Sunday, 30 December 2012

Down Under

by Bill Bryson

5 stars.

As I had already stated in my review of Bryson’s “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”, that I can safely divide my reading period between the periods before and after I had read Bill Bryson. And, after reading Down Under I realized that I have never read a travelogue as well as this. Earlier I used to read a lot of Paul Theroux’s works, but lately I grew tired of his cynicism, and couldn’t find myself search for more of his works.

And so, when I was searching for a travelogue to read, I spotted this book in a second hand book shop and I deftly bought it. And , the money was well spent. Although the book fell in the in my discomfort zone of being a non-fiction with LONG paragraphs, I never had any problems breezing through the book. And, not only did I not have any problems, but I thoroughly enjoyed travelling with Bryson around Australia.

I liked the thought process of the author. He primarily goes to Australia to enjoy himself and travel, but never stops short of criticizing the faults he finds with the Australian society. And, the best part about this criticism is he does it in a way, which doesn’t makes it sound like whining of a man who doesn’t seems to find any good, in any of the places he visits.

The comic timing was impeccable; he used his words to make the reader laugh reading a travelogue, and most importantly the words helps the reader in visualizing the places and events, which he so funnily describes.

I can’t comment on the adequacy on the number f places visited by Bryson, as every place he touched were new to me. And, apart from the travels, which makes this book a must read for any travelogue fan, the amount of history Bryson stuffs into this book is also an added pleasure. From the sad stories of failed explorers to the harsh and cruel treatments of the Aborigines ending with the death of the crocodile SWEETHEART, who just wanted some peace from the sound of motors, Bill Bryson really makes Australia an interesting place!!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Book Of Souls (Will Piper #2)

by Glenn Cooper

2.5 stars

“Much Ado about Nothing”
The emotion that came to my mind after I had finished reading “The Book of Souls” by Glenn Cooper. The book was another conspiracy thriller which combined books written by ancient monks, with undiscovered letters written by William Shakespeare, John Calvin and Michael Nostradamus, with modern day Government baddies trying to destroy peace and harmony, only to be thwarted by an ex-FBI and his wife, Will and Nancy Piper.

The book started off well, and up to 300 odd pages, the pace was really good. Never did I find a moment where I felt bored or was tempted to skip pages. The writing style, the flow of events and the way in which the writer connected, or rather presented the past and the present was truly worthy of applause. Without any hurdles, whatsoever I was drifting in and out of one historical period into another and back into the present.

But, then after finishing 3/4th of the book I wondered, where is the crime?? Where are the criminals?? And, most importantly, What is the reason for doing all this?? The reason when revealed at last, was certainly not befitting the wide web, and the foreboding of immense doom, the writer had created. So, it was much ado about nothing.

But, kudos to Glenn Cooper for writing, scenes which were believable, featuring characters from the book teamed with notable historical figures. But, while reading, especially the first half, I felt that, had I read the first instalment of the book, I would have understood this one more deeply. Which is a down point, according to me, as not everyone would have the correct sense to read the first book first and then go for the second one. And so, anyone who would have read the second book first would have some difficulty in getting the flow of events, just as I had.

So, summing up, my feelings about this book are mixed. I hugely enjoyed the plot build up, laced with historical characters and the suspense surrounding them, but was terribly disappointed with the ending which was almost an anti-climax. So, my rating for the book would be 2.5 out of 5.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Key to Rebecca

by Ken Follett

December 05 to 06, 2012

5 stars

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"

I encountered this famous line, in the very first chapter of the book. But, unlike the book to which this phrase originally belonged; I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, THE KEY TO REBECCA. I had read it long time ago, and while reading Du Maurier’s Rebecca I found out that this book was used as the code book by the German spy in THE KEY TO REBECCA. At that moment I decided to read it once again, as although I remembered the overall plot, but I had forgotten the little details, along with the twists and turns present. And, lastly I was also eager to read a spy thriller set in World War 2 era as it has been quite a while since I had read one.

The book starts off with the Nazi Spy, codenamed The Sphinx, crossing the Sahara desert on foot, and entering Egypt armed with two radios, a copy of Rebecca and a knife, to spy behind enemy lines with the intention of helping Erwin Rommel by providing him with British War Action plans and other intelligence. The plot revolves around how a British Intelligence officer Major William Bandam, with the help of a girl called Elene Fonatana, tries to stop the spy, and save the allies from certain defeat in North Africa.

This book was a classic Ken Follett , World War II espionage thriller. It had all the trademarks of an early Follett novel. A German spy, who is a borderline psychopath. A very human British officer standing in his way, and, which is present in almost all Follett novels, a strong female character who plays a pivotal role in the cat and mouse spy game.

Also present was the nail biting suspense and less abundance of action, which according to me was a good point, as I definitely feel that a prolonged action sequence slows down the pace of the book. And, added to all these, the exotic location of Egypt also added to the reading pleasure of the book. Although, some people comment that Follet’s recent historical fiction is far better than his earlier spy thrillers. But as a dedicated Follet fan I can safely say that I enjoy his spy thrillers as much as I enjoy his latest offerings.

Summing up, I would say this was a fast and enjoyable read, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fast WW 2 spy fiction, which has more brainwork than action.

P.S. This book also portrayed the same feeling I had towards Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA. As Maj. Vandam’s son Billy said, “…it’s about some silly girl, who’s afraid of her husband’s housekeeper.”