Tag Archives: book review

The Vulture is a Patient Bird

Another one of those fast moving thrillers from James Hadley Chase, my favorite author of all time and my go to author when i am bored of other books.

He writes of a fixer/ arranger Shalik’s quest for recovering a 400 year old Cesar Borgia diamond encrusted ring which has poison embedded into it, for a client. He arranges four people to do the job to recover the same from the estate of Kahlenburg, an invalid South African magnate owning a vast house and an underground museum somewhere off Johannesburg. He is surrounded by Zulu warriors who move silently and stealthily at night and are accurate with their weapons.

Garry is recruited along with Ken and Fennel, the last one for his expertise in picking any lock in the world. He brings in a beautiful, sensational model Gaye who is the poison pill to take apart Kahlenburg.

How they reach his estate and how they escape forms the rest of the book, which in typical Chase fashion is fast paced and thrilling, to say the least. James Hadley Chase does’nt disappoint with this one. Goodreads 5/5

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W.G. Grace

Unarguably one of the best biographies on one of the greatest all rounders of cricket ever.

Simon Rae has done full justice to the man, a colossal of his times, the man singularly responsible for making cricket popular in its initial stages of development of the game. He was in one part responsible for the bitter rivalry between England and Australia and the Ashes urn, when he taunted Fred Spofforth during the 1882 test series when England required 85 to win and could not make it because of the some defiant bowling by Spofforth.

This book gives a detailed account of practically all of W.G. Grace’s first class matches including some club matches as well, his keen interest on developing Gloucestershire as a cricket team and later Crystal Palace, which did not fructify. Grace was involved in some of the rule changes in the initial era of cricket such as number of balls per over, declaration etc.

Grace started playing cricket even in his pre teens and went on to play it well unto his 66th year just a year before his death. Apart from cricket he was vigorously involved in fishing, shooting, golf, and in his later years lawn bowling and curling. The man had a massive appetite for sports and indefatigable strength to pursue it day after day.

The book also mentions some delectable innings by Ranjitsinghji the famous Indian prince who was unarguably India’s best batsman overseas and after whom the primary cricket tournament in India is named viz. Ranji Trophy. Ranji was a brilliant batsman in his own right until he lost sight in one eye due to a shooting incident and his later responsibilities as a prince of Jamnagar.

This book took a long time to read as Simon Rae has meticulously compiled each aspect of Grace’s life from his early years to his first class career, test career, sibling rivalry, personal life, personal tragedies etc. Grace was a phenomenal all rounder in cricket, more than even Gary Sobers, i would assume. He could grind the attack to pieces, defend it vigorously when the situation demanded and bowl over after overs sometimes the whole day. He was also a brilliant fielder at point position, his overall persona dominating the cricket field like nothing else.

Had W.G. Grace not been around in that era, cricket would have assumed some other milder form, i presume. Goodreads 5/5

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Moll Flanders

The story of Moll Flanders, the girl who was born in Newgate prison to her whore mother and dumped at the age 8 months to be looked after a succession of sisters in the 17th century England. Story of one misfortune after another each of which she wriggles her way out successfully through her wit and charm and little bit of crookedness.

Story of her whoredom, to marriage with succession of husbands, many of whom died, of her children innumerable there were and all of whom she abandoned, of incest with her husband who later turned out to be her brother and her life in crime for stealing so many items from people and stores. The story takes her from London to Virginia to Ireland to Lancashire back to London to Newgate and thence to Virginia. Looks like a full life story for one debauched woman of that time.

Defoe’s narrative comes of second best, when he rambles on continuously using long sentences sometimes running into paragraphs. None of Moll Flanders’ co characters are given names except the first two brothers Robin and Robert. Everyone is either the husband or Lancashire husband or brother etc.

Goodreads 3/5

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The Innovators

This is a brilliant book by Walter Isaacson on the digital revolution, who created it, who was responsible for it, what were the factors that led to it, who were the main players, main backers etc. right from the times of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace Byron to the present day geeks who created twitter, whatsapp, and all.

Walter keeps his narrative simple as ploughs through the digital revolution very meticulously and methodically taking us through the paces from the beginning to the end…………..well, there is no end in sight yet, what with artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, block chain and all looming ahead.

Much of his work focuses on the individuals who made the key breakthroughs and the environment in which they were brought up, their parents, schooling, their curiosity, wonderment etc. coupled with the team work, collaboration, with others in the field. Walter believes firmly that collaborative teams had more successes than the lone star genius plodding along alone on the horizon. There are the dreamers and then there are the executors, the managers, who could bring a dream to fruition.

This is a brilliant read, by all means, a collector’s item. Goodreads 5/5

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Come Sundown

This is a kind of a mother of all western novel from Mike Blakely. It straddles generations as Honore Greenwood aka The Plenty Man, a runaway from France lands in an unlikely wild west to live a life as a Comanche, an Indian tribe. Greenwood or On’ry as he is sometimes called is a kind of do it all handy man for settling all kind of disputes among the tribes and also between the tribes and the white people.

He takes the side of the Union against the Texans and later fights the blue coats to stave off destruction of his Comanche tribe. Greenwood is a brilliant mind that could have become a doctor yet he ends up learning medicine from the local chieftain. He takes in a Cheyenne wife Westerly and that ends in a kind of tragedy.

Large section of the book dwells upon the indigenous Indians and their never ending fight against the white people who are out to massacre them and grab their lands and cattle and property. The narrative of Mike Blakely is absolutely magnificent in the sense that you start flowing with his words among the wild west territory and feeling for the natives of the land. Goodreads 5/5

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Sponge

This is one of the best business reads i have come across in a long time. Ambi Parameswaran has captured his years of experience at top notch advertising firms like Rediffusion, FCB Ulka to give us a masterpiece.

And he has said in a story form. Various stories culled from his vast experience in a beautifully written simple format. Every story is dovetailed into a theme with lessons garnered from that theme and plus he gives us book recommendations relating to that theme, so i have a long list of “to read” books, which i am going to delve into. The story headings are also very apt for each story like “The Chaiwala Test”, “Biases, Biases, Biases” etc.

Most of the stories have positive endings but a few of them not so good, but there are lessons to be learnt from them as well. So all in all, its an excellent book, the narrative is quite good and not at all heavy like many business/ management books. Goodreads 5/5

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The Gold Coast

A 622 page turner from the master story teller Nelson De Mille in “The Gold Coast”.

John Sutter is a pompous New York attorney specialising in family matters, with a beautiful wife Susan and living in her family mansion in Gold Coast. One of the last remaining mafia dons Frank Bellarosa buys their next door mansion and their lives change inexorably thereafter.

Both John and Susan are drawn to the magnetism and the charm of the Italian mafia don and they become like pawns in his world of things. There is a pending murder investigation against Frank for which John agrees to become the attorney for the day to secure bail on the same day as the arrest, in fact before lunch time. John being not a criminal lawyer had to agree because Frank helped him in an IRS investigation into John’s financial affairs.

Large pages are devoted to the interplay between John and Frank and the irretrievable break down of the marriage between John and Susan. Nelson has built up the story very well and carried it through and through admirably for 622 pages, because with a long book like this, invariably the reader tends to start yawning, half way through. Nelson’s writing is magnificent, its throbbing with excitement and pulsating with the joy of bringing somebody’s story to life. Goodreads 5/5

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The E Myth Revisited

SPOILER ALERT:

This book starts off well, but degenerates into too much jargon speak for the average reader to understand. Basically what Michael is advocating as a panacea for small business owners success is franchise model. But he has couched it in so much of jargon speak that it becomes boring after a while.

There are very few live examples to go by, which would have made the book and the concepts laid down in it, easier to understand. Few ideas are good like “don’t let your curtain down” which is basically meaning don’t get comfortable in your comfort zone. Goodreads 1/5

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Butter Chicken in Ludhiana

The tagline read “travels in small town India” yet this is most untravel travel book that i have ever read – “Butter Chicken in Ludhiana” by Pankaj Mishra.

This book is less of a travel book and more of the author’s observations of people in few small towns of India. The towns he visited is not even a representative sample as he randomly went across from one place to another without any plan or strategy. He does not talk about the cultures of a place, its monuments, gardens, food, style, like a typical travel book. Mostly observatory and partly imaginative, he writes of a new and emerging India that has been recently liberalised in 1991 (the book got published in 1995, so his writing must have been around that time after 1991).

His travels takes him to small towns where the aspirations of people were beginning to rise, they were getting more ambitious with a swagger of confidence coming by. But he invariably saw a lot of filth & garbage everywhere he went in the railway stations, hotels, roads, alleys so in a way this book is like a scathing indictment of new India.

What saves the book is the writing, Mishra has written beautifully, his narrative is flowing with his travels and his thoughts on various subjects. It is a very beautifully written book but not a travel book. Goodreads 2/5

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The Devil’s Feather

SPOILER ALERT: This is one incoherent rambling by the narrator who is a war correspondent with Reuters and suspects serial killings by a British contractor MacKenzie on women in Sierra Leone. She encounters the same person with another name in Baghdad and there were a couple or more of such killings of women in Iraq.

Connie Burns digs deep into this man’s antecedents and lands in trouble, she is abducted and held captive for 3 days but we are told about it in bits and pieces. Connie then retreats back to England, does not give the mandatory press conference, goes into hiding using her mother’s name and rents a house somewhere in rural England.

There she encounters like a crazy neighbour hood with Jess Derbyshire and a doctor and there is like a very complex web of stories around them. It goes back to three generations involving the landlord of the house, her daughter Madeleine, her painter husband. The narrative is terrible, it just goes on and on at odds and ends, half of which the reader does not understand.

The Baghdad / Sierra Leone serial killer comes back to her rural England house and again holds all three of them captive, he gets injured in the ensuing fight and disappears. Then the police keeps on questioning Connie on the whereabouts of MacKenzie suspecting her to have killed him and buried his body somewhere. Finally the misery ends. My first one by Minnette Walters and i am deeply disappointed. Goodreads 1/5

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The Devil’s Alternative

Another masterpiece from the master story teller, Frederick Forsyth.

This time lot of nations are involved. USSR is facing a grim famine and urgently needs grains to feed its people. There are Ukranian nationalists who are hell bent on wrecking havoc on the USSR with their call for freedom and independence. There is a massive super tanker of 1 million tons, first of its kind in the world built by a Swedish millionaire and commandeered by a Norwegian seaman.

US is interested in what’s going on in Soviet Union, UK is sending its spy network for the same purpose. There are terrorists on the board Freya, the super tanker and then the Soviet leader is facing a huge crisis from its detractors in the Politburo.

Forsyth has beautifully constructed the plot, bit by bit, out of nothing and sustained interest in it throughout. There is an element of suspense throughout the plot Adam Munro is a British Russian expert and he has a love interest in Soviet Union, who is made to spy for the west. Slowly but surely, Forsyth has unraveled the plot to its climax. Goodreads 5/5

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Hornett Flight

Outstanding fast paced world war II espionage/ spy thriller from Ken Follett.

Eighteen year old Harald Olufson a bright kid with a lot of potential and likes to tinker with machines and engines. One day while returning home he does a short cut through an army camp of Nazis in the island of Sande to find some unusual kind of disc like equipment.

Meanwhile there is an underground Danish resistance movement against the Nazis a secret group called Nighwatchmen involving a group of Danish men and women. The British were losing a lot of their fighters due to German technical air superiority and a radar system which the British did not have at that time. Hermia Mount is the British officer directly involved in this espionage activity. She has a Danish boyfriend and speaks Danish language well, having lived there for many years.

Their main goal is to take photograph of the radar system of the Germans so that British can work on it to prevent their losses. Paul Kirke is the Danish air force commander who gives Harald his first flying lesson in a Tiger Moth airplane. Karen Duchwitz is a ballet student and her parents are Jewish and own a property in Sande, which includes an old disused Hornet Moth.

How Harald and Karen risk their lives to fly the photographs across 600 miles into Britain against some unrelenting Nazi fire is the rest of the story. Goodreads 5/5

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Summer Light

Summer Light by Luanne Rice, a heart warming story of a single mother of a special gifted child and a top draw National Hockey League (i.e. ice hockey) player Martin Chartier.

Both meet by providence when May Taylor and her daughter Kylie are in a plane and the plane crash lands and Martin rescues both of them. Martin has a background in the sense that his father is in jail for gambling debts, his wife has divorced him and his only daughter Natalie died of brain hemorrhage.

He also undergoes severe physical trauma with hits to the head, neck, ,eyes, shoulder, chest and wherever possible in his body due to the brutal nature of the sport. He twice comes to the Stanley Cup finals but chokes at the decisive moment.

A nice heart warming story with dollops of love, emotions, drama, tears, redemption etc. Goodreads 3/5

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Tell No One

A fast paced suspense thriller from Harlan Coben “Tell No One”

Dr. David Beck, a pediatrician who is mourning his wife Elizabeth who was murdered 8 years ago. He starts getting mysterious e-mails with coded messages, suggesting his wife is still alive.

Apparently, his house and phones are all bugged by somebody who is interested in Elizabeth coming back. There is a background and a motive to it. Meanwhile his wife’s close friend Rebecca Shayles a famous fashion photographer in New York is killed at close range. Dr. Beck goes on the run against the police and assaults a police officer.

Dr. Beck is helped by his client Tyrese who is from the underworld and knows a thing or two. The plot swings like a yo-yo from one end to another. Its a convoluted story with lots of twists and turns and lots of suspense to it. The rich Scope family is somehow involved in all these things.

There is mystery to Dr. Beck’s father’s death 12 years ago and even his father in law a retired cop has a few aces up his sleeve. Everybody has a story to tell. Goodreads 4/5

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Under the Sweetwater Rim

Another bustling fast moving Western from the master of the Western genre Louis L’Amour.

A wagon train carrying passengers including women, children and senior people and gold for the payroll is attacked by renegades and the wagons runs off the track and falls into a gorge, killing all the people on board. But one coach carrying the money, ambulance and two women were not among the wreckages.

One of the women is the daughter of Major Mark Devereaux, Mary Devereaux and her companion Belle Renick, wife of a captain. They are out in the wild with Lieutenant Tenadore Brian a fine officer as can be with rich international experience as well as cunning of the frontier west, where he grew up. Mary and Brian have something going on between themselves, which her father is not happy about.

So they have the women and the gold and Major Devereaux is on their trail with his contingent of officers and bad man Reuben Kelsey also on his back for the gold. Kelsey is Brian’s good friend from his younger days gone rogue and eyeing money and women now.

Louis L’Amour has presented a beautiful picture of the rugged frontier west with its mountains, caves, hills, slopes, hard country and kept an absorbing narrative to the end. Plenty of action throughout the book. Goodreads 5/5

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