Monday, 31 March 2014

Book Haul: eBook Version!

My book buying ban is going well..ish! But I figured ebooks don't count right? 

Wellll...I am pretty excited about all these books. I've already read Dark Companion and will review it shortly. 

Burial Rites sounds pretty  awesome and I will most likely read it in April. 

I am really enjoying reading on my Kindle. Somehow, I tend to read a little bit faster on the Kindle..I have no idea why? Plus I love it's battery life. 

March is finally felt like a never ending month. I will do my March Wrap-Up next. 

Have you read any of these books? 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Book: The Vanishing

Author: Wendy Webb

Pages: 304

I Read This In: 4 hours- in one sitting.

Plot Summary: Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired…and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

What I Liked: The book starts off really well-  there is a woman who is completely alone and isolated after her Madoff-esque husband offs himself once his Ponzi scheme is exposed. Said woman is approached by a stranger with an unconventional job offer- to play companion to a renowned author, who everyone thinks is dead. Intriguing, right? Even I thought so! 
I liked the way the story was set up- there was that tantalizing hint of a paranormal mystery- and the first half of the book moves really fast! Julia getting used to the dark, brooding Havenwood mansion, the creepy and slightly eerie history of the said mansion and the mysterious things that happen to Julia while she is there. 

What I Didn't Like: For a book that started with a lot of promise (as mentioned above), it devolved pretty fast into something really ridiculous and utterly lame! I started reading this book around 11 pm and I was so taken by the "mystery" that I kept reading till 3 am and as the hours went by, the book got more and more ridiculous! 
The big, fat mystery was such a cop-out and it was difficult to connect with and felt like a massive let-down. 
I don't think I will be reading anything else ever by Wendy Webb- her formula seems to be- start well, get people hooked, have a mystery which is part crime/part horror and then screw it all up fabulously! UGH! This is just lazy writing! You have taken all this effort, as an author, to build up a story and then you just go and do the laziest, stupidest thing to close out the narrative?! 

Would You Like It?: Nope, you won't! 

Rating: 2/5 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Friday Favourites/// Plants + Flowers + Pendants!

1. Spring+ Summer is here and though I am not a big summer fan, I can appreciate the greenery and the splendour. The sun shining and the flowers blooming is pretty magnificent. 

2. Pretty little boxes to house treasure and a purple plant to match. I love these quiet corners of my home. 

3. Mint nail polish just scream summer to me. Soothing and oh-so-fresh. 

4. A pretty little pendant. This one opens up, I've always wanted to keep something in these type of pendants but have never, ever figured out what! Maybe a bit of poetry folded up really small? Or a quote. There is one from Great Expectations I am loving...might do that! 

5. Colourful little bugger. Erasers and lipbalm. Never used in their intended roles, I use these for decor! 

Happy Weekend guys. I am looking forward to sleeping in and finally reading something I like..I've just been picking up all the wrong books! Gah! I hate not reading something and enjoying it and finishing it. I need to find a fun book! 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Light Behind the Window/The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

Book: The Light Behind The Window aka The Lavender Garden

Author: Lucinda Riley

Pages: 544

I Read It In: 7 hours across 2 evenings

Plot Summary: The present: Emilie de la Martiniéres has always fought against her aristocratic background, but after the death of her glamorous, distant mother, she finds herself alone in the world and sole inheritor of her grand childhood home in the south of France. 

An old notebook of poems leads her in search of the mysterious and beautiful Sophia, whose tragic love affair changed the course of her family history. As Emilie unravels the story, she too embarks on her own journey of discovery, realising that the château may provide clues to her own difficult past and finally unlock the future. 

The past: London 1943. A young office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is drafted into the SOE, arriving in occupied Paris during the climax of the conflict. Separated from her contact in her very first hours in France, she stumbles into the heart of a wealthy family who are caught up in a deadly game of secrets and lies. Forced to surrender her identity and all ties to her homeland and her beloved husband, Constance finds herself drawn into a complex web of deception, the repercussions of which will affect generations to come. 

From the author of the international bestseller, Hothouse Flower, Lucinda Riley’s new novel is a breathtaking and intense story of love, war and, above all, forgiveness.

What I Liked: I really enjoyed Lucinda Riley's The Midnight Rose (click on the link to see my review of it) and was looking forward to reading more books by her. I really enjoy books that shift perspectives between two or more time periods/places because you get to see a different set of characters in each period and there is usually some mystery or just some twist-in-the-tale element to the narrative, which keeps it interesting. So, needless to say, I quite enjoyed the two time periods that this book's events took place in- late 1990s and the early 1940s (World War II). 

The events of the past were far more interesting to me- they always are in most books of this format, perhaps because that's where the big mystery takes place?! So, yes, I liked the cat-and-mouse spy games type of a thing going on the 1940s- the gritty business of the Resistance trying to outwit the Gestapo in Paris etc. 

The characters in this book were also likeable- more so, the ones in the 1940s- like Constance, Edouard (Emilie's father) and Sophia (Emilie's aunt). The sense of purpose and fighting the good fight against all odds made each of these characters very layered and memorable. 

What I Didn't Like: The core mystery was really silly and kind of lame. It was not even such a mystery or a twist. It does not in any major way impact the lives of those in the present and it seems almost irrelevant to the present-day plot. Also, the present day characters were not interesting at all. They seemed more like cardboard caricatures without any real soul. 

Would You Like It?: I don't think so. There are far better books on the whole dual-time-period theme to read.. such as the ones by Kate Morton. Please see this list to see some more books that have this sort of a theme.  

Rating: 2.5/5 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Review: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb.

Book: The Fate of Mercy Alban

Author: Wendy Webb

Pages: 352

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2-3 was a quick read and I was gripped from the word go.

Plot Summary: Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother's unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons. 

Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace's aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the secret passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died - could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind--and attractive—Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

General Thoughts: This book was a GoodReads recommendation. I was looking at the 2013 Top Ten Thriller/ Horror books and this book was one of the books. I loved the very sound of this book and family secrets is pretty much my favourite thing to read about! 

What I Liked: The writing was good. And the pace of the book was fast and at the end of each chapter I couldn't wait to keep turning the page and find out what happened next. 

I also liked the book within a book. A story, from an earlier time told between the pages. Normally, a book within a book can fail miserably. I've read a few books that have tried this format and most of those book have been strange. My main issue with those books were that one book was indistinguishable from the other. In this case, the tone and writing style of two stories was actually different and it really felt like they were two different stories. 

Another thing with book split across two different time periods, is that I tend to prefer one part of the story better than the other. In this book I was equally engrossed in both the present day story and the events of 1956. This almost never happens to me. I am usually invested in one time period. 

This book was genuinely creepy. I was reading this late at night and there was a point where I was seriously spooked. 

I just couldn't put this book down. I was massively gripped and I read it in one sitting. And sometimes, I think books that hold your attention are the best books in some sense. 

What I Didn't Like: The characters were so under-developed. I get it, this is a thriller and not exactly a character driven book but really some more information and character development never hurt anyone. I mean even the age of the daughter was unspecified. She is just called a teenage and left at that. 

I also didn't love the instant love connection in the book. Grace and the Reverend fall almost instantly in love and can put the Twilight insta-love to shame! 

There were many instance in the book where someone had some pertinent piece of the puzzle and was just about to say it, but instead, they'd say something like- "Oh I'll make breakfast instead!" Or- "I'll tell you later."  I get it, you need to build suspense but it was done a little too lamely at times. 

Rating: 4/5, purely because I could put it down and found this book very entertaining. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Vignettes- 5: A few of my Favourite Things!

1. This is pretty much one of my favourite books ever. Top 3 for sure..I love this book. I read it when in first came out and I remember thinking to myself..."This is what good writing reads like!" I can't recommend this book enough. Jhumpa Lahiri in general is amazing and I love her writing to bit, but this book in particular is pretty damn fantastic. If you haven't read it yet, seriously, give this book a go. It's a great place to start reading Lahiri. 

2. A print on my loved tee-shirt of mine. An old fashioned Bombay city cab. I love these little Fiat black and yellow taxis, I took them all the time when I was in college, haven't taken one in a long, long time. 

3. A gorgeous little bag from Jaipur that my sister picked up, when she was Jaipur on work a couple of months back. I can't wait to go to Jaipur! See the sights and shop like a maniac. Hopefully, this year I might get to go to Jaipur! *Fingers crossed and toes crossed for good measure too* 

4. Tea Center- an old timey establishment full of wonderful tea and good food. I hadn't been to Tea Center till late last year. I always thought it was a grown-up sorta establishment and probably didn't let everyone in. In my defense, my father has very many meetings and such there, so in my head it was always a grown-up spot. I am silly! I went to college, literally in the lane behind Tea Center and never once visited it in all of my 5 years of college! (No, I didn't repeatedly flunk in college, in India, in Bombay in particular, we have 2 years of junior college and 3 years of under-grad, thus 5 years of wonderful college years!) 

5. An old favourite of mine, I love this watch, it ran out of battery a few years ago and I let it sleep while I bought a couple of other watches and sorta forgot about her. I recently, had her fixed and I love wearing her again. Yes, she is a her. She is red and a girl. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

March 2014 Book Haul.

After my Book Buying madness in Feburary, I wanted to keep my book buying to a minimum. So I enforced a Book-Buying Ban...and I think I did quite well. I can't go cold turkey on books, it just won't happen! Also it might make me go crazy, crack and buy 30 books in retaliation! Eek! So I take my bans in moderation and with a pinch of humour. 

I try to minimise my book buying. 6 books in all of this far...19 days and 6 books. I don't know it seems rather impressive to me! I mean I am someone who buys 6 books in one go! So this is mighty great. 

I once again bought 3 Modern Classics- I am really enjoying Modern Classics at the moment. 

A short story collection by Neil Gaiman. 

And of course another Sherlock book with the beautiful Benedict Cumberbatch on the cover! I mean I had really...this is the how far I am in the Sherlock Holmes once I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I can read the rest of the delightful series! Fun! 

And I got a creepy sounding book by Dean Koontz. I haven't read anything else by him before so this should be fun, I hope his book is nice and spooky! 

I might not buy any other books this month...I just don't have anything on my wishlist that I am in the tearing hurry to intentions in any case! 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Friday Favourites: Bag, Mints and BC!

Hello All! 

Happy Friday and happy thoughts for the upcoming weekend. Here in India, this weekend we celebrate Holi- the festival of colours. So to those of you gearing up for Holi have a safe and happy Holi. I have never been big on Holi. As a child, the water balloons scared the crap out of me and the whole messy colour splattered-ness that Holi signifies, while pretty to think about, in reality can be quite horrid. So I will be staying indoors and dry and sans colour! 

My favourites tonight are a mixed bag...starting with a delightful little Chair Print bag from People Tree. It was a Christmas present and a rather apt one considering it's very Christmas like colours! I just loveddddd the quirky print and the retro looking chairs. 

This is going to be my year of Fitzgerald! I have 3 books, these two and a short story collection that I want to read this year. I also adore the covers of these books! 

Mints of choice- Love the mini Altoids. I also love cinnamon Altoids but wanted to try the Wintergreen ones and I love them. 

But there is nothing and no one I love more than Benedict Cumberbatch. Guys...I might have a problem..I just might be slightly mental about this man. He is soooo hot! If you haven't seen Sherlock...what is the matter with you? You need to see it ASAP! I love these BBC books editions of Sherlock Holmes. I have collected 5 books in these formats and I am one happy girl! I am currently coveting Parades End with BC on the cover. The book sounds amazing and it has BC on the cover. I NEED TO HAVE IT. 

What have you been loving lately? 

Have a Good Weekend All! :)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Sister Reads | Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Book: The Circle 

Author: Dave Eggers 

Pages: Around 450 odd (on the Kindle)

Plot Summary: When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. 

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. 

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. 

What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

My Thoughts: When I first stumbled upon the www (whose 25th birthday was yesterday, btw) in 1997, my mind was blown by how it was full of easy-to-access information and how it connected people from different corners of the world. Over the years, of course, the www has grown in leaps and bounds and so have we with it. Personally, I went from being very reluctant to share any personal information or even share my real name online to, well, being present on some social media and willing to relinquish some amount of anonymity- though, I still prefer to stay anonymous of most social forums. Call me old school :) 

Social media is really powerful and omnipresent. We are encouraged to share our thoughts, pictures in as little as 140 words or in as many words as we like. All of that is completely wonderful because this allows us to get reviews of things from real people, meet other people 'like us' on multiple social networks and simply just connect with people from different parts of the world. Personally, I love finding like-minded and interesting people who live in different parts of the world (I am looking at all of you, my Instagram friends *grin*). I also love the sense of community that social platforms provide. 

Now, why is all this important to say when it comes to reviewing this book? Well, it is important because this book makes you think really hard about where you stand on the whole issue of social media, sharing, information and privacy. 

For instance, like I said, I love sharing thoughts, opinions and pictures with everyone but not necessarily aspects of my identity. That's my preference and I love that it is still optional  to use your real identity on all social platforms. I love that we still have the option to be as private as we want to. Privacy and choice are the two key issues that this book makes you think about. 

What I Liked: I liked how quickly the protagonist- Mae- went from being all shrug-this-social-aspect-of-my-work-is-stupid to becoming this social network ninja and maven!  Mae, in some ways, represents most of us. We, possibly, would have also focused on the work at hand at the company rather than spending time connecting with colleagues (quite literally in Mae's case via the company's social networking site). So, there Mae was- in the first world-class job of her life- taking it all in at the rather impressive IT company and getting her feel of the place when her boss calls her in. He praises her performance but expresses his disappointment in Mae "not allowing others at The Circle to know her better". And how would the others "know Mae better"? Via Mae sharing her opinions and even the most private aspects of her life on social media. For instance, Mae sometimes liked to go kayaking alone and she never mentioned this on any social platforms or took pics or share anything about it. Kayaking was an intensely personal experience for Mae and she used that time to think and reflect. However, when her boss forces her to mention what she did on a particular weekend (because her social footprint "went completely blank" once she left work on Friday evening), Mae happened to mention kayaking and her boss guilt-trips her into believing that the act of not sharing her hobby and experience with others was selfish and that's how The Circle would see it. 

This whole conversation resonated strongly with me because I have had a boss tell me to eat lunch with different sets of colleagues and not just with my 'work friends'. Of course, I did nothing of that sort! Lunch is my time at work and I will bloody well eat with whosoever I please! But I am sure you see how insane this is?! How can being forced to share your thoughts and reviews be mandatory?! I share because I want to- that's how it ought to work! 

What I Didn't Like: Mae's escalation from being this wary-of-social-media to becoming the company's mascot for transparency and sharing was a tad too soon to be realistic in any sense. It ruined the book for me. I liked the tempo up until this happened. 

I also didn't quite get the point of Mae's romp in the sack with mystery man Kalden was ridiculously pointless! It is pretty obvious who he really is and so, the charade is kinda pointless! :) 

Will You Like It?: Yes. It will make you think about issues of privacy and the need to have options when it comes to privacy and what we want to share or not on social media. 

Rating: 4/5 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Book Haul: More Books from February 2014.

Flipkart was having a flat 40% sale on certain books and I got me some lovely books. 

3 more Penguin Modern Classics to add to my burgeoning collection. Two Indian Modern Classics for a change. I am excited to read all of these books. 

A pretty copy of The Secret Garden. I can't wait to read this book! 

Finally got my hands on The Graveyard Book- I want to read more Neil Gaiman and this sounds like a great read. 

Maeve Binchy books always catch my eye at bookstores and at 40% off it was a good time to get it. This is collection of contemporary short stories. 

I have read Jaishree Mishra before and enjoyed her writing and her stories. This one sounds really good- about a girl looking for her birth mother and how this wrecks havoc on the mother's life. 

Yay! Books bought on sale are the best...books in general are the best! 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Book Haul: A Mini-Haul!

A mini book haul! Four books I got from Amazon. 

The John Ajvide Lindqvist books: I have seen Let The Right One In- the movie- and loved it!! It's the creepiest movies ever! I really recommend it. So when I saw the book online, I just couldn't resist getting it. I hope this book lives up to my expectations. The other book is a collection of short stories. 

I have heard amazing things about Carson McCullers and wanted to sample some of her writing. I am going a little mad for the Penguin Modern Classics. But I do love some Modern Classics. 

And another Agatha Christie book for the collection. I am going to read this book this month, it's one of my favourite Christie stories. 

It's nice to haul a small number of books sometimes!