Tag Archives: blogger

How to: Content that is Fast, Cheap and Viral!

fast, Cheap and Viral content!

Aashish Chopra in Fast, Cheap and Viral has tapped into the surprisingly simple but effective means to make viral content!

Synopsis:

In Fast, Cheap and Viral, the ace marketer shares the secrets behind his success – all of them learned and honed on his journey. This one-stop super-guide to viral video marketing gives you the low-down on:
HOW TO GRAB EYEBALLS in a sea of content.
HOW TO DRIVE ENGAGEMENT (because views can be bought, but engagement is earned).
WHY STORYTELLING BEATS PRODUCTION VALUE and behind-the-scenes tips and tricks.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND and kill job insecurity.

For every student, entrepreneur, blogger, marketing manager or leader who dreams of reaching millions on a shoestring budget, this book is the definitive manual on sustainable viral success.

Viral Content:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This is definitely a book that every content creator, blogger, and influencer must-read. It is an engaging masterclass where the author tells of the simple yet the most effective means to make sure that your content is great. Since the book is also written based on the author’s experience, these are all tried and true methods that will surely help if one puts them into use. The only way to find out is to do these things yourself!

Moreover, the author has included illustrations, or rather, infographics, that summarized the already concise and precise words. Each chapter focuses on one key aspect that you need to focus on and the sum total of all, is a book full of tips to make it to the top of the content creation ladder. The inclusion of examples as well as a great method as it made sure that the reader could relate it to real-life events and thus reality.

A content manifesto!

Definitely a very informative and functional read. I rate it 5/5 stars! Stay tuned because an elaborate post is coming up soon!

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47595555-fast-cheap-and-viral
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Fast-Cheap-Viral-Game-Changing-Shoestring/dp/9351952754/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ID0FGT3VEF81&keywords=fast%2C+cheap+and+viral&qid=1572016116&sprefix=fast%2C+cheap%2Caps%2C333&sr=8-1

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 .

Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

So this amazing collection of beautiful letters was recently published on the 1st of October, 2019 and I am so happy to have been able to read it. I absolutely love it!

Dear Juliet

So basically this is a collection of only a few of the thousands of letters that people all over the earth write to Juliet.

Yes, the Juliet of Verona. Juliet Capulet. Romeo’s Juliet. Juliet by Shakespeare.

The Juliet Club

If you didn’t know, there is even today the famous Juliet Club, where Juliet’s secretaries reply to all the letters sent to her. It was first started by Giulio Tamassia and a group of artists and scholars in 1972. Today, Giovanna Tamassia directs the club and upholds her father’s legacy. I personally never knew about this club until I saw the 2010 movie Letters to Juliet.

My letter of love

As I read these heartfelt outpouring of love, I realized how many forms of it there are today, which is not to imply that anyone is better or more powerful than the other. This emotion is all-encompassing and kind and caring and love loves to give. As I leafed through the pages, I was touched by the beautiful words – which were spontaneous and intuitive and emotional and some unrefined, but all, beautiful and touching.

I think this is a wonderful book we need to read, especially in present times when we humans seem to have forgotten what it is to love others, and to be kind to others. We have almost relegated this feeling to simply a romantic one, forgetting all the other versions of love that exist, like the love for a sibling, the love for an aging parent and the love for friends.

A visual saga

With scans of original letters sent to the club, in so many different languages, I was blown away by the feeling that the one emotion that binds us all to one another and to life in general, is that of love. We all may have busy lives and be participants in a cut-throat world but to love and be loved is a privilege that we all yearn for, deep inside.

I was very emotional by the time I finished reading this book and I do not think I will really rate or review this book because it was so cavernous a topic. But If I absolutely have to rate it, it will be an astounding 5/5 stars.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43387390-dear-juliet

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Dear-Juliet-Lovestruck-Lovelorn-Shakespeares/dp/1452170568/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571491090&sr=8-4

Some other books you can check out if you liked this one:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
  2. Poets, Artists, Lovers by Mira Tudor
  3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel, 2019

Title:  Lost and Found

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 270

Synopsis:

What might have been? That tantalizing question propels a woman on a cross-country adventure to reunite with the men she loved and let go, in Danielle Steel’s exhilarating new novel.

It all starts with a fall from a ladder, in a firehouse in New York City. The firehouse has been converted into a unique Manhattan home and studio where renowned photographer Madison Allen works and lives after raising three children on her own. But the accident, which happens while Maddie is sorting through long-forgotten personal mementos and photos, results in more than a broken ankle. It changes her life.

Spurred by old memories, the forced pause in her demanding schedule, and an argument with her daughter that leads to a rare crisis of confidence, Maddie embarks on a road trip. She hopes to answer questions about the men she loved and might have married—but didn’t—in the years after she was left alone with three young children. Wearing a cast and driving a rented SUV, she sets off to reconnect with three very different men—one in Boston, one in Chicago, and another in Wyoming—to know once and for all if the decisions she made long ago were the right ones. Before moving forward into the future, she is compelled to confront the past.

As the miles and days pass, and with each new encounter, Maddie’s life comes into clearer focus and a new future takes shape. A deeply felt story about love, motherhood, family, and fate, Lost and Found is an irresistible new novel from America’s most dynamic storyteller.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I read this book for the #lostandfoundreadathon hosted by @PanMacmillanIndia .

Lost and Found by Danielle Steel is the latest new release from this loved and revered author. I picked it up and finished it under 12 hours, such was the appeal. This was essentially a book of growth and it touched me deeply. It revolves around Maddie and I love how Steel has an older woman as a protagonist (I hardly read much adult fiction and this was among the best ones I have ever read definitely). It taught me that age truly is just a number and unlike my shallow thinking that life gets boring when you hit middle age, it only depends on whether you give up or take life by the horns.

Maddie is an amazing woman with just an amazing story. The author deals with various themes here – familial love, romantic love being the most significant ones. I love how each of the characters and not just Maddie herself, goes through a transformation and ends up a better person than they were before. It shows that it is never too late to try to become a better version of oneself. Deanna’s transformation is the most significant and although I so wanted to bash her up in the beginning I have come to understand her better. I would also love to see Milagra’s own story too. This book just showed so many differences that occur among us and despite it all, it is our love and care for each other that bind us together. One more thing, it is so very important to be kind to others.

The language is easy and flowing as usual. What is important is that every Danielle Steel book has such important lessons, I feel. She never makes it didactic which could have repelled us. Instead, she weaves her words beautifully and relates it with true life. I feel like I always come away a bit wiser and more insightful after reading her books.

Verdict:

I really absolutely loved every bit of this book. I laughed and cried and was sobbing at many parts. I rate this 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 .

The Right Time, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Right Time

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 325

Synopsis:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – Filled with heartbreak and betrayal, triumph and fulfillment, The Right Time is an intimate, richly rewarding novel about pursuing one’s passion and succeeding beyond one’s wildest dreams.

Abandoned by her mother at age seven, Alexandra Winslow takes solace in the mysteries she reads with her devoted father–and soon she is writing them herself, slowly graduating to dark, complex crime stories that reflect skill, imagination, and talent far beyond her years. After her father’s untimely death, at fourteen Alex is taken in by the nuns of a local convent, where she finds twenty-six mothers to take the place of the one she lost, and the time and encouragement to pursue her gift.

Alex writes in every spare moment, gripped by the plots and themes and characters that fill her mind. Midway through college, she has finished a novel–and manages to find a seasoned agent, then a publisher. But as she climbs the ladder of publishing success, she resolutely adheres to her father’s admonition: Men read crime thrillers by men only–and so Alexandra Winslow publishes under the pseudonym Alexander Green, her true identity known only to those closest to her, creating a double life that isolates her.

Her secret life as the mysterious and brilliantly successful Alexander Green–and her own life as a talented young woman–expose her to the envious, the arrogant, and Hollywood players who have no idea who she really is. Always, the right time to open up seems just out of reach, and would cost her dearly. Once her double life and fame are established, the price of the truth is always too high.

My review:

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I read this book for the #lostandfoundreadathon hosted by @PanMacmillanIndia .

The Right Time starts on a somewhat sad note. With a female protagonist, Steel has been able to capture my senses once again and I was diving headlong into the story from the first few pages onwards. Being an avid fan of literature, I really liked Alexandra and her passion for reading and writing. On some levels, I could really relate to her – like her passion for learning, keeping her work as her main priority etc. are some things that I share with her. Alexandra is like an almost real person and feel like I’ve known her for ages, seeing her grow up.

Going through what Alexandra did in her childhood, is never a happy thing for any child to have gone through. It is heart-wrenching and often leaves a child doubtful about himself, suspecting that it is a fault of his that led to the mother or the father leaving. Mother, in Alexandra’s case. And this effect stays in the psyche of the child for a long time.

One the one hand, we might hate Carmen for what she does to the family. On the other hand, we cannot help but feel sad.  She chose wrongly – she thought that she could be happy married and with a kid but it turns out she wasn’t. It was like life playing a sad joke on her – despite what we feel regarding her behaviour towards the family, we can understand that she is one of those women who are not made for marriage and motherhood perhaps. 

Also lets talk about one other thing that really pissed me off – the problem with the education system. When you do something exceptionally well for your age (something not as common as sports, say), the authorities, by default, think there is a problem with you. There was seriously a problem with the English teacher in the story who thought that a young girl writing a brilliant story, albeit a gruesome thriller, has some problem in her mindset.

Excellence makes me happy. Seeing someone do well makes me happy and gives me a sense of pride as if I’m the mother or something. But god, was I proud of Alexandra as a kid! She is driven and is an inspiration for any girl out there. I wish many more girls will read this book and be inspired by Alexandra. She is one amazing person.

 Moving to a new place and adjusting often seems difficult and painful. However, one as to really commend Alexandra’s bold nature and spirit. The nuns are really fun and totally different from the ones I knew, having studied in 2 convents for the 13 years of my education. The atmosphere is like a family in the story and I loved this big one full of so many sisters and the mother.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this book and I rate it 4/5 stars and I surely will pick up this one again soon.

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 .

February 2019 book haul part 2!

Hey guys!
Hope you are doing well! I am currently reading #99nightsinlogar by @jamil_jan_kochai_author @bloomsburyindia and I am enjoying it quite a lot! I am currently 136/276 pages in and I hope to finish it by tomorrow night.

So anyway, here are the rest of the books I bought in February. I have already lent a few and so I couldn’t include them in the pics.

  1. Emma’s Secret by Barbara Taylor Bradford
  2. A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
  4. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  5. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
  6. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  7. Norwegian Wood by Murakami
  8. Half Torn Hearts by Novoneel Chakraborty (a signed copy!)
  9. Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik
  10. Songs of the Cauvery by Kalyanaraman Durgadas
  11. Feminist Rani by Shaili CHopra & Meghna Pant (I also met Meghna Pant and got this signed!)
  12. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini (got this as a gift for my mom!)
  13. One Day by David Nicholls
  14. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

#qotd : What are you all currently reading? Are you enjoying it?

The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire, Reshma K. Barshikar, 2018

Title: The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire

Author: Reshma K. arshikar

Publisher: Two Ravens

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 420

Synopsis:

‘What price would you pay to be extraordinary? What would you do to speak to a butterfly? 

 Shayamukthy cruises through life: shooting hoops, daydreaming and listening to her favourite books. Even moving from the US to India, to a new school, a new culture, hasn’t really rattled her. But something isn’t right anymore and it begins when a New Girl joins the school. 

She pulls Shui into a world of magic and wonderment, a world she has been hidden from all her life. What starts as a quest to look for a lost book, hurtles Shui into a world where people live in trees, talk to the dead and speak to butterflies. 

But like all power, magic comes at a steep price, and under all things wondrous lie demons waiting to crawl out. The more Shui learns, the more she doubts everything and everyone around her.   

Will she be able to master her powers, or will they devour her and everyone she loves? 

About the author:

Travel writer and novelist Reshma K Barshikar is an erstwhile Investment Banker who, as she tells it, ‘fell down a rabbit hole and discovered a world outside a fluorescent cubicle.’ As a travel and features writer, she contributes to National Geographic Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, The Sunday Guardian, SilverKris, The Mint Lounge, and The Hindu. Fade Into Red, published by Random House India was her debut novel and featured in Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers. She also holds well-renowned workshops for young adults at both BDL Museum and Kala Ghoda and is keen to build a strong Young Adult reading and writing community to fill the desperate lack of young adult fiction in the Indian Market. Her new Young Adult novel, The Hidden Children, will be launching at the Vizag Junior Literary Festival. Reshma is from the ISB Class of 2003. She calls both Mumbai and the Nilgiris home. All her work can be found on www.reshmakrishnan.com 

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in 

Being an avid fantasy reader, I just had to pick up The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire. Ofcourse, Ashok K. Banker’s blur really helped as well, since I personally like his writing as well.

The hope for achieving something great, of ambition and success is something we see starkly portrayed in Shayamukthy or Shui. We see her growth throughout the novel – and I consider it a bildungsroman in this aspect.

One thing that really impressed me was the intertextual or rather cross-cultural references, more specifically references to various movies, and books. It really points to the fact that the author herself is well-versed in all of them, well enough to have mentioned them at the necessary places.

The language used is understandable and as such, pre-teens and teens can read this without any difficulty. This dos not limit the book to only the younger side of the age spectrum.  Every fantasy lover can pick this one up.

The pacing however is a bit slow and that is where I personally faltered, in the beginning. If one can overlook that aspect, then I do not think anyone might find any problem otherwise. The first person perspective works well in this case and the occasional flashbacks are quite refreshing while also adding depth to the characters as well as the story. The themes of memory, childhood, magic, righteousness or rather good versus evil etc. intertwined well with the symbolism applied by the author. The ‘chosen one’ concept is a common trope, however, the author has added her own twist to it and delivered to us an exciting dish.

The world building, especially the magic system was really well planned and intriguing. The author does not fail even with the character building. Soumi, Nallini, Jai, Aadyant and Anya were all well portrayed and seemed realistic in their beings.

Set in a high school world, this book is truly one of a kind- I admit that I have never read something like this set in India. The author has done well in intertwining the American/European elements into the Indian context, and The Hidden Children, somewhere midway between YA literature and fantasy, might just be the book to introduce this in our country.

The title of the story makes a lot of sense as we delve deeper into the story. It is quite unique in its originality. The cover is also nice although it could have been a bit better. However I do think that it captures the essence of the story.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book 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 .

City of my Heart, selected and translated by Rana Safvi, 2018

Title: City of my Heart

Trnslated by: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

In September 1857, the Indian way of life changed for ever, after the overnight downfall of the Mughal Dynasty, with the capture and exile of Bahadur Shah Zafar. This book, translated by Safvi, presents translations of four texts that talk about Dilli (today, Delhi) on the eve of the downfall and the fate of royalty following the uprising of 1857. Invoking nostalgia, chronicling both beauty and hardships, it is a gemstone to understand exactly how the royal household functioned and how it ceased to be. 

My review:

City of my Heart is a chronicle, a romance, and history all mixed in one. It is a scenery of a time rich in cultural and intellectual activity in Dilli as it was then known, the multifaceted aspects of the Mughals and their reign that made it a paradigm, and it is a nostalgic read- almost as if one’s relatives had lived and loved in those times, as if this illusion is just within one’s grasp in a few years in the past and not in the actual centuries that separate them and us.

City of my Heart has a beautiful cover, and it catches the reader’s eye at the very instance they fall on it. Had I not been given a review copy, I am sure that I would have picked up the book just for the sake of the cover, without having even read the synopsis. But this book is one of those rare ones, for which the covers and the content go hand in hand.

While the stories are wonderful, as a non-Urdu learner I cannot possibly waive aside the diligent work of the translator, without the presence of whom I would have still been believing Dilli of that time to be a mere decadent one.

As I so vividly found out, the first half of the nineteenth century has been very much misunderstood, and this book truly sets that to right. No words I utter today can possibly pierce the pregnant thoughts I harbor for it – full of calm yet sorrow, awe and some strange, perhaps misplaced (or not), sense of nostalgia. It is a masterpiece, and apart from the actual academic importance it has got, this is a must read for those wishing to know more about our country’s past, from the works of actual people of those times, and translated by a master storyteller into a language that is easy to understand, and a portrayal of a world just as easy to slip into.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book 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 .

Amma and I, Trishna Damodar, 2018

Title: Amma and I

Author: Trishna Damodar

Publisher: Frog Books

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 204

Synopsis:

You are unique in your own existence Kripa and Maya live in a small town in Kerala. Surrounded by greenery, streams, a vast rubber estate and a palatial home, they had it all. Maya enjoys listening to the radio and reading books and magazines as it offers her a chance to connect to the world outside. She wanted to do so much more in her life, but a sudden marriage proposal from a man based in France gets her anxious at the possibility of her dreams fading away like smoke.

Kripa has been the dutiful daughter, wife and mother. All she knew was her life and family in Kuttiadi. But she wants more for her daughter, Maya. So, when a proposal from someone in France came along, she jumped at the opportunity, hoping that this would give her
daughter a chance at a bigger and better life.

Maya, so lost in her own world, was unaware of certain shadows that lurked in her own backyard. What hides behind the constant smile on Kripa’s face? Read the journey of Kripa and Maya, set in the 1970’s, as they struggle to be heard in a society that is fixed in its norms.

My review:

Amma and I proved to be a great read and I reveled in its beauty. At only 263 pages, this book was a beautiful one that may also be the perfect gift for your friends this new year.

Speaking of the cover, it is simple, but the elements have really been able to convey the meaning and the overall themes in the book.

The plot line is also well constructed, and the pacing well set. The flow is smooth and proves really natural as the reader reads on. The introduction of new topics into the main narrative was also done in a smooth manner without any abruptness and that is another plus point.

The themes seen in this book are quite a few- ambition, love, family, jealousy, friendship, and so on. The growth or development of the self is also another significant aspect that the author works upon in the book.


The language used is simple, but that in no way reduces the quality of the book. It is utterly pleasing and a great warming experience.

The language used is simple, but that in no way reduces the quality of the book. It is utterly pleasing and a great warming experience.

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Maya’s character grows throughout the book and towards the end we see her emerging as a confident and bold young woman, who knows what shew wants and will not let anyone convince her otherwise. One thing that I really liked was how Maya was someone who realized the importance of a career and ambition; I loved that she was practical and not at all stupid or restless like other female characters in love. The mother Kripa’s character is also one of much self-growth and we see her finally getting to live life on her own terms. Ashok was also a character of great understanding and he is every much the ideal boyfriend, I felt like.

The other characters also are well made with depth and round figures. What I also love about this book is that the author has not made this a simple love story. Every character is undergoing some thing or the other and develops themselves by the end. In this manner, it would not be wrong to say that in some manners, this book, while highly entertaining, is also didactic, without being boring and at the same time, an unconventional bildungsroman at times.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book 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

Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson, 2018

Title: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 288

Synopsis:

Author Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

My review:

Truly Devious is a new YA murder mystery, the first in an upcoming trilogy (I think!) and I am so very glad that I picked it up. After having read the book, I definitely think that I will continue with this series.

Going into this book I never knew it if a part of a series so I expected it to be precise in its own way and that is why I had the thought that perhaps the author has tried to pull the events a bit, and why the pacing felt a bit slow in the beginning and major plot points happened only after about halfway through the book.

Stevie as a character was well made and I am afraid that is something I can only say for her. Nate does require a bit more depth and I hope the author will bring him into the picture more in the sequels. David on the other hand, the love interest (?) was considerably well made. A refreshing change is that this book is not very romance heavy and has only explored a little bit of attraction so far. Although romance, in the long run will not be completely unwelcome.

The world building is truly fascinating. I loved reading about this new-age school with its eclectic students. The brilliance of these students is truly worth noticing. The themes of murder, mystery, thriller as well as the generic ones of familial as well as friendly bonding, personal space and such are well explored in the story.

The dual timeline in the novel is really enjoyable to read. The 1936 plotline read great and it felt like to mysteriesunveiling at the same time. It added a lot of depth to the narrative as a whole and while I was at the edge of my seat wondering who the murderer was, I was left crazy and mad when I ended the book and realized that there is to be a sequel.  There is a game-like feel to the entire novel and I read it in really less time when you consider the fact that my semester is almost ending and I am running pell-mell to keep up during these last few days.

I am very excited for the next book and it is bound to be one of my most anticipated books of 2019!

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate 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 .

Winterdream, Chantal Gadoury, 2018

Title: Winter Dream

Author: Chantal Gadoury

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 237

Synopsis:

This Christmas Eve… no creature was stirring…
Except, maybe, a mouse. 
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse? 
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount. 
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse? 
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But what is it about him Clara finds so alluring? 
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war, redemption, and Christmas magic. 

My review:

I truly believe that I read Winter Dream at the best possible time of the year – its winter and Christmas is just a couple weeks away. This book really geared me up for the festive season ahead.

As is clear from the synopsis, Winterdream is a retelling of the original Nutcracker story and oh what a retelling! I really enjoyed reading this book and I love that Chantal has such a penchant for creating these amazing retellings of fairytales that we all know.

With her classic elegant style of writing, that is smooth and reads like the classic caramel custard my mother makes this time of the year, Chantal has infused the very spirit of Christmas into the book, or the book has infused the festive spirit into me. Words cannot do this justice. The beginning was a bit slow, I found, but only the pace picked up, I could not put it down. This book really took me very less amount of time to finish – I could hardly put it down once I started reading it, despite that fact that I am going through my last week of classes before winter break and we all know hoe very tiring and hectic that can be.

The world building was amazing – the lush and wonderfully evocative words made it all so very real. Chantal’s words have a vivid imagery that sucks the reader right in. The description of the magical Sugarland, and Winterdream as a whole was magical really – I cannot find enough words to describe it, except say that you should definitely pick it up this December. The character development – be it emotional or mental, was well written and explored, especially in Clara. Everything was natural and smooth flowing – the reader goes along and there are no abrupt jerks in the development of the characters and that really builds a strong structure for the story. The characters have depth to their beings and in this manner the author shows both strength and vulnerability in them.

I read to Tchaikovsky’s music while reading the book and I definitely recommend you all to do that too as it gives you a really magical feelings.

{I received a review without any guarantee of a favorable review. The opinions expressed herein are unbiased and my own.}

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book 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 .

Gift of Confidence, Rohit Narang, 2018

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Title: Gift of Confidence
Author: Rohit Narang
Publisher: Partridge India
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 148
Synopsis:
Everyone, in a family of reputed professionals of the town, has been successful in cracking the World’s toughest exam in their first attempt but Pancham is unable to maintain the legacy. Father is furious at Pancham’s failure. Pancham thinks if he dies, the society won’t trouble his family. Before the thought could take the shape of reality, an affectionate mother calms him down and sends him to the Sikh temple, where he meets a weird looking stranger with whom he takes an emotional roller coaster of conversations. Based on actual events, the story is influenced by the author’s life who refused to believe the crowd and made his path for an unbelievable achievement.
 My review:
Gift of Confidence was an enjoyable read as it was so very realistic in its essence. The plot in itself is something that is common to every student’s life, be it in part or its entirety. The protagonist, along with his troubles was very relatable and his tribulations more so.
The themes of success and hard work resonate throughout the entire story and in its way this story proves to be a very inspiring read. There is however just one mention of suicide that may be a trigger warning for some. The character of Vandit ji was also a very inspiring one as he is the one who really made the difference in Pancham’s life. He is the one who basically lifted Pancham up and delivered him from the hole he had fallen into following his unwelcome result. In that I think it is really relatable- we all have someone who really builds us up and helps us move forward in life and that is really important.
Pancham’s mother was a very lovable and inspiring character too who always had the belief and trust in her son and never failed to make him feel supported. Pancham on the other hand, goes through a great transformation and his metamorphosis is eye-opening. With the right amount of will-power and determination, everything is possible. Pancham really shows that and epitomizes that. His character development is apt, where others’ is not really visible and lack depth.
The story was overall very enjoyable. However, the writing style is too simple and could do with a bit more refinement to it. It is a good work though for beginners to start with, and despite the simple writing style and plot, the story is worth reading.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as I rate it a 3/5 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 .
 

Ashwatthama’a Redemption: The Rise of Dandak, Gunjan Porwal, 2018

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Title: Ashwatthama’s Redemption: The Rise of Dandak
Author: Gunjan Porwal
Publisher: Om Books International
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 263
Synopsis:
Over a hundred years after the Mahabharata War, an ancient power threatens to destroy the new Age of Men, by establishing the Age of Terror of the asuras, long believed to be extinct. The only hurdle in its path is Guru Dronacharya’s son, the mighty but accursed warrior Ashwatthama, who lost all his powers following Lord Krishna’s curse, and who unwittingly finds himself drawn into the quest of the lost bow of Lord Rama – the Kodanda.
As ghosts of the distant past return to haunt him, and the line between friends and enemies blurs, Ashwatthama must fight his inner demons to emerge victorious. He undertakes a perilous journey – across the vast plains of the gages, to the snow-capped peaks of the Himavant – where the price of failure is a fate worse than death, and death is a privilege not granted to Ashwatthama.
Is this all part of Lord Krishna’s great plan? Will Ashwatthama be able to regain his lost glory?
My review:
Ashwatthama’s Redemption is a mythological fiction book, and one of the best of its kind. I found in it, a perfect blend of all elements that have the capacity to thrust forward and make popular any book within the genre. Perhaps that explains the amazing ratings that this book has been gathering, and deservedly so.
The entire plot was well planned out and detailed – elaborate in its own scope and leaving the reader intrigued by the ending – there is undoubtedly a sequel coming out. The author has maintained the plot pace very well and it really becomes fast paced towards the end of the book, leading to a crescendo!
The themes again – war, politics, human spirit in the face of doom, friendship, kinship etc., are all very dynamic, as shown in the book and the fiction element with which the author has written this mythological tale is fluent and free-flowing. There were no jerks throughout. It all sounds like it happened, but the best part is that the reader feels like he or she is a part of the adventure. The world building was good, but I admit, could have been better. The inclusion of the map in the beginning was a great idea but perhaps it would have been preferable if the naming had been done in English and not Hindi. The mystery element is also one that needs special mention – the hermeneutic and pro-airetic codes used have truly helped in that regard.
The character created by the author are well made – they are round and multi-dimensional, except the side characters, of course. Their backstories have also been provided which truly adds great depth to any character – another good point that the author has kept in mind, clearly.
The stories and anecdotes that the author puts in, in the middle – the various references to the Mahabharata war and that world, basically, is intriguing and attracts the reader’s attention clearly, for so many of those facts and small details are unknown to the common reader and thus, interesting for them.
The editing and proof-corrections have been well done as well. The cover is nice to look at and really helps the reader to imagine how Ashwatthama may have looked like.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as I rate it a 4/5 stars, I wait eagerly for the sequel to come out!
 
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 .
 
 
 

If Characters from Winter Dream Were Candle Scents (Guest post!)

To say that I love candles is slightly an understatement. I love candles. Even more so – Christmas candles. So much so, I know to avoid the stores around this time of year, because I’ll want to buy them all!
Around the holiday time, many of my favorite scents and flavors become popular. Peppermint, Mocha, Cinnamon, Sugar Cookie – and more. Just the thought of reading a good book in front of a warm fire, while the air is filled with a smooth, rich “Christmas-y” scent – made me wonder if my characters from  Winter Dream were candle scents – what would they be?
And how fun of a post it would be to share with you! Now as you read “Winter Dream,” perhaps you’ll be able to choose your own favorite candle scent, and enjoy some quality “you-time” that you deserve!
 
Clara – Home for the Holidays. Cinnamon and clove, mixed with earthy cedarwood and balsam. This IS my favorite candle, of all time. I burned this scent MANY of times as I wrote “WinterDream.” When I think about the main character of this book, it feels only fitting to give her this candle.
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The Nutcracker: Balsam Forest. The wonderfully clean, wintry fresh scent of a breeze blowing through a thick stand of pines. As a Nutcracker – made of wood – would smell; he would have the scent of a wonderfully, magical forest – fit for a Snow Prince.
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Uncle Drosselmeyer: Magical Frosted Forest. An enchanted place where icy breezes playfully dance through tall, snow-coated pines. Uncle Drosselmeyer is a magical being in the story of “The Nutcracker,” and “WinterDream.” It feels only right to place him with a “magical” candle – but still stays close to the wonders of Christmas and snow. Drosselmeyer plays a key role in the mystery of the WinterDream land – and Clara and the Nutcracker’s story. I’m sure this candle would delight anyone (just as I hope the story does too!)
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Mother Ginger: Frost Gingerbread. Gingerbread freshly frosted—a holiday delight that fills any room with welcome and warmth. It would only be fitting for Mother Ginger to be represented as a warm and welcoming scent – and one that consists of ginger. She’s sure to make anyone feel at home in her inn, just as this scent should too!
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Lady Irina: Icy Blue Spruce: A fresh breath of winter forest—juniper berries, blue spruce, spearmint leaves. Lady Irina is the daughter of the Lord and Lady of Sugarland Forest – so it felt only right to give her too – a candle that had something to do with forests. But in her case, something darker – blue.
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Marzipan: Sugar Frost Christmas. Fresh-baked and topped with creamy vanilla frosting—a delicious holiday treat. I thought this was perfect for Marzipan – who is named after a delightful dessert! She, as a character is sweet and wonderfully kind to Clara upon her arrival to the WinterDream palace.
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And those are my choices for candle scents that I’d associate with my characters in “WinterDream”! Be sure to check out “WinterDream” on November 27th as it waltzes onto bookshelves near you – and of course, stop by Yankee Candle (and/or) check out local candle makers for amazingly wonderful Christmas scents as the holiday season gets underway!
 
(Guest post by the author of Blinding Night, Allerleirauh, Between the Sea and Stars, etc., Chantal Gadoury, on occasion of the upcoming release of her latest book Winter Dream)
Amazon Best Selling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published “The Songs in Our Hearts” and “The Songs We Remember,” with 48Fourteen Publishing, and “Allerleirauh,” “Between the Sea and Stars,” and “Blinding Night” with Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. Writing novels for Chantal has become a life-long dream come true! When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of DD Iced Coffee, and watching Disney classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, Sister and furry-’brother’ Taran.
Chantal Gadoury Author
Here’s the synopsis for Winter Dream!
This Christmas Eve… no creature was stirring…
Except, maybe, a mouse.
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse?
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount.
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse?
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But what is it about him Clara finds so alluring?
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war, redemption, and Christmas magic.
Book Teaser Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMRGyNtnhZI
 
You can reach her at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CGadouryAuthor
Blog: http://www.chantalgadoury.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chantalgadouryfans
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8059023.Chantal_Gadoury
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chantalgadouryauthor/
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Chantal-Gadoury/e/B00MTLD0P0/
Parliament House Press: http://www.parliamenthousepress.com/
Parliament House Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theparliamenthouse
 

The Godkiller, Swayam Singh Aujla, 2018

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Title: The Godkiller
Author: Swayam Singh Aujla
Publisher: And All Publisher
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 338
 
Synopsis:
The struggle between Civilization, Nation and Tries is tearing the world apart. The Gods have gotten old; they cannot hold back the chaos any longer. The only hope for the people remains in founding a God of reason. And that requires the death of the old Gods of faith.
Who will kill the old Gods?
Who will stake the entire world in the pursuit of reason?
Who will be The Godkiller?
 
My review:
Prepare yourself for an epic journey! The Godkiller is undoubtedly a huge world of its own.
The Godkiller is the first in a series of books and with the first only being so full of events with a mind-blowing sequencing, one can only wonder how great the sequel will be.
The plot of this story, when taken into consideration, along with the protagonist, can be said to be a sort of bildungsroman. We see the hero of the story – Motherkiller, or rather, Stargazer, as he should be rightly called, grow from a baby unto his old age. This bildungsroman is not a traditional sense as we can say it covers his entire life story as opposed to only certain bits of it. Nonetheless, this use only enhances the entire story. The character development especially is something to be noted. We see Stargazer truly developing from a precocious child into an ambitious and clever young man. His love and sexual conquests are also worth reading about – each is a lesson on its own for him.
The author has also included dream-like sequences before the beginning of each chapter and from the reader’s perspective, this is quite enlightening. These sequences are also of significant importance because we see that these mark important moments is Stargazer’s life – these are important lessons that he learns.
The other characters are also well rounded and truly three-dimensional. The plot was compelling and truly addicting. Although I do think that this is a truly polarizing book – there will be many who will hate it, simply because it is no walk in the park; the author has kept it quite intellectual, but then again, there will be many who will love it. I personally loved it and look forward to the next book. I do think, however, that if one pulls through the first part, the rest will be a breeze; this is a story that ensnares one’s attention from the very beginning. The epic, although a low fantasy, has an amazing blend of politics and economics, governance and betrayals etc., in it that people are bound to love. It is an elaborate and an extensive world that is shown in the book, and the hierarchies are amazing to read about. A truly utopian dystopia has been presented.
The themes are really interesting too – we see war, friendships, the importance of kinship and so on. But most importantly, we see the reversal of science and religion into Civilization and Tribes respectively. It is very amazing to see how the author has actually used inspiration from the current times and situations into making this world where ‘Priests’ teach the Tribes about the wonders of science (and not religion!)
The writing style is good. The concepts are all well researched by the author. The editing has also been well done. But talking about the cover, it is simply W-O-W ! A truly aesthetic and appealing picture presented to the eye, The Godkiller is must-read.
 
Verdict:
This was a really enjoyable book. I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.
 

First Came Forever (The Angelheart Saga I), Annie Woods, 2017


Title: First Came Forever (The Angelheart Sage I)
Author: Annie Woods
Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 322
Synopsis:
First love. A promise of forever. A lie that changes everything.
Backpacking with her high school friends, Erica Lindell’s life takes a thrilling new turn. Meeting the fascinating Sasha Ailes, she can’t help but fall completely and irrevocably in love with him. When he feels the same way about her, Erica finds herself drawn into a fairytale love story that will set her life on a new direction. But Sasha has kept his true identity a secret. Finding out who he really is, Erica must overcome the betrayal and make the hardest choice of her life. Can she give up her own dreams to live in his world, or leave and lose him forever?
First Came Forever is an enchanting, heart-wrenching story about finding true love and the devastating consequences it can lead to. What price is too high to pay, even for love?
My review:
Before I begin the actual review, let me state how much time it took me to literally finish reading the book – a day! And no, not even 24 hours; not even half of that. It took me around 4 hours! Once I started with it, I could not ear to keep it down!
First Came Forever was a hauntingly beautiful contemporary story – and that is not a word I generally use for contemporary novels. It has the perfect amount of seasonings of drama, romance, high school romance, and comes with the best imaginable Prince a girl could ever wish for.
One must assume that for a reader to not be able to put down a book, the beginning must be great! And it is. The early chapters are a treat for those who love to travel – it certainly was for me. The writing is so visual – the imagery vivid and so real. Our protagonists are also two very mature persons and I really like that. Especially considering the female protagonist Erica, she is not the damsel-in-distress; completely the opposite in fact. Their relationship is also basically a trope of the older guy-younger girl that I really love.
The family dynamics as well as the friendships are well explored here- the author has brought in a lot of variety. the relationships were also well explored – here again, the fact that the author has made it as realistic as possible without being cheesy and common, is what tends to grip the readers’ minds undoubtedly. Long distance relations, the problems that come with it, the good and the bad times, and the fact that it is not always a walk in the park is well portrayed.
Despite the fact that most of the story takes place in the high-school setting, the author has been successfully able to keep it realistic but also positive. Of course there is the obnoxious head cheerleader, along with the jocks. But they are not all shown as such. We see Tyler with his inner conflicted and vulnerable self, Miriam with her instability, the twins with their adorable-ness, as well as Danny, Ricky, Jordan with their complicated selves- the masks people wear as opposed to the actual selves that they hide… This book is a contemporary treat.
The character development was on point as you may have already learnt by now, reading the review. The plot was also well paced and interesting enough to make me finish this humongous book in literally one sitting. The writing style along with the world building blew my mind away. I definitely will be picking this up for a reread.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and it was not even a minute before I immediately picked up the sequel after finishing it. I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.

The Full Circle, Namrata Gupta, 2018


Title: The Full Circle
Author: Namrata Gupta
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 122
About the author:
Namrata Gupta has a masters degree in management from LBSIM, Delhi. A literature graduate from Hans Raj College, her debut novel, A Silent Promise (2015), won many hearts. She writes content for websites and blogs regularly and wants to make an immutable influence on the minds of the readers through her writing. She loves traveling and exploring new things.
Synopsis:

“The mirage was broken. What she knew as the truth turned into a fiction to beguile her, the person she had been living with for so many years turned into someone she never knew until then”

Being a traveler, Aditya always took something from the places he visited and this somehow helped him give something to his next destination, which is now Darjeeling. His life revolves around meeting locals, exploring the world and helping people in any way possible. Aditya meets his contrast in Zinnia, who prefers stability in life, while staying as a tenant in her mother’s house. With his empathy and understanding nature, he wins the hearts of the locals. His adventurous way of living life is challenged when he develops strong feelings for Zinnia, who considers his way of life as a prolonged hobby.
While helping Jacqueline, an emotionally distraught girl, into shaping her life in a new way, he realizes he feels lost, for the first time in his life, without Zinnia. He stumbles upon a devastating secret about Zinnia’s past that will change her life completely, something he can’t let go of.
My review:
Replete with elements of mystery, thriller, adventure, as well as friendships, family drama, and a travelogue, The Full Circle packs a punch in mere 122 pages. From the very first page, we are given a scenic imagery through the author’s words through the experiences of the protagonist Aditya. For the most part of the novel, the reader gets to travel through reading. In the protagonist one defining characteristic we see is that of his empathizing nature- his humanity.
The characters we see in the novel are also very realistic in the fact that they are all individuals in their own ways and not merely sub-actors in this story. Each has a story and the author beautifully weaves them into the narrative. The character development was well-paced and seemed very apt and real to me.
The plot was also one interesting enough to grasp the reader’s interest. I felt that apart from the first couple of pages, the entire story is well-written. It’s just the small part of the beginning where you have to pull yourself through. Overall, the plot was well paced and good.
The mystery element brought in was a nice welcome and I think it is this element which really spiced up the story and stopped it from mellowing down. The run and the chase – the “action” scenes were also well written and one could, as a reader, really visualize those exciting and nail-biting scenes.
The grammar and editing were also done well. The language was lucid and easy to understand. The cover was also done well-enough but can be definitely better.
Verdict:
The author’s love for traveling and exploring shines through. It was a good book and I rate it 4/5 stars. I think the beginning was a bit slow-paced for my liking.

Paradise Towers, Shweta Bachchan-Nanda, 2018

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Title: Paradise Towers
Author: Shweta Bachchan-Nanda
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 174
 
About the author:
Shweta Bachchan-Nanda is a columnist for DNA and VOGUE. A well-known personality, she is the daughters of actors Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan. Shweta is married to Nikhil Nanda and is the mother of two children. She has her own clothing label MxS, which launched in 2018. She lives in New-Delhi.
 
Synopsis:
Dinesh opens the door to the Kapoor flat to find Lata, the enchantress who works at Mrs. Aly Khan’s, carrying a hot case with freshly made gaajar ka halwa. On the first floor, the inquisitive Mrs. Mody wipes the dust off her precious binoculars to spy on the building’s security guard. The Singhs open the doors of their SUV, their four boys creating a ruckus – they are the newcomers, the outsiders. Through the peephole, the ever-watchful Mrs. Ranganekar observes their arrival. Welcome to Paradise Towers, an apartment building in central Mumbai. Everyone here has a story to tell. Or maybe they have stories to hide.
Shweta Bachchan-Nanda’s quirky, intimate debut explores the intertwined lives in this building – a forbidden romance, an elopement the undercurrent of tension is corridor interactions and an explosive Diwali celebration. Bachchan-Nanda’s is a dazzling voice that will draw you into the intoxicating, crazy world that is Paradise Towers.
 
My review:
Really funny and truly intimate in its writing, Paradise Towers proved to be a quite good debut novel.
The author has done a really good job with the character development in the book. The plot, I found, though quite extensive was a bit lacking – the story seemed like a telling of the everyday lives of the people except at the major climax I found. this climax started the unraveling of the threads thus letting a number of dominoes fall down, one after the other until we reach a catastrophic end (not really).
The characters are really the major focus in this very much of a character-driven novel whose developments are really interesting to note as one progresses throughout the story. The theme of conflict was a major one running throughout – as people living in such close proximity are bound to indulge in, whether intentionally or not. The others – forbidden love, distrust, gossips etc. are also commonplace in everyday life. The author has really mixed these all up in creating this hilarious story.
I truly enjoyed reading this novel – it sure is an entertaining and fun read.
Verdict:
I found the depth lacking in the story. Nonetheless, it was not lacking in the entertainment aspect. I rate it a 3.5/5 stars!

Blooming in the Snow, Sajid Iqbal, 2018

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Title: Blooming in the Snow
Author: Sajid Iqbal
Publisher: Evincepub Publishing
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 193
About the poet:
Sajid Iqbal is a 24-year-old poet and author from Guwahati, India. He writes about love, loss, healing and self-love. He shares his raw emotions and experiences through poetry. Blooming in the Snow is his first published book. Sajid is studying Bachelors in Arts and Law. He has been writing since the age of fourteen, and he hasn’t stopped ever since. When he isn’t writing, he loves to travel and try out new food.
Synopsis:
Blooming in the snow is a collection of poetry and prose by Sajid Iqbal, that inspires us to fall in love, regardless of whatever the situation may be. The three chapters viz. the first snow, the avalanche, and blooming in the snow, will take you on a journey of love, heartache, healing, self-love and growing up. It will also help you blossom even in the harshest season of life.
My review:

And when you wake up
From self-doubt
Put on some attitude,
Wear that smile
And conquer
Fearlessly.

Another one of contemporary poetry collections that have recently swarmed the market, looming with the Snow came as a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect much, going in; I rarely do, when it comes to contemporary modern poetry, but I was pleasantly shocked and happily surprised. I have to mention here that this is a collection of contemporary modern poetry, very much in the lines of Rupi Kaur. As such, do keep in mind that such contemporary poetry reads are not for everyone.

The best healing is forgiveness.
Sometimes by someone
And often by yourself.

With a very beautiful tone of voice, the poet has brought in various themes and elements in this collection. As you can already see in the picture, I have bookmarked a multitude of various poems because they were wonderful and could really invoke deep emotions in the reader. Here is one such poem I loved-

Your wounds will heal
Once you will
Feed it with
Acceptance.

In today’s highly competitive world it is so easy to lose track of one’s health- mental and physical, as well as in the pursuit of success, it is so common to damage your relationships with others. The poet has divided this collection into three – the first snow, the avalanche and blooming in the snow, under which there is are multiple poetry and prose pieces in each. What I loved about this collection is that so many of these are based on self-love which is again which I really promote in today’s world. Self-growth is such an important thing and we fail to acknowledge that in the wild and mindless pursuit of success.
The poems are written in blank verse, as is the tradition of contemporary modern poetry and the author has done a good job with it. The ones of love, unrequited mostly are beautiful and poignant. The ending shot that the poet delivers is one that stays with the reader though for a long time to come-

I wonder if you
Remember me,
And write like I do.
Probably you won’t.
You told me once,
You are more of a reader.
So, this was for you.

Verdict:
I truly enjoyed reading this collection of poetry and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

My Lady Jane, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, 2016

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Title: My Lady Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Ebook
Language: English
Pages: 330
 
Synopsis:
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
My review:
A book that had been on my TBR for quite some time now, My Lady Jane turned out to be a really enjoyable read. I read this book as a part of a book club and I am so very happy that we chose this book.
I was actually dreading to read this book because even though I knew that artistic liberty had been taken with the actual story, I was dreading the death of the titled figure because as we all know, the actual Jane Grey was beheaded after simply 9 days of ruling. Nonetheless, I picked it up and I actually loved reading it. Gracie, Bess, even Jane are all really intricately made characters as well as Edward, and Gifford themselves.
The characters were really well made and with the introduction of the Eðian factor, they had a bit more depth than ever. Certain aspects of their characters were revealed in a much starker manner and I liked that.
The themes of war, friendship, self-development and growth, love etc., were really well placed and the events really did justice to them. The pacing is good and the twist in plot was expected and also delightfully welcome. The writing of these three authors weaved together into a really very well-read product in totality.
Verdict:
I really enjoyed reading this book and I am also looking forward to reading My Plain Jane, the sequel to My Lady Jane as well. I rate My Lady Jane a 4/5 stars!

Regular Porridge, Sukanya Basu Mallik, 2018

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Title: Regular Porridge
Author: Sukanya Basu Mallik
Publisher: Word Bite
Format: Ebook
Language: English
Pages: 45
Synopsis:
Regular porridge as a collection explores the meaning of life- success and failure and how they intertwine, as well as how a person may find it difficult to balance the two, confusing one for the other. This book contains tales of how people go about their lives and the extraordinary web each life can weave, using the appreciation of art to explore the human experience. Love and human relations have been depicted in some pieces too. Love is agony, ecstasy, unpredictable, testing and perfectly serene. It doesn’t always have to be something you feel but something you do. In this collection, fiction has been used to catalyze introspection in people and instead of setting out to solely entertain readers, this poetry collection certainly educates, too.
My review:
In a beautiful and eloquent voice, the poetess has described various real-life situations. The synopsis and the preface are the first things that really attracted me and I must give full marks to the poetess for that. Wonderfully written.
In the poems, we see the use of blank verse in some and the use of rhythm in rhyming as well. The meaning of life and loss along with the daily monotonous life, are explored in a very intricate yet contrastingly, a very simple manner which truly draws the reader in. The themes of war, faith, hope, lock, and so on are on what the poetess pours her heart out. Especially regarding the effect of war on children, there is one line that truly affected me-
“If need be, we’ll frighten them with our toy guns” in War Children’s Psychosocial sssions- Child of Syria.
This line in itself says so much. The children who have seen the ravages of war are willing to protect their people by fighting against the enemy- but fighting against the enemy, that too, with the help of their own albeit “toy”, “guns” itself. This again shows the layers of the mind, even in small children.
The poet also explores patriotism, the futility of war, poverty and child labour, along with sexual abuse on children. It’s scary at times because as a reader one realizes that these are so true and actually happening.
Verdict:
A really good read, I rate Regular Porridge a 4/5 stars.
 
 

Just Missed, Himanshu Bhatia, 2017

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Title: Just Missed
Author: Himanshu Bhatia
Publisher: Petals Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 232
Synopsis:
While we try to arrange marriages by matching horoscopes and compatibilities, we forget at times that “marriages are made in heaven”. We all love to say that Bollywood romantic movies are silly, and that they go overboard in their depiction of love, we actually secretly fantasize to be characters in them. Siddharth Gupta (lovingly called Sid) is an ISB alumnus, who is an ambitious perfectionist. He wants to go up the corporate ladder at a faster pace than his age, and is doing pretty well. In his matrimonial search, Sid meets Shreya Malhotra, who herself is an IIM graduate and very career oriented. He finds Shreya the epitome of the “Beauty with Brains” tag and develops a crush on her almost instantly. Shreya and Sid are going steady towards what looks like a ‘soon to be married’ state, but when has life been that simple! On her way to Bangkok for her friend’s bachelorette party, Shreya meets Shivam Malhotra, an IITian, with a living flirting tiger inside him. While Shivam’s cheesy lines ignite hatred in Shreya, it’s only the beginning of a story that doesn’t end in Thailand. “Just Married Missed!” is the journey of a practical arranged crush, chased by crazy filmy love.
My review:
In this portrayal of an almost Bollywood style of an Indian love story, we see the typical interference of the family when it comes to matters of love between two individuals. For instance, we have our female protagonist Shreya who is torn between her husband-to-be Siddharth and her friend Shivam. This confusion is written so realistically and as a reader we could feel the dilemma she was in, unknowingly in the beginning whereas it became starkly clear. The Indian match-making online business is portrayed is a really funny way and this book aptly described it. The author has been truly able to put into words the hectic surrounding of a typical big-fat Indian wedding which is even enough to make the groom get cold feet.  Although predictable, the plot and the way of writing was really engaging and keeps the author hooked on until the end.
Shreya’s character along with the subsequent character growth is remarkably well written and developed. It all seems natural which many an author fails to do. Shivam and Siddharth serve as foils to each other and also to Shreya because we see her panicky as well as affection, and friendliness towards them and how it morphs into something else later on.
Verdict:
Just Missed was a delightfully easy to read book, almost like a movie. The family drama makes it very realistic. It was a really enjoyable read overall. Definitely recommend. I rate it 4/5 stars.

Tarikshir, Khayaal Patel, 2018


Title: Tarikshir
Author: Khayaal Patel
Publisher: Westland
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 332
Synopsis:
A small princely state in Rajasthan is the last bastion of resistance against the might of the British Empire. While unrest surrounding the sudden death of the king of Devangarh grows, young prince Rudra Pratap Chauhan prepares to ascend the throne.
But the kingdom is in turmoil. The Devangarh army is outnumbered and the British forces are closing in. To make matters worse, Rudra discovers the king’s death may not have been accidental after all. The strange appearance and disappearance of a mysterious hooded stranger and a series of ritualistic murders in which the bodies have been drained of blood, spread panic across the realm.
As Rudra struggles to manage his new responsibilities and investigate his father’s death, dark secrets will be uncovered that will disrupt life as he knows it.
My review:
I am so happy to have discovered this book. Tarikshir is a wonderful mixture of mythology, adventure, romance, and well as the supernatural.
The thriller element was fully explored in this book. From the very first page, I was hooked and once I had started reading it, I could not put it down. The pace just keeps on increasing in a steady manner and that is what I think really keeps the reader so addicted until the very end. It is full of action and adventure and the author has really done well with those scenes too. There is never a dull moment with this extremely engaging plot. The plot has so many wonderful twists and turns that the reader is continually spellbound under the magic weaved by the author through his words. The plot, in all, was really well paced, well planned- so much so that the end result was an unputdownable book.
The themes we see in this book – that of war, friendship, romance, family and kinship, along with those of the supernatural, deceit, etc., are well explored and the content surrounding them are also very engaging. No matter how many times I will write the word ‘engaging’ in this post, you will never understand it as long as you don’t read it. So please do. This is a wonderful book based on indian myths and legends. The historical fiction element is also there for the historical-fiction lovers like I, myself.
The characters were also well rounded and we see different facets through their words, and thoughts (of Rudra, especially). We see the queen mother as a peace-loving woman, as a queen who loves her subjects, a disillusioned wife and a supportive mother. We see Rudra as a son who like every other son wants to please his father, as a man caught between following his father or leading on his own, his feelings for Nafisa. The other characters also play very important roles in the novel and everyone’s actions are either a result of or stimulant of someone else’s action.
I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in
Verdict:
Tarikshir is a book I am truly happy to have picked up and I am very eager to get my hands on the sequel as well. I rate this a 4/5 stars and definitely recommend it to all.

The First Word, Husain Ali, 2017

 
 
 
 
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Title: The First Word
Author: Husain Ali
Publisher: Blue Rose Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 148
Synopsis:
Poetry is the language of romance and philosophy. It conveys the words of an angry breeze. It is written on the foundations of mountains. And it can be the voice of a silent man. Husain Ali brings you his collection of poetry, where the words sing happy songs on lush green hills under a yellow sun, waft across cafes in Paris, carry the aroma of cinnamon and coffee, lament over the loss of friends and lovers and take you across Mongolian landscapes. There are words that weave a world free of hatred and chaos, tensions and wars. There are words of dreams and intergalactic travels. These poems simply ask you to connect with your feelings and let your imagination run wild.
My review:
Let me first talk about how beautiful the cover of the book is! Had I not got it as a review copy, I most probably would have bought it simply as a cover buy! Getting into the review, I found this collection of poetry very diverse, and delightfully so.
It is important to realize that poetry is something that everyone interprets differently, so kindly do understand if my understanding is different from yours. The difference need not imply that one is right and the other wrong.
The First Word was an enjoyable experience, and it’s a book that I shall pick up again soon. There is a recurring theme of death, loss and coping with it, throughout the book, however, so keep that in mind if it is something that upsets you. Memories and dreams also play a significant role in this collection of poems. Nonetheless, it also celebrates and counteracts all these sad facts of life through the indomitable human spirit, interspersed with hope, faith, and love.
Although there are a vast number of themes in the poem, we often see those of separation, isolation, the inevitable human end, as the poet ponders over our degenerate human situation as we move towards destruction through wars.
The one significant thing that really put me off as a reader is the utter absence of punctuation in the poems. The enjambments were too much for me and it is something that surprised me and kind of was a sore point for me. Despite that, overlooking that fact, this is a collection I love. Some poems that I liked were- Winters of Wait, Judgement Day, Celestial Nights, Hang Around, Lost Cause, Reticence, Gift Wrapped, My Empire of Dirt, Something Strange, among a few.
Verdict:
This anthology was one that I truly enjoyed and will be picking up soon again. I also rate this a 4/5 stars!
 

Invisible Ties, Nadya A. R., 2017

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Title: Invisible Ties
Author: Nadya A. R.
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 266
Synopsis:
As Karachi burned in the 1990s, the painfully shy Noor Kamal found refuge in an antique jade mirror stolen from Daisy, her social butterfly mother. One fateful day, the violence hits home as a motley crew of burglars storm the Kamal residence, killing Joseph, the faithful driver who tried to shield Noor and kidnapping Daisy in the process.
Traumatized by the turn of events and succumbing to familial pressure, Noor reluctantly agrees to start life afresh in Singapore as the wife of Meekaal Kalim, an investment banker. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Noor finds succour in studying psychotherapy.
Her attempt to heal others brings her close to Ella, her neighbour and Jake, a handsome American who is struggling to deal with his emotional breakdown. As she tries to exorcise ghosts from the past and break free from the shackles, where will Noor’s longing for love take her? Would she be able to liberate herself from her strong cultural values and ties?
A saga of love and trials, against a rich contrasting background, Invisible Ties is sure to appeal to the readers.
My review:
Invisible Ties, in one word, is a masterpiece. A work of utter beauty and the complexities of human life expressed in poetical language, it is one of the best books I have read this year. And one which shall always be with me.
The writing firstly is something that will strike you as soon as you start reading it. There is a graceful fluidity in the lines which makes you feel like you are indulging in poetry- so beautiful and calm. As a reader I felt as it was I was flowing in its waters. And in the end, this is one quality which really mesmerized me. I took intervals in reading this book – three days to be exact – and I am so glad that I did. Apart from being an aesthetically pleasing book, it was an intense emotional read too. There are, of course, many who will not agree to that, but let me state that it was so for me. In the same vein, the language was well-edited; I found no bumps in the reading. Rupa Publications has done an impeccable job as always.
I shall not tell much about what happens in the story- the synopsis does that well enough- so well enough that it made me immediately accept the author’s offer to review the book. The plot was well made and I found the change in scenery very well-paced. The entire story was well-paced for that matter. In one way I consider this a bildungsroman- Noor grows from a young impressionable girl to a wise woman. The events are realistic yet all the while there is the magic that weaved throughout the entire story. The use of the mirror really brought in a tiny amount of magical realism into the narrative.
The themes of displacement, loss, religion, individuality, growth etc. really brings in a diversity to the book yet binds the narrative into one single work that would not work in the absence of any one of these themes. The ever-present imagery used by the author was a delight to my heart and my grey cells. Imagining all those beautiful things had a beautiful exquisiteness to them.
The characters are all well-made and have a lot of depth to all of them, even excluding the protagonist. I shall wrap up my review by reiterating that Invisible Ties was a superb masterpiece and I hope to pick up Nadya A. R’s other book as well.
Verdict:
I rate this book a solid 4.5/5 stars. It was a simply a very amazing read. If you are looking for something magical without the explicit presence of magic, something you know will be impactful and shall stay with you forever, without further ado, simply pick up this book.
 

Vitamin G: Gratitude, Prashant Jain, 2018

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Title: Vitamin G: Gratitude
Author: Prashant Jain
Publisher: BSC Publishers and Distributors
Format: EBook
Language: English
Pages: 199
 
Synopsis:
Do you feel taken for Granted by your loved ones?
Is there too much complaining in your workplace?
Do you wish there was less Entitlement and Envy in the world?
Then “Vitamin G: Gratitude for a Magical Life ‘ is the Answer!
You will shift to practicing authentic gratitude in a world of transactional thanking with this book.
Through stories, humour, exercises, wordplay, reflections and 42 quick practices (that you can do in less than 5 minutes a day) makes Magic happen in all aspects of your life like relationships, health, happiness, work, business, money.
Embracing Gratitude and Grateful Living through this book will help you develop resilience to face life’s major challenges and adversities, rewire your brain towards optimism, and heal through emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as unleash inner and outer abundance.
Through almost a decade of life experimentation, latest scientific proven research, ancient wisdom and practical daily common sense, the techniques in this book will help you connect to Gratitude and grateful living at the core of your being through the 6A framework.
In “Vitamin G: Gratitude”, Prashant Jain – Entrepreneur & Gratitude Coach, brings together incidents from his life with a narrative, making the case for the miraculous power of gratitude to bring joy, increase life satisfaction and maximize the quality of life.
This book draws insights from Prashant’s own inspiring story of being a millionaire at 24 to facing adversities and depression besides two suicide attempts, to resurrecting and creating a magical life of fulfillment through the transformational power of Grateful Living.
Author Profile:
Prashant Jain went from selling his company for a million USD to Softbank and JP Morgan when 25, to witnessing the tumble of the stock market crash, the dotcom bust and the 9/11 aftermath to being clinically diagnosed as depressed and attempting suicide twice facing adversity and challenges in health, relationships and finances. Today he is back to running successful companies with turnover in millions, physical, emotional, mental wellbeing and a fulfilled Joyful Life
This book is a part of the #MissionBillionThanks that the author took up in Sep 2016 to magnify the gratefulness on our planet. Prashant Jain is a Dagsi Scholar from Wright State University, USA with a Master’s in Computer Science. He is a Serial Entrepreneur who has started and successfully run multiple businesses over the last two decades, foraying from e-commerce and technology, to gifting Solutions and Wellness.
Prashant’s interests span Behavioural psychology, teaching, spirituality, micro blogging, photography and travelling. Author website : www.prashantjain.in
 
My review:
As a person who loves to read self-help books, Vitamin G came as a welcome surprise, one that turned out to be my new favourite in the self-help genre. However, classifying Vitamin G as a mere self-help book would be an injustice to the book. It was inspiring and entertaining even. At so many instances, it was a helpful guide as well. Today, people are becoming more and more conscious of leading a holistic lifestyle. And thus, practicing gratitude is something that is done by so many people. And just as well. Having done it myself, I am a staunch advocate for it. And if you ever want to start on this path, which you definitely should, I think this book would be a great help. If you do not have time to maintain a gratitude journal, please do make so, and use it along with this wonderful book.
The anecdotes provided were also helpful as it made the whole narrative very relatable and thus easy for the reader to follow. The practice sheets were also a good addition- they will truly help the individual reader. I took some time to read this book myself- as I wanted the best experience for myself too. And after I finally finished it, I had such praises for it that my mother also intends to read it after she finishes her current read. If you have a teenager in your life, I think this book would be a good gift; I personally know that it would have helped me in my teenage rebellious phase.
The book is divided into 6 parts with 7 chapters for each and that made a total of 42 practices. All of these are based on gratitude and the practice sheets after each were truly a great addition, like I have already mentioned. These exercises are simple and easy and perhaps doing one each morning or two each every day, will really help. The concepts of minimalism and poverty as well as habit stacking were also surprising but very unique concepts. I loved them.
 
Recommendations:
This book was a really short and inspiring book. I LOVED IT! Rating it a 4/5 stars!

Because I Love You, Dr. Pradip Chauhan, 2018


Title: Because I Love You
Author: Dr. Pradip Chauhan
Publisher: Anjuman Prakashan
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 192
Synopsis:
A grave smile on her face tried to hide the pain, she had decided to let feel him only beautiful moments she lived. Radha covered Kanaji’s head with her chunari, he closed eyes and submitted his body when she gently guided his head to her heart. He felt losing control over all his senses and could not feel himself when his head was on her heart. She closed eyes and let Kanaji enter herself; he felt soft, delicate and beautiful. He felt her silky hairs on his head; he felt being loved, being pampered by father, being scolded my mother. Girlish play with friends, affection of father and feeling like princess in father’s arm. But Kanaji did not want to feel only beautiful moments of her life, he invaded further; she did not know when he overpowered and reached the painful memory she had been hiding since days. Will Kanaji keep his promise after knowing truth?
My review:
Because I Love You, as a romantic novel was very much revolving around the classic fairytales, but not necessarily in a bad manner. At certain points, it were very philosophical musings that the author had decided to insert in. Nonetheless, the overall effect was quite pleasant.
The protagonists Radha and Naren immortalize the classic star-crossed lovers’ trope. As expected, there are a lot of differences between them and yet they do meet and fall in love.
Apart from the love angle, the author has explored the tribal regions of Gujarat where the story begins. The themes of love versus reality and expectations are something that every average human faces at least once in their lives and the author has tried and succeeded in putting it into words into a fictional story, that too.
Using a realistic methodology proves pleasant for the reader as it is already a flowing narrative, quite compelling that can grip the reader’s mind. The writing style was pretty easy and simple, as was the language aspect overall. The research done was also apt!
I did find a few errors which could have been avoided had the editing part been done more accurately and in a focused manner- for both grammatical as well as printing errors. The cover page also needs some work so that it can be more attractive; after all, we are more prone to judging a book by its cover, truth be told. I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in
Verdict:
This was actually a very wonderful read. The author has put in some real hard work and it clearly shines through. I also definitely recommend this book to all, you will surely not be disappointed. I rate the content 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.

She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith, 1771

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Publishers: Peacock Books
Genre: Laughing Comedy/Drama
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 This comic masterpiece mocked the simple morality of sentimental comedies. Subtitled The Mistakes of a Night, the play is a lighthearted farce that derives its charm from the misunderstandings which entangle the well-drawn characters. Mr. Hardcastle plans to marry his forthright daughter Kate to bashful Marlow, the son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow. Mrs. Hardcastle wants her recalcitrant son Tony Lumpkin to marry her ward Constance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings. Humorous mishaps occur when Tony dupes Marlow and Hastings into believing that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn. By posing as a servant, Kate wins the heart of Marlow, who is uncomfortable in the company of wellborn women but is flirtatious with barmaids. A comedy in five acts by Oliver Goldsmith, produced and published in 1773 and 1771, respectively.
 
My review:
 She Stoops to Conquer is a really funny drama and I truly love it so. The points that really hold me to it are as follows:

  1. It is a really short play and thus is perfect for a single-seating read, and readathons.
  2. It marked a change in the dramas of that time because sentimental comedies had been preferred back in the day. However, it was Oliver Goldsmith who came up with this laughing comedy and revived the audience.
  3. The play also follows the three classical Unities perfectly.
  4. The cast is a full-on funny and humourous collection of various people who represent the follies of the age. As such, She Stoops to Conquer is also a comedy of manners.
  5. The plot is well created and spans only the duration of a single night, wherein the events take place.
  6. The subplot is also a romantic and funny one and is bound to incite laughter in the audience.

 
Verdict:
I rate She Stoops to Conquer a solid 4/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this drama as it’s a funny and short read, and moreover, marked a considerable revolution in the field of play at the time it first came out.

How to read more books? Or How I have read 100 books so far into the year!

It’s only August, and I have already read a record 100 books! Which is way more than I have ever read in one year. I have always been an avid reader and reading was never boring to me; I’d rather read than watch YouTube/Netflix- something that still stands. Unless, of course, it has a certain Peter Kavinsky in it 😉 (I mean, that is one beautiful man! Have you seen the movie yet?)

So anyway, like I have been saying, this year has been a phenomenal reading year for me. And I can only hope that this streak continues. So without further ado, let me state a few points which I have personally used this year and they have helped me immensely in setting this record.

  1. Since you might feel that to read a novel, you need more time, I would definitely advise to get a planner. What it does, is helps you prioritize the things you need to do or have to do, and sheds light on the time you waste as well. I personally keep a bullet journal and that has helped me immensely in organizing my day to day activities and as such I find myself with enough free time on my hands.
  2. Set monthly TBR goals! (TBR stands for To Be Read.) So I try to set a goal of 10 books each month- when I think that it’s a busy month, or else I set a minimum of 20 books per month.But you also have to keep in account, the size of the book- don’t be disheartened if you read, say perhaps, just 5 thick books. The size or the number of words/pages really matter as well. I read books with a minimum of 300 pages each mostly, so I can easily cross 15 every month, unless I’ve got exams or such school activities. Setting a goal always helps!
    1. Now one thing that always works for me is to set higher goals that I think I can achieve. It’s something like the saying goes- aim for the moon and you’ll fall on the stars (?). Something like that I suppose. Now this ideology really helps me- because I am a naturally competitive person with myself- I always am aiming to do better than what I have done previously. So if I set the goal at 20, and I only reach 15, that’s a pretty good number too! However, the catch-22 here is that this can also affect someone else in a completely opposite manner. So I definitely recommend you try this one out once and go on from there. This sub point is so not for everyone.
  3. Set deadlines for each book. Setting deadlines just as goals, really help too. While I have specific deadlines for the books, I sometimes fly past them- I am a university student after all, and I have to give more importance to my course books, of course. Nonetheless, it really helps me to finish the books I want to. My deadlines vary as such- 150-200 pages – maximum of 2 days; 250-350 pages – maximum of 3 days; 400-500+ pages – maximum of 5 days.
  4. Indulge in guilty-reads! Sometimes, when I can feel the ominous onset of a reading slump, I go back to my guilty-reads. Guilty reads can be described as those books that you really love- but would not call them something serious, rather something light and for mindless fun. For me, the guilty reads are all the vintage Mills and Boon books. (How many of you have also loved them?)
    1. Going on the same vain, do read books that you actually love. Don’t force yourself to read something you hate (unless you have to, for school! ;)) If you keep on forcing yourself to read books you hate, your brain will condition you into hating the process of reading itself!
  5. The most important tip perhaps is to keep a book with you always– an eBook for when you go out but are not carrying anything except your wallet and phone perhaps, and an actual paperback copy for when you have a bag big enough to fit it in. Then, you can also read whenever you want. If you are a person who prefers to read a single book at a time, then make sure you also have an eBook of the same.
  6. For inspiration, take part in readathons– something I actively do and also host in my Instagram book account, aka a bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile). On the same vein, follow a few bookstagram profiles that can help inspire you.
  7. Join book discussions. This will condition your mind into looking forward to these sessions, as a result of which, you will actually finish reading the book.
    1. Also join book clubs! (Feel free to join mine!)
  8. If you think you need help while reading, regarding the word meanings, keep an actual dictionary with you, rather than using your phone. This will ensure that you won’t stray and end up watching a YouTube video or two.
  9. Always have a set space for your reading/studying. This goes for both active and passive reading. Continuously indulging in this, will condition your mind to just read/study in that place. I have my desk where, I automatically start working, because that’s the place where I have always read and studied, and the like.
  10. A bonus tip- if you really find difficulty in reading while there is a lot of noise in the background, you might like having some white noise (This goes even when you are studying.) I use the Tide app or Rainy Mood website to block out any unnecessary noise!

You can reach me at my email, nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com

Lots of love,

Nika!

All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven, 2015

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Publishers: Penguin Random House
Genre: Young Adult/Mental Health
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
 
My review:
All the Bright Places is a modern day literary masterpiece- a beautiful YA fiction that touches upon and revolves around so many important issues that teenagers today, face. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and it’s certainly a book I shall be picking up again and again. It is one of the best books I have read in 2018 and I am so glad that I finally picked it up. Now that I have read it, I cannot simply imagine myself living without having read this book.
Plot wise, I love the format that the author has taken up, separating the entire story into small chapters so that it is easier for the reader. The actual plot, is in itself a heartbreaking one- loss is always a loss, and like a particular someone said, “Sometimes things feel true to us, even if they’re not.” This is the first Niven book I have read and I am absolutely in love with her execution- the deliberate care with which she has birthed Finch, Violet, Amanda, Charlie and so on. It is a bittersweet tale of love, loss, friendship, family, mental health and our inner demons.
The character of Violet undergoes a beautiful journey- we see her develop from a bad place to a good one. On the other hand, it is the exact opposite for Finch. He spirals from bad to good to worse. It is tragic and yet so true. The portrayal of the characters and their feelings, whether peaceful or not, is apt and really touches one’s chords.
The allusions made in this book are also wonderful- especially those related to the famous novels and literary works. I found a really good list on Shmoop and shall link it in here: https://www.shmoop.com/all-the-bright-places/allusions.html
The theme of mental health was the centre hogging one and just as well- fiction is the medium through which we are no spreading the awareness, and opposing the age-old taboo about mental illnesses and depression and suicide.
Verdict:
I loved this book and rate it a 5 star! I definitely recommend all to read it.

Stalking Jack the Ripper, Kerri Maniscalco, 2016

 
 
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Publishers: Hachette Publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
Format: Hardback
Synopsis:
Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…
Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege, stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.
Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.
My review:
I had heard quite a lot of good things about this book- it was after all very much hyped about in the bookstagram as well as the booktube community. And so when I got the chance to pick it up as a part of a book club reading list, I promptly did so.
The lead characters in the book Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell. And I found them both very well rounded. Audrey Roe isn’t a conventional Victorian lady- in her spare time, she loves to study dead bodies and human bodies- something that otherwise grossed out women of her era. While she also loves shopping for new clothes and shoes like every other woman, she loves science- forensic science to be specific. While I admire her spirit, I sometimes felt angry and justly so. Why antagonize the enemy at the cost of your own life? I mean to say, at a time when a killer is on the loose, slashing away at women, why would a sane one go out alone at night in the dark when you might not even possess perfect fighting skill? Audrey Rose was very impulsive and reckless at times.
Thomas Cresswell is a rich young gentleman of the society and he too is a student of Audrey Rose’s Uncle Jonathan, just like her. Thomas gives some very Sherlock Holmes vies sometimes- he is great at deduction and he knows it. He also knows he is handsome to look at, and this combined knowledge make him arrogant at times. Nonetheless, he is admirable and likable. I also like how flirtatious he is with Audrey Rose, how sincere and hardworking he is with his studies. In short, I am smitten. He also gives me some Rikkard Ambrose vies if you know what I am talking about.
Jack the Ripper aka Leather Apron aka the Whitechapel Murderer is grossly fascinating. The way he kills and then tortures the body is thought-inducing and you can’t help but actually mull over the real murderer who ran rampant years ago. Like most of you all already know, that even though various arrests were made and various theories were also theorized, no one was actually framed as the real Jack the Ripper.
The background to the story was very gothic I feel like- what with all the gore, and murders, the visit to infamous Bedlam, the nightly adventures and the whole theme as a whole.
Including the pictures was a good thing- it made the story all the more real and tangible and the entire effect was gruesome and something of the macabre. They really enhanced the reading experience. The writing was on point and I almost finished the book in one seating. The research that was done by the author is definitely something to be applauded. It’s a really unique book and the plot was definitely very original.
Verdict:
I honestly cannot believe that Stalking Jack the Ripper was a debut- it was exceptionally well written. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.
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I got the picture on the internet.
 

Some Very Dignified Disclosures, Anumita Sharma, 2018

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Publishers: Pratishthaa films & Media
Genre: Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:
It is an ordinary summer evening in a remote village near India and Nepal border; Roli’s mother and grandmother are quarrelling beside the well of their dilapidated feudal mansion. Roli is lurking in the courtyard; no one from her joint-family pays attention, and suddenly her father appears and clasps his wife’s throat. Roli watches in horror and envisions her mother’s spirit releasing from the dead body. Her future gets haunted by the twin spectre – mother’s ghost and father’s crime. The narrative moves to a small town, in the large household of a village acquaintance, where Roli shifts for higher studies, and encounters various fascinating lodgers, including an eccentric priest, who collects sundry items on streets to construct a house, and catches an exotic bird which dazzles the neighbourhood, a perplexing night watchman, whose mysterious doings make the priest lose his mind, a bored wife of a sailor, who dabbles in occultism, a scholarly librarian, who convinces Roli to accept her troubled past, and the unhappy wives of her landlord play an intriguing role in her attachment to another of the tenets- a temperamental young man, who becomes Roli’s love interest. The protagonist is an imaginative teenager. She loves reading and is attracted to people with mysterious backgrounds – very much like the characters of her favourite novels. A sympathetic village woman gifts her amber necklace, which smells like ambergris, and details many supernatural incidents involving it. Does the necklace hold magical powers? Will the fragrance of ambergris capture the man she loves? Can Roli find success on the treacherous winding roads of adulthood? Anumita Sharma is the author of The Curse of Yesterday. Inherently a poet, a wordsmith, and voracious reader, Anumita loves telling stories set in the rustic environment of Eastern India.
My Review:
I can easily classify this as the first Indian magical realism book I’ve read and I truly loved it. The overall effect was exquisite and I was hooked from the very first pages. The fact that it was written in poetic prose, made the effusive paragraphs almost lilting and soothing to me. The imagery that the author has created through the patterns her words create, is very picturesque indeed.
The writing style of the author is something that I have fallen in love with. The language used is beautiful but somewhat of a higher level and hence may not be easily understandable to beginners. The poetic tune that the author has inlaid the words with, are beautiful and exquisite and I have found no fault with them at all. Although the pacing isn’t fast, it is definitely well-matched with the narration and the actions taking place. The whole experience was something dreamlike and ephemeral and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, I do feel that while I was hooked from the very first pages, there will be a few who may find the beginning a bit slow, but fret not! Once you think it catches speed, you’re in for the ride of a lifetime. A lack of dialogues may also put off some people but the autobiographical way of narration is a personal favourite and moreover, I think it did great justice to the story.
When it comes to the characters, the author has done well to let the readers interpret for themselves, the protagonist, as the story unravels through her own eyes. Roli as a protagonist was a beautiful person and I will be lying if I say that I do not relate with her at all. Apart from that, her own self is admirable. The other multitude of female characters were all nice to read about- the author has nuanced upon different qualities through each of them.
I also especially loved the way the author has kept the ending- it’s not close-ended but it’s definitely something close. The open and kind of an ambiguous ending left the scope for many possibilities afterwards and keeps the reader reeling long after finishing the book.
Verdict:
I have really loved this experience, and Some Very Dignified Disclosures has included itself into my most-loved books list and I shall definitely recommend it to others as well! I rate it a 5/5 stars!

Yoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta, Rajat Pillai, 2018

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Publishers: Jaico Publishing House
Genre: Mythological fiction
Synopsis:
AD 379. The Gupta dynasty is stepping into its golden age.
But the past holds many dark secrets… After long and bloody wars, Samrat Samudragupta sits on the pinnacle of an empire. Yet, close to his throne are hearts filled with revenge, scheming to bring him down.
Into this gathering storm arrives Chandragupta, the king’s long-lost son. As he settles into his new life devastating family secrets surface, old wounds are reopened and Chandra can no longer trust anyone – least of all those closest to him. Bizarre and sinister incidents abound as palace conspiracies unravel plunging Rajgriha into a pit of chaos.
Will the son pay for the sins of his father?
Yoddha: The Dynasty of Samudragupta unfolds the murky loves and lies of one of the most illustrious clans in history.

My review:
I’d like to begin by stating how very thankful I am to the author for giving me a copy of this book, albeit a review one. Nonetheless, my review is hundred percent genuine and comes straight from my own self.
The plot has been fictionalized (as expected in a fiction novel inspired by real life personages), but the words and the tune they weave ring almost true in the readers’ hearts. The author has been able to beautifully capture the essence of the time period, revolving around the ‘loves and lies of one of the most illustrious clans in history’. The plot has been well paced and I was fairly enjoying it all the while. The twists and turns that the author added were also placed well within the themes as we see in the ceremonies.
The themes of love, friendship, bravery etc., have been shown vividly in the book. Moreover, the action sequences were well written. Overall the editing has been very well done; I could not find any grammatical mistakes. The characters were also complicated and human and thus more believable. It was a good read, overall.
My verdict:
I loved this book and shall definitely recommend it to wherever I go. Rate this a 4/5 stars.

Safran, Aishwarya Nir, 2018

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Publishers: Virgin Leaf Books
Genre: Poetry
Synopsis:
I had a dream
where god asked,
If you were to leave suddenly
what would your legacy be?
It is then Safran was born out of me
To remind you as you read;
To live
To love
And to imagine
The words in it are less,
for they’ve been difficult to confess.
And have taken a lot of time
to come to my awareness.
A fistful of precious threads,
A collection of experiences
So ,here it is,
I hope you’ll make space for this.
 
My Review:
Safran is another poetry book that has taken me by surprise. Separated into three specific sections- Live, Love, and Imagine, the author begins to spin a beautiful trap with her musical words. There in vivid imagery in her work and it has the ability to truly enrapture the reader. Provided with an introductory poem to each section, Safran has poems covering many issues and themes which are relevant to the current times and also to the reader, be it a he or a she; tones of freedom, love, friendship, feminism, self-growth etc. shed light on the genre of philosophy as well.
The individual poems have a tilting musical tone to them, even though they are written in almost the current trend of blank verse without rhyme, which can be said to have been made famous by Rupi Kaur. There is a softness yet an underlying strength to her words and it flashes throughout the entire collection. Safran is a book which I have truly enjoyed on a personal level as well. However, keeping that aside, I would like to point out the old-world quality of the poems, almost as if the author has reflected the classics of yore themselves.
 
Verdict:
I have been left speechless by the utter beauty of the work and as I thirstily wait for more of the author’s work, I rate this current one, a 5/5 stars, for indulging me while shaking me to my core, and fulfilling me.

Scattered Constellations, Ankita Singh, 2018

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Publishers: Amazon
Genre: Poetry
Synopsis:
Words tumble out, with no pause;
From the pen, my anelace,
That I hold so graciously,
(In awe of its majesty, its power)
In my hand.
They form thoughts, hopes and musings;
Reflect my soul, my entire being,
And spread across the page,
Like scattered constellations
Across the sky.
(Scattered Constellations is a collection of 50 Free Verse YA Poems.)

My review:
Scattered Constellations was a great read firstly. It is a poetry book following the common free verse pattern nowadays. Ankita Singh has done a good job with this book.
Scattered Constellations contains poetry on a vast number of themes such as love- romantic, familial as well as platonic; friendship, family, appearances in terms of racial distinctions etc. I found them really eye opening.
The book was also very finely edited and proofread, as I hardly noticed any errors. The whole format was pretty nice in the ARC but I am eager to see how the actual paperback turns out. I think that this book makes a good gift- the poems are bound to touch every other reader.
My personal favourites in this collection are quite a few, some of which are Tell Me, Taboo, Our Kinda Love, Colour, It Wasn’t Just Sadness, Sisters, Trophy Girl etc. I enjoyed the book and it took me less than a day as I read and stopped to think, and then resumed, again and again.
Verdict:
I rate it a 4/5 stars as I wait for the paperback to come out.

Not Worth Living For, Shreyan Laha, 2018

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Publishers: B!gfoot Publications
Synopsis:
Ishita Singh, a student of St. Pierce’s College, Mumbai was living a pretty normal life with her group of friends, a caring senior and scarily enough, a creep who followed her. Shweta wakes up in the unknown planet of Isthenope and sets out with Alexander Ishutin, a former spy of the RSV, to discover more about the unknown planet which was built for a future civilization. Underlying the lives of the two in completely different worlds, there lies a dark secret which was partially blacked out in some corner of Shweta’s memory and unknown to Ishita. Will they ever come to know about the secret or will it be so chilling that it won’t be worth living for?
My review:
I quite enjoyed this novel and would like to describe it as a utopian novel, along with elements of fantasy and adventure. It definitely keeps you hooked.
In terms of the plotline, the events were very well related to each other and one can see that the author has given a lot of attention to detail and planning. The outlandish elements as well as interesting to read and well-crafted. The space-time differences between the chapters were also very well maintained I feel like. Written in the third-person perspective, the language used is quite simple and easy to understand for non-native English speakers, even people not having English as their second language. The transitions in between the two worlds are amazing and gradual- not at all sudden and disjointed.
The characters were also very real and easy to connect to. You feel as if they are close to you as you read through. I found the flabbergasted Shweta a very interesting character- as she wakes up in Isthenope- a world far away from our solar system. Her romance with Alexander also blossoms beautifully and gradually. Ishita, on the other hand, tries to build her new life in Mumbai as she enrolls in an esteemed college. Her love story with Vivek, her classmate is also cute and wonderful to read- making one feel nostalgic about their own college days. Towards the end, you just cannot help but question Ishita’ sanity. And for the record, I hate Jay.
The themes of rape, the role of media in social life as well as of the police, were well explored. The overall story kept me hooked throughout, except for some parts in the middle. In terms of the cover, I think it could have been much better and I think that it matched with neither the story nor the title.
Verdict:
I enjoyed the book but I wouldn’t read it more than this once. I rate it a 3/5 stars.

Not Exactly Love, Anindita Sengupta, 2018

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Publishers: Vishwakarma Publications, 2018
Synopsis:
Not every love is smooth sailing and not every love has a magical ending and yet, without a generous dose of ‘Love’, life would certainly be devoid of its most thrilling experience.
A tumultuous trip, an inevitable attraction, a passionate kiss, magical memories, beautiful chaos, taking a risk, giving a chance, holding on and letting go all define this strange animal we call love.
Everyone craves it but is the definition of love the same for all?
‘Not Exactly Love’ is about 10 different women navigating through the sea of love and attraction. Ten stories about adventures of the heart and the games that it plays with the mind! But still… should we give love a chance?
My review:
I would first begin by speaking about the characters. I found them displaying various shades of gray- implying that life is not always stark black or white. They were round- and could display their emotions on a relatable level. I found that I personally loved all the ten short stories and the fact that they all belonged to common Indian people like us, made this experience much nicer.
The themes explored were also very apt- there’s love, loss, infidelity, friendship etc. – and once can realize that these are things that we work with every day. The way the author has built up this story is also very gradual and thus plays well with the reader. The length of the book isn’t that much either and at a mere 115 pages, prove to be a quick yet entertaining read.
The way the author has created these stories with such resonant themes in our lives is wonderful indeed. They have undoubtedly been thought-provoking as well- with the relevant themes and perhaps certain characteristics of the characters that we see in all of us.
I also loved the fact that the women portrayed here were all ‘power women’- they are independent, career-oriented, have a strong sense of self without paying attention to partners who cannot validate that, they are feisty and they are human. The author’s portrayal of these women lead us to believe that we are only human and as we try to live life day by day- we can oft stumble.
I did not find any grammatical errors, however, the editing was lacking- I found a few typos. Other than that, the writing style was fresh and contemporary- something we perhaps need in today’s world. My top 5 favourite stories were– Smells Like Custard, Weekend Dhamaka, Turbulence, Lets Do It Right Night, and Vanishing Act.

Verdict:
I rate this a 4/5 stars.

The Secret of the Sculptures, Monika Thakur, 2017


Published by: Notion Press
I was very happy when I got the chance to review this book- I’d heard wonderful ravings about this novel and it had made my expectations very high. When I finally picked up the book, I was delighted from the very first page. The action is slow towards the beginning, but trust me, as it builds up it gains tremendous momentum.
Since I myself am enjoying my holidays, I was very much contented after I saw that our protagonist Maitreyi was, too! You could say, I bonded with her on some level. I found the character to be very realistic in this novel and as such relatable. I understand that in some books it is impossible to make very realistic characters, but having relatable characteristics- if only some, is a great way for the writer to garner points. I loved the wonderful camaraderie between these two girls, as they fight through the unfortunate circumstances that befall them. In Rakesh, and Siddharth, I found genuine gentlemanliness that almost restored my faith in males. Monika Thakur has very intricately weaved the plot around very complex characters; I still cannot make out of Mr. Seth is the antagonist or not. The thing that I really liked in the characters is that they all displayed various shades of gray in them- it’s a very post-modern way of making your characters as real as possible with their own faults.
As for the plot, I found a few loopholes that I hope the author will tie up in the next book- yes, I am wishing for a sequel. It would be lovely if we could see what happens to the characters next. The plot, although it was a tad bit slow in the beginning, I believe that it only worked well since the climax had to be reached a certain way and the author couldn’t have done any better. The thriller/crime aspect of the novel was great and I was very much mesmerized with the plot. The themes of friendship, the supernatural element, as well as the allegory was beautifully relayed in the plotline. The symbols were obviously also very well planned.
The editing was very well done in this novel and I could find very few grammatical/editing mistakes. However, I do feel that some parts of the story could have done with more description that was provided. Specially the intense almost-action scenes. In spite of it all, I honestly liked reading this book and only wish that the author soon releases a sequel. I would probably be the first to grab that copy. I rate this a 5/5 stars and look forward to the events that the future brings to these two girlfriends.

Wedding Pickle, Neha Sharma, 2017

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Publisher: Grapevine India
So recently, I got this book from the author. Wedding Pickle has been pretty hyped and I was worried that the actual read may not be worth it. And so, I picked it up a bit apprehensively. However, the author has very beautifully weaved the tales of the typical Indian way of life. At the center, it is a story of emotional and mental growth and development as the protagonist learns to let go of her fears- mostly commitment issues, and grow to be her own happy and self-satisfied person.
The writing is very beautiful- the author has creatively mixed both the dialogue as well as descriptive forms in equal measure. It was a perfect blend. The third person limited narrative is used here and I do think that it has done justice to the story- preserving the necessary suspense as well as romance, wherever needed.
The plot is actually covering a very limited amount of time, despite what the size of the book may tell us. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read, never dragging or boring the readers, instead, it made me laugh out loud so many times, that my mom decided to give it a read as well after I finished. She is currently still reading it, about a half-way in, and so far she says it’s beautiful and nostalgic for her. I feel that this book is both, a character-driven as well as a plot-driven story as the ultimate goal is marriage. The story as a whole progressed very gradually and made it relatable for most of us, I’m sure.
As for the characters, Neha Sharma has taken the typical qualities and conjured up multiple characters who are so very relatable. In Avni, our protagonist, we see an independent and happy girl trying to safely navigate around her family as they try to get her married. Along with her troop of friends Roshni, Kitty and Ria, I was reminded of my own intimate girl gang and as such this proved relevant on a personal level as well. The parents and aunts are all the aunts and parents we meet every day- be they our neighbours or cousins even. In Ansh, I also found a very understandable and mature young man, successful and determined in his own rights.
Lastly, I would like to point out the cover- it is simple and yet it portrays the whole concept beautifully. Being wedded is truly a pickle-like situation! It’s funny at the same time while also giving to us a chance for introspection about the different roles women play in our lives.
In all, I really enjoyed this book and rate it a solid 5/5 stars. I would also definitely recommend it to everyone I know, who loves a bit of comedy, chick-lit, familial relations/drama, and romance. Wedding Pickle is a mélange of all those genres and more!

April Book Haul, 2018

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April was a month when I was pretty broke, and that’s why I got only two books for myself. These are both books that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, and I was ecstatic when I ordered them!
Firstly, I’ve got An Enchantment of Roses by Margaret Rogerson, which I loved and rated a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a book set in the Fae realms and fantasy as such is a personal favourite of mine. Readers of S.J.Maas, such as yours truly, would definitely love this book. See the review I wrote for this book here! An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson, 2017
Next, I got Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyami, which also belongs to the fantasy genre and is a bestseller too. I have come across raving reviews for this book and that was what made me but it. However, I have not yet read it; it’s placed in my June TBR. I’ll definitely be writing a review for it as well, and so, keep an eye out for that!
# qotd: how many and what books did you haul for April?
 

First Impressions: About judging a book by its cover

 
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We should never judge a book by its cover- that’s a proverb we’ve heard so many times now that I bet, whenever we judge somebody by their outward appearance, the inner voice always quips with these words. It’s inevitable. No matter how much we tell ourselves that it is bad, we fall back to our own habits- and who better to be put forward as examples but us- the incorrigible bookworms and bibliophiles!
One of my favorite books is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I have the edition, by Maple Press. Now, it’s not the most beautiful book cover in the world, despite the fact that I am personally biased with Rhett holding Scarlett close, and her wearing that magnificent red gown. It’s something I love, but it is not the prettiest cover in the world. And I have accepted that. However, there is a story I need to tell when it comes to this. I was left devastated after I finished reading this masterpiece and was looking for a suitable book to read next, preferably a sequel or a prequel. But as time passed on, I got over this heartbreak (I was a mere year 6 student after all, not even in high-school!), and forget all about this search. Then one day, I was at the annual book fair in my city and as soon as I enter this shop, my eyes (and I was not wearing my glasses mind you, without which I am practically blind) zoom in to this book, laid down about 5 feet away from me and around 6 feet off the ground in its shelf, its beautiful spine left to the viewer’s eyes. There was an instant connection. I ask the shopkeeper to bring down that book and lo and behold! It’s Scarlett- the sequel to Gone With the Wind! Of course I got the book and I still reread it every now and then.
What I want to share with you all through this post of mine is that indescribable and irrational bling that glazes out eyes as soon as they fall on a book with a beautiful cover. I have long left behind the guilt I might feel whenever I buy a book just for the sake of the attractive cover. What can I say, I fall hard for pretty ones! And I mean, who doesn’t? It’s a different thing entirely that some people do not act on it while other, like me, do.
The reason I am writing this, is because I recently read this non-fiction book called The Covering of Books by award-winner Jhumpa Lahiri. It describes how close and how important the whole process of making a suitable cover is, for the author. It’s their baby after all. This book made me think about how important it is for the cover to be able to convey the meaning the author wants to, to the audience. And in the process, if it turns out to be a bestseller just because of the looks alone, well..
I suppose this was just a random scribble. I am working on the review for the book and I’ll definitely be posting it soon. Meanwhile, I’m going to wish you luck- in completing that TBR pile, collecting enough money to order that book set you’ve wanted to for a while and so on! Happy reading and happy buying!
 
Disclaimer: The picture in the featured pane DOES NOT belong to me. I got it off the Internet.

Scion of Ikshvaku, Amish Tripathi, 2015

So recently, I completed reading this book and I give it a solid 5/5 stars.

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It was so very realistic and corroborated by many believable facts, that at times I forgot that it was just a fiction. This is my first Amish Tripathi book and I must say that I have been enamoured by his style of writing. The narrative is compelling and just simply forces you to look deep into the recesses of your mind and soul. The attention he has given to detail is perfect and in the words of First City, ‘…one must congratulate Amish on reintroducing Hindu mythology to the youth of this country’.
The plot is exquisite and the characters are round and real in all aspects. I have never really liked Ram but despite that, I loved his character in this book. It is true that his law-abiding nature was perhaps his hamartia; although not quite, since he does go to heaven in the end, I suppose. This is a very close retelling of the Ramayana, fictionalized no doubt, but all the very more interesting for it.
It has given me a fresh perspective of the instances that might have been, apart from all the stories we have been told by our parents/grandparents. The women in this book are shown as very intelligent and self-dependent ones, which I see has become a trend in modern day retellings and all for the better I feel. Nonetheless, Sita being shown as the Prime Minister of her kingdom is quite an empowering fact in itself. She is not quite the damsel-in-distress we have often thought her to be. The bonding between the brothers is also beautifully shown with the occasional expected silly talks and jokes.
We also see the hatred that can arise in a person because of particular instances that may have happened in his past/childhood. For example, we have Ram who is blamed because he was born on the very day his father lost the battle (his first ever loss) at Karachapa to Ravan, the king of Lanka and also a very good trader.
The politics, I feel, is the most attractive feature in this book, apart from the Ram-Sita scenes, of course. Vishwamitra and Vashishtha are no doubt master players in this whole situation and the introduction of the Vayuputras and Malayaputras just adds more spice to the stew. I have not read the Shiva trilogy before this like I have already stated in the beginning, and as such, it was a bit difficult for me to catch hold of the histories and agendas of these two sections. For this matter though, I would definitely suggest reading that trilogy before reading the Ram Chandra series since that series comes chronologically before this one as well as being the first in publication orders as well.
If you want to gain a fresh new perspective on the Ramayana then I would definitely recommend you to read this amazing work and you will be delighted to know that the sequel follows Sita and also converges with this book towards the end. I have personally started reading the sequel and I’m loving it. Definitely, a must-read if you would like a new point of view for this great epic, keeping in mind that this is not the actual story but simply a fictionalized retelling to which the author has added a few of his own twists and turns.

Resolutions //2018//

This is the year I will be stronger, braver, kinder and unstoppable. This year I will be fierce!

 
This quote pretty much encapsulates all of my resolutions for the upcoming year. Honestly, I am seriously going to try to be the best version of myself and just push myself as hard as I can.
In the academics field, I will obviously try my very best. Frankly, my aim is to be the best that I have been before, and this is the conviction that will push me further. I am competing with myself- I have to be better than I have been. I will also strive to complete my assignments at all times, and study every day!
In the fitness sphere, I obviously need to work harder, build up my stamina and see my running streak. I also intend to go to the gym regularly, except on Sundays and when I’m in the middle of exams. I also intend to eat healthier and reduce my fast food intake.
When it comes to books, I think I will set my reading challenge goal at 40 again, just like 2017, because 2018 is going to be a busy year, with two back-to-back semesters, that will surely suck all of my time, as I will prioritize my academic reads over any sort of recreational reads.
As for the miscellaneous section, I intend to be quite fashion-oriented and be presentable at all times in public. I also intend to work on the strained familial relations I am having at the moment. Also, I will strive to keep my room clean at all times, which is a prerogative!
So, I think that is all! It seems like my resolutions are quite many, but they are so basic, I feel. Anyway, I wish all of my readers a happy and successful new year, and may 2018 be the best year ever for you! God bless!