Friday, December 30, 2016

Ben - Hur (1959)

Since I saw the remake of "Ben Hur" a 1959 movie in 2016 that too in 3D, I always wanted to watch the original one not for the comparison sake but because I saw the original in early 2000 as a part of film festival in a cinema at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. Today was the day I finally saw it and what a mesmerizing experience it was - my humble 40" LED Television and a 2.1 channel home theater was a no match to this movies giant wide camera shots and to that awesome background score. It didn't even made me go breathless teary eyed so many times that I lost count as those haunting scenes came rushing back to me from my memory - the fantastically handsome "Charlton Heston" as Juda Ben Hur was one heck of a site, I can imagine what kind of fan following this guy must have back then when this movie got released. No doubt it ended up sweeping 11 Academy Awards, a record which got broken only after 37 years by a movie of "Titanic's" caliber.
WOW!! look at the camera work, expressions of the cast, thrilling scenes, excellent cinematography, even by today's standard - it will be very tough to match this movie's class. It deserves all the accolades and a standing ovation even today when I noted after it ended that I actually watched a 3 and a half hour long classic in one shot without a break and still I was asking for a little more. How life screws Juda Ben Hur when his best friend turns a foe out of no reason still he fights back and gets his due. Loses everything, his family, friends, country, almost on the verge of death but he is destined a revenge that he gets in the end and how - is one heck of an experience.
It is actually the story of Life of Jesus yet the son of god gets three minor shots but even that is enough to call him a her by the way he steals the movie even after getting no close up and you don't even get to look who played the awesome character. My hands are actually shaking in mentioning the three important scenes he makes an entry, One were Ben Hur gets arrested and is being sent out to serve as a slave, as he falls thirsty - Jesus comes to his rescue and offers the fallen a glass of water - a background shot of Jesus - his flowing curly hair and that amazing aura he had - I so much prayed that he will turn but he doesn't - yet its breathtaking and I missed a couple of heartbeats. Second time when Juda Ben Hur comes back and he is told that the child has grown into a man and is healing people and you see the Son of God again on top of a hill in White robe - a shot from quite a distance yet you see him very clearly among a mob of followers in tatters. Third and the best scene of the movie - as Jesus carries his cross on his shoulders and falls while walking - Juda Ben Hur lifts the man and offers him water - with a million dollar look in his eyes he thinks "I know this man" - Classic, Unbelievable stuff - I am sure if you have seen the movie you will agree with me.
No ways that I can miss to mention the grand finale Chariot race - although it still is way way better then the chase scenes we see in today's time - shot in one solid way, straight it sent me to the edge of my chair even after knowing how it ends - it still was amazing to see one more time, although it is visible that a lot of it was in fast forward mode still it works and what a superb ending.
They just don't make those movies any more. And this is one Iconic movie which will remain in my memory till the end of time. If you haven't seen the original yet - you are a criminal in my eye :) please do not like or comment my post till you see it - I refuse to get your like and I request you to leave my post alone.
A movie which is too good to get a rating.
If I have to - I will give it a 5/5 with two thumbs up and a standing ovation.
A movie which needs to be watched every year.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (Book)

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The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

This book and the review is dedicated to my very close friend Deepak :) for pushing me do more then just a 100 this year as this will be the last for the year and what I have now picked up will end only in 2017.

My last book from the pen of Dan Brown and I must say - this should be his one of the best works (I am undecided between "Angels and Demons" and this one) so far and for now I am done with all his books. Of-course looking forward to his next book whenever that comes. Unfortunately as far as Robert Langdon is concerned - his central character of the series - he is now getting type-casted. All the books are almost similar in concept with him running behind some sort of a mystery, with one female lead and some knowledgeable people for his help and one of them will definitely turn out to be a traitor before it all ends. But even then they are all engrossing, thrilling, almost equal to an edge of a seat thrillers with superb easy going narrative which keeps the reader hooked to the most part. Robert Langdon fortunately is one character that I just simply cant not like rather I love him very much especially when it is played on-screen by one of my all time favorite actors - Tom Hanks. This one too is no different with one of the most powerful secret to be revealed, one that the Church doesn't want to come out, a priory (Ancient Brotherhood) guarding the secret waiting for the right time to come before they open it up to the world. What is the secret and how it effects the church, the world and who all the people with it, for it and against it - is the entire novel.

The way Dan Brown narrates the story - he makes it too hard for the readers to even hate the villain. Like in this one - the main villain who is doing everything negative under the orders of his supreme boss "The Teacher" - I just couldn't hate the Albino - Silas, I rather had my sympathy with him and I wanted him to live. All his books are a great lesson in the history and architecture mostly Paris, Italy, Florence, a little Venice here and a little London there too. I like the way he enrolls the Church in all his stories - although its authenticity is subjective but if you take it as a work of fiction (which it is) it all works in the favor of the book and the Author. So far, I have no complaints with Mr. Dan Brown and I will definitely remain his fan and follower as long as he keeps writing. This one I will recommend very highly as one of his best works and a breeze to read - not to be missed by thriller lovers with special interest in History.

Movie Adaptation: Saw the movie today too and let me say this - this is one of those very few well made movies which covers the book almost in totality. They did twist it a little here and there but mostly able to satisfy me. What I totally loved about this movie with the book is the Immaculate casting - Superb! Each character looks like handpicked and a perfect fit. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Sellout - Paul Beatty (Book)


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The Sellout - Paul Beatty
Mission Accomplished :)!!
Speech Time - As the year and the target was coming to a close, I wanted to make it special by reading a special book and one of my very good friend hijacked my special book - so I picked up the second best - yet it worked out to be one of the best I have / had ever read in the past. This or rather these (Booker Books) came highly recommended from a very close Non Reliable Indian (NRI) friend and even I wanted to explore the winners as well as nominee's for quite a while. Fortunately this is the first American book and writer ever to win a Man Booker Prize hence it was special in lots of ways. Also, I've been a Quentin Tarantino fan for my entire life, love the black humor (may not get it 100% but whatever) and I love "Samuel L Jackson" kind of stuff - this book in its entirety is full of that - I did lose the count after first two chapters as how many times he indeed used the word "Nigger". This book is actually a great example of "How to call a spade a spade". On your face truth told in a most blatant way possible with no care in the world - I am sure he didn't write this to garner the kind of attention he actually got with this book but as I finished the first couple of chapters - I can very well assume where it was going and it is indeed MIND-BLOWING. And I have no doubts in saying that It must have made a lot of sense to Americans specially the Black Americans of todays time and last few generations to others like us - its a journey that we have seen and heard of quite times but is still fantastic in a new light.
A very simple story of a Nigger whisperer (a person who talks to a black man in distress for no reward or return) and his son who again becomes a Nigger whisperer when the original is shot and left to die. Neither the dad nor the son has ever done anything wrong in their lives - other then the things a black does and is not considered wrong like weed, dope, pot, live in a ghetto, sex and those pointless things, yet they pay the price - the father does by losing his life for no reason and son is about get screwed in the Supreme Court of US of A - The Charge? keeping a slave in 21st century. It all happens in a small town of "Dickens" near LA (California) when suddenly the town vanishes from the world map and is no more considered an incorporated city. How life is in Dickens of mostly black people and how they have come out of slavery for so many decades yet are they really out of it? makes up for the rest of the story. I totally loved the way it is narrated, totally awesome eye popping references that they actually took me at least two to three decades back in life. I cant claim that all the references worked for me as I hardly know anything about the American culture but yes one or the other kept popping which did made a lot of sense to me. The movies, artists, cartoons (who haven't seen "The Little Rascals" - it covers a major part of the story). Why the title and the lead character is called "The Sellout" too is a story in itself - check it out.
If I had read this book before it got the Booker - I would have surely said that it ain't gonna get it based on its language and uses of words and references to various human body parts in a typical Nigger way. I am sure the full-time critics may have found it offensive too but as I said earlier - it is what it is so why pretend to be something else? Also, this is one of those very few books that I have read in the recent past which sets up the things in the very initial stages in such a way that you are actually hooked to it - the ending isn't unpredictable and I could very well guess it but it isn't a suspense thriller anyways. With hardly a little more then 200 pages - it isn't a easy read but a breeze I will say specially the way it progresses.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers - J R R Tolkien (Book)

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Lord of The Rings - The Two Towers - J R R Tolkien
As I mentioned in my first LOTR book review that it wasn't that great as per my expectations (I have recently finished the Harry Potter books) and I just couldn't love it the way I thought I am going to. But the second book of the series I must say changes my opinion about the series for sure - Boy - was it good? It was simply Superb and Mind-blowing stuff I will say. Again Unputdownable book for sure and it ends at such a point that I actually wanted to pick up the third of the series before even writing this review on it, just imagine. It was clearly mentioned in the introduction in the first book itself that this series was never written with an intention of three books - rather one and that I felt too with the way story goes forward. Almost till the half point or a little more then that there is no mention of Frodo the Hobbit who carries the Ring to its destination. I was little surprised by finding no mention of the hero but had no issues as the story was moving with a thrilling pace with his best friends Merry and Pip in lead. Heart breaking was the moment when they lose Gandalf The Grey in first book - I kept praying that he must make an entry in this one - somehow I wanted him to come alive with bated breath I was kept waiting :) you've got to read the book to know if he comes back and if you have already read - I am sure you must be smiling ear to ear just like me :).
The Fellowship of the Ring breaks at the end of the first part when they lose two of its very important members in two awesome chase and killing / chilling sequences. But the story has to go forward and Frodo as the chosen one - the Ring bearer goes forward with his best friend Samwise Gamgee (one of my favorite now from the series). This part covers his as well as his friends from the fellowship's journey to the tough times. Introduction of some new superbly awesome characters like Treebeard and Oliphaunts with great details on Orcs, the Dark Lord, the Two Towers, and so many other important characters that its totally hooking but still at ease to keep up with the story going forward. The way Tolkien has visualized the whole thing is simply outstanding - his imagination, explanation and detailing is simply amazing, it was like so much keeps running in the back of your mind as you keep going deeper with the story, it keeps getting interesting. I guess after this terrific second outing there is no looking back for the reader - it is indeed poised for a superb grand finale. I can predict a war of the worlds between the two sides and am unable keep the third book away from myself. Wish I could finish it over the X Mass weekend and watch the three terrific movies back to back after I am done reading the third book.
J R R Tolkien has truly changed my opinion about the series with this second book and I am sure that I will be hooked to the series once I am done with the third part. Do let me know how and what you felt if you have read it but if not - its high time that you got em and read em back to back. You have no idea what you are missing.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson (Book)

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Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
Since the year as well as the target is coming to an end - I decided to pick up a challenging book thrown my way by a very close friend. As the title suggests - its a 1140 page book written by a geek who has written all kinds of Science Fiction related stuff (read very heavy stuff) and is looked up big time by the Science Fiction Fraternity (if anything of that sorts exists). His novels have been categorized as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, postcyberpunk, and baroque. Stephenson's work explores subjects such as mathematics, cryptography, linguistics, philosophy, currency, and the history of science. So basically I got a little hang of it from Wiki that what I was getting into, had no idea how far I will go as it looked like a challenging subject and book to me. But I had no idea before I started reading this one that it could be so freaking mindbogglingly amazing work - simply unputdownable after you have read the first chapter or even the introduction. How and why I got this book? My friend saw my review(s) of Dan Brown and told me that this will open up more avenues as well as simplify Dan's works when I read this masterpiece on Cryptography and I simply got hooked to it as this guy looks like the Daddy of Dan Brown (personal opinion) as he is way ahead of his own time.
It is written in two parallel tracks with first one (the most interesting one) happening during the course of second world war between 1942-1945 and the second one (the more interesting one) happening in current time. One thing that kept a smile on my face almost throughout the narrative is the characters as going by their last names its pretty clear that what the grandfathers were doing in WWII is going to get their grandsons and daughters rewarded in a huge way. Amazing is the way it is written with so much science, maths and cryptography yet at no point of time it becomes confusing or not so clear to someone who has any deep knowledge of the subjects, rather it is very interestingly told. I have seen so many war movies in the past specially World War epics and this one reminded me at least of half a dozen movies based on that era. Like the action taking place inside a Submarine reminded me big time of "U-571" that tells exactly the same story. Also the most recent critically acclaimed movie "The Imitation Game" and its main character "Alan Turing" is one of the main characters of this book too with two of his esteemed colleagues from Princeton who are responsible for the whole "Cryptonomicon" drama and the making of the Crypt with all the codes. They are the best of the best code breakers from WWII as well as makers and how they use their knowledge to change the course as well as outcome of the war makes up for one heck of a supreme story.
Although it is a Science Fiction but there is no way I can believe that it isn't based on the real happenings from that time when the author has named so many real time people in such a humorous and interesting way. The making of the Crypt (Worlds first data haven) and the making of the bunker at the same time (but in the past) is totally thrilling. The way story keeps going in the past with every chapter and keeps coming back in current time - and the way it all leads to the finale is simply mind-blowing. The way it covers the WWII and The Pearl Harbor attack is simply outstanding as I kept reading the book - my mind kept throwing me the visuals of the same seen in so many movies in the past - it was too good. It is indeed unbelievable to know what kind of research will be required to come out with this kind of a detailed story which leaves nothing unturned - kept me impressed throughout. The love stories in between, the hilarious sex life of the geeks, thrilling interactions with the enemies of new kinds, Fictional countries with their own kinds and their agendas. It actually covers so much in such great and minute details that you don't mind the size of the book. Even after reading 1100+ pages I will call it a book with a very abrupt and heartbreaking ending, I was actually looking to so much more when it all ends but its one heck of an ending - no doubt on that (Perfect).
Its a must must read for all science fiction and war story lovers - totally hooking stuff.
I will definitely look forward to his other works now.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Fifth Mountain - Paulo Coelho (Book)


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The Fifth Mountain - Paulo Coelho

The first bouncer of the year comes pretty late in the year, almost at the very ending unfortunately from one of my all time favorite writers. You see sometimes life can be so cruel - I have much loved his other works but this one totally didn't work for me, not even like a story. Although it had some good glimpses from the history and even crosses the path with his own "The Alchemist" that was the high point of the book as per me - otherwise it was a total bouncer. May be I need to know a bit more about other religions to get a grasp of this particular book or story or may be I will give it a try sometime soon again to see if that changes anything about my opinion on this book. This is what Wiki has to say about the book: For a considerable portion of the story Elijah is very compliant, obeying everything God's angels say. Eventually he realizes that his destiny is not being chosen by him but by God and ultimately, he decides to abide by his own desires and will. In this way Coelho suggests that Elijah was able to reach an ultimate level of spiritual awareness and have the most powerful relationship with God.

I will edit or may be re-write my take after my second reading of the book (soon). 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Lord of The Rings (The Fellowship of The Ring) - J R R Tolkien (Book)


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Lord of The Rings (The Fellowship of The Ring) - J R R Tolkien

What do you do right after you finish a Book Series that you end up loving big time? You just cannot pick it up again from the very start and re read - do you? I guess the only solution is to pick up an equally good or may be a better series (not sure of that yet) and read it. In my personal opinion no other series could have come any closer to what I finished (Harry Potter) recently which I may end up loving big time just like the other (that I expected). With those thoughts I picked up "Lord of The Rings" Trilogy, hoping it works for me the way it has worked for my friends. Long back I had seen the three movies based on the three books and loved them big time, I can still not forget some extra ordinary visuals. Now after a decade with hardly any memory of them on my mind (barring those awesome action sequences and Gandalf) I sat up to read this one. These are three fat books - the bigger the better it is for us readers, almost 600 or more pages per book, written in stages between 1937 and 1949 (Unbelievable). Totally excited. 

First book is basically the introduction of all the characters and the background on "The Ring", how and where it came from with what powers (not in great details). Totally loved the Hobbit world details, their way of life, those awesome birthday parties celebrating 100+ years, imagine a Hobbit becomes an adult only after he crosses the mid 30's, they live up more then 100+ years. Frodo Baggins the Ring bearer is told by Gandalf the Grey about extraordinary powers of The Ring and what they should do with it before the Dark Lord gets it back from these guys. Gandalf kept reminding me of Dumbledore - dunno why but I guess others too will connect with his character in the same way I believe. The treacherous journey of Frodo the hobbit with his close friends especially Sam Gamgee and his mule (Bill) is hilarious and keeps the reader entertained throughout (the lackluster narrative). Unfrotunately it didnt work the way I expected it will although it kept me glued to it but this is one book that I am definitely not reading again that I knew right after I had hit the half way. I wont call it boring but nothing great either. It does sets up the introduction but takes too much time in coming to the point. By the time the reader is introduced with all the creatures, some who are with Frodo and others who are in their pursuit to get the Ring. There indeed came a time when I actually kept the book aside but as I have never left a book unread (midways) I picked it up again and finished it (and I am glad I did it). 

By the time the first book ends, it loses quite a few of great characters (I so much wish at least one of them makes a re-entry and you know who) as Frodo's journey continues to an unknown unseen mountains to put an end to Ring's powers. Hats off Tolkien's wild imagination for all those characters, creatures, places, mountains, rivers, valleys, warriors and wars etc and all that - unfortunately its a little too much to keep a track of (as per me) or may be this is just a start and I may be judging it too early. As I pick up the second book again with great expectations that everything will start falling in place now - lets see how it turns out to be. 

If you have read the series and liked it - do let me know if I am the only odd man out to feel this way or you too had the same feelings? Did it work for you? 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Stranded: A Winter Romance Duet - Samantha Chase and Noelle Adams (Book)

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Stranded: A Winter Romance Duet - Samantha Chase and Noelle Adams

Reading a winter romance on a damn cold day that too while traveling in a Non Air Conditioned train wasn't the greatest idea of my life - but had no other option as its cover was too good to resist - so I had to read it. I had way better expectations from this one as its penned by two Authors or shall we say Co-Authored. But this was a big disaster right from the very start - if you have read "Fifty Shades of Grey" you would know precisely what I mean by this that this one had everything that had minus the Sex. Looks like these ladies didn't had a good time liking Christian Grey's character (I loved him totally) hence they created their own Mr. Grey with almost no mention of Sex - unfortunately it didn't work for me and was a total "been there done that" stuff. It was predictable like anything, although a it was a breeze of a read for me and kindda average book to pass a couple of hours on a train wrapped up in a blanket in the dead of the night with nothing better to do. The good part about this book was the added little story as a Bonus in the end (Almost 50 odd pages) that one I liked way better then the original book. "One Night in the Ice Storm by Noelle Adams" was a good read. It was about a girl (Rachel) who returns to her hometown for a vacation with her mom and brother but gets stranded in a ice storm with her X. What happens during the course of the night (again a little predictable) is the rest of the story, not bad at all and was a good one time read for sure. I guess I was able to wrap both of them up in less then 6 hrs at the max. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Third Class in Indian Railways - Mahatma Gandhi (Book)

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Third Class in Indian Railways - Mahatma Gandhi

I had three damn good reasons to read this one, the first and foremost was the title, second the Writer :) and the third one was the most important - we had to travel out for a long long weekend to one of our cousins house warming somewhere deep inside Rajasthan by Train. This was the first book that I have ever read in its entirety during the course of a journey itself, which was an over night train journey of close to 19 hrs. And the first of the three books ever written by the great man, totally loved his sense of humor and the choice of worlds that too in 1916, exactly a 100 years ago. Who in India doest know the story behind his traveling in "Third Class" in Indian Railways, I was shocked to know (as told in the book) that he used to travel deliberately to see what's going on in the third class. He wrote / spoke and what not to Indian Railways to up the standard of Third Class then and what was the plight of the passengers. Unfortunately and unbelievably - you have to agree with me on this - not much has changed in 100 years, if you have traveled in "General" and if not even in "IInd Class Sleeper", you would know what I am talking, it is indeed shocking telling with my first hand experience a couple of days ago.

The book just doesn't cover only the title story about Indian Railways but other stuff too. As it is written pre-independence, we can relate very well with what he is talking about. Especially with his "Ahimsa - Non Violence" movement in great details, his views on it as why he preferred that. Also the "Swadesh" movement and how it impacts the country's economy and why it should be promoted then and in future too. It stands true even in today's time - hats off to the Father of the Nation's futuristic thinking which aptly passes the test of time. Another fantastic chapter he has written on "The Moral Basis of Co-operation" and a hilarious one on "National Dress", that proved that Gandhiji actually had a great sense of humor, totally loved it. His views on other religions, beliefs and how Hinduism should inspire others and all is too good. This little book of Wisdom (as I would like to call it) has increased his respect in my eyes by leaps and bounds. The book never gets preachy and looks like he is venting out his own personal feelings on all the subjects in a the most subtle ways. After reading this I am so much inclined to read his other works but unfortunately he has only three books to his credit including this one.

I will definitely try to get the other two and read them shortly. Also, I am going to keep this with me and have my kiddo read it once she grows to the level of the book. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Quidditch Through The Ages - J K Rowling (Book)

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Quidditch Through The Ages - J K Rowling

Earlier when I had not read any Harry Potter book, I used to think what is so special about this series that the fans go crazy with every new book on the same but now after the Harry Potter bug has bitten me - I believe its other way round and I am simply unable to let go of any book with any reference to him :). This is almost the last book that I could get with reference to HP and right from the very start it was able to put a big big smile on my face. Especially the intelligent and humorous way JK Rowling has conceptualized this one, with a note of warning from Irma Pince (The Hogwarts Librarian), The Library Card attached to it with the names and dates of who else has read the book when, its hilarious to read those known names. And the cherry on top is the Foreword written by none other then Albus Dumbledore himself. Even the little reviews and praises for the book at the very start are laugh out loud stuff when you read those names, the best being the one from Rita Skeeter, Daily Prophet, had me in splits, if you have read the earlier books you would precisely know what I mean. This book is a superb example of - How thoughtful and creative one can get. Hats off to Madam Rowling for superb thinking and crediting the book to someone else making more sense to the series its dedicated to.

This is one game I guess invented by J K Rowling as part of her book series to be played by the students of Hogwarts (The School of Magic) and world over magicians. If you have read the book you already know a lot about the game but if you have only seen the movies - it is hardly shown in a part of two that too for a very brief duration not at all satisfying the audience (specially the readers). Now this book does the full justice to the game in great details (Hilarious to the core) I must say and its references world over (the magical world of-course) is too good. It actually makes one believe the existence of the same too, specially the facts, figures, records, incidences and all recorded in the book, the wildest imagination of the Author, simply unbelievable. How the game got incepted, started and came in limelight in due course of time is simply superb description. That too when they are able to hide it from the eyes of muggle world (us the normal people), they even have Quidditch World Cups (every four years) and at times one game could last as lont as six months too in case there is no clear winner - just imagine. People getting killed, injured, even falling in love and proposing marriages by the time a game ends (it could be hours, days, weeks or even months - you see). Hilarious and beautiful I must say.

Quidditch in Asia or India is not a grand success because we Asians believe more in Flying Carpets then the Broomsticks - LOL. I am glad that we still show up in the book at least ;). 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Angels & Demons - Dan Brown (Book)


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Angels & Demons - Dan Brown

As I said in my earlier reviews of Dan Brown's books, I am totally bowled over by what he offers his readers in terms of knowledge of Historical Monuments, Hidden Secrets, Latest Technology, Philosophy as well as Spirituality. And I am sure this is one of his best works so far (If not the ultimate as I am yet to read "The Da Vinci Code") as all of his other books I have read already and they do not come any closure to this one in any aspect. Although the character of Robert Landon is more lovable in some of them but this one takes the cake for its sheer brilliance in explaining the Vatican City and its Architecture, so much that I am now very keen to visit the same once in my life time (I have no idea if they allow Non Christians any closure to their churches). Mind-blowing are the details and the pace is simply brilliant, its like traveling on a freight trains engine at full speed with no signals. Of-course a typical Dan Brown book - it all happens in the due course of 24 hrs or a little more in this case and the reader gets no time to put the book down and relax. Oh! and before I forget - this became the first DB book that indeed made me breathless and moist eyed at one point of time - I guess that will be an achievement for a thriller like this, if you have read the book - it was the chapter where they open the Pope's Sarcophagus to confirm how he died, breathtaking.

Robert Langdon - The Professor of Arts and History specializing in Symbology (I love his character) is having a relaxed day till he gets a call and picked up by a Vatican pilot. Vatican needs him as the current Pope is dead, while they go through new Pope's election, someone has planted a bomb as powerful as a Nuclear bomb somewhere inside the city - of-course location unknown. They are under threat that the top four cardinals (one of them is going to be the next Pope) will be killed one every hour. Vatican's old enemy "The Illuminati" (400 year old brotherhood) is up again to destroy the religion as they believe in Science and The Church doesn't. Its a cat and mouse chase game between Illuminati and Church with a superb parallel track of the scientist who invented the new "Antimatter" which will destroy everything in the blink of an eye if not contained. How Robert saves the Vatican with the help of a few he can trust accompanied by the Gorgeous Daughter of the Scientist who knows whats inside the container (Its actually her invention). The book has so much of going on at a break neck speed in such a convincing and eye opening way that you simply cant not love it.

I simply love the way Brown explains the history, arts, architecture, codes behind the simplest of things via Robert, its simply amazing and quite convincing. Hats off to his research team and himself the way they make it simpler for us lesser mortals to go through and still get the point. I really sometimes wonder what are the expectations of people criticizing his work? Do they actually know more then Brown about the things he is talking in his books? or do they expect more - I seriously fail to understand and believe no one can better his works the way they are written. He is definitely got a big fan in me I am sure of that. Because right when I thought I was getting it and could predict the out come - it goes totally in the opposite direction, thats the beauty of his books (so far).

Movie Adaptation: One Word "Crap". Stay away from it, Why I watched it? Just for the Architecture - its Brilliant visually but otherwise a very big disappointment, characters are lousy barring Robert, unnecessary changes, so much left out from the book and misses the best part Vittoria the gorgeous female lead is not even 1/10th of the character written in the book. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Tales of Beedle The Bard - J K Rowling (Book)

91/100 of #100bookpact
The Tales of Beedle The Bard - J K Rowling
I simply love reading the "Reference" books, even at school once I was done with my course books - I will be picking up the reference book for further reading and that is one habit which is hard to let go. I usually end up reading the books that the characters read in a particular story that I have just finished just because I will be curious to know what they were reading :). If you have read the Harry Potter books (and loved them too like me) Hermione gets this book from Dumbledore after his death when his "Will" is read that he left it for her. How that book helps them uncover a lot of secrets and answers the questions raised in the last book of the series is this all about. I believe that was a good enough reason for me to get this one and as told earlier - it is a magical children's story book so It could be quite interesting for us muggles - if you know what I mean :). Every story is followed by a comment from Dumbledore himself - now how funny is that.
Each story may just be a normal one for kids with a lesson in the end as it usually is but the fierce commentary by Dumbledore and explanations given are too good and throw so much more light on the original book series and the turns and twists there in. I was shocked, surprised and Delighted too to see so many characters and names being used in this little book which actually tells the readers the stories behind the differences of Wizards (of Hogwarts) and Death Eaters (followers of Voldemort). Also, in this book and the stories that it has, JK Rowling is actually hinting on what she might be writing with so many references thrown in good comical sense throughout the story(s) in Dumbledore's comments.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - J K Rowling (Book)

90/100 of #100bookpact
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - J K Rowling
After reading and loving the Harry Potter series back to back (last month), I was looking to read some more on Harry and his world and came across this amazing book (loved the idea and concept) which I believe is already made into a movie (inspired) to be released next week. I totally loved the idea and concept of this book - the way it is thought and conceptualized that its going to any Harry Potter reader and lover alike. If you have read the books you would know that this book has a lot of mention out there as a "Text Book", now imagine reading the same book written by the same writer as mentioned in the story (Newt Scamander) with a Foreword by none other then "Albus Dumbledore" - Bingo!! Who would miss it? Also, it is written and printed as if this was actually the book that Harry used at Hogwarts, with his personal notes, jokes and what not written all over it, around the margins in his own writing (remember how we use to scribble on our own books). Even Ron and Hermione too has a say in it as they too have written some notes in their own handwriting in the book - totally hilarious things. And on top of that - a major chunk of the revenues generated by this book go to a charity followed by J K Rowling for various good causes. WOW! What a brilliant idea and what a superb execution.
Although it cant be called a book but can be considered a sidey joke book on Magical Creatures from the Harry Potter's world. I wonder how they could make a movie on it? As there is no story but just explanations (detailed and hilarious) that too funnily in alphabetical order. Hats off to her imagination that she actually end up making a glossary of all the magical creatures used in the book series. I wonder how much creative one can get and JK Rowling is one of those few examples of being Super Solid Creative writer with wildest imagination - I will say. And I mostly end up liking those books including this one - when they successfully put a smile on my face, this indeed does by the time it ends.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deception Point - Dan Brown (Book)


89/100 of #100bookpact

Deception Point - Dan Brown

OK! So I am in love with Dan Brown after reading his latest (which didn't impress his fans) and first (which wasn't great as per me) still both worked for me as they are way better then his counterparts are churning out. And I must say what a perfect timing to read this one as it talks about "How the Presidents are made in USA" by hook or crook, money or deception etc and shockingly as Donald Trump became the President against all speculations as I finish the book. The whole book (A majority of it) is a thrilling drama which unfolds in the course of a little more then 24 hrs only - a typical Dan Brown stuff if  you ask me. Acting President is about to lose the upcoming elections by a huge margin to his predecessor who is against the US funding of NASA which goes down the drain as per him. Right when he is about to prove the point and register a landslide victory in coming elections - NASA discovers life forms from the extraterrestrial world - what perfect timing to save the President and get him re-elected on a NASA ticket. But the question remains - can that be a true discovery? or is it a cover up only for someone's personal motto. With a handful of Private Scientists and explorers on lose behind the secret and all kinds of agencies supporting one or the other - its a cat and mouse chase game.

What I love about his writing is that he writes in small chapters with at-least two to three parallel tracks which keeps the reader hanging. Pace is as always terrific heading towards a superb climax with so much going on all around. The book has everything, from racy pace to the Protagonist traveling in a F14 to Ellsmere Island (Extreme Northern point of Canada), journey inside the white house (as usual), proof of extraterrestrial life, even a Sex scandal of a Senator - the President to be, Delta Force removing unnecessary evidences against the acting President (not much but I loved the Delta Force part). Both the leading ladies of the story are too good - guess my loyalty kept shifting towards both of them (of course one after another). Rachel as Senator's daughter who works for the current President, about to uncover something which will never get him re-elected. Whereas Gabrielle as Senator's Campaign Manager is about to uncover something which may make him the next President. All in the course of one night -  with so many people dieing who shouldn't have in the first place the story keeps getting darker till you reach the very end. The race between the truths the two ladies are about to discover keeps getting better with each passing chapter and incident which makes it one heck of a read - I will say.

A good one time read and that makes me move to his other best works like "Angels and Demons" :) 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Conversations With God (Book 3) - Neale Donald Walsch (Book)


88/100 of #100bookpact
Conversations With God (Book 3) - Neale Donald Walsch
So, the Trilogy finally comes to an end, if you have read my earlier two reviews on Book 1 and Book 2 respectively, a couple of months back, this is the last of the series summing everything up in one final swipe. And what an amazing journey it had been - a totally new perspective to life, god, humans and what we think of it all. A lot of it is of-course debatable but no doubt - it isn't at all bad or hurt in anyways to know someone else's perspective or vision of god. I totally liked all the three books put together and they will always be a permanent part of my collection. As they are written - they should be read again and again to make more sense - if one believes or have any interest in Theosophy. As my parents follow it a big time - I too got hooked to a couple of writers referred by them and will definitely do a little bit more study on the subject with other writers.
Book 3 - talks about a lot of stuff left over in the first two books with one of the most important question right at the very start - as what happens to us when we die? Where do we go? what happens to our soul? is there a hell or a heaven that we go to? so on so forth. And a very interesting view point presented by the Author as he claims God was giving answers through his pen to all his queries, its quite convincing as I said - yet debatable big time. Mind-blowing is the way they (God and Author) talk about other worlds and universe's, life outside our solar system, where they have reached Technologically and Spiritually, how they are different, what is that they have learned and we haven't, Why are we sending our planet towards an end and hell lot of other worldly issues. Like I said - its all very debatable yet its written in quite a convincing way - it actually feels like the reader is writing the book as if these were really the questions I myself will ask God if given an opportunity. A lot of it indeed put a smile on my face with its accuracy and the responses are at times hilarious but mostly they become food for a serious thought. I would say a gist of all three books should be added to the course material as a part of our education in school, it will do wonder to the coming generation. As many books I read or the movies I watch - I am simply stunned to notice - they all send us in one direction but the problem is that we just don't notice and still fail to work towards them. As of yet it comes true - it may all change in future - if you know what I mean.
This trilogy is highly recommended like I said earlier and a must read for all.

Friday, November 04, 2016

A Walk To Remember - Nicholas Sparks (Book)

87/100 of #100bookpact
A Walk To Remember - Nicholas Sparks
My weakness or you can say my strength for that matter lies in my habit of reading from the very first page to the very last. I usually read the Foreword, Introduction, Comments and Back cover comments AFTER I finish the book, that ways it keeps me glued to the book as I do not know what to expect. Also at times (and a lot of it) I go all the way to get all the books from the same writer and read them in the order he / she wrote it, I really like it that way as it helps not only in knowing what and how he / she has progressed from one book to another and if there is a pattern in their writing. Nicholas Spark's books fall in the same category as a very dear friend sent me a couple of his books from somewhere midways his career and I totally loved them (The Choice, The Notebook and Message in a bottle) and I was totally hooked to his writing. Hence decided to start from the very start and picked up his first book this time.
A very straight forward love story of two totally opposite teenagers told in a most simplest way, although its totally predictable right from the very start. I could actually assume the whole story how its going to go forward and even the unusual breakup or say ending still it works big time. Landon Carter is a rich kid, son of a Congressman, with his own set of rowdy friends and their adventurers in the neighborhood of Beaufort, North Carolina. Jamie Sullivan is a very religious straight forward no fuss girl, daughter of a Minister (Priest), mother died in child birth, she is almost a nobody in school, although the whole town loves her as she is the one who always moves with a bible in hand. You see they have no connection in common except the school they go to (being classmates). How their paths cross, how they fall in love and everything that happens during this particular year is the rest of the story told in a flashback by Landon as he turns 57 years old. How that one year changed his life forever makes up for a superb story which he promises at the very start that its going to give us smiles as well as tears and it indeed does leaves a smile on my face with a lump in my throat. Only grudge I had with this one was - it was too predictable but nevertheless a good one time read.
A book which can be read in one sitting if you have couple of hours to spend.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Asimov On Numbers - Isaac Asimov (Book)


86/100 of #100bookpact
Asimov On Numbers - Isaac Asimov
Some of my very close and naughty friends keep throwing me these challenging books to read. The last I remembered that I struggled big time with were the Ayn Rand books (Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) and I loved them totally, Although John Galt's speech was something that I will never forget in my life (its quite challenging to read full) but I loved it so much that a line from the book became my permanent bumper sticker. So, a very dear friend like that sent me a couple of books of the same kind - specially the one that I am talking about right now is based on Numbers - Roman, Greek, Babylonian Mathematical numbers, written of-course by Isaac Asimov. He was a Russian American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer, and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards, Just imagine. Reading this book took me 25 years back in time to my mathematics classroom but it is written in such a way that I really wondered why our teachers couldn't use the same technique of explaining the numbers the way he does as it made so much sense to me (a layman with no specific mathematical background), it is even interesting to read as an independent book if you have any interest in History of anything, specially the numbers and how the evolved in due course of time. 

This is basically a collection of essays that he has written between 1959 to 1966, he himself keeps them editing them with correct footnotes. Asimov hasn't only made it all look so simple to a layman in easy terms but even pointed out the mistakes done by primitive people in calculating and the price for the same that we pay today. Plus on top of that in between his theory and explanations he has written the briefs on different personalities of olden era as well the evolution of computer and other devices in between the chapters to make it more visual friendly with pictures and details. His comments on them are hilarious and so real time. He calls mathematics a "She" and when he is not able to solve a problem he calls her as if she is not interested in him :). Some of his findings are simple yet mind-blowing, I was shocked with my zero knowledge of the subject yet it was so simple to understand (his way). Mind-blowing is the way he decodes some hugest huge mathematical calculations and claims that he doesn't wants to go insane by going further deeper in them as if he can, also the way he credits and dedicates a page on each of the great Mathematician that he mentions in his articles, that way enhancing the readers knowledge of some of the greatest from the field from the past. Superb Unbelievably Awesome. 

The book had so many instances when I had to actually read the sentence twice or at times more then that to get it but what made it more interesting was that after sometime it started making a lot of sense, specially with real time examples like calculating the length of surface of earth in two different ways - the findings had a difference of 11 feet :) how? it was hilarious but negligible in mathematical world. Some fractions with endless results were so much fun that I am actually going to use with my daughter now ie. 1/7 - if you solve it - you will get a damn good result - try it :) and so many instances like that. I could never imagine Mathematics could be so interesting or can be told in such a nice understanding way - I wish our Mathematics teachers take a clue from books like these and make it this way - there will be no students going to Commerce or Arts classes in that case. It covers everything and anything on Planet earth with which he could make a numbered reference like the quantity of water on the planet, fresh water or salt, area of entire planet, population, density and what not. All in all it was a perfect read with so much thrown in mere 300 pages that I am inclined to read couple of more works. I guess he did write some books on Literary figures and on their writings too, guess that is going to make some real interesting readings. 

This Book is highly recommended to all those with Engineering and Mathematical degrees who may or may not be using the good use of their degrees as of now ;) - read this - you will love it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Book)


85/100 of #100bookpact
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
As you can see with the list of the books I have read this year, I can claim I have read a lot :) hence decided to move on to my next target of reading the heavier as well as a little critical stuff from some well known writers and this one - fortunately falls in that series as the first book that I got from a very close friend - highly recommended. Fortunately not so long ago I had read one of his books (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) liked it too and it became one of those few books which I am sure I will never be able to forget specially for the stunningly gruesome account of killing it portrayed. So, basically had a little idea what to expect from this one but I wasn't prepared in reality for what I got, Mind-blowing stuff. Usually a book of 400+ pages I will easily wrap it in around 3-4 days but guess what - this took me close to 8 days, started on a Sunday and finished it late last night (Sunday). It is actually indeed very heavy stuff (at least from my fresher standards) and I couldn't grasp what he was throwing at me with a furious pace. No doubt, the details were mind-blowing (at times mind-fuck too), I am sure you will agree with the choice of words - if you have read this book. He is one of the most respected writer / personality from Columbia and a Nobel Prize Winner in Literature - If you need to know more about him, the search ends right there with that. 
I am sure Gabriel Garcia Marquez knew right when he started the book that its not going to be a easily tracked story for all the readers hence right at the very start he helps us with the family tree of Aureliano's initial generations as whose who that we are reading about. The entire book covers a little more then 100 years in the life and times of Aureliano's Seven generations in a fictitious place called Macondo which is assumed to be Columbia and a place around 100 miles north of the Carribean where the life and people are yet to reach. It is indeed a visual treat if you are in for the imagination - I totally loved the details told in the story and writers imagination. As the first generation starts living there (wild guess - around 1860's), imagine to send a regular mail they have to travel 15 days in an unknown direction where the mailman comes once a month. The story by the time it comes to an end - shows us the arrival of railroad in the town as well as the making of an Airport (Almost). What happens in between with the seven generation of Aureliano's and the 300 people who make the town of Macondo with the arrival of José Arcadio Buendía and his wife Úrsula Iguarán who happens to be his first cousin. How the family grows, after multiple relations with the well endowed men of Aureliano's generations, there comes a time when they make their own personal army of sorts. 
The way the life, their house (which becomes a mansion later) and the town changes with time is the most stunningly written details and descriptions I had ever read or imagined in a book. Although no denying that with that number of people and similar names (as almost all the guys are one or the other Aureliano) it was tough to keep a track of them all. My Favorite Four characters in no particular order will always remain the second Son Colonel Aureliano Buendía, the bravest man in the history of the Town (Country not sure), his life and story is one heck of a story. He turns out to be not only a Warrior but a very good poet too. During the wars Colonel Buendia fathered 17 sons by unknown women and all were named Aureliano :). How his wife Ursula keeps up with his nuances and his own end of the story is heartening account but I totally loved it. Second Favorite Character was Remedios the Beauty who happens to be Colonel's Grand Sons Daughter (you see you need to keep a track), the most beautiful women to have ever been born in Macondo and how many innocent people die because of her is a hilarious account. What happens to her in the end, I could never imagine in my wildest fantasies - too good to be true, totally amazing stuff. 
Third was Amaranta Úrsula, the Great Great Grand Daughter of the first generation José Arcadio Buendía. She is the only one from the entire generations to be the first one to go out of the town and country for her studies, gets married but returns back to have an affair with her own Nephew, have a son with him who happens to be the last of the line from Buendia family. The gory details of their affair and love making were simply mind-blowing and fall in the never ever read earlier category. But no doubt she comes back as a refreshing character bringing some respite for the readers if not for her own family who is already in ruins. And last but not the least - Fourth Favorite was an outsider from the family "Melquiades" the mysterious character who returns from his own death, does some superb inventions, writes his own prophecies - how true they come is something you've got to read the book to know. His presence all the time in the family house and mystery behind his room was something which kept me hooked throughout and the end was superb totally unpredictable. Even other then these four characters there are more then two dozen more characters with amazing presence and stories behind them, still these four outshine all the others for me and I am going to remember them for a long long time. 
Also, I am going to take a break from his other works for a while before picking them up. But what the heck - just cant miss his other works for sure. What an amazingly engaging writer and am glad my friend sent me this book.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Zahir - Paulo Coelho (Book)


84/100 of #100bookpact The Zahir - Paulo Coelho This is the third book from Paulo that I have read in the last 15 days or less and I must say that I totally love his flow of words and treatment of stories interwoven with real life. This one definitely is his own partial Autobiography of sorts where he has taken a chapter out of his own married life and put it as a back, his little more then two year long separation from his wife when she leaves him with no clue where she is going and what she is going to do. He also gets arrested briefly at the very start but later let go as they get no proof of any crime done by him (hilarious episode and loved his sense of humor). What is more inspiring in this book or any of his other works is simplicity and the way he just writes what comes to his mind in the form of a book and confesses too that - thats all he could do and it works for him and others too. Credits his wife for making him a writer as he himself wasn't sure if its the right thing to do or not, she actually gets him a typewriter / computer and he starts fulfilling his own dream. He says why he wrote / writes is to clear his mind off whatever coming into it so he can sleep peacefully :) now how inspiring it is for a budding writer - who gets a big clue as what to write on and where to go from there.
This starts after they have been married for close to ten years when the things start going south, static routine life, no change, they start taking each other for granted and finally his wife walks out without leaving any clue behind where she is going, why and with whom. How he gets the idea where she has gone and his subsequent journey of getting to find her or may be convince her back into his life is what this book covers mostly, a journey of around a little more then 2 years and a couple of months. If you like his books and like him as a writer - this one is a must must read as it gives a great insight on the man Paulo Coelho is, a terrific personal account of his own life and how he does things, what he thinks, his insecurities, passion and what not. I totally loved it. Hats off to the writer in him too as this one keeps the reader in a dilemma and sort of suspense too till the very end as how and what is going to happen at the end of the day. Close to 200 pages and a breeze to read, this one again is a book where the reader keeps asking for more by the time it ends. Also, I loved the way he talks about his other books in here narrating the story as that tells me what am I going to read next :), you see I told you - he is smart. 

Paulo Coelho I must say is one of those very few writers that makes every reader feel how the heck he knows what am I thinking? As he actually has written exactly what was going through my mind while reading it. If you have read this - you will know what I am talking and if you haven't - I guess its high-time you get a copy and read it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept - Paulo Coelho (Book)


83/100 of #100bookpact By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept - Paulo Coelho The best thing about a Paulo Coelho book is that they deserve multiple readings and every-time you read one of his books, they make more sense then they made it the last time. I am sure this isn't the first time I picked up this one as it did feel "been there done that" throughout the story but still made a lot of sense. Another fantastic philosophical or theosophical or spiritual read you can call it, told in the simple manner of a love story or the journey of two lovers but I guess how it ends is he has already given away by the title. Story of two school time friends, who grew up together in Soria (a city in north-central Spain), the guy goes away, they keep in touch through letters, finally he comes back after 12 years and the story moves as they go through a journey and spend some days traveling together. More details on what he did during their separation, how and why he became a spiritual healer, what all he has learned, lost, found etc. Now the big questions was - whether she and her love is going to hold him back from his duties that he thinks he is here for? Is she going to sacrifice the love of her life who she has found after so long finally to fulfill her dream of living with him the house on a hill? One of the most beautiful love stories as it progresses, I have ever read so far. What an amazing week they had together, learn so may new things about each other even after knowing everything else for so many years. The concept of God being a female, although nothing new for us but I guess its a big thing when it comes from Catholics because they don't believe in God being a woman. This is another little book of wisdom which needs to be read again and again to grasp its whole meaning. To tough to make any sense in just one read - I am sure of that and will keep it in my collection for re-reads. I am not surprised why almost every alternate book that I read talks more or less about our purpose on this planet and they all talk about the same stuff, Live life, be happy, spread happiness, live in today, dream and make them possible, experience life thats all there is to do, no other thing. But still we don't get it and get back to our nine to five lives.