Sharanya presents a succinct retelling of the tragic, heroic life of one of the central characters of the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata.
This slim debut, written in verse and adorned with illustrations, begins in India circa 3000 B.C. A contentious old sage gives 13-year-old Princess Kanti a magical mantra to call down any god from the heavens, but unbeknownst to her, the mantra’s true purpose is to impregnate her with a god’s progeny. Thus Kanti naively summons Surya Narayan, the god of the sun, who explains that he is to be her child’s father, and immediately, baby Radheya—clad in gold earrings and a gold breastplate—springs from Kanti’s ear. Kanti, afraid of what people may think of her, places her son in a box of carved sandalwood and sets him sailing in the River Ganga, where Atirath, the charioteer, and his kindly wife, Radha, discover him. This colorful story focuses on Radheya’s heroic nature—he becomes known as the “Greatest of Givers”—and the irony that he’s a member of the nobility while his adoptive parents are of a lower class. In one of the book’s final scenes, Radheya must battle his own brothers, but throughout this book, regardless of temptation or sorrow, Radheya remains steadfastly loyal to his loved ones. Sharanya’s poetic style makes for easy reading, as in a poignant scene in which Radheya is briefly reunited with his birth mother: “Yes, Queen Kanti, I have heard you are my mother! / Oh, my mother, darling mother, now come near! / Why did you make me sorrow in your absence / when I wanted just to glimpse you all these years?” Sanskrit and Hindi words appear in the text, and some word endings have been changed to suit the poetry. The book’s brevity may be off-putting to readers looking for more character development, plot details or battle scenes, but overall, it’s an effective introduction to the dynamic legend of Radheya.
An often engaging ballad that may compel readers to further explore The Mahabharata.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.