Unlucky 13

Author: James Paterson & Maxine Paetro
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2015
ISBN: 9780099574279
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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In Unlucky 13 The Women’s Murder club convene again to solve the gruesome belly bomb killings while an old villain is set to take out her revenge!

Plot -
The girls are back! Lindsay is now happily married and has a 6 month old who makes it hard for her to be back at work, Cindy and Lindsay’s broken up with her work partner Richie with mild regret, Yuki is engaged to be married and Claire is still Claire (Nothing much has happened to her!) So, while the readers are almost convinced that James Patterson has surprised his readers with a chick-lit, we finally get to the plot were a series of gory murders start happening. Lindsay Boxer is hot on pursuit of the killer when her old nightmare returns with vengeance!

Characters -
It has been more than 3 years since I read the last Woman’s Murder Club mystery and the characters are still pretty much the same, thankfully. Lindsay is the bold blondie, striving as hard as ever to manage her work life balance. Cindy is on the prowl for a great cover story that will make her the award winning journalist that she has always wanted to be. Yuki’s story on the other hand, is a separate plot on its own where she finds herself in the middle of a hijacking plan while on her honeymoon. Claire, surprisingly, does not have much of a role in this book apart from a few scenes.

The Good -
This is a perfect James Patterson book. You know, the kind he wrote before all the below average books like Zoo or the Private series. I liked the main plot (Lindsay and the Belly bomber) which was a typical Patterson story. Clichéd though it might be, it’s still a pleasure to read. It’s a no-nonsense, straight up to the facts sort of mystery. Hence, it makes for a fast and engaging read. Mackie Morales’ character is creepy and you truly feel scared for Cindy when she is on her lookout.

The Bad -
At certain points, the author’s language gets too impersonal for the readers to care. It seemed too simple in some ways. Lindsay’s trouble with motherhood seems forced and an ever easy-going husband seems like a fable! Similarly, the whole Yuki’s dream-turned-into-a-nightmare scenario seems unnecessarily included in the book. And while we are talking about the hijacking, that whole subplot seems ridiculous. With no visible escape route plans (as Brady himself says in the book), I can’t believe anybody would be stupid enough to formulate a hijacking without planning an escape. And without any ‘greater cause’ as the motive either!

The Verdict -
The main plot + Lindsay and Cindy take you back to the once-good James Patterson works. Everything is a sheer reminder of the deteriorating works by him. Not the best book in the series, but not the worst of James Patterson either.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

The last day of JLF 2015 was bittersweet for Yours Truly and the two Sidekicks; on the one hand, it marked the successful completion of this year’s festival while on the other, it meant going back to humdrum academic existence, with its marked lack of cute professors and colourful tents. But we beat on, boats against the current and other such Fitzgeraldian clichés.

The first event of the day was a session with Chetan Bhagat, interviewed by Meru Gokhale, at 10 AM at Char Bagh. As expected, the crowd was truly terrifyingly large. Yours Truly has made her dislike of Bhagat’s work amply clear so the reader might reasonably be wondering why she was there at all. It has everything to do with Sidekick 3 who is in Mumbai and couldn’t come with us but commanded us to go experience our cultural zeitgeist. Also, apparently, I hate a stable blood pressure. Bhagat went on to say a lot of very, very obvious things, to mad, mad applause. He spoke about his work process, the distractions of modern day life, his tryst with Bollywood etc. When asked if politics was the next step, Bhagat firmly said no for which I am truly thankful, considering our political situation is bad enough as it is. Bhagat also said, when asked to respond to what he thought of feminism in India, that he wrote strong female characters that drove the plot in his books. At this point, Sidekick 1 rolled her eyes so hard, I feared she might pass out.

The next session at Google Mughal Tent at 11:15 AM provided the much needed anti-dote to the previous one. Here, British historian Bettany Hughes was in conversation with Avantika Sujan about the former’s book The Hemlock Cup; Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life. Hughes is a wonderful speaker, lively and brimming with a palpable conviction in her subject. Quoting Socrates’ most famous line (‘The unexamined life is not worth living’), she said that inquiry has always been central to being human. She argues that what makes human beings unique as a species is their ability to communicate abstract information to each other, giving the example of Ayumu, a clever ape in Japan who excels at playing video games but does not communicate anything about it to her playmates. She also told the audience that what made writing the book more difficult was the fact that Socrates had left absolutely no written word behind. Therefore, historians like her rely chiefly on Plato’s accounts of him, the accuracy and truth value of which have been ascertained by recent archaeological findings. Hughes then enthusiastically opened the floor to a spirited Q and A session, ending it with taking a photo of the audience yelling ‘PHILOSOPHY!’

Next up was a talk at Char Bagh at 1:30PM titled “The Theatre of War” where Vedica Kant (If I Die Here Who Will Remember Me?), Amrinder Singh (The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of Lahore Durbar) and Burak Akcapar (Turkey’s New European Era) were in conversation with John Eliott about India’s unrecognised involvement in World war I. They told the audience that an estimated 1.3 million Indian soldiers were sent to places like France, England, Syria, Mesopotamia etc. to fight on behalf of the British army. They presented an absolutely fascinating slideshow of the photographs of the soldiers in their military finery and discussed the need to unearth such unheard stories from the obscurity of history.

After that, we headed back to Google Mughal Tent to attend the session titled “The Devil in the Grove: Racism, Murder and Rape in the Deep South” where Pulitzer Prize (for Non-fiction) winning author Gilbert King was in conversation with Akash Kapur. Gilbert’s eponymous book is an account of the 1949 case where four young African American men were falsely accused of raping a seventeen year old white girl in Groveland, Florida and were convicted by an all-white jury. Thurgood Marshall, the special counsel with NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, represented the defendants and succeeded in getting the US Supreme Court to overturn the guilty verdict. In response, two of the four defendants were shot, one fatally and an NAACP colleague was murdered. King, a very commanding presence, spoke with great admiration about the work of African-American advocate Marshall and his courageous, and often thankless, fight against racial injustice in the Jim Crow South. Heartbreakingly, this conversation remains extremely relevant even today, in the light of the extremely public police brutality cases against young African-American men like Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin.

This session marked the end of JLF 2015 for the three of us and we headed back, discussing the pros and cons of this year’s festival. The three of us agreed that the crowd was only going to get crazier next year. Sidekick 2, who is something of a fascist, suggested booting all the school children out but Sidekick 1 and I think booking a bigger venue will be the more appropriate solution. That gripe aside, I would like to thank the organisers for a truly fantastic and well-organised festival. The programme given to every visitor combined with the giant screens that air the live sessions at every venue ensure full audience engagement and all the volunteers are very polite and helpful. A last suggestion, on the behalf of perennially broke students everywhere, is to make the food at the venue more affordable for all.

Yours Truly and the two Sidekicks decided to end the night in style, going for dinner at Replay which is located on Tonk Road, opposite SMS stadium. It’s a rooftop restaurant, equipped with a bar and giant bowls of fire, very welcome on a January night. A delicious meal later, we were ready to say goodbye to Jaipur and come home, already counting down days till the next time.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 – Day Four

January 25, 2015
JLF 2015

I refuse to believe, after a day spent getting trampled upon, stuck in human jams, elbowed and shoved, that there was a single person in Jaipur who didn’t attend the festival today. The organisers need to take appropriate measures fast to accommodate the growing size of the JLF audience.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 – Day Three

January 24, 2015
JLF 2015

The sessions filling the first slot seemed largely dull so we milled around, looking at the exorbitantly priced things on sale – books, handicrafts, clothes, food. Our impoverished student status firmly ascertained, we headed to Rajnigandha Front Lawns for a talk titled ‘Wanderlust and the Art of Travel Writing’ with Paul Theroux, Charles Glass, Samanth Subramanian, Sam Miller, Brigid Keenan and William Dalrymple.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 – Day Two

January 23, 2015
JLF 2015

Picture everyone looking mildly crazed among a riot of green, blue, yellow tents of varying sizes and striding purposefully to communicate changes (due to the unseasonal rain showers) to co-workers and visitors, many clutching their expensive electronics to shield them from water damage. You now have a fairly accurate mental picture of Day 2 of JLF 2015.

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Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 – Day One

January 22, 2015
JLF 2015

As promised in the account of last year’s Jaipur Literature Festival, I am back here to attend the 2015 installment and faithfully relay all my geeky excitement to IBS readers who aren’t able to do so. With me this year are the same two friends who accompanied me the last time. In the tradition of authorial narcissism, let’s call them Sidekick 1 and Sidekick 2.

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Review: 99 – Unforgettable Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Humour by Khushwant Singh

January 21, 2015
Khushwant Singh 99

Author: Khushwant Singh (Author), David Davidar (Editor), Mala Dayal (Editor)
Publisher: Aleph Books
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9789383064755
Rating: ★★★½☆
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“99″ is not a genre-redefining book by any stretch of imagination but it gets its basics correct as an anthology. Couple that with the natural dynamism of Singh’s writing and you get a good bedside companion for many a long winter night.

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Review: The Mother I Never Knew by Sudha Murty

January 19, 2015
the mother i never knew

Author: Sudha Murty
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9780143422259
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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The Mother I Never Knew contains 2 novellas about men searching for mothers they never knew they had.

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Review: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

January 13, 2015
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Author: George R. R. Martin
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year: 1998
ISBN: 9780553381696
Rating: ★★★★½
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After a kingdom starts to fall apart, the second installment of his addictive A Song of Ice and Fire series has author George R. R. Martin getting his characters fighting one another to claim the Iron throne.

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Why doesn’t Kindle come with more Indian language books?

January 9, 2015
Kindle vs. Book

E-readers are still very English-dominated. It will be a while before my Dad can read his favorite Hindi magazine on a Kindle and my Mother can read Bhisma Sahani’s play on Kindle. E-readers aren’t a home for everyone. Not yet.

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