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: Before We Grow Old by Clare Swatman

About the Book:

Some people are just made for each other…When seven-year-old Fran first met Will they knew instantly that they were made for each other. For eleven years they were inseparable, but then, at the age of eighteen, Will just upped and disappeared.

Twenty-five years later Will is back.
Is fate trying to give them a second chance?

Still nursing the heart break from all those years ago, Fran is reluctant to give Will the time of day. The price Will must pay is to tell the truth – the truth about why he left, the truth about why he’s back…

And Fran has her own secrets to hide. The time has come to decide what Fran and Will really want from life – before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

Before We Grow Old is an inspiring story of two people who find each other twenty five years later and realize that they still feel the same way about each other that they did growing up. Fran and Will were very close from the age of seven, first as friends which then grew into something more. When Will went away leaving just a letter behind, Fran was distraught and in a situation that she never expected to be in. Will on the other hand was dealing with the loss of his mother and a grieving father.

The story follows the two of them as they discover their friendship and love twenty five years later. There is a lot that was left unsaid, secrets that were hidden and feelings to rediscover and understand. This is indeed a story of second chances, learning to forgive, understanding a person’s decision and moving on in ways that make everyone all the more happier. This is also a story of seizing the moment, learning to live life to the fullest and dealing with loss.

I truly enjoyed reading about Fran and Will, their families, and friends. The story is beautifully written and fun in places where everyone comes together to try and complete a bucket list that Fran and Will prepared when they were seventeen. The author handles the concept of death rather delicately and I quite liked the way she handled the whole plot. Though sad in the end, there is something so fulfilling and positive in the way Will handles life and Fran steps up to deal with everything. In the end, the bonds of family tie everyone together and we can each learn something from this story.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and I laughed and cried along with the characters. This is definitely worth reading and I definitely recommend this book to all!

Book Review: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev

About the Book:

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From USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev comes a heartfelt short story about one woman’s journey of self-discovery and what it means to be happy.

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

My Thoughts:

The Wedding Setup is a short story that reads in the style of a Bollywood movie. It is a quick and interesting read considering the theme that is handled by the author. Ayesha suppresses her dreams and stays to help her mother at their family restaurant after her brother dies. She calms down and becomes the opposite of who she used to be. In an attempt to keep her mother happy, she starts to accept and agree with her without question.

The author handles the storyline very well and in this short story brings out a ton of emotions. The mother-daughter relationship, how it changed, Ayesha’s friendships, past love and the current arranged marriage setup. With the prospect of an arranged match and her ex turning up at her best friend’s wedding, Ayesha is torn between choosing what she wants and what would make her mother happy.

I enjoyed reading this book and I admire how the author has handled both the plot and her characters. Overall this is definitely a book that I would recommend for those who love second chance romances and an overload of different emotions!

Book Review: The Best Kept Secret by Tawna Fenske

About the Book:

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Nurse Nyla Franklin knows three things to be true. Taking care of others brings more joy than a basket full of kittens. A triple-fudge sundae can cure just about anything. And no good ever comes from keeping a secret… So when her best friend spills his biggest one ever, Nyla knows she’s not just holding a secret. She’s holding a ticking time bomb.

Mr. Always Does the Right Thing Leo Sayre knows three things to be true. Piloting smokejumpers over burning forests is the best job in the world. His best friend Nyla is the smartest, funniest, and okay, sexiest woman ever. And pain meds are apparently his truth serum. Now his post-surgery confession has everything flipped upside down and turned inside out… including his relationship with Nyla.

Secrets have a way of piling up, and it’s just a matter of time before someone lights a match. Because while the truth can set you free, it can also burn completely out of control…

Each book in the Where There’s Smoke series is STANDALONE:
* The Two-Date Rule
* Just a Little Bet
* The Best Kept Secret

My Thoughts:

Note: I received an eARC through NetGalley. The review reflects my honest opinion.

The Best Kept Secret is a romance between Nyla and Leo, who come together as a result of an unexpected secret that is revealed by Leo. Nyla has difficulties keeping secrets and usually ends up revealing everything. The book is a part of a series but can also be read as a stand alone. This is the first book that I am reading by the author.

This book then follows the after effects of the “big secret” which Leo reveals to Nyla which leads to a whole lot of dragged out family drama. I did not fully enjoy this part of the book and also how the characters react when the secret(s) are revealed. I felt that a lot of the plot points fell into place too easily and this also made me think that characters were rather two dimensional.

I did enjoy the relationship that Nyla and her older sister, Leo’s ex-wife, share. I also liked how Nyla got along with her nephew. These were well depicted by the author. I felt a little awkward about the relationship that develops between Nyla and Leo, but eventually it does fall into place.

Overall this is a decent one time read especially for those who enjoy lots of family drama and a whole lot of romance.

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: 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: 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: 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: The Forest of Allund by Wilbur Arron

About the Book:

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Young Mage Alexio Sopholus has returned home after ten years away at the Mage Academy. Although short and slight of build due to childhood sickness, he has found academic acclaim through his studies. Upon arrival in his home of Korpolis, he reacquaints himself with his old human friends and his former home. His only desire is to take up the position of forest caretaker left to him by his deceased master. The Forest of Allund is a place filled with equal parts myth, mystery, and fear. There he meets a wandering Amazon, but most importantly, his large and intelligent animal friends reside there. They all help him guard the forest against outside intruders. Soon the nature of the forces that govern and protect this place is made evident to him as he finds new sources of knowledge and power.

Although he only seeks peace and quiet, he is soon thrust into a war with a new barbarian tribe, the Zilar. They seek total domination of all the lands and are not above using slavery, genocide, and brutal repression to get their way. Alexio is forced to fight them directly using all the powers at his command. Initially successful in his efforts he finds his victories have only made him the object of intrigue by his leaders who fear his power and his popularity. His efforts at protecting the land are met with suspicion, fear, and betrayal by his own leaders.

Seeing the destruction, deceit, and betrayal around him, Alexio is forced to conclude that all his most cherished beliefs, principles, ethics, and morality are all but useless against the foes arrayed against him. To protect himself and his friends he must wage war. It will be a war without pity, mercy, and against the laws of Gods and Men. It may also make him an outcast in his own land.

My Thoughts:

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

This is the first book in the series and follows the journey of a young mage named Alexio Sopholus. Alexio has spent ten years at the Mage Academy and has now returned to his previous home. As the story unfolds, we meet various characters both from his past and those who belong to his life as a mage.

The story follows Alexio as he faces many different enemies and formulates different battle strategies. Sometimes he fights alone, sometimes he has help. I found the use of Greek words at times to be quite confusing as the meaning or references were provided only at the end. I enjoyed the way the author interspersed Greek Mythology and used it as a backbone for the plot. However, a caution to readers, be sure to have some background knowledge of Greek Mythology otherwise it can be difficult to understand the book.

The writing is average with a lot of unnecessary description that didn’t catch my attention as much as I had hoped. However, I did enjoy reading about Alexio’s plans and strategies. I also enjoyed meeting his “friends” in the forest though their names were a little hard to remember. The dialogue between him and his “friends” and the ways in which they helped him out were interesting and very well portrayed during the course of the book. I also liked the fact that Alexio lived by a very specific code and he tried to follow it as much as he could. This was a good addition to the character development of the MC.

On the whole, the book was a good one time read and there were quite a few sections that I enjoyed! I think this book and the author have much more potential. I will definitely look out for more books by the author.

Book Review: Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café by Jessica Redland

About the Book:

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Welcome to The Starfish Café – where you will find stunning views, delicious food and lifelong friendships.

Two broken hearts.

Since she inherited The Starfish Café, Hollie has poured her heart into the business, striving to keep her mother’s traditions and warm-hearted spirit alive. But behind closed doors Hollie is searching for true happiness as she grieves the tragic loss of her family who were once the beating heart of the café…

An unexpected meeting.

Jake lives by two rules: don’t let anyone get close and don’t talk about what happened. Little does he know that a chance meeting at The Starfish Café, facilitated by a fluffy lost dog, is about to turn his world upside down…

The chance to love again.

Can Hollie and Jake break down the barriers that have been holding them back from finding love and happiness, before Christmas comes around? After all, with courage, nothing is impossible…

Join top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a magical winter at the seaside, where love blossoms and lifelong friendships are made.

My Thoughts:

A huge thank you to Boldwood Books, netgalley and the author for giving me this opportunity to read this book. The review is my own honest opinion.

Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is a delightful read full of heartbreak, family, friendship and the promise of love.

The story follows Hollie as she deals with running the Café that her mother owned and the loss of her parents and brother. Christmas is always the worst time of year for her and the story follows her journey as she navigates it this particular year! We also meet Jake, a lovely person who has seen tragedy and faced a lot of bullying in his childhood. It’s thanks to the love and understanding shown by his grandmother that he grows into the wonderful human being that he is. I instantly fell in love with Hollie and Jake individually the moment I met them in the book.

The story follows these two people are they find each other by chance thanks to a small fluffy dog who brings about tremendous changes in their lives. He not only forges a bond between them, he helps bridge the gap and acts as a catalyst to the breaking down of multiple walls. I truly think that the dog is the true hero of this story!

The author has done a wonderful job with the setting and the characters. The place is described really well and to me it felt magical. There is something welcoming about a café by the sea and the warmth of family and familiarity. As for the others, I loved Angie and her daughter Katie. They brought light to the book and stability to Hollie as an extended and accepted family. 

Be prepared to deal with a rollercoaster of emotions as the characters’ pasts are revealed and as they start to deal with loss and move towards acceptance. Overall this is a lovely book about two people who find their way back to being themselves and in the process find lasting love.