The Gods Of Asphalt – H.E. Ellis

A great book written by one among us from the blogging world H.E.Ellis. It’s a book about destiny, love and family. The whole novel is from the perspective of a teenager. We all remember our time in high school. Simple things seemed liked big, live altering decisions. Sawyer Hayden is in such a state but what he’s dealing with is a little bigger than everyday high school issues.

All he wants to do is not repeat his father’s mistakes in life. His dad is trucker and criss-crosses the country dragging along Sawyer and his brother River in tow. Sawyer believes the reason for his dad choosing the job is to follow his mother Savannah, because he thinks his dad can’t forget her even after she has abandoned the family more than once. River is Sawyer’s half-brother, even though no one reveals this fact to them directly they have figured this out from the obvious difference in their looks. Sawyer gets his looks from his Spanish dad, while River looks like their mother’s boyfriend for whom she left the family. Sawyer finally has enough with following his mother around the country and decides to go live their grandfather Gus who he describes as an “old school badass”. He plans to attend school and to try and win a basketball scholarship for college all steps in his plan to not end up like his dad. The end result of this decision is that his dad stops talking to him and leaves with River.

Another result of Sawyer’s decision is that he meets Sarah, the one he believes he is destined to be with. It comes with its own complications like the fact that Sarah is planning to go away to college, she may still have feelings for her ex-boyfriend, she is the sister of Sawyer’s new best-friend Jeb and the main one is falling blindly in love is one of the ‘mistakes’ he doesn’t want to make. Living with his grandfather helps Sawyer understand more of his dad and that things may not be the way he always thought them to be.

I liked the writing style. If you have read her blog posts you know how well H.E can write. The novel is further proof to that. The first line itself reels you in. Loved the idea of adding a song for each chapter. Great job with song selection. They fit in with the story line and the picture we create of the characters when we read. It helps set the mood for each chapter too.I loved reading the book. Give it a try when you can.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Most of you must be familiar with the name of this book by now, this being one of the most awaited movies of the year. I’ll be watching the movie soon but before that, here is my view on the book.

” The Hunger Games” is the first part of a young adult series written by Suzanne Collins. The story is set in the future in a place called Panem, what was once North America. After an unexplained war/rebellion the country is now in ruins and divided into districts, all under the control of The Capitol. As punishment for the rebellion, The Hunger Games are hosted every year where a boy and a girl from each district are chosen as ‘tributes’ to compete and to fight the other tributes. The last one alive is the winner.

The story is told from the perspective of 16 year old Katniss Everdeen. Katniss belongs to District 12, one of the poorer districts where the main occupation is coal mining. After her father, a coal miner, passes away she has to take on the responsibility of looking after her family. She makes sure that her family has food to eat by hunting outside the limits of the district with her best friend Gale. When her sister is selected as a tribute for the Hunger Games she volunteers to go in place of her sister. The other tribute from her district is a boy named Peeta Mellark. The rest of the story follows their days as part of the Hunger Games. The image that the novel creates of the future is very realistic. Instead of using high-tech gadgets,super cars or spaceships, the author has presented a more ‘normal’ view of our future but a dark one as a result of wars. I liked reading the part of the novel about the games. The author has presented it in a manner that is sure to make you keep reading to find out what happens next.

I would love to write more about the story but I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t read/watched it yet. Even though it’s a Young Adult novel, I’m sure fans of other book- categories will enjoy it. I really enjoyed reading this book and will be starting the next part of the series in the coming month.

 
If you have read the book or watched the movie, please leave your view as a comment. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho is a story about dreams, omens, adventure and following your destiny. This novel is considered to be one of the best selling novels of all time. I was a bit unsure about reading this at first because I expected this book to have complicated ideas and thoughts which the author alone can understand. I’m happy to say  I was wrong. The book is so much better than I expected it to be. The story is more like a fable. The ideas are simple and you don’t have to search for what the author intends to say. Its something you can read with a relaxed mind and finish with a good feeling.

The novel follows the life of a Shepard boy named Santiago from Andalusia, who sets out in pursuit of his destiny. After having a recurring dream the boy decides to visit a gypsy woman who tells him that the meaning of the dream is that he will find a treasure in the Pyramids of Egypt. On the suggestion of an old king he decides to sell his sheep and use the money to go to Egypt. He faces obstacles  but finds the strength to follow his chosen path. He learns to find meaning in everyday happenings which other people treat as coincidences. On the way Santiago meets another man on his way to learn the science of Alchemy and learns from him about the everything in this world is connected. The rest of the story follows his journey where he meets new people, falls in love and learns to understand the world through new eyes.

The novel speaks about having the courage to take the risk to achieve what you want and not to give up even when  the the way looks hard. The motto of the novel can be explained in the words used by the Alchemist When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The authour talks about how to achieve success in life through this work of  fiction, so it’s not in any way a boring self-help book that never helps.

Its evident from the number of copies sold that it’s a wonderful book. I believe that a “classic novel “is one that can reach out to its readers with a beautiful message and continue to do so year after year. That is exactly the reason for which I choose this book as my “20th Century Classic” for the ‘Back to Classics Challenge’.

I highly recommend that you give this book a try. I’m sure you will like it.

Hungry For You – A.M.Harte

I love horror stories, as some of you already know, and almost everything to do with the supernatural. So I didn’t waste a chance to read a novel made for the horror fans. This is the first novel I have read of A.M Harte and I loved her writing style and imagination. The book is a collection of short stories and poetry related to the world of zombies.

This book is not the usual zombie story, where they are shown as the rotting undead with the sole intent of eating flesh; here there is a twist -a theme of romance is added to the stories. Here the zombies are more human (though they are not alive). All the zombie stories I have seen/heard till now have just a single theme, survivors running and killing the undead. This book shows different endings for a zombie apocalypse,other than the usual theme, being told mostly from the point of view of the undead. The book makes references to addiction, abuse and most of all “undying love”. We have seen Daybreakers and I Am Legend and saw what happens when vampires become the dominant species, here is a picture of what happens when zombies take over.

My favorites from the book are –Hungry for You, Dead Man’s Rose and The Perfect Song. I really loved reading this book. After reading long novels with pages and pages of plot it’s a relief to read the stories in this book. They may be short but they are as brilliant as the long ones. I would like to thank the author for offering me a copy from smashwords. You can see more reviews and get your own copy of this novel and other works by the author from Smashwords. If you are a fan of horror stories, zombies in particular, you’ll like reading this book.

 Here is a description of the book from the author’s site :

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In this haunting short story collection, anything is possible—a dying musician turns to tea for inspiration; a police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim; a young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil…

The Silence Of The Lambs – Thomas Harris

The second thriller in the series featuring Hannibal Lecter and in my opinion the best of the four. The movie was an absolute blockbuster so there is no wonder that the book it is based upon is so brilliant. Harris brings us another of his wonderful characters – Clarice Starling. She is a trainee with the FBI and one of the main characters of this novel and the next. The story in this book takes place a couple of years after the first one. Dr.Hannibal Lecter plays a more significant and bigger role in the book.

Jack Crawford, Section Chief of Behavioral Science Section of the FBI, assigns Starling to take a questionnaire prepared to be answered by serial killers to Lecter. Lecter refuses to answer her questions at first but when another inmate Miggs behaves inappropriately with her, he changes his mind and decides to talk with her. He tells her that she should “Look in Raspail’s car for her Valentines”. Lecter will only talk to Starling and says he knows more about the case Crawford is working on.

The case is that of a serial killer named “Buffalo Bill” who abducts women, kills them and then skins his victims before dumping the bodies. Starling follows the clue and finds information which has connection to the present case. When the sixth body turns up Crawford takes Starling along for the investigation. Meanwhile the killer has kidnapped his next victim Christina Martin, daughter of a junior US senator.  Crawford offers a deal to Lecter in exchange for information. Dr. Chilton later reveals that the offer was lie but he makes another deal with Lecter that he would transfer Lecter to another asylum if he is provided with information. Lecter says he would talk only to the Senator. Starling discovers the killers motive and also discovers how he chooses his victims.

I guess I’ll stop here. There is more mind-games from Lecter and a case to be solved, which you’ll have a great time reading. Those who have seen the movie know what is coming but for the sake of those who haven’t, I’m not saying anything more about the plot. Even if you have seen the movie, you’ll enjoy reading this book. 

Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris, the author that created Dr. Hannibal Lecter; or, to use the more menacing name, ‘Hannibal The Cannibal’. Red Dragon is the first in the series of four books featuring Lecter. This author has a gift of creating strong characters in his books. Most of you must know Lecter, but he isn’t the only character that leaves a mark on the reader. The main character of this novel, Will Graham, is another of Harris’s creations that fit the above description.

Red Dragon is a crime-thriller novel following the investigation of a serial killer nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy” who has murdered two families, each during a full moon. Special Agent Jack Crawford decides to bring in retired agent (and his protégé’) Will Graham to help solve the case. Graham is the one who captured Lecter but almost got killed in the process and retired soon after. Graham is shown to have a skill in figuring out obscure details and connections in crime scenes. He later realizes that he will require Lecter’s help to build a profile of the killer. Lecter enjoys taunting more than helping and even provieds the killer with Will’s home address with a suggestion to “kill them all”.While the FBI carries out further investigation, the killer (who prefers to be called the “Red Dragon”) is preparing for the murder of another family and has also killed a reporter who helped the police by publishing an unpleasant report about him. The killer is a man named Dolarhyde who sees the Red Dragon as another part of him and it is shown that the Dragon is gaining more control over him. The details about the killer and his life are given in the early part of the book so it’s not a spoiler. I’m not going into any more details except for this one: there is really unexpected twist at the end. It’s a great book and you’ll enjoy reading it.

Unlike the rest of the books in the series Lecter only makes a very small appearance in this one. This is a sort of introduction to Lecter before we get to know more about the “brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer”. I’ve decided to watch the 2002 remake of the original movie “Manhunter”, based on the book. Anthony Hopkins plays the role of the Lecter in the 2002 version and I don’t think that it is possible to picture anyone else in that role.That’s it about this book and will post the review of next part in a few days.

Water For Elephants – Sara Gruen

This is a historical- romance novel set in the time of The Great Depression. I heard about the movie and I decided to read the book first. It’s a habit I have to read the book and only then watch the movie adaptation. The other way around would mean I already know the story, which takes all the fun out reading the book. The author has painted a very real picture of what circus life used to be in the 1930’s, when circuses where regarded as a grand spectacle.

The story is told through the eyes of Jacob Jankowski. Jacob, 93 years old and living in a nursing home, talks about his life and memories of when he was in his twenties. The 23 year old Jacob was studying for a degree in veterinary science in Cornell. Days before he gets his degree his parents are killed in a car accident and he learns that the bank has taken over his house and his father’s practice. He runs away and jumps abroad a train to start a new life in a new place. He learns that the train is, in fact, a circus train and with the help of Camel (one of the first people Jacob meets when he jumps the train) he gets a job with the circus called “Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth”.

August, the animal trainer, gives Jacob the job of looking after the animals. August has a split personality, he can be charming at times and at other times he would take his anger out by being cruel to his animals and also Marlena, his wife.  Marlena is a star performer in the show and Jacob falls in love with her. Jacob duties increase after the circus acquires an elephant named Rosie who is very intelligent but only understands Polish. The story is about Jacob and Marlena’s love and their attempt to start a new life, and how life goes on within a circus.

The author’s research work has paid off which is evident from the details used to describe the circus life. I also loved the humor in the way Jacob talks about getting old. I finished the book in summer but haven’t watched the movie yet, so can’t comment on whether Robert Pattinson and Resse Witherspoon did a good job of bringing the characters to life.I enjoyed reading this novel and if you like a bit of history and/or romance, you too will like reading it.