Thursday, 9 July 2020

Rodham - Curtis Sittenfeld (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 08/07/2020
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Random Things Tours)

About the book:

‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb. Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader— and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm ‘No’.

The rest, as they say, isn’t history. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?

With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men. Uncannily astute and witty in the telling, RODHAM is a brilliant
reimagining – an unmissable literary landmark and truly a novel of our times.

Review:

        I am not sure whether I am fully equipped to review this novel. As per geographical position, I live nowhere near America and hence not an ardent follower of the political condition there. But I did want Hillary to be elected as the President, so a fictionalised version of events where she gets to fulfil her dreams along with that of many is a small consolation. 
      Reading a fictionalised account of a living person is kind of eerie, especially when she is a household name. No one wants to think about the road not taken, that's a sure way to madness. Did her marriage to Bill Clinton change the course of Hillary Rodham's life? Perhaps. But I would like to believe that the glory of being the first female President of the United States is destined for someone else. 
       Now let's have a look at this as a work of fiction. This is my first time reading Curtis Sittenfeld and her writing is nothing short of incredible. We get to see a young and ambitious Hillary making her mark in the law school and the story keeps fidelity to her life story until she rejects the proposal of Clinton. There starts a long and sometimes tedious journey of a law professor who finally finds her way after many years.
        What I loved most about this book is the inside information and the excitement and terror of campaigning. As expected, it is not enough to have the best intentions at heart, you need to advertise it to convince the media and the voters. It does present some hilarious and crazy situations which make this fictional account truly enjoyable. I was not expecting that 'Trump' card . . . Ha! the best moments of the story, without a doubt.

Meet the author:


In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl a thinly disguised Laura Bush who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep.

Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. Her books are translated into 30 languages. She lives with her family in the American Mid West.


Sunday, 5 July 2020

To Kill a Kingdom - Alexandra Christo (Review & Summary)

Date of Reading: 29/06/2020
Author: Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Rating: 4/5

About the book:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Review:

      I didn't know that this was a retelling of the little mermaid story when I began. Once the realisation dawned, panic set in. Well, to tell you the truth, 'The Little Mermaid' was my first heartbreak in a world of happily ever afters. Many of you may argue that it does have a happy ending, but I tend to disagree. Anyway, that is not the happy ending my childhood self wanted. And the adult me did not want a repeat performance either. At least, this time I was prepared.
      So when did I suspect this to be different? When I found Lira retaining her speaking abilities as a human. Rest was a smooth ride since I no longer have to worry about the tragedy awaiting at the end. Looking back, there are quite a lot of differences between the two storylines; Lira is no saintly figure for one and the enemies to lovers trope makes her stronger and bolder than the original version. She is no submissive woman to dance at the prince's whims but a killer just like him, matching all his tunes.
       Alexandra Christo's expert narrative reminds us of the beauty of retellings. The story of deep-seated hatred, the wit and banter of the lovers, the camaraderie among a ship's crew and vivid fighting scenes transform a cherished fairytale into something more. What are you waiting for then? Pick up a copy and prepare to be surprised.

Summary:

       Due to the constant enmity between sirens and humans, sirens are required to kill a human and take his heart every year on her birthday. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, Princess Lira is the most lethal of them all and is called The Prince’s Bane. The one who possesses the most hearts becomes the next Sea Queen and even Lira’s mother, the present Queen is also feel threatened by her daughter. When she takes the heart of a prince before her birthday, the Queen is angered. Lira decides to bring her the heart of Prince Elian, the most hated siren killer of them all.
      Even though he is the crown prince of Midas, the most prosperous of the human kingdoms, he finds true joy within his ship, Saad. Every time the ship docks at Midas and when he is forced to play the part of a dutiful prince, he feels exhausted and away from his aim to kill the Prince’s Bane. He has killed many sirens but still hasn’t got an opportunity to meet this red-haired demon.
       Lira finds the prince on his ship but a mermaid prevents her from attacking. In the struggle that ensued, Elian slips to the water and Lira kills the mermaid to catch him for herself. But the timely intervention of Midasian soldiers saves Elian. As a punishment Lira is turned into human form without any magical abilities by her mother; to get back the powers she needs to bring back Elian’s heart before the winter solstice.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
      A stranger informs Prince Elian that he can defeat all the sirens with the crystal of Keto, the Sea Goddess. Her other eye provides power to the Sea Queen and so releasing this is the only way to kill her. The crystal is rumoured to be on the Cloud Mountain of Pagos, the highest point in the world. Only the Pagos royalty is known to have the ability to climb the mountain. Elian approaches Sakura, the princess of Pagos hiding in Midas as a barkeeper and offers to make her his queen in exchange of a way to reach the mountain. With the map in hand Elian and his trusted crew start their journey to Pagos.
     They find Lira in the middle of the ocean and saves her from drowning. She quickly adapts to this new lifestyle in the ship and gradually makes friends with others. She pretends to hate the sirens and offers to do the ritual to release the crystal of Keto. Her plan is to stick with the crew and get the crystal for herself so that her cruel mother can be defeated. But their journey together opens in her the long lost emotions that she has buried deep inside to survive and kinship is formed with the prince and the crew. 
       On reaching Pagos, they are guided by Sakura (Princess Yukiko) to the mountain. Her presence makes both Elian and Lira realise their love towards each other. Still, she decides to go with her plan to acquire the crystal. At the summit, Lira makes everyone believe that they need siren’s blood to release the eye of Keto. Elian tries to use his magical knife which has absorbed the blood of the sirens he killed, but it has long been converted into its powers. 
       While everyone lies sleeping, Lira releases the crystal using her blood. Sakura catches her in the act followed by Elian. She is no match to him in her human form and so after putting up a fight, she relinquishes the crystal to Elian, fully aware that it will consider only Lira as its master. She summons her mother for battle and the Sea Queen comes in all her glory thinking that it is Elian who released the crystal. Perceiving Lira’s affection towards the human prince she turns her back to siren form thinking that it will erase her humanity. Elian decides to believe in their love and entrusts Lira with the magic eye. In the battle that followed, the Sea Queen is killed and Lira takes her throne. 
      Prince Elian decides to follow his life in the sea with Lira, leaving Midas in the care of his capable sister. He gets out of his promise with Sakura by arranging another strong alliance for her. A new era is born with Lira as the Sea Queen who brings peace between sirens and humans.

Meet the author:


Alexandra Christo decided to write books when she was four and her teacher told her she couldn’t be a fairy. When she’s not busy making up stories, she can be found organising food crawls over London and binge-watching Korean dramas.

Alexandra has a BA in Creative Writing and currently lives in England with an abundance of cacti (because they’re the only plants she can keep alive).

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Date Me, Bryson Keller - Kevin van Whye

Date of Reading: 30/06/2020
Author: Kevin van Whye
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

What If It's Us meets To All the Boys I've Loved Before in this upbeat and heartfelt boy-meets-boy romance that feels like a modern twist on a '90s rom-com!

Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new--the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he's never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn't expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there's more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he's awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this "relationship" will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight . . . right?

Kevin van Whye delivers an uplifting and poignant coming-out love story that will have readers rooting for these two teens to share their hearts with the world--and with each other.

Review:

       There was a lot of hype around this book and I am not in the habit of skipping a high school romance (as a teacher this is one my ways to get the student side of things). Sure, the situation is different in my place, but students are students and one could really identify the predicament Kai is under. If your aim is to finish your school years being invisible, then the safest course is to remain in the closet. But should you?
       Kai Sheridan doesn't have a lot of talents. He barely squeezes through maths and his performance in drama class is equally terrible, unless you count the scriptwriting. That, by the way, is his speciality: writing (ooh! that is my ideal pupil). Nothing exciting happens until in a fit of anger he asks Bryson Keller out for that week. He gets to date him for five days. 
       The book barely covers two weeks and who knew so much could happen at such a short span of time. I loved the way the author broke the chapters into different days effortlessly merging Kai's family background and the story of his friends along with his growing bond with Bryson. In a world of bullying and homophobia, Bryson Keller surely stands out. He is far more mature than his years and the same goes for Kai's sister, Yaz. I have never seen a thirteen-year-old showing such intelligence and, without a doubt, she is one of my favourite characters.
       The final showdown was also really worth the wait. And I totally agree with you Yaz; the trope where the main character decides to give up on the person he loves in the name of protecting him is definitely the worst. So huge thank you for the sisterly intervention. You are the best!
       On the whole, 'Date Me, Bryson Keller' is a story that contains multitudes. The angst of a closeted gay teen, bullying, estranged families and above all hope and humour . . . yes, it's all there. Recommended to all teenagers and to those who are still a teenager at heart!

Meet the author:


Kevin van Whye is a writer born and raised in South Africa, where his love for storytelling started at a young age. At four years old, he quit preschool because his teacher couldn’t tell a story. Kevin’s love affair with stories led him to film school to study scriptwriting. Kevin currently lives in Johannesburg. Find him at www.kevinvanwhye.com

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Summer Island - Natalie Normann (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 25/06/2020
Author: Natalie Normann
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: June 24, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Random Things Tours)

About the book:

He never meant to stay.
He certainly never meant to fall in love…

Summer Island off the coast of Norway was the place London chef Jack Greene should have been from. He’s an outsider in the community that should have been his family, and now he’s setting foot on the strange land he has inherited for the first time.

The welcome is a mix of distrust and strange gifts of food, especially from enigmatic Ninni Toft, his nearest neighbour, who has arrived for the season to get over a broken heart. Her wild spirit and irrepressible enthusiasm for the quirky locals are a heady brew for city-boy Jack, who is discovering the simple pleasures of island life – and what it means to belong. To a place. To a people. To one person in particular…

Home is where the heart is but is Jack’s heart with the career he left behind in London, or on the wind-swept shores of Summer Island, with Ninni?

Review:

        It's not every day we come by a book set on a Norwegian island. And that was more than enough reason for me to pick this book. Telling that it lived up to my expectations will be an understatement. Suffice to say this is one of the most relaxing reads I had this year.
      If Norway is half as beautiful as the books shows, it will be a shame not to visit it once. The place-names might be hard to pronounce, but the fun, laughter and the friendly faces Norway offers is going to mesmerise you from the beginning of the story. This could be the story of Jack and Ninni, but little summer island, you are the real hero. Anyone will need an ice-cold heart to leave that place.
       A summer fling turning into something more, an English man finding his roots. . . 'Summer Island' is this and much more. Jack and Ninni are there on the island for different reasons, but both find a new purpose there. I loved the way the story progressed expertly linked with the life of the island community. Nosy neighbours and a dog with human intelligence just adds to the mirth.
        What are you waiting for then? Stock up your fridge (warning: prepare to witness the slow and painful demise of your diet plans) before grabbing a copy. You will love it for sure!

Meet the author:


Natalie Normann grew up in a shipping town on the west coast of Norway and always wanted to be a writer. Actually, she wanted to smoke cigars and drink whiskey like Hemingway but settled for chocolate and the occasional glass of Baileys.

Her writing journey started with short stories in women’s magazines until her first book was published in 1995.

Summer Island is her first romance written in English.


Saturday, 27 June 2020

The Mixtape to my Life - Jake Martinez

Date of Reading: 12/06/2020
Author: Jake Martinez
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Publication Date: March 27, 2020
Rating: 4/5

About the book:

Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother, and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.

The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.

Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.

Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hairbands and all.

Review:

     I do love coming-of-age stories. The unpredictable future, pressure from peers and the desire for recognition . . . teenage years are the worst. Sigh! But you are going to be a hard nut to crack once you successfully manage to thwart the crisis. Quite predictably reading these stories never fail to produce in me the satisfying smirk of a veteran. 
     This is the story of Justin Ortega, who as per his teacher's opinion cannot even pronounce his name correctly. In other words, he is called a coconut. His only comfort is his music, at least no taunts can be heard if you play it loud enough. Being gay and not manly enough for his father is just another nail to the coffin. Yup! Pretty much everything sucks for him until his dream guy makes a reappearance.
       Set in 1994, we are exposed to a society that is not tolerant of gays. But there is no outdated feeling either since the situation is still the same in many parts of the world. I would have loved their stories to be expanded a bit more but the 190 pages novel still gives you a glimpse of the struggles the couple goes through. Their rebellious acts can be termed immature, but considering the circumstances, that is predictable. 
       I really enjoyed this quick read and the 80's songs that permeate throughout the story was a real bonus. A teenage boy standing up for himself is always a pleasure to watch. Happy reading!

Meet the author:


Jacob Martinez is a former South Texas resident who has found a new home in Chicago. He has been writing all his life but has only recently sought to be published. His debut novel, The Mixtape to My Life, reflects on life as a gay teen growing up in South Texas. Martinez holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas – RGV, and also loves to write plays and screenplays. A Learning Designer by day, you also can find him hanging out at home with his husband, their newborn son, and an eclectic group of fur babies.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Summer in the City - Emma Jackson (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 14/06/2020
Author: Emma Jackson
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: June 8, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)

About the book:

Sometimes the one thing you're looking for is right in front of you...

Stephen is on a very personal mission to find his father as per the wishes in their mother's will. But he has no idea where to start, not that he's going to tell anyone that... When Noelle, native New Yorker, daughter of a detective and desperate for a distraction from the novel she's been struggling to write, offers to help, it feels like the perfect solution.

Except, the last time she spoke to Stephen he thought they'd be seeing the New Year in together and instead she stood him up and sold him out! Stephen's big enough and been around the block enough times to understand that all is fair in love and war, isn't he? But when Stephen accepts her offer and they begin their search across the city, it soon becomes clear that the weather isn't the only thing that's heating up.

A heartwarming summer romance perfect for fans of Heidi Swain, Sarah Morgan and Holly Martin.

Review:

      If you are expecting a breezy romance with some cliched plotlines, you are going to be surprised . . . just like me. The only reason I took this book is the mystery involved and the fact that the heroine is a writer just added to this resolve. Ironically, writers with a writer's block always make perfect stories. 'Summer in the City' is another solid proof for that.
      Where shall I start? The roots of Stephen-Noelle relationship goes way back before this particular story. We get to know some details for sure, but I was feeling left out at the beginning. So my suggestion for you is to start with Beth's tale in 'A Mistletoe Miracle', but no pressure on that front since I am a following the reverse order. 
      This was my first Emma Jackson novel and I was completely hooked from the very beginning. There is the right amount of mystery and a whole lot of fun to cheer you up along the way. Both Noelle and Stephen experience a fair bit of growing up clearing misconceptions about each other and admitting the clear as day attraction between them. The attraction of opposites may not fare well in all scenarios, but when it comes to these delectable characters, that is a different story. After all, a trans-Atlantic story is never disappointing.
       What really appealed to me is the way the author presented the emotional struggles Stephen has undergone. The conflicts he experiences regarding his biological father, the bad boy image thrust toward him at the office and his own fears related to commitments feature prominently in the story making this a heart-wrenching read. Just like the summer outside, it reminds you not all happily ever afters are reached through a bed of roses. Can we really appreciate the cool evening breeze without the simmering heat of the day?
      
Meet the author: 

A devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old, Emma joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2019, determined to focus on her writing. She has been overwhelmed by the encouragement given by the published authors and fellow NWS members who are part of the RNA and highly recommends joining to any romance writers looking for support and friendly guidance (there are some bursaries available).

When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. 


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