Wednesday, December 28, 2022


Title: Sing Something True
Author: Brenda A Ferber
Publisher: Fitzroy Books
Pages: 156
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cassidy Carlson fully deserves to be called Sunshine, the nickname her mom has for her. All of 10, she’s a good sister to big sister Sophie, who has sensory processing disorder, and has a hard time managing the simplest of tasks. Cass tries her best, but sometimes it does get overwhelming for her.

On the oak tree outside her bedroom window, there is a robin, whose flock seems to have flown away for the winter. Cass feels sorry for him, and wonders if his situation mirrors hers.

At school, new girl, Lucy London, seems to be trying to alienate her best friend, Dani, from her. Dani won’t believe her suspicions, but Cass is proved right when she is excluded from the entire group at recess.

How can she get back her best friend while still doing her best for her sister? Is it even possible?


The book is written in the first person past tense PoV of Cass.

We don’t really get a sense of the setting and there is almost no physical description, and yet Cass touches our hearts. We can’t help but feel for her, her desire for friendship, to include Lucy in the circle, even though Lucy has only tried to exclude her.

The child tries hard to live up to her nickname, bearing the burden it imposes on her, as the “normal” child, striving to parent herself, so her parents have one child less to worry about, and all this as things get increasingly difficult for her. She even becomes willing to give up her singing lessons, something she truly enjoys, in order to make time for hip-hop lessons with Lucy’s mom.

Her interactions with Shel Silverstein, the robin, are cute and endearing.

The book treats the issue of physical and developmental challenges in a respectful manner. The author’s portrayal of Sophie is such that we never find ourselves pitying her, or struggling to relate to her. We too feel compelled to accept her, as she is. For parents, it is a The sisters too enjoy a touching bond and the family is refreshingly functional. For parents coping with such challenges, the family life of the Carlsons is a remind of how the little things might seem overwhelming to children.

Through Cass’ interactions with Shel Silverstein, we learn that we all, no matter our age (or species), need a flock, somebody who gets us and supports us.

Mrs Kwon, with her creative teaching methods and positive attitude in class and her attention to her students, shows us the significance of a good teacher.

I also liked the idea of Dad working from home and cooking meals for the girls, sharing cooking lessons and turning the domestic order around. There is a bit of humour in the fact that he wears a formal shirt and tie over his pyjama pants.

There are a lot of threads that, at first sight, seem to have the flimsiest of links: the robin, Sophie and her condition, the disintegrating friendship, but they all come together, bringing many teachable moments for Cass and us readers.

For children, on the cusp of adolescence, this book is chock-full of lessons, chiefly on the theme of being true to oneself, and not having to re-make oneself to suit others’ needs.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


Title: When I Walk Through That Door, I Am: An Immigrant Mother’s Quest for freedom
Author: Jimmy Santiago Baca
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 88
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story in verse, written in the first person PoV of Sophie, an immigrant mother, treated with brutality and callousness at every step of the way, is a powerful one. It builds a picture of a struggling family, helpless against circumstances beyond their control, reeling at the mercy of a shattered social order.

When Tonal, Sophie’s husband, is shot at outside their home in San Salvador because he wouldn’t pay off the gangs extorting half the paycheques of workers, she escapes with her 4-year-old son Joaquin strapped to her back to escape the wrath of the gangs.

But more hell awaits them. At every port and border they are met with hostility. There is no way ahead, and none behind. They are stripped of their humanity, seen only as carriers of disease, and as outlaws and criminals.

Through her harrowing ordeal, Sophie is gang-raped more than 4 times. She bears her oppression with none but the stones and dirt to bear witness. Only cacti and hundred-year-old cedars root in desert granite crevices counsel me in patience.

And after all that she is separated from her son at the US border.


As Sophie describes her struggle to build a life for herself and her son, her ordeal reminds us that Democracy’s body/ on the barbwire,/ a mangled prisoner/ trying to escape its torturers.


She hopes that America will open the door,/ invite us to your table/ welcome and respect/ and help and appreciate us,/ because that is what we did/…we warmed you at our fires,/ bedded you in warm blankets/ healed you, cured you/ cared for your children --/ open your hearts/ as we did ours.

The book is a hard-hitting accusation that convicts all those of us whose reaction is apathy, those of us who assuage their guilt with teddy bears and roses.

When I Walk Through That Door, I Am refers to the freedom she experiences when she is allowed to leave the detention centre. Her hope shines through as she looks forward to a reunion with her son. The book ends with Sophie promising to speak on your behalf, live on your behalf, and never give up searching for you.

The poem is not the only testimony this book bears within its pages. Through his personal experience with Sae Po, a refugee from Myanmar, the author reminds us that refugees make so much out of so little. The author not only gave Sae Po a job, and helped him to work towards building for himself a life in America, he also wrote the story of refugees around the world. I act, I engage, and I write.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


Title: How to Embroider Almost Every Cute Thing: A Sourcebook of 550 Motifs + Beginner Stitch Tutorials
Author: Nihon Vogue
Publisher: Quarry Books
Pages: 128
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


The book contains 550 motifs and beginner stitch tutorials. The categories are assorted patterns, simple flowers, folk art flowers, fairy tale flowers, breakfast foods, fruits and vegetables, favourite foods, sweets and treats, zodiac animals, dogs and cats, favourite animals, animal friends, fairy tale animals, everyday life, sports and games, hobbies and activities, border designs, flower alphabets (in upper and lower case), food alphabets, letters and numbers, childhood favourites, and people and things.

At the bottom of each page of embroidery motifs is an indication about the page numbers to turn to for instructions and the person responsible for those patterns.

If you are interested in embroidery, it helps you tap into your creativity and see motifs all around you.

I particularly liked the page on border designs. The food alphabets were quite creative. All these designs would look lovely on a baby’s clothes, or even to help personalise a garment. The author has included some photos of socks, baby clothes, T-shirts etc to show how a little bit of embroidery could enhance a garment.

The latter part of the book contains some basic instructions and tips on what a beginner would require in order to get started on an embroidery project. This part of the book brought back fond memories of the embroidery lessons my mom used to give me when I was little, If you didn’t have an elder in your family to show you the ropes, the author has you covered. There are instructions on how to thread a needle, trace a design from the book and transfer it on to the fabric, how to separate the embroidery floss and how to start and finish stitching.

There are lessons for the straight stitch, running stitch, outline stitch, back stitch, chain stitch, French Knot, Lazy Daisy stitch, satin stitch, The lessons for the stitches are accompanied by easy instructions and helpful photos.

The stitch guide suggests the type of stitch to be used while embroidering all the patterns provided in the book. The book ends with the profiles and Instagram handles of the people who have contributed their patterns to the book.

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

Book Review: THE DEN

Title: The Den
Author: Cara Reinard
Publisher: Thomas and Mercer
Pages: 336
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the Prologue, we meet an unnamed person, a woman, whose life is in danger. By the next morning, the omniscient narrator tells us, she will be dead.

The wealthy Fox family have all gathered together at a party to raise funds for a dementia charity in honour of Simone Fox, the matriarch, who is in an advanced stage. The four grown-up children, greedy Christian, responsible Valerie, drug addicted Jeremy and irresponsible and wayward Lucinda, are all in attendance.

When their father, Stefan Fox, collapse at the party and ends up in a critical condition, the children are told about the terms of the trust, called the Den, which is supposed to kick into effect in the event of Stefan’s demise. These terms offer a sum of over $10 million to be divided equally among the children. Should one of the children predecease their father, the share of the dead child is to be divided among the surviving siblings.

The siblings have been raised by their detestable, philandering father to be fiercely competitive. What might such a mouth-wateringly tempting legacy do to the relationship of the already embattled siblings? Would one of them be prepared to kill for more money?

The story in written in the 3rd person limited past tense PoVs of Valerie, Lucinda and Marian, three major female characters.

The action takes place over four days. Right in Chapter 1, the omniscient narrator introduces us to all the major players.

The book held my attention. It was paced right, and all the characters had a role to play in the action. The story moved on to the denouement in a manner that was both consistent and believable.

Reading the book, I had a certain impression of how the plot might turn out, but that’s not how things rolled. The mystery isn’t that airtight. It’s not hard to figure out who might be responsible.

What I found more interesting were the family dynamics, the memories of the past which are fed to us in small nuggets of flashbacks.

The extent of the dysfunction in the Fox family hits us hard, and convicts us to think about how we might have behaved in similar circumstances. It forces us to think about how love and pain are so inextricably linked in families, The nature of families is such that resentments and grievances fester and grow. And yet, sometimes the most tragic circumstances show that love never truly dies.

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

Monday, December 19, 2022


Title: A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human

Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrator: Andre Ceolin

Publisher: Beaming Books

Pages: 32

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The book invites children to appreciate the human species, what it enjoys and what one must do to get the best out of the experience.

The illustrations by Andre Ceolin are cozy and charming and a perfect accompaniment to the text.

This could be a neat little gift for a child who has just begun to read. Or a grownup could read out the book to the child and explain some of the concepts such as compassion, empathy, family, friendship etc. Use the book as a springboard to explain to a little one how, despite our differences, we are all alike, and how we need one another’s support to navigate life’s tricky journey.

For that matter, these are refresher lessons that we grownups could also benefit from.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


Title: Painting Stones: How to Turn Rocks and Pebbles into Mini Works of Art

Author: Marion Kaiser

Publisher: Search Press

Pages: 96

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

It was the cover that first drew my attention to this little book; the penguin was my favourite. My daughter had taken to painting pebbles during the pandemic, so I downloaded this book for her. This review contains her opinions, as well as mine.

The book is divided into two sections. Basics tells us where to buy stones from, the right paints and brushes needed, the painting techniques used and also how to care for the brushes.

The larger section, Projects, provides instructions and photographs of projects that the author has completed. The cover of this section shows us a stone with a chalky leaf painted on it.

Each project begins with information about the materials and colours required, followed by a bit of trivia. Each of the projects is linked to a certain quality. The link is stretched further through a bit of trivia, or a wish, or an expression for gratitude. This was sometimes done effectively. Mostly it appeared forced, an unnecessary attempt to inject philosophy.

Here’s a breakdown of what we thought about each of these:

Ladybug (Luck): The Luck came of finding stones of the right shape. The ladybug painted was rather cute.

Clownfish (Transformation): The project with the clownfish had an interesting bit of trivia, about how after the death of the only female, the largest male changes sex and takes over the role of the female.

Lizard (Relaxation): My daughter was impressed with the mixing of the black and white to get grey and the other colours painted in later to get the metallic effect on the lizard. She wished the author had given details about how to paint the lizard’s shadow as suggested in point 4. All she says is, Paint the shadow that the lizard casts on the stone using lots of water and a little black paint. My daughter said that more details would have helped, as painting shadows is difficult. 

Goldfish (Courage): Again, more details about how to paint droplets would have helped. Also, Goldfish should have been linked with Calmness.

Bee (Devotion): This one was beautiful. The end result looked embroidered. My little girl described it as Christmassy, chiefly because of the knit clothing that the bee is wearing. This link was one of the few that made sense. The author says, "Treat yourself with kindness: feed your inner bee with honey."

Cottage (Safety): This one was really pretty. It looked like an illustration from a children’s book.

Guardian Angel (Protection): The guardian angel had a rather creepy expression.

Panda (Conservation): The shading on the fur was superb. The musing on the panda’s link to the theme was vague.

Penguin (Patience): The author says, Raising a chick in the cold of Antarctica requires a lot of stamina and devotion. This makes no sense, given that Antarctica is the penguin’s natural habitat.

Mouse (Openness): The mouse hides in dark places. The theme of Openness doesn’t fit.

The others projects and themes were Feather (Serenity), Swan (Love), Yellow Mandala (Peace), Dragonfly (Calmness), Elephant (Wisdom), Blue Mandala (Joy), Dandelion (Letting Go), Cat (Healing), Dragon (Freedom) and Turtle (Confidence).

There are plenty of instructions to explain the simple drawings, but only a sentence to cover the tricky bits like shadows or droplets or other 3D effects. Sometimes the author says, use white, but whether she means pencil or paint is left to use to guess. Where the author mentions colours, she doesn’t indicate the shade. There’s a great difference between leaf green and bottle green. The author advises use of “your thickest” or “finest brush”. My daughter said, the author should have told us about the size of her stone and the size of brush she used.

It’s obvious that the author has gone to great lengths to find the right stones that will heighten the aesthetic effect.

What enlivened this book for us was the inclusion of the photographs. They are all beautiful shots. The author has taken great pains to frame the images well.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


Title: Aging Gracefully for Women Over 50

Author: Dr Steve Kringold

Publisher: Montebello Publishing

Pages: 200

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐

This book might have been informative for women over 50 wishing to age gracefully. But those 50-year-old women are those who turned 50 in earlier centuries. For women as clued as 50-year-olds today, the tone in which this book is written may seem more than a little patronising.

The author, a doctor, covers all the important topics, Eating Well, Exercise, Medication, Sleep, Avoiding Stress. They are all here. The information provided within these pages is sound, but really nothing new. Nothing you wouldn’t know. Certainly not in this day when Google has brought so much information to our fingertips. And you don’t even have to be very interested in health related issues. The most ill-informed among us would know this information well.

There was altogether too much excitement about things like intermittent fasting, which incidentally flies against the wisdom of having a full breakfast.

Some of the information appears more than a tad offensive, especially in the light of today’s world. Of course, considering that the man is in his 70s, naturally his notions aren’t really keeping pace with what might be considered okay today. In this vein, he advises women to show off their wrists and the area around their ankles, if they want to appear slim.

There were some good things to be said about the book. The doctor advises readers to keep a gratitude journal, and focus on all that is right in their lives, instead of spending their days in pointless regret and adding wrinkles and frown lines to their faces. Also, all the suggestions were backed up with the names of the researchers who derived those results.

He mentions a few illnesses that plague people in this age group, and what can be done to avoid contracting those illnesses. Again, nothing new to be learned here.

The doctor suggests that women over 50 now have time to focus on themselves because their children have now flown the nest. It doesn’t even occur to him that there may be women in this age group who have much younger kids because, for whatever reason, they happened to have kids much later. 

Considering that the book has been written by a doctor with years of experience, I expected far more insights and valuable tips than the sketchy information cobbled together here. In the end, the title appeared like just some kind of clickbait, and maybe I fell for it.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Book Review: THE PARTY

Title: The Party

Author: Nora Valters

Publisher: Inkubator Books

Pages: 318

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Prologue made no sense at all. I should have skipped it and gone straight to chapter one. It was a whole lot of mysterious stuff that used a lot of words to say things, without really saying anything. Even after finishing the whole book, I couldn’t figure out whose first person PoV had featured in the Prologue. Nor did I care. 

Ruth Hargreaves and her school friends have gathered together for their annual Christmas Eve party at Thandie's house. At the party both accidentally drops Holly's baby, Dylan. Once Baby Dylan quiets down, Ruth sees that there are some bruises on his body which could not have been caused when he fell out of her grasp. But no one else will see reason.

Suddenly she is blacklisted. Ruth is thrown out of their WhatsApp group. Except for Lewis, no one else wants to have anything to do with her. All her friends turn against her with Mihika, a notorious gossip, assuming a very belligerent stance. Even her fiancé, Kofi, breaks off the engagement, and her dad turns against her.

Pushed to a corner by Mihika's relentless badgering, Ruth decides to investigate the cause of Dylan’s bruises. But is she on the right track? Or will she alienate all those who care about her?

The book is written in the first person present tense PoV of Ruth Hargreaves.

I liked the manner in which the author evoked the setting of Salisbury, with descriptions of the local architecture.

We meet a large cast of characters right at the beginning of the book. Between spouses and multiple children per person, there are just too many people named, and this makes it very confusing since it's too early in the book for us to know who's related to who. Very few of the original cast really mattered with reference to the plot events, so it would have been better if the author had given us a sense of a crowded house and a roaring party without naming and introducing every one of them.

I’m mentioning this, because I nearly considered dropping the book, on account of this issue, and picking another. That would have been a pity, because subsequently the book grabbed my attention and didn’t let go.

I couldn't understand why everyone had to treat Ruth so badly. Her dad too is unnecessarily mean to her.

Despite her insane choices and her drinking habit, I felt invested in Ruth because she had her heart in the right place. Fortunately the drinking habit was truly under control. She was genuinely motivated to help Dylan. I watched her make the dodgiest of decisions, certain that she was about to crash and burn, hoping she wouldn’t.

The only other character I cared about was her mother. She was the only one who wasn’t quick to think the worst of Ruth.

The book checks the diversity quotient, inasmuch as it refers to Indians. The annoying Mihika, police sergeant Sid Ahuja and Ruth’s colleague, Amrinder, that’s three characters more than any other nationality.

Of course, other than Mihika, they weren't important.

While I liked the manner in which the story progressed, I didn't appreciate the choice that Ruth made with reference to her relationship.

Some of the sentences were awkwardly constructed. After the main clause, the author suddenly truncated the sentence by dropping the use of valuable pronouns.

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


Title: Killing Katie (Affair with Murder #1)

Author: Brian Spangler

Publisher: Junco Publications

Pages: 416

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Amy Sholes, a happily married mother of two kids and wife of a police detective, has a dark secret she can’t confess to anyone, least of all her husband, Steve. Amy enjoys killing, or at least the idea of killing since she has never killed before.

She enjoys tripping on her husband’s case files, imagining herself killing off the dregs of society, the criminals who nobody will miss. But her longest running fantasy is to kill Katie Dawson, her best friend since they were both two years old. It is a fantasy she can’t help, given that she loves Katie and would never do her harm. Which is why she feels compelled to kill somebody evil that the world would not miss, in order to drive the fantasy of killing Katie out of her mind.

But these are not compulsions you can share with another person, least of all your cop husband.

Meeting an internet whiz, Nerd, at the library, Amy is placed squarely on the path to fulfilling her desires. Nerd, whose real name Amy does not know, introduces Amy to the Dark Web, where the worst of human excesses may be bought and sold at a price. Here, he gets Amy her first paid job, to kill Todd, a brutal rapist who raped and battered a young teenager. Amy accepts the job and successfully kills Todd.

But soon the instinct to kill strikes again. And when that happens, what will it mean for Katie? Will she die at Amy’s hands?

You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Killing Katie is written in the first person mixed tense PoV of Amy.

Amy doesn’t act on her Dexter-like fantasies until halfway into the book. Until then, there’s a lot of revealing about the past, but it was done in a manner, suggesting confidences between friends, so I didn’t mind plodding through.

Death isn’t the only thing on Amy’s mind. She is also worried about aging, about life passing her by, about losing her husband.

I liked the way the character evolved, from getting turned on by the very idea of murder to suffering grief at losing a dear one. But grief is not an unfamiliar emotion. Earlier on, when John, a top cop and Steve’s best friend, dies, she experiences the pain of losing a good friend, as also the pain of knowing that it could have been Steve.

She wants to kill not just to fulfil her desire but also as a means to earn money, so Steve can give up being a cop and go back to law school.

The manner in which she lives her double life throws up moments of tension, and the writing style was good.

The explanation about how the Internet works was also good.

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


Title: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon

Author: Marcy McCreary

Publisher: CamCat Books

Pages: 347

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Detective Susan Ford had been only 13 years old in August 1978 when her dad, William Ford, was the lead detective, grappling with a case surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Trudy Solomon, a waitress at the Cuttman Hotel run by Stanley and Rachel Roth.

Forty years later, a female skeleton is found. At first, police believe it is Trudy, until Trudy is found alive and well, and suffering from dementia. William is keen to solve the cold case, to find out who the skeletal remains belong to, and he wants Susan to be part of the reopened investigation. With the availability of forensics and computer databases, he has a better chance of solving the case now.

But Susan isn’t keen on revisiting the time or place. Lori Roth, one of the four Roth kids, used to be her best friend, until the friendship suddenly disintegrated when they turned 13.

Pretty soon it becomes clear that the Roths all hold a clue to the case.

While Susan doesn’t want to dig up the past, she could do with a respite. She had been shot by a drug dealer and has been accused of shooting and killing an innocent black teen, Calvin Barnes.

Susan and William have two months to solve the case. Will they get answers before their time runs out? Does Susan have the courage to visit the Roth family and the memories they dredge up? And will she have respite in the Barnes case?

The book is largely written in the first person past tense PoV of Susan. We also get the 3rd person past tense PoV of Trudy, whose memories are unreliable. Each of the chapters advances the timeline by a day.

There were so many characters that it was hard to keep track of who was talking. The problem gets compounded in an audio book, when it’s hard to go back and see where we encountered a character before.

Rachel Fulginetti, the narrator, did a good job with all the characters. She changed her voice to suit different characters, but it was difficult when there were two women speaking. If the prose didn’t give us an indication of who was talking, we were on our own. The runtime of this audio book was 10 hours and 36 minutes.

It was refreshing to see a Main Character aged 53. Older women are so little represented in films and books. Older adult fiction should have its own genre. 

Along the way, the author also raises issues relating to racism and race relations, police brutality, alcoholism, depression, gender diversity etc. There’s an inclusion of a subplot relating to racism and Black Lives Matter.

There are many crimes here. The disappearance of Trudy paves the way for murders, kidnap of babies and blackmail.

The book unwittingly makes a case for forgiveness in order to heal the hurt in dysfunctional families.

I liked Susan. What I didn’t like was the abundance of bad language strewn throughout this book. Almost every character swore. That was a huge turn-off for me. The book could have been a lot leaner without all the F-bombs. I would not want to read the next book in the series owing to the foul language.

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


Title: Two Nights in Lisbon

Author: Chris Pavone
Publisher: MCD
Pages: 450
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


International thrillers with spies at the centre are all too common. But one affecting a single mother, newly married, while on a trip to another continent where she doesn’t know the local language, promised non-stop action and excitement.

Ariel Pryce wakes up in her hotel room in Lisbon, the morning after a night of passion, to find her new husband, John Wright, gone. Still harbouring doubts about her second marriage to a much younger man, her worries turn to panic.

The local police in Lisbon think it’s too early to consider him missing. The embassy won’t take her seriously. He’s not in any hospital either.

As the day wears on, Ariel is beside herself with worry. And then she learns that her husband has been kidnapped, and that the kidnappers want three million euros as ransom. Ariel doesn’t have so much money. But there is one door she can knock on. A man in the US, over whom she has leverage. He must either pay the ransom or rescue her husband or prepare for destruction as she reveals all.

Will the ploy serve to bring back her husband? Or will she lose him anyway?


The book is written in a mix of tenses. The narrative is presented to us at various points through the day. While the bulk of the narrative is set in Lisbon, we also get snippets of Ariel’s life in the US, past and present.

The narrative is divided into five parts: The Disappearance, The Kidnapping, The Ransom, The Escape and The Payoff. The author tosses us from one character to another, giving us the chance to learn their truths and lies, as the search for John gets underway.

Little by little, we learn more about Ariel, her habits, her past. She doesn’t, it appears, know her husband all that well. At the same time, we learn that we too have a lot to learn about her. And we learn those things as the CIA, the embassy and the reporter all tear down the persona she has so carefully put together.


Even the minor characters feel real. There’s Kayla Jefferson and Guido Antonucci of the CIA, and Pete Wagstaff, the reporter in Lisbon. Guido is a relic of the past, like his name which might be recycled, freshened up with a sheen of irony.

The writing is sharp and insightful, the metaphors heightening the reading experience. Sentences of uneven length keep us riveted.

Here’s a sample:

As if the mere fact that something is traditional makes it admirable, or defensible. The same exact justification has been used for pretty much all the injustice in the history of the world. We in India are suffering the insidious, corrosive effects of the government’s insistence on fetishizing tradition.

Everybody becomes respectable, sooner or later. Unless they go to jail. Or die.

Sometimes what looks like panic is really rational self-preservation.

You want to believe that there’s only one reality and that we all share it.

The descriptions of people, more judgmental than physical, were my favourite. A platinum-level jackass who sprayed venom like a lawn sprinkler, drenching everything in his toxic masculinity.

A giant pickup is [like a schoolyard bully.

About millennials, Her generation’s default was irony.

These traits that we admire and envy – youth and beauty and privilege – these are not accomplishments.

Fanatic, dogmatic dedication to your community is not what makes anyone a good person.

There’s a delicious sense of irony and plainspeak as when we learn that Ariel’s new baby didn’t come with any instructions, but her electric toothbrush came with a 32-page booklet, and about the lexicon of grievance so popular in the world today.

The description of life, as realized by Ariel, realizing again and again how wrong you used to be.

I reserve my biggest chunk of appreciation for the omniscient narrator who knows such things that women’s faces harden instinctively to dissuade the male gaze. At the end of Part II there was a section on how gaslighting works, written in such crisp prose that it clawed at my heart. The narrator seemingly enters the minds of dogs and kids with equal felicity.

I loved the smattering of Portuguese, rooting the book in Lisbon. The author helps us settle into the locale, giving us a feel of the charms of the city, its buildings and people, the heat of the city, the crazy driving.

I enjoyed this book as much for the story as for the writing. 

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


Title: The Woman Inside

Author: EG Scott

Publisher: Dutton

Pages: 335

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Prologue is written in the first person present tense of an unnamed narrator.

Paul and Rebecca are a married couple. When Paul loses his business, the equation between him and Rebecca is altered. They are distanced, and Paul begins an affair with Sheila. When he gets a job, the equation with Rebecca is restored. This sends Sheila over the edge and she begins to stalk the couple.

When Sasha, the wife of Rebecca’s boss, Mark, goes missing, Rebecca, who is addicted to prescription drugs, is fired by Mark, and she no longer has access to the drugs.

When Paul makes off with their joint savings, leaving behind a letter that he has found someone else and wants her gone, Rebecca decides she will neither repine nor leave. She will make him pay.

The narrative is presented to us in two timelines, Before and After. Exactly what is the event that is at the centre of the book is not immediately evident. It is only at the close of Part 1, which ends ingeniously with the first line of Chapter 1, that the event that celebrates the Before and After falls into place.

There are multiple perspectives. Besides those of Paul and Rebecca, we also get the perspective of the detective. When Paul disappears, we stop getting his PoV. Like Rebecca, we wonder where he is, who he is cheating with.

The accounts are in a mix of present and past tense, sometimes both in the same sentence. 


I liked both Paul and Rebecca in the Before. They both tell us of the secrets they have kept. The lies have been for the sake of the marriage, they say. Both try to delude and outwit each other.

Paul tells us that he has never had a partner like his wife, even though he has had many partners.

Slowly Rebecca’s addiction gets the better of her and she comes to know of events that she has no recollection of ever being a part of. I felt a little sorry for her. She has always been an outsider, never included. Never imagining that she would have someone to call her own.

Sample the writing:

Any relationship is a high-wire act. Maintaining an affair is like walking a greased tightrope with a gorilla hanging off your back. If things go wrong, the destruction can reverberate catastrophically.

I liked the banter between the couple, and thought they were perfect for each other. The twist was horrifying, and totally unexpected.


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