Reviewing the Red Queen Series

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It’s a world torn by difference, where some people are superior to the others. A daring girl from an oppressed community, different from the rest, sets out to change the world or die in the process. While on her quest, she has a chance encounter with secret community of rebels who works towards a similar goal, share the same enemies. She is torn between two suitors/lovers who seem equally good, are equally breath-taking and love her equally. Except over the course of series she’ll find one is not good enough and make her choice, after having spent enough time with both. Perhaps, you’ll pick a side too. The villains almost die to get their hands on this girl, who despite being not-so-powerful is the face of the rebellion. She  threatens to reveal who they really are, is captured, tortured, brought back again and the cycle goes on, till the greater cause of the secret community is revealed. Then everyone again makes choices and fights more battles. Before you even picked up the book, you knew it would have a bittersweet ending. All the way you hope that the protagonist survives. And your favourite characters as well.

Sounds Familiar? No, it is not the Hunger Games. Not Divergent either or the Lunar Chronicles.

I’m here reviewing the Red Queen Series, which is probably like every other dystopian young adult fantasy-fiction book out there. I know the blog title was a giveaway, so I am pretending you did not notice it.

The major problem with this genre is (at least, the books I have read), is despite the amount of new elements introduced to keep the reader thrilled, the elements seem stale, or stolen from some other fiction hit. The combination of the elements is definitely magical, and at the outset that would be the very reason you’d have considered reading one of them. However, once you set out to explore them in detail, the glamour wanes as quickly as the fragrance of a cheap perfume, unless it is bolstered by a meticulous world development or layered, relatable characters or marvellous plot that doesn’t get boring due to the narrator’s monotones or an impeccable writing style. The bestsellers perform well on one or two of the parameters, and are satisfactory at the most of the others. The lower priority parameters are mostly underperformed on.

These fictional worlds mostly are shallow or constricted, definitely not the ones you’d wish to lose yourself in, time and again. Mostly found written in the first person, they always border on over description and over detailing. Initially I thought this was the curse that came with the narrative, but reading the Bell Jar and Great Gatsby made me think otherwise. While it is enjoyable to be inside someone else’s head in a book, too much of cribbing or reminding or obviousness repels, so much so that you want to get out of their head, right then.

And yet they are hugely popular. They have a very good reason to be so.

The thrill, oh, the thrill! The plot is so action-packed that you are on the edge all the time. The moment it starts getting dull, well, a plot-twist drops and boom! You are again frantically turning pages to know what happened next, probably even peeping ahead to check if the characters survived. The unjust society and the villains make you hate them, the system and fuel your rage further. No matter how much you were annoyed or frustrated by the protagonist, you always find yourself rooting for her, wishing her and her loved ones well. You find the characters to be grey, imperfect and you love them all the same. Amidst all the emotional turmoil, both good and bad that the book has taken you through, you find that you can so easily relate to them.

Nearly all of them have that male lead (or couple of them) with charms that make you swoon, who makes you want to dip further down. Maybe the ship that you support or that starboy himself is another major reason why you follow till the end. The characters turned villains are very intriguing, especially with their tragic back stories that made them so twisted.

It wasn’t very difficult to figure out that all of them make good movie material, books that have already gathered a more-than-decent fan base. Evidence shows that the rights to their movies sold out very quickly.

Screenwriter Victoria Aveyard had sold the rights to the movie even before the book was released.  And rightly so. In spite of the many maladies it suffers due to it being another one from the dystopian YA genre, it is vivid, enthralling and captivating. The scenes are well constructed, and the characters are conflicted. Maybe even broken or twisted. The actions and situations look like they are out of a movie, and now we know why. Everything here is a shade of grey. Before long, you are already empathizing with the characters, their choices.. You relate. Perhaps even find a bit of yourself in them. And once you are done with this book, you find yourself thinking of the many what ifs, your mind wanders without control to the people in the pages.

In short, it is a reader’s delight.

Friends, Readers, Citizens of the Internet. May I have a moment to fangirl over Red Queen?

Of course I haven’t come to bury the series, but to praise it—even with its many flaws!

Call it the soft corner for X-Men like powers, or the undercutting politics of Game of Thrones, or the aura of the dystopian world, I loved the reading experience. Yes, you may judge me.

I picked the book because I couldn’t keep my eyes (or hands) off the cover. Literally. Goodreads ratings seemed to be decent enough for me to give it a try; being from a genre I liked helped as well. The first book was mediocre. I was amazed in the beginning, hooked on to the story and the elements, but as the pages kept turning, the interest faded—and for a while I didn’t even want to read the sequel, which was to  release in a couple of months. So I almost forgot about it, and went on to buy the book a whole year later. And then I even procrastinated reading that.

This would go down in my diary of disastrous blunders. The second book in the series turned out to be my favourite. It was also the trigger for me to buy the third immediately. These two books were devoured on ravenously, and consumed in a week’s time. Which was great progress, especially when I had to hunt for time to read. Most of the time was borrowed from my sleep.

I see an effort in world building, but yet it falls short. The writing was sloppy and sometimes tired me. With so many books of the genre already popular, this didn’t come exactly out as novel. What kept me going were the characters—good and evil, whose layers and choices always came to me as a pleasant surprise.  The pace helped a great deal, and so did the imagery that made everything seem as if it were happening in front of my eyes. These small factors were done artfully well, making it easy to become oblivious to the numerous blemishes.

Somehow, I never liked Maven, since the very beginning. It was Cal who led the show for me, and thankfully the author followed it through. Mare was a frustrating and repetitive narrator, but I liked her anyway. She was imperfect but that made her real life-like, and a little difficult to predict. Over the books, all the main-cast characters mature, and deepen substantially, along with the relationships that they share. Addition of more POVs made it even more exciting, though I really hope that Miss Aveyard picks some male narrators as well. The challenges posed by the looming uncertainties completely eliminated the ability to foretell. And the plot uncovers one layer at a time, revealing a greater mesh of history and hidden activities each time. The whole experience was mesmerizing, and it left me in a bad hangover after I had finished reading.

Would I recommend it? Without a doubt. This might be something that sits proudly on your bookshelf, especially if you are a follower of dystopian or YA fiction. Personally, Glass Sword (RQ#2) was my favourite and King’s Cage (RQ#3) maintained the momentum well.

I just can’t wait for the last installment to be out soon!

“On Writing”-Learning the Craft


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This book had been on my “to-read” list for a long time. I have never been a serious writer-the most I did was concoct stories inside my mind, and sometimes type out a few words. When that meagre habit too dwindled away, I decided to give this book a read. Perhaps, just to console myself that at least I was reading about writing, if not really writing. Also, perhaps because this qualified for the task #7 of the 2017 Reading Challenge.

It was a good decision.

I definitely did write more in the past few days than I have done in the past two years. Reading this memoir-of-sorts helped me identify my major road block to writing-extensive planning. I would spend days and days planning out the characters. And the theme. And the location. And the plot. And the names (oh! Darn the names…you never get the right ones). And the chapters. You get my point. The planning-obsessed me could never start writing if I did not envision the detailed outline beforehand. By the time it came to really writing, I was exhausted. The once enjoyable hobby started to seem like a task-and thus the stories stayed there, safely locked inside my head. Slowly fading away until what remained was only the silhouette, because the other parts had been covered by dust. It was a task to clean it all away.

When it really comes to writing, the point as the author puts it, is to stay honest to the story. And tell the story to yourself first, as soon as possible. Once the writer starts getting far from the story, inertia sets in. Yes, planning helps out—but writing is much more than the plot. Story takes the centre-stage, although without the other important elements, the stage looks very vacant. There is a beauty in exploring and excavating, too, and it might help you complete the basic outline of the story. After which, you are free to extort what you want out of the piece. This book illustrates many basics (like above mentioned) about writing without getting didactic at any point. Opinionated, maybe, but definitely not didactic.

Stephen King, the master story teller as he is, takes you through his journey as a person which somewhere (quite early) entwines with his journey as a writer. He is upfront on letting you know that the journey of a writer is not going to be easy. He also lets you know how he clung to hope by being focused on his passion, and stayed true to his writing by always being close to the origins. The books starts as an autobiography which later shifts to a conversational tone where King talks about writing in detail.

He dispels the common myths pertaining about the craft, such as the need for a great vocabulary or the need for stimulants to drive your creative process or the need for workshops; drives us back to the very basics that are sometimes overlooked by the budding writers in the quest to prove themselves; acquaints us with the common pitfalls (Swifties or excessive adverb usage, telling not showing the story, putting in unnecessary details/research); details out the process of publishing and what is to be done at each stage. The book answers the most important questions present in the minds of aspiring writers, and some other useful tips that would come in handy while writing. It does all of this, while still being a joyful read-King’s vivid imagery and beautiful descriptions establishes his credibility as a person who has a good command on his craft, which is evident even for a first time reader.

Of course, a lot of the content you’d already be aware of if you have been following any author’s interviews, but what this book adds is a good structure that helps you retain the stated basic principles. It also features a long list of books that inspired King.

Any vices? It is difficult to point out. Maybe it was the excessive reliance on the book “Element of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White or maybe it was the bluntness of King’s words that may have caused distress to some writers. As an amateur, I could not really zero down on the flaws.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. For anyone who dreams to be a published writer or wants to just know about the process of writing, or about the life of Stephen King, this is a book that you’d want to preserve in your bookshelf. Keep it at a place handy so that you could refer back to the advice or merely to know that you were not the only one that faced the hardships which came as collateral to the craft.

So, dear aspiring writer-you already are one. Start by putting one word at a time. You’d soon realise that the heart knows things, and so does the imagination, for you to keep going!

The Four Patriots-A Review

Four Patriots Book Cover

It is a story of patriotism, a story of transformation. It is a story of a country where the common belief is “iss desh ka kuch ni ho sakta”. It is a story of four people, like you and me, whose love for the nation and experiences with the system instigate them to take it through a metamorphosis.

Debut author Sumit Agarwal has penned down a real page turner that would keep you engrossed till the end. The pace is super-fast, the plot is enthralling-weaved meticulously through the pages, where small details emerge as major twists-an art that very few Indian writers have displayed! The writing is easy to follow and is done fairly well.  The pain taken by the writer to research the nitty-gritties to make the story as close as possible to the real India is evident in all its aspects.

The journey of all the major characters (Salman, Varun, Aditya and Raghav) have been drawn out cleverly, that easily puts the reader in the protagonists’ shoes. The background stories added at required intervals added more weight to the story line. The romance and other normal happenings were positioned in a manner to not only avoid overdoing the theme but also added some plausibility to the characters.

What is really uncanny is the similarity of events that happened after the book’s publication. Aditya’s move to purge black money from the country is quite similar (and sudden) to that of Modi’s move to demonetize, which was conducted with the same intention. There is also a scene similar to movie Dangal, where the coach asks the contender to be defensive, whereas the mentor asks him/her to be offensive, and following the mentor’s advice the contender leads the country to victory in that particular event.

In short, the book does well what it set out to do—inspire with a clear message that asks people to act in for their country and instil patriotism. It nudges the reader to go out and make an impact in any way possible, a much needed advice for the youth of the country. The underlying idea that anyone could bring about a change with their actions has been drawn out very well.

The book has been launched at a stage where people have started giving politics a thought beyond it being a mere topic of discussion, where the government is taking new steps towards the destination of making India a super power. In times where countries in the globalized world are taking a step towards protectionism, the writer calls out the youth to become the agents of change, to work towards making India the golden bird that it was.

However, the book was a tad too unrealistic. The almost miraculous happenings took away a bit of its credibility and made it appear filmy at lot of instances. Adding especially to the Bollywood-ish nature was the character Salman, who seemed to have emerged right out one of Bhai’s movies. Despite all the author’s efforts the characters were paper-thin, and villains were faded. In fact, the tyranny of villains was lost midway, and the protagonists were made way too formidable. Ironically, new India did not feature any woman at the vanguard-the women characters were present, but merely to execute plans or for emotional support.

Would I recommend this book? For those who are looking for a thriller, or looking for a light read, this is the book to go for. It may not make a place in bookshelves, but it definitely qualifies for a good one time read!

Why did it have to be “Heartless”?

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(This is a spoiler-free review)

Oh! How I love the fairy tales!

And how much I adore Marissa Meyer to have retold every single one of them in such a beautiful way.

In fact, she has completely eliminated the only complaint I have had from the fairy tales—the female protagonist which were bound by the olden patriarchal society rules, in all her books are strong, independent and determined to have their way!

I came across her writing back during my under-graduation, when I read “Cinder” [Part 1 of Lunar Chronicles] based on Goodreads description and reviews. At that time I was still a novice reader, and I was first trying to get through the popular fantasy/sci-fiction novels (the ones that most of the readers would have on their reading list). But really, bless the day! I had been so enchanted by the book that she became one of those few writers whom I read as soon as her book was out, right from the beginning.

To give you an introduction, the Lunar Chronicles is a series of books, each inspired from a fairy tale but twisted and retold in a science fiction setting, through the eyes of a female protagonist. She has created a completely new world linked part by part through the books, sprinkled with elements from the famous tales but tied to a breath taking plot that would have you go through a roller-coaster ride. The characters are well sketched and the writing (which slowly improves over the series) follows the “show-not-tell” pattern, and both of these would ensure that the reader is well involved in the story. The best part is, although most of the fairy tales that inspired the books* had the love story as the central theme, these books have the love angle as a side theme, with each of our fairy tale heroine tied to a mission for a greater good.

Heartless, however, is more like a prelude to Alice in Wonderland than a retelling, set well before the time when Alice falls down the rabbit hole. The book explores the history of “Queen of Hearts” before she turns into-as the title suggests-the heartless, despicable queen of wonderland as we have known. That being said, Marissa Meyer did not simply borrow from the actual Lewis Carroll novel (or rather novels, because it has some elements from Through the Looking Glass as well), but has added her own figment of imagination to the already dreamy world along with some very deep characters-the ones you could identify merely from their dialogues.

Now, Alice in Wonderland, for all its peculiarity and wonderfulness has been an all-time favourite, which demands frequent re-reading and discovery of a new element with every read. With such standards set, Heartless had a lot of expectations to match. And to say that the book did justice to the classic would actually be justified. It mirrored the absurd nature of Wonderland-the norms, the nonsensical seeming happenings and the assortment of creatures that inhabit the kingdom of “Hearts”. But most importantly it gave the “Queen of Hearts” a very, very compelling transformation. The journey of how such a kind-hearted, simple queen would turn into someone so hateful really keeps everyone hooked—especially because the readers can see for themselves how different she is (or had been).

The writing just draws you in the book, like gravity. It has drastically improved since I read Winter, which honestly could have been crisper. Ms. Meyer aced the art of showing, so much that I could literally echo Catherine’s joy, frustration, misery and also the heartlessness. I do not know how she made it possible but really after the events that led to Catherine’s transformation, instead of feeling the agony, I could only feel numbness. The ending was every bit as heart breaking as it could be, and the only solace I can provide myself is that we already saw it coming!

Additionally, Ms. Meyer has added history and layers to many of the wonderland’s characters (Mad Hatter, Mock Turtle, Cheshire Cat etc.) as well as made up some legends that makes the world of Hearts (And related kingdoms) even more intriguing. She has played with the riddles, inspired elements beyond Wonderland and based a part of plot on a nursery rhyme. The best part is she ties up all the loose ends for us to find by the end of the novel things as Alice had found them to be.

What the book fails to deliver is an exciting plot, it only focuses on Catherine’s journey and most of it is through her emotions and reactions to the happenings in her world. And maybe the plot wasn’t the point as the outcome was already known, however, I sincerely feel that involvement of some just talked about characters could have really made it even more unputdownable. As the writer claims that this is going to be a standalone novel, I can only hang on to the impossibility of her penning down additional series  becoming possible and her adding to them more of plot. Also, we see less of other characters to understand for ourselves-like Jest or the Duke of Tuskany etc., and our views shaped by how Catherine perceives them. Other than this, the book has been delightful in every way!

This has been my first read of 2017, and it has been unexpectedly magical. So I would really recommend you to pick up this book if you are looking for another dream like adventure and some madness. However, if you are looking for a romance filled story, sorry to say, but this would not be much to your liking.

*Cinder from Cinderella, Scarlet from Red Riding Hood, Cress from Rapunzel and Winter from Snow White

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Review

Welcome back, fans, back to the world of Twilight. Well, almost Twilight. We begin close to Forks, at Seattle. No sparkly vampires (definitely no fear of Sun), but you are assured of meeting lot of immaculate blondes and pale, white people. Apart from being breath-takingly handsome (what’s a love story without handsome folks? I mean really, who cares about values and morals? That’s so old school *rolling eyes*), and filthy rich (It is all about money people), Mr. Christian Grey (our Edward here) is fond of excessive control. Put in simple words, our dear Edward has been put in a business world, where else could he exercise so much control over people?
Let us meet the Cullens–er,the Greys. Well Mr and Mrs Grey had no children of their own, so they adopt. They adopt Christian–his mother had died shortly before, and poor fella, had no one of his own. Miss James could have given Edward a happier background here, but, that would have ripped apart the plot. Along with Christian, Elliot and Alice–sorry, Mia– were adopted. (Damn Miss James! You could have kept the names same, you know. Sorry? What? Oh yeah, right—copyright issue. I understand. I completely understand)
As you would have rightly guessed, Elliot like Emmett  is more friendly and outgoing. Christian has been reserved since the beginning, not letting anyone touch him, and is quite attached to his over-the-top crazy and fashionable sister, Mia. Christian has a lot of respect for his new parents, who are quite worried that he is lonely. See the pattern here?
However, Christian, who has been considered gay, has had 15 dom-sub relationship, the first one with his mom’s friend. Then comes Anastasia, the oh-so-smarter Bella, whom Christian Grey cannot resist. After many minutes of an interview that had been aptly placed to bring together, well both of them are smitten, but Ana doesn’t really agree, because she has “high ideals” for a man. Or so she thinks, until after some 100 pages of absolute nonsense, Ana semi-reluctantly agrees to trade her freedom and non-existent self respect to be with this oh-so-godly man. More specifically, to have some kinky fuckery with him, because he doesn’t make love.
Well, yes, Twilight without a hint of abstinence. That’s what you’d be reading. Starting the second book where Ana decides to walk out of what a normal person will call an abusive relationship, and then agrees to go back into an arrogmantic (Arrogantly romantic) relationship (a definite improvement) , it is all about–you want it? Go get it man, what you waiting for? There is more sex than there is conversation, because, well, this is how Christian communicates. And that totally makes sense–Edward had been celibate for 101 years. The passion must go somewhere.
So after 100 emails and texts, 50 sex scenes, 10 conversations, lots of “fair point well made” and  “we aim to please”, interruptions by a annoying subconscious goddess and some more control-freakery, Christian decides to marry Ana. After some unnecessary thinking, Ana agrees too. There is a villain(Who is Ana’s boss, but controlling Christian buys the publishing house, becoming his boss, and finally firing him for his perversion) who sabotages Christian’s helicopter, but that is irrelevant. Christian has enough money to be the master of the universe, so he is pretty secure. So is his family.
Christian’s family really loves Ana because she loves him and has changed him (it could be a relief that he isn’t gay, but I’m not making any presumptions here). Everything goes fine, except there are few “bitches”, Christian’s ex-dom,and an ex-sub. Very normal, you know, she was only his mother’s age, married and had an abusive relationship. He was grateful for that, as she brought his life into focus, and that helped him become a megalomaniac zillionaire. For all the respect for his mother, he continued a friendly relationship, which got busted when the ex-dom jealously confronted our Bella. So did Christian’s ex-sub, lethally, to see what was different. Christian handles this situation by giving the ex-sub a bath, and paying for her treatment. And college.
The third book begins with the marriage. Christian, who is under therapy, becomes caring and more controlling, jealous in a teeny sort of way. He watches her eat, watches her sleep, and follows her every waking moment. I mean, isn’t that adorable? There are some trivial discussions, Ana becomes more obedient to her fifty, also indulging further in the false-BDSM lifestyle. The villain comes in picture and goes out equally fast, so fast that you don’t even feel he is a threat. Ana has finally turned stronger, because she bore with Christian, and Christian, well, love sorted all his crankiness that emerged due to his past ghosts. The only flaw in this impeccable person is his extreme arrogance, but having a troubled past completely justifies it.

In the end, it is an idyllic scenario. Christian and Ana live happily ever after, with a son and a daughter. Elliot marries Ana’s best friend, Kate. Kate’s brother, Ethan and Mia have a fling, but E.L. James forget about that. Even Christian’s all time guard Taylor marries his all time house-help, Gail. Talk about coincidences.
And thus ends, the erotic trilogy that outsold Harry Potter on Amazon.
So will I suggest not to read this book? Not at all. No, no. It is pure 1396 pages of romanticized abuse. We aim to please.
And between Twilight and Fifty Shades? Well, I would suggest Twilight because it is the original fantasy, you know, and there are sparkling blood-sucking creatures and toned werewolves, the whole story seen through the eyes of the dullest character that has ever lived. No, no actually choose Fifty, there is lot of kinkiness to make up for the non-existent plot. And Ana is smarter, you know. But Christian, is so controlling that it would make your “palms twitch” to smack him right across his face…..Therefore, Twilight, except for the fact that Jacob falls in love with Bella’s daughter…ewww…..what’s the fascination with relationship between people who have the age difference equivalent to that of a parent and a child…no, I am not judging…Love happens at any age…

I don’t even know what I am talking about, now. Evidently, this trilogy has significantly lowered my IQ.
Laters baby,
Fully Frustated Reader of Trilogy, *Gasping* in disbelief of surviving it.

The Timekeeper: Chapter 4

“What do you mean Jillian?” asked Detective Taylor, mulling her statement over and over in his mind. Meanwhile, Anderson had handed him the photographs of the crime scene with the victim’s body.  Detective Taylor stared at the first of the many photographs, wondering how Ellery lay so peacefully beside the pool of her own blood that had seeped in through the carpet, as though sedated. Her hair was spread around like a halo over her head, and she faced the windows. The dim evening sunlight made her skin glow in an unearthly manner. He walked around to the exact location, recreating the events in his own mind.

“She fell a little too far from here,” he thought out loud, measuring the steps from the sofa “but further from her cell phone.” The investigating team had found the phone on the table of the bedroom, placed properly.  Which should not have been the case; Mr Gilbert said that the call had been made in haste- Ellery was screaming for help. The arrangement of the room remained mostly untouched. Detective Taylor walked to the French windows to examine the area, which was majorly a thin strip of a well maintained lawn, high walls with hedges on the top. He walked back, unsatisfied. He then rapidly browsed through the other photos, paying a little more attention to the close-up of Ellery’s face, trying to see if he could figure out any wound.

“Do you think there is some link to the previous case? Someone who has been uncovering a grave of secrets, and the “guilty” has found it out?” Detective Taylor asked again, realizing after a while that Jillian had not replied at all.

Jillian was now crouching by the fireplace, removing the electric embers hastily as though looking for something. Brushing off her trousers, she replied-almost a murmur, “I wish it were like that”.  Her words clearly indicated she had zoned out from the discussion; her eyes surreptitiously flirted around the carpet floor and her face was contorted to give a slight expression of bewilderment. “I think it is more of a cult-a brotherhood sort of thing-maybe trying to get justice for wrong,” she shrugged, and turned to look at Detective Taylor, who was now leaning on the wall next to him, his chin resting on his fist. “Don’t you think a hundred and fifty years is too long to carry a grudge?” she asked him.

“If rationality governed the moment of rage, then a lot of things would have been simpler,” he said, standing upright again, “And a heck lot less murders. We would probably have been out of work”. He chuckled at his own statement, expecting Detective Torres to react to it. But Detective Torres stood engrossed by the carpet floor, her brows pulled in by anxiety. “I fail to understand,” she sighed.

“Are you looking for something Detective?” asked Detective Taylor. Jillian almost jumped at the question. Her eyes widened and she strode across the room, stooping to pick up something among the carpet strands. “This,” she said, holding up a thin needle like instrument, “Your murder weapon. Or rather, a weapon of assault, I must say, because Ellery did not die because of blood loss.”

Detective Taylor stood staring in wonder. “But there was no wound!” he uttered. The glass instrument, which was approximately five centimetres long, was now in his possession, and it had a tiny spot of dried blood towards its narrow opening. The sharper end, however, was very clean, or so it seemed like. “Shouldn’t this end be used to rupture the skin?” he asked Anderson, who had reappeared at the crime scene. Detective Taylor ran a finger over the sharp end, and hurt himself. He handed over the instrument to Anderson for his perusal.

“It should have,” replied Anderson, trying to peep in from the opening, “and it would have been real nice and easy. But the opening here is the major catch.” He tapped it, and continued, “This is narrow enough to create a capillary effect. If the instrument would have been inserted in a vein, it could have easily led to the blood pool that was present.” Detective Taylor nodded his head in agreement, “Yes. Yes, that could have been done.” He could not help admire the brilliance of the murderer.

“However, it still does not explain the paleness. The drainage should have been more evident” said Detective Anderson, giving the instrument back to Detective Taylor, “Or even the fact that there was only one small drop of dried blood, when actually the blood should have flown through the tube.”

“In any case, an opening of this sort would need a visible wound!” he exclaimed, placing the instrument on the centre table, lifting it almost immediately for another round of examination. “Really, I saw the body myself!”

“Unless the wound had been carefully concealed, if there was enough time. Or if it was done externally,” replied Detective Torres in a very robotic tone. She was not very convinced with the proceedings of the event. Blood loss without significant damage to the body was not very uncommon, and it hardly led to demise. No, there was something important that they were missing.

Detective Taylor, however, felt there was a ray of hope. Sunlight poured in beautifully through the windows, a coincidental reflection of his optimism. Yes, he was certain they were not far from at least figuring out the method of murder. “Thank you Detective Torres, you have given us a lead,” he said, turning to her.

“I am not sure it would be of much help. The whole foundation is so shaky. I just happened to stumble upon it. Maybe it has been placed like that, so that we never focus on what the actual thing. In fact, I rather think the bleeding is staged on purpose. What if the doctor is right?” she said, voicing her concern.  She wasn’t so scared of the outcome, but how were they ever going to convince the department, the family or the people. And how was Detective Taylor to be convinced?

“Well, we can definitely re-examine the body. Anderson, send this tube for a detailed testing. Let’s see if we get something from this.” Detective Anderson had just completed his sentence when another member team approached him, “The family is intent, sir. The funeral is to happen tomorrow.” Before he had a chance to react to that, he saw Ellery’s mother standing near the door, gaping at the carpet. Her face had turned pale, and tears cascaded down her cheeks.

Resolutions! Resolutions….

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In a wink of an eye the New Year has arrived, and oh! look, it is already February now. 2015, by some random associations in my mind, was supposed to be a stellar year for me (of course, it means I was supposed to put in more hard work). And, evidently, due to various reasons (let’s label all of them under the “Excuses” folder), I did not.  As the guilty feeling has started to creep all over my heart, I have decided-Now, my watch begins.

I hope I am not the only one who feels this way. Resolutions are the most exciting part of the year that slowly turns into a sinking feeling. Come January, and I am all so ready to put up things that I believe I am going to accomplish in the year, come December, those things are still on my list, and have never materialized. Every passing month, I postpone, agreeing in my mind that, well, the first of next month is a good time to start, and by the time I reach October, it is too late, we might as well have done it the next year. Somehow, I feel as if resolutions are jinxed. Almost everything that features there is bound not to happen—or rather, exactly opposite of what I wished for would happen.

I know, I know, getting to till the end of it is much more than deciding what is to be done, it requires a lot of effort and perseverance and determination and Chemical X. I generally struggle with being focused on just one thing; I find it easier to toggle between things. Therefore, I have decided to break it down into chunks that are easier to gulp in, and also maintain the record of these resolutions somewhere it is a little permanent. Just so, I don’t keep revising them and making them easier.

What’s better than posting it here on my online journal? At least, every time this article title pops up in front of my eyes, a tiny voice would reprimand —remember? If my will stands strong, maybe the tiny voice wouldn’t be required at all. Here are my 7 commandments for the year 2015 (trumpet blows duly):

  1. Master self-discipline: the key to habits. *sigh*. That already sounds tough to follow. Will start off by updating my to-do list.
  2. Writing 1000 words every day. God knows how many times I have put that on my list. Try, try, until you succeed. This, if extrapolated, also means more blog posts.
  3. Completing my reading challenge. Taking off some more books from my want-to read list, even though, I am pretty sure the total number of want-to reads are going to increase.
  4. Adopting a healthy lifestyle. I like exercising, but leaving junk is really a task for me.
  5. Drinking adequate amount of water. Which is not as difficult as getting myself to drink milk every day. Hopefully, will get around doing both the things *fingers crossed*.
  6. Minimizing Distractions. (Read social media). Actually, minimizing time spent on social media sites. Obviously, this does not include time spent on Quora.
  7. Keeping my mind on The One thing. Point 7 pretty much summarizes this list.

I can already picture Lady Destiny with her wand ready to jinx all of it. I hope I am able to find the counter curse in time.

Yes, I am already on it!

The Timekeeper: Chapter 3

Detective Taylor was in better spirits the following morning. The idea of being present at the crime scene placed things in an optimistic light for him; he was sure he would be able to unravel overlooked evidences.  Any definite pointer would have been greatly helpful; he knew that his team felt as though they were pursuing a lost cause. Most of the times, a lost cause resulted in a lost case. The very thought made him more determined.

As was his custom, he reached half an hour before the team arrived.  It was 6.30 in the morning, a light mist still hung around the greens. He opened the iron gates, carefully to avoid creaking, and let himself in. Walking through the wide driveway, he noticed how the high hedges almost blocked the view from the neighboring houses. If Mrs. Turner could give a statement about the guest, she must have been in the garden, which meant he came in from the left. He smiled to himself. They finally had a start.

Detective Taylor walked up to the door, scrutinizing the gardens. The walk from the driveway to the building took almost five minutes. A good amount of time to notice someone, or at least have a flash of the face, if someone was present, he thought to himself. Why wasn’t anyone present? The mansion was huge and well-maintained. Surely, there must be lot of people behind it.

He walked up to the camera to get a proper look at it. The placement was strategic; there wasn’t any angle the camera would miss, no matter where the person approached from. To have his face covered properly, the intruder would not have had just a wide brimmed hat, but a high collar too. This also meant that he had a good knowledge about the security system out here. Detective Taylor nodded to himself slowly. Still, he thought, a slight part of his face would be visible. Even this would be crucial. He made a mental note to re-view the security tapes today.

He donned his gloves, and turned the door knob slowly with his forefingers. He pushed open the door slightly, and glanced around. The living room seemed not lived in, except towards the end of the room, where there was a sofa placed in front of the mantelpiece. The carpet was upturned, a vase lay broken at the floor and the side tables had been moved from where they were supposed to be. But only that portion of the room.

Looks like she didn’t try to escape, or didn’t have the chance to, Detective Taylor thought to himself, crossed the yellow tapes and walked up to the setting.

The sofa had also been moved from its position. The one kept next to it, had also been shifted closer. An intense conversation, thought the Detective. He bent down to see if there was something underneath the sofa, or anything relevant that was fallen on the floor. When he found nothing, he walked around the mantelpiece. It was sparsely decorated- a photo of a young girl with a slightly older woman, a bronze soldier, and an hourglass, kept next to the clock.

He walked back to look at it all. The lady was terrified, and yet she made no attempt to escape. There were scratches on the arm rest of the sofa; the cushions were on the floor. The vase that had fallen down had cracked, a sure sign of it being thrown off with force. “Strange,” he muttered, and turned around. His eyes fell on the spot where the white carpet was scrunched.

Detective Taylor straightened out the carpet with his foot. The carpet was stained a deep shade of crimson; the detective flinched at its sight. The investigation team had just begun to get in. He signaled for Hailey, the investigation head, pointing towards the stain.

“Is it-”, he asked as Hailey approached him, and Hailey nodded gingerly, even before Detective could complete his question.

“Blood. According to the reports, it belongs to Ellery,” Hailey replied. Detective Taylor furrowed his brows. Everything was supposed to get clearer, yet as they delved deeper into the case, with every step they took, it felt as though someone was letting in more fog. He had only a couple of cases where his team could not track down the culprit, but even in those, he didn’t feel as crippled as he did now. The case was not complex, it was absurd.

He pulled his mind off the thoughts, thinking about the next course of action. The very moment Detective Anderson entered the house.

“Detective Anderson,” he called immediately, pointing to the stain, “why wasn’t this reported yesterday?”

“Gregory handed me the reports only this morning. I wanted to make sure before it was reported. I didn’t quite feel that so much blood could flow from a pinprick wound,” Detective Anderson explained.

Detective Taylor stood silently, arms crossed, waiting for an answer.

“It is the victim’s blood on the carpet,” Anderson continued, nervous.

“I know Anderson. Hailey told me about it. At least you were supposed to bring this to my notice. The Gilberts have requested for the burial tomorrow morning,” Detective Taylor said all in a breath. His hands were balled up in fists; he was using all his concentration to contain his anger.

Anderson stood there looking at his feet.

“It is alright, Detective Anderson. There was nothing much you could have done anyway,” Jillian Torres patted his shoulder. She looked at Detective Taylor and smiled slightly, “Good Morning, Detective Taylor.”

“Good Morning Jillian. Have you got–”

“The reports are here, sir,” Jillian replied, cutting him off. She handed over the reports to him.

Detective Taylor sighed loudly, thankful to have someone on his team, who had enough brains. He looked through the reports, and they had been comprehensively done. “You come in good time. There have been some interesting developments,” he said to Detective Torres. He was almost feeling sorry for being too hash on Detective Anderson. Everyone must be feeling the same, as if someone had been purposely muddling everything.

“Like a pool of blood from a wound too small to spurt out that much?”, Jillian replied nonchalantly.

Detective Taylor was taken aback. “How did you know?”, he asked, looking again at Anderson. Detective Anderson just shrugged.

“There was an eerily similar case that happened back in 1885,” she said, handing over another file to him

1885. Too old to be the same person, Detective Taylor thought. “Coincidence?”, he thought out loud.

“I don’t think so. The past is staring back at us,” Jillian said, bending down to look at the stain.

The Timekeeper: Chapter 2

Detective Jillian Torres hurried, almost raced, to her flat.

The image of Ellery Gilbert was fresh in her mind. Expressionless, beautiful in death as it must have been in life, serene. Serene as if she were just sleeping.  That kind of serenity only came along with painless deaths, and no murder she knew of till date had been painless, even if the pain lasted for an instant. Except if Ellery was willing to embrace it. And yet, they knew, that moments ago she had been crying for help. The mystery troubled Jillian incessantly; the pieces were different enough to belong to separate puzzles.

As if the complexity of the case were not enough, she had a nagging feeling that returned to her time and again. The case strongly felt like a Déjà vu. She had never handled anything like that previously, she was certain of that. A dream could have been a possibility but Jillian hardly remembered any dream, and even if she did, the details never stayed. She narrowed her eyes in focus, straining to recall as she went up the stairs, for any similar case she must have read about.

The sudden recollection hit her like a gust of cold air.

1885. The Murder of Janet Williams.

Jillian Torres stopped midway, sitting on the staircase to steady herself. She put her head in her hands as her mind began to draw out uncanny similarities between the two cases.  Beautiful girl, married to the rich businessman, no trace of wounds or asphyxiation. Neighbors reported a man of medium built and tall height going inside the house before the crime happened. Could both the victims have been linked in some way? Was someone notoriously repeating the methods of an old serial killer? Her mind buzzed with endless questions.

She would have to look into the case. But first, the homework given by Detective Taylor had to be completed.

She rushed up the stairs, jammed the key in the keyhole, nervous with excitement. She closed the door absent-mindedly before heading to the study. Without a moment’s delay, she started to fish out all the potassium manufacturers and dealers in the locality. Detective Taylor wanted things to be thoroughly done, even if it was not required. Jillian didn’t mind following it; thoroughly done researches more or less helped them in the long run.

It was eleven in the night when she finished the compilation. Throat parched and stomach rumbling, she put away her laptop, tiredness finally taking over her. After she had grabbed some fries and coffee from the kitchen, she took out the file containing all the information she had gathered about Janet Williams Murder Case. She noted the facts of Ellery Gilbert’s case on a scratch pad, and flipped open the file on her desk.

She flitted through the pages until she came across the most comprehensive version of the murder she had gotten from the internet.

Murder in Broad Daylight:
May 25, 1885

The Rotterdane town witnessed yet another crime yesterday, when Janet Williams was found murdered in her own house. Mr. Williams, who returned early from his trip to Greenesville, entered his home to find his wife lying dead in the living room. The living room was in a state of distress, with vases on the floor and table overturned. Mrs. Williams, 35 years old, looked serene as if she were sleeping.

Jillian smiled at the statement.

There were no stabs or cuts on her skin, although there was a pool of blood on the floor, where the body had been found. The coroner has pointed towards asphyxiation as the cause of death, though there were no marks on the neck.

The police carried out an investigation in the house, but could not find the weapon or any other significant leads to the killer. They questioned the housekeeper Mr. Glendron and the parlor-maid Miss. Wysdean, both of whom stated that the no one except Mrs. Williams was there in the house, since the rest of the helps had gone to attend a funeral.

No weapon, no evidence, nothing to link to the killer. The house was devoid of people-servants or family members. Jillian wondered if the time was well chosen.

She read on further.

Several people reported a man who was seen nearby around the suspected time of crime. Mr. Witherby, who lived opposite the Williams said, “Around 11 a.m., a tall man with medium built was approaching the William’s residence. Even in this heat, he wore a brown overcoat and his face was shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat that he wore. I am sure I have never seen him in this place, yet he seemed to know all the ways.” Mr. Witherby, who claims to have been gardening, denied seeing him leave. He also did not hear any sounds of struggles or help.

What baffles the police is the fact that the mansion had no other escape route, since it had been built on the banks of the river, and had walls 8 feet high. A reward of $1000 has been offered for anyone who can provide significant details for the mystery man. Mrs. Williams will be buried today evening in the St. John’s churchyard.

Jillian flipped over the page, scanning the contents of the file, thoughts unsettling in her mind. Were there some more cases like these, scattered along the decades?  Or did this killer pattern repeat itself after some years? It was highly unlikely that the same person could be involved, as this case was way old. Maybe an heir? Or a cult?

Or maybe, Jillian thought as she opened the window of her study, someone was doing this on purpose, just to throw them off-track. The semblance was perfect to the minutest degree, as if someone had tried to resurrect it. And the method of killing was…supernatural.

The whole case looked as if they were pursuing a ghost.

Technology — A Root Cause for Impatience?




We live in a very efficient world. Over a span of just a century, the progress that technology has made is truly impressive.  Communications can happen in span of microseconds, you can have almost everything delivered at your doorstep, no matter what part of the world the thing has been manufactured in. Within hours you could be sitting in other part of the world, all the while making an efficient use of the “travel time”.

We are so used to this way of living, that we now  expect everything at a lightning fast pace. And that makes me wonder- has technology made us impatient beings? Or have we always been impatient and technology has just aggravated this quality?

Checking cellphones every few minutes has become so instinctive to us.  A moment free? Well, let’s check cellphones. Even though there have been no notifications, there is a lingering feeling that something must surely have been missed.  Some more time to kill? What about going through Facebook posts or tweets or mails? Some of these things are going to affect our lives in no possible way, yet it is preferred to spend time this way rather than looking around or talking to people sitting next to us.

I would still categorize it as acceptable. Fiddling with smartphones or equivalent stuff has become a habit now, and annoyingly, it has started to creep up during conversation. As soon as a person loses interest in the conversation/monologue, it is imperative to check cellphones. Surely, we can better utilize our time by playing some game on our cellphone while listening to the person (who is not making sense anyway!)

What with the great progress of movies, reading has taken a relative backseat.  Yes, the movie/season is going to tell the whole story with added effects so why bother reading a million words? It is easier and much more interesting to play cricket or golf on computer that it makes absolutely no sense to play games in real time.

And these are only some examples of our newly developed impatient nature. The major problem is impatience has slowly seeped into every part of us. We have also become impatient to get results. We put in a bit of work into something, and automatically expect it to show results. Commitment and discipline have slowly started to fade into the background, because now we have shorter and more efficient versions of everything. Delayed services, or a bit of slip in time, can make us frustrated in a jiffy. Losing calm over long queues and traffic jams has become second nature to us.

I am not anti-technology. As a student of science, I can appreciate what it took for humans to go from plow-wielding creatures sweating in fields to the ones who now manage all the work sitting in front of the laptops in glass offices. It has definitely made world a better place to live in. It has opened up a lot more avenues. The point I am trying to make is that patience is important. It was patience and years of research and development that brought us to this stage of advancement.

There are some situations where we need to operate everything with utmost efficiency, and usually such situations are in our control. In such situation, it is the go-getter attitude which would be victorious. Then there are situations we cannot control. Situations that will demand patience, situations that will be a test of patience.  And it is here where we need to get over the seemingly inherent impatience of ours. This way, we will save a lot of energy that would be otherwise be burnt in useless frustration, and will also start admiring those little things in life.

Patience is a virtue. And we will do good to remember it.