On Books & Reviews

Embroideries – A graphic novel

EmbroideriesEmbroideries by Marjane Satrapi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just what the back cover promised – Sex and The City, Middle Eastern style.

An afternoon tea party where conversation veers from sex, love and marriage between a group of women is bound to be intriguing, funny and catty.

A quick read for a lazy Sunday evening, Marjane Satrapi and her exquisite illustrations are a refreshing delight.

Lighter than Persepolis, the book offers a quick window to the repressed world on the outside and the liberated ideology on the inside.

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The story on Alibaba

Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma BuiltAlibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Most people think of Alibaba as a story, It’s not just a story, it’s a strategy.”

Rarely does the last line of a book carry as intriguing a summary as above. Having taken almost two months to complete the book on Alibaba, you don’t fail to miss out on how Jack Ma has evolved the Company from a B2B business to a conglomerate in various sectors with a clear focus.

For any business to be successful in the long-term, and I resonate with this philosophy, he says always put consumers first, people second and profits third . Without consumers you don’t have a business and without having a happy workforce driving that business you can’t have profits.

Here’s a story of a school teacher from a province in Southern China going strength to strength with his single focus on giving the best to his consumers and workforce without really concentrating on profits.

Inspirational, intriguing and detailed, the book gives a detailed account for those interested in understanding what has shaped the new internet economy of China today. Besides talking about Alibaba, it also reflects on the regulatory and competitive environment of the sector.

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When you question everything

Franny and ZooeyFranny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having read Catcher in the Rye, you sort of expect that Franny and Zooey would go to the disturbed, absurd space in a while.

Franny goes to meet her boyfriend over a weekend and is lost and listless. Nothing seems right, everything feels a farce – the only now she is voicing it without concern for anyone else’s feelings. When she faints, Salinger wants us to believe she is finding meaning through prayer, a kind of nirvana by telling the Jesus Prayer incessantly.

Back home, Bessie, Franny and Zooey’s mother, is appealing to Zooey to try and talk sense into Franny or at least find out what’s wrong. As in Catcher in the Rye, we see a special sibling bond between Franny and Zooey. One of irreverence yet concern. Zooey tries to make her see reason from the point of view of the world outside, but Franny seems beyond that, eager to hold on to something which gives her reason to be.

The beauty of the plot lies in how Zooey convinces Franny to see otherwise without disrupting what she believes in.

The book is intense and does take a toll on you while reading it at one go. Too many emotions to handle. Suggested time of reading – during an extended weekend or when you are desperately searching for a different perspective.

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From another’s point of view

According to MarkAccording to Mark by Penelope Lively

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up a couple of months ago from a British Library clearance sale. It looked like a promising read right from the start. Until the end, you really don’t know what will really happen. Since I just got back from tripping over France it had a special connection.

The story is about a biographer Mark and his journey of gathering facts, lies and silences on his muse. Saying anything more would land up just ruining the book. It has twists and turns while being so straightforward. At the end, you land up empathising, with both Mark and his muse. You understand their actions and why they did act in a certain way.

A good holiday read, According to Mark, can’t be dismissed as frivolous, but a light read for sure.

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An insightful little book on Asgard

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being an avid fan of Marvel comics, I thought it would be worthwhile to know the backstories of Thor, Odin, Loki and the rest of Asgard folk. Well, this certainly did come as a surprise.

Thor is not as intelligent as he seems in the Marvel comics and Loki not as bad, just a vindictive little God. Odin has many shades and all not so nice while the rest of the folk are just as arrogant and obnoxious when they chose to be so. The concept of Ragnarok is also interesting and Loki’s involvement in the same. From an outsider’s point of view, his actions do seem justifiable as he reacted like any king or queen would do during that period (influenced by Game of Thrones) just that there are Gods involved here.

All in all, a great read. Fast, pacy, interesting stories with a bit of twist towards the end.

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A visit to this quaint Sri Lankan Villa is a must!

Hernando Villa: A Sri Lankan Love StoryHernando Villa: A Sri Lankan Love Story by Terrence Perera

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun book which gives us raw insights into the functioning of the Sri Lankan Elite through generations.

Regular life at the Villa has been intelligently weaved between political and natural upheavels in the area and have been told through the simple eyes of a family living through it all. The clash of thought between the young and the old, the fun aspects of their heritage and the serious issues of caste and marriage have been deftly dealt with in an almost charming manner.

However, this version of the book had names of the protagnists interchanged in various places making you stop and wonder what just happened. And that’s the sole reason for it losing one star.

That being said, I do look forward to reading the sequel which I just noticed – Turmoil at the Villa.

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The Watermelon King – A fun read

The Watermelon KingThe Watermelon King by Daniel Royse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A light fun read, I loved the way the author introduces his grandfather’s stories within his own travelogue.

Tightly written, you wouldn’t find a single loose word in the book. It covers all aspects of the trip and makes you almost want to take the unconventional route he and his travel partner embark on. But once you finish the book and are back to the reality of basic comforts you tend to decide otherwise.

All in all a great read, filled with humour and travel tales.

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Leaf by Niggle – A must read

Leaf by NiggleLeaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have read the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit and think that is Tolkien at his best. Think again.

The simplicity with which this short story is written is just delightful! You wouldn’t know what to take out of this surreal story till you don’t read the Afterword by Tom Shippey where he interprets this story as an allegory as to what was happening in Tolkien’s life with the Middle Earth Saga.

There’s a beautiful line in the story, where two people are talking and one almost feels sorry for the main protaginist– Niggle – mentioning “Oh! poor little Niggle! Never knew he painted.” This one line sums up man’s self doubt, need for recognition and confidence that he is good at what he is does whether it’s distraction or what he does for a living.

Around 64 pages long it’s a perfect metro read. Block yourself from the outside world and enter Tolkien’s Perilous Realm once again.

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An inspiring read

The Corridor of Uncertainty: How Cricket Mended a Torn NationThe Corridor of Uncertainty: How Cricket Mended a Torn Nation by Nihar Suthar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A comprehensive light read, The Corridor of Uncertainty is definitely well researched. It’s the fictional story of young Afghan refugees at the Pakistani camp who dreamed of uniting a nation torn with conflict by playing a sport.

The opening pages of the book promised that it would try and avoid cricket jargon and keep it a smooth read for those who don’t understand the game. The story focuses more on the struggle of the young boys in getting a team together till their journey to qualifying for the World Cup 2015.

Thoroughly enjoyable and peppered with comic exchanges between the main protagonists, the story gives you a certain kind of hope. With the current situation worldwide, this story brings respite and resilience in times of despair.

All in all a must read for any cricket lover and otherwise. Anyone looking for something inspiring must pick this up!

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A troublesome journey…

HELL HEAVEN & IN-BETWEEN: One Woman's Journey to Finding LoveHELL HEAVEN & IN-BETWEEN: One Woman’s Journey to Finding Love by Kathryn Hurn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me almost a month to finish this book. Was it so long that it deserved that time or was it so intense that I couldn’t read more than few chapters a day?

This book was more like reading someone’s diary than a women’s search for just love. It was her entire journey from where she realised who she was, what she has done and how to make the difficult decision of moving on and what follows.

If I wasn’t gifted this book to read and review by the author, I would have probably given up somewhere in the middle. But I just needed to do justice to it and believe that it would make a difference. Somewhere I was so engrossed in Lucy’s emotions that I started feeling those in my relationship as well. Somewhere I just wanted Lucy to move on and to get what she wanted out of life. I knew she and the love of her life would end up together. Kathryn gave that up in the beginning of Volume 2, but how and how long would her ordeal last was not explained. I felt Lucy had the patience of a Victorian heroine something which seems to reoccurring in modern times – while one part of us fights to be independent the other wants to be loved and be provided for irrespective. Ambition does not take away the desire to be loved. Work does not satisfy us emotionally as it would a 21st century man for whom money is more important than a loving relationship.

The book takes you on a journey and you need to patient to let it unravel for you. My three star rating is for some loose ends in the book and the ending. It feels like it could be better rounded off than rushed into given the pace of the earlier portions. I definitely feel it could be way shorter and edited some more.

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