Latest Reviews

Book Review:  A Change of Heart – Sonali Dev
Book Review:  Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
Book Review: The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan
Book Review: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl – Issa Rae
Book Review: Rich and Pretty – Rumaan Alam

Book Review: Alias Hook – Lisa Jensen

alias-hookTitle: Alias Hook
Author: Lisa Jensen
ISBN: 9781250067791
Pages: 368
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Summary

Captain Hook is tired of Neverland. He’s tired of losing men to Peter and the Lost Boys. He’s tired of being subject to the whims of a child. More than anything, he longs to leave Neverland, but he knows that won’t happen because Neverland responds to the will of Peter Pan, and Peter wants him to stay. So instead, he wishes for death, something to end the monotony of his everyday existence. That is, until he finds a grown woman, Stella Parish, walking around the woods of Neverland. Peter doesn’t allow adult women into the land of fairy tales—how did she get there? Could she be the key to Hook’s escape, once and for all?

Review

I’ve always been captivated by the Peter Pan story. Not the idea of never growing up or being a child forever, but by the story of Hook. That’s why when I first heard about Alias Hook, a fairy tale for grown-ups starring a character I’ve been fascinated by for a long time, I was instantly intrigued.

It took me a long time to actually sit down and read Alias Hook, but once I did, I found myself completely immersed in the story. Lisa Jensen brings the world of Neverland to life for the reader, and it’s a gorgeous, cruel place. You can see the toll it’s taken on Hook and understand his frustration with his existence. I absolutely loved the characterization of Hook in this novel. He’s such a powerful, resourceful figure, but he’s also petulant. He’s been subject to the whims of a child for so long that he’s forgotten in some ways what it is to be an adult. He’s an incredibly convincing character and a wonderful anti-hero to center the novel on.

This is truly a fairy tale for adults, and I absolutely reveled in reading Alias Hook. From the setting to the character descriptions to the twists and turns of the story, I couldn’t get enough of this novel. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how much I sunk my teeth into this book; I read it in one sitting, desperate to understand what would happen in Neverland and eager to see the ending Hook created for himself. I think that even if you aren’t a fan of the Peter Pan story like I am, if you enjoy antiheroes (or you’re just a fan of Hook on Once Upon a Time, you need to give this incredible, gripping, gorgeous novel a chance. You won’t regret it.

A note about this book: The author chose to stay true to J.M. Barrie’s use of language and use specific terms that are derogatory by today’s standards to refer to Neverland’s indigenous population. I wish she hadn’t made that choice because it pulled me out of the narrative and filled me with distaste. I can anticipate the arguments for making that choice (the time period, the source material), but it doesn’t change the fact it was unnecessary. It would have been just as easy and convincing to omit or change those terms. It’s a flaw in an otherwise incredible book, and one I didn’t wish I had to address.

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Book Review: A Change of Heart – Sonali Dev

Title: A Change of Heart
Author: Sonali Dev
ISBN: 9781496705747
Pages: 352
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Romance
Source: Publisher

Summary

There’s no nice way to put it—Dr. Nikhil Joshi is a mess. Ever since his beloved wife, Jen, was murdered in the slums of Bombay, he hasn’t been able to pull his life back together. He spends his days drinking, barely functioning, and considering putting an end to his misery. But when he meets Jess Koirala, he can’t help but be startled by things she knows. Things about Jen. Is it possible that, as Jess claims, she received Jen’s heart in a transplant, and Jen has reached out to Nic from beyond the grave?

Review

On the surface, A Change of Heart appears to be a sweet romance novel about two people who have been to hell and back finding one another. It’s clear from the beginning that both Jess and Nic have faced their share of tragedy. Nic wears his heart on his sleeve—he hasn’t been able to get over Jen’s death. More than that, though, he hasn’t been trying. He’s so comfortable wrapped in his blanket of despair that he’s content to stay there forever. It’s too hard to begin living again, so instead he dies a little more each day.

Jess, on the other hand, has a much murkier past. We don’t know exactly what she’s faced in A Change of Heart, but it’s clear that it isn’t good. Why is she doing this? Why has she tracked Nic down? What was her relationship with Jen? Question after question surrounds Jess, and Dev does an exceptional job keeping the mystery swirling about her. Every time one of the reader’s questions is answered, more surface. Her motivations might be easy to question, but it’s much harder to question Jess as a person. She’s damaged, she’s been through so much, and the reader wants, most of all, for her to find some solace.

Once the reader begins to dig into A Change of Heart, it becomes clear that this isn’t as bright and shiny of a novel as one might have predicted from the gorgeous cover. There is darkness here. Dev chose to use this novel to discuss the problem of organ trafficking in the slums of India; that’s what Jen was investigating when she was killed. Indeed, this novel isn’t afraid to examine many of the issues the poor in India face, how they have so few options and are desperate to merely survive.

Sonali Dev is a bright light in the romance novel world; I’ve enjoyed every one of her novels, and especially appreciated how different they are from one another. If you haven’t given her novels a chance, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They all have incredibly rich characters, layered and flawed, and are wonderfully engaging novels. A Change of Heart is no exception; as long as Sonali Dev keeps writing, I’ll be reading.

Other books by Sonali Dev

A Bollywood Affair
The Bollywood Bride

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Book Review: Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

three-dark-crownsTitle: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
ISBN: 9780062385437
Pages: 416
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Publisher

Summary

As long as anyone can remember, the Queen of Fennbirn has been one of three sisters, triplets born to the reigning queen. To prevent them from bonding to one another, the sisters are separated at a young age and each is trained to be powerful in a certain type of magic…so she can kill her two sisters and claim the throne. The time is coming when the three sisters must battle one another—but only one of them, Mirabella, shows any aptitude for the magic she represents. Her sisters Katharine and Arsinoe must discover ways to protect their own lives and still claim the crown. But only one of the three can survive. Who will it be?

Review

The summary of Three Dark Crowns might sound complicated, and indeed, Kendare Blake has built a complicated fantasy world with its own rules and norms. But that doesn’t mean this book is difficult to read. Blake starts the novel off with a simple story—that of Katharine—and as the novel jumps narration between the sisters, the intricacies of the world are built in the reader’s head. It’s incredibly well done, providing connections to each of the three girls (and making sure the reader is emotionally invested in all of them) while also gradually building the world around them.

Who will you root for in Three Dark Crowns? It’s clear from the beginning that only one—Katharine, Mirabella, or Arsinoe—can survive. More than that, and perhaps worse than that, though, the victor will only survive by becoming a murderer and dispatching her two sisters. This has been instilled in each girl since she was a child, but that doesn’t mean the reader has to find it palatable—I found myself hoping, somehow, that they would find another way out. It’s such a wild premise, yet it works so well for the novel.

I’ve been so impressed with YA fantasy novels lately, and Three Dark Crowns is no exception. It drew me in completely and I raced through the novel in one sitting. This is the first in a series, so if you’re the type who waits until all books are out before diving into series, then keep that in mind. But I thought this novel stood on its own two feet well; it asked a lot of provocative questions, and answered many of them, but still left readers open and eager for the sequel(s). I absolutely will be ready to read the sequel as soon as it’s available!

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Book Review: The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan

Title: The Association of Small Bombs
Author: Karan Mahajan
ISBN: 9780525429630
Pages: 288
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

The year is 1996 in India, and two young Khurana brothers have just recruited their friend Mansoor to help them run a quick errand. What the Khurana family doesn’t realize, though, is that this small action will change their lives forever. A bomb blast in the market claims the lives of the two Khurana boys—but Mansoor is left alive. This sends repercussions far into the future that no one can foresee.

Review

In the United States, when a bomb goes off, it’s a Big Deal. It makes national headlines, and it’s all we can talk about for days. Of course that’s how it should be—bombs and terrorism should never be a part of everyday life. We shouldn’t have to grapple with these issues to the point where they become routine. However, other countries aren’t so lucky—for many around the world, dealing with terrorism is just another part of living, and that’s what The Association of Small Bombs tries to emphasize. First, that these “small bombs” that only kill a few people are a routine part of life for some, and also that despite the fact that you can consider them “small bombs,” they have lasting repercussions that ripple through time.

This isn’t a huge, earth shattering novel. It doesn’t deal with the effects of terrorism on a global or national scale. Instead it focuses on people—the Khurana family, Mansoor—and how they are affected by this tragedy. It shows how they grow and change, but also how the bombing will cast a shadow over their lives forever. It’s incredibly interesting; Mahajan’s development of his main characters and their complex motivations is fascinating.

There is no black and white in The Association of Small Bombs. The entire novel is told in shades of gray. Good and bad might seem like simple concepts, but through this artfully woven tale, the reader realizes they are anything but. There is a human side of terrorism—both terrorist and victim—and while Mahajan does not try to apologize for terrorists, he does make clear that it is all more complicated than we’d like to think.

The Association of Small Bombs is made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that it’s based on a true story. Even more than that, it’s a story that is happening every day, a cycle of violence occurring over and over again with no end in sight. This is an important book; it’s not always easy, though Mahajan’s brevity and straightforward prose do help, but it’s absolutely worth the time you spend with it.

Note: This review was written and scheduled before Saturday (9/17/16) night’s blasts in New York City and the Jersey shore, but those incidents further underscore the points that Mahajan is trying to make in this novel.

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Book Review: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl – Issa Rae

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Title: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl Author: Issa Rae ISBN: 9781476749051 Pages: 224 Release Date: February 10, 2015 Publisher: Atria / 37 INK Genre: Nonfiction, Essays Source: Personal Copy Summary Based on Issa Rae’s hit YouTube series, Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a collection of humorous essays on multiple identities: What it is to […]

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Book Review: Rich and Pretty – Rumaan Alam

rich-and-pretty

Title: Rich and Pretty Author: Rumaan Alam ISBN: 9780062429933 Pages: 304 Release Date: June 7, 2016 Publisher: Ecco Genre: Literary Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Sarah and Lauren have been best friends for most of their lives. Now, they both are living in New York in that period of their lives where they are adults, but don’t […]

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Book Review: The House Between Tides – Sarah Maine

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Title: The House Between Tides Author: Sarah Maine ISBN: 9781501126918 Pages: 400 Release Date: August 2, 2016 Publisher: Atria Books Genre: Historical Fiction Source: Publisher Summary Hetty is ready for a change, so when she receives news that a relative has died, and she’s been left a massive estate, Muirlan, in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides islands, she jumps at the chance for […]

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Book Review: The King’s Revenge – Don Jordan and Michael Walsh

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Title: The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History Author: Don Jordan and Michael Walsh ISBN: 9781681771687 Pages: 400 Release Date: August 2, 2016 Publisher: Pegasus Books Genre: Nonfiction, History Source: Publisher Summary In January 1649, Charles I, the King of England, was tried and executed by England’s new government. The republic (headed by Oliver Cromwell) failed, […]

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