Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Book Whisperer’s Latest….



Saraswati’s Way

Monika Schroder grew up in Germany; she became an elementary school teacher and librarian for American international schools in Egypt, Chile, Oman, and India. Her time in India gave her the background for writing Saraswati’s Way. It is a book for readers ages 10 to 14. I like to keep up with children’s and young adult fiction as well as fiction for adults. Schroder says of India that “one of the sad aspects of living in India is seeing the effects of poverty on children.” She shows that poverty along with the hard life some of the children in the book experience.

Akash, the hero of the book, is a gifted student, particularly in math. He staves off boredom by doing math problems in his head. He hopes to go to school beyond the mandatory years, but he will need a scholarship in order to further his education. He hopes to get a tutor so that he will be prepared for the state exam and that a high score on the exam would win him a scholarship.

As readers can imagine, the road is not smooth for Akash. His mother died shortly after giving birth to Akash’s younger sister who also perished soon after the mother. Akash’s father works hard to support not only Akash and himself, but his drug-addicted older brother, the brother’s family, and the grandmother who rules the family. The grandmother sees no need for girls to be educated, so Akash’s female cousins are quickly married into other families as soon as they are of age. The grandmother also sees no need for Akash to have any more education.

Dadima, the grandmother, defends her older son while he sinks further and further into drug addiction, leaving all the burden of supporting the family to her younger son. Sadly, the rains have not come as they usually do, so the crops are failing. The family owes a large debt to the landlord and has no way to pay the debt because of the failing crops. Then papa falls ill and dies. What could be worse for the family and for Akash?

Akash soon finds that Dadima expects him to go to work in the quarry for the landlord in order to support the entire family, including his drug-addicted uncle. Akash goes to the quarry, but he soon realizes that no matter how hard or how long he works, his debt to the landlord will only increase and he will never realize his dream of more schooling. After receiving his first meager pay from which food, tools, and lodging has been subtracted, Akash makes the bold decision to run away. He hops onto a train and goes to Delhi.

In Delhi, he encounters corrupt policemen who take his money. He is bewildered by the traffic and the large crowds of people. Finally, he finds friends, other boys who scavenge trash to recycle. Rohit, another boy, teaches Akash how to avoid the police and to scavenge for the trash they can recycle. Rohit is also from the country; he is earning money to take back to his village to help his ailing mother. Akash is grateful for Rohit’s protection until Akash helps Rohit deliver drugs. Akash feels conflicted about the delivering of drugs and does it only for a short time.

Another friend, an adult who sells magazines and newspapers, Ramesh, also befriends Akash and helps him learn English. Akash is saving his money so he can find a tutor and take the test to get a scholarship and return to school, but Ramesh falls and injures himself. Akash takes Ramesh to the hospital where they learn Ramesh must have an operation to put pins in his arm. The hospital stay is free and so is the surgery, but the pins cost money, so Akash hands over the money he has earned so that Ramesh can have the surgery.

At the hospital, Akash meets a boy who is working a Sudoku puzzle. Naturally, he is interested and the boy shares a page from the puzzle book and watches in amazement as Akash quickly solves the puzzle. This meeting is fortunate because the new friend’s mother is the surgeon who treated Ramesh.

The story does not wrap up neatly, but it does leave readers with hope that Akash will find his dream. His kindness to Ramesh leads him into meeting a new friend and an influential adult. Read the story!


The Latest From the Book Whisperer


While I am currently reading an absorbing book, I am awaiting with much anticipation several other titles: Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, Be Light Like Bird by Monika Schroder, and My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich. This blog will preview those books.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a debut novel by Emma Hooper who is also a musician, a professor, and a violin teacher. Reviewers have called the book not a page turner, but a “lovely, lovely book.” Etta embarks on a journey which sounds as if it is reminiscent of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I will report on Etta and Otto and Russell and James once I have read it.

Several of the reviews I have read of Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder tell readers early on that the story will break readers’ hearts. Twelve-year-old Wren’s father dies, so Wren’s mother packs up their belongings and leaves the only home Wren has known. The story deals with isolation, bullying, grief, and growing up. It’s a book for young readers. As an eclectic reader. I look for good books for all ages.

Many reviewers of My Mrs. Brown liken the story to Alexander McCall Smith’s characters and story lines found in The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Other reviewers call Mrs. Brown an “old-fashioned heroine.” Norwich is a fashion journalist. He has taken that knowledge from writing about the fashion world and created Mrs. Brown who is “so genteel, so self-effacing, so full of surprises” that readers cannot help but be intrigued with her and her story.


The Latest from the Book Whisperer


A Cozy Mystery in Your Future?

Sometimes I need a quick read, nothing heavy or demanding, but well written. I discovered Terror in Taffeta on the Tulsa City-County Library site and requested it. Apparently, a number of other readers had also requested it since I had to wait quite a while for the book to arrive. Publisher’s Weekly included this note in its review of Terror in Taffeta: “Red herrings and intelligent sleuthing make this cozy a winner.”

I was unfamiliar with Marla Cooper, so I did a little research. She began as an advertising copywriter, switching to freelance writing. She became a ghostwriter, completing a book on destination weddings. That experience led her to write Terror in Taffeta which takes place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico as a destination wedding is in progress.

The story features Kelsey McKenna, the wedding planner, who becomes involved in solving a murder which occurs during the wedding ceremony. Naturally, Dana, the bridesmaid who dies, has a multitude of enemies, primarily because she is demanding, self-centered, and unpleasant. Readers may be asking why Dana has been invited to be a bridesmaid in that case. Read the book to make that discovery!

The cast of characters includes the nervous bride and the demanding mother. To complicate matters, the police arrest the bride’s sister for the murder. Kelsey must challenge the local police because she is certain the police have arrested the wrong person. How can she prove the evidence has been planted? Of course, that involves some danger since she must determine who the murderer is.

Kelsey is sharp, careful with details, and professional in her wedding planning business. She has to become fearless in solving the murder so everyone can leave Mexico and return home. What is the intrigue that causes the murder in the first place? Who is the murderer? And why? All of these questions will become clear by the end of the book. Terror in Taffeta is fun to read. Terror in Taffeta is Cooper’s debut novel. Look for future episodes starring wedding planner Kelsey.

Marla Cooper, Lisa Q. Mathews, Ellen Byron, and Kellye Garrett style themselves as Chicks on the Case. Read about them and their cozy mysteries at