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

Sunday, 13 October 2013

''And Then There Were None''- Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1939

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Horror, Crime, Suspense, Thriller

Rating: 5 out of 5


And Then There Were None...  ah, it was such an intense, baffling, scary mystery!!! It was so impressive and overwhelming! It was so very suspenseful and scary, and it is certainly the best among the Agatha Christie novels that I've read till now. It was SO intense, so powerful and psychologically intense! I LOVED it.

And Then There Were None kept me tensed and guessing. It was so intense, suspenseful. 

The plot is about an island, the Soldier Island. Eight people are invited to the Soldier Island.  The eight guests are: Justice Wargrave, Vera Claythorne, Anthony Marston, General MacArthur, Phillip Lombard, Mr Blore, Dr. Armstrong, and Miss Brent. After their arrival there, they find out that there are no other people in the island, except themselves and two servants, Mr and Mrs Rogers.  There are just these ten people in this island. Nobody else. The owner of the island is apparently a Mr. Owen, whom nobody (not even the servants) has ever seen. 

Atmosphere in the house, and the island, is somewhat odd, strange. All the guests find a paper in their room, where the nursery rhyme ''Ten Little Soldiers'' is written. Everybody is startled by the atmosphere of the house, but this turns into dread and fear when the guests start dying, one by one... And within a short time, all the guests come to guess that none of them will leave the island alive... and a constant fear arises: who will be the next victim? Along with many other questions. Who is the murderer? Is he one of them?...

''And Then There Were None'' builds up an excellent atmosphere, an atmosphere that is filled with scares, intensity, suspense. The psychological impact on the characters because of the events, is portrayed very well. Some of the characters, and the situations, have so much depth. The novel kept me guessing. And the solution was so excellent. 

I loved this one. ''And Then There Were None'' was extremely suspenseful, thrilling, and an absolute page turner.  

5 out of 5

Saturday, 12 October 2013

'''The Horse and His Boy''- Book Review

Author: C. S. Lewis
Published: 1954

Genres: Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 3 out of 5


''The Horse and His Boy'' is the fifth published book in ''The Chronicles of Narnia''. It is kind of a midquel, as it takes place within the events of ''The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe''. (''The Horse and His Boy'' is set during the Golden Age of Narnia, during the rule of the High King Peter and his siblings).

Shasta is a boy who lives with a fisherman, Arsheesh. One day, he comes across a horse, owned by a guest who has come to Arsheesh. To Shasta's great surprise, the horse can talk. The horse reveals that he is from Narnia, where different kinds of beasts can talk. He had been kidnapped from Narnia, when he was young. The horse wants to go back to Narnia, and it becomes apparent that Shasta is also originally from Narnia, as his complexion is much different than that of the Calormene people. Shasta decides to run away the horse (whom he calls ''Bree'') to Narnia and the North.

On their journey, they come across a mare, Hwin, who had also been kidnapped from Narnia when she was young. Hwin's companion is a girl, Aravis. Aravis is running away to Narnia because her marriage has been fixed with a person whom she doesn't wish to marry. Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin unite and start going to Narnia together. But then they come across a dangerous plan.  Prince Rabadash of Calormen is furious because Queen Susan of Narnia has refused to marry him. The Prince makes a plan to capture Queen Susan. Shasta and his companions decide to prevent the plot and make the High King Peter and his siblings aware of the plan. Their journey is dangerous and difficult...

Compared to the earlier books in the series, ''The Horse and his Boy'' actually had less magic and also, less charm in it. I didn't really love it like I had loved the earlier books. While ''The Horse and his Boy'' is exciting and adventurous, I thought that the previous books had been more magical and engrossing. However, it was good to read about Susan, whom we hadn't met since ''Prince Caspian'', and Lucy and Edmund, who had last appeared in ''The Voyage of the Dawn Treader''. (Peter is mentioned, but never appears in this book). Susan, Lucy and Edmund make brief appearances here.

The four lead characters, Shasta, Bree, Aravis and Hwin, were really quite interesting. The characters were quite well developed, especially Shasta and Aravis. I found Lasaraleen really amusing. Prince Rabadash is the main antagonist of this novel.

The adventures, and the goal and attempt of the lead characters to try to save Narnia and Archenland from a disastrous attack, was really interesting to read. Overall, while ''The Horse and his Boy'' was certainly a really enjoyable read, I think I liked the previous books more, much more, than this one.

3 out of 5


Thursday, 10 October 2013

''Agnes Grey'' - Book Review

Author: Anne Brontë
Published: 1847

Genres: Novel, Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5


The Bronte sisters are among my favorite authors. Emily Bronte's ''Wuthering Heights'' and Charlotte Bronte's ''Jane Eyre'' are two very special books for me. While ''Wuthering Heights'' is my favorite book of all time, ''Jane Eyre'' is one of the books that made me fall in love with books. These two books are so powerful, so intense, with so strong, powerful, memorable characters. Charlotte and Emily are thus two of my favorite authors. ''Agnes Grey'', however, is the first Anne Bronte novel that I've read.

Anne Bronte was the youngest of the Bronte sisters. She wrote only two novels: ''Agnes Grey'' and ''The Tenant of Wildfell Hall''. 

''Agnes Grey'' is based on Anne's own experiences while working as a governess. The titular character of this novel, Agnes Grey, being the youngest member of the family, grew up with a lot of love and affection from her parents and elder sister. Though her father has a modest income, he does his best to keep the family happy and comfortable, but, however, circumstances make them fall into poverty. 

Agnes decides to earn a living as a governess. She takes the job of a governess to the children of the Bloomfield family. The mischievous and disobedient children make life miserable for her, and she gets tired and devastated. However, after she loses her job because Mrs Bloomfield has complains about the children's learning, she is appointed as a governess to the children of the Murray family.

Miss Rosalie Murray and Miss Matilda Murray are older than Agnes's Bloomfield pupils, and in some ways, they are a little less mischievous. But though they are not very mischievous, they are immature, disobedient and spoiled, and Agnes's life in the Murrays' home also becomes difficult. But when will she find happiness and satisfaction...?

''Agnes Grey'' is mainly about the life and sufferings of the protagonist. In the Victorian era, governesses were poor, but educated young women, who used to teach the children of wealthy people. The governesses used to live in the house, and despite being well educated, they were often treated merely as upper servants. They were often victims of bad behavior. For example, in ''Agnes Grey'', we see Agnes not even being greeted by the acquaintances of the Murray girls. 

''Agnes Grey'' is about the life, feelings, sufferings of Agnes Grey. She finds love... she falls in love with Mr Weston. But will she find the happiness that she longs for?

The narration is impressive. The overall story, and the storytelling, is moving. It is Agnes's day-to-day story, Agnes's retelling of her life as a governess, her pains, her suffering. Her feelings towards Mr Weston was very touching, but even in case of love, there were so many obstacles and uncertainties in front of her.

''Agnes Grey'' was a pleasant and touching novel... But when I compare it to ''Wuthering Heights'' and ''Jane Eyre'',  Agnes Grey seems rather a little plain. Both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were so powerful and intense, with characters whom I'll never forget. ''Agnes Grey'', on the other hand, was touching, but not as much that it will remain very memorable... nor were the characters that well developed. BUT ''Agnes Grey'' was also worth a read, and I'm glad that I read it. 

3 out of 5

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

''4.50 from Paddington''- Book review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1957

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime, Suspense

Rating: 3 out of 5


The first Agatha Christie novel I read was ''A Murder is Announced''- a Miss Marple. Since then, I have read several Poirot novels, and ''4.50 from Paddington'' is my second Miss Marple.

I really enjoyed ''4.50 from Paddington''. Miss McGillicuddy is traveling to her friend, Miss Jane Marple, from Scotland. On her way, her train comes parallel to another train (the two trains are running on parallel tracks). Miss McGillicuddy witnesses something terrible. She witnesses a man strangling a woman, in the other train... She has a brief glimpse of the crime--- she couldn't see the man's face.

Miss McGillicuddy tells her friend, Miss Marple, about the crime that she had witnessed. Miss Marple is eager to find out what actually happened. But it is a really difficult task- how would she guess where the body of the murdered woman is? However, after doing some research, she guesses that the body is somewhere around a country house, Rutherford Hall.

Miss Marple decides to take the assistance of an acquaintance, Lucy Eyelesbarrow. Lucy, a highly educated young woman, works as a housekeeper. Miss Marple asks Lucy to temporarily take the job of a housekeeper at Rutherford Hall, and try to locate the body. Lucy agrees, and soon finds herself in Rutherford Hall, and works hard to find clues and locate the body.

Most of the investigation, in this novel, is done by Detective Inspector Craddock and Lucy Eyelesbarrow, while Miss Marple solves the mystery.

As the story progresses, it becomes complex and interesting. I really enjoyed it, and I really enjoyed the characters. Miss Marple's warmth is very remarkable, and Lucy Eyelesbarrow- she was just amazing! I loved how she takes both her tasks so seriously: while she works hard to find clues to solve the mystery, she also works hard to take care of Rutherford Hall, and people living there. She was really a wonderful character.

It's always delightful to read Agatha Christie's novels. Her books are so pleasant. The characters, the situations, with dry humor now and then- all these are so charming. ''4.50 from Paddington'' was no exception. The novel kept me guessing, and the solution was really wonderful. The book was delightful and interesting, often suspenseful, with well developed characters, and humor.

3 out of 5