Thursday 28 December 2023

Bournville - Jonathan Coe


I loved reading about this place which is not far away from where I live. I often wondered about Bournville, the place where Cadbury chocolate comes from and have been fascinated by what its story might be.

Bournville chronicles a family's journey through time and in a way West Midlands as well through the political discourse that underlines the plot. Right from the time the village was carved into the existence to the sweeping changes of the war and its aftermath, to the coronation, EU inclusion and later Covid, it takes a reader on a fascinating rollercoaster through time.

Love his writing and realised he is a prize winning author for his previous one. Must catch up on that one next!

Friday 29 September 2023

The Blue Monsoon - Damyanti Biswas

A gritty rewarding read just like its prequel 

Tara and Arnav are happy to be together but they are still reeling from the events of the previous book. Life is finally coming back to normalcy and they have a reason to be optimistic for the future. But it takes on a threatening hue when Arnav finds himself dealing with a mutilated body in a temple. It carries overtones of casteism, hitting it closer to home for Arnav.

A bit of a slow burn, this sequel demands some patience before the story takes off. Biswas takes her time to lay out the plot but once it picks up pace, it turns into a page turning frenzy to race towards the conclusion. 

Once again Biswas turns the city into a character. The spirit of Mumbai permeates through the story this time in the form of its characteristic raging monsoon. Add it to an action packed plot and well drawn characters and the reader is in for a nail biting ride of guessing the who and the why.

The Blue Monsoon is not an easy read. It deals with some dark themes, laced with characters facing the challenges of living in a poverty stricken environment and oppressors who inhabit that setting. The Kinnar community finds representation here and it is a testimony to Biswas' skill that it is woven with sensitivity. The characters are all drawn well with a distinct eye even peripheral ones like Kamble.

Like mentioned before, it is a tough read but if like me, you enjoy a thriller with substance, then this is it.   

Thanks to netgalley for an advance copy. All views are my own.

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Becoming Liz Taylor - Elizabeth Delo

Love Loss, and Optimism dominates this immensely readable debut   

Elizabeth Delo's Becoming Liz Taylor is a touching tale of love, loss and fractured family relationships. I was lucky enough to win a proof copy and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Val as she travelled around the country both literally and metaphorically.  


Val looked around. The baby appeared to be all on its own. There was no sight of a mother. No sign of anyone. 
Val didn't think aout it. She didn't even break her stride. She kicked the brake off the pram and pushed it as if she did it everyday.

My review: 
The intrigue in the premise is followed by a routine yet unusual scene in the opening chapter that pulls the reader in, straight away. The reader learns more about Hal and her journey, her reasons for the impulsive act and how she ends up where she does. The reader feels invested as she follows the travels of the unlikely pair all over the country.  

Delo delivers a convincing character in Val, and although she introduces Val to the reader in an unusual situation, she immediately garners sympathy.  Val's actions are impulsive and yet she acts with a conviction that is justified, driving the story forward and opening up a range of possibilities. 

The story moves back and forth in time and Delo's skill comes to fore as she maintains a good balance of nostalgia and emotions in the face of real life situations. This well judged balance makes for an immersive reading experience.

There is also Rafe, an interesting character with a story of his own. Once at the top of his game, Rafe now exists on benefits, living on the fringe of poverty. Just as the reader is wondering how the two different stories will come together, Delo skills comes to fore as she turns the story in a way catching the reader offguard. As both their individual stories merges into one narrative, Delo delivers a compelling story that explores ordinary lives and injecting it with an optimism that is desperately needed in today's world.    

It is a heart warming story that reflects life in its varied colours and hues. Delo brings out dynamics of a family, the imposed loneliness as a result of a fractured past yet laced with underlying optimism. 

That for me, really worked in this compelling debut novel and why the story stuck with me much after turning the last page. 

A feel good read that would make an immensely watchable TV series!   
Elizabeth Delo's debut novel Becoming Liz Taylor is published by Allen and Unwin and is out on August 3, 2023 

Wednesday 5 July 2023

I am Pilgrim - Terry Hayes

What a read! I don't know where to begin from. I picked up this recommendation from twitter and was surprised that is was not a recent publication but way back in 2014. I loved the premise, where some seemingly disparate incidents in Syria, Manhattan, Saudi Arabia had some kind of connection and it was upto this man who called him "The Pilgrim" to make this journey and find out the truth.

It is a hefty book at 700+ pages but once I got in, what a ride it was. It is not so much about how brilliant the story is, but more a case of how brilliant the storytelling is. The voice and the way we are taking through a childhood tragedy in Saudi Arabia or a random police investigation in Turkey for me it was the places that did it. 

One minute I was walking down the streets to the World Trade Centre memorial, the next minute I was in Lebanon, travelling through the Hindu Kush mountains, I had never been to these places in fiction. That was what kept it going for me.

Secondly it was the voice as well. There was something dispassionate about the voice that fills the reader in about Pilgrim and Saracen, two personas who are similar and yet different. I loved the way these characters, their backstories which is so comprehensive that I felt like I lived in their heads. Hayes' knowledge of the Muslim world, his explanation for their actions come across as so genuine that it feels like a great privilege to be reading this novel from a storyteller like him.

By the time I finished this one, I was happy to discover that it carried chapters from Hayes' next one too. The Year of the Locust. Cannot wait to read that one!

Tuesday 21 March 2023

This is How You Fall in Love - Anika Hussain

enjoyed this rom-com where the protagonist is a South Asian, since such characters not often seen in this genre. The characters are well drawn and I loved getting to know Zara and Adnan and enjoyed reading about their camaraderie and the confusion that gets the plot going.

Hussain has a good grasp of the young adult mind and their dilemmas. She skilfully balances the idiosyncrasy of the families and the peer pressures, in How to Fall in Love. I found it to be a good balance of a well told story with some great characters and themes.

Zara and Adnan have known each practically all their life and it is a given for their friends and families that they will get together. However, Zara and Adnan don't feel that way. And then when Zara steps in to help Adnan out of a small fix, they don't realise that things may quickly spin out of control which can create complications not only for them but also for those they love!

The narrative style especially the use of text messages is employed well and I enjoyed racing through the story to find out "will they, won't they".

An enjoyable read. My teenage daughter and I read it together and had a great time talking about the book. I am already making plans to buy more copies for some YA readers I know!

Monday 6 March 2023

The Murders at Fleat House - Lucinda Riley

I remember reading Riley years ago, the Olive Tree and enjoyed it immensely. She is a great storyteller and I was curious to see how she handled this crime thriller genre since I saw her as a contemporary fiction writer. Plus when I learnt that this was a posthumous publication it added to the novelty factor as well as the interesting premise of a murder mystery set in a Norfolk.


Fleat House is a boarding school for the privileged. Big names send their children here and with any other boarding school, it smacks of wealth, bullies and nasty secrets. But when a pupil is found dead under unusual circumstances, the school wants to hush it up as an accidental death. However when one of the teaching staff is found dead, the school is forced to allow the police into the school to find out what is happening.

Investigating office Jasmine Hunter is stepping away from her police career for private reasons. However she decides to take up this case as a favour to her boss. With her trusted right hand Alistair Miles, they plunge into this dark world of priviledge, grudges and unsavoury truths.

My review:

I liked the atmospheric boarding school setting. A slew of characters are introduced at first, as Riley takes us into their lives. In her true engaging style, the reader is invested in the characters and settles well into the story straightaway.

There are a lot of disparate threads and Riley navigates through them skilfully. These threads have their own subplots and it is a while before they all come together and fuse into a singular narrative, but it is hugely entertaining and a delightful read.

I couldn't put it down and found myself snatching a few minutes just to find out what happens next. There were times when the story took a different path, throwing the reader offguard. The twists and turns were so nicely done, throwing the seasoned armchair detective off, with its red herrings and then the reveal which loops the story very well bringing it into a whole circle.

Thoroughly loved this read and it is a shame that the readers won't get to read more of Riley. Her talent will be truly missed. 

My review:

Sunday 5 March 2023

Wrong Place Wrong Time - Gillian McAllister

 I had heard lots of great things about this book and was intrigued. I had never read Gillian Mcallister before and was keen to discover this writer who was local to me. So happy when I finally managed to pick up a copy and what a treat it was.


One Halloween night a mother looks out of the window, waiting for her teenage son. She sees him come up the drive but then right in front of her eyes, she sees a murder happen. She knows what she has seen, and wakes up the next day which is the day before, only this time she knews what is going to happen. 

How do you stop a murder once it has happened? 

My Review: 

This one really blew my mind. The premise did sound a bit ambitious and I was not sure what to expect, but the way Mcallister unfolds the story and takes us back and forth, I enjoyed every bit of the ride. Twitter which is my primary source of book recommendations was raving about this one, and I was a bit cautious. Especially in crime thriller genre, the premise is very unusual and shocking and then once you get past the shock factor, the story fails to live up to the build of  the premise. 

This is not the case here at all. As a reader I was cautiously waiting to see how the story panned out, it is a tough one to pull off and I marvelled at the way the reader is taking through the story in a reverse narrative, each scene revealing the past at the same time taking the story forward.

The story is so smoothly told that the reader feels well placed with as layers are revealed with some well defined characters in the story.

A great read. I picked this one up from the library and just saw the paperback is out. I am going to get a copy for myself now!