Friday, 27 August 2010

Celia Rees: Witch Child

Mary's grandmother is executed for witchcraft, and Mary is forced to leave her home to avoid the same fate. At first she flees to the English countryside, but when the atmosphere of superstition and suspicion becomes all consuming she leaves on a boat for America in the hope that she can start over and forget her past. But during the journey, she realises that the past is not so easy to escape.

This is a gripping story about people's superstitions and the preacher's fear to lose their sheep to the so-called witches. The storyline hinted at Salem, but it would have been nice had that been followed up more rigorously.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson

The Lightning Thief - The Sea of Monsters - The Titan's Curse - The Battle of the Labyrinth - The Last Olympian
Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive.

This series of Young Adult books is gripping for its storyline, and at the same time it is a great introduction to the Greek mythology. Many of the stories are quite commonly known, however, there are some less popular and famous Greek myths that have also been interwoven. Although the thought of the Greek Gods interfering with today's civilisation sounds far-fetched, it is carried off feasibly in this series.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Donna Leon: Brunetti 19 - A question of belief

Venice is sweltering in a heat wave, and Leon's doughty copper is looking forward to getting away from the city and relaxing with his family in the relative cool of the mountains. But his colleague Ispettore Vianello has other things on his mind than the weather; his aunt, seemingly befuddled by an obsessive belief in horoscopes and astrology, has been siphoning off considerable amount of cash from the family business. Vianello asks Brunetti if it would be possible to trail her -- and this unorthodox investigation points the detectives in the direction of one Stefano Gorini. This beneficiary of the aunt’s largesse is not everything that he seems. At the same time, it appears that there have been irregularities in the courts. At the Tribulane, an usher with a previously spotless reputation, Fontana, has been involved in suspicious business with a judge, Luisa Coltellini -- it appears that justice has a price. And then Fontana is brutally killed. Brunetti and Vianello now have more than enough problems to keep them even busier than usual.

Another Brunetti-story, which is entertaining for both the crime story and the treatise of Italian life and society. I read this story at a time, when personally visiting Venice, which made it the more real and accessible...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Monica Ali: Brick Lane

Nazneen is a teenager forced into an arranged marriage with a man considerably older than her--a man whose expectations of life are so low that misery seems to stretch ahead for her. Fearfully leaving the sultry oppression of her Bangladeshi village, Nazneen finds herself cloistered in a small flat in a high-rise block in the East End of London. Because she speaks no English, she is obliged to depend totally on her husband. But it becomes apparent that, of the two, she is the real survivor: more able to deal with the ways of the world, and a better judge of the vagaries of human behaviour. She makes friends with another Asian girl, Razia, who is the conduit to her understanding of the unsettling ways of her new homeland.

This is an interesting story about Asian culture and life-style in a western country. Although for a western reader it is difficult to follow in places due to the cultural differences, the book provides a brilliant insight into the trials of an Asian and half-Asian family making their way in England.