Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn

‘Transfer of Power‘ is a singularly awesome work by the hugely talented Vince Flynn. Kick-ass action, clean writing and a well-scripted narrative combine to provide some serious adrenaline rush. Due to time constraints, I had to settle for reading the book over a couple of bus rides, but I sure would have loved to read it over a single sitting.

When the CIA take into custody an Iraqi militant, they have no inkling of the humongous secret they are about to learn. An attack has been planned on the very same day by extremist forces to take control of the White House. But before they can summon the forces and the time to act on the information, the White House is down. The only ray of hope is that the President has been whisked away to his bunker. But he is not safe for long. As a series of events unfold that rock the seat of power in the most powerful country in the world, it is up to one man to neutralize the threat to the country.

Featuring Flynn’s recurring character, Mitch Rapp, the book takes you on a roller-coaster ride through the hallowed paths of the White House. Flynn has crafted a book no lover of political thrillers can afford to miss.

I’m a huge fan of political thrillers; Tom Clancy‘s ‘Rainbow Six’ was one of the first books that got me hooked and since then, I’ve been lapping up all the books on the genre I can get my hands on. Vince Flynn is considered a master of the art, as I have found out. I had read just one other of Flynn’s works-‘Term Limits’- and was sufficiently impressed to try another of his books. Well, the gamble paid off and I was left with a huge grin when I finished the book. Vince Flynn has just made it to the top of my ‘Must-Read-Everything-By-The-Author’ list.

Highly recommended!

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‘The Racketeer’ by John Grisham

John Grisham is a huge favorite of mine. While I lap up his fiction novels, my favourite work remains his only non-fiction book, ‘The Innocent Man‘. Dark, brooding and heavy, the book is an assault into the conscience of a system.

‘The Racketeer’ by John Grisham is further proof of his genius story telling abilities. Malcolm Bannister is serving ten years in prison wrongfully sentenced for being a willing accomplice to money laundering. Five years into his sentence, a federal judge is murdered and there are no suspects. Nobody knows the identity of the killer, except Bannister. If he plays his cards right, he could walk out of prison, a free man.

Careful crafting of the story keeps the intrigue and suspense high. Unlike most other Grisham novels that focus on courtroom drama, this one is about a man on the run and how he adapts to changing situations. For me, the reading experience ended on a high because I was not expecting the master stroke that comes towards the end.

Whatever one might say about Grisham’s novels being repetitive, it is hard to resist reading one.
From the master of courtroom dramas, this tale proves yet another absorbing thriller. Give it a read!

The Reading Jinx

The much dreaded Reading Jinx is one that occasionally afflicts bibliophiles. Sometimes, it even happens without your meaning it to happen. From reading every day, you read every other day, then it trickles down to once a week and before you know it, you haven’t read anything new for a month now. Imagine that! While pondering over the cause and mulling over it might yet lead to you ending up with a satisfactory explanation, I would suggest you take it to understand that you are currently in disfavour with the Reading Gods and think no more about it.

Now, recovering from this jinx though, is the next best thing to receiving an unlimited supply of books your entire life. Few joys can match that of reading a book after a long time and if it happens to be a good book, then boy!, you have been blessed.

When I spied ‘The Collectors’ by David Baldacci in my friend’s latest book haul, I was sorely tempted to give it a miss. One, I had read too many of his works and they were getting predictable and two, I wanted to break my reading jinx with a challenging book, one that demanded every teeny bit of my attention and perseverance.
But alas! These matters are not in a bibliophile’s hands. So I found myself seated in the bus, on a cold rainy morning, reading the book. Paying nil attention to co-travellers and narrowly forgetting to get off at the stop..These things are bound to happen when you have pages of print in your hands.

Two days of this routine and I was done with the book. It is quite an enjoyable book, one that I’m sure Baldacci fans will love. Racketeering, a beautiful thief and a few good men form the crux of the story. It wasn’t a story that would stick with me nor was it one I would easily dismiss.

My reading jinx had been broken, in the most normal of ways.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

One for the ages, ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway, is a masterpiece. This was Hemingway’s last published novel and also his most appreciated. Credited with changing the tone and style of American prose to a considerable extent, this critically acclaimed novel is a staple feature in American Literature classes.

Santiago, the protagonist, is an old fisher-man who has seen eighty four days go by without catching a single fish. People start to remark on his unlucky streak and his sole apprentice, a young boy, ends up having to leave him on his parents’ compulsion. On the fateful eighty-fifth day, as the old man sets out to sea, determined and confident, he winds up in a battle with a large marlin. What happens next? Does he finally find the elusive luck he was hoping to?

At a meagre 37 pages, this novella gives you a sense of completion. Clipped, direct prose and beautiful descriptions make this book a delight to read. Hemingway’s exemplary writing makes you live the journey with the old man. The portrayal of the strength of the protagonist, whose perseverance even in old age knows no bounds, is truly heart-breaking.

The religious references in the book are very hard to miss. The major characters in the novel are likened to figures in the ‘New Testament’ and the symbolic line- ‘ ‘Ay,′ he said aloud. There is no translation for this word and perhaps it is just a noise such as a man might make, involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hands and into the wood.’ – is a direct reference to the crucifixion of Christ. An enjoyable read that takes you through the sights and smells of the sea and leaves you in a contemplating mood.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22‘ is a book that has penetrated the consciousness of an entire generation. Bursting onto the scene as it did in 1961, it gave vent to Heller’s anti-war and anti-government feelings, a by-product, he said, ‘of the Korean War and the 1950’s.’ Considered one of the best satirical works ever, (a distinction thoroughly deserved), ‘Catch-22’ is a book that stays with you a long while after.

Set during World War II, the book flows the exploits of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S Air Forces B-25 bombardier, stationed in Pianosa, an island to the west of Italy. Let me just stick to my reading experience here. Firstly, I have to admit that I tried reading it twice before, with unsuccessful results. The first few chapters simply didn’t draw me in enough and since the genre was completely new, I lacked enough initiative to continue. But faced with the direst of situations any book-lover can, the absence of a new book (!), I finally found motivation to persevere on. And boy, am I glad I did!

The reading experience was quite unlike any other.

For those new to the genre, the initial chapters make you wonder what it is all about. Set in a non-linear perspective, with varying accounts of the most random people ever, connected by the unlikeliest of threads, the book leaves you befuddled. But a few more chapters is all it takes to get used to this structure of free association, where random ideas are connected to keep the continuity going. And it is exactly this structure that you find yourself falling in love with over the course of your reading.

Satire-Oh such glorious satire!

I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to be able to read such a thoroughly honest piece of satire as this. The basic premise of ‘Catch-22’ is absurdity. Or so you might think. The same absurdity that causes you to laugh aloud initially makes you recoil in horror later. The same lack of empathy in satire and the same disregard to violence that you found funny initially leaves you disturbed later. And this, I think, is the triumph of ‘Catch-22’, to make you switch between two such varying states of feelings within the course of a book.

Happy Reading, you all.

Wardrobe

What could possibly be interesting about a wardrobe? It’s quite probably one of the humblest of furnitures you’ll ever find, but literature has a way of turning the ordinary into the magical. On exploring the various instances this piece of furniture has taken centre-stage in the literary world, you find a lot of significance attached.

Well, of course, the first reference that strikes you would be the erstwhile author C.S.Lewis’ creation, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. But before we analyse the symbolism of the wardrobe in that fantasy novel, I have to tell you that Lewis was not the first to use the wardrobe as a portal to a magical land. Yes, he was beaten to it by E Nesbit, who wrote his story ‘The Aunt and Amabel’, way back in 1912. This charming short story, one in a series of twelve, is about a young girl who finds her way into a magic world through a wardrobe. Much like Narnia, for the story is often credited as inspiration for Lewis’ novels.

And that brings us to the wardrobe that functions as a gateway to the magical land of Narnia. The wardrobe is one of the centre-pieces of the novel, the place where the entire journey begins. We know that Narnia doesn’t actually exist behind the wardrobe, the wardrobe is merely a portal to get you there. But you cannot help instinctively feeling that the wardrobe holds Narnia inside it and this makes it an object of much adoration. Lucy chances upon the wardrobe and enters Narnia but when she tries to take her siblings through it, the gateway seals itself. However, the subsequent times they end up there, once with Edmund and the time when all four hide in the wardrobe to escape the housekeeper Mrs.MacReady’s wrath, the wardrobe opens up for them. Of course, as we realise later, you only get to Narnia when you are not actually trying to get there.

Moving on, we find the wardrobe again, in Harry Potter! Where? Rack your brains hard and it’ll come to you. Yes, the Boggart! The Boggart in the Wardrobe. The Boggart in the wardrobe that changes form according to what you fear the most. In a sense, the wardrobe represents our fear of the unknown. The dark, confined space of the wardrobe is where the boggart chooses to seek refuge, a metaphor to the way we try to conceal our fears behind a veil of other thoughts, a place deep enough from where it is difficult to dredge them up. It is in fact, a double concealment. The wardrobe hides the boggart and the boggart, in turn, hides its true form by assuming another shape.

Also, in another instance, when Professor Dumbledore shows Harry how he convinced Tom to join Hogwarts, we see Dumbledore setting fire to Riddle’s wardrobe, where he has accumulated all his stolen possessions. And similarly, Harry hides the Half Blood Prince’s potions book in a wardrobe in the Room of Requirement, keeps a tiara nearby for the purpose of identification. The tiara, of course, is a Horcrux but Harry doesn’t know that then. And during the Final Battle of Hogwarts, this wardrobe is destroyed in a fire, alluding (probably), to Dumbledore doing the same to a younger Riddle’s possessions.

Analysing all such references to the wardrobe, it is apparent that wardrobes have served the purpose of concealment. Concealment of fears, magical lands and what not. Who knows, the next time you see a wardrobe, you might just be inspired to create yet another literary allusion to it.

 

 

‘Diana-Her True Story’ by Andrew Morton

This is one for the royal history buffs. Released amidst much furore and drama way back in 1992, Andrew Morton’s biography of the Princess of Wales is remarkable, to say the least.

A comprehensive and engaging biography of the Princess’ early years and upbringing is provided, which fascinates. An account of the subsequent years, during which her romance with Prince Charles blossomed and their marriage, billed the ‘wedding of the century’ took place, prove just how misled we, the general public were. Contrary to being the happiest years of her life, those years were among the most traumatic of her existence. Prince Charles’ relationship with the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was a source of constant pain to Diana. Coupled with the pressures of being thrust onto the world stage, where her every move was closely scrutinized and judged, it was too much to take in.

A moving story of how a fairy tale wedding ended in shambles, it provides much to ponder about. The authenticity of all accounts in the book has now been verified and it paints a sad picture of the phenomenon she was. It is said that the publication of the book, in part, led to the worsening of the relationship between the Prince and Princess of Wales and eventually led to their separation.

Initially, the book was dismissed as a tabloid reporter’s desperate attempt at gaining fame, though it was backed by a media heavyweight such as ‘The Sunday Times’. However, it was only much later, that the world began to release there was more to it.

A cracker of a novel that laid the dark secrets of the monarchy bare, this book opened the hitherto adoring eyes of the public to the grim reality of Diana’s life as royalty. A two-part television series based on the book was also released, starring Naomi Watts in the titular role.