Book Review: Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I was provided with an advance reader’s copy of the book via NetGalley by Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a bittersweet novel about healing old wounds and finding a new place to call home…

Roseanna Chaldecott spent her life as a high-powered lawyer in Manhattan. But when her best friend and law partner dies suddenly, something snaps. Unsure of her future, Roseanna heads upstate on one tank of gas and with no plans to return.

In the foothills of the Adirondacks, Roseanna discovers the perfect hideout in a ramshackle farm. Its seventy-six acres are rich with possibilities and full of surprises, including a mother and daughter squatting on the property. Although company is the last thing Roseanna wants, she reluctantly lets them stay.

Roseanna and the young girl begin sculpting junk found around the farm into zoo animals, drawing more newcomers—including her estranged son, Lance. He pleads with Roseanna to return to the city, but she’s finally discovered where she belongs. It may not provide the solitude she originally sought, but her heart has found room for much more.

My Thoughts:

I am thankful to once again have been given the chance to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s next upcoming novel! Heaven Adjacent teaches us to appreciate the small things in life. It teaches us that it is okay to be scared, everyone is scared, but, there is no need to run from it. It teaches us to trust those around us, to open ourselves up to people and to just be happy with the things we have.

Roseanna, our protagonist, makes the sudden split-second decision to just up and run. She wakes up one morning with the urge to get away from the city, her world and the life she leads. Part of her is grieving due to the loss of her best friend/ law partner and the other part of her is trying to reconcile with the fact that life is too short to waste away without enjoying it. As she drives away in her fancy car without a specific destination in mind, Roseanna lands up somewhere near the Adirondacks where she finds a perfectly acceptable farm.

As she settles and tries to make a home here, she allows a mother and daughter to stay on the premises. Slowly, a few more people happen upon her place, all seemingly in search of paradise or peace. At first Roseanna is irritated by the presence of other people, but as time passes, she starts to accept them. This seems to bug her son when he finally finds out where she is, through a news article about her animals sculpted from the junk around, and comes to convince her to go back. He does not understand her sudden decision and as he starts to spend some time with his mother, the two of them discover things about the other that they never knew or understood before. Talking about their lives, their relationships and who they are, a knew sense of peace and acceptance develops.

This story is one of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Roseanna finds a new kind of peace, a new hobby, and learns to accept the people around her. They all have something to teach her about life and her relationship with her son. This is a heart-warming story that is very well-written and pushes the reader towards introspection. It helps the reader understand that it is okay to want to escape, but don’t be rash about it, and be sure to let in the ones you love. It will make a world of difference. Be open about your thoughts and don’t be afraid to speak up. This is how a person can learn and grow into a better human being.

One again, this new and upcoming novel by author Catherine Ryan Hyde is a must read as it touches upon relevant and relatable topics!

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

About the Book:

Someday, Someday, Maybe

A charming and laugh-out-loud novel by Lauren Graham, beloved star of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, about an aspiring actress trying to make it in mid-nineties New York City.

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.

My Thoughts:

Someday,  Someday,  Maybe is a story of finding yourself amidst the glamourous world of acting (theater and films). Written in a fresh and quirky manner, this story will speak to the soul of every reader, ever dreamer and in general every person who reads it. Even though the setting is pretty specific (set in a world that the author understands best), it is easy to relate to the hopes, aspirations, heart break and search for love and meaning in life of the protagonist.

The title resonates throughout the story, reminding us that this thought has occurred to all of us at different times. Franny is an aspiring actress who is trying to find her place in the acting world. She believes in work that is fulfilling and meaningful. As she stumbles through with a particular deadline in mind, we follow her journey and her encounters with people, her decisions and the consequences of those. There is a lot to learn and as she starts to find her way, Franny realizes that the idea she had in her head of the acting world, might not coincide with the reality. Luckily she has friends and well wishers who support her along the way and teach her, helping her to find her place.

The author introduces us to the hard-work and dedication required to make it as an actor/actress as well as the number of people involved. It is an interesting and intriguing glimpse into the world of acting and the author handles the plot very well. The story is enjoyable and overall a wonderful read! The people we meet as the story progresses are well thought out and have crucial roles to play in this story. The author gives us so many points to take away from the story, with a fair amount of emphasis on staying true to one’s beliefs and ideals.

If not today, then, Someday, Someday, Maybe, it will indeed happen! Dreams do come true as long as we put in a fair amount of effort!

Book Review: Roller Coaster in Tehran by Y. I. LATZ

About the Book:

Roller Coaster in Tehran

Imagine being sent to spy on your country’s worst enemy!

Dr. Amalia Tavori is a mother of three and an expert rollercoaster engineer with a short fuse and an insatiable appetite for adventure. She is forced to join the Israeli Mossad to save her husband from economic collapse. Amalia is sent under false identity to Tehran, the capital of Israel’s worst enemy, to help the Iranians build a grandiose amusement park.

Every day could be Amalia’s last!

Roller Coaster in Tehran reveals an intimate picture of the exceedingly dangerous daily life of an Israeli spy in Tehran. Amalia knows no boundaries and has no shame. She fools both her enemies and her operators from the Mossad, working out of her own deep inner convictions.

Can Amalia complete her mission without losing her life?

When a grave disaster befalls her family in Israel, it becomes even more difficult for her to perform her secret mission. This book redefines the concepts of loyalty, betrayal, enemies, and compassion. The image of an ordinary woman emerges – one who yearns for true love but who has been forced to become larger than life itself. She is prepared to sacrifice herself for her country, but not to sacrifice her life for an existence without love.

My Thoughts:

Meet Dr. Amalia Tavori an Israeli spy for the Mossad and an expert rollercoaster engineer. She is sent to Tehran on mission, under the ruse of helping the Iranians build a huge amusement park. Being a part of this world and the work, doesn’t deter Amalia from enjoying the thrill of it all. The exhileration she feels when she travels on missions seem to have made her crave danger more, taking her away from her family. A mother of three, Amalia finds that her relationship with her husband has sunk, mostly due to how he dealt with the loss of their money, forcing her to join the Mossad in the first place, to save him and their family. Having gotten accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it is rather difficult to perceive any other way of life.

While on mission in Tehran, Amalia is forced to reconnect with her old friend, to renew old ties as she continues to get closer to her friend in order to get to her husband. Through all this, we see the compassionate side of our protagonist as she struggles to deal with some of the facts presented to her, which seem to contradict the nature of the people she sees everyday. As the story progresses, we see a more sinister plan in place and a stronger character in Amalia as she decides to fight for what is right was well as a life filled with love.

A heart wrenching and deeply moving story, the author brings to us the trials and tribulations of a mother and her love for her children, her country and herself. We follow her as she navigates through heart ache, desire, and hurt among other emotions. We meet some interesting characters, central to the plot and who add a lot of substance to it. This story teaches us about making choices and the consequences each choice may have.

Book Review: Henry and the Hidden Treasure by B.C.R. Fegan

About the Book:

Henry and the Hidden Treasure

Henry and the Hidden Treasure is an imaginative adventure a young child has in defending his pocket money against his little sister. Henry constructs elaborate defensive measures that he is sure will stand up to the clever ambitions of Lucy. Little does he know, Lucy has a few tricks of her own.

With a focus on introducing children to the use of ordinal numbers, Henry and the Hidden Treasure also draws out some important qualities of being a kid – such as creativity, the value of listening to parental advice, and of course, being nice to your sister.

My Thoughts:

A simple enough children’s story, this book seeks to enlighten children about the importance of listening to your parents and of having an imagination and not shying away from it. It also subtly brings out the concept of ordinal numbers and thus proves to be a useful way of teaching a mathematical concept to children.

The story is imaginative and Henry’s ideas are highly amusing. However, though it is a short story, it felt very abrupt and incomplete, as though the whole point of the plot is not yet conveyed. Looking at this from a child’s point of view however, it proves to be enjoyable and just enough to perhaps keep their attention.

This is a good story to use for both fun reading and as a teaching aid with it’s wonderful illustrations.

Delve into the depths of history with The Boy from Pataliputra by Rahul Mitra

About the Book:

The Boy from Pataliputra

It is 326 BC and Alexander, the barbarian king of Macedonia, has descended upon Bharatvarsha with a multi-national horde of Yavanas, Pahlavas, Shakas and Bahlikas.

As the invader advances relentlessly and wins bloody battles in quick succession, as local rulers fall over each other to shake hands with the enemy and as the students of Takshashila University break into open revolt, one young man is faced with a terrifying choice, a choice that threatens to tear his carefully constructed world apart. for Aditya is the boy from Pataliputra, the boy who was once a reckless and carefree aristocrat, but who has now been forced to become a man with a purpose to fight for honour and love.

With a sweeping narrative and interesting everyday characters like the smelly old dhaba owner Tanku, Philotas the unlucky Greek soldier, the no-nonsense medical student Radha, Pandi the hard drinking mercenary and the lovely Devika, the Boy from Pataliputra is the mesmerizing story of a young man’s growth to maturity, but also, equally, a story about the rise of a nation.

My Thoughts:

Delve into the depths of history and a different phase in India’s story. The Boy from Pataliputra mianly focuses on Aditya Vikram, a young carefree, reckless boy, forced to grow up and learn the ways of life. It is a story of life, learning, finding a purpose, but this is not the entire plot. In addition, there is a deeper plot dealing with Alexander’s invasion of India. However, in this book, we are given but a glimpse of him and his army, focusing more on life in Takshashila.

It is evident that the author has done copious amounts of research before writing this book, ensuring that a lot of points are historically correct and also that the way of life is as accurate as possible. The techniques of sword fighting are also explained in great depth with a strong attention to detail. Of course, with the allowance of creative liberty and interpretation, there may be some differences in character sketches, even among the characters whose names we are familiar with. The author slowly introduces us to various well-known people like Charaka, Chanakya, Chandragupta, all at various stages of the story.

The story begins by introducing the reader to Aditya, his brother and the way of life in Pataliputra. When his brother is wrongly framed and hanged, Aditya is taken away from there by trusted friends and sent to Takshashila, with the advice to wait and learn. He is told that someday he might get his chance for revenge, but first he needs to prepare and live his life a little. As he journeys, he learns the meaning of hardship, hardwork and a way to deal with his new life. Slowly, we see him grow into a different and better human being, careful, and loyal. But as this progresses, we also meet Pandi, who takes over his training and responsibility for him, making him into the man he becomes. We also meet a number of people who are integral to this story and who compliment Aditya’s beliefs and support in bringing out his character.

As previously mentioned, though the major focus is on Aditya, the reader is given a glimpse into how the nation can rise and come together, into new beliefs and the advocacy of one country! The final Battle of Hydapses, gives us a glimpse into the invasion led by Alexander and gives us a taste of what is to come in the next books! The Boy from Pataliputra is a well-written story with some wonderful messages of learning. The story flows well and is simply written. It’s a refreshing and enjoyable read, not only for history buffs, but for those who would love to know more about a time in India’s history that isn’t generally touched upon in books!

Dark and sad, Paige Dearth brings out a part of life that many don’t see, in her book When Smiles Fade!

About the Book:

When Smiles Fade

Emma’s father’s coldblooded beatings and the ultimate abuse to which he subjects her, lays the foundation of the person she becomes. As she matures into a resourceful teenager, she is unwilling and unable to stifle her desire for revenge. Reaching her breaking point she can no longer control the impulse to fight back and finally takes matters into her own hands.

Having learned the art of hatred from her father and the mastery of manipulation from her mother, young Emma now sets out to make a better life for herself, leaving the memory of the abused child she had once been behind her. Hardened by the heartless brutality she encounters and the dangerous situations she must overcome in the course of her journey, she faces every challenge that comes her way in her quest for a normal life for herself and for those she loves.

Finally a person emerges from within that guides her toward a better life until she learns of a secret that sets her on the path of ultimate redemption.

 My Thoughts:

What would you do if your only option to survive is to do anything? Would you resort to killing the people who hurt you to protect the ones you love? What does it mean to be hated and hurt? How do you live in a family devoid of the basic emotion that connects them, love and trust? How does your upbringing shape who you ultimately become?

These are the kind of questions that this book raises and answers in some ways. There cannot be a right answer, it’s more of a perspective which the author brings out in a gentle manner. This is required when dealing with topics of abuse and hurt. Paige Dearth introduces us to Emma and her younger sister, who are subject to severe abuse from their father, with a mother who turns the other way through all this. To be frank, it is expected that the children will be traumatized, and that is putting it mildly. These experiences can change a person and the author portrays the same through the protagonist, Emma. She is strong-willed and resourceful while at the same time has a pleasing personality. It becomes difficult to dislike her or condemn her actions when she is after all doing her best to survive.

The people the sisters encounter along the way leave profound impacts on their lives. Some help them and end up becoming life long friends while the others end up somewhere in a ditch, and that’s putting it mildly. Everyone craves normalcy and a mundane life at times and the sisters are no different. However, tragedy seems to strike  so many times, it’s a wonder that they still find reasons to smile. In the end, Emma has the last laugh, but it was worth it all.

The author’s writing is bold and to the point and she doesn’t hold back on her descriptions. There is no stone left unturned in the journey of the sisters and Emma finally learns that you move on – “When smiles fade”! The title is apt and the reader understands this eventually. The story has a lot of smaller plot lines, with each encounter giving us a different glimpse into the characters who support this story and take it forward. The characters are well developed and clearly defined, giving the reader a clear idea of their personalities and at the same time helping us understand how they fit in.

The final question of “Will she find redemption and be happy?” is answered and I really enjoyed the way the story ended. It proved that Emma is a survivor and this is an inspiring thought. There is a lot to learn and understand in this book and I strongly recommend the same to all.

Book Review: Granjy’s Eyes by Matt McAvoy

About the Book:

Granjy's Eyes

Meet Ollie.
Well-educated and spoilt – a rich kid, fun-loving party-goer and brutal sociopath. Ruthlessly arrogant Ollie takes what he wants, when he wants it. But Ollie’s going to learn, the hard way, that for every action there’s a consequence, and for every bounty a price.

Because living with Granjy isn’t the bed of roses he thought it was going to be; the blind old lady sees everything – sees him – and most of all sees the monster he is becoming. It was she that made him rotten-to-the-core, and now his payment is due – Ollie will tear apart his own dark soul, and Granjy will teach him new meaning of the word ‘remorse’.

My Thoughts:

I come away with mixed feelings after reading this book. At the end, I just gave a sigh of relief that it is over. Some parts of the book had me cringing in horror and wonder at the kind of things the protagonist gets up to. More than that, it amazed me to read about his justification and rationalization of various events.

Our protagonist lives with his grandmother for a good number of years after being kicked out of his parents house. The dynamics between Ollie and his grandmother is weird enough to raise eyebrows, but is well portrayed in the book. However, it is sad that even though Granjy knew everything about Ollie, she didn’t have the mental strength to stand up to him and put him right, and in the end it cost her dearly.

Ollie is a self-absorbed, money minded and materialistic human being, used to getting his own way and not being accountable for anything he did. This is re-enforced when his grandmother always stands up for him and seems to always see the good in him. This particular relationship and Ollie’s ideas will be severely tested later on in the story. The author’s style of writing is quite different and it took me some time to get into the book. It feels abrupt and there seems to be a lack of flow between chapters. This isn’t that much of a problem since the plot seems to flow on in a clear direction.

The characters are interesting and developed to some extent, though there could have been some more depth given to Ollie. There are many incidents that are not even described enough but are mentioned quite extensively, seemingly to make the reader imagine additional details by themselves. The author maintains the pace of the story and the atmosphere quite well. The story moves at a steady pace, the destination becoming clearer and clearer as we progress, with a climactic ending that I am sure no-one will see coming.

A decent pick-me up for those who enjoy psychological thrillers which also touch upon horror.