The Bronze Horseman || a history lesson with romance

the bronze horseman by paullina simmons

Title: The Bronze Horseman
Author: Paullina Simmons
Genre: Historical Romance
Category: Adult
Series info: Book #1 of The Bronze Horseman series

This book found its way into my TBR* because of Instagram. I followed @sissireads for romance recommendations and beautiful pictures and quickly caught wind of her UNDYING LOVE for this series. As far as I remember, she owns 75 or so editions of this book!

If a book is SO LOVED, it definitely deserves a chance to be read. Although it’s been in my TBR for a year, I picked it up only now with the added incentive through reading challenges.

This book fits into 2 of my challenges: #StartOnYourShelfathon and 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge. Click here to know more about them.

*To Be Read list

THE PLOT

The book takes place in war-torn Leningrad, Soviet Union. Tatiana, a young 17 year old girl finds the love of her life by chance while sitting on a bench and eating ice cream. Alexander Belov, a handsome soldier, is also besotted with her.

But love isn’t that simple when you’re in Soviet Union and Hitler is coming after your country. And it becomes even more complicated because Tatiana’s sister is in love with the same man.

MY REVIEW

This book took me a LONG time to read. I used to read a lot back in school but don’t have the time now. It was only after my internship was paused and we went into precautionary quarantine that I got the time to really read this.

The Bronze Horseman is a romance at the core, but it also has a ton of history and politics.

The politics part is brought in because Alexander and Tatiana have many conversations talking about their country, their leaders and their situations. That was pretty interesting to read because I got to know a lot more.

I also really liked the amount of history brought in. It was VERY detailed in the book, and the author spent time on describing small losses and victories as well.

My history lessons in school barely mentioned Russia and, in fact, any other countries in focus other than India. So reading books like this one teaches a ton.

Through Tatiana and her family, we get a very detailed look into the lives of civilians during the war. At some point, it was less romance and more war-focused.

It comes through that the author cares a lot about getting the history right and has used this book to teach readers something about the place she’s from.

As for the romance.. I’m conflicted. I liked the romance sometimes, but the story kept going in circles. The love triangle between Alexander, Tatiana, and Tatiana’s sister Dasha was dragged on way too long.

It might be because I’m a nerd but I preferred the small details of war and history than the romance.

Another thing I noticed was that Alexander is problematic. He is portrayed to be this alpha-male who cares for Tatiana a lot. But multiple times his actions were not healthy. The more times I noticed it, the less I liked him.

Alexander has a temper, is unyielding when he wants something, is persuasive, and is controlling. He is also a hero. The perfect soldier who succeeds in every mission he sets out for.

To contrast, Tatiana is an innocent girl who is believed to be young and fragile but is actually a strong woman in will. She is stubborn, will put herself through hell for people she cares about, and has a habit of giving things away to the less fortunate.

Their dynamic is one I’ve seen many times in romance books. They need each other to balance out. Alexander is there to protect her and is the only person who actually prioritizes her, and she is the only one who sees the real him.

The highlight of the book is the plot overall. This is a huge book and it has the story to justify it. It contains A TON, and it’s worthy of 900 pages. The story from start to finish is quite captivating.

I was actually dreading reading the next book after this because book 2 is another 500 pages. But surprisingly, as I finished this book, I couldn’t wait to get to the next one. The story is good and keeps you interested. I want to know how it all ends.

OVERALL

I actually quite liked the book, despite not liking the romance. I was in it for the history and information. But, that DID get old after a while and I basically skimmed the last bits of the book.

This is not a book to just pick up, because you need time and patience for it.

Would recommend: if you’re into history and have the time and patience for this book.

Would not recommend: if you don’t like long books, details, and problematic heroes. Also if repetition really annoys you.

I rate this book..

3/5 stars

Love From A to Z || READ. THIS.

love from a to z by S.K. Ali

Title: Love From A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Genre: Contemporary
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

This book had been on my TBR* for a LONG TIME. Although I had heard really good things about it, I just was never in the mood to get it and read it. Thankfully, that changed recently.

When I got an audiobook subscription, I started going through all the book available and this caught my eye. Since 2020 so far has been reading backlist books, I thought I will tackle this as well. And that was a very good decision.

*To Be Read list

THE PLOT

Adam and Zayneb record their lives in their “marvels and oddities” journals. Although they got the idea in different ways, it’s how they see their lives.

Fate decided to push them together. They come across each other in the London airport waiting for the same flight, and then met each other again through family in Doha.

This book is a love story through and through. But it is made of so much more.

MY REVIEW

THIS. BOOK.

I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it. It’s so damn good.

Love From A to Z is the love story of Adam and Zayneb, who live in different countries and have entirely different plans for life. Their lives are very different, and yet they feel pulled towards each other.

Let’s do this in a list, because lists make everything better.

  • ZAYNEB.

Zayneb is an angry person. She becomes angry when any injustice occurs and cannot sit quietly, accepting it. Especially when it comes to her religion.

Zayneb got suspended for a week right before spring break from school because of a seemingly threatening note against her Islamophobic teacher. After her suspension, she decides that she will become a new person this spring at Doha. A quieter Zayneb. A softer Zayneb.

  • ADAM.

Adam is studying in London, but he stopped going to classes two months ago. After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the same condition which took his mom away, he has decided to LIVE. He’s on his way home from University and is faced with the decision to tell his family about MS.

  • CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

Both Zayneb and Adam go through leaps and bounds in this book. They learn, and they mature. They learn about themselves and find courage to be truly themselves.

Zayneb’s development was especially lovely to see. She wants to become a muter person who will cause less trouble for her parents, but this spring she learns that her experiences aren’t meant to be shushed. I loved that.

  • ISLAM.

This book teaches us so much about the religion, and the beauty of it. I’ll be honest, the only reason I know anything about Christianity is because of books. And I’m super glad that books about Islam are coming up too.

Books have the capability to teach us so much, and this one took the opportunity.

  • ZAYNEB’S AUNT.

I just love her. She’s awesome. I want her as my aunt.

  • MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

As Adam has MS, we learn a lot about it as well. The book has a very raw depiction of living with MS and I almost cried at one point. Although I knew the basics about the condition, this is the first time that I learnt about it in detail.

  • MARVELS AND ODDITIES.

The book is written through their journals. As Adam and Zayneb record the marvels and oddities of their lives, we see how they view life and it’s moments.

It was a new way of writing a book and it was nice. I enjoyed the format.

OVERALL

A really REALLY nice book that I totally recommend. I “read” the book through audiobook and it was well narrated so I would suggest that too. It’s the best narrated book I’ve listened to so far.

I rate this…

4/5 stars

Axiom || Dystopian world of no emotions

Axiom by Kristofor Hellmeister book cover

Title: Axiom
Author: Kristofor Hellmeister
Genre: Science Fiction > Dystopia
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

I’m very into dystopia. While there are few books that I’ve really liked, I’m always looking for books in the genre that sound interesting.

Axiom was one of those. When the author reached out to me for a review in return for an advanced reader’s copy, I immediately agreed. And I looked forward to reading it as well.

The Plot

Axiom is peaceful. There is no violence and there are no variables. Even death is not a concept here.

People are known as “Figures” and have their own Roles in Axiom. Each Figure’s Role is important to the working of Axiom.

The reason this is seamlessly achieved is because only one person has control of Axiom—the Lord Protector. Only he has control and every Figure exists to serve him. In return for loyalty and obedience, he keeps Axiom peaceful and healthy.

But what happens when some Figures start having emotions? When they break out of Roles to search for purpose in their existence? And is Axiom really so perfect?

This book explores a future possibility where, to eradicate violence, emotions are removed and one person reigns with all control.

My Review

Tackling this review in the form of lists, because lists rock.

What I liked:

  • The world-building.

The first half of the book had me hooked. Through perspectives of characters in very different positions of the world, we get to see the various sides of Axiom.

I was completely engaged when reading about the setting, and how things work in this fictional place. The technology described was very interesting as well.

  • Addition of and debate on concepts like God and morals.

The way God was brought into the story and portrayed was quite clever. In the book, God is known as “Theo”. To me, that was weird in the beginning but it does make sense. No matter the name, it’s the belief that counts.

We see characters who are devout believers as well as characters who don’t even consider of such an existence. Interaction of the two was intriguing, and very similar to the current world’s stance. No matter the time, this debate will probably continue.

  • The ending.

I can’t say why without spoiling it but I appreciated how the book ended. It made me think for a few minutes, and I liked that.

What I did not like:

  • The plot didn’t seem cohesive all the time.

In fact, different characters could have been in entirely different worlds. There was very little connectivity between the different areas of the book, which was jarring during the perspective shifts.

  • Character growth.

This was the thing that got on my nerves the most. Characters would make entire revelations about themselves and/or the world around them based on very little.

In reality, the process of one’s growth is very long. But in this book it took place in the span of a night. Out of nowhere, revelations and identity changes were made. I found it hard to accept, because it happened so suddenly and is done at once.

  • I lost interest at around 50%

Until then, I was swept up in understanding the world and finding out how it worked. When the focus of the writing shifted to the characters, I wasn’t interested in the book as much.

It’s probably because of the way the characters’ journey was shown, especially a few key places about character growth. The world was great but the characters just did not interest me.

Overall

I found the book pretty okay. I didn’t enjoy the book a lot, but it wasn’t bad as well.

Recommended if you like great world-building, dystopian books.

Not recommended if characters and character growth is very important to you.

I rate this book…

2.5/5 stars

Loveboat, Taipei || unpopular opinion alert!

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Title: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Abigail Hing Wen
Genre: Contemporary
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

There’s been a lot of talk about this book since before it’s release. Bloggers who were lucky enough to get an ARC of this praised it a lot. The word got out pretty well, and tons of people got to reading it.

Everything I heard about this book was good. It was only positive. And that’s the reason why I expected it to be really good. I did not expect for it have elements that I really dislike.

But I did.

THE PLOT

Ever is a first generation Chinese-American. And like all Asian parents, they have high dreams for Ever. She’s expected to become a doctor.

But all Ever wants to do is dance. She loves to dance and choreograph dance routines. Her dream is to get into NYU Tisch School of Arts.

During the summer after high school, when she had plans of dancing and other things, her parents suddenly send her to Taipei for a summer programs. They want her to know her culture and learn Mandarin.

But the program nicknamed “Loveboat” is much more than a clean summer program to learn things. And this summer is going to shape Ever’s life in ways she never expected.

MY REVIEW

Let’s do this review in list format because I have MANY POINTS.

WHAT I LIKED:

  • Asian-American life representation.

Life is a lot like that even in Asian countries. Parents sacrifice SO MUCH that us only thinking about doing what makes us happy is almost a crime. I’m literally an engineering student in college and not doing literature because of my parents.

It’s so normal for us. And I love how it’s represented accurately, describing how it is for the kids AND the parents.

  • Complex relationships.

There were so many relationships shown that had layers to them. Between Ever and her romantic interest. Ever and her parents. Ever and her roommate.

There were even second-hand mentions of relationships not explicitly shown in the book. I loved reading all of it because it’s how life is. And the author managed to show just how many different complex relationships exist for just one person.

  • What it’s like to be Asian in America.

As the summer program is full of Asian kids living in other countries, we got a few bits of proper focus on how life is for them. The way they are treated, the almost-normal racist comments. It hit hard, but I feel good knowing that non-Asian readers will understand what it’s like.

  • Dreams and sacrfices.

We know that how we are brought up affects us a lot. It shapes our self-worth, our attitude towards life, and our ambitions and goals. This book really showcased the different types of lives and how parents really affect children.

  • Supporting characters had significance too.

Every supporting character we saw had dreams and goals. They had desires in life. The author showcased so many different scenarios through them. This one group of guys just went around breaking Asian stereotypes and I LOVED IT. Huge points for these things.

  • Character growth.

There was so much of it! Characters learned through mistakes, learnt new things, started having different outlooks and became better people by the end. That was lovely to watch.

What I did not like:

  • The middle of the book was dull and uninteresting.

The beginning started off strong. The ending was good. But damn the middle was annoying.

After Ever got to the program, it became all about teenage rebellion and boy crazy thoughts. It felt like a full one eighty from the first few chapters.

It got me so disinterested in the book that I PAUSED listening to it as an audiobook. In order to make myself finish the book, I had to pick it up as an ebook after a week.

This alone ruined the experience for me.

OVERALL

Other than the random boy-crazy rebelling stuff in the middle which threw the entire book off for me, it was really good.

I recommend this book for the Asian-American representation, complex relationships, and character growth.

But if you don’t like ANY of boy crazy random things, you won’t like it much like me.

I rate this book…

3/5 stars

My So-Called Bollywood Life || the book I needed

my so called bollywood life by nisha sharma book cover // book review by Sumedha @ the wordy habitat

Title: My So-Called Bollywood Life
Author: Nisha Sharma
Genre: Contemporary
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

I picked up this book as part of the South-Asian Reading Challenge, and I was NOT disappointed. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to read it in January but after Kafka On The Shore I needed something light and this was perfect.

THE PLOT

The book stars Vaneeta “Winnie” Mehta—a film enthusiast (particularly Bollywood films), type A Indian student, and dramatic enough to make Bollywood writers proud.

After Winnie is cheated on and dumped by Raj, whom she thought was “the one” because of an astrologer’s prophecy, she sets out to change her destiny in the stars.

Enter: Dev Khanna, a guy Winnie had a spark with in freshman year before starting to date Raj. A guy who, while not matching her true love prophecy, feels more right for her than Raj ever did.

My So-Called Bollywood Life is perfect for readers who like YA. But it’s even more perfect for Bollywood-lovers. Following Winnie’s complicated life about teenage love, future plans, and family dynamics with Indian traditions, this book will transport you into a fun world.

MY REVIEW

I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.

I cannot describe just how much I enjoyed this. It has all the Indian elements I ever wanted in a YA setting. As someone who loves YA and barely sees true Indian representation, this warmed my heart so much. I could cry.

All the things I loved:

(pretty much everything lol)

  • Winnie Mehta is awesome. I absolutely loved reading through her perspective. She’s energetic, exuberant, and is very passionate about films. I adored her. ❤
  • EVERYTHING INDIAN. Of course, I have to mention this. Even the few Hindi sentences (smoothly translated in English for everyone else) were a huge addition. I felt included. *cries* The traditions, beliefs, everything was amazing to read about. #relatable

“Kamina, kutta, sala,” she said sweetly when she answered (the phone).

  • Family presence. Winnie’s relationship with her family, especially her dad and grandmom, was so nice to see.
  • It wasn’t just romance. A lot of YA novels tend to sideline everything else in the favour of scenes that contribute to the romance. That didn’t happen here. We saw enough about Winnie’s culture, other relationships, and mostly importantly her drive towards film. She was determined to do anything to get into NYU. The struggle and stress was shown.
  • Winnie and Bridget. These two best friends were adorable to watch and I loved everything about their friendship.
  • The romance. I mean, come on. Of course I’m going to mention this. As the heart of the story, the romance did NOT disappoint. Honestly, it gave me quite a few feels.

“I’m done with romance.”

Nani snorted. “You’re Indian! We live for romance.”

A book is not just made of major plot points, but also the small settings. My So-Called Bollywood Life was chock full of small scenes/parts which make a difference to the reader. From Winnie dreaming about her favourite actor to people belittling Indian beliefs, there were tons of moments that added to the experience.

OVERALL

Thoroughly enjoyed the book, and totally recommend it to all YA lovers.

I did notice that it’s not specifically targeted for Indian readers, as in that the traditions are subtly explained and Hindi terms are translated. So if you want to have a fun and light YA read, you can pick this up without any worries.

I’m so glad I was introduced to this book through the challenge because I doubt I would have come across it otherwise.

I rate this book…

4.5/5 stars

The Bluest Eye || a confusing read

The bluest eye by Toni Morrison book review

Title: The Bluest Eye
Author: Toni Morrison
Genre: Fiction
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

For the past couple months, I’ve been seeing Toni Morrison mentioned a lot online. Several bookstagrammers and bloggers whom I follow are reading Morrisson’s works. Of course, all of this got me curious about the author and her works.

Right in time, my book club chose The Bluest Eye as our book of the month. That got me motivated to read the book and try the author’s works.

Trigger warnings: racist slurs, bullying, rape, neglect, abuse, humiliation. (Probably more but I can’t remember, so make sure to find out before picking it up)

The Plot

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s debut novel and has a unique take on racism. Through this novel, the author crafts a situation which causes a young Black girl to desperately want blue eyes.

Showcasing multiple issues such as racism, abuse, and neglect, the book shows how hard life is for a young innocent girl to want blue eyes. Blue eyes, which are usually a feature of white people who are loved and cherished.

The Bluest Eye is definitely not a light read. It’s poignant with a message in every chapter, and has a strong voice as a book.

My Review

First of all, let me say that this book wasn’t easy to read. And this was so because of multiple reasons.

The timeline of the book isn’t linear. The chapters are scattered and it is up to the reader to figure out the timeline after reading most or all of the book. The jumps were very confusing in the beginning that I gave up trying to make sense, and instead just took the book chapter by chapter.

As the chapters were scattered, I was trying to understand what was happening and piece together the timeline. Hence, I couldn’t connect with the characters or feel for them. That was unfortunate, because it would have made much more of an impact on me.

Morrison’s writing is very different than what I’m used to, and the way she spoke about and crafted the situations was something to get used to. That also played a part in the book not being a good read for me.

One thing that quite irritated me was the point of view shown. Some chapters are in first person point of view of a supporting character, not the main one. But most of the book is in third person point of view. The random switching, without sense, was off-putting.

Every chapter in the book had something to show, by itself. I really liked that. Because even if I managed to read just one chapter a day, I’m still getting some meaning out of it.

As The Bluest Eye deals with heavy issues, it’s not an easy book. Morrison doesn’t describe things very graphically, but it’s enough that it makes a lasting impression on you. This played a part in me reading the book very slowly.

Overall

Honestly, I’m not too sure about whether I liked this book or not. I would have liked it a lot more if the chapters weren’t jumbled up. But because of that, I simply could not get lost into the book and was confused for a lot of time.

I will be picking up at least another book by Morrison, though. I want to know why this author is so popular and I don’t think The Bluest Eye did justice.

I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a light read. Pick this one up only if you have the time to devote to reading it. It’s a slow but meaningful read.

I rate this book..

2.5/5 stars

Have you read Toni Morrison’s books? Or, are they on your list?

Thanks For The Memories || an interesting idea

thanks for the memories book cover || review

Title: Thanks for the Memories
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Genre: General Fiction
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

I’ll be honest, the only reason I got this book was because it was being sold for a really low price in a book fair. I hadn’t even heard of this book before, and the synopsis at the back gave NO CLUE to the actual story.

THE PLOT

The book starts with Joyce having a fall on the stairs and losing her baby. She has a lot of blood loss as well, which leads to her getting a blood transfusion in the hospital. She barely survives.

When she wakes up after the incident, Joyce is almost like a different person. She knows things that she never even cared about, and remembers things that she has never experienced. Suddenly, she knows about architecture and history, and speaks Latin. Which is completely bizarre.

The other protagonist of the book is Justin, a guest professor at a college in Dublin and an art and history enthusiast. He was convinced to donate blood one day, which could someone’s life.

After Joyce’s incident, she becomes way too much like Justin. She has his memories and inherited his characteristics. One can say that his blood was given to her in the transfusion, which also transferred his memories and characteristics.

Throughout the book, we follow Joyce and Justin as they go on with their lives which somehow interleaves and changes everything.

MY REVIEW

First of all, a very interesting idea. It’s the thought that if something directly from a person’s heart is transferred to another person, it could transfer memories and characteristics as well.

The problem with this idea, which showed in the book, was a lack of plot around it. We just follow Joyce and Justin. There’s no great plot-line except this idea. Which kind of made it boring, and easy to skim. I read this book in a day because it was easy to read fast because there wasn’t very much substance in every line.

I liked following Joyce’s journey after losing the baby which signals the end of her marriage. She moves back in with her widowed father and they learn to share space after so long. Their bond was pure, and although it had it’s annoyances, they support each other and have new adventures.

Justin was a fun character to read about. Simply because he’s kinda embarrassing and quirky. He has his flaws, which is seen very clearly, but his story was fun to read. He is a divorced man who moved to London to be closer to his teenage daughter, and travels to Dublin regularly for guest lectures. It’s hard for him to adjust to this new life after leaving behind a great life in America, but he does it for his daughter.

Now, the point that I really want to talk about. The ending. The ending was disappointing. After all that chase and adventures, the last bit felt rushed and quite out of place. The falling in love part did NOT make sense. Joyce and Justin didn’t even really know each other. And considering that they share a lot of characteristics now, it’s quite weird.

I did not like the ending, but I guess the author didn’t know how to end the book since it doesn’t actually have a plot. It makes sense why she chose to do this but… eh.

OVERALL

It was an okay read. I wasn’t very invested in it, and it was more of a pass-the-time read. I’m glad that I didn’t go in with expectations.

This book had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year so it’s good that I finally got to it and read it. Even though it wasn’t in my TBR, it’s part of my #StartOnYourShelfathon to finish the books I currently own first before buying new ones and reading them.

I rate this book..

2.5/5 stars

Have you read books by Cecelia Ahern? What’s your opinion on this idea that blood transfusion could transfer characteristics?

Becoming || inspires hope for change

becoming book cover

Title: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
Genre: Autobiography

Goodreads

Becoming, since it’s release, has been praised to the stars by just about everyone. All the readers I follow posted about it, and it was my book club’s pick sometime last year. I didn’t have the time to read it then, though. I finally picked up the book in November, but did not have the time or patience for a non-fiction.

In order to motivate myself to finish it this year, I chose Becoming as the book for a prompt in the Popsugar Reading Challenge and also included it in #StartOnYouRShelfathon. And it worked! I finished the book as my second read of the year. We’re off to a good start.

MY REVIEW

Once I was actually in the mood to read this book, which was so a few days back, I couldn’t stop reading it. Although it’s an autobiography, Michelle Obama’s life has been very interesting that it almost feels as if I’m reading fiction. She has written her story so beautifully, showing how she was brought up and what made her into who she is today.

Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

Becoming is a brilliant book that sends a message of hope, change, and power in resilience. It was inspiring and motivating.

How Michelle Obama was portrayed in the media is such a contrast to how she is in the book. She, along with her husband and family, are humanized and broken down to the small quirks that makes them. She speaks about her struggles, her fears, and her weakness plainly. There was no hiding, but instead she owned every part of her story.

In my opinion, a major reason that this book resonates with people across the world is how Michelle openly talks about her struggles which many others are going through as well. She talks about the struggles of being a woman, being Black in a predominantly White country, being a woman in male-dominated field, being a working mother, and being the wife to a politician.

Confidence, I’d learned then, sometimes needs to be called from within. I’ve repeated the same words to myself many times now, through many climbs.

Am I good enough? Yes I am.

It was wonderful to read her thoughts and feelings on everything, especially the negative ones. In the end, she overcame all of that and stood strong. Michelle Obama learned how to adapt and use her resources to help other people. She recognizes all her privileges, from the people in her life to the power she has, and works to make changes in the US.

Through Michelle Obama, we also get insight into Barack Obama as more than the former US President. We see him as a passionate person, a fact-guy, as a husband, and as a father. It was interesting to see their relationship from the start and the issues they went through as he climbed the political ladder.

The choice, as he saw it, was this: You give up or you work for change. “What’s better for us?” Barack called to the people gathered in the room. “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”

I was most curious to read about the Obama family’s time in the White House and I was not disappointed. A major portion of the book took place during those 8 years, and Michelle spoke about everything. We read about the staff, the rooms, and multiple small quirks of living there. Their life changed drastically the day Barack Obama became the President-Elect, and Michelle showed the overwhelming changes in the book.

Being the First Lady is very much different to being the President. The role doesn’t have all the hard power of the President, nor does it give the platform to talk about the same issues. But being First Lady does give power due to the image. Reading about Michelle Obama’s journey in the role was intriguing and inspiring.

A First Lady’s power is a curious thing—as soft and undefined as the role itself. And yet I was learning to harness it.

One thing that Michelle Obama counted on for several years was the support from her girl friends. The power of female friendships is not spoken about much, in fiction or non-fiction, and it was really nice to see Michelle talk about it multiple times.

OVERALL

I should stop talking because there is SO MUCH in the book that I loved and several more quotes that I want to add. I can probably talk for an hour about this book.

But all I’ll say is, read this book if you haven’t yet. It’s a wonderful and inspiring story that drives home one thing: you are worth it, you can make changes in this world as well.

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.

Michelle Obama

I rate this book..

5/5 stars

Have you read Becoming? Do you have favourite quotes from the book?

Shortcake || slow-burn hate-to-love romance

shortcake book cover

Title: Shortcake
Author: Lucy Watson
Genre: Romance
Category: Adult
Series info: Standalone book

Goodreads

I was just browsing through romance titles in my recommendations, looking for new books that I might like when I came across Shortcake. To be honest, I’ve never heard of this book or this author and I didn’t have many expectations. Still, I decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised.

Content warnings for the book: grief, anxiety, mild PTSD.

THE PLOT

Emelia Anderson has been the live-in care nurse for Rose for a long time. When Rose passes away, she leaves the house to her grandson Benjamin and Emelia. The family, especially Ben, believe that Emelia conned Rose into adding her in the will and this animosity causes Ben to hate Emelia. Em is shocked that Rose included her in the will and hates that her character is being judged in such a way.

As much as they want to, Ben and Emelia can’t back out as Rose’s stipulation was that they have to renovate the house together while living in it for three months. Bizarre, right? If they fail to do so, the house will go to Ben’s father, whom Ben hates.

In the three months that they reluctantly live as house mates, Ben and Emelia get to know each other and develop feelings.

MY REVIEW

First of all, this book is longer than most romance books. But it has all the content which makes every page worth it.

The slow-burn chemistry was on point. I love slow-burn romances and this was done SO WELL. Ben and Emelia hate each other from their first meeting, which leads them to argue and fight a lot. It was really interesting to see their relationship grow from that start.

The book was hilarious. Emelia is a hoot and reading from her point of view was highly entertaining. She’s awkward, clumsy and sometimes rash in her decisions and it makes for some really funny scenes. The book made me laugh out loud and giggle multiple times, to the point that my mum was amused just watching me read.

Emelia has had a traumatic experience in the past, which has led to her developing anxiety. I really like how her anxiety was shown and her how she still makes the best of her life. It wasn’t a huge part of plot, her anxiety and milk PTSD were present and represented well.

The one thing that did disappoint me was the ending. The ending felt very rushed and messy. After the build-up of almost the whole book, the last part wasn’t very satisfying and felt off-paced.

OVERALL

A really nice romance read. I read the entire book in one sitting because it was too good to pause reading.

Would recommend: for hate-to-love and slow-burn romance lovers. Also if you’re looking for a very fun romantic comedy.

I rate this book..

4/5 stars

Do you like hate-to-love romances? What’s your favourite romance trope?

Maybe This Time || so adorable

maybe this time book cover

Title: Maybe This Time
Author: Kasie West
Genre: Contemporary
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

A while back, I was in the mood for a cute book to read in one sitting. YA* Contemporaries are best for that, and Kasie West is one of the best in the genre. Her newest book does not disappoint.

*Young Adult

THE PLOT

Sophie Evans works in the flower shop in her town. She wanted to work under the only seamstress but was rejected, and hence she’s stuck doing flowers. The only thing worse than losing your dream part-time job and your ideas not being considered in your new job? An boy to mess up your events.

Andrew Hart is the son of a famous has-a-bad-attitude chef. He is in town for a year while his dad “coaches” the local diner. He is homeschooled, and hasn’t ever been to a real school because of his dad’s profession.

Sophie and Andrew got off the wrong foot, and it seems to continue. Since they only see each other in events that they’re both involved in (Sophie from the flower shop and Andrew from the diner), there is not much scope to interact. This makes them happy in the beginning, but it starts to change slowly.

They have nine events over the year. Nine events to get over their misunderstandings, and possibly fall in love.

MY REVIEW

This book was TOO CUTE.

First of all, love the concept! The book is told such that each event is a “part” in the book. Obviously things happen between events which we don’t see first hand, but the flashbacks and catching up is done well enough that we don’t feel left out.

The concept brings in a new format to the book and it was super interesting. The intros in every part was a nice touch.

Sophie’s character was interesting. I liked reading through her. She has big dreams. She wants to get out of her small town and go to New York to study design, which the people around her are unsure of. Sophie also has issues with her mom and dad. But the highlight of her life is her younger brother.

We see Sophie doubt herself, learn, and grow. I really liked her character growth through the book. That’s the one thing I look for in all books and it was done well here.

While we read about Andrew only from an outside point of view, he wasn’t neglected. Andrew has his own substantial story and character growth in the book. Andrew has always been a doormat with his father, and defends his dad even though he knows that his dad has flaws. It was nice to see a boy show emotion towards his parents and not rebel like all teenagers do in most YA books.

That brings me to why I liked this book even more. The parents and family were actually involved in the story and not neglected. A huge part of teenagers’ lives are their parents and the parents’ actions. That was brought through in this book so well.

Even though the story is not continuous in time, it flows quite seamlessly with the writing. That was quite impressive. I forgot how Kasie West writes and it was wonderful to read a cute YA book which much more than romance.

But the concept does bring drawbacks. Here it was that we couldn’t learn about any character other than Sophie and Andrew. The concept doesn’t allow for that. But I didn’t mind it. Sophie and Andrew are our leads and we have a good story with them.

OVERALL

This book was exactly what I was looking for, and it shows that you can’t go wrong with Kasie West for YA contemporary reads.

Would recommend: if you’re looking for a cute and adorable story with character-focus, and a light book to read in one or two sittings.

I rate this book..

4/5 stars

The Gilded Wolves || full of adventure

Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Book 1 in The Gilded Wolves series

Goodreads

Even though I haven’t read much Young Adult this year, I still notice the popular books and trends. One of the books which has been HYPED UP is The Gilded Wolves. Almost everyone was talking about it. Especially since it involves a diverse set of characters, the praise was high.

So when I got the mood to read a YA book, this was the first one that I picked.

SYNOPSIS

The book is set in France, 1889. But we don’t really see the mundane France. Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to the new concept of “Forging” and the hidden Fantasy world.

In this hidden world lies The Order, and the Four Houses that protect the art of Forging. Severin, the last heir of one of the houses, was denied of his birthright as patriarch of the house years back. Ever since, he has been on the path of revenge, and his only mission is to be instated with his birthright.

Over the years, he has brought together a band of people to work with him. Laila, the dancer from India with her own mission. Enrique, a well-read historian looking to be recognized. Zofia, a very smart engineer with a debt. And Tristan, Severin’s brother in everything except blood.

Right as Severin’s dream is close enough to reach for, things go awry and the group is thrust into a mission they didn’t sign up for. Together, they discover hidden truths and learnt what it truly means to be family.

MY REVIEW

First of all, this book reminded me why I loved the Fantasy genre. It has been so long since I read a Fantasy book, and reading this was like breathing fresh air. It was wonderful.

The plot is very captivating. We are taken on an adventure through this book. An adventure with a denied birthright, Forging, mystery, manipulation, secrets, betrayal and magical objects. Basically everything you want in a great Fantasy book.

The writing was very descriptive. We are given details about everything, especially the history in this world. At times, I found the descriptions and background information too much. Yes they’re planning something and are researching a lot for it, but there was way too much unnecessary information for me to read through with concentration. That could have been reduced.

Even though the plot was really good, what really made the book great were the characters. The characters were brilliant. They were each unique and fully-fledged i.e. with depth and layers. Every character was endearing in their own way. They are precious.

There was also enough highlight on each of them. I never felt like we saw more of one or two and less of the others. They were all equally the main characters of this book.

The found family trope was executed beautifully. The relationships between the characters, and what the relationships mean to them, was shows really well. The interactions were very fun to read as well, and didn’t feel like an overkill.*

*cough Aurora Rising cough

Many readers have compared this book to Six of Crows. While I do see the similarities—with the plot type and character relationships—I still think that they are entirely separate books. They have similar concepts but each with their own spin and meaning to it.

OVERALL

I’m very happy with this book. I absolutely loved reading about the characters going on their dangerous adventures together. It also brought back some of my love of YA Fantasy.

Would recommend especially: if you’re looking for a book with the found family trope, with a very Fantasy-world, and adventure.

I rate this book..

4/5 stars

Have you read The Gilded Wolves? Do you like the Fantasy genre?

Wilder Girls || gory and creepy

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

When this book was released, it became a huge hit in the Bookstagram community. Everywhere I saw, people were reading or talking about this book. This cover was shown to me so many times that I didn’t even have to add it to my TBR, it was just imprinted in my head.

It took me a while to pick it up since I wasn’t in the mood for YA. But the second I wanted to, I read this one. And it’s safe to say that I went in with HUGE expectations.

SYNOPSIS

The book is set on Raxter Island, which has been taken over by a disease called “The Tox”. It has affected the entire island including the trees, the animals, and even the people. Ever since it hit, the island has been put on quarantine.

The girls in Raxter School, a boarding school which has now turned into a weird hell, have scales on their body, bones sticking out, and other weird body parts which have developed because of the Tox. They were told that a solution will be found, and to just hold on, but it’s been 18 months. They stay locked up in the school, only a few wandering out for supplies.

Hetty, Byatt and Reese are a tight knit group. When Byatt goes missing, Hetty vows that she will find her. In the process, she discovers so much more that she was looking for.

MY REVIEW

Let’s do this in parts.

THE GOOD

This book is unique. I have never come across a story like this in YA, and it was very interesting to read. The Tox is an unknown thing, and no one knows what it is, how it actually came to Raxter, or how to get rid of it. They’re just hanging on and living with it.

Reading the book will put you in that world. The writing is highly detailed and eerie. Sometimes, I could barely handle it because I was so grossed out with the descriptions. The author hold back from exactly detailing everything related to the Tox. I was slightly nauseous a couple times as well*. The writing also sets the creepy vibe well. This is not a happy book. It’s one meant to creep you out.

The characters and the relationships were nice. We focus more on Hetty, Byatt and Reese. The complex relationships between these three was nice to see. They’re super close and will always have each other’s backs.

*note: don’t read when eating, or right after eating.

THE OKAY

I feel like the characters were sometimes underdeveloped. Since we read through Hetty, we know a lot about her and she’s a full-fledged character. I can’t say the same for Byatt and Reese, and we barely think about others if not Tox-related. The characters could have been worked on much more. Byatt especially confused me. I always felt like I’m reading a surface-level version of her. There was no clear depth.

The plot, overall, was quite unimpressive. The book spends so long describing the Tox and it’s effects on everyone, and how daily life has become since the quarantine. But it never pays off. It’s as if the author thought of this situation and somehow constructed a plot around it, but the plot was never the main focus. It didn’t feel like there was a point to it.

THE BAD

I’m someone who is ALWAYS up for romance, no matter the genre. So when I saw the hints of romance in this book, I was ecstatic at first. But a while later, I wish it didn’t exist.

The romance felt like a needless addition to the plot, and at times it took attention completely away from the main plot*. The timing of the romance scenes was very inconvenient as well. I just could not go with it. I wish there was no romance at all.

*if there’s actually a main plot.

The book got pretty boring about halfway. By that point, all the Tox descriptions and intrigue was waning. I needed some actual plot, but none was forthcoming. I actually had to pause reading it, read another book, and then get back to it. By the 80% point, I was speed-reading so I could be done with the book faster.

But the book’s ending was NOT satisfying. I really hated the way the book rushed through to provide some form of an ending. But it doesn’t actually end as well.. It was an open ending! There’s still so much mystery around the Tox and what happens to the three girls. We still barely know anything. It’s like the author gave us clues and told “figure it out yourself.” To have sat through an entire book, that was highly underwhelming.

OVERALL

I was highly disappointed. For the amount of hype going around, this book is not worth it. Sure, the concept of the Tox, and the descriptions and vibe were cool. It was very different than the usual YA books we get. But I still would have liked a proper plot and some form of definitive ending.

Considering that the book was about the Tox, the least it could have done was leave me with no questions about it. But I still don’t exactly know what the Tox is.

Would recommend: if you’re looking for a unique YA with creepy vibes.

Would not recommend: if you can’t handle descriptive gore, and like proper endings.

I rate this book..

2.5/5 stars

Heads You Win || highly captivating read

heads you win cover page

Title: Heads You Win
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction
Series info: Standalone book

Goodreads

I’m a HUGE fan of Jeffrey Archer’s books. Back when I frequented the library near me, I took the opportunity to gorge on every Archer novel that they had. (Except short stories, because I don’t like short stories haha) And I loved every single one of them. My favourite Archer book is Kane and Abel, which was brilliant.

When I saw Heads You Win on sale on Flipkart recently, with an unbelievable discount, I grabbed it immediately. The synopsis didn’t matter to me, but it did make me more excited to read the book.

SYNOPSIS

Heads You Win starts in Leningrad, Russia with our main character Alex Karpenko. Alex is a young boy in school with high ambitions. When his father is murdered by the KGB for forming a worker’s union, Alex and his mother flee Russia in a ship with the help of Alex’s uncle. When they are about to flee, they’re given the option of hiding in the ship to USA or Britain. Alex flips a coin, which makes the decision for them.

As the reader, we don’t know what the coin chose. From the time Alex flips the coin, we follow both paths. We get to see what Alex’s life would be like if they went to Britain, and if they went to USA. And in each path, Alex and his mother wonder multiple times what would have happened if they chose to go into the other ship’s crate.

The book spans thirty years, and follows both lives of Alex. But which is the real one? Is there a winner?

MY REVIEW

The book was very captivating. Once I started the book, I oblivious to my surroundings. Even my mum laughed at just how out of it was while reading. Right from the first sentence, the book caught me in it’s world and didn’t let go. After a very long, I finished a general fiction book very fast. I read it in two sittings.

Jeffrey Archer’s writing has always made his books great for me. No matter the characters or the plot, he manages to grab my attention. This book was a little extra special because we get almost two different stories, and both are good enough to have a book of their own. Archer weaves two very interesting lives with politics, family, intrigue and plot twists.

The book showed the USA life as “Alex” and the Britain life as “Sasha”, just so the readers can understand which alternate life we’re reading about. Both Alex and Sasha’s lives were thrilling to read. It was interesting to read how the same person’s life turns out when they’re given different opportunities. The most interesting part was the end. After thirty years, how different are their lives? And is Alex’s biggest ambition the same no matter what life he leads?

As a reader, you can either simply enjoy the book and it’s thrilling plot, or you can wonder about hidden meanings. Until I finished the book, I simply enjoyed it. But after turning the last page, all I could think about was the hidden meaning. Does your entire fate depend on a single choice? Will it vary very much, or will you flourish the same either way? Will your life end differently based on that one choice?

While the plots were really good, I was intrigued about how the book will end very early. As the book progressed, all I could think about was “which life is the real one?” That was my burning question. I had huge expectations for the end.

But, the ending sorely disappointed me. Until the last two chapters, I kept the two lives straight and wasn’t confused. But the last two chapters threw everything out the window and confused me. It was badly written, and almost as if the intention was to mess with us. I had to read the last part THRICE. And even after that, I’m unclear about what exactly happened.

I’m not alone in the confusion, because I went onto Goodreads and found that everyone is in the same boat as me. The ending ruined the whole book. It was the one thing that I looked forward to and because it messed everything up, it ruined my experience with the book.

And as to my burning question? It wasn’t answered. The book’s title points to the fact that whatever “heads” pointed to, is the real one. But we’re never told which is heads and which is tails.

OVERALL

I’m not sure if I’m glad I read the book, or if I regret it.

Pros:

  • I love it when a book makes me think and wonder for days after I finish it.
  • The storylines were thrilling and I loved reading them.
  • The ending opens up discussion, even if it was bad. It does have a meaning.

Cons:

  • The ending was SO BAD!
  • Kinda feels like the author wasn’t sure what to do, and just wrote a random ending.
  • The book leaves you with a bad experience, just because of the last two chapters.

Would recommend: if you want an engaging read which will make you question and wonder things. Also if you won’t be too bothered with a badly written ending.

Would not recommend: if a book’s ending means a lot to you, and your reading experience.

I rate this book..

3/5 stars

If you had to choose: the plot or the ending? Which matters more to you?

Song of the Crimson Flower || blog tour + review

song of the crimson flower cover

Title: Song of the Crimson Flower
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genre: Fantasy
Category: Young Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | BookDepository

When I got the chance to be a host for the blog tour for this book, I JUMPED on the chance. An Asian-based YA fantasy? I’m sold. I also have Julie C Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns in my TBR, actually. (Don’t ask me why I haven’t gotten to it yet lol) I was super excited to read and review an ARC by this popular author.

SYNOPSIS

Bao is a physician’s apprentice, well on his way to become a kind and skillful physician. But he also has a secret dream, which is to be together with the girl he loves. Lan, the kind, smart and absolutely beautiful daughter of a nobleman holds his heart.

When Bao confesses his feelings to her, she cruelly rejects him. Bao, stinging with hurt and embarrassment, sets off to find the infamous river witch so she can erase his love for Lan. But instead, the river witch places a curse on him which can only be broken by true love.

Lan, dealing with her own heartbreak, decides to help Bao look for the witch in apology so that his curse can be lifted. Their journey to the witch becomes so much more, leading them to the Empress’s party to the rival kingdom Gray City, to new friends, and a great adventure which entirely changes their lives.

MY REVIEW

The biggest charm of this book is the vibe. The writing, the world-building and setting, with the type of characters created a very specific and quite a unique vibe. I immediately picked up on it in the beginning, and it stayed until the very end. The Vietnamese names added to the charm as well.

The thing I liked the most was the character development. Both our main characters, Bao and Lan, go through so much and grow in the story. It’s very clearly seen. We also get to see what changed their thinking, and how they mature in their decisions and in emotional reactions. I’m always pro-character development and hence, I really enjoyed it.

The story was pretty good as well. While I wasn’t overly fond of the plot, it was enjoyable because of the characters. The overall idea was good, but I just couldn’t like the plot all that much, especially in the middle of the book.

But, with all of these good points, I didn’t like the book much. And the reason is the pacing. The pacing felt so off. It was slow, then suddenly very fast, back to slow and draggy, and would pick up pace again. It went like that for the entirety of the book, and I was annoyed. A consistent pace matters so much to a story, especially when it’s fantasy. Because it wasn’t consistent and gave me whiplash, I couldn’t enjoy the book.

OVERALL

The characters were great but the pacing. That just ruined it for me, unfortunately. One thing I’m glad about is that the author kept this as only one book. Perhaps the pacing was so because it’s only one book. Too much story to tell? I’m not sure. But I am glad that the story ended here.

Considering it’s only one book, for fantasy, it’s pretty good. There’s a good story, great characters, and a specific vibe.

If you’re in the mood for fantasy, but don’t have the patience for a series, you can pick this one up.

I rate this book..

3/5 stars

Thank you to the author and Netgalley for the eARC. And huge thanks to Rafael and Erika for allowing me to host a stop on the tour.

AUTHOR BIO

Julie C. Dao (www.juliedao.com) is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author. Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is her debut novel. Julie lives in New England. Follow her on Twitter @jules_writes.

Julie is represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Rafe || what a great romance book

Title: Rafe: A Male Buff Nanny
Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon
Genre: Romance
Category: Adult
Series info: Standalone

Goodreads

I was introduced to this book by Olivia @ Stories For Coffee on Instagram. She highly recommended this, saying that every romance lover should read it. I immediately checked it out, and I got hooked in by the synopsis. A book where the traditional male and female roles are reversed, features people of colour, and has cute kids? Count me in!

SYNOPSIS

Rafe is a live-in nanny, and has been in the job stream for several years. He doesn’t look like a traditional nanny, with the beard and tattoos and the size, but he’s a great one. Rafe has a knack for working with kids and likes helping families function. But he’s currently at a stage in his life where he wants his own family, and is considering switching job streams.

When a Dr. Sloan Copeland is in dire need of a nanny ASAP, and contacts Rafe, he agrees with the idea of working for her for only a year. And he has decided that he will work on getting his own life straight and figuring out things during the time as well. What he wasn’t ready for, was the sizzling attraction to Sloan. And he especially wasn’t ready for it to be reciprocated.

With Rafe living with Sloan and her twin six-year-olds, it doesn’t take long for their chemistry to break down walls and throw out rules. But will they give in and have a future, or will it go up in flames?

MY THOUGHTS

This book was so good, y’all!

First of all, THE CHEMISTRY. I could not get enough of Rafe and Sloan. There was attraction right from the start, and it kept building even though they confessed it and decided to keep things professional. But obviously, that was not meant to last.

Second, the whole plot was really nice. I was hooked onto reading and finding out more right from the start. The romance, Sloan’s issues with her ex-husband, the cute and troublesome twins, and Rafe’s family all brought the plot together very well. I really liked that the plot wasn’t one-dimensional, with the focus on only the romance. There were many other small plot points and anecdotes as well.

What I loved the most was how the two main characters handled their attraction and, later, relationship. It was all done thoughtfully and in a mature manner. I usually see romance plots that are stupid simply to add drama so this was refreshing. I was truly reading about two mature, responsible, and thoughtful adults. Not adults with teenager brains and hormones.

The writing was hella engaging. Right from the first line, I relaxed and dived into the book. In fact, I read the book in ONE sitting. I didn’t feel like taking a break or even looking up. The story had me gripped in that wonderful world and I didn’t want to leave. The writing is the biggest reason why I enjoyed the book so much.

And of course, the twins made the book so much more fun! I absolutely loved reading about Avery and Addison. Smart and troublesome six-year olds with their own personalities and who are not used to just increase the cuteness? Love it.

OVERALL

I absolutely loved the book, and writing this review has made me want to reread it. (That’s bad, I have many books on my TBR that I need to get to.) I loved every single thing about the book, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT for romance lovers. I’d say give it a go even if you’re just meh about romances because it’s a good one.

I can’t wait to read more books from the author, because I need some more of this awesomeness!

I rate this book..

5/5 stars