Book Review: Trail of the Chupacabra by Stephen Randel

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Trail  of Chupacabra by Stephen Randel

Trail of the Chupacabra by Stephen Randel is the story of Avery, an eccentric and quirky geek/explorer, who enters Mexico in search of the mythical animal – Chupacabra. His companions in this adventure are Zippy, a burnt out hippy and a crazy private militia (called as “Southwest Texas Revolutionary Armed Confederate Border Operations Militia STRAC-BOM”; headed by General x-Ray). It is about how they get entangled in the rivalry between the feared drug lord Padre, his enemy Barquero and the Mexican army, and how they eventually come out of it.

The premise of the story is interesting and has a potential to be a highly entertaining book. There are two parallel tracks – Avery’s search of the chupacabra and Barquero’s revenge on the Padre. The two tracks merge towards the end of the book resulting in a superb climax. However, the undoing of the book is its uni-dimensional characters. While funny and hilarious to start with, almost all the key characters (Avery, Ziggy, General X ray etc.) become repetitive after some time. Even the humor (Avery’s complaint letters to the authorities, Ziggy histrionics, and STRAC-BOM’s stupidity) feels stale.

To summarize, Trail of the Chupacabra is the kind of book which can be harmlessly browsed through if you have spare time and nothing better to do. However, you may not like to take out time specifically to read it.

PS: I received a complementary copy of this book in order to review it.

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Kindle Single Review: Fox 8 – A Story

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This is a very unconventionally written book, where the narrator is a fox who has recently learned human language and his story telling is characterized by improper grammar and abundant typos. Fox 8 is a story about a fox who gets exposed to humans and learns their language by listening to stories told by human mothers to their kids. When the jungle in which the fox lives is destroyed by the construction of a mall, the fox reaches out to humans to seek help, establish a fox-human connection. However, as he tries to come closer to them, the ugly side of humans is revealed, turning his life upside down.

As the fox says – “Why did the curator do it so rong, making the groop with the gratest skils the meenest?” So true.

Good and enjoyable, as well as thought-provoking.

Fox 8: A Story is a Kindle single written by George Saunders, the New York times best seller author of the short story collection – Tenth of December

Book Review: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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100 year old man Cover 1Allan interrupted the two brothers by saying that he had been out and about in the world and if there was one thing he had learned it was that the very biggest and apparently most impossible conflicts on earth were based on the dialogue: “You are stupid, no, it’s you who are stupid, no, it’s you who are stupid.” – Excerpt from The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared is an unusual, and quirky book. The main character, Allan, an explosion expert, has had an eventful life, paying an important role in some of the key events of the 20th century. Just before his 100th birthday celebration, out of boredom, he escapes from the old age home, unintentionally gets possession of big suitcase full of cash, and has both police and a bunch of gangsters after him. With no particular destination in mind, Allan wanders aimlessly, meets some crazy people during the journey, and has a hell of an adventure.    

This is a well written book with a very interesting story, although it’s not very believable. There are two separate tracks in the book – one narrating Allan’s current adventure while on run with the suitcase, the other about his younger days as an explosion expert with neutral political views caught in a world where capitalism and communism is at logger heads. Allan finds himself in the company of some of the most powerful political leaders (Stalin, Truman, Churchill, Mao) and has unknowingly been an important instrument in shaping the world as we see it today.

With Allan, Jonas may have created the coolest 100-year-old character of all times!! Even the other characters are awesomely idiosyncratic and funny.

The unique Scandinavian humor, characterized by its understatement and satire, is the highlight of this book. There were several line in the book that made me laugh out loud multiple times (to the amusement of people who happened to be in the vicinity).

This is my second Scandinavian book (The Dinner by Herman Koch being the first, see my review here) and I am totally floored by this type of humor.

It would have been an even better read, if it was a couple of pages less lengthy. Otherwise, it is a very enjoyable book.

PS: A film deal has been signed and we may see a movie version as early as the end of this year. Looking forward.

Book Review: The Dinner by Herman Koch

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The Dinner is a psychological thriller written in Dutch as “Het diner” by Herman Koch and translated wonderfully to English by Sam Garrett.

It is the story of two families who are meeting over dinner to discuss the involvement of their sons in a well publicized act of crime. The fact that their sons were involved is not known to anyone apart from the families, although the crime itself, being recorded on camera and gone viral on the internet, has become a national sensation. Between the various courses of meals and the usual dinner time, banal discussions, the families are trying to decide their next course of action regarding their sons.

There are three thing about this book which are absolutely awesome. First, the characters of Paul Lohman (the narrator) and his wife Claire. The first few pages, they seem like an ordinary middle age couple. However, as the plot progresses, back and forth between the dinner and various past instances recalled by Paul, disturbing details about these characters are revealed. By the end, everything you knew and thought about Paul and Claire was wrong. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was another book having a similar character development trajectory. (See review here).

Secondly, this is a very intelligently structured book. Divided around the five courses of meals the couples are having, and in-between the discussions around the food, the ambiance, movies and other normal stuff people talk about during social dinners, bursts of unnerving information is revealed, mostly through flashbacks. The beauty of the book is when and how much is revealed.

And thirdly, the humor in the book. Dry, Dark, sarcastic and very understated, very scandinavian in nature. I just loved it.

Overall, a brilliant book. Highly recommended for those who appreciate good suspense.

PS: I received a complimentary copy of this book, in order to review it, from MySmartPrice Books. Know more about them here

Kindle Single Review: Board Room Babies

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Board Room Babies is a pseudo-research study which proves that there is a lot of commonality between the behavior of babies and corporate head honchos.

Amazon.com editorial describes it as a “wickedly delightful satire”. Satire it is and a decent one, but not at all “wickedly delightful”. There are a some extremely funny moments. Like the one where there is a graph which compares CEO’s work product with baby shit. Or the one which talks about how nonsensical things said by both babies and CEOs are considered smart and remarkable. But these are too far (even considering the length of the book) and too few. The rest of the book is plain drab and boring. Some comparisons even feel stretched – like the one which relates CEO’s hair to baby hair. Remove some of these dull portions, what remains is genuinely funny and piquant commentary on the life style of the corporate moguls.

My verdict – decent but not awesome. Good writing, could have been made better with tighter editing.

Board Room Babies is a Kindle Single written by Stanley Bing.

Kindle Single Review: Everyone’s Reading Bastard

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What made me buy this one was the name of the story and the cover page. The name does not make sense at all and it compelled me find out more about the story. I had a couple of hours to spare and this 29 pager short story proved to be a perfect choice.

Its more of a slice of life story without a well defined start and ending, however the premise is very interesting. Its about a man whose ex-wife starts writing about him in a weekly column called “Bastard” (that explains the name – Everyone’s reading bastard). Its all about the trials and tribulations of this man as each week some of his most embarrassing secrets become public fodder. Funny and ironic at the same time, its the story of ones dirty linen gone viral.

Everyone’s reading bastard is a Kindle Single by bestselling author Nick Hornby.

Book Review: Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

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“Watching television and surfing the Internet are really excellent practice for being dead” – excerpt from Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Madison is thirteen year old, overweight, ignored by her movie star parents and is attracted to her adopted brother. And yes, she is dead. The novel is all about her life (?) in hell, the souls she meet there and her conversations with Satan.

After starting and not completing some of the previous books by Chuck (some were boring, some were unreadable and some were downright offensive), I had my reservations about this book. The premise of the book sounded Keep Reading…