Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gorgeous Georgians by Terry Deary – Book Review


Publisher’s write-up:

‘Want to know:
v    If you would make a good bodysnatcher?
v  What the Georgians did with squashed fish eyes?
v  Who wore false eyebrows made from mouse skin?
Discover all the foul facts about the Gorgeous Georgians – all the gore and more!’

Well, I picked up this book solely because I wanted to know something about an interesting race from the Caucasus Ranges but then, little did I expect that this book was going to be about Britain during the era of Hanover monarchs (before William IV and Victoria). However, with that said, I wasn’t disappointed with this book.

The uniqueness about horrible histories always is that, the author runs the reader through the selected era in a way in which that the reader is never bored, does not have to remember the dates and still gets a picture of how the society was, during the time.  The Georgian addiction towards make-up, the high demand for corpses for the purpose of research, the Luddite wars, and their love for gory sports was all portrayed well, through the usual witty caricatures which are used across all the books of this series. Although, this era didn’t have many interesting battles to cover, following the fall of Napoleon, the author still managed to keep the book interesting, in my opinion.

Like any other Horrible Histories book, this too, I believe, has maintained the standard and would be good for light reading while travelling or even when you’re looking for a break after having done some real heavy reading.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

Andy

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sultana’s Dream by Begum Rokheya Sakhawat Hossain – Book Review



Publisher’s write-up:

Sultana’s Dream first appeared in 1905, ten years before the American feminist and novelist, Charlotte P. Gilman, published her feminist utopia Herland. Sultana’s Dream is an appealing story of reversed purdah – the secularism of women – in Ladyland, where peace-loving women overpower aggressive men through the power of their brains.’

Sultana’s Dream is a sci-fi pro feminism novella written during the early years of the previous century by the Bengali feminist writer Begum Rokheya. This review is solely based on the edition with illustrations from Durga Bai; and I don’t even know whether this edition is the full story or it has been abridged.

The story is straightforward, a woman by the name Sultana is led by another woman whom she presumes to be her friend Sara, takes her to a faraway land, which is far more advanced than what she has seen in India – with solar powered kitchens, devices up in the air which stops rainfall and in turn provides endless supply of water, irrigation fully carried out using electricity, etc. This is a land completely ruled by women and where men are confined inside the houses, the converse of what used to happen in early 20th century India.




I really loved the imagination of the author in this book; to think of solar powered kitchens back in 1905, flying machines three decades before it was invented and for putting forth feminist thoughts at a time when subjugation was considered normal and that too, hailing from one of the most conservative regions of the country (which it till date is); is something commendable. I also liked the illustrations of Durga Bai in traditional Bengali art, especially, that of the solar powered kitchen (as shown above) and I guess that makes the book adorable across all age groups. Also, the book didn’t drag on pointlessly and ended when it had to, making it the perfect novella.

However, what I totally loathed was that the author is such a militant feminist, she is not a feminist who is fighting for the equality of women in the society, but represents that extreme brand of feminism (I don’t even consider that as feminism, would prefer using the term that is circulated in the internet – feminazism) which merely promotes hatred towards more than anything else. All that this book tries to portray is that men are absolutely good for nothing, in their seven hours of working life; they work for an hour and spend the rest of the time smoking, and several other absolutely preposterous remarks. Had a man written a novel, merely portraying the society as it was in those days, would’ve been condemned as a chauvinist but it is rather unfortunate that media houses and several other feminazis support these kind of women. Personally, I consider myself a feminist who supports equality and stops at equality. 

Leaving my personal opinions apart, purely seeing it as a story, I feel it is a decent work and could be a really good read to keep yourself occupied during a short travel. While I might have given this book a rating of seven, I can’t ignore her rather radical opinions and hence, I award this book a rating of six.

Rating – 6/10

Have a nice day,
Andy


Hatufim (חטופים) (Prisoners of War) by Gideon Zaff – Season 2 – Review



Synopsis:

‘Gideon Raff's critically-acclaimed series returns. Nimrod and Uri find clues suggesting their fellow soldier and POW Amiel may have survived their 17 years in captivity.’

This is the continuation of the Israeli TV Series, Hatufim. This is effectively the same story split across two seasons and picks up where it exactly left off, in the first season. Hence, in case you’ve not watched the first season, do not proceed with reading this review – you may read the review of the first season by clicking here.

The plot is simple – Amiel Ben-Horin is still alive, just that he has switched sides, having converted to Islam, living as Yussuf, with a Syrian wife – the daughter of the spiritual head of Sons of Jihad, the organisation which held the three soldiers captive. Their captor, Jamal has passed away, and the organisation is now led by Amiel and Abdallah, a terrorist released by Israel as part of the exchange. Meanwhile, Nimrod has separated from Talia; Uri now lives with Nurit and is keen on bringing Amiel back to Israel. The crux of the second season is finding out who really is Amiel / Yussuf and this time, Haim Cohen is on the same side as Uri and Nimrod.

The good thing about the second season was, it was action packed, and it concentrated more on the investigation and I liked the way in which the perspectives kept changing – how on one scene, they’d be brainstorming the investigation in Israel and on the other end, you have Amiel and Abdallah plotting against Israel. I also liked the twists and turns that were there throughout the course of the second season, and some of them, if I may say so, was totally unexpected. Another thing I liked was that some of the irritating characters of the first season like Nimrod’s daughter, Dana, had a much improved role in the second season and her positive influence was unexpected and good. Moreover, in the Uri was also a little less cynical, was determined, which added to the pace that the story required, which was slightly lacking in the first season. But more than anything else, I felt the other side was portrayed very well – all the meetings of Sons of Jihad, the personal life of Amiel and his dilemma, how he carried out his responsibilities was brought out well.

However, I also felt that, this time, the concentration on the personal lives of Nimrod and Uri was boring, seemed a mere digression from the main plot, which was the investigation into what is the cover-up going on behind Amiel’s death. Also, I felt that yet again, the soldiers recalling their captivity was repetitive and one of the reasons why I was done with the series faster than I was supposed to have was because I could forward those scenes and not lose track of anything.

With all that said, I felt that the end was good, may not exactly be fitting, considering a lot of red herrings – whether they were to be considered red herrings or loose ends is up to the viewer’s interpretation. However, I feel it is better than any standard thriller and considering the longevity of its English remake, I may consider watching Homeland in future. I felt that this was slightly better than the first season, in terms of focus and the pace and hence, I’m awarding it a slightly better rating.

Rating – 8/10

Have a nice day,

Andy

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Hatufim (חטופים) (Prisoners of War) by Gideon Zaff – Season 1 – Review

(failed to find a good picture of it in Hebrew)

Synopsis:

‘The negotiations for the release of the Israeli soldiers, has ended successfully. Nimrod Klien, Uri Zach and Amiel ben horin are coming home. The first two are alive, Amiel was killed while being a prisoner of war. The soldiers reunite with their loved ones. Nimrod meets Talia, who waited for him for all those years, and conducted the campaign for his release.’

Hatufim is an Israeli TV drama known as Prisoners of War in the English speaking world. I came to know about this through a friend who suggested me to watch Homeland and when I visited the Wikipedia page of the same, I realised that it was inspired by an Israeli TV show and hence, I wanted to watch the original. Whatever I’ve said in my erstwhile reviews of TV shows hold good for this one too, that I see this purely as a story and I’m not going to comment on acting, screenplay, background music or any other aspects of a TV show, for I’m not competent enough to comment on them.

The story starts with a mediator striking a deal in Germany for the return of three Israeli POWs – Nimrod Klein, Uri Zach and Amiel Ben-Horin who had been held by terrorists for seventeen years. While Nimrod and Uri returned safe, Amiel returned in a casket. The focus of the first season is on two things: one, the reintegration of Nimrod and Uri into the mainstream society and into their own family, considering a lot has happened over the years - Nimrod now has a son whom he had never even met and also, sees himself as a burden considering he is not competent to carry out any tasks in the modern world whereas Uri’s fiancé has eventually married his brother; two, IDF psychologist Haim Cohen is under the impression after preliminary investigations that the two of them are hiding something and the same needs to unravelled.

What I liked about this was the setting and the very concept – while it involves the often touched upon subjects of POWs and the effects of torture post release, it also has an element of investigation and mystery in it. Moreover, the writer didn’t rush into the plot and instead, took it step by step – starting with their struggles to reintegrate with their family, into this new world, also the trauma faced by the sister of the deceased; and then moving on to the investigation by Haim Cohen and finally, on to the investigation personally undertaken by Uri and Nimrod, with them knowing that there is a lot more surrounding their captivity than what they know. By gradually stepping things up, the interest of the viewer never went down and it was gripping, to say the least. On the whole, I felt that the balance was right, between all aspects of the story – one, the personal life of the soldiers and the other being the matters surrounding their captivity.

The only thing that disappointed me about the first season was the repeated recalling of the past, which is very often repetitive and also, for someone like me whose one of the many reasons for preferring the written word over visuals is that I can’t bear to watch gory scenes and scenes of torture.

The first season has laid a solid foundation for the series to continue and I feel it is a gift for all those who enjoy thrillers and are also knowledgeable on the Arab-Israeli conflict (though, the knowledge on the latter isn’t mandatory, just helps you enjoy it better) and yes, I’m looking forward to the second season.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,
Andy



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