Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday 56: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Mama and Nadia held Sara's dead body all night so that she wouldn't be alone. When Abbas finally fell asleep, he ground his teeth so hard, that the front one cracked. I remained awake the entire night. When curfew ended, I ran to the outpost and waited six hours under the brutal sun before they granted me a permit to bury my sister.

Posted for The Friday 56, which is hosted by Freda's Voice

Title: The Almond Tree
Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
ISBN: 9788172344870
Publisher: Finger Prints Publishing/2013
Pages: 352 pages

It is a story about two Palestinian brothers, Ahmed and Abbas. The story opens with their toddler sister being killed in a landmine. Few years later, 12 year old Ahmed sees his father accused of a false crime, their land confiscated. He and Abbas both have to work to take care of the family. Abbas has an accident and is crippled for life. Now Ahmed is a gifted child. He gets an opportunity to study further because of his brilliancy. He lives for Israel university although his mother is not keen about it. Despite prejudices, Ahmed does well in his life. 

Abbas does not approve of his brother dallying with the Jews and likes it even less when Ahmed falls in love and marries a Jewish girl. Meanwhile, Abbas joins a group perpetrating terror against the Israelis. 

I had some issues about the large families and Ahmed's single mindedness about helping his family. Abbas, on the other hand, thought about his country. He had become a cripple, was in constant pain. Yet for him, Palestine was bigger than his individuality and his family. 

The book was a revelation of some kind. We talk about the Jews suffering during the holocaust and the aftermath. No one talks about the Palestinians and their sufferings. Israel wants their land but where to the Palestinians go? There is no solution as yet. 

Book Beginnings: Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.

I'm on Air France, destined for Los Angeles. Fleeing Aziz, my husband of twenty years, the man I married when I was fifteen. The only lover I've ever known. He believes that I will return to him. I will not. Why? Because I can't resist his drunken eyes, velvet words, and persuasive hands that know where to press softly and where to stroke hard, where to linger and where to slither away, where to cup and hold and warm.

And I won't return because I can't free myself from Parvaneh.

Title: Scent of Butterflies 
 Author: Dora Levy Mossanen
ISBN: 9781402284434
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark/2014
Pages: 282

It is 1999. Soraya is a wealthy Jewish Iranian, with blond hair and  green eyes.  She has left behind her husband in Iran and flown to Los Angeles. Unknown to Aziz, she does not intend to return to him. She thinks her best friend, Parvaneh and Aziz are lovers. She had seen them together in intimate position.

Aziz thinks she is visiting US on a photographic assignment and would be back soon. We see Soraya musing about her life in Iran in the post Shah era. Her love and obsession for Aziz, so much so that she has been on the pill all these time as she does not want to share her husband with anyone not even their children. 

Soraya buys a mansion in Bel Air which has a huge garden in the back. She is into collecting butterflies and growing exotic plants. When she is not thinking about her husband, she is thinking about plants and insects. Her best friend, Parvaneh's name means "butterfly"  and Soraya  thinks only of revenge, and punishment for Parveneh. 

When Aziz and Parveneh visit her, she comes to know about a hidden truth which totally breaks the thread for all her relationships. Soraya is not a likable character. She is unstable and obsessive. When Aziz discovers about her being on the pill, it breaks him apart. She had always gone to all kinds of fertility clinic for him.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M. J. Rose

"I almost died because a criminal with a gun shot at you and I pushed you out of the way and was hurt. Jac, please." He put his hand on her shoulders and pulled her toward him so she was twisted around, facing him again. "You can't throw us away because of something you don't even believe yourself."

~~~Posted for That's What HE Said Thursday

Title: The Collector of Dying Breaths
Author: M.J. Rose
ISBN: 9781451621532
Publisher: Atria Books/2014
Pages: 384

This is the sixth book in Reincarnationist series and the third one featuring Jac L’Etoile. I have read the first, The Book of Lost Fragrances. I am yet to pick up the second one, Seduction.
This novel is set in two different time periods, one contemporary and other historical, set in the sixteenth century where René le Florentin is a young apprentice in an Italian monastery. He is wrongly accused of poisoning his master, apothecary Dom Serapino. Catherine de Medici saves him and takes him along to France as she is about to marry into the French royality. René is a now a perfumer to the French court. His knowledge of fragrances, potions and poisons makes him valuable for Catherine. She makes use of his knowledge to eliminate enemies of the state. Meanwhile, René continues to work on a secret project of collecting a person’s dying breath. He thinks that if he discovers the right combination of ingredients to mix with the dying breath, then the resulting mixture can  bring back the soul. However, his knowledge of poisons has disastrous consequences on his personal life....
Coming to present day France, Jac L’Etoile's brother Robby dies and he had been working collecting dying breaths. L’Etoiles are a family of perfumers. Jac has always stayed away from creating perfumes because certain scents bring back vivid memories of the past – not just her own but other people’s too. When a rich and eccentric woman, Melinoe Cypros asks her to continue with the work of Robby (which is René le Florentin's work), Jac agrees. Working for it, Jac finds herself haunted by visions of  René le Florentin and the woman he loves.
The historical parts were well developed and were very compelling. Catherine de Medici was portrayed well and I liked the interactions between Catherine, Rene and Ruggieri, Catherine's astrologer. Jac is able to see her past life and somehow can connect to her present day lover, Griffin North to René le Florentin, she being the woman he had loved. This works well as a standalone novel and the suspense element remains intact throughout. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 National Poetry Month: Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams

2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon Blog Tour hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit

I am going to review a poetry book. It is contemporary poetry and I discovered the poet via the net, liked what he had written, requested a copy and he was kind enough to send me one. 

Title: Controlled Hallucinations
Author: John Sibley Williams
ISBN: 978-1938853227
Publisher: FutureCycle Press/2013
Pages: 78

As the title suggests, Williams has been able to control the hallucinations. He has taken the everyday experiences and juxtaposed those with feelings, thoughts and varied images. He has taken note of life from all its aspects by making use of metaphors, some of those are unthinkable for an average reader of poetry. He does it so seamlessly and the reader craves for more. He speaks of ball of yarn, to be in love, about rooftops, mirrors, seeing people in the clouds and the blue sky, fence posts, birds and raw emotions blended with passion. 
Let me take the first poem which sets the tone and that tone is maintained throughout.


I see a man on an adjacent building
silhouette cut from the skyline.
So I also cut out the roof
he stands on.
I cut out the tools
and the cascading shingles.
I cut out the hydrangeas
the shingles decapitate
on their way down.
I cut out the mountain
in the distance,
still coddling its last snows
replacing it with a silo,
the shingles with paper
I replace the man
with another man
with a woman
with a horse
a piano
with a book
and myself.
Nothing quite fits.
But the man
no longer fits either
on the roof
on skyline
And I wonder is this
what it means
to touch?
The imagery is so good that one wants to keep reading. 


With an apple in my mouth, yes,
I must be swine.
Because strangers stop momentarily
to capture me in their lenses,
I must be a roadside attraction.
As there is nothing to hold to
in what I say,
        I say it again
        And again--

nonsense being the tenderest 
act of friendship, of identity.

I can be cloudburst, yes,
and I can be my own prey.
I can be you.
         or, if you say it,
         none of these

I especially liked the twists at the end. Because that is what I do. That is what I am. A poet. 

Re-reading his poems gives yet another meaning. The knowing turns to un-knowing. From churches to graveyards, from skylines to bedrooms. From clouds to the grounds. The journey is just an illusion. Or hallucinations. Controlled or ended or closed. Understand it any way you want. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Intro: Chilled to the Bone by Quentin Bates

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Gunna stamped the snow from her boots and flinched as the overpowering heat of the hotel's lobby hit her like a slap in the face. The door whispered shut behind her as she looked around, spying a man wearing a grey suit and a worried look by the reception desk. He immediately hurried over to her.

'You're from the police?' He asked in a voice laden with drama but kept so low as to be almost a murmur.

'That's me. Look like a copper, do I?' Gunna replied brightly, shooting out a hand for the man to grasp and shake limply. 'Gunnhildur Gísladóttir. And you are?'

'Yngvi Jónsson, I'm the duty manager. Where are the rest of you?'

'Only me to start with. Can you show me what's happened?'

Author: Quentin Bates
Publisher: C R Crime/2013
Pages: 266

Chilled To The Bone is the third in the series and is a stand alone novel. Gunnhildur Gisladottir (Gunna) arrives at one of Reykjavik’s smartest hotels where a middle aged shipowner is found dead, tied to the bed, naked. There has to be discreet investigation. Gunna discovers a bondage society and the people exploited by it are too embarrassed to come out in the open. Then there is another case of a laptop going missing. As it belongs to Govt officials, they want it to be found as soon as possible. The police force is not too keen to search for that laptop but Gunna finds out that these two cases may be related.

Hekla is the one involved in the bondage ring and she has an invalid husband, two small kids and a step daughter to care for. Then there is Baddo, who has recently got out of prison in the Baltics and is hired by someone to find the laptop. He is resourceful and as a reluctant hoodlum works great for the reader. Wecannot hate Hekla or Baddo. 

Police Sergeant Gunnhildur Gisladottir is a no-nonsense, witty and intelligent woman who tries to well balance the demands of her professional and personal life. She is calm and collected and very professional. Gunnhildur’s private life is not so smooth as her son, Gisli, had made two women pregnant and has conveniently gone to the sea, leaving his mother to deal with the mess. 

There is much detailing about the streets as well as the hotels of Reykjavik. The characters are interesting and the novel has a good pace. One of the best thrillers I read in 2014!

Teaser Tuesday: Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

Michael spoke slowly and sternly, as if scolding an obstinate child. 

“Kate, let me be very clear about this. You will not continue this murder investigation, under any circumstances. I forbid it.” 

Michael’s words were unequivocal, not to be challenged. He was man. He was in charge. He expected no argument. 

He was an idiot.

Title: Murder Strikes a Pose
Author: Tracy Weber
ISBN: 9780738739687
Publisher: Midnight Ink/2014
Pages: 274

Kate Davidson is a Seattle yoga instructor. She is struggling to keep her yoga business intact. She is also fending off matching efforts by her best friend. One fine day she finds a homeless man selling newspaper in from of her yoga studio. It wouldn't have been so bad but his horse-sized German shepherd Bella scares everyone away. She befriends the homeless alcoholic George, and his best friend, Bella. The three of them form some kind of camaraderie and she learns that George has more to what he appears to be.

Then one day she stumbles over his body in the studio’s parking lot. Police treat it as just another drug related street crime but Kate knows that George was no drug dealer. She is determined to find his killers. Also she wants someone to adopt that big dog! No one willing and the dog has already adopted her.

Meanwhile the killer is moving on to her. She knows if she doesn't do something, she will end up as a permanent yoga pose of death!

The novel moves forward in a good pace. The relationship between Bella and Kate is very good. She wants the dog to be adopted but the dog wants Kate to be her master. The story has elements of murder, mayhem, humor, a bit of a romance and understanding and makes for a good cozy mystery. 

The characters are well developed and quite likable. The detailing is very good. And the dog is lovable! As I am an Indian and do yoga, I understood the yoga terminology and poses too well....

Monday, April 14, 2014

Musing Monday: Mini reviews of two historical romances

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about something related to reading/books each week…...

I am going post mini reviews of two historical romances:

Winter Heart by Jane Bonander 

This novel speaks about horrors of mental institutions in 19th century America. Dinah Odell has been put in one such institution by her greedy uncle. Daisy, a dying nurse at Trenway, helps Dinah escape and take her place caring for a mentally unstable girl at a ranch in California. Tristan Fletcher is a rancher. Dinah has to care for his sister Emily. Dinah is in hiding from her uncle and Tristan has been too scarred in his past to contemplate a serious relationship with anyone. But they are both drawn to each other. Will their past lives drive them apart?

The Officer and the Bostoner by Rose Gordon 

Set in 1845 Texas, it is a fast paced Western Historical Romance. Allison Pierson, a well to do Bostoner, is stranded in a military fort in Indian Territory while travelling to meet her fiance. Captain Wes Tucker insists she must marry to be able to stay safely in the fort. Having no other choice, she agrees to   marry him. Allison falls in in love with Wes and he with her. Her fiance turns up, wants her to be with him or he will destroy Wes. (Now her fiance has always lied about her father owing him money but the reverse is true. Allison is unaware of all this). She agrees as she she does not want Wes to be hurt. Wes learns the truth, is wealthy in his own right and goes to confront her greedy fiance. 

Monday: Mailbox/What Am I reading?

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. It has finally found a permanent  home at Mailbox Monday with the following new administrators:

Leslie of Under My Apple Tree
Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit
Vicki of I'd Rather Be at the Beach

I received the following e-novels, thanks to the authors/publicists:

The Truth Will Out by Jane Isaac

"Everything's going to be okay." 
"What if it's not?"
Suddenly, she turned. For a split second she halted, her head inclined.
"Naomi, what is it?"
She whisked back to face Eva.
"There's somebody in the house..."
Eva is horrified when she witnesses an attack on her best friend. She calls an ambulance and forces herself to flee Hampton, fearing for her own safety. DCI Helen Lavery leads the investigation into the murder. With no leads, no further witnesses and no sign of forced entry, the murder enquiry begins.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together. But as Helen inches towards solving the case, her past becomes caught up in her present.
Someone is after them both. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want. And as the net starts to close around them, can Helen escape her own demons as well as helping Eva to escape hers?

Touching Distance by Graham Hurley

Three unrelated, random killings. Or something much, much worse? Graham Hurely's new crime thriller unleashes a serial killer; combining Hurley's talent for ultra-realistic, character driven police-procedurals with a plot powered by an explosive ticking clock and kicking his books into a new realm of tension and fear.

Jimmy Suttle has barely got his feet under the desk at his new job. Having flown in the face of his superiors on his first big case he now finds himself trying to track down a random, hugely skilled killer before another innocent dies and before the media tear the force apart.

Full of a sense of place, sensitive to the deep rooted agonies of a policeman alone and facing disaster, and close to, and with a chilling understanding of the motivations of the killer this is a bravura piece of crime fiction that will secure Hurley's reputation and win new readers.


Hosted by Sheila @ One Person's Journey Through a World of BooksWe discuss the books that we've read and what we're planning to read for the week. 

I finished reading the following:

60. Controlled Hallucinations by John Sibley Williams (Poetry)
59. The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti (Literary Fiction)
58. Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen (Literary Fiction)

I am in the midst of reading:

The Scent of Dying Breaths by M. J. Rose
ugly to start with by John Michael Cummings
The Elephant Tree by RD Ronald

I posted the following reviews on my blog:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Salon/The Sunday Post: Weekly Update & Book Spine Poetry

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

It was THE election week. Very hectic and stressful. I was in no mood to read before the elections. And afterwards too, I was too tired. But I did read 3 books, one of which is a poetry book. I do not feel I have to hurry. I will try to read more in the next few days. I am participating in a poetry tour and M. J. Rose book tour. 

I posted the following on my blog:

2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour

Book Spine Poetry: Take a few books, place them in such an order that makes sense to you, and Voila!!

poetic musings of an old fat man
the meaning of me
the collector of dying breaths
the virgin journals
at the threshold of alchemy

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Beginning/Friday 56: Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, where bloggers share the first sentence or more of a current read, as well as initial thoughts about the sentence(s), impressions of the book, or anything else that the opening inspires.

ALL I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

~~from Renascence

The Shroud

DEATH, I say, my heart is bowed
Unto thine,—O mother!
This red gown will make a shroud
Good as any other!
(I, that would not wait to wear
My own bridal things,
In a dress dark as my hair
Made my answerings.
I, to-night, that till he came
Could not, could not wait,
In a gown as bright as flame
Held for them the gate.)
~~~Posted for The Friday 56, which is hosted by Freda's Voice

Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1917)

Millay, Edna St. Vincent, 1892-1950

In this book of poetry, the descriptions of nature is exquisite and imagery is marvellous. In the title poem "Renascence" Millay is eloquent about the core of the universe consisting of God, death, living, suffering and also the beauties of the world. 

"The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand
The soul can split the sky in two
And let the face of God shine through..."

Millay explores  the beauty of nature, and speaks of love and loss at the same time. T
he poems are about a perfect autumn and flowered fields, about starting a tavern for grey-eyed people, witch-wives, broken heart, and short poems like "shattering." "The Suicide", touched me--

"CURSE thee, Life, I will live with thee no more
Thou hast mocked me, starved me, beat my body sore!
And all for a pledge that was not pledged by me,
I have kissed thy crust and eaten sparingly
That I might eat again, and met thy sneers
With deprecations, and thy blows with tears,—
Aye, from thy glutted lash, glad, crawled away,
As if spent passion were a holiday!"

At first glance, her poems may seem very simplistic as her lines are short and themes universal. She does not go for complex rhyming or stream of consciousness. Some of the poems are more like songs. The language is beautiful, metaphors don't hit hard and tends more towards nature even when she is writing about the human emotions and feelings.

"I WILL be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one...."

Renascence and Other Poems is not just about beautiful language but it is about our emotions, feelings, the beauty of nature and the pure enjoyment that comes from reading great poetry.