Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Review: The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took up this novel after reading a number of other reviews. While the writing is very good, and so is the story, my rating is not as high as many of the other reviewers. The pace is really quite slow till about the middle of the book, after which the story progresses pretty well.

This is a domestic drama + thriller and the story revolves around 3 primary characters – Richard, Vanessa & Emma. Vanessa and Richard are separated, and Richard is all set to marry Emma. This is something Vanessa finds very difficult to take and she is obsessed with doing something about it.
It is a little difficult to get into any further details without spoilers, and hence I will avoid that.

However, there are a number of aspects of all the three characters which are revealed gradually, and there are twists as you move along.

Overall, well worth a read for it’s story and writing, and yet – would have been great if the pace had been better.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: I Am Watching You

I Am Watching You I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book after reading some reviews on goodreads. Also, it has been some time since I read a suspense novel.

I was not disappointed. “I am watching you” sustains a good pace throughout the book. It drops a few distractions for you as good suspense novels should and then a twist – well near the end of the novel.

The story stands with Ella who is on a train to London and is a witness to a disturbing scene where two young girls – Anna and Sarah get close to a couple of young men who have just been released from prison. She is tortured on whether she should be getting in touch with the parents, but lets it go. The next day, Anna has not returned and this is all over the news. Ella continues to feel responsible, and now informs the police. Her name gets leaked and she starts getting spiteful notes.

A year passes, and after an appeal from the parents, some progress seems to be made with new leads. There are other aspects in the story regarding the behaviour of the fathers of the girls, Sarah herself has some secrets.

I would rate the book at 4.25 / 5. If you are looking for a good suspense novel – this is well worth a read.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga

Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga by Sadhguru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about Shiva – the first Yogi who transmitted the knowledge to disciples, many centuries back. The book has several things going for it: the descriptions have an intensity and it is almost as if you can feel the magnetic pull of Shiva as you read. The myths which are included are all exceptionally good, though many are common knowledge in the Indian culture. Sadhguru’s perspective of Shiva as one who can take you to the depths of yourself – destroying all that is impermanent and make believe is interesting There are also fresh perspectives and insights at many instances while the myths are discussed - on Shiva’s practice, valor, balance, compassion and selflessness.

While the mythology makes for great reading, the pseudo-science which figures especially in the initial stages was entirely avoidable. The writing style is variant – there are sentence constructs which are repetitive and detracts from the narration – for instance every 10 sentences in Section 3, you will find a phrase about Sadhguru laughing. While the last section also purports to raise several questions, many are left unanswered. However, that may also be because each person has to find his own way.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a big fan of Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s writings and wisdom. He brings a level of depth to his philosophy which is rare, as also spiritual insight with his exceptional knowledge of various traditions in the world.

That said, this book is less about Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s writings – it is a collection of essays of eminent personalities on their impression of Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s is one of the best written pieces. The early part of the book (around 2/3rd) was written when Mahatma Gandhi was alive and India had not yet won freedom. Dr. S Radhakrishnan had presented this to Mahatma Gandhi on his 70th birthday as the first edition. He wanted to add more content and present a second edition to Mahatma Gandhi on his 80th birthday, but that was not to be. The later part of the book has tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and also a few of his speeches and writings.

Mahatma Gandhi continues to evoke interest to this day. While there have been a few critical pieces recently, the point is that he never claimed perfection and would have been most happy to hear other viewpoints. His conviction in seeking truth, uncompromising attitude to ahimsa / non-violence, his reinforcement of the oneness of life – man or animals was unwavering though. This finds consistent mention from all writers, as also his humility, simplicity and concern for the underprivileged. Many writers also touch upon his fearlessness and selflessness – putting himself at significant risk many times and getting arrested frequently.

What makes the book interesting is the detailed discussions it ventures into on complex life matters. And the writers make the effort to point out areas they do not entirely agree with Mahatma Gandhi. His steadfast belief in non-violence is one such – would this have worked against opponents who did not have much of a conscience and were brutal – eg: Nazi Germany. His attitude with respect to factories is discussed – while he was made out to be against modernisation, that was not entirely right – rather he simply wanted a sustainable village economy as well. There was also a concern that his practice of fasting could be adopted by others for inferior motives – what if it is used for coercion to obtain wrong concessions. Yet, all acknowledged that with Mahatma Gandhi, it was a matter of inner conviction and principles. And his fasts many times did bring about peace, in very troubled situations.

As mentioned in one of essays – Mahatma Gandhi operated at a plane where the best of all religions meet. As a result, he was very comfortable with reading, understanding and practising methods from any tradition. Many of the western writers felt he was demonstrating how Christ’s teachings should be applied in every day life.

Much of what Gandhi preached is what we need to revisit today – non-violence, concern for the environment, sustainability, inclusive growth and open-mindedness. He is a role model like none other in recent times.

This is a book I strongly recommend – it is very inspiring and a reminder of the positive change one individual can bring about.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts

Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book of Anuja Chandramouli that I have read after "Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son", and find her to a very credible storyteller of Indian historical and mythological fiction. The characters while still great heroes, are also very human with some self doubt and weaknesses in situations. The characters grow on you as you read on based on a string of episodes in their lives which add layers to their characters gradually.

Prithviraj Chauhan's is a great story in any case - a tower of strength in the face of invaders seeking to conquer, subdue and plunder. He is thrown into conflict very early in his life and a domineering mother and a complex relation with his wife Padma add to the early challenges. He later falls in for Princess Samyukta and very soon tragedy strikes them both in different ways. In the end Prithviraj Chauhan his head high, upholding his honour and self respect knowing what the decision would mean for him.

While the story follows the broad contours of popular accounts of history, there is great depth of detail which is built around the characters and their history.

The initial stages of the book has a number of characters being introduced which can be a bit confusing, and a character index would have helped. And there is a great deal of focus on war - but then I suppose that is what those times were about - especially in the face of great dangers.

If Indian historical and mythological fiction interest you, this is a book you will love.

I received a free copy of the book so as to be able to provide an honest review.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark Matter is a very imaginative and different science fiction book. And you should read it – as soon as you can! Now with that done, let us get to the rest of the review.

Jason Dessen is a professor in Chicago. He has a good life with a wife (Daniela) and son (Charlie) he dearly loves. There have been choices he had to make, and so also his wife. They had go slow on their own careers for making the family work. They are at peace with it over time.
One evening Jason is off to a party arranged by his friend Ryan Holder who has just won an award. And as he leaves the place, he is grabbed, beaten and dragged to an unknown place. And very soon he finds himself in a place he has never been before. Nothing seems to make sense – while people recognize him, he doesn’t and seems not to understand what is going on.

That is as far as I can go without spoilers in my review.

The book packs tremendous pace, and you just wish to go on reading. The science/physics is decent for the plot to make the story credible and interesting. What also adds to the charm is the subtle philosophical inserts in the story – we all have to make our choices, and live with the consequences.

At the end, I had a feeling that just maybe the last 10 pages could have been different. And yet, it was the most logical way to end the book.

It is long since I read a book as fast paced and engrossing as this. A must read!

After you have read the book, you might just like to take a look at a short story I wrote over 4 years back "The Intersect"

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: Competing Against Luck

Competing Against Luck Competing Against Luck by Clayton M. Christensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I have read about Clayton Christensen’s theory on disruption and also his work, this is his first book that I read. After wanting to read his work for long, I have finally got to it.

The book discusses how innovation need not be about luck. There is a way to innovate and most companies can find. This is where “Jobs Theory” comes in – innovation is not about asking the customer what they want or the problems they face, more importantly it works when you understand what job the customer is trying to get done and considering hiring your product for. The book starts off with a simple example of a milkshake people buy in the morning and drink while they are driving. It helps them pass the time with it’s thick consistency, other that being filling. Milkshakes in the afternoon would serve an entirely different purpose.

Customers “hire” a product from a vendor to get a job done. If they find that there are better ways to get the job done, they will move away from the product. There are numerous examples through the book on how the “Jobs Theory” can be applied. The case studies are all extremely sound and do reinforce the theory. Thinking in terms of the outcome the customer wants is far more powerful than in terms of features and functions.

The material in the book is not entirely new and there are parallels with concepts such as design thinking and outcome based services. Yet the book deserves credit for simplifying the framework and presenting it in a form which can be put to use quickly. And the examples in the book all help to think of similar situations which might exist in other organisations.

Experience, which is such a big theme in product success today, however, finds far less coverage than I think it should in the book. Also it relies on customer behaviours being somewhat unchanging. A key question is whether a product can significantly cause customers to change their behaviours and look to get entirely new jobs done. I believe some products have done that.

This is an important book for business executives to read. It is thought provoking and scores by outlining the concept in simple language backed by exceptionally good case studies.

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