Tag Archives: book review

Circles and Squares: A Novel of a biography

Today I am sharing my thoughts on CIRCLES AND SQUARES, a book on the Hamstead Modernists who were indispensable in the Avant-Garde Art Movement.

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog posts also contain a review copthat was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

Circles and Squares
Circles and Squares, by Caroline MacLean
synopsis

Hampstead in the 1930s. In this peaceful, verdant London suburb, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson have embarked on a love affair – a passion that will launch an era-defining art movement.

In her chronicle of the exhilarating rise and fall of British Modernism, Caroline Maclean captures the dazzling circle drawn into Hepworth and Nicholson’s wake: among them Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Herbert Read, and famed émigrés Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, and Piet Mondrian, blown in on the winds of change sweeping across Europe. Living and working within a few streets of their Parkhill Road studios, the artists form Unit One, a cornerstone of the Modernist movement which would bring them international renown.

Drawing on previously unpublished archive material, Caroline Maclean’s electrifying Circles and Squares brings the work, loves and rivalries of the Hampstead Modernists to life as never before, capturing a brief moment in time when a new way of living seemed possible. United in their belief in art’s power to change the world, her cast of trailblazers radiate hope and ambition during one of the darkest chapters of the twentieth century. 

my review

CIRCLES AND SQUARES was more of a biography of some very iconic Modernists, wrapped in a novel format. As a person who is not especially fond of biographies, I thought this now was actually done quite well. The narrative blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction, and the reader is left waiting on the various events and escapades (sometimes scandalous) of these people.

I also loved the inclusion of the pictures – it felt like I was reading about people who are alive. The touch is reality is always kept tangible via the photographs. I quite enjoyed this book and I think any Art History Major would love to have this book!

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AHALYA: A Feminist Retelling

Today I am sharing my thoughts on AHALYA, a feminist retelling of Ahalya, one of the Pancha Kanyas in Indian mythology.

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(This blog posts also contain a review copthat was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

Ahalya, by Koral Dasgupta
Ahalya, by Koral Dasgupta
synopsis

It is known that Ahalya was cursed by her husband, Gautam, for indulging in a physical relationship with Indra. But is there another story to Ahalya’s truth? Who was Indra anyway? A king? A lover? A philanderer? The first book of the Sati series, Ahalya hinges on these core questions, narrating the course of her life, from innocence to infidelity.

In the Sati series, Koral Dasgupta explores the lives of the Pancha Kanyas from Indian mythology, all of whom had partners other than their husbands and yet are revered as the most enlightened women, whose purity of mind precedes over the purity of body. The five books of the Sati series reinvent these women and their men, in the modern context with a feminist consciousness.

my review

Ahalya was a fairly new take on a character who has unfortunately not been explored much – and to the extent that, her story is often relegated to the backseat. I admit I myself first was truly intrigued by her when Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explored her characteristics and actions in THE FOREST OF ENCHANTMENTS, another feminist retelling of the Ramayana, from the female (Sita’s) gaze. Prior to that my knowledge of Ahalya was limited to what I knew of her thanks to all the stories I had listened to, growing up.

Initial thoughts

When I came to know about this book, thanks to PAN MACMILLAN INDIA, I was very excited to read it and delve deeper into her story. Unfortunately, this was an overhyped read, and although I enjoyed it, I am afraid it fell short of what I was expecting. I felt that this book was very philosophical in a way (overtly so) and it was the one thing that I was not extremely fond of.

Redeeming factors

However, I also cannot deny that it is due to this wordplay the author uses, that the utter beauty of the prose was rendered. There is a fantastic intertwining of the philosophies of life along with Ahalya’s own growth. This is the contradiction at the heart of it – while I did not particularly like the philosophizing much, I shudder to think what the narrative would have been like without this lyrical and poetic hand that the author has used.

Realism

The characters have also all been really humanized – no one is really good or bad. They are humans (although admittedly with some godly qualities) like us, and therefore not entirely black or white. There is so much of the gray area in their beings. I felt really touched by the insecurities and fears that hindered them in their pursuit of growth and knowledge. After all, isn’t that what happens with us too?

It is a wonderful undertaking by the author and I look forward to the other works in this series. I rate it 3.5/5 stars.

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THE LONELINESS OF HIRA BARUA: Translated Work

Today I am sharing my thoughts on THE LONELINESS OF HIRA BARUA, a collection of Assamese short stories that ooze the essence of my beautiful motherland Assam.

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The Loneliness of Hira Barua, by Arupa Patangia Kalita
The Loneliness of Hira Barua, by Arupa Patangia Kalita
synopsis

Hira Barua, an ageing widow living in a conflict-ridden region of Assam with her beloved Tibetan spaniel fears she is beginning to resemble a lonely Englishwoman from her past. A vicious sexual assault by the invading military drives a group of women into a shelter home. On a fateful night, a group of prostitutes make an extraordinary sacrifice for the safety of their companions.

In these, and thirteen other piercing, intimate portraits, women navigate family, violence, trauma, ambition and domesticity with caution, grace and a quiet resilience.

Originally published as Mariam Austin othoba Hira Barua, this remarkable collection by one of Assam’s finest living writers won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2014. In this brilliant English translation, Arupa Patangia Kalita’s powerful voice is brought to fresh and vivid life. Written in a variety of styles, from gritty social realism, folklore to magical realism, The Loneliness of Hira Barua is a modern classic of Indian literature. 

my review

The Loneliness of Hira Barua is a collection of 15 short stories by Arupa Patangia Kalita. It was translated from the original Assamese মৰিয়ম আষ্টিন অথবা হীৰা বৰুৱা, by Ranjita Biswas. It is a collection of tales set in the beautiful land of Assam and a wonderfully visual one at that. Thank you to PanMacmillan India for sending me a copy of this amazing collection!

The Women in these Stories

At the core, these stories all revolve around women in various stages of life – young Mainao, the outspoken and righteous Surabhi Barua, married Nibha-Bou, to Kuntibala who showers love blindly upon her son, Brinda khuri, and ending with the eponymous Hira Barua. Along with the diversity in their ages, these women face various problems and Biswas’s translation sets a beautiful motion for the storytelling. The reader is ensnared by this lyrical and poetic writing, which is often interspersed with these various serious and sometimes tragic issues.

Themes

These women all face oppression in different ways – from archaic rules of society, and the patriarchal bonds that clip their wings, to blind emotions that bind them and make them blind to some perhaps not so right things. These stories deal with the militancy that once ravaged the state and at the same time, the loneliness that grips so many people especially in the late stages of their life.

It is also because of these serious topics that reading this collection was an intense affair for me. I would put it down and take a break for a while because my heart would break reading these stories. But then I would always go back to it because such is the allure of this beautiful collection of store. There is an astounding depiction of my dear motherland. Assam and her beauty are unfurled as if Bohagi has let open her voluminous hair leaving behind a beautiful aroma.

The Loneliness of Hira Barua, Books-as-Outfits Challenge
The Loneliness of Hira Barua, Books-as-Outfits Challenge

Overall, I loved this book and am surely going back to rereading it soon! 5/5 stars! Check out my Youtube reading vlog for this book here.

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Hex: A Dark Academia and Witchy crossover!

Hex, by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight, was an astonishingly original and sensual book, with bountiful imagery.

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

I received an arc of this book from Bloomsbury. All opinions expressed are my own.

my review

A contemporary stream of consciousness

I admit towards the first like 50pages of the book I was rather scatterbrained and it took me some time to get into this quirky, yet what I now consider a contemporary form of an academic stream of consciousness, writing style. That is to say, it grew on me. The fourth wall felt like it was being broken down, but then the reader realizes that it is Joan who is being addressed by Nell. However, as one reads and delves into this terrific narrative, one cannot wonder but think if some of the words are directed at our own cores.

A reflection of our selves?

I was not comfortable with how it started with a seemingly compulsive obsession of a Ph.D. student towards her dissertation tutor, but this book was not aimed at making you feel comfortable. It was a restless read and it made me thoughtful and ponder over the various aspects of the life we live – be it within our own minds and hearts as apart from the life others perceive us to live.

Of balance, equilibrium and a letter to oneself

I felt that the idea of the binary or the dichotomy was very prominent here – how one thing balances the other is portrayed again and yet, subtly most, if not all of the time.
The narrator Nell is also the protagonist and the whole story is rather her compendium, a collection of notebooks where she pours out her thoughts and honestly, lives, and ponders over most of her actual living. In the beginning, when I was still getting into the narrative, I found her obsession bordering on psychotic, but as we went on, I found that it moved towards self-acceptance, so much so that in the end, we could see that the characters were finally on the right path to correct themselves or to straighten out their lives for a start.

The idea of poison and how humans can be poisonous to each other is also explored. In the beginning, I wondered and this is what I wrote in my notes, “Is Nell a poison to herself and to Joan?” I found it comforting when this idea was brought up towards the last few pages – between Joan and Nell, of how in a marriage, the person marries oneself but poisons the other. It again brings to the fore, the idea of balance and of equanimity between the two parties in the relationship (of whatever kind).

The end

While the book felt very unsettling towards the beginning I have to admit that it ended on a note of hope, with the characters finally turning over a new leaf(except maybe Barry) and at peace with themselves. I wouldn’t say I was pleased reading this book but my grey cells were thoroughly intrigued throughout, more so post the first 50 pages of the book. On that note, this is a stunningly original work. Definitely recommend as I ended up rating it 4/5 stars!

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SECRET CRUSH SEDUCTION: An ADULT ROMANCE

Secret Crush Seduction is another one of Jayci Lee’s adult romance in The Heirs of Hansol series and my love continues to grow for these characters and Jayci Lee’s writing!

Secret Crush Seduction
Secret Crush Seduction
synopsis

She’s done waiting for what she really wants. Aspiring fashion designer Adelaide Song wants to prove she’s more than just a pampered heiress. All she needs is a little courage—and the help of deliciously sexy Michael Reynolds, her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. But when her secret crush turns into an illicit liaison, Adelaide realizes mixing business with pleasure spells trouble for all her plans.

my review

Another day, another novel by Jayci Lee in the Heirs of Hansol series (or rather a night of twisting and turning in my bed as the skies turned light outside and by the time I was done reading it was literally 5.30 am outside!) and I could eat my heart out.

I read the first book in the series TEMPORARY WIFE TEMPTATION (read it if you haven’t already!) and I loved it. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to read the sequel. Also, Lee says she has finished writing the third book as well, in the Acknowledgements, and I CANNOT KEEP CALM!

Stunning fleshed-out characters

Dare I say how much I loved ADELAIDE?! She is this fiery spirit and I loved her independence, her work ethic, and her will and determination to turn her life around.

The adult romance

Also, I found this relationship VERY VERY mature. Of course, there are miscommunications but they are not for the silly reasons that are used as tropes in various romance novels and you as a reader are left screaming at the characters to JUST TALK IT OUT!!! In this book, they do talk it out and I just honestly think it is very very mature and realistic compared to most books in this miscommunication or lack of communication trope.

Amazing use of tropes or Classic Lee

Also, the friends with benefits trope, and the friends to lovers trope are very much common but Lee’s way of twisting her story into a perfect conglomeration (I use big words now after reading about this heroine who has an MBA) of romance, friendship and the huge WORK PROJECT at the core was fantastic. Dare I say that it was also a bit of an office romance?

Verdict on this amazing adult romance (it’s clear isn’t it?)

Whatever I am trying to convey with these seemingly calm (I hope) and logical paragraphs is that I love Jayci Lee’s writing and ahh!! I am so eager to read Colin’s story!! But I dread the end of this series too! Anyway, I rated it 4/5 stars!

Anyway, READ THIS BOOK IF YOU HAVEN’T (in case I haven’t made that clear so far, which I sincerely hope I have) and then ALSO READ TEMPORARY WIFE TEMPTATION!
If you need more of a push (or a kick to your behind really) read my review of TEMPORARY WIFE TEMPTATION too!

Temporary Wife Temptation
Temporary Wife Temptation
Jayci Lee Books
Jayci Lee ‘The Heirs of Hansol’ books 1&2
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Trust The Universe: A review

Trust the Universe by Dhiraj Taneja is a book that really puts forward the law of attraction. As long as you work hard and wish for something, the universe surely grants it to you.

synopsis

You are the universe.

Our strongest, most powerful connection to all the stars, the cosmos, and everything else around us that can guide us, is actually within us.
So often, when we get caught up in thinking that we need to “trust the universe,” we somehow think some external force is going to swoop into our lives and save us from all the challenges we are experiencing.

You know those moments when you tell yourself, “I just gotta trust the universe.” Whether it’s because things in your life feel chaotic or just plain overwhelming, sometimes you just know you need to surrender and learn to trust that things will work out.

In this book, the author wants to tell you that the universe indeed is a wish-granting machine. This universe literally gives you what you wish for. 

Also from the author Master the Money Game – Financial Freedom

my review
Trust the Universe

I was looking forward to picking up this book as I had previously read another one by this author ( Master the Money Game – Financial Freedom ), which was comparatively different – on finance. So, of course, I had to pick it up and see how it goes for myself.

What I learned

Here are some valuable lessons I took from this book:
1. You should always practice gratitude and the art of giving.
(This is also something that the author stressed upon in FINANCIAL FREEDOM)

2. The author also begins by talking about assets and liabilities. Having read both these two books, I found that this particular aspect of repetition dragged the flow, a bit. As such, I do think you should read this book first before you pick up FINANCIAL FREEDOM.

3. The importance of learning. As my father keeps on telling me, knowledge is like an inverted pyramid and there is no end. As such, always keep learning.

4. The author also talks about budgeting, how expenses should be lesser than income, etc. He also included some helpful debt repayment tips and tricks, which I am sure will be helpful for many.

5. Planning ahead – and I personally agree with this because having a bullet journal has really improved my life.

6. He also stresses a lot on the importance of lifestyle changes. It is very important and beneficial for us to surround ourselves with people who will inspire us and push us forward in life, instead of dragging us down.

Other aspects of the book

The author also talks about how one can grow his confidence, avoid procrastination, understanding perseverance, etc. Overall, the book is divided into concise 9 chapters, each of which delves deep into the various topics which will undoubtedly be helpful to many of the readers.
Honestly, if you are looking for some short inspirational read that instead of boring you will actually propel you forward, then definitely go ahead with this one.

What did not work for me

However, having read FINANCIAL FREEDOM, it is easy to see that the ideas he shares in that book pretty much evolved from this book itself. And as such, I found it a bit repetitive and that is where the problem came in for me. However, apart from that, I do think it was a very good book that was beneficial in its essence.

Verdict:

It was an interesting read overall and I rated it 3/5 stars!

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Youtube video review of TRUST THE UNIVERSE

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Ignited Emotions: A Poetry Collection

Ignited Emotions is a poetry collection by the book blogger Devanshi Sanghani. It is her debut collection.

Ignited Emotions
Ignited Emotions
synopsis

This book is a compilation of quotes and poetry that I have written over the years. This book is a journey of heartbreak from people leaving but also is a journey where we find ourselves in difficulty to pursue what we truly want to achieve. It is about accepting who you truly are, accepting life in its best form, and accepting the struggles that will take you to a better place. The words are meant to ignite your innermost feelings.

my review

Ignited Emotions is a little book of poetry, one that I had the pleasure of reading. Firstly, thank you for letting me read this book Devanshi and I wish you all the luck in this new sphere of your life.

The collection encompasses various short poems as well as a few long ones, a few write-ups, etc. There were also very aesthetic illustrations accompanying each piece of work. New age poetry has totally overtaken our lives especially because of the brilliant union of deep thought which are relevant today, and simple language, unlike the comparatively literary and complex ones which are admittedly still present.

The themes that were reflected in this work were those of self-acceptance, how seeking validation from others may not be the way to go, love and heartbreak, moving on, self-love, and giving oneself another chance, how self-pity is not worth it, etc. I have a few favourite ones which I shall include here.

I found that this book really tried to reinforce the idea of self-love and how it is essential in today’s world. After all, if you can’t give yourself time to heal and basically help yourself, how can you truly help someone else?

Verdict

It was a pretty good collection. There could have been a few modifications to the editing but considering it is a debut, it was pretty good. I rated it 3/5 stars.

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What a Time to be Alive: A Review

“What a Time to be Alive” by Ajay Ramanathan is a fun yet introspective poetry collection, reflective of modern society.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external forces.

what a time to be alive
what a time to be alive
synopsis

This book may make you smile or this book may make you sigh. This book may make you ponder or it may force you to surrender. This book may challenge your convictions. It may even change your mind. But in the end, this book will make you say- ‘Ah! What a time to be alive’

my review

From the very beginning “What A Time to be Alive” grabbed my attention and I was thoroughly touched, amused, introspected, was despondent, and also laughed. This is a collection of poems that are varied in their subject matter, and their seriousness (or lack thereof), but are all interconnected by the same voice which seems to the recite the poems in the same modernist detached tone, while also imperceptibly talking about emotions. 

Diversity of topics:

That is to say, I was buoyed by the sheer diversity of the range of topics of these pieces. The poet makes references to global warming, sexism, and rape culture, survival versus living, social media as a boon/bane, the resolute nature of man in the face of hardships, anxiety, modern afflictions and addictions, illusions that mock us and our desires, and so on. But then, there are also quite a few really funny poems that will make you laugh out loud and just have a good time.

My favorites!

Before we continue, here are a few of my favorite ones. They are the weird but oh-so-real kind, that as a reader who liked them, I need to question what that says about myself! So in no particular order, my favorite poems from this collection include,

  • I want to
  • Conveyor Belt
  • The Ideal Relationship
  • Just Can’t Find the Feeling
  • Bags

Writing style

The writing style, like I mentioned before is kind of at a stark contrast with the emotions the words portray. In that, I believe that author has been able to well portray the kind of modernist emotional detachment of the modernist man from his emotions. Even when he talks about these deep thoughts, the modernist man is at least superficially, if not emotionally as well, is shrouded by a layer of detachment.

There is also a rhyming scheme present at times which makes the tones and the recitation a delight to thrive in. I would recommend perhaps reciting out loud the poems for that is a different experience altogether!

Title

The title is an apt one for this collection I believe. Despite the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the poems, they are all emotions and experiences we all go through, albeit at different points in our life. In that, the author has hit the nail right on the head! I love that on one level or the other, the reader is able to connect with them, just because of this relatable nature of each of these poems.

Verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poetry collection and it is one I definitely recommend to all the readers out there. I rate it 4.5/5 stars!

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Invincible You: A Review

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external forces.

invincible you 3
invincible you 3

If you’d rather check out the Youtube video, here you go!

synopsis

Why do we avoid things that let us down? Instead, why not use that to fuel to transform ourselves? Imagine you are afraid of something. Would you rather run away from it or overcome it to get to the next level? You can either let fear scare you or you can face it and channelize it to boost you to transform. Failure is inevitable but the mindset to be invincible can make you reach your goals faster. When you are on your deathbed, what will hurt you the most? Your failures or regrets? It is better to have tons of failures in life than regrets.
This book is a phenomenal blend of description and real-life incidents to help you develop a different perspective and look at the world differently. The real-time incidents will blow your mind and compel you to think, “If this guy can do it, why can’t I?” This book will serve as fuel to drive your life invincibly. If you feel you are invisible to everyone, you are just ordinary and feel stuck in life, yet you are hungry to transform, this is the book for you. 

my review

I for one, am quite choosy when it comes to non-fiction books, especially the self-help, motivational genre. That is because quite a few books in this category come off as too preachy and simply boring. But I was in for a nice treat for INVINCIBLE YOU, by Mehmood R Shariff. Yes it is what we can call a self-help book but it is not at all preachy, and that made sure that it got my full attention in the beginning. In fact, it is quite conversational in tone, informal and very much relatable for the average person, dealing with so many issues, whether internal or external.

Themes:

The book is full of stories pertaining to the author’s childhood and the experiences he had, and although different because of the health issues, they are essentially the same – of self-doubt, negativity, low self-esteem etc. But what was different in this book is that the author is able to connect with the reader – therein lies the value of a book I think. If the author is able to connect with the reader via his writing, the words take on a different meaning entirely for the reader – it is much more beneficial and touching, in that way. His stories were also interspersed with the important experiences, which shaped him. Getting a glimpse of that was actually very informative.

Perception:

The book also talks a lot about perceptions – it is your perception that shapes you and pushes your forward (or pulls you back from succeeding). What is important is that we turn each of our failure into a learning lesson and learn from it. We also need to be positive in our outlook and that is also something the author focused on, throughout the book.

The Writing Style:

The writing style really gets to you. Early on, there is an example of the bungee jumping and I felt like I was there, waiting in line to do it! I was short of breath and so excited for it! So that is to say that the author really is able to connect with the reader. There were also inclusions of various people who made it big, as one could say, and the author included their different life stories, the difficulties they faced and how to coped with them, in order to be where they are now. Few of these people include (and I bet you have already heard of them) – Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

Also, kudos to the author for making it really systematic – the entire book was separated into 10 chapters and then further sub-divisions also broke down each subject into tiny components so that it was easier for me as a reader to take in. I really enjoyed the last bit though – the way the author differentiated between introverts, extrovert, and ambiverts, stating their advantages and disadvantages and it really made me believe that in today’s world, it might perhaps be better to be an ambivert.

Verdict:

Overall, I really found this a good and helpful read. I have acquired a few lessons from it as well, and in that, I believe the author has been successful. I rate it 4/5 stars. Read on to see the top 5 lessons I got from the book! Alternately, just watch the Youtube video to hear me elaborate on them all!

Invincible You 2
  1. Think positively! It is all about perceptions!
  2. Be original! Don’t be afraid to do YOUR thing!
  3. Have a mentor!
  4. Be self-disciplined because motivation may not always be there!
  5. Be kind and smile!

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Invincible You 1
Invincible You

April and May wrap-up! 2020 Book reviews!

Hey guys! I hope you are all doing safe. Today is day 79 in self-isolation for me and I have to say, I am doing much better than before. When I first started to isolate myself at home (March 16), I was very hopeful to us this break to read a lot and work a lot and just to b productive. However, as the days went by, they obviously took a toll. So I suppose it is not surprising that I got into a reading slump. As such, I did not read as much as I would have wanted to.

So anyway, I am going to compile a list of all the books I read during these two months. Today is just the second day of June and I am already more than 50% into my current read which is TRULY DEVIOUS by Maureen Johnson. As such, I think June might be a great reading month; let’s see. So without further ado, I’ll share the books I read in April and May, and attach any posts or videos I may have done for them.

April Books 2020

April Books 2020

Same But Different, by Holly Robinson Peete

It was an interesting book as it gave an in-depth view of living with a family member who may be autistic. I rated it 3.75/5 stars and here’s a glimpse of my raw and unedited review I wrote as soon as I finished it:

the feelings portrayed just got to me. The teenage frustration and angst have been portrayed so well.
What I understand is this: if you have a family member who is autistic, he is still your family member. It is perhaps normal and comparatively easy to write about how much you love them.
But opening up about the bad days, the days when you are angry at yourself and at each other – that is something that not everybody can do. Undoubtedly it puts you in a very vulnerable position and not everyone is ready to do that.
But I appreciate the honesty that laced these fictional albeit inspired by real people. I rated it 3.75 stars.

In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle

“You mistake love. Do you think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that does not need to be come at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.”

4/5 stars. The way the author has constructed the plot – the way the past and future are intertwined, is so cool. I never imagined that the story would end up the way it did. It was totally unpredictable and up until the very end, I was wondering how the author would tie it all up. The characters all went through great development – their arcs were just as good and that especially of Dannie. her independence becomes stronger towards the end, from the beginning when she was kind of a flat character.
The interrelationships between the characters were also very dynamic and I loved the cute and brilliant friendship of Dannie and Bella!! I finished listening to this audiobook in just a few hours and I was a mess when it ended. I had to stop and stare into the distance and digest what happened. It was a beautiful piece of art. Special thanks to Libro.fm for sharing this meaningful ALC!

The Convenient Wife, by Penny Wylder

2/5 stars. A quick romance read.

Space Struck, by Paige Lewis

4/5 stars. I could hardly believe that this poetry collection was a debut. Replete with animal imagery, this is just the collection for the times we are going through.
I loved that the poems had so much depth and weren’t superfluous (as I find many contemporary pieces can be). There are various layers of emotions, shaded with self-awareness. I also loved the harmonious union of science and nature and the urbane. Thus, it is no wonder that I rated it 4.5 stars! Special thanks to Libro.fm for sharing this meaningful ALC!

The Happy Ever After Playlist, by Abby Jimenez

5/5 stars!
OH MY GOD!
If I knew adult romances were this good, I would have picked one up sooner!
I absolutely loved this book, and thanks to Libro.fm for the ALC!

Firstly, the characters were fleshed out so so well! The characters arcs especially were some of ht most realistic that I have ever come across in contemporary novels. The way Sloan processed through her grief was really touching and felt so real, that I was sobbing my heart out at times.
But then again, with Jason came his amazing flirting and I couldn’t help but blush as he made my toes curl with his teasing! These characters just felt so so real – (you definitely have to read this book!)

The other relationships were just so good. Sloan’s friendship with her friend Christian and Josh and Oliver (I only wish we could have seen more of Oliver in the novel) was amazing. It was beautiful and as I listened to this audiobook during the Corona Virus lockdown, I felt so grateful that I had real-life friends like them to help me through. Besides the obvious romance aspect of this book, it taught me to value a lot other things I have in my life.

And how can I even forget Tucker?! Admittedly, I am quite scared of dogs but Tucker just made me wish I had one to call mine – preferably Tucker himself, but I guess you can only wish for one person from a book (and I wished for Jason, duh!)

I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend you pick it up as well!
5/5 stars!!!

Christmas With Four Firemen, by K.C. Crowne

3/5 stars. Another quick romance read.

Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk

4/5 stars!
Quite an interesting read – it is full of imagery and transports you to Istanbul. The concept of time has been well enmeshed with the imagery as well – because the reader grows up with Pamuk and sees the rise and fall of Istanbul, as it were.
Moreover, because of its autobiographical nature, it tends to be intense and heavy at times so reading it at one go is not advisable. This is rather a book to be enjoyed as you sip on your cup of tea or coffee as it purs outside. I really liked it. My only wish was that the book should have included a bit more of the author’s life.

The Night Country, by Melissa Albert

4/5 stars!
I remember reading THE HAZELWOOD last year and I simply loved it. I was sorry the book ended and was eager to know about what happened AFTER. And I finally got my answer.
Now, firstly, because of the highly atmospheric (or creepy) nature of this series, I think it is best if one listened to it as an audiobook rather than just simply read (or not – not if your scare tolerance is low).
Compared to Book1 I think it falls a bit short, to be honest. But I really do not say that with much conviction, because the overall scenarios of both these books are really different. The superb atmospheric mystery that the author imbibed both books with, more so the magic she imbibed them with, was simply fantastic. I could not have hoped for a possibly better end. I really liked how the story ended.
The juxtaposition of the different worlds and the seamless quality with which they merged with each other, was again, fantastic. I have only the best adjectives to use to describe this book. Honestly, an amazing fantasy, and a twisted modern-day dark fairytale. Do pick it up! 

After She Wrote Him, by Sulari Gentill

4.5/5 stars!

My God! This was a fantastic read. I have never before come across a novel that so well threaded together the lines of literary fiction and crime. So well did this weaving take place that I was facing a dilemma – do I hurry up and finish the book at one go (like I would for any crime novel), or do I savour it and live through it a day at a time (as I do for literary fiction). That is to say, I was torn between my love for it as a crime novel, and contrastingly as literary fiction. AFTER SHE WROTE him is a pioneer in reaching for what has never been reached out for (at least in my humble reading career). If there are more books in this particular niche, I owe it to this, my first such novel, for introducing to this world.
Literary fiction novels have the capacity to make me think and introspect quite a bit. On the other hand, I am a criminal psychologist, trying to figure out the mystery when I read crime fiction. Bringing these together was an utter delight to my mind fortress and I applaud the writer for her superb skill in doing so.
The characters are alive – they jump out of the novel right at you – both with their realistic subtlety and also with the fantastic phantasm that the author creates. I lived through Madeline and I breathed through Edward. And may I just say that this twists your mind? You are left grasping for straws as you oscillate between deciding what is real and what is not.
My only reason for rating this book a 4.5 star and taking away the 0.5 was for the ending which left me pining for a more solid end. But that is not to say that I did not like the ending – in fact, I did. It was, at the same time, more solid and real than it could ever have been. But the book transforms you and you are left, longing to be a part of the lives of these two main characters.
I have really loved this book and can only try my best to persuade you to read it soon! Please do! It is a tour de force!
Thanks to #netgalley for #AfterSheWroteHim !

Foe, by J.M. Coetzee

4/5 stars! I read this for class, and it is a sort of a retelling around Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It really questions a lot about various important aspects such as the responsibility of the author, the subalterns etc.

May Books 2020

May Books 2020

We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, by Conyer Clayton

3.75 stars
I think this poetry collection was quite good. The manner of writing was quite superior and the words used really relayed the depth of emotions that were in here. However, the major themes running throughout seem to be that of loss, death (specifically abortion), life, etc. So trigger warning for that.
However, I do have to say that the collection overall, does give out the essence of real life, more or less as one person’s life may be.
The idea of birth is really powerful here and hence a symbol I infer, of hope. Newness is always refreshing and full of hope for the future. There are some beautiful lines here as well, and I highlighted them endlessly. For your reference, I shall share a few here – those that I found spoke volumes within the limited words.
.
Pick me, pluck me, rake me. Arrange me in a vase with water. Bring me inside, ensure my demise.
.
lose your lost love’s name, the one that leaves your throat raw. Don’t you know she dances like that for everyone?
.
You’re overheated, and liable for the burns you create.
.
You can’t run far from a week of heavy drinking, stumbling home hand in hand, secrets spoken in darkness – I’m practicing how I’ll lie in my coffin.
.
The season’s first loss of green escapes like resin from a woodpecker’s house. Lapped up in an eager kiss. Always cold on cold on cold.
.
We may resemble embers draped on the dock, the horizon slimy. A ladder of snake-skins. The dark difference. We are so much calmer, a glowing revolution. I almost didn’t answer you.
.
A lifeboat drifting in the wrong direction.
.
A lifetime spent in yearning.

The Ages of Lulu, by Almudena Grandes

4/5 stars! this was unlike anything I have ever read and honestly, I think this is going to stay with me for a long time. Pablo and Lulu’s love story is passionate and all-consuming and although this book does tend to delver more into the darker side of sexuality, passion, and love, I think it was done really well.

Take Off Your Startup by Samyak Kumar

4/5 stars! I think this is a really well-compiled work that explores every in and out of the business world. The attractive feature is that this is very much of a manifesto or almanac for the beginners or newbies to pick up. The author has done well in separating and categorizing the topics into step by step procedures. The inclusion of the real-stories was also very inspiring.
As a nonfiction book, this was really well planned out and was very informative. The way the author has included real-life stories in the middle was also a great point as I personally found them very inspiring. It is first reading the how-to that the author points out, and then immediately an example of how it all played out via real-life experiences.
The fact that it shows how you do not need an MBA to start a business – if you have the potential you can achieve anything, plays well throughout the book. As a student and a budding entrepreneur, it gave me quite a few pointers and ideas as to how I can plan ahead and act on it, so that I may achieve my goals. Overall, a really good book that I would recommend to all aspiring entrepreneurs.

Iphigenia at Aulis, by Euripides

4/5 stars. I read it as a part of a readalong where we read many Greek tragedies and oh my god! I am in love. Hoping to read Sophocles, Aeschylus and then maybe explore more.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

4/5 stars!
This was a wonderful memoir, brimming with emotion. It’s about the author growing up in an environment and a world which is not necessarily kind or accepting of Black people, let alone Black gay men. That is not to say that the author’s family was like that.
The whole idea of homosexuality is still one that is fraught with so much tension today – most kids are afraid or apprehensive of ‘coming out’ to their family and friends because, despite the law that does not criminalize it, society has still a long way to go.
The memoir was full of stories and the fact that it was narrated by the author brought a sense of closeness between me as the reader and the writer. It was really emotional, what with all the elements of family, homophobia. sexual awakening, etc.
That is to say, it was a hard-hitting book and a homosexual empowerment manifesto.

Chronicles of Kuru Women: Krishna’s Sister, by Priyanka Bhuyan

4/5 stars!
KRISHNA’S SISTER is the story of Subhadra (sister of Krishna and Balaram, and wife of Arjun). The reason that this book is interesting is that it brings forth a story and gives a voice to this another lesser-known woman from the Mahabharata. Recent mythological fiction novels have become a popular source and stronghold for the feminist viewpoint, with the help of which, the female characters are given a chance to bring their stories to the forefront. We all know that the Mahabharata is full of various related stories, but often they are ignored so as to not confuse the reader.
However, this was a great attempt by the author to share the story of Subhadra, a sister of a God, but also a warrior and an independent and strong woman, on her own terms, as well as a goddess herself, worshipped in the Jagannath temple at Puri.
The story was an emotional one that tugs on my heartstrings. It is about Subhadra – her life and her struggles, and the utter tragedies that befell her. But most of all, it is about how she overcame them all to emerge victoriously.
The author has written the story in a fluid way – we see the elements of family brought in, along with the love shared among brothers and sisters, the romantic love and subsequent pining she finds with Arjuna, and her later strife as a woman in society. The narration was on point, because despite the fact that all of this happened in the epics, thousands of years ago, the reader cannot help but relate with Subhadra. I cried with her, her pain, and her sacrifices. And like her, I too questioned the ways in which women have to sacrifice so much.
The author also explored her journey from being a Princess of the Yadav clan to being a queen in the Kuru dynasty, her relationships, and the dynamics among the Pandavas, with Draupadi and Kunti. Her relationship with Krishna was an adorable one and I loved the glimpses we got of the Lord.
Like all epics, the idea of destiny and fate is very powerful and prevalent here. Just like in the Greek dramas of West, of Sophocles, Homer, and Euripides, the inevitability of fate catching up to you, or the human strife and failure, to outrun it and escape it is very powerful in the Mahabharata as well. Especially if you consider the end of the Yadav clan but the continuation of the Kuru clan with the help of Krishna’s intervention.
The author with her concise writing has kept the reader intrigued and engaged until the very end. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I hope the author comes up with the rest of the books in the series soon!

The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

3/5 stars!
It was a good read from the entertainment point of view. Overall, read it in a sort of mindless way perhaps, at least that is how I am going to continue reading the next 2 books. It is an entertaining read (like Twilight was, I suppose) but better not deeply analyze it.
PS. I seriously hope no one gets a sister like Taryn.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*
However I do have a few problems if I think really deep about it.
I think it really kind of says that bullying is okay as long as the bully has certain problems of his own. For Cardan really, the author gives an explanation for why he is cruel (growing up under his evil brother who beats him) and justifies the unkind deeds he does by just saying that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt or to die. I think it is really twisted and feels more like an angsty teen romance. Moreover, then the author seems to sexualize the situation between Jude and Cardan and I was not really okay with it because it kind of seemed sudden and forced and came out of nowhere. The relationship is really toxic and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cardan ends up betraying her or taking a revenge on her or something. He sure seems capable of it.
And Taryn was a bitch, pardon my French. The whole of the fey is weird to be honest, especially when you consider Locke and his relationship with Taryn and Jude.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

3/5 stars! The first impression I got from the book was that the author informs us simply of what has been happening, and what the characters feel. But then, I quickly realized that it was not indeed so – because along with the protagonists, the reader also introspects and philosophizes with them, essentially moving closer to the question of ‘normality’ in relation to human relationships.
I believe that the title of the book is a paradox. On the one hand, it tells us that it is about normal people that society is filled with, for instance, Marianne and Connell’s friends, as opposed to them both who are weird. But when we look at it from that perspective, we see that it is not really so. Because, when together, Marianne and Connell are ‘normal’ with each other. As such this implies that in the way they different or weird from others, it is a degree of measurement which affects every individual of society – perhaps many of these hide it better and assimilate easily compared to the protagonists. Thus, who are normal people? Everyone and no one, both at the same time. Check out my youtube video!

A Family Affair, by Charlotte Lamb

Another quick romance read. 2/5 stars!

Financial Freedom by Dhiraj Taneja

4/5 stars! Like the name suggests, Master the Money Game: Financial Freedom is a book on how to gain control of your finances. As a student, finance is a topic into which we may hardly delve into, and the management of finances for most of us may extend to just dealing with the pocket money. As such, I think it was the right time for me to have come across this book. Firstly, let me assure you that you do not have to be apprehensive about picking up the book, thinking that it may be too difficult and may go over your head. Believe me, I was apprehensive before I read the book because I really don’t know much about this topic, but I have to say without a doubt, this is a great and helpful read, especially so if you are pretty much a newbie like me.
The writing was informal and really interactive in a way and the language used was easy. What I loved most was that the author did not use very technical terms which would otherwise make it really difficult for many of us to understand. Moreover, the author has included many quotes, which make it again, so much easier to relate with.
Now coming to the actual content, the author talks about various things – all of them important, but let me share a few which I think were relevant. His entire bit on the importance to be aware of one’s financial status hit me very hard. How many of us live by a budget or spent recklessly? In today’s world, it is so necessary to become self-reliant. As such the author’s conversational words relayed the meaning of financial freedom, how it can change one’s life, and how to get financial freedom! The author also gives examples of people like Grant Sabatier, Tony Robbins, Warren Buffet, etc. and as such it really made me, as a reader see that financial independence, financial freedom are reachable and attainable. It does not matter if you are in your early 20s or beyond.
Most importantly, even if you may not be able to inculcate everything that the author has said, this book was still beneficial to you – because the tips he offers are so very practical. And if you think about it, these tips are really effective and will help you! For instance, start budgeting, and cutting excessive spending from your life. And his emphasis on the point of a person’s perspective was also important – you are the master and that is how it should stay. You should never let money become your master.
I think this was a great book that I picked up, and as a person who has started earning and has just entered her 20s, this is the perfect time to start working towards the goals. This was a very helpful book surely! I rate it 4/5! Check out my youtube video!

All the Words Unspoken, by Serena Kaur

3.75/5 stars! All The Words Unspoken was a great book for me to have picked up for the #AsianReadathon. Apart from the obvious Asian rep (Indian, to be specific) the book also focuses on various other important issues.
The main message I seemed to get from the novel was that we cannot depend on others to heal us or make us whole. Rather, we need to fall back upon ourselves to work on our growth and development. Yes, external forces such as family and friends are there to support us (or not), but the ultimate determiner is we ourselves. We cannot let others determine our worth!
When it comes to the characters, their arc was a bit disjointed – especially that of Aryan, I feel. We get a slight glimpse of him towards the beginning and then only towards the, we are bombarded with his POVs. As such, it was kind of difficult for me to retain the fact that this is the same guy. When the story started I genuinely thought it was Maansi’s story but as it progressed, of course, it wasn’t just hers alone. Yet I do think the story focused more on Aryan and less so on Maansi.
Perhaps if the author had decided to reveal Aryan’s POVs a litter sooner, the story would have gone way more smoothly.
The themes covered were like sexuality, homophobia, family, marriage as an institution, societal norms, etc. I do think the idea was a great one and the author did well by mixing all of these together especially in the Indian expatriate community, you could say, where culture, religion, etc play a big influencer in all the decisions the characters make. The way the author has weaved in the different nuances of human behavior, based on nad affected by, external forces, events, experiences, and memory, added a great flavor to the narrative as well.
I also feel that it was a bildungsroman or a coming-of-age story for the two main characters who underwent growth and changed from who they were in the beginning. It is also a story of sexual awakening in a manner, and the author pulled off that aspect really well. And in this regard, I can definitely consider this book along the same shelf as CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

Toranoi, by Sajid Iqbal

3/5 stars. I thought it was a half-baked story. There is a lot of scope for improvement.

April, May Books 2020
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Normal People: book vs series!

Read on to find out what I thought about the popular new work by Sally Rooney, Normal People – the book and the series. Or if you’d rather just watch the video, check this out!

synopsis

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers – one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

my review

First Impressions for NORMAL PEOPLE: book vs the series

The first impression I got from the book was that the author informs us simply of what has been happening, and what the characters feel. But then, I quickly realized that it was not indeed so – because along with the protagonists, the reader also introspects and philosophizes with them, essentially moving closer to the question of ‘normality’ in relation to human relationships. 

This is one of the best adaptations ever. It was just so visually stunning. I was in love with the cinematography, the actors, and the utter depth of emotions they portrayed so well.

Significance of the title: Normal People

I believe that the title of the book is a paradox. On the one hand, it tells us that it is about normal people that society is filled with, for instance, Marianne and Connell’s friends, as opposed to them both who are weird. But when we look at it from that perspective, we see that it is not really so.  Because, when together, Marianne and Connell are ‘normal’ with each other. As such this implies that in the way they different or weird from others, it is a degree of measurement which affects every individual of society – perhaps many of these hide it better and assimilate easily compared to the protagonists. Thus, who are normal people? Everyone and no one, both at the same time.

What I disliked about Normal People, the book:

  1. I feel that perhaps the way in which the story has been written sheds Connell in a much more negative light than it does Marianne as if he deliberately and continually turns to hurt Marianne. He is shown as someone on whom lies the course of the relationship if one could even call it that. Whatever it was, I think that in this regard, the author may have done Connell an injustice in the way he was portrayed. Bringing about the mental health angle seemed like a convenient excuse for that.
    • Once Marianne tells Connell towards the middle, “You’re definitely drunk if you’re flirting with me.” The idea that Marianne now inevitably thinks that Connell has to be drunk to flirt with her, as if he wouldn’t do something like that (he doesn’t) when he is sober, does not sit well with me. Why does he so need alcohol to lower his inhibitions with her?
  2. As for Marianne, I believe that the author could have let us know a bit more about her family life – to show why she is the way she is. Her family is not the best – she has an abusive brother who hits her (“sometimes”) and who is continually passive-aggressive, tormenting her emotionally and psychologically. The mother is no better, to be honest. When Alan, her brother spits on her face, the mother fails to reprimand her wayward son and instead questions Marianne how she could deal with the real world outside when she could not deal with “a little sibling rivalry”. She then continues to mock her saying, “You think you are special, do you?”

The writing style and narrative structure of Sally Rooney

  1. As Rooney describes the scenes, the reader gets spectacular imagery as if a literary montage.
  2. I feel like the book solely relies on emotion and catharsis it can erupt in the reader.
  3. There are narrative skips and jumps, meaning that the timeline is not really linear. In the beginning, these jumps are not between very different stages, but as we move further into the narrative, these jumps are considerably disconnected as if snippets of memory that assault the protagonists as they live their life, characteristic of the modern fragmented soul, inevitably coming closer and closer to each other. 
  4. The story is also written in a rather episodic format, and now that I look back and introspect, this is how we humans, ‘normal people’ like us look back and retrospect.

Important themes in the book

  1. Isolation/detachment/aimlessness – there is a sense of detachment which is weird but then so reflective of normal modern society. Marianne feels that she is not part of the life in Carricklea.
    • “Really she has everything going on for her. She has no idea what she’s going to do with her life.”
  2. The lack of rootedness/a sense of not belonging/transience –
    • “Marianne had the sense that her real-life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was and become part of it.”
    • Connell really thinks of the transient nature of things when he is on the Europe trip. I was really reminded of Holden Caulfield at this point and how he was absolutely disgusted with phoniness.      
  3. Originality as something deviant of ‘normal’ behavior –
    • Marianne appreciates beauty in its raw and primal form when she wants to see Connell having sex.
    • Connell is originally unwilling to let others know about his ‘relationship’ with Marianne because since she was not considered a ‘normal’ person in their circle, any association with her would taint him as ‘weird’ like her, and not a normal person, something that Connell desperately wants.
    • “Do we ever say what we mean?”
  4. Identity – The imposter syndrome was brought in well, in this aspect. As Connell grapples with his identity in college, the threader also starts to question these issues that plague all humans.
  5. Stability – In the beginning, I also feel that both these characters, as actual human beings with relation to each other, are lacking in conviction. Why cannot they assert and say that they want something rather than saying, and I quote from the book, “Say you want me to stay and I will”.
    • Then, I feel like Connell truly feels stability when he rescues Marianne from Alan and then confronts him, threatening to kill him if he ever hurt Marianne again. That is the point of change for him, I believe and he starts to work on himself, truly. He is really open to her at the moment.
    • “Trust me. I love you, I’m not going to let anything like that happen to you again.”

The excellence of the series!

  1. I loved the Italian countryside the most. The reflections on the pool as Connell calmed Marianne after the fight with Jamie was also stunning.
  2. I think that the book is also a very emotional one and the series has done fantastic in that it was able to bring onto screen those emotions. I did not cry when I read the book but I sobbed while I watched the grand acting of these two actors.
  3. The subtle changes that were in the series (from the novel) just made it more heart-wrenching. The way Connell was kind of a passive person who went with the flow and denied his relationship with Marianne was again heart wrenching on screen.
    • Also the way Connell sobbed after the Debs party – that just got to me.
  4. Moreover, in the book Marianne never really says ‘I love you’ to Connell (in the series she does), and so you have to ask who is the more repressed person here.
  5. The portrayal of when Connell was disgusted with the phoniness of university students who do not read the books but act as if they have, was also on point. This bit was better portrayed on the show. The imposter syndrome stuff was done well here.
    • The series also delves more into the mental health issues of Connell and the deplorable family conditions and relationships of Marianne – the abuse and everything.
  6. Regarding Marianne’s trauma (from the abuse she has suffered at the hands of her brother), she has come to believe that she deserves the bad treatment she often gets. In this context, I do have to say that the overlap that was done in the series – Lukas and her in the photoshoot session, while Connell reads his email in the background about what he thinks about this – that just because bad things may have happened to her, doesn’t mean that she deserves them, was very insightful and amazing. Something that the book was unable to do.
  7. The disconnect from life was shown very aesthetically via the slow sequences, for Marianne and Connell.
  8. The series also did well with the portrayal of other characters especially that of Niall and Lorraine.
    • The series also better explored the character of Niall. In the book, I honestly didn’t care about him enough – he just wasn’t there enough.
    • The mother-son dynamic was awesome in the book and it was just as awesome in the series. I loved it.

The endings!

The end of the book left me dissatisfied because it felt like they had not learned a lesson that they need to communicate! Instead, Marianne just pushes Connell away yet again yet simply telling him that she loves him.

In this regard, I think that the series does better. It establishes the two characters as two individuals on their own, yet with an undeniable need and want for each other. They are bound forever and in a way, they are in this healthy relationship that shows them their value based on their individual selves. In a way, it is a new beginning for them. 

My ratings!

  • I rated Normal People, the book, 3/5 stars!
  • I rated Normal People, the series, 4.5/5 stars!
Normal People by Sally Rooney: my ratings!
Normal People by Sally Rooney: my ratings!

Links

Goodreads
Add it on Goodreads!
Amazon
Get the book on Amazon!
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Book review: Krishna’s Sister by Priyanka Bhuyan (#BIRTHDAYBLOGHOP)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external forces.

synopsis

This is the story of a woman who had everything yet who lost everything and rose when everyone gave up to finally lead the empire of Bharatvarsha. For the first time, take a sneak peek into the life of the sister of the God who shaped Mahabharata to become the progenitor of the Kuru race after everything was reduced to nothing in the battle of Kurushetra.
Krishna’s sister is a mythological fiction of the life and story of Princess Subhadra in the backdrop of the great Mahabharat war and the sacrifice and pain that she went through. It also explores the relationship she shared with her brother and mentor Lord Krishna as well as her husband Arjuna and co-wife Draupadi. Subhadra is also worshipped as a deity in the Jagannath Puri, one of the holiest shrines in India.

my review

KRISHNA’S SISTER is the story of Subhadra (sister of Krishna and Balaram, and wife of Arjun). The reason that this book is interesting is that it brings forth a story and gives a voice to this (yet another) lesser-known woman from the Mahabharata. Recent mythological fiction novels have become a popular source and stronghold for the feminist viewpoint, with the help of which, the female characters are given a chance to bring their stories to the forefront. We all know that the Mahabharata is full of a multitude of related stories, but often they are ignored so as to not confuse the reader. However, this was a great attempt by the author to share the story of Subhadra, a sister of a God, but also a warrior and an independent and strong woman, on her own terms, as well as a goddess herself, worshipped in the Jagannath temple at Puri.

Krishna's Sister (ebook)
Krishna’s Sister (ebook)

The story was an emotional one that tugged on my heartstrings. It is about Subhadra – her life, her struggles, and the utter tragedies that befell her. But most of all, it is about how she overcame them all to emerge victoriously.

The author has written the story in a fluid way – we see the elements of family brought in, along with the love shared among brothers and sisters, the romantic love and subsequent pining she finds with Arjuna, and her later strife as a woman in society. The narration was on point, because despite the fact that all of this happened in the epics, thousands of years ago, the reader cannot help but relate with Subhadra. I cried with her, her pain, and her sacrifices. And like her, I too questioned the ways in which women have to sacrifice so much.

The author also explored her journey from being a Princess of the Yadav clan to being a queen in the Kuru dynasty, her relationships, and the dynamics among the Pandavas, with Draupadi and Kunti. Her relationship with Krishna was an adorable one and I loved the glimpses we got of the Lord.

Like all epics, the theme of destiny and fate is very powerful and prevalent here. Just like in the Greek dramas of West – of Sophocles, Homer, and Euripides – the inevitability of fate catching up to you, or the human strife (and further inevitable failure) to outrun it and escape it is very powerful in the Mahabharata as well. Especially if you consider the end of the Yadav clan but the fateful continuation of the Kuru clan with the help of Krishna’s intervention.

The author with her concise writing has kept the reader intrigued and engaged until the very end. I truly enjoyed reading this book and I hope the author comes up with the rest of the books in the series soon! I rated it 4/5 stars!

Nika with Krishna's Sister
Nika with Krishna’s Sister

Corporate Communication professional, an avid travel blogger, foodie, and movie buff all rolled into one, Priyanka Bhuyan has been doing freelancing since her college days. Her debut book-Kaleidoscope of Love, a collection of short stories is on the varied emotions of love was published in the year 2019 and was adjudged among the top 100 debut authors by Literature Light. She hails from the beautiful green state of Assam and Guwahati is where she calls her home. Currently in a workaholic phase, she has her parents, brother and her dog as her family. For more info you can follow her on girlsliketotravel.com

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This post is part of #Birthdaybloghop by Vidhya Thakkar and Neelam Sharma should not be repurposed, republished or used otherwise. The content herein is owned by the blogger. Hosts are not responsible for any infringement caused.”

Women-centric literature: A book list #Birthdaybloghop

“And since a novel has this correspondence to real life, its values are to some extent those of real life. But it is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex; naturally this is so. Yet is it the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are “important”; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes “trivial.” And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.”

– Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
women-centric literature
women-centric literature

I recently compiled a list of books from my bookshelf, and the main theme that seemed to bind them all was the fact that they were either written by women or were about women in different spheres of life. Needless to say, many of these books, when they first came out, were often subject to various controversies, specifically because they also dealt with the themes of female independence, sexuality, intellectualism as well as female interrelationships.

Although these books all belong to various genres (literary fiction, nonfiction, bildungsroman, Post Colonial studies, dystopian, graphic novels, contemporary literature, etc), they have a common thread of continuity running through these. These follow women who are growing in one way or another (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc) and as such are often placed in contrast against the largely conservative and patriarchal society. All of these women are rebelling, in either a small or a big way, against the society that strives to repress them and their beings.

These are books that I have either read or am planning to read, specifically because of the subject matter. I believe that in one way or another, these can be great references when studying feminism, because like I have reiterated continually, they all deal with women and their rights, in various degrees. So, here is my book list of 25 books, including 3 special mentions, which I think every person should read.

  1. Delta of Venus by Anais Nin – A rich and exotic collection from the master of erotic writing!
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – The trials and tribulations of the March sisters during the American Civil War.
  3. The Ages of Lulu by Almudena Grandes – A groundbreaking novel of sexual exploration which was an overnight sensation and sparked international controversy!
  4. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde – A cyclical chronicle of the author’s coming-of-age and the different women who shaped her.
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – A dystopian novel that is utterly convincing in its representation of a society that does not let women read and uses them as breeders.
  6. The Loves of Faustyna by Nina Fitzpatrick – A sexual odyssey across the social and political scenario of Communist Poland.
  7. Orlando by Virginia Woolf – A love-letter to Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is a journey across three centuries.
  8. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – A retelling of the Jane Eyre story from the eyes of the madwoman in the attic!
  9. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir – A powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman,” and a groundbreaking exploration of inequality and otherness.  
  10. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – A feminist text that argues for the need for literal and figurative space for a woman to flourish and dedicate time to herself.
  11. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – One of the key first-wave feminist texts, that portrayed the stifling cage the institution of marriage was for one woman, who found respite in an extramarital affair.
  12. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – An intensely emotional read about a young girl suffering from mental health illness.
  13. The Color Purple by Alice Walker – An empowering story of a Black woman who faces multiple hardships, until she takes charge of her own destiny. Narrated via a series of letters.
  14. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – A seminal nonfiction work that serves as the most basic and relevant modern reason why one should be a feminist.
  15. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – A graphic novel that explores sexuality, literature, and the effect of shame of closeted homosexuals.
  16. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi – Often described as a Middle Eastern version of Sex and the City, Embroideries deal with female sexuality, the concept of virginity, and independence.
  17. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – A fun read set during the years before and after the WWII, City of Girls is an exploration of one’s identity and sexuality, amidst the glamour of fashion and showgirls. Also, narrated by an old woman looking back on her life.
  18. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – The only book in this list, written by a male author, Madame Bovary is much like The Awakening in the sense that it follows a married woman trapped in her marriage, seeking emotional fulfillment in reading, spending and ultimately in adultery.
  19. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – One of the best-loved works in Victorian and children’s literature, it is about resilience and hope in the face of extreme hardships and sadness.
  20. Emma’s Secret (A Woman of Substance series) by Barbara Taylor Bradford – The Woman of Substance was a book that my aunt loved and heavily annotated, and as many would agree, a story of the indomitable spirit of a woman who with a mean entrepreneurial streak became the richest woman in the world.
  21. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – A reimagining of the Mahabharata from the eyes of Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas.
  22. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – A book series that was a childhood favourite of many, and was again relieved via the Netflix series Anne with an E.

Special Mentions:

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  2. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
women-centric literature
women-centric literature

This post is part of #Birthdaybloghop by Vidhya Thakkar and Neelam Sharma should not be repurposed, republished or used otherwise. The content herein is owned by the blogger. Hosts are not responsible for any infringement caused.

After She Wrote Him: A review

AFTER SHE WROTE HIM
AFTER SHE WROTE HIM

Thanks to Netgalley for this fantastic read!

My God! This was an astounding read. I have never before come across a novel that so well threaded together the lines of literary fiction and crime. So well did this weaving take place that I was facing a dilemma – do I hurry up and finish the book at one go (like I would for any crime novel), or do I savour it and live through it a day at a time (as I do for literary fiction). That is to say, I was torn between my love for it as a crime novel, and contrastingly as literary fiction.

AFTER SHE WROTE HIM is a pioneer in reaching for what has never been reached out for (at least in my humble reading career). If there are more books in this particular niche, I owe it to this, my first such novel, for introducing to this world.

Literary fiction novels have the capacity to make me think and introspect quite a bit. On the other hand, I am a criminal psychologist, trying to figure out the mystery when I read crime fiction. Bringing these together was an utter delight to my mind fortress and I applaud the writer for her superb skill in doing so.

The characters are alive – they jump out of the novel right at you – both with their realistic subtlety and also with the fantastic phantasm that the author creates. I lived through Madeline and I breathed through Edward. And may I just say that this twists your mind? You are left grasping for straws as you oscillate between deciding what is real and what is not.

My only reason for rating this book a 4.5 star and taking away the 0.5 was for the ending which left me pining for a more solid end. But that is not to say that I did not like the ending – in fact, I did. It was, at the same time, more solid and real than it could ever have been. But the book transforms you and you are left, longing to be a part of the lives of these two main characters.

I have really loved this book and can only try my best to persuade you to read it soon! Please do! It is a tour de force!
Thanks to #netgalley for #AfterSheWroteHim !

Check out the book on Amazon, or add it to your Goodreads TBR list!

Other popular posts: How to Read More Books!, How to Ace Online University, Delving Into Audiobooks! etc

The King of the Sea: A review

The King of the Sea
The King of the Sea

The King of the Sea was a very reflective read which often made me introspect and just stop and think of what the author has written. The writing is fu of musical cadences that are really soothing to the mind. There is a healthy union of poetry and spiritual tidbits that made a composite whole that I as a reader really liked.

Check it out on Goodreads!

Thought-provoking and novel, this book was quite different from most other works. Separate from the conventional manner of narration, this particular work of the author is all-encompassing both in regards to the story as well as the reader in his reading environment.

Check it out on Amazon!

What might pose a difficulty for most people is, I believe, the manner in which the characters speak. Keeping in mind that this is very much a metaphysical novel, the reader finds a lot of tangential and metaphorical phrases.

Towards the middle, I did think that it felt dragged but powering through those few pages, I once again reached the valley of introspection to read the book in.

The cover and title of the book is apt and I simply love how aesthetic this photo came out as! I definitely recommend this one to you all.

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars!

Temporary Wife Temptation: A modern-day romance!

Temporary Wife Temptation
Temporary Wife Temptation

This was a modern-day marriage-of-convenience story that was a beautiful combination of tradition, romance and family values. I love how the author has given an Eastern twist to it – since most of the stories that follow this trope are set in the western world. I feel that when it comes to the Eastern side of the world, it just gets a lot more complicated. We have a family to deal with, we have extended family to deal with and so on.

I loved how these characters were well rounded. Apart from the budding romance, there are also the subplots – mostly the hurdles the two characters are trying to overcome. Garrett and Natalie are two people who are goal-oriented and know what they want. Garrett was the perfect alpha male – he was so encouraging and applauded Natalie’s business acumen.

Check it out on Goodreads!

I also loved that he was not the obsessive possessive lover that seems to be the equation nowadays. The way they blossomed was great – both as a couple as well as individually. The power imbalance, however, surprisingly was not much of a deterrent in their relationship and I huffed in satisfaction at that. Also, the sexual build-up was great although they did seem to have instant chemistry.

Check it out on Amazon!

However, one thing that I did not particularly like was how each chapter would begin suddenly. There was no thread of continuity there and I would have appreciated it if there were. However, it was a quick and interesting love story! I rated it  4/5 stars!

Swimming in the Dark: A love letter

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

SWIMMING IN THE DARK was incandescent!! It is perfect for fans of #callmebyyourname and #aristotleanddante and also #redwhiteandroyalblue ! It was also my last read of February and my second 5⭐ read of the month!

The book is a beautiful and evocative story set in the early 1980s Poland. As such, the political scenario is quite an intricate part of the narrative and it also shapes the thoughts and actions of the characters. The story is told by Ludwik Glowacki a Polish man living in America. The whole novel is actually him reminiscing about his past, and more so, as if writing it for his former lover Janusz. Janusz is addressed in the second person and it really made me remember Call Me By Your Name. Ludwik’s story starts from when he was of 9 years of age and met and fell in love with his neighbour Beniek, a Jewish boy, to his early 20s romance with Janusz.

Check it out on Goodreads!

The book’s central themes include Ludwik’s realisation of his sexuality, the way he deals with it, especially in a society where this is frowned upon, and thus, the aspect of shame associated with it; discovery of his selfhood as well as the tumultuous political times of Poland wrought with various trials for the people.

Check it out on Amazon!

Swimming in the Dark
Swimming in the Dark

There is a beautiful sense of the bittersweet that envelops Jedrowski’s writing. I am entirely in love with it and am looking forward to a follow up to this fantastic debut. The way the author has portrayed the conflicting feelings that Ludwik has for Janusz because of their differing political ideologies etc, is also great. With such a lyrical prose and tragic undertones, this was a truly unique read, that will leave it’s warmth with me, like a dying hearth of fire, for a really long time.

The Rape Trial, by Bidisha Ghosal

The Rape Trial
The Rape Trial

The Rape Trial by Bidisha Ghosal was a quick read for me! I read it in just two days and I really liked it.
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With a gripping narrative, this book revolves a lot around rape, and rape culture and the surrounding factors like the repercussions of rape for a woman versus a man, the societal standards (often hypocritical), as well as power play, the political and the personal, etc.
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The book reads really fast also! However, I felt that at a few points there were some loopholes and a round of editing could have been done. Overlooking that, the writing style and overall narrative of the author is really well executed.
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The book also talks about the justice system and lays bare and opens discussion on whether it is wise for the common man to take justice into their hands or to leave it to the law (especially when the law is not effective) and such. The characters are also developed throughout the story and their depth well portrayed. I like the relations among all the characters. Moreover, the psychological aspect is an important one here.
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This was quite an interesting read. I rate it 3.75/5 stars!

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Sixteen Stormy Days by Tripurdaman Singh

Sixteen Stormy Days
Sixteen Stormy Days

Sixteen  Stormy Days is about the sixteen days of debate in 1951, which led to the controversial first Amendment of the Indian Constitution. This book was a truly well-researched treatise on the why and how behind the major change in Indian Constitutional history.

Check it out on Goodreads!

In eloquent prose, the book goes over the changes that were made in the Constitution, which had been worked on for three years prior to this abrupt and fast sixteen-day debate. With the passing of the Amendment as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act of June 1951, various changes were brought in – most of which cause heated debates even today. To name a few, the fundamental rights were qualified in favour of the State, enabled the caste-based reservation system, restricted the right to property, to name a few.

Most importantly, the book also sheds light on the support as well as the opposition that this Amendment garnered.  The author also sheds light on the various icons behind it – such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, etc. Most importantly, it depicts how the originally liberal Constitution was reconfigured in a way that would be favourable to India’s first government, which turned to be authoritarian. What started as a major move by Jawaharlal Nehru and the super-majoritarian government, radically led to a system of coercion and repression on a vast majority of the Indian people.

The narration is smooth, however, having never had political science or history as my subjects, I found it a bit exhausting to read. Perhaps that is something a few readers may face but let me tell you that the end is worth it. You will come out a bit wiser and also perhaps with more questions, which will lead you down on a path of learning. I think this was a really well-penned book by the author. It was informative and with the eloquent writing, the reader really captures the attention of the reader. It was also a really quick read once I got into it.

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Check it out on Amazon!

The Midnight Scrawls: A Review

The Midnight Scrawls
The Midnight Scrawls

The Midnight Scrawls was an okay poetry book.

More than that, it was a visual treat. The book is very much like an album and I loved the various shots that accompanied the poetic pieces. they were all in black and white and I think that that really enhanced and helped make the poems more impactful.

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon!

As for the topics, the pieces cover a wide range such as innocent love, family, self-discovery, depression, and mental health, gratitude, war, religion, etc. There were also other snippets of works apart from the poems, such as letters and simple writeups, etc.

However, I do think that the execution could have been better. For instance, rounds of editing would have really cleared all the errors and made the reading experience much smoother. I also felt that certain pieces were a bit repetitive but overall, it was okay. Definitely could have been a bit better though.

I do look forward to seeing what more works the author comes up with. As for The Midnight Scrawls, I rate it 3/5 stars.

An autobiographical travelogue: Dream Beyond Shadows

Dream Beyond Shadows: No Ordinary Tourist was a unique autobiographical travelogue that I really enjoyed. It was greatly introspective.

Dream Beyond Shadows
Dream Beyond Shadows

Synopsis:

If you are holding this book, there’s a chance you may be at a crossroads in your life, as once the author of this book was.
Feeling stuck and overwhelmed by society’s pressures, how can we learn, in today’s fast-paced and results-driven world, to truly dream beyond shadows?
Having touched the hearts of readers across the globe, Dream Beyond Shadows has now been published in its second edition, to celebrate the raw and compelling art of storytelling inscribed in its pages.
The book chronicles a turning point in the author’s life, a moment when he decided to turn against the current of his life and move in the opposite direction of social expectations and his own conditioned fears.

Author: Kartikeya Ladha

This was a 4 star read for me. I really fell into a thinking pit of introspection as I went over the words of the author. A few points of note:

Visually appealing!

The cover was the first thing that drew me towards this book. It was just very aesthetic and almost psychedelic. The pink and the purples in the new cover design was out of this world. On the same note, the chapter cover pages were also very aesthetic with the inclusion of the design. The book was also a visual treat along with the deep content. The inclusion of the pictures from the author’s life also gave a glimpse and made it easier to understand the life of the author and thus, his words too.

Inclusion of Poetry!

The poetry pieces were also great. I think they really brought together the narrative and gave outbursts of poetic emotions throughout, at regular intervals.

Imagery in the travelogue!

The book also has wonderful imagery. I love the way the author transitioned from the concrete jungles of the city (perhaps arguably the most famous city of the world) to beautiful Peru and then the dense Amazons. The book is also a travelogue in this sense and it gives you an amazing experience. I could almost see myself right in the center of it all.

An autobiographical travelogue

Overall, I think this was a beautiful book – a sort of a mix between an autobiography and a motivational book. However, the fact that it was a personal story made it all the more effective and thus the reader became undoubtedly more empathic while reading. I myself was sucked in. I am at a stage in my life where I am happy and confident about what I want and how I feel. But at the same time, I also have seen around me, people going through quarter-life crises regarding what they want, their future, etc. As such, it was a book I could really feel in my bones.

Verdict:

The narration is crisp and amazing and it totally gives you the ultimate traveling experience, while also making you ponder over the deeper questions of life. I really liked this book and am happy that this was my first non-fiction of the year, and most possibly the first travelogue I have ever read. I rated it 4/5 stars and recommend it to you all.

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

My experience with the graphic novel

With reference to Pumpkinheads and Vyasa

Vyasa and Pumpkinheads
Vyasa and Pumpkinheads

I finally started reading the graphic novel from 2019 and it honestly has been a great journey so far. In my 5th semester, I decided to pursue a Visual Studies elective. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher under whom I explored this genre and saw what fun it is!

Graphic novel: Pumpkinheads

I recently picked up Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks and it was my first graphic novel of the year. To be very honest, I was suffering from a terrible reading slump and so I wanted to read something fun and not very intense. That is the reason why I decided to pick up Pumpkinheads, about which my bestie Gayatri had been raving about from the time she read it. and I really enjoyed it. It certainly helped me get over my slump.

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

However, on that very note, it span over the time period of just a few hours. It is not a book with a lot of depth, so if that is what you are expecting it to be, you might be disappointed. I found it be a fun and flirty read. Moreover, it has great LGBT representation and it definitely broke free of the generic stereotypes of boys and girls. Lastly, I was blown away by the amazing art. The predominant colours were that of orange, burnt ochre, and all the autumn colours, which made the book an art piece to feast on. I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. It was a 3.75 star read for me.

Vyasa and Pumpkinheads: a glimpse
Vyasa and Pumpkinheads: a glimpse

Graphic novel: Vyasa

After that I was so in love with pictures that can take over your imagination, that I decided to go after another graphic novel and this time, I picked up Vyasa. This book is on the Indian epic Mahabharata, a personal favourite. The story is by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay and the art is by Sankha Banerjee. The way this book was written was amazing. I loved the recurrent jumps in time and the overall framing structure that combined the stories within the story. However, it was only the first part and I was left dangling.

Now I am eagerly waiting for the sequel to Vyasa: The Beginning. The art in this book is stunning as well and I was spellbound throughout. The fact that I finally have pictures that can accompany the stories I, and we all, grew up with, was a wonder in itself. I absolutely loved this book and I rated it 4.5 star read for me.

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

Check out similarly themed books: Upon a Burning Throne, What if it’s you?, etc.

A smashing collection: What the Eyes See

What the Eyes See is a smashing short story collection of 7 short stories; namely Sira, The Game, The Dreamcatcher, 1978, What the Eyes See, Karma, and The Angel Numbers.

What the eyes see
What the eyes see

Synopsis of this smashing collection:

How much of what you see can you believe?
How much can you trust yourself and the people around you?
Some time into the future, a 60-year-old man is suspicious about the Artificial Intelligence he has procured for his home.
Back in the ’70s, a man visiting his hometown for vacation has the most terrifying experience of his life.
In Delhi, a young woman gets a beautiful gift, which she later realizes might not be so beautiful after all.
In Dubai, a young entrepreneur realizes that giving a lift to strangers might lead to horrifying consequences.
These and many more… What the Eyes See is a collection of dark stories to take with you into the night.

A smashing anthology!

What the Eyes See is a collection of 7 short stories; namely Sira, The Game, The Dreamcatcher, 1978, What the Eyes Se, Karma, and The Angel Numbers.

Buy this book on Amazon! Mark this book on Goodreads!

These stories all have unexpected twists that will totally take the reader by surprise; I know I certainly was! I love that although the stories are linear in a way, they have a certain element that while disrupts the flow, only makes the reading experience better. A strong point in all of these short stories is the climaxes that are strong and powerful. I love the way they punch through the narrative.

Themes, and styles

 The writing style is great and fluid and intertwined with the wonderful imaginative powers, this collection provides a strong suit. A good mixture of suspense and horror, the stories also cover the themes of artificial intelligence, and the effect it can have on humanity, mortality, dystopia, magic, revenge, illusions, family, etc. the concepts of the plots for the different stories are really unique and has a wide range although, at the end, there is a common thread of horror/mystery running throughout.

Verdict:

The cover is also well made and really reflects the atmospheric nature of this collection. I quite enjoyed this book and I rate it 4/5 stars.

A Cinderella gender-swap: What if it’s you? Review+Exclusive Interview!

What if it’s You? by Mitali Meelan was a gender-swap on the classic tale of Cinderella that we have all grown up with. It is set in contemporary India!

What if it's you?
What if it’s you?

Read till the end for the exclusive author’s interview!

I was a bit hesitant going into the book because retellings of fairytales, that I enjoyed as a kid, is kind of a make-it or a break-it situation. But I am so happy to state that this book flew past my expectations! I absolutely loved this story and simply devoured it.

Check out the book on Goodreads

Buy the book on Amazon

A gender-swap on Cinderella, set in contemporary India!

In this story the roles are reversed  – we have Vihang who has a cruel stepmother and Saira who is a famous movie star. Their love story is quite an unconventional one and their HEA too also seems to be likewise. I really liked that the author has included a very modern literary conclusion to the story – with an open and ambiguous end. I am also very eager to see what the future holds for these two characters.

Progress in this modern gender-swap fairytale

As such, this was a very plot-driven novel and I love the character transformations that occurred especially in regards to their relationship with one another and how it affected their emotional well-being.

Themes, characters in this gender-swap tale

The book also covered a lot of themes; some of the most important ones were that of illusions and image, friendship and self-discovery. Regarding the other characters, the stepmother was the epitome of the stereotypical stepmother. She was surely a cruel one who is so often found in fairytales, both classic or otherwise. As for the stepbrother Chetan –  I do believe that he could have been better. But he was really influenced by his mother. And on the same note, I think his mother’s behaviour towards Vihang, had his own basic understanding warped. But what can I say about the father! I absolutely hated how he treated his own blood and believed a woman he met later on in life, more than his own son. But on the other hand, I can understand this very human folly – his blind emotional attachment towards the new wife.

A fantastic modern-day gender-swap YA story!

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

Check out the review of the first book I read in 2020: Good Girls Lie!

An Interview with the author: Mitali Meelan

Mitali Meelan is the author of three novels – What if it’s you, A Long Way Home (published by HarperCollins India) and The Guest (published by Black Ink Books), as well as Coffee and Ordinary Life, a collection of poetry. Meelan also has an audiobook on Storytel titled And Then We Met Again, voiced by best-selling author Ravinder Singh. Today, we come to get another glimpse into her life! Read on to know more about the person behind this wonderful story!

When did you realize you needed to write?

In my second year, when I wrote my first novel, The Guest. I felt that if I don’t write the stories of these weird, loud voices in my head, I might go crazy.

What would you say your writing process is like?

I plot my entire novel before I start writing the book. However, my actual writing process is messy. I don’t write scenes sequentially. I write whichever scenes I feel the strongest about and dive in. And I almost always end up writing a different book than the one I intended to write or plotted at the beginning. Some elements, plotlines, even characters change altogether midway.

But in the end, I’m always happy with the result because the book I plan before I write the first draft doesn’t foresee all the loopholes I’ve missed and roadblocks I’ll hit later. And there’s a lot more fun in writing a book this way, than just writing a meticulously plotted story that doesn’t give me the liberty to stray.

Any special quirks while you write?

I can type without looking either at the screen or at the keyboard. This is told (and imitated) by my sister. When I’m deeply into a scene (typing it), I will sometimes look to the side or towards the sky with a possessed look on my face. I’ve also been told it’s kind of scary. You wouldn’t want to see it.

What was the weirdest thing you had to research for when writing the book?

For writing What if it’s you? I only researched the current retelling on Cinderella with gender-swap, to ensure I don’t write something that’s already been done. But for A Long Way Home, I had to do some weird searches, like:

  • The inside of a real dance bar with dancing girls and the kind of clothes they wear.
  • What happens when you shoplift in India and can you get away with it.
  • What’s the maximum punishment you can get if you shoplift in India, etc.
  • For another unpublished book of mine, I had to research the consequences of a homicide.

What inspired you to write this particular gender-swap story?

The lack of fairytale retellings in the Indian setting and in the Indian market. I love retellings but none of the contemporary Indian authors were doing it. So I decided I should.

What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?

If you could wait until the next and final book in this duology releases, you’ll find out.

(Yay!! So we have a sequel coming out!!!!!)

What are your favourite books?

  • The Palace of Illusions and The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho,
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini,
  • The Liberation of Sita by Volga,
  • Plays by Vijay Tendulkar and Mahesh Dattani,
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.

If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria:

  • One fictional character from your book – Vihang, from ‘What if it’s you?’ He is a fun-loving, sarcastic guy who will do the cooking and find the best way to go about on the island while making the whole stay entertaining.
  • One fictional character from any other book – Othello, a past crush. The able-bodied war hero of Shakespeare, full of pride. He’s so opposite to Vihang that it would be fun to have them together on the island.
  • One famous person that is not a family member or friend – Ellen DeGeneres because I could take her along everywhere if I could.

What’s something you are really good at, that few people know about?

I’m somewhat good at playing the keyboard and finding notes on it by hearing a song. I don’t know what the notes or chords that I play are called because I’m not formally trained. But I can locate the notes once I hear the song, a thing I’ve inherited from my father who is much faster at it (although untrained). I do want to get formally trained in playing piano though.

What if it’s you? synopsis

A retelling of Cinderella with role reversal set in contemporary India

What if hearts met first
and then the faces?
Would love look different?

A 19-year-old movie-star returns to her hometown to finish her education. Having traded her childhood for fame and success, she now craves for a simpler college life and deeper friendships that go beyond flattery and fakeness. The town, however, gives her everything else but that.

So she hides a letter in a bookstore and asks the recipient to be her pen pal. Hoping to find one meaningful friendship in this old beach town of South Goa, she adds only one condition for her recipient to follow. They won’t reveal their identity until they form a strong bond of friendship first.

The letter is discovered by Vihang, a 20-year-old guy who gets bullied in college and bossed around at home by his stepmother and stepbrother. On a default flight mode, Vihang takes whatever life throws at him with a pinch of salt (and loads of sarcasm). As Vihang’s own life begins to fall apart, the girl starts becoming his escape from reality. And neither of them realises when the feeling of love begins to bloom.

A fantastic thriller: Good Girls Lie

Good Girls Lie by J. T Ellison was my first read of 2020. I really enjoyed this book and it ended up being a 3.75 star read for me. It was an amazing thriller!

Good girls lie
Good Girls Lie by J. T. Ellison

In my stop today for this blog tour of GOOD GIRLS LIE, by HarperCollins, I’m sharing my review of this amazing read!

An atmospheric thriller

The synopsis was very interesting firstly and drew me in with a moth to a flame. On that note, there are many spider metaphors in the book that kind of creeped me out. Moreover, I love the atmospheric setting of the book.

Shifts in narration

However, when there were shifts between certain two figures (I dare not give any spoilers but if you have read the book you will understand) and I would get kind of confused as to who is who. This specific thing took me some time to get used to and when they happened I admit I get a bit frazzled and confused.

A thrilling setting

Apart from this small fact, I enjoyed this book. The whole private boarding school, which is exclusively for girls – all of them privileged – was a delicious setting. The dynamics and hierarchy among the girls – both good and bad – felt very real and in a way, a bit sad. Why do girls see other girls as competition and create problems for them? Why not build each other up?

Character growth

 I think that the character of Ash could have grown a bit more. Compared to the length of the novel and the time span in it, she could have been a bit more developed by the end. I love the secret societies vibe that permeates throughout. SInce I have always wanted to be a huge old mansion full of secret pathways and tunnels and hence, I lived through each and every moment while those girls were traveling along with them. Of course, the hazing was cruel and unfair and extreme.

Verdict

The truth kept dangling just in front of me and I tried to grab on to it but only towards the end did I finally start to piece together what was actually the situation here. I really enjoyed the book and the whole secret societies vibe makes me want to pick up Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo ASAP!

Check out the books on Goodreads and Amazon!

You can also check out the best books I read in 2019!

The Nevernight Chronicles: A Review

The Nevernight Chronicles
The Nevernight Chronicles

Why I decided to pick up Nevernight:

I remember reading Aurora Rising sometime in mid-2019 and I really enjoyed it. It was then and there that I had made up my mind to read Jay Kristoff’s independent works. No wonder I ended up binging on the entire trilogy of the Nevernight Chronicles. The books in chronological order are Nevernight, Godsgrave, and Darkdawn.

Many many thanks to HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read this awesome series! This series ended up on the Best Fantasy Reads of 2019 video! Check this out!

Nevernight as adult fantasy

Firstly, Nevernight was an adult fantasy series – my second one after the Daevabad Series (The City of Brass, and The Kingdom of Copper) which I read in 2019 as well. Being pretty new to the adult fantasy genre, I did not know much about what to expect. But I was in for a treat. There are a lot of adult themes in the Nevernight and I for one was left reeling ever time a chapter ended. The entire series is a very fast-paced one and with full of action, it was definitely one of the best fantasy series I read in 2019.

A quirky writing style

Regarding the writing style, I very much am in love with the one the author uses. It is witty and laugh-out-loud funny and so very interactive. The swear words were so very imaginative and I was hooked to the way he writes. I think apart from the characters and the plot, it is this unique writing style that made it such a bestseller. The sarcastic tunes at the time had me rolling my eyes and the banter that the characters share was on point. The repetitive manner at times, make a staccato-like beat which gave me goosebumps at several points.

On-point world-building

The inclusion of the footnotes was another plus point to this series. It helped make the reader know a lot of the world – the political system, the social systems, the history and various other things in general. I have personally not come across this style ever before in fantasy. It just makes everything feel so real. The imagery throughout is on point. Kristoff has a stunning way of conjuring these amazing scenes right in front of your eyes and I was a sucker for that. It felt like I was right there, although at a safe distance from the weapons!

Maps and illustrations!

The maps are also very detailed and I love tracking Mia throughout. The overall content of the series is deliciously dark and written with a compelling voice. The themes of revenge, violence, tortures, ambition, etc., along with friendship, family, etc, were really well interwoven.

Setting and Characters

 The setting was very much like Rome and Venice into the middle ages and the magic system was amazing. I love the power that Mia has and her relationship with Mister Kindly. I love the characters although I do not like Ash much, to be honest. Not even as the novels progress. I just found her character to be unbearable unstable and she was just not someone I liked.

Darkdawn

However, compared to Nevernight and Godsgrave, I think Darkdawn did not fully reach the potential. I was a bit bored at parts although I did enjoy it overall. I think it could have been a bit better especially with the plot and the pace.

Verdict

Overall, I love this series and it ended up in my Top Fantasy Reads of 2019 list! I rated Nevernight 4.5, Godsgrave 4.5, and Darkdawn 4stars.

Check out the books on Goodreads, and Amazon.

A tale on Kashmir: The Tree of a Thousand Apples

The book The Tree of a Thousand Apples is set in the beautiful valley of Kashmir and it is a beautiful book diffusing the full Kashmir feel!!

The Tree of a Thousand Apples

The Tree of a Thousand Apples
The Tree of a Thousand Apples

‘A few white petals of Jasmine have found their way out amidst the bushes. Their narrow stems and delicate leaves grapple against the sputtering raindrops. The old gardener must have had an illicit affair with the flowers; their love refuses to die.’

-pg126

A tale on Kasmir

In The Tree With A Thousand Apples, we follow the three friends Safeena, Bilal and Deewan as they grow up in the beautiful land of Kashmir. It is all smooth sailing until the night of 20th January 1990, when everything changes. Militants start attacking the Kashmiri Pandits, in their convoluted plans and desire for ‘Azad Kashmir’. It is an intensely poignant story of love, revenge, insurgency and the way it shapes the lives of those affected, etc.  Based on true events, this book really makes you ponder on the lives of the people who have really been affected by the inhuman acts of the insurgents.

Vivid Imagery

The major highlight is definitely the amazing imagery because you can simply paint it in your mind’s eye! The author has been really able to bring out the essence of the Kashmiri life – with his description of the food, the culture, etc.

Narration and Language

With an awesome narration, the author has really been able to convey the feel of the book. The language of this book was so so poetic and good! The author has also used local Kashmiri words, which make the experience just more real. You feel as if you are living it yourself as you read it too.

The characters have also been shaped well. Their depth was explored throughout the book. It was a well-paced read overall.

Plus points:

The book cover is also very aesthetic and so very eye-catching! The poems inscribed in between, also touch your heart.

What I did not like

What I did not particularly like, was the repetitive lines – it is something that I do not like in books, myself. The sudden jumps in scenes also made it a bit difficult to grasp the tale.

Verdict:

The book was a great read overall. I rate it 4/5 stars.

Check out the book on Amazon and Goodreads!

You might also like 99 Nights in Logar, Suncatcher, An Atlas of Impossible Longing etc.

Intertextual retelling: The Sleeper and The Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle is an intertextual retelling comprising both the tales of Sleeping Beauty as well as Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

An Intertextual Retelling

This is a new retelling, combining the fairytales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I did not really know that going into it; I just thought that it was a Sleeping beauty retelling. However, the author has given an entirely new spin to it!

Female empowerment in intertextual reads

However, sleeping beauty, as it turns out, is not actually who we think she is. This is where the author brings in a delicious and dark new twist and it is quite interesting to see the turn that this story takes. This story however, does establish the two women as independent women with their own rights, pursuing what they want to, whether good or bad. They do not depend or long for a prince to save them and are neither pawns at the hands of others. They are makers of their own destiny and that was a good point added to the story.

Illustrations

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

I think that this is a good fairytale on its own rights, to introduce kids to – not everything is as it appears and not everyone is as helpless as they might seem to be. The artwork was quite different from the one I am generally used to but I loved it. I came across Chris Riddell’s illustrations once before in Summer With Monica by Roger McGough.

What I did not like

However, I would have liked the book to be a bit longer than it was. Because of this reason also, I think that it was a bit overhyped. It could have definitely provided more and I just think like there was something missing.

Verdict:

Overall, a really interesting read and I rate it 4/5 stars.

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Recommended reads: The Near Witch, Crown of Oblivion, The Raven’s Tale, After the Flood, etc.

Classic poetry: Live Oak, With Moss

This classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men. 

Live Oak, with Moss
The classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men.

One of the most beautiful books that I have ever owned, Live Oak, With Moss, is simply filled to the brim with the poet’s haunting love for the beloved. Whitman’s longing just soaks the page and flows to your heart. The way the poet has combined nature with these poems is stunning. It made these so much more potent, real and raw. Apart from this burgeoning sense of longing, these subtly erotic poems are filled with the hope for a distant time and place when there will be a wholesome space for all these men to gather and simply be themselves.

I am reading Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass, for a class this semester. So, reading Live Oak, With Moss was illuminating in a way I never thought possible. I was overwhelmed by the words and the emotions they swelled up in me.

Live Oak, With Moss, is without a doubt, one of the best collections I have ever read and felt.  

Links to Goodreads, and Amazon

Check out my review for Lord of the Butterflies

Historical Fiction: The Orange Grove

A consuming historical fiction novel, The Orange Grove is set in 18th century France. This historical fiction is full of suspense, rivalries, and secrets!

A consuming historical fiction novel, The Orange Grove is set in 18th century France. This historical fiction is full of suspense, rivalries, and secrets!
The Orange Grove, by Kate Murdoch

Historical fiction

A thoroughly entertaining and delicious read, The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch, is a historical fiction set in 18th century France. From the synopsis itself, I could imagine that it would be full of political rivalries, power plays, secrets, etc. So I had high hopes for the book. I am glad to say that it definitely exceeded my expectations.

Synopsis

With a glorious world-building, the plot largely takes place in Blois, in the chateau of Dux Hugo d’Amboise. Inhabited by the Duc, his wife the Duchesse, and five mistresses, it is a regal world. But this aspect itself was baffling for me – for a modern-day woman like myself, this is a curious living situation. As one would aspect, the women, although living in a more or less harmonious existence, often have certain insecurities brewing between them. The Duchesse is acquainted with the ways of her world – any respected nobleman could have mistresses. However, Charlotte is only okay as long as the Duc loves only her. But when the Duc takes on a new mistress, a young noblewoman. He seems thoroughly besotted with her and so, Charlotte feels threatened. And it is from this insecurity that rises, that the story really starts.

The setting

The author portrays the tense environment well. It is clear that the author has done extensive research on this subject and this historical era. The women resort to underhanded means and ways to gain favour at the Duc’s hand. There are various secrets which, if revealed, may shake the roots of the power relations. The setting and plot have been well constructed.

Characterization of Henriette

The character of the protagonist, Henriette, is a morally sound person, I feel. She too has secrets to keep, just like everyone else, but I admire her willingness to help and support another woman instead of viewing her as the enemy. I think this has been the root cause of disharmony among women throughout history. Women are raised to perceive one another as competitors. However, in recent times, this has definitely changed I believe.

Characterization

The characterization when it comes to the others too is well done. We see the characters escalating toward a certain point, the climax so to say, and then follows their rise or downfall. What is also commendable is how wonderfully the author has kept the reader engrossed throughout – whether it is in the case of Henriette, her daughter Solange, Solange’s cute friendship with Tomas, the other mistresses, the tarot reader Romain, etc.

Themes

The themes of friendship, enmity, status and power, morality, loyalty, etc. have been thoroughly played through the characters in the book. In the end, it was thrilling to see how these people support and hate or pull tricks on one another all for the sake of power. Fashion, culture, sexuality, entertainment, culture, etc have also been shown throughout the lives of these characters. It has been a consuming read and I enjoyed each and every page of this novel. I rate this 4.5/5 stars.

  1. Add it on Goodreads!
  2. Buy it on Amazon!

Recommendations:

  1. City of Girls
  2. The Duchess
  3. Emperor Chandragupta and Emperor Vikramaditya
  4. Delayed Rays of a Star
  5. Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping from Houdini

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

A coming-of-age: Suncatcher

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age,  Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!
Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age, Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!

A coming-of-age novel!

This was my first Gunesekera book and by god, am I a fan now! Suncatcher was a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age novel, or a bildungsroman, as we lit grads like to put it.

Setting and background:

The story is set in the 1960s Ceylon, erstwhile Sri Lanka, and it is a time of great political change all around; the reverberations of these political happenings resonate throughout the book and control how the adults act or what they say.

Themes of illusions and traps

One of the important themes that I could figure was that of illusion. Be it the adults or Jay himself, everyone seems to be deliberately altering the way he or she perceives reality and moreover, an entire section on the construction of the cage and the way how Jay perceives it towards the end is reminiscent of the way the system has caged the people. Society, class, economic situation, language, etc are all dividing lines.

Coming-of-age: The protagonist

At the center, we have the protagonist Kairo, a pretty much normal guy whose life takes for an exciting turn when he meets the worldly and confident Jay.

The similarity to The Great Gatsby

For all his dreams and hopes, Jay reminded me of Fitzgerald’s famous character Jay Gatsby. Jay is a boy whose personality greatly mesmerizes and influences Kairo and he comes off as an idealistic visionary, a talented naturalist and a rebel. There are many layers to his personality, however, and as the story progresses, we learn more about him.

A coming-of-age: Jay and Kairo

However, as Jay seems to be oblivious to the unstable situation all around him, Kairo seems to be a more emphatic and emotionally intelligent boy who takes stock of the things going on around him, although at the time he may not understand their significance. Jay and Kairo as a pair, seem to be a juxtaposition of two vastly different worlds; where Kairo belongs to the bourgeoisie, Jay can be said to belong to the ‘landed gentry’, for lack of a better term.

The similarity to Rhett Butler!!

Another character who was very interesting was Uncle Elvin. If Jay reminds me of Jay Gatsby because of his visionary ways, Elvin seems to embody Rhett Butler in his manner of living. I do not know why, but I somehow saw Clark Gable, more specifically his persona as Rhett Butler as Elvin, which is full of fast cars, girls and his extravagant ways.

A realistic writing style

As for the writing, the language is descriptive and so wholesome! The author has been able to well portray the thinking of youngsters burgeoning in their pre-adult years. There is a sense of rivalry that seems to be present, the need to be the leader and to dominate, etc. The use of the native words adds a very original flavor to the book.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I hope I can pick up more from the author’s milieu. I rate it 5/5 stars. Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book. Also, the postcard is so aesthetic!

Recommended reads:

  1. An Atlas of Impossible Longing
  2. City of Girls
  3. The Dutch House

Links:

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48348802-suncatcher
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Suncatcher-Romesh-Gunesekera/dp/1526621584/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3U20JYQ6SXBVS&keywords=suncatcher+by+romesh+gunesekera&qid=1574268544&sprefix=suncatcher+by+romesh%2Caps%2C456&sr=8-1

Another Thriller: You Beneath Your Skin

You Beneath Your Skin is an enjoyable thriller set in India and as a thriller, it sheds light on the rape culture, acid attacks, etc.

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

Why pick up this thriller:

With a thrilling premise, You Beneath Your Skin proved to be an important read. So if you wish to start with crime fiction, this might just be the one for you.

A slow beginning:

 The book started slow but did pick up the pace pretty soon. So I think that if you can just power through the first few pages, it will prove to be a pretty interesting read.

Plot and themes:

The plot was well developed and the book delves into important aspects of the female population, more specifically, the various things women have to face. Rape and acid attacks are horrible issues that are plaguing society today and the author has included this in the book. For me, it was bittersweet as reading about the suffering is never wholesome, but it is also necessary at the same time that we understand that this is a reality and acknowledge its presence and the injustice. Brushing it aside it a gross insult to survivors and through the book, the author has tried to address this situation.

Writing style and title:

With a crisp writing style, the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns and you just cannot put it down. Once a person delves into the read, the reader will understand how significant and meaningful the title is. Politics and the power that the higher-ups wield, and how they use it, also forms the backdrop of the political situation in the book.

Verdict:

It was an overall good read. I rate it 3.75/5 stars.

Links:

  1. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/BENEATH-YOUR-SKIN-DAMYANTI-BISWAS/dp/9386797623/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1574174641&refinements=p_27%3ADAMYANTI+BISWAS&s=books&sr=1-1
  2. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48080944-you-beneath-your-skin

Similar reads:

  1. The Silent Patient
  2. The Millenium Trilogy
  3. The Third Mrs. Durst
  4. Impossible Causes

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

Uplifting Poetry: Ease by Mukhpreet Khurana

Why I picked up this poetry collection:

I had read the poet’s previous work Unlocked Silences some time ago and had quite liked his writing style. It had come out in 2018 and was widely accepted. I remember finishing it in one day, as I devoured the words one by one. I put page flags on almost every page and it is only perhaps due to the absence of flags right now that I did not do the same thing to Ease.

Ease by Mukhpreet Khurana, 2019
Ease, by Mukhpreet Khurana, 2019

Ease: A Poetic Journey Within is a poetry collection that focuses on spirituality, self-love, healing, and gratitude. This poetry collection is a collection of raw, unfiltered and simple poems.

Check out my review of Unlocked Silences

The content matter

In Unlocked Silences, the author had focused a lot on spirituality and the individual. This has continued in Ease and being of a spiritual turn myself (as much as I am able to), I related with it a lot.

Themes in this poetry collection

Ease is a collection of ‘raw, unfiltered and simple poems’, poems that will touch you each time you read them. And no wonder I got so many queries asking me which book it was after I posted snippets on my stories. Many of the poems, abstracts, and musings revolve around the themes of self-love, individuality, healing, and gratitude. In today’s fast-paced world, it provided me relief.

The individuality of this work

The poems are all thought-provoking and especially because of its non-romance centric scenario, it was a panacea to me. I loved it too and look forward to more of the author’s works. Khurana’s rhythmic and lyrical tunes and spirituality permeate through the works and render a sensory experience to the reader.

  1. Amazon
  2. Goodreads

Collaborations

There are also collaborations with other writers and the end product is magical. It is always interesting to see how the voice of an artist comes out in case of collaborations. It was also a great pleasure and surprise when I found that one of my dearest friends Tahoora has also lent her talent to this collection. She is an amazing artist and I am so happy to see her work manifested into this book!

Check out Tahoora’s Instagram account here.

Verdict:

I rate this book 4/5 stars and wholeheartedly recommend it to all those who are looking for a dose for spirituality, self-love, and gratitude through non-romance centric poetry. 

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

Girl Power: A Volume of Female Empowerment

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

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

Female Empowerment and GIRL POWER

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

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

Female empowerment through a diverse bunch of women

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

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

Splendid illustrations

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

Click here to check out my review on Unstoppable!

Inspiring and phenomenal!

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

My verdict

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

Get the book on Amazon!

Update it on your Goodreads!

Dalal’s Street: A satirical extravaganza

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

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

Synopsis of this satirical read:

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

A satirical read

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

Plot:

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

The downfall

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

Writing Satire

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

A 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.

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

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

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

Fantastic cover:

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

Pre-order goodies:

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

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

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

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

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

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

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

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

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

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

Indistractable : A disappointment!

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

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

Synopsis:

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

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

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

About the reviewer:

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

A Mahabharata based extravaganza!

A Mahabharata-inspired retelling

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

I read the first book in this series quite some time ago and from what I remember, that book concentrated quite a bit on the world-building aspect and the construction of the setting. It revolved around the princes and the royal families and their relationships with each other. But in Part 2, which recently was released recently, the focus is given instead on the backstories of the characters, their pasts, and their emotional buildup – all culminating in the ultimate war.

The question about retellings

In the Burnt Empire series, the author has given a fantastic retelling of the epic Mahabharata, but has altered a few essential aspects of it, so as to keep it entertaining. But while this may be a controversial point, I do think that retellings, especially in fantasy, do not have to remain completely true to the original story – if it does, where is the scope for imagination?

World-building

Nonetheless, I think that in this second book, the characters have grown significantly than in the first one. There is clearly a lot of attention given to details and the way the author has intertwined all the different narratives, is a job well done. 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. The world-building ensnares you completely and leaves no possible exit.  I quite enjoyed the book.

Click here to check out my review of the first book!

The human/moral dilemma

Like in the first book, the author has continued to draw upon the essence of the age of confusion that the Mahabharata implies. There is no longer any binary. There is no clear 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.

Verdict:

However, the ending was not… how shall I put it? Not very satisfactory for me. It could have been a bit clearer I suppose. In spite of it all, this Mahabharata retelling – Upon a Burning Throne 2 was an enjoyable read for me. I rate it 4/5 stars.

Title: Upon A Burning Throne (Part 2 of The Burnt Empire Saga)

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Upon-Burning-Throne-Part-2/dp/938679750X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=upon+a+burning+throne+2&qid=1571664653&sr=8-1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47896474-upon-a-burning-throne–part-2

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

Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

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

Dear Juliet

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

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

The Juliet Club

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

My letter of love

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

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

A visual saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, 2019

The far Field

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is a debut novel and it is included in the short-list of the prestigious JCB Literary Awards, 2019. It is a beautiful story from what I could make out from the synopsis.

Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

The fact that it had a beautiful cover was a great attractor for me as well. I have been thoroughly loving the book so far. Although it begins on a note of grief, the writing is beautiful. There is a sort of whimsical and nostalgic about the book, from the very first pages itself and I am in love with the writing style. I hope the author brings out more books so that I can get my hands on it soon.

Many readers may argue that the protagonist is problematic – she comes off as self-centered and living in a bubble that essentially separates her from the world around her. Her actions seem immature and the fact that they are repeatedly done is a factor that irked me at times. The overall arch of the book, however, was worth enjoying and I loved every bit of it except the times I was frustrated because of the decisions Shalini took, which were her own. She has an individualistic streak and I am not sure if everyone will enjoy it. It certainly proved problematic for me at some points.  I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

Thanks a lot to Harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this amazing book. I am also hoping to pick up Milk Teeth and Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman followed by Trial by Silence and A Lonely Harvest. I have been following the Award this year and these are the books I intend to read from here.

Do you follow such literary awards? Are you picking up any award-winning books in the near future? If yes, which ones do you plan to?

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

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

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra, 2019

Title: Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra

Author: Maya Balsi

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this book  a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Merjella, by Yuvaraja Dhayanithi, 2015

Title: Merjella

Author: Yuvaraja Dhayanithi

Publisher: Dreamblooms Media

Genre: Middle-grade

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Synopsis:

Jella, an octopus, is the rightful ruler of Zypher, a kingdom in the sea. But her father was killed and the kingdom was taken over by the evil Chiro. She has no one left but her two little friends, Qwerty and Bingo. Now the task of winning back Zypher and freeing the people is up to her.
Marina is an eminent scientist who has no clue about her contributions to the world. Her inventions are placed in the wrong hands, posing a huge threat to everybody.
Jella finds Marina stabbed and left to die in her sea. In a magical intervention, together they discover each other’s life experiences – but will they be able to reclaim their destiny?

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.

Merjella was quite an interesting read. Although it is packaged as a middle-grade book, do not be fooled by the cover. There are various lessons that can be learned from it. With a really creative cover, Merjella is quite an easy read. The title has also been apt, for Merjella is the story of the octopus Jella, who is the rightful ruler of Zypher, a kingdom in the sea.

There are various themes explored, like that of friendship, righteousness, realities of life, etc. The author has been able to include the actualities of life into the characters and incidents through the story, and that is certainly a very important and good thing he has done.

With a vivid imagination and fluid writing, along with a unique concept, the author has been able to hook on the minds of the readers. While the story seems a bit repetitive at times, the overall execution was well done. It is certainly a book you can gift the children in your family. 

Verdict:

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 .