The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo- a book review

A murder has occurred. The victim is found dead on her bathroom floor and the place is flooded with water and blood. A finger of the victim, Camilla Loen is severed and a star-shaped red diamond is found under her eyelid. 

A week later, Lisbeth Barli, a stage actress, is reported missing by her husband. She had gone to the supermarket near their apartment but never came back. The women is never found but her finger with a star-shaped red diamond ring is couriered to the Police investigation office. 

Oslo is a busy city and the serial murders make big news. The chief investigator wants to assign this case to the best men in force and chooses Tom Waaler and Harry Hole, who also happen to be two department rivals. 

Harry’s friend had been deliberately shot by Waaler in a supposed accident while she was investigating a gun smuggling racket and hence Harry accuses Waaler of aiding the smuggling ring. Harry has his own theory but struggles to prove with facts that Waaler is involved. His failure and loss turns him into an alcoholic and this affects his love life too. 

As the mystery behind the serial murders hang in the air, the next murder takes place. This time it’s in the women’s restroom of a lawyer’s office and the red diamond is found in the victim’s ear. 

The forensics and other experts race through to present their opinion about the murders but all of these lack one key element- motive. The murdered women do not seem assaulted and do not have anything in common. 

When the pieces of the puzzle does not seem to fit, Harry’s tries hard to decipher the clue left behind by the murderer- the five-pointed star aka the devil’s star.  Juggling between Harry’s addiction, love life, and Waller’s intervention, the plot travels through unexpected twists and turns. 

Jo Nesbo manages to keep the readers on the edge and has nailed the last few chapters. If I could point one thing unenthusiastic about the book, it’d be the length. 

This book was originally written in Norwegian, titled Marekors. The English version is translated by Don Bartlett, who has done a very commendable job. The native emotions have been retained and does justice to the story. 

The Devil’s Star is the second book in the series of Harry Hole and Tom Waaler after ‘The Redbreast’ and ‘Nemesis’. I’ve not read the first two books but the plot was comprehensible. Looks like this book has a follow up called ‘The Redeemer’. Now, this makes me curious because I guessed The Devil’s star would be the closure!

I read a penguin vintage classic edition with a very cool cover (image above). Do leave your recommendations of the books you are reading this quarantine. Happy reading!

Rating: 3.5/5
Category: Crime fiction 
Recommended age groups: Adults 
Content rating: Contains sexual references and murder references. Also contains alcohol usage references, but by the end the protagonist fights his addiction.

The Whistler by John Grisham- A book review

It’s been a long time since I posted a blog. I’ve been missing this terribly. Being a poetry blogger I often feel the words have just dried up. My last poem was written about a year ago and I suddenly feel hopeless if I will ever pick it up from where I left. Have you guys had a feeling like this or is it just me? *wondering out loud*

This quarantine has finally given me some inspiration to get going. Life is short, let us rekindle the hobbies what really gives us joy. Besides, reviews are not just for an audience, it’s sometimes for ourselves to remember the journey we had while reading the book.

So, here is my review for our courtroom drama specialist John Grisham’s- The Whistler.

The Plot

Greg Meyers, an ex-lawyer and a convicted felon, is always on the run for the fear of his past. With age hitting him hard and not much options to retire, he decides to bust the misconduct of a judge and gain some money out of it. 

Judge Claudia McDover kicks off her career in law as a revenge on her divorced husband but encounters a change in track after meeting Vonn Dubose. Vonn, the master mind and head of the catfish mafia, is involved in money laundering and skimming cash out of the casinos built on the Indian land. Vonn manages to tackle anyone in his way and hardly keeps a count on the dead bodies. When he needs a judge in his pocket, Claudia becomes an easy target. His deal proposes to pay her a part of the black money made from the casinos and in turn every verdict is favoured his way. 

Grey Meyers meets Lacy Soltz and Hugo Hatch, lawyers at the Board of Judicial Conduct (BJC), an organisation that deals with corrupt judges to files an official complaint about Claudia. Lucy is attractive, smart, and single. Hugo is a married man with 4 kids. Lucy is close with Hugo’s family and his wife Verna is a good friend. They are equally interested about the case and instantly get lured in when someone calls from the Indian reservation with a so called tip. They realise the trap laid for them a minute too late. 

With such a powerful enemy on the other side will they ever be able to nail the judge? 

Setbacks

The pace of the book takes an abrupt change in-between. Grisham, who is particular about all the details in the first half of the book seems to be in a hurry in the second part. For someone who enjoyed the descriptions of Gray Mountain by John Grisham, The Whistler might disappoint.

Even as the plot is great, the sudden disappearance of Meyers and the reason behind it failed to convince. 

If you are a crime thriller fan, I’d recommend you to give it a try. It is a considerably small book and perfect to accompany you during journeys. 

Rating: 3.5/5
Category: Crime Fiction, Suspence
Recommended age groups: Young Adult, Adult

My soul across the sea

Listening to your cracked laugh
Over that long distance telephone line
I knew how cruel happiness could be
When a loved one was not near.

We buried our tears in each others smile
Trying to shatter the miles between us.

Midnight phone calls became lifelines
Our hushed tones carried by the wind
Flying across the night sky
Treasured in the stars.

 

What ripped my heart more
Were your letters
Bringing back your scent
A sense of you.

Your words scrawled on a bluish paper
So much, yet so less.

Reading those letters were an effort
With overflowing emotions
The words along every crease
Unveiling folded memories.

 

The nights were never easy though
Fear and anxiety looming overhead
With insecurities so close by
The dark clouds ready to rain any minute.

Yet, when the phone rang again
Why did my heart jump the slightest bit?

Why did all those fears fade?
Where did my questions vanish?
What did we hold on to?
Hope, may be, for the dark days to pass.

 

I often drew you in my dreams
Closing my eyes
Feeling you just here, near me
Your smell filling my mind.

The dreams were inviting
While soaring the hidden ache.

But honey, the good days are not far away!
When you come back to rest by my side
My head nestled on your shoulder
Your hand twirled around mine
Let’s bury all of those worries
And dance to the rhythm of our hearts!

….Sara

 

P.S: The inspiration for this poem is from the book ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The challenges faced by students migrating from Nigeria to UK or the US are heart-wrenching. The clash of their dreams and reality, staying oceans apart from their loved ones, and their harrowing experiences could not have been expressed better. I had to stop and write to get the sadness out of my heart. I am just halfway through the book yet love it already!

Silk by Alessandro Baricco- Translated by Guido Waldman- A review

This review went too deep into the book and might contain spoilers. If you plan to read the book, I’d recommend you to go right ahead and skip the plot.

Plot:

A would-be soldier, Herve Joncour’s life takes a U-turn when he meets Baldabiou. He becomes a silkworm trader in Lavilledieu, France. He takes long trips to countries like Syria and Egypt to buy silkworm eggs and trades them with the local merchants in Lavilledieu.

A would-be soldier, Herve Joncour’s life takes a U-turn when he meets Baldabiou. He becomes a silkworm trader in Lavilledieu, France. He takes long trips to countries like Syria and Egypt to buy silkworm eggs and trades them with the local merchants in Lavilledieu. 

Why not buy it in the Mediterranean?, you may ask. The reason being a wide spread epidemic in the country. 

Herve would travel and return in time for the High Mass and rest for the later part of the year with his wife Helene. 

Once the epidemic starts to spread far and wide, they do not know where to procure eggs. This is when Baldabiou asks Herve Joncour to travel to Japan, at the end of the world, cut off to foreigners. After pooling money from all the local silk merchants in Lavilledieu, Herve starts off his long and tedious journey to Japan. Once in the Chinese borders, he embarks a smuggler’s ship to reach Shirakawa in Japan. Hara Kei, the local head of the village, hosts him and trades silkworm eggs for gold chips. The first time Herve meets Hara Kei, he sees a women draped in orange with oriental eyes whose face is of a young girl. He develops desire for her during every travel henceforth. 

He would receive a note from her, but in Japanese. To seek help in reading the letter, he visits a prostitution place headed by Madame Blanche, a Japanese women who wears blue flowers in her fingers like rings. She reads the note and asks him to stay away from the girl.

On his 4th visit to Japan, the war had broken out. The village of Hara Kei had been burnt down. Yet, he desires to see the girl. He travels for days with a young lad to find the village troops who are on the move. When he finds them, Hara Kei becomes aware of Herve’s intentions and asks him to stay away from his klan. A dejected Herve battles his thought between the girl and his profession. He then leaves the tribe and bribes a Japanese official for silk worms. This time he decides to take a different route as he is already late and the climate for the eggs is not right. That year, by the time he returns to Lavilledieu , all his eggs are dead. 

His wife Helene notices the changes in him but never speaks out or questions him. One day, he receives a letter, of monograms, written in Japanese. He again visits Madame Blanche, who again reads the letter for him which turns out to be a love letter. After she completes the letter he leaves the place, never to return. 

Herve Joncour, leads his life as before. He takes vacations with his wife every year and builds the garden that he always wanted to. Life is normal until Helen dies of an undiagnosable  disease. One day when he visits her cemetery, he finds a garland made of blue flowers. Herve makes up his mind to visit Madame Blanche who has now moved to Paris as a mistress. Herve asks her if Helene had asked Madame Blanche to write the letter. In turn Madame Blanche says that the letter was indeed written by Helen, and she just translated it. Madame Blanche says that Helen had such a sweet voice and almost earned to be the girl who was in the letter. 

Herve Joncour bides goodbye to the Madame and lives the rest of his life making peace with his lost love.

What I liked about the book?

Every time Herve Joncour travelled to Japan, the route was the same. However, the author one prominent difference in the description where Herve crosses the lake Baikal. 

Lake Baikal, known locally as “the sea”. 

Silk by Alessandro Baricco, Translated by Guido Waldman

Lake Baikal, known locally as “the deamon”.

Silk by Alessandro Baricco, Translated by Guido Waldman

Lake Baikal, known locally as “the last”.

Silk by Alessandro Baricco, Translated by Guido Waldman

Lake Baikal, known locally as “the holy”.

Silk by Alessandro Baricco, Translated by Guido Waldman

Lake Baikal, considered the deepest lake in the world, currently located in Russia, provokes my interests thus!

Favorite quote:

“They will return. It’s always hard to resist the temptation to return, isn’t it?”

Silk by Alessandro Baricco, Translated by Guido Waldman

The novel is really short. I have no idea why my review went so long. But thinking of it, the author had a really good plot that he could have dragged to a considerably long book. Yet, he chose to keep it short and sweet. Totally worth the read!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

A few books leave an impact on us like no other. One such book is The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. This book is about everything from haunting memories, loses and sacrifices, to rising from the ashes.

The plot

Sage Singer, a baker, lives in the shadows and tries to hide  away from everyone. She takes up a job that lets her bake in the nights, when no one can take a second look at her face or her scar. She would give anything to go back to that one accident to bring back her mother and make things as before. She battles her low self-esteem, but when an affair crops up with a married man, she does not think twice but convinces herself that she can never expect anything better.

Minka, Sage’s grandmother, a holocaust survivor, a lesser known writer, who believes there is good in every bad, tries to give strength to Sage. But Minka never opens up about her war-time memories. Until one day, when she lets out every detail of her struggle as a Jew. Minka’s life makes us cringe at the sins committed against humanity. Minka writes a story through the war. Her characters resemble her real life and everyone who listens to her story wants to know more of it. It gives her a purpose to live and pull through one more day.  We later come to realise that, no matter how much Minka lost during the war, she never lost her hope.

Joseph Weber, a retired German teacher, joins the grief counselling group which Sage attends. They become good friends over time. At some point, Joseph lets out his long hidden secrets to Sage, until she gets to know that she did not cross paths with Joseph by accident. Joseph pleads for a favour that he thinks only Sage can do. Sage’s decision and her moral battles makes up the rest of the story.

Impressions

The progress of Sage along the book are empowering to read. By the end, we find ourselves forgiving others even if it just for the sake of us. 

Jodi Picoult has done a brilliant job yet again. Her descriptions take us to the exact place and scene in the picture. The part on holocaust and the injustices that happened were heart wrenching. In all, it is a journey which takes you to places you can never visit. The story of Minka and Sage will touch your soul and stay with you for a long, long time.

Quotes from the book

‘“So you see, this is why I never told my story.
If you lived through it, you already know there are no words that will ever come close to describing it.
And if you didn’t, you will never understand.”

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

“By now, the sun has sunk so low that everything on the shrine’s hill is glowing and golden. Just looking at it, at so much beauty in one place, makes the tightness in my chest loosen a little. Surely if there’s evil in the world, it’s counterbalanced by moments like these. ”

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

“I don’t know what this person did to you, and I am not sure I want to. But forgiving isn’t something you do for someone else. It’s something you do for yourself. It’s saying, You’re not important enough to have a stranglehold on me. It’s saying, You don’t get to trap me in the past. I am worthy of a future.”

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

“It does not matter who forgives you, if you’re the one who can’t forget.”

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

“Fiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Secrets, lies, stories. We all tell them. Sometimes, because we hope to entertain. Sometimes, because we need to distract.

And sometimes, because we have to.”

The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

I would recommend you to pick this up when you need strength, inspiration, and a bit of both.

A smart revolution

We all have fun at work (of course!). From coding coolies to Friday foodies we must have met a lot of people. One such lost bus of tourists make up my team. But guess the one thing all of us are interested in? Becoming thin!

I could easily say the team goal (apart from the managerial goal) is to cut the paunch and hit size 0. We would call ourselves fitness freaks (not!), holding discussions on diet charts and workout routines, only if talking could burn any calories…

One fine morning, one of us turned up gleaming and bright, sporting a fitness band. Needless to say, we dived right in for the attack. We got to know every spec about the band, dug for the ratings, compared prices online, debated on every e-commerce site and came out with a clear winner, Flipkart. #GetFitWithFlipkart

Guess who walked in with a new band the next morning? The entire team. All thanks to the quick delivery and promising deals by Flipkart. 

We went on little walks during our breaks to increase the step count, set group goals. Well, I must say, this smart tech was the only thing that ever worked for us. 

The smart gadgets but the not so smart me!

I kill my daily commute by scrolling through deals of the day and featured brands, all the while tempted to hit that Add to cart button. Unfortunately, I get paid only once a month (which I think is very unfair!), my dreams get added to the Wishlist. If only you had a peek into my Wishlist, you’d know how greedy of a person I am. 

Well, once I bought a smart watch, much of an impulsive buy. This watch supposedly supported gestures and I desperately waved my hand in all the supported angles to make it work. But oops! It never did budge. After an intense session with google, I got to know that the gesture support had to be configured first. *facepalm*

These smart gadgets often overtakes our intelligence and redefines technology too. You can attend phone calls using smart wearables and set alarm in smart speakers, barring technological stereotypes. The smart homes make us feel like a Whiz. With the whip of buttons, we have everything under control. 

Our smart homes are working population’s stay at home friend. From turning on purifiers and humidifiers before heading home, to collecting packages when no one is home, they come to our rescue every time. #SmartHomeRevolution

To build your smart home, the one stop smart destination is Flipkart. With a wide range of products and a number of deals, we can pick what we exactly want. Build smart and happy homes this new year! Cheers!

A magic called hope!

Walking down the same path

Too many memories

To tip and fall right over.

Afraid to make the wrong decisions

We’re too scared to get up and walk

Even when there’s a whole new path.

But hey, we’ve all got just one life

Ticking minutes and seconds

Why’d we have to miss it for our fears?

As the winds chime

And the bells ring

Let’s hang on to one magic- hope!

The high-heeled stranger

Smoke veiled the crowded room

The air thick, smelling whiskey

The jukebox blaring country music.
 

I sat in a corner, hidden from the shimmer

Almost like a ghost, disguised in the dark.
 

The snow out the window, mild and crisp

Building up to cover the hoods

Lights from the traffic buzzing around.
 

There she hopped, out of her car

A red Cadillac, cigarette in hand.
 

Long legs parading in clicking high heels

The flicker of her lighter sparking up eyes

Making heads turn, words hanging mid-air.
 

Oh she’d never notice, this shrouded soul

Concealed in the corner, oblivious to the world.
 

As she walks past, I bury my eyes in beer

Oops! She stops, pulling the chair across

One leg on the other, blowing out the smoke.
 

‘How are you?’, the words come my way

As I tilt to see her eyes, naughtily sedating.
 

‘Oh, good!’, I stutter, heart failing to beat

The hair on my arms standing upright

‘How good?’, she chuckles, a wink on its way

The gloomy clown just walked away.
 

All again?

There was a slight drizzle
And the clouds dark
Warning a bigger shower.

So was my heart
Wandering in the gloom
Warning another downpour.

The new path was all welcoming
Painted new and glossy
For never once did I see beyond those walls.

I walked on to reach the same spot
A haunting familiarity clutching my chest
Remote, stranded and shuddering again.

The heart is so influencing  
Shutting off the brain at times
Leaving behind a needy, vulnerable mess.

Tell me, why do we repeat our mistakes?
We go back when we know we should’ve not?
Do we learn our lessons right?

A mess without you

Too many cobwebs tangled in my mind,

Too tired to clear, this kind.

I try to uncoil, one thought a time,

But fall for the never ending loop again.
 

Pondering over those grueling thoughts,

Too much melancholy to tend.

The heart-aches and broken wings,

Neither of us spared by the end.
 

Should I blame the fate or destiny, my love?

As I’m stranded here, a mess without you.