After You [A Review]

After You, by Jojo Moyes

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Few sequels have managed to impress me. This one didn’t either.

This book is about letting go, living, family love and teenagers, among many other things. But it has not managed to move me. In fact, it’s a miracle I managed to finish the book.

Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. I did enjoy the part when Lily went missing and I was hoping she would be all right. And then there was the part when Sam met with an “incident” on the job. Even though the events were a little cliche and expected. (I shall not elaborate further else I give away the bits that are worth reading.)

Oh, and yes, the British humour Moyes injected into the narrative helped.

VERDICT: Do not expect an emotional ride like what Me Before You is capable of giving.

A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy [A Review]

A Court of Thorns and Roses (Book 1),

A Court of Mist and Fury (Book 2),

A Court of Wings and Ruin (Book 3) 

A trilogy by Sarah J. Maas

  [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

Reading the first book was like reading Beauty and the Beast, Hunger Games and Twilight all in one story, and it’s enough to hook anyone who has loved those stories before.

What got me started was really because the trilogy was recently completed with the publication of the third book, and the fact that it was actually one of the YA bestsellers in a local bookstore. In fact, I even saw teenage girls reading the third book on my way to work (although I’m not sure the content is entirely suitable for young teens). 

Of course, this being a trilogy and being a Sarah J. Maas creation, “happily ever after” is never an option at the end of the first book.

The plot gets complicated in the second book, and fans of female power will love the way Maas portrays the emotional and physical strength of the protagonist Feyre, and the way she was able to make so many beautiful males fall for her. But the second book was my least favourite, because I think it focused too much on the romantic (and sexual) tensions between Feyre and Rhysand. I shall not say too much on this, so that I do not give the game away, only that I understand the need for Maas to describe a couple of the really passionate scenes, but not subsequent ones. In fact, the subsequent ones just grew to become tired and long-winded for me, because I was more interested in the political and tactical games that the Night Court had to play in order to save the world. Thankfully, the third book had more of the latter, although it got a tad too melodramatic for my liking at times.

VERDICT: Other than the fact that the protagonist was a nineteen-year-old who became a fighting machine in a matter of weeks, this series is not exactly YA material, especially for those below 16, mainly because of the raw manner in which Mass has depicted the sex scenes. Other than that, the story makes for page-turning, fast reading, and is perfect if you want some entertainment that should not be taken too seriously.

Wonder [A Review]

Wonder, by R.J.Palacio

Image result for wonder goodreads

   [Image courtesy of Goodreads]

 

Depending on how you normally view things in the world, this book can read like one that inspires hope. Or it can read like one that sounds so phoney that it’s almost like a fantasy story.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book, and it made me feel really good reading it, especially with the fact that I have a young child and how she copes with school life (and real life) worries me all the time. The story reassures me that there is more kindness than meanness in the world. People are born good, and bad behaviour loses its attraction over time.

Plus, the writer’s manipulation of events and situations in the story, and his ability to make the voices of the characters sound so authentic make the story a great read. A kid sounded like a kid, and a teenager sounded like a teenager. 

Yet, I can’t help feeling that what happened in the book seems so far from reality most of the time. I mean, how often do we get children (and adults for that matter) like Summer and Jack who can resist being part of the popular group and have the courage to stand up for what they think is right or better? I’m not saying there aren’t such folks around, just that they are few and far between. I’m not even sure I’d have the courage to be Summer or Jack as an adult.

Nevertheless, I picked up the book because they’ve made a movie out of it, and I wanted to read it before I watched it. I think I’m looking forward to the movie. Of course, the fact that Julia Roberts is going to be the mum helps. I hope it won’t disappoint.

And yes, I will strive to spread a little bit of kindness each day. To quote from Mr Browne’s first precept in the book, it’s more important to be kind than to be right all the time.

VERDICT: Read it before you watch it… if you’re going to watch it that is.

Sapiens [A Review]

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

Wow, what a read.

I learnt that sapiens went from the middle of the food chain to the top because our ancestors knew how to cooperate in large groups. And they did that by creating myths – institutions and systems that sapiens believe in. Of course, this is not the only juicy bit from the book, but it was the most striking one for me.

The book raises more questions than answers, and I suppose that is good in a way, and totally expected of an academic writer. Yet, it can get frustrating sometimes, especially when I found myself going through the same section more than once, trying to get to the point that the writer was trying to convey.

Nevertheless, the book is written in a simple style, and certainly does not read like a boring history paper. The writer has tried to communicate big concepts in simple language, and I think he has managed to do it.

The last couple of chapters are more forward-looking, and talks about future possibilities very briefly. He recently published Homo Deus, which is like a “sequel” to this book. Some say it’s an unworthy extension of Sapiens; others find it an equally good read. I’m going to try it out!

VERDICT: Because the scope covered in the book is so wide, do not expect detailed descriptions of what happened in the history of human development. But if you’re looking for something that will help you understand our past and think about what it means for our future, try this book.

Being Mortal [A Review]

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

This is one of those books that give me hope, and yet make me worry about the future at the same time.

Having just gone through my grandmother’s passing last year, and facing two sets of aging parents from both my husband and myself, the thought of one’s mortality has been on my mind recently. Hearing about my husband’s colleague’s struggle with his elderly mother and a sister who has recently been diagnosed with cancer actually made it worse.. This was when I finally picked up the book, even though I had come across it some time back. I had thought it would be too depressing then.

Reading the book brought clarity to the questions we should be asking, when one is dying and time is short. Medicine and doctors, as opposed to common belief, do not have all the answers. But doing so requires a big shift in perspective, not just for the one dying, but also for the caregivers and onlooking loved ones. The writer has not only managed to capture all these through an engaging storytelling of cases he has come across, but also through his own experiences.

Yet, what worries me is that our ecosystem and society may not be ready for such an enlightened approach towards death. I’m glad this book has forced people to think about the limits of medicine and doctors, and what is possible beyond traditional nursing homes and medical treatments that may not be the best options sometimes.

VERDICT: This is a must read for everyone, not just folks who are in the healthcare industry. Because we are all mortals.

Irresistible [A Review]

Irresistible, by Adam Atler

   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

Nope, this is not some saucy, titillating romance novel with the picture of a half-naked man and a scantily dressed woman in a hot embrace.

Instead, the cover picture shows a lit smartphone. It’s a book about behavioral addiction and how technology can make it worse. It’s also about how contributing elements in behavioral addiction can be used to grow good habits.

Interestingly, the way the book was written (it’s short and to the point; there are lots of stories; it’s well-organized and allows a step-by-step easy, progressive understanding of the points put forth) can be addictive for the reader. At least it was for me. This is despite the fact that many of the points and arguments in the book were not new to me. I’ve seen many articles, columns and papers written on this topic. What Atler has done is put everything into a concise and highly readable piece that tells us the history and psychology of addiction, how businesses and game developers are using a combination of technology and psychology to hook people (for good or bad), and how not to get addicted. There is even a chapter on what parents can do to prevent kids from falling into that trap from young.

Midway through the book, I was so curious about seeing the theory explained in action that I actually logged on to the Apple App Store and downloaded a few top-rated games to try, just to see if they had the psychological hooks designed into them. 

They all had, some more than others.

I like to think that being conscious about those hooks somehow saved me from being sucked into the games.

VERDICT: The book can be an enjoyable read, whether you are into game development, social media marketing, or just concerned about your kids spending too much time online.

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza [A Review]

The Last Lesson of Mrs De Souza, by Cyril Wong

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   [Image courtesy of Epigram Books]

Another local book by Cyril Wong. It’s a novel this time, albeit a short one.

The plot was predictable, but I think credit must be given for the way Wong has crafted the entire tale, from the way Mrs De Souza’s story was drawn out, to the way different strands of emotion were injected into the storytelling. I really like how Wong has so aptly described the way one’s perception and memory of events can be shaped by one’s biases and beliefs, and can therefore end up being highly unreliable. 

Yet, I’m not sure Cyril Wong will ever be one of my favourite local authors, either because of the constant melancholy I feel whenever I read his works, or because of the themes he usually chooses for his stories. I do appreciate good humour and playful jabs at the ironies in life sometimes, and that seems to be missing in Wong’s writings. But I suppose that’s just a matter of style and personal preferences. Wong probably just has something different to say, and that something does not resonate as strongly with me.

VERDICT: If you had tried “Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me” and had liked the short stories, this longer story is written in a similar style and might appeal to you.