The Daylight Gate … a review

I was at Lancaster University last week and spending some time walking around Pendle College and ended up at their very impressive student library. What do I do when that happens? Pick up a book and make a beeline for an empty couch! I picked up this book because I had been to Lancaster Castle the day before and only just found out about the area’s connection to witches!

The book is set in 1612, when James I, a Protestant King, is on the throne. He was James VI of Scotland, of course, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. Apparently, he was obsessed with ridding his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price…

The narrative has an old fashioned writing style, it is not halting though, just different. The local sheriff at Pendle hill interrupts a strange meeting as he suspects it to be a witches’ Sabbat. I won’t tell you how, but even Shakespeare plays a cameo – how cool is that!?

It is a very short read although it looks deceptively thick. It took me a couple of hours and a bit to read, although I was totally engrossed in it. The library was fab and the weather outside was, well, underwhelming, so there.

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Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home … a review

I’ve taken a long time to write this one up. But it is a book of poems, so my excuse is that I read it in fits and bursts, on my commute as well as in bed, savouring it slowly. When Dane Cobain, the poet, asked me to review it, I expected something, I don’t know what the word for it is, traditional. But this book has been a pleasant surprise on that front. Allow me to elaborate by using some examples.

There’s no such thing as a gentleman

anymore;

just men and women

stumbling through life

in the same way they always have.

Welcome to society,

our capitalistic, gender-neutral

society;

we are all equal

in our misery.

I thought these lines were beautiful, but sad, accepting, but rebellious. It is the harsh reality of our times, put quite in a brutally honest way. I haven’t read something like this for a while. Read this

Then the web hit its terrible teens

and we signed up en masse

to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat

and WhatsApp,

and now our fragmented entities

are just stressful lives

lived out in public;

mass hallucinations and delirium

pulling us together and

pushing us apart.

Another set of lines that struck a chord for me. But it is not just the online world that Cobain rips apart. It is everything from religion to region, with a good measure of myth and mystery. Some of it is also very personal, very intimate, like having a drink with the poet and the things he might let spill over it.

I’ll leave you with a small set of lines which could be quite controversial, but are especially relevant with so many upcoming referendums and elections.

If Britain

is only for the British,

then I’m no longer

British.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have a soft corner for poetry and Cobain weaves his frustrations with the modern world deftly into stanzas which come across as masterfully crafted.

 

Trigger Warnings … a review

I got this book as a Christmas present from a faraway friend who has the most eclectic reading taste.She asked me if I had read any Gaiman and when I said no, she proceeded to post me this. I can safely say that this is unline anything I have read in a long time.

This book is primarily fantasy fiction, with elements of magic realism, surrealism, and general strangeness that run in a common vein throughout. Made up of many short stories and poems of varying lengths, this has a  nice dip-in-and-out quality to it. And that is exactly what I needed as I have been travelling over the holidays to various people. I like to read short stories which then don’t weigh on my mind when I’m doing other stuff and make me in any way anti-social.

Some of the stories have stayed with me. Especially, a modern day retelling of Cinderella, which is my favourite Disney move since I was three! Gaiman is a natural poet and his writing has a haunting, wistful quality about it that is very engaging. In some ways, this book was a reminder of feelings of reading Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes. And as far as I am concerned, being reminded of his writing is never a bad thing.

If you fancy a different kind of read, shorter fiction, fairy-tales for adults, or just want to add some surreal to the January fog, this is your book. Enjoy!

The Girl in the Spider’s Web … a review

I enjoyed the Millenium series immensely. I read them in the summer of 2011 and all I remember of that summer is the entirety of those books and reading them at various places battling the Delhi heat. So when I heard that there was going to be a fourth book, I was surprised that it had almost next to none publicity. I mean, when Mockingbird‘s sequel released in July, the world practically drove themselves into a frenzy!

Anyway, the original author is dead, so this is controversially written by David Lagercrantz,who has continued on from where Larsson left off. I will not tell you about the controversy here because you can Google it. What I will tell you is that the way he has done it is impressive. The book is very well written and reads seamlessly like the previous ones (although I am mindful that I have read them all in translation).

Lizbeth, one of the most striking and unforgettable characters in modern fiction is portrayed with class and finesse, something that readers have admired bout her. Our journalist Blomkvist and his business partner Berger are just the same, like old friends to the reader. And the plot too, is well thought out and well researched. As usual, Nordic noir is set in the backdrop of a cold frigid winter and that always heightens the excitement. But the action spans across various locations and the inclusion of a child with special needs just ties up everything brilliantly.

What I will say is though that the pace seemed a little slow as compared to the previous books. Those ones were thicker and more complex plot-wise. But I suppose that is where the difference of the actual author comes out. For what it’s worth, Lagercrantz has done a fine job and I really hope that he continues to rite more novels with the same beloved characters. Especially if Craig and Mara are around to act in the movies!