Saturday, April 18, 2009

Title: Tarantula Tide
Author: Sharon Tregenza
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN: 978-086315-673-1
Genre: Fiction / Children / Mystery
Presentation: Soft Cover

The title is a mystery and the story is also a mystery involving two children Jack and Izzie (Isabel) set in Shetland, a group of islands off Scotland. The theme is animal smuggling and the story starts with Jack and Izzie discovering a tarantula whome Izzie calls Octavia. Though the main characters don’t realize who the culprit is, the readers can guess by the middle of the book and it is satisfying to know that one’s surmise is correct. The real mystery in the book is about Jack’s dad and that comes as a surprise. The story has a happy ending with Jack and his photographer mother vowing to come back to the enchanted place.

The story is well written and is not too fast nor too slow. The style is good and the book is generally well edited. However, some sections slipped through the editor’s watchful eyes and I will be sharing the same with the author for correction in future editions.

All in all, a good read.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Title: Children from the sea
Author: Lookman
Publisher: Nightingale Books
ISBN: 9781903491638
Genre: Fiction / Children / Fantasy/ Adventure

The cover photograph is rather odd and the story is odd too. It is a fantasy of children being converted to dolphins, staying in the sea for a few hundred years and getting reconverted into children thanks to a kiss from an adolescent girl, Katie.

Katie is forced to relocate from England to a small village in Spain because of her father’s business. What she thought would be a boring life turned out to be quite an adventure thanks to the dolphins / children, the eldest being a little elder to her. It would not be fair to reveal what happens after they get transformed into children and the ending is rather interesting.

Lookman was born in Surrey in 1950, a time when children roamed freely and adventurously and made their own entertainment (not having so many gadgets to distract them as now). His interest in Sufism led to his use of the pseudonym Lookman, after the wise sage in Qur’an. The Sufi leanings of the author come through in the story and if you are a fundamentalist in any religion (something alien to Sufism), you may not relate to the story.

The story is interesting enough to keep reader’s interest and the style is good enough to keep you going. Some passages in the story are moving and the account of religious persecution strikes a chord even today!

Though the book is meant for children (I would say the suggested age group is 10 to 15), it may appeal to elders too, especially those whose inner child is still alive and active. Give it a try and decide whether it is for you. I would rate it GOOD.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Title: Shared Stories From Daughters of Alzheimer’s
Sub-title: Writing a Path to Peace
Edited by: Persis R. Granger
Publisher: iUniverse Star
ISBN: 9780595297269
Genre: Non-Fiction / Health/ Memoirs
Presentation: Soft Cover

This book is a collection of personal stories shared by daughters of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The shock, the anger, the grief, the stress etc. are brought out with sincerity and honesty by the different authors. The editing by Percis R. Granger is by and large excellent and the book is highly readable (though my sharp eye caught some slips, they won't interfere with the reading). The book is not easy to read because of the emotions that are shared but is a valuable addition to the growing literature on Alzheimer's disease, a progressive and as of today incurable form of dementia, whose final diagnosis can only be made through a postmortem!

More and more people are becoming victims of Alzheimer's (partly because of increasing life span) and caring for them when they fail to recognize themselves and their care givers is no easy task. Relationships get affected apart from financial difficulties. Sending the person to an institution for care is one of the toughest decisions and the stories give an intimate look at the emotional trauma of the care givers. The book is thus moving at many places. In a country like India, where elders are supposed to be taken care of by children and there is no real infrastructure for their separate living, the relationships are affected severely due to the stress and strain of chronic illness and consequent burden on the care givers. Some of the stories in the book will thus strike a chord for such readers too!

Though the book focuses on Alzheimer's, any chronic illness that makes the person dependent on others causes similar problems and thus the book would be relevant to patients and caregivers of other chronic and debilitating diseases.

The book has a foreword by Pat Jimison, an introduction by Kathleen Adams and resources section at the end. However, alternative, holistic treatment options if any are left out and it is hoped that the future editions and a website will carry such information (as of now there is no specific website for the book). A lot of research on the role of antioxidants and herbs in delaying the onset of or improvement of Alzheimer's is now coming up and the book / website could have covered that.

I went through many emotions as I was reading this book since my own mother passed away in 2003 at the age of 89 and I felt (and feel even now) that I could have been a better son as far as her care is concerned. Her presence in the house was not stress free and many times I felt helpless! Journalling as suggested in the book is a good and effective way of coming to terms with the emotions that one cannot process immediately.

I recommend this book to all caregivers and even to chronic patients to give them an idea of the life ahead for those in early stages of Alzheimer's.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Title: The Whispering Fields
Author: Joseph Collins
Publisher: Foremost Press
ISBN: 978-0-9818418-4-7
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Epic
Presentation: Soft cover

The Whispering Fields is a work of fiction, a fantasy where dogs and other animals talk, sing etc. and as mentioned on the cover, we may think of it as an epic, since it is conceived and constructed on a grand scale and is quite poetic though written in prose (there are quite a few poems in between the prose).

Toby is a dog that is abandoned by its human master and after failing to find him, after waiting in vain for some time hoping against hope for his return, he starts a long journey of trying to fend for himself, makes a few good friends, loses two of them in rather strange circumstances and makes a determined enemy who wants to switch his spirit with Toby! Toby and his two other friends finally find the paradise (The Whispering Fields promised in the folklore) that they are searching for. The ending is not what the reader imagines it to be and even Toby and his friends did not realise that their search really ended till almost the end.

The style is reasonably good though not unput-downable and a few editorial slips caught my eye. But they are so few and so minor that the reading is unaffected. The narrative is rather too detailed at places and the poems did not strike much of a chord with me, mainly because poetry is not my cup of tea.

All in all, I found the book sufficiently interesting to keep going and would recommend the same for all animal lovers (especially dog lovers) and those who like fantasies that convey some good morals. The message of the book is valid for human beings too.