Book reviews : “The Fault in our Stars” and “Dark Places”

After a long hiatus mostly because of personal happenings, I am back with a couple of book reviews. Two books that have made quite an impact on me.

ScreenHunter_01 Feb. 27 19.34The first one is “The Fault in our Stars” by John Green. Heart wrenching as it is hopeful, this story is a testament to how fleeting the good things in our life can be. Like true love. The story of Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace enchanted me, enraptured me, humored me and made me cry buckets and buckets of tears at the end. John Green’s sardonic writing cuts right down to it, eliminating all the peripheral noise. He has a way of capturing raw emotion, all the while making you laugh till you cry (literally). Highly recommend this book and can’t wait for the movie to come out.

ScreenHunter_02 Feb. 27 19.35The other was “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn. This book, I have to say has been the hardest for me to read, bar none. I highly admire Gillian Flynn’s writing and plot style, and this book had been on my radar since “Gone Girl”. It does not disappoint with the numerous twists and turns, but I have found the subject matter to be very hard to stomach. Throughout the narrative you feel the undercurrent of something very sinister, and characters that make your skin crawl. I haven’t felt as conflicted about a book as I have with “Dark Places”. I enjoyed reading it as much as I detested it. Recommend it if you are a fan of dark mysteries and especially if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn, but it is not one for the light-hearted.

(images via amazon.com)

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Where do we belong?

A few of my Indian and immigrant friends in the States occasionally over a few drinks, will reminisce about their trips back home to visit family and friends. And what you can hear in subtle undertones in their voice is a longing for everything home. Mom’s cooking, going for a long drive on the beach, watching the latest Bollywood flick and eating bhelpuri by the street cafe. The logical question on everyone’s minds following that discussion is, if any of us are actually thinking of moving back home. When someone talks of moving back, I wonder what moving back really means to them?. In India, where I come from, the entire landscape of the city I grew up in has changed so much over the past decade, that I can barely recognize the cherished cafes and places we used to hang out as young college kids. Most of my college friends have moved away to work in one of the big cities like Pune or Bangalore to take advantage of the burgeoning IT industry. Some have moved here to the States like I did to pursue a Master’s degree and chalk out a career. Few things remain the same today as they were 15 years ago when I left India. So I wonder what are we going back to? What is home? The country you were born and raised in or the country you adopted, the one that embraced you back wholeheartedly? To me visiting India now is like visiting any other foreign country. Granted you know the language, and the customs and cultures and probably you way around but that is where the familiarity ends. The extent to which India has transformed in the last decade hits you the minute you step off the plane at one of the metro airports like New Delhi or Bangalore. These international airports have been rebuilt to resemble luxury five-star hotels complete with swanky restaurants and overnight transit stays. Or the KFCs and McDonald’s that can be seen with frightening regularity driving down city streets. The small coastal city I grew up in now has a bunch of fancy pubs, a stylish discotheque, places where you can play pool and hang out with friends and couple of movie theatre multiplexes that can give an AMC 20 a run for its money. In essence, to me moving back home is not so much about going back to a place, or a city or a country I grew up in, the memories of which are forever imprinted in my mind. It’s more about spending time with my family and cherish the moments with them. To be closer to mom and dad as they enjoy their retirement years, for my kids to get to know their grandparents and to go sightseeing like visiting the Taj Mahal finally. What is a given is that you end up having to re-acquaint yourself to a country you thought was frozen in time, a place you called home.

The Dreamer’s Dilemma: Prevent Your Dreams from Turning into Nightmares | LinkedIn

The Dreamer’s Dilemma: Prevent Your Dreams from Turning into Nightmares | LinkedIn.

Here’s an interesting article on the dreamers dilemma by Michael Lazerow.

If you think about it, it’s not that we don’t have dreams, it’s the part about taking the first step that’s the struggle. The little things in life take up so much time and energy, What’s for dinner tonight? Who’s taking the kids to soccer practice? And on and on goes the endless list, that dreams seem like fantasies possible only in a parallel universe. I have pictured in my mind’s eye the idea of living my dream and just the very thought of it puts a smile on my face. And I have equally wondered what could be holding me back to forget everything else and plunge into it headlong. Anything is possible if you dream and work hard, right? This article though gives me pause. Is it enough to dream and dream big? Could it be more than a lack of courage or passion that could be holding us back ? Michael Lazerow makes a good case for why most of us have dreams but only a few of us manage to make it a reality in one lifetime.

It makes sense that to achieve a dream, it has to be not only something which is feasible, but also one that is achievable. It makes sense that writing the next bestseller is a hard dream to achieve when you lack the much-needed creativity to tell a fascinating story. Painting the next masterpiece is hard to do when you are are not a good artist. Could it be that if we dream within our capacity of achievement, there is far less disappointment and far more fulfillment? On some level this definitely makes sense

(via LinkedIn)

My favorite quotation from Dan Brown’s Inferno

infernoI enjoyed reading the latest thriller by Dan Brown – Inferno. I have always been a fan of his books, they seem to have the right amount of humor, history and suspense to keep the pages turning till the very end.

Inferno has all of Dan Brown’s signature elements – the good guys, the bad guys and Professor Robert Langdon caught in the middle of it all having no idea how he got there, a memorable trip down history lane in the streets of Florence, Dante’s Inferno and his macabre visions of hell described in gory vivid detail, all culminating in a mad dash to the finish line to save the world from destruction. My favorite quote from the book though is an old adage Langdon reflects on, “from early Grecian free divers who hunted lobsters in the coral caves of the Aegean Islands” –

“When swimming into a dark tunnel, there arrives a point of no return when you no longer have enough breath to double back. Your only choice is to swim forward into the unknown … and pray for an exit.” – Inferno by Dan Brown.

Sometimes life is just like this. You have no idea what lays ahead or what the future has planned for us. All we can do is take a leap of faith and pray for an exit.

(via Dan Brown’s Inferno amazon.com)

 

My Medical Choice by Angelina Jolie

My Medical Choice by Angelina Jolie – NYTimes.com.

I admire Angelina Jolie as a person, as a celebrity, as a humanitarian. She comes across as someone who always does what she wants, doesn’t matter what people say or think about it. Although a decision to have a double mastectomy is complex and personal, as a mother, I understand completely that you would do anything it takes to be around for your kids and grand kids. After all what is more precious than life itself.

Must we judge

What is it about judging people, I have always wondered, that makes it so irresistible.

What is it about finding flaws in others that make us feel better about ourselves.

We comment on how they dress, how they walk, how they eat, how they speak. What they do, how they do what they do, and sometimes even who they are.

We all do it, although mostly our intentions are never to hurt anyone’s feelings. Here is the contradiction. Criticizing someone invariably hurts their feelings.

In trying to understand why I was being judgmental, I found the very reason to stop being so. I think as people, we love to categorize. As long as someone fits a certain mould, we have no problem deciding if we like them or not, if we agree with their ideas and opinions or not.

But I’m also a firm believer in the fact that you can learn one thing from every person you meet (this I learnt from my amazing husband). By “judging a book by its cover”, aren’t we denying ourselves the opportunity to appreciate, what makes us all so unique and special?

Nothing in the world can make you happier than being who you are…the real you… no pretense. So if we’re all a little less opinionated, maybe it’ll be easier to be who we really are.

On letting go

Exceptional post by one of my favorite writers, Cristian Mihai. There is so much truth in writing the best piece that you can and letting go. The world will always judge, you cannot control that. As long as you are genuine, it’s all that matters!