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Book Nook - 05-02-2018

Monday, February 05, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Plum Pudding
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum’s books are a guilty pleasure—no matter how outlandish the plots, the feisty heroine and her madcap sidekick Lula are bound to make the reader laugh out loud.

For those who haven’t read any books in the series before, Stephanie is a self-confessed Julie Roberts lookalike, of Italian descent and has a crazy gun-toting Grandma Mazur, whose antics have driven her daughter (that is Stephanie’s mother) to despair and alcoholism. She also has a hamster as a pet, a cop boyfriend Joe Morelli and a standby ‘knight’ called Ranger—both of them impossibly hot.  In the latest of the ‘numbered’ series, Hardcore Twenty-Four, another hottie drops by—the enigmatic Diesel, with six-pack abs and extra-sensory perception.

Lula is an Amazonian black woman, a former hooker, with a red Firebird, a huge appetite and passion for shoes. She wears garish clothes and manages to carry them off.  And if some misguided soul calls her fat, they are asking for trouble.

Stephanie is a bounty hunter, a profession not known in most countries; they are employed by bailbondsmen to ensure that felons do not jump bail and turn up at their trials.

Stephanie works for her mostly absent cousin Vinnie, and with Lula’s help—plus occasional SOS calls to security expert Ranger-- she manages to apprehend most fugitives from justice. Some assistance comes from the office receptionist Connie, who belongs to a Mafia clan and keeps Stephanie supplied with information and donuts. In the process of chasing runaways and feeding Lula, she also solves baffling murder cases, and keeps the love triangle with Morelli and Ranger as amiable as can be.

In Hardcore Twenty-Four, the cops are mystified and the people of Trenton, New Jersey, terrified when headless bodies start appearing around town. The word ‘zombie’ is uttered and believed, because people who look like those living dead creatures are also spotted.

As Stephanie and Lula try to keep their wits together, they promise to look after Ethel, the massive boa constrictor owned by ‘professional’grave robber, Simon Diggery, or he won’t accompany them to jail. The antics of the snake and Stephanie-Lula’s reactions, provide a lot of the book’s humour; also oddball characters like a compulsive painter of garden gnomes and a guy called Zero Slick who joins protest marches for a living.

As Stephanie dates Morelli and habitually wrecks Ranger’s cars (he keep track of her, and the only reason it does not creep her out is that he saves her skin many times), Diesel lands up unannounced and squats in her apartment. She begins to suspect he has something to do with the ghoulish incidents in town, but there is more to Diesel than she can see.

Of course, Grandma Mazur gets her share of attention, by acquiring a new “honey”, that makes her daughter look avidly at the bottle of whiskey in the kitchen cabinet—the only way to keep her sanity.

The reason for the headless corpses is laughably absurd, but then who reads these books for veracity?

Hardcore Twenty-Four
By: Janet Evanovich
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pages: 296

 

Excerpt of Hardcore Twenty-Four
Simon Diggery and Ethel, his pet boa constrictor, were up a tree about fifty feet from Simon’s rust bucket doublewide.  Ethel looked comfy draped over a branch halfway up the tree.  Simon looked like death warmed over.  He was scrunched into a crook a couple feet below Ethel.  He was barefoot, wearing striped pajamas, and his grey hair was even more of a mess than usual.My name is Stephanie Plum. I work as a bond enforcement officer in Trenton, New Jersey, and Simon was in violation of his bond. Simon is a professional grave robber.  When he gets caught robbing a grave my cousin Vinnie is his bail bondsman of choice.  Vinnie posts a cash bond guaranteeing the court that if Simon is released he will return when scheduled.  If Simon doesn’t show up on time, I’m sent out to fetch him. I was presently standing a respectable distance from the tree, looking up at Simon, keeping a watch on Ethel.  I was with my sidekick, Lula.If Lula was a pastry she’d be a big chocolate cupcake with a lot of frosting.  I’d be more of a croissant with a ponytail.  I have curly shoulder length brown hair, blue eyes, and some people think I look like Julia Roberts on her day off. “Simon,” Lula yelled.  “What the heck are you and Ethel doing in the tree?”“I been up here since last night,” Simon said.  “I’m afraid to come down on account of the zombies.”“You gotta stop drinking that home-made grain liquor,” Lula said. “I wasn’t drinking,” Simon said.  “I was working my trade at that cemetery on Morley Street last night, and I accidentally dug into a zombie portal.”“Say what?” Lula said.  “I never heard of no zombie portal.”“It’s not widely publicized that they exist.  Mostly people in my profession know about it.  It’s an occupational hazard.  I only dug into a portal once before, and I was able to beat the zombies back with my shovel, but this time was a whole other deal.

There was too many of them, so I ran for my truck and took off.  Only thing is they tracked me down.  They got a real good sense of smell.  They’re like raggedy bloodhounds.  They come at me when I was sleeping.  They wanted my brain.  That’s what they kept saying.  Brains, brains, brains.  I’d be a goner if it wasn’t for Ethel.  She don’t like getting woke up, and I guess zombies don’t like snakes.  Anyways I was able to get away, and Ethel and me climbed this tree.”“Because zombies can’t climb trees?” I asked Simon.“You got it,” Simon said.  “Zombies only walk straight ahead.  They can’t back up neither.”“You were supposed to be in court first thing this morning,” I told him.“Well excuse me,” Simon said, “but I had bigger problems.  “Suppose I was able to get to court, and the zombies followed me there, and they ate all the people’s brains who were in the court?”“This is Trenton,” Lula said.  “You might not notice.”I cut my eyes to Lula.  “There are no zombies.”“How can you be sure?” Lula said.I blew out a sigh and looked back at Simon.  “Here’s the deal.  You come down, and we’ll protect you from the zombies.”“You gotta either chop off their head or shoot them in the brain,” Simon said.  “That’s the only way.”“I got a gun,” Lula said, shoving her hand into her over-sized imitation Jimmy Choo bag.  “It’s in here somewhere.”

“What about Ethel?” Simon said.  “If I stay in jail awhile until the zombies forget about me, who’s gonna take care of Ethel?”“You’ll have to make arrangements,” I said.“I don’t got no one,” Simon said.  “My cousin Snacker is in West Virginia, and my neighbors would chop her up and fry her in bacon fat.  You gotta promise to take care of Ethel.”“No way,” I said. “Me neither,” Lula said.“She’s no bother,” Simon said.  “You just gotta feed her once a week.  Just come in and leave her a groundhog or something.”“They don’t usually sell groundhog in the supermarket,” Lula said.“I get them from the side of the road,” Simon said.  “Ethel don’t care if they’re swelled up or anything.  She likes fried chicken too.  And she wouldn’t stick her nose up at a pizza.  And if worse comes to worse I keep a bag of rats in the freezer.”“You got electric?” Lula asked.“Course I got electric,” Simon said.  “This here’s a civilized neighborhood.”“How are you going to get Ethel out of the tree?”“I got some hotdogs,” Simon said.  “I’ll leave a trail of hotdogs that goes straight to the kitchen.  And then once she’s inside we’ll lock the door.”Ten minutes later Simon had the hotdogs all laid out.“She don’t look interested,” Lula said, staring up at Ethel.“It could take a while,” Simon said.  “She don’t move so fast.  I guess we could just leave the door open for her.”“You could get robbed if you do that,” Lula said.“I got a fifty-pound snake for a pet,” Simon said.  “Nobody comes near here excepting the zombies.”I cuffed Simon, loaded him into my SUV, and drove him to the police station.  I handed Simon over to the cop in charge, and Simon explained that should a zombie show up, the cop needed to shoot the zombie in the brain.  The cop assured Simon it was a done deal.

 

ALSO RECEIVED
Amitabh Pandey’s slim novel, Love In Luyens’ Delhi, is a contemporary love story that many urban Indians might identify with.The synopsis reads, “'Akriti ‘Akku’ Patel and Sanjay ‘Sanju’ Saran become friends in kindergarten, lovers in college, and then hit the real world. With bureaucrats for parents, Sanju’s world is one of power, privilege and entitlement. Akku, on the other hand, is brought up by a single mother – a distinguished surgeon widowed very young – and an aunt who is a smart and sassy books editor with commitment problems.

“Sanju’s mind is in turmoil as he chooses to abandon his dreams and, like his parents, looks to the Civil Services for what he thinks will be a meaningful career. Meanwhile, Akku, armed with a BTech from IIT, is jetting off to a land of systems design and fun-loving computer geniuses.

“Can their love survive these growing differences? Or will the compulsions of Lutyens’ Delhi stand in the way of their togetherness?”

Love In Lutyens’ Delhi
By Amitabh Pandey
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 151


The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a not-for-profit working towards fighting classroom hunger launched its first coffee table book, Be Happy, with photographs by Senthil Kumar and Prem Jayanth. According to information provided, the book captures the lives of beneficiaries at The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which feeds more than 1.6 million children across the country, through the Government’s Mid-Day Meal Programme.  This coffee table book is an ode to the beloved children and offers a glimpse of their simple, innocent, fun-filled lives. The pictures in this book tell stories of their homes, parents, and their lives in and outside school. It is a dual celebration, of lives of the children, and Akshaya Patra’s aim

of transforming ‘food’ into an enabler of ‘education’. Within the pages, one will find portraits of children that will not only inspire thoughtful conversation, but will also lead to action.

Be Happy
Photographed by  Senthil Kumar and Prem Jayanth
Published By Harper Collins
Pages: 86

 

 

More Plum
In Turbo Twenty-Three, Stephanie Plum and Lula have to solve a most peculiar case. When they are pursuing a convict called Larry Virgil who has stolen an ice-cream truck, a frozen corpse falls out it, covered in chocolate and nuts.

There is rivalry between the town’s two ice-cream manufacturers, which could be the reason for people being killed by freezing. Ranger asks Stephanie has to go undercover in the ice-cream plant to trace the killer.

Lula and the tiny, pesky Randy Briggs want to be TV stars, so plan to do a shoot for a show called Naked and Afraid, and Grandma Mazur gets a new boyfriend and her long-suffering daughter has more to worry about.

This is one of the funniest and raunchiest Janet Evanovich books; just the thing for an idle weekend.

Turbo Twenty-Three
By Janet Evanovich
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 288

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