Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Glimpsed - G. F. Miller (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 15/2/2021
Author: G. F. Miller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date of Publication: January 5, 2021
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Favourite Pages Book Club)

About the book:

Perfect for fans of Geekerella and Jenn Bennett, this charming, sparkly rom-com follows a wish-granting teen forced to question if she’s really doing good—and if she has the power to make her own dreams come true.

Charity is a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wear a poofy dress or goes around waving a wand, but she does make sure the deepest desires of the student population at Jack London High School come true. And she knows what they want even better than they do because she can glimpse their perfect futures.

But when Charity fulfils a glimpse that gets Vibha crowned homecoming queen, it ends in disaster. Suddenly, every wish Charity has ever granted is called into question. Has she really been helping people? Where do these glimpses come from, anyway? What if she’s not getting the whole picture?

Making this existential crisis way worse is Noah—the adorkable and (in Charity’s opinion) diabolical ex of one of her past clients—who blames her for sabotaging his prom plans and claims her interventions are doing more harm than good. He demands that she stop granting wishes and help him get his girl back. At first, Charity has no choice but to play along. But soon, Noah becomes an unexpected ally in getting to the bottom of the glimpses. Before long, Charity dares to call him her friend…and even starts to wish he were something more. But can the fairy godmother ever get the happily ever after?

Review:

        Magic, teenager, happy ending --- yup! terrifying combination and that is what bought me. If you ask me whether I have ever spared a moment on fairy godmothers, that will be a big no. Wishes yes, but not them as flesh and blood beings with aspirations for their own happy endings. How does it feel to be a forever sidekick, never a heroine?
      Meet Charity. Our modern-day fairy godmother utterly devoted to the well being of her Cindies. The moment she glimpses their fortune, she is on it to make it a reality. Well, until her recent project backfired and is being accused of manipulating her Cindies' desires by Noah. That begs the question: Is the line dividing a fairy godmother and an evil witch really that thin?
        To tell you that this book has bewitched me from the very first page is an understatement. Hooked as if by enchantment, I even prioritised it over my work (I hope none of my colleagues will chance upon this post 😟) So what did I love? It's fast-paced, funny and does touch upon all teenage angst and drama without a single dull moment. Charity, once unleashed, is a storm that cannot be contained and her narration perfectly captures this persona. And the love story? So cute and adorable that you may forget your age (if you are as old as I am that is). Haven't I tempted you yet?

Favourite quotes:

"Sometimes an uncomfortably long pause is the thing that really draws people out"

"The fairy godmother doesn't get her own story. She just pops into other people's stories once in a while. We're the Universe's designated side characters"

"Mothers are just people with their own set of problems"

"If you spend your life trying to protect yourself from getting hurt, you'll end up missing the best parts. Some people are worth breaking your heart over"

Meet the author:


G.F. Miller can write 80,000-word novels but ask her to sit down and write 250 true and meaningful words about herself and she is likely to have an existential crisis. Who am I, really? She ponders. What do I want to be known for? Does anyone even read the back flap or visit author websites?

But eventually, she will pull herself together and tell you that…She married her college sweetheart and is mom to three littles who routinely make her heart burst and her head explode (it’s a messy business, love). There are puppies big and small residing at her house (you’ll be seeing a lot of them if you follow her on Instagram). She’s been to a dozen countries, but not nearly as many as she would like. She loves learning all the things. She cries at all the wrong times. She makes faces at herself in the mirror. She believes in the Oxford comma. And she’s always here for a dance party.  

While the stories she has brewing in her soul vary wildly from one another, there are three things they will always have in common: love, snappy dialogue, and happy endings.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

A Pho Love Story - Loan Le (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 14/2/2021
Author: Loan Le
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

(This review part of the blog tour organised by The Coloured Pages Tours)


About the book:

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favourite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams of pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighbouring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighbouring restaurants.

Review:

        There is no need to wonder why 'Romeo and Juliet' is still popular. Times might have changed but we have similar scenarios even now, apparently. And thus we have 'A Pho Love Story' . .  oh, don't worry . . . with a happy ending. After all, anything can be resolved if you can talk it out.
        I am neither Vietnamese nor American but anyone from Asian families can really relate to Loan Le's debut. The family rivalry is one thing and along with that is the pressing matter of following your dreams. Its all charming and inspiring, but by the end, it all comes down to one thing: economic security. Can we really blame their parents for looking out for their children?
        Reading the way Bao and Linh weave through this complex family situation was altogether rewarding and amusing. Linh is an aspiring artist and consequently bears the burden of her parent's expectations due to her talent in academics. Bao, on the other hand, is another story. He revels in being mediocre and that strategy eventually allowed him to walk on his chosen path without much family drama. Fewer expectations, fewer demands and more freedom. Isn't that clever?
        But my most favourite part is the Vietnamese food and culture referred throughout the story, like the right kind of spice to a curry. Struggles in a foreign country, racist remarks and language barrier all plays its part and one cannot but salute both these families. 
        And I cannot forget Chef Le, our 'little' meddler. He surely is a force to deal with and the parts he were in is the quite memorable ones. His life, in a way, represents the future that awaits our cute couple. Whether it is love or career, a little bit of courage can surely make a change.

Favourite Quotes:

"It's generally accepted that in families like ours, the older kids have it way harder. We're the guinea pigs in a real-world lab"

"I never thought I'd ever feel weak-kneed -- that is for damsels in distress or elderly people with low blood pressure -- but I guess it's the same for first kisses"

"The feeling of lying has become all too familiar. It's not the nervousness of hiding something now -- it's the shame that weighs me down, more and more."

"But in anything you love, isn't there always some bit of sadness, some essence of suffering? That, to me, is what makes art worth it"

Meet the author:

Loan Le is the youngest child of two Vietnamese immigrants hailing from Nha Trang. She holds an MFA degree in fiction from Fairfield University, also her undergraduate alma mater. A Pushcart Prize–nominated writer, her short stories have appeared in CRAFT Literary, Mud Season Review, and Angel City Review. Loan is an editor at Simon and Schuster's Atria Books imprint and lives in Manhattan. A Pho Love Story is her first novel. Visit her website at writerloanle.com and find her on Twitter @loanloan. 

 

Sunday, 7 February 2021

The Gilded Ones - Namina Forna

Date of Reading: 5/2/2021
Author: Namina Forna
Publisher: Delacorte
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

About the book:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one is quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself.

Review:

        There are not many books that have trigger warnings on the front. Well, this is my first and I would be lying if I say this story has not shaken me to the core. Deka might be a fictional character but the world Namina Forna draws is entirely our own and her protagonist is representative of all the women who are chained and who love their chains considering them to be dignified ornaments.
        Deka is a girl from Irfut, a deeply patriarchal village where women wear masks from the age of sixteen once they complete the ritual of purity. Her mother was a southerner and she has inherited her dark complexion. All these years she has been dreaming of being accepted by the villagers when her blood flows red. Then she can wear masks and marry someone from the village. That is all she ever wanted.
        Her world turns upside down when she shows the ability to command the death shrieks, the fearsome demons attacking their country and as expected her blood is gold. Her only way of atonement is to serve the emperor as a soldier, once her allotted time is over, she will be absolved of her impurity. There begins her unexpected journey which brings her closer to the truth of what she is.
        It was hard for me to warm up to Deka in the beginning, a girl so adamant in believing the terrible customs doled out by religious authorities. Will she ever change and find strength in her difference? But each day in training awakens her to new capabilities that she was forced to shut down previously. We proceed with her, sharing her agonies and self-doubts because after all, this is also our story.
        A truly evocative novel which will undoubtedly be one of the best books 2021 offers. And the book, though a part of the series, wraps up nicely too without any cliffhangers.

Meet the author:


"I always wanted to write a book that showed girls that they could be heroes, that they could fight for what's right."

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles and the author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been travelling back and forth ever since. Namina loves building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet - Julie Caplin (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 25/1/2021
Author: Julie Caplin
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: January 22, 2021
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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

About the book:

It’s time to pack your bags and head to the breathtaking, snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps for velvety hot chocolates, delicious cheeses and a gorgeous love story…
Food technician Mina has always believed that chocolate will solve everything – and it’s just what she needs when her latest relationship mishap goes viral!

So with her bags packed and a new determination to sort her life out, Minna decides to drown her sorrows with the best hot chocolate in the world at her godmother’s cosy Swiss chalet. Chocolate: yes. Romance: no. Until she has a run-in on an Alpine train with a mysterious but oh-so-gorgeous stranger…

Review:

        I do love Julie Caplin's books since each of them takes us on a journey to a different part of the world. And this time it is the snow-laden Swiss countryside. The story had me itching to pack my travel bags (since I am not as impulsive as Mina, that didn't happen).
        Chocolate, cake, skiing and chocolate again. Yup! Consider yourself warned and stock your fridge before planning to take this book. Even the memory of it is making me hungry. Caplin has worked her magic again. Within no time, we are pulled into the beauty and serenity of Switzerland, a country known for its rich heritage and hospitality. And the chocolates of course. In other words, heaven for a foodie buff like Mina.
        As you might have already guessed, this literal journey also provides a turning point in the life of our heroine, both in career and in love. Well, I didn't really buy the romance part; even with all the serendipity ideas, I don't think it was that unique and the ending had me muddled. Giving up your dreams for love, is that really worth it? Hmm . . . not for me to judge.
        Still, it proved to be the perfect comfort read for the weekend (I will have to consider the few pounds added to my weight though). Ever wished to be inside a book while you read it? Well, fairy godmother, I would like to use that gift on this book.

Meet the author:


Julie Caplin is addicted to travel and good food. She’s on a constant hunt for the perfect gin and is obsessively picky about glasses, tonic and garnishes. Between regular gin tastings, she’s been writing her debut novel which is set in just one of the many cities she’s explored over the years.

Formerly a PR director, for many years she swanned around Europe taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for the trilogy, The Little Cafe in Copenhagen, The Little Brooklyn Bakery and The Little Paris Patisserie.

Julie also writes contemporary romance as Jules Wake.

Monday, 18 January 2021

The Midnight Library - Matt Haig (Review & Summary)

Date of Reading: 14/1/2021
Author: Matt Haig
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Rating: 4/5

About the book:

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe, there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Review:

    This is not my first Matt Haig book. Though I can't say I love his works, he is not really on the hate zone either. And with all the hype surrounding it, how can I not select this one? Did I love it? Hmm . . . sort of, I guess.
    If you are into Paulo Coelho, then you will definitely love this book. There is a whole lot of philosophical stuff (in layman's terms) to wrap your head around, but many can identify with the story. After all, is there anyone without regrets, wishing for the road not taken? Some may dwell their remaining lives on it and Nora Seed apparently, is one of them. 
    She is constantly haunted by the failures of others which they attribute to her poor choices. Now finally she gets an opportunity to try out all of her options and learn from them. But is there really a perfect life where you can satisfy everyone? I think you know the answer, my fellow bookworms, even if you haven't read this story. Well, the book really puts it in an elegant way.

Summary:

    Twenty-seven hours before she decides to die, Nora Seed finds her cat dead on the road. The next day she loses her job as a salesperson in String Theory, a musical instruments store. With this comes the realisation that no one needs her anymore. She was good at swimming in school but didn't pursue it further for the great disappointment of her father. She joined her brother's band and wrote songs for them but the frequent panic attacks made her drop out of it. Her brother and his friend Ravi still blame her for the band's failure. Even her old neighbour doesn't need her anymore to bring his medicines. So she decides to die.
    But it looks like she cannot even do that properly. Instead of dying, she reaches the midnight library, a place between life and death. Someone who looks exactly like Mrs. Elm, her old school librarian is in charge here. The library, as she explains, offers Nora an opportunity to live the lives she might have lived with different choices in her root life. If she finds one life agreeable, she can choose to live as the Nora there or she can return to try another one.
Source: https://www.concrete-online.co.uk
    Her Book of Regrets is heavy since there are so many decisions that she regretted later on her life. She tried to undo it one by one. In one life she has married her ex-boyfriend and in others, she is an Olympics winner (in swimming), a famous musician, winemaker, animal shelter employee etc. When she takes the life of a glaciologist, she meets Hugo, who is also sliding through lives like her. In his case, it was a video store instead of a library. He has lived so many lives but cannot find happiness in any.
    Nora also plans to live sliding through the indefinite lives available to her. But when she chooses the life where she lives with Ash, the doctor with whom she should have gone for a coffee date, she finds herself liking it. But there are other things that have changed. People she used to lend a hand in her root suffers from the lack of her care. Still she tries to remain there, but in spite of all her efforts to fit in, she is taken back to the midnight library which has begun to fall apart since Nora wants to live now.
    She manages to reach back her root life and gets timely medical help. The message she leaves behind before her suicide attempt brings back her brother to her side. Nora realises that she is capable of doing all the things that she has done in her other lives and decides to live this life instead of running away.

Meet the author:



Matt Haig was born in Sheffield, England in1975. He writes books for both adults and children, often blending the worlds of domestic reality and outright fantasy, with a quirky twist. His bestselling novels are translated into 28 languages. The Guardian has described his writing as 'delightfully weird' and the New York Times has called him 'a novelist of great talent' whose writing is 'funny, riveting and heartbreaking'.

Favourite quotes:

"The only way to learn is to live" - 105

"Because too often our view of success is about some external bullshit idea of achievement - an Olympic medal, the ideal husband, a good salary. And we have all these metrics that we try and reach. When really success isn't something you measure, and life isn't a race you can win." - 106

"To be a human was to continually dumb the world down into an understandable story that keeps things simple" - 136

"Minds can't see what they can't handle" - 136

"I think it is easy to imagine there are easier paths . . . but maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths" - 163

". . .  a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting" - 171

Source: inews.co.uk

". . . where there are books, there was the temptation to open them" -177

"Fear was when you wandered into a cellar and worried that the door would close shut. Despair was when the door closed and locked behind you" - 194

"What sometimes feel like a trap is actually just a trick of the mind" - 241

"But it is not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It's the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people's worst enemy" - 246

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Dead Zone - Stephen King


Date of reading: 06/01/2021
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
Year: 1979
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

Johnny, the small boy who skated at breakneck speed into an accident that for one horrifying moment plunged him into The Dead Zone.

Johnny Smith, the small-town schoolteacher who spun the wheel of fortune and won a four-and-a-half-year trip into The Dead Zone.

John Smith, who awakened from an interminable coma with an accursed power—the power to see the future and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone.

Review:

    Will you have a panic attack if I confess this is my first Stephen King book? Yes, yes, I know I should be ashamed but what can I do? I have always known him to be a horror author, a genre I prefer to set aside (do have enough demons haunting my living world, thank you so much). But the guilt finally caught on and so here I am finally finishing one of King's book which doesn't have ghosts or zombies or whatever other creepy things out there.
    Johnny Smith is a small-time school teacher who slipped into a coma after a car crash. He wakes up after four and a half years with psychic abilities to know about  a person through touch. He could have been famous, but what Johnny needed was some normalcy in his life. But is it possible to run away from his powers? Especially when he also gains the ability to predict the future?
    Admitting that Stephen King is one hell of a writer would be an understatement. It might be a 1980s book, but it still took my breath away. The narration, character development and the plot twists had made me realised that this is a book that was waiting for me. 
    Well, that doesn't mean I agree with everything though, especially the last part. If you know someone is going to be killer (or start a nuclear war) in future, what will you do? Kill him yourself? It raises another question. If your future is predetermined, then can a killer be judged for following his destiny? Predicting a natural disaster is fine, but seeing someone's future years ahead didn't really agree with me.What is the use of human will then, if everything is preordained?
    Yup, the story for sure had made an impression. Could I be counted as one of the fans now? Let's wait and see.

Meet the author:

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted into films, television series, miniseries, and comic books. King has published 61 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and five non-fiction books.[3] He has also written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.
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