#BookReview : Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust #GirlSerpentThorn @HodderBooks

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
Expected publication : July 7th 2020
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Genre : Fantasy
Pages : 336

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to publisher. ***

Girl, Serpent, Thorn was amazing fantasy based on Persian mythology that revolved around cursed princess and her efforts of trying to free herself from curse. It was about good vs evil, choices and its consequences, accepting flaws than fearing it, finding beauty in imperfections, family, loyalty, love, and betrayal.

Writing was flawless, compelling and magical. It was written in third person narrative told from Soraya’s perspective. There was fabulous world building, interesting and mysterious character and gradual character development with a little bit romance.

Stories always begin the same way: There was and there was not. There is possibility in those words, the chance for hope or despair.


As soon as I started reading this book, I knew I’m going to like this. The beginning was fantastic. A mother telling her daughter a story about a girl how she was cursed by a demon and birthed a princess with poison in her blood, a curse, whoever she touch will die. But it was not just story but reality of Soraya. Approaching marriage of her brother, a demon imprisoned in dungeon who might help in finding answers about her curse, and a boy who was not afraid of her curse, ready to help and understood her more than her family, put her in situation she never imagined she would found herself in and couldn’t come out of it without putting her family in danger. Her one question started a untoward chain reaction. It was interesting find out who was that boy, if demon will help her or not, how she would free herself from curse and save her family.

I loved this concept of girl alone in her room and garden craving for touch and love, deceived by a demon and found help from another demon to right the wrong she did, and save her family. Cover and title was perfect and made more sense after reading the book.

Lot of things happened in first half that described world, Soraya’s story, about her family and Golvahar, lies she discovered and range of emotions she felt in trying to get rid of her curse. Some things I could see coming like- Demon in prison was mysterious, she was keeping some secrets but I could see spark of relationship between them which we don’t see igniting until second half of the book. And mainly I knew, that new boy looked too good to be true. Something was off about him, no matter how convenient he sounded, and I feared for Soraya. I knew she was putting her faith in wrong place but I was curious to see what that boy wanted and when he would show his true color. When he did, I must say I was surprised. I didn’t expect what was revealed and I was not sure what would happen next. Second half was all about Soraya’s development, her conflicts, knowing love for first time, and many twists and turns.

Soraya was great. Usually when heroine shows weakness and self-doubt in half of the book, I get frustrated but here it felt right and real. Even though she was most powerful in realm, most deadly person, she felt low and fearful. She didn’t see her curse as untouchable power but a poison, and she feared for herself, for her family and people who might come near her. Her fear made her weak, small, and yielding. But hope of getting rid of this poison, crave for human touch, companionship, happiness and her family’s love was too strong that made her want to change that about her. When she faced worst consequences of her wish and choices, we see how misguided she was. I felt for her at this point. I couldn’t help but put myself in her situation and from what she discovered, her actions made sense. Her intentions were selfish but felt genuine. I loved the way she learned her lessons, kept fighting for her family even though she heard worst things from them for her mistakes, and how she found a way to make things right. Her guilt, anger, self-doubt, determination, a new experience of touch and love, it was all written perfectly.

“I’m not afraid of you,” Soraya whispered. Parvaneh’s eyes sparkled, not with usual mockery, but with something like hunger. “Of course not,” Pervaneh said. “You could kill me with a single touch. Why should you ever be afraid of anyone?” She peered closed, tilting her head. “No, it’s only yourself that you fear.”

All secondary characters specially Azad and Parvaneh were interesting and mysterious. I couldn’t tell whom should I trust and whom should not until second half of the book. They were all keeping secrets, told lies and will betray to achieve what they wanted.

World was best part of the book. All elements were well explored. There were maze of secret passages of Golvahar palace and Soraya’s beautiful rose garden, Persian terminology, different types of demons, their appearance and power, legends and stories, mythical creature, and spellbinding forest and mountain of demons. It was fascinating to read how author created world inspired by ancient Persia and its folklore. It all made more sense in author’s note.

F/F relationship was lovely in second half. It was for a short while but worked as breather in this tense and fast paced plot. Trust issues along with tension to save family made it interesting to see how they will confess their feelings to each other and when that moment came, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear.

Climax was brilliant. With a surprising discovery, an emotional twist, and tense situation that left me without any hope. Even one last effort by Soraya didn’t work but then that magical effect and all that happened till the end was amazingly thrilling and exhilarating. End was perfect. My only complaint was I didn’t want it to end. I want more stories in this world.

Overall,

Girl, Serpent, Thorn was fast pace and fabulous #fantasy with magical world based on #PersianMythology, and mysterious and interesting characters.

Books Links : Goodreads Amazon

Affiliate Link : Book Depository


I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about my review and this book, if you have read it already or are you going to add it to TBR. Which different mythologies have you read in books so far?

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#BookReview : Say Yes Summer by Lindsey Roth Culli @PRHGlobal #SayYesSummer #YA #Contemporary

Say Yes Summer by Lindsey Roth Culli
Publication Date : May 12th 2020
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Genre : YA Contemporary
Pages : 256

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Netflix/Hallmark Channel rom-coms, this is the story of a girl who decides to give in to the universe and just say yes to everything, bringing her friendship, new experiences, and, if she lets her guard down, true love.

The perfect book to kick off summer! For as long as Rachel Brooks can remember, she’s had capital-G Goals: straight As, academic scholarship, college of her dreams. And it’s all paid off–after years of following the rules and acing every exam, Rachel is graduating at the top of her class and ready to celebrate by . . . doing absolutely nothing. Because Rachel Brooks has spent most of high school saying no. No to dances, no to parties, and most especially, no to boys.

Now, for the first time in her life, there’s nothing stopping Rachel from having a little fun–nothing, that is, except herself. So when she stumbles on a beat up old self-help book–A SEASON OF YES!–a crazy idea pops into her head: What if she just said yes to . . . everything?

And so begins a summer of yes. Yes to new experiences and big mistakes, yes to rekindled friendships and unexpected romances, yes to seeing the world in a whole new way. This book is a fresh and fun take on the coming-of-age novel that explores the quintessential themes of growing up: taking risks, making mistakes, and, of course, love. And who knows? Lindsey Roth Culli’s hilarious and heartwarming debut may just inspire your own SAY YES SUMMER. 

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

Say Yes Summer was cute and fluffy YA Contemporary, a coming of age story of Rachel and her summer of saying yes to everything. It was about pros and cons of saying Yes or No that comes with opportunity cost, experiencing the world for the first time, friendship, family, and love.

Writing was simple, easy, and entertaining. It was super-fast paced, I finished this book within a day, which rarely happens with me.  It was first person narrative from Rachel’s perspective that made me understand her feelings and how she was seeing the world and experienced her summer adventure. Setting of Michigan and all beautiful touristy beach, Kalamazoo lake, Lake Michigan, Mt Baldhead and Rachel’s parents’ new venture cream cart and ice-cream gondolas (yum yum) gave the story whole summery vibe.

Plot was simple that started with Rachel suddenly realizing she missed out so much in four years of high school by saying No to everything except studies. Now she felt nobody knew her, she successfully made herself invisible and boring and now she wanted to change that. When she found her grandma’s self-help book ‘The Freedom to Say Yes’, she got idea of saying yes to everything and fully enjoy this summer. In doing so, she experienced many good things but also messed up lot of things.

It was interesting to read how Rachel came out of her shell, overcame her fears, rekindled friendship, found lovers, learned many things specially what it’s like to be free and live out in real world. It was pretty simple plot, I knew how this was going to end but at the same time it was cute and lovely to read Rachel’s summer adventure.

“I think balance is the key to finding out what you really, actually want. Not just what you’re forcing yourself to say yes to.”

I loved all characters specially Rachel. She was smart, caring and lovely person. We see her thoughts towards her classmates and friends, how she saw them through their social media life and gossips she heard but not by knowing and interacting with them in real but as soon as she started interacting with them, she learned how wrong and judgmental she was, how much she blocked out reality and picturized them how she wanted to see them. It was bit weird to see she was observing Clayton so much that she could tell what was going on in his life but at the same time she literally didn’t know what Miles felt whom she knew in real for her whole life both in school and at job at her parents’ restaurant. She was wrong about lot of things and I liked how she realized that. Her development was best part in the book.

Clayton was popular guy, Westfield’s Soccer star and so very handsome but he was nothing like those famous boys who act like they own the world. He was lovely, kind, and gentle soul. Rachel thought he was perfect guy but in reality he was normal human who had his own issues. I loved him for being true and real all the time, even when Rachel messed things.

Miles was Rachel’s childhood friend and worked at her parent’s restaurant. He too was going through his own issue, trying to get over grief and loss. He was not bad. I knew he liked her. I felt for this guy and his reaction to both loss and feeling for Rachel was genuine but still I wasn’t completely at his side.

Carrie was my favorite secondary character. She was wise and smart and lovely girl. I liked the way she helped Rachel and how they sorted their problems. Bethany and Rouxi, her family and Nona were also great.

Love triangle and dating two boys at same time didn’t work that long. Romance and two-timing was wrapped pretty soon. But there were cute moments that made me smile and I liked how they knew each other better in this short relationships.

I liked message in the book given through Rachel’s development- not judging people based on what they show out to the world, even popular girls and boys have their problem and behind all their fame they are normal human being; it’s never easy for anyone to be out in the world and experiencing the real world and life; even best laid plans can go wrong; it’s okay and to mess things but important to not to hurt anyone’s feeling and make things right later; going out of comfort zone is good but also should stay true to yourself; and most importantly it’s okay to say NO.

“Every choice has embedded within it an opportunity cost. Saying yes isn’t free. When you said no to parties and to boys, you were saying yes to your family, and to your friends, and to your responsibilities. And sometimes that- learning when to say no and especially what to say no to- is just as important.”

Climax was filled with lots of drama with boys and then with family. But then Nonna’s wisdom made Rachel gather all courage and make things right by apologizing for her royal mess. End was lovely with packing, time with friends and surprise gift from family and Rachel finding her love.

Why 4 stars-

It’s not like I don’t like love triangle but what makes me not so inclined for love triangle stories is protagonist always going with a boy I don’t like as much as I like the other boy. And that’s what happened here! And another reason was, I have read/seen something like this before. It sounded a bit clichéd and predictable.

Overall,

Say Yes Summer was fluffy, feel good, enjoyable, cute and coming of age YA contemporary with lovable characters. I recommend this to fan of this genre.

Books Links : Goodreads | Amazon

Affiliate Link : Book Depository


I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about my review and this book, if you have read it already or going to add to TBR. What are your favorite fluffy contemporaries?

Happy Reading!

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#BookReview : The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner #TheJaneAustenSociety #HistoricalFiction

Hello readers! I’m excited to be part of virtual online book tour of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, Natalie Jenner’s highly acclaimed debut novel and to be one of the Seventy-five popular blogs and websites participating in this biggest tour. Check out book details and my reviews of this historical fiction novel in this post. Many thanks to Laurel @austenprose for tour invite and publisher providing review copy.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
Publication Date : May 26th 2020
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press
Genre : Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, General Fiction, Austenesque
Pages : 320

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

ACCOLADES:

  • An Amazon Best Book of May 2020 
  • One of Goodreads Big Books of Spring & Hot Books of Summer
  • One of Audible’s Top 50 Most Anticipated Spring Audiobooks
  • June 2020 Indie Next Pick
  • May 2020 Library Reads Pick
  • Starred Review – Library Journal
  • Starred Review – Booklist 

AUDIOBOOK NARRATED BY ACTOR RICHARD ARMITAGE:

The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).

Link to YouTube audiobook excerpt: https://youtu.be/OJ1ACJluRi8

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Just like a story written by Austen herself, Jenner’s first novel is brimming with charming moments, endearing characters, and nuanced relationships…Readers won’t need previous knowledge of Austen and her novels to enjoy this tale’s slow revealing of secrets that build to a satisfying and dramatic ending.”Booklist (starred review)

“Few things draw disparate people together so quickly as discovering they love the same writers. Few writers cement such friendships as deeply as Austen does. I believe that the readers of Jenner’s book will fall in love with the readers inside Jenner’s book, all of us thinking and dreaming of Austen the whole while. What could be better? Nothing, that’s what! A wonderful book, a wonderful read.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club

“Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST:

Spotify users can access a playlist for THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY at the following link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5Q1Vl17qyQQIvvPGeIPCkr?si=-iMhVz8uRk2v2mTdolrPdg. The playlist includes music from various film adaptions of Jane Austen’s books, as well as film scores by such incomparable artists as Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Rachel Portman, and Michael Nyman.

The Jane Austen Society was beautifully written historical fiction that revolved around seven characters, their love for Jane Austen books and their idea of Jane Austen Society. It was about getting over loss and grief, camaraderie and companionship one find in mutual love and passion for books, romance, village and Post WWII life, and power of reading.

Writing was beautiful. It had that classic feel that took me right to post WWII, 1940s era, written multiple third person narrative set in the quaint village, Chawton, Hampshire where Jane Austen spent last few years of her life writing her world famous books. It was so well written that I had hard time believing this was author’s debut novel.

Plot was simple yet enjoyable, refreshing and uplifting. It started with introduction of all 7 main characters and their life- Adeline, Dr. Gray, Mimi, Adam, Evie, Andrew, and Yardley. Each were introduced in different chapters with ups and down in their life, how they are big fan of Jane Austen and love all her books, how they met each other and later formed Jane Austen Society to preserve history and legacy and to spread their love to more people.

All characters were going through hard time, fighting their own battle to keep their ship afloat in the ocean of life. They all were so different from each other both in nature and profession and yet one thing that bound them in solid camaraderie was Jane Austen’s books and also saved their ship from sinking.

Dr. Gray was widowed general physician of Chawton who knew everybody in village with their past and future. This smart, down to earth and humble and gentle soul couldn’t see the signs of love that was always there. I liked his moment of realization. Adeline was school teacher and now young widow. She was my favorite character in book. I felt for her and I admired her for getting out of her grief.

Frances was lonely woman and only living child of Knight Family, living with her ailing father who never appreciated her. It was hard to understand her resignation, calm and cool demeanor to all that happened to her, nonetheless I liked her. Andrew was Knight Family’s solicitor who respected and admired Frances. It was mystery why he never told her- or if he did, what happened- which was revealed near the end.

Mimi– She had most interesting back story of all. I loved her from the beginning. Her journey to Hollywood star and love for everything related to Jane Austen was mind-blowing. I can’t believe how this smart, with so much self-restrain and self-respecting person can end up with likes of Jack. I didn’t like him a bit. I loved her for not losing her head in relationship, her view towards Hollywood and village life, and doing right thing at the end.

Adam was lonely and quiet farmer who had hard life. It was lovely to read his thoughts while reading Jane Austen. This man was full of surprises. Yardley brought liveliness in this book. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not in the beginning but in second half he was great. Evie was brilliant. This girl surprised me. Her observations, love for books, foresight and thorough-mindedness was amazing. She literally saved everything.

What I loved in this book was backstory of all characters, beautiful description of Chawton, home of Jane Austen, Knight Estate and its library, her family history, tradition, legacy and villager’s view point towards it, and their culture and mindset.

Best of all banter and discussion between characters on Jane Austen books, their dissection of all Austen characters and their passionate love for all her books and more importantly how they understood Jane Austen through her writing, her view towards society and observation of people through her characters. I have only read Pride and Prejudice and I have to say I didn’t understood the book the way these characters did.

Romance was fun to read. We can see couples’ admiration and who liked who but who ended up with whom was mystery itself. There was misunderstanding and drama just liked Pride and Prejudice, jealousy and possibility of love triangle which was flamed by busybody of village.

There was mystery of a will by old Knight that decided the fate of Frances and cottage the society wanted to turn into museum. I couldn’t tell till the end what will happen to cottage, if they could save it or not and how. Climax was tense but they were still hopeful because of Evie’s smartness, and then the biggest secret was revealed. It was shocking but the unlikely decision and then a scheme gave it whole new turn. It was at the end and in epilogue was actually revealed what exactly happened to cottage. Epilogue was lovely, feel good and exhilarating.

And lastly, I listened audiobook narrated by Richard Armitage. This was my first audiobook, I struggled a bit, wouldn’t have tried it without e-book but after few chapters I loved it. One thing was sure, I got so used to Richard’s voice. Pitch and changes he made for different characters was amazing.

This made me want to reread Pride and Prejudice and read all Austen books. It was said many times in the book Jane Austen’s novels act as balm to wounded, sooth the soul and get us through disturbing times. Well this is best time to read Austen books and see if it works in the time like this.

Overall,

The Jane Austen Society was simple yet beautiful, lovely and refreshing historical fiction with amazing characters and setting.

AUTHOR BIO:

Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

May 25           Jane Austen’s World
May 25           Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog
May 26           Frolic Media
May 26           A Bookish Affair
May 26           Courtney Reads Romance
May 26           Margie’s Must Reads
May 26           The Reading Frenzy
May 27           Book Confessions of an Ex-Ballerina
May 27           Gwendalyn’s Books
May 27           Romantically Inclined Reviews
May 28           Getting Your Read On
May 28           Living Read Girl
May 28           The Lit Bitch
May 29           History Lizzie
May 29           Silver Petticoat Reviews
May 30           Cup of Tea with that Book, Please
May 30           Historical Fiction Reader
May 31           Jane Austen in Vermont
June 01         From Pemberley to Milton
June 01         My Jane Austen Book Club
June 01         AustenBlog
June 02         Lu’s Reviews
June 02         The Green Mockingbird
June 03         The Interests of a Jane Austen Girl
June 03         Relz Reviews
June 03         Impressions in Ink
June 04         The Caffeinated Bibliophile
June 04         Life of Literature
June 04         Laura’s Reviews
June 05         Reading Ladies Book Club
June 05         Bookish Rantings
June 06         From the TBR Pile
June 07         Rachel Dodge
June 07         An Historian About Town
June 08         Bringing up Books
June 08         Austenesque Reviews
June 09         Captivated Reading
June 09         Savvy Verse and Witt
June 10         Lady with a Quill
June 10         Drunk Austen
June 11         Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
June 11         Inkwell Inspirations
June 12         Nurse Bookie
June 12         A Bookish Way of Life
June 13         Calico Critic
June 14         Jane Austen’s World
June 15         Stuck in a Book
June 15         Storybook Reviews
June 15         Confessions of a Book Addict
June 16         Literary Quicksand
June 16         Becky on Books
June 17         The Reading Frenzy
June 17         Anita Loves Books
June 18         Chicks, Rogues, & Scandals
June 18         The Write Review
June 19         Diary of Eccentric
June 20         Cracking the Cover
June 21         Short Books & Scribes
June 22         Reading the Past
June 22         Babblings of a Bookworm
June 23         My Vices and Weaknesses
June 23         The Book Diva Reads
June 24         Books, Teacups & Reviews
June 24         Wishful Endings
June 25         Robin Loves Reading
June 25         Bookfoolery
June 26         Lit and Life
June 26         Vesper’s Place
June 27         Foxes and Fairy Tales
June 28         Probably at the Library
June 28         Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books
June 29         The Anglophile Channel
June 29         So Little Time…
June 30         BookNAround


I hope you enjoyed this post and review. Let me know what do you think about the book or if you have read this already and what are your thought on this book, which is your favorite Jane Austen book?

Happy Reading!

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#BookReview : From the Shadows (Monica Kennedy #1) by G.R. Halliday @HarvillSecker @GR_Halliday #FromTheShadowsBook

From the Shadows (Monica Kennedy #1) by G.R. Halliday
Publication Date : April 18th 2019
Publisher : Harvill Secker
Genre : Scottish Noir / crime fiction
Pages : 432

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A stunning, atmospheric police procedural set against the grit of Inverness and the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands, this is the first book in the DI Monica Kennedy series.

Sixteen-year-old Robert arrives home late. Without a word to his dad, he goes up to his bedroom. Robert is never seen alive again.

A body is soon found on the coast of the Scottish Highlands. Detective Inspector Monica Kennedy stands by the victim in this starkly beautiful and remote landscape. Instinct tells her the case won’t begin and end with this one death.

Meanwhile, Inverness-based social worker Michael Bach is worried about one of his clients whose last correspondence was a single ambiguous text message; Nichol Morgan has been missing for seven days.

As Monica is faced with catching a murderer who has been meticulously watching and waiting, Michael keeps searching for Nichol, desperate to find him before the killer claims another victim.

From the Shadows introduces DI Monica Kennedy, an unforgettable new series lead, perfect for fans of Ann Cleeves’ Vera, Susie Steiner and Peter May.

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Mia @vintagebooks for tour invite and providing review copy. ***

From the Shadows was intriguing crime fiction that revolved around Monica trying to solve murder and a social worker trying to find his missing client.  It was about work-life balance, trying to find peace with traumatic past, and race between killer and detective.

From the Shadows was written in third person narrative mainly from Monica and Michael’s POV and occasional killer’s perspective under title ‘watcher’. Atmospheric setting of Scottish Highlands and Inverness beautiful yet remote with its weather and history of missing people added more darkness to story of murders by a delusional psycho killer.

Story took place in one week that started with, as synopsis said, Robert arriving late at home who was found murdered next day. D.I. Monica could tell this wasn’t killer’s first murder and it won’t be last. At the same time, a social worker, Michael, was trying to find his client who was missing for a week. A gruesome murder, marks on body, and mysterious stone that Michael saw with Nicol made him fear the worst. And then another body was found. It made me curious to find out where was Nicol, did he knew these dead boys, how he had that stone that were found in dead boys’ body, had killer kidnapped him or was he next, how would Monica find killer and how Michael find Nicol. With killer observing their all moves and staying two steps ahead of them made the story thrilling and intriguing.

All characters were interesting. They had traumatic past. Their flaws and vulnerability made them realistic. Monica was clever, observant, and strong but she had her issues. Her past made people gossip about her. Her height references and her uncomfortability related to her height and shoe size was a bit too much but her doubts as a mother, trying find work-family life balance was genuine. I liked her intuitions and logic in this case, she was right most of the time. Her mistakes and ‘not-so-perfect’ character made her more realistic. The only complain I had about her was her decision in climax. It was actually stupid, looking at her concerned motherly nature.

Michael was great character. Lonely, affected by past and tragedy in life, still couldn’t find closure and messed up many things in life. He was different from his colleagues. He cared too much and was empathetic but also reckless social worker. He had many flaws but it was admirable how much risks he took in finding a boy who probably didn’t want to be found.

Michael and Monica, made story interesting. They had their differences but at the end they started supporting each other. Monica’s colleagues D.C. Connor Crawford and D.C. Ben Fisher were also different from each other. There was competitive tension between these two, one didn’t care about appearance and showing superiority while other was orderly, prim and proper, doing everything by book. They made unusual team but I liked how they all worked in the case. There wasn’t much story about them so it was hard to connect with them but I hope I can know them more in next book.

Description of murders was gruesome but not unbearable or overly graphic. Suspense was solid. I couldn’t identify killer till climax. There were not many suspects and we can rule out if they were really culprit or not from killer’s narration which made it more difficult to figure out who he was. Climax was tense and surprising. I didn’t like Monica’s decision but it made me fear for her and her daughter for the first time. I liked surprise at the end. I wish I could see Lee’s (criminal psychologist, who was made to dislike) reaction for being wrong about everything. That would have been satisfactory.

Why 4 stars-

That height references were too much. It made Monica look like some freak woman. And also reference popped at really unexpected time, like when they were visiting Robert’s father to hear his side of story and to let him know his missing son is dead. Monica’s decision near climax was biggest complain. She was smart capable of making better decision but this made me rethink that because no parent would do that.

Overall,

#FromtheShadows was compelling, dark and interesting #ScottishNoir with many twist and turns. It was commendable debut novel and definitely recommend it.

Book Links:

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Affiliate Links: Amazon.(IN) | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Book Depository


I hope you enjoyed this post and review. Let me know what do you think about the book or if you have read this already and what are your thought on this book, which is your favorite Noir Fiction?

Happy Reading!

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#BookReview : Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella #GhostsofHarvard #Academia #Mystery @PRHGlobal

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
Publication Date : May 5th 2020
Publisher : Random House
Genre : Mystery
Pages : 480

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Harvard freshman becomes obsessed with her schizophrenic brother’s suicide. Then she starts hearing voices.


“Every time I thought I knew where Ghosts of Harvard was heading, I turned out to be wrong. Part mystery, part ghost story, part psychological thriller, this novel is all entertainment.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light


Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.

As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.

Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction?

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

Ghosts of Harvard was powerful and realistic mystery that revolved around Cady dealing with grief and trying to know more about his late brother’s last days at Harvard and getting at root of his illness or something that might have pushed him to the edge. The book was about grief, loss, feelings and emotions of family of schizophrenic patient, suicide and its trauma, fine line between madness and reality, guilt and regrets, obsession, deeper meaning of life, death, grace.

It takes only error to father a sin.

Ghosts of Harvard was third person narrative written from (Cady) Cadence’s POV whose sad and grieving voice made this beautifully written tale of espionage heavy, heart-rendering to read. It was between slow to steady paced because of so many information, description of Harvard and its history, and heavy subject it dealt with. Some didn’t like that but I didn’t mind slow pace. This was second book I read set in Harvard and again this university, its community and culture fascinated me.

I’m not going repeat how book started and what was the plot, synopsis was perfect in briefing it. First few chapters were about Cady’s arrival at Harvard, her motif and her feeling related to her brother and her family. In between her present, accommodating with her life at Harvard, we see the glimpse of past, both happy and sad memories of Eric, what Eric meant to her and her family, and how he turned from brilliant, lively, caring brother to paranoid, schizophrenic, and volatile person, how it affected her parents and how their undivided attention to Eric made her feel, and her own guilt and regret she was dealing with that lead to obsession- which was revealed near climax.

Just because it’s my choice to go doesn’t mean I’m not heartbroken to leave you.

As I progressed in the book, I was curious to know what were those voices of ghosts, what they wanted from Cady, why she was hearing them and how they were helping her, were they just ghosts or she too had Eric’s illness.  And then there was his brother’s diary that added more mystery and I wanted to know if she could decipher cryptic writing in Eric’s diary or was that what everybody said- gibberish of mentally ill person, what she would find once she could decode it, would it would lead to what was going on in Eric’s mind and give her closure she was looking for and move on in life.

Do we all pick only the best snapshots to remember in our mental scrapbooks and throw away the bad? Perhaps all photos should bear the subtitle “The Past- The way You Want to Remember It.”

Both characters and plot were well balanced here. Diverse group of student, professors, ghosts, Cady’s parents, roommates, new friends she made, and other people she met during her investigation were interesting to read. They all were flawed and played great roles in happenings of Cady’s life and change in her.

It was easy to feel for Cady, I rooted for her. She was clever, empathetic, friendly and caring person but she had her flaws. She reacted badly to Eric’s illness. When she should have shown maturity and love, she acted selfishly but at the same time I could feel what it might be like for her to live under Eric’s shadow, even when he was healthy and even after his illness and death. When he died she regretted her behavior, felt guilty for not trying enough or being more patient. Coming to Harvard and voices of ghosts was huge turning point in her development. Her fear of being schizophrenic like Eric, emotions and feelings were amazingly represented. The way she was ignoring her friends, missing classes and not paying attention to her studies because her obsession and voice was worrying. By the end of the book, I loved her more and more. She learned a lot throughout the book and her growth and internalization was best part.

It’s human nature to default to our own narrow perspective. The stories we tell ourselves have such power, and yet they can cherry-picked, or otherwise fictitious.

I enjoyed history of Harvard, all scientific and academic information, back and forth argument between Cady and prof. Prokop on quantum physics and its correlation with ghosts and schizophrenia, discussion on poetic verses and on mental intuitions. Portrayal of grief, mental illness and its impact on family was written with raw emotions.

Ghosts were important in the story but this is not horror or ghost story. It did confuse me a little in first half of the book making me think what’s really going on with Cady but in second half I could understand it better. Back story of ghosts was thought-provoking and eye-opening. Their conversation with Cady gave story philosophical depth. I didn’t know Harvard kept slaves around 18th century and was officially declared in 2016 until I read it in author’s note. It showed how well researched this book was.

Now she understood that we must love people whom we cannot control, in fact, we are lucky to love and be loved by people we cannot control. If we could control the person, love wouldn’t be a gift. This was the uncertainty of life, and of death. It was what made life beautiful and terrifying at once.

Mystery was suspenseful. Climax was tense. I was worried for Cady and I felt her investigation is not leading anywhere and then everything happened fast and made sense- her trip to ER, parents’ weekend, final clue and her plan to reveal it. I didn’t like two people in this book, something was off about them from the beginning but author successfully made me rethink about it. In the end, I wasn’t wrong about that two. Only one was real villain and other had own motives but still when the final card was turned I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was reading and at that moment I expected Cady fuming with rage but her new developed self – wise and looking at things from different perspective had different reaction. End and epilogue was perfect. This book will stay with me for long time.

Overall,

Ghosts of Harvard was deep, impactful, powerful, and thought-provoking mystery with great characters, philosophical writing and eye-opening history, and honest and raw representation of grief, loss and mental illness.

Book Links:

Goodreads

Affiliate Links: Amazon.(IN) | Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Book Depository


I hope you enjoyed this post and review. Let me know What do you think about the book or if you have read this already and what are your thought on this book. Have you read a book set in Harvard? If so, which it is and if you like it or not.

Happy Reading!

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