Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jo Nesbo's The Bat - A Scandinavian Detective Down Under

My third Nordic detective novel, Jo Nesbo’s The Bat, has not really upped my fondness for the breed. And yet I seem to pick them out of the multitude of crime fiction writers splattering the genre these days.

The Bat (Harry Hole, #1)

I guess I picked this one out by deciding between a Nesbo set in Bangkok and one in Australia. I was so tempted by a Nordic take on Thai but knew I’d end up being disgusted and angry at the stereotypical European take on Thailand. I thought I’d be safe with what ought to have been a White on White case.

Alas! After heartburn over Henning Mankell’s insistence on colouring his stories with Chinese and Africans, I ought to have known better. Detective Harry Hole has to be teamed up with an Aboriginal!  

It’s not as if the Australian police force has them in significant numbers. It seems to be, basically, so that yet another Scandinavian wants to leave us, people of colour, scandalised. The Aboriginal Andrew is no Arthur W. Upfield Bony Novels .

He doesn’t show any great skills of any kind, is a bit flashy and appears to have been interpolated solely to add colour to the story. And to stain the reader’s views of people of colour.  

My usual bile apart, I have a feeling that the author’s favourite painting is the famous one of Ophelia's death by drowning.

John Everett Millais - Ophelia - Google Art Project

In the meantime, thanks to researching for this review I find a new mode of book review on YouTube and there are many for the Nesbo books.

While below is a review for an upcoming film based on one of his books

there are others which are more entertaining

and, while those were trailers for screen versions, here's a book review too!

You might want to pick up a copy to check it out for yourself- after all Nordic crime mysteries are in vogue!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Monsooned Reading - Rider Haggard - Adventure, Fantasy And Romance Through Colonial Eyes

Monsooning was a process to which coffee was subjected in the olden days. Coffee was transported from colonised countries to the Empire on ships and were at the mercy of the elements during that transit.

I wonder if that is what defines how instant coffee tastes...And why it is nothing like Filter Coffee.

And would it be thus that the White man's vision, of these lands over which he thought he had overlordship, weathered what he beheld?

It does no one any good to ban or criticise things, especially writings. Each form and its content brings to life a unique and wonderful vision.

It is true, though, that these perceptions have long governed us, whether we're from the ex-colonised world or from the countries which exercised this right to plunder. For example, how Indians continue to perceive Africans or the Chinese is largely shaped by this kind of output. Yet, time passes. The young from all over the world are busy interacting and discovering each other, thanks to the Internet and travel and study.

Removing or hiding things selectively is not at all a good idea! 

Haggard's King Solomon's Mines is a book that suits rainy weather well, full of rugged adventure, narrated in what would now be a quaint and charming style! 

What a charming tale this is and I assure you that, even today, few would be able to resist getting sucked into Haggard's world of greed, "exotic" places, magic, mystery, beautiful women, love and betrayal!

I'll admit that I'm not sure whether I've seen any version of the movie but I'll bet they would be entertaining! 

“It is a hard thing when one has shot sixty-five lions or more, as I have in the course of my life, that the sixty-sixth should chew your leg like a quid of tobacco. It breaks the routine of the thing, and putting other considerations aside, I am an orderly man and don't like that. This is by the way.”
H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines

Rider Haggard also wrote the marvellous and chilling and gripping She.


"She" seems to have given academics and psychologists a run for their money! And this is surely at least one more good reason why you should rush to get yourself a copy. Freud and Jung appear, both, to have had something to say about the character.

Freud's fascination with H. Rider Haggard, and in particular with She, seems to have been of long duration.
 She, or Ayesha, was a powerful image of a woman. C.G. Jung saw her as the personification of his Anima theory.  

For both stories there seem to be many film versions! Enjoy the sultry Ursula Andress in the clip below!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Strange Shores - How To Write A Baffling Tale

Write about a cold case. Throw in the soupcon of spooky. Stir in ladlefuls of snowy landscapes. Dig open coffins on a cold and dark night. Muddle an inner world with the outer. Slap on some random closure when three fourths done. Leave the reader to trudge through the icy sludge of a Nordic imagination where every name rings a Thor and Odin bell. Clear as ditchwater?
My first Arnaldur Indriðason has not been very promising. Perhaps that’s what comes of picking up the last book in a series for that is what this is supposed to be.

Bleak landscapes can make for a plodding read when the author is not quite sure what he means to convey. You squint along the pages, shading your eyes from the blinding glare of mystery. Not one but two. And all the time you’re hauled from out a very cold place to infernos of human passions.

Somehow the vile crimes and the torrid emotions that form the molten core of Strange Shores didn’t quite launch anything for me. 

I don’t even think I’d venture to try out another but that’s only because this psychological genre is a bit of a dicey case of trick or treat.

Otherwise it is a gentle book about horrible happenings. Poe meets Jung or something of the sort.

A good pick for a chilling hot weather read when the soaring mercury outside drives a soul indoors, to snuggle under a quilt in an air-conditioned room and plough through a Nordic murder mystery.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monsoon Romance - Memories Of Mills and Boon Binges

It was probably Jane Austen and her ilk who bred in me a certain Pride and Prejudice that prevented me from plunging between the covers of a Denise Robbins like the other girls of my age.
The Price of Folly

Though I eagerly devoured Wuthering Heights, a good read for rainy weather with all those gloomy marshes. 

Wuthering Heights

Jane Eyre, also set in drab weather and also featuring a tragic love story,  

Jane Eyre

and Pride and Prejudice, where the weather plays cupid,  

Pride and Prejudice

as well as innumerable Georgette Heyers (I adored her!) - full of humour and some adventure -

The Quiet Gentleman

and I really didn't mind sneaking in the odd Angelique or two - lusty reads where the busty heroine is frequently made a prisoner of "love",

Angelique: The Marquise of the Angels

yet Gone With The Wind swept me up in its tempestuous events and it's thick enough to carry a reader through the better part of the rainy season, 

Gone with the Wind

but Daphne De Maurier didn't live up to the promise of mystery and romance 

My Cousin Rachel

and, while Mary Stewart mostly met the need for suspense, romance and cool locales,

Nine Coaches Waiting

it was only in college that I was introduced to Mills and Boon and I know I read a lot but can only remember a few names: Anne Mather, where swarthy heroes manhandled delicate and long suffering damsels,


and though I'd heard of Barbara Cartland, nothing induced me to sample one of her books,

The Wild,Unwilling Wife (86)

which is also the case with Danielle Steele, though many swore that her books had greatly influenced them.

Going Home

Of course I heard of Jackie Collins and may have read one but found her unremarkable.

The Stud

However, it's Mills and Boon that still seems to define romance and it's been ages since I read one! In those days, we propped them on our knees and read them under the table at college, occupying back benches, far from the teacher's eagle eyes.

There were stories about doctors and nurses - Betty Neels, for example,

Sister Peters in Amsterdam
and I had a favourite which, alas, I lost along the way: it was a rare one, with lots of humour.

I'm quite out of touch and would really appreciate if you can tell what's in vogue these days. As usual, there are lists out there! 

If you'd like to catch up on the genre, there's nothing like visiting the Mills and Boon website. 

Best Creepy Reads For A Monsoon Monday

I've always enjoyed horror as genre - both books and films. There is nothing quite like it's raining steadily outside to get you into the mood and feel of a good scary story. 

Somehow, the most creepy story ever, for me, was The Haunting of Hill House. Whatever the rest of the story, there is a particular part in it which has left me forever terrified of what's under the bed! 
The Haunting of Hill House
 I did not find it very impressive as movie, though.
A must have on any respectable shelf of horror stories and one that you should read at once!

If this is not your cup of goosebumps then feel free to browse others.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Best Rainy Day Read - Treasure Island

For Pune, at least, the monsoon is here. One of the perks of growing up in monsoon towns is that you gain all kinds of must-dos for the season. I’ve no idea if other cultures in other geographical locations have something of the sort…For me it was curling up with a good book.
In India, the youngsters tend to go do something drenchingly delightful - play football in the sludge amidst the downpour. And there are all kinds of monsoon must eats - spicy, piquant, dripping and sticky sugariness - and there is no greater indulgence than downing a great many seasonal snacks whilst reading.
Every monsoon, hordes of Indians take to reading. Sometimes going out in the rain is no walk in the park and it’s not every day we want to be bespattered by the spurious spray from a passing vehicle on a flooded street. Very sensibly, men, women and children find a book, find a nook and voila! Every monsoon India reads with gusto.

In an Indian monsoon imaginations run wild. This is the best time to read adventure stories. The lighting is mostly misty and mystical. The sound of the rain pattering is evocative. All your senses are alive as you pick up that book.

For me it has to be R L Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Treasure Island

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Chick Lit In The Seventies - The Case of What Katy Did And Little Women

Somehow tomboys have disappeared. I’ve no idea why. It’s been ages since I’ve heard anyone describe a woman or girl as a tomboy. Once upon a time, a maternal aunt and my own mother in law were depicted as tomboys. They climbed trees and were somehow not ladylike.

For myself, I don’t think I was considered one and I wonder why. I read more books which were for boys than those dedicated to girls - but can the latter be categorised as chick lit? I did climb trees

Anyhow, our house had some examples of girl stories and this is how I got to read books like What Katy Did

What Katy Did

These books surely shaped at least part of a particular generation of Indian girls. We became primed to be guided by sets of morals that were quite alien to our environment, but such compunctions apart, these books were quite enchanting!

It would be interesting to know if such a book still holds attention today, nostalgia apart!

and Little Women.

Little Women (Little Women, #1)

Both are rather moral in tone and I must have relished the latter book as I was, at that time, also reading The Pilgrim’s Progress in class or by myself for some reason.

I might have seen the film too at some point...

You can read it here if you wish or

I wonder if there are others of the genre that I've missed - please do tell me if you know of any...

Friday, July 08, 2016

Review: Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories

Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories
Smut Fest
The problem with Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories is that it begins with a super orgy story. With all the bushes people dive into, it read more like an adventure into some rain forest. For a moment I thought I had picked up the wrong one of the two books I was reading and that, perhaps, this was the Gerald Durrell. It was no trouble extricating myself out of all those tangled and thrashing limbs and a mercy it didn't leave me with a throbbing headache considering all the tumescence I'd waded through. Samit Basu seems a promising writer, otherwise -and I'm sure The Wedding Night Or, Bachelor's Boudoir is very tongue in cheek, although, in the story, tongues tend to go elsewhere.

The second one was a bit more to the tune of erotic with some sort of story veiling its scatological scenes - a girl, moist, melting chocolate, a film star hunk - suddenly transported to another time and place! Paromita Vohra also appears to be a writer of some worth, this short erotic tale apart.

Sheba Karim's Heavenly Ornament is quite delightful -evocative and imaginatively titillating.

Confessions by Abeer Hoque is hilarious and she displays a strong footnote fetish.

Sonia Jabbar's The Advocate is also fairly entertaining with a rather amusing twist in the tale.

A msm romp set in some European country forms Niven Govinden's contribution.

Love's Sonnet is a sweet and poetic story of love and heartbreak by Kamila Shamsie while Rana Dasgupta tosses us back into tangled masses of limbs, albeit in another land and with the added benefit of a swimming pool.

Tishani Doshi's juicy The Delicate Predicament of Eunice de Silva is merrily interlaced with lurid sms messages all in all CAPS.

I was looking forwards to the Jeet Thayil but it was very sanctimonious and very self conscious.

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan explores the lengthy deflowering of a young man who's first class in theory.

Girl on girl action, The Quilt, by Parvati Sharma, is a piece of vigorous handwork.

And we come, pardon the pun, full circle back to a wild romp by editor Ruchir Joshi.

A must have for all horny readers but otherwise ho hum. Nice cover though - might make a nice and naughty wedding or anniversary gift ...Or a gift to some prurient young person. Or to an older person with flagging and flaccid libido...

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Not Just William - Richmal Crompton's Brood Of Boisterous Boys

I have no idea how I wandered into the world of fiction for young boys when I was a young girl. The result of my genderless upbringing? The result of parental yearning for a son? Neither theory appeals as I equally read Little Women and her sorority such as What Katy Did as well as many a tale where a Katy did not.

Little Women  (Little Women, #1)

Alongside sundry Enid Blytons I somehow found myself between the pages of William's adventures in Sahib land. Both Blyton and Crompton raised between them a whole and innumerable and vociferous generation of Indian Sahibs (my good self included). 
Oh! I say! 

Jolly good, what!

That was the latest TV version but there have been earlier ones

and others even earlier

And before that

I'm jolly sure I read all or at least most of the sequence of thirty-nine books by Richmal Crompton

The Unabridged Just William Collection (A Csa Word Classic)

Richmal Crompton Lamburn was, like many authors from the British Isles, the daughter of a clergyman. Since he was also a Classics master at a school, it is little wonder that both his children became writers. While her brother’s books are not so well known, Richmal Crompton’s William series  was quite the thing for a boy to read in certain households in India and other British ex-colonies too, I’m sure.

She was a schoolteacher and began writing at 27. It’s moving to read that not only did she have poliomyelitis which robbed her of the use of her right leg but she also had a mastectomy after breast cancer.

A spinster, though aunt and great-aunt to many, she writes enchantingly and engagingly about a bunch of freckled boys who, in all innocence, get up to all sorts of boyish antics and pranks.

The books were a huge success she made a modest fortune - not surprisingly for I’m sure they’ll still raise many a smile.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Review: King Death by Toby Litt

King Death
My first Toby Litt, grabbed off the shelf on impulse. I suppose it was the cover and the black of the page edges that did it for me.
Litt comes up with a visceral blood-and-guts story of blackmail, murder, vengeance, and justice. He also throws in a potted biography of the poet John Keats’ career in medicine or what stood for medicine in the 19th century.Unusually for Litt, the narrative is split into two strains, the main characters occupying one each, both proving to be somewhat unreliable, somewhat egotistical, this approach balances the gore with some cleverly worked humor about gender and cultural differences.
As you can see from the above quote of a review, the events are presented to us via two accounts: his and hers. A brilliant ploy, save that it often makes for boring reiterations in this case.

The idea for the characters is pretty cool: a Japanese woman who has done some phenomenal art projects, 

a British lover who's into improv...sundry medical students - some of whom are absolute bimbos, the author's romantic vision of the UK's homeless, train journeys, pubs, old abandoned houses, chases across railway tracks and, most enticing of all, a human heart seen falling from a train window!

The more I write this the more I'm convinced that Toby has an ongoing infatuation, like me, with Japanese crime writing/dramas/films.

I’m sorry to say that this book did not pass my ADHD style of reading. Perhaps it’s Higashino who’s to blame:
The clever narrative techniques adopted by Higashino keep the reader guessing as a cat and mouse game ensues and we are drawn deeper into a maze of complex relationships that date back to Hidaka and Nonoguchi’s school days. Alternating chapters are voiced by different characters: first there’s Nonoguchi’s own account of the murder, then the detective’s notes and, towards the end, transcripts of interviews with old acquaintances. But how to know whose story and recollection is true? That is the question.
After such tidy writing and such a neat handling of plot and structure, it is not easy to wade through work that is ill thought out and more than a bit self consciously pompous.

Not too bad a read at all, though - a fairly happy marriage of Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie.

My sour tongue apart, read it for the gory scenes at the climax, the literary history tidbits and, most of all, for Kimiko’s art projects.

I might try another soon as, all in all, Litt seems an interesting phenomenon.