Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: Enter the Bluebird by Brendan Halpin

Publication date: September 28th, 2013
Publisher: Peter Parley Publishing
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US 
Stars: 4/5
Source: Review copy 

Enter the Bluebird is the story of Julie Rouge, who's nearly 16 and can't wait to join her mother, the masked crimefighter Red Talon, patrolling the crime-ridden streets of New Edinburgh. 

Unfortunately, Julie's mom has disappeared, and, while searching for her, Julie is going to discover that the city she calls home is even nastier, more corrupt, and riddled with toxic secrets than she ever knew. 

Enter the Bluebird is a noir YA superhero novel about secrets and betrayal and violence and love.


Enter the Bluebird tells the story of Julie Rouge, the daughter of meta human Sonia Rouge who is also known as the Red Talon. The Red Talon loses her life fighting street crime in the city of New Edinburgh. Julie is left with a costume for her new avatar: The Bluebird, which kicks off her thirst for justice and revenge. In the process, she confronts the reality of the city she grew up in and the ghosts of her mother's past.

The only other Brandon Halpin book I've read before this is A Really Awesome Mess but the two books don't have much in common. Enter the Bluebird has no room for cutesy; it's darker and grittier than your average YA book. The world building is crazy amazing: with the Syndicate: the nucleus of corruption, Snake Oil: an addictive drug and agent of evil, the Legion of Freedom, the layout and atmosphere of New Edinburgh and the world outside it. All of my senses were enraptured by this world that could easily double as a comic-bookverse. 

It's a coming of age/origin story that is far more real than any superhero story I've ever seen. Julie has the ability to fly, and in her determination to rid New Edinburgh of corruption there's a fair amount of window-breaking, fires and angsty moments by the cemetery. More than this, though, the book confronts other harsher realities: namely, the people Julie/The Bluebird rescues, who don't necessarily find her superhero stunts amazing; not from where they're standing.

"Are you kidding me?" Kendra said. "Now I get to spend the rest of the night picking glass slivers off the beds. And then I have to go out to fill a form in triplicate and hope the housing authority fixes the window before winter comes. What happens the next time it rains? What happens if the piece of glass gets in my little brother's eye? Did you think about that?"
"No," The Bluebird said. "I only thought about the person who was screaming and trying to help her. I didn't know she was too stupid to know that she needed help."
"You're the stupid one. You're dumber than your costume. You think you know things, but you don't know anything. You think the solution to every problem is to kick somebody-"
"Fine," Julie said. She tried to find The Bluebird inside her somewhere, but she could only find little hurt Julie...

I found Kendra and her little brother refreshing. They made the story all the more gripping, and showed that yes, fighting evil isn't as easy as a well placed punch. In fact, Halpin does not simplify any of the broader issues the world of Enter the Bluebird is filled with. He is unafraid to expose Julie to hurt, heart wrenching grief, people who have more than two dimensions and danger that strikes from more than one direction and never conveniently works in her favour.

As Julie struggles to pick up the pieces, make sense of her mother's death and gets infatuated with the Mayor's son, The Bluebird carries the weight of the city and falls more than once. Enter The Bluebird is, from start till end, a vividly written YA noir that I couldn't get enough of.

Rating: ★★★★

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Audiobook Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Publication date: August 5th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Stars: 2/5
Source: Reado.com

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Promises get broken.

Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.


This is a really difficult review to write because I love Colleen Hoover. I love how butterflying transformative her writing is; how it turns even the most tired cliches into something wholesome. And yet nothing could pretty up Ugly Love

Ugly Love is your classic New Adult redemption story: girl, Tate Collins, who's new to San Francisco meets boy, airplane pilot Miles Archer when he's drunk, huddled outside her brother's apartment door. Right from their first meeting, it's clear that something about his past haunts him; making him renounce love. When the chapters alternate with Miles' point of view, to "six years earlier" when he meets a girl called Rachel in high school, there are no doubts about the "who", just the "how" and "what". 

Tate and Miles, who's incidentally Tate's brother's best friend, soon embark on a relationship that's plain sex. But between Miles' smoldering gazes, Tate's fervent hope that it turns into something more and all the boundaries that they set only to break, they're not fooling anyone. The alternating perspectives, which shift from present to past, were a welcome relief as I didn't want to spend all of the time on either time period. There's just a lot of build up, characters that are "technically" well developed but don't mesh and poetic prose that falls flat.

This was also my first audio book ever, and "listening" to it might've only accentuated everything I disliked about the narrative structure. Miles' perspective, especially, was filled trite repetitions in his unconditional devotion towards Rachel. It felt empty, as there's nothing we actually know about Rachel other than Miles' idealized and rosy-eyed-to-the-point-of-corny account; half of which I felt like skipping. Tates' perspective felt more Miles' perspective of Tate because I cannot for the life of me get a picture of who she is, despite living inside her head for a good part of the book. 

The heart of the story is every bit of the redemption story you're promised: there's confrontation, tragedy and confrontation of tragedy. And yet, as a whole, it felt dissatisfying.  

This isn't going to stop me from reading Maybe Someday, the only Colleen Hoover book I haven't read, but Ugly Love flat out didn't work for me.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This post is sponsored by Reado.com, India's largest audio book store, where you get one free audio book on sign up. :) All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Novel Publicity Blog Tour Stop; Review: Just Girls by Rachel Gold

Publication date: September 23rd, 2014
Publisher: Bella Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 4/5
Source: Novel Publicity Blog Tour
Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it s her, even though it s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can t be that bad. Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag College, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they'd only known. New rules, old prejudices, personal courage, private fear. In this stunning follow-up to the groundbreaking Being Emily, Rachel Gold explores the brave, changing landscape where young women try to be Just Girls.


I read Just Girls by Rachel Gold a month ago, and the earnestness with which it dealt with issues of identity, gender and sexual orientation instantly sucked me in.

Just Girls tells us the story of Jess Tucker, who sticks up for a transwoman on campus; she doesn’t know who this woman is, just that it’s someone in the dorm. On encountering a bunch of girls who have already started making ignorant remarks about, speculating about the identity of and judging this girl, Tucker says it’s her (“You have anything to say to my face?”). Being an out-of-the-closet lesbian since high school, she figures she can handle it.

“I know I don’t understand viscerally what it means to have gender dysphoria or to have people always questioning who you are, but I do know what it’s like to have people be assholes to you just because of who you are. And I just got really pissed and really afraid for this girl and so I said it was me. That way they’ll direct their bullshit at me and I know I can take it.” (p. 39)

Meanwhile, Ella Ramsey, realizing what had happened and what Tucker did for her, much before they are even acquainted… is shocked and moved.

What I liked most about Just Girls is that this is by no means where the story begins and ends. Instead, we are introduced to a diverse and wonderfully fleshed out cast of characters. While it would be easy to tag them as “transwoman Ella”, “genderqueer Nico”, “the transphobic Women & Gender Studies Teaching Assistant”, “codependent Lindy”, and so on, there’s much more to them than that. No one is a token member of any community, and their story transcends labels and stereotypes.

Getting to know Ella, who was born a boy but was on hormone blockers to prevent male characteristics from kicking in during puberty, widened my understanding of what it feels like to be born a gender you do not identify yourself as. It was refreshing how her parents were supportive of the transitioning process and embraced her for who she was. As we get to know Ella as Ella – girly, funny, intelligent and loyal-, the premise of the novel felt stronger and its message truly hit home.

The issues tackled, whether thinly veiled sexism, transphobia outside and within the LGBTQIA community, where transgenders factor in same sex restrooms, and more, never feel like too much. We are trained to even pay attention to the voices and views of characters whom the others are eager to dismiss as intolerant and prejudicial; as they, too, come from somewhere and it is essentially to get to the root of that somewhere.

Rachel Gold has this amazing ability to integrate feminist theory and debates into the story in a way that feels natural; never feels obscure or out of one’s depth even to beginners. She also does a great job demonstrating that no subculture is free from prejudice, abuse and hatred. At the same time, love, friendship, trust and protection can be garnered from just about anywhere. The foundations of Ella and Tucker’s friendship, and their unconditional acceptance of each other left the deepest impact.

Just Girls was a funny, thoughtful and honest exploration into what it means to be a girl; exclusive of one’s assigned-at-birth gender and heteronormativity.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About the prizes:

Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Just Girls! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Just Girls tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 

Jess Tucker sticks her neck out for a stranger—the buzz is someone in the dorm is a trans girl. So Tucker says it’s her, even though it’s not, to stop the finger pointing. She was an out lesbian in high school, and she figures she can stare down whatever gets thrown her way in college. It can’t be that bad.

Ella Ramsey is making new friends at Freytag College, playing with on-campus gamers and enjoying her first year, but she’s rocked by the sight of a slur painted on someone else’s door. A slur clearly meant for her, if they’d only known.

New rules, old prejudices, personal courage, private fear. In this stunning follow-up to the groundbreaking Being Emily, Rachel Gold explores the brave, changing landscape where young women try to be Just Girls.Get Just Girls through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: 

An award-winning marketing strategist and author, Rachel Gold also spent a decade as a reporter in the LGBT community where she learned many of her most important lessons about being a woman from the transgender community. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Religious Studies from Macalester College, and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Hamline University. When she’s not “translating English for English-speaking people” or working on her novels, you can find Rachel online checking out the latest games.

Connect with Rachel on her website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

Publication date: August 14th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Bought
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, √Čtienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.


I don't think I've waited for anything as long as I waited for Isla and The Happily Ever After to release. With the release date being pushed back by a year and everything, I thought I'd never get to read it. In a nutshell it's about:

- Isla Martin (the redhead who has about maybe two minutes worth of screen (scene?) time in Anna and the French Kiss)
- who has a brief albeit completely loopy encounter with Josh (the other half of Joshua and Rashmi as well as St. Clair's best friend in Anna and the French Kiss)
- It's an encounter that might just be her "in" with him (she's been crushing on him since Freshman year) and a possible Happily Ever After

It's an extremely simple and sweet story, really; much like Perkins' previous books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. I liked how most of the conflict was self-created. You do not need a love triangle or love unrequited to turn a relationship upside down. You just need the insecurities that eat you up inside your head all day long. I think Perkins brought that out beautifully in these two wonderfully vulnerable characters.

The secondary characters, from the best friend, little sister to the ex best friend, have their quirks and flaws and an equal impact on the course of events. Much of Isla takes place in Paris, though there's a good bit of Manhattan and Barcelona. While there's the magic of Paris we experienced in Anna, there's less of the excitement and freshness to it since it's Isla's senior year and Paris practically feels like her second home. The story culminates at a much-awaited-reunion of favorites from Anna... AND Lola... with a surprise follow-up to an old story that will have you swooning!

If you are yet to read any of Stephanie Perkins' books, I suggest you start with Anna and the French Kiss. If you liked Perkins' previous books: Isla and the Happily Ever After, while lacking a little of the pep and quirk that made Anna... tick, definitely completes the series. Whether you had an unstomachable crush on Etienne St. Clair (!!) or want to know where Cricket and Lola are right now... whether you wanted to know more about Josh or that soft spoken redhead, Isla and the Happily Ever After gives you all of it!

Rating: ★★★1/2

Friday, 1 August 2014

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Publication date: June 3rd, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Bought
Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.


The rumours about Alice started much before super-popular Brandon died in a car wreck; allegedly while sexting Alice:

Alice Franklin is a slut.
Alice slept with two guys at the same party.
Brandon's death is Alice's fault.

There is a "slut stall" full of graffiti'd hate over Alice. 

Is it true? Nobody seems to care. And after delving into the perspectives of Alice's supposed BFF Kelsie, the ever popular Elaine, Brandon's best friend and football star Josh, genius boy Kurt and last but not the least, the infamous Alice herself-- you wonder if it even matters in the first place. 

The judgments, pent-up angst and guilt felt by nearly all of the main players runs deeper. Is Alice nothing but a scapegoat for it all?

I really can't handle talking about this for too long because it hurts too much, but I do want to say that there is one thing I've learned about people: they don't get that mean and nasty overnight. It's not human nature.
If you give people enough time, eventually they'll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.

The Truth About Alice is a sensitively written, clean and short read that gives you enough insight into how the scandal-mill works. It's gratifying to see how even in the darkest of times, Alice does have someone to lean on. It gave me the chills to think about how it might've turned out if class-genius Kurt hadn't stepped in and decided to be her friend when she needed one the most. It's this big what-if that bothered me more than the actual turn of events.

Like most Young Adult novels, there's a romantic twist that it would've done better without. All it does is overshadow the point of the novel. The book, perhaps a bit too deftly, sweeps the remnants of the scandal under the rug. It gives us an ending that is as positive, realistic and sensible as resolution of real-life, petty, small town scandals can get.

Rating: ★★★1/2

I read this book along with Hilda @ Catch The Lune, which was a ton of fun!! Check out her review HERE :)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Publication date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon India
Stars: 4/5
Source: Bought
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


I'm going to copy-paste what's in the blurb, in case you're not the kind of person who reads the blurb first. Because, of the plot, this is all you need to know: 

"A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth."

No, its not just the blurb that's deliberately elusive. We Are Liars is as fragmented, as vividly illusionary, suspenseful and pseudo poetic as what you just read. The characters pop out of the page, demanding every bit of your attention span. They say pretentious things, everything they want or need is just there- on a literal platter, share a superficial, seasonal friendship amidst raging hormones and the salt of the sea water. And you'll listen to them. 

Because in their perfection and pretention and destruction, they remain glamorous. It's the sheen this kind of inherited privilege has given them.

The Liars were perfect. Until something happened and now, Cady, "the beautiful and damaged girl" has constant and prolonged migraines. A huge chunk of her memory, of "the accident" and what happened before, is missing. Gat, the Indian American boy she loved, who made her "weak", becomes inconsistent. Her friends, the Liars, seem to be crumbling with her. Her parents and aunties are drinking and shopping more than usual and their fake smiles are waning. 

What happened to these beautiful, beautiful people?

We Were Liars recounts the scenic, the surreal and the lies the Liars and their parents lived through in startling purple prose. Eventually, and without warning, it plunges into the truth which NOTHING can prepare you for and can never quite set you free. I was crying into the early morning hours. I remain stunned. I would never read this book again, because of how it messed with my head; branded it with images that will never leave me. But you should read it that once. BECAUSE it will mess with your head and grip you until you get to the bottom of it. Because it made me mull over the nature of "ownership" and things that are fickle and pretentious.

It goes without saying that if you dislike fragmented, purple prose and tales about "them poor-little-rich-kids", you will probably not like this book.

Rating: ★★★★

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review: One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

Publication date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 5/5
Source: Review copy (Thank you, William Morrow!)
Internationally bestselling author Cecelia Ahern delivers her biggest and most compelling book yet—a tale of secrets, second chances, and the hidden connections that unite our lives

Scandal has derailed journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her, "What is the one story you always wanted to write?"

The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of one hundred names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can ask her friend, it is too late.

Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, tracking down each of the names on the list and uncovering their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life... and starts to understand her own.


I give this book five, very subjective stars. I'm not quite sure if I would've given it five stars if I'd read it way back in January, when I received it for review... or even a bit later, when in the midst of finals. But then again, is there any such thing as an objective rating? That being said, I read One Hundred Names when I needed to read it the most.

One Hundred Names opens in a hospital, where Kitty Logan asks her dying mentor, Constance Dubois, about the one story she's always wished to write. It's a difficult time for Kitty as well. She made an error in one of her stories, the scandalous kind, that caused her a suspension from her job as a TV-journalist and set her network back big time. It's a mistake that may forever ruin her career. She's hanging on to her other job at Etcetera magazine, however unrelated to the TV scandal, by a thread.

Constance asks her to retrieve a list of one hundred names-- a list that had something to do with the story she had in mind. Before Kitty can get back with the list, Constance passes away. As a part of her tribute issue, Kitty needs to find out what connects these people; the very nature of the story Constance wanted to write. There isn't much time to piece it all together... it's ONE HUNDRED different people, and lives, she'll have to delve into... and her job might just depend on it.

I can definitely picture this book being made into a movie. It would be one of those romcoms with a slightly quirkier twist, and dialogues that are meaningful and sometimes even funny. The plot might seem a bit contrived: the way most plots involving a large cast are. It features six very different, very dreamy, "ordinary" but interesting people... people who, like in most books that have several subplots, gradually find their stories intermingling when they are thrown in a common setting.

Reading One Hundred Names, however, felt far from contrived. I've always admired the earnestness in Cecelia Ahern's writing. I'm glad she doesn't stick to the same formula. Instead, she always tells us different kinds of stories that take on different perspectives; retaining the freshness in her narration. In this book, it's the earnestness of the main players that gets to you. It's easy to picture them living their lives, one day at a time. 

Kitty attempts to uncover what Constance could've possibly wanted to write about them- practically drilling various angles into their lives... and as the arc finally dawns on her- it humbles her, and the reader. It's not something you couldn't have guessed several chapters before. In fact, I think it was pretty clear from the beginning. Still, it's beautiful because it's something all of us take for granted but is very very true.

One Hundred Names, through wonderful characterization, several humorous and WTF moments, is one heck of a journey! Before you know it, you are a part of their lives: laughing, groaning, whooping and cheering them on! Their energy is your energy. It reminds you of the value of a genuine and positive story; how wasteful it is that we are constantly on the lookout for superficiality, drama, a "dark" past and conflict instead. It encourages you to look beyond the surface, at what is already around and within you. 

Rating: ★★★★★