Category Archives: Book Reviews

Books I have read and enjoyed

Lion – A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly 

I saw many updates on Facebook after this movie was released how my friends and family loved watching it. I resisted temptation by not watching the movie first and got the book to read. Unfortunately because of work commitments I didn’t get around to reading it until I impulsively packed it in my bag to read it on holiday. 

Lion made fantastic poolside reading. I was stuck in the book from the word go and I recall getting goosebumps twice while reading it. 

Imagining little Saroo struggling to find his way home, going on the endless train ride, hunting for food, escaping from weirdoes and eventually ending up in Australia had me on edge. I’m still marvelling at how, in a population of a billion people, Saroo managed to find his way home all the way from Australia. 

I loved how the names remembered by a child were very differently written, how Ginestalay was something so totally different! You’ll have to read it to know why this was one of the reasons I had goosebumps. 

The journey is incredible and I had to slow down reading the book only because I didn’t want it to end. Read it, enjoy it, and pass the book on. I’ve given my copy to my daughter to read. 

Five Point Someone – Chetan Bhagat

I’ve actually never tried to find out why Indians in India have a thing against Chetan Bhagat. He seems to be constantly trolled and I get a bit worked up about such things. If you don’t like to read a certain genre of books, then just let it be. If you have a problem with his political or any other opinion, I’m sure he’s allowed to have one, just the way you are.

Anyway, all that aside and let’s get to reviewing the fourth book that I am reading this year. I know that Five Point Someone has a Bollywood movie based on the book, and I happened to have watched the movie before the reading the book. Ideally I prefer to read the book first! The movie is the very popular 3 Idiots! and it is directed by Raj Kumar Hirani.

Hari, Alok and Ryan are the three who have made it to one of the best engineering colleges in India. Their happiness and excitement is short lived when the daily monotony and rigorous academic work starts to take over, and unlike the movie, the book talks more about their ways to get out of this monotony. The novel is funny but does have some dark moments especially when focusing on the families of the protagonists.

As I read through it, I admit to constantly going back to the movie and trying to recall if a particular part had been added or not. Quite distracting! I need more discipline.

I enjoyed the book and I have a box set of Chetan Bhagat books that I brought back home with me from a visit to India. I can’t wait to start them.

five-point-someone-3-idiots

4/52

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

In my quest to read at least one book a week my daughter, who is an avid reader, decided to share some of her books with me. She insisted I read Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and I suddenly realised why she went through a phase of speaking in a heavy Southern accent after reading it. I admit to reading the book in Forrest Gump’s accent.

The tale is considered a classic and it’s about a lawyer and his advice to his children Scout and Jem Finch. Atticus Finch is defending a real mockingbird, a black man who has been charged with the rape of a white girl.

Race and class divides are evident in the Deep South in the 1930s and Harper Lee does a sterling job at capturing the warmth and the authenticity. Peppered with humour, the book makes for great reading. The hypocrisy of what went on will unnerve you at some points but you will definitely agree with me once you have read it that we need more than just one Atticus Finch in life.

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’

mockingbird

3/52

Khallaas: An A-Z Guide to the Underworld

If you hear me speaking like some sort of a gangster from Bollywood, I’d like you to know it’s because I’ve just finished reading this book by J. Dey.

As a crime reporter, Jyotirmoy  Dey amassed a wealth of information by talking to police officers, police informants, members of gangs, and even dons. Readers will be flabbergasted by the illegal activities that occur beneath the reach of the law. Throughout this book, the author stresses on the importance of rules and ethics in this business and how it governs the drive to attain maximum profits and gain a competitive edge over rivals. In Khallaas: An A to Z Guide To The Underworld, Dey also presents an exhaustive list of words that are part of the underworld language code. The list was designed to outsmart their enemies, especially law enforcement officials.

Basically, a whole new language is created to foil people who don’t understand the lingo. It took me some time to get through the book, but only because of work pressures I wasn’t spending as much time on reading as I should have.

I got this book from the Duty Free at Delhi airport a couple of years back. I’ve seen it here in Nairobi at Savani’s Book Centre as well.

Get it for the sheer curiosity, or that you want to speak ‘gangsta’ Indian ‘eshtyle’.

114khallaas-an-a-to-z-guide-to-the-underworld

The Secret

I’m not about to let something out that lies deep in my heart, even though I may not have much there to share. I have always felt I am an  open book. Speaking of books, that is The Secret I am talking about. I read this book by Rhonda Byrne many years ago, when everyone else was reading it. I bought myself a copy, read it, got inspired, and started applying it to life.

I then gifted my copy to my brother because I felt it would help him a lot but I am not sure he made any use of it. Well, not that I know of, anyway.

I won’t go on and on about what this book is all about but I will say that it does confirm something that I have known ever since I was a child. What you give out is what you get back. It could be your thoughts, your deeds, your generosity, your good vibes, anything. The energy within you attracts the similar energy and it comes back hundred-fold.

I’ve been told I’m nauseatingly positive. I don’t know about the nauseating part but I do know that I make a great effort to keep myself and my thought process positive, and all this because I selfishly want good things to happen to me and to the people I love.

Read the book and feel your thought process change. There’s no voodoo or any rituals you have to do. There is no need to invest in buying happiness or peace. The only thing you have to do is stay focused on the positive and good will happen.

It’s not a Secret anymore…

@kamz26

The Secret
The Secret

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

A book review by ‘Deep-ends’. Please do share if you’ve read the book or intend to.
Would love your comments.
Thank you!
~Kamal

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

This week is dedicated to another Ken Follett classic, Fall of Giants. This is book one of the Century trilogy that starts in pre-war Europe, in 1911.

In a small Welsh town of Aberowen, a 13 year old boy, Billy Williams, enters the dark pits of the world of coal mining. His sister, Ethel, is a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts and makes the mistake of falling in love with Earl Fitzherbert, who is already married to Princess Bea of Russia. The Earl’s sister, Lady Maud Fitzherbert, crosses into forbidden territory when she falls in love with a German diplomat. Two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, dream of leaving Russia to emigrate to America but fate and the war affect their plans. And finally, the over-privileged American diplomat, Gus Dewar, who serves as an aide to Woodrow Wilson, plays his part in drawing America into the war.

The reader is taken into a riveting story that weaves together the lives of the main characters with each other and with real historical characters. As the story unwinds, so does the war.  The time period is well researched and serves as an informative history lesson on coal mining, trade unions, women’s rights, attitudes of the aristocracy, politics, revolution and of course, the events that led up to the First World War.

I really like Ken Follett’s development of characters, and I noticed this in Pillars of the Earth also. He portrays their motivations in such a way that the reader develops an ambivalent understanding for even the most unsympathetic characters, such as Lev Peshkov or the Earl.  None of the characters is perfect, and none are completely bad either. They all have their strengths and flaws that make them undeniably human and thus, relatable.

This is another magnificent, epic novel of historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. A hefty book at 1000 pages, it would be easier to download on your slim kindle or ipad. Book two of the Century  trilogy is called Winter of the World…but I have not read it as yet. Enjoy!

 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

A fantastic book review by ‘Deep-ends’.
Would love your comments and also what you thought of the book if you have already read it.
Thanks!
~ Kamal
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This book is not new. It has been out for quite a while and I read it a few years ago but I recently recommended it to a friend and she came back from her holiday raving about it!

A historical novel set in the middle ages, the story is basically about 2 men; Tom the Builder, and his life-long dream to build a church, and Brother Philip a young, ambitious monk who helps Tom realize his dream. The story spans about 30 years, which is what it takes to build a gothic cathedral in the 12th century England. Keep in mind that this was an era in which life expectancy was no more than 40 years.

Follett has done an excellent job, capturing the feeling of a period when religion and anarchy went hand in hand. The research that went into this book was excellent. The characters are all well developed, from the staunchly religious monks, the hard-working, superstitious commoners to the nobles and gentry with their sense of entitlement. Brother Philip struggles with pride and ambition, Tom pursues his dream at the cost of his wife, and he basically sacrifices his newborn son to save the rest of his family. Nobody is perfect – all of the protagonists have their flaws that make them undeniably human.

Don’t let the size of this book overwhelm you; it is 973 pages but the story moves along at a surprisingly quick pace for a novel of this length.

My recommendation…read this book. It is simply riveting. But be warned!  Pillars is a compulsive page turner, so if you are planning to catch up on your sleep, don’t even start reading! I could not put the darned thing down!

Palace of Illusions

Please welcome to the Korner someone who has been very supportive and takes a keen interest in what goes on in here. Meet Deepa who will be updating us with fabulous book reviews, views and lots more on the Korner.
Thank you!
~Kamal
**************************

I had the pleasure of meeting Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni who was in Chicago on a book signing tour. This sari-clad author hails from Calcutta, but she came to the United States for her graduate studies, receiving a Master’s degree in English from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She is married, has 2 children and teaches in the Creative Writing program at the University of Houston. She comes across as a pleasant, warm, down-to-earth, articulate woman and it was an absolute delight to meet her and listen to her talk about her books.

She is in the process of promoting her next book which is called Oleander Girl, and if you “like” her on facebook she will post previews of it. Unlike most writers, she started writing quite late, only after coming the the US. This would explain the main themes in her books which are always about women, immigration, the South Asian experience in America, mythical history, magic and the celebration of diversity. Before she attempted novels, she used to write poetry. She started with a reading of “The Garba” from her book of poems called “Black Candle”.

Having touched a chord with everyone who was even remotely Indian, she then went on to read a few paragraphs from her last book which is called “One Amazing Thing”. This is set in California during an earthquake. She told us that the inspiration for this book came to her, while observing the different characteristics that people show when under stress, while going through a similar natural disaster in Houston, TX where she lives with her family.

It seemed obvious at the question-answer session, that the book that her audience has enjoyed the most, is “The Palace of Illusions”. This is the book that I have read and that I am going to review today. She also wrote Mistress of Spices and An Arranged Marriage.
~Deepa
‘Deep-ends’

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

Like most of us, born and living outside of India, my knowledge of the Mahabharata is limited to the television serial that my parents’ watched and re-watched religiously in the late 80s and early 90s. The Palace of Illusions is the story of the Mahabharata narrated by Draupadi (or Panchaali, the name she prefers here) from her unique perspective.

Everybody’s fascination with Draupadi stems from her being the only woman in history to have had 5 husbands. Nobody names their daughter Draupadi as she holds the stigma of the woman that brought the downfall of her clan and started the worst war ever. This book however, is sympathetic towards her. She is like a child, angry, petulant, impatient, proud, dutiful, infatuated, confused between love and duty, she makes mistakes and repents like all of us…many common references can be made to one’s life.

The book illustrates the day-to-day running of this complex household with 5 husbands and 5 different sets of egos that have to be stroked and fed (most of us are lucky if we can handle one!). It tells of her favorite amongst them, the competition between the brothers for her attention and which one of them truly loved her. Her other relationships are also well handled, like the childhood game between her and her brother Dhrishtadyumna (Dhri), where one of them starts telling a story, and the other continues it. This creates intimate scenes where their innermost fears and feelings are expressed. Her controlling mother-in-law with whom she eventually develops an understanding. Her arch-enemy Duryodhana, portrayed as a one-dimensional Hindi-film villain, which is perfectly all right, because Panchaali sees him that way. She deeply fears and loathes the man whom she blames for doing her so much harm, and has no occasion to see his good side. The Panchaali-Karna relationship, specifically their secret feelings for each other and her lifelong questioning of whether she did the right thing by humiliating him at her swayamvara. Could the war have been avoided if she had accepted Karna’s proposal? Particularly beautifully described is her relationship with Krishna, her friend, advisor and confidante. Krishna is the supreme in her life who was always there for her, like GOD is always there for us, if and when we want him.

I was intrigued at the research the author had to do for this book. If you have any interest in Hindu mythology, read this book. You will enjoy it. You will also be interested to know that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is presently embarking on a new project, which will be a retelling of the Ramayan… as you may have guessed… it will be from a female protagonist’s point of view! After her spin on Draupadi  (pun intended!), this should be a interesting read…most probably based on the life of Sita (but she is not telling!)

 

THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW

THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW

– Elizabeth Noble

This book is one I have really related to because every year on her birthday, I write a letter to my daughter since she’s been born. I’m not dying, not that I know of anyway, but I love writing these letters to my Dream Girl, which I hope to give her on her 18th birthday. I know she’ll probably want a car or something though…

Barbara is diagnosed with cancer and realizes that she doesn’t have long to live so she writes letter to her four daughters. Each daughter has her own trials and tribulations going on in her life and Barbara feels each one might need some sort of guidance and sets about writing these letters and a journal for all four of them.

Lisa is the eldest daughter who just cannot make a commitment in any kind of relationship. Jennifer finds herself trapped in a marriage that makes her defensive every time the topic of starting a family is concerned. Amanda is the footloose and fancy free daughter who is nomadic and always kept away from the family and then the youngest one is Hannah who is a teenager and finding herself amidst grieving her loss from a mother she would have loved to have around forever.

There is also Mark, Barbara’s second husband who I found to be a fantastic stepfather and father, husband and friend.

All of them are coming to terms with their loss, trying to cope and it’s an emotional roller coaster for every one of them.

I really enjoyed this book and related to a lot of the parts in it. I have also resolved to also pay more attention to the journal I have for my children because I tend to write in it after months and months. Perhaps I will turn the months to weeks and then eventually make it a daily habit. Maybe!

LESSONS IN FORGETTING

LESSONS IN FORGETTING

–       Anita Nair

 

The cover of the book is not one I would go for. I like bright covers, and even if not bright, then interesting enough to catch my eye. I saw the book on the shelf and felt it looked quite morbid and the only thing that made me pick it up to have a closer look at it was the fact that it was written by Anita Nair, a writer whose work I have enjoyed in the past.

There are two stories going on in the book – two different narratives of two people and how their lives become intertwined with each other at some point. Meera’s husband suddenly abandons her and her son in Banagalore, in a home that she shares with her mother and grandmother. Not long after, Meera meets Jak who is an expert on cyclones and has returned from the USA to India to investigate events that led to his 19 year old daughter into a coma. Events lead them to each other and the story does pick up every now and then.

This is not a book that I could not put down. It did take me a little longer than usual to finish it but it was good enough to deem a read to the last page. The book was a bit too dark for my taste but with typical Anita Nair style, it is a well-written book and the plot is not one where you have to slow down to piece it together in your head before you can read the next line.