Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mondays: Mailbox/Musings/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received two books:

The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin

April in the Wicklow mountains and a young woman is found dead, seemingly sacrificed.Accompanying her body is Chapter One of The Rule Book – a self-help guide for prospective serial killers. Less than twenty four hours later a second murder is committed. Self-claiming the title ‘The Raven’, the killer starts to taunt the police and the media. When the third body is discovered it is clear that The Raven intends to slaughter one victim each day until The Rule Book is published in full. With the pressure from his superiors, the press, and politicians rising, McEvoy stumbles after a killer that is seemingly several steps ahead.

Snowbound by Blake Crouch

For Will Innis and his daughter, Devlin, the loss was catastrophic. Will’s wife, Devlin’s mother, vanished one night during an electrical storm on a lonely desert highway and, suspected of her death, Will took his daughter and fled. Then one night, a hard edged FBI agent appears on their doorstep and says, I know you’re innocent, because Rachael wasn’t the first… or the last.."

In the past week:

I finished:

A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller
The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin
Snowbound by Blake Crouch

I am in the midst of reading:

too many books

I posted reviews of:

A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons
The Cold Room by J T Ellison
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith


Do you ever read a word or phrase that sparks a specific place or setting in your mind and makes you crave to read a book with that type of place/setting in it?

I like books based in the countryside, beaches, mountains. In other words, which are in commune with nature. I tink all of us want to be near nature in one form or other, especially for those who live in concrete jungles, like I do. (BTW, I live in Delhi). It is not to say I don't like books based in such places. Whatever book I read takes me into a journey. A new journey everytime. With reading, we become world travellers. Therefore, any book with good setting is a spark, for me to read it till the end.

Sunday Salon: Catching up with my reading

May turned out to be interesting, in more ways than one. In the first week my brother and his family were here from Bangalore, for a visit. And at that time our schools too had not closed for the vacations. In the next some days, I got around finishing all my pending work, despite one of the worst summers in some years. Right now, we are having seminars as our education system has been revamped and we need to learn about the new system.

All these have taken a toll on my reading. In the first two weeks I could manage to read only two books. I have kind of made it up, finishing a total of 9 books as of today. As usual my reading is mixed and I am happy about that. Who knows I might finish another book, taking the figure to 10. Not bad, eh?

I also have scheduled few of my reviews to come up in the next some days. I still have 7 pending reviews, which I will tackle, one a day. Or maybe I will write a couple of those today.

Here is a list of what I read in May:

54) Snowbound by Blake Crouch (CF, Thriller)
53) The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin (CF)
52) A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller
51) Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
50) Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (Mystery)
49) Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten (CF)
48) The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein
47) Never Let You Go by Erin Healy
46) The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

So what have you been doing, readingwise?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekly Geeks: Getting Graphic

Do you read graphic novels or memoirs? Who are your favorite authors? Which books do you recommend?

If you haven't read any, why not?

Some people have the impression that graphic novels are glorified comic books, are unsophisticated or don't qualify as "serious" literature. What do you think? If you track your book numbers, do you count a graphic novel as a book read?

I have always been reading graphic novels. Although they were known as comic books before the terminology Graphic novels came up. I used to gobble up the Asterix and Tintin albums. I still do. Any one who has read Asterix and/or Tintin books, would consider those as serious reading. They depicted the political situations of those times and were a satire on the society at large.I do count those books towards my book number except for comics like Archie and all. However. to a certain extent, the Archie comics too reflect the teenage years and teenage life, although in a lighter vein.

Anyone recommending good Graphic novels is most welcome to do so in the comments section. I would appreciate that very much.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Finds: A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller

Title: A Summer Secret
Author: Kathleen Fuller
ISBN: 9781400315932
Publisher: Tommy Nelson/2010
Pages: 268

A Summer Secret is targeted for young adults and is the first in a series called The Mysteries of Middlefield. It is based in Middlefield. Ohio and focusses on an Amish family. Mary Beth is a 13-year-old Amish girl, who is sick of her three brothers. She hates their pranks and the way they thrust their responsibilities on her. She also has a lot of chores which includes babysitting her youngest brother, Micah. To escape from all this, she has a hiding place in a dilapidated old barn, where she also writes a journal in the form of sketches and words.

One day she discovers that someone has been coming into her barn. First she thinks it is her twin Johnny but he denies it. So they set out to find out who has been visiting the barn. When they do get to know about that person, they set out to help him in the form of food and clothes. Now both of them are keeping a secret from their Mami and Daed.

Mary Beth and Johnny know that they can't hide the secret for long and have to tell their Mami and Daed. Before they can do that, the barn is struck by lightening and is burnt down. Mary Beth has to tell them the secret. However, the person who had been living there had left it much before the fire as he and Mary Beth had fought before that.

Mary Beth and Johnny are lying to their parents. Even if it was for a good cause, that didn't gel with me. I also found that Mary Beth is given too much chores and she doesn't have any time for herself. But I had all sympathies for the person hiding in the barn. He really had a tough life and had nowhere else to go.

As I have three brothers, I could relate to Mary Beth to a certain extent but truthfully speaking I never had to do so much work in my teenage years. I truly can't comment on the Amish way of life as I don't know much about it. But I do think, kids deserve so much better. Mary Beth and Johnny get closer to each other as twins ought to be and that is a good thing. With simplistic prose, somewhat predictable ending, it is a clean read for young adults.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for my copy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Booking through bedside

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What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

I don't really keep books in the bedside as I don't read in bed. My dad had reinforced early in my life, that books are not to be read lying down in bed. That habit has stayed with me. I seldom read in bed unless I am sick. Then too, I read sitting on the bed. However, I do have books spread over almost everywhere. On my study table, my computer table and at times, dining table. On my couch too.

Right now I am reading The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin, a noir crime fiction novel. In the morning I finished A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller, an Amish fiction. I am picking up books in a random manner, whatever takes my fancy.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Title: The Kitchen House
Author: Kathleen Grissom
ISBN: 978-1439153666
Publisher: Touchstone/2010
Pages: 368

Book Blurb:

In 1790, Lavinia, a seven-year-old Irish orphan with no memory of her past, arrives on a tobacco plantation where she is put to work as an indentured servant with the kitchen house slaves. Though she becomes deeply bonded to her new family, Lavinia is also slowly accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. As time passes she finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds and when loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare and lives are at risk. The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

My views:

The premise interested me because of a white girl working as an indentured servant with black slaves. I had not read any other book on that. Lavinia has no memories other than random dreams of a family she had, before she was brought to the tobacco plantation by the owner, Captain Pyke. She is to be trained as servant under the care of Belle, who is the illegitimate daughter of the Captain.
Lavinia and Belle develop a bonding over the years.

Told in alternate voices of Lavinia and Belle, we get deep insights into the lives of slaves, and their relationship with their masters. Belle's voice is logical, practical and she is not afraid to narrate the unpleasantness. Lavinia is emotional and wavers at times. I think that is normal as she is younger and has not found her footing in the initial few years. Lavinia is taken in by both the Pyke's family and the slaves working in the Kitchen House.

The Captain is seldom home and his wife, Martha, is sickly, mainly due to addiction to opium. A tragedy befalls, which makes Martha almost lose her mind. That's when we see Lavinia getting closer to her. She too comes to like Lavinia. When the Captain dies, Lavinia is sent to Martha's sister and here we see her getting some sort of education. However, Lavinia is always wishing to go back to the Tall Oaks, which she eventually does after marrying Captain Pyke's son, Marshall Pyke. When she discovers his drunkenness and infidelities, it is very late. Now the slaves are no longer the family she always had. She is torn apart by all this happenings.

Belle, despite being the Captain's daughter doesn't get her due. Infact she is brutally raped by Marshall, who thinks that she had always been his father's mistress. With other characters like Will Stephens, Mama Mae, which are essential for the development of the novel, we see the various dilemmas between the two worlds. The worlds, which can't be merged, no matter how hard one tries. Despite love, honour and so much more. And that is the tragedy.

Written in a interesting manner, this novel is fast paced and not something to be forgotten easily. I simply had to read it at one go.

Thanks to the author for the ARC.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN: 1400076943
Publisher: Anchor Books/2003
Pages: 307

When I read Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was kind of hooked to her words. I decided then and there, I will read all her books. Purple Hibiscus is just as engrossing. It speaks out to us at many levels. It is based in Nigeria in 1990s, in the midst of political unrest.

Kambili is a fifteen-year old girl, living with her parents and a seventeen-year old brother, Jaja. Her father is a well known figure who is a politically active and is a very generous person for his community. However, he is very oppressive and fanatically religious for his own family. At any kind of lapse, he punishes them severely, almost damaging them in the process. His love for his children and wife comes much below duty and love for God. He even abandons his own father who follows the old faith.

His sister Ifeoma, an university professer, takes in the children when there is a military coup in Nigeria. There they find a life which they had not envisaged at their home. Despite not having the best of financial resources, their cousins are always laughing and generally happy. Kambili and Jaja had not known of such free display of happiness or laughter. Slowly the children emerge out of their shells. Initially wary, both set of cousins slowly reach out for each other.

Kambili goes through the painful process of becoming an adult from a child. However, at what cost? What appealed to me the most, was the closeness between Kambili, Jaja and their mother, who suffers silently.

The title is so apt. Purple Hibiscus here are genetically made up. They show as a glimpse of how we can control our own lives if we so desire. How somewhat different attitude can change our lives. The parallels of a country and a family turmoil has been well brought out. Adichie's prose is superb. It holds us to the end. The conflict between old Gods and new ones is not so much as we make it out to be. If only we understood that.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons

Title: Colony
Author: Anne Rivers Siddons
ISBN: 9780061099700
Publisher: HarperTorch/1993
Pages: 640


Book Blurb:

When Maude Chambliss first arrives at Retreat, the seasonal home of her husband's aristocratic family, she is a nineteen-year-old bride fresh from South Carolina's Low Country. Among the patrician men and women who reside in the summer colony on the coast of Maine, her gypsy-like beauty and impulsive behavior immediately brand her an outsider. She, as well as everyone else, is certain she will never fit in. And of course, she doesn' first.

But over the many summers she spends there, Maude comes to cherish life in the colony, as she does the people who share it with her. There is her husband Peter, consumed with a darkness of spirit; her adored but dangerously fragile children; her domineering mother-in-law, who teaches her that it is the women who posses the strength to keep the colony intact; and Maine native Micah Willis, who is ultimately Maude's truest friend.


My views:

Colony spans 70 years and we see it with the eyes of Maude. When she arrives in Retreat, Maine, her mother-in-law doesn't accept her at all. Although her husband loves her, but he is a weak man who goes out to sail whenever the going gets tough. Amy Potter becomes her best friend but her husband is a lecherous man.

Peter is strangly distant of his own two children, who turn out to be somewhat sick. Over the years, Maude, with the help of her mother-in-law develops a strength of character, and is able to ndure anything, which includes sending one of her children to a sanitorium, and also a death of a grand child.

It all comes to a head when, Elizabeth, Amy Potters' daughter returns. She had almost been banished. Peter is strangly protective of her and Maude can't understand why. Maude finds an ally in Micah Willis, whose strength helps her to cope. Her deepening affection for him also shakes her out of her long-hidden feelings.

Although the book kind of drags at places, I still found the prose very poetic and that made me go one, not to forrget Maude's determination. Before this I had read King's Oak and liked it too. I will definitely check out more of Siddons novels.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Cold Room by J T Ellison

She was lying in the rough-hewn slab of wood that passed for a kitchen table. Her body was small, almost birdlike, her fine bones fragile, the skin so pale that Gavin could see the tracing of her veins.
~Page 368

Title: The Cold Room
Author: J T Ellison
ISBN: 9780778327141
Publisher: Mira Books/2010
Pages: 401

Taylor Jackson is a homicide detective in Nashville. She has had her share of seeing horrific crimes in her life. Yet some killer known as the conductor can still manage to shock her. He captures young women, keeps them in a glass coffin, slowly starves them to death and when they are almost dead, he gives in to his pervert attraction for the victims.

That is not all. After the murders, the bodies are re-arranged somewhat like famous painting. It is like as if he is gloating about his artwork. And he doesn't seem to be alone as similar murder victims are found in Europe too. So similar that it seems bizarre, which makes sense only in the end..

Taylor along with her fiance, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, sets out to find the killer(s). When another young woman is found missing, they know they are running against time. Another detective from New Scotland Yard, James Highsmythe, also known as "Memphis" joins them in their search. This detective has some sort of attraction for Taylor. The conductor has to be stopped and his partner(s), if any, has to be found.

The novel does have graphic details of the crimes committed. It might offend some who can't go for gory murders. When the truth comes out for the various murders committed in opposite parts of the world, it jolts the reader. As a crime fiction/psychological thriller, it is fast paced and finishes quickly. The various characters are well developed and we also get to see someone named the Pretender, who is kind of stalking Taylor. She is a detective worth watching out for. Crime fiction readers will like this book. Just the way I did.

Thanks to the author for my copy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mondays: Mailbox/Musings/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received only one book:

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten (ARC)

Book Blurb
Lawyer Danielle Parkman is at her wits' end. Her son Max, a whip-smart teen with high-functioning autism, has always been a handful. But lately he's shutting down, using drugs and lashing out - violently.

Desperate, Danielle brings Max to a top-flight psychiatric facility for a full assessment. But rather than reassurance, Danielle receives an agonizing diagnosis describing a deeply damaged, dangerous boy - one she's never met.

Then Danielle finds Max unconscious and bloodied at the feet of a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death. A fiercely protective mother instinct rears its head - and Danielle is arrested as an accessory to the heinous crime.

In a baffling netherworld of doubt and fear, barred from contacting her son, Danielle clings to the thought of Max's innocence. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her baby boy really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them both, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth - no matter how horrifying. It's a path well on the wrong side of the law. But only finding the true killer will absolve her from having to choose between her son and her soul.

In the past week:

I finished:

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

I am in the midst of reading:

Under this Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

I posted reviews of:

The Painter Of Shanghai
by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

Sunday Salon: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

For a Salon post, I always write a review. Today is no exception.

Child 44
Author: Tom Rob Smith
ISBN: 978-0446402385
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing/2008
Pages: 448

I read Child 44 during the 24-Hour-Readathon and hadn't come around reviewing it till today. Set in the Stalinist Soviet Union of the 1950s, this novel covers a lot of grounds. As a crime fiction novel, it excels despite dragging at times.

When Leo Demidov, a war veteran finds a body of a child on the tracks of a train, he knows that it is a murder. But who killed the boy? Then he finds similarities between other killings of young children. When he goes to the State, no one is prepared to listen to him. Infact the State goes into such a mode so as to deny those killings related to each other.

Leo is convinced that it is a serial killer and has to trace the numerous murders so as to get to the murderer. The State is a stumbling block but he does not let it deter him. He is helpless yet determined even though he know it may destroy his family life.

It is so horrifying that a State can deny and hide the crimes, doing nothing to catch the killer. And in a way very realistic too when I see our own power that hide facts and go to any length to prevent the truth to come out. Has anything changed?

Tom Rob Smith has done a great job and one also gets glimpses of the Soviet Union of that period. With great descriptions, my interest didn't waver at any point of time. It might be a difficult read, what with child killer roaming free, yet well worth reading. The starkness and bleakness only enhances the horror.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekly Geeks: A Character Comparison

Scarlett O'Hara of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is complete opposite of me even though we share the same sun sign. I am impulsive, headstrong and also unafraid. These are common traits with her but I am not manipulative like her. She is so selfish and vain, not to forget the shrewd part. She can go to any length to get what she wants. I am too principled to do that. She is an Aries. And so am I. Yet we are different.

What about you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Booking through useful

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What’s the most useful book you’ve ever read? And, why?

Textbooks come into mind immediately. But then non-fiction books work too. I have learnt a lot from fiction too. Useful for me to learn something new. That way each book that interests me is useful.

How can one name just one? Can you?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: Open Country by Kaki Warner

"You heard he was rich, is that it?" he accused, still pacing. "And now that he's hurt, you're just bidding your time until he dies so you can get your hands on his money. Jesus, what kind of woman are you?"
~Page 38

Title: Open Country
Author: Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley Trade/2010

Pages: 448

Second of the Blood Rose trilogy, Open Country is as good as Pieces of Sky. This is about the second Wilkins brother, Hank. Set in the old New Mexico city, this is a fine piece of historical fiction. Hank is seriously injured in a train accident. Molly McFarlane is desperate to provide for her late sister's children. She has to save them from their step father. She marries Hank assuming he would be dead soon and she would get his insurance settlement. However, Hank survives and obviously does not remember either the train accident or marrying her. Still he takes her to his ranch. The Wilkins family accept her and her wards soon enough and Hank to falls in love with her and those kids.

And then Hank remembers everything. What with Molly's past looming large and the children too hiding something, Hank seems to get more than his fair share of troubles. Yet he knows he has to protect them all. Open Country stands alone and one gets involved with the Wilkins family soon. It is a fairly easy read and finishes fast. It is well wortyh it for all those who like to read about family sagas.

Thanks to Kaki, for this Uncorrected Proof of the novel.

The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

ISBN: 978-0393065282
Publisher: W W Norton/2008
Pages: 416

Book Blurb:

Epstein's sweeping debut novel, set in early 20th-century China, fictionalizes the life of Chinese painter Pan Yuliang. Born Xiuquing, she is orphaned at a young age and later sold into prostitution by her uncle, who needs the money to support his opium habit. Renamed Yuliang, she becomes the brothel's top girl and soon snags the attention of customs inspector Pan Zanhua, who makes her his concubine. Zanhua sets her up in Shanghai, where she enrolls in the Shanghai Art Academy and early on struggles with life study, unable to separate the nude's monetary value from its value in the currency of beauty. She eventually succeeds, winning a scholarship to study in Europe.

My Views:

It reads like a novel and takes us right in the life of China. I was all along with Pan Yuliang, who despite starting as a prostitute and a concubine of a custom inspector makes it good because of her painting skills. The path is not easy but she does not give up. She has this burning desire to learn and strives for what she most desires. Her relationship with Zanhua is very beautiful, who is radical in his views. He is encouraging towards her. I liked Yuliang's ambitions and her determination in the face of adversity. Wherever she goes her past life catches with her but she rises above it all.

The novel talks of the art world and the politics of the times. It spans 40 years. Those who like history will love this book.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

"Pay Attention." Grampa taps the back of my head, hard. "Sam Moody's been arrested for murderin' your mother in the first degree."

~Page 274

Title: Tomorrow River
Lesley Kagen
ISBN: 9780525951544
Publisher: Dutton/2010
Pages: 342

I like books about twins. Tomorrow River is one such book. Based in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains as its backdrop, it also has beautiful atmospheric feel to it.

Shenandoah and Woody Charmody, both 13, are twins. Their mother has disappeared and they are trying to cope with that. Their father, a well known Judge, too seems to have changed, for the worse. He doesn't want them to mix with anyone else and virtually keeps them prisoners. Woody has not spoken a single word since their mother disappeared.

Shenny kind of takes care of her twin, who tags along with her. It appears that their father is going to remarry and Shenny knows she has to find her mother's whereabouts. Woody is no help and anyone she tries to talk to, considers her just a kid. The fact is no one wants to get in the bad side of their father.

Yet Shenny is determined to find out the truth. With the help of their coloured housekeeper she embarks for the same. And plunges right to family secrets, which have been very well guarded. When she faces Woody's secret, she can't believe that it is her twin , who has been protecting her all along, not she.

I liked Shenny and Woody too, who doesn't speak a word. Their father comes out somewhat evil, although Shenny can't see it. With a surprising ending, this novel was a pleasure to read. I had to keep on reading to know what is going to happen. The starkness and darkness merges yet there is light at the end. A beautiful book, well worth the effort.

Thanks to the author, for my copy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mondays: Musing/Mailbox/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received two books:

It's about a blind vigilante who is on a mission to save her brother and the missing kids on Mars. There is action, adventure and romance in this tale as Shamira learns to trust Valens and others.

Never Let You Go By Erin Healy

In “Never Let You Go,” Lexi is a young single mother learning to cope with the aftermath of a family disaster and the decisions of her husband, who left seven years ago. With little left to hold on to, she devotes her life to her only daughter, and is determined to do anything—work grueling hours, sacrifice financially—just to make her happy.

But when her estranged husband unexpectedly reenters their lives, her sister’s murderer comes up for parole and an unwanted acquaintance returns demanding payment of an old debt, Lexi’s world is quickly turned upside-down once again. As hidden sins are exposed and a whirlwind of mysterious forces begin to surface, her tenuous grip on life and her loved ones is threatened.

In the past week:

I finished:

The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
Never Let You Go by Erin Healy

I am in midst of

The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

I posted reviews of:

Musing Mondays2
What happens when you see a movie based on a book/story, especially one you’ve not read? Do you feel the need to track it down and read it?

I do try to track it down and read it. Many a times, I have been disappointed with the movie, not the book. I have read all the Harry Potter books and plan to watch all the movies too. Same goes for Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

However, I prefer to watch the movies made out of Jane Austen Novels. I can't stand her novels!

Sunday Salon: Ask me questions to help me in reviewing

Although it is summer vacations for me, my reading is very slow. I have finished only two books and I have many pending reviews too. I don't know what has come over me.

Here I list the books, for which my reviews are pending:

1) Never Let You Go by Erin Healy
2) The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
3) In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon
4) What the Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy
5) Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen
6) The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
7) Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons
8) The Cold Room by J T Ellison (CF)
9) Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (CF)

I ask for your help in reviewing the above books. Ask me questions about the book which interests you. I will review those by replying to your queries. Please free to ask questions for more than one book. However please do that in separate comments. I look forward to your questions.

Also suggest a few good books to help me get into the reading groove. Leave out fantasy novels!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Finds: Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael.

Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael.

From the author's website:

During the two years that she studied in Brussels, Charlotte Brontë had a taste of life’s splendors—of travel, literature, and art. Now, it is 1845, and she is back home in the desolate Yorkshire moors, duty-bound to a blind father and an alcoholic brother, watching her dreams unravel. With her sisters Emily and Anne, she conceives an ambitious plan to earn a little money: they will publish. Returning to the imaginary worlds that had been their solace since childhood, the sisters craft novels quite unlike anything written before. Against a backdrop of domestic chaos, they go about their business in utmost secrecy, writing under pen names and deftly spiriting manuscripts back and forth to publishers under the noses of unsuspecting family and friends.

Charlotte’s Jane Eyre becomes an overwhelming literary success, catapulting her into the spotlight of London’s fashionable literary scene, and into the arms of her new publisher, George Smith, an irresistibly handsome young man whose interest in his fiercely intelligent and spirited new author seems to go beyond professional duty. Just as life begins to hold new promise, unspeakable tragedy descends on the obscure little parsonage, throwing London and George into the distance and leaving Charlotte to fear that the only romance she will ever find is at the tip of her pen. But another man waits in the Brontës’ Haworth parsonage—the quiet but determined curate Arthur Nicholls. After secretly pining for Charlotte since he first came to work for her father, Arthur suddenly reveals his heart to her.

Romancing Miss Brontë is a fascinating portrayal of an extraordinary woman whose life and work articulated our deepest human longing: to love and be loved in return.

Booking through Influences

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Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

Most of my family and friends read different kind of books. They read the popular books and I prefer to read books out of anyone else's comfort zones. Their recommendations definitely don't influence me. Since I started book blogging, I can pick and choose from other book bloggers recommendations. That too I only pick books which interest me and not what the masses prefer to read.

Lately I have found out that fantasy novels don't interest me any more. I prefer concrete novels based on real places and real people with all the human follies and foibles. And give me thrillers/suspense/mystery novels any day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Weekly Geeks: Secret pasts and peculiar presents

Weekly Geeks:

Does an author's politics matter to you? Do you have a favourite book or series written by someone you know to be your political opposite? Or have you stopped reading works by a particular author after discovering that their politics was radically different from your own? What about their personality? Have you ever stopped reading an author's work after seeing or hearing them talk because you didn't like what you saw or heard. And how about that secret past? How would you feel if you found out your favourite author was a murderer or some other kind of criminal? Are there some crimes that you would be OK about and others that would stop you following their work? Do you know about the pasts of 'your' authors? Do you want to?

I never used to give much importance to the author's personal life, or to his/her political views. Maybe because I never felt the need to explore their lives. But that was before the internet times. Now at the click of a mouse, you can find out all you want. I too look out for details about authors and have been truly put off by some. Anyone with a criminal background totally freaks me out and I don't wish to read their books. Political views don't matter but personal traits do. Any dark secret which is not related to any crime, has no effect on my reading. We all have quirks, so an author's quirks shouldn't really matter. Values and ethics do matter and those do reflect in the works of the author.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A-Z Wednesday: Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Author: Bill Bryson
ISBN: 0552996609
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 352

This is an account of a journey that Bryson makes round Great Britain some time in the early 90's after deciding that he will leave UK and go back to the United States. Before he leaves, he feels the need to see the country, which he has called home for the past two decades. He starts with a recollection of his first arrival in Dover good 20 years before and then repeats the Calais-Dover journey and continues the tour (mostly by public transport) that takes in - amongst others - London's Wapping; Dorset Coastal Path, Salisbury, Lincoln, Bradford, Port Sunlight, Inverness and Wick.

He begins his journey, entering by sea from France as he first arrived, on the south coast of England and aims to travel all around in just a few weeks. This time limit seems like so little once he actually begins. Everything is of interest to him and he cannot quite find the time to fit it all.

It is full of rich conversations, humorous sketches and amusing exchanges with the natives who often astonish him with their observations and attitudes. A good-natured work of art through the country's eccentricities as well as its charms, this is an affable companion for any trip to the isle.

This book is not just a catalogue of Bryson jokes, there are idiosyncratic description and some chapters are gems of light travel writing. He seems particularly better at describing cities and town than countrysides.

Overall, 'Notes from the Small Island' presents an informative, personal and mostly warm portrait of this island and its inhabitants.

Reading this, one should not expect beautiful prose or deep insights. However, it makes us laugh over and over again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays: The Cutting by James Hayman

"Where Spencer's legs met, there was now only an open wound. On the wall above the bed, written in Spencer's blood, a line from the English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
~Page 293

Title: The Cutting
Author: James Hayman
ISBN: 978-0312531294
Publisher: Minotaur books/2009
Pages: 336

Detective Sergeant Michael McCabe from the NYPD, has just moved into Portland, Maine. He is trying to get away from his messy and dark past. His wife has left him and his brother has been killed. He thinks he can raise his young daughter there in a relatively peaceful place. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

What he finds in Portland is horrific. Someone is killing young women, meticulously removing their hearts. That person is very well versed in the precise surgical procedure. Then another young woman goes missing. He knows that unless he finds her soon, she too would end up dead, her heart removed. But he doesn't have any profile of the killer.

When he gets around to find the killer, he finds that there is lot more in there other than just murders. Too much money too involved. He has to know why/how. With Maggie Savage on his side, he gets around to it. Meanwhile his ex-wife comes back to claim the daughter she left behind.

AS a crime fiction, it is at par with the best of it. Hayman has created a great character in McCabe and Also Maggie, who is a perfect foil. The description of the crime committed keeps us engrossed. I liked the pace of the novel. It has a nail biting finish. As a debut, it is one of the best. What more can one ask from a crime fiction?

Thanks to the author for my copy of The Cutting.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mondays: Musing/What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila of Bookjourney

I finished reading


I am in midst of reading:

The Queen Of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

I posted reviews of:

Do you have to carve out time in your day for reading (due to work and other obligations), or does your reading just happen naturally?

I don't really need to carve out reading time from my schedule. Apart from when I am in school, I do pick out a book whenever I want to. Sometimes I read much more than I intend, others it might not happen at all. However, that does not bother me. I always know that my books are waiting for me. I think spontaneous reading works best for me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mailbox Mondays

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia

I received the following two books:

After Cambridge scholar Nathan Tobin discovers and translates an ancient Aramaic letter, he finds himself thrown into an agonizing struggle against powerful forces committed to discrediting him and destroying the letter . “The Alexandria letter” discloses surprising revelations about the lives of Jesus and John the Baptist, and even more surprising insights into the machinations of Paul of Tarsus, which together reveal a dramatically different picture of early events in the development of Christianity.

But as Nathan races to verify the authenticity of the letter, he faces rejection by his fellow scholars and sinister opposition from the Vatican, that aims to stop him at any cost. The Alexandria letter represents the most important work Nathan has ever done, but it may also be his last.

"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . ."

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood's white population steers clear of "Shake Rag," the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town's "cake lady," whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents' longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen's courage and cunning.

The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times—a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie's vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer.

TSS: Guest post by Michael Baron, author of The Journey Home

I welcome Michael Baron, author of The Journey Home on my blog. Here he tells us about how he came about writing the novel. I liked his book. You can read my review here.

My latest novel, The Journey Home, is a number of things. It is a love story (two, actually). It is the story of people searching for home. It is a story about connection and reconnection. One of the things that it is decidedly about is food. I’ve been wanting to write a novel with a strong food theme for a while now. Gerry, my main character in my first novel, When You Went Away, did some cooking and rhapsodized about donuts at one point. There was much less food in my second novel, Crossing the Bridge, though the main character’s making dinner for the object of his desire was a key moment. With The Journey Home, though, I wanted food to play a central role.

To me, this made complete sense. In my mind, the words “food” and “home” are virtually interchangeable. If I were really going to focus on what home means, I was going to need to include a great deal of food. The way this plays out in the novel is that Warren, early forties and one of the three viewpoint characters, is watching his mother Antoinette (another viewpoint character) recede in an assisted living home, as dementia envelops her. Antoinette was a great home cook and Warren always loved her cooking, though he’d never enjoyed time in the kitchen (other than eating) himself. Now that his mother is disappearing before his eyes, he decides to try to recreate some of her greatest dishes in her room in an effort to rally her and bring her back.

I was determined not to use the food in this novel as a prop. If I were going to say that Antoinette was a talented and imaginative cook, then I couldn’t simply have her make a really good chicken pot pie or a top-notch meatloaf. She had to make original dishes that required both a sense of skill and adventure. That meant that I needed to come up with original dishes. On top of this, the cooking that defined home for Warren would be the cooking Antoinette did when he lived at home. Since the novel is set now, that meant that Warren had gone off to college in the late eighties, before the American food revolution that changed the way so many people cook and source ingredients. Compiling these dishes was a bit like writing a period piece; I needed to avoid anachronism. In this case, it meant I needed to forget quite a bit of what I know about food.

Just to make this a little harder for myself, I decided that I wanted the food to tell part of the story for me. I wanted the dishes to say things about both Warren and Antoinette, as well as Antoinette’s now-departed husband, Don. I decided to give Antoinette a tendency to name dishes in honor of people she loved. This allowed me to use food as a method of characterization and leads to a key moment in the novel when Warren makes a dish invented for him (and an even bigger moment in the novel that I won’t reveal here).

This leads to the presentation of dishes like Chicken Margaret (chicken sauteed with lemons, olives, plum tomatoes, and vodka named after Antoinette’s sometimes-sour, always substantial sister) and Ralphie’s You-Must-Be-Kidding Pork (an outsized invention for their pig-obsessed neighbor composed of a pork loin wrapped in bacon, stuffed with kielbasa, ham, and sweet Italian sausage and served with a sauce flecked with prosciutto).

It was fascinating for me to discover how much I could express through talk of food and the preparation of food. Maybe someday I’ll do an entire novel in recipes. Now that would be a challenge.


Thanks Michael, for this post. I look forward to your novel in recipes!

TSS: The Journey Home by Michael Baron

Title: The Journey Home
Author: Michael Baron
ISBN: 9780981956862
Publisher: Mass Market Paperback/2010
Pages: 176

The Journey Home takes the reader into a journey of three people who are totally unconnected. Joseph comes out of sleep and doesn't remember who he is. Yet he can feel his wife calling out to him and has to go to her although he doesn't know where and how. He meets Will, a 17-year-old boy, who offers him to take Joseph anywhere he wants to go.

Warren seems to have lost his mother to Alzheimer's. He has a lot of personal problems, what with a lost job and being in midst of a divorce. Still he knows that he has to coax his mother out of it. He takes pains and cooks for her, her own recipes over the years.

Antoinette, Warren's mother, in her lucid moments, only wants to lie in bed and dream of her husband to come to her.

All these characters are lost in their own ways and have to find a way to come into terms with themselves. They have find their comfort zones, their safe havens. THe reader gets totally involved with their thought processes. THese seemingly unconnected people somehow come together, finding peace at last.

It is a very short novel, seems a bit slow at times but it makes the reader think. Baron has done a good job with the ending. And the best part of the book, are the recipes, and the cooking by Warren, which he does out of love for his mother. Each ones, feelings, desires, pains have been brought forward very well.