Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Devil’s Prayer – A Review

The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

I picked up this book because it promised to be a thriller with a dose of history and religion – a mix I have come to enjoy since I got hooked onto read Dan Brown’s books. It doesn’t disappoint.

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But first

The story…

The Devil’s Prayer opens with the suicide of Sister Benedictine before thousands of revellers. It is revealed that six years ago she had disappeared from her home to become a nun. News of her suicide reaches her family in Australia. Her daughters, Siobhan and Jess, and her mother Edith are devastated. 23-year-old Siobhan is most affected. In search of closure she decides to go to the monastery in Spain where her mum Denise had lived as Sister Benedectine.

She is surprised at the less than hospitable welcome she receives. Despite being advised to go back she stays long enough to find her mum’s confession. As she starts reading it she is intrigued and then shocked. Even as she is going through the confession she realises that she is being followed by some extremist monks. With no clue what the monks want from her Siobhan makes her roller-coaster way across Europe to reach the sanctuary of home.

At the end of the confession her mum entrusts Siobhan with a task which, if not completed, could destroy the world.

What I liked

It is hard to categorise this book. All I will say is that it is an interesting melange of history and religion with some super natural element thrown in for good measure. There is also a revenge saga that forms a large part of the story.

It is most definitely a fast paced thriller and keeps you at hooked. There is enough intrigue and plenty of twists and turns through the narrative to keep you turning the pages. As you follow Denise’s confession along with Siobhan you are by turns surprised, saddened and shocked. Without adding spoilers all I’ll say is that Denise’s desperation and her unhappy compromise were well written. Finally the deal she strikes and the deception come as a surprise.

I loved the way the plot integrated the super-natural into Denise’s story.

What I didn’t like

The violence in the book is brutal and gory. I couldn’t read through some of it and ended up skipping the worst parts. Also, the religious explanations get complicated at places and I lost the plot in bits.

I found some of the characters very stereotypical but they were side characters so one could let them be.

Then there’s the supernatural element which might not cut water with many readers. Some of it is improbable and requires you to stretch your imagination but then that’s what the super-natural is supposed to do. Personally, I liked it.

The worst thing about the book, however, was that it ended just at the most compelling part. There simply HAS to be a sequel.

My verdict: Go for it.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from Writers Melon in return for an honest and unbiased review.

The sunflower

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Despite yet another sleepless night she had punched in her attendance right as the clock struck 9 am. She had then gone through her day on an autopilot. Though she loved her work, today her heart hadn’t been in it.

Her thoughts were far away.

Why have they forsaken me? she asked herself again and again, I loved them so, they were my family. They are my family, she corrected herself furiously. She wouldn’t give them up. She couldn’t give them up. They were her very life.

It’s a phase, she had told herself initially, they will come around.

They didn’t.

Maybe if I ignore them they will seek me out, she had thought. That plan was a fail right from the start because try as she might, she couldn’t ignore them. They crowded her mind pushing away all else away, making her turn up sloppy copy at work and prompting her editor to ask if everything was fine with her.

Tears had risen unbidden to her tired eyes. No, nothing is fine, she wanted to scream in anger and exasperation. But she had only nodded her head mutely.

Back home she tried reaching out again and yet again all she got was frustration. It was as if a blinding fog lay thick between her and all she loved.

As she sat listlessly fiddling with the bunch of pens and pencils that crowded  her desk, her glance fell at the sunflower in the vase. Something about its happy yellowness reached out to her. Her heart filled with sudden fresh optimism.

Damn this writer’s block, she swore under her breath as she took up her pen. She’d get rid of it today. Today she would break through the fog. Today she’d reach out to her beloved characters and she’d write. By God she would. You will have to come to me, she threatened out loud in the silence – thoughts, ideas, plots, characters, are you listening, all of you?

She opened a blank notebook and began to write.

This post is part of  Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

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‘No bookmark, no book,’ she would say in an impervious tone and that would wreck my entire week. That was Ms B our library teacher in school.

She’d stand there, one eyebrow raised in a silent dare – challenging me to challenge her. Torn between my fear of her and my love for reading – it was fear that always won. And I would have to make do with re-reading an old book or borrowing from friends.

Books were my sole entertainment back then. We were allowed three books each week – each of them a treasured treat. We had a wonderful library – not the few cupboards at the back of the class that double up as libraries these days. Rows of tables were flanked by glass cupboards full of rows upon rows of the most enticing books. Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys all sat there along with Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and scores of other authors. Within the pages of those books lay the most exciting times my young self had ever seen.

However between the most exciting times of my life and me stood Ms B, a bit like Cerberus. She had an acerbic tongue and a short temper and she wouldn’t let anyone pass unless they showed her a book-cover and a book-mark. And woe betide anyone who forgot to get their books on the assigned day! They were condemned to a book-less week. No allowances, no concessions.

Not just that, she took it upon herself to discipline us on almost anything that caught her eye. ‘Put your plaits back, who do you think you are, Rekha?’, ‘Don’t slouch’, ‘Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk’ or ‘Why must you always wear black?’ (we didn’t have a uniform in class 11 and 12). Those days teachers wielded pure dictatorship. Yet we emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.

Despite such ‘ill-treatment’, on Teacher’s Day today, the first one who comes to mind is Ms B. While she didn’t teach me any subject nor was she directly responsible for kindling a love for reading she did teach me some very valuable lessons.

She taught me to respect and love books. That’s a habit that has stayed obstinately on. It drives me crazy when I see anyone manhandling books, folding pages, scribbling in the margins (use a pencil for goodness sake if you just have to), turning down corners.. aaargh!

She taught me to widen my reading horizon. But for that raised eyebrow I would be stuck onto fairy tales forever. After she gave me one of those ‘looks’ I was forced to look at other genres and developed an eclectic taste. (I have to confess though, that I still pick up a fairy tale somedays).

She taught me essential library etiquette. I learnt to keep quiet – not a mean feat for a 12 year old. I learnt to shut out the world and lose myself in a book as also to not disturb a person engrossed in one.

She taught me discipline and punctuality – a useful lesson even outside the library.

So tell me who is that one teacher that comes to mind when you think of school?