Monday, 3 August 2020

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes - Trisha Ashley (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 03/08/2020
Author: Trisha Ashley
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: July 23, 2020
Rating: 4/5

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

About the book:

The brilliant new novel from Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author Trisha Ashley

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

Can a summer spent gardening help them heal and recapture the forgotten dreams they’ve let to get away?

Review:

        Be warned! This is a novel on workaholics and if you are not one, prepare to face the onslaught of guilt to follow. I know it is fortunate to have your hobby as your job, but the way Marnie involves herself in gardening will make anyone jealous. And the journalistic sort of writing style with the picturesque setting creates the perfect ambience. I am new to Trisha Ashley's books and she has totally hooked me.
        Marnie barely managed to escape from an emotionally abusive marriage and spent some years hiding with her adoptive family in France. Hearing the news of her ex-husband's remarriage, she is now back in England accepting a gardening job in Jericho's End. Apart from the supposed presence of fairies in the area, the place also holds an emotional appeal as it is her mother's native village. Vane family is hated in the neighbourhood and her mother's warnings of not to go there propel her not to reveal this old connection. But will the secret cost her the trust of handsome Ned Mars?
        The love story is just the tip of the iceberg. Trisha Ashley's detailed narrative covers every nook and corner of Jericho's End and its companionable community which has a healing effect on both Marnie and Ned. The efforts in opening the Grace garden and the excitement surrounding it are quite immersive and easy to relate. The four hundred page book doesn't give you much of a story, but we will be transported to Jericho's End along with Marnie, living and breathing the country air.

Meet the author:


Trisha Ashley’s Sunday Times bestselling novels have twice been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance, and Every Woman for Herself was nominated by readers as one of the top three romantic novels of the last fifty years.

Trisha lives in North Wales. 

For more information about her please visit www.trishaashley.com, her Facebook page www.facebook.com/TrishaAshleyBooks or follow her on Twitter @trishaashley.


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

More Than Just a Pretty Face - Syed M. Masood (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 23/07/2020
Author: Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Hear Our Voices Book Tours)

About the book:

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.

Danyal Jilani doesn't lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he's funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn't approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal's longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man--a school-wide academic championship--it's the perfect opportunity to show everyone he's smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her...the more he learns from her...the more he cooks for her...the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

Review:

        The first thing that caught my eye is the accolades heaped on the book by the senior editor. I must confess that I read it with a smirk (ever the pessimist!) that is immediately wiped off and replaced by a smile once the story began. By the time it was nearing the end, I was full on laughing mode. Well, looks like some people can actually make lemonade out of all the lemons life throws at them.
        This story is one of the instances which shows us that there is more than one way of looking at a situation. Danyal's life had all the ingredients for a disaster -- a dominant father who has no faith in him, foolish first love, bullying classmates -- ah, the list goes on. Added to this is the fact that he is not exactly bright, academically that is. Does that hinder him? Nope, that brilliant smile is forever plastered on his face, however hard everything turns out to be.
        In a way, he reminds me of many manga characters; especially Naruto, and also Asta in 'Black Clover'. His optimism and the witty take on things is highly infectious and that brings him the help he needed every single time. The way he brings together his two extremist friends takes us into the nuances of modern Muslim lifestyle which makes it more than just a love story. This is the story of a laid back Muslim boy who strives hard to balance the desi traditions with modern ideas and above all, to give voice to the truths that we conveniently forget.
        If you, like me, love an easy to read, fast-paced story that makes you laugh and think, then this is for you. With a bunch of unforgettable characters and hugely enjoyable dialogues, this wouldn't fail to make an impression. Highly recommended!

Favourite quotes:

I'd wanted to talk to her about . . . well, not a date, exactly, because neither one of us was allowed to date. I guess I'd wanted us to have a conversation about having a conversation. You know, the Muslim version of first base

Good friends, after all, care enough to pretend to listen.

So now my parents were house rich. Their home was all they really had in the world, which was fine. It wasn't like we were living in the earthquake capital of the world or anything.

I'm pretty sure Ahmed Jilani came into this world with a frown, and the odds are good he'll be frowning when he leaves it. My father's autobiography would probably be called something like A Series of Continuous Disappointments. I'd have a feature role.

I'm really good at letting things go. People screw up. I get it. I screw up all the time and I forgive myself pretty much right away.

If we stay our course, history may not remember us kindly, and even if it does, I'm not sure it matters. History is not morality.

Meet the author:


I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently live in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. I’m a first-generation immigrant, twice over. I’ve been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities.

I am, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”

Living among different people, in different countries at fascinating times in their histories, has shaped both my view of the world and my writing. Ultimately, human beings are the same everywhere (despite the fact that they tell themselves, everywhere, that they are different from each other), and the theme of this fundamental human unity informs everything I write.

As to my life outside of writing, I went to the William and Mary School of Law, and before that attended the University of Toronto, where I studied English Literature. I am currently practising as an attorney and must “measure out my life in coffee spoons” on a daily basis.

Some members of my family will tell you that I’m also a poet. This isn’t true. I wrote a few poems in Urdu when I was a teenager, and I’ve never heard the end of it…which I wouldn’t mind, honestly, if they were any good. As it is, I’m very happy living in prose, thank you very much.

Other interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. Most of my time that doesn’t go to writing or billable hours is consumed by my two children, four and two years of age.


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 their birthdays. 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 feeling 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, Prince Elian 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 eye of 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.


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