a blank slate

a blank slate

Month: October 2012

The Ghost of Flight 401 by John Fuller – R.I.P. VII

I bought John Fuller’s The Ghost of Flight 401 at a book sale recently. The copy looked and smelled wonderfully old, and that combined with the word ‘ghost’ in the title is what made me buy it. It was only after I came home with my bag full of books, read the back cover and looked it up on the internet, that I discovered that it is supposed to be a non-fiction ghost story. Wow. I was hooked. A week-long vacation and my unfortunate choice of the travel read (Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago) interrupted my reading of this fascinating book, but as soon as I came back, just yesterday, in fact, I immersed myself into the book once again.

Summary: In the dead of night in December, 1972, Eastern Airlines
jumbo jet flight 401 plunged into the Florida Everglades killing 101 passengers
and crew. Months later, the ghosts of its pilot and flight engineer began to
appear on sister ships carrying parts salvaged from the crash.


Ace investigative reporter John Fuller heard rumors of the ghosts and swore he
would uncover the true story, no matter how bizarre. At first, airline
employee, fearful of retribution, refused to talk. But Fuller persisted and
finally, one after another, stewardesses, pilots, and ground crews came forth
to tell one of the most astonishing stories in recent aviation history. This is
their tale–a hair-raising jet-age ghost story that can no longer be denied!

My thoughts: I never thought I would actually like a book where the author is convinced that the ghosts do exist and has written the book in the form of a non-fiction. I was certain I’d find it ludicrous. I was surprised right at the very beginning, when I actually liked the way the author wrote about his experience with the planchet. The author tries repeatedly to convince the reader that this ghost story is not just a story and that even though it sounds entirely crazy, it’s not.

That being said, this is not really a horror story. It’s more like a detailed study of a horror story. There are scenes when you’re absolutely scared, but there are also parts where you are absolutely bored by the author’s repetitiveness. I thought the premise of the book was fascinating. Though it may be best to keep in mind that this makes a good read for someone who dives in not expecting a scary tale. The book does have a good flow, even if at times there are too many unnecessary details. The writer could have withheld some of his extensive research to avoid information dumps. A thing I loved was how writer-ly his obsession with the new story sounded, the way he conducted his research, just travelling and talking to people and it was the most romantic concept. I’m sure it’s not quite as pleasant being a writer but he made it sound amazing.

Of course, people have said that Fuller tweaked a lot of the facts and made up almost half of what he’s written. People have said that there is no way they could believe what he’s written, because half the details aren’t even true. Considering the fact that I wouldn’t believe what he’s written even if he stuck to the entire factual truth, I’m not really bothered by the inconsistencies in the facts. That makes the book neither a history lesson nor an entirely made-up horror story. Call it the author’s point of view on what must have happened or just a made-up non-fiction, if there is such a thing as that. Either way, I liked the book and am glad I bought it.

And that’s my last read for the R.I.P. Challenge. Before I forget, Happy Halloween!

The Dreams in The Witch-House by Howard P. Lovecraft – R.I.P. VII

The Dreams in The Witch-House is a short story / novella by H. P. Lovecraft, part of his Cthulhu Mythos. I read it for the R.I.P. Challenge. I can’t believe I read so few horror-ish books for R.I.P. this year, but I am going to spend this last week making up for all the lost time.

I’ve always said, that the one thing that I love about Lovecraft’s stories, is the way he dives right into the mystery, horror and absurdity of the situations his characters are in. I also like how there is usually one lead character and the story revolves around his experiences with something beyond reality. It’s as if he strips off all the elements that may complicate a story, many characters, dialogues, small plot twists and other fluff and focuses the entire plot on the one thing that he does extremely well: intrigue and terrify the readers.

This story was no different. It is a tale about Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore, who moves to the Witch House, a place where the witch Keziah Mason lived after she escaped from Salem. Like all the previous occupants of the place, who mysteriously died prematurely, Gilman begins to suspect that he is being haunted by her. He spends nights dreaming feverishly of alien worlds and indescribable evils till he eventually encounters the witch and her freaky, rat-like familiar.


“May Eve was Walpurgis Night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad time in Arkham, even though the fine folks up in Miskatonic Avenue and High and Saltonstall Streets pretended to know nothing about it. There would be bad doings, and a child or two would probably be missing.”

I had read about Lovecraft somewhere, before I had actually ever read his books and the article said, that the only way to enjoy Lovecraftian horror was to leave your brain aside and believe everything he throws at you. I don’t think that is very accurate now, because it doesn’t include the fact, that Lovecraft makes it very easy for the readers to believe in all the things that would seem ludicrous when written by most other writers. He has the uncanny knack of making just about anything seem completely realistic. It may be true, though, that not everyone can enjoy his books, but I do think everyone ought to try at least a few stories; you never know, you may actually like them.

If you like Lovecraft, if you’ve read anything by him and are used to his style, this is quite a good story. If you haven’t, you should, but this is not the best place to start. The first book I read by Lovecraft was The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, his only novel, and I would suggest that to first-timers, mostly because it is easier to get used to all the absurd, when it is novel-length. And of course, if you happen to read any similar authors or books on such cosmic horrors, recommendations are welcome!

Arcadian Genesis by Greig Beck

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.


Summary: An aeon ago it crashed into the frozen earth. Millennia
later it was removed from the icy soil, still functioning. They opened it… they shouldn’t have.


Alex Hunter – in the mission that turned him from a normal man into the weapon
known as the Arcadian – and the elite team of soldiers known as the Hotzone
All-Forces Warfare Commandos must enter a hostile country to rescue a defected
Chechen researcher from the center of a country at war.

But the HAWCs are not the only ones looking for the rogue scientist and the
mysterious package he carries with him. A brutal and relentless killer and his
death squad are on the trail too – and they bring a savagery with them that
Hunter and his team have never witnessed before in modern warfare.

The HAWC team must race the clock to rescue the scientist,
prevent the package from falling into the wrong hands … and save the world from
a horror that should never have been woken.
My thoughts: I had not read any of the author’s books before reading this one, so I was kind of worried about plunging into this new world that I didn’t know anything about. But that shouldn’t be a problem, because this book is a prequel to the rest of his books and so it explains pretty much everything anyway, and serves as a great introduction to the author. It was a novella and though not perfect, it was quite good. 
There were a lot of things I liked about the book: The pace of the book is fast and I was involved in it entirely right from the first page. It is a short book and a lot happens very quickly, which is what makes it the kind of book that should be read in one sitting and with minimum distractions, like I did. The story is a great combination of mystery and action. I am normally not the biggest fan of thrillers, but this one is gory and chilling to the core. The character development is pretty great for a book this size and the world created is one of a kind.

The thing I didn’t like the most was that the book is very short, and for people who aren’t already acquainted with the author, it isn’t quite enough. For the author’s fans, a prequel must be a unique treat! But for me, it was more of an introduction or a prologue than a complete story in itself. As a standalone, the book is a considerably okay read, the kind that I would read while travelling, or in waiting rooms, to while away time. And still, I loved the author’s writing style, the theme, the idea of such a world and such a lead character. I guess the reason I enjoyed the book so much is that it seems like a promising series and I would certainly love to read the other books.

I can’t say for sure if everyone would like this book, but I would definitely recommend thriller, mystery and action genre lovers to try this author! If you like the sound of this book, go ahead and grab your copy from right here.

The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt by Ilana Waters

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt is a middle grade
fantasy novel written by Ilana Waters.
Summary: Ten-year-old Stanley Delacourt loves his quiet life in the
peaceful village of Meadowwood. At least, he does until his best friend is
killed. Then the town library—where Stanley lives and works—is burned to the
ground. The individuals responsible for both tragedies are a nasty group of
soldiers. They work for the kingdom’s new leader, Christopher Siren. With the
grown-ups too fearful to take action, Stanley vows to confront Siren. He plans
to get answers and demand justice. Little does he know that his journey will
involve sword-wielding knights, kidnapper fairies, and dark magic. 

Stanley has only two allies back home: a witch named Meredith, and a young
apothecary called Sophie. Can they help him discover the reason behind Siren’s
crimes and end this terrible reign? Or is Stanley set to become the next victim
in the tyrant’s evil plot?
My thoughts: I used to look at books like Artemis Fowl and you know,
Percy Jackson and imagine how much I would have loved reading them in my ‘middle
grade’ years. I relived those years, so to say, when I read almost all of Diana
Wynne Jones’s books in a week. This is another of the books that I am sure I
would have loved a whole bunch of years ago. Now, it took me a little time to
get past the way it was written. It sounded childish, which I know was
intentional, but it was something I am not used to reading. Being a child at
heart (the kind who still enjoys reading Enid Blyton’s short stories), though,
it didn’t take long for me to be hooked on the book.
The author has created a world with intricate detail and
what was surely a lot of research, but what I like the most is that she has
managed to avoid the one thing that spoils fantasy series more than anything
else: information overload. We get to know just enough at just the right time to
enjoy the book, while still being curious enough about the new world to read
the sequel. The characters are kind of typical in place, but I like the
contrasts in the characters. I especially like all the female characters in the
books. The word that describes the writing style best is: fun! I could tell the
author enjoyed herself thoroughly writing the book, with its poetic flow and the
actual comical poetry written in it. It was an honest effort and the style as
well as the magic in the book kept reminding me over and over of Diana Wynne
Jones’s books. I was almost entirely sure the writer had used her as an
inspiration. It wasn’t the perfect book I’ve read: I mean, there were thing
clearly inspired, arguably borrowed from other books, it wasn’t the most
original or unique and it wasn’t written quite as impeccably as I would have
liked, but it is a great book nonetheless.
For those of you, who are used to reading middle grade novels (i.e.
if you are actually that age or you’ve never quite grown up in your head, like
me) this would be quite an enjoyable book and I would certainly recommend you to try
it. Grab your copy right here! To know more about the author, check out this nice little interview.

An Interview with author Ilana Waters: The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt

Today you get to know the author of a middle grade fantasy novel The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt, which is a promising start to the Hartlandia series. Here’s an interesting interview with Ilana Waters.

A little about the author: Ilana Waters is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.
When not creating content for websites, she can be found working on novels and
short stories—as well as nibbling string cheese. She once pet-sat an electric
eel, and enjoys walking in circles around the park for no particular reason. Ilana is currently writing Book II of the Hartlandia trilogy, due out in 2013.

Thank you so much for this interview, Ilana.
Thank you,
Priya!
  1. The
    title of the book says “Book 1 of Hartlandia.” Could you tell the readers
    a little about your world? How much research went into creating it?
World-building is
such a funny thing in fantasy literature. Everyone agrees that it’s a crucial
element of the story, but almost no one can agree on how it should be done. My
basic recipe for the world of Hartlandia was to take everything I loved about traditional,
medieval, Tolkien-style settings and put them in a novel.
As you might
imagine, this was quite a task. 😉
Naturally, I didn’t
want to copy anyone else’s world, but construct one with my
own “flavor” and personality. I literally wrote a list of everything I wanted
in “my” world. Castles. Cottages. Magic forests that appear out of nowhere.
Then I considered what I didn’t want (graphic
violence—certainly present in medieval times, but inappropriate for a
children’s novel. It also makes me queasy).
I did a fair amount
of research on the time period, the tools used, and the way people might have
acted. But since I wanted the story to resonate with 21st century
readers, not all of that made it into the final draft.
This took a lot of
rewriting and cutting things out so I didn’t “info dump” on the reader. And I
realized, sadly, that I wouldn’t be able to include everything I
wanted. Pirates. Galleon ships. Epic battles between armies. But that’s okay—it
leaves a few things for Book II and III!
And to add my own
flavor, I made the world a mishmash. It’s what I call “mostly medieval.” But
there are many elements that wouldn’t have existed during that time. Things
like libraries, female apothecaries, public schools, and factories. And Double
Fudge Mocha Latte Very Very Cherry Chunk ice cream. It didn’t exist back then.
But it should have. 
  1. What
    is your favourite thing about writing fiction? Do you write anything other
    than novels, like short stories, flash fiction or poetry? (I would love it
    if you could share with us a poem or story!)
My favorite thing
about writing fiction is going to sound pretty simple: you can do whatever you
want. I especially like the fantasy genre, because you’re not constrained by
reality (as you are in contemporary fiction). Don’t get me wrong—I like
contemporary fiction too. But haven’t you always wanted to live in a world
where you could meet fairies, make up spells, and own a magic sword? I know I
do!
And yes, I write a
lot of things besides novels. Right now I’m working on two novellas—the first I
hope to publish in the beginning of the year. That one also takes place in
Hartlandia, but centuries earlier. You get to meet one of the character’s
ancestors and go on an adventure with him.
I’m also working on
a free (!) short story of Hartlandia (also taking place many years before Stanley).
That should be available in 2013 as well. Hopefully I’ll put out Book II of Stanley in
the same year. Oh, and I have a vampire paranormal romance due in February or
March as well (no joke). Because I thought the world could use one more of
those. ;-P
I’ve been
experimenting with flash fiction as well—it’s so much fun! I can’t believe I
never tried it before. I think everyone should. And poetry, oh yes! There are a
few poems in The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt which turn
out to be more than “just” poems. But of course, your readers will just have to
explore the book to find out more!
I’m afraid I don’t
have any flash fiction that’s polished enough to show you at the moment. However,
here’s a poem I considered for Stanley that was ultimately
left out:
RIDDLE
How can you love
something that
bites?
How can you water
a flower that
bleeds?
How can you stand
on the tips of your
toes
and try to serve
every need?
How can you hunger
for bread that is
rotting?
How can you thirst
after poisonous
drink?
Why do you run
a race never-ending—
Your efforts worth
less
 than you
think?
How do you rule
a subject-less
kingdom?
To master yourself
is a story untold.
How can you drop in
a well-water bucket
and come up with
nothing but gold?
  1. Are
    you a reader, too? If you had to pick between reading and writing, which
    would you choose? Okay, easy one, your writing keeps reminding me of Diana
    Wynne Jones. Were there any particular authors or books that influenced
    your writing?
Of course I am a
reader! I don’t think I know a writer who isn’t. And to pick between reading
and writing would be an impossible task. Each informs and inspires the other,
so they’re pretty much fused together.
And thank you for
saying my writing reminded you of Diana Wynne Jones. She is one of my favorite
authors (I even did a
blog post on her
), whose style I do try to emulate. She was a definite
influence. And I mentioned Tolkien earlier, of course. I think Philip Pullman’s
world-building is something I aspire to as well.
Thank you again,
Priya, for having me on your lovely blog!
Doesn’t the book sound like fun? Check out the review tomorrow and until then you can visit the author’s website right here

The Terror by Dan Simmons – R.I.P. VII

I wanted to buy a non-fiction book on Mary Celeste (I don’t remember its name) when I came across this one. If there is one thing I have always been scared of, it’s water and oceans and sea life and such and the premise of this book, a lost expedition, seemed fascinating. 

It was snowing during the burial. The wind was blowing
hard, as it always does here on this godforsaken Arctic Waste. Just north of
the burial site rose Sheer Black Cliffs, as inaccessible as the Mountains of
the Moon. The lanterns lit on
Erebus and Terror were only the
dimmest of glows through the blowing snow. Occasionally a fragment of Cold Moon
would appear from between quickly moving clouds, but even this thin, pale
moonlight was quickly lost in the snow and dark. Dear God, this is truly a
Stygian bleakness.

Summary: The Terror by Dan Simmons is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s Expedition to the Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. As the two ships, Erebus and Terror are stuck in the ice, the crew is stalked by a monster, that is killing them off one by one. Almost all the characters in the book are based on actual members of the expedition, including Franklin, captain of Erebus, Captain Crozier, captain of Terror, Fitzjames and Dr. Goodsir.

My thoughts: This was supposed to be my first read for the R.I.P Challenge. I have to admit, it took me much longer than I had expected to finish reading this book. There were times when I felt absolutely bored, but trudged on, determined to complete the book, and I am very glad I did. The book is massive, but entirely worth it. If I’d written a review halfway through the book: I would have said that I didn’t like the book, which is why this review is going to seem haphazard. I don’t know what else to say, but, all the boring details in the first half of the book are thoroughly redeemed by the immense excitement in the last few hundred pages. 
For those of you who want to read the book to actually find out what happened to the Franklin expedition, here’s a fair warning: it’s historical fiction, you won’t get anything that seems remotely plausible. Then again, when someone is lost in the Arctic and never heard of again, who’s to say, what can be possible. If you read the book for the horror fiction and not for the history lesson, you will love it (Okay, I can’t guarantee love, but I’m sure you’ll at least like it.)
Very few authors can master as many different voices as Simmons has in one book! I especially liked Crozier’s point of view and sometimes, Dr. Goodsir’s. The shifts in the points of view and time took some getting used to, but the book was so long that I did have enough time to get fully accustomed to the writing style. The characters are really wonderful and so is their desperation, you almost experience the dreary atmosphere in the air. The book is tastefully gruesome, if there is such a thing as that, and the writer knows exactly how to shock, scare and amuse you. 
Crozier enjoys his
walk in spite of the creeping cold that has made his face, fingers, legs, and
feet feel like they are on fire. He knows that this is preferable to them being
numb. And he enjoys the walk in spite of the fact that between the slow
moanings and sudden shrieks of the ice moving under and around him in the dark
and the constant moan of the wind, he is certain that he is being stalked.
I’m going to end this clumsy review-rant by saying that, if not anything else, this book is definitely unlike anything I have read before. It is a haunting mixture of the eerie feelings that history and fate bring on, freaky descriptions of ice and being lost at sea, not to mention, we do get a glimpse of Eskimo mythology, again very tastefully managed. Even without the haunted mansions, pale white ghosts or vampires and zombies, it still does scare. So if you have some time on your hands and seem to like horror fiction, spend this Halloween experiencing The Terror! 

Rick & Wylie’s Fantastical, Magical Adventures by Andi Katsina

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author.

For those of you, who were intrigued by Andi Katsina’s interview posted on this blog last week, this is a review of her fantastical and magical book called Rick & Wylie’s Fantastical, Magical Adventures.


Summary: Every few thousand years, true evil, the likes of which
roamed the earth eons ago, attempts to rise up from the navel of the world, to
once again instill its darkness and establish its reign.

Rick and Wylie’s fantastical, Magical Adventures, tells the story of a father
and daughter, Rick and Wylie, who go on a week’s vacation to the island of
Kaua’i, in Hawaii. Due to the actions of an evil wizard, however, they become
separated.
Wylie has to work her way across a huge and dangerous
mystical forest. Rick, along with some of his friends, enters the mystical
forest to go in search of his daughter.

Both Rick and Wylie endure trials and tribulations, and are finally reunited in
the forest. Together, they succeed in awakening the sleeping kingdom, a place
that has been hidden from the evil wizard for more than half a millennium.

My thoughts: Don’t we all love fictional worlds, which have their own maps and everything? The cover just doesn’t do justice to this book. But once I opened it, I was sure I would love the book when I saw those wonderful illustrated maps on the front page.

At first, it took me a while to get into the book because there was too much dialogue. I think it is hard to write entirely realistic dialogues and the ones in the book just seemed slightly fake.

However, as I read the book and slowly got used to the style, it led me to a great new world. The writer sure has a knack of building up the right atmosphere and the book is an exciting read. The characters are very well developed and so is the world created in the book. This magical world we enter is very intricate and the various creatures are as unique and creative as the illustrations on the cover. There were parts in the book that seemed unnecessary. There could have been less detail, though it was as if the author couldn’t help talking about the world, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was a long book, which is why it took me a while longer than I expected to finish reading it.

This is a great book and a recommended read for anyone who enjoys young adult/children’s fantasy fiction.

Help!

I’ve been feeling like a complete moron for the past two weeks, blog-wise. I have exams and work and people coming over and no time to type any of the reviews I’m supposed to finish writing today and I haven’t read anything in over two weeks.

I signed up for Dewey’s Read-a-thon, but wasn’t able to take part in it, I haven’t read anything for the R.I.P Challenge in a while and in a week, I’m going to be away for another two weeks.

But that’s not what I need help for. Today, I woke up to find my blog stats changed to 7 all time page views, I have no idea why. Has this ever happened to any of you? Have you ever lost two years of blog stats, because if you have, I would really like to know how to solve that!

By the way, I created a new writing blog and signed up for NaNoWriMo. Let’s see how that works out.

Free Verse or Formal Verse?


In my last post, I asked you to tell me about your favourite poems. Recently I’ve been going through a lot of “calls for submission” as a part of some work! I noticed many publishers mention that they only accept free verse or modern style and that do not accept poetry ‘with rhyming lines’, as if it were a terrible thing.

I have read a lot of poems in the last few months, partly because I had to learn them, partly because through all the studying (hah) I actually developed a genuine interest. From whatever poetry I have read, I think formal verse is just as effective a way to put across a message. Look around you, everything in the nature has structure; that should be enough to prove that structure has beauty too. The metric patterns, for me, give a sense of precision and balance to the poem. I don’t think that formal verse with things such as metre or rhyme limits your creativity, I actually think it challenges you further. The rules were there for a reason. While it is okay to break them when they seem like a cage around that particular poem, breaking the rules is neither the better way nor the only way to expression. I may be wrong, but every time someone says “poetry is freedom” and “poetry is expression, which is not bound by any laws”, I can’t help but think of all the greatest masters of poetry, right from the Bard, who used the rules and patterns and laws to express, and express a lot. A bias towards neither of the two types of poetry, formal or free verse: that’s what they mean by freedom.

In my three posts on poetry on this blog, I have made it a point to bash the poems found all over the internet, those which are generally assisted by glittery, romantic or dark, mushy, pictures of suicidal people. And, I do not like them: random difficult sounding words picked right out of a thesaurus, stringed together, deliberately avoiding any semblance of grammar do not automatically qualify as poetry.

But, as I was writing that right now for the third time, I realized for the second time how incredibly judgmental I was sounding and so I decided to actually tell you about one poetry blog that I regularly read and actually sort of love. Do visit! I’m sure there are a lot of great poetry blogs on the internet and I hope I discover more of them.

Favourite Historical Fiction Books

I’ve recently began enjoying the historical fiction genre and I decided this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (Rewind!) to list them. I’m not sure how long this list is going to be, hence the title is favourite historical fiction books rather than top ten.

Historical fiction, as I understand it anyway, is a fictionalized account of something that actually happened in history (like a retelling) or a novel with a historically accurate setting but fictional characters or a book which presents an alternate history. I may be wrong, but this is what this list includes, books which I loved for that fascinating, at time eerie feeling I had a thought, that even some of this might have actually happened. I have never been good at remembering dates, so whatever I do know of the world history, it’s through reading fiction.

Here are the books, in no particular order:

The Crucible by Arthur Miller: This was the first full-length play I read and I enjoyed it immensely. I was looking for a book that best described the Salem Witch Trials and this drama does it. It has been argued (a lot) whether this play is historically accurate, though the characters are based on the real people, who were in the town of Salem when it all went down and the atmosphere of hysteria is portrayed most convincingly. For me, it gives a basic idea about the witch trials, not to mention tells a whole lot more about Miller’s views on McCarthyism. Not to go too much into the details, let me just say, this is definitely a fascinating piece of fiction.

11/22/63 by Stephen King: Could I just say, I loved this book? This is the story of the man who goes back in time to prevent JFK’s assassination in ’63 and instead finds a home for himself in the past. I loved the characters and the he has made the time travel seem so believable. I recently found out that King had the idea for this book a while before he published his first novel, Carrie, and has now released it almost forty years later. Isn’t that kind of amazing?

The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore: I read this last month (or this month not sure) but if you scroll down  just a bit you’ll find a long review! This book is about, as you can tell by the title, a werewolf in Paris. The story is set in France, where the War of 1870 and the fall of the Paris Commune form the perfect backdrop for a gruesome tale of a boy, who cannot control his inner monster.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: This book is just something else. It is an alternate history of the 19th Century England during the Napoleonic Wars, based on the premise that magic once existed. And, in this tale, the two eponymous magicians bring magic to back to England. The author has created a wonderful sense of the past and the English and even the war with her precise imagery. I loved the parts when the Jonathan Strange, probably my favourite fictional character, invented tricks to win the war or to confuse the enemy like magically creating roads and moving entire towns, thus rendering any maps useless.  And how can you miss the fact that he helped defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo?

Honourable mentions: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt, Perfume by Patrick Sueskind and This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson.

I might have missed some, but I do love all these and I also do welcome recommendations!