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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Beautifully Told - A Must Read
Karma is a story that should be read; Not only for its subject matter - a massacre in India that I never knew happened - but for its beauty. Cathy Ostlere tells the story through diary entries and imbues her words with more emotion than I could have ever imagined. A mere 10 pages in and I was teary-eyed and connected to 15 year old Maya. I felt the loss of her mother like...
Published on May 14, 2011 by Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books)

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars It was ok
It kind of took you all over the place and just couldn't quite get into it. For me it wasn't my cup of tea.
Published 14 months ago by Gisele Laviolette


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Beautifully Told - A Must Read, May 14, 2011
This review is from: Karma (Hardcover)
Karma is a story that should be read; Not only for its subject matter - a massacre in India that I never knew happened - but for its beauty. Cathy Ostlere tells the story through diary entries and imbues her words with more emotion than I could have ever imagined. A mere 10 pages in and I was teary-eyed and connected to 15 year old Maya. I felt the loss of her mother like a weight in the pit of my stomach. Small details, like the way Maya's father clutches her mother's urn, speak volumes. Details like that litter the pages of this verse novel.

Maya's journey to a country she barely knows, let alone understands, is jarring. Each of her emotions jumps off the page in flowing, vivid verse. Historical events are weaved flawlessly into story, making everything even more tense. The half of the book from Sandeep's POV is just as well-written as Maya's half. His emotions, though much more sarcastic, are as raw and honest. Each of them has their own story to tell, they just happen to come together.

Ostlere gives the reader a view into the life of a girl torn between two worlds and two religions. Hindu and Sikh people war against one another and Maya feels caught in the middle, part of each, but never really comfortable with either. I was drawn in by the massacre - and it is a massacre, with violence and death - and couldn't help but continue to turn the pages. Maya and Sandeep still linger in my mind. As does the message the book sends. Despite the difficult subject matter, Karma is an addicting read. A quick one too. The ARC tops out at 521 pages, but I read it in day, unable to put it down.

Karma is part historical fiction, part coming-of-age, but 100% heartfelt. From Maya's sadness, to her fear; her surrender, to her survival; to Sandeep's courage, compassion and love; each poem leaves the reader with a message. This is a story about surviving. It's about living through the hardest of circumstances and suffering the most terrible losses, but seeing the hope that still lingers and the goodness that others can still offer. Ostlere shows the reader a world of hatred and cruelty, but ultimately tells us that all is not lost and even though human kind is capable of a great many terrible things, we are also capable of a love like no other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favor, and read this gorgeous, epic novel., July 10, 2012
This review is from: Karma (Paperback)
Somewhere along the way in my YA readership experience, I decided that I "didn't like" verse novels. To be fair, that may have been in high school, after I was assigned to read a really depressing, slow-moving, and semi-boring verse novel, and I decided that ALL verse novels must be depressing, slow-moving, and semi-boring.

Forgive my ignorance.
I've been converted.

KARMA just didn't let me go. I was unfamiliar with the backstory ---- 1984 India, and the riots and political instability after Indira Gandhi's assassination ---- but what drew me in were the characters and the writing.

Ostlere's words just flow along the page (The imagery! The lyricism! The emotion! The gorgeous, gorgeous details!), and free verse was the perfect choice to highlight the urgency of the story. It's by no means a short book, but I flew through the pages, mesmerized by Maya's journey.

I love Maya. She's multicultural ---- of Indian heritage, born and raised in Canada, half-Hindu and half-Sikh ---- but she's a multidimensional, fully realized 15-year-old girl whose multiculturalism is just a part of who she is. She has crushes on boys, she's betrayed by her best friend, she wrestles with her parents' expectations, and she struggles to discover who she is in a ridiculously confusing and contradictory world. I connected with her immediately.

Her mother commits suicide, and she must bring her ashes to India with her grieving father. And then riots break out, and she's separated from her father in a foreign, dangerous place. Her traumas have only just begun.

Then we meet Sandeep, the other narrator, who speaks when Maya can't. I love Sandeep. He's impulsive and funny, charming, loyal, and desperate to prove himself. His family dynamics leap off the page, and his parts of the dual narration expose another layer of Indian culture and tradition, giving the reader a nuanced view of life in India during such a bloody, complicated, and divided time in its history.

Ostlere paints a vivid portrait of Maya and Sandeep's struggle to reunite Maya with her father and the development of their tentative love for one another in the midst of turmoil.

Do yourself a favor, and read this gorgeous, epic novel.

* This review posted originally at [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karma by Cathy Ostlere, April 5, 2011
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This review is from: Karma (Hardcover)
Karma is defined as action, seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in reincarnation. This is the main theme woven throughout this novel. The main part of this story takes place during the riots that broke out after Indria Gahndi is gunned down in 1984. Maya is the main character in this novel. She writes down the unfolding of these horrific events in her diary. The riots are between the Hindus and Sikh. The turmoil between these two religious groups results in bloodshed and senseless killings. The background controversy in this story is significant because it's also an internal conflict raging inside Maya. Her father is Hindu and her mother is Sikh. Her parents love each other but cannot escape their difference in beliefs. Maya feels torn between them. She doesn't quite fit in anywhere. Maya's character is very interesting. She starts out as an average teenage girl. Maya's world is thrown into turmoil and she must overcome heart wrenching obstacles to find her way. Her journey into India is one of self discovery and forgiveness. Maya has to choose her path or it will be chosen for her. When Maya looses her voice her story is told through the eyes of Sandeep. Sandeep watches over Maya as a favor to his sister. He is intrigued and enthralled by Maya. His sister thinks that Sandeep can be the one person who can lure Maya from her internal prison. In a way Sandeep and Maya's stories are similar. They are both trying to find out where they belong. I liked Sandeep's character a lot. He's is funny and charming. I really enjoyed reading about him.
Overall I thought this story was fantastic. Even though this book is over 500 pages it's very fast paced. It only took me a few days to read it. Cathy Ostlere did a great job with this novel. I experienced a lot of emotions while reading Kharma. It's funny how a few words can say so much sometimes. This novel is written in beautifully constructed verse. It is a must read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning debut novel in verse set in 1984 India, June 24, 2011
By 
M. Tanenbaum (Claremont, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Karma (Hardcover)
I was immediately drawn into Cathy Ostlere's stunning debut novel, Karma, written in free verse and set in India during the turbulent period immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. Her 15-year old heroine, Maya, a Canadian teenager who's half-Hindu, and half-Sikh, is traveling with her grief-stricken father to India with the ashes of her mother and a new diary to record her thoughts. On the night they arrive, the prime minister is killed in her own garden by her Sikh guards, and In the turmoil and harrowing violence that erupt immediately after the assassination, Maya and her father are separated. With no time to think, Maya cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy, running to the train station to try to find her father. When he doesn't arrive, she gets on a train anyway, not knowing exactly where she is headed in the chaos. On the train journey, she witnesses unimaginable horrors, and is so traumatized she is unable to speak.

Taken in by a kind doctor's family, where no one knows who she is or where she comes from, Maya struggles to come back to life, with the help of Sandeep, an orphan boy who she's just met. She has lost everything--but she will find love, open her heart, and recover her voice with Sandeep, who eventually takes her back to Dehli to try to find her father. While Maya is mute, Sandeep takes over the narration in the second half of the novel, giving the book two distinct voices. Toward the end of the novel, Maya resumes the narration.

This is a deeply romantic story of young love, passion, family, and trauma, where the evocative poetry serves to heighten the drama and suspense of the story. Because of the suspense of the story line, you will want to hurry along to find out what happens, but don't forget to take the time to admire Ostlere's elegant poetry, sometimes written in two columns. Asked often why the novel is written in free verse, she eloquently replies: "The best answer I have to this question is that Karma's poetic form suits the emotional lives of Maya and Sandeep. Their feelings are intense, their insights into the world are sharp and critical, and their understanding of what it means to be human is fresh, ragged, not yet smoothed by maturity, not yet smoothed by conventional narrative. Poetry is the perfect medium for their age. The short sentence. The precise image. The outbursts of feeling. Maya and Sandeep invite the reader to look inside their diaries where they reveal an intimate world of secrets, confessions and longings, and where poetry is a fire."

Although this book looks imposing at over 500 pages, it is actually a relatively quick read because of the free verse format, and like the books of YA authors Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones, would be a good recommendation for reluctant readers. With its exotic setting, it's also a great fit with this year's One World, Many Stories summer reading theme.

Ostlere's website gives additional background on the genesis of this novel, which took root during her own travels in India in 1984, and the origin of the character of Maya, who is inspired by a young Indian girl she knew growing up in Canada, as well as some stunning photographs evoking the brilliant colors of India.
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2.0 out of 5 stars It was ok, October 7, 2013
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This review is from: Karma (Kindle Edition)
It kind of took you all over the place and just couldn't quite get into it. For me it wasn't my cup of tea.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, September 3, 2013
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This review is from: Karma (Kindle Edition)
This book was very good and easy to read but very sad and depressing and kinda long but still very good and you'll want to know how it ends.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written book by a Canadian author, March 18, 2013
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This review is from: Karma (Paperback)
I bought this book for my niece but I ended up reading it myself too. We both loved it. It is written in prose. Very beautiful. Its a fairly quick read but intriguing and provides knowledge of recent Sikh history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, October 8, 2012
This review is from: Karma (Paperback)
Maya has lived in Canada with her Indian parents all her life. Now, her and her father are making their way back to India with her mother's ashes. When they arrive in India though, the assassination of Indira Ghandi has things in an uproar. They end up having to go their separate ways just to survive. Sandeep saw Maya, and knew that he would love her. Though she wasn't speaking, he would be her voice and hopefully bring her back where she belongs.

What a heartbreaking novel. I always hate people killing people for no reason other than they are part of a group that the killers don't like. The people were killed in a barbaric way, and the country ignored that it was happening. Unfortunately I know this happens all the time. Maya was an interesting character, even if her thoughts were absent throughout the middle of this story. In the middle Sandeep fills in with his observations of the elusive girl. I found this to be an interesting way to tell the story. Sandeep seemed to have a lot more to say and wonder about than Maya did at that point in time. It seemed as though Maya was too filled with grief to think different thoughts. She probably just had the same horrifying images playing again and again through her mind; while this is understandable, it doesn't make for very exciting reading. Sandeep was a very kind person. He helped Maya and never left her, even when he knew the outcome would not be in his favor.

I really liked the verse and the diary style writing for this novel. It made it feel intimate and urgent. At times I felt the story focused on the light side of things too much, but I think it helped leave the reader not completely depressed. The last few chapters were even better than I had thought they would be, which is always nice. Love seems to be a big theme in this novel, despite all the war and chaos. This was a fantastic historical fiction that will make your heart ache but will leave you satisfied.

First Line:
"How to begin."

Favorite Line:
"Bapu says her death is due architecture.[..]Because the gold was tarnished with blood. Because of hate. Prejudice. Intolerance."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, and not just for YA fans, March 4, 2012
This review is from: Karma (Hardcover)
I picked up this book because of the long-form poetry in which it is written, a rare and--when well done--beautiful method for creating a story. In fact, two such works figured in the awarding of Nobel Prizes (Harry Martinson and Derek Walcott), and so the form deserves respect.

I didn't know, by the way, that it was intended to target YA readers and, were it not for the ages of the two key protagonists, I don't believe I would specify the book as YA. This coming-of-age story, wrapped as it is in grief, growth, learning and love, is a story we should all read.

Maya, the story's main character, is forced to collapse a lifetime's worth of grief in just a few short months, and her discovery of herself, how to handle such grief, and how to become an independent young woman makes up the story line, with a plot that moves from the Canadian prairie to the cities of India just after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi. The author handles the plot--both its fictional and historical elements--with deftness and a sense of reality.

The poetry itself is quite good, though uneven at times. Certain poems are beautiful in their rhythm and tone; others, as prose-poems, are less effective. At times I seemed to forget that I was reading poetry as I was so immersed in the story.

All in all, recommended for anyone who wants an interesting story interestingly written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written, inspiring, December 19, 2011
This review is from: Karma (Hardcover)
I am an avid reader of young adult fiction. I was hesitant at first to read an entire novel in prose, but I am so glad that I did! This was refreshing, dreamy, inspiring and heartbreaking. I am anxious to read more from Ms Ostlere ~ BRAVO!
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Karma
Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Paperback - January 5, 2012)
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