Monday, May 27, 2013

True by Melinda Field

Title: True
Author :Melinda Fields
Publisher :Wise Women Ink
Genre: Fiction 

A breathtaking book! That’s how one would describe “True”. In a plot that resembles life itself, this book takes you on a wonderful journey of birth and death, making you realise the inevitability of both.

Caterina, a teenage girl is forced to leave the city of Phoenix, when her mother is sent to prison for prostitution and drug dealing. She has to go and live with her ailing grandmother whom she has never ever seen. The Green Valley in California is a cold and forbidding place for the young girl who is not welcomed in the small tight knit community. The story describes how racial prejudice and stereotyping brings her life on the edge of a dangerous precipice.

Just then she is taken in by Emma Cassidy , a midwife. Emma and her circle of horse-women friends pull Caterina inadvertently in their close knit sisterhood helping her overcome the life shaking incident and live a secure life. Caterina with her innate strength of character and determination emerges a winner from her ordeal.

The story gives us a touching portrayal of the eternal and deep friendship between Emma, Briar, Lilly, Clare and Midnight and how each faces her own battles of life. An illness makes Briar the ‘Clairvoyant’ and everyone becomes a student of life with her. Lilly and Clare, sisters, have to undergo pain because of their mother who has to live away from them. Additionally Clare finally chins up to an abusive husband. Midnight has her own demons to fight . Emma also sees an upheaval late in life when the old love she had brushed aside surfaces again.

The story weaves these absolutely believable characters and situations in beautiful tapestry. It strengthens the belief in love, friendship and humanity by its portrayal of the lives of these wonderful women who become each other’s guiding light and support. The pangs of loss, the pain of death and the fact that life is ever- ongoing is touchingly brought to fore. The cyclical plot  takes the reader on a travail of birth and death, restoring the faith in love and life. The language is lucid and flowing. The weather, scenery, animals, farm life and wildlife come alive with vibrant description and imagery.

One can see glimpses of our own life and our own quest for the meaning of it all at many places. That is a measure of the author’s wisdom and deep understanding of life. True is indeed a novel not to be missed.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Beautiful Glittering Lie by J.D.R. Hawkins

Title: A Beautiful Glittering Lie
        (A Novel of the Civil War)
Author: J.D.R Hawkins
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating : ****      

Hiram Grunted. “Because it’s my duty to defend my home, Kit” he responded slowly, as if contemplating every word.

Hiram’s answer to Kit Lawrence emphasises the simple logic of the volunteers who chose to enlist when their country called. Hiram Summers chose to fight for his country, the land he tilled and the place where he grew up. He wanted his family, land and house safe. Isn’t that the reason why the common soldier fights a war, regardless of what the leaders and generals make it out to be?

In a nation divided into two due to different ideologies and political thought, the common man is forced to take sides and fight a battle which becomes his own. The American Civil war was one such event in History. When the North fought the South, Hiram, a farmer in Alabama, chose to enlist and was assigned to the newly constituted 4th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army.

The Novel plots his travails on the battlefield and of his family bearing his absence. His son David is unwillingly left behind and tries to find adventure nearer home and risks his life by repeatedly visiting Huntsville, which has been invaded by the Yankees, with his friend Jake Kimball. Caroline, Hiram’s wife and his daughters wait for him. They try to live a normal life and take care of their farm helped and protected by David, now the “Man” in the family. Does Hiram come back? Will David become responsible? It will be a startling discovery for the reader and a very intriguing read all the way to the end.

The work provides a proud revelation of the gallant effort of the 4th Alabama, relating true incidents from the recordings of Mr. R.T Cole, a soldier in the volunteer Infantry. The realistic portrayal of unflinching patriotism and chivalry of the soldiers, their camaraderie and friendship is touching and awe-inspiring. At the same time it is like watching the war from close quarters and it makes one realise the futility of it when every loss of life brings grief.

When Hiram realises the meaninglessness of war, the reader empathises with him. It portrays how in times of strife families are torn apart and their lives are changed forever, notwithstanding the reasons and justifications of war. How the youth have to grow up suddenly when they are forced to take the places of their fathers and their innocence and exuberance is smothered in the aftermath, hits home after reading the story.

The novel is presented as a prequel to the author’s first novel “A Beckoning Hellfire”. For someone who has not read it yet, it will be a very interesting story after the prequel. For someone who has read it will be still more interesting to know what lead to it all.

The style is fast paced and exciting but sometimes the descriptive paragraphs about the battle become long-winding. The characters are very well formed and come out as very real three dimensional people with a gamut of feelings and expressions. Especially likable is the chemistry between Hiram and Caroline and their unflinching trust and understanding. The plot is well knit and one incident flows into another.

“The Beautiful Glittering Lie” – the dream of bravery, adventure, gallantry and Chivalry-that pulls David to enlist, remains intact for him till the end when the children are waiting for Hiram to return home on Christmas.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Mother's Secret by J.L.Witterick

Title : My Mother's Secret
Author : J.L.Witterick
Publisher : IUniverse
ISBN : 9781475962574
Rating : ****

A lot has been chronicled about the events that led to World War II, the barbarity that many underwent during that time, the unhealed scars, the aftermaths of the war and widespread destruction that those years caused. This period is nothing short of a black mark on the face of humankind.

Having said that, if times like these bring out the worst in many, many rise much above the rest, forgetting their personal security and survival to epitomize a true human. These ordinary individuals with their compassion and sympathy become angels for others. And the more we read about such individuals the lesser it is. J.K. Witterick is one author who wanted to write to make a difference. Through 'My Mother's Secret', she brings out a courageous story of a mother and a daughter based on a true story in the times of Holocaust.

Franciszka takes a firm decision to leave Germany and her Nazi sympathizer husband for Poland when Hitler became chancellor in 1933. Her elder son Damian and daughter Helena are more than pleased to leave their father. Poland at that point was a melting pot of people who were Polish, Ukrainians and Jews, though all mistrusting each other.

Piece by piece Franciszka built a decent life for her children but it was not lost on them that Poland would soon be taken over by Germany and that happened in 1939 with complete invasion in 1941 disrespecting the pact that was signed by Hitler and Stalin.

Franciszka and Helena were not immune to the happenings around them either. They could chose to save their skin over being philanthropic but magnanimous hearts find it hard to see helplessness and yet remain inactive. They ended up hiding two Jewish families and  a German soldier in their house for not just a day or two but for 20 odd months. All through this time Helena had to undergo a pain in the heart for hiding this secret from the love of her life, her fiancé.

The stories of Jewish families and that of German soldier build up separately and it is amazing to read how their paths led them to the house of their benefactress Franciszka. The foresightedness, intelligence and selflessness of the mother saw all of them through this difficult time and eventually all did come out from the hiding to lead their normal lives.

The book though set at the most unfortunate of times manages to evoke warm and uplifting feelings. After the story ends the readers are left with hope and belief in the goodness of individuals rather than bad taste for the savagery which dominated that time. My Mother's Secret is one of those books that are perfect to introduce young adults to the historical happenings. It is supposed to be the author's first creation yet she handles the subject with utmost care and sensitivity. A wonderful piece of writing.
Worth mentioning quotes are sprinkled all over the narrative and this goes on to reiterate how adversity brings out the best in people and how sometimes smooth sailing makes a race impassive.

A few excerpts from the book -
"If you choose to do the right thing,  it’s a conscious decision at first. Then it becomes second nature."

"I always thought that courageous people were those who were not afraid. Meeting Franciszka and her daughter, I realize that
courageous people are afraid like everyone else. They just act despite the fear."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Title : The Alchemist
Author : Paulo Coelho
Publisher : Harper Collins
ISBN : 9780061233845

There is time for everything. Nothing happens by chance because there is the force of universe that makes things happen the way they happen and when they have to happen. I must confess that though I have heard so many good things about the book 'The Alchemist' as well as the author, - Paulo Coelho, it took me a long time to pick this book up and read it. It has been on my reading wish list for the longest period of time. But it is indeed true, there is time for everything and nothing can pre-pone or postpone the natural occurrence of that happening.

Now after having read this book, I can say sometimes delay is for good. Perhaps it was waiting for that space and attention in my mind which it deserved and I am happy that it could get its worth. Even after having read it a couple of weeks back, I have taken so many days to write about the book. I wanted the written matter of the book to sink it, get digested and get soaked in my self. This sinking, digesting and soaking is perhaps one of those things which Paulo Coelho categorizes as "It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary" and the extraordinary-ness of the same is understood only by experiencing it.

The Alchemist is a story of a young shepherd boy who ventures to follow his dreams of treasure in a distant place. On the journey, many experiences, incidents and people await him to transform him into a wise and enlightened individual. Paulo Coelho beautifully accentuates the significance of the journey over that of the destination. The treasure could be anything - riches, love or divine wisdom but the same becomes secondary compared to what all is gathered and what all is assimilated on the way to reach the destination. And once that is done, it becomes immaterial whether destination is actually reached or not as the pleasurable journey itself becomes the goal.

The Alchemist is one of those unique books which are packed with insightful acumen without overwhelming the readers.  The ability to listen to one's personal legend, understanding the closeness to the Soul of the World, utilising the positive force to achieve the personal legend is what this life is all about. And universe ensures that to an individual who is determined enough, the Personal Legend does get revealed.
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
"Everyone when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend. "

The enthusiasm to take every moment as it comes, the dexterity to give the best to that moment and then the gratification of  having given done one's best, is all that is required for a successful living. Its when we try to steer our life's sail against the tide because of innumerable fears and apprehensions, that the problem begins."We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand."

The author talks about significance of various other aspects in our lives like - voice of heart, dreams as God's messages, role of an individual in the cycle of life and positive force working its magic strangely. The written text would inspire you - to follow your intuition no matter how illogical it may sound to others, to unlearn a few things in order to make room for new, to explore beyond obvious, to see past prejudices and perceptions and much more. 

Undoubtedly, a 'must read' book.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Twice Betrayed by Carla Tucker Minks

Title :       Twice Betrayed
Author :    Carla Tucker Minks
Publisher : Outskirts Press
Genre :     Cotemporary Romantic Fiction

Taylor Calloway, a psychotherapist by profession in a small modern town suddenly finds her smoothly moving life in chaos. Her dream of an ideal home and marriage is disrupted when she learns of an affair between her husband, Jake and one of her oldest friends, Linda. She is shattered inwardly. She is not able to come to terms with it initially despite years of having counselled many patients with similar problems. Her mentor and old friend Brett helps her work out her situation.

In the process, she unravels many more truths about Jake, their marriage and herself and also attempts to make things work for herself. Will she trust again? Will she love again? As the problem is shared by many, it is intriguing to find out how this specialist deals with it on a personal level.

Her self-discovery and the journey make an interesting read. The story is delivered in first person and the reader discovers her as she reveals her thoughts and conscience. There are various subplots interwoven in the main plot which also help in the reader’s understanding of the main characters and the story. Some extra layers would have worked wonderfully in making the plot still more interesting.  Particularly of note are Annette, Taylor’s relationship with her, her husband Calvin’s disappearance and then reappearance. Calvin’s business partner and friend Gabriel being Taylor’s patient could have lent and interesting twist but that angle is left unexplored. The other cases help Taylor unravel her life and also provide distraction when needed.

Some characters like Taylor, Jake and Brett are very well developed but Annette and especially Linda could have been more interesting if given some depth. The style is easy and flowing making it easy on the eye. The language is simple and clean. Although the ending is a bit hurried, it is an interesting read which keeps you engrossed. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Author: Jane Bennett Munro
Publication: iUniverse Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-4502-9862-9
Rating: ****

Dr. Day, better known as Toni, is a young pathologist working at a local hospital at Twin Falls, Idaho. All is going very smoothly in her life. She is happily married, settled in her job and comfortable with her friends. But enter Dr. Shore, a surgeon at the hospital Toni works and re-enter Robbie, Toni's stalker ex-boyfriend and her life is thrown off the tracks.

Robbie has threatened to kill Toni's husband and Dr. Shore, having caused enough trouble to Toni, to last her a long time, dies mysteriously. It is really interesting and entertaining how Toni tries to bring her life back to normal after her husband is kidnapped and she is accused of Dr. Shore's murder and also, how she discovers so many unknown facts about the people around her when she tries to decode the mystery behind the death.

The sequence of events, the truth behind many a rich person, the warmth of friendship, the undying love of a parent for her child, the understanding of a close one, and of course, two full fledged mystery cases running parallel in a single story, everything is described so beautifully in the book, that it makes a compulsive read once you begin. Moreover, though the main mystery plots are solved there are some tiny aspects left unanswered for the reader to imagine and guess.

Only when you feel that it was a dud ending to the mystery that you realize that all was far from over and what lies ahead may be really murky and dark. A real must read for mystery lovers looking for a suspense thriller of a different kind.

The medical jargon used in the book gives it a different feel altogether, much like a green garnishing on a red colored dish, but it does get a little too much at places, given that an average reader would not have a pathology background.

The closing of the book leaves the reader awestruck, by answering an apparently silly question that remained unanswered during the book, giving further insight into the psychology of the people, in general.

Overall, an awesome piece of work by author Jane Bennett Munro, MD, a pathologist by profession. Having read this book, I would obviously want to read her other book, 'Too Much Blood' with a hope that it lives up to the level similar to that of this book.