New release, review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier 4*

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New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

The synopsis:

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

My review:

This novel is listed on Netgalley as general adult fiction; I think it could be easily incorporated into the YA genre also. It could actually prove very educational to young adults to the dangers of racism, bullying and prejudice. It would also highlight to the younger generation, how far we have come in terms of, the socially acceptable racism of the past etc.

This an interpretation of Othello, set in 1970’s suburban Washington DC. It centres around several students, as they ‘welcome’ new boy Osei Kokote. Osei aka O (Osie meaning Noble) is a young student whose father is an international diplomat. He is starting his 4th school in 6 years, due to moving around various locations. Despite being born in the 1980’s myself, I felt the novel had a very childhood feel to it. Young people, coming of age that was until the plot becomes more and more established.

Osei, Dee, Ian and Mimi are young students, trying to make sense of teir lives and the hierarchy of the education system. It is only Osei as the only black student at the school who is exposed to prejudice, casual racist comments and assumptions due to the colour of his skin. The assumptions really hit home to me. The assumption that he is poor as he is from Ghana; not only is Ghana the second wealthiest country in Africa, it is rich, in terms of culture. Also the age old typical stereotype that a young black man is essentially a criminal or violent in some way! With all this stacked against him, Osei has quite the first day to navigate!

Dee however is quite sweet on Osei and asks about Ghana out of genuine interest. She enjoys and embraces Osei regardless of his colour or heritage. However, a casual moment of affection is misinterpreted by a teacher whom assumes that Dee needs ‘saving’ from Osei. This scene really upset me; the assumption that a young black man is a terrible danger to a young white woman was reminiscent of the Emmett Till case. The racism that a young black male ‘must know his place’ is possibly one of thee, single most damaging attitudes and has impacted young black men to the present day!

One young man not happy with the alliance and blossoming romance between Dee and Osei is Ian. Ian is a scheming bully who sets in turn a motion of events with the intention to break up Dee and Osei. Fuelled by jealousy and set on a path, Ian manipulates all the students; building to a catastrophic ending!

Hugely recommend this novel to young adults and adults. I hope this novel is able to gain some support from education settings. It would be very beneficial to young minds and a great source of debate and discussion. 4*

New Boy is released today, 11th May 2017 🙂

*I received an Ebook arce via Netgalley, in return for an honest review.

#Review: The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra 5* Genius and Q&A with author Vaseem Khan.

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Vaseem Khan is the very talented writer of the Inspector Chopra series. Set in modern day Mumbai, India. This series is very unique in the crime fiction genre in the UK.
#1 – The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra.
#2 – The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown.
#3 – The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star.

The unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra
The synopsis:

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve…
But as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai – from its richest mansions to its murky underworld – he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.
So begins the start of a quite unexpected partnership, and an utterly delightful new series.

My review:

Immerse yourself in Mumbai, India with this amazing series by Vaseem Khan. Rich in Indian culture, politics and the Mumbai way of life, it is one not to be missed!

The novel opens with Inspector Chopra receiving a baby elephant as a gift for his impending retirement. An elephant he neither loves nor wants……… at first! Inspector Chopra is serving his last day with the Mumbai Police force when he stumbles across a crime with a young dead male, having fallen in a sewage creek. Assumed to have been a drunken accident, Inspector Chopra is not convinced. How do you find a potential killer in a city of 20 million, when not even the police believe it is a crime?

We are slowly introduced to a wide variety of characters from Chopra’s life. With my favourite being, without a doubt Poppy, his wife. Poppy is a strong, feisty and no nonsense woman. She was so reminiscent of the Indian women I know. Through their history we learn that Chopra was forced to take an early retirement on medical grounds. But with too many unanswered questions, he cannot let the case of the dead boy go. We are also lead through the saga of his elephant Ganesh, the history of the elephant’s name is brilliant. It really is such a heart-warming and brilliant series.

There is exceptional depth in this debut for the series. The background stories, the mixture of Hindi/Muslim culture and the changes going on throughout Indian society make for fascinating reading. The most central theme appears to be that there is no justice for a mother and son, when your poor and Chopra simply cannot let that lie.

I can’t rate this series enough; it is everything I absolutely adore in a book. It’s rich in culture, diversity and very well written. A huge 5* Genius rating lit up in Bollywood lights!


Q) I read, in the cover, of the novel, the inspiration for this series. But for the readers, can you please give a summary of the series and your background?

A) The Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series is a crime series set in modern India. The lead character is Inspector Ashwin Chopra, a rigid and honest police officer in the Mumbai police service, who (in the first book in the series The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra) is forced into early retirement and on his last day in office is confronted by the body of a local boy. Chopra quickly realises that his seniors don’t want the boy’s death to be investigated, and so he sets off to solve the mystery on his own. At the same time, he must come to grips with the surreal dilemma of taking in a one-year-old baby elephant named Ganesha, sent to him by his long-lost uncle. The book was a Times bestseller, an Amazon Best Debut, and a Waterstones paperback of the year.

On a personal note, I grew up in East London, studied Finance at LSE, and went to India aged 23 to work as a management consultant. I spent ten wonderful years there. I wrote my first novel at 17, then wrote six more (unpublished) novels over the following 20 odd years, before a four-book deal with Hodder came along for the Baby Ganesh agency series.

Q) I absolutely loved the Indian culture and location of the novel. I found it unique and like nothing else in the crime fiction genre. Was this your intention, to offer up something so unique and memorable?

A) The decade I spent on the subcontinent was the most exciting time of my life. I saw first-hand the effects of globalisation on the country, which brought wealth and a new western sensibility to cities such as Mumbai. And yet I also saw how India’s ancient problems remained: poverty, slums, corruption, prejudice. This battle between old and new India seemed like the perfect backdrop to create a new detective series. As well as serving up compelling mysteries, my aim is to take readers on a journey to the heart of modern India, to give you an idea of what India looks like, sounds like, smells like, even tastes like.

Q) Poppy was one of my favourite characters from book #1 in the series. I have to know the inspiration behind her characterisation?

A) The role of women in Indian society is changing, with women coming to the fore more than in any era in India’s past. I wanted Poppy to be someone who embraces this idea of the ‘modern Indian woman’ but at the same time retains aspects of the ancient heritage of women on the subcontinent. She is emotional, feisty, warm-hearted, and generous. She is Chopra’s support, the love of his life, and a woman with a mind of her own.

Q) There was added depth, with the background stories of various characters. Was this the intention in the writing process?

A) India is so vast and Mumbai such a melting pot of people from all over India that I simply had to bring in secondary plots to run alongside the main story in each novel, just so that I could showcase some of these colourful supporting characters. Rangwalla – Chopra’s former sub-inspector and now associate detective in the agency – is my favourite. He is the opposite of Chopra, a streetwise cop who doesn’t always stick to the straight and narrow to get things done. I also have a soft spot for Chef Lucknowallah, who runs Chopra’s restaurant, where the detective agency is based. He’s loud, pompous, generous-hearted, and completely obsessed with his kitchen.

Q) I read somewhere that India is globally the most well-read country. Has the book received glowing praise in India?

A) I have had a great response from Indian readers. I think that one of the reasons for this is because I have tried to show India as she really is, not as a mythologised version of India that we are sometimes guilty of writing about in the west. The best compliments I get are from Indians who live abroad and write to tell me my books have transported them back home!

Q) What has been your favourite part of being a published author?

A) I waited 23 years to be published, with six rejected novels along the way. So now my favourite thing is simply connecting with readers, whether through blogs, social media, email, or in person at book festivals and book events. I enjoy talking to readers, and hearing what they liked – or didn’t like! – about my books.

Q) what are your favourite reads from childhood, to teens to adulthood?

A) Watership Down by Richard Adams. A children’s classic. Who would have thought a novel about rabbits could be full of adventure, intrigue and excitement?

Dune by Frank Herbert. I read a huge amount of SF as a teen, and this book is consistently voted the very best SF novel ever written. It follows the story of Paul Atriedes as he grows to manhood on the desert world Dune.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. I first encountered the Discworld series with this novel, 25 years ago, for me the very best of the Discworld canon. In this book we are introduced to the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch, including Captain Sam Vimes, Corporal Nobby Nobbs and Sergeant Fred Colon, as they tackle a dragon threatening the city – with predictably hilarious consequences.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I still remember the first time I read this, the feeling of discovering something magical. It showed me that through words you could make readers nostalgic for a time and place they had never seen. This book was voted the best Booker prize winner in 40 years. It tells the story of modern India, using magical realism, through the eyes of Saleem Sinai who was born “at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence”.

As a crime writer I read a lot of crime fiction – and my favourite is Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. Bosch is the quintessential loner cop, the last gunslinger in glamorous L.A. My favourite in the series is Angel’s Flight.

Q) what can readers expect from the release of Book #3 in the series, out this May?

A) In the third book, Chopra is on the trail of a kidnapped Indian film star. The star in question, notorious Bollywood bad boy, Vikram ‘Vicky’ Verma, is kidnapped in front of a live audience. So Chopra has three mysteries to solve: how was Vicky kidnapped? Why him? And who is behind the kidnapping? To find Vicky, Chopra has to go behind the scenes of the world’s most flamboyant movie industry and soon discovers that in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction.

The idea for this novel came to me when I was working in Mumbai. A famous film producer was gunned down in the street near where I worked. As a writer this instantly intrigued me. As I researched I discovered the relationship between Bollywood and organised crime. The producer survived but the incident left me convinced that there was a lot of fun to be had if I could lift the lid on Bollywood. This book aims to do just that.

*Huge thanks to Vaseem Khan for taking the time to do this Q&A for my blog and I wish him every success with the release of his new novel in May 2017.

Vaseem Khan

Authors links:
Twitter: @VaseemKhanUK

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The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star, is the latest release in the series, published on 4th May by Mulholland publishers and already has amazing reviews! 🙂