The Rainmaker

Based on the excellent novel by John Grisham, The Rainmaker is a 1997 movie written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Matt Damon & Danny Devito. Danny Glover, Claire Danes, Jon Voight, Roy Scheider, Mickey Rourke, Virginia Madsen, Mary Kay Place & Johnny Whitworth also star. This was the final film appearance of Academy Award-winning actress Teresa Wright.

Damon plays Rudy Baylor, a poor law student waiting to write the bar exams and looking for a job. After his abusive father left him and his mother, Rudy struggled to get by in a poor neighbourhood and worked many shifts in a bar while at law school. With no high paying firm interested in him, he reluctantly goes to an interview with J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone, a ruthless and corrupt but successful personal injury lawyer, who makes him an associate. To earn his fee, Rudy is turned into an ambulance chaser, required to hunt for potential clients at a local hospital. He meets and joins Deck Shifflet, a less than ethical paralegal who failed the bar 6 times but is resourceful in gathering information, and practically an expert on insurance lawsuits. Rudy has two cases – one a will for a widow, who later also becomes his landlord as he manages to rent the small apartment above her garage- and a bad faith insurance case.

The latter case may be worth several million dollars in damages, which appeals to him because he is about to declare himself bankrupt. While he was studying for the bar in a hospital cafeteria, Rudy meets and becomes friends with Kelly, a young woman who is being battered by her husband. She never presses charges even if the cops know her case well. When Bruiser skips town, after being investigated for racketeering and his offices are raided, Rudy & Deck start their own 2 man law firm with their meager earnings from a couple of cases they worked for Bruiser (and who generously gave them a bonus) They file a bad faith suit on behalf of a middle-aged couple, Dot and Buddy Black, whose 22-year-old son Donny Ray is going to die from leukemia. Donny Ray would most likely have been saved by a bone marrow transplant had his medical claim not been denied by Great Benefit, the family’s insurance carrier. Rudy passes his exams and finds himself up against a group of experienced and devious lawyers from a large firm that is headed by Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight), a showman attorney who uses unscrupulous tactics to win his cases.

Judge Hale, who is assigned the case is about to dismiss it but dies of a heart attack and the case is reassigned to a more sympathetic judge, Tyrone Kipler who immediately denies the insurance company’s petition for dismissal. After a particularly violent attack, Rudy persuades Kelly, to whom he is attracted, to file for divorce. At Kelly’s home the two pack her bags but are interrupted by her husband Cliff who fights with Rudy, attacking him with a baseball bat. The husband is killed and Kelly takes the blame, telling Rudy to go home and pretend he wasn’t there. To protect Rudy from being implicated in Cliff’s death, Kelly tells the police she killed her husband in self-defense. Rudy promises to defend Kelly if the case goes to trial, but the district attorney declines to prosecute, knowing Kelly would never be convicted. Donny Ray dies, with Rudy equally devastated along with the young man’s parets, but not before giving a video deposition and the case goes to trial, where Drummond capitalizes on Rudy’s inexperience. He gets vital testimony by Rudy’s key witness, former Great Benefit employee Jackie Lemanczyk (Virginia Madsen), stricken from the record, and attempts to discredit Donny Ray’s mother (Mary Kay Place).

Due to Rudy’s single-minded determination and skillful cross-examination of Great Benefit’s unctuous president Wilfred Keeley, the jury finds for the plaintiff with a monetary award far exceeding all expectations. However the jubilation is short lived as Keeley attempts to flee the country and Great Benefit declares itself bankrupt, thus allowing it to avoid paying punitive damages to the Blacks, as well as any future judgments in class-action lawsuits. With no big payout coming, Rudy & Deck won’t get their share Dot Black expresses satisfaction that at least they put Great Benefit out of business, and that it is now unable to hurt other families like hers. Convinced that he can never live up to expectations that future clients will have Rudy leaves his practice to instead teach law with a focus on ethical behavior. He leaves town with Kelly, wanting to retain a low profile and protect Kelly from any possible retribution by Cliff’s vengeful relatives.

Although it is a good film, it never matches the book as a lot of things have to be left out to keep the film at less than the 2 hour mark. I feel that the story suffers from that, even the relationship between Kelly & Rudy isn’t highlighted enough. Still worth a watch. I will give the film a 7.5 outta 10!

Scary Books & Films

Do You Like Scary Movies and Books?

Hell yeah! Have you not seen my past blog posts where I do reviews of horror flicks? Though I must say that this year, with the new job, I haven’t had much chance to watch many movies lately and hence I think I have only seen one horror movie so far in 2015. Yeah but in the summer, now that a lot of the shows that I watch are winding up their seasons, I will have more time to watch movies.

As for books, sure I love to read them but you know what? In the past few years I have stopped reading books as I find that I am engrossed in stuff like Youtube and Facebook and Twitter and find reading a lot more tedious and hence can’t finish a book. It is a bit annoying that I can’t concentrate and commit to finishing a book in a week or two whereas I used to devour books at rates of like 3 in a week up till 2008. The internet is too much of a distraction I tell ya!

I think I need to set aside a week or so, get some of my vacation time and find a quite place to lay low for a few days and read a few books. I miss books.

Prompt from The Learning Network from The New York Times

“The Things I Do for Love”: George R.R. Martin’s Inspiration for Game of Thrones

Episodes of the insanely popular television series Game of Thrones would have never reached the limelight if it weren’t for the book that inspired them: A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin published the first book in the series back in 1996 but actually started writing it five years prior in 1991 (of course, he is now known for his incredibly slow pace in releasing his novels). Martin had only fairly recently become famous for the series when the television adaption had premiered in 2011, when it received praise from nearly everyone who watched it. Now in its fifth season, now is as good a time as any to look back at Martin’s original novels and what inspired them.

A Song of Ice and Fire is action-packed, political, and most of all, fantasy-driven. With dragons, magic, and sorcery, it is not at all a surprise that Martin was inspired by a handful of other fantasy authors. Perhaps one of the most obvious among them is J. R.R. Tolkien, the father of all things fantasy. His work is still as relevant and popular today as ever, with the latest Hobbit having just premiered last December. Martin draws from Tolkien’s use of magical and fantasy elements, as well as his focus on strong characters and storyline.In addition to this, Martin splits up his characters as Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings. We see family and friends start off on adventures together, but they soon separate to have journeys all their own.

Perhaps less-known is the inspiration Martin draws from other fantasy authors such as T. H. White and Robert E. Howard who were famous for the King Arthur and Conan the Barbarian stories, respectively. From Howard, sorcery and swordsmanship is brought to life just as it is in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Martin also borrows from Howard’s work the idea of a hero along with the same elements he grabs from Tolkien and White.

In addition to these fantasy writers, Martin was inspired by real historical events in his writing as well. GoT’s Red Wedding was a retelling of both the Black Dinner and the Glencoe Massacre, which happened in the 1400’s and 1600’s in Scotland. The Black Dinner revolved around the murder of the 6th Earl of Douglas, who was only 16 at the time, and his younger brother David. They were invited to dinner with the King of Scotland but were dragged outside and given a trial in the middle of their meal. When they were found guilty of high treason, they were both beheaded.

In the Glencoe Massacre, 38 people from the Clan Macdonald were murdered by the Campbells in their sleep, a separate clan who sought shelter from the Macdonalds. This event was deemed a “Slaughter Under Trust,” much like The Red Wedding.

Other aspects of history also inspired Martin’s fantasy writing, such as Hadrian’s Wall or Roman Wall in Scotland, which inspired the Wall in A Song of Ice and Fire, and the War of Roses in which houses fought for the throne of England. Sound familiar?

Despite what has inspired one of the most famous novels and show to date, Martin created a world in which we are able to escape to and have adventures in. His inspirations, the writers that came before him, and the history that predates us all have all made for an incredible and thought-provoking series. With the fifth season only just beginning (look at this resource for listings), we are sure to be in for a fantasy-filled journey.

~ guest blog written by Emma! (connect to her via @emma_bailey90)

Ghostwriter

If I could pick an author to write my biography then I would pick Stephen King. Hands down my favourite author of all time and the author of my favourite novel of all time, IT, he would do an amazing job of making my miserable life seem interesting enough that people would want to pick up a book on it and read.

He would make it seem even more fascinating that it ever could be and jazz it up to a great extent that even I wouldn’t recognise it as being about my own life. He would include ghosts, goblins, evil twins, fantastic landscapes, werewolves, vampires, creepy creatures, even an alien or two and a scary ghost house. He would make you laugh at the funny bit, scare you silly at the gory, horror scenes and gross you out with describing in great detail the mess, puke, bile and shit! All made up ofcourse

And it will also be sad in parts; lost loves and longing, old friendships and parting ways and remorse and regret and pain. And a melancholic strain that refuses to go away. So yeah, Mr. Kings’s latest book is a sure best seller!

Cedar Cove – Season 1

While Hallmark is not a channel/network I would normally look for selecting show that I can watch a couple of exceptions have known to happen. One such is the Hallmark original and new (it’s in it’s second season at the moment) show for 2013 Cedar Cove based on Debbie Macomber’s novel series of the same name. The Canadian produced show for Hallmark (that and the Canadian majority cast; hence it is usually called a Canadian series) is shot in the Vancouver area and set in the idyllic & picturesque town of Cedar Cove in Washington, USA. The show focuses on judge Olivia Lockheart played by award winning actress Andie MacDowell and her life including her love interest, best friend, daughter and some of the other towns folk.

Olivia is the town’s only judge and a divorced mother who lost her son Jordan when he drowned at the age of 13. She & her physician husband Stan Lockheart grew apart and he found solace in another woman and married her after the divorce. Olivia’s love interest is played by recovering alcoholic & journalist Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), himself a divorcee who lost his job at a newspaper in Philadelphia and moved to take over as editor & sole jounalist of Cedar Cove’s little weekly paper. Teryl Rothery plays Olivia’s best friend since childhood, Grace, who is a recently divorced librarian and starting off life on her own and her younger daughter Maryellen (Elyse Levesque) who runs the local art gallery comes home to keep her company. Justine (Sarah Symth) is Olivia’s daughter, the twin of Jordan, who is a talented artist and jewellery maker working part time at Moon’s cafe waiting tables when she is given a full time job at the gallery. Her life is turned upside down when she breaks off her engagement with her corrupt real estate developer fiance Warren Saget (Brennan Elliot) after some of his dealings come into the light and when he almost demolishes a cherished landmark lighthouse.

When Justine’s childhood love Seth (Corey Sevier) comes back into town she and he reignite their romance and move in together despite his needing to be away for days at a stretch due to his fishing job. Towards the end of the season Seth sells his boat and decides to buy and start up a new restaurant and Justine pitches in – only they find out that Warren own the property. He eventually does agree to sell to them but it gets partially burned by an unknown arsonist so the town folk pitch in to clean it up. Also in the main cast are Bruce Boxleitner as Bob Beldon, owner of the local bed & breakfast Thyme and Tide & Barbara Niven as Peggy Beldon, Bob’s wife. Bob also acts as Jack’s sponsor to sobriety and often render friendly advice to his new friend. Timothy Webber as Moon, the aged hippie proprietor of Moon’s, a cafe/knick-knack store where Justine once waited tables. Sebastian Spence as Cliff Harting, a rancher. He was estranged from his father, once famous country singer Tom Harting, at the time of Tom’s death. Soon the shy cowboy sparks an interest in romance in Grace, even though she gets sidetracked when her first crush, Will Jeffers, Olivia’s philandering brother played by Cameron Bancroft, comes for a visit and though married seems to like Grace.

Charlie Carrick plays John Bowman, an artist and chef, who changed his name and is the mysterious new person in Cedar Cove who catches Maryellen’s eye. It turns out that he used to be in prison for a drug charge and loses his job at the restaurant when it is found out. Maryellen’s investigation reveals that John served jail time for a crime committed by his brother, and who is Maryellen’s love interest, and is estranged from his family and old friends who didn’t believe his story. John helps the FBI to catch a few drug smugglers which earns his reputation and his relief. Then we have recurring roles for Tom Stevens as Eric Griffith, Jack’s irresponsible son who blames much of that irresponsibility on the fact that he had no male role model growing up Hayley Sales as Shelly, Eric’s folk singing girlfriend. When Shelly’s pregnancy causes complications for her and leads to hospitalization, Eric starts to become more responsible even though he is hot headed and prone to lashing out. And finally we have Paula Shaw as Charlotte Jeffers, Olivia’s headstrong mother who arranges events around town and not so subtly pushes her daughter towards Jack.

So, I know, it’s a show about a quaint little town where everyone knows everyone and life is at a much slower pace here. It’s all about second chances, romances and all that. But it’s never really corny or sugary syrupy and therefore is very watchable, especially with a good cast of seasoned actors and newer up & comers – although MacDowell’s acting seems a little off and that laugh – ugh! Overall it’s not a bad show and can be entertaining.

The Great Divide : Fiction Or Non-Fiction

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

I think I’ve mentioned this a dozen times or more – I used to be a voracious reader. Ever since I was a wee kid to just a few years ago, I was a book worm. I loved to read books – first comics and then novels. I remember many gifts from older cousins and uncles/aunts on birthdays which would usually be books. Two of my cousins had this huge collection of comics that they would give to a store that would bind it for you in hard cover and that not only kept them neat but also ensured that they stay in shape for a lot  longer. I read all of them and would read most twice at the minimum.

I had my own collection which was quite vast and other than music cassettes and later cds, they would be the only things that I would ever collect. I prefer reading fiction and often can get lost in a good book. I even place myself into the story and or give faces to each character that has a part in the storyline. This makes it even more exciting for me. If I have some coffee or cold drinks and snacks to accompany the book, all the better. I love taking a novel with me to coffeeshops and sitting there with a big cup of coffee and a snack as I spent the next hour or two reading the book.

I even used to spend 2-3 hours in bars reading books. Well more like just this one bar. I used to go in the afternoons to this bar called Oberois and they would have enough lighting in the corner sections near the windows plus sunlight coming in to allow you to read comfortably and so I would enjoy my afternoons there. The occasional non-fiction has engrossed me but it’s usually fiction.

Prompt from the Daily Post at WordPress.com.

Maleficent

Maleficent is a 2014 American fantasy film directed by Robert Stromberg from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton and stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous Disney villainess character, along with Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple & Lesley Manville. The film is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story albeit with some changes and told from the perspective of the antagonist, Maleficent. So this isn’t the story that I remember from my childhood where I read this in my big book of Fairy Tales!

So the story goes like this – Maleficent is a young & powerful faerie living in the the Moors, a magical realm bordering a human kingdom. The two kingdoms are hostile to one another, which explains why the creatures of the Moors are frightened when a human boy sneaks in. Maleficent befriends the boy, Stefan and falls in love with him. After she turns 16 she also is kissed for the first time by him but Stefan, urged on to do more with his life, leaves to the castle and works for the king. Many years pass on and a fully grown Maleficent is now the protector of the Moors and faces off against the king’s invading army. She & her creatures battles the human soldiers and she almost has the kind at her mercy but is thwarted by an iron armour – her one weakness as it burns her! Defeated the king retreats back to his castle and is soon on his deathbed and as he has no male heirs, offers his kingdom and his daughter’s hand to the man who can kill Maleficent. Stefan goes to see his former friend and they spend the night renewed in their former love, as he lies and says that he has come to warn her of the king’s intention. Having drugged her Stefan is about to kill  her but finds himself unable to do so – instead he used iron shackles to rip out both her large and powerful wings and bring them to the king as proof that he has slain her.

Pleased the dying king has Stefan crowned king of his kingdom and Stefan marries the daughter. When she comes to Maleficent is in agony and anguish and her pain now reflects in her appearance, attire and the forest as well. She frees a raven Diaval using her powers to transform him into a human, back into a bird or any other she creature, and he spies for her. Diaval reports back to her about Stefan being crowned king and his wedding as well as, after a time has passed, that a baby is to be born. As the subjects of the kingdom arrive at the castle to bestow gifts on the new princess, Maleficent too makes her entry curses the newborn princess: on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, which will cause her to fall into a death-like sleep. After Stefan is forced by Maleficent to beg for his daughter, she offers a caveat: the curse can be broken by true love’s kiss. Stefan entrusts his baby with the 3 pixies and has them keep her safe in a cottage outside the castle until her 16th birthday. However Maleficent follows them and monitors the baby growing up. Stefan has all the spinning wheels destroyed and dumped in a large locked room in the castle and has his men hunt to kill Maleficent but she surrounds the Moors with an impenetrable wall of thorns. Maleficent has a brief meeting with the young Aurora, as the child is called, when the kid wanders into the woods but usually she watched the princess from afar.

Slowly she starts to care for the girl and at age 15 Aurora meets Maleficent and states that she thinks of her as her faery godmother as she knows that she has been watching over her all her life. Maleficent no longer wants the curse to befall on the girl having started to lover her and adores her interactions with the Moors creatures so she tries to lift the curse at night but is unable to. Aurora meets Prince Phillip a day before she turns 16 as he gets lost in the Moors and she points out the way to the castle, the two smitten with each other. Maleficent, hoping to avoid the curse, allows the girl to move to the Moors, far away from any spindles. The pixies, however, inadvertently tell Aurora of her parentage and of Maleficent’s true identity, and a furious Aurora runs away to her father. Stefan locks her away but as she turns 16, she is drawn to the room with the broken spinning wheels, one which magically resets itself and she touches it, pricking her finger and falls into a deep sleep. Maleficent has Phillip abducted, hoping his kiss would awaken her as do the pixies but even after he hesitantly kisses her, she does not awaken. Sadden about the young girl’s situation, Maleficent kisses Aurora on the forehead which is the true love’s kiss and the girl awakens. And by that I mean motherly love – sheesh, get your minds outta the gutter!

Aurora forgives Maleficent and they attempt to escape the castle but Stefan and his men surround the faery and using iron shields have her trapped in an iron net. She uses her powers to turn Diaval into a fire breathing dragon and although he kills off many of the soldiers there are too many for him to defeat. Aurora finds Maleficent’s wings enclosed in a box and has it set free and they immediately fly back to her and, just before Stefan can stab Maleficent, reattach themselves to her. With her wings back Maleficent overpowers Stefan and carries him onto a tower, but cannot bring herself to kill him, instead declaring their feud over. Stefan attempts once more to kill her, but plummets off the tower to his death. Maleficent has Aurora crowned queen of the human & faery realms, uniting the two kingdoms and bring job back to the Moors as he thorns come down and she has her married to Phillip. The end!

Not bad at all, even though we could have used less CGI creatures than was shown. Everything looks great in this film but geeze – Angelina looks gaunt and so old! Oh well, passage of time and all that. I think everyone could enjoy this film, which made $754 million at the box office on a $180 budget. I give it an 8 outta 10!

RIP Gabriel García Márquez

The literary world lost a legendary icon as Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez died yesterday. Marquez, whose novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” put Latin America and the style known as magical realism on the international literary map, was 87. He died yesterday at his home in Mexico City surrounded by his family, Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, head of the Mexico’s cultural agency, said in a telephone interview.

The Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. Considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century, he was awarded the 1972 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. He pursued a self-directed education that resulted in his leaving law school for a career in journalism. García Márquez started as a journalist, and wrote many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985).

The international recognition García Márquez earned with the publication of his novels led to his ability to act as a facilitator in several negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerrillas, including the former 19th of April Movement (M-19), and the current FARC and ELN organizations. The popularity of his writing also led to friendships with powerful leaders, including one with former Cuban president Fidel Castro, which has been analyzed in Gabo and Fidel: Portrait of a Friendship.At the time of his death, he had a wife and two sons.

Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (6 March 1927 – 17 April 2014)

Comic Hero Archie To Be Killed Off

Guess what? They are going to kill off Archie Andrews!!!

Archie Comics announced on Tuesday that the famous comic book character will heroically sacrifice himself while saving the life of a friend in a July installment of “Life with Archie,” a comic book series that tells the story of grown-up renditions of Archie and his Riverdale gang. “We’ve been building up to this moment since we launched ‘Life with Archie’ five years ago and knew that any book that was telling the story of Archie’s life as an adult had to also show his final moment,” Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO Jon Goldwater said in a statement. Archie’s final moments will be detailed in “Life with Archie” No. 36, while issue No. 37 will jump forward a year and focus on his friends Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie honoring the legacy of their red-headed pal.

Archie first appeared in comics in 1941 and went on to become a colorful icon of wholesomeness. In recent years, Archie Comics has tackled such issues as gay characters and the zombie apocalypse in Archie’s fictional hometown of Riverdale. I remember reading Archie’s comics since 1984 or 85 and loving every story and the antics of the Archie’s gang. What bastards! They are going to kill him. I know they have other series of comics in which he will still be alive but…the bastards are killing him!

Oh cruel world, what’s next? Will we see Scoobie Do get infected with rabies and have to be put down?

The Street Lawyer

“I use Grammarly’s plagiarism check because it let’s me know how badly I need to work on my writing skills”

I have a ton of John Grisham novels and it was time to dust off one from my shelves and re-read it. The book was released in the United States on 1 January 1998 and is his 9th book overall.

Shaken by a the experience of having a homeless man, who called himself “Mister”, holding him and a few other lawyers hostage and then seeing the man shot by a police sniper, has a life changing affect on antitrust lawyer Michael Brock. Michael is concerned by what he learns and is compelled to investigate further on the plight of the homeless in Washington DC, the nation’s capital and his current city of residence. He finds his way to the 14th Street Legal Clinic where he meets Mordecai Green, an advocate for the homeless, who asks him to help one night at a homeless shelter. As he digs deeper he learns that his own employers, the large DC law firm Drake & Sweeney, are also complicit in an illegal eviction, which eventually resulted in the death of a young homeless family. This leads Michael to take a confidential file with the intention to copy it but is quickly accused of theft.

Michael leaves his job with the firm to join Mordecai and take a poorly-paid position with the 14th Street Legal Clinic, which works to protect the rights of the homeless. Faced with a sudden cutting of their joint income, his wife proceeds to divorce him (though the marriage was dying for a long time) and Michael moves out to a less expensive apartment. He meets Ruby, a homeless drug addict, who becomes a regular at the clinic and has coffee & donuts each morning. Later he admits her to a therapy class for drug-addicted women for her to recover so she can see her son again and in the process meets Megan who works at the women’s homeless shelter. Drake & Sweeney comes after Brock with theft and malpractice allegations but the Clinic launches a lawsuit against the law firm and its business partners. With bad publicity looming it’s ugly head over the firm the matter is settled by mediation and the clinic receives a large payout to be shared with the victims of the eviction – with the condition being that Michael’s license is suspended for a while. It however won’t affect his pay or his work at the Clinic so he agrees and lets Mordecai finalize the settlement. In an unexpected move Drake & Sweeney’s head partner, deeply troubled by the events, offers to make pro bono staff available to assist the work of the Clinic in fighting for the rights of homeless people.

The book ends with Michael taking a brief vacation with Megan and a recovering Ruby, reflecting on the changes in his life and feeling like he has started to make a real difference. Good read, it’s kinda hard to put down once you start reading and it’s a comfortable pace that lets you get hooked.

Rearranged Book Shelves Attempt-1

My books are kept here and there, arranged in hap-hazard manner across a book shelf and a built in cupboard. It’s been long overdue that I arranged things properly. It’s hard as there is almost no space and with work still going on in the apartment, the dust that keep getting accumulated means cleaning is a regular process. Anyhow I thought I should atleast give it a try and keep them in some order or the other. So here goes the first attempt.

Shelf 1 – Star trek books (2), 6 Stephen King novels, 8 John Grisham novels and 2 Michael Crichton books.

Shelf 2 – 2 Dan Brown books, 3 Anne Rice, 2 Sidney Sheldon novels, 2 Irving Wallace books, a Danielle Steel novel (ahem ahem), 4 from Jackie Collins, a book each from Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens and 4 short novels in one pack from Reader’s Digest.

I still have a lot more books to organize. Over the next few weeks I might do some more organizing so the order of the books will change soon. But so far, not bad.

Judging A Book By It’s Cover

How important are book covers in getting you to read a book?

I know the saying but it’s not always something I follow. Admit it, we all like the outer covers and are atleast momentarily attracted to (an object or a living creature) because of the way that it/they look. Now, I’m going to stick to the subject at hand, which is books.

I feel that done right book covers can attract the right reader for the kind of book it is. Or attract a reader to the kind of book he/she wants to read. For example, if you wish to read a horror novel about vampires, an appropriate image on the cover will help you go towards selecting the book and if not reading it, atleast checking out what the book is all about. Same for a scifi adventure novel set in distant planets and solar systems – if the cover shows an alien being or a spaceship in space that would make the scifi fan pick up the book and go through the synopsis given on the back cover.

However never will I buy a book based solely on the cover. No matter how attractive or enticing it may look. A good check of the back cover, a quick reading of a couple of pages (no store owners have ever bothered to chase me away even if I stand there for a couple of hours but I usually don’t stay for more than 30-40 minutes) just to see if the book interests me and only then will I purchase the book and/or borrow it in case I am borrowing the book from a friend/colleague/acquiantance (I haven’t been a member of a library in ages) to read.

RIP Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy, American author best known for his technically detailed espionageand military science storylines that are set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War, along with video games which bear his name for licensing and promotional purposes, has passed away. He is well known for fiction works featuring the Jack Ryan character in The Hunt for Red OctoberPatriot GamesClear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears which have been turned into commercially successful films.

Clancy was born in Baltimore, Maryland and before making his literary debut, he spent some time running an independent insurance agency. Clancy launched his writing career with The Hunt for Red October in 1984, which garnered a positive review from President Ronald Reagan, who called it a “perfect yarn.” By the time his second novel Red Storm Rising was released in 1986, some military officials suspected that Clancy had gained access to classified information on weaponry, when really he had pieced the information himself through extensive research and informed guesswork. The author was also noted for his “Guided Tour” nonfiction series that explored military machinery in detail.

Clancy wrote several nonfiction books about various branches of the U.S. armed forces. Clancy also branded several lines of books and video games with his name that are written by other authors, following premises or storylines generally in keeping with Clancy’s works. These are sometimes referred to by fans as “apostrophe” books; Clancy did not initially acknowledge that these series were being authored by others, only thanking the actual authors in the headnotes for their “invaluable contribution to the manuscript”.

In his personal life he was married twice; first wife Wanda married in 1969, separated briefly in 1995, and permanently separated in December 1996. Clancy filed for divorce in November 1997. On June 26, 1999, Clancy married freelance journalist Alexandra Marie Llewellyn, whom he had met in 1997. Clancy died on October 1, 2013, at the age of 66, in a Baltimore hospital after a brief illness at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, not far from his Maryland home.

Thomas Leo “Tom” Clancy, Jr. (April 12, 1947 – October 1, 2013)

Stephen King’ Needful Things

About two years ago I made a resolution to read more books or rather go back to the habit of reading a lot more than I currently was. It’s tougher to sit down and read more books these days. The internet is a huge distraction and then there’s all the movies and tv shows that I want to watch & rewatch. Besides I’d usually prefer to watch it rather than read about it. Some exceptions are there – like a Stephen King novel! You just can substitute the chills you get from reading his books that just has translated into the movies that have been made based on his stories.

Anyway the book in question is Needful Things a 19919 novel which was made into a movie two years later starring Max Von Sydow & Ed Harris. I haven’t seen it yet but hope to someday. The book, I just re-read for the 2nd time. The last time was quite a while back so I didn’t remember most of it. A mysterious proprietor named Leland Gaunt, claiming to be from Akron, Ohio,opens a new antiques store called “Needful Things” in the small town of Castle Rock, Maine. The gossip & interest about the new store even before it opens is true of an small town in any part of the world. The women call each other and spend an hour or so discussing the possibilities of what the store might offer for sale and what the name could possibly mean. A young boy is the first person to step in, in advance of the actual opening time but since he saw the sign shown as open, he just couldn’t resist and thus is the first in town to meet Mr Gaunt. The boy is thus also the first to be sold an item that he “just must have” and seemingly for much cheaper a price than it is actually valued. Mr. Gaunt sells the items to each customer at this low price in part exchange for a “favour” in the form of a prank to be played on someone in the same town.

Mr. Gaunt seems to have the oddest items in his store and each person seems to want one particular item that the shop owner just seems to have in his collection. aunt knows about the long-standing private grudges, arguments, and feuds between the various townspeople, and the pranks are his means of forcing them to escalate until the whole town is eventually caught up in madness and violence. The acts of violence & murder attract the investigation of the lead protagonist Sheriff Alan J. Pangborn Pangborn manages to stop the violence before the town destroys itself, and the townspeople admit their pranks, exposing Gaunt’s web of manipulation. The store with Leland Gaunt still inside is blown up but Gaunt, who is the Devil himself comes out unscathed. With a warning of meeting Panghorn’s grandson in the future, Leland/the Devil leaves in a mysterious black car. The novel ends as it begins, with a first-person narrative indicating that a new and mysterious shop is about to open in Paradise Falls, Iowa – an implication that Gaunt is ready to begin his business cycle all over again.

The book is quite length with typical King trademark of going into deep detail of several scenes and characters and thoughts behind some of these characters. You really need the patience to sit through this one, which most King fans do have. Well worth a read.

Spring Cleaning – Dusting Books

I dunno what it is about the monsoon season, it makes me want to clean my room and my collection of stuff while listening to some tunes. Of particular concern for me was this built in cupboard that I had a couple of carpenters put up for me when we first moved into this apartment back in October of 2006. I don’t have many clothes, all of which fits in one section really, so the top left section & the large bottom section of the cupboard are filled with my stuff. Among them are a lot of books, 99% of which I bought after we moved into this apartment building. I sold most of my collection of boooks & novels a while before we moved here.

On MG Road, just a 10 minute walk away from my apartment was a large open book stall / store (temporary for 6 months they said but they got it extended for almost 3 years). They sold mainly second hand (in some cases 3rd hand) or discount books. In some cases they were old library books (stolen??) from either Canada or the US (the library address was printed on some of the books) and sold in this store by a set of Tamilians who barely spoke any Malayalam or Hindi or English, except for the big guy at the cash counter who seemed somewhat knowledgeable.

Anyways from October 2006 till sometime in late 2008 my usual alternate Sunday routine was to go for a coffee and a muffin at Cafe Coffee day in the morning and spend an hour there. Then I’d head to this store and browse the various titles for a couple of hours. Once I selected the 2 or 3 book I wanted, I’d pay for them and then go to Oberois bar & restaurant which was about 800 feet away and settle down with a book, some vodka or beer and some lunch and read for 3 hours in the bar. I bought a lot of books and about 95% of my current collection is from either there or another discount store that opened in 2009. Here is some of the books that I dusted and cleaned with a slightly wet cloth.

From my favourite author of all time Stephen King – Insomnia & Needful Things and from another favourite Michael Crichton (RIP) are Timeline, Sphere & Congo. Except for Insomnia, all have been made into feature films which I have enjoyed watching.

I think it was my sister who turned me onto John Grisham (she studied law btw and my brother-in-law is a lawyer) and around the same time we also watched the 1994 movie The Client based on his novel of the same time. Since then I’ve accumulated quite a big collection of Grisham’s novels and I have most of them. Here’s a few that I cleaned up today including The Client, The Firm, The King Of Torts, The Runaway Jury, The Street Lawyer, The Partner, The Broker & The Litigators. He likes using ‘The’ a lot in his titles, doesn’t he?

Me, the big time atheist has only two books in my collection by famous atheists. Well it’s usually because I hardly read any non-fiction and prefer fiction a whole lot more. Still, I needed to get these two in my collection – The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and the late great Christopher Hitchens had his memoir called Hitch-22 which I got last year. I don’t know how the latter book got into this pile as the rest of them haven’t been touched in 2 years or more.

And last but not least, certainly not as I give it a special place here, a hard cover novel version of the Star Trek : Generations movie. This is one of only two books I have from the Star Trek universe I’m afraid as I haven’t been to find any over here in my city. This book also has some great photos from the movie and I love it. I only read the book once but seen the movie around 10 times or more. I love & prefer hard cover books as they last long, as they are studier and look much better on your shelf.

Now when I can afford to, I have to buy a shelf or two to display my collections properly.

Blogging For Readership & Money

To what extent is your blog a place for your own self-expression and creativity vs. a site designed to attract readers? How do you balance that? If sticking to certain topics and types of posts meant your readership would triple, would you do it?

This blog is a record of the person that is me. I blog about things I like & love, stuff that happens to me, things that interest me, things that are important to me and even things that I protest as that is important too. I will post videos of my favourite songs, interviews & fun stuff. I will review the movies & tv shows & sports games I watch and talk about the music I listen to and the books I read. I will share my dreams and thoughts and the ideas that come into this brain of mine. This blog is an extension of me and it’s is a place where I express myself and enhance my writing in a manner of speaking. I never set out to attract readers. Any and every reader who follows my blog and comments & likes my posts are all icing on the cake. They are important to me but I’d still be blogging even if no one ever reads these posts.

I’m not gonna write about stuff that doesn’t interest me just to attract readers. That is just not what this blog is about. Ofcourse I have done the odd paid blog post but I won’t do it if it means that this blog’s contents ceases to be something that is not inherent to me. I value the content a whole lot to do that. Luckily for me the few posts that I have written for money have all been about things that are of interest to me. And there is a certain pleasure to be taken for that. Getting paid for what you love to do.

If I wrote about things that I didn’t really care about but if my readership tripled and I made a lot of money out of it – I’d think a lot before I’d do that. I’d have to be really desperate for money to want to do that. Ideally what I’d be asked to blog more about or only blog about for more readers and money will be one of the things I hold dearest to me. I’d gladly do that.

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The Racketeer By John Grisham

I read almost all John Grisham books as they are good reads, interesting and gets me hooked. The Racketeer is no exception and I really liked this book. However I do have to say that Grisham has the same kind of theme like in The Firm and other books of his and you get the feeling of deja vu as you go through the later half of the book. Still quite satisfying as you put the book down after reading the last page.

Malcolm Bannister, a former US Marine and small town lawyer in a 3 lawyer firm, is now in jail serving a 10 year sentence in a minimum security prison. A real estate transaction which he undertook in good faith turned out to have involved the purchase of a secluded hunting lodge where a crooked Capitol Hill lobbyist invited corrupt Congressmen for orgies with underage girls. When the scandal was exposed, Bannister was caught up in big a FBI sweep, his name was added to many others on a hundred-page racketeering charge sheet, his protestations of innocence ignored, and he got a ten-year prison sentence. 5 years later, when a federal judge is found murdered, along with his secretary, in his remote weekend cabin, Bannister puts his epic plan in place. Claiming to know the identity of the killer, Bannister contacts the FBI & gets out of jail and into the US Marshall’s witness protection program. The FBI apprehends the man, someone who was in the same prison as Bannister and who had escaped. Courtesy of the government, Bannister gets the reward money, a new face via cosmetic surgery and a new identity as Max Reed Baldwin. But things are not right as his identity & his new locations seem to be found by people  related to the “murderer”. Bannister / Baldwin gets annoyed with the US Marshalls & the FBI and walks away from witness protection.

What follows next is a plot filled with twists, deceptions, cunning and cleverness so large that even the FBI big wigs have to admire. See how Bannister plotted his escape with the help of his friend from prison, whose sister he is in love with and a cousin of the two. How they find & frame the real murder on another charge and gets him imprisoned in a Caribbean jail and the murdered reveals the place where he hid the gold taken from the safe of the judge. Bannister and his accomplices thumbs their nose at the US Government and the FBI, who put him in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, by committing several felonies and getting rich in the bargain. Second chances are something that this ex-lawyer schemed and thought out while sitting in a jail, innocent. Now he is out and he has a new woman in his life and he is wealthy. Excellent read for a lazy weekend.

Reading & Writing Room / Library / Home Office

Q: A genie has granted your wish to build your perfect space for reading and writing. What’s it like?

Well here goes – a big room, cozy and air-conditioned (I live in one of the hottest & most humid places in the world, so I want cool air). Plenty of oak and mahogany furniture. A large desk for with drawers and a table lamp. Plenty of leg room to stretch out. Table should be dark wood. Desktop and laptop with easy access for bothBig comfy swivel office chair that you can even sleep in. Behind the desk should be wall to floor book shelves and dvd/bluray shelves for storing all of my books and movies. And one of those ladders on wheels for easy access. Or just portable steps or step stools. Ofcourse I would want a large screen tv with cable & dvd/bluray player mounted on the wall or on an entertainment unit on one end.

Near to the desk should  be a large reading chair. Something along the lines of the one pictured here. Or maybe one of those that has a drink holder and can hold a few of your books and chips too! And oooh I would have music playing throughout. And some of my favourite movie, music & tv shows posters framed and hung in the room! And a mini fridge in one of the corners too. And a mini-bar – what if you get thirsty when you are reading or writing and you need some vodka+Sprite or some beer to quench that thirst. Cool room eh?

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