Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Lost Years of Sherlock Holmes- A Book Review



About the Book:

Name of the book: The Lost Years of Sherlock Holmes
Author: Ted Riccardi
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Price: INR 275
ISBN: 978-81-8495-434-0

About the author: Ted Riccardi is a professor emeritus in the department of Middle East and Asian languages at Columbia University. He has also served as the counselor of cultural affairs at the United States embassy in New Delhi.

About the cover and back cover:

The cover illustration portraying a beautiful young lady with a veil half covering her face done in the classic combination of black and red is one of the most gorgeous covers I have seen on a book. It delivers a feel of mystery, secrecy and you instantly run your hand on the glossy surface and feel like unravelling whatever secrets are contained inside. 
The back cover with a crisp sum-up of the book is quite interesting as well.

Gist:

The book is mainly about the 'Lost years' of Sherlock Holmes as the title clearly suggests. These recount are the adventures of Holmes in the gap of 1891 to 1894 i.e. , the period when he is assumed to be dead after the fateful incident at the Reichenbach Falls.

 The stories are set in Asia; we see Holmes travelling in various disguises through different parts of the Indian Subcontinent. He is completely alone without the constant support of Watson and the Scotland yard, armed only with his physical strength, logic and his unwavering genius. He battles against the various criminals who have escaped from the hands of law and found abode in the mystical places of Asia. He confronts the secret agent for Tsar Rastrakoff, mysterious Captain Fantome and the great art thief Anton Furer.

It is a collection of 9 short stories with a preface and afterword by Dr John Watson.

My views on the story:

Which kid hasn't grown up reading and admiring the genius of Sherlock Holmes? Conan Doyle's immortal character is one of the greatest detectives in the history of crime fiction and will remain so forever.
It is to get more of this enigmatic detective and find out how a different pen can possibly justify the character that I picked the Jaico Sherlock Holmes Series.

I should start by commending Ted Riccardi on the decent attempt to revisit the life of Sherlock Holmes. The writing style is really good- it is kept simple and the narration is quite effective.

I especially like the description of the landscape in almost every story; it is so beautifully detailed that everything comes to life even more.

There is a certain thrill in imagining the tall, intelligent frame of Holmes coursing through different places of India and places around in interesting disguises which I felt was the real charm of the book.

The plot of the stories ranged from average to good- some had really nice twists while some were a bit of a disappointment. My favorite story was The case of Hodgson's Ghost.

I enjoyed reading the book though I felt that he plot of some stories could have been much better. Though no one in the world can quite recreate the character and aspects of Sherlock Holmes, this was a pretty decent read.

Overall I rate it a 7/10 recommending it to all the Holmes fans. It's worth a try. 



Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Quicksand

She squinted sleepily as I lay beside her propped on my elbow. She tried to smile, but it turned into a grimace quickly. It had been one of the hard days that day. Her frustration had turned into one of those terrible headaches and she hardly ate or spoke for the entire day. It took me double the efforts to soothe her but she did fall asleep in the end, like she did every day, in my arms.

I raised my hand to caress her hair but she inched closer and buried her face in my shirt. Her faintly ragged breaths told me that she was still in pain and my heart screamed at the unfairness of it all. It didn’t have to happen. Not every day.

“What time is it?” she murmured.

“Nine”, I said, checking my watch.

She gave a small gasp and pulled back her head to look at me.

“You missed the Coke Studio. Again” she said apologetically.

I laughed in spite of myself. The TV show had been the last thing on my mind. I wanted to ask how she could remember it was Saturday but I stopped myself.

“No worries,” I said, “I’ll catch it on YouTube”. She nodded and replaced her head on my shoulder.

“Aren’t you cold?” she asked after some time. I realized then that I wasn’t inside the blanket but I had more pressing things on my mind.

“You are very warm” I said lightly.

She giggled, her voice husky with sleep and said playfully “You could get a blanket. If you want”.

I shook my head; I didn’t want to waste even a second without her.

“Good. I wouldn’t have liked if you went anyways.” She winked at me, her old smile back and I swear at that moment, my struggle that engulfed every minute of my life felt worthy.

“I don’t feel like getting up” she said, her eyes weary.

I looked at the purple hollows beneath her eyes, the cheeks that used to bounce with her smile once now sunken and empty. 

“You don’t have to” I told her, knowing how tired she felt.

“I’m still sleepy” she insisted.

“I know” I said, the adorable look in her eyes when she was sleepy couldn’t hide even beneath all the physical signs of her trauma.

“You know everything about me, don’t you?” she asked, curiosity in her voice.

Her question caught me off guard. Despite having known her for years, she was a stranger to me every day. Each morning a different mood, each day a different shade. But the nights never changed. The fear never changed as we lay together afraid of the clock ticking. She was a stranger every day, but she was a stranger I loved.

“Everything.” I said in reply.

“Just a few more hours now isn’t it?” she whispered, her eyes bloodshot with the headache and the fear.

I just hugged her tightly in response; I didn’t want the weight of the question haunt the precious few hours we had together. But more than that, I didn’t want her to see the fear in my eyes. No, I had to be strong for her.

“You will be here tomorrow?” she asked me, her eyes downcast, staring at her fingers playing with the button on my collar.

“Every day as long as you want me to” I replied quietly.

She looked at me then, her eyes sad and said “I don’t know what I will be wanting tomorrow.”

My heart tightened at the truth in her words as the smallest vestige of hope I carried everyday vanished. She really wouldn’t know .

Before I could say anything, she started running her fingers on the silver chain fastened around my neck, almost absent-mindedly, but the goosebumps at her touch threatened to rise on my arms anyway. I marveled in amazement at the boldness she showed. The same junior girl who had been so shy, so wary to even say out her name when asked soon became so comfortable around me, so fearless. I ached to finger her slender neckline too; trace it to the rounded curve of her jaw, to the dimple on her chin but I couldn’t, the intimacy I forged all day long seemed so transient in the last few hours of the night.

She took a deep breath and sunk in closer, her nose at my collar bone now and muttered “You smell so good.” I smiled, she had always been one to steal my lines.

“Do you smell like this every day?” she asked and a small part of me died again.

“Yes” I said, the sadness now in my eyes.

She looked at me long and hard, as if etching my face to her memory but the fragile thing called memory wasn’t a part of her anymore.

Her eyes welled up and she choked “I don’t want to forget you”.

I wished. I wished. But I would be erased from her mind as surely as the sun was sure to rise, the clouds of her sleep that kept this at bay were only temporary. I made her fall in love me every day and she forgot me faster than the painful hours I put into making myself familiar to her. But I was willing to do it again and again till I could permanently etch myself in her.

Amnesia could erase her mind, but not her heart.

“You will know me again tomorrow. As a new person but I will still smell the same, sound the same and feel the same for you and you will fall in love with me all over again tomorrow.”

“I am sorry” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks.

“You don’t have to be, you don’t have to be” I pulled her closer and held her tightly, wishing I could bind the time with the strength of my arms too.

“Sleep now” I told her. I could see the argument in her eyes but exhaustion pulled her away from me as her lids slowly drooped.

I held her as the night crawled between us and the clock ticking became louder than our hearts beating together. I held her as time slowly and stealthily crept in like a quicksand to steal her away from me. Again.

***

Can anything be worse than the person you love forgetting you? Not once but with every sunrise? I have stretched the concept of dissociative amnesia here but it had always been something that intrigued me. Will the person you love be willing to forge that connection time and again for you? Love is patient, love is kind… is it really true? I wonder, I wonder very much.

Popular- A Book Review


About the Book:

Name of the book: Popular
Author: Alissa Grosso
Publisher: Jaico Publishing House
Price: INR 199
ISBN: 978-81-8495-422-7

About the author:

Alissa Grosso like most English majors  has held a variety of jobs- from a newspaper editor, a children’s librarian, a book distributor sales representative to a tavern wench complete with Colonial style costume. She is the author of young adult novels like Ferocity summer and Shallow Pond

About the cover and back cover:

The cover illustration portraying a teenage, gorgeous looking girl goes well with the title and the preview of the story on the back cover. I particularly like the color shades of the cover.
The back cover done is a beautiful double shade of brown with an interesting preview of the book that speaks of grudges, ambitions and a secret that ruled the protagonist's life.

Gist:

Popular is the story of the clique that is the heart of Fidelity High. Olivia, Zelda, Nordica and Shelly are the members of this clique, handpicked by the most popular girl in the school Hamilton Best.

Any party thrown by Hamilton was the most happening thing at school and you know that you are "in" when you have made into one of the guest lists. Though perfect and flawless from outside, Hamilton's clique is far from it. Each member holds a grudge of her own which directly or indirectly has Hamilton in the bigger picture. 

As the graduation draws closer, lives get tangled, confusion mounts, imperfections and insecurities are brought out in front. 

Weighing down upon everything is however, a big secret, something that threatens to break the fragile thread of balance. A secret that only Hamilton's boyfriend Alex knows.

My views on the story:

I picked up Popular because it had been a while since I read a young adult novel and the back cover was pretty interesting.

The story however, triggered mixed reactions from me. The first part of the story is done is five different narrations- from each member of the clique. The narration was pulled off excellently; five different parts is no easy task and the distinction between each character was especially good. As you get accustomed to the five narrations, the tone of the different clique members becomes very evident; you can easily say whose part it is without even seeing the name.
The story initially seemed pretty shallow to me. The first thing that struck me was the aspects of an American high school which in so many ways was new and muddling to me. 

The first thing was the insane urge and necessity to fit "in" and be a part of something. It was as if you needed the stamp of the most popular girl of the school to prove your own worth. Each member of the clique had serious issues against Hamilton which was pretty normal, the girl grudges, but the reasons seemed pretty lame. 

Alex, Hamilton's boyfriend seemed like a shady character in the first part; his associations with other members of the clique while calling himself Hamilton best's boyfriend was very confusing. As the story advances, everything becomes a mystery and it finally starts to dawn on you that the story might be something more than the story of wannabe teens trying to become popular. 

The second part of the story, with Alex's narration is where everything is finally thrown in proper light. Once again, the narration is done really well, the past and present running simultaneously was carried off successfully.

And the twist. Believe me, it isn't something that you would have imagined. It was jaw dropping. Everything starts making sense and you would kick yourself for having missed all the hints.

The pace of the story was erratic- The second part was fast paced and the first part had some places that dragged.

Overall the book was a decent read, the ending twist making up for whatever didn't strike a chord initially.

I would rate this book a 7/10. If you feel like reading a young adult novel that has a great twist to it, this would be the book for you.