Monday, June 24, 2013

Shantaram ~ Gregory David Roberts

Wow, Shantaram is one heck of a read. I've spent so much time with these characters that it will be hard to start a new novel.

There's so much to Shantaram, though how much is based on the author's actual experiences in Bombay is anyone's guess, but what I enjoyed most about this novel was the insight it gave me into the Indian culture such as friendship, love and the meaning of that curious Indian head wiggle. 

The story is told in the first person.  There is plenty of humour at the start of the novel but it does get darker and darker, until you wonder if there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel.  The characters range from slum dwellers to members of the Bombay Mafia, and I had to keep reminding myself that the mafia guys were criminals and violent men, yet it was so hard not to like them because we follow their developing friendships with the narrator Lin.

'Lin' is an Australian who has escaped from prison and who has arrived in Bombay on a fake New Zealand passport.  He is befriended by Prabhakar a young Indian tourist guide, and a truly wonderful character who totally enriches this novel.  Prabhakar takes Lin to his home village for six months as their friendship strengthens and finds Lin a hut in the slum where he lives in Bombay.  This hut eventually becomes the slum clinic thanks to Lin's knowledge of first aid, and the slum dwellers inability to obtain healthcare anywhere else.

Lin is eventually recruited into the Mafia and he finds himself prepared to risk his life just for the love of the mafia boss who he desperately wants to see as a father figure.  The father figure dreams are shattered towards the end of the novel and only the friendships that Lin has made over his years in Bombay will help to pull him through the hard times.

Despite its size, Shantaram is very easy to read, though I did find the constant metaphors and similes annoying and in places quite cringe worthy ("Our lips met like waves that crest and merge the whirl of storming seas."), and at times it did annoy me when 'Lin' gave the occasional sob story about his time spent in prison.  I felt like saying "so what, you committed the crime...." 

With this aside though Shantaram is a cracking read and it will probably rate up there with my favourites.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Mystical Speed ~ Hubert Guscott

Mystical Speed is a novella that I just don't know what to make of.  When it was pitched to me via the promoter it came across as a novel set in America and Jamaica that would be an inspiration to all athletes.  The story apparently  centred around young track athletes who travel to Jamaica to find out the secret to Jamaica's running success.  What they find there threatens their lives and changes them forever.  

Quite an interesting idea isn't it?  However, what I read was a very simplistic narrative that was better suited for a children's story and whilst I could see that it was an attempt at creating a fable, I didn't really like it.  

What this novella did do though was inspire me to read about Jamaican folklore and if you are planning on reading this book then it would pay to read up about 'rolling calfs' and 'Brother Anansi' otherwise you will have no idea what is going on.

Rolling Calf
Fulls marks for the cover though, it's one of the nicest book covers I've seen, and the layout presentation is also very good.  But, given the lack of descriptive writing, and the fact that it reads like a children's book, I think that some illustrations would help to enhance it.

This book does try to give you an insight into Jamaican culture, food and language but I found the whole thing just a little unusual - the way that it was written and the actual story - and unfortunately it just wasn't for me.

I've checked other sites for reviews and find that it has been receiving 5 stars, so I do wonder if I am missing something?

For more information about this book please visit: Mystical Speed

Until next time.....


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Obsessive Chronicles ~ Josh Greenfield

Told in the first person, this story chronicles the journey of Jordan Fineman from a seemingly normal American Jewish teenager to a very troubled dis-functional young man.

Jordan's journey opens on a trip to Alaska where he finds seasonal work whilst taking a break from his studies, we then follow him back to New York where he experiences a mental breakdown and spends some time in a psychiatric hospital.

Jordan is bi-polar, and an obsessive compulsive, but he also has a  major problem with rage.  His rages create a drug like induced state where he can't think coherently.  Human to human contact is unbearable and, despite his obvious intelligence, he finds himself unable to hold down a job. Behind the scenes is a very supportive father - emotionally and financially - and a psychiatric doctor who he sees three times a week for many years.  Yet, despite this support, Jordan has great difficulty in trying to make sense of his place in the world, and to unscramble the messages that it sends to his brain.

I did find this story interesting, if not a little disjointed, and as an outsider to mental illness it gave me an insight into OCD and just how debilitating it can be. But, I think the author had difficulty in fully conveying the actual problems 'Jordan' was trying to work through - ie we are told about his rages but never really shown.  We have some examples of his OCD but it is never fully expanded upon.  We are told that these would not be explained in depth, but I think the reader needs this to be able to reconcile Jordan's subsequent behaviour patterns.

This is my second read in as many months on mental illness, and I did see some parallels in both  stories - for one thing, things get much worse before they get better especially when the sufferer's go off their medication.

I thought the opening of this novel was very well written, but as the story progressed the writing seemed to suffer. I think that there would be some benefit from further editing/proof reading as, for me, there were an unacceptable amount of spelling and grammatical errors.

In you are interested in more information about this novel please visit:


Friday, June 7, 2013

Roadrage ~ M J Johnson

After enjoying some very positive reviews for his first novel Niedermayer & Hart (my favourite ‘Indie’ read of last year) Martin has presented us with his psychological thriller Roadrage.

Forget the why’s and wherefore’s of the plot and just accept the fact that there are potentially some dangerously crazy people out there and, if they had hold of your personal information, how much damage could they do to your life?  One such person sets his sights on destroying the life of Gil Harper, an unassuming illustrator, who is learning to live again after the tragic death of his wife.  What starts out as a brief incident on the motorway one rainy Christmas night sends Gil’s life spiraling out of control.

There are some nice touches here and there; I liked the gear shift chapter headings, and dear old Spike…… what a lovely brave little character he is.  Some of the other characters I suspect are based on people Martin has known from his acting days (Sally, Gil’s love interest, is involved with the theatre).  I was suspicious of Sally from the start, and I was trying to work out how she would fit into the scheme of things, but you will need to read the novel to find out why she is so secretive.

This novel will get you thinking about the danger of being a creature of habit, and the security of your own personal information.  After all, we all live in the age of the internet where everything is accessed by passwords – and you can’t possibly remember them all, you have to write them down……….. somewhere……. don’t you?

For more info about Martin and his work visit: