S(h)ort-of Book Review & Why Books On Recurring Themes Don’t Suck

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To BeIt’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I read this book by Paul Arden a few days back, and I’m still in an absolutely inspired mood. Paul, being an advertising legend, writes from experience and makes this book so much interesting.

There were a few new takeaways for me. And there were a lot of those well established wisdom such as: take risks, work hard, be curious, keep failing, make mistakes, yadda yadda. You know, right? The sort of wisdom that must be sent into our subconscious time and again to make them a habit.

In any case, it’s not that long a book, so a quick repeat wisdom wouldn’t hurt anybody, right?

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The rest of the blog post is about those few reviews that really put me off.

I’m surprised by a few remarks about this book being repetitive. More specifically, people seem disappointed by the recurring nature of the advice in “these kind of books”.

And while I agree to that remark in particular, I strongly stand against their tone of disrespect toward the book and the author.

Honestly, what else do you expect? Most successful people share a similar characteristics and, one way or another, go on to face similar adversities which they overcome with similar sort of mentality and actions — no matter what their industry or field may be.

And, perhaps, we are forgetting the whole point of reading “these” books. We read them because they are insights into the mind of the authors. Authors who are legends of their respective field.

We read to understand their thinking process, their beliefs, their values.

The authors provide us ‘mentorship’ through these books.

And do you reject being mentored by great minds, the legends, just because you’ve heard their “advice” somewhere else?

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And that’s all there is to my rant. Thank you for listening.

Book Review: Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops #2)

Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops, #2)Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super awesome follow-up to Control Point. And, honestly? Much, much more!

Fortress Frontier is double the story that Control Point was. If Control Point was the Green Arrow, Fortress Frontier is the Batman. There. I said it.

On with the review…

As I was saying, Fortress Frontier is double the pace, double the magic, double the worldbuilding, double the tension, and, of course, double the excitement… (Shame on me for taking longer to finish it than it really deserved.)

Not just from the point of story and worldbuilding, the growth is evident in Myke Cole’s writing too. He is more magnificent a Storyteller.

What I loved the most?

For me, the ability to stay funny while maintaining the tension is a skill reserved only to the best of writers. Myke Cole owns that department without breaking a sweat and, while at it, probably even manages to do a funky chicken dance.

The Characters

Okay. Honestly, I never really liked Oscar Britton that much in first book (though I almost screamed when he finally showed up in this one). He is an interesting character, with his unique conflicts and menacing seriousness, but he really wasn’t my type.

Problem solved in Book 2.

Introducing Alan Bookbinder. I want to thank Myke Cole for introducing this character. I just love him. He has his flaws, he is funny, he is super nervous, he is a misfit, and he is that odd-hero who somehow just about manages to save the day at the end.

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my version of Alan Bookbinder stealing Aeromantic Lightening!

Besides the two of them, the supporting characters are also very real and full of life. Though I haven’t had the profound fortune of travelling with a military officer in a hostile territory over the stretch of hundreds of miles, but I do think that they wouldn’t act too far off the way they did in this book.

The Nagas

Great job on creating this unique creature! Though, being a Hindu, it’s not that unique to me, but its portrayal in fantasy setting was priceless. Further goes on to show the hefty work Cole has put in the research. I thank the author for this.

Twists and Turns

I don’t like a spoiler-ish review so I’ll just stick to saying that the book has a few of those twists that leaves you feeling greatly satisfied. Like that time when…

Finally…

I don’t know what I was thinking taking so much time to get on with the second book. This is simply an awesome military fantasy that probably is one of its kind. Action-packed, magical, fantastical, satisfyingly funny, and now a much, much better a story.

Fantasy lovers, do yourself a favor and just read it. M’kay?

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Book Review: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)

 

 

 

 

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ladies and gentlemen, filthy boys and snarky gals! Presenting… Blackbirds, a book that reads out like a charm!

Okay, it doesn’t. It actually reads out like a derailed train set on a collision course. It’s a grim, super fast-paced story set in an even grimmer world, where each character is more flawed than a Nepali politician. Not the least of whom is our protagonist, Miriam Black.

But. It only makes this book so much more interesting.

Coming back to Miriam Black… What a superb character she is! Probably one of the most awesome female protagonists I’ve read in years. In fact, she is one of the major reason why I so much loved the book.

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My version of Miriam! (based on an image I found on the internet)

The story is okay for me. But it’s the narration that tops the chart. I’ve always been a fan of Chuck Wendig’s writing style and that no-nonsense, kick-in-the-guts, fist-in-the-teeth attitude in his voice. I came to Blackbirds expecting all of that, and, of course, I wasn’t disappointed.

If you love a witty thriller with a touch of fantasy, set in a dark world, full of low-life villains and filthy-tongued heroes, this book is most definitely for you.

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Book Review: Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2)

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)

 

 

 

 

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fool Moon is your typical “Harry Dresden” book. Pretty much enjoyable (and funny as anything!). Plus a lot of fangs, furs, snarls, and howls. Few things didn’t work for me, though. But in the end, who doesn’t love a good ol’ Wizard vs. Werewolf face-off, eh?

Harry Dresden is your modern day Wizard, and a pretty good one at that. With his magic, he tries to keep the creatures of Nevernever from creating havoc in the world. As a Wizard-at-hire, he invests most of his time assisting Police (Special Investigations) and Detective Karrin Murphy.

“Fool Moon” begins with Murphy requesting Harry to look at a case regarding bestial attacks on a few local gangsters. After much investigation (and a bit supernatural help), he concludes that the attacks have been done by some kind of supernatural Wolf-thingie.

He starts to dig in. And soon finds himself surrounded by all sorts of Werewolves (Butcher divides supernatural wolves into four categories — Lycanthropes, Hexenwulfen, Werewolf, and Loup-garou, which was something fresh in urban-fantasy). All of which, for one reason or another, want him dead.

But wolves are just that. Animals. Dogs. They don’t do organized crime or planned murders. (Or do they?)

Beaten, broken, and bandaged too many times to count, Harry Dresden must now find the real culprit — the one who let the dogs out (sorry, couldn’t resist).

All good so far. But for some reason, I didn’t like Harry Dresden as much as I’d adored him in the first book. Don’t get me wrong, he was funny and imperfect and everything else that made me like him in the first book. But this time, he somehow had developed this irritating habit of feeling too much sorry. Everything bad that happened was somehow his fault. Always.

I also hated the part where Murphy completely loses her trust in Dresden. I mean, Murphy has seen some pretty bad supernatural forces at work, and has taken Dresden’s help on more than one occasion. Now after working together on several cases, how can she (how can anyone!) ever doubt the one person who uses magic for all the right reasons?

It felt as if that thing was there only for the sake of adding one more conflict to the story. Ew. The book tries to get emotional but utterly fails (at one time, even crossing tacky-meter). Again, ew.

This is not one of the most fascinating tales you will ever read. And certainly not one of the best Harry Dresden (or Jim Butcher) books. But this will keep you entertained through the end.

Talk about the the silver linings.

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Book Review: A New Earth (Non-fiction)

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

 

 

 

 

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you read a book such as A New Earth, there can only be two things happening to you: You either like the book (and it therefore changes you forever)… Or, you realize that you are not yet ready for this.

Thankfully, the former happened to me.

From the man himself!

From the man himself!

Eckhart Tolle’s vision of a new Earth is one where human consciousness has finally defeated its longtime enemy — the Ego. In the book, he explains at length about different kinds of Ego, its formation and, ultimately, its dissolution. He speaks further about the ceaseless human habit of thinking and not “being”. It means we tend to always live in the past or the future (things that are real only in our mind), rather than being conscious of the present and whatever life throws at us “Now”.

Tolle answers us all these questions that we (at least I) didn’t even knew to ask.

But why? Why does that happen? Why does Ego prevent us from enjoying the present moment? Tolle answers us all these questions that we (at least I) didn’t even knew to ask. He also explains about the Inner purpose and Outer purpose of human beings — linking all these back to Ego. He, then, shows us how the Ego prevents us from seeing the true Inner Purpose of spiritual awakening (no he’s not asking you to become a Sage!) and keeps us over-focused on the Outer Purpose of extrinsic “fulfillment”.

Eckhart Tolle

As I said earlier, this book is not for everyone. Even I am yet to fully understand the true depths of Tolle’s every words. And it will be a while before I do it. But it, at least, taught me the meaning of being Conscious. Although, I won’t immediately master my Ego (or emotions and desires and sufferings) after finishing this book, I can now, at least, be aware of the things that come into play when these emotions take hold of me. I would know what exactly happened when I felt like screaming at someone, saying something bad, dwelling on the past, or even feeling frustrated…

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Eventually, someday, I hope I will find the Consciousness that Tolle speaks of. Until then, I shall be coming back to this book again and again and will keep taking the wisdom from it.

I recommend this book to everyone. Even if you don’t agree to it… just keep an open mind and finish it. One day… some day, this will come to you in a enlightening wave of consciousness.

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Book Review: A Dance with Dragons (ASOIAF #5)

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another book, and yet another series of plots and politics, murders and masquerades, honor and hidden intentions, duty and death.

Lords, Ladies, and Free-folks! A Dance With Dragons and George R.R. Martin do not fail to deliver on the promises of the past.

It is just as riveting as any of its predecessor, with strong characters, intriguing plot lines, simple language, and just the right touch of reality. The only major disadvantage of this book should be its size. I mean, yes, every fan wants his favorite book to never end. But… see, he doesn’t actually want it to never end. Duh.

But there was nothing the author could have done about it (at least, not in the fifth book). After weaving an epic tale that covers such a large set of characters, geography, political boundaries, Houses, and even Religion… there was no way this was going to be short.

Anyway, instead of following up on the events of the fourth book, “A Dance…” picks up from where the third book left us (and takes us a little forward from the fourth book). Only this time, the story is told from the viewpoint of a different set of characters. It tells of the epic saga of Quentyn Martell, the cunning journey of Tyrion Lannister, the struggle of Queen Daenerys, the conquest of Euron Grejoy, of the land-beyond-the-wall, and of forgotten tales of half-heroes, and the half-tales of forgotten heroes!

There still are many gaps… incomplete stories… for the author to fill in, and fast. The book is not without flaws. Some things, and a very minor ones at that — like the overuse of the expression “Words are winds” (and important people dying up like roaches!) — really irk me.

Many long-held questions still go unanswered. But many other plots finally fall into place and has now begun to take shape. You can almost form a vague and dim outline of the end that is soon to follow.

But who are we kidding? This is A Song of Ice and Fire. Even the most unimaginable of things may happen. And that is the only absolute certainty.

On to the HBO Series now!

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Book Review: A Feast for Crows (ASOIAF #4)

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is no real review. Because the story is not yet done. I’m just jotting down the feeling that came after I read the last word of the fourth book.

A Feast for Crows is also a feast for the readers. Though the hunger goes unsatisfied as the book follows only the events of King’s Landing. You can tell that this is just a bridge… a setup for A Dance With Dragons, which, hopefully, looks to be the real feast.

That, however, doesn’t mean that this volume fails to delight the reader. It is beautifully written, as always, and some of the chapters really leave you biting your nails. Yes, there are no Red Weddings, Tyrion’s trail scenes, and the likes, but mayhaps GRRM never intended them to be. We are rightly impatient over the story of our favorite characters Tyrion, Daenerys, and Snow, but we must accept “A Feast…” for what it is — a well deserved pause in the saga and a build up to the moment when the winter finally comes!

Can’t wait to gobble up A Dance with Dragons!

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Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1)

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

I am yet to figure out how I came to love a story told in the third person omniscient this much! There is something about Le Guin’s style that binds you to her tale. You want to hear what she’s going to tell. She took me back to the days when I used to sit before my grandfather and hear him tell the legends of mighty Gods and Kings. Except, of course, my grandfather never spoke English.

The protagonist of AWoE is Ged (aka Sparrowhawk), a young boy with great potential. However, he is also your everyday adolescent so he possesses all the mighty traits of one — pride, vanity, overconfidence, temper, ambition. Le Guin makes Ged seem so realistic that you can’t help but identify with him. The fact that the author is spiritually inclined is also pretty clear from the subtle messages she leaves behind through Ged’s actions, mistakes, and regrets.

Okay. Now the story, itself, is not that great for me. A reckless wizard loosens an other-worldly shadow upon Earthsea and then strives to right his wrongs. Yeah, okay. But the manner in which the tale unfolds, the development of the character and the world, and the magic system alone deserves awe. I wouldn’t rate them similarly, but reading AWoE gave me a feeling that was pretty close to what I had as I read one of the Narnia books.

Loved the book and maybe I will read the rest in the series too.

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Three Quick Reviews

Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America's Master Communicator, George LoisDamn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator, George Lois by George Lois
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When one of the greatest ad man and art director in the history of advertising brings out a book called “Damn Good Advice”, hardly you can get your hands off it. George Lois is one of my big inspirations and this book gives a deeper understanding of his philosophy regarding the creative process that helped him yield years after years of great advertising.

When you’re reading this book, it feels like George is shouting down on your face. So, yeah, it reads like a charm. I finished the whole book in about one hour. It’s not that long but full of great wisdom for not just an ad guy, but anyone involved in a creative field.

Red DragonRed Dragon by Thomas Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I only read ‘Red Dragon’ to be able to read ‘Silence of the Lambs’. I had no idea what the book was about or that I was going to encounter Hannibal Lector there in the middle of it! Goes without saying what followed certainly blew my mind.

Red Dragon is an engaging story, although the writing is a bit too omnipresent for my taste but the thrill makes up for it. It takes us into the deepest and darkest parts of human mind and shows us its true potential.

I enjoyed it and would have probably given it 3 and a half stars had Goodreads allowed!

Tao Te ChingTao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That which cannot be reviewed isn’t good book. That which is a good book needs no review.

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Book Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy/Western

The Gunslinger was an unique experience. I loved this book for its narrative brilliance, oddly intriguing characters, and its dark outlook on our future-world (which, save for all the magic, is a perfect possibility!).

This was my first western — my only prior experience in the genre being the cowboy movies.

The setting is terrific. Stephen King paints a vivid picture of a world long dead (a world that has moved on, as the protagonist would say).

King being King takes us to a dark world and makes us the live the horror and tension as lived by the protagonist and other major characters.

Meet Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger. The last gunslinger, to be precise. A lone adventurer, who leaves death in his wake. And he is in pursuit of the Man in Black.

Meet Man in Black, whose purpose, or even existence, is unclear. He creeps up every fucking place he visits — whether with his “magic” tricks or by his appearance.

Meet Jake, a boy who is alive — but not quite. Maybe he’s somewhere in between, we really can’t tell. He is the only one of the “earlier” world. He accompanies the Gunslinger in his hunt for the Man in Black and it is often through Jake’s eyes that we get the glimpses of how much darker the world has turned.

The world itself is a big puzzle. And all the answers lie in a Tower somewhere far away. That’s what the Gunslinger (really?) seeks. The Dark Tower.

The hook is established from the very first page, with the very first line, where King writes:

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

What is this world? Ours? Post-apocalyptic? Some near future? Post global-warming? What happened here?

Who is the Gunslinger? What the fuck does he want? Is he insane? Is he of the earlier world? Why is he so desperate to find the Man in Black and the Dark Tower?

Who is the Man in Black? Devil? Devil’s apprentice? Just a random bad guy?

King makes us hungrier and hungrier with each turn of page and before we even know it we are at the end of the book and now are in a severe need of going out to buy the second fucking book.

If you love fantasies with a dark setting and quirky characters, this book is for you.

However, being only the first book in the series, the story itself may not leave you satisfied.

Three stars for the narration, worldbuilding, and the characters. One more star for delivering the experience unlike any other book I’ve read so far.

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