Book Review — One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

Image courtesy of Goodreads

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 — Born at Midnight by C.C Hunter

Image courtesy – Goodreads

For a long time, the only thing Kylie Galen had to worry about was her parents constant bickering. She is in for a drastic change of environment when a night of partying goes wrong and her mother decides to ship her off to a strange camp. For someone struggling to come to terms with the reality that her household is in tatters, she is dunked headfirst into the world of supernaturals. But Kylie refuses to submit, she knows she doesn’t belong there. She struggles with her identity, wishing she could go back home and be away from the cacophony. Even if it means going back to a family that doesn’t really care for her.

This book was brimming with several cliches that have been doing the rounds for awhile now. Filled with love triangles, enmity between clans and family secrets, Born at Midnight reads a lot like many other paranormal romances, but I devoured it nevertheless. I love C.C Hunter’s writing style. It was catchy and intriguing. Even though there were some things that irked me, I wanted to finish it. The backdrop of this novel is great and the way the author describes the setting, made me want to teleport there.

However, one of the major minus points, for me, in this novel was the characterization. I didn’t really like Kylie a lot. She seemed very undecided for a majority of the novel – not only about her love life but also about whether she wanted to continue staying at the camp. Lucas has been made out to be the brooding, villainous character who doesn’t speak a lot. Her roommates – Della and Miranda – are at each other’s throats constantly, which got a little annoying after a point of time. The pace of the novel is good and peaks at the right time. I really liked the ending and I am curious about what will happen in the sequel. But I don’t know if I would read it anytime soon. Overall, it was a decent book, just nothing extraordinary.

Ratings – 3 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.

Image courtesy – Goodreads

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

Book Review — Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Image courtesy – Goodreads

Set in 1880s Paris, Belle Epoque explores commercialization of beauty but with an appalling twist. In an attempt to leave behind her restrictive life back home, Maude runs away to Paris, with grand dreams prodding her escape. But the Paris of her dreams shatters to present her an unwelcome reality – that wealth and appearance are what elevates one’s status in society. By chance, she comes across a job opportunity that requires her to abandon all shame and pride, so as to work for the upliftment of the upper class folks. Will Maude give in to serving others while disregarding her esteem or weave a better future for herself at the risk of losing her means of survival?

This book was a gem from the start. Maude’s plight is truly deplorable and so I was more than overjoyed when she makes the acquaintance of Paul. Initially everything passes smoothly, even though she has to swallow her esteem. But soon, she is balancing two swords on her head, and any mistake on her part will definitely lead to chaos. The storyline is exceptional, nothing I’ve ever read before. It is not draggy at all and everything is narrated superbly. The author’s writing style is easy to get accustomed to and doesn’t distract you from absorbing the story. I found myself enjoying every bit of it. The author makes references to the construction of the Eiffel Tower and how some of the people in Paris considered it a monstrosity. This further reiterates the fact that tastes are always changing and what is of value at one point, need not remain so later.

Maude’s character has been penned down to be a survivor – strong and diligent. No doubt, she makes some silly mistakes. But with the concept being about embracing your flaws, I think the book sends out a wonderful message that is very relevant even today. Her friendship with Marie-Josee is a welcome reprieve. Marie-Josee acts like an elder sister and I felt that her support was what made the whole ordeal easier for Maude. Isabella’s character was refreshing, because not only does she stand out with her unconventional views but also because she fully makes use of the rebel in her. All in all, this was a lovely book; one that I would recommend to all who enjoy contemporary fiction. I will definitely be looking out for other works of the author.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Feral by Laxmi Hariharan

Thank you Author Assistant for sending me an electronic copy of this book for review. 

Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Feral is a novella that follows the characters from the Many Lives series. For long, Maya has been coping with the fact that she is not like her family. She hasn’t been able to fit in and at times, she can’t bring herself to think like them. So when she discovers that she has been adopted, overwhelmed by the shock, she decides to leave the wilderness and her life with the pack in search of her blood relations. However, fate’s games land another blow on her when she finds answers in the last place she’d thought to look.

Even though I haven’t read the Many Lives series, I found myself able to enjoy this novella quite a lot. Maya’s frustration at not triggering the gene and joining her pack was so palpable that I was eager to understand her story. The bond between her and Luke is extremely adorable and while it would have been easy to pair the two, the author adds more spice to the story with another character.  If it had been a love triangle of sorts, I may have not given it much heed. But what irked me is how abruptly Maya’s attraction switches from one to the other. Nevertheless, the author’s writing style worked well with the genre of the novella. This put me in two minds – wanting more of her story and yet satisfied that the novella was a cute, quick read. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Maya and Luke’s story. For all those who love a good paranormal romance, I urge you to give this a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Meera

Book Review — The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory and her parents move to England, vying for a change that their lives in Louisiana couldn’t offer. Enrolled in a boarding school called Wexford, Rory is looking forward to all the adventure that is bound to come her way. But when a gruesome murder takes place, with an uncanny resemblance to the Jack the Ripper cases, Rory gets dragged into the mess before she’s had a chance to come to terms with what’s happening. Full of secrets and bewildering scenarios, The Name of the Star doesn’t fail to entertain.

This book was interesting from the beginning and maintains a good pace till the very end.  I love stories based in boarding schools, so it was fairly easy to get into the story. While the characterization was decent, it was nothing too extraordinary. I felt that Jazza and Jerome were thrown in the backseat way too soon.  After Rory gets involved with the case, her life at the boarding school sort of loses flavor. Boo’s character is portrayed to be a carefree- party girl and is introduced mid-way so I couldn’t really understand her completely, because by the time you get accustomed to picturing her as someone who doesn’t really care about anything, we’re forced to confront another alternative.

Image courtesy – Goodreads

The author’s writing style is most definitely fantastic and she knows how to keep you hooked onto the book. There are quite a few people who are painted suspiciously and so you don’t know who the culprit is. In hindsight, the end is a little predictable but not so much that it spoils the fun. The structure of the book is such that  it follows a chronological timeline without any time gaps. It is split into different sections and each section begins with a quote, which I found to be really good. I really liked the novel and would recommend it to all who enjoy murder-mysteries. I may or may not pick up the second book in the series because this one works really well as a standalone.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Image courtesy – Goodreads

A group of eight friends travel to Aruba, determined to have a rambunctious time away from their daily routine of school and family. Days that were meant to be spent in carefree splendor begin to go horribly awry when Elise goes missing. No one notices it at first, after all Elise is the quintessential party girl – bold, rebellious and a risk taker. Everyone is distraught when they find her body, but as the days pass, hidden sentiments become clearer. Could one of them have been driven to commit such an atrocious crime?

Abigail Haas’ writing is so spectacular that I finished this book in one sitting. It was the perfect thriller – gripping, not too predictable and fast paced. Chapters shuffle between different timelines and yet they come together seamlessly. Almost as if you were reading different pages of Anna’s diary. I really liked the structure of the novel. It goes back and forth between three main periods – before the accident in Aruba; before Aruba and after the accident in Aruba. I think this structured chaos sort of added to the build up of the climax. The plot is not unique as it follows tropes that have been explored previously, such as that of friends vacationing only to face trouble later, girl liking the popular jock in school etc. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, nevertheless.

I liked Lamar’s character a lot more than Tate’s. To me, Anna and Tate’s relationship wasn’t very convincing, even though he was nice to her and everything. Anna and Elise’s friendship is infectious. They were each other’s saving grace. So much so that it bothered quite a few people. Also, Chelsea and Max didn’t really have much of a presence throughout the book. I still can’t figure out what their purpose was.  But the ending made up more than enough for the little flaws. The ending is a smack in the face, a crash into reality and how astoundingly crooked it can be. I really really liked this novel and would recommend it to everyone in the mood for a suspenseful read. It is simply unputdownable. I will certainly be picking up the author’s other works.

Ratings – 4 stars on 5

Meera