Good-bye 2011

I started out this month full of plans to read loads of books - I end it with having read only 4! Most of my month was passed in re-reading Agatha Christie books because a new book requires full attention - something I'm too tired to have these days.

Books I read in the month of December

Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer

Re-reads
Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer

Agatha Christie re-reads
Crooked House
Cat Among the Pigeons
Third Girl
Three-Act Tragedy
The Clocks

The last month of the year 2011 has gone by with a whiz and we have a new year to look forward to. The year saw some great changes both in my own life (I got my first job!) and in my country, with various upheavals. In my first post of the new year, I'll lay out some of my goals for the year 2012: what I hope to accomplish in the blogging world. See y'all next year!

Cat Among the Pigeons

Rating: ****

Meadowbank School for Girls is not just a school; it is a work of art. Miss Bulstrode contemplates her life long project and feels that it is now time to retire - when things are at their peak. But things are fast approaching a collision course when an international conspiracy, a killer, and a bag of jewels all converge; two weeks later, Miss Bulstrode sees her life's work lie in ruins about her with two murders occuring side by side. Things may have remained unresolved if Julia Upjohn, a student at the school, hadn't had the presence of mind to figure out the mystery, and call in the great Hercule Poirot.

Some thoughts
One of my favorite Agatha Christie novels, Cat Among the Pigeons has a lot of great characters. I love the unique teachers: Miss Rich who has genius and goes about with her hair falling about in disarray, and Miss Bulstrode, 'The Presence' whom all revere and fear; and the others: Mrs. Upjohn, a fond mother who is somewhat absent-minded, and has a weird sense of adventure (a friend of Mrs. Summerhayes who appears in Mrs. McGinty's Dead); and finally her daughter Julia Upjohn, who looks after her mother and is the only one smart enough to discover the mystery.

The ending may not have been as interesting as the rest of the novel, but it seemed natural. The expert deduction of Hercule Poirot wasn't as 'great' at it normally is and if I had been reading the novel for the first time, I would have been surprised by the identity of the killer. 

Pistols for Two


Pistols for Two is a book of short stories set in the period of the Regency. Georgette Heyer, as always, has a knack with light, comic love stories; this novel was no different with its blend of various stories, some with a slight mystery, others with comedy and romance. If I had to choose, my two favorite from the collection would be To Have the Honour, in which a practical jokes helps two lovers find each other, and Hazard, in which two people who love each other find themselves in the most awkward situation.

In Pistols for Two we have elopements to Greta Green, duels, wagers, love at first sight, and various misunderstandings. Each of the eleven stories is steeped in the Regency era - the Georgette Heyer atmosphere. 

Three-Act Tragedy

When Mr. Babbington dies at a party given by the famous actor Sir Charles Cartwright, the host is sure it's murder; however, Mr. Satterthwaite and Hercule Poirot don't agree with. Imagine the surprise of the two experts in human nature and crime when one of the guests, Sir Bartholomew, gives his own party and dies in the same manner.

Rating: ***
Hercule Poirot teams up with Mr. Satterthwaite and Sir Charles to figure out the motive for the first murder - they act on the theory that Sir Bartholomew murder was an outcome of Mr. Babbington's death. What the reason could be for wanting to kill an elderly clergyman such as Stephen Babbington eludes the famous Belgian detective - until by a chance remark, he begins to see light.

Some thoughts
I've found re-reading isn't much fun. Three Act Tragedy however was so much fun! Knowing who the murderer was actually made this book so much better. I loved seeing the little clues as they happened and not having to go 'oh, how was I so stupid?!'. The killing seemed so much more probably once you see step by step how it was done.

I was slightly disappointed that they played the romantic angle so little. I wished Christie had developed the character of Oliver Manders a bit more.  We hear about him throughout the book, but his own feelings are never hinted at until the very end.

Mr. Satterthwaite was decidedly slow in this novel. He noticed one vital point, yes, but missed the thing glaring him in the face. Hercule Poirot, on the other hand, never disappoints. His deduction was as usual spot on, and I love the way he always thinks of the romantic angle managing to bring people together.

Third Girl

Rating: ***
A young girl who thinks she "might have committed a murder"  comes to consult Poirot at his flat one day. "You're too old" is how she leaves him, stunned yet intrigued. His ego may have been hurt, but more importantly, his curiosity is piqued. Who is this girl and why does she think she's murdered someone? Surely, one would know?

Poirot, with his infallible "grey cells" begins to track down this girl. He senses some impending danger - either to the girl or from the girl. What is the mystery? Who is this girl? Is she mad? Or delusional? Was the whole thing a joke? Somehow, Poirot doesn't think so and until he figures it out, he won't rest.

Some thoughts
This book reminded me of two other Agatha Christie books: Why Didn't They Ask Evans? and The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side. Agatha Christie's style is somewhat repetitive. For one thing, she used the same device in both Why Didn't They Ask Evans and Third Girl: A person who believes they are suffering from cancer commit suicide, which actually turns out to be a very clever murder.

I think I'm developing a tortuous mind like Poirot.

This book featured one of my favorite characters in the Agatha Christie Universe, Dr. Stillingfleet. The loose-jointed, red-headed young doctor is a refreshing and endearing character. Really, it's because of his character that I enjoyed re-reading this book so much. Besides that, the novel had no extra brilliance that would recommend it.

Behold, Here's Poison


I don't normally like Georgette Heyer's mysteries, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this one - all because of Randall. Yes, Randall, my latest crush in bookdom. The heir to the Matthews, the 'amiable snake' has a silky smooth, insinuatingly clever and mocking style that gets under the skin of his relatives; and yet you can't help but find him attractive. When Gregory Matthews, the head of the family is found poisoned, Randall, the most likely suspect has an unbreakable alibi. The rest of the family loathe him and would give anything to foist the murder onto him.

With this odd assortment of relatives, all of whom have grievances against the victim, Superintendent Hannasyde finds his work cut out for him. Poisoning is not an easy crime to decipher and when he thinks he is getting nowhere, help comes from unexpected quarters.

Some thoughts
I was slightly worried that this mystery would end like Penhallow, one of her later novels, with the crime unsolved by the detective, but Randall didn't disappoint! He solved the case and laid it out to the Superintendent without a loophole.

More than the murder, I was interested in the intricate relationships, the atmosphere and the tension between the various members of the family. The unique touch given by Randall's smooth and easy sarcasm was hugely entertaining (his is a type that recurs in many Georgette Heyer novels. I almost wish I could meet a real life example!).

While reading, I compared Heyer to Christie and I realized that Georgette Heyer's mysteries are focused mainly not on the murder, but the character relationships. Agatha Christie was detailed on the workings and planning of the murder, the character of the murderer etc; although she did include good character portrayals, they were secondary to the plot and the main detective. In Georgette Heyer, we are much more intimate with the cast and get to know them well, and the murder is a sort of setting to display their personalities. The murder is discussed by all the characters, but innumerable clues aren't laid out for us to follow like in a detective hunt! So, if you're looking for a detective story, Agatha Christie would be more to your liking, but for an all round nice novel, I'd choose Georgette Heyer.

Challenges Galore 2012

With the new year, a lot of new challenges are coming up and I'm going to be taking part in a few.

1. The TV Addict Reading Challenge 2012












2. The New Author Challenge 2012










3. The Historical Fiction Challenge

 


4. The Dusty Bookshelf Challenge 2012

Dusty Bookshelf Challenge 


That makes for 51 books I'll be reading through these challenges! I'll be updating my progress on the challenges page I'll be putting up soon. See you in 2012!

Dusty Bookshelf Challenge 2012


I love this idea! I just found this great new blog (Books: A True Story) and a wonderful challenge to go with it. The Dusty Bookshelf Challenge is for you to read up all those books that have been sitting on your bookshelf for who knows how long?! I've just skimmed through my bookshelf and found 5 books that have been sitting in the same spot for almost 2 years!

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Much Ado About Nothing a play by Shakespeare
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

I bought these books roughly at the same time: just under 2  years ago and I haven't had time to read them since. They've been pushed by my newer, more recently bought books to the back and I'm bringing them out again for this challenge! So this puts my level down to "Pixie Dust". To sign up, go HERE.

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012


The historical fiction challenge, hosted by Historical Tapestry, is coming back for another year! I took part in this challenge last year with only two books and am definitely looking forward to it again in 2012. Trying to be more ambitious this year I'm putting myself down for 5 books which might change into 10! I have no set list but I do hope to read The Outlander series this year. 

Following are the rules:
  • everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section of the host blog if you wish)
  • add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky in the monthly post the host blog will put up (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
  • any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult,...)
  • During these following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:
  1. Severe Bookaholism: 20 books
  2. Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books
  3. Struggling the Addiction: 10 books
  4. Daring & Curious: 5 books
  5. Out of My Comfort Zone: 2 books
All you have to do to sign up is go HERE and add your sign-up post or leave a comment.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival

The year is coming to an end and with it the last edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival. I discovered this reading challenge really late in the year, and since then I've contributed quite a lot of books. But since I still have plenty of Agatha Christie mysteries to read, I hope that the challenge is continued next year as well!

Awaiting the monthly edition of the challenge was the highlight of the month for me! The great number of contributers shows you how much Agatha Christie is still loved. This is my progress on the number of Christie's books I've read this year:



That makes a total of 19 books. With over 50 books left to read, see you next year!

Why haven't they made the movie?!: A Georgette Heyer Romance

Any of you ever read Georgette Heyer? Well, you should. She's wonderful at writing Regency Romances. With over 50 books, Heyer hasn't gained the recognition she deserves. In this post, I'm going to question (I hope, along with you) why none of her books have been turned into a film, and show why they should. Why this gross injustice?!

Hollywood's making a great mistake in adapting none of her books into films! Following is a list of her BEST books. Add them all and make a medley for all I care! Just give me a movie!
  1. The Devil's Cub
  2. Cotillion
  3. April Lady
  4. Regency Buck
  5. Arabella
  6. Cousin Kate
  7. The Nonesuch


My all time favorite Heyer romance is Cotillion. Its blend of romance and humor is perfect. A TV series is possible based on her various books, but of course a movie would be better! I would say to make one on Cotillion first, but These Old Shades and its sequel The Devil's Cub are her most popular novels.

A lot of irrelevant scenes would have to be cut out (along with the nonsensical side-characters that are practically the same in every novel), because the plot of her novels is actually not that long. I would play up the historical background she gives to each novel; not so that war would be the center interest, but to accent the era which the romance takes place in.

Georgette Heyer put in a LOT of detail in every novel she wrote, with extensive research on the clothes, language, culture and politics of the time. Reading her books is like being immersed in the actual Regency era. The directors and producers of a film could have a lot of fun with the costumes and set design.

In my post next time, I'll be telling you my choice for the cast of Cotillion!

Books vs Movies

The first book based movie I ever saw was Matilda. Read a great post on the movie HERE.


The movie was great and for a twelve year old, the "magic" was enough to entrance me. Roald Dahl's books are made to be filmed.  But the next movie based on a book I saw was Gone With the Wind, and since then, my position remained (stubbornly) that book based movies sucked, could never live up to the story, and were in some way always flawed. I stuck to that opinion through Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables......

Recently, I've modified my opinion. I find that if I read a book first and then watch the movie, I am bound to be disappointed. For imaginative readers, reading a book is like playing the whole movie in your mind. No movie CAN live up to it. The thing is impossible. At every point you'll be searching for so and so scene, a certain character, or the perfect manner of speaking the dialogue. At best, you can find a movie enjoyable, but rest assured there will be something everyone doesn't like. It doesn't even have to be the same thing, but according to each reader's taste, everyone will find some flaw. But if you watch the movie first, without reading the book, and THEN read the book, there is a chance that you just might like the film adaptation and say that the book was great, but the movie was good too! This is because one, you don't go into the movie with so many expectations and two,  because you can think of it as separate from the book (I find this truer for fantasy films, because the magic makes it much better to SEE things).

The Lord of the Rings is my best example. I hadn't read the books when I watched the movies, and at the time, I thought the movies were good, not great. But after reading the books, I finds that I'm in love with both! With The Chronicles of Narnia, again I didn't read the books before watching the films and if anything I find the movies better than the books! Another great example is Little Women. I saw the movie a long time before I decided to read the book, and I find the movie very good.

OK, so till now, I've made two assumptions:
1. Watch a movie before reading the book and you will like both;
2. If you read the book before watching the movie, chances are, you won't like the movie.

But having said that, I find things different if the books are romance books, fantasy books, or mystery books i.e. things depend on the genre or content of the book. Books like Gone With the Wind, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights etc. are books which depend on the effect and the personalities of the characters. But if we have a magical or fantasy book, what is more important is the adventure and the magic, so that what we are looking for is more action and effects rather than character and personality (although the actors can't be absolutely puppets!)

So, now I've come to another conclusion! If I read a book like Matilda, The Lord of the Rings, or The Narnia series, chances are its movie will be fun to watch (even The Three Musketeers which is more action then romance is enjoyable even though the movie doesn't stick close to the plot!), but with something intense like Gone With the Wind which depends totally on character - not so much. The book will always be better than the movie in such cases; doesn't matter if you read it first or after.

I should stress that this is something I've personally felt. Doesn't have to be the same for everybody.

I still have to read books such as Something Borrowed, Stardust, and The Devil Wears Prada to form my opinion on contemporary books transformed into movies (along with A Walk to Remember and Dear John).

New Authors Challenge 2012

Literary Escapism for the fourth year, is hosting the New Authors Challenge 2012. For the original post, go HERE


Here are the guidelines:
  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.
  2. Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels.  Anthologies are a great way to try someone new, but only a third of your new authors can be from anthologies.
  3. I want this to be an easy challenge, so you can pick to do either 15, 25 or 50 new authors.  It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be. If you reach your goal halfway through the year, don’t stop.  Any new author you try can be added to Mr. Linky.  We all want to know about your new experience.
  4. After reading your new author, write your review and then come back and add your link to Mr. Linky.  Make sure you include your name and the author, but adding the title is completely up to you.
  5. Bloggers or Non-Bloggers alike are welcome. You don’t have to have a site to participate. You can link up via Facebook, GoodReads or even Amazon if you’d like.
I'm putting myself down for 25 new authors! Since I'm also doing my own My Blind Date with a Book post in which I choose new books at random, this challenge will overlap. Happy reading!

A Civil Contract

After a long time I've finally enjoyed reading another Georgette Heyer Regency Romance. A Civil Contract was all that I love in romance. The love triangle, the handsome, dashing, Viscount who is a man of strong character, the plain, unhappy wife trying desperately to please her husband while hiding her true sentiments behind practicality, and finally the beautiful, ethereal creature whom all men seem to adore.

Although Georgette Heyer usually makes her heroines stunningly beautiful, even the less attractive ones have some refinement, elegance or intelligence that reconciles you to them, but in A Civil Contract the heroine has no such qualities - and yet, you can't help but like her. Jenny is plump, plain, short, with a square face and has no idea how to act in high society, but throughout the novel we see her acting for others. Not in a sacrificing sort of way, but with true interest in others and with an honesty other characters seem to lack (I was even annoyed at Adam, the hero, many times). Adam himself realizes her worth but can't help but be disgusted by her vulgar father and the position he is forced into: he must marry for money to save his estate from ruin, and in the process he has to give up the woman he loves. I didn't have much sympathy for him (maybe that was unnatural of me)!

Spoiler
I found this novel much better than Venetia or The Unknown Ajax, because of the simplicity and truthfulness portrayed in matters of love. Jenny is under no illusion when she marries Adam - she knows he doesn't love her, but she can't help it if she is in love with him! The knowledge that she is plain and commonplace doesn't hurt as much as the truth of Adam's feelings both towards her and Julia, the woman he really loves. She tries to hide herself behind the wall of insensibility, but for how long can anyone bear indifference from the person they love? Jenny finds it harder and harder to hide her true feelings, and the novel didn't end on a high note (as I had half hoped) but in the more comfortable knowledge that they bore each other a sustaining and long lasting love. And given that I was disappointed, I still enjoyed the novel. I was just the slightest bit disappointed in the hero; something which has never happened in a Georgette Heyer novel before!!

The Clocks

Rating: ***
The Clocks by Agatha Christie has a huge cast that is just 'mentioned'. What I mean is that a lot of known characters from various novels are mentioned in this novel. Both Hastings and the crime writer Ariadne Oliver are mentioned. Poirot also refers to Miss Lemon. George, Poirot's valet features in this novel, along with the great detective himself. Finally, we have The Young Man in Love With One of the Woman Suspects (see my Agatha Christie page), Colin Lamb, who is hinted as being the son of one of Poirot's old friends; he is a major figure in the novel. With so many characters, you'd think the mystery would get lost somewhere in between.

Wilbraham Crescent, The Cavendish Secretarial Bureau, and a secret service agent - all are tied up with the mysterious happenings in house No. 19. On a certain day, they all unexpectedly collide when Sheila Webb comes screaming out of No. 19 straight into the arms of Colin Lamb. Apparently, she has seen a dead body.

The authorities hit a wall at the first step: the identity of the dead man. Till they can figure out who he is, Inspector Hardcastle and Colin Lamb have nothing to go upon. It's then that Colin Lamb brings his old friend Hercule Poirot onto the case.

Because of the apparent complexity of the case (four superfluous clocks are found on the scene; hence the title) Poirot is sure that the mystery itself must be exceedingly simple - they're just missing the obvious. When we get past the major thing blocking our advance: the dead man, it becomes what it is - a murdered man who is stripped of his identity with the killer sure he would not be easily identified. We get so caught up in the finding the identity that we, like the Inspector, don't wonder why it was so necessary to hide it!

Spoiler alert!
There were so many coincidences in this book! Sheila Webb is sent to the house where the murdered body lies; it also happens to be the place where her mother lives! A mother who gave her up when she was born. But that is not where it stops; the mother is also the very criminal master mind Colin Lamb had been searching for when he runs into Sheila Webb screaming out of the house (only he doesn't know it).

For people who know Agatha Christie inside-out.
Other things I noticed in The Clocks were too many near hits which turned into misses: people not recognizing faces, other people not recognizing a pattern - both things which could have helped solve the case faster. Then, I noticed a lot of repetition in this novel. Agatha Christie reused many of her devices e.g. a girl with a slow thinking process who has seen or "not seen" something (as the case may be) and hence ends up getting killed (happened in The Moving Finger). I think I'm noticing this because of reading too much Agatha Christie. I'm gonna have to stop awhile.

The 2012 TV Addict Reading Challenge

I love the upcoming 2012 TV Addict Reading Challenge hosted by Belle at Belle's Bookshelf. See HERE for the original post. It's right up my alley. I love TV. I love books. I love writing reviews! 

For the challenge I think I'll put myself down for the mini-series level (I can always change my mind later!). The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, on which the television show The Legend of the Seeker was based, is my first pick and The Secret Circle trilogy by L. J. Smith, my second. See the Wikipedia page for all television shows based on books.

The rules are simple (as written by Belle):

-The challenge runs from January 1 2012 – December 31 2012. The idea is to read the books that TV shows are based on. Where it's a series, read the books that correspond to the TV seasons available (read the whole series if you want to, of course!). What you do from there is up to you: review the books, do book/show comparisons, review the TV shows, do recaps whatever tickles your fancy!

-Pick the level you want to achieve in this challenge from the list below, create a post on your blog about it and pop it in the sign-up linky! Non-bloggers are welcome to participate too – do your thang in the comments.

-Each month Ill create a post where you can come and link up your reviews or comment about the books youve read/shows youve watched as part of the challenge.

 -You don’t have to plan in advance what books you’re going to read - though of course you can if you want to!

Challenge levels 
  1. Single play: Read the books that correspond to ONE TV show.
  2. Mini-series: Read the books that correspond to TWO TV shows.
  3. Series: Read the books that correspond to THREE TO FOUR TV shows.
  4. Soap opera: Read the books that correspond to FIVE OR MORE TV shows. 

With The Sword of Truth series, I've already seen the TV series, The Legend of the Seeker, so I know the story, but with The Secret Circle trilogy, I'm thinking I'll read the books first, and then watch the TV show. That way, I'll have an experience both ways, and can judge which way was better. This is just my own twist to the challenge :).

Crooked House

Rating: *****
Agatha Christie was fond of nursery rhymes. Read the list of her novels and you will see many featuring as the title of her mysteries. The title Crooked House was taken from the nursery rhyme "There Was a Crooked Man".

Charles Hayward is in love with Sophia Leonides. After coming back from the war, he hopes to ask her to marry him. But fate has some trials in store before the young man can win the girl he loves. Sophia's grandfather, Aristide Leonides, has been murdered; she tells Charles that she can never marry him, unless the "right person killed him."

Who is the right person? The whole family lives together in the crooked house and Sophia is afraid - all of them are afraid. They hope to pin the murder on Brenda, Aristide's much younger wife. As long as no one in the family is implicated, they feel safe. But Charles realizes that they themselves suspect one of their own. Is it one of the family? What if they never find out? Can Charles live with the suspicion that Sophia could be the murderer? Sophia, a realist, realizes that the truth must be found at all costs - but when it is found, the reality is more horrible than anyone could have imagined.

Some thoughts
I absolutely LOVED this novel. The inner psychology of the murderer and the portrayal of the family's characteristics was fascinating. The Leonides and the Havilands both have their odd traits, but did their ruthlessness and unscrupulousness combine in a horrible mixture in one of their descendants? Sophia fears the worst. Again, in Crooked House, Agatha Christie confronts the issue of heredity and the resulting "kinks" in people. More than anything, Sophia fears what her family is capable of, and whether Charles can accept her if someone from her family is responsible.

The drama was similar to that in Ordeal By Innocence in which the inmates of one house fall under suspicion for the murder. In Crooked House, the Leonides desperately hope that the guilt falls on an outsider, but know deep down that it's one of them.

I intended to include this book in my feature Why Haven't They Made the Movie?! until I read on Wikipedia that American filmmaker Neil La Bute has decided to make a film based on this book. I can't wait!!

Manon Lescaut

"The memory of such women as Helen and Cleopatra has haunted men down the ages, especially when the evil of their lives and the weakness of men who have succumbed to their spell have been visited by a terrible retribution. Such a woman is Manon Lescaut, whose story has been translated into most of the languages of the western world, whose power over the unfortunate Des Grieux has inspired the operas of Auber, Puccini and Massenet."
This introduction was enough to get me interested in Manon Lescaut. I wanted to read what type of woman it was that could be compared to the greats Helen and Cleopatra. I was somewhat disappointed. Although the book is not entirely boring, I found nothing entrancing in Manon Lescaut and the devoted worship with which Des Grieux pursued her and put up with every unfaithfulness wearied me.

Des Grieux is in love with a fickle creature; a woman he worships desperately but whom he cannot see for what she really is. I was (sometimes) moved to pity because of his indefatigable attraction to Manon, an attraction that costs him much more than just money, but the story shown through his eyes bored me with its constant repetition. Once, twice, thrice he falls for her charm and her beauty! I couldn't stand such blindness. The book vividly shows how the obsession of love can get hold of a man and degrade him beyond his imagination. That is what Des Grieux goes through. He can't break free - hence his constant relapse. Manon is like a drug to him. Although short in length, the novel seemed overly long and I was glad when I had finished it!

I read the English translation of the novel by L. W. Tancock. The style and the whole atmosphere reminded me of The Three Musketeers (which is also a French novel). While reading, I saw how Des Grieux and all his acquaintances viewed love in that time; all the evils committed when the hero was under its spell are pardonable apparently! It was obviously the normal way of thinking that thefts, murder and assault could happen and be easily pardoned when one is in love!

One thing I will say is that despite his constancy and the affection Des Grieux showed Manon, and the inconstancy and unfaithfulness she returned him, I liked her much better than him. She wasn't so annoying!

Manon Lescaut was my second pick for My Blind Date With a Book Feature, and it was a bigger disappointment than the first (see HERE). I didn't enjoy the story, the characters, or the writing style. I would rate this number 1. Hated it. No second date possible. Abbe Prevost tired me out, and at this moment, I don't intend to read another book by him. Let's see what the future says.

The Chronicles of Narnia



See HERE to read my review on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The following reviews are added as I read along.

The Horse and His Boy
    This is the third book in the Narnia series, and it is similar in style to the second: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Shasta, a young slave boy escapes from his master who intends to sell him to a Tarkaan. All his life, Shasta has longed to travel North. Imagine his luck when he finds the Tarkaan has a talking horse who comes from the northern land of Narnia! With the help of his new friend, he embarks on a journey towards freedom and Narnia.

    Lewis' writing style is in a way similar to Tolkien; both writers, when the journey splits into two different parts, often follow one thread only to come back and recount the other thread from the same point. In The Chronicles of Narnia, this device makes the story seem both long and short. Long because the journey part is repeated so often that we long to get to the part of action, and short because the books themselves have very little story besides the journey and can only be prolonged so much.

    The dialogue at times seems too formal, even for a fairy tale book for children. This seems like too much criticism, especially with the fact that I actually enjoyed reading it!

    Prince Caspian

    I liked this one much better than the 3rd installment of The Chronicles of Narnia. It went at a much faster pace and I didn't seem like I was constantly going back to where another character was still behind in the story. The four siblings appear again in this novel and are at the age in which they constantly fight and nag at each other. We are introduced to Prince Caspian, (by the way, there is no developing romance between Susan and Caspian mentioned in the novel - that is added to the movie) the true King of Narnia who is fighting for his right against his Uncle.

    One thing that I enjoy about the series is the little lessons given to each character; none are exempt from the lion's scolding. Lucy is the obvious favorite in the novel and the one to whom Narnia was first shown, but whenever she is in the wrong, she is shown how. All the children pray a pretty homage to Aslan, the King of Narnia. I liked seeing how they all respected him, and joy burst into their hearts whenever they saw him.

    Fantasy is not necessarily a good thing. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy love Narnia and it has certainly taught them something, but once in their own world, they can't help feeling discontented and yearning for the glory and position they had attained as Kings and Queens in Narnia.

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

    Reading this book I was amazed at the differences between the movie and the book. Although the story goes along the same lines, the movie has incorporated much more action. Most of the scenes are embellished and carried further than they were in the book. For example, when Eustace turns into a dragon, none of the Narnians fight him, Lucy doesn't speak the incantation to make herself beautiful, she isn't kidnapped by the Dufflepuds, and when they go into the land where dreams come true, they come out unscathed without anyones dream becoming a reality. The movie makes all these things happen so as to make the story more dramatic.

    The book didn't have a strong plot which is perhaps why things were changed in the film. From the simple voyage of discovery the book had laid out, the movie became a quest to save the seven lords and collect their swords which held some magical power.

    The Silver Chair

    With all four of the Pevensie children gone, this book was like a shock. The withdrawal had been gradual with Peter and Susan going first, but the loss of all of them was still too great for The Silver Chair to be a success. To top it all off, we didn't even have Prince Caspian except in passing as an old and heartbroken king.

    Although Eustace's character has improved in this book, there are still plenty of lessons that Aslan has to teach the children. We have a new character, Jill Pole, who comes along for the journey. Their quest is to rescue Prince Caspian's (now an old king) son from a witch. The children are shown as what they are - children; easily annoyed, irritable and sometimes quarrelsome, caving into wants and needs. The book was natural and the learning process was gradual.

    The Last Battle

    The last of the Narnian series, this book reveals the truth about Narnia, Aslan's country, and the whole magical kingdom. Narnia is breathing its last when King Tirian calls for aid. Aslan answers and sends Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole. Together they prepare desperately for the last battle. The end of Narnia is near and it looks like there is no hope.

    All of a sudden, all the characters who ever came into Narnia from the "other world", are assembled together (sadly, except Susan!). Aslan appears and before their eyes a country is laid to waste, thousands of years pass, the sea sweeps over all, the sun dies, and the door is closed on an eternity. I loved the depiction of Father Time and how the world ended was beautifully portrayed. I read each and every word of the description.

    When the characters gather together at the end for a final talk, I was disappointed. I liked the idea that the world they were in now was supposed to be the real world, and all others just a paper copy (even the England they had lived in, and the Narnia they had ruled over, was never the real England or Narnia), but the way things ended, and how Peter, Edmund, Lucy and the rest got there, seemed wrong to me. Some questions remained, and although the world was beautiful beyond dreams, I couldn't help wondering about all the other people over in the 'fake' England!

    Moods

    Young and inexperienced, Sylvia's chief flaw is that she is ruled by her moods. All her life decisions are made on the impulse of the moment without a care to propriety or prudence. She is the bane of her sister's existence who feels that she will never learn, and always be ruled by a whim.

    Beautiful and endearing to those around her, it isn't a surprise when love quickly comes her way. Her childish and impetuous nature give her a vivid and colorful personality that is hard to dislike. She is one of those people who always manage to get their own way. As always, Louisa May Alcott put a moral in her novel, and Sylvia must learn a hard lesson before she can find the happiness of love.

    I liked Sylvia, but at times I found it hard to believe how anyone so charming and beautiful  could be absolutely unconscious of it. I understand there are people with charm who are unconscious of it, but for someone with that mixture of beauty, charm, spirit and personality to be absolutely unaware of it, seemed doubtful. Especially with the fact that not one, but two men fall in love with her! The only explanation is that Sylvia is still a child, and she has many things to learn before she can make a success of her life. Her turbulent emotions and mood swings cause her, and others, a lot of heartache. She is forever fluctuating between ecstasy and despair.

    Moods shows the serious side of love and how it is not always just pure joy and ecstasy. Sylvia finds true love the hard way, and she has to give up a lot before she sees it. The novel made me root for one character, then another till I didn't know what I wanted, so how could Sylvia?! But, through all the haze, she at last finds herself and the peace she had always wanted.
    November has been a slow month in reading. I've started a new job, have had constant family gatherings, and best of all, our Eid also took place this month (a three day holiday). It was a busy busy busy month and I didn't get a lot of reading done.

    Books I read this month:

    Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
    Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
    The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
    Moods by Louisa May Alcott
    Kidnapped by Robert Stevenson

    Agatha Christie re-reads:

    Nemesis
    At Bertram's Hotel
    A Pocket Full of Rye
    Evil Under the Sun
    The Moving Finger

    I hope to make it all up next month with a nice new bag of books I bought a couple of days ago. Some I've reserved for My Blind Date with a Book feature, and others on a comparison I want to make between books and their movies. 

    The Princess by D. H. Lawrence
    Manon Lescaut by Abbe Prevost
    The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
    Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
    The Clocks by Agatha Christie
    Crooked House by Agatha Christie

    Currently, I am reading The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. An unusual book for me - a new genre which I've never read before. I'll have to read more before I can give an opinion on him (I'm also in the middle of What We Say Goes, interviews of Noam Chomsky. I find it very interesting so far! Again, I can't give an opinion till I read much much more on this subject.)

    Honoring the artists

    The birthdays of two of my favorite authors are side-by-side and I simply can't pass them by without mentioning the great artists: Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery; born November 29, 1832 and November 30, 1874 respectively, both these authors are the main reason I began reading and basically shaped my future reading choices.

    Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was an American author. She wrote many books the most famous of which was Little Women. The first book of hers which I read was An Old Fashioned Girl. Simply put, I loved it. I was 14 when I first read it, and the romance between Polly and Tom was heart-rending for me. Now, re-reading it, I still enjoy it. The characters are all slightly idealistic, and Louisa Alcott often preaches and moralizes in her novels, but the softness and warmth with which she does it touches your heart. The world may be one that never existed, but you feel like it should be cherished nevertheless.

    When I read an author I like, I become bent on a mission to read all the books they ever wrote. Well, with Louisa May Alcott I pursued that mission and read many of her books (including the Little Women series that has 4 novels). She also published under the name A. M. Bernard, books such A Long Fatal Love Chase, which I still have to read. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom are my favorite books by Louisa May Alcott.

    As her birthday is coming up I decided to finish The Portable Louisa May Alcott that I had started quite a while ago. It contains some of her short stories, some novellas and parts of her other novels and plays. Moods is contained in full in the book with changes made from the text that was first published. This version is the unedited original version which Louisa May Alcott had intended to be published. My next post will be a review on the book.

    Now anybody that follows my blog or me on Twitter should know that I am huge L. M. Montgomery fan; practically a fanatic. Up to date, only one book of hers remains unread by me (A Tangled Web) and some of her short stories. Some day, I hope to have a collection of all of her books.


    The first book I read was the famous Anne of Green Gables, but skipping that experience I want to go straight on ahead to when I read Emily of New Moon and its sequels. I can't tell you how much reading those books meant to me. I've re-read them more times then I can count; the first book has become worn and is falling apart, but I can never part with it. As I've already written about L. M. Montgomery numerous times, and have reviewed some of her best books, I won't begin again here (you can see all my posts on the author HERE and the writer's page for more information).

    The two authors have obvious differences.  For one, Lucy Montgomery wrote mostly children's literature whereas Louisa Alcott dabbled more in young adult. Yet, in my opinion, the styles of both were somewhat similar. They both had this idealistic vision of life, a reality in which good was dominant and all the characters see the beauty in life. To strive towards being 'good' is the focus point of both artists and something most of their characters eventually achieve.

    Louisa May Alcott, it is true, showed the temptations in life more, and the battle which some characters faced (hence her novels are more young adult). She was also more religious in her novels than Montgomery. Montgomery on the other hand never actually showed the bad side of human nature, and even her tragedies were beautified with a sort of light (the death of Judy Plum in Pat of Silver Bush is sad, but not depressing). Louisa May Alcott showed tragedy, and made us feel it along with the character (Beth's death in Good Wives, and some of the scenes in Moods are extremely heart-rending). Both great writers.

    Nemesis

    Rating: ***
    When Miss Marple's old acquaintance, Mr. Rafiel, dies she is never more surprised in her life when she gets a letter from his lawyers with a proposition for her. She is to undertake a task for Mr. Rafiel, without any clues as to what that task is; if she completes this task, she will gain twenty thousand pounds. Miss Marple intrigued, agrees somewhat doubtfully and immediately she is taken on a journey where little by little, the clues fall into place and she comes closer to solving the mystery.

    This mystery was slightly disturbing to read. Agatha Christie treats the cases of rape and assault in a way I found appalling sometimes. The case of crimes committed by delinquents and  mentally unstable people is a major factor in this novel and lends an eerie and depressing atmosphere to the whole book. Basically, I felt the whole case along with the motive was too disquieting to read. One expects emotions such as hate, jealousy, lust, greed and revenge as being the cause of murder, but when it's love, it makes it much more darker. I don't know, perhaps I'm the only one who felt this way, but the novel left me sad.

    Agatha Christie wrote quite a bit about the mentally unstable and referred a lot to the psychological theories new in her time. Many of her novels dealt with mental abnormalities and with dysfunctional relationships. She never shied away from discussing things such as sex and unwanted pregnancies (although she mostly blamed the girls or how girls didn't have proper mothers to look after them anymore!). This novel is one of the queerer ones and actually, the plot has some similarities with Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple's final case.

    Mentions of known characters in this novel include Mr. Rafiel, who appears alongside Miss Marple in A Caribbean Mystery, Raymond and Joan, Miss Marple's nephew and his wife, and Sir Henry Clithering, an old acquaintance of Miss Marple.  Cherry Baker, Miss Marple's helper, also appears in this novel.

    Some Miss Marple

    At Bertram's Hotel, and A Pocket Full of Rye; two mysteries starring Miss Marple:

     "Human nature is much the same everywhere, is it not?"

    These words are the secret behind Miss Marple's ability of solving murders; human nature is the same everywhere and she is adept at recognizing it for what it is. Like all of the author's famous amateur detectives, Miss Marple often finds herself in the middle of a murder. In A Pocket Full of Rye it is through her maid Gladys that she becomes connected with the poisoning of Rex Fortescue, an old business man who had recently married a young and beautiful wife. The whole drama centers around the family. In At Bertram's Hotel, Miss Marple is again confronted with crime when she comes to holiday at Bertram's Hotel - the last place you could imagine murder to happen.

    Rating: ****
    I don't really enjoy a Miss Marple mystery, but A Pocket Full of Rye was different. I was left saddened by the outcome in more ways than one. The identity of the murderer, his (I say his for convenience) method of committing the crime, his heartlessness and the cruelty of fate, all moved me to tears. I felt so much for all the characters - Gladys, the unattractive, eager maid always hoping for romance; Pat Fortescue, the awkwardly attractive and charming wife of Lance Fortescue who has faced a lot of misfortune in life; and the plain daughter, Elaine Fortescue - they were drawn with such care that I felt like I knew them. Agatha Christie is so good with those little details in a character that you sometimes exclaim "Exactly! That's exactly how it is! How does she KNOW?!"

    It was an unresolved ending which made the book so much better. The crime is solved, but we are left to wonder over the fate of some characters, and the harshness of the reality of others. I'm being very cryptic, but I don't want to give anything away - a murder mystery loses so much when you know what happens.

    Rating: ***
    As for At Bertram's Hotel, what attracted me was the atmosphere of Bertram's Hotel. I can see why the hotel would be so popular among Americans and all who want to experience Britain as it was! I myself felt tempted to hop in a plane and book a room at the hotel......any experience of that kind would be awesome. Miss Marple comes to Bertram's Hotel to relive some memories of her own long forgotten past; but in her heart, she knows that the past is something best left behind. Although all Agatha Christie's books turn out to be murder mysteries, the murder in this book comes quite late in the novel and isn't the big draw of the plot. What is played up the most is Bertram's Hotel itself and its old world charm. We also have a huge thieving racket going on in the background which somehow or other leads back to Bertram's Hotel.

    Kidnapped

    It shows how clueless I am, and how much the My Blind Date with a Book feature will help me, when I don't even know that Robert Louis Stevenson is actually the author of Treasure Island! Of course, I know the book (haven't read it) and have seen the movie, but I didn't know who had written it, so that when I picked up Kidnapped by Robert Stevenson, I had no idea who the author was. So, you see, this new feature is already working at exapanding my knowledge!

    Kidnapped follows the adventures of young David Balfour across the Highlands of Scotland. It involves some historical facts and figures, including a controversial murder case; by chance "Davie" finds himself caught up in the mystery.


    Starting off, I didn't enjoy the novel; but eventually, it caught my interest and I found the reading light and easy. The novel was in the first person with David himself telling us his story. As a young boy of 17, he unexpectedly finds himself the heir to an estate. Unfortunately, his greedy uncle manages to get rid of him and from here begin David's adventures. Tossed in the high seas, shipwrecked and later running for his life across the Highlands with his new friend Alan Breck, David Balfour experiences more life in one year than he did in all his other seventeen.

    What made the story for me was the friendship between Alan Breck and David Balfour. It was portrayed so naturally, with all its ups and downs and actually caused me to laugh quite a bit. The youth and emotions of David Balfour as he continues his journey were drawn realistically; he seemed like the 17 year old boy that he was, coping with the situation he found himself in.

    Set in the Highlands, the whole atmosphere of the book has a mystical quality to it, with stories of fairies and superstitions a natural part of it; the people in the Highlands have a feel for their land - almost as if they were one with it. I love stories about the Highlands, and the bravery and loyalty shown by its people is often read about.

    I enjoyed the book, and might even pick up a second adventure novel by Robert Stevenson. On the whole, I would rate this (see HERE for my ratings) number 3: First date was OK. Second may or may not happen. Having rated it, I still have to say that I'm not sure if the Adventure Novel is a genre I like. To find out, I'll have to read other books by different authors. Recommendations anyone??

    My Blind Date with a Book

    Hey everybody!

    I'm starting this new feature on my blog through which I will discover and read books that are outside my comfort zone. My idea is to pick books at random from the bookstore; authors I don't know, titles that are not familiar and most importantly: without reading the summary at the back. Hopefully, I will discover new authors I like, and get my hands on some contemporary literature. In My Blind Date with a Book feature, I will rate the books according to the following, listed from my worst to best experience with each new author:

    1. Hated it. No second date possible;
    2. Shouldn't judge by first impressions. Giving it a second chance;
    3. First date was OK. Second may or may not happen;
    4. Enjoyed it. Second will probably happen;
    5. Looks like the development of a serious new relationship;
    6. Serious, stalker mode. Will look for all books by author.


    By doing this, I hope to expand my reading to more authors as well as different genres, maybe even picking up some foreign books! I am so excited to get started :).

    Bookshop goodies



    I've gone to the old bookshop again.......... and bought loads and loads of books. Well, only as much as my budget allowed, but I finally decided to buy some contemporary literature (OK, it's only ONE book).

    First off, I've constantly read about Haruki Murakami and his great books on my twitter feed. I was so excited when I spotted one of his books at the old bookshop, and instantly bought it! It's the only one I've found so far: The Elephant Vanishes.

    Next up is my first pick for the "My Blind Date with a Book" post I'm starting. I saw Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (I don't know the author) lying on a bookshelf and without reading the back cover, I decided to give it a try.

    Then, since I'm trying to become politically more aware (you'd be surprised how little I know about the political climate of the world :$), I picked up a book by the political thinker Noam Chomsky. It's a bit different from my normal reads, but I've read his theories on language and since I'm expanding my range in reading, why not? The book is a series of "Conversation on US Power in a Changing World" called What We Say Goes.

    Finally, there are just a few Agatha Christie re-reads I picked up for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival, and a new Georgette Heyer book, A Civil Contract.

    Frankenstein

    Gothic and horror, everything I thought I didn't like. Apparently, I do - in small doses. Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, and The Woman in White all have one thing in common: making the unrealistic credible.

    Frankenstein tells the story of Dr. Frankenstein and the nameless creature to which he gives life. The vilest of all beings, it has only one purpose: revenge on its creator. The novel deals with the concept of the limits of knowledge; what Man can accomplish is not necessarily what he should accomplish; Or as is more popularly said, some things are for God alone.

    The style of the novel is in the form of a long letter, with the writer giving the story in Dr. Frankenstein's own words. The writing is crisp and direct with the narrator never deviating from his recital. Dr. Frankenstein tells his story to his new found friend, Walton, whom he meets at the extremities of the north pole. Freezing and half dead, Dr. Frankenstein, in the manner of the Ancient Mariner, tells his tale to those who are going down the same path he did: the obsession to make a great scientific discovery that will change history forever, and in the process forgetting all else.

    The book has a lot of different influences. One of these is from Milton's Paradise Lost. Percy Bysshe Shelley, the author's husband, also had an impact on the story with many actually citing his reaction to their child (who later died) as the inspiration behind the creature. Shelley also suggested many changes in the text and adds many of the poetry extracts. But the continued reference to Milton's Paradise Lost was the biggest influence, with Frankenstein's creation (who never actually has a name besides 'wretch' or 'fiend') actually identifying himself with Satan. Born as Dr. Frankenstein's Adam, he is much closer to the fallen angel, desiring revenge from his creator - except that he is alone in his fallen state.

    Having created a horror, Dr. Frankenstein not only must live with the consequences of his creation's actions, but he must deal with an even more pressing problem - should he create another creature as a companion to this monster? On the one hand he is responsible to it, but on the other, he is responsible for what this creation might do to humanity. His dealing with this issue was intriguing because both arguments - to create another or not to create - were reasonable.

    It have to admit I was a little saddened when I read the story on the Turkish merchant and his daughter. Consider the following text from Frankenstein,

    She instructed her daughter in the tenets of her religion (Christianity) and taught her to aspire to higher powers of intellect and an independence of spirit forbidden to the female followers of Muhammad.

    It shows how far back such ideas of Islam go and how uninformed people were then, and still are about what exactly Islam does teach.

    Evil Under the Sun

    Rating: **
    Murder seems to follow Hercule Poirot wherever he goes. Vacationing at the Jolly Roger on Leathercombe Bay, the private detective instinctively feels the presence of evil - a sense of impending doom. Most of the guests center on Arlena Stuart, actress and seductress of men, as the cause of all the tension. Later, when she is found strangled, not many mourn her death.

    This is not one of my favorite mysteries by the Queen of Crime. It lacked both drama, and a suitable plot twist. But one thing that I learned on re-reading this novel was the author's methodology. She uses mainly two devices which either help or deter us in solving the crime. First are the various hints which are supposed to lead us to the murderer and are therefore significant. You learn to look out for any seemingly unnecessary stories about characters, or some prolonged conversation which is intended to show us some hidden mystery; but side-by-side to this, we have misleading hints that seem significant, but some part of the information is withheld so that we jump to the wrong conclusion! She, as always, remains superb at misleading, but we eventually realize that the clues were always there to find.

    Agatha Christie's characters are never successfully portrayed on television. This is because they are not fully developed, round characters. She has a tendency to stereotype and that is where I think the difficulty arises. Agatha Christie normally categorizes her characters into various types. But people are more than just types, we have to look at them from so many angles and even then we only manage to catch a glimpse. This book had a lot of her normal characterization, for example, we have the typical American couple with the talkative wife and the compliant husband (the same type of talkative American is portrayed in Murder on the Orient Express), we have the quiet, inexpressive Englishman who shows no emotion over the death of his wife, and finally, the nice, slightly pretty wife who has 'brains', a college education and hence no sex appeal!

    Nevertheless, some of her characters are unique and fun to read about - I liked the depiction of Arlena Stuart as a man-crazy woman, who was actually to be pitied (read and find out about the reality of her personalty!), and of Rosamund Darnley, a successful business woman, who feels the lack of a husband and children.

    Colonel Weston appears in this novel, an old friend of Poirot's, he had previously appeared in the novel Peril at End House. Mrs. Gardiner also mentions one of Poirot's previous cases Death on the Nile. I love the whole illusion of a separate world that Agatha creates with her reappearing characters, and references to old cases.

    The Three Musketeers

    D'Artagnan, a young Gascon youth, sets out from his village with the hope of joining the regiment of the King's Musketeers. As soon as he arrives in Paris he gets into trouble, first entangling himself in one, then two and finally three duels, all in one day! And with men from the very regiment of Musketeers he had hoped to join! But his adventures don't stop there; before long, he becomes involved with the affairs of the Queen, Anne of Austria, herself and must enlist the help of his fellow Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Together, the four friends journey through France escaping from the nets of the Cardinal and his dangerous spy, Milady, while all the time fighting duels at the slightest provocation.


    I love the summary given at the back of the Wordsworth edition. It describes the book perfectly,

    "One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tells the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman. D'Artagnan, and his three friends from the regiment of the King's Musketeers - Athos, Porthos and Aramis.


    Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honor of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background.


    But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal's spy, Milady, one of literature's most memorable female villains, and Alexandre Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping and dramatic conclusion."

    The characterization in this novel - especially of Milady and Athos - was so good that I actually wanted to meet the characters! The movie on The Three Musketeers does not do justice to either character. Milady reaches depths of evil and horror which aren't shown in the film. All we see is an ambitious young woman who despite what she does, loved someone once and wasn't truly evil. But in the novel, the description of Milady and the suppressed animal within, how she is able to ensnare anyone while putting on an act, her ability to sense every weakness in man - all are so wonderfully drawn. As for Athos, he is shown as the true nobleman that he is, and his quiet way of handling even the most alarming of situations makes him particularly attractive while at the same time remaining mysteriously charming. Though not the hero of the novel, he is the most important character and the leader of the Musketeers; Keith Wren, in his introduction to The Three Musketeers sums it up when he writes,

    "For Dumas - and for us - it is the three musketeers - Athos, Porthos, Aramis - who represent the fantasy of eternal youth, a refusal to compromise with the greyness of the modern world, the glorification of the undying spirit of adventure."

    I keep forgetting that The Three Musketeers is historical fiction. The Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne were actual historical figures, as was the Duke of Buckingham and his murderer, Felton. Alexandre Dumas has fashioned a unique story with these real live characters. It was rumored that the Duke was in love with the Queen of France (this is also mentioned in The King's General), and in this novel the flirtation was embellished, with Queen Anne and the Duke having many secret meetings. The various love triangles in this novel make for a lot of intrigues, a lot of duels, and most of all, a lot of jealousy!

    The Moving Finger

    Rating: ****
    Jerry Burton, a pilot, and his sister Joanna move to the small village of Lymstock. The visit, which is to last some months, is undertaken for Jerry's health. Recovering from a severe back injury, a result of his plane crash, he is advised by his doctor to take a break from stress and enjoy the relaxations of a small gossiping community. But Lymstock is hardly the place for a recovery when a few days after their move, the siblings receive a malicious anonymous letter; the letters have been going around the village for some time.

    I loved the ironic humor with which Jerry and Joanna carried out their conversations. The inhabitants of Lymstock are gentle, simple people, and the humor with which Jerry and Joanna receive their comments made me laugh!

    It's the letters, sir. Wicked letters - indecent, too, using such words and all. Worse than I've ever seen in the Bible, even.' says Mrs. Baker

    Passing over an interesting side-line here, I said desperately.......

    The ironic comedy ends the moment that the first anonymous letter hits home - a suicide occurs and all of a sudden the letters have taken on a more serious aspect. The first half of the book is occupied with finding out the identity of the letter-writer and in that search we become acquainted with an interesting assortment of characters. I especially liked Megan Hunter, Mrs. Symmington's unwanted daughter, who had trouble fitting in and finding herself. She seems an awkward, overgrown child and the make-over scene is something to look forward to!

    When the murder does come, it doesn't hold center stage interest for me. Not because it wasn't well written, but because I was more interested in the developing relations of Jerry and Joanna with the people in the village and how they settled in with life in a small village. I was also surprised to find Miss Marple coming in at the end to solve the crime. I had practically forgotten that she was in this novel because of the small role she plays. I would have liked it better if Jerry Burton had been the one to solve it (which he comes close to doing).

    Mrs. Dane Calthrop also appears in this novel. I don't know why, but her character always intrigues me. See my Agatha Christie page to read more on her and her husband.