You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

You beneath Your skin is an intricate crime story centred on Indian American single mother and psychiatrist Anjali Morgan. She relocated to Delhi from America with her autistic teenage son and fights a daily battle to meet his complex needs. 

Damyanti Biswas

It is a multiple-point-of-view story that unfolds Anjali’s relationships with those closest to her. Her best friend Maya, from whom she rents an apartment at her family home. Her long-standing affair with Maya’s married brother, police commissioner Jatin whom she met in America when he was a student under the mentorship of her deceased father. He later left for India and became a police commissioner, married to his powerful boss’s daughter, an indifferent wife and mother. They have a son Varun who is perfect in his father’s eyes, with a lot going on under the surface.

Once Damyanti had made us understand these complicated relationships, we were off on a gritty, gripping ride!

You beneath Your skin takes us through the slums of Delhi with a theme that covers, poverty, power and corruption, love, betrayal, and drug dealing with the brutal murder of slum women burned with acid at its heart.

It is a crime book unafraid of digging deep into the city’s underbelly. Also, in this story, no character is safe!

Damyanti delivers a brilliant debut with layers of intrigue and twists that expose corruption in a way that I have not seen in fiction in a long time.

I loved reading this book and look forward to reading her next one, The Blue Bar.

My Other Husband by Dorothy Koomson

My other Husband is Dorothy Koomson’s 18th novel, and she delivered well! I actually got to a point where I could not put the book down till I finished it!. Dorothy is a Queen of twisty psychological thrillers. So I loved that some months back, she invited me to her proof party with a tissue-wrapped gift copy of the proof, a nice packet of coffee and Maltesers. Maltesers is a favourite in the story!

My Other Husband is the story of  Cleo Forsum, a successful screenwriter of crime fiction, married to a lovely husband and with a life to envy. But Cleo has decided to shatter that perfect life by seeking to divorce her husband and ending her TV series. Someone is hunting her by killing people precisely as it happens in her series and framing her.    From there begins our journey into Dorothy’s dark, twisty world as we go on a trip with Cleo, who harbours a deep secret that is the cause of her problems.

My Other Husband covers the theme of love and obsession. Dorothy’s writing on love and relationships are never simple as her protagonists are mostly angst-ridden complex women with secrets.

What is also striking is our intimate view into Cleo’s life. Dorothy zooms us into her head and we feel her fears, including some of her serious bed action. Hmmm… tastefully done, of course!

The grand reveal came at the mid-point and with a slam! And from then, we’re on a roller coaster ride to a satisfying end.

Cleo was a lucky, unlucky girl with two panting hot men! I can’t say more than that.

Go get your copy!

Complicit by Winnie Li

Complicit is a novel that starts slow and burns bright. I am familiar with Winnie Li’s work as I had read Dark Chapter, which was an incisive page-turner on the fictionalised story of the author’s real-life trauma that happened in Ireland. What made it stand out is how Winnie told Dark Chapter from the point of view of the victim and perpetrator.  

In Complicit, Winnie played with many themes, significant and small, and I think it would be worth rereading it to catch the ones that could have been missed. She had a lot to say in the story on so many levels – misogyny, money power, racism, white privilege, 2nd generation immigrant trauma/experience, the illusion of Hollywood, and feminine powerlessness.

When I began Complicit and entered into the dull world of the protagonist, Chinese American Sarah Lai. I sighed. I wanted to be instantly transported into the magic of whatever ilk as long as it did not reflect the dreariness of our everyday life! Then I slowly got drawn in.  

Winnie Li
Winnie Li

Sarah Lai’s account of starting her career in the Film industry in New York and eventually becoming an associate producer sees-saws between the present and the past.   Hugo North is the Harvey Weinstein-like figure who was bankrolling the film in the production company where she worked.

It is definitely an #Metoo but more than this. This is where I applauded Winnie. She deftly showed us the struggles of the child of immigrants, the expectations and anxiety of those parents and their wish for their children to do well in their adopted country.  

Sarah’s drive toward her ambition ultimately found her in the politics and corruption of the film industry. Winnie reveals behind the scene Hollywood with skill and assured writing. It peels back the casual carelessness of white privilege and racism.

Here is a comment by her former boss Sylvia Zimmerman to the journalist doing the investigation

‘No one likes seeing ambition so visibly. Sarah was from that Chinese restaurant background of hers, so maybe there were some cultural….ways of being which were lost to her. Or maybe we’re just not used to seeing a young Asian woman in charge, so that kind of authority is harder to grant….regardless of her competence.’

There is a lot to take away from Complicit, and I fell in love with it. Winnie’s book excited me and laid bare the universal struggle of women worldwide. The fight to be recognised in our own right and not through the male gaze and power.  

I love the hope at the end that there is now more chance of diverse voices being heard and institutions created to catch young talent. It is definitely an optimistic hope for the future.

When a book resonates with you long after you put it down, you know it is something special.  

Complicit is definitely a critical work in this landscape.

THE VIEW FROM BREAST POCKET MOUNTAIN by Karen Hill Anton

This is a memoir about adventure, resilience, survival and defying the odds!

I first heard of Karen Hill Anton on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ podcast, where she discussed her memoir, the View From Breast Pocket Mountain. It is about her life as a black woman who travelled around the world, finally settled in Japan, and has been there for over forty years. I immediately bought the book because it intrigued me. Karen began her travels in 1965 when she was 19 and went around Europe.

The View From Breast Pocket Mountain
The View From Breast Pocket Mountain

I admired how she transcended a tough childhood – a mentally ill and institutionalised mother, her childhood home burning down, her beloved father and brother murdered. Through all those traumas, Karen continued her life and broke many boundaries.

 One of the most memorable parts of the book was when she, her white partner, whom she later married and her young daughter decided to move to Japan in the 70s to become part of a Dojo. Instead of flying or travelling by ship, they decided they would drive. It took them a year of road, water and flight, living frugally, sleeping in their car, and camping on the grounds.

 Karen described her experiences of unwanted male attention in some of the middle eastern countries. How her partner would stay up all night to ensure she and her daughter were safe. Karen also described the harsh dojo existence, her loneliness, because Japanese culture is multigenerational and supports the family. She and her husband stood out as foreigners with no family support. However, she slowly made friends and began to be accepted in the society.

This would be an excellent read for those trying to understand a black female experience in Europe and other parts of the world in the 60s and 70s.

 Karen went on to have three more children in Japan who grew up bilingual. Still, she and her husband decided to educate their children in the States due to the Japanese education system, which they felt did not encourage creativity. They now have grown children who have gone on to have their own families scattered around the world. At the same time, she is content with her role in Japan as a writer and then as a cultural liaison.

#booklovers #memoir #Japan #stellaonithewriter #bookreview

Some of my favourite books of 2021

This is always incredibly difficult because there are so many damn good writers out there! Then to complicate matters, I am a judge for a prize in 2022 and have been going through a heap of books that I can’t disclose. 

So, I have not been able to do much book review this year, but I have many books that I wait to read in 2022!

Here are the books I will mention that made an impression –

KINTU by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. I love her fiction that weaves the history of Uganda and also life in diaspora. I have her other books including MANCHESTER HAPPENED – her book of short stories.  She has won a few prizes, but I can see her winning big ones in the future. I will do a review soon.

LOVE IN COLOUR by Bolu Babalola is light and fluffy and re-imagines love using mythology. I liked what she tried to do. Our writing should not be heavyweight all the time.

I read Louise Hare’s THIS LOVELY CITY, a strong crime fiction set in London’s Windrush arrival in the 50s. Louise created a sense of place and time, and I loved her characters and the final twist in the story.

I went back to an old classic, YARDIE by Victor Headley, who took me back to the backwater London of the 80s where the streets were dangerous, and Jamaican bad guys were revered. I am not sure a lot has changed, and perhaps we need a modern take on this. Aspiring Victor Headleys, I’m calling out to you!

I have read and will review The JIGSAW MAN by Nadine Matheson. An ambitious debut with an unforgettable lead in DI Anjelica Henley. Nadine has THE BINDING ROOM coming out in 2022, and I am looking forward to my copy!

I KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE by Dorothy Koomson – I thorougly enjoyed this and plan to review this as well. I loved my interview with Dorothy in August at the H&SWriters Festival coordinated by @rashedaashanti. She has written seventeen good books, is absolutely focused on her craft, and supports ‘young’ up-and-coming authors like me.

BROTHERS IN BLOOD by Amer Anwar is another one for review – It introduces Zaq Khan and allows us to travel on a rollercoaster ride through Southall, West London and the Asian community there.

BROKEN PLACES by Tracy Clark takes me on a ride through Chicago with her police turned private detective Cass Raines. I really loved it, and it is also up for review.

BP Walter’s HOLD YOUR BREATH. Barnaby reached out to me on Instagram re: Deadly Sacrifice, and I decided to read his book. What a find! So, I am collecting all his other books to read. He gifted me the DINNER GUEST, which I look forward to reading and reviewing.

MIDNIGHT HOUR is an anthology by some Crime Writers of Color @CWoC and edited by @AbbyVandilever. I am proud to be a part of this incredible line-up of authors! I have just finished the first two, Tracy Clark’s LUCKY THIRTEEN and David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s SKIN and what great reads. so I am in for a treat with all the others.   My short story, THE BLACK WIDOW OF OSHOGBO, introduces ex-army and ex-secret agent Lara from a new series that I will be polishing off in 2022/2023.

Finally, Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett. She brought us broke former actress and aspiring detective Dayna Day. It is good to have fun and laughs, and Kellye’s Dayna is funny as she stumbles through her investigations. Kellye has re-issued the series as eBooks so go get yourselves some copies and enjoy some belly laughs!

So, what will I be reading in 2022? Here is some of my pile! Many have been on my TBR for a while, but I cannot wait to read and review them!

Image by Stellaonithewriter
Image by Stellaonithewriter

Have a wonderful and Happy New year!

Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me Into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji

Bamboozled by Jesus was written by Nigerian-American comedian Yvonne Orji known for her role as Molly in the popular HBO series Insecure. I first heard Yvonne On her podcast, Jesus and Jollof , co-hosted with Luvvie Ajayi. From there, I began to follow her on Instagram and was excited to hear she wrote this book. I also have Luvvie’s book; I am Judging You, which I’m waiting to read as I am a big fan of both girls! I love Jesus and Jollof Rice, especially their stories of growing up with Nigerian immigrant parents and what success meant to them. The podcast is full of nuggets and tips.


Yvonne’s book is a memoir about her life’s journey and how her Christian faith helped her decisions. She said she was tricked into a life of success by her faith in Jesus. She had a lot of testimonies from her career to how she bought her first home. She said she started in entertainment at 24 and did not get her big break till 31.


“While my friends had houses and kids. I had hopes and dreams.”

Yvonne Orji

As a Christian, I enjoyed listening to Yvonne’s story. In the creative world, it’s a thin line between being creative and being consumed by the world. Yvonne stood up to her parents by choosing her career as a comedian. Most immigrant Nigerian parents want their children to have a professional background as they’re scared of them scraping the bottom of the barrel. They understand the brutality of racism and want to give their children the best start in life.

Yvonne studied sciences but could not stomach a career in this, which began her journey to success. It was a tumultuous rocky journey, but Yvonne persevered with prayer. She felt that every journey she made had a message. And she was never giving up until she got her break. She also said success brings its insecurities as there are now more choices to be made, and you have to choose the right ones. One of the unique things about Yvonne is that she is in her 30s and decided to stay a virgin till she married.


I look forward to going back and rereading the book as you can get a lot of inspiration from her journey even if you’re not a Christian. Thank you so much, Yvonne Orji, for taking the time to write this book and standing up for your faith.