Category: Book Review

Review:No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance StateNo Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved the first few chapters of the book. Thought it would be one of the groundbreaking books of its kind. Those chapters were not less than fiction and but then the whole focus of the book moved on to defending the author under various circumstances. It is understandable that the whole justifying thing should come under the purview of the book, but should have been crispier. I would have liked to have more on Snowden. But his presence is limited in the first chapters. There are no two ways about the truth. But the book was disappointing.

View all my reviews


Review: Burnt Shadows

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie portrays the journey of a Hiroko Tanaka, a girl of Japanese Origin, across multiple geographies and cultures. The story begins with an arresting image of three bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. From there, the story slowly unravels the interwoven stories of Weiss, Burton and Ashraf Families, spanned across generations. Hiroko, a survivor of August 9, 1945, Nagasaki Bombing, Hibakusha as they say in Japanse, travels to India to meet her late fiance, Konrad Weiss’s sister Elizabeth Burton.

As the backdrop changes to Delhi’s summer and it’s blazing Gulmohars, Hiroko finds a surprising, yet a truehearted friend in Elizebeth Burton and a soulmate in Sajjad Ashraf. Amid India-Pakistan separation in 1947 and the subsequent violence, Hiroko and Sajjad find themselves married and are forced to settle in Karachi, Pakistan unexpectedly. The fate keeps bringing Hiroko under the shadow of many historic events like the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki, India Pakistan Partition, Afghan war, Nuclear tensions in Asia and the 9/11 bombing. It is moving to see, how a survivor of such mass destruction still holds on to humanity until the end of the book.

Burnt shadows are as poetic as it can be, and a new meaning unravels in front of you each time you read it. The author has carved every character with such a finesse that the situations and emotions characters go through, will create a lasting impression on you. Occasionally, the writing seems to be the excelling point than the story, especially in the end.

The story is cast in a huge geographical and cultural canvas.The juxtapositioning of noted massacres of human history and the personal loss and sorrow is notable. The author brilliantly positioned love and humanity in such a contrasting environment of war and yet managed to invoke the right emotions without confusion. The wartorn Urakami, Delhi on the verge of Partition, Refugees at Karachi, the rawness of 9/11 bombing, the list of historical events author has picked to tell the story goes on.

Sajjad stood up quietly and walked over to her. “There is a phrase I have heard in English: to leave someone alone with their grief. Urdu has no equivalent phrase. It only understands the concept of gathering around and becoming ‘ghumkhaur’—grief-eaters—who take in the mourner’s sorrow.”
― Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows

Along with geographical grandness, Author also handles the nuances of multiple cultures very well. Many characters in the Novel come across multiple cultures as part of their journey and it is wonderful to see how each of them assimilate an entirely foreign culture, still, keep a part of their heart true to their own. The unfamiliarity of a new culture, the reluctance in pursuing its ways, and the inevitable acceptance after knowing it in depth, this cycle is a recurring theme with every character and the author does it with a distinct emotional portrayal for each character.Another motif you find all over is that of a story of ‘Spider and Islam’. Two families, The buttons, and The Ashrafs, with deeply interconnected roots, go through a series of events having a similar theme as that of ‘Spider and Islam’. As a reader, it is interesting to discern this patterns.

Another notable portion comes towards the end when author pits two popular ideologies, which are at odds. She does it with such nuances that, its impossible not to empathize with both of them. Abdulla, a conservative Muslim, who finds himself at the wrong end of the law and Kim Burton, still raw from the wounds of 9/11 and her personal loss,  come together in the end to voice out the obvious religion versus terrorism arguments.My favorite part of that entire dialogue is a soft toy analogy using which author choose to show, how dissimilar backgrounds and situations lead to opposing beliefs in individuals and how difficult it is not to sympathize with both the ideologies. Both the arguments have its own standing in the reader’s mind.

Considering how elaborate author was in the beginning, I am rather disappointed with the abrupt ending . I looked up from the last chapter as an unsatiated reader who could do with a little more specific ending. Despite this little glitch, I enjoyed the read and really took my own sweet time to savor the book. Some of the quotes from the book have turned my favorite now. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a memorable read


Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not a cheery book to start the new year, still the book managed to hold my interest until the end. The factual representation of HeLa cells journey, how HeLa is so important to science even today and the perpetual confusion  on the privacy trials of biomaterials, the books covers all these aspects ever so gracefully. Once you delve into a little deeper into the book, it becomes difficult to identify the goal of the book. Deborah Lacks, daughter of Henrietta Lacks, eventually the books turns into a memoir of hers. It is like a pitchfork with two metal prongs, parallels of the Journey of HeLa cells and Journey of HeLa’s daughter. You can reason out as Henrietta Lacks two immortal lives, one that of the cells and the other journey of her spirit, which lives on through her family. I enjoyed reading it and would go for a four

View all my reviews

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good LifeThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Self-help books never worked for me so far. It always ends up giving me a temporary high and I, as a person, tend to move on to other things pretty quickly. So I do not know where to label this book. As of now, I am pretty high on it and think whatever written absolutely makes sense. It has given me a completely new perspective to ponder and the last chapter was illuminating, to say the least. Having said that, I believe, help should come from within. Any outside motivation may or can act as a trigger or like a road sign to show the way forward. But to raise yourself from any adversity, it is our willpower that all it takes. The book may or may not help you. But you can definitely help yourself. I think the book says the same thing. I enjoyed reading the book and it has lent me a hand in the process of overcoming my emotional barricades. I would go for three stars.

View all my reviews

Review: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very interesting book, which tells you in a no-nonsense way how insignificant we are in the earth’s history still how we possess demonic powers to alter the course of evolution. It leaves you with an eerie warning that we could be both the dinosaurs and meteoroid in the next extinction event. The book ends with a spine-chilling image of a ‘Frozen Zoo’ of extinct species. Everyone who wants to know about the Climate change and the human interference over the Life on Earth must read this book to get an elaborated view.
Wjem the USA decided to come out of Paris Climate Accord, I was really surprised to see some comments on social media, saying ‘Climate change is a hoax’. The more we progress, the more tunneled our vision has become. The book says it all, to know the truth, you just have to observe around you and you can see the change. I would go with four stars for the book,

View all my reviews

Review: The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic AdventureThe Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure by Caroline Paul

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Probably I am the least qualified person to read this book of adventures. Mostly I read about adventures on books and live it vicariously. Well, for me that’s adventurous enough. But this is one book which I recommend for my daughter to read right away after she turns teen. I would like her to be an adventurous one. The author of the book has given an impressive ted talk and if you hear it along with it, it would be an add on. Loved the book and needless to say I scored a zero on the Gutsy meter.

View all my reviews

Review: From Science to God: A Physicist’s Journey into the Mystery of Consciousness

From Science to God: A Physicist's Journey into the Mystery of ConsciousnessFrom Science to God: A Physicist’s Journey into the Mystery of Consciousness by Peter Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a path-breaking book for me. The initial chapters are a pure gem and it gave me a completely new perspective towards everything. When we say ‘life as we see it’, you never know how limited that ‘seeing’ is. Linking science to God is not easy, especially when those are considered as opposite poles by current world view. Peter Russell’s transition is almost seamless. I would stress on the word ‘almost’ because the chapters on consciousness to God were mainly based on Author’s own experiences with meditation and his journey to east. There weren’t enough on those topics to convince me to go along with the author’s views. I will go with a four for this one. This may not be a go-to book for those who seek the ultimate meaning of life and everything, but the book can point towards the right direction.

View all my reviews