Divya Manian

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Book Reviews for October 2009

I am going to India soon, so I wanted to get my book reviews out before that. I had two nights of insomnia thanks to an allergy and managed to read these 5 books before the month ended. Here are my reviews:

  • Relentless

    I last read a popular thriller in 2000. I picked this book up because Stephen King cites Dean Koontz as a master of this genre. I was extremely disappointed with Relentless.

    There are way too many similes and metaphors in this book disguised as humor. Of course, he plays it to his audience by making snide remarks on the “authenticity” of Wikipedia entries.

    This book reads like a sarcastic attempt at writing a thriller. The story is about how the protagonist (an author) tries to fend off a psychotic reviewer. The plot does sound like it requires you to leave your brain behind to read such silliness, but at times it gets too far.

    It uses time tested tactics of dropping a fictional bomb at the end of every chapter to make it a real “page turner”. It angers me that authors need to resort to such cheap tactics to get the reader to plod on to the next chapter.

    So, unless you are looking for a mindless page turner to get through the torture of flying, do not read this book.

  • The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?

    Central America has had a violent past and a uncertain present. The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? documents the assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala City in 1998. The murder seems straightforward, but 7 years of research documented in this book proves otherwise. This book exposes the corruption within the church, the rampant human rights violations in Guatemala, the power of the army, and the dishonest relationship of the U.S. Republican governments with the Guatemalan army.

    It is compelling to read but very depressing. The book suggests the “rite of passage” for the members of the intelligence unit of the Guatemalan Army was to kill a random citizen of Guatemala. It also explains how justice never gets done in courts — witnesses, judges, lawyers, their children get murdered or they flee the country. This case has been through so many courts and several drastically different rulings because of that.

    The U.S. National Security Archive has declassified some information on the U.S. activities in Guatemala till 1993 which are not pleasant to read.

  • How to Travel Practically Anywhere

    How to Travel Practically Anywhere is one of the rare books that I actually enjoyed reading, despite picking it up on a whim from the library. Susan Stellin has a great sense of humor and gives a lot of practical tips. The first chapter deals with the different kinds of travel books available — I didn’t know about Bradt Travel Guides which are guide books for rarely visited places.

    It also gives some practical tips on how to ask for discounts and when to ask for them. The only criticism I have is that, it is written for an American audience and the information given seems to be US and Euro-centric. Nevertheless, a good read if you are a wannabe traveller (like me!)

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    This book was released after the death of the author Stieg Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starts with a story on illegal activities of a Swedish global corporation but ends with a gruesome murder mystery. I really enjoyed reading this book at one go. Stieg’s life was no less interesting — he exposed several extreme right and racist organizations of Sweden and lived under death threats.

  • Politically Correct Bedtime Stories

    This book is a hilarious take at how fairy tales would be, if they were written by politically correct authors. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories has interesting plot twists and endings for fairy tales we take for granted. It is a slim volume and very hilarious. But, I would have rather read these as a series of blog posts than as a book! It is hard to suppress laughter while reading it, so I recommend you dont’t read it in the library.