Friday, February 28, 2014

The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

'I reckon they could be like that. They swore to Mussolini to kill us all." 

The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

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

Title: The Paperbark Shoe
Author: Goldie Goldbloom

ISBN: 9780312674502
Publisher: Picador/2011
Pages: 370

Gin Boyle is born in a fairly rich family. Although she is a classical pianist but being an albino, she is institutionalized by her cruel and abusive stepfather. Agrippas Toad is a dwarf. He is a farmer . He happens to hear her play the piano and asks to marries her. Knowing that there won't be any other offer, Gin agrees. There is no love between the two but there is no alternative either. 

Now enter two Italian prisoners of war – Antonio and John into their farm. These two are a part of a wave of 18,000 Italian prisoners of war sent to work on isolated Australian farms between 1941 and 1947. Antonio lavishes attention on her and Gin is attracted to him, who is a shoemaker. He measures her feet to make shoes for her from paperbark. Toad too has some kind of affinity for John. 

Gin is not happy with her lot is an understatement. Toad too is freak and he has a penchant of collecting ladies corsets. The displacement is not only the displacement of the soldiers. It is about those who have been isolated for whatsoever reasons. It might be by physical deformity, by belief or because of war between countries. Irrespective of class, culture, races everyone seeks love in one way or other. Gin and Toad are no different. 

The prose is beautiful with terrific description of the place and the pain of displacement is brought forth is a wonderful manner. The ultimate realization of what we truly want too is has been shown in the end very beautifully. The book has flaws but that only enhances the theme, the story. I will not call it an easy read but why reading has to be easy?

The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison

They called it taking four. The tall, gaunt monk hovered at the lip of the five-hundred-foot cliff, nothing restraining him but the raw Himalayan wind. Shan Tao Yun squinted at the figure to see better. His heart clenched, It was Trinle who was going to jump---Trinle, his friend, who just that morning had whispered a blessing on Shan's feet so they would not trample insects.
Shan dropped his wheelbarrow and ran.

Title: The Skull Mantra
Author: Eliot Pattison
ISBN: 9780312204785
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotuar/1999
Pages: 403

It is one of those novels which took me into a spiritual journey. Deep into the world of Tibetan priests, Buddhist monks, Yerpas, and the psyche of the people. And politics. The resolute of the Tibetan people to be free from China. The fight that is never ending. The way they die for it without a word. Unbending. 

Shan Tao Yun, a chinese investigator, has been put in one of the Chinese labour camps for a past misdemeanor. He has many Tibetan priests in his camp. When a headless body is found near the place they are working, Shan's help is sought to solve the murder. However, no one is interested to find the real killer but to put the blame on a Buddhist priest. Everyone wants Shan to endorse to that or the priests in his work brigade would be punished. 

Shan finds outs about ancient Buddhist demon, an illegal monastery, sects working secretly for Tibet and people who will not bend even in the face of death. There is this American involvement too in the way of mining interests. The reader gets pulled into the religious and political maelstroms.

I highly recommend it for all those who want to learn about a religious belief, a country in another country, about people who won't give and above all, for a spiritual experience. I related to it because Dalai Lama lives in India. In Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh. I have visited his abode although I have not seen him. And because I am a Hindu. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Booking Through Fanfiction

btt button

What do you think of fanfiction? In general—do you think it’s a fun thing or a trespass on an author/producer’s world? And of course, obviously specific authors have very firm and very differing opinions about this, yet it’s getting more popular and more mainstream all the time. Do you ever read or write it yourself?

I am not much into fanfiction. I don't read it and writing it out of question. Maybe if someone offered me a book better than the original, I might consider reading it!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Deadly Waltz (Victorian Gothic Mysteries) by Sophia Queen

Next, she unpacked her chemicals, lab equipment and agency correspondence materials. She pushed these materials against the far wall beneath her bed and placed her emptied travel bags in front of them. Not the most secured hiding place, but it was the best she could do at the moment.

A Deadly Waltz by Sophia Queen

Karina Rouelle joins an all-female investigative agency. For her first assignment she poses as a governess  and goes to Westford castle. The Countess of Westford had died mysteriously and Lord Sebastien Blackwell is the top suspect for the death of his wife. Now Karina too is on a run from an arranged marriage to a deranged man. She does not wish to be found by her greedy uncle. 

With secret passages and unknown sounds, the castle has too many secrets. Even the investigative agency has a secret head. Karina is right in the midst of it all. Things get worse when Sebastien asks her to be his escort to escape the hordes of female admirers. Karina is attracted to cursed, dark lord. 

With twists, turns and the gothic element, this is more of a suspense than a romance. Karina comes out to be a very strong personality. She has the right knowledge of science to experiment with chemicals, and also can wield a knife or a gun. She is not afraid of secret passages, chambers or the sounds. She goes right in it to investigate. 

The secondary characters too are well drawn and the mystery element is held right to the end.

Amanda Rose by Karen Robards

Urged on by the guards, he mounted the rough wooden planks, his movements slow and awkward because of the confining chains. Over their clanking, he suddenly became aware of a swelling roar. Surprised, Matt looked around and down. A milling, unruly crowd stretched around the gallows like an endless expanse of sea around a tiny island.The sight stopped him in his tracks. He had not been aware of them before, wished he had not become aware of them now. They were staring up at him, a featureless blur made up of hundreds of faces, come to watch him die. Their mouths shouted obscenities; their eyes screamed hate.

“That’s him. That’s the one. Grayson—bloody murderer.”

Matt stared at them. Missiles thrown by the crowd began slicing through the air around him, rotten tomatoes and eggs and even rocks. The guards, as caught up in the maelstrom of refuse as he was, cursed viciously and hurried him up the stairs. Matt did nothing to hinder them. Every ounce of his concentration was suddenly focused on fighting down the terror that tiptoed icily up and down his spine. He scarcely felt the rock that bounced off his left temple, leaving a darkening bruise and a trickle of crimson in its wake.

Amanda Rose by Karen Robards

The novel is set in the 1840s. It opens with our hero taken to the gallows to be hanged. For a crime he did not commit. Matt Grayson is a ship & merchant owner from New Orleans and travels to England. During a business deal Matt was drugged, later to be woken up to police arresting him for the murder of a well known family in England. Somehow he escapes the hangman's rope but gets shot shot during the escape. He ends up on a beach down below a convent. Hungry, sick, injured.

Amanda Rose has been sent to the convent five years ago by her half-brother after their father dies. She is almost eighteen now and he has arranged her marriage and made a deal that he would get her inheritance after the marriage is thru. Amanda Rose does not wish to marry the person her half-brother has selected for but she also does not wish to end up in the convent. 

Unknown to the nuns, she escapes to the beach at night to calm her troubled thoughts. That's when she meets Matt Grayson. She takes him to a hidden cave and nurses him back to health. But he is caught and shot and presumed dead. And Amanda Rose is to be married in few days time.

Matt Grayson is very much alive, rescued by his brother. And he thinks Amanda led the police to him. His brother Zeke kidnaps Amanda at the behest of Matt, who is hell bent on taking revenge. He takes her to New Orleans....

The novel started out with the scene of Matt being taken to the gallows. A very harrowing experience. When he escapes, the reader breathes easy. Amanda is a spunky heroine. A fighter. There is good chemistry between them. Yet I found Matt a jerk in the second half. Zeke, his brother is a very likable character. There were moments, I wanted to kill the hero but I couldn't put it down until I finished it. Go for if you like a forceful hero as is the norm in historical romances.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Musing Mondays: Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

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

I am highlighting the following book this week.

Unintended Consequences by Marti Green

Nineteen years ago, George Calhoun was arrested for murdering his daughter after a body was found burnt beyond recognition in the woods. His wife testified against him and he was convicted by the jury. All his appeals are exhausted now and his execution is few weeks away. 

George has always denied murdering his daughter but without any proof or support he never had a chance to defend himself. He has remained silent except for saying he was innocent.

Dani Trumball is an attorney for the Help Innocent Prisoners Project. She is contacted by George Calhoun to save him. There is no time and his execution is six weeks away. She wants to believe that he is innocent. Forensic evidence never pointed out that it was his daughter.  NO DNA test was done. But whose body was it if not Angelina, his daughter? What really happened to his daughter. George Calhoun tells Dani an incredible story. This makes Dani determined to verify it and save him, if possible.

The story is so real and believable. Dani is in a dilemma. She has a sick son and there is not much time to find out all the truth. But her husband is very supportive and it makes her determined to take this case.

George Calhoun remained silent for nineteen years. What really happened to his daughter? What was his compulsions? Why did his wife testify against him? Why did his lawyer not insist for a DNA test? Why did the judge consider his wife's testimony enough to indict him? The novel answers all these and much more. It also speaks eloquence about a father who can go to any length for his daughter. Even to the extent of being considered her murderer. 


I am trying to catch up with my 2013 reviews....

Monday: Mailbox/What Am I reading?

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

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

I did not receive anything in my mailbox this past week. But I downloaded the following stupid books!!

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

I finished reading the following:

30. Cry Ohana: Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii by Larry and Rosemary Mild (Thriller)
29. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen (Literary Fiction) (Mysticism)
28. The Governor's Wife by Mark Gomenez (Thriller)
27. The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom (Literary Fiction)

I am in the midst of reading:

Broken Spirit by Charles L. Fields
Winter's Heart  by A.C. Warneke

I posted reviews of the following novels on my blog:

A Criminal Defense by Steven Gore (Legal Thriller)
The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam (literary Fiction)
Never Forget by Lisa Cutts (crime Fiction)
The Meaning of Me by Emmett Wheatfall (poetry)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Sunday Post/Sunday Salon: Hectic times ahead

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

Another academic session is over. We bid farewell to the outgoing class. Hope they do well in their life. I have been teaching for 22+ years and it is still tough to send the girls into the unknown world. We do not shed tears the way they do but we feel sad. Every time. But that is what is life about.To prepare them to face the world, to accept changes and move forward. 

Our annual examinations commenced on 22 Feb, 2014 and go on for more than a month. That means evaluating papers, tabulating data and finally results. Very hectic month. 

What did I achieve reading wise in the past week? I read three novel. Two of those are chunksters (400+ pages). I have finished 30 books from start of Jan 2014, and on my 31st. I am happy with that. Let's see how many I read in March. But I know I will have slow months later in the year 

I posted the following on my blog:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Snapshot: Fare Thee Well

Go girls go, conquer the world!!

Look at the way she is burrowing into me!

Sad to leave after 12 years of schooling yet happy...
Posting for Saturday Snapshot, hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Criminal Defense by Steven Gore

"What kind of idiot pleads to a life sentence? The smart move would've been to roll the dice. You never know what a San Francisco jury will do?"

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

Title: A Criminal Defense
Author: Steven Gore
ISBN: 9780062025074
Publisher: Harper, Mass Market Paperback/2013
Pages: 352

Mark Hamlin, is found murdered gruesomely. He had the reputation of being a corrupt lawyer who intimidated witnesses, suborned perjury, laundered money and destroyed evidence.The way he is murdered, it is difficult to say if he was a victim of murder or of a sexual encounter gone bad. Former detective Harlan Donnally is assigned the case. As Donnally investigates, he finds himself drawn into unknown mystery. He starts to  ponder over the deceits of Hamlin. Then the reader is shown the inner workings of, the justice system which is somehow filled with intricate lies and betrayals. 

The beginning is good. In the middle it dragged quite a lot. There were too many red herrings. But the novel holds interest towards the end. 


I am trying to catch up with my 2013 reviews....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

1930, Shantou, China
On a winter night shortly after the New Year festivities, Chen Kai sat on the edge of the family kang, the brick bed. He settled the blanket around his son.
“Gwai jai,” he said. Well ­behaved boy. “Close your eyes.”
“Sit with me?” said Chen Pie Sou with a yawn. “You promised . . .”
“I will.” He would stay until the boy slept. A little more delay.

Title: The Headmaster's Wager
Author: Vincent Lam
ISBN: 9780385661454
Publisher: Fourth Estate/2012
Pages: 391

Percival Chen (Chen Pie Sou) is the headmaster of a English School in Saigon, Vietnam. He is also a gambler, womanizer and also into bribing the Govt officials to keep his school on the top. Mak, one of the teachers' in his school has links and gets everything done for him. Chen does not know the connections Mak has and does not wish to know either.

Chen's son Dai Jai gets into trouble and has to be sent out of Saigon to China, their home country. Chen meets a young woman Jacqueline, who is half Vietnamese and half French. In his loneliness, he falls for her and they have a son. Meanwhile, there are sweeping political changes in Vietnam and Chen cannot escape it. Then he discovers certain secrets which totally change his life. Dai Jai too is somehow lost to him. 

The Headmaster's Wager has characters which are flawed. Chen is not a lovable character yet we are with him through his journey. There is love, honour, betrayal and the ultimate sacrifice. For the loved one. This is not a fast paced novel but I could not put it down in the last half. I gained knowledge about China, Vietnam and most of all human faults and frailties. 

This is one of those novels which makes reading worthwhile and blogging a pleasure.....

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Never Forget by Lisa Cutts

Wondering now, if I heard it correctly, I said," Did you say a child was murdered?"
"Yes. At the home. That's the main reason they shut down it down."
"I'm guessing the staff were suspected?"
"No, no. Not the staff, the other children. Have to go. See you tomorrow."

Title: Never Forget
Author: Lisa Cutts
ISBN: 9781908434265
Publisher: Myriad Editions/2013
Pages: 347

A woman is found brutally stabbed and DC Nina Foster is assigned the case. This is her first murder investigation. More victims are found and all these are somehow connected to Nina's own traumatic past. She had been kidnapped when she was child. 

With a stalker and others who cannot be remotely connected to her kidnapping, Nina is thrown right into the nightmare. Her team want to protect her but Nina needs to get on with the investigation. 

With believable characters and fast paced action, the novel is gripping. As a police procedural, it works great for the reader. Nina has her faults, what with a drinking habit but she turns out to be good detective.

The Meaning of Me by Emmett Wheatfall

As I take to toil in hand
The finer points of pen
Deeper I delve
Into the meaning of me


I shall call to it
And it shall come
The meaning of me
It shall come

Emmett Wheatfall
Title: The Meaning of Me 
Author: Emmett Wheatfall
ISBN: 9780983723141
Publisher: Reflections Publishing House/2012
Pages: 98

With a cover as poetic as this, one can only expect the best of poetry. Emmett Wheatfall does not disappoint us on any account. I could connect to his poetry despite being in another part of the world, having different cultural values.

His world becomes ours because the journey he takes to find the meaning of me, is what we are seeking the way of life, race, religion and the metaphysical. Somehow it all blends in with the physical world that we live in.

The poems are simple enough but with depth of meaning. In the despair, one can still find pleasure. That is what he teaches us. Beyond Me reached out to me. 

I have read this book of poetry many a times and will continue to do so. Thanks to Emmett Wheatfall for sending this book of poetry to me.


I am trying to catch up with my 2013 reviews....

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday: Mailbox/What Am I reading?/Musing

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

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

I did not receive anything in my mailbox this past week. But I downloaded the following:


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

I finished reading the following:

26. The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison (Thriller)
25. A Deadly Waltz by Sophia Queen (Gothic Mystery)
24. The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam (Literary Fiction)
23. The Rejected Suitor by Teresa McCarthy (Regency Romance) 

I am in the midst of reading:

I posted reviews of the following novels on my blog:

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

    I finished reading  The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison. I learnt so much about Tibetans. Their faith, their resolute way of life. All this in the midst of China denying them their land..... It is a thriller but goes so much beyond that. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Sunday Post/Sunday Salon: Chit Chatting

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

It was somewhat a horrible week, what with the weather playing havoc. It started out with being sunny but ended up with rain and cold. Today we woke up to a thick fog. I have cough and cold and mom too is under the weather.

I did not read much in the first few days of the week but haven't done badly. I took a while to get to The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam but after reaching the second half, I couldn't wait to finish it. Nowadays, I am picking up books which are not my genre. After two years hiatus, I have joined many reading challenges and that is helping me read more. I am also thinking of getting a tablet to help me read e-books. I am not keen on buying an e-reader exclusively. Suggestions are welcome. 

I wrote down a lot of pending reviews for 2013 and scheduled those for the next few weeks. Most of us get jitters about reviewing. Reading is NEVER a problem.

I posted the following on my blog: 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snapper by Brian Kimberling

We caught up as I drove. Shane was pursuing a master's degree in library science. He hated it. He wanted to work with books, but was compelled instead to study "information architecture" and all manner of new technology.

"One of the professors called the phone book a database with limited search functionality the other day. With a straight face. That's when I decided to take a break."

Title: Snapper
Author:  Brian Kimberling
ISBN: 9780307908056
Publisher:  Pantheon/2013
Pages: 224

Nathan Lochmueller is a professional bird watcher. He is sometimes perched on trees, 50 feet above the ground to watch the birds. He ventured into this by default. He gets paid just enough to get by. He meets quirky birds as well as quirky people. In between all this, we learn about his on and off girl friend, Lola.

There are 13 interconnected stories which make it into a novel. I loved Nathan and his weird ways, his thoughts and his recollections. Indiana woods comes alive for the reader. It made a surprisingly good read. I recommend it for all bird lovers/watchers and all others who are neither!!


I am trying to catch up with my 2013 reviews....

Suzy's Case by Andy Siegel

Me, I’m guilty of the charge. Unethical Conduct.

At least I admit it.

My lawyer arrives no time too soon, because you never want to be seen standing in the vicinity of this building on Friday mornings, the day when the Disciplinary Committee conducts hearings stemming from serious unethical conduct alleged by the client. The purpose of the committee is to protect the public by ensuring attorney adherence to the ethical standards codified in the Rules of Professional Conduct, “The Rules.” That’s why I insisted on meeting my attorney near the corner.

Title: Suzy's Case
Author: Andy Siegel
ISBN: 9781451658781
Publisher: Scribner/2012
Pages: 352

Tug Tyler is a New York City personal injury and medical malpractice attorney. He gets a case as a referral and told that it is a loser. When he meets Suzy and her mother June, he knows he cannot give up on the six year girl. She has severe brain damage and spastic conditions. These are the result of sickle  cell anemia. It all began with something going wrong in a hospital six years ago. Suzy now has a brain of a two year old. Her mother is determined to win the case against the hospital.

Tug Tyler does not give up. He takes up the bigwigs. He is unethical at times, for bigger causes. He knows June needs to win the case in order to take care of Suzy for a very long time. Tug is load mouthed, obnoxious at times but he knows how to fight with dirty people. Those people who have big money and political connections.

There is a bit of suspense and the legal aspect made it a great reading. There is lot of twists and turns. The subject matter is serious. But the quirky way of handling it is done well. I quite liked Tug and look forward to read more novels involving him.


I am trying to catch up with my 2013 reviews....

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Booking Through Cold and Wet

For most of the east coast, at least, it’s a wintry, snowy day today, so … How do you like to spend your snow days? Feel free to gloss over the obligatory parts like shoveling unless you LIKE it. We’re talking ideal, best way to spend a snow day kind of thoughts, here.

For those of you who live in places where snow days simply don’t happen? Feel free to substitute “snow” with “rain” and think about the kind of days when you just want to cuddle up inside where it’s warm and dry.

Where I live, we do not have snow. The winter is not that severe. It does not fall below 2 degree celsius. Never ever. But due to fog and mist, we like to stay indoors. Drinking hot beverages and watching TV. And reading. I prefer that to anything. This Jan, it was too cold to go out. That is one reason, I could read 19 novels.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez

He got to the bridge where his childhood friend leapt from, his body lost in the current, and went into a newsagent where he bought ten Camels and a lighter. 

Title: A Dark Redemption
Author: Stav Sherez
ISBN: 9780571244867
Publisher: Faber & Faber/2012
Pages: 384

Uganda. An unlikely place to visit. But three freshly graduated males decide to visit it. They see and learn a lot and then while driving through sparsely populated countryside, come to a fork on the road. That decision leads them into the clutches of rebel soldiers. And it becomes a life changing course for them....

Jump 20 years to 2011. Grace Okello is found murdered. She was a student at the School of African and Oriental Studies and was researching revolutionary rebel groups and insurgencies of Uganda.  DI Jack Carrigan, as usual, is the first detective to arrive at a crime scene. He is horrified by the brutal way she has been murdered. Carrigan is considered a maverick by his superiors as he has unconventional ways to get to the bottom of any crime.

On the behest of assisting him, his boss brings in DS Geneva Miller. She is told to report to him. Miller is not very keen but she has no choice. In the initial investigations, Carrigan thinks it is a sex related murder as the victim was raped too, before being killed. But Miller does not buy it. She looks into the Uganda link and finds it gets murkier. She also finds that people from the Ugandan embassy are trying to stall the investigations.

Carrigan can't get over his past which involves Uganda. He had lost one of his two best friends there. 

The book has three sections, the past, the present and about the murdered woman. The descriptions, at times, feel difficult to read, not because of the language but the emotions involved. The rape and murder of a young female is not an easy matter to read but before that her involvement with rebel groups for her research make the book very interesting. One learns a lot about Uganda's brutal past and those involved in it.

The ending is a total surprise. Despite the brutal descriptions, I would recommend this for all crime fiction lovers.....