Friday, March 31, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (Book)

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood.

There are a very few books which make a deep deep impact or make a kind of bond with the reader that its very hard to break, this is one of those few excellent books that I have had the pleasure of reading in the recent past. I had no idea of neither the writer nor the story hence was quite a surprise and shocking read too. Also, another thing that I would like to mention about the book, story and subject that it touches is that it cannot be reviewed because even I mention one point about the whole thing it will work like a spoiler for the reader. Although they have unfortunately almost made it predictable for me too by giving that important line from "Genesis" right at the start. So, if you plan to read this one - just pick up the book, Do not and I mean it DO NOT read the cover, back cover or anything at all from the first few pages and straight dive for the main story from chapter one and let me tell you - the journey will be such that you will never forget in your life. Just the way I am not going to forget this book or the story ever, it is written in such a convincing way that I actually felt sad, happy, elated and a hundred other emotions for the protagonist as if it was actually happening somewhere in the world in reality and I was a witness to it all. A totally different kind of Apocalypse If I may call it that.

Before I read this book - two terms "Utopia" and "Dystopia" will always play around on the back of my mind - never knew what they meant in reality. Now I can write my own theory on both the terms - this one has made it very clear for me. Someone's Utopia can very well be someone else's Dystopia and there can be nothing like a perfect world ever. Every chapter, every page in this book is a sort of revelation and it keeps growing on you. Initially I felt as if I was having my favorite drink, one sip at a time but as it progresses and the past, present and may be the future which one will be hopeful of is revealed - it just blows your mind off. I wanted to go fast as fast as I could to open up more secrets or to know more about what is happening, the Why's and where it is leading - it keeps getting darker, gloomier but still I was hopeful of a better future or shall I say a better ending may be. Also, this became one of those very few books (using that term twice) that actually made me forget if I was breathing or not, it indeed made me stop breathing and keep reading, hard to explain what I went through reading this but no doubt the story has its own highs (mostly lows) like the little victories that the protagonist goes through i.e. stealing butter, using it like a facial. Its a damn good lesson to us people who may not value what we have in search of what we look forward to and those little things that we do not value right now they may be so much more valuable to others or to ourselves in future - who knows.

It's a must read for all, a definite 5/5 from me, a book not to be missed by anyone and I will be looking forward to some of her other works too. Quite a few of her books got Booker's and other Nominations and victories too. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rabda - Ruzbeh N Bharucha (Book)

Rabda - Ruzbeh N Bharucha

A book on Sai Baba written by a devotee as its visible from the cover - I would have never picked it up in the first place given a choice but as my friend sent it to me - had no option but to read it. I just can't live with a book in my collection which is unread by me so I reluctantly picked it up last week and I am totally glad that I did it. Although wont say it turned me an Atheist into a sort of believer but nevertheless a superb one time read with so much about the great spiritual man (that was an eye opener). The book fortunately or unfortunately kept on reminding me of Neale Donald Walsch's trilogy "Conversations with God" which I finished last year and totally loved it. Exactly like that book this too is a great conversation between Rabda on his death bed right after he gulps down a lot of sleeping pills with a bottle of vodka (reason unknown) and enters a comatose state. Baba comes visiting him and takes his spirit for a time travel and shows him that he was none other than his own companion for last couple of his births and reveals a lot of unknown secrets to him plus answers all his queries (mostly readers too) on lots of topics and life's philosophies. It never gets preachy and actually makes up for a very interesting read I should say.

Initially the way writer has sketched Sai Baba's character was a big turn off for me as I could never believe that he will ever use those choices Hindi cuss words (like literally using BC MC on his most loved devotee) but gradually as the story progresses I realized it wasn't actually the cuss words but his love coming out of his mouth in the shape of those words - and it turns out to be hilariously awesome to know or perceive that Sai Baba actually had a fantastic sense of humor. Rabda is a musician in his present birth and as he thinks his life has no purpose, commits suicide (rather attempts) the way Baba enters into his life and their journey from there onward is too good. I had no idea of his history or story as I am no staunch follower but this book clarifies almost all doubts I had on the great man. Whether he was a Muslim or a Hindu, whether he was an incarnation of Jesus, Lord Ram or Hanuman. Who he followed, what he believed, how he lived his life and how he wanted his shrine or temple to be made and left and the reality as it stands now. I was very glad to know just like Neale Donald Walsch even Ruzbeh Bharucha accepts rather claims that the eternal supreme could be a He or a She. Right like Jesus who was crucified and came back to life after three days and like Gurunanak Dev who entered the great sea to take Jal Samadhi and came back unscathed after three days, I was shocked to know that even Sai Baba took his first samadhi and his body was declared dead by British Doctors for three days before his spirit returned and lived for another couple of years before taking the final samadhi and left for his heavenly abode.

The book covers so much about Sai Baba and his philosophies that its very hard not to get shocked for someone ignorant like me who had no idea. Like he used to live in a Masjid namded "Dwarka Mai". He begged for his food till his very last day in Shirdi but only from five houses from the neighborhood which we fixed. He took the food from them as if he had a right on it. The money and stuff that he received from his devotees during a day he claims made him super rich but by the evening he will distribute every penny to the needy and will only keep a couple of coins for his "Chillam" :) that he used to enjoy with Rabda (in his previous birth) as he was always at Baba's service. His connection with mythological figures that he claimed were real is too good too, like he claimed that Lord Ram was a real man and even Lord Hanuman - their connection I will say, you've got to read the book for - its too good to be disclosed here. I am totally reading this book again to grasp more from it. Also, the way he speaks lovingly with Rabda's spirit and takes him to a journey of a life time - he actually answers all the questions we may ourselves have provided we come face to face with a Godly figure like him and I must say that those are some real satisfactory answers clarifying all the doubts one can have on life and our purpose. It is written in such a lighter tone that mostly it kept me grinning from ear to ear to hear the way Baba speaks to Rabda, calls him so many names, like a demented lamp post to a constipated rat and hundreds of other names. On top of that the way he will also call with funny names lovingly making him laugh and forgive his silly mistakes.

I must say, the way it starts (a turn off) to the way it progresses (an eye opener) and the way it ends (I kept asking for more and never wanted it to end) - this will now be one of my favorites on the great man that I never knew almost nothing about. I do not know its historical accuracy and neither should we care as the message it passes is just, great and very relevant in today's time. Now I am more keen on reading The "Fakir Trilogy" from the same writer. Do let me know your views if you have read any of them. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Casual Vacancy - J K Rowling (Book)

The Casual Vacancy - J K Rowling

Another filler as well as I was very keen on knowing - what J K Rowling has written after the much loved Harry Potter series and three additional reference book, even those were good if not great. Unfortunately this one is no patch on her earlier works and a total turn off. This also became one of those very few books which I sort of though of abandoning twice - first when I was almost 1/3rd the way and second after 200 odd pages - imagine its a 370 page book. That typical Rowling magic was missing, but I kept going hoping it will change and I may end up liking the story as it develops but no ways - it picks up almost after 300 odd pages as story starts coming to a predictable conclusion but by that time it was too late I had almost lost all interest and just wanted it to end.

One thing that I disliked big time (will not call hated it) is Ms Rowling's desperate attempt to make it a book for adults which was visible right from the very start to the very end. Current generation kids (Brits in here) as per the book are gone to the dogs, taking drugs, not listening to neither their parents nor teachers, child abuse, rape, prostitution and what not, rather almost all the teenagers in the story has some vendetta against their own parents who in place are screwing their own neighbors all the time - one way or other. And lets not even talk about Sex, I was totally shocked with her detailing, it wasn't not only the biggest turn off but was cringworthy as well, I just couldn't understand why she had to get to that level of details, totally looked forced. Also I need to mention this that one of the lead girls (father unknown) in the story had only one target, to get pregnant by a guy who is from a well to do family so his family could support her and her infant brother who is abused by a drug peddler, a regular supplier to her mother. I just couldn't believe or imagine what Rowling was trying to portray through this book, as it all happens in a town which is like 50 miles from London and that too in current time as all the kids have cell phones and they text each other.

The only good thing about the whole book and story was its hero - Barry Fairbrother the Parish Counselor whose unfortunate death (on the first page) opens up the "Casual Vacancy" in the Parish Council for which his allies as well as enemies are fighting. He is the only one who could keep the whole town together and take them forward towards a better future. He was loved and respected not only by kids but the adults too. The position that he holds had the power to make or break the future of the sleepy town and its neighborhood town and fields. The way story goes forward from this point onward and various characters are introduced - it actually becomes confusing at one point to keep a track of all of them, fortunately the kids track kept me going. Also there is this Indian origin family too "The Jawanda's" who play an important part in the narrative who is called "Paki" by everyone else - I believe Brits cant make out the different between a Paki and a Sikh from India. But this family's detailing is the high point of the whole book - they way Rowling delves into their past, religion and all is too good, I was delightedly surprised by her research on Sikh's and mention of Guru Gobind Singh and a little of their religions story.

So, if you haven't heard or read this book yet - ignore it as you are not missing anything. I will read just one more from her before discarding remaining of her books without reading. As I have her "Galbraith Series" books with me too :(. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Rescue - Nicholas Sparks (Book)

The Rescue - Nicholas Sparks

Here comes the filler as I call all the love stories I read in between my two heavy reads to refresh my mind. This one was a quite refreshing mushy mushy read, a typical Nicholas Sparks love story with some struggle here some confusion there and everything should fall in place by the time it ends - although he has more then once killed the lead character to my shock in two of his much acclaimed books (and I hate him for that) especially in "The Message in a Bottle" - not done - will never forgive him for that. But I just cant resist any of his books - hence got all them last month from the very first to the very latest and going to read them as fillers now and then :).

A very simple story of a Contractor - Taylor McAden  who works as a volunteer fireman too rescuing people in need. Story takes a turn when he saves a single mother Denise from a car wreck who has a son with special needs who in place gets lost in the accident. How they find the kid and what happens next is the rest of the story. They both have a past that they want to forget and get over with, who needs to rescue who makes up for a damn good romantic read. I could have finished this book in one long sitting but I kept pushing and decided not to read anything above 70-75 pages a day to enjoy it longer, also I was worried about the ending too. Another thing that I like about Nicholas, his stories and characters is that they are totally down to earth, almost life like, always based in a small town with very basic life - the one's that we can co-relate with very well, but the stories are always beautifully told. No exception this one.

So, if you have a lonely evening with not much to do, this can definitely be picked up and read in one shot. Let "The Rescue" rescue you from boredom and le me assure you - it will make you smile, will make you grin from ear to ear and will definitely make your eyes go moist by the superb ending. And now I will move back to another tougher book so I can pick up his next work yet again after this one :) 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien (Book)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien

My first book from the other side of the great wall and another addition in my Booker (Nominee for 2016) reads. I always thought what made these books so special and this one clears all of my doubts in one shot by the way Author has covered before and after of an important point of history from China - The happenings of Tiananmen Square in the year 1989. The way one single episode changed the lives of millions of chinese fot good and bad - makes up for a heartwarming and a commendable effort. As is the case with almost all of these books that I am learning gradually - even this wasn't an easy read rather I will call it quite a challenging read - call it my ignorance or zero knowledge of the happenings. All I remember of Tiananmen Square episode is what I saw decades back on TV while in my teens that a huge number of students turned out to the square for some revolution, sat on a hunger strike which was later turned into a massacre by the Army of Peoples Republic. It is written from the point of view of a young girl who witnessed everything live, currently lives (almost) a comfortable life with her mother in Canada as a lot of Chinese took asylum either in USA or in Canada after the massacre. She traces the story back and is on the lookout for her dad's closest friend's daughter, who stays with them for quite a while and goes back to live in the US and unfortunately she had to go back to China because of some visa issues and never comes back. The little girl now all grown up is looking for her friend after decades and the journey uncovers so much for her and the readers as what happened then which makes up for a very captivating, eye opening, unbelievably earth shattering read, I could never imagine the gravity (not the right word).

What I will call challenging but not a turn off is the use of Chinese terms, specially the alphabets and figures which of-course made no sense to me. The musical references as both the lead character and his protege were professional musicians in the first place later turned into factory workers because of the Chinese law and order of that time, again I will hold my no knowledge of music a culprit. Also, I wish I had a little more knowledge of Chinese history to make it a better read for me. But what worked big time is the story running in the background to the whole revolution of the Professor and his much loved Protege, it even explores and makes us delve into a different love between them (will not call them Gay) but yes they had a physical relations. Another point that I wasn't able to make much out was the character names - I mean Chinese names anyways are different then the rest of the world on top of that a lot of the characters are named like "Sparrow the bird of quiet", "Swirl", "Big Mother Knife", "Baby Corn" and a couple of others. It was indeed shocking to read what the Chinese people have or may be still are going through that too in 21st century and how life is on the other side of the wall, I just couldn't believe it, makes me wonder yet again that we are too lucky to have what we have and that actually made me thinking she still titled the book "Do Not Say We Have Nothing" kudos to her. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson (Book)

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson

I always wanted to read a good biography for quite a while till I told this to a close friend of mine who happens to be a voracious biography reader - result? Instantly he gifted me with half a dozen damn good ones, not disclosing the names right away as anyways you are going to read my briefs about them as soon as I finish them. Fortunately the first one I picked up was on a guy - I almost had no idea about - all I knew till last month about Steve Jobs was that he was the guy behind Mac / iPad / iPhone - none of those things that I ever used. But what I know about him now is a plethora of information, facts, figures and what not that this space will do no justice to it if I start listing them down here. Also, I find myself simply incapable of reviewing this superb book (if I may call it that) with such a limited vocabulary that I have. I am totally in love with this guy and the products that he has created (read invented), first thing I am going to do now is to get myself a MacBook and an iPhone as soon as the budget permits, as my little token of appreciation to the great guy. Although this book wasn't an easy read to start with as its almost 530 pages in thickness plus the copy that I got was quite a size bigger then the normal paperbacks we get, its almost impossible to hold it while lying down on the bed so I had to read it sitting on my couch with the book balanced on my lap (like seriously). Plus the story as it unfolds is so damn good and in great details that I had to actually take a break after every chapter to digest, adjust it in my brain and even brag about those points that I just read to my kiddo and wifey and let me say this that even they were amazed to know all that.

Steve Jobs was one heck of a man, I can say that now very well after reading all about him and like the Author says one will run out of adjectives - if you would start describing him in mere words. Like its no secret that he started his company from his parents garage and grew it into a multi billion dollar corporation now. Starting from the company's name to its logo - almost everything has a background story to tell. I had no idea that he was such a big fan of Alan Turing who he claims won the second World War single handed and died by eating a poisoned Apple to save his secrets from Germans. Not only that - the products that he wanted or actually made - he always wanted to make them out of this world and we all know how world class they are. He was actually one hell of a guy who wanted to make a dent in the Universe and now today we can very well agree that he indeed made one in his life time and left a company which will go on and on without him being present any longer. How he hired, fired, nurtured and behaved with his staff, friends, immediate family, kids, parents (adopted) as well as his own who abandoned him while he was a child - makes up for damn good read. His eating habits as he will call himself a Fruitarian (I had never heard of this term before this book - ever), there was this one time he ate so many Carrots that he turned Orangish in color :). Or not wearing shoes at all, turning barefoot for his job, not taking bath for days, not using a deodorant etc etc. Also, the crazy guy when they detected Cancer - tried doing his own therapy for almost a year before finally giving it all up and taking professional help. They could have saved him - if only he agreed with the doctors in timely fashion then following his own whims and fancies.

His personal life, first wife, divorce and an abandoned daughter - how and what he does for them at a later stage or can be said how he was forced to do for them is another superb chapter of his life. I could never believe that a Biography could be this interesting - or may be because the world was anyways in Awe with him that it makes up for a supremely interesting read. It actually made me laugh out loud so many times especially the way Walter described how frequently he will actually cry out in public once his wishes weren't full-filled. How he behaved with his friends and colleagues - totally unbelievable stuff. Also, his interaction with the CEO's of other companies and how he treated them at times - seriously unbelievable. But the best and my personal favorite will always be his love hate relationship with the then Microsoft CEO - Bill Gates (superb episodes). His hand behind the making, running and success of Pixar as well as the fallout with Disney is one damn good and inspiring episode. Another too good chapter(s) were his choice of movies, music, likes in the genre as well as his indifference with Beatles and the final outcome is simply too good, the guy will just not give up. And let me not even talk about the invention of iPod, iPad, iPhones and other fantastic products as that will stretch this write up further couple of pages if I do that.

This should be an authentic biography from all standards as it does line up his negative traits too and author does clear it before even starting the project with Steve himself that he is not going to like what is written about him to which he responds that in that case it wont be called an in-house book :). The book is in so much great details that I guess it covers everything he has done in his life and an outstanding effort by Walter Isaacson. I saw both the movies based on his life and this book - one with Ashton Kutcher in lead (Like Seriously what they were thinking?) who almost resembled a lot like real Steve Jobs and acted well too but that movie left so much expected with not so much delivered. The other that came last year with Michael Fassbender in lead too wasn't the best I would say as they made a lot of changes and took too many cinematic liberties - makes up for a good movie viewing but cannot be called an apt adaptation neither of the book nor of his real life.

I am definitely looking for more biographies by Walter Isaacson now after reading this and already got one more very interesting one already, which I shall be finishing soon. Do read it guys - if you haven't already and if you have - do let me know how you like it :). 

Monday, March 13, 2017

His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet (Book)

His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
My second Booker (Nominee) book in the last six months and I am confused if I can call it a beautiful book or story or not as its based on the gruesome killing of three members from a family by a teenager way back in the late 19th century. This book although it was hardly 140 pages yet took me quite a while to read, digest and finish, also kept reminding me of outstanding book with almost similar story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Chronicles of a Death Foretold) where we are told at the very initial start what (and how it) is going to happen next still the reader is completely glued and engrossed with the narrative. Mind-blowingly chilling account of the killing but the situation leading the protagonist to the same and subsequent consequences leading to it and what happens afterwards - no way that I as a reader couldn't sympathize or empathize or even looked forward to an alternate ending then it can be presumed (very well). That was some story and some simply superb way of telling it - no wonder it made it to the Booker qualification - win or no win - its a winner all the way for the reader. It is indeed based on a real life incidence way back in time but the Author must be praised to have written it in a way that no way it can be considered something written in the 21st century and by that I mean the language and choice of words and sentences, totally amazing work.
Another thing that I like about these books based on a time couple of centuries earlier is mostly the gloomy background, the struggle of daily life, dreams and vision of a better future, simplicity, slow but developing pace plus no hurry to reach anywhere - they have so many qualities provided the writer is good and in this case - this guy is damn good in that and makes up with a completely satisfying account. The book is very smartly written in two parts - first is the boy's memoir of what and why he did what he did and second part narrates what happens afterwards. Even the courtroom drama associated with the story is too good and almost one of the best I have read so far in any of the books with fantastic twists and turn of events plus some good investigative research done by the various parties involved. The books makes up for a very compelling read - one that I couldn't put down without finishing yet couldn't read too fast too as it takes its own time in developing the story and then shocking the reader with simple yet great details - if you have read this you will know what I mean but if you haven't - you've got to read it. A book not to be missed by anyone as it is thrilling, chilling, have a damn good little love story too in between. Go for it guys - do not miss it at any cost.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Delirium - Lauren Oliver (Book)

Delirium - Lauren Oliver
A very dear friend mailed me this book and the title got me hooked to it. Imagine a world where "Love" is considered a disease and not only that - they have even discovered a cure for it too. The procedure of curing someone of Love will be done at a precise age and time when it hits the subject most. How they behave before the procedure is done on them and how afterwards - makes up for a superb read. It may get a little predictable for the over smart sorts but worked perfectly fine for me as I am unfortunately a hardcore romantic who takes all his decisions from heart rather then brain. It isn't a very small book but it races to the finish in no time as its written from the perspective of a teenager who has fallen head over heels unknowingly and later realize how cruel the world is for people like them. How they face their fate and what all secrets gets revealed about the people who had fallen in love earlier and had gone through the process of "Unloving" again makes up for a compelling read. I had no idea of the subject or the wild imagination of the author but as I finished this and read about it - guess she has written a trilogy of sorts - gotta get the other two books and see what happens to them in future - if there was a future for infected couple(s).
If you like romantic novels or love stories - this is a must read for you. A totally new concept I will say.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Arranged Marriage - Chitra Lekha Banerjee Divakaruni (Book)

Arranged Marriage - Chitra Lekha Banerjee Divakaruni
Usually when I read a book from a writer whose works I have never read earlier - I tend to pick up more stuff from them to know them a bit better, guess this time it was a big mistake. I read her latest book (Draupadi's version of Mahabharat) and decided to pick up her earlier books too - this one's title too was temping and especially coming from an Indian author I was inclined to anyways like it for humor, Indian background, our own been there done that stuff thinking and all. But this one unfortunately turns out to be a frustrating account of a female stuck in a loveless marriage with an NRI (preferably someone working in California, USA) almost against her wishes in an Arranged Marriage. It isn't a big book as it had a little less then 200 pages with almost a dozen odd stories, written all from the perspective of the girls involved, all of them from Calcutta and Bengali's. Not that I have any issues from their being Bengali's but I seriously have issues with all of them shouting out loud in all their accounts that "All Men Are Dogs", I was like C'mon, this is 21st century we are talking here, where the women are fiercely independent, educated and take their lives head on now a days. There was a time when this used to happen - I would have still lived peacefully with these stories, mostly agreeing that yes it does happens but unfortunately not one story had anything positive to say about any of the husbands.
Even if you look around yourself in today's time - it is quite possible that we do see a lot of unhappy couples going on with their loveless married life just for the heck of living in a society where we think of what others will think of us but still there are (some) good husbands who do love their wives, care about them, treat them as equals - what I was shocked about the book was that the writer couldn't find one husband out of the dozen accounts she had written to be that good man. That was a little heartening for me. Even couple of stories with the typical patriarchal background (though convincing) but there too the villain was the Husband only treating his wife as a sex object, with no rights, live a life of maid and when he cant have her i.e. when she is expecting - he will happily find an alternate - I am like WTF, seriously. An utterly frustrating book that I will not recommend (after a long long time this became one of those very few books that I will have to rate low). I guess I will try her other Mythological Fictional works - in which she is too good. This was an epic disaster.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

This Was a Man - Jeffrey Archer (Book)

This Was a Man - Jeffrey Archer
7/7 of The Clifton Chronicles
Last year when I picked up the first Harry Potter book when it came highly recommended by my couple of friends and a cousin - until that moment I always thought it was a case of "Much ado about nothing" and today after finishing another series of 7 books from yet another British writer - I post this review having a "Severus Snape" like hair style, wearing a Harry Potter T shirt. Imagine what impression these books leave on my fragile soul :). Another friend told me that she cried while ending the seventh book and it wasn't any different for me too as a tear actually almost rolled down my eye (twice) as I finished the last chapter "The End" and as the German wall came crashing down and at the very end - WOW!. Fantastic, Mind-blowing and just terrific was this book series which will be on the back of my head for a long long time. Amazon yet again goofed up the delivery of the last book as I always wanted to read the last book as a paperback but had to settle finally for a kindle version as just couldn't resist waiting another couple of days for the delivery to arrive and I am glad I did that. And if I didn't mention earlier - even in this series one of the main character happens to be named "Harry (Clifton)", couldn't just be a co-incidence you see.
Much against the general opinion of people who read the series and claimed that the last book was underwhelming - I would like to counter that because I totally loved it and will call it a perfect ending. Yes, it doesn't comes any closer to the first two for sure but is certainly way better then the last four and a perfect finale I will say. Here too Lady Virginia bounces back with a vengeance and her story takes an amazing (hilarious) turn as we expect no less then what actually happens to her - Karma at its best. The way Jeffrey has covered the seven decades in the life of the trio of Harry, Emma and Giles progresses in life and achieves what they achieve together against all odds is simply commendable, from kids at a primary school to great grandfather and grand fathers respectively plus the added important episodes from history make it a damn good read. Also as Harry's last book comes to an end (book inside a book) - I guess all the fans will definitely look forward to the same booking coming to stands this year some time soon by Jeffrey Archer named "Heads You Win", what a superb idea. I wish I could come across Jeffrey Archer in real life so I get an opportunity to take out my pen and raise in respect - if you know what I mean.