Some of my TBRR Pile for 2021!

Last year, I had honestly planned to focus only on my TBR pile and try to reduce some of the endless books that seemed to be waiting forever on there, but while the ‘lockdown’ helped in that no one was delivering books for while (so I could actually stick to my shopping ban), and I also didn’t request very many books on NetGalley (also part of the plan), I ended up revisiting quite a few previously read books so didn’t take off as many from my TBR pile. This year I’m going to try and be more balanced–I have been reading NetGalley ARCs, and some books from my existing TBR, but at the same time, wanted to also get to revisiting a few books I’ve read before but have been meaning to reread for a bit as well. While I haven’t put together an extensive list, this is just 10 of the books that I want to read from my ‘read’ shelves. Most are ones I haven’t read for a fairly long time, but there are a couple of ‘newer’ ones as well.

The first few on my list are classics. First up I have Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. This is the story of Fanny Price, born into a poor family but who is adopted by her aunt, and is brought up in the elegant Mansfield Park, by the wealthy Bertrams. Initially Fanny feels like an outsider but with time, the family, her aunt and uncle particularly come to rely on her more. Meanwhile Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive from London bringing in glamour and complicating matters at Mansfield Park. This is a book I think I have read only once before and fairly long ago, but I did enjoy it very much and the TV adaptation as well.

Next is Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. This is the first of a trilogy (I haven’t read the other two so far) which tells the story of a farmer Wang Lung, opening on his wedding day and tracing his and his family’s life from that point. They face many hardships but also do eventually rise in the world. This one I had read quite a while ago and have been wanting to pick up again.

The third of the classics on my list is Nicholas Nickelby or The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens. This was one of the first Dickens books I read and it immediately had me hooked. I loved the characters, the different plot lines, and pretty much everything about it. This tells of the Nickelbys who are left without means after Mr Nickelby dies; while Nicholas takes up a teacher’s position at the not very pleasant school run by Wackford Squeers, his mother and his sister have to for a while lean for support on their ruthless (and is slimy) uncle Ralph. Last year I had considered a revisit but didn’t end up picking it up. Last week Paula at Bookjotter mentioned a readalong of this one taking place next month, and this sounds like the perfect time for me to read it.

Next is a slightly more recent read Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. This is the first of a middle-grade series and tells the story of Morrigan Crow a young girl who is supposed to be ‘cursed’ and is pretty much blamed for all the ills that happen in her town. She is supposed to die on her eleventh birthday but instead is whisked off to a magical land by a remarkable stranger called Jupiter North. Here she lives in the strangest (and yet, fun) hotel one can imagine and must enter a contest to become a member of the Wundrous society. This was a book I enjoyed but at the same time not as much as I’d expected. So I want to give it a second shot.

The other children’s title on my list is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. This tells of the Pott family; the father Commander Caratacus Pott invents various things–some useful, but others plain crazy. Among these is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a car which can fly. And of course, in this Commander Pott, his wife and children have many adventures. This is very different from the movie they made out of it but it was a rerun of the movie on TV here a few days ago that reminded me of the book, and that it’s been ages since I read it.

Then on my list, I have Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer. This is actually the only Rumpole book I’ve read so far (must remedy that as well). This is the story of Rumpole narrating his very first case in which a man is accused of murdering his father and his father’s friend.

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway is a humorous telling of the lives of explorer/geographer Alexander Von Humboldt and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, a man with a truly incredible mind. What I loved about this was how despite being a translation (from German), the humour comes through so well. (This is historical fiction, by the way.)

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley was a present to me from a friend, and a book I really love. I have read it a couple of times before (perhaps more) but not very recently (Goodreads tells me my last read was 2016). This is part fantasy, part historical fiction which tells of a young girl Penelope Taberner Cameron who is somewhat fey. When convalescing at the home of relatives, she manages to travel back in time to the 1600s amidst the Babington plot, a plan to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots from imprisonment. This was a really wonderful read and I am looking forward to picking it up again.

Brothers-in-Law by Henry Cecil is the first in a series of three books, which trace the story of Roger Thursby, a young barrister from the time he clears his final exam to when he eventually becomes a judge. This first book tells of the start of his career, who he finds his feet and also his love. A peek into the world of law but with a great deal of humour.

Finally I have another more recent read, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Also the first in a trilogy, this one tells of a young professor Rachel Chu who is dating a fellow academic Nicholas Young who belongs to Singapore. When he invites her to attend his friend’s wedding back home, she doesn’t have a clue what she is getting herself into for Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in Singapore and Nick a very eligible bachelor. From a disapproving family (mostly Nick’s mother) to scheming young ladies also vying for Nick’s hand (also their mothers), she has a lot to contend with. I read this one in 2019 and found it very entertaining (and outrageous). I ended up reading the whole series pretty fast and it also got me out of a reading slump. I’ve been feeling like picking it up again.

While these aren’t the only books I want to reread, I think these make a good list for a start. I will of course also end up reading Agatha Christies which I have read before, and often do go back to for comfort reading.

Are you planning to reread any books this year? Old favourites or some that you want to give a second chance? Have you read or do you plan to read any from my list? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover images as always from Goodreads.

Review: The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins

Over the end of 2020 and start of 2021, I read The Hunger Games trilogy (not the newly released prequel, though). The books are set in a dystopian world in which life is much changed from what we have at present, but people perhaps remain the same. The country is—Panem where the Capitol ruthlessly rules over 12 districts; originally 13 districts had revolted against the Capitol but the revolt was crushed and district 13 destroyed. The 12 that remain are paying the price, living under the iron hand of the Capitol and supplying one essential commodity each—coal, agriculture, textiles, and such. But this isn’t all, to be reminded of their ‘crime’, each year, every district must offer up two ‘tributes’ (something that reminded me of the Athenian tributes sent annually as sacrifice to the Minotaur)—a boy and a girl aged between 12 and 18—to the Hunger Games. Here the 24 children (for they are really little more than that) must fight for survival and kill each other till only one is left standing—and the Games—televised—are mandatory viewing for everyone. In this world, our story narrated by sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen opens in district 12, where the coal mines are. Katniss lost her father to a mining accident, and because of her mother’s resulting depression, has had to single-handedly look after her family—mostly by hunting illegally with her friend Gale. On the day of the ‘reaping’ when tributes are picked, Katniss’ sister Prim (Primrose)’s name is in the pool for the first time but as luck would have it, it she who is picked. Immediately Katniss volunteers to take her place, almost certain that she will not return. The male tribute is Peeta Mellark, son of the baker, and who secretly admires Katniss. Their ‘mentor’, the only previous winner from their district is the perpetually inebriated Haymitch Abernathy.

The Games may be a fight to the death for the 24 tributes but like the Roman gladiatorial arenas (the author mentions these), they are also a spectacle. The tributes are given a little training but also primped and polished (a lot) to make for good viewing, and sympathy from what can only be a blood-thirsty audience.

The Hunger Games tells of Katniss and Peeta’s experience at the games—and at the end of which she (perhaps more than him) has managed to keep them alive and make them both victors. But this victory is not a happy one for as we see in Catching Fire, Katniss finds her attempt at keeping them alive is misinterpreted as a protest against the Capitol and is in fact turning into a spark encouraging revolt across the districts. Katniss is unknowingly becoming their mascot. This leads her and Peeta into further trouble, and somewhere they would never have imagined they would end up.

In the final book, Mockingjay, Katniss is in midst of the revolution—part of the revolutionaries but unsure whether she can do what they ask of her. Peeta and some others are prisoners of the Capitol which turns more ruthless by the day. Can the districts win amidst all this, and will this get them their due?

The world of the Hunger Games is a dark one—as the author herself mentions (and I’ve noted earlier) in book 3—one can see influences of Roman society—the Games arena being a more hi-tech version of the gladiatorial arenas. In essence it is the same—a spectacle for the Capitol, a place of excess at the cost of the districts, characterized by want, with the gamemakers/organizers able to add their twists and play on the viewers’ sympathies or need for ‘action’. (One also wonders what became of human rights instruments in this world where children are forced to kill each other). And it isn’t just the games that are dark, the books get darker as we go on for once Katniss unknowingly sparks flames of revolt, she must contend with the enmity of the Capitol and the snake-like President Snow who holds her personally responsible and will do anything to repress it. But when a full-fledged revolt does break out with Katniss as its mascot, we begin to see the full extent of the President’s depravities (past and current). But worse still, life among the rebels is not turning out to be much of an escape either.

I somehow didn’t entirely take to Katniss though I could understand where she was coming from and why she was as she was. Having pretty much only herself to rely on (even her mother has failed her when most needed) and in a world where there are few one can trust, one can see why she reacts as she does or can’t see good in anyone. She does what she needs to do for survival, and perhaps ‘feelings’ don’t always come first even though she does have a heart, and one does end up rooting for her.

The story also has a romance angle which comes in slowly and develops as the books go on, and one is quite unsure until the end how it will turn out. In fact, the books (especially the second and the third) have their fair share of twists and turns and surprises.

While the books are dark, they are also fast paced and gripping—I found myself engrossed from start to finish and reading late into the night. While futuristic fiction does at times seem to actually foretell the future, this is one which one hopes does not fall into that category, though as fiction, it made for very exciting reading indeed!

Have you read this series? How did you find it? What about the prequel? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover images: Goodreads

Shelf Control #122: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Wednesday, the 13th of January, and time again for Shelf Control! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, what makes you want to read it, where and when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

After starting off Shelf Control this year with a non-fiction title, this week I’m back to fiction. Today my pick is one of my more recent acquisitions, The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. Published in 2020, this is another of the young adult titles that I first came across through Booktube. I picked up a paperback (ordered online), just this past December.

Set in 1992 in Los Angeles, the book tells the story of Ashley Bennett, a teenager living a more or less perfect life her parents have created for their family. They live in a big house in an affluent neighbourhood; Ashley is in her senior year, and her parents have kept her and her sister protected against racism, creating the model black family image. But all of this changes one day. After brutally beating a black man named Rodney King half to death, four officers of the LAPD are acquitted. Violent protests break out and LA burns. Suddenly Ashley finds that she is not just an ordinary girl, but one of the ‘black kids’. While Ashley tries to carry on with life as usual, she must face the world splintering around them, the prejudices of her friends that are now rising to the surface, and question with the rest of the city, who is the ‘us’ and the ‘them’?

This is of course a book that deals with issues of race, class and identity and I felt both from the subjects dealt with and the real-life incident around which it is set, this is an important book to read, and one that becomes even more relevant in the current scenario. I’m expecting this one to be as hard-hitting and powerful as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, and want to pick this one up very soon.

Have you read this one? How did you find it? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover image from Goodreads as always; book info from Goodreads (here) and the blurb on my copy.

Find Lisa’s pick this week, a book I enjoyed my recent revisit of, The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie here.

Book Review: Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Children’s UK for a review copy of this book.

One of the first books I was approved for when I joined NetGalley in 2018 was The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. This was the story of Alice, living an itinerant life with her mother till the day her mother disappears. Alice soon connects this with a collection of dark fairy tales her grandmother Althea Proserpine had written, and with that begins her adventure looking for Hinterland where the tales are set. Tales from the Hinterland is that collection of stories.

This is a collection of twelve stories—each very dark, and many with a twist that one doesn’t see coming. We have ‘The Door that Wasn’t There’ in which Anya and her sister Lisbeth find a way out of their house where the stepmother has locked them; but their escape turns out to be very different from what they expected. This one had a few shades of The Bear and the Nightingale; and if I remember right this one was in The Hazel Wood as well.

‘Hansa the Traveller’ decides to escape the restrictions placed on her by her family (of not going out at night) and while this does take her on the adventure of a lifetime, one is left wondering whether it was worth it?

In ‘The Clockwork Bride’, two children are fascinated by a magical toyshop but can’t afford its offerings. A chance to play there comes their way but at a price. What when the time comes to pay that price?

Jenny in ‘Jenny and the Nightwomen’ is an extremely spoiled little girl who accepts help from a strange girl when her parents decide to take her in hand. But naturally, the stranger has her own agenda.

In ‘The Skinned Maiden’, a cruel and heartless prince becomes smitten with a beautiful girl he sees by a lake. But she is no ordinary girl and in a bid to gain her he ends up taking away her very essence. Can she regain it?

‘Alice Three Times’ is the story of a strange princess Alice, born to the queen illegitimately. Alice also grows in the strangest of ways. The Queen wishes to rid herself of this daughter and as soon as she is old enough finds her some grooms; but neither the grooms nor the Queen know what they are getting themselves into.

In ‘The House under the Stairwell’, Isobel who has suffered a broken engagement has a strange dream after she and her sisters try a dark spell of sorts to see their future husbands. When Isobel manages to get over her past and finds a chance at happiness, she must contend with the consequences of that dream.

Ilsa in ‘Ilsa Waits’, who has seven brothers happens to be able to see death. But he comes and takes those dear to her but never herself till she decides to pit her wits against him. But is it so simple to take on death?

In ‘The Sea Cellar’, we have Alba whose sister is sent as a bride to a strange home where brides go but are never seen or heard of anymore nor is the groom ever seen. She decides to go there as a bride herself and solve the mystery but what does she uncover?

In ‘The Mother and the Dagger’, a queen from a magical land tries her hand at some dark magic to have a child but can’t make the sacrifice required of her. For this she must pay, and so must others.

Katherine in ‘Twice Killed Katherine’ is the only one of a sorcerer’s children who has his powers. He decides to take her under his wing and protect her at any cost.

A King and Queen’s children are cruelly killed in ‘Death and the Woodwife’ but then she is blessed with a strange child. When this child grows up and is set to marry, she ends up with a dark suitor. Can she escape?

The stories had some lovely (and vivid) descriptions of places magical like in ‘The Clockwork Bride’

The shop nestled among darkened buildings like a lit birthday cake. From its open door poured tinkling music-box notes and thick golden light…. There before them were all the toymaker’s treasures. The paper ballerinas had grown to the size of children, with the small heads and slim limbs of women. They pirouetted in skirts of taffeta netting, their laughter scattering like light….

From ‘The Clockwork Bride’ by Melissa Albert

Or dark like in ‘The House under the Stairwell’

There was no sky here, but a roof of earth, heavy coils of roots running through it. Moths larger than men perched on the roofs with their wings open wide, casting a delicate glow. In the distance stood a house with lights shining through every window and before it a grove of gold and silver trees. A masked figure waited beneath each tree, limbs too long and fingers hidden in dark gloves. Above their masks each painted with a man’s face, stood grey wolf ears.

From ‘The House Under the Stairwell’ by Melissa Albert

As you can gauge from the descriptions, these are very imaginative stories indeed. I thought the author did a great job at creating some really creepy tales. While one might feel sorry for a few of the characters, others (even central characters) are dark and not particularly likeable, and there are also evil stepmothers, mothers and fathers galore. Since one can’t really tell where each story will lead, each has its share of surprises. There are also illustrations at the beginning of each story and I think full page illustrations in the final version. These would be great for Halloween or any time you’re in the mood for something very creepy. But be warned, most of these don’t have happy endings, and will leave you feeling unsettled more than anything else…

The book releases on 14 January 2021; Penguin Random House Children’s UK; 240 pp.

Shelf Control #121: Father Goose by William Lishman

Wednesday, the 4th of January, and time for Shelf Control once again–the first one of 2021! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains (in my case the latter). To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, where and when you got it and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

My first pick for Shelf Control in 2021 is to my own surprise a non-fiction title, but since despite enjoying non-fiction, I seem to turn more to fiction when I pick up something to read, there are always more non-fiction titles waiting on my TBR. And these including this one are ones I really do want to read. This week’s pick is Father Goose by William Lishman.

First published in 1995, Father Goose is the real-life story of William Lishman, a reclusive Canadian sculptor of international renown. He was also an environmentalist, animal lover and an inventor. In 1993, he took off from his farm in Ontario in a small aircraft designed by himself and led eighteen Canada geese south to Virginia. The following April, they returned unaided to their home and surrogate ‘father’. This autobiographical account tells of his experiences. This is a short volume of under 200 pages and also features photographs of Lishman, the airplanes and the geese.

This book has actually been on my TBR pile a long time, probably five years or so. I had got a copy as a present and although I really wanted to pick it up (and still do), I didn’t get down to reading it. I love the whole idea of the book–in fact in awe just thinking about it. Imagine not only looking after and developing the trust of the birds but also undertaking a journey to get them to migrate south, and that too by making your own plane!!! This is certainly something I want to read about and know more about–how he started looking after the geese, why he needed to take them south himself, and all the other details. I think I read somewhere that his work helped in the preservation of cranes.

This book was also converted into a film Fly Away Home which I haven’t seen but which is said to have taken many liberties with the story.

Have you read this one? How did you like it? Or have you watched the film version? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find Lisa’s pick this week, a children’s title, The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt here

Review: Miss Moorthy Investigates by Ovidia Yu

I only came across Ovida Yu come months ago in a response to a comment on YouTube and her works immediately piqued my interest since the comment mentioned that she wrote mysteries set in Singapore. Other than Crazy Rich Asians, perhaps, I don’t recall reading any other book set there. Looking her up further and the series she has written, I also came across this one which I thought would be great to start with since it is relatively short (207 pages) and a standalone but still ticks the boxes of being set in Singapore and as a bonus is also a historical mystery being set in the 1970s. And I’m really glad that I picked this up because it turned out to be really delightful!

In the story we meet Savitri (or Savi) Moorthy who is born to parents who have both had careers linked with music. She herself has been a performer but much to her parents’ horror, she doesn’t not want a career in music but would rather be a school teacher. Her morning routine not being very suited to her family’s (she has to be in school by 7.15) she moves out and shares a flat with her friend Constance Chay, a producer of TV shows. And her old college-mate and friend Maj. Antony Tan who admires her (and regularly proposes), happens to be a medical examiner.

In Singapore meanwhile, a killer known as the “strangler” is on the loose, who targets young and successful career women (and cuts off their hands) but Miss Moorthy is not particularly bothered by this until her colleague Evelyn Ngui is murdered. And this seems to be the work of the Strangler. Even though Evelyn was not much of a friend of Miss Moorthy’s, she was previously seeing David, a friend of Anthony’s, so she does have a personal connection. Then the Strangler breaks into Miss Moorthy’s flat putting both her and Connie in danger. So of course Miss Moorthy decides to investigate. But investigating the case and Evelyn Ngui’s possible connection with it ends up also placing Miss Moorthy in her fair share of danger (of course she has Antony and Connie by her side for the most part). But does she manage to solve it?

This was a really enjoyable read; I especially loved how the author managed to write a murder mystery with all its actual dangers, even an encounter with a murderer (which however, seemed almost funny rather than serious) and still keep the general tone and writing full of humour. The characters are also a great deal of fun—Miss Moorthy, her parents (though we don’t actually meet them), Connie with the latest TV dramas that she’s producing and even the more serious Antony. Like Miss Marple, to whom many reviewers have compared Miss Moorthy, the latter too has insight into people, and this makes her observations on them rather fun to read. Evelyn Ngui whose murder it is that Miss Moorthy is trying to solve had a fairly complicated life with more than one love interest—and so Miss Moorthy certainly has her hands full trying to understand the colleague she didn’t know very well. She soon enough figures out Evelyn’s murderer was most likely a copycat and so there are a range of suspects to pick from. And of course, in the tradition of murder mysteries, there is a second death as well. I did not really guess whodunit or why in this one so I enjoyed the mystery element too.

And of course I loved the setting in Singapore—places are referenced, also the different cultures that comprise it—Malay, Chinese, Indian— come through and there’s also food (plenty actually) like Madam Wee’s lavish meal or even snacks. There are also period details from HDB (Housing Development Board) flats to American TV shows that were popular like Hawaii Five O and Mannix. But my favourite part was the writing itself—humorous and pleasantwhich made the book a really lovely read. I wish there were more mysteries with these characters; and I would certainly like to explore the other series by the author, especially the one set in 1930s Singapore!

p.s. I didn’t much like the cover of this one though it does represent the story well.

Have you read this one or any others by the author? How did you find it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Cover image: Goodreads

Book and Author Anniversaries 2021!

Happy New Year 2021–may this be a much better one than 2020 turned out to be! Another year begins, and it’s time for a post I have very much enjoyed doing the last couple of years–book and author ‘birthdays’ (or rather, anniversaries) that fall in the year. Once again, my lists are not exhaustive but feature mostly books and authors that stood out to me either because they’re favourites or because I’ve been meaning to read them, or that I’ve come across them a lot. I hope you find this as much fun as I do, and this helps you plan out some reads for the year. Like last year, I have in my list books that turn 50, 75, 100, and 200 but am also including another category of younger books, ones that turn 25 in 2021. There are also authors celebrating their 100th and 200th anniversaries, and also one who turns 300 in 2021.

25: Books Published in 1996

Among titles published in 1996, and thus turning 25, I found quite a few notables. The very first title I came across in fact surprised me because I didn’t realise this went back quite so far. And that was A Game of Thrones, the first in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series following three principal storylines. Honestly I wondered at one point whether to read this, but don’t see myself picking these up any time soon due solely to the size of the these chunky volumes. (I haven’t seen the TV series either.) Next is another well known entry, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, the story of a 30-something single woman looking for love and to lose weight. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks which explores the relationship of Noah and Ally in the time after the Second World War also turns 25 this year as does Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, a memoir of a recently divorced writer who buys a villa in Tuscany.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Spooner, first in The Queen’s Thief, once again a fantasy series was published in 1996. In this one, the King’s Scholar who knows the site of a treasure, selects Gen, a thief from prison to reach it. (The final book in this series came out this year.) The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (which I’d thought was non-fiction but isn’t, though I think it is self-help, right?) was also first published 25 years ago.

Alias Grace by Canadian author and Booker winner a Margaret Atwood is about Grace Marks who is convicted of involvement in her employers’ murders but is serving her life sentence with no memory of the murders. The year is 1843. An expert in mental health tries to speak to her and get her to remember what unfolded on the day.

Last in my list are two books I’ve actually read, The Runaway Jury by John Grisham which is set around a trial against a tobacco company when something strange begins to happen with the jury; one person is certainly not as he seems. It’s been ages since I read it but I do remember enjoying it, though I don’t recall the details. The second is a more recent read, Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett which I read early last year. This is part of the Citywatch books; in Ankh Morpokh, Golems (usually hard workers) are being secretly sold, and begin to act a little strange, also some mysterious deaths take place. This was a great combination of a mystery, humour and deeper observations about the lives we live.

50: Published in 1971

I only found a few titles that stood out to me among those turning 50 in 2021. In this list is the first of two Agatha Christies that have anniversaries this year, Nemesis, the last of the Miss Marple books. In this one she receives a bequest with a rather interesting condition from Mr Rafiel whom she had met and allied with in the Caribbean Mystery. This is to go on a certain tour and solve a problem, only she must also figure out what the problem is, first. Naturally a murder mystery is involved. This was a good one but very different from the usual Marple books.

Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal is a thriller about a professional assassin contracted to kill the French President Charles De Gaulle; this went on to be a really successful book also turned into a film in 1973.

Judith Kerr’s partly autobiographical tale of a Jewish family that had to flee Germany at the start of the second world war, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit was also published in 1971. At nine years old, Anna is concerned with school and toboganning but suddenly she finds her life changing too fast for her to understand.

Last in this section, we have another children’s book that deals with a very relevant subject, of how us humans are destroying our planet. Dr Suess’ The Lorax tells the story of the Lorax who speaks for the trees and the Once-ler who destroys them, and with it the planet.

75: Published in 1946

Among books turning seventy-five this year are quite a few that I’ve read and enjoyed, and also one that I have thought I would read for years but haven’t and another that I have been hearing so much about but am still uneasy about picking up. Let’s start with the lighter ones.

First on this list is The Hollow by Agatha Christie which is both a character study and mystery in one; we have the eccentric Lady Angkatell (vaguely based if I remember right on AC’s mother–am too lazy to check) who invites Poirot to lunch where he arrives to witnesses what he thinks is an attempt at a murder game in bad taste. But it turns out there is no game and Lady Angkatell’s arrogant and narcissistic nephew John has in fact been murdered; this one has a collection of characters with complicated relationships and lives which Poirot must unravel. Another mystery, turning 75 is one the author of which also has an anniversary this year. The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin featuring Oxford Don Gervase Fen is I think his best known mystery in which Fen investigates a toy shop which is replaced overnight by a grocery shop. While I haven’t read this one, I have read and enjoyed a couple of other Fen titles.

Next is Prisoners of the Sun by Hergé is the follow up to The Seven Crystal Balls in which a group of scientists included Prof. Calculus had mysteriously disappeared while in this one, Tintin and Captain Haddock arrive on their trail to Peru, and try and rescue them from their captors. This one has the very memorable episode in which a llama spits on Captain Haddock and the latter has his revenge. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (or the Secret of Moonacre in its film version) is the story of Maria Merryweather who must go live with a relative in Moonacre manor with her governess Miss Heliotrope, after Maria loses her father. There she finds magic, wonderful food, but also family troubles that she must resolve. Another children’s title turning 75 is the first of the Malory Towers books, First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton where the short-tempered but otherwise nice Darrell Rivers arrives at Malory Towers in Cornwall hoping to make friends but finds this isn’t as easy as it seems. But this is not the only Enid Blyton in this category. An absolute favourite of mine, The Folk of the Faraway Tree, the third of the Faraway Tree books is also turning 75. In this one the children–Jo, Bessie, and Fanny’s rather nasty cousin Connie comes to visit, and they take her up the Faraway Tree and introduce her to their friends. But Connie tries to act a little to smart and must pay for it; when she learns her lesson (or almost does), she does join the children in helping their friends and also saving the tree when it is in trouble. In this one the Saucepan man ends up ordering Bear Tart and Cream since he can’t hear very well.

Daphne Du Maurier’s The King’s General, set among the turbulent English Civil War, tells the story of Honor Harris who has been in love with Richard Grenvile, the King’s General of the title.

In 1946 was also published The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and written during his imprisonment, tracing the country’s journey from the Indus Valley Civilization to the time the book was written.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, which is a memoir of the author’s experiences at a Nazi concentration camp, and the responses that he and his fellow prisoners had. This one I keep putting off even thinking about reading because I know this will be a difficult one; but it is certainly one that needs to be read.

100: Books Published in 1921

Aldous Huxley’s first novel Crome Yellow turns a hundred this year. A social satire, the story is told from the perspective of poet Denis Stone who is invited by Priscilla and Henry Wimbush to join their summer guests which include an assortment of eccentrics. I had actually entirely forgotten that I have read this one, but see from my Goodreads review that I liked but didn’t ‘love’ the book. Published in the same year (a book which I thought was much older) is the swash-buckling Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini, set amidst the French Revolution. In this we have Andre-Louis Moreau, a lawyer raised by a nobleman, who joins a band of actors, assuming the role of Scaramouche and also assisting the revolutionaries. Alongside there is the story of his young ‘cousin’, Aline, daughter of the nobleman by whom he’s been raised and who is going to be married to an older suitor whom Andre-Louis does not approve of. (In the sequel Andre-Louis finds himself disillusioned by the revolutionaries, and part of another power game.)

Rilla of Ingleside, the final novel of the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery tells the story not of Anne but of Anne and Gilbert’s youngest daughter Rilla. At fifteen with all her other siblings grown up, Rilla dreams of her first dance and the handsome Kenneth Ford but a far-away war is also threatening life in Ingleside as Rilla’s brothers go off to fight while she brings home a newborn.

Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon, tells of a wandering minstrel who helps a lovelorn young man by telling stories to six milkmaids who are guarding his beloved; each is a fairy tale, magical and dreamy. I have featured this one on Shelf Control before but am yet to actually read the book. This year might be just the right time to do that.

A 1921 book which I did read a few years ago is Prithvi Vallabh by K.M. Munshi. The original is in Gujarati but I read the English translation. A historical romance, I found this unusual since the central ‘romance’ was between much older characters, not the usual teenagers; not only that our heroine is a strong character who actually rules and wields power in her kingdom.

Next on my list is Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey which is of course a bio of sorts of her; this one if I remember right did not have the caustic tone that hos other bios did but is enjoyable and informative all the same. Finally, Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Anna Christie, where the titular character goes to spend sometime with her father, a coal barge captain she doesn’t know too well. There she meets and falls in love with a sailor Mat, and soon finds herself caught between the expectations of the two.

100: Some Authors’ Anniversaries

Patricia Highsmith
AnonymousUnknown author / Harper & Brothers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kicking off at the beginning of the year, on 19 January, American author Patricia Highsmith turns 100. Known for her pyschological thrillers including The Talented Mr Ripley and others featuring Mr Ripley as well as Strangers on a Train, a book adapted multiple times and the plot of which I’ve seen in different versions as well. I haven’t read her yet but hope to this year.

Satyajit Ray
Rishiraj Sahoo, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Turning 100 in May 2020 is Satyajit Ray, known perhaps better for being a movie director. But he is on this list because he has also written short stories and novels featuring among others the sleuth Pradish Chandra Mitra or Feluda, who solves mysteries with his nephew Topshe and mystery-writer Lal Mohan babu. Another of his creations is Professor Shonku, a scientist who lives with his servant Prahlad and cat Newton and has adventures around the world.

In September we have the centenary of Richard Gordon, author of the ‘doctor’ series of humorous books, while in October, Edmund Crispin or Robert Bruce Montgomery author of the Gervase Fen series of mysteries turns 100. Montgomery was also a composer who wrote scores for some of the Carry On films. Also in October Indian cartoonist and humorist R.K. Laxman celebrates his 100th.

200: Books and Authors

Since I only had one book for this category but a handful of authors, I decided to club them together. Turning 200 this year is another Walter Scott novel Kenilworth. A historical romance and one of the Waverley novels, this one tells of the romance of Robert Dudley, first Earl of Leicester and Amy Robsart, daughter of Sir Hugh Robsart during the reign of Elizabeth I. But Sir Robert wishes to keep this a secret to further his ambitions at court.

Dostoevsky
Source: By Vasily Perov – kgHBFHS7SpcayQ at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13499483

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of among others, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov turns 200 this year on 11 November. His books which look into the human mind among other things give one plenty of food for thought.

Next on my list are two Frenchman, an author and a poet both of whom turn 200; Poet Charles Baudelaire, who was a poet but also essayist and art critic was born on 9 April 1821 while novelist Gustave Flaubert, best known for his debut Madame Bovary was born on 12 December. Coincidentally, I read both their works (the only time I read them) for a course I took, and I can’t say I liked Madame Bovary very much.

Richard Francis Burton by Rischgitz
Rischgitz/Stringer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Last on this list is Richard Francis Burton, explorer and translator of One Thousand and One Nights. I haven’t really read this version but I came across Burton in a book I had read a couple of years back, The Book Hunters of Katpadi by Pradeep Sebastian in which a group of collectors obsessed with Burton’s work charge our protagonists to trace and vet a new manuscript that has surfaced and stated to be by Burton. Burton was born on 19 March 1821.

300: Author

Tobias Smollett
Unidentified painter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Finally I have no book but an author born in 1721 who thus turns 300 this year, Tobias George Smollett. The author of picaresque novels like The Adventures of Roderick Random, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, his works were read by Charles Dickens who mentions them in some of his works as well. I happened to find a copy of Humphry Clinker some years ago and read it, and I found I liked it more than I had expected to. But this year I must find time for a revisit.

So that’s my list of book and author anniversaries that stood out to me this year; I will be trying to pick up some of these titles during the year and will post about them it I do.

Have you read any of the books on my list? Which ones and how did you like them? Or do you plan to read any of these? Any book or author anniversaries that you’d like to add to my list? Looking forward to your thoughts and comments!

All cover images are from Goodreads, and I’ve linked my reviews to books that I have reviewed on this page or GR.

Shelf Control #120: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Wednesday, the 30th of December, and time for Shelf Control once again–the last one of 2020 if you can believe it! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick is a relatively newer acquisition and not surprisingly once again a mystery–The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey. Last year I read and reviewed A Murder at Malabar Hill which was the first in this series set in 1920s India featuring the fictional Pervin Mistry, India’s first female lawyer (based on the real-life Cornelia Sorabji and Mithan Tata Lam). Pervin has struggled against all odds (though she does belong to a relatively well-to-do family of lawyers) to get her degree but can’t practice since female lawyers are not socially accepted at this point. So she joins her father’s firm where as luck is on her side, a case comes in involving three purdhnashin widows (in seclusion), who only she can speak to being a woman. Of course, there is a murder mystery involved which she solves as well. Alongside we go back in time and learn more about Pervin’s life so far. This was a book I really enjoyed and so when the sequel came out, of course I had to get it. I bought this one around mid-October.

This, the second installment, take us to 1922, and to a fictional princely state. India had around 560 princely states until independence, and though most were in an alliance with the British, their internal matters were largely their own. In this book, we travel to Satapur, a princely state in the Sahyadri Mountains where after the Maharaja and his teenage son’s death, the dowager queen and her daughter-in-law rule. A lawyer is found to be required when the two ladies end up in a dispute over the young crown prince’s education. Of course the Maharanis live in purdah, and so it must be a woman lawyer who meets them–and that of course is Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer. In the Satapur Palace, Pervin finds cold-blooded power play and vendettas. Before long she falls into a trap–can she escape and save the royal children?

From reviews, it seems this installment is not as enjoyable as the first one though it is still a good one. And since I enjoyed the first one so much and love historical mysteries, I do want to give this one a try. What interests me most is the setting in a princely state–I know of them but would want to know what life there was really like–not very pleasant it seems from teh description. A third installment in this series also featuring a Prince, The Bombay Prince is supposed to come out next year.

Have you read this one? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Find Lisa’s pick this week, Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris here.

Book info and cover image from Goodreads here