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 — 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

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

Cover Reveal of Awaken by Ashok Banker

If you put together a Werewolf, a Teleporter and a Siren in circumstances that require them to battle the bad guys to save the world, what would you have? The kickass plot of Ashok Banker’s latest novel, Awaken. With over 60 published books, the author has planned his next trilogy, Shakti, a fantasy thriller based in India. It has three main female characters, and takes on the concept of alien invasion. Here’s what the cover of Awaken looks like.

There’s a fascinating icy tone to it, which makes me wonder what other plot points are incorporated into the story. I’m really looking forward to how the idea of girl power plays out in this novel. Awaken releases on 1st September and you can get your hands on a copy of the same at Amazon. So click on the link and pre-order if the story intrigues you even a little. I’ll be sure to post a review of the book once I get my copy!

Book Review — The Sacred Sword by Hindol Sengupta

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

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Summary – The Sacred Sword chronicles the rise of Guru Gobind Singh, a Sikh warrior to be reckoned with. At the prime age of 9 years, Gobind Rai’s childhood came crashing down when his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, was assassinated by the Mughals. In order to restore the Sikh faith in the minds of thousands of people, Gobind assumes the position of guru and begins to train villagers. He builds the Khalsa, a group of extraordinary warriors who mirror the values of Sikhism and fight to defend its honor. Despite all of his successes, the northern kings underestimate his power, plotting with Emperor Aurangzeb to defeat the guru. But they too learn by experience, what it is to cross Guru Gobind Singh. Hindol Sengupta’s novel merges history and fiction to create an empowering tale.

Review – Historical fiction is one of my all time favourite genres. I have never read anything by Hindol Sengupta, so this one was a pleasant surprise. Even though the author forewarns us that there’s a good mixture of fiction in the novel, I found myself rooted to the spot with all of the events I was learning about. I have never been exposed to stories about the Sikh community. And I felt like this book was great in conveying their values, mannerisms and other sensibilities. The fact that their sayings or proverbial phrases were even translated in English was a wonderful addition. You get to understand their religious texts and their perspective about God. Naturally, religion is a major theme in this novel. It poses quite a few questions about the clashing of two religions. In light of their outlook, you find yourself evaluating certain perspectives of yours. Further, the novel also explores elements like war, blind faith etc.

The writing style is refreshing and vivid. For a majority of the novel, I was so inspired by the portrayal of Guru Gobind Singh that I could almost imagine myself as a character in the story. Aurangzeb’s depiction did him no good. I wanted to punch him every time his narcissistic persona made an appearance. The battle scenarios were invigorating to say the least. All those who aren’t familiar with Hindi or Punjabi terms, fear not; there’s a sizable glossary at the end. While the story reflects Guru Gobind Singh’s expertise, we are not made privy to how he became so well versed. I would have liked to know about his upbringing and training. That would have made the story more realistic. Some of the poetry included is truly splendid. I really enjoyed reading The Sacred Sword because it was a worthy history lesson devoid of the monotony of textbooks. It is told from the point of view of Gobind and that makes it more special. If you enjoy historical fictions, PICK UP this novel.

What do you get out of it? Invaluable lessons about loyalty, bravery, the Sikh faith and the tyranny of the Mughals. Overall, a good update on Indian history.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars.