I am Malala was never on my radar. Part of it had to do with the fact that I had not heard of Malala until this book began making the waves in blogospI am Malala was never on my radar. Part of it had to do with the fact that I had not heard of Malala until this book began making the waves in blogosphere. (Yes, I seem to be living under a rock. In my defense, I stopped reading the news about four years ago. I didn't have a desire to ruin my days after reading some particularly upsetting news.) The other reason was that I keep my memoir reading to a minimum, and I am never a fan of autobiographies that extoll the writer's great virtues. Luckily, Malala is one of the most matter-of-fact narrators I've come across. The only exclamations in her book are when she talks about having fun with her friends just like any regular schoolgirl should. There is no hint of arrogance or "I did a great thing therefore people worship me" attitude in it, and these made this book a seller.
If you, like me, had no idea who Malala is, this young Pakistani girl got shot by the Taliban in her own hometown because she was speaking out for education for girls. Talk about stuff that can get you killed in some places! Malala was 14 when this happened and the last 15-20% of the book follows this incident and her recovery afterwards. But it is the first 80% of the book that won me over. I cannot reiterate enough how much I loved Malala. She was just like any other girl I knew growing up. She had fun with her friends, she had opinions, and more than anything, she just wanted to be a regular every-girl who attended school without issues. Instead, the Taliban had different plans for her.
Her hometown in Swat was not a heavy Taliban area initially. There were boys and girls schools, and even some coed schools. But a certain Maulana Fazlullah was just beginning to slowly influence people with his religious and often misogynistic opinions. Over time, he began to condemn people who still let girls into school, while also publicly appreciating those girls and women who dropped off school. Malala continued attending.
Besides, her father was also an anti-Taliban activist. All he had ever wanted in life was to run a school where kids like Malala could attend. He encouraged Malala to be strong, though when the death threats started pouring in for him and Malala, he began to worry that he will regret his decision later. But Malala was becoming more renowned on her own accord. She was meeting government officials, writing a blog, and airing her opinions without fearing for her life. Her father was her role model and she had never seen him cower or hide in fear. So why should she?
Malala also gives a good history of her country, Pakistan, and its apparent friendliness with Afghanistan. I'm sure many people know that people in Pakistan also suffer from backwardness, thanks to an inefficient and ever-changing government and its physical and spiritual proximity to Afghanistan. But the latter gets in the news more, simply because the problems there are bigger in comparison to those in Pakistan. Malala is ready to criticize her country when something wrong is being done and also expresses embarrassment when negative attention falls on Pakistan, but her thoughts are nowhere near the disgusting or impractical ones that usually occupy the airwaves most of the time.
I purchased this book on Audible when I had to choose a book to complete a sale. Funnily, this is the book I listened to first, of the lot. The narrator, Archie Panjabi, did a great job narrating this story and made for a great voice in my car during the couple of weeks it took me to finish listening to this book. I am glad this book turned out to be informative (there is so much about Pakistan that I learned here - all interesting stuff too) and personable (Malala is certainly a charming person), but most importantly, this is a record of a little girl's triumphing over the Taliban, and that, in my opinion, is a great read anytime. On the other hand, books like these make me sad though, because for every well-known girl like Malala getting shot and saved, there must be countless other girls dying without a grave or newsprint to honor them....more
Jojo Moyes is one of those authors I would never have read or tried to read. When I first attempted Me Before You, I closed it after the first chapterJojo Moyes is one of those authors I would never have read or tried to read. When I first attempted Me Before You, I closed it after the first chapter, because it smacked of a fluff novel with a rich good looking guy with a vapid girlfriend and who knows which predictable direction this novel would take. Months later, I found myself without an audiobook to listen to, and Me Before You was what I chose. I very rarely go back to a book I abandoned. But, Me Before You worked. It more than worked. It rocked.
One Plus One fared similarly. I wouldn't go as far as to say that it was as good as Me Before You. One Plus One was more predictable. But it was also funny, witty, and filled with misfits.
One similarity between these two books is that her male protagonists start off as men you hate at first glance. They are too self-important, too rich, too brainless, and too shallow. Over time, they reveal a side of theirs that was, for whatever reason, hidden in the first few chapters. Also, it took a poor working-too-hard woman to save them from their egos.
Apart from that common formula, the two books differed in every other possible way. In One Plus One, Jess Thomas works as a cleaner by day and a barmaid by night, trying to make ends meet and put two kids through school. Her husband, who doesn't contribute a dime, had moved away whining that he needs to fix his health and look for a job. Ed Nicholls is a rich-guy-done-bad-thing who is staying low after he took part in insider trading. His house is one of those that Jess cleans, and as is the wont with novels (and movies) like this one, the two start off on the wrong foot. Jess's husband's son, Nicky, is constantly bullied by some boys at school and in his neighborhood. Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius who just got the opportunity to study at a rich but great school on a scholarship, if her family can cough up five grand to cover up their share of the costs.
The problem? There is no five grand in their house, or money bag, or piggy bank, waiting to be used. So Jess decides to drive her brood and their dog all the way to Scotland where a Math Olympiad was being held in a few days, in her husband's ragged old Rolls Royce, hopeful that Tanzie will win the prize that will send her to the school of her dreams. But then, the car breaks down, a cop writes her a ticket, and Ed chances by. He volunteers to take them to Scotland. Besides, he needs to visit his dying father anyways.
What follows is a few days of fun, irritation, temper flares, and plenty of outbursts. It's amazing how much can be written about a car journey, even if it spanned a few days. I was half-wishing for a similarly eventful car-ride, but the only long ones I've had have usually been full of dramas. What I liked about One Plus One was how much I ended up caring for some of the characters. Misfit or not, there was something about each character that made you want to sit next to them. Sure, the story is very predictable, and sure, it reminded me a little about Maid in Manhattan (which I didn't like at all), but at the end of the day, Moyes's characters had a lot of personality and presence that made you read the book just to stay with them. I didn't want the book to end and move on. I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, which was what I was anticipating after reading Me Before You.
One Plus One is what I wish Sophie Kinsella's novels were more like. Light women's fiction with a rich-guy-meets-poor-gal script, but where the girl has brains and can hold her own kingdom....more
Ever since I read Raina Telgemeier's Drama, I was enamored by her illustrations. I loved Drama. I read Smile next and loved that too. Then I read herEver since I read Raina Telgemeier's Drama, I was enamored by her illustrations. I loved Drama. I read Smile next and loved that too. Then I read her Baby Sitter's Club graphic novels (even though I hadn't read the original books nor wanted to) and I loved those too. Then I sat waiting for her Sisters to come. I had the book penciled in my calendar against its release date and I just had to wait patiently, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the book to to get released. But when I saw it listed on NetGalley, I had to request it right away.
Sisters is being advertised as a sequel to Smile, but you don't have to read Smile to be able to follow Sisters. Since I had already read Smile, Sisters was like a return to a family I enjoyed reading about so much. When Raina was fourteen and her sister, Amara, nine, they go on a road trip along with their six year old brother, Will, and their mother, from California to Colorado. Their road trip turns out to be as eventful as you would expect it to be with three restless kids in the car, two of whom, Raina and Amara, have something to fight about every five minutes. But when they arrive at Colorado, after about a week, their cousins aren't exactly the playmates they hoped to meet.
There is a lot to love in Sisters. For one, the sibling rivalry is something almost anyone will relate to. All that meaningless bickering, the apparent disregard for one another's feelings, the desire to win any argument, and the secret wish to feel accepted by the other is both humorous and endearing to read about. Raina is at an age where makeup and looks are a big deal. Amara is at an age where all that pretty business is a bucket load of crap. They obviously don't see eye to eye.
The narration of the road trip is interspersed with a lot of flashback, starting with toddler Raina's deepest wish to have a baby sister only to be very disappointed by how long it would take the baby Amara to be old enough to play with her and how often the baby bawled. Anti-climax. These flashbacks were quite adorable to read - they did get along a lot better when they were very little, only to have sporadic fights now and then, and later full-blown arguments over everything.
If you haven't read any of Telgemeier's books, you are missing a whole lot. Even newbie comic book readers will enjoy the clear beautiful art, the humor lacing the book, and the sibling wars. Sisters releases on August 26th in the US, but if you don't have your hands on this book yet, there's Smile and Drama to fall in love with....more
Kate Philo and her expedition of scientists, technicians, divers, and one reporter are looking for icebergs in the Arctic that could potentially contaKate Philo and her expedition of scientists, technicians, divers, and one reporter are looking for icebergs in the Arctic that could potentially contain frozen small creatures like shrimp, plankton, krill. These scientists work in a private research lab headed by Erastus Carthage, who has managed to successfully bring back to life such frozen creatures, though they managed to live only for a few minutes. During this particular expedition, however, they find a human body in one such berg. Nobody believes they will be able to animate such a large and complicated specimen, but science prevails and our frozen man is alive again, more than a 100 years after he was presumed dead.
But Carthage doesn't care much about the social or ethical aspects of bringing such a person back into this world. He wants to see if the man can be made to live longer than the projected time based on past experiments (21 days), and also whether he can use this project to get as much private funding as possible. The reporter, Dixon, is thrilled to be the only media person to have exclusive rights to the project. While these two people remain focused on furthering their career ambitions, Kate and the frozen guy begin to bond.
The Curiosity was a very interesting book with a fascinating premise, though not without a fault. It is narrated by four protagonists - Dr. Kate Philo, who is not only scientifically invested in the project but also personally; Dixon, our news reporter who callously basks in his exclusive rights to watch and report on the project; Dr. Erasthus Carthage, the self-absorbed arrogant conceited scientist who focuses only on what can make himself tick; and our frozen man, lost for 100 years at sea, and suddenly awakened in a lab that is futuristic to his time.
I've often been fascinated by how much our world has changed in the last decade but I probably did not delve too deep into that because watching the world through our frozen man's eyes was a treat. During his heyday, the idea of landing on the moon was not even an idea much less a laughable one. There hadn't been a world war yet, no computers, no food industry. And when this guy comes along and sees the world, he is overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude by which it has changed. His chapters were, therefore, the most enjoyable ones for me.
While this past vs present comparison was very well done by the author, his character developments left much to be desired. All four characters struck me as highly one-dimensional shallow people. Dixon is too whiny and has zero respect for women. Carthage is egocentric and focused only on money and fame. Kate is too considerate and empathetic. Our frozen man is too just and gentlemanly. Nobody seems to have an other characteristic and that made the narrative very predictable and boring. Dixon annoyed me the most, though probably because of how many thoughts of his revolved around women (all sordid). Even Carthage's malevolence was a pleasure to read, in comparison.
There were a few things that were very unbelievable to me. For instance, the frozen guy's ancestry is never properly studied. The press of today will go crazy trying to scrounge as much as they can about this man, and there doesn't seem to be any of that in the book. When one reporter belches out that the whole thing is a scam, a lot other news agencies buy the story, when pretty much every evidence pointed the other way. Sure, people like to believe only what sounds reasonable to them. Not the press, though. I also did not enjoy any of the romance between Kate and our frozen guy. I did think that they were very companionable but when it was being taken further, it just left me very annoyed.
The Curiosity was also a very long read. I got the impression that the whole story could have been told just as well in half the book size. The book being too long, however, clearly established the amount of the time that passes between the beginning and the end, and also what that time did to the characters within the pages. I do think that if this book had been shorter, some of that sense of time and place would have been lost, but there were a lot of pages we could have done without. Kiernan, however, writes a beautiful hand and for that reason, I would love to read more of his works. I don't know if it was because at the same time, I was myself pondering the idea of writing more, but I enjoyed a lot of his literary devices and language expressions.
Poor character portrayals aside, this book is a complicated book, especially since it is a hotbed of ethics, morality, and decency. When Kiernan wrote about reanimation, I almost believed that such a technology existed. I was surprised to learn that it did not. Yet. He also raised several ethical questions - would the man even want to be alive again? How should he be cared for afterwards? The most fascinating question for me was about his freedom. The man was born in a free America and is now brought back alive in a free America. Yet, he has no rights, he is locked in a room in a lab, and he is not free to do or eat as he wishes. These were the intriguing aspects of this book, and which Kiernan investigated well. If only the characters had more depth, and the book a little less words and romance....more