Book Review: 337 by M. Jonathan Lee

I was provided with a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Please note that the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

About the Book:

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note. While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby. Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth. Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

My Thoughts:

A wonderfully written novel, the story follows Sam as he goes through the motions of living every day. However, not everything is at it seems, and this is a constant theme running in the background of the plot.

Sam’s mother vanished during his teens leaving behind a letter and her rings. We do not know whether she simply decided to leave one day or something more serious happened. In the current day, Sam reconnects with his Grandmother whom he has not seen or spoken to in years in an attempt at reconciliation and a final attempt to solve the mystery behind his mother’s disappearance. We are introduced to a variety of characters including his younger brother, his father, about whom we gradually learn things, his wife, from whom he is now separated and finally his grandmother, old and dying. There are so many layers to this story and the characters that the reader is always forced to stop and contemplate the goings-on.

The descriptions are rich and vivid bringing the place and characters to life. There is love and loss interspersed with the trauma Sam and his brother faced when they were younger. Having dealt with so much in life, Sam constantly talks about the advice his therapist has provided which are very much applicable in some way to all of us. The chapters are short and easy to read and the scenes with Sam and his grandmother are beautifully written with a lot of unspoken emotions in them.

This latest book by the author is a pleasure to read and though it raises many questions that ensure the reader is kept engaged long after finishing the book. This book is a must read!

Book Review: Prism (The Color Alchemist #1) by Nina Walker

About the Book:

Prism (The Color Alchemist, #1)

What if color held the secrets to powerful magic?

Forced to move into the palace, Jessa begins training as a Color Alchemist under the direction of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Lucas. As an alchemist, Jessa must capture and harness the color of living things. Every color has a unique purpose, except red. Red is the untapped magic no one can access—until Jessa.

Prince Lucas is running out of time. His mother is deathly ill and healing magic hasn’t worked. When Lucas suspects someone is using alchemy to control her, he sets out to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

PRISM is the first installment of a unique young adult romantic fantasy series where a dystopian world with a Victorian flair meets the dynamic magic of color!

My Thoughts:

Prism by author Nina Walker introduces the reader to an intriguing concept of magic and magical abilities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The story is well-written and fast paced, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

We are introduced to Jessa, who accidently discovers that she is a color alchemist and tries to hide the truth from everyone. Once discovered, we come to know that she might be very powerful and is brought to the palace for training. The author introduces us to a dystopian world where the King rules the New Colony and a certain order is established. Anyone who shows an inclination towards Color Alchemy is brought to the Palace at a very young age and then undergoes rigorous training to join the Guardians of Color (GC).

Jessa faces a lot of push back from everyone at the palace including the other alchemists as she is already sixteen. It seems to be quite late for her to be here. There are many interesting characters including Sasha and Reed who are not easy to get a read on. The reader will not know what anyone’s intentions are until the very end. But, one thing is clear, Jessa is special and an asset to the King for whatever plan he has up his sleeve.

In addition, we are introduced to the Prince, who seems to have a different view of things than his father and is trying to find a way to save his mother who is quite ill. Add into the mix some chemistry between the two main characters and the author provides us with the perfect recipe for a book filled with magic, romance and a wonderfully new concept of magic drawn from colors!

The story will draw the reader in until the very end and is not without some well placed twists and turns. With everyone having their own agenda, what happens to the story and all the characters remains to be seen. This book is well worth the read and I am looking forward to finishing the series!

Book Review – Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

About the Book:

An Unforgettable Museum Expedition

Do you know which dinosaur had the most teeth? It was not the T-Rex, although the T-Rex’s teeth measured 12 inches. Which dinosaur had a tiny brain? Find out now.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember is the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing.

In this fun story, Miss Gina’s class is getting ready to explore dinosaurs: what they were called, how big they were, what they liked to eat. The pupils can’t hide their excitement and don’t want to waste a minute, eager to see those big creatures, especially him: the T-Rex.

They set on a quest in the dinosaur museum and had many questions for Miss Gina. While navigating the exhibition, the gang got lost but quickly found their way and had an exciting adventure.

Fans of Lily Lexington, Sally Hauss, and P. D. Eastman will not be disappointed. Children aged 3–7 will learn through play concepts of science, language arts, and math. Get yours now.

My Thoughts:

This is a simple, adventure filled story for children with a focus on Dinosaurs. The story is well-written and interspersed with pictures to provide a visual effect. Children who cannot read, can still enjoy the story as they observe the pictures and learn new words. For older children, the book focuses on teaching them new vocabulary as well as some facts interspersed into the story. I enjoyed how this short story flowed and took us on a field-trip to the Dinosaur museum. This book is definitely worth using as a teaching aid for children!

Book Review: Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber

About the Book:

Finale (Caraval, #3)

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! A ll games must come to an end…

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates were freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella saw Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finally, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun—with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.

My Thoughts:

The most awaited conclusion to the Caraval series, Stephanie Garber brings us a well-crafted ending! This is definitely one of the most talked about series in today’s world!

There is so much happening in this book that it will keep the reader hooked until the very end. The entire concept of the series is intriguing and it’s a pleasure to meet our favorite characters one last time! With the fates now freed, so much has changed in the empire with Legend now on the throne. Tella and Scarlet have their own secrets to uncover and the story follows three different angles as each of the main characters have a role to play in this final game of life and death, in the Finale! The story gives us a deeper glimpse into the characters and who they become as a result of the games and their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion and loved the way the author has crafted the plot of the entire series. A well-written fantasy fiction, this series will take the reader on an adventure that is amazing, with colorful characters whom we cannot help but fall in love with! This series is indeed a must-read and is well worth the time spent on it.

Book Review: The Tech by Mark Ravine

About the Book:

The Tech

Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments. With a history of rebelling against authority and blunt speaking, she vows to change her ways and make this assignment work.

Within minutes of her taking charge, she is drawn into a bank robbery case. She leads her new team to catch the robbers but discovers that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. The very next day three girls go missing. Before they could be trafficked out of the country, she races against time to rescue them. Soon, she begins to realize that all the cases coming her way are mysteriously connected. As she unravels the threads of a massive conspiracy, she discovers that a secret organization with immense power and authority is behind these horrific crimes. Forces within the FBI thwart her every move to discover the truth. Helping her navigate this maze is the shadowy Michael Patterson. But can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? Soon, witnesses disappear, suspects are killed, with her life and the lives of her team in lethal danger. Will she come out of this alive? Will she uncover and expose this cabal? As time starts running out, Alexandra Cassidy has to evade indictment and defy death in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts:

I would like to thank Dawn Hill Publications for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Mark Ravine brings to us an action packed thriller that follows an FBI team as they solve cases and try to take down a group of bad guys.  The plot idea is brilliant and quite interesting. I enjoyed the different characters and how they come together to work as a team. There is a lot happening in the story with varying plot lines, each case leading to another.

However, I found the book to be quite long and some parts rather dull. There wasn’t a lot of detail about the cases or the view of how the bad guys pull of what they do. The focus is on the FBI team and their additional technology expert Mike who is an expert with AI. Mike could have been an interesting character, but he just comes off as a know-it-all who seems to push the team in the direction he wants to solve the cases. It does raise a lot of questions in the mind of the reader as to who the actual team leader is.

The twist at the end and the truth about Mike is quite interesting and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the parts of the story where the team tries to work through the cases and find out who at the FBI might be trying to stop them. With some editing and re-wording, the book can be so much better as the plot is quite strong and interesting. I did enjoy this debut novel by the author, but it was a little too long for me.

I would recommend this book for fans of action-thrillers, but be prepared to spend some time on it.

Book Review: Hinterland by L.M. Brown

I was provided with a free copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Hinterland

 

Nicholas Giovanni’s life revolves around his five-year old daughter Kate. When he isn’t driving his taxi, he is taking care of her and her mother Kathleen, whose last involuntary admission to hospital was before Kate was born. When his childhood best friend, Ina, returns next door, tensions rise in the house. Already unstable, Kathleen suspicions of Ina and Nicholas grow until a day of violence ensues and Kathleen disappears.

Kate’s life is shattered by her mother’s disappearance. No-one will tell her where Kathleen is. Although Ina helps to take care of Kate, Nicholas keeps her at arm’s length. He cannot bring himself to tell the truth about Kathleen’s last day, until Kate runs away, and he realizes his silence has torn everyone apart. To find Kate and to keep Ina in his life, there are truths he must face, if it’s not too late.

My Thoughts:

Hinterland is a story of one family’s experience with mental illness as well as the choices they make and the subsequent consequences. The main protagonist Nicholas is a devoted father to his daughter Kate and takes care of her mother Kathleen. Initially we are introduced to these three characters and their neighbor, an elder woman named Tilly. She has known Nicholas since his youth. Nicholas has a strained relationship with Kathleen and we can see how that indirectly affects Kate, a five year old child at the time the story begins. We also follow along as Nicholas maneuvers his job as a taxi driver and taking care of his daughter, shielding her from anything bad as only a loving parent can do.

As the story progress, we are introduced to Ina, Tilly’s daughter and someone Nicholas has always had feelings for. With her arrival, things are set in motion as tempers run high, jealousy creeps in, doubts arise. This leads to one incident that changes all their lives. The author’s style of writing is unique and something I have not come upon very often. She leaves a lot unsaid and gives space for the reader to read between the lines and come up with their own interpretation. It’s an interesting way of handling the plot.

The characters are intriguing and I enjoyed reading about them. However, Nicholas was quite confusing and at times I did not like him. In addition, we observe as Kate grows up from a shy five year old to a rebellious teenager who does not know the truth about her mother or why she just disappears one day never to be seen again. This forms the crux of the plot leading to strained relationships and the family’s struggle to deal with the absence of Kathleen but the constant reminder that she exists/existed. I enjoyed reading about Ina and the support she provides in a quiet manner.

Though the story is slow in the first half, it picks up pace in the second half leading to an interesting open ended finish. This gives the reader space to imagine the kind of ending they want for the characters. The author has handled the concept of mental illness very well, bringing about an awareness among the readers of it’s effects on the person dealing with it as well as the effect on the people around. Even though I do have some mixed feelings about this book, I did enjoy reading it. It was a roller-coaster of emotions and finally, the truth always comes out! This book is well worth the read!

Book Blitz: In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2) by Aarti V Raman

She Hates Him But She’s In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe

Releasing on 25th October
About the Book:

When the songbird owes the business tycoon…

Former gangster, Devansh Thackeray has finally managed to carve the life he’s always aspired to.
Building a chain of seven-star hotels all over the world, a reputation for being an honest businessman…and all the women he could ask for.
Ansh’s life is perfect. Or so he thinks.
Because he is about to hit by a lightning bolt from the past that’ll make him question everything he’s worked so hard for.
And her name is Kahini Palekar.
Kahini’s life is a nightmare.
She works three jobs to pay off the loan sharks circling her.
But, Kahini doesn’t mind because she also gets to do the only thing she’s always wanted to do.
Sing.
Even if it is at a shady nightclub in the backstreets of Goa, the beach paradise of India.
Kahini’s day of reckoning arrives when Ansh arrives back in her life, right when she’s almost assaulted by the manager of the nightclub.
Ansh offers both salvation from her debt and a chance to sing at the most exclusive wedding of the decade.
But there’s just one catch.
Kahini hates Ansh’s living guts and blames him for the destruction of her life.
Even though he was the boy she once recklessly gave her heart to.
Can Ansh get to the bottom of the problems plaguing Kahini or will this songbird fly away again after repaying her debt to him?
Meet the Millionaire Foes – rising from ruin through ruthless ambition, these self-made tycoons have everything. Except, the heart of the one woman who means everything.

The Millionaire Foe Quartet series contains four steamy romances set around the world, each of which can be read as a standalone.

Read an Excerpt from In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2)

Ansh entered the bar when the lights had dimmed, already in a foul mood from the altercation he’d had outside Grungy’s.
The term “bar” was a loose translation for what the seedy confines really were. It was set in a shady part of Calangute Beach, where the locals lived. It was not the area the posh, firang tourists frequented. The air here smelled of brine and fish and cheap liquor.
The smell of the ocean was everywhere.
It was, after all, Goa the beach paradise of India.
And to everyone who came here, it promised nothing but a good time.
The patrons of Grungy’s, the small-time bar that operated till four in the morning during season, had that look about them. They were local men, embittered and looking for cheap thrills. And some willing victim to provide that for them.
Ansh knew the type. They resented the tourists for showing up and flinging their foreign currency around and expecting their silly demands of room temperature water and late-night cruises to be catered to.
And they really resented needing the silly tourists and their foreign currency too.
A classic catch-22.
But, tonight, these patrons, and that was a loose term too for what the customers of Grungy’s were, were not looking for foreign currency or cheap thrills.
They were all gathered on the rickety tables that the bar owner had graciously provided and murmuring amongst themselves while the poorly-named stage was being set up.
She was the main act tonight.
Ansh frowned and sank deeper into his chair while the bar-back set him up with a glass of the local feni – a local toddy made from fermented coconut water and rum. He frowned deeper when he saw the lipstick mark around the edge of the shot glass and gingerly cleaned the lip with his monogrammed handkerchief.
Places like these reminded Devansh Thackeray of his squalid past.
He couldn’t stand them anymore.
Then, the spotlight hit the stage. The band struck a chord and a woman in black walked up to the mike.
Ansh sat up straighter.
Was she going to start stripping or something? He hadn’t heard the best things about these places on the wharf and this one didn’t have a stellar reputation either.
And, what the hell was she doing here anyway?
He’d sent her plenty of funds seven years ago, deposited in the account her brother had set up for both of them when he had turned eighteen.
Kahini had enough money to keep her in style, because he’d instructed the company’s bankers to always replenish the funds in that account should the need ever arise. The need had never risen, to the best of his knowledge. Even though he knew the money would never bring back her dead brother.
So, was she doing this for kicks?
Some poor little rich kid slumming it thing that all the society madams were doing these days?
He honestly had no idea. And that ate at his insides, like the strength of the feni he’d gingerly taken a sip out of.
Ansh had come here to find out what the hell she’d been up to the last seven years. Since the last time he’d seen her and she’d flung bitter, accusing words at him.

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal. I have been a former journalist, editor, and even a sometime-teacher before I plunged into my dream job. That of being a full-time writer.
In fact, my three favorite words are ‘happily ever after.’
This comes in handy as I primarily write bestselling contemporary romantic women’s fiction, which is all about living happily, after going through some hard times.
My more notable works include the Geeks of Caltech and Royals of Stellangård series, Something Old, Something New, More Than You Want, and The Perfect Fake among others. My chicklit family drama, The Worst Daughter Ever, has been picked up for screen adaptation.
I always love to hang with you, my dear reader friend. I’ve created Writer Gal’s Reader Pals on Facebook for this reason and I hope to see you there.
If not, I’m there on all social media as @aartivraman but I’m most active on Instagram.
Aarti on the Web:
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Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

About the Book:

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)

A dark and enchanting fantasy adventure perfect for girls who prefer their fairytales with a twist.

Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.

Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed…

My Thoughts:

Author Soman Chainani brings us a very dark take on fairytales with several twists and turns. the story follows Sophie and Agatha as they are kidnapped and brought to the School for Good and Evil. If we go by cliches, one would expect Sophie to end up at the school for Good and Agatha at the school for Evil. But fate has a different plan and the two are swapped. Struggling to accept the situation, Agatha feels out of place as she never wanted to be here in the first place. Sophie on the other hand has always dreamed of going here and finds it difficult to settle down at the School for Evil.

As the story progresses, we follow the children through their days, getting trained to be either heroes or villains. The author brings in several twists and drops several hints as to why these girls are where they are at the school. The story is a little slow and at times the content is repetitive which made me slow down while reading.

However, at the end of the day it was a decent read and I did enjoy the premise of the story. I liked the idea that children are trained to be a certain way and then they eventually end up as characters from the fairytales we know so well and love. The climax is interesting and leads to many questions which lay down a good base for the next book.

All in all, give this book a shot! It will take you on a rather enchanting journey!

Book Review: The Pigeon Whisperer by Motaz H Matar

About the Book:

The Pigeon Whisperer

With war ravaging his home in Syria, Dabbour, an introverted, 25-year-old pigeon herder, flees to Berlin with Yasser, his childhood friend. Dabbour is trying to learn the ropes in this new country; while trying to learn German he’s fallen for his German teacher, Zara. One day in a Berlin train station, Dabbour sees a wayward, injured pigeon on the railway tracks; without thinking he jumps to save it, causing chaos and almost getting himself killed. For this, he is arrested by the police – and he realizes how much he misses home and his birds. Yasser asks Dabbour to use his talents as a pigeon whisperer to steal stray pigeons and train them to transport drugs. Dabbour agrees, then realizes it was a big mistake. Dabbour sinks further and further into the world of crime and drug-smuggling, jeopardizing his residency status in Germany. Dabbour is forced to choose between his loyalty to his new family – the drug ring – and doing the right thing. Will love be his ultimate salvation?

My Thoughts:

I was provided with a copy of the book by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The pigeon whisperer follows Dabbour’s journey as he flees to Berlin from war-ridden Syria. This book is moving in so many ways, it brings out many emotions and makes the reader pause and think. This is a story of wanting to belong, trying to hold on to an idea of self that a person has, trying to find one’s identity and place in a new country. The author brings about a contrast in view between Dabbour and his friend Yasser. As the story progresses, we see how Dabbour is drawn into a world of crime and drug-smuggling, using his talents as a pigeon whisperer, how he tries to fight against his role in this world and the role Yasser plays in convincing him.

In this story, we meet only a few characters. They are present to give us some perspective on the story and to bring out a diversity. We have Anna, a German police officer and Zara, the German teacher, who represent the people who are native to the country. Correspondingly, we meet Mr. Salim, a fellow Syrian who has been in Germany for over twenty years and who takes an interest in Dabbour and tries to look out for him.

The story is fast paced and well-crafted, raising points that we may have contemplated at different points in our lives: What does it take to belong? How far can one go for the things or people they love? What does it take to do the right thing? and many more. These questions are very pertinent and hit very close to home.

This book is well worth the read and I strongly recommend it to everyone.

Cover Reveal: Love, Scandal, and Second Chances by Shilpa Suraj

~ Cover Reveal ~

Love, Scandal, and Second Chances
by Shilpa Suraj

 

About the Book:

Arav has only ever loved one woman, Disha. But, she broke his heart to further her ambitions.
Years later, she’s achieved everything she set out to but at a steep price. She wants to come home but home doesn’t want her and her work won’t let her.
Arav knows Disha needs his help and the boy he once was can’t walk away.
But while his heart is large enough to forgive, it hasn’t forgotten.
Can they overcome the bitter hurt of their shared past, face the scandalous present and find their way back to each other? Is this their second chance at love or a first chance at redemption?

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: