You Beneath Your Skin

EXCERPT: She dabbed Vicks under her nose. It stung but helped fade out the stench of detergents and bleach that layered the mortuary corridor, and the butcher-shop odour lurking beneath the chemicals. That smell took her back to her childhood grocery trips with her dad on Sundays, when they chose steak for Mom,chicken or lamb for her and Dad. She might have been American but her Hindu father had insisted she not eat beef.

Right now, she must drag her Hindu-American butt through the long corridor lined with racks and drawers, and study a corpse without throwing up. Must find her way to the killer – not think about how the body had once been a living, breathing person, or how it would soon be turned into ash and charred bones.

ABOUT ‘YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN’: It’s a dark, smog-choked new Delhi winter. Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious police commissioner Jatin Bhatt – an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be, and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at the centre of it all …

In a sordid world of poverty, misogyny, and political corruption, Jatin must make some hard choices. But what he unearths is only the tip of the iceberg. Together with Anjali he must confront old wounds and uncover long-held secrets before it is too late.

MY THOUGHTS: I am torn by this book. It is so well written in parts, as in the extract above, but in others I almost abandoned the read. And I seriously considered abandoning it in the early chapters which are confusing with an overload of information about the characters, their backgrounds, the poverty and corruption in New Delhi. We don’t need all this information at once, it can be dribbled out during the course of the book, just like getting to know someone in real life. Initially, the bare bones are enough. It could be said that the author was setting the scene, but it seemed to me more like muddying the waters.

There are too many issues being addressed, all of them squabbling for attention. It was like trying to read in a classroom of small children all screaming ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ If the main issue is the acid attacks on women, then that should be the primary focus of the book, with just one or two other threads quietly weaving away in the background. There really is enough material in You Beneath Your Skin for at least two, if not three books.

Yet, despite my, I hope, constructive criticism, I enjoyed this read. I did so by screening out/skimming the extraneous material. This is nothing that a good editor couldn’t fix and is a measure that I strongly recommend. This is a good read. It could be a great one.

I am impressed that the author is donating the author profits from You Beneath Your Skin to charity. Half of the author proceeds of this book go to Chhanv foundation, which works to support acid attack survivors. The other half of the author proceeds go to Project WHY, which believes in the rights of all children to an education, and to a safe childhood. Through well-rounded education, it transforms communities from within. That alone makes the purchase of You Beneath Your Skin worthwhile.

⭐⭐⭐.2

‘A few years ago no one knew what a smartphone was and now . . . phones had replaced manners.’

THE AUTHOR: Damyanti Biswas is an author, blogger, animal-lover, spiritualist.

When not pottering about with her plants or her aquariums, you can find her nose deep in a book, or baking up a storm.

You Beneath Your Skin is her debut literary crime novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Damyanti Biswas for providing a digital ARC of You Beneath Your Skin for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo

EXCERPT: I don’t mind telling you that my sister is a bit of a nutcase about making a Plan. And yes, it’s capital-P Plan. She got the trait from our grandmother who started each day by asking the nearest victim, ‘What’s the Plan?’ meaning a list of tasks the victim was going to accomplish for her with a precise time schedule by which they’d be accomplished. Louisa’s version is somewhat different. When she sees something she thinks needs to be fixed, she comes up with a Plan to fix it, and if God has something else in mind, well, I’ve got to say, it might be too bad for God because once Louisa’s head is down and she’s got her mind set, you might as well fasten your seatbelt because you’re going on her ride.

ABOUT THE BOOK OF CAROLSUE: CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

MY THOUGHTS: I am always up for a book that isn’t centred around young, beautiful, rich people. Not that I have anything against them; indeed I aspire to be one. And The Book of CarolSue certainly meets that criteria. The two main characters, Louisa and CarolSue appear to be in their mid-sixties, now both widowed, CarolSue only recently. Louisa, as she is prone to do, takes charge and shepherds the bereft CarolSue ‘back home’. The trouble is, CarolSue feels like a fish out of water . . . and a gooseberry around her sister and the town sheriff, Gus, who like to ‘nap’ noisily in the afternoons.

I liked the feistyness of both these women who each have a strong sideline in sarcasm. But what started out charming and amusing deteriorated into tedious and repetitive by the 50% mark, and I finished the book feeling rather like a hampster trapped on it’s wheel. The book loses its focus on CarolSue and Louisa and becomes bogged down by the Gary/Gus/Church/embezzlement debacle, much to its detriment.

I’m afraid that this is another case of one book trying to cover too many issues – sisterhood, grief, love, loss, and family would have been enough, but the addition of immigration and illegal labour issues, con-men, and embezzlement only muddied the waters and overloaded the storyline.

The Book of CarolSue is actually the second in a proposed trilogy, the first of which is The Testament of Harold’s Wife, which focuses on Louisa and her loss. I have not read this, and I probably won’t. But The Book of CarolSue is easily read as a stand-alone and, in fact, is not promoted as part of a series.

Had the book continued on in the same vein as it started, this would have been an excellent read, but as it stands it only rates ⭐⭐.8 stars from me.

#TheBookofCarolSue #NetGalley

There are lots of little gems in here:
‘ . . . people disappeared, here to track mud on your clean floor and laugh when you complained about missing chocolate chip cookies one instant, dead the next, and you don’t get two weeks notice in the mail that it’s going to happen.’

‘Isn’t it strange how we think one thing is going to happen and something utterly different happens? Inside we are so disappointed and have no idea that life might just have handed us a huge gift.’

‘I’ve not only lost my marbles, but they’ve rolled way under the furniture never to be retrieved.’

‘Life does not follow clean lines, but ones that stagger. We limp along, trying to keep up, carrying baskets unevenly loaded with failures and regrets. We find our joys accidentally, unexpectedly, along the way and must cherish them. Cling to, remember, and cherish them.’

THE AUTHOR: Lynne Hugo is an American author whose roots are in the northeast. She lives with her husband, a former Vice President for Academic Affairs of a liberal arts college and now a professional photographer, in the Midwest. They have two grown children, three grandchildren, and a yellow Labrador retriever.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

When an editor asked her to describe herself as a writer, she responded:

“I write in black Wal-Mart capri sweatpants. They don’t start out as capris, but I routinely shrink them in the drier by accident. And I always buy black because it doesn’t show where I’ve wiped the chocolate off my hands. Now that my son and daughter are grown, my previous high grade of ‘below average’ in Domestic Achievement has dropped somewhat. But I’m less guilty about it now. I lose myself in crafting language by a window with birdfeeders hanging in the branches of a Chinese elm towering over the house. When I come up for air, I hike by the ponds and along the river in a nearby forest with my beloved Lab. My husband, with whom I planted that elm as a bare root sapling, joins us when he can.”

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books for providing a digital ARC of The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge

EXCERPT: I flicked through a white envelope – bank statement – brown envelope – bill – white, with the name of a loan company on the front that I tossed into the bin without opening. Then I came to another brown one. Maybe it was the fact that my name and address had been written in block capital letters that piqued my curiosity. Most of my mail had computer generated labels or window envelopes that showed my postal details.

I slipped my forefinger underneath the flap and ripped it open.

As I slid the photo out, I didn’t really register what I was seeing initially. Yes, of course, I knew it was of my husband, but I couldn’t comprehend what that meant for a moment.

It was in colour, printed on good quality paper, but those details barely registered at first.

I frowned, my heart slamming to a sudden stop. What the hell? Why would someone send me a photo of Mason?

But before I could even think of possible answers, my gaze was already drinking in the details. His hair was longer than I’d ever seen it before, curling up at the edges of his shirt collar. A beard covered a face that was thin and gaunt. He sat at an outside café table, holding a newspaper across his chest.

I brought the photo closer to my eyes, studied the name of the newspaper, read the date on it. Two days earlier. It felt like my brain was melting inside my head. That couldn’t be right. Mason was dead.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Widow. The Secret. The Liar.
The Disappeared…

On a routine flight from Africa to England, Dr Mason Palmer is tragically killed when the light aircraft he’s travelling on crashes and disappears in dense bushland.

The Widow…

Ten months later, Nicole Palmer is still trying to block out the grief of her husband’s sudden death. Until one morning she receives a photo of Mason through the post, along with a cryptic message. A message only he could’ve written.

The Secret…

But when Nicole tries to find out if Mason is really alive and what actually happened to him in Africa, everyone she turns to for answers ends up dead.

Determined to find the truth, Nicole uncovers a conspiracy that spans the globe, and discovers there are powerful people who are prepared to kill to keep her silent.

Who’s lying? Who’s watching Nicole? And can she expose their murky secrets before they catch up with her?

MY THOUGHTS: The Disappeared crosses the borders of so many genres, that I simply don’t know where to start! I wasn’t expecting an action-thriller when I picked this up. And although not my favorite genre, and I had to suspend my belief at some of the ‘coincidences’ that occurred, I enjoyed this and powered through it in record time for an audiobook.

Sibel Hodge is an animal and human rights activist, and in The Disappeared has brought to my attention an injustice of which I was previously unaware – child slave labour in the harvesting of the cacao bean for making chocolate. Hodge has clearly done her research into this topic, and I did wonder if she has based her novel loosely on real events. The treatment of the slave children had me in tears.

Her main theme is wrapped up in a mystery concerning Nicole’s husband, Mason, who was declared dead following the crash of the flight he was on in the African jungle. Ten months on, she receives a photo of him taken with a newspaper only days old. . .

While this is not my favorite of Hodge’s books, it is a story that needed to be written, and needs to be read. If you like a lot of action, and have an interest in human right’s stories, then I heartily recommend The Disappeared.

The narration on the audiobook was excellent.

****.2

THE AUTHOR: Sibel Hodge writes in an eclectic mix of genres, and is a passionate human and animal rights advocate.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Disappeared by Sibel Hodge, narrated by Henrietta Meire, and published by Tantor Audio, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbooksday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com