All Your Perfects

In my opinion, an integral part of the new adult or adult genre is the sub-section comprising of stories about the newly-wedded. There is an excess in novels about students and early 20-somethings trying to figure out their place in the world. But I’ve seldom come across books that tackle the subject of marriage without having their characters be 40 year olds. And that’s where Colleen Hoover’s heartrending novel about a couple in their late 20s, whose marriage has become so strained that it threatens to rip them apart, comes into play. Graham and Quinn said the vows almost seven years ago, knowing full well that they would continue to love each other through thick and thin. But somehow the troubles of today have blinded Quinn to that promise. And as the miscommunication drives a wedge between the two, they must confront the reality that if their saving grace is not enough to hold them together, they are very likely hurtling towards the end of their marriage.

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Colleen Hoover’s writing never fails to tug at my heartstrings. The people that adorn the pages of her books are some of the most realistic and relatable characters I’ve ever read! There is almost nothing about them that makes you feel like they’ve been copied off a blueprint of typical contemporary fiction characters. While this book is all about learning to not shine too much light on your flaws, the male MC, Graham comes across as a near-perfect ideal partner. Well, almost ideal because that misdeed towards the end of the novel made me desperately wish for an undo button. I’m not going to condone that kind of behavior. But for the majority, he wasn’t egoistic or selfish or superficial in anyway. Their relationship, although predictable, was a perfect segue from the disaster that was Quinn’s previous relationship. And since heartbreak is something that can very well bring two people together, I wouldn’t call it cliched.

What I particularly loved about this book is that all the chapters go back and forth between two timelines – one when Quinn had just met Graham and another when they had been married for a few years. That helps ease the genuineness of their relationship into the minds of the reader and I found myself, soon into the book, growing to love their bond. The author’s writing style is neither full of ostentatious wordings nor too simple as to take away from bringing these people and their stories to life. I was hooked to it right from the start. Since it is an adult fiction novel, it is quite explicit in its sexual content. So fair warning to younger readers. Something I truly appreciated about this novel is that Colleen Hoover doesn’t try to make her plot cheesy or her characters deliver lines that can be construed as highly exaggerated. When you read it, you’ll come to realize that Quinn, Graham and the others are just like real people with real issues that bother them. It is convincing enough to leave you blubbering atleast once. I know I shed some solid tears a couple of times in the book, not necessarily because something bad had happened, but because their love seemed so pure and so beautiful.

Truly glad to have picked this up and chanced upon a story which addresses a medical concern that many individuals have had the misfortune of experiencing. I do not wish to explain further because that’s too much of a spoiler. Also, brownie points for how Colleen Hoover manages to imbue letter writing with such importance yet again. It is through letters that some of her characters single-handedly manage to “save the day”. I’d definitely recommend this book, whether you are in the mood for a contemporary fiction or not; read it, get empowered by it.

★ ★ ★ ★.5

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Book Review — French Exit by Patrick deWitt

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French Exit displays the gradual unraveling of a mother and son, as they are left to deal with the brunt of the father’s death. Upon Franklin Price’s demise and the consequent bankruptcy, Frances and Malcolm realize that there’s very little left for them in Manhattan. And so, they set sail for Paris, unsure as to what life awaits them in that new continent.

Right off the bat, it is clear that Patrick deWitt’s tragic-comedy does not read like an easy, fluffy contemporary in terms of the language and style of writing. I wouldn’t really recommend it for beginners, because it takes a bit of getting used to and if you’re not familiar with comedy of manners as a genre, then you could find it somewhat dry. That said, I would’ve finished it in one sitting simply because of how engaging the story is. On the surface, the plot is about a mother and son relocating to another place because of all the hardships that have come their way. But as you get into the groove of the novel, you realize it’s as much about the disconnect in their family as it is about their dependence on one another, and how they’ve allowed that to shape their individual relations.

In my opinion, none of the characters in this book can be classified as a type, which is a great quality in a book. They’re unusual in their mannerisms and add new dimensions to the story. Take for example, Mme Reynard who passive-aggressively paves her way into the lives of Frances and Malcolm Price. She becomes so possessive of her friendship with them that she likes it not when others join the gang. In a way, she takes on this nurturing role, caring for the troop when no one else would. At times, Malcolm and Frances relation reminded me of Norma and Norman Bates from Psycho. One of the things I didn’t like about the book is that I wasn’t convinced by Malcolm’s love for Susan. He appeared to be indifferent and distant towards her. In fact, that’s how he is portrayed for almost the entirety of the novel. You’ll find themes of divination, class hierarchy and familial reparations in this book. I definitely enjoyed reading it, because of the humor that has been imbued into it and it is quite unlike the books I usually read. So, do give it a try!

Rating – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A tragic-comedy that takes you from the upper echelons of society to a state of deterioration.

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

Book Review — Against All Odds by Danielle Steel

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

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Against All Odds comes together in the most seamless manner, portraying all the sentiments and decisions that knit a family close together. Kate Madison, after the death of her husband, has adeptly managed bringing up 4 children. She has also made a name for herself in the fashion world with the success of her clothing resale store, Still Fabulous. Now that her children are all grown up, she is more worried than ever, for they seem to be testing fate and making irrational decisions. Izzie, Kate’s oldest daughter, has fallen for a drug addict, with no job and no sense of responsibility. Justin, one of her twins, is planning to have children with his gay partner outside of wedlock. Whereas his sister, Julie can’t fathom the change in tide that threatens to rip her apart from her family. Willie, the youngest of the four leads a sparkling life, disparate from his family, who know nothing about his whereabouts. Despite her warnings, Kate’s children are hell bent on having their way and pay no heed to her. How she manages to protect them is a tale told in delicate and homely fashion in this novel by Danielle Steel.

Family drama is a genre right up my alley and this one was no different. It has all the makings of a winter, cozy read, while still exposing you to the alarming nature of some people in this world. It brings to light the woes of a single mother, who stops at nothing to prevent her children from making mistakes. Danielle Steel’s writing style is very comforting and easy to grasp. Her descriptions aren’t heavy, but just right. One thing I found odd is the repetitive sentences, i.e. a single sentence would be written in two different ways back to back, which made the paragraph a little monotonous. Some scenes weren’t as fluid as they could have been. Apart from that, I have no complaints. The way this story is narrated is quite different from Danielle Steel’s other novels.

The plot is wonderful and circles three generations of a family, along with their differing perspectives. Grandma Lou is a fun-loving character, without a worry and brings to life the term “wanderlust”. While she shares her daughter, Kate’s concerns occasionally, she has a more modern approach to parenting. Kate, on the other hand, takes way too much stress. I guess, it’s understandable. But at times, she’s bit of a hypocrite. Izzie and Julie’s characters were beyond my comprehension. They failed to see what was right in front of their eyes, particularly for girls of such high caliber jobs. I wished they had been smarter in dealing with their personal lives and had been more open with the rest of the family. I liked the section’s pertaining to Justin’s story a lot. His determination to start a family of his own perfectly reflects the values that were passed down to him. I loved the bond that all six of them share. It was the highlight of the novel. Willie doesn’t make much of an appearance in the book, except for the last couple of chapters. Initially, you are wont to think that Kate’s fears are irrational. But as the story progresses, I began to wonder if she was a psychic or not. There’s nothing extraordinary about this book, but the emotions that hold it together, makes it so endearing. I definitely enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend the book to all those who like Contemporary Fiction.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review — Domina by L.S. Hilton

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

Having gotten away with a host of crimes in Maestra, Judith Rashleigh is living the high life of an artist. But good things do come to an end, and she becomes a victim of zersetzung, a German psychological technique of messing with the opponent’s mind. All of Domina chronicles Judy’s single mission to discover the Trojan horse who betrayed her to the Russian mafia. Judy’s people skills reward her with a network of individuals who pave the path towards the boss of the mafia, Yermolov. She must further utilize her power’s of persuasion and wit to barter a good deal with the devil, so as to keep her head, at the end of the day.

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Unfortunately, Domina wasn’t better than the first book. While Maestra had substantial plot points, Domina felt like an elaborate goose chase and that too, not an interesting one. The whole book simply revolves around Judith trying to find the one person who alerted Yermolov (the big bad wolf) about her antics. It gets very monotonous and quite a few of the sections were so boring that it was a struggle. Even the places she visited felt like a weak attempt at making the book interesting. The only thing that keep me going was the expectation that L.S. Hilton’s writing had to create some kind of a blast. Because she is so on point and knowledgeable about art, it’s impressive!

Towards the end, it does pick up pace. Once Judy has found the mystery man, she quickly moves onto coming up with a game plan. And she is damn good at it! All of those sections were captivating. Moreover, the character of Judith has been altered. In this novel, we initially see her as someone who has lost her enthusiasm for blood shed and sex. She’s almost like a drone, atleast in the first half. But one thing I enjoyed about this book was getting to know her backstory. We learn of her past life and somehow, that makes her character more appealing. After the climax, you don’t know what to expect and that ambiguousness also added brownie points. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. But I hope that L.S. Hilton comes out with something that places Judith in a different scenario.

Ratings – 2 out of 5 stars.

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.

Book Review — Dangerous Games by Danielle Steel

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

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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

Book Review — Antique Magic by Eileen Harris

I received this ebook as part of the Blog Tours hosted by Book R3vi3w Tours. Thank you! 
Antique Magic is a short supernatural novel that revolves around the unraveling of mysteries left behind by Bernice Hall, a very ambitious antiquarian with an even riddled motive behind her obsession. Alicia Trent, the protagonist of the story, gets employed in the Hall mansion, after Mrs. Hall’s death, so as to evaluate and sell the enormous collection of antiques nestled in every corner of the house. Thoroughly enjoying her job, Alicia doesn’t see the large sledge hammer about to turn her into a human slush. Someone is trying very hard to make sure she doesn’t succeed in her job and they are not being subtle about it. With multiple threats looming in the horizon and even more number of suspects, Ali has no clue why anyone would have a problem with harmless, kind-loving Bernice Hall, or her either.

The story started off extremely well. It builds a thrilling atmosphere and pushes you to find out what happens later. So good that I was sure it would definitely be worth a 5 star. And that was for the first 5-6 chapters. Then the quality of description tapered off for a bit.  That’s where sections of the novel started to go awry. I didn’t like the protagonist much and so it was difficult to understand her. She behaved without reason and was often immature in her decisions. Many of the dialogues fell flat and weren’t so promising. As for realistic depiction of characters, I found Mrs. Baylor to be a relatable personality who helped Ali throughout and was supportive. The style of narration is rather fun, it covers in detail everything that Alicia does during the day, almost like a journal. And I absolutely love journals made into books. The plot is what sold me into reading this and is a very creative concept to come up with. Kudos to the author for that. I’ve never read any book where antiques played a major role in the storyline and Ali’s job seems to be real fun, apart from when she is dodging death threats. As a reader, we are made to stand on our toes, wondering who is the culprit and there are so many characters, that it is mind boggling. The number of potential love interests for Ali, in the novel, is ridiculously hilarious. All in all, it was a quick, nice read.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

 

Book Review — Kingdom Come by Aarti V Raman

I received a copy of this book from Harlequin India for review. A big thanks to them!

Kingdom Come by Aarti Raman is a romantic thriller woven into the grim and  steadfast world of terrorism. Krivi Iyer is part of a bomb diffusing squad and has lost enough in life to not care when he is on a mission. Years of dealing with crime and death have taken a toll on him. No longer the soft, smiling self, he sees no sense when a certain female individual gives him more attention than need be and somehow he finds himself wanting to reciprocate it. Ziya Maarten is more than intrigued by Krivi’s tough guy exterior. Surely he knows how to laugh? Captivated by his allure, she finds herself risking everything to be with him, even if it means being pushed away by him. A tragic event leads Ziya to accompany Krivi on the trail of an inhuman, maniacal terrorist known as The Woodpecker. His works spread like wildfire, pun intended, and this time around, a personal vendetta has him focused on Krivi Iyer and everyone around him, which includes Ziya. Meanwhile, a terrible folly on the part of Krivi drives a wedge between the two lovers. Will they catch The Woodpecker before he blows up any chance of a future for them?

Admittedly this book took a lot longer to finish but that’s only because of college priorities. So take no notice of that and assume it’s an uninteresting book. No, it was totally and absolutely worth spending time over. Ziya Maarten is a do-gooder with deep rooted love for her dear ones. Throughout the novel, as would anyone, she is inclined to take some silly decisions but at a point the stronger side of her surfaces upon being tormented. I really liked the collab of terrorism, detective and romance angles in this book. Krivi is the typical brooding guy with smouldering looks who thinks he doesn’t need love in life but is proven wrong by the female protagonist. He too must make some sacrifices for the greater good of the world. I haven’t read much on terrorism so this was a good change. I thought this might be like your average detective novel with a love angle to it. But its so much more and the revelation  towards the end is mind blowing. Something you’d never have thought. Not to mention the beautiful vivid imageries describing Ladakh and Tibet helped the novel play out in my mind. The one thing that sort of nagged at me is how fixated he got with her “silver eyes”. I mean, once he realizes he cares for her, its like every second page has a mention of her silver eyes. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed it and you should definitely give it a try.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5.

Mia.