Vijai's Book Reviews

Books are and will always be my refuge from reality. The idea that therein lies within the pages of even the most dilapidated book a power to conjure universes you hardly imagined is a wonderful feeling.

Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits

Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of The Kashmiri Pandits - Rahul Pandita It was hard reading this book without a lump in my throat. Only a person who has thirsted for a permanent roof over his/ her head will be able to relate to the heart wrenching emotions Mr. Pandita has evoked so wonderfully in his passages. As I went from one page to another, I felt that Mr. Pandita's forefathers were blessing every word of his with a force that is incomprehensible, a sort of painful love and regret that clutches you by the neck and stares into your soul demanding you to listen. That one recollection of the author where his mother clutches a knife and says she will first kill her daughter and then herself should the rowdy crowd barge in to their home hit me very hard emotionally. So much so that for the first time in my life I felt tears swelling in my eyes due to a piece of writing. All of it culminating in a passionate crescendo when the author talks about how his mother cried in the kitchen of the house that he had bought in Delhi. I still have a lump in my throat as I write this review.I just want to hug the author and tell him that I am now his brother. I don't know and I don't care if it matters anymore. Passionately beautiful, forceful and thought provoking. Please buy this book first hand; no borrowing or buying from second hand stalls.

Hot spring (French Edition)

Hot Springs - Stephen Hunter Why four star? Because I read Havana, that's why. One may not understand my anguish until they read Havana and I was so disappointed because in Havana Mr. Swagger senior gets his rear-end kicked (at least in the first half) for what seems to be a loose end he left unattended in this book. Anymore I say will become a spoiler but this book by itself is an excellent concoction of raw emotions expertly dressed with stoic heroism, idealistic approach and gentlemanly retribution that Mr. Hunter is so good at.

The Assassins Gallery

The Assassins Gallery - David L. Robbins I am impressed with this book on so many levels. To start with, the author articulated so well what I personally believed in all these years - that history is a fickle but a loyal mistress to her stoic master, destiny; She weaves this wonderful tapestry of human emotions and ideals to achieve what her master wishes but ever so fickle she now and then lets her guard (purposefully or not is a speculation) down to allow certain events to happen which alter the pattern but then regrets her faults and sets it right almost always in a messy way but secretively. It is this wet clay of an idea that the author caresses and beautifies to put together a story as beautiful as it is. A personal husband and wife strife story with a touch of historic accuracy, an assassin so made-to-order to be the wet dream of every action-thriller fan, a nerdy protagonist who is just an inch behind the assassin all the time while set in a time period where international espionage was in its infancy. Beautiful! wonderful story expertly written and presented.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho Do you know a weird chick who keeps posting shitty and cliched quotations as her FB update? I bet my gluteus maximus muscle that she's got a shoplifted copy of this goddamn apology of a book in her stinking bedroom somewhere. Ladies and liberal folks excuse yourself for a minute while I talk to the dude who came here to find out if he should buy this book.Bro,This book is so gay, you will be sporting a pink bandana at the gym doing cardio with a Shake Weight when you finish it. Man, if that nerd chick wants to know your opinion on this book (I know) tell her that Santiago is a dope and Fatima was probably engaging her own "personal legend" while he was out seeking his. Peace out and ditch that nerd chick, not worth the trouble man.Regards,Another Bro. WAIT? did I just hear a "dafuq?" echo because of my incoherent and batshit crazy writing above? my point exactly with this book and the author.


Door - Margaret Atwood "...bitch is dead" - The final words spoken by Mr. Bond in this book. HOTDAMN! this book is so marinated in macho, I think I grew a fresh lock of chest hair just reading it. I purchased this for nothing else but to feel like novelty what with Skyfall earning rave reviews (yep, this is my first ever Bond novel). Reading it made me feel...wait...did I tell you about the chest hair thing? did? OK then. The only disappointment was the vast difference in how Vesper Lynd was in the movie version (the Daniel Craig one) which I absolutely loved and this one where she has been made out to be a typical damsel in distress material. If you haven't given particular attention to Vesper Lynd of the movie version, search for "I am the money" on youtube and you will see what I meant. The kinda woman only Mr. Bond can handle. Anyway, forgive me for digressing. Book is awesome, read it but if you like the movie version better, stay in that lane and don't switch over.

The Devil's Alternative

Devil's Alternative - Frederick Forsyth You know you have a master piece in your hand when you read this book. Although the plot does not unravel until the last two paragraphs of the last page, Mr. Forsyth exhibits his skill and mastery in weaving you into a deception that when the truth dawns on you it is like having ice cold water thrown at your face when you were deep asleep. This is so good, I cannot begin to explain and point out the favorite sub-plots; the whole book is full of it. I loved this book. An example of what an action thriller should be.

The Enchiridion

The Enchiridion - Epictetus Someone very smart said “A good master is not who teaches well but one who creates the most number of masters”. A level of wisdom and understanding which I am very afraid belongs to a select few in this world and Epictetus must be their lord master. Am I over reacting? Maybe but the depth with which the material in this book is presented is mind boggling. For example, Epictetus says there is nay not a person who is disturbing but rather our opinion about them that is actually disturbing us. Whoa! Total brain blast!It is an experience reading this book, almost a divination if you are into miracles and all.I was quite disappointed when this edition stopped short at 20 odd pages while his worthy followers Seneca and Markus Aurelius seem to have written much bigger books. Hey, at least we did not get some goodball intellectual mudding up the original text with his interpretations and this book was written by his student anyways.

Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia

Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia - S. Hussain Zaidi This book has a major identity problem. On the outset, the book appears to only chronicle the infamous don's life story but then the author gets into this Mario Puzo style of recounting the entire yesteryear Mumbai mafia's transformation from one phase into another not to mention the feeble attempt to make you-know-who be given a Vito Corleone-ish shade. Oh and there is sex strewn here and there à la Sunny Corleone and Lucy Mancini type of crude stuff but with poor taste. Seriously, the author talks about how a certain thug liked to spit on his madame and lick it, ugh. Also, one has to wonder, how did the author know? Anyways, I am not going to deny the author his 4 stars not for the way he intended his readers would absorb it but for my own preferences. Allow me to elucidate.Have you ever been to a tea shop in a rural Indian village where there is always that one guy who knew everything about everyone and for a sponsored chai or beedi was willing to make your tea break interesting with some latest village gossip? That is how I pictured Mr. Hussain Zaidi while going through this book.Excellent narrative style, a not-so-stellar but good enough research work and good proof reading provides for decent quality content. Total time-pass book.

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan - John Man Someone very smart once said, winning a prize is one thing but keeping it is another. The latter part of winning - be it a kingdom, a title or just monopoly - is the area my heart truly yearns to learn about. That and about unsung heroes, the men and women who run the show from behind curtains. This would be a machiavellian's favorite bed time story book. These two ingredients, Mr. John Man serves you in large portions with his book on Kublai Khan. How the empire moved from Genghis to Ogedei to to Monkhe to Kublai and how they went about consolidating their wins and expanding from there is wonderful to learn about. I loved how he brings the unsung heroes to light like who the hero was (or so) behind the trebuchet with the why, what and how behind that trivia, about that Jing guy from Song kingdom and his frailties, Sorghaghtani, the Japanese defense build up etc. Very interesting!!Especially, with Mr. John Man's almost stereotypical British upper lip narrative - for example, he has this habit of throwing the most known myth about something and then immediately and abruptly debunking it (reminiscent of P.G Wodehouse if I may dare say). OK, I know the purists will foam at mouth about that considering Mr. John Man is not widely accepted but give that guy a break OK? with a subject as dry as history is, he is doing his best. I am not an expert in Mongolian history but from the sound of it I would say Mr. John Man seems to know what he is talking about. You know, read this book as a respite from whatever genre you are usually into. Trust me, by the time you get through all that mass killing/ genocide/ and crown grabbing written about in this book, you will wish you did not take that vacation from your genre in the first place.

Pale Horse Coming

Pale Horse Coming - Stephen Hunter This book is the yardstick by which I measure all other action thrillers. Independent action, stoic hero, an exhilarating escape sequence, retribution, story within a story; By GOD ! does this book have it all or what. You almost gasp for air when Earl Swagger is in that river struggling with the key. You feel that sense of foreboding when he decides to go after his friend, the emptiness in the description of the village and the realism in the gunfights. Brilliant! Bravo!A must have in an action-thriller lover's book shelf.

India After Independence 1947-2000

India After Independence 1947-2000 - Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee Biased as it may sound, you cannot take away the sheer amount of information the author has shoveled into this book. Not to mention how much his personal experience from black&white days adds credence to the narrative. Almost a soothing salve of patriotic writing to those who have read Mark Tully's distant and almost sympathetic (depends on whether you want it) view in his "No Full Stops in India" and had their desi bubble punctured. Not that this book praises all that is Indian but as they say, there's just something in the way mom makes that curry that no gourmet chef can match. I am no history expert so I will not comment on the accuracy or quality of data the author has presented but as a self proclaimed noob in all that is intellectual (especially post independence India's history) I must say I loved it. Should I be forced to mark out an area of concern, I would say that in his attempt to be as accurate as he could be, the author quotes way too many sources. So much that one gets confused if he was quoting someone or expressing his personal opinion. Not a problem one cannot meander around but just laying it out there. The book costs reasonable and totally worth your time.

Three Chinese Poets

Three Chinese Poets - Vikram Seth To be honest, I only picked this book because a few weeks ago, I noticed that a fellow reviewer had very much enjoyed her experience with a book on poetry. I had been wanting to read some serious poetry for sometime anyway. So, here I was, an action genre lover trying to foray into a world I hardly understand much less about the narrower section which reveres Chinese poets from centuries ago. End result, I didn't get it. Probably will not for a long time. This book is for some serious connoisseurs of poetry. Beginners and wannabe poetry lovers (like me) should mind their business elsewhere. Now, having said that, I am giving four stars for the only poem I enjoyed, "Drinking alone with the the moon" by Li Bai(one of the three poets showcased in this book), my favorite excerpt:A pot of wine among the flowers.I drink alone, no friend with me.I raise my cup to invite the moon.He and my shadow and I make three.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Yann Martel It took me four years to finish this book. There, I said it. To be honest, I had picked up this book in my early days of sojourn into a then hateful but necessary habit of reading (I sucked at Her Majesty's language and I still marginally do); not to enjoy this book but to look cool owning it - long story. Anyway, on the book, I wonder if Yann Martel intended the story's pace to be as slow as it seemed to be. I mean, I can't tell you what exactly contributed to this perception of mine but there's something in the way Mr. Martel guides the story that makes you want to record that sound of your hair growing. Well, I am willing to go on a limb here to say that if not for it's reputation as a literary marvel in the local newspapers at that time, I doubt I would have even bothered to complete it. However, the last few pages of this book totally made up for the drudgery the ones preceding them subjected me to. There you are wondering what the brouhaha was all about and WHAM! Mr Martel face punches you with the ending. Loved it.

Laughing Wolf

Laughing Wolf - Yuko Tsushima Look, the dude was a successful whatever and then at a relatively young age he started looking like shit so instead of hiring a personal trainer or retiring early he sold his Ferrari (not a Pagani Zonda, McLaren F1 or even a Buggatti Veyron but just a frigging Ferrari, as the folks at top gear will attest, so much for your hypothetical past "success" Mr Monk) and goes in search of Shangri La and after weirdly gay time there returns looking ripped. End of the goddamn story. Why this book sold more than twenty copies is beyond me.So, if getting felt up by a rabidly violent person in a dark and smelly alley is your kind of thing, look no further, read this book. It's that dangerously gay.

The End of War

The End of War - David L. Robbins One of the most enjoyable reads in the recent times. The author does right to the wrongs the German people in the annuls of history were put through for what was the fault of Hitler and his henchmen. That and how he shows that the so called Titans of war were just petty men at the breakfast table. There is this scene where (one of) the female protagonists in the story realizes the price her mother was paying to bring home black market food for dinner every day that had me put the book down for several days and resort to reading P.G Wodehouse to recuperate; Also, there is another scene where they (the mother and daughter duo) are visited by the male protagonist and misunderstand him to be one of the many Russian soldiers who visited them after the invasion and did some terrible things. I am not the emotional type but I have to say I felt my heart pinched many a times as I read the book. In the end, the message was clear, there are no heroes in a war.

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret Of Achieving More With Less - Richard Koch For those proclaiming this book to be life-saver, you will be in for a shock to know that what this book expounds is one of the gazillion other data analysis methods. Let me explain, there is data and there is information. What you do to the data and in appropriate context makes it information. What the author has expounded in this book is that ‘a little of something causes so much of everything” or rather has stamped an approval (it was not his original idea, remember, only the name “80/20 principle” that is his. Read up on Vilfredo Pareto and Pareto Principle) on the theory of imbalance. Exactly why I was left feeling a bit pissed off when I finished this book – the author takes way too long to admit it wasn’t his original idea, and nor does he make it very clear that the ‘80/20’ ratio of causation was only one of the many ratios though he does indeed admit it albeit somewhere after the half-way mark in the book. The one other major grief I have with this book is that it does very little to explain the practical application of this idea for the spreadsheet junkies (which business analyst isn’t?) save a vague chapter or few pages on it..That said, I will not be so arrogant as to deny the author a four star as he has done such a good job in bringing the idea to the fore in the first place. Only, to lean on this book to be your career saver would not be a sound idea. What it will instead do is direct your attention to the world of data analysis; Trust me, as mundane as that phrase sounds, it is quite a skill to have in your repertoire.

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