Dear Mrs Bird |Book Review

|Books I read in 2018 but never wrote a review|

This book is written by debut author AJ Pearce and was published by Picador books in April 2018.

All Emmeline Lake wants to do during this wretched World War, is to contribute in some way to helping the people survive it. Men have left homes to fight in the War and the women of the household are miserable, anxious and afraid. Emmeline wants to be a war correspondent working for the Government and bringing people news of the War. She doesn’t get selected while her friend Bunty is working in the War Office. So she does her part by volunteering at the Fire station where Bunty’s boyfriend works and every time the phone rings informing about yet another Nazi bombing, she makes sure the fire fighters on their way to help the victims.

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When Emmeline applies for a job, which she considers will be a journalist for a famous newspaper, little does she know, she will be working for it’s sister concern Women’s Friend, a magazine that has a failing subscription rate. She is to work directly for Mrs Henrietta Bird, who replies to letters from readers (agony aunt) in her column Dear Mrs Bird. She is downright ‘Miranda Priestly of the 1940’s’ and everyone fears her. Ofcourse she has her own set of conditions and terms “actual” issues from readers as unpleasant and never replies back.

With her gnawing need to help people coping up with the war, Emmeline starts responding to these messages/letters under Henrietta’s name. She even sneaks one or two into the final copy for publishing them. Until she gets caught.

You can see what war does to the people who are left back, the women folk and children managing to survive amidst all the Nazi bombings. The toll it takes on their mental, physical and social lives. This is a really sweet book about the lives of people who suffered the aftermath of the War and dealing with loss of loved ones. It has the right amount of humour, the right amount of “unpleasantness” and appreciates women and men equally for their contribution towards Surviving the War.

Two most important aspects of the book I loved are – friendship and letter writing . I’ve always loved writing letters and though it seems to be forgotten these days, reading all the correspondence in this book was heartwarming.

If you love reading about books centred around World War II, then this is for you. If you loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society this is for you. A debut that is wonderfully written!

I rated it a 4 stars.

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The FlatShare |Book Review|A Contemporary Romance you need to read..

This is the kind of book that you would want to grab and read after seeing the synopsis.

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Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

When Tiffy is in urgent need of a place to stay, she doesn’t mind sharing it with a guy, who is only going to be there during the day. She thinks its a perfect arrangement. Leon’s girlfriend forbids him from seeing the girl who is going to live in his flat, his bed.. He doesn’t know what she is like and starts writing back when she leaves a random note to him. All of sudden there’s notes everywhere n anywhere and they continue to talk through notes, as friends, flatmates.

The Flatshare

Let me list the reasons why I loved the book..

  • I love Epistolary books and its no secret. That doesn’t mean only books written in letter format throughout. Be it any form of communication – Texts, Emails, journal entries etc. Writing notes to each other is the next best thing to have happened with an extra twist of not-seeing-each-other!! 
  • Tiffy was like this protagonist straight outta a Sophie Kinsella book. I felt like that because of the eccentric dressing sense and the occasional naivety.  And Leon is, well he is this absolute introvert and even chapters from his POV were full of pronoun-less sentences that were short and abrupt. Like even thinking aloud in his head is too much of a task for him 😛 But together they form an amazing pair and I loved both of them.

Sometimes find it hard to talk after a long night. Just opening my mouth to form comprehensible thoughts is like lifting a very heavy thing, or like one of those dreams when you need to run but your legs are moving through treacle?

  • Sheds light on important topics like – gaslighting and emotional Abuse. Many of the victims do not realise they are being emotionally abused until someone makes them realise it and Mo and Gerty – Tiffy’s best friends – are absolutely the best friends one could get. I mean Mo is the male best friend every girl needs!. He is without doubt my favourite character.
  • What a cool job Tiffy has!! I envy her so much for that. She is an editor for a publishing house that prints books mostly on DIY. She gets to read and craft for a living!!
  • Every other character in the book is so good – Mo, Gerty, Rachel, Richie.

TBH I loved the first 60 % of the book. It was fun to read. It got a bit dull later and had a predictable ending, which is fine because of the initial hook that the story pulls you with. Kudos to Beth O’Leary for a very satisfying debut!

The book releases on May 28th in the US!.

I gave it a 4 star rating because of the lack of surprise in the last few chapters.

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You can get the ebook from Amazon.in

Comics Will Break Your Heart |Book Review

This sweet book by Faith Erin Hicks was a delight to read. A slow, but enjoyable read.

Synopsis:

Miriam’s family should be rich. After all, her grandfather was the co-creator of smash-hit comics series The TomorrowMen. But he sold his rights to the series to his co-creator in the 1960s for practically nothing, and now that’s what Miriam has: practically nothing. And practically nothing to look forward to either-how can she afford college when her family can barely keep a roof above their heads? As if she didn’t have enough to worry about, Miriam’s life gets much more complicated when a cute boy shows up in town . . . and turns out to be the grandson of the man who defrauded Miriam’s grandfather, and heir to the TomorrowMen fortune.

In her endearing debut novel, cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks pens a sensitive and funny Romeo and Juliet tale about modern romance, geek royalty, and what it takes to heal the long-festering scars of the past (Spoiler Alert: love).

I loved the book because of the small town atmosphere and the people in it. I loved it because anyone from a small town, yearning to leave it someday would get it. I loved it because it had equal parts of “first world problems” of Weldon and small town girl Miriam. I loved how eccentric Miriam’s parents were.

There’s a slow-burn romance and few other sub-plots that formed the story. Like how comic book industry is slowly concentrating on movies and comic books/writers are not as popular as the movies in itself. The gentrification of your friendly neighbourhood, the struggle to get funding for college and a little bit of bullying.

Weldon and Miriam’s relationship evolves throughout the book and it was cute not totally insta love. Among all the characters I liked Weldon the most. He understands the part played by his family in the war over the TomorrowMen Comics and struggles to impress Miriam who is so much discontented with how things turned out for her family. Miriam just seemed a little pessimistic (even for me) but we need flawed characters not perfectionists!

The plot mentions rivalry between two families for generations and gives you “Romeo-Juliet” vibes at times but I expected more of the actual rivalry and the star-crossed lovers thing. It was weakly explored and that was a definite minus. And I wanted at least few comic panels (like in Save the Date by Morgan Matson) But overall the book was maple syrup sweet and heartwarming. You just have to keep in mind the book is targeted for YA Audience.

Comics will break your Heart

I rated a 4 out of 5 stars!

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I Spy the Boy Next Door |Arc Review

I’ll be honest and let you know what made me request this arc for review from Netgalley.. The pretty book cover art and the title of course!!

This book is about Mallory Taylor, who has been home-schooled and lives a sheltered life all her life and while it seems all pretty dab and boring, the 4pm spy sessions from her window makes life interesting for her. Her object of spying – the bad boy next door – who she has spoken with once so far and all he gave her in return was a scowl and hate since then. For the last five years, her routine has been the same. But she wants more and begs her parents to continue her senior year in the public school – same as boy next door Troy Parker! Even when she meets him outside of her window, he returns the same glare and she is determined to get to know him.

If only he knew just how much I think about him, spy on him, I would be up for some sort of invasion of privacy crime.

This sounds like a cliched girl-meets-bad-boy-and-falls-for-him story but its got more than that. There are twists and turns you wouldn’t normally find in a YA/NA contemporary and they make the story worth its while.

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I enjoyed reading the book in one sitting, something that I’ve never been able to do these days. I liked the pace in which the story was set, it never got boring in between, although I should say the too-many encounters with Troy  – like “holds my gaze” “his gaze burns a hole in my head” were kinda turning out to be little downer for me. But the story got better and intense and phew!!

This is YA so obviously you cannot expect Mallory to not fall for the guy based on his looks and bad boy vibe, so I tolerated her. But guess what – Troy blew me over. As much as it was constantly ridiculed, I loved Edward from Twilight book series, and Troy reminded me a lot of him. You’ll know why when you read it.

Some part of the story felt over the top and unbelievable but I ignored them because rest of the book keeps you entertained.

I rated the book a 3.75 stars. An almost 4 stars.

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Other details
Author: Samantha Armstrong
Publishers: Koru House Press
Pub date: May 25 2019
Genre: NA Romance | YA Contemporary
Trigger warnings: Domestic violence, self harm, self injury, anxiety attacks

99 Percent Mine |Book Review

I liked Sally Thorne’s first book ‘The Hating Game’ and was waiting to pick up her next book, ’99 Percent Mine’.

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This book is about Darcy Barrett, photographer-turned-bartender who is living her life away from parents and twin brother Jaime, in her grandmother’s house – a house that both the twins inherit after her death. Darcy has always been the outcast of the family coz Jaime outshines her and takes away all the attention and glory. Even the best photographer award she won when she was a teen? Jaime was the model and his ginormous head grows double its size after the award. The only thing she wants for herself and cannot have – Tom Valeska – who was first spotted by Darcy outside their house as a kid, invited into the family by Darcy, but taken ownership 99% by Jaime as his best friend. There’s always a constant struggle between the twins and Tom is the guy who balances them out. Now years later, Jaime wants to re-sell grandma’s house after restoring it to its former glory. And who, but Tom Valeska is the person he brings in for help.

I went in to the book expecting the same magic or witty banter thats in The Hating Game. Here, both Tom and Darcy bicker a lot and sometimes whatever Darcy does , didn’t make sense to me at all. I was this close to DNF’ng the book.

There’s this slow burn romance throughout the book and it was hella disappointing at how it felt dragging and lacking a spark. I mean both of them like each other, so what’s the point of dragging it till the end :O

The characters – Tom Valeska is portrayed as this perfect guy, a dream for every girl and the one Darcy keeps comparing with every other guy. But, I felt sad for him because of the way Darcy treats him??!! And Darcy – I hated her throughout the book. She was this self-entered, snobbish, whiny first world person and I know that flawed characters make the book realistic but this was too much to take in. She blurts things at random and is very unpredictable.

Overall, I went in with 100% expectations and felt defeated. The book doesn’t keep up with Sally Thorne’s debut but if you haven’t read her first book or read it and didn’t like it either, my recommendation would be to skip this one.

My rating 2.75 stars.

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The Vanishing Stairs by Maureen Johnson |Audiobook Review

The Vanishing stairs is the 2nd book in the Truly Devious trilogy. You can read the review of the first book here.

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At the end of Truly Devious, there was a huge cliffhanger and nearly half the mystery was left unsolved. So its only right when I say I was biting my nails in anticipation for the next book in series. Thankfully I read the book in Dec 2018 only so I had to wait only for a month. **But waiting for the third book now is a whole other thing ***

The title of book#2 gave me major Nancy Drew feels. Did ya feel the same?

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Spoilers from Book#1 ahead!!!

So if you remember, Stevie Bell was trying to resolve the original Ellingham murder mystery in book# 1, which also included the murder of her classmate. Book#2 is about the first two unresolved mysteries and the missing case of Element Walker who Stevie suspects for the present day murder.

The second book starts with Stevie being taken out of school, but still thinking about her unresolved cases. She makes a deal with the devil, Edward King himself and re-enters Ellingham academy to keep an eye out for David, who’s been acting out ever since she left. There’s a lot of ‘unresolved’ feelings here but both of them shy away from the topic as much as possible.

While there was less time spent on the other characters in Book#1, here Nate and other friends of Stevie have more to contribute to the plot. I loved Nate for his dry sarcasm. Every other new character introduced felt shady to me 😀

The plot is pretty much at the same pace as the first book, with twists you didn’t see coming and parallel stories from the past, mostly the investigations and Albert Ellingham’s life after the murder of his wife.

Yet again the book ends in a major cliffhanger which only irritated me slightly because I felt most part of the mystery is over and a few more chapters would have ended the book as a Duology. But then again Maureen Johnson wants us all to wait. One more year.

My rating 4/5 stars

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea |Book Review

|Best Books of 2018| YA Fiction|

Author – Tahereh Mafi

Other books by author – Shatter me series, Furthermore Duology.

Publisher : HarperTeen

Get the book from Amazon.in

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi was a book gifted to me by a lovely friend (@natsinbookland )in Instagram.

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If there was one YA book I would recommend to anyone, this would be it! I loved this book, I loved it for it’s representation of post 9/11 America, I loved it for the way it depicted the glorious pre-Facebook days, I loved it for showing how devastatingly painful, the life of a Muslim American teen can be in those days.

This books is a must read, y’all!!!

#OwnVoices – Tahereh Mafi has written this book to share her own experiences of being stereotyped and her struggle with racism and her love for breakdancing. This book is brutally honest and makes you ashamed, angry and regret the things we knowingly or unknowingly do against a community.

“I was stuck in another small town, trapped in another universe populated by the kind of people who’d only ever seen faces like mine on their evening news, and I hated it.”

Shirin is the angry teen who is tired of moving around, transferring to multiple schools before completing high school and is forever pissed off about people asking her questions about her hijab. She puts on a tough exterior so that people will leave her alone and not make small talk or pass racist comments that they think would affect her. She doesn’t shy away from talking back and this applies to English teachers who think she is out of place in an Honors class. Shirin isn’t entirely perfect too, she is prejudiced against people just like they are against her. And thats what makes it more relatable.

When socially-awkard Ocean and Shirin are paired for Bio, there isn’t any sparks flying. There isn’t any Insta-love, exchanging of numbers and planning dates by the end of the week. This is early 2000, mobile phones and talk times are costly and people just don’t reveal everything on social media.

I loved how Ocean and Shirin start interacting, each knowing so very little about the other. Ocean is a sweet guy, who is ignorant of the hatred and whiplash Shirin gets around school and slowly learns about her world. I loved all the mixed emotions going on in their minds. So raw and heart-warming!

Just like Shirin and Ocean, I loved Shirin’s relationship with her brother Navid, #goals!!

This book isn’t mainly about the love between two young people, but about how people around perceive it and treat them based on it. If not for the story line, read this book for its characters, pick it up to see how they affect you , resonate with you long after you finish it.

The more I got to know people, the more I realized we were all just a bunch of frightened idiots walking around in the dark, bumping into each other and panicking for no reason at all.
So I started turning on a light.

All the stars for this book!! 5/5 rating.

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Verity by Colleen Hoover |Book Review

I’ve read like 4 or 5 books by Colleen Hoover and loved them all. She has this way with words that will tug you at all the right places and is most definitely my favourite author. With this book, she has unlocked one more achievement in writing – Creepy Suspense novels.

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My first reaction when I finished this book was – Holy Sh**$$%#T! Thats crazy!!.

The book is about a struggling, introvert writer Lowen Ashleigh who gets the opportunity to co-write the remaining series of an established, popular writer Verity Crawford who recently met with an accident. Lowen is approached by Verity’s publisher and her husband Jeremy Crawford with the offer and a non-disclosure agreement about not revealing Verity’s current state. Lowen is invited to the Crawfords house to take notes, gather plot details and single-handedly write the remaining books. Just before meeting with the publishers for the first time, Lowen meets Jeremy in an unexpected way that sparks something between them and is enough to kindle it during her stay in his home. Things take a darker turn as Lowen uncovers an unfinished autobiography of Verity in her study and things that were bound to stay hidden come into light.

I can’t explain how much creepy the writing was.. And it was a bad idea to read the book at night. My mind was like “Get OUT! Get OUT now!!. This book is twisted, revolting, fu*ks your mind, but keeps you engrossed.

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And I also must mention how cringe-y the sex scenes made me, like they were too much.. ugh.. And that CoHo herself teases about it through Lowen’s words. I can’t talk about the characters, because spoilers but like her other books, the characters are flawed.. I’m not sure how to put all the trigger warnings beforehand without giving away a major part of the plot, but consider yourself warned. And oh yeah! that ending!!! Again warning y’all.

The book was seriously so much different from what Colleen Hoover usually writes and I’m not even sure what would it make of me if I were to say I liked the book, one might think I’m a dark, twisted person too 😀

My rating 4/5 stars.

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Newcomer by Keigo Higashino |Book Review

Newcomer by Keigo Higashino is part of the Detective Kaga series. This book can be read as a standalone as there’s no backstory about Kaga or his personal life in the books. I’ve only read The Devotion of Suspect X before by the author and I loved it for its brilliant narration and I was super hyped about receiving this book for review.

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Newcomer is about the murder of a 40-year old woman, who is living alone and hardly any of her neighbours or the shops around her place know her or where she is from. She’s a newcomer to the area and is found strangulated to death in her apartment.  So why was she murdered and by who – a classic case of whodunnit mystery.

The book is divided into 8 small sections – each around people directly or indirectly involved with the victim and what role they played in it. These stories are like mini-mysteries that have small endings of their own and also unfold a little part of the victim’s past or even days before her murder. I loved how they were all intricately woven to narrate a bigger story and how they all fall into place towards the end. One cannot stop feeling sad for the victim and agree with the witnesses that “she is a sweet person, with no enemies”.

As there is an entire cast of characters, we only get a glimpse of each – except for the victim’s son – and I liked how Kaga interacts with them on the most trivial things that go on to show a little more about the person.. It definitely was a case of misjudgements for me, as in characters I thought were bad turn up good and each of the mini-mysteries were so good that it never felt boring or dragging.

One thing I didn’t like about the book was the repetition of lines and some dialogues not making sense or significance, but these are bound to happen in translated works and I kinda ignored that.

Kaga is also a newcomer to the precinct and I loved his style of solving the crime – casual, calculating and observant. He didn’t behave like a know-it-all , rather revealing the facts slowly in a matter-of-fact way.

Anyone who loves simple, uncomplicated mysteries would love this book. You may not find “mind-blowing, woah never seen that coming” kinda plot twists, but its all about love and family and relationships, and not a cold blooded murder. Overall, this is a sweet (??!!) cozy, heart-warming mystery that you can read in one sitting and if you’re a fan of Japanese lit, you would love it.

My rating 3.75 stars!

**Thanks to the publishers for providing me with this review copy**

P.S I scheduled this post for 6th Feb 2019 but WordPress kinda pissed me off by posting an empty blog with only a title. I couldn’t recover anything and had to post from scratch.

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Author : Keigo Higashino

Publishers : Hachette India

Source: Review copy

Buy the book from Amazon.in

Mystery |Suspense |Japanese Lit

 

Truly Devious – Book Review

|Books I read in 2018 but never wrote a review|

Truly Devious is a YA mystery novel that revolves around the murders committed in a boarding school in early twentieth century.

Schools may be famous for many things: academics, graduates, sports teams.
They are not supposed to be famous for murders.

Ellingham Academy is not your normal boarding school. Its a place where “learning is a game“. img_7347Albert Ellingham, business tycoon and philanthropist opens a school where kids can learn on their own pace, in their own way with no restrictions to the modes of learning. And its completely free but only accepts 30 students per year, a mix of rich and poor.

Ellingham and his family lives right in the middle of the school grounds and when his wife and daughter are kidnapped, another student – Dottie Epstein – is also found dead. In the present, a fresh batch of students, including Stevie Bell, a true crime aficionado, are joining the school and Stevie’s one goal in life is to become a detective. Naturally, she is pulled towards the centuries old  unresolved mystery and tries to get into the bottom of it. Literally!

The story is written in parallel timings – and we have two murder mysteries to resolve – one in present, and the other from 1936. The writing is incredibly good and kept me hooked. Like other boarding school mysteries or murder mysteries, we are presented with so many clues, suspects but never ever can one keep guessing whats gonna happen. Hell, I wasn’t able to.  And the riddles signed Truly, Devious were creepy and definitely didn’t help in finding who Devious was. There was definite lag of pace in the beginning, but it picked up in the second half.

I loved reading the book even though it left us with a cliffhanger. The sequel is out on Jan 22 2019 and expectations are very very high!!

If you don’t like reading YA, I still recommend this book to you because you will be super impressed.

If you like YA, its much more better than Charlotte Holmes series.

Rating 5/5 stars

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More about the book:

Author: Mauren Johnson

Publishers :HarperCollins

Published on: January 2018

Source : Audiobook from storytel.in

First in series|Part of series|Cliffhanger