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.


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.


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.


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...


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|
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?


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:

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


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.

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

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.


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

"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

"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."


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:

© 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: ★★★★☆

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.

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