Books · Reviews

Book Review — Maestra by L.S. Hilton

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

Judith Rashleigh, an undervalued art enthusiast begins to tire of her job at the London auction house. A chance meeting with an old friend draws her attention towards the Gstaad Club. Soon, she is rolling in money, but even such luxury comes at a price. A vacation gone wrong is the first step in her unbecoming. From there, she embarks on a journey of darkness; full of sex, swindling and swapping identities. In an attempt to escape her past, she is always on the run, thereby cornering herself into a place of bitterness and social isolation. L.S. Hilton’s Maestra is a lesson about cause and effect, delivered brutally through the peculiar persona of Judith.

The synopsis of this book does a great deal in creating an air of mystery around the story. But in actuality, once you’ve read a decent chunk of the book, you get the gist of how the rest of it is going to unfold. As such, there isn’t much of a surprise in terms of what befalls Judith. L.S. Hilton’s eye for detail is commendable. Some of the scenes are very elaborately laid out and at times, I’d lose track of what is relevant to the scene. A lot of the art terminology just flew above my head, so those sections felt a bit lackluster. Judith’s character is as normal as can be when the curtain raises. But gradually, we find out that she has some very odd tastes, very psychopathic in nature. Her sexual preferences are probably the most normal thing about her. I was quite astonished to see her character arc. Apart from the need to put her past behind her and a troublesome childhood, I couldn’t think of any reason for her alarming personality. My only hope was that she’d be redeemed towards the end.

The author paints a very intrinsic picture about the world of beauty and wealth; drawing a positive correlation between the two elements. When you factor in the extent of crimes committed and the ease with which they were brushed under the carpet, you are left wondering just how gullible security forces can be. This book is upheld by very few substantial characters – a quality I found to be impressive. In comparison to the descriptive content, there’s very little conversation between characters. And that itself depicts how reclusive and aloof Judith has become. It can be very draggy to not have a good balance of influential characters. But somehow, the author manages. Probably through the use of Judith’s fluctuating identity and adaptability to new places. One other thing I loved about the novel was the traveling. You are literally taken for a jolly ride around Europe, that too, in full glory. And you (the reader), unlike Judith, don’t have to deal with the mess she creates. All in all, I enjoyed reading Maestra; it was unlike anything I’ve read before. But I simply wish that there was a little more value in terms of story progression and thematic development. I am a bit confused as to where the second book is headed, since all the loose ends tie up nicely in this one. Check it out if this review or the plot further intrigues you.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars.

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Dangerous Games by Danielle Steel

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

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Alix Phillips has always been a zealous reporter; racing headfirst into the most risky jobs. She cares little for her own safety and so is able to devote her every waking second to the tasks at hand – be it visiting terrorist laden countries or interviewing volatile protest groups. But when she gets neck deep into a political affair that threatens to impact the nation at large, she is forced to reflect on the repercussions of her action. Not only her life, but the lives of people she cares about, is jeopardized as a result of her daring. Danielle Steel’s Dangerous Games, while juxtaposing the ethics of a reporter to that of the corrupt morals of a politician, brings to the limelight the transience of human life.

I was positively intrigued by the synopsis and was even more pleasantly surprised to find that the novel does great justice to it. The theme of politics is explored to a certain extent, but not so much so that it becomes draggy. Alix’s job and her perspective holds the entire story together. Battling the constant odds of surviving, she and Ben make for an excellent duo. It was a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Tony Clark’s mien has been penned down so meticulously that, as a reader, I abhorred him wholeheartedly. I wished that a certain community of people had been represented in a better fashion, as they tend to be naturally compartmentalized as villains. The characterization in the novel is wholesome and somehow, in the span of 300 pages, we are able to see characters grow and flourish.

A predictable plot point, in this novel, is fueled after the climax, which I felt added uniqueness to the structure. Usually with suspense novels, the climax is the absolute ending of the book. Here, Danielle Steel goes on to tie all the loose ends. The way things are delineated in this book makes for an interesting play on concepts. There is very little stereotyping and a larger questioning of the boundaries set by society, with special emphasis on labels, education and societal norms. As the story progresses, we are forced to think about life, priorities and weighing the pros-cons of a predicament. All in all, it was a bountiful experience and I would surely recommend this book to those who enjoy a good suspense.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Redemption by Laxmi Hariharan

I received an e-arc of this book for review, from the author. Thank you 🙂

Redemption by Laxmi Hariharan is a kaleidoscopic view of the new world inhabited by humans, shifters, vampires and other beings. Guilty of a horrendous mistake she made, Leana, curbs her inner-wolf, as she fights battles to win a livelihood for her orphanage. Rohan, her human cousin, is neglected by his family and finds himself in wrong company. Unable to remember anything from his past, Mikhail sets out to meet the one woman who caught his eye in the new world. Whereas, the Mayor of Bombay will stop at nothing to vanquish the villainous vampires that threaten to ravage her city. Little does she know what she chances to encounter in her war.

This book is filled with so many elements and wonderful concepts. I have always enjoyed a good paranormal fiction. This one goes above and beyond to incorporate the genres of romance, thriller, adventure into the meticulously thought-out plot. The idea of patterns and colours, as playing an important role in individual identity, is exquisite. It’s something that I have never heard of before. The author’s writing style draws you in and somehow, you find yourself sympathizing with even the most notorious of characters. Rohan and Daniel are sketched to be the bad guys and yet, at several points in the novel, I felt that they deserved better. I would love to read a novella featuring their story.

Leana’s plight is deplorable. She is haunted by the mistake she has made and is unable  to come to terms with her wolf-self. As the story progresses, her personality undergoes some changes and she becomes a stronger individual. Some of the themes that the book explores are redemption, abuse, LGBTQ, violence, power etc. One thing that irked me a bit was the fact that vampires are once again depicted to be the villains. I’d like to have seen a different perspective. I like how characters from the different books are woven into this story. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more content by the author. I recommend this book to all those who enjoy Supernatural Fiction.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

Image courtesy – Goodreads

The Princess Saves Herself in this One is a collection of moving poetry that, while experimenting with form and structure, conveys the very poetic sentiments of a woman who braves all of life’s experiences and hands it back to the haters. Split into four different chunks, the poems carry an assortment of themes such as acceptance, loneliness, rejection, motivation, resilience, love etc.

The title of the book was enough to draw me in. I haven’t read a lot of poetry, but something about the raw emotions and out of the box structuring in this one, made me read all of it at one go. Some of the poems barely have ten words and yet, they pack a punch. The poetess has played around with shapes, spacing, grammatical syntax and created a language of her own. A language she uses to her best and appeals to the audience. I believe there’s something in the collection for everyone. Her writing style is impactful and lyrical. You find yourself submerged in the world she creates.

The first section is titled “Princess” and features poetry that echoes a young voice, full of hope and affection seeking. It compels you to empathize with the narrator, as she grieves the loss of loved ones. Similar feelings surface in the next section, wherein, the narrator talks about heartbreak and lovers who never really understood her worth. But then she goes all guns blazing in the third section, which is all about empowerment and fighting back. Lastly, the “You” section showcases poetry that highlights others. What impresses me even more is the fact that Amanda Lovelace has taken the form of poetry and owned it. She has spun pure magic through her words, defying the necessity for stanzas or full stops. In a way, she has used the English language to do her bidding. The number of themes employed in this collection is just overwhelming. I would definitely recommend the book to all those who love poetry. It is definitely worth reading again and again.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — The Curse of Mohenjodaro by Maha Khan Phillips

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

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Maha Khan Phillips’ The Curse of Mohenjodaro is a sweeping narrative that shuffles between 3800 BC and the present; chronicling the dire consequences of corrupted leaders and subjugated populace, both, then and now. Nadia Osbourne had just about escaped the clutches of her maniacal father, when her sister, Layla, goes missing in Mohenjodaro, during an archaeological dig. What’s more, her frequent dreams about a girl, Jaya, grow to be more vivid and strangely connected to the Mohenjodaro mystery. There’s more than meets the eye with regard to the disappearance of the archaeologists group and so Nadia must look to historic events to protect thousands of people in the present. Full with magical realism, mobsters and rediscovery of a family’s powerful lineage, this novel is a brilliant addition to the thriller genre.

The cover design is an interplay of strong colours placed in the forefront of sharp structures that represent the Indus Valley civilization. It is alluring enough to draw one’s attention towards the book, from wherein, the story takes over and does its job wonderfully. Even though the format of the book is such that it goes back and forth between two time frames, it isn’t confusing or distracting in the least bit. In fact, the portions set in Jaya’s world are so strong that they transport you to the era. The author’s writing style supports her story very well and creates a captivating atmosphere throughout. It is fast paced and worthy of being finished in one sitting.

The characterization too, is up to the mark, and imbues many of the important characters with all the power they require to carry forward the story. As infuriating as Sohail (Nadia and Layla’s father) is, he plays an integral role in mirroring the greed and corruption of today’s time. Many women characters are made the focal point of the plot, and wield the driving force. I liked Aal the best – she is depicted to be this obedient daughter who becomes feisty because of circumstances. The whole system, in 3800 BC, that of the Goddess-Blessed, High One, Priests and Clans is allegorical of caste systems and social hierarchy as seen now. A disturbing theme at that. Some other themes that are explored in this novel are that of abuse, poverty, rebellion, good conquers bad etc. There isn’t really anything I can fault about the book. And so, everything considered, I loved this novel a great deal. I am very glad that it is my first book of 2017. It is a must read, so do pick it up, for sure!

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Colorful Notions by Mohit Goyal

Thank you Writers Melon for a copy of this book for review 🙂

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Mohit Goyal’s Colorful Notions brings together the essence of roadtrips, the cultural delights of India and the lives of three twenty year olds in this hearty novel. Abhay, Sashank and Unnati, hailing from Delhi, decide to embark on a sojourn that will test not only their physical and mental strengths, but also their perception of life. A meticulously planned trip unravels to show them how wonderfully surprising life can be, as they experience the greatest thrills, griefs and self-awareness that they have ever come to terms with. Each carry their own baggage, ready to learn something new from this drastic change of scene.

As intriguing as the synopsis is, the novel is in fact far more captivating. A roadtrip with India as the backdrop is something I’ve never read before and so I was pleasantly surprised how so many destinations could be covered in the matter of few pages, yet not diluting the experience for the reader. The characterization of the protagonist is so strong that after a point of time, you begin to get fully absorbed into the accounts. That being said, I didn’t like Abhay’s character very much. He is the quintessential antihero. Whereas Sashank and Unnati had decent character arcs, which involved a lot of bickering and patching up.

Much like many other novels, there were cliches in the plot. Like that of the rich brat, the duff, love triangle, stereotypical representations of a community etc. While I didn’t like these elements a lot, the key focus being the roadtrip was encapsulated well. The trip, here, qualifies as a harbinger of change. And I quite liked that analogy – of having them challenge their comforts only to get more attuned with themselves. One other thing that irked me a bit is how easily they were roped in by a production house. That part was not as believable as it could have been made. All in all, it is a fun book, definitely worth your time, for it also contributes factually to your knowledge about India. There were aspects that weren’t great, and some which were done well.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

Thank you Vibha Batra for sending me a copy of your book for review 🙂

Glitter and Gloss chronicles the love and work life of Misha, a twenty something makeup artist, who unknowingly spites a MVP at an event, only to later realize who he is. Things snowball from there and somehow, her and Akshay’s relationship evolves into a close knit one. But fairytale scenarios do take place in real life too and Misha finds herself battling not only work woes but Akshay’s traditional family who is not too keen on accepting her.

Image courtesy – Goodreads.

While the issue of familial acceptance has been broached a number of times before , I was intrigued by the protagonist’s profession and how that would play a part in the story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book from the start, At no point does it get draggy or uninteresting. The narration, through the point of view of Misha, is done well. The author makes use of Hindi words to fully convey the essence of the situation through Misha’s perspective and I quite liked that. The element of humor keeps the novel lively all throughout and I was cracking up a lot. The chemistry between Misha and Akshay is great. They make an adorable pair.

I greatly liked reading about her work as it added another dimension to the story. The idea of playing with narrow-minded notions added an interesting flavor to the book. I was glad that Sammy, being a non-gay guy, was shown to be her roommate till the very end (much to the horror of Akshay’s elder sister). Cause if he had been done away with, then it would just fuel the one track mind of society. Poulomi is penned to be the elder sister – bestfriend character. There were some tropes  used that I wasn’t a big fan of. Such as that of the male lead being tall & handsome; that of the conservative Indian family including gossiping aunties. Sometimes I wished that Misha would think more rationally. That way she could have avoided a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, I liked the book on the whole. It makes for a fun read. I’d recommend it to everyone who loves Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Selfienomics by Revant

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Revant’s debut novel, Selfienomics, is a guide that attempts to enhance our quality of life by broadening our mental horizons. Through the span of these eleven chapters, he pays close attention to the various facets of our lives, drawing our attention towards how we could be living a more positive and healthy life. Interspersed with quotes and pop-culture references that back the various points made, Selfienomics induces a retrospective sphere wherein one is compelled to look at their perspective on matters of importance. It presents us with the information needed to make our own well-informed opinions.

Since I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, I wasn’t sure to what extent I’d enjoy this one. Any initial hesitation on my part, was wiped clean soon after. Revant’s witticism and flair for writing shines through from the beginning. He makes use of colloquial language, generously adding tons of hashtags and Hindi words. Fear not, for those who aren’t familiar with these non-English words and references, there’s a glossary of sorts at the back. What I found to be unique and surprisingly, very likable is the fact that he uses several business theories & principles to explain human sensibilities. And they made total sense!

Humor is definitely one of the author’s major strengths. Almost every five minutes, I was laughing out loud. While a majority of the instances delineated in the book were relatable, there were some that weren’t. At one point, I thought the finance aspect got a little too much, but then out of nowhere he’d drop a little joke and I’d be clutching my stomach with tears of laughter. I love how this book employs a great deal of positive psychology elements such as good life, health, ambition etc. Moreover, its informative, so you glean a lot from it. There’s a Dialogues and Discussion section at the end of a topic, which helps you get a better understanding of what has been spoken about and what your values are.

Revant makes a lot of realistic points, encouraging the readers to rethink their POV. He prods you to question everything you’ve learnt – be it about God, nutrition, time, jobs, society and much more. Like Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction, he systematically breaks down our thought process, highlighting how we get accustomed to think the way we do. Even though there are some things I don’t agree with, I believe that was the point of the book – to bring you clarity about where you stand. Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d read it again and again from time to time. I’ve probably said this multiple times before, but this book is HILARIOUS and yet it doesn’t take away from the seriousness of certain issues! It is a must read for everyone, no matter your tastes in books. I urge you to pick it up right away.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — This Was A Man by Jeffrey Archer

Image courtesy – Goodreads

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

The final book in the Clifton Chronicles, This Was A Man is a finale like no other. Jeffrey Archer, effortlessly, brings together several generations of the Barringtons and Cliftons; binding them in a stronghold of family, friendship and love. While Emma and Harry Clifton are steadily climbing the ladder of success, knocking off obstacles with a flick of their hand, their granddaughter Jessica gets blinded by a carefree lifestyle, careening into a destructive future. Lady Virginia Fenwick plays the part of a puppeteer in an attempt to stay afloat at the cost of others’ despair.

Brother and sister are pitted against each other in their own battle for justice when Emma and Giles’ views on a bill demand their efforts to be poured into oppositional political parties. Whereas, fate plays its part in the lives of Adriane Sloane, Desmond Mellor and Jim Knowles, as a wicked turn of events has them scurrying to gather support. This last installment, applaudable in every right, is a reminder of the glory of a writer – be that of Jeffrey Archer or Harry Clifton – both of whom, have left a marvelous legacy behind.

Having read the previous book in the series, I was eager to know how everything would be concluded in this one. Even though the book opens with a mystery, I felt that the initial few chapters were a little slow paced and often, I found myself trying to hard to stay tuned to what was going on. I didn’t care much for the politics. But Jeffrey Archer is no ordinary writer. And I was buckled in for a thrilling ride soon after. One of the major brownie points that this novel garners is its characterization. The depth of character is evident as we follow multiple storylines taking place simultaneously. I particularly loved the sections with Jessica Clifton and Lady Virginia, because they were so unpredictable. Samantha Clifton doesn’t have much of a presence in the book, but that is alright.

This novel only gets better and better with each chapter. It engulfs you with myriad emotions at the most unexpected of times. Needless to say, Giles Barrington is a splendid orator. His speeches, his points of debate left me in awe of the power he possess to tide over his audience with mere words. I haven’t read the whole series and yet I was so drawn towards the book, I can’t begin to imagine the state of other Jeffrey Archer fans who have been following the Cliftons from the beginning. The bonds of family and friendship that have been highlighted are beyond commendable. So much so that I wanted to be a part of something as magnanimous. I definitely loved this book a lot more than the previous one. And would encourage you to pick it up, if you haven’t already. It will keep you hooked till the very end and when it does end, you’d be left with a feeling of something great that has washed over you and is now receding. Kudos to Jeffrey Archer! This Was A Man, indeed.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Books · Reviews

Book Review — Born at Midnight by C.C Hunter

Image courtesy – Goodreads

For a long time, the only thing Kylie Galen had to worry about was her parents constant bickering. She is in for a drastic change of environment when a night of partying goes wrong and her mother decides to ship her off to a strange camp. For someone struggling to come to terms with the reality that her household is in tatters, she is dunked headfirst into the world of supernaturals. But Kylie refuses to submit, she knows she doesn’t belong there. She struggles with her identity, wishing she could go back home and be away from the cacophony. Even if it means going back to a family that doesn’t really care for her.

This book was brimming with several cliches that have been doing the rounds for awhile now. Filled with love triangles, enmity between clans and family secrets, Born at Midnight reads a lot like many other paranormal romances, but I devoured it nevertheless. I love C.C Hunter’s writing style. It was catchy and intriguing. Even though there were some things that irked me, I wanted to finish it. The backdrop of this novel is great and the way the author describes the setting, made me want to teleport there.

However, one of the major minus points, for me, in this novel was the characterization. I didn’t really like Kylie a lot. She seemed very undecided for a majority of the novel – not only about her love life but also about whether she wanted to continue staying at the camp. Lucas has been made out to be the brooding, villainous character who doesn’t speak a lot. Her roommates – Della and Miranda – are at each other’s throats constantly, which got a little annoying after a point of time. The pace of the novel is good and peaks at the right time. I really liked the ending and I am curious about what will happen in the sequel. But I don’t know if I would read it anytime soon. Overall, it was a decent book, just nothing extraordinary.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera