“A Dangerous Fortune”, By Ken Follett

Going back to the author Ken Follett in quick succession after recently finishing “World without end”. Normally I try not to return to same author unless it is a sequel but I guess the mood was not for any new author and “A dangerous fortune” seemed like a good bet. When I started reading, I realized that I had started this book few years ago but stopped when I came across a brutal description of game called “ratting” that involved gambling for the victory of dog versus rats in a closed cage till death. This time I skipped over that portion completely. Other than the ratting part, the book is a great thriller set in 19th century London.

The story is about a banking family and how they go from success to failure due to internal family intrigues and conspiracies. It is a story of good versus evil as most of the stories are. What makes it interesting is the backdrop of banking industry and lifestyle of London in that era. It was great to read about traffic jams in the horse carriage driven era. I liked the character of Maisie who goes from runaway poor child to richest wife in town and then back to finding her own calling.

I thought the book went into lots of details in the beginning but towards the end the author was trying to finish the story quickly. Coming back to the description of “ratting”, I wonder what prompted the author to get into gruesome details in a book that is more or less a pleasant reading.

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“The Girl In The Garden”, By Kamala Nair

By some quirky logic of Kindle, this book was coming up on top every time I updated my Kindle with more books. Finally I gave in to the Kindle’s logic when I was not able to settle on anything else and started reading this book “The girl in the garden”. I did not know that it is author Kamala Nair’s first book. I probably confused her with some other name. The book is about the journey of teenage girl living in US back to small town in India with her mother. She is not interested in going back specifically leaving her father alone in US but it seems she was not given any choice.

After she gets over her first shock of being in India and staying with large family, she ends up finding lot more than she had thought of. She finds out about her mother’s old romance, her family’s murky history and also the story of unknown girl who has been locked away in a forest due to facial deformity.

I liked some parts of the book but a lot of time I found my attention wavering and I just wanted to reach the end. It was not because I was hooked up but I was looking to finish the book and start something else. Some of the parts just did not seem real even if you consider some old age customs and issues that may plague the society in rural India. Yes, there is a lot of stigma attached with kids having deformity on face but the family is supposed to be running a hospital and should have known that treatment can be done for such issues. Yes, people want to hide unwanted pregnancies but they do not give away all their freedom to some unknown person and keep on living in its shadow for so many years.

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“The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”, By Stieg Larsson

This is the third book in the millennium series by the author Stieg Larsson. I wrote about the first book “The girl with the dragon tattoo” some time back but I am skipping the second book for review though I will write about it some other time. Here I want to write about “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest”. This is where all the characters come in the foreground and final battle between Lisbeth Salander and her tormentors takes place.

She almost dies at the end of second book fighting with her father and step-brother but she recovers from bullet injury in her head. She is no longer wanted for murders of journalists but the secret police is still trying to institutionalize her or kill her so that their secrets can remain hidden. But with help from Mikael Blomkvist and many of her other supporters she fights back. It is the story where you see how the combined effort by multiple agencies come together to fight against secret police.

To me the best part was the courtroom drama where Lisbeth’s lawyer Annika Giannini argues for her. The way she counters each and every accusation against Lisbeth’s mental condition is great. Also, Lisbeth is finally ready to answer questions but makes sure that she is answering questions and not responding to opinions. The idea that Lisbeth should face the court in her attire was excellent and daring. I think I have read that part of the book few times and every time leaves me feeling exhilarated.

Towards the end Lisbeth decides to go and face her step-brother alone. That part was foolish in my opinion but Lisbeth is a private person and would not want anyone else to fight her battle. It is interesting that we can understand all the characters in the book easily but understanding Lisbeth is hard. But if you look closely, she is the least complex as a person. Perhaps, we are no longer used to people who are driven by simple things in life.

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“World Without End”, By Ken Follett

I had read “Pillars of the earth” by Ken Follett few years ago on recommendation from a friend and really liked the book and style of the author. “World without end” is a kind of sequel to “Pillars of the earth” but it is not necessary to have read the previous book to understand this one. The story of this book occurs in the same town of Kingsbridge some 150 years after the construction of the cathedral. This is a story of 14th century England when plague swept through the Europe and there were long wars with France. The war part does not interest me much and even though it is part of the background story and influences the lives of various characters, it is not all pervasive.

The main story is about common people of small town and their interaction with monks and nuns of cathedral and royalty. It is also the story of how power and politics plays the role in life of common people. More importantly it is the story that tells us that with little common sense and intelligence, some people are able to change their fate under circumstances that are completely against them. I really enjoyed the characters of Caris, Gwenda and Merthin who are able to change their destiny and along with that change the whole town of Kingsbridge for better. They were up against some very evil characters who were determined to crush them but these characters had the intelligence and perseverance to fight back and come out as winners.

It was the time in history when people really did not understand human body and how to fight diseases like plague. Even in that situation, small group of nuns led by Caris manage to find ways to reduce the spread of disease and also provide relief to people who were dying of plague.

It was a long book but it is my favorite genre and a really well written book that I did not want it to end. I just figured out that a TV mini-series was also made on the book and is available on Netflix. I am looking forward to reading that.

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“Safe Haven”, By Nicholas Sparks

Very interestingly, I have seen lot of movies that are based on Nicholas Sparks’s books but had never read any book by him. Even in the case of “Safe Haven”, I first noticed the movie but then came across the book before watching the movie. It looks like the author has perfected the art of writing touching, mixed with tragedy and romantic books that are very easy to adapt to movies and both books and movies have done very well.

This is the story of Katie who comes to live in a small town but is very reserved and does not want to mingle with anyone. She is almost scared to settle down or to reveal her past. Her neighbor helps her to overcome some of her hesitation and she falls in love with store owner Alex and his kids. The story unfolds to reveal an abusive policeman husband of Katie from whom she has been running away. She had tried running away earlier but was found by her husband. This time she planned it well and was able to hide for many months but eventually her husband is able to find her. There are twists and turns and a surprise ending.

The story reminds you a lot about “Sleeping with the enemy” but it extends the post runaway story more with romance between Alex and Katie. The most important part is of course appearance of a ghost that was surprising and something that I really did not like. I like surprises in romantic stories but not involving the ghosts even if they are friendly ones. In this story ghost is not the imagination but the actual real person somehow validating the concept of ghosts in real life. I was thinking of watching the movie after finishing the book but now I am not so sure.

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