Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga #1) by Kiersten White

Published June 28th 2016 by Delacorte Press

“A dragon did not crawl on its belly in front of its enemies, begging for their help. A dragon did not vow to rid the world of infidels, and then invite them into its home. A dragon did not flee its land in the middle of the night like a criminal.

A dragon burned everything around herself until it was purified in ash.”

Goodreads Synopsis

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Review

“If we were not pushing, fighting, claiming what is ours and challenging what is not yet ours, others would be doing it to us. It is the way of the world. You can be the aggressor, you can fight against crusaders on their own land, or you can stay at home and wait for them to come to you. And they would come. They would come with fire, with disease, with swords and blood and death. Weakness is an irresistible lure.”

This was one book that made me feel ecstatic and ashamed in equal measure- ecstatic because it was enchanting in plot, characterisation, emotion and substance, and ashamed because it made me aware of my ignorance of Eastern European history. I actually mistook Wallachia to be a fictional place initially and only after a sound googling session was I made aware of my folly. The googling session acquainted me with the fascinating history of the Ottoman empire and mde me realise how cleverly Ms White has twisted a few facts and manipulated history to potray Vlad The Impaler as a girl.

Which brings me to the best part of the book- Lada!

“On our wedding night," she said, "I will cut out your tongue and swallow it. Then both tongues that spoke our marriage vows will belong to me, and I will be wed only to myself. You will most likely choke to death on your own blood, which will be unfortunate, but I will be both husband and wife and therefore not a widow to be pitied.” 

Even though I'm straight as a ruler, I'd be lying if I denied that I was totally crushing on Lada. I'd expected her to be a badass, but she was in a different class entirely. She was ruthless and efficient (almost to the point of being cruel and callous), independent and brave and fiercely protective of those she cared about at the same time. She was a chaotic mess of emotions and it was sooooo much fun to see her struggle to choose between love and duty, herself and her country. 

Radu, her brother, was another very interesting character. He was her stark opposite in almost every way- soft to her innate hardness, kind to her callousness, scared to her brash bravery. But his character development came as a complete surprise. It's commendable how flawlessly Ms. White melded his mouse of a character to be a smart, strategic, almost cunning man, while retaining all the essential qualities that made Radu Radu.  I can't wait to see how his character shapes up in the later books. 

Mehmed's character was also very captivating. It was entertaining to see his transformation from a nobody to an able emperor. The world building was perfect. Nowhere in the 400+ page journey was I bored. There was a subtle build up before any major plot twist, enough to make me squirm with excitement in my seat. Ms. White paints a very vivid picture of the dreary lands of Wallachia, of the opulent wealth of Edierne, of bloody battles and of sexy romantic scenes. It was a delicious mix of characters and emotions and I adored every bit of it. 

The ending was perfect and painful in equal measure. It was kind of meant to be, and at the same time I couldn't help hoping for an alternate one. 

I'm eagerly awaiting to get my hands on the sequel and read more of these characters to see them get the ending they deserve. 

Highly recommended: 5/5 stars!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review: Baaz by Anuja Chauhan

Published May 1st 2017 by HarperCollins

Goodreads Synopsis

Why do they call you Baaz? 
It means falcon, he replies solemnly. Or bird of prey. Because I swoop down on the enemy planes just like a Baaz would. 
Then he grins. The grey eyes sparkle.
It s also short for bastard. 

1971. The USSR-backed India-Mukti Bahini alliance is on the brink of war against the America-aided Pakistani forces. As the Cold War threatens to turn red hot, handsome, laughing Ishaan Faujdaar, a farm boy from Chakkahera, Haryana, is elated to be in the IAF, flying the Gnat, a tiny fighter plane nicknamed Sabre Slayer for the devastation it has wrecked in the ranks of Pakistan s F-86 Sabre Squadrons. 

Flanked by his buddies Raks, a MiG-21 Fighter, Maddy, a transport pilot who flies a Caribou, and fellow Gnatties Jana, Gana and Mana, Shaanu has nothing on his mind but glory and adventure until he encounters Tehmina Dadyseth, famed bathing beauty and sister of a dead fauji, who makes him question the very concept of nationalism and whose eyes fill with disillusioned scorn whenever people wax eloquent about patriotism and war... 

Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan's tribute to our men in uniform.

My Review

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

“Hai, Baaz Faujdaar is just so cute, yaar!’
‘You ought to see him in his flight overalls, then,’ says a ribald auntyji. ‘The way that G-suit locks around his waist and thighs but leaves all the vital bits uncovered … uff tabaahi!”

How aptly the salivating auntyji describes Ishaan 'Baaz' Faujdaar- tabaahi indeed! 

Anuja Chauhan is my favourite chick-lit author for a reason. None of the other authors I've read in the genre can create more deliciously sexy characters like she can. She manages to turn the most mundane stuff into something totally droolworthy. Her heroes aren't invincible six pack wielding gods who can do no wrong and her heroines aren't perfect little princesses who look resemble Aphrodite. What makes her characters so appealing is how real they are. She manages to make ordinary men in kurta pyjama from freakin' nowhere in bloody Haryana appear positively edible. Her heroines are flawed creatures who make bad decisions and then scramble about to correct them. But they are just sooo enchantingly real! She compels her readers to care for her characters, be it the protagonists or any of the side characters as well. They cry, you cry. They're happy, you're ecstatic. 

And the romance!! Oh god, the romance. It's ....there's no other word for it really... perfect! With just the right amount of flirtatious banter, sexual tension, drama and angst. The plot of course resembles a cheesy, masala bollywood flick through and through. It's almost a guilty pleasure- the fact that I adore it that much. 

Baaz is the story of Ishaan 'Baaz' Faujdaar, a 5'6 (yes, he's short) dashing, cocky, young fighter pilot from Chakkahera in Haryana. He's a total family guy, the laadla of his numerous little siblings, although he does have a skewed relationship with his foul tempered step father. His love for adventure and the rapid dhak-dhakking of his heart when he does something particularly adrenaline inducing is what prompts him to join the Indian Air Force. The female protagonist of the story, Tehmina 'Tinka' Dadyseth, nicknamed Tinka because of her tall lanky figure is an army brat herself. She is a pacifist and is staunchly against the concept of war and the warped concept of patriotism that brings about these wars. The fates of the two collide during the time the USSR-aided Indian-Mukti-Bahini alliance is on the brink of war with the America-aided Pakistani forces. 

The story was a whirlwind of debonair men in uniform (cue lustful sighs), hilarious situations, action packed fight sequences, toe curling romance, lots of drama and enough masala to put a steaming plate of Delhi's famous paav bhaaji to shame. The colourful menagerie of side characters like Tinka's fiesty aunt or Baaz's loudmouthed besties Raka and Maddy were downright adorable. 

Why then, did I knock 1.5 star off my rating, you ask? Giving away the reason would be impossible without giving out spoilers. Let's just say that the ending left a lot to be desired. It felt forced and unnecessary and was a total anticlimax. 

But apart from that little grievance, this little book made me smile from ear to ear, actually snort out loud in a few places and fall in love all over again. 

Highly recommended for all the chick-lit lovers out there! 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

“Just because we didn’t end up on the same wave, doesn’t mean we aren’t still a part of the same ocean.” 

Published August 2nd 2016 by Atria Books



Lily hasn't always had it easy, but that's never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She's come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up - she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily's life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He's also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle's complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan - her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter.


“There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.” 

Umm... I have some conflicted views regarding this book. I just can't seem to make up my mind about how much of this book I actually liked. It showed up in my Goodreads feed when it won the annual award for the best Romance novel and many of the reviewers whose taste in books match my own were raving about it. So I thought, Yeah! I should give this one a try! I went into it with some inhibitions since I'm not the biggest Colleen Hoover fan. Though her stories read very easily and the flow she establishes is flawless, they aren't as plot rich or character driven as I like. 

So, the things I liked about the book were:

1. The theme. After reading the blurb I was kind of expecting a love triangle. But the book was about an important topic and sent out a powerful message. I would have liked to say something else about this, but I can't really do that without giving away spoilers. And I, like several other reviewers, believe that going into this book blind would probably make the reader enjoy the book more. 

2. I liked all the characters in the book. Even the ...ahem... negative ones, though there is no negative character per-say. There are just normal people who are caught in bad situations. And Hoover writes their emotional turmoil very beautifully. There were instances in the book when I nearly cried at their misery, primarily because no one was at fault and because the situations described in the book were very real situations that probably happen every day in multiple households. 

3. The flow of the story. Yes. Like I mentioned before, it's the best thing about this author. Once I start a book, the words flow so easily that it's impossible to put it down. 

“He pulls back to look down at me and when he sees my tears, he brings his hands up to my cheeks. “In the future... if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again... fall in love with me.”

4. The part about Lily's diary entries which she addressed to Ellen Degeneres. This was a fun and quirky habit that I loved. 

Now, the things that I didn't like:

1. Insta everything. Ugh. I hate when authors do this. Ryle and Lily meet at a rooftop one night and ZAP! Instant attraction! He tells her that he wants to fuck her and she's breathless with desire for him. **pulls a meh face** And what was with all of Ryle's creepy behaviour? Was it supposed to be sexy? Well, it wasn't. And if it wasn't enough that there was insta love, there was also insta friendship! Lily and Issa meet and BAM! They are instant BFFs. 

2. The part of the book where everything was sickeningly perfect and everybody was deliriously happy. Seriously, it was very fake and irritating. 

I might also be a little put off by the ending, even though in retrospect it was perfect. But I was just hoping so strongly for everything to be all right. But then again, that's life. :-( And the world is not a wish granting factory. 

All in all, an okay one time read.