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review 2018-01-28 17:00
The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay) - Sujata Massey

A few minutes ago (it's 11:20 AM EST as I write this), I had the satisfaction of finishing reading "THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL." It's centered around India's first woman lawyer, Perveen Mistry, who had received her legal training at Oxford. The time is February 1921 and she has returned to her home in Bombay, where she has a job working in her father's law firm. 

Perveen has been given the responsibility of executing the will of Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim who owned a fabric mill and had 3 wives. In the immediate aftermath of Farid's death, the 3 widows are living in strict purdah (a type of seclusion in which the widows never leave the women's quarters nor see and speak with any man) at the Farid residence on Malabar Hill. Whilst carefully reading the documents, Perveen notices that the widows have signed off their inheritance to a charity. What strikes Perveen as odd is that one of the widows' signature is a 'X', which is a clear indication that the widow who affixed the 'X' probably was unable to read the document. This leads Perveen to wonder how the 3 widows will be able to live and take care of themselves. She begins to suspect that maybe they may be taken advantage of by the legal guardian entrusted by Mr. Farid to handle their financial affairs. Perveen has the welfare and best interests of her clients, the 3 widows, in mind.

Perveen goes on to carry out an investigation. She makes an arrangement with the widows' legal guardian, Feisal Mukri, to come to the residence to visit the widows and to speak with each of them separately. In the process of doing so, tensions are stirred in the Farid residence and a murder takes place there that makes a straightforward matter of executing a family will into something much more perilous and uncertain. There is also something out of Perveen's recent past in Calcutta that intrudes into her present life. 

"THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL" is a novel whose prose resonates on every page. It has a lot of twists and turns that will engage the reader's attention throughout. Sujata Massey is a writer who not only knows how to craft and tell a richly compelling novel. She'll leave the reader wanting more. And after almost 14 years of reading Massey's work, I'm already eager to begin reading the second novel in the Perveen Mistry Series. 

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review 2017-12-31 17:36
Historical fiction with dark thriller underpinnings
Yesternight - Cat Winters

Winters continues to amaze with detailed historical fiction that delves into the creepy, the paranormal, the supernatural, and the crappy bits of being human.


Alice Lind is a psychologist fresh off of a masters degree and traveling rural Oregon conducting child intelligence assessments for the school system (bc a mere woman can't get into doctoral programs in 1925, natch) when she comes across a child who claims to remember a past life as a drowning victim. Alice wants to help, and not just because it's a fascinating case; she was a difficult child herself, with unexplained, extreme behavior buried in a half-remembered past. But when there's no psychological explanation for the child's supposed delusion - no trauma, no abuse - Alice's journey to solve the mystery may cause more harm than good.


Good period-appropriate worldbuilding, a clear, modern but not overly anachronistic voice, feminist characters and story development, and a taut thriller-esque mystery with supernatural-leaning elements that may or may not be more than human. The ending was a twist and a half, and unfortunately not one I really appreciated, taking the tone of the book to the horror end of the thriller genre. Very well written, though. Heads up on some adult content; a dash of language and sex scenes may offend some readers, but is on the milder side of adult fiction content.

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review 2017-12-27 23:40
Generally well-written historical fiction with a supernatural twist.
The Steep and Thorny Way - Cat Winters

Winters continues her run of excellent historical fiction with slight paranormal/supernatural elements. Great historical detail with care taken to avoid anachronisms, and a relatable, strong heroine. The Oregon settings are also interesting, as most Prohibition-era stories seem to take place in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. In this edition, an era of social upheaval and the power of small men is explored as the biracial main character and a homosexual boy in her town both experience the effects of hate. The local KKK are seen as a fairly friendly, inactive group. Three guesses what's really going on...


I've appreciated how Winters' books so far don't overly rely on central romances, so I was kind of disappointed how much emphasis this book put on romantic relationships being so central to identity, acceptance and future success. But on the other hand, she doesn't necessarily pursue that within the main plot, which is in line with her other stories so far. Some attention given to exploring the motivations of people on different sides of an issue (nice to have the parents' story), but less so than other books so far. There's only so much you can cover within a tightly-paced book and the main POV, but it might have been too much to cover (racism + sexual identities with two different representative characters).

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review 2017-12-02 19:25
Noir Crime with a side of Paranormal Horror
Glass Town - Steven Savile

Disclaimer: eARC review for NetGalley.


This was a hard-to-categorize read - and that's not a bad thing. It's challenging; much of the central mystery and the mechanics of the magic that does crop up isn't explained until very late in the story, so there's high tension, but also a good amount of confusion to start with. I found the initial pages fascinating and almost dizzying; I couldn't really follow what was going on, but there was enough there for me to keep trying.


It's classified as Urban Fantasy, but I'm more familiar with the YA romance variant, and this is not at all like that. It's more like a gritty crime thriller, with underworld crime bosses, a dingy, dreary and dangerous end of London, and horrifically unnatural monsters/demons committing graphic murders. This is adult fiction in multiple senses of the word; explicit, violent, with deliberately transgressive sex and language that intensifies the violence (it's not erotica; sexual scenes are brief and hopefully not titillating). If anything, it feels closer to noir film tradition, with a side of paranormal horror. It also bears some resemblance to the Jonathan Norris & Mr. Strange style of adult fantasy. Magic or paranormal aren't particularly beautiful, alluring or empowering, but they're there, they're real, and they're taking lives.


It's not a genre or style that I would generally choose to read, given just how dark it is, but it's a very well executed book, a fascinating departure from anything I've come across in the past, and a wonderful genre-defying piece of entertainment for fans of grittier media. I'd give it about a 3.5/5 for personal entertainment, 4.5/5 for quality and execution.

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text 2017-11-01 13:35
Festive 16 Task Challenge: Square 1
It Had to Be You - Delynn Royer

For All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos / Calan Gaeaf (square 1), I started It Had to Be You by Delynn Royer. The NOOK version I am reading from is completely black and white.


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