Book Review: Leopard at the door


Title: Leopard at the door
Author: Jennifer McVeigh
ISBN: 978-0241247617
Publisher: Penguin 
Source: Review copy
Release Date: Available now from Penguin
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Review:

This is a beautifully written novel set in the atmospheric background of 1950s Kenya. This is Rachel’s story; an 18 year old British girl who returns to Kenya after staying in England for sis years. We follow her story as she tries to adapt her life to rural Kenya. But Kenya is not the same as it was when she left.

I didn’t know much about the history of Kenya and this made for a fascinating read. The occasional violence is very hard hitting and unsettling.

Jennifer McVeigh’s descriptive style makes it a compelling read. He vivid descriptions of the landscape, the people and their lifestyle draw you into the book.

 

Recommended.

 

Follow Jennifer on Twitter

 

 

Nostalgia


And so it begins. The much awaited and anticipated trip of the year. Next week am off to Mumbai with S. Hubby will come later in the month. We shall be in Mumbai the entire summer. I have been planning this trip for quite some time now. By planning I mean micro-detailing, breaking it down into weeks and days and making a list of things I need to do on those days. This method has hardly been a success in the past, but then one can always hope.

The highlight of the trip is going to be spending some quality time with my grandma. When was the last time I had a sit-down with her? The last I remember is 2009, right after S was born and she was with us. A year after that I had travelled to Edinburgh and even though I have been going to India on holidays, time with her had been short.

Now that she is at my dad’s place, I hope to rekindle and perhaps create some more memorable moments with her. The time she spent in the nursing home, I was engulfed with the most distressing nostalgia and helplessness. ‘Missing her’ wouldn’t cover it. There was this deep emptiness inside me and the thought that I wouldn’t get to spend a relaxed time with her whenever I visited India. It felt like I had to let go of a deep part of me. Time spent with her at the nursing home was limited to an hour. And when you know you have only a fixed time to spend, you can’t really think of all the things you want to say. There was no time to lie down idly and listen to songs and ghazals, there was no time to listen to her little nuggets of wisdom, there was no time to be lazy and be in each other’s company and just be. There was no time to discuss the subtle differences between the urdu ghazal words. There was no time to discuss Lata or Christie or Hardy. Most of the happy memories from my childhood have revolved around her. The summer vacations were spent partly in her home. Being in her company was enough. We didn’t have to do anything special to feel happy.

It has been predicted that this year will have a lot of rain. This looks like the perfect setup to have lots of chai and gupshup with aaji.

Indians stop being nosy please! #indianparenting


This post is a vent to a very recent (early morning today) incident I had to face with another Indian parent at school. And I stress Indian for a reason. Today was a drop in session at school. During such sessions, parents are invited to visit their child’s class and have a look at their work while the class work is in progress. Usually, you get to see their books, what their current topic is and the writing/math work they do.

Now the usual ethics and attitude that the firang people follow is that they are only concerned with their child’s progress. They won’t ask you nosy/irritating questions about your or any other’s child. Unless of course there is some altercation going on between the kids. Now, my son was the only Indian/Asian kid in his class of 30 until another Indian boy joined in last year. So today this boy’s mother came along for the drop in session too. All parents were at their kid’s desk going through their books. This lady, after looking at her son’s books, came over towards me where I was standing and watching S do his work. Ignoring me, she sits down next to him and asks him whether she can look at his book. I was SO SO appalled!

First of all why the hell does she want to look at my son’s books? Second of all, when am standing right there (an adult AND the kid’s mother) why doesn’t she ask me whether she can look at his book?? And last, why in the world do want to see and THEN of course compare your child’s work with mine?

I am so frustrated and exhausted with this typical Indian mentality of parents comparing their kid with other kids. It is always about competition. What classes your kid goes to? What clubs he has joined. Then they send their kids to the same classes and start comparing grades. I remember in school, while my dad was busy scolding me for the wrong answers in the paper, other parents were busy comparing papers and arguing with the teacher about “giving more marks to this child and that and not giving marks to their kid even if he had written the same answer”. What rubbish!

In a class of 30 kids, what are you going to achieve by comparing notebooks? To think in terms of success. To think in terms of comparison. And I have experienced this mentality only in Indian parents. As soon as this boy joined school, all his mother asked me was if I had enrolled S in a zillion classes, does he know how to read and write in his mother tongue.

This is the first time I have experienced this nonsense and I am glad that the other 28 kids are not Indians. The exasperation I tell you! All these conversations irritate me and intimidate me. I don’t give a shit whether my son is the best in his class or in the school. I am happy he has friends, he can talk confidently and is generally a bubbly easy going boy and I know when and how and more importantly in which areas to push him for this own betterment.

I hope she is feeling better about herself! after comparing her kid with ONE other Indian kid.

How do you make such parents keep their noses in their own  business??

-A frustrated mom

Blog Tour – Book Review: Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris


Very happy to take part in this blog tour today! Thank you Netgalley and Mirabooks UK for sharing this review copy with me.

Blurb: 

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.
He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.You’d like to get to know Grace better.But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of their bedroom windows.
Sometimes the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

Review:

I finished this book in one sitting. Grace and Jack are the perfect couple. Jack is handsome and wealthy, Grace is elegant and charming and the perfect hostess. They have a friend circle who might just envy them for their perfection together. They have a beautiful secluded house, they are so in love and Jack never leaves Grace’s side. They have a perfect marriage, perfect house, a perfect love story. But when the laughter is over, the friends gone home, it is a different story.

Grace’s narration gripped me from the start and I could feel her helplessness and wished a miracle should save her. Grace’s story alternates between past and present. We learn how she met Jack and fell in love with him instantly when Jack showed kindness and empathy towards Grace’s sister who has Down’s syndrome.

Jack has charm and good looks and it is only natural for Grace to fall in love him. It is quite scary to see his true colours as soon as they are married. He is a truly evil character and exceptionally clever to manipulate and control Grace. You begin to wonder if Grace will ever break free from his trap.

Behind Closed Doors is a tense and claustrophobic psychological thriller An interesting take on the subject of domestic violence, Behind Closed Doors is highly addictive and engrossing.

Rating: 4 out of 5

BAParisAuthor info:
B A Paris is from a Franco/Irish background. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working as a trader in an international bank before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

 

Follow BA on Twitter @BAParisAuthor

 

 

To purchase “Behind Closed Doors” click HERE

More information and reviews if you follow the tour:


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Book Review: Beside Myself


Title: Beside Myself
Author: Ann Morgan
ISBN: 9781408870297
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: January 14, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 

Helen and Ellie are identical twins – like two peas in a pod, everyone says.

The girls know this isn’t true, though: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower.

Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day.

But Ellie refuses to swap back…

And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up. Her toys, her clothes, her friends, her glowing record at school, the favour of her mother and the future she had dreamed of are all gone to a sister who blossoms in the approval that used to belong to Helen. And as the years pass, she loses not only her memory of that day but also herself – until eventually only ‘Smudge’ is left.

Twenty-five years later, Smudge receives a call from out of the blue. It threatens to pull her back into her sister’s dangerous orbit, but if this is her only chance to face the past, how can she resist?

Review:

Beside Myself is the story of twins and how a childish game gone horribly wrong affects the entire life of one of the twins. One day, Helen and Ellie decide to swap places to tease their mother and other people in their neighbourhood. After fooling everyone, including their mother, Helen wants to swap back. But Ellie refuses. You see, Helen has always been the leader between them and Ellie has lived in Helen’s shadow. Ellie has always been poorly and mentally slow due to a complication at birth. But now, she has the opportunity to live the life Helen has enjoyed. Helen ends up being locked in as Ellie and try as much, she cannot switch back. As frustration and helplessness set in, she starts to develop psychological problems.

Helen (now Ellie) is clearly mentally ill, hearing voices, living in a horrible apartment – which reflects the chaos and confusion in her mind. She is also paranoid and suspicious and sometimes has a hard time differentiating between reality and nightmares.

This dark psychological thriller is very well written and atmospheric and shows what it is like to experience mental illness brought on by dysfunctional family dynamics, social pressure and deception. The creepy premise of this book grabbed me. Reading about twins is always fascinating as they share a bond unlike any other. To be true, I didn’t like these twins but still the it held my interest till the end. Does Helen ever get her life back?

2015 – the year that was…


…all about travel! After coming to Edinburgh I think 2015 was the most we traveled in UK. It’s partly due to having a car that gives you more freedom and roam around the countryside. Also, having parents over during the Summer holidays is another excuse to travel. 🙂 So here am trying to make a list of all the places we visited last year – day trips, holidays, weekend getaways all included.

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Early January last year, we went on a long long drive around five lakes. Most of the mountains were snow-capped, it was chilly and there was a stillness in the air. But nothing could stop our enthusiasm to go out and about.

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An impromptu week’s holiday was planned to Dubai during the school break. A family get together – my sister-in-law lives there – sun, sand and beach and an excuse to get away from the cold in UK.

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M&Ds theme park in Motherwell – an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. It was a nice sunny day in April – quite warm for Spring. Perhaps the first time we took off our jackets that year.

IMG_0185This is perhaps the hardest to summarize. Swiss trip! The highlight of the year. I think the reason I never wrote about this trip is that I am still trying to assimilate all the experiences and internalize the sensation that was Switzerland. Here’s a blurb: Family trip, train journey, heat wave, exploring the central belt of Switzerland, locating Yashraj filming locations, Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, Montreux, Geneva, Mt. Titlis, Jungfrau. Cheese factory, chocolate factory, chocolate train (yes, that’s the name of the train!), Gstaad, Saanen, Lauterbrunnen!

IMG_1651There is something Zen about going to Cragies and picking berries. Nothing else matches the amazing experience of picking freshly grown strawberries and cherries in this lovely farm. Note to self: this year pick a small quantity that can fit into the tiny freezer at home.

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Holy Island, Lindisfarne and Alnwick Castle.

Journey Map

Another day trip to Loch Lomond and Loch Luss – castles and lakes that’s what Scotland is all about and I have no complains.

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Mid August saw us trying to climb up to the Arthur seat – a feat we did not achieve. This is at the top of another hill next to Arthur seat.

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A weekend trip to Bedford in September – we visited my husband’s cousin and his family. A visit to Cambridge ensued.

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Culross trip

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Loch Leven in October – another day trip to another Loch.

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When the Dinosaurs came to Edinburgh Zoo!

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And the Panda who wouldn’t show us his face… Pandas and monkeys – the funniest animals they make you laugh without moving a muscle.

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A thing off my bucket list – staying in a self catering cottage. October end saw us travelling to Aviemore Cairngorms National Park.

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Autumn colours and foliage

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Autumn is here… :)


The weather has turned. The winds have changed. Summer is long gone and we have some of the most amazing autumn colours. People visit Scotland in summer, for the sunshine and warmth but I think autumn is the best season. I just love October – the leaves turn into flowers, the clear skies, the nip in air and the occasional chill.

 

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That’s how the trees look right in front of our house.

How does your Autumn look?

Culross – The Royal Burgh


The Royal Burgh of Culross village is around 12 miles west of the Forth Road Bridge. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Royal Burghs were generally sea ports with a thriving community and flourishing trade. I wasn’t expecting much out of this coastal town with an industrial landscape but it was a pleasant surprise.

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It is the best preserved example of a 17th and 18th century Scottish town. The old buildings and cobbled streets of this Royal Burgh transported us into the domestic lives of the 17th century Scottish town.

There is even a 17th century model garden recreated behind the Culross Palace displaying a range of plants including vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, fruits and shrubs. There is an unmistakable aroma of herbs in the air around the palace gardens.

The village looks across the River Forth to oil refineries. The village is the closest thing to a 16th century village all due to the efforts of the National Trust of Scotland that has been working with Culross to conserve its historical past.

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The Culross Palace restored to its original mustard yellow render and wooden shuttered condition
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The Mercat (Market) Cross has a unicorn on top. (Did you know Scotland’s national animal is Unicorn?)
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What sets Culross apart is its stunning buildings and narrow wynds (A typical Scottish word ‘wynd’ referring to a ‘winding’ street)
The Palace Garden
The Palace Garden

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Another example of the stunning buildings
Another example of the stunning buildings
View of river Forth
View of river Forth