Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tiger In You - Shiraz Mukherjee (Book)

75/100 of #100bookpact Tiger In You - Shiraz Mukherjee How frequently this can happen with anyone that you actually get aquainted with a writer first, get the book next, end up reading it, reviewing it on the same group on Facebook where you got introduced and may be get a copy of the book signed by the writer? Pin point a few points to be rectified in next publication. Or discuss the characters at length to know them a bit better or get your questions answered. This is the second instance of the same thing that has happened with me in last couple of years and all thanks to our "Bookoholics" group, its Admin and members for the same. I am a little biased (in good ways) towards the Bengali community as well as writers and movie makers as am totally totally inspired and in love with Satyajit Ray and the likes - If I ever visit Calcutta ever in my life - there are so many places that I would love to visit that it will take me weeks to cover it all. As soon as the Calcutta is mentioned - what come to one's mind? Hawra Bridge, Royal Bengal Tiger, The Sunderbans, Sweet Language Bengali (love the way its spoken and its use in the book), Football and a host of other things - this book has them all. Its a story of five college friends from Mumbai on a week long vacation to the "Sunderbans" in search of the Royal Bengal Tiger. Do they get to see the Tiger face to face? The famous Man - Eater, what they go through turns out to be an adventurous roller coaster sort of trip which changes their life and their outlook towards life - big time. Three guys and two girl (one of them a foreigner) - they have their own band and all of them specialize in one or the other instrument. Their adventure starts right the moment they step out of the railway station in Calcutta and there is no looking back. It was hilarious as how they reach their destination and kind of a true story too in our part of the world which is actually still like the way its depicted in the book - I have no doubts on that. Their guide in the Sunderban journey turns to be an American X Army who himself was taking a sabbatical from the world he belonged to do something better in life and get some peace, even he has his own story to tell too. How it all turns out for them makes up for the rest of the story told in a chilling manner by the debut-ant writer. How they get involved with the locals, their plight, the tough life out there in the jungle, their struggle and what not with so much thrown in - it makes up for a very fast read and a story well told.
I will not be shocked if this becomes another "Slumdog Millionaire" in future and it may start that debate of showing India yet again in poor light but I guess thats how it still is so point debating it other way round. It did keep me thinking but then its a work of fiction isn't it? so we can give that much freedom to the story teller although its not fully convincing as at times it indeed felt that everything they were doing was such a cake walk for them but then they do face their own struggle and guess thats what the "Tiger In You" is all about. They may not come face to face with the Tiger they went there to see but would they be able to wake up the "Tiger in Them" is the big questions. I for one would definitely look forward to his other upcoming works in the near future as this is too good if you compare it with other trashy novels churned out by so many other Indian writers in the name of "Thrillers" that don't even deserve a review or recommendation. This definitely is a thumbs up from me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix - J K Rowling (Book)

74/100 of #100bookpact Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix - J K Rowling. Fifth of the series and unbelievably the standard still keeps going up unlike my friends - who told me that the fourth one was the best of the series - I even loved this one (of-course a bit better then 4th) too for sure. Although it has a little lackluster start as she takes her own sweet time in giving a review of things they have done so far (I like that in parts though). As usual with other Harry Potter books - even this one too takes the story couple of steps forward and backward too, giving the readers a glimpses of the past - it is super awesome narration coming up close and personal with Harry's dad and his friends. Once the story goes full throttle there is actually no looking back but the ending where one is kept asking for more waiting for another part. Unfortunately none of my three favorite characters had much scope in this one - Voldemort after superb entry in previous part that too in the very end is still growing and getting more powerful. Dumbledore is now absconding from the scene totally leaving it all on kids to tackle (total suspense what is he up-to now). Snape is still negative although helping Harry now - I really big time want to know his character well now - So much love him - hope he is put to right use in upcoming parts. Ministry of Magic is controlling the Hogwarts and what they go through takes me back in time to my own schooling days especially the histrionics of Weasley's. Another loads of new characters - some irritating like the new Head Mistress - I wanted to dive in the book and do what not to her for irritating the kids if only I knew a bit of a magic and had a wand like Harry. Some lovable characters too like the new Giant and the new "Astronomy Teacher", return of the Hagrid and gone again. Dumbledore's Army and the people behind the "Order of Phoenix" their headquarter etc. This again has so much going at such a great pace that I am totally astounded by Rowling's amazing imagination. Finally, one more good thing that I noticed, cherished, loved in this one that Love Story of Harry Potter is now coming on right track - midways into the book I was actually thinking whether he will get kissed by a Dementor (The Soul Suckers) or a girl first. Less of Quidditch in this one that I sorely missed for sure. His God-Father Sirius Black (Sigh!) finally gets some footage, his story is told, whenever he gets mentioned in the book - the image of Gary Oldman (as in the movie) floats in air in front of me, I hoped he got a one O one with Voldemort at least once. Length of the book is so much that it almost took me a whole week to finish but at this point of time I will say "the longer the better" I so much want it to never end but I can see the end of the tunnel already.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - J K Rowling (Book)

73/100 of #100bookpact Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire - J K Rowling
Fourth book of the series and I guess the size starts going bigger now as its around 750+ pages - still a breeze. Harry is now a grown up teenager with more responsibilities on his shoulder then he can take it - inter school competition to win something like a triathlon (which covers a major part of the book), develops his first crush (thats so sweetly written), Ron and Hermione at their fighting best, but guess whats the biggest exciting thing in this one which was missing in the earlier books? Yeah! Lord Voldemort is back and he is back big time with vengeance, although a little powerless but is definitely capable of turning things with the help of his associates. This one had the best of starts so far from the series as per me as it had me engrossed right from the very chapter to the very end expecting the unexpected and how it turns out to be is totally amazing stuff. Finally we get to witness the Quidditch World Cup which was long awaited - unbelievable narration - I could actually see everything happening in front of my eyes - the way it was written. Another load(s) of new characters are introduced in this part with some coming back for guest appearance from previous parts (I love Sirius Black - the prisoner of Azkaban). Also, this is one of those books which sent me racing past the page I was reading - it is indeed so thrilling that I wanted to know what was happening and how it all ends - so much so that while I was reading the top left page - my eyes will automatically travel to lower right part to read the outcome first :), If you know what I mean. The way this one ends I can only imagine how the next one is going to start and take the story forward. Finally it gives the reader a glimpse of what to expect in coming books. At this stage I really wonder what if I had to wait for the next part for 6 months or a year as readers used to do while she was writing the next part - Unbelievable excruciatingly painful it would be. Guess I don't need to go through that as I can very well pick up the next of the series as its already with me right after I watch the movie on this one tomorrow. But I am doubly sure here onwards they will start screwing it up in the movies - although cant resist them but have no expectations now on.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Stories By Tagore - Rabindranath Tagore (Book)

72/100 of #100bookpact Stories By Tagore - Rabindranath Tagore
My first book on Kindle - since "Uncle Sam" was coming from US of A and I could think of nothing better to ask him to get for me. Wanted to make my first read a special one and didn't take me long what to get from Amazon (that too free) and instantly got this one and couple of other classic books. Tagore's writing (translated in English by his Daughter) took me back to my school days with the very first story of "Kabuliwallah" - who hasn't read this one and not get touched by its simplicity, totally loved it yet again after so many years. It is indeed a chapter of my Kiddo's 5th standard course-book. Followed by couple of his other short stories which were equally amazing if not better then this one. What I liked about his book is - it is very straight forward story telling, to the point, superb narrative, rich use of words and kept me reminding so much of Dickens (Don't know why). Although almost all of his stories came to an abrupt end, some ended on a very open note, some (majority) had sad endings too. My Favorite amongst these will be Kabuliwallah for sure, followed by heart touching story of the little girl (The Postmaster) and definitely "The Babus of Nayanjore" - they were simply wow, also the longest of the lot. The book even contains his personal notes on stories as well as meaning for some difficult terms as a glossary in the end of each story - making it even better to understand.
I guess this is one of my own first readings of Tagore and I will be looking forward to some of his other works too now. Need to find out who were the authentic translators for him as lot of his works (I believe most) would be translated from Bangla to English.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dying To Be Me - Anita Moorjani (Book)

71/100 of #100bookpact Dying To Be Me - Anita Moorjani
My dad got this book as a part of his Theosophical reads and I had to read it because of its intriguing title and story associated with it. Based on the near death experience of Anita Moorjani herself - who got detected of Cancer in 2004, fought for four years, Almost died in the end, was in Coma for a day followed by her Miraculous out of body experience, healing and complete recovery. She lived to tell her experience which finally came out in the form of a book. This is one book which we may believe it or not but happens to be a true story as everything mentioned in the book is a part of Near Death Experience (NDE) is part of an ongoing research going on right now to find a cure for the dreaded disease. Her theory is totally something new that I ever read in relation to the disease, reasons, symptoms and her belief on the recovery is I guess hard to believe but cannot be discarded either. Unfortunately we too have seen at least half a dozen deaths in our own immediate family and friend circle in the last two years by one or the other form of Cancer. It was quite an enlightening book on the subject (I guess that's why my Dad got it in the first place) and I actually found and liked the content. She mostly stresses in the entire narration of her own story to be ourselves, just be happy and cheerful for being here, experience life as it comes, no targets, no big time ambitions, she isn't telling us to retire mountains although but is very clear in setting up the expectations from oneself to be happy and content in life then running after something which we cant achieve and leading to sadness and more stress leading to further bad outcomes in the form of diseases. It definitely worked as a wonderful little book of self help for me as most of its content, experience, belief is what I had read earlier (in other words of various philosophers) making my pact stronger that we humans are yet to find our purpose on this planet :). I am sure people's approach towards life is definitely changing and it will change big time in the very near future - people like Anita Moorjani are doing the right thing of enlightening more of us lesser mortals to go in the right direction if only we just listen to them, but it is highly debatable too and can be countered very easily. Nevertheless its a fundoo read if you are interested in the subject, I will definitely rate it 3/5 and recommend it too. Its a breeze as even in size its hardly 200 pages long.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (Book)

70/100 of #100bookpact Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban Third book of the series and I must say that this is one series where the book in hand feels like better then the previous :) - the way the story grows on the reader is simply amazing (hope it continues till the end). Since I am almost a decade late (if we calculate from the very start) its a little sad that why I didnt pick these works earlier even after so much coaxing from my friends, good that I did it in the end and again I feel like reviewing these books - one can definitely write a book on them. As so much happens in a book that mere one sentence on each character will make it too lengthy to be read by someone who haven't read the books yet. Also, Ms Rowling keeps introducing new (more amazing) characters at break-neck speed too. Harry's third year at Hogwarts the school of magic with his friends and a little more details about his parents death, reason, people involved etc etc is covered in this one. I would say this was definitely better then the previous two books for one the kids are growing and two - it was able to invoke almost all the emotions in me - smiling ear to ear on Harry's nuances to choking and finally making my eyes go all wet with a smile on the face (I love that when a book or a movie does it to me), although my wife calls me an emotional fool but I am glad that she sits with me watching the movies as soon as I finish the book. Now the sad part - its heartbreaking for me to see my most favorite character from the series (You Know Who) makes no entry in the entire book and Second favorite character (Prof Snape) is still in negative role - I so much wish that he becomes friendly with Harry as the story progresses - I am even planning to keep my hair like him :). For those who haven't read the books but have seen the movies - you have no idea what you are missing as movie makers definitely take their own liberty in chopping the characters or scenes or may be even change the narrative a bit here and there to make the visuals more interesting and short (3 hours again) but if someone has read the book - its just simply amazing to see them all live. Its a must must read book (Individually too) as well as the series and cannot be missed (anymore) by anyone. As I dash into the fourth of the series - I am actually looking forward to someone's review on the third book as it was released and the fourth was awaited, do let me know if you reviewed it then and have saved it somewhere.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets - J K Rowling (Book)

69/100 of #100bookpact Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets - J K Rowling Second book of the series and it is for sure better than the first one - more gripping, detailed, takes the reader deeper into the mysterious world of Wizards and Witches. Hilarious is the start of the book and fantastic is the way his friends let him escape from his terrible life yet again with the muggle family (Dursley's) back home especially the Flying Car. Harry Potter and his friends have now grown a little bit in this one with more knowledge of various tricks from the trade, more newer and wonderful characters are introduced in this one which takes the story one step forward but still "The Villain Voldemort" doesn't make a grand (read detailed) entry yet - still I was actually kept asking for more. This one tells us a little bit more about his dark past, the making of Voldemort and other dark secrets. Seriously books have changed my perception of Harry and his world in totality and thats for good. Movies may be visually more strong then the books but they aren't detailed as how much you can wrap up in mere three hours at the most. There were so many things that they had to skip in the movie in comparison with the book that one would end up loving the book definitely more. And as usual the very smart writer makes this one end right at a moment when one is looking forward to so much more that needs to be covered in the next part. I now very well know how the readers kept waiting for years to read the next part when it was all being written and released as I can definitely pick up the next part tomorrow as its already there in my book rack and thats precisely what I am going to do. One more thing that I noticed in the second book is that - it is written in such a smart way that just in case someone hasn't read the first one - it doesn't make a difference as this covers the most of it in the initial couple of chapters before taking the story forward. But if someone is reading all the books back to back - its kind of an irritant. But this things makes all of these books a good individual books.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Motorcycle Diaries - Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Book)

68/100 of #100bookpact The Motorcycle Diaries - Ernesto "Che" Guevara
This happens to be the travel diary of Ernesto "Che" Guevara - one of the most renowned, loved, acclaimed, inspiring and respected leaders of the 20th Century. Written between December 1951 to July 1952, while he traveled almost the entire Latin America (South America) with one of his close friend Alberto Granado on their rickety bike (a Norton 500cc Motorcycle), which failed almost midways but they continue their journey and finish it in close to 7 months with what amazing learning which becomes a lesson in itself for the future generations. He was almost a nobody when they did this, without any support from anywhere, with no money in their pockets and no one to look forward to. How they did it is one hell of an account told in his own words through this little diary, which now is one of my favorite books and I am sure to read it couple of more times as it isn't enough just to read it once. Imagine a journey like that that too on an unreliable two wheeler in the 50's when there were no roads by 24 something college graduates (they didn't even finish their medical school by the time they started). Suffering from Asthma himself, he had to almost Beg, Buy, Borrow, Gamble his way to the entire journey. It is a very touching, heart warming account of their travel, told in the most heartwarming hilarious ways, I am sure no professional writer can come any closer to his account which is such a breeze to read that it feels as if he is telling you all that in person and not that you are reading a book on it. His love of Football and how it bails them out more then a couple of times. The mysterious drink "Mate' that they make and enjoy to no end, his views on Arts, Movies and Cultures that he comes across during his journey are too direct and show you his "care a damn" attitude that I totally loved.
It is one of the most original writings I would say and I am shocked by his Humanness, no doubt he is considered one of the greatest men to have existed in the history of mankind for so much he did for Leprosy patients. Being a doctor himself it is actually amazing to read his account. The way they met and handled the patients wherever they met irrespective of their own country and as he mentions that he didn't mind taking off the overalls, hand gloves and all before touching and shaking hands with the patients - imagine doing that in those days where it was considered a dreaded disease. Hilarious and Inspiring at the same time are his accounts of travel - I guess I loved the entire book and its just impossible not to love anything from it. Before I forget - one of the most hilarious part of the journey was when he and Alberto make their own little Raft which he calls a kind of "Contraption" and how it sends them to illegally to Brazil - totally ROFL stuff. It is indeed amazing to read how the locals come to their rescue almost all the time and bail them out one way or the other. But it is unbelievable to imagine someone doing all that almost 70 years ago. This was a sort of eye opener for them and I guess this is exactly what made him what he became at a later stage. At one point of time during one of his speeches in his journey he did mentions that he would live and love to see a "United Latin America" winning over the pain and the boundaries made by humans. Although he didn't live to see it happen or was able to do it as his own journey of life was too short lived. what an inspiring story and an amazing life. Guess, I need to look forward to his other works s I believe he did write some more after this one. It is a must read even otherwise for all who love travelogues - as I haven't read a better account anywhere of a cross country ride on two wheels.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone - J K Rowling (Book)

67/100 of #100bookpact Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone - J K Rowling
So, this was the one that started it all - initially when it came I always thought it was a children's book, never read although I did watch all the movies (I guess). One thing that I could never get (at that time) was - what was the craving for people to line up outside the book stores as soon as they launched the upcoming part? Now after reading the first part I actually realized as half the way I already picked up the second installment and before even I started it - am already on the lookout for the third book. If you have read these books earlier - I am sure you will agree with me that they are engrossing, lively, adventurous and too good to be true. Hats off to Ms. Rowling's imagination - we have a damn good series of books to get hooked up to. I am sure its going to take my whole month to finish them off back to back - unless something equally good pops in between.
The less said about the story or its amazing characters the better - I am totally in love with Albus Dumbledore, Lord Voldemort and Snape in that particular order. WOW! What character sketches - although in the first part Voldemort has hardly any presence but whatever short time he comes over - its chilling - am so much looking forward to the movie again now. Harry's struggling initial days with Dursley's gave me multiple lumps in my throat, admission in Hogwarts, new friends. learning and specially the game of Quidditch was a great change. How he copes with the new environment and the new challenges at Hogwarts was covered amazingly in the first book - all introductory I believe. Visually too it is too good to imagine the Hogwarts Castle, the ghosts, their classrooms, work done by owls, the great common hall where they collect everyday - it all actually takes one back in time to our own school days. And how can I not mention Harry on his broomstick that too a great branded one that everyone else is jealous of. Also the title very well justified and the ending was too good, again leaving it at a point where everyone looks forward to the next part big time - so do I as soon as I finish this and get my hands on the second one. If you haven't read Harry Potter series yet - its high time you started :) - not to be missed by anyone.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club - Charles Dickens (Book)

66/100 of #100bookpact The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club - Charles Dickens
Another Charles Dickens book which came very highly recommended by friends and I got one of the oldest copies I guess. And again - what an amazing book this one is - unbelievable that this was one of his very first works that too when he was hardly 24 years old. WOW! It is always simply fantastic the way he (rather they) dramatically details every little thing about the story with such superb rich English that it takes me couple of readings of the sentences to really make more sense and put a widest grin on my face. His books are actually like that last sip of a great cup of coffee that you know would be the best even after it gets cold, if you know what I mean. I love the dramatics, I love those crazy use of words that go into my vocabulary with a certain belief that I will never be using them ever in my life - I feel am not qualified enough to use them, howsoever much I love them.
The Book in question is written more like episodes as the Pickwickians go through their various adventures of their Pickwick club founded by Mr. Pickwick who happens to be the Hero of the story. Hilarious are their accounts of various trips - although I believe this one covers up only half a dozen of trips only. But Fantastic they are - quite a few of them are too good and will be remembered by me for quite a long time like the one where they chase a guy who has runaway with their friends sister to marry her, how they follow them, chase them and retrieve the girl is totally Hilarious. Also the episode of one of their club member Mr. Winkle's handling of Gun and Horses is another high time comical stuff. I loved the Duel part, the confusion and the final outcome was totally out of this world stuff - hats off to his imagination and simply superb narrative - had me in splits totally. Back of my mind I was imagining the visuals too the way he has explained the whole thing - too good. Its a must must read for all Dickens fans and a permanent part of anyone's collection. I will now look forward to its movie adaptation that too made way back in 1952, hope it is half as good as the book.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins (Book)

65/100 of #100bookpact The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins
Debut novel from the Author and what a fantastic book n story it turns out to be. I got it long back but had kept it in store as movie based on the book is about to release in September hence picked it up this weekend and because of the pace I had to finish it within 24 hours as told by friends who recommended it. A perfect weekend thriller - its so good and engrossing and written in a way that I had to go back the story to check on the dates the things were happening at a frantic pace. Three parallel tracks or I should call it versions as told by the three leading ladies of the book but of the same episode. How everything leads to where it goes is a fantastic way of writing it - although it takes time to realize whats happening but once the reader has picked up the pace there is no looking back. The main story is told by Rachel who travels daily on the same train to her job in the morning and back in the evening - track runs through one of her old house where her X husband lives with his new wife. It also overlooks another house nearby where a couple lives and she makes her own story about what they must be doing, how their life must be etc - she has no idea what she is going to see one day from the moving train and how it will change her life - entangled with these guys and the chaos after that. Superb! Now I am big time looking forward to upcoming movie with very high hopes. PS: If you have read this one and the "Gone Girl" - do let me know if it made you think of that story parallely. For some reason it kept reminding me of Gone Girl throughout the narrative - although they have no similarities barring one thing but still it kept coming to my mind.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Painted House - John Grisham (Book)

64/100 of #100bookpact The Painted House - John Grisham
Third from Grisham that I read back to back and this one is totally different from the first two. Just couldn't believe this is from the same guy who gave us those thrillers as this one had no lawyers (his other books almost have em all) no thrills but a superb story told from the point of view of a 7 year old kid that too from early 50's. How life of a kid born and raised on a farm was during those days. He has his own ambitions, inspirations, fears, dreams, struggles, his love of baseball, his lovable uncle missing in action in Korea and even a little love story of his own at that early age, told in such a lovely, simple and heart touching way that I am totally in love with the book and its characters. Story of a middle class American farmer's family around Arkansas, into cotton farming that too in a rented piece of land, their hand to mouth situation yet they were able to just about afford some labors from Mexico and Hills to help them. The whole of the story revolves around their unpainted house and how the kid desperately wishes to have their house painted. Their love of Baseball a game played even in farm with so much passion - one of the most superbly written chapter. Also, the sacrifices made by the kid to save the harvest and the number of secrets he keeps with almost all of his family members at least one each per persons and of his limited number of friends. Its a heart warming book which kept a smile on my face throughout the narrative. Although the story is based in early 50's still I couldn't find it any different from our own life not so long ago, families with no TV or luxury, kids waiting a lifetime to go somewhere they found those luxuries maybe briefly, values and all were exactly same what we had gone thru in our old days. Memory of this story is going to go a long way with me. A very highly recommendable book for sure.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Thirty Nine Steps - John Buchan (Book)

63/100 of #100bookpact The Thirty Nine Steps - John Buchan
I guess it was time I picked up a murder mystery after a long time - couldn't find one with names like Agatha Christie or Doyle so picked up this lesser known one but what a delightful book this one turns out to be. Unbelievably engaging as the name suggests. Right when Mr. Richard Hanney thought his life was boring as a Mining Engineer after making quite a decent amount of money with nothing much to do in his leisure time in London, an unknown neighbor shares with him a secret that could take his own life. The neighbor plans his own murder in such a way that he wouldn't die but will get a permanent escape from his enemies whose secret he now knows which could lead to a sort of countries at war. What Richard has got to do with all? is more interesting as the very next day the guy is killed and our own Mr. Richard becomes the suspect (Of course he knows the secret now) and not only the police but the "Enemy" too is behind him. He has 20 days to survive and get to the D day before he could confirm the reality of the secret himself before turning in to the right people who could stop it. What happens next is a seriously amazing Cat, Mouse and Dog chase game - simply unputdownable and it gave me another sleepless night as I didn't want my brain to work out the alternates or the endings - so end up finishing it in one straight sitting. Its a must must read if you like thrillers and suspense, too good, not to be missed at any cost.