Poirot’s Debut with the Clapham Cook

This series is all about Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The title character, Hercule Poirot, is a reknowned detective – and he is Belgian, not French!

Stemming from a deep desire to put off watching the last season on Netflix (and opening my DVDs, but that is another story), I have decided to undertake the responsibility of reliving Poirot’s genius from the very beginning and taking you all along with me.  

The Adventures of Clapham Cook
Season 1, Episode 1
Original Airdate: January 8, 1989

Opening Credits: This impossibly 1980s rendition of an art deco cartoon/ live action scene resembles someone’s creepy dream that has become, oddly enough, one of the most comforting things for me.

Whitehaven Mansions, London: A client, Mrs. Todd, asks our dear detective to look for her cook, one Eliza Dunn. Note a lean Poirot and a rather disheveled Hastings. The proud detective initially declines, but eventually agrees to head to Clapham and find the missing domestique.

Todd House, Clapham: Upon arrival, the still-proud Poirot implores Hastings not to tell Chief Inspector Japp about being hired for such a silly case. The Belgian then interviews Annie the maid and the Todds’ paying guest, Mr. Simpson. Two facts about Dunn’s leaving are revealed.

Back in Whitehaven: An enraged Poirot receives a letter of regret from the Todds, asking him to stop the investigation. They enclose a “generous” fee of one guinea (today, about a pound). He is determined to see this case through, despite this slight.

Poirot pursues a lead and finds himself in the same bank as CI Japp, who is interviewing Mr. Simpson about stolen bonds and the disappearance of his colleague, Mr. Davis. The chief inspector teases Poirot about his domestic case, a deviation from his record of only taking cases of “national importance”.

The cook responds to a newspaper ad posted by Poirot. They find her in the country, “a wasteland” as the detective puts it. It has a view that “should be painted for us… that is why we pay the artist, for exposing himself to these conditions on our behalf,” he adds.

Poirot is my hero, truly.

Eliza reveals that the cottage she currently lives in is part of a legacy from a family friend, which was brought to her attention by an Australian lawyer named Mr. Crotchet. It takes Hastings a couple of hours to figure out that Crotchet was Simpson in disguise, and they head back to Clapham. Another interview with the ever-so-helpful Annie gives Poirot vital information that leads him to finally solve this wild goose chase.

Verdict: Rather dull, not that interesting. Forgivable since it is the first episode of the entire series, but I also expected much more, for the same reason.

(Three out of five)

Anyone else out there excited to take this journey with me?

Surviving with The Martian

The Martian 
Andy Weir

A storm leaves Mark Watney stranded on Mars. He must figure out how to survive in an airless, waterless, and lifeless planet for four years until he can be saved.

The MartianA word of warning: this book can read a little too technical.

At the very basic, this is a novel of survival. But it is about a thousand times more interesting since it is set on Mars.

This novel is full of twists. It is very unpredictable, and quite addictive, to be honest. Watney, the stranded astronaut, is very entertaining. His optimism is inspiring. And really, how can you not love a character who reads Poirot?

Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. But after reading this book, I am glad I never actually pursued it — well, this novel and learning how space toilets work.

Look at this cover. Bask in its glory.

In a nutshell: Science + wit + barren wasteland + space = A love so deep.

(Five out of five)

I am looking forward to the movie! Have you seen it?

Breaking through The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar 
Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is losing her mind, and she is taking all of us with her.

You can identify with Esther in so many ways: the disappointment in your underachievement, the lack of direction, the loss of self-confidence, and the need for escape.

The Bell JarThe novel is written in a way that the readers, as Esther herself, are unsure about what is actually happening. The lines between the present (both real and constructed), the past, and the future are too blurred, indistinguishable from each other. That is how this story shines – her madness is more evident as the narrative progresses.

The famous I am I am I am is a reminder that you are here, you are present, and you must acknowledge yourself being in this present rather than letting that bell jar isolate you completely. The problem with being in the bell jar is that it lets you see the world, but you also wallow in all that is you, never taking anything from the outside world. Being in the bell jar is being conceited, stewing in your own misery, selfishly considering one side and one side alone.

It was hard for me to read the novel all at once, because I noticed I was progressively getting sadder and more self-involved (more than usual, I should say). Not sure if it was because I was getting too absorbed in the story, or if it was merely a Pavlovian reaction to the novel. Maybe it was both.

It is difficult to write a complete review for The Bell Jar without giving too much away. All I can say is this: This is a good book, and I think you should read it.

(Five out of five)

What are your thoughts on this novel?

Experiencing Love’s First Bloom in Wildflower Crown

Wildflower Crown
Charlotte Cyprus

An innocent free-spirit, aptly named Wild, finds herself in the middle of a royal mess. The king and queen, then, compels her to help them save their kingdom. As she partakes in etiquette and history lessons, Wild also learns about love itself.

Like Wild, this is my first foray into romance – in novels, that is. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this novel. It is funny, interesting, and quite easy to read.

The book is rather short at under 150 pages, but it is well-paced. The love scenes are tasteful, not unnecessarily long. I also liked how simple the ending is, it is quite sweet actually.

A few things about the novel irked me, however. The word “scowl” (and its other possible manifestations) appeared too often throughout the novel. There were also a couple of spelling and grammatical errors. All of these concerns are really redeemable, with a good copyeditor, so I do not think it has a lot of bearing on the integrity of the novel.

The author sent me this copy, and I am truly grateful for it. I must say I was apprehensive to read and review a romance novel, but as I mentioned earlier, I am pleasantly surprised with it.

As always, these are my honest opinions and they have not been swayed in any way. This sentiment should be understood without being said, but I thought I should say it nonetheless.

(Four out of five)

What good books have you read lately?

Unveiling the Mysteries of the Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart

A mysterious newspaper ad brings four gifted children together, forming a team they fondly call The Mysterious Benedict Society. With their beloved leader and benefactor Mr. Nicholas Benedict, they set out to save their town (and the world!) from an evil mastermind.

Book OneThis trilogy is a fast read and very interesting throughout. The books are so well-written and are very hard to put down.

They are also unpredictable, exciting, and action-packed.

At first it reminded me of another children’s lit favorite, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Benedict, however, is definitely a lot sillier and less dark.

The characters in this series seem like caricatures, though. They are, I mean, not as well-developed as they should have been. But considering their target audience, it does not seem to matter that much.

The development of Constance Book TwoContraire, the youngest of the Society, was a pleasant surprise for me. I will not spoil this for would-be readers, but I think most people would agree.

There was another character that I enjoyed reading about, but I fear spoilers would ensue if I discuss it. Feel free to discuss him with me in the comments section, if you are so inclined.

Design-wise, I think the books are beautiful. The covers are so vibrant and eye-catching. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are – for the lack of a better word – cute.

Aside from the covers, what drew me to these books was the promise of puzzles, which the reader can partake in as the characters were doing so.

Book ThreeThere lies my disappointment, because it was only the first book that had them, and they were not many. Granted, integrating puzzles seamlessly into a novel is quite a feat, but it disappointed me nonetheless.

The author did come out with a book dedicated solely to puzzles, but it is not the same. Good try, though.

All in all, this series was fantastic. Children of all ages would definitely enjoy these books!

(Five out of five)

My other favorite character is…? Who is yours?