Monday, December 31, 2007

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

Title: Salem Falls
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN-13: 978074318713
Publisher: Washington Square Press/2001
Pages: 434

Salem Falls is the last book I read in the last day of 2007. It was a great way to end the year. Picoult takes up issues, which are too close to home. One can instantly relate to it. Many do not like the realistic way she portrays her novels. One thing about her is that she instantly sucks you into the story. Once I started it, I could not leave it until I finished it.

Jack St Bride, a former teacher in a girl’s prep school comes to Salem Falls wishing to forget his past. He had been in jail for eight months for having a sexual relationship with fifteen-year-old girl, Catherine Marsh, who had a crush on him. His own mother does not believe in him and deserts him. A PhD in History, he ends up washing dishes in a diner for Addie Peabody, who too has a ghost to bury. Unassuming and very handsome John, finds a way into the heart of Addie. As he had been convicted for sexual offence, he has to report to the local police about his whereabouts.

In that quiet place, four girls are trying to be witches by following Wicca rituals. They fantasize about him, and then maliciously target him yet again. Because of his past, he cannot escape this allegation.

Addie is shattered, as she does not know what to believe. St Bride’s lawyer too has misgivings about his innocence although he promises John the best deal out of it. John is defiant in the beginning and we see him slowly crumbling down under so much hatred. He accepts that he would get the maximum sentence and his life is over.

Slowly the dark secrets emerge, the witch hunting of John because of his past emerges, the girls try to stick to their story. We see dark magic and use of drugs by the sixteen year-old girls. Rape is a serious crime. However, it can be used as a powerful tool too. John is punished for what he would not do.

As with other Picoult books, we can see here too how power is misused. How law can be bended towards the ends, how a man despite being fulfilling his sentence still considered an offender. He is tried before he is punished. The title is very appropriate, as Salem Falls is a place, which has a previous history of witch hunting.

Books reviewed in 2007

I read a lot but only started posting about books since June. Even then I have not written reviews of a lot of books.

December (8)

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
The Sherbrooke Twins by Catherine Coulter
Nightway by Janet Daily
The Ultimate Tea Diet by Mark Ukra with Sharyn Kolberg
Sunset Embrace by Sandra Brown
For the Love of Rachel by David Loewenstein
Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

November (8)

Real Magic by Brian A Fowler
Paradise Place by Warwick Deeping
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Downsizing Your Home With Style by Lauri Ward
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

October (10)

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R L Stevenson
The Feudal Lord by Tehmina Durrani
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
The Coral Island by R M Ballantyne
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

September (12)

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling
So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
The Pearl By John Steinbeck
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott
Louisa Elliott by Ann Victoria Roberts
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My Mother's Garden--A collection of Essays

August (10)

Outlaw by Lisa Jackson
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
The Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandeya
Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Leave it to Psmith by P G Wodehouse
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
To Sir, with Love by E. R.Braithwaite
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

July (12)

Different Seasons by Stephen King
Marie Antoinette-The Journey by Antonia Fraser
One by Richard BachMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
The Unbearable Lightness of Being By Milan Kundera
Innocent Erendera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li
Fury by Salman Rushdie
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Defy the Eagle by Lynn Bartlett
The Bafut Beagles by Gerald Durrell

June (3)

Deadly Kisses By Brenda Joyce
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
The Constant Gardener by John Le Carré

May (4)

The Places In Between by Rory Stewart
Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom by John Follain and Rita Cristofari
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Sherbrooke Twins by Catherine Coulter

Title: The Sherbrooke Twins
Author: Catherine Coulter
ISBN: 0515136549
Publisher: Jove Books/2004
Pages: 358

I received four Catherine Coulter novels along with four other romance novels. My friend must be wishing for me to read her books. I had not heard of her before this. Not tht I have heard of all the authors in this world!

The Sherbrooke Twins is about twenty eight years old twin brothers, James and Jason. As James is older by 28 minutes, he is the heir. He loves astronomy, riding and helps in managing his father’s estate. Jason can swim like a fish and is a philanderer. Corrie is their neighbour and he has known her since she is three years old. She is always dressed disreputably and does not how to be a woman. James' parents along with her Uncle and Aunt decide that Corrie needs a season and his dad Douglas selects the wardrobe her as he cannot trust his wife, Alex or Corrie’s aunt, Maybella to do that. Alex wears plunging necklines and Maybella does not wear anything other than pale blue!

When James first sees Corrie in a gown, he cannot believe she is so beautiful. Meanwhile, Jason comes back home after a visit from the Virgin Ghost that warns him that his parents are in trouble, which proves prophetic when someone shoots their father. James is kidnapped; Corrie bravely saves him from the kidnappers and sickness. As they spend a night together, they have to marry. Jason falls in love with Judith McCrae who he met at the season thrown for Corrie. However, the family remains unsafe, as someone wants Douglas dead. In the end, we see Jason leaving home as he considers all that ensued, is his fault.

Nowhere in the novel, have we seen any kind of chemistry between James and Corrie and then they get married. Their lovemaking seems like incest to me. Their character needed to be developed further. Their parents Douglas and Alexandra have more chemistry going between them. Latter part of the book is mostly about Jason.

The witty dialogues somewhat saves it from facing oblivion. Out of all the four, this was the weakest. Not that I was looking for any intellectual stuff! There are some similarities in all those, which I will sum up with my review of the last novel.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nightway by Janet Daily

Title: Nightway
Author: Janet Daily
ISBN: 0671624873
publisher: Pocket Books/1981
Pages: 361

Among contemporary romance writers, I like to read Janet Daily. Her descriptions of places and cultures are rather well done. Her character building too is good. Most of her books hold interest.

I picked up Nightway, dirt cheap from a pavement book bazaar. This book tells us about the ancient ways of Arizona's Navaho Nation to the new ranch wealth of the great southwest. This is about JB Faulkner and his two warring sons, Chad and Hawk who fight for their rights and for one woman's love.

Hawk is half Navaho and half white. When his mother and sister die, his father JB Faulkner gets him to his estate and asks Rawlins, his foreman to look after him. Although every one is aware, that Hawk is Faulkner’s son but JB does not acknowledge him. The boy is fascinated with his father’s wife, Katheryn. His father sends him to the best of schools and colleges. Just before his degree, hawk quits and comes back as he has no other ambition than the land. Although sometimes confused by his dual heritage, Hawk takes strength from within himself to become his own man after Carol, Rawlins daughter accuses him of rape when they found together by her father. He feels betrayed, as he is not good enough to marry her being the illegitimate son. Carol chooses Hawk's half-brother, Chad, and a life of comfort and wealth. Initially bitter, Hawk learns to live alone with no one on his side. Not even his father.

First half of the book is about Hawk, his desperate need to belong. He is not accepted by Whites or by Navaho as their own. We glimpse his deep hurt and loneliness, which he hides from everyone. He learns to control his feelings. Only in the second half, Lanna Marshall enters his life under unusual circumstances. Lanna, who had befriended JB just days before his death, is a beneficiary in his will. She is tormented by her attraction for both the brothers and knows her decision must be weighed against her passion for the dark, quiet half-breed who hungers for the comfort she so desperately wants to give.

I will not call this book a romance in the strictest sense. However, it made a nice change from heavy reading. When I am in the midst of marking exam papers, I prefer light reading. This qualifies as one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Ultimate Tea Diet by Mark Ukra with Sharyn Kolberg

Disclaimer: I have only reviewed the book. I am yet to follow it through.

Title: The Ultimate Tea Diet
Author: Mark “dr. tea” Ukra with Sharyn Kolberg
ISBN: 9780061441752
Publisher: Collins

I received this book from Collins Nonfiction for reviewing. The Ultimate Tea Diet is offers a way to lose weight by making tea drinking a way of life. One can lose pounds by taking to tea and gain health benefits on the way. We get to know how it boosts metabolism, shrinks appetite helps in reducing weight. All from something, which tastes good, inexpensive and is easily available. It can be had at any time, any place, before meals, in between meals and after meals.

One can choose from wide variety of the beverage, which is available in varied flavours. This guide is divided into three parts, which again are divided into chapters. Part One consists of The tea/Weight Loss Connection and is divided into four chapters. Here we learn about the various teas (White, Green, Oolong, Black) are all derived from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Though other alternatives are coming up. One such is Rooibos. It is not strictly tea as it does not come from the above mentioned plant.

Tea contains three main ingredients, caffeine, L-Theanine and EGCG. These help in burning calories, promote weight loss, help in metabolism. Tea contains antioxidants too, which are good for our hair and skin too. Caffeine stimulates, L-Theanine reduces stress, which further reduces appetite and storage of fat in our body. EGCG is the much-publicised antioxidant. These prevent and repair damage caused by free radicals. These stimulate weight loss.

Subsequent chapters talk of flavoured teas, tea recipes that can be tried by anyone wishing to lose weight. Frankly, I like drinking tea just the way it without any flavours. I do like to add milk and sugar. If one follows the Tea Diet plan given in Chapter 8, I suppose one can lose weight and gain a lot more. However, one also needs to have some dietary changes and physical exercise. A positive belief that he/she can lose weight is must.

As I belong to a tea-drinking country, I could relate to a few parts. Here we have spices added to tea, which is known as Masala Chai. It is available everywhere, roadsides, bus stops, railway stations etc.

Most who want/wish to lose weight can download the e-book. Drinking tea seems to be an easier way to do so. Even if one does not lose weight, drinking tea is any day better than coffee!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Booking through nominations

  1. What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007? (Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
  2. What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007? (Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)
  3. And, do “best of” lists influence your reading?

Unless a book is well publicised, it takes a while to get a newly published book in India. Still I can name a few fictions.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini needs no description. I am in the midst of reading it and think, it is going to be as good as Kite Runner if not better. My vote goes for it.

The Gathering by Anne Enright: This book deals with death, love and self discovery. It takes on an adventure which is mostly internal.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: In this book, African history is captured with haunting intimacy. Adichie tells her gripping story through lives of Ugwu, a 13-year-old peasant houseboy who survives conscription into the raggedy Biafran army, and twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, who are from a wealthy and well-connected family.

In non-fiction, which is taking me forever to complete, I list the following:

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery: In this stirring call to action, biologist Flannery provides an overview of the impact that global warming has on the environment and suggests possible solutions.

To answer that last question, "best" list does not influence me as much as the blog world. There are so many book lovers out there who recommend great books and one can get lost in challenges. That helps in my reading.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sunset Embrace by Sandra Brown

Title: Sunset Embrace
Author: Sandra Brown
ISBN: 0446356859

Publisher: Warner Brothers

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages: 360/Paperback

I picked this up from one of my friend’s place. She seldom reads anything other than romances. She insisted I read this one.
Sunset Embrace is romance all right with all the usual trials and tribulations the hero and heroine undergo before everlasting love. It is said to be set in 1870s when wagon trains moved from one place to another.

Lydia is a destitute and has been wandering for weeks. She is with child. One day her labour pain starts and she falls down with sheer exhaustion. She prays for death for herself and her yet unborn baby. Her baby is born dead and she is found in the unconscious state by Bubba and his brother Luke Langston, who go out and fetch their mother Ma Langston. One look at her and she is taken away to be looked after by the Langston family. Ma Langston does not ask about her past and accepts her as she is.

Meanwhile, in another Wagon, Ross Coleman’s wife dies in childbirth. Ma Langston laments about it and after a couple of days finds a perfect solution. There is a young woman without a child and a baby without a mother. Lydia is to serve as a wet-nurse for the boy. Ross is not keen. He takes Lydia to be a piece of trash and does not want her anywhere near his child. However, Lydia and the infant bond instantly. Even Ross cannot deny that. Despite his misgivings, he allows her to stay in his wagon for the sake of his son.

She had vowed no man should touch her and he is grief-stricken by his pureblooded wife’s death. He finds himself attracted towards her and because of his conflicted feelings is very nasty towards her. She is too strong-willed to take that from him and gives him back in equal measure. From there in starts, that inevitable spark of attraction. Before anything can be truly resolved, both their past catches up with them. Not only do they have to contend with the hardships and dangers that any wagon train would face, but also they are also being stalked by a murderous mad man who is intent on rape and murder.

There are other interesting characters from the wagon train: Bubba Langston, the boy who found Lydia and idolizes Ross wanting to become like him; Priscilla, who seduces Bubba; Winston Hill, the southern gentleman who is attracted to Lydia; and Ma, the matriarch of the wagon train. Each has a role to play in the book that when woven together make for an excellent read. Maybe I should read romances more often!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For the Love of Rachel by David Loewenstein

Title: For the Love of Rachel
Author: David Loewenstein
ISBN: 0979194342
Publisher: Enalan Communications
Pages: 147
Rating: High

David offered this book at one of the online sites I visit. I won it from there in a draw. He sent it to me and I received it within a week. I sat down to read it that same day and finished it at one go.

For the Love of Rachel is a story of a father’s love towards his daughter who is born premature at 23 weeks of gestation. David and his wife wanted a child and after the process of in vitro fertilization, Susan conceives. However, her uterus is not able to hold the pregnancy and Rachel is born early. Her chances of survival are dim. Survive she does, with the love and faith of her parents, their families, efforts by the doctors, nurses and all involved in saving her life. She has a strong survival instinct. She lives in the hospital for nine months before she is taken home. Even then, she needs constant attention.

David and Susan never give up hope. They are ready to go to any length to save her, make her life comfortable. She has special needs because of mild cerebral palsy, partial hearing and vision. Despite that, she is a very happy child.

Somewhere down the line, David and Susan decide to have another child. This time they go for adoption. They go to China and get Amy as a sister for Rachel. Both these children teach them so much about life, its beauty, its perfection.

David has himself said that life gives us chances. Sometimes we miss those with our skewed view of it. We seldom learn from past, we dwell too much on the future, forgetting the present. Life is filled with love, wonder and gratitude. We only need to recognise that.

I am very glad I read it. Every one irrespective of having children or not should read it. This book goes much beyond Rachel although it is written about and for Rachel. With positive feelings, we can turn our lives the way we want it. A child, who had almost no chance of survival, lives because her parents do not give up hope. They are always prepared for the worst but never lose out on hope. They are lucky to have Rachel and Amy. Same goes for Rachel and Amy who are both lucky to have David and Susan as parents.

I have left certain aspects for the readers to find out for themselves. All in all a must read. My mother too recommends this. She rarely reads anything other than magazines unless something really interests her. For the Love of Rachel did.

Booking through cataloguing

Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?

I have seen way too many books to use online cataloguing sites. I am a member of both Library Thing and Shelfari. Somehow I do not use those.

Right from my school days, I used the indexing method. I sorted out my books and numbered those accordingly. Genre/Author/number. It was my own personal library. Now too, when I get time I kind of put numbers on my books. I am way behind but I can still know where any of my books is placed. I can pick it from that place in a sec. It is kind of mental cataloguing. I do maintain a notebook, for I don't remember how long. I am trying to convert into Excel spreadsheets. Not an easy feat, considering I have 4000+ books. I need to drastically reduce the number. I just have not got around it. I buy more than I dispose off.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Booking through Out of Print books

"Do you have a favourite book, now out of print, that you would like to see become available again?"

There are many books which are not available for Indian readers. Many times, I have asked my friends in the other part of the world to send those books to me. One of those was "Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins" which is out of print in India. Amazon too does not ship some books to India. That makes it difficult for me to have access to books I want to read. Then there are forgotten authors like Warwick Deeping. I have searched the net. Amazon, e-bay do have those. However, shipping is a problem. In a way, Bookmooch has helped me in finding a few books which are out of print here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

Title: Perfect Match
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9780340897225
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton/389 pages

It seems I am in some kind of roll reading Picoult! This is my fifth book by her. She has written many books. Her books take up issues, which many of us wish to brush under the carpet. As someone said, her stories hit too close to home.

Perfect match too is not so different. It takes up an issue, which is any parent’s nightmare. That, a child being raped. Nina Frost is a DA who tries to prosecute child abusers. Most of the times, the culprit goes free. When her five-year-old son is sexually abused, the world around her crashes down. Now she cannot think in a detached manner expected of a lawyer. Her son is her only concern and she has to protect him from at any cost.

How she goes about it is the moral dilemma faced by her, her husband Caleb and her best friend Patrick Ducharme. A split second decision turns out to be horribly wrong.

The book opens with Nina shooting down a priest in the court who she believes has sexually abused her son, Nathaniel. After she is taken into custody, she ceases being the person she was. Her husband leaves home with their son when she is released on bail. She completely breaks down. Only person, who supports her and believes in her, is her childhood friend, Patrick who has always loved her.

From there, the questions start. Did she do the right thing? Is she morally right and legally wrong? Is her life finished? What goes wrong? Why does Caleb distance himself from her? Is she going to lose the very thing she is fighting for? Picoult has the capacity to show us all the sides. Her way or rendering a story is spellbinding. Her capacity to research and presenting it for the layman is praiseworthy. Her story telling is objective. It is we, who take sides.

I work for sexually abused girls. I see families breaking down. I get emotionally involved too. This hit me hard. How do we justify child abuse especially from the very person we trust? That too, from a father. Believe me, the child involved never recovers.<

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

Title: Arms and the Man
Author: George Bernard Shaw
ISBN-10: 0140450351
ISBN-13: 978-0140450354
Publisher: Penguin/80 pages

George Bernard Shaw takes the title for this play from the opening life of Vergil's epic poem Aeneid, which begins Of arms and the man I sing. Vergil glorified war and the heroic feats of Aeneas on the battlefield. However, Shaw attacks the romantic notion of war by presenting a more realistic approach.

The action takes place in Bulgaria in 1885 against a backdrop of war between Bulgarian forces and Serbian and Austrian coalition army. Raina Petkoff is the young and beautiful daughter of the Bulgarian Major Petkoff who is engaged to Major Serguis Saranoff. Serguis is out in the battles. An enemy soldier, Captain Bluntschli, takes refuge in her room and this is what makes the whole drama happen. Next morning she and her mother Catherine see him off but consequences of sheltering an enemy soldier are not to be waved off so easily. Once the war is over, he comes back, forcing each of the primary characters to re-evaluate their values and their relationships

Raina's "hero" Serguis comes back from the war with the aura of heroism, gallantry and victory along with her father, Major Petkoff. The various dimensions of human nature are poignantly depicted, the character’s masks are exposed, and each one of them is stripped down into imperfect and susceptible individuals. Serguis turns out to be a flirt and far from a contented happy model of a soldier; Major Petkoff is discerned to be a man who cannot see beyond the battlefield.

There is a vivid usage of humour and comedy to convey the futility and harm of old-fashioned social analysis. The theme is effectively that of war and love---and by extension marriage---and a combination of both. The play is replete with brilliant dialogue, flashing wit, buoyant humour and bitter sarcasms which reach their acme in this statement of Captain Bluntschli to Serguis, "I'm a professional soldier: I fight when I have to, and am very glad to get out of it when I haven't to. You're only an amateur; you think fighting's an amusement". First published in 1894, Arms and the Man is also remarkable for its explicit treatment of sexuality, which was either denied or shyly elucidated, in early Victorian literature.

Even after 100+ years, this has a contemporary feel to it and is as relevant as it was then. War cannot be anything but futile and there is no heroism in it for those who resort to it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Booking through rolls

"Do you get on a roll when you read, so that one book leads to the next, which leads to the next, and so on and so on?"

At any given time, I am reading three books. They are as diverse as can be. However, after reading Book 4 of Harry Potter series, I did go on a roll, reading Book 3, 2 and 1, in that order! After that I read it in the serial of 5, 6 and 7. I tend to read travelogues one after the other. I suppose you can call that being on a roll. I once read three books, about Afghanistan within a span of ten days. In my younger days, I read Agatha Christies for a whole month. I have never been tempted to read a whole series at one go. I can just about start reading any.

Now I try to be more selective. I prefer my next book to be as different as it can be. Although, recently I read five Jodi Picoults one after the other. Still those were very different from each other.

Nonetheless, reading challenges are most of the times, themed. Hence one tends to read books having a few or some common threads. I wouldn't call them similar though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Real Magic by Brian A Fowler

Title: Real Magic
Author: Brian A Fowler
ISBN: 9781432708986
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc. /Oct 2007
Genre: Romance-Fantasy
Pages: 280/Hardcover

One of my blogger friends’ Brian Fowler wrote this book. I have known him for some months now. I like to read his poetry and short stories on his blog Truth Is Freedom. This is his first novel. I am one of the privileged few to receive a signed copy of his book. One does feel special to receive a first edition. I finished it in straight four hours. Before I pen down my thoughts, I would like to give the book blurb:

Her brilliant amethyst coloured eyes drew him in.

He had always believed that the expression, seeing stars, was merely a metaphor, but lying here on his back on the cold, wet concrete brought a unique perspective to those words. "Of all the times for this to happen! What else on earth could possibly go wrong?" he growled under his breath.

"Why don't you watch where you're going," shrilled a high-pitched voice. "It's not like you could actually miss me!"

"My apologies, young lady," he said with a grimace as he eased himself carefully upright. "I'll make sure that I'm on the lookout next time for you..." His voice trailed off uncertainly as, from the vantage point of the sidewalk, he stared up at the most unlikely looking woman he'd ever had the pleasure of meeting.

"What are you staring at? Never seen a pair of tits before?" she muttered all the while rocking frantically back and forth on her toes.

Thus begins a love story between a man and a woman. Nothing exciting here... except for the exes, family troubles, some violence, lots of sex and don't forget, magic.

I seldom read romances or fantasy. However, this book has both. This is in fact pegged as romantic fantasy. Rightfully so. What you read in the book blurb is the beginning of the book. From there onwards, one keeps reading it.

Cassie has magical powers which herself does not understand. When she meets Leo, she feels certain emotions, which she had not expected to experience. Her encounter with him literally stops the world around them. They fall in love with each other without understanding the whys and hows of it. Cassie has a past, which she is unwilling to recall. Leo has a daughter and he is fighting a custody battle for her.

When Cassie falls ill and taken to the Hospital, we see Cassie’s mother, the mysterious Lucinda coming into picture. Cassie’s best friend Firenza, along with Leo is very protective of her. Leo, Lucinda and Fire form a team and find ways to protect Cassie. We see a lot of bloodshed. Rat Bastard, that black demon has a way of tracking down Cassie and kill for her. He wants complete control over her.

All the while, Leo and Cassie want to be part of each other’s lives. There are some explicit scenes and for a fantasy romance, it does not seem out of place. Usually I skip those portions but this time I did not.

Do they succeed? Can they kill the demon who needs Cassie’s blood to survive? Is love the Real Magic, which can overcome any adversity? To answer that one needs to read the novel. For a first time novel, this is a good one. It needs to be read so that Brian keeps writing more novels for us.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Paradise Place by Warwick Deeping

Title: Paradise Place
Author: Warwick Deeping
Publisher: Pan books, London/1949

I have a very old edition of Paradise Place, which I inherited from my maternal grandfather. After reading this book, I tried to look out for more Deepings. However, I did not find any. I did get a few downloaded from project Gutenberg. Somehow, that is not same as reading a book. I re-read it recently although it is falling apart. Silver fishes have eaten up the bindings!

Coming back to Paradise Place, I find it very well written and engrossing. It was first published in 1949. One of the last novels by Deeping. He died in 1950.

John Hallifax, having committed a crime lets himself believed to be dead so that his wife can live peacefully and not endure the stigma of his disgrace. His wife Rachel, is heart broken but remarries Charles Carrington Kean, a professor to dispel her loneliness. Charles hardly ever notices her. He is too busy. Her heart craves love and he does not provide it.

A few years later, a mysterious herb doctor John Balmfield, comes to live in shabby North London in a place called Paradise Place where, what we call as scum on the Earth, reside. It is a sordid side of Humanity. The inhabitants are curious about his identity but grateful for his herbs which cures what ails them. Rachel, bored with her life, volunteers to help a friend collect rent from Paradise Place and meets the herbalist. John Balmfield tries to avoid her as much as possible. From there we see a spark in Rachel and an unusual love story emerges through many twists and turns. Is Rachel ready to give up her riches for her new found love and live in poverty?

We see Rachel breaking apart when she gets a letter from Paris telling her about the death of her husband. We watch her growing cold even after her marriage with Charles. Her heart stays broken. Slowly we see it warming after her meeting with the herb doctor.

The poeple who live in Paradise place too are shown as warm and welcoming. They come to like Bamfield and accept him. They respect him for his knowledge of medicines and his cure. No other doctor is willing to serve them.

George Warwick Deeping (1877–1950) was one prolific English novelist and short story writer. His most famous novel is Sorrell and Son (1925).He was born in Essex into a family of doctors. He studied in Trinity College and finished his medical studies at the Middleton Hospital. After attaining success as a writer, Deeping gave up his job as a doctor and become a full-time writer. He wrote Historical Romances in his initial years of writing.

Deeping is a master storyteller. His words hold interest. He can get into the heart of matter. He seems to be forgotten as of now. He is one author who needs to be re-discovered. His works need to be widely read.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Booking through connecting words

Joanna and Brad are asking about “connecting words,” and they don’t mean conjunctions like “and” or “but.” No, what they’re looking for are unique, or treasured words that we’ve found out and about in our daily travels, words that might not be common usage, or often heard, but which struck a chord for some reason.

Now this is not as easy it seems. Not even for someone who reads like mad and speaks so fast. For a while, I couldn't figure how to respond. Then it struck me! I use 'go figure' a lot.

I also say
'what are you ambling for?' if someone is in a hurry.

Recalling only a few:

good riddance-
when someone leaves the way he arrives, nonchalent.
speak up!
are you going to turn into a pumpkin?-
If any one gives excuses for going home early in the midst of work.
acting like cinderella-
if someone acts poor. A few do!
That needs no explanation!
tap away-
Type away to glory!
don't snake up like that-
if someone comes too close for my comfort. I am a space kind of person!
all dolled up?-
When someone is dressed to the hilt and nowhere to go.
Now leave the way you arrived!
when something has to be thrown out. Useless stuff.
conked out, are we?-
If someone pleads tiredness despite not doing a thing.

One of my friends uses 'actually' before every sentence she speaks.

My dad used to ask for 'rice pusher' meaning something spicy like a chutney to help him eat the plate of plain rice and curry. He is gone but rice pusher remains..

I don't know if these fit. They are not rare ones if that was the idea. However, these are the best I could do as of now!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Title: Nineteen Minutes
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 9781741750720
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/2007
Pages: 455

Nineteen Minutes is set in a small town where a horrific shootout takes place in the high school. It takes only nineteen minutes to change the whole scenario of that place. Life is never the same again for the inhabitants of Sterling. In that shootout, there are ten deaths and nineteen seriously injured.

Peter Houghton is the boy who shot at all those people in his school and is represented by the lawyer, Jordan McAfee. Patrick Ducharme, the detective tries to unravel the reasons behind the shootout but finds a dead end with Josie, who was at the shootout but was not shot at. She has that part blocked out of her mind and does not remember anything. Her boy friend, Matt Royston was also one of those killed. Her mother is the Judge who is assigned the case but is recused afterwards.

Jordan as well as Peter’s parents are the most hated persons in that town as they are seen to be siding with Peter. Lacy and Lewis are his parents and have no choice other than to love him and Jordan is his lawyer who has to believe in him. Slowly we see disintegration of relationships and also the reasons behind Peter’s actions. Nevertheless, he goes overboard. Josie has her reasons to break off her friendship with him, although they had been friends since kindergarten.

The unanswered questions of---Why is being different taken as a weakness? Why acceptance by peers is so very important? Why cannot some children cope better? Why bullying is persistent? Why do elders---teachers as well as parents—turn a blind eye when they should protect the weaker ones? What takes to tilt the balance? How much one can bear until he/she breaks?
How a loner like Peter turns out to be a killer? Initially, the accused was the victim. Most of his life, he had been bullied even when he tried to be invisible. Does this justify what he did? Does anything?

Picoult has taken all those into account and more. She has questions for the legal system, education system and students. Her questions hit hard. They make us sit back and think. She shows us all the sides. There are no blacks or whites but greys, which are more prevalent. Another captivating novel by Jodi Picoult, which speaks out about the prevalent system and its loopholes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Downsizing Your Home With Style by Lauri Ward

Title: Downsizing Your Home With Style
Author: Lauri Ward
ISBN: 978-0-06-117097-3
Publisher: Collins/2007
Pages: 164 Hardcover

I received this book free, from Collins Nonfiction via Gather some time back as I volunteered to review it. It could not have come at an appropriate time. I am on verge of moving house and the book is timely for that. As I live in India, I had not heard of Lauri Ward. I found useful ways to create space and make it functional. Lot of practical ways to improve upon the space one has. However, I am moving to a bigger house than this, so space is not going to be a problem for me. Still, de-cluttering is a must.

I even went to the extent of measuring each single space, in my new home and photograph it the way she has suggested. That way I already know what to place where and how, after I finally move in. My biggest concerns are my books and I need lots of space for those. I have even made up my mind for what kind of book shelves I would need after looking into the book. I will get the local carpenter make those for me.

I am going to discard stuff or remodel those, which can fit in. Her suggestions are down to earth, sensible and very handy. Her photograph shows us how to make optimum use of natural light, how to make a room look bigger and how to highlight certain items. What kind of shelves should be built, how the bigger or smaller pieces should be placed. Cluttering should be avoided and she even offers solutions how to go about it. She advises us to let go of things which we no longer need.

One book which everyone should read, irrespective of moving house or otherwise!

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

Title: Second Glance
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books/2003
Pages: 506
Genre: Fiction

Second Glance was a book beyond my imagination. It took me into an entirely different world. Jodi Picoult makes such a world possible with her words.

Ross Wakeman has a death wish since Aimee, his fiancée died. He tries to kill himself in every way conceivable but always comes back alive. He tries desperately to connect with Aimee in some way thus becoming a ghost hunter. Strange things start to happen in tiny Comtosook, Vermont as a developer wants to build a strip mall in an ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground. The inhabitants talk of supernatural forces at work and Ross tries to explain the paranormal phenomena and meets Lia, who reawakens love in him. When he tries to follow his heart, next thing he sees is beyond anything he can comprehend.

The lives of Az Thompson, Spencer Pike, Ruby Weber, Lia Beamont, Meredith Oliver, Eli Rochert, Ross Wakeman and his sister Shelby are all linked although they are not aware of it. The story goes back 70 years; Ross and Eli try to find out a murder unsolved for as long. What journey they have to traverse to reach there is what the novel is all about. Shelby’s son Ethan suffers from XP, where he cannot be exposed to sun and Meredith’s daughter, Lucy can see ghosts.

Second Glance covers a lot about Eugenics where a few so-called scientists decide who should propagate and who should undergo sterilizations. The Abenaki Indians are the biggest losers. They cannot own land in the same place, which really belongs to them by virtue of their birth.

Jodi Picoult has the ability to mesmerize the reader. Her word has power. This is a story about love beyond time, ghosts and paranormal forces. One does not have believe in ghosts to be spellbound by this book. Ross Wakeman ultimately finds the meaning of his life, his living….

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter

Title: Pollyanna
Author: Eleanor H Porter

ISBN: 1853261459

Publisher: Wordsworth Classics/1913

Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 188

Somehow, I had missed reading this, although I had bought this book for my niece a few years ago. Yesterday, I picked up from her place and decided to read for the Decades Challenge 2008. I am glad I finally read it at one go.

Pollyanna’s father dies and she comes to live with her aunt, Miss Polly, who takes her in as duty. She has no love for the eleven-year girl, who had lost her mother, Polly’s sister at a very young age. The little girl is unaware of her aunt’s sour nature and is very glad to be with her.

Pollyanna has the ability to adapt to any situation. She can find something positive in the most adverse of things. Her father had taught her call it the ‘glad’ game. Pollyanna's Glad Game is truly a beneficial effect. She and her father made-up the game,- which consists of always looking for something to be glad about, after their missionary relief barrel held not the doll that Pollyanna wanted so much, but a pair of crutches. They decided to be glad they did not need those crutches.

Slowly we observe Aunt Polly thawing from her coldness by her niece’s sunny nature and good humour. Pollyanna’s nature is a tonic for everyone who meets her. Those who do not, she goes out of her way to make them happy. She succeeds too until she is hit by an automobile and loses the use of her legs…her gladness turns to despair. Again, we observe a shift in her nature when something no one envisaged for her Aunt Polly, happens and brings back her optimism. Does she get better?

This book has many similarities with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Anne of Green Gables. Still it can stand on its own. All three books reinforce positive thinking.
Although, it gets too much at times. How any one can be happy all the time? It sounds unrealistic.

After analysing it, I deduced that there is also a grim almost mocking sense of humour, significant profundity and a lot of sensible psychology. The exposé of turn-of-the-century benevolence is cutting. Pollyanna is not naive. She knows there is pain and misery, in fact she suffers for it too. She may be an angel, but she is a very perceptive angel with a true understanding of the ability of her own goodness. If we grasp that aspect, the story becomes poignant at some point. A brave little girl, forced to accept hard times as something good, which she does with much bravado.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Booking through Volume

Would you say that you read about the same amount now as when you were younger? More? Less? Why?

When I was in school, I used to read a book a day. All the local libraries knew me as the girl who devoured books. When I went to college, it lessened. What with studies, my reading was reduced considerably. For six odd years, I was busy studying for various degrees. However, I still read two books per week. After I got a job, my reading stayed steady at that for a few years.

Now I read a lot more. 4 books per week, which I think is good enough.

My reading habits have changed too. Previously, I read only fiction, but now I can read wide and varied subjects. I am in midst of three books at any given point of time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Title: Summer Sisters
Author: Judy Blume

ISBN: 0440226430

Publisher: Dell Publishing/1998

Pages: 399/Fiction

The story opens with a phone call from Caitlin asking Vix if she would be the maid of honour at her wedding. Then the story goes back to Vix and Caitlin's summer days, and all the events leading up to Caitlin's Marriage.

Vix is a shy and reserved girl, while Caitlin loves to be the centre of attention. Each summer, they return to Martha’s Vineyard, growing closer and they eventually call themselves summer sisters. The first real conflict between them comes up that summer, when they are seventeen. They are both at the beach with their boyfriends having a great time, but it takes a turn for the worse when something happens. Vix moves in life getting educated in Harvard until she gets that phone call from Caitlin.
Older and wiser, Vix discovers some things about Caitlin which she had not been able to see before. A few things are revelations for her. Their friendship is mended. However, they lose that closeness they had shared in their childhood years.

I found it very hard to like the characters. Caitlin is very selfish and does not even try to improve herself. Victoria too is not much better. She just does not seem to have any personality of her own. She is blindly loyal to Caitlin. With selfishness on one’s part and naivety on the other’s this friendship looked more like dysfunction to me.

In addition, there was excessive sex in this novel. Although this is pegged as a story about friendship, both girls seem unhealthily focused on sex. In the latter half of the novel, a sex scene was in nearly every chapter when it was not needed at all.

The only thing that slightly redeems this book is the interesting perspective from secondary characters. I continued reading it because I thought at some point someone would become a mature, interesting, and inspiring character, but unfortunately, that does not happen. Judy Blume might be a good writer for some but for me; I will not read any other book by her.

#Update: It is the same person who writes kid's fiction.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Title: Crow Lake
Author: Mary Lawson
ISBN: 0385337639
Publisher: Delta Trade Paperbacks
Pages: 291
Genre: Fiction

I won this book from Framed and Booked in a book giveaway for BAFAB week. I had no idea of what kind of book it would turn out to be. As soon as I received it, the back cover interested me so much that I started reading it right away. I finished it around midnight. It kept me engrossed and I did not want to keep waiting to finish it.

The story begins with Kate Morrison. She is narrating it for us right from when she was six years old. She has two elder brothers, Luke who is nineteen and Matt who is seventeen. They have a baby sister Bo, who is eighteen months old. Right in the beginning, we see the children losing their parents in a car accident. Luke who had never cared much for his siblings gives up on his dream of becoming a teacher and brings up the younger kids with the help of his brother. Matt has always been interested to go to the University but due to some reason I need not elaborate here, he can’t. Kate follows Matt’s dream. She ends up becoming a zoologist.

This novel is set in the wild terrain of Ontario. Here heartbreak and hardship go hand in hand. The story of the Morrisons is tied up with the Pye family. The Pyes are a cursed lot where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons. On the centre stage are the Morrisons undergoing tragedy but it is not brutal. In a way, it binds them together.

We see Kate saddened by the fact that Matt could not pursue his dreams. She shuts him from her world completely thinking it would only pain him to see her going for what he had coveted most. Kate has many misconceptions regarding her brother Matt, although he is one person she loved most in this world. No one could measure upto him. When she leaves for University, she shuts him out giving up the closeness they had shared while they were younger.

I liked reading this very much. The Morrison children are very close to each other. The bonding is palpable. They seldom show their love for each other, but are very caring. They do not want to lose each other by being apart from each other. That part appealed to me. I am very close to my siblings. I share a wonderful rapport with my brothers. May be that is why I liked the book. Family love...that is what is underlying in this novel. Finally, we see Kate coming into terms with herself and her family.

Mary Lawson can weave words very well. This book is worth reading at least once. In no way this book is depressing. It has humour going for it even in the face of adversity. The love shines through despite the bubbling arguments.

2002: winner, Books in Canada First Novel Award

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Booking through Ghoulish tales


Do you read horror? Stories of things that go bump in the night and keep you from sleeping?


When I was younger, I used to read ghost stories/spooky stories. I was not exactly scared but was very inquisitive. Horror for me is not those twilight ones but it is about the evil within the soul of a man. Oppression is a type of horror too. I prefer to read books dealing with that. These issues chill my heart and keep me awake. The terrors in the mind are much more destructive and can destroy us if we let those. However, ghouls, ghosts and goblins have amused me. Horror is indefinable. It can be interpreted in varied ways. Hving said that, I did read few horror novels for the just finished RIP challenge. I enjoyed that too.

What gives me goose bumps and keeps me awake at night? The very thought of participating in NaNoWriMo! I can write poetry. But how do I proceed to write a novel? I have signed in with no idea of a title, or topic and without any specific plot. How do I go about it?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R L Stevenson

Title: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Author: R L Stevenson
ISBN-10: 0582427002
Publisher: Penguin Classics/64 pages

Robert Louis Stevenson’s "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is a timeless novella first published in 1886. The classic battle between good and evil is played out not in the forms of a hero and a villain, but within the mind and soul of one man who plays with the idea of acting out his malevolent wishes. It is a much deeper study of the human soul and its longing to be evil, suffering none of the consequences. Repeatedly, Jekyll drinks his liquid courage and sets free the evil that lies inside. As the days, weeks and months pass by, Jekyll finds it harder to control the beast within, and his unholy friend starts appearing more often. Ultimately, Mr. Hyde goes too far on one of his escapades, driving Jekyll to the brink of insanity.

The story starts with the introduction of characters such as Enfield and his friend Utterson. After hearing a bizarre story involving Dr Jekyll, Utterson sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding Mr Hyde. We also get to meet Poole, Dr. Lanyon, and a maidservant who witnesses actions against one Mr. Carew. Although Jekyll and Hyde are the title characters, most of the book focuses on Utterson.

While reading this book, I thought that Dr Jekyll is more evil than Hyde. Instead of prohibiting himself from taking more of the elixir, Jekyll openly enjoys it. He could have controlled it but he did not.

Robert Louis Stevenson portrays every man's dual character and the onus is on us to choose which way we want to go. Stevenson describes the city, buildings and people as they were at that time. The characters are very real and convincing; some might even be compared to people on our own lives.

Somehow, I found that the whole plot was a bit slow and boring at the beginning and there was a forceful rush towards the end to finish it. Still I felt that one should read this book at least once if only to enjoy the sheer beauty of words. I am glad that I read it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Feudal Lord by Tehmina Durrani

Title: The Feudal Lord: A Devastating Indictment
of Women’s Role in Muslim Society

Author: Tehmina Durrani
ISBN: 0552142395
Publisher: Corgi Books/1995
Pages: 382
Genre: Non-fiction/Biography

Though The Feudal Lord is pegged as making a powerful statement about Muslim Society in Pakistan and men interpreting Islam to suit them, marrying and divorcing is common amongst the men. I consider this as a powerful statement for all those parts of the world where feudal system still exists. All the power is centred on the men and the women have no say in the matter.

Tehmina belongs to a powerful family in Pakistan and is expected to marry in a family of same stature, having children and lead a life, which is sheltered. Tehmina meets Anees while she is in school and marries him despite her parent’s misgivings. After a while, she finds herself bored with him. When Mustafa Khar, twenty years her senior, slowly seduces her, she is ready for his attention. He is one of a very prominent figure in Pakistan Politics. She is flattered by his attention, when he professes love for her; she divorces Anees and secretly marries him becoming his sixth wife. Her parents promptly disown her.

Her life turns into a nightmare after a while. Mustafa is a violent, possessive and a jealous male who expects complete obedience from his wife. The abuse and beatings start although she is pregnant. After beatings, he seems to come back to his senses and professes love for her. This is indeed a vicious circle. Tehmina too falls for it. She suffers for thirteen years, bearing him four children in between. Once he kidnaps their children to make her return to him. She does go back to him. The torture starts all over again. He has an affair with her younger sister. Finally, she leaves him giving up on her children and all her possessions. She is alienated from her friends and her parents yet again reject her.

Tehmina is repeatedly broken, betrayed, used, abandoned, mashed up, but in the end rises and survives in Pakistan's male dominated society. Its message is for any woman oppressed anywhere.

After the divorce, Mustafa tells Tehmina, “You have to introduce yourself as my ex-wife. You have no identity of your own. Nobody knows you. People meet you because you have something interesting to say about me.”

After she wrote this book, he called her before its impending publication and asked her about it. Her reply was, “Well, Mustafa, now the world will soon know you only as Tehmina Durrani’s ex-husband.”

The book also makes political statements of contemporary Pakistan but I am not dwelling on that. Writing this book was the best thing Tehmina did by giving a voice to oppressed women not only in Pak

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Title: The Tenth Circle
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 1741146933
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/2006
Pages: 385

This is my second Picoult. Not as good as The Sister's Keeper. It tends to be boring at some points. There are too many loose ends too. However, it has raised valid issues about teenagers, which every parent should know.

Trixie, a fourteen year old comes home one night and tells her father, Daniel Stone that her former boyfriend has raped her. Daniel is a cartoon artist who has always looked after his precious daughter by being a stay at home dad. When he hears that, he is filled with rage. First, he has to take her to the hospital for check up.

Daniel Stone has a past about which his family is unaware. He was the only white boy in a native Eskimo village and was ragged ruthlessly because he is so different. He escaped from there by stealing, drinking, robbing and cheating his way out sharpening his artistic talent. He wills himself to give up his rage and anger to become a docile, devoted husband and father. Fifteen years later, Daniel is a successful comic book artist. Laura, his wife teaches Dante’s Inferno at a local college. The analogy of the Inferno and the story are well depicted.

Now that his daughter has been date raped, his rage and anger returns full force. He is unable to cope with that sense of helplessness, which only a parent can feel. He feels guilt about not being able to protect her. His wife Laura too feels that she should have been home each night for her daughter.

What I found very disturbing after reading this book is that our teenagers are growing up very fast. At fourteen when they should be involved in studies and other sports activities, they are affected by broken relationships, drugs etc. Trixie even lies to her parents about her whereabouts. Her story does seem to have many loopholes as she herself does not really remember what happened to her. We see Trixie trying to commit suicide, and running away from home. We observe Daniel and Laura going into pieces.

Picoult tries to show us all the sides, all the perceptions. She makes us weigh the pros and cons without being judgemental. She makes us decide what is right and wrong. It might not be the best Picoult but it really covers a very relevant issue about date rape.

The graphics too go very well with the story as is the intention of the writer.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking with Abandon

what books have you abandoned and why?

In the course of my reading, I have abandoned quite a few books for varied reasons. The ones I remember most are:

1. Ulysses by James Joyce: I could never go beyond page four. It simply did not interest me. God knows, I tried.

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: I read it halfway through but abandoned it. The simple philosophy did not gel with me. I am yet to pick up another Coelho.

3. A Passage to England by Nirad Choudhury: The language detracted me from reading it beyond page forty.

4. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway: I can't read Hemingway for nuts. This is not the first Hemingway I abandoned. The Old man and the Sea is the only Hemingway I have ever finished.

5. A House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipal: For some reason, though I identified with the characters, I could not finish it. May be some day..

6. Exodus by Leon Uris: I started it when I was in school. It was too horrifying at that time for a 15 years old. I suppose it is time to pick it up again.

The list is pretty exhaustive....:D

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Title: Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
ISBN: 0710501447
Published: Priory books/November 1993

This is another of my re-reads of children’s fiction. This time I enjoyed it even more. The story begins with Alice being bored and suddenly observes a talking white rabbit. Curiosity aroused, she follows the rabbit down a rabbit hole into a world full of eccentric creatures, weird happenings, and baffling pastries.

Alice is a great heroine. Throughout all of her backwards and upside-down adventures, she remains level-headed and logical, always trying to reason her way out of the most unreasonable situations. Other characters include- the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, Bill the Lizard, the Caterpillar, the Duchess and her peppery cook, the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Gryphon, the Red and White Queens, the talking flowers, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, and the Red and White Knights. Carroll also created many fascinating new creatures in his stories, including bread-and-butterflies, rocking-horseflies, slithy toves, mome raths and many more.

My favourite part of this book is when Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat. He is very witty and his grin is unparalleled. When Alice first speaks with the cat, and asks him which way she should go, his typical response is-

'In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in that direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.’
'But I don't want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat, ’we're all mad here. I am mad. You're mad.’

I also love the whole tea party setup, in which the Mad Hatter and March Hare keep moving from seat to seat round a large table, drinking tea and eating bread and butter. The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle are similarly hilarious, as well as the Queen of Hearts, who orders everyone's head to be chopped off at her whim.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was the first book written for children. It is entirely void of moral, and instead written exclusively for pure entertainment. Before this, children were stuck with stories that preached goodliness and virtue. Even Carroll pokes fun of those stories during the course of this story. His stories were an unexpected breath of fresh air amongst Victorian society, and that is what made this book immensely popular with both adults and children.

What I find most captivating as an adult reader is, Carroll's brilliant use of wordplay and symbolism throughout the stories. Almost everything has some sort of double meaning. There are veiled messages and understated witticisms on every page. Carroll also takes in quite a few lampoons of famous songs and rhymes in England in those times. A must read for all ages. It has that timeless quality of fantasy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Author: Roald Dahl
ISBN: 0-141-31990-9
Publisher: Puffin/2005
First published: 1964
Genre: Children’s Fiction (9-12)

Another book I re-read for my nephew. This book is a pure classic of imagination, magic and fantasy, telling the story from Charlie Bucket's point of view. Charlie, who lives with his four very old grandparents and his mother in a one-room house, can only dream about his future, since his family has barely enough money to survive. He is so poor he gets only one chocolate bar a year, a combined present from his parents and grandparents. To make matters worse, he lives in the same town as Willy Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory.

One day, Willy Wonka announces that he will open his factory to five lucky kids. The rest of the tale is one of scrumptious folly and nerve-wracking sentiment, highlighted by magical workers (the one and only Oompa Loompas), the ethereal Willy Wonka, a host of loony characters, adults and kids, and a thrill ride in a factory where time stands still and also rocks forwards, backwards, sideways and then some!

The main characters of this book are, Charlie who is a very bright boy, Grandpa Joe, a well caring Grandpa and wishes they could give Charlie more in life, and Willy Wonka, the chocolate factory owner. He is hilarious, creative, and somewhat crazy.

The setting of the whole book is the chocolate factory. One can smell the chocolate being made. It is the only factory in the world that has a chocolate waterfall. All of the other candy factories are always jealous and they always try to steal the formulas.

The title gives away any suspense the first part might have, whether he will get a ticket or not. Roald Dahl let his imagination soar when writing this book. It is a classic tale of the triumph of good over evil, generosity over greed and family over fair-weathered friends. The result is a fun tale sure to entertain kids of all ages.