Book Review – You Beneath Your Skin

A few years ago, I came across Robert Galbraith’s crime thrillers and fell in love with them. Though I am not a big fan of blood and gore, I actually relished the detailed description of crime scenes in the books. Also, the protagonist, Cormoran Strike is not your usual charming and suave detective, but a man who has one leg, is battling weight issues and is still not able to come to terms that his girlfriend has left him for good. After reading his (or rather her) books, I always wondered if Indian authors could write such a book and whether I would enjoy it.

Well, I got my answer in Damyanti Biswas’ book – You Beneath Your Skin

Image Credit – Amazon


Anjali Morgan, Indian American single mother works as a psychiatrist in Delhi. She also looks after her autistic son, Nikhil. She is in an affair with ambitious Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt. Jatin is married to Drishti, his boss’s daughter, however their marriage is falling apart. His younger sister, Maya and her assistant, Pawan, run a detective agency.

In the slum areas of Delhi, slum women are found stuffed in trash bags, raped and badly mutilated. As Jatin tries to solve the mystery along with the help of Anjali, his sister Maya and her assistant Pawan, events spiral out of control. Jatin comes face to face with shocking reality and must make some hard choices.


The story is absolutely captivating. Who was raping and killing slum women? Why were their faces and bodies disfigured by acid? Was it the work of a serial killer or was a gang involved? But as the story unfolds, you keep on wondering if there is more to the family members of the protagonists than meets the eye. Was Nikhil really innocent? Were Varun and Bunty involved in a shady deal? All these questions make you turn pages one after the other. I finished the book in under 36 hours.

You Beneath Your Skin is as much about the characters as it is about the story. The story is narrated from the viewpoints of Jatin Bhatt, Anjali, Maya and Pawan. The protagonists have flaws and that’s what makes them so relatable. Jatin loves Anjali, but is not able to divorce his wife as that would mean kissing his career and long-standing dream of becoming Chief of Police goodbye. Also, Jatin is an over indulgent father who can see no wrong in his son. It makes me think of the parents of today, and I being one, makes me delve deep into my parenting style. Anjali has issues from her childhood which stop her from moving forward. Maya a confident young businesswoman is shy when it comes to her physical scars. Pawan, on the other hand, comes across as the sanest person in the whole book.

The story transports you from swanky air-conditioned malls and posh Safdarjung Enclave to the dark underbelly of Delhi in the blink of an eye. The vivid description of Biswas not only evokes images of the dirty overflowing nullahs, the unwashed ragpicker children, badly but provocatively dressed women trying to eke out a living by meeting their clients in the badly lit by-lanes, but it also takes you on an olfactory tour of Delhi. I mean having visited Nizam’s, I smelled the charred smell of the meat at this heritage restaurant, and I also smelled the strong stench of urine and other human waste under Pul Bangash, and wrinkled my nose.

Damyanti has sensitively described the pain and trauma of women whose face have been disfigured by acid attacks. One more thing I appreciated was that the author has not described the blood curling crime scenes in detail. The end was unexpected, but realistic given the crime, corruption and bureaucracy in India. I hope she writes more books with Maya and Pawan at the fore.

A couple of things that I noticed was that a few sentences started without a noun or pronoun, written in the style of a blog. Also, Mahavir Jayanti falls in spring when the winter sun gives way to sunny and balmy weather.


So coming to my earlier question whether Indian authors can deliver a well-written crime thriller. Well, they absolutely CAN and I loved reading this book. If you like crime thrillers, then you shouldn’t miss this book.

Buy the book from this Amazon link

Proceeds to the author will be donated to the non-profits Chaanv Foundation and Project WHY. 

Book cover of The Satapur Moonstone

Book Review – The Satapur Moonstone

A few months ago, I had read Sujata Massey’s The Murder on Malabar Hill and was quite impressed with her writing skills. If you would like to read the book review, just click here.

So, when I came across another mystery from her, I picked it up without a second thought.


Perveen Mistry is engaged by Kolhapur Agency, a subdivision of the British Government in India, to rule over princely states in the Western Ghat region, which are left without male rulers and/or whose princes are still not of age to take over the throne. One such princely state is Satapur that has undergone a double tragedy. Not only it lost its maharaja due to a sudden illness, but also lost the teenage prince in a tragic hunting accident. The state is now run by an agent of the British Raj and the dowager queen and her daughter in law.

The royal ladies are in a bitter argument over the education of the young crown prince, and because these ladies are in purdah, a ladies’ counsel is sought. Perveen being the only female lawyer in India visits the palace in the hope to find an amicable solution to the problem, but little does she know that the palace is full of hidden perils for the royal family and herself.


I am in love with the bold female protagonist, Perveen Mistry. The writer did a fine work of building up Perveen’s character in her first book. However, for people who read The Satapur Moonstone before The Murder on Malabar Hill will be slightly confused as there are numerous references to Perveen’s past in this book. Perveen seems to have lost her chutzpah in this book, she is making one assumption after another without any evidence to back her assumptions.

There is a motley of characters in this story, most of them interesting. For example, I liked the royal jester, Aditya’s character. However, most others disappointed me. The British agent Colin’s character starts on an interesting note; his foot is amputated, but he practices Yoga daily, there was a lot of scope to involve him in the story. But Colin is quickly pushed into the background resurfacing from time to time more as a support to Perveen than a strong lead, which I found disappointing. Colin would have made an excellent ally to Perveen.

The plot is thick and luscious, the characters are fascinating and the mystery is involving, but alas, the writer is not able to carry it through. It’s like one has the perfect recipe and awesome ingredients, but the chef is having a bad day. That’s what I felt here. The story could have benefitted from a tighter writing. The mysteries of the lost and found camera and Roderick Ames were not followed through.

I found the description of food very evocative. Ten different types of chicken that cook Rama prepares, the kipper that Perveen is loathe to eat at the Royal Western India Turf Club and kande pohe that the cook of Vandana Mehta prepares build up colorful images. Also, I loved the care with which Massey describes the saris that Perveen and the royal ladies wear.

The book touched Perveen’s need for physical and emotional companionship and also created a romantic angle between Perveen and Colin; hope the writer builds on it in her next book, that should be something to look forward to.


The Satapur Moonstone might not be as gripping as Sujata Massey’s first one, but still it’s a good read. I would definitely recommend.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author

16. A book on crime-solving

20. A book which is a 2019 release

Cover of The Women's Courtyard

Book Review – The Women’s Courtyard

Why I chose this book had something to do with the fact that I had not read any book of an Urdu author and also because I was mighty impressed when it said that the writer, Khadija Mastur, an award-winning Urdu writer from Pakistan, was considered as a Bronte Sister of Urdu literature. Though I knew it was an English translation by Daisy Rockwell, I wanted to read this book. The Urdu title of the book is Aangan, which was published in Penguin Classics as The Women’s Courtyard.

The story is set around 15 years before the Indian Independence from the British rule. Aliya, the protagonist finds herself transported to her elder paternal uncle’s home after her sister’s demise and father being sent to jail. She is a bright girl who is keen to be educated. But in her uncle’s home, she comes across various kinds of people. Though she is encouraged to learn by her uncle and cousins, she is also disturbed by the fact that the home is a hotbed for political activities. Her uncle is a staunch follower of Congress while her cousin, uncle’s elder son believes in the Muslim League. There are constant tensions in the household due to different ideologies.


The book throws light on the condition of women in those times. Women lived under various taboos, they were not allowed to remarry, had to suffer physical and mental abuse and could not move out freely.

Aliya and the women in the household lived in purdah. It’s a system where women don’t come in contact with strange men. And for that, their activities are limited to the confines of the courtyard of the house where they sit and receive female guests and also the men of the house. So, though outside men are not admitted into the courtyard, the family’s menfolk can move and speak freely with the women of the house. As most of the drama unfolds in this courtyard, no wonder the author named the book so.

Let’s talk about the characters in the story. Aliya is the protagonist and a strong woman. She is educated and hold onto her values well. She loves her father and uncle, but she also knows that they were weak men. Though they fought for the freedom of India, they conveniently ignored the situation back at home. It didn’t bother them that there was not enough to eat for the family members or that the women folk were wearing old and torn clothes. She also realizes that with love and marriage come suffering and hence stays true to her vow of not marrying, though she gets various offers of betrothal. However, she is a human too, and in her moments of weakness finds herself attracted to her cousin Jameel. But better sense always prevails.

I find the character of Aliya’s mother as one of the most interesting. She is a woman who knows which side her bread is buttered, but she is also a person who doesn’t appreciate any kindness. She feels entitled to things and doesn’t think twice before hurting people with her acid remarks.

On the other hand, I found Asrar Miyan’s character very pitiable. Though Aliya feels for the poor person, I find it strange that she doesn’t do much for him.

Lost in translation – I experienced something of the kind when I was reading the book. I knew beforehand that a translation cannot always do true justice to the original, but I found the language of the book static. It actually marred the book reading experience and there were times when I actually felt that I should have known Urdu to understand the book better.

I promise not to form an opinion of the writer basis this book and hope to read other books of Khadija Mastur.


Unless you know Urdu, I would say stay clear of this book.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

1. A book that is a Translation

2. A book written by a Female author



Book Review – The Night Circus

Book Cover of Night Circus
Image Credit: Amazon.UK

As the name suggests, the story is about a circus – Le Cirque des Rêves – that opens only at night. But it is not an ordinary circus where animals play stunts and jokers humiliate themselves before the audience. It is a circus that is larger than life and every person associated with it is brilliant showcasing their unparalleled craft. While spectators revel in the extraordinary talent show and enjoy the various eats stalls, no one realizes that the circus is actually an arena for a competition.

Two great magicians create the circus to enter into a competition; however, it’s not they who actually fight, but their respective proteges Celia and Marco. The two young magicians have been trained since childhood for this fierce competition, and neither of them knows that in this game, only one can be left standing. It’s not a duel with swords, but a battle of imagination. Everything would have gone brilliantly except that the older instructors hadn’t counted on their proteges falling in love – a spiritual and magical kind of love.

In spite of their love, they remain bonded to the circus because the fate of the circus and of everyone involved with it; from the performers to the patrons hangs precariously on their game. Read the book to find out if Celia and Marco are able to outplay the game and save the circus?


Let me tell you that The Night Circus is not an easy book to review.

The book catches your attention as soon as you read the excerpt –

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

The author paints a larger than life image of the night circus – there is intrigue, mystery and excitement. The one of its kind black-and-white clock made to order by a German horlogier, each performer hand picked for his or her unique skill and the foods available at the stalls which can be found nowhere in the world; it actually made me long to visit such a circus. The circus neither is just a venue nor it is just a talent show, but it is like a breathing and living person in the book. The story starts and ends with the circus.

All the characters are well sketched especially Celia and Marco, Chandresh – the founder of the Circus, the horlogier who becomes an ardent fan of the circus and the twins. However, I had a feeling that some of the characters were not reasonably dealt with in the end.

The love story between Celia and Marco simmers slowly, takes years to mature and spans over decades. It might test your patience at times.

The detailed description of how the young magicians were trained for the competition is quite entertaining. Also, the description of the circus and its various components is a delight to read. And, the narration is sheer poetry.

Excerpts from the book

The ticket booth clearly visible behind the gates is closed and barred. The tents are still, save for when they ripple ever so slightly in the wind. The only movement within the circus is the clock that ticks by the passing minutes, if such a wonder of sculpture can even be called a clock. The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold. The sun disappears completely beyond the horizon, and the remaining luminosity shifts from dusk to twilight. 

 First, there is a popping sound. It is barely audible over the wind and conversation. A soft noise like a kettle about to boil for tea. Then comes the light. All over the tents, small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. The waiting crowd quiets as it watches this display of illumination. Someone near you gasps. A small child claps his hands with glee at the sight. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears.

They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing. “They cannot be real,” someone nearby remarks.
Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch.

Wait till you read the description of the black-and-white custom clock. It’s a torture to read and fantasize but not be able to see it for yourself.


Erin Morgenstern writes beautifully. She has written a book about magicians, illusions and enchantments, love and star-crossed lovers, however, I would have preferred a bit more story. Truthfully, I was disappointed with the end. For a book that started with such a bang, it lost its luster.

However, if you prefer powerful storytelling over the plot, then the Night Circus is definitely your book. Read it for its lyrical and evocative storytelling.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author

19. A book written by an author who is new to you


Book Review – A Gentleman in Moscow

book cover of a gentleman standing in the balcony of Hotel Metropol in Moscow
Image credit: Goodreads

Some books come in your life like a ray of sunshine during incessant rains.

Well, this book has been one of that kind. On one hand, you don’t want to put the book down and on the other you don’t want it to end. Huh!!


In 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to spend his life under house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. The book narrates the story through the eyes of the Count for the next thirty years as he makes the most of his life despite its limitations. He meets interesting characters; some stay with him till the end, some part ways very early, some become his friends, while some antagonize him. But all in all, the Count lives an eventful life!!


Before reading this book, I had a hazy picture of Russia from what little history I had read in the school and from the books of Leo Tolstoy. Though this book is more of a fictional account of the times during the Bolshevik’s reign over the newly formed Soviet Union, it still gives a good view of the life during the times of Stalin.

The character of Count Rostov is finely and thoughtfully built. The Count not only amuses you with his wit and impresses you with his charm, but also makes you want to emulate him for his wisdom. A character that you want to tip your hat to, if you had been wearing one and wish good luck to for the rest of his journey.

Frankly speaking, when in the beginning the Count is sentenced to house arrest in a hotel, I was a little skeptical about how the book would pan out if the protagonist could not even step out. But nowhere during the story I felt that the Count was restricted; a patient, satisfied, but resourceful fellow he enjoys his life in his limited means. That doesn’t mean he lives a dreary or boring life; far from it, he has his adventures which will amaze you, make you laugh and at places teary-eyed too.

He becomes a waiter at the hotel restaurant and does his work with charm and panache. He is well read, identifies any piece of music, can speak many languages and knows his liquor well. He is a real asset to the Hotel though many might not agree with it.

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book that will make you fall in love with Russia, which even the combined brilliance of Leo Tolstoy and Chekhov couldn’t do. A book that will make you pick up Pushkin, Gogol and Dosteovysky. It’s a book that will make you want to visit Russia and book your stay in Hotel Metropol.

It’s a brilliant book given that it has everything that would appeal to a reader – romance, politics and espionage. The tremendous events of the great depression and the World War II are only mentioned in passing, it is because the main focus is on the Count and how he survives in the hotel.

Here are some of the quotes or observations from the book:

“That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love.”

“By the smallest of one’s actions, one can restore some sense of order to the world.”

A Gentleman in Moscow is a book that you must read in this lifetime, even if you are not a Russophile.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

5. A book from WWII time period

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

18. A book with four words in title

19. A book written by an author who is new to you


Book Review – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

You pick some books either because the fancy cover catches your eye or because you find the title intriguing. For me, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street exhibited both these characteristics; not only was the three dimensional book cover eye catching but the title was quite intriguing too. And I am happy I chose this book because it was one of the warmest reads of the recent times.

Book cover of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
Pic –

In the year 1883, in the thick of the Irish War of Independence, Thaniel Steepleton, a telegraphist, returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the same watch saves his life by setting off an ear-piercing alarm that draws him away from the blast that destroys Scotland Yard. Realizing it was not an ordinary timepiece, Thaniel goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, an old but kind immigrant from Japan who stays in the Show Village.

Scotland Yard suspects Mori of being the brain behind the bombings. On Scotland Yard’s insistence, Thaniel rents a room in Mori’s house to dig more about him. But very soon he comes to realize that there is more to Mori than meets the eye. Mori is a clairvoyant who can predict certain future events, but he is not a wicked person. Mori, considers himself Thaniel’s friend and guardian, and tries to protect his ward as best as he can, though Thaniel doesn’t always understand Mori’s intentions.

Thaniel meets Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist and decides to marry her, though he knows Mori and Grace don’t like each other. But then certain events unfold which make Thaniel realize who he wants to spend his entire life with.

It is a very unusual book. Set in Victorian London, it takes us on a nostalgic walk through the cobbled streets of London, Victoria station, the West Minister Abbey, the filthy banks of the Thames and the up-market Belgravia. It also gives us a satisfying peek into Japan and how its civil war affects its aristocracy and traditions.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street has many heroes for me. Obviously, Mori outshines them all, with his kindness, his stoicism and his loyalty above all. He is an interesting character as he lives in the heart of London, talks in an almost faultles English accent and has his hair dyed so he doesn’t stand out too much in the crowd. On the other hand, Thaniel is a simple person from Edinburgh who gets drawn in by people’s kindness. However, he makes a just decision at the end of the story.

Grace Carrow might come out as the villain in the story, but she is driven by hurt and jealousy, and might be excused. She is a feminist of her day and age without her knowing about it; she is intelligent and bold. She defies all customs and traditions and walks about in men’s clothes so as not to be stopped in gentlemen’s gatherings. She is also obstinate – she plans to spend the night with Thaniel walking on the streets of London, so that she would be disgraced and forced to marry Thaniel. Though Matsumoto, Grace’s friend from Oxford, has a short role in the story, it is quite an important one.

This book appealed to me on various levels. It’s a story about friendship between Mori and Thaniel and between Grace and Matsumoto. It’s also a love story which you will realize at the end (no, it’s not a spoiler). Mori’s clairvoyance and his clever if strange watchmaking make you feel as if you are reading a fantasy. There are times when you get confused between the flitting from real to fantasy and back, but they are far and few in between. Also, I found the end to be too fortunate, but the romantic in me appreciated the happy ending (again not a spoiler).

This book has several colors – while I was reading it, I passed the narrow black streets of London, I felt the gray overcast skies, touched the warm oranges and reds from the Chinese lanterns in Filigree Street and saw the golden timepieces and green pears.

The story has all the right ingredients that keep you hooked – bombs, suspense, reality and magic. And so for all the above reasons, Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is not to be missed.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

19. A book written by an author who is new to you

23. A book you bought just because of its cover/a book with a beautiful cover


European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman

Book cover of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Image Credit:

Apart from Harry Potter which I absolutely loved, I haven’t enjoyed the genre of fantasy much. So, when my librarian showed me this book, my first instinct was to say NO. But then I read the excerpt – it talked about Mary Jekyll and Diana Hyde (we have all read the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in our childhood), and also about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. That’s what intrigued me. I knew I had to give this book a try.

The story goes like this – At the end of the nineteenth century, must be the year 1898 AD, when Mary Jekyll receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped. Being a member of the Athena Club along with other women like Beatrice, Catherine, Justine and Diana, she must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue this young girl who has gone through torturous scientific experimentation.

Before I go further, let me tell you, about the members of Athena Club who Mary met in her previous adventure and who now stay with her in her house at 11 Park Terrace, London. All these women are basically monsters created by scientists in order to better the human race through Artificial Selection as opposed to Natural Selection, the theory proposed by Charles Darwin. Mary Jekyll is Dr. Jekyll’s daughter, an eminent scientist and a member of the S.A (a secretive Alchemical Society). Dr. Jekyll experimented on himself and turned into Dr. Hyde and sired Diana Hyde through another woman. Beatrice is Dr. Rappaccini’s daughter who has purposely raised her a garden of poisonous flowers so that she would be poisonous to other living beings. Justine Frankenstein nee Moritz is reanimated by her mentor Viktor Frankenstein after she is dead. So basically, Justine is a dead person living. Catherine Moreau is the half-finished puma woman from the island of Dr. Moreau, a science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells.

All these 5 women are both powerful and weak in their own respective ways, however, when each of their individual qualities are combined it gives them a definite edge over many others.

Mary along with Justine decide to travel to first Vienna, where Lucinda has been kept in a mental asylum. Diana tags along with them. Their mission is to rescue her from the asylum and take her to Budapest, where the next meeting of the Alchemical Society is held and her father Prof. Van Helsing would be proposing to allow human transfiguration/mutation. Sherlock Holmes aids them financially and introduces these girls to Mrs. Irene Norton, who stays in Vienna. With the help of Mrs. Norton and her clever network of spies, they are able to rescue Lucinda from the asylum and are on their way to Budapest when they get kidnapped.

On the other hand, Holmes disappears too without a word. Now, it’s up to Catherine and Beatrice to find out what happened to their club members and they too embark on a journey to Vienna and then to Budapest.

What follows is an interesting journey where the girls meet spies, vampires and a lot of unexpected benefactors. You really have to read the book to understand the mishmash of characters, the travel, the history and the places.

I liked the title of the book and it was also a factor for me to pick up the book – European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. Travels in the continent I love and oxymoron-ic monstrous gentlewoman.

The story takes you on a historical ride on the Orient Express, the iconic train journey from Paris to Istanbul has suspended its operations, and then through the beautiful and colorful streets of Vienna and Budapest and shows you some curious delights. It has Sherlock Holmes in the beginning and Count Dracula at the end and so many colorful characters in between that your mind does get overwhelmed for a bit – but it’s a happy overwhelm because you still feel like going on and on to find out who are you going meet next – a spy, a vampire or a monster created in a laboratory by power hungry scientists.

The book is a 700-page story and not once did I feel bored or have the urge to put the book down. It was interesting and gripping from the very first word. All the characters are interesting, and the narration of the story is witty. Be prepared to let out more than a few chuckles. However, there are a few drawbacks.

Sherlock Holmes has a very brief appearance and then disappears for the entire length of the book. I found it strange given that he funded the travel of Mary, Justine and Diana to Vienna and had instructed them to keep him informed of their findings. For a person who likes to be on the top of the things, his mysterious absence disconcerted me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s a story of female protagonists, there are male characters too, but they are more to help than to lead.

Secondly, whenever the chief characters find themselves in a soup, they are marvelously rescued by a team of their well wishers whom they don’t even know. It happens every time in the story due to which my heart, which would start beating faster every time the protagonists got in trouble initially, stopped getting excited later on.

The story has a medley of characters, all of which have been written upon by various writers – Sherlock Holmes, Justine Moritz aka Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappacini, Count Dracula, Ayesha – the Queen of Kor, a vanished African city. The author, Theodora Goss has done extremely well to bring all these characters together in an interesting manner in her story.

This is the second book in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club. I would recommend you to pick up the first book – The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, to understand the depth of the characters.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author

6. A retelling of your favorite fairytale/classic

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

22. A book that has a mythical/imaginary creature

Book Review – The Signature of All Things

Book Cover of The Signature of Small Things
Image credit Amazon Uk


I haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s most popular book Eat, Pray and Love. I watched the movie first, and once I watch a movie, I don’t feel like reading the book. It ruins my imagination. Anyway, I loved the movie so much, that I thought if the movie was even 10% authentic, the book should be a marvel. And I picked up her first book that I came across – The Signature of Small Things. Though it was a huge 500-page book, the excerpt was interesting which made the decision for me.

Alma Whitaker is raised in 19th century Philadelphia in a world of luxury. Her curiosity and unquenchable thirst to explore the nature are fuelled by her father, a botanical explorer and mother, a botanist in her own right. Alma’s father encourages her to speak her mind, while her mother ingrains into her the values of a good human being. But, after all she is a human and there are times when she falls short.

Alma grows up into a practical woman who is neither blinded by the wealth around her, nor who shies away from the realities of life. She invests her time wisely into digging the mysteries of evolution. At the prime of her life, she encounters a man whom she finds both her equal and comes to love, but little does she know that her affection for him would draw her into the world of divinity and spiritualism.

Leaving behind all her worldly goods, she embarks on a momentous journey from Philadelphia to Tahiti and then to Amsterdam. She meets some wonderful people in Tahiti and also finds the truth for which she had undertaken the journey. She decides to visit Amsterdam, the land of her mother and settle there. Not to sit idle, she takes up work and makes a name for herself in the world of bryology.

The book started on an interesting note. It talks about the humble origins of Henry Whitaker (Alma’s father) and how he made his fortune and a name for himself as a botanist. Then the book focuses on Alma’s childhood, her adulthood and her marriage. The later part of the story focuses on Alma’s voyage to Tahiti, her discovery and her last years in Amsterdam.

The characters in the story are very well built; even the characters who played a small role are well defined and leave a lasting impression. For example, the unpredictable but ever bubbly Retta who ends up in an asylum, the beautiful but cold Prudence, who surprises everyone by marrying her tutor, Beatrice – the stern but practical mother of Alma, who doesn’t think twice before adopting Prudence, a maid’s daughter and treating her as the child of her womb or Hanneke de Groot, the handmaid who follows her mistress, Beatrice from Amsterdam to Philadelphia and runs the Whitaker household single-handedly.

However, for me, there are three heroes in the story. Alma Whitaker, Henry Whitaker and Ambrose. Alma is the protagonist, but she is not your regular spoilt rich kid. Even surrounded by wealth, her only passion is knowledge. However, she has her own faults. She is shown beseeched by jealousy when she finds Prudence in her home. She is upset when her friend Retta marries Georges, her first crush. She is overcome by anger and hatred when her husband, Ambrose disappoints her in their marriage. However, I found Alma to be boring. She lives a life sans adventure except for the last part when she undertakes a journey to Tahiti and then to Amsterdam. Also, I didn’t feel Alma endearing or engaging, and maybe that’s the reason I couldn’t feel the personal loss of Alma.

Ambrose is the husband of Alma, but only in name. Alma could never understand her husband – the strange but always happy man who talks about divinity and spiritualism. Though Ambrose plays a small role in the book, he overshadows a major part of the story.

I found Henry Whitaker to be the most interesting of the lot. He is an uneducated man who makes it big in life, both in terms of money and name. He is quirky and unapologetic, and that what makes him endearing to the reader. One never knows what to expect with him around.

Enough about the characters, let me talk about the writing style of Gilbert. Gilbert’s narrative is simple and witty. However, the plot slows down in the middle and there are times when exasperated you feel like putting the book down. A reader comes up with a lot of questions which sadly get answered a little too late, by the time which the reader has already moved onto the next plot and raised another set of questions.

The book is undoubtedly well researched, but I found an overabundance of historical facts and scientific research which intrigues the reader initially, but ends up frustrating him. At the end of the book, Alma is shown to be a contemporary of Darwin and anticipates Darwin’s work. I mean I am already exhausted by the many plots and subplots and didn’t want another one opening right at the end of the book which served no other purpose than to show one more failure, this time professional, that Alma went through.

Gilbert is a brilliant and talented writer, and she has put a lot of time and research into the novel, but a surplus of facts and details might have just killed the book.

I wouldn’t recommend the book unless you like big fat books with history, facts and details.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to one of them. Seriously, only one!!

2. A book written by a Female author


Book Review – A Murder on Malabar Hill

It is no secret that I love reading murder mysteries and that Dame Agatha Christie is my favorite author in the genre. Last week, as I was picking up a book of Sophie Hannah in the Agatha Christie series, my librarian recommended to me this book – A Murder on Malabar Hill. The synopsis of the book was quite intriguing and I didn’t hesitate to borrow the book.

Book cover of a Murder on Malabar Hill
Book cover of a Murder on Malabar Hill

Written by Sujata Massey, an Indo-German, A Murder on Malabar Hill rolls in Mumbai in 1921 pre-Independent India. Parveen Mistry, a young and intelligent Zoroastrian, joins her father’s prestigious law firm to become one of India’s first female lawyers.

In her very first case, she is appointed to execute the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy mill owner who dies intestate leaving behind three widows and four kids. He also appoints a guardian/caretaker for his estate, mill and family. Parveen’s suspicions are aroused by the anomaly in the will and she is suspicious of the guardian of duping the unworldly wise widows who live in a strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to men, until she finds him murdered in his own house.

Who killed him? One of the widows of Omar Farid, one of the servants or someone from the outside? Parveen makes it her business to find out in order to protect the family of Omar Farid.

I like this book on various levels.

Firstly, I fell in love with the protagonist. Parveen Mistry is a feisty young woman who though is bound by the strict rules of society in early 20th century doesn’t give it up easily without a fight. As per the author, Parveen’s character was inspired by India’s earliest women lawyers, Cornelia Sorabji of Poona, the first woman to read law at Oxford and the first woman to sit the British law exam and to be admitted to the Bombay Bar.

Parveen has a disturbing past, but she rises above it, owns up her mistakes and moves on. Also, the author has dealt with the subject of Parveen’s tumultuous past with great sensitivity and respect.

I didn’t know about Purdanashins, the females of the Muslim community who choose to stay in seclusion all their life in zenanas (female rooms) and not to interact with men, except their husbands and sons. The book throws light on them and gives a good insight into their family structure and mental make-up of such women. The book talks not only about the women in seclusion in the Muslim community, but also some of the sordid practices of orthodox Parsi families.

Sujata Massey paints a nostalgic picture of Mumbai of a 100 years ago. The pretty sprawling Anglo-Indian bungalows on Malabar Hill, the Queen’s Necklace, Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar Parsi Colony and the jewel of Colaba – The Taj Mahal Palace. The tongas and man-pulled rickshaws, the stevedores at the Ballard Pier and Irani bakeries like Yazdani serving melt-in-your-mouth Irani confectionery all add to the old-world charm of this majestic city. Mumbai would not have been Mumbai without the generous contribution of the Zoroastrian community, and this book gives a just ode to them.

There are a few nail-biting moments in the book, however, for a murder mystery, I would have expected some more. The mystery was not mysterious enough and even I could see through the killer (I have never been able to crack the murderer in Agatha Christie’s books). So, yes, that was a bit disappointing there, however, the motive for murder was intelligent enough.

The book is more than just a murder mystery, but an introduction to the social life of elite Mumbai in the early 1900s and the stand of women in the society. The book is well researched and the characters are complex and believable.

If you are looking for a finely detailed and tightly woven crime novel like Agatha Christie’s, then you might be disappointed in this book, but if you are looking for an engaging and cozy read with one of its aspects being a murder mystery, you will definitely like this book.

I definitely would want to read all future offerings of Parveen Mistry Investigates.

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to three of them:

2. A book written by a Female author

16. A book on crime-solving

23. A book you bought just because of its cover/a book with a beautiful cover

Book Review – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I am taking part in the Write Tribe Reading Challenge and I have opted to read 24 books this year (though I am hoping to read more). There are 24 prompts given, and this book adheres to three of them:

8. A book with a name in the title

9. A book with orange cover (I finally got it 🙂 )

10. A book set in a country that you visited/want to visit

Image credit: Amazon

I must confess that I finished reading this book in 4 months, though I read 95% of the book only in the last 4 days.

It’s my good fortune that of late, I have been coming across beautiful books. The credit goes to my blogger friends who read and recommend these books.

So, without further ado, let me write about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry


One morning, Harold Fry, a former brewery manager recently retired, finds a letter from an acquaintance, Queenie Hennessy, he hadn’t heard for over 20 years. The letter said Queenie was dying of a terminal cancer in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Harold Fry was shaken. He wrote her a reply and started out to post the letter. However, when the post box cropped up, he didn’t feel like posting the letter so soon, so he decided to walk till the next box. But he still didn’t post and walked till the next one. He even walked past the post office and didn’t post the letter. A chance meeting with a girl in a garage shop who said how keeping faith and being positive helped her aunt (who had cancer), showed him the light. He decided to walk the length of the United Kingdom (from Kingsbridge at the south of England to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the most northern town in England) to meet Queenie, the woman who had once saved Harold’s life and had got nothing in return.

It didn’t matter to him that he was wearing yachting shoes and not walking shoes, he was not carrying any change of clothes and that he was not even carrying his mobile phone. He didn’t think of much except putting one foot before the other. Even when his feet developed blisters and were bleeding, he continued walking. Initially, Harold was too shy to ask for help. However, he met some very kind people on his journey and started believing in the genuineness of humanity.

Soon, he realized that it was not right on his part to squander his retirement fund on guest houses and daily meals. He decided to reach Berwick upon the largesse of the nature and people. He drank spring water, fruits from the fields and wild mushrooms foraged from the forest. He humbly accepted whatever people offered him and made sure he never took more than required.

Harold’s journey became a sensation in England and people in every city and town that he visited came forward to help Harold. In his journey, joined a motley of characters; all had a different purpose, but they made Harold’s journey their own.

At the end of 87 days after walking 627 miles, Harold reached Berwick to meet Queenie.


If you start reading the book, you will find it very ordinary. A retired old man starting a journey to meet a long-lost friend – what’s so extraordinary about it?

Well, the extraordinary is not in the man – but in the faith of the man that prompts him to make a tediously long journey. The extraordinary is in the humanity that picks up the old man whenever he falters. The extraordinary is in the learning that the man receives during his journey.

The title of the book is apt – it may be journey for some, but for Harold Fry it was a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage he needed to make to atone for his past sins, to be free of the guilt and burden of them and make peace with his present.

I liked Harold Fry for who he is – an honest man who doesn’t like to break his promise. But I also like the other characters in the story who are as lovable as Harold – Rex, who has recently lost his wife and is very helpful to Maureen deal with the absence of Harold and Kate – the only sane person who joins, albeit briefly, Harold in his journey.

I liked the book because of its simple writing, unassuming humor and not-over-the-top emotional drama.