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Book Reviews

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Mantra to Mahatma!
Mantra to Mahatma!
Review by Shravasti Dhammika
The recently published Mantra to Mahatma by Singaporean poetess Anita M. Bennett is a collection of 33 poems. Clearly Bennett favours and excels in the modernist form and uses blank verse to a most pleasing effect. Most of the poems are about or are dedicated to persons the author admires. In fact, the collection is dedicated to George Harrison. Exceptions are poems such as Poetry of Pain, The Empire and the Ruled and Song Offerings in which the personal element is strong. In keeping with the collection's title the fragrance of Eastern spirituality permeates other poems and the longest one in the collection is a paean to Prince Siddhattha, the Buddha. Bennett has a particular skill with turns of phrase; "You massage Me into shape", "I was still and God was moving", "Your Astral Sea" and "the flaming torch of My own Life!" being some of the more striking ones. This is a collection that any lover of poetry can dip into during quiet moments, or at times of reverie and be transported to other more spiritual realms. ...


Mantra to Mahatma!
Mantra to Mahatma!
Review by Tony Reavill, Editor of The Poetry Church
All the World's her stage Let me begin by saying I am writing this review at this moment under protest, because it is demanded of me, not because I am ready. Perhaps this is a good thing because it would need to be the size of a doctorial thesis, with specified instances to make my points clear, to do it justice. However, as many West End play reviews have shown, reviewing can be highly subjective and in many cases unsupported . So here are my potentially unjustified feelings: When I meet a new book I automatically search the 'margins' for indications of what I am likely to find in the main text. One can learn so much from what is outside the text itself and this book is no exception. To start with the front cover, (which I understand was closely prescribed to the publisher by the author and therefore representative of her intentions), the colours are the most intensely emotional possible, rich red on dark ground and profound blues, conjuring up an atmosphere of sacred ritual worship invoking the spirits of Mahatma Ghandi and George Harrison. (The former was a Hindu with a legal mind trained in England, used thereafter in the defence of freedom for the downtrodden segregated poor in South Africa; while the latter was arguably the most sensitive Beatle who espoused the Hindu culture after his initial success as a western rock-grounded musician.) Two figures in half lotus appear to be levitating slightly in a sub-marine shrine and evoke memories of youthful Harrison at his most captivating and perhaps the poet herself with him, contemplating enlightenment. It was no surprise to me therefore to find our book's author in the process of writing 'Mantra to Mahatma' fracturing the cultures of the East and West to reconstitute them in an overlapping racial complexity which embraces us all. The most striking statement made in the title pages is the positive denial that there is anything but fiction in the ensuing poems, which opens up the interesting proposition that these are dramatic monologues hiding the real feelings of the writer in the same way Robert Browning and even Shakespeare hide in the shadows behind the situations of their characters. John Keats talks about 'negative capability', the chameleon ability of authors to cloak themselves so strongly in the disguises of their creations that their real attitudes are imperceptible. This may be the case with Anita Bennett, but I suspect that some of her factual experiences do still peep through, affecting her choice of subjects. There is an underpinning humanitarianism throughout the collection. I think this string-pulling poetic puppeteer always has a generous love for her fellow human race. This lack of malice, almost of forgiveness, pervades the whole book. So who are the characters who people her pages? Here are examples of stories which hover between fiction and reality, the scenarios of a few of these remarkably vivid episodes where I cannot tell where fact ends and invention begins. For instance, the title-poem 'Mantra to Mahatma' is a vocative poem addressed to Gandhiji imploring him to return to Maganvadi. At first reading, it felt to be post-assassination, calling on his spirit to come back to solve the Indian political muddle as the only man who could speak to both Hindu and Muslim. If we go by the dedication to the 'late' George Harrison, it must a Twenty-first Century poem. But the point is that it doesn't matter when it is set; the sentiments are strong and clear – the emotions are bright, his ashram 'glows' – she, (assuming it is a 'she' because the speaker seems personally involved), wishes to be beautified with flowers such as Thoreau wrote about, and to eat 'boiled vegetables from brass plates' with the man who could perhaps have unified the Hindus and Muslims. A similar blurring of time, place and character takes place in 'Goodbye Teacher' with a real person, Carlo Ly, who was a fine Chinese Catholic priest, seen through the eyes of his student, Anita's brother. This lack of definition is a positive force which makes the reader concentrate on the good life of the man himself, his achievements, and suffering at the hands of the Maoists. Again the theme is a laudable life, lived to relieve oppression, which the author admires and commends. Her heart is in the right place. We keep returning to fine actions in a naughty world made up of many faiths, and always coming down on the side of generosity and unselfishness. Other such treatments are found in 'The Atheist', 'From a Mistress', and 'His Name', poems in which there is an interplay of blame, nobility of action and forgiveness. These are qualities at the heart of the central problems of twenty-first century racial politics, small-scale exercises in the acceptance of imperfection in others without which all negotiations inevitably founder in stalemate. Anita Bennett speaks for women trapped by injustice and prejudice in today's society. She can equally speak for men caught in the obligations of war in her detached poetic voice of reason and calm. In her grand-scale poems such as 'Seeking the Palace of Siddharta' and 'Hail Himalayas' this voice can stir great emotional optimism. Similarly she can speak passionately identifying the cruelty, heroism, suffering or joy of any human situation ranging from avoiding rape to being inspired by the beauty of her many favourite musicians; or about her own (real?) admiration of our Diana, Queen of Hearts, showing a touching affection for, and trust in, the integrity all things British. Her sincerity as a poet is revealed in her choice of themes; she cares deeply enough about these people to write so sensitively about them. This is how she shows love and hate – she conveys them in her inimitable stream-of-consciousness-language allowing her characters' speech to change direction as easily as we flit from one thought to another. It also licences the occasional crude, ugly words and ideas necessary to the action, without causing...


Finding The Rainbow
Finding The Rainbow
Review by Petrine
This was a lovely story. The subject area made me think it would be really depressing but I enjoyed the way that the writer put her own slant on her experience in a way that left me feeling that she will one day get her dream, and if she doesn't she will survive. I liked it a lot and would recommend to anyone going through a personal challenge and how you need to find a different perspective. I think is book will be a great success.. Thank you for your story....


Finding The Rainbow
Finding The Rainbow
Review by Aurora
I received this book via amazon, early - after ordering it pre release. It was a story I was highly interested in as I have followed the author for a while on her page. I had expectations, but can I tell you it was more than that. I'm someone who has also experienced miscarriage and some infertility challenges. The story is warm, emotional, honest, raw and it keeps you going through the author's own pregnancy stories, each making you feel the ups and the downs. Her strength and her honesty is touching, and yet she stays positive and seems to show a real sense of humour and reality to her situation. I highly recommend to others whether you have had the same experiences or whether you want a story of a woman's strength to enjoy. Its not a long book, it took me a few hours, but I couldn't put it down....


Three Decades of Duty (The Comedy)
Three Decades of Duty (The Comedy)
Review by Brian
Thoroughly enjoyable and an easy read, having never served in the Army it is a refreshing angle on what the Army and particularly the Parachute Regiment get up to around the world. I laughed out loud at some of the stories, others were very amusing and some very poignant. An excellent insight into the make up of soldiers and their sense of humour. Very well done. ...


The Somewhat Bumpy Story Of The Bath On Legs
The Somewhat Bumpy Story Of The Bath On Legs
Review by Thomas
Great book for all kids. Lots of adventure and twists ...


Chopwell Story
Chopwell Story
Review by Sylvia
John read your book just before he died. He was thrilled and amused to have been included in your story. It seemed to me quite a good story but I felt you tried too hard to vent your rage from a personal point of view. Please get in touch if you can....


Destiny Falls
Destiny Falls
Review by Karina
I first wondered if this book would be up to scratch as the author is so young, but then I was duly reminded that Francoise Sagan and Tove Ditlevsen wrote fantastic books at the age of eighteen so I duly sat down to read a book I didn't expect to enjoy that much. How wrong was I! This is a fast paced and entertaining book with a clever plot that keeps you guessing until the end. It also has a serious undertone portraying what happens in the harsh social world of young people these days. My daughter who is 13 and dyslexic, also read it with and almost obsessional interest which is a first since reading is quite difficult for her. It is also very interesting to know the authors back story and that so much of this book has an autobiographical thread running through it so the work of this young woman can only leave you touched and very impressed. Next time I hear that young people now a days are lazy and good for nothing, I will give them this book and suggest they read it before making further comments. Well done Ms Monteiro and I can't wait for the next installment. For those of you who don't know what to give as stocking fillers for your teenagers and family, I suggest you give them this as it's sure to keep them well away from the TV. An all together good read which bodes well for the future work of this author....


Marginus Morius
Marginus Morius
Review by Eugenia
I had the privilege to read this book in Greek and now I am very glad to see its English edition. There are books that you read for pleasure and there are books that transform your life in a way you could have never imagined. Marginus Morius is a magical fable about a spiritual journey. Almost on every page there is a hidden message for those who struggle for a spiritual path and look for a meaning in daily life. Every few years a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. ...


Lightblaser
Lightblaser
Review by Richard
Really enjoyed this book, the way it opens out a new world to discover and the rich history that the author has begun to reveal. Can not wait to see the next part of this great saga....


The Lady Predator
The Lady Predator
Review by maki
Disturbingly honest, explicit and moving confession that's not easy to forget. ...


The Lady Predator
The Lady Predator
Review by Aleksandar
That book is sooo sooo good, i loved it,i have read it for several times,and every time i read it i had a feeling that I am reading that book for the first time,i really enyoid it.Recommend for all users of this site,and all people to read it. ...


The Lady Predator
The Lady Predator
Review by dejana
I loved it.It is my favorite kind of story (true story).While reading I couldn't concentrate to get anything done.If you enjoy a read that will stay with you for days after you finish it,than I recommend you The Lady Predator....


Mantra to Mahatma!
Mantra to Mahatma!
Review by Clive Martyn, Examiner for Trinity College, Editor
It was a humbling experience to read such a range of texts imbued with both erudition and playfulness. So far I have particularly enjoyed ‘Hail Himalayas’, ‘The Empire and The Ruled’, ‘Restoration’, ‘His Name’, and ‘From A Mistress!...


Life's a Bag of Laughs
Life's a Bag of Laughs
Review by Helen
Brilliant! So glad my friend recommended this to me, a great read, very funny and I can totally relate to it! This is a great, easy going book with short chapters of real life capers to make you giggle with wonder or secretly admit that you've totally done the same!...


Life's a Bag of Laughs
Life's a Bag of Laughs
Review by Angela
Recommended by a friend and I am so glad she did. Very funny anecdotes which you can totally relate to. Easy to read and highly recommended holiday reading. Looking forward to the next book...


Life's a Bag of Laughs
Life's a Bag of Laughs
Review by Emma
a fantastic, funny book packed with short tales of embarrassing moments, to laugh out loud stories of disaster. I read it in the bath, on the train but I think the best place to read this would be on the beach!! ...


Batsu
Batsu
Review by Richard Hardie
My reasons for buying a book vary from the fact that one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, or Bernard Cornwell has a new release, to the need to buy research material for my own writing projects. In the case of Batsu, I met Richard Frankland at a book signing and was intrigued enough both by him and by what he had to say to break the habit of a lifetime and buy a book by an author I’d never heard of and in a genre I don’t normally read. A decision I didn’t regret. Batsu is Japanese for “retribution” and is a sequel to the first in the series of books about Ian Vaughan. In the first of the series, Vaughan and his family are kidnapped by the Japanese Red Brigade terrorist group, although Vaughan manages to foil the terror gang’s plot and rescue his family, killing a couple of the terrorists in the process including the sister of one of the terror group leaders. The whole episode does irreparable harm to his marriage, which is where “Batsu” starts. Two of the Japanese terror gang have been released from prison and sent under cover to the UK with other terrorists, via Canada. Once in the UK they rescue the leader of their terror group and having joined up with agents from North Korea, they put their plans into effect for a major coup against the West. You’ll have to read “Batsu” to find out what the coup is and Richard Frankland keeps you guessing until the end with numerous satisfying red herrings. I mentioned that this isn’t a genre I normally enjoy, but “Batsu” is superbly written and crafted and I would put it on a par with Fredrick Forsyth at his best. Frankland’s Japanese terrorists are chillingly ruthless as killers, and yet have the perfect manners and humility that is inherent is the Japanese psyche. Frankland’s hero, Ian Vaughan, is a likeable character and one that you have sympathy for both initially and more so as the book progresses. His wife has left him and taken his children, allowing him the absolute minimum of visiting rights and one of the terrorists is determined to take revenge on Vaughan for the killing of his sister. Ian tries to stay out of trouble and let the secret services deal with the situation, but when the terrorists arrive in the West Country very near to where he’s staying Ian decides he needs to act. “Batsu” or “Retribution” is aptly titled. Is it Vaughan’s retribution for the destruction of his marriage and family, or is it the vengeance of one of the terrorists for the death of his sister? Is it the retribution of a violent Japanese terrorist group against Western capitalism, or the revenge of the terrorist leader whose plans Vaughan wrecked in Richard Frankland’s first book. “Batsu” is highly satisfying as a thriller on every level. The twists and turns are not there to annoy the reader, as they are in so many books, they’re logical and intrinsic to the plot. None of the characters are superfluous and are all well structured. Most importantly the ending is fist-pumpingly good. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it to anyone. ...


Escaped From Syria
Escaped From Syria
Review by Uma Khan
It is a Heart touching book. The author has kept it simple, clear and gripping throughout the whole book, just didn't want to put it down. After reading the book it made me reflect on my own life. It just gave me slightly closer glimpse of truly horrifying events that actually taking place in Syria. I would highly recommend the book it is amazing read!...


Escaped From Syria
Escaped From Syria
Review by Anne
The novel gives an insight into the struggles which the Syrians are facing. Not only does it explore the issues surrounding what is going on in Syria, but it further elaborates on the difficulties the refugees face when fleeing their country. I hear that the author is supporting charities in Syria. Wow. An inspirational woman! Definitely one to look out for. Full five stars from me!...


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