Review: A Change of Heart

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Change of HeartA Change of Heart by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #3
Published by Kensington on September 27th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

Superlative Journey About Loss, Recovery and Finding Love Again

“They found nothing that could be construed as evidence.  But they had found something else.  Something you found when you traveled impossibly difficult paths with someone.”

FINAL DECISION:  One of the most amazing books I have ever read, this is an intense story of death, survival and rebirth.  Beautiful, lyrical, painful, redeeming.  I couldn’t turn away from this book despite the raw emotion because the raw emotion went to the pure humanity in the book.  Loved the characters, loved the story, loved it!

THE STORY:  Dr. Nikhil Joshi is devastated after the murder of his wife.  He has abandoned everything that he loves and is living and working on a cruise ship drunk most of the time.  One day he meets a woman who claims to have received his wife’s heart in a transplant.  Even more incredible, Jess Koirala claims that Nic’s wife has been communicating to her wanting Nic to find those ultimately responsible for her death.  Nic’s wife, Jen, was investigating a ring of organ thieves when she was murdered to prevent exposure.  Jess has come to Nic because she needs him to discover the truth and set herself free.

OPINION:  This book ripped me open and left my insides exposed.  Going deep into the emotional life of these characters, that is exactly the type of book I love.

“It was a tearing up of all that he was and of putting it all together again.”

Nic is a man who had it all. He had a successful and fulfilling career he loved.  He had found the woman who was his match.  They had a baby on the way.  Then everything collapses on him when she was murdered.  Nic didn’t know how to go on living.  Two years later, he is still living in a type of stasis where he exists but does not truly live.

“Sweetness of hope and leftover pain.”

Jess is a survivor.  I don’t want to give the secrets of the book away as Jess’s true story is revealed slowly, but readers who are sensitive might take a look at the Acknowledgements at the beginning if they have concerns.  I loved that she has been through so much and survived and thus teaches and shows Nic how to move past his pain and grief.

I also loved that Nic gives Jess tenderness and caring that she has been missing for so long.  But one of the best parts of this book is how the pain these two experience is not swiftly resolved and carried away.  These two hurt one another, bring out one another’s pain and somehow find a way for them both to begin to live again.

“He couldn’t not lay down with her, couldn’t not tuck her against him, couldn’t not wrap his body around her and close his eyes against her hair.  And hold her and hold her.  Until she drifted away in his arms.  Fell out of her pain and into sleep.  It was then that he left himself drift away too.  His sleep wrapped around hers.  Their joint collapse into a nothingness so absolute the morning light had to be rebirth.”

This book is all about rebirth.  The pain, the shedding of the past, of learning to live with the impossible.  The darkness and pain in this book allows the morning that comes after to be beautiful.

This book just tore me open.  I loved it even as I sometimes felt I wanted to turn away from Nic and Jess’s pain.  But ultimately, that pain and sadness turned into something lovely and life affirming.  We can survive the worst of humanity.  There is always hope and joy and the possibility of love.

Many times I enjoy a dark, pain-filled book but want to turn to something else after having my heart ripped out.  Not this book.  This one I wanted to immediately read again.  It will certainly go on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I hope that we hear more about Rahul and Kimi.  I expect from the progression of this book, I expect to know much more about them.  I an already intrigued.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  A CHANGE OF HEART is a standalone although there are appearances from characters from other Dev books.  I consider the books as taking place in the same world rather than a series although I will mark it as the third book in the Bollywood series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Bollywood Bride

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Bollywood BrideThe Bollywood Bride (Bollywood) by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #2
Published by Kensington on September 29th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Painful, Sad but Ultimately Hopeful About Love

“Vikram was smiling. The last time she’d seen him he had looked like he would never smile again. She had looked into his eyes and watched him break, watched the gray-blue crystals shatter to bits. He was smiling.”

FINAL DECISION: Dark and emotional but ultimately uplifting, THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is darker in tone than Dev’s first book but infused with the same wonderful characterizations and sense of community and ultimately joy in life. Not an easy read, but a worthwhile one.

THE STORY: Ria Parker had loved Vitram Jathar when they were children. She knew, however, that they had no future and so she betrayed him and broke his heart. Ten years later, Ria is a successful Bollywood actress known as the Ice Princess because she doesn’t let anyone close. Her career has been scandal free until a paparazzi gets too close to her dark past. Returning to Chicago to attend a family wedding, Ria comes face to face with Vitram again. She knows that their being apart is best for Vitram but Ria can’t help but love the boy of her childhood and the man who hates her now.

OPINION: This book is sad and yet there is ultimately acceptance and hope. Ria is haunted by her family’s history and as a result has decided to spent her life alone. A casualty of that decision is Vitram. The two were childhood friends and young lovers together until Ria’s destiny tore them apart. I enjoyed the complexity of Ria. I didn’t like nor could I condone many of her decisions, but I certainly understood them. It is a special book that allows the reader to disagree with the character but comprehend their motivations. I liked Ria because she is an incredibly strong woman. She has dealt with so much in her life and tries to do her best.

Vitram is adorable. Strong and dedicated and yet gentle with those he loves, he makes a journey in this book. From anger, disappointment and hate, he opens himself up through forgiveness. Even before he understands Ria’s motivations, he forgives her.

Ria and Vitram have a serious and emotional chemistry from the moment they meet. They have no blinding moment of falling in love. The two have always loved one another – first as friends and then as lovers. The anger and pain that these two experience makes this a book that I had to read in bites and put down. The story is complicated and heartbreaking at times.

Dev has a distinctive voice. Her characters are immersed in their community and family. Readers of THE BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR will find this book darker and initially bleaker than that book. The story contemplates issues of destiny, identity, and family but always focuses on the characters. The desire to separate from one’s history, yet the inexorable pull back into the past is finally resolved when the characters accept the possibility of future pain but choose to be hopeful about the future.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it especially because of Dev’s strong, complex characters and unique view into Indian-American culture. My only downgrade of the book is because I wish that Vitram’s voice was more present. He is incredibly forgiving considering Ria’s actions and it would have been nice to understand more what was in his mind.

WORTH MENTIONING: Spoilers! This novel deals with mental illness is a realistic and painful manner.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: A Bollywood Affair

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Bollywood AffairA Bollywood Affair (Bollywood) by Sonali Dev
Series: Bollywood #1
Published by Kensington on October 28th 2014
Pages: 294
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Just Draws the Reader In

A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR is a great twist on the rake and the virgin story. Here, this contemporary novel is grounded in the diverse and complex Indian culture. Set on the edges of many divides in that culture, this is not only a glimpse into the complexity of cultures but it demonstrates that love can cross many boundaries.

THE STORY: Mili Rathod was married at the age of four to a boy in her village in India. For twenty years, Mili has kept her vows and “all Mili wanted was to be a good wife.” Her pursuit of that goal led her far from her village. She obtained an education and has come to the United States to pursue further education. She is working hard to make herself worthy of her husband — who she has not seen since her wedding.

The only problem for Mili is that her husband was not aware that they were still married (because they were underage, the marriage was supposed to be annulled). He has married another woman and is expecting a child. When he finds out about the marriage to Mili, he sends his younger brother, Samir Rathod to convince Mili to agree to an annulment.

Samir is a director and screenwriter and has a “love” life that consists of him walking away from women when they get too close. He is scarred by the history of his parents. Half-American, Samir was abandoned by his mother and has commitment issues as a result. In meeting Mili, Samir is struck by the contrast of his expectations and the reality of Mili. He is a caretaker and Mili brings joy to his life. Samir, however, fails to tell Mili who is actually is and thus the conflict exists over the secrets that each is keeping from the other.

OPINION: I loved Samir in this book. For a guy who seems so cynical, he quickly becomes such a caretaker to Mili that he is almost sweet. As the reader is drawn further into his story, the contradictions of Samir become more obvious and understandable. He is definitely the rake who hides his goodness and vulnerability.

Mili is such an interesting character. She definitely comes from her culture and yet she has transcended the small town she comes from without changing her essential nature. I love that she is committed to her marriage and yet at the same time has used it as an excuse to open doors that otherwise would have been closed to her.

I also appreciated how this book opened a window into a complex Indian culture. There are divisions between the older generation and the younger generation, the city dwellers and the rural people. In addition, there is the American versus Indian conflict. All of these divisions are treated with respect and I loved the fact that all of this is presented in a matter of fact manner.

The emotional connection between these characters is wonderful. I loved how their relationship progresses from friendship to love. Samir’s failure to be truthful to Mili has bad consequences and the deep emotional pain that Mili experiences is moving. I truly believed in these characters. They were memorable and really good people.

WORTH MENTIONING: I tried this book on the recommendation of the author Nalini Singh and I am really glad I did.

FINAL DECISION: I recommend this book because I think it is deeply emotional and has a unique story to tell about two really likeable people.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in order to provide an honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

four-half-stars