alop admin

Happy Birthday MSM

1:30:00 AM


the words, that you jot
weaves magic, heals hearts, create storms
on more than a page

Here's to wishing MSM a very happy birthday.

MSM

Siva: The Siva Purana Retold by Ramesh Menon

9:27:00 PM

Image Source: gangabooksemporium.com
SIVA - The Siva Purana Retold: Religious, Non-Fiction

AUTHOR: Ramesh Menon

BEST SELLERSThe Hunt for K and Blue God: A Life of Krishna (1992), Ramesh Menon, born in 1951 at New Delhi, has also rendered modern translations of The Ramayana (2000), The Mahabharata (2004) and The Bhagavata Purana into English prose.

SYNOPSIS (From back cover)
One day of Bramha has 14 Indras; his life has 54,000 Indras. One day of Vishnu is the lifetime of Bramha. The lifetime of Vishnu is one day of Siva.
There are 18 Mahapuranas, great Puranas, and the Siva Purana is one of them. Siva is a vivid retelling of the Siva Purana for today's reader.The book contains all the major legends of Siva, bringing them alive again for a new generation. The characters and events one encounters here are awesome, many are cosmic. Siva himself is the Auspicious One. He is Mahadeva, the greatest God.

EXCERPT:
SIVA AND SATI
He had sat in tapasya for thousands of interminable, cosmic years; yet his mind grew unsteady with compassion for the world. His eyes fluttered half open and tears fell from them as if at a vow broken. From those precious drops the the rudraksha plants sprouted.
Siva has said to the Goddess, the rudraksha is the holiest bead in this world. Wearing rudraksha, Siva's tears, destroys the most heinous sins.


MSM Speaks: Oh, the humbleness which you feel when you read something like this. I scoff at religious things, wondering at the mere mumjo jumbo of words and thinking, do they even have a meaning? I stand corrected now. Siva was given to me by a friend who knows I was in love with Siva's Nirgun-avatar (Something like a Supreme being with no shape or form). I had never ever thought I'd pick up a religious book to read - a Purana to be precise, and enjoy it. I read it like a lay person, not having true idea of the mythology - and the ideas which I had, I kept them aside. I initially picked it up and left, after reading 12 Chapters. I was kind of losing interest. But few days after, when I was caught up with a lot of other things, I started to read from where I'd left and whoa! It was over before I knew it.

There are many stories - how Bramha, with the help of Kaama Deva (God of love), took vengeance on Siva, by making him fall in love with Sati, how Bramha has only Four heads, when he had five; how daksha got the head of a goat, and other such intriguing narrations and revelations. These stories show, that not even Greatest of Gods, were spared from the wheel of karma. And a lot of things that we believe in these days, you would see, have been given in the Purana. Impressive Stuff. Seriously. After reading the kind of books I've reviewed off late - Ref. to Tea-20 , something like this is a fresh and welcome change. Believe me, you will not regret reading this, considering that this was my first experience of reviewing a religious non-fiction book - the very genre I had thought I will not review.

Mr. Menon adopts literal translation - from Sanskrit to English, and therefore, there are words and references, which were a bit difficult to interpret. He has actually simplified the verses a lot, telling the stories in a beautiful narrative style, which saves this book from getting painfully boring - especially for someone like us, the youth, who, in spite of being readers, do not have much patience with such books, unless we really like the genre. MSM Recommends this.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (I really wanted to give five, but nothing is perfect.)

Siva: The Siva Purana Retold @ Rupa & Co. (2006) Sixth Reprint (2011)
ISBN 978-81-291-1495-2
Pages: 324
flipkart Price: 365/-INR

Fantasy

The Desert Spear - Peter V. Brett

4:50:00 PM


THE DESERT SPEAR

Book 2 of 'The Demon Cycle'

Read about Book 1 HERE

ISBN - 978-0-00-727617-2
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2011
PAGES - 782
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Peter V. Brett

BEST-SELLERS - The Painted Man

SYNOPSIS - Out of the southern desert rides Ahmann Jardir, a warrior king who has claimed the title Shar'Dama Ka, the Deliverer reborn. A vast army marches in his wake, intent on holy war against the demon plague and determined to recruit others to their cause, willing or not. But the Northerners have named their own Deliverer: the Painted Man, a dark, forbidding figure, whom the Shar'Dama Ka once called brother.

Betrayal has turned the two friends into fierce adversaries, and only time will tell who is strong enough to withstand the might of the demons as they strive to obliterate humanity's defenses once and for all.

EXCERPT - 'Might as well come out!' he called loudly into the night. 'I know you're there! That changing demon ent smart enough for this!'

There was a rustle off to the side, and a demon appeared. It was small and slender, with an oversized head and a high, knobbed cranium. Its eyes were huge black pools, and it bared only a single row of sharp teeth at him. The talons at the end of its delicate fingers were like an Angierian lady's painted nails.

'Been wondering when I'd run into one of you bastards,' the Painted Man said. He tapped the large ward tattooed in the center of his forehead. 'Painted myself up special for it.'

FL Speak - Peter V. Brett continues the tale of Arlen from his epic debut into another wonderful tale. When 'The Painted Man' was published, it created quite a storm and almost everyone had it in their wishlist.

So naturally, I had to pick it up as soon as possible. However, even though 'The Desert Spear' is equally exciting and fast paced, it didn't hit the sweet spot for me. Mainly because, the story delves into the past rather than the present. Its more of a tale of Jardir, the Shar'Dama Ka of the Krasians than Arlen and hey, am an Arlen fan.

The Painted Man takes us way back into the past where Jardir was a kid and it is the tale of his growth to the leader of the Krasians. Jardir and Abban, who once were the best of friends and it is their tale of bravery and sacrifices along the way. Even though I do not like this Jardir dude much, I can't help but feel for his plight and cheer at his success, even though eventually he ends up betraying Arlen. Much of Jardir's rise to fame has been written by the Gods. {well that's what his First wive says. Yes, First wive. He has loads of those wives. Lucky chap indeed.} However, Jardir later realizes that his life was never his own. He has been manipulated slowly to be in the position he is now, and that included betraying his once friend, Arlen. Nevertheless, Jardir has come to terms with that for the future good.

Since the Krasian invasion of Fort Rizon, the Painted Man aka Arlen has been moving from city to city in the hopes of building an alliance against the coming Krasian horde. Also, Arlen is slowly losing his humanity as he is turning into one of those wretched corelings by the day. He has trouble walking in the sun and the earth's core is slowly pulling him downwards every morning.

Leesha, whose proposal Arlen rejected is now being wooed by Jardir after he saw her fighting the corelings. And Leesha, like the naive bimbo she is, ends up cavorting with the enemy. {Err, not exactly THE ENEMY, but hell, I can call him an enemy since he betrayed Arlen right?}

Arlen ends up riding to his home town where his own father fails to recognize him and rescues a girl in the process who ends up following him as he hunts corelings at night. Now comes the fun part. A new type of completely kickass coreling appears and Arlen barely manages to save himself. But he does enough to see that a whole new, immense horde of corelings are gathering for the final war. After the fight is over and he is pulled back to Mother Earth, Arlen proposes to the chick. {I mean, what on earth is happening!!!}

The final battle is coming and the Deliverer needs to be ready. Will it be Arlen or Jardin and what will happen when they meet again, that remains to be seen.

I finished the book in 4-5 hours as I simply couldn't put it down! Scintillating stuff! Looking eager for the final part.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 276/- [Flipkart Price]

Anthology

Tea-20 by Vinod Kumar S.

3:33:00 PM

Image Source: vinodkumars.com

TEA-20 - Perfect companion for your tea time : Fiction, Short Stories

AUTHOR: Vinod Kumar S.

BEST SELLER: Tea-20 (Debut Novel)

SYNOPSIS (From Back Cover): This book is a collection of 20 simple fiction short stories, which will serve as a good companion for your teatime. This anthology will not only entertain you, but will also give you a generous dose of laughter; it will make you think and contribute to the society, teach simple things about life which are easily missed in our ever-hectic routine and also take you by surprise. Each story is unique in its way, with the impact it leaves in you being the common feature.

A fictional and motivational story that reveals the secret of Sachin Tendulkar's success; a funny narration about the day-to-day life of an IT Professional; the suspense of what happened when it rained that night and stories that revolve around simple things like how 50 Paise could teach you an important message about life; they are bound to impress you irrespective of your age, gender or profession. Read on to know more. 


EXCERPT: 
I heard the sound of her bangles and other ornaments first. Not sure why, but immediately I remembered a Tamil proverb which translates to, "The sound of the bell tied to an elephant reaches even before the elephant", I tried to focus and within a few seconds I became an atheist again when I saw a girl in plain pink sari and green blouse walking in. It was as if the post card size photo was magnified to the size of a poster. This time her weight reminded me again of the same Tamil proverb. Only now I understood its real meaning. 

MSM Speaks: With due respect and appreciation to Mr. Vinod, an IT professional of 29 years, for his debut novel, I would like to say, his Tea-20 was totally not what I was expecting. I read other online reviews and people seem to love it, because it’s humorous (?). May be software people have a humor, which lawyers like me will never understand. I apologize for the quip. As I was saying - NEVER judge a book from its cover, they say. I did that exactly. *Rolls eyes* Cup of tea/coffee on cover, has always betrayed me. (Ref. to Of course, I love you – till I find someone better) Sigh. Anyway, this book is a collection of 20 fictional short stories – which are aimed at bringing the reader, a realization of morale values he/she might have forgotten or does not care about, any more.

The stories are in this order:
  •  A Cup of Coffee (A good start. Gave me hopes)
  • A Beauty That Turned Dirty (I personally HATED this one. It's so... chauvinistic! No wait, stupid! Let me tell you - the beauty here is a girl holding a sandwich and she becomes dirty because she says 'I wish India was like America.' to someone on phone. Before she said this, the guy was practically devouring her sandwich and I think her as well, with his eyes. Creepy Stalker!)
  • Bye (Innovative. Mr. Vinod really told me the value of a goodbye. I totally agree with him on this.)
  • Drunken Genius (This was an all guys version of Jab We Met)
  • Frosted Hearts (Cute little story of a Mother and her ever curious daughter)
  • A Great Escape (The above excerpt is from this one. Believe me, the guy here thinks he is a Hottie...)
  • Go Straight and Turn Right (Brilliant Story. Sachin's Secret to success, beautifully penned down.)
  • Happy New Year (Encounter with an intellectual beggar who held magic within)
  • It Rained That Night (Okay, I was really impatient! I read it from the end. It's a shot at suspense and humor. I felt like a pedophile.)
  • Life of an IT Professional
  • My Dog - An Amazing Teacher
  • My First Love (I thought finally! This man has fallen in love. But yes, I will give you one guess at what he falls in love with - It moves on wheels.)
  • Nowhere to Run
  • Signature
  • Take the 25 Rupees (Such intriguing conversation with an auto guy)
  • The Perfect Murder (Heart breaking story of a Friend-zoned guy)
  • The Silent World
  • Two Sides of a One-Sided Love (Topsy-turvey story.)
  • Who Am I?
  • 50 Paise (Sigh. Please pick it up if you need to know more!)

For others, which have escaped my detailing...Oh Sweet Jesus!, I had to jump from page to page, skimming through and I sort of understood what the stories were about – sort of predictable. As a first attempt, Mr. Vinod has kept the stories really simple, which is a key to good writing. However, there were inadvertent grammatical and printing errors, which I could not ignore. Anyhow, the stories are short and it’s actually something you can pick up when you are travelling short distances. (If you have nothing better. And if you can read anything) What was I thinking? *Asks herself* Oh, since this is one of the books I chose for my birthday, I am not going to bash the author anymore. I would not recommend this but you can pick it up for a light reading – well, like he says – with a cup of tea. And some sedative for me. Hmpf. Oh wait, this is one.

My rating: 2.5/5 
Tea - 20@ Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd./Frog Books (2012)
ISBN 978-93-81576-99-1
Pages: 125
flipkart Price: 113/-INR

Contemporary Romance

Fifty Shades Darker (Book Two) - E.L.James

12:12:00 AM



Image Source: goodreads.com
Read Part - I @Fifty Shades of Grey reviewed by Vivek Tejuja

FIFTY SHADES DARKER: Fiction, Erotic Romance

AUTHOR: E.L.James 

BEST SELLER(s): Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Freed (Book One and Book Three respectively.)

SYNOPSIS (From Barnes And Nobles): 

Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades. While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

EXCERPT: 

“Delivery for Ms. Steele.” A bored, disembodied voice answers, and disappointment crashes through me. I listlessly make my way downstairs and find a young man noisily chewing gum, holding a large cardboard box, and leaning against the front door. I sign for the package and take it upstairs. The box is huge and surprisingly light. Inside are two dozen long-stemmed, white roses and a card.

Congratulations on your first day at work.
I hope it went well.
And thank you for the glider. That was very thoughtful.
It has pride of place on my desk.
 - Christian

I stare at the typed card, the hollow in my chest expanding. No doubt, his assistant sent this. Christian probably had very little to do with it. It’s too painful to think about. I examine the roses—they are beautiful, and I can’t bring myself to throw them in the trash. Dutifully, I make my way into the kitchen to hunt down a vase.


MSM Speaks: *Grinning Ear to Ear and Giggling* Hello Ladies! And Men of ALOP. Imagine me doing a review of Erotic Romance! *Wink* I'll get to the point. I picked up the first book, as an experiment, rather, this was emailed to me by a loving friend. *Serious face*.

BDSM (Well, look it up, you!) as a concept, has always horrified me. I am a lawyer and for me, it only means Sec.377 (You all would know about this most certainly. :D) of the I.P.C. However, before I start talking non-sense, I'll tell you why this book and the Series in particular are such a rave. 

Mrs. James has created a larger-than-life young entrepreneur Christian Grey (Master of the Universe  for us, readers) who has larger-than-normal-libido needs. Okay, I am not making fun of him. I am just saying. So, Anastasia Steele, Christian's not-Sub-may-be-Sub has freaked out and left him in abyss. She was expecting more - Love and Relationship and all that. And Mr. Grey was facing a new challenge - of finding feelings - but he needed time, of course, to heal. Ms. Steele, otherwise seemingly sensible woman, does not understand this. Sex is still hot, when they eventually meet, as, Christian accidentally bumps (Don't Smirk) into Ana at her new job place - SIP. And it keeps getting hotter as Ana, who had initially out-rightly rejected to be Christian's Sub, is considering the proposal but with certain additional terms, because one thing is clear - they both have a thing for each other. That I like.

The story moves at a fast pace, with Christian's past haunting him as well as Anastasia. Mr. Grey however, is exploring his own softer side, giving us, the readers a treat *Ahem* of romance, shyness, love and everything sugar sweet. But Mrs. James knows how to balance Spice and Everything nice, and so we have some big unexpected nasty things happening, which will push Anastasia's sense of understanding and control much more. And not to forget, someone so rich, so secretive and so damn powerful, will surely have enemies. Will Ana and Christian make it through to their new found love from the dark murky lust-laced life that Christian has been dependent on?

If you're not a Grammar Nazi like me or even if you are and just need some lone romantic - erotic - guilty (?) read or just for experimentation - pick this one up! I am going to read the last one just to know how Mrs. James ends this. Till then fellas, let yourself flow with the words! MSM Recommends this!

My Rating: 4/5 (For being better than the first one! :D)

e-book torrent link (Isohunt) You can thank me later! Sorry guys...couldn't find direct download link. I hope this will make-do. Anyone who wants this one or previous copy can shoutout to me with your email ids! :D Much love!




Fifty Shades Darker@First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2011, Arrow Publishers, Australia.(2012)

ISBN 13: 9780099579922

978-0099579922


flipkart price: 263/-INR, Pages: 

384


e-book pages: 373

Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks

11:02:00 PM

THE WAY OF SHADOWS

Book 1 of 'Night Angel' Trilogy

ISBN - 978-0-316-03367-1
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2008
PAGES - 677
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Brent Weeks

BEST-SELLERS - debut

SYNOPSIS - For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art - and he is the city's most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.

EXCERPT - Chest tight with fear, Azoth turned and scooted toward his hole. Six coppers was good. Dues were only four, so he could buy bread tomorrow to share with Jarl and Doll Girl.

He was a foot from the opening when something bright flashed in front of his nose. It was so close, it took a moment to come into focus. It was Durzo Blint’s huge sword, and it was stuck through the floor all the way into the mud, barring Azoth’s escape.

Just above Azoth on the other side of the floor, Durzo Blint whispered, “Never speak of this. Understand? I’ve done worse than kill children.

The sword disappeared, and Azoth scrambled out into the night. He didn’t stop running for miles.

FL Speak - I picked this trilogy after I read his latest novel 'The Black Prism'. Compared to the writing in 'The Black Prism', the first book of this trilogy fails short. However, it is no less a stunning debut.

The book is about two characters, Durzo Blint and Azoth. Azoth is a terrified young thief who is afraid of his menacing boss, Rat and wants never to be afraid in his life. And to be that, he knows he has to apprentice under Durzo Blint, the best wetboy in the country. Wetboys are assassins with magical talents in them. And that Talent makes them better, superior.

And before being that, he has to kill his boss. *gulp*

After seeing his friend mutilated by Rat, Azoth finally manages to kill the bigger, meaner Rat and comes to Durzo to be his student. And the adventure begins.

The tale takes place in the country of Cenaria. Cenaria is small, poor and awfully corrupt. The Sakage are the underworld rulers and they virtually rule the kingdom. The Wetboys sign a bond with the leader of the Sakage to protect the leader. As you can guess, thievery and assassinations are the favorite job profiles in that country.

Azoth is trained by Durzo to be one of the best Wetboys. For that, he has to leave his Azoth persona behind and become Kylar Stern, a noble man. Kylar soon becomes good friends with Logan, another nobleman, who eventually becomes one of the key members of the tale.

There are a lot of twists in this story. And I mean, a lot. A neighboring kingdom plots the downfall of the ruling family and tries to control the Sakage. The Nine heads of the Sakage are infiltrated and Durzo and Kylar find themselves with assignments they normally would never take on. Betrayal among friends and the survival of a kingdom rests on the shoulders of Kylar as secrets about him and his master tumble out of the dark. A forbidden love threatens to destroy everything Kylar has tried to become and an undead enemy has returned to haunt his hell..

But before that, Kylar has to find his Talent and face off against his own master, Durzo Flint.

Good debut. Infact, more than good. The book reminded me a bit of Vin and Kelsier from Mistborn. Other than that, everything else is different. The magical system in 'The Way of Shadows' is yet to be explored properly as Azoth/Kylar only manages to use it in the last couple of pages. And I'm still trying to imagine the powers and stunts Kylar has achieved in my head. Hopefully, Book 2 will explore more of it.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 274/- [Homeshop18 Price]

nikhimenon

Urban Shots:Crossroads

1:26:00 PM

Title:Urban Shots:Crossroads
Editor:Ahmed Faiyaz
Publisher:Grey Oak/Westland
Price:INR 199
                          At a time when the market is cluttered with innumerable similarly plotted,un- inspiring works by debutant writers,Crossroads(the second in the Urban Shots series from Grey Oak/Westland India)comes like a breath of fresh air.An anthology which explores the conflict,chaos and the confusion in the lives of interesting and colourful characters in Urban India,Crossroads penned by 26 young authors and edited by the best selling author Ahmed Faiyaz is definitely a must read for all those who have a penchant for good short stories.Most of the stories in this compilation are fresh and compelling which makes this book totally worth your time and money.
                        The good thing about Crossroads is that the book is well edited and it has got characters whom the average Indian can easily relate to.The book also doesn’t have much grammatical errors or spelling mistakes which is quite common these days.
The Best of the Lot
1.Baba Premanand’s Yoga Class:
           Paritosh Uttam takes a dig at mob psychology and yellow journalism in this story of Dr Basu,a veteran gynaecologist who becomes the ‘breaking news’ for all the wrong reasons.
2.Cross Roads:
            Best selling author Sahil Seth is confused whether to choose between his wife and his lover.What I liked the most about this story by Ahmed Faiyaz was it’s un expected climax.
3.The Gap:
             This story of a single mother and her seventeen year old daughter by Saritha Rao deals with generation gap.
4.Mind Games:
            Manisha Dhingra tells the tale of a loving husband and his mentally unstable wife.Watch out for the terrific twist in the end!
5.Hunch:
            Though Karthik K’s Hunch has the now clich├ęd theme of terrorism as it’s central premise,the narrative and the brilliant climax makes this one a good read.
6.Tainted Love:
             Rohan Swamy’s Tainted Love has an emotionally scarred woman –a sex worker-as it’s protagonist.A moving tale of love,hope and longing in the by lanes of Kamathipura.
7.Footsteps in the dark:
            Mini Menon’s leading lady Alice has a troubled past.Her father died long ago and her mother is not in the best of her senses.
              The book has also got a couple of okayish ones like Hako(Chandrima Pal),Gautam Gargoyle(Shailaditya Chakraborty),Wrong Strokes and The Last week(V.Srinivasan).The only story in this compilation which I found disappointing was Childish Love by Reeti Gadekar(I remember reading the boring  ‘families at Home’ by the same author  a few years back)
The Final Verdict:On the whole I am giving a perfect five on five for Urban Shots:Crossroads.Do pick up a copy,you won’t regret!
-reviewed by nikhimenon

Adrian Tchaikovsky

Blood of the Mantis - Adrian Tchaikovsky

2:58:00 AM


BLOOD OF THE MANTIS

Book 3 of 'Shadows of the Apt'

Read about the previous books HERE

ISBN - 978-0-230-70416-9
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2009
PAGES - 429
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Adrian Tchaikovsky

BEST-SELLERS - Empire in Black and Gold, Dragonfly Falling

SYNOPSIS - Driven by the ghosts of the legendary Darakyon, the moth-kinden Achaeos has tracked the stolen Shadow Box to the marsh town of Jerez - but he has only days before this magical artifact will be lost to him forever...

Meanwhile, the forces of the Wasp Empire are mustering for their great offensive. Stenwold and his followers have only a short time in which to seek allies before the Wasps are on the march again, conquering everything in their path. And if they cannot throw back the Wasps before spring, then the hated black and gold flag will be flying over every city in the Lowlands before the year's end.

And should the Shadow Box fall into the hands of the Wasp Emperor, then nothing will save the world from his relentless ambition.

EXCERPT - The Mayfly Prolonged had hold-space that just fitted Nero and Che crouching, comfortably enough for him but exceedingly cramped for her.

"So what's the bad news?" she asked.

"You know the Empire airship you had all the problems with," he began.

"Yes?"

"Well we reckon it was dropping off," said Nero. "Because there's a whole load more Wasp soldiers in Solarno now, enough to get everyone worried. I think its starting."

FL Speak - [contains spoilers]

Adrian Tchaikovsky continues his impressive tale of the Lowlands with another fact paced novel. Book 3 sees the split of Stenwold's agents all over the Lowlands in the hopes of creating an alliance that will challenge the ever-growing Wasp campaigns.

Achaeos, Tisamom and Tynissa make their way to the black market city of Jerez where the Shadow Box was last supposed to be seen. They are also accompanied by the renegade Wasp officer, Thalric, who is still unsure of his loyalties. Upon reaching Jerez, they are constantly monitored by Wasp agents who wants the Shadow Box for their Emperor.

Meanwhile Che and Nero make their way to the Spider city of Solarno where the Wasps are playing the games of the Spiders' themselves. Cleverly manipulating until they control the city without bloodshed if possible. Che and Nero meet Taki, a fly-kinden pilot who accompanies them and rescues them when the Wasps finally make their move.

Stenwold travels to the ant city of Sarn, which is now facing direct war from the Wasps. Because if Sarn falls, Collegium will fall. The Alliance of the Lowlands is formed with the sole intention of challenging the Wasp advance. Unfortunately, the assassination of the Sarnesh queen threatens to overcome all the work Stenwold has accomplished.

More and more insect kindens are coming out in the later novels and we may yet see some water creatures soon. The writing is fast paced and now that so many cities have been covered in the saga, you can be sure that the war will not be ending soon. This book focuses on espionage rather than on war. And the city of Jerez is specially made for such a craft. A city teeming with thieves, assassins and black marketeers, Adrian Tchaikovsky proves that he can write about war and covert operations with the same ease.

The world of the Lowlands is growing. Its good to see that the cities are being explored one by one instead of just exploding and then the ruckus of multiple plots in multiple cities. However, it does seem that such a time will arrive in a near future when the author has to write about all the kindens and cities so as to keep as on the loop of what's going on. Regarding the characters, I think Tisamom is not going to grow at all. He's still the broody, veteran, confused killer he is supposed to be. Totho is downright irritating even though he has walked over to the enemy camp. Cheerwell is well, a third wheel in the whole plot. But atleast she's doing something.

A good continuity, this book didn't disappoint at all. A shocking twist before the end reveals that we might see even more of the insect kindens.

My Rating - 4 stars

PRICE - INR 198/- [Homeshop18 Price]

contemporary classic

The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera

4:58:00 PM



The unbearable lightness of being

ISBN: 05711353390
Number of pages: 304
Bestsellers: The unbearable lightness of being, the book of laughter and forgetting
First Published: 1984

Nightflier speaks:
There is hardly anyone, (except if you are Sheldon Cooper type), who does not ponder upon the idea of love growing up, growing old. Like everyone I have done it and still do it. Precisely 4 years ago, my notion of this seemingly bolly/holly-woodish concept was simple. Through some personal and then some vicarious (acquired from friends in their suffering and happiness) experiences, I stopped being influenced by 'the movies'. Not because I have become thoroughly cynical, but may be because love is personal and universal. It becomes personal because of the souls involved and is universal because of the physicality of it. Of course, I am digressing hugely from the topic at hand. But I will get there. Like the book.

Milan Kundera gives us 4 principle characters (and few side-kicks to complete the circle) and puts forward his philosophical discussion about love, life, being, lightness, weight, soul, body, misunderstandings. More than what happens to the characters we get drawn in this unending chaos of whys and hows. A lot that happens is fortuitous, circumstantial perhaps.

There is Tomas. He is the emblem of lightness. He moves from woman to woman without any attachment, until he finds Tereza, who needs someone to protect her. And although its against his lightness, he comforts her. Tereza is drowned by weight. Of unhappiness. Tomas's mistress, Sabina, the one who really understands him, the one he understands is torn. She cant live without betrayals. Sabina's lover Franz, is a good person, loyal and highly educated. He leaves everything for Sabina, only to find himself left stranded and liberated. Through the spirit of Sabina. Why do these people do what they do? What must drive them? In turn is that what drives us too? Do we believe in fortuities because we are utterly incapable of reality? Weighed down by some burden? Why. Why. Why. 

Kundera is gifted with words (needless to say). The original book in french must be a delight (but with my poor reading skills I stuck to english). It isnt his ability to delve deeper, but rather his ability to draw us into this philosophical journey, which I found remarkable. Without being a drag i.e. 
Also, his take on the soviet regime and communism in Czechoslovakia is asinine. The way he takes digs at both, the way he portrays emigre's life, give you a deep insight on his love (?) for a country which was once his home.

May be my comparisons are hasty and somewhat not fully realized, but I could not help myself from thinking about the movie Closer. I thought about Anna, Alice, Dan and Garry while reading the book. A lot.

Rating: 5/5
Price: 263 Rs. (flipkart)

aishwarya

The Weed - Amrita Pritam

6:14:00 PM


Title: The weed
Author: Amrita Pritam
Genre: Short Story

Author: Amrita Pritam, a poet, essayist, and novelist, is one of the most prominent women writers in Indian literature. The poem Ode to Waris Shah and the novel Pinjar are often talked of as her masterpieces and both express her anguish over post-partition tribulations and massacres.

Excerpt: Tears flowed down her face in two rivulets, gathering into two tiny puddles at the corners of her mouth.
'Curse on me!' she started in a voice trembling with tears, 'I never took sweets from him... not a betel even... but tea...' She could not finish. Her words were drowned n a fast stream of tears.

Aishwarya speaks: Well, this story is pretty interesting and has a touch of feminism in it. It dwells up on the superstitious beliefs which were once part and parcel of our lives.

The weed is regarded as one of the best short stories of Amrita and like most of her other writings, poses questions regarding gender discrimination and female sexuality that prevail in societies rooted in superstitions and strongly conditioned by patriarchal values and standards. Angoori, the protagonist of the story, is a young, uneducated woman who is taught to believe that reading and education are sinful practices which all village women should keep aloof. But urban women are not considered so. Even village men are not restricted in such a way.

 Girls like her are even instructed to look upon love between man and woman as the result of some magical power(the working of the weed). When Angoori's father decides to marry her off to much older Prabhati who is also a widower, she accepts her lot without any questions. Finally, when she is attracted to the young and handsome Ram Tara she does not blame it on her loneliness or loveless marriage; she strongly believes that she has also unknowingly succumbed to the charm of weed.

 Angoori also says that at the age of six, girls choose their husbands by adoring their feet. At that age she doesn't know to choose by herself. So her father takes money and flowers and puts them at his feet. That means father adores the feet and he does it for the girl. There are many interesting instances which dig up on the cultural tags imposed by the society upon woman. At last Angoori requests the narrator to teach her to read. It indicates she is willing to commit the sin.

It also questions the old concept of marriage, sexual attraction and also the basic rights of women that are denied by the society. Ending is not as expected, may be we  can call it as an abrupt ending. But it suggest many things. The rest is given to the imagination of the reader.
(It gives an insight into those superstitious beliefs and black magic existed in our society.)

Rating: 4.5/5

icyhighs

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

2:10:00 PM


Llosa, Mario Vargas. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Picador, 2007






The titular characters, Aunt Julia and Pedro Camacho, the scriptwriter, form the pillars of this surreal comedy set in the 1950s in Peru. Both characters have similarities aplenty. They are both Bolivian, and tend to speak their minds without thinking.  They are relative newcomers to Peru and enter the narrator, eighteen-year-old Vargas’s life at around the same time, and transform quickly from objects of amusement and curiosity into inspirations for romance and ambition and adventure.
Vargas is an aspiring writer, and works part-time at the local radio station. His boss hires Camacho to write soap operas for the station. The narrative alternates between Vargas’s account of his romance with his much older Aunt Julia and the stories of the soaps, comedic parodies of each other’s melodrama. The eccentric Camacho is a workaholic and churns out story after story, while the idealistic Vargas waits endlessly for inspiration for the perfect story. There is also a subtle parallel between Camacho’s devotion to his work and Vargas’s feelings for his aunt. The underlying question is just how much they are willing to sacrifice for their respective passions.
Nobel laureate Llosa treats the depiction of Peruvian life and culture with a silken touch that instantly transports the reader to a quaint, magical land of interfering, extended families and amenable Xenophobia. Even Camacho’s disdain for Argentines seems more quirky than racist, and this is the biggest triumph of Llosa’s story telling – the protagonists are so transparent in their misgivings that the reader is compelled to accept them as they are, much as you would a family member. The novel is an open invitation to be human, and reminds us constantly to celebrate humanity as actively as they do in sprightly Peru.  


Comments: perfect light-hearted summer reading.  











Fantasy

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss

4:40:00 PM


THE WISE MAN'S FEAR

Book 2 of 'The Kingkiller Chronicle'

Read about the previous book HERE

ISBN - 978-0-575-11793-8
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2011
PAGES - 1347
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Patrick Rothfuss

BEST-SELLERS - The Name of the Wind

SYNOPSIS - The man was lost. The myth remained. Kvothe - the dragon-slayer, the renowned swordsman, the most feared, famed and notorious wizard the world has ever seen - vanished without warning and without trace. And even now, when he has been found, when darkness is rising in the corners of the world, he will not return.

But his story lives on and, for the first time, Kvothe is going to tell it.

EXCERPT - [this is one of the most hilarious lines]

Elodin made a sweeping gesture toward me. "Then there is the third path. The path of Kvothe." He strode to stand shoulder to shoulder with me, facing Fela. "You sense something between you. Something wonderful and delicate."

He gave a romantic, lovelorn sigh. "And, because you desire certainty in all things, you decide to force the issue. You take the shortest route. Simplest is best, you think." Elodin extended his own hands and made wild grasping motions in Fela's direction. "So you reach out and you grab this young woman's breasts."

FL Speak - When I read 'The Name of the Wind' late last year, I knew it was a spectacular debut. I knew the second book, which is released 3 years later, will be another such spectacle. And thus I avoided reading any reviews of 'The Wise Man's Fear' lest I stumbled upon a spoiler and got my heart broken or hopes high. That included careful trespassing of our newest member, Vivek's blog, where he has written a review for this book.

So you can imagine when I received the book, I left everything else I was doing or supposed to be doing and jumped in bed with it. 9 hours and a skipped meal later, I'm still clueless as to how to praise this masterpiece.

Book 2 is mainly divided into 3 essential invisible parts. The first included Kvothe's time at the University where he continued to fall in trouble, be cheeky with his masters and play the pipes at Eolain. His enmity with Ambrose didn't end with the fist book as Ambrose started to use malfeasance against him. A confrontation with Devi nearly killed Kvothe but he realized his folly and survived.

And ofcourse there's Denna. The beautiful and mysterious Denna that Kvothe has been mooning about for quite some time now. [I realized the Patrick has a gift of writing absolute wonderful romantic lines]

The second part is where Kvothe takes a break from the University and heads to Severen and meets the Maer, spends time with mercenaries, meets FELURIAN (oh yes! that's quite a tale).

At Severen, Kvothe saves the life of the Maer and is then asked to accomany a few mercenaries to capture the bandits that have left with his money. After about a month in the woods, Kvothe and the team tracks down the mercenaries and manages to overpower them by using sympathy to call down lightning. And then they meet Felurian! This was one of the best parts of the book. Kvothe's head nearly fell off when he saw the Faeling lady who was only found in fairy tales. Determined, he followed Felurian to the faeling world where ahem....after lots of...ahem...cavorting, he confronted Felurian after she was determined to make him stay. [By gods, the way Patrick described the most seductive Felurian gave me goosebumps.] She is every man's dream and their worst nightmare. She is lust. She is their darkest desire and she's powerful.

Kvothe manages to learn that one of the Chandrian was among the bandits and he survived. Although his quest to find the Amyr or the Chandrian has not gone exceedingly well, he has been, at times, lucky to find whatever clues he had.

Kvothe comes back alive and spins a tale to his mates that was bound to spread like wildfire.

The final part was going to Ademre with Tempi (one of the mercenaries)

Tempi taught Kvothe the Lethani way. [No I cannot explain what Lethani is since even Tempi couldn't make Kvothe understand it.] Nevertheless, he went to Ademre with Tempi and after another couple of months was fairly good with the Lethani way and they finally accepted him into their fold.

Kvothe returns to the University and for the time being everything is okay with his life. And thus ends part 2 and you can be sure, I left out a lot of things in this review.

Mr. Rothfuss has expressed quite clearly that this will be a trilogy. And now I am stunned. Unless the last book is going to be a 3000 page mega monster of a book, just how is he going to accomplish it? Or maybe, he's planning to end it differently. I was hoping after seeing Bast's continuous efforts to wake up Kvothe, Kvothe will finally rise up to save the world. Looks like that might not happen at all.

Also, what about the Amyr and the Chandrian?? Kvothe is no where near to finding them. Will he battle them? Will some of them survive? Will he have help with the Amyr? And is he getting expelled??

Other questions arise as well...Book 1 said that he's expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. How old is Devi?? She was expelled after 2nd term...And also I realize half of what I expected are rumors. Like "I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings"....I guess this is one of the half truths of Kvothe. He did rescue girls but they were no princesses...or maybe Patrick is waiting to add them in the 3rd book.

And I still do not find it possible to jam everything in the 3rd book without being disappointed. <reserved regret>

Maybe I'll write a long letter to Patrick asking him about my insecurities. And I wouldn't want any reply because I'd rather wait to see what Patrick comes up with finally. Also, I'm not his Denna and he won't be waiting to receive my letter. Book 3 is going to be out in the future. Knowing Patrick, it'll be another 2-3 years and the wait is terrible.

After continuous 9 hours of reading, I am going back to my Felurian lest she dumps me.

My Rating - 5 stars

PRICE - INR 395/- [Flipkart Price]

Fantasy

Shards of a Broken Crown - Raymond E. Feist

7:41:00 PM


SHARDS OF A BROKEN CROWN

Book 4 of 'Serpentwar' Saga

Read about the previous books HERE

ISBN - 978-0-380-78983-2
FIRST PUBLISHED - 1998
PAGES - 512
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Raymond E. Feist

BESTSELLERS -
Magician, Shadow of a Dark Queen

SYNOPSIS - Winter's icy grasp is loosening on the world. The Emerald Queen's vanquished army has its broken back to the Bitter Sea. And treachery is its only recourse.

A lackey has declared himself Lord of the defeated, amassing the still fearsome remnants of a ruthless fighting force together for one final assault on a weakened, vulnerable realm.

For the warriors who remained steadfast against terrible numbers, for the courageous souls who barely survived a devastating onslaught upon their homeland, the time to rebuilt and renew has not yet come. The war is not over in Midkemia. And Jimmy and Dash - two young noble brothers who stand at the center of a gathering storm - are impelled to action that could secure a tenous peace...or turn triumph into catastrophe.

EXCERPT - Four hundred yards up the highway, thousands of men were lined up in ranks, with officers and cavalry mounted to the flanks and rear. More catapults, mangonels, and ballistae were apparent. This was not a defensive position. The army was making ready to attack.

Suddenly Erik saw what was about to happen. He glanced at the wall through which he had fought and realized that if it were knocked down from behind it provided a massive bridge over the trenches on either side of the pit.

"Back!" shouted Erik, and the order was passed.

"Get back and get ready!" shouted Jadow.

Erik raced back to where his hors was waiting, and he leapt into the saddle. The sound of horns and the shout of men up the highway told him that at last he was going to join battle in the field with General Fadawah. And Erk's only thought now wasn't on victory, but rather on survival.

FL Speak - [contains spoilers]

The battle against the Serpent Queen is over and the demon destroyed, but the war is far from over. The followers of the Serpent Queen have positioned themselves near to Krondor and are determined to capture Krondor. With winter nearly over, prince Patrick has sent Jimmy and Dash to scout the area before reclaiming their kingdom.

Meanwhile Erik and his troops are ordered to Yabon and Yilth and before General Fadawah conquers the cities. But even their complex plans are put to shame by the amount of cunning plans the General Fadawah has prepared for them. With the once feared enemy Duko switching sides, the kingdom may yet have a hope.

This book explores more of planning and execution and reverse planning than a full fledged war. Meanwhile Pug and Nakor realize that there is more to the war than meets the eye. An evil presence had made himself known and now the Gods are pulling their strings to balance the outcome.

Absolutely brilliant war planning. The war strategies and the plannings make this book a wonderful read. Heartbreaks and another important death in the plot calls for an even greater need to vanquish the enemy. And when two brothers give the shock of a lifetime, you'll know that you're blessed to read this saga.

Raymond E. Feist continues the Riftwar Saga into this Serpentwar Saga. The story is finally at an end but the author made sure that another couple of different series can be made from the loop holes that remained and the characters he created. It looks like the end of the journey for Erik and Roo. But I believe, we will see more of Jimmy and Dash and Pug and Nakor in the coming novels.

One thing about Raymond E. Feist is that he doesn't try to change his writing from any of his previous works. He writes what he writes best and thus never loses his focus and doesn't make the reader confused. Mr. Feist belongs to the original age of fantasy authors along with Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan and L.E. Modesitt Jr,.

Even though all his books have a similar feel and you might be tempted to stop after a while, his books comprising of more than 5 series all have some connection in between. And when you pick up a new series, it feels you already know a bit of its history.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 250/- [Flipkart Price]

contemporary classic

Bodily Harm by Margaret Atwood

7:31:00 PM





Bodily Harm


ISBN: 0099740818

Number of Pages : 301
Genre: fiction, contemporary classic
Published: 1996
Bestsellers: the blind assassin, up in the tree


Synopsis: [From flipkart]
Rennie Wilford, a young jounalist running from her life, takes an assignment to a Caribbean island and tumbles into a world where no one is what they seem. When the burnt-out Yankee Paul (does he smuggle dope or hustle for the CIA?) offers her a no-hooks, no strings affair, she is caught up in a lethal web of corruption.


Nightflier speaks:
I have been wanting to read an Atwood novel for months, and finally through some chance unavailability of other books in my reading list, 'bodily harm' came my way.


It had been ages since I read a sensitive thriller, with the flavors of the carribean. The plot is pretty straightforward, Rennie, a lifestyle journalist who is going through a life crisis unlike anyone (cancer) decides to get away from her defined world and takes a vacation of sorts on an island near Barbados. She gets entangled in a massive local event and her life changes forever.


Throughout the book, there is a surrealism, as if walking through Rennie's dreams. Rennie after having struggled for her body from the cancer, goes a metamorphosis which liberates her. Opens her to a reality from an altogether different plane. I got so engrossed in Rennie that I could literally feel the pangs she felt, of not knowing herself anymore, of her condition, of her relationships, of her growing up. 
This is my first Atwood, but I can say that she deals with emotions like a charm. She digs so deep that you feel what the character must be feeling. Also there is a haunting sense to all the characters. We see them through Rennie's eyes (who is undergoing a massive identity crisis because of the disease). Hence the characters remain a fling of sorts, we often meet at foreign places and later forget about.


There is also a touch of feminism in the book. All the females are starkly independent, can fend for themselves despite being vulnerable. She portrays this so beautifully and sensitively, that the book doesnt feel like badgering you with women issues. That I feel is a welcome kind of writing.
Also another sensitive issue of politics and government is handled in the book. It is not detailed, but considering it is through the eyes of a traveler, the treatment is justified. 


All in all, a different and welcome read. Took me time to pick up pace, but it did grow on me later.


Rating : 4/5
Price : 350 (flipkart)

Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu

I never thought I could fall in Love by Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu

5:09:00 PM

  Title: I never thought I could fall in Love
 Author: Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu
 Publisher:Penguin(India)
 Price: INR 99
             
                  I picked up Chanchaldeep Singh Sandhu’s ‘I never thought I could fall in Love’ published by Penguin(India) expecting it to be a fun,breezy read.The front cover looked somewhat attractive(yes,I do have a fetish for lean,waxed female legs)and a witty desi campus novel was what I was looking for after a long,tiring day of work.A good 140 minutes and 156 odd pages later, I realized what I had laid hands on was nothing but a worthless addition to the list of wannabe ‘national best sellers’ from yet another MBA graduate.
                        For those of you who still wish to know what the book is all about,here is the plot(?) summary.
                 Ronnie(Romil Khanna) is the campus playboy who can bed any hot chick in the campus if he wishes.A couple of ‘sex scenes’ later he finds his true love(Monica) and desperately wants her to reciprocate his feelings.Half a dozen supposedly funny sequences occur in between(I din’t find any of them remotely funny)and all zz well in the end.
                With a predictable story line,un inspiring characters and a bland narrative(often marred by grammatical errors and dumb one-liners)the book has nothing going it’s way.Even the sex scenes in the book look forced and have been written in an un imaginative and boring manner.I was often wondering why Penguin decided to publish this book at all.I seriously hope that the author doesn’t come up with more similar stuff in the near future. No one expects literary stuff from a book titled ‘I never thought I could fall in love’.But when it fails to deliver what it had offered,what will you do?

Bottom Line/Final Verdict:  1/5 (Trash).Re-read Bhagat’s ‘Five Point Someone’ instead!
Ps- This is not the kind of book which is worthy of a review. I bought this book misled by the couple of ‘positive reviews’ for this book in the internet.I don’t want you people to make the same mistake I made.
-reviewed by nikhimenon

Adrian Tchaikovsky

Dragonfly Falling - Adrain Tchaikovsky

5:24:00 PM


DRAGONFLY FALLING

Book 2 of 'Shadows of the Apt'

Read about Book 1 HERE

ISBN - 978-0-230-70415-2
FIRST PUBLISHED - 2009
PAGES - 673
BINDING - Paperback
GENRE - Fantasy

AUTHOR - Adrian Tchaikovsky

BEST-SELLERS - Empire in Black and Gold

SYNOPSIS - The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark, which is even now preparing for siege. Within its walls Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden take a stand, against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen.

After his earlier victory against them, the Empire's secret service has decided that veteran artificer Stenwold Maker is too dangerous too live. So disgraced Major Thalric is dispatched on a dangerous mission, not only to eliminate Stenwold himself but to bring about the destruction of his beloved city of Collegium, and thus end all hope of intelligent resistance to the remorseless imperial advance.

While the Empire's troops are lying waste all in their way, the young Emperor himself is treading a different path. His thoughts are on darker things than mere conquest, however, and if he attains his goal he will precipitate a reign of blood that will last a thousand years.

EXCERPT - Thalric slumped away heavily in the bed, feeling his strength drain away all at once at the very sound of that name. She had been hunting him. All this time, she had been hunting him, and he had never been aware.

The Commonweal during the Twelve-Year War...when the Rekef Outlander agents such as himself were moving ahead of the army, disrupting any resistance the Dagonfly-kinden could mount: raids, sabotages, rumours.

And assassination - dark deeds that he had performed gladly, knowing that the impenetrable shield of the imperial will kept him safe from guilt or blame.

"I killed her children," he recalled hoarsely. "And I made her watch."

FL Speak - [contains spoilers]

Adrian Tchaikovsky has created a fantasy series that is unique and almost unheard of. Creating a fantasy world where humans derive their skills and powers from insects is fantastic to say the least.

By the end of Book 1, we see that Stenwold Maker and Tisamom manage to free Salma and Che from the Empire's clutches and managed to postpone the plan of conquering Collegium by ambushing the Wasp soldiers as they were about to launch a strike at the Collegium. But the threat to the Lowlands is far from over. The Wasp Empire has marched to the city of Stark where Salma and Totho have made their way to save the Butterfly-kinden lady.

On an ambush party led by a Tarken ant against the Wasp invaders, Salma and Totho fail in the attack and are captured. When the enemy offers the chance of a lifetime to Totho to work as an artificer in the Empire, Totho change loyalties and joins the enemy but manages to send Salma to safety.

Totho has been the greatest surprise in this novel. The awkward, bumbling fool who was once in love with Che and couldn't accept her rejection has aligned himself with the enemy. The same enemy that Che and her friends are trying to fight. Totho isn't exactly the villain, you kind of have a love-hate relationship with him. Circumstances made him who he is.

The Empire now with Tark under their control has their eyes fixed on Collegium and has send emissaries to another hostile ant city of Tekken to be their allies. Collegium has finally acknowledged the threat of war but there is only as much the peace loving beetle city can do. While Stenwold sent word to their allies of Sarn for backup, the Empire itself sent a contingency of their Wasp soldiers to attack Sarn. With the battle fought on multiple sides, Collegium has defend themselves against a disciplined Ant kinden soldiers.

Everything you loved about the first back is back here. Adrian Tchaikovsky really knows how to write an action packed novel. More and more insect kindens are being introduced and the characters have evolved beautifully as the tale proceeded.

A betrayal amongst his own people threatens to destroy Collegium from within as another darker power has invested itself into the war. The Emperor of the Wasp himself has dabbled into darker magic which could plunge the Lowlands into darkness forever. On his way stands the frail scholars of Collegium, a secretive Mantis kinden and an unlikely alliance of the Apt that the Lowlands has never seen before.

My Rating - 4.5 stars

PRICE - INR 198/- [Homeshop18 Price]

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