Book Review – Journey to Justice: The Adventures of Spider and Ruby by Tanni Haas

About the Book:

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The novel Journey to Justice, Book 1 of The Adventures of Spider and Ruby , is a futuristic, suspense-filled novel that takes place in a post-global-warming future in which the Earth has flooded. The surviving population lives on houseboats on the water or in large greenhouses deep in the water. They are all servants to a small group of people (The Chosen) who run the planet from an artificial island and who force them to supply food and services. The Chosen live a life of leisure. Spider, a HouseBoater, and Ruby, his friend, who is an AquaGrower, are on a quest to free Spider’s 12 year old twin brother Luke, who has been arrested and imprisoned on the island for trying to organize an uprising against The Chosen. Along the way, Spider and Ruby face many dangerous obstacles including being held hostage by marauders, escaping from prison, and participating in high-speed chases.

My Thoughts:

Journey to Justice, Book 1 of The Adventures of Spider and Ruby, is drawn from author Tanni Haas’s imagination and set in a post global warming future. In this future, the Earth is flooded leading to a new life order and a new way of living. I was intrigued by the way the author imagined the world and the lives of the people. I also like the fact that this book talks about Global Warming and the impact it has today. It is an important topic and since this book is aimed at Middle Graders, this is a wonderful way to get them to think about global warming.

Initially I was a little lost with the characters and I did not understand who they were and what they were doing. The world building was also not strong enough at the beginning which had me a little confused. However, as the story progresses, more and more of the history of the world is revealed and then everything becomes clearer. After this I really enjoyed reading about Spider and Ruby, how they meet, how they plan Luke’s rescue and the adventure that follows. There are a lot of things that happen to prevent them from reaching their goal but the children persevere on.

I think that children will enjoy reading this book for both the information and the adventure in it. It is fun and fast paced with the kind of action that will draw children in and keep them interested until the very end. The people we meet along the way are quite interesting and there is a lot to learn from reading this book. Overall I enjoyed the book and recommend this for all middle graders and anyone else interested in a quick and fun read!

Book Review: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazlewood

About the Book:

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis—with explosive results.

Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project – a literal dream come true – Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school – archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

But when her equipment starts to go missing and the staff ignore her, Bee could swear she sees Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas… devouring her with those eyes. The possibilities have all her neurons firing.

But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

My Thoughts:

Love on the Brain is another rom-com with characters from STEM backgrounds. This is another enemies to lovers story that follows Bee and Levi as they start off on opposite sides of the board and work their way towards a common understanding. If you enjoyed The Love Hypothesis, then this book is for you.

I found the book to be quite along the lines of the previous book. There was nothing remarkable about the characters, however, I did enjoy reading about Bree’s different points of view, especially her handle on twitter focusing on What would Marie Curie do? Bree is an ardent fan of Marie Curie and spends most of her time wondering how she would have handled different situations. This serves as an inspiration for her most of the time to go ahead with her decisions and to tackle most of the problems in front of her.

Both Bree and Levi are exceptional and very good in the respective fields and roles. Due to a prior misunderstanding, they spend most of their time against each other until they find out that they have a common goal. From here, the narrative shifts and becomes quite interesting. Though some of their banter didn’t interest me much, I enjoyed reading about them overall. I also enjoyed reading about some of the scientific aspects of the story that the author expertly brings into the plot. These were well written and show how the author draws upon her expertise as well while writing the story.

This book was a feel good book that I could read quickly. I was not as invested in the characters as I would have liked to be, but this didn’t take away from the overall plot. I did enjoy reading the book and I would definitely recommend it as a one time read for all fans of a good romance novel.

Book Review: Shut The Lights by Smita Bhattacharya

About the Book:

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A dark and unpredictable tale of family secrets… and the lengths we go to, to save the ones we love. For lovers of non-formulaic domestic noir suspense.

For this family, the lockdown came as a blessing.

On 24 March 2020, with merely a four-hour notice, the Indian government declared a three-week lockdown as a containment measure for COVID-19. In terms of scale and severity, this lockdown was unparalleled worldwide. However, quite unexpectedly, for a family of four, cooped up in a plush Mumbai apartment, it came as a blessing.

On the face of it, Suvini, Mridul, Damien, and Tara belonged to an upper-middle-class family, with its typical privileges and pressures. But inwardly, each of them held a dark secret that threatened to derail their very existence. And the shutting down of everything had given them the unique opportunity to get away with it.
Or not.

Inspired by actual events.

For readers of Herman Koch, Elizabeth Haynes, and Leila Slimani.

My Thoughts:

Every time Smita tells me that she has written another story, I jump at the chance to read it. I was lucky to get introduced to her two years ago and I have been a fan of her writing ever since. What intrigues me the most is how she takes everyday incidents or current situations and turns them into a complete story, replete with strong characters and an entertaining plot with twists that you don’t see coming.

Shut The Lights is a suspense novel set during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first lock down in India. This was a time of great confusion and uncertainty wherein we did not know what was happening, what to do, how to stay safe etc. Smita took this feeling and situation and turned it into a story that will have the reader on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what happens next.

In this book, we follow an upper-middle-class family as they navigate the lockdown and deal with being confined within the house all the time. We observe their strained interactions while the cracks in their relationships that were barely visible start to come to light. However, the most interesting part of this story is in the twist and how the family comes together, despite the web of lies, as one to protect their own and try to hide a shocking secret.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as the feelings of the characters and their reactions to a lot of the situations mirrored our own during the first lockdown of the pandemic. The book is relatable in this sense and full of mystery with well developed characters who could be anyone around us. I strongly recommend this book for those who enjoy reading non-formulaic domestic noir suspense as mentioned in the blurb.

The Freedom Manifesto: Seven Rules to Live a Life of Your Calling by Karan Bajaj

About the Book:

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In 2019, Karan Bajaj quit his job as Discovery India’s head to start WhiteHat Jr with the mission of making every kid a creator in this world. At the time, everyone thought Karan was reckless to give up a high-flying corporate career at the age of forty, but eighteen months later, WhiteHat Jr was acquired by BYJU’s for $300 million. On the surface, it was one of the fastest startup-to-exit journeys in India, but the seeds of this were planted a decade ago when Karan first decided to create his own set of life rules.

In The Freedom Manifesto, Karan, for the first time, reveals these secrets to help you transform your life. Unconventional, practical and no-nonsense, these seven rules will help you prioritize what matters most, radically transform your mindset from an employee to an owner, create a daily routine to end self-doubt and negativity and break the shackles of conformity to design a life of your calling. These rules will set you free, not just financially, but also help to reveal your best self.

My Thoughts:

The Freedom Manifesto is insightful and gripping in a way that I did not expect. I generally do not read non-fiction and especially books of self-help or self-improvement (not yet anyway!). However, this book is indeed a stepping stone for me, inspiring me to consider reading more books out of my comfort zone ( usually fiction) and to explore new avenues and genres.

The book draws on the author’s personal experiences as the basis for explaining several simple steps to transform your life. Karan doesn’t just talk to us about his successes but highlights his failures and the lessons he learnt from them. He is open, accepting of his decisions (both the ones that worked and those that did not), precise and clear in his thinking and critical of himself in a way that draws the reader in, igniting sparks of interest in following his journey. Through this journey, we also read about steps that we can follow to help ourselves, questions to ask to help introspect and suggestions on what to do after we have thought of the answers. I found the style of writing and presentation to be quite unique and this is what captured my attention. The book and writing are personal but written in a way that anyone can understand or relate to and this is something I quite enjoyed.

In conclusion, I truly enjoyed reading this book even though some of the formulas went over my head. This is something I would have to truly look into at some point. In general, I realized that a lot of the questions that Karan raises or suggests that we ask ourselves are ones which I have thought of but never focused on specifically. The point which sticks with me is what to do with the answers once have them and how to prioritize things which are important to us. All this makes this book worth reading!

Book Review: Pressing Buttons / Presionando Botones (Short Dual Language Story) by Robert King

Pressing Buttons / Presionando Botones (Short Dual Language Story)

About the Book:

“Don’t press the button,” That was the general consensus. I’ve been told that at least a hundred times; the last time by a grizzled veteran of the spaceways in the Vega 3 spaceport cantina.

“It won’t matter if you do, son,” he told me casually. “All you will gain is a few hours at the most. And what good is that going to do? So you can float out there in the emptiness, just waiting for your air supply to run out? It’s better to go fast, in a flash. Trust me.”

I stared at the button on the control console. It was red of course, big and red; but not so big it couldn’t be pressed by a single finger. My palms were sweating as I struggled over the decision.

I had to make the decision soon. I only had a minute and half left. My right index finger hovered over it. Did I press it, or didn’t I?…

An Exciting Dual Language Story

This book is for anyone that is learning Spanish or English, young or old, beginner or expert.

This Spanish/English story is presented in three versions. The first version is an alternating Spanish/English format, where the reader can first read a paragraph in Spanish, and then follow along in English. The second version presents the entire story first in Spanish, and the third version, in English. In this way, the reader can practice their comprehension with the full story.

« Pressing Buttons » is a great short story presented in the original English with excellent Spanish translation on each paragraph offering readers a unique learning aid as well as a superb entertainment.

Short stories serve as great tools to develop or practice the ability to think in a second language! Each paragraph of the story in English corresponds to the Spanish translation of the paragraph adjacent to it. This aids in the learning process, both with verb conjugation and syntax.

A dual language book is an excellent studying tool of great usage for anyone who is truly interested in learning a second language. As opposed to memorizing phrases or forcing yourself to finish up another dry foreign language grammar or verb manual, a dual language story keeps you eager and excited to turn each page!

My Thoughts:

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pressing Buttons is a short story written in both English and Spanish. The story itself is simple with a relatable dilemma presented to the reader. Additionally, the protagonist/narrator of the story faces many questions that come up when faced with a do or die situation set on a spaceship, thus bringing in a Sci-Fi angle to the story.

While the story is written in a simple way, the interesting part is in the dual language. This short story serves two purposes: one is to entertain the reader; the other is to help a reader learn Spanish or English. The book is presented in three sections, the bilingual part; the story in Spanish and the story in English. This helps the reader choose which section to read.

I did enjoy this format of narration and I believe that the story helps as a learning aid for the languages.

Book Review: Breaking the Friendzone by May Lynn

About the Book:

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Revenge is sometimes best served . . . in bed

When Lacey Mason was six-years-old, her family moved to the Hamptons. A beautiful location for sure, but not much fun when you’re the only kid in the area. When Lacey stumbles upon her next door neighbor, Luke Drake, on the beach it is instant friendship. For the next four years they spent almost every waking hour together. But just as Summer inevitably turns to Fall, all good things must end. As Lacey’s family sells their house and leaves the Hamptons, Lacey and Luke vow to stay in touch. But a dramatic meeting when they are teens leaves their friendship in tatters and Lacey’s heart broken.

Fast forward seven years, and 22-year-old Lacey returns to the Hamptons. During a night out partying, who does she run into? Luke Drake. The only thing is Luke doesn’t recognize her. At first, Lacey thinks it’s hilarious–a case of karma finally catching up with the golden boy–but then she realizes that all the feelings she’s buried for so long aren’t going to stay buried . . . especially when she and Luke are thrown together by internships at Drake-Mason Pharma.

Luke Drake wants to be anywhere but the Hamptons, and he certainly doesn’t want to be interning at his dad’s company. Luke’s got a secret plan: make enough money to break away from his controlling father and strike out on his own. Then one night he sees a girl at a club and after an incredible night together, he discovers that the mystery girl is his childhood friend: Lacey Mason. He knows what he did to her when they were teenagers was wrong and is determined to spend the summer showing Lacey that he’s changed…and that they belong together.

However, family secrets, including the one that ended their friendship in the first place, may prove to be too much and Lacey may not be willing to let Luke break the friendzone.

My Thoughts:

Breaking the Friendzone is a quick and light, summer read. This is perfect for those who enjoy the friends to enemies and then lovers trope. The reader is introduced to Luke and Lacey in the beginning of the book and then the story follows their journey from this meeting. Both of them are strong willed and trying to reconcile their feelings of the past with that of the present day.

The author has done a great job of interspersing the past with the present, bringing to us the story of how Luke and Lacey knew each other, how their friendship grew and a glimpse into the secrets that pulled them apart. Lacey has a lot of leftover feelings to deal with including ones of hurt and betrayal. The characters are relatable and real for most of the time though at times they act like teenagers which makes it very childish. This is the only part that I felt could have been handled a little better.

However, I did enjoy reading this book and discovering the story of the characters in the book. This is a YA romance that will keep the reader turning the pages until the very end. As the story unfolds, secrets that were buried deeply start to come out impacting everyone in the story and we follow them as they find a way to move forward from this. The book is definitely worth a read for those who enjoy the genre or the trope mentioned.

Book Review: The Woman I Was Before by Kerry Fisher

About the Book:

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The perfect picture hides the darkest lies.

A new home can be a happy ending. Or a fresh start. Or a hiding place…

Kate Jones is running away. She has left her old life behind, changing both her own name and her daughter’s. No-one must ever connect Kate with the mistake that destroyed her life.

Starting afresh on Parkview Road – a brand new street full of newly built houses – Kate looks at the other women on the street with envy. They seem to have it all: Gisela with her busy life, full house and successful children, Sally with her exciting spontaneous marriage, her glamorous holidays, her high-flying career. The pictures that Kate’s new friends post online confirm their seemingly perfect existence, whilst Kate hides from the world at all costs.

Until one day, everything changes. Kate is called to the scene of a devastating accident, which is about to test everything the women thought they knew about each other, and themselves.

From the bestselling author of The Silent Wife, The Woman I Was Before is a book about the things we hide from those closest to us – and the terrible consequences that keeping those secrets can have. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

My Thoughts:

The story follows Kate as she relocates to a new place, running away from a past that she does not want to be known for. A small mistake changes the course of her life and that of her teenage daughter. Parkview Road, where they come to live, is not without it’s drama. The neighbors are interesting and seem to have it all together. On one side there is Gisela, living a busy and seemingly happy life with her husband and children. On the other is Sally, a successful career woman with a husband who is equally successful.

As the story progresses, we are provided glimpses into the lives of each of these three women and discover that they are not so put together as we were led to believe initially. The saying “the grass is greener on the other side” is apt in Kate’s case as she follows her friends lives on Facebook. Not everything is as it seems though and in reality there is so much that is going wrong in each of the characters lives. This is a good portrayal of reel life and real life where reel life in this case can be attributed to what is seen on social media.

Kate is a strong woman hiding from one incident that she feels she has to pay for. Even though she is found to have not been responsible in the end. Sally is dealing with a marriage that is great on the surface but at a stage where she and her husband seem to want different things in life. Gisela is dealing with everything that can go wrong with each member of her family. The author has wonderfully shown us the strength of these women and how one incident can either bring people together or tear them apart.

In the case of this story, the focus is finally on how the women come together to support each other as each one’s story comes to light. The bonds of friendship and togetherness that develop through the course of the story are delightful. I have always been a fan of Kerry Fisher’s books and it is no wonder that I picked up this book to read. As expected I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the way the characters evolved throughout the story. It did take me a little time to get captivated by the story, but once that happened I was hooked!

I strongly recommend this book and any book by Kerry Fisher. They are definitely worth reading and are more female centric with very strong women characters who are easy to relate to.

Book Review: Dead to Them by Smita Bhattacharya

About the Books:

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Moira Madhwa is the typical young, beautiful and successful urban woman until the day she goes missing. Her friends start looking for her, but quickly realize nothing is as it seems. Moira had kept devastating secrets—secrets that could wreck their lives if revealed. As days roll by, one by one, skeletons tumble out of closets, and each of Moira’s friends’ looks guilty. But did one among them hate her enough to do the worst?

A nail-biting, psychological suspense thriller, Dead to Them weaves a web of deception, lies, and paranoia in the city of Mumbai, where every face hides a dark story and uncovering it can lead to disastrous consequences.

My Thoughts:

Dead to Them is indeed a well-written psychological thriller that follows the life of Moira and the impact she has on the lives of various people. When Moira is found to be missing, there follows a series of events leading to the revelation of secrets, interpretation of lies and people’s interactions with one another take a big turn.

As readers, we are introduced not only to Moira but to a whole group of people, some who are colleagues and some who claim to be friends with her. However as the story develops, one question that pops up frequently in the mind of each character is whether any of them actually knew the real Moira. She was charismatic but also liked to play games and this is something we see through her eyes as well as those of the others.

I think Smita has done a great job in writing this story bringing in plot twists at the right moments. The story is gripping and nerve wracking, making the reader eagerly read on to know what happens next. I honestly did not see some of the twists that came and I enjoyed how each of the characters had a connection with Moira that they thought was unique.

Smita has really worked well to bring this plot to life and this is perhaps one of her best books that I have read. Readers are in for a wonderful journey as secrets surface and no-one is as they seem in the end. I strongly recommend this psychological thriller to all fans of the genre.

Book Review: Love Letters by the Sea (The Siren’s Retreat Quartet #4) by Erica Ridley

About the Book:

What happens when the proprietress of Siren’s Retreat discovers the charming romantic she’s been corresponding with is same villain turning her beloved property into a gaming hell?

When not responding to advice column letters, entrepreneurial widow Mrs. Deborah Cartwright runs bright, beautiful Siren’s Retreat, legendary for helping her lovelorn guests find their perfect match. Deborah experienced love years before, and lightning does not strike twice. Although there might be a light flirtation with a certain anonymous letter-writer she’s definitely not falling for, there’s no time for romance. Not whilst a heartless blackguard is in town to wrest her beloved inn out from under her!

Clever, career-minded Mr. Patrick Gretham is the trusted man-of-business for a powerful lord, who is eager to turn this perfectly situated property wasted on lovebirds into a gambling hell the likes of which no one leaves with their fortunes intact. Over Deborah’s dead body! The beautiful proprietress hates everything Patrick stands for and will fight him every step of the way. Except when they find themselves on opposite sides of a plume. Or falling into each other’s embrace…

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Erica Ridley’s books for some time now and so it was inevitable that I would pick up this book to read next. I have been reading the books in this series out of order, but the best part is that they can also be read as a standalone with only a little backstory running through. This is explained in some way during the story making it easy for the reader to follow the many characters and situations.

The story follows widow Deborah Cartwright, the proprietress of the Siren’s Retreat, a place known to bring people together through love. Having lost her one true love many years ago, she takes pleasure in watching other people find love without any expectations for herself. She devotes her time to the running of Siren’s Retreat and corresponding with a secret someone through letters.

I really enjoyed this part of the story which built up the romance and kept it intriguing. Once Deborah meets Mr. Patrick Gretham, all things change and the inklings of love starts stirring. This entire story is well written and being a novella is a rather quick read! The story is uplifting and full of simple and fun moments and is definitely worth reading!

Book Review: An Affair by the Sea (The Siren’s Retreat Quartet #2) by Erica Ridley

About the Book:

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What happens when a wallflower’s extremely make-believe fake suitor appears in the flesh just in time to ruin all her spinsterly plans?

Orphaned pianist Allegra Brown is a poor relation with nothing much to recommend her, save a minuscule dowry and a very big imagination. She has spent the past several years as governess to her younger cousins, who are now ready for their come out—and want Allegra to marry, too. Specifically, they eagerly await the return of Allegra’s dashing, handsome, swashbuckling, conveniently absent and secretly fictional fiancé, the dread pirate Captain L’Amour.

The only place Mr. John Sharp strikes fear is in the courtroom, where his neat, ordered mind is renowned for winning every case he presents. John loves predictability and longs to be a chef. Unfortunately, every time he puts on an apron, the entire kitchen catches fire. Much like passion burning between him and a certain wildly unpredictable spinster, who seems to have confused him for a dashing, exciting pirate. By fulfilling her fantasies, can his dreams come true…together?

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few books by Erica Ridley before and so it was natural to request this upcoming book of hers from NetGalley. The story follows Allegra Brown and her younger cousins on an unexpected journey towards love and a fulfilling life. Having lived with her cousins and uncle since she was quite young, Allegra was used to being the one in the shadows, taking care of her cousins but not being noticed. This is until they almost run over Mr. John Sharp, handsome mad with a striking personality who seems to fit the mold of the made up Captain L’Amour.

It was indeed love at first sight for both our protagonists but I enjoyed how the story built up to it and how they find their space with each other. The characters are fun to read about and the setting is picturesque and beautiful to imagine. This is a quick read and is quite entertaining with romance, music, tasty food and a whole lot of fun. The bond that Allegra shares with her cousins is heart-warming and I did enjoy the way they worked to push Allegra and John together.

Overall this is a pleasant read that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a good romantic read!