One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

AUTHOR : AGATHA CHRISTIE

*No spoilers*

The 23rd Hercule Poirot story, but only the fourth Christie I’ve ever read. Perhaps I should have started in sequence of publication, I don’t know, but no matter. The story here begins with pain. Dental pain that Hercule Poirot faces, like every man and is eyeing his fellow patients as he waits at a dentist’s’, with great suspicion. It is true and AC displays some brilliant observational skills of the human psyche when she relates personal pain as being projected onto the world, giving one a negative view of everyone while in that state. Shortly after being freed of said pain, Poirot is given news of the passing of his dentist, Dr. Morley and this is really where our story begins. An innocent dentist is dead; did he kill himself or was he killed? The see-saw of this question keeps shifting sides throughout the story till the very end and every co-patient of Poirot’s or co-inhabitant of Dr.Morley’s establishment at the time of the death is understandably a piece of the puzzle. There aren’t many remarkable characters in this book, save Poirot himself. Inspector Japp (who I’ve not seen in any of the other books I’ve read) and Poirot share a something of a cross between a Sherlock-Lestrade-and-Sherlock-Watson-ish bond, chiefly because of Poirot’s more amiable personality and that is nice to see.
The story is fast paced for a while but towards the 60% mark, it seems to start dragging a little. I haven’t felt this in the other 3 works of hers I’ve read. But towards the end, it accelerates again to the point of impossibility of putting the book down because “you Just Have to Know”.


On the whole, a pretty good mystery. I liked it.

Subjective Rating: 4.2/5

Ants

I don’t know anything about ants

On my kitchen platform sits a steel plate. This is not the permanent position of said plate. It has been placed there only temporarily and at the time was for the purposes of holding something that will be described in the very next para.

The steel plate, last night, was filled with some quantity of water, perhaps to the 75% mark and squarely in the center of the circular plate sat a plastic container which housed, as of that moment, 2 Gulab Jamuns.

It was 1 AM and I found myself at the crossroads of DecisionLand. On the one hand, there was the healthy, sane option of brushing my teeth, drinking a glass of warm water and going to bed at (what is now considered) a reasonably early hour. On the other, there was the far more tempting, but highly detridental option of tiptoeing to the kitchen and gorging on the gulab jamuns that had been procured earlier that evening. Why, you may ask, must an adult tiptoe in the comfort of his own home. But this is the vice of a habit developed by an individual who has been a minor for some years longer than he has been a legal adult.

Anyway, I found myself in the kitchen with my hand on the plastic container before the results of thorough deliberation were out. And it is at this point that I noticed One ant. A lone warrior, clinging to the side of this container and if it had eyes that I could spot, possibly they would have been full of focus waiting for this precise moment when a human would come and unblock its way to what-it-had-no-doubt smelt its way to – sweet, divine ant-treasure. I wondered how it had made its way across the body of water in the plate but did not linger much on it. Meanwhile, evident that things had not gone the way the Warrior Ant had planned, it darted in the direction opposite the cover sensing perhaps that I had spotted it before the cover was opened. For good measure, I lifted the box out of the “pool” and decided to open it held in my hands, away from a place of familiarity to the Warrior, who had by now dropped into the water below. And it is at this point, that I noticed an extremely disturbing sight. Close to 20 more ants lay scattered in the water, some hidden from view by the box that was now in my hands, and some in plain sight that I had simply not seen. These were Warriors who had not made it to the Holy Jamun Land :O My mind at this time was racing with multiple thoughts, some for the Fallen Warriors, some about the box in my hand. What if the Warrior was just the last one who was about to enter the box and many had already succeeded and were now already partaking of its contents? What would I see when I opened the box?

I stood in silence for a few seconds contemplating the possibilities. It was probably a lesser duration than I exaggerate at this point, but the thoughts were there. “Let’s assume that the worst has not happened”, I thought, “and that this singular Warrior was the only one to make it. “. How did he (not necessarily, might have been a Wonder Womant as well, but for the purposes of this anecdote) make it? Had there been a plan of attack? Was this the leader of the troop? Had the army decided that it would be sufficient if one mant made it, for the greanter good? Was this the ant version of a heist? Did ants have heists? I’d learnt in the few minutes that I’d concentrated in my biology classes back in school that there was fierce collaboration in ant colonies, but was this a part of it?

I moved closer to the platform and looked again at the fallen Warriors….Noble souls, one and all. They drifted there…unaware of their sacrifice’s futility. I placed the box on the side and sadly emptied the contents of the plate into the sink. This was the order of Nature and I was a cold blooded ant disposer 😦 I refilled the contents of the plate with some more water than before, making the moat a little harder to wade than before …My heart wept for the sacrifices to come as I thought about the next batch of Warrior Ants that would indulge in the pursuit of sweet fortunes..And my mind decided. No more.

There would be no more mindless sacrifices. No more Ant drownings.

Not on my watch.

I opened the box and popped the last two Jamuns in my mouth.

Time to brush and go to sleep.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Author : Hiro Arikawa

*No spoilers*

So I started this book in the first week of August and I didn’t make much progress for most of the month. But day before yesterday, I hit the 40% mark and that’s where I was hooked.
Nana is a stray cat who’s fiercely independent and doesn’t care for humans; He even only begrudgingly and helplessly accepts the care of the human who nurses him back to health when he’s hit by a car. Once he’s healed, he stays with him out of sheer “eyeroll-y” gratitude but then eventually warms up to him. The cat’s travelling chronicles begin when Satoru, after 5 years of living with Nana, has come to the decision of finding him a new home for reasons that are divulged way later in the book. And at every stop that they make, Nana finds a way to create problems just enough that Satoru has to accept failure in making that place Nana’s next residence and the journey goes on.
Hiro Arikawa does not shy away from wilfully taking time to describe the sights along the journey, the flowers, the Pampas, Mount Fuji and other beautiful scenes that they pass through. He also fleshes out the few but memorable characters that Satoru interacts with , so much so that you cannot forget them and the relationships they share with Satoru as friends or as a family member or even a former pet. I’m blown away by the consistency with which he’s put himself in the paws of a cat throughout with zero slips and as a reader, so are you.
And then there is the moment where there is the equivalent of a series of plates crashing where you don’t see it coming or rather, I didn’t see it coming and before I knew it, I was sobbing like a little baby. And even though I’ve said what I said and you’ve read what you’ve read, you will forget my words and you won’t know when to expect the tug at the heartstrings. It will happen when it does and I hope you can find your way back to this post to tell me it did.
And you are right, Nana :’) Humans can never claim to be as smart as a cat 🙂

My pace of reading the book over time

Subjective Rating: : 5/5

Flowers for Algernon

Author : Daniel Keyes

Yes, there are spoilers. Please don’t read this if you haven’t already read the book and intend to.
Charlie was just a guy who wanted to fit in, you know? He just wanted to be smart “like everyone else” and understand what people said and..fit in. That’s why he tried so hard. He jumped through every hoop Dr.Nemur and Dr. Strauss showed him and he got his wish. He became smart. He became smarter. He became the smartest person humankind ever possibly knew.
Life would be so simple and happy if that was the end of the story. We love happy endings, don’t we. We want the underdog to succeed. We want a triumphant person at the end of a story. Maybe that’s what we get at the end; I’m not going to give anything away. But I will tell you about the process to that end. Charlie Gordon has an IQ of 68 when the story begins and life has been extremely hard for him – being abandoned by his parents, working at a bakery where he seems to have been given a chance from his perspective, but we can see they’re plain bullies there, having fun at Charlie’s expense and he bears it all with a grin and a laugh, because he wants to have friends. He thinks they Are his friends. And that heart of his is what makes you want to take the entire journey with him through his journal, go through everything he’s gone through, through his memories of his mother – Rose, his father -Matt and his sister, Norma….
The only glimmer of sunshine Charlie has or seems to have through this gloomy cloud of a fast-paced IQ-rising life of his is Alice Kinnian, one of his tutors at the facility where Charlie is to undergo treatments and eventually therapy sessions. In her, Charlie finds love and safety and I love that Daniel Keyes had her as a character.
Another character that is constantly alluded to and is really, the titular character is Algernon, a mouse that Charlie is pitted against at the beginning. It’s heartening to see how Charlie’s relationship with Algernon changes, even if one-sided – first as a goal, then as a rival, then as a subordinate and subsequently as a pet. The symbolism of Algernon’s microcosmic journey is telling and when flowers Are placed for Algernon, one can’t help but feel the ground drop from under them even if they have been expecting it.
At the core of it, Flowers for Algernon is, in my opinion, about relationships – the relationship with one’s self, with those you count friends, those you count lovers, those you count superiors and others. Underneath the veil of a man climbing a ladder of IQs was a man ..

  • a man who wanted to climb it purely to be like everyone else, to have that which was taken away from him his whole life,
  • a man who never had a childhood other children seem to have,
  • a man who never felt the love of his mother for who he truly was or the pride of his father for what he could be if he could be anything at all,
  • a man who eventually wanted to love and be loved by his friends, by a partner, by a sibling.

A man who wanted to matter.

If there was one thing i would have liked that seemed missing, it would have been a proper reconciliation with his father. But oh well…

This was a beautiful story.
Thank you Daniel Keyes.

“She said never mind but I shouldn’t feel bad if I find out everybody isn’t nice like I think. She said for a person who God gave so little to you did more than a lot of people with brains they never even used.”

Flowers for Algernon, Pg 26

Subjective Rating: : 4.9/5

Fan

The fan hung lazily and looked at the other occupants of the room – A lamp, a table, a chair and a human. The human seemed lost in thought. And he didn’t seem like he would be getting off the chair anytime soon. Which meant the fan wouldn’t have to move anytime soon either. That was a relief. It sighed noiselessly. As its eyes drifted from one wing to another looking at through its limited, yet relatively broad perspectives, it got a different angled view of the room everytime. It wondered what the human was thinking about. He didn’t seem to do much at all. He always sat there for most of the day, except to get up and look through a slit in the door and yell at a passerby (what what could be made out) – the fan had learnt a lot of what we humans take for granted, purely by observing and listening over the time it had hung around in the room since its time of installation. Two years . Had it only been that long? It had spun so much, that it felt a bit more woozy everytime. And maybe it was imagining things but it seemed to be descending a bit more of late. Oh well. The mind, even a metallic one can play tricks on you if you’re as dizzy as you were after tens of minutes of spinning.
It jerked out of its reverie as the man got up from his chair.
“Oh boy. Here we go again”, it thought to itself.
He walked up to the only switch on the wall and turned it on.
Slowly, the fan began to spin. 30 rpm….60 rpm…130 rpm…200 rpm..All the way upto its maximum set 350 rpm. The fan felt breathless at this point. It wasn’t a new sensation, but this time, it felt a bit more breathless than usual. It gave in and tried to become one with the spin.
But something…something was wrong.
The stem gave way and jerked away from the ceiling, tipping to one side first and within the fan could realize it, the cable connecting it to the ceiling Snapped and it spun at an angle, into the air, in an arc and towards the unsuspecting man.
The fan closed its eyes as it unintentionally sliced the man’s head clean in two and crashed into the wall opposite his seat just above the table.
It tried to open its eyes…No..eye..The other eye seemed to be missing. And it realized that it had no sensation anywhere else. But it didn’t matter.
The spinning had stopped.

PS – Please don’t be alarmed. This is only …a fan fiction….😂🧐 I’m sorry for the nightmares.

The Silent Patient

Author : Alex Michaelides

This book got me out of my reading slump and into a frenzied reading pace, resulting in me finishing it in less than a week. And this should be review enough to serve as a recommendation for anyone else considering to pick this up as their next read, but there’s so much more I have to say about it.
When you think about a book, there are a lot of factors to consider – the plot, the characters, the locations, interpersonal relationships, facts, consistencies etc. The strongest factor in this debut book by Alex Michaelides is definitely Time (or timelines, if you prefer). The narrative alternates between the voices of Alicia Berenson (the titular character) and Theo Faber (the psychotherapist, who is determined to make her talk), but the shift is always seamless, and that I believe is an excellent trait in storytelling. Their timelines are the past and the present respectively. The former goes about narrating her, Alicia’s life with Gabriel (her husband) and their relationship, their stories that circle around Max (Gabriel’s brother), Paul (Alicia’s brother) and a couple of other recurring characters. While she is battling a lot of antagonistic external elements in her life, there are some inner demons as well that she constantly is forced to face. The latter revolves around Theo’s own journey into his profession and his life post joining The Grove, a life he’s decided to begin with the sole purpose of “rescuing” Alicia, all the while coming to terms with his own challenges at home. What follows is a tale of following-the-breadcrumbs, as Theo undertakes a investigative trip down Alicia’s memory lane and goes about meeting all her former associations to understand her life and to attempt to help her break her silence.
I will not tell you if he succeeds or fails. But I will tell you that this book is more than a set of psychotherapist-patient interviews, not that you ever thought it was. Jokes apart, it’s a thoroughly well written book that destigmatizes therapy a lot, and also makes you introspect, delve into your own psyche…question your voids and wonder if you are as whole as you thought you were or if you’re really at peace with yourself, make you feel lucky for having a wholesome childhood, because, as Alex believes, that’s where it all begins –

As babies, we are innocent sponges, blank slates, with only the most basic needs present: to eat, shit, love, and be loved. But something goes wrong, depending on the circumstances into which we are born, and the house in which we grow up. A tormented, abused child can never take revenge in reality, as she is powerless and defenseless, but she can—and must—harbor vengeful fantasies in her imagination. Rage, like fear, is reactive.“.

The Silent Patient, pg. 141

Oh, and it has one heck of a plot.
You’ll never see it coming. And when you do…🤯

Subjective Rating: 4.5/5

Six of Crows

Author : Leigh Bardugo
Succeeded by : Crooked Kingdom

I didn’t know what to expect when I started the book. I just associated it with the word “heist”. I didn’t read the blurb at the back for some reason before I started it, but I was given to understand that it was good , so I decided to give it a shot. I went in thinking about “Ocean’s 11”, “Now you see me” etc.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the characters as they were being fleshed out, each more enigmatic than the last – the best of all being the main anti-hero Kaz Brekker. What a well-created character! But just as I falling in love with him, the other characters – Jasper, Inej , Nina and even Matthias and Wylan were given their backstories and it was impossible to restrict my affection to just the bastard of the Barrels. I liked that none of them were..perfect. They all had their flaws, their weaknesses and most of all, motives. Each of them had a reason for being a part of the plot. This is a good segue into the plot itself – It wasn’t a straight B & E and the number of obstacles in their path were to be many. The fact that Matthias and Wylan were familiar with the target destination was of assistance without making it too convenient. The minor twists towards the 60-70% mark were very welcome even though things were never boring, even till then. I loved the non-overt romantic relationship between Matthias and Nina, the description of discovery of feelings Kaz has for Inej and vice-versa and even the dynamics between Jesper and Wylan. It was a nice journey to see of a somewhat dysfunctional team coming to trust each other over the course of the mission.
The introduction of the Grishaverse terminologies took some getting used to but despite not having read the other books in the universe, I was still able to understand the different specialties of each of the Grisha – the Fabrikators, the Heartrenders etc. Good magic system. All of this takes place in a city called Ketterdam and Bardugo builds place descriptions just as vividly as she builds character sketches.
Overall, I completely enjoyed the book and, being part of a duology definitely has a story to complete. I look forward to reading “Crooked Kingdom”.
4/5.

Subjective Rating: 4/5

Shadows of Self

Author : Brandon Sanderson
Preceded by : Alloys of Law
Succeeded by : Bands of Mourning

The second book in the Wax and Wayne trilogy (Not sure if there’s a fourth book to come?) is titled “Shadows of Self” and is titled so, in my opinion, because there’s some heavy introspection that goes on in this book – both on Wax and Wayne’s part. We get some deeper insights into what makes these characters tick in this book. The plot revolves around a rogue murderer that’s going around creating all sorts of mayhem in the city, shaking its very political pillars in the process, starting with the killing of the governor’s brother and it’s upto Wax, Wayne and Marasi to get to the bottom of it. Brandon Sanderson’s magic system itself is somewhat diminished in its use here and the book seems to revolve more around the characters’ interpersonal relationships and how they grow in the process.

Marasi learns how to be more effective in her new role as a detective (having abandoned her original career as a solicitor), traversing the different challenges her office throws at her by way of petty jealousy from her colleagues, Wax and Steris learn to be a little more comfortable with each other, even as Wax is tormented by visions of his old paramour Lessie and even Wayne is shown to have a regretful side, a face we would not expect the playful, impish character to have. There is this amazing flashback-exchange between Wax and his uncle that reveals how Wax was a “lawman” even as a young boy. There is no dearth of excellent dialogues that are very relevant even in our non-allomantic dull real world which suck you into the book the way only Sanderson can. The villian, revealed to be a kandra, plays an important role as well (actually, a-duh-moment), exploiting the weaknesses of Wax and society as a whole.

This book is.. good – the story, the familiar characters, the fights – they’re all very good. I don’t bemoan the time I spent reading it, because I really had fun. But it falls short of a 5-star because the original Mistborn trilogy was still So much better. Let’s see if the next book in the series – Bands of Mourning can change this opinion of mine.

Subjective Rating: 4/5

K is for Kitten

The person on the bike in front of me didn’t move even after all the vehicles in front of him had moved and I thought, “Oof, a stall so early in the morning. Poor guy.”. I made a move to go around him, but he stuck his hand out and I halted. I looked at him and followed his line of sight onto the road where there was a tiny kitten looking very agitated and confused, at everything around it. It all happened within a fraction of seconds – I braked hard and like a daisychain of hands stuck my hand to stop the vehicle on my right, but the person who stopped hadn’t seen the cause yet and the car on his right moved on, in the interval of which the kitten had darted across the road right in the path of this car. I yelled inconsequentially. The car, incredibly luckily moved right over the kitten and it stood there unscathed. Two men on the bike I’d stopped yelled at me for all of 3 seconds before grasping the situation themselves. I yelled back, asking them to help me catch the kitten and release it to safety. One of them jumped to action and stopped the goods vehicle behind him and the other guy and I ran behind the kitten, our vehicles abandoned on the middle of the road. The next minute was a blur, in which the kitten had managed to find himself stuck right on top of the wheel of the goods vehicle Boy ‘A’ had just stopped. With Boy ‘B”s help, we carefully extricated the kitten from under the vehicle and amidst its frantic, clueless struggles to get free, picked it up and dropped it off at a building by the side of the pavement. By now, a longer line of vehicles had assembled, blocked by our vehicles in the way. Relieved and satisfied about the kitten’s safety, we hastily got back onto our vehicles and thanked each other awkwardly.

It was a small thing, but I shudder to think what would have happened if the first biker had been just as carefree and careless as the rest of us. What if he’d been as apathetic as the biker on his left who in fact, scolded this guy callously and moved on even after assessing the scene? What if he hadn’t noticed the struggling kitten in his path and stopped sensibly?

But he did.

And as long as there are people who will stop for a kitten, the world will never be a bleak place.

A Wednesday Evening

I sat down on the pavement facing the sunset and opened up the Parle-G packet. There must have been others who followed the crackling opening of the cover with the subsequent sating of his hunger , for he bounded up to me from nowhere at the sound.

Unexpected but welcome, the visitor padded the ground next to my feet and looked in turn at me and the yellow cover in my hand. I held one of the biscuits out in front of him and he bit at it from my hand pausing right at the intersection between my fingers and the biscuit. He waited eagerly and yet patiently, while I had one as well.

We repeated the activity till the cover had been deprived of its contents entirely. 10 minutes? 15 minutes? 20? I’d lost track. I patted the top of his head gingerly and he reciprocated with a gentle nuzzle against my palm.

The light drowning us by now was artificial. The sun had set.