Monthly Archives: August 2011


Book Review: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev 2

Early last week I found out that someone who recently graduated from the same high school I attended had published his first book and thought maybe I should give it a shot. I was lucky enough to have known him from before through soccer and was given an opportunity to read and review the book. Shells by Yegor Chekmarev is currently available on Amazon ($10 for a paperback copy, or $0.99 for a Kindle edition). A self-described Russian-born American was influenced by “the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, the visionary novels of Arthur C. Clarke, and the labyrinthine layers of Mark Z. Danielewski”. He wrote his first short story entitled “The Dreamer” and is currently in the process of getting his second novel out to publishers which I will hopefully get to review again here once that project is completed.

At 212 pages, it certainly didn’t feel as long from the moment I picked it up and began to read it. I knocked out half the book in the first night I got it but eventually got slowed down by work and other priorities and unable to write this review as quickly as I had originally thought. I will reveal some minor spoilers in here though I will spare the majority of details for those interested in reading it themselves.

The main premise of the book is that a man wakes up every single day in a new body and must learn what his name is, who his new family and friends are and try to collect as many memories about the individual to survive the day without causing too much damage to the person’s life. We are told that as he moves on from body to body, the original “host”, as I shall call it, is returned to the state with no recollection of what happened the day before and continue living their lives.

It has a very quick paced beginning with the protagonist waking up in a body of a high school kid that is clearly not his and is completely unaware of his current name, family or what kind of personality this person might have. As I mentioned earlier the main character, whose name we don’t actually learn until later on in the book, tries not to cause too much damage to the host’s life although we see on occasion that this principle doesn’t always hold true as emotions tend to run high as the novel progresses.

As you continue reading, several questions immediately come to mind. Is he the only person who is switching from host to host on a daily basis? Are there others? What happens if he switches and runs into himself during the course of his day? Is that possible or what has happened to his body as he continues switching. Will he ever break the curse or will he forever wander through life, flitting from soul to soul, never creating an identity for himself?

So many questions that for the most part do end up being answered as you wrap up the book. A very impressive book for a first time publisher so make sure to go check it out on Amazon: Shells by Yegor Chekmarev. It is pretty great to see people our age (or in this case a little younger than me) who have taken an interest in writing and can produce quality material. Hopefully there is more in store for the rest of us.

On a related note, if you have a book or a paper that you have written or published, let me know and I will write and review it when I get the chance. Hopefully some of you can return the favor when I finally get around to publishing my own.


“So What Are Your Lunch Plans?”

Always around this time of the year when people ask about my lunch plans and I tell them I won’t be eating because I am fasting during the month of Ramadan, they become defensive and apologize for bringing the subject up. I don’t think discussing the topic of eating or drinking has bothered me for as long as I can remember. If anything, it reaffirms my belief and the reasons behind why I fast. Again this year, it has given me the opportunity to tell some people about Ramadan and why Muslims fast – a discussion I will gladly have with anyone who is genuinely curious. It is still pretty amazing to see the looks of people’s faces when they hear the fact that we are not allowed to drink any liquids as well during the course of the day. I suppose the western culture here have adapted the fasting to exclude water should one become thirsty.

Aside from the spiritual benefits, a few clear cut physical and material benefits are pretty easy to see. When you limit the amount of times you can, it has a direct and positive effect on the amount of money you are spending on breakfast or lunch while during the work week. To kill off some time during my lunch hour, I usually head out for a walk around downtown Toronto going to places like Nathan Phillips Square, CBC Tower or just underground to wherever the random paths will take me. That’s a decent amount of walking during the middle of day to change things up although the lack of energy towards the evening does take away from my will to properly exercise or go for a run.

Throughout all this, we are all susceptible to mistakes and can be found complaining, waiting for the sun to go down before we can break our fasts. I am no different on that as some of the people I regularly talk to can attest but most of us have it pretty easy here in the west – especially for the fasts during the summer months. Most of our days we spend in a fully air conditioned work building or at home, staying away from the outside heat as much as possible while those in less fortunate countries in less than reasonable conditions.

I’ll finish with you don’t have to be a Muslim to fast on a regular basis, and you certainly don’t have to do it for a month but why not give it a shot. It not only has personal health and financial benefits but it also serves a greater purpose in opening your eyes and seeing how the other half lives – if only for a day.


Knock, Knock, Knock.

I picked this up from “the creepiest thing that has ever happened in your house at night while you were alone” thread over on Reddit and boy is it a good one. Slightly not for the faint of heart.

This one is absolutely true.

Many years ago, I lived in a big, old, three-story house that had a room on the middle level that we converted into an office. I used to write financial reports late at night that were published early the next morning.

The office had a few computers and my toddler son had been playing on one of them for most of the evening, right up until I finished my work at around 9pm. By then he had fallen asleep, so I switched off his monitor, scooped him up and took him to bed, flicking off the light as I left.

For the next couple of hours I relaxed in another room watching TV with my wife. She went to bed around 11pm, and at midnight I decided to do the same. I realised I’d left a window open in the office, so I went in there to close it.

The house was silent, and the room was pitch black dark and ice cold when I walked in. Colder than it should have been for the time of the year, even with the window open. I paused for a moment in the center of the room to think about this, and then it happened.

Knock knock knock.

Something was tapping on the glass. But it wasn’t the random tappings of a bird or another kind of animal, it was completely uniform. It sounded human, but I was on the second floor, so how was that possible? It was so dark that I couldn’t make anything out against the black glass, but a few moments later it happened again.

Knock knock knock.

By now I was already feeling on edge. Then, something happened that chilled me to the core. Because out of the corner of the room, to my right, and from the darkness, a high-pitched, almost squeaky voice began to speak quite loudly.

I can see you.

I froze on the spot. My blood went cold. My bowels prepared for evacuation. My God, I thought, I never wrote that book. Any book.

It spoke again, but with greater emphasis on that all-important word.

I can seeee you.

I determined that I was almost certainly done, so I figured: what the hell. I turned slowly to my right and walked into the darkness, until I finally reached my son’s computer. Nothing there but an empty chair. But no talking now. Just silence. A horrible silence.

Carefully, I reached over and switched on the monitor. The screen brightened, and there it was: something red, and horrible. Once again it tapped on the glass.

It was Elmo from my kid’s Sesame Street game.


WhatsApp Messenger 4

I just downloaded WhatsApp Messenger on my Android.

It is a Smartphone Messenger which replaces SMS. This app even lets me send pictures, video and other multi-media!

WhatsApp Messenger is available for Android, iPhone, Nokia and BlackBerry and there is no PIN or username to remember – it works just like SMS and uses your internet data plan.

Get it now from http://www.whatsapp.com/download/ and say good-bye to SMS.

Although it is pretty convenient to use, it still is not the solution to everything. I have this on my phone but I will still rather prefer to email anyway.

The things I do like about it are the ability to group text, send images or other forms of media instantly to everyone in your group. Since this uses your data plan, it allows you to text/mms people at any number around the world.

If you have already downloaded the app, let me know what you think of it.