The Spirits of Al Faw by Francisco A Ojeda

Reflective of Ojeda’s personal experiences, the book brings out the deeper conscience and understanding of someone who’s seen things closely.

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Title: The Spirits of Al Faw

Author: Francisco A Ojeda

Publisher: Xlibris

Date of Publication: 15 June 2017

Rating: 5/5

faw

Simple yet sophisticated is the writing style of Ojeda’s The Spirits of Al Faw. Opening at the Baghdad International Airport, the novel recounts innumerable experiences in the working career of Master Sergeant Deveroe,  the operations sergeant for a military intelligence battalion deployed in Iraq in 2006.

Looking at the Iraqi sky, he recalls his time in war torn Kuwait and the smell of burned ash, charcoal and diesel that spread through the air adding to the excessively hot climate. From the very first word of the first page, the eye for detail in The Spirits of Al Faw is incredible. Every tiny bit mentioned adds to building the scenes as well as the plot. The plot moves at a smooth and moderate pace. Reflective of Ojeda’s personal experiences, the book brings out the deeper conscience and understanding of someone who’s seen things closely.

Though written in the form of a fiction, it is the mark of personal experiences that adds to creating a real and believable atmosphere in which nothing seems out of place or proportion. Ojeda’s writing style also includes a knack for including only that which is necessary making the plot free of over cramming. It is a brilliant insight into the difficult lives of military personnel who trade personal comfort and safety for causes in favor of national security. Instances of camaraderie, personal individual issues and team work are emotionally moving but not overly sentimental. Ojeda maintains a resistance to over dramatizing things which helps to keep up the balance between the plot line and the multiple climaxes. As a result, the novel feels very much like a spine chilling thriller. Though not hurt in the ambush that Deveroe suffered, it is his desire to return to combat with his unit. It is this decision that proves to be life changing and life threatening for Deveroe. What follows are thrills unmanageable and conspiracies of superlative standards in this happening novel that takes its readers to the heart of some of the worst political crises involving the mystic, mysterious and magestic lands of the Middle East.

The information regarding fighter planes, tanks, trucks and other equipment is very interesting. Opposed to this is an officer’s devotion and dedication at stake in this thrilling and equally chilling novel of new perspectives that is bound to pin the reader down from the start. The multiple climaxes keep readers engaged but each flows into the other with ease so it is not too hard to digest or too sudden to comprehend. Climax after climax, the story only seems to get denser and more adventurous.

However, set at 426 pages, the book is quite lengthy and time consuming to read. The various plot twists make for a challenging read. The book does not have any chapter divisions and is written in a single go. Those who do not enjoy political thrillers or war fiction will have a hard time getting through the bulk of practical and scientific information. That is not to deny that it is an exciting comprehension of a world about which little is known. Ojeda’s writing style is his strong point and through it he is able to create miracles on paper that assuredly should not bore the regular reader. Also, the addition of a supernatural angle to the plot in the form of mental disturbances or hallucinations to the protagonist is a unique twist including other episodes of insurgency and wild animal attacks. Sadly, the book cover needs more work and is too plain in comparison to the contents of the story.

84K by Claire North

Money speaks in this depressing, sci-fi world with nothing in the name of human rights or mass petitioning.

Title: 84K

Author: Claire North

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: 24 May 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

84K

 

“This is the daily diet on which Theo Miller is fed:

murder

theft

fraud

burglary

rape”

Bound in never ending plot twists is the story of life being defined by a single number. 84K is a dystopian thriller which revolves around the central character Theo. He is set against the world that surrounds him with its darkness encroaching on him like worms eating up a dead body. Bewildered and terribly shocked by the sudden death of his ex-lover Dani, Theo has his world turned upside down as he begins to question and ponder on the legitimacy of social systems.

This make believe world of his has severe punishment for every crime that is committed. The book goes on to enlist all the crimes and the punishments for each follow. Though a lot of readers will come with the excitement of reading a modern day dystopian novel, however, the writing style of the book can kill a lot of thrills. Constant shuffling between events and juggling of facts leads to an overload of information that is random, fragmented and scattered. It is not until a few chapters that the story catches some pace but that doesn’t do away with the fact that the way it is written is confusing making the book a difficult read. But if one can get past that, then the book has several highs and lows and enough matter to keep readers entertained.

Having to go through the first few pages over and over again to get a hang of what exactly is going on is rather frustrating. Passages are followed by single words mentioned one after another. This is followed by dialogues or other verbal exchanges in this confusing write up. Of the several themes are the important underlying ideas on capitalism that continuously forges its double standards. Class politics abounds in cases where the middle or lower classes are severely punished while the rich get away even after having committed some of the most heinous crimes by just throwing in huge sums of money.

Money speaks in this depressing, sci-fi world with nothing in the name of human rights or mass petitioning. The eye for detail is great as it allows for the creation of an other worldly world that is both interesting and astounding. But for readers familiar with more hard core dystopia this piece may not seem so original. For readers wanting to begin reading sci fi dystopic novels this is a good starter. The writing style is a barrier and multiple attempts may be required to try to grasp the happenings of the novel.

Godfall and Other Stories by Sandra M Odell

The stories are murky, grim and slightly futuristic but based on places and locations of the present world. The stories move from one place of the globe to another and portray other wordly events that are apocalyptic and cataclysmic in nature.

Title: Godfall and Other Stories

Author: Sandra M Odell

Publisher: Hydra House

Date of Publication: 18 April 2018

Rating: 4/5

godfall

A collection of twenty two odd tales, Godfall and Other Stories by Sandra M Odell is an interesting read for lovers of short fiction. Varied with a tendency to be obscure and far fetched, this collection is brilliantly written to cater to the tastes of readers who are always on the go and do not have time to sit and read lengthy novels.

Just like the title of the collection, individual stories revolve around human and non human creatures who can leave the reader equally shocked and surprised with their funny ways. By funny of course, there is no reference to humour of any kind. The stories are murky, grim and slightly futuristic but based on places and locations of the present world. The stories move from one place of the globe to another and portray other wordly events that are apocalyptic and cataclysmic in nature. It can be well understood that if what is understood to be the Omniscient and Omnipotent Divinity that has its reach to the farthest corner of the earth ends of falling off from the sky then what will become of the events of this world? It is this chaos that is imagined up by Odell in imbibing a fiction that is one of its kind and very refreshing. Some interesting titles include Ink, Curtain Call and Lost in Translation. 

Each story is followed by a brief explanation in short passages regarding its conception, the real life events that triggered them and the methods used by Odell to configure these into the stories that leave traces of bewilderment in the minds of the readers. Though largely the stories are indescribable that a sort of frantic mode of narration creates, they are filled with pathos and grab the reader’s attention immediately. There is also a mix of ancient mythology and mysticism in creating and naming the characters and their attributes. It all adds to an enchanting vibe to the collection that is rare considering the absence of multiple authors. Yet, every story is unique, highly speculative wonderfully thrilling in a close knit manner without any loopholes. What adds to the interest is the wonderful book cover that depicts a horned goat like figure leaning onto a soldier character who are rowing a boat over bones, skull, human remains and a fallen cross which shows the condition of religion in this make believe world.

Scary, quirky and mysterious.

Look at Me by Mareike Krügel

The novel is moderately paced by its the emotional appeal that will touch readers. As the story rolls out, readers are bound to feel as crippled, helpless and devastated at each point as Katharine.

Title: Look at Me

Author: Mareike Krugel

Publisher: Text Publishing

Date of Publication: 26 February 2018

Rating: 5/5

look

All mothers are concerned about their children but some are a little too concerned. What happens when this over concern enters the realms of paranoia? Will it destroy the mother child relationship or will it create a whole new stance for motherhood?

Katharine is doing her doctorate in musicology and is a mother of two. More like a single mother of two as she receives very little support from her husband Costas who is away most of the time for work. They have had rough times in their relationship and are seeking separation. More like they’re separated, atleast in their hearts. But that’s not the only problem. Katharine is highly indecisive about anything and everything in her life. She is diffident and constantly confused about what could be done next or what the best next move may be. But that’s not the only problem either. She has to raise two kids Helli and Alex all by herself most of the time.

She wishes to be able to give more time to her children as she never received any during the phases of her life she most wanted parental guidance. She feels like a bad parent. When Alex announces about bringing his girlfriend home then all Katharine can do is hope that she knows how to act around them. Over thinking is a trait that she’s unable to let go. It is this that makes her situation all the more difficult. Looking at her teenage daughter Helli, she wishes to be able to share a positive mother-daughter bond that will allow Helli to confide all her worries to her mother instead of her friends. Generation gap and her own fears prevent her from engaging more closely with Helli who is all too confident and carefree. But that is not the problem too. Katharine misses her mother whom she lost to breast cancer and her sister Sissi is a well established musician and professional who does not understand Katharine’s dilemmas. But what will happen if history decides to repeat itself in the form of a lump in Katharine’s breast?

The novel is moderately paced by its the emotional appeal that will touch readers. As the story rolls out, readers are bound to feel as crippled, helpless and devastated at each point as Katharine. She is suffering not just from indecision but also severe depression. Most importantly, her physical health condition remains hidden from the rest of her family and friends. She buries herself under this paranoia and it is utterly hurtful for readers to see her get worse by the chapter.

To make matters harder, she enters into a consensual fling with an old acquaintance. This makes her more guilty and worrisome about her future and her daughter’s in any case that she doesn’t survive. Strangely, she never visits the doctor or seeks medical help for her physical condition and mental distresses. The whole novel is written in the present tense in an interesting manner of dropping climax after climax without much warning. Perhaps, it is only the title that screams for help as Katharine looks clearly disoriented and in dire need for some professional and personal support to sort out her life and work. But her concern for her daughter remains utmost. The novel has been translated from German into English by Imogen Taylor.

Refreshing and depressing at the same time.

 

Priyamvada & Co. by Sudha Nair

What really comes out of it all is the intertwined lives of all the characters who are related to each other in some or the other way for work or as family connections. But true love is never easy to find.

Title: Priyamvada & Co.

Author: Sudha Nair

Publisher: Kalari Publishing

Date of Publication: 10 May 2018

Rating: 3.8/5

priyamvada

Prithvi is a mechanical engineer who designs video games and has returned from America to India for good. His mother Vinodini is an actress from the early days of cinema. She is an old lady now confined to her wheelchair. Prithvi is also a film producer and ever since the death of one of his colleagues, the media has been behind his life chasing him everywhere he goes. Wanting to follow his grandfather’s footsteps and fulfill his passion for cinema, he wanted to work in Priyamvada Studios that had been set up by his grandfather. But his father’s anger had made him pursue engineering in the States.

Back in India, he divides his time between looking after his ailing mother and working on his passions. It is when the lady in white crosses his path and scrapes his car that things take a different turn in the story. Three sisters have lost their father. All they have left is each other and all the things that their father used. They cannot seem to part with those things. The story catches on pace and moves ahead quickly as drama is added on. It is set in modern locations; the first half in Bangalore and the next in the beautiful lush green God’s own country Kerala. It talks of people living in residential complexes and metropolitan existences. However, the novel is over loaded with characters. Characters keep getting added after almost every page.Nonetheless, the story doesn’t remain stagnant and keeps moving forward steadily. Remembering all the characters and details related to them is challenging at times. The constant switching over from persons and places adds to the thrill and the difficulty of the book though it is an easy read.

In complete contrast, Kerala brings in the mysterious character of fifty year old money lender Thomachan. In an attempt to beat his loneliness he considers asking Indulekha out. He fell in love with her the moment he had set his eyes on her and it is his belief that if he’s waited so long to find a bride then he should not settle for anyone less than her. She runs a vegetable shop as the story goes on to reveal the love lives of those belonging to not so well to do fragments of the society. Infrequent use of Malayalam words are seen here. What really comes out of it all is the intertwined lives of all the characters who are related to each other in some or the other way for work, as family connections or as new acquaintances.

But true love is never easy to find. When one character fancies another then there are several tensions and conflicts that come into play diverting there paths in other directions. Rife with emotions, the book is a light romance in the backdrop of an individual’s struggle to revive a film production company and live up to his grandfather’s legacy. The story spans at a length of 42 chapters and 161 pages with a sweet and delightful ending. As a sequel to the best selling novel The Wedding Tamasha, in this second book in the series of The Menon Women which glimpses the life of the second daughter Neha Menon, Nair goes on to show that love ultimately triumphs and being in love makes one feel complete.

Interview with Roy Aronson

If you want to read about the veterinary profession read a book written by a vet. The insights vets have about their profession is irreplaceable. Most vet books written by vets, that I have read, have got it spot on.

Roy is a veterinary surgeon in a private practice and has had extensive experience with both small animals and wildlife.

He has worked in the city and in the wild African bush. He was the presenter of a series made for TV, called “Dr Roy’s Vet Safari” which was also documented in his first book: Tales of an African Vet. In 2009 he published It’s a Vet’s Life – Adventures in the City and the Wild.

Roy is interested in African mysticism and ancestral worship and communications, and has made a study of this subject, collecting information and firsthand experience and documentation about this subject as well as interviewing indigenous peoples and visiting some sacred sites where African mysticism and alchemy was practiced.

roy

 

Tee: Jamie James and the Curse of the Ancestors is a unique blend of the old and the new. How did you come up with the idea of this book?

Roy: The “curse” is based on a curse that is well known in the area. There is a farm about seventy kilometres from Cape Town known as “Boontjieskraal”. The English name for the farm is Bean Farm. About two hundred years ago the owner of the farm whipped a slave to death and the slave’s mother placed a death curse on the males of the family. The last male member died violently in 1986 in a motor cat accident. I wanted to write a book about a young boy who wanted to be a vet. I am also fascinated by the Boontjieskraal curse. It then occurred to me to combine the two ideas and thus Jamie James was born.

Tee: Was it difficult to write from the perspective of a 15 year old boy? Is Jamie based on anyone?

Roy: The most difficult thing is finding the words and rhythm of a fifteen year old, as I am quite a lot older than that (ha ha). My son was 15 at the time and his name is Jamie. I watched him carefully and modelled Jamie James on the characteristics of Jamie Aronson.

Tee: What do you want readers to take away from this book?

Roy: If the reader takes away a sense of wonder at African mysticism and a sensitivity for African wildlife and a realisation that black and white can thrive if they cooperate and learn to love each other, then I have done my job.

Tee: What authors/ books do you enjoy reading?

Roy: I love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I love Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, and everything in between. My reading preferences are eclectic but if I am pinned down my best read is a novel based on historic fact.

Tee: How would you describe your writing style?

Roy: I am not sure that I have a style that is described in any classic sense. I want to be a story teller. The story is paramount. No use writing a book that is wonderfully written if the story is thin. Better a strong story weakly written than a weak story strongly written. Of course if you can do both, tell a great story and tell it well, then that is first prize. It is what I strive for. But more than anything else, I am a story teller.

Tee: Being a veterinary doctor is a job of massive responsibility. Do you feel that vets are largely misrepresented as comic or eccentric characters?

Roy: How vets are represented depends on what you are reading. If you want to know what vet does, ask a vet. If you want to read about the veterinary profession read a book written by a vet. The insights vets have about their profession is irreplaceable. Most vet books written by vets, that I have read, have got it spot on. Make sure that the person does not just claim to be a vet. Use the internet to actually prove that the author really is a vet. Then that author will be all the more credible.

Tee: How can readers reach you?

Roy: I can be reached via email royaronson@gmail.com This is probably the easiest and best way

I really hope that the readers enjoy my book. It has been a great pleasure writing it. There are three more Jamie James books already written and in the process of being edited for publication.

Book 2. The Horn of Africa, with Jamie James

Book 3. The Great white shark, with Jamie James

Book 4. The Shaman of the forest, with Jamie James

Watch out for book 2. We hope to release it either late this year or early next year.

Read the review Here

 

Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein

Every chapter title begins with a streak of stardust flying across the top left hand corner of the page suggesting all things magical to come. The book cover is fascinating and Steine’s crative abilities as a graphic designer are well at display.

Title: Sleep, Merel, Sleep

Author: Silke Stein

Publisher: Caper Books

Date of Publication: 7 June 2018

Rating: 4/5

merel

Falling asleep can be a tiresome process for some and Merel is trying hard to ace it. Sleep is leaning against the drawers and cannot wait for his chance to tug at the violin strings to spin a beautiful melody. But Merel is not the one who’s not willing to cooperate. Sleep knows too well how to put her to bed.  Merel’s agony makes her punch the headboard and throw around her plush toys in anger. Will she put herself to sleep eventually or will Sleep come to the assistance?

While a raging girl and her insomniac habits may seem to be a cliched story, Sleep, Merel, Sleep is an innovative children’s bedtime book with a set of really dynamic characters. Peeking into her parents’ room, she finds them sleeping peacefully as does her little brother. The story describes Merel’s attempts at finding something interesting to do at night while making sure that activity puts her to sleep as well. It is a challenging idea to find out which of the tasks will be best. However, she has an important reason behind not being able to fall asleep. She is having nightmares that horrify her.

Finding an address in an old mangled telephone directory, she ventures out into the night to look for the location. Adventure begins soon after. She is escorted to what seems to be a motel and is then asked to rent room number 8. Fun gets funnier though Merel is frightened out of her wits, the reader can’t wait to learn more of what is to happen next. Strange characters meet and greet her like she’s the guest of honor. Their wait is finally over as they have the privilege of her company.

Meeting Lolippo takes the story to a whole new level as the pace catches on. Things happen quite rapidly after that. They pass by orchards, skip and jump as they start to become good friends. The characters are described well with strange features. The characters impart important life lessons as the adventures take her places that allow her to become a better person. This quirky journeying will remain with her and the readers as time passes by and the book nears its dreaded end. Merel’s agony after all is a result of feeling neglected and left out upon the arrival of a new baby at home. As Steine’s imagination runs wild, the abilities of fiction know no bounds.

At times there might seem to be resemblances in terms of the characters or incidents to Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  However, the situations and the functions of the characters are very different. Every chapter title begins with a streak of stardust flying across the top left hand corner of the page suggesting all things magical to come. The book cover is fascinating and Steine’s creative abilities as a graphic designer are well at display. The book is easy to read, light hearted and the fun filled language makes the book an interesting read for both young and old. However, it is more suitable for children of ages 8 who can read on their own at length. From the author of Trina Bell’s Humming Summer is yet another beautiful children’s book. Who knew trying to fall asleep can take one on such amazing night time escapades?

Cute is an understatement. So cute.