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Sunday, March 17, 2013

February Reading – Part 2


Continued from previous post …

12. Non-Fiction: Chanakya's New Manifesto by Pavan Varma
Chanakya's New Manifesto is about solving the current problems plaguing the country with help from age old concepts and core principles prescribed by Chanakya.   By the way; the full title of the book (main title and the sub heading and sub text reads: "Chanakya's New Manifesto to Resolve the Crisis within India") and the book does justice to the title.
The author does a decent job of identifying the problems which India, as a country, is facing now and also makes an attempt at understanding the source of the problems. As an ordinary citizen of India, I was able to closely identify with the problems and the source of the problems.
The author places his thoughts in a very objective manner and you find yourself nodding your head in agreement at several instances in the book … even when he challenged Democracy and other 'usually considered good' things. The book is convincing. The book is Current. It has references from as recent as 2012 and it often gives you a feel of reading a long editorial on India's state of affairs in a Sunday newspaper rather than a book.

13. Prof. Shonku Short: The Radiant Fish by Satyajit Ray
There is some news regarding the terror of some new kind of red fish which is attacking people with fatal results. Prof. Shonku decides to explore these and even gets a friend for company. He also encounters a Japanese duo who is also investigating the fish. Together, all of them go deep sea diving in a small submarine vessel which enables them to go deep down the ocean floor to explore a whole new world. What is discover is pretty much out-of-this-world !!

14. WGS Shorts: A Tale of the Ragged Mountains by Edgar Allan Poe  
The story of a man who ventured to an unexplored portion of a mountain gorge and come across a strange place and a strange sensation. He is sent on a trip of visual dreams of striking reality which later turns out to be true incidents from the past.

15. Hitchcock – Most Wanted: Bottomed Out by Robert Twohy
A man dies and this story is about his experience of life after death. He is pulled out of his coffin and realizes he is just a skeleton. He goes out, explores his new world, gambles, wins and gets to know life from a different perspective with a big realization at that end.

16. Hitchcock – Most Wanted: Hit and Run by Clark Howard
A dead body is found whose diagnosis is that it was probably beaten up by gorillas. The problem is that it is found in the city and it has connections to the sports world. The story plays out in an interesting manner.

17. 3I Series by MZ - Short: The Case of the Fourth Investigator by Mark Zahn
The trio has grown up in this new series of the Three Investigator – They have their own cars and they (well, not Jupe) have hot girlfriends which mean that the distractions from a case only increase. It also means real jobs for the 'kids' who have now grown up and the threats from the villains getting more dangerous as they no longer treat them as innocent harmless kids.

18. O Henry Shorts: Tracked to the Doom by O Henry
A murder is committed with several witnesses. The witnesses have seen the notorious murderer and so have the so-called master detective 'Tictocque'. The climax is interesting although the case is not actually solved.

19. O Henry Shorts: A Snapshot at the President by O Henry
The quick short story behind a reporters trip to the US to met the President and get an interview and a possible scoop.

20. O Henry Shorts: Aristocracy versus Hash by O Henry
A strange story of a person looking for a stay in. He gets to meet several strange widows.

21. O Henry Shorts: The Prisoner of Zembia by O Henry
So it is a 'swayamwar' story where a kind invites the Prince from several estates for his daughter. Two finalists remain and one is victorious. The climax  though is not what one would expect.

22. O Henry Shorts: A Strange Story by O Henry
A man goes to bring medicine for his daughter and never comes back. A generation later, the daughter's daughter fell sick and her husband wanted to go out for the medicine but the lady stops her husband remembering her father's disappearance. Lo behold … someone comes up with the medicine.

23. O Henry Shorts: An Apology by O Henry
A strange apology by a publisher …

Series Tracking as of Feb 28th 2013 (35 out of 572)

2 out of 23       3 Investigators Novella Series – Crimebusters series & Series by Mark Zahn
0 out of 09       Three Short Novel Trilogies by various Authors
7 out of 200     O. Henry Short Stories (O Henry Shorts)
1 out of 80       World's Greatest Selected Short Stories (WGS Shorts)
7 out of 85       Philip K Dick short stories (PKD)
0 out of 40       Arthur Conan Doyle short stories (ACD)
0 out of 30       Munshi Premchand short stories
2 out of 15       Satyajit Ray authored Professor Shonku short stories
5 out of 29       Hitchcock Series – Shrouds and Pockets (Hitchcock - SP)
4 out of 21       Hitchcock Series – Most Wanted (Hitchcock - MW)
7 out of 28       Hitchcock Series – Shadow of Silence (Hitchcock - SS)
0 out of 12       Hitchcock Series – Home Sweet Homicide (Hitchcock - HS)

Friday, March 15, 2013

February Reading – Part 1


Started the month with a novel titled 'Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished'; followed by PKD & Hitchcock short stories and before picking up a novel by Clive Cussler 'The Golden Buddha'. Later in the month, I also reviewed a non-fiction (a first for me) book titled 'Chanakya's New Manifesto' besides reading a lot of short stories from my monthly regulars. Also, started reading short stories from the thick fat volume titled "World's Greatest Selected Short Stories" (WGS) which has a collection of about 80 short stories by various authors.  
New authors this month: Anand Neelakantan was the new author for me through the novel, 'Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished'. The BlogAdda Book Review program once again introduced me to a new author, Pavan Varma through his non-fiction book on the current state-of-affairs of India, "Chankaya's New Manifesto". It has been a long time since I read non-fiction and it was a decent read. The Hitchcock series short stories are all by different authors, new to me while the WGS shorts are also by authors, some of them, new to me.  
This month's reading score – 23 – with 3 novels and 20 short stories  

1. Novel: Asura - The Tale of the Vanquished by Anand Neelakantan
I had expected the story be from the perspective of Ravana where Ravana would be glorified and his good as well as bad side be given from his perspective. What came out was Ravana being portrayed as a Stupid Guy with Big Dreams and able men around him who helped him become an Emperor. I mean literally, he has been portrayed as stupid.
The book was overall a painfully slow and torturous read ... I kept reading till the end hoping it would get better in the end. The storyline made no sense at times. Ravana was not shown as a strong character ... a promiscuous man with children from his wife, another lady and even a servant ... crazy!
At some point, it even felt as if the author was twisting the facts and events of the original Ramayana to suit his story-telling. This didn't go down well with me. What I expected was a different perspective to Ramayana … not a different Ramayana.

2. PKD Shorts: Meddler by Philip K Dick

A man arrives from the past into a distant future world … and this man has the ability to fix things. He is sort of a mechanic with an ability to fix a variety of things and he has the intuition to make them better. He arrives in a world where people had become too specialized to understand his expansive skills and even consider him as a threat since their computing systems cannot factor in the impact this man can create on their world. He becomes their Variable Man.

3. PKD Shorts: The Great C by Philip K Dick

A spaceship leaving a planet is stopped by law officers who want to search for 3 'criminals' who have destroyed a city. They have a lie detector and all passengers pass. Subsequently, the fellow passengers begin to talk and some of them come together to discuss what actually happened. The city is no more … but it was not actually destroyed. That's how they escaped detection by the Lie Detector.

4. PKD Shorts: Out in the Garden by Philip K Dick

Imagine the 'Principle of Sufficient Irritation' – Irritate an inanimate object so much that it HAS to take some action … like get away, walk away, crawl away or just move. Imagine a machine which can generate the 'sufficient irritation' and objects in the house begin to respond to it. And watching one inanimate object moving, the other gets 'sufficiently irritated' and so on and so forth …

5. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: The Monster Brain by Richard Deming
This story begins with our protagonist asked to investigate a seemingly innocuous insurance fraud. He honestly pursues the investigation and finds the reasons to the anomalies much to his satisfaction and is about to give the whole case and the man involved, a clean chit, when something happens and the pieces of a different puzzle fall into place.

6. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Jigsaw Puzzle by Stephen Wasyly
A drunk man, known to all in the community is killed in a hit and run case. Another man's car is found off the road. This man's wife has left him and he is grieving. Three unconnected incidents begin to connect in the sheriff's head and the when all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall in place; the picture which emerges is something totally different and pretty scary.

7. Novel: The Oregon Files - The Golden Buddha by Clive Cussler
This was the first in the Oregon series and the cast and crew of Oregon and the Oregon itself is introduced much to the delight and excitement of the first time reader. The plot revolves around the theft of an ancient Golden Buddha which contains something extremely valuable. There is theft and there is double-crossing. Governments and secret service agencies of multiple countries are involved while the private corporation at Oregon plays a pivotal role in bringing about world peace while earning some profit.

8. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Trophy by Stephen Wasylyk
A man dreams of having the head of the deer over his fireplace as his ultimate trophy. He has even seen one (dear, I mean) in the woods and decides to hunt it down before the winters are over. His trek into the woods leads him to a desolate spot where he finds a person in need of his help. It doesn't take much time for the reality to come out. The kid 'pretending' to be in need has a gun and he takes our man's 'help' to get out of the woods. The climax is expected but the twist in the end is pretty interesting.

9. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Return of Sam Lipkin by Michael Zuroy
Just imagine - a colleague or worse still, your boss dies … in your dream. And then this dead boss gives you a call on your phone … in your dream where they are supposed to be dead. He not just calls but instructs our man to do things. Back in the real world, things are normal, including the boss being alive. Back into the dreams, he gets instructions from his dad boss to kill the other boss which he promptly does. Back at work, thankfully both bosses are alive and even give our man a promotion. And back in the dreams … there is a change of caller!!!

10. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: One in a Million by Charles Einstein
Coincidences can be rare and this story is based on a bet made on a one-in-a-million-chance coincidence (actually I would put it as one-in-a-Billion). Now imagine this: A wrong number on the telephone makes 2 gentlemen talk about it and the first one bets the other man that he (gentleman no. 2) could pick up any object in the room and then pick up any number from the telephone directory. Then the number would be dialed and the person who picks up at the other end would tell them exactly what was picked up in the room. Seems completely baffling and impossible … right. Well, they go through the rigmarole and the person at the other end actually picks the right object … giving the gentleman a near fatal heart attack.
The climax is actually a double climax where the 'trick' is reveals and so is the 'coincidence'  

11. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: The Electronic Brain by Leo R Ellis
A television repair man is happy to get calls immediately after his 'new business' pamphlets are distributed. His first customer is a beautiful lady which makes his day. The next one is a man who hits him on his head and knocks him out. Strange incidents follow which make no sense but gradually our repairman begins to piece things together and his brain makes the connections and completes the circuit.  

To be continued …

Monday, March 11, 2013

January Reading – Part 2

 

Continued from previous post …

  

11. Hitchcock – Auction at McKay's Corner by Alan K Young

This story came with a twist at the end and for once even I was confused. There is an auction and it seems that there are 2 characters in the story who are preparing to scam some of the members of the audience. The climax is pretty anti-climactic.

 

12. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: Nature Morte by Vincent Mc Connor

A gentleman lives his routine life auctioning art. A beggar sort of a person keeps insisting that he visit his home to see an old painting of his. He finally relents and his life goes into an overdrive of 'how to steal the painting which could fetch him millions'.

He plots and conspires and put his plan through … only to be left speechless (and almost tearing his hair apart, figuratively) after a visit by the Chief Inspector investigating the case (of the murder of the beggar).  

 

13. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: Too Many Sheriffs by Richard Hardwick

Just imagine … a convention of Sheriffs is taking place in the town and a bank gets robbed. It is pretty incredulous. Who could imagine such a thing happening!!

 

14. Hitchcock – The Shadow of Silence: Bone of Contention by Thomas M. Disch

The story is about a house where a single member of the house is taking care of all the 'other members' while another member is irritating the 'other members'. His irritating behavior increases so much that he is made to join the 'other members'. Who are these 'other members' … you ask. Well … you can't even imagine !!

 

15. Novel: RIP: The Resurgent Indian Patriots by Mukul Deva

RIP has an explosive start with 3 high profile murders taking place across the country followed by a statement sent to major media agencies regarding the intent and objective of the group who is behind the murders. The message concludes the threat that if the demands are not met, more will die and as a token of this threat, 3 more will die in next 3 days. This leads to a flurry of activities in the Indian political system sending waves across the country … amongst politicians, police, military as well as the common public. The start gave me (once again) a Robert Ludlum like feeling. Interestingly, the group which is responsible for murders is called the K-Team.

I liked the book but was somewhat dissatisfied too. It could have been better, tighter.

One thing surely differentiated Mukul Deva from Ludlum … Romance and associated Emotions. I don't know why, but Mukul Deva decided to introduce a Love Triangle and 2 kids into the story. Yes, they did play a role in the story to some extent but that could have been managed without this extra emotional baggage. It looked more like a 'formula' to spice up the book rather than a real need of the plot – one can see the Bollywood influence – almost written as if a screenplay for a movie. 

Detailed review posted in Jan.

 

16. Prof. Shonku Short: The Sahara Mystery by Satyajit Ray

Prof. Shonku's scientist friend disappears and he goes on a quest to find him, along with another common friend. They arrive at the Sahara Desert and notice some strange rumblings in the ground. No one is ready to take them to a certain portion of the desert which is scaring the hell out of the men and the animals. They see an unusual cliff and when they discover what the cliff is and what that rumbling sound was … they are pretty much shell shocked.

 

17. O Henry Shorts: Tictocq by O Henry

A short story about a detective and his foolishness.

 

18. Novel: The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum

Paul Janson owes a debt to a seemingly great man who is kidnapped by a terrorist group. He is roped in to rescue him and rescue him he does. And then something goes very very wrong and the mission meets a disastrous end. Janson's life spins out of control where he becomes a 'wanted' man for the murder of the man he was to rescue ... only no one seems to know that the man is dead. The complications become convoluted and nothing seems to be what it was supposed to be. Janson is in Deep Shit and he is out of his depths (yeah yeah, thats a paradoxical statement but that is exactly what he is in). Robert Ludlum, once again, proves his genius. A fantastic concept in the story and a pretty shocking plot with several twists and turns.  

 

Series Tracking as of Jan 31st 2013 (14 out of 432)

 

1 out of 23       3 Investigators Novella Series – Crimebusters series & Series by Mark Zahn

0 out of 09       Three Short Novel Trilogies by various Authors

1 out of 200     O. Henry Short Stories (O Henry Shorts)

0 out of 80       World's Greatest Selected Short Stories (WGS Shorts)

4 out of 85       Philip K Dick short stories (PKD)

0 out of 40       Arthur Conan Doyle short stories (ACD)

0 out of 30       Munshi Premchand short stories

1 out of 15       Satyajit Ray authored Professor Shonku short stories

3 out of 29       Hitchcock Series – Shrouds and Pockets (Hitchcock - SP)

2 out of 21       Hitchcock Series – Most Wanted (Hitchcock - MW)

3 out of 28       Hitchcock Series – Shadow of Silence (Hitchcock - SS)

0 out of 12       Hitchcock Series – Home Sweet Homicide (Hitchcock - HS)

Saturday, March 09, 2013

January Reading – Part 1

 

Started the year (and the month) with the last episode of the DORK trilogy by Sidin Vadukut, following with PKD short stories and a novella the new 3 Investigators 'Crime-busters' series

Attempted to read a new short story collection of ACD but stumbled … couldn't even finish the first one and never moved beyond. I will probably try another set of ACD stories.

Next I picked up the Hitchcock series books and read a few stories from all 3 of them (the 4th one is still not in my possession). Also picked up the Prof. Shonku collection by Satyajit Ray and read the first short story. I even started off with a short story of O Henry … from a collection of over 200 short stories by O Henry. 

Towards the end of the month, I picked up a Robert Ludlum (a thick novel at 585 pages) and while I was reading it, RIP by Mukul Deva arrived from BlogAdda.com for review.  

New authors this month: The BlogAdda Book Review program once again introduced me to a new author, Mukul Deva through his latest novel RIP. The Hitchcock series short stories are all by different authors, new to me.  

This month's reading score – 18 – with 3 novels, 1 Novella and 14 short stories  

 

1. Novel: 'Who Let the DORK Out?' by Sidin Vadukut

Having read the earlier two novels of this trilogy, I was eagerly waiting for the last episode to arrive. It kind of disappointed me. It was not as good as the earlier too and the author indulged in too many racial and direct frontal attacks on several personalities. After some time, it is neither funny nor interesting actually.

 

2. PKD Shorts: The Variable Man by Philip K Dick

 

A man arrives from the past into a distant future world … and this man has the ability to fix things. He is sort of a mechanic with an ability to fix a variety of things and he has the intuition to make them better. He arrives in a world where people had become too specialized to understand his expansive skills and even consider him as a threat since their computing systems cannot factor in the impact this man can create on their world. He becomes their Variable Man.

 

3. PKD Shorts: The Crystal Crypt by Philip K Dick

 

A spaceship leaving a planet is stopped by law officers who want to search for 3 'criminals' who have destroyed a city. They have a lie detector and all passengers pass. Subsequently, the fellow passengers begin to talk and some of them come together to discuss what actually happened. The city is no more … but it was not actually destroyed. That's how they escaped detection by the Lie Detector.

 

4. PKD Shorts: The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford by Philip K Dick

 

Imagine the 'Principle of Sufficient Irritation' – Irritate an inanimate object so much that it HAS to take some action … like get away, walk away, crawl away or just move. Imagine a machine which can generate the 'sufficient irritation' and objects in the house begin to respond to it. And watching one inanimate object moving, the other gets 'sufficiently irritated' and so on and so forth …

 

5. PKD Shorts: The Builder by Philip K Dick

 

A man staying in town far away from the coastal region is busy building something in his backyard during his spare time (and often taking day off from work) … something that has led most people around him to believe that he has gone bonkers (including his wife). He can't explain why he is building what he is building but there is an inner drive to do so. His small kid is also involved and giving a helping hand in the building activity but not out of his own drive but just following and spending time with dad.

The man finishes his work and wonders for the first time why he built it since he sees no conceivable utility for the thing he has built; putting in a significant portion of his time, effort and life. After all, living far away from the coast; what purpose will a large wooden ship serve him?

 

6. Crimebusters (3I) Novella: Hot Wheeels by William Arden  

The trio has grown up in this new series of the Three Investigator – They have their own cars and they (well, not Jupe) have hot girlfriends which mean that the distractions from a case only increase. It also means real jobs for the 'kids' who have now grown up and the threats from the villains getting more dangerous as they no longer treat them as innocent harmless kids.

Not as good or adventurous as the original series; the new series is just adding more stories to the series without taking them to the next level. Hot Wheels is about a distant cousin on Jupe getting stuck in a car theft robbery scam. The Trio stake out the suspects and what they discover is a gang involved in routinely stealing cars disguised as some other 'popular' cars – stealing them in plain sight in front of everybody. Hope further stories are better.  

 

7. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: A Matter of Kicks by Lawrence Treat & Richard Plotz

A party - a murder – seems like the man was murdered by a 'kick'. Speculations lead to several suspects and the peculiar ways of but the ultimate case solving evidence is a very interesting thing.  

 

8. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Caveat Emptor by Kay Nolte Smith

You have surely heard of 'selling your soul to the devil for a favor' … well … this story is about the tragedy on the other side. Everyone thinks about the tragedy of the individual who sells his soul. No one thinks about the one who is buying …

 

9. Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: The Maundering Syndrome by Dana Lyon

A letter from one old person to another … reflects the state of mind and his 'condition' …  

 

10. Hitchcock – Most Wanted: The Attache Case by Ernest Savage

What happens when you find a locked attaché case? You speculate what it might contain. It may make you happy or you might be sad and miserable. Our protagonist goes through similar emotions and discovers a new life (without even opening the attaché case). What happens in the climax is pretty interesting.

 

To be continued …

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Book Review: F?@K Knows by Shailendra Singh

Book: F?@K Knows

Author: Shailendra Singh

No. of Pages: 234

Genre: Self Help

Publisher: Rupa Publication

Please read the following line 10 times (or at least 5 times; its important) before proceeding to read the rest of the review … (if possible – no one is around – say it out aloud)


F?@K! F?@K Knows! F?@K Off! F?@K Me! F?@K it! F?@K! F?@K man! F?@Ker! F?@K-shit! F?@K! F?@King unbelievable!


If you felt uncomfortable reading the above line multiple times … then this book is NOT for you. If you could easily sail through repeating this line multiple times AND you are interested to hear from someone else, how screwed up your life is and how can you make an attempt to make it better … then and ONLY then should you pick up this book and attempt to read it.



The philosophy of life and how to live through it is aptly summarized in the title of the book. The title ‘F?@K Knows’ is the all-pervasive ANSWER to all those ridiculous ‘Why Me?’ questions we keep troubling ourselves with … and many more of course.

The book does not have new content. If you have read a couple of ‘self-help’ books, you would find that the book repeats the general funda BUT there is a huge difference. F?@K. The book reiterates the same age-old fundas in a manner which the generation of today find easy to understand and digest since it does in their language where the F-word makes more appearances than the common word ‘the’. The book mirrors this language style, having the F?@K appearing in the book a record number of times; second only to Osho’s famous discourse on the versatility and utility of the word F?@K (which of course, finds mention in the book).

In the past 35 years (or is it 34, doesn’t matter) of my life, I have refrained from using the F-word. The number of times I might have used this word can actually be counted on the fingers of the hand without going over them again. I always saw the word as abusive and un-cultured. NOW … after reading this book, I guess I will be far more comfortable using the word (but hardly aloud, I have my own self-image to protect after all).

I liked the book. It gives you advice … real, practical, usable, sensible advice in digestible and understandable format … something you can actually make an effort to apply in your own F?@King life (see, I have begun to use it).

The book talks of various aspects of life reiterating various philosophies and also debunking various philosophical myths guiding on a clear path and direction with advice on what you should focus on and what you should not. The book gets autobiographical in some sense as Shailendra relates incidents (striking, emotional as well as gross) from his personal life to send across the message to you.

The book is written in the form of more than 75 very short chapters talking about different aspects of life – goal setting, to-do lists, love, health, wealth, attitude, listening to the heart, listening to the body, sex, respect, life anchors, knowing yourself, understanding yourself, speaking, shutting up, understand the mind-brain-heart functions, career, aspirations, healing, destiny, god, suicide, life, thinking, doing, values, morals, right v/s wrong, greed, happiness, sadness, smiles, drugs … and so on.

As I said, Shailendra covers a lot of ground without overwhelming you with it. He does it in a F?@King comfortable manner (and of course, along with the advice right up front to NOT read the book cover to cover like a fiction novel in one go; but to take it slowly, chapter by chapter, bite by bite, chewing on properly what had already been consumed before stuffing the next morsel in an already full mind)

I loved the writing style of the book and would love to meet the author someday … just to say ‘Great Job. Well Done. Thank You. I really enjoyed reading the Book”. If not, at least, I hope he reads this review. Message conveyed, goal accomplished

I would readily recommend this book to anyone (who doesn’t mid the F?@King language of the book) … just like I would recommend a Dale Carnegie book (How to Win Friends and Influence People) to anyone. It’s that good.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. Participate now to get free books!

 

Monday, March 04, 2013

Success at latest attempt of GM Diet

I feel good to report that I successfully completed my attempt at GM Diet :)

Seven days of a restricted diet … it's not easy !!  

I did give myself the 'discounting' of my morning and afternoon/evening tea and an occasional tasting of sweet ;)

My weight moved from 92 to 89 … a difference of only 3 Kg against the expected drop of about 5 Kg … but its fine. If I can reduce 2 kg every time I try it out and if I can make the GM diet happen at least 5 times in next one year … I would have reached my target of 80 and that would be a great achievement.

It is easy to lose a few kilos with the GM diet … the trouble is maintaining one self and not regaining the lost kilos. Let's hope, that  I continue to lose and don't gain much … the weight that is.