Saturday, 9 November 2013

A brief note

I have been blogging about books and films in two different blogs- Blog of an aspiring movie buff and Shounak's book reviews. However, keeping both of the blogs updated has become difficult for me, because of shortage of time. Therefore, from now on, I'll review both films and books in a new blog: Life with Books & Movies. While both of the old blogs will remain, I'll publish all my book and film reviews in the new blog, from now on.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

''The Thirteen Problems''- Book review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1932

Genres: Short story collection, Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5


''The Thirteen Problems'' is a short story collection by Agatha Christie, featuring Miss Marple. 

Several guests have gathered in Miss Marple's house: her nephew, Raymond West, Joyce Lempriere (an artist) , Sir Henry Clithering (ex-Commissioner of Scotland Yard), Dr Pender (a clergyman) and Mr Petherick (a solicitor). Each of them decide to tell stories of unsolved mysteries--- the solution of which are generally only known to themselves, and the other guests have to figure out the solution. In each case, nobody, except Miss Marple, can figure out the solution. The first six stories are told in this setting. The next six stories are set several months after the first six stories, when both Miss Marple, and some other people, are staying as guests in the house of Colonel Bantry. The last story is about the investigation of a suicide that is perhaps a murder. Sir Henry Clithering does the investigation, though Miss Marple already guesses the solution...

Sir Henry Clithering and Miss Marple are the two characters who appear in all the chapters. I'd first met Sir Henry in ''The Body in the Library''. In this book, this character gets more, much more depth. I liked this character. And Miss Marple is excellent as always. Her village parallels are really interesting!

I enjoyed this short story collection, a lot. The first few stories were actually quite predictable, but the last seven or eight stories are really unpredictable and absolutely puzzling! Though the first few stories are predictable, there is a kind of atmosphere in them, a kind of charm in them, that makes them really very delightful and really very enjoyable to read. All the stories in this collection are wonderful! My favorite stories in this collection are ''The Companion'', ''The Affair at the Bungalow'', and ''The Blue Geranium''. They were really delightful reads, these stories. There is atmosphere, there is suspense, there are so many puzzles.

4 out of 5

Sunday, 3 November 2013

''Crooked House''- Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1949

Genres: Novel, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5


Of all the Agatha Christie novels that I've read, ''Crooked House'' has one of the most unexpected, surprising endings. Not only this, ''Crooked House'' is a delightful read, from the beginning to the end. It is a suspenseful novel, with well developed characters and a wonderful narrator.

The narrator of this novel is Charles Hayward. He loves Sophia Leonides, granddaughter of a wealthy entrepreneur, Aristide Leonides, who is of Greek origin. Charles and Sophia meet after a long time. But Sophia tells Charles that they can't marry right now. Why? Because Sophia's grandfather, Aristide, has recently died, from poisoning. It is apparent that Aristide has been murdered.

Charles's father is an Assistant Commissioner of the Scotland Yard. Charles decides to figure out who actually did the crime. He visits Three Gables, residence of the Leonideses. A gigantic house with a lot of family members living peacefully. 

Charles gets acquainted with the members of the family. Brenda, Aristide's second wife, who is more than fifty years younger than her late husband.  Sophia's parents, Phillip (who keeps an impassive expression and keeps himself busy with his books), and Magda (an actress). Roger, Aristade's other living son, and his wife, Clemency. Edith de Havilland, an elderly spinster and the sister of Aristade's first wife. And Sophia's siblings: the moody, handsome, Eustace, and the intelligent little Josephine. There's also Laurence Brown, the children's tutor. And there is an elderly Nannie.

Every member of the family seems to suspect Brenda, Aristide's young wife. Brenda seems to be the one with the strongest motive and opportunity. But Charles finds Brenda to be a helpless, lonely woman who can never be capable of committing a murder.

Who has murdered Aristide Leonides?

This is a novel that has deep, well developed characters and a lot of suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the solution came so unexpected. It surprised me. Surely it has one of the most unpredictable endings, among the Agatha Christie novels.  An excellent novel, highly recommended! It is probably, right now, one of my favorite Agatha Christie books.

4 out of 5

(On a separate note, I'll not be very active in blogging for the next few weeks, as my exams are approaching! I'll be active once again from early December, after my exams end).

Monday, 28 October 2013

''The Cuckoo's Calling''- Book review

Author: Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
Published: 2013
Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4 out of 5


The Cuckoo's Calling is the first crime novel by J. K. Rowling, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Earlier this year I had read J. K. Rowling's first adult book, ''The Casual Vacancy'', and I had really liked it. I found it emotional, with depth and good characterization. This novel, ''The Cuckoo's Calling''... it was just amazing. It was a really delightful and engrossing read, a cleverly written mystery. And the chemistry between the protagonist, the private detective Cormoran Strike, and his secretary, Robin, was really wonderful. I found it a very enjoyable read.

Well-known model Lula Landry dies after falling from the balcony of her penthouse apartment. It is guessed that she committed suicide, after some investigation.

Cormoran Strike is a private detective. He does not get many clients. One day, John Bristow, the brother of the late Lula Landry, comes to him and tells him that he suspects that Lula didn't commit suicide. She might have been murdered. Bristow asks Strike to investigate the case. Because it isn't really likely that Lula committed suicide. A neighbor of Lula, Tansy Bestigui, claims that she had heard shouts and quarrels from Lula's apartment just before Lula fell. Also, two mysterious figures were noticed around Lula's home in the CCTV footage. Strike accepts the case, and with the help of his temporary secretary, Robin, he starts investigating.

Cormoran Strike had once been in the army. He had lost a leg in Afghanistan. He is going through personal problems after having broken up with his long-term girlfriend, Charlotte. Homeless, he is forced to sleep in his office, and he wants to hide the fact from Robin. Robin is Strike's temporary secretary, but as she helps Strike with the case, she develops a deep friendship with Strike, and regrets the fact that she has to leave him within a few weeks. She helps him, a lot, in the investigation.

The investigation brings Strike across a lot of people. The security guard, Wilson. Lula's handsome driver and aspiring actor, Kieran Kolovas-Jones. Tansy Bestigui, the woman who claimed to have heard quarrels from Lula' s apartment but whose claims were not taken seriously because she was on drugs. And Lula's closest friends. Lula's boyfriend. Lula's unpleasant biological mother. And a lot of other people. The case is not simple, as it requires a lot of research and investigation.

I really found it an enjoyable mystery with a good premise, puzzling storyline, and depth and good characterization. The character of Cormoran Strike is deep and really well developed. We get to know a lot about Cormoran, his childhood, his relation with his family members, his sad and problematic relationship with Charlotte. These backgrounds give the character much depth. Much focus, a lot of focus, actually, is given on Cormoran's personal life and background. ''The Cuckoo's Calling'' was not just a mystery; it was about Cormoran Strike as well. Strike's secretary, Robin, gets much importance and depth as well. Most of the novel is told from Strike's point of view, but some parts are also told from Robin's point of view. I really liked how Strike and Robin form a close and deep friendship, and how she helped him with the case. She was such an intelligent, understanding character!

The cast of characters is quite large. We come to meet many people who Lula knew, her friends, family, acquaintances, even people whom she barely knew. 

Strike's investigation of the case was really enjoyable and I couldn't really guess the solution! I couldn't even guess it! 

Though the novel was a bit slow paced at the beginning, it was really engrossing. It was such a cleverly written, well developed mystery with excellent characterization!

4 out of 5

Monday, 21 October 2013

''A Little Princess''- Book Review

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published: 1905

Genres: Novel

Rating: 5 out of 5


Sara... She is probably one of the most memorable young characters that I've ever come across. ''A Little Princess'' was such a heartwarming, beautiful read that can evoke strong emotions. It is so overwhelming, inspirational charming book. It was so, so, so wonderful, so beautiful, overwhelming.

Sara Crewe was born and grew up in India. Her father, Captain Ralph Crewe, brings her to England, where she is enrolled at a boarding school.

The Headmistress of the school, Miss Minchin, apparently dislikes Sara, but treats her excellently, because of her father's wealth. Sara receives excellent behavior from Miss Minchin, she has a room and a sitting room of her own, but that does not make her arrogant... Instead, she helps the weak students (especially her classmate, Ermengarde). Life for Sara seems happy, perfect.

But tragedy strikes soon. Sara's father dies suddenly... and Miss Minchin is furious to find out that Sara is now a penniless orphan and is completely her (Miss Minchin's) responsibility. Just within a minute, the behavior of Miss Minchin towards Sara completely changes. The cordiality, affection turns into scorn, fury, and dislike. Sara is no longer allowed to stay in the luxurious bedroom, but she is sent to stay at the dark attic, in a room next to the scullery maid. The condition of the room is dreadful. Sara is reduced to the rank of a servant, compelled to run errands, she gets scorn from not only Miss Minchin, but also from the cook and the servants. Her clothes get torn, dirty and old. Her outward appearance becomes shabby and pitiable, but her strong imaginative power, her determination makes her capable to face all these challenges and difficulties. She makes herself think repeatedly that however pitiable her outward condition is, she is still a princess, a princess who is facing difficulties. Her strong imaginative power enables her to move on, face the hunger and cold winters...

And how wonderful it was to read this novel! It was just like an emotional, overpowering journey! 

Sara Crewe... Princess Sara. She is a strong, a very memorable protagonist! At the beginning of the novel, Sara is a girl who has received so much affection, so much love from her father, and has always lived in luxury. But she is not spoiled. Instead, she is a kind, a very gentle, charming girl who is eager and very willing to help people. And then though she faces hardship and suffering, her spirits remain, her imagination remains, she is still Princess Sara. Even in this pitiable condition, she has the wish to help people. This character is simply unforgettable.

Miss Minchin... she was such a vicious villain! Miss Minchin's change of attitude towards Sara, within a moment... it was so shocking!  She is a cruel, vicious antagonist. 

''A Little Princess'' is a very inspirational, heartwarming, overwhelming, emotional novel, an enchanting, beautiful story! Sara Crewe is a very, very memorable, determined, and strong character. I absolutely loved this novel!

5 out of 5 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

''The Body in the Library''- Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1942

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 3 out of 5


Mrs Bantry wakes up hearing the screams of the housemaid, who says that there is a body in the library. It is the body of a dead young woman. Nobody in the house has ever seen this young woman before. Mrs Bantry calls her friend, the wonderful Miss Jane Marple, to solve the mystery. It is then revealed that the dead woman is Ruby Keene. Circumstances and investigations lead to more discoveries, and the case seems puzzling and difficult. Then... the charred remains of a girl is found from a burnt car, and it is guessed that the murders of this girl and Ruby Keene are perhaps connected...

While I cannot say that I loved this one, ''The Body in the Library'' was definitely a very enjoyable read that made me puzzled and kept me guessing. There's not much suspense in this one, but the novel was definitely very interesting! While the main investigation is done by Superintendent Harper, Inspector Slack, Colonel Melchett, and Sir Henry Clithering,  Miss Marple is the one who solves the whole case, who succeeds in making everything clear. The solution to the mystery was quite clever .

I really like Miss Marple. It is my third Miss Marple novel (I previously read ''A Murder is Announced'' and ''4.50 from Paddington'') and I am looking forward to read more Miss Marple novels! She is such an interesting character. Her ''village parallels'' were really very interesting.

 ''The Body in the Library'' was a puzzling and enjoyable read. 

3 out of 5 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

''The Story of My Life''- Book Review

Author: Helen Keller
Published: 1903

Genres: Memoirs

Rating: 5 out of 5


''The Story of My Life'' was written when Helen Keller was just twenty-two years old. Keller, though she was born healthy, became deaf, mute, and blind, when she was nineteen months old, and was, as if, surrounded by darkness and despair. But then Anne Sullivan entered her life. Anne Sullivan was Helen's teacher, and it was Anne who brought Helen out of the darkness, and hopelessness. Anne Sullivan taught Helen to communicate, and Helen thus came out from the despair. 

Helen worked hard to gain knowledge. She vividly describes her preparation for college at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and her hard work at the Radcliffe College. Helen describes the people whom she met in her life, people who gave her hope and inspiration. She vividly describes her love for books and knowledge, and nature. She describes so wonderfully the days during which she first learned to speak, and the satisfaction she got after she learned how to talk to her dear family members. Helen worked hard to come out from the darkness, to communicate with the world.

Helen Keller was a great, inspirational woman. ''The Story of My Life'' was such a beautiful, memorable, thought-provoking, inspirational book!

5 out of 5