Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

"She heard a knocking, and then a dog barking. Her dream left her, skittering behind a closing door. It had been a good dream, warm and close, and she minded. She fought the waking."

Title: The Pilot's Wife
Author: Anita Shreve
ISBN: 031660195
Publisher: Back Bay Books/1998
Pages: 293

With that opening, The Pilot's Wife does not let our interest waver. Kathryn Lyons' world comes crashing down when the plane that her husband Jack had been flying goes down. It had supposedly exploded, no one knows why and how. Then there are all sorts of speculation, rumours start which affects her deeply. She has to protect their 15 years old daughter at any cost.

Piece by piece she comes to know Jack led a dual life. Kathryn has to find out the truth about him no matter how it costs her. Yet she has to think of her daughter too. She sets about knowing all about him, the other life he led.

This sets her towards the question: "How well can we truly know a person?" Can we really know a person even if we live with together for a lifetime? Why can't we recognise the hints? Does trust means blind faith? This novel explores all this.

Shreve's prose is very powerful and gripping. One can't put down the book after beginning it. We journey along with Kathryn. Her sadness can be felt by us.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fiction by Ara 13

While in the cavalier guardianship of the forest of Marley, I first saw the lowland tapir. I was wenty-five or so, and still an idealist, ever faithful that Atlee and Keynesian guidance would protect the educated class from the spread of iniquity.

Title: Fiction
Author: Ara 13
ISBN: 9780979863615
Publisher: Covington Moore/2009
Pages: 227

Book Blurb:

Father Daniel journeys deep into the harsh forest, with romanic notions of converting the fierce Oquanato cannibals to Christianity, but the farcial antics of sophisticated savages, who beliefs originate from a peculiar source---a source that rattles Daniel into an introspection, yet dubious narrative.

I received the Bound Galley of Fiction from the author via Marcia of The Printed Page. This is one of those books which defies any particular genre. And also it is not very easy to review.

Father Daniel gets lost in the deep jungle and is found by so-called savages. Initially he thinks they are going to eat him up. Ironically the savages too think the same about him. That he is going to harm them. Nothing of that kind happens from either side. He ends up living with them, but keeps himself aloof. He is curious about their ways, tries to convert them in his own way by talking and words. (He lost his bibles too, when he got lost!)

Somehow the The exchange between the savages in witty, very interesting and filled with a weird kind of wisdom. They follow some source which is a book really. Daniel is curious to know all about that book and when he does, he is completely flummoxed! He tries to reason with the king but for no avail.

What I found appealing in this book is that, it does not preach any religion. Infact, it forces us to see beyond religion. It tells us that certain very simple things can make us spiritual. We don't need any GOD to do that for us.

Spoken in various voices, it made a lot of sense to me. The prose is very good. It is noyt your normal, run of the mill book but something which defies description. Reality, fantasy and myth, all merge at one point or the other. As I like exploring different genres, this made sense to me. With great wit and humor, the story totally pulls one in. Those who like to read something different will definitely like this book.

I look forward to read Drawers and Booths by the same author, which he was kind enough to send, along with Fiction.

Interview with Ara 13 follows in a few days....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Suicide Collectors by David Oppegaard

The path home was overrun with weeds and hanging vines. Norman hiked through the mess as best as he could, slapping the mosquito against his neck as he tried to keep his fishing pole from tangling in the park's tall grass.

Title: The Suicide Collectors
Author: David Oppegaard
ISBN: 9780312381103
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/2008
Pages: 294
Rating: 5/5

The Suicide Collectors is another of my best reads of 2009. It is a book which is difficult to review. Or to put a genre to it. After a while, I simply gave in and went with the flow.

There is something like Despair which has plagued the Earth for some years now. This has resulted in mass suicides. And as soon as there is a suicide, a shadowy group arrives from nowhere to collect the bodies.

There are only a handful of people who wish to remain alive, not to give in no matter what. It is a lone fight for them. They are out numberded by the shadowy group of suicide collectors. Norman is one such person, who stands up against the Suicide Collectors. He does not allow them to take his wife's body. He even ends up marking one of the Collectors. Norman, along with his elderly neighbour Pops, leaves on journey across North America. They get to know that a scientist is trying to find out a cure against the Despair.

On their way, they meet a young girl, Zero, both whose parents committed suicide. As she has no one, they take her along. Norman tries to make the best of the situation. He knows that the girl has to go one living no matter what.

This novel somehow reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy although there is not much common in here. It is terrifying, very stark, bleak and scary at places. In the sense that it can become a reality. Despair can hit us at any time and giving into it is going to be easy. To fight against it, is hard. This novel has surprises, twists, turns and is powerful. I would call it gloriously creepy. The prose is wonderfully flowing and very gripping. A book to read, to think about and revisit, if possible.

Thanks David, for sending me the novel. The title as well as the cover pulled me in. For good.

Booking through electronic vs paper



Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

As most know, I live in India. ebook reader has not come here as yet as for as I know. But for the simple fact that it is unaffordable right now. I do have many ebooks on my PC but I have not read any of them as yet. I like the paper version as I can hold it, smell it, hug it or chuck it out if I wish to. I do read short stories online but reading longer versions scares me off completely. Maybe it is just me. I might come to love the ebook if I get hold of a sony reader or such like. Don't I love getting emails? We hardly ever get any real paper letters.

However, now that seems far fetched. So let me be old fashioned, holding on to paper as much as I can.

And we must give it some thought that the world is not just the US, or UK. It is much much beyond that, where paper books will exist for a long time to come. Very frankly, I would prefer children to read real books rather than ebooks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

For six hundred years Pendragon kings and queens ruled Wilde Islands, though none in England recognised their lineage. King Arthur's younger sister, Evaine, was the first queen of the Isle.


Title: Dragon's Keep
Author: Janet Lee Carey
ISBN: 978-0152064013
Publisher:Magic Carpet Books/2008
Pages: 320 pages

It has been prophesized that the twenty first queen of Wilde Isle would redeem the name Pendragon bringing peace and prosprity.

In Wilde Island, a princess Rosalind is born after many obstacles, to the queen. She is a beautiful princess but with a flaw. She has a dragon's claw as one her fingers. Her mother, the queen keeps it always hidden with a pair of golden gloves. She herself wears another pair to give company to the princess. And anyone who has seen the clawed hand dies mysteriously.

The queen is very protective of her only child. She tries various cure for the girl, always failing in her efforts. Wilde Island is always getting attacked by Dragons. And Rosalind gets kidnaped by a dragon one day. The only thing that saves her from becoming the dragon's meal is her dragon clawed finger. The dragon thinks it is the only beautiful thing about her. However, the dragon makes her toil looking after his children. In their midst, she has nothing to hide. She accepts herself, flaws and all. She also learns what a parents love is towards ones children. Rosalind finds love and she also finds peace for her people. As prophesized. And it is her flaw, that saves pendragon.

In this book, we read another aspect of dragons, that they can be gentle and good too. With a sense of fairness. Human beings are flawed in their thinking but Dragons accept each living being with flaws and all.

Dragon's claw is a simple enough tale with simple words. At places I found the language not really upto the mark. Not that it had to be literary masterpiece. It is book which young readers would enjoy.

Interview with Brant Randall, author of Blood Harvest

I read and reviewed Blood Harvest. And I liked it too. I sent a set of questions to Brant Randall, which he graciously answered for us all.

Do visit him on his website:
www.brucecookonline.com

I sent a set of questions to Brant Randall, which he graciously answered for us all. Here we go:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. How much time did it take to write Blood Harvest? Did you have stumbling blocks in the way? If so, what?

Blood Harvest took about 6 months to write. The stumbling blocks were: 1) doing promotion for my first novel, Philippine Fever; 2) teaching my college classes on film directing, film business, and globalization of the news media; 3) spending time with my grandkids around the country, my wife, my son, my parents. The problem is that I like doing all these things.

2. Do you have any favourite spot that you like to write in (i.e. sitting on the bed, in a comfortable chair or out in the open, etc.)?

At my computer in my office, with the house empty. Otherwise, I am too tempted to join whatever else is in progress.

3. What was the process you went through to find a publisher for your book? Was it difficult?

For my first novel, Philippine Fever, I sent the ms to several agents all of whom rejected it with little or no comment. I eventually found an agent who sent it to the major publishing houses in New York. In short, order I had seven rejections, but some of them included words of encouragement while claiming the project was not right for them.

I had written nearly 30 screenplays and directed six movies before I attempted my first novel. Hollywood is a very competitive place so I had already experienced dozens of rejections before I sold my first script. It was painful and ego shrinking the first time it happened. My “child,” the offspring of my imagination, had been critiqued, criticized, and cut down to size.

In fact, the first script never sold at all and I “suffered,” developing my aura as an “artist.” The aura and a part time job put groceries on the table.

After half a dozen sales of scripts that were made I finally achieved a more balanced perspective. I consider this the most important thing I have learned as a writer. Here it is---
My scripts, books and movies are not my “children.” They are creations: some good, some bad, some better than others, some ahead of their time, some behind. But in every case they were not ME, they were not my “babies.” (I have real children who are now grown men. One of them is the author Troy Cook.)

These creations exist apart from me, just as Beethoven’s symphonies are not the man and Emily Dickenson’s poems are not the woman.

Publishers are much like film producers. They may like “art” but they keep their jobs by putting out projects that appeal to a larger public than just their own tastes.

Having adjusted my attitude, I then adjusted my working pattern. I joined a writer’s critique group. I cannot overstate the value of having other writers look at, respond to, critique, and make suggestions for improvement to my work.

Philippine Fever was published by Capital Crime Press. After the majors had rejected the ms, my agent was out of ideas about seeking a publisher. I asked if she minded if I pursued small presses. She didn’t so I began talking to editors from small presses whenever I met them—usually at writer’s conferences.

Three small presses offered to publish Philippine Fever. The monetary differences in the offers were not great. I made my choice based on how well my book matched their catalog.

That first novel sold well enough that Capital Crime Press wanted to publish this one, Blood Harvest.

4. Are you writing full-time? If yes, do you think it is a good decision?

Not yet. I think I will need a backlist of at least half a dozen books before the revenue stream from current sales and sales of previous titles will be sufficient to support myself.

5. What were you doing before you decided to be writer? Did that help in your writing career in any way?

I was a laser physicist on the Apollo Project; a mathematics professor at school specializing in aerospace engineering; a film director, writer, editor, sound designer, cameraman; a film professor. Plus the usual mix of jobs you take while in college. I think writing crime novels is finally my real job.

Every job provides grist for the writing mill. Characters, business practices, work places, environments, office politics, corporate shenanigans all make their way into the stories.

6. Can you please describe you writing style and the various influences you have had or having?

My writing style:

I want to write books that grab you by the eyeball and drag you hell-bent to an unexpected but inevitable conclusion. I want the dialog and dialect to ring true. I want the emotions to be both raw and occasionally tender. I want to leave the reader with things to think about when the story is over.

My biggest influences are:

PG Wodehouse for a sense of structure and the seemingly effortless use of dialect and manners;
Joe Lansdale for his ability to bring a new character to life in a single paragraph and his ability to keep the story moving forward even though it is full of asides; Donald Westlake and Elmore Leonard for their ability to mix humor into situations that would be horrific if they actually happened to the reader; Ken Bruen for his ability to immerse in another culture (Irish or British) and still have us recognize the similarities with our own, though the daily language and habits are quite different.

7. I did not know much about the KKK before reading your book. Can you please tell me how I get more info about it via books?

1.Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, 3rd ed. by David M. Chalmers

2. The Ku Klux Klan: History, Organization, Language, Influence And Activities of America's Most Notorious Secret Society by Michael Newton)

3. Inside the Klavern: The Secret History of a Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s by David A. Horowitz

4. The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Craig Wade

8. When is your next book coming out and about what?

My third book, Tommy Gun Tango, is due out in July 2009. It concerns the corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1930s and the way they helped the movie studios cover up murders by stars.

9. Do you have any favourite authors? Can you tell us why you like them?

Robert Fate in his Baby Shark series handles action well without skipping characterization or details of the time and place that make his books alive.

Sheila Lowe has created a new character, Claudia Rose, who is a handwriting analyst. I love seeing the details of her craft applied to solving a crime, much like the early Scarpetta stories.

Gwen Freeman has created a character named Fifi Cutter who is so contemporary, so sarcastic and witty, so bound by Los Angeles that I laugh out loud when I read her misadventures.

10. What are you reading now?

Currently I am reading two books:

Exile by Denise Mina, with its wonderful Scottish dialect and Glaswegian setting, and
Ponzi’s Scheme by Zuckoff, a non-fiction account of the great con man.

11. Do you have any book recommendations for my readers?

If you have never read The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, give it a try. It compares with To Kill a Mockingbird.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks Bruce, for the great answers. I enjoyed reading those...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blood Harvest by Brant Randall

"Some say that I am quarrelsome. Others hold that I'm a gossip. Fact is, I'm just interested in the truth, me being sworn to uphold the law. I take the workings of justice serious."

Title: Blood Harvest

Author: Brant Randall
ISBN: 9780979996016
Publisher: Capital Crime Press/2008
Pages: 286/HC

Blood Harvest is a work of fiction although it is based on real facts. In Randalls own words in the introduction:

"This novel grew from an incident related to me by my grandmother when she was in her nineties. She said that after her wedding day she never returned to her hometown. At one point I asked if her parents disliked my grandfather, who I remembered as personable and charming. "It was those dumb clucks." She used this expression tonly when quite angry. "My brother-in-law didn't think it was right for a white girl to marry a non-white European."

Initially confused, Randall was astounded to discover that his grandmother was referring to the Ku Klux Klan, which was anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement with racial intonations like deep hatred for blacks.

This novel is set in 1929, in a small rural New England community. When MacKay brothers catch their 13 year old precocious cousin, Jackie Sue, with teenager Angus DeCosta behind the bushes, they first beat and strip the boy and then throw him off a bridge into a river. DeCosta's father Nick, arrives in time to rescue his battered son. Like the Mackeys, Nick DeCosta too is a wine grower. He earns a fortune and in a way cuts into the profit of the Mackays. And also the Mackeys youngest daughter had eloped with him 15 years back. All are arrested and a trial follows. Meanwhile, Nick is lynched and burnt alive.

The question is why was he really killed. As a way of revenge or there is some other reason? Who did it? Another body too is found in the forest, its face being totally battered. We get the narration from the voices of the characters, that also includes that of a dog and a crow. Told in dialects, and characters straight out of real life, it draws the reader in. And the hatred is palpable. Despite the grim background, the murder and dark mystery, it has its moment of lightness and wit. The court scenes are hilarious especially with Jackie.

As Randall said, prejudices exists. Everywhere. Including India. Not only for caste, colour, creed, religion but also for power, money and hell lot more. Therefore, Blood Harvest makes a lot of sense. I especially liked the quotations from poetry and prose before the start of each chapter. Those words summarised what was intended in each chapter. Brutallly frank, this novel stays in mind. The title is wholly appropriate too as is the cover. I am checking out other works by Brant Randall and I am also going to look out more about the "Clucks'.

I received Blood Harvest by Brant Randall from the author via Pump up Your Book Promotion.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Short Story: Tunnels and Walls and Other Ways of Getting There by Sharon Sheehe Stark

"As it turned out, what I would remember most clearly about the year of my fall (or flight) from grace was Old Zach tunneling under Nichols Street to the Gunderpopp brewery."

I read Tunnels and Walls and Other Ways of Getting There online in Narrative Magazine. It is the story of the current week. The title attracted me as also the alliterated name of the author.

The narrator is a girl Hilda, studying in a catholic co-ed trying to fit in. Somehow or the other she is a misfit in there. The nuns, especially Old Zach are kind of weird. They try their best to make their pupils learn. Rewarding them in their own way.

"Sometimes, out of their proud and pellucid poverty, they gave you gifts. A Miraculous Medal, perhaps. Holy cards. Words of wisdom printed on deckle-edged onionskin. When the time was right, pamphlets listing the ten signs of a vocation. By stages they’d admit you to an inner circle of shared confidences. They might tell you, for instance, about Sr. Dominic’s impacted wisdoms or that they were making new habits (leaving to the uninitiated the illusion that they were born in them)."

The round about way of prose completely drew me in. The narrator has wit and sense of humour. She is practical too, knowing her owm limitations. This short story needs to be read with lots of concentration. One just can't Breeze through it. If one makes an effort, this story is well worth it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Musings about lending books

Do you lend books to anyone? Just friends? Only big readers? How long are they allowed to have them?


I have lost too many books by lending. A few of those I never wanted to part with. Like The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath or Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, to name just two. I can't remember who took them. And Why did I not get those back.

Now I don't give out my books to just about anyone who asks me. I only lend to very close friends and familiy. Then also, I tell them to return those as soon as possible. For a while, I started jotting down who took what but I gave it up. Now I just follow my instincts. For those books, I really wish to keep, I say a firm NO!

Thats about it!

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

Death disturbed the night. The Sound of squeaking wheels grew louder, as did the clicking of horse hooves scraping across cobbelstones.

Title: Aurelia
Author: Anne Osterlund
ISBN: 9780142405796
Publisher: Speak/2008
Pages: 246

Aurelia is a princess who is next in line of throne. The King discovers that someone is trying to kill his daughter. He does not tell his daughter about the assassination attempts. Robert, a former classmate of Aurelia is assigned the job of unearthing the plot and people behind it. He has a tough job as he can't talk about it to the princess.

At every step Aurelia tries to escape the palace at one guise or other. She is more a commoner than a princess. She wants to know the problems of her kingdom. The people have been rendered poor because of more and more taxes levied by the King. The King has to do it to please his second wife, Elise's extravagancy. Aurelia is against it but she can't do any thing about it unless she inherits the throne. And she has to find a nobel person to marry too. She is not keen on marrying anyone her father choses for her.

So for so good. The starting is good, the premise is what really made me want to read it. Who really wants her dead? The people of her kingdom love her dearly. Only someone who is closer and gains by her death can wish for her death. Who is it? Robert does unearth it all. However, the king is not ready for any scandal and he wants Aurelia to keep quiet about the whole thing. This is what completely weakened the story. How can someone who wants her dead go scotfree? What compulsion does the king have to save that person? Most important, why does Aurelia simply give in? She is brave, with so much of wit and guts. So why? I found the ending so very wanting. I would have thought Aurelia to rise above it all. Rebel against her father's wishes and reveal the culprit for all. But....

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

"It screamed downward, splitting air and sky without effort. A target expanded in size and brought into focus by time and velocity."

Title: The Cellist of Sarajevo
Author: Steven Galloway
ISBN: 9781921351303
Publisher: Text Publishing/2008
Pages: 222
Rating: 5/5

Right in the beginning of 2009, I get to read an unforgettable book. It is one of those books which is going to stay in mind. Steven Galloway was kind enough to send to me The Cellist of Sarajevo when I requested for it.

Based in strife ridden Sarajevo, it might be a piece of fiction but it feels so real. The deep fear within the psyche of its people and the way they get on with their life despite it, is what completely takes us in. The meaningless war impacts the people but it appears no one really cares for them apart from a few handful. With random sniper attacks, life becomes a drudgery yet it cannot break the spirits of the people.

This novel is based on a real event. In 1992, twenty people were killed in a mortar attack while waiting for bread. A renowned local cellist Vedran Smailovic, played Albinoni's Adagio at that very same site, for the next twenty two days in their honour, unmindful of sniper attacks.

In this book, the cellist remains namelss. Arrow, a female sniper from the good side is given the task of saving him while he plays, although he is not aware of it. Arrow has deliberately forgotten her real name. Kenan, another ordinary citizen has to go out to fetch water for his family and landlady once in four days. Then there is Dagan, who misses his wife and son.

On a first look, it appears that these people are unconnected but as we read along, we find that, the common factor that ties them, is the disregard of fear. And the extreme courage shown by them. The futility of war is manifested a thousand times in their hopes, wishes and aspirations. They are in no way responsible. Still they suffer. But they face it with dignity.

In midst of it all, this book also asks us who is fighting for whom and for what? Why is the govt so helpless in certain situations? Why can't it take care of its people? Do they simply fade away or live with hope? Staying alive for oneself, family and others is important. Keeping hope alive too is necessary. No matter what. The Cellist of Sarajevo tells us all that and much more. A book to be remembered for a long time to come. No one is going to regret reading this novel ever.

Weekly Geeks : Classic literature

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books?

My reading started with classic books. In my childhood days, I used to read the picturebook versions or abridged versions. Say for example, Gullivers Travels or Arabian Nights. Those vetted my appetite for more. I explored more and more. To mention a few, I have read the Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen( although I don't like her books much), James Barrie, Shakespeare, William Thackeray, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle and lot more.

Some of my all time favourite books are Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Vanity Fair, Sherlock Holmes books, David Copperfield, Far from the Madding Crowd, Dracula and so many more.

For those who have not read any classics, I would suggest to begin with Lewis Carroll and Charlotte Bronte. They completely take you in.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Twins by Katherine Stone

Title: Twins
Author: Katherine Stone
ISBN: 0821726463
Publisher: Zebra/1989
Pages: 478 pages

Buying this book was a whim. I had not heard of Katherine Stone but liked the premise. Another thing was, it was available for a pittance! Having read it, I don't regret buying it.

As the title says, it is about twins. However, it about two pairs of twins, not one. With a strong story line, this made a very good read. It has sibling love, rivalry, romance, mystery and suspense.

Reading about Charles' childhood as compared to his twin Jason, is so touching. Their bonding is apparent since their birth yet they are separated for no fault of theirs. They can't bridge that gap despite wanting to. As none knows how to. However, the bonding is such that even they can't understand it. They are twins yet they are different in every other way.

Similar is the case with Melanie and her twin, Brooke. She is a successful model as Brooke a lawyer. Yet they both need approval from each other.

With lots of emotions, heartbreak, tears, this book moves forward. This is definitely not what is called a romance. This a book about bonding, misunderstandings and coming out of it all. And one can't reveal the story without spoilers. So I leave it here. But I say, read it!

Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata

Title: Losing Kei
Author: Suzanne Kamata
ISBN: 9780972898492
Publisher: Leapfrog Press/2007
Pages: 193

A painter Jill Parker goes to Japan after she loses out in love. She is, in a way emulating Blondelle Malone, a late–19th-century South Carolina artist who had gone to Japan.

Jill chooses to live in a small island, where there are very few foreigners apart from Eric, who is a surfer. He gets her a job of a hostess in a seedy place. Meanwhile she meets a Japanese gallery owner Yusuke Yamashiro who offers a show for her. Eventually they fall in love and get married. She has to live with her in laws and tries to be a Japanese housewife as best as she can. However, she resents it after a while as her mother in law is not ready to give up her power. Now Jill has no interest in painting.

Jill gives birth to a son, Kei. That does not make her place in the household any better. However, she leaves Yusuke one day and files for divorce. But Kei is lost to her. The laws are such that, she has no rights over her son. Jill tries to cope up with it but she also has financial constraints to fight it legally.

This book made an interesting read. It talks about the problems a person faces in a foreign land. How the laws act against that person. Is that person able to cope or give it all away? Why is fitting in all this so difficult? Kamata has taken in account of it all and written a good book. Thanks to the author for sending me the book.



Thursday, January 15, 2009

Booking through songs

What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
Why? And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?

There are too many songs that I love. So much so that I have to listen to those songs at least once a day.

I only list here a few with no specific order:

Rapture of the Deep by Deep Purple: I think it is one of the greatest love songs. I get a spiritual feeling while listening to it. The tunes and instruments played are perfect for the song.

Hotel California by Eagles: I don't remember when I heard it first and why I liked it. It has stayed within my mind and I love the ghostly feeling it arouses.

Careless Whispers by Wham!: When I heard it first it felt as if it was only meant for my ears.

Now to name the great singers, that I gotta listen, no matter what:

Engelbert Humperdinck

Paul Anca

John Carpenters

Toumani Diabate

And so many more....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dantes' Inferno by Sarah Lovett

Small Logo

Title
: Dantes' Inferno

Author: Sarah Lovett
ISBN: 684955984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/2001
Pages: 318


I had not heard of Sarah Lovett before this book. I picked it mostly because the title interested me and the premise beckoned me.

The novel starts with a bomb blast in a museum where a teacher and a eleven years boy are killed. Edmund Sweatheart, a professor studying bombings is devasted as the boy is related to him. A serial bomber is threatening to destroy Los Angelos city. Before bombing any place he does give information about it in the lines of Dante Alighieri's work. Dr Sylvia Strange is assigned the job of getting into the mind of that bomber. John Dantes, a brilliant scholar, is suspected of the said crimes. The glitch is, he is already in a high security prison. It seems he has a compatriot who does his bidding. But how do they get in touch?

What made John Dantes turn the corner? Slowly we see Dr Sylvia Strange being affected by Dantes. He has the power to disturb her and seems to have some kind of hold on her. Is Dantes faking his insanity? Is he as troubled as he seems? How is he connected to M, the bomber who is outside.

Dantes' Inferno is a good psycho thriller. It keeps us completely enthralled in it. The nine circles of hell are very well marked in here. References to Alighieri's work is brilliant. Lovett's prose is very good. Fast paced and a page turner.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Musing about course books

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How did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/university/college/etc? How do you think on these books now? What book were you 'forced' to read when you where in school that you've since reread and loved?

In my senior secondary English, I had to read Far From the Madding Crowd, Great Expectations, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Wuthering Heights, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet amongst others. Frankly I found those very interesting.

Except for The Barretts of Wimpole Street, I had read all, Soi in a way, those were rereads in my senior secondary/college. No way, I found those books daunting. In college, I had to study Arthur Miller's All my Sons. Come to think of it, I hated it. However after a long time I read The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, which brought me back to All My Sons. I appreciated it then.


Wuthering Heights still remains of my all time favourite books. I liked the character of Heathcliff. He is one of the best anti-heroes of all times.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Weekly Geeks: Community building

It feels good to see weekly geeks again. That's what Dewey wished for all of us. To be united, and get connected in the blog world. No wonder, this week's geek is about community building.

In the spirit of the amazing community building that Dewey was so good at, tell us about your favorite blogs, the ones you have bookmarked or subscribe to in your Google Reader, that you visit on a regular basis. Tell us what it is about these blogs that you love, that inspire or educate you or make you laugh. Be sure to link to them so we can find them too.


I have too many blogs bookmarked and subscribed in my google reader. I try to visit those in regular basis. However, here I will talk about book bloggers. There are a few I have to read. I might not comment all the time. Here I will focus on male bloggers. We female bloggers are already a community!


Here I go:

Bart: It should suffix to say that I like to read him. I love the way he reviews books.

C B James: He is one of my dailry must reads. I like his reviews, which are very balanced. He has an eclectic taste in reading, which appeals to me. Apart from that I like to watch videos of Dakota!

Carl V : He got me back to a genre, I had stopped reading. I mostly credit him for making me read Fantasy, Supernatural Thrillers, Horror stories and other macabre stuff, which i had kind of given up!

John Self : It is sheer pleasure to read the way he writes reviews. I love the way he uses the language. For the poet in me, it touches a chord.

John Mutford : Heconducts those Canadian Challenges and via him, I got to know and read Canadian Authors. I was kind of very ignorant about Canadian literature and it is through him, I am exploring it. I like his The Great Wednesday Compare and Saturday Word Play.

Matt: He has a great taste in literature despite the fact he read Jane Eyre fairly recently. His analysis about a book is very good. And he keeps adding to my TBR pile!

Finally I pass the
Premio Dardos (Darts) Award to all of them. I was given the award by Rebecca. Thanks!

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.

Keep it, pass it on. Do what you wish to. No pressure as male of the species does not like hand twisting!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Unseen by T. L. Hines

Perched on the top of the elevator, Lucas peered at the woman below and created an elaborate history in his mind.

Title:
The Unseen
Author:
T. L. Hines
ISBN:
9781595544520
Publisher:
Thomas Nelson
Pages: 383

I received the book from the publisher. I had not read any book by T L Hines before this.

The Unseen is a very unusual book. It is about Lucas, who observes people. From any nook or corner, literally. He has got equipments to drill holes on top of elevators, walls and closets, where he can hide and watch them. From there, he collects photographs or any such personal stuff and thinks of those as his totems. These totems give him solace in his loneliness. However, he does possess some ethics. He does not watch anyone at their homes or neither does he photograph anyone.

Lucas has no past, he had been brought up in an orphanage and he also has no future as he is not much involved with anyone. He does odd jobs to sustain himself and also saved for himself quite a bit. His life takes a turn when he himself is watched. His world crashes down. He has nowhere to go as he can be easily tracked by those people, belonging to Creep Club. And those who watch him are thorough professionals. They don't have any hang ups about watching people in their homes and taking photographs. They get voyeuristic pleasure out of it.

The Creep Club wants to enroll him initially, but he is not open to offer. A person named Saul, who wants to expose Creep Club members, tries to make use of him. Lucas has some reservations. He does not want to cross the line. However, he comes to know of a murder about to happen and tries to warn the involved person. It backfires on him and he is taken to be criminal, who is at large. It seems the watchers want him dead too. Only he can save himself as he has no one else to fall back on.

The Unseen right from the beginning is very gripping and gives the reader a creepy feeling. While reading it, one thinks if anyone is watching. If yes, from where? The book moves in a good pace. It has lots of twists and turns. Although at first we are revolted by Lucas, as it progresses, we start to like him. We feel his loneliness. We feel his sadness. He does not remember anything from his past before he came to the orphanage at the age of six. He only remembers one line, Humpty Dumpty had some great falls. He does not why or how he came about it.

I am definitely going for more supernatural thrillers by T L Hines. I just couldn't put down the book after I reached half way through.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reading this novel inspired to write a poem somebody watching you, which I have posted on my other blog, rooted.
A review in poetry? Not quite! I reproduce it here:

suddenly you experience fear
looking around you seek that source
thinking what schemes set about
false feelings of true panic
where nothing seems postive

unaware that
from unknown peepholes
someone stares at you
without any fear of discovery
overhead from the elevators;
or mesh between two closets-

it pricks from undergrounds too;
in the labyrinth of pipes
under those
crowed highways
he keeps himself hidden
with much deception

he might be your neighbour
one of your best mates yet
creeping into your life
possesing a perverted mind,
filled with sadistic streak

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Larry's Party by Carol Shields

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By mistake Larry Weller took someone else's Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn't till he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong.


Title: Larry's Party
Author: Carol Shields
ISBN: 0670873926
Publisher: Penguin Books/1997
Pages: 339

This book opens in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, with Larry at 26 years of age ruminating over the tweed coat he is wearing. This particular one does not belong to him but got exchanged by mistake at a cafe. We can almost hear him aloud about his thoughts on the coat.

Right from the beginning, Larry is an ordinary guy, confused, lost and somewhat like us, with a regular life. He has a girl friend, Dorrie, whom he marries soon after. On their Honeymoon, he comes across a maze and it becomes his passion to design mazes. He leaves everything to realise his dreams and all through this, he has two broken marriages and one son.

At one glance, this book has not much to offer. It is about a very normal guy who is just like one of us and his life's path goes somewhat like ours. There ends the analogy. In its simplicity, it endears Larry to us. A guy who seems so lacking in ambition is suddenly found passionate about building mazes. He spends days, months, years developing it. His thoughts and imagination grows leaps and bounds. He has this burning zeal to learn, be it the languages or about mazes. His love for flowers does not diminish but it helps him grow in other directions. He is not lacking in his ambition as it is initially thought. The mazes he builds becomes symbolic. It is the maze that his life has become. He is a good loving person. Still he has been twice divorced.

The party he throws in the end shows him what he truly desires but still he has a long way to go to come out of the maze called life, to find the peace within himself. Vignettes of Larry's life becomes our own vignettes, his slices of life are what we undergo at each moment. And that is what holds it..along with the mazes....the metaphor for life. I am not saying everyone is going to love this book, but it is one worth giving a try. Carol Shields is one author to read, if only at least once. Next on my list is The Stone Diaries.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Midwife of Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

"It's a rare thing for a child to be delivered at my convenience..." Hannah launched herself from the warm cocoon of her bedcovers. A midwife is never surprised by a knock on the door, but Hannah Cameron was indeed surprised when she opened the door and found a strange, bedraggled mite of a girl on her stair step.


Title: Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Author: Christine Blevins
ISBN: 9780425221686
Publisher: Berkley books/2008
Pages: 417/Historical

It is early 1760s in Scotland. Maggie is that girl who arrives at Hannah's doorstep. She has survived the massacre in her village, and is taken to be unlucky. Hannah has no such notions and takes her in, teaching her all her medicinal skills. However Hannah's dies due to extreme cold and Maggie, at 22 years of age is again left with no one. No one is ready to marry the dark haired beauty as she is considered cursed.

Maggie only has her wits, her knowledge of medicines and her midwifery skills. She ventures out as an indentured servant towards the American colonies to seek a better life. In the ship she travels, she catches the eye of a debauched Duke, who wants to buy her out. However, Seth Martin succeeds in that as he needs someone to look after his three children and his sick and pregnant wife. Seth, is a good man and his family takes to Maggie in no time. Maggie with her knowledge of medicines becomes very popular. Tom Roberts, Seth's best friend is attracted towards her but does want to have any roots and leaves her for hunting.

Meanwhile, Cavendish, the Duke wants the land and Maggie bargains herself over to him, for Seth and his family. She is treated brutaaly almost broken and beaten. But she survives, all the while making plans to run away.

Blevins has treated the story well, she does not soft pedal it, she shows the stark reality a woman who has no support, has to face and endure. She shows the strength of character a woman can have in such circumstances. Maggie has all of those and knows how to survive. She does not let herself break apart.

The novel touches upon the perils of colonisation, the whites and the warrier Indians and shows both their strenghth and weaknesses. I did find it longwinded at places, but as a historical novel, it really works well.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fault Line by Barry Eisler


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The Last thing Richard Hilzoy thought
before the bullet entered his brain was, Things are really looking up.

Title: Fault Line

Author: Barry Eisler
ISBN: 9780345505088
Publisher: Ballantine Books/March 2009
Pages: 302

I won an ARC of yet to be published Fault Line from Marianne of Muse de Jour. My brother is an Eisler fan and I too had read couple of his books...John Rain ones. Best thing about such books are, these make quick reads.

Alex Treven, a top shot laywer is scared to wits when two of his associates are murdered and his house is burgled. All of them are in one way or other, involved in the invention of encryption application and patent for it is pending. Alex has no family, as they are all dead, except for an enstranged older brother Ben, who has not been in the vicinity for the last seven years, not since their mother died.

Alex, after much thought turns to Ben, who is an undercover agent, who is currently in Istanbul, having the dirty job of eliminating terrorists. Or find, fix and finish, as he calls it. Although Ben resents Alex contacting him, he nevertheless arrives to save Alex. Another lawyer Sarah Hosseini, who too knows all about the encryption, has to be taken into confidence. Although Alex trusts her, Ben does not. And he has reasons not too. All the while the resentment the brothers have for each other, boils over and almost escalates into one killing the other.

It has lots of actions, twists and turns of events, the bonding between the brothers, although both don't know it nor show it. Both are likeable in their own quirky ways. One can't write more without revealing the plot and that is not done for crime fiction.

As with most thrillers, it too is unputdownable. One really likes the unhurried, detailed way Ben goes about his work. He knows he has to clean the world and he goes about it in a clinical manner. Barry Eisler is a writer worth checking out. My copy goes to my brother.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Counter Clockwise by Jason Crockroft

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When Nathan's father told him the news, his voice seemed lost in the quiet of the school room---as though it didn't belong, Nathan thought.

~First line

Title: Counter Clockwise
Author: Jason Cockcroft
ISBN: 9780061255540
Publisher: Harper Collins Children/2009
Publishing Date: February 3, 2009
Pages: 208
Genre: Fantasy/Children's fiction

I won an uncorrected proof (with a Black and White cover) of this book from Jo Ann Hakola of Journey of a Bookseller. It made a good start to read in the new year. As this is children's fiction, it did not take me more than two hours to finish it. No wonder those who read children's fiction, finish such a lot of books!

Nathan's mom dies in a bus accident, he goes to live with his father. His father, Henry and his mother, Cornelle had been divorced for a long time. However, her death seems to have affected both Nathan and Henry. Henry is always so confused and sad. He considers himself a loser. Despite that, Henry wants his son to be educated well in the sciences, that is physics, even though he himself is a soap seller.

One day, almost a year after Cornelle's death, Henry simply disappears through the bathroom wall to go back in time and save Cornelle. And a beefeater named Bartleby warns Nathan that the future shouldn't be changed and Henry has to be stopped from saving his wife. Nathan is confused and does not know what to do until he himself sees a glimpse of his own future. He realises that he does not want that future. He has to stop Henry somehow. So he better move everything counter clockwise. The faster, the better...

This is a book which speaks about time travel with a bit of fantasy element. Nathan wants to know why is the beefeater trying to help? And how does he know all about Nathan, his father Henry? Going back and forth, this book does hold interest. Although Nathan is only a child, he has more maturity than his dad, Henry. Initially it seems, he hates Henry but it is not so. He has lost his mother but he does not want to lose his father.

This book is imaginative and teenagers will like it. The narration is good and well crafted. A adventure in time travel and its consequences. Overall a good read. My copy goes to my twelve year old nephew.