Thoroughly Underwhelming | REVIEW: American Royals by Katharine McGee

Title: American Royals
Author: Katharine McGee
Publication Date: September 5th, 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1/2 of the American Royals Duology
I Got A Copy From Penguin India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN
Blurb Description: Meet the Washingtons - the most scandalous royal family ever!
HRH Princess Samantha has always been a royal rebel. She's the spare not the heir, so no one minds too much who she dates or how hard she parties.
It helps that her sister, Princess Beatrice, is literally perfect. She's demure, sweet and beautiful, and she knows that the crown always comes first - no matter what her heart might really want.
But they're not the only ones with their eye on the throne. Daphne Deighton might be 'newly noble' but she won Prince Jefferson's heart once, and she'll do anything to get back into the court's favour - and his bed.
If only she knew that her competition was a common nobody - plain little Nina Gonzalez, the daughter of the king's secretary.
Together these four young women must navigate the drama, gossip, scheming and sizzling romance of the most glorious court in the world. There's everything to play for - but there can only be one queen. 

An interesting premise, an author with a track record of BRINGING THE DRAMA ALIVE, a gorgeous cover and the promise of the start to a fun, new series – I haven’t been reading as much YA this year as any of the years before, but American Royals had me VERY intrigued.

I picked it up almost immediately after I received it, NEEDING an influx of a light-hearted, drama-filled book in my life and well, I'm THOROUGHLY UNDERWHELMED.

Not only were the characters monotonous AND the storyline predictable, but American Royals also had no PAPARAZZI AND DUTIES AND CLEAN-UPS AND SCANDAL AND… it just didn’t feel like a ROYAL book, more like a rich-kid book.

Told through 4 POV’s, Beatrice (the heir), Samantha (the spare), Nina (Samantha’s unassuming best friend who falls in love with starry prince Jeff) and Daphne (the absolutely flawless beautiful perfect social climber) – this book lacked:

A)      Royal family moments that didn’t feel completely awkward or forced
B)      Political planning or just any kind of… ruling. Instead, the only thing that was repeated over and over was that Beatrice was going to be the first FEMALE monarch and SO SHE NEEDED TO GET MARRIED (?)
C)      All the romances were SO PREDICTABLE and BORING, with the exception of Nina and Jeff’s first date, but even that felt like I’d read the exact same story with different characters before and just… not unique.
D)      The sisterhood/ relationship between Beatrice and Samantha was SO SO STRAINED, which, fine, I can understand because they were portrayed as entirely different people BUT even the twins Jeff and Samantha DIDN’T HAVE ANY KIND OF FUN/ SIBLING-LIKE-JOVIALNESS to their relationship
E)       Nina could have been the only halfway interesting character but the final confrontation scene with Daphne was just so passé from what you would expect from a book like this and I AM JUST DISAPPOINTED, OK?

In terms of Katharine McGee books, I would DEFINITELY recommend the The Thousandth Floor series over this one – it was unique, fun and drama-filled, all the things I thought American Royals would have as well but didn’t.

If you’re looking for fictional ‘royal’ books, The Royal We by Heather Cocks is a WONDERFUL BOOK filled with romance, duty, family, love, chemistry, choices, real-life, drama and GOD AN EXCELLENT BOOK. Get that one instead.

Katharine McGee

Katharine McGee is the New York Times bestselling author of American Royals and The Thousandth Floor trilogy. She studied English and French literature at Princeton University and has an MBA from Stanford. She lives in her hometown of Houston, TX with her husband.

Have you read any of Katharine McGee's books? What did you think?
I'd love to hear from you!

A Surprisingly Layered Read // REVIEW: House Of Stars by Keya Ghosh

Title: House Of Stars
Author: Keya Ghosh
Publication Date: April 2019
Publisher: Penguin India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalong
I Got A Copy Through: Penguin India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN
Blurb Description: Kabir follows the most beautiful girl he has ever seen into a mall. But there are gunshots and screams as terrorists storm inside after fleeing an operation gone wrong. Kabir and Diya find themselves trapped, along with other hostages. The terrorists make their demands and announce that until they are met, one person will die every hour. The situation begins to spiral out of control.Held hostage by fate, looking death in the face, it could be Kabir and Diya's last chance at love. But, as they watch time run out, it turns out both of them are hiding secrets. Secrets that make their love even more impossible

I wasn’t sure WHAT to expect, going into this book. I haven’t read too much Indian literature this year, diving into more and more non-fiction, but the premise sounded intriguing enough for a one-time read.
I finally picked it up one weekend that I was home and quickly read through it in less than two days – and while I expected House of Stars to be a chick-lit kind of book, this was a surprisingly layered read and my eyes were misty by the end of it. The writing could have had a little more finesse, the structure a little more finely done but House of Stars was a book I enjoyed.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most was how the particular Indian political and socio-economic issues were highlighted through the lens of an actual human living through it – it just gave what I thought would be a light-hearted comedy, depth and gravity and that took me aback and I REALLY enjoyed it!

I also enjoyed Diya’s love story and Kabir’s back story.

I just wish that the cover was… better. The current look is rather childish and off-putting and in no way captures what the book is about.

Would I recommend it? YES! It was a book I THOUGHT about after I put it down, and, at the end of the day. isn't that what you want from any book that you read?

Keya Ghosh retired early as an English teacher at a girls' school in the hills. Tired of confiscating trashy romance novels from the girls, which 'did nothing for either their idea of adult relationships or their ability to write English', she decided to take up the challenge of reinventing the chick-lit novel. She is working on a trio of novels in the calm environs of the Velliangiri mountains. Her early retirement also allows her to pursue her hobby of tracing the lost works of the early female Bhakti poets. Terror@Twelve, her collection of urban ghost stories, was published by Juggernaut.

What books have you recently read that have surprised you?
I'd love to hear from you!

A Desi P&P Retelling // REVIEW: Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Title: Unmarriageable
Author: Soniah Kamal
Publication Date: January 15th, 2019
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: HarperCollinsIndia (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Google Play Books
Blurb Description: In this retelling of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, the five Binat sisters and their marriage-obsessed mother navigate a world where money trumps morality and double standards rule the day.
A scandal and vicious rumor in the Binat family has destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to school girls. Knowing that many of her students won't make it to graduation without dropping out to marry and start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more.
When an invitation arrives for the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible--and rich--bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys's lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his friend, Valentine Darsee, is clearly unimpressed by the family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her, quickly dismissing him and his snobbish ways.
But as the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal--and Alys begins to realize that Darsee's brusque manner may be hiding a very different man. 

I LOVE Pride and Prejudice. I’ve loved it from the moment I picked up my older sister’s brown leather-bound tome and read, ‘It’s a universally acknowledged truth that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife…’ I LOVED Darcy and Elizabeth’s banter, I even loved Mr. Bingley and Jane and the houses and the era and pretty much everything except for Mrs. Bennet
I even love the movie (the Keira Knightley version)

The starting scene in Unmarriageable has Alysba (Elizabeth) Binat (Bennet) teaching a class of young Pakistani girls Jane Austen and asking them to interpret the ‘It’s a universally acknowledged truth…’ to something more suitable to their current lives and she tried teaching them all about

I think it was that first chapter that raised my hopes sky-high – this was not ONLY a desi P&P retelling but ALSO a FEMINIST DESI P&P Retelling? COULD BOOKS GET ANY BETTER?
“Yet it always upset her that young brilliant minds, instead of exploring the universe, were busy chiseling themselves to fit into the molds of Mrs. and Mom. It wasn't that she was averse to Mrs. Mom, only that none of the girls seemed to have ever considered traveling the world by themselves, let alone been encouraged to do so, or to shatter a glass ceiling, or laugh like a mad-woman in public without a care for how it looked.”

While I enjoyed (THOROUGHLY) all the general P&P antics – Quitty’s (Kitty’s) ridiculous theatrics, Jena’s (Jane’s) understated support and wisdom, the general introduction of desi society and weddings, the fancy houses and ALL THE FOOD, I was a little taken aback by the fact that this was NOT REALLY a feminist retelling.

For starters, and this REALLY bothered me – Why is MARRIAGE the solution to everything? I understand that certain members of the book were (and have always been, even in the original) conditioned to think that way (AHEM *MRS. BENNET*), but, by the end, even our highly progressive Alysba Binat thought that marriage was the one thing that could solve everything. I feel like the book didn’t really deal with the reality of marriage – that it’s not the pearly gates to a perfect, blissful life as it was painted out to be.

I think this hit me because as young impressionable girls pick this book up, that’s the impression this book will give them – MARRIAGE IS THE ONE SOCIAL INSTITUTION THAT YOU SHOULD STRIVE TO BECAUSE IT WILL BE PERFECT. Problems and irrevocable differences can’t exist after that. No, I’m not a cynical person, but I wish that this book also highlighted that marriage wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, THAT’S ALL.

Still, as always, I enjoyed Elizabeth and Darcy’s retold characters, the love for books and also, that beautiful cover.

Would I recommend it? Only with a piece of salt and a word of caution – but otherwise, GO AHEAD AND ENJOY!
Soniah Kamal
Soniah Kamal is an award-winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel 'Unmarriageable' is a retelling of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and is set in Pakistan. Soniah Kamal’s debut novel, An Isolated Incident, was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah's TEDx talk, “Redreaming Your Dream,” is about regrets and second chances. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Catapult, The Normal School, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Missing Slate, BuzzFeed, The James Dickey Review, and Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized.
Are you a Pride and Prejudice fan? Do you read retellings?

Have you read Unmarriageable? What did you think of it?

A Satisfying (But Predictable) End to the Series // REVIEW: Darkdawn (Nevernight #3) by Jay Kristoff

Title: Darkdawn (Nevernight #3)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publication Date: September 5th, 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager UK
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 3/3 of the Nevernight Chronicle
I Got A Copy Through: HarperCollins India (THANK YOU!)`
Buy Links: Amazon India
Blurb Description: The greatest games in Godsgrave's history have ended with the most audacious murders in the history of the Itreyan Republic.
Mia Corvere, gladiatii, escaped slave and infamous assassin, is on the run. Pursued by Blades of the Red Church and soldiers of the Luminatii legion, she may never escape the City of Bridges and Bones alive. Her mentor Mercurio is now in the clutches of her enemies. Her own family wishes her dead. And her nemesis, Consul Julius Scaeva, stands but a breath from total dominance over the Republic.
But beneath the city, a dark secret awaits. Together with her lover Ashlinn, brother Jonnen and a mysterious benefactor returned from beyond the veil of death, she must undertake a perilous journey across the Republic, seeking the final answer to the riddle of her life. Truedark approaches. Night is falling on the Republic for perhaps the final time.
Can Mia survive in a world where even daylight must die?
Every time I open a Jay Kristoff book, I brace myself for the unexpected.

Or rather, I brace myself for the fact that everything I think I know in the beginning will seamlessly reveal itself to be VERY different at the end. It happened with the ENTIRE Illuminae Files, with Lifelike and also with Nevernight and Godsgrave.

To put it simply, I was expecting to be blown away by the twists and turns in this end to a bloody trilogy.

While Darkdawn was easier to read that the rest of the series, I remain underwhelmed by the events that ended Mia’s story. I’m not sure, but the whole book gave me painful reminders of N.K. Jemsin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms with the newfound obsession with Gods and the families of Gods and Gods’ wars.

At the same time, it was also a fast-paced bloody book and a satisfying (if also slightly predictable) ending to a trilogy.

1.       MERCURIO (AND THE LIBRARY OBVIOUSLY): I didn’t much like Mercurio before this, but he was strangely endearing in this book.
2.       THE PIRATES? And the Queen of the Pirates (ahem)
3.       Mr. Kindly was absolutely brilliant AS ALWAYS
4.       The formatting of the book (I CAME TO LIKE THE FOOTNOTES, OK? I ALSO REALLY LOVED that Jay Kristoff was hilariously self-deprecating about the footnotes)
5.       I really enjoyed the diabolical nature of Mia’s conversations with Scaeva. Priceless.
6.       The Nevernight chronicles in the library in the Red Mountain was a brilliant touch.

1.       That the ending was better
2.       Ashlinn and Tric – so lovesick my GOD
3.       The book had a few more twists and turns.

Would I recommend the series? YES! If you’re looking for bloody, dark, and stabby books, DIVE IN NOW!
Jay Kristoff
Jay Kristoff is the #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE LOTUS WAR. He is the winner of six Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live.

He does not believe in happy endings.

A Heartwarming Read, But Lacking the Magic // REVIEW: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Title: The Rest of the Story
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: June 4th, 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: HarperCollins India (THANK YOU!)
Blurb Description: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah Dessen comes a big-hearted, sweeping novel about a girl who reconnects with a part of her family she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl—and falls in love, all over the course of a magical summer. 
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.
Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.
When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.
Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.
For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?
I’ve been reading Sarah Dessen since I was twelve years old and, till date, I find something so understated with her writing that I can’t help but falling in love every time. Of course, there are some books I enjoy more than the others, but they are all great reads nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure if I should read The Rest of the Story – I haven’t enjoyed her last few books (Once and for All and Saint Anything) as much as I enjoyed the masterpieces that were Just Listen, The Truth About Forever and This Lullabybut when a trusted book fairy recommended it, and said that she loved it JUST as much as my top three, I knew I had to give this one a chance.

The Rest of the Story reminded me of the Sarah Dessen of Old (a little bit of Along for the Ride and a tiny sprinkle of The Truth About Forever) and while I REALLY ENJOYED reading it, I just can’t classify it in the magical range that I would for my top three.


1.       EMMA/ SAYLOR AND THE FAMILY: This really reminded me of The Truth About Forever and the whole family. I loved Emma’s mom’s extended lake family, the familiarity and even the friction between them.
3.       I think Emma/ Saylor’s stepmom was one of the coolest characters in the book. I LOVE that she was supportive of Emma/ Saylor, stepped back when she didn’t need to be the parent in charge and encouraged Emma’s dad to be better.

1.       I feel like Emma’s mom’s mental health wasn’t dealt with properly. I can’t pinpoint what exactly, but the rep just felt lacking overall.

My Verdict: The Rest of the Story is a one-time read, that ALMOST reached the standard of my favourite Sarah Dessen books, but then, lacked the magic at the end.
Sarah Dessen 
Sarah Dessen is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen novels for teens, which have received numerous awards and rave reviews. Her books have been published in over thirty countries and have sold millions of copies worldwide. She is the recipient of the 2017 Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for outstanding contribution to young adult literature for her novels: Keeping the Moon, Dreamland, This Lullaby, The Truth about Forever, Just Listen, Along for the Ride, and What Happened to Goodbye. Her newest novel, Once and for All, will be released in June 2017. An NC native, she currently lives in Chapel Hill with her family.

What is your favourite Sarah Dessen book? Have you read The Rest of the Story?

Promise Unfulfilled, But an Enjoyable Read Nonetheless // ARC Review: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt The Flame (Sands of Arawiya #1)
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Publication Date: May 14th, 2019
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1/2 of the Sands of Arawiya
I Got A Copy Through: Macmillan INTL (Thank you!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: People lived because she killed.People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. 
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

This book had the makings of everything perfect – a diverse cast, inspired by ancient Arabia, a brilliant writer, magic, female empowerment, a quest and a hate-to-love romance at the centre of it all.

To say that I was BEYOND excited about Hafsah Faizal’s debut would probably be an apt summation of me NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

I don’t know why it took me so long to dive in, except maybe for the fact that I was trying TO SAVOUR (?) the book and the anticipation of reading it.

While I really enjoyed We Hunt the Flame, there were parts of the book where the character’s logic and development didn’t seem fully fleshed out, the writing a little stilted/ held back and that stopped me from falling head-over-heels for it.


1.       I feel like the world should have been built better right from the get-go, especially in terms of political intrigue. We were fed random snippets of information at a time, and not in chronological order and it just made me feel disconnected from the story at large. The big bad villain wasn’t really played up, I didn’t understand the Prince of Death’s motivations and why he did what he did (why didn’t he just take her and the boy and RUN? Why didn’t he at least TRY?) and, most of all, there was an awkwardly written SENSELESS death (in terms of logic) at the start of the story – all of which I thought should have been done better.

2.       Now that I’ve covered all the things I thought should have been better, let’s talk about the things I did enjoy, namely Zafira – who was every bit as badass and pure as I expected her to me. I enjoyed her point of view, especially as she fought against her demons, both internal and external and how she came to terms with her family and her power.



My Verdict: I wish parts of the book had been better, especially the character development and logic more clearly brought to life, but I really enjoyed We Hunt The Flame nonetheless. 3.5 Stars.
Hafsah Faizal

Hafsah Faizal is an American Muslim and brand designer. She’s the founder of IceyDesigns, where she creates websites for authors and beauteous goodies for everyone else. When she’s not writing, she can be found dreaming up her next design, deciding between Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim, or traversing the world. Born in Florida and raised in California, she now resides in Texas with her family and a library of books waiting to be devoured. WE HUNT THE FLAME is her first novel.
Have you read We Hunt The Flame? What did YOU think of it?

Absolutely, Deliciously Mind-Blowing! // REVIEW: Vengeful by V. E. Schwab

Title: Vengeful (Villains #2)
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publication Date: March 19th, 2019
Publisher: Titan Books
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1/2 of the Villains series
I Got A Copy Through: Bloomsbury India (Thank you!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: Eli Ever and Victor Vale were only medical students when their mutual discovery that near-death experiences can, under the right conditions, manifest extraordinary abilities.
They were best friends, and rivals, and then enemies. They were dead, then alive, and then---Eli killed Victor, once and for all.
Or so he thought---but Sydney Clarke felt otherwise, and used her own superpower to tip the scales. Now, a trio hides in the shadows, while another takes advantages of post-death life to take over the city of Merit.
If there can be life after death—will there be calm after vengeance, or will chaos rule?


I’m not joking – I WAS HOOKED, in a way that I haven’t been in a LONG time! I remember seeing this image of V. E. Schwab with her notes on the floor, re-plotting Vengeful and, when I read it, I could see the work that went into making this masterpiece the best it could be.

With the exception of the ending, I wouldn’t have changed a THING about this book, but even then, I’ll give it five glowing stars because THAT WAS A GREAT READ.

1.       THE STRUCTURE: From past to present, varying between character and character, the structure – and the mystery that that structure brought – was what brought Vengeful to life. Everything about this book was darker and twist-ier than Vicious as the fight wasn’t just Eli V Victor anymore, but with other equally powerful EOs, government agencies and slightly deranged scientists now in the mix. It was shocking and heart-wrenching and if you loved even a moment of Vicious, you’ll ADORE Vengeful.

2.       VICTOR: I REALLY loved how Victor’s story progressed in this book. It was juicier and darker, because he was fighting for his own survival and OH WOW I LOVED IT.

3.       THE FINAL BATTLE: I loved the culmination battle of Marcella VS Victor VS Eli VS the task force and all the power and the twists. I wish the CONCLUDING scene with Victor was a little more fleshed out, but I enjoyed it all regardless.

MY VERDICT: Get your hands on this series NOW. Vicious and Vengeful are absolutely, deliciously mind-blowing, dark and twisty and everything you would expect from a book about villains!

V.E. Schwab
V.E. Schwab is a pseudonym of Victoria Schwab.

Victoria has stated that books published under V.E. Schwab are adult releases and those under Victoria Schwab are YA. She is the author of the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy. the Monsters of Verity duology, the Villains duology and more.

Have you read Vicious and Vengeful? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Have you read V.E. Schwab's books? Which one did you love most?