Tag: Blogging

Book Review: Angel of the Dark (Sidney Sheldon and Tilly Bagshawe).

Angel of the Dark

-Sidney Sheldon and Tilly Bagshawe.


Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon and Tilly Bagshawe is a thriller novel. It focuses on a series of murders in which the rich older husband violently murdered, and his young wife is brutally raped but left alive. The story spans a few years and different continents as the narration jumps from one timeline to the next.

The story begins in 1996 in Los Angeles when Andrew Jakes, a millionaire, is murdered, and his wife is found alive but badly beaten and raped. Detective Danny McGuire is in charge of the case. He has no promising leads or suspects except the witness, Angela Jakes, the wife. She disappears overnight before the case is officially closed, and all the money she inherited from her husband is donated to children’s charities. 9 years later, Danny is working in Interpol at Lyon, France. The Andrew Jakes’s murder still haunts him, and it is one of the reasons he leaves America.


Danny is contacted by a writer Matt Daley who is persistent about talking to him. Matt Daley, his mom, and his sister were abandoned by Andrew Jakes when Matt was still a baby, and he hadn’t seen him since then. Matt Daley is intrigued by his biological father’s mother and decides to make a documentary about him. Matt is the one who finds the other similar murders where wealthy older husbands were murdered and their wives raped but alive. The wives disappeared soon after donating all the money to charities.


The narration shifts a lot as all characters have a point of view. In the beginning, it was a little confusing, but then it started making sense. The story has a good pace, and the plot is thrilling and mysterious. The intensity level is amped up as the story moves ahead. Sofia Basta is the wife of all victims and has been an accomplice to the murders with Francis Mancini. One thing that slightly bothered me was that the male characters are immediately infatuated with Sofia Basta throughout the book that is almost borderline obsessive. Since childhood, Sofia has faced unwanted advances and assaults. She is a victim too sure, I agree, but the ending for her doesn’t seem appropriate.

The last few chapters started to get predictable. I still wanted to know how things turned out the way they did. Matt’s obsession with Lisa, one of Sofia’s identities, is a little unrealistic. They knew each other for a few weeks and fell in love. The faith he has in her despite evidence proving otherwise at times was illogical. Sofia and Francis both had a rough childhood and ended up in the same children’s home in New York. Sofia has never known safe, but she feels safe with Matt. The tragic love story of Miriam, the Moroccan Princess, seemed random when I read it, but its importance to Sofia is unraveled later on.


The thrill, the romance, and some psychological elements in the mix; it makes an interesting read. The writing style and the pacing of the story were good, and it never felt dull. The only problem for me was that after a certain point, I could guess where it was going. Overall, I liked reading this book. I am not much of a thriller reader, but this book is a good one-time read.

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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

-J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released back in 2016. I have been meaning to read it for years. I had heard some mixed reviews about this book and didn’t want to ruin in any way my love for the original books and movies. The script of this play was published, in the form of a book. I found the kindle version a few weeks back and thought it was a good time to start reading it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child mainly follows Harry’s young son Albus as he goes to Hogwarts. He is sorted into Slytherin and befriends Scorpius Malfoy. Albus is not very happy at Hogwarts and feels the weight of Harry’s legacy. He is tensed and feels misunderstood. Harry doesn’t approve of Albus’s friendship with Scorpius as there are rumors about him being Voldemort’s child. Meanwhile, Harry Potter now works at the Ministry of Magic and has to live with his past and its guilt.

The story begins to gain pace when Amos Diggory, visits Harry’s home. Cedric Diggory, Amos’s son was killed by Voldemort because he was with Harry during the Tri-wizard tournament. There is a rumor that the Ministry of Magic has acquired a time-turner that Amos wants Harry to use to save Cedric. He plays on the guilt Harry already feels about Cedric’s death. Harry refuses to validate this rumor. Albus overhears them.

When Albus is leaving for Hogwarts, Harry and Albus get into a big argument and say things in the heat of the moment. Albus runs out of the room. Harry starts having bad dreams soon, and his scar aches. It makes him very restless and worried. Albus and Scorpius dig information about the time-turner and decide to use it to save Cedric. Inadvertently, changing history.

The play is full of magic and adventure that we associate with the Harry Potter series. There is time-travel, and we get to see different alternates to the story we know. Albus and Scorpius have a great friendship even though their parents don’t approve of it. They trust each other. Their actions seem careless but, they are just kids and, they think they are doing the right thing. Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are grown-ups. Their characters have different issues now. It was since getting to know these versions of them.

Albus and Harry share a difficult relationship. Both of them end up miscommunicating with each other. It is realistic in a way, but, at times, can be frustrated because neither of them wants to listen to the other. Albus hates being compared to his father and the weight that Harry’s legacy carries. Being sorted into Slytherin makes him feel alienated from the rest of his family. The themes of friendship, betrayal, trust, and family are at the center of this play that is reminiscent of the world that is already familiar to us.

I think this book as a standalone is pretty good. If compared to the original seven books, it falls a little short but, it is still a good book overall. It is a new adventurous story in a world we already know; some characters we already know so, it is interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

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Currently Reading (October ’20).

Currently Reading (October ’20)

My reading list for this month.

  1. Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon and Tilly Bagshawe.

I have read any books by Sidney Sheldon before so, this will be a first. It is not written by Sheldon, but it is based on his extensive notes. Angel of the Dark is a thriller tale, surprising and suspenseful. I am only a couple of chapters in, and it seems promising and mysterious. I like it so far. Serial killer stories are fascinating if done well.

2. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.

I have picked another suspense/thriller book. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo is a Norwegian novel that is 7th in the Harry Hole series. I haven’t read any of the other books. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue. It focuses on detective Harry Hole as he tries to catch a serial killer. I randomly downloaded this book after reading the description and haven’t started it properly yet. It has an intriguing premise and seems focused on darker aspects too.

3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany.

This play is based on the original story of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Rowling, Thorne, and Tiffany. The book focuses on Harry’s son, Albus, and the weight he feels about living up to the family legacy. Reading this is nostalgic; it a familiar world. I am only a few chapters in, but so far so good. The way the story progressed is surprising yet not uncharacteristic.  

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Book Review: 1984 (George Orwell).

1984

-George Orwell.


The last time I started reading this book, I left it incomplete. Now, I finally finished reading it, and in retrospect, I can’t remember why I left it back then in the first place. 1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell. It was published in 1949, and mainly, it is a political book about the post-war world.

The book is set in the future, in 1984. The geography of this world is different from ours with three superpowers – Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. These states are constantly in war with each other. Oceania is ruled by a political group simply known as The Party. Apart from the inner members and outer circle members of the party, everyone else is proles, who live in poverty and mostly ignored. The people here live under constant surveillance, conform to rules, and pledge complete loyalty to Big Brother (Head of The Party).


Winston Smith is a member of the outer party who works in the Ministry of Truth. He is a talented writer, but his job is to edit news articles to fit the ideals of the Party. Winston is the protagonist of the story and we see his world through his eyes. He is often described as frail and quiet, but he is curious and introspective. Winston starts maintaining a diary in which he writes his true thoughts about the world he lives in, which is a punishable offense. He imagines he is writing it for an inner member who is secretly against The Party, named O’Brien. Winston has an affair with Julia; their desire for each other is also like a rebellion.


This book is a commentary against communism because Orwell was worried about Stalin’s USSR and how other countries were turning a blind eye to it. The atmosphere created in the book where the Party doesn’t want people to have any individuality, and the focus is on collective identity. There is a branch called the Thought Police, who keeps an eye out for people who think in unorthodox ways or might rebel. These people are taken away by the Thought Police for committing thoughtcrimes.


This book was written more than 70 years ago, yet it is significant even today. The constant surveillance of people in the story is eerie, but it is also a concept we can relate to in our society. There is a reality that has been created and controlled by the Party. The rewriting of history to show how things are better under their rule, news that is edited to match Party ideologies; it is like a propaganda machine shaping your reality. As you read, you realize the political connotations throughout the story, and it is reminiscent of the Soviet Union and Nazi era.


There are many aspects of the story that surprised me. Winston and Julia are meeting in secret. They start going to a room above a shop where Winston bought the diary. Winston believes that proles are their only hope for a revolution against the Party. The lovers are practically led to a trap by the people they trusted who turned out to be members of the Thought Police. Desire, love, and loyalty should only be for The Party and the Big Brother which Winston accepts at the end.


Some aspects of the book are disturbingly similar to our reality. The surveillance of people, certain specific narratives of history or narratives by the media, and even the propagandas to some extent. These are the concepts that are familiar to us today though not to the level shown in the story. Political undertones are throughout the story, and it is a known fact that George Orwell was against totalitarian and communist ideologies. It took some time for me to get into the story especially at the beginning. Once the setting and the world of the story was established; it changed the pace of the plot. The story is told from a third-person omnipresent narrative, but the focus in on Winston. The character of Winston is introspective, so that helped me understand the gravity of the situation.


I don’t know I kept the book aside that first time because 1984 is a wonderful book. I wasn’t sure about it when I started reading it, but it gets interesting, and then you can’t wait to find out what happens next. It gets a little disturbing and heavy, but that adds to the plot. It has relevance in today’s world, and in a way, it is eye-opening. It is a must read.

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Book Review: A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry).

A Fine Balance

-Rohinton Mistry.


A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is set in an unnamed city of India during the period of The Emergency (1975 – 1976). This is the first novel by Rohinton Mistry that I have read. It is a long novel and complicated in terms of its plot, so I don’t think I will be able to summarize it here properly. I’ll try my best to explain the story.

The story focuses on four main characters – Dina, Ishwar, and Omprakash, who are uncle and nephew, and Maneck. The four characters come from different social settings. Dina was born in a well to do family, but after her father’s death, her older mother took her in because her mother was unable to provide for her. Dina’s older brother mistreated her regularly treating her like a burden. She rebels against him when she marries Rustom Dalal and they are happy together until Rustom dies in a car crash three years later.


Dina is determined and spirited enough to fight against the odds. This time she doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone and make her own way by starting her tailoring business. Ishwar and Omprakash are the tailors Dina hires to work for since her eyesight isn’t the best. Ishwar and Omprakash have fled their village to escape from caste violence against them. They want a fresh start in the city, and they get jobs as tailors for Dina. Surprisingly, they meet Maneck, a student from an idyllic hill station who rents a room as a boarder at Dina’s house later on. Maneck’s friend disappeared without a trace which still weighs on him and is the reason he moves away from his college campus housing. Their lives converge with each other, and in times of unrest, they form a solid understanding among each other.

A Fine Balance can’t exactly be classified as a political novel, but the Emergency period setting makes in an underlying theme. The characters come from different backgrounds so, the experience of each of them during this time differs from one another. This gave an insight into a period of unrest and crises from four perspectives which make the story is so realistic. Rohinton Mistry’s writing perfectly captures the essence of Indian culture in terms of his descriptions, and it transports you to those places and time. It touches on practices like the sterilizations, mass detentions, caste, and religious discriminations which were carried out during this time regularly.


The story takes a much darker turn and the true extent of the Government’s practices are exposed. It is hard to read through those parts. The freedoms citizens get that we take for granted; the story shows how horrific and anarchic it can get if these rights are taken away. For each character, the effect of the Emergency varies. Ishwar and Omprakash live in slums which are targeted areas for sterilization and labor camps. It is eluded that Maneck’s friend was an activist, and he was detained by the Government because he opposed, and nothing was heard of him again. Dina’s landlord constantly threatens her with eviction using thugs to do his dirty work.


I was unaware of the intensity and the extent of the effects on people’s lives at this time in the history of the country. The story is grounded, and at any point, doesn’t seem forced or unrealistic. The novel is pretty lengthy, but it is engaging throughout and doesn’t feel dragged on. I liked reading this book though, at times, it got too heavy. It is not something I’ll pick up again anytime soon, but it is one of the best books I have read. It is a must-read.

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Book Review: The Princes (Manohar Malgonkar).

The Princes

– Manohar Malgonkar.

The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar is an Indian fiction novel. The story is set in India during the times of British Colonialism, pre and post-independence era. It is about the survival of the Indian Royals during a time of change in the country.

The protagonist of the story is Abhayraj, the prince of Begwad, who is the only heir of his father. The story begins in the post-independent India but the narration shifts to the past, as Abhay reflects on his life. Abhay is an intelligent kid, and for the most part, he is not prejudiced against anyone or anything. He is taught to be a gentleman from a young age and carry himself a certain way. His father is very demanding of him, and at times it takes a toll on him.

Abhay is the narrator of the story. The story focuses on all aspects of his life. His childhood days, the first girlfriend, joining the army during World War II, his father’s struggle, and his mother’s wish to escape her life. Abhay grows up with all the treasures fit for a prince and is never wanting for anything. It is interesting to read about the character at different points in his life and how the social landscape around him affects his conduct.

The story discusses a lot of problematic aspects prevalent in society then. The inferior treatment of individuals based on caste is seen through the treatment of Kanakchand’s character, who later becomes an activist and politician. The treatment of Abhay’s mother by his father is appalling, and in general, the system of having concubines is considered the norm. Throughout the story, Abhay fights not to turn into his father, but on one occasion he does something cruel and accepts the fact that he is his father’s son after all.

The transition from British Raj to becoming an independent state is not exactly smooth. Especially for the royals, their treasures were taken and their power. Many of them tried to save as much as they could by any means possible. Abhay’s father says that he refuses to be the last king of Begwad and see this chapter of history close. I didn’t know much about dissolving the princely states and making them a part of India as a whole. The transition of this wasn’t easy, and there was resistance, but with a wave of democracy, they had to give in.

The writing paints a picture of the life during those times and I realized how much history I was unaware of regarding this period. Abhay, as the narrator, is pretty reliable though he tries to be objective; it doesn’t work all the time, which might be on purpose. This is the only book by Manohar Malgonkar I have read, and his writing style is intriguing and easy; he doesn’t digress too much. The story set a good pace from the beginning, and it continued throughout the novel.

The Princes is different than I expected it to be. It has a good story with the right amount of historical context to keep you interested. Surprisingly for me, it was also emotional in parts, and you can’t help feeling empathetic towards Abhay. I enjoyed reading this book.

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Currently Reading (September ’20)

Currently Reading (September ’20)

The books I plan to read this month.

  1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is set is an unnamed city of India during the time of The Emergency from 1975. There are four main characters – Dina, Ishvar, and his nephew Omprakash, and Maneck. These characters come from varied backgrounds but develop a solid bond during times of turmoil. Only a couple of chapters in but, the story has a good pace. The historical events are in the centerfold of the story which makes it interesting and grounded.

2. 1984 by George Orwell.

1984 by George Orwell is a dystopian fiction novel. It was written in the 1950’s but is still relevant and relatable. The story is set in the future, in the year 1984, where the world is drastically different than before. I started reading this book a few months back but I never finished it. I don’t know why I stopped; I had liked the part I read. So, I am going to start reading it again this month and finish it.

3. The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar.

The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar is a story about Abhay, a young prince of Begwad. The story focuses on the princely states in India during British colonization and how these states steadily declined as India came closer and eventually became independent. The novel begins in the present but, then shifts from past to present. The way it is written makes it easy to keep track of the story. I am enjoying reading this novel.

Book Review: My Last Duchess (Daisy Goodwin).

My Last Duchess

-Daisy Goodwin.


I bought My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin randomly at a book sale last year. The book is a historical fiction/romance which intrigued me. The book is the story of an American heiress Cora Cash who travels to Europe to find a suitable titled match.

Cora Cash is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cash. There are the wealthiest family in America and live in Newport. Cora is romantically interested in a guy named Teddy who is not as rich as her but, Cora doesn’t care. Mrs. Cash is very controlling about Cora’s life which often leads to her questioning all of Cora’s decisions including Teddy. Cora is rejected by him the day before she is supposed to set for Europe. It is actually
Mrs. Cash who wants her daughter to marry someone with a title, hence, she is taking Cora to Europe.

In England, Cora has an accident where she falls from her horse. This is when she meets Ivo; he takes her to his home Lulworth. Ivo is a Duke that fascinates Mrs. Cash and she sees this as an opportunity. A few days later Ivo proposes to Cora soon they get married. After the honeymoon period is over things start going sideways for Cora.

In the beginning, I couldn’t find anything relatable or sympathetic about Cora. She is vain and spoiled, she thinks very highly of herself. The way Ivo and Cora’s love story starts is a little underwhelming. Maybe it was on purpose for the story to progress but when Cora starts questioning whether she knows her husband or not; it is not surprising. Cora has trouble adjusting at Lulworth even after marriage but she tries to take it in stride.

Ivo Maltevers is the Duke of Lulworth. He is often aloof and moody. There is not a lot you find out about him when he is introduced. Ivo inherited Lulworth after his brother’s death and refuses to talk about his past, even if Cora questions him. There is no doubt that he is secretive and feels burdened with the duties that come with the title of Duke of Wareham. Cora’s money is definitely something that he needed which he accepts but his affection for her seems genuine.

The story is a slow burner for the first half of the book but the pace picks up for the second half. This is where my interest peaked and I was interested to know what’s going to happen next. Cora’s character goes through a transformation and she becomes much more likable and real. Ivo leaves for Africa leaving Cora when she is pregnant. She is forced to take control and stand for herself among people who are cold towards her. Ivo has his reasons for his secretive behavior and later, he feels guilty about treating Cora the way he did. The explanation about his past especially about his brother was something I didn’t anticipate.

Daisy Goodwin gives beautiful descriptions of details regarding the decadency of the dresses and houses of the century. I felt that the details, at times, sort of broke the flow of the story. Overall, Cora and Ivo are round characters. Both of them change as the story progresses. The narration of the book is mostly from Cora’s point of view which helped understand her journey properly. The minor characters are colorful and play a part in the overall story.

The start was a little slow but once I got into the story I enjoyed it. The difference between the New World (America) and the Old World is portrayed in a unique and sometimes, funny way. It is an enjoyable and fun read.

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Book Review: Walden (Henry David Thoreau).

Walden

– Henry David Thoreau.


Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a non-fiction novel. The book is an account of Thoreau’s stay in isolation at a secluded cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The author chose to live alone away from society as an experiment. This book delves into many philosophical ideas yet somehow remains grounded in the world we know today.

I am not sure how to explain the story of this book; it is tricky. Thoreau chose to live near Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts for two years, writing this book. It was a social experiment that would help him explore nature and society from an objective point of view. Thoreau talks about how hard people work to fulfill their needs but they don’t need to work so hard if they choose a simpler life. The obsession of materials things, needing to have certain luxuries just for the sake of it ends up taking a toll on us. In the end, all of the materialistic or extra luxuries leave people drained and empty.

Thoreau works in the field himself to grow food produce, cooks it himself too; he builds a small cabin for himself. He lives a self-sustaining lifestyle at the cabin. He earns some money by working a bean field and maintains a record of finances diligently to show how little humans need to survive. He often has visitors but he specifically mentions a woodcutter who is rough around the edges but Thoreau enjoyed his company. When he finds himself isolated from people, he often went to the village where he was once arrested for not paying taxes.

The book talks a lot about existence, the choices we make, our needs and the part society plays in our life. The one idea that you come across in the book prominently from start to finish is Self- Reliance. This idea to trust oneself and your instincts completely to survive; to be yourself and not try to fit in with societal conformities. Thoreau enjoys his solitude; it gives him time to think and enjoy nature but communication with people is appealing too. Often he finds himself needing company and socialize with other people. We need solitude and space for ourselves but we also need other people so it is not an either-or kind of situation.

Thoreau was a transcendentalist writer. This is the reason Walden emphasizes self-reliance, independence, nature, and individuality An individual doesn’t need to conform to society; conforming leads to loss of individuality and society and its institutions have ruined the idea of an ‘individual’. The ideas of the books and the way it is written has a philosophical tone to it. Thoreau’s ideas and concepts make sense, it is interesting no doubt but at times it got too slow. The content of the book with its themes can become heavy to read, as there is much to absorb.

It took me time to get immersed in the book especially in the beginning. I read this book slowly because it’s difficult to read for a long time. The ideas in the book resound even in today’s society and it is still a relevant work of literature. After reading this book, I understand why it is considered to be one of the best works of American literature.

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