#BookReviews: Prose & Poetry

This week I would like to share three different genres – a historical laced with paranormal, a prehistoric fiction and poetry about love. Each book enchanted me with its style and characterization.

A Ghost and His Gold: My Review

A Ghost and His Gold is loaded with historical details of the second Boer War in South Africa and I must confess I had no knowledge about this war. This book lays bare the atrocities and the brutalities that are considered to be a part of such conflicts; it also chronicles the long-term effects that they cause on human psyche. It is the powerful presence of the supernatural that keeps you captivated despite the heavy details of the war.

 Cheadle has meticulously put together the poignant plight of the families of the soldiers who dared to defy the British and fight for their rights. It is interesting to note that both perspectives of the war are represented through Pieter and Robert. The story jumps from one time-line to another various times and is told through several POV’s; also switches tenses whenever convenient – it hampers the spontaneous flow of the book. I like the footnotes that clarify local words and expressions.

What impressed me most is how well the emotions have been handled and how adroitly the characters have been developed that they sound realistic, trapped in the circumstances beyond their control. I hate Marta and my heart goes out to Estelle, I didn’t like Tom right from the beginning and developed a soft corner for Pieter – such connections can only be felt with powerful characters.

There are certain absurd expectations: like Michelle asking Estelle “you need to promise me that you’ll not harm him regardless of whether you can forgive him or not.” Who could trust a ghost? However, this is not just a simple ghost story, it highlights serious themes connected with antagonism, avarice, insensitivity and humanity. Well-done!

Laws of Nature: My Review

Laws of Nature (Dawn of Humanity Book 2) continues the story of Lucy and it is better to read ‘Born in a Treacherous Time’ to understand the challenges in the journey of primeval humans. Most of their time was spent in finding food and safety from other tribes and animals. Prehistoric fiction is intriguing and in the hands of Jacqui, it becomes convincing as well as enlightening. Her meticulous search shines through all her books. She shows the life of people of those times through fictional characters who handled all their problems with immense hope.

 Lucy’s mission is the search for a home base. She has to deal with predators; earth changes, freezing temperatures, harsh weather and difficult terrain. Her tribe has been decimated and she could sense that she is being followed but her determination is admirable. Xhosa from the ‘Crossroads Trilogy’ makes an appearance in her dreams to guide and boost her confidence. She promises change would come soon and makes Lucy promise she wouldn’t quit. Packed with action and a new challenge at each step, this book is uniquely different from usual thrillers.

Crossroads: My Review

Crossroads (Winds of Love) takes you through various corridors, which you may have visited yet missed the intense moments of exhilaration; it explores many more aspects of love, compels you to ponder and cultivate resilience. A resilient love is open to maturity but also vulnerable. 

Written in a simple and straightforward style, Jude’s poetry is seeped in ecstasy of sensual love as well as yearning to find love’s freedom; loneliness and wisdom are the rewards – paradoxical? But that is love!

“Loneliness has wrapped me in its embrace, A broken heart has tamed me with wisdom.” How true!

“Once a joy, now an ache” – that is the price of love!

This may be Jude’s debut book but his poetry is so powerful that it draws on your emotions, stirring bittersweet memories and awakens you to “love’s deceptive light.” If you like free verse and want to understand love, this is a perfect book for you.

Thank you. Happy reading!

For more poetry: click here to hear Magical Whispers

Have you checked my latest release? – Slivers: Chiseled Poetry

Ghosts of the Past

Image from Pixaby

Who doesn’t meet them?
Who doesn’t get pulled in by them
Into those alleys we would like to forget?

I exorcised them, pushed them away
Away into the valleys of obscurity
Closed my doors despite their persistence.

I know they visit uninvited,
They linger in the shadows
To fan your wrath, to create ruckus.

The more you feed them,
The bolder they get
To add angst to your heart.

Only when you stop listening to them
Only when you accept the past
And forgive those you hold responsible

Only when you fight
The self-created demons
Only then, will they recede.

Serenity lies within your heart
But you have to stoke it
To let it permeate around you.
© Balroop Singh

Inspired from somebody who clings to the past and keeps wallowing in self-pity.

Thank you.

Many thanks to Colleen for a lovely review of my latest release – Slivers: Chiseled Poetry

For more poetry: click here to hear Magical Whispers

 

Silence Is Powerful

Recently I stumbled upon an enlightening book and would like to share some nuggets of wisdom that I gathered while reading it. I quote volubly from the book and also add my own observations.

Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh exhorts us to find silence within ourselves. If we try, we would hear five sounds:

“1. The sound of the wonders of life that are calling you. (Sound of the birds, rain etc.)

Everything begins with a sound.

2. The sound of the One who observes the world. This is the sound of listening, the sound of silence.

3. The third sound is the Brahma sound – the transcendental sound, connected with spiritualism in Indian thought.

4. The sound of the rising tide.

5. The fifth sound is the sound that transcends all the sounds – the sound of impermanence, a reminder not to get attached to particular words or sounds.”

In the journey of life, how many of us have heard these sounds? Do we even know about them?

Do we introspect? Do we ponder about our activities, our purpose of the way we are living our life?

I am sure every one of us has heard the first kind of sounds but do we hear the call? Do we pay attention to them?

We also know the fifth sound so well yet never recognize its impermanence. 

There is a “small voice” – the inner voice that is often hushed by us. If we listen to that voice, it could unravel many desires that have not been paid any attention to.

Joy comes from listening to the inner desires that get drowned in the humdrum of life.

“We are what we feel and perceive. If we are angry, we are the anger. If we are in love, we are the love.”

Individual consciousness is required to eliminate toxic elements (anger, fear, despair) from our consciousness. It can be cultivated.

Conscious breathing is a good way to nourish body and mind with mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice that quiets the noise inside us. Noise of memories, of experiences, of past regrets, of uncertainty about the future… the list is endless.

Mindfulness too can be cultivated. It is not an easy task but also not unattainable.

“There is a radio playing in our head: Radio Station NST: Non Stop Thinking.” Mindfulness helps in silencing this non-stop station.

“Silence comes from the heart; it doesn’t mean we have to sit quietly.” No. It means learning to control the internal chatter, to calm the mind by “changing the way of your thinking and way of your looking.”

It is this chatter that prevents us from listening to ourselves or any one else. Only when we

“listen deeply to ourselves, can we listen to others. Take some time each day to listen with compassion to your inner child, to listen to the things clamoring to be heard. Then you will know how to listen to others.”

Four mantras to cultivate deep listening and presence in your relationships:

“1. I am here for you.

2. I know you are there, and I am very happy.

3. I know you suffer; that’s why I am here for you.

4. I suffer, please help.”

I have tried to condense a 225-page book into a short post to convey the most significant points that highlight the power of silence.

Thank you for reading.

Balroop Singh.

If you like poetry,  check my latest book: Magical Whispers

An “Eccentric” Historical Figure

This post is inspired from Robbie’s Open Book Blog Hop – A historical figure who interests me.

Have you heard about an eccentric king – a paradoxical personality?

Known as “the inhuman eccentric” and “a man of knowledge” who had an interest in subjects like philosophy, medicine, mathematics, religion, Persian and Urdu/Hindustani poetry, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the sultan of Delhi from 1325-1351 is the most fascinating historical figure. He is famous for his bizarre, illogical and impractical decisions that earned him the title of a “crazy” king. It is astounding to note that he could rule for 25 years despite his wild policies.

In contemporary times, Tughlaq is a term still used to tease someone when they do something illogical or counter-intuitive.

What did he do to earn such titles?

  1. He ordered to move his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad and told all the citizens to move to the new capital. In the process, many died on the road due to hunger and exhaustion. (1327)

2. Just after eight years, in 1335, due to political repercussions, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi, allowing the citizens to return to their previous city. Isn’t it crazy?

3. He allowed the use of token currency, that means coins of brass and copper were minted whose value was equal to that of gold and silver coins. As a result, the value of currency declined and the coins became as “worthless as stones.” Anybody could mint them at home. Nobody could distinguish between the official and the forged coins.

4. He increased the land revenue tax at a time when the Doab region was facing famine, thereby antagonizing his own people.

5. He lost an army of 10,000 soldiers (who perished in the Himalayas) due to poor planning of Karajal expedition.

However, many historians believe that he was a “visionary and a reformer” but lacked the ability to implement his plans.

Ironically, there is no dearth of such personalities in modern times too! It is easier to have a vision.

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Thank you.

Snow White: Another Perspective

Snow White has been an adorable character for children since time immemorial and who can forget the dwarfs? Have you ever thought that this timeless tale could be retold with a new flavor? Cathleen has done it brilliantly and that too in two volumes. Here are my reviews of both the books, which should be read in continuation to enjoy the story that goes much far to mingle with the historical facts of the civil war.

My Reviews:

Snow White and the Civil War #1 by Cathleen Townsend may remind us of the fairy tale of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ but this story moves beyond the jealousy and cruelty of a stepmother. It focuses on the development of Gwen, how she learns to survive and excels in various skills that make her a darling of her new friends.

It is Janet’s kindness, her eagerness to learn and her perseverance that makes her an endearing character, well versed with the wisdom that she picks up slowly from her devoted friends cum uncles. Gentle love gestures of Jack and Charlie add a romantic touch to the tale. The role of dwarves has been drawn with bold strokes, which raise this simple story to epic proportions. I really enjoyed reading this book. 

5 STARS.

***

 

Plot of Gold continues the story of Snow White and book -1 has to be read to understand why Jack is looking for Gwendolyn Hilton and why does he owe money to his father. New characters are introduced to give another dimension to the story. Would Jack succeed in his mission? Would he ever meet Janet? The doubts persist as he plans to marry Eliza. Major part of the story dwells on the Civil War, the role of military intelligence and how Jack proves himself worthy of the work assigned to him by Colonel Evans.

Cathleen’s characters contribute significantly to the story; their depth and dimensions are noteworthy and their development is impressive. Though the plot focuses on Jack but all the characters grow, change and emerge out of their conflicts except the wicked stepmother of Gwen. Even Eliza and Mrs. Hammond make their presence felt. I like how poetry, music and dance form an essential part of their lives. This is a fine combination of fairy tale and historical fiction. 5 STARS.
– Balroop Singh 

Meet the author:

“I always wanted to write fiction,” says Cathleen, “even as a child, but for many years I never had anything I thought was good enough to share. My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings, and that’s an intimidating standard.

I finally began by writing biographies of my family members, mostly those from the Greatest Generation, as a family history project. After that, the whole process seemed a lot more possible, as if something inside me had clicked into place. So, then I finally sat down and started writing novels, and it was like they exploded out of me.

I also enjoy writing short stories. Some I submit to online mags and publishers, but others go straight to my blog. I write mostly fantasy, but ghost stories, historicals, and even the odd contemporary tickles my fancy at times.”

Cathleen Townsend trained as a social scientist, and at various times has been a teacher, a waitress, a donut baker, and a construction worker. She’s survived parenting, scuba-diving with a Mako shark, and a plane crash.

Her stories, both whimsical and serious, are drawn from the rich sources of folklore and history to inspire the belief that a single person can make a difference in the world, even if that world contains a dragon or two.

Cathleen lives in California’s beautiful gold country, and in her mind, dwarves and pixies also lurk in the oak- and pine-covered hills. She enjoys chatting with readers on her blog at cathleentownsend.com.