Stronger Within … a review

Stronger Within is Coral McCallum’s debut novel, the first book in the Silver Lake series. Set in Delaware, it follows the lives of Lori (a.k.a Mz Hyde) an artist cum investor and Jake, a guitarist in a rock band. A chance meeting occurs and one thing leads to another as an unlikely couple come together.

The author takes her time. The build up of the characters is very slow, it is at life speed. So events happen at a very realistic speed but until an important thread in the background is revealed, I have nothing to go on. So the first third of the book is a bit slow going. But as the pace picks up and we follow the characters’ individual and collective journeys, the plot unravels masterfully.

In particular, I really enjoyed the rock band’s travels. Because they perform across the US as well as overseas, it adds an element of adventure to the novel. There is a great deal of detail in every scene and the writing is very fluid and easily read.

So it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Especially as the nights have started to draw in on this northern burgh ever so much, this book filled quite a few evenings with a big mug of tea – recommended!

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The Sunrise … a review

I picked this book up at a local book swap. It was set in Europe, seemed a good sized travel read, and it’s summer – so if those two boxes are ticked I’m set. What took me by surprise is how moving, beautiful and tangible Victoria Hislop’s writing is.

The book is set in Cyprus in the 1970s. Now, I will admit, before I read this book I knew nothing about Cyprus. But that was just as well, because the backdrop is the social, political and economic climate of the country in the 70s and 80s. In the heart of the action are the couple that owns the fancy hotel on the beach in Famagusta ‘The Sunrise’ and their business manager of sorts. As riots and rivalry break out between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, we read on as families are torn apart, entire cities razed to dust and love crumbles. If you haven’t read anything by Hislop yet, I highly recommend it. And if you have been or are planning to go to Cyprus, then this should be on your must-read list.

The only thing I will say is, this isn’t a light read. It has substance, it is not your typical ‘I can zone out while reading this…’ type of book. So with that word of caution, I will leave you. Have you read anything else by Hislop? Recommendations?

Jamilia … a review

I first heard about the book Jamilia a long time ago, in context of Kyrgyztan. I cannot remember what it was now… I got my hands on the Telegram copy a few weeks ago. It is only a novella, took me only about an hour and a half to read it. It is a beautiful love story and is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov.

The novel is the story if Jamilia, as told by her brother-in-law Seit, a young Kyrgyz artist. Jamilia’s husband is at the front at war and this books talks of her love of Daniyar, a local cripple. While nothing earth-shattering happens, the book recounts the tender emotions of love and the sense of society very beautifully. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was in its peak in that period.

During the Soviet era, Aitmatov was known as the “intellectual father of the Kyrgyz people” and as the “voice of Central Asia.” Under Stalin, he was a tax collector, a warehouse worker and a machinist, before studying veterinary medicine and literature and eventually becoming the most popular Soviet writer.

I’d recommend the book, and I think free versions are available on the web too.

An Atlas of Impossible Longing … a review

It has been a long time since I read an Indian author writing in English. I cannot say I have read a lot of them anyway, but Amitav Ghosh has always been close to my heart. And I still remember reading The Hungry Tide a long time ago and how it touched me.

This novel by Anuradha Roy touches on some similar themes. The idea of caste in rural Bengal, the frequent floods, the ache of unrequited love are all similar and deftly captured. The story of two generations of young men and women, whose live just meander along with little or no meaning, with the passage of time is written in a poignant way.

There is a Macondo-esque village in this novel, a kind of place that has life infused in it easily and one can almost imagine it standing as a still witness to the coming and goings of its characters. I also loved the descriptions and imagery in the passing of the seasons and the effects upon the soft green lands.

Roy’s writing is very beautiful, and it lends itself well to the theme of longing. I hadn’t even heard of her but will definitely keep an eye out for more of her works. I’ll leave you with this quote…

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.”

10 Favourite Love Quotes

Here’s 10 of my personal favourites:

“I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it — to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more. Just once. ”
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves”
Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

“For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him when he departs to the Havens: for mine is the choice of Luthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“It is that happy stretch of time when the lovers set to chronicling their passion. When no glance, no tone of voice is so fleeting but it shines with significance. When each moment, each perception is brought out with care, unfolded like a precious gem from its layers of the softest tissue paper and laid in front of the beloved — turned this way and that, examined, considered.”
Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love

“The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving that person forever.”
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

“You can never know if a person forgives you when you wrong them. Therefore it is existentially important to you. It is a question you are intensely concerned with. Neither can you know whether a person loves you. It’s something you just have to believe or hope. But these things are more important to you than the fact that the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180 degrees. You don’t think about the law of cause and effect or about modes of perception when you are in the middle of your first kiss.”
Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World

“The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

“I want to fall in love in such a way that the mere sight of a man, even a block away from me, will shake and pierce me, will weaken me, and make me tremble and soften and melt.”
Anaïs Nin, Delta of Venus

And in the end, I leave you with the most heartbreaking love poem by Pablo Neruda, placed to incredible violin, watch here.

One Day … a review

I read this book over two long haul flights. It was a recommedation from a friend who knows I enjoy books set in Edinburgh. This one starts off in Edinburgh but then is based in some other places, depending on where the characters are.

The year is 1988. Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have woken up from having spent the night together in Emma’s flat in Edinburgh. It is the day after their graduation. As the book progresses, the story follows the lives of Em and Dex, on that day, every day, for twenty years. The characters meet, unmeet, and then go their separate ways. Life goes on, as do their individual trajectories.The book weaves in and out of their lives with each other and with other people. Many characters come and go, some stay.

There are a couple of things very good about this book. First of all, it is an unusual way to write a book. It is evident that the narrator is witness to these two peoples’ lives and that in itself is like someone has held a lens to their eyes. The other thing is that the ending is extremely believeable. It is not a rom-com ending, and it is not a typical ending. I will not spoil the ending by saying any more but I very strongly recommend the book, it is like reading the story of you or I. It is one of the very best I have read of modern fiction and I thoroughly enoyed it.

The Fault in Our Stars … a review

I remember when this book came out and it took the world by storm. Everyone was talking about it, rcommending it, and were writing rave reviews about it. Somehow, I didn’t quite manage to get a copy from the library at the time and consequently, forgot about it. Then the movie came out and it was everywhere again. But of course, I didn’t watch it then because I hadn’t read the book… duh!

Anyway, I picked this up at a second hand bookstore the other day and ead it over a weekend. The story was very easy to read. The language isn’t lucid, but it is very free flow. It is about two teenagers who have cancer and who fall in love with each other. And then, eventually, as is the case with all such cancer plots, one dies and the other lives to carry the burden of loss.

Overall, this book was average and I don’t know why it created th hype that it did. I liked the storyline of a book plot within the plot, and I liked the overall predictability of it. But, the way the characters speak to each other felt fake. It was too philosophical, too big of them. Having been a carer to a close person who died of cancer, I can safely say that when a loved one suffers, philosophy, the greater theme, the bigger picture of life all sounds like a load of rubbish.

So I wasn’t big on the book. However, while reading it I did think that it was movie material, with sufficiently engaging characters and dialogues. So I will watch the movie at some point, even though I am not a big movie person. It has got to be seen right?