Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Krishna Key

Author:         Ashwin Sanghi
Published    2012 
Publisher:    Westland
Paperback: 485 pages. 
I had read good reviews about Ashwin Sanghi's previous  novels - "The Rozabal Line" and "Chanakya's Chant" and was planning to read them soon. And then  last week  BlogAdda offered to send his latest book "The Krishna Key" for my review. I could not resist the temptation even though their expectation to submit a 500-word review is no less tougher than meeting a project deadline at work. Fortunately, I received the book on a Friday and I managed to start and finish reading this book over a weekend. It was a time well spent.

The plot is strikingly similar to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and the Lost Symbol. And we even have a Robert Langdon like main character in form of the historian Ravi Mohan Saini in this 460-odd page thriller.

While Dan Brown in his fictions explores the mysteries and secrets surrounding Jesus Christ and Biblical themes our  Desi Dan Brown, Ashwin Sanghvi, has chosen Lord Krishna and  Mahabharata for this book. But then it is always nice to read about things closer to home.

Here is the plot of the story.
The whereabouts of a jewel called Syamantaka Mani, which was once in custody of Lord Krishna is now shrouded in secrecy. Varshney a famous symbolist is the only person who has got clues to unravel this secret. Fearing a threat to his life he  distributes these clues among four persons whom he trusts most viz; - an archaeologist Dr. Nikhil Bhojaraj , a nuclear scientist Prof.Rajaram Kurkude, a genetics expert Devendra Chhedi and the historian Ravi Mohan Saini. There is a gang which is in wild pursuit of Syamantaka Mani, which is actually a philosopher's stone that turns iron into gold. Mataji an ex-school teacher and a key member of this gang has brainwashed her student Taarak into believing that he is the tenth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu i.e. the Kalki Avatar. In order to secure the clues she convinces Taarak  to eliminate Varshney, Bhojraj, Kurkude, Chedi and Saini. Tarak kills all of them except Saini, our hero who manages to survive. After many twists and turns , Saini manages to outwit Tarak and his gang and solve the mystery of Syamantaka Mani.

The plot  may seem rather run-of-the mill. But the highlights of the story are the theories, puzzles, clues and mysteries woven into it. And they are all pretty interesting though some of them are purely fictitious and outrageous. To mention just a few examples - Sumerian civilization being founded by people who migrated from Indus Valley; significance of the number 108 in Hindu philosophy; the design of modern nuclear power stations having a striking resemblance to Shiva linga; Mohd. Ghazni the Afghan invader who looted Somnath temple being a descendant of  Lord Krishna's clan - the Yadavas.

The book is profusely illustrated with pictures, maps and diagrams of clues and symbols to explain the details within the story. In fact, the author advises us in the beginning not to flip through the book prematurely since it may  result in unintended viewing of these pictures that could act as spoilers.

The writing style though not of great literary merit is racy, down-to-earth and kept me fully engaged throughout the weekend. And I am impressed by the research the author undertook to weave the mind-boggling clues within the story plot. He has provided an exhaustive list of 135 references to books, articles, blogs and You Tube audio/videos that he referred to while writing this book.

This book has served as an appetizer  for Ashwin Sanghvi's earlier novels which I plan to read soon.

All in all a very entertaining read for all mystery and thriller lovers !
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
[This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!  ]

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Understand Calculus

Author:          P. Abbott & Hugh Neill
Published    1992 
Publisher:     Hodder Education
Paperback:  400 pages
Over the last decade and a half I have not got enough opportunities to exercise my grey cells that are responsible for solving mathematical problems. I was concerned that I may eventually loose the skill which I had painstakingly acquired through almost  20 years of maths education. Hence I picked up this book on introductory calculus when I saw it in a library and read through it like a novel. Well that's not exactly how you go through a mathematics book . You need to actually do the exercises given in the book. But then the purpose was served. I was able to refresh many differentiation and integration concepts and techniques which I had struggled with during my college days.
Though I felt the treatment of integral calculus could have been better, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning or brushing up the fundamentals of calculus.

Table of  Contents
  • Functions
  • Variations in functions; limits
  • Gradient
  • Rate of change
  • Differentiation
  • Some rules for differentiation
  • Maxima, minima and points of inflexion
  • Differentiating the trigonometric functions
  • Exponential and logarithmic functions
  • Hyperbolic functions
  • Integration; standard integrals
  • Methods of integration
  • Integration of algebraic fractions
  • Area and definite integrals
  • The integral as a sum; areas
  • Approximate integration
  • Volumes of revolution
  • Lengths of curves
  • Taylor's and Maclaurin's series
  • Differential equations
  • Applications of differential equations

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Revolution 2020

Author:         Chetan Bhagat
Published    2011 
Publisher:    Rupa Publications
Paperback: 304 pages. 
Generally Chetan Bhagat's books have a mass appeal, especially among youngsters. He connects well with them and provides light, entertaining and thought provoking reads.
I have read all his other novels (except The 3 Mistakes of My Life) and enjoyed them (especially the 2 States & Five Point Someone).
But this is probably the most frivolous fiction he has ever written.
First of all the title of the book itself does not gel with the story-line. Its sub-title "Love. Corruption. Ambition." is more apt.  Secondly the plot is a much hackneyed Bollywood theme. Two friends - Raghav and Gopal love the same girl - Aarti. But Aaarti chooses Raghav.
Raghav is an  idealist who wants  to root out corruption and  bring about a positive change in the society through his newspaper "Revolution 2020". Ambitious Gopal joins hands with the corrupt system to establish a private engineering college and gets rich. He is able to wean away Aaarti from Raghav. But towards the end Gopal realizes his folly and makes a typical filmy sacrifice by contriving a situation that puts-off Arati who goes back to Raghav.
Probably the worst book Chetan Bhagat has ever written. But still it has its good moments especially his humorously satirical narrations of how IIT coaching institutes and private engineering colleges are established and run in our country.
Overall a passable feather weight time-pass read !

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beautiful Teams

Editors:        Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene 
Published    2009 
Publisher:    O'Reilley 
Paperback: 510 pages. 

This book provides deep insights into what makes a good team tick, and what one can do to make a mediocre team better.
The industry experts share their experiences, viewpoints, inspiring and interesting stories in form of articles and interviews. Their contributions cover a wide spectrum of industries and areas of interest.
Every contributor has something interesting, important, and, most significantly, useful to say about teams: how they work, how to build them, and how they break down.
Though several of their ideas are conflicting they have all worked well in different situations because all projects are unique and all teams are different. This reinforces the fact that there is no One Correct Way to form and manage teams.

A must read for every Project Manager and Team Member !
For chapter-wise summary of this book, visit my professional blog.