bookspluslife

March 31, 2018

Book: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:18 pm

imageThis book is the Sixth (and penultimate) book in the series of Seven books (Eight, if you include a later introduction into the middle of the series. We have seen the previous ones here, which are : The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, The Wizard and Glass, The Wind Through the Keyhole and Wolves of The Calla. Only the final volume is left after this.

 

I must say that the stories are getting better and better as you go along. In complete contrast to the first book, The Gunslinger, which was abominable, this one is very, very good.   Let us jump into the story, assuming you have read the earlier books at least enough to know the characters by now.

 

Realizing Susannah has disappeared with the Black Ball, Eddy is desperate to go after her, but the townsfolk caution him to wait until the morning.

 

They feel a Beam break and are anxious to save the Dark Tower before vital Beams break and make it collapse.

The next morning they go after Susannah/ Mia and find her wheelchair abandoned.

 

Meanwhile Trudy gets to see Susannah/ Mia materialize out of thin air and gets her shoes stolen as well. She is never the same. She hears the “Black Tower” a building of black glass being constructed in the vacant lot sing.

 

Meanwhile Susannah reaches out to Eddie in her mind and he gives her a sign from the past, asking her to look for hidden pockets in the bag containing the evil ball. She gets a small turtle which seems to have magical powers and mesmerises a Swedish businessman who offers cash and a hotel room and the receptionist is mesmerised not to ask for identification.

 

When they have a talk on a mental desolate range, Susannah understands that Mia is the aspect of the demon whom Roland and she faced and also that to save the child, they have let Eddie and Roland walk into the trap set by Jack Andolini and his men.

 

Roland and Eddie escape, though Eddie was shot on the leg, on a boat helped by an old man they accidentally met. Roland roasts the pursuers with diesel and a fire bomb and they escape by boat to the man’s cottage by the pier. They go meet Alan Dipeneau and Calvin Tower who has been stupid in advertising their whereabouts while hiding.  Finally they persuade him to sell the plot to the ka-tet.

 

Susannah delays Mia till night when she knows that Jake and Callahan will arrive to save her. The episodes of the fight at the gas station, the rage of Eddie about Calvin’s stupidity, Calvin’s obstreperous denial of the danger, and Mia’s confusion about modern gadgets in the hotel are all told extremely well and are classic King. What jars is his inserting himself into the story (Remember Wilbur Smith doing it much more disastrously in The Seventh Scroll?). It is annoying when authors want to be part of the story (even as themselves). Having started the plan, King plays with the idea, even making Eddie wonder if he, Eddie, is a part of some story.

 

They go after King. (I feel stupid at this point for reading on). King does a comic portrayal unlike Wilbur glorifying himself as a ‘historian’ in the other book, but still it is kind of stupid, discussing characters created by the author with the author himself.

 

Callahan, Jake and Oy land in New York. They follow the trail and are ready to die until they find the scrimshaw turtle left there by Susannah. Then they go into the den of the Crimson King’s “low men”, a bar called the Dixie Pig. The low men are those who figure in the short story so well (Hearts in Atlantis). Incidentally, the low men are those that have red dots on their forehead. (Thank God that they are not women with red dots! But wait, yes, there are also women with red dots).  The dots slosh blood within but they do not spill.

 

The scene where Mia realizes how much she relied on false promises is well told, as is the reception that Susannah Mia get among the low men, vampires and some insectile beings. The characters are pure fantasy, Stephen King style.

 

The ending is a cliff-hanger and serve as a gateway to the next book. Which, I believe, is the last in the series.

 

7/10

– – Krishna

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Book: Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:02 pm

imageI like puns and the title of this book is a fun pun. So, I really wanted to like this book, as the title predisposed me towards the book. But unfortunately, reading it is not like reading the title.  But, I will save the rant for a little later…

A lot of Montreal flavour. Like the author herself, Tempe divides her time between Canada and US. Hence the Canadian flavour in the story.

 

The forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennen is called to testify in a murder case but also called by the Montreal police to investigate bones found in a basement. She finds that the bones belonged to three very young girls and is disturbed. She does not like the police chief Claudet but likes his assistant Charbonneau.

 

She is attracted to Ryan who seems to be double dealing with her. A lot of techno mumbo jumbo about bones and when they fuse with each other that would delight any CSI series fan.

 

The bones, she feels are modern but Claudet is sure she is wasting her time and these are ancient bones and no murder has taken place. She sends the bones over for testing. She also discovers that one of the buttons found in that was not ‘ancient’ like the other two found there, but a fake. When they find a filling in the teeth of the third skeleton, the police is forced to investigate.

 

The story is a lot of daily life and local Montreal colour. The colour is nice to read at first but when all there is to read is that, and the love life of Tempe and the friendship of Anne, it gets very boring and you want to scream ‘Please get on with the story. We will catch up, if required, over coffee later to learn all the minutiae about your personal life!’

 

They identify a particular man who behaved suspiciously in the past, and go to interview him. Boring stuff.

 

The blurb on the back cover says that Kathy Reichs is a master in escalating tension but she does not seem to have used even a little of those skills in writing this book. It starts tame and stays down for most of the book. It is not the conflict between Brennan and the abrasive Claudet or her pining for Ryan who seems to ignore her that we are reading this book. It is for a murder mystery. If Dr Brennan treats that as something to do when all her other interests are exhausted (and don’t get me even started on the moody friend Anne whom she caters to in addition to all the above and of course, as a higher priority than her work) it just irritates readers like me.

 

She learns that who she thought was Medecai is an imposter. She also figures out the original murders. Again there is some surprise there but the main twist in the book is her overlooking a possibility in her analysis of the bones. Really?

 

The twists are insipid. The pace is very slow. Not a page turner, this. Right near the end, there is a twist that is really good, but you have to wait for almost the entire book to be over before you say ‘Ha, this is more like it!’.

 

But that is fleeting. The dilemma with Ryan and Anne are sorted out quickly but the whole story is a bit drab. Perhaps it is me and CSI type of books. Don’t know. But I can only rate based on how I feel so, this gets a ….

 

4 / 10

– – Krishna

Movie: Star Wars the Last Jedi (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:54 pm

imageThis caused waves again when it came out and they were talking about it seemingly for a very long time.

 

I have mixed views about this film. They have been faithful to the elements of Star Wars where the story seems to have background characters that are a veritable multi-planet zoo of animals and humanoid forms that are beyond our normal imaginings and here too they are there. Who can forget the ‘cows’ out of which old Luke Skywalker obtains his milk?  But then there are portions of the movie which has more of the feel of the other cult classic, Star Trek. So the lines being a bit blurred caused, in my mind at least, some confusion.

 

There is less of the original silliness where in the middle of a huge showdown between the forces of good and evil, a small child, or an inexperienced man, or something else like that just goes in seemingly impervious to all the assaults and manages to destroy the critical infrastructure of the bad guys. But it is still there. In case you forgot it is Star Wars, I guess.

 

For all that, you are enthralled in parts and realize why this series is such a cult classic. The scene where Luke comes alone to defend a fortress in siege when everything seems nearly lost is amazing, and the ending (how was he able to escape their reaches) is breathtaking. And there is, of course a twist near the end, which I will not reveal, keeping in line with my policy of not providing any spoilers if I can help it but diehard fans would find it significant.

 

Supreme Leader Snoke is an interesting character and how he meets his end is also very nicely told.

 

The story is one of the general Star Wars where the Jedi are in constant siege from the Empire’s forces (this time under the leadership of Snoke). The next generation Darth Vader is of course Kylo Ren, who is the son of Hans Solo and killed his father (that seems to be a tradition in the Star Wars world) in the first movie after Disney takeover. The twist is the Snoke distrusts Kylo, suspecting his loyalty.

 

Rey comes in search of Luke and pleads with him when she finds him in retirement in an isolated island. He is totally reluctant to do anything more and wants to be left in peace.

 

The scene where Finn, trying to steal a pod to go rescue Jedis is found out by Rose Tico who helps him find a code breaker to help. And there are interesting twists with the code breaker – how they find him, how he agrees to help – and a surprising double cross. The deception makes sense when you think about it afterwards but came as a bombshell to me at least. Maybe I am too gullible when it comes to movies, who knows?

 

Rey learning from the master Luke after he changes his mind a bit and agrees to teach here are all good, but remind you of some earlier Hollywood movies nevertheless.

 

Also nice are the scenes where Kylo and Rey try to convince the other to desert their side and join the other person’s side. Powerful scenes, these.

 

When all seems lost, and they are surrounded and Kylo is ready with an overwhelming army to destroy them all, Luke appears and saves them to flee and fight another day. (And keeping the door open for another movie).

 

As you can see, there are a number of lovely bits to see and enjoy. Definitely a fun ride.

 

7/10

 

–  – Krishna

March 18, 2018

Book: The Slow Regard For Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:16 pm

imageI have an extremely high regard for Patrick Rothfuss. The only two books so far published in the King Killer Chronicles, The Name of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are excellent, and so I could not wait to get my hands on this book. Like The Hedge Night of the other master fantasy storyteller George RR Martin, I expected a treat in Kvothe’s world that is not part of the main story but nevertheless as entertaining.

 

This book could not have been more different.

 

 

Tells the story of Auri but is a very small book, almost a short story. Auri is just tromping about in the tunnels. She gets some gear, and then moves around various rooms, rearranging things. Pretty little story, really and a complete waste of time reading this.

 

She arranges each room and explores new rooms. She goes endlessly arranging stuff. There is atmosphere but no story to support it and it gets very boring even to finish this tiny book.

 

She endlessly wanders around, the only link to the great Kingkiller Chronicles is the fact that she waits for Kvothe to arrive.

 

The endless wanderings, worrying about what is exactly right and what is not, worrying about what fits where, endlessly washing herself, and running around in the tunnels – all of these fit Auri’s character perfectly well but I do not understand what the point of the whole story is. It does not go anywhere, or do anything. It is like the diary of Auri, ending as arbitrarily as it began – oh, I know that she completes what she set out to do and there is a kind of ending to it, but I fail to see the whole point of investing time to read this book.

 

Give it a miss. You will not miss anything, and it certainly is not like the original series.

 

1/ 10

 

– – Krishna

Book: Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:04 pm

imageBilly, the narrator, seems to have a dysfunctional family and a cavalier attitude to life. It reminds you of the feckless hero in the Clockwork Orange, but without the violence; or, come to think of it, without even a story behind it.

 

He does all kinds of things that are not good but definitely not amusing. Which is a surprise because this one is supposed to be a comedy. He destroys calendars given to post to steal the stamp money, he hides letters where not even money is involved out of sheer spite. He disdains work and wants to be a scriptwriter and run away to London. He is insolent to everyone around him.

 

He goes to work and indulges in stupid puns. He dates two women at the same time, both uninspiring. One of them, whom he calls a Witch, he tries to seduce by adding ‘love pill’ powder in chocolate and is disappointed when she resists his pawing. He has borrowed back the engagement ring he had given her ‘for repair’ and has given it to the other.

 

He goes on compulsively lying and behaving irresponsibly, indulging in “No 1 thinking” where he is the Lord of All He Sees in a fictional world called Ambrosia and behaving obnoxiously. Even when his grandmother is in the hospital dying, he does not seem to care one way or another.

 

It all seems so pointless and he seems to go around getting into stupid mistakes because of reckless or self-centred behaviour and does not even seem to realize it.

 

If the author wanted to create such a character to tell a story, well, we could understand but if the entire story seems to be a description of this character, where do you go from there? And why is it funny when a guy behaves with utter disregard for everyone else? If the author is thinking of characters like Dennis the Menace or the delightful William series, or Tom Sawyer, he seems to have missed the mark by a mile.

 

It is a small book, but could have been made smaller by not writing it at all, without any loss of significance.  Give this one a wide berth.

 

1/ 10

 

– – Krishna

Movie : Ferdinand (2017)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 6:57 pm

imageWell, the animation is superb and the characterization, in parts, is not bad at all. It has all the (now formulaec) elements that tug your heart.  A giant but gentle bull that eschews the family tradition for which his father and ancestors lived and wants to find a ‘better way’. The evil bull that is both jealous of the strength of the central character (yes, it is a bull; yes, it is Ferdinand) and contemptuous of the pusillanimity of the beast.

 

It has cuteness in the form of a girl who loves Ferdinand and sees into his soul and not just the frighteningly big physical form. It has a crazy goat called Lupe that is so endearing (adorable voice work by Kate McKinnon) that helps him. It has features where he wins over previously antagonistic fellow bulls one by one.

 

Still, it does not rise to the level of Frozen or other great movies. There is something that is missing in the total package. At least for me. Don’t get me wrong; this is definitely a good movie to watch but is it a great movie to remember for a long time? There I have my doubts.

 

This is based on a series of children’s books. Ferdinand, as a young calves are just dying to see which is the next bull that would be lucky enough to be picked to fight a matador. When Ferdinand’s dad is chosen, he is thrilled and waits for him to come back victorious but the dad never comes back. Ferdinand cannot fathom why.

 

Now, he also has a gentle heart, trying to protect a young sapling on the grounds from the other boisterous bulls and is bullied by other calves, primarily Valiente, a ‘bull’y and his sidekicks Gaupo and Bones.

 

Finally, when he gets the chance, he runs away and finds a lovely family – consisting of a florist called Juan and his daughter Nina and their dog Paco – who bring him up as their own.

 

Ferdinand goes to the flower festival every year with them and loves it but when he grows big, Nina tells him he cannot come with them because he is too big. He disobeys and sneaks in by himself, only to be caught and sent back to his original ranch.

 

The rest of the story describes how he copes there, how he himself gets picked by the ranch to fight the most famous matador of all times and how it all ends nicely.

 

You get to meet other characters along the way : the three hedgehogs (who try to teach Ferdinand how to ‘stealthily’ go across the ranch in a hilarious sequence), three horses who seem to have a French accent and snooty manners to match, and many others.

 

There is also a tongue in cheek reference when Ferdinand goes into a China shop and tries to tiptoe around a half blind old lady minding the shop.

 

As I said, not a bad movie – just a fun ride that is worth watching if you don’t mind yet another movie with clichés and growing up and making friends among strangers.

 

6/10

– – Krishna

March 10, 2018

Book: Black Alice by Thomas Disch and John Sladek

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:02 pm

imageA very different book from the normal fare that you read.

 

Alice, eleven, is waiting for her governess Miss Godwin to pick her up by the car. The latter seems to be late by more than an hour. She meets a sleazy “reverend” who comes by in a car.

 

She realizes that it is probably a kidnapper and accidentally avoids him by running towards a friend whose parents came to pick that kid up.

 

Roderick Raleigh, a crook and a failure is envious of his brother in law Jason Duquesne and his millions and hopes to get it all when Alice inherits it and he and his wife are named as guardians. He is rebuffed by his brother in law when he wants an increase in his allowance and is angry. How to get more money out of the cantankerous old man?

 

His wife, who is the man’s daughter is a hypochondriac who resents both the old man, her father, and Alice, her own daughter, for cutting out the flow of money.

 

Alice one day is taken in a limo with Miss Godwin and realizes that she is being kidnapped. The language of the child is authentic and interesting to read.

 

But then the story sags with her being cooped up in the house. A “pill” makes her black (temporary effect) so she is literally a black girl, merging with the kidnapper’s family, who are all black.  She means turning to be a black person in reality. What? Where is this pill ? The author has temporarily gone mad?

 

Now she realizes that her mom and dad may be behind the kidnapping.

 

Raleigh’s side of the story reveals how he wanted to drive Alice crazy so that he could become the guardian and get at the considerable fortune for himself. But failing that, he comes up with the kidnap plan and plays the grieving, anxious father with the police.

 

Things totally unravel from that time. Alice escapes, is found by the father and brought back to the kidnappers. He has killed his accomplices and made it look like they killed each other in a quarrel. Roderick wants Alice killed but Bessie saves and escapes with her to a church where the black congregation is attacked by the Klan.

 

The various escapades of the kid and the characters and the various plots of Roderick are all told beautifully, and the sequences have some Wodehouse like twists, even if this is not intended as a humorous book. Has crazy unbelievable aspects to it, but overall, I’d call it a nice book to read. As I said in the beginning, very different from normal fare in parts sounding tongue in cheek and in parts a serious and sentimental story.

 

6 10

– – Krishna

Book: Uncertainty by David Lindley

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:46 pm

imageThe full title, to give it its due is : ‘ Uncertainty : Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and The Struggle for the Soul of Science‘.

Lovely at the start, really. A book about the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle that opened the way for the weirdness of Quantum Theory.

Did you know that Heisenberg was only twenty years old when he wrote a thesis on that principle? Who was his teacher? Niels Bohr himself!

Very well told tale, again at the beginning. It is fascinating to learn how Einstein was disdainful at first and then became a reluctant convert, even then arguing that it is only a partial solution and a more elegant answer is waiting to be found. He was unwilling to commit himself to it fully.

The narration is brilliant and captures the passion for the subject matter the author feels. The argument that Brown (of the Brownian Motion fame) initially found perplexing movements in items like the pollen and even the leaves, ‘thereby kind of starting observations that culminated in quantum mechanics many years hence’ is fascinating and, to me at least, novel.

A lovely argument about how Einstein came up with the mathematical model for Brownian motion and how it moved science from a precise, measurable branch of knowledge into the realm of equations and verifications of impacts – much to the chagrin of positivists, who kept insisting that atoms are not real as they cannot be seen or measured directly.

The story now branches into the equally interesting history of the discovery of X-Rays (Rontgen) and radioactivity (with the addition of both Plutonium and Radium to the newly created periodic table) where most of the work was done by the Curie couple. How radioactivity overturned the principle of cause and effect hitherto considered sacrosanct in science (“The rock just sits there and emits energy out of nothing?”) is well told.

So is the discovery of electrons that led to the amazing realization that atom is not the smallest particle known.  The rays coming out of the vacuum tubes were “tiny electrically charged particles smaller than anything known before – and therefore named electrons. What is equally fun to read is the personal profiles of the personalities involved.

Especially Niels Bohr. With his bushy eyebrows and a thick jaw and a mouth drooping downwards, the big gangly man, when deep in thought, stood slack and looked, in the words of a fellow scientist “like an idiot”.

The idea of a nucleus of an atom is deduced by shooting electrons *the newly discovered particles with mass” through a gold foil. Most electrons sail right through as if the foil is not even there but inexplicably, a very few electrons bounce back. What is stopping them? Exhilarating definitions of how the atom’s structure was put together piece by piece.

When Bohr stumbles on the math involved, the German scientist Sommerfield takes over and the nucleus of research in this field shifts to Germany (prior to WW II).

There is also the interesting description of Planck supporting the German side during WW I and even supporting the Nazis so far as to deny any cruelty was being perpetrated by German army. At the end of the War he is left looking stupid and rapidly backpedalling.

Einstein’s iconoclastic views all through his life is also well described. The adamant and nonsensical obstinacy of Bohr to accept that light could be a particle, even in the face of mounting evidence is surprising to read.

The book  has a lot of detailed descriptions about the debate between classical and quantum theory camps. The only interesting thing towards the end is how adamantly Einstein was opposed to the uncertainty principle, even after repeatedly being proved wrong.

And the fact that the famous Schrodinger’s cat example was devised to prove how ridiculous quantum theory is – that is, to disprove it. You will like  the explanation of the author as to why that example is wrong.

Nice book but towards the end gets very verbose and draggy. An interesting read but not an exciting one. Could have been elevated to the level of truly great science books with a little adept cutting and pruning.

6/10

–  –  Krishna

Movie: Before Sunset (2004)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 7:32 pm

imageLook, I went to see this blind. What does that mean? Let me explain. This is supposed to be the sequel to Before Sunrise where the t

 

wo protagonists (Jesse and Celine) met and fell into a one night stand which was really love and they did not understand it then. That movie ended with a question mark on whether he will find her in Vienna in six months as she promised. He waits in in the designated spot in Vienna, and the movie ends with no answer to that question. But I did not see that movie. If you see this movie without seeing the first one (never mind my question : ‘Why would you want to see either?’ which is implied in my review below) you would not miss the previous story. They make it abundantly clear like in game shows (In a ‘Previously on BIG BROTHER….’ sort of way).

 

The cute thing is that this is a sequel that happens nine years after the events in that movie and they have made this precisely nine years after that movie, and with the same lead pair. (Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delphy) so there is no need to age them through make up. They have naturally aged to the right age!

I should admit that I was captivated in the first 10 minutes. He has written a book about his experiences and is signing off books and a reading in a book store in Paris where she drops in unexpectedly. Then they catch up on all that happened in nine years since they parted. Of course, they have to reveal that she did not come to Vienna. In the meantime, he has married, has children and has moved on with his life. Or has he?

Quickly it turns into just conversations about their lives, their interests, her house, her tea making and finally what happened and why she did not come to Vienna that day. Only half way through the movie you realize that, probably just like the first one, there is no great story and this is simply dancing around an incident that happened in their lives; yes, romantic, no doubt; yes, left a deep impression in their mind, surely. And yes, that probably was love, though neither can face it and say so, even after nine years.

But how much can you drag this ruminant mastication without boring the audience? Not surely as long as they have done in this movie. Also, they leave it in a yawn inducing uncertainty : Will they throw everything (he is married and she did not marry so there is not that much to throw away for her) and get together again? We will never know because after another 9 years after this movie was made (2013 it would have been) there was no sequel. Perhaps they had finally figured out that making touchy feely movies with no story in it is not a winning proposition.

The story? Really, there is nothing. They walk through a café, near his car, through a Paris marker, to her apartment and she entertains him with a guitar. Satisfied?

Unless you are a sucker for meaningless sentimentality, you can skip this movie safely.

2/10

–  –  Krishna

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