BOOK REVIEW : The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 10th 2009.


synopsis

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.


review

I was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver the other day. It was on the subject of climbing Mount Everest. A major point of the discussion was how without the Sherpa – who have little choice but to risk their lives to earn their livelihood – it would be impossible for any climber to achieve this feat.

There was a clip included of a TV presenter who asks a Sherpa whether he thinks it’s wrong what they have to go through for the sake of the climbers. After a moment’s pause, the Sherpa humbly begins to say that they consider the climbers their family during expeditions. Before he can end his answer though, the presenter hugs him as if he got the answer he wanted.

So when at the beginning of The Help, Aibileen is asked by Miss Skeeter, her employer’s friend, whether she wishes things or rather the status quo could change, that clip of the Sherpa and the presenter came to my mind. Skeeter’s intentions are good when asking the question, as probably were that of the presenter’s. But the question sounds so laughably ignorant and naive when seen from the other’s point of view, you can’t help but shake your head.

The Other. Us and them. I learned about these terms and conditioned mentality while studying anthropology in college. We all have this sense of ethnocentrism – how we feel we are the better ones. What I loved most about The Help is how this conditioning is clearly present in both the parties. Even the black characters have a sense of moral superiority over their white employers. For the women working as the help, their white employers are the other. For the white community, the former are the other.

Another admirable aspect of the writing was that not for one moment you feel there is a white savior component, even though it is about a white woman interviewing and writing about the black women working as help. But it’s not the former doing the saving. No, it is about the black women doing their own saving. It is about all these people uniting to serve their own purposes.

There is no glorification here. It does not glorify the black women serving as the help. They are humans just like us. They make mistakes and bad choices too. The employers are not vilified either. They are humans too. And that is what makes this story stand out.

Going into this book, I was afraid of it being too preachy or perhaps boring. But instead, it was engaging to the point that I was glued to the pages and completed it without taking a break. The story and the main characters spoke to me and made me root for them.

I am sure I have not said anything that has not already been said about the book. I’ll just end it by saying that books like this are makes reading worth it at the end of the day.


ratings

★★★★

ARC REVIEW : THE KISSING GAME

Author: Marie Harte
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: February 4th 2020.


synopsis


“I bet you a kiss you can’t resist me.”

Game on.

Rena Jackson is ready. She’s worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she’s almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena’s also a diehard romantic, and she’s had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He’s got that tall-dark-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he’s got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rena’s about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He’s been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he’s way out of his depth and she’s slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play…


review

If there is anything I hate in a book, it’s when the author tells us what the characters are feeling, instead of showing. And The Kissing Game had that in spades.

This book got negative points right at the beginning, when in the very first page, we find out the the hero has still not recovered from the fresh wound of his mother’s death from six months. Then we go on to find out about his feelings about the heroine through his stream of consciousness, and get introduced to more characters than I care about.

Things only continue to go downhill from there. There is no real connection between the hero and the heroine. Unless you count them thinking to themselves or talking to other characters about what they find in attractive in each other. I do not simply know who was more annoying – the hero or heroine. The hero grated on my nerves right off the bat with his arrogant attitude. The heroine was flimsy with her mind changing every minute. One moment she is dazzled by him, and in the next she wants kids and decides he’s not for her.

One main reason I requested the ARC was because of the diversity and POC element. But I felt that this element was introduced to just tick a box, nothing more. Except her skin color, I did not find a single thing about her life that could throw relevance to her heritage. The hero is German, and the author makes him use German words randomly to show for it. Also, the synopsis calls him ‘tall, DARK and handsome’. But he is in actuality a pale blonde guy. Look at the cover? Yeah.

There were too many characters in the book. The main couple talk to them more than with each other. I found out later that on that this is a companion novel of sorts to the author’s books. Maybe if I had not read this as a standalone, I would have disliked it less… On second thought, maybe not.

I had expected to dislike this book and hoped for it to surprise me. It did not. I hate it when that happens!


ratings

☆☆☆☆

ARC REVIEW: HOUSE RULES

Author: Ruby Lang
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: February 10th 2020.


synopsis

Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband’s path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well…it’s not the worst idea he’s ever heard.

A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he’s currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana’s a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.

Three months. With strict boundaries.

Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple’s lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window.

Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon’s career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they’ll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.


review

House Rules caught me by surprise. It was a pleasant read, which I honestly had not expected it to be.

I had definitely not expected to like the set-up of how the exes would come to live together. Because, a premise like that is hard to sell. But the author does a stellar job of making the set-up convincing. And she does that in a very effective way of the characters voicing the doubts that the readers might have with the whole arrangement. Of course, the state of the New York real estate helped make it more convincing too.

I had not expected the story to play out the way it did. There were no awkward encounters. That is to say, there was plenty of awkwardness in their interactions, but no silly or used tropes that we usually find in cohabiting romances. I also enjoyed the refreshing absence of any plot-device like jealousy or a third person’s involvement.

The lack of denial was also unexpected. Both Lana and Simon are very conscious of their lingering feelings and attraction towards each other. Simon more than Lana. Both in their forties, they are mature enough to make conscious efforts to not make the arrangement uncomfortable. There is no bitterness or efforts to one-up each other.

I could relate to Lana very much. She quit a career mid-way because she realized her happiness lied elsewhere. She is pragmatic and grounded. Simon, on the other hand, is more ambitious and stubborn. The author does a good job showing us their contrasting personalities through their actions, rather than just telling it to us.

There was no drawn-out angst. The main conflict was also resolved very quickly. A little too quickly if you ask me. It only takes a conversation with an elderly for Simon to realize his mistakes. It felt almost like a cop-out. And while I like that there was not too much focus on their past, I still would have liked a more layered look into their relationship and what led to its derailment in the first place.

Overall, it’s a short and sweet read. The writing is engaging, and the story is believable, aside from the want of a little more depth. I think I’ll definitely read more of this author in the future.


ratings

★★★☆

ARC REVIEW : THIS TERRIBLE BEAUTY

Author: Katrin Schumann
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction; World War II; Romance.
Release Date: March 1st 2020.


synopsis

On the windswept shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.

When Bettina falls in love with an idealistic young renegade, Werner discovers her infidelity and forces her to make a terrible choice: spend her life in prison or leave her home forever. Either way she loses both her lover and child.

Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.

 


review

Reading historical fiction is always enlightening, because even through fiction I get to learn some part of history that I was previously unaware or uninformed about. But sometimes they make me feel aware of my ignorance. Throughout my reading of This Terrible Beauty, my own ignorance nagged at me.

Majority of this novel is set in the post-world war II Germany, a part of history I had no idea about. The story is told on alternate timelines. In 1960s, Bettina has become a distinguished photo journalist in Chicago. When her sister’s ex-husband visits her, she is forced to revisit memories of her time in East Germany, which was still under the control of the German Democratic Republic.

We see through her eyes the harrowing experience of war, and being left to fend for herself in her father’s fisherman’s cottage after he dies. It is loneliness that compels her to marry a man she does not love, and also later cheat on him.

I could connect to Bettina, even in her mistakes and wrong decisions. Her helplessness and fears are portrayed with a depth that can’t be ignored. She married a man believing he was kind, and wanting to be a mother. But when after years of marriage, she cannot conceive and Werner starts to get deeply involved with the secret police and their misdeeds, life becomes even more suffocating for her.

Affairs are not my cup of tea. But the author sets a compelling stage for Betting to fall for Peter, the pastor’s son, an idealistic man who has had to fight his own demons. Her escalating fear of leaving Werner, who had started to grow more dominant over her while amassing power through his position .

The author does a commendable job in portraying the dangerous ambience of East Germany, with the government’s frightening grip on every facet of living. The characters are also very real. Even Werner, maybe a villain at first impression, forces you to sympathize with him more than once.

Bettina’s journey was believable and compelling. We see her grow from a lonely girl to a helpless wife and mother to an independent woman.

One thing I did not like about the story was how it ended. Not the ending, mind you. But the manner of the ending. The epilogue left the possibility of a sequel, something I wouldn’t mind.


ratings

★★★★☆

 

 

 

WEBTOON REVIEW : CHEESE IN THE TRAP

Author: Sun Kki
Links
: LINE (You can read the webtoon here) |  Goodreads
Publisher: Naver
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance; Webtoon; Manhwa; Graphic Novel;


synopsis

 


Having returned to college after a year long break, Hong Sul, a hard-working over-achiever, inadvertently got on the wrong side of a suspiciously perfect senior named Yoo Jung.

From then on her life took a turn for the worse and Sul was almost certain it was all Yoo Jung’s doing.

So why is he suddenly acting so friendly a year later?

 


review

So I’m on a reading spree of Webtoons and Mangas these days. So, for those who don’t know – Webtoons are digital graphic novels/comics in Korea. Sort of like Mangas (Japanese graphic novels/comics) and Manhwas (Korean graphic novels/comics), except you read it online. Interestingly, for reasons beyond my grasp, the volumes are called seasons and chapters are episodes. The webtoon has a total of 4 seasons, and 301 episodes.

A little backstory at first. Cheese in the Trap is perhaps the most popular webtoon till now. So popular in fact that it has both a movie and a drama adaptation. But none of them are as good as the webtoon. The drama aired back when the webtoon had not been completed, and although it had a promising start, it went haywire at the end. (The ending was so horrible that the  backlash was also of massive proportions. I watched the drama and the backlash was truly justified.)

Story

Junior year starts off on a weird note for Seol. A department senior she is wary of is suddenly being very friendly and wants to hang out with her. Jung Yoo is the popular senior that everyone wants to be close with. He’s handsome, rich and polite. A model student, he also happens to be the top of the department, and consequently the original contender for a scholarship that ultimately Seol got. He’s the one person girls want and guys want to be. He’s also extremely generous, always being the one paying for drinks and dinners.

But Seol has seen a side of him unlike anybody else. We see through flashbacks, their first meeting which got them off on a wrong foot, the eventual mishaps that keep happening to Seol. From stalkers to sabotage by jealous classmates, nothing went smooth for Seol in her sophomore year, so much so that she wanted to take a gap-year. While Seol has no evidence that Jung was behind it, her instincts tell her that it was him. Are her instincts right or is it just paranoia?

Narration

The narration of the story does wonders in making it even more compelling. Initially, we only see Seol’s point of view. The juxtaposition of the present timeline and her past is very fascinating. At first, we only see things from her perspective. It’s also interesting because we see Jung being the good Samaritan to Seol in the present time, but then we see his cold side in the past. We are left as confused as Seol. But then we see the same flashbacks from the perspective of other characters and the narrative totally changes. It’s even more fascinating in the later stages of the story when we slowly start to see things from Jung’s eyes.

Characters

The characters are the USP of the story. I have never read such complex, layered set of characters together. Characters that start off as minor or insignificant later turn out to become pivotal to the story. And there are many of them. A number of characters from Jung and Seol’s department play major parts.

The main characters are Seol, Jung and Inho. Make no mistake, this is no love triangle. Inho and his sister Inha are two orphans who were taken in by Jung’s father when they were young. Although, they were friends, somethings happened to sour them. Now, Inho and Jung can’t bear each other’s presence. And Inha has become a gold-digger of sorts, leeching off others.


Inho starts getting close to Seol after he returns to the city and sees her closeness with Jung. He’s childish, short-tempered and impulsive. But he has a good heart. His friendship with Seol was one of my favorite things to read. He has his demons, a broken that put a stop to his hopes of being a pianist. But he’s loyal to fault and protective of Seol.

Seol is an interesting protagonist. When we start off, she’s quiet, reticent and unassertive. She easily lets others walk over her. She also has been neglected by her parents in favor of a younger brother. She is smart, determined, observant and hard-working. But as the story progresses, we see her become assertive and and feisty if not a little manipulative thanks to Jung’s influence.

Jung is the most complex character I’ve ever read. He’s a mystery for 90% of the story. One moment, he makes you go ‘Aww’, and the next moment he creeps you out. You will love him but also be wary of him. I thought for a long time that he might be a sociopath. But as the story progressed, it became even more difficult to catalogue him into a box.

 


The characters that I genuinely adored are Bora and Eun Taek, who are the besties of Seol. They are better friends to her than she is to them. The best part about this webtoon is that the characters are all people we see around us. Even Inha who gives an initial impression of being a manipulative gold digger, has layers and layers of complexity. The depth in the delineation of all the characters – major and minor – makes it one of the best work of fiction I’ve read.

 

Setting

Although the story is set on Korea, it’s as relatable as it can get. Anyone who’s gone to college will be able to connect with the characters and the scenarios. Be it the group assignments, the part-time jobs, the competition or the obnoxious senior who always leeches off others’ hard work or the nerd who feels bitter and unappreciated. We’ve all seen it. While Seol gets a little too much of her end of the short stick, it never for a moment feels over the top.

Romance


The evolution of Jung and Seol’s relationship starts from an uncomfortable friendship, to awkward dating phase to a slower and deeper understanding of each other. I won’t deny that there were some instances that I felt that there were toxic elements in their relationship. But those were sort of addressed.  And I liked that while their relationship is a major storyline, it is not always at the forefront. It always comes down to the growth of Seol, Jung, Inho and all the other characters. I also like that there was no tangible love triangle, even though there were shipping wars.

A special mention for Eun Taek and Bora, who have the most adorable romance!

Art

Art is an important component of any graphic fiction. The art is beautiful here too. While it can be a little cartoonist with the expressions at first, but it gets better as the webtoon progresses. The maturity of the characters is visible through the art too as much as the story. I also like how each character has its own features. I’ve read mangas where most characters are drawn with same features, just different hairstyles. But every character has their own unique style. And I appreciated that.

Ending

There are so many arcs in the story which make you want to pull your hair in frustration. But they always culminate on a satisfying note. The ending of the whole story was also very satisfying. Almost every character gets a satisfying resolution.

Hello! Still with me?

I won’t be surprised if you skimmed through my review. It’s LONG, I know. But we’re talking about a 300-episode long webtoon here! All I can say is whoever starts it will have a hard time leaving it incomplete. It’s addictive as hell. Strongly recommended.


ratings

★★

BOOK REVIEW : The Shadows Between Us

Author: Tricia Levenseller
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy; Romance
Release Date: February 25th 2020.


synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?


review

Looks like I’m on the minority in this. I expected  to like this one. Because I’d heard really good things about the author and her previous work. But this might end up as her only book that I read.

The author calls this her Slytherin romance. Maybe it is. Because it reminded me of one of those Harry Potter fanfictions I used to read back in school with Slytherin characters at the foreground. (That’s not to say all fanfictions are bad. That would be an unfair generalization. It’s just that I was so indiscriminate in reading whatever I came across, I had the misfortune of having more bad reads than good. Even so, I’ve read some brilliant pieces of writing in my time as a fanfiction reader. But I digress.)

Back to the topic. Brilliant piece of writing isn’t exactly what I would call this book. I found the writing clumsy, even beyond the few typos that I came across. I compared this book to a fanfiction, because while it might be the manifestation of the author’s desire to write a Slytherin romance, there was no depth to it. Here are a few examples:

Little to no world building

The world building was very disappointing. We find out very little about this universe and its making, over the course of the book. Maybe the author thought that the readers would find it dull to read pages and pages of world building or stream of consciousness? That’s why she drops us in the middle of this universe without any warning. But that did not help the book. Rather, her writing lacked conviction and the story still fell flat.

Unsatisfactory delineation of the protagonist

It only takes a couple of pages for us to find that the protagonist is morally compromised. And her goal is to seduce the shadow king into marrying her and then kill him. You will agree with me that this is pretty dark stuff. And I like my dark heroines. But there needs to be conviction in her portrayal. What does the author do to set this up? We are fed a few lines of how something terrible happened to Alessandra to kickstart her descent into darkness.

But to want to kill the king? We are told that she has been ignored by her father forever in favor of a more likeable sister. So Alessandra wants power and attention. That’s her reason. But she could still have that power even if she became a queen without killing the husband. I just found the reasoning very shallow. Not enough time is spent to show us how how she reached this conclusion without ever even having met the king.  I would not have minded a few pages more on her delineation and stream of consciousness. Or perhaps a flashback of that terrible incident that forever changed her.

Laughingly predictable storyline

So how does Alessandra decide to catch the eyes of the king? Wear black to the ball and dance with everyone except the king.  And voila! He is fascinated.

Not only this, everything from the mysterious villain after the king’s life, to the ending – it all screamed predictable to me.

No proper character development

The author not only spends little to no effort in building or setting up the protagonist’s dark character, but she also spends equal amount of effort in delineating her change of mind. Shocking.

Everything was just dull

If you promise us a Slytherin romance, if nothing else, the least you could do is deliver some scintillating conversations. If you promise us a ‘king of shadows’, the least you could do is make him interesting. The author failed on both counts.

I thought the book would turn tenfold interesting when Alessandra entered the castle. But it turned even duller if that’s possible. The conversations between Alessandra and the king were yawn-inducing. No spark. Nothing. There is this part where the king offers a fake courtship to her. It read like a typical New Adult scene.

I was disappointed by everything about the book. The world-building, the storytelling, the characterizations, everything. This is simply a lazy piece of writing. But looking at the hordes of high ratings it received, you should definitely take my opinions with a grain of salt.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

BOOK REVIEW : WILD AT HEART

Author: K. A. Tucker
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary; Women’s fiction; Chick Lit: Romance
Release Date: January 1st 2020.


synopsis

Wild at Heart (Wild, #2)From the internationally best-selling author of The Simple Wild comes the continuation of a woman’s journey to Alaska and a life she never imagined for herself.

Calla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.


review

The only problem I had with The Simple Wild was its ending and a lack of closure. So imagine my delight when I found out about a sequel. I literally whooped! Okay? In fact, I was so pleased that I forgot to be worried about it potentially disappointing me. It was only after having finished the book did I realize that I had not even thought of a hugely favorite book being ruined by a crappy sequel. And that realization made me laugh!

Because, the final verdict?

Dun. Dun. Dun…

I LOVED IT!

I think I might have loved it even more than The Simple Wild! Just how great is that? I’m just so happy that my whole journey in regards to this book – from finding out about it, to getting it on my hands to reading it at one go – has been pleasant and oh so satisfying!

If you haven’t read The Simple Wild, it will be hard for you to follow this book, though. It is the continuation of Calla’s journey. To sum it up, She is a city girl who visited her ailing father in Alaska where she rediscovers herself and finds love. This book is about her life after she decides to move with Jonah to Alaska.

Here are the highlights of what I enjoyed about the book –

The story was simple and heartening

It’s not a very plot-heavy book. The story is simple. Calla has decided to follow her heart and move to the small remote town of Anchorage in Alaska with Jonah. This book follows her journey, her relationship with Jonah and how she finds her place in this small town. It’s a poignant story.

Jonah and Calla’s relationship is the BEST

These two are couple goals. Their relationship isn’t perfect. And that’s what made it such a perfect read. The conflicts they go through are very real and relatable – whether to buy or rent a house; readiness on marriage and children; how much to spend or save; what pets to have; what flying gigs to take. Jonah and Calla are as opposite as night and day. He’s laid-back, gruff, direct and a spendthrift. She’s high-maintenance, posh, reticent and has an expensive taste. They call each other Yeti and Barbie. And these differences makes it even more enjoyable because these two always try to find a middle ground.

Odds are stacked against them. Calla has her mother’s legacy working against her. They are both starting over in a new town with no safety nets. But these two are completely committed to their relationship. Both of them make sacrifices and compromises to make it work. It made for a compelling story. I absolutely adore both of them. From the way he teases her to the way they both do things to make each other happy. Everything about them is just perfect!

The author nails the setting

The world building yet again was perfectly done by the author. She does well to set up the remoteness and isolating nature of the Alaskan town. When Calla is unnerved by the strange feelings of being watched, I felt it too. I was just so sucked in by this world! I felt like a part of it.

The secondary characters were just as engaging

The secondary characters added to the strength of the plot. All of them had their own minor arcs. There is this sub-plot of Roy, a loner who is a pain for the neighborhood.  The way he goes from just an irritating neighbor to some sort of father figure for Calla was beautiful to see. Then there’s Muriel, a bossy and imposing neighbor who Calla finds intimidating at first but soon warms up to. Agnes and Mabel, who are like Jonah’s adoptive family, make an appearance too.

No unnecessary angst

I’d been dreading unnecessary angst or separation for Jonah and Calla. And while they do have fights and arguments, none of them feel unnecessary. There are two events which do provide ample tension. But I liked that the author does not stretch them needlessly.

….

My only qualm with The Simple Wild was that we did not get a satisfying closure on Calla and Jonah. Wild at Heart gives us that. And even then I was left wanting more of them! I want a Jonah for myself. Pretty please!


ratings

★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW : THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD

Author: Josie Silver
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary; Women’s fiction; Chick Lit: Romance
Release Date: January 1st 2020.


synopsis

Lydia Bird is living a happy, normal little life–she has a good job, a wonderful fiancé, Freddie, and the usual daily dramas of buying groceries and being in a relationship. And then everything stops: Freddie is killed in a car crash on his way to pick up his best friend, Jonas. Her world bottoms out.

Lydia retreats from the company of her sister, her mother, and from Jonas, the only other person who understands her loss. Alone and adrift, she seeks a small amount of solace in the sleeping pills her doctor prescribes for her, which give her relief in the form of abnormally deep sleep. But they also come with an increasingly complicated gift: Whenever she takes a pill, she emerges in another world. A world in which Freddie is still alive.

And so Lydia returns again and again to the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. In one, her relationship with Freddie and her friendship with Jonas move along as scheduled, and in the other, that same friendship begins to become something else, something very unexpected and yet thrillingly familiar.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful love story, by turns joyous and devastating, about the questions of fate and chance that we find at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given the painful, miraculous chance to answer them.


review

Josie Silver remains a frustrating author just as she was in her debut One Day in December. That does not mean I did not like The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Rather, I liked it very much so. But it suffers from the same problems as her first novel, if not more. Here’s my two cents the book.

 

The beginning is slow and sluggish

I struggled a lot when going through the beginning of the book. I was very close to DNF-ing. So I skimmed through much of it until a part came that did manage to grab my interest. The writing could have been better at first. I’ve read books where tragedy strikes very early in the book, and even then it is no less impactful. Maybe if we had seen a sweet scene between Freddie and Lydia right at the start, things would have been different. But here the death of Freddie wasn’t impactful. It did not keep me glued to the pages. Instead, the pacing suffered even more. Nothing happens for a long time.

Did Lydia really need an alternate life arc?

Although it does not start in a promising note, Lydia’s journey was beautiful to read. It was stirring to see her find her way through grief. But when she starts to take prescription medicine for sleeping during which she lives an alternate life with Freddie in it, one question kept recurring in my head – ‘Why? Why is this happening?’ I kept wondering what the purpose of this whole alternate life arc was. Is this for her healing? Couldn’t she heal all by herself without it? And as the story progresses, I could see events in this alternate life did affect her feelings and actions in the present tense.

By the end I still could not understand why this ‘alternate life arc’ was introduced. Sure, it did accelerate her healing process, but couldn’t she have done all this by herself? There is this particular event in the alternate life that is jarring for Lydia because it’s ugly, totally unlike the sweet escape that she expects to experience with the help of sleeping. I felt it was a lazily convenient approach to bring her to an epiphany about. I would have preferred an alternate version of this book without the parallel life arc where Lydia achieves the same things without that crutch, and we get a little more insight into the other characters.

Josie Silver sucks at endings and payoffs

Right now, I also want an alternate ending that is not abrupt. Yes, you read that right. Josie Silver yet again delivered an unsatisfying and abrupt ending to her book. Okay, not completely unsatisfying, because the final scene did give me butterflies. But the butterflies died a fast death at the abrupt ending. What would it take for her to give us an epilogue?

Romance? What romance?

The romance or what little there was of it was not satisfying. It was poignant and beautiful. But not satisfactory. I wouldn’t even call it a romance. It’s a love story between two friends and is more about them coming to terms with an unimaginable loss individually and together. I don’t want to give a spoiler even though it’s clear from the very beginning who’s the love interest. But we don’t see enough of him in my opinion. I loved him and longed for a deeper insight into his character. His point of view would have done wonders for me! Yet, I understand that this was Lydia’s journey. I rooted for her. I cheered for her. And I deserved a better payoff!


ratings

★★★☆☆

BOOK REVIEW : IF I NEVER MET YOU

Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary; Romance; Women’s fiction/
Release Date: January 1st 2020.

synopsis


When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend..


review.

Brace yourselves, people. I’ll be pinging this book every chance I get from here on. This book was everything it could be. Bear with me while I try to articulate my incoherent feelings of adoration for this book into words. Let me try that by listing down some of the things I loved about the book :


The best and most realistic portrayal of a breakup I’ve read
The protagonist is blindsided at the very beginning when her boyfriend of 18 years breaks up with her. We see Laurie go through all the feelings – disbelief, shock, denial, betrayal, anger, sadness and acceptance. I felt like I was going through the stages with her. I also wanted him to want her back when she did. And when she realized that he’s no longer important, I was right there with her too. That more than anything else is telling of the conviction in the writing.


The heroine and her satisfying journey
This book is above all about Laurie and her journey. And how beautifully is it written! Laurie is incredibly likeable. She’s also smart, self-aware and outspoken. The only flaw she has? She doesn’t know her own charm. You’d think her journey would be difficult. But more than anything, it was satisfying and believable. To see her evolution and development was perhaps the most satisfying reading experience for me so far in this year.

The best execution of a fake-relationship trope
This is the best fake-relationship romance I’ve read in a long time if not ever. Every little encounter that leads the couple to having a fake relationship is as organic as it gets. Not for a moment did I find the reasoning illogical as is usual with me. And that is because, the characters themselves debate all these things. The heroine is very self-aware of why she’s doing this. She also has her best friend cautioning her about the repercussions. There are no loopholes here. This is very smart writing, I must say.


The conversations
The conversations in this book are just so hard hitting and relevant! Every conversation is meaningful and engaging. It often happens while reading romances that I lose focus when reading casual conversations between the main couple. But when Jamie and Laurie talk, they talk about their views about relationships, work and even ethnicity. Every conversation they have helps unearth their inner layers and forge a very believable connection between the two. And the conversations between Laurie and Emily about women and relationships are oh so relatable! Actually, majority of the conversations in this book are meaningful and satisfying to read about!


The friendships
There are three friendships in this book that I absolutely loved. The friendship between the main couple Laurie and Jamie, and their individual friendships with their best friend. Laurie and Jamie are each others champions in more than one occasion. But Laurie’s friendship with Emily, was just on another level. They are friendship goals. And while we see very little of Hattie, her friendship with Jamie is equally special too.

The Hero who’s respectful, earnest, funny and honest
Jamie Carter is a conventional playboy at a glance. Laure initially is very judgemental about him, thanks to workplace gossip, until the fated day they get stuck on an elevator. That’s when she and we realize how unconventional he is. He calls himself a communist in relationships. He has an unbeatable logic when it comes to his views on monogamy. But then at the end, he’s also smart enough to realize his own ignorance.

To add to it all, Jamie is respectful of Laurie unlike the other men in her life. He has an earnestness which shines in many an instances, for example, there is a part where he is talking to Laurie about the correct terminology about her mixed race won me over at an early stage. He’s also hilarious!

The themes of feminism and gender politics in workplace
The themes of feminism are prevalent throughout the book. Despite being one of the best lawyers in the firm, Laurie also deals with gender politics multiple times in the male-dominated profession of law.

This book made me think
It’s a rarity when romances make you think. I knew I’d like this book, but just as a run-of-the-mill romances. But it made me think of so many things – relationships, power play in relationships, love, gender roles, gender politics, feminism and what not.

If I haven’t already made it clear already, I love this book. The synopsis does little justice to this gem of a book. It’s just a very satisfying read.


ratings

★★★★★

 

ARC REVIEW : CHASING LUCKY

Author: Jean Bennett
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: May 5th 2020.


synopsis

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…


review

This is the second Jean Bennett book I read. It’s also the second book with ‘Lucky’ on its title (the other being Lucky Caller). Incidentally both made it to the list of my favorite YAs of the year so far.

There is so much to love about this book! Josie is moving back to her hometown with her flighty single mother. It’s supposed to be only for a year, as she keeps reminding her mother, before her grandmother returns from a trip to Nepal. But Josie has plans of her own that her mother doesn’t know her. She wants to graduate her high school and move to LA to be apprentice to her famous photographer father. Her life has been a blur of one city after another, when at 12 years of age, her mother took her and left town after a fight with her grandmother. So she wants stability for once, even if it means breaking her mother’s heart. But she didn’t foresee Lucky.

Lucky was Josie’s best friend until she suddenly left town. Now he’s a mystery with danger written all over him. Josie goes through wariness, annoyance, guilt, and fascination towards him. I, however, was fascinated from the start, and became more and more besotted with each page. Much of the book is spent on Josie and us getting to see the layers of his character get peeled slowly. And that kept me glued to the pages all along. Josie can be a little impulsive and selfish, but her heart is in the right place. And I adored her. But Lucky is the real scene stealer for me. He has my heart, okay?

Now, what else did I love about the book? Josie’s relationships with her mother and cousin Evie, for starters. Lack of communication runs in the family. There is love between Josie and her mother, but the latter’s unwillingness to communicate has turned Josie bitter. Evie has her own problems – a toxic relationship with the town’s golden boy. But this is a family that simply doesn’t talk with each other. I also loved Lucky’s family, who are polar opposite to Josie’s, but just as lovely. Most of all, though, I loved Josie and Lucky, and their relationship.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that it could be longer. I wanted to see certain characters like Josie’s mom and Evie being explored. Their arcs felt unfinished. Also, there is this whole thing about their family being cursed in love, which is mentioned a lot, but not explained enough in my opinion.

Despite these flaws, I loved the writing, the characters and this universe. It’s only a good thing when you don’t want a book to end. But it’s a bad thing when you can’t have a Lucky of your own! Be back bawling.


ratings

★★★★★