Tag Archives: book blogging

A Refreshing read: Ruskin Bond

This little book was a refreshing read. Despite its easy and seemingly normal subject matter, this book has the capacity to change your outlook.

Plants1 - Ruskin Bond
A Little Book of Magical Plants by Ruskin Bond

Synopsis:

In this little book full of whimsical illustrations and thoughtful quotations, Ruskin Bond introduces us to his favourite plants. Meet the resilient rubber, the tantalizing tomato, the generous grass, the dainty dahlia, the nifty neem and many others. Bond’s simple and descriptive prose brings these apparently inanimate beings alive—each with a distinct identity, a singular quirk. A Little Book of Magical Plants is a handy guide to discover more about this often ignored world of ‘green growing things’.

My review:

This little book was a refreshing read. Despite its easy and seemingly normal subject matter, this book has the capacity to change your outlook. I think I read it at the perfect time – just in time for the new year. Through the simple yet descriptive prose that Bond is so famous for, he introduces us to his favourite plants. What is magical is how he opens our eyes to make us see the qualities each of these plants possess. We too should be just as resilient and kind and accepting of our own quirks.

Plants2 - Ruskin Bond
A Little Book of Magical Plants by Ruskin Bond

At a time when we as Indians are getting shocked every day because of the gruesome crimes happening against women, let us all pledge to be kind and brave and always stand up against whatever is wrong. I loved how nostalgic the writing seemed to get at times. The author adds his own anecdotes and it just lends a special flavour to the writing.

There are also beautiful illustrations that are very soothing to the eye. Moreover, the quotes are presented in calligraphy adding another layer to beauty to this already adorable book.

4.5/5 stars to this gem!

Links to Amazon and Goodreads

Check out my review for Live Oak, With Moss, a collection of homoerotic poetry, by Walt Whitman

Girl Power: A Volume of Female Empowerment

Taking female empowerment up by a few theoretical notches, Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani is a visual treat, a collection of inspiring women.

Taking female empowerment up by a few theoretical notches, Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani is a visual treat on a collection of inspiring women.
Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani

Female Empowerment and GIRL POWER

Girl Power is a powerful book, with an immense potential to influence many young girls. There are amalgamated some very powerful stories of ordinary girls who made it big through sheer hard work and conviction. They have transformed from rags to riches, but without a prince charming to help and protect these non-damsels in distress. In fact, these are no damsels-in-distress, rather, warrior princesses who dare to fight for their own rights and overcome and slay every dragon that stands in their way.

Click here to check out my review on Brave, Not Perfect!

Female empowerment through a diverse bunch of women

From doctors to space astronauts,  royal queens to radical writers, priests to boxers, there is nothing women cannot achieve if they set their minds on it. yes, it may take time, but through perseverance, everything is possible. After all, can you imagine that there was a time when a woman was not allowed to have a bank account of her own?  Or that, women could be dismissed from their jobs just for being pregnant?

Click here to check out my review on The Women Who Ruled India!

Splendid illustrations

With beautiful illustrations from the lives of these women, as well as their portraits, the book is a visual art. I love the bright and bombastic cover which is a foreshadowing of the power that will be emanating from the pages once we open the book. The author has also diversified the group, including women are various different fields of work and as such, revelations were made in this book. I for instance never knew about the presence of women priests! Likewise, there were many surprising stories.

Click here to check out my review on Unstoppable!

Inspiring and phenomenal!

How can I express the awe-inspiring feeling that I got as I read the book? Or the goosebumps that I got so often? Or how frequently my eyes would well up, learning about the triumphs and sheer determination of these women? They are a source of inspiration! And if these snippets could inspire m, imagine how much sway they could have over the impressionable minds of young girls. 

My verdict

I rate this book a solid 5/5 stars and recommend you all to read them yourselves and then gift them to the young girls in your lives.

Get the book on Amazon!

Update it on your Goodreads!

Mesmerizing poetry: The Octopus Curse

The Octopus Curse is a poetry collection by Dr. Salma Forook and I have yet to come across a more aesthetic anthology of poetry. Needless to say I loved it!

The Octopus Curse by Dr. Salma Farook is a poetry collection

The Octopus Curse by Salma Farook is a collection of powerful poems, focusing on love, heartbreak, resilience, travel, self-love, feminity and women’s issues, etc. I have read What Your Soul Already Knows by the author last year and I had found it to be the best motivational book there ever was, without sounding too preachy and such. As such, when the author approached me for her second book, of course, I had to say yes!

Click here to check out my review for What Your Soul Already Knows.

Through the vacuum.

Through the void.

Sometimes the words I write,

Fall over the heads of a heedless crowd.

But, I lay them clear,

And I ink them loud,

Because I don’t require being heard,

I only (desperately) need

To right.

-‘Catharsis’

Lyrical poetry

Like her previous book, the words in this book too continue to be just as meaningful and full of depth. I love how the execution has been made. The words are rhythmic and lyrical and thus very heart warming as well as soothing to the ears. Through these different pieces, the author has inspired the reader to confront their feelings and accept them and most importantly, to be at peace with themselves.

How stunted,

Limited,

This language is!

I have searched and searched

But, never found a word

For pain coming so surely,

That you feel it already,

Long before it

Even arrives.

-‘Visceral’

Aesthetic:

The book is a work of art and a more aesthetic poetry collection, I have yet to come across. I am so glad I got to read this book when I did because this was just the right time for me. Perhaps, if I had read it at some other moment of my life, it wouldn’t have touched me as much as it has. Many thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy.

I pray that death be kind,

Not as much to the buried,

As to those left behind.

-‘Funerals are for the living’

Here’s one poem that I absolutely loved. Check this one out!

You lift your chin up

Like the cocking of a gun

Your eyes flash the coldest fire,

Your words erupt,

The hottest ice.

I see you wear your anger

Like a bulletproof vest

Over your pain; I must say,

Even as you walk away,

It looks bloody glorious

On you

-‘Woman’

You can also check out the book here: Amazon (the ebook is free upto 5th of November), Goodreads

Dalal’s Street: A satirical extravaganza

Dalal’s Street is a satirical thriller of dark humour which explores the complex interplay of human relationships in the Indian scenario.

Dalal's Street is a satirical thriller of dark humour which explores the complex interplay of human relationships in the Indian scenario.

Synopsis of this satirical read:

A group of young Indian business school graduates are attracted to jobs in a high paying trading company. This batch of hardworking, intelligent and ambitious friends is focused on success in the fast paced, hyper competitive world of stockbroking where greed, use of cunning and wealth are the stepping stones to survival and success,. The survivors are the winners.
A satirical thriller of dark humour in which superfast action to tip the scales of finance and fortunes to one’s favour and achieve quick wins are the order of the day, Dalal’s Street explores the complex interplay of human relationships and etches out the rise of the protagonist through a test by fire.

A satirical read

Dalal’s Street was quite an interesting read in many ways. While I did like the overall aspect of the book, I have to admit that there were times when I felt a bit disconnected probably because it focuses so much on the financial sector, something which I admittedly do not know much about and am not very much interested in, to be honest.

Plot:

The book follows Varun Agarwal, the son of a man who had lost quite some money in the Harshad Mehta scam. As such, the father is strictly against the son entering into this world of finance. However, disregarding his father’s wishes, we see Varun jumping headlong into this and joining a company through the campus placement program. Varun has 3 other friends – Pooja, Devika, and Anil – who also join the business. The plot was unique and well-written. It was cohesive and included a good insight into the stock brokering world.

The downfall

Things only take a downward turn from this point. We see all of these people try to survive in an extremely competitive world, thus applying ways which they perhaps would not have, had they been in the right frame of mind. We see them lose their morals and step on others to try to be the best. This competition proves to be the thing that unspools the darkest sides of themselves.

Writing Satire

The author has also applied a humorous writing style to make the dark humor bearable. It is too dark otherwise. The degeneration of the human goodness and the innate humaneness is shocking but ye-opening at the same time. We as humans have become so materialistic today that it is not that shocking either, contrary to what I have just stated now. This book has left me with very mixed feelings. For now, I shall rate it 3/5 stars.

Amazon Goodreads

Check out my recent reviews: Kashmir’s Untold Story, The Dutch House

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one new fantasy series I’m very excited to read.

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.
Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I’m excited to read through.

Fantastic cover:

Can you imagine a bolder book cover than this? I personally love this cover for what it invokes in me – to go on despite whatever! I’ve also attached this picture of the wonderful merch that comes along with the preorder!

Pre-order goodies:

A signed bookplate, a beautiful enamel pin, an Astrid bookmark, and a quote graphic!

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.
Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship.

But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail.

From the beginning, the race is filled with twists and turns. One of them is Darius, a fellow racer Astrid meets but isn’t sure she can trust. Though they team up in the race, as Astrid’s memories begin to resurface, she remembers just who he was to her—a scorned foe who may want revenge. Astrid also starts to notice she has powers no Outsider should—which could help her win the race, but also make her a target if anyone finds out. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, Astrid must decide what is more important: risking her life to remember the mysteries of the past, or playing a cutthroat game in order to win her—and her family’s—freedom.

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

So I am just a couple chapters in and I’m loving it. The beginning itself was so dramatic and wonderful, that I am curious to see how the story unfolds.

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.

Amazon Goodreads

Check out my other fantasy recommendations: The Raven’s Tale, The Shrike and the Shadows, After the Flood, Aurora Rising, etc

I have also uploaded a couple of YouTube videos and I’d love it if you could check those out: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-bW-YE_AC5r8voOIioyG3Q

Indistractable : A disappointment!

Indistractable is a self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships. It basically teaches you to be indistractable.

A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.
A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.

Synopsis:

International best-selling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming. Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book.  In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.  Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.  

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

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

So I tried reading the book. The first few pages went well. However, it is definitive to say that Inditractabke was just not the book for me. I had put it down multiple times. I tried picking it up multiple times as well. But in the end, I think I only read about three-fourths of the total book, that too, with me skipping and skimming a few pages.

For the most part, I felt that towards the second half of the book, the author was simply putting in material to increase the volume of the book and as such the content started to drag, and it could not retain my attention.

For the most part, it felt like a series of anecdotes. I do not personally like that in self-help books and as such, this was again a disappointment.

As such, I have to rate it book a mere 1/5 stars. This book was just not it, for me. I could not relate to it much except for the first few pages.

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

What Your Soul Already Knows, The Intelligence Trap, Brave Not Perfect, The Holy Sh!t Moment, Never Again, The Superhero Soul, Fluid, The Mind Game, etc!

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 .

2K giveaway!

Hey guys!

The much-awaited giveaway is here. I promised to do a giveaway when I reached 2K followers and now that all the books have arrived, here it is!

Firstly, I really want to thank you all for the love you have given me. It means a lot. And my YouTube channel has received so much support as well! Wow! I was flabbergasted. I will be shooting the next video this Sunday and I am very excited for it! I really think you will love it!

The books for the giveaway are:

  1. Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified
  2. Wonderland
  3. The Intelligence Trap
  4. Inferno
  5. Origin
  6. Yoddha: Dynasty of Samudragupta
  7. The Monsters Still Lurk
  8. Something I Never Told You

Rules:

  1. Follow me.
  2. A shoutout would be lovely and easy for me to add as entry.
  3. Most importantly, comment below which book you’d love to win!
  4. You can comment on my latest posts as I have included those as entries. This is optional.
  5. Tagging your friends is optional.

Just a few points to keep in mind:

  1. There will be 8 winners and each will get the book of their choice. (By order of winning)
  2. I will ship the books in my Flipkart boxes so as to reuse them.
  3. This giveaway is for the residents of India only.
  4. This giveaway is open to followers only.
  5. The giveaway closes on 9pm Saturday, 26th October and I will declare the winners on Sunday in a live session.
  6. This is not affiliated with Instagram or any book publishers.

And that’s it! I like to keep it pretty simple. Hope you all have a lovely time and may the luckiest people win!

A Review of Walk With Wings, by Tene Edwards

I read this poetry collection over the course of two weeks because I usually read poetry quite slowly so that I actually feel the words and can mull them over. Walk With Wings was an enjoyable read that I delved into. The poems were all divided into 5 sections: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing, and resilience. The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

The pieces here deal with hard work, discipline and the sacrifices we have to make in order to pursue our dreams. They have been so relatable to me and I was in love. It is always empowering in a way – to know that what we are feeling is not just us. So many people are suffering and knowing that gives a sort of strength – if so many others are dealing with these issues, and progressing, perhaps we can too?

A few of the pieces felt like quotes so irked me a bit, but then again, the content is something you can easily relate to and that makes it the best, I think. Self-love and empowerment are the two common threads that link all the different pieces in the book. I think that my personal favourite is Summer Freedom perhaps, because it is a process I am going through myself – I am healing myself by learning to accept my own self. I am de-stigmatizing the faults I had previously found in my skin which had once made me so very uncomfortable in this skin I wear. Very enjoyable read and i rate it 4/5 stars.

#qotd : Do you have certain books you go back to whenever you need some healing?

A suggestion I have is What Your Soul Already Knows by Salma Farook. It is another book that I loved and I keep going back to it. It is a self-help/motivational book. I am generally not much for this genre but this one book was amazing.

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

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.

With that catchy title, the book sure did capture my attention from the very beginning. I was excited to pick up the book and although it was a good enough read for me, I think maybe my expectations were too high going in.

The book roughly covers the time period from the arrival of Alexander until the very recent headlines-making event of the 370 article ruling. For those who did not know, the argument of the secret of the Rozabal Line too will be one of a great shock perhaps.

For the most part, the book read like a cross, somewhere between a historical fiction tale, and a political and/or historical textbook. While it does give a solid base to the history of Kashmir’s ‘origin’, the book, I feel, pretty soon turns towards conspiracies and such theories. It is entertaining, yes, to humour them, but I felt that it moved away from the original course it was supposed to have taken. I also believe that this book has the power to capture the reader’s mind and turn it into the direction the authors want them to take – as a certain blurb says, this book is a pretty “forceful statement of the Indian case in Kashmir” and as such, it was not really very neutral. However, in the larger context, bringing in the relation of China is a pretty powerful move and sheds light on some important situations in the past, and hence, the present as well. 

The naming of the various chapters was also done in terms of water, such as Unfathomable Depths, Lashing Waves, Emerging Abyss, Rising Tsunami, etc., and in a way, I really liked that. I feel that these titles really justified the social and political scenario of the times that the chapters were focusing on.

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 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 Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

Title: The Conspiracy Unknown Book I: The Vengeance of the Fallen

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The story starts with the birth of a prince and the series of events that follow. Fifteen eons ago, the ‘Great War’ was fought between the Anndas and a group of revolutionaries, in which the revolutionaries came out victorious. The Anandas were chased out of the empire and were made to live in the forest like nomads. The revolutionaries named Ragupta Moriya as their king, and thus the Great Moriyan Empire was formed. Great songs and stories were written about Ragupta Moriya and his ten war generals who fought out the evil Ananda Empire. After fifteen years, a plot is made to overthrow the Moriyan Empire. And it all falls on the shoulders of Ragupta to win the battle.

After nearly 2300 eons, the life of Dr Sebastian Stein is under peril. A mysterious man in a black suit is in pursuit of capturing Dr Stein, but Sebastian is saved by his father’s old friend. When Sebastian starts to learn about the death of his father, he realizes there’s no other way to escape but to run for his life.

What exactly happened in Before Clearance Existence (BCE) for it to affect the life of Sebastian Stein in After Clearance Existence (ACE)?

My review:

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

The Conspiracy Unknown: The Vengeance of the Fallen was quite a heavy read. With two different narratives, from two starkly different eras, weaving in and out, it was a story with a great plot, and great storytelling.

So basically, there are two different storylines – in an eon way back in the past, there is the majestic Moriyan Empire. The monarch is King Rasabind, who’s son Hisoka possesses the famed third eye! After he is attacked during his naming ceremony and the attackers surprisingly do not remember any of their action, the king goes on his own hunt to know the truth.

Eons later, in a future quite distant, we have Sebastian Stein who is trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his father’s death. And out of nowhere, he finds himself chased around with threats on his life.  these are two seemingly unrelated things and yet, w strive to understand the root relationship between these people from eons between them.

With this interesting premise, I jumped headlong into the book and it didn’t really disappoint me, but to be honest, I felt like there was a certain something missing. While it is well packed with wars, the thirst for vengeance (as the title suggests), conspiracies etc., I felt that the narrative lagged a bit in parts and may have simple been filler material. Apart from that, the presence of the multitude of characters confused me for a bit in the beginning but then they do not really have much presence later on, so that threw me off a bit. The overall effect could have been a bit more polished. 

Verdict:

It was a good read overall and I rate it 3.5/5 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 .

Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra, 2019

Title: Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra

Author: Maya Balsi

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis:

It’s common knowledge that Kamasutra originated from India – the “how-to” guide of how to pleasure each other. Many centuries ago they thought deeply into the subject of erotic love. Though in modern India sex is always a hushed subject, something happens behind the closed doors, something never almost never publicly spoken. What can you expect from a society where now also most marriages are arranged by family, where most people have their first sex after marriage, where so many people never even see the naked bodies of their partners?
There are a plethora of stories to be told from every nook and corner of this big country. Stories around love, lust, frustration, despair, loathing – stories around real man and woman and the complications of life.
Nasha is the first compilation of Maya Balsi`s stories. The stories include are :
Red Earth , Blue Sky, Green Sea
The light I see Through Darkness
Never Deny Me Your Laughter
Have A Nice Journey!
We walked in the woods

My review:

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

The last time I read erotica was when I  tried reading Fifty Shades of Gray. Keyword : Tried. And I couldn’t do it. The details were sort of too explicit for me – it’s not that I am uncomfortable reading about sex, but rather the sex in the book made m so. So for quite some time, I stayed away from them. But then, I also came across books by Alexa Riley and Penny Wylder, and I was quite happy.

A few days ago, the author approached me and asked if I would be willing to review her book. Since I have not read any erotica by an Indian before, and since the synopses of the stories seemed quite good, I decided to say yes. I thought I would pick this book up for some leisurely weekend reading but when I read the acknowledgement, I knew I had to dive right in. Sex is surely a paradox in India because like the author says, and is corroborated by statistical data, there is a huge market revolving around it. And with a rapidly growing population, we know it is not cranes that drop off brand new babies into the arms of eager parents.

In the first story, Red earth, Blue Sky, Green Sea, there was a good buildup of the story and it was quite atmospheric. It is about the sexual awakening of two girls, a silent rebellion against society’s rules, norms and the taboos.  Although short, the characters in this story are well fleshed out.

The second story The Light I See Through Darkness, is one told through the point of view of a prostitute. Her helplessness in well shown here and in a few words, the author has described her mental agony. At 42, the protagonist says that she feels and looks like a grandmother, which in itself shows how difficult her life has been. As she scouts for potential customers, we understand that her main aim is to collect enough money for her daughter’s education. There was one remarkable line said here, and I quote, “Little do they know, we are keeping them safe from the clutches of rogues who would do anything to satisfy their lusts”.  This is more of a magical story with a very unexpected, yet nice, ending.

The third story, Never Deny Me Your laughter, aptly showed the restlessness of our modern lives. Apart from the obvious, there are a lot of human emotions and feelings contained in all of these stories.  Very dynamic in its entirety.

The fourth story is Have A Nice Journey. It featured infidelity so I am not sure how comfortable I am with that because cheating is a big NO for me. This was an okay story, and not one that I enjoyed much, unlike the others.

The last story was We Walked in the Woods. This story did focus a bit on mental health, I felt. It was apt in depicting the moral dilemmas we often face because of our own feelings. Pritha is one such person. There is such an underlying connection between sex and the multitude of emotions that come with it. the ending was open-ended and I was thought of various ways it could have ended.

Nasha was a good read overall. I do think that a bit more editing can be done regarding the typing errors, and some grammatical refining. I also did find certain discrepancies. Nonetheless, this is a book I can easily recommend to you all. If you want to explore the erotica genre more, then this is also a book you can pick up.

Verdict:

I rate this book  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 .

After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag, 2019

Title: After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published on: 19th September, 2019

Publisher: The Borough Press

Genre: Dystopian/Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The world is mostly water when Pearl is born. The floods have left America a cluster of small islands with roving trade ships and raiders.

Pearl knows little of her father Jacob and elder sister Row, who left her mother Myra when she was pregnant with her. Between them they make do, with Myra fishing and trading to make ends meet, travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat Myra’s grandfather made before he died.

Whilst their life is a tranquil one, Myra still aches for the daughter she once lost. When a chance encounter reveals that Row might still be alive, Myra packs up six-year-old Pearl and together they begin a dangerous voyage to The Valley, where rumours of violence and breeding ships run rampant.

Along the way they encounter death and strangers, finally finding solace on board Sedna – full to the brim with supplies and an able crew – where Myra feels like she might be closer to finding Row than she has ever been. But to get to Row she will have to deceive everyone around her, betraying the trust of those she’s come to love, and ask herself if she’s willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for what might be nothing at all.

My review:

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

After the Flood was a very interesting read as well as scary to be honest. Scary in the sense that it deals with an issue which might eve turn real in a few years in our future. The dystopian genre is often an unsettling one because at the rate that we are going, the instances portrayed in the books seem very plausible.

After the Flood was one of my most anticipated new releases from the second half of 2019. I was pumped and the book did not disappoint. From the eco-critical point of view this book was a significant one that may well serve as a warning to the present generations. In a futuristic yet primeval world where everything has been submerged under water, Myra and Pearl are a mother-daughter duo who are doing their best to survive in the Westworld like world. Throughout the book we see them struggling with the scenario – they have to depend on fishing for their food and trade with these at ports which have not yet been submerged.

The theme of memory is quite significant here – Myra, for instance, deals with recurring ones of a time when things had been very different. Pearl is a gem and her bond with her mother is quite beautiful. For the most part, we see Myra dealing with her loss of her older daughter and then she keeps on wondering if in pursuing her, she will lose Pearl too?

The other characters were also well made – the unraveling of Abran is a significant one, especially as we see a person undoing their years of hard work because of the stress and pressure they are feeling at the moment.

The story was well-paced, the characters real and tortured in their own ways, and the world a scarily real portrait of what might be our own future one day. The language is easy to read and captivating as the reader grapples with the horrifying scenario that it has become. The adventure is nail-bitingly intriguing, and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times!

Verdict:

 I really loved this book and it just might be the best book I have read so far in the second half of 2019! 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 .

Celtic Tales: Fairytales and Stories of Enchantments from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales

Title: Celtic Tales

Illustrated by: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Selkies, wyverns, witches, and giants. Perilous quests, true love, and animals that talk.

The traditional stories of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales transport us to the fantastical world of Celtic folklore. These timeless tales brim with wit and magic, and each on is brought to life with elegant silhouette art in this special illustrated edition.

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.

This was an absolute delight! I am so glad I could read this amazing set of tales, so full of magic and fantasy! I have never read any folktales from these places in the world, to be honest, and I loved every second I was immersed in them!

Separated into the categories of Tricksters, the Sea, Quests, and Romance, the stories all come with some amazing illustrations by Kate Forrester, and as is common to all folktales, morals. I found some similar tales in Nordic Tales as well and so it is really interesting to see that there are such overlaps in all our different cultures too! I absolutely enjoyed it and am giving it to my brother to read!

Verdict:

A gem! 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 .

Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark, 2019

Title: Nordic Tales

Illustrated by: Ulla Thynell

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Trolls haunt the snowy forests, and terrifying monsters roam the open sea.
A young woman journeys to the end of the world, and a boy proves he knows no fear.
This collection of 16 traditional tales transports readers to the enchanting world of Nordic folklore. Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, and presented here unabridged, the stories are by turns magical, hilarious, cozy, and chilling. They offer a fascinating view into Nordic culture and a comforting wintertime read. Ulla Thynell’s glowing contemporary illustrations accompany each tale, conjuring dragons, princesses, and the northern lights. This special gift edition features an embossed, textured case and a ribbon marker.

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 absolutely was in love with the illustrations in this book. I’m not much of an artist myself, but the chalk/wax crayon-like texture of the drawing was very pleasing to the eye. I read this collection of folktales along with my brother and we were so in love with these that they felt so magical and we longed to delve into these worlds.

Like all folktales and fairytales, these too have morals that are delivered on an entertaining note and are not simply boring and didactic. We could understand so many of the emotions and feelings behind this because I feel that despite the geographical differences and cultural differences etc., every culture has got certain morals etc that it teaches its people.

Nordic Tales is a collection of folktales for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Divided into different sections like Transformation, Wit, and Journeys, these stories have themes of human kindness and tolerance in general, bravery, honesty, love, perseverance etc.

I also love this beautiful bookmark. It is from Damyanti Gharge and she’s a gem!

Verdict:

Totally a 5 star read!

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 .

August 2019 book haul!

And the last in my series is here! Things have been going well this week.. I am in a better place mentally and I am waking up feeling hopeful. I think this is a very subjective thing – dealing with the occasional bouts of depression we all suffer from. An important thing I wish people would realize is that it is natural for us people (in this cut throat world) to feel depressed sometimes, but it does not mean that we are suffering from depression. We need to stop romanticizing mental illnesses. Anyway, enough of my rant.

Moving on, I got a total of 38 new books in August, including review copies, gifts from friends and book I ordered on my own. Some of the books I featured in my semester readings post are also new ones I got in August, but since I had already shown them, I thought I should show the rest. So here are the rest of the new books I got in August:

  1. Mary Barton
  2. Vanity Fair by Thackeray (this was a gift from a friend)
  3. The Bluest Eye
  4. The Wings of the Dove
  5. Madame Bovary
  6. An American Marriage
  7. Dark Blade
  8. The Shadow Lines
  9. Great Expectations (this was a gift from a friend)
  10. Sea Prayer
  11. Catwoman (this was a gift from a friend)
  12. Origin
  13. Black Leopard Red Wolf
  14. The Far Field
  15. The Forest of Enchantments
  16. The Interpreter of Maladies
  17. Upon a Burning Throne part 2
  18. Nahoror Niribili Saa (Assamese novel)
  19. Sanglat Fenla (Assamese novel)

Did you get any new book in August? Or were you really good at following the book ban (unlike yours truly)? Do share your views and drop a comment. I always reply to your comments and also drop one in your accounts or spam with likes. Have a great day ahead, guys!

Black Panther, 2019

Title: Black Panther

Author: Jesse J. Holland

Publisher: Titan Books, Bloomsbury

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

He’s known as the Black Panther. His home is Wakanda. Welcome to T’Challa’s world. During the last ten centuries, as European colonial powers spread their guns and armies throughout the continent, the African nation of Wakanda stood alone as an unconquerable land inhabited by undefeatable warriors and filled with incredible technological advancements. T’Challa – the latest in a lineage of warrior-kings – is Wakanda’s Black Panther, a hero endowed with enhanced speed, strength and agility – along with a suit made of the metal that secured his country’s future: the indestructible Vibranium. Now, outsiders have returned to plunder Wakanda’s riches, including its store of the rare metal. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, an assassin with the blood of T’Challa’s father on his hands. Klaw brings with him a powerful army of super-powered mercenaries, all hell-bent on raining death and destruction on this pristine land. Even with Wakanda’s might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against such a massive invading force?

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 had very high expectations from this book honestly. And perhaps that is the reason why I was so very excited to pick it up. The book is very different from the movie and as such if you have watched the movie beforehand, it will probably also be a nice read.

We see T’Challa as having developed into this assertive man who is a just king. His relations with his mother and sister is amazing. Throughout the book, the author has placed in past events through reminiscences made by the characters and it is refreshing to get this perspective into the inner lives. Shuri’s story is especially an interesting one as we get her vies into various traditions of Wakanda and her feelings regarding them. It also portrays her brother as a real man and not just as a divine king. However, I did not particularly like the mother – I think sh way too obsessed with her son.

Klaw on the other hand was an interesting character – both as a villain and as a man with a vengeance. The glimpse offered into the ‘villains’s’ lives in this book was very interesting and their back stories and interrelationships were very interesting as well!

However I was not very interested in this book. I felt that it dragged for a bit to be honest and I am not sure if I will ever pick it up again, at this point. In the last bit especially, I had to drag myself to turn the pages one after the other. I just had no wish to continue reading this book. However, I do think that I will pick up this book and see if I will like it someday.

Verdict:

This was an okay read. I rate it 3/5 stars.

Happy Independence Day!

Hey guys! I wish you all a very Happy Independence Day! Let us all thank our ancestors for their belief, their struggle and strife that has led us to where we are today. It is truly historic and the TV news covering the celebrations across the country give me goosebumps. I have teared up so many times hearing the national anthem today!

How are you planning on celebrating today? I am going to spend the day with my family – we had a great lunch and caught up with our lives. Later on, we plan on watching Uri, and a few other movies like Lagaan, and perhaps Raazi too.

I’m also going to join the #BloomsburyReadalong today and start with THE CASE THAT SHOOK THE EMPIRE! Do join in!

The thrilling story of how one Indian fought for the rights of millions living under the British rule and gave crucial impetus to the Independence movement in India.

30 April 1924. At the Court of the King’s Bench in London, the highest court in the Empire, an English judge and jury heard the case that would change the course of India’s history: Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab – and architect of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre – had filed adefamation case against Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair for having published a book in which he referred to the atrocities committed by the Raj in Punjab.

The widely-reported trial – one of the longest in history – stunned a world that finally recognized some of the horrors being committed by the British in India.

Through reports of court proceedings along with a nuanced portrait of a complicated nationalist who believed in his principles above all else, The Case ThatShook the Empire reveals, for the very first time, the real details of the fateful case that marked the defining moment in India’s struggle for Independence.

Join me in the #BloomsburyReadalong from August 15 to August 22. I sincerely hope you do and enjoy reading this book as much as I hope to!

Silence Between The Spaces, by Abir Sinha, 2019

Title: Silence Between The Spaces

Author: Abir Sinha

Genre: Poetry and Prose

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year 2015 award, Abir Sinha is the best-selling poet of the book Noora- a collection of poems which was launched by the Commerce Minister Shri. Suresh Prabhu. Silence between the Spaces is the second collection of his poetry and prose which talks about taking that long arduous journey into yourself. Get comfortable with peeling the layers off to know who you really are.

My review:

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

I read this book for the Reading Rush 2019 Challenge, for the prompt Read a book in the same spot the entire time.

The poet has divided all his poems into 4 sections and named them well as –

  1. ‘Ibtida’ The Beginning
  2. ‘Justuju’ The Quest
  3. ‘Muntazir’ Awaiting
  4. ‘Maktub’ It is Written

The pieces in Silence Between the Spaces are all very relatable for us. They deal with everyday things that as individuals w can all relate with in one way or the other. I love how these pieces do not conform to the contemporary poems that revolve so much around romantic love. This collection is a nice change from that.

The themes of the human struggle, our everyday grind, as well as self-love are very common here. I hope how the poet has included these important issues – literature has an immense power to influence the reader and as such, I do believe that the author/poet has great responsibility on him. In this collection, I applaud the poet for including these important topics within the poems.

The author also speaks of our constant dissatisfaction – our never ending wants; we, human beings have become so greedy that we are never satisfied or happy despite all our materialistic richness. The struggle in the cutthroat world that we all face – the immense tension and stress that we are all subjected to, is also explored here.

Glimpses of nostalgia, chaos, the concept of ‘home’, the inability to move on, mental health etc are also seen here. Some of my favourites from this collection are The Hardest Lesson, Workaholic, Magnitude of Pain, Put Yourself First, Bottled Up, What Balance?, The Real Competition, Stir, Exhale etc.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable and deep read. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

Also I’ve been continuously using this #readersjournal ‘Well-Read Women’ by Samantha Hahn from Abrams Chronicle Books! I have been using it to record all the books I’ve been reading recently and it has been a great help for me to record my immediate raw and unfiltered reactions!

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 .

July 2019 Wrap-Up!

Hey guys! Hope you’re doing well.

My university opened today and we had a creative writing workshop with Mr. Dhruba Hazarika. It was a wonderful event and I was inspired to write a fantasy piece! I was struck by inspiration and I really loved how I sudden the idea was. I’m hoping to work more on it.

Anyway, July was my summer vacation and so I had a splendid time reading some great books! I read a total of 33.5 books and it was great!

Review Books

  1. What Mina Did by Geeta Menon
  2. Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  3. Secret of Palamu Fort by Razi
  4. Narasimha by Kevin Missal
  5. Let’s Hope for the Best by Carolina Setterwall
  6. Love in the Time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff
  7. The Monsters Still Lurk by Aruna Nambiar
  8. The Dark Side of the Moon Vol 2, by Shubham Arora
  9. Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
  10. Silence Between the Spaces by Abir Sinha
  11. The Kosher Delhi by Ivan Wainwright

Reading Rush 2019

  1. By the Brahmaputra and other poems by Srutimala Duara
  2. Africa’s Tarnished Name by Chinua Achebe
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  4. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
  6. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (also a review book)
  7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K.Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay

Personal Choices

  1. Escaping from Houdini, and
  2. Becoming the Dark Prince by by Kerri Maniscalco
  3. Friends with Benefits by Kelly Jamieson
  4. Just Friends by Jenika Snow
  5. From Friends to Lovers by Mia Ford
  6. Bride by Contract by Kendra Riley
  7. Virgin Wife by Alexa Riley
  8. Wife for Now by Penny Wylder
  9. Back to Her by Dani Wyatt
  10. Best Friends, Secret Lovers by Jessica Lemmon
  11. Restored by Alexa Riley
  12. Pretty Virgin by Alexa Riley
  13. Stay Close by Alexa Riley
  14. Perfect Boss by Penny Wylder
  15. Dangerous Love by Penny Wylder
  16. Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven

How did your reading go in July? How many books did you read? While compiling this list, I have noticed that I love reading romances during the summer! Do you have any such preferences as well? Is your reading preferences affected by the weather?

July Book Haul 2019

Hey guys! I just wanted to thank you all for your wishes! My 21st was what I expected. I was actually doing #adult works – cleaning the house and stuff. Lol. Anyway, it was good as I did spend some time with my family and cousins and I also did some reading. It was like every other day but your love and wishes made my day! Thank you so much! Also, the haul picture is coming up soon!

Moving on, here is my July book haul, although these are only review copies and books i have otherwise bought. The books I was gifted for my birthday, although acquired in July too, will be shown in another post.

  1. The Broken Amoretti by Sudipto Das and Aparajita Dutta
  2. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  3. Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky
  4. Love in the time of Affluenza by Shunali Khullar Shroff
  5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  6. Spelbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowly-Doyle
  7. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  8. Emperor Chandragupta, and
  9. Emperor Vikramaditya by Aditya Kay
  10. Birdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe
  11. Silence Between the Spces by Abir Sinha
  12. The Monsters Still Lurk by Aruna Nambiar
  13. Celtic Tales
  14. Well-Read Women
  15. The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters

As for my reading, I just finished my second book of august – Reign of War. It is the second book in the Oremere Chronicles trilogy by Helen Scheuerer. I had love the first book Heart of Mist and I rated it 5/5. It is no surprise that I loved the sequel too and rated it 5/5 stars. It is just so complex and a really well-written series. If you have not yet read it, I definitely recommend you to pick it up as soon as possible!

#qotd : what is your current read? Are you enjoying it?

The Oremere Chronicles readathon!

Fantasy has always been a love of mine. In my own culture, we have the famous ‘Burhi Aair Sadhu’ by the great Lakshminath Bezbaruah. It is a collection of fantastical stories, full of adventure and romance, which are told to us all. I myself have various editions of the book. From my childhood itself, fantasy has been fed to me and today, I am an addicted soul. It is no wonder that even after the decades; fantasy has remained a favourite of mine and I am never late at grasping onto new series. With this, I want to introduce you all to The Oremere Chronicles, a trilogy which is bound to hook you into it.

There are amazing cliffhangers for the books and since all three books in the trilogy are out, I am so very excited to pick it up! There are heroes who are human and flawed and yet so very lovable. There are so many secrets to unravel as you keep on reading the books and I bet you will be at the edge of your seats, biting your nails off, throughout! And full points if you can make out the hints of the book covers of the next book in any one book.

I’ll be starting with this readathon from the 28th of July and you are welcome to join me!

Heart of Mist

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

Reign of Mist

The realm’s darkest secret is out.
The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents.
On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak’s friends are forced to decide where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust.
But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.
Intriguing and action-packed, Reign of Mist is the second instalment in Helen Scheuerer’s epic YA fantasy series, The Oremere Chronicles.

And the last book in this trilogy is finally out!

War of Mist

War is here.
Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conqueror queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm.
Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. 
But the search is a treacherous one – and it will push her to the very limits of endurance. 
Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they’ll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough?
As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.
Explosive revelations, heart-wrenching betrayals and breathtaking magic soar in the epic conclusion to Helen Scheuerer’s bestselling trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

About the author

Helen Scheuerer is the YA fantasy author of the bestselling novels, Heart of Mist (2017) and Reign of Mist (September 2018). Both books are part of the action-packed trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

Helen is the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.

Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. Helen also completed a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.

She has been previously shortlisted for Express Media’s Outstanding Achievement by a Young Person in the Literary Arts Award and the Young Writers Showcase. Helen has also run writing and editing workshops for the NSW Society of Women Writers. 

Her work has appeared in VoiceworksACTWrite Magazine, The UEA Creative Writing Anthology, Tertangala (UOW), Capital Letters and of course, on Writer’s Edit.

June book haul 2019!

Hey guys! How’s it going? I have been having a great time reading books for the #readingrush challenge and I have already finished 3 books and am halfway into the third. Currently reading King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo for the challenge to read a book with a non-human main character. And I am loving it! How is Leigh Bardugo this good with her words?!!! On the same note, have you seen the Crooked Kingdom collector’s edition? It is so beautiful.

Moving on, in June I acquired 17 new books and they are:

  1. City of Girls
  2. Perfume
  3. The Right Time
  4. The Good Fight
  5. The Duchess
  6. Funny Boy
  7. Dangerous Games
  8. Just Rewards
  9. Unexpected Blessings
  10. Narasimha
  11. Lost and Found
  12. The Intelligence Trap
  13. The Secret of the Palamu Fort
  14. Aurora Rising
  15. What Mina Did
  16. Let’s Hope for the Best
  17. After the Flood

Thanks to all the publishers for sending the review copies to me! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them!

Love in the Time of Affluenza, by Shunali Khullar Shroff, 2019

Title: Love in the Time of Affluenza

Author: Shunali Khullar Shroff

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 292

Synopsis:

A novel that probes the norms of marriage, love, and adultery among the urban super-wealthy, Love in the time of Affluenza is a hilarious social satire set in Mumbai. The story explores the lives of three women as understood from the eyes of its protagonist Natasha, a happily married mother of three. She begins to ask some difficult questions about her own life after she stumbles upon her closest friend Trisha’s affair.

‘Finally an immensely enjoyable story about Mumbai’s rich that, like all good stories, rings so true, with its adorable and suspiciously familiar characters.’ – Manu Joseph

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.

A book that provides a glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich in urban Mumbai, Love in the Time of Affluenza was a fun, and witty read. While most may simply categorize it into the light and frivolous, this book comes with its practical depth – one so many women across the country will find similar!

Natasha Singh is a woman who is very relatable. As a mother, she shows us (who are not mothers yet) the point of view from a mother’s side and it is definitely not so easy. Kids can be really annoying sometimes (I am definitely experienced as I have a younger brother) but most of all, placating the kids after a fight is the worst. I loved how the author has made the book so very relatable! When Ria puts on more waterworks as the father (Natasha’s husband, Prince Varun) arrives, it is a scene out of my everyday life. I am a daddy’s girl too and well, to b honest, for a daughter, fathers are way easier to manipulate, aren’t they?

We see Natasha grappling with the sudden scenario of cheating and infidelity when her friend Trisha’s affair is discovered by her. So many times in life, we find ourselves struggling between two rights – whether to respect the confidences of a friend or to tell the truth outright to the people they are hurting. Even without the exact same scenario, this is a dreadful situation we have found ourselves in time too many, to be honest!

 And then comes the mother-in-law! That is one serious Hiroshima-Nagasaki situation in itself. Natasha’s interactions with the Rani are funny, and sometimes really frustrating. It really makes us think about the age-old adage – a woman is another woman’s worst enemy. Is there any truth to it?

In the very beginning of the book itself, Natasha, as she is being ordered about by the cook, wonders if she is working for him or vice versa. Now that situation is one we all are suffering from! And well, men are such chauvinists sometimes! Even when they love you, that streak of caveman attitude seems to erupt and take over their otherwise oaky-ish thinking.

Being an avid fan of Sex and the City, I did find similarities between Carrie Bradshaw and our Natasha. The beginning of every chapter is a writeup by her, as she works as a columnist. These writeups are quite impactful and make us think these words over. The writing was full of humor and irony, and I for one (among many others) am a fan of Shroff’s writing. The literary (and other references) to Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina, Picasso, Lalu Prasad Yadav (you so need to read this book!), Uri Geller, etc. were on point! Shroff has masterfully blended the wit and philosophy, displayed them through various (almost) stereotyped characters and provided a work, which is light, and funny and relatable, but at the same time, full of deep and impactful thoughts.

Verdict:

It was a great read, and now my mum is reading it too! I rate it 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 .

The Monsters Still Lurk, by Aruna Nambiar, 2019

Title: The Monsters Still Lurk

Author: Aruna Nambiar

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Published on:  20th July, 2019

Genre: Post-Independence

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 260

Synopsis:

We were an ordinary family, with conventional lives. We were mostly happy, but always cautious of too much happiness. We were hardly religious, just pious enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. We bickered a little but would never have thought to be estranged. We feared illness and anticipated eventual death, but we expected life to follow a certain path, a particular schedule. Until…

It is 1991. As Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated and a new government comes to power, setting in motion a process of economic reforms that will transform India, an ordinary family is about to experience detours from the traditional middle-class script of their lives. Over the next quarter century, as the world around them changes in ways unexpected, their lives too wind along uncharted trails, sometimes sunlit, sometimes shadowy and forbidding. 

Funny, perceptive and moving, The Monsters Still Lurk is a bittersweet saga of love, loss, ageing and shifting family dynamics, and a keenly observed portrait of post-liberalization India that captures the zeitgeist of a rapidly evolving society.

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.

The Monsters Still Lurk, although fiction, gives a great idea of how life had been post-independence, when India was just learning to function as a sovereign country of her own. Through the eyes of Vivek, we are taken on a journey across a quarter of a century as India changes and people have to change along with the times. It is not easy, rather very turbulent and filled with highs and lows.

The major themes covered in this book were family, the fear and acceptance of responsibility as we all grow up in the face of various events that happen around us, war, crisis, friendship, the sibling bond etc. The American Dream is also another theme – it is basically the dream that so many people belonging to the third-world countries have – that America is the land of dreams and opportunities. As such, so many people wanted to migrate there and it was a driving force behind the actions of many people, across various economic levels.  

The political scenario of this period was not a very calm one. As such, the book also portrays the major events in our history as perceived through the eyes of a normal middle class family. The Kargil War, the Babri masjid demolition, the Indian Depression, 9/11 etc are some of the periods the writer mentions in the book.

It was a great read overall. Although a bit bland at times due to the political aspects, the author has weaved together good writing, interesting characters and significant portions of inida’s history to make this a deep and insightful read.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it 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 .

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 .

Womb of Fireflies , by Ambika Barman, 2019

Title: Womb of Fireflies

Author: Ambika Barman

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Genre: General fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 161

Synopsis:

There were no fireflies to belittle themselves in front of the morning sun all gone. After all, that’s what the sun promises, to hide the weakest under his light.” – (Womb of Fireflies) What is Sundarbans, and those scattered islands to you? Amidst all the known and unknown voices, the single sound came out to be that of a green, mysterious forest, grooming with Sundari trees, the roar of the Royal Bengal Tiger, noises of Pankouri, and the beautiful color of sun diving deep inside the waters. But this wasn’t my Sundarbans. My Sundarbans was all about those humans, the people living, surviving, bearing their pains, yet loving each other from their hearts. These 22 years of living, so far, yet so close to the heart of the Sundarbans, compelled me to write all about them. This is all they had, could have or could never have as I still take the shadow of my people, my roots and my Sundarbans to Delhi. Read the journey of Alok, his beloved Snehalata, the pains of his mother and tales of child-biases born out of marriage done at an age where what marriage meant didn’t make sense to her. 

My review:

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

Womb of Fireflies was a quick albeit deep read. With brilliant imagery and a touch of magical realism, this book was a powerful debut definitely. For a first timer, this book was a great work and I enjoyed reading it although I hated what some of the characters had to go through – it was just so heartbreaking. On that note, the book lends an objective tone. What I have loved is that the author shows, rather than tells and it ensures that the emotions that the reader feels are raw and poignant.

The major themes that run throughout the book are the social evils of child marriage and inter-community mixing, the taboos related to it, etc. Through the characters of Alok, his beloved Snhehalata, as well as Hari and his wife Pranati, the author ropes in various sides to the story and gives and altogether fantastic arc to them all. The characterization is also on point.

This was an emotional and very good read. The author has been able to juxtapose the harsh realities of life quite well against the beautiful setting of the mysterious and beautiful Sunderbans.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading this book and I rate it 4/5 stars!

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

Title: Circus Folk and Village Freaks

Author: Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Genre: Poetry

Format:  Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 155

Recommended for: For mature readers

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I loved reading this book and I rated it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

May 2019 Wrap-Up!

Eid Mubarak guys! I wish you and all your families happiness and all the love and success in the world.

#qotd : How did you spend this beautiful day?

I am so grateful to have been able to spend the day with my dear friends. We had a great time eating, talking and basically catching up. It was also a sort of get-together after a long time and I am so very happy. I took a lot of pictures too for memories’ sake.

Moving on, here are the books I read in May. They were a total of 16 books and I think May went quite well in terms of reading, considering the fact that it was my last month of classes before finals and I had to run around writing and finishing essays and presentations and surveys and other assignments and so on…

  1. Happily and Madly by Alexix Bass(Review)
  2. They Go to Sleep by Saugata Chakraborty (Review)
  3. Sleepless Beauty by Rajesh Talwar (Review)
  4. Ambrosia Sides by Abhijita Kulshrestha (Review)
  5. The Women Who Ruled India by Archana Garodia Gupta(Review)
  6. Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Slater(Review)
  7. The Holy Shit Moment by James Fell (Review)
  8. Fluid by Ashish Jaiswal (Review)
  9. Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell (Review)
  10. Tied Hearts by Vikram Singh (Review)
  11. Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter by Debeshi Gooptu (Review)
  12. The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve (Review)
  13. Mehboob Murderer by Nupur Anand (Review)
  14. Give Your Heart a Break by Anuj Tiwari (Review)
  15. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (Review)
  16. The Voice of Silence by Rishaj Dubey (Review)

I am really happy with my reading, and can only hope that I can read as many if not at least half of this number of books.

Mehboob Murderer, by Nupur Anand, 2019

Title: Mehboob Murderer

Author: Nupur Anand

Publisher: Om Books International

Published on: 16th March 2019

Genre: Crime thriller/ adult fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 282

Synopsis:

On a rainy September night, six people are gunned down mercilessly in an old Parsi cafe in Mumbai. The mass murder at Cafe Mehboob, located barely a few hundred meters from the police station, and right next to one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai, jolts the city out of its complacence. The media immediately swings into action, while political pressure mounts on the police force to nab the murderer.

With everyone eager to place the blame of the murders on a madman in a bid to have the case dismissed swiftly, the headstrong inspector Intekhaab Abbas is determined to get to the bottom of the murders. On probing the lives of the victims, he stumbles upon a heady cocktail of love, lust, jealousy, betrayal, rage, longing, misery and ecstasy.

Mehboob Murderer, Nupur Anand’s debut novel, unravels a stunning truth neither the police nor the reader is prepared for.

My review:

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

Mehboob Murderer was an exhilarating read. With a deadline looming over us all, the thriller goes on a pace, which seems nail-bitingly slow and yet we keep at the edge of our seats, expecting some revelation to jump up at us suddenly from around the corner.

Through the various characters that the author introduces to us, she also points out many issues and situations that prevail in the society – which are not necessarily good but rather, inhumane and evil.

Natasha seems like the perfect career-woman who has it all – she is successful and single and happy. However, after the mass murder as the police delve into the lives of all these people, we find murky realities behind them all. Natasha’s past throws light on abuse in a relationship – physical, mental and also sexual. The patriarchal expectations and such, set upon her by Aneesh were also disgusting. Moreover, the embezzling of her personal funds further degrade the personality of Aneesh and forms himself as the lowest of the scum.  

Alam is no better than Aneesh. Sexual harassment, rape and molestation also occurs within the home itself and the author has brought in this through the back story of Alam. How someone can abuse the women and children within their own family is stupefying to believe really.

 Mental health is another theme that the writer brings in through Sujata and her needs. Vikram has a creative streak in him that really helps and adds some joy and lightness to this otherwise heavy read.

Again, the story of a father whose daughter has been raped and then murdered is a cruel one and we see an old yet probably determined Praveen Bharadwaj. Then again, the realization of parents that their kids are not really kids anymore and have a secret and private life of their own is a bit heartbreaking.

The flesh trade or rather, prostitution is the oldest job in the world and we see the fate of a pair of brother and sister as it takes over their lives and they let it – because there is no other way in which they can possibly otherwise make enough money.

It is a heartbreaking novel for sure; as we read through and find out more about all the people murdered in the mass murder at Mehboob Café, we see different phases of life that different people face.

I love how the author has brought in so many aspects of society through all these different people and then tied them together in unity in a story of madness and rage and revenge. I did not at all expect the murderer to be who he was. Not even for a moment did I think that it could have been him. Kudos to the author for being able to keep the identity of the murderer under wraps, until the very end when she reveals it amidst one last drink all the police men have.  The characterization of the city Mumbai is also on point. With a simple and lucid writing style, and that dramatic ending, I think the book was awesome.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed it and I hope to pick up more of the author’s books.  

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 .

Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter , by Debeshi Gooptu, 2019

Title: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter

Author: Debeshi Gooptu

Publisher: Juggernaut Books

Published on: May, 2019

Genre: Contemporary fiction/romance/classic retelling

Format: E-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 229

Recommended for: for fans of Jane Austen

Synopsis:

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Persuasion. Eight years ago, family pride and an obstinate father had forced Anamika Eashwar to let go of the love of her life. Now he’s back again, a decorated captain of the Indian Navy. Will life offer her a second chance?

My review:                                 

I really enjoyed reading Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter. It is the perfect modern day Jane Austen retelling with a heroine who is just as dear and relatable. Often ignored and overlooked this is a love story spanning years and oh my god, I love it.

Being an Indian retelling, the element of the family is just as important. When it comes to Anamika’s character, I couldn’t help but feel that she is somewhat of a pushover. However, in regards to this protagonist, this is also a bildungsroman novel, where at the end, Anamika asserts her own self and her own identity and sheds all inhibitions, and also finds love in the process.

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 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 .

The Anarchists’ Club, by Alex Reeve, 2019

Title: The Anarchists’ Club

Author: Alex Reeve

Publisher: Raven Books

Published on: 2nd May, 2019

Genre: Historical Crime

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 370 (in proof copy)

Synopsis:

It’s been a year since Leo Stanhope lost the woman he loved, and came closing to losing his own life. Now, more than ever, he is determined to keep his head down and stay safe, without risking those he holds dear. But Leo’s hopes for peace and security are shattered when the police unexpectedly arrive at his lodgings: a woman has been found murdered at a club for anarchists, and Leo’s address is in her purse. When Leo is taken to the club by the police, he is shocked to discover there a man from his past, a man who knows Leo’s birth identity. And if Leo does not provide him with an alibi for the night of the woman’s killing, he is going to share this information with the authorities.

If Leo’s true identity is unmasked, he will be thrown into an asylum, but if he lies… will he be protecting a murderer? 

My review:

I received an Uncorrected Proof copy from Bloomsbury in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Recently I have been watching crime thrillers on Netflix and I was only very delighted to pick up The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve. I had not read the prequel to this – The House on Half Mon Street, and so I kind of went in pretty blind. This book has a really original voice, I feel, and it was so atmospheric that I felt as if I was with Leo in London, investigating this crime.

In the backdrop, we see a radical rising, what today we can call a Socialist uprising and having read Dickens, I guess I can say that Reeve might have made him make a run for his money!

Moreover, since I had not read the first book in this Leo Stanhope series, I was surprised when I realized the identity of the protagonist. I have never read of transgender people in those times and I’m sure that so many of have not either. I have always wondered and thus, reading this book made me realize what a serious ‘problem’ it might have been in those times – to be born as such. The author has also brought in another LGBTQ person in Peregrine Black, who is a bisexual an and it is interesting to read about him.

The author has also brought in the angle of family drama and it is just as interesting. The narrative is very gripping and as we rush along with Mr. Stanhope, we are compelled to turn the pages – ‘just on more chapter’ albeit the fact that its half past 2 at night!

The plot is well made and I was totally clueless until the very end. The narrative structure is very engaging as well – you cannot help but be a part of this mystery and have your heart thudding just like Mr. Stanhope, afraid that your hiding place may be discovered!
This was a greatly enjoyable read for me and I’m hoping to pick up the prequel soon!

Verdict:

I had no option but dived right in – such is this read. I really recommend it to all crime-thriller lovers and hope that you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I rate it 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 .

The Voice of Silence, by Rishaj Dubey, 2019

Title: The Voice of Silence

Author: Rishaj Dubey

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Contemporary/New Adult/Mental Health

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 284

Synopsis:

“Bestselling author and a ‘diagnosed psychopath’ Aarav Roy has gone missing”
Four years ago.
Aarav is not a normal college kid. From a blurry, abusive childhood, to his severe anxiety and the horrible voices in his head, he is fed up with life. Driven by the belief that his past is everything that defines him, he ended up posting his suicide note online. But, the kind of silence he fantasized never came true. Nikita, who suffered from PTSD and depression, sees her own tragic secrets reflected in him, and she is not going to let the past repeat itself—no matter the cost.
Where is the controversial writer? Who is she? Who does she remind Aarav so much of?
What are the voices in his head? And how much hate can love fuel?
In his debut novel, Rishaj Dubey explores the depths of trauma, corruption, loneliness and what is it like to suffocate in your own breath. 

My review:

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

One of the books I read recently was The Voice of Silence and it was quite a surprising read. The beginning was a bit slow for my taste, but overall, it was a great build-up. Covering a myriad of human emotions, The Voice of Silence in a book that is necessary for us to read because of the important topic that the author has chosen.

The entire story felt like an interior monologue of Aarav and his story with relation to Nikita is gradual and very realistic. The book is a lot about mental health and reading such a book in the Indian context is great, and definitely a first for me. Trigger warning for PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder etc. This aspect of the human mind or psychology was a bonus and I found it refreshing to read about in the Indian context.

I think that the characterization is also on point – be it Aarav, Nikita and also Ashish, who is Aarav’s best friend. Their character arcs have developed throughout and it makes for real fleshed out characters.

The author has adopted a simple and easy to understand language, which is relatable and most importantly, very realistic. The way the narrative has been split, with breaks at suitable points, and the addition of the various quotes at the beginning of each chapter was also great. The author has also employed a sort of stream of consciousness method; it is non-linear and jumps back and forth across time.

However, it rather has a complex plot so it might get a bit too heavy at times, but it is an overall great read.

Verdict:

If you love reading psychological thrillers and also books on mental health, this might be the one for you. It is not like every other love story that floods our literature. It is very different from them all and I definitely recommend it. I rate it a 3.5/5 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 .

Every Ugly Word , by Aimee L. Slater, 2014

Title: Every Ugly Word

Author: Aimee L. Slater

Publisher: Alloy Entertainment

Genre: Contemporary/Mental-health/YA

Format: Kindle e-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 257

Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.

#1 Amazon Bestseller: Books for Teens (Oct 2015)

My review:

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

I read this book as a part of the Underrated Book Club by Kajree, for May 2019. #underratedreadsbookclub

I am happy I read this book myself. Being a high-schooler is really tough. I sometimes feel lucky that I never had to face it.

The protagonist Ashley is a really dynamic character – we see her facing a lot of issues that have led her to where she is presently, which is to say, when the book starts. In the beginning, we may infer that Ashley is really only wrapped around her own head but as the story progresses, we kind of see her as a victim and really feel bad for her. The themes of bullying, both at home and school, and consequently, mental health; of facing the consequences of one’s decisions etc. the constant bullying is heartbreaking to read about and not at all a pleasure. It really surprises me still, to see how people can be so unkind to others sometimes.

Mom twitched under my glare. “There are plenty of parents who wouldn’t allow you to go tonight, Ashley. And I’m sure they’d all mean well. But if a girl like you wants to keep a guy’s interest – “ “Are you seriously telling me to use sex to keep a guy interested?” Her lips thinned. “I’m telling you I would understand if you did.”

Can you imagine what it would feel like if someone’s mother says that to her? Would it not obviously affect the self-esteem of the person?

And thus, it is no wonder to me when the psychologist says this to Ashely,

“It concerns me, though, that you are willing to accept such a vaguely defined relationship. It says a lot about how you gauge your own value”.

I quite liked Matt although he really pissed me off at times. (Why is it that boys are so blind sometimes?) nonetheless, he is quite a really good friend and towards the end, we actually see that he has stayed true over the years. The author has portrayed him as a real fleshed out character with flaws of his own and that really gives a realistic nature to the narrative.

The element of the fantasy and the magical realism, through the use of the mirror selves, is great and adds another spatial depth to the book. Mostly, this book is hopeful and I love it for that.

Despite all the hate and the pain, Ashley emerges victorious and I don’t know what that can be called except hopeful for the rest of us readers as well as for herself. The author has also made Ashley so real, it is almost as if I can stretch and touch her.

Verdict:

I really loved reading 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 .

The Sleepless Beauty, by Rajesh Talwar

Title: The Sleepless Beauty

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Middle-grade

Format: Kindle

Language: English

Synopsis:

In a small kingdom somewhere in the Himalayas, the beautiful young Princess Ramya cannot sleep. It all started soon after her mother, the queen, passed away, when the princess was only twelve. Her father, the king, tries everything to make his little princess sleep, but nothing works. The princess develops such an inability to sleep that she becomes known in her kingdom and far beyond as the Sleepless Beauty.
The king wishes Princess Ramya to marry and take over the reins of government, but the princess is determined not to marry till such time as her sleep is restored. Eventually, the king announces a competition whereby whichever prince succeeds in getting Princess Ramya to sleep will win her hand. Meanwhile deadly foes of the kingdom wait and watch in the wings, planning to launch a surprise attack. This exciting, romantic tale, with comic interludes, will appeal to readers of all ages.

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. (https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in) Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Sleepless Beauty is quite a unique approach at a fairytale. The name itself is very interesting and when you delve into the read, you find that it is a cool mixture of the magical fairytale along with a serious modern day health issue that so many of us face. I think that it is this scenario which is so unlike any other that I wanted to read the book myself.

Understanding oneself is a theme that is seen here and again, this is something we all can perhaps relate to. Sometimes we are so confused with what we like, what we are, what we want that it gets us very confused at times but it is willpower and determination that makes us go on and on.

Ramya is a character I loved very much; she is relatable and I am sure you all will find a bit of yourselves in her. Her problem and how she deals with it, is the crux of the story and apart from the serious relatable themes and motifs, there were some hilarious scenes too. the princes are really funny and their attempts and tips to help Ramya are just as funny. Raja Bhoja is a great dad too and I loved their relationship with each other.

The fact that this fairytale is set in an Indian setting is a plus point. The writing style is good and understandable and you can surely gift this book to any kids you may know. The language is simple and fluidic and it’s a pleasure to read. The story captures you attention from the beginning until the very end and I was hooked. However, the book can do with a little bit of editing.

Verdict:

 I think it was a pretty interesting read. I rate it 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 .

Behind her Back, by Jane Lythell, 2017

Title: Behind her Back

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 368

Synopsis:

The second StoryWorld novel set in the glamorous, pressurized world of a live London TV station.

StoryWorld is the nation’s favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the cauldron of conflicts and resentments that constantly simmers off-stage.

In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the heated world of live TV. Liz Lyon must balance the monster egos at work with the demands of her teenage daughter – and the man she’s just started dating – at home. It’s all in a day’s work. 

My review:

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

After having read Woman of the Hour, I knew that I simply had to pick up Bhind her back as well. Liz Lyon returns with her crew in this sequel and it is a delight to see her navigate the rarely stable environment at work. Just like the first novel – Woman of the Hour, this one too just compels you to dive right in. Compared to the first book, I felt like this went at a slower rate, not that I am complaining.

You can check out my review for WOMAN OF THE HOUR here!

Lythell has brought back the various themes we saw in the previous book as well, and she has not failed to keep them fresh. It is undoubtedly a new scenario and thus, new ways to work with. There is a new character this time in – Lori Kerwell, who is the new Head of Sales and Marketing. She is a difficult character I admit, one of those we see sucking up to the authority and trying to build a power base around their colleagues that they can dominate over.

I am quite happy to see Fizzy back and Zachary sounds amazing. I do have my complaints regarding her, but oh well! Ledley’s character has gone over some drastic change and it is bound to give you a shock when you read through. It is not pleasant but very understandable for the reader that power truly does something to the people.  

Explosive secrets are nothing new on the StoryWorld station and this time it is no different. The romance element has a strong suit here and I really loved it. I found Douglas very understanding and ideal, although human and flawed in his own ways. Moreover, I loved how Harriet, Flo and Ziggy’s character arc have developed.

through Fizzy, we also get to see the, what one may call, the ‘darker’ side of motherhood/pregnancy. She is too worried about her figure, breastfeeding etc and hardly seems to devote enough time to her son. She repeatedly sems to be confused whether to choose her career or her baby. And oh my god, I still hate Bob.

Whatever your reactions may be, I bet they were as if you have known these characters in real life. That is how real Lythell makes them and I personally would not have them any other way.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book too and rate it a solid 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

I live by the sea in Brighton, East Sussex, UK. 
My debut novel THE LIE OF YOU has been translated into seven languages and will be released as a feature film later this year starring Tuppence Middleton, Lydia Wilson, Rupert Graves and Luke Roberts.
My two psychological thrillers THE LIE OF YOU and AFTER THE STORM were published in 2014 and 2015 and were USA Today bestsellers. 
My next, WOMAN OF THE HOUR, reveals life at the TV front-line through the eyes of producer Liz Lyon. It came out in July 2016 and the follow-up BEHIND HER BACK was published in 2018. My publisher is Head of Zeus and my agent is Gaia Banks of Sheil Land.
I love to hear from readers and I’m on Twitter: @janelythell and Instagram: jane_lythell_writer

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 Holy Sh!t Moment: How lasting change can happen in an instant, by James Fell, 2019

Title: The Holy Shit Moment: How lasting change can happen in an instant

Author:  James Fell

Publisher: Thorsons, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Genre: Self-help

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 278

Synopsis:

From internationally syndicated fitness columnist and author, James Fell, comes a no-nonsense guide on how to get in shape, fix your finances, alleviate depression and change your life for good.

We’ve all been there. Wanting to change your life forever, but only doing it in fits and starts. Feeling inspired to be disciplined one day, then falling back into old habits on the next. Or changing for a few weeks or even months, but then slipping back into familiar behaviours. Bad habits are hard to break for a reason. But you still try because the goal is worth it: slowly and painfully forming new habits to the point where you are able to adhere to a new lifestyle, long-term.

Not only do we struggle with all of it but the failure rates of these models are staggering.

What if there was a different way? What if sudden moment, which happens to be a surprisingly common occurrence among those who succeed would allow you to skip the struggle of behaviour change and just become a different person in a moment? What if all the motivation they would ever need to change could arrive unbidden because of a life-altering flash of insight? It is the power of epiphany – a triggering event when drive and clarity of purpose for changing one’s life is instantly attained. James Fell’s THE HOLY SHIT MOMENT is about that who have sustained change. The stories outlined in this book examine an abrupt awakening, where a person’s purpose switches course in the space of a few seconds; their life is partitioned into the time before that moment occurred, and what comes after. In an instant, the gradual steps of behavior change are bypassed and life transformation takes hold for good. But is an epiphany something that can be generated?

Yes. THE HOLY SHIT MOMENT is a self-help book written in a brash, audacious and informal, your-good-friend-giving-you-the-scoop style, but with the knowledge, research, wisdom and personal anecdotes to back up James’ words in the vein of Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass.

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.

The book begins with a very interesting tone. I love how the author has made it an understandable and easy read for all. Beginning with a extensive explanation of epiphanies and the ‘Euphoria of the Life-Changing Moment’, the author goes on over a multitude of other topics. Bringing in an intimate and personal note is a great addition, as it totally made it easy to relate to for the reader. I love how the language is so very understandable despite the fact that there are some topics that are not essentially very easy to do so.

The author does not fail to add however, that this epiphany, this life changing moment is never really truly separate from whatever work we may have done – “But it is no such thing. It is simply that last piece of the puzzle… being put into place… conversely, it truly can  strike out of nowhere…”

After recognizing the epiphany it is also important to find some reason and purpose via it so that we can turn it into something productive. The author then also goes into the science behind it all. The parts that I ranked topmost myself were however, the use of these epiphanies to work over various issues that we may face everyday. For instance, battling addictions.

There is also something called religious epiphany and while I did know something about it, I honestly never knew it had a dedicated term for it. The power of love is another thing the author talks about – how it can be caused due to the passion for life and love. Moreover, using dreams to b more productive is great too.

Verdict:

I think this is absolutely one of the best self-help books I have ever read. I rate it 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 .

Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer, by Vikram Singh, 2018

Title: Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer

Author: Vikram Singh

Publisher: Partridge Publishing India

Genre: LGBTQ+ / Romance/ Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 200

Synopsis:

After Veer begs a handsome stranger to give him a lift to the Gateway of India in Mumbai on New Years Eve, he inadvertently leaves his cell phone in the mans car. Moments after the clock strikes midnight, Veer calls his phone and is relieved when the driver answers. After they agree to meet the next day, neither has any idea that fate has just intervened in both of their lives. Veer is a graduate student pursuing his MBA. Raj is a native of Amritsar. Although the two men are vastly different in terms of their family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, it is not long before they fall in love. Still, no matter how hard he tries, Veer cannot shrug the apprehension that haunts him from within. No one has a simple love story and neither do they. But when one of the men takes the other for granted, their bond is jeopardized. Will anything or anyone be able to save it before it is too late? In this romance, two Indians intertwined in a web of forbidden love must attempt to overcome several obstacles in order to move forward in their relationship. 

My review:

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

Tied Hearts was an enjoyable read. With a gradual and steady buildup, the author is able to portray that love is love. Writing about a homosexual love story is not easy in India – after all, like the character Ranjit from Mahesh Dattani’s On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, it is impossible to be both “Indian and gay”. I applaud the author for daring to write on this still precarious topic.

The plot has been well constructed and the characterization on point. The romance between Veer and Raj is just like any other romance with a heterosexual couple and the author simply wants to say that it does not matter if a boy loves a girl or if he even loves another boy, but that their love is what matters. Love does not see any race, colour, creed or gender. A person’s sexuality is in no way a factor to determine who he/she falls in love with.

The social constructs surrounding the two men are very realistic thus making this story more relatable. With mentions of their differing family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, the author brings in various aspects of a person’s life that determine the way he acts in society and his personality.

The concept of the ‘forbidden’ is seen in this book as well as the concept of the ‘other’, and the poet does this through the two protagonists – Veer and Raj, who just because of their ‘not-normal’ lifestyle, normal implying the majority of the heterosexual subjects in the book. I think this work was really well done.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book. 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 .

They Go to Sleep, by Saugata Chakraborty, 2018

Title: They Go to Sleep

Author: Saugata Chakraborty

Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Short Stories

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 102

Synopsis:

A young widow of a drug overdose victim disappears from Goa. Three years later, a British National claims to know her whereabouts minutes before departing for London Heathrow. The Police of two states is pressed into a joint manhunt. ‘They Go to Sleep’ is a racy thriller on police procedure and criminal psychology.

In the year 2043, when nobody sends a letter anymore, an unlikely candidate decides to write about his springtime memories that are soon going to be erased. When his identity gets revealed, the impact on several individuals and the society at large assumes epic proportions. ‘A Man of Letters’ is a science fiction with humane emotions at its core.

A promising poet meets his muse on board a train. They share a captivating conversation but forget to ask each other’s name. Will they be able to meet again in an Indian metro? ‘What’s In a Name?’ is a humorous look at everything Bengali: gossip, fish, cutlets and the Kolkata Book Fair.

These three stories are joined by nine equally exhilarating tales of ordinary people and the choices that they make under extraordinary circumstances. The compilation will surely compel the readers to keep their midnight lamps burning.

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. (https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in) Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The cover of this book is a really intriguing one and with its dark colour scheme, it really goes well with the stories inside. Before reading the story, I was sure this was entirely something suspenseful and such, but it turns out, it was really a different kind of suspenseful and yet, I loved it. the title is actually from one of the various stories within the book and that specific story in itself is totally mindblowing.

Of all the 12 stories included within the collection (Thy go to sleep; Six days, seven lives; Blowing in the wind; A man of letters; P for payback; Rare; It was time; Aperture; The man who sold his gods; The other side; The short lives of Shazia Sultana; What’s in a name?) I really enjoyed reading Blowing in the wind, A man of letters, It was time, The other side and What’s in a name?

Short stories really need to b kept under a strict word limit and the author has followed that, without making the stories lose their shock or surprise inducing elements. The plotlines created by the author are made in a very planned way and once the reader reaches the end of the story, he is left wondering, ‘How the hell did I not see this coming?!’ the characters were all fleshed out and they seemed do very real, it was no wonder every reader got pulled in.

There however, needs to be a bit of editing and I think that would make the rest perfect for the readers. The language  and the writing is a bit complex however, and I am not sure of every person would understand it. Nonetheless, it is worth praising and done beautifully. The inclusion of the glossary was also a great addition that I liked. It was a very helpful thing for readers who are not very familiar with the words the author has used.

Verdict:

This was an enjoyable read and I rate it 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 .

Fluid, by Ashish Jaiswal, 2018

Title: Fluid

Author: Ashish Jaiswal

Publisher: Wisdom Tree

Genre: Self-help/Non-fiction

Format: paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 256

Recommended for:

Synopsis:

Whether we are in a classroom or in the outside world, we are always forced to choose who we are. Always expected to walk towards a fixed goal. Never be uncertain, never fail or never alter our course. We are either artists or scientists or businessmen. We are being constantly reminded to embrace these identities with greater force. As they say, the more we remain folded in our fields, the better specialists we are.

Fluid shatters this myth by arguing that great minds who have changed the fate of humankind are actually the ones who failed, faltered or remained uncertain, yet never bothered to stay pasted to a rigid line.

They were more. They were fluid.

In captivating storytelling narrative, Ashish Jaiswal takes us through groundbreaking research unravelling what binds the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, CV Raman, Steve Jobs, Charles Darwin and other geniuses and why being fluid like them could be our biggest winning strategy in the age of artificial intelligence.
Read to learn the approach required for world-class innovations, groundbreaking solutions and game-changing ideas.

My review:

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

Fluid is truly one heck of a read. Without being too preachy, which is common with books of this kind, the author has conveyed the idea of how necessary it is to not be simply restricted to only one disciple or way of life.

I believe the title is quite captivating and apt for the subject matter. The cover is just as appropriate and suits the theme the author has set before us.

Including the various stories of successful men and the way they became so is a stroke of genius. And the fact that the author tells us about famous men whose names we have already heard of, but whose stories perhaps we never knew, and even if we did, never to this much of depth. This was an inspiring part running amok throughout the book. Moreover, including fictional tales will also make it easy for non-fiction readers to relate with. The personal anecdotes of the writer are also on point and give us an intimate and thus more realistic view into his logic and his arguments.

The language used was lucid and easy to understand. Including various diagrams is another plus point.  The research is well done by the writer and it shows in the finished copy. Howver there were a few printing errors that should be looked into.

I think that this was a truly intriguing ass well as enlightening in its own sense. I learned, but I was also entertained and that makes this a perfect read for you, whatever be your age.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4.5/5! I will be picking this one up again.

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 .