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. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads

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.

Cover Reveal of Danielle Steel’s Against All Odds

Danielle Steel is back with another novel and this one explores a family-centric plot, wherein a mother of 4 – Kate Madison – is left perplexed by her children’s life choices. Against All Odds tackles with the very essence of motherhood. Here’s the cover design as published by Pan Macmillan…

Much like the cover of Steel’s Dangerous Games, the title of this one is embossed in gold, attributing all the power to it. The family of five huddled together, against the backdrop of the city’s skyline sends across a strong message. To me, it speaks of unity, blood ties, finding a sense of belonging etc. The fact that they are all gazing in a specific direction (a.k.a observing something) could mirror how a family helps you grow and learn..

I’ll stop with my deconstruction of the cover and save my views on the book for when I’ve reviewed it. Hope you all get a chance to check it out 🙂

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

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

Book Review — Rau by N.S Inamdar

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

Image courtesy – Goodreads

N.S Inamdar’s Rau wonderfully captures the life and times of the great Peshwa Bajirao. It allows us deeper insight into the events that propelled the prosperity of the Maratha Empire. Bajirao’s role is monumental as he relentlessly pursues Hindavi Swaraj, trying to rid India of the tyranny of all external forces. The novel introduces Mastani, an entertainer whose performances in the court begin to draw the Peshwa’s attention. Soon, a relationship blossoms between the two, much to the astonishment of others. As Bajirao finds himself falling in love with Mastani, he is forced to face a society that is highly intolerant of intercaste relationships. What is more, his loved ones too refuse to accept Mastani, thereby isolating Bajirao in his struggle. Rau mirrors the heartbreak and burden that follows suit with being titled the Peshwa.

This book that inspired the film is a lot more wholesome in its attempt to convey the highs and lows of Bajirao’s reign. Firstly, a larger chunk of the text concerns Bajirao’s conquests in comparison to the romance quotient. This helps us understand Bajirao’s mien sans Mastani. He is a willful, valiant and affectionate individual. Although he is quick tempered, he fights for what he believes in. It is rather sad that, for a Peshwa who gave his all to the society, he finds himself alone towards the end of his journey. Secondly,  Mastani is not the warrior princess as depicted in the movie. Rather, this novel highlights her demure and agreeable nature. She is selfless and always ready to forgive other’s transgressions. Thirdly, the novel presents to us the next generation and gives importance to the rest of the family. It was great to learn more about the family and how they were integral catalysts of events at that time.

Radhabai, Bajirao’s mother is an austere women, defined by the traditions and symbolic of the narrow minded society. I didn’t much like her. Kashibai is portrayed to be a responsible and loving wife who gets neglected because of Bajirao’s growing affection for Mastani. The novel is not split into chapters, rather it is divided into four parts. Albeit this division is uncommon, it does not hamper the reading pace. I found the first few pages to be a tad bit slow. But then Bajirao’s zeal captivates you and holds on till the end. His strength is infectious and urges one to be firm about their beliefs even if the entire world is against it. Originally written in Marathi, it is a moving tale about love, sacrifice and the irony of possessing power but losing out on the one thing that an individual cherishes the most. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it to all who love historical accounts or simply want to glean more about Peshwa Bajirao and the Maratha Empire.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer

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

Cometh the Hour, being the sixth book in the Clifton Chronicles, juggles the life and times of the Barrington and Clifton families as they undergo the hardships that come with great responsibility. Interspersed with accounts of betrayal, corruption and the fight for justice, we see how the bonds between the two families paves the way for their success regardless of the magnitude of trouble they are facing. Be it Emma Clifton, who finds herself balancing few too many tasks and must decide between jeopardizing her brother’s career or winning a case against her. On the other hand, Sebastion Clifton fights a different battle – one of love – wherein he must draft a plan to rescue his beloved Priya before she is forcefully married off by her parents to another.

While the Cliftons and Barringtons are held up with their own obstacles, Desmond Mellor, Jim Knowles and Adrian Sloane form the villainous trio who repeatedly, undaunted by the power and reach of the two families, take it upon themselves to bring them to ruins. Sir Giles Barrington faces the brunt of a truth revealed in the course of Emma’s case and participates in a rescue mission between countries. Little does he know that this mission threatens his well being more than not. Lastly, Harry Clifton having encountered the great Russion writer and poet Anatoly Babakov in prison perseveres for over a decade to free the writer and spread his work beyond the borders of Russia. Each of the battles fought by the families results in some victories and some losses.

As this was my first Jeffrey Archer book, I knew not what to expect from it. I was extremely relieved when the book started off on a good pace with the case by Lady Virginia against Emma Clifton. The conniving nature of Lady Virginia was evident from the start. But soon after the politics took over and I grew to like the book a little less. It was all too overwhelming and I didn’t quite like the chapters with Emma Clifton in them. However, at any given point in the book, there’s so much going on that you get a wholesome feel. Its not just one story or one trial, but multiple ones that are woven together to create a voluminous chunk of a book.  My favorite sections were the ones with Lady Virginia, Desmond Mellor, Adrian Sloane and Karin Brandt. They were definitely far more gripping than the other chapters and I looked forward to the stories about these. In terms of character development, there were discernible changes in Sebastion and Emma Clifton. I felt that the other characters pretty much remained the same.

The plot was great too but some parts of it were a little dull and not interesting. I took way too much time to read it because at times I felt like I couldn’t go on reading it anymore. I felt that Sebastion and Priya’s relationship was a tad bit too abrupt and forced. It didn’t feel natural. And then introducing Samantha and Jessica felt out of the blue. Many books try to correct the wrongdoings by the villain by also enhancing their personalities. But I quite liked the fact that till the very end Lady Virginia, Adrian Sloane and Desmond Mellor remained the same. Their tactics and manipulation kept the book alive. Jeffrey Archer’s writing is easy to get into and while being informative, it grasps us with the twists and turns. The ending was good, different. I expected the truth about Karin to be revealed openly. This book was enjoyable over all, but I didn’t love it as there was way too much of politics and some parts were too slow.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — Do You Know Any Good Boys? by Meeti Shroff-Shah

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

Meeti Shroff-Shah couldn’t have better encapsulated the over-the-top procedure of Indian arranged marriages in her hilarious & heart warming novel titled “Do You Know Any Good Boys?”. Hers is not a story that follows the normative plot structure we are accustomed to. Rather, just like the experience of meeting forty odd strangers in the hopes of finding a life partner, the novel shuffles back and forth between stories recounted from her several “first dates”. While the ordeal of presenting herself with renewed optimism at each of these meetings is bothersome and debilitating, Meeti’s clever wit and sarcasm doesn’t fail to transform the entire book into an enjoyable read. Through the use of elaborate pointers, she conveys exactly what the Indian mindset – be it of a traditional or traditional-modern kind – expects out of the arranged marriage and what is then seen to be as reality. From newspaper ads to matrimonial sites to overbearing, unrelated womenfolk (who take it upon themselves to play cupid), Meeti has born the brunt of it all and narrates to us the incredulity of some.

The title of the book, while being blatant about the content, implies a deviation from the supposed desires for a”not so good” boy – as is commonly believed to be true amongst today’s youth. While there is a reference to the tall, dark and handsome dude of Mills & Boons nature, Meeti and her family meticulously narrow down the educated, cultured and sensible Gujju bachelors. Meeti Shroff-Shah’s writing style is exceptionally good, displaying knowledge of different fields and that too not in a ostentatious way. Her love for literature and skepticism with regard to arranged marriage resonated well with me. I am sure it would be relatable to many others. This book isn’t just for an Indian girl looking to get married but also speaks to the families and friends of such a person. It conveys to them the frame of mind with which the girl agrees to have her alliance made through others. Meeti explores concepts like rejection, perseverance and hope that go hand in hand with the concept of marriage. Meeti’s parents are shown to be extremely supportive of her decisions and paint a very loving family picture. Being an Indian, I have heard first hand of similar arguments made about the astrology, height, weight and income of the potential groom. With all due respect to differing opinions, I think its absolutely ridiculous to have so many check-boxes that need to be ticked before a guy and a girl can meet to converse and discover for themselves whether they fit together. The author’s sense of humor and wit would be the highest selling point of this novel. There were times I was laughing out loud irrespective of my surroundings. Then there were also times when certain sections were dragged out a bit too much. But in the overall scheme of things, the cracks are very minor. I loved this book and insist that you all must give it a go.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

– Meera