Monthly Wrap-Up – February

February was a pretty busy and criminally thrilling month for me. I was occupied with University studies but I also read great books; four of them to be exact. (listed in order of reading)

#1 – The Bombyx Mori by Robert Galbraith – This was a pretty interesting read for me because after the average Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith (totally new author, it’s just his second book *sarcasm intended*) fused a great story with memorable characters (not only main characters) in such a potent way that it kept me guessing at all times and the mystery that grew with each page was exciting and whenever it felt a little stretched, it was saved by maturing characters.

(If you want my review on it, The Silkworm Review)

#2 – The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman – As Silkworm was a stretched criminal case, it was evident that I won’t pick another crime book. So I picked up The Graveyard Book. It was such an pleasant surprise because I was expecting nothing from this book. I heard about Neil Gaiman before and about his books but I totally picked it up randomly after I saw this on sale; I liked the cover and I bought it. This is a young-adult mixed with ghosts and humor. I have never been a person who likes short stories because they end up too quickly before I can get into it but this is the book that changed it for me. In such a little time it told a story about growing up and the problems that we all have faced in our adolescence age. It was seeming normal in the beginning and I thought I won’t like it all that much but it turned out to be my ‘favorite’ book of February because I could relate to it so much and how it left me in emotion I thought this book wouldn’t even conceive in the first place.

(I will review this book soon)

#3 – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – I picked it up as soon as I got my hands on it because one of my friend was hyping me towards reading this book and it is Agatha Christie, who haven’t read Agatha Christie? huh, huh? Well, I didn’t too. That was before this. The story of this book really intrigued me because it was based off a poem, a poem (who does that now-a-days? NO ONE!! no one that I could think of anyway). I really enjoyed this book although the ending was a little ‘easy way out’ for me but I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Agatha Christie. Maybe she wrote a book on “Ba Ba Black-sheep”. Meh eh eh eh eh eh eh.

(You can check out my review here, And Then There Were None Review)

#4The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins – This book has been in buzz since quite a while now. It won best thriller of 2016 on Goodreads awards, and its premise seemed exciting, “You don’t know her, but she knows you”. It seemed creepy and absorbing at the same time and what was wrote on the back cover set it up like a supernatural thriller. Well, I was disappointed to say the least. Whatever sub-headings I read or the synopsis: it was all misleading. This book is a try at being Gone Girl all over again and it succeeds for the most part. It is written in same format, it have frustrated girls who doesn’t like their boyfriends or husbands and then there is some crime that happens and their lives are tangled up in this rehashed story. I was expecting a little bit of suspense but all I got was uninteresting characters which were as boring as staring at a wall (even that becomes interesting sometimes). I was surprised by the twist at the end though, maybe because by that time I gave up all the hope that I had from the story and I was reading it mindlessly, just wanting to get done with it. Everything about this book was misleading and uninteresting, this was just, Gone Girl on The Train.

Wrap Up: I read three crime & thriller and one YA novel. This was a one-sided month which I plan on changing. I will shift my focus over YA a little more and maybe read another crime novel (I am looking at you Robert Galbraith) but as you know, things never turn out to be the way you plan them, especially with new books popping up here and there all the time. I am determined though, lets see how long that lasts.

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Book Review – And Then There Were None

Before beginning the review, let’s play a game. Try to find the word ‘Soldier’ used in this review.

Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there was eight.

Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little soldier boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Crime fiction is a peculiar thing, you always want to know who did it but not every criminal story can be a peculiar one, most are expected for which they follow a pattern of a murder and finding the killer and then the story ends and it you either feel good about it (because you knew who it was) or feel bad about it(because you couldn’t find the murderer). You have been trying to find the killer restlessly ever since the murder took place but sometimes you can’t because sometimes nothing makes sense. Until it does. You don’t feel either bad or good because you couldn’t find the killer because it was literally impossible for you to guess because there were no clues about the killing in the story, these kind of crime leaves you with a feeling of abyss, because you were suppose to be the one who caught the killer or at least had a reasonable explanation of the killing but sometimes it leaves you somewhere in between,  And Then There Were None is that kind of a story.

Log #1

She created a whole book out of a poem, ingenious.

Ten Little Soldiers are called upon an island. Each of them is a different person than the other, but they have one thing in common: they all have some deep and dark secrets. Each of them is a criminal in his or her own rites, they have done something for which they were never punished, something that went under the radar and now all of them are on an island together, some of them have been called for a job or some of them have been called just for the sake of an old friend but shit hits the fan when all of them starts to die, Nine Little Soldiers, Eight Little Soldiers and one of them is a killer who is committing further murders (than he already committed in the past).

The murders that takes place are then associated with a poem that is written in all of those guests rooms. And as the murder progresses it gets more gruesome and more weird and weirder until it delivers the final blow and…..ENDS!!! You knew what was coming but you didn’t knew how it came and what was the reason behind it and it leaves it at that but as you turn some pages desperately trying to find what actually happened and why it ended like that, you come across a explanation about what you just read and that somehow seems unreasonable because it is difficult to catch someone in the act and it is easy to make up something after the story is finished, you can add some loose ends to make it work and it won’t affect the story all that much because what transpired can be manipulated in different ways and for that reason, this book could have also had multiple endings and multiple explanations depending on how good your imagination is and if you were like me and you have the imagination of Thomas the Tank Engine then the ending will leave you craving for something more.

Five little soldier boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little soldier boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little soldier boys going to the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little soldier boys playing with a gun; One shot the other and then there was one.

What was the answer for the question I asked in beginning of this review? How many times the soldier has been used (did you count them yourself or used a shortcut CTRL+F?), if you said the answer was 13-14, then you’re wrong because I used the word soldier more than that and you might notice I again used the word soldier so it makes a total of 18 soldiers. All of this might seem stupid and childish but I am doing this to prove a point, something might be foolish but it makes sense and that is the way I felt about the ending of this book.

Log #2

Somethings are not extraordinary but they leave you with a sense of craving, it can be a guilty pleasure, you can’t help but try to pick out the faults or predictability in it but you can’t help yourself to stop reading it either. I am feeling that right now.


 

And Then There Were None

I heard a lot about Agatha Christie and one of my friend recommended this book to me and I was very excited about the premise itself and the way it was executed and let us not forget that this was published in 1939 (I wasn’t even born for another 58 years) and I have no doubt that at that time, it would have been a criminalizing story because it is a great crime fiction book now. What this may not carry for modern readers is a sense of unexpectedness of what will happen in the story because it is all there in the beginning of them poem and the title itself is a spoiler but for me, what made this book such a riveting tale was the quick writing. Agatha Christie didn’t took time to establish the characters and their development was believable, you can write 600 pages and still not establish the characters properly into the story and it is easy to do that because you have a lot of time to do it but with a small book such as this (it’s as small as that hand of yours) it is hard to put characters into the story and come with a logical outcome that isn’t rushed and which transcends normal storytelling.

The ending looks like an easy way out because in the end, she could have made anyone the killer and it would have still worked because in the story there isn’t anything with which you can find the killer because there are no clues for you to find the killer, there are just, ‘happenings’ but that does not stop this from becoming a interesting story to read through, you will finish it before you could make sense out of the story and in the end it will all make sense and it will be justified. This was like a roller-coaster ride, it had it’s ups and downs but it was a great journey and when it was done, I just wanted to ride it again.

“One little soldier boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”

Book Review – The Silkworm

Log #1

“I have no Bombyx idea where this is going.”

(Before proceeding let’s open a case. How many misspelling of our hero “Corman” can you find in this review?)

Cormoran Strike (the Afghanistan War wounded doctor [no, he is NOT Watson] have been in headlines ever since he solved the Lula Landry murder and is doing pretty well for himself, except: his knee is getting worse, he have a secretary he can barely afford, he still lives in a shitty apartment, he have a couch which literally makes fart noises when someone sits on it, and he is still trying to get over his ex girlfriend; he is doing pretty well I suppose.

“On the surface it looks like a deliberate act of revenge and malice”

On an autumn day when Cormoran is almost tired of taking cases which literally involve creeping up on husbands whose wives think they are cheating on them,  comes another wife who wants Cormran to creep on her husband and thinks he is cheating on her. Way to go!!! What strikes Cormoran interesting in this case is, the husband is missing and his wife have crazy theories (too crazy to state here: for safety purposes of course) which involves his husband who is a writer (better than me, worse than Rowling herself) suddenly just taking off and not returning home in over a week or two, or three, depends on what kind of ‘missing’ we are talking about. And who has written a book called Bombyx Mori, which involves some controversial stuff which will, destroy some lives in a very peculiar way. But it all changes when Owen Quine (faithful husband and a writer) turns up dead, but his death is not something that you see on daily soap or CSI but rather something you see in a horror movie (probably Saw), it is that grotesque. And in midst of it all, Cormoran have to find a way to catch the killer and deal with his personal arrogance and emotions and most importantly, survive the winter (winter is coming).

Log #2

“This is not the story of who dunnit but rather why it was done. This is getting stretched a little. I won’t stop reading though, I like Bombyx Mori.”

What unfolds is an investigation as real as the blog you are reading and as suspenseful as estimating your ‘Amazon delivery’, trying to find out who done it. But the question here seemed to be not ‘who’ had done it but rather ‘why’ had they done it it requires a justification for the murder that took place and the reason behind the murder, and it can not be an obvious reason because no one rips a person apart (I am using simile to describe what took place, he was not actually ripped apart) because he slept with another girl or because he went into isolation.

“What murderer, hell-hound, devil can this be?”

In with Cormoran Strike on this case are wide variety of supporting characters which can either make you feel like they should be the ones doing the detective work or they shouldn’t even be here and Cormoran definitely didn’t need a brother or a sister or a uncle or whatever contacts that he have. Of course they maybe play an important part in plot progression but it could have progressed without their help; due to the risky nature of Cormoran. In middle of all of this is a beautiful secretary of Coromon named Robin (NO!! They are not Batman and Robin) who have issues of her own to deal with while managing to be a crucial part of both the case and Strike.


 

Closing The Case:

However much I did not like The Cuckoo’s Calling, my feelings for The Silkworm were complete opposite. While maintaining an equilibrium between character development and story progression; JK Rowling succeeds in showing London in its most beautiful time (probably) while dividing equal attention between all the characters and even giving them a brief (sometimes long) room for themselves, no matter where this story went, it always came back to its characters and also for showing the insight of a writer’s dilemma.

My biggest concern before going into this story was, how she would manage to give an insight into a writer’s life without being overly descriptive and staying as close to the story as possible without inserting forced situations. For the most part, my concerns were answered by a gripping and twisted story, that gets more convoluted by each page. I however, do feel that the book could have been shorter a good fifty pages, there were some situations which I felt were forced and sometime Rowling was being overly descriptive and too much of interviewing was starting to get a little tedious in the middle because of Rowling trying to explain too much while making you feel invested in the story. But when I got past that, the story was highly entertaining and even though I did not got a properly justified reason (for me at least) as to why it was done this way but in the end, I was satisfied and as it was the case with The Cuckoo’s Calling, the answer was obvious, it is always obvious. 

Sometimes, juxtaposing and balancing a story between personal and professional point of view can be hard to achieve, especially when a mystery grows by each page and you eventually have to give an answer while maintaining your sanity. Silkworm is about that balance, and it perfectly implements it without becoming tedious or repetitious.

“Doesn’t anyone ever call you that?” “Call me what?” “Lightning Strike?”

 

Book Review – The Great Gatsby

Some stories have characters who have deep and dark secrets which goes beyond human conscience; those secrets are one of the most dangerous secrets you could ever imagine them to be. But only a few secrets are as pleasant and pleasing as in The Great Gatsby.

“Gatsby, What Gatsby?”

“Who is Mr. Gatsby?”

“Why does he host such extravagant parties?”

“I heard he killed a man once.”

“I heard he was in American War.”

“I heard he’s a bootlegger.”

The speculation around who Jay Gatsby is something of a mystery that you would want to find out not because what his motive is but because why does he throw so many parties? Those parties are one of the best parties that I have witnessed in a book, mind you; but what makes those parties so special and why Mr. Gatsby feels inclined to throw so many parties to so many people? When weekend hits, Gatsby’s is the place to be. Whole New York is present in these parties and they are as bizarre as they can be, crazy as you can imagine them to be, they are parties you would want to be invited to.

Thus Nick Carraway receives an invitation to Gatsby’s parties. The reason he is mentioned so briefly (only his name is given to you by me) is because he is squeezed in the West Egg town between great mansions of Mr. Gatsby and other rich fellas. If you want to know about Nick Carraway, he is a Yale graduate, World War 1 veteran in his thirties, making a living by selling bonds.

Despite the name of the book, the story for almost half of the book seems like the one of Nick Carraway than of Jay Gatsby but as plot progresses, it becomes as much of Gatsby as it was of Carraway. Jay Gatsby had an intention and a favor to ask of Mr. Carraway and that favor will change their lives, forever.

“I knew it was a great mistake, for a man like me to fall in love.”

Roaring Twenties; was one of the most influential era’s in American History. It was a time for parties, jazz, dancing, television, but also at the same time, of patriotism. Booze was cheaper and cars were in fashion, new inventions that we use in our daily life now a days were taking their toll on people. Had it been not for the twenties, we wouldn’t so much celebrate the technology that we now so profoundly use; technology is at its peak in current modern times, there are new inventions almost every year, there are countless dance shows and Jazz is an amazing form of music and dancing, television that we watch almost every day does not have as much groove currently as it had before and had it not been for television, you might never have had Netflix,I know you have been binge watching Daredevil. Twenties was a time for party, but in midst of it all was one man, who did not care for these leisure. There was only one thing that he wanted, and it costed him almost; everything.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Briefly: The Great Gatsby is story of a man doing everything that he can to bring back his past, to relive those moments that he so desperately desires and the moments that he had so easily lost. Some memories should just fade away, but those who don’t, it turns a man into, well, Gatsby. I won’t go as far as to say that I loved every part of the book, that would be exaggeration but I would say that I enjoyed the book to the lengths that it gave me a brief idea what Roaring Twenties were, and another reason why I should not hold onto the past. I will forget Jay Gatsby sooner rather than later (as I already forgot Nick Carraway, most of him anyway) but no matter if I remember it or not, story of Jay Gatsby would be one of those odd stories that grabbed you in with its authentic style of writing (and wildly description for such an old book) and these crazy character who did bizarre things. The Great Gatsby might not have the most interesting of stories, or the greatest of characters but that ending will remain with me, for a little longer then I intend it to.

“We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Book Review – The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Log entry #1

“I don’t know how to describe this feeling. I am astonished, amazed, sad, happy and bewildered all at the same time. My eyes are giving up for I have been up all night. It is six a.m. I am dozing off but something is keeping me awake, my eyes might close, my mind may want to take a rest and sleep over it but I will not falter and fall asleep; no matter how much fairy godmother want me to sleep and no matter the quantity of fairy dust she throws in my eyes I will not fall asleep……because I simply can’t.”

It starts with an obsession, or love, as I would like to put it. Love for books, love for something that is unreal as much as that imaginary friend of yours was; DON’T tell me you didn’t have one, I know you did. Daniel one day is taken to Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father and is then given a choice, the hardest choice you could ever make, the choice to choose a single book, and single is a big word because he could not just make a pile and throw every book into his own bookshelf. Daniel had to choose one book that he will love and cherish for the rest of his life to come and a book speaks to him, a book named The Shadow of The Wind, Daniel picks it up and binge read the book in a day, the book was finished but little did he knew that this was just a beginning of something bigger, something that will take him and turn him into something different than what he had expected.

“Sometimes what matters isn’t what one gives but what one gives up.”

I went into the story with little to no idea whatsoever. I first thought of the story as a coming of age story about a boy who explores himself and what life is through the book, but then it turned into a thriller; a race to save what Daniel holds dear then it turned into a romantic story, then a tragedy and even horror. Everything was done so fluently that I did not even notice I was laughing but I felt heartbroken simultaneously. Reading through the story I started to feel that it was my own, not because the character was my reflection of adolescence age (it was not for the most part) but because the situations were those of similar to the ones we face and some of them we either already faced or some which are just awaiting us. It was so real that I lost track of time, I started at 2 a.m and now it’s almost morning, I didn’t know how time consumed me and I did not know what was happening around me. Was there an earthquake? Is it raining? Was I supposed to drink water? I was dehydrated by the time I realized that I have been reading for too long.

The Shadow of The Wind is a book that not only shows how characters and emotions drive a narrative but how much effective it can be and for how long it can play with your emotions before ditching you into a pile of mud which you saw on your way to a farm, in which pigs spend their entire days swirling around but it is not disgusting, not for them, it is fun and that is the pile of mud I am talking about, a pile of mud which have its own joys.

“Mysteries must be solved, one must find out what they mean”

Mysteries are all around us, we find them in everyday life. You heard some noises from that house next door, was it a ghost? Poltergeist? What was that sound? That burbling of water in the middle of the night? Did you hear someone knock or was it just your imagination? An answer to these mysteries (or questions) is rather simple. The one who is knocking might be your friend, someone might be boiling water next door to make noodles because he is a hungry person (and who wouldn’t be when you’re writing about a book at four in the morning? Now, where is that Oreo that mom hid?)

These are easy mysteries with a logical explanation but imagine if there is a loud thud on your door at three in the morning, it might be a friend but what kind of friend would knock so loudly on the door as to almost barge in? Then you heard a voice say, “FBI, open up.” This most likely won’t happen unless you are a criminal but what if you haven’t done anything wrong? A Thousand thoughts will cram your mind, what did I do? Did I do something? I was just cooking noodles, is it a crime now? This is a rather big mystery because you cannot excerpt what is exactly that you did. That is the mystery of The Shadow of The Wind. You can only guess but you just might not know because of little it tells you (Unless you’re a wanted criminal, you will know who knocks at your door).

Log entry #2

I think I will hide under the sheets and pretend that I am shivering because of cold. It is fear that has frightened me. I can’t even….I can…..I………..

By the end, the book did not leave me emotionally devastated because of how perfect the ending was. I thought it would drag a bit at the end but Carlos Ruiz Zafon found a perfect way to close the book without making you feel the need to want more. You do not want a sequel to this book, you do not want an additional word added to that ending, you do not want to cry at the end, you are not left with a cliffhanger, but when the book ends, you slide your hand around the backbone of the book, admiring its build and slowly closing it revealing that back page, the one that has the synopsis, smiling to yourself because how little did it explain and how much did you experience. It is perfection; most of all, it is closure.

Briefly: I began with The Shadow of The Wind with little to no expectations. But it none the less took me on a journey that went beyond my imagination, characters were well developed, the story was focused which attained elements from all genres. Barcelona was portrayed with such confidence and ambiguity that I felt as I was present there myself. It was fiction but it felt as real as this keyboard with which I am typing now. It did not broke my heart by the end (it did it way before it ended) but it had something that a few books lack nowadays, closure, there was a proper sendoff to the world and to the characters, there was this mystery that felt like my own, it captured my imagination like that empty blue sky does when you’re stuck in a boring class. It showed the love for books that we bear and lengths we would go to to protect that love. It was fun, it was heartbreaking, it was scary, and I know, in my own life, I will be searching for The Shadow of The Wind.

“Few books leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, those echo of behind, accompany us through our lives and sculpt away into our memory to which, sooner or later no matter how many books we read, how many worlds’s we discover, how much we learn or forget – we return.”