Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

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Translated by: Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

Genre: Short Stories

Date Published: May 9, 2017

Pages: 240

Source: Penguin Random House Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: A dazzling new collection of short stories–the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart (40% off on hardcover!)| The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  Ah, well, here I find myself again. Around three years back, I read my first Murakami. You can read my hair-pulling review here. And it was then I decided to take a break from Murakami until I had wisened up or tracked down Murakami and sat him down to find some answers. I did try that last year when I was in Japan at a booklover’s paradise and reading Birthday Stories by him but I couldn’t track him down. Anyhow, I did find myself with another Murakami in the beginning of last year, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage which was comparatively easier for my dull mind to grasp. So when I saw this opportunity to read another Murakami a year and a half after my last read by him, I thought it was enough of  a break (not to mention the 1Q84 which is lying in the deep, dark corners of my bookshelf waiting to be discovered but I guess it will have to wait).

This book could not have come at a better time. With my mind unable to concentrate for long right now (ah! life), I guess short stories were just what I needed. And thanks be to Murakami, he did not mess with my mind too much this time. In fact, I have to give it to him for this masterpiece (and here is when I’m rethinking the rating but let’s go with that for now). After reading Murakami you know he can’t do without his cats and they make their presence felt. In fact, a reviewer who had the chance to ask him a question asked precisely this ‘What’s with the cats?’ and he answered  that when he was a child he had no brother and  no sister, but he had a cat, and he talked to his cat, and the cat talked back to him. They somehow entered all his stories, and he felt his writing was the better for it. Ah, atleast one question answered. Woohoo!

In fact, you may draw some associations between the stories with a character being repeated in another. I could only draw one such comparison but I was reading 5 books at a time so may have missed the others. A thing which I really appreciated is that even though the theme of ‘men without women’ pervades all the stories, the meaning is strikingly different in all which is no mean feat to accomplish. All the men in the stories are in completely different circumstances and the absence of a woman is presented in a unique manner in each, with varying consequences. But the theme of each is made clear without having to say it in those many terms.

I also like how the women are portrayed in these stories (although some may beg to differ). Murakami gives them wings to fly, he sets them free. They are just themselves without having to follow patriarchal rules and be set in a mould. They are strong and do not need men to complete them. On the other hand, as the title reveals, it’s the men here who miss the women in their lives despite their not being ideal or perfect which is actually a relief!

It’s difficult to come up with my favorite of all the stories but I guess it would be ‘Scheherazade’ which was the first one I read (yeah I love to randomly open up stories and start reading). It just spoke to me. If you have read the book, don’t judge me but something about her made me feel that I would like to be free like her. Without attachments, without concern yet not without feelings. It would be a good place to be in.

Murakami does magic when he writes down his characters. It is even more evident in his stories because you have known 2 characters in just 20 pages and yet you feel for them, you want to know more about them, and to know them personally. It’s not an easy thing to do certainly. People write whole books about characters you don’t give a damn about so making you feel for someone in a short story is just wow.

‘Samsa in love’ would give a good laugh to all those who have read and re-read ‘Metamorphosis‘ (yep, that would be me). Gregor Samsa has finally found his way back as a human but how. The stories have a touch of dry humor that would sometimes make you smile and at others, laugh out loud.

Murakami’s writing is lyrical and something to savor and relish with delight. I had to sadly read this book in a few days in order to write this review but I would advice you to read a story (and not read any other book concurrently) and let it mull over for a couple of days while your brain does its own thing and comes up with themes and secrets that Murakami always sprinkles around in his books.

So if you’re still deciding on whether or not to pick it up, let this make up your mind-

“It’s quite easy to become Men without Women. You love a woman deeply, and then she goes off somewhere. That’s all it takes. And there’s very little we can do about that. And that’s how you become Men without Women. Before you even know it. And once you’ve become Men without Women, loneliness seeps deep down inside your body, like a red-wine stain on a pastel carpet. No matter how many home ec books you study, getting rid of that stain isn’t easy. The stain might fade a bit over time, but it will still remain, as a stain, until the day you draw your final breath. And you are left to live the rest of your life with the gradual spread of that color, with that ambiguous outline. “

All right so you made your decision? Go off then, buy the book and get reading.

4/5 stars – I really liked it!
4 stars

Author Bio:

Haruki Murakami is the author of many novels as well as short stories and non-fiction. His books include Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and the most recent of his many international honours are the Jerusalem Prize and Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.

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(Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending this book my way. All opinions are my own and completely unbiased.)

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid

Date Published: November 27, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 252
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisFrom “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers” (The New York Times) , intimate and sharply observed commentary on life, art, politics, and “the war on terror.”

Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a “master critic of the modern global condition” (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.

A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home—Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen—Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious West and a volatile East, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Flipkart Amazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: To tell the truth, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because the author was famous for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist which went on to become a major motion picture. Otherwise, a book with a title like that would have been easily glossed over.

The book has been divided by essays into three parts – Life, Art and Politics. It’s difficult to choose which part I liked the most. But yes, I found the first two parts more easy to read and interesting while the final one was heavy and dry on the palate.

I liked the way the essays have been structured. It starts with giving us a glimpse into the author’s life which makes it easier to appreciate what comes later on. We see the world through his eyes and experiences and it lends itself a different voice than the world might see from their side of the spider’s web.

The author’s journey through his career changes, his personal life and travel within the three countries makes for an interesting narrative. In seeing the world-view through his eyes, one finds oneself wondering at the objectivity and its absence in all things meaningful.

The essays in the Art section also made for a gripping read. With my interest in all things related to books, I could identify where the author was coming from. His essays about rereading books, likeable characters, Murakami, great American novel and the change of reading experience through ebooks found a resonance within me. They made for a page turning read.

Let me now talk about the Politics section. Frankly, I have zero knowledge and/or interest in politics. But every so often, with the help of books like these, I try to keep myself abreast of the goings-on in the world. And that’s precisely where this section stepped in. The essays give a plethora of events to think about, to reflect upon. Looking at the drones and war from an insider’s perspective lends it an air of honesty and raw brutalism that makes one shudder. It’s easy to read about it in the news than to hear someone who has been through it and knows the ins and outs. It would be easier to side with the US on its drones and air strikes when its labelled as a fight with terrorism but when you hear it from the horse’s mouth do you realise it carries within it so much more than just that. The essays give a refreshing albeit heart rending stance to the whole situation. Frankly, it was difficult to go through it. It was unsettling and as is easier, one tends to pass by what is uncomfortable or evokes disturbing emotions. But I needed to know the bird’s eye view of things and not just what the newspapers tell me and hence I read it, every single word of it. It didn’t help settle my perturbed emotions but surely helped me realize that one can never see the panorama from just one side. And now that I have touched on the philosophical, let me give it a rest. And you go read the book.

Highly influential and well-written. Would definitely be trying the author again.

4/5 stars – I liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Date Published: April 5, 2014
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 337
Source: Local Library
Format: Hardback

Goodreads Synopsis: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and — finally — a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Buy it here –Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: The author’s ‘The statistical probability of love at first sight‘ has been on my to-read list since forever. In fact, I think it has been more than 2 years since I bought it but I still need to get to it. But surprisingly when I saw this one sitting on a library shelf, I decided to read this one first. You know how it goes, you borrow books from library and they are the ones actually getting read while the ones on your own shelf sulk away. Oh, well.

As usual, I went in this book blind, no back cover reads, no reviews gone through. Just straight dunk-in. So what did I find? To begin with, I had a feeling this might be getting somewhere but then after another few pages, I thought maybe not. This seems like one of those cliche’d, been there-done that read.

I truly found love for this book in the second half. I can see you nodding your head there. You know me too well, don’t you? Wherever travel comes in a book, I am all for it. And I gobble it up like it’s my very favorite food. Well, actually, it is! Even though I would have wanted some more of that travelling and descriptions but I realized the book wasn’t about that.

As I go through some of the reviews now, I realize a lot of people didn’t like this one for it being cheesy and cliche’d and almost unbelievable. Okay, I would agree it is a bit cheesy and cliche’d and unbelievable. But then isn’t this what books are for? Sometimes life doesn’t give you what a book does. You get to believe and hope and make those dreams come true. That’s not heard of in real life. And that’s what got to me. It’s what made me love this book. The little thoughts, the similar thinking styles of the main characters. That’s not possible, I know! But still I loved it. I gorged on it like anything. It gave me my breath of air, my unfulfilled dream came to fruition. Umm, okay, I know you are thinking I have probably lost it by this time.

Some of the writing in there is truly worth savoring and I read few sentences multiple time just to let all that beauty sink in.

Perhaps it could be the stage of my life from where I’m looking at it that this book makes absolute sense. It makes me see how this book is believable, how it can happen. It makes me want to fall in love and stay there, even at a distance but still in love. Ahh, the feeling.

I think Ms. Smith has given us a fresh concept albeit with the help of some cliche’d story line and instances. I believe this is one of those books that had it come at any other time, I might have given it a pass and commented on it being cheesy but right now, it means the world. It means everything. And someday I would like to send that postcard and ‘wish you were here’.

4/5 stars – I really liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

Series: The Bone Season #2
Date Published: January 27, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Pages: 506
Source: Review copy provided by Bloomsbury India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis: Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London…

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

Buy it here – Amazon India | FlipkartAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

Here’s an Audio clip from Audible if you’d rather listen to the book.

My View: Ah, where to begin? Let me take a deep, deep breath first. Oh God, I think I am still in the world of Scion. Watching that breathtaking action with my own eyes, recoiling in fear for Paige’s safety, wishing with bated breath that my favorite characters come out of this book alive. *sigh* That’s really all I have to say.

Compared to the difficulties I faced with The Bone Season, this one’s been easier on my mind. Now that the world building has been done for the most part, there is less of information to take in and more of hard-hitting action, just the kind I like. And with a female character to top it all, ah, an icing on the cake.

Not to say that there are no new facts or terms, plenty indeed. I thank my stars I read the two books back to back. I do not envy those who had to wait for an year and a half to read this one. That would certainly be mind-numbing at best and a disorienting experience at its worst. But now that I am done with this one, I have to wait another year for the next in the series and believe me when I say it’s pure torture.

Samantha Shannon has done it yet again. Her prowess in the field of creation and imagination is unrivaled. She will grab the rug beneath your feet in an instant and you will be left gaping. I love how she keeps me on my toes throughout, always being a step ahead of the confines my mind can take me to. It’s almost like having a ring of roses with her (read the book to know what I’m hinting at) and it’s thrilling to say the least. Exhilarating indeed.

This one is a page turner for sure. I did myself a mini marathon of the two books and spent all my time (apart from work hours) reading away, much to the chagrin of my family and friends. Also, there just might be a pile of work in the background giving me the evil eye. Gah! I guess I will get to it before it plans on entering my dreamscape and pushing my spirit out of my body. I think it’s gonna be a while when I turn to the ordinary English vocabulary once again. Till then, stay away from the poltergeists and make sure your mask is in place. Oh and watch out for those cold spots lest an Emim catch you in its throes. *insert hysterical laughter here*

4/5 stars –  I really liked it.

4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury India for providing the review copy.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald & Movie Review

Date Published: 1925
Pages: 180
Source: Owned
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisA portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, The Great Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–“Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Flipkart | Amazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: Sometimes it’s just hype and at other times, the hype is just right. The hype about this one being a classic kept scaring me away, yeah, I am scared of books that take time to enter my head. And that hype was so wrong. Well, atleast in the it being classicy classic way. I took 6 months to read Crime and Punishment and not just because of its hefty size. This? This, I finished in a few hours marathon at night that ended at 4:30 am. Yeah! The hype that was right – of this being a good book. It was. It certainly was.

First few pages (make that 50), I wasn’t sure where this book was heading. And I would certainly not have said it was going great. It was easy to understand and smoothly going by, definitely. But I was curious to know Gatsby, the person the book was named after. And so far it looked that the book was more about the narrator. ‘Hurry up, will you?’, I said. This book is only 140 pages long! I want to know you, Gatsby. Come, meet me.

And then, things changed. Gatsby was being unraveled, and I was liking it. Oh, so this is what he is all about. My my! I would love to have me a man like that. 5 years, did you say! (Not revealing much in order not to give spoilers).

The writing is fluid and makes for an interesting narrative. The plot is innovative, to say the least. And I do love myself some old romance devoid of physical intimacy and sex that are rampant in the current romance genre books. Do I sound like an old lady, because I assure you I am not.

The book is easy to read and one classic you can finish in a few hours. You don’t have to rack your brains over this one, for sure. There are some strange coincidences in this book that make you wonder, ‘oh really; life is certainly a mystery’.

Although I would admit, I read the last couple of pages twice in order to push the author into changing his mind while I was reading it again. Fitzgerald, how could you? I am devastated. I don’t like you, you know? And if you do not change that ending, I may never read another book by you. Are you listening? Of course, he isn’t. Or maybe he’s smirking down at me from heavens above, thinking all the time ‘what a foolish little girl’. *snort* I didn’t like him anyway.

Would I read it again? Probably, even if just for the kicks. Or maybe I will scratch out that end and write it myself. Although it would probably stop being a classic if I did that. But really. How could he? And the narrator, the stupid narrator, worthless. Why could he not open his mouth? Huh. See what Fitzgerald has got me into? Bad mouthing him and his characters. Those are the books I love where the plot and the characters have me all tied in a knot. Although I assure you, I did not cry. I. Did. Not. My mouth could have dropped open in shock though, in all probability. That’s it.

Have you read this one? Are you avoiding it because it’s a classic? Pfft. Read it. It will take only a few hours. 3. 4 maybe. Come on. You can do it. I believe in you. It’s just a simple, little story. And oh, I liked it, in case I forgot to mention. I have a tendency to ramble on. Probably I am doing that right now. Okay, stop! Oh God.

Movie

I am devastated. I don’t know what to say. The movie has done me in. For starters, I am so glad I read the book first because the movie is no way near my imagination. It’s so different! Do you see the book cover above? That’s how my mind imagined it all, in black and white and subtle and classy. The movie? It’s full of colors, and sounds and it’s brashy. It took me some time to get used to that for sure.

And woah, it took me another good while to get used to Spiderman (Toby Maguire) and Jack from Titanic (Leonardo DiCaprio). I just couldn’t picture them together.

Once I got used to the above, I was taken in by that world – the world of color and charm and love and heartbreak. OMG, I think I fell in love with Leonardo all over again. He can say so much without even uttering a word. Oh my, those expressions! How does he do that?

And the music, woah. One of the songs I had heard in a coffee shop 6-8 months back and have been trying to find it and when it came on in the movie, I was zapped. Amazing music.

For most purposes, I think the movie did justice to the book. It took the romantic angle a bit further, rest was keeping in line with the book. But it was while watching the movie that I realised Fitzgerald wrote so beautifully. How could I have missed those lines? I think reading a classic in a 4 hour marathon isn’t the best way, perhaps. And now I feel like I should definitely re-read it. Ahh, the movie makes me want to fall in love all over again. It was beautiful, simply beautiful.

And now I just want to sob. Gatsby, oh my Gatsby. You, the epitome of generosity and love. Nick Carraway said it well, when he did, that they are a rotten bunch, every single one of them. And you, you are the one. The only one!

It’s 90 years to the day the book was written but it’s words still strike true. The selfishness and greed of people, the tendency to serve their own motive without a glance at the other. I wonder sometimes did the world never change or was it the far-seeing eyes of these profound writers?

To sum up, I upped my rating from 3.5 to 4 because this is a masterpiece!

3.5/5 stars – Somewhere between I liked it and I really liked it. 

4/5 stars – I really liked it. Recommended to be read and watched
immediately after. You will be blown away.

And now I want to change it to 4.5!4 stars

My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel by Jesse Lee Kercheval (Audiobook Review)


Date Published: March 3, 2014
Publisher: University Press Audiobooks
Source: Review Purchase from Audible
Format: Audiobook
Narration: Rosemary Benson

Goodreads SynopsisAfter losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren’t the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist.

A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.

Buy it here – Amazon IndiaAmazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View:  When I saw this audiobook up for review, there was something that appealed to me about this book (if you know me well, you know I don’t read book blurbs, so all my good books are usually either by fluke or recommendations). Well, it certainly could have been that Eiffel Tower on the cover (Side note: I love travelling and I am in love with the idea of Paris, still to visit though).

Okay, let me warn you upfront, this audiobook is almost 10 hours long. I know some are like 40 hours long but since I prefer short audios, this was huge for me. But wait, did I feel all 10 hours of it? Nope, not at all. And why would that be? Perhaps because the book pulled me in from the very first word and did not let go. The narration is good enough. But the major meat is the book! Just wow!

First, the author draws a background and you are interested in what’s going on. Mmm hmm… And then there comes the twists and the turns. And Paris! And the walks around Paris. Surprise upon surprise. I was totally overwhelmed (happily!) by the plot, the unraveling of it, the characters who I found myself rooting for. Giggling at times, wanting him to be @%^&$ alive! Woah, a gamut of emotions, all in one book.

There’s some history in there. Something I don’t really like but when you dish it out in a book, I’m all for it. A woman taking a trip across the world to unravel her past – now there’s some magic in that, right? History, art, travel, mystery, a solid plot, a good narration and there you have it, a brilliant book.

A must listen I would say.

4.5/5 stars – I really, really, really liked it! Highly Recommended. 4.5 stars

Girls Love Travis Walker by Anne Pfeffer

17456388New Adult Contemporary
Date Published: 3/15/13

Synopsis: To nineteen-year-old high school dropout Travis Walker, women are like snowflakes– each one different, but beautiful in her own way. He can charm any girl he meets, and yet down deep he fears he’ll always be a loser like his jailbird father. As the landlady threatens to evict him and his sick mother, Travis takes a job he hates and spends his evenings picking up girls at a nearby night spot. When he enlists in a teen program at the local fire station, he finds out he’s amazing at it. Then he meets the smoking hot Kat Summers, enlists Kat’s friend Zoey to help him woo her, and falls in love for the first time ever. But he keeps the details of his life secret. His girl will never love him back if she knows the truth about him….

Buy it here – Amazon – 99 cents only!| Add on Goodreads

My View: I read Any Other Night by Anne Pfeffer last year and really liked it (read my review here) so when I got the offer to read another of her books, I jumped at the chance.

The way the book started made me feel as if ‘oh, this will be yet another new adult contemporary plots I have been reading which have nothing new to offer’ but a few pages into the book and I started to disagree with myself.

A great plot and absolutely very different from all the new adult books out there (you got to believe me, I have been reading a lot of them lately), this book came out to be a winner all the way.

And yeah the title is right, I did fell in love with Travis Walker. Not at first but gradually, oh yes! Bring him on. 🙂

I loved the tragic yet real plot, the well etched characters, the situations that played out. And this is embarrassing to admit but I ended up crying even though I totally shouldn’t have. *sigh* But it was such a tragic, sad circumstance, I couldn’t help myself.

Overall, a real gem of a story written equally well. I think I’m going to go check out the other two books by Anne Pfeffer. She’s notched up a spot on my authors-to-look-out-for list.

4/5 stars – I really liked it. images (1)

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I have in no way been compensated and my views are my own.

Author Bio:

Anne Pfeffer is the author of Any Other Night and The Wedding Cake Girl.  She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Contact Links: Website | Twitter @AnnePfeffer1 | Goodreads

Gadget Girl by Suzanne Kamata & Giveaway (INT)

GadgetGirlGadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata
Publication: May 17th 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary

Synopsis: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS meets STONER AND SPAZ.Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother’s muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko’s mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She’d much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.

Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.

Goodreads | Purchase on Amazon

My View: This book got my attention from the very first sentence and ensured my interest throughout. With an unusual main character, a girl with cerebral palsy, this book had a different feel to it unlike books where everyone is perfect from head to toe and insta love happens.

I have never read a manga but the way this book relies on it, I’m tempted to give them a read now. I love how unique the plot was, how different and real the characters.

I immensely loved the emotions this book brought out in me – empathy, sadness, happiness, delight. Oh, the world!

With a powerful background and brilliantly sketched characters, this book had a strong grip on the storyline and the pace, never letting go.

Add in Paris and Japan, and a travel aficionado like me is literally in heaven. Even though there’s not much of travel going around nevertheless I loved the description of places the mother-daughter duo visited in France.

Despite the fact that the book’s main character is a teenager, I believe the plot is more mature and not just YA.

Overall, though this is not my usual kind of read, I immensely enjoyed this book and look forward to more books by Suzanne Kamata.

4 stars – I really liked it. images (1)

Giveaway
5 paperback copies (open internationally)

Enter here.

AUTHOR BIO

Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novels Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013) and Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), and editor of three anthologies – The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). Her short fiction and essays have appeared widely. She is the Fiction Co-editor of literarymama.com.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Freak of Nature by Julia Crane & Giveaway (INT)

Freak of Nature

By: Julia Crane

Blurb: Donate Body to Science. Check.

When seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn checked the box, she never suspected she’d have her life–and her body–stolen from her. She awakens one day in a secret laboratory to discover that her body is now half-robot and is forced to hide her own secret: that she still has human emotions and a human mind. If the scientists who made her find out, they’ll erase what remains of who she was.

Kaitlyn finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a handsome, brilliant scientist who can’t get over the guilt he feels knowing she was once a vibrant, beautiful young woman. He never expected a science project to affect him the way she does. As he tries to help her rediscover her past, he finds himself falling for the brave girl struggling to find her place and acceptance between the human and computer worlds.

*For mature teens due to some sexual content.

Buy Freak of Nature: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | KOBO | iTunes

My View: The moment I set my eyes on that cover, I knew I had to read it. Yes, I am cover crazy like that. Good thing is that the book did not disappoint.

This book had me hooked from the very first page. What got my attention was the really innovative and mind-boggling plot. It sparked an interest in me instantly. I finished reading this book in less than two days as I couldn’t pull myself away from it.

Another brilliant work on the author’s part was the attention to minute details which I heartily applaud. Writing about a non-human, a robot and making sure all the facts you mention collaborate with one another is a huge task and Julia Crane carried it amazingly well on her able shoulders. I have a sharp editing mind and can easily catch such errors in the writing, so to find a lack of it was icing on the cake.

The characters – I especially like the fact that there were less characters (less to keep track of, I have a bad short-term memory. :-p ) and very well etched out.

The story moves at a rapid pace (just how I like it). There’s no lag and no pages that should have gotten rid of.

Overall, a very well-written book that has it all. I strongly recommend it.

4/5 stars – I really liked it. Dying to Run by Cami Checketts: Review & Giveaway(INT)

Julia Crane Bio

Julia Crane is the author of the Coexist: Keegan’s Chronicles. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Julia has believed in magical creatures since the day her grandmother first told her an Irish tale. Growing up her mother greatly encouraged reading and using your imagination. Although she’s spent most of her life on the US east coast, she currently lives in Dubai with her husband and three children.

Julia Crane “Stalker Links” – Website | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook

Giveaway (INT)

 Enter here. 

$50 Gift Card of your choice! Choose between Noon, Kindle, or Kobo!

Signed Copy of “Freak of Nature”

Freak of Nature Magnet | Freak of Nature Book Charm

Freak of Nature Note Card

Bookmark (Front and Back)

 

Mind Games by Kiersten White

Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Review Copy: Edelweiss

Summary: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

Buy it here – Pre-order at Amazon | Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide  | Add at Goodreads

My View: I have been sort of breathless yet resisting to write this review. Ah, the pulls and tugs of my mind…

This book found a place on my most anticipated books of 2013 and of course, I had huge expectations from it. This is my first read by Kiersten White and even though I have wanted to read the Paranormalcy series, I haven’t yet gotten to it.

So, did the book met my expectations? Umm, well..for the most part, a huge yes.

What I liked loved about this book?

The Cover I mean, just look at that cover. Gah! Don’t you fall in love with it?

The plot – Amazing, mind-blowing. Although the plot may have been dealt with in other books, this is a unique rendition of it.

The writing – Easy, effortless, pulls you in. Got me from the very first line and I finished the book in a day.

The way the story is knitted – This is why the book is different. It may have a similar broad outline to other books but within that, it’s completely different. Molded into its own vessel, it keeps up the interest and the fascination.

The Pace – Thrilling. Not for a single moment, the book dulls. Every word is important and you never know what will happen next.

The Characters – Fia and Annie, the two protagonists. The story is told from their POV. I loved Fia, the beautiful, strong and kick-ass heroine who can think and act. Annie didn’t pull my heart strings though. James, the suave, lovable hottie, I fell in love with and it feels so wrong… LOL (Read the book to understand this joke.) Adam, the cute, innocent boy from next door. The characters are nicely etched overall.

The Ending – So clever. I can’t spoil it for you so you have to read the book to know what happened.

Acknowledgements – I know this is not a part of the story but I love reading acknowledgements (must be a psychological thing, I feel you can tell so much about a person from the acknowledgements he/she wrote). And Kiersten White’s acknowledgements were insanely funny. I got a good chuckle from them.

What irked me?

A single thing – I was unable to adjust to the way the time shifted from one to another during POVs. Don’t get me wrong. I like multiple POVs – so two is fairly easy. And I also do good with shifting between present and past. What I had trouble with in this one was that the past was divided into 3-4 different times (7 years ago, 2 years ago, 6 months ago etc.) and I can still work with different past times but the time was erratic. They were not in a sequence and that makes for a confusing storyline and requires a lot of focused reading on the reader’s part which does take away some fun.

So overall, I think this book made for a very good read. And I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. The only problem? It releases in 2014! Oh, kill me now!

Kiersten White, one in a million chance, if you are reading this, I want you to know I’m waiting for a funny book by you. After reading the acknowledgements, I have become aware of your capabilities and wish you’ll utilize them soon and write a funny book. 

4/5 stars – I really liked it. images (17)

Dying to Run by Cami Checketts: Review & Giveaway(INT)

Dead Running

Cassidy Christensen is running.

Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.

Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.

Running from painful memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.

With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she’ll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them? When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.

Dying to Run

Cassidy Christensen wants to run.

Captured by the traffickers who killed her mother, her only hope is Dr. Tattoo, a man she loves but nobody trusts. When she finally gets a chance to run, someone else she cares about is taken. Running might be her only chance at survival, but she won’t allow another family member to be killed in her place.

This must-read sequel to Dead Running will have you laughing, biting your nails, and hoping for more.

My View: Alright, you can go ahead and kill me now. Yes, you have my permission. I just made the biggest blunder ever in the reading world. I read Book 2 before reading Book 1 and that was done mistakenly. I know I can blame it on my newest personal low I have reached in my life which helps in not keeping my mind straight. So instead of doing the logical thing like checking on Goodreads or Amazon, I decided to go by the title and somehow thought that perhaps the main character was dying to run and then she died so it was Dead running. If you don’t see any logic in what I just wrote, I can completely understand. I think I’m going mad too.

Anyway, this book pulled me in with the very first line and never let go which is so wonderful, isn’t it? And the pages just flew by. So one good thing I can surely tell you is that this book stands alone really well because otherwise I would have known I was reading a sequel.*facepalm*

There are so many tones to this book, I love the variety. There’s action, there’s mystery, a bit of romance and some lively humor thrown in. I really like the characters, especially adore the Nana. She’s really cute!

The book is fast paced, oh how I love that. Recently I have been paying special attention to the editing because there are so many books with not only grammatical/ spelling mistakes but also an unending book that stretches on too long at few places. I end up cringing while reading such books because they do nothing to hold my attention and hence I get diverted to other books. So if a book holds my attention throughout and there’s not a word I will cut from it, then it’s a miracle.

Though it’s a very short read of just 78 pages, I enjoyed reading them all and never felt like something was rushed or the book was too short. It felt complete and I enjoyed my read.

P.S. I started reading Book 1 right away after Book 2 (possibly the only record holder for reading two series books back to back in the reverse order) and though I hate myself for already knowing some of the things that will happen, I’m enjoying reading it. But something tells me it’s Book 2 that I would like better even after finishing Book 1.

Anyway, off you go, purchase this book for only $0.99.

4/5 stars – I really liked it. 

Purchase

 

 

Author Cami Checketts

Cami Checketts is married and the proud mother of four future WWF champions. Sometimes between being a human horse, cleaning up magic potions, and reading Bernstein Bears, she gets the chance to write fiction.

Cami graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Exercise Science. Cami teaches strength training classes at her local rec and shares healthy living tips on her fitness blog: http://fitnessformom.blogspot.com.

Cami and her family live in the beautiful Cache Valley of Northern Utah. During the two months of the year it isn’t snowing, she enjoys swimming, biking, running, and water-skiing.

Links

Blog Tour Giveaway!

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash from Author Cami Checketts

3 Sets of iFrogz Earbuds & Armbands

Ends 1/31/13

Enter Here.

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareadernotawriter.blogspot.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

 

Bad Apple by Barbara Morgenroth

Bad Apple
Book One
Barbara Morgenroth

Genre: Mature YA
Publisher: DashingBooks

ASIN: B0045JK2XW

Word Count: 39,000

Cover Artist: Photo by Aleshyn Andrei.
Cover design by Barbara Morgenroth

Book Description:

“You tell and next time you won’t even be able to crawl away.”

Neal Marchal lived with this threat for the next eight years. When she finds her neighbor murdered, she knows who did it. The why is the secret the family has been keeping forever. The reminder to never reveal the secret is her limp.

She rebuilt her life and now Neal has everything to live for—music, performing and a growing affection for the young man who pulled her to safety.

Then Joe comes home. Neal knows Joe’s going to finish what he started 8 years ago because she told. But this time Neal vows the outcome will be different.

Buy it here – Amazon (Only $0.99) | BN | Kobo | Add at Goodreads

My View: This is one of those books that starts slowly and you don’t know where it is going. The writing style is different and you’re trying to make a sense of it and then suddenly while reading, you realize the writing style is no more different. Your mind has adapted to it, the story has your attention and you’re involved in it. And then you realize you’re enjoying the journey the book has taken you on.

The start was slow but the book got to me later. There’s humor in it but it’s not the laugh out loud one, it’s of a different kind. I couldn’t help but compare this book to my last humor book read – Manless in Montclair. Wait, don’t go comparing them because they don’t even have 1% in common. I was just amazed to see how two books can be completely different, have distinct writing styles and a very different kind of humor and yet both of them appeal to me in their own way. Great, no? Or maybe I am just overthinking things. Oh well, back to the book.

Mind you, the book is not a humorous one. It has a serious subject on hand and deals with it really well. I liked the novel plot, the characters but what I loved most was the way this book had a hold on me – from very little in the beginning to my awe’d feelings towards the end. It just kind of stumped me.

And one of my favorite things about this book apart from the subtle humor was the way relationships were depicted- good, bad and all else, how there was no insta love kind of feelings but so much more in the making. Just wow!

Overall, I really liked this book and highly recommend it. It’s only $0.99, so best time to grab it. And if you love music like me, the book’s appeal will be even more.

I look forward to the series and other books by Barbara.

4/5 stars – I really liked it. images (17)

About the Author:

Barbara was born in New York City and but now lives somewhere else. By now, she thinks of herself as a country girl and knows more about gardening and animals than how to ride the subway.

Starting her career by writing tweens and YA books, (and did the cover photography for her first two books published by Atheneum so continuing to do the covers to her ebooks is predictable), she was actually aiming at the small screen. Television seemed like the perfect place for her even if she had no clue how to get there. Life is funny and often presents opportunities. Advice–Grab Them! Through a neighbor, Barbara wound up getting an introduction to a lower honcho at ABC and an audition to write for them. Her hopes were more than dashed, they were disintegrated, evaporated, demolished when ABC couldn’t find a place for Barbara on General Hospital. (No Luke and Laura in her future!) To ease the crushing disappointment, Barbara wrote “In Real Life I’m Just Kate” about a 17 year old girl who becomes a star on a soap opera. That became an open sesame moment and shortly thereafter Barbara became the last headwriter for NBC’s daytime serial, The Doctors, where she was ordered by the network to kill Alec Baldwin, shooting him not once but twice. With two different guns. From different directions.

Ah, good times.

You can read the book that started Barbara’s television career as the Kindle YA ebook, “Just Kate”, now with a substantial tweak because living life made her smarter.

You can also read about some could-be-hers-could-be-rumors experiences gleaned during Barbara’s stint in daytime television in the Kindle romantic comedy, In Under My Head. Barbara is a recipient of a Writers Guild of America Best Writing Award for her work on One Life To Live.

Whether you’re looking for a Mature YA or a romantic comedy, Barbara has a book for you!

www.barbaramorgenroth.blogspot.com

www.facebook.barbara.morgenroth.5

Amazon Author Page