Cocktails For Three – Book Review

…by Sophie Kinsella (writing as Madeleine Wickham)

This is a story of 3 British women who are close friends. For years they have maintained the tradition of meeting at a cocktail bar on the first of every month. This bar has strengthened their friendship and given them lot of memories to cherish.

They lead happy lives till an outsider by the name of Heather comes into their lives. She enters their lives at a time when each of them is at the brink of personal crisis.

This is the story of sweet Candice, rash Roxanne and intelligent Maggie. Candice is the ‘baby’ of the lot. She is cute and generous to the extent of being fooled easily. She harbours a pest from the past. To get over her age old guilt, she invites Heather into her life with open, welcoming hands. She showers her with all the help and love she can so that she can make good what her father spoilt years ago. Heather appears friendly on the surface. Maybe, too friendly. Soon, Candice is dealing with her self-obsessed ex-boyfriend, a crooked flatmate, lots of dilemmas and above all, the dangerous distance that is developing between her and her close friends.

Roxanne is in love with an older man whom she refers to as Mr. Married with Kids. Her two best friends do not know who he is. The affair that has been lasting since 6 years doesn’t seem to be coming to a decent conclusion. Still, she is willing to live with it. But one fine day, her lover ends it all. She is devastated. And she has no one to talk to. After all, she managed to lose both her friends too.

Maggie is the editor of a magazine. She is used to being in power and being busy. But in a month’s time, she would be delivering her baby. She and her husband have moved to their palatial house in the country. After her maternity leave begins, she only as the silence of the big house, large grassy fields and anxiety of handling a baby to accompany her. Roxanne and Candice seem to be moving on with their lives without her. And once the baby comes, she is at a complete loss of control. Despite working hard and spending sleepless nights, she is unable to handle her baby well and for that, she feels pathetic about herself. Her decreasing self-esteem isn’t helped much by her mother-in-law. And there is no one who can understand her.

Three closest of friends and yet so lonely.

But bad times are never to stay forever, ain’t it? Lost friends are won back. Lost trust is regained. Loves are lost but new loves are won.

It is a beautifully written story of women you can relate to. They face the same issues that we face in our lives. This book taught me two lessons. One, do not condemn yourself for who you are not. Accept and love who you are. A successful, working woman like Maggie, for example, cannot be expected to become a perfect mother from day one. Accept the fact that you cannot be good at everything. Second, keep your friends close in times of need. When you have good friends, you never have to feel lonely.

I did not enjoy some of Madeleine Wickham books but this one is a winner for me. It is an easy, engrossing, thoughtful read. I had difficulty parting with this book. I dared to leave all my work pending for the sake of this book. In fact, I would read it again some day!

My rating: 4

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Teatime for the firefly

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Title: Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
ISBN: 9780778315476
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Source: Advance copy via NetGalley
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From Shona Patel’s blog:

My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. The time and place of my birth makes me a Manglik. For a young girl growing up in India in the 1940’s, this is bad news. The planet Mars is predominant in my Hindu horoscope and this angry, red planet makes people rebellious and militant by nature. Everyone knows I am astrologically doomed and fated never to marry. Marriages in our society are arranged by astrology and nobody wants a warlike bride. Women are meant to be the needle that stitches families together, not the scissor that cuts.

But every thing began to change for me on April 7th, 1943.

Three things happened that day: Boris Ivanov, the famous Russian novelist, slipped on a tuberose at the grand opening ceremony of a new school, fell, and broke his leg; a baby crow fell out of its nest in the mango tree; and I, Layla Roy, aged fifteen years and three days, fell in love with Manik Deb.

The incidents may have remained unconnected, like three tiny droplets on a lily leaf. But the leaf tipped and the drops rolled into one. It was a tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together—Boris Ivanov, the baby crow, Manik Deb, and me.

I loved this book! It is such a beautifully written book that I couldn’t put it down but somehow I made myself stop to just let the words wash over me and to feel the characters and live with them for some more time. Shona Patel’s storytelling and writing ability is so powerful that it transports you and you can’t get out of that magical place. While reading the book, I felt nostalgic for an era I didn’t even live in. Is it even possible?

In Teatime, we follow Layla’s journey from her laid back life with her grandfather, Dadamoshai to the turbulent times she faces during India’s independence and thereafter. Layla is born under an unlucky start and is orphaned at a very young age. Yet, she is brought up by her wise and forward thinking grandfather to be a smart, educated and independent thinking girl. After marrying Manik Deb, Layla moves to the borders of Assam to live in the tea plantations where her husband works. Overnight she finds out that she is a now a memsahib with a fully staffed bungalow at her disposal and has to look and act accordingly. Soon we see that her relaxed life with her grandfather is over and she has to face many issues arising out of the changing economic situations at that time. Set against the spectacular backdrop of tea plantations, Shona Patel remarkably portrays the contrasts of an idyllic exotic location and it’s flawed society. Through Layla we see the life and times of the local plantation workers as they face racism, poverty, superstition and even politics.

I fell in love with Layla first and with her grandfather a little later – but these are not the only people who are delightful to read. The other motley of characters that Patel weaves in this story are equally captivating and touching – from Layla’s extended family to her servant staff, her husband’s colleagues and their wives and mistresses – every character is a joy to read – they are real, believable and you can easily picture them in your head with their nuances.

Shona Patel’s prose is lush and lyrical. It transports you to the India in the 1940’s and completely immerses you in that time and place . Layla’s story is funny, adventurous, dangerous and courageous. You would at times wish to stop and savour the moments yet find yourself distraught at the thought of staying away from the beautiful place and characters of this book. A coffee addict myself, after reading this book, I craved for a cup of tea…

Highly recommended! Can’t wait for her next book!

Cupcakes At Carrington’s–Book Review

By Alexandra Brown

At last, a chick-lit that did not get on my nerves or put me to sleep. It caught my attention when I saw a 3.82 rating on Goodreads.

This book is centred around Georgie – A salesgirl at Carrington’s department store’s designer bag section. Georgie’s life isn’t easy. She is broke. And single. Her mother’s death and father’s bad name haunts her every day. Your heart kind of goes to her. After all, she has a heart of gold and everyone loves her.

Her boss, James, has caught her eye. And recently he has been acting flirty with her. Put in 2 adorable friends, Eddie and Sam, and you have a wonderful tale of friendship, among other things. Just when things are looking up for Sam, a threat by the name of Maxine is posted at the department store, threatening her job, friendships and love. Carrington’s is going through a make-over due to tough times which is why Maxine, a sultry, mean, man-eating woman is placed on the top. Georgie finds herself pitted against her love, James and the newest hottie, Tom for retaining her job. She desperately needs the job – she is almost bankrupt! At the same time, she loves James.

What will Georgie choose? What does Georgie get in the end? What is all the dishevelment happening suddenly at the usually peaceful department store? Who is good and who is bad here?

Georgie’s character is so adorable. She is sweet, helpful, warm and a great friend. Her friends and a host of interesting characters – evil Tina, her confused fiancé Ciaran, shrewd Malikov and kind hearted Alfie – create this sweet roller-coaster of a tale. You will fall in love with the characters!

What I liked most about the book is that it doesn’t have unnecessary bedroom romance to spice things up. It is also pretty fast paced. Though it comes across as a chick-lit, this novel has an element of whodunit weaved into it.

The tale may seem unnatural in some places but then, which fiction novel is totally realistic. And if they were so realistic, would they be fun to read??!!

I will give this book a 3 on 5.

Run To Me

Title: Run to Mecover22416-medium
Author: Diane Hester
ISBN: 9781742756424
Source: Advance copy from publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

It’’s been two years since Shyler O’Neil’’s beloved son Jesse was killed –but his final moments are as vivid to her now as they were that dreadful day. Suffering from post-traumatic stress and convinced she did not do enough to protect him, she retreats to an isolated cabin in the woods of northern Maine. Meanwhile, Zack Ballinger –a ten-year-old boy who has never known a mother’’s love – finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’’s seen too much and is now running for his life. Fleeing into the woods, Zack soon finds himself at Shyler’’s cabin. He’’ll take whatever help she can give –even though, for some reason, she keeps calling him Jesse . . . With the pursuers hot on their heels, ‘mother’ and ‘son’ go on the run. Protecting Zack may well be Shyler’’s one chance at redemption. Either that, or she is the child’’s greatest threat . . .

My Review:

This is a very well written novel. There is no mystery here but it is suspenseful. The characters are brilliant, especially Shyler. Shyler has been through a lot, the death of her son has scarred her and she has withdrawn from people and reality. Shyler’s character is very well nuanced and Hester does a superb job articulating Shyler’s thoughts and what all goes on in her mind.

Zack is another damaged character due the circumstances he has faced in his short life. Zack has grown up in foster homes and is mature beyond his age, yet there is a small child within him who yearns for a home and mother’s love. So he holds on to Shyler even after knowing that she is a bit unhinged and damaged.

The novel is written from the perspectives of Shyler, Zack and Dr. Chase Hadley. I couldn’t help but smile at that name! While Zack and Shyler are dealing with their own hells, Dr. Hadley is stuck in between them and offers to help. I loved the dialogues between Dr. Hadley and his father. There are parellel stories going on in this novel and yet it all comes together in a suspenseful climax. Do read this one! Highly recommended.

1st To Die–Book Review

Women’s Murder Club – 1

By James Patterson

After trying different genres I don’t usually read or enjoy, I caught hold of my favourite genre – detective. Rather, 2 of my favourite genres combined – detective and chick lit. Now, whether the combination worked well or not, I will talk about that a bit later.

Homicide Inspector Lindsay Boxer works with San Francisco Police Department. Even strong Boxer is unable to face the gruesome murders of brides and bridegrooms happening all over US. A mad serial killer is on the loose. He attacks couples on their wedding nights, kills them brutally, steals their wedding bands and leaves their murdered bodies in outrageous positions. The sexual sadist killer makes Boxer’s blood boil but however desperate she is to catch the killer, she is helpless at the hands of her own critical illness. 6 murders one after the other takes a toll on Boxer’s peace of mind and health. Then there is a major distraction by the name of Chris Raleigh. Soon, Lindsay is unable to ignore the growing chemistry between the two. Both divorcees; heartbroken & tough. How far do they go? What happens to their chemistry by the end of the book? Ah. The story of their relation is to be read on your own.

With the killer still on the run, Lindsay realizes she needs moral support more than skills. And that’s when she forms the Women’s Murder Club consisting of herself, Claire (a medical examiner), Cindy Thomas (a reporter with Chronicle) and Jill Bernhardt (assistant D.A.). They do all it takes to keep their guts and sanity together when suspicion falls on celebrity novelist, Nicholas Jenks.

Through rapid twists and turns, they nail down the killer.

I enjoyed reading a light crime story after ages (I must stick to such kinds and not venture into literature, like I try to, once in a while). Some may find the plot childish and the writing, amateur. I felt that too. At times, I wanted the characters to move fast, talk lesser hollow stuff and just get real.

Putting in a love story appeared interesting in the beginning (who doesn’t like some spice amidst any serious theme) but later on, ‘chick lit romance’ & girly drama (Boxer’s illness) just did not gel well with ‘hard-core murder detective’. Sometimes, the narration gave a feel of Mills & Boons. Creepy.

This book has also been made into a movie. I thought of watching it. But I remembered the detailed descriptions of murders in the book. Gross; cannot watch them on screen.

I was hooked on to this book, I confess. However immature a murder mystery may be, once suspense is created, you just have to finish it to know who the killer is. It was like that. Once I was mid-way (and mind you, the book isn’t very fast paced), I sneaked into the book during class, while travelling, while eating – I could not keep away from it. And the climax did throw me off track but many could guess it mid-way.

If you want to go in for a light, casual read, this is a good one.

I rate it 3 on 5.

Book Review: In Her Shoes

by Jennifer Weiner

The problem with chick lit novels is that they suck you into the lives of the characters. You think about them even when you are fighting it out in the rat race of your real life. There is enough drama, chaos and tragedy happening with them to make you forget your own. Moreover, reading about others’ problems is much easier. This is what happened when I started reading In Her Shoes on a lazy day and decided not to rest till I had reached its end.

Rose Feller is your typical chick-lit heroine. Low on self esteem. Looking for love. Goody goody. Has difficulty in saying No. Works as a decently placed corporate professional. Is more heartbroken than happy. Turns around her life after a disastrous relationship.

Her younger sister, Maggie Feller, in what a normal girl would easily call a b*tch. She is abnormally good looking and trendy, nasty, selfish and arrogant. She gets what she wants and is not afraid to play with anyone to do that.

They have nothing in common except their shoe size.

The same broken past leads the two sisters on two different paths. One is successful on the surface while the other is totally spoilt and unhealthy to everyone around her. Their togetherness only creates chaos and destruction.

Maggie gets meaner as the story progresses and though you sympathize with Rose for tolerating her sister’s malevolent ways, you want to shake her up for being such a loser. Maggie isn’t ashamed of lounging at her sister’s house, treating her possessions as her own without the least bit of shame for being unemployed. It is only when Maggie steals something really dear to Rose that the latter throws her out of her house and heart.

There is a third woman involved in this heartfelt tale – their grandmother, who is battling her own conflicting feelings of sadness and guilt.

These three women come together at one point of time and learn to come to terms with the painful past connecting them all. Their mutual relationships are knotty and tricky. But each of them transforms into a new being for their own good and makes life better for themselves and everyone around them.

The book was easy to read, was touching with being hilarious at the right places and translated the feelings of the characters well. One thing that I was not convinced with was Maggie’s transformation. The drastic transformation isn’t explained well. I see no reason why a b*tch would suddenly be so interested in poetry. Once when you begin to sense her change, she again dips to disgrace by thinking about extorting money from her grandmother. She seemed to be a character that could never be trusted. And yet, she turns into a generous bubbly girl. A happy result but a bit difficult to digest.

The book, which has also been made into a movie, is a good light entertaining read that also gives some lessons – of treating oneself well before treating others, of being a little selfish for your own good, of letting go when needed.

For chick-lit lovers, this book is a must read. I will rate is 3 / 5.

Adrift – A Junket Junkie in Europe

— by Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu

Before beginning the review, I have to say that this is my very first travel journal. I have read travel anecdotes and accounts on blogs all over the internet, but I had not read such an extensive journal till date.

My first reaction after reading this book was simple awe and a decided kinship! It is amazing that this author can pack up her bags and leave to the most favored destinations of the world trusting a shoestring budget and a bunch of relatives & friends. I am yet to go alone on a trip anywhere! And she managed most of Europe on her own. She is living my dream and I have to applaud her for this.

I started this book not knowing what to expect, but the author has managed to move me with detailed accounts of all her destinations. She has devoted a chapter each to significant places of visit. Mostly following a pattern, she begins by introducing her hosts in that place, all of them old friends or relatives. She then briefly describes her accommodation conditions and then launches into an extensive narration of the history, nuances, culture, people and cuisine of each of the places. And being a self-professed foodie, she describes the culinary delights of the place with mouth-watering descriptions! She effectively captures the core attraction of the place through her experience of it and feelings towards it.

As much as the book is about Europe, it is also about the author. Her personality and preferences shine through her words. Without being too narcissistic, she manages to balance the information and her own personal feelings towards these destinations. We gather from her journal that she is a seasoned traveller and not a mere tourist. It is not her job to go to catalogued places and take pictures , live in expensive resorts and wind up a trip. She is determined to soak in the experience of a particular place. By meeting its people, by eating the signature dishes, participating in the local events and in general by enjoying herself thoroughly!
The journey through Europe for Puneet starts by the discovery of a ticket that was gifted to her long time ago. Some rummaging around found her a couple of relatives in Germany and UK. So she gathers her essentials, scrapes some money together and sets off on the trip. With her determination to not delegate herself to being a tourist, our happy traveller sets a few ground rules for herself. She does break a few of them but under pressing circumstances. Her wit and humour are a part of her writing too. She also manages to sufficiently convey her sympathy when she visits places with unfortunate history like the house where Anne Frank’s family hid from the Gestapo. She parties hard and fully exploits the delights of places like Amsterdam. She finds the best of eateries in Paris, bicycles through the plains of Sweden and even manages to travel on a train in Paris without a ticket! Though not many misadventures, except a near escape from a customs officer and a bad movie experience, her other happenings are thrilling enough for somebody who truly would love to go to Europe!

I was a bit put off by some of the writing though. Though I do applaud her vocabulary, the book consisted of one too many unnecessary words. Also some of the complex sentences were not well formed and it is real hindrance to read a sentence multiple times, distracting the reader from the real intent of the book. Also, I was amused to find British influences in her writing. The trip really seems to have had an impact on her! Looking over other aspects of presentations, I have to say, the cover art of the book really did its job by capturing the mood.

All in all the book is an excellent ride through Europe. I thoroughly envy the author for her spirit and independence. Still I hope she goes to more places and documents more of her travels for me to read!

My Rating 4/5
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