Sunday, October 26, 2008

Booth's Sister by Jane Singer

What led you to pick up this book?

Deb Smith of Bell Bridge books contacted me and then sent me an ARC of the book to read and review.

Plot summary:

This is about Asia Booth Clark, who is the sister of John Wilkes Booth, who killed Abraham Lincoln. She was 30 years old and pregnant when Union soldiers and Federal detectives stormed her home in Maryland in search of Johnny. Although he was not found at her place but she had to bear the brunt and carry the legacy of shame for a long time.

The Booth family was one of the acclaimed acting families of America. Johnny's deed placed them all under suspicion. He was captured and killed but that in no way took away the shame.

In Asia Booth Clark's words:

"My brother killed Abraham Lincoln. That is my weight, my shame. While he remained at large, I was held captive in my home. I should have told the soldiers who came with guns drawn and bayonets at the ready this true thing: I might have stopped him, for I harbored him and kept his secrets. I was a pie safe locked tight and guilty as he."

What did you like most about the book?

I liked the relationship bettween Asia and her brother Johnny. They grew up together. Asia adores her brother but does not understand his radical views and his deeds. That is the anguish of a loving sister who is torn between her brother and her country.

What did you think of the writing style?

Jane Singer based it from the personal memoirs of Asia Booth. She has skillfully woven facts with a bit of fiction to make it interesting. The historic aspect of it comes across. Jane's writing is good. She has researched it well. Lincoln's assassination is a big part of history of America. This book manages to catch that anguish of the nation.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Title: Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
ISBN: 9780375714832
Publisher: Pantheon/2004
Pages: 341/Trade Paperback
Genre: Memoir

I had heard so much about it in the blog world so I was elated when I won a copy of The Complete Persepolis from a giveaway by Thinking About...

How does one describe a graphic novel which is autobiographical? Marjane Satrapi gives us a true account about how is life in the period when Iran is going through Islamic revolution. Her parents are liberal Marxists. But the outer world is completely different. She is expected to dress and behave in a certain manner which is appropriate for Islamic way of life. She is confused about a life which is not open even to her. It is told by her from the age of 6.

She does it with wit and humour. She makes it all come alive for us. Although written with wit, we can sense the turmoil within her mind. She comes of age but for that she has to undergo certain hardships. Her parents make sacrifices so that she can get a better life. In a life filled with war, destructions and repressions, she comes into her own. Despite hardships, she does not lose that thread of sanity and comes out of it.

Living in Iran was not easy even for Iranians. That is what she tells us here. Her parents send her to Austria for her get a better education. For a while she is serious about that but she statrs taking drugs and one day is found unconscious on the streets. After that she gets back to Iran to be with her parents again. Marjane is not afraid to speak her mind. She is very outspoken and fearless.

This a powerful memoir although told with humour. Graphics are sharp and without clutter. The black and white enhances the impact. A must read or everyone. To learn about a world we know nothing about.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Title: Cold Mountain
Author: Charles Frazier
ISBN: 0375700757
Publisher: Vintage/1998
Pages: 449/Trade Paperback
Rating: 5/5

What led you to pick up this book?

One of my blogger friends sent it to me to read for the Southern Challenge. I had not read it then. It took me a while to pick this book but once I started, I did not stop until I finished it.

Plot summary:

Inman is an injured soldier who is disillusioned with the war after fighting in Petersburgh. One day he simply walks out of the hospital he is in, to go to the woman he loves who lives in Blue Ridge Mountains. Meanwhile Ada is trying to survive in the farm left to her by her impractical father. She does not know how to cope up. And help comes in the form of Ruby who refuses to be a servant. Both Ada and Inman's story goes parallel and the highlight is when they finally meet. Inmam meets various kinds of people on his way, prostitutes, slaves, marauders, witches, hunters and many who are so very kind. Despite its starkness and brutality, the novel can be acclaimed as a great piece of work.

What did you like most about the book?

I loved the practical Ruby very much who does not let Ada wallow in self pity. She makes sure that Ada can survive in any circumstances.

What did you think of the writing style?

Frazier's prose is mesmeric. It is almost like poetry at places. I was completely into it. It enthralled me.

What did you think of the main character?

Inmam is not a man of many words. He know what he is doing. Like any soldier, he keeps up his spirit at every point. He does not give in to despair. He knows he has to go to Ada and he does so..

How do you think he feels?

He feels strongly about Ada. He hates the war. He is compassionate too, for the weakest of the weaks. He is ever helpul.

What strengths does Ada has that help her cope?

Initially, Ada has no clue how to cope in the derelict farm after her father dies leaving her alone. But she does not leave the Blue Mountain. That way, she is a fighter although Ruby helps her to make her strong.

What effect do the people in the book have on one another?

Ada and Ruby make a great pair. They have a no nonsense air about them and are very good friends for eah other.

Any other particularly interesting characters?

Ruby's father, Stobred, who is a real bastard but still redeems himself somewhat.

What do you think of the ending?

The ending brought about mixed feelings. However, under the cirumstances, it was the best ending. Real life does not have fairy tale endings.

Do you recommend this book?

Yes, I recommend this book for all those who like serious reading. It is not a feel good book. It is stark, brutal, hitting you on the guts kind of book. The sombre feelings lasts long after one finishes it. The writing is very good and that is one good reason to read it. It also has a timeless feel to it. A classic in the making. It somewhat made me remind of The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

The Kings of Innocence by Michael Burns

Title : The Kings of Innocence
Author: Michael Burns
ISBN: 0979706815
Publisher: Tucket Publishing/2007
Pages: 218

What led you to pick up this book?

I won it in a giveaway from Sandra of Fresh Ink Books

Plot summary:

Roy McCrath has come back to his hometown for two weeks to look after his brother Bobby as his parents are off on a Vacation to Ireland. Here he rediscovers his bonding with his childhood friends. Each one of them has some issues to deal with. Roy finds that he is not alone trying to cope up with life. Jay and Mark are doing the same. Jay gets involved in local mafia becos of a gambling debt. Mark, a police officer is in a dilemma how to save the situation. Mark and Roy try to reason with Jay but with no avail.

What did you like most about the book?

The friends stick to each other and are fiercely loyal.

What did you like least?

Jay's girlfriend, Lauren, who is two-timing him.

What did you think of the writing style?

It could have been a little better. At few places, I felt it lacked conviction. Still, it is a coming of age novel and depicts the dilemma faced by many youngsters of the present times. Most of which is about job, money and relationships. One has to get a hold on those. One ought not lose touch with reality. It is a one time read, good while it lasts. Don't forget to pass it on to a youngster in a similar situation. My copy goes for my 22 year old niece.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sir Cook, The Knight? by Erik Mortensen

Title: Sir Cook, The Knight?
Author: Erik Mortensen
Illustrations: Laura Harrison
ISBN: 9780978202651
Publisher: Crackjaw Publishing
Pages: 97

I had asked for this book of fables from
mini book expo to read and review. I received it last week and found it perfect to read during the 24 Hour Read-a-thon.

This book is based in the medieval age and is about Higgins , who is a cook. One day he finds himself umemplyed and sets off to find work for himself with his newly bought mule. Only the mule is too smal to carry all his things. After a while Higgins devises a plan to carry his cookware. He ties his baking trays on his persona, puts the cooking pot on his head and carries knife like a sword at his waist. For that he is mistaken to be a knight. He being a honest person denies it but no one is ready to listen to him. Meanwhile, he meets Randall, a conman, who devises a plan to con the King of Dryuban. Higgins resist but circumstances become such that he has to agree! So both land up in that city and despite their best efforts to con, they end up doing all the bravery stuff they were NOT supposed to do!

Higgins might only be a cook but he is one intelligent person. He does not like conning at all. Randall has no such qualms. However, they make a great pair. Here they get to kill a dragon, save another kingdom and in the process find themselves rich. All their plans to con turn disastrous! Finally Higgins is recognised for his cooking and is very happy for it.

This book is a satire in a way. People will believe what they want to. No conning is necessary for that. With wit and humour, this book made a good read. I laughed all the way to it. I would call this book a riot! And as the author says, meant for reading aloud! And my copy goes to my 11 year old nephew. Yes, this book can be read by both children and adults. There are illustrations, which are really very good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Guest Post by Michelle Moran---Author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen

Guest Post by Michelle Moran---Author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen

First of all, thank you very much for having me here! When you first asked me to write a guest post, I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about. History’s surprises. I don’t mean the small surprises an author uncovers during the lengthy process of researching for an historical novel, such as the fact that the Romans liked to eat a fish sauce called garum which was made from fermented fish. Ugh. No, I mean the large surprises which alter the way we think about an ancient civilization and humanity.

The Heretic Queen is the story of Nefertari and her transformation from an orphaned and unwanted princess to one of the most powerful queens of ancient Egypt. She married Ramesses II and possibly lived through the most famous exodus in history. I assumed that when I began my research I would discover that Ramesses was tall, dark and handsome (not unlike the drool-worthy Yule Brenner in The Ten Commandments). And I imagined that he would have been victorious in every battle, given his long reign of more than thirty years and his triumphant-sounding title, Ramesses the Great. But neither of these assumptions turned out to be true.

My first surprise came when I first visited the Hall of Mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Contrary to every single media portrayal of Ramesses and every movie ever made, it turns out the Pharaoh was not tall, dark and handsome as I had expected, but tall, light and red-headed (which was just as fine, by me)! When his mummy was recovered in 1881, Egyptologists were able to determine that he had once stood five feet seven inches tall, had flaming red hair, and a distinctive nose that his sons would inherit. There were those who contended that his mummy had red hair because of burial dyes or henna, but French scientists laid these theories to rest after a microscopic analysis of the roots conclusively proved he was a red-head like Set, the Egyptian god of chaos. As I peered through the heavy glass which separated myself from the a man commonly referred to as the greatest Pharaoh of ancient Egypt, my pre-conceived notions of Ramesses II fell away. I knew that the oldest mummy ever discovered in Egypt had had red hair, but to see red hair on a mummy in person was something else entirely.

My second surprise came as I was attempting to piece together what kind of man Ramesses II had been. I assumed, given his lengthy reign, that he must have been a great warrior who was level-headed in battle and revered as a soldier. Pharaohs who were inept at waging war didn’t tend to have very lengthy reigns. There were always people on the horizon – Hyksos, Hittites, Mitanni – who wanted Egypt for themselves, not to mention internal enemies who would have loved to usurp the throne. But while researching Ramesses’s foreign policy, a very different man began to emerge. One who was young, rash, and sometimes foolish. His most famous battle—the Battle of Kadesh—ended not in victory, but in a humiliating truce after he charged into combat strategically unprepared and very nearly lost the entire kingdom of Egypt. In images from his temple in Abu Simbel, he can be seen racing into this war on his chariot, his horse’s reins tied around his waist as he smites the Hittites in what he depicted as a glorious triumph. Nefertari is believed to have accompanied him into this famous battle, along with one of his other wives. First, I had to ask myself, what sort of man brings his wives to war? Clearly, one who was completely confident of his own success. Secondly, I had to wonder what this battle said about Ramesses’s character.

Rather than being a methodical planner, Ramesses was clearly the type of Pharaoh who was swayed – at least on the battlefield – by his passions. However, his signing of a truce with the Hittites seemed significant to me for two reasons. One, it showed that he could be humble and accept a stalemate (whereas other Pharaohs might have tried to attack the Hittites the next season until a definitive conqueror was declared). And two, it showed that he could think outside the box. Ramesses’s Treaty of Kadesh is the earliest copy of a treaty that has ever been found. When archaeologists discovered the tablet it was written in both Egyptian and Akkadian. It details the terms of peace, extradition policies and mutual-aid clauses between Ramesses’s kingdom of Egypt and the powerful kingdom of Hatti. Today, the original treaty, written in cuneiform and discovered in Hattusas, is displayed in the United Nations building in New York to serve as a reminder of the rewards of diplomacy. For me, it also serves as a reminder that Ramesses was not just a young, rash warrior, but a shrewd politician.

There were other surprises as well; about the personal history of my narrator Nefertari, the Exodus, and even the Babylonian legends which bear a striking resemblance to Moses’s story in the Bible. Researching history always comes with revelations, and it’s one of the greatest rewards of being an historical fiction author. There’s nothing I like better than being surprised and having my preconceptions crumble, because if I’m surprised, it’s likely that the reader will be surprised as well.


The Heretic Queen
The novel of an Egyptian queen, and the most famous Exodus in history.


A Novel tells the tale of two sisters, the first of whom is destined to rule as one of history’s most fascinating queens.

Check out Michelle's blog at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Best of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Title: The Best of Friends
Author: Joanna Trollope
ISBN: 9780552996433
Publisher: Black Swan/1995
Pages: 315/Trade Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5

Reading the book blurb reminded me of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. However, that feeling was dispelled as soon I read more than 50 pages. It is about Laurence and Gina, who are best of friends since they were teenagers. Laurance falls in love with Hillary and marries her and they have three sons, George, Adam and Gus. They both run a small Hotel. After some time Gina falls in love with Fergus and marries him and they have a daughter, Sophy.

The story starts with Sophy and Gus talking to each other. Gus although two years younger than the sixteen year old Sophy thinks himself in love with her. Sophy gets along well with all the three brothers as they have practically known each other all their lives.

Fergus leaves Gina leaving her devastated. Gina turns to Laurence. Sophy tries to deal with her feelings in her own way, being silent, sullen and angry. She goes off and on to live with her grandmother Vi. Meanwhile Laurence falls in love with Gina, or maybe he had loved her always but not realised it until now. Gina is now very happy about it and plans her future with Laurence. When Hillary and his sons come to know, they too are angry and resentful about it. They boys are sympathetic towards their mother and hate Gina. When Sophy too comes to know of it, she runs away to London to be with her father. Nonetheless, Sophy comes back home to her mother.

This novel is about marriage, relationships and all that entails it. Are Laurence and Gina right in wanting to be together at the expense of others? Can he give up on his life, Hillary and his sons? What about Sophy and Vi? Where do they come into the picture? Hillary and the boys might hate Gina but everyone is concerned about Sophy. They care for Vi too. Gina turns to Laurence as it is very normal for her to do so. He has always been there for her.

Trollope empathises with the characters. Her analysis is good too. The Best of Friends asks a few relevant questions, which can be summarisd by what Vi tells her daughter Gina when she (Gina) says she loves Laurence. She has loved him all her life.

"That's not enough,"she (Vi) said without turning to look at Gina. "It's not enough to give you the right to do as you please."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Short Story Friday: Don't Stop Now by Al Riske

After reading Disappointed by Al Riske, I never thought I will read any of his stories again. Frankly, you can deduce from my review that I did not understand it at all. By his own admission, Al Riske too did not understand it either. Just check out his comments that post of mine. However, he emailed me asking to read Don't Stop Now.

So here I am writing about it after reading the very short story. It is about two teenagers apparantly on a date. They are both seventeen in the summer of 1972.

"We spread a blanket off to one side of the boat launch, under some trees. Island Lake, in Shelton, Washington, is surrounded by small private homes, and this is the only public access. Since it's still early in the season and the homeowners tend to take the lake for granted, there are no boats or skiers out.

It's 1972, and we're both seventeen."

The story flows in conversations between the two. From the conversations, one can see that the girl is more matured in her thinking than the guy. She also knows what she wants. The guy is uncertain and unsure about almost everything. Even their relationship. Or maybe I missed the whole point in this very short story too...*grin*

Al Riske shows promise in this short story. That's all I can say.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Immortals: The Crossing by Joy Nash

Title: Immortals: The Crossing
Author: Joy Nash
ISBN-10: 0505527677
Publisher: Love Spell/2008
Pages: 324

I won this book in a giveaway from Popin's Lair and was sent a signed copy of it from Joy Nash. I decided to read it right away as I had been reading real heavy stuff and needed a change. This is a fantasy romance book.

Book Blurb:

For ManannĂ¡n mac Lir, a musician and Celtic demigod, life had become a blur of post-gig parties, expensive whisky, and cheap sex. And then the baby almost died--a baby he had sworn to protect. On the hunt for the would-be killer, Mac finds Artemis Black, a stunningly dangerous woman who's inexplicably able to intertwine life magic with death magic. For the safety of his people, he should destroy her. But the aching vulnerability in her eyes calls to him. And the raw desire she inspires has nothing to do with a spell. Their love may be forbidden, but Mac and Artemis can't go back once they've made...THE CROSSING

I rarely read romances let alone fantasy romances, whatever that means. Mac, a demigod and half Sidhe, is bored with his life. He desperately needs a change and some adventure in his life. When a faery infant who is under his protection almost dies, he knows he has to get to the bottom of it. In the process, he meets Artemis who can mix life magic with death magic. She is human, though. She is under a compulsion to save her small son Zander and is looking for life magic of the faeries. In the process, the infant almost gets killed. However, she does not let that happen. Mac is hunting for her as he has to punish her for what she did to the faery babe.When Mac and Artemis meet, sparks fly and they are both drawn to each other, regardless of magical powers both possess. Somehow both get embroiled in evil and need each other to save themselves and other souls from that. Mac and Artemis mix their magic to overcome evil. They succeed very well but Mac has to give up something vital for it. As it is a romance, it has that inevitable happy ending.

Did it work or me? After reading it, I had mixed feelings. It had nothing new to offer me in the way of a story. The pace is good though. Both Mac and Artemis are likeable. However, fantasy romance is not really for me. I am better off reading, as someone said, weird stuff. Once in a while reading such a book, is ok. I am not running out to buy the next in the series. But for die-hard fans of this genre, I would say go for it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Short Story: The Dead Man by Fritz Leiber

Another short story from The Frankenstein Omnibus edited by Peter Haining, The Dead Man by Fritz Leiber blows off ones mind. It is not scary in the sense of the word. Yet it speaks of an evil which is possible if we let it to.

A very famous doctor Max Redford calls one of his science writer friend, Fred Alexander to his clinic to show him something. There on the examination table lays a man who is very sick. Fred when asked says that person is suffering from TB. However, when he looks at the patient again, he seems to have bloated up and now suffers from heart disease or something like that. Yet, third time, he turns out to be a healthy specimen with no disease. That person turns out to be John Fearing, a neighbour of Max. John is one such person who can create all sorts of tangible symptoms of any disease, without the disease being present in any way. Not ordinary ailments but very serious ones. John's subconscious created all these. He had suffered becos of it. Max had recognised it and could get him out of it by hypnotism. He had a signal for John. Only using that John could snap out of it. Suddenly Max asks John to play dead and then after he goes into that death state, Max does not get him out of it and despite best efforts by other doctors, who do not know anything about John, he is presumed dead and is buried.

After a very long time Fred is again called by Max, this time to his home, where he meets a vey listless Velda. Fred had known John was in love with Velda, Max's beautiful wife. John is buried somewhere near their house. Velda goes away to bed. Max and Fred keep on talking. And Max raps the same signal he had used to get John out of Hypnotism. Everything happens so sudden. Velda screams from somewhere outsie. Both run out. When the police arrive, Max is dead, and Velda is found inside the vault where John is buried. Body of John is on top of Max, his hands clawing at Max's throat.

The question here is who is the monster? Max? John? Evil is all the more deadly, if it is done so clinically, with cool precision. And how dead are we when we die? What is death?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Short Story: It by Theodore Sturgeon

"It walked in the woods. It was never born. It existed. Under the pine needles the fires burn, deep and smokeless in the mould. In heat and in darkness and decay there is growth. There is life and there is growth. It grew, but it is life and there is growth. It grew, but it was not alive. It walked unbreathing through the woods, and thought and saw and was hideous and strong, and it was not born and it did not live. It grew and lived about without living."

Alton Drew is looking for his dog, Kimbo and finds him dead and mutilated beyond comprehension. He waits there for the killer. When his brother Cory finds him and asks him to come home, Alton refuses. Meanwhile It comes back to the scene to make sure the dog is dead. Alton fires at him but he too gets killed by the It. Alton's niece, Babe too is looking for him when she meets It. It scares her off. She runs away after throwing a rock at It. It falls into the stream and watches Itself dispassionately all the muck and dirt on it, getting cleansed by the flowing water....

I read It by Theodore Sturgeon in The Frankenstein Omnibus edited by Peter Haining. This story is about a monster which defies description. This creature has no name other than It. Sturgeon created an evil character which in his words, does not exist. He does this task with objectivity. We know there is monster out there but do not know what is it. It by itself has no feeling. It is composed and does everything with precision. This is what makes us feel a chill. We are afraid but do not know of what. If Sturgeon wanted to create that effect, he succeeded. Terror does not have to have a name...

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon
Author: Christopher Poalini
ISBN: 0552553204
Publisher: Corgi/2002

I picked this book from my niece's collection when I was in Bangalore. Even though I had started it, I never got around reading more than a few pages. 497 pages and smaller font did not help! However, I started to read again yesterday and did not stop until I finished it.

Eragon is a fifteen year old boy who lives with his uncle Garrow and cousin Roran in Alagaesia and works in his uncle's farm. They are barely able to manage. One day he finds a beautiful stone, which he thinks can buy him and his family more meat. However, no one is willing to buy it when they find out it came from Spine, a place of magic. One night a dragon hatches out of it and scares Eragon out of his wits. Coming back to his senses, he hides it from everyone he knows. Unknowingly he has been exposed to a world of magic, adventure, fantasy which intermingles with evil. When tragedy befalls him, he has to escape with his dragon along with an old story teller, Brom.

Brom knows all about dragons and their legacy and teaches Eragon about them. The poor farm boy now becomes one of the legendary Dragon Riders. They embark on a journey to save the Empire which is ruled by an evil king. On their way, Eragon meets wizards, elves, and many evil characters about whom he had no inkling at all. Is he the one selected to save the Empire?

Eragon and the Dragon Saphira can connect in their minds. They have a beautiful relationship. Although the dragon is younger than Eragon, we can see she is very protective about the boy and is almost motherly towards him. Eragon too loves Saphira and cares that no one harms her.

This book should appeal to all as it has great battle scenes, magic, armour, totally evil beings along with elves, wizards, dwarves, humans and not to forget the Dragon. It is also a coming of age story of a boy of unknown origins who is selected to be a dragon rider. The beginning was a bit slow and I did find the last 50 pages too hurried but as a fantasy, it works...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Short Story: My Mother, the Crazy African by Chimamanda N Adichie

Short Story Monday

My Mother, the Crazy African, a short story, was written by Chimamanda N Adichie before she wrote and published her novels. She was a college senior at the time of writing this story was going by the name of Amanda. I found this story online on Web Del Sol.

This story too deals with immigrant experience, like You in America. It is about a young girl who lives in Philadelphia with her parents. Her mother is very much the Nigerian. She speaks, thinks and does everything that has to do with Nigeria. She is proud of her roots. But the young girl Lin, whose real name is Ralindu, hates anything that reminds her of Nigeria. She wants to belong in US. She dislikes speaking Igbo, which she has to speak with her mother. Her father too has adapted well to his adopted country.

When people ask where I am from, Mother wants me to say Nigeria. The first time I said Philadelphia, she said, "say Nigeria." The second time she slapped the back of my head and asked, in Igbo, "is something wrong with your head?""

Lin tries to fit in, behaving like any other average American kid. Her mother does not like it when a boy Matt, arrives to study with Lin. According to her, girls should be only be friends with girls and boys with boys.

"Americans don't care about that nonsense of being from your ancestral village, where your forefathers owned land, where you can trace your lineage back hundreds of years. So you trace your lineage back, so what?"

Lin is torn betwen being a Nigerian and an American. She wants to fit in but her mother wants her to retain her identity. Here lies the dilemma of every immigrant. How to deal with this situation. Adichie has dealt with it very well. She has asked relevant questions. Even though, no solution is offered, her prose holds our interest. At the end of it, I liked the mother more than the daughter. Just click on the title to read it online....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Dog About Town by J F Engelert

The Sunday

Title: A Dog About Town
Author: J F Engelert
ISBN: 9780440243632
Publisher: A Dell Book/2007
Pages: 271

Randolph contacted me via email asking me if I woul like to read this book about him. I have never been offered a book by an intelletual dog before. I had to say yes. Randolph sent this and the next in series too. I am very glad to know Randolph and his master, Harry.

Randolph lives with Harry who is his master now, by default. Harry's missing girlfriend Imogen is the owner of the dog. He has inherited his love for the printed word from his mistress. Both Harry and Randolph miss Imogen and try to cope with it in their own ways. Randolph is aware that he has to protect Harry from any harm.

Harry, an artist before Imogen's disappearance now dabbles in occults, maybe to learn about her. Somehow in the midst of this a murder occurs. Randolph whose sense of smell is astounding, senses that Harry is in danger. He goes about teaching Harry what's going on...

Randolph loves poetry, he can quote from great many books that he reads when no one is there. He can sift through smells consisiting of various emotions....anxiety, greed, fear and much more. He is funny too unlike Harry. At sometimes, we can't make sure who is the master here. They make a great pair. As the story is told from the point of view of the dog, it works very well here. With wit and humour, Randolph manages to charm us. As a mystery, it is not much but as a dog book, it works very well. I am looking forward to read the next one, A Dog Among Diplomats.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

Title: The Outcast
Author: Sadie Jones
ISBN: 978099513421
Publisher: Vintage Books/2008
Rating: 4.5/5

There was nobody there to meet him. He stood in line behind three other men and watched them get their things and sign the papers, and walk out, and the all did it the same way, as if you couldn't choose how to do a thing like that after all the time you'd been waiting for it. It made the same man out of all of them.

This is about Lewis Aldridge, who is nineteen and just has been released from prison after two years of sentence. He knows he is not welcome home but he has nowhere else to go. No one accepts him into their fold. He is ignored totally. Only Kit, a fifteen year old girl, awaits eagerly for his return. He barely even notices her.

When Lewis was six years old, he had waited with his mother for his father's homecoming from the war. Lewis is a happy child who loves his mother and is also well liked by the other children of Waterford. He is in awe of his father. However, tragedy strikes. His mother dies by drowning while they had both gone for a swim. Ten-year old Lewis is unable to cope with it. And father and son instead of getting closer, drift further apart. Gilbert Aldridge marries Alice within a year of Elizabeth's death. To give her credit, twenty-six year old Alice tries to bond with the boy who is too bruised to respond. But she is too young, naive and inexperienced.

Lewis becomes prone to brooding. He harms himself with razor cuts, starts drinking and one day runs away to a London club, staying there overnight. When he returns home, punishment is waiting for him. There is no love between father and son.

Gilbert is an over-bearing father who shuts himself from his own son. He does nothing to help the boy. Instead he remarries to overcome his own loneliness. Even with Alice, he is impatient. He does not seem to appreciate that she is trying to help Lewis. He further isolates Lewis. All this deep resentment accumulates inside the mind of Lewis and one day, he burns down the church. He is jailed for two years. No one visits him while he is there.

We observe a hypocritical society in Waterford. Here people are obssessed with proper behaviour and outer appearances. What dark thing goes on is ignored. They behave as if war did not happen. They follow a routine. There has to be church on Sunday, lunch parties at the Carmichaels', which is attended by every family. Dicky Carmichael calls the shot. He is socially much respected. But only his wife Clair, daughter Tamsin and Kit are is aware of his violent ways and they keep quiet about it. Kit bears the brunt of his beatings.

Lewis has been bruised mentally by his own father and Kit has faced beatings from a violent father. Only Kit can understand Lewis. When he realises that she loves him for what he really is, he knows he has to rescue her from her violent father.

This book is powerful. Very gripping and it asks us, who is the outcast? The boy, whom no one understands or the people who made him so? Lewis too comes to understand that none of it is his fault. Only then he finds the peace he seeks. Within himself. He comes to term with the fact that he is not flawed. The people who are around him are flawed.

As a first novel, it is a wonderful work by Sadie Jones. It kind of pulls us in from page one and keeps us riveted. Even after finishing it, I was haunted by it. Dark, brooding, yet so beautifully written.

Read another review of this book here:

Mindy Withrow

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming your Personal Life by Richard Bayer

Title: The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming your Personal Life
Author: Richard Bayer
ISBN: 9780944054161
Publisher: The Five O'Clock Club/2008
Pages: 274

I received this book from Lisa Roe of

Book Blurb: What type of person should you be? What should you do when faced with a decision of ethical importance? Those are the two key questions that everyone should answer, and The Good Person Guidebook helps you answer them and:

  • overcome suffering
  • learn the true meaning of love
  • develop the character traits that will make you happy and fulfilled

I usually do not read or review self-help books. This is one of those. Here the author tries to answer two great questions that arise out of ethical theory. Those are:
  • What type of person I should be?
  • What should I do, given a decision of Ethical importance?

Bayer has dealth with these in an ethical way. He quotes from the well known religions and tries to make us understand the essential good in those. The use of quotes throughout makes it a good read. I sailed through those very fast. The questions at the end of each topic too makes us ponder over what we had just read.

I wouldn't say, I would follow it through and through. But reading it was not so bad. My mom liked many of the quotes. She liked the book more than I did.