Sunday 22 April 2018

An amazing novel filled with adventure and insight on human behaviour.

The novel I'm recommending today has been a great revelation to me. It is written exquisitly well, with a perfect balance between action and reflection, that will make you look inside yourself questioningly. I like to point out also the beautiful cover.

Author: Chandra Prasad

Title:     Damselfly

One word: fantastic! I have absolutely loved this book from the very beginning. The setting is that of Lord of the Flies, only with a fresh, contemporary cut. A group of teens, forming the fencing team of the private school Drake Rosemond, find themselves stranded on an island after a plane crash. The small island is mostly covered by the thick vegetation of a jungle, an overwhelming environment to which the youths must adapt quickly, just as they must immediately deal with the loss of some of their companions. Thanks to Mel, a capable and pragmatic young woman, having extensive knowledge about plants and natural things, they manage to settle down to an acceptable routine, while finding their way around the island, hoping they will soon be rescued. Nonetheless, help doesn’t come; instead they are faced with a new problem: they are not alone on the island, and whoever lives there wants them out without delay. As time goes by, difficulties and fear bring out each person’s true personality, for good and for bad. Some find they perfectly fit with this new, wild environment, others find a purpose in their life. This does not apply to Mel and Sam though, they have someone to get back to, and they can see beyond the idyll of the moment. The relationships between the members of the group have already been put to the test many times, on the long run things could degenerate dangerously as the balances of power switch rapidly.

This book is a perfect balance of pace and exploration of the circumstances and behaviours of the characters. Details of each person’s history trickle throughout the narration, forming a background allowing the reader to understand the character’s actions. However, you can also perceive how each youth evolves from that background, drawing on the new circumstances to bring out aspects of their personality that their former situation had not allowed to emerge. The author makes a truly masterly job out of portraying her characters; with fairness and realism she shows both the positive qualities and the hidden dark corners in the souls of all her protagonists. They are so well depicted that the whole of mankind is reflected in them. I personally found myself very close to Sam’s personality, I even found myself loathing the way some among the characters behave, but then I stopped to think. I asked myself whether I was so sure I would have been able to stick to all of my convictions so strongly and unyieldingly in such a situation. I couldn’t give myself an answer, so I came to the conclusion that most of us contain most of the good and bad shown by each of those youths, and until you’re tested you can only hope you’ll be able to remain the righteous person you are in your usual circumstances. Yes, I do believe there are personalities more inclined to compassion and others to selfishness. I do believe the concepts of justice, right and wrong, remain the same even in extreme conditions. What can be debated, instead, is whether most of us would still be able to elaborate those concepts keeping the same coordinates that guide us in daily life.
This book offers plenty of food for thoughts on many issues, including the hypocrisy hidden behind many ordinary conventions, and how even the best of people can be superficial or naive in certain instances. This novel would be a great choice for an open discussion at the library. Also, the narration is gritty but never gruesome, and when it is delicate, it is never quixotic.
Great style, very well written and rich in content.

Click here to purchase the book or read more about it.

Sunday 11 March 2018

A time machine on four wheels

Today I want to present a book that is a true little jewel. It is a collection of short stories that is never trivial and often quite touching. I have loved it and I hope you will too!

Author: Claire Rye

Title:     The Backseat

This is a truly exquisite, lovely book. One of the best reads I have stumbled upon lately. It consists of several short stories, spanning a century, if you also consider events that are narrated by some of the characters. All the stories are linked by a common denominator: an old car, a Chevy 1959. Writing interesting short stories is a rather difficult task, but the author created a real masterpiece here. Each story frames a detail, a specific situation in the life of each character, and doing so, it portrays an incredibly rich galaxy of human feelings and behaviours. The former being a constant, the latter changing with the changing times. I could not but admire Claire Rye’s insight into the human way of thinking; ability that must proceed from a careful and sensitive observation of people. Also, the idea of narrating a piece of common people history through the story of a car is somewhat poetic. First of all the car is a vehicle, so, even conceptually, what better prop to transport you across the decades? This car in particular, as it is also written in the second to last story, becomes a sort of time machine in order to do just that. I do not have a passion toward cars as such; still, cars do somehow become part of a family’s life, don’t they? There are many memories linked to specific vehicles you have owned through your life. I myself have bought my own little car twenty years ago, and I can say that I have sort of grown old with her, she has witnessed so many of my experiences, and been a silent confidante for so many outburst of feelings, that I couldn’t have been able to share with other people, for matters of convenience… Solitary speeches, song creations, poetry writing, short naps and much more, have all happened in that little metal shelter. Maybe also for this reason I was so delighted in this book. There is so much in it, that I think any person could find a piece of themselves in one story or the other. If I were asked, I wouldn’t know which story to pick as my favourite, starting from the first one to the very last one, none is pointless, no words are wasted, they are all essential parts of the final puzzle. There are some that are moving, such as the ones regarding the Richardson family; some contain an element of fun mixed with exasperation, such as the second one The Beginning; in others you will find the search for freedom and emancipation, or loneliness and incomprehension, many different themes. About loneliness and incomprehension, I think the story The Drifter deserves a special mention because it touches a very sensitive topic, exploring it from two opposite points of view and without any judgement on either side, as I intended it. It is food for thought and also very moving.
I will not disclose any details regarding the actual stories because I don’t want to spoil other readers’ experience. I will say that the book is very well written, in a sober and elegant style that you cannot remain indifferent to. As a bonus, although it is not a novel, it still has a surprise ending, which might even make you go back and pay attention to one detail you could have missed in one of the previous stories.

Click here to see the book's page or to buy it.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Your counselor too has a story to tell!

Today I want to introduce a nice book on motivation and self-improvement. In fact, more than that, it is a lesson regarding the strength of will power. It is the story of Patrice Shavone Brown, a mental health counselor that has not had it all easy in her life, however she has fought for what she wanted to achieve and she has obtained it. The interesting thing about this book is the switch in perspective: the counselor, instead of being the observer, becomes the observed; the vulnerable one that has to overcome those obstacles that normally are related to her by patients.

Title:      Secrets of a Mental Health Counselor

Author:  Patrice Shavone Brown

I am very interested in reading books on self-improvement, therefore, when I found out this book dealing with the ‘behind the scenes’ of a Counselor and Motivator, I got rather curious. When I say behind the scenes I don’t mean that the author reveals details about the people she helps, but about her own background, what made her who she is. It was very interesting to go through the pages and acknowledge how difficulties and failures can transform you into a strong and assertive person, who knows where she wants to get and focuses on her targets. It is, in fact, rather logical that someone with so much life experience should have a lot to give to other people, in terms of counseling and helping them overcome negative periods. Also, for a person to know that their counselor has gone through difficulties and has overcome them, becoming a successful person, should reinforce the trust he/she feels for the professional, and the suggestions they get to resolve their own problems.
I have liked many aspects of this book: I gained a little insight into an American community, followed a true story of emancipation, acquired a new perspective regarding the figure of the counselor and the way the individual life experiences might be used to help others. Also, the book is in itself a sort of self-improvement course, if you are attentive to the pattern drawn by the various life phases the author went through. The part of the book I preferred is when the author narrates about her parents’ divorce and the way she helped them to remain a family; I believe that part contains the essence of what can be learned from this book.

Click here if you are interested in buying the book.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Make an extraordinary journey across the centuries with this lovely book.

Today I want to present one of the best books I have read lately. Since the very first page I was enchanted by the poetical flowing of the writing, then, another thing I appreciated, was the many layers of reading that the story offers. First of all the story itself, naturally, very original and fascinating. Secondly, a profound reflection on what it means to be human, to have a soul, a conscience, a sense of morality, and how this in itself is not sufficient to determine the kindness and righteousness of a person. I leave the rest for you to discover, knowing that this book is written so well, so graciously and impeccably that it is sheer pleasure to read, even regardless of what happens within it.

Title:     The Black Hen And The Thirteen Magic Rings
Author: Dan Pollino

When I first read the title I thought it would be a children’s book, or something like a comical fantasy. It turned out to be a story full of wonder, unfolding around three different continents and many centuries. It is more than a fantasy book, its essence resides on the border between reality, spirituality and enchantment. It narrates of an ancient book of magic, of two ancient creatures that live through the centuries, each in its own way trying to fill a void inside, and finally about the two teenagers who will unleash the magic. I do not want to disclose more than this, because this story deserves to be fully discovered by the reader and believe me, there is so much to it. The rhythm is perfect, picking up when the action starts and gently slowing down when it is time for reflection; it is supported by a writing style which is both elegant, neat and poetical, so that you can flow through the descriptions of places and feelings as if you were experiencing them yourself. There is a lot of adventure in this novel, a lot of feeling and emotion. Innocence, treason, courage and loyalty. Ashes, straw, immortality, soul; what will the last choice be?
The storm is approaching, silent and devastating, I can smell it in the air and I miss the cosy safety of my den.

Click here to go to the buying page of the book!