Round Up: Top 5 books read in 2021

Hello to all my wonderful readers!
I hope that you and your loved ones are safe and the holidays are treating you well.
This is my first Round Up post for the year. I would like to highlight my favorite books of the year which honestly were 5 star reads and beyond for me!

I am listing the books in no particular order, but they really made a difference to my choice of books to read and authors to follow this year!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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The author has done a brilliant job and the story is gripping until the very end! There are so many twists and turns that it is impossible to stop reading once you start! This book is a must read!

The Wrath of the Hellfires (Book 4 in the Vikramaditya Veeragatha series) by Shatrujeet Nath

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In conclusion, this book is worth the read as is the entire series! The Vikramaditya Veergatha proves to be a treasure trove of mystery keeping the reader guessing until the very end! The readers are in for a treat and eventually arrive at a conclusion that will satisfy everyone with strong characters fighting to save humanity against all odds!

The Last Queen by Chitra Baneerjee Divakaruni

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This book is well-researched and very well-written. The author brings to us a story that is long forgotten, but one that should be known. It shows us what a woman can do and how much she is capable of dealing with, both physically and emotionally.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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This is a wonderful story that is told in a manner that will leave the reader spellbound. The author casts a wonderful web of magic on reader that carries them along until the end. I loved reading this book and am looking forward to reading the next book in this series!

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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I am yet to post my review for this book but I thoroughly enjoyed the duology and the concept of the book. I highly recommend this series to everyone!

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Do share your best books of the year or any book recommendations for me for next year!

Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

About the Book:

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Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely adored this book and couldn’t put it down once I started reading it! Fable is one of the most talked about books this year and I must admit to being quite intrigued by it. So many people were reading it and talking about it and I finally decided that I had to know why. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the book and the plot and the characters.

Fable is strong willed and with a unique set of skills that sets her apart. We follow her as she tries to navigate the island where her father left her after her mother died and their ship sank. No-one knows who she really is and she has made a promise to keep it that way. As she works for a chance to get off the island, we are given a glimpse into her life and the world around her.

With a plan to get off the island and reach her father’s place, Fable enlists the help of West and by extension his crew on the ship. This leads to a fast paced adventure filled with secrets, villains, dangers of the sea, trust issues and eventually fast friendships that mean more than anything. I would also like to mention the budding romance that adds more flavor to the plot making it worth reading.

All the characters have their own story to tell and their own agenda, but when brought together, it feels as though the story is complete. The author has a wonderful way with words painting a picture of the seas and islands that the characters visit. It is also easy to imagine the scenes as they unfold and this is the kind of story telling that reminds me of reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings all over again. The story is rich in detail and brings to us a new plot and world that any reader would be pulled into.

I was invested in the book and highly recommend it for all fans of fantasy fiction out there! This is worth it! I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the second book too!

Book Review: Running from the Pack by A J Connor

About the Book:

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What would you do if the wolves came for you?

A month ago, all I cared about was finding my next party, but then a werewolf bite changed me. Now I’m being hunted by the wolf queen of the south, the fate of the city hangs in the balance, and the hot guy in the local coffee shop is teaching me to fight naked (it’s a wolf thing).

Learning that there are werewolves in the world is amazing, and all I want is to find out more, but it’s hard to relax and enjoy your new body when a tyrant’s out to get your friends. Sure, I could give up on nights out to focus on mastering my powers, but what’s the point in winning if you can’t have fun along the way?

The world’s weirder than I thought, and a lot more dangerous. The question is, do I run from the danger the wolf pack presents, or is it time I learned to stand my ground?

A brand new British urban fantasy series, full of power, politics, and passion, set in the bustling streets of Leeds.

My Thoughts:

Running from the Pack is an urban fantasy fiction story set in the time where werewolves live among humans (in secret) and still thrive. The protagonist is new to the city and only wants to have fun. Little does she know how her life is going to change with just one bite. The story follows her as she discovers and navigates life as a new werewolf and establishes new relationships with people.

I found the writing to be average and the characters pretty one dimensional. I was not able to fully relate to them and the plot. However, I think that the author had a good idea and it could have been executed much better. The tensions between packs and the bonds of friendship that develop are something to note in the book.

Overall I think that this is a one time read for fans of the paranormal fantasy fiction genre. I think that it was not my cup of tea but I am sure it would still be worth reading for many readers out there!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

About the Book:

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Emmie let out a huge sob – “It’s not a film set”, she cried. She held onto Jack for a moment, then took a step back, closed her eyes and shouted – “WHERE AM I?”

When Jack and Emmie suddenly find themselves transported back to London in 1940, they find a world both familiar, yet very different. As they dodge falling bombs and over-zealous policemen, they befriend Jan – a lonely Polish refugee. Together, they must work out if the shadowy figure they keep seeing is a spy and unlock the secret of getting home again…

My Thoughts:

The Blitz Bus is a delightfully quick read targeted at middle graders that takes us into 1940 and gives us a glimpse into England during the Second World War. Even though I am outside the actual target audience, I enjoyed this book and the adventure that Jack and Emmie find themselves on. While learning about the Second World War at school, Jack finds it difficult to picture the events and life of the people in his mind. Through this book, the author brings to us some of the historical facts in a way that would be easy to visualize for children.

Imagine reading about children your age who travel back in time and experience something that they are studying about. The whole idea is unimaginable, but is enough to keep children hooked. I like how the author stuck to a few specific facts and brought to us a view of the world through the eyes of children. Jan and Stan’s stories were well portrayed and it really brings home the hardships of the time. I also enjoyed reading about how the children found a way to stay there and survive until they could find their way back.

Through the book, children can learn about the situation in England, how people lived, the night raids, bunkers and even the food situation. The book is both educational and enjoyable and I think will be a wonderful adventure for all children to go on along with the main characters! I definitely recommend this book for middle graders and for anyone who loves a good historical fiction adventure mixed with time travel!

Book Review: Ivy League Liars by Grace Costello

About the Book:

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Teddy Jones is a one-upper. We grew up across the street from each other, always competing. When I got into Brown, he got into Harvard. When I dropped out early, he went on to law school. And when I ended up in a string of bad relationships, he started dating my old high school bully.

Now we’re all grown up and my sister’s getting married. Strangely enough, Teddy and Anika never dated, and now she’s marrying the perfect man and has insisted Teddy and I share the maid-of-honor duties. I’d rather stick a fork in my eye, but here we are.

So when Teddy challenges me on bringing a suitable date to Anika’s wedding, I decide it’s my turn to be the one-upper. My date is a sexy, rich, successful Yale alumni. We met on Legacy, the exclusive dating app for Ivy Leaguers, and now we’re madly in love. And he’d be perfect, if he actually existed.

That’s right, I made the guy up! Now I have to download the app and find this man before Teddy catches me in a lie.

My Thoughts:

Ivy League Liars is a fun-filled light and quick romance read that is based on the enemies to lovers trope. Emme is forced to share maid-of-honor duties for her sister’s wedding with Teddy. Everyone always thought that there was something between Teddy and Emme’s sister, but they are just best friends. Emme and Teddy have always tried to one up the other, always at opposite ends. They try to get along for Anika’s sake, but everyone can see that it is futile (or maybe not :D)

The story follows them as Emme finds a fake boyfriend from a dating app exclusive for Ivy Leaguers and tries to show everyone a side of her life that does not exist. What follows forms the crux of the plot as things start to unravel. Tell one lie and it can be managed but continue building on it and this leads to a whole bunch of lies whose story is difficult to sustain.

This is a fun read that has just the right amount of humor and romance that readers will enjoy. I also enjoyed the banter between the characters and how the author brought out their feelings in different situations. Though I was not able to fully connect with all the characters and some situations felt a little too unreal, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it to all fans of romance!

Book Review: Greece Actually by Sue Roberts

About the Book:

Small, shy, safe. That’s how Becky lives ever since her last romantic calamity landed her in hospital. Her comfort zone is as confining as her tiny bank balance, and fiercely guarded by her totally over-the-top mum. But the news that her ex is back sniffing round is the final straw. In a very un-Becky move, she packs her bags for the Greek island of Skiathos. Maybe the setting of her favourite ABBA movie will be just the break from reality Becky needs…

Stepping aboard the Mamma Mia! boat tour, Becky leaves her fear in the port as she sings… out loud… in public, and cries Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! to everything the Greek life has to offer. She befriends locals young, old, and absolutely perfect (hello, sizzling hot restaurant-owner Kyros!), dines on freshly baked bread drizzled in golden olive oil on a starlit date, and walks barefoot along silky sandy beaches.

When Kyros asks her to stay longer, Becky is stunned. Could she really create a new life for herself here, and trust her heart with this smooth-talking charmer? But just as she’s thinking about putting down roots, her troublesome ex makes a dramatic return, begging for her back. Will she go back to playing it safe, or will she take a chance on Greece and embrace her true dancing queen?

My Thoughts:

Greece Actually is a light hearted summer or beach read that follows Becky as she goes to Greece with her two best friends. Having just come out of an abusive relationship and living a relatively low-key life, she jumps at the chance to house-sit for her uncle while he goes sailing. The story takes us on a journey around the Greek island of Skiathos and the surrounding places. We discover places to visit and some of the local food while also meeting people who live there.

The book blurb teases a Mamma Mia themed story or a love for the movie or even a love for ABBA songs. However, I did not find this translated into the story as Becky embraces the holiday with her friends. There is not a lot of backstory provided into the characters and thus they felt quite one-dimensional. Though I enjoyed reading about the bond between the friends, I felt that not enough attention was given to them and their lives.

This is a romance set in Greece and even the romance part was a little bit of a let down. We also do not see much of ‘the ex’ until almost the very end and it is not as dramatic as it was portrayed. I was not as invested in the characters as I had hoped to be while reading the book blurb. The highlight of the book is the setting and the beauty of the Greek islands. Overall this book can be read once, but I am sure that it would still be enjoyed by many.

Book Review: The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

About the Book:

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The perfect daughter…

Jess Harper has spent her whole life trying to make her mum, Abigail happy and proud. And everything Jess does, from the clothes she wears, the job she has, the men she dates, are all approved by Abigail first.

The perfect boyfriend…

So when Jess announces that she has a new man in her life – plumber Adam – Abigail is less than impressed. ‘A plumber? Really, Jessica….’ Adam encourages Jess to break free from her mum’s manipulation, can’t she see what’s happening?

The perfect mother….

But Abigail is only doing these things to keep Jess safe, to protect her from getting hurt again…isn’t she?

Or the perfect liar?

Jess, caught in the middle, doesn’t know who to believe or trust. And then Adam vanishes without trace.

Now Jess is the police’s prime suspect and they want to know if Jess really is as perfect as she seems….

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Daughter is a gripping thriller that follows the relationship between Jess and her mother. Jess tries to live up to her mother’s expectations and is always in touch with her or around her. When she starts a relationship with Adam, a plumber, she also has to deal with her mother’s disregard for him. As she tries to maintain and nurture the new relationship and keep her mother happy, she finds herself sandwiched in between, trying to reconcile who she is and who she wants to be.

I found Jess’s character to be quite interesting. The author has done a good job in trying to portray her thoughts and feelings. The first half of the story goes back and forth between the past and present day where Adam is missing and presumed dead. As the police investigate, we follow Jess as she deals with the on-going police investigation and tries to come to terms with everything. In parallel, we also get to know how she met Adam, the nature of their relationship and the role her mother has always played in her life under the pretext of protecting her.

I found the first half of the story to be a little repetitive in the thoughts and feelings that were portrayed. However, as you progress to the second part of the story, the plot intensifies and takes a huge turn. The author has done a wonderful job with the story here, bringing to us many twists and key characters who change the course of the story. Though the story focuses mainly on Jess, her mother and Adam, there are some characters who feature in the story to shape it’s course. I appreciate how the author brought them in and handled their roles in the story very well.

What intrigued me was Jess’s mother’s nature and her thought process. I found her actions and thoughts to be interesting and I think the author handled the mother-daughter dynamics very well. As you read, the questions of what it means to be perfect and what can a person believe are raised in the minds of the reader. When secrets are revealed and lies are caught, the plot takes a big turn. This is indeed a roller-coaster of a read taking us through some pretty twisted minds and toxic relationships, but coming together very neatly in the end with a well thought out conclusion.

This book is definitely worth the read for all fans of a good thriller or mystery with a psychological angle filled with a few unexpected twists!

Book Review: Granted by Kendra Thomas

About the Book:

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Sabeara Aigoviel, princess of Aveladon, wants nothing more than for her heart to glow. The Stone-Hearted power that is received at the age of eighteen is her ultimate wish. With a grim curse looming over the realm and a neighboring kingdoms conspiring plans, contentions arise. Moments of danger summon evil forces, sending Sabeara into a whirlwind of adventure, captivity, and even love.
Rescued by a handsome stranger in a brown cloak, they navigate the kingdoms to bring her safely home. When her rescuer arrives betrothed to her beloved older sister weeks later, it is all she can do to erase their memories. Will Sabeara be able to defeat the curse on the Stone-Hearted race? And will she be able to forget the memories of her epic ventures with her cloaked rescuer?

Book Review:

Granted is Book 1 in a refreshing new tale that follows Sabeara, princess of Aveladon as she navigates her life in the Kingdom and outside it. A rebel at heart and wanting nothing more than to be Stone-Hearted, Sabeara has a restless need to escape and do more than what she does inside the Castle. She wants to restore peace to the Kingdom. Her father, the King is barely there, dealing with the grief of her mother’s death and a lot of the decisions to take fall on her older sister Jasper.

I love how the sisters have a very strong bond and are supportive of each other. In this first book, we follow Sabeara’s journey as she gets kidnapped by Obscurum soldiers and is then rescued by a very handsome stranger, Mid. As they navigate their way back to Aveladon, we follow along on an adventure filled with obstacles, new friends, new enemies and a budding romance, the reader is in for a treat! Little do they know that there would be further obstacles to their romance and secrets that reveal who they are which changes a lot of things the readers initially thought they knew.

I liked the concept of the Stone-Hearted, having different kinds of powers, reading about a supposed curse and how to end it. The author has brought to us a whole new fantasy world that is well thought out. The story is rich in descriptions and character building with likeable characters who add a lot of new dimensions to the plot.

I loved this book and am definitely looking forward to reading more of this series! This is definitely worth the read!

Book Review: Intermingled (A Retribution Series Novella) by Smita Bhattacharya

About the Book:

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A novella with the quirkiness of Japanese mysteries and lingering suspense that grows with every page.

Paul, Krishna, Gloria, and Varsha have nothing in common. Only that they have time on their hands to take Spanish language classes and are free for an hour after it to hang around in a café. Over the course of three months, the four grow close to each other, sharing the joys and tribulations of their lives. Paul is lonely after his wife’s death and wanders about the city, collecting plants. Krishna is rich, lazy, and spoilt; he is trying to woo Gloria. Gloria has a traumatic past and a penchant for gore. She also has a stalker whose attention she seems to enjoy. Varsha is the cliché of a hassled homemaker, the hour spent at the café a respite from her daily drudgery.

But none of them is ordinary. Each hides a dark secret, and in unexpected ways, gets entangled in each other’s lives. Chaos ensues.

This book is rated R; not appropriate for readers under 17 years of age; contains elements of violence, drugs, and sexual abuse.

Part of the Retribution Series of Novellas.

About the Book:

Intermingled is a novella that takes the reader on a journey into the lives of four main characters: Krishna, Paul, Gloria and Varsha. All of them attend Spanish language classes and this is where their bonds start to form. As we discover more about each person, their lives, their habits, different incidents that bring out who they are, an element of mystery gets added that drives the plot. Each character has their own story to tell but the way their lives get tangled together forms the crux of the story.

Smita has crafted a very unique story where the reader has the choice to like or dislike the characters. Though a little slow and sometimes confusing, the story gets better and better as you keep reading as the plot keeps you guessing until the very end. Just when you think you have figured the story out, a twist is brought in that once again changes the direction of the story. This is one of the highlights of the story. Secrets have a way of coming out and when they do, they can change the lives of the people involved.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella even though it is dark and somewhat twisted. The writing is magical and considering that Smita has a wonderful way with words, this is definitely worth a read!

P.S.: Take heed of the trigger warnings before reading the book.

 

Book Review: People of the Sun by Ben Gartner

About the Book:

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The explosive reveal about who John and Sarah really are and why they’re traveling through time, with their most gut-wrenching challenge yet. In the time of the Aztec, a scoundrel named Cortés arrives and the kids are forced to make an extremely difficult decision: If you could change history, should you?

For more twists, more danger, and more fun, read the third book in The Eye of Ra series, People of the Sun!

My Thoughts:

People of the Sun is a wonderful and epic conclusion to the Eye of Ra series. Once again the reader is pulled into an adventure with John and Sarah, this time to the time of the Aztec. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it brings more clarity to the characters and the timeline of events. The author also ensures to bring out the effects of the previous time travel experiences.

This book goes into some technical detail while talking about time travel and the concepts behind it. As readers, we are also in for a wonderful surprise with the turn of events and the decisions to be made. The book is indeed interactive, giving the reader enough information to get them thinking.

In this book, John and Sarah travel to Mexico during the time of the Aztecs. They end up in the middle of a war which shapes the course of history as we know it today. The most important question is then raised that I think is one to really think: If you could change history, should you? This was perhaps the most intriguing concept behind the book and I love how the author tackled the question. The characters find themselves in this dilemma and it was quite a learning experience for me as a reader to watch them on their journey of learning.

This is indeed quite a roller coaster adventure filled with historical facts, people from history, essential lessons, some science and a whole lot of fun! This series is definitely worth the read not just for middle graders but for every age group!