Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love in the time of Cholera- Marquez

I don't get it. I just don't get the love for this book. It is beautifully written. It has some amazing insights. BUT- I don't connect with ANY of the characters and I find their reasonings and motives strange. This is a novel about a man Florentino Ariza who is in love for over half a century with a woman who chose to marry a wealthy doctor instead of him. After fifty years they meet once more and try their second hand at love. The bulk of the story lies within the fifty year wait. I was heavily disappointed. This is a novel that teaches me that one can write beautifully but if I cannot connect with the story, I cannot love the book.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Blood of Flowers

What an interesting book this was! This is historical fiction set in olden days Iran during the time of Shah Abbas. I enjoyed reading the stories interspersed throughout and the major story of a young unnamed girl and her quest to survive after her father died and her prospects for marriage grew dim. The story is about life in those days, so you can just immerse and feel as though you are there, but it is also about hope and the power it has. For that reason alone it is worth a read.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The World According to Bertie- Smith

This is the fourth installment in Smith's series of "44 Scotland Street". The series peeks into the lives of the residents of 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. The book is actually the compilation of daily fictional installments in the local Edinburgh newspaper. The first of the series was good but the story line just got better and better with each installment, and this one was the best of the series by far since it focuses a teeny bit extra on Bertie, my favorite character of the series. I love how simple the story lines are, and how beautiful the writing is. I plan to buy this one and read it several times, particularly when I'm feeling down.

Twilight- Meyer

Eh. I felt curious to read this book due to all the buzz and comparisons to Harry Potter, but I was extremely disappointed. This is a story of a girl in a small town in Seattle who falls in love with a vampire. The writing is atrocious and the storyline is just okay. I do get that this was not written for my generation, but I do enjoy YA material usually and this was definitely subpar at best.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Empire Falls- Russo

After a spate of bad books that were so horrid I could not complete them I decided to seek out books that surely had to be good based on their label of Pulitzer Prize Winners, and this is what led me to this novel. This isn't the type of novel I typically read, its a character novel exploring the lives of the residents of a small town in Maine (Empire Falls), a town that was once big but has now fallen into decay and is practically forgotten. The town is run by the Whiting family who control everyone almost in a God-like manner, seeing and hearing everything and taking steps to mess with its residents or give them reprieve. The story focuses on a fry cook manager Miles Roby and his teenage daughter Tick. Through them we see his ex-wife who left him for another man who continues to hang out at Miles' restaurant, and other various characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the type of book you have fun picking up and reading. The book was deep but also light, hilarious and tragic. It's probably among my favorite books now.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Four Agreements- Ruiz

A friend told me this was a good book so I checked it out. I think its message is important 1) Be impeccable with your word (i.e. use it for good and to say good and do good) 2) Dont make assumptions (we hurt ourselves with assumptions sometimes, just look at actions and what people say, clarify if you misunderstand) 3) Don't take things personally because its usually not about you and 4) Always do your best so you live without regret or guilt.

These are great things to live by but the book has a hard time really making these concrete principles. I wish it had been longer and not quite so repetitive.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Conversations with a Fat Girl- Palmer

This was a really sweet book. This is the story of two friends, one who remained overweight while the other went on to lose a great deal of weight and went to live what one thought was the 'perfect life'. Palmer does a great job describing the struggles of people struggling with their weight, but an even more awesome and surprising job about lifelong friendships that meet the end of their run. The dialogue was a bit maddeningly terrible, but her insights otherwise did a great job of balancing that out. I will certainly pick up another book of hers again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lolita- Nabakov

I resisted reading Lolita for many years because I did not want to read about the story of a pervert who seduces a twelve year old girl. The story, however, is really good which speaks volumes of the type of writer Nabakov is. The story is indeed about a man who loves young girls and falls in love with Lolita in particular, but the novel does not romantacise this, it shows the protagonist to be the person he is. This is not a novel of young love and "age being just a number", the novel shows how Lolita is seduced, how she is degraded and the tragedy that his actions yield. But beyond the plot is the writing, the writing is beautiful poetic prose, I can take each sentence and roll it over my tongue and just fall in love. This is a novel to read for any aspiring writer to understand that your reader doesn't have to like the characters to love the novel. A truly gifted author as Nabakov clearly is, shows that quite easily.

Middlesex- Eugenides

I decided I wanted to read a Pulitzer Prize winning book and this was the first I decided to check out. This is a brilliantly written novel. The writing takes you in to the mind's eye of the characters who are all very different and very curious. This is a novel about many different things. The overarching theme is the story of a hermaphordite, a boy through chromosomes, but raised as a female by his parents. The story alludes to this theme but starts us from the beginning, when the brother and sister who grew up in the mountains decided that they loved one another beyond mere sibling love and decided to get married. I know, that sounds so freaky, but when you read the story, you're sucked in and you read it from beginning to end and you kind of sort of get their perspective. Its still hideous and disgusting to me, but the writer does a good job explaining things without passing judgment. I highly recommend it though I warn you its a long read at about 529 pages.

The Audacity of Hope- Obama

I found this book okay, not nearly as good as "Dreams from my Father". Where Dreams was a coming of age story of a minority boy finding his place in the world, Audacity is more about the man who had already found his way and telling you his vision for the future. Audacity is a much more political book and for that it is good. It tells me his vision and his position on many different subjects. He speaks out against partisan bickering, and discusses his views on the economy which in today's world is eerie since we didn't see it coming (at least not me) when the book was actually published. Overall, its an informative book if you're interested in learning of Obama's positions on the issues, but its not as engrossing obviously, as his memoir about his life. Still, its good.

The Last Lecture- Pausch

I listened to this book on audiotape so perhaps the experience is different than reading it in written form, but I loved this book. This is written by a professor dying of prostate cancer who decided to give a "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University where such lectures are common by professors ready to retire. In this case, Pausch is dying and leaving a wife and three very young children behind. He is broken hearted about the fact that his children will not be able to know him, and will be deprived of a father they should have had. As a result he wrote this book, he gave his lecture, to give them advice on how to live and provide insights based on his own life experiences. The story is moving and inspiring and powerful forcing you to face the reality that life is not forever and that we should make of it everything we want, or at least do the very best to try.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Kitchen God's Wife- Amy Tan

This is a novel about a mother with secrets who is forced one day to share them with her daughter. The story centers around WWII in China. Winnie the mother, shares her upbringing as a second class citizen despite a wealthy birthright, her tragic marriage to an evil man, and her eventual escape. Its a beautiful novel, exquisitely written, and the characters spring to live and feel as real as people I see in the flesh. She does a great job taking you into the story, and though I am a writer seeking tips from good writers by observing their work.... here, I find that I cannot study, to read is to be absorbed in. I highly recommend it particularly to those who love ethnic literature.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Senator's Wife- Miller

This is a novel about the wife of a former Senator who has endured her husnand's infidelity with her love for him intact. Paralleling this story is the story of her neighbor Meri who is newly married and pregnant and dealing with a lot of insecurities about her life. I felt intrigued by the insight into the life of a wife who "stands by her man" despite his cheating ways, this is not the book I actually read.

If you finish a book and find yourself feeling nauseated.... that's not good. This book was such a best seller that I grew curious and waited the months it took for it to become available in the library and boy was I disappointed. The writers mantra is: SHOW NOT TELL.... but all she does is tell, tell, tell, in excruciating boring detail and the ending is just plain old WEIRD.

Don't waste your time with this book. Life is too short.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth- Lahiri

Lahiri writes beautifully and this book is no exception. These are short stories on American raised desis and their experiences in the United States. Generally, I love her work and for what it is I love it. I do however wish she would write beyond her standard fall backs. Almost all her characters are PhDs or dating PhDs, they all go to high end ivy leagues, all of them marry White Americans with very Ango names, and all of them just dont get their parents or the culture they once had. ALL OF THEM. Which tires me since Namesake was similar as well. She could have one where two desis fall in love (well she sort of does at the end but still...), or what the others outside of PhD people are up to. My favorite was her first short story because it was poignant and well told and I loved the ending. I loved Hell-Heaven. I thought the story of yearning for love was so poignant and the ending was both shocking and touching. The three part trilogy of Hema and Kaushik was good too but it took me thinking about it the day after to truly appreciate it for its depth. The ending leaves you angry, but then later you realize that ***warning spoiler*** his death in some ways implies to me this story was more than a 'love story' (which it was a weak love story in my opinion), but more so an example of the many ordinary people who died in the Tsunami and the lives they led. In some ways as I ponder the story more and more it might just become my favorite story.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The House on Mango Street

I read the reviews of this book on Amazon and was not surprised to see the ratings. Half loved it, half hated it. I think its very easy to read this book quickly, wonder what the big deal is with it and discard it as boring drivel. I think that is far from the truth though. This is a story of a girl living in a poor neighborhood, finding her way. Its a book that beautifully captures hopelessness and hope, both poetically done. There is no plot per se except for a girl who is trying to grow up in a rough neighborhod observing life unfold around her.

There were parts of the book which nearly broke my heart. The writing is raw and some of the metaphors are striking. I think to fully understand the book, you should check out/buy the one with the introduction by the author. I know that reading her introduction helped me better understand her book.

Ordinary People- Judith Guest

This is a novel about a family dealing with loss. Two brothers went on a boating trip and one drowned. The one who survived is wracked with grief and guilt. The mother grows increasingly distant and aloof. The father tries to fix everything and keep himself together.

I liked the book though at times it was hard to follow with a whole lot of dialogue without enough explanation of what was happening or who was speaking.

I saw snippets of the movie which is what spurred my interest in the book, but truth be told I think the movie might be a tad more emotional.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Firm- John Grisham

I've read a bunch of books written in a medicore style recently and reading Grisham is just so much fun that I was relieved to finally read a great story with a catchy plot and writing that was good. Sure, Grisham's book "The Firm" does not make you ponder the deeper meaning of life, but it sure does keep you reading and keep you completely engrossed. This is a great book and its oodles of fun!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Tortilla Curtain- TC Boyle

This is an interesting well written book. A car accident between a rich environmentalist and an impoverished illegal immigrant is the backdrop for the rest of the novel. We learn about the lives of each of these characters. Candido lives like an animal in a Southern California Canyon with his wife America. She is pregnant and holds on to the dream that their circumstances will improve. The rich guy is a stay home dad writer whose wife is a real estate agent and they live in a privileged life wondering how best to build barriers in their subdivision to keep out the immigrants and other undesirables. This is a very bare bones explanation of this novel, which is complex with many different messages and themes. Overall it was superbly written but I was left unsatisfied with the ending. Here are my thoughts on the novel though (warning don't read further if you don't want spoilers):

1. Candido's life had NO silver lining, it continued to get worse and worse. It was too the point of "too much"...
2. I get the feeling the story was less about the characters and more about the concepts, this helped me with the very ambigious ending which really did not provide much of a conclusion.
3. I think he hit us over the head with his message and it kind of nauseated me by its conclusion.

Split- A memoir of divorce- Finnamore

I never heard of a book that planned to accurately capture the harsh reality of divorce so I eagerly awaited this book. The book is a good memoir of a writer reflecting on the end of her marriage, her spouse leaving her and her toddler son behind for another woman. She goes through the stages of grief, denial, anger acceptance, etc, and tells her story in small vignettes. It took me some time to get past her writing style. I know some people love her writing but I am thrown off by it. Its very detached, I feel like I can never really get close to her, or fully feel her pain because of the way she writes. I also wish she could have come up with fake names for her hubby and son instead of writing A and N to refer to them. First, most of us know the names of her husband and son since she's referred to them in the past in interviews so its silly to give them abbreviations, but second, its annoying to read letters, just put in a fake name and it would help the story flow much better. All this being said, its a good book once I got into it, and though not perfect, does a decent job.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Shoe Addicts Anonymous- Harbison

The book had a cute concept. A group of women who love shoes meet on a Craigslist like listserv and exchange shoes and discuss their issues helping each other along the way. This book was written like a first time writer. Though Beth has written romance novels in the back, this was her first foray out. I think the plot was good, but the writing just tended to distract me. It felt like my own novel, but two drafts ago. Still, it was okay.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Uncommon Reader- Bennett

I picked up this book because it got great reviews, not a single 1 star on Amazon! Upon reading it though I was a bit disappointed. This is a tale of the Queen of England and her sudden love for books and the consequences it leads to in the royal palace. Its definitely a beautiful ode to books, I love how he subtly explains how important it it is, but I really just found the story... dull. Perhaps there are inside jokes in here which I did not understand because I live in the US which could be why I did not relate quite as well as others did.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remember Me? - Kinsella

I like Sophie Kinsella's books (as long as they are not the shopaholic series) because they are cute, funny, and while having little depth, still touch your heart. This book was no exception though not as laugh out loud funny as her other books. It's still good and I do recommend it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dreams From My Father- Barack Obama

Politics aside, this book is beautifully written and touches you to the core, particularly if you are a minority. This is a memoir by Obama written over 10 years ago when publishers wanted to hear what his story was after he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.

I listened to the book on CD so it was narrated by Obama, so to hear him tell his story is an experience unlike any other because what he is saying hits doubly hard to hear him say it himself. His insight into life really is point on, and its the sort of book you want to go back to read again and again, filling it with notes and highlights in the margin.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Can You Keep a Secret- Kinsella

One of the best chic lit books EVER! It made me feel like a teenager again reading with a fluttery heart at what would happen next in the love life of the loveable heroine. This is a HILARIOUS (and I mean, you will laugh out loud at times causing others around you to think you are kooky) and well written story of a young marketing assistant with hopes of more who one day on a turbulent plane ride where she thinks she will die tells all her secrets to the man in the plane next to her. They don't die and the man turns out to be the head honcho of the company she works for. That is the story's premise. I liked the story so much, I read it twice. I googled and was not surprised to see that its going to be made into a motion picture very soon. This is a great book, if you like chick lit an need a laugh, read this book!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Undomestic Goddess- Kinsella

I almost did not read this book. I saw it at the library and randomly decided to check it out from the library. Then I opened it and began reading but felt annoyed by her writing style. I had read Kinsella's Shopaholic stories and found them a bit too annoying so was going to return this book unread until a colleague said this book was exceptionally funny. It was.

This is a story about a high powered corporate lawyer who makes a huge mistake with huge consequences which results in her showing up at a fancy home for a drink of water and ends up being their housekeeper. The story follows her struggles to figure things out and find her way.

I loved this book so much that I'm going to buy it!

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive- Alexander McCall Smith

The more I read his books the more I just fall in love with Smith. This book is no exception. This is a story about Precious Ramotswe and her ladies detective agency in Bostswana. The story follows a few mysteries that are in need of being solved [one which her husband decides he wants to spear head] but more importantly it explores these people. This is a mystery novel but more so its its an inquiry into the human condition. Into goodness, and kindness and reflection. His books are insightful and genuine. This book is also now one of my favorites by Mr. Smith.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Harry Potter: Book 1

I read this book at least eight years ago, and now that I have the entire HP series!!! I am going to slowly re-read them all again. This is the first book and perhaps one of my favorites. Its not as long as the others, I like the new discovery of this whole new world and learning of it through Harry Potter's own bewilderment at all the new things that the wizarding world has to offer. Simply put, its a great book. The adverbs throw me off in her works, but as long as I ignore them, its just a great fun fantasy adventure!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Love Over Scotland- McCall

This book is a continuation of McCall's series of 44 Scotland Street and Espresso Tales but "Love over Scotland" is by far my favorite of the series. As in his other books in this series, we follow the lives of the residents of Edinburgh, Scotland. There is very little drama plot wise that happens, but we get to observe the life of certain residents and the small daily issues they face. Reading his books is almost like peeking into a drawn back curtain of a few homes and observing quiet simple life within. This book was the funniest by far with the most action I've seen. Essentially, just as Domenica sets off for anthropology, this book is a sort of study of the fictional people of 44 Scotland street, observing their behaviors and their motivations. By the time you are at book 3 of the series you really feel like you know the people, and you care about them and you root for them. I loved it and I hope he has more sequels to this wonderful series.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Into the Wild- Krauker

I read this book after watching the movie version of the true life of Chris McCandless a recent Emory graduate who burned his money, donated his trust fund and left home to hitchike two years through the country and ultimately ending up in Alaska living out of the bush and ultimately meeting his end there too.

I felt irritated by the movie. I felt it glamorized this kid. I also was not sure why I wanted to read the book as I had heard Krauker also tended to glamorize him as well. But there came a point in reading his story that it finally clicked and I understood why his story meant so much to many people.

Chris was a very well read and intelligent kid despite whatever mental illnesses he may or may nto have had. Much of his journey was inspired by literature such as Jack London, Tolstoy, Gogol. In some ways he set off to bring to life the ideals and values from the literary writings of those he admired.

Chris' story is a story of commitment to ones values regardless of its cost. While this is very dangerous, as a story, as an idea, this is a very interesting and compelling concept. Its sad that a real person died for a concept, but the story is truly fascinating.

I think Krauker told the story well, he also filled the book with his own stories and the stories of other adventurers... these I found a bit distracting and skipped most of them as my interest was more in McCandless' tale... still, its a good book and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Espresso Tales- Alexander McCall

Espresso Tales is the sequel to 44 Scotland Street. Initially I had checked out Espresso Tales before reading 44 Scotland Street and I found myself lost with the characters and the storylines and thus backtracked and read the original of the series.

If you are looking for a slow paced book with good writing I strongly suggest you check out this series though its quite important to begin with the first in the series to truly enjoy the storylines.

I liked Espresso Tales equally as much as 44 Scotland Street but for different reasons, I felt as though 44 Scotland Street built up the characters to make me care about them particularly the five year old boy Bertie who is being raised by an overbearing mother. I also enjoyed the mini mystery of 44 Scotland Street and the case of the missing portrait.

Espresso Tales does a bit more self reflection with some parts that really tugged at my heart such as "joy without sharing is a halved emotion just as sorrow without sharing is doubly painful" So true!

I liked the story, some parts I had to skip over such as Raeborn's memoir which I felt was neither here nor there (maybe I missed something). I also found Peter's nudist colony thing slightly pointless but maybe I'm not sure, maybe I'm missing something.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

44 Scotland Street

For some reason it took me three months to finally read this book but once I read it I loved it. Its the light reading I desire in my chic lit books but without the annoying-ness of many chic lit books I've read. I love the way he writes and the page long chapters detailing the stories of the characters who inhabit Scotland St. This book was initially written as a daily insert in the Scottish Newspaper and this book is a compilation of those daily inserts. I look forward to reading the others in his series.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Then we came to the end- Ferris

What a delightful book! Its funny, its got heart, and at times its downright sentimental. This is a story about a corporate ad agency and the people who inhabit it as life begins delightfully and then the dread of lay offs take over every aspect of their lives. I can see why this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. Its probably one of my favorite books now.

Incidentally, I don't know why I have a thing for office based entertainment? (Office Space, the Office, this book...) Go figure!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Wow. This is the story of a woman born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and the life she lived in a polygamous relationship as a young wife to an abusive man having child after child despite the fact that many of her pregnancies were life threatening. Reading her harrowing tale I could not help but think of Khalid Hossein's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". The abysmal treatment of the women was eerily similar. The brainwashing that they deserved to be treated this way, and that the afterlife would make up for the abuse they now suffered. The difference between the books is that this tale is a true story and it took place here in the United States of America. I am glad that attention is being brought to the human rights violations taking place in the FLDS and I hope that those who have done wrong will be brought to justice. The book tries hard to remain factual and I respect that. Carolyn takes great care to note that FLDS is not like Mormonism though they are a branch off of the faith. She also traces the evolution of the FLDS to the extremism it now faces. She describes unbelievable tales though... such as running a motel for her husband in the middle of nowhere and her husband allowing a known criminal who is obsessed with his wife to live in the hotel despite police, and security begging him to let this man go. Later Carolyn learns that her husband may have been hoping that the worst would happen. I'm so glad she escaped and thus saved her other children from a fate such as hers and I'm glad she told her story. The writing could have used a lot of editing, she repeats the same things word for word several times and once is really enough.... but otherwise its an interesting story and needed to be told.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mindless Eating- Wansink

This is a good book to help you realize you are not as in control of what you eat as you might think through very thorough explanations of his research in various universities determining many things such as how accurately we assess calories in our foods, which situations are most likely to enable us to mindlessly eat. I really like this book for its information but I felt it was a bit too apologist to the food industry claiming that they do not have bad intentions in feeding us as they do (five servings on one package of chocolate that everyone knows you will eat in one gulp, etc) but I don't find his reasoning very convincing. Still, its a good book and very interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pritikin Weight Loss Breakthrough

I began reading this book after reading Pollan's books "In Defense of Food" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (both reviewed on this site below). While Pollan never mentioned Pritikin, I found that Pritikin's ideas reflected very much what Pollan had to say (i.e. avoid processed food, easy on the heavy meat emphasis, eat more plants, etc.). The principle seems fascinating but this particular book is not the one to read to get an idea of the details of his plan as only one or two chapters are truly devoted to it. I really enjoyed reading about his explanation of why we crave fats and sweets and how to try and outsmart it. It really makes great sense that you will feel fuller eating a huge salad as compared to a 3 oz steak though the salad had infinitely less calories.

People keep saying Pritikin is really strict and not realistic but I dont see how? You never go hungry, you can eat sweet things like oranges and other fruits, you can eat even after dinner. I think its a much better alternative to many diets out there today.

All this being said there are a few things I disagree with Pritikin about:
1. Some of his meal plans include diet coke. You can read here why I disagree with that. Plus if we're supposed to avoid processed food well, diet coke is processed food!
2. He advocates using low fat dressing. Research has shown that we absorb more nutrients in our veggies through some fat in the dressing. Also, most dressing is incredibly processed, there should have been some caution about this included. I think olive oil, some feta and freshly ground peppers and salt with a hint of lime mixed together and poured over a salad is unbeatable.

My rating of this book is for this book in understanding the Pritikin principle and not a statement of the diet in general, principles of which, I intend to incorporate myself.

Freakonomics- Levitt and Dubner

For all the hype I expected more. This is an interesting read about the reasons why many things are the way they are and challenges popular theories on topics such as the reason for the decrease in crime in the US (its not better police patrol, its abortions). Each chapter examines links between different things and why they are correlated. Its okay but I hoped for some sort of unifying theme or idea to take away (which in the last chapter the authors admit they do not have). All in all, a good library book, but not one I'd put on my bookshelf despite the cute "Apple/Orange" cover picture.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- Berendt

This is a nonfictional (but slightly fictionalized nonetheless) story of Savannah, GA and the characters who inhabit it. Many plots and subplots exist, mainly a murder mystery but even more than that, an observation of Savannah and the quirky characters who seem to be unlike any other people outside this self isolated city. I found the writing completely engrossing and the stories of the characters extremely engaging. If you read this, you will find yourself wanting very much to travel to Savannah. I read this after traveling to Savannah, and I wish I had read it before!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sold- McCormick

What a beautiful incredible read! This is a story about Lakshmi, a 13 year old girl sold into prostitution by her family. Patricia McCormick, when I saw the name I scoffed at yet another non-desi trying to capture the desi experience... but she did it so well. Her writing is more prose than novel each word flowing effortlessly into the next and her chapters capturing moments though brief expressed perfectly. The story shows how hope so carefully cherished can vanish to complete desolation.... And the fact that this happens in the here and now is all the more chilling for the reader. I've been waiting for a good depiction of the issues of prostitution in the desi world. I read a few others "Dancing Girls of Lahore" and watched "Born into Brothels" but neither captured the actual nature of the horror. Each sort of side stepped it in my opinion. This one tackled the issue head on putting you into the head of a girl living a life like this. And Patricia researched her story by traveling to India and Nepal and speaking to people who have lived the life of Lakshmi or currently are living that life.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

In Defense of Food- Michael Pollan

I read Omnivore's Dilemma and it was nothing short of a life changing experience. I kid you not. So I had to read his new book "In Defense of Food" and it was brilliant as well. In Defense takes off from where OD left off. OD discusses where our food comes from and opens our eyes to the harsh realities of processing and industrial foods. In Defense tells us what to do with that the knowledge that most of what is available for us to consume is not necessarily good for us to consume.

These two books have truly opened my eyes and given me a lightbulb moment more than any other dieting, health book ever has. I feel like a different person seeing the world with new eyes. Though I checked this book out from the library, this is the first book that I plan to actually purchase. Its a book I want as a constant reference and reminder.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Slam- Nick Hornby

I love Nick Hornby books. I've devoured every book he's written. He's a good writer, he's hilarious, and he provides insight without being too stuffy. Though Slam was written for a younger audience as a YA book I knew I had to read it since Hornby wrote it and since I love YA literature I didn't expect this to be bad. Well, it was not bad. But it wasn't great which Horby usually is. There are some really funny parts but the books takes a long time to get going. I think the problem is Hornby writes it in the style of a boy talking to you as he writes his book. Its a bit distracting and you end up feeling slightly annoyed as you read. Still, its not a bad book, but Hornby being as great as he is, I expected more.

The Omnivore's Dilemma- Michael Pollan

I will write more about this book on my main blog ( but suffice it to say this book is a life changing examination on where our food comes from. If you read this book you will have to confront some ugly truths about the nature of indusrialized food and you may also feel dismay that organic foods, many of them, are not always necessarily better. Still, though it will open your eyes to ugly truths it is an important book to read nevertheless. Devour immediately!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Something Blue

Though I was not a big fan of Something Borrowed for several reasons such as the cavalier attitude Rachel seemed to possess towards cheating with her best friend's fiancee, I really liked Something Blue though I hadn't expected to like it since Darcy from the earlier book was absolutely obnoxious and self centered. But Giffin pulled it off, though this book is chick-lit and I will not say its much more than that, this book was cute and fun and a bit more introspective than her other two books.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Skinny Beeyotch

This book is misleading. You think its going to be about how to lose weight. It starts off strong telling you stay away from sugar, don't drink alcohol, and fruits are your friend... but really, just a few chapters in you realize this is PETA propoganda in disguse, it should have been titled "How to become vegan". At one point the authors actually say that the only way to get skinny is to become vegetarian. WHAT? The authors also say that humans are not made to eat meat? WHAT? Overall its not the book that you think it will be. And for this reason I do not recommend it (unless you are considering going vegan).

Running with Scissors- Augusten Burroughs

Ugh, this book was just UGH. I read this author's book after reading his brother's memoir on living with asperger's and figured good writing surely must be in the family. I had high hopes for this book considering this book was a well selling one, and a movie was even made.... but its truly an awful book. I'm listening to it on "books on CD" so perhaps my opinion is skewed. Let me explain, I normally like the readers on "books on cD" but this time its the author, and the author is TERRIBLE at reading his own story. He pauses at the wrong time, he tries to mimic the characters but forgets the voices he used to mimic... Its just cringe worthy. So maybe the story would be more endurable if someone other than the author had read it for the listening readers.

The author's irritating style of delivery aside, the book was flat and superficial. Unlike his brother's book, this author does not do any reflection whatsoever. It just describes, maybe the shock value of the crazy things that happen should be enough to keep interest, but because the craziness is not blended with any growth or self reflection its pretty much meaningless to me.

Look Me In The Eye: My Life with Aspergers- John Robison

This book was a wonderful reflection of a person who has Aspergers but even more than that, its a reflection on being a child who is different and struggles to fit in. That is something that I, though I did not struggle with Asperger's, completely related to. That is the strength of the book, its well written and engaging, it helps you understand people with Asperger's but it also helps you understand or reflect on what it feels to be a child who felt like an outsider growing up. Its relatable on multiple levels.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Green Book

If I could use one book to sum up this book it would be: DUH! Seriously! This book is about how to save the environment in the little ways we live our lives. This might be useful to someone between the ages of 8-15. Outside of that, its... well, DUH!

Some useful nuggets:
1. Turn the water off while brushing.
2. Recycle your paper clips.
3. Take shorter showers.

Who doesn't know these things? Everything they had to contribute could have been stated in a tiny little pamphlet. THAT would have saved the environment and would have been a better conservation of my time!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When I first heard of this book I was told it was boring. I was told it was frustrating and contained little revelation. I'm not sure what made me want to check it out anyways. This is a very short non fiction memoir of a man, Jean-Dominique Bauby who had a massive heart attack which resulted in "Locked in Syndrome". He was unable to move little else but his left eyelid. From this movement, with the assistance of friends he flutters his eyes to transmit a code to enable them to decipher what he wants to say. This book is his story.

I am blown away by this book. Its extraordinarily simple and perhaps because of that exceedingly haunting and touching. It makes you consider your life, and how you treat others. It also reflects on loneliness... a theme I'm finding to be increasingly prevalent in books I am reading these days.

To give you a glimpse, here are some excerpts which particularly touched my heart or where just plain old WELL SAID...

"I need to feel strongly, to love and to admire, just as desperatey as I need to breathe."

(On how people have changed towards him in his life): "Had I been blind and deaf, or does it take the harsh life of disaster to show a person's true nature?

I guess the brilliant way he describes things and gives insight and meaning is particularly striking as it was written transcribed by a friend while he communicated with the blinks of his eye.

Often with people who are turned "vegetable" (as he discusses people referred to him as) we assume they are as vacant in their spirits as their bodies imply. This book shakes that notion. And it depresses me to know such a vivid soul is alive inside a trapped body... I will remember to appreciate my life. I will also remember to be kind to those who are helpless, and to whom my kindness could mean the world.

Man Walks Into a Room- Krauss

There is a consistent theme in the two books I have read by Krauss. The themes of love and loneliness. This book is beautifully written, it seems to flow from word to word and you almost forget that you are reading because you feel as though you are there.

This is a story about a man who disappears from Columbia University where he was a professor and is found eight days later with no idea who he is. It turns out there is a tumor in his brain. Once the tumor is removed 24 years of his life is evaporated. He remembers his mother but does not recall that she died. He remembers his Uncle Max, but not his wife, Anna who grieves. She has lost him, and yet not. She loves him, whoever he now is... but to him she is a person who looks at him with guilt for not remembering things he has no power to recall.

Its a more character introspective novel than a plot driven novel. You really consider concepts such as love and loneliness, etc. I find it interesting the theme of his love for his wife through the book. As though, yes he forgot most everything in the past 24 years and he forgot all the details about his wife yet he can't stop the nagging feeling that he cares for this woman though he is not 100% sure why.

I recommend this book to anyone for a lesson on good writing and a plot that makes you think.

"And yet what else does it mean to be loved, Samson wondered, then to be understood? What else but to be profoundly touched by another?" - Krauss 'A man walks into a room'

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shopaholic & Baby- Sofia Kinsella

I don't normally read chick lit but its light and fluffy and helps long flights go by quickly. Shopaholic does the trick except the cover is so..... unavoidably chick lit. Its bright blue with ribbons and bows. I actually felt the urge to brown bag this book. About ten people asked me on my flight what book I was reading and I couldn't help but blush showing them the book. So, it remains to be seen if I can ever pick up another Shopaholic book as the resulting blushing was too much for me to bear.

This is a story follows Becky, an avowed shopaholic as she maneuvers pregnancy and a potentially husband stealing OB-Gyn. The story is very action driven, tons of dialogue scenes, and very light and bubbly. If you're looking for a quick fun read that is definitely going to make you smile at points, then this is not a bad book to check out.

Snow flower and the secret fan- Lisa See

Snowflower is a story of two friends in China during the 1800s. The story is told through the eyes of Lily as she describes her life and her friendship with Snowflower. Through Lily's eyes we see her recount her life now as an older widow. She describes her foot binding process, the way it is to be female in olden China, the pressure for women to be subervient to everyone, to give birth to sons, and to always put everyone else's needs above her own. After all, a woman is worthless, Lily reminds us several times in the book.

What is striking about Lisa See's book is that she does not put down any of the thing that were. Foot binding is painful and she doesn't condone it, but she does not condemn it. She writes as though she is Lily. She truly believes she is worthless as a woman though she clearly finds ways to overcome it. She accepts the times of that day, and the book is written in that very clear detached tone. What I'm trying to say is her story is not preachy as some books can be about past practices which were heinous and terrible. Yes foot binding is bad, but in China, at that time, it was the way things were. See does describe the negative consequences of foot binding, how women grew crippled, and sometimes died from it. BUT she does not make this book into "look how barbaric Chinese people are". I appreciate the objective tone of the book.

Their friendship is very realistic and very touching. Lily and Snowflower start out as friends in an unequal relationship. Snow Flower is wealthy and comes from refinement while Lily is the son of a farmer and her prospects are not as great. In marriage, Lily grows in stature while Snowflower diminishes and the balance in their relationship also slips though its clear through reading the book that it was never meant by Lily for this to happen. It reminds me very much of the relationship between Amir and Hassan in the Kite Runner.

I recommend this book. Its a good read, its a good educational lesson in history, and the characters stay with you for some time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen

This was my first books on tape experience and I must say I loved it. I love to read books and so having a good book occupying my thoughts as rush hour traffic inches its way forward helps the travels become so much more bearable.

Catherine is the heroine of this tale. The story follows her travel to Bath with her god parents the Allens. At first she feels lonely and unaccompanied by friends but overtime she meets various people and potential suitors. One particular suitor and his lovely sister take to her as much as she takes to them and she is then at the conclusion of her time at Bath invited to join them at their home in Northanger Abbey where the tension of the story truly unfolds.

This was a really funy Austen book where she pokes fun at the society of the day and the gothic novels which were prominent in that day and age. I love how she steps out at times and pokes fun at her dramatic gestures and prose in the book but I also loved that though in many ways satire the story actually had heart as well.

There is a scene in this book where I really remember Atonement and it gives Atonement a whole different perspective to me. Catherine loves Gothic novels with huge dramatic overtones and exxagerated conclusions. Due to her books and the fantasies, at Northanger Abbey her overactive imagination conjures up dramatic troubling inference after another based on things that normal people would not read into as she had. There is a scene where she finally addresses her suspicions to Henry Tillney who quickly sets her mind right and explains that all her thoughts were mere conjecture of the worst kind. She realizes that her thought processes were wrong and how harmful such thinking could be, to assume the worst could have led to the worst of consequences if anyone had chosen to listen to Catherine at her highest imaginings.

I've heard some people find this book not their favorite Austen book but personally, I think its one of my favorites, its so incredibly light, so sweet, and so tongue in cheek I can't help but want a copy of my very own.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Baby Proof - Giffin

Chick Lit is not my typical reading fare but it is fun and when will written, such as Giffin's books are, I can't help but allow myself a little indulgence. Plus, she is a former lawyer currently residing in my hometown so I can't help but feel a little bit of hope that as I read perhaps her good vibes will rub off on me.

Baby Proof is a story about Claudia, a 30 something book editor with a great job and a great life, and one stipulation from any potential suitor: She does not want kids. This is problematic for Claudia for many years until she meets Mr. Right (Ben) who shares in her aversion to baby raising and they marry, ready to have a blissful childless union.... UNTIL- Ben suddenly realizes that he does want kids. This change of events overshadows their marriage and puts their relationship in crisis.... not to mention her sisters and bestfriend are dealing with baby drama of their own **spoilers follow, I put them in white, just move your cursor over the following words and if you wish, they will appear** they wind up getting divorced but somehow this does not resolve the feelings of either. The story follows Claudia as she struggles to move on and deal with the different baby related drama of her life. **

This is a cute book. Its not deep so if you're looking for meaning do not read this. It is what it is, a cute chick lit that at times makes you roll your eyes, but still, written well enough to ensure you keep reading.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

About a Boy- Hornby

This book traces the lives of two people. One a grown man with too much time on his hands who finds creative and disturbing ways to fill his time. The other a young adolescent dealing with loneliness, a difficult school experience, and a mother who is consumed by depression. The book traces each life and how they intersect to form a very unlikely bond.

I read this book 5.5 years ago when I was studying for the LSATs. It was my study break book at Barnes and Nobles. I loved this book so dearly and the young boy who narrates part of the story always stayed with me. The movie was sheer disappointment, not doing the book any justice whatsoever. Over the years I talked fondly of the book and so finally a few weeks ago I purchased a copy for myself. Reading it again cover to cover was just as much fun as it was the first time through, in fact, I liked it more. If you want a light hearted read that is fun and endearing this is the book for you.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Foer

This was a terrific story about 9-11, a family who lost someone they loved on 9-11, loneliness, and how we never truly can move on from losses as deep as the void that the loss of love leaves behind. The book is told from the eyes of 9 year old Oskar Schell. One day, looking through his parents room he finds a key in a blue vase atop his father's desk. The keys cover says "Black" on the cover. Based on this, he begins a quest to find all the people with the last name Black in NYC. The book trails him on his journey meeting new people, dealing with his loss, and following how his family deals with the loss as well. There is also a side story of his grandmother and grandfather and the history that they shared and what they endured and continue to endure. I really enjoyed this book cover to cover. There were moments that I laughed out loud, and there were moments that I wept. I believed in Oskar and I believed in his life and I learned a great deal from the book. What more can you ask from a book?


Everyone says this book is well written. Perhaps, but a more fitting description is: over written. Yes, the man has a knack for describing but he describes so much I quickly grew tired.

***spoilers below****
  1. I felt that there was not really any sort of atonement.
  2. I felt cheated by the fact that the reunion of Robby and Cecelia never happened. To me it was the equivalent of a long lengthy novel and at the end "HA! SIKE" or "Then she woke up and realized it was all a dream" (OH WAIT- that was what this was really)
  3. I felt that it was simply a book written for the sake of writing and wasn't really giving any thought to the reader of the story.
I am hoping the movie will be better.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Interpreter of Maladies- Jhumpa Lahiri

This is a collection of short stories about Indian women with different lives and circumstances. I really love this book and I have read it at least ten times. She writes very well, her stories flow effortlessly, at times I forget that I am reading and feel as if I am there. One thing about her stories is there is no huge plot or resolution. I usually mind this, but I went in knowing this and I just read the little snippets of life that Lahiri provides in her stories. If you read it knowing that you will love it because your expectations will be fair. My favorite stories: "The treatment of Bibi Haldar" and "Sexy"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Spot of Bother- by Mark Haddon

This is a story about family and the myriad of issues families inevitably face, both real and imagined. George, the father thinks a spot of eczema on his skin is cancer and proceeds to lose his mind. Meanwhile, his wife Jean decides to have an affair with both predictable and unpredictable results. Kate their daughter decides to marry a most "unsuitable" man according to the family, and their gay son battles commitment issues as he struggles to figure out what he wants in life.

The book was hard for me to get into at first. I bought this book because I loved his first book "The Curious Incident.." but this book is very different both in tone and style. It almost feels like a different person wrote this novel. Though its a slower and not as intriguing as his first, I did ultimately like it. I will read other books by him, but will probably check them out from the library.