Friday, February 28, 2014

12. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse was the chosen author for February in my online group reads, and while I rarely participate in the monthly Author reads, any excuse to return to the wonderful world of Wodehouse is a welcome one.

Picking a Wodehouse is generally a safe bet, picking one featuring Bertram Wooster and Jeeves is an even safer one. Jeeves in the Offing was no exception. 

Despite not being one of the top Wodehouse works, Jeeves in the Offing, manages to entertain. There was a lot less of Jeeves, but the book was carried admirably by Bertie and Bobbie Wickham. It is surprising how well Wodehouse develops his characters, old and new, even in books as short as his usually are; with most of the characters being sketched and portrayed in conversations among the other characters.

This was a refreshing read and it made me get over the disappointment of my last Wodehouse, The Clicking of Cuthbert.


Monday, February 24, 2014

11. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the second book (chronologically) in the Vorkosigan Saga, the first being Shards of Honour, the book I started my year long Vorkosigan Saga read this.

I have elaborated enough on Cordelia's character in my previous review, in this (short) one, I will talk more about the book.

Cordelia takes off from the first book, doing all the things which endeared her to me and I am sure many other readers. She, then dons her Rambo outfit, and even in that she excels. 

I was however disappointed that in her effort to flaunt Cordelia, Bujold made Aral too much of a side character - we don't see the non-Cordelia portions of the war at all! And I do mean, at all! The title of the book could well have been Cordelia in Barrayar. 

There was enough space for the two to co-exist, Cordelia's adventures set in the background of Aral's manoeuvring of the war effort, with the contrast in their (supplementary) abilities would probably have made for much better reading in my opinion.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

10. The Serpent's Tooth (Book 5 of the Empire of the Moghul Series) by Alex Rutherford

The Serpent's Tooth is the fifth book in Alex Rutherford's Moghul Series, a series I started and read the first four books of last year. This instalment deals with the ShahJahan's reign and the coming in power of Aurangzeb. This book also includes the making of Taj Mahal, the actual construction of which, was lightly touched upon, a shortcoming in my opinion, given the status of the monument, as well as the general aura of mystery surrounding its construction.

The battle scenes have grown stale and all we learn from the book is ShahJahan's sob story, how much he loves his wife, and how much he misses her once she dies, neglecting his kingdom and his children (and yet, oddly, not denouncing the crown in favour of his eldest, who is well into his 30s). We probably were supposed to feel sorry for him, I didn't. Equally lacking was the lacklustre character development of ShahJahan's children, including the wicked-most of them all, Aurangzeb. He comes across as a fanatic, conspiracy freak who is either (or not) a good General. Perhaps the next book (the last in the series I guess) would shed some more light.


Monday, February 17, 2014

9. Die Trying by Lee Child

Die Trying, was almost like a back-to-back read for me, after reading Killing Floor, towards the end of January. Worried as I was, about a Jack Reacher overdose, it was just alright this one time. This was another fast paced thriller, this time about a bunch of delusional revolutionaries. Jack Reacher, once again continues to be at the wrong place at the right time, which I believe will be the theme of the series, something I don't seem to mind at all!

Long story short, the hero beats the hell out of the bad guys, etc.

I like the way Lee Child's endings differ from your typical James Bond novels when it comes to the female leads.

I think I will wait a couple of months before I read the next installment.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

8. The Player of Games by Ian M. Banks

The Player of Games is the second book in the Culture Series, the second in a series of ten. As I have already mentioned earlier in my review of Consider Phlebas, the first book in the series, I am reading this series as part of a year long read on LibraryThing.

Now, while I didn't care much for Book 1 in the series, Book 2 was an entirely different matter altogether. For one, the title of the book is exactly what the book is about; the protagonist, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, is a Player of Games, nothing more, nothing less. There is a hint of Ender's Game, but no more than just a hint. The games themselves, set in a world far too much in future, are no high tech video games, but Board games! Strategy based Board and card games! There is less action of the traditional kind, less bloodshed, and the book is much better for that. While game playing is the premise of the book, from beginning to the end, the change in the protagonist is more fascinating. The book is brilliant in that it doesn't lack congruity at any point of time, the culture of Culture is better understood in this book and so is the place of humans and machines in their culture.

There is travel to a distant civilisation, interaction with other humanoid species, and perhaps the most exhaustive game in the universe. The "Minds" in this book continue to be all knowing, benevolent. I could be wrong, but I suspect an Assimovish twist to the story in its latter parts.

Humans in Culture are genetically enhanced, with in-built drug glands, ability to pass food and drinks through, easy sex changes, growing back of parts, among other things. Yet they need to pee, sounds quite wasteful for a civilisation like Culture, doesn't it?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

January Summary and February Plans

The first month of the year ended with 7 books, Jaya by Devdutt Pattnaik and Divergent by Veronica Roth being the top reads for the month.

This year, I am also trying to create monthly reading plans, how closely will I be able to follow them, only time will tell, but an effort, I am definitely going to make.

*Edited to add Book 7 in the proposed reading plan for February. I forgot I had signed up for an online group read of Anne of Green Gables before drawing up my February schedule. It would be a shame to drop one of the "chosen" ones, even the less deserving ones, and let my monthly schedule run awry in its very first month, I will try to somehow fit this one in as the 7th book for the month and hope for the best.*

So here are my reading plans for February:-

1. The Player of Games (Book 2 of the Culture Series) by Iain M. Banks
2. Die Trying (Book 2 of Jack Reacher Series) by Lee Child
3. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse
4. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
5. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
6. The Serpent's Tooth (Book 5 of the Empire of the Moghul Series) by Alex Rutherford
7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

January Reads:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth (****)
2. Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold (**1/2)
3. Second Son by Lee Child (***)
4. Cry Wolf by Wilbur Smith (**1/2)
5. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik (****)
6. Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks (***)
7. Killing Floor (***)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

7. Killing Floor by Lee Child

After reading chronologically, the first Jack Reacher book, I started with Killing Floor, the first Lee Child novel, written with Jack Reacher as the protagonist, a book which won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel when it got released in 1997.

Set in a small town in America, this was a fast paced thriller, with its not-so-small plots and conspiracies. There is a lot of action, some goriness, and a whole lot of entertainment. The book doesn't strive to be real and hence avoids from becoming ridiculous - you know what you are reading, and why you are reading it. One of the takeaways from thrillers is that with the research the author puts in, or supposed to have put it, one gets to know a whole lot of interesting tid-bits, which otherwise may not have come in one's way - this one for instance gave a crash (if lacking in details) course on counterfeiting operations.

I see no harm in continuing with the series.