Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Loving Memoria: Nasim Tariq

Title:  In Loving Memoria: Nasim Tariq
Author:  Tariq Hussain, editor
Publication Information:  RB Printers. 2012.

Book Source:  I received this book as a gift from a dear friend of my parents - a gift I asked for and one that I will always cherish.

Favorite Quote:  "I undertook to write our story to lessen my pain as well as to record what she was for her children and grandchildren ... I hope that this collection will enable them to know their exceptional grandmother better."

This book is not one you can buy in a store or find online. It will not win awards or be on the bestseller list. Yet, it will always be one of my most treasured books. Let me tell you the story of this book and the amazing person that it is about.

Tariq Hussain ("Uncle") and Nasim Tariq ("Aunty") were friends of my parents. I met them for the first time when we moved to their town. I was nine. From then on, they were part of our lives. Our parents hung out together. The kids all grew up together. We took care of each and watched out for each other. We were part of each other's joys and sorrows.

As the kids turned into adults, we all moved in different directions - away to school, away for jobs, busy with starting families of our own. We saw each other less.

Then, I learned that Aunty was suffering from Alzheimer's. She suffered from this disease for a decade before she passed away last year. Aunty was one of the most vibrant and committed people I have ever met. She was dedicated to her family, her friends, and the children of community - all of us have our stories of Aunty keeping watch over us, and for many of us, teaching us how to drive. She was also tireless in her devotion to community service. To see her suffering in this way from Alzheimer's was heartbreaking.

Upon her death, Uncle compiled this book. It is a collection of photographs and memories from some of the people whose lives Aunty touched - her children, her grandchildren, other relatives, teachers, friends, and others. It is a beautiful tribute to a life well lived.

It makes me cry to know that she is gone. It makes me smile to know that the legacy she left behind will always be. It makes me hope and pray that at the end of my life, I may leave a memory of such love.

I am honored to have known her, and honored to be entrusted with this tribute to her.

Gone Girl

Title:  Gone Girl
Author:  Gillian Flynn
Publication Information:  Crown Publishers, Random House Inc. 2012. 429 pages (based on font and size selected)

Book Source:  I read this book based on the publicity for it and based on the recommendation of a friend.

Favorite Quote:  "I didn't say this out loud, though; I often don't say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree:  In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, feat, but you'd never guess from looking at me."

Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy. Husband and wife. Married five years. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing. The book is told in three sections. The book is narrated in alternating points of view - a chapter from Nick and a chapter from Amy.

It's tough to describe this book without spoilers, but I going to attempt to because I don't do spoilers. Amy has disappeared, and as in many cases such as this, Nick becomes a key suspect. The trail and the evidence appears to all lead to him. They are having marital problems. They are in financial difficulty. The individual family priorities of both are in conflict. At times, their very lifestyles are in conflict. Yet, they try or at least give the outward appearance of trying. All things point in one direction, but things are not as they seem. Gradually, what is real begins to separate from the lies and the deceptions.

I have to say that I completely did not see where this book was going. It kept me guessing and surprised me. I did not really like the characters. Yet, I could not stop reading because I wanted to find out what happened to them.  I did not much like how the story went, but the book would have been less powerful had it ended differently. So, does that make it a good book or not? You decide. I know it was certainly a memorable book.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Title:  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 
Author:  Deborah Moggach
Publication Information:  Random House. 2012. 262 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on the publicity for the movie.

Favorite Quote:  "She had expected the aches and pains, the failing vision, the reliance on others ... but she hadn't predicted the loneliness."

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the story of a set of elderly British who all end up together in a retirement home in India. The book description focuses on Dr. Ravi Kapoor, who is originally from India but lives in England. He and his cousin come up with this scheme for a retirement home. The story though really is about the individuals who become the residents.

The cast of characters includes Ravi's father-in-law, Norman, a man in search of female company. Then, there is Evelyn, whose current home is closed down, and her children are busy leading their lives. Muriel Donnelly arrives because of a family crisis. The Ainslies arrive on a new adventure. Dorothy Miller arrives on a mysterious search. Added to this mix are other residents and the cast of "locals."

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the characters or the book. It seems a sad book about a sad cast of characters. The focus seems to be on regrets and unhappiness with very few glimpses of the more positive aspects of life. In addition, the statements about India and Indians range from stereotypical to seemingly patronizing and insulting.

These features of the book may be understandable because of the ages and backgrounds of the characters and the time period. Unfortunately, the characters are not really developed and have no dimension or depth to them. Therefore, they elicit no emotional understanding or empathy. As such, the negatives just stand out all the more.

I read the book, and based on that, don't think I will be watching the movie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In The Shadow of the Banyan

Title:  In The Shadow of the Banyan
Author:  Vaddey Ratner
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2012. 322 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading the publicity for it.

Favorite Quote:  "Love hides in all sorts of places, in the most sorrowful corner of your heart, in the darkest and most hopeless situation."

In the Shadow of the Banyan is the story of seven-year old Raami, who is caught up in the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. The regime of the Khmer Rouge has the history of genocide, famine, disease, and destruction. This book tells a very personal story of that time. Though a fictionalized account, the book is autobiographical in its basis.

Raami is part of the royal family of Cambodia, and through this time period, suffers with her family. She suffers hardships beyond our imagination - separation from family, death of family members, starvation, and forced labor. Yet, she also finds moments of beauty and love. Throughout, she fights for survival.

It is somewhat disconcerting to read this book. The book describes such horrors, yet the imagery is at the same time heart-breakingly beautiful. The book is narrated through Raami's eyes - the innocent eyes of a seven year old. Yet, the insights and the poetic descriptions cannot be attributed to a child so young.

This seems to be a disconnect in the book. Yet, for the most part, it ceases to matter. I am so captured by the imagery and the emotions that I willingly put that aside. Periodically, there are moments of innocence that bring me back to the point that the narrator is seven. Yet, mostly, I remain entrenched in the story feeling the emotions and fighting for Raami's survival.

These words from the book itself describe it well..."Words, you see, allow us to make permanent what is essentially transient. Turn a world filled with injustice and hurt into a place that is beautiful and lyrical. Even if only on paper."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Sisters Montclair

Title:  The Sisters Montclair
Author:  Cathy Holton
Publication Information:  Branwell Books. 2012. 357 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book arrived as a softcover uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "Perhaps that was how immortality was gained after all; by sharing our stories, by living on in each other's hearts and imaginations."

The Sisters Montclair is the story of the unlikely friendship between ninety-four year old Alice Montclair and her twenty-one year old caregiver Stella Nightingale.

On the surface, the two couldn't be more different. Alice Montclair is a wealthy dame of society and the matriarch of the family. She suffers periods of forgetfulness, dreams of the past, and has run off many caregivers. Stella is a runaway who is barely scraping by. She is attempting to turn her life around and takes this job somewhat unwillingly.

As their days together progress, both their stories emerge. The book goes back and forth in time, slowly revealing Alice's story. Stella's story comes more grudgingly in her interactions with Alice and with others. As the stories emerge, they both learn that they are more similar than they would think. Both have had huge turning points in their lives, and both are seeking closure and forgiveness for events in the past.

The book is beautifully written, and the story is not one I was expecting. The description on the back of the book implies more of a tale of mystery. The mystery is there, but the story is really more of emotions, relationships, and friendships. The book has an ending; it is a complete story. Yet, I was sad when the book ended because I was not ready to let go of the characters. The book made me care!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The MacLosers

Title:  The MacLosers
Author:  Paul Moxham
Publication Information:  Smashwords. 2012. 120 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book was delivered through Smashwords.

Favorite Quote:  " 'What's gotten into all them then?' ..... 'Lil bit o'pride, I guess.' "

The MacLosers is the story of the Diobair family - Roger and Samantha and their children Alex and Jess. Roger is an out-of-work architect who can't seem to escape the disasters of his last job. The financial and emotional troubles of being out of work are piling up. Then, out of the blue, they receive an inheritance - a village in Scotland.

Being out of options, the family moves to a dilapidated castle with an interesting cast of village characters. Some friendly, and some definitely not. People expect Roger to quit; yet he does not. Along the way is a feud with a neighboring village, some long forgotten history, and a winner take all wager. All the makings of a fun tale.

Overall, the book was a very quick, very easy read. It was a fun story. Throughout, my thought was that with some revisions and editing to make the language and content more kid-friendly, this would make a fun children's movie - the tried and true plot family in trouble to a family taking on a new adventure to a family coming together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Undiscovered Novelist, A Novella

Title:  The Undiscovered Novelist, A Novella
Author:  Sarah Bridgeton
Publication Information:  Sarah Bridgeton. 2012. 135 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book was delivered as an epub attachment to an email.

Favorite Quote:  "I do what every smart girl does. I surround myself with believers."

The Undiscovered Novelist is a novella about a young woman named Jordyn. Jordyn is happily married with one child. This book is about her dream to publish her book and about her relationship with her mother. Both are fraught with struggles, perceived and real rejections, and days when she wants to give up. Both story lines come together into the ending of the novella.

As a short novella, this book is a very quick read. Jordyn is a likable character, and her struggles are things I could relate to. Debra, her mother, is also a likable character with struggles I could relate to. For this reason, the story engaged me and kept me reading.

Some of the plot elements seem to work out rather conveniently, but the relationships and emotions in the book seemed real. So, the likability of the characters and the genuineness of their emotions compensated for the convenient plot turns. Overall, a fun quick story. I look forward to reading more by the author.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The History of the World According to Facebook

Title:  The History of the World According to Facebook
Author:  Wylie Overstreet
Publication Information:  HarperCollins Publishers. 2011. 153 pages.

Book Source:  I got this book because it seemed like the type of book you could pick up and put down easily and read in short bursts. It also seemed like it would be funny. I got the book through PaperbackSwap.

Favorite Quote:  "I sincerely hope you enjoy this book. You may find it educational, you may find it amusing, or you may find it on the back of a toilet while pooping, in which case you're not going anywhere for a while. Might as well flip through."

The History of the World According to Facebook requires both an understanding of history and an irreverent sense of humor. As the title suggests, the book presents history from the beginning of time to present day (or present day a couple of years ago) in status updates and comments. What a record of history might have been if Facebook had always existed, and if everyone and everything posted on Facebook.

As a reader, you have to have some knowledge of history. The status updates and comments are funny if you understand what they refer to. For example:
  • The update is "The Sun is now friends with Earth and 7 other planets." Pluto's comment, "Not cool."
  • The update is "Helen of Troy changed her current city to Troy." Menelaus's comment, "Did your acct. get hacked babe?"
  • The update is "Princess Peach is at Another Castle with King Koopa." Mario's response, "You've got to be kidding me."
I found myself looking up references when I did not quite get something, and then going, "Now I get it!"

As a reader, you also have to have a sense of humor and the ability to not be easily offended. The books tackles history - political, religious, ethnic, economic, and cultural. Many of the issues are very serious, but are presented in a humorous, irreverent fashion. If that is likely to offend your sensibilities, this is not the book for you.

I found the book amusing, and easy to pick up and put down. And as someone who has books in every room of the house, this one did find a home somewhere where the writer suggested.