Review: A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart, Sonali Dev

Published September 27th 2016 by Kensington

Paperback, 352 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

28439392Dr. Nikhil ‘Nic’ Joshi had it all—marriage, career, purpose. Until, while working for Doctors Without Borders in a Mumbai slum, his wife, Jen, discovered a black market organ transplant ring. Before she could expose the truth, Jen was killed.

Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.

Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy.  She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.

I give Sonali Dev a ton of credit just for the premise of this book.  It is extremely brave to start out by murdering a character that was so great in your last book – The Bollywood Bride.  I think it was pretty brave to make Jen a less than perfect character.  Jen’s perspective is told in very brief snippets of her journal entries and she’s not all warm and fuzzy as one might expect a newlywed to be.  This this contrasted sharply with Nic’s crushing grief and memories of his beloved – again a really bold route for a romance.  So we find Nic trying to drink himself to death on a cruise ship  2 years after her murder when Jess comes and tries to snap him into action to find Jen’s killers in India.  

Honestly the truth of Jess’s story was pretty easy to figure out and once I knew what was coming I just couldn’t get past it.  Also as much as I liked Jess, to be truthful I didn’t want Nic to get past it either!   The poor guy was suffering enough and I was anticipating some painful moments when he found out why she was really there.  That kept me from feeling all the love between Nic and Jess the way I was meant to.   Based on the other reviews I’ve seen though I’m in the minority here – maybe maybe I just need lighter overall when I’m feeling like a romance?  Romance reading is an total escape for me so I need happy.  This was busy with sexy romance, mystery, and past heartbreaks and other readers are loving it.   

I do hope Dev continues with the Bollywood books in the way that I’m guessing because I like her characters and I like seeing the interaction between books.  I will absolutely read whatever she writes next!  I’m going to have to reread The Bollywood Affair though to get back to my own original Sonali Dev love affair.

Thank you Kensington and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Top Ten Tuesday: One Thing I Dislike in Book Romances

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (from the Broke and the Bookish) is Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes to Romance in Books.


Well, I really only have one thing that drives me batshit crazy related to romance in books, and that’s when books, particularly novels geared towards young adults, present unhealthy, domineering, emotionally abusive relationship patterns as completely normal. The most well-known recent examples are, of course, a certain teenage vampire series and then the bestselling trilogy which it inspired that is about to open as a movie this weekend (and yes, I know that second one wasn’t geared toward YA readers – at least I hope not. Right? I haven’t read it…but I did read this review)

Anyway, rather than further espouse on this topic right now, I will simply direct you to this post comparing Edward Cullen and Bella Swan’s relationship to the National Domestic Violence Hotline criteria.

Creepy much?

Creepy much?

If you have any suggestions for books with healthy relationships, please by all means share them in the comments!

Finishing A Bollywood Affair

Today we’re finishing up A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. We usually post our sister read-alongs in three parts, but this time we’re putting parts 2 & 3 into one post.


As we read, our texts were flying. Here’s what we were thinking through the middle third:

Holly: Mili says “The entire household does not need to see my chromosomes.”

Amanda: That almost made me snort inappropriately while trying to tell my child to go to sleep.

Holly: That was basically the point.

Amanda: I feel like I’m actually watching a Bollywood movie right now. This is amazing. You should have had an Indian wedding. (Uh, with no offense to your husband or your actual lovely wedding!

Holly: Tell that too [redacted name of former Indian crush]!*  (And, no offense taken, obv). Oh, and I saw on the author’s website that her next book is called The Bollywood Bride.

*And now we shall see if my husband is a faithful GIAO reader.

Amanda: BTW, let’s go for Indian food.

And from there, we forged on through the final third of the book, continuing to laugh hysterically – well, until things got sad for a while..

Amanda: I am going to have to finish this book now.

Amanda: Um wow. It’s getting hot in here.

Holly: Dude, I do not post about the steaminess of books. Posts about steaminess make me mildly uncomfortable.

Amanda: [Tries to think of something that can amuse me and make Holly mildly uncomfortable…]

Amanda: I will say I don’t have a lot of familiarity with Indian culture, so I thought a few things were interesting about the relationships with daughters.   Seeing Mili’s friend’s mother yelling “you stupid cow” to her daughter versus the excitement of a new baby girl to a new generation really stuck out to me.  I loved that Mili wasn’t just trying to empower herself, but that she also wanted more for other women. I just loved Mili and her hope and her naivete, matched against her strength, intelligence and her determination.

Holly:  I loved how Sonali Dev described writing this book in her acknowledgements section: “I would love to say that this book was hard labor, that my path to publication was riddled with sacrifice and tears. But I can’t. Writing Samir and Mili’s story was pure joy, and my path was so riddled with the incredible generosity and support of so many people…”

Amanda: I loved that too! Even though there was some sadness to this book i just loved it. It was a joy to read. 5 stars!!

Holly: I loved it too! Good find, pal. 

Source: Thank Goodness for public libraries where we both found this one!

We’re Reading A Bollywood Affair

It’s time again for another sisterly-readalong, and this time we are diving into A Bollywood Affair, a debut novel by Sonali Dev. We’ve both been reading and chatting, and we’ll share what we think in 3 parts as we make our way through.

A Bollywood Affair opens with a scene of a mass child-wedding in the Indian state of Rajastan.

It is intense. Then, we fast forward twenty-odd years to the present. Our child bride (and heroine!) Mili, is studying in the U.S., while dutifully waiting for her husband to claim her. Unbeknownst to her, her “husband’s” brother Samir, Bollywood film director-slash-model-slash-playboy (Mili loves to talk in slashes), has been sent to finalize an annulment of the arrangement that his grandfather forced the family into years ago. That’s all in the first few chapters. From there, we’ll try to stay relatively spoiler-free:

Amanda: Samir is kind of a dick

Holly: Oh no! I need to catch up.

Amanda: Samir reminds me of Flynn Rider with his “I’m going to turn on the smolder.”

Holly: Who?

[Amanda explains. And sends videos. She is correct. That is exactly what is going on the book. EXactly. Someone get Mili a frying pan!]


Holly: I was cracking up quite loudly reading this last night. Like, my husband tried to kick me out of the room. This book is killing me. Okay, it is maybe not the best written, most beautifully crafted novel ever, but Mili is fucking hilarious and awesome.

Amanda: She is going to be kicking ass by the end. But I hope Mili knocks him in the face with a frying pan before HEA happens.

Holly: HEA?

Amanda: Happily Ever After, yo!

Holly: If I was a real blogger I’d probably say some shit about shipping but I think that is a stupid verb.

Amanda: And that is why you are my best favorite. Oh, I will start writing this post.

[Amanda did not start the post, so I stole her texts and added them in here. We’ll see if I’m still her best favorite.]


Amanda: Holly is always, always my best favorite.  Unless she’s editing my apostrophe usage or duplicative word usage.  



Book Pairings 2: The Spousal Edition

A while back I posted the first edition of book pairings – books that you really should read together. After I stumbled upon another great pairing, I realized it was time to revisit this topic – this, time with a theme.

  1. March + Little Women


March is the story of Mister March, the father of Louisa May Alcott’s four Little Women, during the year he serves as a chaplain in the Union army. This is pretty clear in the description on the back of the book, only I didn’t pay attention so I didn’t catch this until I started reading. After I finished March (loved it!), I had to revisit Little Women, which I vaguely remember reading at some point. I’m at the halfway point, and, while I understand its long-lived sentimental appeal, I very much appreciate being able to fill in the boring bits with some of the backstory from March. There is more than meets the eye to the March family, according to Geraldine Brooks!

  1. Mrs. Poe + The Raven and Other Poems


Okay, there are a number of Poe works that I could have added to this pair, but, since I’d like this list to include books I might actually get to in the semi-near future, I chose this short, 80-page scholastic collection of Poe poems over an 800-page Poe anthology. You guys, I live down the street from Poe’s honeymoon retreat with his 13-year old cousin. This takes place years later in New York, but I’m still pretty intrigued by this historical fiction. And, if I’m going to read it, I really ought to pair it with some authentic Poe, right?

  1. The Paris Wife + The Sun Also Rises


I definitely stole this one from a comment on my first Book Pairings post (thanks Katie!). I know I read some Hemingway in high school, though I’m pretty sure it was A Farewell to Arms. I’m also fairly certain that I did not enjoy it, but I’m willing to give it another go. After all, I had some questionable taste in high school. So, maybe I’ll start with The Paris Wife and then give ol’ Ernest another shot. Maybe.

Any other pairs about spouses to add to the list?

*Updated 10/24/2014 because I had my facts wrong about Mrs. Poe. The Mrs. Poe in the title is indeed the same cousin that Poe honeymooned in Petersburg with, and was the only woman that Poe married. However, the story centers around Frances Osgood, an alleged mistress, and her relationship with Poe – and with Mrs. Poe.

Romantic Interlude

Holly here – I am totally hijacking the blog because Amanda is out of town for a few days.

– because she is at my house this weekend!

– because J & I are getting married tomorrow!

If I were a bit more together, I would put together a post about how spending evenings sitting in the family room while J (in his recliner) and I (on the couch, with a cup of tea) are both reading, is among my favorite things to do. However, I’m a little busy this week, so instead, I offer you photographic representation of our life in books: I am reading a book that Amanda demanded I read and Jeff is reading about the civil war. Typical evening (save the fancy dress and professional photographer).


Review: The Poet’s Wives

The Poets’ Wives, David Park


Published April 1st,  2014 by Bloomsbury USA

304 Pages

Source: NetGalley

From Goodreads…


What does it mean to be a poet’s wife, his muse and lover, there for the heights of inspiration and the quotidian of the day-to-day, and oftentimes, too, the drudgery of being in a supporting role to “the great man”?

In this exquisite and sensitive new novel, David Park explores this complicated relationship through three luminous characters: Catherine Blake, wife of William Blake, nineteenth-century poet, painter, and engraver; Nadezhda Mandelstam, whose husband, Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, died in a transit camp en route to Siberia during Stalin’s rule; and Lydia, the wife of a fictional contemporary Irish poet, who looks back on her husband’s life in the days just after his death.

All three women deal with their husband’s fame or notoriety, taking seriously their commitment to the men they married and to assisting with and preserving their work. And this despite infidelities, despite a single-mindedness at the expense of others, and despite hardship sometimes beyond comprehension.

Set across continents and centuries, under wildly different circumstances, these three women exist as a testament to love, to relationship despite the odds, and to art. Deeply insightful and beautifully wrought, The Poets’ Wives is David Park at his best—a novelist who finds dignity and grace away from the spotlight, and who reminds us that art has the power to capture even the quietest of voices.

This was my first David Park book, and I was drawn to the idea of the story of the women behind the poets William Blake, Osip Mandelstam and the fictional Don.  I am afraid that I liked the idea of this book more than the book itself.  There were passages in each wife’s story that were beautiful and eloquent about love, marriage and sacrifice; but these were not enough to pull the whole book together for me.  The three sections just broke from Catherine, to Nadezhda, to Lydia, and I needed something to connect them.  I understand they were all wives of poets-but the lack of a connection of some kind was too harsh for me.

I liked the overlying question of the book, which to me was how much do you have to sacrifice for art?  These women sacrificed comfort, relationships, and independence to their husbands and to the calling of Poetry.  I don’t know that I’d have been willing to make some of those choices. Nadezhda’s story was just heartbreaking and made me want to read more about both her story and her husband’s.  This part of the book was my favorite, despite how sad it was.

I thought the choice to use a fictional character with the lives of these two real women was interesting.  It seemed like Park wanted the reader to feel as much sympathy for Lydia as for the real women and I just could not do that.  I think I would have liked Lydia fine had the book been about her and her family’s’ story entirely.   But I just couldn’t feel as much for someone who chose to stay with a philandering husband (poet or not) compared to a victim of Stalin.

Maybe I should tell Holly to read this as part of her research on marriage?  Because really, some of the passages were very moving.  All of the other reviews I’ve read so far have been positive, so maybe this was just my disconnect-read it and tell me what you think!

2.5 stars.

I received this advanced copy from NetGalley and Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

Reading about Marriage


When J & I announced our engagement last summer, I noticed that people presume a lot of things about weddings. So, and this is completely true, rather than immediately start shopping for a wedding dress, I wanted to read a book about wedding history and traditions. Every time I got a question about dresses or flowers or honeymooning or cake, I wondered where these expectations came from. I wanted the full background – so that I could avoid the patriarchy as much as possible in the planning. (And yes, true that the entire institution of marriage is historically steeped in patriarchy, but I am confident that my pending marriage is not, and I am indeed excited about it. So let’s put that aside.)

Anyway, I downloaded an ebook about wedding traditions months ago, but it turned out to be pretty disappointing. I could have saved $1.99 and just read Wikipedia for all that was included in there. And, it turns out that picking out flowers and dresses and cake has been pretty fun – especially cake.

However, I decided to turn my book search from “wedding” to “marriage,” and embarked on a little reading project recently. Here’s what I read – and what I found.

#1 A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom

history of the wife

This book was basically exactly what I was looking for – it goes through the history of (western) marriage as experienced by the wife, opening with ancient Greek and Roman wives, through medieval European history, to modern American marriages. And of course, seen overall, these thousands of years of history are full of double-standards and one-sidedness, but Yalom includes plenty of first-person narrative accounts of how women perceived their own experiences. The personal accounts really made this book for me.

As she closes out with a chapter on American wives from 1950-2000, Yalom reflects back on how wives – ie, women – of a certain generation are sometimes lumped together, and she points out that this view is not entirely fair. This statement is about contemporary views of the last few generations, though it really could be applied to every “wife” in the book – each individual is obviously not representative of her particular place in history.

As we consider these changes, it is useful to remember that a wife is not a single photo, but a series of photos as one would find in a family album. The women of the fifties were not frozen into perpetual domesticity, nor were their daughters – adults in the seventies and eighties – congealed forever in the molds of feminism and sexual freedom that were characteristic in those decades. People change with the times both with and against the currents they encounter. They change because they interact with members of the next generation, who force them to confront new values and behaviors. And most of all, they change because they themselves age and reach different development stages.”

I like this. What is important to me about my relationship and soon-to-be status of “wife,” does not have to mirror what society has deemed important about marriage. Phew – weight off the shoulders.

#2 Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis

After Yalom’s history, I turned to this trope against the idea of modern marriage. From the description, I thought this book was going to argue that evolutionarily or psychologically or culturally, humans are just not suited for long-term monogamy.

However, that was not in fact the overall point. And, I’ll add here, that I think most of her points sucked. She had four chapters – here is what they were called, followed by my interpretation:

1. Love’s Labors – the relationship-industrial-complex is just another tool in the capitalist machine.

against love

2. Domestic Gulagsbeing in a couple is suffocating, dude. You have to like, think about someone else’s feelings and shit. (Dear Laura, that is called not being an asshole, and is not limited to coupledom)

3. The Art of Loveadultery is really a way to rebel against The Man, so that’s cool.

4. And the Pursuit of Happinesslook at all the politicians who can’t keep in their pants. Must be something in the water!

I could get on board with some of the questions she raises at the beginning, about society’s expectations on marriage and relationships, but this went downhill pretty quickly. Actually, if you read the front cover, it probably starts going down from there. I saw several reviews talk about how funny this book was, but mostly it seemed angry and mean.

#3 All There Is: Love Stories from Storycorps by Dave Isay.

I had to cleanse my mind with a feel-good relationship book. This collection of (very) short stories did the trick. I didn’t know exactly how Storycorps worked until I read the description here, but basically it is an NPR project to capture people telling their own stories, which are recorded and archived and shared in various ways. All There Is  is a collection of love stories from the project.

My favorite contributor, by far, was this guy:

My wife and I were in Philadelphia, and we saw a sign that said SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE. I will never forget it. It had six points to always say to your wife or husband, and the first one was YOU LOOK GREAT. The second one was CAN I HELP? The third one. LET’S EAT OUT. The fourth one was I WAS WRONG. And the fifth one was I AM SORRY. But the last and most important one was I LOVE YOU. That was it. There was six statements, and it said if you follow that, you’ll have a successful marriage. So we followed it, and we did have a successful marriage. If she was working out in the yard, I’d come out: “Can I help you?” And when we’d come home from work, and I knew she was tired, I’d ask her, “You want to go out to eat?” To keep her from working and cooking at the same time.

all there is

It lasted fifty-three years, two months, and five days. It’s been rough, but every morning when I wake up she’s included in my prayers, and I talk to her every night when I go to bed. She was something. One thing: If they ever let me in those pearly gates, I’m going to walk all over God’s heaven until I find that girl. And the first thing I’m going to do is ask her if she would marry me and do it all over again.” – Leroy A. Morgan

I can’t beat that, folks.