Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Prey

Prey Prey by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard about Prey since a few years, but got round to reading it only a few days back.

The story is very interesting. A technology experiment - combining bio and nano tech brings out unexpected results (quite expectedly!) and a crisis of sorts.

Jack is a person who has lost his job. His wife Julia works in a senior position at a company called Xymos. The company is reportedly on the verge of making a major breakthrough - nano miniature cameras which can be used for a wide range of purposes. Jack takes care of the kids and despite his best efforts finds it difficult to get a job, especially as his exit from the previous company had issues - though for no fault of his.

Jack finds himself drawn to issues at Xymos - to rein in organisms which have gone out of control. There is tragedy, quite a bit of it and the book has good pace throughout.

The books also brings out the dangers of technology - if we are not careful with it. Overall a good science fiction read.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review: One Indian Girl

One Indian Girl One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In general, I always thought Chetan Bhagat is able to weave stories which move fast. There is however, a noticeable difference in the story if you write it with the expectation that it would be made into a Bollywood movie. And that is just what spoils this novel.

It starts on a dramatic note - Radhika Mehta is engaged and a whole lot of guests have assembled at the wedding. Now, the two men she has had relationships with decide to land at the venue. The book then goes into retelling about how the relationships blossomed. That is probably the better part of the book. There is little or no reasoning on Radhika Mehta's choices though.

It is back to the wedding scene and a lot of drama is in store. The problem though is that these sequences are neither natural nor interesting, including a sermon Radhika delivers near the end. What follows is even more absurd, though there is some kind of semblance of better writing at the end. However, that is not quite enough. Overall, quite disappointing.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead

Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead by Anu Aggarwal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anu Aggarwal made an impressive Bollywood debut and it looked like she would do well in Hindi films. But then she disappeared. This is her story - especially of the later period of her life.

As it turns out, Anu says her heart was never truly in films. Yoga fascinated her and she joins an ashram. She stays on well after her course is complete, and helps in the ashram. She gets to be close to the head of the ashram (whom she refers as Swamiglee), and this fuels jealousy and politics. She is asked to leave quite abruptly during Swamiglee's absence.

She has a near fatal accident in Mumbai and is hospitalised for many days. She make is out and gradually regains normal functioning of her body. And she goes on to make Yoga the purpose of the life.

Anu Aggarwal's effort to find meaning in her life and also bounce back after the accident make for inspiring reading. The writing is however quite average, and also the book would have benefited with more incidents and an all round view of her relationships with relatives and friends. Much of the book reads as independent passages and does not really jell together in a coherent storyline.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ove is one of the best characters I have come across in books in a long time. He keeps to himself, and finds a lot of things to be not what he thinks is right. Most people frustrate him and get him into a cranky mood. So in many ways, he isn’t exactly the person you would like to have for company. And yet, he is extremely disciplined, has strong values and shows courage which is out of the usual when needed. He starts his day, typically by inspecting the neighbourhood for burglaries or irregularities, though it is not really needed. He is good at fixing things, all in the old classical style (not quite a modern technology fan). He cannot understand people wanting things easy, and being inept at stuff they need to know - reversing a trailer for instance.

Ove’s wife Sonja has passed away recently, and he finds that life has far less to look forward to without her. Ove and Sonja’s was a strange marriage is what everyone felt – because Ove was odd, really odd. Ove stands by his wife after a bad accident – fighting the system for her when he needs to. And after her passing, Ove visits her grave regularly with flowers.

Ove has new neighbours – Patrick, Parvaneh and their kids. Ove wishes they would leave him alone but they don’t, especially Parvaneh who looks at him as a father figure. What does Ove do now? And then there are also Rune & Anita who were family friends but Ove and Rune fell out. Rune is now in a bad way, and Anita is stressed. What will Ove do? And there is a cat, who will not leave him alone.

The humour in the book is sophisticated and a delight to read. As you move along, the full range of Ove’s personality comes across. The book ends on a strong note as well, with something for all of us to take away into our lives – delve deep, there is very little to imbibe at the surface.

At the end of it, just maybe, you will feel that it is not Ove who is odd, maybe it is all the others, and us.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation

The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation The Blissful Brain: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation by Shanida Nataraja
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meditators do not really look for proof that meditation is actually good for them. Practice makes that very apparent, really.

And yet, it is undeniable that the working of the brain is fascinating. This book does an excellent job of explaining what meditation does to our brain. It covers active and passive types and how various regions of the brain respond. As the author notes though - there are various ways people meditate and individual responses and results vary. Hence, the explanations given are somewhat generic - though they do fall into certain broad patterns.

While our knowledge of the brain is improving, it is still far from adequate. The observations in the book are hence somewhat early and limited.

Overall, however, this book is a great read and provides a scientific basis for the benefits of meditation.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: The First Trillionaire

The First Trillionaire The First Trillionaire by Sapna Jha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title grabs your curiosity, doesn't it?

The story centres around Shail, a simple girl who makes it to a bank job with a lot of hard work. Her mother Vanashree goes through very tough times to bring her up.

Shail quips during her initial training that she wants to be the world's first trillionaire. This is however a story of her life and those around her and very little about her long term ambitions. The story breaks to the past after the introduction – the lives of her mother, the circumstances of her birth, her father, brother and her benefactor Olivia. As part of her job at the bank, Shail does very well – also helping the branch come out of tough circumstances. Shail has a well wisher in Olivia, who is a billionaire in UK, and also a business partner in Kran who is a scientist. The story develops well to reveal the interest Olivia has in Shail.

As part of her job, circumstances put Shail in conflict with the local goon Bachcha Singh, who has powerful connections. The enmity takes a serious twist when Shail is kidnapped and moved to a secret locations. At this point, more criminals including those with links to global terrorists get involved.

The first half of the book is an easy and engrossing read and the characters develop very well. Shail's humble background, her mother's struggles and her rising professional reputation all make for very good reading. The later part of the book introduces too many new characters and unnecessary complexity with many sub-plots. As a result the plot significantly deviates leaving loose ends in the original circumstance involving Bachcha Singh.

I got this book in a Goodreads giveaway. A book worth a read, especially for the story and key characters.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: A Million Thoughts

A Million Thoughts A Million Thoughts by Om Swami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are not too many books around which detail methods to meditate. “A Million Thoughts” is one of the few which is a fairly comprehensive guide – has excellent material around why you should meditate, how to go about it correctly and what you can expect from meditation.

The basic principles around meditation, the types of mediation and what each one offers is explained very well.

The book scores, since other than relating his personal experiences, Om Swami has sprinkled the book with excellent quotes from ancient scriptures and several beautiful short stories to make the point. The stories are crisp, often moving and make the point exceptionally well.

As Om Swami explains, there are various levels you can reach with meditation. While he reached a stage where he would meditate for hours and days together, many of us may not aspire for that. However, this book is for all serious meditators, however far they want to go.

While I believe people always benefit from a good instructor or Guru, this book is one of the best you can read to get started. Get going, and you might just find yourself. This book is worth far more than the price you can get it for.

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