Friday, 8 January 2016

Recently Read...

December and early January meant a bit of a break from routine, which meant that I had a chance to read a few books. Here is what I have been reading, minus one or two titles that I gave up on by chapter two or three as they were beyond redemption.

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

This Afghan-American author is best known for 'The Kite Runner' and this particular title shares some similar themes- it is also set in  Afghanistan (or at least that is where the story begins) and spanning the entire lifetime of its various interlinked characters (in fact in this one, the stories of the various characters are carried downwards to their descendants). 

What I like about Hosseini's books is that they show a different part of Afghan life other than the stories of war and travesty shown on the news. Touching stories of ordinary human life, love, family life, the relationship between siblings, sickness and ordinary human emotion are shown in the most poignant way. The story, told from multiple narratives, eloquently demostrates the extent to which seemingly minor decisions can affect the course of ones life and that of generations to come. The stories are raw and you can almost feel the pain of the characters.

I must admit that while this was a brilliant book, I did not experience the same magic as 'The Kite Runner' but in fairness think it would be difficult for any author to meet those standards after setting the bar so high. While the first part of the story was compelling, it felt like the plot was coming loose somewhere in the middle (though the last third of the book managed to redeem itself). I felt that there were, perhaps a few too many characters for the author to resolve all of their stories effectively, yet for the main characters, the story does have a satisfying ending. Despite this, I would strongly recommend this book if you are looking for something meaningful and compelling to read.

Handle With Care by Jodi Picault

While this is a slightly older title, I had not previously read the book (or watched the movie). Like most of her books, this one was a tear jerker, perhaps more so for me as the mother of a five-year-old girl who, other than being perfectly healthy, reminds me a lot of the main character of this story. Willow (five), was born with a severe form of osteogenesis imperfecta, a debilitating disease which leads to her suffering hundreds of bone breaks over the course of her lifetime. Her mother makes the decision to pursue litigation for wrongful birth, a decision which would adversely affect all aspects of her life. 

I felt like Jodi Picault had done this one before- it bore a few too many similarities to 'My Sister's Keeper'- again exploring the dynamics of a family with one sick and one healthy child.  I would still say it is a book worth reading, despite some minor flaws. Jodi Picault has a way of evoking a deeply emotional response from readers and of leaving lasting impressions. While this made for an entertaining (if rather emotional) read, at some points, it seemed rather unrealistic and the characters felt like slightly extreme caricatures. However, for me it wss a book that made me think deeply about my own potential responses to similar circumstances and to appreciate my own lot in life.

The Body Book by Cameron Diaz

Yes, you read right, Cameron Diaz, of Charlies Angel fame, is not just literate but actually wrote a book. I am not sure when exactly I picked up this book- I think my sister might have stuck it on my Kindle at some point- but I was searching for something lighthearted to read over December (you can see from the above that the other books I have been reading were a bit heavy) and stumbled upon this one. Essentially, this is a guide to healthy eating, exercise and spiritual wellness. 

While very motivational and filled with surprisingly sensible advise (no ridiculous fad diets, just good diet and exercise), it is nothing groundbreaking and at times it felt like I was reading a high school biology textbook. However, it is a short and easy read, which is what I was looking for at the time and  it was perhaps exactly what I needed to kick start some healthy changes into the new year. 

Have you read any of these? Please share your thoughts. Or just tell me what you have been reading lately.