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! :)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Publication date: September 10th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository | Infibeam (India)
Stars: 4.5/5
Source: Bought
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Eleanor & Park.

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

REVIEW

Okay, so. This book!

I don't even know where to start with it. I don't know whether to gush about it incessantly... that would come naturally because I am definitely containing myself from gushing along various incoherent tangents right now... or I could collect my thoughts and write something that resembles coherence.

But. Really. Fangirl demands squealing. *points to the title* It embodies awesomeness in a way that's inarticulate, gushworthy and epic.

It's about Cather, this girl, who's a devout Harry Po Simon Snow fan. Like in a my-life-depends-on-it-and-it-sucks-that-I-can't-attend-Hogwarts-Watford-School-for-Magicks way. She writes Simon Snow fanfiction... really good slash fan fiction that's read by millions of fans over the world. And yeah, she's going to a college a few hours away with her twin Wren, who does not want to be roommates because they "need to meet other people".

Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.

What follows is a girl-meets-roommate's-"boyfriend", girl-writes-a-story-that's-not-fan-fiction and girl-sorts-out-family-stuff plot in a way that's most layered, complex and non-cliched. It reads like your favourite fantasy novel minus the fantasy with the warmth and once-upon-a-time-storybook-like comfort it brings. It begs you to highlight almost every line and scream "ME TOO!" because if you picked up this book, you are a fangirl in some way, aren't you? Rowell does a brilliant job integrating Simon Snow snippets as well, which makes you truly feel the way you felt when you were hooked on to something... when it began, when it was happening and when it ended and then never truly ended! 

Rowell also gives us a way more holistic picture of college than most books of this genre do. She does not forget the roommate, the initial cluelessness/social awkwardness and the people you leave behind. What more, she gives us LEVI, who shaped up to be perfect... not Gary Sue perfect, but quirky perfect! There were passages about him that made me smile so much and others that had me swoony and teary eyed. He's so good natured and charming, there's this part where Cath describes his face as the "smilingest" and it does not sound wrong at all!

While it's not without occasional lapses in momentum, Fangirl is what Rainbow Rowell's Attachments was to romcom novels and the Y2K era and what Eleanor & Park was to coming-of-age: a pretty darn amazing addition to its genre! It's wholesome in its depiction of college life (whether it's Cath's or Wren's side of the coin) with sensitively etched out characters and if you've ever geeked out about something or read/written fan fiction, pays rightful homage to that phase!


“Happily ever after, or even just together ever after, is not cheesy,” Wren said. “It’s the noblest, like, the most courageous thing two people can shoot for.”

~
 

"Okay." She turned around and unlocked the door. "You can come in. I'm not sure yet about all the other stuff."

"Okay," Levi said. She heard the very beginning of a smile in his voice -a fetal smile- and it very nearly killed her.

-Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Monday, 16 December 2013

Kismet Book Touring & Harlequin TEEN Promo Blitz: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat
by Elizabeth Scott
Release Date: 01/28/14
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

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?
 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png  photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg 

THOUGHTS

I love Elizabeth Scott and the title and cover both make my heart quicken. While the blurb of Heartbeat makes it sound like a more intense read than I'd expect it to be, Scott's characters are usually so well-fleshed out that it's bound to be worth it! :) Can't wait to read this one!

PRAISE FOR HEARTBEAT

“An intense examination of a family coping with grief, this absorbing character study easily keeps pages turning.”

— Kirkus on Heartbeat

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ELIZABETH SCOTT grew up in a town so small it didn’t even have a post office, though it did boast an impressive cattle population. She’s sold hardware and panty hose and had a memorable three-day stint in the dot-com industry, where she learned that she really didn’t want a career burning CDs. She lives just outside Washington, D.C., with her husband, and firmly believes you can never own too many books

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Feature and Follow Friday #14: The One Involving Hardsell

Feature and Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

Bookselling Time: Go to your biggest bookcases. Go to the second shelf from the top and pick out the sixth book from the left. Hardsell that book to us – even if you haven’t read it or if you hated it. (if you don’t have bookcases, don’t have six books on one shelf, etc, pick a book at random)


The sixth book from the second (and bottom) shelf of my bookcase is Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley. CHECK IT OUT ON GOODREADS HERE

For movie buffs, it's Ferris Bueller's Day Off meets quirky cat person with superpowers! 

If you're a cat person, it has the most kickass protagonist ever who can talk to cats! These cats aren't just signposts for the main character to solve the mystery, or whatever. No! They have personality! Some of them are snobby to the point of seeming royal, some cheeky while the others are plain adorable. And at one point, there's a whole army of cats! 

If you love pop culture, you'll like Nat's celeb-obsessed friends and Easton West, a celeb blogger who reminded me a little of Perez Hilton in the beginning!

If you have a soft spot for the underdog, you'll love how Natalie (that's the protagonist) shows the world that it's not just invisibility or lie detection that are the *major* superpowers that count. 

If you feel minority characters aren't given enough importance in books or just exist as token characters, once again... meet Natalie! And her friend Oscar!

If you like a good crazy, how-did-they-get-even-here?!, barely-takes-place-in-a-day, movie-within-a-book story with the best characters and the best cat quotes, Cat Girl's Day Off will feel like it's written for you! :)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Isla and The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases!

This book has probably been over-featured but I feel like I've been waiting for its release since forever:


From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and √Čtienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.


Anna and the French Kiss has spoiled me for life. I guess it was a combination of Etienne St. Clair, Paris and boarding school awesomeness that left me starry eyed and weak-in-the-knees. I didn't even like the second book, Lola, as much. It's so cool that Isla and the Happily Ever After takes place, once again, in Paris and is about Isla and Josh, both of whom I loved in Anna! And that the couples from the previous books make appearances.

The release year was pushed back to 2014 which is finally just.around.the.corner. so I cannot wait!

And um, this may not be a book release but it still has me psyched for 2014 so I could not help myself (again, FINALLY!):

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Review: Imaginable by J. Meyers (Intangible, #2)


Publication date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Self-pub
Links: Goodreads|Amazon|B&N
Stars: 4/5
Source: Review copy
Twins Sera and Luke Raine’s unusual abilities are growing. Sera is healing vampires now, making them human again. And, at times, Luke can actually change the future he Sees.

But Sera’s healing has dangerous consequences, and though Luke is altering the outcome of more visions, he can’t control them yet.

Now Sera is in danger as the dark creatures of the Realm seek to use her. As Luke struggles to master his gift in order to save his sister, he discovers even more about his powers.

And what he learns just may put him in greater danger than Sera has ever been.

REVIEW

Imaginable is the sequel to Intangible, where we first met Luke and Sera: twins with supernatural abilities. In Imaginable, Sera's healing powers make her the target of various dark creatures. Much of the book takes place in the Realm, where Sera is alternatively held captive by vampires and the Shadows, while her friends seek to locate and rescue her. 

Most sophomore efforts tend to be a bit of a muddle... probably because they usually function as bridge books between the first and later parts. In many ways, Imaginable was no exception. While there's a lot of action, even hints of something brewing and you do get into the skin of these characters, you also cannot quite grasp where this is all ultimately headed. Is there a big picture to all of the little plots and developments?

Also, many of the back story details were fuzzy in my head. I couldn't recall what had happened to Luke and Sera's parents because it had been a while since I'd read the first book. But you know what? Most of the time, all of these things didn't matter. Mainly because I love the world and the characters of J.Meyers' Intangible series. The main players are all so colourful and unique, so balanced somehow, that most of them are in no way defined by their Giftedness/origin. They are who they are despite their origins, and that's something I found refreshing.

Luke, Sera, Quinn, Rachel and the lot once again seem a lot younger and innocent, somehow, than the average Young Adult character. Their friendships are genuine -they actually make you feel something- and the romance, subtle but no-less-powerful, takes its time to develop (and when it does, you cannot.stop.squealing.)! The action was solidly described, making the climax extremely engrossing. 

All in all, I enjoyed reexperiencing the richness of the world J. Meyers has crafted and the warm, steady and admirable cast of characters! Not sure what's in store for them in the future parts but I'll definitely be reading them!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Sunday, 10 November 2013

ARC Review: Crash Into You (Pushing the Limits, #3) by Katie McGarry

Publication date: November 26th, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Links: Goodreads|Amazon|The Book Depository
Stars: 4/5
Source: NetGalley
From acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a good girl with a reckless streak, a street-smart guy with nothing to lose, and a romance forged in the fast lane 

The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind.

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look.

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.
REVIEW

After Pushing The Limits (Pushing The Limits #1), in which Echo and Noah's chemistry blew me away, I've always looked forward to more of Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits series. Crash Into You is about Isaiah, a foster kid, who was never my favourite character but not my least favourite either; someone we always caught glimpses of in the previous books and seemed so let down in Dare You To. He's practically Noah's brother, was mooning after Beth and finally, in Crash Into You, we get a close-up of him.

I finally understood him and respected him so much for everything he had made of himself despite the odds that are stacked up against him. 

Despite having the punk-boy-meets-rich-girl-and-there-are-obstacles storyline that has the potential to be so cliched, Crash Into You was funny, sweet and surprising. The credit, I think, goes to the characters who popped out of the page and refused to be pigeonholed into a "type".

Isaiah meets pretty, wide-eyed and car-crazy Rachel Young at a drag race and their story accelerates from there. It's partly told in Rachel's point of view which I really enjoyed as Rachel had this innocence about her that was so refreshing! Seeing Isaiah through Rachel's eyes was incredible- even for Isaiah. She saw the best in him, made him feel worthy and in the process, we get to see how strong and loyal she is, despite the people around her overprotecting her. She's definitely not the textbook-private-school-girl teen reads love to portray. The girly, giddy rush that accompanies first love was written so well that I was grinning like an idiot whenever we got to read about the events from Rachel's perspective!

Isaiah's social worker, Courtney, was pretty awesome too. I loved how while she was still learning the ropes, she cared enough to make sure Isaiah knew she was there for him in the long-term. Abby, Isaiah's friend, came off shady in the beginning but ended up being endearing and yes, a little strange but in a good way. Echo, Noah, Beth and Logan make cameo appearances while we also get acquainted with the Rachel's brothers: Ethan, West and the lot. There is also a "villain", street thug Eric, who is not-so-three-dimensional and a little over-the-top but it kind of went with the adrenaline-junkie-cars-backdrop, so I don't think it made the story flawed in any way.

Isaiah and Rachel make perfect sense in a way that made me cheer for them throughout! I loved how they never for a second doubted their feelings for each other and accepted that Rachel's parents weren't going to greet him with open arms immediately; two things that might've been a source for relationship theatrics in most books. By throwing light on the weight that comes with the prospect of aging out of the foster system and painting the beginnings of a relationship that is joyous, transforming and far from superficial, I enjoyed reading Crash Into You even more than Dare You To. I was reading this on my phone non-stop, through bus rides, in the supermarket, you name it, and it was definitely worth the ride!

Rating: ★★★★

Saturday, 26 October 2013

ARC Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Publication date: December 24th, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Links: Goodreads|Amazon|The Book Depository
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: NetGalley
It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

REVIEW

Roomies is a fun and breezy read that captures the butterflies and exhilaration of the summer between the end of high school and beginning of college, along with the sparks of a summer romance that might just lead to something more. New Jersey-bred Elizabeth and San Franciscan Lauren receive intimations that they have been assigned to be each other's roommates for the coming year. Elizabeth or EB as her friends call her rushes off to email Lauren, while not-so-eager Lauren tries to hide her disappointment on not being assigned a single.

But like it or not, Lauren and Elizabeth soon find it easy to confide in each other about the complications and sensitivities that are starting to take over their lives: from absentee fathers, big chaotic families, new boys in their lives, strained friendships and a goodbye of sorts looming close.

These girls couldn't be more different from each other. There are points where their personalities practically grate against each other but other points when they are surprisingly on the same track. The ice does not break right away: it cracks, submerges a bit before it is on the brink of melting. Whatever their differences, they share the nervous excitement of starting over and their emails to each other shake their ideologies a bit; influencing them for the better. When the prospect of the much awaited start of uni nears, they find unexpected strength in just-barely knowing each other; though conflict isn't far behind.

Roomies is told in Lauren and Elizabeth's alternating points of view, interspersed with their variations of clipped, happy, sad, elaborate and angry emails to each other. It starts off drama-filled but slows down in pace towards the end; when it finally feels less like something that would get a prime time slot on CW and more relatable and down to earth.

Reading Roomies was "easy"; I finished it in less than a day. I found myself smiling at times, nodding along at some of those college-anticipation moments and quite taken in with some of the characters; Lauren's new boyfriend's dad in particular. But beyond that, I wasn't entirely attached. It was a well written "okay" read that was fun to kick back with. It's great if you're looking for something quick and fun, especially if you're a prospective undergrad but not so much if you're looking for something that leaves a lasting impression. Roomies still manages to be wholesome, if not memorable!

Rating: ★★★1/2

Note: Roomies has a preview edition, consisting of the first 58 pages for free on Amazon :)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Mini-reviews: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen and The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because plagiarism is one of those "ism"s that is just not cool. Ever.

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It's the end of the week and I thought I would post mini-reviews of some of the books I read this year but never got to reviewing! One thing these mini-reviews have in common is that they are of books by amazingtastic authors: J.K.Rowling, Sarah Dessen and Donna Tartt!

Publication date: April 30th, 2013
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Stars: 4.5/5
Links: Amazon|Goodreads
Source: Bought
A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide.

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

REVIEW

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (also known as J.K.Rowling) made me feel all warm and happy inside; a feeling I haven't gotten since I finished reading the final Potter book. I must warn you though, that the similarities between The Cuckoo's Calling and Harry Potter end here. JKR couldn't have deviated more from her previous genre of choice. From The Cuckoo's Calling, you cannot expect magic, beasts and other curious creatures or even a "muggle" reference.

What you do get, though, is a solid murder mystery, JKR's inimitable style of writing, well-fleshed out characters, accents and quirks. What makes it a worthy series to invest in is that the main character Cormoran Strike is worth rooting for. He has good sense, is not flashy but still has an interesting past! I'm already waiting for the next Cormoran Strike novel and I'm so glad JKR is not done writing! She does it like no one else!


Publication date: June 4th, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Stars: 3/5
Links: Amazon|Goodreads
Source: Bought
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?

Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

REVIEW

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. It is not a comfort read like Just Listen was, nor does it shine like The Truth About Forever. It didn't provoke me enough like Dreamland. On the other hand, it wasn't that bad either. I found the family dynamics heartbreakingly charming at times, despite the presence of discord. When it comes to the elements of a typical Dessen novel, it has it all: the Dessen Girl, the locale and this time the (not-so) Dessen boy.

However, the formula started to feel a bit worn out. While it is a quick, breezy read, and I'll always love Sarah Dessen and her books, this one didn't work for me.


Publication date: April 13th, 2004
Publisher: Vintage
Stars: 3.5/5
Links: Amazon|Goodreads
Source: Bought
Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning...

REVIEW

The Secret History in five words: sex, money, youth, scandal and the not-so-perfect crime. Once I started reading the book, I could not stop. At times, I could barely breathe for the fear of making the events set in motion in the book even worse. The is a nail-biting at-the-edge-of-your-seat novel about an outsider who befriends these rich, seemingly untouchable Greek students in a private college. There's lust, hate, fear and enough paranoia to go around. If you're a fan of rich-kids-in-prep-school novels, this is one of those; only it's much darker and set in college.

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This post is sponsored by Grammarly. All opinions expressed in the mini-reviews are my own. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Featuring: Jacob Hills by Ismita Tandon Dhankher

Publication month: May 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Links: Facebook|Goodreads|Flipkart|Homeshop18|Amazon.in
An unloved woman is a soft target, anyone can hit her, have her.
It’s just another evening at the Tiller’s Club.

Near the bar, Capt. Rana, the Young Officer undergoing training at the War College stands among his course mates, consciously avoiding his pregnant, Muslim wife, Heena. Rumour has it she had forced him to marry her because of the baby.

Saryu, village belle turned modern babe, drink in hand, chats up a YO. Her husband, Maj. Vikram Singh, shoots angry glances at her. She isn’t bothered; the question is, who will she go home with tonight?

Pam and Gary, the flamboyant Sikh couple, chat merrily with the senior officers, charming as ever. Who’d ever guess that they lead the infamous Key Club, an underground swinger couples’ club?

And in one corner stands the Anglo-Indian wife of Maj. George Chandy, Eva, who finds herself at the heart of a murder mystery when a woman’s bleeding body is discovered at the old church under the black cross. The murdered woman’s body is covered with cigarette burns. A six-year-old girl’s wrist is similarly marked. Another little girl shows signs of severe abuse.

Jacob Hills: an army station that houses the War College where young officers receive training. A world of army officers and genteel conversation, of smart men and graceful women. Set in the 1980s – in an India that was at the cusp of tradition and Westernized modernity – this is the story of the ugliness that lies beneath the garb ofJacob Hills’s beauty and sophistication. An ugliness the Chandys find themselves confronted with. Will they uncover the truth behind the woman’s murder? Will their love survive Jacob Hills?


FROM THE PRESS RELEASE:

The shadow of the erstwhile British army lingered long after they left the country. Their drinking, smoking, womanizing culture was eagerly embraced by the cream of the crop in the organization. Flirtation is a norm of an elitist, high flying society and it was used to further, both personal and professional agenda.

The seventies and eighties was an era of great suppression, men and women were not allowed to mingle freely. All over the world the hippie movement was on a roll since the sixties but premarital sex in India was seen as an aberration.

Under the garb of British legacy, sycophants and lotharios in uniform thrived and carried on the tradition left behind by the Gori Chamdi.

Every organization has its grapevine, Ismita grew up hearing rumors, snatches of conversation, old wives tales. With an active imagination, the blanks were easy to fill and Jacob Hills was born.

Check out the book trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=N1haWkL6Syc

And a review of the book by Janhvi @ The Readdicts' HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ismita Tandon Dhankher is ‘A Lesser Known Poet’. Her poem, ‘The Beasts Run Wild’, is currently up on MSN, as part of an ongoing exclusive feature “Her Courage” in tribute to Indian women. http://news.in.msn.com/her_courage/the-beasts-runs-wild

Ismita’s, 'I am Beautiful’ won prize money of 50,000 on the Yahoo-Dove Indibloggers contest. She’s also the author of the romantic thriller Love on the Rocks, a Penguin imprint released in 2011. Her third mystery novel Love Kills is slated for release by HarperCollins India in December 2013.

Ismita went to Sophia College, Ajmer, where she studied Economics, History and Sociology. After acquiring an MBA and doing a brief stint in the Foreign Exchange Division of Thomas Cook, Mumbai, she took up poetry and prose wholeheartedly.

She just finished her fourth novel Secrets We Hide, and is working on The Song of the Sufi Masroof, a book of photographs and poems. Beyond the Hills(Prequel to Jacob Hills) is in the process of being completed.

Ismita blogs and can be reached at www.lesserknownpoet.com

Monday, 14 October 2013

Review: Beaten by Bhagath! by S.V. Divvaakar

Publication year: 2012
Publisher: Leadstart Corp
Stars: 3.5/5
Source: Review copy
‘I’ m sure you can do a much better job than Bhagath!’

When BB hears these inspiring words from his sexy lady boss, his staid life as a successful analyst in an MNC goes into a tailspin. Bitten by the ego bug and smitten by her, BB sets off on his quest to write a book that’s better than India’s greatest writer Dr.Bhagath’s blockbusters. Nothing unusual about this for BB, who likes a good fight. Except that he and Bhagath had been classmates and friends at college.

What follows is a roller-coaster voyage of the debutant author and his book, with all its twists and cul-de-sacs. Brushes with publishers, celebrities, retailers, book chains, and competition with the alliances among giants, mark the challenger’s journey, upping the stakes at every stage.

Will BB catch up with his famous friend?

What will their encounter be like?

Written from inside the ring, ‘Beaten by Bhagath’ is a gripping tale …the first-ever about the unseen side of the wonderland of Indian fiction.

REVIEW

Beaten by Bhagath! by S.V. Divvaakar is a book that truly took me by surprise! Thank you, Mr. Divvaakar, for putting the whole Chetan Bhagat hoopla (or should I say, “K-10 Bhagath”?) into perspective. And in a truly fair and uncritical manner at that.

Beaten by Bhagath!, as suggested by the tagline, is the tale of two kinds of Indian writers: the commercial ex-corporate bigwig whose characters and plots are a hit with youngsters and the reasonably successful banker or executive or corporate dude who has a way with words; who laughs at the former and thinks, “If he can do it, so can I.”

Which is precisely what happens to BB, the narrator of this satirical take on the contemporary Indian fiction writer world! Beaten..! is partly reminiscent of Five Point Someone or if you’re a movie person, 3 Idiots, and the rest is a surprisingly realistic picture of a wannabe author navigating through a number of ludicrous obstacles to achieve his aim of matching the success of the accessible and relatable garden variety novels churned by his college mate Ketan Bhagath (no prizes for guessing what that’s all about).

In the process, he realizes what it takes to be a success in the market: which has less to do with writing and more to do with the hard sell; with celebrity endorsements, buying Facebook Likes, failing to dodge fraud, running after book chains and learning hard truths of how the retailer and book chain system works. As a result, his relationship with his wife slackens and even his book begins to look less appealing. The whole thing threatens to go up in smoke and he wonders what writing his book should’ve been about in the first place.

In a nutshell, it’s not your average love story. It’s not one of those fast paced thrillers. It’s not even the college story it seems to be about at the beginning. What makes this even better: it’s NOT a spoof of Chetan Bhagat novels. In fact, Bhagat isn’t directly slammed in any way. The author makes an honest effort to understand Bhagat’s audience and hypothesise why his style and approach works for him. It does not, however, work for the trillion other writers who strive to duplicate his fan following.

I’m not exactly a Chetan Bhagat fan but I did enjoy reading Two States, have heard good things about What Young India Wants and don’t dislike him, so I respected that there was no downright slamming involved despite the protagonist’s initial resolve to “beat Bhagath”!

Overall, I found Beaten by Bhagath! to be a well-written, refreshing and at times hilarious book chronicling the misadventures of a debutant author. If you have anything resembling an opinion on Indian fiction or are looking/once wanted to be the next Chetan K-10 bestselling author, take one look at the tongue-in-cheek cover and I’m sure you’ll realize that this book is for you!

Clever, breezy and contemplative in its message, books like this making a buzz in the Indian contemporary lit scene wouldn’t be a bad thing at all!

“So, here I go with my most outlandish observation: there’s not much difference between a fiction novel and underwear, in terms of market price. I’m not talking about selling lingerie… that’s a different arena altogether. Isn’t a fiction book about the same retail price as a pair of briefs or banian? If you don’t believe me, check it out. Beauty fiction novel: Rs. 89; Beauty Banian: Rs. 85. Even the covers could easily substitute for each other. The guy in the shorts could well be an author who has lost his pants!” –p.105, Beaten by Bhagath!, S.V. Divvaakar
Rating: ★★★1/2

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Novel Publicity Blog Tour; Review: The Angry Woman Suite by Lee Fullbright

Publication date: March 10th, 2012
Publisher: Telemachus
Stars: 4/5
Links: Amazon|Goodreads
DISCOVERY AWARD 2012, FICTION

"Secrets and lies suffuse generations of one Pennsylvania family, creating a vicious cycle of cruelty in this historical novel that spans the early 1900s to the 1960s. Raised in a crumbling New England mansion by four women with personalities as split as a cracked mirror, young Francis Grayson has an obsessive need to fix them all. There's his mother, distant and beautiful Magdalene; his disfigured, suffocating Aunt Stella; his odious grandmother; and the bane of his existence, his abusive and delusional Aunt Lothian. For years, Francis plays a tricky game of duck and cover with the women, turning to music to stay sane. He finds a friend and mentor in Aidan Madsen, schoolmaster, local Revolutionary War historian, musician and keeper of the Grayson women's darkest secrets. In a skillful move by Fullbright, those secrets are revealed through the viewpoints of three different people-Aidan, Francis and Francis'stepdaughter, Elyse-adding layers of eloquent complexity to a story as powerful as it is troubling. While Francis realizes his dream of forming his own big band in the 1940s, his success is tempered by the inner monster of his childhood, one that roars to life when he marries Elyse's mother. Elyse becomes her stepfather's favorite target, and her bitterness becomes entwined with a desire to know the real Francis Grayson. For Aidan's part, his involvement with the Grayson family only deepens, and secrets carried for a lifetime begin to coalesce as he seeks to enlighten Francis-and subsequently Elyse-of why the events of so many years ago matter now. The ugliness of deceit. betrayal and resentment permeates the narrative, yet there are shining moments of hope, especially in the relationship between Elyse and her grandfather. Ultimately, as more of the past filters into the present, the question becomes: What is the truth, and whose version of the truth is correct? Fullbright never untangles this conundrum, and it only adds to the richness of this exemplary novel. A superb debut that exposes the consequences of the choices we make and legacy's sometimes excruciating embrace."-Kirkus Reviews

"The Angry Woman Suite is an unsettling and engrossing read, filled with dark twists and heartbreaking moments."-IndieReader

"There is something fascinating in labyrinthine plot twists, which is what we have here, and I must applaud Fullbright for her keen and magical ability to pull it off with such aplomb."- Norm Goldman, Montreal Books Examiner and Bookpleasures.com

"A very human story, 'The Angry Woman Suite' is a fine read focusing on the long lasting dysfunction of family."-Midwest Book Review

5 Stars ***** Reviewed by Joana James for Readers Favorite:
"The Angry Woman Suite is quite a ride . . . very cleverly written . . . an outstanding novel. I recommend it with no reservations."

REVIEW

I'm not going to pretend The Angry Woman Suite did not leave me feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

I dived into it, drinking in the bleakness of an uncontrollable illness, brief splashes of watercolors and jazz, World Wars and aftermaths, abuse and affection running a continuous loop through three generations of a Pennsylvania family. The themes of "resentment and freedom", "fame and intemperance" and "isolation and reparation" which defined the three narrators respectively and fit into their perspectives practically bit into my skin. 

If I had to identify the central point of The Angry Woman Suite, it would be the painting by Matthew Watterson, which was originally a part of his suite of paintings titled The Angry Woman Suite depicting "distant and beautiful" Magdalene Grayson as wondrously ethereal, with the image of a river overhead and a distant boy-man figure in vicinity. The mystery behind the context of this painting, the actions it inspired and the significance of the boy-man figure was something I couldn't stop thinking about till the end of the book. It enraptured me as much as the Mona-Lisa Smile does... and the fate of the painting left me thinking much after I was done reading the book. It has inspired me to have a chunk of my review summarised in portraits though my suite is more Microsoft-Word-inspired than a product of artistic brush strokes:

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE 
© On Books!

And yet, even when the pieces of the puzzle are meticulously laid out in front of you, The Angry Woman Suite manages to leave you feeling like there's still so much the characters have to tell you. Like you've perceived only one aspect of the Gestalt Vase-Face figure and perhaps there's more the narrators hadn't stumbled upon... I mean this in the best possible way. It's this precise quality, the imperviousness of many of the characters that made this a story I couldn't look away from.

Lee Fullbright's writing is definitely what made this story seamless despite the breadth of the misery, damage, history, longing, lust, apathy, "matter-of-fact" twists and downright chills the book is packed with. Even more laudable is the tightly-woven intricacy with which the conflicts of the narrators are handled; leading to a coming of age, the letting go and making peace spanning over all of the three generations! It takes an exemplary writer to be able to incorporate so much, and still leave us wanting more. I would've nearly thought it impossible before I read The Angry Woman Suite, so kudos to the writer for that!

One thing I must mention, though, is that The Angry Woman Suite is definitely not something you read when you're in the mood for something fast or flippant. It's going to demand every bit of your attention, suck you into the darkest corners of the human psyche and entrance you with its realness. It rewards the patient reader with its thoroughness and insights; with its re-readability and incredible writing... which definitely makes me want to recommend you make time for it!

Rating: ★★★★☆
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About the Book - About the Author - Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of The Angry Woman Suite! 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 Angry Woman Suite tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: 

“They need to be exercised, hearts do … to keep them strong.”

Every family has skeletons, but the Grayson family has more than its share of secrets–and of portraits. Mystery portraits that incite and obscure. Portraits to die for. An unsolved celebrity double murder in Pennsylvania. A girl looking for autonomy. A young man in search of an identity. An older man’s quest for justice. A plot that pulls and twists. Get The Angry Woman Suite through Amazon.


About the author: 

Lee Fullbright, a lifelong San Diegan, lives on beautiful Point Loma with her Australian cattle dog, Baby Rae (owner of her heart). Her literary mystery, The Angry Woman Suite, was a Kirkus Critics’ Pick, and won a Discovery Award (for literary fiction), as well as a Royal Dragonfly HM, and the award for “Best Mystery” at the 2013 San Diego Book Awards. Lee Fullbright is also the recipient of the 2013 Geisel Award, for “best of the best” at the SDBA. Connect with Lee on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or GoodReads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Review: Friday Night Alibi by Cassie Mae

Publication date: July 29th, 2013
Publisher: Flirt
Stars: 2.5/5
Source: NetGalley
Rising star Cassie Mae introduces New Adult readers to a practical soon-to-be college freshman who seems to have everything—until a special guy shows her what she’s been missing.

In the wealthy town of Sundale, Kelli Pinkins has hatched the perfect plan to capitalize on her sweet reputation. For a generous fee, she will be every trust-fund baby’s dream: a Friday-night alibi, the “girlfriend” or “BFF” that parents dream about. With college approaching in the fall, Kelli’s services are in demand more than ever, which means that her social life is nonexistent. But Kelli is A-okay with that. She’s raking in cash for school. Besides, relationships are tricky, and sometimes very messy. She’d rather be at home on Xbox LIVE, anyway. Then the unexpected happens: She meets college stud Chase Maroney.

Chase isn’t like the preppy, privileged guys Kelli usually meets in Sundale. For starters, he’s twentysomething, always wears black., and he shoots back one-liners as fast as she can dish them out. But Kelli’s attempts to drive Chase away falter when she realizes that he treats her like he really knows her, like he cares about knowing her. When Kelli finally gives in to the delicious kiss she’s been fighting for so long, she faces a tough decision: make Chase a real-life boyfriend and risk her heart . . . or keep her clients and lose her first true love.


REVIEW


Friday Night Alibi ended up being a standard New Adult affair with the two main characters with lonely and painful pasts respectively, kisses, quarrels and a predictable reconciliation. The protagonist, Kelli Pinkins, uses her squeaky clean rich girl reputation to act as people's Friday Night Alibis -all for good pay, of course- when they are out partying or with a girl their parents don't approve of instead. This is until twentysomething Chase walks into her life with his terrible pick-up lines and threatens to put her job and heart at stake. 

Do you believe in judging a book by its cover?

Do you believe in judging a book by its blurb?

Then, chances are you'll get exactly what you're looking for if you decide to read Friday Night Alibi. Me? I expected a little more Veronica Mars-style snark and a little less fluff, given that the main character has a rather clever side business going on! That, I did not fully get but to be fair, I shouldn't have expected.

Some things I did end up enjoying in spite of the predictable ups and downs of the plot:

  • It's light and funny despite the angstiness that slowly creeps in
  • The main character, Kelli, lends a good deal of sass to the book!
  • Kelli and Chase do not have the worst chemistry
  • It was just the sort of silly but harmless read that was right for the summer
  • While the slang-laden writing felt a bit too much in the beginning, I warmed up to it pretty quickly. Towards the end, I think I enjoyed it

What put me off was that while Friday Night Alibi was a sunny read and impossible not to like... other than Kelli's job as your Friday-night Alibi, this book felt like every other New Adult book. Girl in college or heading to college- check. Tortured boy or seemingly normal boy with a sad past- check. Dependence on each other to work through their problems- check. 

Chase did have his moments, though. Chase and Kelli's first meeting made me laugh out loud! I had to give it to Chase for using the worst pick up line ever and infuriating the poor girl! While the characters were likable, their characterisation did not make up for the plot basically consisting of every love-hate situation you can think of. I also could not buy into Kelli's poor-little-rich-girl troubles.

All in all, I ended up liking Friday Night Alibi in spite of myself. I just wish it had stepped outside what seems to be the tried and tested formula of every New Adult book in the block.


Rating: ★★1/2

Friday, 27 September 2013

On my Reading Nook(s)! (Feature and Follow Friday #13)

Feature and Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read!

Q: Activity: Reading Nook Tour!

My reading spot, I've come to realise, is... EVERYWHERE.

Reading itself puts me into this state of equilibrium amid the madness that is life and reading ANYWHERE instantaneously transports me into another world.


At the dinner table *cue disapproving looks from everybody else*
But what the heck! Must. Finish. Chapter.

In the bus!

Near my desktop, when I'm listening to music and stuff.

When I'm pacing around restlessly... before college or when I'm waiting for a friend.

Reading in bed. Doesn't get more comfy than that ;)

What's your reading nook like? 

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While I'm on GFC, Linky and can be followed by email, I'd prefer it if you could follow me on Facebook (Facebook Page) since my Page is brand new ;) Or you can also:

Follow on Bloglovin