Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Ticklish Affair

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

About A Ticklish Affair

A man is blackmailed for a past he never had, and an unrequited love story binds two lovers.
A man waits for his lover, only to be killed at her hands, and a girl takes back her life from her tormentor.
From the bestselling authors of The Peacock Feather comes another delightful offering, A Ticklish Affair, and Other Stories. This collection of short stories has all the ingredients of an unputdownable book. Taken from the daily rigmarole of ordinary life, the stories are given extraordinary twists and turns, leading to fascinating climaxes. The dark undertone of ‘Blackmail’, the power of belief in ‘Spark of the Divine’, the forbidden romance in ‘Ticklish Affair’ or the eternal power of love in ‘Rickshaw Faridabadi’, this collection of stories is sure to move readers to tears of sadness and joy at the same time.

A fabulous read!

A collection of ten short stories, A Ticklish Affair was quite an interesting read. I loved it for the variety it gave to me as a reader. All the various stories covered different themes and as such gave important life lessons through them. Despite the vibe that the title of the book gives it, that of a collection of love stories, the stories are all focusing on different main plots. However, what binds them all together is the conglomeration of basic and universal human emotions like love, faith, hope, self-respect, hatred, the thirst for revenge, etc.

The language was simple and yet very beautiful, and as such, it was easy to read. Moreover, the imagery present was realistic as well. The narrative style used by the author is great and the stories easily suck you in. I really enjoyed these stories and would definitely recommend you pick up this book.

A Ticklish Affair gets 4/5 stars from me!

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Amazon Goodreads

Some other reviews you might like: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter, The Broken Amoretti, The Printed Letter Bookshop etc.

Indistractable : A disappointment!

Indistractable is a self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships. It basically teaches you to be indistractable.

A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.
A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.

Synopsis:

International best-selling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming. Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book.  In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.  Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.  

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

So I tried reading the book. The first few pages went well. However, it is definitive to say that Inditractabke was just not the book for me. I had put it down multiple times. I tried picking it up multiple times as well. But in the end, I think I only read about three-fourths of the total book, that too, with me skipping and skimming a few pages.

For the most part, I felt that towards the second half of the book, the author was simply putting in material to increase the volume of the book and as such the content started to drag, and it could not retain my attention.

For the most part, it felt like a series of anecdotes. I do not personally like that in self-help books and as such, this was again a disappointment.

As such, I have to rate it book a mere 1/5 stars. This book was just not it, for me. I could not relate to it much except for the first few pages.

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

What Your Soul Already Knows, The Intelligence Trap, Brave Not Perfect, The Holy Sh!t Moment, Never Again, The Superhero Soul, Fluid, The Mind Game, etc!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

A beautiful Family saga: The Dutch House

The Dutch House is a hauntingly beautiful family saga following the lives of the inhabitants of the eponymous and magnificent Dutch House.

The Dutch House
The Dutch House is a hauntingly beautiful family saga following the lives of the inhabitants of the eponymous and magnificent Dutch House.

Synopsis : At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

The Dutch House

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a beautiful and haunting saga revolving around the characters, all stemming from the eponymous Dutch House. Throughout the novel, we see the house as a character in itself. It forms an intrinsic factor is affecting the lives of all the people involved. Because of the opulence, this house brings with it with its majestic architecture, it also brings with it a huge responsibility and the issue of image.

The Dutch House’s meaning

 On the one hand, we have Cyril Conroy who had bought this magnificent house as a gift for his wife; it is his pride and he loves it. His children Maeve, and her younger brother Danny love all its nooks and crannies. But on the other hand, to his wife, it is nothing more than a burden, one that intimidates her.

The characters of Sandy and Jocelyn

The house help Sandy and Jocelyn are also portrayed as characters who love the children, the lady of the house and are always permanent fixtures, who, although on the side, are unavoidable and welcome rather. They add the warm bits throughout, showering the children with love and care where there is a lack.

The bold and brave: Maeve

I simply loved Maeve’s character. She is shown as this hard-working and kind soul who just goes on and on even in the face of hardships. I love her role, especially as an elder sister. She is always there for her brother and never hesitates to give up so that he can achieve more.

The indulged brother: Danny

Danny, on the other hand, felt like a bit of a spoilt person to me. He is forever incapable of making mature decisions, I felt and was confused as to what decision to make. He seemed like a passive person most of the time and that makes him a bit unlikeable to me.

The evil stepmother: Andrea

Coming to Andrea, the ‘evil’ stepmother, I feel that she is sort of an enigma. The author has not really provided a solid back story to her and her two daughters which is why I think I have mixed feelings for her. On the one hand, I hate her for being the typical cruel stepmother and on the other hand, my mind is still holding on, unable to let go without knowing more about her.

The Dutch House is a beautiful book

Overall, I loved the way the author has written this beautiful book. It is a truly beautiful and nostalgia-inciting book, one that pulls you into the world. The way the house got back into the particular owner’s hands (I am not going to give you a spoiler), felt as if the story had come to a full circle. In a way, it was satisfying to behold. This has been one of the best books I have read this month, without a shadow of a doubt.

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Links: Amazon, Goodreads

You might also like to check out: Some Very Dignified Disclosures, Let’s Hope For The Best, An American Marriage

How to: Content that is Fast, Cheap and Viral!

fast, Cheap and Viral content!

Aashish Chopra in Fast, Cheap and Viral has tapped into the surprisingly simple but effective means to make viral content!

Synopsis:

In Fast, Cheap and Viral, the ace marketer shares the secrets behind his success – all of them learned and honed on his journey. This one-stop super-guide to viral video marketing gives you the low-down on:
HOW TO GRAB EYEBALLS in a sea of content.
HOW TO DRIVE ENGAGEMENT (because views can be bought, but engagement is earned).
WHY STORYTELLING BEATS PRODUCTION VALUE and behind-the-scenes tips and tricks.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND and kill job insecurity.

For every student, entrepreneur, blogger, marketing manager or leader who dreams of reaching millions on a shoestring budget, this book is the definitive manual on sustainable viral success.

Viral Content:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This is definitely a book that every content creator, blogger, and influencer must-read. It is an engaging masterclass where the author tells of the simple yet the most effective means to make sure that your content is great. Since the book is also written based on the author’s experience, these are all tried and true methods that will surely help if one puts them into use. The only way to find out is to do these things yourself!

Moreover, the author has included illustrations, or rather, infographics, that summarized the already concise and precise words. Each chapter focuses on one key aspect that you need to focus on and the sum total of all, is a book full of tips to make it to the top of the content creation ladder. The inclusion of examples as well as a great method as it made sure that the reader could relate it to real-life events and thus reality.

A content manifesto!

Definitely a very informative and functional read. I rate it 5/5 stars! Stay tuned because an elaborate post is coming up soon!

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47595555-fast-cheap-and-viral
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Fast-Cheap-Viral-Game-Changing-Shoestring/dp/9351952754/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ID0FGT3VEF81&keywords=fast%2C+cheap+and+viral&qid=1572016116&sprefix=fast%2C+cheap%2Caps%2C333&sr=8-1

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The genius that is Salander

The Millenium Trilogy aka my genius girl Lisbeth

I was really very happy when Hachette sent me a copy of THE GIRL WHO LIVED TWICE, the latest book in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo series. The first three books were written by Stieg Larsson, and the fourth, fifth, and sixth are continuations by David Lagercrantz. They follow the brilliant and genius hacker Lisbeth Salander as she strives to assert her independence and continue being the brilliant ‘analyst’ that she is!

Check out this introductory post I made for this readathon!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo aka where we first see the brilliant genius that is Lisbeth

I had loved reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The plot written well, the characters felt real and very dynamic and flawed. The regular skips in the narratives were an interesting choice and kept the reader in line with the thinking of the characters. Salander is an enigmatic girl and I loved her despite her ‘weirdness’. Mikael’s portrayal as a very real and flawed human was great and I loved the way he progressed. The various human emotions portrayed in the book like that of frustration, anger, fear, hatred etc were very multilayered and interesting.

The Girl Who Lived Twice aka where we see more of the genius Lisbeth’s past

The Girl Who Lived Twice was a very plot-driven novel. It followed Lisbeth on another adventurous journey that showcased her genius. However, in comparison to the original Larsson books, this one fell a bit short when it comes to characterization and plot. The beginning was not very exciting and there were some pages I just wanted to fast forward. They weren’t very strong, is what I mean. However, towards the end, as the author brings in the various narratives together and intertwines the plot, it gets so much better. You just have to push through a few pages.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Girl-Who-Lived-Twice-Dragon/dp/0857056379/ref=sr_1_1?crid=Z2UNXSJT3T6X&keywords=the+girl+who+lived+twice&qid=1571900682&smid=APLYOO3IHSCW0&sprefix=the+girl+who+li%2Caps%2C646&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42846882-the-girl-who-lived-twice?ac=1&from_search=true

Lisbeth’s family aka a brood of crazy powerful people

We also get to know a lot of things about Lisbeth’s past and her father (!) and it was exciting to see that about her. However, Camilla Lisbeth’s sister Camilla is no less tough than her, albeit in a different manner. In this book, we also deal with a lot of emotions as Lisbeth races against time to stop her sister. She has feelings of guilt and shame and it is interesting to see her process these feelings.

Overall, it was an interesting read and I rate it 3.5/5 stars.

A Mahabharata based extravaganza!

A Mahabharata-inspired retelling

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I read the first book in this series quite some time ago and from what I remember, that book concentrated quite a bit on the world-building aspect and the construction of the setting. It revolved around the princes and the royal families and their relationships with each other. But in Part 2, which recently was released recently, the focus is given instead on the backstories of the characters, their pasts, and their emotional buildup – all culminating in the ultimate war.

The question about retellings

In the Burnt Empire series, the author has given a fantastic retelling of the epic Mahabharata, but has altered a few essential aspects of it, so as to keep it entertaining. But while this may be a controversial point, I do think that retellings, especially in fantasy, do not have to remain completely true to the original story – if it does, where is the scope for imagination?

World-building

Nonetheless, I think that in this second book, the characters have grown significantly than in the first one. There is clearly a lot of attention given to details and the way the author has intertwined all the different narratives, is a job well done. Banker is meticulous with his description of the world in the book – Arthaloka. His attention to detail is uniquely reflected in the plotline and the reader’s imagination’s eye. The world-building ensnares you completely and leaves no possible exit.  I quite enjoyed the book.

Click here to check out my review of the first book!

The human/moral dilemma

Like in the first book, the author has continued to draw upon the essence of the age of confusion that the Mahabharata implies. There is no longer any binary. There is no clear division between what is solely good and what is evil. Everyone is drawn to a point where they have to or have already made decisions, that were not truly evil but not right, either. The moral conundrum that we humans face is on point in this book. It is dubious, the decisions we personally make sometimes as well as the ones made by the characters in this book.

Verdict:

However, the ending was not… how shall I put it? Not very satisfactory for me. It could have been a bit clearer I suppose. In spite of it all, this Mahabharata retelling – Upon a Burning Throne 2 was an enjoyable read for me. I rate it 4/5 stars.

Title: Upon A Burning Throne (Part 2 of The Burnt Empire Saga)

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Upon-Burning-Throne-Part-2/dp/938679750X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=upon+a+burning+throne+2&qid=1571664653&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47896474-upon-a-burning-throne–part-2

About the reviewer: Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

So this amazing collection of beautiful letters was recently published on the 1st of October, 2019 and I am so happy to have been able to read it. I absolutely love it!

Dear Juliet

So basically this is a collection of only a few of the thousands of letters that people all over the earth write to Juliet.

Yes, the Juliet of Verona. Juliet Capulet. Romeo’s Juliet. Juliet by Shakespeare.

The Juliet Club

If you didn’t know, there is even today the famous Juliet Club, where Juliet’s secretaries reply to all the letters sent to her. It was first started by Giulio Tamassia and a group of artists and scholars in 1972. Today, Giovanna Tamassia directs the club and upholds her father’s legacy. I personally never knew about this club until I saw the 2010 movie Letters to Juliet.

My letter of love

As I read these heartfelt outpouring of love, I realized how many forms of it there are today, which is not to imply that anyone is better or more powerful than the other. This emotion is all-encompassing and kind and caring and love loves to give. As I leafed through the pages, I was touched by the beautiful words – which were spontaneous and intuitive and emotional and some unrefined, but all, beautiful and touching.

I think this is a wonderful book we need to read, especially in present times when we humans seem to have forgotten what it is to love others, and to be kind to others. We have almost relegated this feeling to simply a romantic one, forgetting all the other versions of love that exist, like the love for a sibling, the love for an aging parent and the love for friends.

A visual saga

With scans of original letters sent to the club, in so many different languages, I was blown away by the feeling that the one emotion that binds us all to one another and to life in general, is that of love. We all may have busy lives and be participants in a cut-throat world but to love and be loved is a privilege that we all yearn for, deep inside.

I was very emotional by the time I finished reading this book and I do not think I will really rate or review this book because it was so cavernous a topic. But If I absolutely have to rate it, it will be an astounding 5/5 stars.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43387390-dear-juliet

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Dear-Juliet-Lovestruck-Lovelorn-Shakespeares/dp/1452170568/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571491090&sr=8-4

Some other books you can check out if you liked this one:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
  2. Poets, Artists, Lovers by Mira Tudor
  3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A Review of Walk With Wings, by Tene Edwards

I read this poetry collection over the course of two weeks because I usually read poetry quite slowly so that I actually feel the words and can mull them over. Walk With Wings was an enjoyable read that I delved into. The poems were all divided into 5 sections: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing, and resilience. The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

The pieces here deal with hard work, discipline and the sacrifices we have to make in order to pursue our dreams. They have been so relatable to me and I was in love. It is always empowering in a way – to know that what we are feeling is not just us. So many people are suffering and knowing that gives a sort of strength – if so many others are dealing with these issues, and progressing, perhaps we can too?

A few of the pieces felt like quotes so irked me a bit, but then again, the content is something you can easily relate to and that makes it the best, I think. Self-love and empowerment are the two common threads that link all the different pieces in the book. I think that my personal favourite is Summer Freedom perhaps, because it is a process I am going through myself – I am healing myself by learning to accept my own self. I am de-stigmatizing the faults I had previously found in my skin which had once made me so very uncomfortable in this skin I wear. Very enjoyable read and i rate it 4/5 stars.

#qotd : Do you have certain books you go back to whenever you need some healing?

A suggestion I have is What Your Soul Already Knows by Salma Farook. It is another book that I loved and I keep going back to it. It is a self-help/motivational book. I am generally not much for this genre but this one book was amazing.

The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, 2019

The far Field

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is a debut novel and it is included in the short-list of the prestigious JCB Literary Awards, 2019. It is a beautiful story from what I could make out from the synopsis.

Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

The fact that it had a beautiful cover was a great attractor for me as well. I have been thoroughly loving the book so far. Although it begins on a note of grief, the writing is beautiful. There is a sort of whimsical and nostalgic about the book, from the very first pages itself and I am in love with the writing style. I hope the author brings out more books so that I can get my hands on it soon.

Many readers may argue that the protagonist is problematic – she comes off as self-centered and living in a bubble that essentially separates her from the world around her. Her actions seem immature and the fact that they are repeatedly done is a factor that irked me at times. The overall arch of the book, however, was worth enjoying and I loved every bit of it except the times I was frustrated because of the decisions Shalini took, which were her own. She has an individualistic streak and I am not sure if everyone will enjoy it. It certainly proved problematic for me at some points.  I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

Thanks a lot to Harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this amazing book. I am also hoping to pick up Milk Teeth and Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman followed by Trial by Silence and A Lonely Harvest. I have been following the Award this year and these are the books I intend to read from here.

Do you follow such literary awards? Are you picking up any award-winning books in the near future? If yes, which ones do you plan to?

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

With that catchy title, the book sure did capture my attention from the very beginning. I was excited to pick up the book and although it was a good enough read for me, I think maybe my expectations were too high going in.

The book roughly covers the time period from the arrival of Alexander until the very recent headlines-making event of the 370 article ruling. For those who did not know, the argument of the secret of the Rozabal Line too will be one of a great shock perhaps.

For the most part, the book read like a cross, somewhere between a historical fiction tale, and a political and/or historical textbook. While it does give a solid base to the history of Kashmir’s ‘origin’, the book, I feel, pretty soon turns towards conspiracies and such theories. It is entertaining, yes, to humour them, but I felt that it moved away from the original course it was supposed to have taken. I also believe that this book has the power to capture the reader’s mind and turn it into the direction the authors want them to take – as a certain blurb says, this book is a pretty “forceful statement of the Indian case in Kashmir” and as such, it was not really very neutral. However, in the larger context, bringing in the relation of China is a pretty powerful move and sheds light on some important situations in the past, and hence, the present as well. 

The naming of the various chapters was also done in terms of water, such as Unfathomable Depths, Lashing Waves, Emerging Abyss, Rising Tsunami, etc., and in a way, I really liked that. I feel that these titles really justified the social and political scenario of the times that the chapters were focusing on.

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

Title: The Conspiracy Unknown Book I: The Vengeance of the Fallen

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The story starts with the birth of a prince and the series of events that follow. Fifteen eons ago, the ‘Great War’ was fought between the Anndas and a group of revolutionaries, in which the revolutionaries came out victorious. The Anandas were chased out of the empire and were made to live in the forest like nomads. The revolutionaries named Ragupta Moriya as their king, and thus the Great Moriyan Empire was formed. Great songs and stories were written about Ragupta Moriya and his ten war generals who fought out the evil Ananda Empire. After fifteen years, a plot is made to overthrow the Moriyan Empire. And it all falls on the shoulders of Ragupta to win the battle.

After nearly 2300 eons, the life of Dr Sebastian Stein is under peril. A mysterious man in a black suit is in pursuit of capturing Dr Stein, but Sebastian is saved by his father’s old friend. When Sebastian starts to learn about the death of his father, he realizes there’s no other way to escape but to run for his life.

What exactly happened in Before Clearance Existence (BCE) for it to affect the life of Sebastian Stein in After Clearance Existence (ACE)?

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Conspiracy Unknown: The Vengeance of the Fallen was quite a heavy read. With two different narratives, from two starkly different eras, weaving in and out, it was a story with a great plot, and great storytelling.

So basically, there are two different storylines – in an eon way back in the past, there is the majestic Moriyan Empire. The monarch is King Rasabind, who’s son Hisoka possesses the famed third eye! After he is attacked during his naming ceremony and the attackers surprisingly do not remember any of their action, the king goes on his own hunt to know the truth.

Eons later, in a future quite distant, we have Sebastian Stein who is trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his father’s death. And out of nowhere, he finds himself chased around with threats on his life.  these are two seemingly unrelated things and yet, w strive to understand the root relationship between these people from eons between them.

With this interesting premise, I jumped headlong into the book and it didn’t really disappoint me, but to be honest, I felt like there was a certain something missing. While it is well packed with wars, the thirst for vengeance (as the title suggests), conspiracies etc., I felt that the narrative lagged a bit in parts and may have simple been filler material. Apart from that, the presence of the multitude of characters confused me for a bit in the beginning but then they do not really have much presence later on, so that threw me off a bit. The overall effect could have been a bit more polished. 

Verdict:

It was a good read overall and I rate it 3.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer: Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra, 2019

Title: Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra

Author: Maya Balsi

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis:

It’s common knowledge that Kamasutra originated from India – the “how-to” guide of how to pleasure each other. Many centuries ago they thought deeply into the subject of erotic love. Though in modern India sex is always a hushed subject, something happens behind the closed doors, something never almost never publicly spoken. What can you expect from a society where now also most marriages are arranged by family, where most people have their first sex after marriage, where so many people never even see the naked bodies of their partners?
There are a plethora of stories to be told from every nook and corner of this big country. Stories around love, lust, frustration, despair, loathing – stories around real man and woman and the complications of life.
Nasha is the first compilation of Maya Balsi`s stories. The stories include are :
Red Earth , Blue Sky, Green Sea
The light I see Through Darkness
Never Deny Me Your Laughter
Have A Nice Journey!
We walked in the woods

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The last time I read erotica was when I  tried reading Fifty Shades of Gray. Keyword : Tried. And I couldn’t do it. The details were sort of too explicit for me – it’s not that I am uncomfortable reading about sex, but rather the sex in the book made m so. So for quite some time, I stayed away from them. But then, I also came across books by Alexa Riley and Penny Wylder, and I was quite happy.

A few days ago, the author approached me and asked if I would be willing to review her book. Since I have not read any erotica by an Indian before, and since the synopses of the stories seemed quite good, I decided to say yes. I thought I would pick this book up for some leisurely weekend reading but when I read the acknowledgement, I knew I had to dive right in. Sex is surely a paradox in India because like the author says, and is corroborated by statistical data, there is a huge market revolving around it. And with a rapidly growing population, we know it is not cranes that drop off brand new babies into the arms of eager parents.

In the first story, Red earth, Blue Sky, Green Sea, there was a good buildup of the story and it was quite atmospheric. It is about the sexual awakening of two girls, a silent rebellion against society’s rules, norms and the taboos.  Although short, the characters in this story are well fleshed out.

The second story The Light I See Through Darkness, is one told through the point of view of a prostitute. Her helplessness in well shown here and in a few words, the author has described her mental agony. At 42, the protagonist says that she feels and looks like a grandmother, which in itself shows how difficult her life has been. As she scouts for potential customers, we understand that her main aim is to collect enough money for her daughter’s education. There was one remarkable line said here, and I quote, “Little do they know, we are keeping them safe from the clutches of rogues who would do anything to satisfy their lusts”.  This is more of a magical story with a very unexpected, yet nice, ending.

The third story, Never Deny Me Your laughter, aptly showed the restlessness of our modern lives. Apart from the obvious, there are a lot of human emotions and feelings contained in all of these stories.  Very dynamic in its entirety.

The fourth story is Have A Nice Journey. It featured infidelity so I am not sure how comfortable I am with that because cheating is a big NO for me. This was an okay story, and not one that I enjoyed much, unlike the others.

The last story was We Walked in the Woods. This story did focus a bit on mental health, I felt. It was apt in depicting the moral dilemmas we often face because of our own feelings. Pritha is one such person. There is such an underlying connection between sex and the multitude of emotions that come with it. the ending was open-ended and I was thought of various ways it could have ended.

Nasha was a good read overall. I do think that a bit more editing can be done regarding the typing errors, and some grammatical refining. I also did find certain discrepancies. Nonetheless, this is a book I can easily recommend to you all. If you want to explore the erotica genre more, then this is also a book you can pick up.

Verdict:

I rate this book  a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Merjella, by Yuvaraja Dhayanithi, 2015

Title: Merjella

Author: Yuvaraja Dhayanithi

Publisher: Dreamblooms Media

Genre: Middle-grade

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Synopsis:

Jella, an octopus, is the rightful ruler of Zypher, a kingdom in the sea. But her father was killed and the kingdom was taken over by the evil Chiro. She has no one left but her two little friends, Qwerty and Bingo. Now the task of winning back Zypher and freeing the people is up to her.
Marina is an eminent scientist who has no clue about her contributions to the world. Her inventions are placed in the wrong hands, posing a huge threat to everybody.
Jella finds Marina stabbed and left to die in her sea. In a magical intervention, together they discover each other’s life experiences – but will they be able to reclaim their destiny?

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Merjella was quite an interesting read. Although it is packaged as a middle-grade book, do not be fooled by the cover. There are various lessons that can be learned from it. With a really creative cover, Merjella is quite an easy read. The title has also been apt, for Merjella is the story of the octopus Jella, who is the rightful ruler of Zypher, a kingdom in the sea.

There are various themes explored, like that of friendship, righteousness, realities of life, etc. The author has been able to include the actualities of life into the characters and incidents through the story, and that is certainly a very important and good thing he has done.

With a vivid imagination and fluid writing, along with a unique concept, the author has been able to hook on the minds of the readers. While the story seems a bit repetitive at times, the overall execution was well done. It is certainly a book you can gift the children in your family. 

Verdict:

I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Laugh & Learn with Dr. Parikh, 2019

Title: Laugh & Learn with Dr. Parikh

Conceptualized by: Dr. Samir Parikh, Kamna Chhibber, Divya Jain, and Mimansa Singh

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Synopsis:

Laugh & Learn is a comic series conceptualized to help children navigate various social and emotional challenges that come their way.
In the first volume on STUDY AND EXAM SKILLS, join Addy and Anayka as they learn how to study better, improve their memory and concentration, help their parents calm down, and most of all, have fun with exams!

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

So I and my brother read this book over the course of two weeks. And what a tussle we had! We wanted to go fast but since he was having his exams, I wanted him to implement some new tips every day, as well. From my point of view, I think that the inclusion of the illustrations made it a rally very interesting read. The language is quite easy so children can read it on their own. The comic book style is an innovative step! And the smell of the book was beautiful!

My brother too loved that it is so simple and yet effective. Unlike some other self-help books (and he has read a few), this one does not beat around the bush and directly points out the ways in which students (or adults even) can implement these. I myself inculcated a few from the book – for instance, even though I knew and had used the Pomodoro technique, I had fallen out of it for a few months. So I again went back to that. There are other amazing exercises as well which can be done to improve your concentration etc.

To be very honest, although this book is aimed towards the younger end of the spectrum, I think everyone can benefit from it. I did. It is just that as we grow up we forget the basic rules and tenets that helped us excel back in our schooldays!

Verdict:

Lovely book! 4/4 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Readathon!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or more specifically, The Millennium Trilogy has been an international bestseller and very well renowned. I’ve had the first three books as hard copies for quite a few years now, although I have still not read them yet. However, the synopses of these books have been very intriguing to me.  Moreover, David Lagercrantz has done a continuation of the series, and after hearing all the amazing things about them as well, I decided to pick them up. Of course, the fact that Hachette was coming out with the sixth book The Girl Who Lived Twice, was another major force that pushed me towards this decision. I really am thankful to Hachette for sending me a copy of the latest book!
So without beating around the bush, let me announce that I will be doing a major month-long readathon (23rd September to 23rd October) of this series. You all are welcome to join me.

I have started reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I am really liking the story so far. I am intrigued to see how the author plans to intertwine all the various narratives. I am including the synopsis of all 6 books in this post so, do swipe down to check them out. As far as I know, they are all standalones as well so you can join in even if you have just one or two books from the series. 

#qotd : any specific thriller books you want to pick up next?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption. An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

The Girl Who Played With Fire: Part blistering P thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposé on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy. Lisbeth Salander – the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels – lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web: She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution. Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . . The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye: From the author of the #1 international bestseller The Girl in the Spider’s Web: the new book in the Millennium series, which began with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander – the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others – has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And nothing will stop her – not the anti-Muslim gang she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the deadly reach from inside the Russian mafia of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudo-scientific experiment known only as The Registry. Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

The Girl Who Lived Twice: The sixth in the Millennium series featuring THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

"What will you do now?"
"I shall be the hunter and not the hunted"

The girl with the dragon tattoo is finally ready to confront her nemesis, the only woman who is evidently and in many ways her match. Salander will not wait to be hunted. When she strikes it will be a double blow: vengeance for recent atrocities, and the settling of lifelong scores. For months now Salander has been closing in on her target. She has moved from Stockholm, her hair is newly styled, her piercings are gone. She could pass for any other businesswoman. But not all businesswomen have a Beretta Cheetah beneath their jacket. They do not wield the lethal power of a hacker’s genius. They do not carry scars and tattoos to remind them that they have survived the unsurvivable. The new episode in David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed, internationally bestselling continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series is a thrilling ride that scales the heights of Everest and plunges the depths of Russian troll factories. It begins with the discovery of Mikael Blomkvist’s number at Millennium magazine in the pocket of an unidentified homeless man who died with the name of a government minister on his lips. Blomkvist, at extreme risk to himself, tracks down his old friend and will protect her as far as he can. But he is powerless to crush her enemies on his own. And for Lisbeth Salander, the personal is always political – and deadly.

After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag, 2019

Title: After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published on: 19th September, 2019

Publisher: The Borough Press

Genre: Dystopian/Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The world is mostly water when Pearl is born. The floods have left America a cluster of small islands with roving trade ships and raiders.

Pearl knows little of her father Jacob and elder sister Row, who left her mother Myra when she was pregnant with her. Between them they make do, with Myra fishing and trading to make ends meet, travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat Myra’s grandfather made before he died.

Whilst their life is a tranquil one, Myra still aches for the daughter she once lost. When a chance encounter reveals that Row might still be alive, Myra packs up six-year-old Pearl and together they begin a dangerous voyage to The Valley, where rumours of violence and breeding ships run rampant.

Along the way they encounter death and strangers, finally finding solace on board Sedna – full to the brim with supplies and an able crew – where Myra feels like she might be closer to finding Row than she has ever been. But to get to Row she will have to deceive everyone around her, betraying the trust of those she’s come to love, and ask herself if she’s willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for what might be nothing at all.

My review:

I received a review copy in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

After the Flood was a very interesting read as well as scary to be honest. Scary in the sense that it deals with an issue which might eve turn real in a few years in our future. The dystopian genre is often an unsettling one because at the rate that we are going, the instances portrayed in the books seem very plausible.

After the Flood was one of my most anticipated new releases from the second half of 2019. I was pumped and the book did not disappoint. From the eco-critical point of view this book was a significant one that may well serve as a warning to the present generations. In a futuristic yet primeval world where everything has been submerged under water, Myra and Pearl are a mother-daughter duo who are doing their best to survive in the Westworld like world. Throughout the book we see them struggling with the scenario – they have to depend on fishing for their food and trade with these at ports which have not yet been submerged.

The theme of memory is quite significant here – Myra, for instance, deals with recurring ones of a time when things had been very different. Pearl is a gem and her bond with her mother is quite beautiful. For the most part, we see Myra dealing with her loss of her older daughter and then she keeps on wondering if in pursuing her, she will lose Pearl too?

The other characters were also well made – the unraveling of Abran is a significant one, especially as we see a person undoing their years of hard work because of the stress and pressure they are feeling at the moment.

The story was well-paced, the characters real and tortured in their own ways, and the world a scarily real portrait of what might be our own future one day. The language is easy to read and captivating as the reader grapples with the horrifying scenario that it has become. The adventure is nail-bitingly intriguing, and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times!

Verdict:

 I really loved this book and it just might be the best book I have read so far in the second half of 2019! 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, 2019

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Publisher: OneWorld Publications

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-illusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
Named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection. 

Won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This book left me speechless. I am honestly shook after reading it. An American Marriage is riveting in its honest tone, the tangibility and the rawness was grating on my soul. It was sad, or rather, bittersweet, in a way that reality often is.

The author has made it a story which can be the story of someone we might know – Jones has a magical quality to her writing. The issue of race is an important one here – the one that makes fate take the turn it does. Celestial and Roy are husband and wife until he is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, and sentenced to twelve years. It is at once, the most horrifying thing that can happen to a couple, one that either breaks them or only makes them stronger. These two individuals are bound together by their deep sense of love and yet, separated by the twisted hand fate had dealt.

Societal and familial expectations are often ones that can push a person to be better, or they can become unwelcome burdens on a person’s shoulders. Celestial is a person who has to deal with a lot of pressure – her life is not easy, and neither is Roy’s. As a reader, I could not help but be overwhelmed by the difficult choices these two had to made to just make it day by day.

Stories also play a key role here – many of them reveal details that define the characters and their beings. Often told through letters and flashbacks, An American Marriage was an astounding book, one that I shall be keeping close to my heart always. And thus, it is no surprise that my mother has also decided to pick up this book soon.  

Verdict:

This was devastating and yet utterly moving story, that touched my heart and shook me to the core. 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, 1970

Title: The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family – Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola – in post-Depression 1940s Ohio. Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.

My review:

I read The Bluest Eye for the #tonimorrisonreadathon organized by Vidya @letsdiscussourbooks. Thanks a lot for arranging this readathon!

The Bluest Eye was her first novel, published in 1970, and it is a controversial novel still, for showing themes of incest, child molestation, racism etc. By the time I had finished reading the last page, I was blown away by the lyrical quality of Morrison’s writing. The repetitions sometimes sound like a mantra that beats at your mind as you read of the terrible beauty that is this book.

The shifting narratives offer glimpses into the lives of the various characters – letting us understand how certain past events shaped them into what they were in the present. What is important, is the psychological implications the book also portrays throughout these shifting perspectives. It is a wonder, that Morrison wrote things that still affect the human race today – in that she is a writer on the human tragedies that are eternal and everlasting.

The mental space is a big motif in this book. Later on, when we see a life of Soaphead Church, we can infer from the writing that his disgust against the dog directly reflects his internal feelings toward himself. Much like Cholly, he uses Pecola for his own pleasure, although not in a similar manner.

The Bluest Eye was a beautifully terrible book – for its simplicity, and yet, the stark truth reflected within the pages. No matter what the era, one will always seem to relate on a micro level with the characters, their struggles and hopes and wishes. Replete with the truest essence of humanness, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the best books ever. I rate it 5/5 stars.

(Stay tuned for the full version of the review coming later this week at The North-Eastern Chronicle!)

About the reviewer: Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Raven’s Tale, Cat Winters, 2019

Title: The Raven’s Tale

Author: Cat Winters

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family—the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Raven’s Tale is a fantastical retelling inspired by the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe. It was a truly atmospheric story, one that I read at one go and finished in a night. The physical manifestation of a muse is a truly unique idea that the author has used in the book. It is melancholic and whimsical and a possibly true account in an alternate universe! I like to think that it is.

The character of Edgar is a tragic, sad and yet beautiful rendering of an artist’s life that seemed real – the angst was portrayed well thorough the writing and the reader could relate to Edgar. His character arc was well planned and it seemed gradual and realistic.

In a way, this book also shows what it is like to have parents who have certain expectations for you – expectations that are rigid and more suited to their mentalist and wishes than that of the child. In doing this, the author has smoothly integrated an ever-relatable issue, no matter the times, and an amazing story.

I also liked Lenore although I thought of her to be a bit vengeful at times. On the other hand, Garland is a satirical and ironic part of him. These two personalities show the often contrasting natures we humans find on ourselves which so often confuses us.

The writing is captivating and sucks the reader right in. Cat Winters has done a really great job on this book and if you are a fan of the hauntingly beautiful works of Poe, this is a must-read for you!

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Adulting, Neharika Gupta, 2019

Title: Adulting

Author: Nharika Gupta

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: Englsih

No. of pages: 216

Synopsis:

Social media manager and popular blogger Aisha is flirty and flamboyant … even as she battles personal demons that tell her she must stop eating if she wants to stay pretty.
Ruhi couldn’t be more different from her friend Aisha. Working at Litracy Publishing, she feels grossly underappreciated by the editor-in-chief, who happens to be her mother. What keeps her going are her own ambitions – and her handsome author Tejas.
Bestselling novelist Tejas has a bad case of writer’s block. He leans on Ruhi for emotional support before getting enamoured by Aisha as he struggles to live up to everyone’s expectations, including his own.
Bold and unapologetic, this is a story of love and self-discovery, heartache and book launches.

My review:

I received a review copy from SMA REVIEWS in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Adulting was a pretty quick read and I read it at one go under just a few hours. I have pretty mixed reviews about it though. The plot was okay an had a very realist touch to it which made it a book that is easy to get in touch with and which is believable. The use of other media like to-do lists etc makes it an interesting form.

About the characters – I found them faulty and immature but that is to say, they are also relatable. They are complaining half of the time or playing the blame game but in all that, they are real manifestations of some of our non-finer parts. Aisha is a fashion blogger and the interactions with her audience affect her a lot – whether positive or negative. Psychological problems, as well as eating disorders, are seen through her actions. In her, we see the dangers of addiction to social media – perhaps of what happens when we look to social media for validation.

Ruhi, on the other hand, is a complete contrast. In many ways, we see that she is lacking in the confidence that seems to be bountiful in Aisha. She is still dependent on her mother and this need for validation is what hampers her growth towards her individuality.

Then we also have Tejas who is looking for validation through his works and then through his relationships with Ruhi and Aisha.

What is common to all three of these is that they are all looking for validation in one way or another. There is a sense of discontentment and dissatisfaction among all three which may be a reflection of the lives of all the people today. In that, this novel may well be a physical representation of our modern lives.

Verdict:

I rate this 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Celtic Tales: Fairytales and Stories of Enchantments from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales

Title: Celtic Tales

Illustrated by: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Selkies, wyverns, witches, and giants. Perilous quests, true love, and animals that talk.

The traditional stories of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales transport us to the fantastical world of Celtic folklore. These timeless tales brim with wit and magic, and each on is brought to life with elegant silhouette art in this special illustrated edition.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This was an absolute delight! I am so glad I could read this amazing set of tales, so full of magic and fantasy! I have never read any folktales from these places in the world, to be honest, and I loved every second I was immersed in them!

Separated into the categories of Tricksters, the Sea, Quests, and Romance, the stories all come with some amazing illustrations by Kate Forrester, and as is common to all folktales, morals. I found some similar tales in Nordic Tales as well and so it is really interesting to see that there are such overlaps in all our different cultures too! I absolutely enjoyed it and am giving it to my brother to read!

Verdict:

A gem! 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Shrike and the Shadows, by Chantal gadoury and A. M. Wright – Cover reveal and Review!

And I have an amazing new book for you today! Chantal Gadoury is one of my favourite authors to go to for some amazing fantasy retelling and this time, when she wrote a retelling of Hansel and Gretel (can you imagine?!) along with A. M. Wright, I could not stop still! So I am so happy to be doing a cover reveal for this amazing book! I am also so grateful to the authors for sending me an eARC! I loved every part of it!

Title: The Shrike and the Shadows

Author: Chantal Gadoury and A. M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: Englsih

Synopsis:

Men have gone missing before.
The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has.
When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night – their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps – the village falls into frenzied madness.
Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever. 
With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home.
As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.
The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods.

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Having read Gadoury’s work before and being an avid lover of them, I was totally excited to pick up this Hansel and Gretel retelling! The Shrike and the Shadows is truly one of a kind, and I have never come across such a retelling before.

The book was really full of emotions and action throughout – there was never any boring part and each word weaved together with the other to fulfill the reader’s appetite and also kept him wanting for more. There is an amazing brother-sister bond and the world-building – the setting, to be precise – is eerie and whimsical and almost fantastical. We see various facets of human natures – the Reverend is a bad man who uses his power for all the wrong things and he is a vengeful person too. The same vengeance also shows itself through  Alda and her lies. There is darkness, yes, but there is also the infallible human goodness too – Barin is an excellent example of that.

Throughout the story, we see the characters growing – the character arc of Hans is especially significant to read.

The thrills throughout continue to send chills down your spine and the brilliant imagery rend The Shrike in the Shadows an awesome read.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

I am also featuring this beautiful art piece done by my dear friend Subhalaxmi – this is just how I imagine the Shrike to be! (a more beautiful version, at least!)

Also, all credits go to Gayatri for this amazing edit! Thanks a lot darling! You are always there to help!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark, 2019

Title: Nordic Tales

Illustrated by: Ulla Thynell

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Trolls haunt the snowy forests, and terrifying monsters roam the open sea.
A young woman journeys to the end of the world, and a boy proves he knows no fear.
This collection of 16 traditional tales transports readers to the enchanting world of Nordic folklore. Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, and presented here unabridged, the stories are by turns magical, hilarious, cozy, and chilling. They offer a fascinating view into Nordic culture and a comforting wintertime read. Ulla Thynell’s glowing contemporary illustrations accompany each tale, conjuring dragons, princesses, and the northern lights. This special gift edition features an embossed, textured case and a ribbon marker.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I absolutely was in love with the illustrations in this book. I’m not much of an artist myself, but the chalk/wax crayon-like texture of the drawing was very pleasing to the eye. I read this collection of folktales along with my brother and we were so in love with these that they felt so magical and we longed to delve into these worlds.

Like all folktales and fairytales, these too have morals that are delivered on an entertaining note and are not simply boring and didactic. We could understand so many of the emotions and feelings behind this because I feel that despite the geographical differences and cultural differences etc., every culture has got certain morals etc that it teaches its people.

Nordic Tales is a collection of folktales for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Divided into different sections like Transformation, Wit, and Journeys, these stories have themes of human kindness and tolerance in general, bravery, honesty, love, perseverance etc.

I also love this beautiful bookmark. It is from Damyanti Gharge and she’s a gem!

Verdict:

Totally a 5 star read!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Black Panther, 2019

Title: Black Panther

Author: Jesse J. Holland

Publisher: Titan Books, Bloomsbury

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

He’s known as the Black Panther. His home is Wakanda. Welcome to T’Challa’s world. During the last ten centuries, as European colonial powers spread their guns and armies throughout the continent, the African nation of Wakanda stood alone as an unconquerable land inhabited by undefeatable warriors and filled with incredible technological advancements. T’Challa – the latest in a lineage of warrior-kings – is Wakanda’s Black Panther, a hero endowed with enhanced speed, strength and agility – along with a suit made of the metal that secured his country’s future: the indestructible Vibranium. Now, outsiders have returned to plunder Wakanda’s riches, including its store of the rare metal. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, an assassin with the blood of T’Challa’s father on his hands. Klaw brings with him a powerful army of super-powered mercenaries, all hell-bent on raining death and destruction on this pristine land. Even with Wakanda’s might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against such a massive invading force?

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I had very high expectations from this book honestly. And perhaps that is the reason why I was so very excited to pick it up. The book is very different from the movie and as such if you have watched the movie beforehand, it will probably also be a nice read.

We see T’Challa as having developed into this assertive man who is a just king. His relations with his mother and sister is amazing. Throughout the book, the author has placed in past events through reminiscences made by the characters and it is refreshing to get this perspective into the inner lives. Shuri’s story is especially an interesting one as we get her vies into various traditions of Wakanda and her feelings regarding them. It also portrays her brother as a real man and not just as a divine king. However, I did not particularly like the mother – I think sh way too obsessed with her son.

Klaw on the other hand was an interesting character – both as a villain and as a man with a vengeance. The glimpse offered into the ‘villains’s’ lives in this book was very interesting and their back stories and interrelationships were very interesting as well!

However I was not very interested in this book. I felt that it dragged for a bit to be honest and I am not sure if I will ever pick it up again, at this point. In the last bit especially, I had to drag myself to turn the pages one after the other. I just had no wish to continue reading this book. However, I do think that I will pick up this book and see if I will like it someday.

Verdict:

This was an okay read. I rate it 3/5 stars.

Adity Kay's Emperor Chandragupta & Emperor Vikramaditya

Title: Emperor Chandragupta, Emperor Vikramaditya

Author: Adity Kay

Publisher: Hachette

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis of Emperor Chandragupta, 2016:

Building an empire is not easy, especially when there are enemies everywhere and no one you can trust. India, 326 BCE. The world’s greatest conqueror, Alexander, the Greek emperor, is at its doorstep, having arrived at the Indus seeking to establish his dominion over the entire known world. In the east lies Magadha, ruled by the Nandas, a dynasty driven by greed, lust and hunger for power.  From the embers of that lust and avarice a boy has been born, raised by a tribe of peacock-tamers – a boy named Moriya forced by the Nanda clan to be on the run. Aided by Chanakya, a political strategist at odds with his former rulers, who trains him in the ways of the world and christens him Chandragupta, the young man ventures across the vast Magadhan empire to form an army of his own and seek out the foreign invader. But being a warrior prince, he finds, comes at a heavy price – assassins appointed by the Nanda kings will stop at nothing to eliminate him, a rival prince seeks revenge through cruelty and friends are no longer what they seem… 

This is the story of a youth who must fight against all odds – within and without – to become one of the greatest emperors ever known. This is the story of Chandragupta Maurya. 

Synopsis of Emperor Vikramaditya, 2019:

Love. Family. Home. Chandra has sacrificed it all at the altar of duty. now, he has to choose between duty and justice. India, fourth century CE. Peace reigns in the land of Magadha, under the rule of Emperor Samudragupta. New alliances are made every day, trade and the arts flourish, and Chandra ? the young prince ? leads his father?s horse across the length of Bharatvarsha as a part of the ashwamedha yagna, cementing the emperor?s influence. The kingdom is at its peak, but Chandra?s thoughts are clouded, his heart heavy. As his elder brother, Ramagupta, prepares to take their ageing father?s place on the throne, Chandra, bound as he is to obey the future king, wrestles constantly with his brother?s decisions ? decisions he believes are inimical to the stability of the empire. And so begins a tale of conflict between two brothers: one drunk on power, buoyed by the unmitigated support of the Pataliputra court, the other a seeming outsider in the palace, who yet commands the people?s loyalty and love. And when an enemy unlike any before rises to challenge the Guptas? might, Chandra must overcome his demons in order to protect his people and become a king in his own right ? he must become Vikramaditya. 

A brilliant new historical fiction series by Adity Kay, Emperor Chandragupta and Emperor Vikramaditya, is filled with action, adventure, battles, politics, and family drama! I had great fun curling up with these as the heavens poured outside, and even as the sun shined on. 

Disclaimer: I received review copies from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

My review for Emperor Chandragupta:

In Emperor Chandragupta, we follow the young Moriya, as the eponymous  ruler was known back when he was a child, growing up in a tribe of peacock tamers, from his childhood to his mighty reign over the great kingdom of India. This journey from such obscurity is a long and arduous one and  the author has successfully touched upon most, if not all, of the important events from is life.

The atmospheric sense is amazing. The description of the world is enough to make you feel as if you are part of the India of those times, and the events are happening in your own lifetime. The ambience is glorious and encompasses the extravagant courts at Pataliputra and Alexander’s camp, as well as the natural scenes of the dry deserts of the west.

The characterization of Chandragupta and Chanakya was profound. Aided by his mentor, Chandragupta ultimately overpowers the great Magadhan Empire. The interrelationships among the various other characters were also well explored, although a few could have seen more depth. The political aspect, which is undoubtedly one of the most important in a novel of this type, was also well portrayed through the various glimpses into the administrative system, the perception of dharma and how it influences human actions, the search for allies etc was on point. There is adventure as well, and action, that is bound to keep you in the edge of your seats.

My review for Emperor Vikramaditya:

A prequel to Emperor Chandragupta, Adity Kay’s Emperor Vikramaditya was a well awaited book for me. I had picked up the first book and was mesmerized by it. So after finishing that one, I was absolutely very excited to pick up the sequel as well.

Vikramaditya is the younger son of King Samudragupta, he was also called the Chandragupta II. Throughout this book we see the constant struggles he faces – it is a lot about people facing their fears I suppose. Chandra does not at all agree with his elder brother Ramagupta’s viewpoints. Like Dumbledore once said, it is easy to rise up against one’s enemies, but the greatest courage lies in standing up against one’s friends. Likewise, as Ramagupta starts making decisions, which are harmful for the country in the long term, young Chandra has to plunge headfirst into trying to stand up against what he believes are wrong views of his profligate brother.

With a lucid writing style, Adity Kay has again managed to drown the readers into the story of this legendary figure in India’s history. The gripping narrative is supported by a great plotline, full of emotions that are real and so very relatable, with characters that feel so real you could probably touch them, and dialogues. Filled to the brim with action and adventure, Emperor Vikramaditya was a stunning sequel to the first book in the series – Emperor Chandragupta.

Verdict:

I had an amazing time, reading the books. I rate them both 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Are you Game?, by Sarav, 2019

Title: Are You Game?

Author: Saravana Kumar Murugan

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

The reality game show ‘Are you Game?’ is all set to be aired in the first week of August. The show is already an internet sensation due to the norms, and the selection process. It’s the first-of-its-kind-show to be broadcast live on YouTube. The game show has three rigorous challenges. Participants are to select one and live with the challenge for 30 days. Whoever makes it to the thirtieth day would be awarded One Crore Indian Rupees. No upper cap on winners.
The gorgeous Niharika and handsome Nirav are all set to host the show. Ms. Eye would play the invisible Boss. Simi, a reporter from lastpost.com, also Nirav’s ex-girlfriend, will cover the show offline. The three beautiful ladies, Sikha, Ragini and Sanju, opt for the sexiest challenge. The four machos, Akshay, Vinay, Vivek, and Raghav, along with Julie, opt for the simplest challenge. While Veer, a transgender, opts for the pill challenge. 
Can they do it for 30 days?
Simi calls Nirav a sex-animal while covering the show on day two. Can they mend things and fall in love again? Sikha and Akshay fall in love, too, but can they sustain the challenge?
Who will make it to the winning line to deliver the winning speech at the award ceremony?

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Are you Game? Was a brilliant concept of a novel. In a lot of ways, this book teaches us the perils with the various bad habits we humans cultivate, without thinking of our actions. ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ is a slogan seen everywhere. We scoff at it and says, “What’s one cigarette going to do? Kill me?” What we do not think about is that one by one this intake increases and by the time we’re in or mid 40s or 50s, the harm is already done. There are so many cases of lung cancer today, apart from a slew of other diseases that arise from this bad habit and yet, we are least bothered by it.

Through other characters too, the author tries to portray the thinking of a few people of the society – how the size of a girl’s clothing is directly indicative of her ‘character’. The smaller the pieces of fabric covering her body, the looser her morals will be. It is a degrading view on women as well as a mirror of the people’s thinking as well. The characters portray all these dilemmas very well.

The one thing I have issues with is the relationship between Nirav and Simi. I think their narrative, although intertwining with that of the participants’ in the show, could have been a bit more clearer. The suffocation bit at the end is one where I faltered especially.

Nonetheless, this was a good book and I hope it will help people understand the folly of their thinking, regarding themselves as well as others.

Verdict: I rate this book 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Delayed Rays of a Star, by Amanda Lee Koe, 2019

Title: Delayed Rays of a Star

Author: Amanda Lee Koe

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publishing date: July 9, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 389

Synopsis:

A dazzling novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women–Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl–cinema legends who lit up the twentieth century

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star, playing for bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father’s modest laundry; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director would first make her famous–then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women’s lives. From Weimar Berlin to LA’s Chinatown, from a seaside resort in East Germany to a luxury apartment on the Champs-Élysées, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, muse, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. And in the orbit of each star live secondary players–a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director–whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours.
Amanda Lee Koe’s playful, wry prose guides the reader dexterously around murky questions of ego, persona, complicity, desire, and difference. Intimate and raw, Delayed Rays of a Star is a visceral depiction of womanhood–its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals–and announces a bold new literary voice. 

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Delayed Rays of a Star is an exhilarating read delving into history and the lives of three women with an epic intensity. Spanning from the 1920s to the early 2000s, this novel tells a fictional story of real life actresses – Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl. Delayed Rays of a Star has been inspired from a photograph of these 3 women, that was clicked at a soiree in 1928 Berlin. Although these three women are the protagonists, you could say, there are a few more secondary characters in the book –  Marlene’s caretaker, the lighting staff on Leni’s team, the gay German soldier etc.

For the most part, this seemingly simple and ambiguous novel reads quite fluidly. There are so many issues that are discussed here. For instance, there is sexism – the most prevalent one, I think. As women, the three protagonists had to go through a lot to be where they are. It is in Leni’s story where it is the most prominent I think. As one of the three protagonists who gets a whole section for her own voice, Leni is a character who has often been judged and misunderstood often.

There is also racism – and no one perhaps experiences this more than Anna May. In all her movies, she is never cast as the lead, always being passed over to make way for white actresses – because she is ‘too’ Chinese.

Another theme is that of sexuality. Marlene was a woman who was famous in her heydays. It is unfathomable to understand how she slept with both men and women and got away with it. the instance in the book where Anna and Marlene are in the washroom, and the aftermath, is a clear indication that Marlene was very comfortable in her own skin. Nonetheless, it is impossible to imagine how she got away with it during those times.

Delayed Rays of a Star is also a very intense read if you truly understand the subtle themes spoken of, here. Divided into three main sections, followed by three sub-divisions each, where each section follows one of the three main characters. The character arcs of these women are commendable. However, I was disappointed that Leni was not very involved with the other two after the party. I had hoped to see more of an interrelationship among the 3 women, apart from their common instances in life.

The question of politics really comes into play with Leni. I did some research and she truly was a director of Nazi propaganda films. As such, a lot of her being is kind of complicated – how can you separate the art from politics and if it should or should not be done; if it was necessary to separate the artist’s political ideologies from his art.

Amanda Le Koe has truly written a definitive work on women’s lives and including these real life characters along with a few of their real life actions and beliefs, was a great culmination in Delayed Rays of a Star. Considering that this is her debut novel, I can only imagine the pressure that lies on her shoulders now for any future works.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars!

About the author:

Born in Singapore and currently based in New York, Amanda Lee Koe is the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her first short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic (Epigram Books, 2013), which was also shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Internationaler Literaturpreis, and the Frankfurt Book Fair’s LiBeraturpreis.

The working manuscript for her first novel, Delayed Rays of a Star , won the Henfield prize, awarded to the best work of fiction by a graduating MFA candidate at Columbia University’s Writing Program; the book is forthcoming from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (U.S.) and Bloomsbury (U.K.) in summer 2019. 

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Case that Shook the Empire, 2019

Title: The Case that Shook the Empire

Author: Raghu Palat and Pushpa Palat

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 187

Synopsis:

30 April 1924.

At the Court of the King’s Bench in London, the highest court in the British Empire, an English judge and jury head the case that would change the course of India’s history: Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab – and the man whose policies led to the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre – had filed a defamation case against Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair for having published a book in which he referred to the ‘atrocities’ committed by the Raj in Punjab.

The widely-reported trial – one of the longest in history – stunned a world that finally recognized some of the horror being committed by the British in India.

Through reports of court proceedings along with a nuanced portrait of a complicated nationalist who believed in his principles above all else, The Case that Shook the Empire reveals,  for the very first time, the real details of the fateful case that marked the defining moment in India’s struggle for Independence.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Case that Shook the Empire tells us of the real truth, we hardly find in our history books. I myself had been unknowing of so many facts surrounding the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and this book was critical in informing me of the great man who dared.

When it comes to the writing, the book reads like a story. Beginning with a section on Sir Nair’s life, we slowly are introduced to the Punjab section, where the authors tell us or rather show (such is the vivid imagery) the atrocities inflicted on the Indian people. Leading up to the massacre, and the aftermath as the court proceedings take place, this is without doubt one of the most important events that marked a defining moment in India’s struggle for independence. The court proceeding scenes were just as intriguing to witness as well. It is a horrific tale that details the facts we have never read in our history books. I love how the writing flows smoothly, making it a good read. The authors also ensure that the reader is not bored – not that the events covered will let anyone rest. It is a tumultuous read that left me teary-eyed at some points, while at others, with gooseflesh at the back of my neck. However, I did find the text a bit repetitive at times.

The authors have also pointed out the differences in opinion between Nair and Gandhi. Gandhi and Anarchy is a book I intend to pick up soon. One of the things that was shown was that Sir Nair was a real character – he was a bit flawed at times, if you have certain perspectives – but he was unapologetically loyal to the principles he had for himself. He always strived to live up to those standards and ensured that he did his best at all times. His character is truly an inspiration for so many of us.

Verdict:

This was an informative read that I really felt genuinely while reading. I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Very Nice , by Marcy Dermansky, 2019

Title: Very Nice

Author: Marcy Dermansky

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

A brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, race, and bad behavior in the post-Obama era, featuring a wealthy Connecticut divorcée, her college-age daughter, and the famous American novelist who is seduced by them both.

Rachel Klein never meant to kiss her creative writing professor, but with his long eyelashes, his silky hair, and the sad, beautiful life he laid bare on Twitter, she does, and the kiss is very nice. Zahid Azzam never planned to become a houseguest in his student’s sprawling Connecticut home, but with the sparkling swimming pool, the endless supply of Whole Foods strawberries, and Rachel’s beautiful mother, he does, and the home is very nice. Becca Klein never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after her divorce, but when her daughter’s professor walks into her home, bringing with him an apricot standard poodle named Princess, she does, and the affair is…a very bad idea. In a darkly hilarious novel that zigzags between the rarified circles of Manhattan investment banking, the achingly self-serious MFA programs of the Midwest, and the private bedrooms of Connecticut, Marcy Dermansky has written an audacious, addictive, and wickedly smart take on the way we live now.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Very Nice was a fairly fast-paced novel – that read like a soap opera. It certainly was fun to read this book and I believe it was the perfect summer read, to be read by the pool. The story is told through various characters’ povs so we see varying perspectives in the alternating thread of storytelling. It is linear with a fluid writing that reads really well.

We have Rachel, a college student who has a crush on her creative writing professor – Zahid Azzam, who is also a well-renowned author. She seduces him, they have sex and Rachel starts thinking that he likes her for it. However, everything is not as it seems. For instance, the characters portray something else – a sense of individuality and accomplishment, you could say, but underneath it all, there are such conflicting emotions. By a chance of fate, Zahid ends up living in Rachel’s house and has an affair with her mother, Becca. However, Dermansky has played well with the creation of the interrelationships among the various characters in this book. It seems everyone is related to everyone in one way or the other. The way their threads are intertwined proves to be a very interesting read.

The book also has various themes peeking out through the various narratives. With Khloe, we see the misogynistic nature of the world that she has to face in her finance job. Becca deals with dissatisfaction and a sense of acute restlessness and incompleteness. Jonathan deals with the fleeting sense of joy as he leaves his wife Becca for the much younger Mandy, only to slowly realize that it is not how he wants to live. The inner monologues of the characters, especially that of Rachel, is very interesting. The idea of self-image and self-identity is very important here too. we see Zahid struggling with it, and we also see Rachel struggling with the idea or the image she has of Zahid. There is also inclusion of political themes such as gun laws (in relation to the incident faced by Becca once, as she was confronted by Amelia’s brother), varying political ideologies etc. the manner of writing is quite electric to be honest, and at first I was not sure of what I felt regarding the short sentences. I found it weird, but not bad though. After a while, I got used to it and quite enjoyed it, in fact. 

Despite all the differences in the characters’ personalities, and, they are human – and flawed in a way we all can also certainly relate to. It was very easy to relate to the characters. I felt so accomplished myself when Zahid’s writing was going well, for instance.

The writing continues to be witty, and although the author deals with some abject issues, it is still fun and a buoyant read overall.

Verdict:

An enjoyable read, I rated it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Reign of Mist and War of Mist reviews!

Hey guys ! So if you remember, sometime back I reviewed Heart of Mist, book 1 of the Oremere Chronicles. I had rated that book 5/5 stars, with opes to pick up the sequels ASAP! And today, here are the reviews for book 2 and 3 of one of my favourite fantasy series of all time now!

Reign of Mist, 2018

Title: Reign of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 441

Synopsis:

The realm’s darkest secret is out.
The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents.
On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak’s friends are forced to decide where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust.
But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.
Intriguing and action-packed, Reign of Mist is the second instalment in Helen Scheuerer’s epic YA fantasy series, The Oremere Chronicles.

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

My love for this series seriously continues and it was proved by the fact that I finished book 2 in a day as well! Reign of Mist is the second instalment in the Oremere Chronicles and I picked up this book as soon as I had finished the first one – Heart of Mist. The mysteries continued to gnaw at me and the amazing world-building of the new setting was spellbinding.

We see themes of animal abuse, courage in the face of hardships (which is an admittedly a repeated theme throughout the series, I suppose), human fear, greed, torture etc. Sisterhood is another theme that runs throughout the novel and it is one I completely adored. This bond that is formed among many of the female characters in the novel was great to read and explore, as varying facets were revealed.

The truth about Dash’s heritage came as a shock. I had truly not expected it and was therefore hit by this barrelling force, right at the face. Swinton’s story is delved into in this novel and this aspect of his past really made me see him as a human and not just a killing machine of the king. His character has become so much more dynamic and I can only wait with baited breath as to what the author has got up her sleeves. Besides, his budding romance with Therese is beautiful and I hope to read more of it. On the other hand, we see some very twisted characters – Ines and Langdon, some sadistic ons, who relish hurting others. The plague can also be seen as another character in itself, which destroys so much more than it reveals the identity of the people.

Other characters such as Casimir and the Tailor of Heathton were well introduced and I hope to see more of their development in the next novel. I love the fun their banter provided. Casimir’s display of power was one that truly took my breath away and the writing felt real and exquisite. I felt as if I was truly in the room along with the characters.

Another thing that I love about this author’s writing was specially her ability to bring together various events whose significance had not been starkly clear earlier. For instance, when we realise it was Ethelda whom Bleak had met so long ago, it was a calming event – as if we are moving to a full circle. I also applaud the manner in which the author has been able to bring together and tie up all the loose ends to provide an explanation; it was really very welcome.

A lot of the portion in this book is about the preparation for war. Throughout the novel, we see the relationships form among all our different characters and I loved their interactions. I was so excited and anxious as everyone moved to Havenesse because their meet up was something that was completely unpredictable. And especially the long awaited meeting of the two sisters caused me quite an emotional upheaval.

Verdict:

My love for this series only seems to continue to grow. I rate this one a total 5/5 stars!

War of Mist, 2019

Title: War of Mist

Author: Helen Schuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fanatsy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 500

Synopsis:

War is here.
Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conqueror queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm.
Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. 
But the search is a treacherous one – and it will push her to the very limits of endurance. 
Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they’ll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough?
As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.
Explosive revelations, heart-wrenching betrayals and breathtaking magic soar in the epic conclusion to Helen Scheuerer’s bestselling trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

War of Mist is the third and final installment in the Oremere Chronicles by Helen Scheuerer. I have loved and given 5 stars to the first book – Heart of Mist, as well as the second – Reign of Mist.

This book picks up from one month after Reign of Mist ends. The Prologue here itself gives us a glimpse into Ines. Her character is something very dynamic. And it is here that we are given such views of her past. As such, we see her varied personalities throughout the years and although it explains why she has become the way she is, it is never an excuse. However, it is also an unavoidable fact that trauma often shapes some of us into non desirable beings, I suppose. Ines is alluring, and that cannot be debated. Her power is like a flame that I as a reader, was utterly drawn towards.

A lot of the story in this book is told through somewhat of a treasure hunt, including Bleak, Ermias and Casimir as they put their wits together, face their monsters, share their fears and form better and deeper bonds for it. The revelation of Fi’s heritage was welcomed wholeheartedly by me. He deserves the world and I need to see more of him.

The everlasting war of morality – of good versus bad, is again portrayed here. Moreover, the theme of justice and duty is a continuing presence in this novel, as in the other ones, although nowhere has it been more pronounced. Someone rightly said that duty is the death of love. Every so often, we see the darkness take over Bleak. In my own interpretation, it is trauma and depression and I love how real it made these characters – having their own struggles. No one is perfect and yet they are all trying and not giving up. No truer words were said than when Henri had quietly claimed that life was not always black and white – so much of it is grey! No wonder we humans suffer so much and are confused at so many times!

One of the greatest character arcs in this novel is undoubtedly that of Swinton. I love him and his redemption was powerful to read about. We see him changing and growing throughout the series and in this last one, he is transformed into a wonderful man – flawed but real and accepting of these flaws, with the hope to become better. I also loved the final stand all the characters take together and the writing was great enough to give me goosebumps.

And oh my god! I did not see that coming with the ‘madwoman’!!! That was so very shocking.

PS. You just need to pick up this series!!!!!!!!!!!

With some shocking betrayals, War of Mist was a fast-paced final novel in a fantasy series that has made me a lifelong fan of the author. The suspense that the author flavours this book with, is perfect and the final result is an experience that will keep you reeling.

Verdict:

Needless to say, I loved this book too and just like the first two instalments in the Oremere Chronicles, I rate War of Mist 5/5 stars too!

With Love, Forever, by Kavya Janani, 2019

Title: With Love, Forever

Author: Kavya Janani U.

Genre: Romance

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 403

Synopsis:

The vibrant 11th grader Bhavana had never believed that love was a powerful force until it happened to her – for the first time, towards a stranger who was as different from her as could be. A Tamil girl from a privileged background suddenly finds herself head over heels for a Marwari textile shopkeeper, Jairam, a stranger she knew precious little about.

In the world that is just at the cusp of the technology boom, Bhavana’s love story takes baby steps, with support from her friends amidst their dubious questions. But before it has a chance to develop into a full-fledged relationship, Jairam disappears without a trace. Her desperate searches on the fledgling social media giving no results, Bhavana has no means to contact him or even assure herself of his well-being.

Six years and a few life-altering experiences later, Bhavana embarks on a journey to the Pink City, Jaipur, in search of Jairam. Armed only with five love letters devoid of any personal identification details, she travels 2185 kilometers in search of answers, closure, and a lost love.

Will her subsequent heartbreaks have changed her as a person? Was her love towards Jairam going to be tested? Would she know the answers she was seeking, and if she did, would she like them?

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

With Love, Forever was a good story encapsulating a love story that people who were in their teens in 00s can relate with. It is one such story with classic star-crossed pair – with Bhavana and Jairam belonging to two opposite sides of the spectrum.

There are themes of love and with it, that of heartbreak, family, friendship etc. shown through the instances in the book. The author has merged all of these together into a story that seems real to the reader. The inclusion of the family dynamics was well thought out as in those days, maintaining a relationship or even a budding romance, for instance, was hard as hell. The spectrum of human emotions displayed through the characters was very real and grips the reader.

Most importantly, the character arc of Bhavana was a great one and shows her development from a precocious teenager in to a beautiful and confident young woman.

The writing is fluidic and easy to understand. The editing is well done and that is such a great relief. The inclusion of the quotes at the beginning of each chapter was like a foreshadowing and I loved that. The framing devices – story within a story was commendable. The mystery aspect that was added was great too. Overall, it was an enjoyable and light romance that I enjoyed!

Verdict:

I rate this book 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Kavya Janani is the author of 21 Pearls, a collection of multi-genre short stories and the science-fiction short story ‘Somewhere In A Song’. She started writing from the age of ten and published a few stories in her school magazine. She has published many short stories in YourStoryClub, Readomania and Tell-A-Tale websites. She has won Editor’s Choice Award for her stories ‘One Last Time’, ‘Christmas Eve’, and ‘Man Booker Prize’ and Story of the Month Award for ‘Man Booker Prize’ in YourStoryClub website. Apart from being a writer, she is a professional singer, Bharatanatyam dancer, keyboard player, and a bibliophile. She owns a blog named Musings Lounge (http://kavyajanani.wordpress.com) where she rambles on random topics and shares her personal experiences. She is a B.Tech graduate in Information Technology and works as a Junior Associate in State Bank of India. She currently resides in Chennai along with her husband Paramaguru.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Broken Amoretti, by Sudipto Das and Aparajita Dutta, 2019

Title: The Broken Amoretti

Author: Sudipto Das, Aparajita Dutta

Publisher: Olive Turtle, in imprint of Niyogi Books

Genre: Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 296

Synopsis:

“Unusually bold narrative… Almost lyrical in nature” Times of India

To begin afresh, after her broken marriage, Saoli returns to India and starts living in Prembajar at the house her grandfather had bought from Bitasta’s father. While cleaning the house, Saoli comes across an old diary, perhaps belonging to Bitasta’s mother, Panchali. The diary has a very cryptic poem written in dactylic hexameter, the archaic meter of the ancient Greek epics. Aware of the fact that Sairandhri didn’t let her son, Parush, marry Bitasta, even though Sairandhri and Bitasta’s mother were the best of friends, Saoli gets in touch with the reckless Parush, recently accused in a high-profile IP theft case in the US. As Parush tells Saoli about his heedless and shattered life, his unrequited love affair with Bitasta, his lifelong hatred for his mother, and his topsy-turvy corporate career in the US, Saoli unearths the darkest secrets 
hidden in the cryptic poem for so long. 

Why didn’t Sairandhri want Parush to marry Bitasta? Why was Bitasta the only person she wished to see on her death-bed? Why had she been nothing more than a beautiful but lifeless mural at home? The cryptic poem has the answers. 

Join Saoli and Parush in their journey to decode the past and discover their real identities, where love can never be chained by stereotypes. It’s time to set love free!

My review:

I received a review copy from a PR agency in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

So I had no idea this book would contain so many Greek references when I picked it up. Anyway, The Broke Amoretti is a story told through Saoli’s perspective, a woman who has recently separated from her husband and has settled as a lecturer at IIT Kharagpur. She meets Parushni in a seminar and the story begins from then on. Parush and Bitasta had a famous romance although Parush’s mother Sairandhri never let him marry the woman he loved, despite the fact that Bitasta’s mother Panchali was her bosom friend. It had always remained a mystery and as Saoli tries to decipher the meaning of the enigmatic poem she finds in Panchali’s diary, we come to know more about this story.

The character of Saoli was with multiple layers – she is suffering after that separation from her husband. She is a brilliant scholar, and she is also a kind friend. However, at times I found that her reactions to things that were not actually right (in terms of literature) was contemptuous and I am not sure that I something I appreciate in people, to be honest.

Moreover, Bitasta was not a likeable character for me. It seemed as if she had a chip on her shoulder and I did not like the way her behaved with Parush. It was just too complicated for me.

The most important themes shown here is the LGBTQ spectrum of love and relationship, especially in India. Parushni and Saoli in fact have a common theme in their papers – lesbianism, back when they first met. This theme itself runs and weaves so many events together in the story, it proves to be an important one not just in societal aspects but in terms to the story as well.

There is an inclusion of Greek mythology throughout the book. For instance, Rikshi and Kalyani are compared to Artemis and Callisto. The juxtaposition of Greek mythology against Tagore, Kalidasa’s stories and poems abounded the book. While I appreciate the authors’ attempts at this inclusion, I am not sure if they gelled well, although they did seem to, superficially. Another thing I did not like was that there were too many characters and their interrelationships were too complex for me to remember.

However, the writing style is lovely. Literary allusions are always welcome to read about and I enjoyed them very much. The inclusion of various subplots and doing away with the Unity of action was well done.

Verdict:

I rate this book 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Silence Between The Spaces, by Abir Sinha, 2019

Title: Silence Between The Spaces

Author: Abir Sinha

Genre: Poetry and Prose

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year 2015 award, Abir Sinha is the best-selling poet of the book Noora- a collection of poems which was launched by the Commerce Minister Shri. Suresh Prabhu. Silence between the Spaces is the second collection of his poetry and prose which talks about taking that long arduous journey into yourself. Get comfortable with peeling the layers off to know who you really are.

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I read this book for the Reading Rush 2019 Challenge, for the prompt Read a book in the same spot the entire time.

The poet has divided all his poems into 4 sections and named them well as –

  1. ‘Ibtida’ The Beginning
  2. ‘Justuju’ The Quest
  3. ‘Muntazir’ Awaiting
  4. ‘Maktub’ It is Written

The pieces in Silence Between the Spaces are all very relatable for us. They deal with everyday things that as individuals w can all relate with in one way or the other. I love how these pieces do not conform to the contemporary poems that revolve so much around romantic love. This collection is a nice change from that.

The themes of the human struggle, our everyday grind, as well as self-love are very common here. I hope how the poet has included these important issues – literature has an immense power to influence the reader and as such, I do believe that the author/poet has great responsibility on him. In this collection, I applaud the poet for including these important topics within the poems.

The author also speaks of our constant dissatisfaction – our never ending wants; we, human beings have become so greedy that we are never satisfied or happy despite all our materialistic richness. The struggle in the cutthroat world that we all face – the immense tension and stress that we are all subjected to, is also explored here.

Glimpses of nostalgia, chaos, the concept of ‘home’, the inability to move on, mental health etc are also seen here. Some of my favourites from this collection are The Hardest Lesson, Workaholic, Magnitude of Pain, Put Yourself First, Bottled Up, What Balance?, The Real Competition, Stir, Exhale etc.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable and deep read. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

Also I’ve been continuously using this #readersjournal ‘Well-Read Women’ by Samantha Hahn from Abrams Chronicle Books! I have been using it to record all the books I’ve been reading recently and it has been a great help for me to record my immediate raw and unfiltered reactions!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides, 2019

Title: The Silent Patient

Author: Alex Michaelides

Publisher: Orion Books, Hachette

Genre: Thriller

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 339

Recommended for: All domestic thriller fans

Synopsis:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Silent Patient had been in my TBR for a really long time. I had loved the premise and being a fan of domestic thrillers, this one topped my wishlist. As such, I was so grateful when Hachette wanted to send a copy my way! I ended up picking this book for the Reading Rush Challenge 2019, where I read it for the prompt – Read an author’s first book. It was a great decision by the way and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I finished it in under 24 hours (I forgot to clock my time) and then, recently, my mother also picked it up. I waited this long for the review, because I also wanted to include my mother’s perspective on the book.

In this book the author is talking about this enigmatic woman (atleast Theo Faber considers her enigmatic) who has allegedly killed her husband and gone silent. ‘Allegedly’ is a term I use loosely. There are some people who are convinced of her doings and there are still some left who believed that she is indeed innocent. I love the manner in which this book is written – it is very matter-of-fact I believe, and so you are bound to feel as if it is happening to real people you know. The addition of the personal drama in the lives of both the people, especially of the narrator Theo Faber, is a great touch as it gives a certain depth to the story.

This book is truly a page turner. As a reader, you are bound to just keep on reading and keep turning the pages on and on. Moreover, this is a really different type of a domestic thriller, I think. Because in most other books of this genre, we have an unreliable narrator, however, that is entirely not the case in this book. The narrator is Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist as opposed to some deranged wife, who is unreliable because of her mental health, or alcohol problems etc.

The themes of emotional trauma – both in their childhood as well as adult life is rife throughout. The human psyche is depicted wonderfully through a myriad of various characters.


The only problem I and my mother had, was that the time frame was not very clear to us. We thought that the way the two storylines (I am so not revealing anything! You need to pick up this book ASAP!) We carried out, was not enough to clear the doubts regarding the time frame surrounding the actions. We could not decipher the events from the time frame provided – whether they are happening simultaneously (which we felt was happening) or in the past or future.

However, we did enjoy the book and that twist was not really expected! I did hint at something like that but nonetheless, that twist had me close the book and sit for a while, shocked and wondering how the hell I did not see that coming.

Verdict:

We really enjoyed this book and rate this one a 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

Born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother, I studied English literature at Cambridge University and got my MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. I wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. THE SILENT PATIENT is my first novel.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Kosher Delhi, by Ivan Wainewright, 2019

Title: The Kosher Delhi

Author: Ivan Wainewright

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 320

Synopsis:

Vik is a twenty year old English boy of Jewish/Indian mixed heritage. He wants to become a chef, but his experiences of racism in restaurant kitchens hold him back.

Until he meets Yvonne: Scottish activist, hedonist, who strives vehemently for social justice. She shows Vik what he has been missing in life.

Vik is increasingly exposed to further bigotry, and witnesses homophobia in his community, with more violent and fatal outcomes. And as Yvonne ventures into the music scene, their relationship becomes increasingly strained. When Vik reaches a point where he can’t ignore his issues any further, will he stand up for what he believes in?

Set in the early 1990s, the novel follows Vik and Yvonne on their journey from Leeds to London to New York. A contemporary novel with a lot of food, plenty of music and the zeitgeist of the era. The issues and themes will strike a chord with anyone who is concerned with inequality or struggled in their own relationship.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

As the book opens, we are introduced to Vikram Cohen, aka Vik, who is an aspiring chef, with Jewish-Indian roots and Yvonne, a Scottish woman and a very politically conscious activist. In the first few pages we see how a small argument becomes something bigger, culminating in a sort of accident which makes them run away to London.

Vik seems like a person who is not as ambitious as we perceive Yvonne to be, and there were a few times when I was thinking that Yvonne held all the reins in this relationship – and not in a good way either. At times, I found her to be very aggressive and impractical, but she is also very passionate and it is something that you cannot help but be drawn to. Vikram is thus a foil to her in this matter- he is calm to her inflammable anger. Vik’s character growth – his arc is very significant and human development has been shown in a very real way through his story.

Throughout the next chapters we see how their relationship grows – there are certainly various ups and downs but Yvonne is a good girlfriend, always sticking up for Vik. Just as Vikram, I too was very curious and intrigued by the repeated mentions of Kirstine and the song named ‘K’. The issue of racism is very evident in the book – Vikram is a person who is always suffering for it, and it is truly eye-opining to see how his indifference is wrong. I loved how Yvonne brings in the example of Nelson Mandela to explain the importance to standing up against the wrong. The other issues we come across are homophobia, sexism, chauvinism, love, hate as well as bigotry. The book has tried to show that human nature is truly dynamic and everyone thinks differently.

I loved the easy flow of the narration – the author has done a great job in this and I hope that others will enjoy the writing just as much as I did. The reader is bound to fall into this land and read the events as if they were really happening to them.

Verdict:

This was a really enjoyable read and I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the author:

Ivan Wainewright lives in Kent (England) with his partner, Sarah and their slightly neurotic rescue dog, Remi. Before moving to Kent, he lived in North London, Leeds and Singapore.

When not writing, he can be found watching (and occasionally) playing football, running, listening to music from Chumbawamba to Led Zeppelin, arguing over politics and trying to cook. He has been an independent IT consultant for many years, working solely with charities and not-for-profit organisations.

The Kosher Delhi is his first novel, and he is currently working on his second book. 

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Heart of Mist, by Helen Scheuerer, 2017

Title: Heart of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 487

Synopsis:

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

Heart of Mist is the first book in the Oremere Chronicles and I was so glad I picked it up. I read it in less than 6 hours I think, spread over two days. As soon as you pick up this book, I assure you that you will not be able to stop. The book is very fast-paced and thus, it is of no wonder that you are pulled in.  

The author has also brought in various themes such as addiction, alcoholism, human nature (which is so unreliable sometimes), the issue of identity etc. Bringing in such aspects within the lives of the characters has made it very relatable for the readers. Mental health is also another theme that is explored here. Sahara is one such character who suffered a lot (from what I have inferred so far). In one way or another, many other characters have also faced such issues that have affected their mental health in one way or another. Trauma is one such factor that has ssailed Bleak – her past is something she tries to run away from, and yet, she cannot let go completely. Oppression – the dominance over a people (the Ashai in this case) is also shown in the book and this is always a sad instance no matter where we read about these instances. Segregation of the Valians – into the kindred and the rest is also portrayed.

The world building is amazing – we see a lot of the Valian life in this book and their world really gave me James Cameron’s Avatar vibes. I would love to see more of the rest of this world. And I am so very excited to read about Oremere.

Bleak as a person is very complex. I love how by the end of this book she is strong enough to resist her temptations and her addiction. Her character arc has been slow and consistent and I hope to see more of her growth throughout the series. Bren is so supportive – I love how he is always there for Bleak and when the time comes, she is willing to do everything possible to save him as well. I would love to see more of Bren throughout the rest. The friendship he shares with Bleak is amazing and their friendly banter, full of humour and wit, is fun to read. There are so many instances in the book when you laugh out loud, and so many times when you feel like crying. It is an emotional ride. And the fact that Bren is such an honourable man is also another plus point for him. Olena and Dash’s friendship is beautiful. At first I was wondering what importance these characters might have in the books and now – oh my god, you need to pick up this series as soon as possible! Henri is also going on her own journey and I look forward to see where she ends up. I would also love to know more about Swinton – his history. He is a very dynamic character – and I admit I still have mixed feelings about him. The multiple points of views used throughout were also great as they focused on various characters and gave us a glimpse into their minds.

Full of political intrigue, adventure, magic and some amazing friendships, Heart of Mist was a really great start to the trilogy. I finished the book today and I am going to pick up the sequel Reign of Mist tonight!

Verdict:

Absolutely loved this book. I rate Heart of Mist a full 5/5 stars and look forward to the sequel.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Dark Side of the Moon: vOLUME 2, by Shubham Arora, 2019

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon Vol.2

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a collection of short stories that is dark, grim and flirts ambitiously with notions of the unexplained. 
Volume 2 marks the return of the series with another set of three thrilling, crisply narrated tales – 

DECEMBER

Cold. Rainy. Windy. A typical December night in Mussourie. The police receives a distress call. Typical for stormy nights, as they say. But this night will be different. This night will be longer. This night will remain unexplained.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – THE STORY
Humans haven’t been on the moon since 1972. They have decided to return – though this time to the dark side of the moon, where no human has ever set foot before. What does the unknown hold?

SEVENTY METERS
The swift morning breeze soothes her hair. The tinkling wind-chimes call her to the window. She looks at him smiling in his sleep. She smiles too. But that’s been a rarity for them. 
Does love, like time, wither away as it’s consumed?

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I have not been much of a horror fan but… Shubham Arora had me hooked with his first volume. And when he reached out to me for the second one, I was already jumping with joy. That is another story in itself so we’ll keep that aside for now.

In comparison to the first volume, I think the author’s writing has improved immensely. Most importantly, he knows how to deliver a punch at the end, just as succinctly.

In the first story, December, the writing is very atmospheric and is enough to give you the chills. When the story actually starts, and we venture into the mansion, I almost felt as if something is going to jump out of the shadows, at me. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was a part of the story itself and the instances were happening to me too.

The stories have become creepier, with the eponymous The Dark Side of the Moon being the creepiest of them all. I loved how he has taken on this urban myth and given it his own twist. The idea itself, when you sit back and think about it – being stranded on a strange place (the dark side of the moon, for God’s sake!) The way this story is told – especially in day counts, is one that really makes you tensed up as if awaiting the climax, the twist you know is coming.

The last story is Seventy Meters, and from the name, I could guess what the ending would have been. Although the least favourite from all three, this was, a good story too, although I did not think it was scary. In a strange sort of way, it was actually sad.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I hope to read more of the author’s writing. I rate it 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping From Houdini

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Hunting Prince Dracula was a great read. I rated it 4.5/5 stars. Escaping from Houdini was also a fun read, although I thought it was somewhat slow paced. I rated this one 4/5 stars. 

I loved how the romance between our two leads grew. Thomas Cresswell is such a dynamic person, I feel. He is intellectual, and is truly an understanding person as well. I love how he knows to respect Audrey Rose as her own person and does not think her any less for being unique and different from the rest of the girls they knew. Unlike so many other beaus, he is not unwilling to let Audrey Rose explore, and learn about herself. He does not curb her freedom and is an overall supportive person. It also helps that he has such a great sense of humour too.  

And oh my god, the twist regarding Thomas’s identity in Hunting Prince Dracula is just off the roof! I did not expect that at all, but to be honest, I think it was a great idea executed wonderfully by the author. And the murderous Prince Dracula himself could not have surprised me more. I honestly did not expect that twist in the book and I think Kerri Maniscalco is great at these historical mysteries.

In Escaping From Houdini, the author has brought in the Great Houdini. The Moonlit Carnival overall is an amazing experience. And oh my god, Mephistopheles is such a darling! I love him and I certainly hope we see more of him throughout the series! (Perhaps a spinoff for his own?)

The way the author brings in themes of good versus evil, human frailties and humanity itself at the face of temptation is commendable and worth lauding. I love that even though these characters are back in the past, these dilemmas are so much like our own and as such they are so relatable. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. And I sincerely hope to pick up Becoming the Dark Prince and Capturing the Devil as soon as possible!

Have you read this series? Did you like it? And well, if you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for?

The Third Mrs. Durst, by Ann Aguirre, 2019

Title: The Third Mrs. Durst

Author: Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Publishing date: August 8th, 2019

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

Some people just need killing.

Marlena Altizer Durst lives in her husband’s shadow. He controls her every move—what she wears, the food she eats, and the friends she’s allowed to make. If she disobeys, there are…consequences. And he has all the power.

To outsiders, it seems that she leads a fairy-tale life. But nobody ever wonders if Cinderella was happy after she married the prince. Marlena has traded freedom and safety for luxurious imprisonment, and most days, that seems like a bad bargain. Death may be the only exit she’s allowed. Just like his first wife. And his second. Unless she flips the script.

Some people just need killing.

Praise:

The Third Mrs. Durst is a slow, dark burn that leads to a fantastic explosion of an ending.”—Victoria Helen Stone, bestselling author of Jane Doe

My review:

I received a review copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The character of Marlena was a very dynamic one – I found her ingenious and very clever. She is unscrupulous in going after what she wants. This determination of hers is a defining trait of her character, I think. However, I did not find her character arc very significant. Yes, she meets with a catastrophe – a horrific climax, but despite the positions it puts her in, and the subsequent direction her actions take her, I did not find her growth to be very believable.

The plot however, was very original and unique. I have not come across something like this before, and it is fantastic, despite the slow pace it assumes. Although the real reason why Marlena does what she does is rather justified, it comes somewhat as a bland surprise, but fails to uplift the overall effect. The romance that takes place in the second half of the story is just too sudden, I feel, and it gave the disjointed effect throughout. I could not just sink into the story as there was something that seemed to always hold me back from truly enjoying it.

The character of Mr. Durst on the other hand is the hero that gives the enjoyment to the reader, however twisted. Although he is not essentially ‘the good guy’ in the story, his assertiveness makes the book a much more enjoyable ride as it had been a burden on his wife’s shoulders.

The themes of love, hate, revenge, mental dilemma and struggles were all quite well portrayed in the plot that made it stronger. The whole book seemed to read like a movie with a brilliant plot, but poor or somewhat nice acting by the actors.

I think that this book was overrated and could not enjoy it much. The cover was not that good either and this is not a book I would recommend to others, honestly.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Love in the Time of Affluenza, by Shunali Khullar Shroff, 2019

Title: Love in the Time of Affluenza

Author: Shunali Khullar Shroff

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 292

Synopsis:

A novel that probes the norms of marriage, love, and adultery among the urban super-wealthy, Love in the time of Affluenza is a hilarious social satire set in Mumbai. The story explores the lives of three women as understood from the eyes of its protagonist Natasha, a happily married mother of three. She begins to ask some difficult questions about her own life after she stumbles upon her closest friend Trisha’s affair.

‘Finally an immensely enjoyable story about Mumbai’s rich that, like all good stories, rings so true, with its adorable and suspiciously familiar characters.’ – Manu Joseph

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A book that provides a glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich in urban Mumbai, Love in the Time of Affluenza was a fun, and witty read. While most may simply categorize it into the light and frivolous, this book comes with its practical depth – one so many women across the country will find similar!

Natasha Singh is a woman who is very relatable. As a mother, she shows us (who are not mothers yet) the point of view from a mother’s side and it is definitely not so easy. Kids can be really annoying sometimes (I am definitely experienced as I have a younger brother) but most of all, placating the kids after a fight is the worst. I loved how the author has made the book so very relatable! When Ria puts on more waterworks as the father (Natasha’s husband, Prince Varun) arrives, it is a scene out of my everyday life. I am a daddy’s girl too and well, to b honest, for a daughter, fathers are way easier to manipulate, aren’t they?

We see Natasha grappling with the sudden scenario of cheating and infidelity when her friend Trisha’s affair is discovered by her. So many times in life, we find ourselves struggling between two rights – whether to respect the confidences of a friend or to tell the truth outright to the people they are hurting. Even without the exact same scenario, this is a dreadful situation we have found ourselves in time too many, to be honest!

 And then comes the mother-in-law! That is one serious Hiroshima-Nagasaki situation in itself. Natasha’s interactions with the Rani are funny, and sometimes really frustrating. It really makes us think about the age-old adage – a woman is another woman’s worst enemy. Is there any truth to it?

In the very beginning of the book itself, Natasha, as she is being ordered about by the cook, wonders if she is working for him or vice versa. Now that situation is one we all are suffering from! And well, men are such chauvinists sometimes! Even when they love you, that streak of caveman attitude seems to erupt and take over their otherwise oaky-ish thinking.

Being an avid fan of Sex and the City, I did find similarities between Carrie Bradshaw and our Natasha. The beginning of every chapter is a writeup by her, as she works as a columnist. These writeups are quite impactful and make us think these words over. The writing was full of humor and irony, and I for one (among many others) am a fan of Shroff’s writing. The literary (and other references) to Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina, Picasso, Lalu Prasad Yadav (you so need to read this book!), Uri Geller, etc. were on point! Shroff has masterfully blended the wit and philosophy, displayed them through various (almost) stereotyped characters and provided a work, which is light, and funny and relatable, but at the same time, full of deep and impactful thoughts.

Verdict:

It was a great read, and now my mum is reading it too! I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Monsters Still Lurk, by Aruna Nambiar, 2019

Title: The Monsters Still Lurk

Author: Aruna Nambiar

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Published on:  20th July, 2019

Genre: Post-Independence

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 260

Synopsis:

We were an ordinary family, with conventional lives. We were mostly happy, but always cautious of too much happiness. We were hardly religious, just pious enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. We bickered a little but would never have thought to be estranged. We feared illness and anticipated eventual death, but we expected life to follow a certain path, a particular schedule. Until…

It is 1991. As Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated and a new government comes to power, setting in motion a process of economic reforms that will transform India, an ordinary family is about to experience detours from the traditional middle-class script of their lives. Over the next quarter century, as the world around them changes in ways unexpected, their lives too wind along uncharted trails, sometimes sunlit, sometimes shadowy and forbidding. 

Funny, perceptive and moving, The Monsters Still Lurk is a bittersweet saga of love, loss, ageing and shifting family dynamics, and a keenly observed portrait of post-liberalization India that captures the zeitgeist of a rapidly evolving society.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Monsters Still Lurk, although fiction, gives a great idea of how life had been post-independence, when India was just learning to function as a sovereign country of her own. Through the eyes of Vivek, we are taken on a journey across a quarter of a century as India changes and people have to change along with the times. It is not easy, rather very turbulent and filled with highs and lows.

The major themes covered in this book were family, the fear and acceptance of responsibility as we all grow up in the face of various events that happen around us, war, crisis, friendship, the sibling bond etc. The American Dream is also another theme – it is basically the dream that so many people belonging to the third-world countries have – that America is the land of dreams and opportunities. As such, so many people wanted to migrate there and it was a driving force behind the actions of many people, across various economic levels.  

The political scenario of this period was not a very calm one. As such, the book also portrays the major events in our history as perceived through the eyes of a normal middle class family. The Kargil War, the Babri masjid demolition, the Indian Depression, 9/11 etc are some of the periods the writer mentions in the book.

It was a great read overall. Although a bit bland at times due to the political aspects, the author has weaved together good writing, interesting characters and significant portions of inida’s history to make this a deep and insightful read.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Let’s Hope for the Best, by Carolina Setterwall, 2019

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Title: Let’s Hope for the Best

Author: Carolina Setterwall

Translated by: Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Autobiography

Format: Paperback

Language: Original Swedish, translated to English

No. of pages: 400

Synopsis:

One day while nursing her young son, Carolina receives a strange email from her boyfriend Aksel, detailing computer passwords and other instructions in event of his death. She grows worried at first, then irritated – this is so typical of her unsentimental partner. Aksel ends the message: Let’s hope for the best! Five months later, he is dead. 
In her debut novel, Let’s Hope for the Best, Carolina Setterwall recounts the intensity of falling in love with her partner Aksel, and the shock of finding him dead in bed one morning. Carolina and Aksel meet at a party, and their passionate first encounter leads to months of courtship during which Carolina struggles to find her place. While Aksel prefers to take things slow, Carolina is eager to advance their relationship -moving in together, getting a cat, and finally having a child.

Perhaps to impose some order on the chaos, Carolina devotedly chronicles the months after Aksel’s passing like a ship’s log. She unpacks with forensic intensity the small details of life before tragedy, eager to find some explanation for the bad hand she’s been dealt. When new romance rushes in, Carolina finds herself assuming the reticent role Aksel once played. She’s been given the gift of love again. But can she make it work?

A striking feat of auto-fiction, written in direct address to Setterwall’s late partner, LET’S HOPE FOR THE BEST is a stylistic tour-de force..

My review:

I received an unsolicited ARC from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

When I was done reading this book I was so conflicted because how do I dare to review a book with a strong autobiographical theme? How do I dare to judge such a raw telling of the events that can break anyone? How do I judge a story, one which is so real and while it touched me so deeply, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the people affected by this death?

But I told myself, I have read and studied various critical works like New Criticism, The Intentional Fallacy, Death of an Author, What is an Author etc. And as such I decided to write my review in middle ground.

At first glance, reading the synopsis made me realize that it was not going to be an easy read. And it was true. I took almost a week to read this one because I just could not bear to read it at one go, the way I do with most other books (also the fact that I was travelling played a major factor in this). I could only read this book in spurts because the emotions were too much to deal with. i was experiencing these second hand, mind you, but the writer was writing about real events. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been. The various rounds of edits etc that are to be done after writing the manuscript is another ordeal that I wondered how the author felt about. This book made me realize how very lucky I am today – I know it sounds so bad to someone who has lost a dear one – but it made me appreciate my family more, despite all the quarrels we have. I had to stop reading, go, and hug my mom and dad and my brother too.

This is truly a tour de force. In most translated works, the essence is lost but it si not so. The translator Elizabeth Clark Wessel has done an amazing job. The writing is in present continuous and I like it in autobiographies, I admit. The writing is poignant and raw – you feel so many emotions that sometimes you just have to sit back and let it all sink in. I cried and laughed along with the author. One thing that I liked best was that it is so real – you will love Carolina and hate her at times, even – while you realize that we all do the same things sometimes. We are humans and we are loving, kind and warm. But we are also cruel, selfish and angry at times, lashing out at the ones we love.

Aksel’s death and the aftermath make us question so many thing we do, so many people and things we take for granted. The way Carolina starts to resemble Aksel in her relationship is so parallel and well juxtaposed. The writing has not been sugarcoated and so you see the real aspects of life after the loss of a loved one. I loved the book – it was such a tumultuous ride.

Verdict:

I rate this a solid 5/5 stars. Will probably come back to it again.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, 2019

Title: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle 0.1)

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications

Publication date: 6 June 2019

Genre: Science fiction/fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 470

Synopsis:

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Superfluously saying, if the cover does not make you pick up the book itself, then I’m sure the synopsis will. Aurora Rising is an adventure story, set in space, one that is bound to keep you turning the pages on and on, eager to know what happens next. I was literally at the edge of my seat when I was sitting and reading, and had to actually sit up in attention, when I had been lazing on my bed while reading. Such is the writing of this powerful duo. I finished this book in like 5 hours and I went crazy throughout!

I’ve never been a fan of sci-fi, to be honest. So many of us are not. But Aurora Rising has completely made us switch sides! Although this book is so often described as a SIX OF CROWS set in space, the only similarity I found was the presence of this crew, where each one is so very different from the other. Through all the different characters in this bunch, we see similarities in what each of them faces. The leader of this team in known as the Alpha and he is Tyler, the golden-boy. He misses the Draft because he is rescuing a girl frozen in time. So basically instead of having his pick from the best, by the time he returns, the ceremony is over and the other Alphas have picked the cream. Throughout the story, we see the inner conflict in Tyler – he regrets that he was missing at the Draft but then again, he was rescuing this historically significant person in their universe. Later on, he is conflicted as to whether be the good pupil he has always been and follow the orders of his superiors, or to do what he believes is right.

There is also Scarlett, Tyler’s twin sister who is bold and flawed and yet is so very caring. The brother-sister bond that these two share is so much beautiful to see. Their love is always shining bright between them. And may I just say how wonderfully charming she is? Scarlett is the Face of the group, the diplomat basically and is an amazing people-person.

Then we have the Ace – Cat. She is a very passionate person I feel. She hates with all her might and she loves with all her might. Her love is real and made me choke so many times. Her character arc is very relatable – her feelings towards Aurora change from hate to respect and I love that the authors have made her so bold. Women are too often subdued anyway.  

Aurora is literally the girl out of time. She had been cryogenically sleeping, you could say, for 200 years, without ageing. And now, her dilemma and confusion as she comes to terms with her new surroundings and learns more about what happened to her that has led her here, is heartwarming. Her behaviour is funny and so very awkward at times with the rest of the team and I couldn’t help but laugh at so many parts. Her character arc is also significant in this story and although I think there could be more to it, I look forward to the rest of the books in this series. She is a person of our times and the references she makes were like Easter eggs to me. Especially Middle Earth!

Finnin, the alien (that rhymed!) is also another team member. He has always felt different all his life and his struggles with it – underneath all that sarcasm, is slowly revealed throughout the story. Zila is a character whose back story has still not been properly explained in the book and I am very curious about her, I admit. I look forward to reading more about her.

Lastly, Kal is oh0my-god hot! If you have a thing for the tall, dark and brooding, handsome kind. Especially, elfin-handsome kind! Aurora describing him as Middle-Earth is so relatable and that is how I imagine him too. And may I say that I am an absolute fan of the mate trope!

The writing felt very interactive in nature and the reading just flowed for me. I am absolutely in love with this duo’s writing and so I think that I am slowly going to pick up and read all of their books. The world-building was also very fascinating and made me stop and wonder myself, how it would feel like to stay there – after remembering that I was not actually in the story. There’s humour and the characters are so fierce in their natures, it was a fast-paced ride of a read! The plot was very strong and the inclusion of multiple POVs worked wonderfully with it. When there are so many characters, having multiple POVs often make the story lose its beauty but in this case, it only gave more depth to it.

Verdict:

I loved this book and I rate it a solid 5/5 stars! I know this review sounded more like an ode to these amazing complex but lovable characters, but god! You all need to pick it up ASAP!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1, by Kevin Missal, 2019

Title: Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1

Author: Kevin Missal

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Genre: Mythology/Fantasy/Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 346

Synopsis:

Narasimha, once a brave soldier, has left the war and lies low as a physician in a village. But a familiar face from his past seeks his help to stop the tyranny of the blind usurper Andhaka. If Narasimha refuses, the world might just end. What will he do? And why did he leave the war in the first place? Prahlad, the interim king of Kashyapuri, is torn between the ideals of his unrighteous father and his love for Lord Vishnu. Whom will he choose? Hiranyakashyap, the ruler of the Asura Empire, wants to avenge the death of his wife. To do that, he must go through the Trials and get the ultimate weapon – the Brahmastra. But the Trials have sent so many others to their death. Can Hiranyakashyap survive?

My review:

I received a review copy in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I picked up this book because I was in the mood for something like fantasy but with an Indian twist! And besides I have had this book in my TBR pile for so long, that when I remembered that this totally was a fit for my reading hunger pangs, I knew it was destiny!

Firstly, I really like the cover (Please don’t judge me; I’ve got a serious thing for covers!) and this interpretation that the author has regarding this famous character from our mythology is really refreshing. And I did not really notice his face but after I read how the author has portrayed the simha tribe, I could see the difference! Comment if you can understand my drift!

One of the most important yet underlying themes I saw was the background to Andhaka – his past basically, that has shaped him into the man he is. Child abuse is something not talked about as often in these books and I really applaud the author’s inclusion of it. it just is important in making us aware how such behaviour can scar a person for life.

Moreover, Narasimha’s character arc is very significant in this story I think and I enjoyed reading it. The other characters, although not all good, and some not very bad, are really fascinating nonetheless. There was depth to their thinking, their behaviour and their action and so I really enjoyed the web that he author has weaved around them all, to create a thrilling storyline.

The book was evenly paced, bordering on the faster side of the spectrum and it never let you get bored. The world building was also great. Also, the focus on relationships that these characters had with each other were also great for us to explore. Filled with vengeance, ambition, revenge, etc. this was a mythological thriller!

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I rate it 3.75/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Secret of the Palamu Fort, by Razi, 2019

Title:  Secret of the Palamu Fort

Author: Razi

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotch Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Mythology/Thriller

Format: paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

Someone has risen from the dead and is haunting the sinister ruins of the Palamu Fort, situated in the mystical land of Jharkhand.
A few hundred kilometers from the fort, in the capital city Ranchi, a History Professor of St. Xavier’s college is murdered at his home. The witnesses claim he was killed by a ghost! 
The police is clueless. Inspector Patrick Minj ropes in Detective Robin Horo, who unearths a clue which indicates that the murder has a bloody trail running as far as 350 years in the history of Jharkhand. A poisonous conspiracy was plotted centuries ago in the Kingdom of Palamu that designed the downfall of an empire and forced the king to hide his legacy in the unforgiving and indifferent womb of time. 
The ghost is leaving behind a trail of dead bodies and to solve the case Robin has nothing but an Artifact that is said to have an ancient curse over it and a centuries old riddle that if solved, could lead to an Elixir. 
Witness the conspiracy unfolding that spans 350 years in the making and takes Robin and his companions on a labyrinthine adventure involving deadly secrets, dangerous threats and a lethal encounter with a beast in the jungles of Palamu. 

My review:

I received a free review copy in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A perfect blend of mystery and thriller, Secret of the Palamu Fort is centered around the actual site. The author has weaved a murder mystery (with secret cursed treasure and a whodunit scope as well) around these majestic forts from Jharkhand, India.

The story begins with the murder of a History professor by a supposed ghost and this is where it unravels. The police can obviously make no sense of it and so the ‘Honorary Consultant’, Dtective Robin Horo is brought in. Comment if it too reminds you of Lestrange and Holmes! Now it is up to Robin to solve the murders revolving around this curse! Other characters are Neil, the nephew, who gives us a neutral point of view to the whole process, considering he is just a teenager. There is also Babulaji who, you can say, provides comic relief. However, I myself found him quite irritating especially because of the jokes he cracks – most of which are lame. However, I found Babulaji inspired from Watson, as he is really keen on keeping a record and writing about all these events and the process, as he follows Robin around.

Overall, the plot was really well done. With simple and lucid language, the reader is kept hooked on until the end. I have found that there are many plot holes in these books which are a cross between mythology and thriller, but it was not so with this book and that was great. The only negative I found was that the tone gets a bit preachy sometimes (but that may be my personal estimate clouding over) and it becomes a classic scenario of TMI.

Nonetheless, this book has been kept really understandable for readers across the spectrum. The language is quite, what one can call, ‘Indianized’ and it would thus be very easy for all sorts of readers to enjoy this book. The narration is on point and really nice if you look at it from an all-encompassing point of view. The multiple timeline aspect has also been worked out well and does not clash with the readers’ perceptions. One interesting fact I noticed was the use of small chapters in between which simply made me read on, more. The twists and turns were unexpected and left me quite surprised. I had not really predicted the end.

I also love the cover, as I found it very aesthetic! Moreover, it is relevant to the story as you will find out. (Pick up the book soon!)

Verdict:

It was a really gripping and interesting read. I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

What Mina Did, by Geeta Menon, 2019

Title: What Mina Did

Author: Geeta Menon

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

A single betrayal can cost you everything…

1998. Twenty-two-year-old Mina is moving to the US from Bangalore to begin a new life with her
husband. Then there’s a horrific murder and her life is turned upside down. Mina’s best friend Neelu helps her out of the abyss. Mina gradually leaves her past behind and settles into a new life in the US.

Years later, she is forced to return to India and is confronted by the demons from her past. In her fragile mental state, she is unable to support Neelu in her time of need. Their friendship hits rock bottom.
Mina goes back to the US and faces further hurdles, this time on the work front. She tries to make
amends with Neelu, but their friendship ends with Neelu accusing Mina of something unimaginable related to the murder. Something, that deep down, Mina knows is true…
Will Mina redeem herself? Will the people she loves forgive her for what she did?
Alternating between flashbacks and the present day, What Mina Did explores how one betrayal
can have catastrophic consequences, while delving into the complex bonds that link mothers and
daughters, and best friends.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

From the title of the book, I was very sure that it was pure thriller/crime but WHAT MINA DID is much more than that. On the surface, it deals with various aspects of one’s life – like familial, personal, friendships we maintain etc.

One of the main issues we see Mina working through is the aftermath of losing one of the most important figures of her life. Knowing that your closed one has been murdered is never easy to move on from and I am saying this from personal experience. The trauma revolving around that one incident often puts a full stop in the lives of the relatives and others affected from it. moving on seems impossible and for a long time afterwards, these people’ lives revolve around that one trauma only. This trauma forms a significant reason why Mina dos things she does and the way she does. Sometimes, it is easy to blame her for the fall out with Neelu, but on a deeper level, how can she possibly help someone else when she needs great help herself? The characterization was good and the development of Mina’s character was slow yet steadily built.

This book throws light on various issues such as anxiety, dealing with one’s own demons, mental health, with shades of patriarchy, racism etc. The social issues as well as the expectations on women regarding marriage are on point. The narrative is compelling and makes the book an emotional read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Although the beginning is a bit slow paced, the story makes up for it. I liked that the author makes it so easy to empathize with the character. The separation of the story with regards to temporal context was a great addition. However, at times I did feel that the author has generalized a lot of the issues we Indians have to deal with, as well as the cultural and traditional variations. The cover is also intriguing and suits the theme of the book I feel.  

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I rated it a 3.75/5 stars.

About the reviewer: Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Intelligence Trap, by David Robson, 2019

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Title: The Intelligence Trap

Author: David Robson

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 337

Synopsis:

‘As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better he is educated, the easier it has been to mystify him,’ Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else-they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the “intelligence trap,” the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative debut.

Packed with cutting-edge research, historical case studies, entertaining stories, and practical advice, The Intelligence Trap explores the flaws in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, and reveals the ways that even the brightest minds and talented organizations can backfire – from some of Thomas Edison’s worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. With a knack for explaining complex ideas and featuring timeless lessons from Socrates to Benjamin Franklin to Richard Feynman and the latest behavioral science, Robson shows how to build a cognitive toolkit to avoid mistakes and protect ourselves from misinformation and fake news.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Intelligence Trap was quite the different sort of book I read recently. For one, it wasn’t at all like the self-help book I expected it to be. It was very informative and there were some nice laughs packed in there too. However, I was really discouraged by the beginning which I think was slow and kind of fell flat. On the other hand, the second part becomes more interesting in comparison with various examples put in.

This book basically talks about human stupidity – and how even the most seemingly intelligent people are prone to it. in a way it kind of made me feel that it’s like – common sense is not common, you know. That is to say, stupidity is not that uncommon. Although the informative bits were actually quite very informative in their essence, I think they broke the flow for me while reading and that rather miffed me. However, I do not deny that this was actually an essential read, which unfortunately had some dull bits for me. It talks about many important things such as the importance of the productive struggle, mindfulness, biases we have that influence us so much, self—distancing etc. there were a few concepts that really made me think as well as some that made me just skip those paragraphs.

However, I have no complaints about the writing style. I think that although some jargons were used, the overall language was quite easy to understand and flowed simply well.

I honestly do believe that although this wasn’t the very best read for me, my father might just love it so I’ll surely be giving this to him for reading now.  

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel, 2019

Title:  Lost and Found

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 270

Synopsis:

What might have been? That tantalizing question propels a woman on a cross-country adventure to reunite with the men she loved and let go, in Danielle Steel’s exhilarating new novel.

It all starts with a fall from a ladder, in a firehouse in New York City. The firehouse has been converted into a unique Manhattan home and studio where renowned photographer Madison Allen works and lives after raising three children on her own. But the accident, which happens while Maddie is sorting through long-forgotten personal mementos and photos, results in more than a broken ankle. It changes her life.

Spurred by old memories, the forced pause in her demanding schedule, and an argument with her daughter that leads to a rare crisis of confidence, Maddie embarks on a road trip. She hopes to answer questions about the men she loved and might have married—but didn’t—in the years after she was left alone with three young children. Wearing a cast and driving a rented SUV, she sets off to reconnect with three very different men—one in Boston, one in Chicago, and another in Wyoming—to know once and for all if the decisions she made long ago were the right ones. Before moving forward into the future, she is compelled to confront the past.

As the miles and days pass, and with each new encounter, Maddie’s life comes into clearer focus and a new future takes shape. A deeply felt story about love, motherhood, family, and fate, Lost and Found is an irresistible new novel from America’s most dynamic storyteller.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I read this book for the #lostandfoundreadathon hosted by @PanMacmillanIndia .

Lost and Found by Danielle Steel is the latest new release from this loved and revered author. I picked it up and finished it under 12 hours, such was the appeal. This was essentially a book of growth and it touched me deeply. It revolves around Maddie and I love how Steel has an older woman as a protagonist (I hardly read much adult fiction and this was among the best ones I have ever read definitely). It taught me that age truly is just a number and unlike my shallow thinking that life gets boring when you hit middle age, it only depends on whether you give up or take life by the horns.

Maddie is an amazing woman with just an amazing story. The author deals with various themes here – familial love, romantic love being the most significant ones. I love how each of the characters and not just Maddie herself, goes through a transformation and ends up a better person than they were before. It shows that it is never too late to try to become a better version of oneself. Deanna’s transformation is the most significant and although I so wanted to bash her up in the beginning I have come to understand her better. I would also love to see Milagra’s own story too. This book just showed so many differences that occur among us and despite it all, it is our love and care for each other that bind us together. One more thing, it is so very important to be kind to others.

The language is easy and flowing as usual. What is important is that every Danielle Steel book has such important lessons, I feel. She never makes it didactic which could have repelled us. Instead, she weaves her words beautifully and relates it with true life. I feel like I always come away a bit wiser and more insightful after reading her books.

Verdict:

I really absolutely loved every bit of this book. I laughed and cried and was sobbing at many parts. I rate this 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

The Duchess, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Duchess

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan India

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

T he incomparable Danielle Steel breaks new ground as she takes us to nineteenth-century England, where a high-born young woman is forced out into the world–and begins a journey of survival, sensuality, and long-sought justice.

Angelique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angelique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources–and one bold stroke of fortune.

Unable to secure employment without references or connections, Angelique desperately makes her way to Paris, where she rescues a young woman fleeing an abusive madam–and suddenly sees a possibility: Open an elegant house of pleasure that will protect its women and serve only the best clients. With her upper-class breeding, her impeccable style, and her father’s bequest, Angelique creates Le Boudoir, soon a sensational establishment where powerful men, secret desires, and beautiful, sophisticated women come together. But living on the edge of scandal, can she ever make a life of her own–or regain her rightful place in the world?

From England to Paris to New York, Danielle Steel captures an age of upheaval and the struggles of women in a male-ruled society–and paints a captivating portrait of a woman of unquenchable spirit, who in houses great or humble is every ounce a duchess. (less)

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I read this book for the #lostandfoundreadathon hosted by @PanMacmillanIndia .

The Duchess is one of the best Danielle Steel books I have ever read. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, apart from women-centric fiction. The Duchess is an amazing combination of both and it kept me hooked in until the very end.

The Duchess is almost a chronicle of the life and times of Angelique, a wonderful woman who is displaced because of dire situations, namely the death of a father, with cruel brothers left behind. Her journey, as such, is made more profound because of this injustice done to her by the people meant to love and support her – her family (brother to be specific). It also sheds light on how vicious jealousy can be – her circumstances become such simply because her elder stepbrother is jealous of the love Angelique and her mother got from their father.

The character arc of Angelique is tremendous. From a meek and nice girl, she transforms into a force of nature, a force to be reckoned with. The makeover part, as she literally starts her new venture is France especially, is one that I loved. This book also shows that there is no pure white and black to things – life is often filled with shades of the colour in-between them.

Her journey is also beautiful. Although it is filled with ups and downs, it is a beautiful portrayal of a life full of adventure and daring. I was ensnared by Angelique and her grit and determination. I absolutely loved reading this book and will probably pick this one up again very soon!

Verdict:

I rate this read 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Dangerous Games, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: Dangerous Games

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

Television correspondent Alix Phillips dodges bullets and breaks rules to bring the most important news to the world. With her daughter in college, and working alongside cameraman Ben Chapman, an ex-Navy Seal, Alix exhilarates in the risks and whirlwind pace of her work. But her latest assignment puts her at the center of an explosive story that will reshape many lives, including her own: investigating damning allegations involving the vice president of the United States, Tony Clark.

Alix starts with a nationally revered woman who may be the key to exposing frightening secrets. Olympia Foster is the fragile, reclusive widow of America’s most admired senator, who had been destined for the presidency before an assassin’s bullet felled him. Since then, Olympia has found emotional support in Clark, who once wanted her as his wife and now stands as her protector and confidant. When Alix begins to dig deeper, federal agents pick up the trail. Then the threats begin.

As the stakes rise in this dangerous game, Alix needs Ben’s help as never before. Soon they realize they are grappling with an adversary far more sinister than they had imagined. 

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I read this book for the #lostandfoundreadathon hosted by @PanMacmillanIndia .

Dangerous Games is unlike any other Danielle Steel book that I have ever read because this book has an almost thriller-like vibe to it which is quite fast-paced and interesting. As such, I think that thriller lovers would find this book to be a good start if they want to read reading Danielle Steel.

In Dangerous Games, we come across Alix Phillips who is a really genuine and brave news reporter on top of her game. She is really unlike any reporter we might envisage when it comes to the idea of one. She covers dangerous and daring events from around the world, along with her trusted cameraman Ben Chapman. Now Ben is another admirable figure. I love how he is dedicated to his job and respects and appreciates what Alix dos. He just gives off an amazing reliable vibe that I could get even from reading about it.

Olivia Foster is a woman in whom we see the after effects of a great tragedy. She is a kind and brave woman within her own and you cannot help but admire her optimistic and idealistic personality. I found her character very much based on Jackie Kennedy who was a formidable woman in her own rights as well. Danielle Steel has yet again portrayed the various problems people go through, with the help of these people and it is very interesting to see them conquer their inhibitions and come on top.

These characters really felt tangible to my reader senses and this realistic element needs to definitely be applauded. In the end, Danielle Steel has come through as usual with an admirable and strong protagonist, who is just as inspirational a heroine as any other. This is what keeps me coming back to Steel books, again and again (as well as the plot, of course!)

Dangerous Games is a rollercoaster of a ride, and although the beginning is just a teensy bit slow compared to the middle and the end, I quite liked sailing through it. The language was coherent and flowed easily. However, I just did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. There is just not enough conflict in this book, I feel. Something was missing for me.

Verdict:

I rate this book 3.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .