Archive > February 2014

The Sea of Innocence

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The Sea of Innocence, Kishwar Desai, book reviewWhen Simran Singh and her adopted daughter, Durga, go for a holiday in Goa, they’re not looking for any excitement. They just want to take things easy, soak up the sun, hang out on the beach and relax. But when Simran is sent a video of a young blonde girl dancing with some local men, followed by footage of the girl lying on a bed with the men, she’s instantly concerned about what might have happened to the girl. The clips have been sent to her by Amarjit, the policeman who’s her old ‘friend’ and occasional lover and he wants Simran’s help. Simran’s resistant – she’s on holiday, she wants to spend time with Durga, she’s not looking for a ‘case’ to investigate but Amarjit’s newly single, getting a divorce and might it be worth her while to help him out? Wouldn’t her mother be thrilled if Simran could get herself a man as well as a tan?

This is Kishwar Desai’s third Simran Singh novel – The Sea of Innocence.


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The Copper Promise

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The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, book reviewI’m rather glad now that I didn’t know a week or so ago that Jen William’s The Copper Promise had been previously published as four e-book only novellas. Call me a literary snob, but it would likely have put me off trying the new release of the four parts drawn together into one thumping great paperback. Weighing in at a hefty 500-plus pages, it is Tolkienesque in size if not so much in content. (And that is not a criticism – after being force fed Farmer Giles of Hamm in school, it soured any enjoyment that may have been left to find in reading Tolkien’s other books). While not a great reader of the fantasy genre, I can confirm that this book has the expected swords, sorcery and quests, but it also has rather a lot more.


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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky,  Nancy Horan, book reviewFanny Osbourne is running away from America with her three children. She’s had enough of her husband’s cheating ways; surely Antwerp is far enough away. But when her youngest son falls ill and then dies, she’s encouraged to recuperate in provincial France. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, who immediately falls in love with her. As he’s several years her junior, she doesn’t initially return his affections. But soon she’s under his spell, and thus begins the whirlwind lifetime of land and sea, from frozen mountains to tropical rainforests, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer and until death did them part. This is Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky.


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The Puttermesser Papers

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The Puttermesser Papers, Cynthia Ozick, book reviewRuth Puttermesser is a keenly intelligent woman and a fervent feminist, who by all rights should have been living an exceptionally amazing life. But despite her Ivy League law degree and total dedication, at age 34 she seems stuck with her lack of ambition in an ambiguous sounding New York City municipal department. But that doesn’t mean she’s boring. In fact, she’s anything but that, mostly because she’s been observing things – everything. So when work suddenly turns sour she takes things into her own hands. But are the upheavals and chaos that ensue her own doing, or not? This is The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick.


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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey

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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar, book reviewThe Santhal villages of Bengal and Jharkhand remain much of a mystery for most readers. Visitors to Shantiniketan admire their art and silver work or glimpse them in Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri. What is known is that the women are liberated, beautiful and drink haandi and that the Santhals are a very private, fiercely independent people. Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s debut novel takes us into the heart of the villages and into the stories behind their lives. Witchcraft or dahni-bidya is rife and women are rumoured to feast on human livers. In the middle of this comes the story of Rupi Baskey who delivers a child in the paddy field – an opening that reminds me of another novel, possibly Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills, but one which seems to work here, though the story of Rupi gets diverted to the back story of her family, her step mother and her mother in law Purki.


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Q&A with Omar Shahid Hamid

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Omar Shahid HamidFrom the former head of Karachi’s CID comes a bone chilling debut crime fiction about Karachi’s criminal underground, The Prisoner. This interview was conducted by email specially for Curious Book Fans.

CBF: What made you decide to write this novel?

Omar Shahid Hamid: My wife. Some years ago, I was reading a book and complaining about the way it was written, and my wife, tired by my ranting, said, “if you think you have more interesting stories to tell, why don’t you get off your ass and write a book?” and so I ended up doing so. I always thought the police department had amazing stories, that were buried beneath the surface, but no one from within the police was ever likely to tell those stories and no outsider would ever be privy into that world.

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Who is DCI David Rosen?

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Guest post by author Mark Roberts who was born and raised in Liverpool and was educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College. He was a mainstream teacher for twenty years and for the last ten years has worked as a special school teacher. He received a Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for best new play of the year. What She Saw is the second novel in the DCI Rosen series after the acclaimed debut, The Sixth Soul.

What She Saw, Mark RobertsWhen I started writing The Sixth Soul, the first Rosen novel, I wanted to create a sympathetic character in DCI Rosen and build his Murder Investigation Team, with diverse, recurring characters who I could grow and develop as the stories progressed. I didn’t want to create another detective as victim with alcohol/gambling problems, broken marriages/alienated children, a terrible burden because of the death of a police colleague through something he had got wrong or had failed to do.


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Sheila

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Sheila, Robert Wainwright, book reviewSheila by Robert Wainwright is the biography of Sheila Chisholm, an Australian later known as Lady Loughborough, Lady Milbanke and Princess Dimitri. Born on her family’s homestead of Wollogorang, two days from Sydney, Sheila met her first husband, Lord Loughborough, while working as a volunteer nurse in Egypt during the First World War. In London, she was an immediate success in society, and remained at the top of social circles in the decades to come. She became Lady Milbanke on her second marriage, and then in later life she married the exiled Prince Dimitri of Russia, ending her days as Princess Dimitri.

Prior to spotting this book in a list of upcoming publications from Allen & Unwin, I had never heard of Sheila Chisholm.


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Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband

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Season To Taste or How To Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young, book reviewLizzie Prain is a fifty-something housewife in rural Surrey. She has been married to her dull husband Jacob for thirty years, and enjoys cooking, gardening and walking their dog Rita in the local woods. When the neighbours at the farm up the road mention they haven’t seen Jacob for a while, Lizzie tells them that he has left her for another woman and won’t be coming back. In fact, last Monday morning she spontaneously caved Jacob’s head in with a spade as he was planting a tree in their garden. Ever the practical sort, Lizzie’s thoughts turned immediately to how she will dispose of the body. Worried that burying Jacob in the woods will lead to his discovery – and be unpleasant for whoever did the finding – and burying him at the house would prevent her from ever moving away, she comes to a firm decision. The only way to dispose of Jacob is to eat him. After all, it would be morally wrong to waste all that meat.


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When the Hills Ask for Your Blood

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When The Hills Ask For Your Blood, David Belton, book reviewDuring the Rwandan genocide in 1994, David Belton was working as a producer and director for the BBC’s Newsnight programme, for which he covered the genocide along with a reporter and small crew. He also co-wrote and produced the feature film Shooting Dogs, which was based on real events during the genocide. Twenty years later, he tells his story in When the Hills Ask for Your Blood, revisiting a country trying to recover from those horrific events. He also tells the stories of Jean-Pierre and Odette, a Rwandan couple fearing for their lives and those of their children, and Vjeko Curic, a Bosnian missionary who tried to save as many lives as he could.

The genocide in Rwanda is one of the most horrific periods in recent history, the pain of which Rwandans continue to live with.


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The Thread

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The Thread, Victoria Hislop, book reviewDuring the 20th Century, the sea-side Greek city of Thessaloniki saw it all – fires, wars and earthquakes. This is the backdrop of Victoria Hislop’s novel The Thread. In it, we get to know the story of this city through a fictional cast of characters. As the book opens, Katerina and Dmitri’s grandson has come to visit. He asks them why they still live in this city, since their children and their families are all in England or the USA. The answer to his question is the story of these two people and this special city.

Novelist Hislop is well known for her love of the Mediterranean. Her first novel “The Island” was about Crete, and her second “The Return” was about Granada, Spain.


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Snowblind

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Snowblind, Christopher Golden, book reviewChristopher Golden’s new novel Snowblind reads like Stephen King light. Here is the New England setting, complete with a town past its prime following the departure of the main local industry some years previously. Here is the ensemble cast of all-American characters. Here is the strange event that is about to impinge upon the lives of said characters without warning or explanation. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that that King himself gives the book its cover quote, endorsing the contents within as “the real deal”.

In Snowblind, we visit the town of Coventry as the worst winter storm in living memory is sweeping through, depositing huge amounts of snow and blowing it into thick drifts that block roads and bring down power lines.


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