Posts Tagged: Books

My Reading list

Just a quick note because I published it as a page..

I’ve posted my complete reading list over the past few years (well not quite complete but whatever I can remember) over at my blog – The Reading List 2010

Go over, tell me what you like, what you dislike, suggest books for me to read..

My Terry Pratchett Obsession, Reading and TV

(Warning: A lot of links in this post. Proceed at the peril of your own time. Or someone else’s if that rocks your boat ;-) )

So I finished Jingo, book 21 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. It’s my 3rd book in from the series in 2 weeks (Pyramids and Unseen Academicals. I am not reading the series in any particular order but then they only vaguely refer to previous books so it’s not a big deal). So yeah, I’m sort of obsessed with Discworld. The series combine two of my favourite genres of stories: Humour and Fantasy. Well I like SF too but it’s been so long since I read SF that it’s been long. So yeah.. But I digress.

Anyway, the best part about the Discworld series is the combination of real world issues with an astonishing blend of humour and poignancy. The humour, in many cases is straightforward but on so many occasions, it just creeps up on you and you’re like, hah, that’s so funny. And then the subtle underlying message hits you that you do a double take.

In addition to reading, I’ve also been trying to watch some TV shows. Primarily The Big Bang Theory which is a brilliant comedy sitcom by the makers of Two and a Half Men. It’s about a bunch of scientists and a cute blonde who is their neighbour. The “scientists” are hardcore nerds and the many of the episodes are themed on “nerdy” concepts. I get a lot of the nerdy jokes and can’t decide if that is a good thing or a bad, I mean with many folks considering me to be a nerd on first meeting (I don’t think I am a nerd because I’m not intelligent enough :-( )

Coming back to reading, I have a huge pile of books left to read (sadly no Discworlds left), a lot of them from Devanshi, and a lot others that I’ve been picking up obsessively but haven’t gotten round to reading. The problem, as I see it is, that whenever I look at a book I want to read, I just want to read another Discworld book and that just evaporates my mood to read. So now I’ve decided, no more Discworld (I plan to eventually own all the Discworld books) until I reduce the unread pile by at least a significant amount (let’s see how long this “resolution lasts.. Hah). Oh and I need to buy a couple of books:

(The second before I watch the movie with the lovely Rachel McAdams)
I think I should dedicate a shelf in my bookcase to all the unread books and then finish them off one by one. An upcoming trip should provide sometime for reading two of the books. Perhaps I’ll also make a list of all the pending books in a next post.

Lastly, I’ve been vaguely following all the iPad hype and thought it would be nice to have one to read my comics (electronic format obviously) but then thought it might not be so nice because of a few reasons:

  • Too expensive
  • Probably does not support CDisplay
  • It’s still the first version so will have a lot of limitations/bugs
  • It’s ecosystem is too closed for comfort or usage
  • It’s too expensive

Well, that’s a long post. Long by recent standards so I’ll close this now. More coming later.

Ps. Yes, I use a lot of parenthesis.

Tempus Fugit

Oh yes it does.. It was just sometime ago that I was going through the whole application process. And now it seems to be that time again.

Work had been hectic the past few weeks. Completed a major task at work so things are better now and seem to be slowing down now.

Got a new MP3 player, a SanDisk Sansa Fuze. It’s flash based and really cool. My colleague thinks it is very cute (yes she is a girl ;) )

I’ll soon be joining a short course called Social Entrepreneurship Outreach Program (SEOP) by a group known as Center for Social Initiatives and Management (CSIM).

Oh and I’ve been reading quite a few books as usual. Quick list of books I’ve read recently:

Oh and I think there were a few more but I don’t remember. I’m sure you can imagine why ;)
These are in the past 4-5 months (except the Watchmen Graphic novel)
More later.. Hopefully..

Book Review: Javascript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford

The phrase “JavaScriptmaster” and Douglas Crockford are considered synonymous in the web development world. When I heard that Crockford was writing a book on JavaScript, especially a guide to the better features of one of the most maligned (and perhaps abused) but popular languages in the current web development industry, I was sure I wanted to read that book. I opened the book with very high expectations and unsurprisingly, I was not disappointed one bit.

With the recent explosion in the usage of JavaScript, the interest in JavaScript is at an all time high. When Netscape, which created JavaScript, released the specification of the language in the mid-nineties, it was unable to define a robust and complete specification for the language due to pressures of rushing out a production release. As a result, fair chunk of the language is not well thought out which contributes to bad programming style and promotes some bad programming practices. It is not the programmers but the language which causes this. Programming models based on Global variables, JavaScript eval, inconsistencies in variable scope, and confusion regarding how objects are created and handled in JavaScript can all be the sources of programming errors and give rise to bad programming practices.

This book, as its name suggests, focuses on the “Good Parts” of the JavaScript while cautioning the readers against the “Bad Parts” of the language. All the  above mentioned “bad parts” and many other programming constructs are cautioned against in a two-part appendix.

Two other appendices also touch  on JSLint, the powerful JavaScript syntax and program correctness verifier and JSON, the preferred and increasingly popular text data exchange format. These two chapters give a taste and a starter for two very important support tools for JavaScript.

However, the meat of the of the book focuses on the better parts of the JS language. In ten chapters, Crockford explains why features like – JS inheritance model, prototypes, objects, arrays and how the language handles regular expressions – are very useful and make JavaScript a fairly powerful language in its own right. Object Oriented programming in JS, how methods and the prototype chain is handled and can be used to write clean and powerful code are all a must read for advanced JS programmers.

The language of the book is very simple and sprinkled with illustrative source code which makes understanding the concept in discussion easy to understand. That said, this is not a beginners book. This book is aimed at those who have programmed in JS and have a working knowledge of the language. Nevertheless, it is a highly recommended book for anyone looking to get into better and more powerful JavaScript programming.

Book Review – The Art of Black and White Photography By Torsten Andress Hoffman

When I saw this book up for review, I jumped at the chance immediately. Having a deep interest in Photography, with the new camera, I now have complete control over my photos and their look.

I have always considered Black and white photography the real art form of photography. The  representation of the image that can be represented just by the two colors is simply amazing. It also focuses the viewer to pay attention to the details and the subject rather than the colors which in some cases I have found to be a distraction.

In a sense, for me, Black and White photographs speak more than color photographs. Not to take anything away from color photos for they have their own place (and I take a lot more of them too), I personally favor B&W photos. Below is a review of a very good book dedicated to Black and White Photographs: The Art of Black and White Photography

Book Review – The Wrekening by Jayel Gibson

(Review of Part one of the Ancient Mirrors Series The Dragon Queen)

In the second Ancient Mirrors tale, author Jayel Gibson continues the tale of Ædracmoræ two decades past the reunion of Ædracmoræ by the Dragon Queen, Yávië. (Refer The Dragon Queen – An Ancient Mirrors Tale). The Wrekening tells the story of Cwen, niece of the Dragon Queen, Yávië, daughter of the guardians Näeré and Nall, accompanied by her friend Talin, a Feie Brengven and a thief Caen who likes Cwen.

The book is set a couple of decades after the quest by Yávië for the rebirth of Ædracmoræ. Nall and Näeré’s daughter, Cwen is grown up, in her early twenties but in opposition to Nall, has refused to take the oaths of Guardianship and instead roams freely along with her friend Talin. When a chamber filled with an evil army of petrified soldiers known as the G’lm is found by the feie, the Dragon Queen’s council convinces Cwen, Talin, Brengven and the thief Caen to try and locate crystal heart shards of the wyrms. The wyrms were dragon like creatures that hosted the Wreken, a race of powerful beings. These shards are the source of power to reawaken the G’lm and use them to cause massive destruction to the world.

Most of the book deals with the group’s quest to recover the shards as they race against time and others who intend to acquire the shards and use it for evil. The individual quests are handled quite well. The author keeps a good flow between the quests so their recovering thirteen shards do not get tedious though some of them seem just too easy. This is likely a result of the author’s style to keep chapters fairly short, usually 3-5 pages in length. In a similar vein, while the recovery of the shards is enjoyable, the battles between the guardians and the G’lm are not described to its potential. What should have been an epic battle was won overnight with ease.

There are quite a few characters in this book that come and go through the story. Of these, Cwen is the most developed character followed by the character of Caen. Both are shown to change progressively and the fears and thoughts of Cwen are depicted quite well. Why she chooses not to be a guardian, why she kills poachers etc. While the Talin’s character is not given too much depth and seems quite weakly built. Two characters are introduced deus ex machina, Klaed and Lohgaen. One frustrating issue with the story is that even though Laoghaire turns out to be an important character, his background, past nothing is explained. Nor is the reason for Cwen’s fear of a man from her past, Aidan, treated with depth. The fear Cwen has for Aidan is strong. But why that is so, is not explained satisfactorily.

Another point that I found indigestible was the how the characters “break character” abruptly. For example, in one scene, Yávië puts the point of her dagger at Sorel’s (her husband) neck, drawing blood. It just does not seem realistic and definitely not make scene believable. Who shows anger in such a manner? Especially towards their spouse and the one they love? Sorry Jayel, it’s a no go.

Despite the above flaws, the book has a very good story and an open ending with a potential for a sequel. Overall, the book has a very good storyline, a lot of potential but needs tighter editing.

Book Review: The Dragon Queen

The Dragon Queen is the first part of the “Ancient Mirrors Tale” series by Jayel Gibson. This tale, based in the fantasy world of Ædracmoræ (pronounced Dracmor), is the story of the guardians Yávië and her companions Nall and Rydén resurrected and sworn to protect Ædracmoræ along with the help of other guardians who also become part of the central group of characters.

Dragon Queen on

The book starts off with an interesting background describing the destruction of this world and its subsequent shattering by the Sojourner Alandon. However, Alandon, who is also Yávië’s father establishes prophecies for its rebuilding. Along with the shattering, the souls of the guardians are sent into the stars in a death slumber, awaiting their reawakening. Once resurrected by a group of ancient beings called the Ancients, the first part of the book then deals with the training of the three guardians and certain quests they must perform and gain command of the Dragon Clans (referred to as Flytes) inhabiting their world.

In a similar vein, they go through a variety of tribulations and challenges to reach their eventual goal, the rebirth and reuniting of the shattered pieces of Ædracmoræ. There is another quest which is revealed in the middle parts of the book, the quest for Yávië to regain her birthright, that of the Dragon Queen of Ædracmoræ and finally to resurrect Ædracmoræ by reuniting the seven worlds

The book is fairly long as most fantasy books go but is divided into small comfortable and easy to read chapters. They are not overtly long and usually centered around individual tasks/mini-quests, which are closed within that chapter. However that is the story’s undoing to an extent as well. But more on that la

Jayel Gibson has described the world of Ædracmoræ beautifully, spending lush words in describing its beauty. Even the physical description and skills of the guardians are described in detail, which give a good idea about the guardian being described. The tale itself is very good and holds a lot of promise and creates anticipation within the reader and covers a lot of ground in encompassing three major quests and wrapping it up nicely with the ending suitably closed but open ended enough for a sequel.

The writer however does not satiate the anticipation created in a quest entirely. To ensure the short chapters, a lot of the plot points and tasks feel too rushed. Many of the tasks defined to be “extremely” difficult are achieved with ease and very quickly. It is like Gibson takes us on a crescendo and then let’s go abruptly.
And while the character development is quite good and tight, sometimes they behave inconsistently with their defined characteristics and make the reader feel if they are reading about the same person or someone else entirely.

It would be unfair to compare this book to some of the classic fantasy books but nevertheless; this book stands on its own. It is a good book to read on a long weekend and will provide ample fantasy elements to satiate the reader. However, do not expect the plot development like done by say, Tolkien.