Aug 27, 2017

How to Remove a Brain and Other Bizarre Medical Practices - Book Review

I thank Net galley for providing me a copy to read & review 'How to Remove a Brain and Other Bizarre Medical practices' It is not more than 200 pages and can  be read in one sitting.

The author David Haviland gives us many anecdotes and some fun and bizarre practices in ancient Egypt, India, Europe and US.

He also mentioned about the myth relating to Julius Caesar, his birth that he was not born of Caesarean section as it is only performed either to save the  child or the mother. Since Julius Caesar mother died in her ripe age and not during giving birth to Caesar. David Haviland gives examples for Doctrine of  Signatures that natural remedies embodies or reflect the ailments they are designed to cure. That is the appearance of certain fruits resembling our body  parts. 

There are many unknown facts in the book one such is that we share many diseases with animals and they are known as 'zoonoses' we caught common cold from  horses, measles from dogs, influenzas from pigs & ducks, smallpox and tuberculosis from cattle.  Another fact relates to great artists, and how they were affected by using Emerald Green a chemical made from copper acetate and arsenic trioxide. The artist  such as Cezanne, Van Gogh and Monet. All these artists excessively used Emerald Green in their paintings which lead to arsenic poisoning, Cezanne developed  series diabetes, Van Gogh suffered from neurological disorders and third artist Monet got blinded.


The cabbies of London have bigger hippo campus region as longer they are driving taxi the bigger the region become. And to compensate the growth the other  part of the brain shrinks. There are many facts, one such is about Syphilis, an epidemic which spread throughout Europe after 1495. Each nation in Europe blamed their enemy. The French  called this disease as Le mal Naples, while the Italians called it the Spanish disease. The Japanese called it as the Chinese disease and while Chinese  people blamed it as Cantonese.

The author has given detailed account on the invention of X ray and aftermath and how one guy in London began marketing X ray proof underwear and made a  small fortune.


One chapter is allotted to the Live Typhoid carrier Mary. She was a cook. Everywhere she went and cooked the people in the house get infected with typhoid but  she never had the disease herself. A law was passed and she was isolated from others. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. A must book for information gatherers.

Aug 24, 2017

Jason Cage - Book Review

The main plot of the story revolves around Jason Cage, the only survivor from an accident. He was adopted and his foster parents dies mysteriously. He has no friends no family members and his special quality is that his dreams become reality. Jason has a stint in college where he gets introduced to Bill and Lisa, later being his love, loses her to Bill.

Jason wants to escape from the torments, chooses a monastery in Ladakh. His companion is a lion which is invisible to all. One day he has a nightmare that Lisa is going to be killed in couple of days in US. With no money and help from his monastery friend Jason goes to States. There he helps one Lebanese restaurant owner from mafia and hitch hikes to Lisa.

Did he find Lisa on time and saved her? The ending is cliffhanger.

The author has included many sub plots and he never confuses us as the plots are revealed continously instead of mixed in between main plot. I have to thank him for this method writing, the pace of the book is never slowed or halted since having many sub plots from ancient Egypt, introduction of Dr. Dhrishti from RAW, Axel, taking over of LeT terroists by RAW, Lisa and Bill's story etc.

There are some unanswered questions which hangs after the finish and I know since the end is cliffhanger the author will answer it in the next book.

Aug 17, 2017

Secret Agent - Book Review

I express my gratitude to Net galley for providing me a copy for reading and reviewing of this fantastic treasure trove of information on SOE (Special Operations Executive) brought into force by the then England Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1940, the main aims of SOE is to intent on sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines, to spark revolt, and undermine Hitler's Europe from within, prevent enemy reinforcements reaching the beachhead by road, rail and air, the disruption of enemy signals communications in and behind the battle area, attacks on enemy air personnel and aircraft, the disorganisation of enemy rear services by the spreading of rumours and counter-sabotage.

After explaining in detail about the initiation of SOE from the scratch, the author David Stafford narration of events one by one is super fast and it was like watching a war documentary. The book is full of stories which concentrates mostly on the agents of SOE's activities in occupied Europe.

The agents of SOE were trained in shooting, unarmed combat, handling explosives, wireless-transmission, camouflage and more, they been taught how to face interrogation if get caught.

Not only sending agents for sabotaging they took much care in the dress also, one person who worked in the dress department tells about the alterations needed for German and British dress the seams, the enormous difference between the side seams, the shape of the cuffs, the difference in position of the button hole on the under collar. They also forged documents, money and made new notes to appear as used one.

Lysander, this plane helped for dropping and returning agents of SOE, the additional fuel tank in the bottom resemble a missile carrier (picture courtesy flying legends website)

At the beginning sending of agents into German occupied country was not easy as they were not airdropped, they have to been transported in small boats and ships. As the success rate of SOE increased the expected importance was given.

SOE peaked in size at the time of the D-Day landings when some 10,000 men and 3000 women worked for it around the globe. Of these half the men and perhaps a hundred of the women had also served as secret agents behind enemy lines or in neutral countries.

Some of the activities of SOE's are given much importance such as taking over of one Italian and one German ship in neutral territory, agents of SOE (Knut Haukelid, Fredrick Kayser, Kasper Idland, Hans Storhaug and Brig Stromsheim) coup at the heavy water plant in southern Norway there by delaying progress in German research on the atomic bomb, the operation in destroying the via duct in Gorgopotamos and adventures of the secret agent Pierre Lalande and worth mentioning.

The author has pointed out the mistakes done by SOE in sending messages which were intercepted by the Germans and one full chapter is about the worst mistake of SOE, Englandspiel the name coined by the Germans.

The book is full of heroism, I recommend this to the world war II buffs and also the number of pages is under 300 and can be finished in one sitting.

Aug 8, 2017

Third Class In Indian Railways - Book Review

Third Class in Indian Railways is the essays and letters written by Mahatma Gandhi in the year 1917. The six essays are :

1.       Third class in Indian Railways
2.      Vernaculars as Media of Instruction
3.      Swadeshi
4.      Ahimsa
5.       The Moral basis of Co-operation
6.      National Dress

Not much have changed about the hygienic condition in the railways. Gandhi mentions about bribes given by the passengers and their behaviour. He finally asks that the fares paid by third class passengers were not offered even 1/10th of what the first class passengers enjoy.

Apart from other essays I liked Ahimsa, Swadeshi, the moral basis of Co-opreation and the National Dress (his dress been mocked by Irwin) the fitting reply he had given.

I like to quote from his book:

I do not believe that religion has nothing to do with politics. The latter divorced from religion is like a corpse only fit to be buried. (Swadeshi)

We, the educated classes, have received our education through a foreign tongue. We have therefore not reacted upon the masses. We want to represent the masses, but we fail. (Swadeshi)

Well, India is a country of nonsense. It is nonsensical to parch one's throat with thirst when a kindly Mahomedan is ready to offer pure water to drink. And yet thousands of Hindus would rather die of thirst than drink water from a Mahomedan household. (Swadeshi)

There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita, which, freely rendered, means, masses follow the classes. (Swadeshi)

Our Shastras seem to teach that a man who really practises Ahimsa in its fullness has the world at his feet; he so affects his surroundings that even the snakes and other venomous reptiles do him no harm. This is said to have been the experience of St. Francis of Assisi. (Ahimsa)

Ahimsa requires deliberate self-suffering, not a deliberate injuring of the supposed wrong-doer. (Ahimsa)

I believe that our copying of the European dress is a sign of our degradation, humiliation and our weakness..( Reply to Mr. Irwin's criticism of his dress in the Pioneer)

Aug 4, 2017

Dirk Pitt Series

Last week I went to Chennai Book Fair 2017 and purchased couple of books from Clive Cussler to Ben McIntyre. Below is the list of Clive Cussler books on Dirk Pitt series.

1. Poseidon's Arrow (Dirk Pitt #22)From the blurb

It is the greatest advance in American defense technology in decades — an attack submarine capable of incredible underwater speeds. Nothing else in any other nation’s naval arsenal even comes close. There is only one problem: A key element of the prototype is missing — and the man who developed it is dead.

At the same time, ships have started vanishing mid-ocean, usually never to be found again, but when they are, sometimes bodies are found aboard . . . burned to a crisp.What is going on? And what does it have to do with an Italian submarine that itself disappeared in 1943, lost at sea? Or was she?

It is up to NUMA director Dirk Pitt and his team, aided by a beautiful NCIS agent and by Pitt’s children, marine engineer Dirk and oceanographer Summer, to go on a desperate international chase to find the truth, from Washington to Mexico, Idaho to Panama. What they discover at the end of it is a much, much greater threat than even they imagined.

If they don’t succeed in their mission, the world as they know it might end up a very different place — and not a pleasant one.

Filled with breathtaking suspense and extraordinary imagination, Poseidon’s Arrow is further proof that when it comes to adventure writing, nobody beats Clive Cussler.

2. Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4)
My review.

My third outing with Dirk Pitt adventures.

The story begins with an insane person who locks himself in the vault of drowning RMS Titanic. Then the story opens to present day in Russian territory Novaya Zemlya as mineralogist Dr.Koplin discovers that the only Byzanium ore mine has been completely mined years. This Byzanium ore is needed for the US top secret Sicilian project. While returning back to his hide out he was shot by Russian, a figure emerges from the snow and saves him, yes, he is our hero, death-defying adventurer and deep sea expert Dirk Pitt.

Through Dr.Koplin's statement the Byzanium ore has been mined by Coloradan miners who were hired by Societe des Mines De Lorraine (French government) Back tracking the mining operation they come to know that though they were working for the French, one of the miners Joshua Hayes Brewster who was persuaded by United States, tries to hand over the ore. But the French government comes to know this fact and trails them, 7 out of 8 miners were killed before the ore was transported to Southampton harbour in April 1912. And the ore did not reached US soil and also they did not know the whereabouts of Brewster.

The ore rests in the bottom of Atlantic ocean inside the Titanic. The President approaches NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency) to raise the Titanic. And the team successfully finds the sunken Titanic. At the same time Russian leaders comes to know about the secret project and the Byzanium ore. They send their best man Captain Prevlov with a mission either to sabotage the operation or get hold the Byzanium ore.

Dirk Pitt team raises the Titanic and finds out mole in his team. As the Titanic is tugged to New York port, an intense storm hinders their progress. Meanwhile the Titanic is captured by Captain Prevlov.

Did Dirk Pitt took Titanic to New York? Did he saved his team from Captain Prevlov? The answers are in the remaining chapters of the book.

A superb, fast paced thriller from Clive Cussler. I liked this story than Trojan Odyssey. Lot of characters from 1912 to the present day. The story has couple of sub plots, one is about the marital life of Gene Seagram and Dana. Second sub plot is the classic cold war espionage of Captain Prevlov and Lieutenant Pavel Marganin. And the third is the President of United States. The character Pitt is very intelligent and daring adventurer, his knowledge and approach saves the day.

Raising of Titanic and the ship completing his maiden voyage after several years, these emotional chapters gave me goose bumps.

Thank you Clive Cussler for a fantastic novel, I enjoyed reading the book.

3. Havana Storm (Dirk Pitt #23)
From the blurb

While investigating a toxic outbreak in the Caribbean Sea that may ultimately threaten the United States, Pitt unwittingly becomes involved in something even more dangerous—a post-Castro power struggle for the control of Cuba. Meanwhile, Pitt’s children, marine engineer Dirk and oceanographer Summer, are on an investigation of their own, chasing an Aztec stone that may reveal the whereabouts of a vast historical Aztec treasure. The problem is, that stone was believed to have been destroyed on the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, which brings them both to Cuba as well—and squarely into harm’s way. The three of them have been in desperate situations before . . . but perhaps never quite as dire as the one facing them now.
4. Black Wind (Dirk Pitt #18)
From the blurb

Dirk Pitt teams up with his children to find two WWII Japanese subs that went down armed with a devastating payload: a new biological virus.