Review: The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri

June 30, 2013

Title: The Homing Pigeons
Author: Sid Bahri
Publication date: April 10, 2013
Publisher: Srishti Publishers and Distributors
Genre: Fiction, Indian
Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: The Readers Cosmos & Sid Bahri
In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar, little does he know that his life will change forever…..

When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom that she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…..

They say Homing Pigeons always come back to their mate, no matter where you leave them on the face of this earth. Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.
I recently joined a course on Cousera called The Fiction of Relationships, where part of the course was to study classic works of fiction that gave great insight into relationships. But you know something? I felt I learnt so much more about the 'fiction of relationships' from this one book - The Homing Pigeons' than I did from the whole first book that we studied.

This book. Is. Something Else.
We work, in the hope that we will get a raise. We love, in the hope that we will find a soul mate. And we earn, in the hope that we will never have to work again.
Its been a couple days since I finished this book, and I'm still reeling, and am having a hard time gathering my thoughts, so if this review is all over the place (I have a hunch it is going to be), then please forgive me, and check out the review on Pooja's blog On Books!, which I'm sure she'll be writing in a few days :)

Im not going to go into the summary of the book like I usually do, because doing so would be giving away a bit, and that'll spoil it for you. Not only that, this book is so much more than the relationship between Aditya and Radhika. It delves into each of them as individuals and what they each bring into the relationship as a result of who they are, as themselves.

Aditya is a young man, out of job as so many were during the recession, and so is pushed down to second place in the pecking order behind his wife. This rankles (obviously), so he spends most of his time outside the (hers, now) house. One one such outing, he gets completely smashed at a bar, and meets a beautiful stranger. That is where begins his journey into the sunken depths of society, where the rich come for satisfaction, and the service providers are relegated to the status of unmentionables. Aditya struggles (though not much) with himself in his decision to go down this path, but finally gives in, and soon after, starts seeing it as a kind of penance for his misdeeds.

Radhika is a recently widowed 32 year old, who is finally free from all her obligations, now that her step daughter is married. She finds that she now has all the freedom that she craved for all those years under a man's thumb, but has nothing to devote herself to. Due to her 'not tragic by conventional definition, but still tragic' childhood, she is estranged from her family and is completely alone, save for her man Friday, Laxman. This gives her plenty of time for contemplation and self-examination, which is how most of the book is spent.

Some of this story put me in mind of L M Montgomery's books. Radhika's background story reminded me a bit about Anne of Green Gables, with respect to Aditya, and her upbringing as well. Her Papa reminded me of Emily's (of the Emily series) father, with his soft affection for Radhika and that the book showed him as a quiet thinker.

Around 100 pages into the book, you know what the climax (yes, this one has a climax. Very filmy like.) is going to be. But you still keep going, out of sheer human curiosity (really, this one will tease you so much!), if not for the wonderful, wonderful writing.

And that brings us to the writing.

People, okay, I'll be honest with you here. If this rating was purely for the storyline ALONE, it would get only a 3 star. But the writing! I swear, there hasn't ever been an Indian writer (for me) that has had such beautiful words that I have resorted to ear marking pages. And I did. Several, if fact. Most of the story is spent in retrospect, but not a moment is spent in tedium for the reader. The author's knack of using analogy is very interesting and only adds to his worth as a writer.

I learned something through this book. When we hear of / see / read love stories, we're often happy for the couple. But what about the 'behind the scenes' action that went on before the happily ever after? It's not often that a book comes along with such severely flawed characters and is written in such a way, that you forgive them their sins at the end. That saying? 'The end justifies the means'? Very fitting over here, at least it was for me. I did not like a lot of the character's actions. The fact that at the end, I was ready to forget all of that, the reason for that lies solely with the author, and I applaud him for that.

The author's interesting observations about life and people that he has worked into the story makes the reading experience real insightful.
It was ironic that she had said what she had. I was immature enough to be in love and yet, mature enough to be married.
India is still a pretty conservative country, and we are restrictive by nature. Things that are discussed in this book are not exactly drawing room conversation friendly, but the courage to pull this off, and not detract from the quality (there are , after all, people who take up controversial topics just to be 'bold', but have no substance in actuality), is a mean feat, at which Bahri has succeeded remarkably.

From the sea of mostly mediocre Indian fiction today, The Homing Pigeons stands out for its daring heart and exemplary writing.

Bottomline: Read it for the exemplary writing of an Indian author.

*A copy of the book was provided by the author, Sid Bahri via The Readers Cosmos Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review.

Feature & Follow Friday #8

June 28, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee at Parajunkee & Alison at Alison Can Read.

To join the fun and make new book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  • (Required) Follow our Featured Bloggers
  • Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing. You can also grab the code if you would like to insert it into your posts.
  • Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say “hi” in your comments and that they are now following you.
  • If you are using WordPress or another CMS that doesn’t have GFC (Google Friends Connect) state in your posts how you would like to be followed
  • Follow Follow Follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don’t just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don’t say “HI”
  • If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love…and the followers
  • If you’re new to the follow Friday hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
Question of this Week:
What is your preferred reading format? Hardcover, eBooks, paperback etc?

Umm I'm still undecided on this topic. There are some distinct advantages to ebooks, but the reader in me loves the feel of an actual physical book, turning the pages, the smell of new books and old alike, and the joy in buying a new book and running your fingers across the cover. Okay, am I becoming too sentimental now? I'll stop :D

But an ebook is SO easy to read! See, when I read, I like to highlight, take little notes and stuff. I cant do any of that in a physical book. I could highlight, I guess, but I hate to make any mark whatsoever in a book. They're kind of sacred like that. Is that weird? Am I the only one like that?

So yes, Im still split over which one I like better, since each has it's own advantages and disadvantages, but I think I lean more towards the physical book, since it gives me the entire 'reading experience'.

What about you?
Which do you like better? Ebooks or physicals?
Or are you split between the two like I am?
Leave me a comment below with a link to your FF post and I'll make sure to stop by! :)

P.S.: You can follow me via GFC, Google+, Bloglovin', Networked Blogs, Linky or Facebook! Many thanks in advance! :D 

 I'm on Twitter as well now!
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Moving from Google Reader to Bloglovin'

I guess everyone knows by now that Google Reader will be disappearing on July 1st. Just to be clear, the blogs you follow will still stay on your Blogger Reading List. However, if you want your blogs all nice and tidy and well organised, Bloglovin' is an awesome reader! I've been using it for the past few months, and it's great!

Not only that, Bloglovin' now has an easy peasy way for you to import your favourite blogs from Google Reader to Bloglovin'. Just follow this little link ->

1. You have to sign in or sign up, depending on whether or not you're new to Bloglovin'.

2. You get this little button that allows you to import from Google Reader.

3. Once you click that, it takes you to your Google account page, which asks you for permission to manage your data with Bloglovin'

4. Once you grant permission, it starts importing, and you can sit back and let Bloglovin' do all the work.

And voila! All your favourite blogs move over from Google Reader to Bloglovin'! No sweat! :D

 Follow I Read, Ergo I Write:
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Review: Marry Go Round by Sadiqa Peerbhoy

June 27, 2013

Title: Marry Go Round
Author: Sadiqa Peerbhoy
Publication date: April 24, 2013
Publisher: Jufic Books (Imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Genre: Fiction, Indian
Rating: 3/5 stars
Source: Leadstart Publishing
A determined mother using blatant emotional blackmail to inveigle her NRI son into a marriage with the right sort of desi girl; a reluctant groom with a live-in girlfriend following him all the way to India; a bride on the rebound from a disastrous liaison with a married man; skeletons rattling in old family cupboards; an aunt on the vengeance trail, and we have a heady cocktail of an arranged wedding that morphs into a love marriage with quite the wrongest possible girl, with a little tactical help from long-dead ancestors.

Written in a refreshingly original style, Marry Go Round is one quaint combine of today's merrily irreverent humour and a staid Hyderabadi milieu with its Nawabi hangover from grandiose times long past.
  Marry Go Round is very quintessentially Hyderabadi book. Not quintessentially Indian, mind you, but Hyderabadi. I'll explain that little distinction in a bit. 

Riaz is today's typical NRI in the US of A; the ones that we find aplenty nowadays. Though intrinsically loyal to his Indian culture, he has adopted the way of the West in many aspects of his life. When his mother, Sartaj, hears of his live in relationship with his American girlfriend, she freaks out and fakes a heart attack to bring him to her side (she lives in India). Once there, she has a proper khandaani girl all ready to marry him. If he refuses her, she has another one waiting on the sides. And another. And another. You get the picture - she's determined to get him married while he's within her clutches. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Sarah, not trusting him to resist the temptation to get shackled, follows him to India. There's also a parallel story of the prospective bride for Riaz, Sana, which occurs side by side with the main plot. What follows is a comedy of (mostly) errors that dips heavily into Hyderabadi culture and lingo.

The main characters of the book are Riaz and Sartaj. At it's core, it's a story about the dynamics between the mother-son duo and how they each step about and around each other; each loving the other to their fullest capacity, but at the same time, reluctant to hurt the other in any way.

Sartaj is the epitome of the Indian mother. I swear to you, her obsession with her kid getting married is something that is prevalent with every single mother in the country, and is not restricted to gender either. Son or daughter, the main goal in your parents life is to get you 'married and settled'. What's more, Sartaj still lives in the days of yore, when the Nawaabs and Khandaans were still revered, and for all her pride in her son, and how Hyderabad has progressed, she still misses the time when she was waited upon and celebrated.

Riaz was not a favourite character with me. His shift of affection from one girl to another in a split of a second (literally. Not joking.) left me a bit disappointed in his loyalty to his supposed 'love'. *SPOILER - Highlight to see* And this happens not once, but two freaking times. However, I get that it is part of the plot, and couldn't be avoided. The devices he endorses in order to get out of the several fixes he finds himself in are hilarious. There is this one particular scene in a coffee shop where he is trying to convince Sana that he is a bad match; only he ends up doing the opposite. It's almost like they're trying to out do themselves in their sins, and made for a great belly laugh!

The secondary characters are enjoyable and add that little bit of extra to the story. Each of them have their own personal agendas that play out along with Riaz's and Sartaj's, intersecting with each other several times, often to the detriment of one of the characters. It's funny, to say the least. Dilawar, Riaz's cousin and childhood best friend, plays the trusty sidekick, who is employed by first Sartaj and then Riaz to further their plans, only to suddenly find himself with his own plan.

Sana, I found, is a pretty complex character, not really fitting in with the rest of the gang. Not that they're not complex, but it's just that Sana's character had a few darker strokes to it, that seemed a bit abrupt and out of place with the general mood of the story.

There is another secondary character as well, who enters at what is almost the fag end of the story, and creates a veritable storm, but I shall not mention who that is, because doing so would definitely be classified as a spoiler.

The plan that Sartaj devices is no new one to Indian readers, since this has been a tried and tested method of emotional blackmail in several Indian soaps and films. However, it's execution is hilarious, and unique in that it hasnt been incorporated in written fiction before. I did find sometimes the stroy was all over the place, and did have a couple of twists that we never saw coming, but at the end of the day, it is a well written story.

One thing that non Hyderabadi readers might struggle with is the liberal use of Hyderabadi colloquialism which is difficult to understand, since there isn't some kind of glossary either. I am an Inidan myself, but even I had a tough time understanding several terms, and had to keep asking my Urdu/Hindi friends for explanations.

The book also has several serious underlying themes that you notice if you read between the lines. But since the book is comedy at its core, they are touched upon very lightly.

Bottomline: Marry Go Round is a laugh riot that will ultimately resonate more with the Indians, but is also very informative to non Indians (and non Hyderabadi Indians) about the ins and outs of Hyderabadi culture.

*A copy of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Waiting on / Desperately Wanting Wednesday

June 26, 2013

Im doing this meme again after a very long time. Why haven't I participated for so long? Well, it's mainly because there've been SO SO manny books that I've wanted to read, ad I just couldn't pick one for WoW.

But this week, there are two books that I really, really want to read, much more than the others. Like if you gave me the books right now, I'd start squealing (yes, I squeal. A certain friend hates it), and flailing and fangirling in general. You'd also be my absolute favourite person in the world for a really long time :D.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event that is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine 
and spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
I'm Waiting on...
Title: Hover (The Taking, #2)
Author: Melissa West
Publication date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi
Amazon | Goodreads  
On Earth, seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander was taught to never peek, but if she hopes to survive life on her new planet, Loge, her eyes must never shut.

Because in this world, pleasure is everything, held up by a ruling body that keeps their people in check by giving them what they want and closing their eyes to what's really happening around them. The only hope Loge has is to move its people to Earth, and they have a plan.

Thousands of humans crossed over to Loge after a poisonous neurotoxin released into Earth’s atmosphere, nearly killing them. They sought refuge in hopes of finding a new life, but what they became were slaves, built to siege war against their home planet. That is, unless Ari and Jackson can stop them.

But on Loge, nothing is as it seems…and no one can be trusted.
Why I'm waiting:

Gravity, book 1 of The Taking series, blew my mind with it's absolute amazingness (that's not a word. I know.)! There has been so many books in this genre lately, that they all just began to run together in my head. Bu this one, WOW! Stood out, and how!

The concept was totally unique, and I loved the characters in this book, really. The kickass heroine, Ari (thumbs up for the pretty & unique name), the non freakish alien (hey, it is a book, alright? And he is the MC, so duh!), and the very real secondary characters made this book simply wonderful. As soon as I finished it, I wanted the sequel, but yeah, like you can see, it releases only in August. I've gotta hang tight till then, biding my time on other books.

Desperately Wanting Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee's View. It is based off of the meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday. There are so many already released books out there that we desperately want to read, but just haven’t purchased them yet, or actually gotten around to read! This is a meme to list books that we desperately want to read.
I'm Desperately Wanting...

 Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publication date: January 5, 2012
Publisher: Michael Joseph (UK)
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit
Amazon | Goodreads
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.
Why I'm wanting:

Have you read the blurb? Read it.

Have you read Elena at Novel Sound's review of the book? Read it.

Have you now been bitten by the bug? Welcome to the club.

Still not convinced? I have nothing to say to you. (Nah, I 'm just kidding. Hang around the book's GR page for a bit, and you'll cross over. Trust me.)

John William & The Bandits of Basswood Blast + Giveaway

Dont you love the title? It totally takes me back to the days when I used to read fairy tales and used to believe in lovely make-believe worlds where there lived wonderful little talking animals :D

Title: John William and The Bandits of Basswood
Author: Elizabeth Parkinson
Publication date: June 3, 2013
Genre: Children
We already know Alexander Drake’s story. His father, John William started it all years before when he entered Azra’s Pith. This is his story. John William was born an explorer; just like his dad before him. His adventure really began with the worst year of his life. He lived everyday in misery until his twelfth birthday. He set out to turn things around and find his smile again. A new friend gave him an invitation he could not turn down… follow me and change your destiny. He never imagined being captured by bandits and taken to a ship riddled with river rats was part of his fate. Not just any bandits – the Bandits of Basswood; known to be a ruthless and wild crew of thieves. Trying to escape would be a ridiculous idea. No one has ever escaped and lived to tell about it. Someone should have mentioned that to John William before he snuck off the ship. The chase out of Basswood was on. He took a chance to change his destiny and ended up on a wild ride to save his life.

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 7/10/13
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

About The Author
Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave me a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.
Over the years I learned that the insecurities I carried around were a waste of time. I still prefer a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Read So Far in 2013

June 25, 2013

I was going through my Goodreads list in preparation of this post, and disappointingly, I found only a handful of five stars. Out of the 100+ books that I've read so far this year, only 6 got a five star. I guess that can be seen in a number of ways. Either a lot of my read this year have been crappy (which is true), or else I'm pretty exacting (which is also true). But still, I'm pretty sad that I've had such few five star reads, and I'm determined to increase the quality of books I read this year from now on.

So here are my top 10 reads of this year so far, in no particular order: (Images, as usual, link to Goodreads :)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (my review)

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Vain by Fisher Amelie

Gravity by Melissa West

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (my review)

Amplified by Tara Kelly

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (my review)

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

This is kinda funny, but I just realised that all of my top reads have beautiful covers. Huh. I guess covers do go a long way in getting you to pick up a book. Definitely for me, atleast. Though I have found books that are wonderful, but they're covers are not so much.

So do we share any of our top reads this year? 
Or have you read any of these and what do you think of them?
Leave me comment below with a link to your TTT post, and I'll make sure to stop by! :)

The Ifs Tour Stop: Spotlight

Title: The Ifs
Author: J.D. Pooker
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publisher: Little Devil Books

Date of Publication: April 23, 2013
Number of pages: 146
Cover Artist: Frank Walls

Landon and Broden are brothers.  Some days they DO NOT get along very well. They spend most of their time fighting, arguing and plotting ways to get revenge on each other.

Then, strange things start happening…

Noises in their room that are not the cat.

Homework is mysteriously finished.

A broken shoelace repairs all by itself.

Clothes are put in the hamper on their own.          

The brothers want to share their weird experiences, but they don’t know if they can trust each other. But when they find out who’s behind all the strange things around the house, they are called to battle.

Battle? Whoa! Right there in the forest by their house! A battle with the most unusual creatures and wildest of beasts. And when the battle turns more dangerous than they imagined, Landon and Broden must face their fears, put their grudges aside and learn how to work together.

About the Author:

J.D. Pooker lives in wonderful Wyoming with her husband and two sons, along with a black lab named Ryder and a sweet kitty named Alia. J.D. likes to spend time with her family and go camping, fishing, and snowmobiling.

Her sons are the inspiration for writing children's stories. She wants to encourage them to be readers and show them how powerful and exciting the imagination can be.  She wants them to see that countless worlds exist, and all it takes to get there is a good book.

Review: Outcast by Adrienne Kress

June 22, 2013

Title: Outcast
Author: Adrienne Kress
Publication date: May 16, 2013
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Rating: 2/5 stars
Source: Diversion Books via NetGalley
After six years of “angels” coming out of the sky and taking people from her town, 16-year-old Riley Carver has just about had it living with the constant fear. When one decides to terrorize her in her own backyard, it’s the final straw. She takes her mother’s shotgun and shoots the thing. So it’s dead. Or … not? In place of the creature she shot, is a guy. A really hot guy. A really hot alive and breathing guy. Oh, and he’s totally naked.

Not sure what to do, she drags his unconscious body to the tool shed and ties him up. After all, he’s an angel and they have tricks. When he regains consciousness she’s all set to interrogate him about why the angels come to her town, and how to get back her best friend (and almost boyfriend) Chris, who was taken the year before. But it turns out the naked guy in her shed is just as confused about everything as she is.

He thinks it’s 1956.

Set in the deep south, OUTCAST is a story of love, trust, and coming of age. It’s also a story about the supernatural, a girl with a strange sense of humor who’s got wicked aim, a greaser from the 50’s, and an army of misfits coming together for one purpose: To kick some serious angel ass.
 I have been struggling to write this review for the past week, and let me tell you, this (finally typing this), hasn't been easy. Not only because everything has been really busy right now. Nope.

The book is off to a great start in the first page. You know how they say that the first line of a book has to be strong, get the readers hooked? Yeah, bulls eye.Check this out:

Unfortunately, it's only in the first chapter that the high note is maintained. Right after, its downhill almost all the way.

The blurb is pretty much self-explanatory, so I'm not going to elaborate much on the storyline. In Riley's town, every year, winged creatures come out of the sky and take away people. Sometimes one, sometimes more. One night, when she's alone at home, one of them come for her, but she shoots it right in the face. However, overnight, the 'angel' has turned into a very human boy named Gabe, utterly naked and tied up in her garage. Gabe is from another time, and does not have a clue about what has happened. The book is set in a small town, and Riley and Gabe go about trying to solve the mystery that is him, and behind the 'angels'.

There were a couple of things about Outcast that saved it from complete disaster.

Riley. Riley's voice is very distinct; unique and funny at the same time. One of the reasons I sat through the entire book was because of the awesome narration from Riley's POV. She has this dry sense of humour that sets off well with the story. Though there are points where she acts absolutely dense, and others when you want to ask her to just get on, on the large scale of things, I think she did pretty well.

And the awesome cover. I think a lot of people would pick the book up just for the cover; it's so beautiful. I know I did.

Other than these few redeeming qualities, Outcast fails in almost every department.

I didn't feel like I 'connected' to the characters. They all seemed very one dimensional, except for Riley. And again, dense. I mean, really. Which Mum would allow a young boy who appeared out of nowhere to live in the same house as her teenage daughter? How believable is that?

There were a lot of things that just felt like there wasn't much effort put into it. They paranormal elements in the book, for instance. They can be easily confused with our traditional idea of a ghost. The first half of the book is slow, slow, slow. For a long time, it felt like the story was going nowhere, and I had to keep forcing myself to continue. There was a real lack of focus in the story. And since the book is spread out over a year, quite a lot of time is spent going 'nowhere'.

And the ending. Oh good Lord, please dont get me started on the ending. If there ever was an ending that confused me so much, I'll eat my hat! I dont know whether to call it open ended, or just plain incomplete. I keep expecting to hear that the book is part of a series, but nothing of that sort has happened yet, so there really is no reason for such a sloppy ending.

Bottomline: Dont get sucked in by the cover.

P.S.: Okay, I just found out that the cover was designed by the author! Omg, that's absolutely brilliant, and really, hat's off to the Ms. Cress for doing such a wonderful job of it! The cover is so so beautiful!

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Smoke Wings and Stone Tour Stop: Character Bio & Excerpt

College has reopened for me, as of Thursday, and I just realised how hectic stuff is going to be from now on. Time never seems to be enough for me, and I have a hundred things to do, but just cant seem to get to them. I also have two reviews that I've been trying to write for the past few days, but it's  not happening. Dont ask me why. And the funny thing is, we haven't been doing anything in college for the past few days, so I dont even have anything to study. Life is so blah.

Getting back, today on the blog, I've got a YA fantasy book! Scroll on down to see the excerpt from the book. And there's also a character bio of one of the main characters! Yay! I like character bios :)

Title: Smoke, Wings and Stone
Author: Marijon Braden
Publication: See Ernst
Publication date: May 8, 2013

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Carrie and Sara Fleming are as different as two sisters can be. Both in high school, Carrie is an outgoing soccer jock, trying to navigate the minefield of Varsity sports –and dating. Sara is a talented musician, who wants to spend her senior year focusing on graduating and getting into a great music school. Both of their lives change forever when Sara inadvertently finds herself engaged to marry Lucien Gargouille, prince of an ancient race of gargoyles.

Sara has no interest in marrying anyone, but a vow spoken in the moonlight has bound her to Luc – forever. To make matters worse, there is a war brewing. For centuries, the gargoyles have protected mankind from all the dark forces in the world. But someone is making trouble, and trying to break the fragile treaty that has kept evil at bay, and Sara has become a target.

Carrie sees the danger around her sister, but can only watch and wait, hoping that Luc and his Family can keep Sara safe. After all, this is what they were born to do – protect the world from vampires, and all the other creatures, who would try to break out of their darkness. But when the enemy makes a daring move, it falls on Carrie to not only save her sister, but to keep the two worlds from crashing together.

 We ran out the sliders, across the deck and down the steps to the backyard.  I turned to look at the house.  There was no smoke coming out from anywhere.  No flames.  Was it a trick?

“Keep moving,” Chris ordered, and he moved across the yard.  It was almost dark, and the backyard was all shadows.  The dogs were running around happily, thinking it was playtime.

“We need to cut through and get back on the street,” Chris said.  “Let’s go.”

We all followed him across the grass, when suddenly Fred started growling again.

I glanced over my shoulder.  Six dark figures were coming from around the house, following us.

“Run,” Chris yelled.

We ran.  Kevin grabbed Becca’s hand and we raced towards the street.  I could hear the dogs panting behind me.  I was suddenly afraid, because the air was ice cold and there seemed to be smoke everywhere.  I could barely see.

“It’s not real,” Chris screamed.  “Keep running.”

I dodged the forsythia bush by the sidewalk.  I knew every inch of the neighborhood.

I’d been running through these streets my whole life.  So had Kevin and Becca.  The vampires were so far behind us, they would never be able to catch us.  I figured we needed to get to Kevin’s house.  Once we were back inside somewhere with the door closed again, we’d be safe. I swerved and pounded down the pavement.

I glanced quickly over my shoulder.  I could see the vampires behind us, much closer than they should have been.  How had they managed to move that fast?

Kevin and Becca were right behind me, Chris ringing up the rear.  Kevin’s house was at the end of the block.  We’d be there in less than a minute.  We’d make it, no problem.

And then the street opened up.  I could see it cracking open, like an earthquake or something.  The ground was shaking and I stopped short, panicked.  The dogs kept running.  Couldn’t they see that the street was no longer there?

“It’s not real,” Chris screamed again, but it was real.  It was right in front of me.  I yelled for the dogs to stop, and whirled around.  Kevin and Becca ran right into me.  The ground to the left of us started opening up as well.  What was happening?  The vampires were so close that, even in the growing darkness, I could see that one of them was wearing a happy face tee shirt.

Chris stopped and turned to face them.  The ground to the right of us was cracked and open.  We were trapped.  Chris stood still. I saw his shoulders lift. Then he started to change.  As he grew, the vampires slowed.  I heard Kevin swear under his breath, and Becca was whispering ohgodohgodohgod.

Chris dropped onto all fours and roared.  He reached out and swiped at one of the vampires with a giant paw, and the vampire went stumbling to the side of the road. The others began moving, two to the left of Chris, two to the right, and one right in front.

Chris moved towards one, but the vampire danced away quickly, like a video on fastforward.

“You can’t take us all,” one of the vampires said.  The sixth, the one who had been slapped away, was back on his feet. “Just give us the bride.”

Bride?  They wanted Sara.  They thought I was Sara.  They were after me. And there were six of them.

Chris snarled.  Fred growled.  Chris spun quickly and took another swipe, but missed.  They were keeping just far enough away that he couldn’t hurt them.  And the three of us were stuck behind Chris, with no place to go but down a gaping hole in the earth.

Fred started yapping.  What was that dog thinking?  Then, from behind us, there was a low, whooshing sound, and a winged figure swept down.  It was a giant frog, over six feet in length.  It opened its mouth and bit off the head of one of the vampires.  The body slumped to the ground and turned to gray ash.

“Yes!” Kevin yelled, pumping his fist in the air.

The remaining vampires turned and ran.  They were gone in the blink of an eye.

So were the craters that had surrounded us on the road.  The pavement was smooth and unbroken.  The smoke was gone, and the cold.

 Chris turned to us slowly.  He was back to his human form.  Toad had landed on the road and was now a slightly plump, middle-aged man with thinning hair and glasses.

Toad walked over to Chris and gave him a long hug.  The older man leaned in close and said something to Chris.  Chris nodded, and the two of them walked over to us.

“Are you all okay?” asked Toad.

We nodded.  Becca was gray-faced.  Kevin was glowing with excitement.

“Where are the craters?” Kevin asked.

“I’ll explain in a minute.  Now, get back into the house,” Toad said, glancing around as he herded us back up the street.

Chris grabbed Toad by the arm.  “They weren’t Brunel,” he said.

Toad nodded.  “I know. I didn’t recognize them.”

Chris took a deep breath.  “So, is the treaty intact?”

Toad shrugged.  “I don’t know,” he said.

Becca grabbed my hand.

“What just happened?” she whispered.

“You have just become a member,” I told her, “of a very select club.”

  • Character Name: Caroline Nicole Fleming
  • Nickname / Alias: Carrie
  • Date of Birth: July1st. She has just turned sixteen as the book begins.
  • General Appearance:  Slim, athletic build.  She’s mostly legs, not very curvy, but strong.
  • Height: 5’4”
  • Clothing Choices:
    She doesn’t care much for clothes, unlike her sister, Sara, and wears jeans winter and summer.  In the warm weather, she has a collection of tee shirts that she wears.  In cooler weather, she likes gray and brown sweaters, usually over-sized.
  • Hair Color: Brown
  • Eye Color: Brown
  • Tattoos / Marks: She has no tattoos, and wears three tiny gold hoop earrings in each ear.
  • Role in the Story:
    Carrie is one of two narrators in the story, the other being her sister, Sara.  She’s just a regular kid, until a charming Frenchman follows Sara and tricks her into saying a vow that binds the two together.  Carrie then steps into the world of the gargoyles, an ancient race devoted to protecting the world from evil.  Sara is the catalyst of the story, but Carrie’s narration and POV is just as telling as Sara’s.
  • Key Relationships:
    She and her sister have a love/hate relationship.  Carrie recognizes Sara’s musical talent, but views her sister as a spoiled brat.  She gets along fairly well with her mom, and has a good relationship with her dad (Parents divorced when Carrie was very young).  She also loves her two little half-brothers, Henry and Dante.
    Carrie is best friends are Kevin, whom she’s known since they were both in strollers together, and Becca.  Carrie is very outgoing and confident, and has lots of more casual friends, and gets along well with everyone she meets.
  • Skills:
    Carrie is an excellent soccer player – fast, agile, capable of thinking far ahead and planning a strategy.  She also can look at any situation and see all the sides, as well as the best solution.  She is very intuitive, and picks up on lots of hidden clues in the world around her.
  • Phobias / Fears: 
    She is fearless and determined, and very loyal.  She has no real fears or phobias – she’s pretty well-adjusted and even-tempered.
  • Best Qualities: Her best quality is her loyalty – she will do anything for her family and friends.
  • Worst Qualities: Her main fault is that she doesn’t like being told what to do by anyone, and has no problem ignoring advice she doesn’t like.
  • Favorites:
    Carrie is a bit of a wild card for a soccer jock.  She loves listening to music when she runs, so she spends lots of time on the web finding new stuff.  She loves old movies – classics, old musicals, anything in black-and-white, and will insist her friends sit and watch with her.  As much as she loves soccer, she steps away from it as far as her personal life goes – her friends are not ‘cool’, but she doesn’t care.  She spends a lot of time playing Wii sports as well.  Her favorite foods are pizza and any kind of cake – she’s got a bit of a sweet tooth.
  • Goals and Motivations:
    Carrie just wants to get through high school, keep out of trouble, and maybe get a cool boyfriend.  She was never looking for any kind of excitement, but she’s the kind of kid who rolls with the punches and manages to land on her feet.  Good thing, too – she’s in for a wild ride.

About The Author
Marijon was born and raised in New Jersey, which may help to explain her attitude towards charlatans and idiots. She started writing stories at an early age, her first literary influences being Walter Farley, author of the ‘Black Stallion’ series, and Carolyn Keene, of ‘Nancy Drew’ fame. That’s probably why her earliest efforts involved a young girl detective who solved crime on horseback.

She had a very happy childhood, did well in school, and was a fairly obedient daughter until she went away to college. The original plan was to major in journalism. She wrote for the college paper until she realized that wasn’t the kind of writing she wanted to do when she grew up. So she switched to education. That was not, perhaps, the smartest move.

Lost Tour Stop: Guest Post + Giveaway!

June 18, 2013

Good morning, peeps! (Ok, it sounds weird saying that. I just wanted to see how it would be)

On the bog today, we've got Nadia Simonenko (I love her name!), the author of Lost, book 1 of the Lost & Found series. The sequel, Found, is coming out on July 15th!

Nadia has written a wonderful guest post for us today, and it's really cool, guys! And you just might get some insider titbits about book two! So go ahead, and read it, and enjoy!

Title: Lost (Lost & Found, #1)
Author: Nadia Simonenko
Publication date: February 25, 2013
Genre: New Adult
Sometimes you need someone else to help you find your way.

Maria's life was torn apart when she was fifteen, and for seven years she's kept her terrible secret hidden from the world. Now, in her final semester of college, she still struggles against paralyzing fear just trying to speak up in class, and the terror and helplessness linger on in her nightmares.

Across campus, Owen sees his scars in the mirror every morning while he gets ready for class. They remind him of the broken home he left behind, the father he hates and fears, and the little sister he couldn't protect. Now, in his final semester of college, he's scared that he may have to return to the hell he called home after staying away for almost five years.

When Owen becomes a teaching assistant for one of Maria's classes, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. As the two learn each other's secrets and grow closer, they realize that although they may be lost, they're not alone anymore.

This new adult contemporary romance is recommended for ages 17+ due to heavy subject matter.

 Hi there, Fahima!  Thanks for hosting my guest post today. My post for today is titled -
Real Life Experiences in Lost...But Not Those Experiences
 If you’ve seen anything about this book on other blogs or read anything I’ve written about it, you might have seen reference to all the people I talked to during the making of this book.  While the order of events and actual story itself is not true, everything that happens in Lost—both the good and the bad—is real.  The characters are built out of the experiences of a wonderful group of people who were willing to talk to me about their lives and how they handled the terrible hands life dealt them, and without those people, Lost simply wouldn’t exist.  Well, it would, but it’d just be a series of scattered diary entries in my desk drawer and would be missing a lot of other stuff.

I’ve talked about the nightmares and negative bits a lot recently during interviews and guest posts, and I think it’s time to be a bit more positive.  Let’s have some happy time instead of darkand-depressing time!  I’d like to focus on some of the other real-life experiences in this book.

Some of them are tiny little details and some of them are major plot points, and I’ll try my best to not give away too many spoilers while I’m at it.

--Meeting Owen at the Sushi Restaurant.

Plumtree Restaurant in Ithaca is a fairly popular Japanese restaurant close to the Cornell University campus.  I had a few dates there when I was still a student, and it was the first sushi I ever ate.  I had to bring the characters back there.

Oh… and I walked straight past it twice trying to find it.  Don’t know how I missed it in retrospect, but another quote in the book might explain that…

“It’s not quite as embarrassing as when I asked for directions to the Empire State Building while standing directly in front of it, but when Owen pops out the door and waves to me, I still feel humiliated.”

Yep… that one’s real, too!  Oops.  I was visiting New York City and wanted to see the Empire State Building.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the tiers of the building come in at such an angle that, if you’re standing at the base of it, you can only see the widest bottom tier of the building.  So here I am wandering around the base of a perfectly ordinary looking building that should be the Empire State Building, but I can’t find it.  Until I ask someone.  Someone who points at the giant bronze plaque on the wall.  Yeaaaah.

--The Dance

I love this scene.  I really do.  It’s built out of two separate memories—one my husband’s and one mine—from before we met.  He went home from college and agreed to take his younger brother to a concert for the night.  He, being the idiot that he is, took his grandmother’s word at face value and wore a suit when she said it was an opera.  No… it was a metal group who had an opera singer as the vocalist.  He claims that he has never felt more out of place in his life.

The second part is from the final dance of a swing-dance class I took in graduate school at Cornell.  I had fancy-pants ideas at the time and was convinced a guy I was kinda-sorta dating at the time to take the course with me.  The last day of the course was set up as if you were all out at a dance, and it was just a night to do whatever you wanted, so I totally broke my budget and bought a black swing dress for the occasion.  Such a great, great night, but holy crap did we suck at dancing.  It’s funny how the second someone stops keeping time for me, I immediately lose the ability to move my feet.  The memory’s still amazing, though, even if my dancing was not. =)

--Owen putting a washcloth over his head at the restaurant at the worst possible time

Yup.  My husband (then boyfriend) did that at a fancy restaurant in New Hampshire while we were out on a date.  The server absolutely did come back right at that moment.  He absolutely did look like quite the ass.

--Whispering in Maria’s ear during steamy time

Yep, but I don’t get to claim these for myself. *Spoiler warning*, but Owen whispering in Maria’s ear and keeping her grounded in reality came from one of the wonderful women who makes up Maria’s character.  I’m so, so glad that she found someone who understood what she needed, and frankly it’s one of the most incredibly, intensely romantic stories I’ve ever heard.  I had to use it.  I had no reaction at first when she told me it, because it broke my brain.  Just… whoa.  If there ever was a way to tell you’d found a guy worth keeping, THERE IT IS.  If he can read your innermost fears and helps you through them like that, holy shit keep him.  I think that’s a pretty fair rule!

--Maria and Owen Sitting by the Campfire

“Wait a minute,” you’re probably saying right now, “there’s no campfire in Lost!  What are you talking about?”

You’re right.  There isn’t.  You’re just going to have to read the sequel, Found, coming out in July if you want to have any idea what I’m talking about!  Buwahahaha and what not.

The last week before graduation at Cornell is “Senior Week,” a period when tons of events are put on for (you guessed it) graduating seniors.  Wine tasting tours, concerts, white-water rafting, that sort of thing.  My friends and I went camping together, and to mark the end of college and the start of our new lives, we each brought something to toss into the fire.

I brought something relevant to this series and I’m going to leave you to wonder what it was.

(Or to go get the sequel when it comes out in July to find out.)

Thanks again for having me, Fahima!!

Enter the giveaway below and you could win a finished paperback copy of Lost (Lost & Found, #1) by Nadia Simonenko.
All the best.
And may the odds be ever in  your favour.


About The AuthorNadia Simonenko is a scientist and author currently living in Indianapolis with her husband, two cats and a dog. When she isn’t writing, she develops new oncolytic compounds and dreams about someday getting to take a vacation.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List

I love this week's topic! There are so many awesome books releasing this summer, and I'm looking forward to them all so much!

And I know this idea behind this topic is that since colleges & schools are now closed, everyone will have more time to spend doing their favourite hobby - reading! Well, unfortunately, (for me, that is), I live in India (not that I'm unfortunate because I do. I love my country!), and out here, colleges and schools are just reopening after the long annual holiday. So yeah, poor me will have to get back to studying come Thursday, and I will no longer be able to read as many books as I want to, but I will definitely be posting reviews. I'm working towards increasing my number of reviews (because they're really crappy, not that you dont know...), and I hope to so better on that side.

Okay, enough chit chat about me. Let's get down to the books!

Top Ten Books at The Top of My Summer TBR List

1. Hover by Melissa West
Immediately after I read Gravity (with which I have been flat out in love (get the reference?) with ever since setting eyes on the cover), the first thing I did was check for the sequel, and when I saw the date of release, I was like...

Yeah. 'Devastated' did not describe me then. However, fate has been merciful, and time has flown pretty fast, actually, and it's only ONE MONTH AWAY!!! Yayayayay!

2. Out of Breath by Rebecca Donovan
This is another one I've been waiting for since last year. You know how I'm a sucker for books that give me the 'feels', right? Okay, if you didn't, you do now! And the previous two? Oh, absolutely jam packed with them!

And yeah, this may be cliched, but I can fall for the occasional 'knight-in-shining-armour' story once in a while. And this is kind of like that. Kind of.

3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
This one released on June 15, which, coincidentally, is also my sister's birthday! It released on June 15th. That's three days ago. But I dont have it. And before you think I'm some spoilt brat who has to have books as soon as their on the shelves, let me disabuse you of that notion. The only reason I feel so bad about this is because... 1) I've been looking forward to this since forever! It sounds like it will have some Wonder-like qualities, which I kinda dig. 2) And my heart really bleeds as I say this, but technically, I already have this book. It's just not in my hands right now. I won it at a giveaway along with 5 other AWESOME books picked by the BEA Editor's Buzz Panel, but (dont you just hate 'but's sometimes?), but the organiser said its too expensive to ship to India, so right now, it's sitting at my cousin's house in the US. *sigh* How can life be so unfair? *sob*
By the way, I just realised, Agnes from Despicable Me and Boo from Monsters, Inc. look remarkably alike. Agnes look exactly like a younger Boo!

4. The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
This one sounds like a book about self discovery, coming of age, destiny and all that with a bit of love too! And I like the premise of her trying to break free from always following her parents wishes. Not that that's a bad this, to listen to your parents, but I think this is something that we will all be able to relate to, and hopefully that will help us understand the story better. And the name! Seriously awesome sounding name! 'The Inifinite Moment'... sounds a bit John Green-ish, wouldn't you say?

5. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Not only does the blurb sound fantastic, but almost all reviews of this give it a high rating. AND one of my favourite book blogger, whose judgement I absolutely trust, says it's great! And you know what, this book kind of reminds me of The Sea of Tranquility, and that was just about THE BEST book this year, so I'm totally like 
for this one. 

There's another reason this book garnered my attention. The author's last name is the same as one of my favourite YouTube cover artists. Okay, he rarely does covers, but he's an awesome musician and director. I'm talking about Kurt Hugo Schneider, in case you still didnt get it. You know of him? Dont you just love his videos?! Especially the ones in which he sings himself?!
And the cover! It's so bright, and happy and summery! I love beautiful covers! <3 div="">

6. Right of Way by Lauren Barnholdt
I read Two-way Street a long time ago - this was before I had my fall out with the YA genre - and it was and still is one of the best I've read. Lauren Barnholdt, Sarah Dessen, Jennifer Echols, Simone Elkeles... All of them have this wonderful style of writing that I simply love so much! I kind of look towards their books as classic YA stories and this new one from Lauren Barnholdt, you can bet I'm going to be reading it soon! :)

7. Imposter by Susanne Winnacker
Again, it's been a long wait for this one, and the reviews coming in sound great, so I hope I get to read this one soon! It sounds like it'll be a nice break from the usual romance that's added even into science fiction nowadays. I mean, really, what is it with adding romance to every freaking book?

I get that it sells, but sometimes, I'd like to read a book without a boy/man crush in it, when it's full on girl time, if you know what I mean :)

8. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Speaking of girl time, this one sounds like it will fit the bill nicely. The book blogosphere (that is what it is called, right?) seems to be abuzz with news about this one, and naturally, when all of you recommend something, I gotta read it. I have a feeling it will be something like Amplified, which was such a fun read, one my best this year! Aaand... COVER LOVE!!! And do you notice how the letters in pink form 'Love'? It's genius!

9. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
This is another book I won. Dont ask me to talk about it. I'm still in depression about my sucky fate. Really. And I've been wanting his book ever since I happened to see it on Goodreads.

Oh, and did I mention they're all hardcover?

10. The 100 by Kass Morgan
This book actually would've been somewhere higher, had I not watched the CW series trailer. In case you dont know, CW has picked this story up, and their going to be airing a new series this year based on the book. It's actually pretty awesome, but the series trailer... meh. And that kind of dimmed my enthusiasm for this one. Also because it sounds like it shared some similarities with After Earth. But I'm still looking forward to it. I mean, it wouldn't be here if I wasn't! And again, cover love! Especially the girl (or guy?) inside the E.

So what on your tbr list this summer? I'd love to know! And do we have any in common? Or is there something awesome that I dont know about? You know I always love book recs!

P.S.: I'm kinda liking gifs. I thought I'd try them out here for the first time, and they're actually really perfect to express emotion that you otherwise couldn't convey with words! Though I've probably gone overboard here :D