Genesis (Project Nemesis #2) by Brendan Reichs

Genesis (Project Nemesis #2)Rating: 

Synopsis2Noah Livingston knows he is destined to survive.

The 64 members of Fire Lake’s sophomore class are trapped in a place where morals have no meaning, and zero rules apply. But Noah’s deaths have trained him–hardened him–to lead the strongest into the future . . . whatever that may be. And at any cost. 

Min Wilder knows that survival alone isn’t enough. 

Trapped in a violent world where brute force passes for leadership, it’s tempting to lay back and let everyone else fight it out. But Min’s instincts rebel against allowing others to decide who lives and who dies. She’s ready to fight for what she believes in. And against whomever might stand in her way.

My review [Contains mild spoilers from Nemesis]

It was kind of hard to gather my thoughts for this review as I kept forgetting where Nemesis ended and Genesis began. I read this immediately after Nemesis, so the lines separating the events in both the books kept blurring in my mind. Moreover, it has been a while since I finished this book.

But, oh my, this was so good! I am happy I managed to get an ARC and didn’t have to wait till March to read this. This was such a fantastic sequel and .. well … an amazing example of how you up the ante on everything, while resolving some unanswered issues too:

  1. Genesis starts off with Min and Noah pondering about everything they do know. And still don’t. I loved that Min kind of spoke for me as a reader. Spoke for all my doubts. Through the characters, the book wastes no time tackling a gaping existential plot hole of the first book – how on earth can you make a book about murders interesting when no one can really… stay dead?
  2. I found the inclusion of so many characters in the first book sort of overwhelming, But this book explains the need for such a large “book population”. New alliances are formed, old ones are broken and some just go underground. Oh, there is a lot of emphasis on strategy, vantage points, “brute force v/s brains” and the clash of personalities. Of people choosing to die instead of “sinning”.
  3. Min’s best friend – Tack avoids coming across as the generic best friend / sidekick stereotype we usually see in fantasies with the “strong female teenager” as the main character. In fact, none of the three – Min, Noah and Tack, ever come across as invincible. It is quite the opposite – All three of them – at some point or the other (or, for most of their lives) – have been shown as people bullied by others, lacking confidence, and shirking the responsibility of leading. It is something they have to learn to “fake” – the poise – in order to survive.
  4. At different points in the story, the three of them get separated from each other and re-group with different characters. I think that was such a great way to not just see them as “individuals” (instead of, as a “pack of three” – like it usually happens in fantasies”), but also let the secondary characters share the spotlight and be integral to the plot.
  5. I loved how, for the most part, Min and Noah were just stumbling around for answers. How they never came across as the Chosen One or “special snowflake” stereotype. In fact, for all the time taken to set them up as lovers/antagonists, it was two other characters who stole the show –  whose actions set up some of the concluding moments in the book.

There were a few things that could have been better. After all the violence in the book, the ending gave a “wrapped in a neat little bow” vibe. And, I feel the inclusion of so many characters diluted the effect of some of the “twists” in the book. It is hard to get “shocked” about a X,Y or Z character betraying one another if I barely remember who they were in the first place.

Overall impressions If you loved Nemesis – If you were spooked by the Guardian, daunted by the Silo and wondering whether there was more to the beta-testing, then you would love Genesis. It is gory, twisted and perfect for readers who love books with people dropping dead every other page. And yaayyy!!!! There is a third book coming!! Can’t wait!

Note: I won an ARC of this book from Amanda MacGregor. Genesis releases on March 6th , 2018

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My Top 7 Favorite Reads in 2017

Well, I am glad I got this post up while it is still 2017…

(Click on the image to open the Goodreads page)

1)  StarfishLoved: Anxiety rep, the art, Kiko & Jaime, and the pretty brutal depiction of emotional abuse.

Read my review here. And check out my favorite quotes from the book here.

 

 

 

2) Nemesis (Project Nemesis, #1) Genesis (Project Nemesis #2)With bodies dropping left, right and center, this series has been great so far.. Makes me wanna pick up Lord of the Flies. (Genesis releases in 2018, but I was lucky to win the book in a giveaway hosted by Amanda. I might post a review sometime next year.)

 

 

3) My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies, #1)So silly and so… effortlessly humorous!!! This was a lot of fun to read! Didn’t realize how quickly the almost-500 pages just flew by! Can’t believe it was co-authored by three people… It really felt like a single “voice” behind the book.. it was that seamless….

 

 

 

4)The Sun Is Also a Star I wasn’t a huge fan of Everything Everything… and I am not too big on the Love-at-first-sight romances (or romances in general) … so I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book. And all the cheesy and dreamy conversations..

 

 

 

 

5) The Storied Life of A.J. FikryA grumpy, widowed bookstore owner in an island whose life changes one day with an unexpected package arriving at his bookstore… It is hard to not love a book with such a premise!

 

 

 

 

6)A Man Called Ove Anndddd…. it is hard not to love a book about grieving curmudgeons who learn to love life again … If you loved A Storied Life of A.J Fikry, I think you will love this one too!

 

 

 

 

7) Sita: Warrior of Mithila (Ram Chandra #2)Liked this a lot more than the first book (Scion of Ikshvaku). This is the first time I am reading a series with a multi-linear narrative, and I definitely enjoyed Sita’s version better (maybe, because, I was less overwhelmed by all the world-building this time.. I could grasp it better as I was already acquainted with it..and it helps that Sita is a lot more proactive and less idealistic than Ram.. I mean, I liked Ram too, but as a reader, it was kind of hard to plough through some of the dormancy in the first book…. ) .. I have actually not read the Shiva trilogy.. so this is my first time reading Tripathi’s books… and I love what he has done with the Ramayana … especially the way he completely flipped the backstories of some characters.. while retaining most of the core ideas… I can’t wait for the next one, I am sure Raavan’s PoV is going to be the best of the lot!!!

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What has been your favorite reads this year? Have you read any of the books in the list? Do let me know in the comments below!

[ARC Review] Shadowsong – Marginally better than Wintersong…

Shadowsong (Wintersong, #2)Rating:

Synopsis2Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. 

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

My review [Contains spoilers from Wintersong]

Shadowsong starts six months after Liesl walks out of the Underground, her marriage with the Goblin King and the title of the Goblin Queen. In doing so, she disturbs the delicate balance that keeps her world secure, safe and immune to the “unholy spirits” of the world below her – As the old Laws of the Underground demands that a sacrifice be made – a sacrifice in the form of a bride for their King  – to ensure that life breathes into the world Liesl lives in. To ensure that Winter gives way to Spring.

This book is all about the slow consequences of Liesl choosing to walk out. And also about what she decides to do with her new-found knowledge of Josef being a changeling – whose life is a consequence of Liesl’s prayers when he had fallen ill as a baby. Liesl’s brother isnt meant for the world above and the only thing keeping him tethered and stopping him from joining the other changelings in the Underground is his sister’s wish and his partner’s – Francois’s – love for him.

I had made it pretty evident in my review of Wintersong about how frustrated I was with the romance. But I really liked the revelation about Josef and also wanted to see how Liesl deals with going back to her life. So I did go into Shadowsong with some expectation and anticipation…

The plotting The world-building continues in this book; the world – in terms of myths and tales – expands – and phenomenon such as “elf-touched” and “elf-struck” are spoken about a lot more than the previous book. But, the issue I had with the book is this – though we got more of the “background” wrt. the origin of the Goblin Kings, the sacrifices required by the queens and so on… I never felt like I understood it any better.. This book introduced two new factions who have connected with the Underworld in the past within some capacity (like Liesl) which felt so unnecessary. I mean, I think atleast one could have been totally done away with… It just felt like the author introduced too many concepts.. but couldnt connect them too well..

The characters Josef is aloof with everyone and angry with Liesl. His sense of betrayal and Liesl’s hurt feelings are well-depicted and probably the best part of the book. I was also glad to see more of Kathe and Francois, and gosh, I will say it again .. Kathe deserves a better story. And Francois deserved atleast one opportunity to vent on-page about how distant Josef was. I mean, Liesl got almost two books to dwell, moan and whine.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed the first half of the book, where it focused on Liesl, Josef, Kathe and Francois. It was only in the second part where Liesl again slipped into pining for the Goblin King and pretty much indulged in constant self-flagellation for her past choices that I was reminded about how much Liesl bored me in Wintersong.

Overall impressions A different concept, with some great ideas. But they just didn’t fit too well. Too many contradictions and vague explanations about how the Laws and sacrifices are supposed to work.

If you enjoyed the first book, then I think you would really like this a lot more than I did. I found it to be a much better book than Wintersong though.

Note: I won an ARC of this book from Amanda MacGregor. Shadowsong releases on Feb 6th , 2018

Wintersong – A semi-spoilery rant.

Wintersong (Wintersong, #1) Rating:

Synopsis2All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

My reviewThis is one of those books which starts out really strong, loses steam mid-way and then splutters into such a mind-numbing conclusion (not! there is a sequel) that .. you are just left to wonder – How can a novel intended to have Music as its backbone leave you feeling so empty?

  • Liesl was annoying, the Goblin King was annoying and well.. their romance was annoying . I couldnt take anything Liesl said or felt seriously because I never got the sense that she even knew what her priorities were or where her loyalties lie… Her “love” for her family members kind of flits around.. Sometimes she has Kathe in her thoughts, sometimes it is her brother.. but most of the time.. none of them seem to matter in comparison to her new-found proximity and place in the Goblin king’s life and the “freedom” she finds Underground.. And, she remembers her parents occasionally as an afterthought…
  • And oh, dont let the synopsis fool you.. Liesl’s strength doesn’t come from the Goblin King – “musically”, “physically”, or “emotionally” – it comes after they have sex – which you might miss if you flip the pages to skim over musical or flowery metaphors. Gosh, there was something so… needy and whiny about the way Liesl craved for physical intimacy – and that too so quickly after she is practically blackmailed into being held captive.. that despite all her affirmations throughout the book that it is “her choice” to be in the relationship – I just couldn’t shrug off feeling so creeped out by their unhealthy and almost Stolkholm-Syndrome-like dynamics..
  • The writing in general is beautiful.. with a great concept.. But I just wished the book didn’t spend such a major chunk of its page time on Liesl grumbling and the Goblin King playing the most boring version of the Brooding YA Hero trope ever written.
  • The world-building is kind of confusing… and gave the impression that the author just put in a lot of pretty dressing and sparkly icing to cover up a wafer-thin setting. What could have been summarized in five sentences is spread thin throughout the book and presented very …. very….. slowly..
  • Oh, how I wish there was more of Kathe , and less of Liesl’s condescension and judgement about her… It was the most blatant .. “My sister is shallow and pretty but I am ordinary and deep and beautiful from inside” trope ever. Except that Kathe is so much more .. – that we are robbed of seeing because of – Liesl.GoblinKing.Epic.Love.Story

But, oh, I am interested in reading the sequel because the twist in the later part of the book is interesting and kind of sets up the sequel to focus on a slightly different plot. And it looks like (fingers crossed) we might get more of another love story too..

Edit: Amidst all the metaphors and flowery prose, the bit that actually had the most impact on me (maybe because I had just watched Coco) was this bit :

Image result for coco movie images This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies had crumbled to dust.

 

 

The Girl who Lived – By Christopher Greyson

The Girl Who LivedRating: 

Synopsis2Ten years ago, four people were brutally murdered. One girl lived. 

No one believes her story. 
The police think she’s crazy. 
Her therapist thinks she’s suicidal. 
Everyone else thinks she’s a dangerous drunk. 
They’re all right—but did she see the killer? 

As the anniversary of the murders approaches, Faith Winters is released from the psychiatric hospital and yanked back to the last spot on earth she wants to be—her hometown where the slayings took place. Wracked by the lingering echoes of survivor’s guilt, Faith spirals into a black hole of alcoholism and wanton self-destruction. Finding no solace at the bottom of a bottle, Faith decides to track down her sister’s killer—and then discovers that she’s the one being hunted. 

How can one woman uncover the truth when everyone’s a suspect—including herself? 

From the mind of Wall Street Journal bestselling author Christopher Greyson comes a story with twists and turns that take the reader on a journey of light and dark, good and evil, to the edge of madness. The Girl Who Lived should come with a warning label: Once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop. Not since Girl on the Train and Gone Girl has a psychological thriller kept readers so addicted—and guessing right until the last page.

My reviewDamn!! This was so entertaining !!!

Some of the reasons I liked the book:

1) Had a huge cast of characters but it never felt… overwhelming??? Thank goodness, the author didn’t go down the multi-POV though… (that was one of the main issues I had with another bestseller whodunit this year).

2) It was pretty well-plotted murder-mystery, with enough smokescreen and red-herrings for you to be invested in… And even if you guess the WHO in the whodunit early on (like I did), the WHY is still enough for you to keep flipping the pages. And it is still a lot of fun, to have those li’l nuggets of “truth” about the characters unraveling slowly.

3) What was probably supposed to be the “quieter” moments – Faith’s support group meetings – actually added to the main plot, instead of being something that you would just like to skip.

What could have been better:

1) The dialogue writing during the big revelation. It was kind of… uh.. stilted? I mean.. it literally felt like I was reading :

Person A – HAHA, Yes I am EVIL and I DID everything.

Person B – Oh yes, why am I not surprised.. of course it was you.

It kind of.. stripped the characters of nuance.

2) Faith’s cycle of believing/disbelieving people of their innocence/guilt through the second half of the book felt so rushed, and hence, unrealistic at times..

3) I would have liked it if the support groups and therapy sessions were shown in better light.. I mean, yes, I get it, we see the story through Faith’s lens.. and the reasons she has to distrust everyone and everything are plenty.. but it is just that… there is way too much sarcasm thrown at support groups, therapy psychiatric counselling that… it just didn’t sit well with me… The author did try to balance it out by having some other characters talk about how it helped them though..

Overall impressions I would definitely recommend the book, if you want to enjoy a good, ol’ murder mystery, that is fast-paced, with creepy stalkers and set in a small town with a large cast of suspects.

 

 

Frame Quotes #6

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is one of my favorite reads this year (read my review here) , with some of my favorite quotes:

starfish copy3

Image sources:  Background: Starfish book cover , texture: freepik

(Frame Quotes is a meme created by me at Bookmyopia. For more details, click here.)

First Crush, Last Love by Elizabeth McKenna

Picture Rating: 

Synopsis2Remember your first crush? How your heart raced and your cheeks flushed whenever you saw him? Jessie Baxter does, and it’s happening again. Ten years ago, despite her best efforts, Lee Archer wanted to be just friends. Now, he wants more, but Jessie’s still recovering from a psycho ex-husband. Can she learn to trust again and make her first crush into her last love?

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel will have you remembering the angst of high school, the grief of a failed relationship, and the happiness of true love.

My reviewTrue to its title (that I wasn’t exactly a fan of the first time I saw it..), this is Jessie’s story of unrequited love slash high school crush which never blossomed into something deeper. Why? Well, because this is also the story of Lee’s unresolved insecurities stemming from his troubled family life.  Cut to a decade later, when Lee finally is in a better place but Jessie, unfortunately, doesn’t have it in her to reciprocate the same trust to start a new relationship.

I am quite picky reader when it comes to romance, but I really liked a lot of aspects about the book. The high school phase is done quite well – especially Jessie mooning over Lee. Sure, I wondered why she was so hung up over someone who already has an on-and-off girlfriend, but hey.. she is a high-school teen.. and well.. this book doesn’t really “justify” that into something “epic” . Both Jessie and Lee have their independent stories, go on to have relationships with others over the brief years after high school. They have their heartbreaks, they grieve, and they grow.

My favorite “heartbreak” quote is actually from one of Jessie’s, though it has nothing specifically to do with her or Lee:

“It’s hard to grow a relationship to the point of love when you run into hatred everyday”

I liked how, despite the bleak nature of her marriage, Jessie still saw some good things that came out of it – like her decent in-laws. I also appreciated that the “violence” in their relationship was shown subtly, and something that, though currently simmering below the surface,, would eventually bubble out into something dangerous if Jessie doesn’t do anything about her situation. It was one of those classic cases of passive-abusive marriages with a spouse/partner not seeing the signs.

I guess what didn’t work for me much is the “Last Love” part of the book. Sure, it was sweet and predictable, but with the only “suspenseful” conflict being the “ex-husband” who doesn’t want to let go, you just kind of want to get done with it.

But , the book , in its entirety did work for me – It was sweet, with a pleasing conclusion.

Buy the Book:
Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble
Createspace

Elizabeth McKenna

Meet the Author:

Elizabeth McKenna works as a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. Though her love of books reaches back to her childhood, she had never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so she combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write Cera’s Place and Venice in the Moonlight. Her short story, The Gypsy Casts a Spell, is available for free on her site http://elizabethmckenna.com/. She hopes you will enjoy her first contemporary romance novel, First Crush Last Love, as much as others have enjoyed her historical romances.

​Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and a sassy Labrador. When she isn’t writing, working, or being a mom, she’s sleeping.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram

Tour Schedule:
Oct 16 – The World As I See It – review / giveaway
Oct 17 – Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
Oct 18 – Books, Dreams, Life – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Oct 20 – Amie’s Book Reviews – review / giveaway
​Oct 21 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
Oct 23 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / giveaway
Oct 24 – Books for Books – review
Oct 25 – My Reading Journeys – review
​Oct 26  – Haddie’s Haven – review / giveaway
Oct 27 – 3 Partners in Shopping – book spotlight / giveaway
Oct 27 – Tragically Dull Adventures of an Almost Librarian – review
Oct 30 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
Oct 30 – Divas With A Purpose – review
Oct 31 – The Autistic Gamer – book spotlight
Oct 31 – Olio by Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 2 – Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 2 – The Pen and Muse – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 3 – A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog – review om giveaway
Nov 3 – bookmyopia – review
Nov 3 – Celticlady’s Reviews – book spotlight
Nov 3 – Kristin’s Novel Café – review / giveaway
TBD    – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review / giveaway
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*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Starfish – By Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman Rating:

Synopsis2Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

My review THIS.BOOK. Where do I even begin.
Though not immediately obvious, and maybe not exactly the “central theme”, Starfish celebrates beauty – of self-acceptance, art and expression. And it does all of this by shredding the notion of “ideal standards” of beauty itself.
This book is about Kiko’s journey of realizing this. Which is kind of hard when she isnt just reminded of her “undesirability” as a high-school girlfriend due to being biracial (“I am not into Asian girls”), but is also subjected to emotional abuse on a daily basis at home – by her mom. Ohhhh, her mom… Gosh … She must be the most repulsive fictional mom I have read in recent times. Like seriously, I don’t think I have ever read a book where the MC faces racism in their home by their mom. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
For Kiko, art represents a chance at another life, a new beginning. At a new, prestigious art school in a city where nobody knows her or cares that she is Asian. Where, she can maybe be more at ease in making conversations with other artists – and where her anxiety doesn’t limit her as much as it does in her current situation.. With her mom serving as a constant trigger.
Now, there isn’t always an “origin” or “trigger” for SAD/GAD, but in this book, her mom does contribute a lot to it. Speaking of the rep, I loved how, FINALLY, a book tackles the very real pitfall of living with anxiety – fighting the feeling that the only “reason” you are with someone (be it a friend or a partner), is because that person is your crutch to get through some very “basic” tasks in your day-to-day living – like – you know – talking to people, or making choices between option A, B, C or D.
There is no miracle love cure for Kiko’s anxiety, but she does take some time off from Jamie – just to be sure that if she is going to be with him, it is because she chooses to, and so does he. And it has nothing to do with co-dependency.
Kiko embracing her Japanese heritage is pretty much what this book is built on. In contrast, we are also shown her relationship (or lack of) with her brothers. The three of them have their own way of dealing with their mom and dealing with being “half-Japanese”. They are pretty much inter-linked, as their mom’s abuse stems from the fact that she resents the way they look – their eyes, hair, skin – everything. As they look nothing like her – a Caucasian.
I loved the little moments where it looked like, maybe, just maybe, they would still keep in touch and make an effort to meet up even after they are busy “adulting”. But, Kiko is resolute about building a future where she would easily belong, much more than the present. And that is why, she is firm about not rooting her future among her dad or brothers – though she does love them.
The review wouldn’t be complete if I don’t mention the wonderful way in which this book showed the impact of good career mentors. Hiroshi Matsumoto, a celebrated Japanese-American artist shows Kiko that it is sometimes okay to get to the same goals with a Plan B. He also helps her re-evaluate her art, and recognize what is her best work, and pushes her to be fearless in infusing her history, culture and “her story” into her work.
When Kiko finally begins to accept her “imperfections”, it isn’t because she ever saw them as “ugly” but because she understands that it is sometimes important to live with them and persevere through them, so that she doesn’t miss out on all the nourishing experiences that make up what we call LIFE.
And that is why I loved this book. Because there is no attempt in making the readers feel that the only lives worth something meaningful is the ones inhabited with eternally happy, cheerful minds and confident selves.
My only issue with the book was probably with the vague insinuation thrown in that Kiko’s mom was trying to push off the reason for her behavior on some MI and well.. that was brushed off as another attempt at seeking attention and her being .. well.. her usual repugnant self. This ticked me off the wrong way, because it kind of just made it feel like she could be suffering from NPD. I mean, it was something just thrown in.. and honestly, I would have just preferred it if it wasn’t, because I was kind of left wondering, what if? Doesn’t somebody suffering from NPD deserve the same kind of empathy? As such, people with NPD get accusations like, “petty”, “attention-seeking”, “pessimistic”, and “killjoy” thrown at their faces all the time. So yes, I admit that, an invalidation of NPD in a book, especially since it tackles another MI so well, feels like a bit of a let-down in the end.
But, I loved the book as a whole. And I fell in love with the title after the beautiful way in which it featured in the book.
Definitely my favorite book this year.

[ARC Review] A Distant Heart – By Sonali Dev

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev Rating: 

Synopsis2 Born to her parents in Mumbai as a result of prayer, pilgrimage, and every fertility treatment known to modern medicine, Kimaya is the first of her mother’s babies to survive after seven miscarriages. Needless to say, her parents treat her like the miracle she is, and short of putting her in a bubble they protect her from anything outside their mansion at the top of Pali Hill in Mumbai overlooking the ocean. But she develops a rare form or aplastic anemia at the age of ten that severely compromises her immune system and requires her to be isolated in a Laminar airflow room.

Trapped in her ivory tower with nothing more than the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company, she befriends the boy who shows up to wash her windows when he makes the math homework that befuddles her magically easy to understand with his brilliant mind.

Rahul Savant was thirteen when his father died in his arms after taking a bullet for Kimi’s politician father. Rahul was left to take care of two younger siblings and his mother. He accepts Kimi’s father’s mentorship on the condition that he works off the charity by being a servant in his home. As he struggles to take care of his family in his poverty-ridden, crime-ridden neighborhood he loses his beloved younger sister to illness and learns that blocking out his emotions is the only way to survive loss. He believes staying detached is staying strong and it’s the only way he can be focused enough to keep his loved ones safe. But his friendship with Kimi is something he can restrict to the few hours he spends with her across the plastic curtain of her isolation room.

As the years go by Rahul and Kimi develop a unique and deep friendship. He becomes her eyes to the outside world and she becomes his refuge in a cruel world. With Kimi’s encouragement, Rahul makes his way into the extremely selective Indian Civil Services Police Cadre. When Kimi is given a new lease on life via a life-saving procedure, she and Rahul must navigate their undeniable attraction, their lost friendship, complicated family dynamics, and a web of lies that cut too close to home to learn the real meaning of courage, loss and love.

My reviewI hate it when books with an Indian backdrop promise an “authentic Indian rep” and it ends up being a bad imitation of cheesy bollywood song-and-dance romance.

But I loved A Distant Heart for being so unabashedly Bollywoodsy in terms of setting up the world of its two main characters.

Rich Girl meets Poor Boy – CHECK
Poor Boy follows his father’s footsteps by joining the city police force – CHECK
Rich Girl’s father is a politician – CHECK
The infamous Mumbai mafia are the menacing villians in the story – CHECK
The Poor Boy is the sole bread-winner of his family who live in the Mumbai chawls – CHECK

and so on.

Yet, what makes this book rise above the cliches and the simple two-line plot are the two main characters. When Rahul stays away from Kimi, you understand. You understand Kimi’s stubbornness. Her sporadic desperation to cling onto Rahul not because she started considering him as her lover, but because he was just about the only friend she could make during her forced exile from the outside world. And if you know something about how the classic Indian stories have characters reacting to and believing in luck and superstition, you sort of get where Rahul is coming from too.

I quite liked some of the secondary characters too, especially Kimi’s parents. If there is a spin-off to this book that is a love story of Kimi’s parents (who are former bollywood stars), I would definitely read it.

The book has some really good quotable passages, my favorite ones being about making peace with circumstances and losing control of circumstances and your body when you have an illness. If there is something that could have been better, it is probably some of the dialogues. It felt clunky at times.. and well.. read too much like.. quotes? I mean, there were times it didn’t feel casual or authentic in a way you would expect people to actually converse. I also would have liked if the author had gone the whole hog with the mystery plot (instead of making it really predictable)

This plot is something that was introduced in the previous book. But, there is enough background information given, so the book worked perfectly fine as a standalone for me (since I havent read the previous book). However, I feel that I would have related to a couple of characters more if I had read the previous book (when they were first introduced)

I would recommend this book for its bittersweet romance lilting in from the mansions and chawls dotting the Mumbai landscape. Do check it out when it hits the stores this December!

(I was lucky to get an ARC of this book from Shenwei@readingasiam/wordpress. Thank you!)

[ARC Review] – I Have Never (First Comes Love #2) – By Camilla Isley

I Have Never (First Comes Love, #2) Rating:

*Note : I received an e-arc of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis2Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.

When Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?

Never Lie
Never Pick a Fight
Never Make a Scene
Never Make the First Move
Never Make Impulse Decisions
Never Mix Business and Pleasure…

With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…

A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane.

My reviewHow would you react after going through the worst day of your life? Well, the most sorted thing to do is probably make a “sensible” To-Do list and re-evaluate. But, for Blair, who has always carried and meticulously lived by an actual list of Do’s and Don’ts on paper, this is an opportunity to put the list through a figurative shredder.

I loved the premise as soon as I read the synopsis because I thought it was a pretty cool idea to use the oft-employed idea of “bucket-list” but with a twist. It works pretty well, each chapter is named after something from the list, so it sets the stage nicely for events to come. It is fun trying to guess how exactly would Blair end up doing(or not!) everything  she never planned on before her life upended.

After getting fired and nursing a broken heart, she lands a job at an online-editorial portal. Here, she makes new friends, gets a chance to build an entire fashion/beauty magazine from scratch and finds it more fulfilling than her previous high-profile job. There is another major factor contributing to her happiness too – her boss whom she has been majorly crushing on right from their first accidental encounter. The boss here is Richard, who featured in the first book of this series. Richard, who got ditched at the altar in the previous book, is understandably commitment-phobic and well , just a bit averse to having any girlfriend lasting more than a month. The book centers largely on Blair figuring out whether Richard is interested in taking their relationship beyond the professional realm and Richard getting over his fears after the incidents in the previous book.

This book can be read as a standalone so, if you are wondering about whether to pick this up before the first one,  I would say that it wouldn’t be a problem. But, I personally enjoyed the references to the previous book. My favorite (and the most direct one) was Blair confiding her feelings for Richard to an airport bartender who featured in the previous book. Most of the other references were lingering ones related to Richard’s ex.  Considering that most chicklits are from the girl’s PoV, I feel that the male MC’s character arc is usually rushed or underdeveloped. But Richard’s was actually done pretty well. I liked how the author showed him being “ready” to take the relationship forward but probably at a different pace than what he thought Blair expected of him. It actually made all the “conflicts” between them at the end of the book feel realistic rather than something that was hurriedly thrust into the last pages just to amp up the drama.

With LA celebrities, snarky interviews at fashion houses, takedowns featuring spaghetti-dunking and fake lawsuits, and an adorable puppy, this was very entertaining and a great addition to the series! And just to add to the list of things I loved – Blair’s love for heels, the whole start-up team working for Richard (and yay, it actually mentions the techies too! No seriously, the techies are never mentioned in any of the “magazine/fashion” business set-ups in books. As if the online portals magically run by themselves….), and the clever way in which Blair ends up negating the “eating meat” caveat of her list (as she is a vegetarian).  Respect!