The Lake House: Kate Morton

A Whodunit that spans multiple generations and cases. Detective Sadie, under fire for going public about a missing mom, goes on a vacation and becomes deeply involved with another one. The characters are well-etched, multi-dimensional and distinctive. However, for a whodunit, the pace is a little slack, some conjectures not believable and the twists rather predictable. The building of suspense works for most of the time through repetitive thoughts of characters can sometimes slow things down.

Don’t bother.

Robin: Dave Itzkoff

One of the most poignant events in the entertainment industry in recent times was Robin Williams taking his own life. “Robin” traces the journey of the man – the stand-up comic, the actor and the fallible human – warts and all. From his relatively affluent yet lonely childhood to his days at Julliard, his struggles to establish himself as a stand-up comic, the mad-cap comedy that came to define him to Mork and Mindy and the Hollywood roller-coaster. His personal life: experiments with cocaine and women, the two decades of being sober and enjoying family life, the insecurities, and then the alcoholism are all told in a non-partisan, non-judgmental way. The book is a bit too long for a biography – covering the making of too many movies in detail for example – and thus is not as dramatic as it could have been. However, the honesty of the narration stands out.

Read.

Hood: Emma Donoghue

Cara has died in a car accident and her partner, Pen, is mourning, reminiscing. Nothing much happens: there is no strong story line, but the book still manages to hold attention. And that is because it has been written really well. The intensity of Pen’s emotions and feelings her interactions with Cara’s family are captured beautifully. It’s an example of how really good writing can salvage a book. Nowhere close to being as good as “Room”, Hood still leaves a strong impression.

Read.

Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen

A story of passion, madness and love that plays out with a travelling circus as the background. The story is not something that hasn’t been told before but Gruen does a great job in capturing the circus ambience. The bits told in the nursing home, with the protagonist being very old and his slowly losing his mind are particularly touching.

Read.

The Sunset Club: Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh wrote the book at the age of Ninety-something – so that should have been a fair warning in itself. “The Sunset Club” is a rather tame account of the sunset years conversations amongst three friends who follow three different religions (makes it even more cliché). The Sikh character is thinly-veiled Singh himself. The other two die – one by one – and leave him alone in the end. Singh’s boasts about his younger-day conquests also seems to be in bad taste.

Don’t bother.

Children of a Better God: Susmita Bagchi

A book on spastic children in a special school. The writer wrote the book with the sole objective of espousing their cause. It is rather dry and a straightforward account of the lives of the kids in the school without much drama. Nonetheless, a couple of scenes are touching. The book is translated from Oriya and hence there in an additional issue with the readability.

Read only if you are passionate about spastic children.

Fifty Shades of Grey: E.L.James

The book that broke records! Disappointing overall. An ultra-rich Christian Grey awakens the sensuality of Anastasia Steele. Written poorly with lots of repetitions, it is a chic lit a the heart of it. The sex scenes were good, at least some of them, but there was little else of note – not even a satisfying end to the mystery of Christian Grey – and no, I am not going to read the trilogy to find out.

No.