Sunday Salon: Monthly Roundup- February 2010

We're having our annual cultural fest at our institute, so posting at this blog is a little slow. It'll be back to normal in a couple of days.

This month, in celebration of my blogoversary, I had a giveaway of Beth Fantaskey's novel, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, along with an interview of the author. I also interviewed author Chloe Neill about her work.

I reviewed the following books:
Atonement- Ian McEwan
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Steig Larsson
The Simoqin Prophecies- Samit Basu
The Amulet of Samarkand- Jonathan Stroud
Slaughterhouse Five- Kurt Vonnegut

Just five books, you say? Well, I did read a couple more, but I haven't had time to put up the reviews on my blog.

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And the Winner is...

So, the winner of my blogoversary book giveaway of Beth Fantaskey's Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, as chosen by is

Kailia Sage

Congratulations! I'm sending you an email right now, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Your book will come to you directly from Beth.

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REVIEW Atonement: Ian McEwan


I hadn’t heard of Ian McEwan until I decided to read Atonement for the Guardian challenge, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The arrival of her brother Leon has the over-imaginative Briony Tallis in a tizzy, and when she witnesses some intimate exchanges between her sister Cecilia and the gardener’s son Robbie Turner, she assumes that he is an oversexed monster. So when her cousin Lola is raped later that night, she accuses Robbie of the crime, resulting in his being sent to prison. Three years later, we meet Robbie at the warfront, wounded but desperate to return to Cecilia, and Briony who regrets her false accusations and wants to atone for them.

To tell you the truth, I found the first half of the book, set in the Tallis household, tedious. I did not care for any of the characters, the prose was long-winding at times, and I found it difficult to get through. I was totally disgusted by Briony, though; the vindictiveness she showed in relying on inaccuracies of her mind to send the innocent Robbie to prison was shocking.

But the book picked up in the second half. McEwan’s descriptions of the retreat were heartrending and evocative. I felt sympathy towards Robbie and his love for Cecilia, and his desperation to be reunited with her, which keeps him going despite his grievous injuries. Cecilia’s words “I’ll wait for you. Come back” are like a haunting refrain throughout the book. The war, and its effects on people, are also written about quite evocatively, and you feel for the soldiers. The ending was quite a surprise, and turned the story around. But honestly, I had a lot of trouble getting through the book; it was too wordy and long-winding for my taste, and I barely finished it. I actually appreciated it more after watching the movie; James McAvoy and Kiera Knightley pitched in with inspired performances.

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Author Interview: Chloe Neill

I would like to welcome Chloe Neill, author of the popular Chicagoland Vampire series, starring Merit, a powerful vampire who is initiated into the controversial Cadogan House. Thanks Chloe, for taking the time to answer my questions!

Hazra: Can you tell us about Firespell, the first book in the Dark Elite series?

Chloe: Absolutely! FIRESPELL introduces us to sixteen-year-old Lily Parker, who's thrown into a world of magic and evil that lurks in the secret underground tunnels of Chicago.

Hazra: How did the idea for Firespell come to you?

Chloe: I actually got the idea over lunch one day! I thought it would be interesting to explore a world in which a person's magic is only temporary, which is true for the Dark Elite.

Hazra: That seems like a really unique take! Who is your favorite character among all the books you have written?

Chloe: I really love Merit, since she's my first published heroine, but Scout from my Dark Elite series is also a favorite.

Hazra: How do you incorporate writing in your daily schedule?

Chloe: I have a day job, so I try to follow a daily word-count requirement. More writing on the weekends, less if I'm editing other projects.

Hazra: You are quite a voracious reader. What are the best books you have read in the past year?

Chloe: I'd say I used to be a voracious reader, but I haven't had much time lately. I always read the new J.D. Robb In Death book. I also read "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer was outstanding.

Hazra: The Road has been on my wishlist for so long! Which authors have you been inspired by?

Chloe: I love the attention to detail in Stephanie Laurens' Cynster novels, especially Devil's Bride. They're one of my favorite romance series.

Hazra: What is the best thing about being an author?

Chloe: Having a reader tell you that they for the few hours they were reading your novel, they weren't thinking about work or the dishes or the bills.

Hazra: That is truly the best thing an author can hear! Tell us something about your upcoming projects.

Chloe: I'm currently finishing up the edits for TWICE BITTEN, the third book in my Chicagoland Vampires series, and writing HEXBOUND, the second book in my Dark Elite series. I have two additional series in mind, but no time to work on them. :)

Hazra: Finally, if you could organize a dinner with five of your favorite fictional characters, who would they be?

Chloe: Hmmm. How about Claire Fraser, Eve Dallas, Merit, Mallory and Buffy. All strong, brilliant women. :)

Thanks Chloe, for your wonderful replies. You can learn more about Chloe by visiting her website.

When Lily’s guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia’s. Lily’s ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke, and on top of that, she’s hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building.
The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout’s a little weird—she keeps disappearing late at night and won’t tell Lily where she’s been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster. Scout’s a member of a splinter group of rebel teens with unique magical talents, who’ve sworn to protect the city against demons, vampires, and Reapers, magic users who’ve been corrupted by their power. And when Lily finds herself in the line of firespell, Scout tells her the truth about her secret life, even though Lily has no powers of her own—at least none that she’s discovered yet...

Firespell is the first book in Chloe Neill's Dark Elite series.

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REVIEW The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Stieg Larsson


Another book that I’m the last person in the world to read. I really should make a feature of it. Anyways, I loved the book, and I really want to read the other two books.

Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist has just lost a court case against a powerful Swedish magnate and faces 3 months in prison. He is hired by an influential old businessman, Henrik Wagner, to find out what happened to his granddaughter Harriet, who went missing from their home on an island 40 years ago. Blomkvist’s investigation involves detailed research into the Vanger family, with their plethora of relations. During the course of his investigation, he teams up with Lisbeth Salander, an asocial punk hacker working with a security company, who had conducted a more-than-thorough background investigation on him. Blomkvist and Salander uncover hidden information in decades-old evidence, which leads them to believe that the case is far more convoluted than they were originally led to believe.

The book starts off with Blomkvist being charged for printing libelous stories, and through that, we get a really clear look at all the ugly machinations behind a huge corporation. It is really interesting and Larsson uses his journalist background to provide all the juicy details. The mystery is introduced slowly, but grabs your attention with the detailing. You are as hooked as the reluctant Blomkvist, by the sprawling Vanger clan and their deeds over the past century. But where the book gets really interesting is when Blomkvist meets Salander. Initially, both their stories run parallelly, and honestly, I was more interested in Salander’s. She is a very interesting, complicated character with a twisted sense of justice, and there are many hints to her being molested as a kid. Salander’s razor-sharp brain, her disregard for authority and her thoughts and actions are the core of this book. I especially loved what she pulled off at the end, a masterstroke.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a classic “locked room with suspects” mystery. I’ve read so many books and still I’m never tired of this genre. In Larsson’s case, it is not just a mystery, but also a commentary on Swedish society. The rules of guardianship (which struck me as quite bizarre), the underhand dealing, the skeletons in the family cupboards; Larsson brings all this and more into a scintillating story. Read this book, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.

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REVIEW The Simoqin Prophecies: Samit Basu


Indian literature is rich in myths and folklore, but Indian fantasy fiction is sadly underdeveloped. So I was really happy to read this book, which incorporates Indian mythology to create a world that you are absorbed into.

It is the year of the Simoqin Prophecies, when the rakshas (demon) Danh-Gem I supposed to come back from the dead and restart the age of terror. The Chief Civilian of the prosperous city-state of Kol finds a Hero Asvin, and takes him to be trained by Gaam, the best mentor of Hero School, and Mantric, a spellbinder. Accompanying Asvin in his Quest are Maya, Mantric’s daughter and her friend Kirin. But the followers of Danh-Gem are rallying to bring him back, and Kirin follows his own path to rid the world of Danh-Gem.

In a hole in the ground there lived a rabbit. What is a rabbit? A rabbit (Bunihopus bobtelus) is a small white mammal that loves good food and is anxious when it is late for appointments. This particular rabbit was off on an expedition to the forest. He planned to wander around for a few years and then return home and write a book. There and Back Again: The Adventures of One Rabbit, he planned to call it. He popped out of his burrow and looked around, sniffing the air delicately.

He saw a man with a sword standing next to a tree, looking up. ‘Afternoon. Set out. Description of Forest. Many trees, leaves, green. Tension in air, palpable. Man, one, standing next to tree, looking up,’ the rabbit noted in his mental journal. Attention to detail is the key in holding a reader’s attention, he thought smugly. 

Sounds familiar? This brilliant opening to the book is just a trailer to what follows. Basu derives from various sources to build this colorful world which will have you in splits from Page 1. From the Ramayana and Mahabharata to Greek epics, from James Bond to comic book heroes, from Lord of the Rings to Arabian Nights, you will find traces of all these and more. Add to this a complex plot which ridicules as much of classic fantasy and science fiction as it incorporates, this book is the best debut one can write. Basu’s style of writing is witty and engaging, as he peoples his world with rakshasas, danavs and asurs (all types of demons), vanars (apes), spellbinders, ravians (powerful magical beings) and of course, humans. Though there are a lot of references to Indian mythology, readers not familiar with it need not worry, as they have many things to laugh over. Indian English writing never had it so good. I recommend this book to everybody who wants a good laugh with a great story. It’s hard for me to pick my favorite passages, because there are so many, but I’ll leave you with another.

The Guild of Superb Heroes was a group of people from all over the world, who had gathered in Kol to unite against the forces of Danh-Gem. Dressed in outlandish costumes, they would tell tall tales of their own exploits, and proudly proclaim that Kol was safe even if the Hero of Simoqin never turned up. Led by the Man of Reinforced Iron, a former champion of the WAK, and his brother, a trapeze artist named The Skimmer, they gave the people of Kol occasional hope and frequent mirth. Children ran home and told their parents about the mighty Thog the Barbarian, and a sumo wrestler from east Xi’en who painted himself purple and called himself The Unbelievable Bulk.

Who could feel fear in a city under the ceaseless vigilance of Supper-Man, who could eat anything, the scythe-wielding Jak the Reaper and the rubber-jointed and sweet-smelling Minty Python?  

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Sunday Salon: Book New York Times Bestseller List

The Sunday
I've been catching up with my favorite series all week, and reading the fantastic Samit Basu, so there hasn't been much activity on the blog. Just a reminder, my giveaway for Beth Fantaskey's Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is open internationally till February 21!

So, a look at the NYT best-seller list.

1. WORST CASE- James Patterson and Michael Lewitz
Snippet: New York detective raising 10 children alone investigates a string of kidnappings and killings of teenagers by a villain with unusual motives.
My View: I've lost count of the number of books Patterson has written and the number of times he's topped this list.
2. THE HELP- Kathryn Stockett
Snippet:A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s ­Mississippi.
My View: There are a lot of good reviews of this book all over the blogosphere, and Beth of Beth Fish Reads has an Amy Einhorn perpetual challenge going on, to mark the books published by Amy Einhorn Books.
3. FLIRT- Laurell K. Hamilton
Snippet: Anita Blake, vampire hunter, and the men in her life. 18th book in the series.
My View: My roommate read like 7 or 8 books in the series, then got frustrated (and a little weirded out) by Blake's love life.
4. WINTER GARDEN- Kristin Hannah
Snippet:After their father’s death, two sisters must cooperate to run his apple orchard and care for their difficult mother.
Snippet: Robert Langdon among the Masons.
My View: Read my review here.

1. GAME CHANGE- John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Behind the scenes at the 2008 election with Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John and Elizabeth Edwards, John McCain and Sarah Palin.
2. THE POLITICIAN- Andrew Young
A tell-all by John Edwards’s closest aide.
3. ON THE BRINK- Henry M. Paulson Jr.
The Treasury secretary during the autumn of 2008 describes the decisions that were made during the financial meltdown.
4. I AM OZZY- Ozzy Osbourne with Chris Ayres
Recollections of heavy metal’s “Prince of Darkness.”
Race, poverty and science intertwine in the story of the woman whose cancer cells were cultured without her permission in 1951 and have supported a mountain of research undertaken since then.

1. A RELIABLE WIFE- Robert Goolrick
Snippet: Complications ensue when a wealthy Wisconsin widower in 1907 advertises for a spouse.
My View: Sounds like a fun book, but you never know.
2. THE LAST SONG- Nicholas Sparks
Snippet: A 17-year old spends the summer with her father in North Carolina and finds many kinds of love.
My View: After watching A Walk To Remember, I thought of reading the book. Couldn't get beyond 10 pages. Haven't dared to touch another Sparks since then.
3. DEAR JOHN-Nicholas Sparks
Snippet: An unlikely romance between a soldier and an idealistic young woman is tested after 9/11.
My View: See No. 2 above
Snippet: A hacker and a journalist investigate the disappearance of a Swedish heiress.
My View: I finished this book a couple of days back, and loved it. Review up this week.
5. THE LOVELY BONES-Alice Sebold
Snippet: A girl looks down from heaven as she describes the aftermath of her kidnapping and murder.
My View: Another book which has received rave reviews all over the blogosphere.

1. THE LOST CITY OF Z, by David Grann
A New Yorker writer searches for a British explorer who was lost in the Amazon in 1925.
2. THE BLIND SIDE, by Michael Lewis
The evolving business of football, viewed through the rise of the left tackle Michael Oher.
3. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
A former climber builds schools in villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
An account from the point of view of women, African-Americans and others who are often marginalized.
5. ARE YOU THERE, VODKA? IT'S ME, CHELSEA, by Chelsea Handler
Humorous personal essays from the comedian.

Which of these would you like to read?

And this week's giveaways are:

Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books is giving away a copy of Michelle Moran's Nefertiti till February 15
Steph Su Reads is giving away a choice of ARCs until February 28

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Year 2 in Reading

This is a list of all the books I have read and reviewed in my second year of blogging. Please leave a comment (with link) if you have reviewed a book on the list or on the main review, and I'll link to your review.

The Amulet of Samarkand- Jonathan Stroud
Atonement- Ian McEwan
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Stieg Larsson
The Simoqin Prophecies- Samit Basu

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REVIEW The Amulet of Samarkand: Jonathan Stroud


My roommate raved about the Bartimaeus Trilogy, and I thought that this was a perfect way to begin the new year. I really loved this book, and I’ll try to get hold of the sequels as quick as I can.

Bartimaeus is a djinn who is summoned by a young magician Nathaniel to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, a legendary artifact which is in the possession of a powerful magician Simon Lovelace. The theft of the amulet has unfortunate repercussions, as Nathaniel and Bartimaeus have to escape scheming magicians, powerful djinns and the mysterious Resistance to thwart Lovelace.

This was a fantastic book, just perfect for my taste. The writing is crisp, the story fast-paced and I had a lot of fun reading it. It is a contest of wits between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, and each does his utmost to get the upper hand over the other. Stroud creates this magical universe where magicians, assisted by the spirits they summon, control England. But these magicians aren’t always the good guys; they are conniving, power-hungry people who treat their spirits like slaves.

Bartimaeus is a wonderful character, a sarcastic djinn who resents the task he is summoned for and tries every way he can to get out of it. Stroud includes many footnotes in Bartimaeus narrative, which help the reader get an idea of the settings of the story. Most of the footnotes are snarky asides, which will keep you in stitches.

When you've helped construct several of the world's most majestic buildings, and in some instances given pretty useful tips to the architects concerned,[2] a second-rate Victorian mansion in the Gothic style doesn't exactly wet your whistle. You know the kind of thing: lots of twiddly bits and turrets.[3] It was surrounded by a wide expanse of lawn, on which peacocks and wallabies were decoratively scattered.[4]

[2] Not that my advice was always taken: check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
[3] Not a good enough description for you? Well, I was only trying to move the story on. Heddleham Hall was a great rectangular pile with stubby north—south wings, plenty of tall, arched windows, two stories, high sloping gables, a surfeit of brick chimneys, ornate tracery that amounted to the Baroque, faux-battlements above the main door, high vaulted ceilings (heavily groined), sundry gargoyles (likewise) and all constructed from a creamy-brown stone that looked attractive in moderation but en masse made everything blur like a big block of melting fudge.
[4] So decoratively that I wondered if their feet had been glued in position.

If you love fantasy, you can’t afford to miss this.

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Sunday Salon: A Year in Blogging

The Sunday

I had made a list of blogging goals and reading goals about six months back, and looking at the list, I see that I've fulfilled most of them. Except for the challenges. Honestly, I can't stick to challenges. I'm more of a random, impulsive reader, and whenever I have to stick to lists, my mind rebels. I drag my feet with those books, and ultimately end up not enjoying them, though I would probably have liked them if they hadn't been part of a list. Complicated? Weird? I think so too, but the mind wants what the mind wants. So, no challenges from now on.

And on the same note, no goals either. Goals make it sound like reading is a job to be done, with plans and results and what not involved. I read for pleasure, and goal-setting makes it seem like a task. It jinxes the process of reading. I do want to read more award-winning books, more series, more books in general, but I have found that I do end up reading good books whether I plan for it or not. So, even if the next year finds me reading zero award-winners and 100 Twilight-like books, so be it. I shall not complain.

I just want to list out my ten favorite reads of the last year, in alphabetical order.

1984- George Orwell
Anne of Green Gables- L.M. Montgomery
Artemis Fowl- Eoin Colfer
The Godfather- Mario Puzo
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini
The Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishiguro
The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee

You can find a full list of the books I have read in the past year here. That's around 71 books. Hmmm...pretty ok, but I hope to do better this year.

One last thing. In celebration of my blogoversary, I'm having a giveaway of Beth Fantaskey's popular vampire romance, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Giveaway is open internationally till February 21.

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Blogoversary Book Giveaway: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Update: The contest is now closed. Thanks to everybody who participated!

Yay! It's my blogoversary! I can't believe it's been one year since I started blogging. It feels awesome to have completed a year, especially because this blog started out as a late-night whim. I have read more books in this last year than I did the years before, and it's thanks to the blogging community that my TBR is overflowing. I love reading, I love blogging, and though I've had more fits than starts, I'm hoping this blog will see a few more blogoversaries.

Yesterday, I had author Beth Fantaskey on this blog, answering a few questions on her books and her writing. In celebration of my blogoversary and my reaching 50 followers, Beth has graciously offered to host a giveaway of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Jessica is a high-school girl who plans to "get a life" in her senior year, but that plan gets really messed up when the mysterious vampire prince Lucius turns up claiming that she was betrothed to him. How does Jessica deal with this new complication in her life? Enter the giveaway to read the book and find out!

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post, with your email id for me to be able to contact you. And of course, there are additional entries.

+5 for following this blog
+3 for blogging or tweeting about this giveaway (leave a link)
+2 for commenting on any of my other reviews
+1 for telling me about your favorite urban fantasy read

The giveaway is open internationally till Sunday, February 21, 2010. All the best!

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Author Interview: Beth Fantaskey

I'm really excited to welcome Beth Fantaskey, author of the popular Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, a tale of a young girl who finds that she is betrothed to a vampire. Watch this space tomorrow for a fantastic giveaway. Thanks so much, Beth, for taking the time to answer my questions!

Hazra: Tell us something about yourself.

Beth: Aside from the basic stuff, like I’m a 44-year-old mom who sometimes teaches at Susquehanna University, I:
  •  like to do endurance-type sports, like running and biking.
  •  have a difficult time writing if there’s no music playing.
  • am a terrible cook who can barely make scrambled eggs!

Hazra: Can you tell us about your upcoming book, Jekel Loves Hyde?

Beth: Jekel Loves Hyde is a paranormal romance about two teenagers who gradually discover that they share a mysterious (and possibly deadly) connection to the old novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As Jill and Tristen work against the clock to solve that mystery, they become more attracted – and more dangerous – to one another. It’s a love story with lots of dark twists and turns, and some humor, too, as shy Jill accidentally tastes a chemical formula that unleashes her wild side…
There’s a longer synopsis and preview chapter on my website, And I’m hosting a Jekel Loves Hyde book trailer contest there through March 15. Anyone who creates a video preview of the novel is eligible for some fun prizes. Or visitors can comment on the trailers that are already posted.  There are some great entries already!

Hazra: Sounds really exciting! What do you love about being an author? Is there anything you don’t like?

Beth: My three favorite things about being an author are:
  • using my imagination on a daily basis;
  • the freedom to work from home (in pajamas, some days!); and
  • interacting with readers (which is the most fun part, actually.)
There’s nothing I don’t like, really… It’s a pretty good job. Much better than my first job selling fried chicken!

Hazra: What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?

Beth: My biggest advice to new writers is to practice every day. I think a lot of people believe that you either “have talent” or you don’t. But writing is also a skill that you can improve upon, just like playing an instrument. You wouldn’t expect to sit down and play a beautiful song the first time you touched a piano. It’s the same with writing. The more you work at it, the better you get. Along those lines, be open to revising your work. I don’t think many people write perfect first drafts, either. I know I don’t!

Hazra: What is the most difficult part about being published? How do you suggest aspiring writers deal with it?

Beth: The most difficult part about getting published is all of the competition out there. You have to be persistent and have faith in the face of rejection. Don’t give up.

Hazra: Which authors have you been inspired by?

Beth: I am a big fan of the classic authors, like Dickens, Melville, Austen and the Brontes – some of whom are referenced in Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. (And of course Jekel Loves Hyde draws directly from that classic tale.)
My biggest influence is probably Dumas, though. I love his cliffhangers, and Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo) is my favorite hero/anti-hero.  I’m in awe of how Dumas created a character who is so intense and imposing and vulnerable, all at the same time.

Hazra: You have been to India researching the Dalit struggle for human rights. What would you say about your Indian experience?

Beth: India is the most beautiful, amazing country, but it’s also a place with pockets of incredible poverty – especially among the population of Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables.”) Because they are traditionally considered “unclean,” Dalit individuals are usually relegated to doing the dirtiest, most humble jobs and may be segregated from broader society in other ways, too.
My research involved documenting how Dalit leaders are trying to use media to expand interest in their fight for equality. It was fascinating and inspiring to be at the heart of a growing civil rights movement and meet the people who are making it happen.
Anyone who’s interested in learning more can go to, an organization dedicated to providing education for young Dalit students.

Hazra: That is really good work. Thanks for sharing it with us. Tell us something about the books you are working on. Will we see more of Jessica and Lucius from Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side?

Beth: I am working on a possible sequel to Jessica’s Guide, but it’s too soon to make a formal announcement. In the meantime, anyone who wants to read more of Jess and Lucius’s  story can check out the “mini sequel” on my website. It’s 23 chapters of new material that I wrote to thank everyone who’s asked to see what’s next for Jess and Lucius. (I won’t give away more here…)
I will give one hint though: If the sequel does become a reality, it will start where the on-line story ends, so readers can expect to see more of the new characters I introduced. (Including Lucius’s closest vampire friend, Raniero Lovatu, who seems to be piquing a lot of interest!)

Hazra: I'm sure a lot of people are waiting eagerly for that one! Finally, if you could organize a dinner with five of your favorite fictional characters, who would they be?

Beth: Edmond Dantes (The Count of Monte Cristo); Pip (the tortured protagonist in Dickens’ Great Expectations); Sirius Black (from Harry Potter); Athos (the mysterious Musketeer); and Mr. Darcy (really, who doesn’t want to meet him??)
Gee – I looked at my list and think I must be drawn to dark, troubled and complex heroes!

Well, I'd say that you'd have a lot of trouble getting any sort of conversation going! Thank you Beth, for your wonderful responses. You can learn more about Beth by visiting her website.

Shy Jill’s father has always insisted that the Jekels are distantly related to THE Dr. Henry Jekyll, whose story inspired the 1886 novel about a scientist who creates an evil alter ego in his lab. In fact, Jill’s dad swore that a box locked away in his home office contains documents that detail Dr. Jekyll’s diabolical research.

And Tristen, a talented young pianist with a decidedly dark edge, has even closer – and worse – connections to the 19th century tale.Because if Tristen’s family legends are to be believed, he is a direct descendant of the monster, “Mr. Hyde,” and doomed to repeat a history of violence if he can’t find a “cure” for the evil that lurks inside of him. When Jill's father is murdered and her college savings disappear, she is tempted to break her parents’ rules and examine the forbidden papers, in hopes of winning a lucrative chemistry scholarship by re-creating the old experiments and determining whether the Jekyll-Hyde story really could have been true.

Can Tristen and Jill control the most frightening aspects of themselves in time to not only win a scholarship but to save their souls? And ensure that the love that’s growing between them won’t lead to their mutual destruction? Read Jekel Loves Hyde to find out!

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REVIEW Slaughterhouse Five: Kurt Vonnegut


I love science fiction, so it is a little embarrassing that it’s taken me this long to read a Kurt Vonnegut book.

Slaughterhouse Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a time-travelling American soldier who is captured by the Germans. The novel jumps between different types in his life, from his imprisonment at Dresden to his post-war life as an optometrist to his abduction by aliens.

You know what I say to people when I hear they're writing anti-war books?'
'No. What do you say, Harrison Starr?' 
'I say, "Why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?"'
 What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that too. 
And, even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.

Initially, I had some trouble understanding the book as I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I decided to stop analyzing and let the story flow, and then I enjoyed it more. It’s a war novel and a science fiction novel, but there are no memorable characters, no striking events, no fighting against all odds. It just goes on, much like an ordinary person’s life would. But amidst that ordinariness, Vonnegut manages to capture the true horror of war, the despondency which it brings and how it has the ability to make a sufferer indifferent to life. The book is apparently based on Vonnegut’s experience as a prisoner at Dresden, and he conveys the feelings of a war-weary soldier very effectively.

It wasn't safe to come out of the shelter until noon the next day. When the Americans and their guards did come out, the sky was black with smoke. The sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was like the moon now nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighborhood was dead.
So it goes.
The guards drew together instinctively, rolled their eyes. They experimented with one expression and then another, said nothing, though their mouths were often open. They looked like a silent film of a barbershop quartet.

There is quite a bit of humour in this book, black humour that reinforces the suffering of the story. Vonnegut lampoons our society by showing it through the eyes of the Trafalmadorians. This book reminded me a lot of Catch-22. Though both books are widely different in genre and story, they both use acerbic wit and imagination to condemn war. Slaughterhouse Five is not conventional science fiction, and you should read it to figure out what it’s all about.

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