Wednesday, January 27, 2021


Title: Unethical: A Psychological Thriller
Author: Marla L Anderson
Pages: 300
Publisher: Wolfheart Press
My GoodReads Rating: 

I have always been intrigued by stories about aging and Alzheimer's Disease. That is why, I looked forward to reading what this story had to offer.

In the Prologue, we meet Dr Adrian Kessler, who runs the Kessler Institute for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Erring against ethics, Dr Kessler harvests the brain cells of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, who had shown a brief period of recovery while under his care. The procedure is illegal, but Dr Kessler is driven in his obsession to find a cure. So far only a few mice in his laboratory have survived for more than a few months.

Josephine Rinaldi is a young lawyer, whose father suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. Unable to cope with the demands that the disease makes on them, Josephine struggles to care for him while fulfilling the demands of her job. It doesn’t help that during his brief lucid spells, he is extremely critical and abrasive towards the very daughter who cares for him. As the sole surviving family member (her mother has died of cancer and her older brother died as a result of drowning), Jo has no one to appeal to for help.

Her boss, Matthew Dawson, who legally represents Dr Kessler, offers her father’s admission into Dr Kessler’s Institute. But then her dad complains to her that he is not happy there and that people keep disappearing all the time.

PI Scott Benson finds out that there is foul play afoot at the institute. At least three patients have died, after showing marked improvement. Jo’s own attempts to find out more cause her to lose her job, and increasingly put both her and her father at risk. 


At first Dr Kessler’s desire to find a cure seems well intentioned, even if his methods are all wrong. He genuinely wants to help people have a better quality of life. He says, Such was the nature of a disease that attacked the essence of personality. He wonders, What are we but memory and knowledge amassed over time. If all that vanishes, what’s left? But the road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, and Dr Kessler ignores all ethics in his drive to get what he wants.

The author intersperses the fictional narrative with information about this deadly disease. Her research on both the medical and the legal aspects feels convincing and intuitive to the story. The scientific bits were toned down to appeal to a lay reader.

The book is fast paced; there were parts I read with seemingly my heart in my mouth.


Scott is a swashbuckling character, with his own interesting back story that becomes involved in the main one. He was a secretive person, and there was trouble in his past that came out in believable bits. But there were some errors regarding his name. From being Scott Benson in the earlier chapters, he suddenly changes to Scott Bennett later on in the book.

Another error was in Chapter 32, where Dr Kessler tells Jo, The more time that passes, the higher the likelihood that he will digress. Shouldn’t that be regress?

I had an issue with the main character. There were many times when Jo appeared naïve at best, and stupid at worst. Also, the name, Maggie, changed to Margaret within the same dialogue scene. I hope the author rectifies these errors.

The story gives us an idea of the challenges faced by the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. We feel a sense of sympathy for caregivers who receive no appreciation from those they care for.

The book also creates a frightening scenario in which medical experts put all morals and ethics aside in the hope of playing God, pitting it against the all-too familiar scenario of a small minnow taking on an adversary many sizes too big.

The book ended in a completely unexpected way, and there was at least one element that I found confusing and can't ask about without creating a spoiler. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Friday, January 22, 2021


Title: For the Love of Friends
Author: Sara Goodman Confino
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
My GoodReads Rating: 

It is the love of friends and family that gets 32-year-old Lily Weiss to agree to be a part of five weddings within weeks of each other. A talented writer, Lily handles PR for a science foundation. But all her mother is concerned about is that she doesn't have a marital prospect.

At first her office colleague Caryn Donaldson asks her to be her bridesmaid, then college roommate Sharon asks her the same. Then best friend Megan asks her to be maid of honour. Lily has barely any time to recover when younger brother Jake announces his plans for a destination wedding with fiancée, Madison, and then it’s younger sister Amy getting married to her boyfriend, Tyler.

Lily finds herself struggling under the financial implications of having to scrounge and save and come up with money to buy five bridesmaid dress, five pairs of shoes, besides the stress and cost of throwing showers and bachelorette parties and paying for gifts for the showers and weddings. And then there’s the added cost of the hotel room and airfare to Mexico. All this without a date and her own mother rubbing it in. 

The most unbearable part of it all is that on the night of Megan’s engagement, she got to know about Amy’s upcoming wedding, and in a moment of frustrated disappointment, drank too much and ended up sleeping with one of Megan’s groomsmen. And she doesn’t even know the guy’s name.

To make matters worse, there’s drama from Momzillas, Bridezillas, and even bridesmaids from hell. Thankfully, she makes a new friend in Alex, one of the groomsmen in Megan's wedding.

It’s a recipe for disaster. What’s a girl to do, if not vent? So Lily starts her anonymous blog, Bridemania, to talk about the drama that is now her life. The blog allows her to be sarcastic and snarky as she chooses to be. After all it's anonymous. But what will happen if people ever get wind of what she has written?



The writing is fun and witty; the style chatty. The book is a mix of narrative interspersed with emails, texts and blogposts.

There were naturally too many characters, and I agreed with Lily that they were mostly all alike. It was also hard to keep track of all the showers and parties and figure out just how badly Lily's bank balance was suffering as a result.

I did, however, enjoy the pop culture and current affairs references to Willy Wonka, Nellie Bly, Marty McFly, Doc Brown, Mean Girls, Austin Powers, Princess Leia, Goldilocks, Brangelina, even Azkaban.



I'd picked up this book, thinking that chick lit meant light reading but before long I found myself hyperventilating at the thought of all the Bridezillas, Momzillas and all their crazy demands.

Beneath the garb of chick-lit, the book felt like a cry for singles to be allowed space to be, for women to not be body-shamed, for mothers to treat their daughters with compassion and love, because the tone and content of a mother's voice is what a daughter carries all her life. 

I don’t know how American women can cope with all the crap that bridesmaids have to face.

Of course, in India, wedding madness has been elevated to an art form. But even so, I think it’s unfair to expect women to pay for expensive clothing that’s too horrible to wear again, and have to throw showers and parties besides. I’d never sign up. The book becomes a critique of this element of the wedding culture. Also, a critique of the culture that forces people to fit in or feel left out.


I wasn't too happy with the ending honestly. The snarky tone could have been pulled down a notch, but the excessive apologies meant that all Lily's grievances were not only never fully addressed but also summarily dismissed. I felt that Lily should have been allowed to make a point about the fact that the wedding culture is so commercialised and that there was so little emphasis on the significance of the marriage. 

Plus, the end of Sharon's friendship was unrequired. I felt bemused and aggrieved to note that while she broke off the friendship, it didn't stop her from keeping the gift that Lily sent.  

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: THE LIAR

Title: The Liar
Author: Jane A Adams
Publisher: Joffe Books
Pages: 259
My GoodReads Rating: 

Against the fear and hysteria whipped up by the sighting of an enormous and vicious animal, former DI John Tynan becomes aware of the death of Martha Toolin, a woman that he had recently begun to see.

As DI Mike Croft and DS Jude Burnett attempt to solve the mystery, they seek to learn more about Martha, in an attempt to find out who might have wanted her dead. It turns out that Martha Toolin wasn’t being entirely honest about herself. She was leading a whole other life as Julia.

Martha had first made herself acquainted with John, claiming to be a relative of his from his mother’s side. She said that she wanted to research the family tree. Tynan assists in her search wholeheartedly.

Croft and Tynan try to piece together what they know of Tynan’s family history to find the answer to who killed Martha. But then another victim falls dead. Tom Pollard, an 18-year-old kid just out of the foster home system, who felt abandoned by Martha.

They also find that Martha made a living out of deceiving people, and that there were many people who might have wanted her dead.

Are the two murders related? And what about the fearsome animal that is striking fear in the hearts of all those who see it?



The book is written mostly in the third person limited viewpoint of Mike Croft, DI in charge of the case, and Tynan.

The setting comes alive with descriptions of the weather, the atmosphere, and the geological degradation making their presence felt.


The mystery was rather weak, and there were too many issues with this book. What's more, the cover image was completely irrelevant.

At first Martha is described as being 18 years Tynan’s junior. But later on in the book, he is described as being 70-odd, while she is 60-odd.

The book was a tad too long. I got more than a little impatient when Mike’s backstory, and descriptions of the interior décor of his house began to show up on the page. The information about Maria’s family was unnecessary. Why does a DI who has a murder case on his hands feel the need to give us a long description of the décor of his house?

The naming convention employed by the author, not coincidentally a J, is another issue. There are altogether too many Js in this story. There’s Jason Matthews, Julie, John, John’s uncle Jerry, DS Jude. There are two Phils. Sure, they are both minor and unrelated, but why use the same name? Then there is the DI Mike Croft, who has a brief conversation with someone called Mark. A news reporter is called Geoff and then some chapters later the same guy turns into Graham Firth.

At the 40 percent mark, the promised twists and turns hadn’t shown up. The investigation seemed to take on forever. This book was painfully slow. I felt bored and lost interest. There were frequent flashbacks, very few of them valuable. Plus, there is a persistent myth about Old Shuck, a large and vicious dog that persists over centuries and is an unmistakable part of folklore. The only reason I didn’t give up is because I can’t bring myself to give up on a book. Things began to speed up only after the 70 percent mark. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Book Review: FOREVER 51

Title: Forever 51
Author: Pamela Skjolsvik
Publisher: Fawkes Press
Pages: 332
My GoodReads Rating: 

Veronica Bouchard is a vampire who breaks her 10-year-long commitment to sobriety by drinking human blood soon after killing a 19-year-old employee at a tanning centre who has the temerity to mock her age. For there is no fury like that of a menopausal vampire. 

Poor Veronica is forever 51 years old. Doomed to suffer an eternity of hot flashes and crazy hormones, she is desperate for any solution out of this mess. Being a vampire allows her to regenerate and erase bullet wounds, but at 51, it does nothing for her vanity.

A fervent member of Alcoholics Anonymous, which helps her cope with her hunger for blood, Veronica has, for the most part, restricted herself to an ethical meal. This ethical way is to drink from somebody at a terminal disease, already on the verge of death. The hospice at which she works, on the night shift, is the perfect hunting ground.

Then one day out of the blue, Veronica receives an FB friend request from her 15-year-old daughter, Ingrid, who turned her over a hundred years ago and then ran off with her hot, much older vampire lover, Desmond.

On the way to see her, Veronica acquires a friend, 21-year-old Jenny Pearson who suffers from hemochromatosis and severe drug dependency issues.

On responding to Ingrid’s friend request, Veronica becomes aware that there is a way to not only be able to see your reflection in the mirror but also to get your soul back. It involves offering a heartfelt apology to all those she has turned.

Determined to re-gain her soul and become mortal again, Veronica sets out on a road trip across the country to connect with and apologise to the five vampires she has turned.


The book is written in the past tense in the omniscient viewpoint. The tone is both mocking and indulgent towards vampires, and overthrows a few myths about vampires while reinforcing others. At one point, the author has Veronica push up her sleeves as if she were going to start a fight, or maybe wash the dishes.

Starting in the present in Texas, the book sees Veronica take us along across Massachusetts, Detroit, New Orleans, Nebraska and North Dakota as she sets out to meet and apologise to all those who turned vampires because of her, including her granddaughter, Millicent.


I don’t generally fancy vampire stories. I read Count Dracula back in the day, but I was put off by the Twilight series, and the film didn’t help at all. I picked this one up because the premise was so uproariously funny and offbeat.

The cover, though simple, hinted at the snarky story within, with its image of those protruding canines and that single drop of blood. Immortality's a bitch, and you'd better believe it.

Unlike Twilight, Forever 51 reminds us that being a vampire is nothing but endless days of monotonous nothing. For all the romance that the Twilight series conjured up around vampires, this book does away with the glamour of immortality and reminds us about the risks, hiding from reflective surfaces, never being able to socialise, and being incredibly lonely. Forever 51 romances the idea of mortality and living, the joys of eating ice cream and smelling, even if it means aging, since that is a part of life.


The word, vampire, isn’t mentioned until Chapter 3, but we have no doubt that V for Veronica and Vampire is sassy and big on attitude. She loses her cool when the tanning centre girl, flush with beauty at age 19, suggests she try Botox. Nobody likes to be reminded of their age, least of all a vampire. She keeps her temper under control thanks to AA’s sobriety programme whose catchphrase is HALT – Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?

Veronica’s vampirical nature allows her to comment on the times we live in. She moans that she is still alive in a world in which food which used to sustain life is now its own addiction. She is disturbed by modern slang, like the word, solid, standing in for the word, favour. But she is grateful for the invention of stretchy pants.

You can’t help liking Veronica. She can’t stand men who hurt women, physically or emotionally.

Her daughter, Ingrid, is excited to be mortal again, to be able to eat cheeseburgers and pee. Do you wipe back to front or front to back?


The violence is implied but the sex references are casual and gratuitous. There is a lot of bad language and loads of pop culture references, some of which I got and many I didn’t. The analogies were entertaining, just like Jenny who is described as having the size and dexterity of a rabid squirrel.


Just two mistakes. At the end of Chapter 5, we see a reference to Ingrid’s laptop. It should be Annika’s laptop, since we haven’t met Ingrid at this point. In another place, Gandhi was misspelled as Ghandi. I hope the author rectifies these minor errors.


Finally, this modern-day picaresque novel with Veronica behind the wheel, and Jenny, and us, in tow, is one great ride and read. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Monday, January 11, 2021


Title: In the Beginning There Was a Murder
Author: PC James
Publisher: The James Gang, Amazon
Pages: 290
My GoodReads Rating: 

Pauline Riddell and Marjorie Armstrong work together. Pauline doesn’t quite approve of Marjorie’s latest boyfriend, the latest of many, a married man. Pauline has only heard of his first name, Eric.

Pauline comes to know of the murder of a young man, chalked up to gang violence. Then she hears of a young woman being killed in the same vicinity on the same night in the same manner.

Inspector Ramsay clings to the theory that the two murders are not related  even though evidence suggests otherwise. Pauline, impatient and missing her fiancé, Stephen, who is fighting at the front in Korea, makes it her mission to discover the truth about Marjorie. She makes her own enquiries and accuses people of the murder, only to find later that they have rock solid alibis and she has only embarrassed herself. Inspector Ramsay is in despair, pleading with her to let the police do their job and not to put herself in harm’s way.

But then one of her suspects acts like they have something to hide. Has Pauline put her life in danger?


The chapters are a quick read, and alternate between the 3rd person past tense limited viewpoints of Pauline Riddell and Inspector Ramsay.

In the Beginning there was a Murder is set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England in July 1953, 8 years after World War II ended. It is a war that continues to cast a long shadow on the lives of people.

The book gives us a window to the times. Food is hard to get by and rations continue. Young girls are getting jobs in factories, mostly as secretaries. The war in Korea is on.

The descriptions were more suggestive, rather than literal, just the way I like them. The author roots the book in Newcastle through the link with the football club, Newcastle United. The setting came alive with accounts of the weather, the people and the routines.

Inspector Ramsay has lost his wife and two sons to an air bombing that missed its targeted shipyards, and hit a civilian home. His grief makes him intensely real. The author tells us, it looked as if sorrow had set up home in him. The bereavement explains his grievance against wars and ammunition when Sergeant Morrison thinks forced enlisting will solve all problems. In many ways, he is conservative, and the author tells us that he may have left the church but it hadn’t left him.

I liked Inspector Ramsay from the very beginning. He was patient and hardworking, in spite of the pressures from his seniors. He wanted the right result not the result right now. But Pauline I didn’t take to very well, not at first. It was only in Chapter 13 when she started snooping around, following people, and fearing that if this continued, she’d become a criminal herself that I began to like her.

Of course, given the time period, it is very brave of her to even go around making enquiries and trying to do investigations on her own. The bond between Inspector Ramsay and Pauline, once they established a truce, was good.

In his bit role, Major Bertram, Stephen’s  father, was also significant..


Some of the author’s observations were astute: lust and alcohol-induced glow.

Some fine-toothed editing was required though. The first murder victim is first named Thomas Bertram and then as Edward Bland. Perhaps the name was changed later, because as it turned out, Stephen, Pauline’s fiancé, was also a Bertram. 

(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)

Friday, January 08, 2021



Title: Throwaways
Author: Elliott Light
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Pages: 211
My GoodReads Rating: 

Throwaways is a great thriller about the world of the rich and powerful and the crass manner in which they indulge their basest desires, at the expense of helpless and unfortunate throwaways, youngster who have run away from home and are unwanted. A portion of the book relating to the crime is deeply distressing and may act as a trigger for sensitive persons.


Jake is a research volunteer with an organisation called ClearSeas. He is looking to photograph an invasive species called lionfish when the corpse of a teenage girl drifts into view. Against the backdrop of his own mother’s unsolved murder 23 years ago when he was only 4, Jake is troubled by the police’s dismissal of the case as an accident.  

Detective Trent Murphy has good intentions, but he’s close to retirement and fears losing his pension in the quest to solve the mystery of the death of a throwaway, a child no one wants.

At first Jake wants to give the dead Jane Doe the dignity of an identification, but soon he gets caught up in the need to save Alicia, another runaway who might have been the friend of the dead girl and who has run away with a crucial bit of evidence: a laptop. Jake’s investigations point him towards Giles Horan, a filthy rich sexual pervert who may know a lot about the death of Megan Jones, the dead Jane Doe, and is after Alicia to silence her. The effort signs his death warrant for Horan is a vindictive man.

Meanwhile Andre Mitchell is working on behalf of his client who is also interested in calling a halt to the investigation. Andre tells Jake to get the laptop that Alicia stole and give it to him in exchange for protection from Giles but to forget about Megan’s death.

For Jake, caught between two antagonists, as well as for Ethy, his adoptive mother, and Tess, the girl hired to look after Ethy, and Detective Murphy, this can only end badly.


The antagonist is really evil, and we know early on that Jake is in a bad mess. They decide to take small steps but as Jake says, The problem with steps of any size is that it’s hard to know when you’ve gone one step too far.


The story is written in the past tense PoV of Jake Savage. One feels the pain of a young man who, as a child, found the dead body of the only parent he knew.


The descriptions are beautiful and give us a peek into the character and history of Jake. I found myself caring not only for him but also for Detective Trent, for Ethy, so oblique with her affection, for Tess, who is  equally twisted in terms of past baggage, and even for Jake’s adoptive father, Maurice Savage, who is dead when the book begins.

The setting comes alive with the simplest of words. The sound of my heartbeat and the air escaping my regulator quickly replaced the chatter of human voices. Surrounded by water, the noise in my head subsided.

Despite knowing zilch about the geography of the place, I could picture it based on the details provided and I liked the picture my mind built up. I was impressed by the research around oceanography, the currents, tides etc. The details of the boats and the building and renovation feel intuitive and real.


The entire story takes place over 8 days, from Sunday, October 18, to Saturday, October 24. The author, in the person of Giles and Andre, kept pushing Jake into one predicament after another. It was well done, and it kept the pace going fast and smooth.

I’d first opted to read this book after reading the description and seeing the cover. I was touched by the incongruence of the cover image, the dead girl floating ethereally in the great blue with the lionfish surrounding her. Having suffered at the hands of humans while she was alive, it seems that she is now fodder for another invasive species below.


I loved the ending. It felt right, without seeming unbelievable or hurried or even forced. I only wish the author had given Jake, and us, some closure on the one mystery relating to his life. Perhaps a second book could throw more ‘light’ on Jake’s past.


(I read this book through NetGalley. Thank you, NetGalley, the author and the publisher.)


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