Bunyan’s Guide To The Great American Wildlife- Quentin Canterel

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“I don’t want to be weak. I want to have a voice like everyone else…Without a voice, I am nothing.”

That’s how many of us feel. However for some, this sentiment is monumental.

Take John, for instance. He was a twenty-three year old anarchist who was writing a guide to the Great American Wildlife along with a plan to free animals from two New York Zoos and a circus. He was obsessed with Felicity, a twenty- six year old trust-fund kid from England who was trying to escape her privileged past by working at a New York animal shelter. John introduced Felicity to Willow’s diary- the other woman in his life- who grew up in the Georgia wilderness and was “electively mute” for most of her childhood. Needless to say, she needed a voice.

If that wasn’t strange enough, John’s Ota Benga Society–named after a pygmy who was displayed in the Bronx zoo—was planning this rebellion along with others seeking a voice. Felicity, with her PETA leanings was drawn into this organization. In the society John used characters from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, like Lord Hate-Good. (Yes, I did a lot of googling while reading this book.)

Too weird for you? Let me tell you this…

It took me awhile to get into the story, but I’m sure glad that I hung in there. The conclusion is stated near the beginning, but it’s the voyage that gives the big payoff. Also there are major twists that each reader will discover at different times and points of the story. Even though I figured them out before they were actually revealed, it was well worth every minute of my time.

Though Canterel has a talent for giving his characters such unique voices, he also used different fonts and prints to explore each of them.

I admit I love the dark and bizarre, like Canterel’s first novel, The Jolly CoronerFor those of you who also do, Bunyan’s Guide To The Great American Wildlife is for you. Though it’s a lot different than The Jolly Coroner, it tells me that there’s a lot in Canterel’s head, and I can’t wait to read his next novel.

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Re-Thinking Autism: Diagnosis, Identity and Equality -Sami Timimi (Editor), Rebecca Mallett (Editor)

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)


“Autism was not the problem: it was the systems, attitudes, and environments that disable people with autism that should be the focus of any concern.”

Such a simple statement and yet what a profound message it imparts. Autism has become one of those viral entities that everyone wants to talk about in an attempt to spread awareness. But no one really understands the subtle complexities that are involved.

Re-thinking Autism questions the prejudices and assumptions that surround a diagnosis of autism in the 21st century.

“These words – ‘living’ and ‘with’ – are so commonly strung together in relation to autism in everyday life that they appear everywhere from newspaper articles to government reports, from scientific studies to celebrity appeals, from fundraising initiatives to self-help books.”

Each line and each chapter of the book imparts an extensive and well -researched peek into the world of autism. Like the title says, the book talks about how autism has been part of society and how the diagnosis has evolved over the period. While earlier prevalence could be seen as 4 in 10,000 in the 1960s, there has been s 50-fold rise in the number, i.e. 1 in every 50 individuals. And yet, despite the increase in case load, the lack of understanding and the abundance of stigmatisation is still staggering.

“Social oppression theories of disability recognise disability not as an individual, medical problem but as the product of a disabling society that ‘is geared to, built for and by, and controlled by non disabled people’ (Swain, French and Cameron 2003, p.2)”

The authors clearly state from the start that the broad aim of this book is to disabuse people from accepting the current understanding of autism as a biologically based biomedical disorder or brain difference. With this aim, the entire book has been written in 18 chapters which have been divided in three parts. While there is a definite fluency in the entire content, what makes this book more user-friendly is the fact that depending on your area of interest, you can actually skip to any of the sections without suffering any lag in understanding. I will emphasise on this point mainly because some of the chapters are overtly technical and the language of narration can be tough to read and comprehend.

This is an excellent book for those who simply want to understand and gain more insight into Autism. With the abundance of commercialisation that is available, a simple understanding and clarity goes a long way. Please keep in mind that not everyone will find this enjoyable – mainly because of the technical nature of language. But it is a worthy read for those who are interested and who are willing to take time.

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Game of Anarchy: Race Against Time – Kenneth Jones

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Rita has created a reputation as the Sting Queen solely based on her ability to expose corrupt politicians and their unsavoury schemes.

Samar is a highly decorated officer in the Indian Army, who is disillusioned with the government.

Raghav has made his name in the high profile world of business. He has everything in his life. But what he loves to do is pull strings in the maze of power.

These highly motivated friends from college envisioned a golden future for their country. What they never imagined was a reunion in the middle of chaos and anarchy in their beloved country, while standing with their ideologies at different ends of the spectrum.

First of all, I would like to thank the author for letting me access this book in exchange for an honest review.

With my recent fare of political fictions and conspiracies, my head feels like it is floating in a cloud of illusions. The plot of the book is too realistic to ignore. Based completely on the political mayhem in India, the realities of the plot will resound too well with the common public. The success of the book can be largely credited to the excellent narration of the plot comprised of dirty politics and corruption. The characters are well conceptualised and complement well with the plot. The numerous sub-plots may appear out of order, but they coordinate well with the theme of anarchy that was being depicted, and all of them are coherently tied up at the end into a complete package of fast, mind-blowing action.

The cover image is a beautiful representation of the much-cherished Indian Constitution which is often dissed and trivialised in the current era. The title plays well with the plot and creates a moment of intrigue and curiosity for the reader.

Game of Anarchy is a beautiful book from a debut author. I definitely recommend it, especially for those who are fans of political fiction in general or have followed books written by Vince Flynn.

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Weight Loss for Vegans – Kayla Keyes

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Lose weight and learn how to love yourself in ten days using Kayla’s structured diet plan.

Kayla Keyes begins to tell us the reasons why we even start to consider making changes in our lives. She believes that there are events that trigger our feelings, for example, separation, moving away from home or getting a new job. Her intentions are not for us to just lose some weight but to also “lose the baggage” she claims, “we are carrying around (externally & internally).”

The whole book is for vegans; that is a no-brainer considering the name of the book clearly states that. However if you are not a vegan, you can still benefit from this book and lose some weight. You just won’t be consuming any meat.

The program provides a shopping list and some aspirational quotes to motivate you and help you succeed. Kayla provides recipes and instructions with every meal. This book is more like a detox plan. You can also continue with the diet plan after ten days if you wish.

The problem I had with the book was that there are no references to how many people have tried this or how successful her regime plan is. There is also no personal information or any story to suggest if she had struggled with weight loss (a reason to write such a book). There is also nothing stating how she even came up with such a diet plan in the book.

What I did like about the book was that she asks you to reward yourself with things that you like such as a spa treatment or a nail appointment, a haircut rather than indulging in fast food. I also liked the fact that she encourages exercise with the program and consistently makes sure that you know losing weight comes with you being happy with yourself. It does not matter what size or shape you wish to be. As long as you are comfortable in your own skin, then it is good enough for everyone else. There are four steps provided by the author to assist you with improvement on your current level of self-love. I believe that is useful for anyone in any condition even if they don’t want to lose weight.

I recommend Weight Loss for Vegans to anyone who wishes to lose weight and also learn a little about self-love.

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The Vikramaditya Trilogy Book 1/The Guardians of the Halahala – Shatrujit Nath

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

The price of a promise, paid in blood.

The deadly Halahala, the all devouring poison was an accidental find during the churning from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras. Even the great Omnipotent Shiva didn’t escape its potent effect. However a small portion of the poison still remains, and now this powerful weapon is the cause of battle between the asuras and the devas.

As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess The Halahala, Shuva turns to the neutrality of mankind and righteousness of King Vikramaditya to protect the universe from the curse of the Halahala.

My love for mythology started in the lap of my great-grandmother. So obviously I have heard about the story of King Vikramaditya and his righteous rule. For this very reason I have been attracted to this book for a very long time. The plot is simply a fantastical sweeping journey through the elements of myth and legend that paints a vivid and dramatic picture right from the moment you start the book.

The quality of writing is powerful and beautiful and manages to transport the readers to a surreal world that captures your attention with its strength of plot conviction, majestic characters, face pace of narration and equally significant sub-plots that point towards exciting future installments. There is not a single element of the book that I would change and I cannot emphasise enough how much I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Guardians of the Halahala is an absolutely fantastic book that I would recommend to all, especially those who love fantasy and mythology. Being based on Indian mythologies, some might find difficulty in enunciating certain terminologies. Don’t lose hope; this is one of those books that you can always go back to for another read.

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Eve Out of Her Ruins – Ananda Devi (translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)


“Night makes its way into our bodies and refuses to leave. Night and our hormones gone wild. We boys are bundles of frustration. We start following girls to the shuttered factory that devoured our mothers’ dreams. Maybe that’s also what’s waiting for them. There’s nothing left of the factory but an empty metal shell and hundreds of sewing machines which carved into their shoulders that curve of despair and into their hands those nicks and cuts like tattoos. The remnants of every woman who worked here linger. “


That is Saad, one of four seventeen year olds who poignantly describe  life of survival in Troumaron on the beautiful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. This is the part of the island that tourists never see.

Eve: “I am in permanent negotiation. My body is a stop-over. … Everyone leaves some trace, marks his territory. …I’m buying my future. I am transparent.”  She only has one girlfriend, Savita , who sees her as “shipwrecked” and desperately wants to save her.

Saad and Clélio find other methods of survival. Saad admits “Nobody really wants to do it, but when you’re a gang, you have to forget that you’re a person, you have to be part of this moving, powerful, hot body that nothing can stop. Once you start moving, you have to go all the way.”

Saad is in love with Eve, but she admits to him “The day I say I love you to a man, I’ll kill myself.” Clélio is consumed with his own issues, filling him with so much anger that it is stifling.

It’s disturbing enough to hear the everyday accounts of desperation from these four teenagers, along with the institutionalized violence, especially against women. Unfortunately, the unspeakable does occur with all of the inevitable consequences, hitting the reader like a ton of bricks.

As you can tell from the quotes I selected – and it was difficult to pick just a few- , author Ananda Devi, originally from Mauritius herself, writes such beautiful prose, but doesn’t sugar-coat life on this popular tourist destination. What I can’t figure out is how she can write with such beauty while expressing the ugliness so vividly. I don’t know how much of it is due to Jeffrey Zuckerman’s translation.

I recommend Eve Out of Her Ruins for  those who relish beautiful prose along with readers and travelers who need a dose of reality. Unfortunately, that’s most of us.

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Seven Visual Steps to Yes: Difficult Decisions, Mediations and Negotiations Made Easier – Janet Miller Wiseman

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)


Seven Visual Steps to Yes is a reinforced and redesigned format of a user-friendlier book in an attempt to resolve conflict in relationships. Even if a couple is struggling to decide where to place their Christmas tree this year, Janet Wiseman is here to save the day!

Before starting to use the seven steps you first have to define the conflict in order to resolve it. Once that is clarified, then there is a formula of which this book goes into detail on, to come up with a solution.

Every chapter of this book explains a different situation between couples and their conflicts. Step by step you get to learn how to divide the various issues and to sub-categorize them to see the bigger picture. You then start eliminating them based on a point system. Very simply put, soon you realize that a huge problem like a divorce or having a mother in law moving in with you, is resolved in a way that you, not only have the complication settled, but still have a smile on your face as well.

Janet Miller Wiseman is a certified family and divorce mediator. I found her book easy to understand and very logical. The book, in general, is something that I believe anyone would need handy in his or her life. If I had to suggest anything, it would be that an initial diagram of how the seven steps fall into place would have been an excellent addition to the book before getting into particular scenarios.

What I liked most about the book was that there are times when we think that needing and wanting something are the same. If you step back and have an in depth thought on what I just said, you realize that we have made many decisions in our lives based on wanting things rather than needing them.

In summary, the book is a fairy godmother to our 21st-century problems. It is proven to work and can be reliable. Anyone interested in a logical way of decision-making can pick this book up and find it very useful.

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Men – Marie Darrieussecq (Translated from the French by Penny Hueston)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…waiting began again, waiting as a chronic disease. A sticky fever, a torpor. And, between the times she saw him, the reinfections, she slowly immersed herself in the paradox that she was waiting for a man she was losing sight of, an invented man. The waiting was the reality; her waiting was the proof of his life, as if the body of this man, when she held him in her arms was made of the texture of time, fatally fleeting.”

Yes, Solange knew all to well about waiting. As a French actress living in Los Angeles, she was use to “waiting between films, between takes.  But  this waiting was different.  She lived only for his approval.  She waited for life to start up again.”

, Her long-time friend defined her “waiting” as a mental female illness.

Solange’s obsession is with Kohouesso, an actor and filmmaker originally from Camaroon, raised in France, who later identified himself as a Canadian. They both ended up as foreigners in the United States.  “As if they knew each other already through intervening countries. ” However their cultural history is so much different.

He shoots a feature film in Cameroon, and Solange not only learns more about waiting, but also how the real Africa is so much different than the romanticized one in  the movies. She hopes to learn more about Kohouesso, the man.

You’re probably wondering why I am quoting so much from the novel. In fact, I would even like to give you more examples of the luscious prose and/or translation, which, along with the story, kept me addicted to each page. Emotions run strong in this novel.

Men is advertised as “A Novel of Cinema & Desire”. The  politics of the film industry is realistically portrayed and the story often reads like a memoir.  The only downside of the novel is that I felt that the time in Cameroon was too drawn out on the cinematic side; though the cultural aspects and differences add to the story. The ending is predictable, though it makes perfect sense and doesn’t take away from the story.

I recommend Men for readers who enjoy literary fiction with an emotional punch.

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On the Nose: A Lifelong Obsession with Yosemite’s Most Iconic Climb – by Hans Florine , Jayme Moye

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

In a span of thirty years, Hans Florine has captured the intricacies of the Nose of El Captain over one hundred times. The book talks about ‘the wildest competition known to man and the spirit with which Hans has captured numerous titles.

I think it’s my itch for the world of travel that is changing my focus from the usual cabaret of fiction to the world of non-fiction.

Why on earth would anyone climb the Nose one hundred times (or 101 times, as of the date of this publishing)? I’m not sure that’s the right question. How about this one: Why on earth would anyone work a job they don’t care about, day after day, for 261 days a year? Or this one: Why would someone who has a choice settle for “good enough” instead of going after great? 

The anecdote from the author explains the entirety of the book. While the preview paints a stark picture of why Yosemite is considered as one of the greatest rock climbing feats, the simplicity with which the geophysical elements are described for the layman helps in creating the first step through which the reader is going to see this book. The tone of personal narration helps in understanding and appreciating the grit and determination the author has towards his obsession with the Nose. From a fledgling in the rock-climbing career and his first failure that ended in 14 hours, the author has beautifully recounted his growth in character and personalisation while respecting the nature that has challenged him and provided him with the strength to overcome that very challenge. The true essence of the book is this very growth and journey and as a reader, I personally resonated well with this more than anything else.

Looking back, I think the collaboration was extra appealing to me because it flew in the face of the idea of El Captain as a battleground. I loved competition, but I’d choose collaboration over war any day.

For an autobiography to be successful, it requires everything: the journey, the hopes and dreams, the colorful personalities that comes with friendships and rivalries. The author was successfully able to capture that and take the readers along for a reminiscing journey. For a novice like me, some of the technical aspects of rock climbing might appear to be baffling; to be honest I didn’t even know such things existed. Having been a novice once, Hans understands this very dilemma and has made the effort to make it simpler for the reader to understand, appreciate and get intrigued by it. I definitely am. The easy style of writing shows his familiarity with the role of mentoring and the candid bond it requires.

I absolutely loved the book. I may not ever get into the scene of rock climbing, but the vivid picture of the sport and the Yosemite definitely keeps calling to my attention.

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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules- Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

(Reviewed by Pat Luboff)

If I needed to sum up this book in one word, it would be “delightful!”

The setting is a retirement home in Sweden. The main characters are five elderly residents in their 70s and 80s. They are long-time friends and former members of the same choir. The greedy manager of the “Diamond House” is cutting back on coffee and buns and they meet to discuss the worsening of conditions. After seeing a TV show on Swedish prisons, they decide they’d be better off in prison and plot together to do a big enough crime to land them there!

Because my husband’s father married a wonderful Swedish lady in 1973, we have had the good fortune to visit Sweden on several occasions. Swedish people do things that are right, just because they are right. Not in an uptight, rigid way; but right because it’s beautiful, harmonious and good for all. They don’t drink and drive, not even one glass of wine on an island where there is no possibility of being caught by police. They don’t yell at or hit their kids. When I saw how everyone was treating their children, I had to ask what was up. The reply, “There is a law, we must be kind to the children.” Another fact, one in every ten Swedes is a member of a choir. It was this choral paradise that attracted my husband’s father, Norman Luboff, to Sweden, where he met and married said wonderful Swede!

So, I might understand the Swedish cultural personality more than the average American, and I recognize some of the multisyllabic names of places in this book. But I don’t think you need all that background to enjoy this book thoroughly.

Over some cookies and brandy and after singing some choral pieces together, the gang, now calling themselves the League of Pensioners, plan a crime big enough to land them in prison. They check into the Princess Lilian suite at the posh Grand Hotel and charge a lot of food and champagne to a bill they don’t intend to pay. From there, they launch their heist. They “kidnap” two Impressionist paintings, a Renoir and Monet, from the National Museum with the intention of demanding ransom money. They make off with the paintings in a Zimmer frame (we call them walkers). That just the beginning. There are a thousand surprising and funny twists to the plot. As Martha, the leader of the gang understated, “Things don’t always go exactly to plan.”

They confess to the crime and attain their goal of being put in prison, where they get ideas from the resident criminals and plan an even better crime when they’re let out. (I guess prison terms in Sweden are short!) There’s lots more to the plot and sub-plot and every sentence fairly drips with a gentle humor that had me smiling the entire time I was reading it.

Highly recommended! And if you want more Swedish humor, check out the movie, “The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.” Don’t let the Rotten Tomato score influence you. I laughed so hard watching this, I beat my thigh black and blue! In Swedish with sub-titles.


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