Thursday, 30 January 2014

''The Moonstone''- Book review

Author: Wilkie Collins
Published: 1868

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4 out of 5


''The Moonstone'' is my first Wilkie Collins novel, and I really adored it. I loved the storytelling, wit, narration, character development, and the way in which different characters narrate the story in their own style. I really liked this novel.

''The Moonstone'' tells the story of a valuable Indian diamond. Colonel James Herncastle, a corrupt soldier, had acquired this diamond in India as a result of war. He brings the diamond, known as the Moonstone, to England, and leaves it to his niece, Rachel Verinder.

Rachel Verinder lives with her mother, Lady Verinder. After the death of Colonel Herncastle, Franklin Blake (a cousin of Rachel Verinder), is given the task of taking the diamond to Rachel, and present it to her on her 18th birthday. On her birthday party, Rachel wears the diamond, and before going to bed, she keeps it in her cabinet.

However, that very night, the diamond is stolen...

Things get mysterious... who could have stolen the diamond? Apparently, the house was perfectly locked and secure, and no outsider could get into the house...

The renowned detective Sergeant Cuff is called. Everything centering the case seems puzzling, mysterious...

The book is divided into two parts: the first part is narrated by Gabriel Betteredge, the trusted elderly steward of the Verinders, and the second part is narrated by different characters.

I really liked the narration style. The style of each of the characters is reflected through their narrations. For example, Gabriel Betteredge's narrative, which, I think, is the longest narrative in the book (he narrates the whole first part), is a little slow-paced and sometimes witty. Gabriel Betteredge is the trusted old steward of the family, and Lady Verinder likes him a lot. He has quirks, which are reflected in his narrative. The first narrative of the second part is by Miss Clack, a relative of the Verinders. Miss Clack's narrative was amusing and also irritating! The narratives by Franklin Blake and Mr Bruff (and others) are more serious-sounding.

This is a long book, and a lot of things happen in the course of the novel, it takes several unexpected turns, making the mystery really enjoyable. Not only this, there are several characters that remain memorable, for whom we feel sympathy. Though the main subject of the book is the mystery, the characters also form a major part of the book, and over the course of the story, a lot of things happen to the characters, changing the lives of several of them. As mentioned a lot of times in the book, after the night of the birthday party, nothing remained same in the carefree, happy lives of the central characters; rather, they were being haunted by mysteries and suspicions.

I really liked this novel; I liked the narrative style, character development, and the development of the mystery. It's an amazing book, and I'm looking forward to read more Wilkie Collins novels.

4 out of 5


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

''The Sittaford Mystery''- Book Review

Author: Agatha Christie
Published: 1931

Genres: Novel, Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Agatha Christie's ''The Sittaford Mystery'' is set in a snowy village, Sittaford. A woman named Mrs Willett, and her daughter Violet, have recently rented The Sittaford Cottage, owned by Captain Trevelyan. Captain Trevelyan lives in the neighboring town of Exhampton. Mrs Willett and her daughter are very sociable people. They regularly invite their neighbors for tea. The story begins with a tea party at the Sittaford Cottage. The guests are: Major Burnaby (who is a neighbor of the Willetts and also the best friend of Trevelyan), Mr Rycroft (a neighbor interested in criminology and ornithology), Mr Duke (a mysterious man), and Ronald Garfield (a young man who is visiting his elderly aunt in Sittaford). They play table-turning, when suddenly, through table-turning, a message comes to them: that Captain Trevelyan has been murdered.

Though everybody feels uneasy because of the message, they try to think that it was just an unpleasant joke. However, Major Burnaby feels uneasy, and goes to Exhampton on foot, in the snowy night, to see if Trevelyan's alright. However, he discovers that Trevelyan has indeed been murdered.

Inspector Narcott starts investigating the case, and the police arrest James Pearson, nephew of Trevelyan, who was in Exhampton the evening his uncle had died. However, James's fiance, Emily Trefusis, doesn't believe that James can murder anyone. She is sure that James is innocent. So she starts investigation the matter on her own.

Another pleasant mystery by Agatha Christie! The setting of this novel is really good. The isolated, snowy village Sittaford.

The most unforgettable thing about this book was the character of Emily Trefusis! It was such an amazing character! The way she takes the responsibility of personally investigating the case finding out who the actual criminal is... she was absolutely a very strong character! I found the character sweet, strong and unforgettable. The firm determination of the character is extremely noteworthy.

There are many characters in this novel: the family of Captain Trevelyan, the residents of Sittaford, and several residents of Exhampton. This cast of characters was quite strong and very remarkable.

This is a novel full of twists and turns! The solution comes quite unexpected (though I did have a faint--- very faint--- idea of who it might be, though I didn't have any idea of why), and the ways in which Emily solves the puzzle were really good!

This is not among my favorite Agatha Christie novels, but it was certainly a very, very pleasant, extremely satisfying, puzzling read that I would recommend! It is very cleverly written, engrossing, and has a very strong cast of characters. 

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, 26 January 2014

''The Best Years of Our Lives'' (1946 movie)- Review

Directed by: William Wyler
Released: 1946
Country: United States

Cast: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Harold Russell, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O'Donnell

Genre: War drama, Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5


''The Best Years of Our Lives'' is a beautiful, amazing film! It's a post-World War II story about three men who have returned from war, and find many things changed in their lives. It deals with the emotional journey of these three men, their moments of joys, sorrows, disappointments, difficulties to deal with the changes.

The three men are Fred Drerry (Dana Andrews), a young man who had been married for less than a month when he had to enlist, Al Stephenson (Frederic March), a successful banker with a happy little family, and Homer (Harold Russell), who had lost his hands in the war and now has to use hooks for hands.

After returning home, Fred discovers that his wife, Marie (Virginia Mayo), took a job at a nightclub while he was away. Fred persuades Marie to quit her job. However, their relationship soon start to deteriorate as Fred can earn much less than the amount he used to earn before his war. On the other, Al finds that his children, though still as loving and caring as they were before, have grown up. They have changed much, and many of their habits have changed. Homer is given a very warm welcome at his house, but he is heartbroken to find that everybody treats him in a very caring way because he has lost his hands... 

Fred and his wife's relation start to deteriorate, and Fred falls in love with Peggy (Teresa Wright), Al's daughter. This gives rise to a difficult situation. Peggy also loves Fred, and can sense that his marriage is difficult, but her parents don't quite approve of Peggy's feelings for Fred...

The film tells the story of these three characters; it's the story of their life after they return from the war. It's sometimes sad and sometimes uplifting; sometimes it's depressing, and sometimes it's very feel-good.

This is a film where you love the characters. I really liked the characters, especially Fred, Homer, Peggy, Milly, and Al. The performances were splendid, and I especially found Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy and Harold Russell very remarkable. Teresa Wright as Peggy is perfectly adorable. Harold Russell won two Academy Awards for his role as Homer: one for Best Supporting Actor and an Honorary Oscar.

 The screenplay is excellent, the cinematography is noteworthy, the story is wonderful, the cast and characters were wonderful, and overall, it's a wonderful film, an emotional, really touching film.

5 out of 5



Thursday, 23 January 2014

''The Conjuring'' (2013 movie)- Review

Directed by: James Wan
Released: 2013
Country: United States

Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Having heard a lot about ''The Conjuring'', I had been anticipating to watch it. When I finally watched it a few days ago, I didn't think it was one of the scariest films I have watched. It was scary, yes, but not that terrifying either. But yet, the sudden shocks are worth mentioning, and the film itself is extremely well-made, with atmosphere and strong performance, especially from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor. 

Roger and Carolyn Perron, along with their five daughters, move to a house. As soon as they arrive, strange incidences start happening... some strange, scary, unexplainable incidences that makes them convinced that there is indeed a supernatural presence in this house. They ask Ed and Lorraine Warren, well-known paranormal investigators, to investigate. The Warrens come across shocking things about the house's past.

Except the few shocking scenes, including the jump scares (which were very, very scary), I didn't really think that the film was that terrifying. However, it is a really well-made film. It has a great atmosphere and the characters are really well-developed. The film delves into the emotions of the characters, especially those of Carolyn and Lorraine, played by Taylor and Farmiga respectively. Carolyn is worried about her family, about the safety of her daughters, about the strange happenings in her house, and Lorraine is touched by Carolyn's big family. She wants to help her, wants to keep the beautiful family safe. There is also a sweet chemistry between Ed (played by Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine, as Ed wants to protect Lorraine. Every paranormal activity that they investigate leave a bad impact on Lorraine, and Ed wants to protect Lorraine from this.

Another amazing thing about the film is that it doesn't take a LONG time to develop the atmosphere, rather there is an atmosphere from the beginning of the film.

Some people may find ''The Conjuring'' more scary; I don't know why I didn't feel it was that scary! There were some scenes that were extremely terrifying. The jump scares and some of the images kept haunting me for some time (the ghost on the wardrobe and a few other scenes terrified me).  As a movie, ''The Conjuring'' is really good; the background, cinematography, script and performances were really good.

3.5 out of 5


Thursday, 16 January 2014

''The Lightning Thief''- Book review

Author: Rick Riordan
Released: 2005

Genres: Novel, Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5


While reading this book, I kept asking myself why it took me so long to start reading this series! It was such an AMAZING book that I could not put down, that was so fast paced, with such a lot of twists, turns, and surprises! I really loved it!

Percy Jackson is a teenager who has always struggled in school and has been expelled from several schools. In the boarding school where he stays at the beginning of the novel, his best friend is Grover, and his Latin teacher is a kindly man, Mr Brunner, who expects a lot from him. Several strange and dangerous incidences bring Percy across a lot of unexpected revelations about himself: he is in fact the son of Poseidon,  the god of the Sea in Greek Mythology. Grover is, in fact, a satyr who was assigned to the job of protecting him, and Mr Brunner is actually a centaur (whose real name is Chiron). Percy is taken to the Camp Half Blood, where demigods, the children of Greek gods and goddesses, reside. Percy slowly comes to love the camp, but then...

It is revealed to Percy that the lightening bolt of Zeus has been stolen, and Zeus believes that Poseidon has stolen it. A terrible conflict may arise if the lightening bolt is not found and returned to Zeus. It is thought that Hades has stolen the lightning bolt, and Percy is given the task to find the lightening bolt from the Underworld, and return it to Zeus, so that a destructive conflict can be avoided. The companions of Percy in this dangerous adventure is Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and Grover.

''The Lightening Thief'' was an amazing book! With such a lot of humor, surprises, twists and turns, mystery and suspense, it is certainly a wonderful, engrossing book with a great pace! It has it all: suspense, mystery, humor, some emotional depth, twists! Some of the plot twists and revelations came so absolutely unexpected that it left me shocked.

The adventures are really suspenseful, and some are very twisted. I really liked the developing friendship between Percy and Annabeth. 

Such a wonderful book! I think I will definitely love the whole Percy Jackson series!

4 out of 5

''Murder on the Orient Express'' (1974 movie)- Review

Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Released: 1974
Country: United Kingdom

Cast: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Perkins, Martin Balsam, Wendy Hiller, Jean-Pierre Cassel

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


''Murder on the Orient Express'' is a locked room mystery film that has a great cast, excellent screenplay, extremely engrossing story and presentation. It's definitely a great film.

Based on Agatha Christie's classic novel, the film starts informing the audience about a recent kidnap case. 5-year-old Daisy Armstrong had been kidnapped, and when her parents gave ransom to the kidnappers, the girl was found slain...

The film then shifts to the famous detective Hercule Poirot. He is on a train journey. One day, Mr Ratchett, one of the passengers of the train, tells Poirot that he has been recently receiving threatening letters, and asks Poirot to give him some protection. However, Poirot denies.

The next morning, Mr Ratchett is found dead. All the passengers are shocked. Poirot's friend Bianci (Martin Balsam) persuades Poirot to look into the case. Bianci is confident that before the journey ends, they will have found the criminal, and after that, they would tell the police about the crime and hand the criminal to the police.

Poirot interrogates the passengers, and does thorough investigation. The case seems extremely difficult, and it is discovered that this crime is somehow connected with the Armstrong case.

Albert Finney makes an excellent Poirot! He portrays Poirot in a lively, energetic, way! It was great to watch Poirot on screen. (I am a fan of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels).

We see so many great actors in this film. There are Albert Finney, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Martin Balsam, Jacqueline Bisset... so many great actors.

The story is very engrossing and the very shocking solution to the mystery was presented in such a wonderfully atmospheric way. The climax was really shocking and unpredictable. And the ending was also wonderful.

Excellent performances, excellent story, great screenplay, an unpredictable ending- ''Murder on the Orient Express'' is indeed a great film.

4.5 out of 5

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Goals for 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

My top ten goals for 2014

1. Read more books from my TBR pile: Now that's one of the most common resolutions of the book bloggers! My TBR pile is also very big; there are a lot of books I need to read! I was delighted with my pace last year. I will not be able to read at that pace this year because of my JSC (Junior School Certificate) Exams, but still I plan to read quite a few books per month!

2. Watch more movies from my want-to-watch list: This is a big, very big list. There are so many films that I need to watch. I need to watch more Kurosawa, Fellini, Kubrick films. I also plan to watch several epic films. I made a list in 2013, with seven movies that I must watch by the end of the 2013. I watched only one (Gone with the Wind) from those seven movies. This year, I'm planning to watch the rest of the six movies as well.

3. To read more series books: When it comes to series books, I'm rather infrequent. In 2013, I completed only one series: The Hunger Games trilogy. I also started The Chronicles of Narnia in 2013 but finished it in 2014. So I need to read more series books! (I'm currently reading the Percy Jackson series).

4. Participate in memes: I occasionally participated in memes in 2013, I plan to keep it up in 2014 as well.

5. Blogging as frequently as possible: I will be taking a long blogging break from May/June to November/December, but until then I want to keep blogging as frequently as possible, with reviews, discussions, etc.

6. To remain healthy: I need to eat more vegetables and walk more! :P

7. To be better at Maths. Maths is one of my least favorite subjects, especially I'm horrible in Geometry! I need to give much more attention to my Maths!

I can't think of any more! This topic made me think hard, because I don't usually make resolutions for the new year. But I think these are my main resolutions.

Monday, 6 January 2014

2014 Victorian Reading Challenge

The Victorian Reading Challenge is being hosted by Becky's Book Reviews.

Goal: Read two or more Victorian books. Preferably books published during the Victorian years (1837-1901). But books about those years are fine.

I love Victorian literature. The Bronte sisters, Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot... and so many other great authors!

I have not decided about which Victorian books I'll read, but I plan to read quite a few!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Movie reviews: ''The Last Laugh'', ''Marnie'' and ''West Side Story''

The Last Laugh (1924 movie)

Directed by: F. W. Murnau
Released: 1924
Country: Germany

Genre: (Silent film) Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review: F. W. Murnau is simply amazing. From the artistic, creepy horror film ''Nosferatu'' to, ''Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans'', which is, according to my opinion, one of the most beautiful romantic movies that I have watched, he has always impressed me. ''The Last Laugh'' is no exception. This was also a beautiful film, a very emotionally intense film, and remarkably with only a single inter title. It tells it's story through the pictures, and there is only one intertitle (it doesn't represent a spoken dialogue). ''The Last Laugh'' is a film that delivers a painful and emotionally intense story, with strong performances and great direction by Murnau.

The story is simple. An elderly man who has worked as the doorman of a respectable hotel for a long time is reduced to the rank of a washroom attendant, as his old age doesn't allow him to work hard. He doesn't reveal this to his family and neighbors, who have always given  him a lot of respect because of his respectable post. He has to deal with the tragedy alone...

The film was quite an emotional journey and Emil Janning's performance as the protagonist was extremely memorable and effective. One of the most emotional moments in this film was when the old man dreams that he is still capable of doing hard works and lifting heavy things.

The fairytale-ish ending was also extremely memorable. I loved this film. The more F. W. Murnau films that I watch, the more I think that he is one of my favorite directors.

Marnie (1964 movie)

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Released: 1964
Country: United States

Genre: Psychological thriller, Drama, Mystery

Short review: ''Marnie'' is often called one of the last great movies directed by Hitchcock. The story centers around Marnie, played by Tippi Hedren of ''The Birds''. She is a thief, who steals from the offices where she works (she gets into the offices using fake identity) and then flees from the office. A man named Mark Rutland (played by Sean Connery) comes to know about Marnie. Marnie, ignorant of this, joins as a secretary in Mark's publishing company. With the passage of time, they fall in love, and Mark confronts Marnie and tells her that he knows her real identity, and blackmails her into marrying him.

But Marnie has mysterious problems. She is afraid of the color red. She does not want any man to touch her. Mark suspects that something must have happened in her past that has caused her to fear these things. He tries to learn about Marnie's past and background, knowing exactly what happened that made Marnie afraid of these things. 

Most of the parts of the film (the early part and the middle part) felt just barely enjoyable to me. I just liked it enough to keep watching it. I mean, I didn't really get what the story was heading to. But then. Then something happened that left me startled. The climax is not just a shocking revelation, but I also felt that the film has a very disturbing and painful climax. The ending was so strong that it made me feel that it was indeed a good film, it was quite worth a watch.  Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, and Diane Baker give excellent performances, and the screenplay is excellent as well. 

Overall, ''Marnie'' is, though not one of Hitchcock's best films and not even a great  film, certainly a very good film with a good story, good performances, and a shocking climax.

West Side Story (1961 movie)

Directed by: Robert Wise
Released: 1961
Country: United States

Genres: Musical, Romantic drama, Crime

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Short review: ''West Side Story'' is based on a play of the same name, which is inspired by William Shakespeare's ''Romeo & Juliet''. Robert Wise is a director who directed two movies I love: ''The Sound of Music'' and ''The Haunting''.

The film centers around two rival gangs, the ''Jets'', an American gang, and the ''Sharks'', a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants. After many incidents, the ''Jets'' and ''Sharks'' decide to fight, planning to meet under a highway for discussions about the future fight. 

However, Maria (the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the ''Sharks'') and Tony (an inactive member of the ''Jets'') fall in love. However, their relation is affected because of terrible incidences that happen because of the rivalry between the two gangs.

''West Side Story'' was a lively, fast-paced, yet sad and thought-provoking film. The film's running time is 152 minutes, but the events of the film take place within a couple of days. It tells it's story in an energetic way, with a lot of songs and often sweet scenes with the two protagonists. I loved this film.

4.5 out of 5



Friday, 3 January 2014

''The Last Battle''- Book review

Author: C. S. Lewis
Published: 1956

Genres: Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 3 out of 5


''The Last Battle'' is the final novel in C. S. Lewis's ''Chronicles of Narnia''.

It is set in the ''last days of Narnia''. The novel starts with an ape, named Shift. His friend is a donkey, Puzzle. One day, Shift and Puzzle come across the skin of a lion. The cunning Shift suddenly gets an idea: Puzzle will dress up as a lion, and Shift will tell the Narnians that Aslan has returned to Narnia. Then he will use this for his evil purposes.

The reigning king of Narnia is King Tirian, a descendant of King Rilian, whom Eustace and Jill had rescued in ''The Silver Chair''. Tirian gets to learn that Aslan has returned, and shockingly, he is ordering the cutting down of trees, talking trees. It shocks him. Why would Aslan order such a thing? He comes to know, after some time, that this is all a plot for the Calormenes to take over Narnia.

And then... Eustace and Jill come to Narnia once again, to fight against the Calormenes, in the last battle of the last king of Narnia.

I have mixed feelings towards the book. While I certainly didn't hate it, I certainly didn't love it. I didn't think that it was enchanting, something that the previous novels were. It didn't have the excitement, the feel-good elements, the beauty of the previous novels. In fact, until Peter, Lucy, and Edmund arrive, only then did the novel becomes a little enchanting and gets some beauty.

One of the things that I loved about this book is that so many characters in the previous novels return in this one. There are so many, so many old characters. Characters whom we loved and had missed. Some of them last appeared in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardobe, some in Prince Caspian or Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Edmund and Lucy had had brief appearances in ''The Horse and his Boy''). Many characters from each of the previous novels appear in this one. 

And now... One of the most disappointing things about this book. The children who had had adventures in the previous books appear in this one: Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, Jill, Digory and Polly. Did you notice any name missing? It's Susan. She doesn't appear in this novel. According to Peter, she is ''no longer a friend of Narnia''. I was shocked at this. Susan, one of the major characters of the series. I kept hoping that maybe she will appear, through some way or other. But I was disappointed. Susan doesn't appear in this novel. She is mentioned only once, when Tirian is startled to see that Susan is not present among the humans who came from their world. Then Peter tells him that Susan is ''no longer a friend of Narnia''.

I don't exactly know what to feel about the ending. It felt beautiful. The descriptions were beautiful. The presence of so many old characters made me overwhelmed. I think I was quite satisfied with the ending.

So what do I think about The Last Battle? I think it was good. Just good. But it was neither excellent nor enchanting. I didn't feel it was wonderful, magical like the other books of the series. The reunion of the characters were really good. And some of the battle description were good. As the ending to the magical series, ''The Last Battle'' was quite satisfying. 

3 out of 5 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

''Interpreter of Maladies''- Book Review

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Published: 1999

Short story collection

Rating: 5 out of 5


''Interpreter of Maladies'' is a short story collection by Jhumpa Lahiri. The nine stories in this collection are: ''A Temporary Matter'', ''Mr Pirzada Comes to Dine'', ''Interpreter of Maladies'', ''A Real Durwan'', ''Sexy'', ''Mrs Sen's'', ''This Blessed House'', ''The Treatment of Bibi Halder'' and ''The Third and Final Continent''.

I loved this short story collection. I really loved each of the short stories. Most of them were emotionally overpowering; these stories made me ponder about them after I finished reading them. The characters, the subject matter, the storytelling- all these were so memorable, so very excellent, so emotionally intense.

My favorite stories in this collection are: ''The Treatment of Bibi Halder'', ''The Third and Final Continent'' and perhaps ''A Real Durwan''. Though I loved all the nine stories, these three stories were particularly very memorable. I felt that ''A Real Durwan'' was among the saddest stories in this collection. The character of Boori Ma is developed very well, and the extremely painful ending left me shocked. ''The Third and Final Continent'' was a great story... it was, indeed! The three major characters: the narrator, Mala and Mrs Croft, were very memorable, and the story was also very touching.

Different subjects are explored in this book, such as the life of Indians abroad. For example, ''Mrs Sen's'' explores the sorrows and nostalgia of the Indians immigrants.  There also other subjects like misery, neglect, sorrow, etc.

None of the stories in this collection left me unsatisfied; in fact, I was extremely impressed with all nine of the stories. They had such a great flow, and they were so very engrossing. I could not put the book down. These stories had a lot of flow, vivid descriptions, and depth in them. Overall, I simply loved this book!

5 out of 5