Friday, June 23, 2023


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Book Review: BONE CHINA


Title: Bone China

Author: Roma Tearne
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 401
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


An ill-advised marriage with the charming yet unscrupulous Aloysius de Silva, the former estate manager at her father’s factory, is the undoing of Grace, born to wealth and privilege. Now she and her five children, Jacob, Alicia, Thornton, Frieda and Christopher, watch their influence dwindle in a rapidly changing country.

When the British need the palatial de Silva home for the war effort, the family has to move into their second home in Colombo. But life in Sri Lanka becomes increasingly untenable, especially as the country turns in on itself in the wake of Independence.

The life of the de Silva family has so far been one of privilege and affluence but dissent and conflict spare no one.

One by one, the children fly the coop. Alicia, after her wedding, Jacob and Christopher, as they distance themselves from their homeland, and Thornton and his wife, Savitha, and their daughter, Anna-Meeka, as they seek to make a life for themselves in Britain.

Only Grace, Aloysius and Frieda remain, the latter a shadow, as always, devoted to her parents.


The book is written in the past tense omniscient PoV. The story is written in three parts, Secrets, Errors and Beginnings. The plot is rather fluid, spanning the history of the family from the childhood of Grace’s children, to their adulthood, their relationships and their children in turn.

I loved the way the author, born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Britain with her parents when she was ten, made the setting come alive. The loving way in which she has drawn them, making us care for every member of the de Silva family, likely stems from deep affection for her homeland. The lush descriptions of the weather and the political events that overtake life in Sri Lanka root us in the story.


The book begins on September 1, 1939, when World War II breaks out in Europe. While the war rages on in the far distance, the unrest in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is also affecting life’s rhythms. The political becomes personal for the family. Prejudice is rampant.


The language was beautiful. Here's a sample:

The war was a muffled drum, beating elsewhere.

The death of a million silkworms surrounded them.

Rights and wrongs were complicated things with mysterious inner rhythms.


In many ways, the political strife mirrors Indian history in terms of the injustices wreaked by colonialism.

Grace’s sadness in contemplation of the love with no future in contrast with the acceptance in Vijay’s mind.

This is a family caught in the wheel of history as we all are.

The author makes us care for this large family, and an ever-increasing cast of characters, each with their own compulsions, often at odds with one another. 

So much so that when there is a death in the family, I felt a pang as if the grief were personal to me. In the same spirit, I hurt for the lone De Silva sibling who survived the rest, but lived shuttered from the sunlight. It was just as painful to read about the issues between the siblings and how quietly the family disintegrated.

After the promise of the beginning and the ponderous middle, I was afraid that I was going to be disappointed in the end, but the author brought in a refreshing change of fortunes that ended on just the right note.

Bone China is at once precious and fragile and beautiful. The bequest of bone china from Grace to Savitha for safe keeping and ultimately as an inheritance to Anna-Meeka is an inheritance of beauty, preciousness and fragility.

This was my first novel set in Sri Lanka, and I came away touched by this tale of a land, so much like my own, and yet in some ways so mysterious and foreign.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023


Title: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Author: Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark

Publisher: Chicken Soup for the Soul

Pages: 387

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


The book, reprinted on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the original Chicken Soup for the Soul, consists of 20 additional stories, besides the ones included in the original.

The stories are listed under seven sections, On Love, Learning to Love Yourself, On Parenting, On Learning, Live your Dream, Overcoming Obstacles and Ecletic Wisdom.

Not all the stories are really good, or even very inspiring or even very well written.

Nothing but the Truth and Service With A Smile read like some of the jokes from Readers’ Digest. If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get – But If You Do, You Do seemed too pat and unconvincing.

The few that stood out for me included Puppies For Sale, The Rules For Being Human, The Animal School, You Are A Marvel, I Am A Teacher, Rest In Peace: The “I Can’t” Funeral, Try Something Different,

The collection also included some pieces of exceptional writing such as Children Learn What They Live and the blandly titled Are You Strong Enough To Handle Critics? Which is an extract from the writing of Theodore Roosevelt. Obstacles featured a quote by Viktor E Frankl.


Title: The Inimitable Jeeves

Author: PG Wodehouse

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Pages: 256

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


The book consists of a series of episodes all connected by a thread: that of the total ineptness of our adorable and highly privileged upper-class narrator, Bertie Wooster, and his total dependence on his valet, Jeeves.

The setting is at first Bertie’s playground, London. When he incurs the wrath of his Aunt Agatha, the setting changes to New York.

There were some common elements. The trouble arising from the complete fascination that Bertie’s childhood friend, Bingo Little, has for a new woman each time, Bertie’s own wariness and fear of his formidable Aunt Agatha, his tendency to get into complicated situations either on his own, or on account of somebody else and how is rescued by Jeeves. These characters waltz in and out of the pages.

Unlike in some of the other books I’ve read, here Jeeves actually sets aside his loyalty to Bertie and refuses to help him, on account of some act of sartorial inelegance on the part of Bertie.

The book was a quick read, but the episodic nature of the plot caused me to lose interest. Also, I’ve noticed that Wodehouse tends to be funnier when it is Bertie’s own actions that get him into trouble.

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

Saturday, June 03, 2023


Title: The Best Couple Ever

Author: Novoneel Chakraborty

Publisher: India Penguin Metro Reads

Pages: 256

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐


When the book begins, we meet married couple Ashwamedha Chauhaan and Sama Akhtar. They reminisce about the first time they met and then rant about social media and those who are addicted to it. Ashwamedha tells his wife, and us, about three couples who have an informal competition going on between them. The winner will be the couple whose photos, posted on social media, elicit the highest number of likes and comments.

These three couples include married couples Kashvi and Dr Parth, and Dhriti and Satyam, and live-in couple Sanisha and Adhik.


The stories of these three couples are traced over a period of eight months from March to October 2018.

The Prologue piqued my interest, promising intrigue. But the style of writing could have done with improvement. 

"You weren’t the duel you seemed to be. You were a magnanimous war I was up against." Cringeworthy.


Ashwamedha and Sama reminisce about the first time they met. But the whole recollection is awkward and detailed, with both characters recounting details for our benefit. Far from the best way to do this.

Sama knows very little about social media. In today’s era, I found it hard to believe that an educated woman would be so clueless about how social media works.

There is a lot of Indian English, with marriage routinely used as a synonym for wedding. The word, lingerie, is used incorrectly. Irk, a verb, is used here as a noun.


Ashwamedha and Sama are positioned outside this world, severely critiquing the addiction. But the truth is that only Kashvi and Dhriti are Instagram influencers, addicted to social media. The three males and Sanisha have no such addiction.


Ashwamedha keeps harping on a question, What is your idea of happiness?, randomly judging others based on their responses. We have no idea why this is so, and what purpose the question serves.


I appreciated the author’s attempts to critique the world of social media where ‘heroes’ are adored merely for posting photographs that everyone knows are heavily edited. The plot itself was loose and poorly constructed, and there were several sex scenes that were crass and gratuitous.


I will neither read this author again, nor recommend his work to anyone.


Title: A Death In The Himalayas

Author: Udayan Mukherjee

Publisher: Picador

Pages: 280

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


This novel was highly recommended. Udayan’s own professional credentials are impressive. So I really hoped that this book, touted as India’s mystery novel, would not be disappointing.


When British author-activist Clare Watson is found dead in the forests in the fictional village of Birtola, the eyes of the world are once again riveted upon India. The nation’s dubious reputation as “no country for women” is highlighted. Neville Wadia, retired from the Mumbai Police, and his wife, Shahnaz, who live in the village, and who counted Clare among their friends are shocked to learn that their friend is no more. Identifying the killer will be a challenge.

Clare’s book, India: A Minority Report, about the treatment of the lower castes, religious minorities, women and the LGBT community, was a subject of controversy. Besides, Clare has had run-ins with a local politician, Gopal Kabarwal, and a landshark named Tamta, besides several local men on the issue of domestic violence. Also, she was pregnant but the child wasn’t her husband's.

Which of Clare’s many run-ins led to her life being snuffed out?


The book is written in the third person omniscient point of view.

The language wasn’t up to the mark. "Neville was tossing his head."

Another sentence reads: "A British foreign office spokesperson confirmed that it was in close contact with the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs."

Shouldn’t the ‘it’ have been changed to ‘the foreign office,’ considering that the noun in the above sentence is the spokesperson?

Incorrect punctuation marred the effect. "Neville didn’t open his eyes, but as if in the throes of a seizure seemed to register her words." The prose also suffered from missing articles.

"After crossing a cluster of fruit orchards, bare trees he could recognize as apple or peach, but not the senior man, Ravi slowed…" Here, the author means that the senior man could not recognise the trees.

Elsewhere, Neville describes Peter as, "He hails from the financial markets." How can a person hail from financial markets?

The author refers to a police officer, Ravi Dubey, as Detective Dubey. In India, a detective is a private eye. Police personnel are not called Detective in India.


One character, Santosh Negi from the Nainital Police, is addressed as Santoshji the first time, and as Negiji just two short paragraphs later.


What I appreciated was the setting, the mountains and the forests, and how they loomed large over the events. The author outdid himself describing the mountains.


My favourite part of the book included the observations that the author made about the city. How people from the villages are dying to live in the cities, while those in the cities want to live in the villages, and all this while the villages are slowly overcome by the curse of development. Also, how the romance of living in a remote village can only be enjoyed through the eyes of privilege.



The author also pointed out the vitriolic climate prevalent in the country today where right-wing Hindus are constantly taking offence.


Nor did I have any issues with the investigation. All in all, a well written mystery, as promised by the blurb.

Book Review: EMILY'S LIST

Title: Emily’s List

Author: Sean Platt and David W Wright

Publisher: Sterling & Stone

Pages: 343

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Cora and her mother are moving from Las Orillas in California to a small town in Washington after the death of her horror novelist, father.


It’s a small town, far from Las Orillas where you could get [hit by a car or a stray bullet.] Her mom assures her that this will be a good start for both of them, that Cora will like it here. But Cora knows that can’t be true. Her worst fears are confirmed when Kaycee, the prettiest girl in school, and her clique, begin to mock and tease Cora inside and outside class. Cora befriends Alen, her next door neighbour, but he lies to her and hangs out with Kaycee and her friends. Cora has no friends at all until she meets Emily, a home-schooled girl of her age, in a treehouse in the woods behind her house.


Cora’s problems are slowly gaining steam. Best friend Kris, back home in Las Orillas, is back in a relationship with bad boy Tyler, and has no time for Cora. Then Cora comes to know that Emily has been dead over a year and that she killed her parents before killing herself.


The novel is written in the first person present tense PoV of Cora Gray. Right away, we know that Cora is a complicated character. She suffers from OCDs and tics, and is biracial in a town of white folk. She gets back OCD thoughts which she feels compelled to unthink four times, while blinking. She takes a lot of pills, for depression, anxiety, hallucinations and for OCD. And she can see and talk to ghosts. She’s also done time in a mental health institution, after her mum feared that she might harm herself, which she does. She cuts and burns herself. She also has a secret, something her mother might hate her for, if she only knew.


Cora’s inner voice, now supportive, now provocative and belittling, but always emphatic in all-caps was a delight to read, as were her thoughts in italics.


There was a delicious air of the paranormal about this book. It was never outright scary, but it was suggestive enough for middle-grade children.


I didn’t like Alex. He struck me as fake, lying too often and hobnobbing with Kaycee and her friends.


The sections of the narrative that deal with the events in school are described well.


The writing was good. Here’s a sample:


We can’t always see people’s damage. Even the most perfect lives can be facades.


The book could be a trigger for vulnerable individuals on the issue of rape, sexual assault and self-harm.

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


Title: The Fear of Winter

Author: SC Sterling

Narrator: Jess Nahikian

Publisher: No Bueno Publishing

Pages: 233

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐



Tom and Lisa Floyd’s lives have been upended since their daughter, Megan, disappeared over 18 months ago. Their marriage has disintegrated, and their lives are on hold. A year later, Tom hires PI Marshall Yorke, a former detective, and his assistant Hannah Jacobs to find the answers he’s been unable to find. Their investigation reveals that Megan was not the sweet girl her parents think she was. She was living a dangerous other life, that may have proved disastrous for her.

The book evokes the deep cold of the winter, plonking us into the setting. The author delves deep into the lives of all the characters, including Tom, Lisa, Marshall and Hannah, all with detailed broken backstories. Since this is Book 1 of a series, the details are understandable. But it doesn’t really help, as not all these characters will show up in Book 2.

Except for Hannah, I couldn’t bring myself to care for any of the others. Incidentally, Hannah cuts herself. The portions of the narrative referring to this might act as a trigger for vulnerable individuals.

There is a lot of bad language, which I find very off-putting. The deletion of the f-bombs and their variants would have cut this book down by more than 200 words. Also, the recitation of the names of the tracks that various characters were listening to, and the names of the performing artistes were details that told us nothing more than the fact that the author is a huge music enthusiast. The action and the images conjured by the descriptions are rather disturbing.

What complicates our feelings towards Megan is that she is not the quintessential good girl. She is a drug dealer. I didn’t care for her at all. I wasn’t expecting someone perfect, but we barely knew enough about Megan to care for her.

The chapters are long. There wasn’t much of a twist. After a while, the book became a real chore to read. Even the resolution of the mystery was rather tame. Halfway through the book, the identity of the person responsible for Megan’s disappearance was evident. By this time, I had stopped caring about the characters at all.

The narrator did a good job over 7 hours and 10 minutes, although the male speaking parts were a drag.

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


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