Obolus – A Review of a Poetry Book

Title – Obolus

Author/Poet – Roshan Varghese

Genre – Poetry

“We are all going to be one with the earth someday.

You can either choose to be eased into a six feet deep hole,

or be a meteor – Burn bright in the skies, and form your own crater.”

The unique title of this collection and the elegance of its cover caught my attention. I was looking for some poetry to intersperse between all the prose, and “Obolus” stood out for its rave reviews. Varghese defines his writing as a refined version of abnormal musings on death, dreams, existence, life and myriad topics that he writes on, opting for poetry as a more cryptic form of writing to save his journal entries from prying eyes.

Obol was a form of ancient Greek currency, while Obolus is a modern Greek unit of weight equivalent to one tenth of a gram. I interpreted this collection as a series of seemingly simple musings – light in weight like the obolus, but filled with insight that leaves you pondering upon each poem after you read it. As a reader, I look for books that are different, showcasing the writer’s prowess in expressing art through the written word. Varghese’s poetry serves as a summary of his experiences as well as metaphors for life, taking you through a divine journey of birth, death, love, envy, religion; a wide range of circumstances and emotions, thoughts and feelings, while striking a chord that resonates with the reader – as if a poem has been dedicated to you, or written about you, or your own thoughts find themselves in front of you. The poems are short but beautifully written, his command over the language on full display through witty word play and even one-line poems. The themes are random, with varying lengths and styles, differing viewpoints, intimate as well as imagined, somehow bringing coherence to this poetic universe despite the lack of relation between each poem.

As a book, Obolus is a quick read, but it’s the writer’s skill in his craft that makes you linger on his writing, even revisiting his words after finishing the book. In the author’s note, Varghese mentions music and metaphors as things he holds dear, which is very apparent in his lyrical poetry – prose, poetry and music woven together, like reading a song or watching a painting with its plethora of colors. Some of my favorites are Paracosm, Vesper, Moon’s Grief, Wasteland, The Only Ally, Poker Face, The Sheep Goes Baa, Skirmish, Enemy. I am sharing a few quotes here, but the collection is filled with beautiful lines. Read this if you like poetry as a genre, or if you’re looking to be enticed with words in a simple but engrossing read.

~To live with the innocence of one’s first breath, and the desperation of one’s last.

~Look at yourself… You are a mirrorful of miracles.

~Heaven and hell are two places in your mind. Two worlds cease to be two… In You, they unite.

~You hide behind a colossal wall of words, yet confront me with silence.

~The only thread of truth in the fabric of lies.

~I escaped without knowing how it ended – the battle between me and myself.

~I saw a face in the mirror… Hold on, which one was I again?

My rating – 4/5

The Ghost of Christmas Paws – Book Review

Title – The Ghost of Christmas Paws

Author – Mandy Morton

Genre – Fiction, crime, mystery

cat

“There are many types of civilization, depending on what you’re used to. Icy fog and torrential rain, punctuated by snow – though beautiful – had driven cats indoors,and brought life to a standstill.”

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency is a series of books led by a feline detective duo. Hettie Bagshot and Tilly Jenkins are summoned to solve a case a few days before Christmas. The elderly Lady Eloise Crabstock-Singe lives in a manor off the Cornish coast, and believes her house is haunted by the ghost of a cat who wants to finish off the entire Singe family. Lady Eloise’s sister and brothers have already been brutally murdered by the hands of Christmas Paws, who shows up every Christmas Eve to wreck havoc on the Singe family. Eloise is the only surviving member, and is certain it’s her turn this Christmas and fears she has been brought to reckoning.

This cracking cat crime is an absolutely delightful and entertaining read for the Christmas season, populated by a world without people that cat lovers would certainly enjoy. All the characters are cats, and Mandy Morton has given each of them their own distinct character traits. Hetty and Tilly are named after the author’s own cats, and the other characters are based on her friends’ pets. Our protagonists are avid readers, and the book is peppered with literary references which are an absolute treat for book lovers. The word play is all animal-related – Santa Claws, Agatha Crispy, The Daily Snout, Cat of the Baskervilles, and the title itself being a take on Charles Dickens’ novel. A fun, feline read that is definitely recommended if you’re looking for something lighthearted and witty.

My rating – 3/5

Animals, Inc. – Book Review

Title – Animals, Inc.

Authors – Kenneth Tucker and Vandana Allman

Genre – Fiction, Business/Management

book

“When was the last time you took a course to make yourself more marketable, and found yourself wondering just what in the world you were doing?” Animals, Inc. is the business world’s take on the allegorical novella, Animal Farm. While Geroge Orwell’s classic was a political satire, Animals, Inc. brings to life major management lessons through a parable.

The story begins on a farm, with every animal carrying on their respective duties under the able guidance of Farmer Goode. Goode has gotten old now and plans to sell off the farm, and move into a retirement home. The animals are given a choice – they can either run the farm themselves, or be sold off to pet owners and petting zoos. A unanimous decision is taken to save their home and care for it themselves. Here’s when our motley crew takes charge – Mo the Pig, Lawrence the Owl, Jesse the Horse, Lily the Lamb, Spike the Cat, and a host of other farm animals from cows, hens, pigeons, mice, even the scarecrow, lend to the proceedings in their efforts to run a successful business as barnyard animals.

The animals read business books, conduct surveys, evaluate competencies, identify strengths and weaknesses, set up training classes, put up motivational posters, and work hard to overcome their natural shortcomings with any new project. But what happens if a horse is prevented from physical labour to operate a computer instead, a shy sheep is made sales representative, a scarecrow is transferred to the production department to lay eggs, cats are made managers of field mice, or a pig declares himself the most important member of the organization? The situations and expected results seem uncannily familiar to the human reader.

The story is simple but the parable is powerful, as the moral provides vital business lessons. Readers from the corporate world will identify with the scenarios faced by the animals in running their enterprise. For those unfamiliar with the business/management field, many terms are presented and explained through the story. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for us to reach our highest potential, and how can every individual employee contribute to the organization as a whole. The insights are not very deep and the book can be seen as more of a primer into business jargon. It is the way the story is presented which makes Animals, Inc. a delightful read. Readers with an interest in word play, witticisms, paronomasia, will love the copious quibbles that abound the book. The authors are at their hilarious best in crafting an entire book by playing around with the English language.

~ “Biggs sat down at his computer and reached for the mouse – and the mouse ran away.”

~ “Mo received more complaints about the Complaint Department than any other department on the farm.”

~ “I know you. You’re Sandra Bullock. No, Sheryl Crow. No, no…Miss Piggy, is that you?”

~ “I’d sure like to find the stool pigeon who told them all this.” (While referring to pigeon spies.)

~ “Lily was poor at sales because she was too sheepish – which is the primary occupational hazard faced by most sheep.”

~ “With whoops and cheers the hens egged each other on.”

~ “Jesse registered for a motivational course, which he wasn’t motivated enough to attend.”

Gallup Organization came out with this book for readers in the business world to discover the keys to effective management, re-energized morale and heightened performance. Among the author duo, Kenneth Tucker is a seminar leader and management consultant with Gallup, who helps develop strategies for improving performance. Vandana Allman is the global practice leader for hiring at Gallup, and consults companies on how to build successful organizations by improving their hiring strategies. Both writers draw on real-life examples, data-driven research, and years of experience in the business field to present this vivid story.

~ “I tried everything. And then one day I realized that the best thing I could be was me.”

~ “It doesn’t matter if a job is big or small. You can be a hero in any role.”

~ “The best self-help books relied on common sense – the sort of things you already knew but didn’t know you knew.”

~ “Just because you’re a bird doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good flyer, or a good singer.”

~ “It isn’t failure that matters, it’s how you deal with failure.”

All in all, a good one-time read if it is a story your’re looking for. But if you’re someone like me who loves word play, this book is a gem. I haven’t come across many books that have employed such fun writing in the entire length of the story. The cover is lovely too – the hand shadow animals are such fun.

Rating – 3/5