Two For The Heart By Ekta R. Garg

Two stories about relationships and the power of love. 

“The Proposal”: Pooja and Akshay don’t want to bother with relationships, but they get cornered into marriage. The two devise a fool-proof plan: get married, then get their divorce papers ready. But will they have the guts to go through with the break up?
“Remembrance”: Helen wakes up in the hospital, but she has no idea how she got there. Everyone dodges the question…and then the sister she hasn’t spoken to in 11 years arrives. Why is she here? And will Helen ever remember what happened?– Goodreads

This book was a nice short read. I finished it in one sitting and I have to say that they were both very enjoyable. 

I loved how Ekta developed each character so throughly. Even though the stories were short, the author was able to bring across their personalities and their fears very well. She made the characters relatable and loveable for the most part.

I really loved how the author overlapped the stories by bringing in one character from one story into the other. It just made the first story seem that much lovelier and complete. It was almost like an epilogue of sorts with Pooja’s involvement in the second story.

I think Ekta exhibited very good control with her stories and it’s a pity because I think both stories would do very well as full novels. That said, I liked that Ekta was able to bring both stories full circle even with the limited word count.

My Rating: 4/5
*This book was given to me to read and review by the author*

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The Girl On The Train By Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. 
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train… -Goodreads

I love people-watching. There’s just something so captivating about making up this whole life for someone else based only upon what you see in front of you. 

I decided to read this little thriller mainly because pretty much everyone was reading it and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I’m pleased to say that all the fuss is correct. This is one damn good book. I loved the grittiness of it. I loved how raw it was and how it stole your breath away when you least expected it.

Paula Hawkins basically makes you hate all the characters. She makes everyone a suspect. Every one including the baby.

“But where was the baby?”

I’m just kidding.

It was such a refreshing change to see characters that were so messed up and unlovable. I guess that’s why it has been compared to Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ a lot. I absolutely hated every character with a vengeance. I would find myself standing in the shower sometimes and I would be thinking of the characters and having this huge ranting session in my head about why they are douchebags. Then I would leave the shower, pulsing with fury only to pick up book again because I had to know what happened.

This story is told from the point of view of three highly unreliable and unstable narraters. You never know who is telling the truth, who is lying and who simply cannot for the life of her remember what happened. 

Rachel is the forgetful alcoholic, Anne is the lying second wife and Megan is the neurotic cheat. They have all been robbed of the fullness of life and they are all grieving for what could have been. Together they work to bring three lives together into the big mystery of what happened on Saturday night. Everyone keeps secrets. Everyone.

The reason why this book didn’t get the full 5 stars from me was because I felt like the conclusion was weak. I didn’t like how the book ended. I felt like it was overly dramatic. But that’s the only flaw I could find. 

Now go out there and get your hands on this book because it is one hell of a good story.

My Rating: 4/5
*The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review*
Purchase the books at The Book Depositary using my special link Here

All The Bright Places By Jennifer Niven


The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.- Goodreads

I’m going to get a bit personal in this review because this was a very personal book for me. 3 years ago, I went through what could only be described as a depression. I was experiencing all the symptoms but I was too scared to voice it up to anyone. People could see that I was in distress. Believe me, they could see it. But no one ever thought to dig deeper. That year was the darkest and most horrible year of my life. I thought about killing myself constantly. I would make these plans and I would imagine my suicide and funeral. No one cried at them. I would cry myself to sleep and starve myself in school because I was too busy writing about my horrible life in my diary to eat. I threw myself into reading and into isolation.  I didn’t want to be around anyone. Not that the people around me at that time were that great either. I was being emotionally bullied by not just my peers, but my family. I was scared  and alone. I fell into this deep dark hole and I couldn’t crawl out.  It wasn’t a formal diagnosis but I believe that I went through a depression that year.

The following year, I found myself in a much better environment. I could breathe again. I could see the light. Slowly, I started to get better. I pulled my head out of my books (I used to read really obsessively as an escape from people and life. I now read a lot but I read healthily). I started doing better in school and I made more friends. It took a long time but I survived the darkness. I survived the ‘Asleep’. I woke up.

This book brought back a lot of the feelings from that year. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just made me empathise and love the characters even more. Because I felt like Finch understood what it was like to be so depressed that you couldn’t function. I understood Violet’s immense sadness and her desire to be better for her parents. I just felt so deeply for the for the characters. 

When I started the book, I thought it was so ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. I was pretty annoyed to be honest. And then, about 30% into the book, out of nowhere, it suddenly got ridiculously amazing. Suddenly Violet and Finch became real and I found myself completely immersed in the story.

Towards the end, I actually found myself mentally pausing. I didn’t want to read the next sentence but I also did. I didn’t want to turn the page but I also did. In my head there was this steady mantra going, ‘Nonononononononono’.  

When I finished the book, I was in tears. And I’m talking ugly tears that made my head hurt. I was physically hurting and I was incapable of well anything really. It hurt so badly. 

Many people compare this book to ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ and while the author is honoured by that, I feel like there is something very important that All The Bright Places has and that The Fault In Our Stars lacks. People always tell writers to write what they know. John Green’s book was based off his imagination. All The Bright Places, as was mentioned in the author’s note, was based off a real life experience of hers. I don’t want to give away spoilers here so I won’t elaborate but Jennifer Niven’s book just had that authenticity. You could just feel the emotions radiating from the pages.

This book was epic and already it is blowing up. Everyone is going crazy for it and Elle Fanning has been cast as Violet. I’m so happy for Jennifer because she is such a sweet and genuine human being and I couldn’t be happier for her immense success. If you haven’t read it yet, drop everything and go get a copy. It’s so good and you won’t regret it.

The author, Jennifer Niven, very kindly agreed to let me interview her for my blog so here are her answers to the questions I had. Take note that there might be some mild spoilers in the last two questions.


1) People often like liken your book to The Fault In Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. How do you feel about that? 

It’s an honor to have All the Bright Places compared to these two wonderful books, but at the same time I worry that it does all the books a disservice because each of them should really be able to stand on their own.

2) Are all the places that Violet and Finch wandered to real? 

All but one—I invented the bookmobile park. (Which I hope someone will create someday!)

3) Have you been to them? Have you left something behind too?

 I’ve been to some of the sites, but in April I’ll be in Indiana on my book tour and I’m hoping to see all of them then. I’d like to do a Finch and Violet tour of Indiana and leave something behind at each place.

4) Why the obsession with Virginia Woolf? Do you personally like her work?

 I’ve actually never been a fan of Virginia Woolf, but I came to appreciate her more while I was working on All the Bright Places. (I actually wrote a piece for The Guardian recently on how I came to quote Virginia Woolf in the book: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-…

5) If you could have anyone in the world to play Violet and Finch, who would they be? I’m asking so I can get a better idea of how you saw them in your head as you were writing it. 

When I was writing the book, I always pictured Elle Fanning as Violet, and now she’s actually playing Violet in the movie version! (I’m so excited!!) For Finch, I pictured Nicholas Hoult. He’s got the same weird beauty and sex appeal as Finch, and is able to play both sensitive and sweet and frenetic and wild. (Sadly, I think he’s a bit too old now to play Finch in the film.)

6) You mentioned that you once lost a boy you loved to suicide. I’m so sorry to hear that. Did you get the idea and write the story based on your relationship with him or was it something else?

I got the idea to write the story from knowing and loving this boy years ago. I saw firsthand his struggle to be in the world, and the dramatic highs and lows he experienced on a daily basis.

7) What was the most interesting thing you learnt and person you got to meet during the research of this book? 

It actually happened after the book came out—I reconnected with the family of the boy I knew and lost, and it’s been really special to be in touch with them again.

8) Why was Mr Embryo so unfriendly and harsh on Finch? Why did you decide on that direction with a profession that is usually painted as being warm and loving? 

Unfortunately, the counselors at my high school were overworked and understaffed, and they could only do so much for their students. Not all counselors are like this, of course, but I know too many teens who have been overlooked or underserved by their own school counselors. That said, I actually thought Embryo did the best he could with Finch. He used tough love when dealing with Finch, and I really do think he cared. As he himself said, yes, he probably could have done more, but Finch was also very guarded and careful about how much he revealed to everyone, Embryo included.

9) Why exactly did Mrs Finch try to always distance herself from her children? Did she have a mental illness too or was she pulling away because of what Mr Finch did to her? 

Mrs. Finch is a very wounded person who is simply going through life as best she can. She is basically just showing up for life without actually engaging in it or with the people around her. Basically, she does the bare minimum she needs to get by. I see her as a woman who was very hurt by the man she loved and married, who is still reeling from that hurt, so much so that she is incapable of truly seeing, understanding, or taking care of her kids.

10) How did you manage to score a movie before this book was even published? (Congratulations on that by the way) 

Thank you! My wonderful film agent sent the book out early last spring, after we’d sold a number of the foreign rights. She knew the foreign rights sales so early on in the process and all the early buzz about the book would get the attention of Hollywood, and luckily she was right! 

11) Do you plan to be heavily involved in the movie making process?

 Yes! I actually just did an event yesterday with the producer and the director and Elle Fanning! They are all being so wonderful to involve me as much as possible.

*SPOILER ALERT*


12) What was it that finally drove Finch over the edge? Was it the expulsion? Because he seemed to be doing well until he got expelled. 

Like the boy I once knew, Finch suffered from bi-polar disorder, which meant that every day was a struggle for him. It wasn’t a matter of one event driving him over the edge. There were certainly multiple events that contributed, but more than that, it was Finch trying to stay Awake and not wanting the Long Drop to come back. He was tired of fighting, and he dreaded the Asleep—his word for the lows— which he knew would inevitably come.

13) How is it that he spent most of the novel fighting to stay alive for Violet but in the end, she wasn’t enough?

I hate to say it, but a person can’t be enough for another person to stay. This is something I learned firsthand from my experience knowing and loving this boy and others like him who struggled with depression, bi-polar disorder, and suicide. Finch loved Violet more than he loved anyone, but he was battling demons far bigger than that love. The thing is, Finch should not have died. There was help for him. Suicide should never be a solution. If only Finch had let people in and let them know what he was dealing with and realized that he’s not alone, that other people struggle with these same issues, he could have been saved.

My Rating: 5/5
P.S. Jennifer, I still really really want a signed copy
Purchase the books at The Book Depositary using my special link Here

The Other Wife By Kathleen Irene Paterka

Eleanor Anderson has a beautiful home, a loving husband, a tranquil life. After thirty-eight years of marriage and her children now grown, she finally has time for herself. She’s not expecting any surprises; certainly not to wake up one morning and find her husband dead in bed beside her from a massive heart attack. It’s a devastating discovery… but not as much as the shock awaiting Eleanor when she learns the truth about her husband’s secret life. 

Claire Anderson isn’t your average thirty something. A professor of psychology at a prestigious university, Claire has a successful career, a handsome husband, and two young children at home. But nothing in her background, including her academic accomplishments, prepares Claire for the horrendous reality of discovering that the life she’d led was all a lie… fostered by a husband who’d promised to love and cherish her forever.

Two women from two generations, bound together by denial, anger, and grief.  
What happens when each of these women comes face-to-face with the other wife?-Goodreads

This book isn’t something that I would have picked up for myself but I have to say that I quite enjoyed it. Mostly because the themes in this book struck a chord within me. I found this book to be relatable in a very small way to me. I would say that it is unfortunate and I would hope that this book isn’t relatable to anyone. 

So this book is about these two women. Both with children. Eleanor has two grown children and a grandchild. Claire has two toddlers. Unfortunately, Eleanor and Claire also share a husband. When Eleanor awakens to find Richard dead next to her, both their lives come crashing down. Suddenly finding herself in broke and homeless due to the fact that Richard had left all his money to Claire, Eleanor has to learn to adapt to a more eager lifestyle. Claire, with her buckets of money has to grieve over the man who she was falsely led to believe that she’d married. She has to cope with the fact that she only found out that he died well after he was buried and she has to figure out how to move on.

Now maybe I’ll start this review off with the only flaw I found in this book. It was way too long. This book could have been about half it’s length if there was proper editing done. A lot of thoughts were repeated more then twice and the inner monologues were lengthy and repetitive. Granted that they added a certain depth to the women and the story, it was unnecessary in my opinion.

Now, the good points. I loved how the author chose to parallel the women so similarly so that we could see just how this revelation affected each of them. I thought it was very interesting. I also really liked how each of them had such extreme impressions of the other but when they finally meet, they realise that everything they thought to be true was not.

I think this book is not really something a lot of teenage or even young adult readers would pick off the shelf for themselves so I’m really hoping that this review can convince you to give this book a try. I know this book seems more like an adult kind of book but let me assure you that it is very beautiful story.  It is a really interesting read and even if you don’t have any personal experiences with the subject matter, the book still draws you in and teaches you a thing or two about the law. If you have a thing for the law or basically just curiosity over the ‘what ifs’ in life, you will enjoy this book.



This book was actually given to me to read and review by the author and she very kindly agreed to an impromptu interview when I was done reading. Here’s what she had to say.
1) What inspired this book?
My husband Steve. Several years ago he was hospitalized for a cardiac issue. It was 5 am, and I was in his hospital room, sitting at the end of his bed in the semi-darkness. Suddenly he made a strange sound. I thought he was snoring… but it was the infamous ‘death rattle’. Steve had just died. Thank God he was in the hospital and hooked up to heart monitors. A Code Blue was called, and the medical team managed to resuscitate him. But Steve’s episode with death started me thinking. What if he’d been at home asleep in our bed? What would I have done when I heard that horrible snore? I probably would have poked him, then rolled over, and gone back to sleep… only to wake up and find him dead beside me. I tried to imagine how I would feel, and how I would handle things after he died. Then I started thinking along the lines of story: what if, after a woman’s husband died, she discovered he’d been hiding a secret… a horrible secret that would change her life forever?
2) Was there any reason why you were drawn to this subject matter?
I believe a good story begins with two words: ‘What If?’ Death is a natural part of life, and I wasn’t too keen on writing about the subject. But ‘what if’ the story started after the husband had died, and about how his wife handled the aftermath? And ‘what if’, in settling his estate, she discovered her husband had secrets? And to carry it further, ‘what if’ another woman was involved? And ‘what if’ the other woman was in exactly the same situation as the first (i.e., married to the man)? ‘What if’ neither of them knew about the other? How would they each cope? Would they want to meet? Would they resent each other? Would they be angry? Jealous? Would either seek revenge? I found the emotional prospect of creating a storyline around these two women, Eleanor and Claire, neither of whom knew about the other, tremendously exciting, and I began writing.
3) What was the most interesting thing you learnt/interesting person you met while researching for this book?
Dr. Penny Visser of the University of Chicago was extremely helpful to me in researching for the book. A professor of psychology at U of C, Dr. Visser gave me a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the psychology department, introduced me to other departmental staff, and answered all my questions. I’m a very visual person; being able to tour the campus and psychology department with her was fascinating. I even saw a human brain in a jar on the desk of one of her fellow professors (and yes, that little detail went into the book!).
4) Does this kind of thing happen often? When a man has two wives in this day and age. Does it still happen?
In researching for the novel, I was careful not to involve myself with the interests of different faith groups that practice plural marriage. That being said, people are human. If they’re determined to do something, they often will not let the mere technicality of a law stop them. Bigamy exists, even though state laws mandate that a person may not be married to more than one person at a time. Richard thought he could get away with it, and so he married Claire. As for men having multiple wives who remain hidden from each other, Eleanor and Claire each had their own story to tell, but from a different perspective. Eleanor was married to Richard for 38 years, while his ‘marriage’ to Claire was brief (4 years). Each woman is devastated when she learns the truth about the other woman. How does each of them cope? And what happens when they eventually come together? How does each woman deal with ‘The Other Wife’?
5) Do you think Vivi’s claims that it was Eleanor’s fault that her dad found Claire was justified?
I don’t think that Vivi was emotionally stable enough to realize that her claims were unjustified. She had grown up as a daddy’s girl, and could never recognize her father’s failings. As far as Vivi was concerned, it was a natural assumption to blame Eleanor for Richard’s numerous affairs and his eventual marriage to Claire. Yet neither woman, Eleanor or Claire, was responsible for Richard’s behavior. He was brilliant in his manipulation of each of his wives, and did exactly as he pleased. Each woman did the best she could to bring herself and her children through the emotional dilemma in which they found themselves following Richard’s death.

*THIS NEXT QUESTION HAS SPOILERS*


5) Introducing Vivi’s mental illness was interesting. Do you think Richard had it too?

I think there definitely was a father/daughter connection. The classic definition of a narcissist includes personality traits such as grandiosity, arrogance, and lack of empathy towards others. Vivi followed her father Richard in that regard. She was certainly not empathetic when it came to her relationship with her mother Eleanor. And while some things are not necessarily a matter of ‘nature vs. nurture’, I do believe there is a genetic ‘predisposition’ to inherit certain qualities or traits from an earlier generation. For example, if a child’s father was an alcoholic, it does not necessarily mean that the child would grow up to become an alcoholic… but the ‘predisposition’ would be more a threat for that child than for another person whose family carried no addictive traits or behaviors.

My Rating: 4/5
*This book was given to me by the author to read and review*
Purchase the books at The Book Depositary using my special link Here

The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah


FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.  

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France.-Goodreads

Oh wow. How do do this. How to do I put into words how this book made me feel and how it changed me ever so subtly.

So let’s start from the beginning. I love history. I did it as a pure O’level subject and I got a B (mostly because I suck at Southeast Asian history). But I’ve always loved history. I’ve loved hearing about Hitler and Stalin and about what life was like under their rule. I’ve always been so fascinated by the concentration camps and about the mass killings. It makes me think a lot about how strong someone has to be to go through all that torture and still survive to tell the painful tale.

The first book I ever read of historical fiction was ‘Good Night Mr Tom’. I loved it. Second book, ‘The Story Teller’ by Jodi Picoult. I was in tears. So this is my third encounter with a historical fiction book and I knew from the very first chapter that I was going to adore this book.

I started reading it while waiting to register to learn to drive and right there in the driving centre, I was fighting tears like crazy. Many other reviewers warn you not to read this book in public and I have to say, heed their warning. I read most of this book in the spare pockets of time I could find in the midst of all my work. So mostly that was on the bus and right before I fell asleep. That meant that I was basically fighting emotion in public. Seriously this book made me so emotional. I have never cried at so many points in a book before. I’ve cried at endings. But no other book has ever made me ugly cry at so many points. 

I loved the character of Vianne the most. The way she sacrificed herself time and again for the people she loved. The way she loved children and her family. The compassion she had in her heart was just breathtaking. It really makes you stop and think about what it really means to love sacrificially. She was just there holding everyone up. She never seemed to be able to stop and let grief over the people she lost take her. She was always helping everyone with their grief but she never stopped to take care of herself.

And Isabelle. Sweet and reckless Isabelle. She loved so deeply but often just didn’t think. Her character was so strong. She was forever the feminist. Always questioning why a man could fight but not a woman. She was the voice in this book.

In the book, there is an unknown woman who tells her story in 1995. We don’t find out till the end who that woman is but when we do, it is magical. It feels so incredibly real. Everything just felt real and painful and tragic.

Honestly I don’t think there are enough words to describe just how powerfully this book moved me. How much it made me think. By the time I was done with the book, I felt like I had left a part of my heart in its pages. Because the loss of having finished this book was so strong. Again, I’m not really one who gets that emotional when books end. Even if it was a good book. But this book just did strange things to me. 

This book has gone into my favourites shelf where it will remain. I can completely see myself one day returning to it’s beautiful pages and immersing myself in the story of Vianne and Isabelle.

This review is also dedicated to all the current survivors of the Holocaust. Recently the annual commemoration in Paris took place and they are saying that by next year, there might only be a few survivors left and very soon there will be none. We must never forget the war. Even when the survivors die, we must never forget their fight. So this goes out to them.
 

My Rating: 10/5 (Yes you can have that rating)
Publishing Date: 3rd February 2015
*An advanced copy of this book was given to me to read and review by the publishers*
Purchase the books at The Book Depositary using my special link Here