These last few months, I’ve been on a roll as far as reading is concerned. I’ve read books on my phone, on my Kindle, on my iPad, and also in print – just about every which way! I usually read during my commute and when I’m travelling. I’m absolutely loving this phase, because as with most things, my reading happens in phases – sometimes I am reading up a storm, and at other times, I can barely concentrate on the words on a page. Does that happen with you guys too?
Anyway, on to the books.
The Twilight Wife by AJ Banner (fiction) – A quick, engrossing read, especially when you ignore the “next Gone Girl” proclamations (seriously now, can publishers stop saying that about all the women-focused thrillers!). The story is about a 34-year old woman, who’s lost part of her memory in a diving accident and finds herself in a distant island with her husband and as bits of her memory return, she realizes that not everything is as it seems. Not the greatest thriller I’ve read, but an easy weekend read, I’d say.
Orphan Train by Deckle Edge (fiction) – A decent read, but I found writing a tad too simplistic for my liking. It traces the story of two women with fractured childhoods from two different time periods – one, set in the 1920s/30s, and the other, set in 2011 – who come together by chance and edge towards some sort of closure in their respective lives. I particularly enjoyed the historical aspect of the older woman’s story.
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (fiction) – This I LOVED. Like, so many feelings, seriously. Two flawed people, in an apparent post-apocalyptic world, stranded in extreme conditions – one in space, one in the Arctic. Beautiful descriptions, and I loved how the back stories, the introspections, and the evolution of the two main characters comes together. The ending is not “complete”, and there’s ample room for a sequel built in – which I would totally read, if it were ever to be released!
The Likeness by Tana French (fiction) – This was my third Tana French book, and I found it to be the most difficult to get through. The whole “likeness” concept seems stretched to unbelievable proportions, and I found it a tad hard to give into that suspension of belief. The characters were well-etched out, but the whole plot was a little too thin for my liking (and the culprit somewhat obvious). Not my favourite TF book.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (fiction)– A powerful story, with beautifully written characters. I liked reading about this aspect of history – Nazi occupied France, and stories of the members of the French resistance. I thought the differences between the experiences of the two sisters was brought out very well, and I loved how the story focused on the roles that women played during the war. A riveting read on the whole!
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (fiction) – Similar timeline as The Nightingale, but a completely different kind of story. This story moved me, and I really didn’t want it to end. So many details, so many layered meanings. The story follows a blind French girl, and a young German orphan boy, as they come to terms with World War II, and the implications of Nazi atrocities, and how they still preserve their humanity, despite it all.
The Futures by Anna Pitoniak (fiction) – Another book that I LOVED. I expected a somewhat frivolous read of a love story set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, but was pleasantly surprised to find a deeper tone to the story. The central characters are sometimes unbelievably naïve, but the writing is pretty solid, and as the characters become more grounded in the last quarter of the book, I found myself enjoying the book a whole lot more. Also, fun fact, Lehman Brothers was my first ever employer, and I started working there about 3 months before the September 2008 bankruptcy announcement!!!
Baaz by Anuja Chauhan (fiction) – Fast paced and engrossing story, but it seems as if the book was written with the explicit purpose of being made into a movie – and I am not a huge fan of that style of writing. It’s a story about a group of Air Force fighters and their lives during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The insight into their cantonment life is rich and detailed, and the dialogue between the characters is mostly relatable. Another thing I didn’t quite enjoy was the rampant use of Hindi / Haryanvi in the dialogues. I don’t know, it’s just something I can’t get behind. I am all for colloquial English, but reading dialogues spoken in a regional tongue only written in English just messes with my reading experience.
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (fiction) – Uuuggghhh! The whole story just seemed so far-fetched. A young girl is murdered by a well-to-do and respectable English couple, and over a course of time, their son finds out about it. He tries to figure out ways to comfort the dead girl’s family, and in doing so, faces a lot of conflict at home (naturally!). Anyway, there are a lot of nuances to the story, but it seemed just so far out… and jeez, the boy’s mother is a character for sure!
Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (fiction) – I enjoyed this book a whole lot more than Paula Hawkin’s first book “The Girl On The Train”. The story is set in a small English town about how a bunch of women have become victims in what is called the “Drowning Pool”. The apparent suicide of her sister by jumping into the Drowning Pool draws Jules back to town, and forces her to confront her childhood issues, and also find out what the hell is really going. It was a fast read, with a lot of POVs thrown in but I did think that the climax was drawn out for a tad too long.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (non-fiction, memoir) – Is Ariel Levy privileged? Sure, yes. Does she acknowledge her privileged life? Yes. Is she relatable? Oh, yes! The central point of this memoir is about Ariel’s harrowing experience of suffering a miscarriage in Mongolia (and eloquently captured in her personal essay – Thanksgiving in Mongolia). She delves into her life before and after the event, and I could identify with many things that she talks about – wanting to be a mother / not wanting to be a mother, not having seriously bad things happen to her (prior to her miscarriage). She’s a masterful writer and her dry humour shines through. The parts where she talks about both her parents suffering from cancer – that did seem rather impersonal, and her writing almost makes it seem as if it didn’t affect her deeply. But then again, maybe it was a personal choice to not delve too much into those aspects of her life, and focus more on the narrative she wanted to build – about an accomplished woman, with no real bad experiences in life, who suffers a major loss while in a foreign land and how she copes with its aftermath.
Who Thought This was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco (non-fiction) – This was a really great read. I picked it up thinking it would be a fun insight into Obama and how he ran his administration, but it turned out to be so much more than that. The book is peppered with non-cheesy leadership and workplace skills lessons for women, which I think is great, because any which you look at it, Alyssa has achieved a lot in a predominantly male dominated industry, and she obviously has a lot of wisdom to share. Also, it helps that her voice is casual, engaging and fun with a sort of self-deprecating humour, and thankfully, without a sense of overbearing of achievement or pompousness. As someone who’s not from the US of A, all those names of political bigwigs (beyond the headliners who get spoken/written about even outside the country) kinda made me flustered in the beginning – there was no bloody way I was going to remember who did what – but beyond a point, I let go of the need to remember all those names and found myself enjoying the book a lot more. Also, this has to be said – Barack Obama was a seriously cool guy!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (fiction) – This book was recommended to me by my brother’s girlfriend a couple of years ago, but I really just got around to reading it when I heard about the show being aired in April. Needless to say, mind blown. It’s creepy, but also undeniably believable, and so well written. The totalitarian world described in the book isn’t all that very difficult to imagine, where women are classified on the basis of their ability to bear children, and their worlds are ordered down to the very last detail. But even more than a feminist tale, I thought the book was also a deep delve into power equations, and how both men and women bear the consequences of absolute power.
The Expatriates by Janice YK Lee (fiction) – Hong Kong is a city I love (and one I travel frequently to on account of work), and while I’ve never had an in-depth immersion into the lives of the expats, I’ve come across some snippets of it, and was piqued to read about the lives of three such expat women in the city. I’ll be honest – I found most of the book rather tedious to go through. The lives of the three women are richly detailed – maybe a little too much so – but I found the stories not all that absorbing, and the ending seemed to me rather perfect.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (fiction) – I know, I know. The first book came out years ago, but I’ve just gotten to reading it! This book was a pleasant surprise. At first, it seemed like it would a frivolous read, with lots of brand name dropping and the unbelievably detailed descriptions of the lives and houses of these rich Asians, and all that snide and petty gossiping. But I’m glad that the story went beyond that. There is a depth that emerges as the story progresses, and Kevin Kwan sure knows how to tell a story.
What have you been reading lately?
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