Friday, March 22, 2013

The Masala Murder by Madhumita Bhattacharyya

Book : The Masala Murder
Author : Madhumita Bhattacharyya
Genre : Mystery
Publisher : Pan MacMillan
Source : Copy from
Rating: 4/5
verdict : Go for it !

Synopsis from goodreads


She didn’t set out to become Calcutta’s expert in infidelity cases, but that is where her detective agency has taken her. When the deceit gets too much, she finds a welcome distraction – and a means to pay the bills – by becoming a food critic for a magazine. And since she once dreamed of becoming a pastry chef, she doesn’t mind much, does she? But what really turns her on is solving a juicy mystery. 

Her worlds collide when a gourmet provisions supplier she had once profiled ends up dead under suspicious circumstances. She might be rusty, but her food-obscured nose can still sniff out a murder, and she decides to launch her own investigation. Then her ex-boyfriend shows up at her doorstep when he finds himself being treated as prime suspect in the kidnapping of his own wife! Suddenly, Reema is handling not one but two cases. With no access to official evidence, she relies on the meddling group of do-gooders she has dubbed the Calcutta Crime-Fighter’s Club. 

If all this wasn’t trouble enough, the alluring Shayak Gupta turns up around every corner, and while she can’t seem to resist him, she doesn’t believe a word he says either.

This first Reema Ray mystery follows a comical ride through Calcutta – as Reema comes to terms with her feelings about the men in her life while whipping up delicious meals and being beset by criminals and the police alike!

What I thought of the book 

 I love cosy mysteries , and this book was a delight to read. My grouse has always been that there aren't enough cosy mysteries by Indian writers , and Madhumita probably heard my whining and decided to write this book ;-0  . The best in this genre IMHO is Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri Series( Mma Ramotswe is a strong contender too , but  not as fun as Vish Puri ) . Though Madhumita's  protagonist comes nowhere close to Vish Puri, Reema is a good contender. I love the concept of a struggling Private Investigator who takes up food writing because her practice isn't doing too well. She is mostly bombarded with matrimonial background check cases and takes to writing movie reviews and food reviews .  Then , she stumbles upon two cases ( one a kidnapping and another  a murder ) and cannot get herself to stay away from either ..    

Plot-wise , I didn't think it was anything spectacular , as one of the two cases was really easy to figure out right from the beginning . The other case wasn't ok  and one doesn't get the satisfaction of slowly working things out as layer upon layer of mystery is peeled open to reveal a stunning answer . No, this book is not going to be one of that kind. Infact , Madhumita takes her time to even get into the first case ( almost 60 -75 odd pages) . But that could be  because this book is envisioned as first in a series of several books and  Reema's background and her circumstances in life is delved into in detail. 

I can totally see myself wanting to pick up the next in the series mainly to see what happens to Reema next. But Madhumita has done a great job of painting character sketches of people .Of course one cannot compare  Madhumita's Reema to  Alexander Mccall's Mma Ramotswe and her peculiar brand of home-grown justice .But Reema is sure to flourish in her own way. There is a strong chick-lit flavour to this book as the book is narrated in first person. Now I know a few people who feel that crime fiction in first person is amateurish  but I am not one of those people. First person account of an investigation somehow is perfect for a book like this where the investigator's circumstances is as important as the crime investigation.    

The last few books that I've read have been by Bengalis ( and two of them called Madhumita!) , and I can't but think about the rich literary landscape of Calcutta that has been the honing ground  for so many authors.

Overall , a charming read. Don't look for crazy plots or nail-biting speed. This one is meant to be savoured. Perfect for a sunny ,lazy sunday afternoon.

My book was sponsored by Love shopping for books online? You should check their site out to see which site offers the best deals in not just books , but a host of other categories.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

S.E.C.R.E.T by L.Marie Adeline

BOOK name : S.E.C.R.E.T 
Author : L.Marie Adeline 
Genre : Erotica 
Publisher : Broadway books (Random House)
My rating : 3/5 
Source : Publisher 

Synopsis from Goodreads 
Cassie Robichaud’s life is filled with regret and loneliness after the sudden death of her husband. She waits tables at the rundown Café Rose in New Orleans, and every night she heads home to her solitary one-bedroom apartment. But when she discovers a notebook left behind by a mysterious woman at the café, Cassie’s world is forever changed. The notebook’s stunningly explicit confessions shock and fascinate Cassie, and eventually lead her to S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T, an underground society dedicated to helping women realize their wildest, most intimate sexual fantasies. Cassie soon immerses herself in an electrifying journey through a series of ten rapturous fantasies with gorgeous men who awaken and satisfy her like never before. As she is set free from her inhibitions, she discovers a new confidence that transforms her, giving her the courage to live passionately. Equal parts enticing, liberating and emotionally powerful, S∙E∙C∙R∙E∙T is a world where fantasy becomes reality.(less)
What I thought about the book 
This is not a genre I normally read , which is probably why I didn't like the book too much .But that's really not the book's fault.I can totally see erotica fans lapping this book up.The ending was unexpected (possibly the only unexpected thing in the entire book). Maybe the book deserves a 3.5, but I really didn't emphathise with Cassie(the protagonist) at any point , and often found her a tad whiney. Considering the fact that life or circumstances have not been very kind to her, such low self-esteem is understandable. I found myself skipping though the fantasies impatiently as I found them rather boring and repetitive.The premise of a mousy under- confident woman seeking sexual emancipation (leading to increase in her confidence levels) is rather interesting, but I suspect that the book didn't do justice to the premise.I once read an Irving Wallace based on this premise and remember quite liking it. That was more than a decade back and I have no clue If I'd like it if i read it now. I am just wondering now whether I'd like  50 shades of grey. 
Overall , an ok book. If you love erotica you might want to pick this book up. If like me , you want to just find out what this genre is all about, I suggest you give this book a miss. 
Thanks to Random house for sending me this book.  

The Other Side Of The Table by Madhumita Mukherjee

Book name : The Other Side Of The Table 
Author: Madhumita Mukherjee
Publisher : Fingerprint  
Rating: 4/5 
Source : Publisher 
Genre : Fiction (Epistolary)

 Synopsis from Goodreads  Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance...
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters ... letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings... about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations...
Letters that talk. And don't. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything...
Letters with a story you would never expect.(less)

My take on the book 
There are books that will cry hoarse and demand you to  pick them up , and there are the unassuming ones that will quietly work their magic on you . Before you  reach the last page of the book , it  would have successfully cast a spell on you. The Other Side of The Table belongs to the second variety. I have always loved reading epistolary books ; this books hasn't disappointed me as well .Letters fly back and forth Abhi, who is a neurosurgeon based in London and Uma, a feisty girl stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkatta. What do they write about ? anything and everything that goes on in their life.

Madhumita has done a great job in capturing the essence of both the characters through the letters they pen. Uma who appears rather immature and impetuous at the beginning mellows into a resilient woman as things get tough at work and with her domestic front. Abhi , who initially comes across as a level-headed intelligent chap turns pessimistic when he gets ill.Lovers lost , disappointments faced, new achievements conquered - the letters tell them all.

The language is lovely and the editing taut.  Despite being an erudite piece of fiction, the book is amazingly easy to read and not pretentious one bit.The pace is just right and will keep you hooked till the end. I read this book in not more than two stretches , and wanted to sorely get back to the book when I couldn't read it in-between . Which is why I think that this is a rather good book , as not many books make you want to drop everything else you are doing and get back to them pronto.

Overall, a thought provoking book that will weave its magic on you.

My rating 4/5

Many thanks to Arcopol from Fingerprint  for sending this copy across.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review of Faraway Music by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

Book name : Faraway Music
Author : SreeMoyee Piyu Kundu
Genre : Fiction
Publisher : Hatchette
Copy : Review Copy from
Rating: 4/5
To cut a long story short: Poignant, powerful  and lyrical

Synopsis (from Good reads)
 On a long-haul international flight writer Piya Choudhury tells the one story she hasn't yet told - her own...

Loved and indulged by her mother and grandparents, but haunted by the mysterious absence of her father, Piya grows up in Kolkata, a gifted and impetuous child who pursues her studies with the same passion as she does her first few adolescent crushes, until a savage encounter leaves her repulsed. She moves to Mumbai hoping to become a journalist and falls deeply in love with her editor, Abir, but when a controversial story she is working on is stymied, she is forced to choose between the man she loves and her own integrity. Years later, she is settled in New York, married to a renowned artist who helps her find herself creatively. A liberated, successful, and dynamic writer, Piya has everything she's ever wanted, until she is revisited by her past...

Sensuous, profound, lyrical and moving, Faraway Musicis a story of family, friendship, fame, love and loss - and all that lies in between...
My thoughts
It wasn't love at first sight for me with this book.I almost labored for 40-50 pages till i could start appreciating the awesomeness of the book. I am so glad i didn't put it away! The protagonist,Pia Choudhry is an acclaimed writer.She narrates her story to a journalist on a long flight journey. The narrative flits between the past and the present as Pia reminisces about her crushes, friendships, flames and lost loves right from her childhood. I started enjoying the book when Pia moves to Mumbai to intern with a newspaper. It was intriguing to read about the life of an intern in the big, bad world of journalism. From being asked to bring chai to being relegated to running errands, Pia unexpectedly lucks out and becomes a name to reckon with. She also makes friends and learns a lot about life. A job shift later , she ends up in one of the biggest newspapers in India and  falls in love with her editor. But things go awry leaving Pia emotionally wrecked. Will she find true love and come to terms with the various demons inside her? You'll have to read the book to find that out!    
  Sreemoyee's writing is drenched with passion and is one of the most poignant proses I've read in a while. Most characters are extremely well-etched, and Sreemoyee has done a great job in maintaining a melancholic tone. The book aptly captures the dynamics of contemporary relationships, and I am sure a lot of people will relate to Pia's efforts to find love and more importantly stay in love. I am assuming Sreemoyee has drawn heavily from her her own life as a journalist and later as a PR head. All i can say is "What a beautiful debut !" Looking forward to reading more from her. 
Overall a wonderful book I'll recommend to people who enjoy good  Indian fiction. 

My rating -4/5 
 Disclaimer: The book was provided for review by .All opinions expressed in this review are my own.