Category Archives: Books

Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris

I love mystery novels and if its a mystery series… so much the better. You get attached to the characters by the time you read the last chapter and the knowledge that your association with them is going to last for a couple of books more, is vastly reassuring. I devoured Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series a long time ago. When I began the Aurora Teagarden series, I had no idea it was penned by Charlaine Harris. When I had finished the first book Real Murders in the series, I was intrigued but mildly nauseated with the ending. I decided I won’t read any more. But the next day, I started the next book in the series. And I was hooked. The protagonist of this series is a tiny, bespectacled single librarian with the charming name of Aurora Teagarden, who has a penchant for reading about famous murders and murderers. And in each book, a murdered body turns up somewhere in her vicinity and she finds the murderer with her trademark blend of snoopiness and spunk.

Apart from the superbly handled mystery aspect of the books, what I like the most about this series, is how the heroine Aurora blossoms as the series progresses. She becomes more self possessed, more outspoken, comes to possess an outstanding array of spectacles and becomes increasingly more lovable. I love the way Harris has handled the part where Aurora grieves for her first husband, Martin Bartell and how she emerges a stronger and more mature woman from her misery. I like how the mysteries sound at the outset, as if the perpetrator is a person unknown but how slowly one small thing fits into the other and the killer is revealed to be very much a resident of Lawrenceton, the fictional town where the book is based. The supporting characters are also well sketched out and Harris gently draws the reader into their world, so that you really feel for the characters and find their everyday doings interesting, as if they are people living in your own street. As I write this post, I am down to my last book in the series, the tenth! Need I say more… go and read this book!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Had been meaning to read this book since quite a while and am glad I finally picked it up. And what a story it is! It is a story of Theo, a psychotherapist and his patient, Alicia Berenson. Alicia has supposedly killed her husband six years ago. And since then she has been living in a mental care facility where she has not spoken a single word Why? That is what Theo desperately wants to find out

Theo is not without his own demons that hound him round the clock. A terrifying, hot tempered father whom he still carries around with him, even though he fled from the family home in his teens. His own “fucked up life” is what drew Theo towards psychotherapy. He can still remember Ruth, the lady who listened to him and cried for him when he thought his tears were frozen over. That is what he is determined to do for Alicia. Save her, just as Ruth saved him.

But how can he do that when Alicia refuses to talk? Undeterred, he seeks out her lawyer, Max, who is also her husband’s brother. Max is hiding something but what? He also pays a visit to Jean Pierre, Alicia’s art dealer and supposed best friend who has not visited Alicia once since the time of her husband’s death. Theo finds out about Alicia’s troubled childhood and a meeting with her cousin brother suddenly provides him with the key to the mystery.

So, mystery solved then, right? Nu..uh. This is the part where I sat with my nose touching the page till I had turned the last page of the book. Now, that’s a mystery. If you haven’t already, read this book right now.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Read Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone yesterday. Started it in the evening and I couldn’t put it down till I had finished it. Then I couldn’t sleep because the story kept buzzing around in my head. I completely forgot that we were in the middle of the Corona pandemic. It is that kind of book… completely absorbing.

The story revolves around Laurel, a middle-aged mother whose teenage daughter Ellie, simply disappeared from the face of the earth ten years ago. Ellie was pretty, smart, charming and her mother’s darling. Police investigation revealed nothing and it was assumed that Ellie was just another teenage runaway. But Laurel refused to believe it. She becomes obsessed with finding out something, anything about Ellie to the point of the ruin of her marriage and alienation of her other two children. Her husband Paul and she part ways. Her other two elder children move out. She exists, just filling in her days, waiting…

Suddenly, ten years later she meets Floyd, a charming mathematician who makes her come alive again. Things which had meant nothing to her for so long suddenly become important…cooking, looking good, reaching out to her family. Her life has meaning again. Then she meets Poppy, Floyd’s nine year old daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to her Ellie. The book is told from different POVs… Laurel, Floyd and Ellie. Dear reader, I pity you because I have already read the book and you haven’t! Sorry, got carried away 🙂 The author cleverly switches between POVs, keeping you gripping your seat. It was Ellie’s POV that kept me sleepless for a long time. Then there is a fourth POV. Whose that? Hey…that would be telling! READ THE BOOK!!!

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Just finished reading My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. And let me tell you, whatever kind of books you might love, you will gobble this book. I finished it in a day, would have finished it in half if people would have left me alone 😑 Coming to the book, is it a thriller, a really weird love story, a domestic suspense? Heck, I don’t care. I loved it. I wish I could erase it from my mind so that I could have the delicious, wicked fun of reading it all over again! The story revolves around Millicent and her husband, who is incidentally the narrator of the story. The couple is happily married and still in love after 15 years of togetherness. They have two great kids and a lovely home. But something is missing. The spark has gone out of their romance. Most couples experience this at some point of their relationships but I can bet nobody would have tried what this couple does to reignite their relationship. They do something together, something huge, something unspeakable, they murder young woman. Why? the story. The way Downing has weaved the story, the couple’s reasoning seems completely acceptable. Help, am I turning into a psychopath! Bet you feel the same way when you read this book.

The narrator loves his wife madly, even after so many years of marriage she remains something of a mystery, a woman he shouldn’t have got. He would do anything for her. Isn’t that what is every woman’s dream. From helping her cook, to picking up the kids from school to stalking prospective women to kill, the guy does it all. But surprisingly, the way Downing has drawn him, you do not hate him; he is actually endearing, he is human. 

As the story progresses, the narrator along with the readers slowly discovers who his wife really is. And what a ride it is! If I tell you about Millicent, it would rob you of the dark fun of finding out for yourself. Suffice it to say, you will not regret it. And you will start looking at everyday, common things which your partner does with new eyes. Oh, and your neighbours. Almost everyone you meet! You just have to read this book! 

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones

These days thanks to the Corona virus, I am on a reading spree. Am currently devouring all Diana Wynne gems. Really, if there is one writer whose mind I would like to visit, even for an hour then that would be Diana Jones. If you have any of her books in your hand, you are bound to find it interesting, funny, gripping, somehow realistic, uplifting and the book will definitely enter the list of your all time favourite books. How does she do it? I wish I knew. And the plots of her books are absolutely delicious.

Take The Ogre Downstairs for instance. If you go by the cover, you would think the book is about a real ogre. But the ogre in this book is a man but when you hear the kids in the story talking about him, you start to fervently agree with them. The man is definitely an ogre. The ogre is Caspar, Johnny and Gwinny’s step dad. He has two kids of his own, Douglas and Malcolm. Together, with Sally, their mother, they all live in a house which is simply too small to accommodate them all. Caspar and Co hate the ogre and his snobby kids. Sally tries her best with them but they are always polite, nothing more. One month into their new life, things suddenly change. The ogre gifts a chemistry set to Johnny and Malcolm. Ooh, I really really wish I had one of those. Because you see these sets are magic. Johnny and Malcolm, both with an inquiring set of mind get experimenting with surprising and disastrous results. There is a lot of rivalry and secrecy is the key. Both set of kinds mix up a formula which makes them fly. Caspar somehow turns his finger invisible. Malcolm becomes a boy chameleon. Gwinny’s dolls come alive and demand food. And don’t get me started on the chocolate bars and the radiator. And the bucket! Jones weaves a magical tale and slowly things between the two set of kids start improving. They go from hating each other’s guts to understanding and defending one another from the ogre. But one day, their mother disappears. Johnny and Gwinny both try to kill the ogre with disastrous consequences. Of course, Sally returns and they all live happily ever after. But what happens to the ogre? Does he die or simply vanish? Want to find out. Read this book right now.

The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

This book is for the days when you feel you have read everything. No plot, no character seems to hold your attention and you keep on impatiently hopping from book to book. At such a time… read The Ladies of Missalonghi. Colleen McCullogh’s writing flows along gently and almost before you know it, you are hooked. Another of her books, The Thorn Birds is more critically acclaimed. Now, I have read them both and I much prefer this one. I must have read it atleast ten times.

Nothing really spectacular happens in the book. The heroine of the book, a thirty three year old spinster called Missy is somebody you would never give a second glance to. She is plain, dark and always attired in brown, poor but respectable. She lives with her overbearing mother and aunt in a house called Missalonghi. Incidentally that is her name! The three ladies live an extremely dull and uneventful life. Our Missy yearns to have a life, to go out alone and walk in the “valley”, to own a cat, to get married. 

And then along comes Una, a spirited, gorgeous widow who minds the library owned by one of Missy’s distant aunts. She lends Missy love stories wrapped in brown paper. Because even at thirty three Missy is not allowed to read that kind of books. Talk about stagnation! The two become fast friends. Una’s sparkling personality rubs off on dull, brown Missy. She tricks John Smith, the man she adores, into marrying her. She sheds her brown uniform and attires herself in sparkly, indecent red, like one of those scarlet women of Caroline Lamb Palace. She gives her wealthy, snobbish relatives who frankly never even knew she existed a piece of her mind sending the ladies into hysterics! She dyes Alicia’s (the clans darling young lady who is incidentally the same age as Missy) gorgeous hand me down apricot dress brown and she does it with cowdung 🙂 Go Missy! This book is a real gem. And it has a startling climax. Want to know what? Read the book…NOW!!!

The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond

There are some books and some authors which are guaranteed to make you feel better whatever your mood. One such author for me is Ruskin Bond. Reading a Ruskin Bond book is like sitting peacefully by a river while a cool breeze teases your hair and bird’s music fills your heart. Soothing and calming. Almost all his books are based in small towns of Himachal Pradesh. The Blue Umbrella is a story about a poor little girl Binya and… her blue umbrella. One day while out with the family cows she comes across a few tourists having a picnic. One of the ladies in the group has a bright blue umbrella. Its beautiful and the fascinated Binya comes out of her hiding place lured by it. The picnickers barter the umbrella for a leopard claw pendant which Binya always wears. A delighted Binya runs home with her lovely umbrella. She carries it everywhere with her and seldom ever closes it. Everybody who sees the umbrella is besotted by it and kind Binya is always happy to lend it to anybody who asks her for it. Everybody is happy except for Ram Bharosa, an elderly grocery shop owner. He covets the umbrella and tries to get Binya to sell it to him. But Binya always refuses him. The yearning for the bright, blue umbrella sets him brooding. No stranger to his lust for the umbrella, Ramrajan, a young boy who helps him run the shop tries to steal the umbrella but is caught by Bijju, Binya’s brother. Frightened, he blurts out Ram Bharosa’s name and so begins a bad, bad time for the elderly shopkeeper. Everybody starts avoiding his shop; nobody even bothers to talk to him. Ram Bharosa is miserable and it is all his own fault. Then one day, Binya enters his shop along with her blue umbrella. She looks at him and his gloomy face touches her heart. She GIVES him her umbrella, for keeps! Ram Bharosa cannot believe she is in earnest. And seriously, I couldn’t either! Ram Bharosa is ecstatic. His entire character seems to undergo a transformation. He is more cheerful, not so rude with children and he adds extra milk and sugar to Binya and Bijju’s tea whenever they visit his shop! The story is written simply yet oh so beautifully. Ruskin Bond never preaches, the stories’ morals hit you long after you have closed the book. Give this one a try. I can vouch for it!

The Good, The Bad and The Smug by Tom Holt

You know how I discovered Tom Holt…? By reading the Mapp & Lucia books written by him. I had finished all written by E.F.Benson, found two more written by somebody called Tom Holt and gobbled them like the rest. I couldn’t believe somebody could have so seamlessly taken over E.F.Benson’s books. Had I not already known that these two books were written by a different author, I would have never come to know. And that would have been a major loss. I would have missed out on two Lucia books and never discovered the zany, laugh out loud funny and unbelievably cool world of Tom Holt. Each of his stories is absolutely, completely different but with the quintessential, Tom Holt funniness running through every single page. The Good, The Bad and The Smug is one great read. As the title suggests, it questions our perceptions of good and bad and turns them completely over their heads. It makes you THINK but you think while having a good laugh. That is my idea of a good book. It follows the stories of several different characters over different universes but it all ties up in the end. One of the protagonists is Mordak, the king of goblins. Of course he is wickedly evil. Why? Oh, because he is a goblin! The goblins are all evil. So, whether he is getting better roads made or ensure that all goblin homes have indoor toilets, it is all part of a conspiracy! I love Tom Holt!!! Then we have his take on the subprime crisis via Mr Winckler or Rumpelstiltskin. His adventures or misadventures are laugh out loud funny. Oh and there is also a Dark Lord who wants pretty curtains for his tower, a snarky, witty elf and a whole lot of other amazing characters. Do give this one a try. You won’t regret it. And once you are done with this one, there are lots of other Tom Holt beauties to choose from. Happy reading!  

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

These days all I read is Diana Wynne Jones. I reread Howl’s Moving Castle the other day and found it even more endearing and enchanting then the first three times or so. Okay, so I do tend to reread my favourite books a little aggressively but I guess most bookworms share this vice. Oh, yes the book.. Howl is one of the most unheroic heroes you will ever find. He is lazy, selfish, self-centred, egoist and heartless. Rumour is that he eats the hearts of young girls. But for all his failings, he is a popular favourite with all Diana Jones fans including me. It is set in the magical land of Ingary where things such as seven league boots and invisibility cloaks are not just fairy tales. And one of the fairy tale truths of this land is that the eldest of three will never be successful. Meet Sophie Hatter, our heroine who has the misfortune of being the eldest of three sisters and who is more or less resigned to her fate. But fate has other plans for her. Our Sophie has the ability to talk life into things. But of course, she is clueless about her talent. She unwittingly becomes the target of the Witch of the Waste, a very villainous villain who casts a spell on Sophie turning her into an old woman. Sophie leaves the hat shop which she owns with her stepmother and sets off…somewhere. On the way, she talks a scarecrow into life, who keeps cropping up throughout the book and giving a turn to poor Sophie’s old heart. But of course, the scarecrow is not really a scarecrow! Oh and did I tell you, Sophie’s second sister Lettie is not really Lettie and her youngest sister Martha is not Martha of course! You know Diana Jones better than that. Coming back to Sophie, she encounters the notorious wizard Howl’s moving castle on the way and being old with creaky, achy legs she barges into his house and somehow convinces him to stay on as his cleaning lady. There she strikes a bargain with Calcifer (I looove Calcifer!), his fire demon to break his curse of captivity in return for turning her back into her youthful self. Many wizardly tantrums, much pointless cleaning and lots of magic brings us to the climax where a dishevelled, cowardly Howl confronts the Witch of the Waste (whom he has always been extremely eager to avoid) to save Sophie. Its prose when I write this but its magic when you read the book. I will say no more. Read this book if you haven’t already. And if you have, you can always read it again. Just like me 😊

Just William by Richmal Crompton

Pick up any book in Crompton’s William series when you are feeling down in the dumps. The misadventures of William are bound to put the smile back on your face. The mischievous, well-meaning, rough and determined eleven-year-old William is a child you will love to read about but never ever want under your roof. He might charge guests to come and hear you snoring or put lemon soap in your lemon pie! His intentions are always very honourable but somehow it always works out badly for the person he is trying to help. William together with his Outlaws, Ginger, Henry and Douglas are always just one step ahead of trouble. They detest girls in general and Violet Elizabeth in particular, a small, shrewd girl with a lisp who has a passion for William. And let me tell you, she is among the minority. Almost everybody including most of William’s family members are always looking for ways to rid themselves of William’s company. William knows this and always uses it to his advantage. All of us have known children like William or been like him! Maybe that is why the stories never seem to get old and William remains as fresh as ever. I read these books as a kid and I still turn to them every now and then when I just want to escape being a grown up for some time. So next time that urge takes hold of you, you know what to do right?