Thursday 22 January 2015

The Universal Tone: My LifeThe Universal Tone: My Life by Carlos Santana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know who was the original hippie? Jesus—the ultimate multidimensional, multicolor, nothing-but-love hippie. He never said, “It’s my way or the highway.”

How many people can claim that they were on first name basis with Miles Davis, Buddy Guy(though he used the surname of the author more often, Wayne Shorter and many such legends and yet be humble and down to earth. Even when he picks up a project of writing his autobiography. Very few can. Carlos Santana is one of them. He had proved this earlier with his words and music, and once again he proves that through THE UNIVERSAL TONE.

What is the best deal one can get from this book? The one which says that if you read this book, you will not only get to read about the life of Carlos, but also the reader will get a short and concise course on the life of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Bill Graham. Carlos Santana almost speaks with a childlike joy when he starts on Miles and Coltrane. He gives away the vibe of an awestruck fan when he discusses their life, and their music. He speaks like a music addict high on his drug as he brings Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Bola Sete, Gabor Szabo in his pages. He creates a book which not only talks about his life, his spirituality his vision but also gives the readers about his idols, his favourite “cats” as he calls them.

His friend Andre Agassi spoke about his addiction in his book aptly named OPEN. Carlos speaks about once hitting a woman, speaks about the infamous Woodstock based “Electric Snake” incident without any shame. He speaks about shunning cocaine and accepting marijuana. On how he felt the cool vibes coming from Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Wilson Pickett. Or how he still considers Frank Zappa a wonderful musician, even after the latter almost parodied Carlos in one of his song. He is open about his admiration for Guru Sri Chinmoy, his friendship mixed admiration for Armando Peraza, the man who urged his to take control of his eponymous band Santana. He speaks about his divorce from Deborah Santana, his devotion for Cindy Blackman. His admiration and anger towards his mom and dad.

This book could have been a five star if not for some minor glitches. One, he speaks almost nothing about Raul Rekow, the ultimate conger in the Santana family, or Orestes Vilato, the timbalero who along with Raul and Armando created the best rhythm section. I did skip a few pages where he talks about Alice Coltrane. I never synced up to Turiya’s music, and never went through the pages with her in them. That took away a star. Even though this still will be a must have for a Santana fan.

View all my reviews

Wednesday 14 January 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce, #7)As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last book had warned us readers, and this book confirmed our fears along with that of Flavia. She gets banished, to Miss. Bodycote’s Academy in Canada, to start her “training” which according to Aunt Felicity would fulfil her destiny, just like her mother. Flavia reaches Canada, accompanied by two “pills” called Dr. amd Mrs. Rainsmith. Mr. Rainsmith puts up his name in Flavia’s bad books as soon as he introduces himself,

“Dogger had once warned me to be wary of any man who introduced himself as “Mr.” It was an honorific, he said, a mark of respect to be bestowed by others, but never, ever, under any circumstances, upon oneself.”

On reaching Bodycote, Falvia gets assigned to a room called Edith Cavell. No sooner does she settles into her bed, she starts getting slapped, and then no sooner had she stopped and started the deduction process to find “why”, the assault-ress manages to bring down a body of a woman, which was hidden inside the chimney. As the head slides down the floor, the Chimney Sweepers come to dust, to clear away the puzzle regarding the dead woman, missing students and ghosts.

Flavia misses her village and her family, and Dogger. And we miss them as much as she does. But, to keep us away from our sadness we get to meet some entertaining students with nice names, a teacher suspected of homicide, a wheelchair bound mistress who keeps stuffed animals, birds and skulls in her laboratory and lastly a principal, who loves to punish her students in unimaginable ways.

Flavia transforms from a happy-go-lucky, and sometimes sad girl, into a “banished” adolescent far away from home, who realises that no letters are coming from home, except from Dogger. Who realises that the truth must be reached through facts, and only facts and that emotions should be kept at bay. And she also comes face to face with deep sadness. As such faced by a little girl who is far away from home, with no letters to look forward to, and no laboratory turn to.

“Magic doesn’t work when you’re sad.”

Flavia might have been heading towards new territory, but Alan Bradley stays rooted in his original position and presents us with a taut fast paced mystery, once a spy thriller and the next moment a gothic murder mystery, with “lights out after dark”, ghosts in the hall, and dead bodies never discovered, and if discovered, they are found stuffed inside chimneys. And he doesn’t disappoint when it comes to twists too. Not one, but two twists remain to be served in the last course.

P.S. Isn’t Dame Agatha Christie the greatest of them all?? Sometimes she looks to me like that Blues guitarist whose licks are sampled by everyone but no one gives him the credit for being a master musician. I think it’s for once and all that the tag attached to Christie, saying that she is a great plotter and a horrible writer, should be dropped. If she was a horrible writer then why would she be “sampled” hither and tither, and even if she IS a horrible writer, she still will remain the best. The Queen.
As Flavia said,
“Could I, by sheer chance, have stumbled upon one of those classic killings, such as those written about by Miss Christie, in which the murderer mocks the police by carrying out killings that mimic nursery rhymes or fairy tales?”

View all my reviews

Sunday 4 January 2015

The Snack Thief (Inspector Montalbano, #3)The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Snack Thief begins when a Tunisian immigrant, while on sea aboard a fishing boat is gunned down. Salvu refuses to get involved in that case as another body is found inside the elevator of a residential building. The two cases gets connected later as Salvu finds himself in front of a mystery involving characters ranging from a snack thief to an international criminal.

Camilleri, though used international politics in this book, kept it minimum and thus didn’t turn the book into a hardcore spy thriller. Rather he used the backdrop of international terrorism to create a piece of crime fiction which had a simple plot, and the flow of which wasn’t to bumpy. The book never entered the zone where the plot gets too twisted to follow; rather it maintained calmness throughout, with liberal sprinklings of twists here and there.

The book like the others from Camilleri weren’t devoid of humour. Paras which contained scenes of Salvu reading the newspaper and going through the headlines, though brutal, still brought laughter to the reader. These scenes return in every book, and the way in which the crimes are described makes them funny each time. Such is the quality of Andrea Camilleri as a writer.

View all my reviews