The House

Enclosed with an intriguing plotline that focuses on a devastating family tragedy, The House by Anjuelle Floyd explores a more complicated reality of life. Probing the concepts of regrets and forgiveness on a more deeper level, The House reiterates that real life only comes in shades of gray.

Anna Manning has devoted all her life to her husband Edward and her four children – David, Theo, Linda and Serine – putting their desires and happiness before her own. But now, Anna had had enough. With Edward’s numerous extra-marital affairs and his increasingly detached behavior from Anna and their marriage, Anna decides to end it for good and files for divorce.

Fate has other plans when she learns that Edward is dying of cancer. Anna’s world comes crashing, shattering her in pieces. Abandoning all her future plans, Anna brings Edward home, into the house he had built for Anna and their children, the house which Anna has transformed into a home, the only thing that binds Edward to Anna.

During the course of Edward’s remaining days on earth, Anna struggles to find it in her heart to make amends with her unfaithful husband. In the ensuing drama that unfolds in the house, not only she must confront each of her children, each now leading their own lives with their spouses, but also her lover Inman Hayes.

A smidge of infidelity thrown in, The House deals with utterly believable familial emotions in the wake of the Manning family tragedy. As each character comes to terms with their regrets and sorrows, will they ultimately rise above and succumb to take refuge in forgiveness – the only companion in times of crisis?

With clear, concise writing, at times poetic, Floyd showcases a perceptive portrayal of life’s surprises and the unpredicted bumps along the road in Anna’s life:

“Anna longed for the intimacies she imagined Edward to have experienced with those women. Over time, Anna made the children her focus. She took refuge in the house in which Edward has placed her. The house was her mainstay, heaven on earth encased by the hell of her marriage.”

A work of fine delicacy with accurate details and carefully drawn characters, this is the book for anyone looking for a slice of life’s drama and the twists and surprises it throws our way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anjuelle Floyd is the author Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an incident. A licensed psychotherapist, she earned a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, Port Townsend, Washington. A mother of three, Anjuelle lives in Oakland California. To learn more about this author, visit www.anjuellefloyd.com

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Author Exposure (September 2010)

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Her Fearful Symmetry

Extraordinarily bizarre: that was my overall impression of Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry as I closed the book having finished it, with a contended sigh that you only get after reading a truly profound and sophisticated work of fiction such as this one. In a nutshell, Her Fearful Symmetry is a ghost story unlike any other enveloped with compelling characters and a deliciously-woven storyline that will leave you breathless with wonder.

Julia and Valentina Poole woke up one day to receive a letter from their recently deceased aunt Elspeth Noblin whose existence is kept from them until now. The twins were as surprised as their parents when Elspeth left her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to the twins on the condition that their mother is never allowed to set foot in it.

As excited as the twins were to start their own separate lives for the first time, away from her parents in America, Julia and Valentina soon found themselves entangled in a web of secrets surrounding her aunt.  Not only they had to unravel the mystery of their aunt, but the twins are left to deal with their obsessive-compulsive neighbor Martin who lives just above them and their aunt’s elusive lover Robert who resides in the flat below.

As she did with her vastly triumphant best-selling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger once again succeeded in conjuring up a gripping narrative told in an eccentric and equally puzzling prose, full of suspense that will pleasantly haunt you long after you have read the final pages of this enchanting tale. The deep and dark mysteries surrounding the lives of the odd characters in this book is set to jolt you with enough jaw-dropping moments to make you go O-to-the-M-to-the-G! You seriously can’t afford to miss this scrumptious bite of a novel.

The Concubine’s Secret

In this breathtaking sequel to her highly successful debut novel The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall enthralls the readers into an intricately woven web of mystery involving a young girl’s dangerous search for her father in Soviet Russia.

Having learned that her father Jens Friis, who was believed to have been killed by the Bolsheviks, is alive and being captive in a prison in Stalin-controlled Russia, the fiery-haired Lydia Ivanova heads to the country she was once forced to flee from in search of her beloved father, leaving her life and love in China.  From the dirty streets of Felanka to the hustle bustle of Moscow in Soviet Russia, Lydia embarks on a precarious journey in search of her father, accompanied by his half-brother Alexei Serov.

The plot takes an unexpected turn when Lydia encounters her Chinese lover Chang An Lo in Moscow. What she finds out in her native Russia is more chilling than anything she could have ever imagined, throwing her into a world of deceit and betrayal, making her worst nightmares come true.

In this politically-charged, romantically-driven thriller of a novel, Furnivall strikes a chord with critics and readers alike with its powerful narrative and unforgettable characters. Set in Russia during Josef Stalin’s communist rule in 1930, Furnivall ambitiously takes readers on a journey to the heart of all the unfolding drama, resurrecting the essence of early twentieth-century Russia and China in vivid, spectacular details.

What strikes you most is the pulse-racing, fast pace of the plot keeping you glued to the narrative. Truly an unputdownable novel that will leave you begging for more.

The Winner Stands Alone

In The Winner Stands Alone, highly acclaimed, phenomenal writer Paulo Coelho takes a uniquely different approach delivering an engaging story that offers an insightful display into the astonishing behind-the-scenes life of the Superclass comprising of the incredibly rich and famous. Departing from his usual way of inspirational storytelling, the result is quite invigorating: an eye-opening, rich, and involving novel about wealth, fame, love, and loss.

The ruthless, self-made and extremely wealthy Igor Malev is a man on a mission – to win over the heart of the love of his life, Ewa, who left him for another man. In the glittering universe of the film and fashion world, Igor takes a series of enormously shocking and devastating steps to prove to Ewa that his love for her is as pure and powerful as ever.

One of the major questions explored in this novel is the importance of paying the price for following your dream. Does the winner stand alone? How far are you willing to go to regain a love lost? Is there a limit to such an obsession?

Told just over 24-hour with bold and ambitious characters, this fast-moving page-tuner places the readers in the heart of the breathtaking locales of Cannes, amid the glitz and glamour of Cannes Film Festival where what seems to meet the eyes is just an illusion as  the famous and wealthy converges for their annual rendezvous.

In sum, The Winner Stands Alone most definitely is a stand-alone addition to Coelho’s inspirational novels. It is close-the-last-page-and-look-at-the-world-differently good.

Glee: The Beginning – A Real Treat for Gleeks

What would Glee be like without the music and songs? In part, 216-pages of exhilarating drama in McKinley High packed in the form of a novel titled Glee: The Beginning. If you are a true Glee fan who thinks you’d be disappointed with this first installment in the original novel series officially deemed as the prequel of the run-away hit TV series on Fox, then you are absolutely wrong. Very wrong, actually.

Granted, books can’t sing. The truth of the matter is that there is so much more to Glee than musical numbers like Don’t Stop Believin’ or Defying Gravity“. Ever wondered what Glee had be without the drama? Glee won’t be Glee then either, right? My point, exactly. That’s what the books are here for; an attempt to quench the thirst of thousands of Glee fans – or rather Gleeks – across the globe. It helps to fill in the blanks, tie-in the loopholes, and to catch up with the stars of New Directions even before it was even a glimmer in Mr. Schuester’s eye.

In essence, Glee: The Beginning is an amusing compilation on the lives of your favorite stars of New Direction by Sophia Lowell. It provides answers to questions that you’d always wanted to know. When did Rachel first set her eyes on Finn? How did the secret romance between Puck and Quinn begin? When did Kurt and Mercedes become friends?

In a nutshell, the book focuses on Glee Club in its initial stage, where we get to know who has the hots for whom and who hated who. There are parts in which your heart goes out to your favorite Glee members as they constantly get bullied, like every day. Remember the episodes with the slushies? Basically, the book goes on to reveal how Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes and the rest of them try in vain to fit in with the “popular crowd” at McKinley High most often than not being the subjects of public ridicule by their superior and equally mean-spirited popular kids – in other words, people who aren’t them.

As a friend once told me, Gleeks could be easily divided into 3 general categories: those who watch it for the songs, those who watch it for the drama and those who watch it for both. If you are in the first category, then the book might not appeal to you. But to the rest of you Gleeks, dive right into it. Because you wouldn’t want to miss the real treat!

‘Aisha’ Dazzles Cupid: Jane Austen’s Emma lightens up Bollywood silver screen

In this new-age Bollywood resurrection of the highly-successful British classic novel Emma, what makes Aisha tick? I’d say that a large chunk of the credit goes to the sophisticated treatment of an all-too-well-known plotline, and the highly admirable performance by the leading lady, Sonam Kapoor (of Saawariya fame).

Drenched in the glitz and glam world of Delhi’s elite upper class, Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) leads a rich, independent life dictated by her own set of rules. Determined never to fall in love and hence stay single and happy forever, Aisha lives a stylish life with her extremely wealthy father Mr. Kapoor (M.K.Raina).

Enter the character of Arjun Burman (Abhay Deol), the Mr. Knightley of Donwell Abbey in this tale. Things get out-of-hand hilarious when Aisha sets out to play Cupid, only to create a complicated maze of romantic liaisons as a rather unfortunate matchmaker. To add the humor element to the plot and much to Aisha’s annoyance, Abhay gets in her way, like every time.

Falling into Aisha’s messy trap were her best friend Pinky Bose (Ira Dubey),  Dhruv Singh (Arunoday Singh), Randhir Gambhir, (Cyrus Sahukar) and Shefali Thakur (Amrita Puri). What follows is a rather hilarious entanglement of confusions all the way, leading Aisha to ultimately succumb to Cupid’s wishes.

Even though Emma and Aisha exist in two vastly different eras, cultures and settings, the two respective protagonists quite obviously share similar traits in their optimism, cheerful dispositions, and their equal stubbornness. The only major difference is the whole-new 21st century Bollywood-esque approach when it comes to portray Aisha’s uniqueness as compared to Emma’s conventional way of life. Thanks to a well-developed screenplay, we are treated to 126-minutes of fun-filled drama that will demand your undivided attention, all the way to the very final moments of the movie that comes packaged to heighten your excitement a few extra notches.

The plot isn’t the only highpoint in this romantically-driven, comic flick directed by Rajshree Ojha. With a collection of melodious and upbeat songs, Aisha promises us an assortment of enthralling numbers such as “Suno Aisha” and “Shaam”. It has almost all such riveting tracks you would expect in a modern day lovey-dovey Bollywood flick.

Let it be said here that the acting of the ensemble cast deserve a round of applause for their excellent performances.  The pretty Sonam Kapoor does a rave portrayal as Aisha, the Emma Woodhouse equivalent in a Bollywood setting. She swoons, she serenades, and she charms us all with her quick wit. Abhay Deol lightens up the screen as Arjun, Cupid’s gift to Aisha. Their on-screen chemistry is powerful and equally captivating. Same praise goes to the clever performances by Aisha’s entourage. Kudos to the brilliantly-written supporting roles!

There is no doubt that Aisha will largely appeal to today’s youngsters as it has all the right ingredients of a finely-woven romantic mystery in all the right places. Go watch it for Sonam Kapoor! Aisha won’t disappoint you in the least.