Monthly Archives: May 2019

Top Ten Reads of the Decade #TopTenTuesday

Here’s a list of my top ten favourite reads over the past ten years – one for each year. Although I tried, really really tried to pick just one, but it proved too tough a task. And so I allowed myself to choose more than one. When it comes to books, decision making isn’t a big thing with me. These are ten, sorry twelve books that shall remain on my re-read list forever.

2010 Room by Emma Donoghue
This one was a shocking yet touching read.

2011 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This was also the year of release of Dance of Dragons by George RR Martin as also Fifty Shades of Grey – Just saying!

2012 Wonder by RJ Palacio and Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
If you haven’t read any of these two your reading life is incomplete. And if you’ve read any one, I give you my word, the other one is just as fantastic.

2013 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
My nephew, who’s a bit of Don Tillman (The Rosie Project protagonist) himself, tells me there’s a part two and three too and I wholly intend to get to them.

2014 Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
I struggled to pick this one weighing it against Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng but then it won for it’s fabulous mommy-bonding along with a murder mystery that kept me guessing right up to the end. The way it highlighted domestic violence and how women perceive it blew my mind.
PS: The HBO series might also have had something to do with my pick.

2015 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli
Another tough decision here and I kept them both on my list because they’re so very different and so wonderful in their own space. There’s a third that I wanted to add – The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Lee Hyeon-seo. But I resisted. See, I can do it when I put my mind to it.

2016 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
A WWII book that deserves to be read. Incidentally JK Rowling’s The Cursed Child also released this year.

2017 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor taught me that ‘Being Fine’ was never enough. Do read it, if you haven’t already.

2018 Becoming by Michelle Obama
Lots has been said/written about this one and nope, it isn’t one bit overrated. This one should be right up there on your TBR list.

2019 Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
I realised I had barely read any of the new releases this year. And so my choice was rather limited. Though not quite perfect, this remains my pick for 2019.

Which of these have you read?
Which have you loved and which do you think are overrated?
Did I leave out any of your favourites?

Editing to add a disclaimer: I realised the title may be a little misleading, hence the clarification. These aren’t necessarily the best books of the decade. They are however favourtites from among the ones I read that released that particular year. I hope I’m making sense here.

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Do join in this linky for book-lovers – Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. She has some super interesting book-related prompts each week. Drop by here for the rules and a list of topics for the forthcoming Tuesdays.

The prompt for this week, as you might have guessed was Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years thought up by Anne who blogs at Head Full of Books.

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Childhood Memories of Long Summer Days #BookBytes 8

Welcome to Book Bytes. This time I’ve picked a quote from a book that’s very close to my heart, one I can’t stop recommending. It’s the kind that makes me want to catch hold of people and read out the fun bits to get them to pick it up The Garden of the Gods. This one is part of The Corfu Trilogy. I read the first book of the Trilogy My Family and Other Animals decades ago, when I was in class 11 and it continues to be a favourite.

Told from the perspective of ten-year-old Gerry, the books talk about the Durrell family that relocates to Corfu, a gorgeous Greek Island. It’s the quirkiest, funniest family ever as are the myriad other characters that inhabit the island. If you/your child is a nature freak the books are a double bonus. This is not a review so I need to stop right here and share the quote.

“In those days, living as we did in the country, without the dubious benefits of radio or television, we had to rely on such primitive forms of amusement as books, quarrelling, parties, and the laughter of our friends…”

Gerald Durrell, The Garden of the Gods

These lines remind me of my summer vacations. Each summer my sister and I would spend one whole month in our mum’s ancestral home some 45 minutes away from the city. The roads were bad to non-existent so forty five minutes, meant a whole different world. There was no electricity so television was out of question and we didn’t have a radio either, quite like the author in the quote.

When I think back I wonder how we got through those long summer days. However, necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. We made up games, sang songs together, picked nimkauris and spent time at the village temple. We came away with some of the best memories of our childhood.

It saddens me to think that that my children might never learn to do all of that.

Do you have a favourite book that evokes childhood memories? I’d love for you to share a quote and link up with me.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. The next edition is scheduled for June 4th. Do join in.

Everything I never told you #BookReview

Book: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng

‘Lydia is dead’ says the opening line of this book. However don’t go into it thinking it to be a thriller and you’ll love it.

This is the story of…

a mixed race couple, Marilyn and James Lee, and their children Lydia, Nathan and Hannah.

Lydia is clearly the parents’ favourite. She is the focus of their lives and carries the burden of their expectations. Marilyn wants Lydia to become a doctor and sees it as the fulfilment of her own childhood dream. James on the other hand has always struggled to fit in being a child of Chinese parents. He wants Lydia to have friends, to be a ‘regular American teen’.

Nathan and Hannah get stray bits of their parent’s attention. Nath is bullied by Lee to the point where he begins to doubt himself. He is by turns resentful and sympathetic towards Lydia. Hannah remains an invisible presence longing for her parents’ as well as her siblings’ affection. She is an insightful little girl observing much more than she’s given credit for.

Then one day Lydia disappears. A few days later her body is fished out from a lake. That’s when the delicate threads that hold the family unravel, spilling out ugly secrets. Is it a murder? Is it a suicide? Does her friendship with their neighbour Jack have anything to do with it?

What I thought of it

Although a murder mystery forms the core of the narrative, the book is the story of a family, its criss crossing relationships and the desire of every child to be loved and accepted.

Each of the characters is beautifully etched with strong back stories that explain clearly why they behave the way they do. That is what makes this book exceptionally readable and relatable.

One can see where Marilyn and James are coming from, why they want what they do for Lydia. And yet one can also see its terrible consequences.

The relationship between Nath and Lydia is beautifully portrayed. Nath obviously resents her and yet the two share an unsaid understanding. He knows that the constant attention of her parents annoys and upsets Lydia and he tries to deflect it too, not always with happy results.

Everything I never told you talks about how expectations can weigh down a child no matter how honourable the intentions. It brings home the fact that parents can sometimes pressurise their children without even being aware of it. There’s the obvious coercion where they push, nag and reprimand and then there’s emotional coercion which isn’t as obvious and yet can be far more overwhelming and potent. Worse still, it leaves little room for refusal or rebellion because one isn’t being coerced overtly at all.

That’s a dangerous place to be in.

Oh I felt for Lydia. I know children like her – the ‘good girls’ who struggle to deliver at every level. But what happens if they cannot? What if they do not want what their parents want for them and can never say it for fear of breaking their parents’ hearts? So intense and palpable is the constant tension in Lydia’s life that one almost feels a sense of relief as the waters of the lake close on her.

As a mom to twins who worries constantly about dividing time and attention fairly between them the focus on Lydia seemed incongruous. That was perhaps the single jarring factor of the book. However, that’s not to say I haven’t seen it happen. It definitely does, thought perhaps it isn’t as blatant.

Last thought: A wonderful read about love and family and expectations. Definitely worth a read.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Reading Challenge – This is my review for ‘A book on crime-solving’.

Why? #BookBytes 7

For BookBytes today I have picked this quote from Jet Lag by Ann Birstein. Talking of Auschwitz the author says:

The million and half Jews had been shipped from all over Europe for the privilege of being murdered here. From all parts of Poland, of course, but also Hungary, Slovakia, Greece. Why? Why go to all that trouble? Why not shoot them on the spot? But I was thinking in terms of Nazi efficiency. I had forgotten the other why. Why murder them all?

Jet Lag, Ann Birstein

This is something I have often wondered. Why take the trouble of transporting millions and millions of Jews only to kill them? And again I have to remind myself that the bigger question here is ‘Why kill them at all?’.

Although the book didn’t move me as much as other WWII literature, it is worth a read. You can read the detailed review of the book here.

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If you stumble upon a quote, a line (or two) or even a passage from a book that leaps out at you demanding to be shared join in with #BookBytes.

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Share it on your blog and link back to this latest post.
  • Put in the logo (above) so it’s easy to spot.
  • Leave the link to your blogpost in the comments so I can drop by too.
  • Book Bytes goes live every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. The next edition is scheduled for May 21st. Do join in.

Jet Lag #BookReview

Book: Jet Lag
Author: Ann Birstein

I took up JetLag on a recommendation from Sonali’s Book Club. That it was a World War II book was of course another big reason.

This is a travelogue..

..by the author who signs up for a European Discovery Tour – a trip that would take her to Jewish sites across Eastern Europe. She feels the need to explore her Jewish roots, to see the ‘origin’ as she puts it.

Along with her on the tour is a group of people each prompted by their own reasons. They travel from Warsaw and Auschwitz to Lithuania, Chez Republic and Hungary visiting all the sites of the horrible tragedy that was WW II. In Lithuania she visits the Yeshiva (Jewish Educational Institution) where her father had studied and tries to imagine what his life would have been like.

What I liked

The book brings home the tragedy in all its horror. Through Ann and her erudite guide we get to know of countless stories of life in the ghettos. These are stories of horror of course yet also of hope because people continued to believe that the madness had to end.

The Jews led almost regular lives, at least initially. They ran libraries, taught music and organised children’s operas. It is amazing how people kept on living ‘normal’ lives even in the most cruel, abnormal conditions. It shocked me to realise how easily we adapt to and accept whatever circumstances we are forced to live in. And that, I believe, is the biggest lesson history teaches us – to protest an unfair act no matter how small.

Many of them defied the rules too. They did it systematically and repeatedly till even that became their new normal. Above all, they wrote and photographed, constantly chronicling whatever was happening around them, leaving it all for posterity even as their numbers depleted day by day with groups of them being transported to the ovens.

Some instances talked about in the book will stay with me for a long time.

There were mentions of people like Emanuel Ringelblum the Warsaw Ghetto chronicler, Photographer George Kadish from Kovno, Lithuania and Abraham Sutzkever with his lyrical yet terrible descriptions of the holocaust. I spent hours looking each of them up on the Net and following their pictures.

The statistics are stunning in their enormity.

What could have been better

While the ghetto stories were inspiring as well as heart-breaking, the memoir didn’t draw me in. The narrative never became personal hence turned dull in parts.

Also, the people on the tour didn’t really come together as a group. I missed the warmth, the mutual sympathy that comes through a shared tragedy. Most of them had back stories but they were rather tenuous ones and I couldn’t connect with them with the exception of Rita and Max. They had both been at the concentration camps when they were young. Rita, as an 18-year-old, was incarcerated at Auschwitz and her husband Max was on the Schildler’s List. Their stories were moving, their dignity in the face of trauma, impressive. A book from their perspective would be worth a read.

I struggled with Yiddish terms and was glad I was reading it on the Kindle so I could look up the words as I went along.

Last thought: This one certainly deserves a read, however it is more of a fact file on WWII than a personal narrative.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Reading Challenge – This is my review for ‘A book written by a female author’.

Click here to buy this book