December 19th, 2016


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.

Book Critique 2016 – 08/17/2016: Dark Carousel (#30)

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.