Rajiv's Reviews

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We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun, Susan Mullen
Released: November 1, 2016
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
It’s the summer of 1982, and for Scott and Cath, everything is about to change.

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.


We are still Tornadoes
is a delightful book with each chapter completely in the form of hand written letters between the two protagonists, Scott and Catherine, set between 1982 to 1983. Being best friends since school, Cath has now joined college while Scott is now working in his dad’s clothing store. The story shows how Cath and Scott deal with new relationships, scandals, follow their dreams, cope with family loss and find themselves over this one year.

To begin with, this book immediately hooked me with the writing style. Being that each chapter is uniquely described through letters between Scott and Cath, I felt personally connected to the characters and could easily relate to them. The pacing is smooth and gradual (for the most part), and we see how Scott and Cath help each other deal with the problems they are faced with. More than Cath, I loved Scott’s character, and how he matures in the book. Being a fan of 80s music, the musical references thrown in were a treat. There are some laugh-out-loud moments (like when Cath throws up in her dad’s car) as well as some tear jerker moments (particularly when reading the fantastic lyrics to Scott’s original songs).

However, there are a few flaws in this book that made me disappointed upon finishing it. Firstly, the ending felt too rushed. This might be a possible spoiler alert, but while reading, I thought Scott and Cath were just friends and nothing more. So it really irked me when their relationship suddenly progressed in the blink of an eye in the last few pages. The authors could have just ended the story without doing this, or if they did want to have a happy ending, they should have made this more gradual. Instead, I felt like they became lazy and forced the last few pages on the reader just to get some closure.

Secondly, while I loved the way the story was written, the downside is that we don’t get a clear description of their surroundings, insight to their families and know what exactly happens when Scott and Cath meet in person. Apart from this, there were some pages here and there where I felt like nothing was really happening, and the dialogue between the two felt repetitious.

Still, this is a very cute book that is definitely worth reading once.

35outof5

Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

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Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna
Released: August 18, 2015
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Good morning, it’s 6 a.m. and I am wide awake because the man of the house has decided that he needs to perform a series of complex manoeuvres that involve him balancing on his left elbow.
When I fell asleep last night, there was a baby lying next to me. Her smelly diaper is still wedged on my head but aside from this rather damp clue, I can’t seem to find her anywhere. I could ask my mother-in-law if she has seen the baby, but she may just tell me that I need to fast on alternate Mondays, and God will deliver the baby back to me
Full of wit and delicious observations, Mrs Funnybones captures the life of the modern Indian woman—a woman who organizes dinner each evening, even as she goes to work all day, who runs her own life but has to listen to her Mummyji, who worries about her weight and the state of the country. Based on Twinkle Khanna’s super-hit column, Mrs Funnybones marks the debut of one of our funniest, most original voices.

This was a fairly quick read and I managed to finish it in one sitting. While a few readers out there cribbed that this book is just a collection of published posts from her column, I had never read her columns before so all these narratives were new to me. I enjoyed her style of writing, and I think she does have a good sense of humor in a sarcastic way. There are some instances which genuinely made me laugh out loud, like when her son says he can make anyone pregnant, or when they are travelling in the plane and smell dirty diapers, or when she talks about her weight issues.

Having said that, I feel Twinkle tries too hard to be funny at times. While there are some witty moments here and there, I felt like a lot of the anecdotes were put in to fill the pages. Maybe the humor is not my cup of tea, but I was rolling my eyes while reading past some of her stories, like how clichéd she makes Germans sound, or how she makes most of the Indian come across as illiterate fools (for the sake of being funny).

Also, there is also no consistency towards the tone of the book, as one chapter is a quirky tale, but the following chapter talks about death and suicide, and the one after goes to a flashback to her college days. This is the main reason I started disliking the book. If I had read her columns prior to reading this book, I would have given this a lower rating, as it seems like a lazy attempt to bring in more cash by randomly throwing stories from your column, putting it together without any order, and publishing it.

Overall, this book was an average light read and easily forgettable. While I actually rate this book only 2.5 stars for its content, I have to give an additional star for the cute illustrations scattered across all the chapters. Kudos to the illustrator for nicely animating this book.

35outof5

It’s All in the Planets by Preeti Shenoy

It’s All in the Planets by Preeti Shenoy
Released: September 15, 2016
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Westland
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Meet Aniket, Twenty-seven, techie, Mr. Average. His best friend is Subbu, a nerd who breathes, thinks and lives code. Aniket cannot believe his luck when he starts dating Trish – a stunning, sexy model, who is totally out of his league. But Trish has a list of things she wants him to work on, beginning with his pot belly and his geekiness.
Then there’s Nidhi, thirty-two, who has quit her corporate job to follow her passion. She is engaged to Manoj, Mr.Perfect – except for one aspect.
Aniket and Nidhi meet on a train, a chance encounter, and she agrees to become his ‘relationship coach’. It’s a decision that sets into motion a chain of events that will have a profound impact on the lives of all involved.
One man, two women, and the trap called Destiny.Some things, they say, are all in the planets.


“When it comes to relationships, how many of us are certain? How can we be sure of the person we are marrying? So many things can change. The person we marry might change, we might change. There are no guarantees in life, more so in relationships. They are always carpeted with uncertainty. And yet, we all want to get married. We want a happily-ever-after. We see relationships around us breaking up all the time. And we say, ‘No, but we are different. That won’t happen to us.’ Isn’t it strange?”

This is the first book I read of Preeti Shenoy, and I love her style of writing. The story is simple yet compelling; the characters are charming; and there are some surprise twists and turns that makes the book hard to put down.  Each chapter is written from the point of view of Aniket or Nidhi, the two main leads, so it was interesting to read how the same situation is interpreted from both their perspective.

The main protagonists, Nidhi and Aniket, are sweet, quirky and down to earth that we can relate to. Even the supporting characters like their parents, Trish, Manoj, Subbu and Darshita are fun to read. In fact, I thought Trish was a very interesting and complex character, and would have loved to have some chapters from her perspective as well to see why she behaved that way. Even though this is considered as romance fiction, there is actually not much romance in it, as most of the book is about the strong friendship developed between Aniket and Nidhi (that doesn’t involve any romance), which is what made this such an enjoyable read. The author also provides some interesting tidbits on relationships such as life-mates vs. soul-mates, compromises etc. through Nidhi’s blog entries, and overlays the story-line with her thoughts on the fates and destiny.

Overall, this is a fun, easy read that manages to touch on human emotions, and I loved it!

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
Released: September 27, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.
When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

This seemed like a perfect book to read close to Halloween as it has all the elements needed for a perfect Horror Book: A creepy mansion, strange characters, mysterious disappearances and gory murders.

The story is well written (for most part), and I enjoyed the steady pacing of the storyline that had me engrossed throughout. There are some cleverly designed plot twists that I did not see coming, and some of these twists had gruesome details that made me cringe. While I didn’t have any issues with the grisly details, the only part of the writing that I found puzzling was the consistency in the setting. In some parts of the book, it felt like the story is taking place a long time ago, but then in some scenes, the characters curse foul language and use the internet etc. which I thought didn’t fit well with the setup.

The characters are well written, and I enjoyed the conflict between Lucy and Margaret. In fact, I liked Margaret’s character more than Lucy, as she seemed truly psychotic and on the edge, and I had no idea what she would do to Lucy. I also enjoyed Vanessa’s character, and wished that she was involved more in the book. While I didn’t have any issues with Lucy as such, I thought the girl was whiny and suicidal and not that strong to be the main character in the book.

I was disappointed towards the end of the book, mainly because all the revelations provided were not very clear, the pacing seemed rushed, and the author didn’t provide closure to the storyline. It was as Amy Lukavics got tired of writing towards the end, and just wanted to finish it somehow. Considering how well the story is written for most of the book, I wish it had ended with the same consistency and a better explanation for the events.

Overall, this was a pretty good book to read, but one that is easily forgettable.

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon
Released: August 1982
Series: The Game #1
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow & Co
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
Kate Blackwell, the enigma and head of Kruger-Brent Ltd is celebrating her ninetieth birthday with her (to put it mildly) dysfunctional family and starts to recall the scandals, blackmails, murders and ghosts from her past. Flashback to four generations of the McGregor/Blackwell saga, that begins with Jamie McGregor’s entry into South Africa as a diamond prospector and his feud with Salomon Van Der Merwe on the quest for attaining diamonds, and how he raises to power in South Africa with the help of his friend Banda. The storyline then continues with Kate Blackwell, Jamie’s daughter who becomes obsessed with the power of Kruger-Brent, and manipulates David Blackwell, Brad Rogers, and her own son Tony to doing what she thinks is best for the company, even if it means demolishing their dreams and desires. However, she is no match for her granddaughter Eve Blackwell, whose main aim is to plot devious ways of eliminating her twin sister Alexandra to get complete control of the empire.

This was the very first adult fiction book I read in my teens and re-reading it has the same impact on me now as it did back then. I absolutely loved it! This book is truly a page turner and you won’t be able to put it down once you start. The writing is simple, and the pacing of the storylines sweeps you off your feet from the get go. This book literally has everything! You want action and adventure, you get daredevil escapades of guys beating sharks, dodging land-mines and floating across deadly reefs. How about Revenge, Romance, Blackmail, murders, lust, greed, deceit, and betrayal with exotic locations of South Africa and Europe? This book has it all!

The characters are all larger than life and slightly unrealistic, but well written and makes the reader love them or love to hate them. I felt bad for Tony, and the way he loses control when he finds himself trapped in the web of lies. I despised Eve’s character, and kept thinking how low she would go to partner with someone who treated her like that. However, she was great fun to read her compared to Alexandra, who seemed to be a complete bore. As much as I detested Kate at times, she was by far my favorite in the book, as you can’t help but root for her when she determinedly keeps searching for the next heir to the throne. I was rather surprised by how raunchy some of the subject matter was, considering that this book came out in this early 80s. The character of George Miller just made my jaw drop and go WTF.

Most of Sidney Sheldon’s works from the 80s are over the top, soap opera styled novels that keeps the reader hooked, and he truly is a “Master of the Game” in writing this one. Overall, MOTG is captivating read, and has motivated me to pick up the next one in the series “Mistress of the Game”.

The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1) by L.J. Smith

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The Awakening by L.J. Smith
Released: March 1st 1999
Series: The Vampire Diaries #1
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Source: Amazon

Synopsis: 
A Love Triangle of Unspeakable Horror…

Elena 
Searching for the ultimate thrill, she vowed to have Stefan.
Stefan Haunted by his tragic past, he struggled to resist her passion.
Damon
Driven by revenge, he hunted the brother who betrayed him.
The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.

 

I have seen a few episodes of the TV show, and thought I would get my hands on the book series (as the books are usually supposed to be better than their adaptations right?) Wrong! This book has nothing to do with the TV show, other than the fact that the characters share the same names. The TV series actually does a better job of making the characters likable with better story-lines.

The one thing that really annoyed me about this book was Elena’s character. It’s hard rooting for her when she comes off as this really arrogant girl who must have anything and anyone, and always needs to be the center of attention. She dumps Matt when she is not interested in him, and then asks him to help her get Stefan, showing complete disregard to his feelings. Then, her friends Meredith and Bonnie make a blood pact with her in the cemetery to ensure that Stefan becomes hers (who does that?). When she is titled Homecoming queen (that she feels she was entitled to from the beginning), and sees Stefan with Caroline, she does a complete 360 and goes with a guy she doesn’t even like to make out with him at the cemetery! Finally, when Stefan eventually kisses her, she suddenly finds herself in love with him even though she doesn’t know anything about him and is just going gaga over his good looks. Why would anyone have any kind of empathy for this girl?

Stefan comes off as the typical blooding rich vampire who doesn’t talk that much, which is very cliché. Damon on the other hand is slightly better, but makes an appearance only towards the end. I found their flashbacks to be more interesting than the actual story-line, but even that fizzles out towards the climax. Bonnie is one character that really stood out for me because she seemed like this quirky psychic that spiced up the scenes, but sadly she is hardly mentioned in the book. You can imagine how annoying the main characters would be when you find the side characters far more interesting.

The writing is sub-par most of the time, as there is no consistency in the storytelling or the characterization. Most of the book revolves around Elena cribbing on her diary or with her friends on how Stefan keeps ignoring or pushing her away, and somewhat becomes exciting only towards the end during the Halloween party where Damon makes an appearance.

I’m still going to continue reading the series to find out what happens, but as a standalone review, this book was somewhat below average. I feel like if I had read this book back in the 90s when the vampire craze was not happening, then I would have liked it better. But having seen the TV show and read other novels in the same genre, this book is very boring.

stars_2

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