Archive | January 2014

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth – Reza Aslan : 6/52

I saw just a passing mention about this book while scrolling through the Jaipur Literary Festival tweets and I got it. I’m glad I did.

download (1)

I like this Jesus. The Angry Young Man. Almost like a Naxalite ( gasp!) The supporter of the poorest of poor, the voice against the rich priests. The one who performs miraculous cures for free and puts the big religious miracle workers out of business. The one who contradicts himself, preaching peace at one point and asking his disciples to sell their cloaks to buy a sword at another. I like this Jesus more than the one we’ve read about in the Gospels all these days. The Zealot Jesus was so much better than the scrubbed clean of his fiery zeal and embellished with the god aura version of him.

Reza Aslan does not deny anything from the Bible, nor does he tell you anything new. I was surprised that there was not much dedicated to Jesus’ marital status, the hot topic that was done to death during the Da Vinci Code drama. It just gets a mention,nothing more.  There’s a lot of history. The Jewish Revolt, their society and customs those days, their relationship with the Romans, the brewing unrest and the Zealot Party formed the solid foundation for the book. He has also gently poins out to several inaccuracies in the Gospels, starting right from Jesus’ actual place of birth to why it turned out to be a Pontius Pilate apologist at one point.  The way the Gospels conveniently mapped Jesus’ life with what was prophesied in the earlier books and all that was safely glossed over and scrubbed out if the Bible has been explained.

John the Baptist (kind of Karnalike, deserved more credit) and Jesus’ brother James should have really got their rightful due. The way they’ve been written out of the Bible is unacceptable. The What Ifs. And Paul, I Googled him and saw some being called names in some forums.

I guess God will give me brownie points, I have read more of the Bible for reference in the past six days than I have ever read all my life.

Made me more cynical, but this book is a Must Read

Untitled- To be published- Friend Author :5/52

I have this author whom I met on Twitter, someone who has published 4 books and has another 6 lined up for publication. She’s a writing robot. We once got chatting about food and she sent me the manuscript of her yet to be published book about food ( It is out next month). It was a special feeling to get a sneak preview of an unpublished book even though reading an entire novel on a Word document is not so much fun. Since then, I’ve been getting to read her work in progress.

Except for her  book that’s being launched next month, most of her work is young adult fiction, easy breezy stuff. This book , the Untitled one ( Actually, it does have a title) is a mix of both, young adult life full of college and crushes with a dash of seriousness.  Having read the book in bits and pieces, in a Word document, I lost track a few times, so when I got the completed version, I read it from the beginning. It left me feeling a bit heavy towards the end. I somehow focussed more on the heavy part and was curious about where that was going more than the cute college part. I did get a bit irritated when the crushguy kept coming in the way of the Real Story. The twists towards the end were totally unexpected, but then, that’s how I like my books. Unpredictable. And the end totally worked. Also, it did leave some scope for a sequel.

Looking forward to seeing this book in print soon.

Shock – Robin Cook : 4/52

After law, I picked medicine.

Image

Again, a page turner. But maybe because it was set in 2001, I found a lot of ‘loopholes’ in the plot. Many things seemed too easy. But again, hey, this is one of those books you enjoy, don’t question.

Two girls sell their eggs for money and spend it on a) A wise investment- an apartment b) A wise investment- a studying/working holiday in Venice. But I couldn’t understand the urgency with which they just had to find out the fate of their eggs the moment they landed back home after two years. That urgency wasn’t very well explained. Or was it? And again, the very elaborate plan to get a job at the infertility center just to access the server to get the information, I found that a bit stretched. But maybe curiosity does that to you. And given the deep dark secrets of that infertility center, it seemed just too easy, getting jobs ( and elaborate explanations ) without so much as a background check. The psycho security officer and his assistant also seemed a bit too easy and contrived. But the secrets that the clinic held, they were downright scary. And as with all Robin Cook books,this book makes you a) Google a few medical terms to learn more b) think twice before you visit a hospital the next time

But thrilling, it was. The open ended climax was a bit of an anti climax. but that’s the way such things should be left. After all, bioethics is an open ended topic.

The Racketeer- John Grisham: 3/52

The last time I went on a non stop reading spree was during the Pooja weekend. It was a Gillian Flynn marathon, four days of three unputdownable books.

This weekend, after Half of a Yellow Sun, I wanted something light. I picked up Forrest Gump, but it wasn’t light enough. So I started The Racketeer by John Grisham and read late into the night. Then Monday came and life happened. Yesterday was a holiday for Pongal and instead of watching Thupakki and Thalaivaa, I sat with Grisham and Cook. Two books in one and a half days. Either I’m crazy or I’m crazy, but it was fun.

Image

Typical, but fun. There’s this black lawyer (apparently a first for Grisham ) who solves a murder from inside prison with some inside information and trades this to get a deal. He goes free and is under the witness protection program. He then changes his name and face and does things that make you wonder why he’s doing them till almost the end. Almost the end, because somewhere towards the long drawn plan, you kind of figure out what is going on. Some of the Plan is a bit far fetched and you have some questions. But hey, this is a John Grisham. You just enjoy the twists and turns and you don’t ask questions.

Anyway. It was a good read, one that kept me hooked till the very end. A weekend and a holiday well spent.

Wait. That’s not all. After law, I wanted medicine ( Like Grey’s Anatomy after The Practice). So I inky pinky ponkeyed between some Robin Cooks and chose Shock. And polished it off last night. Coming up in the next post.

Half of a Yellow Sun -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie : 2/52

half-of-a-yellow-sun

When the book opened with a houseboy from the village, an intellectual Master,a live-in girlfriend and a politically troubled nation, having read Reef just last week, I wondered if this was going to be the same thing all over again. But the similarity ended there.

Set in the sixties, the book  takes you from Nigeria to the three years of Biafra and back to  United Nigeria again. The first half that meanders through the the lives of Olanna and her ‘revolutionary’ lover Odenigbo, Kainene and her Englishman lover Richard and the houseboy Ugwu’s simple world. And then, in the second half, the harsh reality of war hits you hard. One of the things that touched me the most was the bond between Ugwu and his employers, a bond that remained strong, grew and was totally unselfish throughout the horrors of the war.  Olanna comes out as a martyr sometimes, dealing with Odenigbo’s unfaithfulness and his breakdown, but you don’t feel any anger towards him nor do you feel sorry for her. It is a relationship where you don’t take sides. To me, Kainene somehow came across as cold and unfeeling, but as the war progressed, I realised that it was strength, a much needed strength in a group helpless people and not indifference. Richard was one of the weakest characters in the book, a man without an identity of his own. An Englishman who felt Biafran, Igbo and African all at once, but who could never actually fit into any of those worlds.

The book leaves you dealing with the horrors of war. Rape, starvation, selfishness, cruelty and corruption. And in the end, it leaves you wanting.  Hoping.

Reef – Romesh Gunesekera : 1/52

I started the book in 2013, but since I finished it in 2014, it counts. So here is Book One of Fifty Two.

Image

No plot, no twists, no turns.  Reading this book is like watching someone’s life lazily pass by.  A book filled with understated emotions and unsaid words that stay with you long after you finish it. You have small characters that come and go, like the neighbour who marinated her husband in chillies and  Joseph, the onion hating supervisor- servant. Then there is Mister Salgado’s assistant who ‘grows a beard’ and Dias, whom you could say is the the only other recurring character after Miss Nili.  And there’s  a lot of food.

Triton’s attraction towards Miss Nili just hangs there heavy, and you half wait for something to explode. Foreigners come and go, eat turkey and cake, and again, you wait for something to happen.  The political turmoil gets fleeting mentions and you again wait for something to shake up the idyllic little life in that house.  But though the political situation seems to be just a distant backdrop the strong undercurrent can be felt throughout the book. And in the end you realise that the war ( let me call it that) is the hero and the villian in the book.  It was the war  that made  Triton move into Mister Salgado’s house in the beginning and it is the same war that marks the end.

And in between, a lifetime passes by.

I’ll give Reef four stars.

52 books in 2014.

Ok. This blog started off very ambitious. I felt I had a lot of stories behind all my books and this blog would be full of them. But I got lazy. And inspiration did not strike as much as I thought it would. So while the stories behind the books simmer in the background, I decided to take on an ambitious little new year resolution. Read 52 books in 2014. Well, I have the time, the books and the inclination. So why not?