Thursday, 20 March 2014

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Publication date: April 1st, 2011
Publisher: Puffin Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 4.5/5
Source: Two lovely people (Thanks a ton xD)
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

REVIEW

I have seen this book around but never thought to pick it up. I figured it would be
too intense
a difficult read
so involving, I'd get lost in it
and given the current Semester's workload, I've been seeking refuge in "easy" and predictable books with the kind of wit, banter and plot arcs that I've grown so comfortable with, the repetitiveness ceases to bother me.

But when two really good bookie friends of mine gifted Between Shades to me for my birthday, it felt like the choice had been made for me! And I'm glad.

Between Shades of Gray was too intense. There were parts where I had to blink away tears or worse, felt too numb to react. It was not an easy read but it was an important one; capturing a part of history, of Lithuanians forcibly deported to Siberian work camps by the NKVD during World War II, that I wasn't aware of. It was a story that needed to be told and couldn't have been put across in a better way.

The book also got so involving, it broke through my reluctance- completely quite possibly stemming out of nothing short of indolence- to read something that grabbed every bit of my attention and made me feel for real. It dares to infuse beauty and meaning into the period when the darkest and most cruel side of human nature was exposed. It crushes you with the enormity of the hardships these people had to shoulder and how even then, many refuse to crumble. 

The protagonist, Lina, is just fifteen years old at the time when she, along with her mother and brother are deported in a train labeled "Thieves and Prostitutes". Her perspective holds both innocence and incredible strength. It's heartbreaking how she is forced to grow up in a work camp; in such brutal, unforgivable conditions. And yet, she does. Despite being reduced to a state of near-starvation and constant worry for the people around her, she still has spirit. 

Lina's a gifted artist, and despite Soviet rules barring them to do so, she never stops drawing about the injustices they are forced to undergo. She never stops trying to get messages to her father, who is separated from them. She never stops hoping and fighting and loving. Her journey, with flashbacks to life before the deportation that are seamlessly integrated, is heartbreaking. The kind of bonds formed and the togetherness that exists among the deportees; the fabric of strength maintained by the adults for their children and their individuality despite the NKVD grouping them as "cattle" was astounding. 

Wonderfully written in a sharp, almost cinematic manner, with well-fleshed out, memorable characters, this book will, indeed, as the blurb says, "steal your breath and capture your heart." 

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cover Feature: Right Click by Lisa Becker

I really liked Click: An Online Love Story as it was incredibly fun and light!

The sequel, Double Clickwas even more of an entertainer.

And now it's time to unveil the cover of:

Release date: May, 2014
Links: Facebook | Click Book Trailer
Love. Marriage. Infidelity. Parenthood. Crises of identity. Death. Cupcakes. The themes in Right Click, the third and final installment in the Click series, couldn't be more pressing for this group of friends as they navigate through their 30's. Another six months have passed since we last eavesdropped on the hilarious, poignant and often times inappropriate email adventures of Renee and friends. As the light-hearted, slice of life story continues to unfold, relationships are tested and some need to be set "right" before everyone can find their "happily ever after."

!!!

Sad as I am to have to part with this series, I can't wait to see how the loose ends are tied up! And I love the heart-shaped mouse in the cover.


Right Click is due for release in mid-May. Check out the Facebook Page for further updates!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Publication date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Stars: 3/5
Source: NetGalley

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

REVIEW

What do you do when you're losing the person who matters the most and suddenly, everything else loses meaning? When all that's left is anger, grief and guilt? Elizabeth Scott explores this in Heartbeat where Emma's senior year is far from what she imagined it would be like. Her mother is brain-dead, still pregnant, kept alive by machines until her baby brother can be born. She's angry that her step-father chose this for her mother... chose to have her kept alive as a vegetable as she believes her mother never wanted the baby in the first place. Her grades have gone out of the window but still, she finds love and support in unexpected places.

Heartbeat was a very difficult book to read and I cannot imagine what it would've been like to write. It reverberates sadness and leaves you at a loss for words. Emma keeps going back and forth, from anger to grief to anger to guilt, and it's frustrating, sometimes monotonous, but also realistic... when she takes her time to waver towards acceptance. I think this was the strongest point of the point... how ongoing the cycle of grief and hopelessness was until the breakthrough.

While the relationship between Emma and Caleb was this ray of light in the otherwise dark place she was in... it didn't convince me. It felt like Caleb just happened to be there and that he had experienced loss at a similar scale helped. I was more gripped by Emma's relationship with her stepfather, the baby, the lingering presence of her mother and her perspective on school and life. How these things were challenged in the face of regrets and blame, and how she came to terms with them.

It took time to get into Heartbeat but at its core, it is a well-written, perspective-changing and poignant read about love, loss and how you never really move on from the latter.


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Monday, 3 February 2014

Featuring: Mohini by Ramendra Kumar [Guest Post]

I'm happy to feature Ramendra Kumar on the blog today! Ramendra Kumar is the author of Mohini, which delves deep into the world of Bollywood. Scroll down to read about his take on movies, the kind of books he writes and more :)


A beautiful and charismatic actress, a sensitive and immensely gifted director, a scheming, wily but brilliant manager - Mohini is the pulsating saga of three individuals - each driven by an obsession. Set in the backdrop of the bold and brazen world of Bollywood, it is a tale of passion, intrigue and suspense. The narrative moves at a roller coaster speed and captures love in its myriad shades: infatuation, romance, commitment, lust and obsession...

A young girl growing up in the backwaters of Bollywood nurses a burning desire to become the number one star in the industry. In her ruthless, and sometimes reckless, pursuit she uses and is used by many individuals. However, there are two men in her life who love her to absolute distraction. Each in his own way helps her reach the zenith of fame and success. One she betrays and the other she rejects. Both unleash vengeance and in a strange quirk of serendipity are pitted against each other as the novel hurtles to a throbbing, thrilling climax…

Mohini is not merely a saga of romance - the tale offers an insight into the biggest film industry on Planet Earth - the murky manipulations, the dirty deals, the shameless shenanigans, the tears behind the glycerin, the pain behind the paint and the suffering beyond the celluloid.


Publication month: January 2014
Publisher: Bluejay Books Pvt. Ltd


GUEST POST:


A SPOT OF JOY, A SLICE OF VALUE

Over the years there have been several debates regarding a particular tag to be attached to a movie : parallel or popular cinema, art or commercial cinema or realistic or escapist cinema. I loved what Shyam Benegal once famously said, “There are only two kinds of cinema – good cinema and bad cinema.”

I have always been a huge film buff and enjoyed the entire range - action, comedy, drama, pathos et al. I have admired Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Kundan Shah, Shyam Benegal, Sai Paranjpe, Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra and many others. But if were asked to choose the entire oeuvre of a director and then pick the best I would select Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Rajkumar Hirani. And if I were to pick one movie from repertoire of each of these master craftsmen it would be ‘Anand’ and ‘3 Idiots’. I have a few reasons for zeroing in on these two directors and these two movies which I would like to share.

I have so far written 24 books for children. In every book of mine I have tried to tell a story which is racy and has a reasonably high EQ (Entertainment Quotient). I believe that today a young reader has too many choices. Hence if she is not hooked from the first word to the last she would simply switch over to the some other medium. But then I also feel that only entertainment is not enough, providing escapist fare alone will not do. There should be a take away in the form of at least a hint of a whisper of value. It should not be thrust like the anti-tobacco messages on the idiot box or a Rajashree Production melodrama but rather it should be subtle tucked somewhere in the narrative so that the young one internalizes it without even realizing.

Both Anand and 3 Idiots offer dollops of entertainment. Rajesh Khanna, in his most memorable role, keeps you in splits almost throughout. Yet, even as the movie moves to a predictable denouement the value is clear : “Babumushai, zindagi lambi nahin badi honi chahiye.” In 3 Idiots Amir and his friends blunder their way through the movie. And at the end what remains is Amir’s brilliant performance and the message: ‘Strive for excellence, not success. Once you achieve excellence, success would automatically follow.’

In my first book for adults, Mohini too I have stuck to my credo. It has been called a gripping, racy, un-putdownable narrative that takes a behind the scenes look at the ‘the murky manipulations, the dirty deals, the shameless shenanigans, the tears behind the glycerin, the pain behind the paint and the suffering beyond the celluloid.’ However, it goes beyond the grim reality and the sordid drama to offer more than a dash of hope. It reiterates that it is not unbridled manipulation, naked ambition or overpowering obsession that can bring happiness. Joy and contentment can come from a simple, yet all powerful four letter word called Love. 

As I sign off let me humbly appeal to the marquee names of tinsel town and the czars and czarinas of the literary planet. Beyond the esoteric and the abstract, beyond the hype and the hoopla, there is a little space ‘rented out’ by the child in each of us. Reach out to that space with a bit of humour and a ripple of hope, a spot of joy and a slice of value.

                                                                   ~ RAMENDRA KUMAR 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ramendra Kumar (Ramen) is ‘A Writer by Passion’. An award winning author with 23 books to his credit, he spins yarns mainly for the young and the young at heart. He also dabbles in satire, poetry, fiction and travelogues. His work has been published by some of the best names in the business and translated into several Indian and foreign languages. His stories have found a place in text books and anthologies published across the world. Ramen, an inspirational speaker and storyteller, is a regular at leading seminars and literary festivals both in India and abroad. Mohini, his first novel for adults was launched on 1/12014. Its publishers Bluejay/Shristi had to go in for the second impression, because of the demand based on pre-orders, almost immediately after its first edition. Mohini has also been maintaining its position close to the top on Amazon's 'Hot New Releases' list.

To know more about Ramen you can visit his website or his page on Wikipedia. 

He is working as Chief of Communications, Rourkela Steel Plant, Odisha.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Publication date: 1st October, 2013
Publisher: HarlequinTEEN
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: NetGalley
Cami Broussard has her future all figured out. She'll finish her senior year of high school, then go to work full-time as an apprentice chef in her father's French restaurant, alongside her boyfriend, Luke. But then twenty-year-old ex-Marine Julian Wyatt comes to live with Cami's family while recovering from serious injuries. And suddenly Cami finds herself questioning everything she thought she wanted.

Julian's all attitude, challenges and intense green-brown eyes. But beneath that abrasive exterior is a man who just might be as lost as Cami's starting to feel. And Cami can't stop thinking about him. Talking to him. Wanting to kiss him. He's got her seriously stirred up. Her senior year has just gotten a lot more complicated…

REVIEW

Keywords from the blurb that made me decide to read Stir Me Up despite my ambivalence towards New Adult fiction:
apprentice chef
ex-Marine
all attitude, challenges, intense-green eyes
stirred up

Quite simply, the concoction to die for! Sabrina Elkins' writing only strengthens the surface-level awesomeness of the premise. She thickens it with characters you can think around rather than cardboard cut-outs with default-pasts and actual, in-depth conversations between the characters at crossroads anyone can relate to.

Cami's senior year was supposed to be clear-cut: with classes ending by afternoon, her part-time job as an apprentice chef and time with her boyfriend. Her future is just within reach; she's going to work full-time at her father's restaurant. Then the worst of circumstances brings Julian, her stepmother's nephew and ex-Marine to Cami's home and from that point on, the year is nothing like what she thought it would be. Everything Cami thought she had figured out is put to test and there's verbal spars, reluctant truces, attraction, confusion, self-doubt and worries about her future.

There's also plenty of unbelievable hotness, mouthwatering food and an idealistic (highlight to read possibly spoiler-y adjective) resolution of things... as suggested by the blurb and cover! And honestly, anything less and I would've been disappointed.

Whether it's Cami's stubborn but doting father, her theater-loving best friend who's there at a moment's notice or even Luke, the boy she thought she would be with forever... Stir Me Up is filled with characters you will come to care about, if not instantly like. It may not be a game changer in its genre, but it never promises to be anything but an engagingly romantic read in the first place. It's well written, thought provoking, extremely fun to read and in Julian, you might just find a potential book boyfriend!

Rating: ★★★1/2

~

Also, if you have been following my blog/ are reading this:
On Books! has been shortlisted for the BlogAdda Blog Awards (category: Entertainment) and it would be awesome if you could vote for my blog by clicking on the below graphic and hitting Like/tweet:


Thanks and hope you have a great weekend! :)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Review: The Secret Proposal by Aniesha Brahma


Publication year: 2012
Publisher: General Press
Links: Goodreads | Flipkart India
Stars: 3/5
Source: Review copy
Eight years ago, she was the teenager he would use to get out of boring parties. But now, he is stunned to see her grown up.

He decides to delay his marriage by getting into a false engagement with her. Then he falls in love with someone else and she forces herself to move on. He comes back to her, but she's determined not to take him back. Will she ever get over her unrequited love for him?

Would a grand gesture from him make her believe otherwise?

And how do you know that your knight in shining armour has been standing right next to you?

Join Tanveer 'Veer' Bhattacharya and Larissa 'Jasmine' Chakroborty as they embark on a journey which questions relationships, friendships and makes one wonder...

how long would it take for love to eventually find a way?

REVIEW

I started reading The Secret Proposal a little before my December break and it felt amazing to sink into this... fluffy, dreamy haven. The Secret Proposal is a story of unrequited love, a fake engagement that gets out of hand and a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows, red, green and mixed signals in between.

If I had to describe the protagonist, Larissa "Jasmine" Chakroborty in one word, I'd go with "likable". She's someone you'd easily be friends with and that made it easier to slip into her predicament and feel a part of this insane chapter of her life. Tanveer "Veer" Bhattacharya is the kind of guy you would fall for and probably idealise a bit too much... so I could see what Jasmine saw in him. And then there's Neeraj, who comes out of nowhere and there's no second guessing his role in the story.

As you may have guessed from the title and the cover, The Secret Proposal feels like something out of a fairy-tale. Sure, there's no prince and princess and magical kingdom but there's Veer who could double for Prince Charming in Jasmine's eyes, even if he gets on her last nerve... and Jasmine herself, who is waiting to be swept off her feet, even if it is through a fake engagement to the boy she's secretly been in love with since forever.

The Secret Proposal is at the same time a bit more grounded than most fairy-tales. For instance, the media threatens to ruin everything. We are given more than a taste of Kolkata: with a full, blown-up picture of the city during Durga Puja; the mouth-watering sweets, colours, diyas and dancing. The Happily Ever After isn't instantaneous. The pangs of misery, loneliness and confusion before the Ever After feel real. More than anything, the Prince Charming here messes up a lot and needs timely help from a good friend to make his Grand Sweeping Gesture that was staring at him in the face all along!

There are times when the ups and downs of Veer and Jasmine's relationship get a little too much and the description of Veer's "chocolate brown eyes" during their every encounter feels like too much of an overkill... but overall, The Secret Proposal is a light and breezy read. It's just the book you'd pick up if you were in the mood for something girly and romantic... if you don't mind a few cliches (and a lot of swooning) here and there. Especially when they are well-written cliches and there's enough banter to keep you entertained!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2013


I must confess, I feel a little underwhelmed this year.

I didn't read as much as I had in 2012. I fell short of my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal by 29 books (71/100 books). My reviews and posts were sporadic and off schedule. I guess real life got in the way.

Nevertheless, just scrolling through the list of books I did read in 2013 brought back a lot of memories: from characters that popped out of the page, the most intense book moments ever to real-life events intimately tied to the book I was reading at that time. I had a really hard time narrowing it down to the top ten best ten books I read in 2013 because there were so many books that impacted me in so many different ways!

THE BEST TEN BOOKS I READ IN 2013



Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [REVIEW]

I cannot believe this book has been around for so long and I almost didn't read it. Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer and you will know this if you read Attachments as it has this amazing setting (the Y2K speculation), characters I could relate to, fun movie references and hilarity in every second page. I read this book twice this year and both times, it bowled me over with its depth and warmth!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I never got around to reviewing Me Before You because by the time I was done with it, there. were. no. words. left.

Me Before You was poignant... so much so that I ditched everything I had going on at that moment to root for these characters... engrossed in their struggles and triumphs. It tackles some difficult issues but above everything, it is a love story; one that is earnest and tearful and one that matters.

Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray [REVIEW]

A game-changing narrative that breaks barriers related to perception of sexual assault and its consequences. This book felt real, raw and eye-opening. I cannot forget the day I read it and how I was left quieter, kind of awestruck... with a lump in my throat.

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend (Confessions, #2) by Louise Rozett [REVIEW]

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is book #2 in the Confessions series that renewed my faith in series set in high school that were defined by... well, ordinary high school stuff. A mix of happy, sad, angry, relevant and interesting is what this book was.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1) by Kasie West

This one was high school with a supernatural an evolutionary (?) twist. Who would've thought one choice, a pivot point, could potentially change everything? I loved how the mind powers in this book weren't as easy or straight-up-cool as most superpowers. The plot was engrossing and threatened to wreck my heart at every turn. .__.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) [MINI-REVIEW]

I might be a little biased since I don't think I would've read this book if it weren't written by Rowling but... it felt so good to have Rowling back! The quirky and well etched-out muggle characters, the well grounded Cormoran Strike, old fashioned detection, passages wrought with charm... I cannot wait for more of this series!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell [REVIEW]

Another Rainbow Rowell novel... and this one is set in college! From fangirling, fanfiction, writing fiction that isn't fanfiction, being a social recluse, making those first friends to charming, polite, smiling Levi, Fangirl will slowly steal your heart and bring back any fandom-related nostalgia!

The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright [REVIEW]

Vivid, thorough and mind-numbingly heartwrenching. While The Angry Woman Suite can get really heavy... definitely not something you can read at any time... it is because of the intricacy of the narratives as a result of which the characters stay with you. A surprise favourite that blew me away!

Finding Cinderella (Hopeless #2.5) by Colleen Hoover

A novella that was... spunky, I guess.
Fresh.
NOT your average love story where the Boy and Girl play way too many mind games and create issues out of nothing.
Has a twist that comes out of nowhere and that will definitely shock you... even more if you've read Hopeless. 
Contains straight-up brazenness... so much of it... that saves so much time and makes the main characters your heroes in every way.

The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri [REVIEW]

A beautifully written love story set during the 2008 recession. More than the love story itself, it's the writing and characterisation that makes this Indian contemporary novel shine.

OTHER STAND-OUTS

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Utterly. Captivating. And dreamy.

2. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

Neat. Well written. Layered. A pretty awesome addition to the Young Adult boarding-school genre with enough suspense, intrigue and drama to keep it engaging.

3. Just One Day (Just One Day, #1) by Gayle Forman

The one fateful encounter and that one magical day that sets this story rolling captured enough of my imagination that the succeeding detatchment and misery felt real... and the changes that followed in the protagonist's character inevitable. I still haven't stopped wondering about the cliffhanger ending.

4. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

Despite the controversy surrounding the author and book, the prose was stunning... haunting, almost.

Happy new year, everybody! :)