Book Review — There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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Osborne, Nebraska seldom draws attention from the outside. It is a quaint little place where everybody knows everybody. But when students of Osborne High start to become victims of a serial killer, the entire world tunes in. There’s a pattern to these killings, which none other than Makani Young and her friends are able to notice. Unfortunately for them, the devious killer is always one step ahead, messing with the minds of his next victims. Would they have to fend for themselves in a town where the police seem incapable of solving the case?

In true YA murder-mystery fashion, this book involved a good chunk of school drama and suspense. That was exactly what roped me in. It was one of those books for which I read the synopsis and had to pick it up the very next second. What’s sad to see is that the poor ratings of this book stem from the fact that it doesn’t border on paranormal even though it is categorized as horror. Certainly it is evident that horror doesn’t merely pertain to that which is supernatural, it is in fact the emotion elicited from being spooked. And boy does the serial killer know how to horrify his/her victims before he/she goes in for the kill! I know that Stephanie Perkins’ writing is highly hyped because of her YA romance novels, but never having read anything written by her, I didn’t know what to expect. I really really enjoyed reading There’s Someone Inside Your House. It was written in a very chatty and smooth manner, such that you can breeze through it. The narration is easy to grasp and doesn’t disconnect from the story. As with any suspense, you attempt to guess who the culprit may be throughout the book, but in this one it is not predictable by a long shot.

The characterization isn’t all that unique, because the author employs some tropes relevant to high school hierarchies. The male lead is shown to be brooding, quiet and slightly secretive. The “jock” is inevitably a douche. There isn’t much substance on secondary characters except for when they are in danger of being attacked. Mostly everyone performs the role of furthering the plot, by creating an air of whodunnit. Even though the plot isn’t complicated or filled with twists and turns, you find yourself bewildered by how the story progresses. Fair warning to people who can’t stomach gore, the killings are quite brutal. Those who love books like Pretty Little Liars, One Of Us Is Lying and Dangerous Girls, should definitely pick up this one; you won’t be disappointed for sure.

What do you get out of it? A fun, thrilling read.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review — Hell! No Saints in Paradise by A.K. Asif

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Ismael’s disbelief in the existence of Hell and Paradise is contested by otherworldly beings who require him to play a part in their revolution. He is the key to upturning a futuristic, dystopian society, a place of extremist power; so that it may once again revert to normality. The path to fulfilling such a responsibility is one filled with great restraint and dedication. He leaves his home in America, only to head back to his birthplace and realize just how depraved it has become. Trying to set aside his rational thinking, Ismael finds himself in parallel realms, surrounded by oddities and species as mind boggling as the other.

The plot was intriguing enough to make me want to read it asap! For the longest time, I believed that this book could end up as a great success, but somehow along the way, the character of Ismael ruined it all. I loved how imaginative and descriptive the writing style is. Although the ideals of Hell and Heaven are cliches, they are portrayed with such emphasis that you begin to absorb it easily. Even the plot is extraordinary and brave. To take a concept that could very well be considered sensitive or problematic and turn it into a story of magic realism is applaudable indeed. Since I have a keen affinity for that which challenges the notions of normal and acceptable, I was really hoping to love this novel. You get certain Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood-esque vibes in the beginning, which was what kept me going. The elements of a dystopian society were penned down exceptionally well, to such a degree in fact as to warn the readers of what could possibly occur in the future.

This novel has some very strong themes, such as intolerance, gory violence, sexual content. Moving on to the aspect of the novel that prevented me from finishing it – Ismael. Initially, his character is depicted to be just like any other protagonist, suffering from family and financial troubles, opinionated and skeptical about strangers. On a whim, he happens to sign up for an Ayahuasca ceremony (a drug induced “trip”) that introduces him to an agent of another realm. Fast forward a few days and Ismael has followed instructions by an anonymous person, asking him to move back to his childhood home. It is from there, that we get the glimpse of an inconsistent character. Just his thoughts and actions didn’t really line up, therefore making him rather unlikeable. I found myself trying to set aside my thoughts about Ismael, just so I could get to the end of the book, but after a point it got too much. I seem to be amongst the very few who couldn’t digest this story, so by all means, give it a try.

What do you get out of it? A glimpse into a scary future. It also encourages thinking outside the box, which is essential in order to have a broader mind.

Ratings – 1 out of 5 stars

Thank you Writers Melon and HarperCollins India for sending me this book in exchange for a review. 

Book Review — 5 Ingredients Quick Easy Food by Jamie Oliver

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How often have you googled recipes only to realize that the ingredients required are five times more than the number of servings or that the time needed to prepare the dish is a lot longer than what you’re ready to invest? With Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients Quick Easy Food, you don’t need to worry about a thing! It has clear cut instructions, pictures of ingredients, so you know exactly what’s required and drool-worthy snaps of the end product. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. From basic dishes like egg fried rice and and steak sandwich to extravagant meals like smoky mushroom frittata and succulent lamb stew, this cookbook offers something for everyone. Split into 11 sections based on the nature of the dish (veg, fish, salads, sweet treats, pork etc.), this volume is diverse and incorporates different cuisines. So now, you can cook as per your mood and have a fabulous meal ready in no time! Concerned about nutrition? Flip to the very end where you’ll find tons of information about staying healthy, straight from a nutritionist.

Skim through to whichever section you prefer at that moment.

The structure and form of each recipe. Ingredients to the left, final product to the right and some basic instructions in the middle.

Made the Egg Fried Rice and Quick Steak Stir Fry.

Cooking is not one of my favourite things to do. And yet, when I had a glimpse of what this book offers, I knew I had to get a copy. I was pleasantly surprised by how everything had been made convenient for the reader. For starters, the instructions to each and every recipe are written in a simple and direct manner, that too in just a couple of paragraphs. More often than not, I’ve found that lengthy procedures make the whole ordeal even more troublesome because you have to take care of so many elements. Since the specialty of this book is that all the dishes were made out of 5 main ingredients, it was very comforting. Secondly, the structure of this book earns major brownie points. Each section has 9 – 12 recipes on average. That way you don’t need to run to the grocery store, every time you intend to cook. 85% of the ingredients are basics like eggs, sugar, meats, sauces, bread, vinegar and so on. The only thing that bothered me a little is that a select few of the sauces and vegetables aren’t as easily available where I live. Another thing that I really liked about this cookbook is that pictures of the ingredients are aligned to the left in a strip format. So you can flip through the pages and pull out recipes relevant to ingredients that you have at home.

You can’t go wrong with a cookbook that has been put together by a renowned chef such as Jamie Oliver. All of the dishes look really enticing. I’ve tried out three recipes at random, and true to the word, they have all turned out spectacular with minimal effort! *pat on the back* I highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you’re not much of a cook. Don’t be intimidated by the names of the dishes, they are as easy as can be. Get a copy and see for yourself!

What do you get out of it? You learn how to cook different cuisines with ease, while retaining the quality of the dish. Quick, quality cooking at your fingertips.

Ratings – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you Penguin India for sending me this book in exchange for a review. 

Book Review — Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Summary – When Captain Nesryn Faliq and Lord Chaol Westfall made their way to Antica, seeking the help of the Great Khagan Urus, they did not know the full extent of the trouble brewing in the horizon. In order to protect their people from demon kings, they must convince the royal family to join forces and employ their armies against the common threat. Unfortunately for them, persuading the royals to give up their resources for the protection of another kingdom proves to be a task; one that isn’t helped by Chaol being confined to the wheelchair. Nesryn takes it upon herself to find an alternative path, while Chaol receives the healing that only the healers of Torre Cesme in Antica can provide. In doing so, Nesryn embarks on an adventure of her own with an unforeseen ally to far away lands in search of other potential allies. Due to a traumatic childhood experience, Yrene Towers, Heir of the Healer on High, can’t ever fathom helping an Adarlanian soldier, let alone one that has a temper as Chaol does. Healing him goes beyond her sense of compassion. Whether she lets the festering bitterness break her oath as a healer is yet to be seen. But she is no less a formidable player in the war that threatens to submerge all the kingdoms.

Review – No part of this review will ever be able to encompass or properly convey just how exceptional this book is. No words of praise are truly sufficient for the magic that Sarah J. Maas creates. Tower of Dawn is a chunky book at 600+ pages, but not once did I get bored or feel like it was lacklustre. Even though there aren’t a lot of cliffhangers within the book, it had enough WOW moments that I found myself squealing with joy or gasping at the story progression. The author masterfully creates a web of anticipation that keeps us hooked till the very end. The writing style is idiomatic and picturesque. You can’t help but be transported to the archaic infrastructures described so vividly. I personally would love to live in the Torre. While the plot is interesting and basic, it is the mind-blowing characterizations and themes that make this novel a home run. Every once in awhile, Sarah J. Maas would incorporate idealistic themes of a utopian world that would strongly juxtapose the world we’re living in.

Matters of disability are dealt with carefully and in a manner that rightly exposes  the sentiments of a person who has to undergo such trauma. Chaol isn’t shown to be pitiful or whiny. Instead, he takes matters into his own hands, living his life in the best possible manner from the wheelchair. That was actually very refreshing to read.  Coming to characters, there wasn’t a single one that was flat or useless. They were all brilliant beyond means and each having powerful storylines. The representation of the royal family was one of my favourite aspects of this book. When it comes to cliches, I was glad to see that the princesses and other female characters were not shown to be shy or all that benevolent. Hasar’s character is unique because she is feisty, rude and yet selectively amicable. Each member of the royal family makes for an intriguing addition. There were just so so many fantastic relationship equations that had me grinning from ear to ear. I’d definitely love to read more about Borte and Yeran, not to forget Nesryn and Sartaq. This entire book is a rollercoaster ride, one that I’m going to re-visit several times in the future. It has become one of my top favourites of all time. There’s just so much more about this book that leaves me utterly speechless. Please, I URGE you ALL to READ Tower of Dawn; it’ll steal your heart and never give it back.

What do you get out of it? Major feels. This book is all smoke and cause for hyperventilation. It presents great, wholesome characters, commendable parallel storylines and majestic airborne creatures known as ruks. What more do you want?

Rating – 5 out of 5 stars

Older and Dearer

There are none like you –
Maddeningly selfless and
Unconditionally supportive.
Everything that comes your way,
Good or bad, is somehow absorbed
By the magnanimity of your kind, kind soul.
Never asking for anything in return,
You’ve only learnt to give.
The glint in your eyes,
Had they not missed,
They wouldn’t dare awake
A sleeping goddess.
A mother is a nurturer,
A forgiver of uncounted errs.
I should know,
I’ve seen you brush aside
The most roiling of behaviors.
But she is also a warrior,
With strength, even the most trained
Ones can’t fathom.
Mother, you remind me what it is
To be persistent and genuine.
It is my turn to give.
So accept all my consideration and love,
Do all that your heart desires.
Live, like you would, a women
Carefree and young.
Even though you grow older,
You’ll continue to be
The most beautiful woman I know.

Happy Birthday, Omma.

Book Review — Charlatans by Robin Cook

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review. 

Summary – The unprecedented death of a healthy man during a minor surgery launches the super chief resident of Boston Memorial Hospital, Noah Rothauser, into investigating the ethical stance of doctors at BMH. But little does he know that he has been expending his efforts in the wrong direction. His discoveries lead him to question his judgment of people, thrusting him into a vortex of gradual disintegration. When his career as a surgeon is threatened, Noah finds himself jumping on a flight out of the city, to trace the root of the problems. Robin Cook’s Charlatans delineates the world of medicine and fraudulence with astounding clarity.

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Review – What started out as an overwhelming trip to the ORs and a close monitoring of Noah Rothauser’s daily schedule soon picked up pace and became the most gripping medical-mystery I’ve ever read! I never thought I’d be intrigued by surgeons and their job, but Robin Cook’s careful interspersing of conflicts and elements of suspense made the whole story very interesting. The plot in itself is commendable because it compels you into thinking just how reliable our lifesavers are, be it doctors, lawyers or even the police force. Themes of betrayal, suspicion and romance add the necessary sparkle to prevent this chunk of a book from being boring. His writing style is wordy and yet easy to grasp. There were times when I was wondering why we are privy to every minute detail of the happenings in a day.

Creating extraordinary characters and fleshing out the process of their unraveling seems to be something Robin Cook is great at. I was equally mesmerized by the actions and thought processes of Noah as well as Dr. Ava London. It is said that they are “two peas in a pod”, but they are actually quite the opposite of each other. Neither of their personalities is predictable by a far shot. They possess such a surprising bunch of qualities. Although I’d hoped that Noah would grow a bit of a backbone. That being said, parts of the mystery became predictable for me because of nagging doubts that took root early in the story. Even Dr. Mason, one of the villains, is imbued with such annoying qualities that it elicits a strong response from the reader. As far as the characters are concerned, Charlatans presents something new. I really liked the inclusion of social media as a theme that is vital to the millennial generation. This novel successfully portrays the transience of morals, identities in a day and age that is governed by social media. The climax and the aftermath were inevitably shocking. Just when you begin to think that you’ve figured it all out, you’re proven wrong. This book is a must read and won’t allow you to come up for air!

What do you get out of it? In addition to understanding the workings of a hospital, you get an insightful glance at modern technology’s role in creating charlatans. Plus some fantastic character arcs!

Rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review — Awaken by Ashok K. Banker

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review. 

Summary – Three female protagonists with different superpowers form the premise of Ashok K. Banker’s Awaken, the first book in the Shakti trilogy. Kiara, a resident of Delhi, is bewildered by the sudden growth of golden fur and heightening of her senses. Not far off, in Ahmedabad, Saumya is delighted by her newfound ability to teleport anywhere just by visualizing the place. And Sia, hailing from Nagaland, hasn’t fully come to terms with how powerful her singing is. Connected by a common thread of an ancient race, these women find themselves tasked with the responsibility of protecting all of mankind from the Haters, a species hell bent on destroying Earth. This dystopian fiction that mirrors the reality of a nation is simply a prequel to the major showdown inevitable next in the series.

Image courtesy – Google.

Review – Having been really eager to read this book, my expectations were a lot higher than what the book delivered. In fact, there was so much underutilized potential in terms of characters and plot that I really hope the next book picks up. The author’s writing style is a bit discursive and fluid. He makes use of Hindi language phrases occasionally to emphasis a character’s frustration. The chapters shuffle between the three protagonists’ perspectives. Despite that, it wasn’t difficult to follow the story lines of three characters simultaneously at all. I felt that Sia’s story was a lot more gripping because we are exposed to a culture that doesn’t usually fall under mainstream. Moreover, she is a transgender character and there’s a lot of clarity in how her story plays out. I was quite confused by Kiara’s superpower. For the longest time I figured she was a werewolf, but the cover displays something else. Perhaps because it is such a short book, I felt that the characters weren’t very impactful.

There were a few things that I couldn’t get past. First of all, the introduction of the characters goes on till half of the book. The plot only progresses towards the end. Secondly, some aspects of the story weren’t as realistically portrayed. I was surprised by the strong negative representation of Indian society and culture. Not to say it isn’t true. But this novel dives right into our backward thinking, extremist outlooks and polarizes it with the protagonists’ modernist views. Ashok Banker has outstandingly conveyed where exactly we are going wrong as a country of diverse groups. And I’d like to commend him for the same. I appreciate the fact that the author places great importance on women in this novel. Moreover, he has mastered the art of cliffhangers. At the end of every chapter I was keen to read the next immediately. On the whole, the book was unputdownable because of the idea underlying it, except for a few glitches. It is short and can be read in one sitting. If the story appeals to you, you should give it a try!

What do you get out of it? A captivating fiction that highlights the need for social reforms by positing modern women as the harbingers of peace, equality and justice.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars