The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I have recently downloaded The White Tiger for Kindle. The White Tiger is the blackly humourous debut novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga. It was first published in 2008 and won the 40th Man Booker Prize. The novel concerns a chap named Balram Halwai who writes to the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao explaining how he, used his intelligence (and some decidedly dubious actions) in order to escape a life of drudgery and Poverty and become a successful businessman, and entrepreneur.

Halwai starts off in the rural village of Laxmangarh, where he lived with his grandmother, parents, brother and extended family who control what he does while society dictates how he acts. Despite being smart he is forced to leave school in order to help pay for his cousin’s dowry and begins to work in a teashop with his brother in Dhanbad. While working there he begins to learn about India’s government and economy from the customers’ conversations. Balram describes himself as a bad servant but a good listener and decides to become a driver.

After learning how to drive, Balram finds a job driving Ashok, the son of one of Laxmangarh’s landlords. He takes over the job of the main driver. He stops sending money back to his family and disrespects his grandmother during a trip back to his village. Balram moves to New Delhi with Ashok and his wife Pinky Madam. In Delhi, Balram witnesses extensive corruption, especially in the government and sees the contrast between the poor and the wealthy.

One night Pinky Madam takes the wheel from Balram, while drunk, which ends in tragedy so Ashok’s family puts pressure on Balram to confess that he had been driving. Ashok becomes increasingly involved in bribing government officials for the benefit of the family coal business. Balram and Ashok both find themselves trapped in the metaphorical Rooster Coop, however Balram wants nothing to do with all this corruption and decides to take drastic action in order to escape New Delhi before moving to Bangalore, where he bribes the police in order to help start his own taxi business and off a family whose son one of his taxi drivers hit and killed. Balram also begins to suspect that his own family may have been killed by Ashok’s relatives, however Balram rationalizes his dubious activities saying it was worth it in the end.

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It concerns the accidental release of a strain of influenza modified for biological warfare from a top-secret government laboratory in rural California. A guard escapes the lab and begins traveling across the country to his family home in East Texas, unintentionally spreading the virus along the way. he crashes his car into a gas station in the town of Arnette, where Stu Redman (Gary Sinise) and some friends have gathered. As the man lays dying, he warns Redman that he had been pursued by a “Dark Man.” The next day, the U.S. military arrives to quarantine the town.

The townspeople are taken to a CDC facility in Vermont. All but Stu succumb to the superflu, which kills 99.4% of the world’s population in two weeks. The scattered survivors include would-be rock star Larry Underwood (Adam Storke); deaf mute Nick Andros (Rob Lowe); Frannie Goldsmith (Molly Ringwald); her teenaged neighbor Harold Lauder (Corin Nemec); imprisoned criminal Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer); and “Trashcan Man” (Matt Frewer), a mentally ill arsonist and scavenger.The survivors soon begin having visions, either from kindly Mother Abagail (Ruby Dee) or from the demonic Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan). The two sets of survivors travel to either Nebraska to meet Abagail, or to Las Vegas to join Flagg.

Lloyd is freed from prison by Flagg, Trashcan Man, a pyromaniac, destroys fuel tanks across the Midwest. Larry escapes New York City with a mysterious woman named Nadine Cross (Laura San Giacomo). However she leaves Larry to join Flagg. After escaping the CDC facility. The survivors Stu Frannie, Harold, and Glen Bateman (Ray Walston are also joined by various other immune survivors. As the group travels toward Nebraska, Harold, Stu and Frannie fall out. Meanwhile, Nick makes his way across the Midwest, eventually meeting Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke), a mentally challenged man. The two men also encounter Julie Lawry (Shawnee Smith), before reaching Abagail’s farm in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. Abagail warns that a great conflict is imminent and they must all travel on to Boulder, Colorado. There, the survivors form a new community called the Boulder Free Zone, where they begin restoring civilization.

Meanwhile Flagg sets up an autocratic regime in Las Vegas, with the intent of defeating the Boulder survivors using salvaged nuclear weapons and Harold join forces with Flagg. Three Boulder survivors decide to infiltrate Las Vegas: Tom, Dayna Jurgens (Kellie Overbey), and Judge Farris (Ossie Davis). Meanwhile Harold and Nadine plant a bomb in Frannie and Stu’s home, planning to detonate it during a meeting of the Free Zone council. Luckily Abagail warns the council members and most of them escape the explosion, but Nick is killed. Abagail tells Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie and fellow council member Ralph Brentner that they must travel to Las Vegas. Meanwhile Flagg captures Nadine. Upon returning to Las Vegas, Flagg also finds Dayna and Farris and Tom leaves Las Vegas. Elsewhere Stu, Larry, Glen, and Ralph leave Boulder to confront Flagg, Lloyd, Trashcan Man and his followers in Las Vegas.

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

I have recently downloaded the epic fantasy novel The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks on Kindle. It takes place 2000 years after the “Great Wars”: a nuclear holocaust that wiped out most human life on Earth and rearranged the planet’s geography. Only traces of technological artifacts have been found; most advanced technology has been lost, but magic has been rediscovered. During this time, Mankind mutated into several distinct races: Men, Dwarves, Gnomes Elves and Trolls, all named after creatures from “age-old” myths.

A thousand years before The Sword of Shannara, an Elf named Galaphile gathers all of the people who still had some knowledge of the old world to Paranor to try to bring peace and order to all of the races. They name themselves the First Druid Council. However Brona, a rogue Druid, and his followers leave, taking the Ildatch with them; this magical tome controls their minds. 250 years later, Brona begins the First War of the Races when he convinces all Men to attack the other races. He almost succeeds in seizing rule of the Four Lands, However he is defeated and The Druids divide the Four Lands among the races. Two and a half centuries after the First War of the Races, Brona returns as the Warlock Lord, now with Skull Bearers as his servants. Chronicled in the prequel novel First King of Shannara, the Second War of the Races begins with the destruction of the Druid Order. A lone Druid, Bremen, forges a magical talisman to destroy the Warlock Lord; it is given to the Elven King, Jerle Shannara. As it takes the form of a blade, the talisman is named the Sword of Shannara. The Warlock Lord is banished and his army is defeated by the combined armies of the Elves and Dwarves.

Five centuries later, the Ohmsford family of Shady Vale in the Southland takes in the half-Elven child Shea. He takes the name Ohmsford and is raised as a brother to the family’s son Flick. Then the last Druid Allanon arrives in Shady Vale warning the Ohmsford brothers that the Warlock Lord has returned to the Skull Kingdom in the Northland and is coming for Shea, who, As the last descendant of Jerle Shannara, is the only one capable of wielding the Sword of Shannara against the Warlock Lord. Allanon leaves Shea three Blue Elfstones for protection and tells Shea to flee at the sign of the Skull. A few weeks later, a creature bearing a symbol of a skull shows up: a Skull Bearer, one of the Warlock Lord’s “winged black destroyers” searching for Shea. So The brothers flee with the Skull Bearer on their heels. They take refuge in the nearby city of Leah where they find Shea’s friend Menion, the son of the city’s lord. Menion decides to accompany the two, and he travels with them to Culhaven, to meet with Allanon. While at Culhaven, they are joined by a prince of Callahorn, Balinor Buckhannah, two elven brothers, Durin and Dayel Elessedil, and the dwarf Hendel.

The party sets out for Paranor. But along the way, Shea becomes separated from the group. Allanon spurs the group to continue to Paranor where they confront the minions of the Warlock Lord and find that the Sword of Shannara has already been removed. The party then learns of the Warlock Lord’s invasion of the Southland. Meanwhile Flick infiltrates the enemy camp in the Southland attempting to rescues the captive Elven King, Eventine Elessedil; at the same time, in Kern, Menion saves a woman named Shirl Ravenlock and they evacuate Kern before the Northland army attacks. Balinor returns to Tyrsis But is imprisoned by his insane brother Palance Buckhannah, who has taken control of Callahorn’s rule. His advisor, Stenmin, has driven Palance insane with drugs, making him his pawn. With help from Menion, Balinor attempts to escape to confront both Palance and Stenmin. Callahorn’s reformed Border Legion under the command of Balinor, marches out of Tyrsis and engages the Northland army at the Mermiddon River, killing many Northlanders before being forced to pull back; the Border Legion retreats to Tyrsis and make preparations for defense. During the siege of Tyrsis, Hendel and Menion confront Stenmin and his supporters.

Meanwhile In the Northland Shea is captured by Gnomes, but is rescued by the one-handed thief Panamon Creel and his mute Troll companion Keltset Mallicor Journeying to the Northland, they reach the Skull Kingdom and discover that Gnome deserter Orl Fane has the Sword of Shannara and has taken it to the Skull Kingdom. Infiltrating the Warlock Lord’s fortress in the Skull Mountain, Shea eventually finds the sword of Shannara and The Warlock Lord confronts Shea in a thrilling battle at the Skull Mountain which will decide the fate of the Four Lands

Trevor Rabin (Yes)

Musician Songwriter and Film composer Trevor Charles Rabin was born 13 January 1954 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was Educated at Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg, he took formal piano training before discovering the guitar at age 12. He joined one of his first bands, The Other, when he was 13. He was interested in both Rock and Classical music which His parents encouraged. Rabin also studied orchestration at the University of Johannesburg and trained to be a conductor. Rabin’s early influences included Arnold Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. He played progressive and heavy rock with his first band, The Conglomeration, he also played with anti-apartheid rock band Freedom’s Children and became a session guitarist and bassist for many jazz bands in South Africa.

Yes_Wonderous+StoriesRabin formed his first major recording group, Rabbitt, along with Neil Cloud (drums), Ronnie Robot (bass guitar), and Duncan Faure (keyboards, guitar, vocals). They gained popularity in 1975 after appearing at Johannesburg’s “Take It Easy” club. Their first single, was a cover of Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath” Followed by their debut album, Boys Will Be Boys in 1975. Rabbitt’s second album, A Croak and a Grunt in the Night, was released in 1977. Rabin went on to win a South African Sarie music award and won a Sarie for Best Contemporary Music Artist in 1976 and 1977. Rabbitt recorded their third album, Rock Rabbitt before disbanding in 1978.

Rabin recorded his first solo album Beginnings in 1977 & also fronted Disco Rock Machine, which released two albums Time To Love and Disco Rock Machine 2. Rabin also began working as a producer and released the album Wolf, co-produced with Ray Davies of The Kinks in 1981 with contributions from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band members Chris Thompson and Manfred Mann. In 1982 Rabin auditioned with the prog-rock supergroup Asia and considered joining a proposed supergroup with future Asia members John Wetton and Carl Palmer and also ex-Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Rabin then met bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White, longtime members of The band Yes, and soon Rabin, Squire and White began collaborating under the name Cinema, they were later joined by original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye to complement their live performances and Trevor Horn. Rabin had written several songs for what became 90125 including “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Squire then met longtime Yes vocalist Jon Anderson inLos Angeles and Anderson joined as vocalist. Both “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Leave It” became major hits. Yes also received a Grammy award in 1984 for the instrumental “Cinema” and toured Europe and America. Rabin contributed his acoustic guitar solo, “Solly’s Beard” and played on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s debut album Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

In 1985, Yes began recording their next album, hampered by tensions between Anderson, Squire and Horn. Eventually, Rabin assumed control of the project, with Horn resigning as producer. Demos have emerged with Trevor Rabin singing lead vocals on “Final Eyes” and “Rhythm of Love.” Yes’s next album Big Generator emerged in late 1987, with songs “Love Will Find a Way” Final Eyes “Shoot High, Aim Low” and “Rhythm of Love.” Anderson left Yes and formed Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Rabin also completed his fourth solo album “Can’t Look Away” released in 1989. Containing the anti-apartheid ballad “Sorrow (Your Heart)” & “Something to Hold on To”, Which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video. Trevor Rabin toured with drummer Lou Molino III, fretless bassist Jim Simmons and keyboardist-composer Mark Mancina on the Can’t Look Away tour which was recorded as 2003’s Live in LA, and featured interpretations of ’80s Yes material, as well as highlights from his Wolf album. Rabin wrote three songs for Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe’s second album.

Both Yes line-ups worked on the next album Union separately and Rabin wrote the songs”Lift Me Up” and “Saving My Heart. Sadly Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman left. Trevor Rabin produced Yes’s next album Talk, featuring the songs “Endless Dream”,”The Calling” and “Walls” Which was a collaboration between Rabin and Roger Hodgson, (Supertramp). However Rabin left Yes after the tour. He next collaborated with Wakeman, on the song “Never is a Long, Long Time,” from Wakeman’s album Return to the Centre of the Earth in 1999. In 1996, Rabin performed Yes and Rabbitt songs during the Prince’s Trust Concert in South Africa and also released demo versions of pre-90125 Yes compositions and solo work, entitled 90124, as well as Live in LA, recorded at the Roxy in Los Angeles in late 1989. In 2004 Rabin also performed in aid of the Prince’s Trust with Yes at the Wembley Arena in London.

Trevor Rabin has also written Music for many films including: Bad Company, Con Air, Homegrown, Armageddon, Jack Frost (in which Rabin appeared onscreen in two scenes), Deep Blue Sea, Gone in 60 Seconds, Remember the Titans, The 6th Day, The Banger Sisters, Kangaroo Jack, Bad Boys II, The Great Raid, Exorcist: The Beginning, National Treasure, Coach Carter, Glory Road, Snakes on a Plane, The Glimmer Man, Flyboys, Gridiron Gang, Hot Rod, The Guardian, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Get Smart, Race to Witch Mountain, 12 Rounds, G-Force, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Trevor Rabin has received many awards including several Grammy nominations, one Grammy win, eleven BMI film score awards, and a lifetime achievement award from the Temecula Film Festival. His composition “Titans Spirit” from Remember the Titans has been frequently featured in NBC’s closing montage and credits for their Olympics coverage. It was also played following United States President-Elect Barack Obama’s speech upon winning the 2008 US Presidential Election, and served as the backdrop for the ensuing celebration. Rabin also composed the theme for TNT’s coverage of the National Basketball Association in 2009 and the theme for NCAA’s March Madness in 2011. He composed the score for Disney’s Mission: Space attraction at Epcot. In 2011 Rabin was awarded at the 26th Annual ASCAP Film & Television Music Awards in the Top Box Office Films category for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In 2012 he released the all-instrumental solo album Jacaranda and was presented with the Henry Mancini Award at the 27th Annual ASCAP Film & Television Music Awards in 2012 and is currently working on new solo material.

Michael Bond (Paddington Bear)

Most famous for writing the “Paddington Bear” stories, the English author Michael Bond CBE  was born 13 January 1926 In Newbury and raised in Reading, Berkshire, where his visits to Reading Station to watch the Cornish Riviera Express go steaming through started a love of trains. He was educated at Presentation College, in Reading, Berkshire. He left education aged fourteen, despite his parents’ wishes for him to go to university.

During World War II he worked in a solicitor’s office for a year and then as an engineer’s assistant for the BBC. In February 1943, Michael Bond survived an air raid in Reading. The building in which he was working collapsed under him, killing 41 people and injuring many more. Shortly afterwards he volunteered for aircrew service in the Royal Air Force as a 17-year-old but he was discharged after suffering from acute air sickness. He then served in the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army until 1947.

Bond began writing in 1945 while stationed with the army in Cairo, and sold his first short story to the magazine London Opinion. In 1958, after producing a number of plays and short stories and while working as a BBC television cameraman (where he worked on Blue Peter for a time), his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published. This was the start of Bond’s series of books recounting the tales of Paddington Bear, a bear from “darkest Peru”, whose Aunt Lucy sends him to the United Kingdom, carrying a jar of marmalade. In the first book the Brown family find the bear at Paddington Station, and adopt him, naming the bear after the railway station. By 1965, Bond was able to give up his BBC job to work full-time as a writer. Paddington’s adventures have sold over 35 million books, have been published in nearly twenty countries, in over forty languages, and have inspired pop bands, race horses, plays, hot air balloons, a movie and television series. Bond stated in 2007 that he did not plan to continue the adventures of Paddington Bear in further volumes, However, in April 2014 a new book Love From Paddington, was published. A film, Paddington (2014), based on the books, was also made, in which Bond had a credited cameo as the Kindly Gentleman.

Bond also wrote another series of children’s books, the adventures of a guinea pig named Olga da Polga, named after the Bond family’s pet, as well as the animated BBC television series The Herbs (1968). Bond also wrote culinary mystery stories for adults, featuring Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound, Pommes Frites. Bond also wrote a Reflection on the Passing of the Years shortly after his 90th birthday. The piece was read by David Attenborough, who also turned 90 in 2016, at the national service of thanksgiving to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday at St Paul’s Cathedral in June 2016.

More than 35 million Paddington books have sold around the world and the characters have also featured in film and on television. Bond was made a CBE in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours. His first book was published in 1958, and his last in 2015, a span of nearly 60 years. In 1997 Bondwas made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in 1997, and Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours. On 6 July 2007 the University of Reading awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Letters. Sadly Michael Bond died 27 June 2017 however his Paddington Bear books remains popular.