So I Have Been Reading …..

September is here and thank goodness the cooler weather has began to set in my part of the world! Things are so much better in Autumn and Winter, atleast in northern Indian plains. September also means that the RIP ( Reader’s Imbibing Peril) reading event is underway with RIPVII hosted by Heather @capriousreader and Andi Miller-Dunn @estellasrevenge, taking over from Carl V Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings, the original mastermind of this event. The idea is get in the groove of the fall season & all ghosty, witchy spirit by reading/listening/watching everything that is scary, gothic, mystery, thrilling, horrific and ghostly. The event is running from September 1st to October 31st with some amazing channel discussions on Discord, a Bingo event and a Shirley Jackson’s (The Sundial) read along in October.

I have always participated in this event, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. But this year, despite everything, has been a great reading year and I have great hopes of reading quite a bit through this event. In this month so far, I have managed to read the following –

Sovereign by CJ Sansome – A Matthew Shardlake mystery, from an author and series that I totally love. Set in Tudor England, after the suppression of the Pilgrim of Grace rebellion, Henry VIII is visiting Yorkshire, the center of the revolt, to seek submission from the people. Among his vast retinue, is Master Shardlake with Jack Barak by the request of Archbishop Crammer to support petitions to the King and other legal matters that are being put forward by Yorkshire people for King’s review. He is also expected to undertake a secret mission of ensuring the safe transportation of a prisoner from Yorkshire to the Tower in London. Things however do not go as planned and a murder leads to revelation of certain documents that may plunge the country again in civil unrest as it questions the very legitimacy of the Tudor rulers and their birth. This book is as always with all the books in the series, replete with details of history that are either overlooked or widely unknown. The author captures the the 16th century England will all it’s luxury and all its poverty beautifully. Despite being a 600 plus page novel, the narrative keeps the reader engaged with knotty plot twists and interesting characters. An excellent read from beginning to end.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – I guess with Fairies and magic, this book is a bit stretch into the RIP collection, but I went with it anyway. There has already been so much said about this novel, about the conflict between two magicians in 19th century England that traverses through Napoleonic Wars and other such historic events, that I will only share my views. The plot while simplistic, has been wedded with a lot of imagination and creative writing to make the reading complex and rich. There is a lot of wit and the old world charm that comes alive in the presentation style. The slightly academic way of writing with footnotes and stand alone stories of magical past in England brings an additional depth to reading and reflects the love of the artist for the art. However for all the details and crafty telling of the story, I still felt that it did not merit 1000 pages; the characters were thin and it was difficult to understand some of their motivation. There seems to be on the part of the author an effort to leave some sub plot & character futures unanswered ( in hope of sequel?) but they just do not bring that effect & does not make one intrigued about what happened next. It is a good read, but hardly one which would merit a re-read

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights , Museo del Prado, Madrid (Public Domain)

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu – This was my second reading of this novella and I must say that this time I enjoyed it far more than my first attempt. Young Laura, the daughter of an Englishman and an Austrian lady, leads a happy but lonely life in the remote village in Austria. Their peaceful everyday existence is interrupted when a carriage meets with an accident, and Laura’s father is left in charge of a young woman, Carmilla, who seems to be hurt, while her “mother” continues the journey in the carriage. Soon there are people dying in the village and Laura becomes aware of certain strange and embarrassing emotions that Carmilla beings to express. The original vampire story ( Bram Stoker’s Dracula was more than 2 decades away) the narrative is unconventional, filled with eerie scenes and tensions with an element of feminine sexuality, which must have made for an adventurous creative writing in early 19th century. Its a brilliant piece of fiction, gripping and unnerving.

From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell – This is my very first reading of a Ruth Rendell and it also happens to be the first book in the Inspector Wexford series. An ordinary housewife Margaret Parson is reported missing by her husband and a day later, her dead body near the woods around a farm, someway from the town where she lives. Inspector Wexford and his team start investigating the crime which seems to have no motivation until, he discovers some expensive edition of classical poetry in the attic of the dead woman, all signed by a person named Doon. After all the swinging adventures of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, this very British, very practical, very classical detective story made for wonderful read with interesting changes in the plot and a sharp, edgy narrative. My book carried an afterword by Ms. Rendell herself, and the key to enjoying this mystery written in 1964 is like the author herself says, to read it as a historical fictions instead of a contemporary writing. A completely enjoyable book!

White Magic – Russian Emigre Tales of Mystery and Terror edited & translated by Muireann Maguire. The book contains a wide variety of tales from the first three decades of 20th century, capturing the urban as well rural stories set in the backdrop of both the pre revolution and post revolution Russia. The short stories are eerie, gothic and some extremely strange. The Russian landscape that brings with it not only awe inspiring magnificence, along with deep fore brooding and sad beauty is wonderfully captured through all the short stories all while retaining a certain sentimentality and sensitivity despite the running theme of horror.

This is what I have been reading lately! I have a few more CJ Sansom’s lined up for this event, as well a re-reading of the brilliantly written The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I found this amazing anthology (thanks to a great review by Ali) of Murder Mysteries with the theme of books, Murder by the Book edited by Martin Edward that is also in my next reading queue. Outside of the RIP books, I am reading a powerful novel, based on true events in 1940s Germany, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. Also based on an excellent review by Karen, I am reading the gorgeously written, part biography, part travelogue, Footsteps by Richard Holmes. In October I plan to participate in the 1976 Club hosted by Karen & Simon (yet to decide a book), besides reading And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov as part of Classical Club’s October reading event ( scary books or books that you are scared to read; I went with the latter). In November, among other things I will join Brona’s AusReading Month, though again I am not yet sure of what I will read,

This year so far has been a year of reading through everything that comes my way – fiction, history, travelogues, politics and I have enjoyed the journey immensely. As the holiday season comes closer, I hope to make the reading journey more interesting, reading more variety and more unusual voices, atleast that is the plan! What are your reading plans for the remaining year?

The R.I.Ping Reads…..

When I had first started blogging so many moons ago, Stefanie, had introduced me to R.I.P (Readers Imbibing Peril; originally started by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings) that was hosted every year during the Fall season. Over the years, R.I.P events introduced me to such classics like We have Always Lived in a Castle. But the last few years, like everything else life was became kind of crazy nightmare and though this year is hardly better bringing in it’s own surreal qualities, I atleast have the time and energy to look around and read! So when I saw the posts coming up about the 15th R.I.P. event, I knew it’s time again to pick up those things that I had to let go and start again!r.i.p.-xv

The rules this year are extremely simple and the only expectation is to read books from the following genre during the September-October

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

I am *******trying****** to not buy more books after the splurging of the last few months and instead am digging up from my current TBR. I m not sure if in the end I will stick to this list, but for now this seems to be the plan of action –

  1. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie – This is one of those few Christie books not to feature her regular detective quad of Poirot,  Miss Marple, Parker Pyne etc. There is a dead body and strange neighbors, set in the Cornish Moors and a young woman who is out to prove her finance’s innocence.
  2. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne – The mathematical genius not only created the famous Winne the Pooh but was apparently wrote some very good mysteries. The Red House is one of them and set in over a weekend in the typical English country house where the host disappears suddenly, after some mysterious shorts being heard.
  3. Dead Man’s Quarry by Ianthe Jerrold – I was introduced to this book by Jane when she wrote a wonderful review of a cycling holiday gone wrong with one of the members being found dead at a quarry.

  4. The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo –  A brilliant review by Helen got me to buy the book. Set in 1937 Japan, a newly wed couple’s wedding night is marred with a gruesome death
  5. The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – I have tried reading Horowitz a few time but it never quite works for me. But again a wonderful review by Helen made me pick this mystery within a mystery novel

This then is my plan; I am sure I will deviate and pick something else along the way, but as a starting point, this is what it looks to be!

Are you participating in R.I.P ? Do you have some good recommendations especially in the Gothic/Horror genre?

#ripxv

And Its a Wrap!

After all the lows of 2014, I was expecting things to really look up in 2015….and well, as always, when you expect too much, a letdown is but inevitable and there were moments in 2015 I would not revisit for a million dollars! It has not been a comfortable year nor a particularly satisfying one; however there is no denying that I did gain some material advantage that included a long awaited promotion and relatively speaking, the ability to dig myself out of a financial abyss following my mom’s illness and subsequent death. I am still struggling with many things, but I now know that (fingers crossed) though I may never have the luck I want, I will (thanking the mightier powers) always have the luck I need.

As always, books and friends sustained me through all the good and the bad. Old and new books as well as old and new friends made my life so much richer and satisfying that I could not have believed was humanly possible. I saw such wonderful instances of uncalled for kindness and generosity, from so many quarters’ as to restore my faith in mankind, and hope for a better tomorrow.  Books have always been my natural therapy from all that is discouraging and distressing and this year was no different. Therefore following the tradition, I began last year, I list 12 books, which have made an indelible impression on me, out of everything I read through 2015:

  1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – Like I originally posted, what can I ever say about this books that has not already been said? Sublime, insightful and full of sensitivity that remains unmatched, this book is a travesty of mankind. Beautifully depicting the passing of an era as well the realizations of lost opportunities, with succinct and yet powerful words, this book is one of the best I have read ever!
  2. Howards End by E.M. Forster – Again I quote from my original post, the moments of “Hey! That is so true” are liberally bestowed through the book. I again come across a book which was intuitive and deeply insightful of human nature and its ability to stand up for what is truly important, even when the standing up was done alone, against all odds. In Margaret Schlegel, I found one of the most real heroines I have ever come across!
  3. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende – Magical Realism, history, human nature and lyricism all came together in this brilliant book that describes the rise and fall of the Del Valle-Trueba clan from the end of World War I to the end of 1960s that saw an end of democracy and a bloody coup paralleling the history of the author’s native country Chile. A brilliant book that stays with you long after you finished reading it.
  4. Beowulf – One of the best things about blogging is that you get to meet people who encourage and support you to read works, which you might otherwise overlook. Beowulf was one such book, that I hesitated from reading for a long time and then Cleo came along and rescued me and helped me get on with it so to speak. The result was naturally very rewarding – one of the best epic poems ever written, singing of values much underrated today – of courage and nobility and loyalty. The adventure keeps you reaching out to turn the page over and the characterization, despite being an epic, is distinct and contrasting leaving the reader wonder, questioning and thinking
  5. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim – Beautiful book, with wonderful and complete characters and some wonderful settings, a book that tells of all things women are capable of, good and bad, of reaching out for freedom and of beauty and joy that comes from that freedom.
  6. The Custom of The Country by Edith Wharton – Edith Wharton at her best, bringing forth follies and failures of human nature in turn of the century New York, with characters who speak for themselves and of choices we make or do not makes when morals and avarice collide!
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir – Speaking of inspirations, Stefanie is another such person who keeps throwing up books which I would never venture forth on, except she does such a brilliant job of convincing me that I am compelled to try them! Science Fiction is NOT ME and I DO NOT like reading this genre! However The Martian blew me away – smart plot with crazy twists, dollops of humor and some easy to understand science, made it one of the most fulfilling reads ever!
  8. We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson – I was introduced to Ms. Jackson’s brilliance when in 2014, I read her The Haunting of Hill House as part of RIP event. I revisited her again this year as part of RIP and she did not disappoint. Eerie setting, obsessive unapologetic characters and a plot that keeps getting more threatening by the minute, the books is a singular example of the horror genre, of sending chills down the readers spine without the nasty pieces of blood and gore!
  9. Winter: A Berlin Family by Len Deighton – Known for his masterful spy thrillers, this little known historical fiction novel of Deighton is gripping and supremely dazzling. Tracing the family of Winters, father and sons, the story unfolds by taking us through Berlin and her people, beginning at the end of World War I and ending at the end of War War II, the book shakes your belief system, questions the oft repeated history and leaves you heartbroken!
  10. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – I have always been a great Gaskellian and this books lives up to all the glory that her author sought to give her. With believable and human characters and succinct truths of the newly industrialized England, the story is a exquisite and detailed picture of mill towns of 19th century, where money and culture of the old and new emerging world clash for existence and acceptance.
  11. Emma by Jane Austen – I have always believed that the more you read Austen, the newer layers you discover. The Emma readalong to celebrate 200 years of its publication, again gave me not only yet another opportunity to discover a new layer of wit and humor, but as some of my bloggers (Tom andBelleza) pointed out, read the books as an early mystery novel – will Harriet marry? Why is Frank Chruchill so late in his visit to Randalls? Why does Jane Fairfax insist on getting her own posts?
  12. Bloodline by Conn Iggulden (Part III of War of Roses Series) I think people should forget GOT for a while and read the actual events that inspired GOT. Always an Iggulden devotee, I read Stormbirds and Trinity (Part I and Part II) of the series with great enjoyment. However, it was part III that took my breathe away – magnificent descriptions of battles, plot twists and strong and endearing characters (you feel bad even for the rebels!) the book is a testimony to all the brilliance the author has shown in his Conqueror series!

Those are my top 12 of 2015, and while many others competed for this place, I must honestly say that these 12 really stood out!

What more do I say, except to end with what T.S. Elliot said wonderfully –

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning

Here wishing you all a joyous and fabulous 2016!

 

 

 

 

The Horrifying Times…..

Yay! RIP X is here!!  I have had such fun in the past in participating in these events, that this absolutely no question of passing this up! This annual event is hosted by Carl V. Anderson over at Stainless Steel Droppings; but this year to celebrate the 10th edition of RIP (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril); the event is being hosted by The Estella Society!

rip10

(Image by Abigail Larson)

The event runs starts from September 01st to October 31st and there are multiple perils for the indulgent reader/viewer; the only clause being, that you read or watch anything under the following genre –

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

I have decided to naturally sign up for the Peril The First and this means and I quote directly from the site “Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.” My nominees for this year are –

  • We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – Thanks to The Estella Society’s last year’s Readalong, I was introduced to the brilliance of Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House and I have been since then planning to read more of her work. This event is just the event to get kick started on another of Ms. Jackson’s Nuggets!
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu – Heard much, but read practically nothing. I was once told by one of my university professors that not to have read Sheridan Le Fanu is not to have truly ventured into the Gothic genre in the truest sense of the term. So this time I plan to read Le Fanu and “truly” understand Gothic!
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde – What can I say about this book that has not already been said! This is a re-read and I remember reading it way back and being extremely uncomfortable through the night. Time to revisit an old, I can hardly say friend, but rather an indulgence in its most macabre sense!
  • The Shining by Stephen King – I know …I must be one of those very few, practically non-existent population that has not read this book, but I am never been much of a Stephen King fan; however this one is considered a cult classic and I think I will give this one a shot, before I consign my entire Stephen King reading as an unmitigated disaster!

Finally I am for sure participating in the Peril of the Group Read, which runs from September 18th to October 18th. This year we are reading The Quick by Lauren Owen. I have never read Lauren Owen, but the reviews sound awesome and it’s a thriller based in Victorian England…need I say more??

So without further ado, here’s to RIP X…let the mayhem begin!