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Fortune’s Soldier, Alex Rutherford, 2018

Title: Fortune’s Soldier

Written by: Alex Rutherford

Publisher: Hachette India

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 429

Synopsis:

It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.
Over the years that follow, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company’s forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan and eventually leading the company forces to victory at Plassey, the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.
Brilliantly crafted, and bringing to life the momentous events that shook India in the mid-eighteenth century, Fortune’s Soldier is an epic tale of a fascinating era by a master storyteller. 

My review:

If you are looking for some good recommendation for historical fiction, Alex Rutherford would be the perfect one to start with. It’s very clear from the very beginning that the author has done a lot of research for this book – and the writing is proof of that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Nicholas Ballantyne, the protagonist through whose eyes we see the story, is quite an admirable character. Although he is not really happy that he has basically been shipped by his uncle to India, he accepts this and the journey he then undertakes is one full of immense adventure and danger as well. I think that the character is really well-made – he is the epitome of goodness, and despite the fact that many people might disagree with me, I really liked that the author decided to portray a character who has an innate goodness in his heart. His boldness and daring, as well as his love and his dignity were good additions to his being. The author has made him a well-rounded person that could definitely hook on the reader until the very end.

Tuhin Singh was another character I loved reading about – his sense of friendship and loyalty were treasures and I only regret that he was not given as much appreciation as he might have deserved. The author has also made the character of Robert Clive as an enigmatic persona – despite the truth that we know of his end, the author’s portrayal of this infamous person was such that he really piques the reader’s interest with his enthusiasm and zeal. He was made much likeable.

The plot was also very interesting to me – being an Indian myself, I wanted to see how the author would entwine a fictitious narrative with actual historical events. It was so fast paced that there is never a dull moment. Moreover, there are so many battles fought as well as battles that were referred to, and the subsequent addition of the Historical Note at the end was well-thought and definitely welcomed with open arms by me. The detailing and the descriptions that the author has provided, as such, were delivered in such a writing style, that I as a reader, was never bored. The author has been able to keep me interested until the very end. The writing style is understandable and easy enough for even unseasoned readers to delve into.

Themes of friendship, the corrupting influence of ambition and power, thus leading to corruption; justice, political intricacies etc., also made the story have depth. The author has explored adventure, romance, political struggles, etc., and made an invaluable effect on the story. Religion also plays a significant role throughout the book.  

Verdict:

It was an immersive read in its entirety and I enjoyed this book a lot. 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 .

Shatru Kronikles, Vadhan, 2015

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Title: Shatru Kronikles
Author: Vadhan
Publisher: Frog Books
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 262
Synopsis:
It’s the end of our days.
Our reality will be shattered.
The foundations of the universe are set to be destroyed.
A demon is unleashed from the underbelly of nature-
To take a father from a son,
Kill a mother protecting her child,
Destroy a world to kill one boy,
Make a lover betray her man.
Even the Gods are powerless.
Vengeance will rise,
Worlds will fall,
Evil will ascend…
…Shatru will oppose it.
If he does not, the one person who means the world to him will die…
 My review:
A really great masterpiece in the fantasy genre, Shatru Kronikles is truly a wonderful and engaging read. When it comes to fantasy, the most obvious books that come to one’s mind are either the Harry Potter series, Game of Thrones or even Lord of the Rings. Here in India, it is only in recent times, that more and more fantasy writings are coming up. Nonetheless, the author has done a great job with this book.
The plot is well made. The cover is something really nice and being a lover of green, this really attracterd me. I also read this a part of a bookclub and I am not at all disappointed. On the contrary, I really enjoyed reading this book. The synopsis as well was a really intriguing one.
Both Shatru and Kris are well rounded characters and serve as foils to each other although they also team together. The action scenes were also well written and the best thing is that they are so very easy to visualize – it’s like they are occurring just before your eyes.
The one thing that I didn’t like as the story moved on, was that there were too many characters introduced in the story at one point. But after some time, the stability returns and the pace picks up. The plot from here on only thickens and as a reader you are pulled in. I believe that the first few pages are the ones where you need to just go through.
The use and mixing of both science and mythology along with the supernatural was really interesting and brought in the element of the ‘para’.
Verdict:
A truly great read for fantasy lovers, Shatru Kronikles is a great option – a well written mixture of mythology, supernatural as well as the fantasy elements. I rate this book a 4/5 stars and definitely recommend it to all.

A Quest for Spring, Monica Mujumdar Dixit, 2017

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Title: A Quest for Spring
Author: Monica Mujumdar Dixit
Year: 2017
Publishers: Notion Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
Raehan and Amolika come from two very different worlds. And for the time that their worlds overlap and stick to one path, life seems beautiful. Between projects at college and hanging out with friends, the two of them come to a startling revelation that involves a bond of love between them.
Unbeknownst to the both of them, there lies a leviathan of espionage that eventually consumes the bond they share, driving them apart by force.
Sixteen years pass, when fate decides to rekindle their bond – only this time, the challenges are exacerbated by the unresolved baggage of the past. Do the two of them find each other? Does the dull, grey, long-standing spell of winter rise to give way to spring?
What I liked:
 
A Quest for Spring was a really interesting book, especially when I did not have high expectations from it. But it quite positively blew me away. The plot was quite long and while it may polarize many reviews, it worked in the author’s favour for me and thus, really pleased me. The themes of hope, religious and political strife, love, friendship, responsibility abounds these pages and interweaves a really intricate and detailed plot. ‘
 
The character of Amolika Nath has become an almost favourite for certain reasons- very much like my love for the similarly serious and career-oriented Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter world. Amolika’s drive and determination, as well her devotion to Kaka is worth mentioning and worth applauding. She is a person not afraid to give up her all for the people that he loved and also, is not afraid of risking her life for these ones. However, here I would also like to mention that at some points I really did find Amolika very self-centered and selfish, basically.
 
Raehan, on the other hand, as I found out later, us also a shy albeit focused person who really wants to repay what he considered dept. I front of the front rooms. Both of these characters were very likeable and real and thus, relatable. The author has also done a good job with Vikram. While there is a positive change in the protagonists, in case of Vikram, we see the opposite and this contrast is very interesting to observe.
 
The themes of friendship is the best explored in the book, I feel, apart from the obvious political unrest in the Valley. I would love to be a part of Millie, Sameer, Radhika, Amolika and Rehan’s group. The subtle romance added in the book is also worth reading about and enjoying. The allusions made to the famous persons and events in the book is also worth watching out for.  These were really nice and easy to read about. The language used in pretty intermediate and I think everyone will enjoy it.
 
Verdict:
I have really loved this experience, and A Quest for Spring has been one of the most interesting contemporary fictions I have read this year. I rate it a 4/5 stars!
 

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847

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Publishers: Maple Press
Genre: Gothic fiction/Classic
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr. Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
 
My review:
 I had Wuthering Heights assigned to me for my 3rd semester reading list, and I am so very glad that I could revisit this classic once again this year. The first time I read Wuthering Heights, was way back when I was in middle school, class 6 to be specific, since a favourite teacher was gushing about this, her favourite novel. Hungry for some romance, I picked it up, and I’ve been continuously picking this book up again and again.
The whole plot was confusing  to me the first time I read it, mind you- the English isn’t so very modern and hence it was quite difficult to a mere class 6 student, the entire background was gloomy and tragic and I felt the pervading sense of alienation in the windy moors of Yorkshire. Now, as an English major, I appreciate this literary work so much more and can understand the undertones better, of course. The themes of love, revenge, man versus nature, the Divine Providence, abound in this novel, and Emily Bronte, writing as Ellis Bell, masterfully carved a perfect plot, swathed with the events that eventually lead to the anticlimactic end.
The characters are well defined and I find the protagonists to be quite deserving of each other. While the romantic in me admires the ruggedly “tall, dark and handsome” Heathcliff, and his passionate love for his Cathy- so much so that he strives on and on for revenge, I cannot help but shirk away at his inhumanity at points. Cathy, misguided as she was in her hopes, which led to her disastrous actions, I found her a very impulsive and selfish as well as manipulative person, sweet enough not to make other realize her intents. Like was quoted, “It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.”
The writing is exquisite nonetheless, and although in Wuthering Heights we find one of the most dysfunctional couples of all time, there are also some of the best romantic quoted lines of all time. A masterpiece in its own, Wuthering Heights is a novel which at all persons interested in literature should definitely pick up at least once in their lifetime.
Verdict:
I rate Wuthering Heights a 4/5 stars, specifically because although I love the book, there are some points which don’t work for me at all.

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang, 2018

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Publishers: Corvus
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
 
My review:
I literally finished reading this book in around 5 hours so that’s saying something. The Kiss Quotient is an amazing book- one that delivers to you some toe-curling romance, sweet family moments, and your everyday office tragedies. Seasoned with just the right amount of reality, The Kiss Quotient proved to be a really entertaining and fulfilling read.
The plot was really well planned and the pace throughout was wonderfully paced. I also do think that the third person narration worked great for the story.
The characters were the centre point of this story- Stella more so than Michael. It is a character driven novel so it’s not a surprise that they were both so powerful in themselves. I also liked the way they were caring for their family members in their own ways and how supportive they were for both of them. That #couplegoals right there! Their development throughout the story is also significant as they come to terms with themselves- both emotionally as well as mentally. It was truly inspiring and enjoyable and can be rightly called an exceptionally well-written modern day bildungsroman novel.
The aspect of a female Asperger’s person was also eye-opening and showed the various problems and issues these women face, afraid of being judged. And the way the author has voiced her opinions through our protagonist as she comes to terms with her uniqueness, is awe-inspiring. The other themes of family, friendship, love and hard work were also well explored. I could feel so many emotions coursing through me as I read the book and related with Stella on various levels as well as Michael too, as they both tried to maneuver their way through the world and society in general. And as a reader of this book and desperate fan of Pretty Woman, I can truly say the author did justice to her version with the gender-roles exchanged.
The writing style was also one I loved really a lot. It was exquisite and I laughed and cried and felt like I was a part of the events as they unfolded. I honestly haven’t read such a wonderful contemporary novel in a long time. The editing and punctuation were all beautifully done and I do not have a complaint. I gushed so much about the book that my mother is currently reading it and loving it so far.
 
Verdict:
I rate The Kiss Quotient a solid 5/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this contemporary novel that is just amazing and a must read. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

The Year That Was //2017//

Hey everyone!

I know it’s been a long time since I last posted. A lot of things have changed. I just finished my first semester finals. The results have not been declared yet, but I’m sure that I haven’t failed in any subject, so I’m a second-semester student now. Well, pretty much. Classes start from the second of January, 2018.

I honestly feel that this year has passed so fast! It was only a few months back that I sat for my 12 finals, and now, here I am. This year, a lot of changes have occurred- I’m a high school graduate, and now I’m a first-year University student. I’ve lost contact with a lot of classmates; it was inevitable, after all, and yet I have retained some of the friendships I made in the two years I spent in the higher secondary school where I studied my junior and senior years.

My best friend and I are back together in University now, and I couldn’t be happier in that regard. Our homerooms are even on the same floor in the same building. As for myself, I might have already stated that I’m an English major. My education has been going on perfectly, and I’m very happy studying for school. It never seems like a burden, and I think it is definitely because I have always loved English literature. And didn’t someone already say, do what you love?

My finals lasted for almost a month, in December, and I was very ecstatic when it ended on the 21st. these days, I’ve been trying to replenish myself with good food, exercise and sleep, so that I’m all swanky new and energized for the new semester.

I’ve read a total of 47 books in 2017, and I’m almost finished with the 48th. Successful reading year, definitely!

My personal relations with my father had been very strained in the beginning of the year, and I’m glad to say that it is so much better now. Some familial relations are still strained and well, some people you just can’t change. I have also let go of a lot of toxic people from my life. I’ve lost a lover and gained another. And it will be, perhaps, the greatest regret of my life- losing him. But I consider myself very lucky to have moved on with a different guy, who genuinely loves me. My relations with my professors are in a really great shape, and I’m proud to admit that they love me. My new friends are kind to me and very understanding. I like them.

Healthwise, I have been in perfect shape. My MMA classes have also helped a lot. I’m so much stronger and fitter than ever before. I can run for longer, work hard physically for longer. And it has also worked wonders for my mental willpower and determination.

So that’s it. My reflection of 2017, the year that was. I’m hoping for a lot of things in 2018, but that is for another post entirely.

With lots of love,

Suze.