ARC Review : The Binding By Bridget Collins


 Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine y
ou could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Forever.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.


The Binding is the imagining of a world where one’s memories can be erased by binding them to a book. It’s always great to find something original and inventive in the Fantasy genre which has become too formulaic in the recent times. And this book had that in spades!

I went into this book blind. At the beginning, we are thrust into this Victorian era-style world with no introduction or warning. I felt almost as confused as Emmett who is unwillingly sent to be an apprentice to a book binder at the very beginning. I like having an idea about what direction a book is headed to. With this book, there was none of that. I was unsure throughout the first half. But the second act had me immersed in this world. By the third act, I was utterly mesmerized.

I love how the whole plot unfolded. This is a world where people can stoop to any level to forget or make people forget memories they are not proud of. And then there are people who make money out of selling these memories. I admire the author for delving deep into the themes she explores without shying away from the dark side of it all.

The characterization was as brilliant as the world-building. Every character has a part to play in the story.

Above everything, this is Emmett’s story – his struggle, love and guilt. At the center of it all is a forbidden love between Emmett and Lucian Darnay – who narrates the third act of the book – in a world where homosexuality is not only frowned upon but actually illegal much like the Victorian era. The splendid story of these two made me feel things like nothing else.

A shout-out to whoever designed this absolutely marvelous cover! Look at that detailing! Even if I hadn’t liked the book, I would probably still buy it for the cover. But I loved it and feel it in my gut that everyone else will too.

All in all, this was an amazing story with beautiful writing and fresh themes and a heartbreaking plot. I am going to take one star away from it because it took some time for me to be gripped by the storyline. The opening could be better.

This book is set to take 2019 by storm. Take my word for it.


My Rating: ★★★★☆

Publication Date: 23rd November, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Edelweiss)
Links – Amazon | Goodreads |Book Depository |  

Top Ten Tuesday : Platonic Relationships In Books

TTT Time! For all those who don’t know, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by  That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is Platonic relationships (friendships, parent/child, siblings, family, etc.) I’m really excited about this topic! Here are my favorite platonic relationships –


 

Harry & Hermione (Harry Potter) : Undoubtedly my favorite platonic relationship from any book. Best friends from every sense, these two are the best not-sibling siblings ever! I’m not including Ron because it’s all about platonic this week, and I feel like Harry & Hermion’s friendship does not get talked about enough!

Rhys, Cassian & Azriel (A Court of Thorns & Roses) : I love the whole gang including Mor and Amren. But there’s just something about the brotherhood between Rhys, Cassian & Azriel that tugs at my heartstrings! And how cute is this fanart by arz29?

 


Jude & Jessica Day (Jack & Jill Trilogy) : Jude and Jessica are siblings who have to start over as part of something akin to a Witness Protection Program after their parents are murdered. They become Jack and Jill Knight. This series might be dark but these two made me laugh out loud and feel all warm. As Jessica says, Jill is the first love of her life! One of my top favorite siblings in books!


Froi & his parents (Froi of the Exiles) :
I’m not gonna talk about who the parents are because that would be a spoiler. But Melina Marchetta writes the best family dynamics and Froi’s equation with his parents was so real and honest that it’d be unfair not including them in this list.

 


F
lint & Harrison (Look The Part) : This was one of the best contemporary romances I read this year. Flint lost his wife to an accident in a car which he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Now, the only goal of his life is to ensure that his mildly autistic son Harrison grows to have the best life. This father-son relationship was my absolute favorite!


The Baylors (Hidden Legacy Series) :
The Baylors made for an amazingly peculiar family who entertained me to no end. Particularly the relationship between the siblings and the cousins appealed to me like nothing else!

 


Taylor and Co. (Jellicoe Road) : Jellicoe Road occupies an entire part of my heart. The friendship between Taylor, Santangelo, Jonah and Raffy is just so beautiful! I love them and every character of the book to pieces!

 


Diana, Josh & Lou (Wait For It) : Diana’s brother dies and leaves the responsibility of this two sons Josh and Lou to Diana. The way Diana became a mother to Josh and Lou without any ounce of hesitation, and their love for each other makes my heart all warm and gooey!

 


Rose, Daisy & Lily (Callaway Sisters) :
These sisters are as different to each other as Mars and Saturn are to Earth. Yet, their loyalty and support for each other is incomparable. I was confused about choosing between these 3 or the friendship between their counterparts Connor, Ryke and Loren which is remarkable considering them not sharing blood. But I’ve already added too many brotherhoods and bromances here. Gotta share the sister love!

 

Darcy & Bingley (Pride And Prejudice) : Another Bromance that I just had to add!  Bingley is the jelly to Darcy’s Peanut butter. The iconic friendship between these men completely opposite in nature makes my heart swell! And look at how Darcy has his adoring eyes for Bingley!


have a feeling that I’m forgetting some iconic relationships here! I think it’s obvious that I have a thing for bromances, though. Guilty as charged! What are some of your favorite bromances? Or sismances (Is that even a word?) for that matter? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

Book Review : The Kiss Quotient By Helen Hoang

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…


This was such a sweet story! Michael and Stella are the cutest together! If it isn’t obvious from the blurb, The Kiss Quotient is sort of a gender-swapped version of Pretty Woman with an autism twist.

I think the twist worked because the plot started off on a refreshing note for me. Stella’s character and her vulnerabilities appealed to me. I loved how she’s an Econometrician and doesn’t let her Asperger’s syndrome get in the way of pursuing what she wants.

Michael has a mixed Swedish and Vietnamese heritage. My favorite scenes all featured his Vietnamese family. The chaos borne from Stella interacting with his large and loud family were the highlights of the book for me.

Stella and Michael both suffer from insecurities – each letting their respective situations make them feel unworthy of the other. That’s why, it was beautiful to see Michael feeling cherished and valued by Stella, something he was unaccustomed to. But what made my heart swell the most was the way, in the end, Stella deals with what she feels are her shortcomings and comes to terms with them, without the help of Michael.

These little things made this story more than just a sweet romance. Truth be told, I think I made a mistake reading this book now. There were a lot of fluffy romantic parts with graphic details during which I found my interest waning. I should probably have waited for when I was in more of a mood for sweet old formulaic romances to start this book. But that’s on me. The book works perfectly fine as a romance as long as you know what you’re in for.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book Review : The Piper’s Son By Melina Marchetta

The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family’s hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.

Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca—but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget. Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son redefines what it means to go home again.


Melina Marchetta can never disappoint me. I would wax poetry about her writing if I could. If you haven’t read any of her stuff, you’re missing out!

Tom has had a rough year. He lost his uncle, his family got torn apart right in front of him and he has pushed away his friends and the girl he loves. Now, he’s forced to crash at his aunt Georgie’s home.

Georgie also hasn’t had an easy life. She had lost her birth-father to the Vietnam war. Then, a year ago she lost her brother to a bomb-blast. She was left shattered and her ex-boyfriend Sam stepped up to pick up the pieces. Sam broke her heart 7 years ago when she told him to take some time off from their 7-year old relationship and figure out his own life. He took that to mean casually dating (Ross & Rachel, anyone?) and got a woman pregnant. Yiikes. She never forgave him but she didn’t force her friends to pick a side. So, they still ran in the same circles. Now, she’s pregnant at 42. With a guy she still hasn’t forgiven .

Then there’s Dominic. The Pied Piper. Tom’s father and Georgie’s twin brother. The father and son were inseparable. Until Dom’s brother died. And he turned to alcohol to grieve. His wife told him to get his shit back together and moved back to her hometown to protect her younger daughter. Tom couldn’t leave his father but in the end Dom walked out on him after 2 weeks

This might all sound depressing and these relationships might seem dysfunctional but far from it. There’s so much love between these characters. They are all broken and looking to heal.

My favorite part about the book was Georgie and Sam’s relationship. The way she feels so ashamed about letting in the man who broke her heart. She feels guilty about being happy with the pregnancy, because it came at the cost of her brother’s death. Then there’s Sam who spent the last 7 years with the knowledge that he lost the love of his life but he could never wholeheartedly regret because he could never regret his son Callum. FYI, Callum is the cutest kid! I loved him. And I loved seeing the whole equation between him and Georgie.

I loved Dom and Jacinta. I loved how he dropped out of law school when she got pregnant with Tom so that she could finish her own law degree. I loved how she didn’t leave him for good. She called it tough love and told him to fix himself so that she could come back. I love how after he started recovering, they’d send each other love letters.

I loved the cozy little circle Georgie, Sam and Dom had. How, everyone lived near each other and the community was tight-knit. Lucy, Abe, Bernadette, Stani and Jonesy. They were all minor characters but still had their own characteristics and roles in their friends circle. I loved the political discussions these people had and although they disagreed and argued, their friendship did not waver. How real!

I loved Tom and Tara. He blew her off after what she calls a “One and a half night stand” because his uncle died right after. She told her friends who told everyone that he broke her heart .He spends the whole book wooing her back through calls and texts because she’s in Timor now. I loved how he is forced to work with his friends at a hotel and although he is a jerk to them at first, slowly he mends his fences with them.

In fact, this book is all about mending fences and healing. Melina has an amazing way of writing family dynamics and writing it in a real way. The relationships she writes don’t ever feel far-fetched or forced. The way she can insert humor in the regularity  of moments between families and friends? That’s purely brilliant. Her stories are driven by characters and their relationships. The Piper’s Son is no exception.

By the end of the book, I was left with a longing for an entire book about the start of Dom and Jacinda with Sam and Georgie’s story.


This book made me cry and laugh and just feel grateful for my people. I couldn’t recommend this book enough to people who love stories that feel real. Stories about families and friendships.


My Rating: ★★★★★

Book Review : Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


Shoutout to Sara @bibliophagist for recommending this book to me!

First things first, I love pop culture references and this book had plenty of it. The conversations between Sam and Penny were my favorite part. I loved how they talked about anything and everything – from random idiosyncratic to profound matters. The author did a great job building up their connection. It was clear these two were meant to be.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the trajectory of their relationship, though. SPOILER AHEAD – At one point, Sam & Penny don’t communicate for two weeks after Sam has a breakdown all by himself due to a shock. Penny doesn’t know that and thinks that Sam has moved on just because he doesn’t call her after promising to. It’s not until he gets his shit back together and sends her an e-mail with an apology that they get back to normal. I had a hard time reconciling the fact that Penny doesn’t try reaching out to Sam even once in two weeks and just resigns herself to the fact that their friendship is over.

I loved the fact that Penny is of Korean descent and Sam of German-Polish. Can I also say that Sam not having a perfect physique impressed me? But I was kinda hoping to see their cultural roots being explored more à la Lara Jean and was disappointed when that didn’t happen. But that’s fine. What’s fine isn’t how the character Penny is written.

Lord knows how much I love flawed characters. I’ve liked my share of rebellious, anti-social teenage characters. In fact, I look forward to such characters in YA. But Penny? She’s mighty flawed. She’s also equally unlikable. Her double standards pissed me off. She calls people out for being racist towards her but is herself judgemental towards almost everyone. In fact, the only character she was consistently nice towards was Sam. Her irrational disdain towards everyone just got on my nerves.

Penny is a teenager. She’s supposed to find her mom annoying and fight with her. That’s normal. But the way Penny is so judgemental of her mother? That’s not normal. At the beginning, Penny’s disdain made me feel that there might be more to the story here and that the mom might be abusive or negligent. But that wasn’t so.

There’s a part where Penny gets a call about her mom being in the hospital. She hangs up before the person can elaborate and panics the entire way to the hospital about her mom being possibly dead. Just when I thought she couldn’t get any more unreasonable, what she does after arriving in the hospital proved me wrong.

At the end, there is plot twist that is supposed to explain Penny’s attitude. But I think that this plot device could’ve been more effectively executed because I was left underwhelmed by the discovery and my feelings towards Penny remained unchanged.

The only times I liked Penny were in association with Sam and their cute conversations. I’d have loved this book a lot more if there was more of their cuteness together and less of Penny being a whiny brat.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Top Ten Tuesday – Characters I Would Invite For Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m late but I didn’t want to miss a TTT second week in a row! So here, I go. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out her blog for some amazing content!

The topic for this week was Thanksgiving/Thankful freebie. I’m gonna go with characters I want to invite as guests if I ever hosted Thanksgiving!



Rhett Butler (Gone With The Wind)
– He’d make the guests uncomfortable with his socially unacceptable and yet accurate views. And I’d enjoy that so much!

John Thorton (North & South) –  I’d love to witness a conversation between John Thorton and Rhett Butler. It’d be really fascinating!

Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice) – Add another character to the mix of this trio. Man, all the possible ways a conversation between Rhett Butler, John Thorton and Mr. Darcy could go! I’d sit these 3 together, sit by and enjoy whatever comes next.

Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer) – I’d invite Lazlo Strange over for dinner every night if I could. He’s amazing, okay? Also it helps, that if he wants to bring his plus one, I wouldn’t have to cook because she can’t eat!

Lucien (A Court of Wings & Ruin) – I think Lazlo and Lucien would make good friends, for some reason.

Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter) – Who wouldn’t want to listen to her conspiracy theories to feel thankful about the oddities in life?

Hazel Camille Bradford (Josh and Hazel’s Guide To Not Dating) – She’s such a weird and honest person.I’d sit her beside Luna and engineer a friendship between them.

Lucy Hutton (The Hating Game) – Lucy is a character that deserves a lot of friends. The fact that she was so lonely during the book made me so sad! I’d love to be best friends with her and spend thanksgiving together. It’d be doubly amazing if Josh accompanied her.

Catalina Baylor (Hidden Legacy) – I’ve been very taken with Catalina recently. I want her to get our her shell and make more friends outside of her family.

Lara Jean (To All The Boys I’ve Loved) – Lara would bring deliciously home-baked desserts with her! Also, I think she’d get along with Catalina!


Okay, I realize that this is one weird list. It makes no sense. But I guess that makes the possibility even more interesting to me! What about you guys? Who would you invite to your thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comments below!

ARC Review : Close to the Bone (Widow’s Island #1)

FBI Special Agent Cate Wilde is back home on a remote Pacific Northwest island when she gets the call: a teenager’s skeletal remains have been found on a nearby island.

Together with Tessa Black, a childhood friend turned local deputy, Cate confronts dreary weather and bleak leads to make sense of the death. The complications pile up as Cate is distracted by the coroner on the case—and by nagging memories that draw her twenty years into the past. The remains suggest eerie similarities between this victim, and Cate and Tessa’s friend Samantha, who disappeared when she was fourteen.

Cate finds herself up against closemouthed locals, buried town secrets, and even her own heart. As the case unravels, will she be able to cut through the fog and find justice for the missing and the dead.


Close To The Bone is the first novella in a new series by Kendra Elliot and Melinda Leigh. These authors will be alternatively writing books for the Widow’s island series, which are all novella-length. This is their second collaboration after the Rouge River series which I hear had a few characters from this new series. I might check that out.

I am of the opinion that short lengths only do favors to a suspense genre. You get a faster pace and a tighter story-line. So, I had high expectations from this novella. But, in this case the length was the main problem with this book. It could’ve used a little more time for the plot and the mystery to build up and unfold.

To be fair, I think the characters were fleshed out pretty well, even in the short span of time. I liked the focus on the friendship between Cate and Tessa. I am curious about what’s ahead for the gang. Having said that, the potential romance between Cate and Henry failed to engage me. I found there to be a shortage of sparks between the main characters, something that I always eagerly look forward to in a romance.

My favorite part about the book was the setting. I loved the idea of Widow’s island with it’s fascinating history and background. An island where married men have a record of dying young? Color me intrigued! If nothing else, I’ll read the next book just to return to this captivating island.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 23rd November, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
Links – Amazon | Goodreads | Book Depository