Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Review: Kaanan: A modern professional seeks answers to our eternal questions on life

Kaanan: A modern professional seeks answers to our eternal questions on life Kaanan: A modern professional seeks answers to our eternal questions on life by Siddhartha Patnaik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kaanan is a short book, but leaves an impact. The book can be considered an easy introduction to spirituality and values.

Kaanan is a working professional. On the face of it, he is doing well - with a good career and is well placed financially. And yet, he feels something is missing. He decides to take a break from work, and visits an ashram located near the Himalayan ranges. This turns out to be a period of deep learning in yoga, meditation as well provides him a new perspective on the deeper questions of life.

If spirituality interests you (especially the Indian Yoga & Vedanta traditions), you will like this book, and it will most likely invoke your curiosity to delve deeper.

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Review: Do We Not Bleed? Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani

Do We Not Bleed? Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani Do We Not Bleed? Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani by Mehr Tarar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is difficult to name a theme for the book. It is a little of this and that - about life in Pakistan. While the nation obviously has attracted a lot of criticism for it's support for religious extremism and terrorism - it is also a place where people have their dreams and aspirations. And that is at times forgotten.

A good section of the book has commentaries on feudal practices which are blatantly unfair to women. There are several painful stories of discrimination and violence. While the setting is Pakistan, quite obviously the lessons hold for the region and beyond. There is some very good material on inspiring Pakistanis such as Muniba Mazari who despite all odds, is today an inspiration for many. There is also some discussion on the rise of extremism and the impact on ordinary citizens - especially minorities (who have reduced from 21% or so when the nation was born to less than 3% today) who live in fear and are sceptical on being dealt with fairly by the law.

What I liked about the book is that the discussion is mature and fair - be it about what is wrong in Pakistan and in it's relations with other nations (especially India). It is clear that Mehr Tarar certainly means well. The major drawback of the book though is that there is no coherent flow and larger theme to hold the narrative together. And there was also potential to delve deeper into the rise of religious extremism and what could be done to counter it.

I found her section of Pakistan's relation with India to be a balanced viewpoint. It was also nice to read the influence Indian culture and films have had on her. The viewpoints from diverse personalities on the way forward is weak however, and some of the people she quotes have little or no credibility or standing in their own countries. I did like the viewpoints expressed by Syed Akbaruddin, Hussain Haqqani and Shekhar Gupta which stood above the rest.

A well meaning and very readable book which would have benefited with a better flow, more new material, crisper narrative in places and more imaginative expert opinions.

My rating: 3.5 / 5.

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Review: The Help

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It somehow took me some time to get to reading this book, though I came across very positive reviews quite some time back. "The Help" is a wonderful book and the characters of Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny will stay with me for ever.

This book is placed in a town in Mississippi (in the 1960s) and is about the coloured helps of white families in the town. While the book is primarily around race relations/segregation and discrimination, there are lessons around status quo and how what is clearly wrong can appear normal. A story which has been believed and lived since years holds in a environment of fear and threat of subjugation and violence.

Aibileen has been a maid all her life, has accepted that segregation and discrimination is the norm. Skeeter, is a young lady who is quite different from most others. She has memories of the help at her place - Constantine who suddenly disappears. Skeeter develops a strong bond with Aibileen. Minny is another maid who is a close friend of Aibileen. She is frank and direct - as a result of which she struggles to hold on to a job.

Skeeter feels strongly that the voice of the maids should be heard, and she starts a project in secrecy in a hostile environment with a lot of risks. However, will her project help the maids or will it make life more difficult for them, as well as for herself?

This is one of the best books I have read in recent times, with strong characters who hold values ahead of their times and a strong sense of fairness. The conversational writing style adds to the charm of the book, and this is a book I strongly recommend.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Review: Mohini

Mohini Mohini by Ramendra Kumar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading the abstract, I knew fairly well what the book would be like. I was not expecting great literary merit, but a quick and relaxing read, and that is exactly what this was. This book, taps into the Indian people’s fascination with cinema. It has the standard mix of glamour, cunning, lust, revenge and all that.

Mohini is an aspiring actress – and extremely ambitious. She is willing to do down the crooked path if that will help her make it big as an actress. She is helped in this by her cunning manager Vicky and well-wisher Imran Bhai. She runs into a number of people on her career ascent – directors, managers, media managers and others, and learns how she can manipulate them all to help her. At one point, she feels she has found love and looks forward to settling down to marital bliss with a director she respects. A foolish mistake and there is a major setback.
Will she make it to the top or will her mistakes catch-up with her?

My rating: 2.5 / 5. I am rounding the rating upwards since despite her manipulative ways, the character of Mohini as a well-meaning woman with her failings leaves an impression.


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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Review: A Lingering Crime

A Lingering Crime A Lingering Crime by Miller Caldwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a big book, and can be read quickly. I liked the fact that it brings focus to an important issue of abuse and it's long term implications.

Jack Watson is in the UK, working in his garden, when he is picked up by the police. He is extradited to the US to face trial for the murder of Gary McFaul. Gary's name rings a bell, he had sexually abused Jack when he was a teen, and in the same school. Since then Jack's life changed entirely - he was always watchful, took different routes, and did all he could to stay away from Gary. The possibility that Gary could still be an abuser gets Jack to think about doing something about it.

Gary's wife reports to the police that Jack has been hounding him, and so it seems to the police that Jack has the motive. He was also in the US at that time. Jack, however, denies the allegation and claims to have never entered Florida where the crime took place. And yet, the police claim to have circumstantial evidence of his involvement.

The story moves fast and is very readable. The suspense element of it is fairly basic & simplistic though.

The story of how Jack deals with the abuse is very enlightening on how abuse can have long term implications. There is an interview with the author at the end where he explains what he wrote the book for and how in modern times authorities have to gear up to spot and prevent abuse before it happens. Social media has made the situation far worse.

I recommend this book for its treatment of an important topic in a sensitive and mature manner. I received this book from NetGalley (my first) for providing a review.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: The Child Next Door

The Child Next Door The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My rating: 3.5 / 5

The child next door is a psychological thriller. And yes – you can be assured that there are twists, especially some good ones towards the end of the book.

Kirstie Rawlings hears some sounds on her baby monitor of two people talking of taking a baby and going away. She has a daughter who is near 6 months old, and she is terrified. She has had a daughter after a couple of miscarriages, and is extremely emotional at the thought of any danger to her. She rushes to check and finds that her child is safe however – so what is going on? While it seems like the voices she heard are from some other place, she does not know of any other baby in the vicinity. She remains tense for days after that, worried that either her daughter or some other baby is in danger.

In the absence of clear evidence, her husband Dom has his doubts if there is any real danger to their daughter. Kirstie’s friends and many others start feeling that she is losing control of herself.

The story and the writing is very good. The pace though is a letdown in parts. Though it starts very briskly, there is a section of the book in the middle where nothing much seems to be happening, and the book drags along with small incidents. While it serves the purpose of providing a deeper insight into the personalities of the principal characters, you would expect a thriller novel to move faster. It does pick up again towards the later part of the book, and the ending is interesting as well.

I hope to read more of her books shortly.


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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Life After MH370: Journeying Through a Void

Life After MH370: Journeying Through a Void Life After MH370: Journeying Through a Void by K.S. Narendran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After 4 years, we do not yet know what happened to Malaysian airlines flight 370. The author Narendran’s wife Chandrika was on the flight (travelling to Mongolia for a FAO conference) and this is his story of coping with and moving on with life since the day the flight disappeared. I still remember the initial hours and days – there was a sense of bewilderment and shock – how can a plane possibly disappear. Narendran recounts those early hours and days – where the heart wanted to hold on to hope. And yet as time passed, it became clear that passengers were not coming back.

Adding to the tragedy was Malaysian Airlines confused and at times insensitive handling in the immediate few hours and days. The announcement that the airline had crashed, made by the Malaysian government was both abrupt and offered no reasoning on why they believed that to be the case. With the large majority of the passengers being Chinese and Malaysian, at least initially, there was support and interest among those nations. That was not quite the case in India, as there were only 5 Indian passengers on the flight, and the government was nearly the end of its term and battling other issues. Narendran gives credit to the support received from the Indian consulate in Malaysia. After a period of sustained search by Australia, the interest slowly ebbed. Inmarsat data was the basis for the entire search effort, raising the question on whether it was right to trust it as the sole source.

Narendran takes us into his personal life and innermost thoughts as he describes the struggle he and his daughter Meghna have faced to come to terms with the tragedy and move on. Questions on what actually happened continue to torment the families who are impacted, who serve as as source of support for each other. It is as if life had slowed down and it was an effort to bring focus and interest in anything (such as the holiday home in the hills they had planned to build). And yet, as he discovers, acceptance cannot be conditional on finding the plane and understanding the sequence of events. There should be lessons drawn for aviation safety and passenger communication, but it does seem to have happened.

This is an extremely sensitive, intensely reflective and well written account of what life has been for Narendran, his family and all others impacted, ever since the disappearance of MH370.

Priya Kumar’s book I Will Go With You: The Flight of a Lifetime uses a scenario similar to that of Malaysian Airlines to discuss philosophical questions of life and I reviewed that at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....


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