Book Review: The Girl on the Train

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
ISBN: 9780857522313
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: January 15, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…


Rachel is a real mess. Gone is the strong, confident working woman – she is now just a shadow of her former self. Her husband has left her for another woman – they now have a baby, a baby Rachel wanted more than anything. Unable to accept the situation, she has now turned to drinking, has become a bad drunk in fact and often has blackouts. to make matters worse she has lost her job and gained weight.

However, she still takes the same train at the same time (as she did when she had a job) still keeping up the illusion of going to work and not letting anyone else find out that she was fired. While on the train, she looks out at the row of houses (one of which had been her own house once) and dreams and spins stories about the people she sees. She looks out for one house in particular and has named its residents Jason and Jess. Watching the husband and wife everyday, she feels their life is perfect. Until one morning she sees something different, something unexpected and she is shocked. Through her drunken, unreliable narration, we find out more…

Rachel is such a flawed character – to the point of being weak. She is drunk most of the time, has lost her job, has an obsessive compulsion to stalk and call her ex-husband and yet you feel sympathetic towards her. She is on the edge of losing herself. As the plot progresses, we learn more about the residents on the track and more about Rachel.

This is an incredible psychological thriller with a lot of suspense and tension. An unlikable protagonist with her unreliable narrative, layered characters and intriguing plot. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great thriller.

Book Review: The Contract


Title: The Contractthe-contract-200x300
Author: Zeenat Mahal
ISBN: 9781927826157
Publisher: Indireads Inc.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“…We’ll get married, but I’ll pay you a monthly salary to behave and appear for all practical purposes as my wife…If you agree, the marriage vows can be taken on the phone on Saturday, since I have an hour free in the morning.”

Shahira, a young, divorced mother of a seven-year-old son, wants nothing to do with men ever again. But circumstances have forced her hand, and Hussain’s unusual proposition leaves her secretly relieved. As per their contract, she’ll have his name, will be paid to look after his ailing mother and motherless daughter and will be left well alone by him. Perfect!

Until her new husband decides to stop playing by the rules.

Hussain is suave and rich. He is nobody’s fool…and is not about to be bested by the ex-schoolteacher he is married to. He has Shahira in his sights and she has to have all her wits about her in order to hold him at arm’s length.


Shahira has come out of an abusive marriage and is now a single mother. She has been teaching a motherless girl, Natasha and has developed a kinship with her and her grandmother. Natasha’s father, Hussain, is a very rich man, very busy in his business with no time for his own daughter and mother. Both Shahira and Hussain have been through an emotional upheaval in their past relationships and are too scared to look for love and hope in life again. Until they meet.

Their personalities are different and so are their perspectives at looking at life and family. While Shahira has been a kind and caring mother, Hussain has created a distance from his daughter and mother. Shahira is quite modern and practical and has created a space for herself in her bound culture. Hussain is inherently a nice man caught in a bad situation.

This was a really fun read and a short and sweet book!

Book Review: Butterfly Season


Title: Butterfly Seasonbutterfly-season-200x300
Author: Natasha Ahmed
ISBN: 9781927826553
Publisher: Indireads Inc.
Rating: 4 out of 5


On her first holiday in six years, Rumi is expecting to relax and unwind. But when she is set up by her long-time friend, she doesn’t shy away from the possibilities. Ahad, a charming, independent, self-made man, captures her imagination, drawing her away from her disapproving sister, Juveria.

Faced with sizzling chemistry and a meeting of the minds, Ahad and Rumi find themselves deep in a relationship that moves forward with growing intensity. But as her desire for the self-assured Ahad grows, Rumi struggles with a decision that will impact the rest of her life.

Confronted by her scandalized sister, a forbidding uncle and a society that frowns on pre-marital intimacy, Rumi has to decide whether to shed her middle-class sensibilities, turning her back on her family, or return to her secluded existence as an unmarried woman in Pakistan.

We follow Rumi from rainy London to a sweltering Karachi, as she tries to take control of her own destiny.


Butterfly Season is a story of a contemporary Pakistani girl Rumi, who has spent the last years caring for her ailing mother. Now after her mother’s death, she has come to London to visit her younger sister and some old friends. Rumi has been a dutiful daughter, loyal friend, yet independent and hard working.

She has been the typical girl next door until she falls in love with Ahad, a Pakistani man living in London. Even though both come from the same cultural background, their lifestyle and perspectives couldn’t be more different and this creates a complicated situation.

Rumi’s dilemma now is to decide whether to drop her usual way of thinking (traditional and conservative) or adopt a more bolder and refreshing approach to love and life with Ahad. The story develops among the family and cultural issues and is an interesting view on the Pakistani expats and society.

This is a bold and refreshing take about the Pakistani culture, expectations and way of life among the women in Pakistan. I loved reading about the independent Rumi, who is willing to realise her dreams even if it comes at a price.

Butterfly Season has well fleshed out characters. I loved all the characters in the book, their conflicts and different perspectives create a multilayered drama the story. This can be the story of almost any woman living in today’s society, be it India or Pakistan. Butterfly Season is an enjoyable read wih great engaging writing style and interesting plot.

Day 14: Book Review: The Never List


Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
ISBN: 9780670026517
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books PENGUIN GROUP Viking
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: July 16th 2013
Rating: 2 out of 5


For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unravelling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.


I was mildly curious when I read the reviews for this book. It’s supposed to be dark and disturbing. It starts with Sarah, the main character, detailing how she and her best friend–due to trauma–became obsessed with statistics and safety. Yet, one day in college, they go against their safety rules, their titular ‘Never List’ and go to a party. Against their own rules and stupidity, they get in a car that apparently has no cab markings whatsoever and end up in a basement and tortured for three years. I sympathise about most of the victims in books but many of the characters just act so stupid in this one.

The characters are bland, non engaging. The twists and turns are silly and incomprehensible. The ending is very stupid too. No other word really. It isn’t a bad book or a throwaway just that I wasn’t entertained or engaged. It was a quick read and unrealistic on many levels.

Book Review: Sisterland


Title: Sisterland
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
ISBN: 9781400068319
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: June 25th 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5


From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their home town of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that a devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. More troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister, and truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.


Daisy and Violet are twins who have unusual ability which they define as “senses”. They grow up as troubled teens and are bullied at school for being different. Now in their mid thirties, Daisy is a married woman with two children. She has changed her name to Kate to put as much distance from her past self as possible. Violet has done just the opposite. She has embraced the things that make her different and is now a psychic professional, much to Kate’s embarrassment. Major turn of events take place when Vi predicts that a serious earthquake will take place in their home town of St. Louis.

This is an emotional story about the sister’s domestic life. I sometimes found the pace too slow. Daisy or Kate, is essentially a good character but is difficult to like. She is judgemental of her sister and often patronising. Vi, on the other hand is vivacious and adventurous and I liked her much better.

The book alternates between the twin’s past and the present. I couldn’t connect with the 70s and 80s references in the book and I thought the plot was slow leading up to the date of the predicted earthquake. What I liked about this book was the relationship between the twins. They argue, they fight, they make up, they are so very different from each other and still support one another.

I thought the book was a bit too long but it was an easy and compulsive read.

Book Review: True Love


Title: True Love
Author: Jude Deveraux
ISBN: 9780345541796
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5


Just as Alix Madsen is finishing up architectural school, Adelaide Kingsley dies and wills her, for one year, the use of a charming nineteenth-century Nantucket house. The elderly woman’s relationship to the Madsen family is a mystery to the spirited Alix—fresh from a romantic breakup—but for reasons of her own Alix accepts the quirky bequest, in part because it gives her time to plan her best friend’s storybook wedding.

But unseen forces move behind the scenes, creaking Kingsley House’s ancient floorboards. It seems that Adelaide Kingsley had a rather specific task for Alix: to solve the strange disappearance of one of the Kingsley women, Valentina, more than two hundred years ago. If that wasn’t troubling enough, Alix must deal with the arrogant (and extremely good-looking) architect Jared Montgomery, who is living in the property’s guesthouse.

Unbeknown to Alix, Jared has been charged with looking after her while she lives on the island—an easy task for him, considering the undeniable chemistry between the two. But Jared harbors secrets of his own, which, if revealed, may drive a wedge between the pair.


This was my first Jude Deveraux book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I then went on to read the other books in series. I loved the characters, the story, setting and even the ghost. The story is emotionally realistic. Nantucket Island is a beautiful setting and forms a great background for the story. Both Alix and Jared are likable characters and I loved their slow developing relationship.

The story of the past relatives is sometimes confusing but overall the plot was very appealing. The secondary characters and their stories add to make the plot engaging and pleasureable. It is a well written romantic novel with a small town mystery!

Book Review: Teatime for the Firefly


Title: Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
ISBN: 9780778315476
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From Shona Patel’s blog:

My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. The time and place of my birth makes me a Manglik. For a young girl growing up in India in the 1940’s, this is bad news. The planet Mars is predominant in my Hindu horoscope and this angry, red planet makes people rebellious and militant by nature. Everyone knows I am astrologically doomed and fated never to marry. Marriages in our society are arranged by astrology and nobody wants a warlike bride. Women are meant to be the needle that stitches families together, not the scissor that cuts.

But every thing began to change for me on April 7th, 1943.

Three things happened that day: Boris Ivanov, the famous Russian novelist, slipped on a tuberose at the grand opening ceremony of a new school, fell, and broke his leg; a baby crow fell out of its nest in the mango tree; and I, Layla Roy, aged fifteen years and three days, fell in love with Manik Deb.

The incidents may have remained unconnected, like three tiny droplets on a lily leaf. But the leaf tipped and the drops rolled into one. It was a tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together—Boris Ivanov, the baby crow, Manik Deb, and me.

I loved this book! It is such a beautifully written book that I couldn’t put it down but somehow I made myself stop to just let the words wash over me and to feel the characters and live with them for some more time. Shona Patel’s storytelling and writing ability is so powerful that it transports you and you can’t get out of that magical place. While reading the book, I felt nostalgic for an era I didn’t even live in. Is it even possible?

In Teatime, we follow Layla’s journey from her laid back life with her grandfather, Dadamoshai to the turbulent times she faces during India’s independence and thereafter. Layla is born under an unlucky start and is orphaned at a very young age. Yet, she is brought up by her wise and forward thinking grandfather to be a smart, educated and independent thinking girl. After marrying Manik Deb, Layla moves to the borders of Assam to live in the tea plantations where her husband works. Overnight she finds out that she is a now a memsahib with a fully staffed bungalow at her disposal and has to look and act accordingly. Soon we see that her relaxed life with her grandfather is over and she has to face many issues arising out of the changing economic situations at that time. Set against the spectacular backdrop of tea plantations, Shona Patel remarkably portrays the contrasts of an idyllic exotic location and it’s flawed society. Through Layla we see the life and times of the local plantation workers as they face racism, poverty, superstition and even politics.

I fell in love with Layla first and with her grandfather a little later – but these are not the only people who are delightful to read. The other motley of characters that Patel weaves in this story are equally captivating and touching – from Layla’s extended family to her servant staff, her husband’s colleagues and their wives and mistresses – every character is a joy to read – they are real, believable and you can easily picture them in your head with their nuances.

Shona Patel’s prose is lush and lyrical. It transports you to the India in the 1940’s and completely immerses you in that time and place . Layla’s story is funny, adventurous, dangerous and courageous. You would at times wish to stop and savour the moments yet find yourself distraught at the thought of staying away from the beautiful place and characters of this book. A coffee addict myself, after reading this book, I craved for a cup of tea…

Highly recommended! Can’t wait for her next book!

Book Review: Table for Seven

Title: Table for Sevencover24762-medium
Author: Whitney Gaskell
ISBN: 9780553386288
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5


On New Year’s Eve, Fran and Will Parrish host a dinner party, serving their friends a gourmet feast. The night is such a success that the group decides to form a monthly dinner party club. But what starts as an excuse to enjoy the company of fellow foodies ends up having lasting repercussions on each member of the Table for Seven Dinner Party Club.

Fran and Will face the possibility that their comfortable marriage may not be as infallible as they once thought. Audrey has to figure out how to move on and start a new life after the untimely death of her young husband. Perfectionist Jaime suspects that her husband, Mark, might be having an affair. Coop, a flirtatious bachelor who never commits to a third date, is blindsided when he falls in love for the first time. Leland, a widower, is a wise counsellor and firm believer that bacon makes everything taste better.

Over the course of a year, against a backdrop of mouthwatering meals, relationships are forged, marriages are tested, and the members of the Table for Seven Dinner Party Club find their lives forever changed.

My Review:

This book is about relationships, friendships, marriage, emotional support and love. And above all food! It is easy to find how each character is related to another and how they all end up at the dinner table. As the book progresses the relationship between these people change. Some form stronger bonds, some grow apart while some breakdown. As they learn about each other, they also get a deeper understanding of who they are and what they want from life.

The conversations are enjoyable at times and heartbreaking at others. This is an easy light read with an ensemble cast and distinct characters.

Book Review: Murder as a Fine Art

Title: Murder as a Fine Artcover22003-medium
Author: David Morrell
ISBN: 9780316216791
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5


Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eateris the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier. The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey’s essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

My Review:

Historical crime fiction is a genre I seem to be enjoying these days. Murder as a Fine Art is set in 1854 London and is inspired from the works of Thomas De Quincey. De Quincey’s essay are autobiographical and the plot is heavily inspired from them. In the essay “On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts” De Quincey detailed the horrific series of murders that terrorized London in 1811. Morrell has weaved an intricate tale from those murders and De Quincey’s essays in Murder as a Fine Art.

A shop keeper and his family are brutally murdered in the manner that is exact with the 1811 Ratcliff murders, which are described in De Quincey’s essay. These murders coincide with De Quincey’s and his daughter Emily’s visit to London. Detective Inspector Ryan suspects De Quincey as the murders are committed exactly as mentioned in his essay. However we soon learn that this is all a trap to incriminate De Quincey himself. Now Detective Inspector Ryan and his constable Becker must work hard with De Quincey and Emily to find the real murderer. It is not easy with De Quincey’s addiction to Laudanum.

The book is humorous and witty and at times brutal in its descriptions of murders. De Quincey and his daughters’ characters are way ahead of their times and this is evident in their dialogues with each other and their prudent practical nature. It is interesting to read about the police procedures during that period and the politics and pressures that are present between ranks and class. The plot is interesting and the characters are complex. I enjoyed reading how De Quincey put himself in the murderer’s shoes and tried to get inside his character to find out his next move. It was a bit of a let-down that it was De Quincey who did most of the work and the inspector and constable acted mostly as his sidekicks. I am not curious to read De Quincey’s essays and his thoughts on psychoanalysis and the way the mind works; a long way before Freud! It was a compelling and engrossing read especially the psychoanalysis of the murderer as I was already reading Freud for my course on philosophy and this book nicely complemented it.

Book Review: The Lost Husband

Title: The Lost Husbandcover24759-medium
Author: Katherine Center
ISBN: 9780345507945
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5


Dear Libby, It occurs to me that you and your two children have been living with your mother for—Dear Lord!—two whole years, and I’m writing to see if you’d like to be rescued. 

The letter comes out of the blue, and just in time for Libby Moran, who—after the sudden death of her husband, Danny—went to stay with her hypercritical mother. Now her crazy Aunt Jean has offered Libby an escape: a job and a place to live on her farm in the Texas Hill Country. Before she can talk herself out of it, Libby is packing the minivan, grabbing the kids, and hitting the road.

Life on Aunt Jean’s goat farm is both more wonderful and more mysterious than Libby could have imagined. Beyond the animals and the strenuous work, there is quiet—deep, country quiet. But there is also a shaggy, gruff (though purportedly handsome, under all that hair) farm manager with a tragic home life, a formerly famous feed-store clerk who claims she can contact Danny “on the other side,” and the eccentric aunt Libby never really knew but who turns out to be exactly what she’s been looking for. And despite everything she’s lost, Libby soon realizes how much more she’s found. She hasn’t just traded one kind of crazy for another: She may actually have found the place to bring her little family—and herself—back to life.

My Review:

The Lost Husband is an inspiring and heart warming book. Libby’s husband died three years ago and since then she has been living with  her kids at her mother’s place. Libby’s mother is not an easy person to live with and both mother and daughter have lots of arguments on a daily basis. When aunt Jean’s invitation to live with her on her farm comes through, Libby is excited just to get away from her mother. At that moment any other place seems better and she doesn’t have any second thoughts about accepting that invitation.

Libby packs up her two small children and bravely goes on to live with her aunt. Jean is a free spirited yet wise person. Soon Libby realises her life is going to change completely living simply on the farm and carrying out her daily farm tasks.

Aunt Jean is kind yet firm character. Her take charge attitude is refreshing and she puts out many inspiring words throughout the book. The Lost Husband is an uplifting book and it shows that even though life is hard it makes you strong, optimistic and gives you a second chance to become resilient.