March 2019 Books

Did not realize I had read 20 books in March. What fun! Quite a crazy mix, so I’ve attempted to categorize them somewhat.

NON-FICTION

1. The Vedas and Upanishads for children by Roopa Pai: No surprise that this book is wonderful. Complex topics, ideas, and philosophies conveyed in simple terms without losing the message. Am so blown away by how she does it, and does it so consistently. A book worth possessing for both old and young.
2. The Long Strider by Dom Moraes and Sarayu Srivatsa: What I picked up on a whim turned out to be an intimately written and brilliant book! The book is not just about Thomas Coryate and his amazing walk to India, but also the journey made by Dom Moraes, Sarayu his companion/co-author, and Juzer, their researcher, trying to retrace the path taken and gather details of the remarkable Englishman. The chapters alternate, giving you two incredibly good stories to savour. Chock full of quirky details and quietly humorous yet poignant, this book will definitely count as one of my good reads.
3. In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta A Ahmed: Very interesting read about life in Saudi Arabia, where the author worked as a doctor for two years, just before 9/11. At times, I felt I was reading a dystopian novel. It felt so surreal: the unimaginable wealth, the scary moral policing, the schizophrenic existence of both men and women…I felt just as liberated as the author when she walks away in a free land at the end, symbolically leaving her abaya behind on the plane itself.
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama: This book has been all over the place, and so, I ended up reading it overnight, engrossing as it is. Michelle tries so hard to keep herself rooted, and compared to Obama, she has had it pretty good with close family, and a good education. But by the end of the book, I was actually more taken with Barack. I did not get as good a sense of him from his own book Dreams from my Father, as I got from this book. He comes across as such an incredible person, and Michelle is the perfect foil for him – strong, practical, and rooted firmly. What an amazing couple!
5. Listen to Me by Shashi Deshpande: A sweet autobiography, and gives a lovely picture of her internal struggles. Many times, I could completely identify with her thoughts.
6. Unforgettable: The Iconic Women of South Indian Cinema by Nalini Shivkumar and Rema Mahalingam: This book felt more like a compilation of newspaper articles. Some snippets were interesting, but it didn’t really do anything else for me.

FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION

7. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson: The second book of the Reckoners trilogy. Ends on a cliff-hanging note that makes you impatient to read the next (Steelheart, which features in my February list, is the first book).

8. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson: The last book of the Reckoners trilogy. A bit disappointed with the very Hollywood ending. But there’s no doubt that Brandon has now become one of my favourite authors. His construction of worlds is so solid that you get quite completely sucked in. His writing is so competent that the story stays right on track. Creativity at its best!

9. Strange Worlds! Strange Times! Edited by Vinayak Varma: Such a delightful collection of science fiction short stories! Do read, they are quite enjoyable.

10. The Man who was Thursday: A Nightmare by G K Chesterton: What a strange story this was. Anarchists named after days of the week turn out to be quite something else. And the ending is surreal. But the writing, oh the writing! What beautiful, lyrical writing. Reminded me of what I was missing.

11. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa: A YA fantasy set in faeryland, featuring Oberon, Titania, and Puck amongst others, and technology taking on the guise of the villain. The heroine, Meghan Chase (what is with Magnus Chase, Meghan Chase and all?) is not the brightest bulb honestly. Too many times I wanted to smack her. Wish she was a stronger character. Didn’t particularly care for the central male characters either. Overall a good one-time read.

12. 123 Tomorrows by Vaibhav Thakur: A Kindle book that reminded me of Source Code a bit. A terrorist plot, multiple universes, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of main character…ambitious book and quite well-written, found it gripping in parts.

FICTION

13. Exile by Robert Patterson: An Israeli leader gets assassinated in the US, and a Jewish lawyer defends the accused – a Palestinian lady, with whom he has a past. Tries to portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in as many shades as possible. Some parts were interesting, but found it a plodding read.
14. Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott: A beautiful YA novel about a teen coming to terms with her mother’s illness and demise. Choked me up a few times.
15. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Alice is a typical harried mom trying to keep her sanity with two little children in the middle of a nasty divorce. An accident makes her lose her memory and she bounces right back to her twenties, when she was so completely in love with her husband and they are looking forward to the birth of their first child. A neat device to make one remember what it was like to be younger and hopeful and have dreams. Interesting characters like her sister, her mom, and her adopted grandmom makes for a fantastic, moving read!
16. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Nicely written, but it was predictable for me and the open ending was annoying! 🙂
17. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: Another beautiful YA book about an adopted gifted girl who loses both her parents suddenly in an accident, but finds family and meaning with other people. A sweet book and has you rooting for the main character.
18. Newcomer by Keigo Higashino: Loved this murder mystery, mainly because every character is treated with such respect and humanity. Little sketches all along make this a hugely engrossing read.
19. The Mystery of the Lingeshwar Temple and the Lurking Shadows by Laxmi Natraj: An interesting contemporary plot with terrorists in a little village. However, I kept wishing I could read this in a vernacular language. It would have been superb and have given an immediacy to the happenings.
20. My Lawfully Wedded Husband and Other Stories by Madhulika Liddle: A Kindle book with cute little stories. The story in the title is about a wife cheating on her unsuspecting husband with an electrician, and the ending is quite literally shocking. Another story I enjoyed was set in Goa.
Phew! That’s the end of my list. So, what have you been reading?

February 2019 books

The month is short, but still managed to pack in quite a few, mostly light reads.

1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: a nicely told YA romance, which doesn’t leave you wanting to smack the characters. The teenage angst is much more real and believable. Loved it.

2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas: An absolutely rocking page-turner, based on Beauty and the Beast, but with large doses of fantasy thrown in. Deserves its bestseller label on all counts.

3. White Magic by Arjun Nath: Heartbreaking and educative, it talks about rehab of the junkie author interspersed with the life story of Dr. Yusuf Merchant, who tirelessly works for the cause of breaking addictions. Brilliant writing, with a sure eye for lovely turns of phrases, it manages to pull you into the hopeless despair of an addict without mincing words and gives you the shivers sometimes.

4. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: OK, it’s official, this is now one of my all-time fave authors. When I read the Mistborn trilogy, I was blown away. Then I read one book of the Arithmatist series, and I was so impressed. Steelheart reads more like pop-culture and like the superheroes we are familiar with, but the writing, the foundation, everything is so solid! The style is so much breezier than Mistborn, so it makes for a quicker read. I am bowled over by not just the range of creativity, but the range of styles and the sheer superiority of the competence with which he writes!

5. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao: An interesting tale of two girls/women, ranging from the weaving villages in the Andhra region to the hopelessness of the sex trade in India and human trafficking to the US involving the anonymous cleaning crews. Range of the novel was good, but I sometimes lost interest in the characters themselves.

6. Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton: Fascinating history of how the European spice quests and wars shaped the entire world. It just boggles the mind that folks took off on voyages that lasted years, the future was so uncertain and fraught with risks and perils, and laws were made up on the go. Makes one really wonder about the world as it is today.

7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: Total kick-ass book! I loved the way the characters are brought out so strongly in so brief a work. This kind of writing is totally what I like. Fantastic.

8. Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnson: Solid writing, spunky characters, and just the right mix of romance, revenge, and redemption. Perfect for those sunny afternoons with a cuppa tea, love.

That’s it, folks. Onto my March list – what joy!

January 2019 Books

What a fantastic start I’ve had with books this year! I read a dozen books, and I enjoyed almost all of them.

Here’s the list with as short a review as I can muster:

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett: To say I love Terry Pratchett books is an understatement. This was no exception.
Year of the Weeds by Siddhartha Sharma: This is an absolute must-read! Categorised as YA, it deals with the very serious subject of Gonds fighting for their own land very deftly, lightly, and with wry humour. Such an excellent book – can’t stop gushing about it.
Idris – Keeper of the Light by Anita Nair: The amount of research that’s gone into this book clearly shows, making it a fascinating read, though wasn’t too taken with the story itself.
Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard: What a cute and interesting real-life saga this was! Quite enjoyed it.
For Better, For Worse by Carole Mathews: A light-hearted romance that started off strongly, but petered off into some over-the-top stuff.
Jasmine Days by Benyamin: Very interesting book set in a Middle-East country, and depicts conflict at so many levels like Shia vs Sunni, natives vs migrants, and men vs women. Original is in Malayalam, translation was quite competent.
Colour of Light by Terry Pratchett: Yes, another one and my review is predictable 🙂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Beautifully written book that doesn’t lecture on the injustice meted out to blacks, but instead focuses on the impact on everyone associated. Thought the ending was too neat, but otherwise fantastic in the details.
Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Blythell: I actually gifted this to a friend and the borrowed it right back! 🙂 It’s great fun to read and has the right amount of humour with the back-breaking and annoying work that one has to put up with in order to be in the book-selling business. Am very jealous that he gets to do it.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: What a book this is! A meditation in itself, I read this book so slowly because I needed to savour every moment. I teared up in quite a few places because the writing is so exquisite and the experience described even more so. Though there were some parts that made me wince a bit – the colonial kind of attitude jarred – this book is undoubtedly a treasure and a worthy candidate for several repeat readings.
Eating Wasps by Anita Nair: Beautifully told with engrossing narration, it read more like a series of short stories.
No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini: Loved the detailed nuances of the short stories!

Hopefully, February will be equally delightful.