Tag Archives: book recommendations

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.

Poetry that rocks! Swallowtail and Atticus!

The Dark Between Stars, Swallowtail

Hey guys! So today I have two poetry recommendations for you. I read both poetry collections recently and I adored them for their raw individuality.

Swallowtail by Brenna Twohy

Swallowtail: A deep dive into the dissection of popular culture, and how the brightness and horrors of it can be mirrors into the daily lived experiences of women in America.

Swallowtail by Brenna Twohy was a great read. The most prominent themes include loss, grief, and coping. The words penned by the author, though burgeoning with the grief of a broken heart, are poignant and resonates with the deepest sadness in the reader. Rape culture has also been addressed here and it is stark in its imagery and leaves the reader gasping. Pop Culture References from Survivor as well as Harry Potter have also been brought in.

I absolutely loved it and rated it 4/5 stars! Including here, links to Amazon, Goodreads

Poetry by Atticus

I admit I like THE DARK BETWEEN STARS much more than I did LOVE HER WILD. This one does not only revolve around love but also delves into the deeper themes of self-love, etc. There is a certain dichotomy and duality with both the happiness and the sadness that trouble us. In this collection, the poet writes about falling in love, being in a relationship with someone, and then the aftermath of a breakup as well. He includes scenes from Paris, Jazz clubs, wines, sunsets, etc. Thus the whole collection is a sensory experience that is experienced wholeheartedly by the reader. As such, it is as if the reader is in the moment, experiencing this whole slew of emotions and the beauty lives on.

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Recommended poetry reads:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies
  2. The Octopus Curse
  3. Walk With Wings
  4. Unlocked Silences, Ease

An Atmospheric Thriller: Impossible Causes

Impossible Causes by Julie Mayhew
Impossible Causes by Julie Mayhew

Impossible Causes was an atmospheric thriller and it was one hell of a ride, and when I first picked it up, I had not expected it to take the turn that it had.

Atmospheric setting

The whole idea of a secluded island with a tightly knit religious community was very interesting, hence, no wonder I pounced on it as soon as I could. However, I have to admit that the synopsis did not do justice to the actual story.

Check out my review for The Silent Patient

The atmospheric world-building

The world-building, so to say, was on point and could give you goosebumps because of its excellence, and the book has an atmospheric feel. The fogs on the island made me feel claustrophobic and such was the imagery presented by the author.

Check out the thrilling The Millenium Trilogy

Shifting timelines

We have two-time lines – one is the current one where we follow Viola after the ‘discovery’ of the body, and the other is a past timeline from the time of Viola’s arrival on the island; but the continuous jumps between the two timelines and the narrators were a bit abrupt and took me by surprise. It took some time for me to get used to that.

Check out my review of The Third Mrs. Durst!

Pace

 The beginning was a bit slow and I had to push myself; however, contrarily, I was hooked on in a strange way. The thing was that in the beginning, there were bits, which were unnecessary and yet, I kept reading on because I wanted to resolve the entire issue. In was only towards the latter half that I was actually on the edge of my seat trying to wonder where it was going. For all the hype, I think that this book falls short and I wasn’t that very excited to know much about the actual death, but apart from these issues, I think the story was well made.

Themes

The book covers themes such as secrecy, the power of voice, collective conscience, rape culture, misogyny, sexism, etc. The way in which the author has written the plot to encompass the universal issues that plague us was mind-blowing. The themes were excellent. I could not really guess what was happening until quite a bit past from the midway point.

Overall, it was quite an interesting read and I rate it 3.75/5 stars.

Links to get this book!

  1. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Impossible-Causes-Julie-Mayhew/dp/1408897024/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1574056956&sr=8-1
  2. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40653128-impossible-causes

NonFiction November Recommendations!

Nonfiction November is here and I have got some amazing nonfiction recommendations for you all! I hope you all have a blast reading these books!

nonfiction november
NonFiction November recommendations

Reading nonfiction is hard!

I feel like 2019 has gone by so fast. November is here; half of it is already gone and it is only now that I am making the #nonfictionnovember recommendations post! I know from personal experience that reading this genre can be quite intimidating for some of us. But for those of you who read non-fiction very often, I applaud you!

How to ease into this genre

Since easing into this genre may take some getting used to for many of us, I decided to compile a list of some non-fiction reads, which do not really read as such. So without further ado, here are some books I have read and some that are on my radar!

Craft!

Embroidered Life: The Art of Sarah K. Benning – a splendidly created coffee table book, Embroidered Life follows the work process of Benning. Benning is a self-taught embroidery artist nad this book is a wonderful book to leaf through. If you are looking for something creative to pick up to while the harsh winter months away, this might just be the book for you. I for one, am currently working on an embroidery project of my own, which I hope to complete and show you all soon! (Goodreads)

Sci-fi!

Lost Transmissions: Science Fiction and Fantasy’s Untold, Underground and Forgotten History – a book which I am absolutely thrilled to pick this month is this insightful behemoth. It is rightly regarded as the bible of science fiction and fantasy’s most interesting and least-known chapters.   I have very high hopes for this mixture of essays, interviews, and stunning visuals! (Goodreads)

Memoirs!

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay’s searingly honest memoir of food, weight, and self-image has been described as being intimate, vulnerable, and bracingly candour. Having read excerpts of Bad Feminist, I am pretty excited to see how this much-acclaimed memoir will be for me. (Goodreads)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. I decided that no matter what I write could trump this brilliant description of the King’s book. I have yet to read any of his books so I think I will change that situation by picking up this one. (Goodreads)

I’m Not Here to Give a Speech – Garcia Marquez is already a much well-acclaimed author. And I think it is an ironically named book! This is his collection of speeches span from his high school days to his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. If you have not yet read any of Marquez’s words, perhaps this could be great for you to start with. (Goodreads)

Important works!

City of my Heart – a 4 star read for me, this book is a translation of four texts that talk about Dilli (or Delhi, as it is now known), following the downfall and the fate of royalty following the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, with the capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar. (Goodreads)

I am Malala and We Are Displaced – Malala is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the fact that I have yet to read her books, meant I just had to get to them this month. Both of these two books are a conglomerate of the global issues of terrorism, the utter destruction it causes to the innocents of lives all around, immigration crisis, etc. It also speaks of the displacement issue that crops up with it,  war, the refugee situation, border conflict, etc.

Feminist works!

Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More and Live Bolder – a 5 star read that I’d recommend to all! It was a fundamental and impactful read that I loved. It talks about the unexplainable need for perfectionism (which is prevalent in all of us), albeit a bit more obsessively in girls. Please pick up this book! It would be a shame if we fail to read it and realize the way most of us limit ourselves. (Goodreads)

Feminist Rani – Can I brag that I have already met the author and got this signed? Shamefully, I haven’t read it yet! Perhaps there is no better time than this November! It shares the stories of 15 women – women who have strived to fight for their own rights to stand as equals to men. They talk of issues such as identity, the need for the realization of selfhood, etc. (Goodreads)

A few other recommendations!

Some other books I could recommend are Becoming (I personally think all schools should make this a compulsory read), Soliloquy of a Small-town Uncivil Servant, Girl Power, Between You And Me, etc. You can also check out Can You Die of a Broken Heart?, Kashmir’s Untold Story, The Case that Shook the Empire, The Intelligence Trap, etc.

Please don’t forget to comment below and recommend the nonfiction books that you have read as well.

A memoir: Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant is a non-fiction read, almost a memoir, by the author, in a manner not unlike that of Shashi Tharoor.

Soliloquy of a Small Town Uncivil Servant
Soliloquy of a Small Town Uncivil Servant

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own and are in no way influenced.

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant as a memoir

Written in the first-person narrative, Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant is a non-fiction read, that to be honest, reads more like fiction. It is almost a memoir of the author in a quite wordy manner.

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant: In the likes of Shashi Tharoor

With an interesting plotline (if once can call it that), the words are interspersed with quite big and sophisticated words that may intimidate the occasional reader. That is not to say that the voice is not a refreshing one. It is rather frank and underlined with witticisms.

The content

The author has included many anecdotes from his life – what with it being named a soliloquy. He has also provided a long glimpse into his past. Including both the good and bad, the author has written how various incidences have shaped him and led him towards the path he ultimately chose. Relaying his thoughts on various social evils and such wrongs, the writing is also filled with certain life lessons, without being preachy.

Click here to check out my review for You Will Be Safe Here, a book that was inspired by true events.

The writing

With a steady pace and somewhat chronological period, the story-like writing follows the author from his childhood days up to his adulthood. However, I would not say that the narrative is completely linear and I personally liked that. Both humorous and funny at the same time, the book seems to be an intimate telling of this person’s life. It shows him as a man like us, with both his faults and strengths and in this way successfully portrays him as a man we can relate it.

Why it was only a 3.5 read for me

Something that changed for me towards the end – what I found refreshing at the beginning started to feel a bit forced towards the end. The use of superfluous words started to feel a bit irksome and I found myself skimming a bit towards the end. Nonetheless, it was an okay read overall. I rate this 3.5/5 stars.

Buy the book on Amazon

Update your reading on Goodreads

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

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

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

Fantastic cover:

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

Pre-order goodies:

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

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

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

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

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

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

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

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

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

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

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

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

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Readathon!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or more specifically, The Millennium Trilogy has been an international bestseller and very well renowned. I’ve had the first three books as hard copies for quite a few years now, although I have still not read them yet. However, the synopses of these books have been very intriguing to me.  Moreover, David Lagercrantz has done a continuation of the series, and after hearing all the amazing things about them as well, I decided to pick them up. Of course, the fact that Hachette was coming out with the sixth book The Girl Who Lived Twice, was another major force that pushed me towards this decision. I really am thankful to Hachette for sending me a copy of the latest book!
So without beating around the bush, let me announce that I will be doing a major month-long readathon (23rd September to 23rd October) of this series. You all are welcome to join me.

I have started reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I am really liking the story so far. I am intrigued to see how the author plans to intertwine all the various narratives. I am including the synopsis of all 6 books in this post so, do swipe down to check them out. As far as I know, they are all standalones as well so you can join in even if you have just one or two books from the series. 

#qotd : any specific thriller books you want to pick up next?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption. An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

The Girl Who Played With Fire: Part blistering P thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposé on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy. Lisbeth Salander – the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels – lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web: She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution. Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . . The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye: From the author of the #1 international bestseller The Girl in the Spider’s Web: the new book in the Millennium series, which began with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander – the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others – has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And nothing will stop her – not the anti-Muslim gang she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the deadly reach from inside the Russian mafia of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudo-scientific experiment known only as The Registry. Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

The Girl Who Lived Twice: The sixth in the Millennium series featuring THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

"What will you do now?"
"I shall be the hunter and not the hunted"

The girl with the dragon tattoo is finally ready to confront her nemesis, the only woman who is evidently and in many ways her match. Salander will not wait to be hunted. When she strikes it will be a double blow: vengeance for recent atrocities, and the settling of lifelong scores. For months now Salander has been closing in on her target. She has moved from Stockholm, her hair is newly styled, her piercings are gone. She could pass for any other businesswoman. But not all businesswomen have a Beretta Cheetah beneath their jacket. They do not wield the lethal power of a hacker’s genius. They do not carry scars and tattoos to remind them that they have survived the unsurvivable. The new episode in David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed, internationally bestselling continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series is a thrilling ride that scales the heights of Everest and plunges the depths of Russian troll factories. It begins with the discovery of Mikael Blomkvist’s number at Millennium magazine in the pocket of an unidentified homeless man who died with the name of a government minister on his lips. Blomkvist, at extreme risk to himself, tracks down his old friend and will protect her as far as he can. But he is powerless to crush her enemies on his own. And for Lisbeth Salander, the personal is always political – and deadly.

Reign of Mist and War of Mist reviews!

Hey guys ! So if you remember, sometime back I reviewed Heart of Mist, book 1 of the Oremere Chronicles. I had rated that book 5/5 stars, with opes to pick up the sequels ASAP! And today, here are the reviews for book 2 and 3 of one of my favourite fantasy series of all time now!

Reign of Mist, 2018

Title: Reign of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 441

Synopsis:

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

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

My love for this series seriously continues and it was proved by the fact that I finished book 2 in a day as well! Reign of Mist is the second instalment in the Oremere Chronicles and I picked up this book as soon as I had finished the first one – Heart of Mist. The mysteries continued to gnaw at me and the amazing world-building of the new setting was spellbinding.

We see themes of animal abuse, courage in the face of hardships (which is an admittedly a repeated theme throughout the series, I suppose), human fear, greed, torture etc. Sisterhood is another theme that runs throughout the novel and it is one I completely adored. This bond that is formed among many of the female characters in the novel was great to read and explore, as varying facets were revealed.

The truth about Dash’s heritage came as a shock. I had truly not expected it and was therefore hit by this barrelling force, right at the face. Swinton’s story is delved into in this novel and this aspect of his past really made me see him as a human and not just a killing machine of the king. His character has become so much more dynamic and I can only wait with baited breath as to what the author has got up her sleeves. Besides, his budding romance with Therese is beautiful and I hope to read more of it. On the other hand, we see some very twisted characters – Ines and Langdon, some sadistic ons, who relish hurting others. The plague can also be seen as another character in itself, which destroys so much more than it reveals the identity of the people.

Other characters such as Casimir and the Tailor of Heathton were well introduced and I hope to see more of their development in the next novel. I love the fun their banter provided. Casimir’s display of power was one that truly took my breath away and the writing felt real and exquisite. I felt as if I was truly in the room along with the characters.

Another thing that I love about this author’s writing was specially her ability to bring together various events whose significance had not been starkly clear earlier. For instance, when we realise it was Ethelda whom Bleak had met so long ago, it was a calming event – as if we are moving to a full circle. I also applaud the manner in which the author has been able to bring together and tie up all the loose ends to provide an explanation; it was really very welcome.

A lot of the portion in this book is about the preparation for war. Throughout the novel, we see the relationships form among all our different characters and I loved their interactions. I was so excited and anxious as everyone moved to Havenesse because their meet up was something that was completely unpredictable. And especially the long awaited meeting of the two sisters caused me quite an emotional upheaval.

Verdict:

My love for this series only seems to continue to grow. I rate this one a total 5/5 stars!

War of Mist, 2019

Title: War of Mist

Author: Helen Schuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fanatsy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 500

Synopsis:

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

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

War of Mist is the third and final installment in the Oremere Chronicles by Helen Scheuerer. I have loved and given 5 stars to the first book – Heart of Mist, as well as the second – Reign of Mist.

This book picks up from one month after Reign of Mist ends. The Prologue here itself gives us a glimpse into Ines. Her character is something very dynamic. And it is here that we are given such views of her past. As such, we see her varied personalities throughout the years and although it explains why she has become the way she is, it is never an excuse. However, it is also an unavoidable fact that trauma often shapes some of us into non desirable beings, I suppose. Ines is alluring, and that cannot be debated. Her power is like a flame that I as a reader, was utterly drawn towards.

A lot of the story in this book is told through somewhat of a treasure hunt, including Bleak, Ermias and Casimir as they put their wits together, face their monsters, share their fears and form better and deeper bonds for it. The revelation of Fi’s heritage was welcomed wholeheartedly by me. He deserves the world and I need to see more of him.

The everlasting war of morality – of good versus bad, is again portrayed here. Moreover, the theme of justice and duty is a continuing presence in this novel, as in the other ones, although nowhere has it been more pronounced. Someone rightly said that duty is the death of love. Every so often, we see the darkness take over Bleak. In my own interpretation, it is trauma and depression and I love how real it made these characters – having their own struggles. No one is perfect and yet they are all trying and not giving up. No truer words were said than when Henri had quietly claimed that life was not always black and white – so much of it is grey! No wonder we humans suffer so much and are confused at so many times!

One of the greatest character arcs in this novel is undoubtedly that of Swinton. I love him and his redemption was powerful to read about. We see him changing and growing throughout the series and in this last one, he is transformed into a wonderful man – flawed but real and accepting of these flaws, with the hope to become better. I also loved the final stand all the characters take together and the writing was great enough to give me goosebumps.

And oh my god! I did not see that coming with the ‘madwoman’!!! That was so very shocking.

PS. You just need to pick up this series!!!!!!!!!!!

With some shocking betrayals, War of Mist was a fast-paced final novel in a fantasy series that has made me a lifelong fan of the author. The suspense that the author flavours this book with, is perfect and the final result is an experience that will keep you reeling.

Verdict:

Needless to say, I loved this book too and just like the first two instalments in the Oremere Chronicles, I rate War of Mist 5/5 stars too!

What Mina Did, by Geeta Menon, 2019

Title: What Mina Did

Author: Geeta Menon

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

A single betrayal can cost you everything…

1998. Twenty-two-year-old Mina is moving to the US from Bangalore to begin a new life with her
husband. Then there’s a horrific murder and her life is turned upside down. Mina’s best friend Neelu helps her out of the abyss. Mina gradually leaves her past behind and settles into a new life in the US.

Years later, she is forced to return to India and is confronted by the demons from her past. In her fragile mental state, she is unable to support Neelu in her time of need. Their friendship hits rock bottom.
Mina goes back to the US and faces further hurdles, this time on the work front. She tries to make
amends with Neelu, but their friendship ends with Neelu accusing Mina of something unimaginable related to the murder. Something, that deep down, Mina knows is true…
Will Mina redeem herself? Will the people she loves forgive her for what she did?
Alternating between flashbacks and the present day, What Mina Did explores how one betrayal
can have catastrophic consequences, while delving into the complex bonds that link mothers and
daughters, and best friends.

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.

From the title of the book, I was very sure that it was pure thriller/crime but WHAT MINA DID is much more than that. On the surface, it deals with various aspects of one’s life – like familial, personal, friendships we maintain etc.

One of the main issues we see Mina working through is the aftermath of losing one of the most important figures of her life. Knowing that your closed one has been murdered is never easy to move on from and I am saying this from personal experience. The trauma revolving around that one incident often puts a full stop in the lives of the relatives and others affected from it. moving on seems impossible and for a long time afterwards, these people’ lives revolve around that one trauma only. This trauma forms a significant reason why Mina dos things she does and the way she does. Sometimes, it is easy to blame her for the fall out with Neelu, but on a deeper level, how can she possibly help someone else when she needs great help herself? The characterization was good and the development of Mina’s character was slow yet steadily built.

This book throws light on various issues such as anxiety, dealing with one’s own demons, mental health, with shades of patriarchy, racism etc. The social issues as well as the expectations on women regarding marriage are on point. The narrative is compelling and makes the book an emotional read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Although the beginning is a bit slow paced, the story makes up for it. I liked that the author makes it so easy to empathize with the character. The separation of the story with regards to temporal context was a great addition. However, at times I did feel that the author has generalized a lot of the issues we Indians have to deal with, as well as the cultural and traditional variations. The cover is also intriguing and suits the theme of the book I feel.  

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I rated it 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 .

Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel, 2019

Title:  Lost and Found

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 270

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I really absolutely loved every bit of this book. I laughed and cried and was sobbing at many parts. I rate this 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Book Recommendations for Father’s Day!

So tomorrow’s Father’s Day and I had compiled a list of books I could possibly gift him. I know it’s last minute, but here they are! (This article also got published in my State’s daily The Assam Tribune and my dad was very happy!)

I am not ashamed to say that no man I ever met was my father’s equal, and I never loved any other man as much. – Hedy Lamarr

Now that Father’s Day is just around the corner, I was wondering what book to give my dad (I honestly, personally, only give books as gifts to people). And so I thought why not compile a list to help you all as well. Very often we take our main man for granted and I know there are many people who say that we should love each other every day as opposed to showing it on special days only. Nevertheless, to be honest, even I do not show my love and gratitude everyday – human nature is fickle, and I am no exception. Therefore, without further ado, here is a list of books that I think would go well with our heroes.

Non-fiction

Can You Die of a Broken Heart? by Dr Nikki Stamp

I know it sounds sordid but this is one of the books I shall be gifting to mine. So very often, our fathers stress and work so much, they hardly give themselves time. Self-love sessions are rare in their schedules. So this book, which is focused on the human heart – what causes it harm and what heals it, sounds like the perfect one to gift.

Between You and Me: Flight to Societal Moksha by Atul Khanna

This book is a very nagging read and provides an insight into the political, social, educational, economic etc. spheres in today’s world. Whether you agree with the writer’s views or not, this is sure to spark questions and subsequent discussions.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book was  actually recommended to me by my grandfather and since he loved it and I enjoyed it too, I recommend this to you all as well. This is a wonderful read, full of stories from history regarding religion, culture, society etc.

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani

This is a book about women, but it is definitely a must-read for everyone. It speaks of the need that no many women have to be perfect and this prevents them from really succeeding or affects their self-esteem. I thought this was a great read and definitely recommend it to you all. Moreover, if you know any new dads, this is a definite recommendation for them as well. I think that basically all fathers with daughters should read this one.

Chicken… made simple by Love Food, an imprint of Paragon Books

If you dad is anything like mine, he will probably love this book. There are also various other cookbooks you can possibly gift your chef of a dad, but I personally have used and loved this one.

Fiction

Fortune’s Soldier by Alex Rutherford

Adventure set in Colonial India? Check. Some great bromance? Check. A quest for power? Check! Fortune’s Soldier is a great read following the events leading up to the British victory at Plassey – the prelude to a couple centuries of British rule in India.

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

A murder mystery in the mountains with a professor running against time sounds interesting. Add to that a possible variable of a grizzly gone rogue and computational biology. The Naturalist is a gripping mystery thriller that is bound to keep your old man interested from the beginning till the end.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

If your father is a Dan Brown fan, or if you think he will enjoy that author, you might opt to pick up The Book of Fate too. It has a very Dan Brown vibe and  is also already a bestseller. Moreover, if you father loves conspiracies, how does the element of the Masons included in this book, sound?

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

A witty and darkly humourous journey of a man in new India is a must-read for everyone. It is funny, but so dark and I personally rather found it inspiring at parts. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable read with just the right amount of stark reality carved in.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

It is never too late to start with Murakami. Norwegian Wood is pretty short so it might be a good place to start with and to understand if you want to continue with Murakami or not.

The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.  Antoine- Francois Prevost

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.

They Go to Sleep, by Saugata Chakraborty, 2018

Title: They Go to Sleep

Author: Saugata Chakraborty

Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Short Stories

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 102

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

This was an enjoyable read and I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Elt-Duk and the Company of Gold Hunters, by Yash Sharma, 2018

Title: Elt-Duk and the Company of Gold Hunters

Author: Yash Sharma

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 150

Synopsis:

Tigun, Misarel, and O’blame decide to embark upon the biggest hunt of their age in Elt-duk (a mystical mountain) with Tigun’s son Asto. They start out bigger and stronger than ever before, but a chance encounter with a mysterious man on their journey reveals to them that something horrible is underway at Elt-duk. An unknown terror is spread all over the Earth, and all of humanity is unaware of it. Evil is growing, angels are falling, men are confused and scattered, decisions are tough to make and makes men cry, but the angels say, Let men try. With the agreement for the hunt survive? They only wished to hunt for gold, but this turn of events has brought them face to face with the biggest enemy himself, evil incarnate. How will they cope? Will help come in time? Elt-Duk wants its ruler and the evil is ready for It.

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.

Elt-Duk was an interesting fantasy read. I assume this is the first in a series the author intends to do. However, without giving a spoiler, I felt that the synopsis did not do justice to the story. I went in expecting a different pace, but while the story was good, it seemed only as a back-story to the events described in the synopsis.

The narrative was gripping and the mystery and adventure element was replete in the story. The author has done well in representing various types of behaviours and human values in the characters as we see such variety in their natures. For instance, the author shows the issue of friends fighting among themselves under pressure, albeit verbal. The blame game is common in our lives and the author uses it here too. Like, when O’blame and Misarel start to blame Tigun in the beginning, before the trip even starts. The themes of good over evil, bravery, war and universal and as such, I believe, easily relatable for the readers.

However, I think that perhaps the author needs to use more pronouns as the use of names for so many times makes it a bit cumbersome to read through. There are also a few grammatical errors…

Verdict:

I enjoyed reading this book and I rate it 3/5 stars.

About the author:

Yash Sharma was born in Kota, Rajasthan – the city renowned for its medical & engineering studies, but he didn’t follow suit. Instead, he choose commerce and carved out his path in this field, not wanting to continue with Maths and Science as his subjects of study. He has been working in the real-estate sector for the past five years, but has gained experience in various domains and areas of work before, not wanting to be tied down to just one.
He loves outdoor sports, football being his favourite. He holds a special interest for writing and has penned down multiple short stories and poems before.

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 .

Rituals, by Lorcan Black

Title: Rituals

Author: Lorcan Black

Illustrated by: Tim Durham

Publisher: April Gloaming

Publishing date: 31 May, 2019

Genre: Poetry/Arts and Photography

Format: E-arc

Language: English

Synopsis:

In the search for truth, for meaning, for purpose, Black’s poetry illuminates the wonder in all of us. With petrifying portrayals of mental institutions, doctors, nurses, Egyptian mythos, all intertwined in a mixture of natural visions and harbors, this collection fortifies our nature to hunt for a life worth living.

The ritualistic aspects are dismal, at best, and speak to the monotony of the modern world and that hopeless feeling of being part of the herd. Readers will find themselves clawing their way through the muck and grime of the everyday, finding that maybe only love can save them, or at least, the hope for love.

My review:

I received a review copy from the Netgalley in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Please do keep an open mind while reading my review – everybody interprets different texts differently.

“Pale stars wink jealousies at my feet and I walk godly.” Lorcán Black’s Rituals is the restless, roaming lovechild of Neruda and Trakl, with some fiery genetic material borrowed from Plath, as well. These poems walk toward and through wreckage at once ordinary and surreal—a family, an asylum, a body learning fraught desires, the “eerie / whiteness” of Antarctica, and a “window suck[ing] its slice of moon / in the mirror of its mouth.” Piercing in its vulnerability, this book often achieves a magical authority at the same time. Black dares to speak in the voice of a sorcerer, an oracle, a god: “Watch: I shall the call the elements, / I shall cast sacrilegious circles in sand.” This is a collection of dark yet gleaming marvels. – Chen Chen.

I recently read Rituals by Lorcan Black and I was blown away by his writing. There is an ethereal undertone to all of the poems and it gives a magical effect to the entire narrative. The poet talks on various issues like innocence, religious supremacy, judgmental attitudes, forgiveness, of mental health and illness, suicide and self-harm, of being trapped inside one’s own mind, our changing personalities, war and its effects, gender roles, motherhood and parenthood as a whole, about the unknown, etc. Among all the poems, there is such a vast diversity in the themes that I believe each reader will take away something from reading them. There is a unique writing style and coupled with the unique lines, I think this is a beautiful collection – utterly profound and deep. I shall surely be returning to this one again.  And I recommend this one anyone – fans of Neruda, Trakl, Sylvia Plath, and Shirley Jackson definitely go for this one.

Verdict:

I rate this one 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 .

You Will be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, 2019

Title: You Will be Safe Here

Author: Damian Barr

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Advanced Reading Copy

Language: Language

No. of pages: 352

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

An extraordinary debut that explores legacies of abuse, redemption, and the strength of the human spirit–from the Boer Wars in South Africa to brutal wilderness camps for teenage boys.

South Africa, 1901. It is the height of the second Boer War. Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred are forced from their home on Mulberry Farm. As the polite invaders welcome them to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp they promise Sarah and Fred that they will be safe there.

2014. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider. Hoping he will become the man she wants him to be, his Ma and her boyfriend force Willem to attend the New Dawn Safari Training Camp where they are proud to make men out of boys. They promise that he will be safe there.

You Will Be Safe Here is a powerful and urgent novel of two connected South African stories. Inspired by real events, it uncovers a hidden colonial history, reveals a dark contemporary secret, and explores the legacy of violence and our will to survive. 

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.

I absolutely loved reading YOU WILL BE SAFE HERE. This is a poignant story that really touched my heart and I have changed after reading it. There are 4 parts in the story.

The first part is written in an epistolary format – in the form of a diary. The ton of Sarah van der Watt is so tragic. I found – not overtly so, but in its undercurrent – I could feel it as I read – Sarah’s knowledge that the need of her world as she knew it, was near. Things would greatly change and it is as if she is deliberately and often times forcefully trying to be cheerful – why not enjoy the last few days before all hell breaks loose?

Some lines I liked were –

“There is strangely little to do now but wait.”

During this period of the second Boer War, the Kaffirs were freed by the English. The resulting chaos was a great scar on the lives of so many people – both whites and blacks. I was also pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the people – specifically Sarah van der Watt and basically everyone else.  It also talks about the feminine issues – both social, and historical – the suppression of women and the masculine power play over them, their objectification, etc.  I also loved that Samuel, the husband had been such a supportive husband to Sarah, as we learn from the diary entries. Later on, the entries make you cry – just reading of the utter inhuman situations that they, along with so many other people were subjected to. The flashback method was also great and gives great depth to the story.

One thing that I really enjoyed was the inclusion of the literary references. It made the text very relatable to the reader, as it surely did for me! 

Throughout all the different parts, the Southern Cross is a recurring motif. I interpreted it as an objective correlative for the concepts of hope and strength that it bestowed on the different characters. The use of regional words at certain places give a certain authenticity to the text and a sense of reality.

In part 2, Willem says “They wouldn’t understand, they never understand” which I think resonates among so many teenagers, when thinking of adults and authority figures.

One of the major themes that I saw throughout Part 2 is that of toxic masculinity. For instance, seeing Willem cry in desperation once, Jan had turned away – after all, boys do not cry. We also see domestic abuse scenario in this part.

Later, when Willem is at the camp and Rayna misses him. She understands that at the camp he would be forced to do what they have wanted him to do always – things that other boys do generally. “It’s these markers of his willingness to try that break her heart”.

 I really loved Rayna’s character. She is the epitome of an independent and hardworking woman. When Irma accuses her saying she could never “keep a man” Rayna says, “I never needed one… Maybe I wanted one, sometimes but I never needed one. Not like you” and that is such a powerful sentiment. Rayna is an inspiring woman just as Sarah.

Verdict:

This is one of the best books I have read in my life, let alone in 2019. I rate it a 5/5 stars and will definitely be picking it up again.

About the author:

‘Maggie & Me’ is my memoir and ‘You Will Be Safe Here’ is my first novel (out in April 2019). You can follow me on twitter @damian_barr and insta @mrdamianbarr. I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy: www.theliterarysalon.co.uk

‘Maggie & Me’ is my memoir of surviving small-town Scotland in the Thatcher years. It won Sunday Times Memoir of the Year: “Full to the brim with poignancy, humour, brutality and energetic and sometimes shimmering prose, the book confounds one’s assumptions about those years and drenches the whole era in an emotionally charged comic grandeur. It is hugely affecting.” BBC Radio 4 made it a Book of the Week. Following Jeanette Winterson in 2012, Stonewall named me Writer of the Year 2013.

I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy. Guests include: Jojo Moyes, Bret Easton Ellis, John Waters, Mary Beard, James Frey, David Nicholls, Colm Toibin, Taiye Selasi, Susan Calman, David Mitchell and Rose McGowan. Do enjoy our podcast!

Commended as Columnist of the Year, I’ve also been a journalist for over a decade writing mostly for The Times but also the Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Guardian, Evening Standard and Granta. I’m currently a columnist for the Big Issue and High Life. My first book, based on a Times column, was published by Hodder in 2005. ‘Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis’. I’ve also co-written two plays for Radio 4 and appeared on PM, Midweek, Broadcasting House and Today as well as The Verb and presented on Front Row. I live in Brighton with my partner and our intensely demanding chickens.

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 Priory of the Orange Tree, by samantha shannon, 2019

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

No. of pages: 825

Recommended for: Lovers of fantasy – especially if you want to start with adult fantasy.

Synopsis:

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. 

My review:

I got an ARC of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The Priory of the Orange Tree is a massive book – with more than 800 pages, at first glance it tends to intimidate the reader, but once one starts reading it, there is nothing that can hold him back from flipping the pages.

I am absolutely happy that I read this book – it was a thrilling ride and I for one, loved every bit of it. I read The Priory of the Orange Tree along with my bestie @per_fictionist and you can see her review here: https://bewitchingwords.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/review-the-priory-of-the-orange-tree-by-samantha-shannon/

The world created by Shannon in this high-fantasy novel is as vast and powerful as that of any other ones every created. The author has painted a world with her own magical pen, and rendered the reader speechless. In this divided world, there are various people – those of the West hate all wyrms, not distinguishing the good ones from the bad ones, while the people in the East, worship them. it is from these two opposing sides that we see the protagonists – Tane is from the East, an aspiring dragon-rider, and Ead Duryan is from the West, tasked with protecting the Inysh Queen, Sabran, who is the last in her line. What makes the world so rich is the effort the author has put in, and given such depth – there are so many myths and legends among these people, that it is as if you as the reader are living it, and learning about their rules and customs.

The author has portrayed the female inter-relationships beautifully. It is nice to see these women, strong in their own rights, support and help each other. Everyone has a demon and everyone suffers alone, but again, each of them are string women who do not give up – they are selfless, young but idealistic. They make mistakes, but are not afraid to accept them and learn from them. Seeing as how fantasy is in such demand right now, I see this as something really powerful for the author to have done – women empowerment starts from among the women themselves.

Another amazing representation is the lesbian relationship which I perceived as the major romantic relationship among the various others.  This representation is impressive – from not knowing of one’s sexual orientation to realizing it and accepting it fully despite what society thinks, to being confused to following rules set by society, the novels covers a myriad of aspects.  

Speaking of characters, I have to admit that I also share Gayatri’s feelings regarding Sabran – at first I was just as different towards her, for she seemed like any other pampered royal, unknowing of the harsh reality of the world. But her character arc, as the novel goes on, is definitely very noticeable and all of this makes her human and thus, very much relatable to the reader. She suffers, both due to internal and external reasons, but it is all overshadowed by her truest desire to help her people and be a good queen to them.

Eadaz du Zala Uq Nara, or Ead Duryan as she is rather known, is a member of the Priory of the Orange Tree, assigned to protect the Berethnet queen, Sabran IX. Her relationship with the queen is dynamic and changes as the story progresses.  

Tane is also another woman who grows throughout. A Seiikinese from the East, her greatest desire is to be a dragon rider. It is also through her dragon Nayimathun, that we get the closest glimpse to these magical and awe-inspiringly majestic creatures.

Apart from these three women, Margaret Beck, sister to Arteloth Beck (who is friend to both Ead and Sabran), is a wonderful woman. Always supportive of her friends, she is not afraid to go into the midst of war to do her share in helping the wounded and also, for the betterment of the future of course. The male leads are also very modern – they are spportive and can accept these bold women as their equals without being intimidated. They also made me admire them. Loth and Kit were two amazing men. I will miss what Kate and Kit might have been. The author has truly done an amazing job with the characters and made the entire read an utter delight.

The fantasy element – with the Eastern dragons, the wyrms, Fyredel and his siblings and of course The Nameless one, the story reads like magic too. The issue of immortality, the three trees, and the unsettling yet amazing family histories are all crazy and yet make up the backbone of the story. The other theme of politics is also intriguing and absolutely captures the reader’s attention.

The altering narratives were not at all abrupt – the writing is done with fluidic grace and one just glides through. However, I felt that the end was rushed through – that the denouement was reached without much struggle.

Verdict:

It was an amazing book. I took exactly 5 days to complete it. With its beautiful and page-turning churn of action, high fantasy, romance, and politics, I rate this book 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 Stalker, by Sandeep Sharma, 2019

Title: The Stalker

Author: Sandeep Sharma

Publisher:  Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 135

Recommended for: 16+

Synopsis:

Randhir Kamat, a name famous for his regular mentions on page 3, was being stalked on social media by a girl named Deepali. He took it casually and enjoyed the attention from media but soon things went on to become ugly when his girlfriend, Rupali, started receiving death threats. 
Keeping everything on stake, Randhir chose to involve the police to catch the Stalker. Inspector Suraj, started digging in and soon found that ‘Here everyone’s a liar’. 
Whom to trust? 
Whom to blame? 
There were no answers, just one question. 
How far will you go for the sake of your dream?

My review:

  1. A psychological thriller that is full of various twists and turns.
  2. A short and engaging read.
  3. Can be finished in one sitting.
  4. Fast paced and quite a page-turner.
  5. The language is simple.
  6. However it needs work – there are a few grammatical mistakes.
  7. Editing can also be done on this book.
  8. It is also a typical movie-like story – and reads as such.
  9. The inclusion of modern entertainment media like web-series etc. makes it relatable.
  10. I haven’t seen the stalker concept in contemporary Indian works yet and this was a great surprise.
  11. The themes of power, popularity, jealousy, success, etc. are all well explored and well-portrayed.
  12. Rupali, Deepali, Randhir, Devendra, Inspector Suraj etc. were all multi-faceted with great depth, thus making them quite the round characters.
  13. Overall, it was a fast-paced read and was enjoyable.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Sandeep Sharma is an Amazon bestselling author of The Coin. He has also written Let the Game begin, Hey Dad! Meet my mom and Just a few lies that sold around 10000 copies collectively.

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 Full Circle, Namrata Gupta, 2018


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

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

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