Friday, January 30, 2015

January 2015 Reads

Right now I am juggling too many things and so am resorting to a monthly reading review. 

Individual and Society was my first read. Here are the other books read this month:

THE TWO SISTERS by H.E. Bates (1926)

The first novel of British author H.E. Bates chronicles the life of Jenny Lee who lives with her father and three siblings - Jim, Luke, and Tessie - in an isolated farmhouse. Attached to her mother who dies when Jenny is just in her teens, Jenny finds herself becoming increasingly lonely. A sensitive stranger, Michael Winter, enters her life but Tessie too falls in love with him. Neither the characters nor the plot really held my interest.

First Line: Running through these two Midland towns, Harlington and Bromsweald, some outskirting streets of which mingle with each other on a hill between the boughs of adjacent trees, is a road that lies white and comparatively empty from Sunday to Thursday.

Publication Details: London: Panther, 1958
First Published: 1926
Pages: 192
Source: H.M.L [F.B.A 74]


INSIDE INDIA by Halide Edib (1937)

Halide Edib was a Turkish nationalist (she was at one time a comrade of Kemal Ataturk), and a novelist. In 1935, she visited India to deliver a number of lectures at the Jamia Millia Islamia. Finding India 'to be nearer to my soul-climate than any other country not my own', she wrote this book. Starting from Bombay (now Mumbai) she travels through the length and breadth of the country: Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Lucknow; meets people about whom we read only in our history books: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Dr. A. Ansari, Dr. Zakir Husein, Kamla Devi Chattopadhya, and of course Gandhi. Throughout her journey, she observes the changing social milieu of India especially as it pertains to the zenana. 

A few factual inaccuracies aside (the main temple in Varanasi is devoted to Lord Shiv rather then to Lord Vishnu as the author states), this is an engrossing telling of a nation in transition. Professor Mushirul Hasan provides a lengthy introduction to the volume detailing Turkey's history and the importance of Edib. The only quibble that I have with the book is the inclusion of a piece on Gandhi by the author published in another book. As the unedited version of the same thing is in this book, I fail to understand the reason for its inclusion. With a considerable part of the book already devoted to Gandhi this is nothing but an overkill. However, overall this is a book anybody interested in India's past should read.

First Line: Tales had three ways of beginning in my country....
Publication Details: ND: OUP, 2002
First Published: 1937
Pages: lxxix + 272
Source: C.L [954.0309 E 41 I]


SANSMRITIYAN by Shiv Verma (1969)

Another book which relates to India's past. The author Shiv Verma was a comrade of Bhagat Singh and was sentenced to Life Imprisonment in the 1929 Lahore Conspiracy Case. Reading his reminiscences regarding Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Yatindranath Das, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Mahavir Singh...who had all sacrificed their lives so that India could be free is a moving experience. The best part of the book is that he doesn't present these legendary figures as super humans but rather as the young men they were with all the frailties and heroism of youth. They fought, monkeyed around, discussed books and ideas, took care of each other, went without food, died for their convictions. I think it was in 2002 that I read this book for the first time and I simply did not want it to end. Reading it now after a gap of a few years, I had the same feeling. I just wanted it to go on and on...

First Line: Kuchh log zindagi mein bagair bulaye apne aap aa jaate hain aur phir sari umr kabhi peechha nahin chhodte.
Publication Details: Delhi: Lok Prakashan Grih, 2002
First Published: 1969
Pages: 167
Trivia: Awarded the Soviet Land Nehru Puruskar
Source: Bought @ WBF 2006.


AUTHORISED MURDER by Issac Asimov (1976)

For a long time, I knew Issac Asimov only as a writer of sci-fi. It is only when I started blogging that I came to know that he had also written mysteries. My first mystery read of the year has turned out to be Asimov's Authorised Murder. Dedicated to his friend, Harlan Ellison - whose brightness of personality is exceeded only by his height of talent - the book details a murder that takes place during a book convention. The protagonist Darius Just (modelled on Ellison) investigates the murder of his one-time protege, Giles Devore. The mystery is good enough but it is the humour in the book that is its mainstay. The footnotes between Just and Asimov (who appears as a character in the book) had me giggling. Also there is a debate between Asimov, Carl Sagan, Charles Berlitz, and Uri Geller in the book and since I remember Sagan from his T.V. series Cosmos (telecast in India many years ago) and read Berlitz just last year, it was like meeting old friends. If you like mysteries with a good dose of humour (albeit a little risque) than this is the book for you. 

First Line: Trace back the violent death of a friend and see how it happened.
Alternate Title: Murder at the ABA

Publication Details: London: Granada, 1979
First Published: 1976
Pages: 240


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

First Read of 2015: The Individual and Society

I have started 2015 with an anthology The Individual and Society. Divided into five parts: Caste/ Class; Gender; Race; Violence and War; and Living in a Globalized World, this has some wonderful pieces on all these important issues. While many of the writers were familiar to me, I have also discovered new voices like Maya Angelou, Omprakash Valmiki, Jamaica Kincaid, and Roger Mais. Reading Manto's The Dog of Tetwal and Amitav Ghosh's The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi was a deeply moving experience.

I am happy with this book (though a bit unimpressed by all the typos - all the more surprising since it is a prescribed text in an Indian University) and wondering what else will I read in 2015.

First Line: Jotirao Phule (1827-90), the son of a mali, completed his primary education in 1838.
Title: The Individual and Society
Editor: Vinay Sood, Indira Prasad et al.
Publishing Detail: ND: Pearson, 2005
First Published: 2005
Pages: 251
Source: Borrowed from CL [820-8 S62I]

Reading Through Time: Historical Fiction Challenge

Narratives of the past interest me tremendously and so I am signing up for the Reading Through Time: Historical Fiction Challenge, hosted by A Bookish Girl. 

Signing up for the Anthony Doerr level which means I'll be reading 5 books for the challenge. 
Details and Sign-up here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy Lohri

Have makki di rot with sarron da saag (and dollops of butter)
Gajar da halwa and ganne di kheer
Dance on the dhol.

Wishing everybody a very Happy Lohri

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Baker's Dozen: Favourite Mystery Reads of 2014

Last Year, I read more than 80 books and of these more than 50 were mysteries. And now the time comes to make a list of my favourites. I have only included mysteries that I read for the first time in 2014 thus Christie's And Then There Were None (which I re-read for the umpteenth time) is not featured.

In ascending order then:

13. The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction: Tamil is one of the classical languages of the world but this anthology showcases its 'pulpier' side.

12. Fire Past the Future by Charles Eric Maine.Eight scientist left on an island as the experiment reaches its last stages. And then the first body turns up...the countdown has truly begun.

11. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz: Watson narrates the most scandalous case of Sherlock Holmes.

10. I'll Say She Does by Peter Cheyney: Lemmy Caution's last case has him looking for a woman who can make the devil look holy.

9. The Fourth Door by Paul Halter: The author pays homage to John Dickson Carr in this tale of a haunted room.

8. According to the Evidence by Henry Cecil: A humorous take at the anomalies between law and justice.

7. Green for Danger by Christianna Brand: Who would want to kill a postman at the time of the Blitz?

6. The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett: Nick and Nora are excellent.

5. Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler: An ordinary man finds himself caught on the chessboard of international espionage.

4. The Blue Hammer by Ross Macdonald: A search for a painting turns into a search for lost fathers. Poignant because of a strong autobiographical undercurrent.

3. The Schirmer Inheritance by Eric Ambler. Some books leave you with a very satisfied feeling. This is one of those.

2. The Hand in the Dark by Arthur J. Rees: The find of the year.

1. The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr. A novel so exquisitely put together that for the timebeing, at least, it has replaced And Then There Were None as my all-time favourite mystery read.


Entry for FFB @ Pattinase

Submitted @ Mysteries in Paradiise

Part of my A Baker's Dozen series.

Two Mystery Reading Challenges

Mystery is my favourite genre and so it should come as no surprise that I am signing up for two reading challenges related to mystery.

The first is, of course, my all-time favourite Vintage Mystery reading challenge hosted by Bev @ My Reader's Block.

 Last year I completed the entire Golden card, this time round I am gong for the Silver card. I am aiming for two bingos. If I can, I'll try to read the entire card but am not committing myself to it right now.

For more about the challenge, go here.


The second challenge is My Kind of Mystery hosted by Carolyn @ RIEDEL Fascination.

I am aiming for the Unearthing Clues level which means I'll be reading 11-20 mystery books for this challenge.
For more details, go here.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reading 2014: End of year book survey

Last year, I had great fun reviewing the year gone by according to this end-of-the-year-survey @
Perpetual Page Turner. This year, too I am going to do the same.

Number Of Books You Read: 84

Number of Re-Reads: Five

Genre You Read The Most From: Mystery

1. Best Book You Read In 2014?
(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

Mystery: The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr

Non-Mystery: Up at the Villa by William Somerset Maugham

Non-Fiction: Bhagat Singh aur Unke Sathyon ke Dastaez (Documents of Bhagat Singh and His Comrades)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
Rope's End, Rogue's End by E.C.R. Lorac

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?

(In a good way) Between Love and Freedom by Nikhil Govind

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

 5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?
Green for Danger by Christianna Brand (Inspector Cockrill series)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
Mystery: Arthur J. Rees

Non-Mystery: Brian Moore

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Reading Sci-Fi is tough for me, so Fire Past the Future/ Countdown by Charles Eric Maine

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr

 9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Douglas Jardine: Spartan Cricketer by Christopher Douglas

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?
The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers

11. Most memorable character of 2014?
 Douglas Jardine in Bodyline: The Novel

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
The Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh. It touched me tremendously that a person on the death row could read and copy quotes from books.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?
The Human Factor by Graham Greene

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
Bodyline by Philip Derriman

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?
"All this happened,...because all these people... consider that there are circumstances in this world when man owes no humanity to man." 

"Dozens of revolutionaries are absconding and amongst them are many females. More than half a dozen prisoners are actually waiting for their executions. What about all of these people? The three Lahore Conspiracy Case condemned prisoners, who have luckily come into prominence and who have acquired enormous public sympathy, do not form the bulk of the revolutionary party. Their fate is not the only consideration before the party. As a matter of fact their executions are expected to do greater good than the commutation of their sentences..."

From Sukhdev's open letter to Gandhi in To Make the Deaf Hear by S. Irfan Habib

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Longest: Ressurection by Lev Tolstoy (586 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most
(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)
The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Douglas Jardine and Harold Larwood in Bodyline: The Novel

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:
 Fear by L. Ron Hubbard

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
In both his fictional and real -life avatars, Douglas Jardine

23. Best 2014 debut you read?
Between Love and Freedom by Nikhil Govind

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
The Song of Achlles by Madeline Miller

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
According to the Evidence by Henry Cecil

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?
Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
The Hand in the Dark by Arthur J. Rees

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?
Almond Eyes, Lotus Feet by Sharada Dwivedi and Shalini Devi Holkar. It is a treat for the eyes.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm. Absolutely detested it.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?
Past Offences
The Readng Life

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014?
My review of Helen MacInnes Neither Five Nor Three because I learnt something about which I had only a vague idea.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
Don't think there was any non-review post.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
The German Literature Month 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?
When I won the Sherlock Holmes Trivia Contest held by John @ Pretty Sinister Books.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
According to the stats by Blogger: Murder at the Pageant by Victor L. Whitechurch with more than 400 views and 14 comments.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
1st September: War and Crime

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
The Maywrite Library

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I successfully completed all the 20 challenges I had signed-up for in 2014.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
The Quest of the Ashes by Douglas Jardine

    2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?
Militant Nationalism in the Punjab by Kamlesh Mohan

   3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
No idea about 2015 debuts.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
Second in the Inspector Galileo series.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?
Be more disciplined.

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:  
It's too early for that.


Have a very happy 2015.