Thursday, July 30, 2020

#BookReview: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

May Day May Day by Josie Jaffrey
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars 
 
If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.

When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.

To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. 

First thing first, I wanted to LOVE this book but it fell a little short for that. So I do like it, and I want more from the sequel already. 

Jack Valentine is more impulsive & hot-headed than her partners would like her to be, but a part of that makes her such a badass at her job.  But the one thing that will destroy her sooner is her unreasonable rage towards the local baron, Killian Drake.

Killian Drake, by his position & age is powerful, scheming and  loves to play games with Jack. He knows how she thinks , how she feels and he likes that about their relationship until it changes into a reluctant partnership and things start going out of control for both.

I loved these characters, but i could not feel the connect because I wanted more of their background and to some extent i did not find the justification for Jack's anger unless I have to assume she was totally acting like a brat [ which she might be considering she was 18 when she turned from human to vampire ]

The story starts with a human murder which clearly seems to be act of a vampire , so the seekers are involved. The case gets mixed with a bigger conspiracy unfolding in Oxford. It takes Jack to places that only Drake can get her into and because of this, they both see a change in their understand and want for each other. I could so relate to Jack's confusion about this desire, even if I did not agree to her decision to walk away from it in the end. 

Though the murder gets solved in the end, the other case does not gets it due closure as per Jack and that is what we will continue to read in the second book. All in all, its a really entertaining read and some fresh take on vampire culture. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: The Mother-Daughter Book Club by HEather Vogel Frederick


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even if Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma's already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care, the new book club is scheduled to meet every month. But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate the drama of middle school.

I bought this book from a sale because 
1. Book club 
2. The club was to read Little Women

and finally, after eight months the book Gods smiled on me and made me read it this weekend. And what a delight it was to spend the afternoon reading this book without a break. It's more of a Middle-Grade level book which is apt for all ages over 10 years. 

I enjoyed the story of four girls who are not really friends with each other but are forced to be a part of the book club because of their mothers. Every one of them has a unique personality and dreams and ways to deal with the drama that happens in the life of every school-going kid. From having different financial status, parental issues, liking boys, and fighting for their dreams, the four girls will learn from each other and from the story of MArch sisters in a way that resonates with their mothers too. all other characters in the book are described in good details and there is something for everyone in this story. Together these ladies and our lovely March sisters gave me so many smiles and warm feelings. This book also had so many fun facts about life of Louisa M Alcott that I was not aware of. What an inspiration, truly. I totally adored this sweet fun read. 

I noticed that there are more books in this series, each dealing with a different book as the yearly read for the book club. I have added the books in this series and all the books that the club will be discussing to my TBR already. 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

#BookReview: The Summoned Ones ( Book#1 Flight to Bericea) by Darryl A. Woods


My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars 
 
Book Blurb: The Bericean army was in Malabrim for the ninth straight fighting season. Over the past 9 years, Zybaro, the leader of a small band of unknowns, had evolved from his days as a minor usurper of a tiny kingdom. Now, almost the entire country of Malabrim was under Zybaro’s control. Still, Bericea continued its raids into Malabrim, hoping to stem Zybaro’s methodical progress and thwart his tyrannical means of control. 

This latest conflict with Zybaro had pushed General Darnon to a decision, one he had resisted making for over a year. Though he still held grave reservations about the Prophecies, he was willing to support the clerics who would attempt the summoning. The details of the ritual had recently been discovered in an ancient tome. The clerics were confident they could bring forth the Summoned Ones of Prophecy, those mysterious beings who would aid Bericea in its time of greatest need. Join the soldiers of Bericea and the Summoned Ones through a life-or-death struggle. 

The Summoned Ones was made up of a small college aged group of friends from a small Kentucky town near the Daniel Boone National Forrest, who find themselves somehow brought to a chaotic world through magic. Their epic journey will push the Summoned beyond the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover many truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination.

Review: The story starts on the battle ground introducing the reader to General Darnon and his most trusted soldier Kali fighting the enemy as they await for reinforcements. It was a good action scene to set the pace of the story and I already felt good about this book. 

Next, the author introduced "the summoned ones" - group of old friends who have spent every summer together since the age of 12 and together are closer to each other than anyone else. Within shared stories of their past and present banter, the author manages to set the character for each one of them different from each other. I was impressed by the fact that, that by the time this group is summoned to the world of magic and chaos, I could easily separate the names & behavior of each of them. Once summoned , the friends are divided into three groups - by a combination of chance and choice equally and they begin the journey from the heart of the enemy area to the safe lands of the neighbor country. Protecting and leading the way for the summoned ones are the best of scouts , soldiers, general and the magic wielding clerics who are usually not liked much in this world because of some old conflicts. 

Part 1 of the story is mostly the journey , growth and adaptation of the friends into the new world , with new people. Although their capabilities seem to have come to them overnight , it had already been established that some of their talent was evident in their world too. Like the best warrior , though a basketball player, he is as skilled in martial arts. Or the healer is studying to be a nurse and is good with horses because of her family being involved in the same business. 


The terrain and the people in the story are all uniquely described so they paint amazing visuals at times in the mind of the reader. I found the magic system quite unique as to be associated with music - singing or playing some instrument and channeling your thought into action. It was interesting and a little sad too, because fear of magic kept people away from singing or enjoying music freely. But the best part of the book for me were some of the battle scenes and the sparing scene between Kali & one of the summoned one was FANTASTIC. I love the author's attention to such details and creativity to rope in multiple skills & jobs , people , stories and geographical challenges in this quest. The book manages to grab attention with all the action taking place around.

Though one does understand the bigger picture of the conflict and the differences in the army size & need for the summoned ones in the war, I also wanted a little more about this world , the two nations and the people fighting for Bericea. I hope more of this is covered in the next part of the story and we have more growth and heroic moments for all our favorite warriors along with more details  on the political conflicts. 

I am looking forward to the next part of this story eagerly.

About Darryl A. Woods:
Darryl Woods is a storyteller who hones his craft entertaining coworkers. He also enjoys regaling family and friends with stories of his upbringing in rural Ohio, of the motorized contraptions his father fabricated, and of the timber cutting and sawmill work he did with his father-in-law. With an appetite for reading fantasy, it was inevitable he would choose to write about an epic journey in a world dominated by magic and sword fighting.

Purchase Links: 
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31HTPbr 
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Z1mLsY 
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summoned-ones-darryl-woods/1133667482  






Thursday, July 9, 2020

#BookReview: Utrecht Rain by Jonathan Wilkins


My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Maaike Meijer is attacked in a senseless outbreak of violence at the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Her brother, Freddie, fights off the assailants, but how is the brutality linked to a series of violent threats, cyber crime and the Dutch Secret Service? 
Truus Heda continues her work as a private investigator whilst caring for her lover before finding the missing link. As the nightmare unfolds we enter the world of Serbian gangsters and Utrecht Goths and see how Hoofdinspecteur Caes Heda and his overworked team tackle a crime that could consume the city



Utrecht is a city in Netherlands ( Holland ) and so the story is set in the Dutch society. I think it is better to know the setting beforehand so one can get used to the differences in the writing & way the city works from the other countries. It also gives an atmospheric sense to the story which has a lot of  mystery elements.This book has a few terms and words from the Dutch language used frequently in the story . This can be understood from the synopsis also but it more clearly established in the first few chapters and  after a while one gets comfortable with the same.

The story starts with attack on Maaike & her twin brother Freddie. Caes Heda is the head inspector for them and also is father of Maaike's girlfriend Truus. The police has not recovered from the attack when the city is hit with two bank robberies involving sophisticated technological knowledge and then a brutal murder that leaves no clue for the victim behind. Only thing linking, maybe two of the crimes is that they are done by masked men , dressed in all blacks and no one ever see them leaving the crime scenes. There is a rich heir , corrupt businessmen , personal investigators and also secret agency involved in the mix and it is never clear who is pulling what strings in this. This is a good police investigation story in all possible ways with all threads closed neatly in the end.

But what makes this book more of an interesting read is the details of the personal lives of the characters. Maaike & Truus have a beautiful relationship and it felt so natural to see them take care of each other physically and emotionally when Maaike is recovering from her nightmare. Then we have Caes still coming to terms with the loss of his wife ten years ago by therapy and with help from his daughter & friends. There is a strong emphasis on engaging in activities that keeps one busy and also healthy to deal with all personal demons and it was such an inspiring aspect of the story. Caes's team in the police station are all different from each other and the author sets those details carefully. there is a human side to most of the people which make them relatable to the reader. Apart from their professional lives , the personal interests and conversations between some of the characters were so good to read. It had an overall positive vibe towards life even in the face of all the crime & voilence.

In a lot of ways , the book felt more like a slice of life mixed with mystery than a usual formula based book. I enjoyed all the characters and would like to keep reading more books in the series.

My only complain is from editing where the pronouns were suddenly mixed and it was a little abrupt. Plus some of the place names were a little hard to track in the beginning but once the story picked up, I did not find them concerning any more. It is though something some of the readers might find as a deterrent.


Purchase Links: Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2VnE1Xk
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3g0pKYz

About Jonathan Wilkins: Jonathan loves to write. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstones’ bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for 20 years and coached women’s basketball for over 30 years.
He regularly teaches creative writing workshops in and around Leicester.

Social Media: Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterJWilkins
Website: www.jonathanwilkins.co.uk

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Review: Secrets of Milan, Book Two of the NightFlyer Trilogy by Edale Lane




 My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While Florentina as the Night Flyer searches for a mysterious underworld organization that has attempted to murder the woman she loves, Maddie struggles to deal with the danger Florentina is courting. Her brother, Alessandro, has become the most prominent merchant of Milan, but the Night Flyer uncovers a secret so shocking it could destroy them all.
Secrets of Milan is the second book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy.


Picking from the previous book - Merchants of Milan [ book review post linked ] , the story starts with Maddie worrying about her relationship with the Night Flyer / Florentina. It was good to see her doubts about her new love considering she is a widow and worried because of her own sense of guilt. she starts distancing herself from Florentina till Alessandro makes her see the truth in a different light. The romance and the relationship between the two ladies from that point is beautifully handled and has all the traits of a mature equal partnership between the two ladies. 

The author does not lose focus of the main plot of the book which is to find who wants to kill Maddie and for what purpose, and the action scenes between the hired assassin and the Night Flyer are exciting to read. There is much improvement in the pace , the scene setting and the way the plot moves forward in this book. But what I loved reading more was the character development shown in other cast of the story -  the young boy who went to war front , the fallen merchant and his family , the city sergeant etc. Everyone adds a different dimension to the story and makes this such an engaging read. Maddie's kids interactions with Florentine are such a joy to read and even learn a bit from their lovely teacher about science, history and some art. 

We learn more about the Milan during this era and how war takes the attention away from things & ideas that might help humanity more. How it changes people and landscapes is easily visible through this story. 

There is a secret society , a cryptic diary , more history & scenes from the beautiful European cities, Leonardo Da vinci's inventions , action , romance and above all, the desire to make a difference to the world in whatever way one choses. 

I loved the second part more than the first and eagerly await the last installment.  

About the author:  Edale Lane is the author of an award-winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Regional: Vijayanteyum Omanayudeyum Loka Sanchaarangal

Those who are living in Kochi/Ernakulam might have heard about this couple atleast once. They have been the subject of numerous newspaper articles and television shows. If I tell you that this book is about a Vijayan-Mohana couple who run the tea shop called ‘Balaji Tea Stall’, in Salim Rajan Road, Kathrukkadavu,Ernakulam, it might not ring a bell. But if I rephrase my statement a bit and emphasise again ‘this’ is ‘that couple’ who use the savings out of their earnings from their tea stall to fund for their world travel, I’m pretty sure that atleast some of you will recollect their story.’Vijayanteyum Mohanyudeyum Loka Yathrakal’, as the title suggests is an account of some of the travels done by this lovely couple.
         The book starts off depicting the childhood of Vijayan and how he was fond of travels right from his school days. He also recollects his love for movies and his spendthriftness during his early years. The turning point in Vijayan’s life as he himself has recalled in this book happens after the entry of Mohana into his life.The next few chapters are short descriptions about the various travels they have made till date.

          Coming to the positives, the book is highly readable and is totally unpretentious. There is no attempt to portray the couple as overtly virtuous or create an artificial halo around the couple.Vijayan and Omana have been honest enough to confess their limitations and the mistakes which they have made in life. So, when Vijayan says that he has been highly indisciplined till he met Omana or when she recalls about the bad experiences she had to face soon after her marriage, the reader can totally relate to it.The language is quite simple and conversational and the narrative smooth and crisp.
The production quality of the book(Vee cee Books Kochi and Anaswara Offset Printers,Ernakulam) is top notch and the beautiful pictures which have been included in the book also enhance the reading experience.
           On the downside, though this book belongs to the ‘travelogue’ genre, descriptions of places and the historical aspects behind  these places  hardly gets place in this book.Avid travel readers will find this book a tad disappointing.Instead, if you approach this book as memoirs of Vijayan and Omana and their life experiences, you can finish reading this one with a smile on your face.I'm giving this book a 3 out of 5.

-nikhimenon



Monday, June 15, 2020

#BookReview: The Jansson Tapes by Colin Garrow

The Jansson Tapes
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Amateur


When a familiar leggy blonde slides onto the back seat of his cab with the offer of work, taxi-driver, and amateur sleuth Terry Bell isn’t keen. However, compared to the tedium of driving a cab all day, the lure of another mystery is too strong to resist, and Terry agrees to help. Tracking down a missing writer and his tape recorder sounds simple enough, but following the clues to a remote village, the case takes a dangerous turn when the man turns up dead. After the police take over, Terry and his sidekick Carol return home to find their flat ransacked—and that’s not the only surprise.

Set in England,The Jansson Tapes is book #3 in the Terry Bell Mystery series but can be easily read as a stand-alone book, like I did.


The Jansson tape is a quick good-feel read for a weekend afternoon. It does not waste time setting up the plot and introducing the reader to the characters. The central character is Terry - the smart & witty amateur sleuth who also drives the taxi when he does not have a paying job to investigate. His girlfriend & sidekick Carol is not only intelligent but also very supportive of his work, even though she has to face near-death experiences in the past. Then there is the caravan owner Sheila and her employee Ralph who is friends with both Terry & Carol. These characters are common from the previous books so if you can start from the first, you will have more background of the cast.


The case starts quite simple - a writer has gone missing along with his tapes & notes for the book he is writing. Terry & Carol manage to gather some clues and it leads them to the dead body of the writer. They report the dead body to Inspector Charis Brown who is not impressed at all to see Terry involved in another murder case of hers. The story moves quite fast in each chapter but the writing never loses its humor and clarity. The action is easy to follow and keep one hooked to the story. The characters are all lovable, regular folks who never lose their head in any situation. I love one of the pizza dinner scenes a lot in this book between Terry & Carol. That made me spare a quick laugh. 

Where the book lacks a little is giving more details about the characters and the plot. I would have liked to know more about the dead writer and his book and the conclusion for publishing his work in the end. The book is good for beginners to enjoy a quick mystery but others might need a little more layers.

Book Links: Amazon US | Goodreads


About the Author: Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland and has worked in a plethora of professions including taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. Colin has published three stage plays, six adventures for middle grade readers, two books of short stories, the Watson Letters series and the Terry Bell Mysteries.


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Sunday, June 14, 2020

QBR(Regional): Double Bell by Harris Nenmeni

                                                        

                                                        Experience
                                                        95 + pages
                                                       Green Books
                                                       Originally Published in 2020
                                                       RT Rating: 3.2/5

'Double Bell' by Harris Nemeni is a highly enjoyable read depicting the short incidents encountered by the author during his stint with K.S.R.T.C (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) The Verdict:This one is a small, enjoyable read featuring real life incidents.
Synopsis: There won't be a single Malayalee who hasn't travelled in 'aanavandi' atleast once in his life time. Many of us have fond memories/experiences of our travel in a K.S.R.T.C bus. But have you ever thought how the life of a 'Aanavandi' conductor would be?If you haven't , this exactly is the book for you.

The Good:the writing which is honest and believable, un-pretentious writing.

The Bad:nothing really!
RecommendationsBuy it!

-nikhimenon

Friday, June 12, 2020

#BookReview: A Barren Heart by Shilpa Suraj

A Barren Heart A Barren Heart by Shilpa Suraj
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aman and Rhea seem to have the perfect marriage. They are madly in love - with each other, with their own careers and the home and life they are building in a quiet Mumbai suburb.

What could possibly be lacking in their picture-perfect marriage? A baby. Like most women, thirty-plus Rhea Chakraborty wants to hold her own flesh and blood in her arms. And Aman too wants the same. Or does he? 

After another unexplained miscarriage that takes a severe emotional, physical, and psychological toll on them, Aman isn't sure if having a baby will complete them or destroy them.


Last month I read Shilpa Suraj's book - Love, Marriage & other disasters. What I loved in the book was how she had written a very heartfelt , simple yet much relevant story of characters that readers would relate to easily. So, when I was offered a chance to review her new work, I was very excited to see how she presented this story. Glad to mention that she did not disappoint with Barren Heart.


Barren Heart revolves around various stages/struggles women face while trying to get pregnant. What feels like a natural process, is too hard for some of the women and each one has her own "family planning" story. Some of the plot lines & conversations in the book felt very real and I could recall some friends sharing similar stories with me or their girlfriends. The pain, the confusion, the reactions of friends, and family were portrayed well and I felt a lot of empathy for Rhea. Both Rhea & Aman are successful, independent and loving persons who are pillars to each other. While Rhea has her own family drama, Aman's childhood wasn't good. Which binds them together but also makes them lonely without each other.

Sometimes, I felt that she & Aman took some of the arguments too seriously. Some of the fights and the eventual making up scenes felt repetitive and not too impactful to the rest of the story. Rhea's issues with her family were mostly unresolved which did not make much difference but I was left wondering still. Nevertheless, Reading this book felt like listening to my own heart's voices at times .. This is a beautiful story of a marriage that survives being hurt, the fights & differences between the couple. It is a happy ever after ending but with a very realistic picture that all marriages go through highs & lows and some low are literally rock bottom for one or both parties. How you build yourself from those moments is what matters in the long run.

This is a well narrated story that has roots in modern lifestyle , characters who you get attached to and a satisfying end.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 4, 2020

#BookReview : Every Reason We Shouldn't (Every Reason We Shouldn't #1) by Sara Fujimura

Genre: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Fiction, Teen, Cultural
Rating : 3.5 / 5



Warning
: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries,and all the feels.

Fifteen year old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She's bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of an athlete... until Jonah Choi starts training at her family's struggling rink. Jonah's driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying... and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby,figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia's got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?



I recently watched a show with Ice sports as backdrop so I was very interested to read this book. When I started reading Every reason We shouldn't , It took me about one third of the book to get hooked to the story. It was not because the story wasn't interesting. I did love all the practice sessions and the match scenes. They are written beautifully and very engaging for any reader to follow through the routine even if you have no idea of the terms of the sports. I liked to read the story of teenagers who are practicing their asses off to reach their goals and it is not a rosy picture at all. I appreciated that the author kept so many sequences and plot close to real for these kids - the expectations , the difference in normal life, the pain and the disappointments are as important to know as the joys of winning.

My favorite character in the book is Mack, who makes a mistake in her teenage years but has never given up on herself. She works hard , plays harder and is a amazing friend to Olivia in every way. She has her own problems to solve with the father of her little girl but she never once blames anyone for her situation and is the smartest , kindest and most inspiring person in the whole story.

Jonah's friendship with Olivia and the romance that follows is sweet and very fun read. It has all the sparks , the charms and butterflies in stomach kind of cuteness when they are together. It was good to see that side of both of them and that kept me going on with the story.

But when we you start digging into the smaller details , the book also disappointed me. My biggest issue was with Olivia being very inconsistent in her behave and she was mostly very bitter and stubborn for her own good. I could understand her frustrations most of the time but the way she looked down upon other people around her was not fair either. I felt her bitterness was more from being jealous than being upset about where she was at that given point and it was not anyone's fault.
She herself realizes that her last performance with her best friend Stuart was not at all up to the mark and it deserved the criticism it got. She has all the chances to improve but it keeps getting sidelined by her family & personal drama. Together Jonah & Olivia are not good to other kids in her school while their friends are quite nice and appreciative of their achievements. Stuart was supposed to be the best friend / brother to Olivia but he was not at all considerate or respectful to Olivia most times.

The book definitely could have been better but it was still a decent read for weekend if you want to read of sports related YA.

GR | Amazon | Kobo | Google books

SARA FUJIMURA is an award-winning young adult author and creative writing teacher. She is the American half of her Japanese- American family, and has written about Japanese culture and raising bicultural children for such magazines as Appleseeds, Learning Through History, East West, and Mothering, as well as travel-related articles for To Japan With Love.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Malayalam Crime Thriller: Pradhamadrishtya (Primafacie)





'Pradhamadrishtya' is a malayalam Crime Thriller by Nikhilesh Menon. It tries to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of Riya Susan and her husband.

If You wish to buy the book, order here.



#BookReview: May Day by Josie Jaffrey

May Day by Josie Jaffrey My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars     If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you wa...