Hold Back the Stars – ARC review

Author : Katie Khan

Publisher : Gallery Books ( a division of Simon and Schuster)

Pub Date: 23 May 2017

Source : I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

Get the book from Amazon, B & N

Book Blurb :

A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left. 

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

My thoughts

Woww this book was something! This is really a very good attempt at Utopian science fiction. And to think this is Katie Khan’s debut novel… !!

Max and Carys are floating in space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left in their tanks and with nothing around except for an asteroid belt that hit their spaceship leaving nothing useful behind. The chapters are alternatively told with how much time that is left with that of their past. The past was just a bit boring, cheesy romance of how they met and how they ended up in the spaceship with no other cosmonauts.

The story setting is based on fictional Utopian world that is formed after the destruction of the United States and the Middle East and the form of living the post-war world adapts to – The Rotation. For every three years, people who belong to the Europia and are in Rotation, will be moved to different regions of the world. There can be no relationships that are permanent until you are 35. Everyone is answerable to no one except their own and they take responsibility for their selves in this new world. No religion, race, ethnicity, caste etc.

Max is from the founding families of the Rotation and he lives by it. While Carys, is enrolled in it only after 18, has enough roots and commitments prior to Rotation so she hates the system. What happens when they meet is what follows and yes, eventually ending up in a spaceship.

Sci-fi wise the book was great and wonderful creative writing. Romance-wise it was nothing different.

“Science both advances and undermines itself over time. If we live long enough, most theories we currently accept as fact will be proved false. There is always better, more advanced science out there -we just have to advance our own knowledge first. “

As the minutes are ticking and there’s no miracle happening, i was intrigued and definitely wanting to finish the book to know its end. And boy was i surprised. I don’t want to give spoilers but those last few chapters were amazing!

My rating 4/5 stars 🙂

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The Circus – Arc review

Author : Olivia Levez

Publishers : Rock the Boat (an imprint of Oneworld Publications)

Pub date: 04 May 2017

Source : I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

Book blurb :

Why would a girl who has everything want to run away and never be found?
Willow has staged runaways ever since she was a little girl. She has everything a young person should want: a rich daddy, clothes, money, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. In reality, she has everything except the thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her.

Aged sixteen, on the eve of her father’s wedding, she ruins the bride’s dress and escapes through a window, determined never to return. Her missing mother was a circus performer, and Willow wants to follow in her footsteps. But the performers she meets don’t want her. When her last bit of money is stolen by Suze, another runaway girl she thought she could trust, Willow becomes really homeless. Then Suze comes tumbling back into her life and a desperate Willow has to decide whether to trust her all over again . . .
So begins their frightening, exhilarating odyssey though hunger, performance, desperation and dreams. Will they both survive and will Willow make it to the circus of her imagining?

Olivia Levez takes you into the very heart of a girl who wants so hard to be lost, but saves herself through a powerful friendship and the awakening of a need for home.

My thoughts :

Running away is as easy as breathing for Willow. She has ran away from her rich dad several times during her 16 years of life. This time, though, she plans her escape (from what!?) and lists out rules that she needs to follow to make sure she doesn’t get caught again. She experiences life out of her luxurious home, begs, steals, auditions for the circus, gets betrayed and learns so much about herself during this escapade.

I may have a love/hate relationship towards this book because i didn’t like Willow that much. The book tells that she is from a very rich background, with her own ponies and boarding school and house keeper etc. Yet, she is unhappy and tries to run away at every chance. The reason why she is so much obsessed with running away is – her dad doesn’t love her, she wants to find her mother who is presumed to have worked in a Circus, and she hates that her dad is re-marrying the Handbag (All through the book, this character is referred to as Handbag, no reasons provided, although actual name is given). She sabotages the wedding dress – so much hatred – and runs off with her gap year money in search of a mother whose memory is only associated with her throwing off baby Willow in the air. Right!

Looked like Willow hated everyone – except Suze (a street performer, also a runaway) who she initially hates and then takes care of later in the book – even her house keeper. Why there is so much angst, I couldn’t comprehend. Rich, spoilt and naive. Willow recalls how her dad is never the one to find her and which is why she keeps running away – to be found. I liked the Circus part of the book, where she tries to learn new things and live her dream although short lived.

Some people would have liked the Suze-Willow part, but truthfully that just made me sad and think this is how much you suffer or experience when you run away from home. The world is not a happy place for runaways.. People betray you, cheat you, take advantage of you and leave you with broken heart and lessons for a lifetime. So yes, I recommend this to those that seek attention from parents, to those that are feeling unwanted, left out and want to leave everything behind in search of a place where they would belong.

My rating is 4/5 stars 🙂

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Court of Lions – Book Review

Author : Jane Johnson

Publishers : Head of Zeus

Pub Date : May 2017/July 2017

Source: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)

Get the book from Amazon

Book Blurb

Sometimes at the lowest points in your life, fate will gift you chance. A golden thread of love links the fifteenth and twenty-first centuries.

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great turning-points in history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

My thoughts:

This is almost 500 pages and was a very long read for me as I had to shuffle between reading time and work. I finally finished it after a week 🙂

The story is about Kate Fordham, who has a disastrous past and flies away from it to the Province of Granada. She is broken, thanks to her past, and she just manages to survive in a foreign country living each day in guilt and fear. She finds solace in the gardens of Alhambra and one day when she takes a stroll, she finds this note hidden in the walls. She is intrigued by it and in an attempt to find what the note actually means, she meets new people and finds friendship and finally the courage to let someone else in her life.

There is also a parallel narration, from the point of view of Blessings, the (fictional) royal companion of Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, the last Nasrid ruler of Granada (Also called as Momo by Blessings) . This narration explains the unrequited love that Blessings had for Momo, the war that led to the fall of the Nasrid dynasty and the Spanish Inquisition. This was quite tough to follow, because of various historical references and me not being very good at World history.

Kate’s part was easy to follow and I was expecting something more along the lines of the ‘note’ she finds. Blessings’ narration was little difficult and I was confused from the beginning whether its a girl or a boy. So this was explained towards the end of the book and that made sense. I liked the way the chapters were set, one suspense from Kate and the next chapter begins with Blessings narration or the vice versa.

There was so much love in the eyes of Blessings for Momo, even though the Sultan loved his royal companion, it was clearly a ‘Friend Zoned’ relationship.

All those religious wars.. 😦 I hate to think about it and this suppression/oppression makes me stand with Momo who loves nothing but peace for his people and decides to give up everything for them. And this is still happening!! One day everything is peaceful and next day they are gassing or bombing people. 😦

Moors and Hews and Castilians mingling in souks and markets to buy and sell and exchange news and gossip. Until, of course, the ambitions of the powerful set one against the other.

The author’s note explained why she had written this book around the Sultan. History has it that the Sultan wept after giving away the keys of his Kingdom to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. But this is debated as a story made up, and so the author decided to give the story from his closest ally’s point of view recounting the events that led to the fall of his kingdom. A chance to celebrate him, for what he truly is.

It was beautifully detailed and leaves you with so much pain. I wasn’t that much hooked to Kate’s life and how the story progresses there.

And hey, Christopher Columbus makes guest appearance 😉

I give 4/5 stars. A tragic historical fiction with a little suspense.

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Incriminating Dating – Book Review

Author: Rebekah L.Purdy

Publishers : Entangled Publishing

Pub date: 10 Apr 2017

Source: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Blurb :

Ayla Hawkins is ready to stand up for change in her high school. But winning the election for class president against popular Jenna Lee will be impossible without a miracle.

When she stumbles upon Mr. Perfect Luke Pressler defacing public property and catches it on camera: cue miracle. Ayla’s got the dirt she needs to get Luke on Team Ayla—in the form of her new fake boyfriend.

One mistake. All Luke wanted was a night to goof off, to blow off steam. The pressure of maintaining the perfect facade when his reality was crumbling around him had become too much, and next thing he knew, he was pretending to date Ayla Hawkins. But his little blackmailer turns out to be kind. Honorable. Opinionated. And just the breath of fresh air he didn’t even realize he was suffocating for. But Luke and Ayla come from different worlds, and once the election is over, their fauxmance will be, too.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features adult language, sexual situations, and plenty of girl power. Reading may result in swooning, laughing, and looking for a Luke of your own.

Okay, the story is simple and it follows the standard formula – Geek blackmails Jock -Fake Relationship – Falling for each other -Some twist – All is well that ends well.

The author has followed the formula to the T.

So about the characters – Ayla Hawkins – a geek who runs the school paper as well as a main part of drama club is outraged that the school has cut off funds to art clubs and instead increases funding to sports. She comes off like a geek-rebel but she keeps saying she is just a bystander who normally doesn’t talk much. She says she hates the rich families and their kids who act like everything is under their disposal, but she isn’t poor, mind you! She has tree (boat?!) house that looks bigger than Luke Pressler’s house. So I found it hard connecting to her.

Luke Pressler – popular jock, putting up a pretense in school that he is still rich and lives in big mansions. But inside he is raging and trying to cool off his hatred towards his dad for forsaking them, and in a moment of rage vandalizes public property. But otherwise, he is responsible big brother to Landon, takes care of him and helps his mom in paying bills.

The fauxmance turning to romance is predictable but I did enjoy it. All through the book, I was waiting for the video to go into the wrong hands. Because, duh the formula!

I’m being honest here and will list out the things that I liked and disliked.

  • I liked that Ayla stood for many causes but resorting to blackmail was beneath her. Like she should have just asked Luke to help with her campaign , why particularly to be a boyfriend.
  • There’s a confusion to most of the characters – Luke’s mom is first portrayed differently, so I’m not able to digest how things turn out eventually.
  • The number of times the characters repeat something about themselves. Like Luke, stressing so many times that he is paying the bills or how Ayla stresses multiple times about jocks and all popular kids being judgmental jerks. Or Jack and Jenna’s “you’re going down!”
  • I liked that Ayla was curvy and was confident about her appearance, and doesn’t mind stuffing herself with pizza.
  • I loved Landon ❤
  • Andddd, i loved the book cover !! I usually like headless couples on the cover of a book ❤ 😛

I’ve read other Entangled Teen Crush books that have a similar story, but if you haven’t read any of them, you can give this a try, because its cute, high-school romance with some swooning. My rating is 3/5.

Buy the book from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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