For those of you who do not know of her, Smita Bhattacharya is a management consultant by day and an author of mystery novels by night (in her own words!). She has written and published both novels and novellas, each as amazing as the next.
The Darya Nandkarni series follows amateur and self-proclaimed detective Darya Nandkarni as she embarks on adventures that somehow lead her into the middle of a mystery. Every single time! Or in this case, across three books in this series! 🙂
The Retribution series is a series of novellas among which Snow Fever is indeed quite mysterious and thrilling! I absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it enough!
Smita has a unique perspective of things and life in general and this is seen through her books and writing. She has strong protagonists and well thought-out whodunnits that will keep readers hooked and yearning for more!
And so, here I am, calling out to all fans of mysteries, thrillers and short stories in this genre to join me in signing up to be a part of Smita’s advance reader team!
Smita has so many stories to tell and it would be amazing to be a part of the journey!
Join young budding detective Jane Austen in her second investigation to uncover a devious diamond thief at the glitziest, most scandalous ball of the year! Inspired by Sense and Sensibility.
‘No one who had ever seen Jane Austen in her infancy would suppose her to be born to solve crimes. From her early love of sugar plums, and cleverness in hiding her expeditions into the pantry, her mother declared her far more likely to commit them. However, as Jane would counter, there was no better person to identify the culprit than the thief turned thief-catcher.’
When the headmistress invites her past favourite pupil to attend their end of term ball, Cassandra brings her younger sister, Jane, along too. Cassandra plunges into the feverish excitement of preparing for the biggest event of the year – the dresses, the dances and the boys expected from the neighbouring school.
Feeling rather excluded, sharp-witted Jane unearths the reason for the fuss – the headteacher wants to impress a rich family returned from India as the school is at risk of going bankrupt. Jane also befriends the dancing master’s assistant, a former slave, called Brandon, who is as quick to notice things as she. At the ball, a diamond necklace is stolen from a locked room and they are propelled into a race to uncover the burglar and save Brandon from gaol.
With the ever-present Austen spirit, Jane with notebook in hand, boldly overcomes the obstacles to finding the truth.
Perfect for readers aged 9-109, and for fans of Katherine Woodfine and Lucy Worsley.
Note: I received an ARC of the book from NetGalley. A huge thanks to the publishers and author.
This is the second book in the Jane Austen Investigates series that follows a young Jane Austen on another of her adventures to solve a mystery. Cassandra Austen is invited to attend a ball at her old school and asks Jane to come along. The headmistress of the school has a soft spot towards Cassandra, her favourite pupil. However, Jane’s presence is quite unexpected and received with some reluctance.
What follows is a series of friendships, some cricket and a theft that leads to Jane stepping in to investigate once again. We also meet Arjun and Deepti again, characters from Book 1 who are delightful and add some wonderful color to the book. I enjoyed the different perspectives in the book and everyone’s lives.
I found that this book was a little less impactful when compared to Book 1, but I still enjoyed it thanks to some of the newer characters, a talking parrot and some circus friends. The mystery was well thought out with a simple plot of theft which moves quickly ensuring the reader is engaged. In an attempt to solve the mystery, Jane uncovers many truths that shed light on the various characters of the book including the headmistress. This is the perfect book for middle graders and will give them a thrill to read it. Let’s not forget the cricket match that has to come to some kind of conclusion with the girls all showing off their amazing skills in a “boys game”! Not to be outshone, the boys also show off their skills in dancing at the ball! It’s all fun and more fun until things go wrong!
I am delighted to have read the books in this series so far and am looking forward to reading more of Jane’s adventures and her witty, sarcastic letters. She had a gift for writing and the author of this series does her justice in my opinion!
Jane Austen turns detective in this spooky historical adventure by award-winning author Julia Golding!
It’s 1789 and a young Jane Austen turns detective as she seeks to solve the mysterious happenings at Southmoor Abbey. When a carriage accident forces a change of plans, 13-year-old Jane is sent to be a companion to Lady Cromwell for a week as the household prepares to celebrate the eldest son’s coming-of-age party. While there, Jane vows to solve the mystery of the ghostly monk in the Abbey grounds – for she does not believe in such stories!
But this is not the only strange occurrence for the adventurous young Jane to investigate. There are shivery night-time investigations, an Indian girl with secret talents, a library fire, two prize horses in danger, and friends to save from false accusations.
With notebook in hand and her faithful dog Grandison by her side, will Jane overcome the continuous obstacles and find out the truth?
Note: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. The below review reflects my honest opinion!
This is a delightful book for young readers and fans of mystery and adventure! The reader meets a young and spunky Jane Austen who is thirteen years old. She is sent to Southmoor Abbey as a companion to Lady Cromwell for a week in place of her sister. Jane is drawn to the mystery surrounding the Abbey and the so called ghost who haunts the place. On a dare from one of her brother’s she decides to investigate and find out the truth since she does not believe that ghosts exist.
The story introduces us to a myriad of characters, including a father-daughter duo from India and Jane’s “lap” dog Grandison. There are many secrets and mysteries to be solved that eventually end up being connected. I enjoyed reading about Jane’s thoughts and experiences which the author described quite well. We are able to see some of the famous author in this young girl with her strong imagination and opinions. We also see how supportive her family is of her, encouraging her to write and share her thoughts and stories. Jane’s letters to her sister were a delight to read about and some of them had me in splits.
Though the focus moved away from the mystery of the ghost in between, the overall plot is well done and will ensure that the target audience of middle graders (as well as adults) will be hooked. The story and main character remind me of Nancy Drew and other such heroines who seek out and solve mysteries. The author has done a great job in bringing a young Jane Austen to life and I am indeed looking forward to join them on further adventures along with all the friends Jane (and enemies) Jane makes along the way! I do hope you all join the adventure too.
History, like magic, has a habit of repeating itselfIt’s been six months since thirteen-year-old Alyssa McCarthy left magic behind for good. Or so she thought…
Then the enchanted objects that protected her disappear. Now a skeleton named Errol has cursed her with magical powers that keep getting her in trouble. Suddenly strange things are happening with disastrous effects, and if Alyssa can’t remove the magic, she will lose everything she holds dear.
In order to get rid of her unwanted wizardry, Alyssa will have to boost her bravery and confidence and determine who Errol really is. But every time Alyssa uses an enchantment, Errol is one step closer to getting his flesh back and becoming alive, and he will do anything to achieve his goals…even if it means destroying Alyssa’s happiness.
Originally published in 2016 as “Wizardry Goes Wild” and “The Unruly Curse” in 2019, “A Curse of Mayhem” is book two in the exciting and suspenseful “Magical Missions” series.
This is Book 2 in the Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions series. The story follows Alyssa as she tries to lead a normal life putting magic aside. However, it is not as easy as that and soon Alyssa embarks on another missions to save herself. This time, the plot centers around her place with less focus on travel. As Alyssa tries to rid herself of her newly acquired magical powers thanks to a curse, the reader is in for an interesting adventure, making new friends along the way.
There are some new characters in the story and this makes Book 2 interesting. Alyssa is still a little hard to connect with, but this can still be ignored for the overall story. Though the writing is still pretty amateurish, the focus on the plot and storyline has improved greatly. As compared to Book 1, Book 2 is more engaging and has quite a few magical elements to it that will delight young readers. Overall, I think that this book is handled much better and young readers would enjoy it greatly!
♥ A slow-burn atmospheric literary mystery. With armchair travel, intriguing characters, small-town noir, and a troubled heroine. For lovers of Tana French, Veronica Mars, and Sue Grafton. ♥
Darya was meant to be in Mumbai for two months. No more. It was going to be an ordinary study break. Just that. Except things didn’t go according to plan.
The year before, Darya accidentally solved the mystery of her uncle’s untimely death in Goa. A year later, she finds herself embroiled in another bizarre mystery: this time at Mumbai’s quirky Chapel Road.
Darya had thought Chapel Road in Bandra was a quaint little lane when she’d decided to rent there. But she soon realizes a tragic mystery is lurking behind its peculiar charm. Three women have disappeared in the past three years, purportedly murdered by a serial killer. No dead bodies have been found and he has never been caught. And now it’s that time of year again. Who will be next?
At first, Darya is only concerned about her creepy landlords, her reticent neighbours, and her temperamental roommate and best friend, Veda. But when one of the missing girls winds up dead in a hotel room, and her roommate, Veda, disappears, Darya is spurred to find out what’s really going on.
But what if it was her life, actually, that was most in danger?
**THE SECRET ANGELS is the second book in the Darya Nandkarni Misadventure series, after KISS OF SALT**
About the Author:
Smita Bhattacharya works as a management consultant and lives in Mumbai. Her short stories have appeared in numerous Indian and international publications. Her books rank among the top Asian Literature & Fiction on Amazon. Strong female protagonists and Agatha Christie-style whodunits are her forte. Smita thrives on crime and coffee. Though she prefers cafés, she occasionally also hangs on Twitter and Instagram @smitabe.
This is the second book in the Darya Nandkarni Misadventure series and the second book by Smita that I have read. To be honest, I have been reading the books in the reverse order (I read Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? first), but I have still enjoyed the books so far.
In short, I would describe this book as unputdownable and intriguing!
Now on to a slightly more detailed review… 🙂
The Secret Angels is a slow-burn atmospheric mystery that takes place in Mumbai. Darya and her friend are staying there for two months and get embroiled in the mystery surrounding the street they are staying at. Three girls from the area have mysteriously disappeared over the last few years and nobody know where they are or whether they are alive. However, when one of them turns up dead, warnings flags are raised in Darya’s mind. Something fishy is going on and she feels the urge to find out what it is before someone else gets hurt.
The characters are wonderfully detailed and well thought-out. Darya has so many layers to her personality that make her immediately likeable and interesting. Veda, her best friend, is a contrast in personality is a welcome addition in portraying the subtle differences in the characters. I also enjoyed reading about the landlords of the villa at which Darya was staying.
Smita has a way with words that draws you in and keeps you reading until the very end. This is a fascinating story filled with the right amount of mystique to keep the reader hooked. As the plot thickens and the story unravels, we discover so many unexpected twists! I whole heartedly recommend this series by Smita (even though I am yet to read the first book in the series, which is now on my TBR and in keeping with my reverse read system for these books 😛 ) for all the mystery lovers out there!
A blast from the past, nostalgia hit me as I picked up this book once again to re-visit the sights and smells (trust me some are rather nasty, especially in Goblintown) of Muddle Earth.
About the Book:
Joe Jefferson is an ordinary schoolboy from ordinary Earth. At least, he was. But something strange happened when he was walking his dog, and now he’s Joe the Barbarian—fearless warrior-hero, summoned by Muddle Earth’s leading wizard* to slay ogres, wrestle dragons, and bravely confront villains.
Joe doesn’t feel much like a warrior-hero.** But evil is stirring in the heart of Elfwood, and the people of Muddle Earth need help (although most of them don’t know it yet). Perhaps Joe Jefferson really is a hero after all. . . .
* Actually, Muddle Earth’s only wizard. And he’s not very good.
** He doesn’t really look much like one either.
This post has been sitting in my drafts for a very long time, but even more so, this book has remained close to my heart for much longer! This is a book that was a part of my childhood and honestly is one of the few books that made me laugh as much as I did.
This is a story of a young boy Joe who ends up in a situation he never expected to be in. All of a sudden, he is in Muddle Earth, portrayed as the fearless warrior-hero who has come to save them from evil. This is a hilarious adventurous story that follows Joe as he figures out how to survive and finds that everything he does is somehow accepted by the people of Muddle Earth.
Readers are in for a treat as we encounter ogres, dragons, a wizard (who is not very good), and a kid who is quite smart and also rather lost. The story is hilarious and will have the readers in splits. There are pictures to accompany the text which are brilliant and add an even more eccentric spin! I love how the characters are portrayed through the pictures.
This is very much a treat and should be read by all children. Even adults are in for a hilarious adventure!
Read on to know more about Sverrir Sigurdsson, his book and advice for all his readers!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Iceland, born and raised there. At the age of 19, I left my country to explore the world. My first stop was Finland. After getting an architecture degree there, I took on an international career so I could see the world and have somebody pay for my travels. I’ve visited 60 countries on 5 continents, and done work from building a harem for the ruler of Abu Dhabi to building schools in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere.
What prompted you to start writing your memoir?
I love telling stories of my international adventures. My friends encouraged me to write them down. So I did and saved them as “episodes” on my computer, kind of like dumping photos in a shoebox. Then I showed some pages to my wife, Veronica Li, who’s a published author. She read them and was surprised to discover what an interesting guy I was. She helped me put my episodes into a memoir called Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir.
We wanted to make it a human interest story that appeals to a wide audience. At the time of our writing, Iceland was a tourist hot spot. (In a country of 360,000, we had 2 million tourists in 2019!) The literature on Iceland, however, was mostly travel guides. We decided I could tell tourists about my country by introducing them to my family, our way of life, and the road we’ve traveled to be where we are today.
How easy/difficult was it to write your memoir?
Writing is never easy, but fortunately we were two heads working together. We make a good team because we’re so different. I’m a hardware person good at brick and mortar stuff, while Veronica is a software person, in tune with feelings and human relationships. Our strengths and weaknesses complemented each other.
During the pandemic lockdown, we were most happy to have our writing to obsess about. We would have gone crazy otherwise!
How much time did you spend on writing on average per day?
Veronica and I both like to write in the morning. From around 9am to noon, we would be at our respective desks. When something needs to be discussed, we know exactly where to find each other.
What is one thing you discovered on this journey that you did not know beforehand?
I’ve always known Icelandic fishermen have a tough life, especially before the advent of modern technology. But I didn’t know how tough it was until I listened to a recording of my uncle Óli, which was part of the National Library’s cultural heritage project. My uncle, a fisherman since the age of 10, talked about the blustery, icy weather, the cramped conditions on the boat, the monotony of the food (fish and potatoes), the nonstop work once the boat reached a fishing ground, and the danger of storms. Many have perished, including my own grandfather and his first-born.
Reliving the hardships of previous generations makes me appreciate all the more the progress Iceland has made in a short time. From a dirt poor nation, it has become one of the most prosperous in the world.
How do you feel about your Viking ancestry?
First of all, are Vikings good guys or bad guys? To Icelanders, they’re heroes, adventurers who brought home wealth and glory. To people of the British Isles, they’re definitely villains who pillaged and plundered. This type of Viking, however, lasted only 200 years. After that period, Icelanders left home to serve a foreign leader and prove themselves in battle before returning home.
Modern-day Vikings are yet another breed. Being a small nation Icelanders have to go overseas to study and learn from more advanced nations. I think of myself as an example. I left Iceland to study architecture in Finland, and afterwards I traveled the world to acquire experience. Except that I didn’t return home as planned. I’m now settled in the US. My heart, however, will always be Icelandic. Be they heroes or villains, I admire my Viking forefathers for their self-sufficiency, resilience, and endurance.
What kind of impact did this journey of discovery have on you?
My friends often call me a Viking for running around in short sleeves when they’re shivering in jackets. I never took their joking to heart. But writing my memoir made me discover how truly Viking I am. My childhood in Iceland taught me all the skills I needed to survive in the world. The moment I finished high school, I left my homeland to make my fortune. Retracing my journey makes me realize that I’ve indeed found my fortune, not in riches but in the wealth of experiences gathered from the places I’ve visited and people met.
What kind of books do you like to read? Give us some examples or recommendations.
I like to read thrillers, especially those that involve international politics and intrigue. Some of my favorite authors are Frederik Forsyth, John le Carré, and Richard North Patterson.
Which is your favourite place to visit or talk about?
Despite my worldwide travels, my favorite place is still Iceland. I guess you’ve heard about the volcano eruption going on there. Icelanders call it a “tourist eruption,” spectacular fireworks that attract tourists but does no harm. This area is part of the volcano belt that gave Iceland its name, “land of ice and fire.” In south Iceland, where I spent summers working on a farm, glaciers lie atop volcanoes gurgling and biding their time to erupt. My book cover shows the scenery of this area: in the foreground stands a cliff with a doorway carved by the sea, in the middle a mountain that was once an island, and in the background the snow-capped volcano that shut down Trans-Atlantic air travel in 2010. The landscape is the wild and wonderful creations of violent volcanic activity. Each of these features was formed when fire met ice or seawater, causing the rapidly cooling lava to turn into a rock formation called “tuff” or palagonite. Iceland is full of such fantastic landscape.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
My true love is carpentry. In my youth I’d aspired to become a carpenter when I grew up. My older sister nudged me to take it one step further and become an architect. I’m most grateful to her for helping me choose my career. In my heart, though, I remain a carpenter. One woodwork project or another is always on my plate. I just finished building a fence around my backyard to keep out the deer. Hope it works!
Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?
I encourage everyone to travel, not just as a tourist, but to live and work for a spell in a foreign country. You’ll be surprised what kind of opportunities you’ll find. Most of all, you’ll be surprised to find out who you are and what you’re capable of.
It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of hosting an author on my blog. I am pleased to restart the same by hosting author Sverrir Sigurdsson as he talks about the events leading up to his memoir, Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir.
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About the Book:
This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favorable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world. Join him on his roaring adventures!
A memoirist is supposed to depend mostly on his memory. But when I started writing my memoirs, I felt what was stored in my brain wasn’t enough. To get to the bottom of who I was, I needed to burrow into the consciousness of the people I came from.
My dad had researched the family tree of my maternal grandmother and traced it all the way to our ancestors who lived in Sognefjord, Norway in the late seventh century. In other words, I’m a descendant of the original Vikings who left Norway for Iceland in protest over King Harald the Beautiful Hair’s efforts to unify the country. My ancestral pantheon includes Erik the Red and his son, Leif Eriksson the explorer. But names alone weren’t enough; I wanted to know these people, how they lived, what they did in life, and what they were made of.
I started by digging into my grandparents’ stories. My maternal grandmother was no stranger to me as she lived with the family until she died. She was as gentle as a lamb with me, but she had to have the heart of a lioness to face down the tragedy of losing her husband and son in one fell swoop and continue to raise her four other children. The other three grandparents, however, had passed away before I was born.
Since I was located in the US, I was worried that accessing material for my memoirs might pose a challenge. To my delight, the internet brought the world to my fingertips. My first seminal find happened while browsing the online catalogue of the Icelandic National Library. My Uncle Óli’s name appeared in a cultural heritage project conducted by the library some years ago. I emailed the librarian, who promptly sent me the digitized cassette tapes of his interview. I clicked on one of the files, and there was my long-dead uncle speaking to me in his gravelly voice. In the interviews, he describes life as a seaman fishing the rough seas around Iceland. Having started his maritime career at the age of ten, the working age of Icelandic children in those days, he had plenty to tell. His words fill five hours of recording.
His accounts also shed light on his father, my grandfather. He was a self-made man who started as an orphaned farmhand and ended as skipper of a lucrative fishing vessel called Gyða. One day in 1910, his ship disappeared during a storm. Forty some years later, the ship’s mast was recovered from the bottom of the fjord, but none of the remains of the skipper, his first-born son and the other six crew members have been found. Uncle Óli would have gone down with them if he hadn’t stayed behind to take a school leaving exam that day.
On another internet search, I stumbled on the digitized logbook of Gyða’s first captain, the one before my grandfather. The log is typically terse and dry, recording the weather, the catch, and the ship’s location, which could reach as far north as the Polar Circle. Some entries are more interesting than others, and here is one:
“A flu epidemic ravaged the town that winter. By the time Gyða set sail, three men had come down with the flu, and a fourth would join them by the time they reached the fishing grounds. Despite good weather and an abundance of fish, the lines were idle because all but the skipper and one crew member were in bed, delirious with fever. When the skipper finally succumbed to the flu, some of the other patients had recovered sufficiently to execute the sailing chores. A few days later, the crew was still weak but well enough to resume fishing. However, the bait, herring, had gone bad because the ice had melted while they were ill.”
I struck a goldmine on the website www.timarit.is . Until recently, accessing newspaper articles in Icelandic papers would have been a formidable task. But a few years ago, the University of Iceland and the National Libraries of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland joined hands to digitize every newspaper article and periodical printed from the beginning of news publishing in the 1800s until today. To date, almost six million pages of searchable text are available to anyone for free at the site.
A story about my father’s side of the family came from an unexpected source—a Canadian newspaper that serves the Icelandic diaspora in North America. This heroic tale of devastation and salvation took place during the exceptionally long and cold winter of 1880-1881. Runólfur, a farmer in northeast Iceland, was then old and infirm. He foresaw a shortage of hay in spring and asked for help from farmers in a nearby valley where the weather was milder. They came to his rescue, sheltering and feeding his sheep until early May. Assuming the winter was over, they sent the sheep back. But shortly after, snowstorms hit Runólfur’s farm again, dumping four feet of snow, which quickly turned into a solid sheet of ice. The neighboring farmers rallied once again. They crossed the snow- and ice-covered mountain pass on foot and skis and herded the sheep back across the pass. To keep the starving sheep moving, the rescuers carried on their backs sacks of hay, which they emptied now and then to entice the sheep to go on. They did the trek not once but twice in order to get all the sheep, horses, and cows, as well as people to safety. My grandfather, Runólfur Hannesson, born in 1867, was the nephew of his namesake in the above story.
These people and their stories were never far from my mind when I wrote Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir. Their endurance kept the nation going until conditions were ripe for Iceland to prosper. To them I owe my golden childhood and the superb education that equipped me to compete in the world. The spirit of these same people egged me to pursue an architecture degree in Finland and from thereon to adventures around the world. To them I owe my fortune, not in monetary terms but in the wealth of experiences gathered from the places I visited and people met. Vikings traveled the world to seek their fortune; I’ve indeed found mine.