His father is already dead by the time Lorca reaches him, beer unspooling around him, eyes fixed on some fascination under the bar. Lorca gathers him in his arms.
Gathers him in his name – Jack Francis Lorca.
We carry our ancestors in our names and sometimes we carry our ancestors through the sliding doors of emergency rooms and either way they are heavy, either way we can’t escape.
You can pre-order this book here.
Because of unexpected distractions, and despite the more-than-usual posts I wrote last month, I have a few reviews pending. This is one of those; I couldn’t really write a review without properly mulling over the book, because The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen is a layered book.
in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is
ready to become the Ozarks’ avenging angel.
begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk
about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and
Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives.
To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists,
warning her to mind her own business.
realizes the odds – and maybe the town – are against her, and her life begins to
crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs
in the balance…
is going to be long, because this book has really made me think; which is
saying something, because it was barely a hundred pages long. I’ll sum up my
review, for those of you who don’t wish to scroll all the way down for the
conclusion: it’s a good book, if you’re South Asian, you will find it
inspiring, strong and relatable. If not, it will provide a frank and
non-exoticized look at a culture that is subjected to all kinds of stereotyping. Not
to mention, it’s quirky, cute and you’ll have fun reading it. Not convinced yet? Well, you might
have to read the whole review, after all.
(from Goodreads:) On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax
and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy
away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man,
captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister,
Juveria. Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and
Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing
intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles
with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.
by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on
pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class
sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded
existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan. We follow Rumi from rainy London
to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.
thoughts: All right, grievances first: I’d call this an illustration of the
don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover motto, I have to say, for a book with some
truly mesmerizing moments, the cover could have been better. I thought the book
was too short, I would have liked more development of the characters, I’d
have given them a little more time to fall for each other, and even more
time to stay ‘fallen’ until the conflicts arose. Here’s hoping Ahmed’s next
book is longer. At the risk of sounding nit-picky, the book could have
been edited better: spelling mistakes, a few awkward constructions, words like wry, languorous, elegant repeated far too often for my taste.
to the goods, and there were so many. It’s common knowledge that I don’t like
the kind of formulaic romance that is churned out with astonishing regularity today. Anyway, I have read at least a few love stories and the one
thing that’s consistently bothered me about a typical read of the genre is that
there’s little else but sizzling romance. That is not the case with Natasha
Ahmed’s Butterfly Season. The story is honest, and while you can predict the way
it’ll turn, you’re still invested in the journey.
conflict of the book is well tackled. Sex before marriage being a taboo,
letting your family decide whom you end up with, having kids being your sole
focus, not getting a choice in the most basic decisions of your life –
these are not uncommon even today here in India and I have no doubt the prejudice
exists in the rest of South Asia, Pakistan, the Middle East. But the book does
something I didn’t expect from the author’s initial e-mail, it never sounds
preachy, nor like a rebellious angst filled complaint. Hell, you find Rumi
passionately defending Karachi till the very end, if that doesn’t sound fair, I
don’t know what will.
author gives a scenario, an example: a typical desi Pakistani girl from a
fairly conservative family falls for a considerably open minded and experienced
Pakistani man settled in London. After dating for a while, she has to decide
whether she would sleep with him, and she surprises herself with her choice.
When the time comes to define the relationship, she finds herself parroting
everything that’s been hammered into her growing up, lessons of right and wrong. These are philosophies which sound reasonable enough until actually put to
test. Is she orthodox and irrational, or does he really not have good ‘values’
only because he wants to take their relationship a step further than she’s used
to? You’d be surprised by how many people I know would side with Rumi’s family,
and there’d be a considerable lot that’d say, “It is wrong that it’s a taboo,
but why do something you know society is not going to like!?” The people who
care about you would never adjust for you. That is just out of the question.
surprisingly, the book delves even deeper into the issue. Rumi doesn’t want to
sever ties with her family; she loves her kid sister, even though Juveria’s is being unfair. She tries to make it work until circumstances turn to the very
worst and making a choice becomes inevitable, no matter the consequences. And
while the premise of this may sound ridiculous to the westerners or the more liberal people here, a “So what? Big deal!” kind of issue, the story
isn’t only about these taboos. It’s about finding yourself, learning to love yourself
and accepting people for what they are. It’s about not meddling in others’ lives or considering it your right, about being less skeptical of change and finding
the strength to be different, and if need be, facing the challenges it might
bring up. Geography only changes the type of problem, not the crux.
book has character. It’s about two people who get along really well and fall in
love. And we read about more than just her fluttering heart and his firm hands
or something. Ahmed plays out Ahad and Rumi’s conversations for you, from their
families and jobs to their tastes in music, books. They feel like real people
instead of stock characters. And they feel modern, not in the sense of
unorthodox (that would kind of beat the purpose of the book) but in that there
is little melodrama. A fight feels like a fight, not a whole production.
the thing I love the most about this book is the atmosphere. The writing feels
alive with a love for the characters’ roots. I have a thing for Urdu, having always been fascinated by my father’s self taught fluency in it. I like the little mentions of culture in the book, the bits of
Urdu and even the very English English – like when Ahad says his Cockney accent
and the inevitable dropping of h’s and t’s made his mother teach him Urdu. I
like all the pop culture references – be it the Junoon-Vital Signs debate or
the bad Corleone impression. And I love the song that Ahmed has, for the most part, based the title on. As far as I understand, it is about dealing with separation from your mother and I suppose, your motherland. The butterfly motifs and the fluttering butterflies in Rumi’s stomach as she fell in love fit wonderfully together as the title of the book. I found a set of lyrics translated here, but the author has provided a compact glossary at the end of the book, anyway. I can’t say I’d heard the song before, but it’s beautiful. You should listen to it too, just to
get in the mood, before you go buy the book!
After I read and reviewed Black Dog, the first in the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry crime series, I just couldn’t resist buying Dancing with the Virgins, the sequel. Then, I found two more at the library (and not caring much for reading in order, I read them.) Blood on the Tongue by Stephen Booth is the third book. Now, having already read two books out of order, I can say with certainty that the books provide enough background information to work as standalones. Then again, I can’t think of a reason for not wanting to read the whole series!
detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry tackle a medley of mysteries – each one
knottier than the last – in English author Stephen Booth’s haunting third novel,
Blood on the Tongue. The unidentified body of a dead man has turned up on a
frosty roadside. An abused woman is found curled in the snow on nearby
Irontongue Hill, an apparent suicide. And there’s the lingering puzzle of a
Royal Air Force bomber that crashed into Irontongue back in 1945, killing
everyone on board except for the pilot, who reportedly walked away from the
wreckage… and was never heard from again. With leave and sickness decimating
the ranks of the Edendale police force, all hands are needed to solve the
modern deaths. But constable Cooper finds himself distracted by the World War
II tragedy, in large part because of a beguiling young Canadian, the
granddaughter of that missing pilot, who’s come to Edendale determined to clear
her ancestor’s name.
My thoughts: The characters, the wonderfully fleshed out characters, were the highlights of the book for me. I could once again instantly picture the nice, perceptive (albeit slightly awkward and generally confused, around Diane Fry, anyway) Cooper and the (still) sort of cold outsider Fry. But they are the main characters of the book, you’d expect them to stand out. But – I loved the many officers in the police department, the Polish community of Edendale, the survivors of the war and the avid collectors of war memorabilia and those others who found their way into the story and got stuck there without ever meaning to nor really deserving to; every single character felt so real and alive. The intermingling lives made all the concepts of flat characters and round characters and foils just vanish right out of my head – they were real people for the time it took me to finish the book and then some. Cooper is the kind of guy anyone would like and Fry the kind of woman you’re bound not to, but together they just make the perfect, if a little odd, team. Diane was a little less annoying in this book than usual, or maybe I am just warming up to her. Either way, I particularly liked the typical Cooper and Fry moments in Blood On The Tongue. A lot depends on protagonists in any book, and this series revolves around the perfect pair!
Another specialty of this book was all the work that went into creating the right atmosphere. For every scene. What I loved was it was not just about detailed descriptions: the ice and the chill were amazingly described. But then there was that part about Cooper’s squelching wet shoe that brought the feeling to life. The setting is obviously partly fictional and partly real and to someone who has never been there (to the real places) the attraction was that it was hard to figure out just what was made up. And it was all so vivid that I actually wished it weren’t not-real! Then there were those little well placed snippets of insight (which I just had to highlight – so by the end there were yellow boxes glaring at me from every three pages).
It was one of the worst sounds you could ever hear – the ticking of a clock in an empty house after its owner had died. It was a reminder that the world would carry on just the same after you had gone, that the second hand wouldn’t even hesitate in its movement as you passed from living to dying. Tick, you were there. Tick, you were gone. As if you had never mattered. It was a sound that struck straight to some primal fear in the guts – the knowledge that time was steadily counting you down to your own death.
If I had to point out a problem I had with the book, and I don’t want to, it could be that the book was a little slow, a little confusing at the beginning, and it took me a little while to get completely drawn in. But once I was engrossed, making time to read it had priority over all my daily plans. Fact is, this is definitely one of those reads that I’d recommend to anyone who’d care to listen, and that means, you should read it too. Get it right here!
After a very unwanted two-week break from blogging, this week will be flooded with reviews. Some time last week, this book finally arrived on my doorstep (there were some issues, I live in an annoyingly inconspicuous neighbourhood, that no one ever finds.) I finished Love and Lokpal in one swift sitting, and if not anything else, it certainly made for a well spent afternoon! Love and Lokpal by Pooja Wanpal has a pretty self-explanatory title. That’s just what the book is about: it is a college romance with the whole frenzied Lokpal Bill movement as its backdrop.
junkie by night is being bombarded with eligible girls by his matchmaking mama.
In a bid to escape her and maybe check out a few hot girls while he’s at it,
Shlok flees to Delhi, where a massive protest for the Lokpal Bill has been
building up. Kaveri Gokhale has been searching for a cause her whole
life. When the winds of the Lokpal blow through the country, she eagerly catches
the next train to Delhi to witness history. When Shlok runs into Kaveri at Jantar Mantar, the sparks are
undeniable. As their relationship blossoms, Kaveri discovers a dark secret that
leaves her devastated… and endangers the fate of billion others. Will
Shlok and Kaveri’s love wither or will it withstand the uncertainties of the
corrupt politics? Can love truly conquer all ideologies?
If the writing weren’t as funny, I have to say, the book would have been dull. The language is at once mature and quirky, the descriptions are vivid and detailed. The protest in Delhi is described with much fervour and it has that ounce of dramatic passion that characterizes Kaveri. You can tell the author has done her research, without there being any unwanted information dumps. The love story itself is sweet and never overly mushy. And the point of the book? The answer to the question posed on the back cover, “Can love truly conquer all ideologies?” That’s something I’d rather not spoil; except perhaps to say that the story concludes on a nicely re-conciliatory note rather than pushing any sort of agenda.
Overall, if you were a part of or religiously followed the whole Lokpal protest movement business (which is more than I can say for myself), you would find heaps to relate to. If you like cutesy college romances, this one is perfect. For me, the fact that Love and Lokpal by Pooja Wanpal reads like a debut is a teeny bit of a problem. She should write another book, and I have a feeling I’d like the next one more.
seen by jeweller Travenier in the hands of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the
seventeenth century. There have been no sightings of it since then leading
historians to conclude that it has been either cut up, misplaced or lost
forever. The lives of the beautiful but much abused Khyrunissa, the thieving
but loyal Bhaichand and the murderous but love-lorn English mercenary David
Washerby are inextricably linked in this searing tale of love, greed, ambition
What I liked: The blunt writing style is the first thing that caught my attention. The descriptions are vividly crude, though I actually enjoy the uncompromising honesty. The hunt for a diamond could have been grossly sensationalized, but this book is firmly realistic, with maybe just a dash of the necessary drama. I like the intermingling of the two periods; we learn what happened in David’s times and at the same time watch as Irene and Jason, the two young scholars, dig into history. While the past is undoubtedly thrilling, the present too is harrowing, in a different manner, of course. Research is not easy, and it would have seemed very unlikely for Irene and Jason to have found what they were looking for just by visiting a couple of libraries.
The characters are well drawn and the interactions are interesting. The author has managed what few can; every character has a distinctive voice; the otherwise third person narrative is interspersed by bits and pieces of story from almost each character’s point of view. The reader begins to care for them.
The language varies too, in that you can tell from the words if it is the woman talking or the slave or the foreigner. And most of all, what I love (love!) is Emily Bottleshaw’s poetry, and I’m not the biggest fan of poetry, so that is saying something.
Let me go back to the descriptions, the India of the old is so quaint. While present day imagery is funny and altogether relatable, as Irene and Jason travel around the dreaded streets of Delhi in a rickety rickshaw, the train travel and the roaming around in the rain on rented bikes with people staring; the past has an overpowering charm. It is also aptly gory back then, with the brutal killings and rapes. And strewn over the book are descriptions that really stand out; like, a dried up river resembling a shriveled snake skin: doesn’t that just make you smile and nod in agreement?
What I didn’t like: Here come the bads, which are, to be honest, just one big bad. Most of us tend to overlook our own mistakes, we just don’t notice them; I bet I’ve scattered a few along this review too. But isn’t that why we have editors? For starters, almost none of the quoted questions end in question marks. Then there’s this: I’m pretty sure the word “riff-raff” appears about half a dozen times; once, it makes a good description; but repeatedly using the same words is just distasteful. A single paragraph contains the word “trusted” in every line, and another the word “kind”; not cool. In some places, there are extra words that are entirely out of place, probably forgotten there after modifying the sentence, and some sentences start out okay, jumble up along the way and end up missing a key preposition or a pronoun. Which reminds me, for some reason the author often uses ‘it’ instead of ‘they’, I could quote a few amusing examples I jotted down but I don’t want to seem too fussy. Finally, the chapter titles are wholly superfluous. The difference between a badly written book and a badly edited book is obvious to the observant reader. The Great Mogul is certainly the latter, which makes the mistakes all the more frustrating.
Another thing I noticed is that the story progresses in short scenes and when the writer is seemingly at a loss for how to proceed, the scene abruptly and conveniently ends and a new chapter begins. It’s a style of writing I don’t mind in this instance, but unless intentional, the plotting needs work.
Conclusion? One thing is for sure, this is a book I’ll re-re-read. And I will watch out for more of the author’s works, hoping and praying that they are well edited! Meanwhile, you can grab your copy of The Great Mogul by Rajeev Jacob right here.