Book review: You Beneath Your Skin

Book cover

I follow Damyanti Biswas’ blog. As far as I remember I became aware of her through the A to Z Challenge a number of years ago. A long time ago when You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas was available free on Kindle I attempted to download it, but met with some technical difficulties. I was unsure I wanted to read this book, which is described as ‘A gripping urban contemporary crime novel’. I knew it included acid attacks on women in India.
So I didn’t attempt to solve the technical problem.

When I tried to download The Beloved, I encountered a similar problem, but was determined to read this book. I filled in the dialogue box, which had appeared and registered my Kindle app. (I had last used it before a system upgrade.)

To my surprise I later discovered that I had two other new books in my Kindle Library. I began to read You Beneath Your Skin and found it gripping, but emotionally demanding. I read it in eight days. (Reading books on my laptop is not my favourite pastime!)

The number of characters (with names unfamiliar to me) was a little confusing at first, but as the story progressed I became better acquainted with them and with their relationships to one another. My knowledge of India is confined to what I have read or heard about it. I have never travelled there.

The story is gripping. There is also a convincing back-story, which emerges gradually. The perpetrators of crimes are identified, but with plenty of suspense. Relationships within families are important.

I found the book extremely readable, interesting, well-written and exciting. It gives an insight into many aspects of life in an Indian city and Indian multilingual culture. Somehow all aspects of life have been included without seeming contrived. There are unexpected turns of event.

The author’s profits from this book are used to support two charities. One helps survivors of acid attacks and the other helps underprivileged children. You Beneath Your Skin highlights the need for such charitable work.

I am glad that I eventually read it.

Coming soon: Next week as part of a blog tour my post about books will appear on Wednesday 19 May.


Book review: Walled City by Maressa Mortimer

I had heard Maressa Mortimer speaking in a writers’ group meeting on Zoom about the imaginary world she has created in Walled City. It sounded interesting and she is very enthusiastic about what she writes, so I bought a copy. Walled City is about a young man aged 21 on a seemingly impossible mission, so it is suitable for readers of Young Adult fiction and for older people too.

The story is exciting with lots of conflict. Gax has had a different education from everyone else in Elabi, the walled city. He has a lot to learn (although he’d like to influence other people) and is in constant danger! I finished reading this book the day after I received it as it is a gripping story.

The imaginary world is scary, but self-consistent. I found that I was interested in the characters and care enough about them to want to read the next book in the series, once it becomes available.

Maressa Mortimer, who is Dutch, is writing in her second language. At the end she very sweetly apologises for any errors in the writing.

Walled City: Book 1 in the Elabi Chronicles is available from the author’s website, Vicarious Living. I am looking forward to the sequel.


The Healing by Joy Margetts

This post includes a book review and a short interview with the author, Joy Margetts.

The Healing, book and reverse of postcard

The Healing, book and reverse of postcard

It was a real privilege to read The Healing: Will a monk’s habit help unlock his true identity? before its official publication date in advance of the blog tour of which this post is part. Joy Margetts’ debut historical novel is published by Instant Apostle and is already available from Joy Margett’s website and in bookshops from tomorrow (19 March 2021). If you order direct from Joy Margett, you will be the owner of a signed copy!

When I read a book, I prefer not to know too much about it in advance. I skipped the page of endorsements and the back cover until I had read to the end of the story.

Unusually the Author’s note and Historical notes appear at the beginning. I found this helpful. And (as in most of my favourite books) a map is included. The story begins with a mystery. Who is telling the story? What has happened? It is compulsive reading.

Passages of scripture intersperse the chapters. Scenes in the book are described vividly. At the end of chapter 2, I had tears (of joy) in my eyes. By early evening on the day I received my copy, I had only about 50 pages left to read. I decided I couldn’t wait until morning to learn the outcome of this fascinating story. (I found it very satisfactory!)

I was interested to read some familiar verses from the Bible in The Passion Translation, which I have not read. It brings out the meaning in a fresh way.

A longer passage of scripture, which appears in the body of the text, rather than between chapters, is Psalm 139 – a psalm, which has been special in my life. The characters discuss what it means in the context of their own lives before one of them makes an important decision.

Having footnotes rather than having to turn to the end for additional information is helpful.

The names of the main characters were chosen with care for their meanings, which are woven seamlessly into the story.

The Healing is a book I shall return to in the future.

Author interview

Photo of Joy Margetts

Joy Margetts

Joy Margetts has answered some questions I put to her about writing the book.

Joy, I often wonder how much of an author’s own experience is included in their books. One of your characters had not always lived in Wales. Is that an experience you share?

It is. I was born and raised in the south of England. But I have always had a deep and abiding love for Wales. My grandmother was Welsh, and we visited South Wales when I was small. I was introduced to North Wales when my sister attended university in Bangor. My husband also knew the mountains of Snowdonia well, being an amateur climber. We visited together when our children were very young, never believing that within a year we would actually be living here. A surprise job transfer and we moved from Oxfordshire to Gwynedd. It was like coming home. I love my adopted homeland.

[There is] the natural beauty of course, but also the rich spiritual history of the place. Wales is a land of ancient pilgrim paths, old churches and abbeys and of course of great revival history. I have been here over twenty years now, and like Philip in the book, I have found my healing here.

It is unusual especially nowadays to include so much scripture in a novel. Why did you decide to do this?

I love the Word of God. I love studying it and have the joy of teaching it also. But scripture is more than just words on a page. I believe that God speaks through His word. He speaks to each one of us personally, by His Spirit. When I was going through my own difficult time, I began to rely more and more on the Word of God. I had to read it every day, even when concentration was difficult. My experience was, and still is, that God speaks just what I need to hear through His word, and that I am strengthened, spiritually, emotionally and physically through reading it. The promises of the Bible gave me hope, and I chose to trust in them, even when my circumstances seemed to contradict them. There is so much scripture in ‘The Healing’ because these are some of the verses, and truths, that helped me in my own journey. My prayer is that they speak to and help those who read them also.

I echo your prayer for your readers.

I know many people say Psalm 139 is their favourite. Do you have a favourite Psalm?

That is a really difficult question! I have so many favourites. Psalm 139 is wonderful of course. Psalm 91 and Psalm 27 are also great Psalms to remind yourself of how God cares for us, protects us and provides for us, especially in difficult times. My favourite at the moment is actually Psalm 119, which might seem strange, as it is the longest Psalm in the Bible. But it has some wonderful verses that I can really relate to about how God’s word gives us life, revives and restores us, and is a light to our paths, and a promise for our future. That is my experience. His word has done those things for me in my healing journey.

Thank you, Joy, for sharing your insights. I also love the Bible and the Psalms are special. I look forward to reading more from you.

If you’d like a preview of this book everyone should read, the publisher has made this possible here.

Blog tour

The blog tour for The Healing began on  11 March. The links are below in case you’d like to read more.

11 March Maressa Mortimer Vicarious Living

12 March Claire Musters (Joy explains the background to the book and her own story.)

13 March Wendy H. Jones Bookaholic

14 March Penelope Swithinbank

15 March Ruth Leigh Big words and Made- Up Stories

16 March Liz Carter More than Writers (The blog of the Association of Christian Writers) and on her own blog.

17 March S.C. Skillman

Paul Alkazjari’s review on Goodreads

19 March Limitless-horizon

20 March Faithful steps