Those pesky three star reviews

There are different ways you can classify a review based on the structure and style, but the reviews (movies, books, art, plays) I grew up reading were in newspapers and mainly of two “types” – ones with a rating system (out of five) and ones without.

When I started this blog for book reviews, I didn’t use a rating scale at all. Over time, I became active on Goodreads, started opening up my blog for review requests and came to know about the importance of leaving reviews on Amazon. It was then that I started rating books, because I realized how inbuilt and expected it is in the scheme of online retail, forums and promotions. I also went back to my earlier reviews and rated all of them.

However, there are times I wish there was no concept of a rating system at all. I feel that way every time I am about to give a 3 star (sometimes even a 3.5) review. There are two aspects to this: what I want to communicate through the rating and how the author ends up perceiving it.

When I give a three-star rating, it means that – while I didn’t love the book, I don’t regret spending my time reading it. It was a decent one-time read with some good moments. In addition, if I am giving 3 star rating to the first book in a series, it means that I found some potential of improvement in further installments of the series. I always thought 3 star rating meant something “positive”. Any book or movie that was rated 3 or above was automatically included in my to-read or to-watch list.

But I feel like there has been a huge change in the way 3-star ratings are being received over the past few years. While I understand it is the prerogative of the author/publisher to choose which review or post to use for promotions, I just find it part-bemusing and part-baffling whenever a 3/3.5 star review is barely acknowledged (by author/publisher) with nothing more than a “like” on your tweet/post and sometimes completely ignored. Like seriously, not even a 3.5 is good enough?! How boring and commonplace would it be to have reviews filled with 4 stars or above for every good book out there? Moreover, the 4 or 5 stars would totally lose their significance if the reviewers are expected to give them out like freebies.

To be honest, I look out for the 3-star reviews that are interspersed with the 1s, 2s, 4s and 5s and the 4s which have a li’l note saying “3.5 rounded to 4” (because GR and Amazon don’t like the .5s, if y’all don’t know..:/ ) whenever I want to have a quick and rounded view of both the “good” and “bad” in the book. It is the easiest way to read about both the strengths and weaknesses which, though, subjective to the reviewer, can be used to judge or gauge whether the book is aligned to your likes and preferences.

So, what do you think? Do the 3-star reviews get enough love from the author, blogging and publishing world or are they completely lost amidst the sassy 1s and 2s and the gushy 4s and 5s?

[ARC Review]Sometimes We Tell the Truth – By Kim Zarins

Rating:

Hardcover:  448 pages
Expected publication: September 6th 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Note: I won an ARC of this book via yareads giveaways.
Buy Links:
 Kindle              Hardcover

Synopsis:

In this contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales, a group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, each tell a story—some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous—in pursuit of the ultimate prize: a perfect score.

Jeff boards the bus for the Civics class trip to Washington, DC, with a few things on his mind:
-Six hours trapped with his classmates sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
-He somehow ended up sitting next to his ex-best friend, who he hasn’t spoken to in years.
-He still feels guilty for the major part he played in pranking his teacher, and the trip’s chaperone, Mr. Bailey.
-And his best friend Cannon, never one to be trusted and banned from the trip, has something “big” planned for DC.

But Mr. Bailey has an idea to keep everyone in line: each person on the bus is going to have the chance to tell a story. It can be fact or fiction, realistic or fantastical, dark or funny or sad. It doesn’t matter. Each person gets a story, and whoever tells the best one will get an automatic A in the class.

But in the middle of all the storytelling, with secrets and confessions coming out, Jeff only has one thing on his mind—can he live up to the super successful story published in the school newspaper weeks ago that convinced everyone that he was someone smart, someone special, and someone with something to say.

In her debut novel, Kim Zarins breathes new life into Chaucer’sThe Canterbury Tales in a fresh and contemporary retelling that explores the dark realities of high school, and the subtle moments that bring us all together.

My Review:

This is probably the third retelling I have read this year and for the first time I wished I was more familiar with the original work. As much as I liked the book, I feel like there were some things I would have appreciated more if I knew how to spot the references to the plots from the original tales. Nevertheless, the book stands tall in its own right and is effortless in telling a story about high schoolers on a six hour bus ride.  Effortless because it addresses so many issues, from embracing your sexuality, to adoption, parent struggling with depression, parents’ abandonment, sibling suffering from PTSD, and then dealing with everything else that comes with the territory of being in high school and just counting off the remaining days left to get into the college you have applied for. Yet, it never felt like there was some deliberate attempt to tick off a diversity checkbox.

The book starts off with listing and describing the cast of characters, and this fondly reminded me of some of the books I used to read in middle-school, like the Perry Masons and Poirot stories. Most of the chapters begins with and is named after the tale narrated by one of the teens. Some tales are completely fictional and used by sparring students to settle scores by casting the others as unsavory characters in their tales. Some other stories are heavily inspired by something from their life. Others pitch ideas and beliefs that they feel strongly about. Since there were so many stories, I guess it was bound to be a bit of a hit-and-miss?  I mean, I really liked some of them, and I do understand that the stories were meant to have takeaways that were morally ambiguous to generate discussion amongst the teenagers, but sometimes I wished that they weren’t that vague. Then, there was this whole running theme of one of the girls, Cece, seeing an opportunity to attack anti-feminism everywhere. I wasn’t really sure whether the heavy-handed approach taken to raise this topic was to seriously espouse the cause or criticize those who were giving it a bad name because, for most part, that’s how Cece was coming across; although she did redeem herself slightly with her lovely tale.

Another person who stood out, both due to her personality and her tale was Alison. Actually, she was one of the few who prefixed the tale with a real-life snippet from when she was twelve. Without giving away much, all I will say is that both her real story and made up one was a bit disturbing and as a reader, it did make me sit up and think about her current emotional head-space. Some of my other, (unexpected) favorites by the end of the book were Reeve and Cannon because for most part of the book they come across as a killjoy (Reeve) and a casual opportunist (Cannon). But then you learn a little bit more about them and end up understanding their actions better (if not sympathizing).

Through this motley collection of tales and people, the book’s primary story features the changing dynamics between ex best friends Jeff and Pard. As the book progresses, we are given bits and pieces of details about what transpired between them over the past couple of years. There is also an allusion to an eventful party and a high-school prank gone wrong.  While the party does indeed end up turning significant to the current Jeff and Pard equation, I am not exactly sure what the entire deal about the high-school prank was. There is a lot of noise made about it with accusations and suspicions flying around amongst everyone in the school bus, but I found the entire sub-plot unnecessary. Then, there is another guy called Mace who was friends with Pard once upon a time, but they now avoid each other. I felt like there was a lot more to the history between Pard and Mace which didn’t make it to the book. All that we end up with is Mace’s acne problems.

Jeff and Pard are alike in the sense that both fall in the peripheries of all the established high-school cool cliques. But, that’s probably where the similarity ends. Jeff is passive when it comes to really sticking your neck out and be a friend, and well in his own words, his signature move in tough situations is to – “do nothing”.  Pard, despite all his faults (well, no matter how you spin it, drawing naked images of your friends without permission is creepy), exudes quiet strength and self-assuredness.

By the end of the book, nothing much changes for the group as a whole; they are just back to hanging out with their own coteries; so any illusion that this bus ride made a dent in the inherent high-school social structure is quickly dispelled. Jeff wasn’t magically given a ticket to be accepted into the cool crowds.  But what did happen is this – Jeff found the courage to look in the mirror and accept himself, warts n’ all. Well, as Alison says:

“When people want to love you, let them. When people open a door like that, never close it, not even to hide”

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

  Rating:

Synopsis:

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Review: 

After reading all the reviews, and after all that I came to know about the book, I wasn’t really planning on buying it. But, my husband surprised me by taking me to B&N under the pretext of  “let’s just roam around a bit and spend the evening browsing books”  and buying it for me. I was all “Oh, umm… I heard it isn’t really that good, and well you know.. it isn’t exactly Harry’s story.. for me, the story ended after seven books…. “  and so on.. . Then, I kept staring at the huge stack of the Cursed Child copies… and I said “Oh screw it, let’s buy it!”

Since I never planned on reading it so soon – I had just booked it at my library and would have had to wait for months to read it as there were more than a hundred holds for it – I carelessly browsed through quite a few major spoilers online. I didn’t mind it either because the whole idea of Cursed Child felt weird to me so  I was pretty okay with reading some of the big spoilers. But now that I actually ended up reading it, I am in a bit of a conundrum about how to review it.  As I cannot really exclaim that “I was surprised by this” for some of the things that I knew beforehand.

So you must be wondering whether I even managed to like or enjoy the book?

Well, hell yeaahhh!!!

*Note : This review contains mild spoilers, with me gushing and maybe using the word “nostalgia” and it’s variants a dozen times*

The story pretty much hinges on time-travelling being done by more than one character multiple times. The whole thing was unconvincing and that wasn’t the only one. Time Turners and Polyjuice Potions were spoken about, summoned and used so casually, you would find it hard to believe that there was a time when these two concepts were stressed about, discussed and explained with such detail in past books. So yes, the writers take a lot of “magical liberties” with time, space and appearances. You have Transfiguration being used as a temporary substitute for Polyjuice Potion in one scene, and Time Turners creating alternate realities in so many others (and I know all about that, okay??  Wrote an entire review on it, so don’t tell me – time-travel<>alternate reality, what’s the difference?)

But damn, I wasn’t prepared for all the nostalgia that is going to follow with being re-introduced to so many characters (some dead in real-time) in the other timelines. All that going back and forth time sprung up those lump-in-my-throat moments which probably wasn’t possible by just following the lives of older characters in real time.  And speaking of the older characters, oh geez, it was so weird to see this side of Draco; and weirder to see him and Harry having polite conversations. Well, it was all-round surreal to see everyone older, introspective and making candid admissions like both Ginny and Draco confessing that they were jealous of the Harry-Hermione-Ron friendship at Hogwarts!! To see Ron being this goofy dad and uncle cracking lame jokes. Ron still being the first one to get affected by Draco’s snark, take the bait and get up to punch him. Despite the seriousness of that scene, I had a huge smile on my face and thinking “Some things never change….”

What about the younger ones, you ask? Well, the Cursed Child focuses mostly on Albus and Scorpius as they travel through time more than once. Scorpius was too kind and well, positively angelic right from the first scene, Albus already seemed to be over-burdened with being Harry’s son and named after Dumbledore and Snape. He has a less-than-pleasant time at Hogwarts, but from whatever I gauged, Hogwarts might have made it worse but it felt like he had already made up his mind that school is going to be terrible. And Scorpius seemed to be speaking for us readers, always trying to be positive and making the best of things and chiding Albus for always whining about his life. I guess what I am saying is that, both the characters felt a bit contrived. As if Albus was written to always sulk and Scorpius was written to always be nicer, sensible and pleasing to read about. Then again, just the idea that it is Albus and Scorpius – a Potter and a Malfoy becoming best friends – is what made their scenes interesting to me.

If I really think about it, the shared history is what made everything interesting. I mean, who would have thought that two decades later Harry and Draco will be having a conversation about how they don’t understand their sons? Or that, Ron will exclaim about how similarly geeky Hermione and Draco’s son are? These small moments – and not the big, but frankly; bordering-on-the-ridiculous Time Turner plot – that makes this book worth reading and cherishing – Reading about both Hermione struggling to balance work and home, Harry getting dreams about his childhood with the Dursleys, Ron finally learning how to be expressive about his feelings towards Hermione and Draco struggling with the process of grieving.

I devoured the book in a few hours (well, obviously!) and as the book neared its last few pages with a very familiar scene from the past, I wished it was a few pages longer. A few more scenes with the trio+Ginny+Draco as parents, as colleagues, as friends, as former Hogwarts students…. Sigh, how much I’ve missed reading about these fictional characters😦

[ARC Review] The Infinity of You & Me – By J.Q. Coyle

Rating:

Hardcover:  256 pages
Expected publication: November 8th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Note: I won an ARC of this book via Goodreads giveaways. Would like to thank the publishers!!
Buy Links:

Kindle      Hardcover

Synopsis

What if every life-altering choice you made could split your world into infinite worlds?

Almost fifteen, Alicia is smart and funny with a deep connection to the poet Sylvia Plath, but she’s ultimately failing at life. With a laundry list of diagnoses, she hallucinates different worlds—strange, decaying, otherworldly yet undeniably real worlds that are completely unlike her own with her single mom and one true friend. In one particularly vivid hallucination, Alicia is drawn to a boy her own age named Jax who’s trapped in a dying universe. Days later, her long-lost father shows up at her birthday party, telling her that the hallucinations aren’t hallucinations, but real worlds; she and Jax are bound by a strange past and intertwining present. This leads her on a journey to find out who she is while trying to save the people and worlds she loves. J.Q. Coyle’s The Infinity of You & Me is a wild ride through unruly hearts and vivid worlds guaranteed to captivate.

My thoughts

I think I must be going through a blogger’s block because I am really struggling to come up with complete reviews these days. So I thought I will do something different this time:

multiverse Alicia finds out that the world contains NOT a universe but a multiverse and that all her nightmares are actually real lives and scenarios playing out. It took some time for me to realize a basic fact – what makes her special is not that she has different selves, but that she has the ability to consciously flit between the bodies of all her selves. She has the “awareness” that there are more lives of hers out there. The term for such people is – Spandrel (this is an actual word in English, btw). This was interesting and in some ways reminded me of another genre – time-travel. Now, time-travel is something that I have slowly gotten familiar with, atleast familiar with some “rules” that a lot of authors employ. For example, your past and present selves can’t meet without bad consequences.  But with multiverse being new to me, and with this book being a standalone (?), I felt that there was probably too much of complications packed in. This is not exactly a criticism. Considering it is a standalone, I felt the authors did a really good job staging everything. But there were a few things which could have made better sense if brought up by Alicia. Like for example, why didn’t she ever question anyone what will happen if people’s two selves meet? For most of the book I thought maybe that is not even possible because, from what I had understood this is not like time-travel but alternate realities. So, I thought maybe two selves meeting each other isn’t a possibility. But, something like that actually happens with a character in the end. But Alicia isn’t freaked out or wondering at all. I was surprised she wasn’t curious what would happen in such a case. I felt that is such a big thing to be sprung out at us in the end without any explanation as to how that works. Apart from these issues, I found it quite entertaining and fun to read. And may I say, despite all the problematic logic, I understood this better (whatever was put on paper) than a time-travel fiction I read earlier this year.

diversity.jpgAlicia’s best friend is Hafeez, an American-born of Pakistani descent. I rarely come across best friends of South Asian ethnicity in the books I read. Since the focus isn’t really on Hafeez or his family in this book, we don’t get to know much from his POV. But still, I liked how his family’s background and what he might have gone through all his life was subtly incorporated.

parenting.jpgAlicia has been diagnosed with everything you can think of when one says “mental health” – from ADD and anxiety to hallucinations and paranoia. She struggles to make daily decisions and it is so severe that the thought of choosing from the cafeteria menu can trigger a panic attack. So, I found it ironical that the one decision that Alicia is sure of – accept what she can do and be in a multiverse – is not met with encouragement but resistance by her mother.  However, truth be told, I could see where her mother was coming from. It is a pretty perplexing way to live. Moreover, I could understand why she didn’t want to lose a “single” Alicia to someone with knowledge of her different selves.

eternityIn the book, we see a character that set off a chain of unfortunate events with the intention of doing the right thing. But, I found it interesting that the “selflessness” was borne out of the knowledge that the person can have or branch into many selves and a “sacrifice” in one branch of life is palatable when you can live a “happily-ever-after” version in another branch.  But, the character is never really able to create or live a proper and fulfilling “family life” because the other participant is tired of inhabiting different realities and abandons the idea. So the character creates a partial reality that plays out the desired phase of life. It was honestly kind of sad to read about because the whole scene was set up like a doomed end to an incomplete love story.

final.jpgThis wasn’t perfect and there were couple of other things that I felt could have been dealt with better:

  • Addressing mental health – I would have liked it if a clear distinction was made between the symptoms manifesting as a result of what Alicia was actually suffering from all her “universal” life and the symptoms which were a result of her turning into a spandrel. The way it was explained, it looked like everything was because she was turning into a spandrel and that she never really had any mental health disorders in the first place.
  • Love Interests – There are teens developing crushes and falling in love, but that made no difference or impact on the story whatsoever. Alicia is attracted to the boy – Jax – from her “dream” from the first time she sets her eyes on him and well, it is clear that this is the “REAL” love story (and not Alicia-Hafeez, because, well, of course Hafeez being the best friend will be friend-zoned). But it didn’t make any impression on me whatsoever. I didn’t care whether they would get their happily-ever-after or not.

But.. but… but… despite all crinkles, I really enjoyed the book. It was wildly entertaining and imaginative.  I had so much to think about and say once I finished reading, so I couldn’t wait to start typing and get out of my reviewing block!

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway] – Loreena’s Gift by Colleen M. Story

Rating:

Buy Links:

Amazon –  ( Kindle      Paperback)     ~   Barnes & Noble  ~  Book Depository  ~  Chapters Indigo

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

A BLIND GIRL’S TERRIFYING “GIFT” ALLOWS HER TO REGAIN HER EYESIGHT–BUT ONLY AS SHE FERRIES THE RECENTLY DECEASED INTO THE AFTERLIFE.

Loreena Picket thinks she knows herself. A blind young woman who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small-town church, she’s a dutiful niece and talented pianist for the congregation.

But they’re both hiding a terrible secret. Loreena can kill people with the touch of her hand.

While her uncle sees her as an angel of mercy, helping usher the terminally ill members of his flock into the afterlife, Loreena has her doubts.

Torn between doing her uncle’s bidding and the allure of the fleeting moments when her eyesight returns on the journey to the other side, Loreena cooperates with her uncle until her troubled older brother returns to town. When she reveals her power by saving him from a local drug dealer, she is drawn into a sinister and dangerous world that will test the true nature of her talent and force her to consider how far she is willing to go to survive.

An exciting debut that crosses fantasy and literary fiction,Loreena’s Gift is a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.

My Review:

When we first meet Loreena, she is walking back from the Church to her uncle’s home. The opening scene does establish a lot of things about her. With the best of intentions, her uncle has provided her with quite a sheltered life revolving around playing the piano at the church. We soon learn that this is just partly him being protective about her. Well, maybe he would have been more open about her exploring the world a lot more once she became an adult if not for the fact that along with reaching adulthood,  she also ends up with “poisonous hands”. When she accidentally kills the gardener, her uncle decides that he can take her help to relieve the terminally ill people of his congregation out of their misery. Maybe, this can be Loreena making amends for her sin of killing a perfectly healthy, innocent man.

The author’s idea of the afterlife is pretty interesting. To be honest, I didn’t know that there would be so many references about the Church and the almighty. I don’t read Christian fiction so I was wondering whether the whole book was going to be filled with religious references. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the concepts of heaven and hell are discussed in a way that is probably relatable irrespective of whatever faith you subscribe to. In a weird, morbid way, it was actually kind of fun to see what kind of fate is waiting for the different people Loreena ends up killing.

The story is told in third-person but mostly from Loreena’s POV. So, the author does a really good job of walking us through her shoes by not making us see but “feel” and “hear” what’s happening – there is a lot of description about the footsteps and flooring and weather.

The drive was long, but the air still smelled of rain, and it came in fresh through the front vents.

-Pg. 192

The ground was soft, her flat shoes sinking into the dirt with each step.

-Pg. 194

A series of events leads Loreena right amidst a gang war between two groups trying to wrest control of a small town. She is captured by one group and blackmailed into killing their rivals in exchange for her brother’s safety. It was interesting to see her introspecting after she causes each death and whether the person deserved the scenario of heaven/hell that waited for them.

I just couldn’t get into the whole cloak-and-dagger and crime aspect of this book though. It was way too predictable and none of the deaths surprised me either. I could see what went down in the final few pages even before I finished 1/4th of the book.  As stated by the synopsis, the book is about life, death and what lies beyond; told by metaphorically using the fantasy element of a girl “literally” walking people into their afterlives. I think that was a really cool idea and one of the book’s stronger suits. But the book also has quite a lot of “crime fiction” as the backdrop. I found this aspect of the book a bit half-baked and just very… linear.

I liked the book though. It had a different concept and well, if you want to read the book more for its transcendental ideas, then you would probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

Book Trailer:

About the author: 

Colleen M. Story
Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) a motivational site for writers and other creatives.

Connect with the author:

Website  ~ Twitter

Check out all the tour stops! : 

July 18 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
July 18 – Bound 4 Escape – review
July 19 – Writing Pearls – review
July 19 – Jayne’s Books – review
July 20 – Young In Rome – review
July 20 – And the Buck Starts Here – review
July 21 – Writers and Authors – book spotlight / guest post
July 22 – Corinne Rodrigues – review
July 22 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – review / giveaway
July 25 – A Bookaholic Blog – review
July 25 – Nighttime Reading Center – review / author interview / giveaway
July 26 – JBronder Book Reviews – review / guest post
July 27 – T’s Stuff – review / guest post / giveaway
July 27 – Book reviews nature photos and everything in between – review
July 28 – Sahar’s Blog – review
July 29 – Life as Leels – review
July 29 – The Autistic Gamer – review
Aug 1 –    Bookishly Devoted – review
Aug 1 –    Olio By Marilyn – review / author interview
Aug 2 –    Heidi’s Wanderings – review / giveaway
Aug 2 –    Bookaholic Banter  – review / author interview / giveaway
Aug 3 –    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – review
Aug 4 –    The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review / giveaway
Aug 4 –    bookmyopia – review / giveaway
Aug 5 –    Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
Aug 5 –    Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway

Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of Loreena’s Gift. One winner will also get a $15 Amazon GC (Open int’l). Click on the link below to enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My first year blogiversary – All about my love for blogging!

So, my blogiversary was in July which coincided with a mini-hiatus I had decided to take. So yes, this is a bit of a delayed post. Moreover, I kept delaying it because I wasn’t sure what to post about.. except:

Thank you copy

So far, the blogging fatigue hasn’t set it yet, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t anytime soon.

love_blogging

  • It is a great hobby to just pick up and invest in … and kill boredom!!! You don’t have to spend money to learn it, or travel or go outdoors.
  • It must be the only hobby or passion that is all about “documenting” other hobbies or passions that you have .. be it reading, photography, cooking or anything else.
  • You can find people with opinions about whatever you are interested in.. which is pretty hard to find in real life. Well sure, you can find a couple or a few, but I am talking about an entire community. Well, yes, there are clubs, groups etc. you can organize or take part in but this is like a 24*7 meeting ground.  And, perfect for those who are introverts in real life or who just enjoy the degree of anonymity provided by blogging.
  • When I started the blog, I went in blind. I didn’t check out too many book blogs and I was so out of touch with what’s happening in the world of fiction. Except well, maybe literary fiction, psychological thrillers and the super-hyped books that end up getting made into movies. So, blogging not just got me out of a reading slump specific to certain genres but also helped me discover books that I might have otherwise not have come across.

bookish resolutions

  • Read a few completed fantasy series.
  • Read diverse books – And by diversity I mean not just authors or character ethnicities but also stories set in different countries.
  • Umm… stop entering so many giveaways. Because I either win nothing or half a dozen at a time. Right now, I am trying to play catch up as my TBR mostly comprises of these books.

blogging resolutions

  • Try and come up with more bookish musings/discussion posts. Well, basically more non-review posts.
  • Comment on other blogs. Well, I am lot better at this now than I used to be.
  • NOT review every book that I read. Once again, I am getting much better at this these days.

A lot of it will depend on how much time I will be able to devote to reading this year.  If I can’t, then I would cut down the reviewing so that I can read more and maybe come up with other kind of summary/wrap-up posts.

Thanks y’all so much for sticking by!

(image credit: clipartkid.com)

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Thank you Jill (@rantandraveaboutbooks) for the tag! This was fun! Do check out her blog.. especially the section for bloggers and writers. She has some great tips and experiences to share!

Best Book You’ve Read Yet in 2016

A Monster Calls. I loved it and am eagerly waiting for the movie. Sigh, October seems so far away..

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2016

Well, I don’t remember reading any sequels this year, but I am really looking forward to the sequel of Passenger early next year.

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

This Savage Song. The hype on my twitter feed is insane. Reminds me of the time when Passenger was on tour.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Nothing in particular. I was waiting for Emma Cline’s The Girls which released last month. And now waiting for it to be available at the library. Love this cover!!

Biggest Disappointment

The Selection series. I have finished the first two books and while the second book is slightly better than the first, the series so far has been pretty frustrating..

Another book I was disappointed about is Dodgers. It was one of the first ARCs I received, and I liked synopsis. I hadn’t read much of literary crime fiction in the past so I was looking forward to it. I just felt that the book had so much potential and there were some moments I really liked, but I found it pretty difficult to read through the pages and finish the book.

Biggest Surprise

There are two books –

  • Surviving Valencia – because I went in expecting “typical” women’s fiction + chicklit + light suspense/thriller. But I was so wrong.

Surviving Valencia

  • A Sudden Crush – It was everything I expected, with a lot of familiar tropes. So, I was surprised by how much I liked it. I guess that’s what good storytelling is all about! It was a fun, breezy and an ideal romcom read.

A Sudden Crush

Favourite New Author

Patrick Ness!!! But, if I have to talk about debut authors, then I would pick Jung Yun for Shelter. She does have a gift for writing about families with splintered backgrounds.. and I feel her future works will be even better.

Shelter

 

Newest Fictional Crush

None that I can think of..

Newest Favourite Character

Hmm.. I think I will go with Kate from Vinegar Girl. With all the pressure and expectation to lead “extraordinary” lives, Kate was a different kind of protagonist.

Vinegar Girl

Book That Made You Cry

Well, not literally .. but A Monster Calls did leave a mega-lump in my throat. And another book – Hesitation Wounds. Honestly, the way Amy Koppelman talks and describes about lives changed due to clinical depression is sooo hard-hitting and blunt and .. this is definitely one of the best-written books on depression I have read in terms of prose.

Hesitation Wounds

Book That Made You Happy

Quite a few of them.. but more recently : Plan Bea .

Plan Bea

Favourite Book to Film Adaptation

Don’t remember seeing one this year.

Favourite Post You Have Done This Year

This one, of course – My love for the Harry Potter movies and my journey as a Potterhead!!

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

Most of the hardcovers I have right now are from giveaways and tours. I can’t pick one cover that stands out.

What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year

Sigh .. carried over from my last year’s TBR :

Lady Chatterley's Lover    

and two dozen books from this year’s TBR…

Whheewww… done!! I had so much fun doing this ..

I am tagging:

Victoria (Addlepates and book nerds)

Reg(shelatitude)

Alicia (akernelofnonsense)

Heather(semilegacy)

And anyone else who would like to do the tag!

(Feel free to skip it if you have already done it, are busy or don’t feel like doing it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday #5

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Loreena's Gift by Colleen M. Story

I just starting reading Loreena’s Gift by Colleen M. Story. I will be reviewing the book as a part of iRead Book Tours (Check out this page for more information about the book and tour)

My Teasers:

At times like these, his voice reminded Loreena of the cello, like the smooth, sonorous tone she achieved when she pulled the long bow over the thick strings, the vibration steady between her knees. It was one of the few things they had in common, this ability to produce sounds that soothed the human spirit. (Page 14)

Luna Tree: The Baby Project – By Maya Berger

  Rating:

Buy Links:

                                                                 Paperback             Kindle

Note: I received a digital copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis :

Maya is kicking up her heels, living the fabulous and mostly carefree life of a twenty-something young woman. However, in the back of her mind continuous longing for a good marriage and family lingers. How do you find the right man, the one who sticks through thick and thin? Will he provide you with the things you find essential in a relationship? Maya kissed a few frogs before finding her Prince Charming, but what followed was of higher importance. She started feeling chronic pain in her lower back, the pain that wouldn’t let her neither sit nor stand. Thus Maya began her relentless quest for diagnosis and healing, which she ends after discovering Energy healing. She travels the globe to receive and raise her own stored Energy, the one that changes everything. Her ultimate desires come true.

My Review :

I don’t usually read non-fiction so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I really liked the cover of the book and the synopsis so I wanted to give it a try.

This is an account of Maya’s struggle to live with and overcome the once debilitating chronic back pain – more specifically – Ankylosing Spondylitis. We are taken through all that she faced to get through the uphill task of not just finding a treatment but also a correct diagnosis. Maya’s first language isn’t English, so the writing wasn’t the most effective to convey some aspects of her life, emotions and personality. The attempted humor and witty repartee fell flat in a lot of places and I wonder if it is because the gist and essence of it was lost in English. She also speaks about her strained relationship with her parents and while I connected with whatever she recounted about her childhood, I was a bit confused about how exactly her relationship with them (especially her father) changed over the years. I mean, for a while I got the feeling that she wanted to cut off from her dad (who is mentioned as being a control freak), but later we see that her dad (who is a doctor) does help her by recommending specialists who might be able to help her. This is just one small example, but I guess what I am trying to say is that I found it hard to follow just what exactly she was going through in her personal life – especially her early days with her parents, sister and former boyfriends.

However, the most important person in her life is her husband Luca, and damn, he seems to be a gem of a guy!  He is with her every step of the way, supporting her through all her treatment options and the financial stress. It is a long journey to find a cure (or at least something to let her function normally through her daily routines). From physiotherapists to healers, she is constantly researching and trying. It isn’t easy, and all the hospital appointments and callous attitude of doctors takes a toll on her. One aspect that Maya describes really well is how it is to live with constant pain and how it isn’t just about dealing with the physical discomfort, but also how it takes away your freedom to go through your daily to-do list.  She finally finds a relaxation center that devises and works on techniques entirely derived and based on positive thoughts and energy. It is here that I felt the narration meandered a bit, and at times I felt like I was reading a dry account of week-to-week happenings at the center. There were also a lot of references about gossip and politics at the center. Thought I understood the thought behind incorporating it into the book – to talk about positive/negative thoughts – I found it a bit unnecessary and out-of-place.

I wasn’t exactly convinced or sure about how Energy worked to overcome intense physical pain, but the core principle of positive thoughts having positive effects in all aspects of your life is a pretty relatable. It also helped Maya recognize and deal with her own shortcomings. The book is sprinkled with some nice observations, on not just about self-worth and positivity (which one would expect in a memoir anyways..) but also health care and people’s outlook towards it.

I believe it is very important that we understand that we are not giving birth to “just another living creature” but that we are creating a better version of ourselves as well as our partner

Overall, I did find the book pretty underwhelming. But it is an inspiring journey to read about and ends on a bright note – with Maya’s steely nerve and resolve to give her new-born daughter a better and different tomorrow – different from and a better version of her present.