October 18th, 2013

This is a book I should have read in school. I think I have had this in my hands once, but fate had other plans. :P I couldn’t see it in library shelves either. However, today at last I am in purview of Richard Hannay’s adventure.

This is a small book, an early one of the spy thriller genre. Hannay is an expat Scot who’s back in England after spending most of his life in Rhodesia. And he is bored to death of the ‘Old Country’. (I rather liked the description of his boredom–I gave half-a-crown to a beggar because I saw him yawn.) As luck would have it, adventure comes knocking in the form of Franklin P Scudder. He has a fantastic story which must be true because it is so impossible. However, he ends up with a knife in him in our hero’s flat. So now Hannay must run, to complete Scudder’s job, and because he is the murderer in the eyes of the law. And run he does, all along Scotland, as a tramp mostly, so as not to let a bunch of German spies win. He is a pretty cool hero, and adept at escaping tough situations, with quite a bit of luck thrown in. The German spy angle did remind me of Sherlock Holmes’ The Last Bow. Hannay in the end does figure out the `thirty-nine steps`, even though it remains doubtful whether he is targeting German spies or ordinary Englishmen going about their lives.

A nice story, and a good read. Now I must get the sequels.

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October 5th, 2013

I read this haunting novel today. And I understand why it is in all the top 100 lists. In the beginning it felt wrong to read the titillating and sensual description of a 12 year old by a voyeur. Yet it is no more erotic than any great tragedy. It is haunting as the subject matter would inevitably be. Yet I had read somewhere about the devious little girl as well. But I din’t see it in the novel. True, she was a precocious 12 year old. But what chance does little Lolita has around the cunning, manipulative Humbert Humbert? Humbert would have us believe Lolita seduced him. Humbert who considers little girls nymphets, and he who is as cunning as only a maniac can be.Even though Lolita doesn’t have a voice except what Humbert tells what she is like, there are moments that break your heart. Humbert is a literary man, and he does understand his behaviour enough to list out the manipulations, threats and bribery he uses to keep Dolores a prisoner to himself. And then he sees”her sobs in the night–every night,every night– the moment I feigned sleep”.

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August 17th, 2013

I am on a marathon Austen binge. Not reading though. TV series and movies and web series. I started with ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’. I have to say it is really really good, if you are an Austen aficionado. This is a 21st century Lizzie Bennet, doing a vlog of her life. I didn’t much care for the Mr Darcy in this at first, looks-wise. But he is OK once you get used to him.Quite OK by the end of it. But Lizzie was quite the charmer.

Then what would I do, but watch `Lost in Austen`. It is every silly girl’s dream come true. Get into the world of Austen and then let Mr Darcy fall in love with you. It was very interesting, since I didn’t know the story beforehand this time. And the Darcy here was nice to look at, kind of silly at first with his brooding stares but reminded me of Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy. Ah, first love! So I went on and watched that version next.

As if Mr Darcy wasn’t enough for the weekend, I moved on to Emma. This is the Jonny Lee Miller one, and I of course loved it. Anything remotely Austen I love. The things are so perfect and proper and everyone gets their happily ever afters and there are extravagant dance parties and brooding handsome rich men and perfect women. Maybe little girls should never be allowed to read Austen.

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May 23rd, 2013

So I have read these books by Ashwin Sanghi. The best thing about the books are the title. They sounded promising. You know, a thriller with the name Krishna Key. But, turned out to be silly little books.

The editing is horrible. Why is it so in Indian books?

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April 22nd, 2013

Read Asura: Tale of the vanquished. This is a retelling of Ramayana, minus the supernatural. Asuras in this novel are the aboriginal tribes of ancient India, and Devas are the inaders. Sita is Ravana’s daughter and the whole drama of kidnapping is about protecting her from her barbaric husband while in the forest.

It is a good read. There are no good or deep characters, and Ravana does not come out as courageous or anything, which is a shame. Bhadra’s narratives are also very good. I am no fan of Rama, and he is rather a spineless puppet in the hands of the priests. The introduction of Rama in the swayamvar gave hope of a better character, but it didn’t come through. Nice read, if you enjoy mythology. The only complaint I have is the horrible editing of the book.

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January 29th, 2013

Read the new novel from JK Rowling. I am an ardent Harry Potter fan, and was looking forward to reading this as well. It is a good read, and there are a bunch of teenagers here as well. In the beginning I felt the sexual bits were a little out of place. Like she was trying to make sure that this was an adult novel. Yet, once you get over that shock of something very like a Harry Potter book talking of sex in no minced words, it is OK. Not exactly needed all the time, yet OK. There is a plot, and there is jealousy, love, hatred, redemption. The person who stays with you even after the end is Krystal, the girl without a chance. You also kind of feel bad for Andrew Price, but then he is gonna get out of that pretty soon. After all he is almost an adult, isn’t he? Poor little Paul is the one we should be worrying about. I also liked that Rowling got the Sikh names and religion correct. Must be because she is part of a multi-ethnic Britain. In most US pop novels, I see names like Ramlal Khan. All in all, enjoyed the book.

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January 1st, 2013

I read another Artemis Fowl book. Now no teenager is gonna be able to talk me down on world literature I guess. This is the book where Artemis first meets No 1, the warlock.

Artemis and Butler are looking for ‘appearances’, apparently of a fairy group called demons. They were lifted in limbo, after the fairy-human war, but every now and then, someone comes calling. Only, this time another juvenile genius has captured the new demon before Artemis. It’s Minerva Paradizo, the young scientist vying for a Nobel. No 1 is not a fullfledged demon though. He is an imp, and imps have to go through a process called ‘warping’ to be a demon. Which No1 won’t because he happens to be a demon warlock! It’s all quite interesting really. There is Holly and Mulch Diggums, who are now partners, because Holly is now a bounty hunter instead of Captain Short. Even though she gets her rank back after the first few pages. Artemis is finding girls attractive as well, and he travels half the world to rescue Minerva when she ends up a damsel in distress.

As usual, Artemis saves the People and steals a little bit of magic in the process, and stays 14 when the world around him has aged 3 more years. Also, this is were his twins are first mentioned.

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December 29th, 2012

The girl is dead. I hoped maybe she would pull through. That she will get to a place where this was one terrible thing that happened to her once long ago. But now she is dead.

I wasn’t reading too many articles because it was too traumatic to think what she would have gone through. Frustrated and sad and angry. More than I could handle in words and thoughts. So generally shutting out the thoughts unless I could help it. Yet she is dead. Dead.

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November 26th, 2012

So I read ‘The Magnetic Girl’ by Richard Marsh. It is part of ‘The Collected Supernatural & Weird Fiction of Richard Marsh’ from the publishers Leonaur. It is a nice little comdey. There is a supernatural element, but only slightly so. The only issue I have with this book is the punctuations. They forgot most of the periods in it.

Richard Marsh was kind of a feminist I guess. The heroine of our tale is the tomboyish and plain Norah O’Brady. She is the ugly duckling with four pretty sisters and a mother who berates her ‘vulgarity and ugliness’. Men who flock to the house to meet her sisters generally ignore her, except the kind hearted Ben Morgan, whom the sisters call Crooked Ben. After cruelly refusing his marriage proposal and then treated rudely by her family, Norah in heat of pasision wishes she could show others how it feels to be her. She wishes that every man fall in love with her on sight. And as luck would have it, every man begins to fall in love with her from then onwards. She assembles a varied set, from the bread delivery boy, to a waiter to all her sister’s and mother’s suitors to a real live Duke. Her sister Audrey seems to understand she is a ‘witch’ for the day and tells her to go ahead and enjoy her power. And to trample on them for all they are worth. That’s what she sets out to do, even though things do tend to get out of hand now and then. It is a slapstick comedy of all the men crawling after the girl they didn’t notice till then.

In the end there is the loyal friend and a happy ending. The grenadier finds her straight man.

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November 24th, 2012

After searching the Judith Lee story The Man Who Cut Off My Hair for a decade, I am kinda into Richard Marsh now. I read the Beetle and some other stories from Project Gutenberg and enjoyed them. There are titles available from Flipkart and I went ahead and ordered a couple for that paper experience. They are mighty expensive when you pay in rupees though. Still worth it.

I read this collection of short stories “Curios” subtitled `Some Strange Adventures of Two Bachelors’.The stories itself have various chapters, but they are too small to be novellas. The stories are about two collectors of curios, Mr. Tress and Mr.Pugh. They are friends, rivals and sometimes downright enemies. As is the norm with Marsh, people are not really the goody goody ones. These gentlemen kinda reminds you of PG Wodehouse gang though. A bit.

There are seven stories in all.
1. The Adventure of the Pipe : A pipe comes into life when smoked. Here you get a glimpse of the characters of your leading men. Though they were much too hostile in this and kept becoming friendlier as the stories moved on. To me.
2. The Adventure of the Phonograph : Someone is murdered, or so Pugh believes. All he has is a woman’s last words on a phonograph he picked. Who is it?
3. The Adventure of the Cabinet : Pugh and Tress are at loggerheads about the ownership of a valuable cabinet.
4. The Adventure of the Ikon : Mr Tress buys a holy ikon from a Jew. A beautiful woman and a dwarf is set to rob him off it. This of course has all the Victorian stereotypes you expect from British novels, but is still a good drama.
5. The Adventure of the Puzzle : Mr Pugh acquires a puzzle and asks Tress’s help in solving it. This story again tells you how so not heroic or heroes are.
6. The Adventure of Lady Wishaw’s Hand : Pugh gets a 13th century hand in mail. Except it still looks alive and is murderous.
7. The Adventure of the Great Auk’s Egg : This is hilariously insulting of every collector and their loose morals when it comes to adding to their collections.

Pugh and Tress tells the stories alternately. They are all rather different. And there is suspense. And intrigue. A rather fine collection of stories.

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