Wednesday, April 26, 2023


Title: The Secret She Kept

Author: Cathryn Grant

Publisher: Inkubator Books

Pages: 287

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Prologue, written in the first person past tense PoV of Nadia Fairchild, offered too much detail about something that wasn’t all that relevant to the main plot of the book. After shooting a certain Dr Flaherty, Nadia reveals her plan of inflicting merciless death on Ruth.

Ruth and her husband are a successful power couple. Their business, the Second Chance Wellness Center, is a huge success. Life is smooth, until she takes on a new client, Nadia, who is altogether too curious about Ruth’s life. Soon Nadia reveals a devastating secret to Ruth, demanding $50,000 in exchange for her silence. But the sum is too big for Ruth to raise, without letting her husband know. How will Ruth ensure Nadia’s silence?

The book is written in the first person PoV of Ruth and Nadia, in alternate chapters.

My feelings towards Nadia were conflicted. It was easy to feel sympathy for her, knowing that she had suffered grief at the death of her adoptive mother and rejection by her birth mother. I had to remind myself that she was a cold-blooded killer.

I hated Cheryl, Ruth’s mother, for the gaslighting she had done.

Towards the end, the book began to feel repetitive. The final action sequences were not very convincing. Nor were the motives that propelled the characters believable. There just wasn’t enough of a build-up of character.

But the book concluded on the right note, reinforcing the novel’s theme of acceptance.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Title: Fatima Tate Takes The Cake

Author: Khadijah Vanbrakle

Publisher: Holiday House

Pages: 304

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I really liked the name of this book. When La Niña first started speaking, she used to pronounce cake as Tate. I was reminded of her cute pronunciation with the name of the protagonist.

Fatima is an aspiring baker, but it is a part of herself that she keeps hidden from her traditional, orthodox parents. Mother Sharifa would like to take up a sensible profession like nursing. There is a Teen Baking competition that Fatima wants to participate in but her mom won’t let her. So she forges her mother’s signature and goes for the competition.

When Raheem Harris, a fellow volunteer at a soup kitchen on whom she has a crush, expresses a desire to marry her, she and her parents are thrilled. Only best friend Zaynab thinks there is something off about him.

The man of her dreams, however, shows his true colours after the engagement, threatening to tell her parents about the one time they had sex, a revelation that could destroy her reputation and ruin her prospects.

The book is written in the first person present tense PoV of Fatima. Even though the book is light-hearted, it manages to raise issues such as racism, freedom and culture, following one’s dreams and bullying.

I enjoy baking, even though I’m far from perfect, and I enjoyed reading the sub-plot relating to the baking processes, the competition etc, more than the main plot about Raheem.

Fatima was relatable. The issues that she faces are issues the average Indian girl is familiar with. Living in America, Muslims, like Indians, are torn between the contrary worlds of freedom and restriction. But she was also annoying, when she refused to heed Zaynab’s objections.

I appreciated the fact that even though Fatima’s mother disapproves of her dreams, she still nurtures them and fights for them. Her actions underscore the importance of making a career in doing whatever makes one feel alive.

The metaphors were linked to baking, which was cute at first, but began to feel gimmicky after a while. Here’s a sample:

You could hear yeast rise in the silence around the three of us.

Faster than a butane torch can burn sugar.

I’ve seen milk curdle in the time it takes for him to answer.

Zaynab’s mother Sarah Baker is very cool with her daughter’s relationship with white girl, Amber. She is in sharp contrast to Fatima’s own parents.

I was confused by one thing. Raheem’s plate is piled high with hamburgers. Do Muslims eat hamburgers? Isn’t pork frowned upon?

Also, the conclusion felt weak. I didn’t get a sense of Raheem as a menacing character. Also, the big reveal didn’t bring on the threatened consequences for Fatima.

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


Title: The Perfect Family

Author: Jacquie Underdown

Publisher: Self-published

Pages: 401

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


I was hooked in by the Prologue, especially as the unnamed first person narrator admitted to playing a part in the necessary murder of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


Claire Radcliffe enjoys taking a personal interest in the lives of her three grown sons, Matt, Anthony and Vaughn, and their families, particularly in the stuff they’d rather keep hidden. And there are so many secrets. Matt’s wife Nikki crashed her car on account of a stressful issue at work that she won’t tell Matt about, Anthony and Belinda are heavily in debt and Vaughn has the most damaging secret of all.

She also likes to help them out in various ways, but the help comes at a very heavy price. Claire enjoys gossiping about her own family and is very judgemental. She is prone to bad-mouthing her own kin, whether dead or alive.

At first I didn’t like any of the characters, particularly Nikki who came across as petty, Belinda who behaved strangely and Paige, Vaughn’s girlfriend, who appeared too sweet to be true.

The story is written in the 3rd person limited point of view of all the characters, with the timeline covering the present and the past.

The book raises issues of domestic violence, gaslighting and manipulation. The writing brings out the full extent of Claire’s deviousness. Having experienced gaslighting and manipulation myself, this book hit home for me.

I felt for the women. I could understand the pain that Claire was. The details that the author shares about Claire are revealing. The woman actually has voices that she uses for different occasions.

I could identify with Nikki’s efforts to bond with her babies, while Claire got in the way.

I enjoyed reading about Paige’s sewing business. My mum used to sew clothes, and reading her chapters brought those memories back to me.

The writing was good, but there were a few proofing errors that should have been weeded out. In chapter 18, Vaughn, in conversation with Belinda, speaks of Matt getting a huge contract. It should have been Anthony.

There were some interesting similes.

The boys hovered like crows at a bin on garbage collection day.

There were details that reinforced the setting, the big Aussie insects, for instance.

The only thing that remained unexplored was the aftermath of the big step that the women take. There needed to be a greater exploration of their state of mind.


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