Posted in Reviews

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Title: When Dimple Met Rishi

Author: Sandhya Menon

The arranged-marriage YA romcom you didn’t know you wanted or needed…

Meet Dimple.

Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.

He’s rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she’s got other plans…

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Rating: 2/5

What a disappointment. At first I thought this book was cute but the more I read the more annoyed and bored I got.

The biggest problem with the book is that there’s no romantic or sexual chemistry between Dimple and Rishi. They’re supposed to go from (one-sided) dislike to friends to lovers but it just wasn’t convincing to me. If the book was about their friendship, it would be much more believable. It didn’t help that the POVs kept switching way too fast. And that subplot with Ashish and Celia was unnecessary and just as unconvincing.

Both Dimple and Rishi are competing in Insomnia Con (really bad name). It’s supposed to be a web development program, and we never get to find out much about it, but if I understood correctly they’re making a mobile app. Web development and app development are very different things, so this doesn’t make sense. The book takes place during the six weeks of Insomnia Con but it doesn’t seem like they’re there at all, that’s how little they talk about it. They spend much more time talking and preparing for some ridiculous talent contest. This talent show has nothing to do with tech industry but apparently everyone has to participate. And there’s a statistic that says 78% of talent show winners also won Insomnia Con – but those are completely different competitions that have nothing to do with each other! Why would your ability to dance or sing have anything to do with how good your app is?

I really wanted to like this book, it had so much potential. But it was too predictable. And I think the author avoided writing about the details of app development because she doesn’t know anything about it – but that’s why writers need to do research. I feel like I would have enjoyed this much more if I read it ten years ago.

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Posted in Comic Books, Reviews

Review: Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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Title: Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility

Authors: Stacy King, Po Tse, Jane Austen

Genre: Comic Books

When Elinor Dashwood’s father dies, her family’s finances are crippled. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne is torn between the handsome John Willoughby and the older Colonel Brandon. Meanwhile, Elinor’s romantic hopes with Edward Ferrars are hindered due to his prior engagement. Both Elinor and Marianne strive for love while the circumstances in their lives constantly change.
Manga Classics brings new life to Jane Austen’s very first novel. Sense and Sensibility is a classic tale about love, romance and heartbreak in this brilliant manga adaption.

Rating: 3/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This was a good enough adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, but I felt it was too sentimental, in a way that I don’t remember the original work was. But I read it years ago, so my memory might not be the most accurate.

Like with other manga adaptations, it takes some time to get used to everyone looking younger than they are supposed to be. When I think of Colonel Brandon, I see Alan Rickman because that’s the first adaptation of Sense and Sensibility that I’ve watched, but the character drawn in this manga is much younger and much more conventionally good looking. I thought the art for female characters was much better than for male characters.

I always found Marianne’s story more interesting than Elinor’s and it was like that in this manga too. Sorry, Elinor, but you’re too sensibile to be a lot of fun next to Marianne and her Willoughby drama.

Reading all those adaptations of Austen’s works makes me want to reread all of Austen’s actual works. But if I read this manga without knowing the original story, I doubt it would have made me interested in Austen.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words by Jessica Easto

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Title: Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words

Editor: Jessica Easto

Genre: Non-fiction

Elon Musk, the South African–born entrepreneur who made his first fortune with Internet companies such as PayPal, has risen to global prominence as the visionary CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, two companies with self-proclaimed missions to improve life as we know it and better secure the future of humanity.
For the first time, the most insightful, thought-provoking, and revealing quotes from this entrepreneurial engineer have been compiled into a single book. Rocket Man: Elon Musk In His Own Words is a comprehensive guide to the inner workings of the man dubbed “the real Tony Stark.” Hundreds of his best quotes, comprising thoughts on business, clean energy, innovation, engineering, technology, space, electric vehicles, entrepreneurship, life lessons, and more, provide an intimate and direct look into Silicon Valley’s most ambitious industrialist.
Even with no prior experience in the complex, ultra-high-barrier-of-entry automotive and space industries, Musk has excelled. Tesla, the first successful American car startup in more than 90 years, received more than 325,000 reservations for its economical Model 3 in a single week—advancing the company’s cause to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport” via affordable, reliable electric vehicles. SpaceX, the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a rocket and dock at the International Space Station, has drastically reduced the cost of launching and manufacturing reusable spacecraft, which the company sees as the first step toward its “ultimate goal” of making life multiplanetary. In the words of Richard Branson, “Whatever skeptics have said can’t be done, Elon has gone out and made real.”
How could a young man who at one time seemed like “just” another Internet entrepreneur have gone on to build two highly disruptive companies and innovate technologies related to everything from electric batteries to rocket manufacturing? There’s no better way to learn than through his own words.
This book curates Musk quotes from interviews, public appearances, online postings, company blogs, press releases, and more. What emerges is a ‘word portrait’ of the man whose companies’ swift rise to the top will undoubtedly keep their status-quo competitors scrambling to keep up.

Rating: 4/5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.

It taught me that the tough thing is figuring out what questions to ask, but that once you do that, the rest is really easy. I came to the conclusion that we should aspire to increase the scope and scale of human consciousness in order to better understand what questions to ask. Really, the only thing that makes sense is to strive for greater collective enlightenment.

I’m a big fan of Elon Musk, so naturally I want to read whatever I can find about him. After reading two biographies, I came across this book – a collection of Elon Musk’s best quotes. The quotes are compiled from his interviews, speeches and even his twitter. I think the book is too short: Elon Musk has said many more things that I think deserve to be in this collection. I also have a complaint about the table of contents: it’s way too long and detailed (every quote in the book is listed in it, which is really unnecessary).

When people ask me why I started a rocket company, I say, “I was trying to learn how to turn a large fortune into a small one.”

This book includes quotes about his companies, especially Tesla and SpaceX, but also about learning, business, engineering, technology, his childhood etc. Most quotes are serious, but there are some lighthearted and fun ones. I love the things he said about learning (now if only I would apply his wisdom to my life :))

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree—make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

The book also includes a list of milestones in his life. Fans of Elon Musk should check this book out. It would be great if there was a new, updated edition every few years… how else are we going to keep up with everything he says? 😀

I just want to emphasize that sometimes—in fact, most of the time—I get way too much credit or attention for what I do. I’m just the visible element. But the reason those companies are successful is because we have extremely talented people at all levels that are making it happen.

 

Posted in Reviews

Review: Little Kids and Their Big Dogs by Andy Seliverstoff

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Title: Little Kids and Their Big Dogs

Author: Andy Seliverstoff

Genre: Photography

From hugely popular photographer Andy Seliverstoff of St. Petersburg, Russia, comes this utterly charming collection of just what the titles says — little kids and the big dogs they love.
Through the prism of Seliverstoff’s magic lens, impossibly big dogs (Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, to name a few) and some rare ones (like Komondorok and Bracchi Italiani) telegraph the special relationships they have with the children in their lives.
“In the end, I hope the photos convey this important message: Love for dogs and children makes people kinder,” Seliverstoff says.

Rating: 5/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I can’t rate this book anything less than 5 stars because it’s such a happy book 🙂

Like the title says, it’s a book full of photos of little children and their dogs. There are also very short stories about the kids and their relationship with the dogs. The photos are beautiful, the dogs are very fluffy and the connection between kids and dogs is obvious.

I went ‘awww’ on every single photo, and I think the version that I got isn’t even complete, so there are even more pictures in the finished version. If you want something happy and cute in your life, you should check out this book. Or get a dog 🙂

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Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

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Title: The Circle

Author: Dave Eggers

Genre: Science-Fiction

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Rating: 4/5

I’ve read quite a few books that start with a character getting a new job, an amazing job, that turns out to be different from what they expected, so I thought this book will be a high tech version of that story. I was wrong- this book is basically a manual on how to create a high-tech dystopian world.

The biggest weakness in the book is the main character, Mae. She’s an incredibly pliable character; things happen to her and she accepts them. It was very frustrating to read about – she was doing things that didn’t make any sense to me and she seems to have lost her personality sometime during the story. This is one of those books that I would love to read from the perspective of a different character: Annie, Mercer or Ty would be my favorites.

The Circle is a fictional company that may or may not be inspired by some real company – plenty of them would love to have the power that The Circle has. The idea of sharing and oversharing your life with strangers on the internet is definitely inspired by real life. I’m pretty much always in favor of technology, but it’s obvious that some people take it way too far.

Up until the last few pages I was sure I knew how it was going to end… I was so wrong. This book could be improved a lot, but it was enjoyable enough and different enough that it makes me want to read other Dave Eggers’ books.

 

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars by Erik Nordeus

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Title: The Engineer: Follow Elon Musk on a journey from South Africa to Mars

Author: Erik Nordeus

Genre: Biography

This is a book about the beginning of a journey. Elon Musk is the main person in the journey through a roller-coaster life. His journey includes everything from Winston Churchill’s adventures in British colonies to demolished sports cars. From failed marriages to German scientists escaping from the Red Army. From the oil industry to the Burning Man festival.

Elon has been described as the Steve Jobs of heavy industry, as a modern version of the scientist Nikola Tesla, and as the Henry Ford of rockets. There’s a high probability that the British Secret Intelligence Service has a file on him. As the files of other James Bond villains, it describes secret rocket launches in the Pacific Ocean. But Elon doesn’t own a white cat – he’s more of a dog person. Maybe the most comparable persons are the great explorers who voyaged across the globe. They had an entrepreneurial spirit, were a little crazy, tried what no one else had tried, and thought what no one else had thought.

Rating: 4/5

Last year I read Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future and became a huge fan of Elon Musk. So when I found out another biography of him exists, of course I had to read it.

The most important difference between the two biographies is that Elon Musk had no involvement at all in this one. The author has used over 450 sources to write this book, but when you’re writing a book about a living person, your best possible source is that person. This book is self-published, which is sometimes quite obvious because of grammatical errors and awkward sentences. Regardless of the faults, I still really enjoyed reading it.

Elon Musk is a fascinating person. He went from having nothing to being a billionaire and he achieved that with companies that not many people expected to succeed. It would be difficult to write a book about him that’s not interesting to read. This book describes his life up to year 2012 (it would be great if there were yearly updates, but oh well) and there are three very handy timelines at the end, one for Elon’s life, one for Tesla Motors and one for SpaceX. Most of the book is focused on his companies, but there are also chapters about his early life and, later on, his personal life.

Most of the information was already familiar to me, but there were some anecdotes and details I didn’t know before. For an unofficial biography, this is a really good book.

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Review: Ruthless Rulers by C.S. Denton

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Title: Ruthless Rulers: The real lives of Europe’s most infamous tyrants

Author: C.S. Denton

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Throughout history, all monarchs have lived with the same dichotomy of simultaneously being human and more than human.
In our time, when monarchs seem little more than tourist curiosities and democracy is taken for granted, it is easy to forget just how much power pre-democratic rulers once wielded. The rulers and holders of political power in this book were all possessed of vast – in many cases, absolute, – power: power which was often exercised arbitrarily and unjustly.
What unites the figures in this book is that they all, in one way or another, failed to live up to the extravagantly high hopes invested in them and, as a consequence, have been judged harshly by history.
A few, such as George III, might have been remembered more kindly were it not for mental illness changing their status from that of hero to villain. Some, like Louis XVI, were unfairly transformed into monsters by hostile propaganda, while others, such as Pete the Great, have been both celebrated as heroes and denounced as tyrants, often in the same breath. Finally, there are those rulers who, like Caligula or Ivan the Terrible, may well fully deserve their evil reputations.
Ruthless Rulers is a study in how often rulers were carried away or overwhelmed by their exalted status, while a few were even driven over the edge into madness.

Rating: 4/5

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is a collection of mini-biographies of various ‘ruthless rulers’ from history. Not all of them deserve to be called ruthless – some are better than that, some are worse.

The book is divided into 10 parts: Rome, Iberia, France, The British Isles, Scandinavia, Germany and Austria, Italy, Hungary and The Balkans, The Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and Russia. Each part describes a few rulers of that particular place that were horrible or simply incompetent and at the end there’s a chapter that recommends you books and movies about those rulers (my to-read and to-watch lists have grown after reading this book :)).

The author was obviously trying to include lots of rulers in the book, and I think that’s actually a bad idea; there are big chapters about people like Caligula, Catherine de Medici, Mary I, Cesare Borgia, but also very short chapters on people like Christian II and Macbeth. I understand the desire to write about the less famous rulers, but sometimes it felt like the author wasn’t really interested in some of those rulers, and the entire point of their chapters was just to take up space.

Most of the rulers included are men, but I loved reading about the women the most. There were some people whose lives I was familiar with only through fiction, so it was interesting to find out what their reality was like.

 

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Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

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Title: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Series: Extraordinary Voyages

Author: Jules Verne

Genre: Science-fiction

The intrepid Professor Lindenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Rating: 2/5

Warning: SPOILERS!

One of my favorite books ever is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I read it when I was 11 and absolutely loved it and ever since I’ve been meaning to read more books by Jules Verne. I didn’t expect this one to be such a bad choice.

First off, when a book is called Journey to the Center of the Earth, it’s not too much to expect the characters to actually get to the center of the Earth. The possibility of them getting there is the reason I wanted to read this, but no, they basically just take a walk underground, from Iceland to Italy, and that’s it. They see some strange things, but nothing that interesting, they have some trouble finding water, but in the end, it’s nowhere near the exciting story I expected it to be.

It took way too long for the journey to actually begin (the first half of the book the characters are just preparing for it). The story could have been good if the characters and their relationships were more interesting, but they bored me to death. The most interesting part of the book was when they saw a 12 feet tall human-like creature underground, but all they did was run away and talk about the it – was it really human, could there be a human civilization somewhere under the surface of the Earth? Well, we’ll never find out, because they never even try to get closer to it.

This is huge disappointment to me, because I was sure I will enjoy it, but I’m not giving up on Jules Verne. I want to read all of the Extraordinary Voyages books – there must be some other that are as incredible as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Posted in Comic Books, Reviews

Review: Manga Classics: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Title: Les Miserables

Series: Manga Classics

Authors: Victor Hugo, SunNeko Lee, Crystal S Chan, Stacy King

“By adapting Les Miserables to manga form, it opens the original story up to even more readers while remaining true to the heart of Victor Hugo’s novel with the complexities of right and wrong, justice, and human nature. While the account of the riots that took place after General Lamarque’s death are fictionalized–just as they are in the source material–there is a definite attempt to capture the feeling and setting of France and the history of the French Revolution.
As with any adaptation, some things have been omitted and order of events tweaked to fit the new format, but that lends itself to examining stories through a different lens. Pair the manga scenes with the matching passages from the book and scenes from movie adaptations for an activity on how information is presented through different media.”

Rating: 3/4

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for a review.

The good thing about adapting Les Miserables is that you can skip big parts of the book without actually missing any important plot points, but the bad thing is that even after skipping all of those, the book is still huge and you will probably have to rush some storylines. In the case of this adaptation, it’s obvious that some parts are rushed (the revolution, for example). I don’t know how much sense would this story make to somebody who hasn’t read the novel.

The art is pretty good except that some characters look really young, but that happens with lots of manga adaptations, so I’m going to forgive that. It’s a pretty decent adaptation but it would be better with additional 100 pages – or maybe the entire story shouldn’t be in one volume.

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Review: Marvel’s Black Widow from Spy to Superhero by Sherry Ginn

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Title: Marvel’s Black Widow from Spy to Superhero:
Essays on an Avenger with a Very Specific Skill Set

Author: Sherry Ginn

First appearing in Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, was introduced to movie audiences in Iron Man 2 (2010). Her character has grown in popularity with subsequent Marvel films, and fans have been vocal about wanting to see Black Widow in a titular role. Romanoff has potent appeal: a strong female character who is not defined by her looks or her romantic relationships, with the skill set of a veteran spy first for the KGB, then for S.H.I.E.L.D. This collection of new essays is the first to examine Black Widow and her development, from Cold War era comics to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 3/5

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

I love the character of Black Widow in MCU and I think she deserves much better from Marvel, so I was curious about this book of essays on the character. The essays talk about her development not just in MCU but also in Marvels’ comic books. They touch on various topics: Black widow as a feminist icon, they way she uses language, what does it mean to write a ‘strong female character’, fanworks involving Black Widow etc.

Aside from the movies, I’ve only encountered Black Widow in the Ultimate Marvel Universe comic books, but the essays talk about the way she’s written since the character first appeared in 1964. It’s obvious that her characterization today is better than it was back then, but it’s nowhere near perfect – her writers still make some bad choices that are in no way progressive (Age of Ultron!!!). Also, the writers of some of those essays seem to adore Joss Whedon a bit too much.

My favorite essays were ‘Black Widow’s use of language in The Avengers’ and ‘Brainwashing and Mind control in the Whedon and Marvel universes’. Reading this book made me want a Black Widow solo movie more than ever before.