Fiction Books

Fabulous Read – Emily Belden

Title – Husband Material
Author – Emily Belden

This was another book I picked up at my local library, from the “New Reads” section. The date was close to Valentine’s Day, the title was supremely catchy, and the blurb was intriguing to say the least! After all, how many romance books involve an urn holding the ashes of the heroine’s dead husband’s ashes, mailed in a package?

SCORE: 5* out of 5

If I had to describe this book with movie analogies, then this is a book where “Double Jeopardy” meets “Legally Blonde”. Or “Confessions of a Shopaholic” meets “The Intern”. Or the recent “The Spy Who Dumped Me”.

This author portrays drama, grief, betrayal, unusual friendships, romance and dating set in the glitzy background of LA, complete with control-freak, unapproving and RICH mother-in-law and romantic male character who may turn out to be the hero or the villain! All the characters are very well fleshed out and the heroine’s

I read the whole book in one go (~ 2 hours)! ? It’s been awhile since I found a romance or chick lit book so gripping, so do want to appreciate the book thoroughly. I suspect I finished half the book just to find out how the husband died in the first place – even though I knew this was a “hook” I was willingly ready to take the bait!

The book is classified as “coming of age” fiction on Amazon, but honestly “Women’s Fiction” would be a better category or Urban Drama! Or even RomCom. Why do authors classify books this way and make it difficult for readers to find them? (bit annoyed, but the author writes so well! ) Thankfully, my library correctly had it marked under “New Age Romance”.

I loved how the author weaved some very controversial and depressing questions relating to death, hurtful relationships without making it sordid or overwhelming! After all, we read such books for entertainment, but it’s beautiful that the author was able to intersperse them without losing the story’s magic!

Similar Works

If you like any of the below, you will appreciate reading this author too:

Genres – Drama, contemporary romance, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction.

Movies – The Spy Who Dumped Me, Double Jeopardy, The Intern, Legally Blonde, Devil wears Prada, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

TV Series – Modern Love.

Books – “The Summerhouse” by Jude Deveraux, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella, “Right Fit Wrong Shoe” by Varsha Dixit, “Marriage Clock” by Zara Raheem.             

Overall, a fantastic read, and ideal for traveling or gifting! Happy Reading!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8th is International Women’s Day, so this month is dedicated to all the amazing women authors out there, as well as books that advocate for women. Below is my reading list for the month, so also hoping to accomplish a good chunk of my reading goals and “clear the clutter” Goodreads challenge. So many birds with one stone! 😉

March 2020 Reading list

  1. Presence, by Amy Cuddy.
  2. Women Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Author Lois Frankel.
  3. Squeezed by Alyssa Quart
  4. America for Beginners. Author = Leah Franqui. (Fiction)
  5. Head over Heels, Lila Monroe. (Fiction)
  6. Husband Material. Author = Emily Belden. (Fiction)
  7. You are a BadAss, by Jen Sincero.
  8. 365 Days of Facebook. Author = Nirupama. (Fiction)
  9. Achtung Baby, by Sara Zaske.
  10. You Woke up Worthy, Britny West.
  11. To Winter at Wildsyde, by Emma Leech. (Fiction)
  12. Mirror Work, Louisa Hay.
  13. The Profitable Content System, by Meera Kothand.
  14. Evening is the Whole Day. Preeta Samarasan. (Fiction)
  15. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership. Harvard Business Review.
  16. Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Barbara Stanny. Non-fiction business.
  17. The Big Book of Juices. Natalie Savona. Health & Living.
  18. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling. Non-fiction business.
  19. The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. Stephanie Laurens.
  20. The Marriage Clock: A Novel. Zara Raheem.
Go Girl Power!

Happy Reading!

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FEB = month of love, and amazing romance authors

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are the Top 10 Romance authors you should absolutely try as a gift to yourself or your favorite bestie!

Historical romance, contemporary or medieval time travel series or plain old classics – this post presents (in no specific ranking order) a list of romance authors in multiple niches. So you are sure to find something you love!

  1. Stephanie Laurens – Historical Romance. Absolutely love the Cynster series, though you can read them in any order.
  2. Emma V Leech – Historical Romance. Girls Who Dare series starring members of the Peculiar Girls Book Club. Just the book club reference would have attracted me, but the stories are riveting!
  3. Julia Quinn – Historical Romance. I loved the Bridgerton Series, but “The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy” from the Smith-Smythe series will be #1 favorite by this author.
  4. Nora Roberts – contemporary. Almost all her books are fascinating, but “Blithe Images” is the one I adore the best.
  5. Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Romantic Comedy. My favorite book by this author is “It had to be You.”
  6. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice. Countless plays, movies – this book is such a classic that it is even referenced in other historical romance books! Classic Romance.
  7. Nicholas Sparks – “The Notebook” was made into a movie, and my personal favorite – “Safe Haven”. Contemporary Romance.
  8. Jude Deveraux. I read her book “The Summerhouse” as a teenager, and thought it was beautiful! Contemporary Romance and chicklit fiction.
  9. Alyssa Cole – Contemporary Romance. I loved “Duke by Default” because it combines sword designers, social media and Instagram influencer and a realistic way of showing people’s biases and insecurities.
  10. Karen Marie Moning – Normally I don’t read fantasy or paranormal (except Harry Potter as a teen), but her Scottish Highlander series are Time travel romances mixing fantasy, medieval romance and contemporary ideals.
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Title – End Game
Author – David Baldacci

REVIEW SCORE – 4.5/5

What’s to love about the book?

A thrilling, plot twister that will keep you guessing till the end. This is a book in the Will Robie Series, although I personally have never read the other books in the series. However, I am a big Baldacci fan, and his book “The Winner” and “Absolute Power” were my favorites for years in high school! This book reminded me why I was such a die-hard fan! It’s amazing how Baldacci can keep churning out plot after plot, without losing his touch to keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats.

There are a lot of seemingly side stories, but the author doesn’t let us lose focus of the main story. The middle dragged a bit, but the end ties all the threads together, so the narrative is truly brilliant. You don’t see a lot of stories where the main characters are both assassins and detectives – sort of Jack Reacher meets Sherlock Holmes, so I loved it!

There is a lot of action and violence in the book, but of course the good guys win against all odds, due their brilliant mercenary skills. It also showed a lot of “grey” decisions that law enforcement officials often need to make – some decisions are unethical but necessary for the greater good, and some which seem correct at the time, feel foolish with hindsight. The Doomsday argument conversations felt a bit forced, but it did present some interesting perspectives that I wouldn’t have thought about, not being the uber-rich! 🙂

As always, the action scenes are amazing, I could almost imagine the explosions and raining bullets as if it were a movie. And in all fairness, it would probably make an amazing movie plot like Fast and Furious or Jack Ryan type series.

Finally, big shout out to “BJs”, my local big box retailer which recently started selling bestselling authors at unbelievably low prices. Beats Amazon, Walmart and every other retailer, especially since my book is a mint condition hardcover copy! My bookworm soul and frugal-Indian brain are both ecstatic!

Who should try this book?

If you’ve never heard or tried Baldacci books, then you will love it if you like action or thriller books. Alternatively, folks who love the movies and authors below, will find it entertaining as well.

Similar authors – Daniel Silva, Robert Ludlum, James Patterson and Tom Clancy.
Movies & TV shows – Jack Ryan, Mission Impossible, Rambo, Fast and Furious.

Happy Reading!

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more time, more reading!

Since I posted about my reading goals for 2020, and a new reading list, it feels like I’ve been bombarded with Qs about finding time to truly accomplish that goal. So I wanted to share some tips I use to create time for my life’s top priorities.

Of course, you might want to know why I am qualified to dole out productivity advice and time-saving hacks! After all, TIME is that elusive elixir that we all want to have, but never seem to find! However, in the last year, I’ve been a little more mindful about my time, and found that I was able to accomplish so much more:

  1. Published a book on DataScience jobs, which hit the Amazon bestseller charts for almost 2 months!
  2. Grew my blog from 5k views per month, to 10k views, compared to last year.
  3. Won an all-expenses paid Diversity scholarship to KubeCon San Diego!
  4. Completed my MBA Finance with a 3.4 GPA, while holding a full-time job.
  5. Traveled to Everglades National Park, ticking off a long-listed item off my bucket list.
  6. Took over the reins of a 1500+ member meetup group!
  7. Read 25+ books over the year!

Many of the time-saving hacks that helped me achieve these are also valuable techniques to find chunks of time to read more, even for the most hectic schedules. Here are my Top 15 favorite tips:

Use 2020 wisely – read more books!
  1. READING GOALS – Have a weekly/ monthly goal and decide what you are going to read. Just wanting to read is too vague, and will get drowned by other “firefighting” priorities. With the goal in mind, keep books handy – by either keeping light paperbacks in your bag or on mobile apps like Kindle and BookShout.
  2. Use Waiting Rooms wisely. We all have these “wasted” moments, 10 minutes at the doctor’s clinics, 30+ minutes at airports, 5-10 mins waiting for a kids class to get over or just a serpentine queue at the grocery stores. Most people use it to check social media, or browse clickbait articles or the never-ending stream of office emails. I use it to read books. I have to admit this is harder, and takes willpower. Sometimes its hard to remember, too. I normally go “offline” and force myself to read. TRY IT, you will be surprised how much reading can be integrated into these invisible pockets of time.
  3. Schedule 20 minutes in the morning with coffee / breakfast. Yes, there are a 1001 chores pending, fidgety kids and spouse and 250 emails from work that need your attention. But here is a secret. They will wait another 20 minutes, too! But not spending time on your personal development and expanding your mind (or just down time) is making you less smarter, and decreasing your productivity, joy and creativity far more than you know. If you prefer, do it way early in the morning before others wake up. I was scheduling 45 minutes way early in the morning, when everyone is asleep for my MBA and now that the degree is over, I’ve replaced it with reading, exercise, prayers and other personal priorities.
  4. 20 minutes “offline” time before bed. Seriously, all the “blue light” from electronics devices is not good for health. Reading a physical book before bed forces me to step away from my devices, promotes better sleep and makes me feel amazing about myself.
  5. Use your commute time. Instead of listening to the radio or taking office calls, commit half of your commute (or one way) to audiobooks. Hubby and I have committed 25% of all long-drives and road trips to audiobooks. I hated the thought at first, but he picked some truly interesting titles like “Freakonomics” and “12 rules of life” and now I am hooked!
  6. Listen to Audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed. Seriously, this one tip (from my MBA phase) has made me so much more efficient. You will need to work your way up to such high-speeds, but I’ve found the increased speed forces me to focus more. Downside – now I can rarely listen at 1x speeds, even for Youtube videos!
  7. Make chores interesting. Who likes making the bed, or doing dishes or folding clothes? I don’t so I grab my lovely Bose headphones and make them interesting by listening to escaping to the world of audiobooks!
  8. Read faster. It’s amazing that schools teach you to read, but not how to read faster. So try to consciously increase your speed without compromising on retention. There are many tools out there, and reading apps like BookShout calculate it for you automatically. Comes easily with practice, and you’ll get more achieved, at work and your personal goals.
  9. Read more efficiently. You don’t need to read word-by-word. Not every chapter is useful or important, and you won’t remember it in 3 months anyway! Life is too short to waste on bad books, so make sure you read what is truly remarkable, entertaining, valuable in practice, or all of the three!
  10. No monkey behavior. Don’t jump from 1 book to another. Even with my reading speeds, I find myself with a large list of incomplete books. So I stick to two book at a time (one ebook/audio + 1 hardcopy). If you want to do more, make sure they are from different genres, so it is easier to follow the various content tracks.
  11. Use your lunch hour. This was advice from an amazing mentor, who emphasized the importance of using the lunch hour for networking or reading. If I am in office, I force myself to get out of my cube and chat with 1 new person everyday. But since I work remote a lot, I do spend 20 mins on lunch while reading a good book. It’s amazing how this “clean” 20 minutes break from work helps me relax better, complete more pages on my goal, and improves my efficiency when I resume work.
  12. Leverage your smart phones for some good – if you cannot carry physical books, then there are many amazing apps like Kindle, Bookshout or GooglePlayBooks. Audible for audiobooks. Most offer metrics – how many days/weeks you read continuously, cute badges for reading sprints, reading speeds and much more. All these add motivation to help you read more!
  13. Scared of breaking the bank? – visit your library. In the US, all have dedicated mobile apps, which allow you to read ebooks and listen to audiofiles. In India, there are some amazing local libraries that provide vast number of titles at very reasonable rates. Plus, I’ve noticed that the more I read and buy on Google and Amazon, I seem to get more credits to encourage more spending!
  14. Keep a time log. Phantom slots keep slipping away. Don’t schedule every minute, but at least be aware of where your time-sucks are. Chances are, some of these can be used to slip in reading time.
  15. Say NO. The world does NOT hand out Nobel Prizes to super-moms or super-dads. So get off your invisible hamster wheels, and spend time on yourself, in self-development goals and reading time!

Those were my reading hacks. You don’t need to use all 15 techniques, but incorporating even 3-4 will help you reclaim valuable slots of time that might otherwise be frittered away on low priorities, or worse without your knowledge.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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