A Wonderful Feminist Plot But I Felt Disconnected From It All // REVIEW: The Cast by Danielle Steel

Title: The Cast
Author: Danielle Steel
Publication Date: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Macmillan
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: PanMacmillan India
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Infibeam || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: Kait Whittier has built her magazine column into a hugely respected read followed by fans across the country. She loves her work and adores her grown children, treasuring the time they spend together. But after two marriages, she prefers to avoid the complications and uncertainties of a new love. Then, after a chance meeting with television producer Zack Winter, everything changes. Inspired by the true story of her own grandmother, Kait creates the storyline for a TV series. Within weeks, Kait is plunged into a colourful, star-studded world of actors and industry pros who will bring her vision to life, from the reclusive grand dame to LA's hottest bad boy actor. As secrets are shared and revelations come to light, the cast grows closer. But in the midst of this charmed year, Kait is forced to confront the greatest challenge a mother could ever know and this unforgettable cast becomes more important to her than she ever could have imagined.


WARNING: This Review contains spoilers for The Cast
Actual Rating: 2.75 Stars

The Cast is probably the first Danielle Steel novel I’ve read (I have vague recollections of another book that may either be from Sidney Sheldon or Danielle Steel and I can’t remember NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRY.) (Life Before Goodreads. Sigh.)

I have two other Danielle Steels’ currently sitting on my TBR, but I picked The Cast up first because of its ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS COVER. Like how STUNNING is that?

The Cast is essentially the story of a middle aged woman, who through hard work and a little bit of luck, gets a bible picked up by a big time executive producer and suddenly her life changes. It’s also about her family, and her three children.

MY THOUGHTS:

1.       If I were to describe this book in one word, or an emotion that I feel looking back at it, it would be ‘Disconnect.’ Told in third person, I not once felt connected to the variety of characters in the book, or even felt anything like happiness or grief when Kait Whittier, the main character, went through events that cause her either.
2.       I mean, KAIT’S DAUGHTER WAS BOMBED AND KILLED WHILE MAKING A DOCUMENTARY AND HER GRIEF WAS SO… PAPER THIN. All I read was “Grief threatened to overtake Kait” but I never once felt it.

3.       Also, everyone in this book was just so MECHANICAL. There were always logical, mature choices being made for EVERYTHING, but does life really… work like that? Especially in Hollywood, when it comes to family and DEATH of a child?

4.       If I put aside the fact that this book was entirely mechanical, I did like a few things including

-          THE PLOT OF The Wilder Women, which is the TV Show Kait wrote. It had such a wonderful story, and I honestly would love to see Women in Aviation during WW II on a real TV screen.
-          Kait and Zach had this ultra-adorable romance, which I loved and I also loved how her kids teased her about it.
-          I loved Maeve, Agnes and Kait and the supportive, constructive relationship they had with each other.


VERDICT: Connecting with SOMETHING in a book is probably the most important thing for me while reading, and so I don’t really recommend this unless you’re already a Danielle Steel fan, and I probably won’t be picking up another book from her for a while now. 2.75 stars. 

Danielle Steel
Since 1981, Ms. Steel has been a permanent fixture on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists. In 1989, she was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having at least one of her books on the Times bestseller list for 381 consecutive weeks. But Guinness was premature. The fact is that one or more of Ms. Steel's novels have been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 390 consecutive weeks. 

Twenty-one of Ms. Steel's novels have been adapted for television, each earning high ratings and critical acclaim, including two Golden Globe nominations for JEWELS, a four-hour mini-series that starred Anthony Andrews. 


Have you read any Danielle Steel books, or The Cast?
What did you think of it?
I'd LOVE to hear from you <3
 

Stacking The Shelves #39 - The One Where I Forgot To Add Some Bookmail to the Last Haul

If you saw my haul from a few weeks ago, I had a LOT of books. Some of them I've already read, and the others, I'm slowly getting to.

I also realised that I... FORGOT to add a few books to that Stacking the Shelves? *hides in shame* and here I am, typing up another post to catch up on all those book and ALSO, adding in some new books that I've gotten in the last few weeks!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely folks at Tyga's Reviews. And without further ado, let's begin:

FROM HACHETTE INDIA:

These two lovely books showed up in a completely surprise package from Hachette India almost two months ago, and I was so shocked and honoured! I've already finished reading both of these lovely books, both from authors I respect IMMENSELY and I've linked my reviews down below!

These two are all about image and beauty and the pressure we put on ourselves and JUST SO RELEVANT. Both of these were ARCs and 2018 releases and I can't recommend them enough, if they aren't already on your TBRs.

1. How Do You Like Me Now by Holly Bourne

2. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


FROM PENGUIN INDIA:
1. Goodbye Freddie Mercury by Nadia Akbar: I JUST finished reading Nadia Akbar's stunning debut novel, Goodbye Freddie Mercury last weekend and it has made it onto my all time favourite list! The book, set in contemporary Pakistan was such a sharply written book with an EQUALLY GORGEOUS cover and I loved every second of reading it. I loved the characters, the plot, the politics, the descriptions and especially the writing and THAT ENDING BROUGHT ME TO ME KNEES. SUCH a good book!


FROM PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE INTERNATIONAL:

1. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold: I got the opportunity to read this book as a part of the Global Blog Tour and it was simply brilliant. Vague, and I can see how some people would absolutely dislike it, but I thought it was simply brilliant! It was my first David Arnold book and I can't wait to read more from him.
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo
2. The Last Watchman of Old Cairo by Michael David Lucas: My best friend has currently stolen this book from me and my plans to devour it IMMEDIATELY because he read a few pages, fell in love, and insisted that he read it right away. Not only do I think that the cover is EXTREMELY beautiful, but the story sounds BRILLIANT as well, and I can't wait to get it back so I can dive in right awayy!
Star-Touched Stories (The Star-Touched Queen, #2.5)
FROM WEDNESDAY BOOKS:

1. Star Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi: Roshani Chokshi's Star Touched Queen series is one of my FAVOURITES! Not only is it all about brown characters, but Roshani's writing is simply delicious and I am SO honoured to be a part of the Blog Tour with Wednesday Books, the publisher, for her story story collection, Star Touched Stories, and I can't wait to read it! It's literally just sitting in my Kindle, waiting to be picked up!

FROM HARPERCOLLINS INDIA: 

1.  Koi Good News? by Zarreen Khan
I read this HILARIOUS book about two weeks ago, within five hours and I simply found it impossible tp put down. A gorgeous India book, told from both a husband and wife's perspective as they find themselves pregnant, this book plays right into Indian culture, superstitions and just made me smile. Click on the link above to read my full review!
Nobody Real
2. Nobody Real by Steven Camden: This book showed up in my mail last week, completely unsolicited from HarperCollins! It sounds like a really great book from what I can tell from the synopsis, but I haven't heard that much about it on the blogosphere. I also really REALLY love the cover, and I can't wait to dive in!

Sidney Sheldon̢۪s The Silent Widow3. Sidney Sheldon's The Silent Widow by Tilly Bagshawe: I'm not sure I understand HOW this book is Sidney Sheldon's book, but written by someone else but it does sound intriguing. The cover could certainly have been designed better, but I guess not all covers can be that one in a hundred beauty that you can't stop staring at?


FROM PAN MACMILLAN INDIA: 

1. Rafina by Shandana Minhas: I just finished reading this a few days ago, and it just cementer why Novellas aren't really my cup of tea, especially standalone ones. I didn't like this book too much, and you can read my full review here

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)
BOUGHT:
To Kill a Kingdom
1. A Darker Shade of Magic (Collector's Edition) by V.E. Schwab:
The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1)
2. City of Brass by S.A.Chakrabothy


3. Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott


4. The Queen of Hearts by Kimberly Martin


5.  Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore


6. To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Gray Wolf IslandThe Queen of HeartsJane, Unlimited
What books have you stacked onto your shelves over the last week
Have you read any of my new books/ are you excited for any of them?
I'd ABSOLUTELY love to hear from you!


Sharp, Bold Writing That Will Have You Hooked // REVIEW: Goodbye Freddie Mercury by Nadia Akbar

Title: Goodybe Freddie Mercury
Author: Nadia Akbar
Publication Date: June 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: PRH India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Flipkart || Infibeam || Google Books
Blurb Description: Play the game,everybody play the game . . . 
Lahore is burning. General elections are right around the corner. The summer city rages with the drug-fuelled parties of the oblivious, the rich and famous, while campaign posters and rally cries dominate the airwaves.
Bugsy, rock RJ and host of the nation's top English radio show, is young and fabulous. Seeking more than wealth, fame and prestige, he performs a dangerous for old friend that plunges him into the dark recesses of desi politics. Nida, a young student desperate to escape the oppressive atmosphere of her traditional family home and her conservative college, and still mourning the death of her brother, throws herself recklessly into the drug-addled arms of Omer Ali, son of the prime minister's right-hand man. As Nida spirals in decadence and Bugsy descends into darkness, their paths cross and sparks begin to fly.
Nadia Akbar's audacious debut has all the makings of a cult novel-parties, drugs, mysteries, love triangles, political intrigue and power struggles - but its lush, sexy writing has the assuredness and precision of the most acute style of our time. Told in alternating voices and brimming with sharp observation, Goodbye Freddie Mercury hits the rocks and trails atwist.
“The truth – I’m asking for trouble. Trouble is too damn interesting. Trouble is an integral part of the desi lifestyle. It’s what we do.


Reading Goodbye Freddie Mercury was this experience that is, quite honestly, hard to describe. It started off like this normal, everyday book. Interesting and intriguing, but nothing spectacular. And then, at some point, I looked up and I was hooked, invested and in love.

What I mean to say (in non-rambling terms) is that this book GREW ON IMMESNELY. Reading Nadia Akbar’s sharp, earnest writing felt I was right in the middle of a storm, enjoying the rain and trying to hold on to my sense of self as well, instead of being pulled completely into Nida and Bugsy’s story.

MY THOUGHTS:

1.       Let’s PLEASE talk about that cover, because it. Is. Beautiful. The minute I saw it, I knew I would HAVE to have this book as a part of my collection because it is STUNNING.
 
2.       I finished this book three days ago, and I’m STILL REELING AT THAT ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING ENDING. I did not see it coming, not even from a million miles away and I honestly don’t know what to make of it. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUCTION WITH NO CLOSURE ON ONE OF MY FAVOURITE (FICTIONAL) PEOPLE?

3.       Goodbye Freddie Mercury is told from the point of view of two people – Nida, a girl grieving the death of her brother and desperate to get away from home and her family, and Bugsy, Pakistan’s star rock RJ, who gets in deep with two warring sides of a political struggle. I loved who they were individually, how they interacted and just their bone deep pain than emanated off the page.

4.       Nadia Akbar’s writing, like I mentioned above is truly exceptional. It was sharp and filled with observations of the everyday desi citizen’s life, and about politics, family and life. It shook me to my core, made me think and had me INVESTED in the lives of people I’d never met.

5.       I loved the portrayal of Pakistan and its elite in Akbar’s Goodbye Freddie Mercury. Set in Lahore, a major Pakistani city, Goodbye Freddie Mercury brings to life a country on the precipice of decadence, looking only towards the spiral downwards. Whether it was politics, the partying culture or just the general decadent lives, the story and the writing was JUST SO BOLD and I can’t recommend diving in enough.

Would I recommend this book? HECK YES. Go and pick up a copy already.


A sharp and bold tale set in contemporary Pakistan with stunning writing that is a must read!
Related image

Nadia Akbar is a Pakistani-American novelist. She was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. She holds degrees from Cornell University and the graduate creative-writing programme at the University of Arizona.

What was the last book you read that completely BLEW your expectations?
What are some of the books you read with such a twist ending, you didn't know what to do for days after?
I'd LOVE to hear from you!
 

Novella Review: Rafina by Shandana Minhas

Title: Rafina
Author: Shandana Minhas
Publication Date: May 23rd 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: PanMacmillan India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Infibeam || Flipkart
Blurb Description: Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I'm up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother's friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice. Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’. Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.
ACTUAL RATING: 2.75 Stars

THOUGHTS BEFORE READING THE BOOK:


1.       This cover is pretty. AND, I mean VERY PRETTY.

2.       YAY for books set in the Desi/ Pakistani world. There can never be enough of them out there.

3.       I really hope this is a feminist journey.


THOUGHTS AFTER READING THIS BOOK:

1.       I’m just… not sure what I felt while reading it? It was sort of this mechanical read where I kept telling myself, ‘Oh, there’s only sixty three pages left. Let’s get to the end and formulate your thoughts.’ And then I reached the end, and I had felt and thought nothing of this book.

2.       Rafina is basically the story of this young, ambitious Pakistani girl who wants to make it big as she stares at a billboard next to her window, and I WOULD HAVE LIKED IT, except the actual making it big part, which we know happens from the blurb description, was all of three pages in the end and the REST WAS ALL ABOUT MAKING WAX, JUDGING WOMEN AND MAKING TEA. And, I was basically just confused.



3.       Also, there’s this last paragraph in the book that was just SO STRANGE AND DEGRADING, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.


And that’s… all the thoughts I have on this book. It was strange, and basically felt like a lot of filler and judging poor women based on their body type, size and appearance, and I didn’t really like it much.


This could have been so much more, but it just wasn’t. 
Shandana MinhasShandana Minhas, born on 26th October 1975 in Karachi, is an award-winning Pakistani writer. Her first novel, ‘Tunnel Vision’, a first person meditation on life as a woman in a man’s world (“In a coma, reduced to the sum of my biological function, I was the perfect woman. Pretty. Pliant. Docile. Accepting…”) was published in 2007 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It was later translated into Italian as ‘Pakistan Graffiti’. Her second novel, ‘Survival Tips for Lunatics’, was published in 2014. A “bitingly funny” adventure in which a bickering couple accidentally leaves their two sons behind on a camping trip in Pakistan’s turbulent Balochistan province, it became the first children’s book to win a general fiction prize in the region, taking the Karachi Literature Festival fiction prize in 2015. Her third novel ‘Daddy’s Boy’ – an “amorality tale” - was published in 2016 by 4th Estate. Mohammed Hanif called it “heartbreaking and hilarious”. 

Ms Minhas has also written for stage, screen and opinion pages. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, and been adapted for cinema. She is a college dropout, and a mother of three. She still lives in Karachi where she co-founded, in 2016, the indie press Mongrel Books. 
What was the last novella you read? What did you think of it?
What do you think of short stories/ novellas in general?
I'm not the biggest fan, but I'd love to hear your thoughts!
 

An Expectation Defying, Refreshingly Magical Story // ARC Review: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Title: Grim Lovelies
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publication Date: October 2nd 2018
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1 on 2 of the GrimLoveliesDuology
I Got A Copy Through: HMH Teen (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo ||
Blurb Description: Seventeen-year-old Anouk envies the human world, where people known as Pretties lavish themselves in fast cars, high fashion, and have the freedom to fall in love. But Anouk can never have those things, because she is not really human. Enchanted from animal to human girl and forbidden to venture beyond her familiar Parisian prison, Anouk is a Beastie: destined for a life surrounded by dust bunnies and cinders serving Mada Vittora, the evil witch who spelled her into existence. That is, until one day she finds her mistress murdered in a pool of blood—and Anouk is accused of the crime.
Now, the world she always dreamed of is rife with danger. Pursued through Paris by the underground magical society known as the Haute, Anouk and her fellow Beasties only have three days to find the real killer before the spell keeping them human fades away. If they fail, they will lose the only lives they’ve ever known…but if they succeed, they could be more powerful than anyone ever bargained for.
From New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd, Grim Lovelies is an epic and glittering YA fantasy. Prepare to be spellbound by the world of Grim Lovelies, where secrets have been long buried, friends can become enemies, and everything—especially humanity—comes at a price.
IN A NUTSHELL: Grim Lovelies DEFIED my every expectation by creating an intricate world filled with Magic and its consequences, well buried secrets, an unusual family, love, betrayal, murder, technology and power and it was SUCH a joy to read.

Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect, going into Grim Lovelies. It was my first book my Megan Shepherd, and while the cover was STUNNING, the description made it sound like there was a lot going on, and I didn’t know if all these elements would work together to form a good book.

And yet, somehow, it WORKED. The magic, the vitae echo, the Haute, the beasties, witches, goblins, pretties and the Whispers – it all just came together in the wondrous 300+ page book and I AM DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON THE SEQUEL, and this book hasn’t even released yet.

MY THOUGHTS:

1.       HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT COVER? The designer in me is freaking out, turning it under different light angles and just MARVELLING at it. SO SO PRETTY.

2.       This book started off, as almost all books do, rather slowly. It took me a while to get into in, as well as remember who all the characters were, but suddenly, after a certain death that the blurb promises, things got VERY VERY interesting.


3.       As I always say, give me the worst character in the book, and I’ll probably fall in love with him. The same went for Prince Rennar in this book, ruler of the Haute (the magical order) Although we saw him in a grand total of three scenes of this book, he and his dark and twisty and morally grey logic and I fell for him. Whoops?

4.       I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE DESCRIPTIONS OF PARIS. Two of my closest friends just spent a semester there, and I’ve heard so much about the place, I practically felt like I was at home through Anouk’s descriptions as she was out in Paris for the first time.

5.       Which brings me to HOW MUCH I LOVED ANOUK. She was this loyal, trusting skilled witch filled with courage and love for her family and she is basically one of the BEST new protagonists I’ve seen in a while!

6.       I also loved the rest of the Beasties. I feel like we didn’t see enough of Luc and Hunter Black for me to really fall for them, but I LOVED Beau and Cricket. I loved how they each embedded their own animal traits and still found a way to be a human family.

7.       Grim Lovelies was enchanting also strangely funny. I loved the dark magic, and the Marble Ladies and the vitae echo, but there were also love spells, magic gargoyles and enchanted bears named Toblerone. There was politics, power games, magic castles whose layouts change on the hour, dark Princes, familial elements and really, HOW CAN YOU ASK FOR MORE IN A BOOK?


I basically fell in love with this book. It was everything I didn’t expect and I can’t recommend it enough.
Megan Shepherd
New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of several young adult and middle grade novels. She now lives and writes on a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, two cats, and an especially scruffy dog.

What was the last book you read that completely blew your expectations?
Have you read any titles from Megan Shepherd? What did you think of them?
I would absolutely love to hear from you!