Category Archives: Book Reviews

Sharing my thoughts on the books I read!

The Vengeful and the Depraved in ‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’

And how it made me face my own depravity

'The Dangers of Smoking in Bed', by Mariana Enriquez
‘The Dangers of Smoking in Bed’, by Mariana Enriquez

(THE VENGEFUL AND THE DEPRAVED IN ‘THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED’ first published on Medium publication Coffee Time Reviews. You can read the full review here)

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

Let me begin by sharing the ways in which I tried to describe the feelings that came to my mind, as I read this collection of short stories. There were a lot of horrified oh-my-gods, and quite a few disgusted oh-my-gods; I thought they were compelling, some scary, some sobering, some that made me very very uncomfortable, and some that just confused me. But was it a powerhouse? Hell yes.

Argentine author Mariana Enriquez, who has been compared to Shirley Jackson and Jorge Luis Borge, brings to us a compelling collection of stories that suck you in and yet, at the same time, really repel you. Each of these stories is unconventional and is a horror-take on some issues, which, at the core, are often socio-political in nature. Perhaps ‘macabre’ is the right word to use for her works.

My Thoughts and Why You Need to Read It ASAP

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed was truly a book unlike any other. At first glance at the synopsis, one might think that the stories are gross and disgusting and that would be reason enough to rate it really low. But on the contrary, I have quite possibly never read anything like this. I loved it, yes, with all its weirdness, its fetishes, and all its horror. I read it and I loved it and I rated it 5 stars.

We both knew what the ending might be, and we didn’t care.

I went in knowing that I might have to face the dark at night. And that was indeed saying a lot because I am generally not a scaredy-cat. I can watch a ghost/demon/horror movie at 3 am when it’s pitch black and fear can come in the shape of a headless man standing in the corner of your room when it is just your jacket hung up on the hook. And so, to say that I was spooked might not be an understatement.


One of my top 5 favorite stories in this collection has to be Our Lady of the Quarry. It’s got the usual teenage drama, jealousy, and parties and boys. But it also has a gruesome revenge plot that I was taken aback by. But that is not all. I faced my own depravity when I felt my righteous anger at the two characters who, I ended up believing deserved what came for them. It was an unsettling end but what was more unsettling was my own reaction to it and how my dark side came out so easily. Perhaps, our dark sides are ultimately not that deeply embedded in us, and are just lurking around under the skin?

Perhaps, our dark sides are ultimately not that deeply embedded in us, and are just lurking around under the skin?


What was it about this author’s power that pulled me in? That made me understand my boundaries more and made my depravities and my fetishes more recognizable? What made me deny my denial of this knowledge? Should I now create an altar and worship this goddess writer? Or would that make me weird enough to be clubbed together with these characters in the stories?

What was it about this writing, these stories, and the characters’ unreliability that made this such a mind-blowing read for me? Was it because I was forced to face the basic and the basest of human desires and capabilities? Was it because I was forced to face my own humanity (or its lack thereof)?

The Unavoidable Discourse and Disappointments

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed has some unavoidable socio-political and cultural themes that are underlying the horror and the grime but may perhaps be the core of it all. From stories of people being ‘taken away’, to people being ‘trapped’, it is full of such subtle jabs and hints of a cultural and political makeup of a people, of a country.

There were also a couple of stories that seemed a bit mild to me and therefore not very memorable. But that is to say, perhaps I have already been influenced, corrupted, and debauched enough to find them mild. It certainly is a dark ride, one that makes you question your own morality, your own humanity. Proceed with caution!

Final Thoughts

The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is not an easy read. It is certainly not a comforting read either. But if you are one among those who revel in the macabre and the horror and the freakishness, this might be for you. If you want to expand your senses and dabble with that which is outside your box and makes you uncomfortable, this is for you. Go for it.

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour
  5. Massive Book Unhaul
  6. How to Read More Books

The Jasmine Throne: Blog Tour and Review

(And Why You Need to Pick It Up ASAP!)

My thoughts and review of The Jasmine Throne, a 2021 desi sapphic adult-fantasy bestseller that you need to pick up as soon as possible!

The Jasmine Throne banner
The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri

(I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher Orbit Books and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour)

A desi adult-fantasy with just the right ingredients!

The Jasmine Throne was in my most-anticipated releases of 2021 and I was so happy that I could participate in the blog tour! I was intrigued from the beginning and I have to say, I loved every bit of it!

🌻And so I also gave my own twist to the book cover!🌻

My take on The-Jasmine-Throne cover
The-Jasmine-Throne

The Jasmine Throne is set in a world much inspired by medieval India and along with the author’s spellbinding imagination and writing, the end product was a novel I was not going to forget anytime soon!

We follow the two protagonists Malini, an exiled princess of the kingdom and sister to a very hate-mongering Emperor, and Priya, a maidservant who is tasked to take care of her. But not all is as it seems. Behind the now, needle flower drug-addled mind of Malini, there was once a sharp wit and political wisdom and Priya has her own secrets to hide – her history as a temple child.

Apart from them there are a host of other characters – princes, rebels, lords and ladies, all of whom play various major and minor roles in the culmination of this story. Executed with stupendous talent, the world of The Jasmine Throne is one you will never forget!


Desi Representation and Other Highlights in The Jasmine Throne

🌻Women in saris

🌻The food (Oh my god, I swear I have lost count of the number of times I have smacked my lips as I read on through the nights)

🌻Traditional and religious beliefs (or rather, the way they reflected our own differences in worship and practices)

🌻The architecture (havelis, temples, pleasure houses and all of it!)

🌻THE WATERFALL WET SARI SCENE 👀

🌻Women rising against the patriarchy!

🌻Morally-grey characters and Sapphic Leads!


The-Jasmine-Throne book cover
The-Jasmine-Throne book cover

Relationships and Family Dynamics in The Jasmine Throne

Oh what a tangled thread this bit was! Human relationships and all its nuances were nudged upon via the interactions of these characters.

Malini’s brother wants her to burn to become pure. Priya’s brother wants to use her for his own agenda. Malini and Priya need to work together despite the doubts and queries about the other, that plague their minds.

We have Bhumika, a former temple-child and Priya’s temple-sister who has chosen her path to survive. There is Rukh who is torn between his loyalties. We also have Prince Rao and Prince Prem who are making allies and enemies in the path to achieving their goal.

As I read, I was amazed at the ways in which all of it was intertwined and how it affected the people and their actions.

Myths and Allusions in The Jasmine Throne

I especially love how the author included myths and legends from our own stories and alluded to them often in the book. It was like coming across Easter Eggs that really made me, as an Indian person, feel represented and alive!

Priya once tells the story of how a man was born under lucky stars and therefore could not marry another human. And so her marries a tree. For those that know, this is very much inspired from the ways Maanglik people conduct their marriages.

There was also a reference to the ‘palace of illusions’ in the form of a pleasure house that was literally named as such. Priya spoke of a beautiful queen who had many husbands – clearly a reference to Draupadi from the epic Mahabharata.

There was also the story of how Aloran people did not reveal their true names to others. It was in fact very relatable as we often do not reveal our names (those assigned at birth by the priests, and written on our astrological charts, made at the time of our births). I remember how I and my brother were told never to reveal it except for religious purposes.

World-Building, Politics and Romance

The world-building was definitely one of the best points about the book, if not the best. I loved how an entire nation was conjured up by Tasha Suri’s imagination and was given life to. The legends and historiography also helped in this regard. It was such lush imagery, that as a reader it clearly brought up images in my mind’s eye.

When it comes to the politics of this world, it is inevitable that I also talk about the secrets that the characters held close to them. They held their cards close to them throughout and it was only on the crucial points that the important bits were revealed!

A lot of the book is political precisely because of the way in which Malini and Priya meet. Being a politically exiled person, albeit a princess, Malini’s actions are limited and at the same time, every action she takes has some importance. Without trying to reveal much or give any spoilers, I must say that it is in some ways very reflective to the world today – in the curbing of the people’s ways of living, be it sexual, philosophical, political or even religious.

The romance was thrillingly slow-burn and it kept me on the edge of my seat. From princess/maid dynamics to allies to lovers, it was a long ride and I was rooting from them throughout.

What Didn’t Work

My only complaint was the way the middle bit of the story became slow. The pace was dragging and I thought some of it was just filler material and could have been done without.


What ‘The Jasmine Throne’ is about

The Jasmine Throne cover
The Jasmine Throne cover

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Publisher: Orbit Books

Publication date: 08 June 2021

Cover art: Micah Epstein (illustrator)Lauren Panepinto (designer)

Age group: Adult

Genres: Fantasy


Trigger/Content Warnings in The Jasmine Throne

  • Immolation/self-immolation
  • Child murder
  • Human sacrifice
  • Abusive family dynamics
  • Forced drug use, depictions of addiction/withdrawal
  • Colourism, xenophobia
  • Violence against women
  • Homophobia/internalized homophobia
  • Body horror

About the author

Tasha Suri
Author Tasha Suri

Tasha Suri was born in Harrow, north-west London. The daughter of Punjabi parents, she spent many childhood holidays exploring India with her family, and still fondly remembers the time she was chased around the Taj Mahal by an irate tour guide. She studied English and creative writing at Warwick University, and now lives in London where she works as a librarian. To no one’s surprise, she owns a cat. A love of period Bollywood films, history and mythology led her to begin writing South Asian influenced fantasy. Tasha Suri has won the British Fantasy Society Best Newcomer Award and Starburst Brave New Words Award.

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter


Check out the book here:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour
  5. Massive Book Unhaul
  6. How to Read More Books

An Unforgettable Bisexual Icon: Evelyn Hugo

Why you need to read ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’

'The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo', by Taylor Jenkins Reid
‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

(AN UNFORGETTABLE BISEXUAL ICON first published on Medium publication Coffee Time Reviews. You can read the full review here)

Who is Evelyn Hugo, you ask?
Why, only the greatest star the world has ever seen!

My thoughts on ‘The Seven Husband of Evelyn Hugo’

But seriously, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an unforgettable read with an equally unforgettable bisexual heroine, the likes of whom we haven’t seen much in the contemporary bookish sphere. It is a book that left an imprint on me. For the longest time, we women have been told to be kind and demure, and polite, even as we try to make our way towards the pinnacle. And Evelyn tell us,

My mother raised me to be polite, to be demure. I have long operated under the idea that civility is subservience. But it hasn’t gotten me very far, that type of kindness. The world respects people who think they should be running it.

From ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is where the book breaks all expectations. We get to see a flawed, ruthless, selfish, kind, ambitious, sexual woman who knows what she wants and is willing to work her ass off for it. Evelyn Hugo is a woman who we can admire and at the same time, also dislike.

LGBTQ representation in ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’

But the reason why I am telling you about it today is that it is the first book I have come across that places a bisexual character on the forefront. For the longest time, sexuality has been considered a binary — you are either a heterosexual or a homosexual. But I ask, what about the Pansexuals? The Asexuals? The Bisexuals? And mind you, there are a number of sexualities across the spectrum today. 

I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box.

From ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The representation is actually on point — you have a bisexual icon, there are some amazing secondary characters who are also homosexuals; and there are people of color (biracial, Latinx, black). All of them are well-formed and it is such a delight reading about them. So during this year’s Pride Month, if you are still unsure of which book to pick up, pick up this one. It will remain with you forever.

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour
  5. Massive Book Unhaul
  6. How to Read More Books

My thoughts on ‘Girl in White Cotton’

Hi friends! Today I’ll be sharing my very conflicted thoughts on Avni Doshi’s Girl in White Cotton, aka, Burnt Sugar.

Avni Doshi's 'Girl in White Cotton'
Avni Doshi’s ‘Girl in White Cotton’

I read this book as a part of my bookclub in May. If you are looking for a bookclub to join, we read books nominated for various prizes. Do join READ WITH NIKA BOOKCLUB

What ‘Girl in White Cotton’ Meant to Me

‘Girl in White Cotton’ was a book I picked up in May and it left me with such complicated feelings. It is described as a “love story and a story about betrayal… between mother and daughter”

A complicated mother

The thing that I could simply not comprehend was how difficult a mother Tara was. What made her act that way? What made her so… uncaring about her daughter? I have to admit that sometimes I am a person who tends to see things in black and white. And this experience of reading the book placed me in such a position where I simply could not understand the motives of the mother in acting the way she did. I think a mother is supposed to love and care for her child – not necessarily at the cost of her own selfhood – but at least actively taking action for the good of her child.

A conflicted daughter

And this is where the issue lies with me – I hate Tara for making Antara go through all that she did. The games that the mother played were not well accepted by me either – she is hot and cold, and constantly confuses her daughter Antara. Therefore it is no wonder why Antara seems unable to form stable emotional bonds with those around her. I mean, superficially they seem normal but as the reader, we get to see her emotional turmoil – one that she herself is not completely aware of. Moreover, as the aspect of memory came up again and again, I felt like both mother and daughter were becoming unreliable narrators. 

Who is responsible?

And in general, Antara is not responsible for how her mother made her feel, I believe. The reason she had all the conflicted emotions about her now-old and dementia-ridden mother, is because the mother never really gave her any security – physical, emotional, or mental. And the end just confirmed my emotions – Tara is nothing more than a vindictive soul.

Final Thoughts

As a story it made me feel so much – I applaud the author’s talent, I really do. These characters made me angry and confused, and I was definitely in for a ride. But I have to say, objectively speaking, it was very good and therefore no wonder it got nominated for so many prizes. I can say for sure that I will definitely be reading any future novels of Avni Doshi.

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour
  5. Massive Book Unhaul
  6. How to Read More Books

How ‘Notes on Grief’ Made Me Face My Greatest Fear

My thoughts on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay ‘Notes on Grief’

Notes on Grief, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Notes on Grief, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(HOW ‘NOTES ON GRIEF’ MADE ME FACE MY GREATEST FEAR first published on Medium publication Coffee Time Reviews. You can read the full review here)

What is mourning, and what is grief?

The loss of a loved one is perhaps something no one will be fully able to perfectly transcribe into words. If the one who is left behind feels bereft, how can some other such person’s words provide solace? Or can it?

Grief is multifaceted, just as much as mourning is. We all mourn differently. I for one have a bad bad habit of repressing my memories. I know of a friend who became cruel to well-wishers who went to offer condolences. There’s a distant relative who laughed and laughed when they got the news. There’s an ancestor who went mute.

Who feels their grief the most?

Who wears it proudly as a shroud, as armour to establish a barrier between acceptance and denial?

Who is graceful in the face of loss?

And can there be grace in someone’s denial of the loss of a loved one?

My thoughts on ‘Notes on Grief’

I recently read Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an essay written in the aftermath of the death of her father. Aftermath. That is a heavy word indeed. As though all the ravage that is left behind after someone passes away is grave and vicious. And indeed, isn’t that’s what’s left behind? It eats away at the soul and makes the pain a physical entity. How do you suddenly start talking about someone in the past tense? How do you write ‘was’ from what was once ‘is’?

Attempting to write a ‘review’ feels like an insult to this loss. I couldn’t really dare. So I tried to write down what it made me feel and think - in as much as I was able to. Loss is never really definable. So how could I go ahead and try to pick apart the words and critique this beautiful but raw and powerful homage to a loving father by a bereft daughter?

Disclaimer: I received this review copy from the publishers @harpercollinsin . All thoughts and views expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external factors.

If you want to see more such book-related content check out my Book Instagram page, and Youtube Channel!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
Pretty Little Bibliophile banner
you might also enjoy these

Popular Youtube Videos

  1. Books for beginners
  2. Massive Flipkart Book Haul
  3. Autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook
  4. Bookshelf Tour
  5. Massive Book Unhaul
  6. How to Read More Books