Tag Archives: good reads

Book Review: The Siege and Other Award Winning Short Stories


 

In her collection, The Siege, Esther Newton has proven to be a versatile writer who is able to tell engaging stories, and create strong characters in a terse manner. While each story is an average of 2,000 words long, when reading those tales, the reader feels that he’s traveled a long way with the characters and the plot, as every sentence is in its place, and every word propels the story forward.

My two favorite stories in the collection would be The Siege, the title of the book, which tells a fast-paced tale of entrapment and liberation. And, The Best and Worst Bonfire Night Ever, which is great because Newton was able to narrate multiple events, from multiple viewpoints, in a brief number of pages.

Perfect for the prolific and the novice readers alike, The Siege and Other Award Winning Stories is a collection to keep on your tablet for whenever you need to escape into a fictional world. The book could be bought on Amazon and several other e-book sellers.

 

Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Siege-Other-Award-Winning-Stories-ebook/dp/B00LCCG9S2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409628682&sr=8-1&keywords=the+siege+and+other+award+winning+short+stories

 

Esther Newton’s Blog: http://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/

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Book Dissection IV: Of Human Bondage


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This part of the book analysis will be my last, since I can’t summarize any further without spoiling the story — assuming I haven’t spoiled it already. I hope you enjoyed those little posts I’ve been submitting and I hope some of you started reading Of Human Bondage. Soon, I will post a review of the full book. Share your opinions about this story with me.

Pages 301 to 330: Phillip meets Mildred, the center of the action and premise of the story. What strikes me most is the way his feelings for her creep at him without him noticing. At first, the feelings he acknowledges are abhorrence and loath. Later, however, he finds himself interpreting her every word and yearning for every bit of attention she pays him. It isn’t until later that he admits to himself that he fell captive of her love.

How the author describes the feeling of love for an insecure person is echoing through my brain. To him, love is pain. He craves the attention of those who neglect him, hates them when they treat him badly, and then hates himself for loving them and allowing them to hurt him further. What strikes me is how quickly Philip became possessive of Mildred. One of the nights she refuses to go out with him, so he waits for her outside the restaurant she works in so he could make sure she wasn’t going out with someone else. Needless to say, things are going downhill fast.

Book Dissection Part III: Of Human Bondage


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Pages 90 to 135: In those few pages, Philip transitions from being completely immersed in the religious experience to becoming utterly repelled by it. When Phillip moves to Germany for a year and meets new friends who are not as religious as he had been, he starts to form new ideals. Those ideals led him to believe that one should not believe in a religion to begin with.

The author explains how his protagonist felt unbridled after shedding the necessity of belief, and how stupid he felt looking back at all the days and nights he went out of his way to satisfy his god. The author also explains how, after Philip stopped believing in religion, he still abode by the manner which Christianity taught him. It was as if he went out of his way to prove to himself that not all atheists had unethical behavior.

I would like to end this short post the same way I ended this section of the book, by quoting a certain passage that I especially enjoyed and found eternal wisdom in. It is written below in italic.

He did not know how wide a country, arid and precipitous, must be crossed before the traveler through life comes to an acceptance of reality. It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideals by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life. The strange thing is that each one who has gone through that bitter disillusionment adds to it in his turn, unconsciously, by the power within him which is stronger than himself.

Book Dissection II: Of Human Bondage


Of Human Bondage - W Somerset Maugham

Synopsis: One of the great novels of the twentieth century. Of Human Bondage tells a fascinating tale of sexual obsession. The story follows Philip Carey in his search for freedom from the strict, oppressive Christian upbringing he suffered as an orphan in an English vicarage. Philip sets out on a journey that leads him to Heidelberg and to Paris. But it is back in London that Philip’s enthrallment with Mildred – the slatternly, pale waitress who makes him slave to her desire – awakens him to the world of obsessive love, deep passion, and true self-discovery. The unforgettable love story is as timeless as it is involving, an intimate tale of human relationships that Theodore Dreiser called “a work of genius.”

 

Pages 51 to 89: The first 10 to 15 pages aimed to point a transitional phase in the school which Philip attends. I was less interested in the way the school became more religious, and more intrigued by what Philip goes through during that phase which lasts a few years of his life.

Philip meets a new friend; his last name is Rose. And unlike all the other kids who make fun of Philip and his birth defect, Rose likes Philip. Without going into much details and spoiling the story, let me just say that I found myself in the pages I reference.

We have all experienced loneliness, and all of us cling to that one thing or person who makes us feel less lonely; hence, driving that person away. I love how Somerset describes his protagonist as he makes belief that he’s one of the popular kids, or when he over thinks about Rose’s innocent actions. Loneliness makes us oversensitive, and sometimes it even makes us mean to people as we overcompensate to being needy. The way Somerset describes this conflict of the human soul made me feel like I was back in high school when I was reading.

There’s another interesting description, which also resonates with me since I live in a strict and orthodox society, which is Philip’s relationship with religion. At first, Phillip’s pristine mind absorbs all the religious knowledge that is thrown at him. He begins to have high expectations from his relationship with God. Philip prays to God to eradicate the disability of his foot, but is met by disappointments. His uncle, however, relates those disappointments to the lack of Philip’s faith, urging Philip pray harder and face further disappointments. Isn’t this the vicious religious cycle we are all faced with?

There’s a point when Philip accepts that his defect is a test rather than a curse – a burden given for his broad shoulders to carry. And at the end of those lovely pages, the story takes a beautiful turn by Philip realizing that he doesn’t want the life of a pious man such as the one his uncle leads. He knows that there were far more beautiful things in the world; he read about those things in books, and heard other people’s stories about them. He is determined to live another kind of life.

Book Dissection: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham


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As promised, I will not only post a review of the book Of Human Bondage, but will also post as elaborate analyses as I could without risking spoiling the story. Below is the synopsis of the book, as written in the back cover of my copy, followed by the analysis of the first 50 pages.

Synopsis: One of the great novels of the twentieth century. Of Human Bondage tells a fascinating tale of sexual obsession. The story follows Phillip Carey in his search for freedom from the strict, oppressive Christian upbringing he suffered as an orphan in an English vicarage. Phillip sets out on a journey that leads him to Heidelberg and to Paris. But it is back in London that Phillip’s enthrallment with Mildred – the slatternly, pale waitress who makes him slave to her desire – awakens him to the world of obsessive love, deep passion, and true self-discovery. The unforgettable love story is as timeless as it is involving, an intimate tale of human relationships that Theodore Dreiser called “a work of genius.”

First 50 pages: From the first pages of the book, I feel that I have already formed a bond with Phillip, the protagonist. The boy of mere nine years loses his mother after having lost his father, and is taken under the custody of his uncle. The uncle is a Vicar; he and his wife lead a strict religious regiment in their household.

It’s evident from the beginning that the barren woman has more sentiment for Phillip than the strict uncle. However, it’s also noticeable that the woman is strict with herself — she doesn’t allow herself to sit in the comfortable chair her husband sits in, fearing she would become too lazy to get back to work. The writer describes the gender roles in that family vividly, and allows the reader to sense the conformity the couple lives in.

When Philippe is sent to school, his troubles worsen. He is placed in the catholic school with mean older boy who make fun of his birth defect — a club foot. The description of the protagonist’s torment almost reduced me to tears. Anybody would relate to an innocent boy being bullied and tormented the way Philippe is.

As an introduction to the novel, the writer achieves two important things in his first fifty pages:

1) He introduced us to Phillip, and directly makes us sympathize with him, (Phillip is an orphan, who has a birth defect; he is living in a strict household and is sent away to a strict school where he is bullied).

2) He weaves the tangled web of events which would lead Phillip to eventually rebel against the religious and archaic regiment of his uncle’s upbringing and society’s traditions.

I can’t wait to share with you the layers I peeled of the characters’ personalities. This is a book I can’t seem to be able to put down.

Traffic Generator


I couldn’t think of a better 200th post for my blog. Just now, I received an email from the editor of Children’s Stories telling me that my poem was viewed more that 3,800 times since it was published at their website. She told me that the number is well above average, which makes me so happy.

I like to thank my fellow bloggers who helped in generating this traffic. If you haven’t read my poem yet, you can by following this link http://www.childrens-stories.net/poems-and-rhyming-stories/go~to~sleep~my~little~kitten_margaret~benison.htm

Speaking of traffic, my short story November 13th made it to the top viewed mystery stories on Short Story with over 9,000 views! You can read it by following this link. http://www.short-story.me/mystery-stories/597-november-13th.html

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A Reader’s Incident


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I went out to see the dentist today (just a regular check up during which he told me that I took too much care of my teeth and people like me put him out of business). Prior to being admitted into the clinic, however, I had to wait. Since I haven’t waited for anyone, or anything, in such a long time, this particular wait proved to be one of the longest.

I arrived at 12:55 to my 1:00 p.m. appointment. There was a patient in there and an old man in the waiting room. At first, I thought he was the secretary, but then I thought against it. The room seemed tiny when I entered, but now that I recall the two large coaches and three other smaller ones I realize that the room’s size was bigger than what I had thought. I sat on a grey coach, embroidered by rectangular patterns on the sitting area. The plain remainders of the coach made me believe that the dentist was trying to salvage two different sofas and ended up with that mess.

“First time here?” the man asked, again making me think that he was the secretary.

“Yes,” I smiled politely eying the fashion magazine he clutched with his thick hands.

The muted music channel was showing a video of a five-year-old song, my phone had no internet connection, the dentist’s roaring tools indicated that I will be waiting a while, and I had no interest whatsoever in aimlessly turning the pages of a fashion magazine. All I wished in that moment was to have a book in my bag that I can read to pass the few, yet dull, moments.

Yesterday, I finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, an interesting classic of which I will later post a review. On my shelf, there are but two unread books: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (a little sciency), and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. On my iPad, there are tens of unread classical and modern titles, and I still have several bought books which are stored but not yet shipped from Amazon. I hardly ever let my iPad out of the house. Leaving a few minutes prior to my appointment, I hadn’t thought that I would need any means of entertainment.

My mother told me that in Ukraine the majority of people carried books during their daily commutes. She told me that she carried a book at all times – just like we carry earphones nowadays. Not only do I envy the pre-internet culture, but I also envy the people who can read when riding a train or a bus. We don’t have trains in Lebanon; and with our bumpy roads and crazy drivers, I get motion sickness just by staring at my telephone’s screen. Mostly, however, I’m envious because I wasn’t brought up to carry a book with me at all times. In the stretched time during my wait for the dentist, I disdained my culture the most.

I grabbed my phone, and started writing. I wrote everything that came up to my mind, from a note to self to leave a 30 minute grace period between one patient and the other in case I was incarnated as a dentist, to the recapitulation of my to-do list. I wrote till the notepad told me to stop (apparently, I had reached some character limit). Then, I got my check up, went to have my nails done, waited another few minutes for the nail polish to dry (again without being entertained), and then stood across the street to wait for a cab. In that moment, I couldn’t help but head to the book store. I’m never leaving the house without a book again.

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown


ImageClassifying Dan Brown’s book as a thriller is an understatement. In a combination of lessons in art, history, philosophy, sociology, environment, and literature, Dan Brown delivers this magnificent piece of narrative.

If you haven’t read any books for Dan Brown before, I suggest you do that before you tackle Inferno, as they will ease you into understanding the mastery of Dan Brown’s writings.

When Robert Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Rome, he has no recollection of how he got there and why there is a bullet in his head. The secrets of Robert’s journey begin to unravel as he begins to solve clues from a mysterious object he finds in his jacket. Page by page, Dan Brown takes us through the journey of Robert through the depths of Dante’s poem “Inferno”, which turns out to be the basis of a sinister plan by a maniac with radical views.

Not only is the story told in a compelling style, but it also delivers a message that our society is being blinded to — or refuses to see at all. I found myself, at more than one occasion, rooting for the antagonist.

The amount of research it took Dan Brown to write this book is enough on its own to give Inferno a five-star review. This book is a must read and I believe will leave its mark on the literary world for generations to come.

The Final Chapter


ImageI’m so excited to announce that I’m now writing the final chapter of my novel. This journey is getting tougher by the day, and I know it will  become increasingly daunting when I start editing.

Thank you all for the support, you have made this journey much easier and more enjoyable.

On other news, the winner of the free copy of the magazine 5Stories is Jennifer L. Thorpe: Eye Candy Visionz. Thank you Jennifer for supporting me and I hope to hear your feedback on my story Ernest’s Awakening.

If you haven’t yet taken a look at my story in the lit-mag, please do so by visiting this link: http://www.magzter.com/IN/Cresco-Books/5Stories/Entertainment/

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


and-then-there-were-none4 Stars

Ten people trapped on an Indian island, each with a past darker than the other. One by one they start dying. They suspect each other – there’s no one else on the island but them. Facing their inner demons, they are murdered, one by one, till there are none.

The suspense in Agatha’s story is unbearable. I heard many say that this is one of her best books. I would have to read more of her work to make such a statement. This book, however, is a thrill. The anticipation of discovering whose death would be next, how the next victim would die, who will stay till the end, and, most importantly, who’s the killer, is nerve wrecking.

The revelation at the end is not something I expected – I can’t really say if that’s a good thing or not. All in all, however, And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians) is a very good book to pick up and read on a cold winter night.