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Sky Burial by Xinran

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.

Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husband’s death.

In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wen’s journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.

The View:

I have not still read Xinran’s first book ‘The Good Women of China’ though it has been on my never-ending TBR pile. Sky Burial is an astounding tale to say the least. I enjoyed every aspect of reading and feeling this book. You can’t help but delve deep into the story of Shu Wen and it is not surprising that Xinran felt a compelling need to tell this tale.

Just 100 days after being married to the love of her life, Shu Wen receives a letter stating that her husband, an Army doctor is dead. With barely any details about the events leading to his death, Shu Wen believed that he was still alive and went in search of him. She reaches Tibet but is separated from her unit and spends the next few decades with nomadic Tibetans and a friend she made along the way. She loses her friend and a lot more during her stay there but gains love, trust and hope.

This is a stunning tale of unending love, belief and sorrow. Shu Wen is remarkable and her tenacity adorable. The writing and details are at many places sparse but they convey the message and that works well enough for this tale. An epic love story is how the book has been described and that is exactly what it is. When the actual fate of her husband was revealed I realized that I was not prepared for it, I re-read that chapter a couple of times hoping that it would change.

Rated a 5 on 5. This book is 200 pages of stunning story and well-played emotions. Keep a box of tissues while reading this book as chances are you will definitely need it.


kavyen

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Haunting Beauty (A Mists of Ireland Novel) by Erin Quinn

The Book:

Source for The Book section: From Goodreads

Danni always believed she was an abandoned child. Then the seductive Sean Ballogh appears out of nowhere with a startling story challenging everything Danni thought was true. He claims that Danni’s family has been searching for her ever since she disappeared twenty years ago. He’s come to bring her home to Ireland. Now, Danni must rewrite history to save her family, to fight a force more evil than she ever imagined, and to reunite herself with the man she was destined for-or risk living forever in time as nothing more than an ethereal memory, a tragic and haunting beauty.

The View:

I liked reading ‘Haunting Beauty’ in spite of the fact that it does not fall in the category of my ‘preferred genres’. After the first few chapters, I found myself struggling to keep up with the flow of the book as it got very confusing. Reality, visions and dreams were intertwined together and meshed so tightly that a reader surely gets misled. I did feel that the visions and dreams were mandatory to give the story its appeal, but wished that they were portrayed slightly differently for ease of reading.

I fell in love with both Danni and Sean. The blooming romance between them was captivating and I was literally biting my nails to see if their pasts can be changed. Danni is very courageous but she also exhibits a vulnerability that was left behind in her by the past events. Sean is conscious of his duty and the purpose of his visit but cannot help himself from falling in love with her. He exhibits a different kind of vulnerability which is again ‘ADORABLE’.

When I finished the book, I had more questions than answers (and that is a good thing right?) Who is the lady in white? Where is Danni’s twin brother? Will Danni and her twin brother ever meet? I am eager to read the rest of the books from this series as it surely has a lot of mystical romantic suspense to offer. Rated a 4 on 5 but just be prepared for the visions, dreams and oops! did I forget the Time travel.


kavyen

Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul

The Book:

Source for The Book section : From Goodreads
Half a Life is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned his back on his brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste — a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that issued from it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. This is what happens as he tries to defeat self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer — strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. And this is what happens when he returns with her — carried along, really — to her home in Africa, to live, until the last doomed days of colonialism, yet another life not his own.

In a luminous narrative that takes us across three continents, Naipaul explores his great theme of inheritance with an intimacy and directness unsurpassed in his extraordinary body of work. And even as he lays bare the bitter comical ironies of assumed identities, he gives us a poignant spectacle of the enervation peculiar to a borrowed life. In one man’s determined refusal of what he has been given to be, Naipaul reveals the way of all our experience. As Willie comes to see, “Everything goes on a bias. The world should stop, but it goes on.” A masterpiece of economy and emotional nuance, Half a Life is an indelible feat of the imagination.

The View:

A lot of my book selections is based on peer reviews and recommendations but there are a few that make me curious and urge me to ignore my TBR pile. “Half a Life” is one such book that jumped the volumes of my TBR pile and fell right on my bed stand.
Reason number 1: The author’s reputation and the Nobel prize to boost it further.
Reason number 2: I recently came across an article which stated that the author made some derogatory remarks about female authors and that sparked my anger. I had to see what he had to offer.

As mentioned, I was unimpressed by the author and started reading the book with a lot of skepticism. But I have to acknowledge that his writing is far superior than many authors we see today. Simple, elegant and to the point, he conveys the message in a clear and concise fashion. I enjoyed the initial chapters in the book which explains the life his father led and the vow of silence he adapted. The bare interaction between Willie and his Brahmin father was also very well described. The social norms, cultural aspects, and the intricacies of living in an indian society were almost spot on. Then Willie moves to London and there for me the story fades.

Willie’s character is neither here nor there. He does not identify with the place, people or the religion he is in at any point of his life. He fails to understand himself and is always aspiring to be someone else. When he does find an identity he is so determined to not be like his father, that he lands up not being himself as well. His sexual escapades (though not described graphically) still annoyed me. My thoughts when I finished the book was with poor Ana; she must have been one hell of a peaceful soul to put up with such a loser.

This book cannot be categorized as an enjoyable read but I still managed to read it till the end because I was eager to see if Willie will accept who he is and live a complete life. Of course that never happens. Naipaul is definitely a talented writer but he seems to have failed in the plot and the characters with this one. Rated a 3 on 5.


kavyen

Born to Die by Lisa Jackson

The Book:

Appearances. . .
A sad, strange coincidence. . .that’s Dr. Kacey Lambert’s initial response to the deaths of two women who bear an uncanny resemblance to herself. It’s not like there was any real connection between Kacey and the B-movie actress or the elementary school teacher. But Detective Selena Alvarez suspects otherwise.

Can Be. . .
One of the bodies contained traces of poison at the time of death. Selena and her partner, Detective Regan Pescoli, can find no motive for murder. But Kacey has started to notice ties between the dead women’s lives and her own—all close in age, born within miles of each other. And all have links to Trace O’Halleran, the man Kacey just started dating.

Deadly. . .
The deeper Kacey digs, the more reason she has to fear. More look-alikes are dying, and the killer is getting bolder and more brutal. And Kacey knows it’s only a matter of time before hers is the next name on a list of those who were born to die. . .

The View:

I am always eager to read a Lisa Jackson book as it creates an excitement and interest that only a proficient author can manage too. I have read many books by her and I admire the fact that every plot always appears new and fresh. “Born to Die” is yet another refreshing entertainer.

Dr.”Kasey” Lambert’s life starts to take a roller-coaster turn with a seemingly unrelated death. Her receptionist informs her that a B actress who bears a resemblance to her has committed suicide. Very soon, a number of deaths follows this event and the binding factor is that the dead women all have an uncanny resemblance to each other and to Kasey.

Kasey is a delightful character and added a lot of interest to the plot. The budding romance between her and Trace is sincere and adds a nice touch to the otherwise serious situation. The addition of Trace’s son brings in an emotional and real life situation every now and then. The Grizzly Falls detective team of Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli never disappoint and have not with this one either. They show a keen interest in the case and uncover some unexpected twists.

Rated a 4 on 5.

I already have two more books by Lisa Jackson in my TBR pile waiting to be devoured. Don’t miss out on her if you want a thrilling read.


kavyen

Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger

The Book:

Willow Graves has recently moved to the Hollows along with her divorced novelist mom Bethany. She is not happy about the change and during one of her lonely moments sees Michael digging in the woods. Michael Holt grew up in the Hollows and is back after his father’s death to discover the truth about his mother who went missing many years ago. He seeks the help of Ray and psychic Eloise to trace his beautiful mother Marla Holt.

Jones Cooper is contented with his retired life and spends his time helping his neighbors with their odd jobs. But Eloise warns him of an impending danger. Danger or not, he decides to help Paula Carr and agrees to find her husband’s ex-wife. The characters meet, interact and a new plot evolves when coincidences happen. Will Jones find Paula and her husband’s ex-wife? Where is Marla Holt and will Willow finally get to like living in the Hollows?

The View:

I love to pick books that intrigue me when I see them in fellow bloggers web pages. Sometimes I pick them based on reviews and other times just because I love a snippet the blogger chose. Lisa Unger is an author I was unaware off till I happened to visit Laurel’s blog for a weekly meme. Oh, how glad I am!!

Darkness, My Old Friend is an exciting read. With a divorced novelist, a lonely teenager, a retired detective, a grave-digger, a psychic, a petrified wife and so many more characters, there is no dearth for entertainment in this plot. The story has the right mix of emotions, problems and mysteries associated with relationships. At first it appears as if there are numerous stand-alone tales happening in the Hollows but they all blend together perfectly well as the story progresses.

The characters are all portrayed well and since the story is told from their perspective you tend to understand and relate to them much better. At first I thought that there were too many people and the only thing binding them was the fact that they all lived in a small town but then they interact and the puzzle falls in place. The interaction between the characters however unlikely works out great.

I enjoyed this book tremendously (though I took a long time to complete it with all my family commitments). Thanks to Laurel for the introduction to a great author and book. Rated a 4 on 5. ‘Darkness, an old friend’ appears as a standalone book but is in fact a sequel to her book ‘FRAGILE’. In order for me to completely relate to the book I had to go back and re-read a few chapters, probably reading ‘FRAGILE’ would have helped me avoid this.


kavyen

Running from Secrets by Stephanie Void

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
Bethany has never felt as alone as she feels in Linwood—until she dreams up Chime, a woman on the run because of a magic crime she didn’t commit. The dreams get more and more urgent, so Bethany tries to banish them by writing them down, only to discover she’s stumbled into the role of unwitting controller of Chime’s world.

Chime is real here, and so is the possessed queen, minion army, mysterious professor, Vault Five, wind chimes with a secret code, child’s rhyme that can kill, the naked painting, and other things Chime’s story leads her to.

She has to fix the story without erasing Chime and her world, because if she erases Chime, she will die as well

The View:

I just realized that this book was left out on my reviews. I read this when I was going through a phase of “Reading more and Blogging less”. It is really sad that I didn’t get to post my review earlier, but better late than never.

Bethany had lost her twin sister Antonio and to help the family cope with the tragedy they move to a new place. As soon as they move in, a stranger knocks at their door and warns Bethany of the ‘evil’ forest. In her new environment Bethany has this incredible desire to write and through her words creates a vivid imaginative world that would suck her in.

At 17, Bethany displayed a lot more imagination then expected. She is both strong and brave but also appeared confused and disoriented in a few scenes (making her realistic). My hot favorites however where the Queen and Chime. I could picturise both these characters as a lot of depth was evident in their portrayal.

The language used in the book is simple and descriptive. It takes a serious author to effectively convey the transition that happens between the two worlds that Bethany is caught in. Stephanie Void does a great job at this. While at some places the plot appeared to drag on, it caught up with the fast pace in the rest of the plot.

I enjoyed this book tremendously and though I read it quite some time ago, I remember every character and event of the plot as if I read it yesterday. “Running from Secrets” is one of those books that will leave a lasting impression on you. Rated a 4 on 5 for the tremendous creativity and the drastically different plot.

I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.


kavyen

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a Sixtieth Year by Virginia Ironside

The Book:

Source for ‘The Book’ section : From Goodreads
Don’t harass her about parasailing or taking Italian language courses. Forget about suggesting she join a gym. Marie Sharp may be a little creaky in the bones as she heads toward the big 6-0, but she’s fine with it. She would rather do without all the moving-to-Florida-bicycling-across- Mongolia-for-the-hell-of-it hoopla that her friends insist upon. She’s already led an exciting life: She came of age in the 1960s, after all. Now, with both a new grandchild and a new man on the horizon, all she wants to do is make the most of what she considers the most interesting stage of her life. In this wonderfully astute novel based on the author’s own experiences, No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club is the funny—and often poignant—fictionalized diary of an older woman . . . a decade or two past her prime and content to leave it all behind her. So don’t tell her to take a gourmet cooking class, and whatever you do, don’t you dare tell her to join a book club. Fresh and truly unique, moving gracefully on in years has never been more hilarious than in this forthright grandma’s take on the “third phase” of life.

The View:

The light mood of the book’s cover and the fact that it had a book club mention in the title forced me to pick this one from the local library. I don’t know what I was expecting but I hoped for a lot of mentions to books and book clubs (You are probably nodding your head and laughing at my stupid ignorance).

I liked the lead character Marie Sharp and believed that she had the attitude, spark and audacity to give an interesting twist to the plot. She had a sarcastic, realistic and a witty approach to turning 60. I have another 30 years to get to her age (Ok, if you need an honest count than it is 27) but I could connect with the critical life’s learnings she imparts along with her crazy sense of humor.

Now what I didn’t like about the book was that it was not funny enough and failed to utilize the wit of Marie effectively. The email references were lame and so were many other incidents or references. The plot had no interesting event and even refused to add spark to her monotonous life. Her love for her grandchild though sweet was not enough to carry the reader’s interest forward. I finished reading this book only because it was a light reading material.

Rated a 3 on 5 for the strong impressive characters and the weak subtle storyline.


kavyen