Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Firm by John Grisham



The Firm by John Grisham


This book is very good in terms of character development and the way Grisham moves the story forward.

The story starts with a young law school graduate, Mitch McDeere who is being interviewed for his new job with Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a small tax law firm based in Memphis. He bags a great job offer with loads of perks/bonuses. He moves in with his wife Abby into the new apartment and also gets a flashy new BMW, both provided by his new employer at lower mortgage and on a new lease respectively.

Soon, couple of Mitch's colleagues die in a “mysterious” accident. Mitch is intrigued to learn of a few more unsettling truths about the firm. Mitch hires his own detective, Eddie Lomax to investigate these discrepancies. Shortly, Lomax gets murdered and a FBI agent starts hounding Mitch.

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The plot quickly escalates to a cat-and-mouse chase between Mitch and his employer's goons. Mitch has few confidantes besides Abby: his brother Ray and Lomax's secretary, Tammy.

Grisham paces the story nicely and the reader is sucked into the proceedings, just like Mitch. The only downside is that I found it to be a little bit lengthy.Other than this, the book scores on all fronts.


Recommended for fans of legal thrillers.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert M. Sapolsky



Dr Robert Sapolsky with a baboon
Dr. Sapolsky with one of his favorite baboons 

Easily, one of the best books I have ever read so far.

Dr.Sapolsky is a great writer, in addition to being an extraordinary primatologist and scientist. His book A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life among the Baboons is a class act and should be read by any nature or animal lover. 

Even though Dr.Sapolsky has been a big fan of Mountain Gorillas since his childhood, his academic pursuits forced him to choose a different species as the subject of his studies.

The book chronicles not only his work on baboons, but also his cultural experiences in Africa. He has a sharp sense of humor and is quite liberal in using it while writing this book. The resulting work is one of the funniest books I have ever read. And to top it, one will never find this book in the humor section of any bookstore (online or otherwise).

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Dr. Sapolsky has been spending few months every year (for the past 3 decades) with a group of wild baboons in Africa study the sources of stress among the baboons. He discovered that baboons suffer similar psychological and social tumult created by their own species, very similar to humans.


A baboon's canines are bigger than those of a lion!
A baboon's canines are bigger than those of a lion!

But baboons are not the only ones to receive Sapolsky's attention. His assistants, Richard and Samwelly are only a few of the humans Dr. Sapolsky dwells on in great detail in this book.

There are numerous occasions on which the author comes close to getting killed, in his scientific pursuits. He hikes rides on Lorries, vans, jeeps among other types of land transportation and these journeys are some of the most amusing accounts of road trips put on paper. His descriptions of the various scams perpetrated by the corrupt officials on unsuspecting foreigners/tourists are by themselves worth the price of the book.

Finally, the book details the lives of the baboons as only the author can. As one of the world’s foremost authorities on baboons, Dr. Sapolsky’s book is an eye-opener for anyone who has not had the chance to appreciate the complex yet emotionally rich lives of these primates.


Some of Dr. Sapolsky’s favorite baboons include Saul, Joshua and Benjamin. The final scene in the book is that of Dr. Sapolsky, his wife and Joshua eating cookies and enjoying the beauty of nature. Truly a fitting end to a timeless masterpiece from a peerless writer.

Dr.Sapolsky and his work is also featured in the National Geographic Documentary Stress - Portrait of a Killer. Click here to visit the official website for the documentary.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes


Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes

Vasily Livanov is my all-time favorite actor to portray Sherlock Holmes. Born to actor Boris Livanov, Vasily's upbringing was steeped in the artistic milieu. His trademark hoarse voice led to prodigious work in many Russian cartoon productions.

His greatest success as an actor is undeniably as Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary creation, Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes is a highly refined intellectual with extraordinary skills in observation and deduction.


Though Livanov is a tad short to match the physical description of Sherlock Holmes, he invests a lot of wisdom and humor in the role. Livanov's Holmes occasionally wears spectacles as well. To the best of my knowledge, this is quite unique among all the adaptations.


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Livanov's Holmes is assertive and masterly. Livanov presents a very calm and collected version of Holmes that readers of the Canon will instantly recognize.


Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes


Unlike another great Sherlock Holmes impersonator, the great Basil Rathbone, Livanov is not saddled with a dumbed down version of Watson. Basil was an excellent Holmes and he would have been the definitive version, but for the gentleman portraying Dr Watson.

Vitaly Solomin is a great foil as the ever-dependable ally and friend, Dr. John Watson. Solomin's Watson is exactly as Conan Doyle had envisioned him to be: a true friend of Holmes and a competent doctor in his own right.



Vitaly Solomin as Dr John Watson
Vitaly Solomin as Dr John Watson

While it is inarguable that the observation and deduction skills of Holmes have made him the most prominent fictional detective in the world, the camaraderie between Holmes and Watson is the other major ingredient that has made Conan Doyle's works so successful.

The literary success of the Holmes-Watson duo has inspired many other similar team-ups (Agatha Christie's Poirot-Hastings is a famous example). True to the spirit of the works that inspired this adaptation, Livanov and Solomin share an excellent on-screen chemistry.


Russian Monument dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
Russian Monument dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
Both Livanov and Solomin have been immortalized in bronze as Holmes and Watson near the British Embassy in Moscow.

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin in a 4-coin set to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin are featured in a 4-coin set released to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes

The critical acclaim and public reception for Livanov's work is not just limited to Russia. He was awarded in 2006 with an Honorary MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. New Zealand Mint released a 4-coin set to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes, featuring Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin.

Click here to read all my posts about the Russian adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Coneflower



Purple Coneflower
Purple Coneflower

Common Name - Coneflower
Botanical Name - Echinacea
Family - Asteraceae 


Coneflower is a native North American flower with raised center and is one of the most beautiful native wildflowers. Coneflower is used in tablet and other forms to treat colds, flus, and also to support the immune system.


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review: Meg: Primal Waters by Steve Alten





This is a review of the Kindle version.

This installment in the Meg series deals with Jonas and his daughter Danielle participating in a top-rated reality TV show “Daredevils”. In a separate plot thread, Terry Taylor investigates whale beachings off Vancouver Island.

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Michael Maren has masterminded his latest scheme using the titular Meg “Angel” to off the Taylors. Does he succeed?



Steve Alten, the author

This books entertains. No doubt.


Having said that, it takes liberties with science. All fishes/monsters in this book are super-sized. There are lot of descriptions of “747 sized fins”, “cave sized mouth”, “truck sized head” and so on. I guess the author knows how to sell his wares!

I like sharks and did enjoy this book.

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Meg: Origins
Meg: Hell's Aquarium

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Water Lily


Pink Water Lily
Pink Water Lily

Common Name - Water Lily
Botanical Name - Nymphaea Odorata
Meaning - Eloquence and Persuasion
Family - Nymphaeaceae


White Water Lily
White Water Lily
Water Lily is the national flower of the Bangladesh.


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Albert Einstein


Albert Einstein

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Siberian Tiger


Siberian Tiger
Tiger Tiger ! Tiger!  burning bright


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Taken at Columbus Zoo, Ohio


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Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Review: Meg: Origins by Steve Alten



Meg: Origins by Steve Alten


This is a review of the Kindle version.

Hey, if Hollywood can do it, so can Steve Alten! 

So here is the “Origins” story for Jonas Taylor and Megs. Megheads, as Steve Alten likes to calls them, will devour this one. That's for granted. As for newcomers to the series, Alten would be hoping this book should make them a Meghead.

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He even provides some content from the first book in the Meg series in the hope that readers would fall hook, line and sinker for his series. Will they? That remains the million-dollar question, as Steve continues his never-ending quest to get the Meg series made into a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie franchise.


Steve Alten, the author
Steve Alten, the author

Steve even mentions Summer 2013 as the probable release date for the Meg movie. Here's rooting for your Steve. Hope that Meg movie gets released soon. 


As for the book, we meet a younger Jonas Taylor as he prepares to go deep down in the Mariana Trench. Jonas meets a really big Shark that exceeds 60 ft in length and is about to swallow his submarine. And what happens next? You will have to read the book to find out. Just kidding! Jonas Taylor is the main protaganist in the Meg series and he does make it through.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review: As the Twig is Bent: A Matt Davis Mystery by Joe Perrone Jr



As the Twig is Bent: A Matt Davis Mystery by Joe Perrone Jr


This is a review of the Kindle version.

The character of the main protagonist, Matt Davis is very well fleshed out. We get to know him really well. Joe Perrone Jr knocks this one out of the park.

The crime mystery itself is passable without any major twists and stands nowhere near the complex mysteries of Agatha Christie.

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The book contains couple of instances of very explicit descriptions of adult content. Parents would be highly advised to peruse the book, before introducing the book to kids.

Still, a recommended reading for the way the character of Matt Davis has been developed.


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