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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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Whispering Wind

An unusual tale from the master story teller Frederick Forsyth, this time from frontier west from Cheyenne territory.

The story begins in or around 1876, when Ben Craig, who is a frontier scout is recruited by the army to locate Indians scattered in and around the territory in order to evacuate them from their lands. Ben Craig himself is a Cheyenne Indian and knows more about their ways than the badly equipped army. He saves a girl Whispering Wind from the bad intentions of the army folks of doing rape and murder of the girl by allowing her to escape on a horse.

Upon coming to know of his misdeeds, the army General Custer orders his hanging the next day after a summary trial. In the meanwhile the Army is routed by the Indians and Ben Craig escapes with his horse and takes refuge in a cave to escape the blinding cold.

Indians take him into their fold and he starts loving Whispering Wind. But the traditions of Indians will not allow them to be together so they escape again. They are pursued by the Indians and also the army folks who are seeking revenge for what he did to their troops. Whispering Wind leaves him to take approval of her folks and return to him.

Fast forward to another hundred years when the cave is a kind of retreat for city folks to come and experience how the frontiersperson used to live hundreds of years ago. Whispering Wind comes back as Linda Pickett a school teacher with her wards to visit the cave. Ben Craig is still unaware of the time travel and falls in love once.

Forsyth has seamlessly merged centuries in this beautiful story of love, danger, bravery, all told in his inimitable style of writing. Goodreads 5/5

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The Watchman

A breezy fast paced thriller from Chris Ryan “The Watchman” is a about an SAS operative being recruited to take down an MI-5 agent who had infiltrated into IRA and who had gone rogue.

Alex Temple is described as a daring commander with guts and intelligence aplenty to first lead an ambush into Sierra Leone to rescue two British TV news agents who were captured by rebels in that country. Immediately after that mission, he is called back urgently to tackle another menace – that is somebody was brutally murdering MI-5 officers one by one and it was feared that Joe Meehan who was the British agent who had been infiltrated into IRA was the man behind it.

A deadly game of cat and mouse, more deadly murders, some intelligence work, some deception, some sex, later it all goes down the wire. Of course there is a suspense at the end, as it has to be, to explain these dastardly killings.

Chris Ryan has written well with a fast paced narrative like an unputdownable novel. Goodreads 5/5

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Let Sleeping Vets Lie

Another one of the delectable stories from James Herriot, the vet surgeon from Darrowby in the Yorkshire Dales.

He jumps from one animal rescue story to another with poise and elegance with dollops of humour thrown in. Whether be it serious cases which sometimes the best of vets cannot solve to the irascible pet owners, James regales all with this trademark style of writing which is simple and beautiful.

Funny anecdotes interspersed with stories of his boss and his attempt to woo his girlfriend Helen through his father – all there in this lovely, magnificent book. Goodreads 5/5

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Last of the Breed

Louis L’Amour is my favorite author and this one does not disappoint. Brilliant story of a US air force pilot and a red Indian shot down and captured by Russians for information. Major Joe Mack is a Red Indian, a Sioux and knowing all the survival skills of his forefathers. He escapes prison by pole vaulting above the prison walls and then, in freezing temperatures, sprints across the cold, frozen Russian land and has to use all the skills of his ancestors to survive and be on the run for days, months and years. He meets a family of hunters and trappers, stays with them for a while, hunting meat for them and falling silently in love with the daughter Natalya. He is faced with with the guile of an Yakut, a Russian who has similar intelligence as him to trace him out of his hidings, Alekhin. He fears only Alekhin and has to constantly place secret snares and traps for his followers to fall to death. The deadly game of cat and mouse goes on for a couple of seasons with the KGB after his blood. Brilliant narrative as usual from Louis L’Amour – a pulsating, throbbing novel bought to life by the master. Goodreads 5/5

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Dogs of War

Brilliant book by Frederick Forsyth “Dogs of War” set in the murky world of mercenaries being used to topple governments where mineral stakes are high, very high.

Zangaro, a fictional African country is in the middle of it, some platinum reserves having been discovered there, with a corrupt president at the helm, ethnic clashes, broken down army, no economy to speak of. In comes Sir James Mansion a wealthy mining businessman smelling riches aplenty and his two handpicked assistants, Endean and Thorpe to do the dirty job for him. Endean tasked with finding mercenaries who will carry arms to the country, do an ambush and kill the president and ransack the place to tithers.

Forsyth does a detailed narrative of the reconnaissance part of the operation from recruiting friends to the mission, to procuring the necessary arms, equipment, boats, arranging everything legally, well almost all of them. Most of the narrative is dwelt on the preparation part of the operation.

And when you expect the operation will run to plan, Forsyth springs a surprise at the end. Cat Shannon, the English mercenary is in the thick of the things, does a meticulous job of planning the operation down to the last hour, minute with precision. This one is cult classic for the ages.

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