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Friday, January 31, 2014

Asimov's Novella on Education




In the novelette ‘Profession’, Asimov tells the story of a world where education is 'fed' into the minds of kinds/teenagers electronically in a matter of seconds after analyzing their brain patterns to ascertain the best 'education' to give them.

So what happens when the results of seemingly smart guys tell that he cannot be educated ??? 

What follows this finding is the boy's journey of discovering himself and the true nature of his 'problem'. The genius of Asimov is highlighted in the climax when you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A superb piece of work by Asimov – I give it a 5 star rating

As I read story after story by Asimov, I am surprised and almost startled at Asimov's thought process and his ability to raise fundamental questions (and make us, in fact force us - to THINK) under the disguise of sci-fi short stories.

Super Awesome !!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Review: Desert Son by Glenn Maynard

 

Book: Desert Son

Author: Glenn Maynard

No. of Pages: 185

Genre: Fiction - Paranormal, Out-of-Body experiences, reincarnation 

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

 

The author wrote to me with a book review request via LinkedIn introducing his yet to be released book. It was a rare opportunity for me to read an ARC … reading a book before anyone else, before it came out in the market for sale.

Desert Son turned out to be a very interesting ‘out-of-body reading’ experience :)  

The book starts out with an out-of-body experience and ends with the revelations of reincarnation of people revealing the past and present connections. The build-up of suspense is interesting.

The book begins with an accident which kills the protagonist and his parents resulting in an out-of-body experience of our protagonist. He goes through the mythical ‘tunnel of light’ to meet long deceased people. The description is eerie, scary and relaxing at the same time. He later comes back from the dead since a lady in the ‘heaven’ informs/directs him to discover his true identity … sending him back to complete unfinished business.

The book kind of gets a slow start - a significant portion in the beginning describing the out-of-body experience and the return (although some readers may indeed enjoy the descriptive heavenly journey)

The story soon catches pace as a few more characters are introduced and in the end the secrets are revealed and the dots are connected for the reader's. The plot is interesting and the author attempts to captivate the reader with the out-of-body experience as well as the reincarnation plot twists and the inter-connected relationships between the different characters.

The characters are interesting and you can feel the inner turmoil of the protagonist and the girl who joins his journey of self-discovery. You keep wondering why the girl is so interested and involved. It sort of never becomes clear as to why she got interested in something that she was running from, although she becomes an integral part of the story in the end.

The cover design is good although for a book with out-of-body experience and reincarnation at its core, the book cover could have been better. Now it seems like a love story in the desert.

Although there were times in the first half when I I found it too slow but once you hold on to it and read further, you are rewarded with an interesting climax.

Although a pretty interesting read ... I would still wish the first half was squeezed into just fewer pages and the book was no more than 125-150 pages long.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 1.5 / 5

Writing Style: 2.5 / 5

Characters:     3.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     3.0 / 5

Climax:            4.0 / 5

Overall:           3.0 / 5 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: SeaBean by Sarah Holding


 

Book: SeaBean (Book 1 of the SeaBean Trilogy)

Author: Sarah Holding

No. of Pages: 158

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy and Sci-Fi   

Publisher: Medina Publishing Ltd.

 

The publisher wrote to me with a book review request via LinkedIn and it sounded interesting. So here I am … reading a book written for children. And I enjoyed it actually.

SeaBean is an interesting sci-fi story that also educated young readers (kids) about environment and nature and the damage some of us are causing to it and what can be done about it.

The book starts out in an interesting manner and builds some sci-fi suspense as the background. It then changes gears, and you find reading the ‘blog’ of a young school-going girl who is innocently writing about her life on an island.

And then the story proceeds with a large cube arriving on the island which our little girl gets access to. The cube turns out to be a new hi-tech teaching aid/tool (that’s what the new teacher says) which takes the students across geographies to New York City, Amazon forests, Hong Kong and Australia. And the children encounter some interesting adventures and even pick up some interesting pets along.

The book is written for children and hence the writing is simple and filled with things and event which will create a sense of ‘wonder’ in children. Even I enjoyed it. There is innocence in the story-telling through the children (who are key characters) and their journey of learning is well articulated.

The book educates children in environmental issues and it does it in a very enjoyable manner while telling an interesting story. Not just children, it entertains the elders and educates them too.

Sarah Holding has started off on a very nice story with a educational theme and I look forward to the future episodes of this book. This is set to be a trilogy and I hope I get a chance to read and review the other 2 parts too – SeaWAR and SeaRISE.   

One of the marketing ‘gimmicks’ for the publicity of this book is the unique heat-sensitive thermochromic book cover which remains dark normally but reveals a picture behind the darkness when warmed by the touch of the hand. That surely makes it interesting and pretty unique.



Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4.5 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:     4.0 / 5

Climax:            4.0 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5 

Monday, January 27, 2014

My first 55 word story – Tunnel Vision



You might have come across those 55 word stories.

A couple of days back, I was waiting for my flight at Kuwait International airport. There was an old man sitting next to me and he did something that inspired this 55 word story. Although actual chain of events was slightly different but the gist is the same. 

So here is my first creation ...
---------------------
Tunnel Vision

An old man painfully hobbled to the dustbin that was 25 meters from his seat in the airport lobby. I wondered at his persistence and my eyes moved to his seat which still held his luggage, phone and the book he was reading. And then I noticed something right behind his seat ... a dustbin.
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Book Review: Spellweaver (Book 1 of the Spellweaver Chronicles) by C J Bridgeman

 

Book: Spellweaver (Book 1 of the Spellweaver Chronicles)

Author: Claire J Bridgeman

No. of Pages: 147

Genre: Fantasy and Magic J  

Publisher: Self Published  

The author wrote to me with a book review request and her long email kind of piqued my interest in the book. Glad I accepted the review request.

One is tempted to think of 'yet another harry potter types' story but the Spellweaver definitely has its own charm. When you are reading the Book 1 of the Spellweaver Chronicle, you begin to draw parallels with Harry Potter's first episode in which he discovers his lineage and finds 2 friends (a girl and a boy) and then ultimately performs some magic too.

Apart from such very basic parallels, the Spellweaver is not only different but I actually found it interesting to read. The characters develop in front of you and some of them remain mysterious with the protagonist as well as the reader guessing their true character and intentions till the end. You keep wondering which side they are on and is that for real ??

The protagonist (a young girl named Felicity) has lost her Mother and moved in with her father (they were separated), joins a new school and gets to understand friendship as well as gets a taste of weird characters. The story is a journey of Felicity discovering herself and her friends. It's the first part of a long series and this one is about discovering her 'true' identity and 'huge responsibility' she has on her head – which unfortunately, she is not trained for nor prepared for.

Bridgeman's writing style is good and she has focused on the inner turmoil of Felicity throughout the book ... something I like very much (The only reason I am a huge Ludlum fan is because Jason Bourne was a story of the internal conflict of Jason … and not a mindless action novel). She has developed the character of Felicity very carefully and also paid attention to the other characters.

The story ends on the note of Felicity realizing several things – the weight of responsibility on her as well as the beginning of understanding the true intentions and feelings of her deceased mother. Maturity has begun to seep in and she is much stronger than she was at the start of the story.

I look forward to the next episode of this saga and hope that this one turns out to be not only a very popular one but also gets noticed by some Hollywood guys looking for the next Harry Potter like sensation …

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 3.5 / 5

Characters:     4.0 / 5

Story / Plot:    3.5 / 5

Climax:            3.5 / 5

Overall:           3.5 / 5 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Adhuri Prem Kahaniya by Santosh Avvannavar

 
Book: Adhuri Prem Kahaniya

Author: Santosh Avvannavar

No. of Pages: 95

Genre: Short Love stories

Publisher: Power Publishers

The author wrote to me with a book review request and when I saw that it was a collection of short stories about love … I thought, why not. The author sent me a signed copy which is always a nice touch.

After reading 2 short story collections in horror genre, I was thinking why not romance and love? I had thought … this should be a good change. Boy, was I wrong?

The book blurb reads "Adhuri Prem Kahaniya has evolved over years of 12 people. The book covers light moments of these people in these 25 short stories. This book may prove to be a good travel read or ice breaker".

Well… I can't seem to agree. This ain't no ice breaker. 

The language of the book is not just simple but not really book-worthy (unless intentional keeping in mind the first-person profile and setting of the story). It is written as if writing a personal diary or a blog. You can forget grammar or basics of sentence construction and flow.

There isn't really a story at times … just life experiences of different individuals. There are no real noteworthy insights either. The stories almost degrade the powerful concept of love into something very frivolous. At times, you might even identify with some of things happening in the stories. Unfortunately, the book does not entertain. Even the author's attempt to induct a lot of Bollywood references did not help.

Frankly, there aren't 25 short stories. They are but events from different people's lives; and that too life events of the ordinary kinds. They did not entertain nor interest me beyond some point.

The grammar throughout the book was so bad that it made me stumble across words and sentences. Somewhere the book got published without going through the editorial process.

The author should have done a much better job at writing … and I wish the Publishers had done their job of rejecting this 'draft' and asking the author to come back with a much tighter version or put in their own resources for making it so. The output then would have probably been much better. Also, some guidance by some seasoned writers on structuring the book might also have helped.

The cover design might have been interesting if it had at least aligned itself to the title. Two hearts with a bridge between them … and the title is "Adhuri Prem Kahaniyan". So what is incomplete here???

If you are a casual reader, you might pick this one up although I won't recommend.

If you are a serious reader, this is a strict No. Don't even think about it !!

 

One thing noteworthy are the author's intentions and objective behind getting the book published. He is doing it as a means of support for underprivileged children – the income of the book is likely to be used for some noble causes.
Wish the author had done a better job at the book ... I would have given it a better rating and maybe someone would have picked it up after that and helped some child.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 1.0 / 5

Writing Style: 0.5 / 5

Characters:     0.5 / 5

Story / Plot:     0.5 / 5

Climax:            NA

Overall:           0.5 / 5  
 
FYI - Considering the noble cause behind the book, I am tempted to bump up the rating to 1/5

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: Life Mantras by a Life Coach by Preeti Subberwal

 

Book: Life Mantras By a Life Coach

Author: Preeti Subberwal

No. of Pages: 124

Genre: Self Development

Publisher: Power Publishers

Blogger Nimi Vashi from The Readers Cosmos, wrote to me with a book review request for this one. I had read a lot of self-help books in 2001-2002 and then kind of moved away from them except for occasional picks. In 2013, I had read 'F@#K Knows' which was entertaining and eye-opening in a very different and weird way (but effective nonetheless, as long as you could sustain the language and its tone).

The book in question this time around was 'Life Mantras by a Life Coach' and although I would have shunned such a book (somehow I have never found them convincing), I thought this might be a good opportunity to check out some self-help book by an Indian Author and a Life Coach at that. So that's how I came upon this book by an Indian Author which ironically, I read completely outside India (in Kuwait on a business trip) J

I got an author signed copy with a personal note in the inside cover.
First Impressions: The Book is BEAUTIFUL.

Don't be surprised to see that word in my book review for the first time. This books has been explicitly designed to be beautiful. Each and every page has been 'designed' in Adobe illustrator and the whole book is pretty colorful. It is indeed an interesting experience to read a book that is designed in an organized and structured color coded theme. There are 10 lessons (in 10 different colors) and each lesson has its self-development gyan-bites. It was pleasant to read a colorful book after a long time. The quotes in the footer of each page were a nice touch. And did I mention, the book is hard-bound!! A nice coffee-table kind of book

So that was about the looks of the book. Now, let's talk about the content.   

In the book there is a lot of gyan; in fact lots and lots of it. There are about 6-8 gyan-bites in each of the 10 lessons / chapters, so in the end, the author gives you some 75 gyan-sessions (one page for every gyan-bite) through a total of 124 colorful pages.

Sadly, there is (still) too much of text to read. I would have preferred a little less text, a little more pictures and even diagrams. I wouldn't mind the endless text if only there were some 'real life examples' of how to apply those gyan-bites in life.
Everyone can give gyan (heck … even I can give Life gyan) but what will separate an effective Life Coach from an armchair-life-consultant are the real life examples and the ability to make those gyan-bites come alive and practical. I personally was looking at more of practical usable advice rather than spiritual gyaan.

Another Point: Very surprisingly, all the pictures used in the book are European / American. I wonder why the author / designer / publisher chose to do so. There is no dearth of Indian stock photos now (with Indian people and places) and this was kind of surprising and disappointing. Indian author, Indian target audience … why make a product that 'tries' to look American??

Overall, the book is OK. I am sure there will be readers who will find it good and helpful. For me, this did not really work. For me this is a good book to have in the show-case – it looks good. Its more of a coffee-table book for others to see and scan and have a conversation on. I might even pick it up some day again and scan through it again.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 4* / 5

Writing Style: 2.0 / 5

Characters:     NA

Content:          2.0 / 5

Climax:            NA

Overall:           2.0 / 5 

 

Note: The Cover design gets 4/5 not because the cover design was great; but because the whole book is 'designed'. Each and every page has some colorful design elements rarely found in books so I am giving the score for THAT score under cover design.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: The Treasure of Kafur by Aroon Raman

 
Book: The Treasure of Kafur

Author: Aroon Raman

No. of Pages: 405

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillain

I had reviewed the first novel by Aroon, The Shadow Throne, earlier last year and was delighted to hear from him when he sent me a review request for his second book. I had enjoyed the first book and liked the book blurb of the second. The second book is very unlike the first one and it almost surprises you that both these books with such a diverse theme have come from the same author.

The Treasure of Kafur has been 'lost' for centuries and certain individuals protect its secret. A tyrannical man with ruthless ambitions to rule the country needs the 'funds' to put his plans to action and a kid (who knows the secret of the treasure's hiding place) gets the responsibility of reaching out to Akbar for protection as well as damage-repair. This is the basic premise and plot of the novel … but this is not what makes the novel such a delight to read. It is the way the story develops and the characters play their part that makes it a surprising read.

Aroon has a very interesting and descriptive writing style which makes it easy for the reader to visualize what he/she is reading. This makes the book not only easy but also enjoyable to read.

The second aspect that makes ToK very interesting is the cast of characters – which includes animals … a cow, ravens, a very large parrot (more like parakeet) and so on … They are the constant and loyal companions of our protagonist (the kid with the secret) and they all communicate telepathically. This aspect makes the story very very interesting as these animal companions protect the 'kid' from the evil forces. For me, this was the most enjoyable part of the book – reading about this motley crowd of animals and their interactions with the story.

As the story moves forward, more characters get intricately involved in the story. The ones you assumed will be in the background suddenly come to the fore-front. This is pleasantly surprising and adds to the overall reading pleasure.

You finish the book with a pretty fresh feeling. You end up surprised … wondering that you read something completely unexpected. And you are happy that you read it.

I would readily recommend Treasure of Kafur to anyone who reads fiction. Mind you, this is not a treasure hunt story. The story has a treasure but much more than that the story is about the politics, about royalty, about a special gift, about the companions of the hero-kid and his friends ... and of the Emperor and the King ... of fierce loyalty and friendship.

I liked the cover design too. It has probably nothing to do with the plot or the story (or might have something to do) … but I just like it.

The book ends on a note, where there is a potential to have a sequel – something I would love to read considering the way I am impressed by this one.

 

Ratings on Book Review Parameters:

Cover Design: 3.0 / 5

Writing Style: 4.0 / 5

Characters:     4.5 / 5

Story / Plot:    4.0 / 5

Climax:            4.0 / 5

Overall:           4.0 / 5  

Saturday, January 04, 2014

December Reading

Books, Novellas, Short Stories that I read in December ...
This month included both Fiction and non-fiction (in fact the only months where there are 2 non-fiction books)

 

1          Non-Fiction: Aisle Be Damned by Rishi Piparaiya

2          Novelette: Stickman by Dennis Yates

3          Novel: BANKERUPT by Ravi Subramanian

4          Novella: Roger Ascham and the Kings Lost Girl by Matthew Reilly

5          Novel: Ajaya - Roll of the Dice, Epic of the Kaurava clan (Book I) by Anand Neelakantan

6          Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Self-Protection  by James Michael Ullman

7          Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Slay the Wicked by Frank Sisk

8          Non-Fiction: The World's Stupidest Instructions by Michael O'Mara Books

9          Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: I by Edward Wellen

10        Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: Trial Tactics by Joe L. Hensley

11        Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets: A Shroud for the Railroad Man by Alvin S. Fick

12        Short Story Collection: The Other Side (13 Horror Stories) by Faraaz Kazi (12 to 24)

 

The last month of the year was a very busy month from work point of view with hardly any travel so that cut down most of my reading time. Reviewed several books including a short story collection and read 2 novellas (including one by Matthew Reilly). Also, completed another of the Hitchcock series books; now 2 more to finish off, which should happen in Jan-Mar.  

A count of 24 for December and with this the year comes to an end with a total count of 294 for the year 2013 – Novels, Novellas, Non-Fiction books and a large number of short stories, both collections and random ones.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

I Am Ready