Book Review — One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

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Five students with distinct identities are seemingly tricked into detention, but what comes after that is no joke. One of them is dead and the four who walk out aren’t exactly blameless. They all have an ax to grind with the dead boy, Simon. You see, he was to set in motion a series of events that would threaten to ruin their lives. But now, they’re doomed to a fate of harsh judgment, discrimination and possible social isolation. While their world is being ripped apart by the police and media, they find solace in unexpected ways. The truth about Simon’s death is a lot closer than they think.

The premise of this book is so fantastic that I knew I’d love it. You couldn’t possibly go wrong with a mystery like that. But unfortunately, it all fell flat after the beginning. The initial couple of chapters are interesting because we are slowly submerged into their world, trying to understand the characters and the storyline. After that I felt like the story wasn’t progressing AT ALL. Almost three forth of the novel comprises of the students being questioned time and again by detectives, with no leads whatsoever. And that was frustrating. The only saving grace in 66% of the novel was Bronwyn and Nate’s chemistry. That being said, the rest 34% of the novel was as mind blowing as I’d hoped the whole novel to be. It was fast paced, the characters were actively contributing to the plot, the mystery was getting solved, additional themes were being established.

The author’s writing style is great, because it builds the right kind of atmosphere, encouraging you to try to put the pieces together. I just wished that a majority of the novel had as much depth. Because the synopsis is evidence to how much potential this novel had. It resembles Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game to a great extent and I loved that quality! The novel follows some tropes like that of the bad boy lead, geeky girl protagonist and high school hierarchy. While it addresses important issues like that of peer pressure, bullying, depression etc, it doesn’t add much value in terms of how to tackle those concerns. On the other hand, it’s treatment of gay sexuality is commendable. I liked how the climax played out and little else. I’m one of those few people who didn’t really love the book.

Rating – 2 out of 5 stars.

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Book Review — Encounters Of A Fat Bride by Samah Visaria

Thank you Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Encounters of a Fat Bride unveils the humiliation and harsh circumstances that an overweight woman has to undergo in order to find a groom in India. Madhurima Pandey has learnt to set aside her complex about feeling like the quintessential DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). While all her friends find fairytale-esque romances, Madhu has devoted her time to work and study, so as to steer clear of the reality that no man in his right mind would ever choose her. But as per societal norms, marriage is the most essential rite of initiation into adulthood. And soon, her middle class family begins to invite a bevy of eligible men in the hopes that one of them would accept Madhu into their household. Samah Visaria’s novel aptly reflects the age-old customs of dowry and arranged marriage, complete with nosy neighbors and body-shaming parents of potential grooms.

It should be noted that some people may view this novel as being offensive, but I assure you that it is not. The author, in no way, propagates discriminating against “fat” brides. She is merely trying to convey to the audience that women should be confident regardless of their physical appearances.

As lighthearted as this book is, it also approaches some very serious issues like that of fat-shaming, mental health disorder, the dowry system (wherein the family of the bride compensates the groom’s family in cash or kind for going ahead with the marriage) and gender bias. While a lot of these issues are dealt with rationally, I wasn’t comfortable with the way mental health disorders were handled. You begin to think that Madhu is a very mature and educated woman, but then her sidelining of mental instability as “retarded” or “losing it” is totally not acceptable. On the other hand, through Madhu’s strength of character, we see how other negative elements are treated strictly. Her acceptance of her body image and understanding that all genders ought to be equal attempts to remove society’s misconceptions.

What’s unique is that the chapter titles feature a countdown; so you are made aware of the ending but you don’t know how that transpires. See, there’s some mystery in there too. The author’s writing style is colloquial, humorous and incorporates few Hindi terms. There are a couple of cliches, but nothing major. She makes several references to the movie industry, juxtaposing Madhu’s behavior and feelings which made light of the situation at hand. The narration is so convincing that I’d feel just as infuriated at society as Madhu does. I mean, it is appalling that people expect you to be a certain way and if you aren’t, they rain down the most horrible comments on you. I really liked the plot because it is still so relevant. Some aspects of the story were a little over the top, but you can’t expect anything less from a dramatic character like Madhu. Her character arc sees quite a change throughout the novel. Initially, she is against the idea of arrange marriage, then tired of being lonely, she begins to crave it. Even her outlook undergoes certain essential changes. Without a doubt, Madhu’s funny quips renders the entire novel so enjoyable that I finished it in one sitting. I liked the book and I look forward to anything else the author may write in the future. You should check it out!

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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 — 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.

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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

Book Review — Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything brings to light the adverse effects of being neglected by one’s family and the importance of social support to build one’s esteem. Sydney has always felt disregarded, for her family only ever pays attention to her elder brother Peyton.  In their eyes, Peyton could never do anything wrong, after all, he is the very essence of good upbringing. Until he finally does. Even then, they refuse to acknowledge Sydney for being the mature, well-behaved daughter that she is. Overwhelmed by the untoward behavior of her brother, Sydney seeks solace in a new environment. She meets the Chatham family, who welcome her with great affection. They become her otherworldly escape; from the callousness of her mother, indifference of her father, remorselessness of her brother and leery ways of Ames, the “family friend”. A touching read, Saint Anything is like hot chocolate on a cold morning.

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I have always been a fan of anything and everything that Sarah Dessen writes. Needless to say, i grew up reading her books about introverted girls and handsome boys next door. Her characters and plots are the very substance that makes the content of psychology text books come alive. Through her stories, she stresses on the importance of family, friends and love in one’s life; the wonders that these three elements can do are shown exemplarily. Saint Anything is no different, if not even more lovely. The way Sydney’s story has been narrated, you can’t help but sympathize with her. Sarah Dessen’s writing style has always been on point. She draws you in and makes you a part of the story.

The only thing that bothered me a great deal was Sydney’s stubborn refusal to speak up for herself. She would tolerate the most excruciating of circumstances without a word, although, one can always consider that a brave endurance on her part. You can see some of the self-righteousness seep into her once she gets close to the Chathams. The entire family is so lovable. They were part of the highlight of the novel, for me. The Chathams aren’t pretentious or greedy. They are so beautifully simple. Whereas, Sydney’s family is so infuriating. They are careless and think of themselves to be mighty. This novel covers Sydney’s metamorphosis . I loved reading it and would definitely recommend it to all those interested in Contemporary Fiction. It was an absolute lyrical delight!

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera