Review: The Hunger Games – Catching Fire

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Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

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Jumping right into the story it picks up right where it left off with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as champions and the districts building hope because of what they did at the end. There was so much to the story to tell, over 2 hours and 30 minutes with a lot of twists and turns that brings Katniss & Peeta back into the fight with other champions as their foes, but with more on the line then they even know. It was a slow development in the beginning but it was building up, the characters all back in play with a few new interesting fighters. The fight in the dome felt a bit accelerated this time around, the bad guys in the dome didn’t feel that bad and died too quickly. I wanted so much more from it but the cliffhanger at the end of the movie honestly left me unsatisfied, I know sometimes there are movies that need sequels but this one felt like it was missing a piece. I’m not going to ruin it for anyone but you have to satisfy the person watching the movie even if you have a cliffhanger at the end.

Link: IMDB
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Review: Outlaws Inc.

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This riveting account reveals the secret corners of our supposedly flat world: black markets where governments are never seen but still spend outrageous amounts of money. Journalist Matt Potter tells the story of Yuri and his crew, a gang of Russian military men who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union found themselves without work or prospects. So they bought a decommissioned Soviet plane-at liquidation prices, straight from the Russian government-and started a shipping business. It wasn’t long before Yuri, and many pilots like him, found themselves an unlikely (and ethically dubious) hub of global trading. Men like these are paid by the U.S., the Taliban, and blue-chip multinational companies to bring supplies- some legal, some not-across dangerous borders.

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Under the Radar and on the Black Market with the World’s Most Dangerous Smugglers

I picked up this book thinking its going to be a crazy story about a bunch of commands gone bad, but turns out to be a book about the grey market of private aviation, they are neither bad guys nor good guys, just depends on the contract that they have at hand. It is one very interesting book as to how the Soviet Military broke down since they ran out of money and the Air Force turned out into the most efficient and decentralized private aviation industry known to man, no one boss, no accountability, with the powers and resources of the cold war at their hands. Where paperwork can be altered, these guys would be based and they would go, they go where they are needed with their Antonovs and Ilyushins. The book is a very interesting read, a view into the Russian mind set and to my surprise Sharjah was a major hub for Drug Smuggling, Money Laundering and more, didn’t know it was like that for so long but it was the gateway into the Middle East and Europe from Asia and Russia. Matt Potter did a fantastic job of going into the depth of this story, but the book gets a bit repetitive, it could have been about 1/3 shorter then it was, then it would have been a perfect book, but it was a very interesting read and an eye opener.

Link: Amazon
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Review: Star Wars – The Jedi Path

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Passed down from Master to apprentice, The Jedi Path is an ancient training manual that has educated and enlightened generations of Jedi. Within its pages, the Jedi-intraining will discover the history and lore of the Jedi Order, the ways of the Force and how to wield it, the subtle nuances of lightsaber combat, and the dangers of the Dark Side. The only remaining copy in existence, this hallowed tome features handwritten annotated notes by Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Count Dooku, and Darth Sidious, among many others.

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Right off the bat this book is for the Star Wars fan, it is so detailed and well written that you feel yourself immersed in the Jedi Universe, with notes from so many Jedi. When I first started the book it seemed like a used manual which is what it is supposed to be, explaining how you develop the Force within you to become a Jedi. As you progress you read the notes of the different Jedi and at the same time you get a feel for their mentality which. And one Jedi who became a Sith, Count Doku, his notes are clear that he is a ruthless human being with the way he used the force. As you progress you get more immersed as to the different types of Jedi and different fields. It is one detailed training manual and the origin stories as to how the Jedi developed their powers, and I do love reading Yoda’s notes, I can hear his voice in my head when I read it. A Must have for any Star Wars fan.

Link: Amazon
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Ministry of Education – Book Clearance

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In the 60s,70s, and even the 80s, the books that were produced by the Ministry of Education were used all over the Gulf by many GCC countries and a few Arab countries. As with many things they were great in the past, but now its not even a shadow of its former self.

Recently I heard of an incident with the Ministry of Education and a few of the private schools. Any private school has to submit the book it uses for approval by the MoE, which makes sense, if things were perfect. Some books get banned and some get approved, and during one visit to the private school to check on the books one of the teachers asked why a book was banned, she said because it has nudity, and the teacher was confused as it doesn’t. Then the government employee said her colleague watch the movie and it had nudity so the book was banned, but then the teacher replied the book is different. Then the employee replies that the movie has nudity so the book was banned. The concept that the book and the movie were different was not being comprehended.

So now the ministry basis the book approvals through movies viewings, I wonder what they do when there isn’t a movie. And now The Great Gatsby is going to be released soon with Leonardo DiCaprio and you know there will probably be a few frisky scenes, and if its the same process then they will probably ban that book too.

Review: Inside Apple – Adam Lashinsky

INSIDE APPLE reveals the secret systems, tactics and leadership strategies that allowed Steve Jobs and his company to churn out hit after hit and inspire a cult-like following for its products.

If Apple is Silicon Valley’s answer to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, then author Adam Lashinsky provides readers with a golden ticket to step inside. In this primer on leadership and innovation, the author will introduce readers to concepts like the “DRI” (Apple’s practice of assigning a Directly Responsible Individual to every task) and the Top 100 (an annual ritual in which 100 up-and-coming executives are tapped a la Skull & Bones for a secret retreat with company founder Steve Jobs).

Based on numerous interviews, the book offers exclusive new information about how Apple innovates, deals with its suppliers and is handling the transition into the Post Jobs Era. Lashinsky, a Senior Editor at Large for Fortune, knows the subject cold: In a 2008 cover story for the magazine entitled The Genius Behind Steve: Could Operations Whiz Tim Cook Run The Company Someday he predicted that Tim Cook, then an unknown, would eventually succeed Steve Jobs as CEO.

While Inside Apple is ostensibly a deep dive into one, unique company (and its ecosystem of suppliers, investors, employees and competitors), the lessons about Jobs, leadership, product design and marketing are universal. They should appeal to anyone hoping to bring some of that Apple magic to their own company, career, or creative endeavor.

Like a lot of people I bought the autobiography of Steve Jobs after he passed away, but this book intrigued me at Heathrow Airport, it was the first one to feel like it really jumped into Apple’s secretive policies. I was expecting a book that would be bashing Apple nonstop for their tactics, but at least a view into Apple with a bit more perspective. This type of business book is relative only for a very short time and so I thought to read it within that time and just finishing it recently really was interesting. Surprisingly Adam Lashinsky praised Apple for a lot of their business decisions and how Jobs kept the entrepreneurial spirit in Apple going unlike many companies of it size. If you have any inclination towards Apple then you really have to read this book, I’m not their biggest fan but I do respect them and this book gives you more incite into them. An excellent read.

Link: Amazon

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Closure. Limited – Zombie Wars – Max Brooks

Set in the same terrifying universe as his million-selling World War Z, Closure, Ltd is among the short stories found within this collection. In it, Max interviews the head of a company dedicated to finding emotional closure for survivors of the zombie war by assassinating their former zombie attackers. Written in his trademark style, these tales are a combination of horror, drama, and socio-political commentary.

After leading his last book World War Z I’m just waiting for his next book, and this short story book picks up where the other one left off. When I started reading it you jump right into it again, he is so obsessed with zombies and its just so good you honestly believe that zombies are real and his books are the only way to fight them and go on as the human race. A very fun and easy read, if you get into it you can finish it in a few days, took me two weeks and I was taking my time. I honestly wish there was more and he takes a very different route with this one, introducing vampires. This time around you get their perspective and how the vampires fared against zombies and how zombies would react to them as well. His talent is getting you to believe the stories that he is writing are real and is happening right now. If you read World War Z then you have to read this as well.

Link: Amazon
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Review: Mr. China – Tim Clissold

Mr. China tells the rollicking story of a young man who goes to China with the misguided notion that he will help bring the Chinese into the modern world, only to be schooled by the most resourceful and creative operators he would ever meet. Part memoir, part parable, Mr. China is one man’s coming-of-age story where he learns to respect and admire the nation he sought to conquer.

I have a fascination with China, its still one of those mysterious countries to me, you always think you have knowledge of different places but China is a superpower yet its an enigma and this a book I picked up that told of a story how they lost a lot of money trying to bring the west to China and make money the way they know how. Tim Clissold is an English author so it was a different point of view, he lived and breathed China before jumping into the businesses in the early 90s. This book was publish in 2003 so they were telling the stories of China before it became the manufacturing superpower that it is now, when communism was everything and government had full control of every aspect. The book tells the story as he progressed to joining Patrick another big shot from Wallstreet to raise money and invest in China, but it turned out to be a different kind of beast and the Chinese were dealing with their own transformation at the time. All I knew about China back in the 90s was Tiananmen Sqaure, the One Child Rule, the Return Of Hong Kong, and Jackie Chan. Of course that changed as I grew up but still I wanted to know how the transformation happen and this book gives you that idea, even though it is a bit at a slow pace you get to go through his mind as he progressed from one issue to another.

Link: Amazon
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Review: Heroes Of The Valley – Jonothan Stroud

Halli Sveinsson has grown up in the House of Svein, listening to the legends of the heroes as all his forefathers did. His is a peaceful society where the violence of the past has been outlawed and disputes are settled by the Council. But young Halli has never quite seemed to fit in with the others. For starters, he was not at all handsome or tall, like his attractive blond siblings. He’s stumpy and swarthy, with a quick mind and aptitude for getting in trouble. Bored with the everyday chores and sheep herding, he can’t help himself from playing practical jokes on everyone, from Eyjolf the old servant, to his brother and sister. But when he plays a trick on Ragnor of the House of Hakonsson, he goes too far, setting in motion a chain of events that will forever alter his destiny. Because of it, Halli will have to leave home and go on a hero’s quest. Along the way, he will encounter highway robbers, terrifying monsters, and a girl who may finally be his match. In the end, he will discover the truth about the legends, his family, and himself.

I have always been a fan of Jonathan Stroud since his Barthalemous book trilogy which really pulled me in, I was expecting a book just as good as those set. And this book was in the young adult section and I honestly don’t care as long as its a good well written story, so I started reading it and getting more and more into it. A Valley with only certain number of tribes and one young man who is determined to find his own path. After reading the book I just felt that it just didn’t live up to my expectations, its not a bad book but I wish I didn’t waste my time on it since there are a lot of better books out there and I have on a pile waiting to go.

Link:Amazon
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Review: Ghost In The Wires By Kevin Mitnick

My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Kevin Mitnick was the most elusive computer break-in artist in history. He accessed computers and networks at the world’s biggest companies–and however fast the authorities were, Mitnick was faster, sprinting through phone switches, computer systems, and cellular networks. He spent years skipping through cyberspace, always three steps ahead and labeled unstoppable. But for Kevin, hacking wasn’t just about technological feats-it was an old fashioned confidence game that required guile and deception to trick the unwitting out of valuable information.

Driven by a powerful urge to accomplish the impossible, Mitnick bypassed security systems and blazed into major organizations including Motorola, Sun Microsystems, and Pacific Bell. But as the FBI’s net began to tighten, Kevin went on the run, engaging in an increasingly sophisticated cat and mouse game that led through false identities, a host of cities, plenty of close shaves, and an ultimate showdown with the Feds, who would stop at nothing to bring him down.

Ghost in the Wires is a thrilling true story of intrigue, suspense, and unbelievable escape, and a portrait of a visionary whose creativity, skills, and persistence forced the authorities to rethink the way they pursued him, inspiring ripples that brought permanent changes in the way people and companies protect their most sensitive information.

Kevin Mitnick was infamous to us nerds in the 90s, and I remember reading a bit about him back then when I was young. The image that comes to mind is the movie Hackers, and Swordfish from the ridiculous punching into keyboards and breaking into the NSA. In reality it isn’t like that, its just the flaws that these systems that Kevin managed to figure out and take full advantage of them. Starting from the 80s all the way to the mid 90s, and people were scared from what they didn’t know and they didn’t know what hacking was so they feared it. This story is far from technical and its rather exciting as you see how he dodged so many companies & the FBI and how he managed to infiltrate so many companies. Now its an even bigger reality we face a totally digital world and it is far from secure, it was a very entertaining read and picked up pace as it went along and you see what the government will do when they want someone, and a lot of laws are broken along the way.

Link: Amazon
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Steve Jobs by Walter Issacsson

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To be honest I do believe that Steve Job’s was one of my favorite CEO’s he did a lot for animation industry and the challenged the computer industry and every other media and technology industry out there. He certainly left his dent in the universe people are still trying to wrap their heads around his loss. At least you get to hear the story of the man himself, I’m not much for Biographies but this one I am going to read giving you an inside look inside Steve Job’s life. Written by hand-picked biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs by Walter Issacsson tells the tale of Steve’s professional and personal life, informed by unprecedented access to Jobs, his family, friends, and co-workers, including details of his final days at Apple, and reflections from Jobs as he faced what he called “Life’s greatest invention.” Rest in peace, o turtlenecked one. You will be missed.

Link: Amazon