Book Review: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Trevor.pngAbout the Book

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.


I saw Born a Crime by Trevor Noah on NetGalley and decided to request it although I really didn’t think that I would get approved. Two weeks later, I had the book. If you have been following this blog then you may have seen a number of posts that I have written about the book. I couldn’t stop talking about it even before I started reading it. I have featured it on my Diversity Thursday Spotlight post, Ten Books to read if your book club likes African Literature ,WWW Posts, monthly-wrap and Friday Finds. Yes, that is how excited I was about this memoir.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a collection of essays. In each essay, Trevor narrates stories about his life and focuses on a particular memory or event against a backdrop of South Africa’s history. The main theme of this book is apartheid and life as a biracial child during this dark period. As Trevor explains, interracial relationships were punishable by law although the whites were freed with a warning while the blacks got imprisoned. He talks about spending his childhood  behind closed doors because his family was afraid that the government would take him away and arrest his mother. He also talks of how apartheid separated him from his father. These narrations are emotional and I found myself angered by the injustices that the black people in South Africa went through for so many years. Racism is illogical and ugly and I never knew  just how bad it was in SA before reading this book. It is crazy to think that I was born in the same year as Trevor, grew up in Africa like he did but under totally different circumstances. Growing up, I didn’t know much about apartheid apart from little bits of information through history lessons and movies like Sarafina. I was 10 years old when apartheid ended.

Trevor narrates his story the same way that he presents his standup comedies; mixing reality with humor. I found myself laughing through the chapters and sometimes wondering if I really should be laughing. I mean they are serious issues but Trevor just has his own way of narrating things so that they are serious and funny at the same time.

“But the more we went to church and the longer I sat in those pews the more I learned about how Christianity works: If you’re a Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a savage. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water to wine, well, that’s just common sense.”

The story takes us through his experiences during apartheid. He also shares his experience with domestic violence. At the same time, this is a story of a man determined to get through a tough life and succeed in a world in which he was never supposed to exist. The stories about his childhood escapades were hilarious. As a self-confessed naughty kid with a funny mom, he had so many hilarious adventures.  I also like how Trevor mixed historical background and personal stories to create better understanding of events which is great especially for those living outside South Africa.

“People always lecture the poor: “Take responsibility for yourself! Make something of yourself!” But with what raw materials are the poor to make something of themselves? People”

The final chapter in Born a Crime by Trevor Noah was  tough to read. I have heard him speak about his mother getting shot before. If you have watched his standup comedies in SA, then you may have seen that bit about his brother calling him to tell him that their mum had been shot. However, I never knew the circumstances that led to that call. It was heartbreaking to see what his mother went through. It is even worse to think that the same thing still happens especially here. Women get battered while everyone looks away. Sometimes from the outside, it feels hopeless because what can you really do? You can’t stop the fights and you can’t also call the cops because they will do nothing about it. It was a sad reality. That is the thing about this memoir; his story is my story and everyone else’s story. It may not be exactly the same but it is something that everyone knows about and may have experienced at some point in life.

born-a-crime-2Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a book that I highly recommend to everyone. I am not just saying this because I like the guy and think that he is brilliant and funny (just mentioning it in case it is not yet obvious). However, this is a book about family, a mother-son relationship, friendship, racism and a person’s ability to overcome all hurdles in life. It is also a coming of age story. I am so proud of Trevor for all that he has achieved in life. He is an inspiration to all the people who have ever faced any adversity and felt like they don’t belong.  I think this is an inspiring story for our continent too. I mean watching Trevor touring the world and now hosting the Daily show, overcoming so much to get there….wow!  This is an inspiring memoir that will make you laugh and cry through the chapters (sometimes at the same time). If you are looking for a diverse read then you should definitely pick this one. If you want to understand more about South Africa and Apartheid (from an insider’s view point), this is the book for you. Seriously though, just get the memoir. It is a wonderful!

“Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”
Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

I received this book from NetGalley and Spiegel & Grau in exchange for an honest review. I am really grateful to the publishers for giving me the chance to read an ARC of this book. Thank you Trevor Noah for sharing your story with the world!

 About Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah is the one of the most successful comedian in Africa. He is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Noah joined The Daily Show in 2014 as a contributor.Born in South Africa to a black South African mother and a white European father, Noah has hosted numerous television shows including South Africa’s music, television and film awards, the South African Comedy Festival and two seasons of his own late night talk show, Tonight with Trevor Noah. He made his U.S. television debut in 2012 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has also appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, becoming the first South African stand-up comedian to appear on either late night show.

He continues to tour all over the world and has performed in front of sold out crowds at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia as well as many US cities.

A brief extract on racism and apartheid from  the book:

Apartheid, for all its power, had fatal flaws baked in, starting with the fact that it never made any sense. Racism is not logical. Consider this: Chinese people were classified as black in South Africa. I don’t mean they were running around acting black. They were still Chinese. But, unlike Indians, there weren’t enough Chinese people to warrant devising a whole separate classification. Apartheid, despite its intricacies and precision, didn’t know what to do with them, so the government said, “Eh, we’ll just call ’em black. It’s simpler that way.”
Interestingly, at the same time, Japanese people were labeled as white. The reason for this was that the South African government wanted to establish good relations with the Japanese in order to import their fancy cars and electronics. So Japanese people were given honorary white status while Chinese people stayed black. I always like to imagine being a South African policeman who likely couldn’t tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese but whose job was to make sure that people of the wrong color weren’t doing the wrong thing. If he saw an Asian person sitting on a whites-only bench, what would he say?
“Hey, get off that bench, you Chinaman!”
“Excuse me. I’m Japanese.”
“Oh, I apologize, sir. I didn’t mean to be racist. Have a lovely afternoon.”

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

America is still killing Emmet Till

In 2014, protestors ringed the White House, chanting ‘How many Black Kids will you kill? Michael Brown, Emmett Till! “Why did demonstrators invoke the name of a black boy murdered six decades before?

In 1955, white men in Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen year old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that public school segregation unconstitutional.

The national coalition organized to protest the Till lynching became the foundation of the modern civil rights movements. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, the Emmett Till generation, forever marked by the vicious killing of a boy their own age, launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle into a mass movement. ‘I can’t hear the blood of Emmett Till as it calls from the ground,’ shouted a black preacher in Albany, Georgia.

But what actually happened to Emmett Till-not the icon of injustice but the flesh and blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till draws on a wealth of new evidence, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant, the white woman in whose name Till was killed. Tyson’s gripping narrative upends what we thought we knew about the most notorious racial crime in American History.

I found out about Timothy Tyson’s book, The Blood of Emmett Till through twitter. A friend informed me about it and luckily, I was able to get an ARC of the book from the publishers through NetGalley.

I didn’t know about Emmett Till until a few years ago when I came across a documentary about his death. Through online research, I was able to get more details about the murder and also see the photograph of the young man’s body as published by the press at that time, following his mother’s brave decision to show the world exactly what had been done to her son. Years later, I can still remember that image and the shock that I felt knowing just how much eveil human beings are capable of.

Tyson’s book gives more details about the murder and in particular the trial. It also contains snippets on a conversation with Carolyn which reveal that she may have lied about what really happened when she met Till at the store on that fateful day.

The bravery of a number of people is one thing that stood out for me about this story. These are the people who decided not to remain silent at the face of injustice. I was deeply moved by Till’s uncle and other black witnesses who decided to testify despite the threats on their lives. Tears filled my eyes when I read about Wright, Emmett’s uncle, bravely standing up in court and identifying the man who kidnapped his nephew. He pointed right at the man and said, that’s him.I can only imagine how scary it was for witnesses to speak again against the white murderers in a town filled with white supremacists. Their bravery helped in shedding light about what happened to Till. Speaking about bravery, I truly admire Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley. Devastated by her son’s death, Mamie still stood up to fight for justice. Her decision to bury Till in Chicago and have an open-casket funeral despite the threats and warnings definitely helped shape history and send a strong message to the white supremacists who thought that they could silence her.

Tyson’s book does not only focus on the murder and the trial. Through the chapters, the author mentions other cases and incidents that occurred during the period. The race relations are described in detail to give a vivid description of the political climate in the 1950s. For a reader (like me) unfamiliar with some of the details about the racism and segregation, it was shocking and really disturbing. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever really understand racism or any other form of hate. There is just no way to justify it.

The book is well researched and hence quite informative especially for readers who may not have a lot of knowledge about American History. The author explains the political climate in the country in the 50s with details of the two opposing sides. The fact that there were people who actually fought FOR segregation really surprised me. As in for real, these folks were trying to protect segregation and fight against the change. Thankfully, they lost the battle.

I recommend The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson to anyone interested in learning more about Till’s murder and the circumstances that surrounded it. If you have an interest in American history and the civil rights movement then this is the book for you. To readers who are not familiar with the case, this book is insightful and it will help you understand what took place. The author not only explains the circumstances surrounding this devastating case but also provides details about the impact of the murder on the white supremacists and the effect that it had on those who mourned Till. Through the pages, we also get to learn how the murder shaped the course of history.

Towards the end of the book, the author makes a profound statement by illustrating how six decades later, America is still Killing Emmett Till. He puts the social injustices in the present context to demonstrate how they may be different from the 1950s but they are still happening. I thought of Trayvon Martin when I read the final chapters. It really does make you think, doesn’t it?

Compelling, detailed and very well written, definitely a powerful and important book.

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

house-of-silenceAbout the book

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin s future like that of every young woman hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiance commit a horrific crime and no one believes her.
Gregory denies all, and Isabelle s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband s assassination.
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel’s debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.”


House of Silence by Sarah Barthel is cross-genre between historical fiction and thriller. The story is about Isabelle, a young woman about to get married to a charming bachelor, Gregory. Her fiancé is the kind of man that all women wanted and everyone especially Isabelle’s mother believed that she couldn’t have found a better suitor. However, after the engagement, Isabelle witnesses Gregory commit a horrible crime. She is left confused and scared for her life and makes the decision to go to the sanitarium for her safety. To achieve this, she decides to go mute and convince everyone of her insanity.

This book is set in 1875 and I think that the author did a great job in portraying the time period. I liked the description of the clothing, the corsets and long skirts that swept the floor. The horses and carriages and social norms made me get lost in the 19th century and in the lives of the characters.  The importance of belonging to right social circles was also emphasized and some of the practices such as condemning women who lost their virginity before marriage were brought up in the book. What stood out even more is how issues such as mental illness were treated during that time. Being admitted to a sanitarium was enough to ruin a woman’s reputation and hence  destroy her whole life. This illustrates just how brave Isabelle was to decide to go to the sanitarium despite the risks.

What I really liked……

I liked the Isabelle as the main character. She was so strong-willed. There were dire ramifications to her actions but she still went through with her charade of insanity to avoid getting married. She also went after Gregory despite the dangers. Women in the book are portrayed as being quite submissive but not this heroine. Her best friend, Lucy, was another endearing character especially due to her defiance to her parents,the arranged marriage and also her support of Isabelle who everyone else was shunning. Other notable characters included, Samuel and Mrs. Lincoln.

Despite Gregory being the obvious villain in the story, the most unlikable character was Isabelle’s mother. The woman was so concerned with reputation and making the right connections in life that she put everyone else ahead of her daughter.  This conflict added to the tension in the story but still, that woman was despicable! However, I was intrigued by this angle and kept wondering how the relationship between mother and daughter would survive.

I really liked how the author mixed reality with fiction in this book. Bellevue sanitarium in Batavia, where Isabelle was admitted, actually existed at that time. The proprietors of the place are also characters in this book. Mrs. Lincoln who is also a key support character in the book spent time in the sanitarium during that period.

batavia I read a little about the sanitarium and found this image online. Bellevue and Mrs. Lincoln are main features in this book

What I didn’t like so much….

The book has some interesting support characters including Mary Lincoln. I just wish we saw more them at the sanitarium. They were only mentioned briefly through their interactions with Isabelle. I wanted to know more about them and the conditions that brought them to Bellevue. I do understand that this is Isabelle’s story but those women really did seem interesting so it would have been nice to have their characters developed just a little bit more.


House of Silence by Sarah Barthel is a well-paced book that is quite easy to read. There are a number of twists as Isabelle’s fate hanged precariously. This added to the mystery and tension in the story. The issue of the importance of a woman’s reputation was at the background of this narrative and I found it quite interesting especially given the time period. The book has a great mix of characters with some being likeable and others quite unlikable like Isabelle’s mother but most of them were definitely memorable. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and mystery novels.

About the book

  • Title: House of Silence
  • Author: Sarah Bathel
  • Paperback, 300 pages
  • Expected publication: December 27th 2016 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Cover: I really liked it!
  • ARC Source: Publisher through NetGalley

Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

Star Over Clear Lake


For the first time in decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was swept away by the big bands during the 1940s – and by a star-crossed romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction and social expectations, between the two men who had captured her heart. It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.




I knew that this would be a special book from the first page. Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth tells the story of Lorraine. This story is narrated in two timelines. One is in the 1940s and the second one in 2007. In 2007, Lorraine goes to a Ballroom which sparks memories of events that took place in 1943. The story shifts between the two timelines connecting the past and the present. We find out about events that happened in the 1940s which reveal the secrets of the present day.

This book just made me feel good. I wanted to keep reading it. I needed to know how it would all end but I had to stop myself from rushing through it. Each time that I picked it up, it felt like I was being reunited with a long, lost friend. I loved the moments but didn’t want them to end. Lorraine is an amazing protagonist in both timelines. I loved how different she was. She had dreams and aspirations that she was committed to despite the hostile environment that she lived in which unfortunately did not allow her to yearn for a different kind of life.

There are many characters that I loved in this book. I will just mention two of my favorite ones without explaining much so as not to spoil the book. The first one is Lorraine’s dad. He now joins my list of favorite literary dads. His relationship with Lorraine reminded me of Hans Huberman and Liesel in The Book Thief. The two were so close and it was a delight to get to know them through the chapters. I loved Jans. Oh, this man was something else. I just liked everything about him.

There are a number of major and minor themes interwoven in this lovely tale. The role of women in the 1943 society was a minor theme but it still played a major role in the story. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a woman in that era. Marriage was considered as being enough for women.  That title Mrs. was supposed to be all that a girl needs. If you wanted more, that implied that marriage wasn’t enough which was unacceptable. I loved reading the little details about life back then.

Love and societal expectations are major themes in this book. There was a lot of prejudice in that era. The war was going on and so sides had been chosen. The book is set in Iowa. However, there is a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp in the town. The POWs are Germans. In the story, we get to meet a group of them. We get know their character. Some were good people but others weren’t. Nevertheless, the rest of the town just thought of them all as Nazis. The relationship between the locals and the POWs was made worse by the fact that a lot of men in the community had died at the war. Many families were grieving and to them, the POWs represented the enemy who tool their loved ones. In the midst of all this, there is love. Familial love that knows no boundaries, friendships that may seem odd due to the differences but they worked and love between different couples. Needless to say, not everyone accepted all these relationships.

Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth will break your heart. There are chapters that I struggled to get through. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters but I was afraid of the truth. There were other characters that had a different ending than what  I would have liked. I was also very torn about other characters that were not bad but things couldn’t work out for them. Most of the chapters made me smile though. There is one relationship that I really loved to read about. They reminded me of Noah and Allie in The Notebook. The relationship was so well portrayed. It was realistic and cute and I just loved this couple. I can’t stop thinking about some of the scenes involving them. The writer did such a wonderful job with this relationship. She created passion between the two characters that made me feel like I was part of their story. I wanted them to be together and each obstacle just broke my heart.

I have already said this but I loved this book. It had memorable characters and the storyline was beautiful, heartbreaking and yet a delight to read. I liked the 1940s time period more than 2007 although both were necessary for the story. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the historical aspects of this story are actually based on reality. The POW camp in Iowa which later became a museum is still there. It is called Algona. In the story, a lot happened at the Surf Ballroom which later burned down in 1946 but was rebuilt at a different site and is still standing. Yeah, the Surf still exists today and it did burn down in 1946 in a fire although in this case, the author created a story about what caused the fire. Clear Lake is an actual place in Iowa. There are a lot of things that I can mention about the setting and history but let me just say that I truly loved this detail. I don’t know anything about Iowa so it was lovely to find out so many different things about the place and its history. I loved how history and fiction were interwoven to create the masterpiece that is Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth. I highly recommend this book especially to fans of historical fiction.

Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love – and self love.

Review: Emilia by Ellie Midwood

EmiliaThis story is dedicated to all the victims of sexual slavery in German concentration camps, who had to endure inhumane suffering under the Nazi regime.
For many years after the atrocities had been committed, both sides – the abusers and the abused – still vehemently denied certain aspects of the Holocaust, and even the victims refused to admit the ugly truth about their incarceration, some out of fear, some out of shame, until several women decided to break an unofficial oath of silence, and brought their stories to life. This book is based on one of those stories.
Emilia is a young Jewish woman, whose life slowly turns into a nightmare as she finds herself facing a dreadful choice: to secure her family’s very existence by offering herself to one of the men who had put her behind the walls with barbed wire, or perish together with the least fortunate ones. Only, the Krakow ghetto and her very first abuser pale in comparison to what is yet to come, as she’s being sent to a place that soon will turn into her own personal hell and that will scar her for life…


For the past two years, I have been reading a lot of historical fiction set during WWII. I have learned new things because most of these books are inspired by true events. My curiosity and interest in history is what made me decide to read this book.

Emilia by Ellie Midwood is such a dark, devastating narration about concentration camps during the Nazi regime. The story is narrated by Emilia, a young, beautiful Jewish woman. The book begins with the Nazi invasion and so right from the start; we see how drastically Emilia’s life changed. As a young female prisoner, she soon becomes a target for the Nazi soldiers. The need for survival forces Emilia to trade her body to stay alive.

This book was so heavy that I thought of DNFing before the halfway mark. The things that were happening to the female prisoners were too heartbreaking. The author doesn’t use explicit language or explain the rapes in graphic detail but this doesn’t lessen the horror. I kept reading as I sympathized with Emilia and looked forward to her life after imprisonment.

As I have already mentioned, this book is quite heavy. Rape is a recurrent theme in the narrative so there are many scenes that were difficult to read. There were other themes though. I especially liked the theme of friendship as illustrated between Emilia and other female prisoners like Magda.  Family was also a recurrent theme. I also liked that the author decided to show life after the Nazi rule. This was a very important aspect of the book. Another theme that stood out for me is courage. The courage of the female prisoners was inspiring and moving.

Emilia is the kind of book that you read and wish you could forget about immediately. However, I know that I won’t ever forget it. The book broke my heart and made me so angry. Emilia’s story is the same for thousand of Jewish women who went through similar atrocities during the Nazi regime. This is their story and its one that cannot be forgotten by anyone touched by it.

Mother by S.E. Lynes@bookouture

motherChristopher would never hurt anyone. Not intentionally. Even after everything that’s happened I still believe that…

Christopher Harris is a lonely boy. A boy who has never fitted in to his family. Who has always felt something was missing from his life.

Until one day, when he discovers a suitcase in his family’s attic. And a secret about his mother that changes everything.

What price would you pay for the perfect family?

Christopher finally has a chance at happiness. A happiness that he will do anything to protect…


This is one of the most twisted books that I have ever read.

At first, I was confused by the narrative style. The story is about Christopher, who doesn’t like being called Chris by the way. However, Christopher is not the narrator. So the mystery begins from there. It was evident that the narrator knew intimate details about Christopher’s life. In addition, it sounded like the person was a patient at a psych facility. Needless to say, I needed to know the person’s identity and the connection with Christopher.

It is hard to say a lot about this book without spoiling it so I will try and stay away from the story-line and let you discover it when you read it. This book is structured in such a way that makes it hard for you to figure out what is really going on. Christopher’s story is the main one but through the chapters, there is a second story-line by Benjamin. The pieces click into place towards the end of the story when all connections become clear.

The book is set in Leeds at a time when the Yorkshire ripper was stalking and killing women. The time period adds to the tension in the book especially because the killings have an impact on the characters’ lives. The women’s fear and all men seeming like suspects interspersed brilliantly with the ongoing story hence heightening the tension.

This is a story about secrets and family, in particular, an attempt at finding the perfect family. It is also about obsession and this definitely added a creepy feel to the narrative. The author does a brilliant job of slowly pulling readers into the story. Reading this book  felt like boarding a bus, relaxing and enjoying the trip thinking that you are heading to a particular town but then getting to your destination and realizing that nothing looks familiar because you got into the wrong bus. I don’t know if that makes sense but that is how this book made me feel. It was a crazy ride.

Okay, so being vague is hard. Let me just end this review by telling you that you need to read this book. It will mess with your mind and emotions (in a good way). It is creepy and unpredictable, you definitely have to experience it for yourself.

Mother by S.E. Lynes is truly a dark, twisted, addictive psychological thriller.

Blog Tour: The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland @bookouture@ShaliniBoland

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland. My gratitude goes to Kim Nash and Bookouture for the opportunity and the ARC, which I received via Netgalley.

Secret Mother‘Are you my mummy?’

Tessa Markham comes home to find a little boy in her kitchen. He thinks she’s his mother. But Tessa doesn’t have any children. 

Not anymore.

She doesn’t know who the child is or how he got there.

After contacting the police, Tessa comes under suspicion for snatching the boy. She must fight to prove her innocence. But how can she convince everyone she’s not guilty when even those closest to her are questioning the truth? And when Tessa doesn’t even trust herself…



The Secret Mother by Shalini Boland begins with Tess finding a little boy in her kitchen. She doesn’t know the boy or how he even got into her house or why he is calling her mommy.Needless to say, I was hooked  from this first scene. I was curious about the boy and had so many questions.

Shalini writes this story in a way that you can’t help but also become an amateur detective. I was glued to the narrative. I felt the same nervousness that Tessa did and shared in her desperation to find answers. A lot wasn’t adding up and I admit, I liked Tessa but didn’t always trust her. However, I was totally addicted to her narrative. Finding out things when she did, heightened the tension. I couldn’t predict the ending but I had my suspicions about what was going on. Of course, this happened as Tessa also started solving the mystery. We were a team of detectives, Tessa and I, and this made me totally hooked to the book.

The author did such a wonderful job with the character development. As I have already explained, I really liked Tessa and sympathized with her. She had had a tough life before the little boy showed up to her house. What happened afterwards was a nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I have a few other favorite characters who I won’t mention and there was also a particular couple that I totally disliked. Nevertheless, all the characters were very well-crafted and realistic.

This is the second book that I have read by this author and again, I was totally addicted to her writing style and the story itself. I ended up reading up to to 3am in the morning hence getting through the entire book in just one sitting. As I have already mentioned, Tessa and I needed to find answers.

I enjoyed the twists in the book and loved the fact that I couldn’t have predicted them and at some point, everyone was a suspect. This book is brilliant, fast-paced and addictive. I definitely recommend it to all fans of psychological thrillers.


The Secret Mother is available for purchase now!


Shalini Boland - Author Pic.pngAbout the author: 

Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband, two children and their cheeky terrier cross. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing psychological thrillers (in between school runs and hanging out endless baskets of laundry).

Shalini’s debut psychological thriller THE GIRL FROM THE SEA reached No 1 in the US Audible charts and No 7 in the UK Kindle charts. Her second thriller THE BEST FRIEND reached no 2 in the US Audible charts and No 10 in the Amazon UK Kindle charts. It also achieved number 1 in all its categories and was a Kindle All Star title for several months in a row. Shalini’s recent release THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE reached No 9 in the Kindle UK charts.

Be the first to hear about her new releases here. Shalini is also the author of two bestselling Young Adult series as well as an atmospheric WWII novel with a time-travel twist.


The Secret Mother - Blog tour

Silent Lies by Kathryn Croft

Silent LiesMia Hamilton lived the perfect life with her husband, university teacher Zach, and their two-year-old daughter, Freya. But everything changed when Zach committed suicide on the same night one of his students, Josie Carpenter, vanished.

Five years later, and Josie is still missing but Mia has finally found some happiness with new boyfriend Will.

Until one day when stranger Alison walks into her life and tells Mia that her husband didn’t kill himself.

Desperate to find out what really happened to Zach, Mia is forced to put her trust in Alison. But she soon discovers that Alison has her own agenda behind exposing the details of Zach’s death. Can Mia really believe anything Alison says?

Mia must decide how far she is willing to go to uncover the truth – even if she risks losing everything she loves.


Silent Lies by Kathryn Croft is narrated through two POVs and timelines. One timeline follows Josie’s story and the events that took place five years ago. At the time, Josie was a student until one night when she disappeared. In the present timeline, Mia is trying to rebuild her life after her husband committed suicide on the night that Josie disappeared.  All seems well until Alison walks into her life bringing up the past.

This was a suspenseful read and right from the start, I couldn’t guess what had happened to Mia and Zach. Alison who seemed to have the answers was an unreliable narrator hence making it hard to fully trust her. What is interesting though, I didn’t have any suspects. I just couldn’t guess what happened that night leading to Zach’s suicide.

The characters in the story are well crafted though I didn’t like most of them. Interestingly, my opinion of different characters changed as the story progressed. I liked most of them at first but their actions soon turned me against them. One I disliked and ended up liking towards the end. I struggled to connect with any of them although I did find Josie’s narration to be quiet addictive. Perhaps this is because I knew that it was going to end with her disappearance and Zach’s death.  So I kept turning pages to find answers.

Kathryn’s writing is great and the story has an interesting premise but I took longer than expected with this book. I can’t say for sure if it’s my lack of connection with the characters or perhaps the fact that the middle section felt slower for me or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood. However, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I liked turning pages trying to find answers but something felt amiss.

If you are interested in this title, I suggest that you read other reviews especially on goodreads. Most readers enjoyed the book so I am in the minority here. As I said, it could be a personal issue and not the book so don’t let this review deter you from checking it out.

Request Declined! When NetGalley says no!

I have been a member of Netgalley for over a year now. Since I joined the site, I have received over a hundred ARCs (167 to be exact). I have read many amazing books through the site and discovered new authors. I have also been auto-approved by publishers which still feels surreal.

However, not all my requests have been approved. Quite a high number have been rejected for various reasons. So I got the idea for this post from Zuky, the Book Bum and decided to do a post about the rejections that I am saddest about.

Book Rejections that I am saddest About

Declined requests elicit different reactions. Sometime, I don’t feel too bad because I can’t even recall why I had requested a title in the first place. Other times, a declined request brings some relief because of the overwhelming number of pending ARCs. However, there are declined requests that totally sting.


ITS MEUnderstandably, publisher can’t approve all requests due to various reasons such as copyright restrictions, sometimes it is because they have reached their maximum number of approvals or as some say, ‘It’s not personal at all, it’s only because we have to be selective about sending out these advances.’

Nevertheless, declines don’t always feel great (who am I kidding, lol). Below are my top ten recent (hard to accept), saddest declined requests:





Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

I have read all previous titles by Kubica. I love her books especially Pretty Baby. I really wanted this ARC but I guess I will have to wait just a bit longer until it is locally available for purchase.





The Treatment by C. L Taylor

I loved The Escape by C.L Taylor. Unfortunately, my request for this book was rejected…TWICE! I am now waiting to read a few reviews before deciding whether or not to get the book.



copy cat.png


Copy Cat by Alex Lake

I wanted to read this book because I enjoyed the author’s previous title, After Anna. Unfortunately, the ARC didn’t come through.




The following are books that I wanted to read after reading great reviews about them. I tried to get Marsh King’s Daughter twice and failed… twice.



marsh kingThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne


I first saw this book on NetGalley and immediately requested it. They said No. Then after a while, I saw it again under a different publisher and again, my request was declined.

After reading a couple of reviews, its one book that I am keen on reading and definitely plan on grabbing a copy as soon as I can.



Becoming Bonnie by Jenni Walsh

My blogging friend, Annie, wrote a superb review about this book. You know that excitement that you get when your friend loves a book so much and you know for sure that you will love it too? Yeah, I got that feeling but NetGalley said no.



The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

This is one book that I feel like everyone got apart from me.  I just wasn’t so lucky.



The following three books are also recent rejections. They are all popular books that I am still keen on reading someday.

Best Intentions by Erika Raskin

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

I See You by Claire Mackintosh





So these are my saddest, recent rejections. Have you read any of these books? Would you recommend them?

Which are your saddest NetGalley rejections? Do you buy the titles that you are declined immediately(pre-order) or wait until you read some reviews?

Review: The Surrogate by Louise Jensen @bookouture


Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…




Happy publication day!

Louise Jensen has become one of my favorite authors. Her previous titles, The Sister and The Gift were both brilliant. In my opinion, The Surrogate is her best book… I have a feeling that I will say the same thing about her next book. Honestly though, her books just keep getting better.

In this story, Kat desperately wants to be a mom. After failed adoption attempts, she decided to try out surrogacy especially when an old friend offered to be the surrogate. It sounds straight forward right? That is what I thought. I read the first chapters with a feeling of foreboding. I kept waiting for something to go wrong. I knew that something would but just didn’t know what and when. However, all my assumptions were dead wrong. There was absolutely nothing that was straightforward in this book. I couldn’t have predicted the twists and turns that came as the story progressed.

The story is narrated through dual timelines and narratives. The then is not only narrated by one person but by two. I kept wondering why the author used two narrators until the connection became apparent. Have you ever shouted at a book? I remember the exact moment when the realization dawned on me and the connection became clear. I was shouting, heart racing, furiously turning pages in disbelief mixed with anticipation. It was a brilliant twist.

Louise Jensen kept the twists coming up to the last page and the ending was so chilling that I had to check and confirm that all my doors and windows were locked before I could sleep. This book has everything that makes a perfect thriller. It has a set of unlikable yet addictive characters. The twists are unpredictable and I just loved how everything came together in an explosive conclusion. The prologue had already set the tone for the book but I couldn’t have guessed the ending. I had to get to the final chapter to understand what the prologue was all about.

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen is a must read for all fans of this genre. If you enjoy a good, thrilling, memorable book with lots of twists, you definitely have to read this one. If you haven’t read of the author’s previous titles, you are missing out on a great reading experience and you should definitely rectify that. Highly recommended!