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April and May wrap-up! 2020 Book reviews!

Hey guys! I hope you are all doing safe. Today is day 79 in self-isolation for me and I have to say, I am doing much better than before. When I first started to isolate myself at home (March 16), I was very hopeful to us this break to read a lot and work a lot and just to b productive. However, as the days went by, they obviously took a toll. So I suppose it is not surprising that I got into a reading slump. As such, I did not read as much as I would have wanted to.

So anyway, I am going to compile a list of all the books I read during these two months. Today is just the second day of June and I am already more than 50% into my current read which is TRULY DEVIOUS by Maureen Johnson. As such, I think June might be a great reading month; let’s see. So without further ado, I’ll share the books I read in April and May, and attach any posts or videos I may have done for them.

April Books 2020

April Books 2020

Same But Different, by Holly Robinson Peete

It was an interesting book as it gave an in-depth view of living with a family member who may be autistic. I rated it 3.75/5 stars and here’s a glimpse of my raw and unedited review I wrote as soon as I finished it:

the feelings portrayed just got to me. The teenage frustration and angst have been portrayed so well.
What I understand is this: if you have a family member who is autistic, he is still your family member. It is perhaps normal and comparatively easy to write about how much you love them.
But opening up about the bad days, the days when you are angry at yourself and at each other – that is something that not everybody can do. Undoubtedly it puts you in a very vulnerable position and not everyone is ready to do that.
But I appreciate the honesty that laced these fictional albeit inspired by real people. I rated it 3.75 stars.

In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle

“You mistake love. Do you think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that does not need to be come at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.”

4/5 stars. The way the author has constructed the plot – the way the past and future are intertwined, is so cool. I never imagined that the story would end up the way it did. It was totally unpredictable and up until the very end, I was wondering how the author would tie it all up. The characters all went through great development – their arcs were just as good and that especially of Dannie. her independence becomes stronger towards the end, from the beginning when she was kind of a flat character.
The interrelationships between the characters were also very dynamic and I loved the cute and brilliant friendship of Dannie and Bella!! I finished listening to this audiobook in just a few hours and I was a mess when it ended. I had to stop and stare into the distance and digest what happened. It was a beautiful piece of art. Special thanks to Libro.fm for sharing this meaningful ALC!

The Convenient Wife, by Penny Wylder

2/5 stars. A quick romance read.

Space Struck, by Paige Lewis

4/5 stars. I could hardly believe that this poetry collection was a debut. Replete with animal imagery, this is just the collection for the times we are going through.
I loved that the poems had so much depth and weren’t superfluous (as I find many contemporary pieces can be). There are various layers of emotions, shaded with self-awareness. I also loved the harmonious union of science and nature and the urbane. Thus, it is no wonder that I rated it 4.5 stars! Special thanks to Libro.fm for sharing this meaningful ALC!

The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez

5/5 stars!
If I knew adult romances were this good, I would have picked one up sooner!
I absolutely loved this book, and thanks to Libro.fm for the ALC!

Firstly, the characters were fleshed out so so well! The characters arcs especially were some of ht most realistic that I have ever come across in contemporary novels. The way Sloan processed through her grief was really touching and felt so real, that I was sobbing my heart out at times.
But then again, with Jason came his amazing flirting and I couldn’t help but blush as he made my toes curl with his teasing! These characters just felt so so real – (you definitely have to read this book!)

The other relationships were just so good. Sloan’s friendship with her friend Christian and Josh and Oliver (I only wish we could have seen more of Oliver in the novel) was amazing. It was beautiful and as I listened to this audiobook during the Corona Virus lockdown, I felt so grateful that I had real-life friends like them to help me through. Besides the obvious romance aspect of this book, it taught me to value a lot other things I have in my life.

And how can I even forget Tucker?! Admittedly, I am quite scared of dogs but Tucker just made me wish I had one to call mine – preferably Tucker himself, but I guess you can only wish for one person from a book (and I wished for Jason, duh!)

I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend you pick it up as well!
5/5 stars!!!

Christmas With Four Firemen, by K.C. Crowne

3/5 stars. Another quick romance read.

Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk

4/5 stars!
Quite an interesting read – it is full of imagery and transports you to Istanbul. The concept of time has been well enmeshed with the imagery as well – because the reader grows up with Pamuk and sees the rise and fall of Istanbul, as it were.
Moreover, because of its autobiographical nature, it tends to be intense and heavy at times so reading it at one go is not advisable. This is rather a book to be enjoyed as you sip on your cup of tea or coffee as it purs outside. I really liked it. My only wish was that the book should have included a bit more of the author’s life.

The Night Country, by Melissa Albert

4/5 stars!
I remember reading THE HAZELWOOD last year and I simply loved it. I was sorry the book ended and was eager to know about what happened AFTER. And I finally got my answer.
Now, firstly, because of the highly atmospheric (or creepy) nature of this series, I think it is best if one listened to it as an audiobook rather than just simply read (or not – not if your scare tolerance is low).
Compared to Book1 I think it falls a bit short, to be honest. But I really do not say that with much conviction, because the overall scenarios of both these books are really different. The superb atmospheric mystery that the author imbibed both books with, more so the magic she imbibed them with, was simply fantastic. I could not have hoped for a possibly better end. I really liked how the story ended.
The juxtaposition of the different worlds and the seamless quality with which they merged with each other, was again, fantastic. I have only the best adjectives to use to describe this book. Honestly, an amazing fantasy, and a twisted modern-day dark fairytale. Do pick it up! 

After She Wrote Him, by Sulari Gentill

4.5/5 stars!

My God! This was a fantastic read. I have never before come across a novel that so well threaded together the lines of literary fiction and crime. So well did this weaving take place that I was facing a dilemma – do I hurry up and finish the book at one go (like I would for any crime novel), or do I savour it and live through it a day at a time (as I do for literary fiction). That is to say, I was torn between my love for it as a crime novel, and contrastingly as literary fiction. AFTER SHE WROTE him is a pioneer in reaching for what has never been reached out for (at least in my humble reading career). If there are more books in this particular niche, I owe it to this, my first such novel, for introducing to this world.
Literary fiction novels have the capacity to make me think and introspect quite a bit. On the other hand, I am a criminal psychologist, trying to figure out the mystery when I read crime fiction. Bringing these together was an utter delight to my mind fortress and I applaud the writer for her superb skill in doing so.
The characters are alive – they jump out of the novel right at you – both with their realistic subtlety and also with the fantastic phantasm that the author creates. I lived through Madeline and I breathed through Edward. And may I just say that this twists your mind? You are left grasping for straws as you oscillate between deciding what is real and what is not.
My only reason for rating this book a 4.5 star and taking away the 0.5 was for the ending which left me pining for a more solid end. But that is not to say that I did not like the ending – in fact, I did. It was, at the same time, more solid and real than it could ever have been. But the book transforms you and you are left, longing to be a part of the lives of these two main characters.
I have really loved this book and can only try my best to persuade you to read it soon! Please do! It is a tour de force!
Thanks to #netgalley for #AfterSheWroteHim !

Foe, by J.M. Coetzee

4/5 stars! I read this for class, and it is a sort of a retelling around Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It really questions a lot about various important aspects such as the responsibility of the author, the subalterns etc.

May Books 2020

May Books 2020

We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, by Conyer Clayton

3.75 stars
I think this poetry collection was quite good. The manner of writing was quite superior and the words used really relayed the depth of emotions that were in here. However, the major themes running throughout seem to be that of loss, death (specifically abortion), life, etc. So trigger warning for that.
However, I do have to say that the collection overall, does give out the essence of real life, more or less as one person’s life may be.
The idea of birth is really powerful here and hence a symbol I infer, of hope. Newness is always refreshing and full of hope for the future. There are some beautiful lines here as well, and I highlighted them endlessly. For your reference, I shall share a few here – those that I found spoke volumes within the limited words.
Pick me, pluck me, rake me. Arrange me in a vase with water. Bring me inside, ensure my demise.
lose your lost love’s name, the one that leaves your throat raw. Don’t you know she dances like that for everyone?
You’re overheated, and liable for the burns you create.
You can’t run far from a week of heavy drinking, stumbling home hand in hand, secrets spoken in darkness – I’m practicing how I’ll lie in my coffin.
The season’s first loss of green escapes like resin from a woodpecker’s house. Lapped up in an eager kiss. Always cold on cold on cold.
We may resemble embers draped on the dock, the horizon slimy. A ladder of snake-skins. The dark difference. We are so much calmer, a glowing revolution. I almost didn’t answer you.
A lifeboat drifting in the wrong direction.
A lifetime spent in yearning.

The Ages of Lulu, by Almudena Grandes

4/5 stars! this was unlike anything I have ever read and honestly, I think this is going to stay with me for a long time. Pablo and Lulu’s love story is passionate and all-consuming and although this book does tend to delver more into the darker side of sexuality, passion, and love, I think it was done really well.

Take Off Your Startup by Samyak Kumar

4/5 stars! I think this is a really well-compiled work that explores every in and out of the business world. The attractive feature is that this is very much of a manifesto or almanac for the beginners or newbies to pick up. The author has done well in separating and categorizing the topics into step by step procedures. The inclusion of the real-stories was also very inspiring.
As a nonfiction book, this was really well planned out and was very informative. The way the author has included real-life stories in the middle was also a great point as I personally found them very inspiring. It is first reading the how-to that the author points out, and then immediately an example of how it all played out via real-life experiences.
The fact that it shows how you do not need an MBA to start a business – if you have the potential you can achieve anything, plays well throughout the book. As a student and a budding entrepreneur, it gave me quite a few pointers and ideas as to how I can plan ahead and act on it, so that I may achieve my goals. Overall, a really good book that I would recommend to all aspiring entrepreneurs.

Iphigenia at Aulis, by Euripides

4/5 stars. I read it as a part of a readalong where we read many Greek tragedies and oh my god! I am in love. Hoping to read Sophocles, Aeschylus and then maybe explore more.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

4/5 stars!
This was a wonderful memoir, brimming with emotion. It’s about the author growing up in an environment and a world which is not necessarily kind or accepting of Black people, let alone Black gay men. That is not to say that the author’s family was like that.
The whole idea of homosexuality is still one that is fraught with so much tension today – most kids are afraid or apprehensive of ‘coming out’ to their family and friends because, despite the law that does not criminalize it, society has still a long way to go.
The memoir was full of stories and the fact that it was narrated by the author brought a sense of closeness between me as the reader and the writer. It was really emotional, what with all the elements of family, homophobia. sexual awakening, etc.
That is to say, it was a hard-hitting book and a homosexual empowerment manifesto.

Chronicles of Kuru Women: Krishna’s Sister, by Priyanka Bhuyan

4/5 stars!
KRISHNA’S SISTER is the story of Subhadra (sister of Krishna and Balaram, and wife of Arjun). The reason that this book is interesting is that it brings forth a story and gives a voice to this another lesser-known woman from the Mahabharata. Recent mythological fiction novels have become a popular source and stronghold for the feminist viewpoint, with the help of which, the female characters are given a chance to bring their stories to the forefront. We all know that the Mahabharata is full of various related stories, but often they are ignored so as to not confuse the reader.
However, this was a great attempt by the author to share the story of Subhadra, a sister of a God, but also a warrior and an independent and strong woman, on her own terms, as well as a goddess herself, worshipped in the Jagannath temple at Puri.
The story was an emotional one that tugs on my heartstrings. It is about Subhadra – her life and her struggles, and the utter tragedies that befell her. But most of all, it is about how she overcame them all to emerge victoriously.
The author has written the story in a fluid way – we see the elements of family brought in, along with the love shared among brothers and sisters, the romantic love and subsequent pining she finds with Arjuna, and her later strife as a woman in society. The narration was on point, because despite the fact that all of this happened in the epics, thousands of years ago, the reader cannot help but relate with Subhadra. I cried with her, her pain, and her sacrifices. And like her, I too questioned the ways in which women have to sacrifice so much.
The author also explored her journey from being a Princess of the Yadav clan to being a queen in the Kuru dynasty, her relationships, and the dynamics among the Pandavas, with Draupadi and Kunti. Her relationship with Krishna was an adorable one and I loved the glimpses we got of the Lord.
Like all epics, the idea of destiny and fate is very powerful and prevalent here. Just like in the Greek dramas of West, of Sophocles, Homer, and Euripides, the inevitability of fate catching up to you, or the human strife and failure, to outrun it and escape it is very powerful in the Mahabharata as well. Especially if you consider the end of the Yadav clan but the continuation of the Kuru clan with the help of Krishna’s intervention.
The author with her concise writing has kept the reader intrigued and engaged until the very end. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I hope the author comes up with the rest of the books in the series soon!

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

3/5 stars!
It was a good read from the entertainment point of view. Overall, read it in a sort of mindless way perhaps, at least that is how I am going to continue reading the next 2 books. It is an entertaining read (like Twilight was, I suppose) but better not deeply analyze it.
PS. I seriously hope no one gets a sister like Taryn.

However I do have a few problems if I think really deep about it.
I think it really kind of says that bullying is okay as long as the bully has certain problems of his own. For Cardan really, the author gives an explanation for why he is cruel (growing up under his evil brother who beats him) and justifies the unkind deeds he does by just saying that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt or to die. I think it is really twisted and feels more like an angsty teen romance. Moreover, then the author seems to sexualize the situation between Jude and Cardan and I was not really okay with it because it kind of seemed sudden and forced and came out of nowhere. The relationship is really toxic and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cardan ends up betraying her or taking a revenge on her or something. He sure seems capable of it.
And Taryn was a bitch, pardon my French. The whole of the fey is weird to be honest, especially when you consider Locke and his relationship with Taryn and Jude.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

3/5 stars! The first impression I got from the book was that the author informs us simply of what has been happening, and what the characters feel. But then, I quickly realized that it was not indeed so – because along with the protagonists, the reader also introspects and philosophizes with them, essentially moving closer to the question of ‘normality’ in relation to human relationships.
I believe that the title of the book is a paradox. On the one hand, it tells us that it is about normal people that society is filled with, for instance, Marianne and Connell’s friends, as opposed to them both who are weird. But when we look at it from that perspective, we see that it is not really so. Because, when together, Marianne and Connell are ‘normal’ with each other. As such this implies that in the way they different or weird from others, it is a degree of measurement which affects every individual of society – perhaps many of these hide it better and assimilate easily compared to the protagonists. Thus, who are normal people? Everyone and no one, both at the same time. Check out my youtube video!

A Family Affair, by Charlotte Lamb

Another quick romance read. 2/5 stars!

Financial Freedom by Dhiraj Taneja

4/5 stars! Like the name suggests, Master the Money Game: Financial Freedom is a book on how to gain control of your finances. As a student, finance is a topic into which we may hardly delve into, and the management of finances for most of us may extend to just dealing with the pocket money. As such, I think it was the right time for me to have come across this book. Firstly, let me assure you that you do not have to be apprehensive about picking up the book, thinking that it may be too difficult and may go over your head. Believe me, I was apprehensive before I read the book because I really don’t know much about this topic, but I have to say without a doubt, this is a great and helpful read, especially so if you are pretty much a newbie like me.
The writing was informal and really interactive in a way and the language used was easy. What I loved most was that the author did not use very technical terms which would otherwise make it really difficult for many of us to understand. Moreover, the author has included many quotes, which make it again, so much easier to relate with.
Now coming to the actual content, the author talks about various things – all of them important, but let me share a few which I think were relevant. His entire bit on the importance to be aware of one’s financial status hit me very hard. How many of us live by a budget or spent recklessly? In today’s world, it is so necessary to become self-reliant. As such the author’s conversational words relayed the meaning of financial freedom, how it can change one’s life, and how to get financial freedom! The author also gives examples of people like Grant Sabatier, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffet, etc. and as such it really made me, as a reader see that financial independence, financial freedom are reachable and attainable. It does not matter if you are in your early 20s or beyond.
Most importantly, even if you may not be able to inculcate everything that the author has said, this book was still beneficial to you – because the tips he offers are so very practical. And if you think about it, these tips are really effective and will help you! For instance, start budgeting, and cutting excessive spending from your life. And his emphasis on the point of a person’s perspective was also important – you are the master and that is how it should stay. You should never let money become your master.
I think this was a great book that I picked up, and as a person who has started earning and has just entered her 20s, this is the perfect time to start working towards the goals. This was a very helpful book surely! I rate it 4/5! Check out my youtube video!

All the Words Unspoken, by Serena Kaur

3.75/5 stars! All The Words Unspoken was a great book for me to have picked up for the #AsianReadathon. Apart from the obvious Asian rep (Indian, to be specific) the book also focuses on various other important issues.
The main message I seemed to get from the novel was that we cannot depend on others to heal us or make us whole. Rather, we need to fall back upon ourselves to work on our growth and development. Yes, external forces such as family and friends are there to support us (or not), but the ultimate determiner is we ourselves. We cannot let others determine our worth!
When it comes to the characters, their arc was a bit disjointed – especially that of Aryan, I feel. We get a slight glimpse of him towards the beginning and then only towards the, we are bombarded with his POVs. As such, it was kind of difficult for me to retain the fact that this is the same guy. When the story started I genuinely thought it was Maansi’s story but as it progressed, of course, it wasn’t just hers alone. Yet I do think the story focused more on Aryan and less so on Maansi.
Perhaps if the author had decided to reveal Aryan’s POVs a litter sooner, the story would have gone way more smoothly.
The themes covered were like sexuality, homophobia, family, marriage as an institution, societal norms, etc. I do think the idea was a great one and the author did well by mixing all of these together especially in the Indian expatriate community, you could say, where culture, religion, etc play a big influencer in all the decisions the characters make. The way the author has weaved in the different nuances of human behavior, based on nad affected by, external forces, events, experiences, and memory, added a great flavor to the narrative as well.
I also feel that it was a bildungsroman or a coming-of-age story for the two main characters who underwent growth and changed from who they were in the beginning. It is also a story of sexual awakening in a manner, and the author pulled off that aspect really well. And in this regard, I can definitely consider this book along the same shelf as CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

Toranoi, by Sajid Iqbal

3/5 stars. I thought it was a half-baked story. There is a lot of scope for improvement.

April, May Books 2020
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