Jeeezzzzz! It’s been a minute and a half since I wrote anything here, right?
Well, last year (the second half, especially) was truly an intense one, and I don’t use that word lightly. There was just so much going on, both on the professional as well as the personal front, in (mostly) the best kind of way and it really didn’t leave a whole lot of room for too many extracurricular activities. Hence, the lack of activity around these parts.
After spending weeks trying to figure out whether I really wanted to return to this space, I’ve finally decided to stop with the overthinking and just make a go for it. Blogging has been a hobby of mine for the last 8/9 years, and I really did miss it. So well, here I am, trying to make this blog a part of my life all over again.
So now that we’ve got the backstory out of the way, let’s get on with the good stuff, yeah?
In my world (and hence, my blog!), talking about the good stuff cannot not involve books. In more ways than one, books have been my constant companions since I was a child, and I cannot imagine a world with no books. It comes as a surprise to nobody who knows me that our new house (which we moved into in November) is stuffed to the brim with books. It’s really the best thing!
To be honest, I read a lot of ‘light’ books last year, mostly because after the general busyness of the days, I didn’t want to really deep dive into some heavy-duty stuff. Nonetheless, some of the books have been really, really good (and I’ve read a whole lot since the last time I talked about books here) and I thought I’ll share with you a few books worth reading that I’ve loved in the last few months:
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
I have no reservation in saying that this was probably my favorite read from last year (and it seems a whole lot of people around the world loved it too!). A charmingly written love story between the son of the US president and a British prince, I devoured the book in one night flat.
It came highly recommended from Hitha (and most of her book recommendations are solid gold!) so I knew that it was bound to be a good one, but I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with the characters and the story.
The chemistry between Alex (the son of the US president) and Henry (the British prince) is palpable even in the emails that they write to each other. As implausible as a couple of scenarios depicted in the book may be, on the whole, it feels like the warmest hug on a dreary winter night, a perfect combination of happiness and hope. Yes, it’s escapist literature, but in a world filled with the kind of realities that we face, I think all of us need a little bit of that every once in a while.
The love story aside, the friendships and other relationships detailed in the book are well thought out and the dialogues are absolutely sparkling. The dynamics between the White House Trio is beautifully depicted and I loved how the main characters are portrayed not just as young people in love but as real, young people in positions of considerable power, with a real sense of the responsibility that lies on their shoulders and ambitions that do justice to their abilities.
All this to say, I really, really, really loved the book and I would highly recommend that you give this a read. It will leave you smiling from head to toe.
The Idea of You – Robinne Lee
Hayes, you pretty boy, you. Seriously though, has there been another 20-year-old boy who’s been depicted as deliciously as Hayes Campbell??? Is it any wonder that Soléne Marchand falls really, really hard for him, despite their nearly 20 year age gap.
The book gets marketed as an older woman/younger man romance but it really is a lot deeper than that. Of course, there are steamy scenes aplenty, and there’s a whole lot of flying to different parts of the world to be with each other, but underneath all that is a sensitive (and perhaps, naive) 20-year-old boy with a maturity that belies his years, and an ambitious, strong 40-year-old woman who’s truly worked hard to be where she is in life.
I loved Hayes and Soléne together though somehow, at multiple instances throughout the book, Hayes came across as the more mature one between the two… which probably made the love story a lot more real… understandable, perhaps.
A lot of scenes and dialogues from the book were really well written (and to be honest, it seems like it was written to be just made into a movie!) but this particular passage really stood out for me for its real-world insightfulness:
So, if you’re looking for a hot, racy, unapologetically romantic novel with strong, well-written characters, The Idea of You will not disappoint you. And nope, I’m not calling this “chick-lit”.
American Royals – Katharine McGee
Escapist storyline? Check.
Intense, brooding characters? Check.
Forbidden love? Check.
Strong female characters? Check.
Easy to read? Check.
Now can you see why this book falls under the category of “good books”? :)
In all seriousness though, this was a real fun, super-fast read. The story turns history topsy-turvy and reimagines America as a monarchy.
There is Princess Beatrice, heir to the throne, and the girl who will become the first-ever Queen of America. Her sister Samantha, the wild child who totally gives me Princess Margaret vibes from The Crown. And then there are two girls vying for the love and affection of Prince Jefferson – Samantha’s twin brother – Nina, Samantha’s best friend and Daphne, his ex-girlfriend.
The story is told from their point of view and we get a first-hand view of the glamorous but often troubled lives of these American royals and how at the end of it, all that everyone is looking for is love.
The book is written in Katharine McGee’s – of The Thousandth Floor series fame – trademark style (multiple POVs, easy language, fast-paced setting) and makes for a fantastic breezy read. I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in the series.
A Woman Is No Man – Etaf Rum
Unlike a lot of other books on this list, this one wasn’t a light read by any stretch of the imagination.
A Woman is No Man looks gives us a ring-side view of the lives of three generations of women in a Palestinian-American family, living in Brooklyn. In 2008, 18-year-old Deya is being forced by her grandparents to start seeing suitors, an idea that doesn’t sit well with her. Her parents died when she was 7/8 years old, and she and her sisters have been brought up by their grandparents. In a family setting like hers, things like love and freedom of choice don’t hold much meaning. A truth that her mother – Isra – also struggled with years ago, before her death.
In the present day, Deya discovers that the story behind the death of her parents was probably a lie and as she goes about finding out the truth, family secrets come tumbling out of the closet and she struggles to make sense of it all.
The lives these women lead are oppressive. And it is a little heartbreaking to read about the abuse that goes on inside the house, in full knowledge of the elders. The pain and frustration of the female characters is put across brilliantly, even if it makes for hard reading.
The Forest of Enchantments – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
I absolutely loved this modern take on the Ramayana (the story of Ram), one of the greatest Indian mythological stories. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni takes the story of Lord Ram, beloved God to many Hindus, and tells the whole tale from Sita’s point of view – the Sitayan (the story of Sita), if you will.
And oh what a fantastic read it is. Most Indians would know how the story of Ram & Sita ends, and yet, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has crafted a spellbinding tale and has you totally enthralled.
The story is tragic when you read it from Sita’s point of view. Yes, Ram was probably a great king, but he was not infallible. His treatment of his wife was cruel and unjust and he hides behind “duty and honor” to justify his behavior.
The setting for the story is obviously from centuries ago but even if you were to place Sita in today’s day and age, her thinking and her worldview (and her experiences) would seem just as valid.
I will admit one thing though – while the story itself is captivating and a real page-turner, I think the writing could have been better. It seemed a little too amateurish and the frequent #notetoself kind of callouts about love felt a bit jarring.
I’ll still recommend this book because, despite the writing being sort of average, I ended up really enjoying the story.
The Flatshare – Beth O’ Leary
I was looking for a super-light, quick read when I picked this one up. And while I was not the least bit disappointed, I also didn’t really expect to like this one so much!!! In fact, I’d go so far as to include this book in my Top 10 from last year.
The situation is a bit quirky to begin with: Tiffy Moore needs to find herself a cheap flat pronto. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash and has a flat. Somehow they come up with a solution that works – Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and they swap places in the evening/night.
It’s a mad plan but they make it work, though they never meet. In between the handovers, they write each other notes on Post-Its (which are adorable and heartwarming), cook extra meals for each other, and generally become good friends in absentia.
The characters are adorable – Tiffy is smart and genuine and complex, while Leon is swoony and sweet and romantic. They forge an unlikely relationship and the sweetness of their love story definitely left me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Would totally recommend!
Verity – Colleen Hoover
Verity is a lot of things but one thing it totally is not is predictable. I did NOT see that coming and I was totally shook (and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever really used that word!).
Anyway, the story is about Lowen, a struggling author, and the once in a lifetime offer she gets from Jeremy Crawford – husband to Verity Crawford, a best selling author. Verity has been in a horrific accident and is unable to continue her bestselling series. Lowen moves into their house and is given full rein to go through Verity’s office to piece together the manuscripts for the novels from any of Verity’s notes that she might find in her office.
That leads Lowen to stumble upon Verity’s unpublished autobiography and she uncovers some secrets that are just plain unsettling. Lowen is faced with choices about what to do with that information, even as she falls in love with Jeremy.
This is totally one of those addicting reads, and I think it’s a really cleverly written thriller. The web of lies and deceit is woven so well and there are twists and turns aplenty to keep you hooked.
The suspense is relentless and the overall story is truly well-written. For fans of the genre, this is definitely a must read.
Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? What books are you reading at the moment? I’d love to hear in the comments below.