Category Archives: 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.

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Let’s Talk About Love, by Ajay Ramanathan

Today’s blog post is on the poetry collection Let’s Talk About Love, by Ajay Ramanathan.

I received a Review Copy of this book from the author in exchange for a written review. All opinions expressed are my own.

synopsis

Never has something captured our imagination more than the four-letter word- ‘LOVE’. While the idea of love has been portrayed in pop culture throughout the years, it has also been a source of confusion, disappointment, depravity and even violence.

Via prose, this book attempts to examine the concept of love and the various ways in which it is manifested in our daily life.

my review

The poetry book I ended up reading in between the transition from January to February was this one. And I have a few conflicting thoughts on this.

Let's Talk About Love, by Ajay Ramanathan
Let’s Talk About Love, by Ajay Ramanathan

The overarching theme was of love in its various degrees and shades – the poet wrote of platonic love of romantic love, of darker versions of obsessive and controlling love, fidelity or the lack thereof, death of friendships, and so on. However, while I did try to keep an open mind, some of the poems just came off as sexist and misogynistic and almost bordering on abuse. I was unsure if the poet believed it to be so or simply tried to portray what he imagined to be the manner of thinking of some people in the world. In this matter, I tried to give the poet the benefit of the doubt. Some of these poems really made me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, they then evolved to the love a mother has for her children, and the love a people have for their mother nation.

On the Writing in Let’s Talk About Love

Coming to the writing, I think it could have gone through another round of editing. I found the language used to be abrupt and lacking in sync. There was a lack of cohesion that could have been looked into. Overall, I am not sure if I would recommend this to anyone without further revisions.

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Coincidence of Spies: Blog Tour Stop!

Today’s blog post is on the recently released thriller novelCoincidence of Spies. By Brian Landers, it is Book 3 in The Dylan Series! Spoiler Alert: I totally loved it!

I received a Review Copy of this book from the publisher as part of my participation in their tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

Coincidence of Spies I Blog Tour
synopsis

Winter 1981. Poland is in turmoil. The Communist regime is close to collapse and the CIA wants to help it on its way. They ask for MI6 assistance but insist the MI6 Station in Warsaw is not involved. Why not? And who will the Americans accept? MI6 agent Thomas Dylan is sent from Moscow. His wife has just witnessed a murder and the Russian authorities want her out of the country. But when Thomas and Julia arrive in Warsaw the bullets start to fly. Two American agents disappear near the Polish lakes, a terrified Polish sailor jumps ship in Middlesbrough and a Polish peasant claims to have found the lost crown of a medieval King. Somebody needs to work out what’s happening. And quickly. Because back in London a KGB killer is on the loose.

my review

Over the past few days I had to opportunity to delve into what I had always thought of James Bond’s world. In the political thriller Coincidence Of Spies I went on interrogation runs with Dylan Thomas, saw the world and inner workings (also internal politics) of the legendary agencies such as the MI5, MI6, CIA and so on, in various degrees! Thanks to RedDoor Books for having me on this tour!

Coincidence of Spies
Coincidence of Spies

Okay first off, Landers has done a lot of research! The historical events from the time are intertwined with the storyline and it adds a layer of authenticity to the story. As a reader, I also had great fun reading about these spies, the agencies and the way they worked. The hierarchy, the internal pecking order, the internal politics, it just made it all look very real. As I read the book I realized that I had always viewed these agents (of whatever agency they hail from) as robots, devoid of feelings and stone cold operatives. But this book really opened my eyes and made me change my perspective. They are normal humans like us (but of course can defend themselves, maybe shoot a few times without a sweat, and are actually trained in diplomacy as well apart from espionage) and as such the emotions they have are very humane. This book truly helped humanize these people in my eyes.

As for the plot, oh my my! It was really well done. Oftentimes thrillers tend to have abrupt pace change and it muddles the reader. But COS hit the nail on the head. It was perfectly paced, with sufficient time to let the mystery boil amidst the interrogations, the discussions, the diplomatic talks, household discussions and of course the action sequences. Overall, I cannot gush enough about this book. I would advise the reader to go slow because all the agencies and the names can get a bit confusing but I assure you, one soon gets the hang of it. But do pick it up soon! 

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

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MORE THAN WE BARGAINED FOR: The Romance Novel You Need To Pick Up ASAP!

Today’s blog post is on the recently released romance novel More Than We Bargained For. By Fiona West, it is Book 4 in her Timber Falls series! Spoiler Alert: I totally loved it!

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the
publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.
All opinions expressed are my own.

More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West
More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West
synopsis
More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West
More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West

Wanted: renter for rural Oregon mountain lodge. Single mom divorcees named Starla preferred.

Starla Moore despises a mystery, and there’s no bigger mystery than Sawyer Devereaux. He comes into the library on Thursdays like clockwork, but rarely talks to anyone else. Not that she despises him; after all, he’s easy on the eyes, quick-witted, and that Southern accent makes her swoon. But in the midst of a divorce, her only romance is the bookish kind. Worst of all, crashing with her bestie won’t be an option soon, especially since her final fling with her husband had one very specific unintended consequence…

Regaining consciousness with his head in the cute librarian’s lap was a rude awakening; Sawyer thought his health problems were under control. Sans driver’s license, there’s no way he can live in his little cabin alone…or keep up with the anonymous book donations he’s been leaving to make Starla smile. When he finds out she’s struggling financially, he proposes a trade: his housing for her driving. Surely he can keep his feelings a secret for a few more months…

He’s given up on his dreams; she’s just figuring hers out. When the rumors start, will it push these two misfits together…or drive one of them out of Timber Falls for good?

my review

With perfect banter and writing, West’s fourth novel in the Timber Falls series, More Than We Bargained for, pulls you right in.

For a person who has recently found discovered a love for adult romances, More Than We Bargained For, was a welcome surprise. I loved the small town setting, the meddling neighbours, clingy ex, and the temperamental children! It was their loveliness (and annoying nature, at times), that truly made the difference and gave this book such a a heartwarming vibe.

Starla is a recently divorced mom of two young kids. Unfortunately, she is now down on her luck. As such, all of the difficulties she faces, and the way she reacts to them, makes her so real. As I read on, I couldn’t help but chuckle remembering the impulsive decisions I have made in my life, all the meddling I’ve had to face from my relatives and friends. And it made me feel so close to Starla!

Here is a peek at the picture I clicked for this book – Giving Starla a desi twist in my purple sari! To see more such pictures, check out my Bookstagram account!

More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West
More Than We Bargained For, by Fiona West

Sawyer and depiction of a chronic illness

As for Sawyer, he is a lovely man. I think More Than We Bargained For has to be the second book I have read, which features a protagonist with a chronic illness, the first being in The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. There are so many layers to him and I loved getting to know him more and more, as I read on. Well, to be perfectly honest, I was moping and indulging in self-pity, totally jealous of Starla for landing this wonderful man, hah!

Let’s talk about another aspect – the kids. In many books, the kids are either too obedient and hardly ever cause any trouble (so not realistic), or not in the picture at all! I was quite happy with the way they were portrayed in this book – sweet, often surly, and naughty. Having raised almost 10 cousins and a sibling, I should know! I quite enjoyed their bantering too. And their relationship with Sawyer – oh my my! My ovaries were cooing.

Verdict:

Before I turn this blog post into a love letter for Sawyer, I shall take my leave. But not before stressing on how much I enjoyed reading More Than We Bargained For! I am thinking of picking up the first book in this series so stay tuned for that one too! I rather More Than We Bargained For a 4/5 stars.

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The International Mahabharata version: A DARK QUEEN RISES (BOOK 2 OF THE BURNT EMPIRE SAGA), BY ASHOK K BANKER, 2020

Today I am talking about the much-awaited sequel in The Burnt Empire Saga, by Ashok K Banker. An epic-fantasy based on our very own epic – the Mahabharata!

A Dark Queen Rises, Book 2 of The Burnt Empire Saga
A Dark Queen Rises, Book 2 of The Burnt Empire Saga

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by the publisher. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without a leader. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule but birthright does not guarantee  inheritance: Any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible that incinerates the unworthy.

Adri and Shvate are not the sole heirs to the empire, there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives. When this girl, whose father is the powerful demonlord Jarsun, is denied her claim by the interim leaders, Jarsun declares war, vowing to tear the Burnt Empire apart – leaving the young princes Adri and Shvate to rule a shattered realm embroiled in rebellion and chaos.

Check out my reviews on Upon a Burning Throne Part 1, and Part 2 here!

my review

What happened in Part 1 and 2?

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. In Part 2, 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: A disclaimer (?)

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?

A more humane version of the divine characters

The BURNT EMPIRE SAGA is a kind of retelling of the Mahabharata for today’s readers. Banker’s world is full of a cast of diverse characters, and you often find various parallels between these ones and the original Vyasa’s cast. However, Banker’s characters although inspired from the original demigods and such powerful and revered ones, are more human and as such much more realistic. I believe it is this very fact that makes this fantasy series, so steeped in reality – because of the gray nature of humanity. It is never only black or white, but rather somewhere in between.

An epic setup!

And as is expected of epic fantasy – A DARK QUEEN RISES brings about yet more characters into the foreground and sets the stage as the author goes about letting the reader know of this vast world. Like the previous books, this one too kept me excited and just awed by the majestic world-building of Banker. Where the previous books were set in Hastinaga (Banker’s version of Hastinapur) with the characters of Adri, Shvate, Vida etc, A DARK QUEEN RISES is set in the sandy The Reygistan Empire (literally, the Desert Empire). This time around, it follows the sibling duo Drishya and Krushita, both of whose aim is one – to kill Jarsun.

The writing

It is very rich, and so reflective and inspired by our own mythology that I was really impressed by this retelling. The complexities that Banker lends to this story is simply on another level and is perhaps one of the many such engaging bits about this series that keeps the reader hooked on. I am so happy that my brother has expressed interest in picking it up – he will be reading Book 1 after he is finished with his current read! I am also quite distressed by that cliffhanger ending and look forward to the next book (The Blind King’s Wrath) to come out!
Any guesses as to who the Blind King is? 😉

Verdict:

A dark Queen Rises was quite an enjoyable read for me. I rated it 4/5 stars.

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

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