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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The Golden Room By Irving Wallace

Here’s a book I have read a few times and re-read today (it’s a small book) – The Golden Room by Irving Wallace. Published in 1988, two years before his dead, is about a brothel & the people involved with it and set in 1903’s Chicago. Minna & Aida Lester, two sisters and divorcees, change their last name to Everleigh and open up the fanciest, most popular & most famous brothel in the world, and maintain a dignified presence in the eyes of the people who like them. All their girls were hand picked for their beauty and were trained in the art of seduction. They were told to learn to talk, sit, appreciate art and culture and make an interesting conversation with the patrons. In the 3 storied mansion house that they converted into the Everleigh club in Chicago, there is a restaurant, offices, a large library and several rooms decorated with the finest & most luxurious style in different themes. They charge the most but you get the most for your money and the girls are best and they also get paid more.

However all is not going too well for them; newly re-elected major Harrison, who gets financial backing from rich meat-packer businessman Armbruster, wows to clean up the city and close down all the gambling houses and whorehouses, starting with the biggest one – The Everleigh Club! To make matters worse, Minna & Aida’s older brother has sent his son Bruce & daughter Cathleen to Chicago for 2 weeks and to live with his sisters – until Cathleen’s marriage to Alan, son of Armbruster! The sister sent away most of the 30 girls on a paid holiday to various hotels in the city, keeping only 6 girls to play as hostesses and pretend that they only run a fancy restaurant for the benefit of young Bruce & Cathleen. One of the girls who remains back is Karen, who is really Mayor Harrison’s secretary and who has come to work in the club as their newest prostitute in order to get enough evidence for the mayor to shut down the club once & for all. The virgin Karen has to pretend to be experienced and fools Minna into hiring her as a replacement for one of the girls who has gone missing. Only Karen didn’t expect to admire the sisters and also fall in love with Bruce.

Bruce is asked by Armbruster to marry his daughter and thereby be welcomed into his business that could see him clear off his family debt but the young lad has eyes only for Karen and stakes his earnings on a horse to win the local derby, which it does. Add to the mix is the new doctor for the ladies of the club – a maniacal Dr. Holmes revels in winning over the young prostitutes, luring them to his huge house, where he has sex with them and then gasses them, chops off the dead bodies into pieces and then burns their remains. When Armbruster unknowingly gets his son to the club for dinner and a woman (as a rite of initiation) he finds out the truth about Cathleen’s family and calls off the wedding. With enough proof seen first hand and his bill, Armbruster provides the evidence for Mayor Harrison to close the club and arrest the sisters. However a visiting German prince, who wants to spend time at the club makes Harrison change his mind and he and Armbruster begs the sisters to reopen the club; which they do, provided the wedding of Cathleen and Alan takes place. However Dr. Holmes has trapped Cathleen & Karen in his house; will Alan & Bruce be in time to stop his killing them? Read the book. A good read 7 outta 10!

Quoth The Raven, `Nevermore’

My favourite poem of all time is the uber gothic & uber awesome ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe. Why? because it’s awesome! It’s a narrative style poem  published in January 1845, noted for it’s musicality, stylized language, and supernatural atmosphere. It tells of a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught lover, tracing the man’s slow fall into madness. The lover, possibly a student, is lamenting the death of his lover Lenore. After the raven raps at the man’s door and then his window, it is let in and perches on a bust of Pallas. To the questions that the man puts to it, the raven only answers ‘Nevermore”.

The raven has long been considered a bird of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends. The lover puts questions about whether the raven was sent to him as a sign by god or angels to forget Lenore, if the raven is evil or a prophet,  whether he will be reunited with Lenore in heaven and finally comes to the conclusion that his soul is trapped beneath the raven’s shadow and shall be lifted “Nevermore”. Please play the video below which is a narration of The Raven by Sir Christopher Lee.

And watch a recording off a tv of the Simpson’s Halloween special on The Raven. Narration here is by James Earl Jones.

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The Second Lady By Irving Wallace

I’ve read this book a couple of times – once as a 13 year old and a couple of times more recently – and it’s a fun read each time. Irving Wallace, an author known for his heavy research and sexual themes for his books, died in 1990 but is known for some of his best sellers, including this one The Second Lady. This book, published in 1980, is about a fictional plot carried out by the Russians to gain a political edge against the United States. During a good-will visit to the Soviet Union, the American president’s wife is kidnapped and replaced with a Russian spy who is visibly indistinguishable from the first lady. The Soviets need a spy close to the president in order to learn the weaknesses of an American-backed regime in Africa that is currently the focus of a stand off between the superpowers.

The ambitious & outrageous plan is the brainchild of General Petrov, who followed the American elections closely and realized 6 months before the results that a beautiful stage actress Vera Vavilova looked amazingly like Billie Bradford – the wife of the presidential candidate tipped to win the race. He puts his plan in place using the help of Alexyi Razin, a Russian born & raised mostly in the US, to groom the young actress to imitate & play the role of a lifetime – that of the first lady of the United States. Andrew Bradford does win the race and is elected president, so the KGB has Vera operated on to make her look exactly like Billie. Razin grooms her and gets her language & accent lessons and they even have a the interiors of the White House duplicated so Vera can know her way in & out. 3 years from when she started her “training” the plan is set into action and Billie is rugged and switched with Vera. The plan is to switch them back after 3 weeks, after Vera finds out vital information from the President.

If it hadn’t been for former campaign writer, Guy Parker, who was attached the White House and writing a book on the first Lady and started noticing the changes & odd details about the first lady ever since her return from Russia, they would have gotten away with it. He talks to Billie’s press secretary (and the object of Guy’s lust) and although she initially brushes away his concerns, she later starts to share them. They find out about the imposter but who can they go to? Ultimately, the Soviets decide to kill both the spy and the president’s real wife using explosives. At the end of the movie  the plan is only partly successful – one of the women survives and the other dies with Razin, but it is not clear which. The reader is left to decide whether the woman who returns to the president is indeed his real wife or the spy, because the only one who knows for sure is the lady herself!

The Confession – John Grisham

I read a lot of John Grisham novels. This is the latest one that I have read. Bought 4 weeks ago, I read it slowly and took my time. It’s 2010’s The Confession which is about a young man false accused of raping and killing his high school classmate. Nicole Yarber went missing in 1998 a teenage girl and high school student in Slone, Texas. Under duress Donte gives a fake confession, which is all the cops seem to need to put him away. A false eye witness by Nicole’s on & off jealous boyfriend is another nail in the coffin for Drumm. The actual killer, a serial rapist and multiple offender for other crimes, Travis Boyette watches by as the young African-American man, Donte Drumm, is picked up by the cops and interrogated harshly.

Boyette had raped Nicole multiple times, killed her and buried her in Missouri. Donte’s lawyer Robbie Flak fights hard for his client but Donte is convicted and sentenced to death. He has been on death row for nine years when the story takes place. While Drumm serves his prison sentence, Flak fights his case while Black Americans protest his false conviction, creating a law and order situation. While the years passed Boyette develops a tumour in his brain that seems to be inoperable and his health falters. He approaches Kansas priest Reverend Keith Schroeder and confesses his sin. Boyette says that he doesn’t want to come clean to the public but he doesn’t want an innocent man to get killed for his crime. It takes a lot of convincing but Schroeder takes the dying man takes him to Slone.

Despite their adventure and Boyette speaking to tv journalists and declaring himself as the real killer, the execution proceeds on and Drumm is executed by lethal injection. Boyette then reveals the resting place of Nikki and DNA samples show signs of rape and assault on her body. She finally comes home and is given a proper burial as does Donte, where at the funeral his lawyer is able to announce the proof of his innocence. In the aftermath, it turns out that Travis’s tumor is not malignant and the cane is there for protection in his half-way house. His seizures however, and intense headaches, are real. He evades the cops and goes back to finding a victim to rape – but he is beaten by a rescuer and arrested. Keith takes some flack for taking Boyette to Texas and he and his his wife leave Kansas for Texas where he takes up a position in a church there.

Really good novel, drags in some places especially when the riots and fights in Slone are described but otherwise I recommend that you pick it up and have a good read.

Book Review : The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a novel by celebrated best selling authour Stephen King, who is my favourite of all time. I have read several of his books (IT is his best) several times and really enjoy this master of the macabre. The book is about a girl, Trisha, of 9 who is lost in the woods in upper Maine and neighbouring New Hampshire, while out hiking with her recently divorced mother & hostile brother. Trisha separates from her family as she takes a pee and is lost for over a week. She has some food in her backpack and a walkman, through which she gets her comfort – listening in to baseball games of her idol, Tom Gordon, and his Boston Red Sox. She wears a Red Sox jersey with Tom Gordon & 36 printed in it & also has a Red Sox cap which is autographed by Gordon. She survives by wisely eating as little of her supplies and then on berries & nuts. She has to resort to drinking dirty water which makes her sick and gives her pneumonia, diarrhea and makes her vomit. She gets fever and shaking while in the rain and makes a makeshift shelter. She starts hallucinating; she sees images of people in her life including Tom Gordon, speaking to her. King does not let on if the monster that she feels and has glimpses of is real or hallucinated.

She comes across the carcass of a dear and sees claw marks on a tree. She makes it to an old road and takes shelter in an abandoned truck from which she see a glimpse of her stalking apparition during a rainy night. Meanwhile, her parents are searching for her and have united in their fear for what has happened to their daughter. Trisha keeps listening to bits of commentary of Red Sox games. A symbol of her girlie attempts to keep upbeat despite her situation is demonstrated in her singing along with a jingle whenever it plays on the radio between commentaries. Finally she faces her stalker who looks like a huge bear to her but with black sockets for eyes and maggots, flies and other insects crawling inside it. However, it seems like a normal bear to a passing hunter and he shoots at the bear just as Trisha throws her now battery-dead walkman in a baseball curve at the bear’s head. The “bear” is chased away and the hunter carries Trisha to a hospital, where as she recovers, she is reunited with her brother and her reconciled parents. The book is split up in the form of innings (nine) and a ‘pregame’ (the morning before she got lost and starts her adventure) & a ‘postgame’ (as she recovers in the hospital).

It’s not one of his best and it kinda drags on and on without much happening and it isn’t as exciting as a lot of his other work. All in all it’s a good read but I wouldn’t be able to finish it at one go.

What Have You Been Reading Lately?

I’ve been trying to read more these last couple of months. I tried reading a few old novels that I had lying around. I re-read The Da Vinci Code for the 4th time recently. I also re-read The Bretheren & The Vampire Lestat last month – the former for the 3rd time and the latter for the 2nd time. Not mind boggling titles but it’s still stuff that I like a lot and will probably read a few more times before my death. I am now almost halfway through Stephen King’s Thinner which I have read 3 times before.

I’d like to read a lot more as there is a ton of good books but I don’t really go out to buy new books as 1) I don’t want to spend too much money on books 2) I don’t want to clutter up my place as space is at a premium and my two shelves are already filled up with my collections and other stuff. I have a bunch of books collecting dust in a big built in cupboard that I have read at one point and have no interest in reading again at this point (but might change my mind a while later) and I either need to clean them up and try reading them or sell them and get new books which I can store in the same space. I want to get all the Game Of Thrones books (or whatever the books that inspired the tv series are called) by George R R Martin at some point this year. Unfortunately, I have only seen them being sold as a set in one of the premium book stores which means I cannot buy them one at a time to adjust with my budget. I tried looking for the same set at a discount and/or used book store but they hadn’t eve heard of it! (Blasphemy)