All posts by S. L. Faisal

A Library Professional with a twist towards anything 2.0 and beyond. Website: www.slfaisal.com

Neeraja reviews ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie

‘And Then There Were None’ is a mystery novel by the English writer Agatha Christie. It was first published in the United Kingdom by the Collins Crime Club on 6 November 1939, as Ten Little Soldiers, after the children’s counting rhyme and minstrel song, which serves as a major element of the plot. The book is the world’s best-selling mystery, and with over 100 million copies sold is one of the best-selling books of all time. Publications International lists the novel as the sixth best-selling title.

Agatha Christie was the best-selling mystery writer of all time. She wrote ninety-three books and seventeen plays, including the longest-running play of modern-day theater, The Mousetrap. She is the only mystery writer to have created two important detectives as characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

The story revolves around the eight people, who arrived on a small, isolated island off the Devon coast, having received an unexpected personal invitation. They meet the butler and the cook-housekeeper, a couple, Thomas and Ethel Rogers who explain that the hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owens haven’t reached yet, but have left instructions.

A framed copy of the old rhyme “Ten Little Soldiers” and on the dining room table sits 10 figurines. After the supper, a record is played which accuses each visitor and the Roberts of having committed murder then asks if they want to offer a defense. Everyone becomes suspicious of the other and soon, the first murder occurs.

The guests also discover that none of them knows the Owens, and Mr. Justice Wargrave suggests that the name “U N Owen” is a play on “Unknown.” Marston finishes his drink and promptly dies of cyanide poisoning. Dr. Armstrong confirms that there was no cyanide in the other drinks and suggests that Marston must have dosed himself.

As other murders follow, the story delves deep into the mystery and I bet no one could guess who the murderer is until you reach the end of the story. The mystery is crafted very well and leaves the readers astounded. This book starts hurdling into the mystery at a fast pace and never lets up. The plot is quick and intense and any reader who loves a crime thrilling novel would make this book their favorite.

Reviewed by Neeraja Unnikrishnan, Class XI, KV Pattom, Shift-I

Kanchana reviews ‘Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth’

Illustrated and written by one of my favorite authors, Oliver Jeffers, this graphic novel charms us right from the start. The deceptively simple drawings capture an eager father’s advice to his newborn baby on living on this planet. It addresses topics that many parents/adults dread
talking about, and at the same time, mentions things that are not explored as much in our lives. In the author’s words, the notes in this book can be your guide and start you on your journey.


One impediment to getting your hands on this book can be the thought that a children’s book can never impact an adult’s life, but this book manages to touch everyone’s lives – irrespective of age and gender.


This book is a treasure for anyone who reads it. And to top it off, you can even find the 36-minute film based on this book on AppleTV. Trust me; you’ll be mesmerized.

Reviewed by Ms. Kanchana M. R., FaB Gust Challenger & Alumna (2016)

‘The ABC Murders’, a review

Agathe Christie’s, The ABC Murder is a story of a serial killing going on in the city. This story’s main character is Hercule Poirot. And this book is one of the best in Agathe Christie’s Hercule Poirot series.

There is a serial killer on the loose. He kills a person randomly by alphabetic order and leaves an ABC railway Guide besides each victim. The Killer sends Hercule Poirot Letters on challenging him to find him and says the place and date of the killing he decides. He starts it with Alice Asher in Androver and goes on. But if A is for Alice then there will be twenty-five murders to be done alphabetically. This book takes us through a thrilling, mysterious crime scene story which takes us to the greatest serial killing story by Agathe Christie. Read and Find out who the next victim will be? How many more murders there will be? Will Hercule be successful in this hardest crime puzzle?

Reviewed by Harikrishna E. S., XD, KV Pattom, Shift-1

Aajma Manoj reviews ‘Girl in White Cotton’ by Avni Doshi

Girl in White Cotton is the debut novel by Avni Doshi, an American author of Indian origin, who traces back to her roots in her work to remind the readers of a bygone life shared together. Set in Pune, India Girl in White Cotton is a tale of a mother-daughter relationship that takes a sharp turn away from the pureness and the unconditional love one often associates with mothers and daughters.

The opening line of the book, “I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.” in the first-person narrative by the protagonist Antara starts off the spine-chilling account of memory and fears and how they traverse through generations.

The story begins with Antara becoming a reluctant caretaker for her mother, Tara when the latter begins to lose her memory. Antara dives into deep research for finding a remedy, not to merely cure her mother’s disease, but to prevent her gradual slip into oblivion. Because that would mean Tara would be free of all the trauma and pain their shared memories wield over the mother and daughter. Antara is unsure of how to care for her mother, as life never gave her a model to follow. Her hesitancy to help, and seek help has its roots in the strained relationship she and her mother share. Yet, it remains the only long-lasting relationship she manages to maintain as a constant in her life.

Tara losing her memory is a victory over her daughter, according to the daughter herself, because she is receiving a painless forgiveness, forcibly taken– an easy release from her sins that caused pain and suffering to Antara.

Other characters take the backstage throughout the entirety of the novel as simply, there’s no space for anyone else in the hate-hate story of the mother and her daughter.

Tara’s voice is not directly heard in the novel, however, it is clear that she never intended for her daughter to grow up the way she did. This is reflected in the fact that she names her daughter An-tara, meaning, the opposite of Tara.

As the story progresses, Tara’s memory loss leads to Anthra having to explore suppressed events from their shared past in attempts to make her mother remember the neglect and cruelties that she inflicted on her daughter, however unknowingly.

In the process, Antara is forced to revisit a life she never lived but experienced second-hand. While seeking to spark memories from their past, Antara ends up reliving her mother’s life– the one of a rebellious woman who refused to be constrained by the patriarchal structure imprinted on the society but ends up an outcast, unable to find a place for herself or her daughter.

Antara, akin to her mother, finds herself in an uncannily similar framework spun by society– raising a daughter she never wanted, and hoping for a painless release from the memories of the past– both her mother’s and her own.

Doshi’s work is a sublime example of literature on second-generation trauma on a personal level, as it explores how fears, damages, pain and skeletons in closets have an intergenerational nature, and how they get reshaped while maintaining their horrid nature, owing to the unreliability of memory.

You feel discomfort as you read the novel, and that feeling slightly creeps on till the last chapter, in a narration that leaves you thinking about the book hours after you’ve put it down.

Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, Girl in White Cotton is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re looking to plunge yourself into the realities of Indian relationships, how they are shaped and what they signify beneath picture-perfect facades. With damaged protagonists and their feelings of scepticism and resentment, Girl in White Cotton is simply not a quintessential mother-daughter tale.

Reviewed by Ms AAJMA MANOJ, Alumna (2015)

Prasobh reviews ‘Treasure Island’

Treasure island is a classic adventure novel written by ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Robert Louis Stevenson in the year 1881. A turbulent, roaring tale of merciless pirates, treacherous waves and swordfights, the novel begins with the main protagonist young Mr. Jim Hawkins who gets astonished about the buccaneer, the dark spot, the black dog and Captain Flint’s Hidden treasure.  The theatre of the novel shifts effortlessly from the sails and deck and land and war beautifully and most graphically. The turbulence of the high seas, waves and treacherous pirates is depicted in most realistic manner in the novel.  Just think of the strange people kicking you, stabbing you and singing their last song for you

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum”.

The adventure of a young man in the ship and land. Risking his life for everything. Will he succeed and get to the treasure first? This is a race to reach first and his troop is fighting against the masters of this job. Get this, Pirates; they are hungry for more and more and more of it, gold. The last thing you know with them is the terrible pain and a flash of the cool sea, the next moment-nothing.

To sail with the rough seas and high tides, to experience the adventurous life with pirates, this novel is the best. Go and grab one and experience yourself.

Reviewed by PRASOBH P. NAIR , Class 7A, Shift 1

A review of ‘A Practical Guide to Evil: Do Wrong Right’ by ErraticErrata

“A Practical Guide to Evil” is an ongoing web novel series being written by ErraticErrata. It has 6 completed books and an ongoing seventh. It is a reimagining of standard high fantasy novel tropes.

Catherine Foundling is an orphan girl in Laure, the capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Callow, a land conquered by the Dread Empire of Praes under Dread Empress Malicia and her right hand, the Black Knight, using the Legions of Terror to crush Callow’s knights and slaughter the Fairfax dynasty which had ruled Callow since the last time Praes annexed Callow, 800 years ago. This would be the second time Praes successfully annexed Callow, despite more than two hundred invasions. Catherine grew up seeing the injustices suffered by her people under the Praesi, but also many Heroes rise up to free Callow from Praes, only to be swiftly killed by the Calamities, the Black Knight’s elite band of Villains. Realizing that revolt was pointless, she plans to join the Legions of Terror, rise up in the ranks, and free Callow from the inside in truth, if not in name.

Behind the scenes, however, threats to the Dread Empress are rising. The nobles of the Wasteland, denied the power they crave, weave plots behind pleasant smiles. To the west, the First Prince of Procer has finally claimed her throne after a ruinous civil war engineered by the Dread Empress: with her people under her rule, she contemplates starting a Crusade against Praes.


Yet none of this matters, for in the heart of the conquered lands the most dangerous man alive sat across an orphan girl and offered her a knife and a choice.

The story is set in Creation, a world made by the Gods. After making Creation, the Gods disagreed on how to run it; some thought their creations must be ruled by them and some believed they should merely be guided. And thus, Good and Evil were born, with the Gods Above on the side of Good and the Gods Below on the side of Evil (this does not correspond to good and evil exactly, Good is based off following societal rules for the sake of the community so it more or less corresponds to good and Evil is all about freedom -doing as you wish, so not necessarily always evil, but it often is). After ages of fruitless argument, a Wager was agreed on; mortals would settle the matter. This Wager was known as Fate, and thus Creation came to know war. Through the passing of the years grooves appeared in the workings of Fate, patterns repeated until they came into existence easier than not, and those grooves came to be called Roles. These grooves invisibly pushes the events to follow the familiar fantasy tropes of farmhands finding magical swords, heroes always surviving a fall from a cliff etc. This essentially means that the world runs on story logic.

 However, the people involved are aware of the effect Roles have, and that gives the series an interesting lens where the characters try to manipulate the story to get a position favorable to them, for example, villains try to maneuver the heroes into a position where a Heroic Last Stand can’t manifest as easily, because they know that cornering a ragtag group of heroes carries a heavy risk of Fate intervening somehow and letting them prevail against all odds. The crystallization of Roles in people result in Names. These Named are the warriors of the Gods, by which the Wager is to be settled. These Names can be heroic, like Grey Pilgrim and Lone Swordsman, villainous, like Black Knight and Warlock, or ambiguous Names that could go either way, like Ranger or Archer.

If you have an interest in history, you’ll most likely like this book, as it contains well written and executed medieval battles and general military stuff, and lots of small references to real life history, like tiny easter eggs, but you don’t need to know history to enjoy the series.

Every chapter of the series has an epigraph at the beginning, mostly quotes made by the author himself. These are some of my favorites among those:

  • “Did you really think I wouldn’t cheat just because I was already winning?” – Dread Emperor Terribilis II
  • “The tragedy of our time, of every time, is that while there is power in knowledge there can be just as much in ignorance.” – First Princess Eugénie of Lange
  • “To boast of an opinion unchanged is to boast of wearing child’s clothing.” – Atalantian saying
  • “Beware of they who laud war, for one who loves the locust cannot love the crop.” – Extract from the transcript of the ‘Sermon Of The Shores’, as spoken by sister Salienta
  • “There’s nothing better in life than the look on your enemy’s face when they realize you’ve played them every step of the way. Why do you think I keep starting secret cabals trying to overthrow me?” – Dread Emperor Traitorous
  • “Gentlemen, there is no need to worry: our plan is flawless. The Emperor will never see it coming.” – Grandmaster Ouroboros of the Order of Unholy Obsidian, later revealed to have been Dread Emperor Traitorous all along
  • “At which point Lord Bujune and Lady Rania both accused the other of being the Emperor in disguise, and the meeting devolved into protracted argument until the final quarter hour had passed.” – Extract from the minutes of the fourth meeting of the Red Fox Conspiracy, as taken by the stenographer Shamna Mehere (later revealed to have been Dread Emperor Traitorous all along) [Note the pseudonym carefully]
  • “I am ever amused to hear men speak of senseless violence. What is violence, if not the failure of reason? One might as well bemoan the wetness of water.” – King Edmund of Callow, the Inkhand
  • “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is lynched.” – Praesi saying
  • “We fight not only our own wars but those of our forebears and our children, for we inherit the wounds of those before us and pass our own to those that follow. And so, fools that we are, we keep trying to fill one grave by digging another.” – King Edmund of Callow, the Inkhand
  •  “To be great one must stand on the shoulders of others. The difference between rule and tyranny is whether they raised you or you stepped on them.” – King Edward Alban of Callow, best known for annexing the Kingdom of Liesse
  • “Justice is not the end of a road, the closing of a tale. One cannot be just, one can only act justly: it is a struggle from cradle to grave, not a prize seized and kept.” – Daphne of the Homilies, best known for ending hereditary rule in Atalante
  •  “I’ll be honest, Chancellor – revenge is the motivation for over half the decrees I’ve made.” – Dread Empress Sanguinia II, best known for outlawing cats and being taller than her
  •  “No, see, you’ll profit as well. All you need is to convince five others of contributing coin and when they do you’ll get a part of their own contribution. It’ll all work out, I promise.” – Dread Emperor Irritant, the Oddly Successful, convincing High Lords to invest in the construction of ritual pyramid outside Ater
  • “Oh no, please stop wrecking everything! Like that urn in the corner, with the djinn bound inside. No, the other one, with golden – oh, woeful day, this wanton destruction of priceless artefacts is so inconvenient to me personally and absolutely no one else.” – Dread Emperor Irritant I, ‘defending’ the palace of the High Lord of Aksum from heroes
  • Maybe I won’t go to Heaven but you’ve never owned a pit full of man-eating tapirs so who’s the real loser here?” – Dread Empress Atrocious, best known for comprehensive tax reform and having been eaten by man-eating tapirs. They were later executed by her successor for treason after a lengthy trial
  • “When using tigers you don’t have enough time to gloat, when using rats you risk awkwardly running out of gloat before the end: true equilibrium is found in a pit of humble man-eating tapirs, beasts that have never once failed me.” – Dread Empress Atrocious, later devoured by man-eating tapirs
  • “In studying our histories I have cast aside old mistakes, instead embracing fresh and interesting ones.” – Dread Empress Atrocious, later devoured by man-eating tapirs

. The story is extremely hilarious- it features a pyromaniacal protagonist, exploding undead suicide goats, insane Dread Emperors and funny epigraphs- but it’s also filled with extremely emotional and hair raising exciting moments, all masterfully woven by the expert hands of ErraticErrata into an exquisite tapestry of a story.

A Practical Guide to Evil is a gripping tale with extremely good writing, an awesome plot, excellent characters and a well-developed world. The writing is a bit iffy at first, but it gets better very soon. It updates every Tuesday and Friday. Patreon subscribers of EE have access to a bonus chapter with the first chapter of every month. You can start reading it at https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/prologue/.

Credit for the art used in the cover goes to Jimjam.

Reviewed by GIRISH V. S., FaB Guest Challenger (Alumnus 2019)

Ameya TALKS on ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller

This book is an autobiography written by Helen Keller when she was 22 & a student at all-female college Radcliffe. It is a heart rending story of the challenges Keller and her teacher Sullivan face to communicate with each other until  Sullivan tries the method of finger-spelling the words on Keller’s hand. With this method, Keller gets a breakthrough into the world of communication. With the help of her teacher , Keller learns to read , write and speak in different languages, including learning braille.Her life’s journey is unique .There where so many beautiful things in this book. But mostly I loved when Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan tries to teach Keller what love is, and Keller can’t understand why her teacher won’t show it to her. It was really a sweet moment. When Helen asked her teacher “What is Love?” She simply replied, “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch Love either, but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.” I just loved her answer. She beautifully described love. 

In the second part of the book, we can read the letters written by Helen Keller to her beloved ones during 1887-1901. Through these letters, she opened her mind, thoughts and love. I felt so bad for her when she described that at one point of her life she was so desperate to communicate with people, and she was sad that no one will understand her or her feelings. Another enjoyable aspect of ” The Story of My Life ” is that if you ever feel sorry for yourself for what you don’t have or what you are currently struggling with, your deficiencies and struggles may suddenly seem minor in comparison to Helen’s.

This is an enriching book which gives the reader an even deeper insight into the world of the blind and deaf people. A must read for everyone, across all ages.

Reviewed by AMEYA ARUN, Class 6B, Shift-I