Book Review: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

I’ve been only reading on the Kindle these days thanks to a combination of not having any time for a library run and managing to get hold of some interesting e-books. I had never thought I would go for so long without picking up a real book. Well, never say never seems to be the theme around here, these days. I did manage to go to the library this week, finally, but it was a quick 10 minute stop, so have had to grab what I found. This is another Netgalley book that I got approved for. Have I said how thankful I am for having discovered Netgalley?

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Katie has just got engaged a wonderful man, Dan. A man who everyone thinks is perfect for her. All her friends and family are delighted, but something is nagging at Katie.

Katie’s husband, Patrick, had died over 10 years ago. She had been mourning for him since then. Her family had been worried that she isn’t letting go and moving on until she got engaged to Dan. Something however isn’t quite right.

Katie starts having vivid dreams about Patrick. She gets transported into a different world where Patrick is still alive and they have a daughter. A life that she doesn’t want to leave. A life that she yearns for. The life she should have had. The life where the love of her life doesn’t die. The life where things are the way she wants them to be. The dreams leave Katie confused and purposeful at the same time. Convinced that Patrick is sending her messages, Katie follows her heart to go on the most unexpected and yet the most fulfilling journey possible. Katie discovers a world unknown to her, people who she gets involved with who move her in ways that she never imagined.

A book that had me in tears, which had me wanting to flip to the end just because I so wanted to know how it all ends up. A heart-wrenching tale that has your heart go out to Katie. A beautiful read. One that I would go for, armed with tissues.

The book also deals with the a lot of difficult topics like living with the loss of a loved one, the life of a hard of hearing person and foster care of children. All these have been handled so sensitively and beautifully. I love books like these which open up a perspective which I had never come across before. A beautiful book. The first I’ve read of this author, but having read this one, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

A 4.5/5 read for me and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

This book can be ordered from Amazon.

Book Review: One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson

I’ve enjoyed Alice Peterson’s books previously (reviewed here and here). Needless to say, I was very excited to lay my hands on One Step Closer to You courtesy Netgalley. 48790_One Step Closer To You_PB.indd

Polly is a young single mother. Her only focus is her young son Louis. She had a troubled relationship with Louis’ dad and wants to put it all behind her. She is also an alcoholic who is determined to stay clean for the sake of her son.

Ben’s sister died and he ended up becoming his niece’s guardian. Ben is clueless about children, and between coping with his own grief at losing his beloved sister, and looking after a five-year old, he is struggling. His little niece, Emily, isn’t talking, or eating properly and he doesn’t know what to do. Ben is also an alcoholic.

Ben and Polly come across each other and turn into good friends. Life is perfect for Polly, her life with Louis and her friendship with Ben are enough for her.

Everything seems perfect until Louis’ dad who had disappeared, suddenly turns up. Polly’s ordered little world is turned upside down and she is forced to confront the demons of her past. A beautiful story. One that had me hooked from the word go. Narrated by Polly, the book has flashbacks to Polly’s past, giving us glimpses into her life, the reasons why she is so complicated and troubled. Polly’s story is a heart-breaking one, one which you empathise with, one which has you rooting for her, hoping for her to find her way out of the mess she gets into, cheering for her when she does the right things.

The story also gives us a perspective into the life of an alcoholic, of how easily things can go wrong. Of how tough it can be for an alcoholic. The author also explores the possibility of alcoholism being genetic in nature.

It was shocking in places, had me in tears in places. I loved Polly’s character,her strengths and her weaknesses, and her brother Hugo. If anything I loved Hugo even more than Polly. I was enraged at times by the way she took him for granted, and despite all that, the strong, unbreakable bond between them was so beautifully portrayed.

All the characters had depth, and felt very real. I had an inkling of one of the revelations that came towards the end, but even that did not detract from the book.

A book I would strongly recommend. A 4.5/5 read for me.

About the Author
At the age of eighteen Alice had been awarded a tennis scholarship to America when she experienced pain in her right hand. It was rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and she hasn’t picked up a tennis racket since, a sadness that shall always be with her. The theme of disability features in her fiction, but there is nothing gloomy about Alice or her work. Rather this gives her fiction the added dimension of true poignancy.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is one of those authors whose books never disappoint me. I love the combination of a touching story and Jill’s wonderful sense of humour that never fails to come through in her books. When I saw that this book was up for review at Netgalley, I just had to request it.

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The book is based around three sets of characters Hallie, Flo and Tasha.

Hallie is a 28-year-old, with cystic fibrosis. She knows that she doesn’t have long to live, unless they find a donor for her failing lungs. She is secretly in love with her doctor Luke, but knowing that no good can come of it, given the small chances of her survival, she keeps it to herself, and devotes herself to doling out advice anonymously on her blog.

Tasha has just met with the love of her life while rummaging around in a bin, on Christmas Eve. She and Rory are head over heels in love with each other. The only fly in her ointment is that Rory love adventure sports, and Tasha, try as she might, is finding it very difficult to not worry about him when he goes off on his adventures.

Flo, has just been bequeathed a flat to live in, by Elsa, an elderly lady. The only condition being that she has to stay in and look after Jeremy. Jeremy, being Elsa’s cat, a cat with an attitude and very strong preferences. Needless to say, Elsa’s granddaughter Lena, is not pleased. She had been expecting to get the flat. Lena is bound to be even less pleased if she knows that Flo and Lena’s brother Zander might be more than just friends.

How does such different characters all tie into the story? You will have to read to find out, but I can assure you that it will be well worth the read. A brilliant book, a story that touches your heart. I love the way the author has crafted the characters, so believable, and yet so brave, especially Hallie. I loved her spirit, so generous, so giving, and yet she felt real, she didn’t feel like a character, too good to be true. Their stories run in parallel, but never feels disjointed. The story flows just perfectly. I love the way the author makes even the side characters stand out, and be memorable. I particularly liked Joe and Margot.

Hallie’s life and the challenges her condition brought with it, was a very touching and enlightening read. It is heartbreaking as well as brave at the same time. Her struggle to be noticed just as a girl, and not as an ill person, with an oxygen tank, and the special treatment that comes along with it, had my eyes welling up.

This was a book I couldn’t put down. I read it on a particularly busy Saturday and I still read it in one day, because I just couldn’t stop. A 4.5/5 read for me.

About the Author
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full-time. Jill Mansell’s books have sold over ten million copies and her titles include: Making your Mind up, Fast Friends, Good at Games, Sheer Mischief and Solo, among many others.

This book is available to pre-order at Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Hark — A Christmas Collection by Justin Bog

I love Christmas themed books. There is something about them, that draws me. The cheery spirits, the happiness, the general feeling of everything being in place. Of course, nothing can be better than reading a Christmas book during the Christmas season. So when Sage asked me if I wanted to review Justin Bog’s book, I was all for it.

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Having said that, Hark — A Christmas Collection, is a different sort of Christmas book. It is a beautifully written set of 6 stories, each of them exploring the various emotions that form part of the holiday season. Emotions aren’t normally part of traditional Christmas stories. Loneliness, sadness, hope, forgiveness, despair feelings that we rather tend to try to forget during the festive season. It is a season for happiness, and yet, so often it is sad time for many, for a many a reason.

Each of the stories are different, strongly emotional, Christmas being the common thread, running through all the stories. Beautiful stories, from the injured police officer’s reminiscences of how one Christmas changed his life forever, another story about a woman who has misplaced a present she bought for her sister, who seems to have very little interest in her lonely sister. My favourite was the one with Mr and Mrs Claus, both beautiful and heart-wrenching, brave at the same time.

A very different and yet very ‘Christmassy’ set of stories, not the usual saccharine sweet stories but one that will stay with you, haunting you, as you watch the merry festivities around you. Having said that, it is a book that you could read anytime of the year, and feel just as moved. A 3.5/5 read for me.

About the Author

Justin Bog lives in the Pacific Northwest on Fidalgo Island. Justin Bog was Pop Culture Correspondent and Editor for In Classic Style. He is an experimental cook, a lawn mower who colors outside the lines, and treat master to two long coat German shepherds, Zippy and Kipling, and two barn cats, Ajax The Gray and Eartha Kitt’n.

Book Review: The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes has been an author, some of whose books I have enjoyed immensely, while some I’ve been very lukewarm to. I came across this book in Netgalley’s titles, and couldn’t requesting for it. Luckily enough for me, I got approved as well.

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Stella Sweeney is back in Dublin. After living the dream in New York for a year – touring her self-help book, appearing on talk shows all over the USA and living it up in her 10-room duplex on the Upper West Side – she’s back to normality with a bang. And she’s got writer’s block.

Stella wants a clean break as she didn’t exactly leave New York on a high. Why is she back in Ireland so soon? Who is it who keeps calling? Stella wants to get back to being the woman she used to be. But can she? And should she?

The story goes back and forth to the Stella’s past and present, so in effect, you know what’s been happening, and only slowly do you get to understand how she got to where she did. Stella has separated from her husband, and back in Ireland after a flashy trip to America. Her daughter has chosen to get married to a man she met in America, and her teenage son, unlike other ‘normal’ teenagers does yoga and loves cooking. Stella can’t understand where she’s gone wrong. And of course, there is this tiny problem of having to write a book that she just doesn’t seem capable of writing anymore.

Over all, I was disappointed by this book. None of the author’s trademark humour nor was the plot engaging enough. Stella came across as someone who just gets carried along by the tide, sometimes an outright doormat, which made it difficult to empathize with her. I might have been disappointed because I have read much more engrossing and fun books by this author. Even her twitter updates are more fun.

The one thing that stood out for me, was the way Stella’s medical condition was described. It was vivid, and felt very real. That was one part of the book, where I could completely empathise with Stella. It made me cry and then rejoice when she recovered completely. The author must have done a tremendous amount of research to understand what patients with this sort of condition/disease go through. I did feel that she did a great job at portraying Stella’s feelings at that time. What I’ve always liked about Keyes’ writing is that they are not just ‘fun’ books, they have tackled hidden issues, like domestic violence and depression and in this book, it is the parts with Stella’s disease that I liked the most. That Stella somehow went missing when she recovered, or at least that was what I felt.

All in all, it isn’t a bad book, a 3/5 book for me, mainly because I think the author’s previous books made me expect more.

About the Author
Marian Keyes, born September 10, 1963, is a popular Irish writer, considered to be one of the original progenitors of “chick lit”. Keyes’ first novel, Watermelon, was published in Ireland in 1995. Since then she has published seven further novels and two collections of non-fiction, and has sold 15 million copies of her books in 30 languages.

This book is available on Amazon(UK).

Book Review: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place for Us is a four part saga. Part 1 and 4, I got as a review copy from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. Part 2 and 3, I just couldn’t resist buying from Amazon. Instead of posting separate reviews, I’ve decided to consolidate the four reviews into one post. Yes, lazy me. Also busy me.

Part 1
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This book came pre-approved for me from Netgalley. I had no expectations from the book, never having read the author.

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

Martha Winters is having a party. She has invited her whole family, which is spread out across the world and the invitations she sent has made most of them nervous. Each of them seem to know that something is up, and they even seem to know what Martha is about to announce, but we as the readers are clueless. The story goes on through each family member’s view point. Each of them have a story, each of them have something to hide or something to protect. Sometimes in the present, sometimes jumping back to the past. Conflicts, differences, disagreements,disatisfactions that have seemed to have lingered on for years. As it reached the end, I realized why it was called ‘Part 1’. The author left it at a stage where I was gasping for more. I so wanted to read the next part!

It was interesting, sometimes a bit confusing, as there are loads of characters. I have had to go back and re-read parts of the book, but I enjoy such books. Books that ramble, and still make me yearn for more.

A 4/5 read.

Part 2

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I had received the first part of this series as a review copy from NetGalley and had thoroughly enjoyed it. When I found part 2 on Amazon, I just had to order it.

I was a tiny bit worried that I might have to go back to part 1 to refresh my memory, but as I started to read, everything just fell into place. Martha Winters has asked her entire family to come back to Winterfold, for her birthday. Everyone seems to know that there is something Martha wants to share. Each of the family have their own baggage with them. Some with scars from their past, some with new issues and problems. What will Martha’s announcement do to them? You will have to read to find out.

All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the way the author has created her characters, each with very distinct personalities, each character stands out. Whether you relate or empathize with them or not, despite a vast array of characters in the story, each of them are memorable.

A 4/5 read for me.

Part 3
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I got approved for this book at NetGalley, but by the time I ended up picking it up, it had got archived. Now after reading the first and second parts, I couldn’t stay away from part three. Amazon, thankfully came to the rescue.

Martha’s secret is out at the end of the second book. This part mainly deals with the aftermath. The way each of the family deals with the information in front of them. It affects them all in some way. Some more than the others. Martha’s revelation leaves nobody untouched.

A slower paced, and slightly bleaker read. It’s painful to see what each of them go through. The flash backs to the past reveal the story in just about enough detail to make us want to read on.

Still interesting, and gripping, just not as much as the first two parts. It still made me go straight on to the final part of the story. One thing I was happy about was that I managed to read the last three parts back to back. It made it much more engrossing, and knowing that I would soon (instead of having to wait for the release of the next part) know the whole story was nice.

A 3/5 read for me.

Part 4 – The Final Part
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The concluding part of the four part saga ‘A Place for Us’, picks up from where it left off at the end of part 3.

Martha’s family has scattered once again, some driven away by the secrets that have been disclosed, some by the power of their own pasts. It is once again up to her to bring them all back, to the place which they all can call their own.

A touching end to the tale, and a fitting one as well. The only reason for me to rate it a 3 is because it was very predictable. I did however love the epilogue. It was such a perfect end, and yet very different from what we would normally expect from an epilogue.

On a general note, I really liked the covers. I’m not sure what exactly appealed to me, but I felt they brought out the essence of the book, the place called home. I hadn’t read the author before but would definitely look out for her books. She weaves a tale beautifully. A 3.5/5 read on the whole, if you consider the 4 parts together.

Book Review: The Temple is Not My Father by Rasana Atreya

Most of the books I’ve loved in recent times have been recommended by friends. This one was recommended by IHM.

Luckily for me, I found it in the Kindle store immediately, but getting to read it, took longer as I had so many books piled up to read. I finally read it, loved it, drafted a review but it took a FB group to remind me that I still hadn’t posted it. The last few weeks have been busy. At work and home and the last thing I have energy for is to write a blog post. I’m so knackered that all I want to do is head to bed. And that’s what I end up doing, most days.

So. Back to the book.

‘The Temple is Not My Father’ is a short novella based on the system of Devadasis in Southern India. Devadasi literally translates into ‘Servant of God’, and girls used to be dedicated to the worship and service of deities in temples. This used to be a position of privilege and most of these girls went on to become accomplished dancers. The system continued until the British outlawed the kings and kingdoms in India, leading to the temples losing the patronage of the kings, and consequently their biggest source of income. This ended up in devadasis getting forced into prostitution. This is the story of Godavari and her daughter Sreeja. Godavari was tricked into becoming a devadasi by her own father. It is a heart-wrenching story of a woman, caught in circumstances out of her control, treated like vermin by the same society that forced her into the situation she was in. All she wants is for her daughter to have a good life, a life as far removed as possible from her own.

The author does an amazing job with the story. In a short, simple story, she packs in so much. So many emotions, so many motives and people of all sorts. The ruthless father, the determination of two mothers, Godavari and her own mother, the callousness and hypocrisy of society and also the open-mindedness which sometimes comes with innocence. Beautiful characterisation, beautifully articulated situations, which call out to the reader. And the last line of the book, that was one killer line. One that will stay with me forever. It is a book I will re-read, even though I know it will make me cry, all over again.

A beautiful book, an absolute must-read, in my opinion. And for me, an author, I will be following. A 5/5 from me.

About the Author
Rasana is the author of Amazon bestseller ‘Tell A Thousand Lies’, which was also shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia award. UK’s Glam magazine calls this novel one of their five favourite tales from India (June 2014).

This book is available from Amazon(UK).