Book reviews, 3 stars


Hermann Hesse

My View: This book has been waiting for several years on my bookshelf for me to pick it up. And I did, a few years ago, only to not be able to get into it and put it back.

This time, however, I was more dedicated and I could get into it. I always go into books, blinded. No reading the synopsis for me, thank you; which also means I am often taken aback because I thought this book was about Buddha. Apparently not. It’s about a boy Siddhartha who is NOT Buddha.

Was the story/ plot fantastic? Not really. It was alright. But I think the major thing to take from this book is the lesson it provides. That we cannot be taught, we learn things ourselves. We make mistakes, we fall down, we stumble and that’s how we learn.

I’m not sure about the writing as well. If the beauty was lost in translation because writing seems crude. There also seem to be several translations, I believe.

My favorite lines from the book, “Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding? When someone is searching, then it might easily happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with that goal. Searching means having a goal. But finding means being free, being open, having no goal. You are perhaps indeed a searcher because striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.”

The book is definitely not for everyone. And it’s one which you need to read at the right time, otherwise it’s not easy to get into it. But it’s a short, few hours read if you’re so intent.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

3/5 stars – I liked it.

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Genre: Classics

Date Published: January 1, 1922


Herman Hesse’s classic novel has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers. In this story of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege to seek spiritual fulfillment. Hesse synthesizes disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for meaning.

About the Author

Many works, including Siddhartha (1922) and Steppenwolf (1927), of German-born Swiss writer Hermann Hesse concern the struggle of the individual to find wholeness and meaning in life; he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946.

Other best-known works of this poet, novelist, and painter include The Glass Bead Game , which, also known as Magister Ludi, explore a search of an individual for spirituality outside society.

In his time, Hesse was a popular and influential author in the German-speaking world; worldwide fame only came later. Young Germans desiring a different and more “natural” way of life at the time of great economic and technological progress in the country, received enthusiastically Peter Camenzind , first great novel of Hesse.

Throughout Germany, people named many schools. In 1964, people founded the Calwer Hermann-Hesse-Preis, awarded biennially, alternately to a German-language literary journal or to the translator of work of Hesse to a foreign language. The city of Karlsruhe, Germany, also associates a Hermann Hesse prize.

3.5 stars, Book reviews

The Serpent’s Tale

Ariana Franklin

My View: I read the first in the series, Mistress of the Art of Death (review here), damn(!), 11 years ago. I didn’t think it was THAT long ago.

Now you know, I suck at completing series haha. Finally picked up the second one now and glad to know that I didn’t need to re-read the first one.

As always, strong female characters are my absolute favorite, no wonder I gave the first book a whole 5 stars!

This thrilling, keeping you on the edge, page turner keeps you guessing about who did it and why, and then more mysteries add up as murders continue. Phew!

Adelia, the doctor cum detective is kept busy piecing it all together while trying not to get killed or her baby abducted. Talk about a full plate, eh? Of course, the whole putting a woman down and her having to hide her being a doctor and letting Mansur, the huge Arab take its credit every time, continues to pinch my feminist self.

Franklin brings it all together by the end of the book. Something I love, unlike the cliffhangers some series leave you at.

It was an entertaining, good read overall.

Have you read this book, this series? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I loved it.

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Date Published: January 31, 2008

Series: Mistress of the Art of Death #2


Ariana Franklin combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the drama of historical fiction in the enthralling second novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death series, featuring medieval heroine Adelia Aguilar.

Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II, has died an agonizing death by poison – and the king’s estranged queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the prime suspect. Henry suspects that Rosamund’s murder is probably the first move in Eleanor’s long-simmering plot to overthrow him. If Eleanor is guilty, the result could be civil war. The king must once again summon Adelia Aguilar, mistress of the art of death, to uncover the truth.

Adelia is not happy to be called out of retirement. She has been living contentedly in the countryside, caring for her infant daughter, Allie. But Henry’s summons cannot be ignored, and Adelia must again join forces with the king’s trusted fixer, Rowley Picot, the Bishop of St. Albans, who is also her baby’s father.

Adelia and Rowley travel to the murdered courtesan’s home, in a tower within a walled labyrinth – a strange and sinister place from the outside, but far more so on the inside, where a bizarre and gruesome discovery awaits them. But Adelia’s investigation is cut short by the appearance of Rosamund’s rival: Queen Eleanor. Adelia, Rowley, and the other members of her small party are taken captive by Eleanor’s henchmen and held in the nunnery of Godstow, where Eleanor is holed up for the winter with her band of mercenaries, awaiting the right moment to launch their rebellion.

Isolated and trapped inside the nunnery by the snow and cold, Adelia and Rowley watch as dead bodies begin piling up. Adelia knows that there may be more than one killer at work, and she must unveil their true identities before England is once again plunged into civil war . . .

About the Author

Ariana Franklin was the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. A former journalist, Norman had written several critically acclaimed biographies and historical novels. She lived in Hertfordshire, England, with her husband, the film critic Barry Norman.

3.5 stars, Book reviews

Assassin’s Apprentice

Robin Hobb

My View: I have had this book since at least 15 years but never got around to reading it. Thanks to a GR challenge, finally decided to pick it up.

Not much of a fantasy fiction person but this book was so much more. I absolutely adored the characterization and how invested I was in all the characters and how their life would turn out.

The writing flow worked well for the story narration. The world building done beautifully. The character of Fitz puts everything into perspective and all the characters revolve around him.

It’s hard to say much without giving away spoilers and I hate doing that to someone. I want you to unravel this magic, thread by thread, page by page.

There might be some lows and high in terms of wavering attention especially with a book of this length but keep at it and you shall be rewarded.

Everything has been thought through, every cog in the wheel important. I don’t read many series but I am looking forward to continuing this one. Please tell me it won’t disappoint?

Have you read this book, this series? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I loved it.

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Genre: Fantasy

Date Published: May 1, 1995


Young Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father’s gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him secretly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz’s blood runs the magic Skill–and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

About the Author

Robin Hobb is the author of three well-received fantasy trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest), The Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) and the Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Errand, Golden Fool, and Fool’s Fate) Her current work in progress is entitled Shaman’s Crossing. Robin Hobb lives and works in Tacoma, Washington, and has been a professional writer for over 30 years.

In addition to writing, her interests include gardening, mushrooming, and beachcombing. She and her husband Fred have three grown children and one teenager, and three grand-children.

She also writes as Megan Lindholm, and works under that name have been finalists for the Hugo award, the Nebula Award, and the Endeavor award. She has twice won an Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award.

2 stars, Book reviews

Has Anyone Seen My Pants?

Sarah Colonna

My View: This book was GR choice award nominee for best humor in 2015 and so I picked it up. Truth be told there aren’t many comedy shows out there that would put a smile on my face so the disclaimer being I am probably a tough audience.

Having said that, I did chuckle perhaps 4 times during the reading of this book. For an almost 300 page book, that is a dismal proportion. Sigh. For those four times, I did want to like this book.

But in the name of humor, it does reek of white privilege in parts and there were way too many lacklustre chapters. Half the time I was like why is this in the book? Why do I want to know what the author thinks of this friend? It was pretty boring really and in a physical book I probably would have skipped it. I need to learn what’s my problem in skipping pages in a kindle. I mean I know “how to” but choose not to. Go figure.

After finishing the book, I did google the author to find out her current relationship status and I can’t tell you how happy that made me, for the author and also because I’m a hopeless romantic, but most importantly, because I did not want to read another desperate single woman story! Ugh.

Maybe if you know the author, you might be more invested in this book. I wasn’t. If I was able to not finish books, I would have stopped reading it at around 26-30% but I have a problem of putting myself through torture and so I did. Also, some say it’s better as an audiobook in case you want to try that instead.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

2/5 stars – It was okay.

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Genre: Humor

Date Published: March 17, 2015


New York Times bestselling author of Life as I Blow It Sarah Colonna is back with a hilarious, honest look at life in her late thirties—in all its messy, pants-missing glory.

How does a gal with a successful career, great friends, and a razor-sharp wit find herself wandering pants-less through the hallways of a casino hotel in Iowa on New Year’s Eve?

Ask Sarah Colonna.

Has Anyone Seen My Pants? is a laugh-out-loud trip around America (and Mexico!) with Sarah as she braves crying in nail salons, mother-daughter road trips, Iowan casinos, and single-shaming resorts. From a fling-gone-wrong to friend breakups and a new romance, Sarah’s signature wit and sharp observations take you on a journey at once so deviously funny and surprisingly compassionate that it might just steal your heart—not to mention your pants.

About the Author

Sarah is currently a roundtable regular on the hit late night talk show “Chelsea Lately,” and has been for several years. She has also served as a full time writer on “Chelsea Lately,” as well as a producer, writer and star of the show’s spin-off scripted series “After Lately,” also on E!

She can be seen in Michael Rosenbaum’s new movie “Back in the Day,” alongside Rosenbaum, Nick Swardson, Harland Williams, Morena Baccarin and many others. The movie is set to release on demand January 7th and theaters January 17th, 2014. She also recently appeared in Diablo Cody’s latest movie, “Paradise.”

Her first book, “Life as I Blow it,” debuted at number 5 on the New York Times Bestseller list, followed with a sold out book tour in several major cities in the country. It was also sold to NBC to be developed for television with producers Happy Madison two years in a row. Her second book, “Has Anyone Seen My Pants,” is due for release in early 2015.

Sarah continues to tour across the country headlining comedy clubs regularly. She’s appeared on several other TV shows, including “The United States of Tara,” “Scare Tactics,” and “Monk,” and was a semi-finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”

3 stars, Book reviews

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid 

My View: Maybe it was all the hype that really psyched me about this book and then I was disappointed.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo starts off with a bang and appears to be a page turner, keeping me up till the wee hours of the morning.

However, the novelty of the plot soon wears off as the book seems quite repetitive in some of its circumstances.

I read another of Reid’s earlier this month Carrie Soto Is Back and I know she does a stellar job with strong female characters and I love that about her. Perhaps which is why I was expecting more from this one. But maybe the mistake I made was comparing her latest release to something she wrote 6 years back. Of course, she’s gotten better at writing since then.

It was a good read nevertheless and a page-turner for the first half. The second seemed a bit dragging. Of course, the ending was stellar. But I think editing could have been better and that would have taken care of the drabby bit in the second half.

I love the LGBT parts and I could identify and empathize with the struggles of being out. Loved the chemistry between the girls, I was pining and rooting for them. It was frustrating to see them mess up over trivial stuff. But that’s how you know the book is good, when you get invested in the characters and their behaviors, Ugh. 

Reid surely knows how to etch her characters and the plot was nice and novel as well. You can definitely pick this up for some drama and a quick read.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3/5 stars – I liked it.

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Genre: Fiction

Date Published: June 13, 2017


Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

About the Author

Taylor Jenkins Reid is the New York Times bestselling author of Carrie Soto Is Back, Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones & The Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, as well as four other novels. She lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Instagram @tjenkinsreid

3 stars, Book reviews

The Maid

by Nita Prose

Genre: Mystery

Date Published: January 4, 2022


Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

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This was a quick, page-turner read. I was taken in by the character of Molly the maid. I loved how she had been etched out and how it gave rise to hilarious scenes. I loved Molly’s voice. The plot twists and mystery elements were great to begin with and it kept me turning page after page, late into the night.

The story and characters are supposed to tug at your heart but I felt all but sorry for her. I liked how confident and sure of herself she was. Give me strong female characters any day. Love them! I didn’t much care for other characters. They were a part of the background and none etched in detail.

The book did drag a little bit in the second half, with more unrealistic scenarios and a lackadaisical eye for detail on the author’s part.

All in all, it’s a quick decent read to get over a reading slump or for a weekend night reading. For a debut novel, it does make its mark.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3/5 stars – I liked it.

About the Author

Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean.

Visit Nita at, on Instagram @nitaprose or on Twitter @NitaProse.

5 stars, Book reviews

Caste: The Lies That Divide Us

by Isabel Wilkerson

My View: Caste is one of the most amazing books I have read in a long while now and I do read a lot (atleast a book a week if not more). I started sharing quotes from this book early on in my reading on my social media pages. It is everything I think, and try to tell people but littered with real-life examples and good writing. It was all I needed.

Caste is not just a book. It’s a reality of people all around the world; from the castes in India, to Nazism in Germany, to Casteism in America. It’s the same thing, over and over again, people and places might differ. It’s the innate need to find oneself superior to another, to have someone beneath us to feel better about it all.

It’s a topic I struggle with on a day to day basis, whether it is being discriminated against in another countries for having “brown” skin, or trying to get my country’s citizens to move beyond last names and castes. It’s not easy, most of the time people don’t get it. Every time someone asks me my last name, I resist. Why do you want to know, I ask? Even as a young teen, I knew I wanted to just sign my first name and never my second. I did not want what I was born into, to define me. I did not want my last name to put me above others. I do not want a special treatment. I want to be known as who I am, for what I do, and not what I was born into, that I had no control over. Like each and every one of us on this planet, we can’t choose the color of our skin, what family and caste we are born into. Why then do we choose to discriminate and wage wars based on these baseless things?

Caste is a book that talks about history, and present, and the future. If you have been thinking about caste (like me), you would find a warm hug between its pages because here is someone who not only feels the same but also went ahead and researched and talked to people and wrote a well-researched thought-provoking book about it. Of course, there’s also this constant frustration as I read because I really wanted to find a way out of this rigmarole. But I realized the only way out is in. Unless everyone feels this way, we cannot move on or put this in the past. I feel alienated from my country when we wage wars in the name of religion and caste and what not. I wonder when will we move on?

If you have not thought about caste, you probably fit into the category of ‘dominating caste’ who has not had a reason to think about it because you are not discriminated against and it doesn’t bother you. In which case, this book is even more for you. To help you see what goes on in the world, to make yourself aware and to rise up to call out and take action against this senseless arbitrary activity that tends to continue in varied societies around the world.

While I was reading this book, I felt strongly that it should be a part of student curriculum all around the world. As the last unit narrates how Germany has not just wrapped up with the Nazism but made sure to remember what happened so that it would not repeat again. While we in US and India, continue to discriminate, ignoring what the so-called ‘subordinate’ castes have been put through and continue to be put through. Unless we rise up and shift things, we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

What an absolutely brilliant book, Isabel! Great on facts, engaging, and riveting writing, this would be on my to-gift-to-everyone list for a long time to come.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

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5/5 stars – I loved it.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Date Published: August 4, 2020


In this book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people–including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others–she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

About the Author

Isabel Wilkerson is an American journalist and the author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. She is the first woman of African-American heritage to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

4 stars, Book reviews

Far From the Madding Crowd

by  Thomas Hardy

Genre: Classics

Date Published: 1874


Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in the fictional county of Wessex, Hardy’s novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.

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My View: I am doing #TheGreatThomasHardyReadalong2022 along with @annathebooksiread and @pezzasclassicbooks on IG. Here’s my second read after A pair of blue eyes last month.

Hardy has a knack of keeping you hooked and although sometimes I am tempted to skim the description paragraphs, his plots keep you on your toes. It’s almost like if you blinked, someone could die, or you know, a major plot twist might happen. There’s no giving warning with him. Here you were thinking, ah finally, there seems to be some stability, and then boom. I love how Hardy managed to make a romance feel like a thriller and it was. Oh, I really did enjoy reading this book.

Before you think the plot is all there is, oh no, not at all. Hardy got his charcters etched to a tee. A strong female character as the one whom the story line revolves around and I am half way there already, patting the author on the back.

Unabashed, not to be bullied and the one who stands up for herself. You got me swooning right there. I am going to gloss over a few not so good decisions coming up. “Oh, Bathsheba, what in the world were you thinking?” But when you have been driven to the brink of emotion, you know you got a winner in your hands.

This book takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and reminds me of Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Castorbridge’ which I loved so much, precisely because of all the drama. It’s just life on a farm and a couple of suitors, you say, who’s creating all this drama? Well, humans, as usual. Who else?

Here’s how it’s with Hardy, “A-turn-at-every-corner plot, beautifully etched characters so that you can know them intimately, and absolutely emotionally inhibited personalities of the characters, some side characters to produce humor”, and tada, you got a winner in your hands.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

4/5 stars – I really liked it.

About the Author

Thomas Hardy, was an English author of the naturalist movement, although in several poems he displays elements of the previous romantic and enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural. He regarded himself primarily as a poet and composed novels mainly for financial gain.

The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-fictional land of Wessex, delineates characters struggling against their passions and circumstances. Hardy’s poetry, first published in his 50s, has come to be as well regarded as his novels, especially after The Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The term cliffhanger is considered to have originated with Thomas Hardy’s serial novel A Pair of Blue Eyes in 1873. In the novel, Hardy chose to leave one of his protagonists, Knight, literally hanging off a cliff staring into the stony eyes of a trilobite embedded in the rock that has been dead for millions of years. This became the archetypal — and literal — cliff-hanger of Victorian prose.

3.5 stars, Book reviews

The Makioka Sisters

by  Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (translator)

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Genre: Cultural Fiction (Japan)

Date Published: September 26, 1995


In Osaka in the years immediately before World War II, four aristocratic women try to preserve a way of life that is vanishing. As told by Junichiro Tanizaki, the story of the Makioka sisters forms what is arguably the greatest Japanese novel of the twentieth century, a poignant yet unsparing portrait of a family–and an entire society–sliding into the abyss of modernity.

Tsuruko, the eldest sister, clings obstinately to the prestige of her family name even as her husband prepares to move their household to Tokyo, where that name means nothing. Sachiko compromises valiantly to secure the future of her younger sisters. The unmarried Yukiko is a hostage to her family’s exacting standards, while the spirited Taeko rebels by flinging herself into scandalous romantic alliances. Filled with vignettes of upper-class Japanese life and capturing both the decorum and the heartache of its protagonist, The Makioka Sisters is a classic of international literature.

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My View: This book is an easy, cozy read. There’s no thrill or drama. The book follows the life of four Japanese sisters in the 1930-40’s and gives a deep purview into how life looked like, then in the country.

You get a glimpse into their lifestyle, their thinking, their day to day struggles and relationship with each other.

If you’re into cultural reads, you would enjoy this. The personality of three sisters shine through while the fourth one remains more into the shadows. They are markedly different from each other and you see it in their beliefs, personalities, and lifestyles they keep. The reserved, tranquil one happy with the littlest of pleasures life has to offer in marked contrast to the rebellious, outgoing one who wants to break free from traditions and live life her way.

We are also made aware of the circumstances catching up on them (the upcoming war), the international friendships they keep, and how the world and society around changes with time.

It is a long albeit interesting immersive read. Just don’t come looking for action or drama, and you will like it.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I really liked it.

About the Author

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki (谷崎 潤一郎) was a Japanese author, and one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki.

Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japanese society.

Frequently his stories are narrated in the context of a search for cultural identity in which constructions of “the West” and “Japanese tradition” are juxtaposed. The results are complex, ironic, demure, and provocative. 

1.5 stars, Book reviews

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Genre: Romance

Date Published: November 17, 2020


A trio of second-born daughters set out to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside by New York Times bestseller Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List.

Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love.

Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence. Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex. But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition: If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Against the backdrop of wandering Venetian canals, rolling Tuscan fields, and enchanting Amalfi Coast villages, romance blooms, destinies are found, and family secrets are unearthed—secrets that could threaten the family far more than a centuries-old curse. 

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Add on Goodreads | Audible

My View: For a monthly challenge on my fav GR group, I had to read a book with ‘star’ in the title. I zeroed it down to three books and then chose this one because my friends voted for it. I mean, Tuscany!!!

A few pages in, I felt I was being set up for disappointment but all those 4-5 star reviews made me feel it would only get better from here on. Ummm… Before I begin with my rant, let me jot down the good things.

That first page, ah! It made me hungry. The two really good things about this book- Italy and the description of food. I was constantly googling recipes. Oops!

There were about three quotes in the book which I highlighted and shared. I liked those life lessons.

And therein end the good things about the book. Here begins the rant.

I HATED the plot. I didn’t like a single character and I was constantly verbally abusing the characters in my head. That’s supposed to be good, right? Feeling so strongly for the characters. Not really. Not when it feels like the book should have been written in 1950s or about the 1950s. It just didn’t belong in the present era.

My feminist self was screaming out loud. Why, you ask? Let me count the things.

  1. The MC and her sister drool at every guy that comes along. I mean really(?)
  2. They are livid because they won’t get married! Or there’s a ‘curse’ that tells them so. Are we in the 21st century or am I mistaken?
  3. Most characters are people everyone walks over.
  4. The moral of the story is they finally decide to stand up for themselves. Like finally!
  5. Bitchiness is counted as ‘oh poor thing, she was going through so much’. I can’t tolerate this!! So not okay with me!

I think I might have liked this if I was born in the 1920s and was reading this in 1950. It’s way too late for now. Like what were you thinking, girl(?)

This was going to be a 1 star but because of those three quotes and all that food, I will give it a 0.5 extra. There, I said it.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

1.5/5 stars – Between I didn’t like it and It was okay.

About the Author

Lori Nelson Spielman is a former speech pathologist, guidance counselor, and teacher of homebound students. She enjoys fitness running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her true passion. Her first novel, The Life List, has been published in over thirty countries and optioned by Fox 2000. Her second novel, Sweet Forgiveness, was also an international bestseller. Her third book, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, releases November 17, 2020. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their very spoiled puppy

3.5 stars, Book reviews

Stepping Beyond Khaki by K Annamalai

Genre: Memoir

Date Published: January 18, 2021

Source: The Good people at Bloomsbury India 😀


How did the rape and murder of a young girl transform a rule-obsessed officer to take on a more humane approach?

Why did people start calling him Singham just a few years into his policing career?

What is it that made a shy, simple village boy dedicate himself to a lifetime of commitment towards public service?

Stepping Beyond Khaki: Revelations of a Real-Life Singhamis a tell-all memoir by celebrated former police officer K. Annamalai. With a career spanning a decade in the state of Karnataka, he earned the respect of the people with his humanistic action and his style of leadership focusing on empowering subordinates. Further, Annamalai pitches significant questions that rarely get discussed-are politicians bad? And is politics a place where good people fear to tread?

By stepping away from the spotlight and bringing out the real heroes whom he had encountered in his policing journey, this is unlike any other policing memoir. Truthfully told with a dash of idealism, it also prescribes changes that are much needed in politics, policing and in our daily governance mechanisms. It brings out the inherent goodness of the common man and the role the general public play in keeping this democracy functioning.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart | Add on Goodreads

My View: Up until early last year, I held a common view of the police: they can’t be trusted, don’t go to a policeman even when you need to, they are unfit, take bribes, and are dangerous to your safety (especially as a female).

This changed in March 2020. March 2020, I shared space with constables, and I talked to senior superintendents while on COVID duty for those quarantined after traveling abroad. And that changed everything. My perception of police emerged from that of what I held above, to them being humans who work more hours than normal, are underpaid, hardly get time to spend with family, put their lives on the line, and are hated by the public. During the span of a month, I was also witness to the loss of a young constable who was going home after finishing his duty at 3am and in order to save a drunk person on the road, he swerved and lost his balance, and died. He was 23. Last March made me know more about the police than I ever had before. It gave me a real picture, away from what I had been told, and what media told me.

So when I got a chance to read this book, I grabbed it, wanting to know a first-hand account. I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard about Annamalai before but I am glad to have gotten to know him through this book. He’s a marvellous person, reaching where he did on his own abilities. Reading this book was a breeze and I got lost in his life story, admiring his courage, his long-term vision, and his methods. While reading this book, I was made aware of (by someone who did better on current affairs than me) some things about him that are against my own views but the author hasn’t mentioned them in the book so I will put them aside.

Annamalai goes into the minute accounts of a daily life of a policeman and all that they sacrifice and go through. He talks about the grassroot level and helps bring awareness to aspects of a policeman’s life that go unnoticed.

This book is an eye-opener. It is revealing, humbling, and brings to you the other-side view most people are not privy to. It seems like an unbiased account of the real deal.

Towards the end, the book becomes a little dry when delving into the political arena albeit Annamalai has mentioned some really good measures that the govt needs to take to ensure smooth functioning of the police and be able to provide help to those who need it. If only someone on the political level reads this and takes a step in the right direction.

It’s a great book to give you a glimpse into the life of a policeman.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

3.5/5 stars – Between I liked it and I really liked it.

2 stars, Book reviews

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date Published: March 3, 2020

Goodreads Synopsis:

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does. 

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart | Audible | Add on Goodreads

I picked this up from GR book award nominations section, saw the wonderful reviews and decided to go for it. It started off really well, then went downhill and never revived itself. I really just wanted to finish reading it after a point.

I was confused about all those raving reviews before realizing that this book was written keeping in mind the international audience and what sells to them. It was not meant for Indian readers who would find the loopholes and would not be swayed by the ayurvedic remedies and the cultural overwhelm and would be able to realize the hurried yet not real plot and the stunted character development. It felt like there was a rush to reach the happy ever after ending and so it was.

The characters and situations were often implausible. Several times, I found myself shaking my head. And those idioms had me gritting my teeth, half the time they were just inserted where they didn’t even fit.

This book is meant to overwhelm an international audience making them believe they have got a glimpse of Indian culture, the truth is far from it. I was relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way when I read some other reviews, not all of them by Indians. Some non-Indian readers also did see through the whole ‘let me pitch this colorful, intense, surprise-me-at-every-page’ India to them and they will be sold to the idea.

This book really could have been so much more. The Henna Artist had potential but it didn’t live up to it.

Have you read the book? What did you think of it?

2/5 stars – It was okay.

Author Bio:

There comes a point in every daughter’s life when she begins seeing her mother as a person separate from her family, someone who has an identity outside of motherhood. That was the moment I began re-imagining my mother’s life, and that re-imagining became THE HENNA ARTIST. I was born in Rajasthan, India, and moved with my family to the U.S. when I was nine. Even after graduating from Stanford University, and working in advertising and marketing, I never considered becoming an author. But taking my mother to India in her later years changed all that. In 2011, I got my MFA in Creative Writing from the California College of Arts in San Francisco, California. It took 10 years, a lot of research, and many trips to India to complete my debut novel, and I’m thrilled to share my writing and publishing process on YouTube:
I live on the Monterey Peninsula with my husband and two misbehaving pups, so let me know if you’re going to be in the neighborhood.