a whole lotta books for you if you’re in the market for book recommendations!
I think I’ve mentioned this before on the blog somewhere, but I have phases with reading. Some weeks, I am reading up a storm, finishing one book a week on an average, and then there are those weeks when I couldn’t be bothered to even pick up a book. I am in the middle of one such phase right now, but I don’t really fuss about it, because I know I will get back to my books soon enough. Do you guys experience the same kind of phases with reading?
Anyway, the fact that I am currently in barren land as far as books are concerned, does not mean that I haven’t read at all this year. In fact, the first three months of the year were rather great from a reading point of view. Last week, when I was updating my 101 in 1001 list, I realised that I realised that I’d never gotten around to sharing with you guys about the books that I’d read this year.
So well, if you’re looking for any book recommendations, there are a few of them in the list below that I’d wholeheartedly recommend.
Year One by Nora Roberts – This one was so different from most other Nora Roberts books that I’ve read. It’s one of those post apocalyptic stories, where a sudden illness wipes out majority of the human population, and there is a complete collapse of law and government. In all this darkness, some people discover new abilities, and start identifying themselves as elves, witches, fairies (termed as the Uncanny by the “normal” humans). And obviously, where there is light, there is also dark, and some evil forces join hands to hunt the Uncanny.
I loved seeing how the survivors found each other and built a community, a new way of living (something that I loved in Station Eleven!). Darkness still does not leave these survivors completely, but a new hope is born, and it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the trilogy plays out.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you’re into modern fantasy.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I would classify this as an easy breezy beach read. The story offers an enticing look into the glamorous world of Evelyn Hugo, a famed actress who’s left behind a trail of scandals and as evident from the title, marriages and men. She decides to come out of her shell, and reveal her life story as a memoir to an up and coming journalist, and only to her (there is a bit of mystery around why only this particular journalist).
In doing so, she reveals her greatest love stories and her many vulnerabilities and comes across as a flawed, but believable person, and I liked that aspect about the story – the fact that it does not make her sound like a goddess through and through. Overall, the book reads like a chick lit, but with a tad more depth than what I would otherwise expect from such novels.
Would I recommend it? Yes, if you’re looking for a quick, easy beach read.
The Address by Fiona Davis – Just like The Dollhouse by the same author (about which I have heard only the best things), this book traces the stories of two women in two different time periods – one set in 1884/85 and the second, in 1985. The two women are linked to a grand apartment building – The Dakota – in New York City.
In 1985, Bailey Camden is fresh out of rehab, and is grateful for an opportunity given to her by her cousin Melinda Camden (biological great-granddaughter of Theodore Camden, the architect who built The Dakota) to redo her apartment, even though she does not quite agree with her cousin’s design vision.
When Bailey discovers some long-forgotten things in the basement of the building, a century old story is revisited – which involves Sara Smythe, the chief manager of The Dakota at the time of its opening in 1884, and Theodore’s lover/mistress – and there are revelations and plot twists galore!
I found the story necessarily overwrought and couldn’t care less for the central characters. The detailing of New York in 1884/85 is exquisite though, and suitably charming. The love stories in both the eras felt rather on the surface, and I couldn’t get a sense of deep love or chemistry.
Would I recommend this book? No. Unless you’re a diehard fan of Fiona Davis and want to read all the books that she writes.
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder – It’s a light-ish read, but the underlying characters and their lives are kinda sad. Paul and Alice’s half sister, Eloise, is getting married in London, and obviously they are invited, along with Donna, Eloise’s mother. This is a story of deep rooted resentments and the constant push and pull of family relationships. The writing is just wannabe snarky and most of the characters come across as unbelievably selfish and self-absorbed, (yeah, I wouldn’t want to be friends with them!).
Somewhere in the last quarter of the book, the characters seem to pull through and the story does improve a bit, but it’s nowhere near funny, as the blurbs make it sound like. Maybe if it wasn’t marketed as a “funny” look at relationships and marriages in general, I might have liked the book a little it more.
Would I recommend this book? No. There are plenty more snarky/funny books that you can read (like the next one), and also much better books on dysfunctional families (like this one).
Class Mom by Laurie Gelman – I would classify this as “snarky lit”, exemplified in recent times by books like “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”. Which is basically to say that is was fun, quick read. This is not groundbreaking fiction, but here’s the thing – the book never promises that it will! So all you’ve got to do is sit back and enjoy watching the many steps and missteps of Jen Dixon in her second innings as a class mom (I didn’t even know this was a thing!!!).
She’s one of those unfiltered characters who says what she thinks, even if it isn’t the most appropriate thing to say. It isn’t the deepest of novels, yet has enough heart to showcase the struggles of motherhood, growing older, and maintaining friendships and relationships. And I really liked Jen’s character – she comes across as a really believable 40-something mom!
Would I recommend this book? Oh yes, especially if you’re looking for a light-hearted, quick, funny read.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – This isn’t a new book, I know, but I finally read it after owning it for over a year or so. Maddie has a rare disease which makes any contact with the outside world pretty much a matter of life and death for her. She uncomplainingly goes on about her life within the confines of her sanitized house, with her mom, a helper, and an occasional tutor. Until, a cute boy, Ollie, moves in next door. And of course, they fall in love. The story then delves into how she processes and acts on her feelings, and how she eventually deals with a startling revelation.
The story was sweet in parts but somehow I couldn’t truly connect with Maddie and the pathos of her condition. I didn’t expect weepy paragraphs after paragraphs, and while there is no rulebook that says that serious diseases need to be always treated with much seriousness, I thought the vibe was just a tad too casual for my liking. Also, something in Maddie’s character transition, just did not feel authentic to me.
Would I recommend this book? Not really. There are better YA books out there (see The Hate U Give below).
The Break by Marian Keyes – Would your marriage stand if your announces that he/she wants to take a complete break but with a promise to return after six months? Would you want to go on a break too? Would all of this break your marriage? Amy finds herself wondering all this as husband #2, Hugh, springs the news on her, after dealing with the unhappiness following his father’s death for months. The answers aren’t easy, obviously. You’d ideally like to believe that you wouldn’t let your marriage come to the “let’s take a break for 6 months” stage, but real life and your experiences might tell you otherwise.
That Keyes is a master of her craft is evident in the way she makes you feel for her characters, flawed and imperfect as they are. I loved the depiction of a large, loving, if mildly annoying Irish family interspersed with all the drama going on in Amy and Hugh’s life. The only real complaint I have about the book is that I think it gets unnecessarily wordy especially in the second half of the story.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – So, the second YA novel on my list. Does it fare any better? I’d say, significantly so. This book wasn’t like most other YA novels that I have read, where a love story is almost always the main storyline (see When Dimple Met Rishi below). It’s a topical social commentary and while the story (with its trigger happy police officers) might be a truer reality in the US, fact is, I think you’ll find instances of overt racism and ill-treatment of minorities in almost every country.
Starr Carter finds herself pulled into an uncomfortable situation when she becomes a witness to her friend between fatally shot by the police. The incident causes her to toughen up and supported by her long family, she finds her way to deal with the unjustness and sadness of it all.
I loved this book. The main characters are all wonderfully written, and Starr’s family is utterly believable in their love and occasional frustrations with each other.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely, especially if you’re looking for a YA novel that goes beyond a love story.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper – I haven’t read Jane Harper’s first novel, The Dry. I am sure there is more background to Aaron Falk, the detective who’s the central character in both the novels, that’s covered in The Dry, but that does not hamper the development of the storyline in Force of Nature at all.
Force of Nature is the story of a team-building exercise gone wrong. Five women, whom you wouldn’t necessarily call friends, venture into the forest on a wilderness retreat, and only four of them return. Detective Falk gets involved in this case, because the woman who goes missing – Alice – was helping him in another investigation, related to the company that she worked for (and which has obviously arranged for this retreat).
The backstories of the women, and the tension and often-shifting power dynamics between them is well portrayed, and Jane Harper seems to have a real talent for setting a scene and creating an atmosphere. Her portrayal of the forests is extremely visual, so much so that you can feel the confusion of the trails, the closeness of the trees, the endlessness of the thick forest, in your bones.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a smart detective novel, which does not make the key detective appear larger than life.
The Food Therapist by Shira Lenchewski – Chalk this up as my non-fiction reading for the quarter. There’s equal parts therapy and diet guideline in this book. I liked that before she even gets into the science of the matter, or the details of her preferred way of eating/losing weight, Shira Lenchewski takes the time to delve into some deeper issues of why many people have a tough/bad relationship with food and offers suggestions on how to get better at dealing with your food issues. I found myself underlining many, many passages and taking pictures of pages and sending to friends, because some of the things resonated so deeply.
Her diet plan is essentially a low-carb diet, and I see merit in a lot of her recommendations. Fair warning though, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you could probably skip this book.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially if you’ve found yourself dealing with food issues, and find yourself on the fence about adopting a low(er) carb lifestyle.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – When a friend of mine messaged on our girls Whatsapp chat group for a recommendation for a light, easy read, I didn’t hesitate for a second before recommending this one.
The story is simple (and predictable) enough. Dimple and Rishi are set up by their respective parents as they both enter into a special pre-university summer programme. They don’t really get off on the right foot, but along the way, become friends and eventually fall in love. Obviously life throws a few curveballs along the way, but the story is about how the two teenagers navigate their way through their differences.
I did have one major gripe with the book though – the characters of Rishi and Dimple never truly felt like teenagers on the cusp of going to university. I couldn’t understand how their parents would set them up for marriage, okay, eventual marriage, when they were 18 years old. Also, Rishi just seemed like a tad more grown up than that of an 18 year old boy. I would have bought the whole premise a lot more Rishi and Dimple were in fact, just out of university, and not high school.
Once I switched off my brain from that major grouse, I found the book rather enjoyable and fun to read.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, especially if you’ve South Asian (you will find some much of the setting rather familiar), and if you’re looking for a light, easy read.
Have you all read any of these books? What books have you guys been reading currently? Let me know in the comments below!
ps – More book recommendations this way.
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