Monday, February 27, 2017

Top Ten (+3) Tuesday: Disappointing Books

This week, Top 10 Tuesdays meme@ The Broke and the Bookish, asks us to list books that disappointed us. These are the books that I picked up with a lot of enthusiasm and eager anticipation but which made me want to scream. And as this is a good way to vent my frustration at the books, I am presenting a list of 13 which I suffered read since I started blogging:

1. The Shudders by Anthony Abbot

Begins with a bang, ends with a whimper.

2. Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

A woman wakes up every morning with no recollection of the past. The moment I read this sanctimonious statement on page two of the book, I knew she was going to be a pain:

I ignore the slippers at my feet - after all, fucking the husband is one thing, but I could never wear another woman's shoes.

3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This book about elitist students indulging in Bachhanal rites simply did not work for me.

4. Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley

It should be sub-titled: How Love makes you lose your Integrity.

5. Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer

I had heard a lot about Heyer's mysteries but after reading this have grave reservations about reading another one by her.

6. Neither Five Nor Three  by Helen MacInnes

After reading this paean to McCarthyism, have never dared to read anything by Helen MacInnes.

7. The Black Spectacles by J.D. Carr

Perhaps I'd not have been so disappointed with this book had I not read it immediately after the exquisite The Burning Court by the same author. But after reading ''The Shot-Gun Wedding" scene, I wondered whether Carr himself had gone bonkers.

8. Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham

Usually I laugh-off the racist attitudes and racist assumptions present in books but this book really made me grind my teeth.

9. The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais

If you finish a book with the question; what was it all about? you can be sure you have wasted your time.

10. The Story-Teller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya

A novel that is too ambitious for its own good.

11. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The ending of the book was so pathetic that it completely destroyed the book for me.

12. The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

The narrator's mother, whose voice dominates throughout the book, must be one of the most annoying characters ever created.

13. The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

More than 650 pages of sheer agony.


Part of A Baker's Dozen series.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

1943: The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis

Some time in 2013, I discovered American writer Norbert Davis through his book Holocaust House Though published in 1940, the book has nothing to do with what the Nazis were doing at that particular period, it is instead a delightful read featuring a pair called Doan and Carstairs. While reading about Davies at that time, I came to know that the next novel in the series :The Mouse in the Mountain  was considered to be one of the most humorous novels ever written. It immediately went on my wishlist. But somehow or the other, never quite got round to reading it and it was only when it was announced @Past Offences that February was to be dedicated to 1943 that I decided to reacquaint myself with the pair again.

A bus-load of tourists from the US, consisting of Doan, Carstairs, Janet Martin, a young professor; the Henshaws and their son Mortimer; an heiress, her maid and her gigolo (Kid you not, that is how he is introduced in the book):

"... Patricia Van Osdel. She's the flypaper queen. Her old man invented stickum that flies like the taste of, and he made fifty billion dollars out of it"

"Is she married?" Mrs. Henshaw asked suspiciously.

"That is a vulgarness to which she would not stoop," said Bartolome. "She has a gigolo. They come! Prepare yourselves!"

Although advised not to do so, the touring-party makes its way to a remote village Los Altos. Though they are not telling, almost all of them have a special reason for wanting to visit the village. Unknown to them, the Mexican millitary too has special interest in the village. Almost before they have set foot in the village, a man is shot dead by one of the touring party. This brings the uber nationalist Lieutenant Perona on the scene and even before they know it, there is an earthquake, a murder, an attempted murder... and there is just no stopping after that.

The book was a breezy and humorous read but what struck me the most was how Davis satirized his own country and its denizens. Considering that the book was published in 1943 and the USA had become involved in the second world war, it would have been understandable even if the book had been a little jingoistic. But though it is Doan who finally solves the mystery and Janet turns out to be far more knowledgeable about Mexican history and geography than Perona, Davis also has a great time introducing humour at the expense of his fellow country-men and women. Thus as the tourists make their way to the village:

IN LOS ALTOS, THERE HAD BEEN A RUMOR GOING THE rounds that some rich tourists from the United States who were staying at the Hotel Azteca outside Mazalar were going to make the bus trip up to Los Altos. It was obvious, of course, that this rumor wasn't entirely to be trusted. Anyone with any brains or a radio knew that the people from the United States were too busy raising hell up and down the world to have any time to look at scenery except through a bombsight.


Captain Perona breathed hard. "I will forgive you--this time, senorita. Mocking people and ridiculing them is, I understand, a custom in your detestable country."

"My what?" Janet said, stung.

"The United States. I have heard that its people are very ignorant and uncouth."

"They are not!"

"Especially the women. They have loud, shrill voices, and they shout in public."

"They do not!" Janet cried.

Captain Perona smiled at her blandly. Several passersby turned to look curiously at her. She began to blush, and she put her hand up to her lips. "You see?" asked Captain Perona. "Even you do it. Shouting in public is considered very unmannerly in Mexico."

Yet again:

"Senorita, you are trying to trick me into insulting you, as I understand is the custom of women from the United States. They trick a man into insulting them, and then they threaten to have the man arrested unless he marries them. They are so unattractive they cannot get a husband in any other way.... 

And of course, the thing that many from the North and South Americas complain about:

"My mother told me so. My family did not realize they had been robbed by this Ruggles criminal until she told them. But she knows. She knows everything about people from the United States because she came from there herself."

"You mean, your mother is an American?"

Captain Perona looked at her. "That is a very disgusting habit your countrymen have. Calling themselves Americans as though they were the only ones. I will have you know that Mexicans are Americans. We are more Americans than people from the United States are, because we came to America before they did."

As the world turns more insular and narrow-minded would such a book be allowed today? I am certain that if India was at war and such a book was to be published the poor author would be bombarded with the most vituperative abuses and hounded out of his home. Children of Mother India would cry hoarse at how India's culture (and especially Indian womanhood) had been degraded and how the author was an anti-nationalist, a blot on on and so forth  . More than anything else it made me admire the US' (I will not call it America's lest Lt. Perona come breathing fire at me) spirit of free-thinking and the ability to laugh-at-one-self. But I wonder if the same spirit pervades the US of today?


Opening Lines: WHEN DOAN AND CARSTAIRS CAME down the wide stairway and walked across the pink-tiled floor that was the pride and joy of the Hotel Azteca, the guests in the lobby stopped whatever they were doing to pass the time away and stared open-mouthed. Doan was not such-a-much, but Carstairs usually had this effect on people, and he left a whispering, wondering wake behind him as he stalked across to the glassed side doors and waited with haughty dignity while Doan opened one of the doors. He ambled through it ahead of Doan into the incredibly bright sunlight on the terrace.

Alternate Title: (An Abridged version): Dead little Rich Girl

First Published: 1943
Pages: 126
Series: Doan & Carstairs #2

Source:  Many Books

Other Books read of the same author: Holocaust House

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse

Uncle Dynamite Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved re-reading this book. Wodehouse is a genius.

First Line: On the little branch line which starts at Wockley Junction and conveys passengers to Eggmarsh, St. John, Ashenden Oakshott, Bishop's Ickenham and other small and somnolent hamlets of the south of England the early afternoon train had just begun its leisurely journey.

Pages: 249
Source: DSPL [823 W817U]

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Literary Research and Postcolonial Literatures in English: Strategies and Sources

Literary Research and Postcolonial Literatures in English: Strategies and Sources Literary Research and Postcolonial Literatures in English: Strategies and Sources by H. Faye Christenberry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Informative but I didn't quite like the dumping together of literatures from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Indian Sub-Continent.

First Line: The the past engenders the present is of course undeniable; it is equally undeniable that the reasons why I write in English are ultimately rooted in my country's history.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Review: A Man Lay Dead

A Man Lay Dead A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I have fond memories of Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn, so I picked up this book, in which he makes his debut, with a great deal of eager anticipation. The image I had of Alleyn was that of a sophisticate, well-mannered sleuth from Scotland Yard. I don't know whether my memory is all-wrong or whether he changes in the course of the series but in this he is pretty facetious, even over-bearing and rude at times.

The novel itself is a mish-mash. It begins well in a country house where guests assemble, one of them with a Mongolian dagger, to play a game of Murder. And we all know how that game would end, don't we? With hardly any suspects, it is not too hard to solve the mystery. But the writer tries to confuse the issue with some Russian brotherhoods operating in England. In fact, the book reminded me of another boring book: Margery Allingham's The Crime at Black Dudley.


First Line: NIGEL BATHGATE, in the language of his own gossip column, was "definitely intrigued" about his week-end at Frantock.

Series: Roderick Alleyn #1

Source: Open Library
Other books read of the same author: (Among others) Artists in Crime.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr

Hag's Nook Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first Dr. Fell. An atmospheric tale with a decent mystery. However, it also revealed to me the problems that I have with Carr. Except for The Burning Court, which I loved, and He Who Whispers, which I hated, I find it difficult to get involved with his characters. In fact, the character that I liked the most in this novel was that of Mrs. Fell. I hope to read more of her.

You can read about the book @Tipping My Fedora and @Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

First Line: The old lexicographer's study ran the length of his small house.

Series: Dr. Fell #1
Source: Open Library

Other books read of the same author: (Among Others) The Eight of Swords

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