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Archive for the ‘After-thoughts after a book’ Category

Remember the book I read earlier and reviewed – Sisters by Rosamund Lupton, now there is another book from the same author – Afterwards and it was an awesome read! Rosamund Lupton has a way with her narration and it is a very interesting thriller and the drama in the relationship between a daughter and her mother is beautiful. I connected a lot with the protagonist for the simple reason that we both have an elder daughter and a younger son! The mother in me appealed to the mother in the book, trying to protect her kids traveling any length, read it again, ‘any length’, both the mother Grace and the daughter Jenny who succumb to injuries due to an arson attack at the local school, have an ‘out-of-body’ experience and know the facts that they can’t tell anyone, uncover evidence that they can’t share. However strange this may sound, the book is undeniable engrossing at the least!! I think the worst thing that can happen beyond losing your life, is to linger around in the World watching your loved ones grieve over you. I do hope, I am a good enough soul to head straight to heaven or in the other extreme, head straight to hell! BTW S thinks Hell is a very bad swear word and keeps questioning why it is so…  I have earlier told her that hell was the lowest floor of Heaven, as I did not want her to think God sends people to a bad place, so I cant really tell her why it is thought as a bad word here.  I just tell her culturally there are certain sensitive words and this is one such. I remember during my first trip to the US in 2000, my Mormon colleague flinch when I used the word damn in a meeting!!

I  read ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry, a Dickens style story telling and it was unputdownable, and you would feel like living in India in the 1970s and would shed a tear at every atrocity committed to your friends in the book, by the so-called authorities or high class folks. The story is a snapshot of a year of life of 4 individuals whose paths cross in an unnamed Indian city. Mistry spares no crude details when he sets about explaining the unjustness the protagonists face. It is an epic in its own way and moves the reader, however grief-striken the reader would become, there is no way he can stop reading the book, excellent narration by Mistry, a tapestry depicting the extreme emotions – happiness to misery and you would be amazed. The book is set in the Emergency period in India during Indira Gandhi’s rule and after the book, I now have officially few more reasons as to why I hate that family. My worst fear always has been to be at the receiving end of an officer who abuses his power. Though you may have grown in a country where abuse of power is nothing new and corruption exists  at all levels, as long as you only read it in books and in the news, you are oblivious to it. But this book really shook me at various levels and was ashamed at the abuse of the caste system introduced in the Aryan period. The system I still believe has its own merits and it made sense at that time, but later the system was SO abused that it is our Indian version of holocaust and even decades later, the current generation faces the after-effects.

After the heavy book, I needed a light reading and started ‘Magic hour’ by Kristin Hannah. I am really warming up to Kristin Hannah’s writing, hers are kind of chic novels but I love the way she carries the story lines and the emotions that run through the story. This book is about a wild child who comes out to the city and how a Psychiatrist Doctor works with the feral child and introduces the World to her. You can’t but fall in love with that child and appreciate how she survived the trials and the tribulations since she was abducted and left in the wilds. She is more comfortable with wolves, dogs and birds that humans. I have Kristin Hannah marked as one of my go-to authors when I need a satisfying read without too much depth…

Another interesting book that I read recently is ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery.This philosophical fiction is full of allusions and is set around the life of a  concierge of a posh Parisian apartment, who is actually the ‘Hedgehog’ – elegant and so much level-headed in the inside but her outward appearance to the onlookers is just another boring under-class worker, just like the actual Hedgehog. A twelve year old girl who is intelligent beyond her years  is frustrated with the mundane life hates the hypocrisy of those around her and thinks taking her life is a suitable end to her meaningless life and the impossible charade of living among foolish humans and this girl Paloma strikes an unexpected friendship with the concierge Renee and uncovers Renee’s true self. The funny and touching story is narrated by these two characters Renee and Paloma and though they are generations apart and from entirely different social backgrounds, they have more in common as they interact with each other. Right when Renee is ready to come out of her shell and enjoy, meets a tragic end but she already convinces Paloma from taking her life. There is a Japanese business-man who befriends the two narrators and he brings the best out of the two characters too. Overall it was a good read, not your over-your-head philosophy. You can relate to the typical stereo-typing that exists in the society and also learn new insights from every page of the book.

After a long wait, got my hands of the Iconic Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and  I loved the book. There was just plain truths and no effort to hide the “negative” side of Jobs, and any additional effort to further idolize Jobs and I was impressed at how S Jobs went after the person who he thought was ideal for his biography, he dint want to leave that to chance either! True perfectionist he was!! Also if he had truly not read the book before it was published, my respect for him would only grow abound. How could he not have been curious to know what his friends and enemies would have to say about him and how could he be perfectly alright with anything they could have said! One thing that stood out throughout was the melancholy you cannot ignore that this great man no longer lives among us, so what if he was arrogant, I dont care, he was a TRUE visionary and he redefined creativity. Ofcourse he had the support, and the team of A-players. But he was the one who got the A-players to realize their best potential and that in itself is an achievement. I am going to get my own copy of the book and after reading this book, I ended up getting an Iphone. I have been staying away from post-paid plans and even a smart phone for so long inspite of my DH’s insistence and at last S Jobs changed my mind and I wanted a part of his creation in my possession! And during thanksgiving, I ended up even replacing our Samsung Galaxy Tab with an Ipad! 🙂

Read the autobiography of Andrew Agassi – Open, last week. I started the book with mixed feelings, my DH has very strong opinions about Agassi and they are not pretty and I have been quite influenced by them as well. So wasn’t sure if I would like to read his book, but my dearest friend suggested that I read it and I couldn’t say No! But I was glad I picked it up, though I haven’t changed 360 degree in my opinion about him, but I am starting to give some benefit of doubt to him.  I cant believe he actually thought he can lead a private life and have no one interpreting his actions, once you become a public figure, there will always be someone second guessing you all the time.. So it is a little difficult to digest when he totally blames the press for defining him and later calling his ‘supposedly’ formation of his personality as ‘transformation’.  But I have to be frank, this book while I was reading it made me think about it all the time and thought S should read it when she is older, not to know about Agassi but to read a personal voyage of a kid from Vegas to nowhere to the Altar and can be an inspiring book for the teenagers!

Of course as always, there are few more books I would like to discuss but they have to wait for a later date. 🙂

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It has been ages since I posted… Summer is keeping us very busy and not to mention engaging the ever energetic kids – one at home enjoying her summer holidays… It is highly impossible to keep her entertained all day! We are checking out library books in dozens every few days in a week and still she completes them all and is ready for more! 🙂 So you can imagine how depleted my available time would become to keep her from cribbing about spending her summer with me at home. I thought I was doing her a favor by having her at home apparently not according to her! 🙂

My dear friend R sent over the much-talked about Immortals of Meluga book to me and another friend here, had the next book with her so it was a jackpot for me to read the first two books of Shiva Trilogy one after the other… Amish Patel has done a great job giving an all new perception to the Hindu mythology (?!) surrounding Lord Shiva. I liked the way he had tied the Sun and Moon Dynasties and also had explanation for the Gods that had a different look with animal heads or multiple hands. Very few fiction writers can produce this kind of complex drama based on mythology, rarer still is that this is a debut novel. So Kudos to Amish!

I have always felt Gods belonged to a race superior to mankind, kind of like super humans who preceded us and during the transition stage is when the super humans were documented as Gods for the religions to flourish. To me this appeals more to my common sense and that doesnt mean I am an atheist. Certain thoughts are best compartmentalized in yourself and to me religion is one such topic. The brain in me looks for logical explanations like Gods as super humans who designed the wonders of the world.  The heart and the soul in me still fasts every Thursday as a reminder to my body to meditate over God in the form that appeals to me the most. I still play Suprabhatham and Vishnu Sahasranaman in the mornings and truly believe Sanskrit to be a superior language that doesn’t just convey meaningful thoughts but also triggers positive vibrations and cleanses the place where Sanskrit is spoken. I believe Sanskrit was devised as a language so it will be easier to propagate. That is why, the fights in our epics where just utterance of a Sanskrit Manthra before releasing the arrow, released such energy to affect the intended victim. 🙂

Growing  up I was quite impressionable when it came to Religion and Spirituality and was always intrigued by anything to do with it. I started my schooling in a Christian school and by the time I was in my seventh grade, my grandmother was worried that I would soon become a Christian, in fact at that stage, I was a Hindu in just my name! I did not use bindis, bangles or earrings and would take candles to the School chapel on the day of my exams and take the melted wax from the candle to the exam hall!! I think I  kind of overdid myself when I started comparing Old and the New testaments and reporting them to my dad. At that point, my parents decided they have had enough and shifted me to an Hindu school!  The new school environment was a 360 degree turn from my old school and it took me a while to get acclimatized. And pretty soon, I started visiting Sri Ramakrishna Mutt in Mylapore very regularly and much to my parent’s amazement, there were Vivekananda posters in our bedroom and all the books I won as prizes from the school were either Gospels or teachings of the  trio I still respect and admire – Sri Ramakrishnar/Sri Sarada Devi/Swami Vivekananda.

Apart from the mandated school visits, I started visiting the Ashram on my own with my friends and I also enrolled in VYASS – Vivekananda Youth Association for Service and Spirituality. Every Sunday afternoon, I used to spend at the Ashram debating the multi-facets of Vedanta satisfying the Spirituality part of the Group purpose  and visiting orphanages and Government hospitals and taking part in voluntary services at those sites, for the Service part! I really loved reading books on Vedanta in the Library and though I did not know what I was learning, I was becoming more and more inquisitive of Adhvaitha philosophy which helped later in my life. I will get to that in a while.  I remember spending 5 days of a beautiful summer at a Youth camp held in Kodaikanal and how I got my father’s permission for that. I wrote a very touchy note requesting his permission and kept it in his lunch box, so he would discover that at his work and will have time to think about it without categorically saying No. And it worked!! I never imagined my parents would send me off to a Youth camp on my own with other VYASS members at the age of 15! May be I was a trust-worthy kid!

I remember how confused I felt when on the bus to Kodaikanal from Chennai, while the Swamijis who were chaperoning us were dozing in the front seats, the Vivekananda college students were singing cine songs in an Anthakshari game. Those were the Annas and Akkas I thought were so spiritually inclined! It was quite a learning curve for me, that it is is normal to behave normal too! Anyway it was an amazing camp, meeting teens from all over India and having very healthy debates and discussions. I was particularly psyched when a quote from me was selected to be published in the “Vedanta Weekly” in the Ramakrishna Mutt.  I hope I retained a copy of it. It would have been my first published material! Later there were many All India Youth camp right in Chennai that I attended too. Every time I used to be back from such camps, my parents would love me, as I would be in the BEST behavior till all that I learnt wear off slowly! Then I would pick up the books to refresh again! 🙂 Anyway after one such camps, I came home all excited and told my mom that I found my destiny and that it was to join Sri Sarada mutt, she was absolutely aghast! She was like what did I pull my daughter from and where is she going!!

My parents sat with me and told me to complete my schooling and then college and even at that stage if I still feel the same way about joining the Mutt, they would consider. I still look back and appreciate the non-panic mode they were in, and how they let me come out of it on my own.. After schooling I joined Ethiraj College and my visits to the Mutt kind of dwindled and I decided I was wrong about my earlier vocation. 🙂 In the later years, when I asked my dad how he was able to handle my eccentricities, his simple answer was he felt better off with my spiritual inclinations than the other kind of infatuations that he had expected of me at that age!! 🙂 Anyway till I met my hubby I had little time to read more on the Spiritual literature. And you would think how Spirituality is connected to meeting the love of your life! It would, if you end up getting married to a person from a  ‘different’ sect. When I knew I was getting married to an Iyengar guy, and how difficult it was for elders to digest even that, I ended up finding out how different we were. I found that the basic difference is not in the Gods but in the philosophy you were expected to follow. I truly believe I can be born to an Iyer family – followers of Advaitha philosophy and still be convinced with Vishishtadhvaitha philosophy and follow that. So that would make me an Iyengar technically! The same is true for an Iyengar who believes more in Advaitha philosophy. I also learnt, Shiva and Vishnu were just favorite Gods of the protagonists who propagated the respective philosophies and nothing suggests that followers of Advaitha philosophy should be devotees of Shiva and Vishishtadhvaitha, Vishnu. I do not speak of these lightly but with conviction because I did read a lot from both the philosophies.

Anyway I do not want to dwell too much in this , just that religion to me is nothing but love but most loveless acts originate from the so called religions these days, making one question even the validity of such religions. If you hurt someone physically or mentally in the name of religion that makes you an outcast and not a follower according to me. Who are we mortals to compare one God to another and think you are superior just because you follow one God versus another person who follows another God. Is it not true that all paths lead to the same destination? While you are on the path, how would you know you are on the right or even the faster path till you reach the destination, so how can you feel empowered enough to point out other person’s way as wrong! It never stops to stun me, these eccentricities in the humankind!!!

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‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett is a brilliant novel that revolves around the racial discrimination as it existed in the 1960s in the Southern states of the US. I realized I had a dark side in me when I read the book.. As much as my heart went out to the colored people who faced all the terrible discrimination and segregation at the hands of the so-called ‘higher’ class house wives, I enjoyed the fact that it was not just in India, the discrimination had existed and I realized I was entirely wrong to have felt ashamed at what had transpired centuries earlier in my country, thinking how can my fellow country men have been so blind. I dont know where the mistake lies, and why our educational system and our media and our political leaders till date, project only our discrimination in the poorest light and my generation as we grew up had a loss of pride for the shameful acts and discrimination in terms of working classes and religion. I still agree they were wrong, but singularly it was not only us and just because a wrong thing existed everywhere doesn’t make it right.  It is just that you accept it with a pinch of salt that we were also not spared as a country, as you read books from every part of the world, you would realize that the discrimination has existed EVERYWHERE in the world!

The author Kathryn Stockett wrote the book just as any other fiction, there is no depth in the novel, it is just plain sad to read how the Southerners treated their folk who ‘helped’ them run their households. And one thing that really set me wondering about the authenticity of the plot is how only women were shown in the poor light and men were totally excluded in the story. It is as though men folk did not have anything to do with the atrocity and that is not right. Anyway this book got me to pick up another novel – a real life story of what happened in Little Rock, Arkansas when desegregation of Public schools happened for the first time. The book ‘Elizabeth and Hazel – Two women of Little Rock’ again turned me very sad and made me ponder over the supremacy that people seemed to gain by just having a different melanin content in their skin.

‘Home Front’ by Kristin Hannah was a good read and it moved me to tears at many parts in the story. It was a beautiful story of two female friends who lived as neighbors, both serving in the military and how different their families regarded them. Reading up-close about the transitions in the personality of people from deployment was difficult to digest, and I would hate a country that would put me in such a position betraying my own family and for leaving me with nightmares about a lost-cause fight in a foreign country. Why should my country be the savior of all the people destitute across the world! Anyway it is not my fight or my country in question, so I cant wager this war. And I guess I am being very vocal about some of my strong feelings in this post, so I better collect myself before I go out of control.

Moving on from heavy subjects, if you are looking for a fresh thriller, you should pick up ‘Sister’ by Rosamund Lupton. You would love the eloquent, pitch-perfect writing of Rosamund Lupton and she beautifully creates characters who are as vividly alive in your mind as many other real people. The story is about two entirely different characters but very close sisters and  how the elder sister Bee doesnt accept her younger sister Tess’s ‘suicide’ and how she unravels the mystery. Surprises await at every turn and the climax was UNBELIEVABLE. I thank my dear friend Janani for suggesting this awesome novel of such a high caliber. It is a must-read…

I recently read again ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ and fell in love with the impeccable story telling style of Audrey Niffenegger. This book appeals to the hopeless romantic in me and it is such a beautiful love story though presented as a complicated fiction too, and how I wish I had met my DH when I was 5 years and hold on, I like that part but do not want the time traveling boy friend part though, in my real life.  I just can’t believe how patiently she stays behind and waits for him to come back every time. It is a LOVELY tale and my brief summary can do no justice to the story. I cant wait for S to grow old enough to read this book!

This, by far would I guess be my shortest post,  I have been adding a line here and there for 10 days now and I better publish this post today..  Life is getting busy with the warmer weather!!

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I would like to talk about the two books by James Clavell – The Shogun and Tai-pan this time. I remember picking Shogun when I was at college and then put it down intimidated by the size (around 1200 pages) and that too it was in fine print – usual Rs 40 per copy print. Now my co-brother read it and reminded be of the author and the book again. V was surprised to know I haven’t yet read Shogun and promptly picked up the book from the library the next time he went.

Shogun – It was such a pleasure to read the book and Shogun made an interesting read, totally awesome. It is really good to read a very enticing story set in the boring history period of British incursion int0 Asian countries. We read so much in history and forget all about it… Later when you end up reading a story related to that period it all comes back to you! I learnt more about WWs in Fiction novels than what I learnt in History during school days! May be we should have stories to go with the history lessons making them more appealing rather than make kids remember dates by rote!

Anyway back to the book, the story is about a British sailor / adventurer Blackthorne , the Japanese woman Mariko he falls head over heels in love with and an indestructible Japanese Lord Toronaga who aspires or should I say conspires to become the Shogun of Japan.  Blackthorne’s ship docks in the shores of a Japanese village and he and his crew are taken captive. What would shock you is how primitive the ways of the British sailors are to the Japanese people and how soon Blackthorne realizes the errors in his way of living and tries to emulate the Japanese and ends up becoming a Samurai. The word HONOR means everything to the people there and something as trivial as taking a bath is a ritual to them as is drinking Tea or watching a rock grow!! I knew bath was not a regular act back in those early days in Britain (of course only  from other books), but this book just blatantly points out the savage ways that existed in the West when the East was so advanced in the cleanliness and spiritual awareness.

The writing of Clavell has an addictive quality and you just don’t realize you are really reading a humongous book! All the characters are interesting and unpredictable and you can never guess what would happen next. There is a lot of violence in the book – seppukku – honor suicide when one fails their duty is the most common. But you will end up admiring that unwavering commitment they have to their role and how they would rather commit honorable assisted-suicide rather than live with the shame of failure. I was in particular stunned at one point, when one Japanese general enters the Warlord’s quarters, on his way thinking about how the guard at the door is the husband of his favourite grand daughter and how much he is looking forward to seeing his great grand kids, from that couple, grow up.  The very next scene is that there is somehow a breach of security and there is a foiled attempt on the Warlord. The instant the danger is averted the same Japanese general says the guard should commit seppukku for failing his duty without even a second thought. There is not even a hesitation in his mind or words and the author doesn’t even attempt to explain the situation, such is the Japanese way of holding on to their honor. The same general in a week requests the warlord to allow his grand daughter and her one year old son to commit seppukku as they do not want to live with the shame of the guard. The general however doesn’t approve it and ends up assigning that grand daughter as a courtesan to Samurai Blackthorne, who is addressed as Anjin-san throughout the book. Sharing the quarters with a savage Westerner-turned-Samurai is the punishment to her!!

The strategies of Lord Toronaga are so astounding in nature and I wondered how James Clavell could conjure up such conniving schemes. All the details of the war and the culmination of the plot to the final climax is all so clearly laid-out that leaves you awe-struck. How can I forget to mention the most beautiful love story that was running all through the story.. The love shared by Blackthorne and Mariko is really magical and you wish them a life of togetherness though you know it may not happen.  I am not sure how much of a clear representation of the Japanese culture and civilization  the book is of the 17th century Japan, but what James Clavell portrays, he does it with such a confidence that I just want to believe him. I was also amazed at how the Catholic Church already had its presence in Japan and how the politics of the country was shaped a little by them!! I always admire the Church for the strong conviction they have in their religion and how far and wide spread they took the message of God as they know it. The Catholic Church, of course saw the Protestant sailors as a threat to all they had built so far in the country and they try to make it difficult for Anjin-san. The friction between the parties involved is gripping! Anyway I think I am giving too much plot away and my brain is already screaming “Spoiler Alert” . So I would stop here! Please do read this book when you get a chance.

Tai-pan – Smitten by the work of James Clavell in Shogun, I picked Tai-pan right next. Infact Tai-pan is an earlier book by the author. This book was indeed entertaining in its own way. This book is set in the turbulent days of the establishment of Hong-Kong and is about Dirk Struan who has been accorded the honorable title of Tai-pan and his rival Tyler Brock. There is a constant power struggle between them and their need to establish their trading company in Hong-Kong that would serve to trade with Mainland China. Dirk Struan is a man defined only in contradictions, a visionary who wants to open up China to the West and is an unorthodox manipulator, but is also portrayed very humane.

In this book, the Tai-pan though seems to work establishing his trading house – the Noble house as the leader among the British traders, actually looks at a long term goal of reaping the benefits of a trade agreement with China. The tea trade and the Opium trade and their economics are easily portrayed and I understood why the English promoted tea cultivation in India and why it was important for them to not be dependent on China for Tea! The Asian saga of James Clavell I am sure would teach more History to students than any traditional academic history books. 🙂 That said I am now more equipped to teach S and A their history with a better understanding!

Again how can the Church not be there in a book set in Asia, however closed Mainland China is to everyone else, the Church has it presence there already!

James Clavell truly loves Asia why else he would take such effort to bring about the finer points in the culture and have the hero of his stories emulate them and make them appreciate and balance the ways of Europe and Asia. Of the two books Shogun and Taipan, I liked Shogun better, but trust me, both are incredibly readable and would suck you into the plot and make you live along with the Characters.

I will be sure to pick up Noble house by James Clavell soon to followup on what happened after Tai-pan ended! :)I have been totally busy at both personal and work front and I have been having this entry WIP for like close to three weeks.. I just seemed to have some spare time today and here I complete the entry.

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I wish I had more time in hand, S keeps telling may be 24 hrs is not enough time for a day and it does seem true at times. I read so many books and of them there are many books I want to note down for posterity! I am hoping S and A would grow up to be avid readers and ask me for suggestions and I would have all my notes to readily share with them! Books indeed are the window to the world and my perception undergoes immense change with every book I read. Even the dumbest book can give you brilliant insights into stuff you would have stopped to think of. So there is no bad book, just books that move you and those that do not, but still may teach you a new thing or two!

This post is about the two books:

Room by Emma Donoghue and

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

My initial plan was to discuss Shogun, but I recently completed another book, Taipan by James Clavell and I would rather discuss them together in a separate post.

Room by Emma Donoghue – I waited for this book for close to 2 months, when I reserved the book I was 218 in line and even forgot about the book till it became available for checkout. What can I say, this book really moved me and stayed with me for a long time even after I finished it. Not that the plot was any unique, a teenage girl kidnapped and held as a captive without anyone knowing for years together. We have known in recent times that many such freaks exist in this world holding strangers or even wives and kids as captives hiding them for eternity and harassing them. This is a story of one such girl who was kidnapped and held aloof from outside world and she ends up delivering her son in that room and after that life changing event, she makes the purpose of her life to equip the son with all the knowledge she knows and make him strong and eventually with his help escape the “prison”.  The story is narrated by Jack the 5 year old son in his simple words and within the first ten pages of the book, you would be captivated by his narration and your mind would adjust to his thinking ways, addressing inanimate objects in the room as persons.

Within the confines of that room, it is amazing to see the maternal relationship bloom between the duo and how the son literally thinks the WORLD about his mom, after all according to him the world is made of just three people including the nocturnal visitor. The mom’s sincerity in creating a normal life for her son in the form of routines is admirable and she is such an excellent teacher as well. It just goes to show how someone can spend productive hours with a kid with very limited faculties as well, locked in a room. It made me think about the quality time I spend with my kids and how i can improve, and I am not talking about academic skills here! For someone who has spent all his 5 years of existence with his mom, Jack has such good manners when he is outside and treats everyone with respect!! I had to say this for to me, seeing a 7 year old turning into a little rebel right in my family, I am impressed of any kid with good manners,even in a book!! 🙂

The author has captured the effect in the little boy when he is exposed to the outside real world in a holistic manner and it just would move you, when you learn that the boy would rather go back to the safe world he knows, THE ROOM instead of experiencing the real world. The same room is both a heaven for Jack and hell for his mother. If you have not read this book, please do read it!!  It is a must-read kind of a book.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This book was also reserved by me and I waited for a long time to get hold of it and I had the book for just a week, but I did not need a week to complete the book. Once I began this book, I hardly took any breaks in between, every waking moment when I wasn’t attending to the duo in my family, was spent with the book. It was really un-put-downable for me!

I cant wait to read other books by this awesome author and I hope he writes many many more!! This is his debut novel and you need to read the book to understand the Verghese effect I experienced. His narration of the plot and the depth he brought in every character in the book is amazing. The book revolves around the life of conjoined twins(separated at birth) born to an Indian nurse Mary Praise and a British surgeon Thomas Stone. How the birth of the twins Shiva Stone and Marion Stone bring people together and how the lives of the twins is influenced by their foster Indian parents is narrated in a seamless manner and as you watch the twins grow, you also notice the rise and fall of regimes in Ethiopia and get engrossed in the lives of immigrants in Ethiopia. The story begins with the disappearance of the father of the twins after the mother dies in child birth and their father’s disappearance haunts the twins all their life, in particular Marion’s. The foster parents happen to be Doctors as well and the kids grow up right there in the hospital and Shiva even without attending medical school is acclaimed for his successful medical procedures for a common condition in Ethiopia.  The magical relationship that Marion experiences rather imagines with his childhood crush Genet and how the same relationship takes him to death bed and destroys one of the twins, Verghese does have a style in tying all characters together. I loved the characters Dr. Hema and Dr. Ghosh and the influence they had on the twins upbringing. The US stint of Marion was interesting in many aspects and you would be surprised at how even the gory surgery details escape your attention when the story is so heart warming  and you feel kin-like with every character.

This book is another must-read according to me!! I do admit I am not too much critical of any book, I hardly ever say anything bad about a book, to me a book would fare excellent if one doesn’t read the book just to finish it but enjoy along with the characters and feel involved,and hear the author talking. And of course apart from all the good books I put down in my blog, I do read many other fiction books simultaneously but I only write about books that move me, so no wonder I have nothing but praise for the books in my blog! The other books, I just read them till the end before returning to the library! 🙂

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This is again a post about not a single book,but many! I have been reading so many lately, but very little time to put them down in the blog. 🙂

I found this new author M. L. Malcolm and read her debut novel which is the first one in a series of two books and I read the sequel right after. She was a good find! I mean I have been reading a lot of new authors and not many really hook you up with their style. This author has the makings of a good one. The books are very fast paced and she takes you to the place where the stories are set, takes you through the first world war and what it did to people. The books would appeal to any historical fiction reader. The books are Heart of Lies and Heart of Deception.

Heart of Lies – The protagonist is Leo Hoffman who is a multi-linguist Hungarian National who is extremely smart and can think on his feet. The first book is a beautiful love story between Leo and Martha and their love spans continents when Leo has to move to Shanghai to escape prison, start his life all over. It is just incredible that Martha leave her safety zone and travels all the way to Shanghai to join him. Their love story is woven around the WW I events and Shanghai seems to be a place without borders and where anyone can salvage their life! The author just transports you from Europe to Asia to Shanghai and you feel you are right there with the couple and watch them settle down and Leo getting embroiled in local politics and how he survives and emerges a winner in the end. When the first book ends, you just cant wait to pick up the sequel.

Heart of Deception – The sequel is as un-put-downable as the first one! This ventures into the later years of Leo and how he strives to connect with his daughter who is safe in America. It is not easy for him, as his daughter thinks he abandoned her and blames her for the loss of  The plot is riveting and enjoyable, and you almost feel bad when the book ends and you know there is no more to it.Leo continues to be a spy, working hard to gain entry to America, to be united with his daughter. The life of the spy and the many reasons that motivate them is portrayed beautifully and the rundown of the events in Morocco and North Africa during the WW II is awesome. It transports you to the places and makes you empathize for all those who worked in the ‘enemy’ territory during wars. I can read any number of books based on the world war and still be moved however lame the book may turn out to be. The way it affected people all around the globe is so terrifying and my secret desire is that there is never a WW III in our lifetimes or I should say rather never.. What if I get caught in one in my rebirth? 🙂

This new author is definitely on my watch list so I read her new books!

I have been reading books off the shelves of the library at random these days, looking for interesting reads. One such book that I picked recently that was kind of good was ‘Rich Again’ by Anna Maxted.

Rich Again – The book cover was quite deceptive and I was expecting a chic novel, however it turned out to be a dark mystery novel. I could find in it the likes of Sidney Sheldon mystery – just that the plot here was quite deep and there was a dense story line building up. It talks about a dysfunctional family in which every family member is taunted by a mystery enemy force, no one even realizes that the misgivings they face are from a common enemy!  The climax is quite nail biting involving kids and is quite a fitting end, though it is quite a drama. A very different reading experience in the middle of historical novels!

After finishing this book, I picked up another one of Anna Maxted – Getting over it.

Getting Over it – This book was nothing like Rich Again, totally different, chic-book and completely funny! There was nothing remotely even dark about this. I even had to check if this was by the same author! Anyway here the story line was about a late twenties woman who loses her dad suddenly and how she ‘gets over’ the loss, all the while supporting her mom, even at the cost of ruining her romantic life. She suddenly finds her mom all dependent on her and she finds it quite choking and she has no time to relieve her sadness and seems to be reacting to everything that is happening around her rather than think and act! The mess she makes of her life and how she gets back in control is the book crux. There is a wry humor in every line and would bring a smile to your lips as you read it. It was an enjoyable read though it could have been cut short a bit, there were extensive chapters that you wish would end and the story would move! Anyway two different books from the same author. I am not sure I am ready for another Anna Maxted in the recent future.

The next book I read was so AWESOME and I am sure once I start about that, this post would not end any soon. So I am reserving it for the next post. Anyway the book I am referring to is Shogun by James Clavell.

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I doubt if any of us grew up without hearing our Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. I don’t know if it makes me sound like a non-believer, I was never entranced by Ramayana, I thought Rama was a pretty lame God. Please excuse my verbiage,  I DO believe in one eternal God just that some of the forms do not appeal to me as the others.  Anyway I stumbled upon the author Ashok K Banker and his version of the Epic Ramayana written across 6 volumes.

They were awesome to begin with and the author very lucidly narrates the Epic in his own imaginative style and he definitely has taken some liberties in certain sections, but the entire epic appealed to me in ways it hadn’t before. Rama as portrayed in this is such a down-to-earth Prince unaware of his divine qualities, yet a stickler to Dharma  and Sita is a TOTAL surprise, a warrior princess who teams with Rama in all the fights in the Chitrakutvan. The romance between the divine pair is so beautifully expressed and the Brahman power of Sage Vishwamithra and that of the princes is scientifically articulated. The portrayal of Hanuman – his everlasting devotion to Rama and the characterization of Ravana and his race, the general traits as such of the Vanar race and the surprise wisdom of the Bear race  – all are very vividly explained by the author.

The books in the Ramayana series are

Book 1 – Prince of Ayodhya:

This book introduces us to Ayodhya kingdom and the royal family. Sage Vishwamithra makes a grand entrance into the epic and introduces the Princes Rama and Lakshman to Greater deeds taking them to Bhayanak-van  and empowering the Princes with Brahman power to defeat Demoness Tataka and her sons. The Queen Kaikeyi characterization is awesome, though it is the dark side alone that is exposed, it leaves  a strong  impression in the readers of her involvement in the shaping of the epic.  Also Manthra is depicted as a spy to Ravana who plans to overthrow the King and reign over the mortal world as well. The author talks about a portal in the Earth to the nether world through which Ravana gets his hordes of Asuras. Ravana gets introduced pretty early in this author’s version. The way I see it, the author tries to bridge the gaps in the original epic with reasonable explanation to make the story line more plausible to these day readers. Like explaining the Brahman power endorsed to the Princes who are just mortals and that explains how young 16 year old Princes fight the Asuras. And Ravana’s portal into the Narak – Hell, explains the incursion of demons into the kingdoms – The upsurge of the Ravana’s horde is explained right in the first book setting a pace for the rest. The best part was towards the end of the book when Sage Vishwamithra coolly tells the Princes they have to stop over at Mithila before going to Ayodhya to attend their own weddings! 🙂

Book 2 – Siege of Mithila:

The second book is as fast paced as the first one if not more! I liked how the author depicts Sita – the Sadhu Sita I knew of, as a warrior princess in his version! She is not a damsel in peril as we are used to seeing her in Ramayana. The hero and the heroine meet in very unorthodox conditions in the middle of the forest fighting with Bearface and his allies! Sita is in disguise as a male-kshatriya when they meet!  Ravana appears as a suitor in Sita’s Swayamvar – that is a twist from the original! Rama’s first encounter with Ravana as an equal in the war also happens in this part and Ravana’s army is overthrown by the Brahman power of Rama. You would imagine what else would remain of  Ravana and his power, after Rama decimates the entire Rakshasa horde. But the best is yet to come.. 🙂

Book 3 – Demons of Chitrakut:

If I could name one book that was a little bit of a dampener for me in this series, I would say this is it. This action-packed book talks all about the happenings during the major part of the 14 years vanavasam of the Prince and how he befriends Bearface and his hordes and fights with the demons and asuras.  The best part in the book to me was the meeting between Rama and Parashurama and the author just hooks you into the incident and you are as good as an audience to the actual event! The narrative skills of the author are awesome and he spins such wonderful tales around the original Ramayana. Again I was impressed by the author’s portrayal of Sita – the warrior!

Book 4 – Armies of Hanuman:

This book starts with an end to the war between the outcasts in Chitrakut and the Asuras. The fight is quite nail-biting and vividly described from the eyes of Hanuman who is a silent spectator to the wild battle. You have to admire the author for his excellent rendering of the fight and the soulful dialogues between Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The abduction of Sita happens in this book and also the transition of Ratnakar into Valmiki is beautifully narrated. After the abduction of Sita, the society of Vanars is explained in detail laying the footwork for the rest of the Ramayana. I have always been unimpressed by the Vali episode in Ramayana, but this depiction in the book shows that Vanar society has its own rules and ethics quite different from the human race, hence if I judge their actions from the human point of view, it may only seem wrong! My Patti would be upset in heaven that it took AB to convince me when all she asked of me was unquestioning acceptance when she related the story to me!

Book 5 – Bridge of Rama:

This book reveals to Hanuman his true form and he takes it quite well, if you excuse my saying so! One of my college friends always used to say she is actually a Princess and one day it will be revealed to all! 🙂 Though it seemed funny,  I have always wondered what it would be to discover you are a super natural!! For Hanuman to know about his divine lineage and his untapped strength and power, my God, only Hanuman could have handled it the way he did with such humility! 🙂 Of all the divine characters in the Ramayana, Hanuman is my all-time favorite. I can never imagine someone having the kind of devotion he had for Rama, for anyone.  The making of the bridge by the Vanar force is amazing and the huge feat is accomplished by a smart idea from a simple Vanar and now they have less than a day to reach Sita before she is executed. The book is so enthralling you would not want to put it down.

Book 6 – King of Ayodhya:

The final book and I was really sad to pick this one, as I knew the magic was going to end… 😦 To say it was a rapturing read is the understatement of the century. I loved the author’s depiction of Pushpak Viman, the way the Brahman power in the celestial ride can take the shape it desires and also acutely sense the thoughts of those in it. You have to read this book to know what I am saying. In fact the Pushpak Viman’s power is explained even in the Bridge of Rama, when Sita finds out where she is being held captive, still it is in this book that the full manifestation of its powers is explained. And how can I do justice to the awesome rendering of the final fight and encounter between Rama and Ravana, and how Ravana seems to have known the end always and how he explains this is how it is meant to be. He plants the seed of doubt in Rama’s mind when he asks him to take care of the twins. Or as my hubby thinks, he just says that to point to Rama that he has indeed taken good care of Sita and the safety of the twins in her womb is his gift to Rama. Anyway the magic of the six books ended and I really would love to read the author’s Mahabharatha whenever it is published.

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