Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lucky No. 14 Challenge: Wrap Up

Lucky No. 14 challenge was hosted @ Books to Share. As the name of the challenge indicates, the goal was to read books in 14 different categories. Glad to have read books for all the categories.

Here are the books read:

1. Visit The Country: Read a book that has setting in a country that you really want to visit in real life. Make sure the setting has a big role in the book and it can make you know a little bit more about your dream destinationUp at the Villa by Somerset Maugham

2. Cover Lust: Pick a book from your shelf that you bought because you fell in love with the cover. Is the content as good as the cover? White Mythologies by Robert Young

3. Blame it on Bloggers: Read a book because you’ve read the sparkling reviews from other bloggers. Don’t forget to mention the blogger’s names too! The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

4. Bargain All The Way: Ever buying a book because it’s so cheap you don’t really care about the content? Now it’s time to open the book and find out whether it’s really worth your cents.Fire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine

5. (Not So) Fresh From the Oven: Do you remember you bought/got a new released book last year but never had a chance to read it? Dig it from your pile and bring back the 2013The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

6. First Letter’s Rule: Read a book which title begins with the same letter as your name (for me, Astrid means A, and I can read anything that started with the letter A). Remember: Articles like “a”, “an” or “the” doesn’t count :)Natural Causes by Henry Cecil

7. Once Upon a Time: Choose a book that’s been published for the first time before you were born (not necessarily has to be a classic book, just something a little bit older than you is okay. You can read the most recent edition if you want to)The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

8. Chunky Brick: Take a deep breath, and read a book that has more than 500 pages. Yep, the one that you’ve always been afraid of! : Resurrection by Lev Tolstoy

9.  Favorite Author: You like their books, but there are too many titles. This is your chance, choose a book that’s been written by your fave author but you haven’t got time to read it beforeThe Human Factor by Graham Grene

10. It’s Been There Forever: Pick up a book that has been there on your shelf for more than a year, clean up the dust and start to read it now :):  Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

11. Movies vs Books: You’ve seen the movie adaptation (or planned to see it soon) but never had time to read the book. It’s time to read it now, so you can compare the book vs the movie. The Bermuda Triangle by Charles Berlitz

12. Freebies Time: What’s the LAST free book you’ve got? Whether it’s from giveaway, a birthday gift or a surprise from someone special, don’t hold back any longer. Open the book and start reading it now :D
Douglas Jardine: Spartan Cricketer by Christopher Douglas

13. Not My Cup of Tea: Reach out to a genre that you’ve never tried (or probably just disliked) before. Whether it’s a romance, horror or non fiction, maybe you will find a hidden gem!Death by Night by John Creasey

14. Walking Down The Memory Lane: Ever had a book that you loved so much as a kid? Or a book that you wish you could read when you were just a child? Grab it now and prepare for a wonderful journey to the past :) Comic books or graphic novels are allowed!The Secret of the Moon Castle by Enid Blyton

It was fun reading books for the various categories.

Color-Coded Challenge: Wrap-Up and Sign-Up

I have completed the 2014 Color-Coded challenge hosted by Bev @ My Reader's Block. 

The goal was to read nine different books with colours in their titles. Here are the books read:

Suggests a Color:  Kartography by Kamila Shamsie
Any other Color: Almond Eyes Lotus Feet by Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar
Shades of Black: The Black Spectacles by J.D. Carr
Shades of Brown: Prison and Chocolate Cake by Nayantara Sahgal
Shades of Green: Green for Danger by Christianna Brand
Shades of Red: The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
Shades of Yellow: Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
Shades of White: White Mythologies by Robert Young
Shades of Blue: The Blue Hammer by Ross Macdonald


Bev is hosting the challenge once again in 2015. I am signing-up for it. If you want to join too, you can do it over here.

Challenge Complete: Diversity on the Bookshelf

British Books Challenge 2015: Sign-Up

For the third year in a row, I have successfully completed the British Books Challenge, having read 32 books,  and now I am signing up for it once again. This time the challenges is hosted @ Fluttering Butterflies. The rule remains the same, however. We have to read a minimum of 12 books by British authors.

Want to join? Do so over here.

Challenge Complete: Books on France: Wrap-Up and Sign-Up

I am glad to have successfully completed the Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge hosted @
Words and Peace. I had to read 3 books, I have done one better, having read four books. Two of the books are in English, one in German, and one in French.

Here are the books read:

The Fourth Door by Paul Halter
 I'll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney
Mille de Scuderi by E.T.A Hoffmann
The Merry Month of May by James Jones

Emma is hosting the challenge in 2015 too, with an added twist: The Bingo Card.

I am signing up for some more French reads in 2015. You too can join here.

2015 Reading Assignment Challenge

The 2015 Reading Assignment is a new challenge created by Fantasy is more Fun and Because Reading. Here is what the hosts have to say about the challenge:

Commit to reading 1, 2, 3, or 4 books a month and MAKE A LIST of the SPECIFIC books you will read in 2015. This is the point of the challenge: You’re committing to reading a set list of books and a certain number of them each month. It’s your chance to finally hold yourself accountable for those books you keep promising yourself you’ll read!

I am signing up for Level 2 which means I'll be reading 12 books (1 book per month) in the year for this challenge.

Here are the books that I'll be reading:

January: Inside India by Halide Edib
February: Terrorism, Insurgency, and Indian English Literature (1830-1947) by Alex Tickell.
March: White Mughals by William Dalrymple
April: The Setting Sun by Bart Moore-Gilbert
May: The Cradle Song by G. Martinez Sierra
June: Ayesha by H. Rider Haggard
July:The Lessons by Naomi Alderman
August:  Millitant Nationalism in the Punjab by Kamlesh Mohan
September: The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidhar
October: Terror and the Postcolonial (Ed) E. Boehmer
November: Masks of Conquest by Gauri Viswanathan
December: The Boat by L.P. Hartley

Interested? Sign-Up here.

Last Review of 2014: Douglas Jardine: Spartan Cricketer

I wanted to write a lengthy review of Christopher Douglas' biography of England's toughest cricket captain: Douglas Jardine. Unfortunately, it seems right now I'll just manage to write a few lines. For those who follow cricket, Jardine needs no introduction. He was given the unenviable task of bringing back at the Ashes at a time when people were saying that the Australian batsman Don Bradman should be given a smaller bat! Jardine's tactics for stopping the Bradman Juggernaut are written in the annals of cricket history. Douglas' book doesn't make Jardine accessible but does fill a lacuna.

I definitely propose to write a detailed review later as 'Bodyline' was my 'Summer Madness' for this year and especially as this book was gifted to me by hubby dear. :)

First Line: Born on 23 October, 1900, Douglas Robert Jardine was, strictly speaking, a Victorian by only three months, but in almost every respect - intellect, morality, even appearance - he was a nineteenth century man.

Title: Douglas Jardine: Spartan Cricketer
Author: Christopher Douglas
Publication Details: London: Metheun, 2010
First Published: 1984
Pages: 238
Source: Gifted to me this year.
Other books read of the same author: None

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Loneliness might well be the greatest disease of human kind. Brian Moore's The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is a deeply moving book about a middle-aged woman in post-war Belfast. Living in rented rooms, dealing with the fact that there is hardly anybody concerned about her, trying to find solace in religion and struggling with alcoholism, she is a tragic figure.

James Jones' The Merry Month of May ostensibly deals with the Left Bank movement in Paris but actually seems more concerned about the sexual fantasies and fetishes of the Gallagher family, American expatriates living in Paris. The connection between the two threads (the revolt and the sexual part) is never made clear and the role of the Afro-American girl Samantha who wrecks havoc in the family is also unclear.

This year, I read a number of Non-Fictional books, most of them history texts, but I also read one dealing with the intricacies of the English language. Written in a humorous style, Maxwell Nurnberg's Questions You Always Wanted to ask about English, discusses some of the problematic areas of English and explains them not with hi-fi grammatical rules but in a simple manner. at times even asking the reader to 'go by his ear'. It was fun to do the exercises too.


First Line: The first thing Miss Judith Herne unpacked in her new lodgings was the silver-framed photograph of her aunt.

Title: The Lonely Passion of Miss Judith Hearne

Original Title: Judith Hearne

Author: Brian Moore

Publication Details: London: Paladin, 1988.

First Published: 1955.

Pages: 255

Other books read of the same author: None

Source: H.M. Library [F.M.O 59]


First Line: Well, it's all over.
Title: The Merry Month of May
Author: James Jones
Publication Details: London: Fontana, 1973
First Published: 1971
Pages: 352
Source: OTS


First Line: Do you find yourself wondering whether to use imply or infer, look uneasy as you blurt out for my brother and I, or fear the silence that may follow when you say, "I am a student here for now two years"?

Title: Questions You Always wanted to ask about English
Author: Maxwell Nurnberg
Publication Details: Delhi: Goyl Saab, 1998
Pages: 258
Source: OTS

More Mysteries

After writing down reviews of five golden-age mysteries, here are reviews of more mysteries: 3 Fictional, one Non-Fictional.


In  this year, I read a review of Eric Ambler's Epitaph for a Spy @ Bitter Tea and Mystery. After reading the fine review, I wanted to read a book set in a hotel. The only book that I could get however was this one that I had read before. In many ways, I found this book to be melancholic in tone. Miss Marple staying in Bertram's hotel, a place of which she has fond memories, reminiscences about the days gone by. She also becomes interested in the activities of the other guests and finally it is her acumen as well as her habit of eaves-dropping that helps the police solve the mystery of a number of robberies and a murder.


Is there anybody who hasn't heard about the Bermuda Triangle? I remember watching the movie as a school-kid and wanting to read more about it. But those were pre-google days and I could not get much information. By the time I got this book in 1998, my interest had abated. But this year I was determined to read it. The author Charles Berlitz writes an engaging account of the disappearances and the possible theories expounded regarding the mystery. But it was the Philadelphia experiment in which people disappeared and reappeared that literally gave me the shivers.


The Blue Hammer is the last book in the Lew Archer series written by Ross Macdonald. Archer is hired by the Biemeyers - Jack and Ruth - to investigate the disappearance (theft?) of a painting by artist Richard Chantry. As Archer investigates the case, he becomes interested in the life of Chantry who was supposed to be a genius and was posed for big things before his own disappearance. As the mystery deepens, Archer dwells into the past to reveal its continuing influence on the events in the present. The search becomes not so much for a lost painting as for lost father-figures.


Are there books that you find so disgusting that you want to wipe them off your memory? This is one such. Had I not been reading it on my computer but instead had a physical copy, I would have thrown it in the trash-can, something that I never-never do to book. A private investigator becomes obsessed with a woman he is supposed to investigate. The woman is a femme-fatale who goes on killing lovers and husbands (One of whom she gets eaten alive by a shark while another is bitten by a rattle-snake) and running away with their money. She goes on a killing rampage once because her protege has been killed in a robbery attempt (The girl had been shot by the employee of a shop who himself lost his life in safeguarding the shop that he worked at - an act described as foolish by the author. After all he wasn't the owner! Apparently, the author dwells in a different moral universe than me)

Yet it is the author's attempts (insidious to me) to create sympathy for the murderess that really made me mad: She is growing old and losing her beauty (sob!sob!); she has to wear glasses (sob!sob!); and dear me she has to work as a waitress [after running through her fortune(s)]. Please....


First Line: In the heart of the West End, there are many quiet pockets, unknown to almost all but taxi drivers who traverse them with expert knowledge and arrive triumphantly thereby at Park Lane, Berkeley Square or South Audley Street.

Title: At Bertram's Hotel
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Details: London: Fontana, 1965
First Published: 1965
Pages: 192
Source: H.M. Library[F.C.A 49 AP]
Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) And Then There Were None


First Line: THERE IS A SECTION OF THE WESTERN ATLANTIC, off the southeast coast of the United States, forming what has been termed a triangle, extending from Bermuda in the north to southern Florida, and then east to a point through the Bahamas past Puerto Rico to about 40 degree west longitude and then back again to Bermuda.

Title: The Bermuda Triangle
Author: Charles Berlitz
Publication Details: NY: Avon, 1975
First Published: 1974
Pages: 252
Source: OTS since 1998
Other books read of the same author: None


First Line: I drove up to the house on a private road that widened at the summit into a parking Apron.

Title: The Blue Hammer
Author: Ross Macdonald
Publication Details: ND: Rupa & Co., 1978
First Published: 1976
Pages: 252
Source: H.M. Library [F.M.A 234]
Other books read of the same author: The Galton Case

First Line: The Eye's desk was in a corner by the window
Title: Eye of the Beholder
Author: Marc Behm
Publication Details: NY: Ballantine Books, 1999
First Published: 1981
Pages: 183
Source: Open Library
Other books read of the author: (Thankfully) None

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

BINGO! I Claim a Full House!!

I am so very pleased to claim A full house in the Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge hosted @ My Reader's Block. I have finished the Golden Card, reading books in all the 36 categories. Needless to say, I enjoyed the challenge immensely. I not only read old favourites like Eric Ambler and Ethel Lina White but also discovered authors like Arthur J. Rees and rediscovered John Dickson Carr.

Color in the TitleThe Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
Set anywhere except UK/ USAThe Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume
Crime other than MurderThe Secret of the Moon Castle by Enid Blyton
Locked Room MysteryThe Burning Court by J.D. Carr
Academic Mystery: Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey
Set in the Entertainment World Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch

More than One TitleAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Number in the TitleThe Third Bullet and Other Stories by J.D. Carr
Food/ Cooks in some wayToo Many Cooks by Rex Stout
Author Never read BeforeNeither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes
Method of Murder: Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer
Woman in the Title I'll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney


Spooky TitleThe Hand in the Dark by Arthur J.Rees
Made Into a Movie: The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Amateur DetectiveMurder among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
Man in the Title: Watson's Choice by Gladys Mitchell
Country-House Mystery: Rope's End, Rogue's End by E.C.R Lorac
Mode of Transportation: Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler


Author Read BeforeThe Schirmer Inheritance by Eric Ambler
Lawyer/ Courtroom/ JudgeAccording to the Evidence by Henry Cecil
Read by a Fellow Challenger: Fear by L. Ron Hubbard
With a Professional DetectiveSteve Harrison: Detective of the Occult by Robert E. Howard
Involves Water: The Hole in the Wall by Arthur Morrison
Outside Comfort Zone: Fire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine


Detective TeamThe Black Spectacles by J.D. Carr
Time, Day, MonthDeath by Night by John Creasey
Translated WorkMille de Scuderi by E.T.A Hoffmann
Shortstory CollectionAshenden by Somerset Maugham
Set in EnglandThe Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Borrowed BookNatural Causes by Henry Cecil


Animal in the TitleCat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen
Place in the TitleFear Stalks the Village by Ethel Lina White
Size in the Title: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammet
Medical MysteryGreen for Danger by Christianna Brand
Author with a PseudonymThe Devil to Pay by Ellery Queen
Set in USAThe Town Cried Murder by Leslie Ford


I will be joining the 2015 edition of the challenge soon (as soon as I make up my mind about the card I want to go for:). If you are interested, you can do so over here.

European Reading Challenge: Wrap_Up & Sign_Up

Like the previous years, I had a great time reading for the European Reading Challenge hosted by
Rose City Reader


. This year around, I visited 10 (Scotland and England both being part of the UK) countries.

Here are the countries visited:

France:  I'll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney
Russia: Resurrection by Lev Tolstoy
Scotland (UK): Murder among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
Italy: Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham
Switzerland: Ashenden by Somerset Maugham
Austria: Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
Germany: Part of the Solution by Ulrich Peltzer
Greece: The Schirmer Inheritance by Eric Ambler
Czechoslovakia: Dead Man's Tale by Ellery Queen
Turkey: Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler
England (UK): The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne


The Challenge is being hosted again for the next year and I am signing up for it at the Five Star level which means I have to read at least 5 books by 5 European authors or set in 5 European countries. Interested in touring Europe, join here.

Challenge Complete: History Reading

History is something that interests me immensely, so I am very happy to have completed the History Reading Challenge hosted @ Fanda Classiclit.

I had opted for the scholar level which meant I had to read 4-6 Non-Fictional History texts, I read 7.

Here are the books read:

Bhagat Singh aur Unke Saathiyon ke Dastavez
Bhagat Singh: The Jail Notebook
Bhagat Singh: Select Speeches and Writings
Punjab and the Raj (1849-1947) by Ian Talbot
To Make the Deaf Hear by S. Irfan Habib
White Mythology by Robert Young
What is Cultural History? by Peter Burke

Two Books on History

As the countdown for the new year begins, I am scrambling to finish the books that I had challenged myself to read this year. Here are brief descriptions of two books on history.


Love the Cover.

A character in George Orwell's 1984 comments that whoever owns the past, owns the present. Is it any surprise than that the past is an extremely contested space and the concept of history has become extremely problematic? Professor Robert Young's first book then is an interrogation of theories -  Marxist, Post-Structuralist, Post-Colonial, Psychoanalytic - and he finds that all of them have problems in presenting 'history'. This book is considered a landmark in the academia as it was the first to present Post-Colonial theory as a field in itself. The book is heavy reading though when it reached the theories of Said, Bhabha, and Spivak, it became much easier (for me) to understand. I also liked the critique of Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, a book that I read last year. This is one book that I plan to reread in the coming year.


In contrast, I found Professor Peter Burke's study of the origins and development of Cultural history much more easy reading. Tracing the genealogy of Cultural history from the German Kulturgeschichte to the  profusion of books in the twentieth century, the book explains in simple terms many tropes being used in cultural studies today.


First Line: If so-called 'so-called poststructuralism' is the product of a single historical moment, then that moment is not May 1968 but rather the Algerian War of Independence - no doubt itself both a symptom and a product.

Title: White Mythologies: Writing History and the West
Author: Robert J.C. Young
Publication Details: London & NY: Routledge, 1999
First Published: 1990
Pages: 232
Source: OTS since 2000.
Other books read of the same author: None


First Line: Cultural history, once a Cinderella among the disciplines, neglected by its more successful sisters, was rediscovered in the 1970s, as the chronological list of publications at the end of the volume suggests.

Title: What is Cultural History?
Author: Peter Burke
Publication Details: Cambridge: Polity, 2008
First Published: 2004
Pages: 179
Source: OTS since 2009
Other books read of the same author: None

Monday, December 29, 2014


Want to write a commercially successful novel? Here are certain guidelines to help you achieve your goal:

1. The title of the book should carry a woman's name - and it should be a sexy one, like 'Miss Leela Mohini' or 'Mosdhar Vallibai'.

2. Don't worry about the storyline.(!) All you have to do is creatively adapt (love this phrase) the stories of [British penny dreadful author G.W.M.] Reynolds and the rest. Yet your story absolutely must include a minimum of half a dozen lovers and prostitutes, preferably ten dozen murders, and a few sundry thieves and detectives.

3. The story should begin with a murder. Sprinkle in a few thefts. Some arson will also help. These are the necessary ingredients of a modern novel.

4. You can make money only if you are able to titillate. If you try to bring in any social message, like Madhaviah's The Story of Padhmavathi or Rajam Iyer's The Story of Kamalbal, forget it. Beware! You are not going to lure your women readers.

These guidelines first published in 1933 by Sudhandhira Sangu are reproduced by Pritham K. Chakravarthy in her selection of Tamil pulp stories.

 Peopled by Mad Scientists, Hard-Boiled detectives, Vengeful Goddesses, Murderous Robots, Scandalous Starlets, Pathetic Prostitutes, and Drug addicted Lovers, this is a fun filled roller coaster ride in an attempt to claim the status of 'literature' for a huge body of writing that has rarely if ever made it into an academic library, despite having been produced for nearly a century.

Pulp in the Western Literature too has a long lineage. This year, I read Steve Harrison: Detective of the Occult by American author Robert E. Howard.

 Comprising of three stories - all published between 1934-26 - Fangs of Gold (People of the Serpent); Names in the Black Book; and Graveyard Rats, they put Harrison in strange, sinister situations where some supernatural force seems to be at work. However, Harrison's ingenuity reveals the human hand behind the supernatural smoke-screen.

In Fangs of Gold, Harrison follows a Chinese murderer to a swamp land where he finds worshippers of a Dark God. However, it is human ambition and lust for power that is really the culprit.

Is it Perry Mason between these covers?

In Names in the Black Book, a dead man apparently comes back to life and starts killing the people who were responsible for 'killing' him. Harrison's name is also in the list.

 In Graveyard Rats, the head of a man recently buried reappears in his house putting his brothers in terror and panic.

These were different kind of stories, a little too grisly for my taste.


First Line: THE AUTOMATIC DOORS closed behind Narendran as he entered the airport lounge.

Title: The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction

Translator: Pritham K. Chakravarthy

Editor: Rakesh Khanna

Publication Details: Chennai: Tranquebar Press, 2011

First Published: 2008

Pages: 412

Source: M.C. Library [894.8113 C349B]


Opening Lines: "THIS is the only trail into the swamp, mister." Steve Harrison's guide pointed a long finger down the narrow path which wound in and out among the live-oaks and cypresses. Harrison shrugged his massive shoulders. The surroundings were not inviting, with the long shadows of the late afternoon sun reaching dusky fingers into the dim recesses among the moss-hung trees.

Title: Steve Harrison: Detective of the Occult
Author: Robert E. Howard
Publication Details: E-book
Pages: n.pag.
Source: PGA
Other books read of the same author: None

Full House Reading Challenge and Women Fiction Reading Challenge

One of the most interesting challenges, I had joined this year was Full House Reading Challenge hosted @ Book Date. We had to fill a bingo-card, reading books in 25 different categories.

I am so very happy to state that I have successfully completed the challenge.

1: From the Local Library: Forty Years of Test Cricket: India-England (1932-1971) by Saradindu Sanyal
2: Best Read so far in 2014The Hand in the Dark by Arthur J. Rees
3From your wish listThe House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
4: Set in Different Country from Yours: Murder at the Pageant by Victor L.Whitechurch
5: Published in 2014Between Love and Freedom by Nikhil Govind

1: Theme/ Issue you think is Important: Bhagat Singh aur Unke Saathiyon ke Dastavez
2: Setting you'd Like to VisitUp at the Villa by Somerset Maugham
3: Suspense or Crime: The Schirmer Inheritance by Eric Ambler
4: ContemporaryKartography by Kamila Shamsie
5: More than 400 PagesReurrection by Lev Tolstoy

1: Reread: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
2. Review Persuaded YouFear by L. Ron Hubbard
3. Free Choice: The Case of the Man who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (set in my own country)
4. Published before 2013: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume (1886)
5: Book with Animal in itThe Human Factor by Graham Greene

1. Won or Borrowed: The Fourth Door by Paul Halter
2: Historical Fiction: Bodyline: The Novel by Paul Wheeler
3: Less than 200 PagesMartyr as Bridegroom by Ishwar Dayal Gaur
4: Non FictionFrom Sawdust to Stardust by Terry Lee Rioux
5: Author New to YouBeware of Pity by Stefan Zweig


1: Book from a Series: I'll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney
2: Free/ Bought CheaplyFire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine
3: Published in 2013: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
4: Paranormal or SF or DystopianThe Burning Court by J.D. Carr
5You Love the CoverThe Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad


I am signing up for the 2015 version of the challenge. Here is the card:

If you are interested in joining, you can do so over here.


I am also signing up for 2015 Women Fiction Reading Challenge also hosted @ Book Date. I am aiming for the motivated level which means I will be reading 1-5 books that have a woman as their protagonist.

If you are interested in joining, you can do so over here.

Back to the Classics challenge: Wrap Up and Sign Up

I am glad to note that I have successfully completed the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted @ Books and Chocolate.

I have not only completed the six essential categories but also four of the five optional categories, which gives me two entries in the prize-draw.

 Here are the books read:

A 20th Century ClassicOil! by Upton Sinclair
A 19th Century ClassicResurrection by Lev Tolstoy
A Classic by a Woman AuthorPrison and Chocolate Cake by Nayantara Sahgal
A Classic in TranslationBeware of Pity by Stefan Zweig
A Classic About WarThe Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You: The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

Optional Categories:
An American Classic: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
A Classic Mystery, Suspense or Thriller: The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
A Historical Fiction Classic.  This is any classic set at least 50 years before the time when it was written: Mille de Scuderi by E.T.A Hoffmann
A Classic That's Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV SeriesUp at the Villa by Somerset Maugham


Karen K is hosting the challenge for 2015 too and I am signing up for it.

If you are interested in joining, you can do so over here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Completed 2014 Challenges

In the year 2014, I signed for a number of challenges, and now the time has come to see how many I have been able to finish.

I have successfully completed:

1. 2014 Historic Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Ramblings of a Daydreamer. I was to read 1-5 books and I am happy to note that I have read three.

1. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
2. Bodyline: The Novel by Paul Wheeler
3. Mille de Scuderi by E.T.A Hoffmann

2. 2014 Rewind Challenge hosted by Coffee Bean Bookshelf. I was to read 12 books that were on my wishlist. I read 18 books.

From Sawdust to Stardust by Terry Lee Rioux
 Kartography by Kamila Shamsie
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
To Make the Deaf Hear by S. Irfan Habib
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Bodyline by Philip Derriman
Martyr as Bridegroom by Ishwar Dayal Gaur
The Human Factor by Graham Greene
Prison and Chocolate Cake by Nayantara Sahgal
Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham
Oil by Upton Sinclair
Ashenden by Somerset Maugham
Almond Eyes Lotus Feet by Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar
Mille de Scuderi by E.T.A Hoffmann
Green for Danger by Christianna Brand
Rope's End, Rogue's End by E.C.R Lorac
The Fourth Door by Paul Halter
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

3. Guilty Reads 2014 hosted by Topcho. I was to read 1-5 books. I read 5:

Bhagat Singh aur Unke Saathiyon ke Dastavez (ed) by Jagmohan Singh & Chaman Nahal
Bhagat Singh: The Jail Notebook (ed.) Chaman Nahal
Bhagat Singh: Select Speeches & Writings (ed.) D.N. Gupta
From Sawdust to Stardust by Terry Lee Rioux
To Make the Deaf Hear by S. Irfan Habib

4. Reading Outside the Box hosted @ Musings of a Booklover. I was to read 8-10 books, I read 11 books. Here are the books read:

Classics are the new black – read a classic novelThe Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

It’s a serial thing – you’ve read the first in a series (or even three of them), it’s time to read another!: The Case of the Man who Died Laughing

Lost in translation – time to read a book that was first written in another language and then translated: Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

It’s about time! – read a book that has been sitting on your shelf for at least two years! (and haven’t read it yet!) Bodyline: The Cricket War between England and Australia by Philip Derriman

By the numbers – read a book with a Number in the titleNeither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes

Weird Science! – read a book that features some form of science – and maybe discover an untapped passion.: Fire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine

I just love a good Duet – a book written by more than one authorAlmond Eyes Lotus Feet by Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar

New Guy in Town – read a Debut book written by a new author.: Between Love and Freedom by Nikhil Govind

Almost Human – read a book from the perspective of an animal – or an alien – or a robot! (at least feature an ‘almost human’)

Chunkster-time! – read a book that is longer 500 pages. (Time to dust off War and Peace)Resurrection by Lev Tolstoy

Random Rescue – go to a used book store and RANDOMLY pick a book! (could even be from a grab-bag)

Under-Aged Writer – read a book by an author who is not yet 21. Here's a little help.

Time for exercise – read a book that is set in or around a sport or exercise activity (like yoga or baseball). This can be fiction or nonfiction!Bodyline: The Novel by Paul Wheeler

Make-Believe - This category is just for YOU! (and anyone who wants to try it!) Here is your chance to let others know what would get you outside of your Comfort Zone!: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Five Vintage Mysteries

With time at a premium - just where did this year DISAPPEAR? - I am writing short reviews of golden age mysteries read this year.


Arthur Morrison (1863-1945) was an English novelist and journalist. The Hole in the Wall is an interesting crime novel, narrated in part by a child Stephen who goes to live with his grandfather after the death of his mother and infant brother. Grandfather Nat runs a drinking pub in the east end of London near the waterfront. Much of the novel's strength lies in the bewilderment of the child who narrates the goings-on that he cannot understand but the reader can. The portrayal of the seedier side of London at the turn of the century is also compelling in this tale of fraud, theft, and murder.



The Creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne, wrote this mystery (in fact, the only mystery that he wrote), in order to show his love and regard for his father who loved who-dunn-its.

Mark Ablett, a member of the landed gentry (in that long-lost golden age of Britain), is entertaining guests at his house when a letter arrives from his estranged brother, Robert, who being the black sheep of the family had long ago being bundled-off to Australia (which seemed a preferred destination for all such black sheep). Mark is disturbed on receiving the letter and when the brother arrives, voices from the study indicate that the reunion is not going too well. Soon a gun-shot is heard from the locked room and when the door is forced open, Robert lies dead in it while there is no sign of Mark. Tony Gillingham, a stranger to these parts, arrives at this very moment to meet his friend Bill Beverley, who is one of the guests of Mark. Gillingham plays Holmes to Beverley's Watson and solves the case.


Written by Scottish writer, Josephine Tey, Miss Pym Disposes, is an interesting text, in as much as it expounds the dangers of taking circumstantial evidence as the only criteria for fixing guilt. It also interrogates the prejudices and fixed opinions of the detective investigating a case.

Lucy Pym is saved from the drudgery of teaching French to school girls by a legacy left by an aunt which enables her to study psychology, later becoming an author of a best-seller. As she is a minor celebrity in her field, she is invited to lecture by her friend Henrietta Hodge, who is in-charge of Leys, a physical-training college. Though she intends to deliver the lecture and leave, Lucy finds herself getting involved in the lives of the girls. She forms her own opinions about them and when murder happens, she solves the case and apprehends the culprit. But is she right? Or has her own prejudice, made her wear blinkers?



The toughest category for me in Bev's Vintage mystery challenge (returning in 2015) was 'crime other than murder'. All the books that I read had murder in them. So, I went back to an old-favourite: Enid Blyton. The last book in Blyton's Secret Series sees the children (Peggy, Jack, the twins, and Prince Paul) living in a castle. Paul's family is coming from Bohemia and this is a sort of a trial-run to see whether the royals would be comfortable in the castle. Right from the beginning, there is something odd about the castle: Musical instruments start playing by themselves, furniture gets rearranged, books fall off the shelves, eyes of portraits start gleaming.... Is the castle haunted as local legend has it or is something sinister going on?

As I had picked up Blyton after a very long time, I wondered if I'd still like her, especially as there has been a lot of talk of her books being racist. Yes, Britannia rules the waves in her books but she definitely knows how to keep one engrossed. And the description of scones and ginger ale and pies and cakes was as tempting as it was when I first read this book as a kid and longed for such adventures in my life too.



Charles Eric Maine is the pseudonym of David Mcllwain (1921-1981), a writer of thrillers which combined elements of Sci-fi (or vice-versa). On the island of Kaluiki, a scientific hush-hush experiment is underway. As the project reaches it final stages, barring eight people, the rest all leave the island. As the reactor warms up, a death occurs. Even as the (now seven) scientists try to come to grips with this, another death occurs, and it dawns on them that one amongst them is a killer. Will the experiment be conducted successfully or will the remaining be dead before that, killed by the murderer...or something much more insidious. With echoes of Christie's And There Were None, this is an interesting tale of terror in a cloistered community but the end proves that Maine is no Christie.


First Line: My grandfather was a publican - and a sinner, as you will see.

Title: The Hole in the Wall
Author: Arthur Morrison
Publication Details: London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1947 (Intro by V.S. Pritchett)
First Published: 1902
Pages: 224
Source: C.L [823 M83H]
Other books read of the same author: None


First Line: In the drowsy heat of the summer afternoon the Red House was taking its siesta.

Title: The Red-House Mystery
Author: A.A. Milne
Publication Details: E-Book
First Published: 1922
Pages: n.pag
Source: Project Gutenberg
Other books read of the same author: None


Opening Lines: A BELL clanged. Brazen, insistent, maddening.

Title: Miss Pym Disposes

Author: Josephine Tey
Publication Details: E Book
First Published: 1946
Pages: n.pag.
Source: Project Gutenberg Australia
Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) Brat Farrar


First Line: Two girls were standing at their front gate one sunny afternoon in July.

Title: The Secret of the Moon Castle
Series: Secret series # 5
Author: Enid Blyton
Publication Details: London: Armada, 1965
First Published: 1953
Pages: 159
Source: H.M.L [FBC 58]
Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage


First Line: the long count-down began at prcisely twelve noon on January 18th, and from that instant strict radio silence was observed.

Title: Fire Past the Future
Alternate Title: Count-Down

Author: Charles Eric Maine
Publication Details: NY: Ballentine Books, 1959
First Published: 1959
Pages: 160
Source: Bought from the secondhand books market at Chandigarh in 2012
Other books read of the same author: None


Entry for FFB @ Pattinase