Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

August 26, 2020

Relaunching Suramya’s Book Review Cafe

Filed under: Books Related,Website Updates — Suramya @ 11:15 AM

In 2010 I created a section of my website dedicated to book reviews but over the next few years that section was removed from the site. I honestly don’t remember why that happened but my best guess is that I was updating the website theme, never got around to migrating the section and then just forgot. I reviewed 71 Books during the time the site was active and looking at my logs if I had continued to review every book then I would have reviewed over 1500 books to date. 🙂

I finally revived the site over the past few days and instead of using the custom website that I had created with a bare-bones CMS system, I have switched over to WordPress as its a lot easier to manage/maintain WP sites. Migrating the old reviews was a painfully manual process where I had to export the data from the DB and then format it correctly for WordPress. Most of it I was able to automate but the Affilate links had to be manually updated and it was painful to say the least. But finally I am done and all the old reviews are imported into the updated site. Going forward I will be adding the book reviews to the site regularly.

You can access the site at: Relaunching Suramya’s Book Review Cafe.

There are some changes to the rating system that I have implemented for the reviews going forward to make the ratings easier to understand and more consistent. In the past I used a scale of 1-10 for the ratings but I will be using a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best) going forward.

Let me know if you have any questions/comments about the site or would like to give feedback on features that I should incorporate.

– Suramya

PS: This notice is duplicated on the Review site as well.

June 14, 2015

Why cataloging all my books was a bad idea, sort of.

Filed under: Books Related,My Life,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:53 PM

A little while ago there was a book sale happening and I wanted to buy a few books but couldn’t remember for sure if I had already bought them earlier or not and I couldn’t check because a lot of my books are in Delhi. I didn’t want to buy the same book twice so I ended up buying a different book but this made me think that I should keep a catalog of all the books I own so that I know which ones I need to buy. So I asked Surabhi to take a photo of all the books in Delhi and over the past few weeks I have been transcribing the names of the books to a text file.

As of today have a list of 334 books (excluding ebooks) that I own. I still have to go through another 5 shelves so the final count will be about another 125 books. Yes, that is a lot of books, but I did tell you that I read a lot.

During this time I realized that there are books from some of my favorite authors that I don’t have in my collection so I made a list of books that I need to buy to complete the collection. The list is not complete yet but I have already ended up buying 18 books in the past 2 months. Thankfully there were a couple of sales happening so I got a whole bunch of discounts but I need to start controlling my shopping sprees before my credit card files an official complain 🙂 as this is turning out to be a very expensive undertaking.

The good part is that I now have complete collections for some of my favorite authors. The remaining books that I am missing are in my queue to be purchased and I will be buying them as and when I see a sale or a discount on books in any of the stores. Interestingly I found that Flipkart is no longer the cheapest source for books in India as beat their prices almost 90% of the time.

Well this is all for now, I am off to make space for the new books in my bookshelf here in Bangalore.

– Suramya

July 21, 2013

Great Insults from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Filed under: Books Related,Humor,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:45 PM

Are you tired of using the same old insults for people who annoy you? Are you tired of using the same insults as everyone else? I know I am, but worry not, the great’s of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels have your back with some really cool insults that you can use without actually abusing. Folks at io9 spent some time to generate a list of 20 best insults and it has some gems. Below are some examples that I especially liked:

3) Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

“If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

5) Mort by Terry Pratchett

“‘It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,’ he said. ‘Have you thought of going into teaching?'”
6) Redwall by Brian Jacques

“To describe the young haremaid’s singing voice as akin to a frog trapped beneath a hot stone would have been a great insult to both frog and stone.”

Check out the whole list at 20 Great Insults from Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Maybe I should start using these more often. 🙂

– Suramya

October 26, 2012

Amazon delete’s a user’s entire Kindle library, restores it and then starts lending ebooks for free to Prime members

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:28 PM

A few days ago Amazon deleted the entire e-book library of a kindle user without explanation and the internet was in an uproar with multiple people including prominent author’s protesting against the move by Amazon; then a few days later the account was mysteriously re-enabled without any explanation. This is the *one* reason I don’t own a kindle even though its a fantastic device. I almost bought it last month during my US trip but ultimately decided not to because I don’t want the usability of my device to be on the whim & fancy of Amazon. They have deleted stuff from accounts in the past without notification and even after promising not to do it again they went ahead and wiped out this user’s kindle. I anyways don’t support DRM so that is another reason I don’t buy ebooks from Amazon (They are awesome for other stuff but not ebooks/mp3’s/online movies etc).

If you own a kindle I seriously suggest you keep a local copy of all the books you buy ’cause you never know when the book might disappear. There was an article on on how to remove the DRM that makes interesting reading as this article was prompted by the same news story as what I am talking about. Check it out, but remember only use it to break the DRM from stuff you own, don’t use it to pirate stuff ’cause that is not cool.

Today while surfing the web I saw an article on the Reg that Amazon UK will lend e-books for free to it’s Prime subscribers. I guess it could be a planned move that just coincidentally came at a time when Amazon was getting a lot of heat for their bonehead move earlier but the timing is suspicious….

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

Additional articles on the Kindle Wipe: Gizmodo.

July 17, 2012

Self destructing book now available for purchase.

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

In a release that sounds like a bad April fools joke or a tip off for a spy movie, Argentinian publishing house Eterna Cadencia is now selling a book written in disappearing ink. Basically 60 days after you open the sealed package the print in the book will disappear. I have no idea what the publisher was thinking, (although it would make a great gag book to gift to someone who is a slow reader) I wouldn’t want to purchase a book that I couldn’t go back and read over and over again, I have books that are over eighty years old and some books that I bought in college that I still go back and read at times.

If you want a self destructing book, why waste the paper it was printed on? Why not go for a digital copy which would be far cheaper and use a decryption program that stopped working after a particular amount of time. (I remember reading about a concept encryption routine that used the text of a couple of sites as the decryption code and once the pages changed beyond a certain threshold the encrypted data could no longer be decrypted.)

Would you purchase a book that deleted its text after a fixed time?

Source: One of the Tech Blog sites… Can’t remember which one. Will update when I do remember.
News links:
* Publishing: The book that self-destructs in 60 days – News – Books – The Independent and
* LA Times

– Suramya

April 27, 2012

Tor E-book Titles are DRM-Free (from July)

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:59 PM

Another publisher (Tor) sees the light and from July 2012 will start selling DRM free books. Yay! I have long advocated DRM free books for no other reason than the fact that I would like to read my books on all my platforms (Linux PC, Tablet + Android Phone) without restrictions or compatibility issues.

Tor is mainly a SciFi and Fantasy publisher with some great authors in its line up so I am glad that they are removing DRM from their books. Plus its not like the DRM was stopping anyone from making a copy of a book in any case.

Check out the Smash Words blog for a really good writeup on why DRM doesn’t work.

Five Reasons to Say No to DRM:
Readers (who know about DRM) don’t like DRM
DRM adds expense to books
DRM makes books complex
DRM limits accessibility to books, especially for those with vision disabilities who require Text-to-Speech (TTS)
DRM doesn’t prevent piracy

In all this is a great step forward in the fight against DRM. Now we just have to convince the publishers to price the ebooks reasonably and I will be all set. 🙂 Ah well, one step at a time.

Source: Tor/Forge E-book Titles to Go DRM-Free |

March 15, 2012

Collection Society wants to charge Libraries for the ‘privilige’ of Reading books aloud to kids

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:46 PM

“Say what??” Was pretty much my initial reaction when I first read this article on Techdirt. Then I thought that this must be some sort of misunderstanding as no one can be dumb enough to want to charge libraries extra for each time volunteers read their books (Not books they have written mind you, but books that they manage copywrite for… basically they are making money off other people’s work.) to kids. But unfortunately that was not the case. These idiots actually want to charge libraries extra because unpaid volunteers read books to kids.

Twice a month, the library in [the Belgian town of] Dilbeek welcomes about 10 children to introduce them to the magical world of books. A representative of the library in question is quoted in the De Morgen report as saying there’s no budget to compensate people who read to the kids, relying instead on volunteers (bless them).

SABAM got in touch with the library to let them know that it thinks this is unacceptable, however, and that they should start coughing up cash for reading stories from copyrighted books out loud. The library rep calculates that it could cost them roughly 250 euros (which is about $328) per year to pay SABAM for the right to — again — READ BOOKS TO KIDS.

Is it a requirement for people getting hired into such firms to be brain dead and lacking all common sense? How dumb can you get? Actually don’t answer that… I am sure they can stoop lower. These are the same upstanding folks who were Charged With Copyright Fraud, Embezzlement, Money Laundering and are waiting for the court date to be set for this.

All these organizations need to be banned and/or charged a heavy fine for every false complaint they make for copyright violation. At present it costs them almost nothing to send out these notices and if someone objects they can just withdraw the complaint without any downside/fines. If they had to pay every time they did stupid stuff then the number of false/stupid copyright infringement claims would go down a lot.

Actually… Now that I think about it, we should all send them money immediately before they start charging parents who read night time stories to their kids.

– Suramya

March 14, 2012

Ready Player One: Read this book if you like gaming/80’s movies

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:54 PM

Once in a while you will find a book that is so good that you end up staying up till morning just to finish the book. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one such book. I started reading it thinking that I would read a couple of chapters then crash as it was late and I had an early morning meeting the next day that I couldn’t miss. However the book was so engrossing that I ended up staying up till a bit after 5:30am to finish it. The next day was a blur that I survived only with the help of a *lot* of caffeine but the book was worth it.

The book is based in the near future (2044) where the world is an ugly place and most of humanity spends their waking hours in a virtual reality (OASIS) where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. The creator of OASIS (James Halliday) hid an Easter egg in the game that would give whoever found it controlling shares of the parent company that created OASIS which immediately translated to multimillion dollars of real world money and lots of power (enough to create a whole generation dedicated to finding the egg).

What makes the book really interesting is that James hid clues to find the Easter egg in references to 80’s movie/books/sci-fi/music in the virtual world and the players had to really know their 80’s trivia to find the hints. I am a big fan of a lot of the books/movies referred to in the book and had spent a lot of time playing some of the Games referenced as well, so the book was a great trip down memory lane. I am now really tempted to download some of the old games esp the text adventure games to relive some of them.

Some of the sub-plots in the book were a little predictable and a bit one dimensional but the main plot was pretty well paced and any issues with the complexity were easily ignored to enjoy a well crafted story line. The hacking shown in the book was a bit over the top but easily ignorable. Its not like most books don’t go overboard in showing that.

This is the first book by the author and I am eagerly waiting for more books by him. I believe that Warner Bros. has purchased the film rights to the script and I really hope they don’t screw it up as this has the potential to be a cult classic movie if done right.

Check it out: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

– Suramya

March 7, 2012

Yet another post on Ebooks

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:18 PM

Long time readers of this blog will remember (or atleast I would like to think so) that I am an avid reader and have been posting a lot about ebooks on the blog. Today I saw this article(Ebooks on Tablets fight Digital distractions) on NY Times which made me laugh. The article starts off with the following heading:

Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?
People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks.

Then gets more silly as it goes on, This excerpt was especially interesting:

“The tablet is like a temptress,” said James McQuivey, the Forrester Research analyst who led the survey. “It’s constantly saying, ‘You could be on YouTube now.’ Or it’s sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete.”

Indeed, the basic menu for the Kindle Fire offers links to video, apps, the Web, music, newsstand and books, effectively making books (once Amazon’s stock in trade) just another menu option. So too with the multipurpose iPad, which Allison Kutz, a 21-year-old senior at Elon University in North Carolina, bought in 2010. She says her reading experience has not been the same since.

She is constantly fending off the urge to check other media, making it tough to finish books. For example, in late September 2010, she bought “Breaking Night,” a memoir about a homeless girl turned Harvard student. Ms. Kutz said the only time she was able to focus on it was on an airplane because there was no Internet access.

“I’ve tried to sit down and read it in Starbucks or the apartment, but I end up on Facebook or Googling something she said, and then the next thing you know I’ve been surfing for 25 minutes,” Ms. Kutz said.

Blaming tablets because you don’t have the self control to focus on one task at a time is a bit like blaming doughnuts or McDonalds for being fat because you don’t have the self control to stop eating. I read a lot on my tablet and I read a lot of paper books as well, and so far I don’t see a big difference in my reading experience or the time I need to finish a book on either platform.

I know some people have medical conditions that make it difficult for them to focus on one thing at a time (ADHD) but for most people the problem is a lack of discipline and self-control instead of an actual medical problem. The people who get distracted while reading an ebook will get distracted while reading a regular book as well. There is nothing that prevents a person reading a regular book from picking up the remote to watch a bit of TV or the phone to call someone or a laptop to surf the net. I don’t know Allison Kutz personally but I have a feeling that she would be hard pressed to finish a regular hardcopy book also without getting distracted in the middle.

These ‘studies’ seem very contrived and a conspiracy theorist could argue that the publishing houses are trying to scare people against buying ebooks and push them towards buying paper books. The following article in the Telegraph (Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society) doesn’t do anything to convince me otherwise either. People made the same claims about TV, Radio’s, VCR’s etc etc and we are still here… You can’t stop technology/progress, all you can do is adapt and work with it.

Well this is all for now, I will get off my soap-box and go back to my corner to finish this book I was reading.

– Suramya

January 28, 2012

Proof that you can find anything on the net if you look long enough

Filed under: Books Related,My Life — Suramya @ 8:57 PM

After looking for this book since 1994 which was when I first read it I finally managed to get my hands on ‘Earth Invaded’ by Nathan Elliott in the Amazon used book section. The book was in pretty good condition and got here quite fast considering it was shipped from the UK using normal post (I as eager to read the book but not eager enough to pay for express international shipping)

Took me about 45 mins to read the first book (its a trilogy and is only 160 pages) but it sure brought back a lot of memories.  The book is the story of how a group of soldiers fight against alien invaders when none of their energy weapons work against them. The plot was simple, and the story straight forward. I guess that the book was written for a much younger audience but was still a good read even at my age.

I have the third book in the series but am still waiting for the second book to be delivered (Got that one from another used store on Amazon) so can’t read the next one till that arrives. 🙁

Currently waiting for my system to finish deleting files fromm the Trash folder so am typing this on the tablet using the new keyboard. 🙂 For some reason when I recovered data from one of my crashed disks and copied it to the new one it got into some sort of loop where the same directories were replicated under a folder over and over again i.e. I have a folder called .wine/dosdevices/z:/dev/fd/3 under which is another wine folder with the same layout and so on… So a 120GB folder was copied over as over 400GB and its taking forever to delete the files. Actually correction, I was able to delete them from the system but emptying the trash is taking time.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later once my system is back up (Booted into single user more to speed things up).

– Suramya

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