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.

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 — 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

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 🙂

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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 — This Was A Man by Jeffrey Archer

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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