Books I read – Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer

Jeffery Archer, the author of past bestsellers like Kane and Abel, Not a penny more not a penny less and many more have been regularly churning out novels every year now and his latest offering is one of his most ambitious project called the ‘Clifton Chronicles’ where he intends to write about Clifton family starting from 1920 till 2020, spread over 5 books. The first book of the series is ‘Only Time will Tell’, which tells the story of Harry Clifton starting from 1920 till 1940, the period between the 2 great wars.

The story begins around 1920, when young Harry is born to a hardworking mother and a missing father. Harry is a brilliant child and he gets to go to school and then college mainly due to her hardworking mother, some generous help by his teachers, guides and friends. He meets friends in school and meets a girl later with whom he falls in love, only to discover that the girl’s father does not like him for reasons which have been known to only few. There are various twists and turns and secrets which get revealed. The book has an open ended, somewhat unexpected but as this book is going to have sequels its is quite apt to build up the suspense and interest.

The style of writing is very typical Jeffery Archer and to be frank there is hardly any novelty in the story too. The story and characters are quite predictable and you almost know how everything is going to pan out by the end. The earlier part of book concentrating on school life of Harry and his friends is interesting and almost reminds you of one other HARRY we all know, but when the same story is told over and over from different character’s viewpoints it gets bit tedious and you really want to book to move forward quickly. The plot looks quite out of Kane and Abel or similar past novels of Archer.

Overall the book is a good read and hopefully the next parts of the series would be better. Although this might be author’s most ambitious project in a long time, it certainly isnt his best.

My Ratings : 6.5/ 10 –  Do read if you like Archer and his very British stories.

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The Books I Read – The Confession – John Grisham

The Confession is yet another ‘legal thriller’ from John Grisham. John Grisham has written legal thrillers of various kinds but recently in last few years his books have taken a certain theme of promoting certain causes which he himself is keen follower in real life. One of the causes he advocates is abolishing death penalty and in this book presents a fictional case which justifies the cause.

The book has a very good premise of an innocent black man Donte Drumm all of 19, caught for a crime he did not commit, tried in courts, fake evidences presented, erroneous testimonies and he is sent on the death row to be executed by the state of Texas. Just a few days before his execution the real killer Travis Boyette confesses his crime to a pastor in the church in Kansas. The book describes the 4 days in which the pastor, the real killer and the defense attorney Robbie Flak try their last minute effort to save the innocent man caught for the murder he didn’t commit. There is a race to file petitions and appeals and gather evidence including the dead body,  the story clearly asks its readers to think about the morality of the capital punishment.

The book describes the events in quite details and sometimes provides information more than that is needed as well. The author establishes a solid back story for most of the characters and goes in details of the American  judiciary system and the racial divide in the American southern states. As like most Grisham novels the lead characters are almost super heroic and does all kinds of things expected from him but then its a minor fault.

The book at times becomes too much informative and doesn’t move at a rapid pace. The book’ plot is quite linear and with a very few twists and turns you already know what is about to happen at most times. The author highlights the racial divide in the society a bit too much as well. But no one knows the southern states more than Grisham and the detailing of judiciary and police system provided by the author is unmatched. Morality of Death Penalty is the question in reader’s mind and is answered quite well by the end of the book.

I would recommend this only to die-hard John Grisham fans. Quite slow at times and you can easily skip some pages and do not miss much. It is certainly not as good as some of his best.

My Ratings : 7/10 – for Die hard Grisham Fans only

Books I Read- The Girl who the kicked Hornet’s Nest

The third book of the Millenium Series by Swedish author Steig Larsson is titled ‘The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest’. This book is the concluding part of the trilogy and continues right from where the 2nd book ended.

At the end of 2nd book of the series lead character Lisbeth Salander is found, by journalist Mikeal Blomkvist,  with a bullet in her head. The story continues in the hospital where Lisbeth and her father both are mortally wounded. The story continues with both of them recovering and her father being killed by a section of Swedish Secret Police. There are pages after pages dedicated to investigations and inquiries related to the cases involving murders, Lisbeth’s past and ‘Millenium’s research into secret section of the Swedish Secret Police. The story culminates with the trial of Lisbeth and to be honest is bit predictable about it. The end of course keeps you wanting for more, but you know there isnt going to be any more in this series.

This book is perhaps the weakest of the 3 and is a bit letdown as the story does not move forward much and meanders at times in the plots and sub-plots of investigations and research. There is even  a sub-plot involving  Erika Berger’s stalker which is completely irrelevant to the main plot. There are at times far too many characters and most of them doing same kind of things researching and investigating and chasing someone. There are bad guys in the form of a section of Swedish secret Police, then there are good guys in the secret police and then there is regular police with its share of good guys and bad guys and security agencies and the magazine’s own research team. It does at time get confusing with ultimately leading to nothing substantial in the plot. The main character of Lisbeth for the most time in is Hospital and is not doing much. The reader craves for Lisbeth and there is not enough of her in this book at least not in the first 600 or so pages. The last 150 or so pages deal with the trial of Lisbeth, which at times does get interesting but is shown in very caricaturish way.

The story ends with some unexpected action in the end and a happy conclusion although I doubt if the author had any thoughts of terminating this series this way. I am sure the 4th book was in the pipeline for this series, sadly the author passed away unexpectedly after he finished writing the 3rd book.

The main problem for this book as I see is that it does not have anything fresh to say, it doesn’t have a new mystery and is simply a continuation of the mystery of the 2nd book, which was more or less wrapped up in the 2nd book itself. The reader does feel bored at times as there is too much of talks and not much action and certainly very less of Lisbeth. Also you cannot read this book without reading the 2nd book,as the story continues from it. The 1st book was quite independent that way.

The character of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist stays with you even after the book ends and you certainly crave for more and want to know what happened to their lives, especially Lisbeth. Although this book isnt the best to finish the series, one still gets engrossed reading in it and never wants it to finish.

My Ratings: 8/10 –  Slightly weaker than the first 2 books but you HAVE to read it to know how it all ends.

P.S. I have read about rumors that there IS a fourth book,  written by Steig Larsson before he died and finished by his long time lover but is currently under dispute between Larsson’s partner and his parents. Perhaps one day it would come out !!

Books I Read – The Girl who Played with Fire

The Girl who Played with Fire is the 2nd in the Millenium Trilogy of books written by Swedish Author Stieg Larsson.  The 2nd book begins almost a year after the first one finishes. It continues with life of Lisbeth Salander, who is not a billionaire but still elusive computer hacker living life on her own terms and journalist Mikeal Blomkvist running his monthly news magazine Millenium along with his partner Erika Berger.

The 2nd book of the series begins with re-establishing the anti-social behavior of Lisbeth and what she has been doing all the time and how she grew up to be like what she is. It also explores into her past, her parents and her childhood.  The book is about murder of 2 journalists, who were to expose sex trafficking related crimes and involvement of policemen, politicians and other influential people in the whole racket. Lisbeth gets embroiled in the murders and is on the run from the authorities, from Mikeal and from even her own self. The book acts initially as a murder mystery and then eventually becoming the saga of Lisbeth Salander.

The 2nd book ends on a quite serious note and the 3rd and final book of the series begins right after the end of 2nd one. Thus this book is far more related to the trilogy than the 1st book which mainly established the lead characters.

This book was more fun reading than the first book somehow although many a times it went to the predictable category. There certainly is lot more ‘coffee’ drinking in the book just like the first one. It does leave the reader hooked to the book and makes you read the 3rd part immediately after you finish this one.

Character of Lisbeth Salander is becoming more and more interesting and one wonders to see how the author would end it in the 3rd part or will he?

My Ratings : 8/10 –  You HAVE to read.

Books I Read – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I had heard a lot about the ‘Millenium Series’ books since some time and came across them in bookstores at various points of time but never felt like reading the books as at first I thought they would be some ‘preachy- self-help’ kind of books!!  Then I heard about the Swedish movies made from the books and also the fact that Hollywood is coming up with its own version of movies soon and I had to read them now ! The author of this, ‘Millenium Series’ as they call it, is Stieg Larsson and the books are originally Swedish books. Unfortunately the young author wrote the manuscripts of the 3 books and died and never lived to see the International success the books have become.

The first of the series is ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. The book takes its own sweet time to establish lead characters, relationships, families, back stories, the settings, the crime etc. Once it does that it becomes a great ‘page-turner’.

The story is about a disgraced journalist being asked to find out details of a murder that took place forty years back.  The missing girl being the grand niece of a millionaire grand patriarch of the Vanger family, Henrik Vanger., head of the Conglomerate Vanger Corporation. Henrik suspects that a family member of his large family murdered his favorite grand niece forty years back during a family gathering and is still tormenting him. Mikael Blomkvist is the disgraced journalist of the ‘Millenium’ magazine who is assigned the job to research the truth.  Lisbeth Salander the heroine of the story is a young, antisocial, punk, anorexic of a girl who on first look would resemble a drug addict junkie with tattoos all over the body, dyed short hair, leather jackets, pierced nose and an attitude to match but in fact she is an expert computer hacker with a photographic memory and a passion for retrieving information about anything and anyone at any cost. Lisbeth and Mikael cross paths and together they create a wonderful team.

The interaction and subtle romance  between Lisbeth and Mikael, who is twicer her age is beautifully written.  The settings of the fictional town in North Sweden is described in such exquisite details, that you want to go there and live. The details of the Vanger family with multiple family members having varied back stories and complex realtionships is also described in quite details. The story is at times predictable but then comes up with wonderful twists and turns.

There are quite a few characters in the book, however the story revolves around Mikael first and then Lisbeth. The story moves slowly first but very rapidly as it nears the end and combines the personal vengeance very well with the murder mystery. The story is also about crimes against women , especially crude sexual crimes and the author seems to be simply hating the people associated with such crimes. The Swedish title of the book literally translates to ‘Men who Hate Women’.

The story is very intriguing and is much better than any other thriller mystery novel I have read lately. The book is intelligent, witty and has real smart characters. It is certainly one of the best crime novels of this era.

The characters of Lisbeth and Mikael are very well developed and you really want to know more about them, especially Lisbeth. Hopefully the next 2 books in the series will reveal more aspects of her mysterious life.

The Swedish version of the movies made from the 3 books has already been released and even dubbed in English for worldwide release, however Sony Pictures have aligned with David Fincher to produce big budget Hollywood version of the same books possibly starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkwist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. It would certainly be a great watch.

But first, I am reading the other 2 books.

My Ratings : 8.5/10 –  Must Read …one of the most Important Series of this new Millenium.

Books I Read – The Cobra – Hisses but not enough Venom

Frederick Forsyth is a well respected fiction novel author amongst a generation of fiction lovers. His books like The Day of the Jackal and Odess File have been read and appreciated by millions. A new book from the master storyteller is keenly awaited. His latest is The Cobra.

However, The Cobra does not come anywhere near the bestsellers I mentioned above. The intensity is not the same, however must say the premise of the story is very interesting and reflects the headlines of the world.

The premise is that the President of USA decides to go all out against the Cocaine trade of the Colombian Cartel and gives full resources, money and man power to ‘Cobra’, who is a retired CIA officer Paul Devereux. Cobra takes up the task and assembles a team of agents like him including Cal Dexter from Forsyth’s earlier novel Avenger. He assembles his private army, navy and even an air force with communication satellites at his disposal and support of American and British leaders and forces, he first plans and then takes on the Colombian Cocaine Cartel by targeting the transport and distribution methods of the cartel via land, sea and air.

The story is about ‘The Cobra’ however it follows Cal Dexter more. There is not much character development and the story telling is narrative and has very less dialogues or interactions. The drug lord’s character is also not powerfully developed. It is like that the author is informing us of various things happening and we just flow with all the information he provides. From Jungles of Colombia to Landing ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg and West African hellhole countries like Guinnea Bissau to Shipyards of India to Mafia land of Italy and from Turkish thugs to British Agencies to Dutch rogues to Spanish authorities to Mexican gang lords the story moves all around the world swiftly and sometimes provides more information then you can handle. Some of the information seems to be inspired from world headlines while some them is well, fiction.

The novel does give real insight into the world of cocaine production, illegal transportation and distribution and how it reaches the snorting end user. There is sufficient amount of research done by the author and the kind of detailing he provides is matchless. The conclusion to the book is bit anti-climactic and does have minor twists. However the novel never rises above the mediocre and is certainly not the best work by the author. The author does seem to be losing grip on his writing as well and the plot development, character back stories, human emotional quotient is bit missing here. If broadly classified then its a simple good old America and Western powers Vs. bad third world countries story.

I would recommend only die-hard Fredrick Forsyth fans to read it. I know I would have still read it even if I had read this review earlier.

My Ratings: 5.5/10 Cobra hisses but does not have much venom

Books I Read – Accidental Billionaires – Facebook Story

“Accidental Billionaires” is the story of Facebook. It is the story how 2 Harvard students sitting in their dorm rooms created a worldwide sensation that is growing, as you read this, at a viral rate. It is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, at 25 became the youngest self made billionaire on this planet. The book also shows the other side of the story on how in developing a website which brings people all across the world together, created a rift between two friends who made it possible.

The book is based on true life events and interviews with the parties concerned except Mark Zuckerberg who has distanced himself from the book. Credit goes to the author in which he has presented all sides of the story quite well and with a balance. The book is not very hard hitting and does not have much to expose as well but just puts the two sides of the stories floating around. There are quite a few unverified facts and stories as well, most of them hearsay and from second hand sources.

But it is quite fascinating to read how a university project to rate ‘hot looking women’ on campus turned into a worldwide rage within a short span and is now valued at billions of dollars.

The book is written by Ben Mezrich,an Harvard alumnus himself, who has previously written books like ‘Brining Down the House’ which got made into the succesful Hollywood movie ’21’. Not surprisingly even this book is being made into a movie tentatively called ‘The Facebook Movie’.

The book is very good read for a weekend and is fast moving and never boring. Although you crave for more when the book ends ,but that is obvious as the story is not yet complete, the phenomenon of Facebook is still growing and how?

My Ratings : 7/10 –  Good Read for all Facebook Lovers, and there are many.

Books I Read – Theodore Boone

John Grisham has been writing legal thrillers for last 2o plus years. This is his first ‘legal thriller for kids’. The book is the first of a new series started by the author about a ‘kid lawyer’.

Theodore Boone is a 13 year old eighth grader in a small town America, whose only problem in life is that he cannot decide whether he wants to be a lawyer or a judge when he grows. He is a legal whiz kid who lives and breathes law, visits courthouse everyday, knows every lawyer, judge, policemen and legal clerk in the small town, has his own law office inside his parents law firm, advises his school friends on legal issues ranging from bankruptcy, drunk driving and parents divorce.

The first novel on the series features a big murder trial and Theo accidentally coming across a vital witness whose testimony could affect the outcome of the trial.

The plot is bit too simple and hardly has any twists. The story in the end does not fully conclude and will have some continuation in the next part of the series. The reader learns a lot about the American Legal system in a very simple language.

The novel is a very easy read and is carefully written in simple english, clearly targetting the younger age group. The author intends to publish further parts of this series very soon and perhaps one every year. The story reminds you more of a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys story than a John Grisham Legal Thriller.

My Ratings :  6.5/10 –  Grisham is never bad even when he writes for kids.

Books I Read – And Thereby Hangs a Tale

Any Book by Jeffery Archer is highly anticipated. He is one of my favorite authors. Some of his past books like ‘Kane and Abel’, ‘Fourth Protocol’ , ‘Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less’ are in my all time favorite lists. His previous book ‘Paths of Glory’ and ‘A Prisoner by Birth’  were bestsellers as well. He is also known to write wonderful collection of short stories and this book is his sixth such collection.

This collection has 15 such short stories dealing with various anecdotes, episodes, tales in his life. Some of the stories are based on true facts as well. Jeffery Archer is known to create wonderful characters and build little stories around them.

I am not a big fan of short story genre, I feel they are far too short for my liking and they get over the moment they get interesting. But when its by Jeffery Archer one has to read them. In this collection some of the stories do touch your heart, even though most of the stories are not very simple . The little twists in tales he creates in the end are very interesting, most of the time, however they do get bit predictable as we progress. People familiar with his style of writing would immeidately guess what the twist in the tale would be or the suspense would be. Most of his stories are based in Britain and some in America and other parts of Europe however the last story in the book is about an Indian couple’s true love story set in Delhi. Some the stories do have real nice plot and suspense.

I wouldn’t rate this collection of his short stories as his best and frankly a bit disappointing from him after his wonderful last two books. This would in fact be one of his weakest book in some time. Hopefully he would write many more interesting tales.

My Ratings : 6/10 – Do read them, Archer is interesting even at his weakest.

Books I Read- The Betelnut Killers

“The Betelnut Killers” by Manisha Lakhe is a fictional, farcical, comical adventure of an NRI Gujarati family running a grocery store in Portland,Oregon.

The book is a light read and more written as a movie screenplay than a book where you can visualise most of the scenes taking place in the book. The book is about weird situation of the NRI Gujrati family hiring a ‘supari’ (betel nut) killer from India to kill their competitor grocery store owner. The book has a wafer thin plot and some of the happenings are almost unbelievable. The characters are very ‘bollywoodish’ and stereotype with vicious and aggressive wife, nerdy son, seductress daughter,  drug-addict relative, sexy rival shop owner, mad contract killer etc.. The writing is not so great and is confused at times. The story is linear mostly with almost predictable twists and turns.

The book is to be made into a low budget Bollywood movie, perhaps mostly with NRI actors. I would suggest to make it a Stage Drama instead, perhaps in Gujrati and it might just work.

Good for a one time read, when you have nothing better to read at hand or nothing better to do. Read it with zero expectations and you might just enjoy.

Ratings : 4/ 10