I’m trying to clear my review backlog because the OC in me just couldn’t move on without writing even just a few lines for all the books I finished reading. So here is another edition of Quick Reviews featuring books I read last year, two of which were Monthly Reads of the book club while the last one was a book club challenge read.
The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett
First Published: 1930
TFG Book of the Month for June 2015
Summary from Goodreads:
A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.
Crime fiction/noir is the genre that got me hooked on reading (i.e. Nancy Drew) and had I read The Maltese Falcon while I was younger and hadn’t been exposed to other crime fiction writers, I might have appreciated the story more. I found the storytelling simple and uncomplicated and the plot very usual. There was nothing new — the story line was your typical crime fiction with a PI for a protagonist, bad guys and bad language, and cops. Having a heroine with questionable character was, for me, a noteworthy addition to the characters. If I were to put the story within the time frame when it was first published (1930), however, then I would say that Dashiell Hammett was brilliant. He was able to create a main protagonist who isn’t too likeable but maintains enough air of mystery and a plot that has enough surprising twists and turns to keep the reader hooked. Truly this book deserves its place as a classic in the crime fiction shelf.
My Rating: 3/5 stars.
by Philip K. Dick
First Published: 1969
TFG Book of the Month for May 2016
Summary from Goodreads:
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team areambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.
I was blown away with Ubik. It was my first time to read Philip K. Dick and I have to thank the book club for introducing me to the writing of this brilliant author. I’m not much of a sci-fi fan but reading the book gave me enough reasons to read more on the genre especially from PKD. I loved the simple writing, the easily understandable plot, the interesting characters, and the existential themes, most of all. The story was so engaging I was even surprised how quickly I turned the pages despite it not being my favorite genre. I must admit that there were matters I have yet to understand in the story but as with most of my readings, I don’t feel bothered at all when the story doesn’t wrap up nicely. For me, there is beauty in the unknown.
Ubik is one unforgettable read — one I gladly recommend to anyone who wants to enjoy a good mental exercise.
My Rating: 5/5 stars.
The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai
TFG Challenge Book 2015
Summary from Goodreads:
In the northeastern Himalayas, at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga, in a crumbling isolated house, there lives a cantankerous old judge who wants nothing more than to retire in peace. But with the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, and the son of his chatty cook trying to stay a step ahead of U.S. immigration, this is far from easy. When a Nepalese insurgency threatens the blossoming romance between Sai and her handsome tutor, they are forced to consider their colliding interests. And the judge must revisit his own journey and his role in a world of conflicting desires—every moment holding out the possibility of hope or betrayal.
I never knew what to expect with The Inheritance of Loss. The fragmented narrative initially disturbed and distracted me but I was able to get the hang of it eventually. There were times I laughed out loud at the irony of the events that transpired in the lives of the characters but eventually I had to stop especially towards the end because I realized there is nothing funny about poverty and tragedy. This book is bittersweet and melancholic and if not for the comical narrative, I might have broken down in tears with my heart crushed. Still, there’s a heavy ache that weighs my heart down each time I remember this book because of the realities it portrayed. The Inheritance of Loss offers a substantial glimpse of Indian history and culture but it also depicts universal themes of love, acceptance, and hope. A very brilliant read and a pleasant discovery!
My Rating: 4/5 stars.