Books of February & March

This is a bumper post for books read in February and March.


My rating: ★★★½

Everyone, at time, wishes to be an inventor or a scientist. Everyone also dreams of being the overlord of at least the planet Earth. The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is a collection of stories that satisfy both these wishes. You can read the first story, Professor Incognito Apologizes. You can also read and listen to other stories from this anthology here.

 


My rating: ★★★


My rating: ★★★

Then I read up a couple of short stories. I guess there is a rising trend among modern authors to create short novellas that act as an interlude between books. Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson set in his YA Reckoners universe and Roger Ascham and the King’s Lost Girl by Matthew Reilly which is a sort of prelude to his book, The Tournament.

 


My rating: ★★★½


My rating: ★★★

Two new John Connolly books had come out, one titled The Wolf in Winter featuring his private investigator Charlie Parker and another, The Creeps featuring his young hero, Samuel Johnson. It is pretty amazing to read two works by the same author whose subject are at the other ends of a spectrum. Charlie Parker are gritty noir and deal with the worst of humanity whereas the Sam Johnson books are a light-hearted romp.

 

  

The next three books were recommended by someone during an in-game chatter of Clash of Clans. A discussion on fantasy novels between raiding and farming led to this recommendation.

These three books are based in the Forgotten Realms universe, a campaign setting of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG. They tell the story of a dark elf named Drizzt Do’Urden in the Dark Elf trilogy comprising of Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn. My rating for all three book is ★★★

 


My rating: ★★★


My rating: ★★★

The Order of the Sanguine series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell is an interesting take on the whole vampire story. Accordingly, we get a short story, Blood Brothers that acts as a segue between the earlier book and new one, Innocent Blood. A willing suspension of disbelief will introduce you to the unseen strigoi roaming our world.

 


My rating: ★★★½

Content Strategy at Work by Margot Bloomstein was a book I had previously left unfinished from last year. I finally got around to completing it. I wasn’t that much impressed with this book as I felt the book was more like a bunch of case studies. My expectation probably was a bit high when I started this book. But it had a lot of real-life scenarios (forgive the oxymoron:-) ) that probably I may not be able ot use right away, yet, I could file it away as knowledge for future use.

 


My rating: ★★★½

Loki, the trickster, the much-maligned figure of the Norse mythology finally gets a chance to tell what really conspired on Asgard and the events that led to Ragnarok in Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki. Much like his character, this sardonic account of the Norse mythology provides a different angle to the rise and fall of the Aesir.

 

 

Looking back at the books I read in February and March, the main theme was the presence of a protagonist who was more Byronic than an anti-hero. And speaking of Byron, this passage from The Corsair sorta summarizes the books for the past couple of months.

He knew himself a villain—but he deemed
The rest no better than the thing he seemed;
And scorned the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loathed him, crouched and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt:
His name could sadden, and his acts surprise;
But they that feared him dared not to despise:

Lord Byron, The Corsair

On turning thirty four…

I just spent a few moments gazing heavenwards across the galaxy watching distant nuclear reactions take place on Rigel, on Pollux, and on Alderbaran. Then I realized that the selfsame reactions were also taking place within each of my cells.

Everyone needs to take sometime to gaze at the heavens to realize the significance of our mortality and our own hubris.

On an unrelated note, I also realized that I’ve outlived Jesus Christ on this mortal plane. :-)

Books of January


My rating: ★★★★

The first book of 2014 was Dangerous Women. There were several reasons why I wanted to read this book. A couple of them were it had stories by George R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson. Thirdly, I wanted to try out new authors and this collection of short stories seemed a good way to feed my reading. My favourite was Sanderson’s Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell and Martin’s telling of the Dance of Dragons, a event only alluded to in his epic A Song of Ice and Fire series.


My rating: ★★★★

For a change, I wanted to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books this year. So I picked up The Selfish Gene. I’ve been wanting to read this book for more than half a decade and looks like the time had finally arrived. Leaving Dawkins’ atheist philosophies aside, this book is an excellent presentation of evolution. At the end of the book, one really wonders if we are just survival machines constructed by immortal genes to propagate themselves. But the core idea that Dawkins presents us is that we should try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.


My rating: ★★★★

Another long pending item on the ‘to read’ shelf was The Hobbit. I know as a self-confessed fantasy fan, to admit that I’ve never read The Hobbit is shameful; but there are so many books and so little time. I had visited the Shire and the travels and travails of Bilbo Baggins on the big screen and now to revisit them in one’s imagination was a spectacle that cannot be captured in 3-D. Now I will await the battle of the Five Armies, Smaug’s death and Bilbo’s return to the Shire later this year.


My rating: ★★★★

The modern eater is more concerned about what we put into our bodies. Michael Pollan brings out his views In Defense of Food. His defense is summed as “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants“. He attacks the modern trend of looking at food not as fuel for the body instead of something that is to be partaken with joy and pleasure. His bugbear seems to be the growing trend of nutritionism where food is broken into different components or nutrients. Let’s say that reading this book left me with a guilty feeling. :-(

As January ends, I think the idea of interspersing fiction and non-fiction is going to be a challenge to complete the #100booksin2014 list. And I’ve a good list of books to tackle in February.

musical discoveries of 2013

Over the past couple of years, all I had been listening was a select few artists. I never got out of country/bluegrass genre but now, I think I’m stuck in a indie folk and singer-songwriter loop. All thanks to 8tracks. When I first came across this site a year back, I thought it is going to spit out random songs that are totally unrelated. But I was wrong, the carefully curated playlists got me hooked. And pretty soon, I was coming across a couple of artists whose music I kinda liked and soon 8tracks became my artist discovery engine. Some of the artists I discovered via this site and I’ve grown to like over the past year were:

  • Ben Howard (Depth over Distance was the song that drew me in and Max kinda quiets down once Old Pine starts playing.)
  • Bon Iver (Skinny Love was the dealbreaker. Also try listening to Birdy’s version.)
  • Angus and Julia Stone (this brother-sister duo is a must-listen. Just a Boy)
  • William Fitzsimmons (A duet with Julia Stone got me introduced to this artist. A haunting voice and great lyrics got me.)
  • Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (The energy of their performances is amazing. Man on Fire became an earworm along with Here. )
  • The Civil Wars (Beautiful harmonies… Just listen to I’ve got this friend. Pity they seem to have broken up recently.)

So go on and visit 8tracks and discover new music and artists. Who did you discover this year?

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What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets