Arsenic for Tea

Title: Arsenic for Tea (Wells and Wong #2)
Author: Robin Stevens
ISBN: 9780552570732
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: January 29, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy’s home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy’s glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy’s birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn’t really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill – and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem – and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

Review:

Arsenic for Tea was one of the books I had been excited to read. I thoroughly enjoyed Steven’s first book in the series, Murder Most Unladylike so I was delighted to find Arsenic for Tea on Netgalley.

This is a cute book with a cosy murder. It is the second in the Wells and Wong series, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong – schoolgirl detectives. They are at Daisy’s house for the school holiday. For Daisy’s birthday, the entire family, a few friends and relatives are invited for a splendid birthday tea party. At the party, someone falls ills mysteriously.

A closed house mystery, motley of people – all with reasons for doing the bad deed, stuck in the house due to bad weather (another Christie style mystery – could it get any better!). Everybody seems to have secrets and it’s upon the Detective Society to solve their second case before something very bad happens.

Daisy and Hazel are delightful characters – witty and quirky. Daisy’s father, mother, uncle and Miss Alston provide further layers to the plot.

The second book in the series is always compared to the first one will the plot be as good, will the characters grow mature or appear pale? Arsenic for Tea is deeper and stronger. Daisy and Hazel are settling well into their role of detectives, the setting of the murder is charming and cosy and the mystery is very interesting indeed.

I am now a fan of this series.

Advertisements

Butterfly Season

Title: Butterfly Seasonbutterfly-season-200x300
Author: Natasha Ahmed
ISBN: 9781927826553
Publisher: Indireads Inc.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.

Review:

Butterfly Season is a story of a contemporary Pakistani girl Rumi, who has spent the last years caring for her ailing mother. Now after her mother’s death, she has come to London to visit her younger sister and some old friends. Rumi has been a dutiful daughter, loyal friend, yet independent and hard working.

She has been the typical girl next door until she falls in love with Ahad, a Pakistani man living in London. Even though both come from the same cultural background, their lifestyle and perspectives couldn’t be more different and this creates a complicated situation.

Rumi’s dilemma now is to decide whether to drop her usual way of thinking (traditional and conservative) or adopt a more bolder and refreshing approach to love and life with Ahad. The story develops among the family and cultural issues and is an interesting view on the Pakistani expats and society.

This is a bold and refreshing take about the Pakistani culture, expectations and way of life among the women in Pakistan. I loved reading about the independent Rumi, who is willing to realise her dreams even if it comes at a price.

Butterfly Season has well fleshed out characters. I loved all the characters in the book, their conflicts and different perspectives create a multilayered drama the story. This can be the story of almost any woman living in today’s society, be it India or Pakistan. Butterfly Season is an enjoyable read wih great engaging writing style and interesting plot.

The Best of Us

Title: The Best Of Uscover22132-medium
Author: Sarah Pekkanen
ISBN: 9781451673517
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday. All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage. The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

My Review:

This is an idyllic novel on the surface of it. Four best friends are on a tropical getaway and for three of them it’s totally free of charge. Tina, Allie, and Savannah are the best of friends. They are very different from one another and very complex characters. Life isn’t easy for them at the moment and each one of them is going through some rough times and thus this getaway seems to be a great idea to sort out their thoughts and life. The trip gives them a chance to confront their problems.

Tina is a stay at home mum who feels she is holding herself together by a thread. The never-ending tasks at home and demands of her kids have taken a toll on her and she never seems to find a quiet moment to herself. I could totally relate to her. Savannah is vivacious and beautiful. Her husband has just left her for a younger woman and instead of confiding in her best friends, she acts up. Allie, on the surface is the most stable of friends, but she has received some devastating news. Instead of sharing it with her husband she keeps it to herself and acts totally out of character during this trip.

These friends deal with some of life’s heavy problems in a frustrating yet realistic manner. This is a light yet complex read.

Love on the Rocks

– Ismita Tandon Dhankher

My first thoughts on hearing the title of this book was categorizing it to the arena of sappy romantic stories. But surprise of surprises! It is an enthralling thriller with strong undercurrents of love. The first two pages of the book are enough to  make you get up and take notice of the plot line.

In a cargo ship sailing from Japan to America,the Sea Hyena, among with the 24 crew members, the chief officer, Aaron is newly wed and decides to bring along his wife, Sancha on board for the voyage. The husband and wife are blissfully in love but there is turmoil on the vessel. A murderer is on the loose and this in turn causes turmoil among the happy couple too. Everybody is under suspicion for theft and murder. Once the detective authority comes on board, it becomes a vicious cat and mouse game. With the thrill of murders there are also revelations of various key characters and they are not pretty. Sancha even doubts her own husband and doesn’t hesitate to voice these doubts. A gloomy masked presence looms over all this drama.

The narration of the book is unique. Every character explains the proceedings from their own perspectives in their respective chapters. This style may start out to be mildly confusing, but you soon get into the rhythm as you grasp the nuances of each character. There are several mysteries entangled in this story but the author deftly extracts each one and even succeeds in connecting them to each other to form a beautiful large picture at the end.

The mounting suspense predictably climaxes to the finding of the murderer without any twist. But it is then that the author brings out her trump card and reveals the identity of Manna, the mysterious journal writer with the violent past.

One flaw that I observed was the characterization was incomplete. There were some gaping holes in the character descriptions. All the characters have some kind of a past which could have been better illustrated in the soliloquy chapters.

Even through all of this and some mild confusion in the middle of the plot , the book turns out to be a delightful read. It is non pretentious, mature and manages to be practical and true to the characters at all time. An engaging thriller with great description of life on a cargo vessel. Kudos to Ismita!

Rating – 4*

Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com

The Boss Is Not Your Friend

… by Vijay Nair

When I heard the title of this book and the introductory blurb, it all sounded like a self help book with detailed steps and mantras for improvement. But the snazzy cover art threw me off. It made me very curious to find out what this book was really about. As it turned out, “The Boss is Not your Friend” was an enjoyable read. It is basically a satirical, mostly pessimistic look on the corporate organizational structure in India.

Vijay Nair has a way of convincingly proving a seemingly outrageous hypothesis. He shows that the entire corporate pyramid is a flawed structure. A money-grubbing, greedy and self-involved one. He spares nobody in the book. The boss, the HR, the team members, the system, the process, everything in an organisation is “evil”. Yes, thats right. “All organisations are evil”. This is the premise he comprehensively proves in the whole book.

The book starts with the Boss, a despicable thing, whose criticism is the main agenda of the book. We look at a modest questionnaire whose result classifies the boss into six categories. These categories are later explained with associated case studies. Next, he gives in-depth instructions to counter each kind of Boss and to emerge victorious in the battle. After this we move on to the CEO. The CEO is apparently a no-good fellow and I wouldn’t be spoiling the book if I revealed that he has to always be fed on flattery to keep him amiable. Next he attacks the HR managers, who are ultimately slimy and two-faced in their dealings with the employees. Further on, there are tirades against third-party consultants, the rules of the organisation and more such instructions to fight them in the corporate setting.

All in all I found this book outrageous and enormously hilarious! The author treads no sort of middle ground in the book. He is focused on the mission at hand and very carefully avoids even a single good remark about the organisation. He urges the reader not put herself in any of the characters described but to only visualize the other members of the organisation in those roles. I enjoyed the case studies immensely and some points could even relate to them through personal and second-hand experience. It is true that when it comes to money-saving, nobody is indispensible to the organisation. The encouragement of countering office politics with even more under hand methods appeared, in some places, to be practical even!

But still, the book is what it is. It is an offshoot of the recent scams uncovered and the recession cost cutting that was rampant. It appears to be a comical take on these events and I just felt that actually following this advice would get me into a lot of trouble at my workplace! The exaggerated effects leave you in no doubt about the intentions of the book, however.

Everyone may not appreciate the author’s intellect, but for a corporate employee it is an enjoyable read and an assurance that he is not the only sufferer!

Rating 3*

Bangalore Calling

.. by Brinda S Narayan

A few years back and even now, one reason Bangalore is on the world map is because of the huge number of call centers. The relatively lower cost of living and the abundance of suitable workforce seems to have caused this. This book is a study of what happens to a generation that is lured by a seemingly attractive liberal culture and easy money.

The employees of a call center Callus are the subjects of fifteen interlinked stories in this book. Each of the stories shows us how the environment, night shifts, accent changes and incredible salaries change the lives of these characters in different ways. Yvette, the Anglo-Indian accent trainer, is determined to teach her trainees that learning an accent is not conversion to the American culture. A van driver, a staunch Ayyappan devotee, is disgusted by the behavior of the employees that he shuttles from their homes to the office. A Tamil Brahmin girl is introduced to the power of money and credit cards. A bathroom cleaner dreams of an opulent lifestyle looking at the people in the office and so on.

The book is a demonstration of the popular adage that everything that shines is not a diamond. It candidly tells the effects of culture change and that what goes around comes back every time. The poignant depiction of the characters and the shockingly real stories make this book a welcome change from those that are simply blatant criticism of the call center encroach. It shows that with the right attitude one can turn everything to his advantage. Every phenomenon is registered and reacted to by the people in different ways. For some it is good and for some not so much. Hence the books simply provides us with a great study and it is up to the reader to judge its intent.

A really good read in my opinion.
My rating is 4*

KKrishna’s Konfessions

…by Smita Jain

For anyone who has watched the infamous K series soaps on Star Plus, the theme of the book would be obviously clear. But for those who do not know, Star Plus channel in India had this burst of emotional drama soaps(in Hindi language) that became a national craze. Most of these were produced by “Balaji TeleFilms” and their names started with the letter “K” as its owner Ekkta Kapoor believed in the power of auspicious alphabets. Every housewife in India was hooked on to these sagas and they thus became a general topic of humo

Coming back to the book, KKrishna is the screenplay writer for a hit TV serial. She is now faced by a seemingly insurmountable writer’s block and her creative director knows it too.  The producers are pending on the decision of changing the writer for the show and who else must it be other than Dev Trivedi, her college friend with whom she shares a love-hate relationship.To save her reputation and her livelihood, KKrishna starts looking for new sources of inspiration. While doing so she and Dev happen to witness a murder! Things get muddled and later unraveled as the murderer starts pursuing them, and they get actively involved in the investigation.

The book is very fast paced and seemingly exposes (comically of course) the underbelly of the world of soaps and TV production. Kkrishna herself has no ethical or moral qualms when it comes to her job. She is ready to cheat, lie, seduce and basically do anything to get her job done. The story though predictable, loops through a lot of hilarious twists. The characters too are extremely lovable ranging from the neighborhood pervert to the fat policeman. As for the plot, KKrishna’s broad perspective and wild theories  help the police in solving the murder successfully. Also there is the sub-plot of her relationship with Dev, the one for whom our protagonist nurses a secret crush while donning a façade of contempt and hate.

All in all the book is a hilarious and light-hearted riot! You do need an open mind to read it but it promises to be a page turner in many ways. The best thing I liked about the book is that the author is clear that it is only a chick-lit and so the expectations are set and met with proper satisfaction. It is not a literary delight but it is just what it is.

Pick it up for a very light and entertaining read.

My Rating – 3*