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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year 2012 – Bitten by the Travel bug

 

Well, 2012 turned out to be an interesting year.

The world was supposed to end. It didn't. How disappointing ;)

I changed jobs mid-way in 2012 and my life changed. It was a career shift and I began at the bottom of the learning curve learning too many new things on regular basis. I had to learn quick and had to learn too many.

My domestic travel increased exponentially and I took as much as 25 flights in 6 months while the international flight count in the first half of the year was about 16. Put together, I was in air for over 40 times in the year – a new high for me and by the looks of it; this trend might continue in 2013 as long as I continue in KPMG – at least 4-6 flights every month – leading to an annual mark of around 50.

The extensive travel above meant that I stayed significant time away from home and family. A rough estimate would put that easily between 25 to 35% - almost one-third.
Guess, I have been bit hard by the Travel Bug
 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Here’s to the crazy ones


The misfits. The rebels.

The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules.

And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

 

Got this in one of the email groups and found it inspiring enough to place on my blog for future reference.

 

 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What have I got myself into ...

What have I got myself into ...

 

I have been too busy to blog lately ...  

past 2 weeks have ben a blurrrr .... non-stop working for 13 days from last Monday to this Saturday with no break ...

 

What have I got myself into ...

 

Every morning, for 13 consecutive days, I am standing in front of an audience in full suit adressing them ... i find it wierd ...

On one particular day, I was in Taj Vivanta Resort in Goa in a conference room next to the swimming pool conducting a workshop ... the contrast of my suit and the swimwear outside was not lost on me ... 

 

Just Imagine ... My first ever trip to Goa ... I am at Taj resort .... and I spend the whole day in a workshop ... reaching Goa the previous evening in dark and leaving again in dark ... ... such are the lives of a travelling consultant ...  

 

What have I got myself into ...

 

I had plans for almost one blogpost every 2 days in this month with quite some thoughs zooming in my mind about the past year ... including posts on the year's reading, movies, travels etc ... hope i get some time in the last week of Dec to publish them at least ...

 

What have I got myself into ...

 

Another casualty has been my reading ... inspite of all this travel, my travel time is getting taken over by office reading and email over blackberry and calls with colleagues.

 

What have I got myself into ...

 

I have spent more than 50% of Dec away from home ... and January seems equally bad ... or actually worse with that % likely to jump up to 70% !!!

 

What have I got myself into ...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Facebook Settings : Does it really work for you?

Here's what I read in an email from Facebook …

"Your timeline: You have settings that help you design how your timeline will appear to others, like hiding things from your timeline. Remember that this only impacts whether those things are visible on your timeline. Those posts are still visible elsewhere, like in news feed, on other people's timelines, or in search results. You can delete your own posts from your timeline or activity log, or ask someone else to delete a post you're tagged in."

Were you aware of this? This clearly means that by making some settings, you might have hidden or blocked some content from appearing on your timeline when viewed by others but those things are still there for people to discover through other means. This is not only interesting but scary for people.

Many a tragic incident have happened where people have tagged other people on stupid photos or written stupid comments on their profiles; things which would rather be forgotten or be kept a forgotten secret. Tragedies include loss of job, broken relationships, misunderstandings and even divorces.

The privacy settings or partial hiding features were a relief for people but this kind of a notification can send ripples across once again. As the world gets paranoid about privacy, our lives are laid bare open on the social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter … not just by us but by our social circles.

So where are we headed to … from closely gaurding our life and activities to making it completely transparent … and probably getting back to closely guarded life in near future.

Monday, December 10, 2012

End of the World: Courtesy Mayan Calendar

 

We have seen the movie (Hollywood Disaster Movie '2012') and even heard/read about the mythical Mayan Calendar which ends on 21st December 2012 (21-12-2012) … and its interpretation being … the world comes to end on this day (and hence no calendar beyond that date)

I read a couple of fiction novels related to the Mayan prophecy … made for some interesting read.

So … what if the world really came to end on 21st Dec. With about 10 days to go for the 'Doomsday' … what would you do if they told you this was for real and you really have just about 10 days of breathing time.

So here's my top-of-the-mind things to do …….

1. Spend a day with maternal grand-parents, some close relatives etc

2. Spend a day or two calling up, emailing, texting, meeting close friends and dear friends. Tell them how I feel about them and their importance in my life. 

3. Check with Travel Agencies about Foreign Holidays I can schedule … if possible, book them and take off with entire family (parents, siblings, wife)

4. If not foreign trips; all in the family get their choice of domestic trips

5. Book ourselves into the best of hotels / the Taj and the likes

6. Go Sky-Diving and indulge in some crazy adventure and high adrenaline sports for a day

7. Regret about having a cabinet full of unread Books … wish I had more time to read

8. Regret about spending too much time on my laptop and lesser time with wife and bro and parents and friends

9.  Pray that the end of the world of the world is delayed / postponed / cancelled due to a technical glitch in God's computing …
 
Will I change any of the above if the world does NOT end on 21st ... well I would want to ...
BUT then we humans are peculiar lot ... regret when time is up and forget when given an extension ...

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra


The author wrote to me with a request to review his book and I agreed for a very simple reason. It has been some time since I have read anything emotional so I was thinking of picking up something along those lines. When the review request for this one came up and I read the cover blurb, it was a quick one to decide.
I enjoyed reading the book as it gave a perspective of the protagonist who is suffering from autism and hence ignored by most or taken advantage off, if not being made into a clown for their personal entertainment.

He leads a life wherein he is completely ignored by his family and gradually he learns to keep himself out of their sight to avoid trouble. He then chances upon an event which changes his life and gives meaning to his otherwise non-existent life.

He is noticed and talked about … but is this really happening. Are people really talking about him or someone else?
There is a nice set of regular predictable day-to-day characters which are believable and provide the various curves in the story.
The autistic protagonist has a family with parents who have given up on him and a younger brother who gets the attention and love and respect since he is the worthy son and earning member.

A neighbourhood girl who always talks sweetly to our guy and our guy obviously loves her but doesn't tell. A neighbourhood cable wala youngster who is a womanizer and has his eyes on the sweet girl … and other girls with whom he gets hanky panky. The girl's parents of course and a host of other characters who play their role in moving the story forward.
And yes, besides all these, there is Rail-Man (yes … he is a super-man, spider-man kind of '-man') who saves people in distress near railway line (hence the name) who attracts a lot of media attention and has an influence on the key characters of our story including the protagonist and his sweet girl. As any good Samaritan is treated; he is also 'wanted' by the police for making them look stupid by doing their work of protecting people from the elements. They would like to arrest him and put him behind bars to teach him a lesson for taking the law in his own hands (even if that was to protect people).
The book was a good read overall. A simple story with some interesting events, mostly predictable, some unpredictable. Made for a good light reading and yes, it doesgive some food for thought for those who would indulge in it. One thing which disappointed me (and I don't think it is the author's fault) is that I expected an emotional story which this novel isn't. The story does not move you emotionally nor will it bring a tear to your eyes. I had begun reading this with that assumption and hence the disappointment. 
Of course, alls well that ends well. The story ends on a happy note with things falling in place and the protagonist living life happily ever after… which was not very easy to digest. I would have preferred a more realistic ending. But I guess, the Bollywood effect on the author worked him into writing a 'happy ending'.
Disclaimer: The copy of the book was provided by the Author for review … but then, that hasn't influenced the review in any way. You can know more about the book and its author on the website www.RishiVohra.com

Friday, December 07, 2012

November Reading – Part 3

 

Continued from previous post …

 

11. Novel: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (The new Sherlock Holmes Novel)

 

It was delightful news to hear that someone 'officially' got the endorsement / permission to write a Sherlock Holmes novel. Antony Horowitz has done a good job of writing a full length gripping Sherlock Holmes novel keeping the original essence of Conan Doyle writing intact and in fact delivered more than a regular Sherlock Holmes story.

It was nice to see all the usual characters of Sherlock Holmes stories play a role in this novel – Sherlock Holmes and Watson (of course), their landlady, the Baker Street Irregulars, Mycroft, Lestrade, Watson's Wife … with each given a significant space in the novel.

A simple case leads to a larger and more dangerous case which poses a threat to Sherlock's life. It's like a major case cocooned inside a smaller one. It was a very good novel to read and I enjoyed it. I would certainly recommend it to any Sherlock Holmes fan out there

Full review posted last month.

 

12. PKD Shorts: Beyond Lies the Wub by Philip K Dick

 

A group of men encounter a strange creature during their regular rounds of animal buying for consumption. The creature is large and has the potential to serve as a good quantity of food. 

Trouble starts when the creature begins to talk to the humans and not just talks, but talks of philosophy and 'talking as a better option than eating him up'. He seems to have some kind of strange hypnotizing power too which he hardly uses on the humans.

The captain of the space-ship/air-craft is hell bent on cutting the creature up for consumption and that is exactly what he ends up doing … but in vain. The creature continues to talk of philosophy.

 

13. ACD Shorts: The Jew's Breastplate by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

What kind of a thief loosens some precious stones (4 out of 12) from their gold settings and DOES NOT steal them? What if he returns and does the same to another 4 from the remaining 8 … again only loosening them but not stealing them? Curious … isn't it?

And what if this situation is presented to the curator of the museum immediately after he has taken charge? AND he has already received a warning that the singular night guard is not enough to take care of the security of the museum. Such are the curious settings in which this story is based. Of course, all's well that  ends well !!

 

14. PKD Shorts: The Gun by Philip K Dick

 

A very interesting premise with an equally interesting climax

What if a particular toy you brought home for your kid had a hidden agenda and was part of a huge conspiracy against the human race. So when a toy conspires against the human race using the kids as the innocently strategic partner in their world domination plans … who would come to rescue?

 

15. Novel: The Edge of the Machete by Abhisar Sharma

 

This was the second one that came from Blog Adda for review this month. Reading this one reminded me of Robert Ludlum novels since this had elements of CIA operatives, international espionage and touches of middle-eastern and Russian groups that are involved in international terrorism with a plot that has global implications. Abhisar's story is set against the backdrop of the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region with characters belonging to several militant groups from the region as well as the protagonist coming in from the CIA.

The story has brutal executions and horrible tortures described so this one is not for the faint-hearted. Abhisar has been successful in weaving a nice story with some interesting characters whose personality grows with the novel and you discover them throughout the novel. As the novel ended, the climax gives me a feeling that Abhisar has a Jason Bourne like character in his hand and it would be a pity if he doesn't write more on this character which can open up several possibilities of interesting plots.

Full review posted last month.

------------ -------------------- ------------------  

I mostly read while travelling but off late my work is encroaching on my travel time. Phone calls, emails (on Blackberry), laptop working, reading documents, preparing for meetings … all these are encroaching on my 'reading time' during my daily commute as well as the domestic flight travels that I keep making. And I fear this encroachment will only keep increasing. The heavy dip in reading score is also due to this encroachment besides the reasons quoted above (4 novels in a month)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

November Reading – Part 2


Continued from previous post …

5. ACD Shorts: The Man with the Watches by Arthur Conan Doyle

Just like another one of ACD shorts about the missing train … this is about the event of passengers who disappear and appear in a running train. 3 Passengers disappear from a running train and a dead one appears in their place. The curious thing about the dead man is that no one saw him enter the train and he had several watches with him. Several theories (some of them quite outlandish) are proposed but none satisfies nor convinces the people in England who are stumped by the mystery. 
The mystery is only resolved when a man writes after several years about his involvement in the event and how it all happened. The explanations are fairly simple and straightforward but interesting nevertheless.

6. PKD Shorts: Roog by Philip K Dick

This was yet another strange story with Dogs and something called Roog. Frankly, I was unable to make head or tail of this tale. I am usually comfortable with PKD shorts but this one was a complete bouncer.

7. Novel: Collision of Dimensions by M V Ravi Shanker 
A very interesting premise and back cover read prompted me to check with the publishers and I got a copy for review. It is a different kind of experience reading a 500 page well written novel and expectations were high when I started this one.
Reading a 500+ page novel is not easy and when u realize that it is not written well; it is painful to read till the end. I have said earlier that I don't abandon novels so easily but the author owes a responsibility to the reader. I would not recommend this to anyone.  
The author as well as the publisher had a best-seller in hand … all they had to do was put in some efforts by having a better cover design and a better marketing campaign AND get a co-author to write the whole novel in a better manner. The story telling needs ample improvement.
Full review posted last month.

8. ACD Shorts: The Japanned Box by Arthur Conan Doyle

A man with a past with a beautiful wife who is no more is looked upon with suspicion by the members of his household for his habits of retiring to his study room which has a peculiar japanned box. They hear some strange female voices emanating from the room at times causing them to worry about the otherwise spotless character of their master.
The mystery when unraveled brings forth the secret of a devoted man.

9. PKD Shorts: The Little Movement by Philip K Dick

A very interesting premise with an equally interesting climax
What if a particular toy you brought home for your kid had a hidden agenda and was part of a huge conspiracy against the human race. So when a toy conspires against the human race using the kids as the innocently strategic partner in their world domination plans … who would come to rescue?

10. ACD Shorts: The Black Doctor by Arthur Conan Doyle

A doctor arrives in a locality and gradually gains prominence and earns a good reputation. A bachelor for a long time; he eventually falls in love with a lady. But things go wrong and the girl's brother is against the relationship.
One fine morning, under strange circumstances, the Doctor is found dead and the suspect is of course the girl's brother who was seen in the vicinity of the house the very night of murder.
The real course of events that occurred that night startles everyone … when revealed in the court of law by a most unlikely witness.

To Be Continued …

Sunday, December 02, 2012

November Reading – Part 1


After 2 months of Indian Author dominance, November gets one novel by a foreign author in the form of the new Sherlock Holmes novel; while the Indian dominance continues with 3 novels coming in for review. The novels of the month were 'The Bankster' by Ravi Subramanian and 'The Edge of Machete' by Abhisar Sharma; both received for review from BlogAdda. I also received the 500+ page novel 'Collision of Dimensions' by M V Ravi Shanker directly from the Publisher. Last but not the least was the new Sherlock Novel – the House of Silk.
I also read (or let us say 'tried to read but eventually abandoned') a short novel by Philip K Dick - 'Radio Free Albemuth'.
With 4 novels this month (which included the 500+ pages one too), the short stories got less time and hence their count took a hit this month as compared to previous months. Amongst the short story regulars I read 5 by Philip K. Dick and 5 by Arthur Conan Doyle giving a short story count of 10.
New authors this month: Al the novels that I read this month were by new authors; Ravi Subramanian, M V Ravi Shanker, Abhisar Sharma and Anthony Horowitz. The Indian dominance was penetrated by Anthony Horowitz (with help from Sherlock Holmes of course)
This month's reading score – 15 … literally half of what I have scored in past few months. As explained earlier, this is the result of reading 4 novels which ate into the time for short stories.

1. Novel: The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian
This month from BlogAdda.com's Book Review Program is the novel 'The Bankster' by Ravi Subramanian. Ravi has been in my sights for some time but I saw mixed reviews for his books and somehow did not pick up any of his works till date. Blog Adda's Book Review program gave me the opportunity and now I can safely order his past works.  
The novel starts out with a bang … CIA, arms pilferage to terrorists, blood diamonds … and then the author then begins to introduce different characters of a bank in Mumbai and the story seems to describe the target-meeting-frenzy, office politics, extra marital affairs and greed of individuals and the conflicts of those who don't fall in line with the others. A parallel track about a nuclear power plant and protest against its commissioning is also there; with the involvement of politicians and powerful people. The bang at the start is forgotten. And then a person dies. And then another murder(s) and then another one and the story picks up pace … with the active involvement of a new character who turns out to become the protagonist of the story (although appearing half way thro' the novel)
After a slow and steady first half … the novel turns pacy and racy in the second half becoming almost an unputdownable. The story converges in the end and all the loose ends are tied together. Several of the small unimportant details become suddenly significant and play an important role in typing them up together. The climax is really good and the suspense is fantastic. This could have been a script of a bollywood suspense movie and I wish someone picks up this book to convert it into a movie.
Full review posted last month.

2. ACD Shorts: The Beetle Hunter by Arthur Conan Doyle

A young medical man interested in beetles and hard on his times (financially) comes across a peculiar classified in the paper. Someone wishes to have the assistance of a medical man with interest in beetles and with a very good strong physique. Our protagonist qualifies on all counts and is equally intrigued by the requirements.
The story is about his talents and physical features are put to good use by his employer who has a strange problem at hand.  

3. PKD Shorts: Stability by Philip K Dick

The human race is 'progressing' at a rapid rate and we often wonder what the limits to progress and technological advancements are? So imagine the day when human race has reached the zenith of advancement and it is widely accepted and formally announced that human race will not progress further? No moving forward … and of course it cannot be allowed that we move backward … so what happens then, considering the fact that we associate human life to forward movement in life?
Cut to another thought … what if you are suddenly called by the 'Inventions and Patents' department and informed that your invention has been rejected? What if you never invented anything at all? What if the invention in question is a …. Time Machine
Now, put the two thoughts together. You have no idea that you have invented a time machine which has been rejected by the governing bodies who are guarding the world against any signs of progress !!!   

4. PKD Short Novel: Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K Dick <abandoned>

The novel has PKD playing himself with a protagonist whose life he is following. At times, one wonders if PKD is describing real events from his own life. Like other PKD novels, this one was hard to swallow and read. And the interesting thing is that 'this' is discussed in the novel in a conversation between the protagonist and PKD where the protagonist is talking about the 'weird' writings of PKD which are difficult to fathom for ordinary people.
I scraped through half of the novel but could no further as nothing was making sense to me. So this becomes the second of PKD novel that I abandon midway.
This is an interesting contrast between the PKD short stories and novels. While I love his short stories, I am beginning to feel that the novels are not really something I would want to read. I guess, I will read another one of his novels and then continue with his short stories only.


To Be Continued …

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: The Edge of the Machete by Abhisar Sharma

This was the second one that came from Blog Adda for review this month. Reading this one was an interesting experience ... reminding me of 'similar' Robert Ludlum novels
In many ways, 'The Edge of the Machete' by Abhisar Sharma was like a Robert Ludlum novel which has elements of CIA operatives, international espionage and touches of middle-eastern and Russian groups that are involved in international terrorism with a plot that has global implications.
Abhisar's story is set against the backdrop of the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region with characters belonging to several militant groups from the region as well as the protagonist coming in from the CIA. I could draw certain parallels with a story by Robert Ludlum.
Besides the elements of Ludlum, Abhisar's writing style also has some Ludlum like characteristics. It felt like reading Ludlum and THAT I think is my biggest compliment for Abhisar.
The story has brutal executions and horrible tortures described so this one is not for the faint-hearted. There is too much of bloodshed (reminding me of Kill Bill)
There is a whole collection of militant groups and their own private agendas … that come together under a common leadership for a greater goal. The experiment is a massive one with warring factions bought under one roof creating a potential explosive situation.
Abhisar has been successful in weaving a nice story with some interesting characters whose personality grows with the novel and you discover them throughout the novel. The central characters each have a demon of their own which they fight internally while they have larger things happening to them as they become famous/infamous across the world. The story has a good pace and events keep unfolding rapidly.
As the novel ended, the climax gives me a feeling that Abhisar has a Jason Bourne like character in his hand and it would be a pity if he doesn't write more on this character which can open up several possibilities of interesting plots. At the core of Bourne series was the internal conflict of Jason Bourne … what happened inside his head. Abhisar has created a character which has similar state of mind.
At the end of the book, I realized that this seems like Book 2 of a trilogy so now I got to lay my hands on the 1st and the 3rd of this series … and hope they live up to the expectations set up by this one.
Note: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com  ... Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (The new Sherlock Holmes Novel)

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz was a surprise find for me. It was delightful news to hear that someone 'officially' got the endorsement / permission to write a Sherlock Holmes novel. Now the thing to be seen is how well the new author has done his job of writing a full length gripping Sherlock Holmes novel keeping the original essence of Conan Doyle writing intact. Anthony has successfully retained the writing style of Conan and it was a pleasure reading it. I also realized that this is the only full length Sherlock Holmes novel since Conan Doyle only wrote 56 short stories and 4 long stories; never did he write a novel with Sherlock Holmes. 
It was nice to see all the usual characters of Sherlock Holmes stories play a role in this novel. Usually, Conan stories did not involve too many of the regulars but Anthony was not restricted by the short story format so he was able to include all the characters – Sherlock Holmes and Watson (of course), their landlady, the Baker Street Irregulars, Mycroft, Lestrade, Watson's Wife … with each given a significant space in the novel.
There are some unique touches in the story telling in the acknowledgment of characters like the landlady and the Irregulars who only get a passing comment in Conan stories. Anthony also gives us a different facet of Lestrade; which was interesting to read.
The storyline itself is a pretty interesting with a simple case coming to the doorsteps leading to a larger and more dangerous case which poses a threat to Sherlock's life. The two stories seeming divorced from each other have certain linkages which get revealed only in the final pages of the novel. This story is also a unique case of Sherlock being implicated for murder and sent to the jail. Another unique thing is the brutal murders that are part of the story.
There are several murders in the story but the gruesome murder of certain characters sends a chill up your spine and that gives the novel a unique character which is so unlike Conanical Sherlock.
The climax of the major case (the House of Silk) is pretty horrible and ugly. The horror that grips you as you see the climax unfold is something one has never experienced in Sherlock Holmes novels. And then we go back to the minor case from where it all started and it has an equally interesting climax … and then the two connect. It's like a major case cocooned inside a smaller one.
It was a very good novel to read and I enjoyed it. The certain unique points elaborated above made it pretty interesting and different.  I would certainly recommend it to any Sherlock Holmes fan out there.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Son of Sardar is really SOS material

I somehow had the feeling that 'Son of Sardar' would be anytime better than 'Jab Tak Hain Jaan' …

So with wife and 2 kids (not mine) in tow, we caught up a late night show of SOS.

 

SOS was my reaction during and after the movie. <SOS bole to 'save our souls' .. the ancient distress call by ships in peril>

Forced and Confused Expressions pasted on Ajay Devgn's face … a very good and capable actor reduced to a clown (and not even an entertaining one). Same goes for Sanjay Dutt. Nothing much to be talked about the rest of the cast including Sonakshi. Easy to forget songs further made forgettable by worth remembering choreography.

SOS was a sorry film.

I blame the Director for the debacle. I advise you to keep away from the SOS screens to simply Save Your Souls

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hatrick :(

 

A hatrick in cricket is a good thing. 3 wickets in a row are pretty awesome.

Whenever there is something that occurs thrice in a row … we call it a hatrick … but then … it is not always good things that happen thrice in a row.

A case in point being my being away from home on my birthday 3 times in row in 3 consecutive years.

In 2010 … I had to travel 2 hours before the stroke of midnight … I was in mid-air when ordinarily I would have been wished 'happy birthday'

In 2011 … I had travelled a few days earlier but nevertheless, on my birthday, I was not at home

In 2012 … once again fate plays the same old joke on me making me travel on the day before my birthday forcing me to be away amidst strangers on my birthday

This year, I am in Mundra (375 km away from Ahmedabad in Gujarat) on a client engagement

I have not spent a single birthday with my wife yet … so u can imagine the anger / sadness / frustration and so many other emotions that she is undergoing

Being away from home – family and wife – is in itself a great birthday spoiler and it has happened not once or twice but three times in a row.

God Knows whats in store for me next year !!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Collision of Dimensions by M V Ravi Shanker

I read about the novel somewhere and the blurb sounded interesting. I wrote to Leadstart (the publisher) about 'Collision of Dimensions' and they were kind enough to send across a copy of the book for review.
This 500+ pager novel has an interesting premise and the story develops in an interesting manner. The characters, the 'Force', the events woven into the plot were decent. There is something called 'character development' which is completely missing from the novel. The character which comes into possession of the Force is supposed to undergo character development due to the Force but nothing really happens. The powers that he begins to become aware of are not really great … a bit of premonition is not really powerful enough.
Mumbai is the scene of action and I don't know why the author has got the geography of Mumbai wrong. There are several factual errors regarding locations within the city. Too much of geographical details of a place will seem irrelevant to a reader who does not know the place and for the reader who knows the place, s/he will be able to poke plenty of holes and pick out all errors. A simple google maps usage could have saved the author from making all those mistakes about locations in Mumbai and their relative placement.
I also found that the narration became disjointed at times. A character shows a response to a certain event happening in front of his eyes and the actual description of the event comes after 2 pages … all through the 2 pages you are wondering what warranted that response.
The climax had plenty of scope of be an explosive high drama suspense event but it was pretty disappointing. It lacked the punch … it lacked the collision of dimensions !!
The author, Ravi Shanker, has a great story to tell but he isn't a great story teller. His writing style is pretty ordinary and does not excite the reader although the story and the events there in are pretty exciting. After finishing the novel, I wish he or the publisher would have employed either a ghost writer or a master story teller as co-author to bring the writing style up several notches. The novel would then be a best seller material. The novel has quite a few noticeable spelling/grammar/factual errors which should have been ironed out in the editing process by the publisher if not the author. Dunno how and why those escaped scrutin.
The book has a very drab cover design. If I were to see the book in the bookshelf, I would have never picked it up to read the back cover. I am sure the publishers realize that the book cover is responsible for the book being picked up in the store and the back cover is the decision maker on buying it. The book cover looks like it was designed by a power point newbie who wasn't paid for his work. With the kind of title and story line the book has, the cover design should have been super-awesome. I wish the publishers gave the book a 'face-lift' and a fresh marketing initiative.
Overall, the author and publisher did have a raw diamond which they failed to adequately polish before releasing it for the world to see. I liked the plot and storyline but the book was not up to the mark. I wont be able to recommend this to anyone.
Considering I received the review copy from the Publisher, dunno if they will ever send me any novels to review in future after I have literally ripped this one apart and blamed the author as well as publisher!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Travel Solutions

Travelling to Vadodara versus travelling to office in Mumbai

I recently went to Vadodara for a meeting.

Travelled in the morning and was back after a meeting between 12 noon to 2 pm. Catching a flight at 3.45 PM, I was home before 6 PM in the evening.

The flight time from Mumbai to Vadodara is less than an hour

So I was wondering … every day I travel for about 75 minutes to reach office from my home … and the time of travel between Mumbai and Vadodara is less than 60 minutes. Isn't it strange?

We need far superior local travel solutions that what we have today if not for anything else but to conserve the millions of man-hours we waste in inefficient travel …

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Skyfall: Aasmaan se Gira (Khajoor Main Atka) !!

Remove the James Bond element and Skyfall is a pretty good movie. But then, I am negatively biased towards Daniel Craig as Bond and so is my review for Skyfall. I somehow never liked Daniel Craig in the James Bond character.
I have this Pierce Brosnan image of Bond – flair, womanizer, electronic gadgets, gadget loaded cars, car chases, high tech weapons and gadgetry of the villains, international espionage, global threats & conspiracies etc. Skyfall and Daniel Craig do not meet these expectations of mine and hence did not impress me.  The only car Daniel Craig manages to use is actually an old one ... not a techno wizardry of Q.
Also, the villain in Skyfall seems to be a weak character who does not really wreck havoc although he is supposed to be more capable than Bond. The climax wasn't explosive enough (although full of explosions).
The 'Q' wasn't impressive enough nor was his work. There were even things/events in the movie which seemed inconsequential, almost meaningless.
So is the movie bad? Not really.
When I remove the Bond context, this movie comes out nice (inspite of the flaws). It is indeed good with a very nice chase sequence right in the beginning.
Daniel is an intense character and suits the 'role' in the movie. The movie has decent amount of action although I would have preferred some awe-inspiring action rather than what is shown in the climax which is something I would see in a movie of the past century or even earlier one. And yes, something which struck me as odd was that the Bond looked old ... very old ... for an active double-o agent.
Time to change the Bond please !!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Book Review: The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian


First look at the cover from a distance and you can be forgiven to think of this as a Batman Book. The cover draws inspiration (my personal thoughts) from the Dark Knight poster. With the book in hand, you realize its different but the appreciation for the cover design and styling does not go. I have written about the cover designs of Indian novels improving over the past year or so and this is yet another example of a superb cover design.

The novel starts out with a bang … CIA, arms pilferage to terrorists, blood diamonds … and then contrasts to another incident where a old couple in kerala is caught up in the vicious trap of the local police and their son goes through the pain of seeing his father being humiliated and then moving away from the country where a couple of years later, he is a victim of a nuclear disaster.

After this 'start-with-a-bang', the story sort of fizzles out …
The author then begins to introduce different characters of a bank in Mumbai and the story seems to describe the target-meeting-frenzy, office politics, extra marital affairs and greed of individuals and the conflicts of those who don't fall in line with the others. A parallel track about a nuclear power plant and protest against its commissioning is also there; with the involvement of politicians and powerful people. The bang at the start is forgotten.
And then a person dies. Written off as an accident and soon forgotten. There are some minor events happening to bank (giving you some faint feeling that it is a build up to a major event; but no direct linkages shown) and the protest against the nuclear power plant is moving on.
I was expecting a 'fast paced eventful' story and was disappointed. The story moves at a steady pace as if describing the protest and life in a bank without really any criminal activity happening (only alluding to it very very indirectly).
And then another murder(s) and then another one and the story picks up pace … with the active involvement of a new character who turns out to become the protagonist of the story (although appearing half way thro the novel)
After a slow and steady first half … the novel turns pacy and racy in the second half becoming almost an unputdownable. The story converges in the end and all the loose ends are tied together. Several of the small unimportant details become suddenly significant and play an important role in typing them up together.
The climax is really good and the suspense is fantastic. This could have been a script of a bollywood suspense movie and I wish someone picks up this book to convert it into a movie. At least the masses who haven't read this book will get to see a good suspense thriller after a long time.
One good thing about the book was something which relieved me of my biggest worry about Ravi's novels. All his novels have been related to Banking and I was wary of reading a novel full of banking terms and fundas. Thankfully, this novel does not drown you in an ocean of banking industry jargon. Encourages me to pick up other novels by Ravi.
One last point … the book review copy I received was signed by the author. A very good read and an author signed copy is a nice combination and I will cherish this one for long. This is one of the very few author signed novels I have and this will actually be the best author signed novel that I have :)
 Note: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com  ... Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

October Reading – Part 4

 

Continued from previous post …

 

23. ACD Shorts: The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle

How does one make an entire train disappear? No, we are not talking illusionists or magicians here. We are talking of a train disappearing off the tracks while in motion and police are unable to trace it for years. It is only the confessions of the man who was behind the disappearance that solves the mystery.

 

24. PKD Shorts: The Chromium Fence by Philip K Dick

In future earth, people are divided on the basis of habits and preferences. The population divided between naturalists and purists. One follows the image of humans created by the marketing of the cosmetic companies. People have to choose allegiance to one of the sides and the fence sitters are scorned upon by either side. Elections are held and one side wins. The other side is forced to comply with the rules laid by the winning side.

A very interesting perspective on how humans get divided over trivial. In the present age people are differentiated and discriminated based on country of origin, color of skin and religion. The story talks about a time when people might get discriminated on body odor, sweat and body hair. Scary !!

 

25. The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. Originally, a series of separate informational pamphlets distributed by banks and insurance companies, the pamphlets were bound together and published in book form in 1926 (source: Wikipedia)

 

26. PKD Shorts: War Veteran by Philip K Dick

A very interesting story where an old man finds himself in an environment which he believes is unreal and fake. He has memories of the earth being destroyed and when he finds himself in an earth city; he thinks man has just recreated the city for the handful of the survivors (including the sun and moon in the fake sky).

This perplexes other people around who 'know' that they are living in the real world and the earth was not destroyed. The old man's army credentials don't check out and his serial number has not yet been assigned. Conclusion: This old man has accidently arrived from the future where Earth has been destroyed as a result of a war which earth people engage in and lose.

The mysteries don't end here. But this is only the tip of an iceberg … an intricate plot !!

 

27-35. Short Story Collection: Love, Peace and Happiness by Rituraj Verma

I have written earlier about how I have fallen in love with short stories (all over again) in the past 2 years with the number of short stories that I read every month constantly increasing. So when Rituraj Verma dropped me an email with a request to review his short story collection, I did not have to think twice before replying in a 'Yes'.

It is a nice collection overall; with the novel concept of alternate endings available on the internet for readers to get more value out of the book. If the reader is not satisfied by the ending in the book or the web, they can suggest their own. Frankly, I had my expectations up and maybe that was why I was disappointed once again. There was hardly any alternative ending that I liked and I am too lazy to write my own and send it to the author.

Since it is a collection of short stories, even the review of the content gets split - some were good, some ok'ish while some did not make any impact on me.

Overall, the book is a nice read. It is emotional. You feel for the characters. You identify with them and often find yourselves wondering if it was you in the story. I would recommend this book to anyone who is open enough to the new ideologies of relationships and is interested in emotional stuff which touches your heart.
Full review posted last month

   

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st Oct 2012)

The Three Investigators          42 out of 43     Almost Completed     

Sherlock: Exploits                    12 out of 12     Completed

Sherlock: Misadventures        33 out of 33     Completed     

Total                                       87 out of 88

 

Note: The scores above have reached their completion point (almost).  The original Three Investigator series as well as both the Sherlock Holmes series (Exploits and Misadventures) have been completed this month. This block of score will not appear for next few months … till Jan 2013 when I pick up a new series which needs tracking like the ones above (and which I propose to read over a period of several months)