Becoming: Michelle Obama

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Becoming is the heart-warming and inspirational account of Michelle Obama’s life.  Starting from a small apartment in a Chicago street to Princeton and Harvard to White House.  It is not a dry, ambitious journey; the warmth of her family life in her early years, the friendships she formed growing up, and her dating Barack give Michelle a character that matches with her public persona – of a warm, compassionate person who cares about a lot of issues deeply.  The identity with the race comes out too strong, but she acknowledges her upbringing and experiences being very different from Barack’s.  The weakest part of the book is the White House bit – ironically what I was looking forward to the most.  Her fawning over her husband’s accomplishments despite odds somehow overshadows her own story.

Read.

Where the Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens

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Once in a while comes along a novel that makes you question if you have your head fixed right or is everyone else in the world crazy. A Reese Witherspoon book club selection, NYT best seller for a number of weeks, over 21000 reviews on Amazon, Where the Crawdads Sing comes with strong credentials.  However, it is poorly written piece of fiction.  The premise itself is a little hard to digest but even if you overcome that, the predictability of the story line, stereotypical characters, repetitive writing and convenient coincidences make it a hard to read book.  Delia Owens may be a good biologist, but a good writer she is not.  Even the unique beauty of the marshlands is not captured well.  It is the oaks, Spanish moss, the gulls – including the big red, estuaries over and over again without any captivating description that you get tired of the setting and just want the story to end somehow.  Sometimes I wonder the value the editors add to the books.  Wouldn’t the editor have noticed that Kya is almost always dressed in a white top and cut-off jeans, every few pages reads out a poem by Amanda Hamilton, and the food has to be listed each time we are near a diner.  It makes for tiresome reading indeed.

Don’t even think about it.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: Hank Green

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John Green’s brother makes a remarkable debut with ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’ – a YA, SF that is fast-paced, gripping and meaningful. Hundreds of statues appear in all the major cities all at once and are from another world.  Our protagonist, with the unforgettable name of April May, becomes an overnight sensation as the first person to find them.  Then begins the struggle between the people who think that the Carls – as they are called – mean well and ‘defenders’ who believe the statues have been planted by a civilization that intends to colonize earth.  In the end, the Carls leave and April May, given up for dead, returns.  The supporters Vs defenders bit was particularly well done and reflected the ongoing immigration debate.  Except the inconclusive end that leaves the reader hanging, the book works well.  The voice is fresh and full of wit and humor.  Very today.

Read.

Tinderbox: M. J. Akbar

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A remarkable account of Pakistan’s history – starting from the Mughal times to the present .  Akbar’s knowledge of the history is excellent and he presents it in an engaging way.  The book doesn’t start too well – it seems a rambling of facts in no serious order – but towards the end it all comes together to close on the tinderbox Pakistan has become.

Read.

The Woman in the Window: A.J.Finn

 

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A well-written book that goes through a few peaks and troughs.  An intelligent, but agoraphobic woman, is confined to her home and witnesses a crime.  The book starts amazingly, centered on the woman’s life – that is both intriguing and informative.  It dips mid-way when the crime gets committed, and the book becomes just another whodunit.  It picks up again, three-fourths of the way, when our narrator is shown to be unreliable.  But then dips again.  The ending was disappointing.  Neither satisfying not believable.  What worked for me particularly was the writing – very today and now.  Interestingly there were shades of ‘The Woman on the Train’ in the novel (It’s not just the title that is similar) – an incident only the narrator was witness to, poor credibility of the protagonist and so on.

Read.