The Books I loved in 2021: Part II


 In this second part of the year-ender post, I will be crowing about the five other books that got me swooned over in the year gone by.

6. Neuro Area (Sivan Edamana, DC Books):

Writing a Paisa Vasool Crime Thriller that doesn't belittle your sensibilities is no mean task. Sivan Edamana's 'Neuro Area' is a delectable mix of medical mumbo jumbo, modern-day tech wizardry, and page-turning fun.

Set in a futuristic corporate hospital, Neuro Area begins with Dr. Rahul Sivasankar, the C.EO of the hospital, getting into a coma after getting critically injured in a road accident. The doctor is shifted to a highly protected state-of-the-art Neuro ICU of the hospital (Neuro Area), which Robots entirely man. In a bizarre turn of events, a junior doctor of the hospital, Dr. Meenakshy, gets assigned as the duty doctor in the entry restricted Neuro Area, but little did she realize what was in store for her!

Though it has its share of minor flaws, this one is a super fun read!

7. Guest List (Lucy Foley, Harper Collins)

This creepy, claustrophobic whodunit is an intelligent blend of old-school Agatha Christie and modern psychological Suspense. Set on a remote island somewhere off the coast of  Ireland, Lucy Foley's follow-up to her highly successful 'Hunting Party' tells the story of the wedding of a superstar couple (a rising TV star and an ambitious digital magazine publisher). Friends and relatives have been invited, and the stage is set for the grand gala wedding. But soon, bodies start piling up, and nothing is what it seems.

With an ambit of characters and narrated through multiple perspectives,  Guest List is a slow-burning, character-driven thriller worth your time and money!

8. Adiyor Mishiha Enna Novel (Vinoy Thomas, D.C.Books):

I picked up this book, thinking it to be a novel but was pleasantly surprised to find it to be an anthology of short stories. I must confess that I am not a great fan of Malayalam short stories as often; I find them too abstract to my liking. But Vinoy Thomas proved me wrong with his delectable collection, which is witty, dark, and poignant. This collection is an absolute winner, replete with sarcasm, satire, and black humor!

9. Maidens (Alex Michaelides, W&N ):

Maidens is the author's follow-up work to his international bestseller, 'The Silent Patient.' I must say that the love I felt towards this book is as much as I hate it. Maidens is the story of a group therapist named Marianna, mourning the loss of her beloved husband, Sebastian. She gets to know that her niece, Zoe, a student at Cambridge, has just lost her best friend. Without wasting time, she leaves for Cambridge only to find that the police have arrested someone she thinks is innocent. Will Marianna manage to find out the truth? The book essentially tries to unravel this mystery.

 While 'The Silent Patient' had a novel premise, 'The Maidens' is a generic thriller, at best. The writer has tried to put some novelty in the narrative by throwing Greek mythology in between(which also saves this one from being a complete downer!). I liked the way Alex ended the book by bringing in characters from his previous work. I wish the rest of the book were also that much fun!

 10. Indian Poocha (Sunu A.V, D.C. Books), Onnaam Forensic Adhyaayam (Rajad R, Green Books) Njaana Bharam (E.Santhosh Kumar, Mathrubhumi Books):

While the former is a collection of short stories which got me enthralled sometime in early 2021, the latter is the book that has kept me hooked currently. In Indian Poocha, Sunu manages to weave stories around real people, the kind we meet in real life. That's perhaps the reason why Imran, with a dark past, and Aboobakker, who has intelligent observations about life, are still fresh in my mind. This one is a genuinely readable collection with its heart in the right place. Sunu A.V's stories do transcend boundaries, just like the cat who doesn't bother crossing the same!

Onnaam Forensic Adhyaayam by Rajad R, though marketed as a crime thriller, is much more than your average generic template thriller. One of the best literary crime novels to have come out of Malayalam in recent years, Onnnaam Forensic narrates the story of a missing politician and the investigation with pursues. The author's progressive ideas about life and death give a philosophical tone to the narrative. I must say that I didn't see the climax twist coming! This one is a  genuinely enjoyable read!

I am just halfway through E Santhosh Kumar's Njaanabhaaram, but I must confess that I have already fallen in love with this poignant tale. I must write a detailed review once I am done with this one!)

A delicious read indeed!

-nikhimenon

 (The first part of this post can be read here)

Book Review: Maidens by Alex Michaelides

 


'Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was not only an international best seller but also one of my favourite thrillers of all time. Alex's world was profoundly atmospheric and enthralling in his debut work, replete with twists and turns. Having had a debut success of that magnitude behind him, his follow-up work 'Maidens' was undoubtedly one of the year's most anticipated books. Has he managed to hit the bull's eye this time around? Let's have a look.

Maidens is the story of a group therapist named Marianna, mourning the loss of her beloved husband, Sebastian. She gets to know that her niece, Zoe, a student at Cambridge, has just lost her best friend. Without wasting time, she leaves for Cambridge only to find that the police have arrested someone she thinks is innocent. Will Marianna manage to find out the truth? The book essentially tries to unravel this mystery.

It's a well-known fact that writing a follow-up book for your debut best seller is a highly daunting task. It's a double challenge. You are attempting to please the fans of your previous work and win over those who hated it in the first place.

While 'The Silent Patient' had a novel premise, 'The Maidens' is a generic thriller, at best. The writer has tried novelty in the narrative by throwing Greek mythology in between. But to be very frank, those bits felt forced and didn't gel that well with the main plot, unlike in the first book. The plot twists are hardly unpredictable and, at times, are pretty illogical.

Towards the climax, the antagonist reveals to another character making a significant revelation –' they were just a distraction, a red herring.' Though the author has presented it as a 'big reveal,' most of the discerning readers might have already guessed by then that a massive chunk of the scenes preceding it was also nothing but distractions or red-herrings! This also sums up exactly what is the major problem with the book. A significant portion of the novel is spent on the protagonist's paranoid obsession with a professor named Edward Forensca and his secret study group. To give Alex due credit, it works in the beginning. Still, as the story progresses, it becomes pretty evident that the 'secret' study group is also nothing but another red-herring.

The book is told in a third-person narrative focusing on the protagonist Marianna and her inner demons. The characters are flat and one-dimensional, with the only exception being Fred. The climax has got two big reveals. Though the first one (about the antagonist) was entirely predictable, I must confess that I didn't see the second one coming. It was perhaps the only high point in the narrative as far as I am concerned.

The principal narrator of Silent Patient, the renowned psycho-therapist Theo Faber, also appears in 'The Maidens' towards the third part of the story. (Well, I don't want to reveal any spoilers here, but I must say that the appearance of Theo did help the narrative elevate a bit). The scenes involving Marianne and Theo were well written, I felt.

But all these little attempts don't help this from becoming a half-baked attempt.

On the whole, 'the Maiden's' is not a boring book. It's pretty racy and entertaining. But with its cliched plot and illogical twists, it's no great work either. If you are pretty okay with generic thrillers, you can give this one a try. But don't expect a 'Silent Patient,' you might get disappointed!

I liked the way Alex ended the novel by bringing in the characters from his previous work. I wish the rest of the book were also that much fun!

 -nikhimenon

 

The Books I loved in 2021!

 It’s that time of the year where we reminisce about the best and the worst of the year gone by. Keeping up with our tradition, we are compiling the best and worst of the year gone by. Here is the R.T. year-ender list of the best reads of 2021. (The post will be in two parts, and this list is not in any particular order)

                        



1. Kadalinte Manam (P.F.Mathews, DC Books):

‘Kadalinte Manam’ is the fourth Novel (and perhaps the ‘lightest one’) from the master storyteller, P.F.Mathews.  Kadalinte..’ which tells the story of a middle-aged Government employee named Sachidanandhan and his muse Safiya, is also incidentally the first Novel to hit the bookstores after the writer won the coveted Kerala Sahithya Academy Award through Adiyalapretham (Green Books).

Populated with tangible yet believable characters like Maya, Safiya, Santhosh Babu, Kariya Sir, Bhaskara Menon, ‘Kadalinte Manam delves with strong themes like sexual frustration, mid-life crisis, fake morality, corruption, love, longing, and helplessness. Though the writer has painted his characters with broad strokes of grey, at no point in time does he take a moral stand or make them feel apologetic for their actions as each one of them is nothing but a victim of their circumstances. Tremendous work of literature indeed!

A must-read!

2. Coma (Anver Abdulla, Deecee Upmarket Fiction):

Anver Abdulla is one of those rare writers who could successfully create a bonafide Malayali detective in Perumal when crime thrillers weren’t such a fad in Malayalam. Through Coma (not to be mistaken with the Novel of the same time by Robin Cook, which came out sometime in the 1970 s), he introduces a new detective in Jibrieel., an anarchist detective who is disciplinarily self-developed, artistically trained, technically creative, and uniquely humane!

The story is about a high-flying lawyer named Paul who slips into a coma after handling a sensational case. Though the Novel is a tad long at 260+ pages or so, with intelligent plotting, exciting twists and turns, and a logical climax, Coma succeeds in being a page-turner.

3. Mudritha (Jisa Jose, Mathrubhumi Books):

Jisa Jose’s Mudritha starts like an investigative thriller and soon metamorphoses into something entirely different. The story of a tour operator named Anirudhan and the ten women he encounters as part of his job, Mudritha, is a deliciously warm novel on female bonding and aspirations. Perhaps, after Anitha Nair’s ‘Ladies Coupe,’ Mudritha is undoubtedly one of the most heartwarming take-ups on women’s lives in contemporary India. After reading the blurb, I picked up this one, mistaking it to be a murder mystery but was pleasantly surprised to figure out that there was much more to it.

A delicious read indeed!

4. New Comer (Kiego Higashino, Abacus):

Kiego Higashino is one of the most respected detective novelists of the decade. His books have not only sold millions of copies worldwide but have also got onscreen adaptations in multiple languages. Newcomer is an intricately plotted, absorbing mystery about a forty-something divorcee found dead in a Tokyo apartment.

Detective Kyochiro Kaga, who appeared in Higashino’s earlier work,’ Malice’ is the investigator here who tries to unravel the secrets behind a complicated life with his calm demeanor and sharp intuitions.A classic detective story with multiple layers narrated in a highly inventive manner; New Comer is not one of those regular run-of-the-mill pulp thrillers which hit the bookstore every two weeks or so.

Newcomer is vintage Higashino. Period!

5. Kappithaante Bharya (Bipin Chandran, Mathrubhumi Books):

At a time when Malayalam Popular fiction was getting overdosed with serial killers and psychopaths, Bipin Chandran’s ‘Kappithaan’ came as a breath of fresh air. In this hilarious, cute little Novel, Bipin packs in as much nostalgia and references as the reader is swept into the world of Rosily Aunty, Captain, Annieyamma, and Thomassukutty. The book is as much about them as it is about the world they live in.

An absolute gem of a Novel, this one should be devoured for its lightheartedness, nostalgia, and humor!   

 -nikhimenon

 (The second part of this post can be read here)


Cover Reveal - Twilight's Temptation by Shilpa Suraj

 






The ace photographer and the supermodel, they should have been a match made in heaven. Instead, they fought like the demons of hell. 

Complicated, surly, and sexy, Manav Apte was probably the only photographer who resented his muse. From the day he’d seen her, there had been no other. Unfortunately, she was the one woman he could never have. 

Passionate, talented, and gorgeous, Diana Severes refused to give the temperamental ass behind the camera the satisfaction of knowing he got under her skin. It was, however, impossible not to notice him or his glowering disapproval that trailed her everywhere she went. 

Their dislike and distrust of each other is legendary in the fashion industry and yet, the sparks that fly when they come together for work are enough to light the sets on fire. 

Will the Golden Girl of India’s fashion scene be able to see beyond his hatred to the love he’s desperately trying to mask? And will the country’s most talented photographer realise that his true talent lies not in what he views through his lens but what he sees through the filter of his heart?


About the Author:


Shilpa Suraj wears many hats - corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.




Contact the Author:

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Newsletter




Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon

                                                     

Stranger in the Mirror is one of the early works of Sidney Sheldon. First published almost fifty years ago, the book tells the story of Toby Temple, a super star stand- up comedian and his love, Jill Temple. Replete with twists and turns coming at regular intervals, the book is undoubtedly a fast paced read and is still relevant even after almost half a decade of it's original release.

The story doesn't have too many characters and is largely about the travails of Toby and Jill, their struggles and ambitions. Born as Josephine, Jill's ambition is to make it big in Hollywood. But the challenges she has to face are enormous. Toby's life is no different either. He also has to go through his own share of  humiliations and ridicule before making it big in the show biz. Clifton Lawrence is Toby's ticket to stardom. 'Stranger in the Mirror' is as much as about Clifton as it is about Toby and Jill.

Toby and Jill aren't entirely likeable characters. This story of greed, lust and passion is an intriguing read. Even after fifty years, this book hasn't become dated, rather it still feels fresh. Shows how great story teller, Sir Sheldon was!

-nikhimenon

Review: Midnight's Star: A contemporary friends to lovers romance by Shilpa Suraj



My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I start my Saturday mornings by reading in bed, and this one made me wish I could be served breakfast in bed and not bother to do anything till I finish it. No wonder, that I finished "Midnight's star" within few hours and I loved it. Just the way I like my romcoms to be, and the reasons I love when Shilpa writes modern-day romances with not-so-perfect people. It is easy to like most of the characters in her book and not just the leads. Whether it is the good friends, support staff at work, or the family; you find a sense of reason, love, and humor in all the interactions. 

 This is a story of a passionate cafe owner and baker girl, Avni, who meets a successful blind author Bharat one of the sad days of her life. Making the best of the meeting and cheering each other, they start talking over desserts and it somehow becomes their thing - this friendship, sharing secrets, and finding comfort from each other's presence. The romance was so well written that it all felt believable. There were no grand gestures but more emphasis on intentions and the consequences of each action. Even the misunderstandings were not dragged but resolved by talking about it. There are some beautiful kisses and more hot scenes , some ending not so well though ;)

The book is a good mix of some drama, some humor, and a lot of love. I am looking forward to reading more books in this series soon.

View all my reviews

Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood

 


‘Day of the Accident’ by Nuala Ellwood is the typical, generic crime thriller which revolves around the memory loss of the unreliable female protagonist and the circumstances in which she has got entrapped in. If you are a regular reader of this genre, there are chances that you might find this one as a pretty ordinary work.

So, our protagonist is Margaret Allen, who has had an accident which left her daughter dead and herself in a deep coma. After waking up from coma, she realises that her husband has gone missing and the house which they lived in has been bought by someone else. To make matters worse, she also figures out that her bank balance is also almost empty and she has got just about a few pounds left for her survival. Shattered and Puzzled, Maggie, with the help of her social worker and carer sets out to find out the truth behind this mystery.

To give due credit, I must confess that the author has got a pretty decent premise for the story. The pacing is also fine and the story progresses with a few minor twists happening at regular intervals. The narrative is mostly first person, the only distraction being the portions which appears in the form of the ‘letters written by Elspeth’. At just about 370 pages, the book is a fast read.

Coming to the negatives, the story suffers from logical issues at multiple places. It’s difficult to understand why no-one else in the village apart from Barbara manages to identify Maggie and tell her what actually happened in the first place. The character of Sean is so poorly written that it’s quite unlikely that anyone would empathise with his plight. Frankly speaking, the protagonist Maggie is not a likeable character, either. Even by the end of the story, I couldn’t really fathom why she shouldn’t be blamed for what really happened to Elsepeth. The lesser said about the antagonist, the better! The climax is a big let down with a flat beaten to death twist taking away whatever excitement the reader has left in the story.

On the whole, ‘Day of the Accident’ is a pretty average read.

-nikhimenon

The Rumour by Lesley Cara

 


Lesley Kara's debut novel, 'The rumour' is the kind of book which tries too hard to be your generic fast paced thriller. The story is set in a fictional idyllic beach town, Flinstead, some where in England. There is a rumour slowly gaining momentum in the town about a rehabilitated child killer residing in the town albeit with a different identity. Our protagonist ,Jo turns out to be the one who has inadvertently set the rumour-mills burning and she along with her partner, Michael have to set things straight and find out the truth behind this rumour,if any. The book also try to delve upon themes including child abuse, bullying, rehabilitation, the effects of rumour mongering in the lives of innocent people to name a few.

The book is packaged like a generic thriller with twists and turns happening at regular intervals. But to be very frank, this one didn't work for me as a thriller. Though I totally understand the writer's intention behind choosing a theme and premise like this, the way it has been narrated, leaves a lot to be desired. The occasional twists are quite predictable and even the final reveal is pretty generic, in my opinion. Michael ends up being a caricature and Jo is quite a bit plastic character. All the supporting characters are pretty under developed ( we never get to empathize with any of them) and quite often the reader doesn't care whether it is Kay or Karen who is there in a particular scene. Having said that, I must also confess that the book worked for me in an emotional level at times. The narrative is too slow for a thriller and nothing much really happens for the major portion of the story. Infact, it would have been far better if the writer had tried to narrate the emotional journey of Jo and Sally rather than trying to make it an half-baked thriller. 

On the whole , I rate this book as an average thriller. 

-nikhimenon  

Release Day Blitz - Bovine Tricks by Seelie Kay


 


About the Book:

Lady Annabelle Trask is missing. Unfortunately, MISix doesn’t know if they’re looking for a woman, a cow, or something in between!

Is it real or is it fantasy? That’s the question MISix Agent Mathilda Honoria Spencer struggles with on her latest assignment. Tasked with discovering the whereabouts of Lady Annabelle Trask, Tillie is thrust into the world of Hucows and other human animals. It’s a world that raises serious questions about sexual fetishes, intentional physical enhancements, and even pornography, but in the end, Tillie has only one mission—to rescue and return Lady Annabelle to the Queen. However, as she and her partner, Agent Abdul Ali, attempt to find Lady Annabelle and keep her out of the clutches of terrorists bent on destroying the monarchy, they must also wrestle with their feelings for each other. Can they draw the line between their duty to the Crown and their relationship with one another? Or must they embark on separate paths to continue to serve the Queen?


Book Links:
Goodreads * XtasyBooks



Read an Excerpt from Bovine Tricks

Tillie’s face reddened. Suddenly, she felt quite queasy. She started to speak, but her superior held up his hand. 

“There’s more. This is a human-animal auction. It is not limited to Hucows. There will be Hupigs, Huhorses, and maybe even, Husheep. Fortunately, you are to focus on the cows. That is where we believe Lady Annabelle will be found.”

Tillie gazed at him. “What if she isn’t there? What if she has changed…er, species?”

“I suggest you cross that bridge when you come to it.”

“And what am I to do if I find Lady Annabelle? How do I extract her?”

“You purchase her at the auction. You have been given sufficient funds to bid up to one million Euros.”

Tillie’s eyes grew wide. “Criminy. That much?” 

Lord Ryder nodded. “These cows are well-trained and well-treated. The females are pampered—weekly manicures, hair treatments, and such. A happy cow is a happy milker, as they say.”

Tillie’s eyes widened. “Lady Annabelle could be there willingly? She is not necessarily a captive, forced be a Hucow?”

“Exactly. And that is our dilemma. While the Queen hopes that she is there willingly, several factors are at play. Lady Annabelle may have freely joined a farm to become a Hucow, or she may just have danced on the wild side and somehow wound up at auction. In the alternative, she may have been kidnapped and forced to become a Hucow, or she may have been forced and now enjoys the lifestyle. There are all sorts of reasons she could be there and all sorts of reasons she prefers to stay. Our only mission is to get her out.”

Tillie frowned. “Why would they put her up for auction? Isn’t that a way to get rid of unproductive or uncooperative cows?”

“Not necessarily. Some farms simply raise and train Hucows, then sell them. Given their going rate, it is a lucrative business. A great way to supplement the income from a regular farm. Human cows bring much more lucre than actual farm-raised cows.”

Tillie sighed. “For just one day, I would like to forget that there is a whole lot of people engaged in activities that far surpass my imagination.”

Lord Ryder’s mouth curved up into a wry smile. “Then we would be out of a job.”


About Seelie Kay:

Award-winning author Seelie Kay writes about lawyers in love, sometimes with a dash of kink.

Writing under a nom de plume, the former lawyer and journalist draws her stories from more than 30 years in the legal world. Seelie’s wicked pen has resulted in nineteen works of fiction, including the new paranormal romance series Donovan Trait, as well the erotic romance Kinky Briefs series and The Feisty Lawyers romantic suspense series. She also authored The Last Christmas, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The President’s Daughter, Seizing Hope, The White House Wedding, and participated in the romance anthology Pieces of Us.

When not spinning romantic tales, Seelie ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. Currently, she resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, WI, where she enjoys opera, the Green Bay Packers, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine. 

Seelie is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!

Seelie on the Web:
Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Instagram * Author's Amazon Page




The Perfect Wife by J.P Delaney

 

Anthony Capella's 'The Girl Before' was kind of an okayish read for me. So, I picked up this book with mixed expectations and after finishing the read, I am left with pretty much similar feelings.

Tim Scott, the brain behind Scott Robotics has just lost his beloved wife Abbie to an accident. The loving husband that he is, he cannot get over her memories and decides to create a robot (cobot) which looks just like her. The robot  has Artificial Intelligence and it can also think and behave like Abbie Scott. Dany is Tim's Autistic son and has his own share of issues. However, the cobot Abbie soon realises that something is just not right and Tim is hiding something from her. Will Abbie-the cobot be able to unravel the mysteries revolving around Tim Scott is what the plot is all about.

The book has got a pretty novel and interesting premise. The writing is quite fast paced and manages to hold the reader's attention. The book does touches upon issues like Artifical Intelligence, parenting and issues faced by Austic children (full marks for it).The premise is fresh and innovative. There are twists happening and regular intervals but the problem is as the plot unfolds, the twists become far and few in between. The constant shifts between the past and the present becomes irritating after a point and often confuses the reader. At 400+ pages, the book is quite overlong and becomes monotonous after a point.The climactic suspense was quite predictable.

On the whole, I am giving this one a 2.75 out of 5.

-nikhimenon

Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

The Happy Ever After Playlist The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book does not just have Playlist in its name but actually, each chapter has a song dedicated to it, let me share the playlist first [ thanks to the readers who collated it on YT & Spotify :)

  

I am not a pet person but if a huge dog adopts a human in the opening chapter, chances are I will love the book, and I LOVED this one. 

There's text flirting , tricking ( or begging) for a date , first meet butterflies and so many surprises in the first quarter of the book that I was hooked to this one immediately. Its sweet , hilarious , kind and all sort of warm feels in most of the chapters. 

Sloan is neither the impulsive type, not the one to shy away from a potential lover even with her baggage. She is strong enough to attempt to sort her past feelings before taking a chance with this musician man , owner of the before mentioned dog and someone who also happens to be her savior in her unhappy days. It was so amazing to see her coming out of her shell and picking her life once again. 

Jason is almost the perfect man for a rom-com, if only he had not messed up in the second half  of the book [ which I will come to in just a bit ]. He is kind, funny, patient , he writes & sings his own songs, owns the most adorable fun dog and has a really awesome family & family home. The way he adores Sloan and convinces her to take a chance on him was one of the best chapters of this book. 

But after all this, the way he treats his love life and without considering the hurt, decides on his own to cut off Sloan from his life , I am no fan , frankly, of this part. I absolutely dislike this behave by any fictional character who takes sole decisions and rather than to be logical and true to their heart, decide to live in pain before someone or fate brings them together again. 

Thank goodness for amazing friends, support system and kind strangers who help these fools to patch up. And Sloan has really great friends in Kristen & Josh [ I just read that they are the leads from author's first book - the Friend Zone , also the first book in this universe ]

Overall this was a really enjoyable quick weekend read. I heard the first few chapters in audiobook and later switched to kindle version and I enjoyed it both ways. Do give this book a chance and also to the playlist [ which is just too beautiful ] 


The Books I loved in 2021: Part II

  In this second part of the year-ender post, I will be crowing about the five other books that got me swooned over in the year gone by. 6. ...