Book review: I am Malala

Better late than never, I finally read I am Malala and I am finally blogging about it!

I am Malala

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012. The Taliban did not approve of Malala encouraging girls to go to school to get an education. Thankfully she survived and now resides in the UK. She still campaigns for women’s rights and girls’ education. Her work earned her a Nobel Prize in 2014.

Reading Malala’s own words was fascinating to me. I was surprised to realize that Malala has not been back to her hometown of Swat Valley and her house since the day she got shot. Logically it was something I assumed happened but only by reading her words did I realize the magnitude of how her life changed on that fateful day. Even now, 4 years later, it is not safe for her to return to her country, her home. I can’t imagine what that must feel like.

I don’t know if others are like this, but if you are let me know! When I get into something, I must learn everything about it. Once I finished I am Malala I was on Wikipedia researching Swat Valley, the Taliban’s invasion of Swat, watching videos of Malala, reading articles of hers, and so on. I was fascinated and needed to know everything there was to know. Do any of you guys do this too?

Autobiographies aren’t usually my favorite things to read, but I really enjoyed I am Malala. The cause of women’s rights and education is something that I am passionate about. It was eye-opening to read in Malala’s words the things she went through just to be able to go to school. It makes me very thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given. There’s so much in my life I’ve just been given and didn’t even have to ask for that I realize how much of a blessing that is. Growing up education always felt like a chore, but now I realize that to many it is a privilege. It shouldn’t be that way. Everyone should have the opportunity to go to school regardless of their gender, where they live, their skin color, etc.

It was really nice to see interviews of Malala where she comes across like a normal teenager who makes fun of her brothers, get stressed about school, and what not. It made me respect her even more, to read what she has gone through and how she doesn’t let it change her in a negative way.

If anyone is interested, The Malala Fund is doing great work and is a worthy cause to donate to.

Have you read I am Malala? What did you think?

JoJo Moyes

This year was the year I discovered JoJo Moyes. Moyes is a British author who has penned countless romance novels.

In the span of a few months, i’ve read three of her books and I’ve enjoyed each one more than the last. I like to describe her books as “chick lit with depth”.  Her books are the perfect summer reads – you know the kind of book that you pull up on your kindle while you’re poolside sipping on a pina colada. There’s quirky characters, engaging plots, and underlying deeper message that stays with you long after you finish the book.

Me Before You tells the story of a young sheltered girl who goes to work as a nurse for a man in a wheelchair. The man, Will, is now living a semblance of the life he used to live – one that used to be life will adventure, determination, and spontaneity. Together Lou and Will teach each other about life and love. While sometimes light-hearted and comedic, the book also touches on a darker medical issue which I won’t go into because of spoilers. The book became so popular that there is now a movie in the works set to be released in 2016.

mebeforeyou

Moyes also published the sequel, After You, in September of this year. I devoured both books, but I must admit Me Before You was my favorite.

While waiting for the sequel, I read One Plus One, another Moyes book. One Plus One tells the story of a single mom living a busy, chaotic life trying to make ends meet. When her daughter becomes eligible for a scholarship at a prestigious university, the family embarks on a road trip where they meet a strange man who helps them out. What follows next is a comedic yet touching romance and look at what family really means.

If you’re looking for an easy read that still stimulates the mind, stars a strong female lead, and makes you feel the warm fuzzies, then JoJo Moyes is your go-to author.

Have you read any of Moyes’  novels? Who is your go-to author for a good read?

Book Review: Modern Romance

I figured I would reviwe another book by an Indian American author – Aziz Ansari’s, Modern Romance. I picked up the book when I was in Portland earlier this summer on a visit to the amazing Powell Books. I was excited to read it as I like Aziz and the topic is very relatable.

aziz

When I think about how much technology has changed the way we do, well everything, in just the last five years I get a little taken aback. So much has changed in such a short amount of time! Dating has essentially been the same since the beginning of time, so these last few years have basically changed the game. People are still trying to understand the “rules” (spoiler: there are none) so Aziz’s book is very timely.

Modern Romance focuses on the dilemma facing millennials everywhere: with so many apps and websites that make it easier to meet others, why are people still struggling to find a partner? It’s never been easier to meet people than it is now, so why are people settling down later or not at all? There are lots of reasons for this, such as the changing role and expectation of women in recent years. Now it is considered normal for women to live alone and work outside the home, focusing on their career, whereas just twenty years ago that would have been unheard of.

Aziz also focuses on the illusion of choice and how maybe having too many options isn’t the best thing. He uses the example of an average looking guy who stumbles across the dating profile of a good looking girl, who is smart, funny, basically the whole package yet he decides not to message her. When Aziz’s questions the guy, he responds that the girl is a Red Sox fan whereas he isn’t.

Knowing so much information about a person is nice because you can make sure you’re looking for the same things, but it is also a double edged sword. We place a lot of emphasis on little details that essentially have little to no value in determining compatibility. This is interesting to me — people are layered individuals with many different qualities and characteristics. And yet we place so much value on what people say online. We read a person’s Facebook or OkCupid profile and think we know them when we are probably just scratching the surface.

I was actually very impressed with the way Aziz wrote Modern Romance. It’s a leap for a comedian to write such a book, but he did it very well. In true Aziz fashion there are some jokes sprinkled here and there throughout the book. The thing I loved the most was how well researched it was. Aziz enlisted the help of Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist who teaches at NYU. It’s rich with data and stats if you like that sort of thing (I do) as well as personal anecdotes from people around the world.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why he hasn’t texted you back in 2 days or why she just texted you a pizza emoji, then this book is definitely for you. Don’t expect Aziz to solve your problems, but rather find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone!

If you like reading about how people meet and communicate with each other, then you should pick this book up as well! I don’t do audio books, but if you enjoy them you listen to this book since it’s voiced by Aziz himself.

Have you read Modern Romance? What did you think?

Why Not Me?

I’ve only been waiting for Mindy Kaling’s second book to come out the minute I finished her first, Why is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). So I was pretty excited when Why Not Me? finally released on September 15th. I received the book in the mail on Thursday evening and by Friday evening, I had finished. It was a fun, easy read with a variety of essays that I felt I could relate to on many levels.

So those that know me, know that I am a Mindy Kaling fan. I love her show and basically anything she does. I suppose this doesn’t come as a surprise as like Kaling, I am an Indian-American woman with immigrant parents. Seeing someone that looks like you and has had a similar upbringing become a prominent figure in American media is pretty cool. It’s not something I was able to see on my TV when I was growing up, so it makes me happy that younger Desi girls have someone like Kaling on their screens.

While her first book focused on her life story and how she made it in the television industry, her second book is really all over the place, but not in a bad way. It feels like you’re actually reading her diary or meeting up with her for drinks. The essays range from what you should bring to her dinner party (if she ever has one), a hilarious look at what her life would be like had she not become a writer/actress, a motivating piece on confidence, and a day in the life of Mindy Kaling (with pictures!).

It’s an in-between kind of book, for this in-between time in her life. She talks about the success she’s encountered since the last book (namely The Mindy Project), but she also touches on the fact that many of her friends are now married and having kids while she isn’t. It’s something I could definitely relate to (sadly, not the part about having a hit TV show though!).

I suppose it’s cliche for an Indian girl like me to like Kaling, but reading her book just made me realize why I like her so much and it isn’t entirely because of our shared background. She’s real and honest. She knows that she does not fit the ideal Hollywood standard of beauty and she definitely knows some people despise her because of that fact. She admits how it bothers her, as she is human after all, and how she has days where she feels very low. That kind of openness is very refreshing to read and not something a lot of actresses or people in general will share.  It’s especially nice to read because in Desi culture a lot of “taboo” things, like failure and low self-confidence are not really discussed.

Kaling can admit to feeling down but also share her recipe for confidence and neither statement negates the other. Being vulnerable and sharing the good and the bad only emphasizes how normal these feelings are. It’s also okay to not fit the mold and to be different. There’s value in that.

When Kaling talks about her confidence, the line that struck out to me the most was: Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled

It often feels like entitlement is a bad word or quality to have, and while I agree that I try to steer clear from feeling entitled, in this scenario it makes so much sense. Many young women often feel like even if they have worked hard, they shouldn’t feel entitled to anything. But if you really know what you are talking about and have proved your expertise, you should absolutely feel entitled. Entitlement means having the confidence and belief in knowing what you deserve and going after it – something that I think young women (including myself) can never hear too little of!

While I highly recommend reading the entire book, if you are interested in hearing more about Kaling’s thoughts on confidence and bravery, check out this expert that was post on Glamour a few weeks ago.

Have you read Why Not Me? What are your thoughts on the book?

Young Adult Fiction for Adults

Ironically enough, as I approached my late 20s I became more and more interested in the young adult fiction genre of books. Growing up, all I would read was The Babysitter’s Club and then I progressed onto Sweet Valley High. While they were fun books to read as a high schooler, they seem like nothing compared to the young adult books being written today. The Fault in Our Stars, Paper TownsEleanor and Park, and most recently, Fangirl are just some examples.

What I love about these books is that the main character is almost always a misfit or an outcast in their high school. Yet that doesn’t faze them one bit. They are confident and fully embrace their quirks. Some come from happy families, and some not so much. It’s quite a drastic contrast from the Wakefield twins and the world of Sweet Valley I was accustomed to as a teenager.

fangirl

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (now one of my favorite authors), tells the story of twin sisters who are in their first year of college. Cath writes fan fiction for a Harry Potter like saga called Simon Snow and resists change, so adjusting to college life is a struggle for her. Meanwhile her twin Wren is having the time of her life, attending parties, and meeting many new people. Sad, confused, and feeling like she doesn’t belong Cath continues to do what she loves to do: write. She doesn’t change who she is to fit in and by the end of the book she’s found like-minded people who care for her just as she is – a valuable lesson to learn no matter if you are 18 or 28.

As a 28 year old, books like Fangirl might be considered a guilty pleasure for me but I feel like that does them a disservice. These are the types of books I would encourage my nieces to read as they get older. They are genuinely well-written books, with engaging, well-liked characters, and a cozy, comfy plot. They make you feel those warm fuzzies; they make you cry and they leave you so engrossed you just might miss your bus stop (more than once).

Have you read any recent young adult books? Did you enjoy them or not?

Book Review: The Secret Daughter

I remember the first Desi lit book I read – it was Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. From then on I went to read books like The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and Arranged Marriage by Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee.

Recently, I read The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda which has been on my list to read for a while. I loved the book. It touched on many various and deep topics such as female infanticide, adoption, and cultural clashes. Despite that, the book felt like a very easy thanks to Gowda’s simple writing style. I also loved that part of the book was based in the Bay Area.

I would definitely recommend people to read The Secret Daughter. I finished it over the course of a few days because I was really drawn to the characters and the story line. It got a bit emotional at certain points, at which I had to stop reading while on the train unless I wanted to be that awkward person on BART (no thanks).

Have you read The Secret Daughter? What did you think? What are you currently reading?

Book Review: Love Walked In

“Even if someone wasn’t perfect of even especially good, you couldn’t dismiss the love they felt. Love was always love; it had a rightness all its own, even if the person feeling the love was full of wrongness.”

Yes, I admit it: I’m twenty five years old and I still love reading chick lit. My favorite authors of the genre are Emily Giffin and Sophie Kinsella, but I recently picked up Loved Walked In by Marisa de los Santos.

The novel opens up with a handsome, tall stranger walking into the coffee shop where Cornelia Brown works and changing her life forever. I know what you’re thinking: the stranger and Cornelia meet, go on a few dates, some drama occurs, and they fall in love and have their happily ever after. Let me just say that no, that is not how this book goes.

Instead the readers get two parallel story lines of Cornelia and a young girl named Clare that intersect in a story about all kinds of love.

I found de los Santo’s writing style to be incredibly engaging, poetic, and all the while an easy read. I look forward to reading her other novels: Belong to Me and Falling Together. Much like Kinsella and Giffin’s novels, I can see Loved Walked In being easily translated onto the big screen.

What are you currently reading?

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

My thoughts on books turned to movies are quite clear – but once in a while, a movie comes out that lives up to the book’s hype.

I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo over the holidays. I had no real expectations of the movie; my sister-in-law and I wanted to see it because we both read the books. But once I began looking for showtimes and came across the ratings (4 stars average) I began to get excited. Maybe this movie won’t be awful!

We were not disappointed. A few scenes were quite graphic and disturbing (I could barely read those paragraphs in the book, so you can imagine my state in the theater). The movie itself was a bit long (2 hours and 40 minutes), as they tried their hardest to fit all the details of the book. Of course this meant a few things were changed in the movie, but that is to be expected.

The real star of the movie was the girl with the dragon tattoo- Rooney Mara. She played the role of Lisabeth Salander so incredibly well. From the make-up to the acting, she was the shining star. I think she is well on her way to becoming one of the best actresses in Hollywood.

Did you see the movie? What did you think?

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I finally finished the Hunger Games trilogy and it was amazing.

It’s hard to describe what the books are exactly about without giving away the story. The genre is dystopian literature. It reminded me of a mix of The Handmaid’s Tale and Harry Potter. The former because of the dystopian elements and the latter because of the story and the world created by the author, Suzanne Collins.

While the main character, Katniss, did get on my nerves at times it was nice to have a strong, capable female heroine unlike Bella Swan.

A fair warning: the trilogy is highly addictive. Immediately after finishing one book, I just had to buy the next and so on.

The movie based on the first book is releasing next year. I cannot wait, but I hope it doesn’t have the same fate as most books turned into movies do.

Here is the trailer:

Have you read The Hunger Games? What did you think?

May the odds be ever in your favor. 

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

I picked up The Lovely Bones at a Borders going out of business sale for $3 about a month ago. I was always a little hesitant to buy the book because I thought the subject matter was too depressing. For those that don’t know, The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of a 13 year old girl who was brutally murdered. She looks down on her family and friends on Earth as they attempt to grieve and also find her killer.

I started it the night I got it and I’ve yet to finish. Normally, I am a fast reader and usually have to pace myself to not finish the book in a matter of days. I’ve never not finished a book, even if I really disliked it.

The plot of the book is definitely bold and innovative. I think the main reason I don’t like The Lovely Bones is because of the author, Alice Sebold’s writing style. Something about it doesn’t mesh well with me. There are so many characters; the book jumps from one to the other so abruptly I have a hard time keeping track.

I am really disappointed as I’ve heard great things about this book. There was even a movie based off of it.

I will give it my best try to finish reading it, but I can’t give any guarantees.

I also picked up Passages: 24 Modern Indian Stories at the Borders sale. It contains work by Jhumpa Lahiri (my favorite author), Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, and so on..I am always interested in reading works by Indian authors, so I can’t wait to start it.

Has there ever been a book that you just couldn’t finish? What book was it and why?