Tag Archives: book lover

Reading Rush 2020 Wrap-up

Hey guys! I hope you had a wonderful week. I for one, was transported into an entirely different world. Or rather, worlds. The last week (July 20 to 26) I participated in the Reading Rush Readathon and had the time of my life!

Reading Rush Wrap-up
Reading Rush Wrap-up

What is the Reading Rush?

The Reading Rush is basically a readathon and the time when we drop everything else and read. There were a few prompts and one could either opt to choose one book for each or stack up.

Being me, I was of course super ambitious, and although I could not read every book I wanted to, it did go great and I read 6 books! So without further ado, let me tell you all about the different prompts and the books I read.

You can also check out the TBR video I made where I go over all the books and the synopses.

You can also check out the VLOG I uploaded on Youtube today!

Prompt 1: Read a book that is the same colour as your birthstone

Being an August baby, my birthstone is Peridot, which is lime green in colour. So I decided to pick up SEA PRAYER by Khaled Hosseini.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

It was a sad and intense read. It was so poignant; despite the short length, it was full of immense longing and pain and nostalgia. I was very much moved. I had previously read A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, and this book with Hosseini’s impeccably strong and conducive writing just got to me. The illustrations were superb as well! It was a solid 4star read for me.

Prompt 2: Read a book that starts with ‘The’

For this prompt, I picked up THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

This was a tale very twisted. It was mysterious and yet as I read it, I unconsciously knew the secret that haunts the Roanoke Girls. And I know this because when this stunning secret is revealed, I was not really shocked. Rather it was a confirmation of what I had already known all along. It is full of the hidden and repressed longings of the girls [due to the dominant and yet cunningly manipulative and seductive patriarchy that grants the man supreme hold over them all. This hold is not forceful but rather groomed into them since their birth. It is a twisted tale of love and oh, what love.
It is brilliantly executed and well placed. I loved it and definitely recommend it to all. It was a 5star read for me.

Prompt 3: Read a book that inspired a movie you have already seen

For this prompt, I decided on ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Atonement by Ian McEwan

I had already seen the movie and it remains, to date, one of the best movies I have ever seen. However, I did think that the writing style of this book was unnecessarily long and twisted as well as unnecessarily descriptive. I think perhaps the fact that I have already watched the movie, may have affected my understanding and viewing of the novel but that is not to say I did not enjoy it. It was certainly wonderful but could have been way shorter. Overall, it is a beautiful tragedy and I could definitely pick it up again, albeit after some time. I am not ready for my heart to be completely broken again. It was a 5star read for me.

It was also the second Ia McEwan book I picked up, the first being the book for Prompt 4.

Prompt 4: Read the first book you touch

For this prompt, I chose my first ever book by Ian McEwan – ENDURING LOVE.

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

It was as much a psychological novel as it was a literary masterpiece. McEwan has a superb mastery of language, seamlessly binding together utterly contrasting worlds of the entities of psychology, literature, and the hold over the readers’ catharsis. I was hooked from the very beginning by the story and the wonderful and seductive mix of literary fiction and psychology. It had a wonderful quality of the mystery of the unknown and fear of the known. It was a terrifying and exhilarating read. I rated it 4stars.

Prompt 5: Read a book completely not in your house

For this prompt, I picked up a wonderful anthology and read it on my grandma’s balcony.

Fearless Love
Fearless Love

FEARLESS LOVE was a superb anthology of works revolving around the LGBTQIA lives. These poignant and close-to-the-heart pieces from a variety of writers, in the ways that they expressed them in (short story, poetry, song lyrics, research essays, etc), throbbed with the resonance of their lives and the ways in which they matter, despite how society says otherwise. I rated it 5stars.

PROMPT 6: Read a book from your least read genre

Now this is where I started to stack up. Literary Fiction is a genre in which I have only started to dive in. As such, I believe the books ENDURING LOVE and ATONEMENT, were apt for this prompt as well.

PROMPT 7: Read a book set in a different continent than the one you are in (Asia)

Since I am in India (Asia), I felt that all the other book excepting SEA PRAYER and FEARLESS LOVE were apt for this prompt too. However, I did have an audiobook of PERSUASION from Netgalley and so I decided to pick up this classic set in Europe.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen

Like all of Jane Austen’s other works, this one too was a social commentary wrapped within a romance at the core. However, as is classic Austen, there is a superb intertwining of the social with the private. It is as much a social commentary as a journey into the minds of the characters and the psyche of theirs, all of which were affected so much by the social norms and expectations.
The narration was a fantastic one however I do believe the narrator could have included a bit more expression in his narration. Other than that, it was a perfect couple of days that I spent with this short yet significant read. I loved the classic Austen story and look forward to reading more of her works including Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. I rated it 5stars!

My Reading Rush Experience

I had a lot of fun this time around and if you haven’t participated in a Rush before, I definitely recommend you do. It is the best time you can have as a bibliophile, chatting and connecting with other such book lovers during this readathon!

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Mythological Fiction: Raavanputr Meghnad

Raavanputr Meghnad by Kevil Missal is a new mythological fiction that follows the lesser-known Meghnad, Raavan’s favourite son, who fought on Ram’s side!

Ravanputr Meghnad
Ravanputr Meghnad

Mythological Fiction in Raavanputr Meghnad

Towards the beginning of this month, I had picked up Vyasa, a graphic novel on the Mahabharata. As such, it was only fitting that I also read a fictional twist on the Ramayana as well. Ravanputr Meghnad by Kevin Missal is based on the Ramayana, more specifically, Raavan’s favourite son Meghnad. However, the storyline is not true to the actual Ramayana and has been fictionalized, so do keep that in mind before picking up the book.

Get this book for yourself! Amazon Goodreads

Raavanputr Meghnad versus the Ramayana

The plot was an interesting one and it helped me to imagine another way in which the story may have happened. I quite enjoyed the path it took especially in regards to the development of Meghnad’s character. The change, which occurs especially after his meeting the love of his life, a Naga princess, was quite fast towards the middle. It is at this point that he realizes that his ways may not have been entirely right.

Narrative style

Changing narratives also kept the plot interesting and I liked getting glimpses into the actions, and thus, the minds of the various characters such as Meghnad, Prameela, Suparnika, and Laxman.

What I did not like about this mythological fiction

However, since it was inspired by actual mythology, the setting has been the same. As such, I think it was a strike against the book that the characters used modern slangs, which seemed out of time for the characters. Moreover, the author tried to bring in comedic elements through the familial bonds, which I do not think worked very well.

Verdict:

Overall, it was an enjoyable and quick read. I was absorbed while reading it and did like the overall arch. If you like mythological stories written with a twist, this is definitely one you should pick up soon. I rated it 3.75/5 stars.

Check out similar books: Upon a Burning Throne books 1 and 2; Narasimha; Greek Mythology; The Secret of Palamu Fort; Ashwatthama’s Redemption; Kaalkoot, etc.

Top Fantasy Books on my 2020 TBR!

Hi everyone!

And today I share with you all my final post of 2019, which is like a follow-up to my other post (Top 10 Books on my 2020 TBR!) In today’s post I have tried to compile a very ambitious list, of all the fantasy books I want to get to in 2020! Are you excited about any of these fantasy books?

Top Fantasy Books on my 2020 TBR!
Top Fantasy Books on my 2020 TBR!

Books mentioned:

  1. The Mortal Instruments
  2. Percy Jackson
  3. And I Darken trilogy
  4. Rebel of the Sands trilogy
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy
  6. His Dark Materials trilogy
  7. Carry On, Wayward Son
  8. Children of Blood and Bone, Children of Virtue and Vengeance
  9. Ninth House
  10. The Empire of Gold (Book 3 of The Daevabad Trilogy, with The City of Brass, and The Kingdom of Copper)
  11. Aurora Burning (Aurora Rising)
  12. Starsight (Skyward)
  13. Throne of Glass
  14. Lord of the Ring, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion
  15. The Cruel Prince trilogy
  16. Shatter Me trilogy

I have also made an IGTV video regarding this topic and I would love it if you could check it out. Click here to go to my Instagram!

A Ticklish Affair

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

About A Ticklish Affair

A man is blackmailed for a past he never had, and an unrequited love story binds two lovers.
A man waits for his lover, only to be killed at her hands, and a girl takes back her life from her tormentor.
From the bestselling authors of The Peacock Feather comes another delightful offering, A Ticklish Affair, and Other Stories. This collection of short stories has all the ingredients of an unputdownable book. Taken from the daily rigmarole of ordinary life, the stories are given extraordinary twists and turns, leading to fascinating climaxes. The dark undertone of ‘Blackmail’, the power of belief in ‘Spark of the Divine’, the forbidden romance in ‘Ticklish Affair’ or the eternal power of love in ‘Rickshaw Faridabadi’, this collection of stories is sure to move readers to tears of sadness and joy at the same time.

A fabulous read!

A collection of ten short stories, A Ticklish Affair was quite an interesting read. I loved it for the variety it gave to me as a reader. All the various stories covered different themes and as such gave important life lessons through them. Despite the vibe that the title of the book gives it, that of a collection of love stories, the stories are all focusing on different main plots. However, what binds them all together is the conglomeration of basic and universal human emotions like love, faith, hope, self-respect, hatred, the thirst for revenge, etc.

The language was simple and yet very beautiful, and as such, it was easy to read. Moreover, the imagery present was realistic as well. The narrative style used by the author is great and the stories easily suck you in. I really enjoyed these stories and would definitely recommend you pick up this book.

A Ticklish Affair gets 4/5 stars from me!

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

Amazon Goodreads

Some other reviews you might like: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter, The Broken Amoretti, The Printed Letter Bookshop etc.

AUTUMN BOOKSHELF and READING NOOK

AUTUMN-THEMED BOOKSHELF AND READING NOOK

So hey guys! How’s it going? A couple of days ago, I uploaded my second YouTube video and it was sort of a how-to. How to decorate an autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook? This is the most comfortable place for any book lover, and for that matter, anyone, to be honest. You can watch movies and listen to music and just chill with the homies. Autumn is the best time of the year when the world is just so photogenic and the temperature is great.

I had a ton of fun doing this. So without further ado, let me share the thoughts I kept in mind while creating this setup. I hope you guys try it out too.

Autumn colours

Since I was recreating a Fall look, the colours I focused on were yellows, browns, reds and dark browns and a bit of black as well.

I tried to organize them in an order of increasing saturation. So I went from yellow, orange, red to a bit of brown, dark brown and a few purple ones too.

Autumn decoration

For decoration, I focused on three things:

  1. A background – I used my DIY page-wallpaper for this. This adds depth and texture to the whole scene.
  2. A bit of green – Yes, this is very much contrary to the theme, but rules are meant to be broken yeah?
  3. Plaques – I put up my NorthEast creator Award plaque for display as well as this beautiful peacock one, which was my grandmother’s.

The autumn-y nook

In this area, I simply put down an old mattress, covered it with a white bedsheet and then strewed some brown cushions over it. You can also throw a shawl or a warm and soft blanket over it.

Candles and fairylights!

The most easy way to make something atmospheric? Candles all the way! I lighted up a few and put them all over the area. Fairylights are the other option. You can have both or you can have either. They also render a very photogenic effect to the place.

I would suggest putting a small table or stool nearby, for your ease and convenience, and where you can perhaps put your music player, or laptop or food.

Click here to check out my YouTube video : Autumn-themed Bookshelf and Reading Nook!

Check out my review for Dear Juliet , Nordic Tales , Celtic Tales – the best books to read this time of the year.

And so, here’s how you make the best autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook! I hope you enjoyed this post and I have a few more ideas coming up for this DIY segment of my blog! I’m excited and I hope you are too!

Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

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

Dear Juliet

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

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

The Juliet Club

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

My letter of love

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

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

A visual saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Bibliophile’s Dream!

The best books are the keys to life. Bibliophiles will delight in adding these tiny illustrated classic novels to their collection!

Isn’t this keychain the most cutest ever? I am so in love with it that I want to keep it swaddled up in cotton! Hah!

Illustrated by Jane Mount, this is basically an enamel keychain which I love with the entirety of my heart!

As for other updates, the giveaway books are all here! I have 3 hardcovers, 2 (quite thick) paperback novels, and 3 more regular-sized paperbacks! And I know I am being very cryptic here. There’s also a cute notebook to be won! I just have to click the pictures now and after that, I’ll formally announce the giveaway! And boy, there are already more than 100 entries so far!

In terms of reading, I finished The Catcher in the Rye and The Hate U Give – both for college. I have American literature and I am also doing a presentation on racism, hence these two books, respectively. Have you read either of these? What were your views on these books?

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 .

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 .

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!

Delayed Rays of a Star, by Amanda Lee Koe, 2019

Title: Delayed Rays of a Star

Author: Amanda Lee Koe

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publishing date: July 9, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 389

Synopsis:

A dazzling novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women–Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl–cinema legends who lit up the twentieth century

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star, playing for bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father’s modest laundry; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director would first make her famous–then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women’s lives. From Weimar Berlin to LA’s Chinatown, from a seaside resort in East Germany to a luxury apartment on the Champs-Élysées, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, muse, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. And in the orbit of each star live secondary players–a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director–whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours.
Amanda Lee Koe’s playful, wry prose guides the reader dexterously around murky questions of ego, persona, complicity, desire, and difference. Intimate and raw, Delayed Rays of a Star is a visceral depiction of womanhood–its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals–and announces a bold new literary voice. 

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.

Delayed Rays of a Star is an exhilarating read delving into history and the lives of three women with an epic intensity. Spanning from the 1920s to the early 2000s, this novel tells a fictional story of real life actresses – Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl. Delayed Rays of a Star has been inspired from a photograph of these 3 women, that was clicked at a soiree in 1928 Berlin. Although these three women are the protagonists, you could say, there are a few more secondary characters in the book –  Marlene’s caretaker, the lighting staff on Leni’s team, the gay German soldier etc.

For the most part, this seemingly simple and ambiguous novel reads quite fluidly. There are so many issues that are discussed here. For instance, there is sexism – the most prevalent one, I think. As women, the three protagonists had to go through a lot to be where they are. It is in Leni’s story where it is the most prominent I think. As one of the three protagonists who gets a whole section for her own voice, Leni is a character who has often been judged and misunderstood often.

There is also racism – and no one perhaps experiences this more than Anna May. In all her movies, she is never cast as the lead, always being passed over to make way for white actresses – because she is ‘too’ Chinese.

Another theme is that of sexuality. Marlene was a woman who was famous in her heydays. It is unfathomable to understand how she slept with both men and women and got away with it. the instance in the book where Anna and Marlene are in the washroom, and the aftermath, is a clear indication that Marlene was very comfortable in her own skin. Nonetheless, it is impossible to imagine how she got away with it during those times.

Delayed Rays of a Star is also a very intense read if you truly understand the subtle themes spoken of, here. Divided into three main sections, followed by three sub-divisions each, where each section follows one of the three main characters. The character arcs of these women are commendable. However, I was disappointed that Leni was not very involved with the other two after the party. I had hoped to see more of an interrelationship among the 3 women, apart from their common instances in life.

The question of politics really comes into play with Leni. I did some research and she truly was a director of Nazi propaganda films. As such, a lot of her being is kind of complicated – how can you separate the art from politics and if it should or should not be done; if it was necessary to separate the artist’s political ideologies from his art.

Amanda Le Koe has truly written a definitive work on women’s lives and including these real life characters along with a few of their real life actions and beliefs, was a great culmination in Delayed Rays of a Star. Considering that this is her debut novel, I can only imagine the pressure that lies on her shoulders now for any future works.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars!

About the author:

Born in Singapore and currently based in New York, Amanda Lee Koe is the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her first short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic (Epigram Books, 2013), which was also shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Internationaler Literaturpreis, and the Frankfurt Book Fair’s LiBeraturpreis.

The working manuscript for her first novel, Delayed Rays of a Star , won the Henfield prize, awarded to the best work of fiction by a graduating MFA candidate at Columbia University’s Writing Program; the book is forthcoming from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (U.S.) and Bloomsbury (U.K.) in summer 2019. 

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?

Readalong of THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

The Sunday Times and No.1 New York Times bestselling, record-breaking 2019 thriller that everyone is talking about, The Silent Patient has been the most awaited debut thriller of 2019! And now Hachette has brought it to India!

Released on 15th July, The Silent Patient has been in my ‘Want to read’ shelf in Goodreads for so long and I am super happy that Hachette sent me a copy! The readalong for this amazing book started on the 17th and although I am a bit late, I’ve been loving the read. @thebookelf_ and I have been buddyreading this book and we are really enjoying it! Read on to know more about this book, that you simply need to pick up!

(Also, make sure to read this one before the movie hits the screens!)

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

THE SILENT PATIENT is the gripping must-read debut thriller of 2019 – perfect for fans of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn and THE GIRL BEFORE by JP Delaney.

(DM if you want to join in the readalong!)

Let’s Hope for the Best, by Carolina Setterwall, 2019

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Title: Let’s Hope for the Best

Author: Carolina Setterwall

Translated by: Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Autobiography

Format: Paperback

Language: Original Swedish, translated to English

No. of pages: 400

Synopsis:

One day while nursing her young son, Carolina receives a strange email from her boyfriend Aksel, detailing computer passwords and other instructions in event of his death. She grows worried at first, then irritated – this is so typical of her unsentimental partner. Aksel ends the message: Let’s hope for the best! Five months later, he is dead. 
In her debut novel, Let’s Hope for the Best, Carolina Setterwall recounts the intensity of falling in love with her partner Aksel, and the shock of finding him dead in bed one morning. Carolina and Aksel meet at a party, and their passionate first encounter leads to months of courtship during which Carolina struggles to find her place. While Aksel prefers to take things slow, Carolina is eager to advance their relationship -moving in together, getting a cat, and finally having a child.

Perhaps to impose some order on the chaos, Carolina devotedly chronicles the months after Aksel’s passing like a ship’s log. She unpacks with forensic intensity the small details of life before tragedy, eager to find some explanation for the bad hand she’s been dealt. When new romance rushes in, Carolina finds herself assuming the reticent role Aksel once played. She’s been given the gift of love again. But can she make it work?

A striking feat of auto-fiction, written in direct address to Setterwall’s late partner, LET’S HOPE FOR THE BEST is a stylistic tour-de force..

My review:

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

When I was done reading this book I was so conflicted because how do I dare to review a book with a strong autobiographical theme? How do I dare to judge such a raw telling of the events that can break anyone? How do I judge a story, one which is so real and while it touched me so deeply, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the people affected by this death?

But I told myself, I have read and studied various critical works like New Criticism, The Intentional Fallacy, Death of an Author, What is an Author etc. And as such I decided to write my review in middle ground.

At first glance, reading the synopsis made me realize that it was not going to be an easy read. And it was true. I took almost a week to read this one because I just could not bear to read it at one go, the way I do with most other books (also the fact that I was travelling played a major factor in this). I could only read this book in spurts because the emotions were too much to deal with. i was experiencing these second hand, mind you, but the writer was writing about real events. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been. The various rounds of edits etc that are to be done after writing the manuscript is another ordeal that I wondered how the author felt about. This book made me realize how very lucky I am today – I know it sounds so bad to someone who has lost a dear one – but it made me appreciate my family more, despite all the quarrels we have. I had to stop reading, go, and hug my mom and dad and my brother too.

This is truly a tour de force. In most translated works, the essence is lost but it si not so. The translator Elizabeth Clark Wessel has done an amazing job. The writing is in present continuous and I like it in autobiographies, I admit. The writing is poignant and raw – you feel so many emotions that sometimes you just have to sit back and let it all sink in. I cried and laughed along with the author. One thing that I liked best was that it is so real – you will love Carolina and hate her at times, even – while you realize that we all do the same things sometimes. We are humans and we are loving, kind and warm. But we are also cruel, selfish and angry at times, lashing out at the ones we love.

Aksel’s death and the aftermath make us question so many thing we do, so many people and things we take for granted. The way Carolina starts to resemble Aksel in her relationship is so parallel and well juxtaposed. The writing has not been sugarcoated and so you see the real aspects of life after the loss of a loved one. I loved the book – it was such a tumultuous ride.

Verdict:

I rate this a solid 5/5 stars. Will probably come back to it 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 .

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 .

Upon A Burning Throne (Part 1 of The Burnt Empire Saga), by Ashok K Banker, 2019

Title: Upon A Burning Throne (Part 1 of The Burnt Empire Saga)

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Historical fiction

Format: Papaerback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

Recommended for: If you are a fan of mythology and fantasy, as well as fiction, this is definitely a book you need to pick up ASAP!

Synopsis:

From international sensation Ashok K. Banker, pioneer of the fantasy genre in India, comes the first book in a ground-breaking, epic fantasy series inspired by the ancient Indian classic, The Mahabharata

In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the Emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without an emperor. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule, but birthright does not guarantee inheritance: For any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible—one that incinerates the unworthy.
 
Adri and Shvate pass The Test and are declared heirs to the empire… but there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives: a girl from an outlying kingdom. When this girl, whose father is the powerful demonlord Jarsun, is denied her claim by the interim leaders, Jarsun declares war, vowing to tear the Burnt Empire apart—leaving the young princes Adri and Shvate to rule a shattered realm embroiled in rebellion and chaos….  
 
Welcome to the Burnt Empire Saga.

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.

Let me begin by saying that this is a wonderful book inspired by just as wonderful an epic. Banker’s writing style is mesmerizing and having already read and loved a book of him, I was excited to see how this would turn out. And believe me, my expectations were set, but Bakeer flew way above those.

Let’s talk about the world-building first. Banker is meticulous with his description of the world in the book – Arthaloka. His attention to detail is uniquely reflected in the plotline and the reader’s imagination’s eye. I believe that in any fantasy, one of the most important things is the world building and Banker has done it exceptionally well. It ensnares you completely and without any possible exit. He makes sure that the reader is always intrigued and just cannot help but flip the page and continue reading, despite the fact that its way past their bedtime. The foreshadowing one understands when one finishes reading the book will definitely give you a huge realization moment – your own anagnorisis!

The characters again are all modeled after the famous mythical characters in the Mahabharata, but with their own special Banker seasoning. Throughout the novel, the character arc develop and at the end (which ends in a cliffhanger that has me kind of despondent until the next book comes out), these characters have gone on their journeys, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, and they reflect in them. We lose some dear characters but in fantasy, that is expected I suppose. I personally think that Jilana is a misunderstood character but that is a personal perception. Drawing parallels between Banker’s characters and the ones from the epic most of us already heard from our elders when we were children, was fascinating to say the least.

The themes of survival, war, human resilience in the face of decisions, the position of women, societal pressure, Divine Providence, etc are all covered and seen affecting the stories of all the characters. What I also love is that there is no longer any binary – a strict division between what is solely good and what is evil. Everyone is drawn to a point where they have to or have already made decisions that were not truly evil but not right, either. The moral conundrum that we humans face is on point in this book – it is dubious, the decisions we personally make sometimes as well as the ones made by the characters in this book.

There are so many storylines that are interconnected that it a veritable atlas of fascinating stories that will offer you a maelstrom of different emotions as you read through.

The cover is just as vivid and really emulates the story, I think.

Verdict:

I enjoyed reading this thrilling ride of a book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Author. Over 70 books 3 million copies 21 languages 62 countries.

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.

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, by Baigent, leigh and Lincoln

A nineteenth century French priest discovers something in his mountain village at the foot of The Pyrenees which enables him to amass and spend a fortune of millions of pounds. The tale seems to begin with buried treasure and then turns into an unprecedented historical detective story – a modern Grail quest leading back through cryptically coded parchments, secret societies, the Knights Templar, the Cathar heretics of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a dynasty of obscure French kings deposed more than 1,300 years ago. The author’s conclusions are persuasive: at the core is not material riches but a secret – a secret of explosive and controversial proportions, which radiates out from the little Pyrenees village all the way to contemporary politics and the entire edifice of the Christian faith. It involves nothing less than… the Holy Grail.

Originally published on 1st December, 1982, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail is a really interesting book. I first learnt of it when I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and then subsequently watched the book. I loved them both so much that I so wanted to get my hands of this book. Really grateful to Sankalpa for lending me this book!

If you are a lover of conspiracy theories then this is for you definitely! Having read The Da Vinci Code which was explosive on its own, I was surprised that I never knew about it and about this book too. However, it is not to be taken as the ultimate truth. The authors do claim that this is a hypothesis they have put forward. However, reading such ‘scandalous’ matter may make the reader forget about the disclaimer put at the beginning. Nonetheless, it is an interesting read, so to say.

(This edition was reissued in the United Kingdom by Arrow Books in 2006)

I am hoping to pick up some more books on such matters – lesser known facts in the religious or philosophical areas. Have you read this book yourself? What are your thoughts about it?

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 .

The Near Witch, by V. E. Schwab, 2019

Title: The Near Witch

Author: V. E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 355

Recommended for: Fans of both adult and young-adult fantasy and of Neil Gaiman.  

Synopsis:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 
But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

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.

Part fairy tale,
part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet
achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind,
and a dream you won't soon forget. 

I cannot assert how much I loved the narrative structure, enough. Schwab weaves a magical net of prose and fantasy that engulfs the reader into the story and makes it almost touchingly real. The imagery of the windy moors – the wind has been personified and it is an entity of its own and grips the reader’s attention. Environment, or nature, in itself is given great stature in the book, the wind especially, and this added element provides greater temporal and spatial depths of an already intriguing story. There is adventure, there is mystery and there is romance; although I love how the romance has not been given center stage. There is love yes, but the love Lexi shares with her sister is far greater and warming to read about. Lexi is brave, and like every other teenager, she too struggles at times and is made all the more humane, by it. I love how the female representation is done in today’s fantasy. This genre continues to give us strong heroines, who are not perfect, but they are brave (like Reshma Saujani says in her book – be Brave, Not Perfect). These heroines can do wrong yes, make mistakes, but they are never afraid to own up to them and thus, have the potentials to be such great idols for the young impressionable minds. The fight against stereotypical gender roles in this book is shown through Lexi and I enjoyed seeing her defy the expectations, time and time again! Trauma and its effects on people, dealing with it etc. is too portrayed in the book. Then ending however, was a bit rushed but then again considering it is a debut novel, I am not surprised. I am wondering of what differences I will find in her latest ADSOM trilogy…

This new edition by Titan books also has the short story The Ash-Born Boy which is basically the back-story of Cole. I think this is a magical short-story in itself too! I cannot again, stress enough on how much I love the prose writing of the author – this writing in itself is such wave-like, so fluidic that you just flow towards the story and become one with it. It is a powerhouse on its own.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved the story and fell in love with Schwab’s writing style (so much so that I will be picking up the ADSOM trilogy this upcoming weekend!). I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Printed Letter Bookshop, Katherine Reay

Title: The Printed Letter Bookshop

Author: Katherine Reay

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing date: 14 May, 2019

Genre: Romance/Women’s fiction

Format: E-arc

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Synopsis:

“Powerful, enchanting, and spirited, this novel will delight.” —Patti Callahan, bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.” —Rachel McMillan, author of Murder in the City of Liberty

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 Printed Letter Bookshop is just as amazing a read as the title makes it sound. I am joyful that I could read it before it officially publishes. Katherine Reay has done a great job with all the aspects of the novel.

Firstly, talking about the characters – this is very much a novel of growth – a bildungsroman of sorts. We see the women emerging out at the end as totally different, albeit better versions of themselves by the end of the novel. I found it very inspirational to say the truth. The author portrays these women as persons of their own – faulty, yes, but human in their hearts. Each undergoes an odyssey (see what I did there?!) different from the others’ and it changes them for the better – as well as those around them, and their inter relationships. Thus, the character arcs were done in a very realistic manner and one could find traces of oneself in each of these three women. The character of Maddie is very significant. Like it is pointed out by the characters in the book itself, her presence permeates throughout the book and this influence is very much like that of the eponymous Rebecca from Daphne du Maurier’s classic.

The plot is well laid out, although this is very much a character driven novel. The themes of family, acceptance, friendships,  dealing with one’s own choices, literature (my favourite, I believe!) as well as love – both romantic and familial, understanding, forgiveness, guilty conscience etc. are very important ones that the author explores through all the characters in the book.

The narrative is entirely engrossing and I loved every bit of it. The allusions to the different books were also a plus point and the list at the end is one I am definitely going to cross every book off (I intend to read all of them)

Verdict:

I absolutely love this book and 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 .

Masquerade, by Cyrus Parker

Title: Masquerade

Author: Cyrus Parker

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publishing Date: 7 May, 2019

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-Arc

Language: English

No. of pages:  178

Synopsis:

Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”
Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masquerade grapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, and relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.

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 believe that including Poe’s lines in the very beginning is a brilliant stroke in itself. In hindsight, it really says a lot about the poetry the reader will be delving into as she flips the pages.

The poems deal with various topics such as abandonment, alcohol abuse, death, gender dysphoria, harassment, as well as intimate partner abuse, lost innocence, identity, chasing your dream, and the masks that people wear. Self-care also is explicitly stated by the poet to be practiced after reading the poems and it was real advice, because I did have to do it in the end. The reason behind this, I believe, is that the poems are so real and vivid and so reflective of our own lives that it is impossible for a reader not to find atleast a couple of poems with which she can absolutely relate. The poems are raw and poignant, and that furthers this cause.   Moreover, the illustrations also provide a nice yet related break.

Verdict:

I enjoyed the poems and I rate this collection 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 .

Daredreamers: A Start-up of Superheroes, by Kartik Sharma and Ravi Nirmal Sharma, 2018

Title: Dardreamers: A Start-up of Superheroes

Author: Kartik Sharma and Ravi Nirmal Sharma

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 296 pages

Synopsis:

India’s first start-up of superheroes with a mission of saving lives is here to kick ass. 
Rasiq is riding the highs of life thanks to his successes as an investment banker. But his arrogance soon gets the better of him and he ends up losing everything he holds dear. Managing to salvage only his grit from the wreckage, Rasiq reboots his life and teams up with five uniquely talented superheroes to start a rescue venture 
– DareDreamers. These superheroes Nick: a crazy inventor; Halka: an inhumanly strong man; Arjun: a champion shooter; Natasha: a Bollywood stunt-double; Dr. Vyom, a medical Sherlock Holmes; and, of course, Rasiq: the mastermind combine their unique talents to deliver spectacular rescue operations. Their skyrocketing success, however, comes at a price an enemy hell bent on tearing down their fame and reputation.
Will DareDreamers defeat its wily adversary? Or will it become yet another failed start-up?
Treachery, action and adventure come alive to make DareDreamers a page-turner.

My review:

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

Daredreamers was a really interesting book with a just an interesting start. Being such a workaholic myself, I could deeply relate with Rasiq. While it is harmful, yes, the sense of high one gets when one does the thing one loves, is incomparable. But in the case of Rasiq, we see how worthless it can be, when one is slogging day and night, doing something one does not enjoy at all.

The theme of hard work and passion reign supreme throughout the book and I really like that. I believe that the book was really inspiring, as will most other readers feel.

The plot is a really interesting one and the writing style is just as engaging. One might think, considering the fact that there are two authors, there might be clashes with the combination of both, but I could hardly differ the two authors’ style – such is the elegant mixture of the writing.

The start-up is a common enterprise we see in the modern world but the way in which it has been portrayed is a new concept. The characters show that with the zeal and hard work, along with smartness, one can achieve what people say is impossible. The characters are all also great ones – Rasiq, Halka, Vyom, Natasha, Arjun, Nick and later, Asylum, etc. are all the best ones in their field that this too is an inspiring fact. The strive for excellence is one we should never give up.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed the 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 .

Mad Love, by Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan, 2019

Title: Mad Love, a DC Comics Novel

Author: Pat Cadigan and Paul Dini

Publisher: Titan Books

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 288

Synopsis:

The definitive story of Harley Quinn by her co-creator, Paul Dini, and Pat Cadigan, revealing the secrets of her history even as she seeks to kill Batman. 

Dr. Harleen Quinzel grew up in an abusive household with a criminal and became a psychologist to deal with her own broken family. At Arkham Asylum, she attempted to treat the Joker and instead fell hopelessly in love with him, helping him escape and becoming a member of his organization. Quinzel became Harley Quinn, a bizarre contradiction of violence and mercy. She blames Batman for her inability to maintain a stable relationship with the arch-villain, and that causes her to have an abiding hatred for the hero, who she seeks to kill. Upon capture she becomes a violent inmate at Belle Reve Penitentiary, and is assigned to the group of government-maintained super villains known as the Suicide Squad. 

Copyright © 2017 DC Comics. BATMAN, THE JOKER, HARLEY QUINN, SUICIDE SQUAD and all related characters and elements © & TM DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 
Copyright © 2017 DC Comics. BATMAN, THE JOKER, HARLEY QUINN, SUICIDE SQUAD and all related characters and elements © & TM DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

My review:

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

Mad Love was a fun and truly mad read and I enjoyed every bit of it.

This book gave quite an insight to this infamous villain’s life – why she is how she is and what made her that way. The most major themes that I saw throughout the novel was the deceptiveness of appearances and how crucial it is to know the reality of things. On a deeper level, things are never as they appear to be on the surface. In the beginning the tone is in third person limited – Daddy this and Daddy that. It is as if Harleen cannot really make all of her own decisions and looks up to her Daddy for them. In retrospect, it is so much the situation that occurs when she is under the Joker’s spell. She looks up to him this time. I think, the underneath all of these,  Harleen does not lose her innocence and faith in these two authority figures. Is she naïve? Or dumb? I understand that this is a polarizing concept. But I believe that there is not always a good side and a bad side – we often forget about the grey areas and only look at the startling black and white.

Mad Love is a psychological novel to boot! There were so many nuances regarding human behavior – as Harleen grew up and studied psychology, and then started practicing it at Arkham Asylum. There is also a great play at words – both in the narrator’s case and the Joker’s as well. The manner of writing was just as enjoyable and easy to understand. The character arc of Harleen was a very dynamic one – I feel that she goes through a lot and her story is one that had needed to be told. The writers did justice to the character as well as the plotline.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Paul Dini is an American television producer of animated cartoons. He is best known as a producer and writer for several Warner Bros./DC Comics series, including Star Wars: Ewoks, Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond and Duck Dodgers. He also developed and scripted Krypto the Superdog and contributed scripts to Animaniacs (he created Minerva Mink), Freakazoid, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. After leaving Warner Bros. In early 2004, Dini went on to write and story edit the popular ABC adventure series Lost.

About the reviewer:

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

February 2019 book haul part 1!

So how are you doing, guys? I haven’t been able to stay up to date because unfortunately, I was down again with my terrible allergy attacks. Nonetheless, I hope that it’s over for me. Anyway, I had such plans for the weekend – I hoped I would be able to do some study. But well, better luck next time to me!

So I got 44 new books in February! And here’s part 1! Not all of these books are ones I have bought – I got some second-hand, some in exchange of books I gave away, and some include review copies, etc.!

  1. Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
  2. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  3. Steampunk – An Anthology of FANTASTICALLY RICH and STRANGE STORIES, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
  4. How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy
  5. By the Brahmaputra and other Poems by Srutimala Duara
  6. Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
  7. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: The Woman by Eric Wiggin
  8. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
  9. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
  10. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  11. Kanthapura by Raja Rao

How did your bookaholic February go?

The Priory of the Orange Tree buddy-reading session!

HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!!

And as THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE comes out today, I am excited to announce that Gayatri and I will be starting or buddy-reading session! We were so very excited when Bloomsbury sent us our uncorrected proof copies! Here is a synopsis of this amazing fantasy novel!

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Also, here’s why you should order your copies ASAP!

  1. If you love the current trend with strong and real female characters at the forefront, then this book is certainly for you! We have a Queen, a powerful mage, and even another brave woman training to be a dragonrider.
  2. There are also dragons! And oh what variety! Fire-breathing dragons as well as water dragons even!
  3. Considering that this is a fantasy, expect magic; a whole LOT of magic!
  4. Many people have already said that this is a wonderful book with strong feminist tones.
  5. There is also a lot of diversity in the book – racial, mental as well as sexual.

If these are not enough reasons to compel you to order your own copy now, I don’t know what will!

I am so very excited to start this one today! And I certainly hope you all will join me and Gayatri along this journey!

Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer, by Ryan Suvaal, 2019

Title: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer

Author: Ryan Suvaal

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: Thriller/Psychological/novella

Format: E-Book

Language: English

No. of pages: 23

Recommended for: All psychological thriller buffs can go for this short novella.

Synopsis:

Seventeen gruesome killings across the United States, within a span of six months and there is one clear connection among victims. They were all writers. 
While media is decorating the murders with sensationalist stories, and law enforcement is playing catch-up, the homicidal maniac remains elusive and secretive. 
Things get very interesting, when one day she decides to appear on an internet talk show for an honest fireside chat. 

My review:

For such a short psychological thriller, this book was surely a page-turner. Despite its short length it is amazingly fantastic.

The idea that the author has taken up, is in itself very intriguing – for a person to turn a killer because of reading book which lacks the proper grammar! This idea itself of a ‘Grammar Nazi’ being a serial killer is enough to make you take a second look at the book.

What is also great is that this book seems like an aftermath of the killings, when the killer reveals what she does and why she does it. In this way, she too reveals information of the host of the show – which mind you, no one has been able to do so. In one way you cannot help but admire the acumen of this infamous lady killer. She is precise and definitely knows what she is doing – she knows her abilities and uses them to the full of her capability. The author has really carved out a character who seems very real – almost ass if she is one among us. The book reads smoothly as well. It genuinely feels like you’re listening to this show and not merely reading this in a book.


The pacing was kept on-point and the author has done a great job with this seemingly short read. The research shows through. The subtle imagery was also on point! With an amazing surprise at the end, this book comes like a punch, one that you can completely read through easily, under an hour. And a shout out to the author for the blatant message – readers absolutely do not enjoy reading books which have a ton of grammatical errors!

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars. Definitely recommend it to all crime buffs!

About the author:

Ryan Suvaal is passionate about writing page-turner psychological thrillers. His favorite hangout is a coffee shop where he guzzles in tonnes of caffeine and weaves characters pumped up with deadly intentions and worlds full of thrill, suspense, and gore.
“Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer” is one of the first in a series of Psychological thrillers which he has penned down during past few months, which will now be sequentially released on Amazon.

“A deep-rooted question always keeps broiling inside of me. This question is whether I am writing the story or the story is forcing me to write it? Am I the actor and story is the art, or story is the actor and I am the medium?”

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 Anonymous, by Nidhi Kukreja, 2019

Title: The Anonymous

Author: Nidhi Kukreja

Publisher: Blue Rose Publishers

Genre: Mystery/Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 180

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

“As I sat down, my eyes rested on the envelope lying on the doormat, For Natasha, the writing on it said. I panicked, this cant is him again! I hurriedly opened it and his words made me cry out loud.” 
The Anonymous is the story of Natasha, a victim of sexual violence, assault, harassment, and rape, who was a happy, cheerful girl, but she is now cold, heartbroken and weak! During her recovery, she was dragged into a vicious cycle of nightmares by the letters, that just wouldn’t let her move on. 
“Dreams are woven and seamed when the bloodsheds” 
But the path we move on is always not easy; Hurdles, difficulties, issues, problems bring you down, but the inspiration and spirit to go ahead keep you focused and determined. It is not easy, sometimes we get lost and trapped. 
Is she trapped by it? Or is she forced into a cycle of self-harm and depression? Is it a fight to survive? Is there really no escaping the past? 
“Hello. Don’t put the book down just yet, pick it. You are welcome to my world.” – The Anonymous 

My review:

I got a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

With such an exciting synopsis to the book, I was very much excited going into it and I can now say that I was certainly not disappointed.

The Anonymous is the story of Natasha, tortured and raped to the point of no return, and yet we commend her strong spirit for not bending and her enduring resilience in the face of such grotesque odds. The author has worked on Natasha’s character. From the beginning of the book, until the very end, we see her change and her evolution as a person of her own rights is gradual and startlingly, very real.

With a strong narration, and just as many twists and turns, this story only extends its strong base on the other characters, who are just as dynamic as the protagonist, and vary on the spectrum just as much when it comes to their characteristics. The way the author has depicted the different types of people in society, is amazing to see.

The chapters which spoke about the trauma that Natasha had to go through, as she recounted the incidents or even lived them, were utterly vivid and draws a picture in the reader’s inner eye. As such, in this respect, a little rigger warning for rape, torture, mental harassment etc.  It is not a pretty picture, but it is a real picture nonetheless. With a great narrative and a must as great, if not greater, narration, this book was one I really enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed the book and it left an indelible imprint on my mind for sure. 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 .

Kaalkoot: The Lost Himalayan Secret, by S. Venkatesh, 2018

Title: Kaalkoot

Author: S. Venkatesh

Publisher: TreeShade Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 343

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up!

Synopsis:

January 1944 
Holed up in a Himalayan hideout, freedom fighter Manohar Rai has to take a chilling decision – one that could mean life or death for millions of people. His only hope is a mysterious young man, who goes into hiding hours before Manohar is shot dead in cold blood. 

June 2018 
A forgotten legend from the upper reaches of the Himalayas is rearing its ominous head. 
The world will be brought to its knees. KaalKoot will strike again. 
Only three people have a clue about the horrors that are about the unfold. The only hope for survival lies buried deep in the remotest corner of Himalayas. But a terrible fate awaits those who seek it. 
Is it already too late Is KaalKoot – the primordial plague – unstoppable?

My review:

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

A sci-fi mixed with mythology and adventure – Kaalkoot was a perfect read for the cool nights to curl up with. Reading this book was an amazing experience and I absolutely loved every minute of the ride.

Firstly, being divided into the different parts proved invaluable in giving the reader a view into the minds of the different characters of the story. While Sameer may be the conventional protagonist, each of the characters made by the author were real in their own terms with various layers to their being. Thus in terms of character development, the author has excelled by far and beyond, for each one was round and whole.

The plot was unpredictable and one couldn’t think up on what happened next. The author continued taking the reader on the twists and turns and they were mind blowing. I have to say that the author did a really good job in keeping at least me, if not undoubtedly many more readers as well, hooked on until the very end.

The themes of deceit, the nature of man, good versus evil, are all undoubtedly very common but the author has given a twist on them, thus making the narrative very interesting. The inclusion of mythology mixed with science is also again, very innovative and made everything so much more real. Most importantly, the author made sure that all of these would remain and haunt the readers’ minds even after finishing the book.

The adventure aspect of this also was very well-written. The scenes which were worth all the nail-biting the reader goes through, are really well-planned and executed to perfection.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and rate it a 4.5/5 stars. I believe that if you are fan of Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer or Robert Galbraith, this book might also help you widen your scopes in the genre in India.

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 .

Wake up, girl!, by Niharika Jindal, 2019

Title: Wake up, girl!

Author: Niharika Jindal

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Chick-lit/Contemporary 

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 220

Recommended for: New adult

Synopsis:

Naina is back from America, after four years of living on her own. A natural rebel, she has had some fairly life-altering experiences which Mum and Dad would not approve of at all if they get to know. But will her spirit and her stand be enough to fight the forces of parental pressure and heckling aunties baying for her nuptials?

Back in the bosom of her conservative family, Naina cannot even begin to imagine the turn her life is going to take. It’s wedding season, and she must now be married. Because every self-respecting upper-middle-class family in India do that, right? Marriage at the ‘right age’ to the ‘right family’…whether she likes it or not.

Naina’s worst nightmares are about to come true. What hits her within a week of being at home completely changes her world and her life as she embarks on a journey that will define her and provide her an education that only life can. 

Ayaan, Rohan, Akshay, Shiven. Who will it be? Will she even have a shot at romance, being with someone she loves, irrespective of his caste, respectability or bank balance? She will have to summon all the chutzpah within to fight for herself. For her notions of love and living. 

Will she succeed? Like a chrysalis unfolding, will Naina, too, emerge with her wings unscathed?

My review:

A light and humourous read, Wake Up, Girl! was a refreshing read and I finished it in a day.

The author has made the story quite realistic with the use of stereotypes (so warning: if you do not like stereotypes, then this might not be the book for you. Through the use of these characters, the author has been able to portray a general peak into the lives of mainstream Indian people. Of course there are always exceptions, so please take no offense).

Naina seems to be a pretty mild kind of person in the beginning – one might even say, a pushover. However, as the story progresses we see her grow into her own person. As such, it might not be wrong to call it a bildungsroman novel, albeit not a traditional one. The changes that she goes through are nice to read about and we see her evolve into her own being. She finally stands up to her elders – to tell them about what she wants, rather than always blindly following them despite her contrasting views.

A portrayal of the Indian society is given in this story and it so relatable to so many of us belonging to the “marriageable age”. The entire idea of societal expectation is such a burden and despite that, many elders are still not acknowledging it and instead, are themselves implementing it on others.

The issue of homosexuality also comes up here. Despite the 377 issue, elders are still not accepting it. However, the fact that a majority of us youngsters do, shows great promise for the future of India.

Wake up, girl! is also full of themes of friendship, family (or family drama, if you like), love, lust, societal expectations and so on. The title of the book seems just like what Naina would say to herself when she has had enough of these. The cover is pretty cool as well.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Niharika Jindal is a 26-year-old writer from Ahmedabad. After spending four years studying Psychology in Claremont McKenna College, California, she returned to India clueless about what to do next. She started out with a few stints in HR, during which time she met her husband on a coffee date, and it was love at first sight. 
After many drives and dinner dates, Niharika is happily married. However, her fairy tale was cut short when she developed a chronic back condition-which she has been battling ever since. Constantly pestered by family and friends to do something in order to take her mind off the pain, Niharika’s saving grace came in the form of reading, her favourite childhood pastime. She decided to give writing a shot. Penning Wake Up, girl! has been the most pleasurable experience, and made her realize her true passion in life. 
In her free time, Niharika can be found reading, listening to romantic songs, having cold coffee, shopping online, catching up with old friends, doing physiotherapy, and watching TV shows on repeat with her husband.

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 .

Bestseller, by Ahmed Faiyaz, 2018

Title: Bestseller

Author: Ahmed Faiyaz

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 190

Recommended for: For all booklovers; this is a sure hit.

Synopsis:

Akshay Saxena, an out of work editor of a defunct literary magazine in the UK, is told to move to India for a year to help shore up the value of Kalim, an ailing Indian publisher.
Akshay finds himself in a job where he has to do the impossible. Angus Lee, the new owner of Thomson Lee Books, wants at least five bestsellers in the coming year, failing which the business would be wound up.
He has to find a way of making a success out of books he would never publish or would never even read. To complicate things further, he has to contend with motley crew of has-beens and misfits working for the publishing house as well as wannabe writers, dealing with their follies and derisive tactics, and battle his own affections for Zorah Kalim, the impulsive daughter of his former boss.
Will he succeed in bringing out that one ‘bestseller’ from his publishing house? And what about his own life and love in office? Find out in this riveting read.

My review:

Bestseller was a great read. And that is the statement I shall begin with.

And the reason I recommend all book lovers to read this, is because this book provides an insight to the entire business that goes behind the publishing of the books.

The book is quite a humourous take on the book publishing industry and has been written in a light style. The author has been able to nicely weave together the intricacies that are wounded around the individuals. The writing style of the author is beautifully compelling and sucks you in, right from the very first page. The fast-paced storytelling, coupled with the almost life-like characters make for a very enjoyable read, one that I personally completed in one sitting.

The characters of Akshay Mathur, Zorah Kalim – the protagonists in this novel were two very well-rounded characters.  Moreover, Tarun was such an irritating person and I was so infuriated at times that he tried to one-up the rest. But then again, since I am assuming the author intended the reader to feel this way only; he has really succeeded in this. 

The themes of rivalry, ambition, the negative impact of success and power, etc., are also well explored in the events as well as the characters in the book. The love angle with Zoya and Akshay was also written in a very real way. In all, the characters and the events, all made the story seem very real and also relatable.

The writing style was also very easy to read and I think that everyone will easily understand this. It is very easy to read also, and actually reads like butter. The cover of the book is also amazing. The repetitive element in the books displayed in the cover as opposed to the actual cover of the book is great.

Bestseller was a great read. And that is the statement I shall also end with.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading the 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 .

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

Title: The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire

Author: Reshma K. arshikar

Publisher: Two Ravens

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 420

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

About the author:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer

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

Amma and I, Trishna Damodar, 2018

Title: Amma and I

Author: Trishna Damodar

Publisher: Frog Books

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 204

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer

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

Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson, 2018

Title: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 288

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer

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

Winterdream, Chantal Gadoury, 2018

Title: Winter Dream

Author: Chantal Gadoury

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 237

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer

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

The Way of the World, William Congreve, 1700

 
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Title: The Way of the World
Author: William Congreve
Publisher: Peacock Books
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 92
 
Synopsis:
The play is centered on the two lovers Mirabell and Millamant. In order for them to marry and receive Millamant’s full dowry, Mirabell must receive the blessing of Millamant’s aunt, Lady Wishfort. Unfortunately, Lady Wishfort is a very bitter lady who despises Mirabell and wants her own nephew, Sir Wilfull, to wed Millamant.
Another character, Fainall, is having a secret affair with Mrs. Marwood, a friend of Mrs. Fainall’s, who in turn once had an affair with Mirabell.
In the meantime, Mirabell’s servant is married to Foible, Lady Wishfort’s servant. Waitwell pretends to be Sir Rowland and, on Mirabell’s command, tries to trick Lady Wishfort into a false engagement. Above all, all the characters in the play are involved to each other in extra marital affairs in an affected way and pretentious way while Mirabell and Millamant go against the currents of the society.
 
My review:
I needed to read this play for a class in my university and even after reading it more than once, I am quite confused as to what I feel about this book. On the one hand, it is truly funny – the entanglements that all these characters get stuck in, but on the other hand, it is morally degrading – to see the reasons as to why these people get stuck in these dilemmas, more specifically, because of all the deceit, trickery, lying and cheating that they indulge in. So perhaps it is better to consider it a satire on the society of those times, as portrayed by William Congreve, and leave it at that. Or not.
 
If we see this as a love story, we can see that the love shared by the lead couple is not really based on the love they have for each other, but rather, the love for material gain. We can see how willing Millamant, the female lead, becomes to marry someone else other than her lover, since going against her aunt’s wishes and marrying Mirabell, the male lead, would mean that she would not get her inheritance. So basically we see her choosing her money over love. One can call her realistic and pragmatic, someone who understands the realities of life. But I find it debatable. Moreover, in the proviso scene, where these two ‘lovers’ are preparing a pre-nuptial agreement, one can get a definite whiff of how business-like they both treat this whole deal. Where is the love?
 
Mirabell is shown like the reformed womanizer – he has had an affair with Mrs. Fainall (who is Millamant’s cousin!) whom he later gets married to Mr. Fainall, afraid that he might have made her pregnant! Then again, we see Mr. Fainall having an extra-marital affair with a Mrs. Marwood, someone with whom, it has been implied, Mirabell too had an affair once. So it’s really very shady – on the one hand, we may consider Mirabell the refined rake who would make the best husband (don’t they say that refined rakes make the best husbands?) and on the other hand, we can see Mirabell as the incorrigible rake, whose temporary flavour of the month is Millamant. Millamant is also shown as a woman who is confident of the power she has over Mirabell but I honestly found her a total tease at times.
 
The trickery and the deceit and the cheating really made me have second thoughts about the play, but coming back to the point, maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
 
Verdict:
I rate this book a 3/5 stars.
 
About the reviewer
Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .
 
 
 

Forever Disguised (The Angelheart Saga II), Annie Woods, 2018

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Title: Forever Disguised (The Angelheart Sage II)
Author: Annie Woods
Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 322
 
Synopsis:
Erica Lindell would give anything to turn back time. To get a second chance to make the right decisions. To undo the devastating mistake that ruined everything.
Left heartbroken after the loss of the love of her life, Sasha aka Prince Alexandre, Erica has to find a way to pick up the pieces of her shattered heart and live with the consequences of her actions. But finding the strength to go on with her life is not all she has to contend with. Soon, Erica finds herself in the midst of the evil feuding behind the attack on Sasha and she has to fight to protect herself and all that is near and dear to her.
Amongst all of the confusion, pain and hurt, Tyler proposes a solution that may solve all of her problems. But will Erica go through with Tyler’s crazy scheme?
The much-anticipated second book of the Angelheart Saga Trilogy is another enchanting, heart-wrenching story about the mistakes made in the name of love, full of drama, passion and surprising twists.
 
My review:
In Forever Disguised, the sequel to First Came Forever, we see Erica coping with her loss mostly. It is again, a roller-coaster ride and the pace doesn’t wane – the author has been excellent in preventing that.
I finished reading First Came Forever in literally 6 hours, I think – just a day, and I took two days for the sequel. If I didn’t have a test, I’d have probably finished it in a day as well. This is a wonderful series. So far only these two books have been out and I have no doubt that the third will be out soon; or at least I hope it’s soon. I’m going crazy with the wait. This series has everything – there is romance, friendships, family, and the effects of differentiating views and fights among friends, family, lovers and so on.
The love, the hate, the drama, the revenge, the fairy-tale was on point. What really makes the reader stick to these books is I think how realistic and thus relatable the author has made the story. It is as if one is seeing the events take place in front of her! The themes really grab on to the characters, and their actions, and through their actions and reactions, the reader as well.
The pace of the story was well-timed. The structure, the narrative style was also balanced and could keep the reader laugh, cry and smile at appropriate times (and howl with sorrow as well!) The character development is amazingly apt and again, well-paced. Nothing is rushed, and we see the characters evolve at a natural pace. The plot development again was really well done too.
Finding grammatical or even punctuation errors is often enough to put off the reader, and I am glad I never came across any. The editors have done a good job with it.
I wished to know what happened at the end and yet I wished for the story to never end – such is the power of this author. And now that I’m done with both, I can only cross my fingers and hope that the third will be released soon!
Verdict:
I really really enjoyed this book and can now only fangirl over it as I desperately wait for the next in the series to come out soon! I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.
 

Poems that do not Rhyme, Manish Pathania, 2018

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Title: Poems That Do Not Rhyme
Author: Manish Pathania
Publisher: Notion Press Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
 
Synopsis:

“Poems that tell stories,
stories about promises,
promises of love,
love that transformed into art,
art that manifested through poems,
poems that do not rhyme”

‘Poems that do not rhyme’ is a collection of poems written in the form of free verses. Although the individual poems seem unrelated at the first glance the poems are arranged in such an order that they traverse through the journey of an alcoholic man who accidentally falls in love with a girl who was still in love with her ex-lover.
The poems revolve around his character, his love for her, his alcoholism, his self-loathing, his lamentations and his regrets for losing her.
 My review:
 Another anthology composed of free/blank verses, Poems That Do Not Rhyme may at first glance look like every other new poetry book out there. But what is contrastingly different in this one, is that all the poems are telling the same story, progressing from the beginning till the end. It is, in essence, a novel, where each of the chapters is written in poetry.
From the progress, we learn about the sensations that come with falling in love, true love, separation, unrequited love, self-development or even degeneration, etc. It gives a very true portrayal of youth and its follies, as some people will say.

You could forget the sins
Of a distant past life.

 Lines such as these, are enough to make the reader stop and re-read them. Love, its end, the betrayal, and the sadness, are all seen in this book where the protagonist who is writing the poems falls for this beautifully described black-eyed girl until it all amounts to nothing. The enjambment with blank verse plays well and the author has used this to his advantage.
In The End was also a poem that really made me like it deeply. It goes as follows:

You were nothing
To me
But a few dozen poems,
A couple of short stories
And a novel.
But then
That was way more than
Anyone else
Has ever been…

However, I feel that the cover really needs to be redesigned. I didn’t find it at all artistically or even aesthetically pleasing. Art sometimes must be for art’s sake, I suppose.
Verdict:
I rate this a 3/5 stars.

2 Day Down, Dr. Nikita Lalwani, 2018

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

Minuscules, Priyanka Bhatt, 2018

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Title: Minuscules
Author: Priyanka Bhatt
Publisher: NotionPress Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 142
Synopsis:
When I asked him to be the poetry I could write about,
he kissed me softly and left.
Since then, my words have been oozing pain.
Today’s instant make-up, instant break-up generation have no time to spare time at all. They prefer enjoying eternity in moments to waiting eternally for that moment. Hence, these micro tales have become the latest fad.
Minuscule is a collection of unique micro tales and short stories that are spread over various themes. From horror to social issues to romance, these tales leave no topic unwritten about, no emotion unexplored. Though told with brevity, the impact of these stories can be more lingering than that of novels. To-the-point, poignant, relatable – this micro fiction book can be read by anyone in today’s time – a teenager and an adult alike. Its varied range of themes is the cherry on the cake.
Minuscule is a book that is sure to bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes – and stay with you for a very long time.
May the stories make a home in your heart!
Don’t leave me the way you leave others.
Some things are permanent indeed.
Like love, like regret.
And trust me honey,
I’ll be your both.
My review:
A collection of poetry that truly touched my heart, Minuscules was a grand piece. The pieces were all wonderful and I can only gush about the writing.
Bhatt has done an amazing job with the book. The blank verse seen in the pieces really relate to the modern individual with the fragmented state of mind, grasping from one idea to another. They are also very precise, and thus easy to relate to,  for the fast-paced current generation.
The most common themes seen here are that of love, and longing interspersed with some creepy pieces just as well. The author has done a good job with the collection.
Speaking about the cover – it is simplistic yet so very elegant and attractive. The colour theme also works wonders. Inside, it is just as nice. With the editing job well done, Minuscules is a perfect little book to gift to your loved ones.
The inclusion of short one-shots along with the poetry is also a welcome change I accepted as a reader as well as a reviewer. It binds the entire collection into one composed whole that is truly good enough to warrant quite a few dog-eared pages and flagged ones as well.
Verdict:
I loved this book and would definitely recommend all Rupi Kaur lovers to read this one. Well written, and poignant enough to induce emotions in the reader, I rate Minuscules a 4.5/5 stars!

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

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

Regular Porridge, Sukanya Basu Mallik, 2018

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

The First Word, Husain Ali, 2017

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

The Conqueror, Aditya Iyengar, 2018

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Publishers: Hachette publishers
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:
Kingdoms are built by men. Legacies are built by emperors.
It is 1025 AD. The mighty Chola empire that controls much of southern Bharatvarsha is helmed by Emperor Rajendra Chola I – a man as enigmatic as his kingdom is renowned. Known for his might and vision, he has now set his sights upon the southern seas, governed by the powerful Srivijaya empire.
But his victories also bring forth stories of those affected by his ambition. Of an unnamed princess forced to fend for herself among enemies after everything she has ever known is destroyed by the ravaging Chola forces. Of Maharaja Sangrama, captive in an alien land, who is torn between his enmity tempered by an unusual friendship with the elusive Rajendra Chola and his fierce determination to return to his kingdom.
Told through the eyes of a prisoner of war and a princess without a kingdom, The Conqueror is a magnificent narrative – of war and conquest, of loss and death, of kingship and legacy.
My review:
The Conqueror is the second Indian historical book that I have read in August and I am not disappointed. The author has done well in mingling history with romance, friendship, war and the human spirit that rages on even in the face of hardships.
The beginning was quite exciting and reading historical accounts is a favourite pastime of mine and as such, it was a delight. Moreover, even though some bits have been fictionalized, the way the author has tried to bring to life the way of life of these people is commendable. We come to know so much about their daily activities, the parleys between the different ministers, war, and in general the workings of a kingdom.
The plot was well written- from the beginning to the end, the author weaves a lovely tale, the ends of which are comfortably wrapped up towards the end. Nonetheless, I hope for a sequel. The two different point of views provided in the first person are very contrasting, yet so very similar in the situation of both the people as they are displaced from their world. However, felt the story a bit dragging and slow paced towards the middle, but the author again commendably picks it up soon.
The characters are again very diverse and yet very inspiring. Inspiring because they had faced various hardships and had come out only stronger than ever before. It is really nice to read about the indomitable human spirit that refuses to break in the face of adversity. Their developments are also evident- they grow mentally and emotionally to reach the apex of their beings.
The themes of war, hardships, survival, friendship, love, family, and diplomacy abound in this book and provide bittersweet relief to the readers, with completely satisfaction as the story finally ends. This was a really nice read for sure.
Verdict:
The Conqueror was a really good read and fans of historical fiction should definitely give it a read. I rate it a 4/5 stars and truly recommend it to all.

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love,

Nika!

All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven, 2015

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

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

Stalking Jack the Ripper, Kerri Maniscalco, 2016

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

Chanakya: The Legend Begins (Itihasa Series Book 1), Ashok K. Banker, 2018

(Previously published at https://indiabookstagram.com/housenika/chanakya-the-legend-begins-itihasa-series-book-1-ashok-k-banker-2019/ )
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Title: Chanakya: The Legend Begins
Author: Ashok K. Banker
Publishers: Westland Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 156
Genre: Historical Fiction
 
Synopsis:
Jurist, war strategist, kingmaker. Master administrator. Author of the Arthashastra. But before the legend, there was the boy: Vishnu Gupta.
Pataliputra, capital of the great Nanda empire, is teeming with crime and corruption. Granted unlimited authority by the hedonistic emperor Mahapadma Nanda, evil mastermind Maha-amatya Kartikeya has the city in a vice-like grip.
But another name bubbles up through the chaos; there is talk of a young genius, Vishnu Gupta. When the Maha-amatya investigates the rumours, he recognises a future rival in the boy. He is determined to destroy this competition from the roots – family and all. Vishnu must gather all his wits and his formidable knowledge to protect everything he holds dear. The holy scriptures, his brilliant interpretations of the Vedas and the power of his unmatched mind: these are the only tools he has against the might of the most powerful man in the empire.
Epic storyteller Ashok K. Banker imagines the life and formative years of India’s greatest genius, a man whose influence persists down the ages. In this first instalment of a thrilling trilogy, he recreates Chanakya’s early struggles and triumphs.
 My Review:
Never having read about Chanakya before, apart from the basics in history textbooks, I was eager to pick up this book and I am so very glad I didn’t wait any longer. Chanakya: The Legend Begins, is a well-written historical fiction book that gripped me from the very first pages. It’s not long either and so I finished it under 3 hours, and I wasn’t even reading it continuously.
The plot was well-made and I feel that it will prove a good foundation for the upcoming sequels in the trilogy. The events were all well-paced and the string of connection which led one to the other, was also well held. The pacing we see was good without any rushing and it proves just as well.
The characters are all worth noticing- whether they are good or bad. In Chanakya, or Vishnu Gupta, as he was earlier known, we see s mere child, striving to be the best among people seniors to him by decades. His drive and eagerness to learn for- the thirst for knowledge, and also his intellect leave a lot to be desired in the reader. And justly so. I am eager to read more about the prodigy. In the cunning Prime Minister, Maha-amatya Kartikeya, we can also notice the shining intellect and thirst for power. In some ways, he and Chanakya are no doubt, very alike. I also feel that Chandra will play a bigger role in things to come.
The writing style was also good and the editing well done. I commend the writer for starting this exciting series and admit that I am now committed to finding out what happens next.
Verdict:
I genuinely loved the book and I rate it a 4/5 stars. Will definitely pick it up again just before the release of the second part, so that I am all refreshed and ready to delve into the politics of Magadha.

Pi Agency, Neelabh Pratap Singh, 2018

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Publisher: Self-published
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 313
Blurb:
Rashmi Purohit is a failed CBI aspirant. With no future in Indian law enforcement, she turned to working alongside the law. Now running her own agency out of her claustrophobic basement, Rashmi is dying for a notable case and a big break.
A wealthy entrepreneur with a troubled, drug-addicted son seems like the perfect client. But when Rashmi and her impetuous, barely-competent employees stumble into a Dark Web-based investment conspiracy, the detective knows she has kicked a hornet’s nest. Rashmi might just solve the case – but only if it doesn’t kill her, destroy her agency, or make her betray her father’s legacy one last time.
My Review:
The book was a gripping story, nail-biting and nerve-wrecking at multiple instances. The concept was really unique and the concept itself was not something that I have ever come across before. The gradual flow towards the climax and then the subsequent descent to the denouement was knee-jerking without being abrupt.
The characters were well—built too. We could see different aspects of their lives- Rashmi with her hidden and suppressed feelings of hatred and guilt, Diksha with her frustration, and Akshay with his resourcefulness. The bond of friendship which kept them together was also well shown, especially the dependence they had on each other.
I like the themes that are there in the book- the main among which is, addiction and its effects on our youth today. The other theme, of the ease, which the internet has provided us, is also a thought-invoking one.
The cover was something else that I liked as well. Faces on book covers is a personal preference and so it’s not surprising that I loved it. The dark and eeriness with the grain effect also gave a mysterious vibe and conveyed the utter essence of the story. However, at times, I felt like the author used too many technical and boring dialogues, including many jargons. Apart from this one point, I did not find any problems with this story.
Verdict:
Definitely a must-read for beginners in the mystery genre. I rate it a 4/5 stars. This is a book that will definitely entertain you!