Book Review – Nemesis by Agatha Christie

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(My Rating 3/5)

While the Joan Hickson Miss Marple TV series has long been a favourite of mine, this is actually the first Miss Marple book I have read, thanks mainly to my newfound interest in crime novels. I must say that I think this is one of those uncommon good adaptations of book to TV series.

In Nemesis, Miss Marple receives a posthumous request from an acquaintance of hers to solve a mystery for him. He doesn’t however give her any information as to what the mystery is! What a brilliant way to draw you into the book! I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s layout of the book with bits of information given at just the right moment, her writing style and of course the endearing character of Miss Marple. However the final outcome of the mystery was a bit of a letdown for me – it wasn’t extremely surprising. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book a lot and will be reading more Miss Marple, especially as it’s been a while since I watched the show, so I’m sure I’ve forgotten what happens in most of the books/episodes.

The 35 books I read in 2016

 

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(This is a hurriedly put together post that I just wanted to somehow get in before the year was over, so apologies for grammar, spelling and other errors if any!)

2016 has been an extremely rewarding year reading-wise for me.

I hadn’t done any significant reading for about 4 years and I had begun to worry that the once treasured habit had faded away. But I guess the habit of reading is something like knowing how to ride a bike or swim.

I read a few books at the end of 2015 and then, to get back into the swing of things, I decided to set myself a reading challenge for 2016 – to read 15 books that I already owned (or from my parents’ vast collection) at the end of 2015 but had never read.

I am happy to report that not only did I complete my challenge with 16 books, but I also ended up reading a further 19 books, bringing my grand total for the year up to 35! I did surprise myself, as I had thought I would struggle to complete even 10.

Below is the entire list of books I read, with links to the ones I have reviewed.

BOOKS READ IN 2016:

  1. My Sainted Aunts by Bulbul Sharma
  2. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
  4. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  5. Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)
  6. Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  8. The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
  9. Hindu Gods – Priya Hemenway
  10. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  11. The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
  12. Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick
  13. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
  14. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  15. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  16. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #4) by Alexander McCall Smith
  17. The Full Cupboard of Life (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #5) by Alexander McCall Smith
  18. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
  19. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  20. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  21. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  23. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
  24. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  25. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  26. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  27. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  28. Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden
  29. Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella
  30. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
  31. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gabraith
  32. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Nemesis (Miss Marple #12) by Agatha Christie
  35. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #6) by Alexander McCall Smith

And now a few trivia-style snippets:

A book I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did: The Bridges of Madison County and The Call of the Wild

A book I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would: The Girl on The Train

A book that made me want to travel to a new country: Burial Rites

A genre I discovered wasn’t for me: Magical realism

Most rewarding genre: non-fiction, including Women of the Raj, Golden Rules and The Power of Habit.

Favourite series: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Favourite topic: The Raj, including Women of the Raj and Kingfishers Catch Fire and self-management, including Golden Rules, The Power of Habit and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (currently reading)

Favourite new genre (for me): – Crime/Detective/ Mystery, including Nemesis and The Cuckoo’s Calling

Most difficult book to get through: The Sound and The Fury

Books I admired for research, layout, writing, style and editing: Women of the Raj and Burial Rites

Favourite Classics: Villette and The Secret Garden

Christmas Read for 2016: Little Women

All round favourite read: How Green Was My Valley

That’s it for now. I shall return in the new year with the pending reviews.

Here’s to more reading in 2017! Happy New Year everyone!

Book Review – The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

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I haven’t, as I usually do, given this book a rating, because while I have finished reading it, I am not yet done with it! This is the most difficult book I have read and I intend to return to it again. What follows then is not so much a review as an exploration of my first impressions on reading the book for the first time. In fact, I think this is a book that must be discussed, not reviewed. And so, this ‘review’ might not even make sense to someone who hasn’t read the book!

The story, which is split into four parts revolves around the Compson family and is set in Mississippi. Three parts are set in 1928 and one is set in 1910. The main characters are the father – Jason Compson III, the mother – Caroline Bascomb Compson , their four children – Quentin, Caddy (Candace), Jason and Benjy – and Dilsey, the maid who, along with her children, looks after the family. It attempts to describe the circumstances that lead to the falling apart of the Compson family, by explaining events through the thoughts of three of the main characters.

The first part is told in the first person by Benjy, the youngest of the four Compson children. He has a mental disability and is 33-years old at the time of narration. This is an extremely disjointed section as Benjy’s thoughts flit back and forth between the present time and the time when he was a child.

While reading this section, I thought I understood parts, but more often than not, I realised that what I thought to be true a few pages earlier, might not in fact be the case! I nearly gave up a few times, but then when I realised that the first section was only 60 pages long, I decided to plod on.

Then an odd thing happened. The confusion I felt while reading the first section, seemed to disappear when I had completed it and the fragmented thoughts, on reflection, seemed to make sense, in retrospect, as a whole. I felt like I was immersed completely in Benjy’s head. And I’m guessing that that was one of the main reasons for Mr. Faulkner writing the book this way – to put us into the minds of each of the characters, without any distractions in the form of third party narratives. Continue reading

What will you be reading this Christmas?

“Sleigh bells ring…it’s the season…la la laa!”

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IT’S ONLY 5 WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS!

About a year ago, when I had just about got back on track with my reading habit, after a 2-3 year hiatus, I decided that every Christmas I would read a ‘Christmassy’ book!

Last year I read and reviewed A Chirstmas Carol by Charles Dickens and this year I hope to begin reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the next few weeks.

Do you have a Christmas book ritual too? Do you like to read something that reminds you of the spirit of Christmas? Or a story set in a picture perfect winter land? Perhaps you prefer a nice chilling winter murder story instead! Or do you have one favourite book that you read every Christmas?

Whatever your Christmas reading plans or recommendations, I am eagerly waiting to hear all about them!

 

Book Review – Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

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(My Rating: 4/5)

Published in 1953 and set in pre-Independent India, (or perhaps just after Independence – I could not ascertain which) Kingfishers Catch Fire is about fickle, illogical and dreamy Sophie, a British lady, who after travelling around India with her two young children, as and when a new fancy struck, finally decides to settle down in a remote part of Kashmir.

She is of the firm belief that she will fit in seamlessly with the locals and that she and her family will be accepted as one of them. Of course, the reality is something quite different and this is what the novel explores. It brings into focus much of what the situation in India was, specifically the hierarchical relationships between the Indians and the British – the unspoken barriers that existed, where everyone had their place and no one questioned those places or tried to alter things. Sophie however, is an exception; she does question and does try to change things. The scenario that unfolds – what happens to this single mother of two – as portrayed through Godden’s story, is a very believable one.

The characters are very interesting and well fleshed out. Sophie is the kind to go off on a whim and make plans without examining the practicality of their execution. For example, when she is short on money and decides to settle down in rural India, she emphatically declares to her daughter- “We shan’t be poor whites. We shall be peasants.” Continue reading

Book Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

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(My Rating: 3/5)

In The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is the first of the Cormoran Strike detective series by J.K. Rowling writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, Strike is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of a supermodel who has fallen to her death from her apartment balcony in Mayfair.

I generally prefer to watch TV shows such as Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple and the like, rather than read Crime/Mystery novels, so this is a new area for me. I enjoyed it and I think it’s a good genre to intersperse my usual reading with.

It was a very readable novel, paced well enough that you want to know what happens next, yet it does not hurtle along so fast that you’ve forgotten what happened five pages ago. I felt that the attention to detail Rowling paid while creating the wonderful magical world of Harry Potter for us is here translated into meticulous attention paid to creating numerous interesting characters and their interactions, a good plot and a well rounded story, that doesn’t cut corners just to make it go faster. And of course, as we already knew, she writes well and knows how to tell a good story!

I would definitely read more Cormoran Strike.

And finally, amidst getting all caught up in the story and eager to find out whodunit, there was a paragraph towards the end of the book that made me stop and re-read it a few times. I thought it was so true and so distressing, because it was so true:

“How easy it was to capitalise on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”

Book Review – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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(My Rating: 5/5)

This is only the second children’s book I have read since I reviewed The Railway Children by E. Nesbit some months ago, and I loved it for SO many reasons, that I am sure I will forget at least a few while writing this review!

At the beginning of the story, which was first published in 1911, we are introduced to Mary Lennox, a little English girl who has lived in India for all of her life, but now, under tragic circumstances, she is sent to live with her brooding, elusive uncle in England, in a large mansion on the Yorkshire moors.

Mary, who is a spoilt, fussy, difficult child soon realises that her new house and occupants seem to be hiding many secrets. She slowly begins to uncover some of these and undergoes a transformation in the process. She gradually discovers the joys of childhood that she knew nothing about before. Due to her interaction with some very kind and caring individuals – mainly the house help – she begins to grow healthy, less churlish and even considerate of others. From this point on there are more wonderful secrets she uncovers and more wonderful people that come into her life and she ultimately plays a vital role in restoring a damaged relationship.

I read this book during a time I was going through something very sad, as well as emotionally and physically draining. A story that inspired hope, spoke about the goodness of people transforming one’s life and about the possibility and joy of turning a seemingly hopeless situation into something beautiful, through determination, care and love, was just the sort of of story I needed to read. It reminded me, in the midst of my sorrow for something I had lost, to stop and notice the beauty that already exists, right now, in my life. Once again a book came into my life at just the right moment, and in a way, helped save me. Continue reading