Tag Archive | India

Cinders & Sapphires, by Leila Rasheed (fiction) – British high society & true goodness collide

book cover of Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed published by Disney HyperionEngland and India are so different,
Not even the green of the trees is the same,
But whispers and rumors are too close in both lands.

The objections to British rule over India have moved from prayers to violent demonstrations in 1910, especially following Lord Curzon’s partition of the country to split off Muslim-majority Bengal.

This first book in the At Somerton series will appeal to both fans of Downton Abbey and lovers of historical fiction with its upstairs-downstairs intrigues and political unrest abroad in the time just preceding “The Great War” which we call World War I.

What’s ahead for the Averley sisters and the others At Somerton as 1911 dawns?
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Book info: Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, book 1) / Leila Rasheed. Disney Hyperion, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  High society and propriety will encircle Ava’s life in 1910 once the ship reaches England, but an accidental (and unchaperoned) meeting on deck leaves her breathless, hopeful, and confused. People would be shocked if they discovered that she’d kissed a man before her debutante season, utterly appalled if they found out he was Indian!

How dreadful for her father to leave India under a cloud of suspicion after his distinguished career there! Now they are returning to their family estate with her sister Georgiana so that he can marry a wealthy and beautiful widow to keep it afloat for now. The suddenness of the wedding and so many guests descending on quiet Somerton has the servants running to and fro, especially housekeeper Mrs. Cliffe whose daughter is now a housemaid.

Suddenly, Lady Ava and Lady Georgiana will have brothers and another sister (so jealous of everyone), plus a fashionable stepmother who will steer Ava through the intricacies of the London Season to find a husband. Never mind that Ava wants to attend Oxford, wants to think for herself, wants to think at all! And Ravi is at Oxford, might even visit London…

When Rose Cliffe is promoted to ladies’ maid for Ava and Georgiana, she’s sad that her evenings at the piano in the friendly servants’ sitting room are over. Music just flows through her veins, but a country girl like her could never afford piano lessons. The ladies’ maid to the new Lady Westlake hints strongly that learning secrets is the best way to get ahead in this world. The clandestine letters between Ravi and Ava, hinting of violence against the British in India, go through Rose’s hands…

Is there any hope for Ravi and Ava to be together?
What other secrets glide through Somerton’s elegant halls?
Must Ava marry someone, just to keep the estate intact?
As upstairs murmurs and belowstairs whispers collide, more stories At Somerton will follow this debut tale of keeping up appearances, societal expectations, and scandalously delicious secrets. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Other stories, other poets (book reviews) – novels-in-verse

Much like eclipse-viewers look indirectly at the sun, we can get a glimpse into life situations which may or may not mirror our own through novels-in-verse.

Click each title link to open my no-spoilers recommendation in a new window/tab for each of these BooksYALove favorites.
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book cover of After the Kiss by Terra Elen McVoy published by Simon PulseCamille and Becca don’t realize that they share a school, a coffeehouse, and one boy’s kiss… until an ill-timed cellphone photo makes all the connections fall into place.

Told in alternating chapters by each teen, their free verse ranges through the emotions that they must deal with as they try to reconcile what they thought was true with what reality is, After the Kiss  of Alec, the haiku-writing baseball star.

 

book cover of Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe published by VikingSara feels like her life at the ballet academy, far from her small New England hometown, is a never-ending Audition, as the dancers constantly compete for lead roles, for advanced classes, for the eye of handsome student assistant Remington.

Is he really interested in Sara? Can she continue to keep up with her schoolwork and her dance lessons and her hidden relationship with Remington? Only her poetry journal hears her fears and dreams.

 

book cover of Karma by Cathy Ostlere published by Razorbill

Religious turmoil becomes armed warfare in 1980s India, and Maya is caught in the upheaval almost as soon as she arrives with her father and the ashes of her mother, brought “home” to the family which disowned them when they married, a Sikh and a Hindu who thought that love would overcome all.

Is it Karma  that brought their only child to a place she’s only heard of, far from her birthplace on the Canadian prairies, that separates her from her Bapu, that makes her versified memories a clouded mirror?

(all review copies and cover images courtesy of their respective publishers)

Karma, by Cathy Ostlere (fiction) – lost in her parents’ India during civil war

World Wednesday takes us from the prairies of Canada to the crowded streets of India as Maya travels to her parents’ homeland on a grief-stricken mission.

Instead of learning more about her Sikh and Hindu heritage or meeting family for the first time, she’s flung into the chaos, violence, and massacre that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Look for this stunning verse novel at your local library or independent bookstore – you need to hear Maya’s story for yourself.
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Book info: Karma / Cathy Ostlere. Razorbill, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: At 15, Maya is taking her mother’s ashes home to India, back to the grandparents she’s never met, traveling with her father in 1984, far from Canada where she was born.

Unheard-of for a Sikh and a Hindu to marry in India of the 1960s! Disowned by her family, his family warning of spiritual disaster, Maya’s parents emigrate to Manitoba, where Bapu hopes to be successful and Mata prays for children and peace.

The aloneness that the prairie winds swirled around her mother finds Maya in the crowded streets of poverty-stricken New Delhi, as she tries to make sense of everything in her journal, her diary in verse.
Suddenly, India’s Prime Minister is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, and Hindus begin killing Sikhs in revenge. Bapu disguises himself and leaves Maya at their hotel while he tries to find a safe way for them to get to his hometown.

When rioters set fire to the hotel, Maya flees blindly into a city filled with mayhem, heading to the train station to go – anywhere. An accident, an attack, a fright, amnesia, a lost girl… Others continue telling Maya’s story when her own voice is no longer sufficient, as she journeys and drifts in confusion.

Can she find her voice again? Can she find her father? Did he really plan for her to marry someone here in India? How can she keep going, knowing that she left Mata’s ashes behind? This powerful novel in verse takes mature readers to a far land in a time not so distant, when civil war almost fractured India and its horrors threatened a young girl’s hold on reality. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read around the world (reflective)

We’ve circled the globe during July and the Ultimate Blog Challenge, highlighting books set in many countries (and eras).

The Grassland Trilogy reaches back beyond written history, showing the courage of young people trying to Escape the Mask, see Beneath the Mask, and go Beyond the Mask.

Cate of the Lost Colony traveled from the glittering court of Queen Elizabeth I to the desolate sand dunes of Roanoke in the New World, and Plain Kate, driven from her home by superstition, must search for answers down the river, into the mists.

Esty’s Gold took us from famine-stricken Ireland to the Australian goldfields in the 1880s, while The Reformed Vampire Support Group sticks together in today’s Sydney.

Online gamers in China, India, Singapore and the US are fighting For the Win and a fair chance at life.

Annexed and Briar Rose brought us perspectives on the Holocaust – the Netherlands, Germany, Poland – so many bitter sorrows, so many untold tales.

Modern-day Paris hides decades-old secrets in Die For Me, while in Montreal, Mira just wants her own today in Pieces of Me.

And we’ve just begun the Rivers of Time trilogy, as Lia and Gabi go back to 14th century Tuscany in Waterfall.

Oh, the photo up there? That’s me aboard the wooden sailing ship Southern Swan in Sydney Harbour in the 21st century. Ready for more great books in August?
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For the Win (fiction)

Quick! Which of these is fictional (not real):
a) Online game playing as prison punishment?
b) online gamers forming a trade union?
c) Gold farming?

If you said (b), then you win! Cory Doctorow’s newest book delves into the world of gold farming, where some teens play online games to make a tiny bit of money to survive, not for fun. When they try to form a union so they can keep part of the “gold” that they win online instead of turning it all over to their bosses, both big business and their governments get angrily and mightily involved to protect their economic interests.

Make no mistake – in places where labor is cheaper than technology, real people are being forced into gold farming yet earning hardly anything, right this minute (like the Chinese prisoners noted above). And now scripted ‘bots can be set loose to play a low-level character on auto-pilot, earning a little gold, then repeating – lots of bots can equal a fair amount of pocket change, along with the risk of being discovered and banned from the game.

If you want to read the WHOLE book online, go here with Cory’s blessing. Yes, the author wants you to read his book online for FREE. That’s because Cory knows you’ll want to buy a copy so you can reread it, share it, and even remix it – yep, Creative Commons License. The guy is a genius! (seriously! I’ve read all his short stories and books online, then gone on to get the print books)

On World Wednesday, this fast-moving story takes you to China, India, Singapore, and the United States – who will really win?
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Book info: For the Win / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2010. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Playing games online all day, every day sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But for young people packed into smoky internet cafes in Singapore, Shenzen, and Mumbai, it’s a matter of survival.

People have discovered how to turn online “gold coins” and “magic gems” into real money, so the biggest online game worlds have larger economies than many nations, and youngsters in less-developed countries are recruited as “gold farmers,” playing online in teams and turning over their winnings to the bosses who hold their return-home tickets.

But what if the gold farmers organized, banded together for better working conditions? How does a kid from LA wind up in China to help the gold farmers unionize? And what happens when the big businesses who own the big online worlds strike back?

Meet young teens in China, India, and Malaysia who work as gold farmers to feed their families, who face violence from police and rival bosses when they’d rather go to school, who risk their lives to make a difference. This page-turner looks big, but reads fast, a techno-thriller that could happen tomorrow or might be happening today! 480 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Saraswati’s Way, by Monika Schroeder (book review) – fleeing poverty, seeking wisdom

book cover of Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroeder published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young ReadersAs a school librarian living in India, Monika is writing from the heart. She’s seen too many children who must work instead of go to school, no matter how intelligent they are, because the debts of their family are so overwhelming. The orphans scavenging recyclables from the railway station trash are still there, despite the info-tech revolution sweeping their country.

The author’s book trailer gives us a glimpse of the grim reality and many obstacles that Akash faces as he struggles to get schooling in this luminous story leavened with hope.
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Book info: Saraswati’s Way / by Monika Schroeder. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Book Talk: Akash’s talent for math can’t stop the drought in his village in India, can’t grow enough crops to pay back the money his family owes, can’t cure the fever that strikes his father. So he must leave school and the village at age 12 to work off their debt in the landlord’s stone quarry. Everything is fated, his family says – the heavens have control of earth, and we cannot change what is fated. But Akash prays to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, that someday, somehow, he will return to school to learn more math and English.

Akash finds that his hard work at the quarry only nibbles at the family’s debt, so he could work there until he was an old man before he paid it off. Not content that fate will keep him at the quarry forever, he sneaks onto a train bound for the huge city of Delhi where he could earn money faster.

The New Delhi train station is like a city itself – huge and crowded and noisy. Akash falls in with a group of orphan boys who collect bottles and boxes for money. Soon he meets up with people who want to help him and people who want to use his talents only to earn money for themselves.

Can Akash keep himself safe in Delhi? Can he survive and earn money for his family in honest ways, as his father taught him? Will he ever get to school again, or will he remain homeless and poor like so many other youngsters in his crowded country?

A fascinating story with too-real situations, you’ll root for Akash as he strives for wisdom, trying to follow Saraswati’s Way in his fight for survival. (one of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.