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Circus Folk and Village Freaks, by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal, 2018

Title: Circus Folk and Village Freaks

Author: Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Genre: Poetry

Format:  Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 155

Recommended for: For mature readers

Synopsis:

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

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.

Sanyal has played with magic to deliver to us a tale of absurd and unbelievable men and women, monsters and pets. Transformation from man to animal, man to monster etc. run rife throughout the “18 twisted tales” and provides an enjoyable and funny read.

Under these trivial and funny stories though, lies witty undertones, which are deep and metaphorical in the essence. The various themes I interpreted in the book include, but are not limited to, capitalist nature or bend of mind, issues of abandonment and finding one’s true calling, homosexuality, society’s reaction against this ‘perversion’, and suicide, the issue of one’s identity, love, depression and mental illness, being oppressed by the desires of tour elders, ambition, substance abuse and abuse of various other kinds, emotional trauma, acceptance of oneself no matter how different from the general populace, Divine Providence, karma, revenge, passion, as well as, class/caste importance in society, and most importantly, funny ways of including the gastronomical tales of food.

I absolutely enjoyed the book. Sanyal’s writing is immersive and I finished this book in one sitting, such was my undivided attention. The topics chosen by the author are easy for the general reader to dive into. Moreover, especially since they are on the ones society calls the ‘freaks’, it is a powerful collection. The verse is lyrical and rhyming and thus, sounds so musical. I definitely recommend reciting these out loud. It’s a magical experience.

My absolute favorite poems from here are The Unlikely Love Story of Lingam, and Jeeva, The Elephant Man. From the name itself then, it is not curious enough?

Verdict:

I loved reading this book and I rated it a 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 .

March 2019 TBR!

Having done extremely well with my reading the previous couple of months, I have become very much ambitious with my TBR for the month of March! This time around I am hoping to read a huge number of books:

  1. Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan (this is for my Indian Writings in English paper)
  2. The Reason is You by Nikita Singh
  3. Behind her Back by Jane Lythell
  4. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
  5. The Heist Artist by Vish Dhamija
  6. Something I never Told You by Shravya Binder
  7. 99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai
  8. Killing Time in Delhi by Ravi Shankar Etteth
  9. The True Lie by Vinod Bhardwaj
  10. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (as a part of my buddy read with @fannatality)
  11. The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, and
  12. The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty (as a part of the weekend readalong with @per_fictionist )

My hopes are undoubtedly very high. Nonetheless, I am currently reading 99 Nights in Logar and quite liking it so far. And I have also been able to read a total of 6 books this month.

February 2019 Wrap-up!

So back in February 2018, I read a only 4 books and so this time around, I knew I had to beat myself. I have an overall reading goal of at least around 10 books each month in 2019, and so with great gusto, I went it, with quite high hopes!

And I ended up reading 20 books and I was very happy about it. So without further ado, the books I read are:

  1. The Wake-Up Girl by Niharika Jindal (Click here to check out the review)
  2. The Stalker by Sandeep Sharma (Click here)
  3. The Lupanarium by Adele Leigh (Click here)
  4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Click here)
  5. Shadows of the Night by Priyanka Lal (Click here)
  6. Kaalkoot by S. Venkatesh (Click here)
  7. The Perfect Drug by Chaitanya Saini (Click here)
  8. The Anonymous by Nidhi Kukreja (Click here)
  9. The Poetics by Aristotle
  10. Honey and the Moon by Kamini Kusum (Click here)
  11. Blood and Beloved by Krimson Ravyn (Click here)
  12. The Vanishing of Subhas Bose by Rajesh Talwar (Click here)
  13. Smokes and Whiskey by Tejaswini Divya Nair (Click here)
  14. Unstoppable by Gayathri Ponvannan (Click here)
  15. The Glass House by Chanchal Sanyal (Click here)
  16. Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal (Click here)
  17. Between You and Me by Atul Khanna (Click here)
  18. The Husband Test by Helen Bianchin
  19. Moromor Deuta/Dear Father by Bhandra Nath Saikia (Click here)
  20. Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley (Click here to check the Finding Esme Box post; click here to check the Finding Esme Unboxing post; click here to check the Finding Esme Review!)

I am really happy with my progress and hope to read some more good books in March as well!

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley, 2018

Title: Finding Esme

Author: Suzanne Crowley

Publisher: Greenwillow books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Reading level: Middle-grade

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas. Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor. Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away. From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

My review:

I had honestly no idea that I would come to love this book so much! Finding Esme is truly a one of a kind middle-grade novel that I enjoyed delving into, as did my brother!

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Esme is one I found to be utterly wonderful and dynamic in her own rights. She is so matured for a mere twelve-year old and while it awed me a lot, at times, I could not help but feel sad for she has lost quite a part of her childhood. As she so ardently asserts to her grandmother, she is after all a kid who has been force to grow up too early. It also does not help that Bee admittedly treats her like an adult.

Bee on the other hand, is a hard woman. She has faced a lot in her life and her great tragedy perhaps defines a lot of this novel – I believe this backstory is crucial in the way it has also defined the lives of Esme, her brother Bo, her mother June Rain and her father Harlan. (If you want to know what great tragedy I am talking about then you should surely read this book!) It is not a tragedy in as much as a terrific incident or something of catastrophic expanse, but the implications of that melancholy secret is utterly poignant and moving.

Speaking of Bo, I absolutely loved this cuteball! Having a brother myself really made it possible for me to relate to Esme on another level – the bond that one has with siblings is simply unbreakable. Bo is fun and offers the bit of humour in this story. One cannot help but fall in love with him. His understanding of the things around him is also utterly profound and I found him, in some amount, very enigmatic.

June Rain broke my heart. It is only towards the end that we know so much as to why she is what she is and behaves as she does. Sweetmaw, who is Bee’s sister is also another lovable character. I also quite liked Finch’s character and he truly is a good friend to Esme. We also see his story as the author really wraps around the lives of the people with each other. The end product is utterly magical.

The plot was also really enjoyable and while the overall pacing was good, I think that the beginning was a bit slow. Nonetheless, it wraps up the story perfectly.

The themes of family, friends, love, were well evolved in the story. We see so many shades of human emotions that it was an utter ride in itself. Love, hatred, jealousy, competition… everything was included and the result was something very real. The supernatural element was also what I think formed a lot of the backbone in this story, but of course that is a personal interpretation. I suppose I cannot stress enough on how deep and impactful this middle-grade novel turned out to be! And as such, I feel that this is a story people of all ages will enjoy – the kids for the mystery, and the adults for the various hidden layers of meaning and implications within the story.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this story and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

Selected among Book Sense and Indie Next top picks, and Amazon and Bookbub Editor’s Picks for Best Books, Suzanne writes novels that School Library Journal calls “amazing” and “poignant” and VOYA calls “heart-stirring” and “marvelous.” Suzanne, the author of both middle grade and young adult fiction, is a wife, mother, a crafter of dollhouse miniatures, an avid traveler, dog hugger, nap expert, and chocolate lover extraordinaire. Suzanne’s novels have received starred reviews in SLJ, KLIATT, VOYA and BCCB, and have been selected for state and national reading lists. After living all over the United States, Suzanne and her family now make their home back in her native state of Texas.
www.suzannecrowley.com 

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 .

Moromor Deuta/Dear Father, by Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Title: Moromor Deuta / Dear Father

Author: Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Publisher: Nayantara Prakshan

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language:  Assamese

No. of pages: 95

Recommended for: All Ages!

My review:

Moromor Deuta is truly a book that I suppose almost every Assamese youth has read, and if not, then it is surely something that I would recommend them all to.

So this year, I have my very own reading challenge #readyourmothertongue wherein, I read at least 1 Assamese (I am from Assam, and my mother tongue is Assamese) book each month. Now I do not read as many Assamese novels as I do English ones and as such, my proficiency in considerably less in this language. I am trying to get better at it, however, and that is why I had picked up the famed Burhi Aair Sadhu by Lakshminath Bezbruah, for my beginner’s pace in January. In February, the book that I picked up – Moromor Deuta – is s story for kids, with its easy language, but the meaning is universal and it touches all of us.

I was first introduced to this story years ago when I was sick (I had the pox) and I had to rest and I was so bored that my mother bought me new books. One of them was ‘Dear Father’, a story which was originally written in Assamese, but Mom had got me an English version. I had loved the seemingly simple plot then and continued to pick it up again and again over the years. But this time around, as I read the real version in my mother tongue, it touched me deeply. This story will resonate within all the readers’ hearts.

The plot, while seemingly a simple one, encompasses a variety of morals and various themes. The family bonding, parents’ and siblings’ love is by far the focal one in my view and the author leaves with a bang. The reason why I read the English version, again and again, all those years back, is simply why this book, and this time in my mother tongue, did not fail to strike me – when I used to be angry with my parents, I inadvertently used to pick this one up and the message, which was loud and clear, continued to calm me down – it is simply that no matter how harsh one’s parents may seem at times, they never even once fail to think of the betterment of their children. And even if their rules and their authority may seem too much at times, we kids need to understand that they always have or good in mind.

The language used by the author is simple and easy to understand – I certainly did not find much difficulty in reading this book, considering that I haven’t read any ‘novel’ in Assamese before. I am truly enjoying this reading challenge and I hope it will be successful in bringing you closer to your roots as well.

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 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 .

Smokes and Whiskey, by Tejaswini Divya Naik, 2018

Title: Smokes and Whiskey

Author: Tejaswini Divya Naik

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Poetry

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 150

Recommended for: Lovers of contemporary poetry

Synopsis:

Titled Smokes and Whiskey, the book is a collection of 42 poems on relationships, the ups and downs that come along with it, falling apart like rubble, but then finding oneself, gathering that strength back and building yourself up, back from that same rubble. I hope that this book makes everyone feel what I felt while writing it, and that love is a universal thing, and my story is not unique. And I hope that this makes them see that there is a beyond and that they can come out happy and clean. And, that this makes them braver than they already are, and gives them that little extra push and strength that they probably need

My review:

Armoured with just 42 poems, this book surprisingly launches a punch at the reader. The poems are written in the contemporary style, made popular by many poets such as Nikita Gill, Rupi Kaur, and Amanda Lovelace etc. Smokes and Whiskey was a quick yet impactful read and I loved going through the poems.

The reader should go in with a trigger warning however – there are mentions of rapes, domestic violence, abuse, mental harassment etc. all of these are so relevant and the way that the poet uses her words makes sure that the end product is raw and poignant, and still relatable. They touch the reader’s heart and makes for an impactful read.

There is a certain rawness in the poet’s words; certain tinge self-destructiveness that peeks through as the poet writes:

I give hearts out away for free

Maybe there’s something wrong in me.

Or maybe the way the poet states this bittersweet statement makes the reader feel so. I personally loved many of the individual poems and marked quite a few of them. I shall definitely be going back to reading these ones soon. They are so sad at times – leaving me utterly despondent, but the poet is successful in showing a ray of hope to the reader and this is perhaps what also makes this collection one worth remembering.

This is definitely one collection I won’t be forgetting anytime soon!

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this anthology and I rate it 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 .

Blood and Beloved, by Krimson Ravyn, 2019

Title: Blood and Beloved

Author: Krimson Ravyn

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: Poetry/Gothic

Format: E-Book

Language: English

No. of pages: 88

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

Blood and Beloved, India’s first Gothic horror poetry collection, includes abstract, horror, and Gothic themes such as darkness, psychological horrors, child-rape, death, etc. Each poem from the book showcases elements of melancholy, depression, mania, occult, a darker philosophy of life, and the like. With a vivid, dark imagery, the book aims at being a fusion of the horror and poetry genres. 

My review:

This certainly was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. And like the synopsis asserts, this was my first Gothic horror poetry collection. Blood and Beloved has also been released just some time ago, on the 8th of February in fact.

The theme of this anthology of poems are a myriad of issues like darkness, psychological horrors, child-rape, death etc., and the author’s grasp over the English language is commendable. The utter visual imagery – stark and raw – that the words invoke are well written and resonate with the reader.

With great depth and meaning, the poems are truly one of a kind, and never have I read any such poems in the Indian context before. I personally think that the author has done a great job with the poems.

With a total of 45 poems in 88 page, the poems have a rhythm and song-like quality that I enjoyed. My very personal favourite was THE CURSE OF PERSEPHONE which I enjoyed reading multiple times, so far. There are also others in this collection that I enjoyed. I think that this is one collection that requires a reader’s patience to continue with. And while I love it, I do also feel that this is a polarizing book – while I may love it, someone may hate it too. But that cannot be much deliberated upon. I enjoyed the book in its entirety and I hope I can read more of the poet’s work in the future.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this collection. I rate it a 4/5 stars and would definitely recommend it.

About the author:

Krimson Ravyn, aka Kashish Kaur, is an award-winning short story writer, who writes in horror and fantasy genres. A gothic darkling deeply interested in the subculture, a poet by nature, and a writer by avocation, she loves fusing her two favorites together- horror and poetry. 
Blood and Beloved is her debut 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 .

2 Day Down, Dr. Nikita Lalwani, 2018

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Title: 2 Day Down
Author: Dr. Nikita Lalwani
Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybooks
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 192
 
Synopsis:
2-day-down is a compilation of stories of 5 women from different walks of life. Each story digs into one of the five period related problems: Pain | Staining | Sexual Inhibition | PMS | Taboo, through each one’s journey. The title signifies the second day of a woman’s period, which is said to be the toughest of the five days. The stories are a reflection of the less acknowledged society around us. Through menstrual problems as a window, the book is an attempt to bring light to the intriguing yet briefly understood aspects of womanhood in different age groups.
 
My review:
With a well-planned story structure, 2 Day Down was a good read and something that I found was truly unique. The entire collection, as divided into 5 different stories on 5 different women proved to be a really good technique as it really separated out the different stories, while also laying them side by side, parallel to each other to compare and contrast them.
The stories individually however could have seen more development in terms of plot and character. I feel that the stories were not very well-paced or very lucid and coherent. It was not very easy to understand at some points.
In terms of the title, the subtitle to be specific, I did not see much of the ‘freedom’ aspect as written. Nonetheless, the author has really shed significant light on women health issues, especially pertaining to periods that are not very well known. In that effect, it proved quite enlightening. In this way, I think this book is perfect when it comes to gaining consciousness and awareness about women especially in regards to their monthly ‘womanly problems’. The society has reached a point where it is ready enough to acknowledge and pay attention to these issues and not just disregard them as something very frugal. The ways in which these stories are presented are also significant as they have been heavily influenced by a very realistic tone.
Overall a very much enjoyable and at times, a bit depressing (because of its realistic portrayal of these women)
 
Verdict:
I enjoyed this book and I rate it a 3.5/5 stars.