Opinion & Featured Articles

Treasure Hunt at Local Book Fair

Book fair

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year in advance.

During this time of the year, we have a local book fair hosted in my part of the city. This is a kind of warm up to the International Kolkata Book Fair (world’s largest non-trade book fair). Bought myself a few bookish presents 🙂

Okay, here’s the lot:

Great Cases of Interpol by Reader’s Digest Association

A top notch collection of real life cases with photos and illustrations. “Not to be read in a single sitting” as my favorite editorial duo Mr Wagner and Mr Wise often suggests for anthologies. Too generous a ration of crime may defeat its intended purpose.

Great Cases of Interpol by Reader's Digest Association

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Okay, I admit I haven’t read it.  It has become a bedtime partner since yesterday and seems like a modern Dickensian work. Bought it for what would be about $2.00 in US currency. Can’t stop congratulating myself. The deal itself was worth the delay. Dash it, it wasn’t.

strange

Reader’s Digest Illustrated Story of World War II

Being a history buff, I am rather happy that I bought this one. Definitely not for scholars and provides just an overview of WW II, but makes an interesting presentation with lots of rare pictures.

world war 2

A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proofby Roger Clarke
That’s my favorite subject again. Not just a piece of fiction but some real life facts on a creepy topic. Not sure how this would turn out, I have not read any non-fiction work on the supernatural. Keeping my fingers crossed.

a natural history of ghosts by roger clarke

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad

Any bookish party is incomplete without vintage, fragile penguins. So here they are. Haven’t read them, but they are already my favorites.

So what do you think of the lot? What have you bought this Christmas?

penguin

 
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News from the Book World / Opinion & Featured Articles

The Deadly Bookish Tank

free-book-tank-library-weapon-of-mass-instruction-raul-lemesoff-9

To celebrate World Book Day on 5th March, Raul Lemesoff — an artist from Argentina — has created what he calls “Arma de Instruccion Masiva” or Weapon of Mass Instruction. This is a travelling library he intends to use to combat ignorance and spread knowledge. For this campaign, Raul has visited remote, impoverished towns in Argentina where almost half the children do not have the privilege of going to school.

What exactly is this weapon? It’s a 1979 Ford Falcon that has a rotating turret, a pseudo gun and about 900 books, which include poetry, novels and biographies. Raul offers books for free and his only request to people is to read the book he has given them. Isn’t that great?

Apart from promoting knowledge and education, this symbolic campaign also aims to “to contribute to peace through literature.” Awesome work Mr Lemesoff.

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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry potter book review

Belated happy new year to my blogger friends! Finally managed to sneak out again from the miserable real world to the blogosphere. It had been a great year and hope you had a great one too. For me, the year moved at a break neck speed and The Book Haven was left stranded while its captain was a stranger in a strange land.

The major bookish achievement this year was to finish the Harry Potter Series (yeah, the movies too). Alright, it’s not retro and doesn’t belong to this blog. Also, I admit I was hopelessly prejudiced against the Potter boy and Rowling before taking up Philosopher’s Stone reluctantly. It was one of my friends who argued that it was a rubbish attitude to make fun of something without reading it. I couldn’t answer and decided to make a point by reading the book.

So I finished reading the first book. And had to eat my own words.

Blimey! Why on earth I kept pushing it away for so long? The Philosopher’s Stone was as original as Tolkien’s LoTR. Of course, it lacked the depth of a classic and was not a work of art created by a professor of Anglo-Saxon, but there’s no denying that it was way ahead of most books in the genre.

Movie: 3.5 / 5 (pretty descent stuff)

Chamber of Secrets is possibly the best book in the series in terms of plot. Basilisk and Tom Riddle’s diary were freaking awesome. And who could forget the flying car over Muggle London? God, the series was getting better and better.

Movie: 4/ 5 (Quite quite good)

The Prisoner of Azkaban felt like a letdown though. Sirius Black and Lupin were great characters; the dementors were creepy, but overall the plot seemed weak.

Movie: 2.5/ 5 (Meh! Cool special effects though)

With The Goblet of Fire, Rowling was back in form. The Triwizard tournament was outright genius. I believe, it was from this novel that the series started to take a dark turn. The book had a really eerie beginning and introduced Nagini, Voldemort’s infernal pet.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Not bad)

The Order of the Phoenix had some outstanding moments. Battle of the Ministry is perhaps the best thing about it. Bellatrix murdered Sirius Black – dang, that was a shock (thought he and James were both better than Bellatrix).

I believe it is virtually impossible to invent a character more annoying that Dolores Umbridge. Cool job by Rowling! However, the plot seemed loose and without purpose. Rowling seemed to describe the daily life at Hogwarts without any intention of going further and things fell in line again only towards the end.

Movie: 3/ 5 (Nothing very special here)

Sectumsempra! Aren’t you bleeding yet from the curse invented by the Half-blood price? Fantastic plot, great speed, dark magic, perilous missions, shocking betrayals, and tragic end. Wow!  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince deserves to be one of your favourite novels in the series. If not for anything else, you can remember it simply because of the ghastly concept of Horcrux.

Movie: 3.5/ 5 (Lives up to the expectations)

The epic conclusion. The Deathly Hollows is my favourite book in the series. This one is truly tragic in tone from the beginning till the end. Incredible action, unforeseen twists, meticulously crafted characters and dialogues make the concluding episode an unforgettable journey. The battle of Hogwarts is nothing short of epic. What a finish. Avada Kedavra!

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part I: 4/ 5 (Great job)

Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part 2: 4.5/ 5 (Best in the series)

I would rate Harry Potter series at par with Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It’s not The Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones but then it doesn’t need to be. Harry Potter is best the way it is.

The movies could have been better. They were cartoonish to begin with and gradually improved but none of them were like The Two Towers. What a pity!

What do you think of the Harry Potter series?
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Cover of the Week

Vintage Cover Art (Rowena Morrill): Isobel by Jane Parkhurst

Rowena Morrill vintage cover art

Rowena Morrill is a SF and fantasy artist who has some really great vintage pulp covers to her credit. The above illustration is from the horror novel Isobel by Jane Parkhurst. Even by the high standard of vintage pulp covers, this one stands out as an outstanding example of compelling horror artwork, which has altogether vanished due to some incomprehensible reason. Can you feel the evocation of the dark? Does it give you the creeps?

In his blog  Too much horror fiction, Will mentions that this was Morrill’s first cover art. Too good a debut even for someone too talented!

Here is the front cover of the paperback:

vintage cover art

 

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book review: The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen

The Spartak Trigger Bryce Allen

This is the second thriller I read this week from a debut novelist. And just like Kill with a Borrowed Knife, it turned out to be an awesome ride. Let’s take a look at Bryce Allen’s The Spartak Trigger.

The story

Shane Bishop is an amoral cop turned set-up artist. He has become an expert in framing people for criminal offenses in lieu of money. But Shane’s luck runs out as he is outsmarted by a government agent and the ex-cop gets framed for what turns out to be a high profile murder.

Shane’s only hope to get out of the situation rests with a piece of crucial evidence, but he is forced into high risk espionage jobs. He finds himself in mortal danger as he deals with a Russian extremist group and tries to retrieve a computer program that can wipe out the World Wide Web.

What is Spartak Trigger

The US developed an extensive network of communications system in response to Russia’s Sputnik. However, they had no idea that a Russian agent had set up a self-destruct code that can cripple the entire communications system including the Internet. Gentlemen, welcome to the secret of the Spartak Trigger.

What’s so good

The Spartak Trigger follows typical Russian-European thriller style, but it doesn’t feel cliché. For a debut novelist, Mr. Allen delivers a surprisingly decent dose of twist and turns. The plot does seem a bit implausible at times, but it keeps the readers well hooked till the end. Most importantly, the author exhibits fantastic story telling skills.

The characterization is done with a high degree of dexterity. Particularly Shane’s character is extremely well developed and believable.

Thriller fans won’t be disappointed.

About the author:

Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States.

The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen on Amazon

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