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December 24, 2014

Book: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next by Stieg Larsson

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:45 pm

This is the third and concluding book in the Millenium Trilogy written by Steig Larsson. The first two books  (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire) have already been reviewed here before.

I have already discussed how the author meant this to be more thanFeatured image a Trilogy but published only the first three before he passed away in earlier reviews and so will not repeat them here. Let us focus on this book for this review.

This book has some things common with the earlier ones in that the book starts with a bang like the previous two but there are also differences. The first book stands alone as a story, and the second book, even though meant as a continuation of the first book also stands alone; even if the background from the first book will help add some colour to the story, you still can read it as a separate book and it will still work, including the ending.

That is not true of this book. The beginning exactly takes off where the previous book left off, in the fashion of the Lord of the Rings books, in that you will definitely need the contents in book two before you can appreciate what is going on.

Our star, Lisbeth Salander has been shot in the head and fighting for her life in a hospital. Blomkvist was the one who found her.

The police Paulsson who comes in to investigate is an idiot and arrests Blomkvist for possessing illegal weapons when he was trying to return the weapon found in the area to the police. He also lets the giant of a killer escape by sending just two policemen who are easily overpowered (one killed) when they untie the criminal and he escapes.

Lisbeth comes to in a hospital and finds that Zalachenko, her father who tried to murder her (again all of it is in book 2. See what I mean?) is not only alive but is in the same hospital.

Zalachenko of course wants Salander out of the picture. He even sneaks up to her room to make sure that she does not leave alive and the scene where she realizes that someone is lurking outside her room when she is lying there nearly completely helpless is tense.

In the meanwhile, the Section, the ultra secret, almost unconstitutional body that was set up to investigate superiors and created the Zala affair when he defected from the Soviet Union, realizes the threat to its existence by Zala, Salander and others, and hatches a plan to commit Lisbeth to an asylum, stop the detectives from pursuing the Salander affair, bury the secret report on her, and also silence Blomkvist.

In a parallel event, Erika announces her retirement to move to the big newspaper. This is a big blow to the Millenium press as it loses the glue and the star brain behind it.

The Section’s ex head, Gulberg, already over seventy and dying of cancer, decided to take out Zala and kill himself to save the Section. Giannini’s suitcase is robbed and the copy of the report from Blomkvist’s house is taken. Blomkvist realizes that everyone is bugged.

Meanwhile, Teleborian tries to steamroll his way to Lisbeth, only to be rebuffed by her current physician, Jonasson. Blomkvist, Armansky and Annika work to expose the conspiracy against Lisbeth. We learn that Blomkvist has a third copy of the report that he pretends does not exist to throw the organization off the track.

Now they all go on the offensive. The Prime Minister of Sweden knows about a secret organization that has done criminal activities and framed innocent people into sanatoriums and is supremely uncomfortable. They catch Teleborian meeting Jonas by just hacking into everyone’s computer!

Berger is harassed by a stalker and her personal and compromising pictures are stolen too.

Now a group starts investigating the Section and finds that the plan to plant narcotics in Blomkvist’s apartment and also assassinate him. Blomkvist and Erica narrowly escape being assassinated while the Central European killers are apprehended. Blomkvist plans a big expose on the third day of Salander’s trial.

The trial and especially Dr Teleborian’s testimony is amazing and fabulously told. Afterwards, I wondered why the story was still going on until she went to Zalachenko’s abandoned building. Of course. All loose ends have to be tied, right?  Even that part is fantastic, the way she tackles the final menace.

Apologies for being cryptic about the end of the story but without giving critical twists away, I definitely cannot describe more of the exhilarating last part of the book. And this is definitely one of those books where giving away plot information will take away almost all the fun of reading the story.

An excellent read and definitely holds its own against the first two books in narration, plot twists and tension. . I would say a 8/10

– – Krishna

December 19, 2014

Book: Dirty Sexy Politics by Meghan McCain

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:33 pm

My God, what a book this could have been! Imagine getting a ringside seat at the inside details of the famous Obama – John McCain battle for the presidency! Imagine how the scene could have been set by describing the impact of Featured imagethe George W Bush presidency that had just ended, the battle between Obama and Hillary and with the inside information that the author had, it could have been a fabulous book. The author is, of course, Meghan McCain, John’s daughter and by her own account, was intimately involved in the campaign. Instead, we get one of the worst accounts of the campaign arguably ever written.

The preamble is all blather on how Republicans have lost their way and how Barry Goldwater was the greatest republican who lived and who was inspiration to Ronald Reagan and Meghan’s father John McCain. She describes what she considers to be an insider account of McCain’s battle with Obama and also the degeneration of the Republican party from the lofty ideas of the heroes mentioned above to extreme right wing partisan values.

She makes fun of Romney. The tone is that of a schoolgirl – she is young enough – trying to write a diary, though valiantly trying to be poignant about the lamentable decline of politics and the republican party in itself. She sounds surprised that the campaign managers who run election campaigns turned out to be nice people.

For all that, her fundamental point is valid. She laments that there does not seem to be a place in the Republican party for fiscally conservative (small government, private enterprise) but socially liberal (tolerance towards gays, pro life) people today. That is about the only good thing I can tell about this whole book.

The adolescent writing continues. She cries because her mom will not tell her who the running mate for McCain is. She is crestfallen because her mom asked her to change the dress she chose. And you start to think, ‘Is this what I want to know about the McCain campaign’?

And she also talks of her moderate Republican fanbase.  What? Fanbase? For Meghan? Maybe she is confusing her family for fans.

We can make on guess about this book. It surely is not ghost written because no ghost writer can write this badly.

It reads like a self centred, immature girl account all the way through. For instance, there are vicious attacks on the press corps because Meghan knows that they are all secretly on Obama’s side.

She spews venom on her father’s aides that she does not like.

Then there is a kind of gloating over how popular McCain turned out to be in New Hampshire and a kind of snobbish pity for the candidates who did not do so well.

Breathtakingly whiny and stereotypical. All of South Carolina was “bad” she thought (really Meghan? What was the reason?)  but it is all “warm and nice”.

As if it is not enough, she uses the invented word ‘daughter-of’ way too much, which  is irritating. “Daughter-Of” by itself, with no ending.

She is also a TV junkie. Instead of painting a picture of a place or person, she points out that this is like such and such place or person from a TV serial.

There is unintended humour too. She says that in politics everything should be planned and one should be in control. This comes right after her account of her fiasco of a press interview, where her words, dress, manners were all wrong, and that she drew heavy flak for it. It appears that the pearls of wisdom that she sheds is only for others, and does not apply to the special “daughter-of”.

With the full benefit of hindsight, she declares an instant unease when Sarah Palin was inducted as a running mate, and writes as if her father had no hand at all in that selection. Yeah, right.

She cannot understand why she is an embarrassment to the campaign staff, but her own descriptions tell you why. You feel sorry for the McCains. If the biggest fan of John McCain was like this…..

No word about the clash of ideologies between Sarah and McCain; she has time to  only write about about the wardrobe and the pregnancy of Bristol Palin.

Complains about a dinky private jet, takes Xanax without a doctor’s say so, and has not even read her father’s memoirs because ‘it is too painful’.  Need I say more? Great research for an author of the book about the campaign.

It is, at its core, a rambling account of how she was part of it and how everyone reacted to her and about her friends, how her parents gave her “all the freedom” and told her to be “her own person”. Can it get any more cliché and trite?

Even when she has some points, she ruins it by repetition. It looks like a patient person talking to you like you are a mentally challenged person, repeating sentences many times for your dim wits to catch up.

Overall, it reads like reading the diary of a girl who happened to be in the centre of limelight because her dad was trying to be the President. I was not expecting a personal account of her wardrobe and her “impressions” of everything and am not into it. If you are, you may get a lot more out of this book than I did. If not, it does not give you anything more about the McCain-Obama battle of 2012 than you already know.

You want a seven page description of what she did after the election loss? You are treated to a non ending repetition of eat, sleep and video games. If this is your thing, go for it!

From where I stand, I can give it at most a 1/10

  • – Krishna

Movie : Interstellar (2014)

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:35 pm

This movie was a big disappointment for me and I will tell you why.

Featured image

First, the movie had a buzz and was talked about in the same hushed tones that people use for movies like Inception and so I was expecting something fabulous in concept and execution, perhaps a worthy heir to the all time great movie The Matrix.

Second, after Matthew McConaughey cleaned up his boy toy roles and started doing fabulous movies and serious roles, I always wanted to see his recent movies and opted to see this first and expected to see his Oscar worthy performance in this film.

Both expectations were dashed very soon.

The movie revolves around earth rapidly approaching annihilation due to shortage of food to eat. The whole world seems to have turned agrarian, with people surviving on subsistence farming, and even then having a losing battle against dust storms, plant blights and other assorted pestilences that make it a challenge to grow a decent crop.

Cooper – played by Mathew McCounaughey –   is an old NASA pilot who misses the old days of space flights but is forced to farm as NASA had shut down long ago. Why? The world cannot afford such frivolous expenses as space travel and should focus on necessities like, well, farming. He lives with his son Tom and daughter Murph. Murph has got a scientific bent of mind while Tom loves and adores farming. Also with them is David, who is Cooper’s father – it is strange to see John Lithgow after his days in The Third Rock from the Sun days.

The story is weird. Based on some poltergeist act, they discover that some Morse code patters are there on the ground, and Cooper goes in search of it. Murph steals into his automobile, forcing him to take her too. They discover that NASA is not only still operational but have a plan to find a new planet that is habitable and transport the entire mankind from earth into that planet. The old Professor Bland, played by Michael Caine, sends a team to explore, including his daughter Amelia.

Three scientists were sent before Cooper but they seem to be sending signals still, which means there are three alternative planets to explore. Why the wormhole? Because mankind cannot travel to any inhabitable planet, even the nearest one, in any one person’s lifetime because it takes hundreds of light years to reach. A wormhole is a short cut. This at least seems to be the real scientific theory.

In the middle we come across a lot of bogus science about wormholes and black holes and some absurd visual representations of the same. They go close to a black hole and a planet seems to be surviving on the edge of it, and that is one of those that needs to be explored.

The story goes completely berserk where Cooper seems to be dead but is not and then even his body is found and revived! Amelia, when faced with a choice of which planet to visit (they can visit only one, after the fiasco with the first one they chose) elects to go to the third because of “love”. And love figures prominently as something that is even greater than any science. Wait, that sounds normal but in the movie, when they try to explain in science terms sounds completely absurd.

The whole movie is pointless. In fact, Michael Caine plays no big part in the movie and is just a prop for one of the bizarre twists. There is interminable and boring discussions on space stuff which has nothing to do with the movie that any average viewer can understand let alone appreciate and the movie goes completely weird again and again. David, the father and Tom the son, appear to do nothing significant – more props, as far as I can see. The movie does not move coherently from one to the other and even the floating scenes were done much better in Gravity, which is exhilarating compared to this.

Anne Hatheway is Amelia and except for crying and moaning a lot about love, does nothing either!

Now what about Mathew McCounaughey himself? I don’t know. He does not have a great scope in this because it is an adventure movie not an emotional one. On top of that, he keeps drawling his words out which seems out of place in this movie. I did not get a great vibe from this character in this movie.

The ending and the mystery of the Morse Code ghost are all confusing. The movie alternates between trying to be a science fiction and sudden emotional lurches about love being the great thing and falls between both platforms.

I know it got a fairly good review in the media but I have to only rate it as how I saw it.

Let us say a 3/10

  • – Krishna

December 6, 2014

Book: Bad Trip South by Billie Sue Mosiman

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:26 pm

imagesThis is a fairly weird story. Not a novel that keeps you glued to the pages either. But as a way to diversify the author list and read new books, I chose it almost at random.

Advertised as a “Supernatural Suspense Novel”, it is definitely misleading. There is some supernatural stuff in it, like Emily, who can read minds. But it is not central or even relevant to the story and she does nothing with it that could be called effective. As for the suspense, read on to find out.

The story looks and feels like hundreds of Hollywood stories where things start out well and go out of control quickly and where the good people and bad people quarrel not only with each other but among themselves as well, and the good men are really not so good after all.

 

A girl (Emily) who can read minds goes with her quarrelling dad Jay and mom Carrie to a museum. Two crooks plan to hijack them with the car to escape across the state line. The father is a cop turned bad and abusive to wife. Emily is oblivious of all this but  finds out just before the museum trip that the mom  plans to leave her dad taking Emily away and the dad also finds out at the same time.

 

Emily hopes that the trip will mend the broken family but before they can complete the trip, the baddies kidnap them at gun point.

 

They are hijacked in the car by Crow and Heddy, the baddies.. The parents are also raped by Crow and Hedley in a cheap motel and this destroys the family completely. The little girl, who was kept away in another room, has the ability to read the thoughts on others (but stays away from reading lustful and too ugly thoughts) and knows that they are really bad news. In fact she tried to warn her parents even before the kidnapping that the two have evil intentions but they ignore her.

 

We learn that Crow and Heddy  robbed an illicit meth factory before escaping with the family. Heddy goes to visit her mother in a trailer. And the gang that runs the meth lab is also now after them.

 

She kills a drug company associate in a bathroom before he reaches her mother and discovers, with Jay’s help that there has been another tail. An accident causes them additional issues. (Sounds like a B grade Hollywood movie? You have got it categorized absolutely correctly)

 

Then they get caught with the drug lords and Heddy learns that Crow may be double timing her too with the money. Jay of all people saves all of their lives. He seriously considers eloping with Hedley to Mexico.

 

The drama escalates, if you consider this as escalating. Heddy goes berserk when she finds out that Crow even cheated her out of the major portions of the winnings. They get almost caught by drug lords, first in a parking lot, when Jay saves them, and then in a hotel, where they escape through the fire escape on to the roof in a mist when the hotel owner tips them off.

This is the genre pioneered all those years ago by James Hadley Chase and revolves around evil people doing evil things ineptly and getting undone repeatedly and how messy the life of the baddies too can be. The storytelling is not vivid and does not hold your attention tightly.

 

The ending has a kind of interesting twist where Crow truly turns loyal to Heddy at the same time that Heddy gives up on him. Except for that, this is a very simplistic story with a non complex narration.

 

Let us say a 3/10

 

  • – Krishna

 

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