These are really books I read in 2014 but was too lazy to even blog. So what better way to present them as books from Asia. Yes, one from Russia, one from India and one from Malaysia.
The Siege – Helen Dunmore’s novel is set in Leningrad and the story is told from the viewpoint of the 23 year-old Anna Levin. Following the death of her mother Vera, Anna is left to care for her deteriorating father and a baby brother. The plot is set against the backdrop of WWII and provides a glimpse into the suffering of ordinary people through Anna’s story. It is at times sad, at times happy and a lot of times hopeful. A haunting tale set in the Russian winter.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – This book was a birthday gift from my uncle and it was only on my recent trip to India did I really turn its pages. This dark story is narrated by Balram Halwai, the owner of a cab company in Bangalore and it chronicles his rise from a remote village gawaar in northern India to a driver in New Delhi. His journey doesn’t end there and this is where the narrative gets darker as it explores the animalistic nature hidden in a human being. If you have ever employed a chauffeur or a domestic help or plan to do so, be aware that they know more about your personal life than you know of them. Interestingly, Lady Rose states a similar sentence to Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey. The White Tiger also won the 40th Man Booker Prize.
The Ghost Bride – Set in the colonial Malaysia, Yangsze Choo’s novel brings to life the concept of ghost marriages that were practiced by Chinese immigrants in Malay and which are still observed to this day in some parts of the world. The protagonist Li Lan’s quiet life is thrown in a disarray when her only proposal comes from a rich family who seek to marry her to their dead son. Though Li Lan is brought up in a mish-mash of Chinese and Islamic cultures, she refuses to accept her fate and instead, sets out to the underworld to challenge the forces behind this unusual conspiracy. Assisting her from the shadows is a debonair and handsome man of mystery. The rich and vivid descriptions of Li Lan’s surroundings, her pulse-racing adventure with an unusual cliff-hanger make The Ghost Bride a very engaging read.
I thought I was done with Poirot early last year but I never seem to tire of re-reading his adventures. Poirot’s keen sense of observation of the surroundings, his analytical thinking and his ability to perceive human emotions at a crime scene made him my most favorite character in the fictional universe. So while on a long vacation late last year, I picked up
The Labors of Hercules – Hercule Poirot’s fascination with his namesake in Greek mythology and his equally famous 12 labors prompts him to set on a quest to define and complete his own labors aka. cases. This book is only made delightful by the fact that each of his 12 labors are equally exciting and spell-binding.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Its a book I’ve read before but nonetheless failed to surprise me as I rediscovered the plot, the characters and their pasts not to mention whodunnit. Simeon Lee, a wealthy old man, invites or rather insists his family to join him for Christmas. Not given to emotions, Simeon berates everyone including threatening to alter his will. He is however found dead the same night by his family and nobody’s above suspicion except perhaps the old butler. Hercule Poirot is called in for consulting and it is where the story takes interesting turns. When it comes to closing the case, the identity of the murderer caught me by surprise. Truly it felt like opening a Christmas present to find a cute Havanese pup inside.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles – This is the first book in the Hercule Poirot series, the book that starts it all. And reading it, you can right away notice all of Christie’s trademark touches but the story tends to be a bit longish. This story serves as an introduction to not just Poirot but to other important recurring characters, Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp. While its a slow paced book, it is an interesting read. Not really my favorite though.
My fascination for fairytales prompted me to watch NBC’s TV series Grimm. In case you aren’t familiar, this is a police procedural story set in the lush green settings of Portland and perhaps some of the state parks of Washington, though I’m not completely sure. The creators of this show give a modern day look to the age-old Grimm fairytales giving the monsters and creatures a new meaning. While this series is currently in its 4th season, a couple of writers have novelized certain story lines of the Grimm.
The series features humans – a Portland PD cop named Nicholas Burkhardt with a mysterious past and a subset of human-animal creatures called Wesen. Now the Wesen can woge/change into an animal when agitated and in a state of heightened emotions. While ordinary humans cannot see the Wesen unless they choose to reveal themselves, another subset of humans called the Grimms can see the Wesen. The protagonist of this series is Nick Burkhardt who is a cop and a newly Grimm. So anyways, curiosity got the better of me and I managed to read the following books which I will briefly summarize –
The Icy Touch – The first of the Grimm novellas, The Icy Touch focuses on a blood feud between the Grimm Nick Burkhardt and a Wesen who grows up hating Burkhardt and his family. It is a tale of revenge that dates back centuries and shines light on Nick’s ancestry.
The Chopping Block – Perhaps the most goriest and also the most action-packed of the novellas, The Chopping Block features a mysterious Wesen cabal that whips up and serves the most choicest dishes with human meat as the central theme for Wesen every 25 years. This is a race against time for Nick as he and his team try to stop this cabal once and for all.
While I didn’t get a chance to read The Killing Time, I did read the comic The Coins of Zakynthos. This comic picks up where the series left off i.e. the coins are taken away by Nick’s mother to be destroyed. But are they truly destroyed is the question that can be answered by reading this comic. Unfortunately, Amazon being the spoilsport it is at times, didn’t sell the rest of the comics. If you love the series, do give the books a shot but if you haven’t watched the series at all then be warned that it isn’t for the faint at heart.