tigers-curse

The Synopsis

Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

The Review

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I took a class on postcolonial literature. Of course, this term is problematic for a lot of reasons; one being that it seems to suggest that colonialism is over, and secondly because it is hard to define what postcolonial literature even is. But, I digress. In the class, we read the ways in which supposedly ‘postcolonial’ countries are represented in literature, both from the perspective of the people from those countries and from the perspective of ‘outsiders’ (whatever that term could possibly mean in a world as globalized as ours). Reading Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck made me recall many of the lessons I learned in my literature class, and not in a good way.

The most problematic thing about this book is the way that it portrays non-Americans, whether it is the exaggerated Italian accent of the circus owner; the simplistic, misunderstood, and just flat out wrong ways it portrays ‘Indian religious mythology’; its representation of India as this ‘exotic place’, one that is reminiscent of tropes in postcolonial literature with regards to the ways that Westerners portray India; the stereotypical representation of the Indian people that the protagonist Kelsey meets along the way, amongst other issues. I could go on and on, but I think that you get the point. Kelsey is seen as the goddess Durga’s favored one, and the only person who can break the curse that traps Ren in his tiger form. It raises the question of why the author sees it fit to think that only a White American is capable of this feat, skipping over every single Indian, and even more specifically, someone who actually worships the goddess Durga. This is emblematic of the white savior complex.

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“The first boy to kiss your mother later raped women/when the war broke out. She remembers hearing this/from your uncle, then going to your bedroom and lying/down on the floor. You were at school.”

‘Teaching my mother how to give birth’ is a poetry collection by Warsan Shire which shows a unique ability to use words to paint a story, a knack for listening empathetically, and recording said stories with nuance. The book is about war, home, identity, love, loss, and from a combination of these elements inevitably arises a hope that things will all fall into place and yet the realization that it probably won’t. 

“Sofia used pigeon blood on her wedding night./Next day, over the phone, she told me/how her husband smiled when he saw the sheets”

A few of her poems in the chapbook, such as the one quoted above titled ‘Birds’ shows a unique ability to use humour to skew the expectations of women in society. Women are expected to be virgins when they get married and seeing them bleed on their wedding night is always a thing of pride for their husband and his family members. However, this expectation is never extended to the men, and in any case, there is no way to check this where men are concerned. And so, we see Sofia and by extension Shire, portraying this expectation in a humorous light. Continue reading

Absent in the Spring
(c) Agatha Christie; HarperCollins

“All her life she’d lived in a box. Yes, a box with toy children and toy servants and a toy husband.[…]perhaps, thought Joan, I’m not real. Perhaps I’m just a toy wife and mother.”

Under the pen name Mary Westmacott, Agatha Christie wrote several books that some fool labelled as romance novels. I can only assume they never read her books, or perhaps they are extraordinarily cynical about romance.* Anyway, Absent in the Spring is one of these novels, following the story of a narcissistic woman who finally recognizes how much harm she has caused to those around her. If Christie’s mystery novels tend to explore the human capacity for evil, this novel instead explores our capacity for willful ignorance and selfishness.

Joan Scudamore is annoyed when bad weather delays her journey home from abroad. She wants to return quickly to her perfect life, her happy children, and her loving husband. Alone in the desert without anything to distract her, all she can do is to reflect upon her memories of the past. Slowly, Joan realizes that her life is not perfect after all. Could it be that her children actually hate her? Is her husband miserable, perhaps even in love with another woman? Does her life have any real value or happiness? Worst of all, is Joan responsible for all of these problems in her own life?

I need to clarify something right away: you may think this sounds like a boring story, especially since most of the action happens through flashback scenes. The story also centers around family drama – problems like adultery, failed careers, illnesses, and so on. However, I was intrigued by the first two chapters, and firmly hooked by the third. If you like novels by L. M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and F. Scott Fitzgerald as much as I do, then you will probably really like this book as well. If you like mysteries, you will probably also like the book. Since Joan is an unreliable narrator, the reader basically has to piece together the truth about each of her memories. If you like happy endings….well, there’s kind of a happy ending, in a roundabout way. At any rate, I suggest you read this book and decide for yourself. Continue reading

nino+ricci+

Nino Ricci is a Canadian author and novelist. He is the writer of the highly acclaimed novel, Lives of the Saints, published in 1990, and winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association Fiction Award. Nino Ricci is also a personal role model of mine and reading his work has allowed for me to aspire to push boundaries as a writer and hopefully, this interview would give you an insight into his world.

Who inspired you to start writing? 

My first inspiration came from the writers I read as a child, from Dr. Seuss and Beverly Cleary and Walter R. Brooks to writers like Mark Twain and Jules Verne. I read voraciously when I was young, and without any concern for whether what I was reading was “high” literature or not. All that mattered was that it engaged my imagination. Eventually I realized that someone had to be writing those books I was reading, and I began to imagine that one-day that someone might be me.

Who is/are your role model(s)? 

My roles models in terms of my writing would be any writer whose work I have admired at some point in my life, from Dr. Seuss forward. From those who date from my more mature years I would include a fairly wide range, all the way back to writers like Homer and Sophocles and Catullus and Shakespeare through to more contemporary ones like Fydor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Virginia Woolf, Italo Calvino, and Alice Munro.

That is not to say that these writers have been role models in terms of how I wish to live my life. Writers don’t always make great role models in that regard. Their lives can be quite messy and dysfunctional, or simply boring. For life models, then, I have tended to look more to people like Jesus and Gandhi and Buddha (might as well shoot high) or, a bit more locally, to someone like Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In other words, I look to people who have stood for important values and who have been willing to fight for them in the face of tremendous opposition. Continue reading

Book Stack

Happy New Year, nerdy book readers! In honour of this happy occasion, we at Nerdy Book Reviews have organized a kind of sampling platter of novels to help you accomplish your New Year’s reading resolutions. Have you long desired to start reading mystery novels, but you don’t know where to start? Do you really want to give fantasy novels a try, but you feel bewildered by the sheer volume of books? Well, below are some of our picks for a good starter book in each of the major genres. We’ve provided an adult novel selection (the top part) and a young adult selection (the bottom part) for each category. So, without further ado…

Mystery
Thirteen at Dinner (aka Lord Edgeware Dies), by Agatha Christie

(c) Agatha Christie; HarperCollins
(c) Agatha Christie; HarperCollins

Agatha Christie is called the Queen of Mystery for good reason. She practically invented every major trope in the genre, and perfected the art of the red herring. Thirteen at Dinner (later renamed Lord Edgeware Dies) is a great example of her distinctive writing style. Centrally, the little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot must find out who murdered his client’s husband. Perennial idiot Captain Hastings and gloomy Inspector Japp co-star as his fellow investigators. As always, Christie provides a list of potential suspects, furnished with sinister motives and shaky alibis. I defy you to figure out the murderer before Poirot reveals them – I certainly wasn’t able to!

Paper Towns, by John Green

(c) John Green; Penguin
(c) John Green; Penguin Books

In an article from The New Yorker, John Green was referred to as “The Teen Whisperer”. This title could not be more aptly bestowed. As such, John Green is always a good place to start for anyone who is interested in Young Adult fiction, Continue reading