This book by the very acclaimed author, Joanne Harris, left me with quite a bitter aftertaste. The story is about a single mother and chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, who arrives in the quaint French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent with her young daughter Anouk. She sets up her chocolaterie, La Céleste Praline, just opposite the village church. Her flamboyance and audacity irks the village priest Francis Reynaud, who takes it upon himself to boycott her business and also sees to it that he publicly denounces her in front of his congregation. However, Vianne goes about her day despite the seething disapprovals from Reynaud and his loyal cronies. In fact, she manages to charm many of the villagers through her irresistible confectioneries and gains their unflinching support, admiration and confidence. This further infuriates Reynaud to the point of psychosis and paranoia leading to spiteful actions ultimately causing his own tomfoolery.

The plot does sound tempting as does the evocative prose on chocolate and decadent French confectionery. However, Joanne Harris gets a little too carried away and forgets trying to reign in her condemnation of the church. Her forever babble on the proclivities of the church and its believers is extremely one dimensional. It almost seems as if the author is pushing forward her beliefs onto the reader. The characterisation of the priest remains a caricature. The various other characters in the book are poorly etched with uninteresting plot lines. For that matter, Vianne’s character itself appears to be quite implausible. Despite a very unconventional and irrational childhood, tethered on anxiety and dubiety, and now facing the villagers’ ire and reproach; she seems to appear overtly secure, unaffected and very mundane. Though the book talks about patriarchy, sexism and gender based violence, none of it is dealt with the nuance and sensitivity that it deserves. If anything, it’s a very kindergarten approach at that. Yes, the language in the book is rich and exquisite. Although, I wish that the author had tempered her story to perfection as Vianne does her des chocolats.

This chocolat is a Cadbury presented as a La Maison du Chocolat. Eat at your own risk.


Magpie Murders

This book is so indescribably clever. It’s a book within a book, mystery within a mystery. The plot is incredibly intelligent, so much so that, trying to give a synopsis of it, would be a complete killjoy and a spoiler. After a really long time, I have come across a murder mystery that’s taut, sharp, compelling and a page turner from the word go. The narrative is atmospheric whilst the attention to detail is phenomenal. The language used is rich, articulate and eloquent. And for once, there isn’t a damaged and dysfunctional woman as a protagonist here. Thank you, Anthony Horowitz, for bringing the joy back to reading thrillers and for keeping it so unpredictable. Also, can’t thank Read a Kitaab Bookclub enough for picking this gem as their December Book of the Month. Now, I can’t wait to read the next one in the series; Moonflower Murders.

Must, must read.


The Paris Apartment

Lucy Foley’s latest is another one of her slow burn thrillers that keeps you hooked till the last page. This time the story is set in the stylishly seductive city of Paris. The main protagonist, Jess, has run away from her dysfunctional and troubled life back in London. She has come to Paris to be with her brother Ben, who has always maintained a distance from her. She lands in Ben’s uber luxurious apartment located in the most upscale neighbourhood of Paris, only to find him missing. As time passes by, Jess begins to worry and starts searching for her brother with whatever little clues she’s able to decipher. She finds herself in the midst of extremely unfriendly and brusque neighbours who vehemently refuse to divulge any details regarding him. She begins to wonder if Ben is even alive and suspects each one of the residents of this Paris apartment, responsible for his disappearance.

The story has all the requisite elements, making it an edge of the seat thriller. The narrative is told from each of the characters’ viewpoint. The setting is atmospheric and deliberately dark. Paris becomes this silent hum in the background and its mysterious beauty etched ever so beautifully in Lucy Foley’s writing. The climax, just like her previous book, The Guest List, did make me wanting for more; but nonetheless, it’s definitely worth the read.


The Maid

This story is so much more than just a murder mystery. At the heart of it, it’s a story that encapsulates the human spirit; celebrates humanity and drives home the message that all of us are the same and kindness matters to each one of us. The protagonist is Molly Gray, a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. She’s proud of her job and takes it seriously. Her personality and traits show similarities with Sheldon Cooper from TBBT. She finds it difficult to read people and surroundings, interpret their emotions, and decipher sarcasm. Hence she has a structure to her day and goes about it in the most meticulous manner. One day, when Molly discovers the dead body of a wealthy businessman, Mr Black, whilst cleaning his suite; she becomes caught up in the aftermath of the event, soon becoming the prime murder suspect.

Throughout the narration, Molly comes across resilient and determined. Despite her inability to understand the world around her, which does chip away at her confidence and makes her question her self worth; she stands tall and never lets go of her pride and dignity. Her command of the English language coupled with requisite politeness, makes Molly Gray, the most lovable character.

Kudos to the author, Nita Prose, for portraying such a delightful character like Molly and centring her in the midst of a murder mystery. Through her, the author makes a strong case for, how assumptions based on someone’s appearance and station can be detrimental to them. The narration is fast paced and by the time it’s the end, you are rooting for Molly and the real murderer remains just an afterthought.

“It’s not your station in life that matters. It’s how you conduct yourself that counts.”

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”



Wahala in Nigerian Pidgin (Naija) means trouble. The three central characters of this book are mixed race women, Anglo-Nigerian; Simi, Boo and Ronke; who live and work in London. Simi and Boo are married to white men, Martin and Didier respectively; while Ronke’s boyfriend, Kayode is Nigerian. Enter wahala aka Isobel, a friend of Simi’s, who is now hell bent on being ‘best friend’ with each of the three women. Isobel is adept in creating a world of misunderstandings and the women find themselves embroiled in this mayhem. What had seemed to be a smooth and perfect friendship pre-Isobel, had now morphed into an ambiguous, erratic and frustrating experience lacking mutual trust and respect, post-Isobel. Isobel becomes this catalyst in exposing their dark secrets, emotional infractions and lies. As a master puppeteer, she manipulates their insecurities and fears and makes them dance out of their friendships and relationships.

Nikki May, writes this captivating story about flawed friendships with brutal honesty. She keeps it emotionally fertile while exploring its various psychological aspects. She drives through the point that just because a friendship has survived many years; it needn’t be the best. For that matter, any relationship that hasn’t nurtured a feeling of equality amongst its members, is destined for an upheaval.

The book is full of rich Nigerian culture. Food forms an important part of the narration and it has been written in the most visually delectable manner. At the end of the book, recipes for the most famous Nigerian dishes have been mentioned too. Though the climax felt a bit hurried and a tad dramatic, the book in itself is striking.

Of course, we don’t need an Isobel in our lives to cause Wahala and hence realisations. Maybe a keen insight would do!



This book is about Afghanistan, it’s people and their truths. It’s never easy to talk about a country decimated by war and various vested interests which have given rise to the Taliban. So when Afghan American author and paediatrician, Nadia Hashimi, writes, you sit up and take notice. She has authored several books on Afghans; but in this recent release, she speaks about the trying and traumatic life of a person escaping death and war. The first half of the book, shows the protagonist Sitara, as a ten year old surviving the military coup against the Afghan government that happened in 1978 Kabul. She knows her family is dead and with the help of a palace guard Shair, she lands up with Antonia, an American embassy worker, who helps her escape from Kabul to the United States. The story then fast forwards to 2008 in the second half, where Sitara has a new name and is a practising onco-surgeon in NYC. However, after so many years, when a chance encounter happens with Shair who is now her patient, it brings back the pent up rage, hidden grief and all the unspeakable traumas of the past. She now has to navigate her present by acknowledging her desire to reclaim her family and heritage, which leads her back to Kabul.

The author, through Sitara, paints a moving picture about survivors guilt. The emotional turmoil of it can be seen in every aspect of her life. The book depicts the vibrant culture of the 1970s Afghanistan which is heartwarming. But it’s gut wrenching to think of the present day grim situation. The world has watched in silence as a beautiful country stands ruined, and it’s convivial people wronged.


A Slow Fire Burning

Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water, is back with another edgy and disturbing murder mystery-cum-psychological thriller. A young man, Daniel, gets brutally murdered in a London houseboat and now there are three suspects. Laura, his one night stand, who was last seen with him; Carla, his aunt; and Miriam, his nosy neighbour living on an adjacent houseboat. As the story unravels, so does the dark and damaged lives of the three women, intersecting and intertwining, ultimately leading to a grim climax.

The author is proficient at putting unlikeable and troubled women as her protagonists. In this book too, Laura who suffers from disinhibition, comes across as extremely unhinged. She is a victim of various childhood traumas due to which she has trouble managing her anger, emotions and behaviour. Through the various characters and plot lines, the book highlights the repercussions of PTSD, grief, loneliness and revenge.

Despite it being a page turner, the book still left me a tad underwhelmed. Maybe it’s because of the invariable comparison to the brilliancy of the author’s previous books. Nonetheless, Hawkins does create an atmospheric and creepy narrative. Do read!


The Maidens

Absolute page turner! This next psychological whodunnit thriller from Alex Michaelides (his previous was the brilliant, The Silent Patient) is gripping and riveting to say the least. The story is set in the prestigious Cambridge university. Mariana, a group therapist, in London, is struggling to cope with the sudden demise of her husband. Whilst she’s going about balancing her emotional state and conducting her group therapy sessions, she gets a frantic call from Zoe, her niece, who’s studying at Cambridge, about the mysterious and gruesome murder of her roommate. Mariana, immediately, sets off for Cambridge, to comfort her niece. During her visit, Mariana gets sucked into the sinister developments going on in the university. She gets especially intrigued about a secret society of female students called “The Maidens” led by a charismatic Greek tragedy professor Edward Fosca. When another one of “The Maidens” gets brutally murdered, Mariana gets convinced that it’s Fosca who is the murderer and she takes it upon herself to prove it so.

While keeping the story taut and chilling, the author throws some insight into Mariana’s psychology. Raised by a father who abandoned her emotionally and left her yearning for his love and attention, Mariana struggles to come to terms with her own issues. This juxtaposed with her trying to be an emotional anchor for Zoe, makes her feel depleted of her bearings. The way the author constructs this psychological arc of Mariana, intertwining it with the current sinister scenario and various characters and situations from Greek mythology, makes the book remarkable and exceptional.

The fast-paced narrative leads to a shocking climax, that’s bound to make you dizzy.

I finished this book in three days. It’s simply unputdownable!

~ JUST A GAY BOY. 😶‍🌫️