Wednesday, December 21, 2016

No Good Deed Left Undone by Ginny Fite : A Review


BOOK TITLE: No Good Deed Left Undone

AUTHOR: Ginny Fite

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1626945210

GENRE: Mystery / Thriller

NUMBER OF PAGES: 267

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Sam Lagarde Mysteries (Book 2

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

“He had an itchy feeling, something he had seen that his memory had recorded but that he wasn’t paying attention to…”

When a man has everything, he can afford to be generous. Lawyer, philanderer, and horseman Grant Wodehouse is generous to a fault—until he’s stabbed to death with a pitchfork in his barn. The killer could be anyone—his lover’s husband, his troubled son, the homeless guy he lets sleep in his barn, his unscrupulous partner or even his wife.

Methodical Detective Sam Lagarde doesn’t miss a clue as he questions an ever-growing list of suspects, only to discover the killer has been hiding in plain sight the entire time. Always one step behind the killer, finally Lagarde’s only recourse is one he never wanted to take.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The first line of the summary completely floored me. The first line resonated with me and I loved the short and succinct summary. It created just the right amount of interest and was enough to set the tone of the story. The cover itself was simple and elegant. I read more into the misty scene, but it fit with the theme of the story so well.

REVIEW:

There are two types of murder mysteries

Those where the killer is either revealed at first and the book is about the chase to catch him before he kills many people.

Those where the killer is hidden, even if in plain sight, and the race is about finding out the person responsible for murders.

In both these types of mysteries, the suspense is broken only at the last, keeping the reader guessing and trying to fit in the pieces of the jigsaw together. No Good Deed Left Undone keeps the guessing game alive and manages to hold my interest completely including those parts that were gory and vividly descriptive. Detective Sam Lagarde is called on to investigate the death of Grant Wodehouse, who seems to lead a life with no problems until someone actually stabs him with a pitchfork. The more Sam Lagarde tries to eliminate the suspects one by one, the larger the list keeps growing. But all this while, the killer is hidden in plain sight, testing the resolve of the reader to turn back to the last few pages to know the secret.

I liked the procedural way Sam and Lawrence follow the case in, and it showed me yet again why I am partical to police procedure thrillers. The author has written it well and has managed to give enough details to keep the interest alive, but not sound like a protocol announcement manual. Carefully isolating suspects and identifying clues, Sam leaves no stone unturned and the methodical way he approaches the whole thing is excellent. There is no clue in the summary but the story is set in rural America and the author has done justice to the settings. I really loved the writing which is a major positive point for the book.

The book is the perfect example of how even an excess of motives and suspects can ruin the case and make finding the real culprit harder. If the lack of suspects or motives stalls the case, an excess of it confuses the case and delays the solution. Trying to match the suspects and clues up and managing to do it to the readers' interest is a really great thing to do. It takes a little time to get used to the characters and understand if the really less amount of descriptions are a matter of choice or if they have already been described in book one. But other than that, the book will work even as a standalone and fans of the detective are sure to enjoy it.

VERDICT:

Brilliantly plotted thriller with smooth writing.

RATING: 4/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Ginny Fite is an award-winning journalist who has covered crime, politics, government, healthcare, art and all things human. She's been a spokesperson for a governor and a member of Congress, a few colleges and universities, and a robotics R&D company. She earned degrees from Rutgers University and Johns Hopkins University and studied at the School for Women Healers and the Maryland Poetry Therapy Institute. No Good Deed, published by Black Opal Books in 2015, is her second Sam Lagarde mystery/thriller set in Charles Town, West Virginia.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $3.91 for Kindle, $13.99 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cabbing All The Way by Jatin Kuberkar : A Review



BOOK TITLE: Cabbing All The Way

AUTHOR: Jatin Kuberkar

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9385854064

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Debdatta Sahay of b00k r3vi3s for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Twelve people agree to an idea of running a shared transport service from a common residential locality to their out-of-civilisation office campus. Twelve different minds with equally diverse personalities gel with each other to fulfil a common need. At first, the members collide on mutual interests, timings, priorities and personal discipline, but in the course of their journey, they become best friends, make long-lasting relationships, mentor and help each other on various mundane matters. The journey goes on fine until one day some members try to dictate terms over the group. The rift widens with each passing day, the tension surmounts and finally all hell breaks loose... Will the journey continue? Fasten your seatbelts for the journey is about to begin...

FIRST IMPRESSION:

The cover is the first thing I noticed about the book. With good caricatures and bold colors, it caught my attention immediately. The summary was short and intriguing and conveyed the point of the story across. With such a quirky title and short summary, I expected the book to be a read peppered with humour and wry philosophy. The book was short enough to be read in one sitting.

REVIEW:

I want to begin this review by appreciating two things about the book. The author's attempt at penning a book that does not conform to the common 'bestseller' genres that are currently trending. The unique concept and narration

What struck me first about the book was the way it dealt with a topic everyone could relate with. Cabs are some of the most popular vehicles on Indian roads right now, for the convenience they offer and the 'welcome break' they give from autorickshaws that cannot ply to the offices that are located a long way away from civilisation. A lot of employees working in the various IT offices would immediately relate with the need for a special vehicle that would ease the long trip, helping people reach their out of the way office without worry. Though there are organised buses, cabbing all the way will immediately strike a chord. We all have our own special travel stories, those we will cherish. And everyone who is familiar with regular long distance commute will have a co passenger turn from stranger to friend. The connection between these two people will be quite strong and they may even turn into life counselor if they are like minded and willing enough. This is why you will resonate with this book.

Cabbing All The Way works because of three reasons:
  1. (i) It talks about how necessity will make people think creatively and find out ways where none exist.
  2. (ii) The book is also about how though people are reluctant to conform to rules initially, they all get together to a proper routine that is beneficial to all over time.
  3. (iii) It reinstates the fact that man is a social animal, and forcing people together would eventually end up in either a good rapport and newfound closeness or ego clashes. Both these facets of the people have been brought out well.


Each of the characters are very relatable and are the representations of people you may see every day. The absolute normalcy of these characters and their realistic descriptions will make sure that the characters resemble someone you know, but are not very memorable. The book has its moments, with wry humour and witty one liners in places. But it did not sustain its name as a good read because the humour either became flat or was, in places, forced. The story itself has a good premise but while reading the book, one does expect a stronger plot to accompany this beginning. There is a plot, but only barely so.

The book did surprise me in many places.

I was initially wary about the introduction of twelve characters being an over kill but the author has not wasted any time on giving detailed descriptions and character sketches of each person. He has carefully crafted the story and events such that only some description is actually given. The rest is let to implication and inference. And I believe that is a beautiful way to not take the focus away from the story (or in this case the task) at hand. The author gets a special mention for not conforming the readers' imagination to certain features of the characters and making it impossible to budge away from that, forcing the reader to follow the descriptions closely instead of understanding of their own accord.

But, like most books these days, a generous dose of localized terms and descriptions are used in the narrative. While this might not be a hindrance for someone who knows the area, this might reduce the speed of the casual reader who has to pause to let certain sentences sink in before proceeding. The terms have been added, no doubt, to give the book the right feel because no one actually speaks in formal English amongst friends, but there is a slight risk of some references going over the head of anyone who has no idea about them. This has become a trend in many books in India nowadays that not many people bother about raising a complaint. There are no other major complaints about the language but it cannot be stressed enough that the book would have been better with crisper editing, and by avoiding certain obvious errors. Better English would have made the read an even more engaging one. I might be a rare reviewer who finds a fault with the nitty gritties in the language but I really cannot understand the need to make a book more 'Indian' by infusing it with vernacular terms and sayings.

Cabbing all the way began well. It had great potential and I really was looking forward to reading it to the end, seeing what it was actually all about. But instead, the book falls flat in between for many reasons. Over time, the names begin to get confusing, and only very few characters out of the twelve stand out. (Though I am still sure the additional descriptions would only have increased the length of the book with no actual purpose). The names tend to get confusing over time and fade into the backdrop as part of the narrative. The problems are built up beautifully, making the reader wonder what the solutions might be, but the solutions, if and when they do come, seem surprisingly impossible or so conveniently placed. This is where the book veers away from the angle of realism. The book did board all readers into the cab, but the bumpy ride on a never ending side road off the highway quickly came to an end in the middle of nowhere and the reader was magically transported back to civilisation in a 'climax'.

The book won my heart for many reasons - mainly the idea it set out with, trying to talk about something everyone will relate to, but something no one has talked about yet. It also began well, with the author not wasting time on unnecessary details or descriptions and instead giving the reader a realistic account of what would happen if twelve people were put together for one cause and how they would find a solution. The book seemed well on its way to a good plot when it spoke about the disagreements that crop up and how some people take up the megaphone and try to 'rein the others in'. (Yes, this does happen a lot among groups of people where self appointed leaders try to bring order). And it was also amazing how the characters gelled well and came together to solve issues and sort things out. The characters had all the shades and were common, everyday people.

But the book failed to engage me into reading when it gave quick patches and solutions in a language I was not comfortable with (yes the book is in English - and that is not what I mean). The weak plot and purpose is a dampener to my reading and is one of the reasons why I file this under 'a one time read'. The author gets a special mention for writing a book that has so much of promise and could inspire a changeover from the romances flooding the market, but if only he had taken it all the way and ended it equally well, this book would have been so much more memorable. 

WHAT I LIKED:

  • A really great attempt in a completely different genre
  • Liked the emphasis on how necessity makes people imaginative and cooperative
  • A cover design and summary that will entice the reader into reading the book - that is a major plus.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • The lack of an actual plot is a thing that sticks out noticeably.
  • The book has certain parts in the middle that seem stretched out and do not lead the story anywhere. These could have been avoided / edited out
  • Though I did not expect this book to have a moral lesson, I did expect a closure or conclusion that never came.
VERDICT:

A bumpy ride

RATING: 3/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

For the mortal world, I pretend to be a Software Engineer who works hard (or hardly?) in the hours of a day. I am the guy next door, a hard core Harry Potter fan and a movie buff. I literally ‘live’ every movie, I have strong opinions about its content and I hate it when a movie based on an interesting concept is messed up for the sake of commercial value. I enjoy watching cartoon shows (doremon, dora and Choota Bheem) with my son. I never get bored of listen to the endless chatter of my wife. When I’m not writing, I make toys for children.

But beyond the boundaries of this ‘cholesterol rich’ coil, I am a rider of rapturous thoughts. I am a thinker, a philosopher, a seeker, a story-teller, a writer, a wanderer and every other thing that a thought can be. At times some of these figments fire out of my thoughtful bowl and command me to write, muse, create, recreate, destroy…EXPRESS!

Who Am I? I have been asking this question to myself since 33 years, and I got a different answer always. Sometimes I get confused and think, am I asking the right question to seek the correct answer? or may be that am I missing the whole fantastic universal drama around me while I am busy finding an answer to an irrelevant question?

Does the answer even matter?

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Free on Kindle Unlimited, Rs. 100 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stages of Grace by Connie Ruben : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Stages of Grace: Life and Love in the Face of Alzheimer's

AUTHOR: Connie Ruben

ISBN/ASIN: B00MV1QUM8

GENRE: Non Fiction / Memoir, drama

NUMBER OF PAGES: 149

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

This book was written out of a desire to share with others who have loved ones with Alzheimer's disease what I have experienced as Grace' caregiver and friend. I wanted to capture the emotions, the expected and the unexpected issues, the painful times as well as the humorous and loving moments that Grace and I have shared as a result of this disease. This is not mean to be a handbook for dealing with Alzheimer's disease, but I hope that by sharing my feelings and experiences, readers may recognize they are not alone on this particular journey.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

Memoirs have never been books I really look forward to reading. Especially those about haunting ailments and the loss of loved ones. But as a book lover, and someone who looks at diversity in the genres I read, I sometimes sit down to read a memoir / autobiography. Somehow, knowing that I am reading about real people, who have lived real lives, long or short, that has in some way been noticeable enough to write a memoir about changes my whole perspective while reading the book. This was no different. The cover (and the image) looks stunningly simple and graceful (not a pun in anyway). By the author's own admission, it is not the best individual picture of either of them but there is something so beautiful about it that it works well as the cover image. The summary was short and to the point, and spoke volumes about the relationship between the caregiver and the patient.

REVIEW:

The first thing I will note about memoirs is the sincerity of the tone in which they have been written. This is purely a subconscious habit but to me, a honest book written in simple language works better than a book that uses words with a flourish, adding more drama and trying to make the book more memorable / quote worthy. I read Stages of Grace in one sitting because it was simple, it was beautiful and very heartwarming. It does help, though, that Connie Ruben is an amazing narrator, trying to find a fine balance between telling the story as it is and including the details that will make it not only understandable but also enjoyable to the reader. Yes, enjoyable - I use this word because it is hard to stay with a book if the author doesn't manage to interest you. Not to be confused with using more of the drama element, writing a book that is interesting is more about the straightforward and simple style.

Connie Ruben has managed to pen down her experiences with her mother in law Grace Ruben (and now we know how apt the title is) as she watched her be affected by Alzheimer's and gradually become increasingly worse by the disease. She has done so in an interesting manner, and for many reasons, this book is memorable. I have not had to face the painful feeling of watching a loved one become incurably sick, but I have known enough people who did to help me empathise with what I was reading in this book. I could understand, at least in parts, what Connie would have felt while writing the book, trying to relive, many times over, each of those painful little incidents that happened during her time as a caregiver.

The book works because it is written well. But it also is from the heart and I can understand how much Connie loved Grace as a friend, a mother and a mother in law with the way she talks about Grace. The depth of the bond is quite visible in the words Connie chooses to describe Grace and there is a simple, almost humorous honesty in the way she talks about herself and the beautiful years they shared together. I have always admired the courage it would take for someone to relive, in writing, what was probably the most trying and testing time of their lives. But those who have the courage to do it - maybe to help someone else who might be just as confused and lost as they were or to just speak about their experiences - are exceptional people.

Stages of Grace talks about all the emotions the family of the affected person might feel. The discomfort, the denial, the shock at seeing a strong, witty, talented beautiful person losing their essence, the despair at the diagnosis and ultimately the resigned acceptance. The sooner this phase gets over, the better for everyone involved. It is not an easy task to see a loved one suffer, and it is harder still to have to stand by them, seeing them become a shadow of the person they once were. There are times when one would get angry, at the drab hand fate had dealt them with, or be reduced to tears, unable to pour out what the emotions are when they have to understand the extra care and affection the patient needs. It is hard to classify a loved one as a 'patient' who needs to be cared for, and not show them that aspect. Connie's honest account speaks not only about her stages of acceptance but also about how her mother in law Grace reacted at every juncture.

This is in no way a guidebook to dealing with Alzheimer's but coming from a person who has seen the effects of the disease from close quarters, this book (probably even inadvertently) gives tips on dealing with the same. The tips are not always about finding the right way to behave around the affected person, but also about how they themselves are handling the disease. There are some beautiful quotes from the book (I have chosen very few of some exceptionally good ones that impressed me) that gives the reader an idea of how the book is.

On her initial impression of Grace Ruben

Her kind manner is not a behavior she works to maintain; the naturalness of it cannot be learned or emulated.
On not always knowing the best thing to do
Hindsight can be disingenuous; it suggests that there was a path to be followed even when we couldn’t see it.

On handling the devastating diagnosis

Grace deserved my best support, my confidence and assurances. She didn’t need my fear.

We were nervous, and nervous people find a lot to be afraid of.

Finally, summing up the disease and the frustration.

It seems so unfair that Grace has to endure this and that those of us around her have to witness it.

VERDICT:

A beautifully written, emotional account of dealing with Alzheimer's from someone who knows how it is.

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Connie Ruben is an entrepreneur with well developed management skills. She has run several large companies, and prides herself on empowering others to work to their full potential. Connie also has an intimate knowledge of the challenges and joys of caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease, as her mother-in-law Grace was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. While Connie still struggles to balance her work life and home life, her understanding of this disease has made it easier for her to negotiate the demands of being a caregiver, as well as a wife, mother, and employer. She has written this book in order to share the insights she has gained as Grace’s primary caregiver and friend. Most importantly, Connie wants this book to assure others that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease can be enjoyable, life-affirming, and emotionally significant.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover

PRICE $9.35 for Kindle, $14.99 for Paperback, $29.99 for Hardcover

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Perfect Tear by Connie Lansberg: A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Perfect Tear

AUTHOR: Connie Lansberg

ISBN/ASIN: ENTER ISBN

GENRE: YA fiction (Fairytale / Fantasy)

NUMBER OF PAGES: 324

FORMAT: Digital

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Eleanor, a timid orphan, has no clue to her real purpose, but she also has no desire to become a subservient old maid, like the miserable nuns she is forced to with. Eleanor believes Edward, whom she loves, will save her from being forced to take vows. She knows Mother Superior has no intention of letting her leave–her songs are the only thing keeping the grey mist at bay. Her devastation is complete when she discovers Edward is a prince and heir to the throne, but it is the impetus she needs to leave the safety of the abbey and go in search of her long lost father.

She doesn’t get far before discovering her true destiny. With only her instincts to protect her, she must match wits with a powerful being intent on the destruction of her world. If she does not find The Perfect Tear and release its healing power into the land, she will become an accomplice in the destruction of all she loves.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I have always tried to read books from different genres, having prior experience with finding my most favorite books from genres I thought were least possible to be from. Fantasy is one such genre. Some of my most favorite books have come from this, and some have made me wish I never picked them up. So when I got a chance to read 'The Perfect Tear', something told me it would be a well written book, with attention to detail and clearly of excellent lilting prose.

The book's cover was one of the most stunning pictures I had seen in recent times. It was a fantastic and tasteful image that set the mood and tone of the story well. The summary was quick, short and though it did not offer anything great or thrilling, it was good enough to hold my attention.

REVIEW:

There are two reasons why fantasy novels work.

  • (a) They belong to an entirely different world, and can help keep the readers engrossed in them if written right
  • (b) The author gets to have complete freedom with the way the world is designed. Five legged, thirteen eyed creatures can walk upside down with their telepathic abilities helping them move forward, and no one would really complain. The genre keeps the reader prepared to expect the unexpected.
But there are two places where fantasy novels might go wrong
  • (a) The imaginary, creative world must NOT be beyond the reader's imagination and the more it veers away from what is considered normal, the more explanation it needs.
  • (b) The author does not exercise the infinite power of writing the most unexpected of things, and instead assumes certain things they created are understood directly.

It is therefore essential for a fantasy novel to be well written, hold the readers' interest, manage to create a new and exciting world and bring a story to an exciting finish, while holding some moral values and having a message (optional). The Perfect Tear meets most of the above criteria. There definitely is an interesting story, there is a great finish, the world is new and exciting, and the novel is well written with good language that feels so soothing to read.

It is the tale of Eleanor, forced to live in an orphanage after being separated from her dad, who was supposed to teach her the ways when she was 16. Her songs have the power to keep the world from plunging into doom, and therefore she is expected to put aside her personal desires and strive for the betterment of the world she inhabits. Devastated by few events in her life, she sets out on a quest, having found out her real life purpose - find The Perfect Tear and release its healing power on the world or stand by and watch as it is destructed by a powerful foe. Whether or not Eleanor succeeds and how she manages to do it, if so, forms the rest of the story.

The main attractions in the book are the extremely well written chapters. Though it does shift between multiple points of view, it is easy for the reader to be completely engrossed, especially after the story of the 'main character' begins. The setting is gradual and evolving into perfection easily. The words are perfectly suited to the theme and genre, making it easier to read and thoroughly enjoy the story. The story falters in only two areas. The beginning is so abrupt, and kind of difficult to follow (but you do get used to it over time, as you get comfortable with the narrative). It is a bit hard to understand the talk about vibrations and frequencies and tones in the initial chapters. A little bit of description would have helped the story here. The second minor problem is that - it follows a path laid out by previous books of this genre. The story itself is lovingly unique, but it does tick off the main boxes for a book to be considered as fantasy as far as plot outlines go. I did expect some more twists for such a beautifully written novel.

Overall, The Perfect Tear is not a book you are likey to forget easily. It seeps through the mind, brilliantly holding the attention with its well crafted words and clean narrative that did not falter despite the focus shifting back and forth between the various characters. It is a good tale of good Vs Evil, with enough twists to keep it interesting and written with the right amount of all emotions thrown in. Go for this one, you will learn of a fantastic new world, in a story that would give some ideas about life, desires and sacrifices.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The cover, that will get the first mention because it is one of the best I have seen in recent times
  • The songs at the end of the book. Helpful.
  • The writing was really good, and kept me engrossed.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The book could have offered something new and exciting with the available world of twists
  • It takes a little time to adjust to the new world, and the initial narrative does not help much
  • Extra descriptions would have helped the story immensely in certain places, so they are easy to visualise.
VERDICT:

A well written fantasy novel that will linger in the mind long after reading.

RATING: 4.2/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Connie Lansberg is a singer/songwriter, scriptwriter and now author with the publication of her first book The Perfect Tear. Connie studied script writing at AFTR and has had songs placed in major Australian TV series. She has just complete an album of songs connected to the book and will be performing these live at her weekly jazz gig in Melbourne.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $2.93 for Kindle, $14.95 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon/

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

All Signs Lead Back To You by Aniesha Brahma : A Review


BOOK TITLE: All Signs Lead Back To You

AUTHOR: Aniesha Brahma

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9380925653 / B01MQGN4GK

GENRE: Fiction / YA

NUMBER OF PAGES: 87

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Standalone

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank The b00k r3vi3w Tour and the author for this review copy

SUMMARY:

2013.

As the final bell for the day rang on their last day in school, Diya Rai, had a chill run down her spine. The chill of not knowing what the future holds for her and her high school sweetheart, Ashwin Chowdhury.

So she does a preemptive strike.

She dumps him before he can hurt her.

2015.

Two years later, Ashwin and Diya, cross paths. Each holds grudges, feelings and only one half of the story that completes them.

Told from alternating points of view, through a non-linear timeline, this is the story about first love, second chances and ALL the SIGNS THAT LEAD BACK TO YOU.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I had already read 'When Our Worlds Collide' by Aniesha and absolutely loved the book. Above and beyond the story, the writing style kept me glued to the book and I remember finishing it at a go. So naturally, I was very eager to read this book, too. In comparison, the summary of this book seemed sweeter (who doesn't like pure and simple high school romances?) and the cover (though a little less impressive than the previous) was a curious design of patterns. Basically, I just read the summary to know what the story was going to be about before I delved in, and it was more than enough to interest me.

REVIEW:

There is a comforting familiarity in reading the books of an author whose books you have read and loved. There is no preliminary decision-making stage, the 'do I read this now or later' dilemma. Once you are able to get your hands on the book and have some time to spare, you kind of delve in directly, knowing that the words on the page will seem like a personal, one on one conversation that the author has with you, narrating the story as you listen with rapt eyed attention, captivated by the words. That was the effect I had while reading When Our Worlds Collide, and I sat down to read this book too, with the same expectation. And it did not disappoint. The soothing effect of the words was back in this one too.

The story premise is simple. There are two high school sweethearts, Diya Rai and Ashwin Choudhury. Diya breaks the 'relationship' up because she fears high school is a 'parting of ways' period and Ashwin might dump her when school ends. The 'break off' announcement is so abrupt, so sudden that Ashwin is startled. They part ways and two years later, Diya chances upon Ashwin in a bookstore, and ducks out of his field of vision, trying to slink away unnoticed. And then the reminiscence begins, with Diya being thankful that Ashwin had apparently not noticed her. But it so happens that Ashwin actually noticed her and knew she was trying to slink away (a cute execution of this scene deserves full credits).

The story travels in two timelines, back and forth and is narrated from two points of view (that of Ashwin and Diya). Both of them have new people in their life, respectively, and Ashwin cannot help but be jealous of the new best friend, Nina, that Diya seems to have. Repeated meetings, both expected and sudden, make Diya and Ashwin clash with each other. Neither Rishab, Diya's current boyfriend, nor Trina, Ashwin's probable girl friend, like the way the high school sweethearts bicker with each other. And though their suspicions are actually baseless, the readers do get the reasons behind them.

While one is reading the story, it would really help to remember that both Diya and Ashwin are barely 21, and the initial romance happened in high school, a period where drama and hormones rule. There is a bit of excess drama that would have looked out of place anywhere else, but in this story, it fleshes out the characters even more than what they actually are. The dialogues, assumptions etc are true to the nature of the story line and the age of the characters and the absolute complete belief that teenagers and young adults have about the temperamental nature of love. The book succeeds because Aniesha does not make the characters complex. IN this day and age where love and long standing relationships are complex and often looked at with disbelief and doubts, the inner turmoil of both the characters and the passion and ego they feel in equal measure have been brought out extremely well.

There is something incredibly special about a high school romance - you never really forget the first love, and anything anyone ever does might remind you of that person you fell in love with madly, deeply - like the fresh morning footprints on a night of undisturbed snowfall. The quotes and writing style are the USP of this book. The reader can feel the words wrap around them in a comforting cocoon, making them laugh and groan at places. I personally loved the character of Nina very much (and her drunken rants even more), and feel that a little more backstory to Diya's mom would have made more of an impact on the reader after the big reveal. It would have helped the readers connect and empathise more with Diya and her truant attitude.

Like the beautiful quote in one of the author's previous books, this one too, is about the journey, not the destination. The ending is both predictable and unpredictable in its own way. The writing is alluring and elicits the right reaction from the readers in many places (it does not break the concentration even with the typos and errors). The climax is only a leg of the journey and not the ultimate goal of it. The emotions and complexity associated with modern day relationships have been written about so beautifully that this book will instantly connect with your hearts. This book will surely grab a place as a comfort read, sometimes taking the reader back to their own high school days.

All Signs Lead Back To You is an ordinary story narrated in an extraordinary way. 

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The smooth writing style. There is a charm to it.
  • Not harping on only 'love' as a central emotion though this can be called a 'romance book'
  • The quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the author's USP. You could make placards out of them and hang them around the room for daily motivation
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The ending left a bit to be desired - it was rushed.
  • I would have loved a little more backstory on Diya's mom, and a little flesh to the character so it impacts better
  • Additional focus on the extra characters could have made the story livelier
VERDICT:

A comfort read, would find a place in my bookshelf. Waiting for the author's next!

RATING: 3.75/5

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE Rs. 75 for Kindle, Rs.150 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Breedling and the City in the Garden by Kimberlee Ann Bastian : A Review


BOOK TITLE: The Breedling and the City in the Garden

AUTHOR: Kimberlee Ann Bastian

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1945769047

GENRE: YA Fiction

NUMBER OF PAGES: 280

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: The Element Odysseys - Book One

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours for this review copy

SUMMARY:

Absolute obedience, servitude, neutrality. 

These were the laws that once governed Bartholomew, an immortal soulcatcher, until one ill-fated night when he was forced to make a choice: rebel against his masters or reveal an ancient, dangerous secret. 

He chose defiance. 

Imprisoned for centuries as punishment for his decision, Bartholomew wastes away—until he creates an opportunity to escape. By a stroke of chance, Bartholomew finds himself in the human world and soon learns that breaking his bonds does not come without a price. Cut off from the grace that once ruled him, he must discover a new magic in 1930s Chicago. 

Armed with only a cryptic message to give him direction, Bartholomew desperately tries to resume the mission he had started so long ago. Relying on the unlikely guidance of the streetwise orphan Charlie Reese, Bartholomew must navigate the depressed streets of the City in the Garden. But in order to solve this riddle, he must first discover if choice and fate are one in the same.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

I picked this book up for two main reasons. It had been so long since I had read a YA fiction novel, and it had an alluring cover. Something about the cover and the font in it made me want to read this. There was simplicity in the colour combination but elegance in the font and title placement. I moved on to the summary, and despite one or two glaring phrasal errors, I managed to understand what the book was going to be about and began really eagerly.

REVIEW:

It is hard to pen a book set sometime in the bygone centuries / decades and still manage to maintain the accuracy of information presented regarding the time and social circumstances of that period. Harder still is to combine two different worlds with 'centuries' in between them, trying to mingle it with a dystopian fiction.

The narrative succeeds for very few reasons, and one of them is the freshness of the writing and the uniquely named characters. It was a different experience to read and try and figure out where the mythology angle came in. Though I enjoyed the story and the book itself, it was not because it was based on one of my most favorite genres ever, but because there was a stoic beauty in the way the struggles were portrayed and that is where the author managed to connect with me as a reader.

The Breedling & The City in the Garden managed to grab and hold my interest in the prologue and a few subsequent chapters. But with continued reading, even to someone like me who was not part of the original scene setting in any way, some things sounded really off key. Writing a book that combines two different worlds can confuse the reader if not executed properly. Most importantly, I could not shake off the feeling that the narrative mingled the scenes from different eras mentioned in the book and though this might not be a problem for many readers, it did make me pause occasionally.

Constant reminders (using the characters like Bartholomew who travels in 1930's Chicago, to serve punishment for breaking rules) of this book being an YA Fiction is done with the different vocabulary (invented terms, if you will) showing that there is more to this book than just the visible America. Mingling mythology with a relatively modern realistic America was not done quite right.

What concerned me the most about this (otherwise well written) book is that the summary and the story seem like they belong to different worlds altogether. I do have the habit of checking if a story adheres to the summary and what it promised on the back cover and this book was a bit off the mark from what I expected it would be. Classifying books into specific genres seriously limits the scope of the creator and the reader, but when a book goes in a circuitous route to say something, it might look like a journey that lacked destination.

I will, of course, appreciate the book for the writing, but there are certain flaws that need to be corrected in the subsequent books in the series and I would recommend this book to anyone who is bored of the regular mythology books out there and want to try something different. 


WHAT I LIKED:
  • The cover is one of the best I have seen in recent times
  • The narration and style are really engaging, if you do not worry about the story and the depths
  • The epilogue was one of the best parts of the book.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
  • The story lacks form in some places
  • The summary and the story are not quite in sync
  • The book needs to be a little more concise and accurate about the timeline it is supposed to be based in.
VERDICT:

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a mythology fan but is bored of the same old run of the mill stories. If you want to read a different book from your genre, go for this.

RATING: 3.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kimberlee Ann Bastian has a unique love affair with American nostalgia, mythology, and endless possibilities. This melting pot of elements is what prompted the creation of her epic ELEMENT ODYSSEYS series, starting with the reboot of her debut novel now titled THE BREEDLING AND THE CITY IN THE GARDEN. When she is not in her writer's room, working her current "day job", or consuming other literary worlds, she enjoys hiking and cycling around the bluffs of your Southeastern MN home and catching up on her favorite pop culture.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $7.99 for Kindle, $16.95 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Path to Intrigue and Mayhem : Guest Post by Lauren Carr

Guest Post: 
The Path to Intrigue and Mayhem
By Lauren Carr

How did you get started as an author? What was your first professional job as a writer? These are questions that authors are often asked by readers who are curious about what puts a seemingly normal person on the path to getting paid for writing about intrigue and mayhem.

So, here is my story about what set me on my current path of writing about chaos, deception, and mayhem.

Back when I was in high school, students aspiring to go on to college took college preparatory classes, while those planning to go straight into working at the General Motors plant that employed most of Lordstown, Ohio, population and then some, didn’t.

Since I had no intention of spending my life chained to an assembly line, but rather traveling the world writing murder mysteries like Agatha Christie, I took the college prep classes. I found one problem with this path. While I was studying how to format footnotes, those students training to work for General Motors were learning creative writing. For a future novelist, this seemed vastly unfair.

My friend Suzanne was the class mouse. Resembling Velma in Scooby Doo, she wore turtle neck sweaters that covered up all her flesh for fear of someone actually seeing her. Donning big coke bottle glasses, she would hide behind me in class and chastise me for raising my hand to answer questions because when people turned to look at me, they might actually see her cowering behind me.

So, you can imagine her state when she was informed that the term project for her creative writing class was to write a short story and read it out loud in front of the class.

Just in case you can’t imagine: Suzanne fainted.

For weeks, my best friend fretted and whined while I drooled with envy. They got to use their imaginations while I was memorizing the names of all the parts that make up a bibliography.

I tried to help her as best I could. I’d suggest, “Write about something interesting that happened to you.”

“Nothing interesting ever happens to me,” Suzanne would reply.

She was right there. The girl went to school and then home to watch reruns of The Brady Bunch. She wasn’t allowed to watch The Partridge Family, which her mother considered too racy. She didn’t go to school games, date, or leave her yard. This teenage girl had never even been to a pajama party or kissed a boy. Having never experienced anything, she had no material for a story.

As the deadline approached, Suzanne became more desperate while I got more jealous. “Write about your dog’s flea problem.”

“How can I write a whole story about my dog’s fleas?” she asked.

My writer’s imagination took off.

By D-Day, Suzanne had nothing except hives.

I submitted a proposal for my first professional writing assignment. “Do you want me to write your story for you?”

“It’s due after lunch,” End-Times-Suzanne whimpered.

“You go get my lunch and I’ll write it.”

With a deadline of one study hall and lunch period, I wrote her story. Suzanne paid for the project with a cheeseburger, fries, and diet Coke. Time was so short that she didn’t even have time to read it before the teacher ordered her to the front of the room to read it out loud.

To her horror, the class roared with laughter while she read her short story about a girl tasked with writing a short story for her creative writing class. It was a story within a story.  Her first story idea had been one about her dog’s fleas, but she rejected that idea for yet another and then another idea until the deadline was upon her. Having rejected all other premises, she sat down to pen her short story entitled, “My Dog Has Fleas.”

My classmates talked about it for days. They declared it hilarious and clever. Stating that it was unique, imaginative and well written, Suzanne’s teacher gave my story an “A”—the only “A” she got for the whole class.

Suzanne ran home to lock her door, watch a rerun of Bonanza, and never spoke to me again. (There’s always one critic.)

The rave reviews of the class and teacher spurred me on to write mysteries. This is what writers do. When the chips are down, we look to our successes to keep us going on the path we want to take toward literary success. While “My dog Has Fleas” wasn’t a big assignment that garnered a big payoff, I clung to that little story and the praise from the audience to this day

Over three decades later, I am now the author of eighteen murder mysteries … and Suzanne is still not speaking to me. 

Note from Readers Muse: 
I thank the author, Lauren Carr for this beautiful story about her first experience with writing. Much like her books, the story had me completely engrossed and left me with a smile. Thank you, Ms. Carr! Please do keep writing more.

Killer in the Band by Lauren Carr: A Review


BOOK TITLE: Killer in the Band

AUTHOR: Lauren Carr

ISBN/ASIN: B01M193ICR

GENRE: Adult Fiction / Mystery

NUMBER OF PAGES: 410

FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: Lovers in Crime #3

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank iRead Book Tours for this review copy.

SUMMARY:

Summer of Love & Murder

Joshua’s eldest son, Joshua “J.J.” Thornton Jr., has graduated at the top of his class from law school and returns home to spend the summer studying for the bar exam. However, to Joshua’s and Cameron’s shock and dismay, J.J. moves into the main house at Russell Ridge Farm, the largest dairy farm in the Ohio Valley, to rekindle a romance with Suellen Russell, a onetime leader of a rock group who’s twice his age. Quickly, they learn that she has been keeping a deep dark secret.

The move brings long-buried tensions between the father and son to the surface. But when a brutal killer strikes, the Lovers in Crime must set all differences aside to solve the crime before J.J. ends up in the cross hairs of a murderer.

FIRST IMPRESSION:

It is always a thrill to read a book from a different series by the same author. When you are used to a certain writing style, it is a different experience to read about a completely different set of characters. I have read a few books by Ms. Carr, from her Mac Faraday series and her Thorny Rose series. So though it was a book about characters I was not used to, I was looking forward to reading the book mainly because I loved the way the author usually crafts her mysteries. I expected the book to be a page turner, and was sure it was not going to disappoint me.

The cover is right on point. Simple but clear in its design, conveying what it wanted to say in a very aesthetically appealing manner. The summary began with a super line and introduced the characters who are central to the plot.

REVIEW:

Killer in the Band is a book from the Lovers in Crime series and my first from it. The book begins with J.J. returning to his family home, having graduated from law school. He quickly leaves the family home (the story talks about the difference between him, his father and step mother) to be with Suellen Russell, a woman twice as older as him. Though this is a cause for shock and concern for his parents, the problems only keep multiplying. Suellen herself is harboring a secret. A member of her band disappeared and was found dead and she knows something about the fateful night. What terrorises the Thorntons more than anything is the presence of a new killer, and their fear that JJ might somehow be caught up in the confusion. Because when it comes to issues of life, other personal differences need to be set aside.

The story gets into the fast mode soon after the opening pages, with a brilliant prologue to match. (Really loved the 'fan' line there). Things are not as calm as they seem in The Russell Ridge farm house. Cameron Gates (J.J.'s stepmom, Joshua Thornton's wife) starts investigating one murder, a cold case of Dylan, the band member who disappeared and turned up as a corpse and it quickly includes successive murders that keep the reader on the edge of their seat, playing a constant guessing game as to what might happen next, trying to connect the dots to make sense of the connection between and the motive behind the murders.

The book is a page turner, like all of Lauren Carr's books. What kept me glued to the story was the fast pacing. Other authors could take a leaf out of Carr's book on how to maintain the interest of the reader. Be it in the unravelling of the twists and turns one after another or keeping the suspense alive until the last page, the writing style is excellent and most importantly, clean. Though this is a murder mystery involving adults, there is no sleaze and swearing that is aimed at engrossing a set of readers. The plot takes care of that beautifully. One of the most amazing things about this novel is the way the cases and their solution have been worded

This books needs a special mention about the complexity of the characters involved. Unless you are quick with remembering names and wondering why story developed along what lines, it is hard for you to follow the different stories and understand them when they merge together seamlessly. The book requires more concentration than normal to understand and follow the story. In addition to the different characters there are also a considerable number of twists that might alter the reader's perspectives many times over the course of reading. This is a huge, challenging plus in my case, and I love the book all the more for this. Overall, a brilliantly woven mystery thriller, with a clearly surprising climax.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • The book never slackens in pace. This earns it special points from me.
  • The twists are not predictable, and this is how the suspense is kept alive
  • The climax is a highlight of the book
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:

  • If you are used to one set of characters by the author, this will seem completely different yet very similar in certain cases.
  • Some parallel story lines cannot be followed if you are not paying attention to each seemingly simple detail.
VERDICT:

A perfect treat for fans of the author, and a good murder mystery to keep fans of the genre engrossed.

RATING: 4.5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

EDITIONS AVAILABLE: Kindle, Paperback

PRICE $ 0.99 for Kindle, $ 14.99 for Paperback

BOOK LINKS: Amazon