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review 2017-07-09 03:13
Hollow City
Hollow City - Ransom Riggs

This was a pretty faced paced book. I read through it a lot quicker than the first book but I liked the first one better. This one didn't have the dry humor of the first. I missed that.  

 

I usually only read realistic fiction (mostly mysteries) so this story is a stretch for me. The hollows sound so scary!  Omg, long slimy tongues covered in suction cups?! I love the dog in the book though and wish I could have him. IThe menagerie cracked me up and that was a nice balance to the scarier parts. I'm afraid of chickens now too. The ending really threw me for a loop though (pun intended).

 

At the end of the first book, the Peculiar Children rescued Miss Paragrin but she couldn't change back into human form. She had a broken wing and needed care only another ymbryne could give. They had to hurry because the longer she stayed a bird the worse her chances were that she would never be able to become human again. They all set off in boats for the mainland in search of the last ymbryne. They ended up in London where they evaded Hollows and dodged bombs in their search. They found a few other Peculiar Children from other raided loops and Jacob learned more about his talent.  

 

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review 2017-01-13 18:12
The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan
The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel - Karan Mahajan

From the Tournament of Books longlist.

 

I finished this critically acclaimed book while away for the holidays and jotted down a list of likes/dislikes. Short story shorter, I liked it, but what a downer.

 

The synopsis from amazon:

 

When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family’s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb—one of the many “small” bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world—detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.

I admired the novel's intricate structure as it shifts across time and multiple points of view. As a writer, I'm always greatly impressed by such a feat when it is accomplished smoothly and clearly. The different points of view also offer insight into how a victim might become a terrorist or sympathetic to one or his cause, how other victims may become advocates, how someone moderate in his faith might become an extremist, how a terrorist may walk away free and be disaffected even as he commits or aids in more acts of terror. In the case of these characters, often it's the personal or psychological rather than the political that provides the impetus for violent action. Refreshingly, this novel does not feel ideological.

 

The prose is also accomplished, and I liked that the author wrote to his best reader; he did not define or explain cultural or religious terms that may be unfamiliar to a white, atheist Westerner like me. I had no problem looking up information for myself.

 

Despite what I was drawn to in the novel's craft, I felt the characters were held at a remove, as if I were looking down on them from above. This prevented me from fully connecting with them and the novel as a whole. Without that connection, I finished the story with a feeling of, "Well, that happened." There was nothing to counterbalance the weight of events, not enough beauty to keep the novel from simply depressing me. At times the metaphor of the titular bombs was also heavy-handed.

 

I can see what critics admire in this work, but I left it feeling untouched.

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review 2016-06-19 09:38
The Story of Modern Technology
Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Created Technology as We Know It - Peter Nowak

I do actually like non-fiction books and found this one very interesting. In fact I actually agree with his conclusions (though many people will probably baulk at them). His idea is that the technology that we have today has been developed through what he considers three bad things: war, porn, and fast food. While I do not consider food to be a bad industry in itself (and would even consider investing in it), I do find that war and porn are. However we must admit that the technology that we have today, and in fact the Internet that we use, came about through our need to kill other humans and to satisfy our sexual desires. However the issue of food, while not bad, is a necessity (which he explores) and our need to feed ourselves also gives rise to the technology that we have. I'll look at all three in this review.

 

First of all war. Novak's proposition, and it is one that I agree with, is that since the government has deep pockets, then they are able to fund research into concepts that would simply be too expensive, or too risky, for the private market to develop. As such, the American military develops the concept and then releases the idea into the private market. The classic example of this is flight. Most of our flight technologies arose from developments than came out of the Second World War. In fact, it was the second world war that brought many of the luxuries that we have today, such as jet powered aeroplanes and plastics.

 

Further, he explores this institution that is known as DARPA. For those who are familiar with the history of the internet, you will know that DAPRA was the founding father of the internet as we know it. In fact, DARPA, a government funded organisation, was the only organisation that was willing to fund research into this area. The original idea was to develop a telecommunications system that would be resistant to a nuclear war, so that if one city were to be nuked, then the country could still communicate (due to redundancy, that is if one centre were to go off line, then it could reroute through another five different centres).

 

Within this discussion of the internet we come to porn. Many will not admit that they like (or look at) porn, but it can be very alluring. The truth is that most of the technology that we have today, in particular credit card payments and security systems, come from the porn industry. In fact, much of the home entertainment technology comes from porn. The reason that porn develops these technologies is two fold. First is the desire for privacy, and secondly because there is money in it. The more private porn becomes, the more people will pay for it. When I was a teenager the only way to get porn was to purchase it, and that would be very embarrassing, but now you can simply log onto a web site and get it for free in the privacy in your own home. In fact, when I was a teenager, porn was not as much an issue for Christians, but the anonymity of the internet makes it ever easier to look at it behind closed doors (though the reality is that your browsing history is kept somewhere, and as the Ashley Madision hack showed, nothing is truly anonymous – except for maybe TOR, but that is another story).

 

Finally I'll speak about food. Well, food is an essential. I do not consider it an evil trinity as Novak does because there is nothing wrong with food, we need it, and the technology to get it to us is very useful, however he is very right when he says that since food has become plentiful in our Western World it has created a different problem, and that is selectiveness. We not only waste an incredible amount of food, but we have become very selective with what we eat. Who has ever heard of a lactose intolerant African. They are starving and will take whatever they can get. To me, the biggest issue is the waste of food. I was staying at a five-star hotel in Europe and saw their breakfast selection, and it was huge. In fact, what disgusted me the most was the amount of food that would have gone to waste. While our technology to store food has become better, once it is on the table, it is on the table and is not going back.

 

While this book is not a book designed to make you think or challenge you as to how you live your life, it is very insightful in regards to the history of our technology and where they came from. He is also somewhat forward looking in fact to how technology is coming to a point where it will reverse the effects of the Tower of Babel (if that is ever possible). However, back in the 80's, nobody ever envisaged the internet (though we did want mobile phones) so what the world will bring in the future is anybody's guess.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/195700417
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review 2016-05-21 15:40
In simple prose, the mind of the terrorist and consequences of terrorism are explored.
The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel - Karan Mahajan
The Association of Small Bombs’ By Karan Mahajan‏, author, Neil Shah, narrator
In 1996, two brothers were killed when a bomb exploded in an open air market in Delhi, India. So began a book that explores terrorism and the making of a terrorist, exposing the type of person that joins the cause and the reactions of the victims to the havoc they wreak. In the early days of terrorism, using small bombs, disorganized splinter groups accomplished one important goal. They created fear and confusion even though only minor death and destruction occurred. This fear and confusion gave rise to the need for vengeance and retribution on the part of the victims and their families. They had to come to terms with the experience in a way that allowed them to go forward with their lives. Often these methods had disastrous consequences, at other times they succeed in gaining some closure for the victim’s families. Unfortunately, these little groups of radical Muslims, or Islamists, that were largely ignored in foreign lands, were able to spawn more plentiful militant groups, eventually giving birth to 9/11.

Tushar and Nakul Khurana, were young boys, not yet teenagers, on what their father would later think of as a fool’s errand. They had gone to the market in Lajpat Nagar to pick up a television that had been repaired. Because they were poor, they could not purchase a new one. Vikas Khurana was ashamed that he had sent his boys to retrieve the TV, and instead, he pretended it was to retrieve a watch. Either way, they boys died. They had taken a friend, Mansour Ahmed, with them. Mansour was a Muslim. When the bomb exploded, Mansour ran away. He lived with the guilt of his escape for the rest of his life.

In the book, the author gives the impression that was commonplace in India among the people portrayed in the book, that people of certain classes lied to save face. They simply lied to protect themselves, their image or their ultimate goals, and not all of their goals were noble. The bombers lied because they could, and they lied because it was acceptable to do so in order to destroy their enemies. They lied to accomplish their nefarious purposes. Their enemies meant nothing to them. They were very expendable. So they excused their own immorality and lack of ethics by thinking of their enemies as worthless.

In the aftermath of the explosion at the market, everyone had advice to give to the Khurana’s and the Ahmed’s. The Ahmed’s, Muslims in a country largely Hindu, felt out of place and were under a cloud of greater suspicion. Suspicions even arose about the injured Mansour. As a Muslim, could he have been the bomber?

To compensate for their loss, the Khurana’s decided to devote their lives to helping the victims of the many small bombings. Vikas wanted to make a documentary. Deepa wanted to help the victims and meet the bombers when they were caught. Almost hypocritically, they took pleasure in witnessing the torture of the damned in prison, even thought they objected to the violence inflicted upon themselves. They soon realized t hat often the wrong people were rounded up and incarcerated. They were beaten and tortured into submission and confession. The justice system was not just.

Throughout the early days of terrorism when small bombs continued to explode in various parts of the world and the world took little notice, terrorist groups began to grow in number in that vacuum. The would-be bombers seemed like insignificant and dispensable young men who were sucked into the rebellion because of boredom, friendship, unemployment, dissatisfaction or sometimes, even romance or other innocuous and meaningless reasons. They believed they were performing their righteous and religious duty, and although some questioned their ultimate actions, they rarely refused to carry out an assignment. Many never truly seemed to identify with the cause they were supporting, nor did they really seem to understand it. They simply followed and obeyed orders from leaders sometimes unqualified to lead.

There were many splinter groups that were not cohesive, but they created havoc, death and destruction in small ways for many years. The small bombings rarely attracted notice until 9/11, when so many Americans were murdered in a senseless terrorist act and Al Qaeda became a household name. From the little groups that were ignored and hardly thwarted, hate, anger and frustration grew until a monster was born capable of causing far more damage and fear throughout the world than previously believed possible in the modern world. The modern world forgot that they were being attacked by not so modern villains who had far less honorable values or respect for life and would therefore think nothing of committing wanton acts of murder.

The author points out, that more often than not, the wrong people were captured and imprisoned. The culprits seemed rather dull witted and backward, didn’t mind killing innocent people, and they justified their behavior because it was for Allah. They didn’t even fully understand what their cause was. They only knew that killing people meant garnering attention, and they wanted the attention to publicize their cause and make a statement. Many could not withstand the beatings and torment of prison. They simply confessed to crimes they did not commit. Violence begat violence as the bombings continued. In the book, the author writes that a devotee of Islam had to work to taste the blood of infidels 72 times, in order to qualify as worthy. It is assumed by me that they all wanted to be worthy.

The author captured the mindset of the terrorist and victim in India, perfectly. The narrator portrayed the characters very authentically, with perfect accents and expression. The Indian philosophy was straight forward, simple, basic and logical, although not always based in reality since they often jumped to conclusions, believed lies they were told, and were suspicious of innocent people, rather than the guilty. The radical side of Islam was portrayed as barbaric. The spiders kept escaping the net while the flies got caught in the web.
 
 
 
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review 2016-04-02 17:51
Dull.
The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel - Karan Mahajan

This is another one of those books that's getting a ton of hype but is absolutely not worth the accolades. It was a disappointment because it sounded fascinating: a look at what happens after a terrorist attack and how it affects the ones left behind: the friend who survived, the parents of two of the victims, etc.

 

It's frustrating because the author chooses to examine these lives by flipping between different viewpoints. I can't stand this device, although there are some authors who can do it well. Author Mahajan is not one of them. Although the opening chapter was compelling (it describes the blast), the rest of the book quickly goes downhill. There are spurts and bits that are quite compelling: the description of Mansoor as he has survived the blast and walks away from it.

 

But overall...the book is extremely dull. I'm not sure what it is exactly. I found myself unable to really sympathize much with any of the characters. Perhaps it's due to the format of the storytelling, but there was no one person/no people who I felt particularly compelled to follow and really wanted to know what happened. I had enough to wonder how the book would end, but the book is quite boring. A stronger editor would have probably really helped.

 

What's interesting is that the negative review is actually rated the most helpful on Amazon...but it doesn't show up on the book's page (you have to click through to read though the review). I just can't help but think this is one of those books that's being pushed really had by the publisher's marketing people but is really not a very good read at all.

 

There certainly might be some who would enjoy this a lot but I'm scratching my head at the hype. Borrowed from the library, thanks goodness!

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