Book Review: Murdered by James Schannep

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MURDERED: Can YOU Solve the Mystery by James Schannep is, according to the author, a work of fiction that features actual locations and businesses in conjunction with fictional and fictionalized elements—woven together to give the story a “noir” feel.

You (yes, YOU are one the main characters in this book!) are on vacation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You are counting days to the Carnaval—touted as one of the grandest fiestas on the planet. You are a bit high on drinks and have gotten separated from your friends thanks to the pre-Carnaval crowd. There are non-stop drumbeats behind you—creating a sort of background score to the whole scene you are about to encounter. While roaming the streets and taking in the sights like every other tourist, you stumble upon the dead body of a woman. Just across from her is a revolver with a note that simply says “Pick Me Up.”

Here comes choice #1. Do you pick that gun up or just leave it there? And, that’s when the story begins…

I don’t usually opt for murder mysteries—especially if they involve gore. I read the blurb of the book and found it to be fairly “safe” in that area. Hence, I really was looking forward to reading it—for all the mystery and action. Once I started off with my first choice, I kept going ahead with the story not quite realizing how far I was moving ahead with it. I quickly found that reading the book gave you this feeling that you are actually reading multiple books at the same time—given the innumerable choices you get to make throughout the book—each choice leading you to a different flow of the story.

I found the writing style to be fresh. It’s not always that the reader gets to be “in” the story. I found just one grammatical error—nothing major—and it didn’t affect the quality of the reading in any way.

The tone of storytelling is quite youthful and upbeat. To be quite honest, however, though I enjoyed clicking on the choices and seeing where they landed me in the story—toward the end—the available choices could not keep me engrossed. I am not implying that the story was not engaging enough. I just feel that the chapters could have been a little longer—just enough to flesh up the characters a little more—before the choices were sprung on me. Also, some chapters just gave me one choice and still the text underneath it read “Make Your Choice.” That made me feel like there needed to be other alternative routes I could have been offered, but I had to go with the one choice that the author wanted me to take.

As an example, here’s an excerpt from the book:

Once out of earshot of the others, Danly says, “I need to spend a few hours at the consulate. Can you take a taxi back to the hotel? Take a shower, maybe a nap—I’ll check on Bertram and ring your room when I get back.”
“Sure thing,” you reply.
>Back to Rio
MAKE YOUR CHOICE

I did expect so much more from the story itself. Once you have reached the end of the book, it offers the reader a choice to start over with different choices. I went through the choices once more and went through the whole “new” version of the story. But, I did not find both versions compelling enough for me to go through the next sets of options and see where the story went from there.

I must add here that it is an interesting approach to mystery writing. One cannot deny that. However, it is the short length of the chapters and the lack of substantial character development that influenced my rating for the most part. I wish the story gave more of an opportunity for the readers to get emotionally invested in the characters more. I thus rate MURDERED: Can YOU Solve the Mystery? 2 out of 4 stars as my reading experience with this book was a little below my expectations. However, I would like to stress that this is just my personal opinion, as I have seen many other sites showcasing 5-star reviews of the same book. So, I guess it is just a matter of personal preference. I think the book will resonate with the YA-lovers the most.

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Wonderful Reads: My 7 Favorite Books of All Time

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So – just like you – I love books and, yes, I do believe that books can transform people for the better. And that’s why I have created this snazzy little list of 7 books that I believe you need to read if you want to witness that change for yourselves. They include some wonderful memoirs and some interesting novels. So, read on and get inspired:

Pick No. 1: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

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Why was it picked: We cannot escape the states of aging and death. And what does medicine achieve? Mostly not we want to achieve for our health. Doctors who pledge to spend their lives extending other peoples’ lives perform scary medical procedures on patients that ultimately bring more suffering to the latter. Packed with insightful research and beautiful storytelling, Being Mortal states that medicine can bring in comfort to our existence, assuring us of not just a decent life but also a decent death.

Pick No. 2: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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Why was it picked: This insightful book teaches us why certain people and businesses find it very difficult to change, even though they have been trying for years, whereas some others appear to transform themselves overnight. It lends us a look within P&G, Target, Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the country’s biggest medical facilities and shows us the way in which adopting certain keystone habits can bring home billions and signify the difference between failure and success, life and death. Allow Charles Duhigg to demonstrate how making the most of this new science can change our companies, our societies, and ourselves.

Pick No. 3: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

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Why was it picked: This book takes us along on the weirdest adventure of the protagonist (Helen)’s “good girl” life: Almost a month in the extreme wild of the mountains in Wyoming, she emerges a winner through mosquito infestations, an unexpected summer blizzard, and a bunch of sorority girls. Thanks to all her experiences, Helen learns how to make her voice heard loud and clear. Most importantly, she learns that there are times when being lost is quite important to being found.

Pick No. 4: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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Why was it picked: This book was published in 1947. Right since then, it has been a favorite of many readers who see the work as an ode to the unbreakable stuff that the human spirit is made of. The book has been read by millions and already translated into over 55 languages. Anne Frank was just a teenager when her family had to remain contained within the “Secret Annex.” It is during this phase of her life that we see her grow up to be a young woman and become a wonderful connoiseur of human nature.

Pick No. 5: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

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Why was it picked: Think about your death and reflect upon what matters the most to you: This is what a lot of professors are asked to do. The same was expected of Randy Pausch –  a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. Upon being asked to deliver his “Last Lecture,” Pausch didn’t have to use his imagination much, as – unfortunately – he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the actual talk he delivered conveyed a summary of all things that Pausch had come to believe in about life – not about death. This book is here to stay. This book will be loved and shared by every generation.

Pick No. 6: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

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Why was it picked: Terrible ideas? Yes, this book is full of those! In this book, Lawson says: “Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free.” And there’s more of these adorable gems in there. I love every single line in this book!

Lawson is massively adored around the globe for her undeniable humor and sincerity. With Furiously Happy, she has delivered her funniest best. And this book makes perfect sense, ‘cuz hey, at times crazy is the only way to be.

Pick No. 7: It’s OK to Laugh by Nora McInerny Purmort

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Why was it picked: Purmort gets engaged to Aaron – a charismatic comic-book enthusiast. Where does the engagement take place? In Aaron’s hospital bed when he gets diagnosed with brain cancer. They also have a baby while Aaron is on chemo. They publish an obituary on Aaron during the period of his hospice care, which announces his real identity: he is Spider-Man. Truly touching.

The book reaches out a hand to life and accepts it with all the tears, pains, and joy. The book reads like someone is conversing with a BFF, and sends some magic pixie dust our way. All you people in this world who have had their life do a 180 out of the blue and have learnt to live with it? This book is for you.

Well, that’s just my short list. If you have more books to recommend to me, please drop a line below and let me know.

Happy reading, beautiful world!

 

Thank you, Comics

We are humans. Mere mortals. Not all of us are born craving for hard-to-comprehend literature. When I was a kid, I used to crave for reading material that made complete sense to me – comics. What did I like about them then? The color and images. Isn’t it surprising that we never found it hard to focus on comics? I admit, I used to enjoy reading my textbooks…but put comics beside them and I would never look at the school stuff a second time. I thank my mom for introducing me to comics and showing me that there is more to books than just “yawn.”

Reading doesn’t always have to be something “that is approved by literature critics.” Read what gives you joy. Pick up anything that is written. Author, no bar. If you are a parent and your aim is to get your kid reading, comics are THE answer. As kids, our mind cries out for a medley of things that keep us happy and…not bored. And let’s face it, comics DID give us the potpourri that we looked for.

If someone argued that comics are impractical and are aimed to entertain just kids, I would throw them off the cliff. OK, I many not be THAT violent in real life, but I may have a mental picture of me doing so. Why, you ask, am I so passionate  about comics? Well, of the many reasons I can state, the top-most in my mind is how appropriate it is to use comics for communication. As someone who handles communication for her firm, I know the importance of communication that is taken seriously by everyone.

If you are still not convinced, allow me to draw up a few more advantages I can think of. Here goes. The complicated technology (which, I admit, is relatively simplified now) that you need to develop videos is not something you require to give birth to engaging comics. Illustrations have a humanness of their own, don’t you think? A characteristic that is profusely attractive compared to camera shots. What’s more, with comics, even if you forget to leave a bookmark where you left off, you could always easily come back to the page and take off on a wondrous journey of fun. The combo of depiction and ideas has claim to more than your attention. It is powerful enough to take charge of your imagination.

Human clans have always had a weakness for stories, haven’t they? Add a pinch of comicalness to those stories, and voila! It’s the perfect dish to cure you of boredom! Yeah, you can thank me later for sharing the recipe.