ARC (NetGalley) Review: I Saw An Invisible Lion Today

 

Description:

Quatrain? What kind of train is that? Actually, it’s a poem! Quatrains are poems with patterns of rhyming words. Award-winning author Brian P. Cleary explains how quatrains work—and shows some of the many ways they can be written.

I Saw an Invisible Lion Today is packed with poems on subjects ranging from grandmothers to muzaloos to make you giggle and howl. And when you’ve finished reading, you can try your hand at writing your own poems!

Product Details (Amazon):

 

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Series: Poetry Adventures
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Millbrook Press (April 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1467797316
  • ISBN-13: 978-1467797313
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces

 

Review:

Whether or not the Invisible Lion in question is Aslan remains unknown, however, what I do know is that this anthology is clear cut and precise which makes it easy to fathom for children who have not been introduced to the poetic form known as Quatrains.

Not only does Brian P. Cleary clearly illustrate what a Quatrain is, he explores this concept by demonstrating it through various Quatrains of his own making which have different rhyme schemes such as ABCB, AABB, and ABAB. Moreover, he goes as far as to mention that Quatrains can be standalone stanzas or an entire poem in itself.

Furthermore, the contents of this collection of assorted poems are brought to life owing to the adept hand of the illustrator Richard Watson.  I couldn’t think of a better way to broach Quatrains to a layman.

Not to mention, at the conclusion of the book, Brian leaves lots of helpful references to further explore the subject matter and develop a knack for it. I do imagine this will be a helpful handbook in a classroom setting for those charting waters in Quatrains for the first time at an early age.

With this in mind, I do highly recommend this anthology to those in search of an anthology which will serve the dual role of teacher and text.

Rating:

Justification: Ideal for the target audience.

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ARC (NetGalley) Review: Leave This Song Behind

 

Description: 

 It’s been 10 years since the last book in the Teen Ink series Written in the Dirt was published. Now, a whole new batch of teen writers has emerged with their own unique voices. Leave This Song Behind features the best poetry submitted by those writers to Teen Ink over the last five years.

The pieces in this book were chosen because they were so powerful that they stood out from the rest. Teen Ink editors took a deep look into each poem’s strengths then divided Leave This Song Behind into seven sections based on the poetic techniques or qualities that moved them most. Vivid sensory details made some poems shine; others caught their attention with simple, sparse language. Still others were chosen because of their thoughtful use of form; compelling stories; strong figurative language; unexpected connections and wit; and fresh writing about familiar topics.

Dig in and let these brave young voices capture your heart and mind with their passion, their pain, and their amazing poetry!

Product Details (Amazon): 

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: HCI; 1 edition (April 26, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0757318967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0757318962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces

 

Review:

‘Leave This Song Behind’ is an inspired anthology containing at its heart an impressively diverse spectrum of poems. I’d go as far as to wager that there’s something in it for everyone.

For me ‘Write What You Know’ and ‘Fractions’ struck a chord. I could immediately identify with the poetic persona of ‘Write What You Know’ because I too have been struggling for the last year or so with my Pure Mathematics & Statistics class. To put it simply: Mathematics is not my strong suit. I’ve invested countless hours day in day out, week after week, and still flunked the class. As you can imagine the reaction from my academic supervisor and peers was all but understanding, as a result of which their image of me has diminished greatly.

Be that as it may, the academic year as a whole has been fulfilling. I’ve gained ground in debating, Model UN, as well as power point presentations to say nothing of how much I’ve improved in interpersonal relations. As a whole the poem sends the message ‘Stick to what you’re good at and don’t dwell on the things you can’t do’ which is advice that can be appreciated by people of all ages.

With this in mind, when one feels like the poetic persona of ‘Fractions’ that is to say “One third of a person” at 3 AM in the night, the positive mindset embodied within ‘Write What You Know’ can be of use.

In a word, it will be hard to “Leave This Song Behind” as it has had an impact on me that is rather difficult to put into words, but it is always a nice feeling to see the youth invigorated and given an opportunity to voice themselves.

Rating:

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Zen Master Poems

 

Synopses: 

A tour-de-force work by one of America’s most celebrated contemporary poets.

Frisbees, Johnny Cash, and lonely railroad crossings: All coexist with Zen Buddhism’s traditional imagery of cherry blossoms and mountain landscapes in Zen Master Poems. This collection of one-page readings, meditations, admonitions and observations evokes calm, reflection and humor for readers and seekers on every path.

Zen Master Poems is from Dick Allen, author of eight acclaimed poetry volumes — and the 2010-2015 Connecticut Poet Laureate. Allen gives full expression to his lifetime interest in Zen Buddhism for the first time here.

Although accessible for readers of all traditions, Zen Master Poems also contains elements that will challenge those already familiar with Buddhist literature. The poems are alternately serious and whimsical, seamlessly blending East with West.

Featuring titles like a “Cat Named Zen” and images like Jack Kerouac watching lightning strike, these lovely and mysterious poems are sure to stick with you. While it pays tribute to Han-Shan’s famous Cold Mountain Poems, the voice here is truly Allen’s own.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Series: New Wisdom Poems (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (August 23, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161429299X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1614292999
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

 

Review:

First and foremost, the reader ought to take note of the ensō on the cover of the anthology. In Zen Buddhism it represents the beauty of imperfection which can be conflated with the concept of  wabi-sabi.

Equally important is “The obstacle is the path” which is a Zen proverb that potential readers may have come across. So for those that may at first be unsure of how to proceed with interpreting the Zen Master Poems, worry not, for the beauty of Zen lies in its simplicity which becomes clear when the mind stops forming overt connections between unconnected dots.

“Simply, Simply, Simply.”, Henry David Thoreau was known to say. Declutter your thoughts. Think not of yourself as a “bag of skin and bones”, or that you were “born into this world”, see yourself as an entity that is a reflection of its environment and in the words of Dick Allen a “beautiful disguise”. Allow this shift in mindset to take place and it is possible to live simply and think deeply.

With that being said, there are allusions in the poems which open the door to further exploration of the subject matter. For instance Alan Watts who remarked “Reality is a rorschach ink blot”, and a man known to spread eastern ideas to an western audience was mentioned in a poem.

Furthermore, Hanshan too was alluded to. Note that the master of the cold mountain himself said that Zen is not in the poems but in the mind.

“the ten thousand things are all reflections
the moon originally has no light”
Han-shan

In a way one particular poem “The Secret Is To Leap” reminded me of Keat’s ‘Negative Capability’ which is the key ingredient to success of many acclaimed poets. According to Keats: Negative Capability is the state of mind when man is capable of being in uncertainties, delving into mysteries, weighing doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

Zen teaches us to ask good questions, but it also extols the importance of realizing that it’s not about “because” but that it “just is”… that we should focus on the “what” rather than on the “why”…

Keeping all of this under close consideration, Dick Allen has done a phenomenal job of noting down his observations and turning them into food for thought for a mind starved of simplicity. Whether or not the reader will find the bird making calligraphy in the sky or Zen Master Kyong Ho’s “the tree with no shadow” remains yet to be seen, but not knowing something is what makes the act of discovery all the more fulfilling and that is to say nothing of the power of the idea that everything we require is rooted in the present and we need not wait any longer to partake in its splendor which may be simpler than it appears if the way of the zen cat is to be believed.

Rating:

 

 

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Movie Game

“Delay of reaction is the unseen movie of this life”- Katatonia

 

Synopsis: 

It’s been three years since Joe’s father vanished. Now seventeen, he is unaware that government agents are watching him in case his dad makes contact. Joe is too distracted by his secret girlfriend, midnight swims in the pools of strangers, free drinks from his buddies at the movie game and the glamorous college student, Felicity. But his movie-esque existence and addiction to fiction is set to collide with a heavy dose of reality this summer when he discovers everything is not what it seems: His secret girlfriend wants to be the real thing. His college fling may have ulterior motives. And the government agents want co-operation to catch his missing father. All this and the three-year-old death of Joe’s first girlfriend Alice are going to cause him to face some dark truths. It’s no longer a movie game. This is his life, and he wants to win.

Product Details(Amazon):

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Pen and Picture (15 Sept. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0993061303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0993061301
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm

Review:

Are you the kind of person who appreciates irony? Have you ever wanted to read a book about a cinephile who holds books in low esteem? Not to mention that the boy in question imagines his life as a movie plot and views the world through an IMAX lens whereas in reality he’s a protagonist in a novel with the story being printed on pages in place of being streamed on Netflix! It doesn’t get more meta than that.

Additionally, the theme of escapism is broached early on. Do we watch movies to see ourselves in the characters as they struggle to succeed or to detach ourselves from a harsh reality? Is it procrastination or indulging in some greater meaning or art form that we fail to stay in touch with in our day to day lives…

To put it simply this book is like an eagle sailing in increasingly widening gyres while being buffeted by wind. Just when you think it’s going to fall short, it comes full circle. While it does succeed in resembling the thrilling structure of a movie plot, at the same time it retains the vital touch with reality needed for the audience to glimpse human moments from Joe.

I give this book a four star dragonball.

Things it could have done better: The movie references were actually pretty neat, however, not every reader will be able to appreciate it to the fullest. For the layman, a lot of googling is necessary. Footnotes pointing the reader in the right direction about the references would be helpful.

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: A Scarlet Letter Manga Classics Edition

Synopsis:

  • A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America.
  • Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing.

Product Details (Amazon):

  • Series: Manga Classics
  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Udon Entertainment (March 31, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1927925339
  • ISBN-13: 978-1927925331
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces

Review:

The first thing that caught my eye about this ARC was that I had to read last page to first page! Yes you read that right. Manga follows the custom of being read from right to left, so what may appear to us as the last page in fact is the first page.

With that being said, the portrayal of the characters was convincing. Arthur Dimmesdale is shown characteristically with an air of melancholy about him and his speeches brimmed with pathos. Furthermore, Rev. Dimmesdale kept clutching his robes where it had closest proximity to his heart. This characterized him rightfully to show that something was amiss and troubling his heart.

Dr. Chillingworth on the other hand was shown with shrewd-narrow eyes and a snake aura. In Christian symbolism I believe snakes denote Satan himself. The manga artist’s choice of rendition seems to indicate that Chillingworth had succumbed to his darker side in his path of vengeance.

Hester Prynn is shown as a beautiful and determined woman. The scarlet letter or “A” that she wears owing to her adultery… soon symbolizes her “ableness” as a seamstress, and later on after she assists her fellow townsfolk the A transforms into “Angelic” as testified by Arthur Dimmesdale himself. Her decision to settle at the edge of town can possibly indicate that while she wants nothing to do with society, she doesn’t want to forsake it altogether as well.

Then there’s Pearl, with her wild nature, and elfish appearance. In the original Pearl had elements of magic  in her, which was an anti-thesis to the cold hard and rigid life that the puritans had come to lead.

As for the Puritan townsfolk, they appeared to be a bigoted group of reactionaries who treated sin like it was the last vestiges of bubonic plague. Their biggest failing was that they did not use the context to pass judgement but instead generalized their dealings with sinners. In Hester’s case, she had been married off to a scholar old enough to be her grandfather and someone who was said to have died at sea with no one reporting him to be alive for 2 years. If she fell in love with someone else during that time then that is not in itself a sin.

The manga’s version just like the original novel questions whether or not Hester was the true sinner or of it was Dr. Roger Chillingworth for failing to understand the circumstances that led to Hester’s folly and forgiving her, and if Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale was to blame for letting Hester Prynne take all of the blame and be a bulls eye for social stigma for several years.

Keeping all of this in mind, the manga takes a classic and turns it into a format which can be picked up and finished in a matter of hours (1 hr 15 mins in my case)  and it does this without losing the sophistication of the original. I hope to see more from the manga classics series in due time and process.

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Born On A Tuesday

Born on a Tuesday: A Novel
I was born on a Saturday but I still identified with the characters in this book.

Synopsis: 

From two-time Caine Prize finalist Elnathan John, a dynamic young voice from Nigeria, Born on a Tuesday is a stirring, starkly rendered first novel about a young boy struggling to find his place in a society that is fracturing along religious and political lines.

In far northwestern Nigeria, Dantala lives among a gang of street boys who sleep under a kuka tree. During the election, the boys are paid by the Small Party to cause trouble. When their attempt to burn down the opposition’s local headquarters ends in disaster, Dantala must run for his life, leaving his best friend behind. He makes his way to a mosque that provides him with food, shelter, and guidance. With his quick aptitude and modest nature, Dantala becomes a favored apprentice to the mosque’s sheikh. Before long, he is faced with a terrible conflict of loyalties, as one of the sheikh’s closest advisors begins to raise his own radical movement. When bloodshed erupts in the city around him, Dantala must decide what kind of Muslim—and what kind of man—he wants to be. Told in Dantala’s naïve, searching voice, this astonishing debut explores the ways in which young men are seduced by religious fundamentalism and violence.

 

Product Details (Amazon): 

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (May 3, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802124828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802124821
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

 

Review:

 

The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.

Born On A Tuesday reveals why men turn to fundamentalism. In certain cultures, it is not uncommon for political parties to hire picketers with a paltry fee in exchange of sowing the seeds of discord and causing mass unrest. The services offered start anywhere from chanting a hackneyed slogan the demonstrators do not believe in to being as serious as vandalism.

Dantala is one of the men who offer such services but unfortunately on one occasion the job goes south and he has to flee as a result of making enemies out of men in high places.

As a citizen of Bangladesh I was able to find similarities in the mindset of the people of Nigeria in the context of the book and that of my own in the sense that those who have been cheated out of a better future by the “leaders” of the country need hope.

They find solace and commiseration in the form of faith. Alas, anyone who even appears to remotely threaten the said faith by challenging one or more of its established viewpoints are labelled blasphemers and struck down from whatever perch they stand on by means of apostasy laws.

It ought to be noted that, this book is highly relevant as the world is at war with radical ideologies. Furthermore, how do these human beings transform from calm-caring- citizens into cantankerous-cruel-compadres?  Their environment, early indoctrination, lack of better alternatives to seek hope or a greater purpose in… so before we condemn them we must understand on a fundamental level what drove them on their path of folly.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5. I wish I could establish an empathy link between me and the characters without having to will it. On some books you just connect, you know?

 

 

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Barsk – The Elephants’ Graveyard

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (December 29, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765377020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765377029
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

About the Author

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. He’s also one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and the publisher of a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem. He’s been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia.

Review:

When it comes to Anthromorphic characters, Aslan from Narnia, The Swallow from Happy Prince, Charlotte A. Cavatica from Charlotte’s web among others come to mind. Carrying on the rich tradition is Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard.

The Fant are a species of arboreal Elephants. Barsk is the Fant’s home planet. The topography is laced with archipelagos; I wouldn’t be surprised if Crash Bandicoot was hiding in one of them (allusion to a famous anthromorphic character).

Much like a Buckethead song the excerpt was a Christmas cracker full of emotions. It is the equivalent of Okami and Ico in the world of books.

While some may think that Elephants were meant to be trained for circuses or confined behind bars at zoos for the world to gawk at, others realize that Elephants are empathetic beings who look out for one another. The latter side is captured in this novella.

Unfortunately much like the Fant, the Elephants of our world are being threatened with extinction. Perhaps I am over thinking but I don’t believe Lawrence’s choice to be a mere coincidence. Approximately by 2020 if the current trend continues, African Elephants will be wiped from the face of Earth. Once this proud and intelligent species numbered well above 10 million, and now? Now less than 5% of that figure remains. Food for thought isn’t it?

Imagine just the right blend of Sci-fi and fantasy. In addition, visualize memorable characters, a species struggling to survive when being subjugated by an unassailable alien force. Draw a parallel between the way we as human beings treat animals in the wild and how the Fant are treated, and you’ll have seen a whole new side of Barsk.

Without having to mull over it a kajillion times I can say for certain that this book is one to look out for, so I’d keep my eyes peeled if I were you.

Rating:

5/5

Hits home.

ARC (NetGalley) Review: Mr.s Ravenbach’s Way

Product Details (Amazon): 

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Series: The Amazing Escapades of Toby Wilcox (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Regan Arts. (March 8, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941393586
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941393581

Synopsis:

Tobias Wilcox who prefers to be called Toby has just moved into town, leaving his doting teachers and childhood comrade Carlton behind. Quite naturally he is not exactly eager to start the year at McKegway School For Clever And Gifted Children, seeing as that the environment is altogether new for him. Little did young Toby know that a lot more than fitting in would soon occupy his mind. In fact his mind would become the very root of his misery. Under the stringent tutelage of the unyielding and vainglorious Mr.s Ravenbach, young Toby’s freeminded opinions are not tolerated. This is a story about how a boy who wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, or even agile enough. It serves as a testament to how being smart and determined can go a long way. Friendship, forgiveness and family all have a part to play in young Toby’s playground. Now the question remains: will Toby rise to the occasion or be destined to repeat Fourth grade?

Review:

What immediately caught my eye is that William M. Akers (the author) had dedicated  the book to first-rate educators such as Sir Ken Robinson. Coincidentally, just two days before I read ‘Mr.s Ravenbach’s Way’, I happened to have watched a Ted video featuring Sir Robinson’s speech about how schools kill creativity. The speech was punctuated with humor and that too in good taste. It opened the door to intellectual discourse for the masses who were able to identify with Sir Robinson’s presentation style.

Similarly, in ‘Mr.s Ravenbach’s Way’ I found that William M. Akers offers a keen insight into the life of an ordinary fourth grader, a life that was made miserable for the pettiest of reasons. Undoubtedly, empathy plays a key role when reading the book. As I perused the pages, I was enamored of the story and became moved to the verge of tears, for Toby’s plight brought back many of my own miserable memories.

The narrative, for the most part, is done through Mr.s Ravenbach, however, the reader does get a glimpse into Toby’s thoughts through his private journal which ironically isn’t as private as it should be. On that note, Aker’s own sixth grade English teacher Mr.s Mason had betrayed his confidence, safe to say, he used his own experiences to add depth and realism to the story. This is a clear use of verisimilitude considering that many readers, including myself, will be able to relate to such incidents of betrayal. Almost comically the author has dedicated an undedication page to “awful teachers” & “Ghastly school adminstrators” which highlights the satirical side of the novel.

Further adding to the novel is the way Mr.s Ravenbach is portrayed. There is more to her character than meets the eye, and gradually, plot twist after plot twist, we begin to piece together what drives this teacher who is ever so thirsty for success and a fifth taste of the esteemed Golden Apple Award For Excellence In Teaching. In fact, though it kills me to say this, sometimes it is quite impossible not to feel sorry for her.

What struck me the most about this novel is how it broached the age old adage, “Honesty is the best policy.” If that is indeed true, then why do our teachers teach us to tell the truth and then go on to administer all manners of rules and regulations to silence us when we speak the truth, and nothing but the truth? The answer I gleaned is that hypocrisy is ingrained into our minds from a young age, and to be politically correct is more important than to be truthful.

Rating: 5/5 (Stars)

Justification: Had I read this instead of Enid Blyton, Dr. Suess, or Ronald Dahl when I was Toby’s age, it would have soothed my rebellious heart and taught me patience in the face of unassailable barriers. I only hope the future generation utilize this opportunity well.

Sir Ted Robinson’s keynote speech about Schools killing creativity. (it has more than 35 million+ views)

Click on this link to be redirected to TED’s video