Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Halloween Reads: My Current Reads/// What I am reading This Halloween!

Book: Ring

Author: Koji Suzuki

Pages: 282

Plot Summary: A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure. 

Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece's inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan tokyo teeming with modern society's fears to a rural Japan--a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic--haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape's mystery before it's too late--for everyone--assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip. 

General Thoughts: The Ring is one of my absolute horror films and I always knew it was based on a book but I never thought of reading this book till now. I don't know why it took me so long to get to this book. I am a silly, silly girl! 

I am currently reading this book and am about 60-70 pages in and I am enjoying the book. It is very, very different from the movie, the biggest difference being the lead character/investigator is a man, not a woman. In my books these differences are a good thing, it makes reading this book seem like a new experience and not just reliving the movie. 

I will do a proper review once I am done reading this. 

Book: My Cousin Rachel

Author: Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 374

Plot Summary: Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet ...might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?

General Thoughts: I recently reviewed Rebecca and if you've read that you know how much I enjoyed that book. I wanted to read more of Du Maurier's works, last year I read a short story collection of hers and wanted to sample another full length novel of hers. I bought this book way back in February for my birthday and it sat un-read all this time. I picked this book up this week thinking this is a perfect time to read it. 

I am about 120 pages in and while I am enjoying it, it is a little slow. It is not a bad book, not by a long shot. The writing is great and the atmosphere is great but nothing much seems to be happening. So I picked up Ring to read simultaneously. 

I am going to finish this book and I cannot wait to see where this book goes and what really happened to cousin Ambrose and whether cousin Rachel is innocent or evil? 

Book: The Historian

Author: Elizabeth Kostova

General Thoughts: My sister recently reviewed this book on the blog, you can read it HERE. She's been asking me for years and years to read this book. So if I manage to finish the two books above (I am being mighty ambitious) I will finally make it to this book! 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for Roots of Evil by Sarah Rayne.

Book: Roots of Evil

Author: Sarah Rayne

Pages: 552

How Long it Took Me to read: 1 day.

Plot Summary: Lucy Trent is used to having the legend of her glamorous grandmother unearthed from time to time—the infamous silent-screen actress, Lucretia von Wolff, whose life ended abruptly in a bizarre double murder and suicide at the Ashwood film studios in 1952.

But when a body is found in the now-derelict studios, brutalized in a macabre echo of the 50-year-old case, disturbing facts about the past begin to emerge—facts that point back to the eerie tale of the child known as Alraune. The child named after Lucretia’s most famous film. The child who may never have existed at all. In the ensuing murder investigation, Lucy is to discover the truth about her family’s dark history—a history that spans the glittering concert halls of 1920s Vienna to the bleak environs of wartime Auschwitz.

General Thoughts and Review: It was 2010, I used to live in Bangalore then and was a member of a local library. One evening, while looking through the shelves I spotted this sinister looking book and decided to bring it home. How bad could it be? It sounded nice enough! I didn't know then, that I would absolutely love the story, the writing and the setting of Sarah Rayne’s books. What began as one pick from the library shelf has turned into a serious author love situation. Since then, I’ve bought 5-6 more books by the author and love all of them, expect one. I’ve rated most of them 5/5 and I recommend them to everyone who likes dark, mysterious books. Her books typically shift between two or more time periods and are simply excellent! (I am a fan!)

This book, Roots of Evil, is a great first book to try by the author. Now, I read it 3 years ago and thought the specific details aren’t exactly fresh in my mind, I still remember the important details and I remember how much I enjoyed this book. 

The book moves effortlessly between the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s and to present day.  I loved all the portions of the book, but the 1920s and the War portions were especially great. The descriptions of the concentration camps were terrifying. The life behind the barb-wires and the brutality that was meted out to the residents was just horrible. The mystery is gripping and I kept turning pages, late into the night to find out what happened all those years ago.

I also liked the whole idea of a family myth and legend and a grand-daughter delving into the life and secrets of her famous grand-mother. The era of silent films and the glamour and glitz of those stars was also very interesting. The life of Lucretia Von Wolff, the years leading to her stardom, her life as a plain maid and her rise to stardom and then her eventual doom in a Nazi Concentration Camp was riveting. The dark, creepy bits were simply excellent and gave me the chills. 

I recommend this book if you want a creepy, scary read for Halloween, also with a good dose of history.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Book: Rebecca

Author: Daphne Du Maurier

Pages: 441

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days.

Plot Summary: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamourous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers...

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

General Thoughts and Review: Unless you’ve lived under a giant planet-sized rock, you’ve heard about Rebecca. Or you’ve read it. Or seen the movies based on this timeless classic, there is the 1940 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock which is pretty amazing and very true to text. I know words like timeless classics are thrown around all the time but it is fitting to Rebecca. Whether you read it years ago, or now, it remains eternal.

The plot is simple enough; a rich man meets and falls in love with an orphan girl.  He brings her to her grand home and they are all set to begin their happily ever-after. Only if Max De Winter’s first wife- the enigmatic and glorious Rebecca would let them be. The entire household and the house itself seem to be rather obsessed with its former mistress, who died 10 months earlier. Our orphan girl never measures up and pales in comparison to Rebecca and in time she too gets caught up with trying to find out as much as she can about her husband’s first wife.

The world of Manderlay is steeped in mystery and a deep, dark sense of dread. The more we find out about Rebecca, the more you get pulled into her enigma and her life and her subsequent death. The atmosphere of the book is brilliant and Manderlay becomes a character in itself. While the death of Rebecca is the main mystery of the book, there are plenty other things that make this book such a magnificent read. The rest of book, including the new marriage and the tensions between the couple also make for interesting read.

If you are looking for a book that keeps you hooked and keeps you company on a cold, rainy night- this is the book for you. This is a perfect Halloween Read in my opinion, not outright frightening but dark enough to give you chills. The writing is great and I want to read more of Du Maurier’s writing.

The one critique I’ve had of this book was the second Mrs De Winters aka our narrator. I found her a little too meek. A little too insecure of herself, a little too easy to intimidate. I wish she’d had more spunk, a little more self-confidence. But given the kind of novel this is, she needs to be all these things for the story to move on. But there were times when I was reading this book that I wanted to reach in and shake her and tell her to act with a little more firmness! I also wish her husband, Max, would just snap out of it and give his second marriage and his new wife a real chance.

But even with its minor flaws, this book is brilliant and if you haven’t read it yet, pick it up. Even though a classic it is an easy enough read and is quite a quick read.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Book: The Historian

Author: Elizabeth Kostova

Pages: 752

Plot Summary: To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

General Thoughts: I read The Historian in 2004-2005 or thereabouts, so I don't remember the exact details, but I do remember LOVING this book! The Historian is a mix of gothic, detective, adventure, travelogue and thriller genres and for me that was one of the reasons for loving it as much as I did. The other reason being the way the book moved effortlessly through time- events occur in the 1930s, 1950s and the 1970s and we also get to learn about Vlad Tepes, a 15th century prince of Wallachia, who was known as Vlad The Impaler and was, apparently, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's book Dracula. 

The book starts in 1972, in Amsterdam when the unnamed female protagonist finds a mysterious dragon-embossed book in her father's study and learns about the legend of Dracula and her and her father's mentor's efforts in finding him. Intrigued, she picks up from where her father left off and as the story moves from Istanbul to Hungary to Romania, she learns of her mother's mysterious disappearance as well. 

I loved the dark and thrilling tone of this book. To me, it presented a rather purist interpretation of vampires rather than the pop sugar version in books like Twilight and such. The book is well researched and well written and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a spooky Halloween vampire themed read. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Book: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Pages: 368

How Long it Took Me to Read: 1 day (I was hooked from the word go!)

Plot Summary:

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

General Thoughts and Review: I read this book over a year ago, so while it might not be fresh-est in my mind, it has left quite an impact. A year on, I still remember how much I loved it and I cannot wait for it's sequel to come out and I cannot wait to see what happens to Jacob and his new friends.

But now to the book at hand. Jacob is 16 when he witnesses his beloved grandfather being killed in front of his eyes. Furthermore, he thinks he saw, even though he knows it's plain absurd, a monster like creature attack and kill his grand-father. Jacob has a very close and special  relationship with his grandfather, who helped raise him and told him stories of a house full of peculiar children. He even showed Jacob photos of said children. While Jacob believed his grand-father when he was a kid, ever since he's grown-up, he's thought these were stories and nothing more. But his grand-father changes everything. 

Jacob, with his father, travels to the location of this house and there begins his adventure. 

The story moves at a great pace and kept me hooked and I couldn't wait to find out what happens in the book. The writing was good and the characters realistic and likable  I liked Jacob and I absolutely LOVED the peculiar kids. They were so sweet and simple and lovable. 

But the absolute smashing bit of the book were the creepy vintage pictures! Oh My God!!!! I cannot tell you how long I spent staring at the weird pictures and can assure you, you'll love them too. They blend easily and wonderfully with the narrative and add to the spook factor. 

I really loved this book and I cannot recommend it enough. 

Rating: 5/5 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for Help for the Haunted by John Searles.

Book: Help for the Haunted

Author: John Searles

Pages: 395

How Long it Took Me to Read: 3-4 hours

Plot Summary: It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.

General Thoughts and Review: Another book for my books leading up to Halloween.

First things first, this is not a horror book. I had picked it up thinking this would be a proper, good old horror novel. It was not. With that slight disappointment out of the way, let’s get to review for this book.
The plot sounded interesting and I was curious about the deaths of the Masons and who was responsible for their murders. Apart from the obvious murder mystery, I also was curious about the lives of the Mason’s in the years leading up to the double murder. The Masons were ghost-whisperers/helpers for those suffering from hauntings. This set the tone for the book. Where they really gifted? Did their gifts with the supernatural get them into a mess they couldn’t get out of? Or was it something else? The book answers these questions by the end and in my opinion does so in a satisfactory way.

Apart from the murder mystery, the book is also a great insight into a family, a different family at that. A family, where the parents have an unusual job and their girls aren’t sure if they agree with their parent’s way of life. I loved reading about their complicated life. 

Oh this book is set in the 1980s and 1990, a fact I enjoyed. What can I say? I am a 90s kids. 

I also liked Sylvie’s character.  She is quiet, strong, smart and reads classics (I might be biased but I love a girl who reads.) I loved seeing the Masons through her eyes. I liked her little investigation into the deaths of her parents. I also felt sad about her life post the murders and how the townspeople had turned against the Mason girls. The bullying she faces at school and the calm and collected way in which she deals with it further endeared her to me.

As much as I liked Sylvie, I disliked Rose (her older sister, who might have had something to do with the murders), she was Sylvie’s legal guardian and she was doing a terrible job at raising her sister. Even in the years leading up to the murders, Rose acts out, is rude and pushes her parent’s buttons endlessly. By the end of the book, you do see Rose in a new light and she is redeemed by the end, a little redeemed but not wholly.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book a lot. I read it in pretty much one sitting. I was slightly disappointed when it wasn’t a proper horror book but the murder mystery and the complicated family aspect made me enjoy the book.

On a side note- If you’ve seen The Conjuring, the Masons reminded me quite a bit of the couple in the movie. That similarity made this book slightly spooky at times.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Halloween Reads: Review for Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

Book: Night Film

Author: Marisa Pessl

Pages:765 (I read an eBook and my version had these many pages! The hardback version has 602 pages I think.)

How Long it Took Me to Read: 1 day- I was hooked and couldn't bear to put this book down!

Plot Summary: On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

General Thought and Review: 

From the moment I heard of this book I wanted to read it. It's one of those strange book intuition things where I knew I'd love it even before I had the book in my hands. Thankfully, this book didn't disappoint. The first thing that pulled in and peaked my interest was the amazing plot. The very sound of this book seems amazingly dark, murky and full of mystery.  The idea of this master craftsman of gory horror films who has been living underground for decades and all the mystery that surrounds him, is just brilliant. As I was reading this book I wanted this to be true or I wanted to see a scary movie version of this book soon. 

I loved the plot and I loved the mystery and I loved the way we kept delving into the dark world of the Cordova family. Ashley Cordova, is many ways the central figure of this book. Her death and life were both equally intriguing. The more we learn about her the more it makes me wonder what happened to her and what is the truth behind her life/death. The Cordova family in general, their past, their lives and the strangeness surrounding them makes for an incredibly engaging read. I wish there was more about them and their lives. 

Another thing I absolutely adored was the little details in the book. There are screen shots, web pages, News clipping all re-produced in the book. So whenever the investigators see something, we the reader get to see it too. Which makes reading so much more enjoyable! I love little details like this and I know they are gimmicky but I am a sucker for books with such details. 

The book is a long read. For most part, when it comes to thrillers and mysteries, I prefer a quick and lean read, meaning I prefer books under 300 pages. But I didn't mind the length of this book. I was enjoying it a bit too much. However, by the end I wished this book were a little trimmer.

The only thing that I did find a slight let down were the three main characters who were investigating the Cordova clan. McGrath- the disgraced journalist and his two helpers in the form of Norma- a homeless but spunky and resourceful 19 year old aspiring actress and a twenty-something year old boy who knew Ashley. All of these characters were pretty flat and we didn't really get to know them. And also why would a professional journalist, who works alone want to randomly team up with two random people he barely knows and doesn't really trust? 

Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I will recommend it to anyone who wants to read a book that sucks you in and takes you for a scary ride. 

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Review: The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie.

Book: The 13 Problems

Author: Agatha Christie

Pages: 315

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 hours

Plot Summary: A group of people gather for a post dinner chat and in order to pass the evening pleasantly, each member of the group tells a mystery story and the rest of the group has to guess the culprit. As each story is told, no matter how grisly or perplexing, it's the old biddy knitting quietly in the corner that guesses the perpetrator and his/motive accurately. This old lady is none other than Miss Jane Marple.

General Thoughts and Review: 

I have discovered Agatha Christie books with a vengeance this year. Prior to this year, my only exposure to Christie's work were the TV adaptations of her books. I LOVE the Poirot and the Marple TV shows and have watched and re-watched them over the years. And since these TV shows are extremely true-to-text it didn't make sense for me to read the books, or so I foolishly thought!

Late last year, during a Christmas booksale, I found myself in a crowded Crossword bookstore, with poorly arranged shelves and chaotic sales section. I found amidst this chaos a table full of Christie a great price and with great cover art. So I thought why not. The sister and I picked 6 books for a steal and thus began my love for the written Agatha Christie work.

Over the year, I read a couple of her books and bought a few more as the year went on.

The 13 Problems is a novel that almost could pass off as a short story collection. Each story, told by a guest is a tale on it's own. A proper mystery wrapped-up neatly and solved by Miss Marple. The way Miss Marple deduces things and solves the mysteries is a work of art.

All the stories in this book were great, except maybe one which I found a little boring- it was a story about spies and smuggling rings, I prefer murder mysteries any day!  But in a collection of 13 stories, one bad/boring tale is no biggie.

I enjoyed this book immensely and read in one sitting. It moves quickly and I loved the murder and mayhem in the pages of this book.

If you haven't read Christie before, I cannot urge you enough to read her. She is a literary legend for a reason. And this book is a perfect starting point for a Agatha Christie book, read this before you pick up a full length novel. Most of Christie's books are fast paced quick reads and I assure you they are very enjoyable and satisfying reads.

Rating: 5/5