Tag Archives: Penguin USA

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág

millions-of-cats-by-wanda-gag Title: Millions of Cats
Author: Wanda Gág
Publisher: Penguin USA
ISBN: 978-0142407080
Genre: Picture Book
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

A lot of cat books are being read this month. This one is the second one and there is also a third one waiting to be reviewed. “Millions of Cats” by Wanda Gág is an adorable and yet kinda scary book on cats. This is again a book I read for my reading project of 40 Cat Books. I love this project. One of my favourite reading projects. So what is this book about?

It is actually a picture book (no wonder it took me less than fifteen minutes to finish reading it) of an old man and his wife who are lonely and decide to get a cat and how the old man goes in search of one and what happens thereafter, when he actually meets a million cats and doesn’t know which one to choose.

The book is a Newbery Honor winner and completely had me from the word go. It is a delightful read and the illustrations are simple and yet so enchanting. “Millions of Cats” is a read meant for both – kids and adults. I absolutely adored this book and would recommend all parents to gift it to their young ones and see the smile on their face.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard Title: The Deep End of the Ocean
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: Penguin USA
ISBN: 9780140286274
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 434
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I have always been a fan of the books Oprah has recommended on her book club. It all began in 2001 I think and since then I have read some of the old ones recommended by her and some of the old ones. This year I decided to read all the books chosen by her – one after the other. What better place to start than the very beginning, isn’t it?

The beginning came in the form of a dark, depressing and quite a hopeful book called, “The Deep End of the Ocean” by Jacquelyn Mitchard. When you read it, you cannot believe it is her debut. It is a story of a mother and her child and about every mother’s worst nightmare.

Beth Cappadora is at her school reunion, all ready to check-in to her room, only to turn around and realize that her 3-year old son is missing. Everything changes in a split second. Her relationship with her husband, her children, her relatives, all of it – it just goes to smoke as she perpetually is in a grieving mode.

I could not turn the pages enough of this one. It had me stuck from the word go. I would also suggest that you do not watch the movie of the same book as it just does not do justice to the book. While reading the book though, I felt myself grieving with Beth – almost scared to turn the page, to want good things to happen to her and her family.

Mitchard’s writing is so simple and yet so heart-wrenching that if you are a parent you wouldn’t want to even imagine what would happen if this were to happen to you.

“The Deep end of the Ocean” does not disappoint one single bit. This was another book for which I shouldn’t have waited this long. I should have read it sooner. However, better late than never I guess.

Next up on the Oprah Book Club Selection: #2 Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. This will be a reread for me.

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The Deep End of the Ocean: A Novel

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill, Penguin
ISBN: 978-1595148032
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Teens
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I am not a fan of fantasy fiction for young adults. I honestly try and avoid that genre and with good reason. I have never been enticed and intrigued by it as I read and read some more. I finally decided to not pursue that genre, till “An Ember in the Ashes” piqued my interest and something told me that I must read it and boy oh boy did I love it.

“An Ember in the Ashes” is a stunning debut. It has everything that you would expect from a first-timer or just may not. Sabaa Tahir’s writing is sharp, precise and there are more than enough cliff-hanging moments to keep the reader hooked.

What is the book all about?

It is about two individuals who want to chart their own courses of life and not be stuck with the ones panned out for them. The book is set in a totalitarian society inspired by ancient Rome, where the Empire’s word is the last word. It is the only word. When there is totalitarianism there is also a revolution. This book is a fantastic addition to the world of YA fantasy fiction. It is the kind of book which can be enjoyed by adults as well without it being felt that they are reading a book written for teenagers.

There are war-like rulers and then there are the Scholars, who are forced into slavery and poverty. Their libraries are destroyed. They aren’t allowed to read. Nothing is what it was. The Martials took over the Scholars Empire five hundred years ago and things have not changed since. There is a warrior school known as Blackcliff which is run by the current Empire. They train the Martial children to become Masks, elite assassins. I know it sounds kind of complex till now but it isn’t.

There are of course two teenagers at the heart of this story. One from the Scholar’s side and one from the Martial’s side. Laia, a young Scholar lives in the city. One night she witnesses her brother Darin being arrested by the Mask and decides to set him free. However, for this she needs the help of the Resistance, the rebellion formed against the Empire. Laia must serve as a spy and endure if she has to set her brother free.

On the other hand there is Elias, who at the opening of the book is about to graduate to becoming a Mask. He doesn’t want to be a Mask. All he wants to do is run away and almost does the night before the graduation, till things take a different turn and he stays.

This is where the story begins. Laia enters the Empire and her interactions with Elias begin. It may seem to be a predictable tale but it is so not. You must read it to believe what is different and how. It is also not like The Hunger Games or any other dystopian YA novel.

I would most certainly recommend this book to one and all. The supporting characters are so carefully etched and play a major role in the book. Elias and Laia make you want to turn the pages as fast as possible. The writing is playful and extremely careful, making you believe in this world like none other. The detailing is perfect. I bet you will not stop while reading this one. Go for it!

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My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh Title: My Sunshine Away
Author: M.O. Walsh
Publisher: Putnam, Penguin USA
ISBN: 9780399169526
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 307
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that open universes up for you. There are books that make you see life differently and make you realize that maybe growing-up is so much more than what meets the eye. It is about decisions, choices and consequences. For me, off-late there was a growing-up book that had that kind of impact the way “My Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh has had and in the truest sense of the word, I cannot even call it just a coming-of-age book when there is so much more to it. Also, let me add here that this is a debut novel that will knock you off your feet.

“My Sunshine Away” is set in the late-eighties in Baton Rouge, in Southern USA. It starts with a crime – the rape of a fifteen year-old girl Lindy Simpson and that is when life changes for the entire town. The idyllic suburbia is no longer what it used to be or what its residents perceived it to be. The narrator of the story was fourteen when the crime took place and he loved Lindy and how the crime and the events that followed changed him completely. The book delves deep into the psychology and limitations of human emotions and what it means to be human more than anything else.

What makes this book so different is the way it is structured. It is not just another coming-of-age story nor is it just another mystery, nor is it just another literary fiction debut. There is to more what meets the eye in this book. There are secrets that people living in every place keep to protect their loved ones. It is a lament to growing-up and innocence lost. There is a lot of guilt laced on the pages of this book, not to forget love in its purest and not-so-purest forms.

The element of the Louisiana mystery is all-pervading and almost delicious as the novel unfolds. It is a part of the story for sure but there is something else to it. The late-eighties and early-nineties nuances are captured to every single detail – the late night conversations to watching a TV show at a designated time to unfolding mysteries about yourself as you grow-up to becoming an adult from a teenager.

M.O Walsh’s prose is biting in most places and so tender in the others. There is a good mix of empathy and cruelty that shines from the pages. The book makes you realize and mull over vulnerability and what safety means. “My Sunshine Away” I think in most ways just holds a mirror to the way we live and how we really are. The book wants to make you believe in so many things nice about life and at the same time makes you see the dark places as well. I for one could not stop turning the pages on this one and highly recommend it to one and all as their next read this summer.

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Book Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks Title: People of the Book
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 9780143114543
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I am a little skeptical about reading historical fiction at times, more so when set in regions whose history I am unaware of. I like to be prepared when I am reading a book. It is only fair to the writer. More over, I don’t think I would be able to read a book without knowing the place inside out. The reason I mention this is my last read was all about place in the book, or rather places, their history and culture. I first read about “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks while reading, “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe and for some reason wanted to read it since a while.

Historical fiction has always been at a top-slot genre for me. I love it. I love to relive and imagine the places and events that have taken place in the past and are of great historical significance. How things were then? What were the issues? Are things any different today? Questions such as these have always attracted me towards historical fiction. The minute I got to know that the “People of the Book” was about a book saved from being destroyed at every stage of its journey, I knew I had to read it. I read and I cannot stop talking about it to everyone I meet.

“People of the Book” is about the Sarajevo Haggadah and its beauty and importance in the Jewish community. A Haggadah is a book that tells the story of Passover, which celebrates the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is based on a true story. Of how the Haggadah which is one of its kind – with beautiful illustrations and contexts – was saved by a librarian during WWII and then traversed the entire planet so to speak before being showcased in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. Its origin is traced to Barcelona and it is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold.

“People of the Book” is a fictional account of its journey as seen through Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservator, who is responsible for restoring the Haggadah. The story alternates between her present and the times in which the Haggadah was set and tried to be destroyed by various people. The story travels from Sarajevo to Europe and back home and to me that worked like a charm.

What is even more magnificent about the book is the way Geraldine Brooks explores the stories of people who came in touch with the book. Hanna finds clues when she first chances upon the Haggadah in the form of – preserved butterfly remnants, wine stains, a strand of white hair and salt crystals on it, which tells the story of the book. I love this kind of structure in books. Stories within stories help me relate and uncover the book for myself. Hanna takes it upon herself to know more about the book and flies halfway across the world in her quest. This I loved about the book. Hanna’s relationships are also covered along the way which made a lot of sense to me. The book is almost a rollercoaster ride – from chapter to chapter with a brilliant end.

While reading the book, I was overwhelmed by the idea that someone would want to destroy books basis religions and the idea of not being tolerant enough or accepting enough to include everyone. I love the writing. Geraldine Brooks is a master of historical fiction. She brings to life the story like probably no one else can. The writing makes you gasp for breath. It is sharp and revelatory. It is almost like images are being played out in front of you and you as a reader just has to lay back and watch them transform into a well-told story. The book is also intellectual and yet reads like a thriller, which very few books manage to do. It almost reminded of “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco as I was reading it.

I could feel myself getting way too emotional while reading the book. The idea of a book being destroyed is unthinkable for me. The entire Jews conflict in the book only added more dimension to the story. I mean, it happened for real, so there is no way that goes away from it, but only enriches the book from every single perspective.

The dimensions and layers of this novel are innumerable. As a reader I was only more than satisfied as I turned every single page. It speaks of the vivid splendors of bookmaking (there is almost an entire chapter on it which is beautiful), the artistry is beautifully described and more than anything else the freedom of thought that leads to books being written, which no one can destroy, is subliminally expressed.

“People of the Book” looks at intermingling of cultures, it speaks of love for the written word, it makes you look at saving every single book, it makes you see things as a reader and as an observer and after all of this, it will make you understand that humanity comes before any kind of religion or faith. Thank you Will for suggesting this book in your book. A must read guys. Go get it.

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