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Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: So you like the Gods and Wars, the underworlds and aboveworlds, then this is another trilogy that you don’t want to miss.

The Red Pyramid is a 2010 fantasy adventure novel by Rick Riordan. It is the first installment in The Kane Chronicles trilogy. The series is in a narrative format recorded on a tape by two siblings Carter Kane and Sadie Kane chronicling their adventures. The author does post a warning at the beginning of the book with a disclaimer that this is a transcript of a digital recording. :)

The plot opens with Carter Kane and his father Julius Kane picking up his sister Sadie Kane from their maternal grandparents and head towards the British Museum in London. Carter and Sadie although siblings have been separated after their mom died mysteriously. In the custody battle Julius could win Carter and Sadie was taken over by their maternal grandparents as they could only afford one child. Not that either of the child were neglected. Both had their own adventures in their life. But they are about to be on the biggest adventure or quest of their life.

At the British Museum, Julius invokes the Rosette Stone in the museum with some words that Sadie seem to understand although she had never been to this side. Instead of the intended ones, Julius releases five fiery men with two superimposed images - one of a human with pale skin and cruel glowing red eyes; and another of a somekind of animal resembling a dog or wolf or lion - Red Lord aka Demon God Set, one of whom currently traps Julius in a tomb and had it sunk into the ground. The only thing that was left of Julius was his toolbox - a bag actually - that Carter had never peeked into it, but apparently contained quite a lot of stuff - magical and otherwise - inside. Then two people appear before Carter and Sadie go unconscious - a creepy frenchman and a girl with knife. Where did their father go off to? Was he dead? Who was the fiery man? Who were the two people who wanted to kill Carter and Sadie too? Or were they wanted to kill?

They, along with their cat Muffin, are taken with their Uncle Amos to Manhattan - the Twenty First Nome - to harness their powers and learn magic. The evil fiery man is making his base on Camelback Mountains in Phoenix and is preparing to unleash the greatest storm ever on his birthday. Sadie and Carter Kane are the most powerful children according to Amos, as they are a culmination of both Kane (Julius Kane's family) and Faust (Ruby, kids' mom) families - two powerful families of magicians since the beginning of time. Now who is after them? Why is Set bent on acquiring them? Will their powers be awaken? Can they be trained to be magicians? Where does this journey lead Carter and Sadie Kane?

Siblings Carter and Sadie meet quite a few interesting folks and mythical / magical creatures along the way - Amos (one of the men who had warned Julius and infact tried to stop), Dr. Martin (The British Museum curator), Khufu (Uncle Amos's Monkey Butler), Philip of Macedonia (an albino pet alligator at Amos's palace), Serpent Leopords aka Serpopards, Bast (the Goddess of Cats), Serqet (scorpion goddess), Zia Rashid (the girl with the knife), Michel Desjardins (French man with a forked beard), Chief Lector Iskandar (Chief of House of Life in the First Nome in Egypt), Anubis (The Boy from Hall of Ages, the God of Funerals), Nut (The Sky Goddess), Set Animal (one of the minions of Set God that is sent to kill the Kane siblings), Face of Horror (Another demon working for Set), Thoth (The Egyptian God of Writing and Knowledge),  Bloodstained Blade (the Captain who steers their boat to the Land of Death), Shezmu (bloody lion-man demon in the Land of Death - Lord of Blood and Wine), Ammit the Devourer, Mel (a Magician working for Desjardins), Sobek (God of Water and Rivers), Geb (The God of Earth), Sekhmet (Eye of Ra) and Apophis (The Serpent of Chaos that Bast had been fighting for eons)

After wading through the Roman and Greek Gods and their offspring, this time around Rick Riordan takes us through the Egyptian Gods. And his main character is an African - American opposed to his other books. A string of artifacts related to Egyptian Gods are shown to us in this journey.  Sadie sounds so irritating often-times and with a lot of defiance even when she is wrong. She started to grate under my skin. Carter proves worthy of the character. A journey that starts at one places takes us to so many distinct locations between Earth and Sky and everything in middle and under, keeps us glued to the book. It was a slow start but as the story progressed it did pushed through fast. I did feel though that it was keeping with the same format as the Percy Jackson Books and the Heroes of Olympus books. Nothing new, same pattern.

Even then another hit from Rick Riordan that only gets better as the plot progresses. A definite pick if you have already dug into the Percy Jackson books and the Heroes of Olympus books.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Carter and Sadie's journey takes us through quite a few interesting places.
a. Cleopatra's Needle in London - Looks like there are a few of these all over the world like in New York, Alexandria and London. More about it here. This is definitely something to add to my travel list.
b. Another pair of Obelisk (similar to Cleopatra's Needle) also in Paris and Egypt.
c. Rosette Stone at British Museum - Apparently has three scripts that connect the ancient languages to the modern. More about it here.
d. Pyramid Arena in Memphis, TN (More about it here.
2.  The fiery man calls Julius as Osiris - the same word that was being written by Julius on the Rosette Stone when he was invoking it. This should have given the first clue to the reader about who Julius aka Osiris would have been. :P
3. The original Egyptian calendar had only 360 days in a year. The author shows a legend on how the Sky God - Nut - added the five days at the end of the year. They are called as Demon Days per the Egyptians lore. The Earth God, Nut's husband, was called Geb. In those extra five days Nut gives birth to five kids - Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys.
4. Iskandar in one of the chapters explains that Gods have power but need hosts to use them. So they host in humans, animals, birds, insects, statues and other stuff. However they prefer humans / people as they can not only use power but be creative. Very rarely they are in pure form. This explains the theory of so many powerful people in every history and legend, so many idols and stones considered filled with power and so many legends repeating again and again in different forms and lore but still remain the same plot.
5. Carter Kane is apparently a fan of L. A. Lakers. He uses the numbers of three retired Lakers - 13/32/33 - for his locker combination. They belong to Chamberlain, Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar respectively.
6. The history and myths surrounding Ra (The Sun God) and the Egyptian setting reminded me of the 1994 American Sci-Fi Adventure film Stargate. That was the first film I had seen when I had come to United States in 2001, albeit it's on TV. Left a mark so distinct in my memory that I can still hear the dialogues and see the scenes of the movie playing by. Perhaps should add this to my blog of reviews. :P
7. Zia Rashid - In the end I am still left clueless as to who Zia Rashid is? Why Iskandar was protecting her? What is her story? Perhaps we will get to know in the next two installments.
8. On Pg. 435, Para 4 the last line "I didn't want to ruin my new plaything quite so soon" touched some string in my memory related to another book. I read the same line somewhere but I am unable to point it.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: A good animated film with some morals in the mix for those easy and lazy days.

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is the 2014 American computer-animated fantasy film. It is the seventh and the last film in the Disney Toon Studios' Tinker Bell film series based on the character Tinker Bell from J. M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy. This movie however primarily revolves around Fawn -  fairy who always want to rescue the hurt even though they may be dangerous and harmful.  Two new characters Nyx - the leader of scout fairies - and Fury - another scout fairy who works under Nyx.

I love Tinker Bell. She is a tinker who mends pots and kettles, and anything is needed to be mended for the fairy folk. She is sometimes jealous, spoiled and ill-tempered, but she always is the first one to come to aid of anyone. However this particular movie doesn’t revolve around Tinker Bell although she plays a key role.

Fawn, a fairy who always wants to rescue everyone, finds an injured baby hawk and nourishes her back to health. However the baby hawk's parents attack the fairy land to reclaim their baby. Nyx, Fury and her team of scout fairies come in to the rescue of the fairies by driving the hawks away along with the baby hawk, thus saving Pixie Hollow from further damage. Fawn however gets reprimanded by Queen Clarion for only following her heart and not her mind. The same night Fawn hears a roar and explores that sound and finds strange creature who is building rocks. She calls him Gruff.

Nyx also follows the roar and finds about Gruff. Fawn has strong belief that Gruff is nor harmful but Nyx interprets that legend that Gruff brings disaster to Pixie Hollow. The plot continues with Fawn trying to keep Nyx from capturing Gruff and at the same time trying to understand if Gruff was indeed harmful.

A good plot for the Tinker Bell series. However I was disappointed that the role of Tinker Bell was less than in her usual movies. I would have still loved to have her be the focus of the plot. Other than that it’s a decent movie to watch for those lazy days and have some fun.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: A medley of natural and supernatural elements mixed with human emotions, all twined together into a thick thread here. Definite pick.

My mom's birthday is on September 9th. So for that day I wanted to post review of a book by one of her favorite authors. We had a semi-library kind that my parents had filled with novels that they read in weekly magazines. Every week they used to buy magazines like Andhra Bhoomi, Andhra Prabha, etc. and follow the novels printed as episodes by famous authors like Yaddanapudi Sulochanarani, Yandamuri Veerendranath and others. They would cut the pages from the magazine and once the novel was finished, get all the pages bound into a book. Apart from these they would buy paperbacks and get them bound too to protect them. I remember reading a few when I was living with them. All of these were in Indian language Telugu - my mother tongue. Knowing their tastes, it was natural for me to lean towards Yandamuri Veerendranath. Hence this book and thus the review.

Duppatlo Minnagu ( = A Serpent inside a Bedsheet) is a 2004 Telugu novel by Yandamuri Veerendranath. The plot is a reunion of five friends who are stranded at an airport and tell stories to pass the time. It doesn’t seem so simple as the plot proceeds.

The plot is written in a narrative mode, the narration being done by one of the five friends. The five friends in question are Venku, Shiva, Sheshu, Vijji and the narrator (whose name is not revealed in the beginning). Venku and Shiva are forest officers. These five friends are what they call typical drinking buddies and haven't had been in touch with each other in a long time, which is the reason for the reunion.
The narrator is primarily residing in the city of Dibrugarh in state of Assam, India. The narrator had recently lost someone close to him by name Arundhati. So the reunion came as a refreshing break for him. The friends decide to have their reunion in Shillong - city in the state of Meghalaya, India - but get stuck in the Gauhati (another city in Assam) airport. They havent met each other in a year, so they had a lot to catchup on. Once that was finished, they decide to swap tales. But Vijji challenges everyone that the stories should be suspense thrillers, closely resembling real-life experiences and whose ever story is with the weakest plot will have to pay the bill for that night. Challenge accepted the stories begin.

First tale is from Shiva and titled Duppatlo Minnagu (incidentally the title of this book is the same). His story is set in Bhadrachalam - city in the state of Telangana, India. Shiva being a forest officer, his plot is also set in the forests surrounding Bhadrachalam. Six of the forest officers have been stationed in those forests. One day they decide to go to the city to watch a movie - second-show since it was Sunday the day after. However when Shiva goes to get hold of one the officers, Ramabhadram aka Bhadram, he comes to know that a serpent has crawled on to his stomach under his bedsheet and is sleeping there now, and he has been lying like that for almost an hour. Rest of the plot continues in how Shiva tries to rescue Bhadram, and the suspense hangs with the finding of the snake.

Second tale is from Vijji and titled Oda Prayanam ( = Journey by Ship). His tale is about Daivadheenam who took the ship from Europe to Madras, India and filled with incidents that Daivadheenam faced aboard. The suspense is not how he finds a solution for his problem. It is in how the solution is implemented and if he would be successful.

Third tale is from Venku and titled Manavateeta Vyakti ( = A Human Beyond Human). The plot is a dinner setting where five folks are attending - the narrator assuming its Venku, Rammoorthy (the host), Rammoorthy's wife, his 16 yr old daughter Aruna and the guest of honor Venkatesh. Venkatesh is supposed to possess with skills beyond human and an excel as a magician, unmarried and a very self-conceited person. The key reason for Rammoorthy to invite Venkatesh was to smash his magical abilities with facts and make him feel nothing. The suspense is not if Rammoorthy wins or Venkatesh wins in the debate, it's whether Venkatesh gets beat at his own game or if Rammoorthy finally meets his match.

Fourth tale is from Sheshu titled Verandah Kurrodu ( = Boy in the Verandah). It's about a housewife Radha who is apprehensive about the new tenant Ravi Shankar that her husband Vishwanatham approves. The suspense is not what the tenant would do, it's the suspense of how Radha's wild imagination goes haywire playing double time.

Fifth and the last tale is from the narrator titled Antarnetram ( = Inner Eye). The plot follows the final moments of Rangarao who was suffering from blood cancer and the lengthy letter he writes to his wife Arundhati before his death. The suspense is not what is in the letter but what measures they take in those final days.

Once the tales end, the plot continues with the five friends discussing on whose story had more suspense, who won the bet, who lost the bet and also analyzing their tales. But none of them are aware of the final showdown that awaits them at the end.  So, who won the bet? Who lost? Who got the more shocking revelation? What is the fate of these five friends at the end? How will they face the showdown? All in good time you will know once you read this interesting novel.

I haven't read a Telugu novel in a long time so the beginning of the reading went a bit slower for me - more because I was trying to grasp meaning of some words that sounded complicated for me and also getting to read it fluently. But as the novel progressed, I picked it up faster than I thought I would. It's been a long time I read something in my language - clearly I need to improve on that.

Bordering on horror but still keeping the suspense element and bringing in the beyond human skills and abilities constitute the plot. Grips you to the edge of your chair / sofa, keeping you in the element and springing twists that you can't imagine. There is mixture of science, parapsychology, medical field, crime fighting and above all abilities that human mind can't detect in the plot. Well written by the author as usual and certainly an easy read for not so weak minds. :) If you get to come across the book, do pick it up for a unique adventure.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Quite a few novels of Yandamuri have been made into movies. And interestingly enough most had Chiranjeevi in the lead role and some had others like Venkatesh and Nagarjuna in the lead roles. Check here for the list. However most popular ones are Aakhari Poratam, Abhilasha, Challenge, Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu and others.
2) Second-show is a late night show for movies in India that starts at 9:00pm.
3) In one of the stories, the author talks about a parapsychology based book Behind The Iron Curtain. I could not find anything about it. Perhaps it’s a fictious book for this ficiton.
4) Factual Errors: On Pg 76 the author talks about the arteries that send blood to brain and he mentions one of them as Carotic Artery, but it is Carotid Artery.
5) The author brings the characters from his previous novel Abhilasha ( = Desire). One of the characters Vaijayanthi goes to meet Chiranjeevi - the lead character from that plot - at his home for an interview. She meets there his wife Dr. Archana - again the lead character from that plot. Abilasha was made into a super hit Telugu film in 1983 starring Chiranjeevi and Radhika on the lead roles. More about the film here.. A look into the life of these characters after the book / movie ended is shown here.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A very enjoyable movie with sports, romance and college in the mix.

September 8 2016 was when NFL kicked off this past year. Normally the kick-off day I have my friend over to my place or me at my friend's place watching the kick--off. However since my friend has moved away it had been a solo watch. A Packers fan through and through I always had fun watching the kick-off.

Football is a tough game with all grunts, shoves, passes and touchdowns. However, I am picking this 1925 American silent comedy film titled The Freshman that tells the story of a college freshman who tries to become popular by joining the college football team. The movie stars Harold Lloyd in the title role.

Harold Lamb (portrayed by Harold Lloyd) enrolls to Tate University and emulates his movie idol Speedy to get popular as well as the girl Peggy (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston) that he has eye for. He specifically used the jig that Speedy had used in the movie as part of his ploy to become popular. However he lands into quite a few troubles courtesy of the seniors at the college as well as the College Cad (portrayed by Brooks Benedict). Unknowingly he becomes the butt of everyone's jokes. Then the College Cad tells him that no matter what he does he cannot be as famous and popular as Chet Trask (portrayed by James Anderson) - who is the football captain - unless he joins football. Thus enters Harold into the college football team. The rest of the movie follows how Harold tries to become popular, only to become more and more the college joke. Even he doesn’t realize that. Only Peggy sees how Harold is being treated and feels sad and hurt for him.

Will Harold realize the follies? Will he and Peggy be together finally? Will his career with the football team pick up? How does Harold where at the college? Well, one will know only when one will watch this fun film.

Note how the football dress was back then. And this particular get-up Harold has, is exactly what Adam Sandler had in the 1998 American comedy film The Waterboy. Although there has been controversy that some elements from this film have been copied into the 1998 film per Harold's grand-daughter Suzanne Lloyd Hayes.

Note the car back then. They had extra seating right by the door over the wheels on the side. Truly well-accommodating cars back then.

Peggy has such a simple and beautiful look. No wonder one of the title cards in the film describes her as "the kind of girl your mother must have been".

Although a silent film, this remained one of the successful films of Harold Lloyd. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses gives a new persona to Harold Lloyd. The plot is simple - a freshman to win the heart of the girl he likes, dreams about big man on the campus and eventually joins the football team to prove it. The movie has all the elements of the life of a collegiate on a campus with romance and comedy mixed in. Even after 92 years it's a thoroughly enjoyable film at any time of the day.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) There is a 1990 film with the same name starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick but has no connection to this film. I havent watched the 1990 version though.
2) One of the heroes that Harold in the film emulates is Speedy (portrayed by Laurel Lester) in the film The College Hero. For the sake of this movie, the film The College Hero didn’t exist in 1925. However two years later a silent film by the name The College Hero was indeed released. Another to add to my list. (More about that 1927 film here)

3) May Wallace portrayed the role of Harold's mother in the film. But nowhere I could find who portrayed the role of his father. Even the titles in the film didn’t give that. However he looks close to present Christopher Lee

4) Oscar Smith portrays the role of The Dean's Chauffeur.

5) Check out the rent for living quarters - $3 per week. Wow money had quite a value back then. We don’t get much for $3 now.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A tale with both dark and light shades told with hints of innocence, comedy, song and much needed slap in the face with life lessons.

In the year 2015 I had blogged one song a day as the theme. As part of that one of the post was about the song Cotton Candy Land by Elvis Presley. (Check my review here. That song then had reminded me of two movies - first the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and second the 2005 remake of the same film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Review for the 1971 film can be found here. And now the review of the 2005 film.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the 2005 British-American musical fantasy film. This is the second film adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl. The first one was the 1971 film titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are quite a few differences between both the films - not in the story line-up but in the added contexts, the dark depiction of the plot removing the flim-flam, keeping it raw as the book went and also closing some of the loops that the first one had. This film has been pretty close to the book. The title of this film is also kept the same as the original title of the book as opposed to the 1971 film. As with the original movie's review, for this as well, my review focuses on factors that made this movie a hit and differences that it made stand-out from its predecessor.

You would remember Helena Bonham Carter as  Bellatrix Lestrange in The Harry Potter series and as Red Queen in the Alice in Wonderland movies. She has done an excellent job as Charlie's mom in this movie. Grandpa Joe worked for Willy Wonka before it had closed out and everyone were terminated. A much more deeper history about Willy Wonka is shown in the flash back that Grandpa shares. Willy Wonka closes the factory one day when he was tired of the deceptions and thievery of this recipes for his candies and ice creams. He terminates all the employees. However a few years later he opens the factory but does not hire anyone. No one knows how he runs it but the chocolates keep coming out.

Willy Wonka appears in the film from the very beginning of the story as opposed to the first part.

Charlie has a father in this version and works for a toothpaste factory - down the street . He is the sole provider of the family.

Prince Pondicherry - This story is not in the first part that was made. A Prince in India who wanted a chocolate palace made which Willy Wonka does so. However, despite the warnings provided by Willy Wonka, the Prince ignores and loses his palace to one very hot day.

Charlie Bucket's father loses the job due to the advancement in the technology and profits the company was making in the new technology. Charlie wishes to get the fifth golden ticket so he could help his family.

The welcome song that the five winners are shown to with the toys dressed as workers at Willy Wonka's factory ends with a rather macabre twist to it - with the fireworks causing a fire and burning everything down including the dolls giving them a sinister and grotesque appearance. For some reason those dolls reminded me of Chucky horror movies.

An elaborate history of who the Oompa-Loompas are, their history and how they end up coming to stay with Willy Wonka. Their food habits are really gross and the portrayal in the film eeked me out a lot. The plot also shows why Willy Wonka is so eccentric bordering on pyscho looking, why he doesn’t utter the word "parents" and his history with his parents, and reasons for his odd behavior.

In this film instead of having an egg-sorting room and decide which one is a good egg or bad egg, we see squirrels breaking the walnut shells and deciding which one is a good nut or a bad nut. This is what the original story has too.

Wonkavator - Willy Wonka's glass elevator that he uses to travel everywhere in hi factory, upwards, downwards, sideways, across and over - is shown in the middle of the film itself. Although in the book and in the first movie the elevator was shown only at the end of the film. This is different for this film.

Again another successful movie re-made based on the book and also from its predecessor, keeping the light and dark shades as exposed as possible. Equally enjoyed this version as well. Haven't watched it yet? Well, it's time to switch on your DVDs or click on the link online to enjoy a feast.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Willy Wonka greets his visitors with the statement "Good Morning Sunshine, The Earth says Hello!" It made me wonder if this was a line from a sci-fi movie like E.T. or something. Turns out to be it is from a pop song from the 1967 musical Hair. And later was released as a single by the singer Olver in 1969 (More about it here. Here is however, the shot from the movie. More for my future blog posts. :)

2) Oompa-Loompa is portrayed by Indian actor Deep Roy and his image was replicated for all men, women and children of the Oompa-Loompas so everyone looked alike. In the 1971 film though they were portrayed by dwarfed actors who were orange skinned, green haired men in striped clothing.

3) Christopher Lee portrays the role of Dr. Wilbur Wonka - the city's most famous dentist. He was the reason Willy Wonka has so many weird behaviors.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A tale with both dark and light shades told with hints of innocence, comedy, song and much needed slap in the face with life lessons.

In the year 2015 I had blogged one song a day as the theme. As part of that one of the post was about the song Cotton Candy Land by Elvis Presley. (Check my review here: http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/496756.html). That song then had reminded me of two movies - first the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and second the 2005 remake of the same film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Thus first the review of the 1971 film.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 American musical film starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. It is an adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and Gene Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, but both awards were lost to Fiddler on the Roof movie. Despite that the film was a nominal one going on to become a popular hit later due to repeat telecasts in television and finally considered a culturally, aesthetically and historically significant one. My review would be highlighting the key factors that made the movie a popular one rather than the plot - which is well-known.

The first thing that anyone remembers of this movie is the song The Candy Man that was pictured on Bill (portrayed by Aubrey Woods), the Candy Shop owner. The song perhaps could be said pivotal in making the movie popular too.

And the famous Golden Ticket.

In this movie, Charlie doesn't have a father.

Willy Wonka doesn’t show-up until an hour into the movie. Considering that he is the title role, I wonder if Gene Wilder was okay with this back then.

Willy Wonka is a chocolate master-maker who is so crazy that he casually disposes off kids - even though the kids were obnoxious - although they don’t really die but come out with irreversible changes - a lesson they learn the hard way to live with forever. If not for the musical elements and charming surroundings, one would think Willy Wonka is a child murderer. Such a dark aspect underneath the comedy and song that Roland Dahl excellently wrote. Gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Willy Wonka talks about fruit-flavored wallpaper that you can lick and get the flavor of that exact fruit. He talks about Snozberries. Except for Roald Dahl no one knows what kind of fruit are these Snozberries, although Cracked.com has explained it well based on Roald Dahl's 1979 adult novel My Uncle Oswald (Link to the explanation). Basically Snozberries are dicks - not sure if Roald thought of them as them same when he added it to the children's novel or later changed it in the later novel to mean something different. I wonder!!

Slugworth has only a namely mention in the actual book, but becomes a full character in the movie. The movie has such fun and interesting words, ofcourse taken from the book - Educated Eggdicator (A device to determine if the egg is a good or bad), Hsaw Aknow (Wonka Wash  spelled backwards that cleans everything that goes through it)

Wonkavision (a Television with invented by Wonka but instead of photographs, it does with live objects - transmits the live objects into television) and Wonkavator (An elevator that can go anywhere and created by Willy Wonka).

Whether it was a hit or not when it was released becomes a moot point now, since that anytime it is aired, it does garner quite an audience. Not to forget the beautiful songs. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable movie with all its dark and light shades, giving some well-meaning lessons to child or adult alike. Haven't watched it yet? Well, it's time to switch on your DVDs or click on the link online to enjoy a feast.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Havent read the book 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl, but someday I will and perhaps post a blog too.
2) Diane Sowle plays the role of Charlie Bucket's mother in the film. She has a song that she performs on as well - Cheer Up Charlie. She has not done many movies - three to be specific (the other two being Clear and Present Danger, Guarding Tess). Yet, she looks so familiar to me. Per Wiki she is the last living surviving last main adult character from the movie. Here is her song from the movie

3) Oompa Loompas sing a song about "What do you get from a lot of TV". It is so appropriate for this generation surrounded by gadgets. Everyone is missing out on so much in real world while living in the virtual world.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A fitting movie depicting the key event of this festival, rounded up well with good acting, songs and script.

Ganesh Chathurthi, the festival celebrating the birth and life of Lord Ganesha fell on September 5th in 2016. I was blessed to have my parents with me last year to celebrate the festival. To honor this day, I picked the 1957 Indian Telugu hit musical film Vinayaka Chaviti (named after the festival itself) directed by Samudrala Raghavacharya. The story is based on the Syamantakopakhyanam - one of the stories read during the festivities of this day.

More about the festival can be found here. However the festival falls in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, usually in August or September in the Gregorian Calendar. Although every month the fourth day of the second fortnight is also known as Vinayaka Chathurthi for that month. The annual festival is however the biggest celebration. Anyway here is the review of the movie in question.

The plot is in narrative mode being told for the viewers by one of the priest in a temple where the festival of Ganesh Chathurthi is being celebrated. The story covers on the aspects of how the birth of Lord Ganesha happens - not to forget the slaying of the Asura ( = Demon) Gajasura - the curse that Goddess Parvathi (portrayed by Suryakala) puts on Chandra (Moon God), the suspicion that Lord Krishna (portrayed by Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao aka NTR) falls into after he had seen the reflection of moon and being blamed for the loss of the jewel Syamantaka, his fight with Jambavanta in retrieving the jewel, killing of Sathadhanva by Lord Krishna following his wedding to Satyabhama (daugher of Satrajit) and Jambavati (daughter of Jambavanta). Parallel tales of how Jambavanta comes into possession of Syamantaka Jewel, Why Sathadhanva is killed, why Gajasura is killed and why Jambavanta fights with Lord Krishna is also explained.

Krishnakumari portrays the role of Rukmini, Jamuna as Satyabhama aka Satrajiti aka Satyadevi, A. Prakash Rao as Narada, Gummadi as Satrajit, Rajanala as Prasena - brother of Satrajit and Nageshwar Rao as Satadhanva.

The movie comes with 24 songs and poems. Music composed by Ghantasala. Lyrics penned by Samudrala Raghavacharya. Playback Singing was provided by a myriad of singers - Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi, M. S. Ramarao, P. Susheela, P. Leela, Rani, Pudatha Sarojini, Jamuana Rani, Satyavathi and Vaidehi. Pretty much all the songs have become famous and some are sung in day to day lives by folks as devotional songs.

I always thought that Goddess Parvathi had cursed Lord Moon for laughing at Ganesha. However, the movie shows the curse being given by Ganesha and then on advice of his parents Lord Siva and Parvathi, Ganesha amends the curse to be effective on Ganesh Chathurthi day and also gives a remedy for the curse. Interesting twist. Again surprised to see Rajanala in a less important role in the movie when he was an established actor already.

Introduction of Jamuna as Satyabhama is very interesting. For a whole song Kaliki Ne Krishnudane Palkaveme Bhama Nato she is not shown in the entire song until at the end. Sung by P. Susheela and A. P. Komala is a teasing tune between Satyabhama and her lead confidant and companion, although the clip below shows it incomplete.

But the ultimate hit song from the movie is Dinakara Shubhakara Deva Deenadhara Timira Samhara pictured on Gummadi as Satrajit who is giving an ode to Lord Surya (Sun God) for a boon. Sung by Ghantasala this has become a hosuehold song to wake up to.

Satyabhama is supposed to be strong and arrogant with a tinge of courage and lots of love. However she is shown weak and helpless with a tinge of craziness. The portrayal is different from what everyone knows about her. Wonder where did the director get this from.

All in all a well-made movie with very good acting, timing of every flavor and sticking to the event from the epic as close as possible.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) If you remember when I was posting the review of the 1967 film Sri Krishnavataram (Check my link here), I mentioned that NTR played the role of Lord Krishna 17 times in movies. This is one of those 17 movies. :) He is so young and bit leaner in this film considering it was filmed a full ten years before the 1967 film.

2) If you remember in the film Sri Krishnavataram, Krishna Kumar portrayed the role of Lakshana Devi - one of the eight wives of Lord Krishna, while in this movie she plays the role of Rukmini - another one of the eight wives of Lord Krishna.

3) Samudrala Raghavacharya was the Director, Lyricist and Writer for the movie.
4) Krishna Kumari is so young in this movie, it being the initial movies of her career.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

In April of 2016 I had opportunity to meet one of my favorite author Christine Feehan while I was visiting family in California. The year before when the Romance Writers America met in New York, I had gone to see a few of my favorite authors there and came to know that Christine Feehan hadn't made it to the meet. So I wrote to her and she obliged me with giving me a few of her hours to meet her in-person if I could go where she lives. So when I went to CA last year, I took the opportunity and met her. Incidentally C. L. Wilson happened to be there too so got a chance to meet her too.

Christine Feehan is the author of the well-read Ghostwalker Series, Sea Haven Series, Sister of the Heart Series, Dark Series (involving Carpathians) and the new Shadow Series. I have written reviews of quite a few of her books in this "366 Critiques by Amateur" project that I started in Jan 2016. Check them out here: Ghostwalker Series, Sisters of the Heart / Sea Haven Series, Carpathian Books and the Shadow Series.

I went with my parents to meet Christine. She was very generous and had been patient to answer all my questions. A few pics from the day.

We also got to meet Shaila, one of her granddaughter, who wants to have a story based on her name. :). My mom thought that she looked like a snow white.

And here is the excerpt of the interview:
Interview behind the cut...Collapse )

I had a fun time with Christine and hopefully will get to see her again. Only regret was I wasn’t prepared for a whole lot of questions for C. L. Wilson. Perhaps next time I will remedy that. Hope you all liked the interview. :)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Breathtaking Scenes, Spectacular Colors, Romance, Martial Arts and Imperial Palace Politics - all culminated into this beautiful movie.

It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

A few years ago I had posted about a 2009 hit Indian Telugu movie Arundhati ( = Name of a girl, also means fidelity and to restrain) and had mentioned a dance sequence that was an exact copy of a scene from the 2004 Chinese Martial Hero (Wuxia) Romantic film House of Flying Daggers. Recently I saw that movie being played on television that reminded me that old post that I did some 6 years ago. Well, here's the review of the Chinese film now.

The film directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro, the plot leaning more towards a love story than a complete martial arts one as the theme is based on a story that tells about a beautiful girl who brings woe to two men. Director also uses strong color scheme that blows your mind. It did for me on the small screen itself I wonder how it was on a big screen.

The plot is set in AD 859 when the Tsang dynasty declines and number of rebel groups rise, the largest of which being the House of Flying Daggers. They steal from rich and help the poor but are feared at hated by the local deputies. The local police had successfully killed the old leader of the House of Flying Daggers, Now, Jin and Leo - two officers and best friends - are given 10 days to apprehend and kill the new leader. They get wind of a new girl in the Peony Pavilion - a house of entertainment - who is bling but their top showgirl. Her name is Mei. Jin goes undercover to apprehend her but gets arrested by Leo as he tries to assault on Mei. Leo also want to arrest Mei but the Madam convinces him of her rare skills. Leo asks her to perform the Echo Game and if she did he would let her go. At the end of the amazing dance, Mei tries to kill Leo by snatching his sword, but Leo escapes ensuing a fierce sword fight between Mei and Leo resulting in the arrest of Mei. She is identified as one of the member of the House of Flying Daggers. Their interrogation of her to find who the new leader is where can he be found fails. So Jin and Leo device a plan. Later that night Jin attacks the jail, pretending to be a rebel sympathizer and frees her. Mei trusting him, takes Jin along with her to the headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers not knowing that Leo is following them closely.

Now the meat of the plot begins. Who is Jin? Why did he rescue Mei? Is he falling for her beauty for real or acting the part that Leo set for him? Who is the new leader of House of Flying Daggers? Who and what is Mei's past? Where does Leo fit in all this? The beauty of knowing the answers is for you to watch the movie and appreciate it.
Picture heavy review behind the cut..Collapse )

Breathtaking locations, Spectacular colors, Extreme sword and martial art skills almost like a dance, Tinge of romance with the Intrigue of politics constitute the entire plot.

Three soldiers in a battle between the Imperial Palace and the House of Flying Daggers get played like a chessboard between love and war. The mystery remains to the end of the fate of these three soldiers and of the House of Daggers. Well-written well-made movie that I regret having not watched on a big screen.

Go for it if you get a chance and I would say you will enjoy every second of it.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut....Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Want a thriller? You will get one with this…not bone-deep as usual but nonetheless a good one. If you are into murders and especially dig on solving cold cases, this is one series you do not want to miss.

The Cinderella Murder is a thriller by Mary Higgins Clark published in November of 2014. This is the second book in the Under Suspicion Series continuing to follow the lives of Laurie Moran, Timmy Moran, Alex Buckley and Leo Farley. Mary Higgins Clark collaborated with Alafair Bruke for this series forming another strong set of books from this bond.

Laurie Moran's reality drama Under Suspicion has become a super-hit after the first episode that solved a twenty year old murder. (Check my review of I've Got You Under My Skin, the first book in the series here: <post link>). This show unlike a news episode or a crime series, brings in the real people of the crime, interviewing them in the hopes to find clues that may or may not solve the case. With Alex Buckley, who is closely becoming her romantic interest, as the host of the series, Laurie is taking up another cold case for her next episode. This time it is the shocking murder of beautiful and brilliant Susan Dempsey, a UCLA student and belonging to an elite family in California. The murder was dubbed as The Cinderella Murder because of the missing shoe at the crime scene. Will Laurie and Alex together solve this case through the episode like before or will it be just another episode as in the famed TV show Unsolved Mysteries - we have to wait and read the book to get the answers. :P

Susan Dempsey was 19 year old, aspiring artist, UCLA student and  daughter of Jack and Rosemary Dempsey - Jack being head of legal department for Valley Tech one of the top research companies in the country - when she was murdered 20 years ago. She was supposed to come home to her parent's home in Northern California for Jack's sixtieth birthday party but called in last minute to tell her mother that she was going in for an audition for one of Frank Parker's upcoming movie. Only that she turned up dead in Laurel Canyon Park, south of Mulholland Drive in  Hollywood Hills, the following morning appeared to be strangled. And the case went cold very fast and now it has come to Laurie for her Under Suspicion series. Jack Dempsey had passed away three years ago, and Susan has given her agreement to have the case brought into the reality show if they promised to treat Susan's memory with respect. The press had dubbed the murder as The Cinderella Murder as Susan was wearing only one show when her body was discovered. Who had murdered Susan? What was the reason for it?

As Laurie and her team geared up to call up the family and friends closes to Susan at the time of murder, she does have a problems with getting them ready. For instance, Frank Parker, now famous Hollywood director, was the last person to see Susan alive, has his own reservations to be on the show. Susan's agent Edwin Lange had passed away so the connection between Susan and Frank weakens a bit. The other folks she wanted on the show were - Keith Ratner (Susan's boyfriend then and who had been despised by Rosemary) and Madison Meyer and Nicole Melling aka Nicole Hunter (Susan's college roommates).

A few persons of interest for Laurie were - Lydia Lewitt (nosey but helpful neighbor of Rosemary), Gavin Melling (Nicole's husband), Talia Parker (Frank Parker's wife of ten years), Martin Collins (Founder of Advocates of God aka AG, a freedom church), Steve Roman (one of the associates of AG looking over the Bay Area region), Dwight Cook (founder of REACH, an online search engine, and a friend of Susan in college) and Richard Hathaway (professor at Susan's college when she was studying then). Other key folks in Laurie's life that are part of her life both in professional and personal bases - Grace Garcia (Laurie's assistant), Jerry Klein (Laurie's assistant producer) and Brett Young (Laurie's boss).

There are histories beyond these each of the characters that they don’t want to come out into light, especially for the time period that Susan was murdered. What is Nicole hiding? What is it that would come out if dug deep? Was the alibi that Madison provided for Frank landed her the role that Susan was supposed to get? What is history between Frank and Madison? Keith and Madison had dallied together while Keith was dating Susan. Had that come out? Had Madison hurt Susan impulsively because of that? Or did Keith do the honors because Susan did not want to be with him anymore?

As the program preparation progresses with initial interviews setup and ready for the Summit Meeting, things don’t seem as simple as just solving a murder. Dealing with the family and friends of Susan, uncovering their secrets and hidden agendas, tapping into Advocate of Gods mission and finally getting all facts right from fiction, it's a lot more than what Laurie had originally planned for. But is she and her crew safe? Was Leo right about his apprehensions? How will all this finally end at the Summit meeting? Who killed Susan Dempsey?

Another well written plot by the famed author, albeit it’s a collaboration that definitely proved successful. As always her plots are woven well and tied in neatly without revealing the culprit until the last few chapters. Sometimes I am able to figure out. But this time around there were so many possibilities that it was hard to determine for me. Interesting plot, and ending with a happy feeling of solving the murder. Although I would have wished to see a bit more romance between Laurie and Alex, also a little more role for Alex. I always wondered what happens to the main characters after the novel ends. So it was a nice to see the continuation of the characters' lives through a series. Although not all books in a series I like or sometimes the series itself I may not like, this one in particular was certainly appealing enough for me to continue.

If you are into murders and especially dig on solving cold cases, this is one series you do not want to miss.  Looking forward to read the remaining books in the series.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Unsolved Mysteries was a reality TV show hosted by Robert Stack and aired during 1987 and 2002 and later by Dennis Farina between 2008 and 2010. It aired real cold cases of missing persons or murders and asked viewers to help for any information in solving them. More about the show here.
2) Sights in NYC that I didn’t know about and adding to my list to see: Channel Gardens near Rockefeller Center
3) One of the character in the book, Nicole Melling, talks about a song "Little Boxes on the hillside" when she passes small houses on the hillside of I-280 in Bay Area. The lines sounded interesting so I searched for it and lo and behold, that song indeed exists. It was a song written and composed by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, and was a hit for Pete Seeger in 1963 and a theme song for the 2005 Showtime TV Series Weeds. (More about it here) Lyrics can be found here. Here is a video of him singing on a TV show

4) The author mentions about a tech company called REACH that is basically a search engine used to search information on internet. I thought she was talking about Google but not using the name as such. However, she does mentions some of the characters using Google for their work. I wonder if REACH is a search engine or just a search website similar to all those real estate or travel or ticketing websites.

5) I didn’t think there is a website for real named "Who's Dated Who". Surprise Surprise there is indeed such a site. Check it out here.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: A definite pick for those lonely days to fill your time and mind with imagination beyond.

September 1st marked the 37th anniversary of the book The Neverending Story. It is a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende first published in German in 1979 and later its English translation by Ralph Manheim in 1983. In 1984 this book was made into a West German produced English epic fantasy film and was produced by  Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler, directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen. This is the first film in the film series too - two sequels were made later.

This film adapts the first half of the book and thus the subsequent movies to justify the title. Although the author had not liked the film version and even went on to sue the producers (albeit lost), the movie since has become a super hit. The basic plot is about a boy who reads a magical book that tells a story of a young boy who is to stop the dark storm called Nothing from engulfing the fantasy world. For this day I am posting the review of the movie to mark the special day.

The plot begins with Bastian Balthazar Bux, a 12-year old bibliophile, being harassed by three bullies from his school. To escape them he hides in a bookstore owned by Mr. Coreander who has been interrupted reading a book. When Bastian asks about it, Mr. Coreander advices against it. However Bastian steals the book with a note that he will return it, runs to his school, hides in his school's attic to read it. The book takes Bastian to land of Fantasia that is being invaded by a storm called Nothing that devours everything on its way. When the people seek the aid of their ruler, the Childlike Empress, they find that she is ill. A boy warrior named Atreyu is tasked to find a cure to her sickness and is given a medallion named AURYN that will guide him in the quest. He rides on his horse Artax in search of the cure. Simultaneously a vicous and intelligent wolf-like creature named Gmork is summoned by Nothing to kill Atreyu. Thus the quest begins. Will Atreyu find a cure? Will Gmork attack Atreyu? What is this Nothing? Will the empress get better and fight the Nothing? How does the story in the book tie to the Bastian? Are the two worlds connected somehow? That's what we get to see in the rest of the story.

The author had vivid imaginations about how the people of Fantasia looked like - rock creatures who ate only rock, tiny people, fast running snails, flying pigs, giant turtle almost the size of a small island, a dog-faced dragon called as luckdragon and many others.

The graphics matching to the author's imagination are excellent, however some look amateurish if compared to current era graphics. Certainly took me into a different world, some a bit more than what I can imagine. Surprised to have such a dark theme underneath all the beautiful surroundings for a children's book. Again, doesn't every story come with a dark inside? Except for the kids speaking in screaming voices, it's a definite pick for those lonely days to fill your time and mind with imagination beyond.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot of the film and the book reminds me of the recent novels by Chris Colfer. His Land of Stories books (My review on those books: http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/tag/land%20of%20stories) also deal with a pair of twins from this world who transport to the Fairy-tale land to save both the worlds from the evil son of the Fairy Godmother.
2) I haven't read the book this movie is based on but I am adding it to my list to read on.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

Murder On Parade is the 29th book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in March of 2009. The time around the plot is set again in Jessica's home town of Cabot Cove, Maine.

The people of Cabot Cove are geared up to their annual Fourth of July Celebrations. However the entire planning has been usurped by the town's newest resident and corporate mogul Joseph "Joe" Lennon of Lennon-Diversified, Ltd. And he is funding the entire celebrations. Although in the beginning the town planning committee had welcomed his offer, as days proceeded, Lennon has been becoming more condescending, dictatorial than being part of the planning, much to the disappointment and angst of the committee. There have been voices raised against Lennon's involvement, in particular by Chester Carlisle although everyone have been thinking that Chester is slowly losing it lately. And the new Dr. Warren Boyle and his constant advertising of the new medical methods is causing Seth to lose his patients and also be branded as a bit senile. Jessica hurts for Seth and tries her best to cheer him up.

One evening when Seth, Jessica and FBI agent Rick Alcott were coming out of a restaurant after dinner, they are attacked by a mugger and Seth gets injured in the process. But, was it a mugging gone bad? Or an attempt on one of their lives gone bad? And then the night of fourth of July, they find Joe Lennon shot to death in the back of the Lennon-Diversified. Who had killed him? What is the motive? He did not make many friends in Cabot Cove either. But then his homefront didn’t have any friend either. Was his son Paul had a motive, for he was constantly rubbed at by Joe? What about Cynthia? She chose a lot to lose with the decisions Joe made recently. Or the loud mouth and strong opponent Chester? Did he kill Joe in the spur of the moment, unable to control his rage? What a timely arrival of both Amos and Rick, both retired law enforcement officers, in town when the murder of a high-profile person occurs. Coincidence? Or a hidden purpose behind?

As the plot proceeds we get introduced to a myriad of characters just like in other plots - Dr. Warren Boyle (physician at Lennon-Diversified, Ltd. Who had a penchant to get his patients go through all kinds of tests f necessary or not), Kathy and Wilimena Copeland (You might remember them from the previous book "Panning for Murder" where Jessica and Katy embark on a cruise to find Willie. My review of the book here), Cynthia Welch (Vice-president of strategic planning and marketing at Lennon-Diversified), Dante (one of the executives from Lennon-Diversified working with Cynthia Welch), Robin Stockdale (drama teacher at the high school), Josie Lennon (24-year old daughter of Joseph Lennon and an aspiring actress), Paul Lennon (Joseph Lennon's son), Richard "Rick" Alcott (Retired FBI agent visiting Cabot Cove) and Denise Lennon (Joe Lennon's wife).

Not to forget the regulars - Mayor Jim Shevlin and his wife Susan Shevlin, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, Sheriff Mort Metzger and his wife Maureen Metzger, Tim Purdy (Cabot Cove historian) and his wife Ellen Purdy (always won the annual quilting bee contest) and others.

Another decent mystery that keeps you on the edge and definitely makes you want to know who the killer is.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Amos Tupper, the retired Sherriff of Cabot Cove makes an appearance in this book. I always wondered if the author would bring back old characters from the TV series that don’t occur in books anymore. There you go, he brought in one now. :)
2) Jessica laments about communication through emails distorting the language and the method. How so true. I felt the same when communication through texting started, what with the abbreviated words, emojis and mis-spelt words. It used to irritate the heck out of me. I totally get her sentiment.
3) Grucci Fireworks are planned to be used by Joseph Lennon in the book. They are told to be the ones used for Olympics, White House events and other bigger ones. Whoa!
4) Grammatical Errors Seen - Pg 15 Para 2 last but one line a missing "to" right before "left" in the statement "allegedly left her by...".
5) There is a mention of Twelve Angry Men movie in the book. I had been meaning to watch this movie for quite some time. I might as well do it now for these reviews. :)
6) Cabot Cove's lobsterfest is also mentioned in the book. The author had written a murder mystery around that festival in the 23rd Book Maine Mutiny. Check my review of hat book here
7) Another novel Catch-22 is mentioned in the plot. It is written by Joseph Heller and seems to be a military plot. Havent read it before…Must try to get to it sometime in future. :)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

Panning for Murder is the 28th book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in September of 2007. This time around Jessica is involved with hidden treasures, cruises and murders.

The plot opens with Kathy Copeland, a long-time resident of Cabot Cove and a dear friend of Jessica Fletcher, relating the troublesome news that her sister Wilimena who was aboard the Glacial Queen - a cruise ship to Alaska - disappeared after their halt at Ketchikan. But Wilimena had been known in the past to disappear for periods of time. So, it was hard to take her disappearance a serious matter. Incidentally Jessica had booked an Inland Passage Cruise aboard the same cruise ship Glacial Queen. When Kathy comes to know of it, she imposes herself on Jessica to accompany as her travel companion so she can find out what happened to Wilimena. Much to the disappointment of Jessica that it will not be a trip free of anything including an investigation, she agrees after looking at Kathy's plight. So, they take on the cruise with an agenda totally different from what Jessica had planned for to begin with.

The thing in this situation for Jessica was that she had less belief that Wilimena "Willie" had been through some foul play. With her history of disappearances and string of marriages she was less and less confident. Then Kathy mentions that it could be because that Willie believed that a brothel madam left them with a whole lot of gold, it spurs interest in Jessica and makes her think that this time Willie is genuinely disappeared. What Kathy tells the tale upon prodding further is nothing Jessica could have imagined in her books - As young children Kathy's father left them after unable to bear the iron hand of Kathy and Willie's mother; He ran away with a contortionist, Christiana, the Human Pretzel, who had come to town with the traveling carnival; Their aunt Dolly Arthur aka Thelma Copeland was their aunt, their mother's sister; According to Willie when their mother died, Willie found papers that indicated that their aunt Dolly might have come across a sizable amount of gold panned during Alaskan Gold Rush and that now comes to them as inheritance, if the story pans out to be true.

Jessica thinks perhaps someone believed the tale to be true and might have taken advantage of Willie and perhaps cause her harm in the process. But the documentation that Willie claimed to have found was never shown to Kathy nor Willie found it again as she had lost it. Now that she had a reason, at their first stop in Seattle before boarding the cruise, Jessica takes the receipts that were found in Willie's cabin aboard the cruise, and along with Kathy visit the same places she went to based on the receipts, in the hopes of finding more to her story. Seems to be wherever they went, looked like Willie had talked about the gold and her claim to it to everyone she met. For Jessica it meant a long list of suspect pool. In the meanwhile Jessica has to complete a book signing at The Seattle Mystery Bookshop before boarding the cruise. But then a man named Walter Munro walks in with a knife and Jessica's latest book at hand claiming that it was his idea for the plot that she stole. It takes some of Jessica's wits and Seattle's finest to get the man into handcuffs before he could cause more harm. I wonder where the incident with Walter Munro will the author tie in with the plot.  Well, they continue onto the cruise trying to forget the incident.

The quest for Willie and the supposed gold continues for Jessica and Kathy through the rest of the plot aboard the Glacial Queen, although they quickly find out that Willie has spoken about the gold to everyone on the cruise increasing their suspect pool further more. Is the inheritance for real? Was there indeed gold at the end of the quest? What happened to Willie? Who was stalking her on the cruise ship? Who was the man with yellow eyes following Jessica and Kathy and ended up dead on a large piece of ice at the Glaciers Bay? Who killed that man? Why was he killed? Why was he stalking Jessica in the first place?

Other characters in the plot that form bridges to complete the picture are Howard Winslow (one of Wilimena's ex-husband), Bill (the Security store guy Seattle), John Casale (An electronics store guy in Seattle), Bill Farley (Ex-Owner of The Seattle Mystery Bookshop), J. B. Dickley (Current Owner of The Seattle Mystery Bookshop), Raymond (Jessica's cabin steward aboard the ship), Captain Rasmussen (Glacial Queen's Captain), First Officer Kale (Ship's head of security), Gladys Montgomery (permanent resident on the ship), Maynard (Gladys's cabin steward), Maurice Quarle (One of the gentleman's aboard the ship who had extended attention towards Willie), John Sims (another gentleman aboard the ship who had extended attention towards Willie), Kimberly and David Johansen (a couple aboard the ship who shared Jessica's table for dinner), Bill Henderson (another companion at Jessica's table) and Detectives Flowers and Joe McQuesten (Detectives from Alaskan troopers working on the disappearance of Willie).

Although the nature of Kathy Copeland grated me a bit, I still went on with the book as I was intrigued by the whole treasure concept. :P Normally I could guess who the murderer or killer would be, but this time around I couldn’t guess till almost I reached the last two chapters. Even then I was not completely right. Oh well, it was fun still. A disappearance, a murder, an insane guy claiming you stole the plot, hunt for the gold, interesting history from where it came - all make a pretty decent package for this book. Interesting and entertaining as always.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot reminds me of two of Jessica Fletcher's TV Series episodes on a cruise ship.
a. My Johnny Lies Over the Ocean - This was Episode 13 from Season 1

b. Ship of Thieves - This was Episode 20 from Season 9.

2) All the description of different places that Glacial Queen stops along the way to Alaska made me want to take the trip myself. I have been thinking of doing this for a while. I might just do that next year. :)
3) Jessica talks about glaciers receding and something happening that is not good for our Earth. Well Jessica, it's Global Warming that's happening. **Sigh**
4) Jessica thinks about she becoming the matchmaker Dolly Levi from Hello, Dolly!, a 1964 musical. Had heard about it a lot. About time I watch it now.
5) A remark of her older book Murder on the QE2 (#9) is mentioned in the book.  I don’t have it in my collection yet.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: You want tennis? You got it. You want romance? You got it. You want drama? You got it. You want vengeance, blood and winning? You got. All in one plot. Enjoy!!!

August 29th marked the start of US Open Tennis Tournament. It happens in Flushing, NY which is very close to where I live and yet hadn't had an opportunity to go. This year I was looking forward to go, but with all the top-seeded players in both Male and Female categories being knocked out sooner, demotivated me to go. Perhaps next year then.

To commemorate this day I am picking this romantic novel by Nora Roberts that mixes business with pleasure.  Opposites Attract was first published in November of 1984 as part of the Silhouette Special Edition Series (#199). The plot revolves around two Tennis Superstars - Asher Wolfe and Ty Starbuck - involving romance, determination, misunderstandings, reconciliation, forgiveness and ultimate winners at both love and game.

After a three year sabbatical Asher Wolfe is back in the circuit of the U. S. Indoor Tennis Championship. She had steadily avoided following anything about Tennis and specially about Ty Starbuck. But now she is again back on the circuit back at the same place giving her undivided admiration watching him play - something that she had towards him for more than ten years. Ty had the strength, agility and form when on court making him still the leading player in the sport. And what Asher noticed that nothing has changed the way Ty played the game, but there was something that still changed in him that she couldn't put a finger on it, and then she saw it - his control, his reigning in on his temper - which surprised her.  Although Asher had wanted to have their meeting in a planned and professional way, Ty smashed it all with one look across the court, challenging her, making her know that the game is still on and that he always won.

Now that she is back on circuit will she pick up her racket as well as Ty as everyone are speculating? Asher had been Lady Wickerton for past three years and now she is back as Ms. Wolfe with her divorce from Lord Eric Wickerton finalized completely. Will her being available change anything for Ty? But Ty had want to know why she had left and married Wickerton after being with him for that entire year. Why did Asher take that step?  Rome was were everything started for Asher , her love for Tennis when she was seven years old and had watched her father Jim Wolfe win the tournament and fourteen years later her love for Ty when he won the cup that year. Now she is back in Rome. Will there be new beginnings for her? Mending old things with Ty? Winning the Italian Tournament had only fed her determination to move forward.

As the plot proceeds we get to see how Ty and Asher come up to be superstars at Tennis. Both from totally different backgrounds, but both ending on the same court with the same drive and determination to win. However there are still unresolved issues, unanswered questions for Ty and the feeling of sin and guilt that Asher carried. Will they walk to the net and resolve or smash each other in the court of love, neither winning nor losing? What sin had Asher committed that she felt that she needed to punish herself? Will Ty forgive her once he knows what she had done? As these questions are being pondered by both Ty and Asher, Jess - Ty's sister - knows of Asher's come back. She has reasons to be concerned of her comeback, of feeling guilty too. What history does Asher and Jess hold? How will Ty react when he comes to know?

Conquering Paris French Open, her next step was London, Wimbledon. But she was lady Wickerton here. How will she face the three years here? Will Eric cause her more pain? Will Ty be there her side now? Will Ty understand what she did? Will they finally get their closure here? Trust is foremost that these two have to build before they can get answers for these questions. How does it all go on, is something one have to read through to learn.

Other characters that sweep us through in the story and keep it tied well - Chuck Price (another professional tennis star and Ty's closest friend), Madge Haverbeck (former doubles partner and now coach to Asher and also a tennis pro) and her husband "The Dean", Michael (Australian tennis pro), Ada Starbuck (Ty's mother), Jessica Starbuck (Ty's Sister), Martin Derick (Ty's patron) and Mackenzie "Mac" Derick (Jess's husband).

The plot in the beginning concentrates solely on Asher Wolfe making the reader think it's about her. But in the sneaky way that Nora brings the other lead character up, she brought Ty Starbuck into focus as the plot proceeds. Before the reader realizes, she spins a web for you including both Asher and Ty. A master spinner as she was and is, this is the kind of web I miss from Nora's latest books.

The role of Jess Starbuck bothered me the first time around when I read it and even now, the second time I read for the sake of posting this review.  Even if someone who loves you has made a decision for you taking the situation in a wrong sense but that decision caused harm to you will you forgive that person? If it was me in place of Ty or Asher, I would have never forgiven Jess in my life and in fact, knowing my nature, I would keep them at as far a distance I can. But again with life being so short, in the end if I get what I want in however twisted way the fate might have done and the decision the loved one had taken caused the twisted way of fate, perhaps I should forgive. But it was hard for me to digest that part in the plot.

I watch Tennis with intense concentration and love the energy of the game a lot. Nora Roberts captured that intensity, emotions and the motions that go through the individual on the court. She also added the personal emotions and tensions into the mix making it more intense. Her writing in this plot not only drew me to Tennis but also to the characters making me want to be there on the court and experience all of it. Powerful weaving.

A turbulent romance mixed with the intensity of tennis that Nora put to a perfect spin and thoroughly enjoyable while reading and left me breathless at the end.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Following Tennis for so long, there are some championships that I haven't heard of before:
a. U.S. Indoor Tennis Championship - A professional tennis championship only  played on indoor hard courts. The event ended after 2014 championships. (More about it here)
b. Foro Italico - A sports complex in Rome, Italy that hosts other athletic events apart from Tennis center with clay courts. Italian Open took place in this arena. (More about it here)
2) Statistical Errors:
a. In the first match that Asher plays against Kingston in Rome, on Pg 45 author mentioned that Asher took the first set six - three (para 2 last line). While on Pg 46 author mentions that Asher took the match six-one, six-two (para 3 first line). If the women's tennis had only three sets, how is it that the stats changed in a span of one page. Perhaps the author mis-entered the numbers.
b. More than once author mentions that Ty had played seven sets to win the match. But Tennis has only Best of Five for Men and Best of Three for Women. Where did seven sets come from? I check old history but nowhere I could find it. Perhaps author made a mistake? Or typo in the scoring? Did she mean that Ty played the last set for a seven pointer win? Only the author can confirm.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

A Question Of Murder is the 25th book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in April of 2006.

Jessica Fletcher is at Mohawk House - a historic 200 year old house converted to a resort and one haunted - in the foothills of Berkshires attending a mystery writers conference and also to be part of a mystery performed by the Savoys. Lawrence "Larry" Savoy and Melinda Savoy have had run this theatrical company for a long time with performances of their murder-mystery shows everywhere. And now they are performing here and the guests are expected to participate in solving the murder on stage. As part of the performance the authors on the panel are supposed to come up with questions that are asked to the guests and if answered right adds to their score. Jessica had her share of questions with which she is ready. As the plot continues and sticking to the theme, when Savoy's actors perform one of them gets indeed killed for real - the obnoxious Paul. Who wanted Paul dead? What was the tension that lay under the actors demeanor felt by Jessica? What is the reason behind it?

Then Laura, in charge of costume and props vehemently opposes to the Savoys and others when it was suggested that the show must go on, especially that they are all stuck on the mountain in a blizzard. Why is she so hurtful about Paul's death? What is her relationship with Paul? As Jessica is thinking on these lines, she finds out that Claudette Chasseur had been an actor before marrying John Chasseur, who is an abusive husband. The plot thickens as a supposedly ghostly appearance of the dead Paul is seen by one of the authors. Jessica continues to dig into the mystery and aiding Detective Ladd, the real one from the police. In the end will she solve both the real crime as well as the staged one that the Savoys have set for the weekend?

The actors in the company are Cynthia (playing the daughter), Paul Brody (a B movie actor, playing the role of Cynthia's beau), Monroe Whittaker and Victoria Whittaker (playing the roles of father and mother respectively to Cynthia), Catarina (playing the role of a maid) and Miss Carlisle (Red-head among the guests). The authors visiting for the conference are Jessica Fletcher (which you all know already), John Chasseur and his wife Claudette and finally GSB Wick and her companion Harold Boynton. GSB Wick seems to be mysterious about her initials although she is called "Georgie" by her companion Harold. Other characters in the plot are Mark Egmon (Event Manager at the hotel), Jeremy (lead stage hand), Jody (one of the college-going waitresses), Laura Tehaar (in charge of props and costumes) and Sydney Pomerantz and his wife (guests at the hotel).

Every chapter began with a question about mystery novels and writers. Since the theme of the plot was a murder-mystery party the questions made the reader feel a part of the plot than just a reader. As always I could identify who the killer could potentially be when I was mid-way through the book. However there was a surprising twist in the end even though I was partially correct. Another light reading murder mystery that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Some interesting choice of words used: inglenook (meaning a space on either side of a large fireplace), vapid (to mean to offer nothing that is stimulating or challenging), erasure (meaning removal of recorded data or information).
2) Grammatical Errors seen: Pg. 79 Para 1 third line - I believe the word should be "consider" rather than "considerate".
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Political drama with comedy and romance all tied up neatly and happening in the Oval Office to charm you every second along the way.

During the month of August when one of my brother and his family were here in CT visiting me and my parents, one of the trip we took was to Washington D. C. Although we had been there before, we hadn't been inside the White House. This year we got the chance to be inside, thanks to the President's approval of the invitation. We had a great time going through the East Wing of the White House. My nephews had such thrill going thru the rooms, knowing the history, and knowing different presidents and understanding the key events during their presidency. One of the room that we were shown was the China Room. Although we weren't allowed inside the room we did get a glimpse of the room. That room reminded me of the "Dish Room" comment by President Andrew "Andy" Shepherd in the 1995 American romantic comedy-drama The American President.

And here is the dish room that I took picture of.

Well, there you go, the reason for me to post review of this movie for this particular day.

The film starred Michael Douglas on the title role, with Annette Benning as Sydney Ellen Wade - a closer hired by environmental lobbying company Global Defense Council (GDC) to convince the president in getting 20% reduction of CO2 emissions - Martin Sheen as A. J. MacInerney - White House Chief of Staff - Michael J. Fox as Lewis Rothschild - Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy - Shawna Waldron as Lucy Shepherd, Richard Dreyfuss as Senator Bob Rumson - President's Republican opponent from Kansas.

The movie opens with the President Andrew "Andy" Shepherd preparing for a re-election and already has a 63% approval rating when he along with his Chief of Staff, A. J. pass a moderate crime control bill that is still being looked at by both parties with leery. Sydney Ellen Wade is hired by GDC to convince president in getting 20% reduction of CO2 emissions. While Lewis Rothschild is trying to have President use the 63% approval rating to go against the Gun Crime rather than General Crime. Providing an appropriate attack response to Libya. In the midst of all of this the attraction between Andy and Sydney increases and unfolds into a full-fledged romance much to the delight of the opposite leader Richard Dreyfuss who doesn’t hesitate in smearing Sydney's name in whatever way he wants. The plot continues with Sydney and Andy trying in their own way to get the CO2 emission bill passed, fighting the character attack by the opponents and at the same time working towards a win in the election year.

Each and every actor fit perfectly in their roles. The dialogues have a perfect timing that has comedy with an underlay of seriousness of the issues being highlighted. Gun Crime is always a serious business and so is smearing on characters or attacking another country because everyone expects him to or struggling to understand the virtue of proportionate response or courting between Sydney and Andy. Gives you an insight into how much a president carries on his shoulders when ruling a country.
More review behind the cut...Collapse )
The first time I saw this movie which was perhaps 10 years ago on television, it made me think that the role Michael Douglas played as the president was too good to be true. How ironic that Michael Douglas plays a Democratic President in the movie. Very Very too good to be true. I have not heard of a president who would be so down to earth, humorous, handsome, very matriculate while taking decisions of many lives on both domestic and foreign soils, sympathetic even to the foes, devoted parent, keeping personal and public lives as separate as possible, spur of the moment decisions to drive his staff crazy in a good way and above all a people person. A very fantasy and fictional person who exists only in books, movies and in dreams. Until Barack Obama became the President. It will be really sad to see him leave come 2017, a marvelous man to be ruling the free world, his amazing wife Michelle and gem of kids. I don’t know if I will get to see such a person and a family in my lifetime again.

Although I am posting this way behind in my schedule, so many of the scenes shown in the movie play into the real politics that I recently watched when two candidates were running for president. It has been 21 years since this movie released, and so much of what is shown holds true to the current date. For some reason I feel that this movie has been made as a precognition of Barack Obama's ruling and the following 2016 Presidential elections at his term end. Anyways, this is a movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching then and continually enjoy the movie anytime it plays on television. If you haven't yet, I would suggest go ahead and watch it.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Absolutely a delightful animated movie with the undercurrents of darkness to it.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the 1937 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Productions. Based on the German fairy tale by Brothers Grimm is the earliest Disney animated film. The movie has since then been re-created in so many ways with so many different kinds of stories based on this original story, yet the first movie always remains a treasure in your heart and mind. At the 11th Academy Awards, two years after the movie was released, it received an honorary Oscar Award.

I don’t need to outline the plot of the movie as everyone knows. But I would like to point a few things - at least those that I felt astonishing. Loved the initial frames showing the actual book and two paged bringing up to the beginning of the story.

I don’t remember that her Prince Charming meets her even before she was put into a death-like slumber by the poison apple. He first sees her singing at The Wishing Well.

The scullery maid outfit of the princess depicted in the film was far more realistic than those depicted in most of the movies that came after.

Interesting to know that the Evil Queen's name is Queen Grimhilde - that I have never heard before either - and The Huntsman is named Humbert.

While we were visiting Washington D. C. that August with my brother's family and my parents, this movie was playing on the TV. For some reason my nephews were scared of the depiction of the evil Queen, the portrayal of her more-like and also the scene where Snow While was left alone in the forest in the dark - only that particular scene. Other than that they had liked the movie. I wonder what they would say if they see the recent gothic versions of the movie.

But don’t you think the movie has a dark-side although in this earliest version Disney has softened it considerably - including quite a few gags and going as far as to make the Prince look like a clown. However, there are so many hidden meanings behind this seemingly children's story - Don’t be obsessed with yourself (like the evil Queen); Don’t trust strangers (just like Snow White when she takes the apple); Live simple and enjoy everyday things;

The movie is timeless classic and has inspired many adaptations in several languages. A movie that I had watched for the first time though. :) And would watch it again and again any time.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) This movie may be the earliest Disney animated film, but The Adventures of Prince Achmed still stands as the earliest known animated film-ever. This was released in 1926. Check out my review about that here: http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/582717.html

2) The official trailer for this movie that introduces the characters by their personalities and also explains how the animation was made - cel animation to be precise (each frame is drawn by hand. More about it here). Very interesting.

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4.5 / 5
Recommendation: A complete chronology of one of the divine beings based on epics written long ago depicted very well in the 3 hrs film.

August 25th of this year marked the day of the festival of Sri Krishna Janmashtami, the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna. On this day I wanted my nephews to wear the attires of Balarama (Krishna's older brother) and Krishna but they had refused to do it, the clothes being itchy. Oh well, I tried my best. In any case, there are several movies in Indian films in all languages that have plots based on Mahabharatam and Bhagavad Gita along with life of Krishna, Karna, Drona, and other key characters.

For this festival day I picked the 1967 Indian Telugu musical mythological film Sri Krishnavataram ( = The Avatar of Lord Sri Krishna), that depicts the complete life of Lord Krishna tying in with his key role in Mahabratam and Bhagavad Puranam epics.

Being a magnum opus the movie also comes with a string of named and nameless actors portraying various roles in the movie. The film is directed by Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao and produced under the banner of Tarakarama Pictures - owned by Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao (NTR) himself. The lead role of Lord Krishna is portrayed by none other than NTR with other key actors taking up key roles. Music for the film was composed by T. V. Raju with playback singing provided by Ghantasala, Madhava Peddi, Pithapuram, A. V. Ragahavulu, P. Susheela, P. Leela, L. R. Eeswari, Swarnalatha and S. Varalakshmi. The film contained 10 songs and 25 poems. Songs were written by Dr. C. Narayana Reddy and Samudrala Raghavacharya while the poems were written by Chellapilla Venkata Shastri and Diwakarla Tirupathi Shastri. The movie had been a successful one and celebrated Silver Jubilee. It had run for more than 100 days when it was re-released in 1982 and 1990 some thirty+ years after the movie was made. Although the music doesn’t seem to be very famous, at least I have not heard many of the songs.

Being a magnum opus I expected to have the movie depicted in a fast forward mode. Thus most of Lord Krishna's childhood is depicted in one single song and a few scenes with key incidents highlighted - Putana Haranam, Satakatasura (A monster who came as a chariot wheel to kill Little Krishna) Maranam, Kaaliya Mardhanam, Govardhana Giri Katha, Gopika Vastrapaharanam (Krishna teases the Gopikas by hiding their clothes while they bathed), Showing mother Yashodha the universe in his mouth, Promise to Shishupala's mother that he will not kill him until he make 100 mistakes and killing of his uncle Kamsa - before the adult Lord Krishna is shown. Then the plot continues with the wedding of Krishna with Rukmini - although he does foil the plans of Shishupala to marry Rukmini first - Shamantakamani Story including the wedding of Krishna with Satyabhama and Jambavathi, Killing of Shishupala and Sudama being received by Sri Krishna who didn’t forget the deeds that Krishna had done for him.

The plot moves on to the story of Kauravas and Pandavas showing the key role of Sri Krishna with the saving the honor of Draupadi in the court of Kauravas, Pandavas getting the aid of Sri Krishna alone and Kauravas getting all of Krishna's army, Sri Krishna taking the role of ambassador for Pandavas in the court of Kauravas who decline even giving away five small regions (in reality the entire kingdom belongs to Pandavas per the rules), Viswaroopam of Sri Krishna, the battle of Kurukshetra and finally his exit from this world.

All of Lord Krishna's eight wives are shown in this movie: Rukmini (by Devika), Satyabhama (by Kanchana), Jambavathi (by Sukanya), Lakshana Devi (by Krishna Kumari), Kalindi (by L. Vijayalakshmi), Nagnajiti (by Geetanjali), Mitravinda (by Sandhyarani) and Bhadra (not sure who was the actress who portrayed this role). The pic is very blurred due to the video quality but I am hoping all eight wives are seen.

Key Roles portrayed by famous and known actors are: Mukkamala as Kamsa, Shobhanbabu as Narada, Rajanala as Shishupala, Prabhakar Reddy as Balaramudu, Devika as Lakshmi / Rukmini, Kanchana as Satyabhama, Dhulipala as Satrajit (Satyabhama's father), Chhaya Devi as mother of Shishupala, Satyanarayana as Duryodhana, Mikkilineni as Dharmaraju Yudhishtira, Ramakrishna as Arjuna, Nagaiah as Dritharashtra, S. Varalakshmi as Draupadi and Rushyendramani as Kunti Devi. Krishnam Raju also had a role in the movie, but try hard how I might but I couldn’t figure out which role did he play.

It being a very old print, there are so many editing issues. I wish the original movie without the editing issues was available. An excellent effort to cover what goes on in two epics and many smaller mythological books in three hours of a movie. With the kind of technology existing at that time, the graphics are exemplary. Excellent performances by one and all to make it an all-rounded successful movie. The current generation might find it a bit dragging to watch, but it is a wonderful depiction of relationships, brothers, families, leeches who would take advantage of the conflicts between brothers, the knowledge of being wise, striving towards peace and prosperity and in the end choosing the right path. Definitely worth watching any time.
More behind the Spoiler Alerts....Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: You want romance, ghosts and evil; all in one package - you will get in this Nicholas Sparks movie.

Safe Haven is a 2013 American romantic drama thriller based on the 2010 Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. The movie stars Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders in the lead roles. I have read the book but had never watched the movie till now. The book had a different feel to it as opposed to the movie - and both felt absolutely right.

The plot begins with a frightened woman fleeing from her apartment with a bundle and a bloody knife. She takes refuge at her neighbors but later she is at a bus stop in Boston, MA buying a ticket to Atlanta, GA with cops at her heels. The bus she takes stops at a small town South Port, North Carolina which she finds peace and calm, making her to take an impromptu decision to stay back instead of continuing. Introducing herself as Katie (portrayed by Julianne Hough) she takes a job as a waitress, buys a rustic home in the woods, makes friends with her neighbor Jo (portrayed by Cobie Smulders) and starts settling in despite the nightmares she has. She makes friends with Alex Wheatley (portrayed by Josh Duhamel), a widowed father of two - Josh and Lexie. And they fall in love eventually.

A parallel plot of the Boston PD is trying to locate the same woman calling herself as Katie now. The detective assigned to the case, Kevin Tierney (portrayed by David Lyons) is hell-bent on searching for her. What is the dark secret that Katie holds? Why is the Boston PD looking for her? Who has been killed? Will Alex and Katie take their relationship further? Who was Katie fleeing from? What is the story of Jo?

Julianne Hough seems much younger for her role but she had played the part very well. It's interesting to see her outside a dance floor for a  change - well you would know what I mean if you have watched Dancing With The Stars TV Show. Josh Duhamel's son in the movie is named Josh - interesting by play.

Another well-made movie based on a book that charmed me both ways. Although I do always wish for Nicholas Sparks to expand his horizons on geography though One way or the other he always ends up in North Carolina.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) There are slight differences between the novel and the movie:
a. I don’t remember Alex's son Josh being indifferent towards Katie in the book, but he is depicted thus in the movie.
b. The scene where Josh falls into river and Alex runs for rescue comes later in the movie than it is shown in the book.
c. The final scene between Kevin, Alex and Katie / Erin is modified for the film too.
2) Mike Pniewski portrays the role of Lieutenant Robinson, boss to Kevin Tierney and I remember him from many of his similar roles.
3) Julianne Hough's role reads a book on navigation, something I would not have pegged her role to pick and read.

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: Easy and simple reads that take you to a fantasy world far, far away or may be right next to you but unseen.

Once Upon A Castle is a collection of four novellas by famed romantic authors - Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman - published in March of 1998. The fourth novella is titled DragonSpell and written by Marianne Willman. I had been reading a few non-fiction and lengthy fictions past few weeks so I wanted to pick an easy book this time. Hence this novella. Here's the review on the fourth story in the collection.

In Kingdom of Amelonia, Princess Tressalara - daughter of King Varro - is being groomed by her lady-in-waiting to become as best a princess she can be, shedding her tomboy life. Tired at that exercise the princess runs to her room to change into a peasant boy's garb. With her hair braided a tucked under the cap she was hardly recognizable. Perhaps that's what saved her from Lord Lector. When Lord Lector - the King's chief advisor - had attacked the palace and taken over it by killing the King. It was also rumored that he had been responsible for the bloody raids into their neighbors but blamed on outlawed Lord Cador of Kildore. But Tressalara was caught by Lector's me when she went back to check on her father and now she was to wed Lector - the one who had killed her father. And her father had entrusted her to safe keep the Andun Stone - the place of secret that she has no knowledge of. How will she save herself let alone the stone from the clutches of Lector? And eventually she concocts a plan with her maid-in-waiting Elani and escapes the castle through secret passages transformed as a boy named Trev.

All these happenings were being watched by an apprentice sorceress - Niniane - an apprentice wizard - Illusius who regret about the wrong-spell that had been cast upon their master - Myrriden - who is now encased in a glittering sheet of Spell-Ice. What has these three to do with what happened in Kingdomof Amelonia? Illusius and Niniane together push the paths of Lord Cador and Tressalara to meet. As designed by them, Tressalara "Trev" meets Cador and his rebel men at the Crown and Acorn inn, gets a job with his group as a groomsman for their horses. Knowing the history of Cador, will Tressalara reach out to him for help? Is Cador as cruel as Lector had made him to be? What is the history between Lector and Cador? Has Cador realized that Trev is indeed Princess Tressalara? What is Tressalara going to do about all the feelings sprouting inside her since she meets Cador? To what extent will Lector go to acquire the Princess as well as the Stone? What is the hidden sectet of the Andun Stone?

An interesting tale again involving castles, warriors, traitors, rebels, love and battles. This plot sang to the adventurer in me, touched the romantic in me, marveled the mystic in me and seized the warrior in me. A refreshing and smooth plot for those fast readers and readers who have less time at their hands.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot charmed me so much that I might look for this author's books for future reads. When I looked about her on Google, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot written about her and her last book was in 2002. I do hope she has retired or is just not in public facing anymore. I dread to think of the third alternative.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Easy and simple reads that take you to a fantasy world far, far away or may be right next to you but unseen. Except for the fact that the ghost can do more than expected.

Once Upon A Castle is a collection of four novellas by famed romantic authors - Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman - published in March of 1998. The third novella is titled Falcon's Lair and written by Ruth Ryan Langan. I had been reading a few non-fiction and lengthy fictions past few weeks so I wanted to pick an easy book this time. Hence this novella. Here's the review on the third story in the collection.

The plot opens with a brief conversation from years ago, precisely in 1870 England, a plotting being made to eliminate a certain American. Then it moves to a time little later than the incident into the life of one Felicity Andrews, who had now reached England from America by way of water at the summons of her father's oldest and dearest friend Oliver - Lord Falcon. A letter describing about something mysterious, dark and too painful. However her father had died before he could respond to Lord Falcon, hence Felicity was on her way to visit him in her father's stead. As she travelled in her coach towards Lord Falcon's castle aptly titled Falcon's Lair, she glimpses a cloaked-rider almost coming on to their path and disappears at the last moment. Although the rider's face gets etched into Felicity's memory, she wondered who that rider was and where had he disappeared to.

Weary and tired she reaches Falcon's Lair finally. Only to be received chilly by Maud Atherton, the housekeeper, who puts her in a small cramped room for the night at least. Later in the night she sees the same rider in her room who had entered without sound or sight. Who amuses himself by scaring her at first and then proclaiming himself to be Lord of the manor and then finally disappears again. Only a Falcon perches on her window and flies away just like before. Who is he? Why could she feel his body heat or see him while others couldn’t? She finds out next day that the stranger who visited her last night was Gareth the First Lord of Falcon's Lair. And what did he mean that she was the Key? Upon meeting the Lord Falcon - who most of the times rested in is bed - she comes to know of a family curse that the Falcon men have been enduring generation after generation. What is the curse? What is the need Lord Falcon had of Felicity's father Robert? Why was someone trying to hurt her? What is it that Lord Falcon wanted her father to help him with?

Thus takes us through the plot set a long-time ago since now when Felicity struggles to get Lord Falcon some answers and at the same time bargain her heart with Gareth - one who lives and doesn’t live. It's certainly an easy read and a good plot except for the part that the ghost makes love - actually it is outright creepy. I believe there are spirits and ghosts, but beyond that if someone says they can touch, feel or do things, it gives me shivers.

All in all a refreshing and smooth plot for those fast readers and readers who have less time at their hands.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a Review
Prologue: Go here

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Go to them for event management of any kind with affordable price range and beautiful settings that suit your needs and choice.

On this day in August (21st) I had a small gathering with my family and near and dear friends to celebrate the house warming ceremony of my new home. Although I bought the home in November of 2015, I had to wait for my parents and family to come to perform the pending ceremony. While preparing for this ceremony it reminded me of the actual Gruhapravesham pooja I had done as soon as I bought my home in 2015. And made me think back at how much relief I had felt when my friend's company handled everything. So here is a review of that company almost a year later. :)

That pooja was held on Dec 4 2015 and I had taken the help of my friend's company Cherish Your Moments (CYM) (Facebook link here) They made my day very easy. I did not have had to arrange a single thing except get decked up and come in my best. From making the Rangoli in front of my home to decorating to getting the food ordered and delivered to serving the welcome drinks to helping in giving away the return gifts to cleanup and packing at the end, they handled every single step.

I had taken one responsibility of gathering the items needed for the pooja, but everything else they had taken care of it. Even then I had forgotten a thing or two which the CYM team took care of it, albeit it was a last moment add. I could have not done the event any better than they did. In fact they have gone above and beyond my expectations. And not to discount the peace of mind that someone else is taking care of everything for a change. I could happily be part of the event, enjoy my friends and the ceremony. Here are a few pictures of their efforts for my event.

CYM made my day a truly memorable one and I cannot begin to appreciate how much. Sadly my friend moved out of the state so did her company. Now if only I can find someone similar to them again here where I live. **Sigh**. Thank you CYM team and my dear Lalitha for making the most important day of my life a truly memorable one.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: Easy and simple reads that take you to a fantasy world far, far away or may be right next to you but unseen.

Once Upon A Castle is a collection of four novellas by famed romantic authors - Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman - published in March of 1998. The second novella is titled Castle Doom and written by Jill Gregory. I had been reading a few non-fiction and lengthy fictions past few weeks so I wanted to pick an easy book this time. Hence this novella. Here's the review on the second story in the collection.

The plot opens with Lady Arianne riding towards Briar Knoll to free her brother, Marcus - Count of Galeron - who was imprisoned in the dungeons of Castle Doom. There has been a rivalry between the kingdoms Galeron and Dinadan for centuries and nobody knows why. But she didn’t want Marcus to become one more sacrifice in that long-ago started enmity and her distant cousin and cruel Duke  Julian - ruling the Kingdom of Dinadan - take over both the kingdoms. Added to that a gypsy had predicted that the banished Lord Nicholas was coming to wrest the kingdom away from the Duke's hand. Julian's mood was not friendly knowing that Lady Arianne was working on freeing Marcus and also that the gypsy's prediction may come true. But there was a time that Arianne remembered that under the rule of Archduke Armand - father of Julian - Marcus, Arianne, Julian and Nicholas had all played together, lived and had more fun in life to care for. Nicholas had been the oldest son of Armand from his first wife while Julian was his second son from his second wife.

Now Arianne reached the Briar Knoll in search of the dungeon guard, Galdain, who had the master key to the dungeon. But Galdain was asking for more than gold from her in payment and when refused he attacks her. A stranger comes in time to save her by fighting Galdain off her with all the skills of an experienced soldier. Who turns out to be the banished Lord Nicholas himself. After so many pleas and messages she had sent he finally had come. But will he see her as a child of ten that he had last seen her before he was banished? Or will he see her as a woman grown to fight for her land, stand beside her and help her free her brother Marcus? Or will he just see her as a woman? She was also angry at him for staying away from the kingdoms, leaving the people's fate at the hands of cruel Julian. She was livid at the thought that he had carelessly forgot the vow of friendship he had made with Marcus. And left to become what but a mercenary. But he had come even though it is at the end of the time - just before Marcus is hung. Will she trust him to free her brother? Will she understand why he left and became a mercenary? Will he realize that she was a warrior-princess? Will their hearts fight along-side and win each other while they work towards the battle against Julian? Why was Lord Nicholas banished in the first place?

A well-written plot taking you across lands and regions and battles and love. Another quick read about kingdoms, battles, princesses and warriors. A refreshing and smooth plot for those fast readers and readers who have less time at their hands.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Easy and simple reads that take you to a fantasy world far far away or may be right next to you but unseen.

Once Upon A Castle is a collection of four novellas by famed romantic authors - Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman - published in March of 1998. The first novella is titled SpellBound is by my favorite author Nora Roberts. I had been reading a few non-fiction and lengthy fictions past few weeks so I wanted to pick an easy book this time. Hence this novella. Here's the review on the first story in the collection.

Calin Farrell, an established famous and rich photographer, has been having sleepless nights - dreams of a witch and a castle and the evil lurking around. His mother, Sylvia Farrell and father John Farrell have been worried about him and insist on him taking a vacation -  worried that his childhood dreams of witches, warriors and wars are coming back. On a whim or a subconscious pull, he goes to Ireland for a vacation. The day he lands, the stormy night, brings all kinds of imaginations in his mind to life. However, he drives thru the storm only to come across a ruined castle on high rocks that pulls him towards it. When nearing it he sees a beautiful cottage at the base of the castle and a woman with flaming red hair runs towards him crushing him with a happy kiss. Who is this woman? Why does she seem familiar yet he doesn't remember meeting her before then? Why was he pulled towards this Castle of Secrets?

Bryna Torrence - the flaming red-haired woman - was disappointed that Calin hadn't remembered her. She needed him to remember her, accept that fact and fight by her side against the evil Alasdair who had been lusting to acquire Bryna and her power for centuries. For the day has come for the final showdown. Will Calin accept the fact about who he was in the past and who he is now? Will he join Bryna in the fight? Will Alasdair come out on top? Or will the couple come out on top? What is the history between Calin and Bryna from the past?  Or will Cal think this as a nightmare or a play of his mind that he need a psychiatric treatment again?

Quick read filled with the unbelievable and believable alike taking you away from your couch or bed as you read.  Making you live the journey and trials of Calin and Bryna, wanting us to fight along-side them then evil Alasdair. A refreshing and smooth plot for those fast readers and readers who have less time at their hands.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The novella reminded me of a much recent series by Nora Roberts, The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, published between 2013 and 2014. In this one of the cousin is Branna O'Dwyer who is also a reincarnation of the first Brannaugh O'Dwyer who was lusted by the evil Cabhan in the past centuries ago and now in this century. Story of magick, reincarnation, of finding true love and how the Cousins overcome the powerful and evil Cabhan is told in three parts (Dark Witch, Shadow Spell and Blood Magick). I am guessing this novella SpellBound has been basis for the series that came almost 20 years later.

2) Grammatical errors: Pg 79 Para 5 - there is an added "her" in the last line which is not necessary.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Want to travel to a world away from our world and have the adventurer in you lift up? Well, look no further. This is the one that will give you that taste.

The Explorers Guild (Volume I: A Passage to Shambhala) is an illustrated book by crime thriller author Jon Baird along with Academy Award winner Kevin Costner and Stephen Meyer published in October of 2015. Most of the book is filled with illustrations done by Rick Ross. The book is an adventure story about a secret society of voyagers who go on missions to discover the mysteries and unravel the secrets that lie beyond this world / dimension.

First time I came across this book, I had to take a second glance before I said "Yes, it is indeed Kevin Costner's book." He has been one of my favorite actors too and remember his performance in movies like The Untouchables (I wrote about this movie recently. Check my link here), Dancing with Wolves, Message in a Bottle, Dragonfly and as recent as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (I wrote about this movie too. Check my link here). So it was natural for me to pick and read it. And now my review too. I hope you will like it the same way I loved it.

The book opens with an introduction by someone called E. W. Blake who takes you into this club called the Explorers Guild, supposedly formed by someone called Augustus. You see, the narrator mentions that the Guild consists of adventurers who want to explore the unknown and know it just like Augustus who as a kid had disappeared in a church in Manila and appeared three days later outside the Bruneian Summer Palace - all because he wanted to explore where the Spanish Catacombs lead to. And the Prologue gives a glimpse into what kind of adventures these explorers went on.

The entire Volume One is written in the form of five mini books. Book One introduces the Great War, Corporal Buchan and John Ogden - brother of Arthur Ogden and according to the Prologue he and his party were lost at the pole in the winter of 1912 - who sets on an adventure. In August of 1917  Corporal Buchan is running a dispatch from Bombay for a Major Ogden and that he might catch him at Al-Shar if he ran. He reaches Fao where the 6th (Poona) Rifles across the sands rests. Upon denied a horse, he steals the Lt-Gen Townshend's Muniqi Arabian and goes on his way to Al-Shar to deliver his message. He reaches Al-Shar passes the dead village and into the castle where he finds Ogden finally and delivers the message - search for Arthur Ogden and the mysterious city of Shambala. Major Ogden immediately has his men - Fifth Dragoon Guards - pack up, ransack the loot and then ride west for the Syrian coast to whatever adventure the message sends him. Corporal Buchan follows the same road as his curiosity gets the better of himself.

Book Two opens with an excerpt from Arthur Ogden's journal where Arthur mentions his team of "explorers" that consists of (other than himself) Malthrop - Arthur's childhood friend, Apsley - Malthrop's brother-in-law, Thierry - a French Belgian naturalist, Numm-Smythe - a disinherited lord, Gaddis - master of the Grog, Dickson - a photographer and finally Mr. Vitti - an Italian who tagged along without anyone realizing he didn’t come with any of them. And of course he mentions their Cousin Cyril Aiken - the British ambassador. And he chronicles about how he happened to get on to this adventure. In parallel the author proceeds on to tell the journey of Major John Ogden too. We are introduced to Evelyn Harrow in this. As well as shows us who the mysterious Mr. Sloan is, although he still remains a mystery. And also of the orphan Bertram Barnes.

Book Three opens with Major John Ogden, his troops and Bertram Barnes along with a myriad of travelers (more like prisoners) aboard a private steam yacht "Little Girl of Safi". Some of the passengers are Mr. Devang - had been jailed for murdering two alpinists and is an occult-mad - Lodewijk Geerts - who claims to have seen a city in the walls of the tunnels beneath the Mahali-pa-siri, en extinct volcano - Colonel Otto Riebling - an aerialist falls from his balloon after seeing a symbol on the trunk of a banyan tree and becomes obscure for the next twenty-two years - Wilhelmina Van Doessler - a botanist who had become lame after a crash of her tripod and camera on to her when she fell back onto a kapok bough - and Emi Logner - engineer and lecturer at the University of Aarhus. They sail to Manhattan Island. United States and it is 1918 by the time they reach. There is one maid Miss Anne Maguire from the New York City Lodge of the Explorers Guild comes across bits and pieces of information while serving at the Guild that piques her interest enough for her to check on Major John Ogden and his crew once they land in New York while Miss Evelyn Harrow follows them without being seen. What is the history behind Mr. Sloan and the Ogdens? Who had instigated Arthur Ogden on this journey in the first place? And who is still driving Major John Ogden by the hook now? What does Sloan want with all these travelers from Ogden's ship and with Bertram Barnes? We get to see Arthur Ogden and their sister Frances Ogden too in this.

Book Four has all parties putting aside their differences and striving towards one purpose - finding the mystical city Shambhala. With the help of Miss Evelyn Harrow's famed friends they secure the Luftschiff Metternich, a blimp or a barrage balloon, and all of Major John Ogden and his crew (of the original forty only Messrs. Priddish, Shaw, Pensette, Mulcairn, Renton, Gurung, O'Hra, Pandit and Henry are left), Colonel Buchan, Mr. Sloan and Bertram Barnes ride it through the air to the possible location of Shambhala. And they have a helper aboard called Heiner. We come to know Miss Harrow has first heard about the Shambhala. And Major John Ogden gets the way to Shambhala and hopefully rescue his brother from whatever he is going through. However Mr. Sloan has an ulterior motive. What is it?

The last but not the least Book Five takes us through the final journey of Major Ogden and his crew to the Shambhala. Major Ogden, his remaining crew (Messrs. Priddish, Shaw, Pensette, Mulcairn, Renton, Gurung, O'Hra, Pandit and Henry), the horse Caspian, Miss Evelyn Harrow and Bertram Barnes travel to the Al-Shar to find the entrance to the lost waterways beneath the capitals of the ancient world. They pass through the entrance and find an ancient submarine kind of ship that they use to travel across the lost rivers. And finally will they reach the city of Shambhala? What is the fate of the Ogdens?

The book is set in the 1917s India and surrounding countries. I was pleased to see Hindi used in many illustrations. However the language is so different from what we speak now. It is also mostly written through eyes of the narrator as he narrates the story as he sees - makes you wonder if he was part of the adventure with the characters. There are several parallel plots that go through the books, some present, and some from past, and confused me a bit for the first two books. But it all made sense once I was traversing through Book Three and pieces started falling in place. A journey well narrated and illustrated that makes one feel part of it literally and physically. I am curious to see what Volume Two will bring - another Shambhala? Another journey?

It’s a lengthy read so I suggest you settle well with something to drink by and enjoy the travel. You might find those hidden places that you want to visit all along.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For reviews of other books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you like paranormal plots with hint of romance, eroticism and the other world abilities involving immortals, then this is a series to go for.

Dark Carousel is the 30th book in The Carpathian Novels by paranormal author Christine Feehan published in March of 2016. The plot revolves around two lifemates - Tariq Asenguard & Charlotte Vintage. This books forms the third book in the sort of trilogy. The first two were the 28th book Dark Ghost, 29th book Dark Promises (Check my review here).

Christine Feehan's The Carpathian Novels introduces to the readers to a powerful and ancient race called the Carpathians - who are near-immortals living for thousands of years with powers and gifts including ability to shape-shift, etc. that no man can fathom - who live among humans without detection. Despite their gifts and extended lifespans, they are at the age of extinction. Their children are fewer and farther apart and those that are born and survive are all males - its been more than 500 years a female has been born until Savannah Dubrinsky (the daughter of the Carpathian Prince, Mikhail Dubrinsky). Without their female counterpart aka "lifemates" they male Carpathians lose the ability to feel emotions and to see in color, the only feeling remaining is the thrill they get after a kill. They feed on human blood, but they don’t kill their prey. With so few females left, males are forced to make a stark choice: either become vampire or "greet the dawn" (i.e. commit suicide). When Prince Mikhail Dubrinsky finds a lifemate in a human female with extensive psychic powers, the hope increases for all the Carpathian males so they don’t have to kill themselves or turn vampires. Because when they do find a lifemate, before they get "turned", the ability to see in color and their emotions are restored to them, and their souls are saved. The series ventures into other species or race, Jaguar and Lycan - extra-ordinary humans with abilities of jaguars and wolves  - as the stories proceed.

Charlotte "Charlie" Vintage and Genevieve "Vi" Marten came to California from Paris in search of some answers. Charlie is in the business of restoring old carousels makng it a lucrative job while Vi is independently wealthy. A few months ago they had gone to get tested for psychics at The Morrison Center in Paris and from then on they were being followed. Both have psychic abilities but they did the test for fun, not knowing that t would lead darkness into their life. Since the test they have lost everyone near and dear to them - Vi's grandmother and boyfriend, Charlie's brother and mentor - all murdered and bodies drained. Between them the only one alive was Charlie's brother's daughter Lourdes. Now being tired of being followed and to get some answers they come out of their hiding and reach the hip dance club The Palace hoping their stalkers would come out in open. Instead three men - Vince Tidwell, Daniel Forester and Bruce Van Hues - persist on pulling them on to dance floor or send them drinks.   But a chance touch brings to light all the bad things the three men had committed in cold-blood when Charlie touches Daniel's glass. Terrified, both Charlie and Vi leave the club, knowing that these three men had followed them from Paris, but wanting to follow them that night hoping for some answers.

Tariq Asenguard who owned The Palace - an ancient Carpathian - and his partner Maksim Volkov - lifemate to Blaze Mcguire (their story told in Dark Crime as part of the novella collection Edge of Darkness) - are scouting the area that is allotted to them to keep it free of vampires and their minions - both human and vampire alike. But in particular they are on lookout for Vadim Malinov - one of the ancient Carpathian of the Malinov brothers who carried the splinter from Xavier, the mage who wanted to eliminate the Carpathians - and Sergey Malinov - another of the Malinov brothers who had turned their soul to darkness - as Vadim is recruiting humans to make an army for himself. A whiff of Charlie's scent reaches Tariq and a single command from her mouth makes him realize that Charlie is his lifemate (all colors and senses restored immediately and his fear of going over to the dark side minimized) and in very much danger from not only the three men but also another vampire Fridrick Astor - friends with the Malinov Brothers and likely in cohorts with Vadim. Tariq, Charlie and Vi are lured into an ambush set up by Fridrick that consisted of - Fridrick's brother Georg, Dorin and Cornel Malinov - cousins to Mainov brothers - and four others who were human yet not - an experimental product conducted by Vadim. However Maksim, Mataias and his two brothers Lojos and Tomias (triplets), Dragomir Kozul, Afanasiv "Siv" Balan and Nicu Daka arrive in time to have a showdown with the Vampires and also protect Charlie and Vi. Seeing the scales tipping Fridrick turns his tail.

Knowing that there are two different groups behind them, that Fridrick was the cause for all the deaths in their family and not knowing what the three humans want from them, Charlie and Vi take up the offer from Tariq to stay in his mansion at least for the night. Fridrick had mentioned that Vi was for someone else and Charlie was for him. But Tariq worried that between Vadim, Sergey and Fridrick they would need three women and who was the third? A few weeks ago Tariq and Maksim had destroyed the underwolrd empire that Vadim and Sergey had created rescuing Emeline - Blaze'e friend - and accidentally coming upon another ancient who was thought to be lost - Val Zhestokly. Tariq also rescued a homeless couple - Donald and Mary Walton - and four children, a boy and three girls - Danny, Amelia, Liv and Bella - who also live in the smaller buildings inside his fenced area. Now Charlie, Vi, Charlie's niece Lourdes and their friend Grace Parducci who was nanny to Lourdes, all take shelter with Tariq.

What did the three men want from Charlie and Vi? Who was the man that they put a stake to his heart? Who is the third woman that Fridrick had lined up for - Emeline or Grace? What is Fridrick's plan? Where have Vadim and Sergey disappeared? Will Emeline be healed any time soon? How can anyone help Emeline? How much of Vadim's blood had she taken when she was in captive with Vadim? In all this chaotic confusion Charlie realizes that she has extreme carnal attraction towards Tariq despite the fact that there is confusion around as well as the lure of restoring old carousels he had. Will she understand the world of Carpathians and accept Tariq and his friends for what they are? The carousels that Tariq had for Charlie to restore had a history of its previous owners being dead of illness or murdered. What is the mystery behind it? How is it tied to Tariq and Charlie?

As always the primary plot with more than one sub-plot are woven together in this tapestry. This time around the plot had more meat about the story and less of the eroticism that made me like the series again. There have been mention of so many characters from the past books, and some events from the past it made me want to read the entire series again. I might just do that and get a month of review of books completed. ;) A good plot to read and enjoy the world of Carpathains.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) If you remember from the previous book Dark Promises (Check my review here), Dragomir was one of the ancients who had isolated themselves in a monastery atop Carpathian Mountains and that collectively Gabrielle Sanders, Teagan Jones and Trixie Jones restore some semblance and faith of the hope to find their lifemates. Dragomir is sent to CA - in the region where Tariq had his region set - in the hopes of finding his lifemate.
2) Seven more ancients are introduced in that book as well - Dragomir, Sandu, Isai, Petru, Benedek, Andor and Ferro. Looking forward to see how their stories will pan out.
3) Also looking forward to see how the stories for these ancients pan out in Christine Feehan's future books - Mataias and his two brothers Lojos and Tomias (triplets), Afanasiv "Siv" Balan and Nicu Daka
4) In Dark Blood (the 26th book in the series), it is revealed that Xavier is part of triplet. Xavier, Xaviero and Xayvion are at the head of destroying the Carpathian, Jaguar, and Lycan races.  Each took one race and infiltrated himself into that race to destroy. And one of the splinter from Xavier - a piece of Xavier with all his power - lodges into Vadim.
5) Val Zhestokly - another ancient Carpathian - and Emeline surface in this book. Both were survivors of Vadim and Sergey's brutality. They first appeared in Dark Crime where they are rescued by Tariq and his friends including Maksim. Vadim also has another brother Addler who is yet to appear in any of the books.
6) Still looking forward to see a story about Gary Daratrazanoff.
7) The current Carpathian Prince Mikhail's father Vlad was the good one. However the author in this book talks about a different Prince at a different time - Prince Ruslan who had a child called Draven who was more twisted than anyone can imagine. I fail to remember how Xavier was connected to Mikhails father and any other Princes before. But Ruslan and Draven are new names for me so perhaps more will be seen of them in future books.
8) There is mention of Xavier's father Alycrome who perhaps knows more than Xavier has ever known his entire life as a mage.
9) It is revealed that Liv - the 10 year old girl - is the lifemate for Val Zhestokly. Although everyone is confused as to how Val to identify when Liv is still not grown to be a woman.

Book Critique 2016 – 08/16/2016: Thrive

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A book that perfectly shows the reader a journey through the experiences of the author and many others that help one to learn to Thrive despite the circumstances, choices and vocations.

As most of you know I am an amateur photographer and do take pictures for any event if anyone asks me to. I am not that bad, can take some real good moments that can be captured and kept forever in your memory book. Some of the events are with family, some at friends and some at work. I do it for joy of capturing memories and never expect any compensation back. However, when I had photographed for an event at work earlier this year, I was rewarded with this book signed by the author herself. It certainly gave me a feeling of satisfaction for being appreciated when they don’t have to. And this being a non-fiction it took a while before I could finish reading it and here is my take on it.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder is a non-fiction by Arianna Huffington published in 2014. In this book she talks about a third leg that redefines being successful. Arianna is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post. The book starts with a detailed preface by the author, then an introduction before it goes on to describe in detail about the Third Metric - what is more than to be just successful - on four pillars - Well-Being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving.

In the preface and the introduction author Arianna shares her personal experiences and why she decided to write this book. Very interesting to read from the author's perspective when you know you had at one or the other point of time have faced a similar situation in your life. The first two metrics in life that makes one successful are Money and Power. She mentions that this book would help everyone to live up to the best version of our eulogy. It makes so much sense - no one talks about how stressful your life was, but how successful you were in your life in living it with your family, friends, and achieving your passions that has nothing to do with the money you earn, the position you have or the power you show.

The first part, Well-Being, begins with a beautiful quote by Fr. Alfred D'Souza. Life indeed is made of obstacles. And reflects upon the biggest obstacle - Stress - and how one has been dealing so far and how we should be dealing. The statistics are appalling and makes me wonder how did we get here. She also explores different tips at both personal level and at a company level that can be implemented to reduce stress and stress-related health issues - Companies giving incentives to employees if they have an improvement in health, Meditation, Digital-Detoxing, Sleep, Walk the talk (walk while talking and discussion solutions rather than in a meeting room), spend time with family and friends away from the LCD electronics, Exercise and expand your love to animals. I loved the concept of digital-detoxing - I believe with so much of digital world around we really need to get shut-off from the digital world for a few hours in a week at the least. The author also mentions that Kimberly Brooks, HuffPost's founding arts editor advices not to take pictures of your food while at a dinner or lunch with friends and family as one of the many table ethics for this digital world. I have to say, I am a photo freak. If I find something interesting I capture it. I don’t know if it's possible for me to resist doing that.

The second part, Wisdom, author talks about how we are missing wisdom even though we are in the most advanced era in every which way. She goes to expand on how to improve it - To find purpose in life and loss; Listen to your warning sings, never ignore your hunch; nurture your intuition; time affluence (slow down and don’t rush); stop negative self-talk that goes inside one's brain; focus on "keystone" habits and replacing bad habits with these healthier habits that help one thrive; share a gratitude list with two or more of your friends; disconnect from your digital world while in bed asleep and finally do not start your day looking at your smart phone but instead by breathing deeply and being grateful. Author encourages to dream, remember them and discuss them when awake to improve oneself. But what about recurring dreams? I dream always even if I sleep for a few minutes and sometimes I have the same dreams over and over and over again. What does that mean I wonder?

The third part, Wonder, explores the sense of wonder as opposed to getting irritated at the obstacles in natural or man-made form - Stop and appreciate around you, wonder about the world that changes every second; Get that artistic experience - any and all kinds of art - that indulges your mind and soul. But not just on the apps or websites or online classrooms created by various museums and art institutes. Indulge yourself personally; Learn to appreciate the value of Silence. One way to awaken the wonder is the serendipity of coincidences - sporadic reminders to maintain our sense of wonder.

The last part, Giving, explores that the three pillars of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder is incomplete without the fourth pillar Giving for one to fully master the Third Metric. Several methods of Giving the author mentions in the book - Volunteering; tap into your natural humanity any time of the day, don’t wait for a natural disaster to happen. Make small gestures of kindness.

I was however confused on this elaborate topic about Death in the third part titled Wonder. How does talking about Death relate to thriving. It made sense and at the same time made no sense to me. But it jarred me into reminding me of death of two loved ones - my grandmother and an uncle who is not blood-related yet related in every sense. To this day I miss the fact that I couldn’t visit my grandmother so often in her last days although I was in India then a month before her death. If I had known then perhaps I would have spent a few more days with her. And this uncle - I regret to this day that I could not take a family photo with him the last time I visited him and also didn’t get a chance to see him again before I left back to America. Two of them whose departure always brings a pain in my heart. Did the author mean this? Enjoy now, live now - for tomorrow is unknown? I guess so. "Don’t Miss the Moment" - a profound statement that certainly kicked me.

Upon reflection I do feel that as a child I had less things to worry about than what I have now. But do I really need to worry about all of them at the same time? That is the biggest question for me that got answered in this part. Just like she mentions in the beginning of the book that it connects the three metrics that connect together to one goal - to thrive, it has been up to the expectations she had set. The book started for me as a slow read, and quite frankly I had put  it off to the side after reading a few pages. But I really wanted to include it as part of my reviews so finally made it to the last page. Surprisingly it is a very interesting read once you stick to it and move on.

I was impressed by the author to include so many of her personal experiences, challenges and how she overcame them. There are so many things about stress, work-life balance, how to feel more happy of your work than just working, digital detoxing and many other issues that current generation (Millennials or Gen Y whatever they are called as) facing and how to remedy that. Truly speaking we all know that we are traveling a wrong road, we all know the right ways to get us back to happiness track, yet we don’t follow. This book is a definite refresher on that as a kick in your face reminder.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Arianna Huffington's first book was The Female Woman first published in 1973 and went to become an international bestseller. Being a non-fiction I hadnt even picked it. However after reading this one, I might add it to my list of books that I want to read sometime in future.
2) Author mentions about her favorite poem "Ithaka" by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. I remember coming across this in another book I was reading but unable to put my finger on it. The lines of the poem are very inspirational and has so much meaning behind those lines. The poem can be found in its eniterity here
3) Factual Errors:
a. On Pg 51, the author mentions Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam all in the same line an continues to mention that the religions use prayer beads to utter the 99 names of Allah. This is true for Islam. But for Hinduism and Buddhism the utterances are different. Was the author confused? Or was the statement meant only for Islam but the other religions were just added? This is untrue.
4) Arianna mentions a few of the books by famous writers and their quotes from those books as far back as 399 B.C.:
a. In Preface and Introduction - 1951 Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, Zero in One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, Unretirement by Chris Farrell, In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore, Apology or Apology of Socrates by Plato
b. In Well-Being - Difference Works: Improving Retention, Production, and Profitability through Inclusion by Caroline Turner, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman, Relaxation Revolution by Herbert Benson and William Proctor, Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch, Mindful London by Tessa Watt, Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan, In the First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit, Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently by Gregory Berns and On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz.
c. In Wisdom - The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Source of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein, 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Talenb, Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick, The Sound and Fury by William Faulkner, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
d. In Wonder - The Siren of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Alone Together by Sherry Turkle, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, My Belief by Herman Hesse, Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson, Unbinding the Heart by Agapi, Beyond Coincidence by Martin Plimmer and Brian King, Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life by Dr. Ira Byrock, Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death by Joan Halifax, Death: The Final Stage of Growth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and finally Lessons for the Living: Stories of Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Courage at the End of Life by Stan Goldberg.
e. In Giving - Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Give and Take by Adam Grant, Giving2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World by Laura Arrillaga -Andreessen and finally Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley.
5) Author mentions about how Big Data is all about data meaning more information, but it also means more of false information. Finding the truth becomes a needle in a large haystack. I wonder what our CEO would think when he and the company in total has been promoting Big Data like anything.

Movie Critique 2016 – 08/15/2016: Kranti

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: A very beautiful movie depicting a revolution and how it turns the lives of people around toward the right path depicted through the eyes of leaders and soldiers of the 19th century.

August 15th is the day that India celebrates its Independence Day - their freedom from approx 400 years of British reign over the country. This year marked the 69th anniversary. Are we truly free? That is a question for another day as it would lead to a lot of discussion about injustice, crime and corruption that goes on till date with advancement on the side going at a pace slower than needed killing the good along. This is not the forum for that, yet! However to honor the great leaders - big and small, famed and nameless, soldier and king , everyone alike - who had fought to bring freedom to this great country that has history that goes centuries and eons to the beginning of time, I would be posting review of this revolutionary film.

Kranti ( = Revolution) is a 1981 Indian Hindi revolutionary film directed by Manoj Kumar. It starred Manoj Kumar, Hema Malini, Dilip Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha, Shashi Kapoor and Parveen Babi amongst other myriad of characters - some fame and some nameless just like our great leaders from the past. The film is set in 19th Century British India and shows the story of the fight for independence from British during the years 1825 and 1875. The story revolves around four men who lead the war against British Raaj ( = Rule) - Bharat (portrayed by Manoj Kumar), Sanga - a revolutionary (portrayed by Dilip Kumar), Shakti - a prince (portrayed by Shashi Kapoor) and Kareem Khan - a freedom fighter (portrayed by Shatrughan Sinha).

The plot is told in flashback by Sanga to a woman and a boy with a few minutes of to the current time in the plot with a fitted finale.

Raja Laxman Singh (portrayed by P. Jairaj) ruling the Kingdom of Ramgarh is forced to accept the handshake that his brother Shamsher Singh (portrayed by Pradeep Kumar). Shamsher Singh want to rule the kingdom but he cannot because of his brother still being the king. So he conspires with his brother-in-law Shambu Singh (portrayed by Prem Chopra) and Sir Thomas (portrayed by Veeru Devgan) - a British General - to have the Britishers allowed in for fair trade but with the hidden agenda of getting inside arms and ammunitions and taking out precious jewels instead. Sanga - the leader of the farmers - comes to know of the conspiracy and when confronting Shambu Singh and Sir Thomas, Sanga gets beaten. When he reaches to Raja Laxman Singh to make him aware of the atrocities, he finds him murdered and Shamsher Singh and Shambu Singh capture him on the charges of murder. He is sentenced to death. But Sanga escapes the jail but not before he chops off the hand of Shambu Singh - the very hand that had lifted against his son and wife.

In the meanwhile Sanga's wife Radha (portrayed by Nirupa Roy) gives birth to another male child. The whole family of Sanga and his close friends decide to leave the kingdom and go away. But they and many others are caught and Sir Thomas ruling the kingdom now on behalf of Raja Shamsher Singh order the old and children to be killed and young captured as slaves. In that chaos, Radha ensures that her second son is tied inside Sanga's blanket and drifted away in a wooden basket on water but she gets captured. The child reaches the shores of Queen Charumathi - sister to Raja Laxman Singh - who had just delivered a still baby. The mid-wife and Charumathi decide to adopt the child as their own hiding the fact that she never gave birth to a child and announce to the world that he is the crown Prince of their kingdom. Sanga's older child escapes the massacre with one of Sanga's farmer friend and grows up in their family as Bharat along-side. Not knowing that his family was alive, assuming dead, Sanga takes his remaining farmer friends and kills the Britishers and his troops. And forms a revolutionary group Kranti fighting his way inch by inch against Britishers and paving way for the path to future leaders towards freedom. Sanga comes to know that another factional group also apes their group name as well as the similar way they are also eradicating the Britishers. Sanga doesn’t have an idea who this group was.

On the other side, Bharat has grown-up into a revolutionary himself and with his adopted family and the followers of his group he moves in the same direction as Sanga - albeit Sanga isn't aware of it. Bharat comes to know that another freedom fighter Kareem Khan is captured by Raja Shamsher Singh. He reaches the court in-time to save Kareem Khan. To get rid of Kranti (not knowing who that is), Raja Shamsher Singh appoints his sister's son Shakti as his Commander who oversees the King's armies. And Shakti's responsibility is to capture Kranti. Yuvraj Dheeraj Singh - Crown Prince of Ramgarh Kingdom - (portrayed by Dheeraj Kumar) is set to get engaged to Rajkumari Meenakshi (portrayed by Hema Malini) - daughter of the King Gangadhar of the neighboring Kingdom Shivpur.

All the players are in place now and the plot proceeds to show how they all meet, form together a coalition and work on inch by inch removing the Britishers, the traitors Shamsher Singh, Shambu Sing and their families from the Kingdoms of Ramgarh and Shivpur. A myriad of characters aid in this revolution - Surili (portrayed by Parveen Babhi) - daughter of one of the Farmer family who joined the revolution); Sheetal (portrayed by Sarika) - daughter of the Pujari who is part of the Bharat's revolutionary group) and many others.
Songs from the film behind the cut..Collapse )

My favorite freedom fighter has (is still) always been Bhagat Singh - a short time of his life but entirely dedicated to the country and its people till his last breath. However this time I wanted to pick a different leader, different setting and a totally different theme. Thus review of Kranti happened.

The movie is well-made tying up all pieces together although a few gaps are there. Also there are definite editing issues - perhaps on youtube but for sure there are. A revolution that I believe we need even today if not getting freed from someone else's rule but to get freed from all the atrocities and crimes. Karnti always lives only soldiers are needed. What better movie than this to pay homage to all those leaders.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books under Murder, She Wrote series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

The Maine Mutiny is the 23rd book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in April of 2005. This time the plot is set in her very own town of Cabot Cove, Maine.

The plot begins with Jessica Fletcher stranded on Spencer Durkee's lobster boat "Done For" and not knowing how she got there or how far she was from land.  And she is not alone. She is with the body of a very dead man. Who is that man? How did Jessica get on to the boat? What happened the previous night or day? As we are pondering on these thoughts the plot goes two weeks back in time to the time it all began. (Phew! ;))

The town of Cabot Cove decides to have a Annual Lobster Festival to promote their main street and help boost the businesses there, and also perhaps start a new tradition. The activities preparing for the festival are progressing in full-steam. But the hiccup was the lobstermen itself. They are tight-lipped when anyone is approaching them with the hopes of writing up an article about them in the Cabot Cove Gazette for the festival. Lincoln "Linc" Williams, the head of the local lobstermen's association who thinks himself as a man of great importance and so do his fellow lobstermen, takes a stance not to speak for the article. So Jessica takes up the task to help Gwen and hoping that the lobstermen would be more keen to talk to a long-time resident as opposed to a new person.

Promptly she seeks out Mary Carver  to ask her husband Levi Carver to talk to Linc Williams about the article. But then the troubles start as the lobstermen feel they are being cheated by holding off the catch for the festival. The catch is low in number comparatively and the prices are up. However, Henry Pettie - the loan shark and the dealer for the lobsters - is taking this chance to make profits by paying the lobstermen lesser money than promised. Spencer Durkee had signed the agreement between the Chamber of Commerce and the Dealer, representing the Lobstermen Association. Some of the lobstermen are angry with Spencer for being the representee and give him trouble with his boat. Then Ike Bower gets his share of trouble the day after he voices out that Pettie was cheating them. Someone is trying really hard to ensure that the lobstermen don’t go on their own and stick to Hettie. Is that Linc? Does he want to stay as a president and rule as a Hitler? Is he reaping any side-benefits from Pettie?

The troubles for the lobstermen seem to increase and Jessica pokes her nose in unknowingly in the effort to help them. Then Barnaby Longshot gets beaten up badly around the time he was supposed to meet Jessica and tell her about the trouble that Ike had. The same night after Barnaby was taken to hospital Jessica sees someone going into Spencer's boat and she follows ending up in the boat hit on her head by someone. The plot comes to present time where it had originally began. The dead body that Jessica sees in the cabin is of Henry Pettie. Who killed Henry Pettie? Who had knocked her out? How will Jessica come back ashore with a boat that is practically not working? Will she be rescued? As always Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Sheriff Mort Metzger aid Jessica when she finds herself in a bind as the investigation proceeds along. The plot continues through quite a few surprising turns and eventually unravels the entire lobstermen mystery.

As the plot thickens we get to meet a lot of interesting characters along the way - Gwen Anissina (event planner), Barnaby Longshot (a slow learner and does odd jobs for everyone around), Mayor Jim Shevlin, Roger Cherry (retd accountant, former president of chamber of commerce), David and Jim Ranieri (owned Charles Department Store), Evelyn Phillips (new editor to the Gazette), Matilda Watson (owner of The Cabot Co ve Gazette), Audrey Williams (wife of Linc Williams), Abigail Brown (a beauty peagent contestant that Evan Carver is interesting in), Ike Bower (another lobsterman), Brady Holland (another lobsterman and Linc Williams' nephew) and Alex Paynter (another lobsterman).

This was one book that it took a while for me to get through, a slow read to start with. Perhaps a whole chapter about lobster trapping put me to sleep and perhaps I am not a fish person, but either way the plot proceeded very slow for me to read, unlike other books. Somewhere around the time I reached Chapter Ten I got hooked to the plot like with any good book and enjoyed the rest of the story thoroughly.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Jessica remembers the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coolridge while stranded on the boat. How apt to match the scenario.
2) As always interesting language usage - whirligig (a spinning toy like a pinwheel),
3) Jessica reminisces about Dr. Truman Buckley and their trip to Key West with Dr. Seth Hazlitt and the Metzgers. The tale is told in the book Dying to Retire, the review of which I wrote here
4) The author mentions about green lobsters….I always thought lobsters were orange or rather red. Never heard about green lobsters.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4.5 / 5
Recommendation: Amazing movie to watch the life of someone who lived, breathed, ate and played baseball.

The Babe Ruth Story is a 1948 American Baseball film biography of Babe Ruth - the famed New York Yankees slugger. William Bendix starred in the title role while Claire Trevor as Babe Ruth's wife - Claire Hodgson Ruth.

One of the few wishes that my oldest nephew Srithan had when he came to visit me this year in August along with my parents was that he wanted to see a Yankees game. Reason being his baseball team was named Yankees. I had not watched a baseball game on TV either so wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it much. However for the sake of my nephew I took him to the baseball game along with my parents and my dear friend Sunita on this particular day. The game was between Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. And surprisingly enough I enjoyed it very much and with so many cheers from my nephew it was much more enjoyable. And we got to see 7 Home Runs during the game and to my nephew's delight Yankees won. Woo! Hoo! Win-Win in every way. And made some great memories.

So, to honor this day I wanted to post a movie about Yankees and thus the movie The Babe Ruth Story - what better movie for it than this. Hey! :)

The movie begins in 1906 (after a brief tour of the Yankee Stadium) in Baltimore Waterfront where 11-year old George Herman Ruth Jr. is trying to play ball and at the same time do his duties at the saloon his father runs.

Brother Matthias from St. Mary's takes George away from his abusive father to St. Mary's. At the age of 18, he gets hired by Jack Dunne - manager to Baltimore baseball team - to play for Baltimore Orioles and his new nickname "Babe" - he was called Big George while at St. Mary's because of his large size - for $600 per season. After a winning streak he gets sold to Boston Red Sox, but the very first game against New York Yankees turns out bad and he is asked out sit out the game and also charged for causing bad game. He is confused at why suddenly his streak changed when he was doing the same thing. One evening at an after game happy hour Claire Hodgson points out that whenever he pitches a curve he sticks out his tongue giving away his secret which is what the Yankees found out and used against him. Once again his winning streak continues and his contract increases to $100,000 a season eventually.

He finds Claire again and tries to court her bur Claire rejects him. But his career extends from being a pitcher to a batter hitting a home run that is the longest run anyone ever saw - nearly 600 ft. His casual "Hiya Kid" makes a crippled boy to stand on his feet while he follows to see Babe walking by. The rest of the film follows the life of Babe Ruth into becoming a successfull baseball player both as a pitcher and a batter first with Boston Red Sox and later with New York Yankees and eventually becomes a legend in Baseball - showcasing all his us and downs that he stumbles across the path.

We missed visiting the Yankee Stadium tour. Am glad this movie showed a few glimpses from the tour. Here is the Babe Ruth's plaque that I took a pic of from the picture.

The movie perhaps misses many aspects of Babe Ruth's life. However, it was a very well-made movie about the legend showing all of his ups and most of his downs, a person who lived, breathed, ate and played baseball. It left me in tears at many places. I would love to watch this again with my nephew someday. Till date I have not been a fan of any baseball team although I have followed Cubs games a bit because I used to live in Chicago. However this movie and my experience watching Yankees play is making me to lean towards supporting Yankees.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The scene where Babe Ruth dictates to Phil Conrad his love letter to Claire reminds me of the song from the 1991 Indian film Tamil / Telugu Guna again. The lead actor Kamal Hassan dictates the love letter to Roshini - the lead actress - he want to write himself for her.

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