BETWEEN the SHEETS – By Molly O’Keefe

Book Review

This novel is like watching (or the better word is IMAGINING) an X-rated Hollywood movie with a superb storyline. The book cover does suggest an erotic allure and it does contain a fair amount of the same, which seems not as much of tender and with a trace of sexual violence between the story’s main characters Shelby and Ty, because through this literature the writer essentially tries to mention how supressed negative emotions sprung reflexively during the very intimate moments.

Furthermore, this story talks of — the illness of Alzheimer, the excess care and support needed by its affected; how brutal childhood has a negative imprint on adult personality.

 

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Shelby Monroe, an art teacher, is a part-time employee at Bishop Elementary school; who’d been in cold, slightly awkward affairs with men she wanted very little from, men there was never any fear would try to get more from her — meets Wyatt Svenson, his nickname Ty, a man with a tall and wide physique and a charming personality; through Casey – a eleven-year old, tall and gangly boy, Ty’s child from a former girlfriend …

There are many other characters in this story which gives the story a nice strength, by the end of this very beautifully story all the broken pieces of Shelby’s and Ty’s core personality is merged together because of their faith in each other and their willingness to try to chance the bad situation in order to move ahead in life.

 

The very lengthy erotic passages has some monotonous moments – otherwise from this, the narration captures the complexity of human emotions to the very core in a brilliant writing by Molly O’Keefe.

 

Few excerpts from this novel:

“Hey, Ms. Monroe,” Casey whispered, but before Shelby could say anything, Mom leaned over and shushed him.

Shelby gave him a wink and then tried very hard to pay attention to the church service.

………

“Tic-tac-toe?” he whispered. “Am I six?”

A laugh bubbled out of her and now her own mom was giving her the death stare. She composed herself and drew a hangman and the spaces for a ten-letter word.

“Hangman,” he whispered. “I like it.”

She pointed to a blank spot where he could write down his guesses and handed him the stubby pencil. Over the top of Casey’s bright head, Wyatt was watching her, and despite her years of experience ignoring things, she could ignore him for only so long. Almost as if her eyes were magnetized and he was true north, she could not help but look at him.  (pp.118 -119)

 

“Mom, we need to talk.”

“About the factory? Because I know our numbers are down, but I‘ve made some changes to the—”

“It’s not about the factory.”

“I can’t lay anyone else off. We’re running on a skeleton crew.”

“Mom. We’re going to have to bring someone into our house. A nurse. To care for you.”

 Mom was silent, and the tall weeds growing through the cracks in the asphalt and between the stones of the drive were laid nearly flat by the wind. Sturdy weeds levelled. (pp. 256 -257)

 

“We’ll go slow,” he told her. “For both of us.”

“Slow? We haven’t done anything slow.”

“We’ll start with dinner. Sunday night, my house. I’ll cook.”

“You can cook?”

“See all the things we don’t know about each other?”

She smiled at his joke and he felt the engine of his heart kick over. This was happening. It was really happening.

“What about Casey?”

“My son and I have kept enough secrets from each other, Shelby. If you and I are a thing, he’s got to know about it. If we’re in, we’re all in.”

She let go of the box only to cup his face in her hands. She pressed her lips on his, softly. Sweetly. She tasted of coffee and toothpaste, and if faith had a flavour, it was there too. (pp. 298 – 299)

Author: Molly O’Keefe is also the author of several other novels – Wild Child, Crazy Thing Called Love, Can’t Buy Me Love, and Can’t Hurry Love.

Amazon link: Between the Sheets (The Boys of Bishop)

The Girl in the Mirror – By Cecelia Ahern

Book Review

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The Girl in the Mirror

Author: Cecelia Ahern

This short novel of less than 100 pages comprises two short stories with bizarre concept perfected by perfect human emotions.

The title of the novel is the title of the first story i.e. Girl in the Mirror, narrated with smidgen of fairy tale charm mixed with fair amount of quirkiness.

Lila’s grandmother – Ellie, whom Lila fondly calls as Grellie, happens to drape all the mirrors in her spacious, hoary house completely in black sheeting. This little girl  has no anxiety of her grandmother’s odd behaviour — however, twenty-eight years old Lila disobeys  her grandmother’s rule to  unwrap a free-standing, full-length mirror, located in a spare room which she is strictly warned not to enter; on her wedding day to  see herself  in her wedding dress—and a peculiar incident happens ….

 

The second story, The Memory Maker, is a highly intellectual piece which takes about 2 to 3 times of reading to appreciate the inimitable concept of the story.

Tucked away in the basement of a Georgian house is a futuristic devise, the memory-maker, a machine which helps people in creating new memories, the creator of the machine is neither a doctor nor a scientist; and a great sadness is the reality behind the invention of this machine …

It takes a maximum of 2 days to finish reading this novel, more so because of the thrilling story telling ability of the writer which keeps you hooked on till you finish reading the entire story. This novel is a suitable read for teenagers as well as adults.

 

Amazon link: The Girl in the Mirror

EMMA – By Jane Austen

Book Review

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817): Jane Austen is one of the most well-known and widely-read English novelists.

Jane’s fascination with words and with world of stories began quite early, in the 1780s during her adolescence she started writing her own novels. Between 1811 to 1816, Jane started to anonymously publish her works; Emma was published during this time.

Her works started attracting scholarly attention in the 1920s and came to be recognized as brilliant masterpieces and revealing commentaries on social conditions of Austen’s time.

Emma: This novel is a very lengthy read, with 55 chapters, very intellectually phrased with complex grammatical construction of sentences, which has to be read in short passages for a proper understanding rather than choosing for a hasty read which may cease to lose the novel’s excellence in the reader’s opinion.

It is unadulterated literature that enriches the reader with exceptional knowledge of English literature and in quintessence articulates about the opulent cultural life of people belonging to the upper stratum of society in England during the end of 18th century and at the beginning of 19th century. The humour is polished sarcastic; the novel starts with theatrical appeal with very lengthy conversations and gradually eases to poised narrative.

Highly recommended read for avid literature readers, and once you have finished reading this novel—it will all the more intrigue you for another read.

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EMMA- By Jane Austen

Twenty-one years old Emma Woodhouse is handsome, clever, and rich; the daughter of Mr. Woodhouse — a nervous old man, beloved for the friendliness of his heart and his amiable temper. The real evils of Emma’s situation is the disposition to think a little too well of herself, which leads her through a course of outright misperception in her impulsive ideas of match-making.

Hartfield, is Emma Woodhouse’s paradise; the residence of Mr. Woodhouse—the Woodhouses first in consequence in a town of Highbury.

There are many characters that exist to make this story about Highbury and Hartfield complete, a few important ones are:

Harriet Smith – A seventeen-year old, a parlour-boarder at Mrs. Goddard’s school, is a girl not certainly clever but with a sweet, docile, grateful disposition; totally free from conceit and only desiring to be guided by any one she looked up to.

Mr. Elton – A very respectable vicar of Highbury, is a handsome young man.

Mr. (Gerorge)Knightley – A sensible man with a cheerful manner, a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it as the elder brother of Isabella’s (Emma’s elder sister) husband. He lived about a mile away in the adjoining parish of Highbury, at Donwell Abbey.

Mr. Weston – A native of Highbury, had satisfied an active, cheerful mind and social temper by entering into militia of his country. Once his wife death, after a three years’ marriage, the widower-father, gave his child up to the care and wealth of the Churchill’s. When a complete change of life became desirable, he quitted the militia and engaged in trade. After eighteen or twenty years of his life, he had purchased a little estate adjoining Highbury, at Randalls; and obtained his second wife– a truly amiable woman, Miss Taylor.

Miss Taylor/ Mrs. Weston: Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse’s  family, less as a governess than a friend, particularly very fond of Emma, between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Matrimony as the origin of change, Miss Taylor was happily married to Mr. Weston.

Mr. Frank Churchill: Brought up as his uncle’s heir; Mr. Frank Churchill — a very good looking young man, had a great deal of the spirit and liveliness of his father’s.

Miss Jane Fairfax: The only child of Mrs. Bates’s youngest daughter; Mrs. Bates’s – the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a very old lady. Jane was an orphan, brought up by Colonel Campbell. Living constantly with right-minded and well-informed people, her heart and understanding had received every advantage of discipline and culture; and Colonel Campbell’s residence being in London, every lighter talent had been done full justice to, by the attendance of first-rate masters.   

Miss Bates: The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip.

The catalysts of this novel are the characters – Miss Jane Fairfax and Mr. Frank Churchill.

Pages 163, 189, 190 & 191 – Comprises very brilliant descriptive narrative of a shop called ‘Ford’, which is place of convenience to the citizens of Highbury.

Chapter 8: This chapter is a debate over the mind-set related to men and women on the subject of suitability of partner associated with social norms in the prospect of matrimony, these considerations do prevail in the present era in consequence to arranged marriages in some cultures.

A few passages from this novel:

“ A man,” sad he, “must have a very good opinion of himself when he asks people to leave their own fireside, and encounter such a day as this, for the sake of coming to see him. He must think himself a most agreeable fellow; I could not do such a thing. It is the greatest absurdity —Actually snowing at this moment!—The folly of not allowing people to be comfortable at home—and the folly of people’s not staying comfortably at home when they can! If we were obliged to go out such an evening as this, by any call of duty or business, what a hardship we should deem it;—and here are we, probably with rather thinner clothing than usual, setting forward  voluntarily, without excuse, in defiance of the voice of nature, which tells man, in every thing given to his view or his feeling, to stay at home himself, and keep all under shelter that he can;—here are we setting forward to spend five dull hours in another man’s house, with nothing to say or to hear that was not said and heard yesterday, and may not be said and heard again to-morrow. Going in dismal weather, to return probably in worse;—four horses and four servants taken out for nothing but to convey five idle, shivering creatures into colder rooms and worse company than they might have had at home.” (p. 95)

 

“But your father is not going so far; he is only going to the Crown, quite on the other side of the street, and there are a great many houses; you might be very much at a loss, and it is very dirty walk, unless you keep on the footpath; but my coachman can tell you where you had best cross the street.”

 Mr. Frank Churchill still declined it, looking as serious as he could and his father gave his hearty support by calling out, “My good friend, this is quite unnecessary; Frank knows a puddle of water when he sees it, and as to Mrs. Bates’s, he may get there from the Crown in a hop, step, and jump.”(p. 159)

 

“If it would be good to her, I am sure it would be evil to himself; a very shameful and degrading connexion. How would he bear to have Miss Bates belonging to him?—To have her haunting the Abbey, and thanking him all day long for his great kindness in marrying Jane?—

“So  very kind and obliging!—But he always had been such a very kind neighbour!”And then fly off, through half a sentence, to her mother’s old petticoat. “Not that it was such a very old petticoat either—for still it would last a great while—and, indeed, she must thankfully say that their petticoats were all very strong.”(p. 183)

 

When the ladies returned to the drawing-room after dinner, Emma found it hardly possible to prevent their making two distinct parties;—with so much perseverance in judging and behaving ill did Mrs. Elton engross Jane Fairfax and slight herself. She and Mrs. Weston were obliged to be almost always either talking together or silent together. Mrs. Elton left them no choice. If Jane repressed her for a little time, she soon began again; and though much that passed between them was in a half-whisper, especially on Mrs. Elton’s side, there was no avoiding a knowledge of their principal subjects: The post-office—catching cold—fetching letters—and friendship, were long under discussion … (p. 243)

 

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it. —Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.— But you understand me …. (p. 348)


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R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Schooldays

Book Review

Malgudi Schooldays is a slightly abridged version of R.K. Narayan’s classic novel Swami and Friends published in the year 1935; and includes two more stories featuring Swami.

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I had purchased this book from Amazon; you too can grab a copy for yourself through this direct Amazon link –  Malgudi Schooldays

This is a story of a boy who is in threshold to teen-age and sees absurdities and incongruities in the most trival and unnoticeable things; set in the background of the period when the British still ruled India and Gandhiji was fighting for India’s independence, and rooted in a fictional small town of Malgudi in South India.

Malgudi Schooldays is all about the antics of  Swaminathan aka Swami  —  his curious outlook at religion and  education;  his raw interactions with his  family  members – especially gossips with his  doting grandmother, and his bittersweet relationship with his strict but thoughtful  father; his lethargic  attitude  towards studies  and dislike for school; his nasty  involvement in an agitated  procession;  his boisterous friendship with Mani and Rajam; and his spontaneous interest in cricket —  is narrated  with subtle humour and  engrosses for a very entertaining read for both adults and teenagers.

A few excerpts:

‘What is Lisbon famous for?’ said the teacher.

            Swaminathan  hestitated and ventured, ‘For  being the capital of Spain.’    

            The teacher bit his moustache and fired a second question, ‘What do you know about Indian climate?’

            ‘It is hot in summer and cold in winter.’

‘Stand up on the bench!’ roared the teacher. And Swaminathan stood up without a protest. He was glad that he was given this supposedly degrading punishment instead of the cane. (pg. 18)

 ———

Swaminathan read at the top of his voice the poem about a woolly sheep. His father fussed about a little for his tiny silver snuff-box and the spotted handkerchief, which was the most unwashed thing in that house. He hooked his umbrella on his arm. This was really the last signal for starting.  Swaminathan  had almost closed the book and risen.  His father  had almost gone out of the room. But – Swaminathan stamped his foot under the table. Mother stopped Father and said: ‘By the way, I want some change. The tailor is coming today. He has been pestering me for the last four days.’ (pg. 28)

———

Samuel was reading the red text, the portion describing Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India. The boys listened in half-languor. Swaminathan suddenly asked at the top of his voice, ‘Why did not Columbus come to India, sir?’

            ‘He lost his way.’

            ‘I can’t believe it; it is unbelievable, sir.’

            ‘Why?’

            ‘Such a great man. Would he have not known the way?’

            ‘Don’t shout. I can hear you quite well.’

            ‘I am not shouting, sir; this is my ordinary voice, which God has given me. How can I help it?’

            ‘Shut up and sit down.’

            Swaminathan sat down, feeling slightly happy at his success. The teacher threw a puzzled , suspicious glance at him and resumed his lessons.

            His next chance occurred when Sankar of the first bench got up and asked, ‘Sir, was Vasco da Gama the very first person to come to India?’

            Before the teacher could answer, Swaminathan shouted from the back bench, ‘That’s what they say.’ (pg. 116-117)

———

‘You think you are wiser than the newspaper?’ Father sneered. ‘A man may have the strength of an elephant and yet be a coward: whereas another may have the strength of a straw, but if he has courage he can do anything. Courage is everything, strength and age are not important.’

Swami disputed the theory. ‘How can it be, Father? Suppose I have all the courage, what can I do if a tiger should attack me?’

            ‘Leave alone strength, can you prove you have courage? Let me see if you can sleep alone tonight in my office room.’

            A frightful proposition, Swaminathan thought. He had always slept beside his Granny, and any change in this arrangement kept him trembling and awake all night. He hoped at first that his father was only joking. He mumbled weakly, ‘Yes,’ and tried to change the subject; he said very loudly and with a great deal of enthusiasm, ‘We are going to admit even elders in our cricket club hereafter. We are buying brand-new bats and balls. Our captain has asked me to tell you …’ (pg. 164)

———

‘Sir, can’t you permit him to go home after four-thirty?’

            The Headmaster sank back in his chair and remained silent.

            Rajam asked again, ‘What do you say, sir, won’t you do it?’

            ‘Are you the Headmaster of this school or am I?’

            ‘Of course you are the Headmaster, sir. In Albert Mission they don’t keep us a minute longer than four-thirty. And we are exempted from Drill if we play games.’

            ‘Here, I am not prepared to listen to your rhapsodies on the pariah school. Get out.’

            Mani, who had been waiting outside, finding his friends gone too long, and having his own fears, now came into the Headmaster’s room. (pg.178)


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At My Book Store – (Fiction)

I offered the book and attractively looked at him, today was a sun-drenched day and he appeared the sunniest …

MY book store in the manic street of a crowded market with its old allure veins in elegance, with an immense timber door and a timber flanked glass peripheral wall at its facade. It smells of wood, vintage and fresh books – the gargantuan bookshelves abounding with books almost touches the ceiling of the store and mounds of books lay on the counter in front of these stows.  

 In the lethargic late afternoon of an overcast rainy day, I was ardently reading a novel – lying flat on my belly on the vacant space girded by the bookshelf and the counter. “Is someone here?” I heard an unexpected gallant voice; I instantaneously rose to kneel on the floor and observed through the gaps amid the heaped row of books.

 He was attired in a drenched slicker, tall and lean with streaks of hair casing his eyebrows. My heartbeat raced, I immediately tied my wavy and short black hair into a messy plait. “Yes”, I fared to reply; as I stood up I bumped a stacked row of books which scattered near my feet. Trying to ignore the chaos, vertical at the doorway of the store, noticing me attentively he falteringly asked me, “Do you have the new novel from the writer Rohan Das?” I hesitated for a second before answering, “The consignment of his new novel will arrive tomorrow morning”. “I will be here tomorrow, thank you”, he replied with a silly grin and ambled into the vivacity of the heavy shower.

The next day, I impatiently stirred from one corner of the store to another – judiciously overhearing every tone of a male voice approaching from the outdoor. Finally, he arrived – the thump of his footsteps enhanced my heartbeats. “Hey, Good Afternoon, may I get the book”, he asked. I offered the book and attractively looked at him, today was a sun-drenched day and he appeared the sunniest. “Do you recognize me?” he shrewdly questioned me. I trembled at his query and reacted in astonishment, “No, you are new to this place, isn’t it?” “I am Henry”, he answered gazing intensely at me.

 A quick flashback awakened me – he was my childhood infatuation. He, a timid thin boy would accompany his uncle to the store during the monsoons and I, a boisterous petite girl would try to terrify him by appearing outrageously from the space interior of the bookshelf and the counter – to spray red ink on him … and he would shriek pretentiously  to hear my infectious laughter.

 “Why don’t you join me for breakfast tomorrow morning at the tea estate?” he asked in a hesitant tone. My heart yelled in happiness at his request but I demurely responded, “Yes, I’ll try”. He waved me bye with a subtle smile.

The next morning, I sat anxiously on a couch opposite of a fire place in the bungalow at the tea estate.  He arrived late … along with a woman. Astonished at the sight … I calmly thought, “She must be his cousin”. “Hi, She is Anu, my wife”, he cautiously confirmed. “Hi, I am his childhood friend, Rani”, I specified with an exaggerated smile to disguise a crumpled heart. “Excuse me, I need to hurry to the store, a consignment is to arrive”, I despondently reacted and raced out. 

 

“Is someone here?” I heard a bold voice at my book store … I am in my twenties and in quest of a love alliance, here’s my next chance.

 

End