Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog Update

I'm finally done with all my changes to the blog and I like the look and feel of it. From my viewpoint the blog now enables easy of use and with the different sections up anybody not interested in the updates but the reviews can move straight to that tab or just add a feedlink for only the reviews.

I'm happy with how the blog is shaping up and I would love to hear some of the reactions from folk visiting the blog. One thing that I'm definately not happy about is the lack of reviews. The blog is getting on a average 2-5 views per post, but the amount of reviews is just not upto the par. Is it too much to ask for a couple of lines as feedback?

So far it looks like a resounding "Yes".

Review Packed Weekend!!!!

TGIF (Thank God It's Friday) that mean I can look forward to spending the next couple of days powering down and reading at my leisure instead of catching snippets between work as I generally do during the week days.

What it also means is that I'm behind on my reviews... (sigh!!). I need to review three books which I have finished reading and maybe another two that I'll finish over the weekend. So that brings the count to five.

Five reviews to write and not a scrap of idea in my head... Hmm sounds like I need inspiration or just a good old fashioned kick in the butt... Any volunteers??.. :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

20/50 Done

Finished 20 books this month out of the target of 50 books. 30 more to go and 7 months to complete them...

Hmm... looks like I can beat my target....

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whats You Reading?

People reading this blog, share with me your current reading list and likes if you find the time....

Cheers,
Gopal

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Rozabal Line

Rating: 2/5

Genre: Thriller/Consipracy

The Rozabal Line is Ashwin Sanghi's first book and it clearly shows. The plot line is mainly based on The Lost Years of Jesus Christ and on the theory that Jesus survived his crufixion and spent his last years in India.

Sanghi has mixed almost all the conspiracy theories that one can associate with religion and Christianity in particular like Jesus was a Dalai Lama incarnate and learnt Hindu Vedas and Buddhist scriptures during his lost years, He married and had a family that survives to date, the Church that fears the revelation of this fact, the tomb of Jesus is located in India - Kashmir in particularthe consistent fact that Jesus was not the sole person who was born of virgin birth and was reborn from the dead, the similarities that exist between modern day Christianity and older so called pagan religions like Mithras, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the doomsday theory of 21 Dec 2012.

In addition to this already heady cocktail of religious synonymy Sanghi adds an angle of terrorism inspired by radical Islamism courtesy Osama Bin Laden, championed by a secret faction of the Church called Crux Decussata Permuta funded by Opus Dei which in turn is being manipulated by The Illuminati led by the members of Order of Skull & Bones.

The book reads more of a travelogue than a conspiracy thriller at some places and it becomes really difficult to manage the plot lines. In some chapters Sanghi traverse the entire known historical span starting from 3500 B.C to 1998 A.D. That's quite a leap to digest in one single chapter. After sometime the plot becomes predictable with the author hinting at his major expose quite a few times in the preceding chapters.

The characters of the book are another major flaw. As there is no continuity in the plot the characters are not so well developed, the readers (in particular myself) are never given time to identify or associate with one character. The lead protagonist in this case Father Vincent is even more in dark about what's happening around him that the reader. It takes the fun out of what could have been a really, really good book.

My opinion is that Sanghi had a good idea to start with but somewhere during the process of putting thoughts to paper things got screwed up to a great extent. It would have made a thrilling read if the author had the patience to try for the multi-book approach rather than trying to cram all known theories in just a few hundred pages.

As a series I'm sure Sanghi would have gotten plenty of time to make the characters more believable and also he could have spent a lot of time in laying down the plot in a more organized manner than just relaying them as a collection of facts.

Verdict: Skip it if you have anything better to read.

The Maya Codex

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

The Maya' s - An ancient civilization that was capable of accurate predictions based on astrological planetary movements. A civilization which foresaw the end of world on 21-Dec-2012 and took steps to protect and hide the ominous prediction and its resolution until the time was right.

The Maya Codex - the legendary codex written by the Maya to help prevent the destruction of world. The catch - it's hidden and can be found only when the time is right.

The Maya created 3 figurines to protect the path to the codex. The 3 figures had to be placed at the exact place on the dawn of 21-Dec-2012 solstice to reveal the path to the Codex. The figurines themselves were hidden deep in the Guatemalan jungles to protect them from falling into unsafe hands.

It is on this premise that "The Maya Codex" is based on. The hunt for the codex spans over 70 years, starting from Nazi Germany and ending in the jungles of Guantemala. Levi Weizman - an archeologist famous for his work on the Maya is engaged by Hienrich Himmler to find the connection between the Maya and the Aryan Master race. Weizman is Jew and not trusted by the Nazi's.

Meanwhile Weizman is using the expedition as cover to do his own research into the Maya Codex and find to find the figurines that lead to it. The third player in this story is the Vatican, the Church led by Cardinal Felici don't want the Maya Codex found and shown to the world as they fear that it may contain something that destabilizes the Church.

To get their hands on the Codex the Church forms an unofficial alliance with the Nazis. The Church's influence is managed through the Americans who also have their own interest in the Codex.

As Levi Weizman and his family get caught up in the holocaust, he manages to hide 2 of the figurines found by him and hide the clues that point to the third figurine and the codex.

Fast forward to the present, the search for the Codex continues and so does the quest to control it. Caught in this power struggle is Curtis O' Connor who is sent to assasinate Dr. Aleta Weizman Levi's granddaughter who is following his footsteps to discover the Maya Codex. As Connor joins Aleta in her quest, he also becomes a target to be eliminated.

As the date of destruction draws near, Connor and Weizman are caught in a race to find the Maya Codex before time runs out and all hell in unleashed.

The book continues in the same vein as the previous d' Hage books. The underlying theme of the book remains the same as that of the other two: "There is more than one way to Omega".

Verdict: Read it.

The Midas Code (aka The Vault)

Rating: 4/5

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Tag Line: "He who controls this map controls the riches of Midas...."

Legends tell the story of a legendary king whose touch turned things to gold. The touch became so famous as did the King that even today a person who profits from any undertaking is said to have the touch - King Midas's Touch.

It is very sad that stories such as that of King Midas's have been left unsaid as more and more writers today focus on contemporary terrorism and combat novels rather than indulge in the lore' s of old. Terror sells these days literally.

Tyler Locke - engineering genius who likes nothing better than tinkering with machines and creating new machines is held to ransom by a master thief Jordan Orr who wants Locke to lead him to King Midas's Tomb. Before Locke can say no or scoff at Orr, Orr delivers a chilling message to Locke - the ferry Locke is commuting in has been rigged to blow. That is unless Locke can disarm the bomb.

Locke finds the bomb and learns that to disarm it he must solve an engineering puzzle in ancient Greek. Surprisingly Locke finds that the puzzle has been put together by him a couple of days ago using the pages from Archimedes's Codex provided by Orr. As Locke disarms the bomb with help from Stacy Benedict a classical language expert, he learns another truth from Orr - his father has been kidnapped along with Stacy's sister. To save them Locke & Stacy must find the tomb of Midas in Naples in 5 days failing which Orr will kill his hostages.

As Locke and Stacy race across London and Naples to decipher the map left behind by the legendary inventory Archimedes using his manuscript, they confront the sexy and ruthless Gia Cavanno - an Italian crime boss who's on her own quest to find the Tomb; take the riches for herself and kill Orr in that order.

Caught in the struggle between two ruthless and cunning enemies' hell bent on outwitting each other and claiming the secret of King Midas for them, Locke and Benedict must forge an alliance and work with Orr while waiting for an opportunity to strike even or rescue the hostages from his grasp.

As Locke with his friend Westland and Stacy move closer to the tomb they find that Cavanno & Orr have been tracking their every step inspite of their best efforts. The Midas Code uses The Archimedes Codex, the Antikythera Mechanism and the Stomachion to weave a plausible tale of King Midas's Tomb and his golden touch which is still active after 2000 years.

As Locke tries to outwit both his adversaries while trying to find the Tomb, he also finds that Orr is planning on using a dirty bomb somewhere in the United States.

Verdict: The Midas Code is an amazing mystery put together using ancient puzzles and modern scientific technology. Read it.

The Ark

Rating: 4/5
 
Genre: Thriller/ Treasure Hunt
 
It's hard to believe that The Ark is Boyd Morrison's debut novel. The book has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster. The plot is good, the characters are believable, and the pace is frenetic.
 
Morrison delivers with a believable hero. Tyler Locke is an engineering genius. An ex-army man as well as founder/partner in Gordian Engineering, Locke stands out as hero. Grant Westland as his Man Friday and best friend is also well etched.
 
The plot basically involves a psycho billionaire cultist Sebastian Garrett trying to engineer Armageddon to push his own version of utopia post the Armageddon. Garrett is not your normal villian, he's an ubervillian; he's calm, suave and with pot loads of money. He also has the plan, a team and the meaness required to get any scheme of his through.
 
The protagonist and antagonists are evenly matched with Locke, Kenner, and Westland on one side leading the good, while Garrett, Petrova and Cutter are evil personified. Both sides look evenly matched in access to technology and resources and it's a case of who blinks first throughout the book.
 
The entire quest revolves around finding Noah's Ark. The quest embarked on by Dilara Kenner's father Hasad Arvandi which leaves him dead in the opening scenes of the book. It is followed by the death of his close friend Sam Watson trying to deliver a warning to Arvandi’s daughter Dilara at the LAX airport. What follows are multiple attempts on Kenner's life while she meets up with Tyler Locke to get his help in resolving the clues.
 
Trying desperately to survive while trying to find out who’s out to kill them Locke & Kenner engage the formidable resources of Gordian Engineering while simultaneously trying to figure out the clues provided by Watson in his dying breath.
 
The clues lead them to Sebastian Garrett who has somehow managed to create a biological virus capable of destroying everything in its path using the artifacts found during Harvadi' s quest for Noah' s ark and is planning on using it to engineer an Armageddon and thrust his version of the world on the remnants of the society. Garrett with his Holy Hydronastic Church plans to be the new age Noah, Hitler and Gandhi all rolled into one.
 
Tyler & Dilara race against time to stop Garrett and also find Noah's Ark to discover the type of biological virus that Garrett is threatening the world with.
 
Morrison also shows a complex depth to his characters by showing the friction between the Locke father and son and has left scope for developing the characters in depth in the future books.
 
Verdict: Enjoyable. Read it if you are fan of James Rollins, Steve Berry and Matthew Reilly. Morrison has found ways to fit in aspects of all there into one book and in the process delivered a stunner.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Iron Bra

Rating: 2.5/5

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Book 1 of the Mumbai Noir Series

One of India's First English Crime Novels, The Iron Bra by Ashok Banker deals with Mumbai Underworld.

Sheila Ray daughter of the infamous Ashok Ray - an undercover cop who was betrayed by both the sides leading him to leave the city in disgrace and shame. Unable to deal with the notoriety Ray tops himself leaving his daughter to fend for herself. Now that daughter is back to the city where it all started. She wants the truth on why her father was betrayed and by whom. She's also looking for vengeance against those who were responsible for her father's suicide. But in a city where relations and friendships change at the drop of hat and nothing is as it seems, Sheila is caught in the classic dilemma whom to trust and whom not to.

Banker takes his readers into the gory underside of Mumbai that exists just below the surface, just below the glamour and jazz that the city is known for. The intimate coterie between cops and gangsters the only friend you have is a dead one.

Set in the 1980's Mumbai teeming with corruption and bhaigiri; Banker's story has a lot of grammatical and spelling mistakes. But as he writes "In 1980's India speaking English well or badly was a political statement". The book also suffers from plenty of blood and gore or as Banker is wont to say "offals". 

The amount of abuse the heroine undergoes towards the end of the book makes her seem almost like Jesus reincarnated. While reading those sections I felt as it I was watching a bad remake of the passion of Christ. But to be fair to Banker he envisioned & published the book much, much before Mel Gibson released the movie.

While the protagonist happens to be a gun toting Lara Croft wannabe women, at some place through the book it falls flat as Banker has tried too hard on the gory aspects of the book. Still it is a breezy way enough to get through and in Banker's patented style, fast paced to read.

Verdict: Read it if you don't have anything better to do on a hot afternoon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review Upate

Hectic Weekend. Read two books over the weekend,  The Iron Bra by Ashok Banker and The Ark by Boyd Morrison. Also reading The Maya Codex by Adrian d'Hage during travelling.

Gonna finish The Last Templar today. Planning on reviewing all these books in one go in the up coming week.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Best Thing About You Is You!

Rating: 4/5

Quotable Quotes: "Bheega Hua Aadmi Baarish Se Nahin Darta"
"Comparison Begets Regrets"
"It is not enough to succeed; others must fail"
"Most of us are driven by sadistic instincts"

Anupam Kher's new book teaches valuable life lessons. It tells nothing new than the things that we already know but are not ready to either understand or acknowledge. The books is divided into multiple chapters; each dealing with a small facet of life.

Kher does not try to be preachy but he rather breaks down the more important things in life to small easy to understand pieces. The book is more about you discovering yourself and finding things about yourself that make you tick, makes your life worth living.

In this book Anupam Kher has distilled years of wisdom handed down from generation to generation in a format easy to read and understand by today’s generation. He has cut across the meaningless platitudes and gotten straight to the point.

It’s a coffee table book for people who want refresher course to life lessons. This book is a must read for folks who are confused and want solution to life’s problem fast.

The Beijing Conspiracy

Rating: 3/5

Quotable Quote: ‘Compromise is not a weakness but a wisdom’

This is the message that Adrian d'Hage seeks to send out through his latest offering "The Beijing Conspiracy". In a world scattered by ever growing differences in ideology and faith, d'Hage seeks to emphasize on his message that we are more alike than we are different and that our differences are something to be rejoiced and learnt rather than discarded and diminished.

Carrying on the theme established in his first book The Omega Scroll d'Hage explores the concept of biological terror attacks this time around. Dr. Khaled Khadeer the mastermind of Al-Qaida from the Uighur Mountains of China launches a series of brazenly evocative terror strikes at America and her forefront allies in the so called war on terror - UK and Australia. The attacks start off in Australia and lead to a chilling coordinated dirty bomb strikes on San Francisco, London and Sydney.

The attacks are preceded by warnings messages, where Dr. Khaled lays down some simple rules for the Western countries to follow: Stop the incessant war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Engage the governments of Syria and Iran in talks, Withdraw from the holy land of Mecca & stop ignoring the systematic human rights abuses in China and Saudi Arabia. The message contains coded warnings of the strikes to happen and speaks of a final solution, a biologically engineered virus “Ebolapox” combining both Ebola & smallpox which will be released in time for the Beijing Olympics.

With the incumbent government hardening its stand of not talking with terrorists and being involved too much in rhetoric and chest thumping, it left unto CIA agent Curtis O'Connor and leading virologists Dr. Imran Syed and Dr. Kate Brainwaithe to stop Dr. Khadeer from releasing the virus on unsuspecting people.

The plot is good and what makes it believable is that the attacks orchestrated as a part of the warnings can be seriously be implemented. Modern day terrorists don't lack for the means, be it anything money, equipment, intelligence. Human greed and vanity is perhaps our greatest bane and combined with the rise of power hungry people looking to push their own agendas no city in the world is safe. There is only so much that can be done by the people out defending us.

The events leading up to the first warning occupy some 60 odd chapters while the warnings and the aftermath are covered in the remaining 40 odd chapters. The latter half of the story seems rushed as it the author were trying to end the story to keep the page count down.

The book holds a person's attention; but it was too hastily wrapped up. The author spent a lot of time in laying down the groundwork for the events in the book, the events themselves were a bit short on the detail and the story came to an abrupt end with several plotlines left hanging. Too many things are left unfinished like what happens to Khadeer at the end. The animosity Khadeer harbors towards the Han Chinese in general and General Ho in particular. Even though the book is called “The Beijing Conspiracy” it does not go much into China and the Olympics are just mentioned in the passing as if it’s being used as a plot handle rather than being an event of significant importance.

It still makes a good read and throws up a lot of common sense ideas to stop the world going down the drain hand over fist.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading Dilemma

When you read as much as I do after a certain amount of time plot fatigue sets in. Most of the scenes seem to reproduced from one book or another and overall reading loses it's charm. So what keeps a prolific reader going. I have known people who have read fictions for more than 25 years and are still not bored by it. Similarly I have also known people who have started experimenting with other genres like literary fiction, philosophy, non-fiction and have found themselves enriched for it.

So here infront of us we have two options: One to entrech and other to find new avenues, my solution lies in somewhere in the middle. I believe this solution will appeal to most of us. Personally I have found it difficult to stay away from fiction for long. While I am open to experimenting with other genres, fiction is where my heart and soul belongs. Put in my hands an adventure thriller from Matthew Reilly or a spell binding mystery from Dan Brown or Colin Forbes and I'm sold. You will not hear a peep out of me until I'm done with it.

So what do I do when fiction gets too much for me, simply put I diverge. I read some biographicals of people I admire like Richard Branson, Warren Buffet, Kishore Biyani, Indian Business Leaders or I indulge in my other love - Historicals.

History has always fascinated me. At one point in time I was ready to take the plunge into the world of dusty old tomes and the legacy left behind for us. It was only the notion that I would starve to death and perhaps the feeling that it may not make me enough money for the rest of my life that made me take the plunge into the scientific world of computers. The rest they say is history... how ironic.

I digress. History has always been an area of my interest. I am particularly interested in ancient Indian history and civilization. Alas there are so few books available in this particular genre and what is available is staid enough to put a dinosaur to sleep. William Dalrymple is one author who comes to mind when talking about historicals. His books on the Mughal era are particularly well researched and well written.

Another excellent genre is satire. There are so few authors who can write satire without coming across as rude and condescending that it's almost impossible to find good books to read in this area. Tom Sharpe comes to mind immediately while talking about this genre. I picked up his book  Indecent Exposure based on the recommendation from my friend Praveen in shelfari.com and I must say that I have come away impressed. The term black comedy suits this one aptly. Based on an apartheid South Africa, this has to be read to be believed.

Apart from these I also like to read investigative accounts of journalisms. Sometime across I came across a book called The Sniper it's a biography of a sniper who was active on the Af-Pak border in the current ongoing war on terror. A couple of other books have also caught my attension, but alas I have been unable to lay my hands on them so far despite my best attempts. Prominent among them is Dominique Lapierre's book on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that happened in India. Aptly titled Five Past Midnight in Bhopal the book tells The Epic Story of World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster.

Any book the reader feels that changed their prespective on how things are looked at in life, please mention. I would be glad to find some good material to read.