Posts Tagged ‘Radhika R.’s picks’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Radhika R’s Picks

December 30, 2014

Albert Einstein said  that “Imagination is more important  than intelligence!”  Books fire that imagination for me! Books make me think, laugh, empathize and take me through a gamut of emotions. I travel around the world from the the comfort of my couch!  Here are a few of them which I enjoyed reading.

MadoMadonnas of Leningradnnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
A story of love, suffering and helplessness. Marina is rendered helpless when she is affected by Alzheimer’s. While she has difficulty remembering her children or grandchildren, she remembers clearly the 40 day siege of Leningrad, and how she overcame it. As a museum docent, she helped to hide countless priceless works of art from the invading Nazis, all the time creating a “memory palace” in her mind in which to cherish their beauty. These memories and those of the works of art she saved are juxtaposed with the present, where she regularly forgets her own granddaughter. A very sad, poignant story of an Alzheimer’s patient and how the caretakers the family members stand by helplessly while their loved one’s mind is slowly shutting down on the immediate present. A very touching read.  Read another review.

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
This book explores the grey areas in life. Not every situation can be put into boxes of right or wrong. It makes us think and ponder and feel gut wrenching emotions for all the characters. It is a true, but fictionalized story of the last beheading in Iceland. In 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death by beheading for the brutal murder of two men. Because there are no local prisons, Agnes is sent to the remotest village to await her execution while living with a farming family. The family is wary of Agnes and takes time to adjust to her presence. The farmer’s wife, slowly thawing towards Agnes, comes to hear her story and is devastated when she realizes there is nothing that anyone can do to save Agnes. The story is told compellingly in different voices and makes you feel the pain and the helplessness of the circumstances.

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
Andy Barber, happily married to Laurie and a district attorney in a small New England town, is at a crossroads of his life. He is investigating the murder of a young teen boy, Ben, despite the fact that there might be a conflict of interest – Ben was his son Jacob’s friend, and attended the same school. From here starts the real roller coaster journey! When Jacob is accused of the murder, Andy and Laurie’s world reels. This book explores questions many will never ask. How much do we know about our children? Where does love end, and practicality begin? How do we even begin to imagine what the truth is, whether our child is capable of taking a life… a parent’s worst nightmare come to the fore! What will it take a parent even to accept that it is a possibility? Why is it that when tragedy strikes, all relationships start to unravel? An intriguing piece of fiction where legal implications mesh with family emotions.  Read another review.

The Garlic BalladsThe Garlic Ballads by Yan Mo
This novel is the Nobel Prize winner in Literature for the year 2012, and it is rightly so. The angst, worry, fear hope and helplessness of poverty is so well portrayed that we can actually envision ourselves in the pages of the book and live with the characters, wondering how they survive in those circumstances! The farmers of Paradise County have been leading hard, miserable lives for centuries when the government asks them to plant garlic. The farmers do so, but find it hard to sell. At the mercy of corrupt government officials, the farmers are forced to pay money they don’t have in order to sell their wares, but find that after paying the various taxes and tolls, their crops remain unsold. This is the breaking point for many of the farmers, leading to riots and arrests, followed by inhumane conditions in jail, torture and beatings. An old bard sings the song of tyranny throughout this book, and is killed for it. This book is not just about human suffering and despair, but also filled with tales of family love, loyalty and hope! In the midst of desolation, each character finds a reason to live. This is truly an amazing read, where depths of despair and the upliftment of spirit reside side by side

I am MalalaI am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christian Lamb
Most of us have read about Malala and may feel we know her story. This book made me think differently. Malala was born to parents who were strong supporters of women’s rights and had a school of their own for girls. Raised with this mindset, Malala was determined to do her part, and her parents supported her decision. All of them knew that Malala’s bravery would ultimately mean facing the wrath of the Taliban when it took over their Swat Valley. Her parents, who knew the danger their child faced every day, made the difficult choice to support her, and Malala chose to stay the course despite unimaginable pressure. You know the story – Malala was shot – but thankfully, she survived to become a spokesperson for the rights of girls to an education. This review is a salute to all the young girls and women who have fought against the Taliban atrocities for the right to a just life and education, and paved the way for Malala to bring their cause to the attention of the world. Kudos to Malala, a brave young girl who took such a bold, courageous step to improve lives of other girls and fight for their right to education! It is rightly said that the strength of human spirit always humbles you!

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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

May 29, 2014

parisbookcover.phpCharles Belfoure’s The Paris Architect is set during the Nazi invasion of France. It illustrates how Parisians were affected and how they had to use all their willpower to just survive this era. They could keep quiet or turn the other way when they saw how the Jews were being treated. Some even gave away their Jewish neighbors’ whereabouts, if they thought they would be targeted by the Gestapo themselves. Lucien Bernard, whose whole life ambition is to be a well-known architect, lives in this scenario.

When a rich industrialist asks him to build an ingenious hiding place for a wealthy Jewish friend, Lucien agrees because of the money he is offered. As a result he also gets a big German contract and is able to design buildings to his heart’s content. He earns praise for it, which is every architect’s dream. But Lucian slowly begins to feel empathy for the pain and helplessness of others. He changes without knowing it himself. He falls in love with a wonderful woman, saves a life of a Jewish boy whom he starts loving like a son and somehow is able to have a family to call his own.

This piece of fiction shows us two facets of human values, one in which humans go to extremes to harm other humans and the other of courage, morality and humanity.

This was a really interesting read!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Sandalwood Tree by Ellie Newark

August 21, 2012

This is a riveting novel of a very interesting time period in India. It is 1947, the year of Independence and sadly of partition, the price for British withdrawal from the country after a century of slavery.
Different stories in different time periods converge at a single point.  An American Fulbright scholar, Martin Fulbright, moves with his family to Simla, India during that tumultuous time of the country. His wife, Evie Mitchell, with their young son accompanies him. The once in-love couple is desperately trying to save their marriage. Evie finds a cache of hidden letters in the house they live in and this becomes an interesting turn in her otherwise desolate life. The letters take us back to the lives of two British girlfriends, Adela and Felicity, who lived in India a century earlier when the English ruled India.
Not only is the story of Adela and Felicity touching but it also awakens the voice of Evie, who is trying very hard to save her marriage while becoming lonelier.  These letters are her only solace and she keeps them close to her heart and desperately wishes to unravel the secrets of these two girls thereby making her own life interesting.
Elle Newmark has outdone herself by portraying the history of the region with its nuances intact, for that time period in India was tumultuous and difficult. She has woven a tapestry of good characters in a story against the background of the Independence-Partition era in India.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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