Tag: personal

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: 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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Book Review: The Turn of the Screw (Henry James).

The Turn of the Screw

-Henry James.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a novella. The story is about a young lady who gets an opportunity to work as a governess at a beautiful but mysterious estate. This book has gothic, horror, and mystery elements to the story. It is slightly difficult to explain the story because of the way it is structured but I’ll try to cover major points.

The story begins at a party held on Christmas Eve where one of the attendees Douglas says he has access to a governess’s account of a ghost story when she worked for a wealthy family. He starts reading the written account of the governess and at that point the narration of the story shifts to the governess’s point of view. The Governess who is also the narrator remains unnamed throughout the story. She is responsible for the well mannered young girl Flora and a 10-year old boy Miles at their uncle’s estate the Bly. The uncle is their guardian. Miles has been suspended from his school due to his troublesome behavior just days prior to the governess arrival.

One day while taking a walk, the governess notices a man looking at her from one of the towers. She spots him staring at her again through the window the next time and that is when she enquires about him. Mrs. Grose works at the Bly and becomes kind of like a confidant for the governess. The governess tells Mrs. Grose about the strange man looking at her twice. Mrs. Grose tells her about the previous governess Miss Jessel and her relationship with Peter Quint a valet both of whom are now deceased. She also finds out that Miles and Quint shared a good bond but Miles tried to lie about his relationship with Peter to Mrs. Grose. Miles’s behavior is slightly creepy at times which made you think he is up to something.

The governess sees a stranger, a woman by the lake when she is there with Flora. She believes that Miss Jessel and Peter Quint are a threat to the kids. Once Flora goes out of the house alone and she is seen talking to Miss Jessel near the lake by the governess but Flora claims to have not seen Miss Jessel at all; Flora falls ill after that is taken to London to her uncle’s place. The governess is suspicious that Miles distracted her by playing the piano so that Flora could leave. Quint is seen outside the window by the governess and she tries to protect Miles from it but then his heart stops.

The horror element is the main theme of the story. The possibility of the supernatural is left up to the readers I felt. No one sees the ghosts except the governess or at least doesn’t admit to it, so it depends on the reader to choose whether to believe her or not. The atmosphere of the story has an air of mystery and eeriness which reminded me of the gothic tradition. The governess finds the Bly and children extremely beautiful to look at but as the story progresses you can tell that the exterior doesn’t match what is going on inside. There is a lot of secretive behavior by the characters. The lying and concealing of relationships is something that happens regularly in the book. The need to repress information for whatever reasons leads to a lack of open communication which causes more problems than it solves.

The way the story ends is surprising and sad. I did not predict that the story will end abruptly in such a way. It came out of nowhere. The plot itself is interesting, starts as a haunted house type of a story but changes along the way. The story feels a little dragged in some places but when it picks up pace, it goes up a notch. Overall, I liked reading this book. It has a lot of elements to it that keep you invested in the story.

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Currently Reading (August ’20)

Currently Reading (August ‘20)

These are the books I wish to finish reading this month. Maybe I will get to read more as well if possible. My reading list for this month.

  1. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a horror novella. The story is about a young woman who gets a job as a governess for two mysterious kids on an estate which seems to be haunted. I just started reading it and it has a gothic feel to it because of the descriptions. The young girl who is the narrator of the story is unnamed so far. It is an intriguing read.

2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a book that details the social experiment Thoreau carried by living in a secluded cabin for two years. I am only a couple of chapters in but, it has a philosophical undertone to it. It talks about the author’s experience with nature and living simply, being self-reliant. It is a little difficult to read because there is a lot of symbolism and depth to the writing.

3. My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin.

My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin is a story about an American Heiress, Cora Cash, who travels to England with her mother to find an aristocratic match. The world in England is different than what she is accustomed to and when she marries Ivo, an eligible but secretive bachelor, her life changes. I enjoyed reading this book so far though I have trouble relating to Cora’s character which I hope will happen eventually. It seems like a fun read.

4. Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts.

Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts is the first book of the Circle Trilogy. A sorcerer named Hoyt loses his brother in 12th century Ireland to evil forces. He is chosen for a mission by the goddess Morrigan and is told he will be joined by five others to form a team to destroy Lillith. Nora Roberts has a way of blending fantasy elements with the reality that it seems grounded. The story and the characters are interesting. I finished almost seventy pages at one go when I started reading.

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Book Review: Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly).

Lilac Girls

– Martha Hall Kelly.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t easy to find. Finally, I read it and it was worth the wait. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is set in the time before, during, and after World War II. The story of this novel is based on a true account of Caroline Ferriday, a socialite in New York who helped the Polish women of Ravensbruck camp. The story of Lilac Girls focuses on three main characters – Kasia, Caroline, and Herta who come from different backgrounds and countries but their lives intersect. Caroline helps the medical experiment survivors from Ravensbruck by bringing them for treatment to America almost a decade after the war is over.

Caroline is an ex-actress who comes from a wealthy family and volunteers at the French Consulate in New York City before the war. Caroline and her family have a strong sense of their French roots and enjoy many traditions of their culture. It is also the reason Caroline works dedicatedly at the consulate. Kasia is an 18-year-old girl living happily with her family and friends in Lublin, Poland until Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1st September in 1939 and her life is turned upside down. Herta is studying medicine in Nazi Germany and dreams of being a surgeon but there are restrictions for women in the medical field under the Reich. She is ambitious and determined from the very beginning and has complete faith in Hitler’s vision for her country.

The story is pretty straightforward in terms of timelines and events. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part gives an insight into the background of the characters and this really helped me understand the motivations and personalities of these women. The second part was difficult to read because the main focus of this is the course of their lives during the war. It is not outwardly described in a gory or violent way but it is more about the emotional reactions which get to you. The third part of the story is Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s life after the war ends.

The characters in the book are what make this novel unique. Caroline does everything in her power to help French children during the war. She does so at a personal cost at times and even when things turn hopeless she keeps doing what she does because she knows this is the least she can do to help. Kasia is a rebellious girl but she wants to help change the situation in Poland. She starts helping the Polish underground in Lublin with the help of her friend and her crush Pietrik. One day she is followed by a German officer after doing an assignment she begs Pietrik for and is arrested. Kasia’s mother and sister Zuzzana, Pietrik, and his sister Luiza who have come to collect the envelope from Kasia are all arrested along with her.

Ravensbruck is where Kasia ends up with her sister and mother, a labor camp in Germany for women. I didn’t know much about this camp and the medical experiments conducted there until I read this book. These women stick together, helping each other stay safe that too at a personal cost. It’s heartwarming to see them help each other this way in a situation where one wrong move meant your death. The experiments were inhumane and the way is written makes us understand the gravity of it. It is at the camp that Kasia’s mother, Halina, is taken under Herta’s wing as a nurse and where Halina dies. This is the only time Herta shows some emotion. Herta is not a fictional character and is based on a camp doctor in Ravensbruck. She believes in what she is doing and it seems like she doesn’t care but somewhere deep down she feels a little remorse for her actions. Most of the time though she is detached and cold focusing only on her medical research with no thought of the human cost.

Caroline has a personal connection to France during the war, a married actor she falls in love with named Paul who is also taken to a camp when France is invaded but survives. Kasia comes back with her sister to Lublin where their father still lives and has trouble adjusting to normal life. She finds Pietrik and he is having a hard time too but Kasia is trying to forget but her guilt about her mother makes her angrier and angrier. Pietrik and Kasia get married and have a daughter who is named Halina after her mother but Kasia doesn’t want her to be named Halina. She snaps at everyone about the tiniest things but slowly realizes she needs to let go. With Caroline’s insistence, Kasia goes to Germany to confront Herta who was released early from prison. Once she confronts Herta and finds out what happened to her mother at the camp that she is finally able to move on with her life and leave all the darkness behind.

Martha Hall Kelly has been able to give a lot of heart to the story through her characters. Kasia and her family are the fictional characters but the story revolves around them in a way and, they are instrumental in telling the story of those Polish women who suffered at Ravensbruck during the war and treated unjustly after the war. It is a beautiful and inspiring story yet it is so sad and heartbreaking.

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Book Review: Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling).

Why Not Me?

–  Mindy Kaling.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling is a memoir which is a collection of essays about her life, career and experiences. This book has been on my shelf for years but I wasn’t really familiar with Mindy Kaling so I didn’t read it. Recently, I watched the series The Mindy Project and loved it. So, now that I was familiar with her work I thought I’ll read her memoir.

This collection of non-fiction essays about life is a clever and interesting way to write. The way it has been written, the format was new to me and in a way it makes the writing stand out even more. The essays are fun, witty and surprisingly relatable. It starts with awkward childhood stories than navigates through college life making it way towards career and personal life. Mindy Kaling’s experiences are relatable which I didn’t expect to be honest but it was a pleasant surprise.

She doesn’t care how she will be perceived by others, she mentions that in the book too which made the stories or essays authentic because there was no sugarcoating. The way she freely talked about drifting apart from people you thought would be a part of your life forever but it doesn’t happen or how she looked for friendships in wrong places and people and disappointments about her career. Her awkward behavior around people is amusing and funny especially around famous people as she says that she is socially anxious. As a person who doesn’t know how or what to say in social situations, I could completely relate to her.

Mindy Kaling doesn’t hold back about her insecurities or vulnerabilities throughout the book may it be about herself or her career. She candidly talks about the life in public eye and how celebrities are expected to carry themselves at all times. The constant comparison with others for example – articles like who were this better? She tries to subtly emphasize the point that all celebrities are regular people too and at times that is forgotten when they are held to different standard.

 The title of the book itself has a deeper meaning which didn’t even cross my mind as I was reading it. Why Not Me? The title of the book refers to the constant question she is asked that how come you are so confident? This question she felt implied that you have so little to be confident about then where does t come from?  Mindy Kaling explains how confidence is about entitlement, about believing what you deserve.

I don’t usually read non-fiction books especially memoirs or biographies but I am glad I read this one. It is honest, relatable and so witty. The way it is written, divided into different parts of her life and experiences makes it more interesting. The book is funny and it is deeper than one would expect it to be, it has a good message.  I enjoyed reading this book.

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Book Review: The Marriage Bargain (Jennifer Probst).

The Marriage Bargain

– Jennifer Probst.

I read a book last month which had a reference to this book and since, I liked that novel I thought might check this one out. The Marriage Bargain is a marriage of convenience type love story written by Jennifer Probst. This romance novel was the perfect kind of escapist fiction I wanted to read for the weekend.

Alexa Maria McKenzie is a 27-year-old bookshop owner. Her shop is doing well enough but her family is in financial trouble and she wants to help them but doesn’t know why. The story starts with her making a list of all qualities she would like in a man and casts a love spell. Maggie is Alexa’s best friend and they have known each other for years. Nicholas Ryan is a billionaire and Maggie’s older brother. Alex had a major crush on him when he was younger but it didn’t end well for her.

Nicholas needs to marry to inherit his father’s business but he doesn’t believe in marriage or love and wants a marriage of convenience. Nicholas (Nick) learns about Alexa’s financial trouble and he has known her for a long time decides to make a proposal to her which she accepts. This is the way Alexa and Nick end up getting married. Alexa and Nick quite opposite when it comes to their beliefs especially about relationships and family. Nick doesn’t want or even believe in marriage or love, but Alexa has always wanted the fairytale.

This is an odd situation for them to act like a happy couple in front of their families and friends but they try to make the best of it. Once they are married they become friends first and start getting along really well which leads to them becoming lovers. It seems like a natural transition because they don’t exactly know each other all that much, Maggie is the only common thread between them. The way their relationship evolves and becomes stronger, the build-up to it is interesting and fun to read.

Nick can be a bit much at times especially in the beginning but slowly there is a change in him and he becomes more likable as a character. Alexa is independent and strong, she comes from a tight-knit family and she sticks to her moral compass throughout even when it is not favorable for her. The element of magic with the love spell thing in the story is a nice surprise; it is underlying and doesn’t take anything away from the actual love story. I like how Alexa and Nick bring out the best in each other which neither of them expected and grow stronger together.

The conflict towards the end was a little rushed but it still keeps you hooked. The Marriage Bargain mostly has a predictable story but there are some unexpected events in it as well. Being a contemporary romance novel the plot does seem predictable but with a fresh perspective on it that made this story enjoyable for me. It is a feel-good, fun, and interesting romance novel. I liked reading this book and once I started reading it took me a day to finish it.

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