Tag Archives: bloomsbury usa

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul & Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton

Lost Cat by Caroline Paul Title: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology
Author: Caroline Paul and Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608199778
Genre: Pets, Lifestyle, Non-Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

All one needs on dreary days is a book which warms the cockles of the heart and leaves you spellbound, more so if it is a true story, and a true story of a cat at that. It is about cats and animals in general and the love one has for their pets. It is beautifully penned – simple and straight from the heart. “Lost Cat” is a true story of love, loss, and the meaning of life, written by Caroline Paul and illustrated gorgeously by her partner, Wendy McNaughton.

Lost Cat - Image 1

One fine day, Caroline was in a plane crash and life changed completely for her and her partner. She was at home for the longest time with her two cats Tibby and Fibby. Fibby was the feisty one and Tibby the silent, scared cat. Tibby disappears one day and returns home after a while. Caroline was relief beyond words and yet in some way Tibby had changed. It is then that Caroline started wondering: Where did Tibby go? What had happened to him?

Lost Cat - Image 2

This is where the book begins. Caroline decides to use modern technology to find the tracks of Tibby. She wonders what happened. She and Wendy are distraught. “Lost Cat” is the story of what happens after. The book seems to be a book for children, but it is for adults. It is about the places we go to when pets disappear, when they are back and what happens when we try to find out more about their behavior and life.

Lost Cat - Image 3

The illustrations are adorable. Wendy McNaughton has done a wonderful job of bringing their story to life through these drawings. “Lost Cat” is a story that will make you smile, make you cry, make you feel a lot more and will immediately want you to go and hug your pet – dog or cat or hamster.

Lost Cat - Image 4

Here is the adorable book trailer of Lost Cat:

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Book Review: The Golden Scales: A Makana Mystery by Parker Bilal

Title: The Golden Scales : A Makana Mystery
Author: Parker Bilal
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608197941
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I love reading thrillers. They have this promise about them which most thriller and action writers live up to. Parker Bilal was a new name to me when it came to the thriller genre. Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub who has written six literary novels prior to the “Makana” mysteries. “The Golden Scales” is the first Makana mystery, which takes place in Cairo.

The ancient city of Cairo is the perfect backdrop for this story. Cairo is stepping into the new, with the old left behind. The rich and the poor co-exist. The corrupt and the honest are seen in its alleys and by-lanes. Cairo is a place, where secrets fester and are hidden and people disappear in the blink of an eye.

A lot is happening in this book. Makana, a former Sudanese policeman, forced to flee to Cairo is at the heart of this novel. He is now struggling to make his ends meet as a private detective. He is desperate enough to take on a case from Saad Hanafi, the mogul and filthy rich mobster and the owner of the Cairo Soccer Team. The case is that of finding one of the players of his Soccer Team that has been kidnapped. As Makana delves further into the case, things start spiraling out of control for him. He enters the treacherous underbelly of the city – encountering actresses, Muslim extremists, Russian gangsters, vengeful women, and a woman searching for a daughter after years – and the last incident is somehow linked to him and his past. This aspect was just to show that we can never leave the past behind. No matter how hard we try.

Bilal’s writing is sharp and funny in most places. It is structured the way a thriller should be – revealing the layers one at a time and not giving away the entire plot. The juxtaposition of a thriller with the Islamic world and the political volatility of a country and a city are done with great finesse and intelligence.

Makana’s character has various shades to it – he is not like the regular detective that we have been used to. That is what drew me to the book and made me kept turning the pages. The characterization is done with a lot of thought and effort by Bilal.

Cairo as a city is one of the central characters of the city. A reader can almost taste and smell the food and the aromas. The dark alleys can be conjured in a minute as you read the parts. This is the first Makana mystery that Bilal has written and I am sure after the second one (which will be out soon), there will be more to come. I am hoping that they are, because it will be a great series.

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Book Review: Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed

Title: Little Known Facts
Author: Christine Sneed
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608199587
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When I received the uncorrected proof of, “Little Known Facts” I did not look at it for a long time before deciding to pick it up and give it a read. “Little Known Facts” is all about the glamour and the glitz of Hollywood and what lies underneath all of that, through one Hollywood family.

I have always wondered about the lives of stars and sometimes starlets as well. Thoughts that cross the mind are: What kind of lives do their families live? Are they always in the shadow of the star and what he or she does? Do they have an existence of their own? Are they also surrounded by the media at all times? This to me holds true across the world, when it comes to the entertainment industry. “Little Known Facts” is all about that. It may not provide answers to all questions but it most certainly is a great romp of a read.

Renn Ivins is one of Hollywood’s most handsome, charismatic, and critically-acclaimed movie stars. He is what they say, “the golden child” (this is purely my perception) and delivers and lives up to that title. He has it all – the ex-wives, the girlfriends and the children. He is doing what a celebrity should and yet there is a side of the man that only his family knows and endures and sometimes also revel in it.

Renn’s grown children, Anna and Will are struggling in their lives, trying to do something on their own, than just being a version of their father. Anna, a medical student is prospering with her academics and has a bright future ahead of her. On the other hand, her personal life and relationships are marred by the exploits of her famous father. Will on the other hand is facing a so-called quarter-life crisis and does not know what to do with his life. They are both willing to use their father’s money but not his influence. Amidst all this Sneed tells a tale of fame and fortune, its rise and downfall and the people involved in its web and how they deal with it on a daily basis.

The book for me had almost everything in most places – wit, empathy, curiosity, and how people behave in front of celebrities and what do they say about them. The story also is about the lies we tell ourselves and how the shadow of a celebrity is so huge that it sometimes takes over an entire family and its existence. The writing is to the dot with an eye for detail, which is the firm premise of the book. Every emotion and the nuance attached with it are beautifully depicted and at the same time the writing is not overbearing.

What I liked the most about the book is the fact that there are a lot of layers to it. “Little Known Facts” is one of those reads that will take you in from the first page and make you keep turning the pages with great speed. I may not re-read it but would definitely recommend it as a onetime read.

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Book Review: The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

Title: The Uninvited
Author: Liz Jensen
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608199921
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

“The Uninvited” by Liz Jensen was a strange read to begin with. However, as I finished the prologue and the first chapter, I was hooked to it and that is the idea of the book anyway.

At the start of the book, a seven-year old puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. Similar incidents start happening across the world. Children are killing their families. The question that people are asking is: Is this contagious? No one is aware why this is happening and as usual things are in disarray, almost to the point of being ruled by children or so it seems.

As the murders continue, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to take care of, a scandal in the Taiwan timber industry, which ultimately leads to a murder and Lock gets involved in the “murderous children” incidents. He notices a behavioural change in his stepson Freddy and that is where his mind starts taking notice of things, which others wouldn’t notice. Lock suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and this makes it even more difficult for him. This is the plot in a nutshell.

I liked how Liz Jensen makes the book seem so effortless despite the harrowing scenes of murder and unexplained violence. It is scary to see children act this way, but at some point the dystopian nightmare is global and her writing gives you the understated trauma that family members are going through in the book.

The book is definitely not an upbeat one and is perfect for one of those cold nights when you actually want to get scared. Hesketh’s character is etched to perfection. From the standpoint of a father who doesn’t want to give up on his child and also from that of a citizen who wants the so-called common good. The conflicting emotions were brought out to forth without the book getting too soppy or sentimental.

All in all Liz Jensen paints a picture of the world that could be true and that frightens me. Of children doing what they want and what they choose to can’t be controlled by anyone. Liz Jensen gives it all to you in one book – mystery, thriller, an apocalyptic nightmare and above all an intriguing story to chew on.

Book Review: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

Title: Swimming Home
Author: Deborah Levy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1620401699
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 157
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I am normally not a fan of Booker Long List of Short List nominations. I tend to find them boring to get by and honestly do not see the fuss made around them sometimes. However, when I started reading one of this year’s shortlisted books, I began to see the light, at least for that book. “Swimming Home” by Deborah Levy is an outstanding nominee for this year’s much awaited literary prize.

It did not take me long to finish the book, however I am still thinking of the book and the characters, so definitely the impact that it’s had is huge. “Swimming Home” is a powerful, almost offbeat book about the impact of an outsider has on the relationship of two couples, who are sharing a vacation home in the Alps-Maritimes. The idea that presents itself strongly in the book is sense of home, love and most of all whether or not one will make it back home, more so in the metaphoric sense.

London poet Joe Jacobs, his war reporter wife Isabel and their fourteen year old daughter Nina, are renting a holiday villa near Nice with friends, Laura and Mitchell. One day they discover a naked woman swimming in their pool. She has nowhere to stay and Isabel inexplicably offers her the spare room. And thus Kitty Finch becomes a part of their vacation – bordering on the line of being invited and intruding. At the same time there are minor characters that add to the substance of the book – their neighbour Dr. Madeleine Sheridan who is vexed by Kitty’s arrival, Claude – the local pub worker who has taken a liking to Nina, and the caretaker who is besotted with Kitty.

Kitty is enigmatic – in the sense that she walks around naked, is off her antidepressants and considers Joe to be one of the greatest living poets. She wants him to read her poem, “Swimming Home” – she feels that she has a connection with Joe. The reader on the other hand is left wondering about Kitty’s so-called seemingly love or obsession with the poet. Joe tries to avoid her but cannot. Nina is in awe of Kitty and wants to understand her more than anyone else. Laura and Mitchell do not like her presence. Isabel on the other hand, somehow is indifferent to her presence, fully aware of her husband’s attraction to Kitty. Nina on the other hand emerges to be the sanest and sorted character in the entire book.

The book plays itself out on so many levels. At times you are scared for the characters and what might happen and at others you want them to not care and life to play itself out. Readers can only wish how they would like the story to end, but at the end of the day, I strongly believe that characters decide what they want.

Deborah Levy uses the setting brilliantly. I am sure any writer would, but she plays with it, moulds it like clay and places her characters skillfully in it. She answers some questions that nag readers, some she leaves for their speculation and others aren’t answered at all. Questions such as: Why did Isabel invite Kitty to stay? Why is Joe hesitant to discuss Kitty’s poem? Why does Isabel stay with Joe considering she is never home, given the nature of her job? Why is Nina the way she is? The book is so tightly woven, that the answers are found and sometimes not throughout this one hundred and fifty-seven page of a read.

The startling intimacy between characters is scary sometimes and yet it is almost that the intimacy decides who ends up with whom. Natures are revealed during the course of the book and every character encounters his or her chaos. Everyone is searching for their own space and whether they get it or not is the haunting question.

My favourite portion of the book, which according to me sums the book:

“Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we’ll all get home safely.”

With this, the characters learn how to cope. Some grow up and some are forever trying to deal with their tragedies. Everyone is trying to know themselves and the others and somehow cannot. The prose of the book is haunting and will keep you hooked. For a short book, it clearly speaks volumes of the human condition. I definitely would like to see, “Swimming Home” win the Booker Prize.

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