Mar 21, 2014

Author Q & A: Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book, and post a sentence from page 56. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

Oleander Girl
Page 56: Eighteen years lost already - I can't waste any more time. The need to find out everything about my parents, suddenly, is like an ache in my bones, a deep deficiency.

Opening paragraph: I am swimming through a long, underwater cavern flecked with blue light, the cavern of love, with Rajat close behind me. We're in a race, and so far I'm winning because this is my dream. Sometimes, when I'm dreaming, I don't know it. But tonight I do. Sometimes when I'm awake, I wonder if I'm dreaming. That, however, is another story. 

A Conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni about Oleander Girl,  a sweeping, suspenseful coming-of-age tale about a young woman who leaves India for America on a search that will transform her life.

How did you become a writer? Did you always know you wanted to be one?
Growing up in India, I never thought I'd be a writer. I didn't believe I had either the talent or the drive or a special story to tell. But immigration thrust me into a whole different world which was at once exciting and disconcerting in its newness. I wrote to make sense of my new life, and to remember the life that I had left behind.

You often set your books in India. What attracts you to the Indian landscape?
The landscape of one's childhood imprints itself upon the heart. In my case, that was India. Add to that the fact that Indian culture is old and complex and currently, due to globalization, undergoing a rapid transformation, and you have possibilities for many stories. In Oleander Girl, for instance, the two protagonists, Korobi and Rajat, come from very different families. Korobi's is steeped in tradition; Rajat's is westernized and newly rich. When Korobi and Rajat fall in love, this will lead to many complications.

A family secret lies at the heart of Oleander Girl. What made you decide to focus on this?
My own family had a dark secret of its own. When I discovered it, it turned my life upside down. I felt betrayed by the people I had trusted all my life—and yet I couldn't stop loving them. I wanted to explore these painful, contradictory feelings through Korobi's situation. She is braver than I was—she traveled across the world in search of that secret.

Do you write your books in English, or in some other language?
I write all my books in English. My mother-tongue is Bengali, but English was the language of my schooling. I read Bengali fluently, and when my mother was alive I wrote letters to her in that language. She told me once that it was a good thing I didn't write anything else in Bengali! (I think my vocabulary is at the 6th grade level). I do participate, though, when my books are translated into Bengali.

Oleander Girl is set in the year 2002. Why did you decide on this time period?
An important question in Oleander Girl is how can we live in amity with difference, both racial and religious? The year 2002 illustrates the price we have to pay when we choose not to do so.  In 2002, in the U.S., people were suffering the aftermath of 9/11—both the tragedy of the deaths in the Towers and elsewhere, and the violent fear and prejudice that swept the nation and affected the lives of many Americans who looked like I do. In India, 2002 was the year of the terrible Godhra Riots that led to deadly clashes between Hindus and Muslims.

How did you come up with the title of this novel? In what way is it central to the theme of the book?
The heroine Korobi's name means Oleander in Bengali. From childhood, Korobi wants to know why her mother, who dies in childbirth, would want to name her after a flower that is beautiful but poisonous. She will discover the answer at the end, and along with that she will understand what kind of woman her mother wanted her to be. And this—how women need to balance between what they owe others and what they owe themselves—is an important theme in the novel.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on a novel that is a re-working of our famous epic, The Ramayana. I am re-telling it from the point of view of Sita, the central woman character. The teller of the tale changes the meaning of the tale. By putting a woman at the center of an epic adventure, I hope to draw attention to different issues and make readers re-evaluate their beliefs about what is heroic.

About the Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, and The Vine of Desire; two short story collections, Arranged Marriage and The Unknown Errors of Our Lives; four volumes of poetry; and an award-winning novel for young readers, The Conch Bearer. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times. Winner of an American Book Award, she teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing this Q &A.

Mar 19, 2014

Book Review: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Title: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Published February 4, 2014; Bantam
Genre: fiction
Objective review: 5/5

About the book: The secrets in a neighborhood, large and small, create problems for the individuals as well as for their small community and reveal the conflicts and tragedies they can create.

Young Tyler has a rare disease that makes him super sensitive to sunlight and even light from halogen bulbs. His neighbors cooperate by using regular light bulbs in their houses and backyards. Tyler can only come out of his house after the sun goes down - between sunset and dawn. Unknown to his very protective mother, Eve, he goes out at night with his camera and takes pictures of people in their homes, people he cannot see during the daytime unless they visit his boarded up and curtained rooms at home.

Tyler finds out the secrets of some of his neighbors, but the most damaging secret of all, that of his own mother Eve, he doesn't know about. Her secret will bring the neighbors into conflict with each other and eat at the heart of this mother who only wants to protect her invalid son.

My comments: The plot and the characters pull you in completely and the story as it unfolds is not at all predictable. Excellent characterizations. An intense look at our human hearts and the decisions that people sometimes are forced to make between family and friendship, morality and loyalty.  I gave this a five and highly recommend this book.

Carla Buckley lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She is the author of The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a Best First novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is at work on her next novel. Visit Carla’s website or Facebook for more information

Visit TLC Book Tours for more reviews and the tour schedule for
The Deepest Secret

I received a complimentary ARC of this book for review. 

Mar 18, 2014

Down London Road by Samantha Young

First Chapter, First Paragraph is a weekly meme hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea.

Down London Road by Samantha Young
Paperback published May 9, 2013; Penguin UK
Genre: romance

First paragraph, first chapter:
Edinburgh, Scotland 
I looked upon the piece of art and wondered what the heck I was looking at. To me it was just a bunch of lines and squares in different colors with some shading here and there. It looked familiar. In fact, I thought I had a picture Cole had drawn me when he was three years old tucked away somewhere that bore a remarkable resemblance to it. Although I doubted I could expect anyone to pay three hundred and seventy-five pounds for Cole's drawing. I also doubted the sanity of anyone who would pay three hundred and seventy-five pounds for the piece of canvas that looked like it had been sitting next to a railway at the exact time a train full of paint careened off the rails and crashed.
Book description:

Johanna Walker knows what she wants. And that's a strong, steady, financially secure man who will treat her well and look after her and her little brother, Cole - something her parents have never done. But when she meets the gorgeous Cameron MacCabe, a new bartender at work, Jo can't deny the instant and undeniable attraction she feels. Cam doesn't fit into her strict specifications of her perfect partner at all - but for once she is tempted to let her heart rule her head.

 And as their intense connection grows, Jo has to stop hiding the truth about herself and her family. Is Cam prepared to accept Jo for who she really is? And is Jo willing to let someone into her life for keeps? (publisher)

Would you keep reading, based on the first paragraph and the book synopsis? 

Mar 17, 2014

Mailbox Monday: Kids and Cozies

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme to share what you received in the mail.
 The Year She Left Us: "From the winner of the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Prize—comes the extraordinary, unexpected debut tale of three generations of Chinese-American women in a San Francisco family who must confront their past and carve out a future."

Bloom and Doom: "As the co-owner of The Rose in Bloom, Audrey Bloom creates magnificent flower arrangements for brides to be. Though helping to plan a wedding can be stressful, it’s nothing compared to the groom turning up dead."

Sugar and Iced: "Sugar and spice and murderous vice. That’s what pageants are made of….... A judge at the Sweet Tiara Cupcake Contest turns up dead, and the owner of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes is a suspect."

A Snicker of Magic: "Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart."

What's new in your mailbox?

Mar 16, 2014

Sunday Salon: Squirrel-Proof Bird House

The Sunday Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Also visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer; It's Monday: What Are You Reading? at Book Journey.

Do you think this squirrel-proof bird feeder will work? We bought one similar to this, with only one side open for birds to perch and eat. A squirrel's heavier weight would weigh down the bird perch and close access to the bird seeds. We'll see....One squirrel investigated and left it, but I bet he'll be back!

New to my bookshelves this week:

Animal Wise

An Act of Kindness

One Night in Winter

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

The Headmistress of Rosemere

Animal Wise by Virginia Morell
An Act of Kindness by Barbara Nadel
One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd
The Accidental Book Club by Jennifer Scott

What's new on your bookshelves?

Mar 14, 2014

Book Review: KEEPING MUM by Alyse Carlson

Friday 56 Rules: *Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.

Also Book Beginnings by Rose City Reader.

Title: Keeping Mum:A Garden Society Mystery by Alyse Carlson
Published March 4, 2014; Berkley
Genre: cozy mystery

Book beginning:
Re: Fundraiser/Mystery Supper 
This Sunday a veritable who's who in Virginia at  Hunting Hills Country Club will gather for a Murder Mystery Supper and Fund-raiser where Jared Koonz is expected to announce his candidacy for the Virginia State Senate. 
Page 56:  
"Ella Chamberlain Schultz. Gold digger. I think Annie is her dad's primary heir, so Ella is better off with Senator Schultz alive than dead." 
About the book: Things start to go wrong from the get-go at this murder mystery supper. A well-known financier is found dead in the gardens of the country club, not the intended victim in the plan for the murder mystery. And retired Senator Schultz, Annie's dad, has gone missing. Annie and her friend Cam, both members of the Roanoke Garden Society hosting the supper, must find out if the two events are related.

My comments: There are so many possibilities here for solving the murder of the financier and the disappearance of Annie's dad, the Senator. The two women, Annie and Cam, with the help of their significant others, Rob and Jake, set out to find the solution in a maze of conflicts, suspicious motives, and interlocking relationships among guests at the mystery murder supper.

The different solutions for solving this murder keep the reader going. I wasn't able to guess the culprit(s) so this was a well planned plot. The main characters and even the suspects are fully developed personalities. The story line, setting, and people are realistic and seem very authentic. Because of the detail of place and interactions, in many ways a plus for the novel, I nevertheless felt this made the cozy a little too long.

You will love Annie and Cam though, and I would like to read more about them in future books in the series.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. 

Mar 12, 2014

Book Review: The Accident, a thriller by Chris Pavone

Title: The Accident: A Novel by Chris Pavone
Published March 11, 2014; Crown
Genre: thriller
She is going to fly to California to find herself a new career. She has always wanted to try the film business, and now is the time. But she can't just land in LA. She needs a parachute.
"Yes," Camilla says, "a brilliant property called
The Accident." (ch. 14)
About the book: At least four people are at risk of losing their lives because they stole or held on to a copy of a manuscript titled The Accident, an expose of crimes committed by a powerful media mogul. The Accident is written by an anonymous writer who wants the book published; the CIA and the mogul, the subject of the book, do not.

The manuscript is sent anonymously to Isabel Reed, literary editor, who shares it with editor and former lover, Jeff Fielder, who are expected to have it published. But copies are secretly made and kept by various other people. This creates a fire storm that puts everyone in danger and cost some lives. Isabel and Jeff think they know who the anonymous author is, but he is supposed to be dead!

My comments: Suspenseful, well written and plotted, The Accident has engaging characters as well as riveting and dramatic action. A must for those who like thrillers mixed with international intrigue. The ending has a few more twists and turns and surprises than I was prepared for, but they did add a lot to the story's complex plot and interest. My objective rating: 4.5/5

CHRIS PAVONE is the author of the New York Times-bestselling The Expats, winner of the Edgar Award. He was a book editor for nearly two decades and lives in New York City with his family.
Visit the author’s website at

Visit TLC Book Tours for more reviews and a tour schedule.
Thanks to TLC and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...