Latest Reviews

other wes moore - wes moore
going clear - lawrence wright
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don't let him know - sandip roy

Book Review: The Immortals of Meluha – Amish Tripathi

immortal of meluha - amishTitle: The Immortals of Meluha
Author: Amish Tripathi
ISBN: 9781623651435
Pages: 448
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

The year is 1900 BC and the idyllic empire of Meluha, located in India, is under siege. The Suryavanshis, the rulers of the land, aren’t sure how they are going to survive and protect their people, until they find Shiva. He is the leader of a clan from the Himalayas, backwards by all Meluhan accounts, but he may just provide the key to Meluha’s survival through an ancient prophecy.

Review:

The Immortals of Meluha is the first book in the Shiva trilogy, a retelling of the myths about Hinduism’s Lord Shiva, in a sort of mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Tripathi clearly researched these myths fully. I grew up hearing about the deeds of Lord Shiva, and though I have not read about them recently, I was able to pick out many bits and pieces and see how Tripathi reinterpreted these stories. It really was well done.

Tripathi portrays Shiva as a lost young man, at home with his men, but still trying to escape his responsibilities. He’s uncomfortable with the way the Suryavanshis treat him, but he respects their achievements and what they have become. He also enjoys it when they underestimate him. This is not some humble man; Shiva is a prince among men, and he wants people to know it. He’s prideful, but he’s also endearing.

The story of The Immortals of Meluha goes through many different twists and turns; Tripathi writes them well, delivering a fascinating read that is quite entertaining. Even if you know nothing about Hindu mythology, this book makes for fun storytelling and has a creative narrative. If you are familiar with the stories of Shiva, then this novel provides a reinterpretation of those stories, turning them upside down to look at them anew. It’s very well done, and I look forward to getting to the next book in the series.

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Book Review: The Other Wes Moore – Wes Moore

other wes moore - wes mooreTitle: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Author: Wes Moore
ISBN: 9780385528191
Hours: 6 Hours, 12 minutes / Pages: 256
Release Date:
Publisher: Audio: Random House Audio / Print: Spiegel & Grau
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Wes Moore is a White House fellow and a Rhodes scholar who grew up on the tough streets of the Bronx. He escaped the systematic cycles of violence and drugs, but many others he grew up with did not. In this memoir, Wes discusses his own life, but also that of another Wes Moore: a young man who shares his name, who had a very similar upbringing and atmosphere to his own, but is serving consecutive life sentences in prison. What was the difference between these two young men? Why did they end up in their respective places?

Review:

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is a fascinating memoir about the power of circumstance and choice, and how the smallest opportunities and forces can make a difference. The two Wes Moores grew up in similar surroundings. Drugs were everywhere, and it was a lot easier to make a quick buck by working for the dealers than to attend school. Both Wes Moores had their dabblings with this, but this Wes Moore (sorry, this could get confusing fast) broke out of the cycle. Why? How? This is the question Wes is trying to answer, and the reader tries to answer over the course of the book.

Wes tells both stories well, though priority is given to his own in The Other Wes Moore (after all, it is a memoir). It’s really fascinating to listen to him trace the parallels in both the lives, but also what set Wes apart. Wes had a lot of positive influences in his life, namely his mother, who was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for him. He’s honest about how little he appreciated her sacrifices until he grew older, but also how much her perseverance and belief in him helped. He had mentors and people to look up to, even when he didn’t want them, and role models of what he could become; the other Wes lacked many of these guiding forces. No matter how much the other Wes’s mother loved him and wanted a straight path for her son, he couldn’t escape the drugs/violence cycle.

I listened to The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates on audio, and it’s narrated by the author. It’s a quick listen; Moore does a good job, though he can be stilted at times. Still, I liked hearing his story from his own lips because of the passion he put into his performance. You can tell how much this means to him.

All in all, The Other Wes Moore was really a fascinating read. It’s not a self-help book; it doesn’t provide a formula for how an inner-city kid can become a Rhodes scholar. No, instead, it’s about the role of chance and circumstance, how the most whimsical and random things can determine our fates. The tagline of the book is: “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his,” and Moore makes that point over and over again. It’s really well done, and I definitely recommend this eye-opening read.

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Book Review: Going Clear – Lawrence Wright

going clear - lawrence wrightTitle: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Author: Lawrence Wright
ISBN: 9780307745309
Pages: 560
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: .4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this comprehensive exploration of Scientology, Lawrence Wright traces the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and how the religion developed and changed over the years, during his life and after his death.

Snapshot Review:

Going Clear is a well-written and informative look at Scientology. It gives the reader a comprehensive look at the history of the religion and how it’s been practiced, using interviews with prominent former members to sketch out a full portrait of the organization.

Full Review:

When my book club chose Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief as our monthly pick, I was excited. This was a book I’d wanted to read for awhile, and I was glad to be doing it knowing there’d be some serious discussion after I was finished. I wasn’t sure what I’d find within its pages, but honestly, nothing could have prepared me for just how strange and weird the contents of this book were.

Let’s start with the journalism. It’s easy to see just how comprehensive Wright was in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The last 1/3 or so of the book is just his notes from interviews and such. Of course, the Church of Scientology denies pretty much everything he prints in the book (and he checks with them for comments on many of the claims), but given Wright’s sources, he’s credible. Not only that, but the book is well-written; it certainly keeps the reader hooked.

Now for the content of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. There were honestly times I forgot I was reading nonfiction—that’s just how crazy this book was. I couldn’t believe what I was reading actually occurred, and recently at that. It simply boggles the mind over and over again. Wright delves into many different aspects of Scientology, including the Hollywood angle, and he provides insight into why so many celebrities are initially attracted to the church. It’s interesting, to be sure.

The aspect of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief that was the most interesting to me was the reason that a normal person would be attracted to the church in the first place, and Wright delves into this. Hubbard’s charismatic leadership was part of the draw, but also, it wasn’t presented as a church at the beginning, just a logical way to solve problems. The church/alien aspects of Scientology (which are pretty strange) came later. All in all, this was an interesting read that was really informative, and it made a great book club pick.

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Book Review: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less – Sarah Glidden

how to understand israel coverTitle: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Author: Sarah Glidden
ISBN: 9781401222345
Pages: 208
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre: Nonfiction, Comics, Graphic Memoir, Trave;
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Sarah Glidden, a nonreligious Jewish young woman, decided to take a Birthright Israel trip, braced for the Zionist propaganda that would be thrown at her. She was ready to dismiss everything she learned, but once she arrived, she realized the situation was much more complicated than she believed and that it’s easy to judge when you don’t fully understand what’s happening.

Snapshot Review:

This graphic memoir mixes a coming of age story with a great travelogue. Glidden expresses her anxiety and uncertainty through her art, giving the reader insight into her conflicted emotions during her trip.

Full Review:

Sarah Glidden’s graphic memoir is a fascinating story about one woman’s emotional coming of age. Sarah Glidden went into her Birthright Israel trip with many preconceived notions. She believed that those who ran the trip and the people she met would be trying to “brainwash” her into being pro-Israel, into forgetting the plight of the Palestinians. Sarah’s own boyfriend was Muslim (Pakistani Muslim, not Arab), and she was determine to come out of the trip still supporting the original inhabitants of the land, rather than the usurpers, as she saw them.

It’s so interesting to watch Sarah change over the course of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. It’s not that she becomes an full-throated Zionist or anything close; and indeed, she’s correct that parts of the Birthright trip did have the feel of propaganda. But what surprises Sarah (and the reader) is that the people she’s meeting aren’t fervent, blind supporters of Israel. They recognize there are problems with the way Israel acts. Sarah’s biggest realization on her trip is that the problems facing both the Israelis and Palestinians are huge and massive; the issues are historic and endemic. By believing she could come up with a solution for, or at least a full understanding of, the entire conflict on one trip, was was naive at best. Glidden realizes she didn’t even have a basic grasp of how deep and broad the issues really go, and there are no easy answers facing them.

Glidden writes and illustrates How to Lose Israel in 60 Days or Less, and she does an amazing job. Her emotions come through in every panel; readers can see the conflict within her. The art in the book isn’t detailed or intricate; it feels like a journal, something she wrote every day of the trip, and it’s very effective. The drawings are loose and vague, allowing the reader to look deeper into each panel, to feel Glidden’s uncertainty through the roundness of her lines. It’s so interesting to consider the emotions that comics can convey, and this is a really good choice to really analyze that.

Graphic memoirs are a great place to start with comics, and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is no exception. The mixture of coming of age themes with a travelogue filled with fascinating details makes for a great read, and should definitely be on the list of memoir fans generally.

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Book Review: Together Tea – Marjan Kamali

together tea cover

Title: Together Tea Author: Marjane Kamali ISBN: 9780062236807 Pages: 336 Release Date: May 21, 2013 Publisher: Ecco Books Genre: Cultural Fiction, Contemporary Fiction Source: Personal Copy Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Mina is fed up with her mother’s attempts to arrange her marriage, but Darya only wants what is best for her daughter—after all, it’s […]

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Book Review: Don’t Let Him Know – Sandip Roy

don't let him know - sandip roy

Title: Don’t Let Him Know Author: Sandip Roy ISBN: 9781620408988 Pages: 256 Release Date: January 20, 2015 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asian) Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: When Amit finds an old love letter written by a man in his parents’ home, he figures that his mother, Romola, must […]

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Book Review: A Bad Character – Deepti Kapoor

bad character cover

Title: A Bad Character Author: Deepti Kapoor ISBN: 9780385352741 Pages: 256 Release Date: January 20, 2015 Publisher: Knopf Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asian) Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: A young woman is attending college in Delhi, living with her aunt after her mother’s death. She falls in love with an older […]

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Book Review: Love in a Headscarf – Shelina Janmohamed

love in a headscarf - shelina janmohamed

Title: Love in a Headscarf Author: Shelina Janmohamed ISBN:  9780807000809 Pages: 272 Release Date: October 12, 2010 Publisher: Beacon Press Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Cultural Source: Personal Copy Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Shelina Janmohamed was a smart, Oxford-educated young Muslim woman who decided to abide by her parents’ and community’s traditions when it came […]

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