Friday, 14 May 2021

Lady August - Becky Michaels (Review)


Date of Reading: 13/05/2021
Author: Becky Michaels
Publisher: Mildred Press
Publication Date: March 30, 2021
Source: BookSirens
Rating: 3.5/5


About the book:

August Summer thinks she is a nobody until a London solicitor barges into her employer’s drawing-room, revealing not only is she the daughter of an earl but a wealthy heiress as well. Optimistic about a new life, she travels to her ancestral home of Linfield Hall, only for her brother to banish her to London to live with her aunt, a dowager duchess with a reputation.

When Lord Bolton asks him to fetch his illegitimate daughter, solicitor Samuel Brooks does not expect himself to become so invested in the young woman’s debut after wanting nothing to do with dinners and balls before. But as August navigates her way through this new world of the British aristocracy, Brooks is the one who is most dazzled by her unexpected charms.

Since society demands every young girl must marry, August decides she will accept nothing less than someone’s heart in exchange for possession of her newfound fortune. Forced to reexamine his negative views of love and marriage or lose August forever, Brooks soon realizes his heart is the only thing in danger of becoming possessed.

Review:

        I don't know why I hesitated to read this book sooner. Not the time, I guess. As you can see from the blurb, this is a dreamy rag to riches regency romance filled with humour, a bit of adventure and some rare rave characters.
        Is there anyone who hasn't dreamed of a secret inheritance that takes you out of this dreary life? Well, for August Summer, our practical defiant heroine who never wasted her time on dreaming, this had become a reality. Within a day, the orphan girl is surprised with the knowledge of a father (an Earl, nonetheless) and a large inheritance he left out of guilt.
        Hmm, money might make matters a lot easy but acceptance by society is another thing. Luckily, our author has created a regency romance with fairly modern characters -- a dowager duchess openly having affairs, a forgiving husband and a solicitor who is not concerned about his future wife's virginity. Yup, I too wondered the same. Is this really the 1800s?
        The historical inaccuracies aside, August's pursuit to secure the love of Samuel Brooks formed the basis of a really cute story. Brooks is a complex character and I would have preferred if the author had allowed a bit more plot development for August to understand the man better. The much anticipated happy ending came way too early.
        Considering the way it concluded I am expecting a continuation of the story of August's sister, Rosamund and the Duke. I have no doubt that all her stories make perfect weekend reads.

Meet the author:


Becky Michaels is a historical romance author and self-proclaimed Anglophile. After graduating from Boston University with a degree in English, she reluctantly decided to get a day job but never stopped writing—or dreaming. THE LAND STEWARD’S DAUGHTER, a Regency romance set in 1815 England, is her debut novel. Despite the cold winters and high rent, she still lives in the Boston area with her boyfriend and cat.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

On the Hook - Francisco X. Stork (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 11/05/2021
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
Source: Edelweiss+
Rating: 5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Colored Pages Tours)


About the book:

"You think you’re better than everyone else?
Listen to me, I’m going to kill you.”

Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He’s the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the DiscĂ­pulos gang, tells Hector that he’s going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector’s death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows – to drop off Joey’s radar – to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector’s brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It’s up to Hector to choose whether he’s going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.

Review:

        Ah! This book . . . it has made me speechless and flabbergasted. Why did I ever sign up for this nerve-racking, utterly realistic, anxiety inducer? And why are my eyes constantly leaking? It is high time I dusted my room. My allergies are getting worse it seems.
        Let's talk about the story then. Hector is your typical smart ass nerdy student who is timid around girls but brutal on a chess board. He is all set for his future academic endeavours which can take him out of that shitty neighbourhood of drug dealers until everything goes down the drain when he is singled out by Joey. He is bullied and threatened to the point that the fear begins to consume him.
        Things begin to take a turn for the worse when his brother Fili is killed by Joey in his fight against Joey's brother, Chavo. Hector temporarily decapacitates Chavo and both of them are sent to a school for correction for six months. A lie could have saved Hector but he has an ulterior motive now: revenge. He needs to kill Joey.
        He could either go on with his life with the insurance money his brother has left or pursue revenge which will ultimately shut him permanently in a federal prison. So what is it to be? The agony had me glued to the kindle the entire time, sharing his pain, anger and guilt of watching his brother helplessly being killed in front of him. It could be my primitive animalistic nature speaking here, but I wanted Hector to kill Joey, the consequences be damned. Yes, Joey had his share of a tragic past, but does knowing that take away the pain of a loved one lost forever?
        Unfortunately the odds are stacked against Hector. This is no fantasy movie where the traumatised hero can be transformed into a vigilante overnight. How could one fight against someone good in street fighting? And with each opportunity lost where Hector gets humiliated, my anger rose to new levels. That is why I really appreciate the way author chose to end the story satisfying both the good and the bad.
        It goes without saying that this is one of the best books I have read this year. It has been a long time since I felt so close to a particular character as if he is a living breathing human being with emotions so real.

Favourite quotes:

"Courage was more than the willingness to take risks. . . It was composure under pressure, the ability to keep the mind alert and focused no matter what."

"I've watched my own cowardice with my mind's flashlight for many years. Looking at it doesn't make it go away. It just helps me live with it. As far as I can tell, that's what courage is, finding a way to live with our cowardice."

"Happiness is what you like to do, and duty is what you need to do. But what if the duty comes from love?"

Meet the author:

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso Texas with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University and Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years before retiring in 2015. He is married and has two grown children and four beautiful grandkids. He loves to discover new books and authors. His favorite books are those where the author’s soul touches his.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Jaipur Journals - Namita Gokhale (Blog Tour & Review)


Date of Reading: 2/5/2021
Author: Namita Gokhale
Publisher: HopeRoad
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Rating: 4/5

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


About the book:

From the co-founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival, a brilliant, funny, and moving novel set against the background of the festival, and the characters that make it tick

Told from multiple perspectives, from the authors enjoying moments of adulation after years of creative isolation, to the star-struck public mingling with their cultural icons, to those in-between, who are both author and fan, these diverse stories of lost love and regret, self-doubt, and new beginnings come together in a narrative that is as varied as India itself. 

From a septuagenarian who has completed her semi-biographical novel but does not want to part with it, to an author who receives a threat in the form of a poison pen letter; from a historian who reunites with a past lover, to a burglar who is passionate about poetry; from a young woman who has no idea what this world has in store for her, to an American woman looking for the India of her hippie youth, this metafictional, wryly funny novel is an ode to literature. 

Partly a love letter to the greatest literary show on earth, partly a satire about the glittery set that throngs the festival year after year, and partly an ode to the millions of aspiring writers who wander the earth with unsubmitted manuscripts in their bags, Jaipur Journals is a light-footed romp that showcases in full form Gokhale’s unsparing eye for the pretensions and the pathos of that loneliest tribe of them all: the writers.

Review:

        Attending Jaipur Literary Festival still remains an unfulfilled dream for me and so getting this opportunity to vicariously experience it through the many characters in this story must be a godsend. And the way the author has managed the multiple POVs makes it truly a wonderful work; there are no chapter divisions yet the story flows seamlessly from one participant to the other. Participants from different age groups, social backgrounds, gender and totally unrelated lives come together only because of the one passion that they share: the beauty of the written word.
        A budding novelist of twelve years old, seventy-two-year-old unpublished author, a graphic artist, an academic who makes use of folk artists, a thief . . . well, the list goes on. As diverse as they seem, they all seem to have a ritualistic devotion to the festival. None of them is perfect, quite the opposite in fact. They are the ones who seem successful on the outside with secure jobs and literary achievements to showcase and with vulnerabilities to hide. 
        Pretty much the same scenario we can find in any literary conferences. If your academic pursuits have ever led  to a similar situation where you have wondered what exactly goes through the minds of all these people, then this story is for you. Something that makes you see that even your idols are made of flesh and blood with all the frailities associated with it.

Meet the author:


Born in Lucknow, India, NAMITA GOKHALE, is an award-winning writer, publisher, and the co-founder/director (with William Dalrymple) of the Jaipur Literary Festival. She is the author of over twenty fiction and non-fiction books including the best-selling Paro: Dreams of Passion, Priya, and Things to Leave Behind. In 2017 Namita was awarded the first ever Centenary National Award for Literature by the Literary Society of Assam for her service to the Indian nation in supporting and showcasing Indian writing talents. Described as one of the finest Indian writers, she lives in New Delhi.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Zara Hossain is Here - Sabina Khan (Blog Tour & Review)


Date of Reading: 19/4/2021
Author: Sabina Khan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Rating: 4/5

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


About the book:

Zara's family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas since her family moved there for her father to work as a paediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family's dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara's house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara's entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she's ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

From the author of the "heart-wrenching yet hopeful" (Samira Ahmed) novel, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali comes a timely, intimate look at what it means to be an immigrant in America today, and the endurance of hope and faith in the face of hate.

Review:

        I am no stranger to the works of Sabina Khan, having read 'The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali'. This one, I must say, far surpasses the former with its deft and clear portrayal of everyday reality that a Muslim immigrant faces in America. Each and every page of this novel is a testimony of the fact that how the fear that is rampant in the country destroys the sense of security of a group of people who have come to see this country as their own.
        The prank of a teenager goes out of hand (I believe, in his mind, all that racist remarks that came out of jealousy was just a prank) and destroys the lives that Zara's Pakistani family has built up in America for years. With the right connections, the victim is turned into the criminal revealing another face of a country that often assumes the position of the international police force.
        Racist theme aside, Sabina Khan also voices the prejudice and discrimination the LGBT+ community faces in their Catholic school. When they demand to assert their liberty to form their own club, the school reacts by shutting down all social clubs. And the treatment meted out to Chloe, Zara's girlfriend, adds another reminder that acceptance of your identity still remains a dream for many.
        Powerful and poignant, Sabinal Khan has created a masterpiece that exposes the harsh truths we often try to disregard. Highly recommended!

Favourite Quotes:

"... the very least that white people can do after colonizing our subcontinent for hundreds of years is appreciate our flavorful cuisine"

"I swear they think that I'm some sort of mastermind who single-handedly controls the entire Muslim ummah. It's always the same. I'm exhausted from the burden of representing almost two billion people"

"It's so easy to paint all the people you don't want to accept with the same brush. That way you can tell yourself you're just protecting your way of life and that they're the ones encroaching upon your space"

"I deserve the dignity to exist as I am. In a perfect world I would be able to do just that. But I'm not so naive that I think the world is perfect"

"How do I deal with someone who's convinced that his right to exist in this world trumps mine?"

Meet the author:

Sabina Khan is the author of  ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE (Scholastic/ April 6, 2021) and THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI (Scholastic, 2019). She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and the best puppy in the world.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Unwritten - Alicia J. Novo (Blog Tour & Review)


Date of Reading: 19/04/2021
Author: Alicia J. Novo
Publisher: INtense
Publication Date: May 8, 2021
Rating: 3/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Xpresso Book Tours)


About the book:

Books whisper to Beatrix Alba. But they aren’t the reason she has never fit in. Bullied at home and school, she keeps a secret—a power of violence and darkness.

When the spell that keeps her hidden fails, she’s catapulted into the Zweeshen, a realm where all tales live, and her dream of meeting her favourite characters comes true. But wishes are tricky, and behind its wonder and whimsy, the Zweeshen is under attack. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers. To succeed, he needs a riddle in Beatrix’s possession.

Now he’s hunting her down.

Joining forces with William, a cursed conjurer, Beatrix must face an enemy who knows her every weakness in a realm where witches play with time, Egyptian gods roam, and Regency heroines lead covert operations. And with her darkness as the only weapon, she may have to sacrifice everything to save a world that rejects her. 

Review:

        If you are someone who would love to live in the world of books, then this story is definitely for you. Well, if you are not that reckless (like me for instance), still this will hook you in. Let me begin by admiring that cover . . . again (I was practically drooling all over it). If you go with the looks, this particular beauty will surely take you to the red carpet. And the brain inside is not bad either.
        What makes this book a special one is the elaborate world of Zweeshen that the author has created. We meet many of our favourite characters and get a taste of how it feels to be a character once the story comes to an end. A world where their stories go on endlessly with new adventures not predicted by their artisans.
        That doesn't mean the plot is without holes. Even after the end, there are so many questions unanswered and one is confronted with the feeling that Zweeshen still has its mysteries. With all its glitter and glamour, it dodges our touch, refusing to be tamed. Well, something to look forward to in the coming instalment of this series.
        As for the characters, I liked William but Beatrix felt like a hormonal teenager. With that temper, I dare not imagine how anyone can bully her in school. The chemistry between the two also felt a bit off, too sudden. The side characters, on the other hand, was an altogether different matter. Emma is, by far, my favourite. I can't wait to read more about her.
        Altogether a refreshing read and a great beginning to a series that shows immense potential.

Meet the author:


Alicia has a weak spot for happy endings and transformative journeys. She spent her teenage years
in Argentina and Europe, speaks several languages and loves to travel.
 
An eclectic reader, she grew up on a diet ranging from Lucy M. Montgomery and Jane Austen to Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler, Hermann Hesse, Jorge Luis Borges, and many classics. She's never been cured of reading a bit of everything and is as likely to geek out about Mr. Darcy as Dr. Who.
She is a history and astronomy aficionado, who walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, completed her Masters in the Netherlands and worked for Google in Ireland. She decided to become a writer at six but took a full, winding road here. Along the way, she learned if there’s one thing that cuts across cultures, one unifying thread that pulls everyone together, it's a good story.
 
A big-city girl, she now lives in the Midwest, where she occasionally picks apples and pretends witches exist.

Giveaway:

  • A physical copy and a box of branded goodies (bookmarks, keychain, enamel pin, character art, candle, tote) (US only)
  • Ebook with digital goodies (character art, background, map) (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 9 April 2021

Strictly on Ice - Helen Buckley (Blog Tour & Review)


Date of Reading: 7/4/2021
Author: Helen Buckley
Publisher: ChocLit
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Rating: 5/5

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

About the book:

When falling in love comes with the risk of falling flat on your face ...

Former Olympic skating champion Katie Saunders is well known for her ‘ice queen’ persona in the press. On the face of it, perhaps Katie should have forgiven her former skating partner and ex-boyfriend, Alex Michaelson, for the accident that shattered both her ankle and their Olympic dreams – but she just can’t seem to let it go.

When Katie reluctantly agrees to take part in a new TV skating show, it’s only because she’s desperate for cash. What she didn’t count on is the drama – not only is she partnered up with infamous love rat rugby player Jamie Welsh, but one of the judges is none other than Alex Michaelson himself.

As the show progresses, will Katie be shown the hard way, once again, that romance on the ice should remain strictly off-limits?

Review:

        It is always a rare treat to meet a book that surprises you. Here I was, expecting a laid back romance and what did I find? A story so evocative and nerve-racking that I finished half of it pacing through my room, kindle on hand, everything else forgotten. As you have rightly assumed, this is no story for work nights.
        A seemingly innocent reality show and an opportunity for past lovers to reunite. What is there to go wrong? On one side, we have handsome, charismatic AlexMichaelson, the public's favourite and on the other, the clumsy Jamie Welsh, notorious for cheating his wife. Well, another lesson to not believe everything on the papers.
        What makes this novel special is the delicate and daring way the author handled the issue of domestic violence and the exploitation of a young girl that made it close to reality. I have heard of similar things happening with actresses, especially those who taste fame at a very young age. Well, maybe we don't have to look that far for instances, it could be anyone around us, trapped and dependent with no way out.
        From beginning to the very end, this had been an enlightening read and the narration which juxtaposed the present and the past only heightened the feeling that this is one of the best books I read this year.

Meet the author:


Helen Buckley lives in Bedfordshire with her husband and two sons. After working in the charity sector in the UK and abroad, she turned her hand to writing and her first novel, Star in the Shadows, was published in 2019. 
She writes any moment that she can, enthralled by stories of fame, romance, and happy ever afters. Apart from being addicted to writing and enjoying soft play with her sons, she’s an avid reader, action-movie fan, and chocolate addict.

Follow Helen on social media to find out more about her work or to get in touch:

Twitter: @HelenCBuckley
Instagram: @helencatherinebuckley
Facebook: @HelenBuckleyAuthor
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