Book 192: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat


2 States by Chetan Bhagat

Finished reading on November 9th, 2015
Rating:for good intentions 7/10, for the execution 5/10

I read this book so I could finally watch the movie without thinking that I should have read the book first, now I can.
I feel though that maybe I’m a slightly wrong person to read this book – I know little about both South and North Indian culture. Anyway it was quite an odd, although fast read.

We have the main characters- Krish, a Punjabi from Delhi and a Tamil girl Ananya, who meet during their graduate studies, who after graduating want to get married. Knowing that their families would disapprove because first the marriage is supposed to be arrange and the boy and girl are not supposed to find a partner, but that’s rather something that the parents or matchmaker does, and also the problem of them being from two states.

As a general idea for the plot, I find it quite interesting, but how it was solved seems a bit strange to me, a little bit unbelievable, and everything was a bit too melodramatic.

There was one part that was very believable though – Krish’s depression, at every other time the focus is always on Krish and Ananya wanting to get married, convincing their parents, etc, so you don’t know the characters separately at all, sure you know where they work and who their parents are, but that rarely defines a person. The part where Krish is lying in bed awake not being able to get to sleep because of the thoughts in his head, seemed like a genuine moment. Can’t wait to see the movie to find out whether that’s in or not.

The book left me a bit confused – everything happens in a linear fashion – one success or failure after another, nothing happening at the same time.

I appreciate the idea and the cultural differences portrayed, but in the end it feels more like you’ve read an article in a magazine about a couple rather than a novel.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think of it?

Also you can find my thoughts on two other books by Chetan Bhagat here:

The 3 Mistakes of My Life

One Night @ the Call Center

Book 191: The Universe In Your Hand by Christophe Galfard


The Universe In Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time and Beyond by Christophe Galfard

Finished reading on November 6th, 2015

Rating: 9/10

This is the strangest popular science book I’ve read.
It’s told in second person point of view throughout as if you’re the crazy person travelling through the Universe and through molecular structure as well.

It is very interesting and written in rather simple language, and you don’t need mathematics to get though this book. However a healthy dose of imagination is crucial.
It was enjoyable and showed some concepts in physics from a different angle in very cute terms to say the least – when you’ve got something in physics cuddling up like penguins for example.
I would highly recommend reading this book even if you’ve got several degrees in physics, as it is highly entertaining, but still scientifically accurate.

The book goes into detail in elementary particle physics, general and special relativity and quantum mechanics and also cosmology, but not into the mathematics. However  I doubt your physics teacher or professor would let you get away with explanations like the ones in the book .

Book 190: Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour


Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

Finished reading on September 30th, 2015
Rating: 8/10

I started reading this book some time in the summer and got a little over a hundred pages in and then left it on might night stand for months. Then I picked it up on Tuesday and finished a little less than 200 pages in the next 24 hours or so.

The book takes place in Tehran, Iran, where there is a love story about to begin between two young people who seem to be in their twenties – Sara and Dara. They start by sending each other encrypted messages using library books.

The narration in this book however is something that will draw your attention – it is narrated by the author and in-between there are his thoughts and even seemingly conversations with a censor. The censoring and the plot make the novel feel like there’s always someone watching the main characters, and you end up being really worried about them all the time, as there might be bad consequences to a young man and woman who are not related, being found spending time together.

It is also interesting because Sara is being courted by a young well-to-do Sinbad, and the thoughts Dara has about it are quite scary and manic.

It was definitely interesting – partly because of the different culture, but also because of the way the book is written.

It also has many references to classic works of literature – never a bad thing in a book.

The end was very surprising.

And to finish up, a great quote from Dara’s father:

“According to the latest scientific research, only twenty percent of men in the world have brains, the rest have wives.”

from Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

Book 189: The Haunted Observatory by Richard Baum


The Haunted Observatory by Richard Baum

Finished reading some time last week before going to a new college.

Rating: 7.5/10

This book is one of several that I’ve had in my wishlist on several bookstore websites for years (probably three years), but because it seems more as if it just fun tales and anecdotes, then it isn’t really a highly needed reading, or is it?

Do you learn something new? Yes. Is it something new that you can put into a random chat with a stranger at an observatory? Unlikely – it’s rather specific in it’s scope by dealing with observations that at the time seemed like difficult to explain with physics (or in some cases – biology), but turned out to have quite decent explanations.

If you’re thinking that you’ll find aliens in this book – you won’t. However you’d see that there are observations that’ll take lots of time to find an explanation, and that sometimes you can observe something that should be there, but isn’t physically possible to see with your equipment. Or how you can observe locusts or seeds and be very confused because that’s not normally what you’d expect to see.

I did find the book very interesting, and very well researched, and I hadn’t read or heard any of these curious stories beforehand, so it was quite fun – you do meet quite a few of famous astronomers (if you know your history of astronomy, if not, well the astronomers in the book were mostly famous).

I think you have to have a specific interest in curious observations to fully appreciate this book, or at least a firm footing in astronomy because otherwise it’d take a lot of time to get the point why something or other doesn’t make sense.

Lovely book. I’m glad I read it.

Book 188: The Explorer by James Smythe


The Explorer by James Smythe

Rating: 5/10

This is the first part of a series of which I read the second book “The Echo” first. I hoped that maybe there’d be some explanation to some things that bugged me in the second book and that’s why I read it.

In this book there’s a spacecraft that is travelling at warp speed (something I don’t remember being actually said out loud in the second book, but that’s one worrying aspect less), apparently just so that it could go as far as it can with about half the fuel and then turn around and go back. However, it’s more just a psychological thriller set in space – the crew and what happens to them, and mainly about what happens to the journalist Cormac Easton.

It is interesting in some ways for sure, the whole premise is quite nice, but I can’t tell more about it to avoid spoilers.

As a slight explanation for the second book in the series it’s fine. I doubt I would have wanted to read the second book if I’d had started from the first one. I think that “The Echo” really is the superior book and hope the following part/s will be as well.

The book surprised me by actually being surprising – you get used to what’s going on, and something happens to turn everything upside down.

It was a very quick read though, and I’m sure some people would enjoy it, I just didn’t really like any of the characters – maybe they’re not likable, or just too strange for me…  :)

Book 187: The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy

Finished on August 26th, 2015

Rating: 7/10 (Narration was great, characters excellent, but the viewpoint is dismal)

I’m a big fan of “The Big Bang Theory” and although a few years back I did show up some interest in philosophy I can’t really say that I would be too much into thinking hard about thinking etc… However I thought that this might be a good first book to listen to as an audio book – I know all the characters and I’ve seen most of the TV series episode at least three times, with earlier seasons possibly up to ten times.

The narration was nice and so was the whole book, although I’m quite certain that had it been just the philosophy part I would have given up on even just listening to this book quite early on in the experience.

The book for example delves into such topics as friendship and families,religious beliefs, lying etc, usual stereotypes such as someone who is very pretty isn’t very smart, and someone who’s very smart usually isn’t too smart in everyday things.

I think if you want a good first book to read/listen to about philosophy, then this one is a nice start (although does there have to be anything further is a different question).

As such I

Book 186: The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany


The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

Finished reading on July 23nd, 2015

Rating: 7/10

“The Yacoubian Building” is set in Cairo, Egypt and deals with the lives of some of the people who live in one building. In the book you meet some people who are really quite different – although they live in the same building their living conditions are very different. For example you meet a young boy who wants to become a police officer, but there are difficulties that stand in his way and aim his later life in a rather different direction.

That is basically the main theme as I saw it – you’ll be expecting one thing and something totally different will happen.

The book does contain quite a lot of adult content.

Reading this book did feel as if I was just peeking into the lives of the characters through the windows.

One of the troubling aspects for me was that none of the characters are really altogether likable – mostly they’re obsessed with something – religion, work, sex etc – to a point that’s disturbing and strange.

Book 185: The Echo by James Smythe


The Echo by James Smythe

Finished reading on July 18th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

This is the second book of a series of four books and the first of those that I’ve read. I hadn’t even heard of this book before I got this as a present. However the back cover mentions a space program and the disappearance of a spaceship, so I figured it should be right up my alley.

It was in a way. If you’ve read Andy Weir’s “The Martian”, then you might like it. In my view it’s kind of the movie “Moon” put together with The Martian and some extra dark substance.

So the premise – there’s an anomaly – something no-one knows anything about, except that it’s dark. And there’s the second mission going to investigate it several years after the first mission there disappeared.

I think that this book is interesting from the psychological side of things – what and how the members of the crew do and how do they deal with things, but ultimately it’s about sibling rivalry and (read it with the voice of The Sorting Hat) “a thirst to prove yourself”.

To not give anything away that’s how far into the plot I’ll go. Have to say I’m quite curious to know what happened in the first book (although it’s not necessary to read the first one before this one) and what will happen next.

I did find it quite interesting and a very fast read, maybe even a bit too fast – there don’t seem to be too many descriptions of anything really…

Possible spoilers coming up! Highlight at you own peril.

There were a couple of things that bugged me – maybe they were or will be addressed in the previous/next books – it’s the physical nature of the anomaly, the closed time-like curves, communication-speed with Earth and the stars that they’re passing by.

Book 184: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Finished reading on July 15th, 2015

Rating: 8/10

Since everyone knows the basics for the story, I’ll just write down the things I liked about the book and things I didn’t like:

1. I like the red comet and how the peoples ideas about it resemble what people in the Middle Ages would have thought will happen if they’d seen a comet like that.
2. I like the strong female characters – Dany because she’s awesome, Arya, because she’s cool. And I admire some that I don’t particularly like – Cersei a bit of a mystery, but I like to ponder about what goes on in her head (In a similar way as what would Hitler’s mother have thought…?) and Sansa – just the irony of it all… I guess Brienne and Lady Stark are cool too…
3. I like how you can keep on reading t without getting awfully bored, but might still fall asleep.
4. The whole idea of the Star kids getting to be their direwolves in their dreams…

I obviously don’t like Theon Greyjoy and Joffrey and Jamie etc etc.

After watching some episodes of season two of the tv series, I have to say that I prefer the book – it’s more enjoyable, and less awful.

Also I started to wonder about the anatomy and physiology of dragons and the mechanism behind their fire-breathing. Do dragons breathe out oxygen and have a tiny sparkle maker somewhere in their throat?

Book 183: The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin


The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
Finished reading on July 10th, 2015
Rating: 8/10

I started reading this thinking it’s a children’s book. I finished reading it knowing that it certainly isn’t one.

This volume has in it all four books of the Earthsea Quartet – A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

In A Wizard of Earthsea we meet the young Sparrowhawk, who is about to learn to be a wizard, but while he’s at it he is or seems rather arrogant and gets himself into some serious trouble – he does deal with it, but it’s quite dark and morbid even.

In The Tombs of Atuan we meet another young person – Arha, the Priestess of Atuan, who has lived all her life without ever meeting men and is a part of a strange religion. Here we meet Sparrowhawk again, but in a different light.

In The Farthest Shore Sparrowhawk has gotten old, and we have a new young character to admire – Arren, a young prince who doesn’t know what’s waiting for him, as he sets out to deliver a message and ends up journeying with Sparrowhawk to the land of the dead.

And in the last book, Tehanu, there’re Sparrowhawk and Arha and another young character – Therru, who are trying to lead a calm life but son’t get to because of other people’s superstition and ill wishes.

In these books there are some very interesting topics – for example whether or not women have any power and why. They seem to be just underlings to males – while the men who have the power can become mages and wizard, women cannot, and can only aspire to be witches and healers.

I quite enjoyed reading it all, it’s a fascinating world with dragons and wizards but also awful things that hide in the dark. It all ends relatively well though.