When Penguin India sent me a mail asking if I’d be interested in reviewing this book, it had been a while since I’d read, and enjoyed, a YA-fiction. I’ve stayed away from the genre ever since clichéd starred in every other novel.
When I read the blurb of this book though, I was intrigued. The blurb sounded as interesting as looked the cover.
The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is the story of 17-year old Ella, who is whisked off to the place of her dreams, Brazil, in the most nightmarish way. By her parents, who refuse to answer any of her questions. When Ella chances upon the truth, her life changes in a way that there is no going back. As it does for Bella, Ella’s dark side.
The Truth and Lies of Ella Black starts with introducing Ella and Bella, and the relationship they share. What I liked the most about this book is that the reader isn’t often told what kind of a person a certain character is. The characters traits, their back stories, all of it is revealed as the story. You aren’t really ‘introduced’ to a character.
Even as Ella uncovers the truth of her life, and the lies too, layer by layer, the reader also comes to know about the characters layer by layer.
Written in first person PoV for Ella, the story takes the reader through the complexities in Ella’s life and in her head. Ella is a very complex character, and in a lot of what she does, as a reader, my instinctive reaction was to reach out and comfort/stop her.
Ella irritates you, but you can’t help your heart going to her.
The story is dark, scary in a few places. That helps set the tone of the story. Though I must say it is SCARY in a few places.
What makes the book even more interesting is Emily Barr’s easy writing style.
And the title! It conjures up on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of mystery, and the revelation will blow up your mind!
This one was definitely a page-turner for me, the kind that you sit up at night to finish.
I received a paperback of this book from Penguin India, in exchange for an honest review. There has been no monetary compensation involved.
Thank you, Penguin India, for introducing me to this beautiful, beautiful book and beautiful, beautiful author!
Unlike popular opinion, romances aren’t the easiest thing to write. This popular opinion, I think, puts more pressure on romance writers, but let’s keep that discussion for another day.
But there is this whole breed of authors coming up who are out to change people’s opinions, show them that this genre is not ‘shallow’.
One among them is Aarti V. Raman, one of my favorite writers and favorite people in the world. She’s out with a new series, The Stellengard Royals’ Saga, and the first book in the series, The Soldier Prince, released on May 22, 2018.
The Soldier Prince is the story of Prince Alexander from the Royal Family of Stellengard and Sasha Ray, who is, obviously, a commoner. Sasha meets Alexander at the deli where she works. The story is about what happens when Alexander’s royal life clashes with Sasha’s normal one.
You can read the full blurb here.
When I say that Aarti is one of my favorite authors, it is not because she is one of my favorite people. It is because she is such a passionate writer that when you read her works that passion reaches out to you; it is almost like you can touch it.
The Soldier Prince is all makes-you-go-weak-in-your-knees, yes, but there is so much substance behind it. Beautifully created characters are the USP of this story. Every single one of them.
Like, when Sasha is in the royal library, you are not just told that she is in the royal library, you are told what she is doing, what she is reading, and why she is reading what she is reading.
Like, when Alexander decides what he wants to do in his capacity as the Prince, you are not just told what he wants to do, you are also told why and how he intends to do it.
There are details and back stories that make each character real for you. Even Lena, who makes a relatively brief appearance. And no, not long, complicated back stories. Simple ones, but done just enough ones.
The book is divided in five parts, each focusing on a phase in the prince’s life. While this does not really the alter the way the story unfolds, this is a different kind of treatment that helps you set your expectations as to what is about to happen. I liked this way of organizing chapters, because now I can easily go to my favorite scenes 😉
This one is as rich in mystery as it is in romance. The well-timed twists and a well-balanced vocabulary make this one a definite page-turner. It definitely ticks of all check boxes when you are looking for a happily-ever-after read that is not cliched.
I got an electronic copy of this book from the author, in exchange of my honest opinion. Thank you Aarti, for making me a part of your tribe 🙂
I went to the #takemeback mode soon after I came back to India after a vacation on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. Take my word for it, it is an entirely different world on board a cruise, one which exudes elegance and fun at all times.
My ‘withdrawal symptoms’ found a cure when I received a mail from Sneha Khaund, from Bloomsbury India, asking if I was interested in reviewing a list of books, one of which was Sail Away.
Sail Away is the story of Suzy Marshall and Amanda Herbert, whose chance circumstances in life bring them on board an Atlantic cruise. Amidst friends and acquaintances, old and new, the two women are united by chance circumstances and the biggest mystery of their life.
Sail Away has one of the most beautiful covers ever! I didn’t take this book out of the house for the longest time because I didn’t want that cover to spoil. (Of course, when it came to the battle between saving the cover and wondering what happens next throughout the day, the latter won!)
This was the first time I was reading a book by Celia Imrie and I am already bowled over by her writing style, the way she weaves the story.
The author takes sometime to build a backstory for both her lead characters, Suzy and Amanda. The story takes its time to build but when it picks up pace, you’ll know how important that backstory is. The buildup gives you time to understand the characters and enjoy their journey.
The story is visualized beautifully. Celia pays attention to small details when creating a scene, which makes for easy visualization. And she does that perfectly well, without really harping on the minutest details; giving you just enough so that you know what your characters are doing in a scene.
An interesting thing that I noticed about this story was the level of details or the depth of the backstory Celia gives for each of her characters; it depends on how key their role is to the story.
The story is the hero in Celia’s novel. The story stays the center and everything revolves around it. Without letting it take away from the story, Celia paints a beautiful picture of the trip on board the cruise. The story flows smoothly, with good vocabulary.
I thought the end dragged a bit. But when I look back now, I think it was mostly because I really wanted to see what happens in the end.
This book is definitely making it to my list of my best reads of 2018.
I love reading mythology. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorite genres, but I like knowing about the various traditions and myths the origins of which are rooted in these many stories.
So, when favorite author Sundari Venkatraman asked if I wanted to read her first mythology publication, I couldn’t say no.
Matsya is the first book in Sundari’s Dashavatar series, Hindu mythology stories that regale the ten forms of Lord Vishnu. Matsya is the story of how Lord Vishnu saved the world in his half-fish, half-human form.
You can read the full blurb here.
Although it is aimed more at the children readers’, these stories can really be read and enjoyed by people from any age group.
Sundari writes in a way that feels like she is reading out the story to you. There is a certain warmth with which she tells her stories. The short story that is Matsya is also written in her impeccable writing style. The simplicity of the narration adds to make it an enjoyable read. In a time where mythological fiction is gaining popularity, it was nice to see an author tell the stories from our childhood just the way they are. (Not saying that I don’t like mythological fiction; just stating that this is a refreshing change from the trend. And, who says you can’t like both?!).
Because it is a short read, this is a perfect story to fill in time during commute or while you wait for people at meetings. If you have children who love bedtime stories, I’ll also recommend that you have this book on your Kindle (the device or the app).
From writing steamy romances to mythology now, I am in awe of Sundari’s writing prowess. Read this book for just that, if nothing else.
A 5/5 for this one.
I received a review copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review. The reviews expressed herein are solely my own.
Not been there, so I don’t know how it feels when one decides whether the other person is the one or not. But I do know that arranged marriages in India are a tricky business. In just about an hour of meeting somebody, you are to decide if you want to spend your entire life with them or no.
Sundari Venkatraman, who is one of my favorite people on this planet, tackles this subject in one of her first books, The Malhotra Bride, which recently came out in paperback.
The Malhotra Bride is the story of 20-year-old Sunita whose family insists that she now settle down in life. Translate to, get married. But Sunita is ambitious and wants to have a career before a husband. Coming to her rescue is the handsome Akshay, who promises that he’ll help her fulfil all her dreams when she has married him.
The story is about how Sunita takes a leap of faith to enter into a contract marriage with a stranger, who seems to know her better than her own family.
You can read the blurb here.
I stoically believe that 20 is not the age for someone to get married. Especially today, the Instagram age, where appearances are in the driver’s seat and feelings or the ability to understand them has taken a back seat. But then, these things sometimes get so circumstantial that no one can do anything about it.
Through Sunita’s dilemma and Akshay’s understanding, Sundari sends out a strong message about what it takes to make a relationship work. And she does that without being too preachy about it.
Sunita starts off a confused but determined young girl, who decides she doesn’t want to marry. Marriage to her is living by another’s consent, especially because this is what she has seen in her own house. Can’t blame the girl, really. However, Sunita’s naivete in the beginning really started getting to me. I wasn’t irritated, really, but I had this constant feeling to go shake her out of her confusion and insistence. Akshay is the kind of man that every girl dreams of.
While I liked how the two main characters were written, but I thought the secondary characters could have been better. They are either completely sweet and understanding or too rigid in their beliefs. I would have liked it better if a few characters were a little grey.
The star is definitely the story and how Sunita goes from being a confused, damsel-in-distress to a young woman who finally starts believing in her own dreams.
If you are somebody who likes romances and stories rooted in the Indian culture, this is definitely a recommended read.
A 3/5 for this one.
I got a review copy of this book from the author in exchange of an honest review. The review is solely my opinion of the story.
I am a fan of strong characters in stories. And I am an even bigger fan of authors that can create strong characters. Aarti V. Raman features in that list and I know she is going to stay.
Book 2 in the Geeks of Caltech series, Crossing Lines is the story of Shiv and Naina. Shiv has a past that he is not particularly keen on making his present and is looking to rebuild his life like what he’d define normal. Naina’s presence in his life, however, makes him realize how much of a bad news he can be.
Naina, from the time she meets him, has this inane urge to protect Shiv, to fix whatever is wrong with him and his heart, literally. What she doesn’t know is that in protecting him, she might just end up risking her own heart.
Having told you what the story is about, I personally think that the blurb of this book is one of the stars. Why don’t you read it for yourself here?
Be it Abeer and Meera (With You I Dance), Dev and Zara (Still Not Over You), or Shiv and Naina, Aarti creates characters that you can relate with. Visualize. And that is not limited to just her characters; it also extends to the scenes and emotions she is exploring.
Keeping up with book 1 in the series, Still Not Over You, this one is also about second chances, but, obviously, with a difference. I wouldn’t call the theme unexplored, but Aarti adds her touch to the story, making it her story. The struggles that Shiv and Naina go through and the dilemmas they face are what a lot of readers will identify with.
And the best part, she uses simple words, that you and I can understand and visualize clearly. (I still haven’t gotten over with the way she wrote about Sycamore drive in Still Not Over You, and I think I never will.)
Coming to her writing style, all I can say is that Aarti has a fan forever in me. Aarti has a typical writing style, which is very much like she were conversing with you. It is like, because she cannot speaks to her readers directly, she makes sure her words carry every emotion she wants you to feel.
And that cover! Just go see it for yourself, because I can have only so many words in this post.
If visualization is what you are rooting for in a story, pick up this book. If you are looking for something that will bring you out of a reading slump, pick up this book. If you are looking for company with that Sunday brunch on a summer afternoon, pick up this book. If your weekend night plans include curling up with a book, pick up this book.
In short, PICK UP THIS BOOK!
5/5 for this one, because I loved it more than Still Not Over You!
Thank you Aarti, for having me as your beta reader and for involving me in little discussions that impacted the book in a big way!
I discovered this personification of sass called Andaleeb Wajid when a line from her book When She Went Away was the prompt for a writing contest. And she has turned out to be such a wonderful discovery. From her Instagram posts to her novels, Andaleeb is a treasure to know.
Asmara’s Summer is the story of 17-year-old Asmara, who was hoping and planning to spend her summer vacation with her family in Canada. Instead, she now has to stay at her maternal grandparents’ in a nondescript locality in Bengaluru. Translates to a place and people that Asmara and her friends consider downmarket.
You can read the full blurb here.
I had, at first, thought that this was a teenage love story, something that, unless written well, I’ve lost the patience for. But I kept aside that prejudice because, even if it was, I wanted to see how Andaleeb wrote it.
The most important purpose of me writing this review is because I don’t want you to miss a chance to read anything by this fabulous author.
I am pretty sure that you would have guessed this one to be a very predictable one, especially if you have read the blurb. And I am not going to deny that. It certainly is a predictable story. But not without its share of surprises, ones that actually make your jaw drop. I also think that to make a story as predictable as this one is what helps a reader understand an author’s ability to spin a story. While the plot is familiar, how the story goes ahead, the little moments, the little things related to culture and life in a certain place give Asmara’s Summer the freshness that is one of the surprises.
Andaleeb’s writing kept me hooked throughout, and in spite of running schedules that don’t let me have a lot of reading time (read: my poor time management skills), I finished this one pretty faster than I thought.
Asmara, obviously, gets her sass from her creator, making her a delightful character. A character like hers could have been painted as selfish very easily. Or, to rephrase, if not written correctly, readers would have thought her to be selfish quite easily. But here, while I did criticize Asmara for her resistance and prejudice, I still empathized with her.
And while this is a short read, Andaleeb still manages to not make it look hurried. Asmara’s equation with every other character is defined and explored well, and nowhere does the story seem hurried or loose.
And, of course, I have to stay how funny it is. I laughed my heart out and was thoroughly impressed at how she made it funny but not trivial.
If you are looking for an Indian YA author, you cannot and should not miss Andaleeb. By the way, you know what I am doing at the time this review goes live? Reading Andaleeb’s latest, Twenty Nine going on Thirty.
What makes you think I’ll give this one less than a 5!
No matter how many time or who says that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, we still do it. Close second comes the title of a book. And I had my ideas and expectations established from its title when I picked When The Chief Fell In Love for review.
WTCFIL is the story of how Vihaan sees through to all that he loves the most. It is the story of his relentless pursuit of his dreams, also coming from the position of power he holds.
You can read the full blurb here.
The title and the blurb intrigued me enough to pick up this book and I am not disappointed, for this has been a wonderfully surprising read.
I had a certain idea, of course from the title and the blurb, about what the story would be. And I was looking forward to see how it would reach the end that I thought it would. But the author surprised me and pleasantly so.
It took me a few days after I finished reading the book to get my head around how the title relates and tells you about the story. But when I did, it certainly made me want to read more of Tuhin Sinha’s work. (This book was the first time I read his work.)
The book is 4 parts plus the epilogue, all of which are from Vihaan’s PoV, except for one; part 2 is Zaira’s PoV. And yet, I feel that just that one part was enough for me to know Zaira a notch better than Vihaan. Zaira is not a perfect woman, but her many flaws, her many doubts, and her many emotional upheavals are what make her relatable, real.
And although a lot of the story is from Vihaan’s PoV, I didn’t think of him more than a character in the story. Maybe because he comes from a place that most common people don’t, but I couldn’t relate to his dilemma.
The story is not a page turner; it drags a tad bit after Part 2. But it picks up pace from the point where Vihaan’s Kashmir yatra begins. The story takes an altogether different turn from this point, and a refreshing one. The author, I believe, has tried his best to not assert a strong political opinion on the Kashmir issue. There are political parallels even before this point in the story, but I am not going to delve into this more.
The episodes and Vihaan and Zaira’s interactions with the locals in Kashmir are what give this love story a stronger foundation, without focusing on it more than their experience in Kashmir but also not relegating it to the background. Vihaan and Zaira, with their contrasting backgrounds, work as a team and the reader is not untouched by the bond they share.
The language and the pace of the story are done well too. In all, this one’s a refreshing attempt to create something different and one that has come out well too.
I, personally, am looking forward to read more of Tuhin’s work.
A 4.5/5 for this one.
I got a free paperback copy of this book from Writersmelon in exchange of an honest review. The views expressed in the review above are my own.
I love the behind the scenes of something, sometimes more than the final thing. The BTS can give you such amazing insights into what goes into creating a final product. No wonder then that I was super curious to read Her Master Key, which is a hotel employee’s account of what happens behind the scenes in running a hotel.
Her Master Key is Gauri’s story, who works in the housekeeping department of a 5-star hotel. The narrative goes through her many years of service in the housekeeping department and talks about her experiences as she goes cleaning and readying room after room after somebody leaves the room and before somebody occupies it again. It talks about the many things she comes across, things that tell her a little more about the people her clients are. It also talks about her relationship with the other hotel staff.
You can read the full blurb here.
Her Master Key is an interesting read that really surprised me at certain places in the narrative. A first person narrative, the story talks about Gauri’s experiences with the hotel’s staff and the customers.
The book is well-written and well-paced. Although a quick read, the author manages to successfully establish a relationship between the reader and Gauri. I felt like I was a part of Gauri’s journey, her companion in the many things she discovers about the various occupants of the hotel rooms.
However, I didn’t learn a lot of new things from this book, like I had expected. It is a nice read but I think I expected more of it. The narrative does scratch the surface, but not as deeply as I’d hoped.
What most certainly works in the favor of the book is the unique plot and the author’s crisp writing style.
If you don’t go into this book with too many expectations, you’ll enjoy the narrative and the author’s characterization of Gauri.
I’ll give this one a 3.5/5.
I got a paperback copy of this book from Rupa Publications and would like to thank Rizwan Khan and Rupa Publications for the same. The review is my honest opinion of what I think about the book, devoid of any monetary compensation.