Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book Review: Without You by Preethi Venugopala


Synopsis: When Ananya, a bubbly twenty-year-old engineering student, reaches her Grandmother's house in Sreepuram on a month long vacation, romance is the last thing on her mind. However, she meets Dr. Arjun there and falls head over heels in love.

As it often happens, the path of true love never runs smooth. Circumstances force them apart even though they were madly in love. She becomes a victim of depression. When everything fails to return her to normalcy, help arrives from an unexpected source. Will she ever find happiness again? Will time allow her heart to heal and forget Arjun? What indeed is true love? What is that strange secret that locks all the circumstances together? 

Travel with Ananya to the picturesque Sreepuram, face the chaos of Bengaluru, and relish the warmth of magical Dubai in this heartwarming tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and miracles.

Review: Without You is the debut novel of Preethi Venugopala and it is an uplifting tale of romance that will stir your heart and fire your passion.<

It's obvious from the early pages of this book how passionate the author is about her subjects. The main characters, Anu and Arjun are fun to watch, as their relationship develops and goes through its various ups and downs.

The author's forewarding notes, as well as the quotes that open each chapter are endearing and make you think.

As befitting an Indian author, readers should be prepared for an indoctrination into Indian culture. This is to be welcomed, because the author writes with a style and panache that always engages the reader.

Some lines I liked:-

"If you had given this to Shakespeare, he would have written a thousand sonnets about it." (Anu discussing food).

"Both of us can't bear to live without the other. But we still managed to make our lives a living hell making asinine assumptions about each other."</i> (Anu and Arjun, on the difficulty of relationships.)

Without You is a credible addition to the romance genre, fans of which will see inspiration from all kinds of authors, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen. There's a hint of Judith McNaught in there too - no bad thing.

It's a lovely story that romance fans will hold dear to their hearts.

On Amazon this book gets five stars.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Book Review: Misery by Stephen King


Synopsis: Paul Sheldon. He's a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader - she is Paul's nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Wow. Only two years since I last read this? I thought it was ten!

Scratch the five stars above. This book deserves SIX. Below is a photo of my actual paperback copy from 1990.

My 2015 Review:-

If you are one of those people who has never read a Stephen King book, whilst it might be tempting to read a short story collection of his, like Graveyard Shift or Everything's Eventual, I would strongly direct you towards Misery.

The book is simply a masterpiece and one of my all time favourite books. Reading it again, and again - reveals something new. This is why some reviewers of books who think they understand a book after one read through....let's give some authors, especially the really great ones like Mr King their due.

You may have to read it more than once. I know - you might say 'oh life is too short and there are so many books to read' - and I will agree with you there.

But to read this book only once does it a disservice.

The brilliance of Misery is in its simplicity. King strips down the book to just two main characters, and the tension never lets up, not for a second. 

Paul Sheldon is a writer who has a car accident. He survives the crash, only to be dragged into a nightmare, because rescuer / retired nurse Annie Wilkes is Grade One on the crazy list.

How many she killed, we never really find out....it's just clever of King to drop these little things in the book to think about.

Why hasn't she taken him to hospital? Why doesn't she phone an ambulance? Why does she fly off the handle one moment, only to tell Paul that she *loves* him, the next?

Because she is his Number One fan. She's not too happy, to put it mildly, that her favourite character from Mr Sheldon's books - Misery Chastain, is killed off in the latest (and presumably final) Misery book.

She's even less impressed with his manuscript for his first non-Misery novel in a while. She hates the title, the story, the characters, and the swearing.

Paul, meanwhile, is getting addicted to the painkiller she prescribed him - Novril.

And he learns early on that Annie has no intention of letting him go.

But before all that happens, he would have to bring Misery back from the dead. And he had better do that right, too!

If Stephen King wrote a book to show how appreciative he is of his fans, I think Misery would be that book. 

Through Paul Sheldon, he tries to explain things to Annie, things only a writer would know and understand.

She rebels of course, because that's how she's written. She thinks she knows it all. She's been in a position of power and authority before, and wants to exercise on Paul in this story.

The book becomes a battle of wills. Paul has his little victories, like managing to get out of the room that has become his prison.

There's comedy, that from my point as a writer, I understand. Yes - the letter E is essential, and I would be lost without it. In Misery, we get these scenes. They are wonderfully created and executed.

Nearly 370 pages and yet it reads like a dream, even when Paul is writing Misery's Return, just for Annie - we get an insight into what that story is actually like.

Some may find that, along with it's typeface (in the print edition) off putting, and distracting from the real story.

It doesn't add, nor take away from it for me. But its inclusion is an interesting one. Say what you like about Stephen King, but he takes risks and it pays off.

Boy, does it.

The One (The Selection, #3) by Keira Cass


Synopsis: The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

Review: The Selection was an enjoyable, light read. As a standalone book, it offered romance, a love triangle and some dystopian elements.

The Elite actually took some of those elements forward and made it a more intriguing read.

By the time of The One, you would think these elements would collide into each other to create
a hell of a finale.

In some ways, it delivers on these.

America, or Mer, remains a divisive character. Sometimes I think she is really growing into the role of Number One Princess, other times she doesn't seem to have grown much from the girl who left her
family in Book One.

There's simply no reason for her to like Maxon. Over the three books, he remains a mystery to me. He doesn't  seem remotely 'kingly', and yet his only apparent competition is Aspen - who is still hanging around after telling the poor girl to 'do one.'

Main characters aside, I'm actually growing quite fond of Celeste. She's not Bad Girl Number One - she actually has some reasoning for her actions, and even though her cattish behaviour was a bit annoying in The Selection, she's actually become my favourite character.

Marlee remains nice. And that's it. She's nice, and that's all anyone can say about her.

So why stick with the series?

Well, it's actually rather readable - a minimum requirement for a book, but in this regard Keira Cass succeeds. I credit her for trying something different, even if the idea of a monarchy in a dystopian world isn't fully realised for me.

By the end of The One, whilst some of it you just know is going to happen, there were some things I did not expect.

Finally the rebels actually do something - and for the first time it seems we could be in for terrific finale.

I kind of believe The One isn't so much the end of Mer's story, but the start of Eadlyn's one (The Heir - which I will definitely be reading).

I probably wouldn't go for the short novellas unless you are a real Selection fan and a completist.

The One just about delivers. On Amazon, I will be giving this book four stars.

Book Review: A Circle Around Forever by Robert K Swisher


Synopsis: The outstanding characters in A Circle Around Forever create an epic tale that will fill you with wonder and touch every emotion that is humanly possible: A spirit that is all of the sky, pictographs that come to life to protect and also teach, ghosts of evil and ghosts of good will, stones with the knowledge of immortality, people that are both young and old at the same time, a man with the gift of rainbows, a lady whose tears sprout acres of flowers, a murderer, a boy born with all the knowledge of the world, an evil ghost that longs for nothingness and whose sole purpose is to defeat all who love, a love between two people that started with the beginning of time and is tested to its limits, a battle between Love and Hate that can either plunge the world into darkness or light.

Review: A Circle Around Forever works on so many levels that it is hard to quantify exactly what the author has created here. The story of how wicked Grandma Bertha controls her grandson from the grave is quite something. When he starts exhibiting actions that no young child should be able to do, and how he cryptically talks about the 'voices', one might think they are in for stock horror fare.

When it's done correctly, there's no problem with that.

I have to say that this book came highly recommended to me, so expectations were already high. What I did not expect was my own expectations to be blown out of the water.

It's not a long book, but maybe that's because it is written so well. I was pulled in from the start, wanted to let it go and indeed had things to do. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it - another good sign.

The battle of good versus evil takes on a new meaning in this book. It's amazing that amongst the amount of popularist pap that so often hit the top of the charts, or are fawned over on book programmes that lavish praise on the author but rarely have a book to back that praise up, that this title would have been possibly overlooked by me.

The book has a real power to shock, not in an overtly grisly way (although when it does, it is executed brilliantly). I'm trying to think where I may have read a story like this before, and I cannot offer another story to you like this one.

There are some biblical references which serve to highlight the overall seriousness of the book, but the author never drags us down into a 'repent, lest ye will be judged' situation. It's pretty much perfectly balanced between thriller, epic, horror, and ultimately is a story that makes you think.

My only regret is not getting to this story sooner.

Some may find the tone is too bleak or unsettling for their liking. For me, this was one book I didn't want to end. I can give it no higher recommendation than that!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book Review: Serendipity by James Duncan

Synopsis: 'If you have your health, but you don't have your wealth - then you have less nothing.' asserted Edward Noble. 
First, utterly bankrupt in spiritual terms, the amoral Edward Noble is then utterly bankrupted financially. 
For a man who dismissed most people as losers, he is now humiliated in every sense as he becomes 'a big league player for the Loserville Losers'. His misadventures soon lead to Skid Row, as he is cuckolded, ripped off and rejected in a perverse about-turn of Fate. 
But if Edward can only learn humility, Serendipity, sweet Serendipity is calling to him. She offers him opportunities that he had never dreamt were possible. 

Review: Serendipity is quite a roller coaster ride of a book. Our main character, Edward Noble, appears to be the polar opposite of his name, at least at the start of the book.

He seems to be driven by money, making money, and lots of it. Not exactly a likeable trait in today's 'me me me' world.

When an investment goes wrong, it is not the investment owners that take the hit (in a scene that is almost Biblical in its execution), but Edward himself.

He finds himself suddenly unable to live the life he is now thrust into, and the future doesn't look rosy for him all of a sudden.

The narrative is good - it explains Edward's actions whilst at the same time giving us a background into the financial world he was part of. At the first time of reading I wanted to understand exactly why Malcolm and Matt were tucking him up. I then accepted it that banking is very much a dog eat dog world - moreso perhaps than other industries.

In essence, the author tries to get us on side with Edward, even though at the outset, I certainly didn't want to root for him.

Serendipity is a serious book that has occasional light overtones. It takes you on a journey with a man who had suddenly lost everything he considered valuable in his life.

When it is Edward asking a beggar for money, you know that this man's journey is one you have to take alongside him.

Serendipity is one of those novels that taste like a trifle you are not sure about. As you delve more into it, it reveals itself to be a clever tale, and in part, how one can redeem themselves from such a terrible situation.

There's lots of very English slang words to the book, and those of us who are from different parts of England will have fun decoding some of the references.

A line that stood out for me:-

The problem with ladies with real class is that they are fully equipped with a powerful b***-s*** detector, which would eliminate a man with a story to tell like Edward's at 200 yards.

This is a strong debut from author James Duncan. He has also co-authored another work with the multi-talented J Kahele. So if you want to get an understanding of how this author's mind words, start with Serendipity. You cannot go wrong with this!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Book Review: Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas


Synopsis: When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She’s exactly what he’s been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage.And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked… 

Review: There's quite a lot of reviews for this book already, so I am not sure what I can add to it. What I will say, is that this is the fourth read of Ms Thomas' and once again, the author delivers a fun, well written tale that makes us enjoy the story immensely.

The characters play out a lot of nuances of unrequited love, and this goes on for a long time, the best part of a decade in this case.

Why is this so? Well, even the best of us have played the game of love - poorly. Why should any well to do characters be any different.

This is part of a series, though at the end of the book, many story arcs are resolved. I'm reading this series having already read the prequel novella - Claiming the Duchess. If you are new to Ms Thomas' works, there could be no better introduction. In the end, I was between a 4 and 5 star rating for this book. It's a solid 4.5 if I could apply such a rating. I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Book Review: Give and Take: A Tale of Erotica, by Tom Benson


Synopsis: Nick and Kirsten are an attractive couple in their early 20’s and share an apartment. To the outside world they are perfectly matched, but behind closed doors things are not so straightforward. 
Nick’s appetite for sexual experimentation goes beyond what Kirsten will allow. Kirsten’s love for Nick is pushed to the limit, however, she confides in a friend and takes a course of action that nobody would have expected – least of all her boyfriend. 
The couple find themselves in a world where they will both see fantasy become reality, but at what cost? 

Review: This is the third book I have read by Tom Benson and once again, there is a standard to his writing, real elements of perfection that readers will appreciate.

Give and Take certainly is an adult book, never shying away from themes that many people would find eye popping. This isn't such a bad thing in itself - too often we are in our comfort zone, we really should test those elements far more often than we actually do.

For those of us who could not see us actually doing any of the things in this book, at least we can let it play out in the actions of our main characters, Nick and Kirsten.

I don't wish to generalise or demonise the male sex, but 20 something Nick is aggressive when it comes to sex, and it seems that his demands dominate those of poor Kirsten. I don't think this makes Nick a bad guy. After all, when I was in my early twenties, I was pretty much the same in the company of attractive women. I don't think the hormonal rage calms down so much as it changes somewhat as we age.

But Kirsten is not finding things easy with Nick. That is not to say she wants love without considering the idea of experimentation, it is just that she feels the reality is not so attractive to her. But Nick won't be told that.

Some women readers will like the idea of a strong male knowing what he wants in the bedroom. For my viewpoint, there didn't seem to be a valve on Nick, he wanted it all, he wanted it now, and he wanted it, again and again.

Some elements really will turn readers off. It is an explicit book that let's you into Nick's head - you may not want to be there all the time!

That said, as befitting an author of Tom Benson's standard, this tale of erotica rises above a lot of the awfully written smut out there. The genre is not my favourite, but the author, I believe, could write almost any genre and be perceived as an authority on it. I'm yet to read a Tom Benson book that hasn't worked for me, and I strongly recommend you give this book a chance.

In the end, the story is much more about relationships and understanding than unusual sexual demands. Will Nick and Kirsten stay together? Will she tire of him, yet find something has awoken in her, to the point that these desires need to be experienced for real?

The book teases us with these possible scenarios and gives us a satisfying ending.

There are other characters in the book too. My favourite alongside Kirsten, was Lauren. If you add in the structure to the book, where chapters like The Red Room and The Green Room will start to take on new meanings for you ( I mean, I have had a Red Room for years, but it's not like anything in this book - am I missing out on something?!)

This book is way above other tales of erotica (with the exception being the author's 'Coming Around') and will titillate some, make others smile, and educate some others. Overall it is an enjoyable read that doesn't take the themes too seriously in themselves, but is seriously well written. having read this, I'll be looking for another book by this talented author.