A Line Blurred

Title: A Line Blurred
Author: Bryan Healey
ISBN: 978-1453690833
Publisher: CreateSpace

As its title evidently suggests, Bryan Healey’s debut novel A Line Blurred underlines the bitter consequences of blurring a line that could trigger serious repercussions. With acute details, Healey reiterates that our actions involve consequences that could forever alter the course of our lives. For better or for worse.

Kevin is an executive living a depressed, painfully predictable suburban life frustrated that life didn’t quite turn out the way he wanted it to. His relationship with his wife Kylie is hanging by a thread over their loveless marriage. Refusing to believe that there is nothing in their marriage left for either of them and hence it is practically over, the couple leads a life under the pretense of normalcy for the sake of their two kids.

When a chance encounter brings a new woman into his life, Kevin finds himself completely drawn to her, risking everything in his life. As their romance flourish, Kevin seeks comfort in Rachel as she soon became his ‘emotional outlet.’ On the other end of the spectrum, Kylie meets Christopher, a much younger man, with whom she starts a dangerous relationship that could have equally serious ramifications. Unbeknownst to each other, Kevin and Kylie continue their affairs and lead their life at home ignoring the bigger problems in their married life.

Each constantly finding rationalization with their guilt, the couple has grown comfortable with their deceit to the extent that each never questioned the other, reaching an unspoken “mutual truce of circumstance”. When the inevitable caught up with them, it threatens to destroy their lives with irrevocable damages to everyone involved.

Told over a span of five days, A Line Blurred narrates a succinctly-written, moving account of the dire consequences in its wake plunging one family into emotional doom, when an important line has been blurred that cannot be redrawn back, that cannot be undone. The extra-marital affairs set against the backdrop of mundane everyday life will jolt you with such force that you will almost feel the blow it brings with it.

Healey has given life to utterly believable characters that you will immediately grow close to. There were times I felt frustrated with the absurdity of Kevin and Kylie staying in their marriage, seemingly ignoring its lifelessness. Isn’t it better for them to separate on mutual terms than live in an almost torturous life? Other times, I find myself empathizing with their reason for doing so; putting their children’s well-being first. Now how could anyone go against that that? Along with Kevin and Kylie, we are torn between the dilemmas of their marriage, unsure to the decisions that could set them free.

Ironically, the blurring of the line following a few coincidences and twist of fate in Kevin and Kylie’s married life is ultimately what makes the couple realize the hurtful truth which they have been deliberately avoiding. The startling climax of the book thus comes as an utter shock where stakes were raised against the odds. As you close the last page, you will be left wondering ‘what if’.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com


Eat Pray Love

In this inspirational and equally enthralling memoir of her voyage across three different parts of the world in search of balance in life, Elizabeth Gilbert triumphed spectacularly. It is a wise and cleverly written chronicle, with laugh-out-loud funny moments all packaged together neatly for an entertaining read. Gilbert’s witticism rules and will absolutely strike a chord among readers all over the world.

Metaphorically speaking, reading Eat Pray Love is like meditating using a set of japa malas beads that Hindus and Buddhists use during prayers to stay focused. Here’s why. The book is systematically distributed over 108 chapters (the number of beads in japa malas) which is distributed equally over three major parts, each representing her three different destinations (ironically each starting with the letter ‘I’). I must add, if you will, that it is rather an enjoyable sort of “meditation”.

Following a rather exhaustive divorce and a heartbreaking rebound fling, Liz Gilbert finds herself utterly devastated. In other words, more than devastated. In dire need of getting her life back on track by finding the balance in life through discovering and re-evaluating herself, Liz made a life-altering decision.

I stopped trying to choose –Italy? India? or Indonesia? – and eventually just admitted that I wanted to travel to all of them . Four months in each place. A year in total… It wasn’t so much that I wanted to thoroughly explore the countries themselves… It was more that I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country… I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two. (p.30-31)

Thus marks the beginning of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey to discover equilibrium and stability from the chaos of her life. In her odyssey of self-discovering, Liz first travels to Italy where she indulges in food. Weight is the least thing on her mind as Liz audaciously treats herself to the irresistible array of pastries in Italy.

In India, she converse with God through prayers and meditations in the confinement of a secluded Ashram. Apart from that, she loves scrubbing the temple floor too. In Indonesia, a toothless, old medicine man helps Liz discover the path to love, and ultimately the meaning of her life. At the end of her journey, she emerges reborn from her broken state.

A gorgeous book of one woman’s search for everything meaningful in life, Eat Pray Love is a surplus of inspiration not only for the fairer sex but to anyone trying to find the balance and order from the chaos of life. Needless to say, women all across the world will be delighted.

We Are Family: Unimpressive

So what went wrong in Karan Johar’s latest production We Are Family which definitely is a personal disappointment to many of us that would most likely make it a box-office disaster ? Two things come into mind in reply: the shoddy direction by a first-timer and the poor screenplay that seems to serve no purpose whatsoever.

Aman (Arjun Rampal) and Maya (Kajol) are divorced and now lives their own separate lives; Maya with their three kids, Aman with his girlfriend Shreya (Kareena Kapoor). When Aman introduces Shreya to his family, much to their utter dislike, the kids establish an instant hatred towards Shreya, labeling her as ‘the witch’. Maya tries to remain indifferent even though it troubles her deep inside.

Once Shreya had to babysit the kids when Aman’s away at work, it proved to be a difficult test which she failed miserably despite her efforts at making friends with her soon-to-be step kids. This blunder costs her dearly when Maya, in her rage, refuses to allow the kids to be with Shreya without her supervision or permission.

Maya is forced to reconsider Shreya’s role in her kids’ lives, however, when she discovers that her days on earth are numbered. The whole family, even Shreya, is rattled to learn that Maya is dying. Over time, the two women of polar opposites had to find a way to tolerate whatever differences they have in the greater good to give the best for the kids, even settling for the extreme situation of living under the same roof.

Even with an extremely predictable plot (based on Hollywood hit Stepmom), many would expect an equally heart-tugging family tragedy as its Hollywood counterpart but with a more dramatic Bollywood spin to it. I know I did. But you’d be dissatisfied with its clichéd dialogues and lame attempt at recreating the original version starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon that made many a heart cry out loud.

If the first-time director Siddharth Malhotra has treated it with the right ingredients and the careful precision of an emotionally-charged family drama (like Stepmom), We Are Family could have been a heart-rending movie that would be remembered for a long time. What we got instead is the opposite of what we expected: an unconvincing array of emotional scenes that appeared to have been rather forced, lacking the creativity and the emotional element of any good family drama. (Did the director even watched Stepmom?!)

Why attempt to recreate something so poignant if you don’t have the confidence to create it equally or more poignant than the original version? We don’t need a lesser version (which unfortunately We Are Family is all about – a lesser version of Stepmom.) Instead of feeling empathy for the family in tragic times, you find yourself sighing in exasperation. Now what was that about the epilogue scene in this movie? More like, stretching what has been stretched beyond the limits of irritation.

It is sad to admit here that the songs score even less in this film. This is an absolute shame, especially in Karan Johar standards.

Not surprisingly, the only saving grace of the film has nothing to do with any cinematic aspect of it. The credit goes to the two leading ladies: Kajol and Kareena Kapoor. Even more for Kareena as her role demands a certain amount of versatility that we have not seen her attempt before. While Arjun Rampal’s character is more or less wasted, the kids provide comic relief at times.

By far, the most unimpressive and disappointing work produced by Karan Johar. Maybe it is high time Johar learns that original ideas trump remakes. Big time!

The Christmas Gift

Title: The Christmas Gift
Author: R. William Bennett
Publisher: Burgess Adams

ISBN: 978-0-9825606-3-1

Publication Date: October, 2010

What if the person you needed to apologize to the most was the one that deserved it the least? That is the profoundly meaningful question explored in The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett. Highlighting the importance of forgiveness even under the most tormenting circumstances, The Christmas Gift successfully proves that compassion and forgiveness is the ultimate answer to all our worries and sufferings.

Packaged in a deeply moving tale of two young, sixth-grade boys who get off on the wrong foot in their first encounter, The Christmas Gift recounts the astonishing events that lead Scott and Ben to become great friends one day, all because they learned the power of forgiveness.

Scott has just moved into a new town and on his first day at his new school he meets Ben, the school bully who torments other kids. After intervening Ben terrorizing a fellow schoolmate, Scott becomes the new object of Ben’s everyday bullying. Following one-too-many unpleasant confrontations, Scott loses his cool and yells at Ben, in his anger, telling Ben everybody at school including Scott hates him.

Scott has been distressed for days over the yelling, which is not in his nature, and the hurt he saw in Ben’s eyes. Scott has a long talk with his father before he gathers up the courage to go up to Ben’s house and apologizes to him.

During the course of the time, Scott discovers that Ben has no real friends and when Scott finds out the true nature of Ben, the previously unknown good side of him, Scott sees Ben in a new light that is a far-cry from what everybody else see in him. Their friendship thus evolved into a strong bond both Ben and Scott has come to cherish to the end.

The meaningful message tucked away in this heart-warming tale of two young people is loud and clear as Bennett successfully directs the readers to the very core of the subject: how the gift of forgiveness could have a deeply positive impact on the lives of many just like the two characters in this story, their perspective about compassion forever changed. After reading The Christmas Gift, so will yours.

A poignant tale of great substance and inspiration, The Christmas Gift is a life-enhancing, invaluable lesson to people from all walks of life; a life-long lesson that should be carried forward from one individual to another, one friend to another, one family to another, and from generation to generation. An everlasting gift that will shape us all into forgiving, kind, caring and compassionate beings, The Christmas Gift is indeed a wonderful present we must gift not only to others but also to ourselves.

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Bookpleasures.com

Powder Necklace

A remarkable debut novel by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, Powder Necklace is nothing less than a heart-wrenching tour de force of the transformational journey of a young girl shuttling physically and emotionally across three continents and between parents. Wading into the complex territory of identity and fate, Powder Necklace reiterates that ‘life takes time to live’ which in essence forms the very basis of this absorbing novel.

Raised by a single mother, Lila is a British teenager born to a Ghanaian family. To protect her from bad influences of London, Lila’s mother quite abruptly sends her off to her native Ghana in an attempt to provide her with the opportunity to discover her roots. Ghana comes as an utter shock to Lila beyond her wildest imaginations as she is enrolled at Dadaba Girls’ Secondary School in Ghana.

Over the course of the time Lila spends at Dadaba boarding school, she lives in her own worst nightmare, struggling to blend in with her fellow students, who see her as the outsider. An intruder who doesn’t belong there. Despite getting her hair chopped off and being the object of constant public ridicule, Lila endures all the hurdles she faces with sheer determination surprising even herself.

Soon she finds comfort in the company of three friends: Brempomaa, Ivy and Hari. Just when Lila is getting adapted to the culture of her native country and getting comfortable under her own native skin, Lila is brought back to London where she meets the new man in her mother’s life Ronan and her daughter Chardonnay.

Lila’s frustrations with her mother and even her life reaches its peak when she was send off to live with her Dad and stepmother Joo-Li and their kids in New York. Settling into her new life, Lila struggles to find her identity, her true nature and her place in the world while encountering Fate which will take her back to Ghana on a life-altering journey.

“I resented Mum for putting me in this situation again and for not being strong enough to handle her full responsibility to me. She wasn’t allowed breaks from me, just like I wasn’t allowed breaks from her. She was my mother and I was her daughter. I was born to br her responsibility.”

The vivid, awe-inspiring detail with which Brew-Hammond carefully unfolds Lila’s life in Ghana comes as a disturbing shock enough to make you cringe at the hardship of life in Ghana. The luminous prose takes the readers along with the protagonist into a world where water is scarce, where the only way they retain their pride and dignity lies in the powder necklaces they wear to disguise those who had water to clean themselves and those who hasn’t.

“Water became a symbol of who had and who didn’t. If you didn’t have water to bath with you were poor because no one has sent you some. Those who were lucky enough to be able to bath made sure everyone knew it by painting their throats with chokers of powder. “

As the extraordinary journey makes its way across Ghana, London and New York, Lila’s relationship with her parents and friends are explored thoroughly while Lila’s struggles with her sense of identity to discover her roots are told in aching reality.

In this emotionally-charged sentimental tale of a girl lost in her own identity, Powder Necklace wins you over. An engrossing novel that deserves five-star rating. Highly recommended!

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Author Exposure (September 2010)

Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident

Keeper of Secrets… Translations of an Incident by Anjuelle Floyd is a poignant collection of eight enthralling stories laced together, bound by one exclusive incident that will have life-changing impact on each character’s life. The engrossing technique skilfully executed by Floyd to connect one random passionate confrontation and its direct and indirect effect on many who will experience profound meanings in their lives is absolutely riveting.

Dancing Siva
One woman’s remorse for a sin she committed constantly haunts her while she struggles to put the past behind her.

Keeper of Secrets
A woman is bound to her blind husband by her dark secret about a shocking event that jolted her life during childhood.

As Far as I can See…In a Day
A blind woman is torn between the rivalry of her husband and best friend, who were close childhood friends.

The Object of Compassion
An impotent man finds solace in compassion to suppress his anger at the unfairness of life.

The Bridge
A bridge engineer recovering from his fall to death struggles to uncover the truth behind her wife’s detachment from their marriage.

Three Movements
A psychotherapist who counsels the terminally ill is having visions of one recently deceased patient, who guides her sort out the priorities in life.

After the tragic death of his wife, a man tries to move on with his life by making amends at his bitter relationship with his father.

In Baghdad
A veteran army captain comes home to seek forgiveness from his abandoned wife and tries to rekindle their lost love.

Every action has an opposite and equal reaction and so begins the incident that will prompt the individuals in these heart-warming tales to re-evaluate their lives; their reactions to the occurrence both poignant and stirring. The conflicting passions skilfully depicted in each of these stories are exquisitely absorbing. The well-fleshed characters are delicate, vulnerable and all too real that you can immediately feel and identify with them.

Floyd, who has quickly established herself as a remarkable writer, takes us by surprise with her breathtaking prose in each story captivating your heart with the intriguing effect it has when we make decisions with our secrets. I am particularly entranced with The Bridge, which has a truly meaningful take on life that moves you to the core of your existence.

Without a shred of doubt, Keeper of Secrets… Translations of an Incident will appeal to readers from all walks of life as it explores the susceptible human lives in which no one is safe, not even from our own existence.

Floyd successfully manoeuvres an exhilaratingly new spin on the theory of six degrees of separation and the human web in the backdrop of a single event that tugs at your heart hard enough you almost feel the tender aching. A thoroughly enjoyable read from cover to cover that highly deserves a round of applause!

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Author Exposure (September 2010)

The Postcard Killers

“She felt with her fingertips for the man’s pulse on his neck and estimated the force of the flow. Then she thrust the stiletto into the man’s left jugular vein. She cut quickly through muscle and ligaments until she heard a soft hiss that told her that his windpipe had been cut.”

Throughout the breathtaking locales across some of Europe’s most beautiful cities including Rome, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Stockholm, The Postcard Killers set out to thrill you with the odd mystery surrounding a number of grisly murders. The exhilarating narrative doesn’t cease to thrill you even for a second with the extremely fast pacing of the story and the taut, succinct chapters that makes it a true gripping page-turner.

A series of gruesome murders have been sweeping across Europe with the culprits at large. Always a step ahead of the police, the only clue the heartless murderers leave behind is a postcard of the crime scene sent to a local newspaper at the time where the murder is going to take place.

Enter NYPD detective Jacob Kanon, on the hunt for the postcard killers who murdered his daughter Kimmy, follows the trail of the killers to Stockholm. With a deep vengeance, Kanon makes it his obsession to find the killers and bring them to justice.

With the help of Swedish reporter, Dessie Larsson, who has been sent the postcard of the murderer’s crime scene in Stockholm, Jacob finds himself trying to put together pieces of the complex puzzle that will – at last – lead him to the notorious Postcard Killers.

James Patterson’s latest collaboration with Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund adds a highly thrilling factor to it that inevitably brings you onboard to solve the puzzle along with NYPD detective Jacob Kanon. The Postcard Killers brims with real excitement, with expert plotting to give you an adrenaline-fuelled, high-octane thriller.

As one would expect from any James Patterson novel, the top-notch narrative and the riveting personalities, The Postcard Killers give you the roller-coast ride of an absorbing murder mystery that you have been yearning for. It is thoroughly readable due to the short, concise writing to guide you through the maze of mystery in your quest to find out the motive of the killers. That’s when the real excitement begins. You close the last page of the book with a sense of contentment, similar to that of getting off an adrenaline-pumping roller-coaster ride.

Hard-core fans of the master of thriller-mysteries will be delighted with this one. James Patterson will once again rock your world!

Reviewed by Hamdhoon Rashad for Author Exposure (September 2010)