collins.

This is the third and final book of the Hunger Games trilogy. {Read the first and second book reviews}. Following the destruction of District 12 and the loss of many lives, Katniss wakes up to find herself in District 13. Along with Gale, her mother, her sister Prim and a few other survivors. Unfortunately for Katniss, Peeta has been captured by President Snow as has Johanna. And they now face Snow’s wrath. In the mean time, the rebels along with Coin, the leader of District 13, now want to unite the rest of the districts to usurp the Capitol. And for that, they need Katniss. She is the Mockingjay. The symbol of the rebellion. As Katniss proceeds to fight, she also has to deal with a Peeta who has been brainwashed against her as well as not knowing whom to trust. The rebels are united in their cause but how many lives are Coin and the others willing to sacrifice?

The final book is about the final fight. The fight for freedom and overthrowing a dictatorship. Katniss’ character grows a bit but Prim’s character develops more to the point where you wish you could read a lot more about her. The ending is pretty gut-wrenching and Katniss finally makes her decision with the whole Peeta-versus-Gale issue. Several lives are lost but except for two lives, none of the others affected me too much. There were some parts in the book where I admit I skim-read. Because the fights and the lack of trust were just getting a bit too much for me. It’s not a bad book in that it completes the story for you {especially if you want to know what happens on starting the trilogy!} But it’s nothing spectacular. I find it hard not to compare it to Harry Potter where the final fight scene is so brilliantly penned. I know it’s not justified but based on that, it doesn’t live up to my expectations. I give it a rating of 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This review was originally posted on my personal blog.

Catching Fire

…by Suzanne Collins.

This is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Please read my review of the first book if you wish prior to this one. In ‘Catching Fire’, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have emerged as victors but Katniss has done something no one ever did before. And for this, she faces the wrath of President Snow. Some of the districts have begun to rebel against the Capitol thanks to Katniss’ stance during the Hunger Games. This also happens to be the 75th year of the Hunger Games. And this time around, there is a twist. The only people eligible for this year’s games are the previous winners. Which in District 12 leaves Katniss as the only girl tribute and Haymitch and Peeta to be chosen as the male tribute. Katniss is back in the arena with past winners and Peeta and this time, is fighting to keep Peeta alive. In the arena, Katniss doesn’t know who an ally is and who isn’t. But at the same time, she tries to trust Finnick and Mags from District 4. Amidst all this, she also tries to sort out her feelings for Gale and Peeta.

The second book, while thrilling in its own way, didn’t have the suspense and the feel of the first one. Having said that, it was still interesting in its own way. I got a bit frustrated with the whole Gale-versus-Peeta issue. Especially as it reminded me of another book that I couldn’t get past 7 chapters. {Twilight} Thankfully though, Katniss has more brains and brawn than Bella of Twilight. I doubt I could have read this book otherwise. I must admit, I like Katniss and Peeta but they don’t do as much for me as the characters from Harry Potter. It’s still an interesting book to read for the thrill of it and of course, to read as part of the trilogy.

My rating for the second book in the trilogy is 3.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This review was originally posted on my personal blog.

The Hunger Games

…by Suzanne Collins.

16 year old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister Prim, aged 12. Katniss’ father died in a mining accident and since his death, she has been the provider for her little family. Along with her best friend Gale, she hunts for food. Katniss and others who live in the Seam area of District 12 are always struggling for food. Thanks to the Capitol that governs all the districts around it.

Yet another initiative by the Capitol is the Hunger Games. Every child from 12 to 18 from each of the districts has to put in their name to participate. And who gets chosen is purely by chance: picking a name out of the hat. 12 boys and 12 girls are then put in an arena and have to fight it out till there is only one remaining. In other words, 23 other children must be killed for one to be declared a victor. And the victor’s district then gets food for a year. When Katniss volunteers herself in place of her sister, she knows it is a matter of life and death. She also knows in order to win, she will not only have to kill children from other districts but also the boy from her own, Peeta. Peeta who was once so kind to Katniss that she still owes him.

I must admit that I was very sceptical about reading The Hunger Games when I heard about it several months ago. The concept of kids needing to kill other kids in order to survive was something I didn’t morally agree with. Eventually though, I caved and got the book after being recommended to read it by someone at my book club. I finished this book in 2 days. Yes, it was that fast paced! I must say I enjoyed most of it and was glad that the killings were not elaborated in a morbid manner and that the violence was not completely gratuitous. Yes, it was disturbing but I think the author handled the concept of the children seemingly having no choice thanks to their government quite well. It’s like a reality TV show that is grotesque. There were occasions when I found myself musing that in real life, this is probably what reality shows could honestly stoop to.

I quite liked Katniss’ character. The fact that the protagonist is a girl and a strong one at that made me feel quite pleased. {Especially when you think about Twilight’s female lead being one I wanted to smack on the head}. The actual games had a feel of the Triwizard Tournament for me initially. Of course, they didn’t have to kill anyone there to win! In the end though, I think the fact that Katniss and a few other children were not killing each other without having doubts of doing it probably saved it as well for me. If it had all been cold-blooded killing, I think I would have been put off it completely. All in all, it’s a good fantasy read and quick-paced. Just don’t compare it to Harry Potter though. 😉

My rating for this book is 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This review was originally posted on my personal blog.