TOP TEN TUESDAY : FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2019

I was going to do a similar post on my own about this anyway, but since it gels with the weekly TOP TEN TUESDAY, all the better! What better way to wrap up the year? I’ll talk about my favorite releases from 2019 here only.

Doing a TTT after what feels ages. It’s good to be slowing finding my blogging foot back.


The Beantown Girls | Jane Healey

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this gem of a book. Three friends join as volunteers in Red Cross Clubmobile girls during World War II. My favorite thing about this book is probably the female friendships. But it’s also about courage and love.

You can find my review here.

 

Have You Seen Luis Velez? | Catherine Ryan Hyde

Another ARC that I loved. An uplifting and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a black teenager living with his white mother and her family from her second marriage to a white guy. He finally finds a sense of belonging when he meets his ninety-two year old neighbor, and sets out on a mission to help her. It’s wonderfully written and impossible to dislike.

You can find my review here.

 

The Bride Test | Helen Hoang

A beautiful love story between two very different individuals. I liked this one a lot more than its predecessor. It could be because both the main characters are Asian, or that they are equally flawed. Or it could be just because they’re both adorable and fleshed out really well.

You can find my review here.

 

The Place in Dalhousie | Melina Marchetta

This particular story is about Jimmy Haller coming home, Rosie – the mother of his child, and Rosie’s step mother Martha. It’s about how these people figure out their lives and their complicated relationships. And Melina Marchetta can write about dysfunctional families like nobody else.

You can find my review here.

 

Love From A to Z | S. K. Ali

This book explores many themes that I hold close to my heart –  Islam, migrant condition workers in the middle east, feminism, and love. And the author does full justice to it.

You can find my review here.

 

Lovely War | Julie Berry

This book is narrated by Greek Gods and intertwines two love stories set in World War I. Really, what’s not to love?

You can find my review here.

 

Daisy Jones & the Six | Taylor Jenkins Reid

A book narrated in forms of interviews where the characters look back on the rise and fall of an iconic band. This book was too real and raw for my heart. Taylor Jenkins Reid sure knows how to write strong women.

You can find my review here.

 

The First Girl Child | Amy Harmon

 A book about Nordic kings, runes, curses and magic. It’s a masterpiece, is what it is. If you haven’t read Amy Harmon, you’ve made a mistake. Easily my top 3 of the year.

You can find my review here.

 

Ninth House | Leigh Bardugo

The best writing of the year for me. There are a lot of polarizing reviews on this. Yes, the beginning does not make it easy, nor do the triggers. But the story only gets better from there.  I absolutely loved the writing, the plot and the characters in this world about ghosts, magic, portals and whatnot.

You can find my review here.

 

Bringing Down the Duke | Evie Dunmore

Hands down my most favorite romance of the year. This book almost reads like a modern romance, with its incorporation of the suffrage movement. What’s not to like about this book? Sizzling chemistry. Just the perfect amount of angst. Women fighting for their rights. A progressive hero. Relatable heroine. Compelling backdrops.

You can find my review here.


So, these are my favorites of 2019. I can’t wait to read the lists of everyone else and see if there are any matches!

YEAR WRAP-UP : PICKS OF 2019

Hello, all! We only have two days till 2019 ends. Time to look back at the year. I definitely had a lovely first half in terms of my reads. The second half of 2019 was disappointing as hell. Here are my picks of the year!


debut.png

I haven’t read as many debut authors as I’d have liked. But these three stood up to me.

My reviews –

Miracle Creek | Bringing Down the Duke | Where the Forest Meets the Stars

debut

This year, I discovered some really great authors that have been there for some time now. I particularly fell for Mhairi McFarlane and Ellen O’Connell, both of whom have been writing for a long time.

My reviews –

Don’t You Forget About Me | Starfish | A Curious Beginning | Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold | Dancing  On Coals

debut

It was hard to narrow down my favorites of the year to five. But I went with my guts. I’m going to do a more comprehensive list tomorrow.

My reviews –

Ninth House | Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold | Bringing Down the Duke | The Beantown Girls | The First Girl Child

 

QOTW – QUOTE(S) OF THE WEEK : MURDERER WORK ETHICS, SURVIVOR PRIORITY & DEVIL IN WAITING

Hello all! So this is a segment I did for a while and then just paused for no real reason. Well, no more of that crap. I’m back and I’ll try to make this a regular thing again.

I won’t deny that a certain book has played a huge part in me wanting to restart this weekly segment. It’s Ninth House. This is a really well written book with some really witty one liners and deep dialogue. I’ve seen a lot of people dismiss the book as slow; but for me, I looked forward to every line because I anticipated a gem in all of them. I wasn’t disappointed in many cases. Here’s some of them.


 “It was one thing to
be a murderer, quite another to work for
one”

“I let you die. To save myself, I let you die.
That is the danger in keeping company with survivors.”

“Do you know what my mother said?” Turner asked. “She told me there’s no doorway the devil doesn’t know. He’s always waiting to stick his foot in. I never really believed her until tonight”

 

 


 

I chose the first quote because it made me laugh. It so perfectly encapsulates in it the essence of the character that Alex Stern is.

I chose the second quote for similar reasons. Alex is a survivor and it’s been ingrained in her that survival comes foremost. And when you’re here to survive, everything and everyone else comes second.

The third quote is something that I’ve heard all my life from my family and community, although not along those exact lines. And I believe it when people say that it only takes one bad action, one misstep for your life to crumble down completely. Yeah. Very cheery, I know.

There were a lot of other lines that hit me hard too. I’ll maybe quote them some other time. Heh.


 

BOOK REVIEW : LOVE ON LEXINGTON AVENUE

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor.

There are no good men left in New York City. At least that’s Claire Hayes’s conviction after finding out her late husband was not the man she thought he was. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her cheating husband, Claire sets out to redesign her boring, beige Upper East Side brownstone and make it something all her own. But what starts out as a simple renovation becomes a lot more complicated when she meets her bad-tempered contractor Scott Turner.

Scott bluntly makes it known to Claire that he only took on her house for a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and he doesn’t hesitate to add that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess with a penchant for pink. But when long workdays turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…


review

I did not have high expectations from this one, having disliked the first installment of the series. But sometimes having lower expectations helps. I went in for a typical romance, and I came out quite happy with the book.

Although I’m still not on board with the whole premise of the friendship between the girls, it was easier to suspend my initial disbelief. In case you didn’t know, each of the three books in this series feature three women who met and became friends on the day of the funeral of the man who had cheated on all of them. In this book I could pretend that these three women became friends under believable circumstances.

Claire had it the worst out of the three women. She was married to the cheater. Her husband had gone around saying that they were separated and getting a divorce. This book is about her trying to move on. And she intends to do that by redoing her house. And she enlists the help of Scott for that. He’s totally not her kind of guy. He’s all gruff and unpolished. But they have more in common than they imagined. He was also betrayed by his fiance. And while Claire no longer wants a man in her life, Scott only believes in one-night stands and flings. It was interesting to see their dynamic evolve throughout the book.

There were certain parts in the second half that felt predictable. And that ending was a little too cheesy for me. But I enjoyed the overall story. And in this one, I could actually enjoy the friendship between Claire, Audrey and Naomi. I liked the contrast between the three friends and how Claire could count on the other two in two different types of scenarios. But what this book did the most was make me anticipate the next book about Naomi and her best friend Oliver even more; I’d already been looking forward to it when I read the first book.

But a part of me is wary about my higher expectations for the third installment. Because it’s always better to go blind into a book and enjoy the ride it takes you in, like Love on Lexington Avenue did.


ratings

★★★☆☆

BOOK REVIEW : NINTH HOUSE (ALEX STERN #1)

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.


review

So, 5 days before the year ends is when I read my best book of 2019. In a day. A part of me wishes that this was a standalone because I’m almost afraid of my own expectations from the sequel. They are just too damn high!

The story is centered around Alex Stern. She can see ghosts, except they’re referred to as greys here. She has had a tough life because of this superpower until she gets a free scholarship to Yale whose secret societies need power like hers.

The writing was marvelous and the plot incredible. No sentence was wasted. Every other line seemed to hold some important detail. The dialogue was witty and sharp. Even details that felt minor at first proved to be consequential. You just don’t know when the next line will strike you like a thunder. I’ll be honest, the first 40 or so pages were not easy for me to ingest because we are thrown right smack at the middle of this unusual universe. But once I was past that, there was no going back for me. There were more than a few scenes that gave me literal goosebumps. Two scenes in particular – both flashbacks – made me choke up in emotions. It says a lot about the book that the visuals are still haunting me.

And the characters? What can I say about them? Leigh deserves an award for the character of Alex. There just aren’t words for how much I have come to love her. When she says she’s been through hell, she means it. Darlington was the perfect contrast to Alex’s character. He’s all about morals and ethics. I wanted to see more of him, though. A lot more of him. I loved his equation with Alex. In fact, I loved Alex’s equation with all the characters. But special mention to the shy Dawles and Alex’s roommates Lauren and Mercy who I thought would be insignificant, but weren’t. These are all strong female characters even in their vulnerabilities.

While a part of me can’t believe I waited this long to read the book, another part of me wishes I’d read it a lot later. Because June 2020 couldn’t come any faster!

P.s. Fair warning. Triggers include – Sexual assault, drug abuse, addiction, gore, drowning, PTSD, overdose, self-harm, forced consumption of human waste.


ratings

★★★★★

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE QUEEN OF NOTHING (THE FOLK OF THE AIR #3)

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…


reviewI read this one a while ago. And even though I loved it, I wasn’t content after it ended, not knowing why I wasn’t content. I think I have a clearer idea now.

I will not go into the plot details. Because there were more surprises than I can count. The trilogy didn’t lose its unpredictability even in its final installment. So, I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as I can. When we start the story, Jude is still not over the betrayal of Cardan, the man who she helped make faerie prince, and she still has weakness over. The story takes off when Jude’s twin sister Tarryn comes to her for help. And begins the roller-coaster of twists and turns.

Let’s talk about the positives first. I liked the pacing on this one. It was a lot more evenly paced than the previous two in the trilogy. So many things happen in a matter of a few pages. It was a whirlwind! I liked how we start with a flashback to Cardan’s childhood. He’s been the most fascinating character for me in the whole series. And I liked Jude’s evolution. She’s much more smarter and less impulsive. It was her character that I felt for the most in this book.

Now, what did dislike about the book? The fast pacing can have its negatives too. See, there’s fast pacing and then there’s FAST pacing. A lot of character progression was rushed through. For example, as much as I loved the direction the author took with Cardan and Jude, it was done hurriedly. I wanted more scenes of them. I wanted to see a more organic evolution of their relationship. There was so much potential there! These are two characters whose conversations I’d never tire of. But the characters in general here do not seem to converse more than what is necessary to take the plot ahead. And that’s a big problem with me.

And I wanted even more glimpses into Cardan’s history and his psyche. I also wouldn’t mind a better insight into his relationship with his mother. I found the conclusion for many of the minor characters to be unsatisfactory too. One certain character, for example, that I hated got an anticlimactic ending. A lot of the smaller plot points felt unexplored too. It’s almost like the the conviction in the storytelling was compromised for making it a thrilling read.

I have no complaints about the story. It’s the storytelling that I believe could’ve been better. This trilogy could’ve easily made it into the list of my all time favorites, with a little more adept storytelling. But the author could have also easily botched up the whole plot and the ending. So I can’t say that I’m not happy with how the story panned. This was merely a case of much higher expectations. That’s why I’m going with 4 stars.


ratings

★★★★☆

BOOK REVIEW : HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

I’ve spent eight years wishing I’d fall out of love with Derek Knightley. Blowing out birthday candles, chasing after shooting stars, making it rain spare change into mall fountains—every time it’s the same wish: forget about Derek.

But the day he walks back into my life, I realize there are two things time has yet to soften: my feelings for him and his chiseled jawline.

It’s infuriating that my heart still races when he walks into a room. I refuse to fall prey to old unrequited love, so I decide the less I’m around him, the better. Avoidance is key.

Unfortunately, Derek isn’t going to make it easy. As a teenager, I would have crawled on my hands and knees to attract his attention. Now I can’t seem to escape it.

I’m not sure why he’s bothering. He’s not just out of my league—he’s out of my tax bracket. As the sole heir to the Knightley Company, he’s as close to American royalty as you can get. As for me, I’m just a part-time princess at Knightley’s flagship magical theme park.

I spend my days playing make-believe, but Derek has no use for fairytales. His unwavering confidence makes it clear he thinks I’ll surrender in the end.

He’s just biding his time.
Making me sweat.

His Royal Highness always gets what he wants.
And he wants me.


review

Nope. I just couldn’t get on board with this one. And it’s extra sad because I actually like the author!

Look, if I ever had a crush on a guy ten years older than me when I was just out of high school – which I’m sure I had – I would be super creeped out if that guy actually showed an interest in me.

But the heroine here is still holding out on her crush from 8 years ago. On a guy who was 10 years older than her and happened to be her mentor in a professional mentoring program. In the blurb, this crush is referred  to as love. It gave me the mistaken impression that these two must have had a strong connection. But no. They had only a few coffee meetings, and one long meeting where she unloaded her problems on him. And then she decided to e-mail her 28-year old mentor when she was merely 18, that they should get to know each other.

And guess what he did? He didn’t reply. The gall!

So she not only blames him for not returning her affections 8 years later, she also blames him for not having replied to her mail. The ridiculousness of it all! If I were in her place, I’d be gladder than ever that nobody replied to my mail, because I’d send such a dumb email only when I was drunk or high.

And that’s not even it. The heroine actually tells him all this when they meet in the present time and holds him responsible for breaking her heart a lifetime ago. First of all, who does that?! Second of all, who does that?! Her entitled behavior is not only immature but also delusional. This is just not normal. And I hate that the author normalized it. I even found the hero annoying for letting her get away with it.

As if this absolutely immature and ridiculously entitled behavior wasn’t enough, the heroine is also happy playing a fake princess in a theme park. The owner, who happens to be the grandfather of the hero – repeatedly offers her a better position. But she keeps refusing. Again, who does that?!

The whole theme park setting was another thing that just left me baffled. Maybe it’s because I have very little knowledge about how things work in these places, that I found it all very ridiculous how playing a prince and princess was given so much importance. I’d also expected the title of the book ‘His Royal Highness’ to be a little more literal. If not a real royal prince, then maybe a figurative royal figure of a city? I don’t know. I’d expected anything except what the story offered. And I’d probably have found the intentional misleading title cuter, if the story had meat in it.


 

ratings

★☆☆☆☆

How to Deal with a Reader’s Block

Hellooooo. So, I promised myself more than a month ago that I’d resume my blogging right away after a month of sickness and traveling. But ‘lo and behold, I couldn’t keep my promise. Why, you ask? A case of serious reader’s block! I can’t remember the last time I had such it this bad.

Thankfully, I’m beginning to get over the block slowly. So, I thought of doing a post on reader’s block. I’ll speak from my own experience of what I feel might be the reasons for a reader’s block and in what ways we can get out of it.


why

  • A string of DNFs: It’s difficult to pick up a new book when you’ve gone through a number of crappy books at a stretch. That happened to me too. I unfortunately made a series of bad decisions on my ARC requests on Netgalley. I DNF’ed quite a few of them.
  • Addiction to TV shows: So I picked up this addiction for Turkish TV shows – of all things – out of the blue. Right when I was going through a bout of crappy books. Whatta convenient timing. And then to top it off, I found myself rewatching some of my favorite Korean shows. Basically what I did for half of the November month.
  • Addiction to gaming: So, one lazy day, I discovered that my brother hadn’t uninstalled Far Cry 4 from the desktop at our house. And voila! I started playing the game 24/7. I spent nearly 2 weeks on finishing the game!
  • A rough patch: When you’re having a rough patch in life and there are too many things to stress about, it’s certainly not easy to pick up a book let along get engrossed in it. Thankfully, the reader’s block this time wasn’t due to a rough patch.

I should mention that the first 3 things happened to me chronologically to me this time. And that’s why the reader’s block was so serious! I have a one-track mind. Once I get obsessed about something, it’s quite difficult to get me off that. Meh.


cure

  • Rereading favorites: Rereading your favorite books is always a good trick to rediscover your love for reading. Especially when you have read only crappy books in the recent past, it always helps to reread a book that you loved. And although at the beginning of this reader’s block, it was a struggle even getting myself to pick up an old favorite, I made a conscious effort to try reading even a few pages from my favorites when I could. And that’s really helped me regain my enthusiasm!
  • Audiobooks: Audiobooks are also an effective way of countering a reader’s block. You could listen to an audiobook while commuting or doing your chores. It’s helped me in the past to feel keen enough to pick up the book and read it. But this time I couldn’t even muster the time and effort to do that.
  • Watching screen adaptations: Whenever I watch a screen adaptation of a book and find myself enjoying it, I get a strong urge to read the book. Even if I’ve read the book before, I’ll feel nostalgic to revisit the book!
  • Being selective with ARC requests: This last one is more of a preventive measure rather than a cure. I’ve consciously decided to request fewer ARCs from now on.

I recently realized that having such a huge backlist of ARCs made reading feel like a chore over the past few months. And that’s the last thing I wanted when I had decided to start blogging. So I might read fewer books now and post fewer reviews, but at least I won’t be treating this as a chore.

I’ll be honest. This post didn’t come to me easy.  My writing feels a little rusty now and it took some effort to churn this out. But I can’t explain how refreshing it feels now to have written this post!

But I’d love to know how you deal with reader’s block. This whole slump has left me even more appreciative of  book bloggers out there who’ve been churning out book reviews for years now! So please leave comments and let me know about your experiences of a reader’s block.

Happy Reading!