Facebook Phantom by Suzanne Sangi

Initially, Facebook Phantom appears to deal with what should be one of the easiest topics for a teenager to write about, facebook and friendship. It starts with an easy introduction to the protagonists, 3 friends whose life revolves around friendship, cell-phone and gossip (yes, not really facebook). Life is normal. And then comes a strange message on facebook that turns their lives upside-down. The rest is for you to find out!
There are a number of things that stand out in this gripping novel. Suzanne displays a simple mastery over language and evenness of narration that ensures that you breeze through the book, rather than drag your feet through it. The style of presenting different points of view, with the narration being shared between the protagonists is handled well and breaks the monotony. The lines between the normal and the paranormal are often grey, and you cant help but mistake one for the other. Predictable though it is to a great extent, it does keep you engrossed till the end.
The last third of the book has a tad too much romance that often takes away from the broader plot. 
But all in all, a commendable and mature first time effort!

Extremes Along the Silk Road - Nick Middleton

Extremes Along the Silk Road by Nick Middleton is an experience. It is a simple account of the climatic extremes along  the fabled silk road and a complex chronicle of human resilience. As he experiences the extremes of climate and life along this ancient trade route, from the scorching deserts of Mongolia to the icy Tibet and from the towering sand dunes of China to the rolling steppe's of Kazakhstan, he gives a warm insight into how these extremes have shaped human existence, their culture, their beliefs and above all their sense of purpose.

A note on the comparison between this and From Heaven Lake:
At this point, having finished Vikram Seth's From Heaven Lake just before this, I cannot help but compare the two. While Seth's narrative focuses on the journey itself with the experiences along the way remaining secondary, Middleton's narrative is like an amusing documentary, with the experiences taking a high seat and the journey being secondary. Not to mention, while Seth's writing comes with a fair share of nail-biting twists (he is an exceptional fictionist, remember?), Middleton's writing is almost academic (he teaches geography). :)