Verity by Colleen Hoover

Title: Verity
Writer : Colleen Hoover
Published: 2018
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 4 on 5

There have been many instances in the past where a book has got me so hooked that I have sacrificed sleep, pulled an all nighter, just to see what happens next in the book and how it ends. While this was common during my teenage or 20s days, this is a rare phenomenon these days. But, there comes a book which sweeps you off your feet, steals your sleep and does not let you sleep even after you finish reading the book at 4 AM. Verity by Colleen Hoover is one of those books.

Amongst the umpteen books which are labeled #PsychologicalThriller, this book, thankfully, turns out be one. The book literally grabs you from the very first word. A woman witnessing a horrific road accident and getting drenched in blood is how the book opens. What starts off as a big jolt is kept alive all through the book and the twists and turns and the jaw-dropping revelations is what keeps you awake till 4 AM.

Lowen is a mediocre, struggling writer who is trying to make ends meet, while having lost her ailing mother recently. She gets invited for a meeting with a publisher and when she is on the way for this meeting, she witnesses the tragic accident. The kind-hearted man who helps her recover from this shock turns out to be her “client” who wants her to write the final 3 books of the very popular thriller series authored by his wife, as the original writer, Verity, is deposed due to an accident. As part of her research work, Lowen visits Jeremy and thus begins the mind bending, jaw dropping journey for her and the reader. Lowen comes across a manuscript for what appears to be an autobiography of Verity. What begins as an innocent curiosity for Lowen quickly turns into revelation of true colors of Verity and the working of her mind.

Writing is so gripping and the scenes are so well created that as a reader, even being miles away from the actual scene, one can’t help be very scared of Verity – despite she being bedridden. The many shocking moments are created beautifully and I sometimes looked over my shoulder to see if that scene was actually happening in my house. The master twist is the last chapter, which I just did not see coming. This was probably an attempt by the author to answer the verity of “Verity”.

Interesting characters, jaw-dropping twists, quite a few accidental deaths – all ingredients needed to make a great thriller. Throw in a psychotic person as one of your main characters and you have a wonderful psychological thriller on hand.

Entry #3 for The Backlist Reader Challenge 2020

 

 

The Empty Nest

Title: The Empty Nest
Writer : Sue Watson
Published: 2019
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 2 on 5

Ever since the popularity of Gone Girl and the likes, the number of books tagged with the genre of psychological thriller has increased exponentially. Some do justice to this tag, while some just want that tag to gain attention. I am afraid this book belongs to the latter category.

A teenage girl, a helicopter mom, a laid back stepfather, an abusive biological father who is forced to stay out of the girl’s life are some of the elements that make up this thriller. One fine day, the girl goes missing and nobody believes the mother that she is actually missing until it is too late. Cops go on a goose chase while the mother takes help from her daughter’s friends to start a social media driven chase of her own. A cursory visit from the biological father hopes to increase the suspense factor, but doesn’t really achieve that.

My main disappointment with the book was the disconnect with the characters. The author tries hard to give the characters flesh and blood, but in the end, they are just left with two dimensions and never bloom into full fledged personalities. I am supposed to sympathize with the mother for her fear and anxiety over losing her daughter, but I found myself getting frustrated at her long winded, oft repeated arguments. The center of this story – the girl who goes missing – is so poorly developed that even after finishing the book, I still cannot make out if she was mean or kind to her friend, did she hate her mom for being over protective or was she understood why her mother was like that.

Leaving aside the psychological aspect of the thriller, the book disappoints on the thriller factor too. There aren’t many twists or turns, the whodunnit is not suspenseful enough and when the culprit is revealed, it is not really a shocker.

I picked this up after reading positive reviews on Goodreads. Neither the story, nor the characters created an impact and I was left with disappointment. Counting the positives – atleast the book was small and I finished it fast, so not much time wasted.

 

 

Posted in 2020, Books. 2 Comments »

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary

Title: A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary
Writer : Anonymous
Published: 1945
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 4 on 5

 

There are countless books written about World War 2 – some are historically accurate while some are fictional accounts. Most of these books highlight the sufferings of the Holocaust victims, which is absolutely needed. Very rarely do we get a glimpse of people on the other side of the war – the Germans. Anne Frank’s diary gave us insights into the atrocities carried out against the Jews and how the general mass stepped up to help the Jews in whatever way they can. This book is a diary of a woman who lives in Berlin and her ordeal at the hands of Russians, long after the war was won by the Allies.

The author remains anonymous to the world, but we know she lived in East Germany, wherein women have made attics and basements their homes to protect themselves from airstrikes as they wait for something worse – Russians conquering Berlin and pillaging the city. The book chronicles the fear as the women wait for Russians to land at their doorstep, the disgust at witnessing the pillaging and rape which the Russian soldiers recklessly carry out and the bravery they show to going to any extent for survival, including striking deals with the soldiers. While the West Germany was conquered by sophisticated enemy of Britain and US, the East Germany people were not so fortunate as they were taken over by the hooligan Russians, most of them being illiterate and rustic.

The author strikes as a woman who is extremely self-aware of her own strengths and weaknesses and the bleak situation she is going to face. The writing is beautiful and tugs at your heart. I knew what to expect from this book – the violence, rapes, starvation, deaths – but this book still left me speechless. The levels to which a human can stoop to took me completely by surprise (or shock). This is not an easy read, definitely not a light one, as the book stays with you long after you have stopped reading it and one needs some time to come out of this painful phase.

Out of all the numerous World War 2 related books, this book stands out for the perspective it brings and its excellent prose. The book is grim and casts a cloud gloom on the reader, but this still remains a very important read.

Entry #3 for Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2020
Entry #2 for The Backlist Reader Challenge 2020

Freedom at Midnight

Title: Freedom at Midnight
Writer : Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre
Published: 2001
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 3 on 5

India’s independence was a moment of celebration, but also a painful memory as the country was partitioned and millions of people lost their lives. Every year as we take pride in raising the tricolor, our heads also hang in shame for the brutality which we caused in the name of religion. While every school teaches the children when India got its independence, very little is said about the events which led to this historical moment and more importantly, the violent events which followed this moment. To fill this void, I decided to read this book, well knowing, that neither of the authors are Indians and nor were they a witness to these events.

The book starts off heaping a huge praise on Lord Mountbatten, who apparently was influential in India attaining her independence. While there may be some amount of truth in it, the sheer adoration, the flowery praises are so over the top that one starts wondering if this book should have been named “An ode to Mountbatten”.

This book is a result of the interviews with Mountbatten and some archives which he had saved over time. This gives the book a very “English” perspective and can come across as biased in some places. Wish the authors had heard the other side of the story too. While the Mountbattens are admired for their bravery and leadership, we do not see the same treatment for Indian politicians. Gandhi is revered, Nehru gets a few notable mentions, Patel is largely ignored and Jinnah is painted as a monster.

This book did strike a chord with the chapters on the actual partition – the drawing of the line – the exodus that followed and the eventual murder of millions of people. The authors paint such a horrid picture of these ghastly events – the train full of corpses is still a haunting visual for me. The mindless pillaging, rapes, murders, mutilation of human beings by other so-called human beings is so mind numbing – one wonders how religion can become more important than human lives.

The book makes a segue into Gandhi’s assassination. This section of the book reads like a thriller – building up suspense, ending the chapter on a cliff hanger – and has all the elements of a page turner.  If you want an outsider perspective on the freedom struggle and eventual independence, albeit with a touch of fictional narrative, do read this book, by all accounts. If you want a more neutral perspective or even an insider view, then pick up a book by local authors, which is what I am planning to do next. On this point, any recommendations on what book I should read on this subject?

 

Entry #2 for Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2020
Entry #1 for The Backlist Reader Challenge 2020

 

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone

Title: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed
Writer : Lori Gottlieb
Published: 2019
Genre: Non-Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 on 5

Human psychology has always held a special interest for me and it was only natural that I picked up this book as soon as I read the blurb. Lori Gottlieb is a TV writer turned psychotherapist. As a practising psychotherapist, she witnesses the various reasons one can become anxious, addicted, depressed or suicidal in life. While Gottlieb could have stuck to describing these encounters, she instead puts herself in her patient’s shoes and describes her experience as a depressed soul seeking soul nourishing therapy. And this interspersal of her narrating as a therapist and as a patient is what makes this book so engaging and relatable.

Gottlieb goes through a bitter breakup with someone who she dreamt of marrying and this leaves her shattered and depressed. She continues to counsel as a therapist, but denies the deep rooted truth that she too needs to see one to get over her grief. What starts as a therapy session to get over her boyfriend turns into an eye opening series of discussions with her therapist which ends up with Gottlieb facing some bitter truth of her life.

I have seen a couple of therapists and psychiatrists in my life and none of these sessions came anywhere close to the kind of insightful, meaningful discussions Gottlieb has with her patients and her own therapist. The journey of her patients – especially the one who is facing her imminent death and is coming to terms with it – is such an emotional roller coaster that the reader starts cheering for every small win the patient makes and feels totally torn when they veer off the therapy track. This book re-convinced me that therapy is a much needed addition to anybody’s life, not necessarily the depressed and the oppressed ones. And it also helped me realize that the reason my therapy sessions weren’t that beneficial was because I haven’t found the right therapist for me yet.

The book pulls at your heart as the reader make a strong bond with every of Gottlieb’s patients, Gottlieb herself and even her therapist. To see therapist’s troubled past and how he deals with it while counseling Gottlieb is something I found interesting.

With all the troubled pasts and depressed patients, one might assume that this book makes for a heavy read, but it is anything but that. Gottlieb’s writing style is casual and breezy and this makes the book a very easy read. There might be places where you put the book aside and ponder over Gottlieb’s words, which happened often with me.

2020 has started on a high note for me, when it comes to reading (and reviewing – a review after a whole year!). Hope it only gets better from here.

Entry #1 for Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2020.

 

 

Reading Challenges 2020

After taking a break from reading challenges for 2 years (reading continued, without challenges), I figured out I miss challenges. For two reasons – one, I like the thrill of signing up and ticking them off at the end of the year and two, these challenges helped me discover new books and forced me out of my comfort zone. So, I decided to sign up for a few challenges this year.

The Backlist Reader Challenge 

Let me come clean – I have a TBR list which can last me a lifetime and more. I tend to reach for the newer additions and the older books on the list tend to be ignored. Hoping this challenge will help me fix that. I hope to read atleast 6 books from my TBR list, which are published before 2018.

Nonfiction Reader Challenge 

My list of books over the years is leaning towards nonfiction, so it only makes sense to take this challenge to tilt the balance even more. I hope to have atleast 50% of my 2020 list to be nonfiction, so about 12 books.

Poetry Reading Challenge

I am terrible at appreciating poetry and I blame the lack of exposure for that. Signing up to read one poem a day for a week in a month is my last attempt to infuse some poetry into my life. Let us hope this works.