Her Secret Blue Book

Of Books, Writers & Writing

It was culture as class performance, literature fetishised for its ability to take educated people on false emotional journeys, so that they might afterwards feel superior to the uneducated people whose emotional journeys they liked to read about.

Sally Rooney, Normal People

I will be honest with you. When I began reading this book, I was stunned. I had a hard time believing that anyone (a young author at that) could be this honest about a man-woman relationship. This sparkling honesty stood out in every sentence and character graph. Not to mention in the character descriptions and the strangely distant narrative. At times it was discomforting to read. Disillusioning too. I didn’t like to think of love being this difficult. People – this vulnerable and reticent. I wanted a shortcut, a magical sweep, a leap of fiction. A relief. A romantic escapade maybe…

None came.

Sally Rooney made sure that I remained terrified, sensitized, and immersed in the roller coaster ride of Marianne and Connell’s journey – that began in school and ended in the final year of college. Rather, in the final year of the illustrious Trinity College.

This is a novel about two smart individuals who are struggling with self-identity, friendships, family, love, and more. In a world that seems to grow distant with each passing minute. A world that’s here now, gone perhaps as life happens.

Marianne is bright academically. Connell is a genius. They are both introverted and extroverted at different times of their lives. There are no clear ways to describe them really. No easy way to compartmentalize them as good and bad. If those distinctions still hold sway in your life – in mine, it most certainly doesn’t.

One comes from a rich but sick family.

Another is poor but is raised by a loving, single mom.

Their power equation is one-all. If in school, Connell exercised control; in college, it’s Marianne who seems to be in control.

Although, I am using the word ‘control’ here, I must affirm that they are both struggling in their own ways and none can be viewed as strong and formidable. And the world that they inhabit is so fragmented, conflicted, banal yet real that not even once do you feel that the author is hogwashing her way through the story. It appears palpable. It so is.

Having said that, I must confess that mid-way through the book, I ran out of steam. There was no major crisis. The minor characters came and went without doing much. Plot twists weren’t enough to keep the love story going. The author’s voice despite being sparse, distant and hard-hitting turned monotonous.

But once, I crossed these barriers and kept reading, I was rewarded by last 50 odd pages of extraordinary ending.

Also, there were so many wise cracks in the book that I had a tough time choosing a quote. The one I use in the beginning which is a jibe at people who think reading makes them superior is my favourite. Something I feel strongly about as well.

In conclusion, a quick look.

The Extraordinary:

  • Rooney’s voice which is honest and compelling. Her life-like characters and their inner worlds.
  • Her ability to remain nonjudgmental.
  • Her narration technique which is simple, direct and detached. Almost taciturn like Marianne and yet so damn powerful.
  • She is the author to look out for. Trust me, she is worth your every rupee spent on that paperback. A compliment I can give to no other contemporary romance writer. Definitely not Nicholas Sparks! Not even Helen Hoang.

The Ugly:

  • Lack of goosebumps-inducing plot twists.
  • The bumpy pace.
  • The voice which turns drab somewhere in between. But, picks up at the end.

Do read, Normal People. There’s one place in the book where Marianne says, Why can’t I be like normal People? And that sums up this jewel of a book for me, probably sums up my life as well.

My rating:


Almost forgot! Hulu has made a film out of the book too.

You can buy Normal People on amazon.



Inspector Jui Roy Returns…

A man is shot in the sleepy town of Agartala right in front of his wife by a masked gunman. And the couple is robbed.Inspector Jui Roy and SI Das begin their next big case by interrogating the shocked wife.What begins as a case of burglary and murder turns into something else entirely as new clues and suspects emerge.Why was Samar Singh, a businessman murdered in his own home?

And most importantly, who would hate him so much to shoot him point-blank?

Find out in the thrilling new book of the Murdering Minds series…from the writer of Three Men & A Strange Murder.

Link to read on amazon.in: https://amzn.to/3wRGKtI

Link to read on amazon.com:https://amzn.to/3nkFgoG

My new book in the Thrillz series, Feels Like…Murder is out.

“There is nothing more disheartening than to realise no one in this world loves the person you have become…”

Ruhan noticed a slightly odd woman in a blue salwar kameez sipping her drink at his pub. She was not his usual customer. Or, his type. But, he was intrigued. He wanted to talk to her. And he did.

Neha didn’t want the conversation to end with this mysterious man. She had wanted to talk to him for a long time. But, never got around to doing it until now.

This is a story of strangers who meet one night. By chance. Only to realise that they are tied by deadly secrets.

What are the deadly secrets? Read this psychological thriller to find out.

From the writer of Three Men & A Strange Murder comes a book that will make you think about an often ignored question in crime fiction:

What happens after murder?

This is book 2 of the thrillz series but is a standalone novella.

Well, there are books and there are great books. This one certainly falls in the later category. You want to know why, let me tell you without weighing you down with too many details. So here’s a review of Leigh Bardago’s fantasy novel, King of Scars in short.

A self-obsessed but charming king who hides a demon inside, literally. A demon that he must purge or face the prospect of losing his kingdom and crown. And he can’t afford to do that. This has been his selfish dream carefully nurtured since childhood. Meet, Nikolai Lantsov — the handsome glib talker.

The second protagonist and my favourite character. Nikolai’s commander of forces. Strong, captivating with the acerbic tongue — the one who can control the wind. Zoya. Also a someone who must overcome the darkness of her past to become what she truly is. A powerful Greisha who can become. Anything.

Are we not all things?

Leigh Bardago

And then, there is the competent but emotional spy who is fighting the death of her beloved, Matthias whose body she must bury and more importantly let him go. She has been speaking to him since his mysterious death. Nina has recently got over her addiction of parem, a magical drug. Not to forget, that she can hear voices of the dead. A complex but a highly likable character.

There are several other characters like the morose but good-hearted Adrik, Hanne — the Fjerdian Grisha in hiding who lights up Nina’s dark world and makes her smile again and Isaac, the palace guard who is transformed to play Nikolai’s doppelganger — a role he plays well until love creeps in.

Bardago takes these enigmatic, charismatic and complex individuals and throws them in grand and adverse situations to carve out a story that takes your breath away. We even get a Saint for a villain with a hive of bees as her aide.

Their stories race and interlace to create a magical, thrilling, awe-inducing saga which unfolds in Grishaverse, an imaginary but immensely credible and enticing world.

There are carve balls at every corner. Clever plot twists that you don’t see coming. A subtle and held-back romance between Zoya and Nikolai. Hair-raising adventure in every chapter and not a single dull moment where you feel like discarding the book and opting for Netflix instead — a rare achievement for a writer.

Easily the best book I have read in a long, long time. I don’t think I will take things too far if I say, the best read since Rowling’s Harry Potter. This one is albeit meant for adult readers.

An extraordinary work by Leigh Bardago. Can’t wait to read the rest of her books, barring the Shadow & Bone trilogy ( done reading that one — you can read the review here).

King of Scars is a rare concoction of awe-inspiring creativity, brilliant plot development and impeccable character arcs. Garnished with a lenient sprinkling of psychology, philosophy, Russian history and culture, mythology and more.

A masterclass for fantasy writers or writers of any genre.

The next book in the series is Rule of Wolves. It’s a duology and I am on it, already. Wait up for my review.

Do I recommend this book?

Do I even have to answer this?

What’s my rating on a scale of 1-5?


Loved it!

Buy King of Scars on Amazon

History has failed us, but no matter.

Min Jin Lee

A tome of 500 plus pages, which begins in Yeongdo, Busan in 1910, the year Japan annexed Korea, Pachinko makes you ruminate with its opening sentence. I’ve quoted the sentence right at the top. I had to.

I read this sentence numerous times before progressing further. I came back and visited it time and again during the course of reading this poignant, heart-wrenching and calmly observant novel about Koreans in Japan -who never quite became Japanese.

Rarely do you find a historic novel which with its very first line captures the essence of what blazes through its pages. Reminding you each time, that an immigrant never really settles. Never finds a place that she can truly call home. Or, does she?

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a Korean-American writer, is the story of immigrants who struggle with their identities and life. Even after becoming Japanese in every possible manner, and camouflaging their Korean roots, they live in fear. Haunted by the ghosts of their past and challenges of the present.

Pachinko is also a story of a woman named Suja. In fact, this is where the story begins. Suja was born to a cleft-lipped, limping Hoonie –a fisherman with a heart of gold and a soft-spoken and docile Yangjin.

Suja’s childish innocence is cut short when she falls for a gangster, Hansu and gets pregnant. To hide a child born out of wedlock, she marries a kind-hearted pastor, Isak, on her mother’s insistence and moves out of the coastal village, the only world she knows. Away from a man who has broken her heart.

In Osaka, where her new life unfolds, at the home of her brother-in-law, she finds out that the Koreans are treated poorly and lead a miserable existence. It is here in this home, Sunja finds her first friend in her sister-in-law, the childless Kyunghee. The bond between these two women forms the backbone of the story. Their sisterhood emboldens them to tide over life’s hardships. Particularly after Isak’s death, when Suja is widowed with two sons. And the women turn to selling kimchi on the road to make a living.

What Suja doesn’t realize or uncovers later, is that Hansu never disappeared from her life. He was always watching over her.

Suja’s two sons, Noa and Mozasu take the story forward. Noa, academically brilliant, ambitious and assured of his heritage is devastated when he learns of his true lineage. He is the son of a gangster. A yazuka who was sponsoring his education. A man he had worshipped until then. Guilt-ridden, he gives up his education and finds refuge in a small Japanese town as a bookkeeper and severes all ties with his family.

Years later, when his mother pays him a visit, he commits suicide.

Mozasu on the other hand, through his hard work, flourishes as the owner of Pachinko (gambling) parlors. His son, Solomon has to go through a web of deceit and heartbreak before finding his way and joining his father’s business.

There are several other minor characters who add depth and provide a closer an intimate look at the immigrant experience.

The character-driven novel comes to a befitting end when Suja on visiting her husband’s grave learns that her son, Noa had been visiting his father’s grave, while living as a Japanese with his family.

There was consolation. The people you loved, they were always there with you, she had learned.

Min Jin Lee

What I Loved:

  • The tone.
    • Min Jin Lee employs a calm, at times distant, philosophical tone that works magic for this inter-generational drama.
  • Well-researched.
    • A historical novel must be rich with research and yet never be overbearing and drown the reader with facts and figures.
    • Pachinko nails this fine balance.
    • Kudos to the author for researching a vital yet often ignored or forgotten part of Korean-Japanese history.
  • Characters.
    • A brilliant cast of characters.
    • Each unique and different from the other enrich the plot.
    • I won’t forget Suja, Noa and Hansu for a long, long time.
    • I could feel them inhabiting my home, my world.

What I Hated:

  • Pachinko’s not a book that you will finish in one sitting.
    • If you’re looking for instant gratification, please give it a pass.
  • The pace acts against it.
    • Many might abandon this saga in between as nothing much happens in terms of plot twists.
    • But then, this is not a pacy thriller. It’s a work of literary fiction, which sheds light on an important chapter of history, which you as a discerning reader mustn’t miss.

Do I recommend this book?

Hell, yes!

Buy Pachinko on Amazon

What’s my rating on a scale of 1-5?


They had an ordinary life, full of ordinary things – if love can ever be called that.

Leigh Bardugo

For the uninitiated, I mean those of you who have not been introduced to Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy world, this particular set (there are several others) has 3 books:

  1. Shadow & Bone
  2. Seige & Storm
  3. Ruin & Rising

All 3 will be adapted to screen on Netflix. In fact, the first of the series, Shadow & Bone is already available for you to watch.

Bardugo’s books unfold in a world where there is magic, darkness, romance and violence — loads of it. Every book of the series is an adventurous ride with twists and turns at every corner. And filled with oodles of romance. Although, not once is the romance a distraction or a detour. Or, an attempt to spice up an otherwise boring plotline.


Come to think of it. The romance does spice up the plot. And the premise.

Let me start with the premise. And reserve my comments on the good and bad of the book, for the very end of the post.

The books are primarily set in the fictional land of Raavka.

There is a heroine who is a cartographer. An orphan who is unaware of her power. And her identity — she is a Grisha. A magical being who can summon light. Meet Alina Starkov.

Her rock is her childhood friend, an orphan too, Mal. A Tracker who can track and locate magical beings.

They are friends and become more subsequently.

Then, there is the Darkling. An immortal magician, the Black Hermit who can summon darkness. The creator of the Fold, a place also known as the Unsea, where his dark creatures or the Volcra hover and feed over those who dare to venture into it.

Alina’s powers are a foil to his dark magic. A possible way to destroying the Fold and restore peace in a war-ravaged land where the soldiers are given a sword and a uniform. And where even twelve-year-old boys are expected to join the army.

And then, there is the most interesting character of the entire series. Nikolai Lanstov. The “bastard” prince whose charm, beauty, courage and astuteness keep you hooked in Seige & Storm. In Ruin & Rising he is turned into a Volcra by the Darkling.

Oddly enough, I found the scenes between him, a Volcra and Alina in Ruin & Rising much more potent and powerful than all their encounters in Seige & Storm.

Anyway, back to Alina, the Sun Summoner and the three men in her life.

All three are hankering and competing for Alina’s affections. As a reader, you vouch for the Darkling (Alexander to Alina & his Mother only) and Nikolai to win her heart. But, with each book, the author only strengthens Mal’s suitor-ship.

Until Alina ends up with Mal. Although, he does pay for it with his life. Well, almost.

Nikolai loses her but, manages to become the king. His burning ambition is realized. And Raavka gets an able king. For the first time.

And Darkling, well, what do you think happens to him? He meets the fate of Voldemort or Ravana.

Does evil ever have a chance to win over good? Not in fiction, at least.

Here, too, the Darkling dies in Alina’s arms.

Who kills the Darkling?

Alina, of course. The naive girl he had helped with discovering and channelizing her powers. The one who thanks to him, catapulted into a Saint. The confounded soul who under his guidance was on her way to greatness. The enticing young woman he wished would become his eternal companion.

Of course, the Darkling is not without his flaws.

He is a man prone to violence. And drunk with power.

Killing the Darkling leaves Alina powerless. And Mal dead. With the help of the other Grishas, Mal is brought to life later on. Destroying the Fold, however, turns Alina into a mere mortal. An ordinary human. Her journey to greatness is cut short. But, for a larger and nobler cause.

Leigh Bardugo leaves us with Mal & Alina in the place where their stories began. The orphanage, which has now been revamped and spruced up with better living quarters and resources — with regular visits from Prince Nikolai himself.

Alina & Mal are happy and basking in their ordinariness. Although Alina continues to fight the demons of her past.

What I Loved:

  • The fantasy world.
    • It’s believable and gripping to say the least.
    • The detailing in creating the Grishaverse is a feast for the reader.
    • Raavka
  • Characters.
    • Well-rounded. Credible. Relatable. Charming.
    • If I were to choose one aspect of the book that stood out for me — it would be the character arcs and development.
    • Kudos to Bardugo for creating such different and powerful male characters.
    • And the side female characters, be it Zoya or Genya, they all stand out.
  • The plot twists and perfect pace.
    • I was never bored.
    • Dazedly and hurriedly, I turned the pages while the googlies kept coming.
  • The emphasis on love and hope and friendship over everything else.

Hope is tricky like water. Somehow it always finds a way in.

Leigh Bardugo

What I Hated:

  • The ending.
    • Alina didn’t have to become ordinary to live an ordinary life.
    • There is nothing wrong with greatness.
  • Mal.
    • Of all the male characters, Mal was the most unlikable and yet, he gets the girl.
    • This is a big letdown for the fans and readers.
    • Again, Leigh Bardugo’s penchant for glorifying the ordinary makes for a tepid finis to an otherwise captivating fantasy-romance series.

Do I recommend the Shadow & Bone Trilogy?


Buy Shadow & Bone on Amazon

Buy Seige & Storm on Amazon

Buy Ruin & Rising on Amazon

How much would I rate it on 5?

3.5 / 5

Writing is an isolated endeavor but the joy of sharing your stories with the world makes it tolerable and even worth sticking to. However, at times you bleed a tale that in hindsight you wish you didn’t have to share with anyone. Not even with the ones closest to you. This story is one of them. Here’s the blurb:

“Not all that’s nurtured blooms.”

In the sleepy town of Agartala, a honeymooning couple stumbles upon the dead body of a woman buried in their backyard.

The body is found to be that of a woman named Rituparna Bagdi. A popular English teacher who gave Mathematics tuitions to her senior students.

The principal of Rituparna’s school is shocked to hear of her demise. She had resigned only a month ago – rather abruptly through an email. And vanished without warning.

As Inspector Jui Roy investigates her first big case after being side-lined for years, she stumbles upon Rituparna’s diary. In her diary, the young, brilliant and popular school teacher mentions three men.

One, her ex-husband Mrinal Chatterjee. An alcoholic and fledgling actor who had a love-hate relationship with his wife.

Two, her colleague, the Mathematics teacher Virendra Jha who was losing a chunk of his tuitions to the new English teacher.

Three, Paul Jamatia, an eighteen-year-old, poor tribal student who is a Maths genius in the making.

While Inspector Roy and SI Das investigate the murder, the three men reveal why they loved, hated and wanted Rituparna.

Only one of them is a murderer.

But, the question is who and why?

With this book, we see the rise of Inspector Jui Roy and her partner in solving crime, SI Pritam Das.

In the video, I tell you why you must read this amazon bestselling crime thriller.

After the heartwarming response to my novella, Three Women & A Murder, my belief in writing psychological thrillers with a focus on the human mind and its trappings and not merely suspense mysteries/drama has been strengthened. So here’s another e-novella, which is about the befuddling murder of a housewife named Sukanya Swaminathan. It’s available on amazon kindle and is free on kindle unlimited.

The complete blurb:

Sukanya Swaminathan is dead. She committed suicide by jumping off from the terrace of her building, while her son slept in his room and her husband worked on a high priority project in his plush IT office.

It does seem like a case of suicide. Except for the fact that Sukanya’s face was burnt by acid.

As Inspector Raman and SI Nair investigate the death of a forty five year old housewife, they are befuddled by the complexity of the case.

Was Sukanya just another statistic? A depressed housewife jumping to her death. Or, did someone bump her off? And most importantly, what is Sukanya’s side of the story?

A rookie detective named Saurabh loses his fiancee Prerna on Karva Chauth. He discovers her lifeless body thrown out of the terrace of her posh bungalow in Delhi. Her family is distraught and the incompetent and corrupt Delhi police has no clue about the murderer. So now, he must find her killer along with his partner in crime and best buddy Keshav. Will they succeed in finding the killer who is lurking closer than they think?

This is the premise of Bhagat’s new novel, One Arranged Murder which is three hundred pages long.

One Arranged Murder is a quick read. You will flip through the pages. It will keep you hooked at least till the first 150 pages or so. Great humour. Overdose of drama as expected.

But at best, a pedestrian thriller, which should have been 100 pages shorter.

In the end, along with the great reveal comes a deluge of information ( with über and metro details of the killer) and a blunt revelation of motive, which is a drag and lacks the finesse of a Higashino — to put it mildly.

Also, the need to add humour in a thriller probably to play up the entertainment quotient ( from a screen adaptation perspective) and to please many takes the lustre away from what is supposed to be a murder mystery. It also comes across as shallow and insensitive at times.
Honestly, disappointed as I don’t dislike Bhagat’s writing or his stories.

I do understand and empathise with the challenges of writing a thriller and there were no plot holes or chinks in the crime-solving. Although I wish that this book focused on friendship, relationships and the humour that’s born out of it, which is where it shines. Instead of forcefully turning it into a murder mystery/crime thriller.

What’s my rating on a scale of 1-5?


Do I recommend this book?

Um…Only if its Free on Kindle Unlimited. Or if you’re a fan of humorous, masala thrillers.

Buy One Arranged Murder on Amazon

I opened the window and reached out my hand. I caught a snowflake. I watched it disappear, vanish from my fingertip. I smiled. And I went to catch another one.

The Silent Patient

I don’t read a book out of sympathy or empathy. I don’t read a book because someone’s a friend or a foe. I don’t read to brag or come across as an intellectual. Both of which I secretly detest. Well, no secret now…is it?

Often, I have discarded books purchased on amazon because I couldn’t get through the first chapter. Sometimes not even the first two pages. I am impatient. I am looking for a spark. A unique twist; an edge; a glittering thought or concept.

I don’t mind settling for an average story line — most romance novels have an average plot — so do many hyped and over-marketed thrillers and psychological thrillers (my preferred genres). I don’t read horror — although I want to dig into Stephen King sometime soon. My only fear is will he be a match to Edgar Allan Poe? A writer I deeply respect.

Anyway, when it comes to books what I can’t settle for or agree to is lazy writing. Lack lustre sub plots and characters. And of course, stealing of story ideas, character graphs and denouement.

After years of reading and pondering, I have now within me a well-installed crap-tracker. And it won’t tolerate stale nonsense that’s sold and churned out, every other day.

When I picked up The Silent Patient, a few of my friends and book reviewers told me that it’s an excellent read, raising my expectations even further. So a lot was at stake. In my mind. A lot had to be delivered. And boy was I stunned! My crap-tracker was duly slapped and silenced for a while.

Here’s why.

Theo is damaged. Alicia is damaged too. The only difference between the two is that one is a patient, the other a doctor — a forensic psychiatrist.

Alicia shot her husband. Point blank with his gun. And then turned silent. Her silence is potent but confusing. No one knows if she actually committed the gruesome murder or if she is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit.

Theo who has been following the case and is a promising physiotherapist wants to find out why.

So he joins the Grove, a psychiatric unit which is about to be shut down to find out about the enigmatic and silent Alicia. A step viewed by his seniors and peers as career suicide.

Where the others have failed, Theo finds unique ways of getting through to Alicia. One of which is by allowing her to paint and interpreting her paintings. After all, Alicia is a renowned painter.

Through her paintings and by tracking her life and the people in it, Theo aims to save Alicia. But who will save Theo? A man who is not only fighting the ghastly demons of his past but is in reality a defeated husband yet to come to terms with his wife’s infidelity.

What happens to Alicia and Theo? Do they survive the darkness that has crippled them? More importantly, do they survive each other?

Using references of Greek tragedy, Alex Michaelides weaves a story which is gripping and stunningly original. Yes, it’s a psychological thriller. Yes, it’s domestic noir too. The trappings and mechanics of it are all too obvious.

But, but, and here’s why this book breaks new ground like Gone Girl, there is something inherently sophisticated about it. The crime; the motive; the resolution aims at unearthing the fathomless human mind. In all its complicity.

Unlike pulp thrillers which rely on the how and who of the crime; or numerous other psychological thrillers, which feed on the domestic undercurrents of a married couple to mount a story — The Silent Patient takes inspiration from the tried and tested, but ends up doing something starkly different and awe-inducing.

I am not going to give the story away. Suffices to say that the ending reminded me of Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. If you know your Christie, you must have figured it all out.

But then, it’s not the resolution that will startle you here, but the way it has been redefined and presented.

A must read.

What’s my rating on a scale of 1-5?


Buy The Silent Patient on amazon