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World Without End by Ken Follet


Title: World Without End

Author: Ken Follet

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan, 1237p

Whenever I see some manmade object, I use to wonder how it would have been thought of first and how would have been the world before that was made. I am always interested to know about these facts. When I read Pillars of the Earth, I was pleasantly surprised that Ken Follet also thought along the same way and tried to answer some through this book. Here in World Without End, the sequel, he had given more detailed account of medieval life.

While the POTE revolved the lives of people in the background of building a great cathedral, World without end follows the life of four kids who happened to be on the fateful day when they met a knight who held a secret that would embarrass the king if it was out.

The book was a triumph in portraying the medieval life in the most interesting way. I hesitated to take up this book for reading mainly because of its size. This book – of more than 1200 pages – always made me wonder whether I would be able to read it completely.  But once I started, there is no looking back. The story was gripping throughout the book despite lacking the central theme.

Ken Follet’s narrative was so simple with the intention of never making the reader feel bored. Story was so interesting that sometimes even when I am not reading book the mind was revolving around the things happened in the book rather than real life.

During the episodes of the plague, I was a bit depressed that I couldn’t get out of that feeling. I know it sound foolish but what to do :). And during those times when I was reading these chapters, I use to wonder how the world is going on smoothly when such a pandemic disease swept the world, for a fraction of a second.  Such was the hold of Ken Follet’s narration in the book on the readers.

Where in Pillars of the earth, most of the things are revolved around the thought process of new technologies in constructions, in this book it was about almost all the things in the regular life. He tried to explain about the emergence of new way of dyeing, medical treatments, knitting clothes and lot more.

I was appalled by the blind beliefs of medievalist on God, Priests and other old practices. I liked this book more because the protagonists in this book are rationalists compared to the God-fearing ones of the Pillars of the earth. Also, I was surprised to see Ken Follett written in detail about the havoc created by English soldiers in France during the war. The parts that explained the war wretched places was very much detailed and definitely he succeeded in making me realizing the effects of war.

My Rating for this wonderful historical fiction ★★★★☆


It’s not about the Bike: Lance Armstrong

Title: It’s not about the bike: My journey back to life

Author: Lance Armstrong

Genre: Non-fiction, Auto-Biography, Sports

Publisher: Berkley, p289

I pick up this book to read when I was feeling low with the certain things happened in my personal life. Lance, thru this book helped me realize that anything is achievable and any hurdle could be overcome. Thank you Lance.

I have heard of Lance Armstrong, the man who won the Tour de France record-breaking seven times after recovering from life threatening cancer. So what I expected from this book was a fairy tale of a rider who survived cancer and became successful in the tour. But what I got was totally different and I’ve  become a fan of Lance and the cycling.

Lance’s life as a whole is inspiring not only the cancer survival or tour de France victories. He started his career with a cycle on credit. His first bike damaged by a truck driver, second one lost in a life threatening accident but still he never stopped riding. You should definitely have enough courage and determination to continue.

He finished last in the first professional race he participated and was laughed at. I think many of us not trying anything challenging because of the fear of similar reactions. Look at him, he got over it and what are the things he had done.

‘What makes a great endurance athlete is the ability to absorb potential embarrassment and to suffer without complaint’ is what he said about this incident. I feel this is not only for athlete, this is for all of us who are trying to withstand in this competitive world where only fittest will survive.

This book is an eye opener for me on the cancer and it’s diagnosis. The detail account of chemo and effects of it definitely make me understand why it is considered as one of the worst diseases. On these parts of the book, I liked his attitude and determination to win over the disease and come back to the normal life.

When someone tells you’re not good to do something, don’t simply accept it. Try doing it at least to prove that person is wrong. Lance did it. When Cofidis and many other teams rejected him saying he is no more the athlete who wins the races, he was determined to prove them wrong and you know what happened.

I liked one more quote of him in the book. It is,

Definition of a ‘human’ as follows, characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially susceptible to weakness and therefore showing the qualities of man.

If you want me to tell he was lucky. I would say in three things. He born in USA, he got a very understanding mother and great coaches. Why I say USA is, he could earn himself about $20k at the age of 16 by participating in various triathlon events. In India, even the professional athletes who participated in various international events could not even think of earning so much. (Except of course the cricketers).

Secondly, an understanding parent is very important for a career as an athlete. I know many of my friends who have to give up their ambitions in sports just for the sake fulfilling their parents’ wishes.

Lance was extremely lucky to have the coach like Chris Carmichael. Whenever his confidence gone low Chris was there. I heard this from many that a good coach is the reason for more than half you achieved in the arena. Definitely Lance was lucky to have one.

I really liked Lance’s frank account of all the things happened in his life, including his initial arrogance, his shortcomings, cancer and infertility. If you ask me to point out one important lesson I learned from this book that would be,

‘If a man who had less than 10% chance of surviving, can survive and win over the world by his determination and never give up attitude why can’t we, who had very little problems compared to the one he had to overcome.’

Thanks for giving us this wonderful book Lance. ★★★★★

The Last Templar


Title: The Last Templar

Author: Raymond Khoury

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Publisher: Dutton, p406

A murder in the museum, theft of an antique, vatican, secret of Jesus, Templars, ring any bell? Yes, it is a mystery thriller of Dan Brown type. But so what, as long as it is good I don’t have any complaints and it is a good read indeed.

While many historians and archaeologists still trying to figure out what made the Templars so powerful and also why did they were eradicated so cruelly on the friday, the thirteenth. Dan Brown took one assumption of Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene. Here Raymond Khoury takes another assumption of the secret about the miracles.

On the day of archaeological exhibition of the items from Vatican, a group of four people dressed as Templars ride in horses and steals many valuable items. The FBI agent Sean Reilly and an archaeologist Tess Chaykin tries to uncover the case through which they got to know about the secret of Templars which would shake the world if revealed. What was that secret and who stolen the items. Read on the novel.

This is a good read if you are a lover of mystery-thrillers like me. Except for few glitches it was just the same as Dan Brown’s. So if you are a Dan Brown fan, you’ll definitely like this book as well.

The secret about Christianity and various cults like Knights Templars, Illuminati etc., are the great sources for mystery thriller novel writers I guess. There are plenty of them available after Dan Brown’s success. I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but we get to know about lot of historical incidents that you can’t read in normal history books.

Here in this novel also there are many historical incidents and cults that I never heard of. Templar’s background, a sect called cathars and various other things. Also, the desperation of archaeologists of finding something big like Troy and Tutenkamen.

Read it if you want to read a fast paced thriller with some of historical titbits.

My rating ★★★☆☆

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Title: And Then There Were None

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Harper, p318

Ten strangers are lured to an island by a man called UN Owen. At dinner there was a recorded voice accusing all the ten of their crimes of murder and they would be punished. The murders start happening in the same way as a childhood rhyme. After few murders, they conclude the murderer was one of them. Who was it and how the mysterious murders happening? Has anyone escaped?

And then there were none, one of the best works of Christies I have read. A wonderfully plotted mystery novel that is so engrossing and I was unable to put it down even if I know I have something else to do.

The novel was short and to the point. There were no unnecessary descriptions of the places or the persons.  The language was so simple and Christie succeeded in making the plot so mysterious that it was really difficult to find out who was the murderer?

The murders and other events were happening so quickly that it is very difficult to analyze by us on the murderer. Many of my reasoning were proved wrong in the end. Of course this is why she’s being hailed as one of the best mystery writers of all the time.   

But I do wonder one thing, when we get to know about the laws in Muslim countries and communist countries about the murder sentence we argue that it is barbarian and these things should be stopped. But when the same ‘eye for an eye’ kind of things is were always likeable in fiction and we never hate the person who punish the guilty this way. Are the barbarianism is actually inside us all and we just refuse to accept it?

No prizes for guessing my rating★★★★☆

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby


Title: Fever Pitch

Author: Nick Hornby

Genre: Non-fiction, Sports

Publisher: Penguin, p238

Fever pitch was an autobiographical account of an obsessive Arsenal fan whose happiness, sadness and everything depend on Arsenal’s success or failure.

Most of us, Indian football fans, started watching English football from around 1996. That is the time when ESPN start telecasting one or two matches per weekend. That too most of them were United and Liverpool games. This would explain why India has lot of fans from these two clubs.

For the guys like me, who started around 2003/04 season, Arsenal was all. The invincible team on a great football ground (First renovated Highbury, then world class Emirates) with great players likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira.  We don’t know the past. The period when the dying on the football ground due to hooliganism, wall collapse and lot more reasons.

This book explains a lot about that period which most of us do not know. We always habituated to imagine foreign stadiums are like this from start. No issues of spectator safety and comfort would have ever risen. If you are the person who always complains about quality of Indian stadiums, please read this book. In a country like UK, the stadiums should need more than 100 years to get improved; our stadiums are new and are in the process of improving. It will happen in time, so stop complaining.

The best thing about this book was that this was written in the view of a fan. I could relate to lot of things like planning the outings  and parties so that it would not affect him watching the matches, grumbling about the match whenever the team through away the lead and losing, we all do , don’t we?

The main part of the book is the 17 year trophy deficit until they won the league cup on 1987. The irony is now we are in the deficit of 6 years. So I could understand his feelings when he explains the joy he felt when the team won the league.

Also when Hornby explains his feelings after the team lost to Swindon in the cup final, I could relate it with the loss we suffered in the league cup final this year to the relegated Birmingham.

Fever pitch, another great non-fiction book I have read this year. If you are a football fan and following English Football for quite some time, this is a good read irrespective of whichever club you are. This book gives us lot of information that we would not possibly known from the period starting 1968 till 1991. If you are a Gunner’s fan, ‘Man, come on this is a book by one of us’.

No prizes for guessing my rating★★★★★

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