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Anamika: A Tale of Desire in a Time of War

Today I am talking about one of the most interesting books I have read this year! Anamika, by Meghnad Desai, was a fantastic story set in the days after Aurangzeb’s fall.

Anamika, by Meghnad Desai
Anamika, by Meghnad Desai

(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 post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by the publisher. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

He was a powerful man, as she could see from his hands and his stature. And again, those penetrating eyes. Something had happened in Anamika’s dull daily life. What did it portend?

It is the eighteenth century. Emperor Aurangzeb has fallen, the Mughal Empire is a shadow of its former self, and India is rife with civil war. In these times of gardi, you’d have to be a lion to win power, and a wolf to keep it. When the beautiful Savitri, the only daughter of the Chief Minister of Purana Zilla, marries into a rich merchant household in Ranipur, she becomes Anamika. Her future seems assured—she is to bear her loving husband Abhi many children, eventually becoming the lady of the house and perpetuating the family’s fortunes.

But a tragic accident on their wedding day renders Abhi paraplegic, seemingly dooming their perfect future. Anamika still finds bliss in her love for her husband, but her in-laws’ unfulfilled dreams of progeny threaten to consume and destroy her.

The intrigue that appears

But into her life enters Abdul—the illegitimate son of Shah Ahmad Khan, locked in a deadly war with his brother Hassan for the throne. This powerful, magnetic stranger upsets the balance of her everyday life, thrusting both Anamika and Abhi into a newfound world of intoxicating freedom, conflicting desires, and deadly deceit. Crossing paths with the enigmatic courtesan-turned-bodyguard Nadya, the motherly Niloufer, the spirited young warrior princess Sonal, and a wide and motley cast of soldiers, assassins, courtesans, eunuchs, princes, and queens, Anamika must make bold choices and adopt many names for the sake of both desire and survival.

my review

Anamika: A Tale of Desire in a Time of War a simply a stunning read – full of sensuality intertwined with the duty of necessity. It was especially stunning for its vivid portrayal of women as nuanced and real figures rather than the usual tropes of ‘angel of the house’ or the ‘madwoman in the attic’ that are often used in both English and Indian English literature set in those times.

And because it is the female sex that so thoroughly engrossed me, let me talk about it first!

Womanhood and its various layers

In Anamika, we have the eponymous Anamika who is a mature and independent woman (well, as independent as a married woman in those times can possibly be). She is a loving wife and the way she navigates her life in her married home, around her mother-in-law and a particularly lusty father-in-law was quite well written. Her resolution and will power especially after the accident that rendered her husband a paraplegic.

But then, with the arrival of Abdul, there is a sexual awakening in her. Her very first view of Abdul brings up thoughts in her mind regarding his “penetrating” gaze and the way his hands and stature denoted power. I thought this particular aspect of Anamika’s growth was also empowering in the fact that she is personally growing and looking after herself, after the time she has spent looking after others around her.

Show of strength

Then comes Nadya, who was a courtesan but is now Hassan’s bodyguard. The very fact that she masquerades as Nadeer and stays by his side to protect him, again brings to mind another nature of a woman – that of the more physicality of her strength. I loved the portrayal of Nadya although she wasn’t an absolute favourite all the time. Despite that, I do admire her resolution and strength.

Lastly, a few lines about two other female characters in the book. Hassan’s mother was a truly formidable (and a bit scary) woman who rules the zenana. Princess Sonal is another wonderful woman who does not let anything stop her from learning what she wishes – strategy and warfare, and that too from a French general!

Political intrigue, wars and royalty

Because of what I could infer from the synopsis, it was pretty clear that there would be some interesting political intrigue, seeing as to how it was set in the days after Aurangzeb’s downfall. And surely, a great tussle was at the center of it all. Hassan is the legitimate son of the king, while Abdul is the illegitimate son of Shah Ahmad Khan. And thy are each other’s greatest adversaries striving to bring the other down o their way to claim the throne.

My final thoughts

I thought that Anamika was a really very interesting story and I was hooked from the very beginning! I rate it 4.5/5 stars! Do pick it up!

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BHAIRAVI: The Runaway by Shivani

Today I am sharing my thoughts on BHAIRAVI: THE RUNAWAY, by Shivani urf Gaura Pant, an era-defining Hindi author, whose works are often paralleled to Jane Austen’s.

Bhairavi: The Runaway by Shivani
Bhairavi: The Runaway by Shivani

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

synopsis

A still, dense, ancient forest. A dark cave deep within. And in it a woman-child whose beauty can move the most pious to sin. Who is she and why did she jump from a moving train to land in the biggest cremation ground teeming with Aghori Sadhus?

In this story spanning generations and redolent with Gothic imagery, Shivani urf Gaura Pant tells the story of a woman’s life, her moral and mental strength, and her resilience. She also examines the choices women have in her beautiful, descriptive prose. With an erudite foreword by her daughter and scholar, Mrinal Pande, and a preface by the translator, this book is Shivani for the 21st-century reader.

my review

Bhairavi was a stunning book and I loved it in its entirety. Even during the parts where the characters were not particularly likable or the situation they were going through was not entirely conducive, I thought that it was so real and something that could have perhaps happened to someone we know.

Narrative technique in Bhairavi

Talking about the writing style and the language used, I think it was very earthy and very Indian in the sense that even though it was in English, it really had an essence that was essentially that of a particular people and their cultures. It also had a very folktale-ish vibe as if it is an oral story that is being narrated to you. I think this is because of the ways in which the author has incorporated the folktale traditions of India into her writing – for instance, when narrating the anecdotes or talking of the relationships between people and so on.

Mother-daughter dynamic in Bhairavi

Then comes the most compelling and riveting and at the same time, the off-putting relationship of the mother-daughter duo. Chandan is a beautiful girl, an ‘apsara’ and that is the reason and excuse for why her mother binds her in the way she does. Rajeshwari is an over-protective mother and when one learns of her past, it is in a way the reason why she is like that. But then again, having gone through what she had as a young girl, I believe she should have been more understanding of her daughter and her wishes.

In that case, I suppose the saying is right – we grow up to be like our parents. But is that justification enough? Is it even right?
While I believe it is certainly getting better in contemporary times, I cannot deny that there are still some parents who unjustifiably coddle their daughters. Let me rephrase that, they are over-protective and downright oppressive. Wouldn’t that explain why so many of the kids we know nowadays, are good at sneaking and lying? I think a certain bit of leniency is needed so that both the kid and parents learn to trust each other’s decisions and not lie and sneak around.

Human prejudices in Bhairavi

There are also various prejudices that were shown via the thoughts of Rajswari in this book. Westernized people do not get any respect from her; rather, she curses her meat-eating neighbour and then is surprised by the way modern women live. All in all, I do believe it is a good reflection of the times that the book is set in, but I do hope we take a lesson from it. Just because it used to be that way in that past, doesn’t mean we do not change the way it goes.

Bhairavi in the end

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and Chandan’s journey was a long and learning one. Of course when the book ended, she still had a long way to go. However, she finally was in control of her fate and life, as it were. Beautiful writing and real-living characters, with an honest portrayal of the various issues that plagued society then (and in some ways, even now)!

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Check it out on:

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Blog Tour: Crescent City, House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J Maas

Today is my blog tour stop for the review of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood from Bloomsbury.

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 1
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood

I am absolutely honoured that Amrita from Bloomsbury sent me a copy of my most anticipated read fo 2020!

Buy the book on Amazon, or add it to your Goodreads!

Synopsis:

Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. Every night is a party and Bryce is going to savour all the pleasures Lunathion – also known as Crescent City – has to offer. But then a brutal murder shakes the very foundations of the city, and brings Bryce’s world crashing down.
Two years later, Bryce still haunts the city’s most notorious nightclubs – but seeking only oblivion now. Then the murderer attacks again. And when an infamous Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, is assigned to watch her every footstep, Bryce knows she can’t forget any longer.
As Bryce and Hunt fight to unravel the mystery, and their own dark pasts, the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the deepest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir …
With unforgettable characters and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom – and the power of love.

“LIGHT IT UP, BITCH!”

I was yelping at this point. This book gave me all the feels – I was cackling like a manic and my dad just popped in and asked what the hell I was laughing about at 2 am. I was also a sobbing mess, bawling my eyes out – somehow saying “I can’t do this anymore” to my sister, who just laughed her ass off. I was happy and ecstatic and sad and feeling all the in-betweens!

“It was joy and life and death and pain and song and silence.”

SJM is an auto-buy author for me and I have been trash for her ever since I first read ACOTAR and TOG. And so, knowing that she is coming up with this humongous tome had me on the edge of the seat. I thought I would be able to rest once I got the book in my hands. But did I? NUH UH!

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 2
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood artwork

“She was sea and sky and stone and blood and wings and earth and stars and darkness and light and bone and flame.”

The reading experience was sensational! I love the urban setting – with laptops and phones and internet, and cap-wearing angels, badass party princesses, and a swaggering Fae prince. The union of technology and magic, as well as the “in-between” (thumbs up in you know what I mean!), was on point.

The plot twists were unexpected and sudden and would make me put down the book and stare vacantly for a few moments. The politics among the different cliques (for lack of a better term) was intense but also peppered with witticism. The bonds that the characters shared were also so heartfelt and real that as a reader, I felt every bit of happiness radiating from them as well as every loss they were dealt with too. SJM is amazing at character development and the interpersonal drama aspects.

What is classic SJM is that her characters – both the males and the females – are fighting demons of their own. None of them have it easy and it is in their struggle that countless readers have found hope. I know I certainly have.   

However, I do think that certain characters were similar to the ones we have come across in the earlier books as well. I do think SJM pulls a Sam Cortland unfortunately. And I do believe that SJM hints at the fact that she will do what she does, further on in the sequels:

“If she’s smart, she’ll lie low and not attract the attention of any other powerful immortals for the rest of her life.”

(If you know, you know!) Also, that cover is smashing!

5/5 stars, without a doubt!

Thank you, Bloomsbury for sending across a copy of this riveting book!

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.

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

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.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, 2019

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Publisher: OneWorld Publications

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-illusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
Named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection. 

Won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

My review:

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

This book left me speechless. I am honestly shook after reading it. An American Marriage is riveting in its honest tone, the tangibility and the rawness was grating on my soul. It was sad, or rather, bittersweet, in a way that reality often is.

The author has made it a story which can be the story of someone we might know – Jones has a magical quality to her writing. The issue of race is an important one here – the one that makes fate take the turn it does. Celestial and Roy are husband and wife until he is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, and sentenced to twelve years. It is at once, the most horrifying thing that can happen to a couple, one that either breaks them or only makes them stronger. These two individuals are bound together by their deep sense of love and yet, separated by the twisted hand fate had dealt.

Societal and familial expectations are often ones that can push a person to be better, or they can become unwelcome burdens on a person’s shoulders. Celestial is a person who has to deal with a lot of pressure – her life is not easy, and neither is Roy’s. As a reader, I could not help but be overwhelmed by the difficult choices these two had to made to just make it day by day.

Stories also play a key role here – many of them reveal details that define the characters and their beings. Often told through letters and flashbacks, An American Marriage was an astounding book, one that I shall be keeping close to my heart always. And thus, it is no surprise that my mother has also decided to pick up this book soon.  

Verdict:

This was devastating and yet utterly moving story, that touched my heart and shook me to the core. 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 .

Heart of Mist, by Helen Scheuerer, 2017

Title: Heart of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 487

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

Heart of Mist is the first book in the Oremere Chronicles and I was so glad I picked it up. I read it in less than 6 hours I think, spread over two days. As soon as you pick up this book, I assure you that you will not be able to stop. The book is very fast-paced and thus, it is of no wonder that you are pulled in.  

The author has also brought in various themes such as addiction, alcoholism, human nature (which is so unreliable sometimes), the issue of identity etc. Bringing in such aspects within the lives of the characters has made it very relatable for the readers. Mental health is also another theme that is explored here. Sahara is one such character who suffered a lot (from what I have inferred so far). In one way or another, many other characters have also faced such issues that have affected their mental health in one way or another. Trauma is one such factor that has ssailed Bleak – her past is something she tries to run away from, and yet, she cannot let go completely. Oppression – the dominance over a people (the Ashai in this case) is also shown in the book and this is always a sad instance no matter where we read about these instances. Segregation of the Valians – into the kindred and the rest is also portrayed.

The world building is amazing – we see a lot of the Valian life in this book and their world really gave me James Cameron’s Avatar vibes. I would love to see more of the rest of this world. And I am so very excited to read about Oremere.

Bleak as a person is very complex. I love how by the end of this book she is strong enough to resist her temptations and her addiction. Her character arc has been slow and consistent and I hope to see more of her growth throughout the series. Bren is so supportive – I love how he is always there for Bleak and when the time comes, she is willing to do everything possible to save him as well. I would love to see more of Bren throughout the rest. The friendship he shares with Bleak is amazing and their friendly banter, full of humour and wit, is fun to read. There are so many instances in the book when you laugh out loud, and so many times when you feel like crying. It is an emotional ride. And the fact that Bren is such an honourable man is also another plus point for him. Olena and Dash’s friendship is beautiful. At first I was wondering what importance these characters might have in the books and now – oh my god, you need to pick up this series as soon as possible! Henri is also going on her own journey and I look forward to see where she ends up. I would also love to know more about Swinton – his history. He is a very dynamic character – and I admit I still have mixed feelings about him. The multiple points of views used throughout were also great as they focused on various characters and gave us a glimpse into their minds.

Full of political intrigue, adventure, magic and some amazing friendships, Heart of Mist was a really great start to the trilogy. I finished the book today and I am going to pick up the sequel Reign of Mist tonight!

Verdict:

Absolutely loved this book. I rate Heart of Mist a full 5/5 stars and look forward to the sequel.

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 Dark Side of the Moon: vOLUME 2, by Shubham Arora, 2019

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon Vol.2

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a collection of short stories that is dark, grim and flirts ambitiously with notions of the unexplained. 
Volume 2 marks the return of the series with another set of three thrilling, crisply narrated tales – 

DECEMBER

Cold. Rainy. Windy. A typical December night in Mussourie. The police receives a distress call. Typical for stormy nights, as they say. But this night will be different. This night will be longer. This night will remain unexplained.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – THE STORY
Humans haven’t been on the moon since 1972. They have decided to return – though this time to the dark side of the moon, where no human has ever set foot before. What does the unknown hold?

SEVENTY METERS
The swift morning breeze soothes her hair. The tinkling wind-chimes call her to the window. She looks at him smiling in his sleep. She smiles too. But that’s been a rarity for them. 
Does love, like time, wither away as it’s consumed?

My review:

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

I have not been much of a horror fan but… Shubham Arora had me hooked with his first volume. And when he reached out to me for the second one, I was already jumping with joy. That is another story in itself so we’ll keep that aside for now.

In comparison to the first volume, I think the author’s writing has improved immensely. Most importantly, he knows how to deliver a punch at the end, just as succinctly.

In the first story, December, the writing is very atmospheric and is enough to give you the chills. When the story actually starts, and we venture into the mansion, I almost felt as if something is going to jump out of the shadows, at me. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was a part of the story itself and the instances were happening to me too.

The stories have become creepier, with the eponymous The Dark Side of the Moon being the creepiest of them all. I loved how he has taken on this urban myth and given it his own twist. The idea itself, when you sit back and think about it – being stranded on a strange place (the dark side of the moon, for God’s sake!) The way this story is told – especially in day counts, is one that really makes you tensed up as if awaiting the climax, the twist you know is coming.

The last story is Seventy Meters, and from the name, I could guess what the ending would have been. Although the least favourite from all three, this was, a good story too, although I did not think it was scary. In a strange sort of way, it was actually sad.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I hope to read more of the author’s writing. I rate it 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

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

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Historical fiction

Format: Papaerback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

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

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter

Author: Debeshi Gooptu

Publisher: Juggernaut Books

Published on: May, 2019

Genre: Contemporary fiction/romance/classic retelling

Format: E-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 229

Recommended for: for fans of Jane Austen

Synopsis:

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

My review:                                 

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson, 2018

Title: Skyward

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Gollancz

Genre: Science fiction/ Young adult/ Fantasy

Format: Kindle edition

Language: English

No. of pages: 528

Recommended for:

Synopsis:

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

My review:

I read this book as a part of the Underrated Book Club read for April 2019.

I really enjoyed this book and I think this might be a sort of very very informal write-up on it, unlike the reviews that I usually write. Okay.. disclaimer done, moving on.

The book totally gave me Top Gun vibes in the beginning, and I absolutely loved it. The world building is great but can probably do with a bit more of description as we read on. The social system is also unique and I quite enjoyed reading the book.

The character development of Spensa is great. In the beginning, we see her as a know-it-all, who is also very dramatic, mind you, almost too much at times, and also appears to be immature, unwilling to sometimes just accept things as they are. She also lacks control! Nonetheless, she is humourous and very optimistic, to be honest and it is refreshing.

The classroom bantering all is so amazing to read – because it is so very relatable. Despite the fact that they are in a completely different environment than we are, the back and forth replies are really cool. Jerkface, oh sorry, Jorgen is just as funny – I actually like reading about him. Cobb too is a pretty cool and understanding teacher and I am so thankful that he is willing to take on a chance when it came to Spensa’s admission.

The book also talks about a lot of other important issues that are very relatable to our world today – losing one’s life in the line of duty, understanding that life is not divided into only black and white and that there are so many grey areas in between. The toxic expectations of bravery is also shown and Cobb’s own speech about it says a lot – “The only reason we have this stupid culture of self-martyrdom is because somebody feels they have to justify our casualties. To make them seem honourable, righteous”. This is the reason Hurl does not eject and it is heartbreaking – that all pilots would rather do this than ne termed as a cadet.

On a humourous note, Doomslug is so funny and interrupts with her sounds! Also, should I say more about M-Bot ?

A couple of destructor blasts hit M-Bot’s shield. “Hey!” M-Bot said. “Just for that, I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell thm of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!”

How can a mere ship be this funny? Another instance of M-Bot’s humour goes –

“Humans have many holes in them. Would you like me to provide you with a list?” “Please don’t.” “Ha. Ha. That was humor”

I felt so bad for the richer kids actually – like FM, Arturo, Jorgen etc. and slowly, Spensa understands that she is perhaps more free than the rest of the her flight mates. The little moment between Jorgen and Spensa was so good though – I am still not sure if I would like to have a romance yet… how he inspires us is firstly beautiful and also nice for us readers to read about.

“When you fly, you are amazing. You’re so determined, so skillful, so passionate. You’re a fire, Spin. When everyone else is calm, you’re a burning bonfire. Beautiful, like a newly forged blade.”

However, at times, it felt a bit separate from the reader. Using such technical terms in the beginning was a bit difficult in the beginning. And as such, I think that if the reader just reads on despite this problem in the beginning, the story grips you and pulls you in.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed the book and look forward to the sequel. For now, I rate this one a 4.5/5 stars.

About the author:

Brandon’s major books for the second half of 2016 are The Dark Talent, the final volume in Alcatraz Smedry’s autobiographical account of his battle against the Evil Librarians who secretly rule our world, and Arcanum Unbounded, the collection of short fiction in the Cosmere universe that includes the Mistborn series and the Stormlight Archive, among others. This collection features The Emperor’s Soul, Mistborn: Secret History, and a brand-new Stormlight Archive novella, Edgedancer. Earlier this year he released Calamity, the finale of the #1 New York Times bestselling Reckoners trilogy that began with Steelheart . Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child Brandon enjoyed reading, but he lost interest in the types of titles often suggested to him, and by junior high he never cracked a book if he could help it. This changed when an eighth grade teacher gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. Brandon was working on his thirteenth novel when Moshe Feder at Tor Books bought the sixth he had written. Tor has published Elantris,the Mistborn trilogy and its followup The Alloy of Law, Warbreaker, and The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, the first two in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. He was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; 2009’s The Gathering Storm and 2010’s Towers of Midnight were followed by the final book in the series, A Memory of Light, in January 2013. Four books in his middle-grade Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series have been released in new editions by Starscape, and his novella Infinity Blade Awakening was an ebook bestseller for Epic Games accompanying their acclaimed Infinity Blade iOS video game series. Two more novellas, Legion and The Emperor’s Soul, were released by Subterranean Press and Tachyon Publications in 2012, and 2013 brought two young adult novels, The Rithmatist from Tor and Steelheart from Delacorte. The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award six times in four years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of KingsThe Emperor’s Soul won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He has appeared on the New York Times Best-Seller List multiple times, with five novels hitting the #1 spot. Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. 

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Near Witch

Author: V. E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 355

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

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Stillwater Girls , by Minka Kent, 2019

Title: The Stillwater Girls

Author: Minka Kent

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Mystery and Thriller

Format: E-arc

Language: English

Synopsis:

Two sisters raised in fear are about to find out why in a chilling novel of psychological suspense from the author of The Thinnest Air.

Ignorant of civilization and cautioned against its evils, nineteen-year-old Wren and her two sisters, Sage and Evie, were raised in off-the-grid isolation in a primitive cabin in upstate New York. When the youngest grows gravely ill, their mother leaves with the child to get help from a nearby town. And they never return.

As months pass, hope vanishes. Supplies are low. Livestock are dying. A brutal winter is bearing down. Then comes the stranger. He claims to be looking for the girls’ mother, and he’s not leaving without them.

To escape, Wren and her sister must break the rule they’ve grown up with: never go beyond the forest.

Past the thicket of dread, they come upon a house on the other side of the pines. This is where Wren and Sage must confront something more chilling than the unknowable. They’ll discover what’s been hidden from them, what they’re running from, and the secrets that have left them in the dark their entire lives.

My review:

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

I went into this book really intrigued – the synopsis was enough to arouse my curiosity and the narrative gripping enough to keep me hooked in until the very end. The whole trope of the unreliable protagonist is an interesting one and I personally love it. After reading books like The Woman in the Window, Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train etc.,  I was looking for more such domestic thrillers and this book’s synopsis promised to deliver.

The plot was well stitched together. At one point, I thought I knew how it was going to end, but boy, was I wrong! The entire narrative had a jigsaw like feel and in the beginning I had no idea how the author would possibly intertwine the two storylines into one. The themes were universal and as such, I believe that many readers will b able to  relate to them; some are relationships, dealing with authoritarian figures, infidelity, keeping secrets, identity crisis etc. Of course, there are my interpretations.  

The character of Nicolette also underwent growth – she is absolutely different at the end, from the way she was at the beginning of the book. The anagnorisis in relation to her character is enormous and lends the narrative great depth and feeling. Brant is also an interesting character and although not the protagonist himself, his role is just as important.

Wren and Sag also undergo growth and this is very important as we see them dealing with various issues that most teenagers may perhaps relate to, (I am talking about the happenings towards the end; needless to say, I wish no one has to go through what they did).

The writing style is flawless – it flows and gives a very lucid effect to the narrative. Apart from the twist and the jaw-dropping end, the characters too were amazing and had such great depth!

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed the book and I hope to read something similar from the author soon! I really enjoyed the book and I rate it a 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Mad Love, by Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan, 2019

Title: Mad Love, a DC Comics Novel

Author: Pat Cadigan and Paul Dini

Publisher: Titan Books

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 288

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

You Will be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, 2019

Title: You Will be Safe Here

Author: Damian Barr

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Advanced Reading Copy

Language: Language

No. of pages: 352

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Some lines I liked were –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Kingdom of Copper, by S. A. Chakraborty, February 21, 2019

Title: The Kingdom of Copper

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Adult fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 621

Synopsis:

Return to Daevabad in the spellbinding sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabadand quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the maridthe unpredictable water spiritshave gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

My review:

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

The Kingdom of Copper is the sequel to The City of Brass, the first book is The Daevabad Trilogy, and oh! What a book! I had absolutely loved reading the first book and so was very excited to pick up this one.

The Kingdom of Copper opens 5 years after City of Brass closes. We see quite a bit of changes in the scenario. Firstly, the environment! It has grown so much more serious that before and everyone is now being careful of what they say and think twice before they do so. Nahri’s character has developed – she is so much better with her skills and I think that by the end of this book she has evolved even more. Nahri’s character arc is significant in other aspects also – we see her dealing with a great loos, coping with it and as such, get a glimpse into the actual situation that she hides behind the façade of being the perfect Banu Nahida for her people. The way she copes, and goes on despite the pain and the hurt and the anger, is commendable and really inspiring. I think that she is portrayed very much as a real woman – in our eyes she is no more than real flesh and blood.

Ali’s character has also seen a lot of changes – for instance, he has grown more serious. The terrible pressure that he has to live under – the burden – never feels like it until he has to go back to Daevabad and it proves to be his undoing. We also see Muntadhir is a new light – there is so much more to this Emir and it has been such an enlightening journey that I have actually started to quite like this conflicted prince – one who has just as many troubles.

The plot of this book is just as intricate if not more so. There are so many unexpected twists and turns that by the time the book ends you are left reeling! I am very much eager and kind of nervous too to see how the author wraps up this book. The themes again revolved around mental health and well-being, societal pressures and expectations, and love, and longing and coping with loss and so on. Of course these are some of the subtle ones I could infer from the background.  The concept of faith and the strong belief in one’s faith and also in one’s own self is quite strong here. Moreover, fantasy is a running element in this series but the author’s representation of a Muslim fantasy is beautiful and resplendent. I have absolutely loved reading about this culture (many are fictionalized, of course) and this world as a whole is so intriguing for the modern reader. This is truly a nook unlike any. 

Verdict:

This book was dazzling and beautiful and I have no words for it. I do think I love this book more than the first one and as such I will wholeheartedly rate this one a solid 5/5 stars!

About the author:

S. A. Chakraborty is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, The City of Brass, was the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy and has been short-listed for the Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. When not buried in books about Mughal miniatures and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals for her family. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.comor on Twitter at @SAChakrabooks where she likes to talk about history, politics, and Islamic art.

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 City of Brass, by S. A. Chakraborty, 2017

Title: The City of Brass

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: AdultFantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 530

Synopsis:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for… 

My review:

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

For my first foray into adult fantasy, I think I picked up an awesome book! The City of Brass was a dazzlingly fantastical read, one that made me jump onto the sequel as soon as I put down the first.

The City of Brass is the first book in the Daevabad Series and after being kept deeply engrossed by the story, I can definitely say that I will continue on with this one. The plot is set in what we call the Middle-East today and the setting is lush and beautiful. There is vivid imagery in Chakraborty’s writing and it conjured up swirling sands and flying carpets and magic in my mind’s eye.

The character of Nahri is an entity in herself. She changes considerably from the beginning until the very end of the novel, as we see the way the various circumstances around her transform her, and shape her to be one who is an young independent woman, coming out into this new world and relearning the concept of survival once again in a totally new environment.

Daya is also someone who really captured my attention. His history was one that kept flirting within the reader’s reach and when the author finally reveals the various truths about him, it is a damn breaking open. He is truly a multifaceted character and offers great light on man and man’s actions. He is proof that man can change. Oops! Not Human or man; rather a djinn! (Yes there are djinns!)

The entire story is told through multiple viewpoints and the other character through whose eyes too we see the world, is Alizayd, the younger Qahtani prince. He is a confident man – confident in his ardent desires to help the people in his kingdom, a just and kind djinn.

The element of the fantasy is one on which the story is based and it permeated through every nook and corner of the incidents. The magical system devised by the author is captivating – this view into another culture is refreshing and beautiful. The themes of friendship, love, familial love, betrayal, court politics (yes!) etc. are some of the other elements we see in this book and this offers a multifaceted perspective on this novel. The magic system was also a refreshing change from the usual Western-based ones that are more common in the market. However, this could have been a bit better explained. I got confused regarding the magic system quite a few times.

Talking about the cover, it is absolutely beautiful and I love it. The writing is lucid and engaging – as if the characters are conversing right in front of you. I absolutely loved this book and will move on to the sequel soon!

Verdict:

I completely fell in love with the characters and the plot. And as I look forward to reading sequel, I rate it a 4/5 stars!

About the author:

S. A. Chakraborty is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, The City of Brass, was the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy and has been short-listed for the Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. When not buried in books about Mughal miniatures and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals for her family. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.comor on Twitter at @SAChakrabooks where she likes to talk about history, politics, and Islamic art.

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 .

Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo, 2014

Title: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. 

My review:

Considering the fact that I have been reading this series since the beginning of 2019 (One book in each month) along with Faguni, this last book in the trilogy was bound to be a nostalgic and bittersweet read for me. Leigh Bardugo has finally tied up all the loose ends (most, rather!) and this trilogy has come to a dazzling close finale. The journey of this buddyreading series has been amazing and I wholeheartedly thank Faguni for bearing with me! (We have alreays started and finished with our next buddy read!)

I found this book very bittersweet. And when I first started reading it, I felt as if we were moving towards a poignant end and that made me so very hesitant to read the book, where I was crazy to read it because of Bardugo’s amazing writing.

The adventure aspect in this book is one that I absolutely loved. From the beginning to the end, the travels that this ragtag group of people made, despite their differences, and infact, with these differnces making them a strong unit in themselves, is amazing. Also, Nikolai sweeps in again with his brilliant wit and charm. The entire episode that affects him (I’m so not giving any spoilers! So please pick up this series!) made my heart so sore and I hope so much for my baby prince!

Also, how can I not love the Darkling despite everything? I know I reiterate this again and again but that is because it is so true – Leigh Bardugo’s talent at creating these multifaceted real characters is awesome.

Also, Alina’s character arc is truly notable in this last book. Her development from the beginning till the end in this one book itself is amazing. We see her grow into this strong and independent woman, who is not afraid to stand up for her friends, her people, and ask help when needed.

And oh I cried! I cried so much. At one point, I just closed the book and cried solid for a couple minutes straight. But well, I ofcourse went back to reading it again, once sob-fest was over.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I rate 4.5/5 stars to this amazing read.

About the author:

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

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 Dark Side of the Moon: Volume 1, Shubham Arora, 2019

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages:

Synopsis:

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a collection of short stories that are dark, grim and flirt ambitiously with notions of the unexplained. 

Volume 1 includes three fast paced stories which are bound to keep you hooked – 

THE LAST SKYPE: 
What do you do when you are thousands of miles away from the person you love? 
You Skype.
But what if what you see isn’t what it actually is?

IN MY HEAD: 
All killers have a motive. People don’t kill out of necessity; people kill because they want to kill. 
Would a mother murdering her own child have a motive too? He has seven days to find out.

THE RITUAL:
It’s been 33 years. The comet is returning. His god is returning. 
The time is right for The Ritual. Will his god come home? 

My review:

The Dark Side of the Moon was a fabulous read. With just the perfect combination of the macabre and the thriller elements, it was a fast-paced read overall.

In all the three stories, the author has been able to create a world for the story and then proceeds to tell his tale in the most deliciously mysterious way as possible. Like the synopsis claims, the stories all flirt ambitiously with the unexplained. The atmosphere is dark, as can be expected, and the stories were absolute in themselves. The beauty lies in the fact that the author is able to wrap up an entire story in just a few words – kudos to his writing – and yet leave so many unanswered questions in the readers’ minds.

The themes, although horror permeated through every story, were that of normal everyday emotions and perhaps that is why the author has been able to so easily, capture the readers’ minds; familial love, romantic love, human hopes and aspirations, human’s thirst for knowledge, technology etc., abound this collection. The writing style is simple yet engaging and makes you wonder – is it possible? Can this really happen? And what if it does?

These questions flitted about in my mind as I read one story and then moved on to the next. What they did is really made me question a lot of things we as humans have already come to accept and believe. Are these paranormal phenomena even true? And maybe, somewhere around us, they are happening?

My favourite was The Last Skype and its ending left me so very shocked and yet thirsty for more of this author’s work. Considering that this collection is the Volume 1, we can no doubt expect a Volume 2 perhaps to come out soon, and I wait eagerly for that. This was one book that was very interesting and I hope to read more of this author’s works.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Poets, Artists, Lovers, by Mira Tudor, 2017

Title: Poets, Artists, Lovers

Author: Mira Tudor

Publisher: Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Literature

Format: Ebook

Language: Language

No. of pages: 166

Publication Date: August 4, 2017

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B074L8W7XS

Synopsis:

PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel, written in a witty and bittersweet romantic key reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day), and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.

My review:

Poets, Artists, Lovers is a great book – it is deep and sentimental, funny at times, but engrossing and makes you sink dee into thought yourself. I tried to write a short review but I guess I have too many notes made from when I read it – such was its power over me.

The intertextual references are a nice inclusion and brings in many themes from different times and different minds to the instances in the novel. Moreover, the extensive talks on the works of various musical artists, sculptors like Rodin etc. in relation to life itself gave another layer to this story. Throughout the novel, music is also a key binding element. There is also a lot of philosophy in the book, and being a student of English literature, I quite enjoyed them as well. The author’s own proficiency in these fields can be seen through her characters.

There is a cinematographic aspect to the novel, maybe because of the gradual changes in the background that are not brought to the forefront – it is very much a character driven novel, after all – but also due to the whimsical quality that permeates throughout. Moreover, the inclusion of the visual arts, and also pop culture, make it an intriguing read.

This is truly an art book – much like the art movies that wonder us so. Maybe I am a melancholic reader myself but wouldn’t you agree that so much of the melancholy in the book is beautiful –

Yes. It actually talks of something that makes me think of solitude that grows and grows and is ever harder to take apart. Solitude that threatens to displace everything in its path.”

I found this part completely nostalgic and yet the delivery of the lines is so beautiful. The same can be said of the entire book. I now long for a hardcopy I can keep on my bedside table to read every now and then –

“I also rediscovered emails I saved,” Alice went on. “Reviewing some of them the other day felt like reading about a different person. If I had not recognized some terms of endearment, I would have thought someone else had written them. I was full of enthusiasm, all exclamation points and smiles. I didn’t recognize myself. I realized I had forgotten so much of myself, of my former self,” Alice added pensively.

Special mention for this poem that Ela wrote – it was so very beautiful, I think I may work my calligraphy magic on it and then frame it up-

She then got up and retrieved from her purse her most recent poem, which she had finished and printed out just before she left home that day. It was titled “After So Many Years,” and it went, when I cry, you cry inside me harder, when I stake out my spot in the wilderness I find you there, winding me, in the darkness, in the light, shaking my bed sheets, so I can’t sleep, or love another; I wonder who’s by your side now, in the darkness, in the light, if you’re crying, or if you’re lonely and silent, walking into the wilderness from an empty table and a floor littered with a handful of breadcrumbs you leave in your path for love to eventually find you and feed you, after all these years.

Sometimes the novel also felt like reading absurdist literature because sometimes the characters talk about such normal pointless things that it sort of seems absurd when seen in context of life in the book throughout. Of course, this is a very personal point of view. But this also brings in the debate over existentialism and the essence of being.

Themes

The part where Alice and Anca are discussing about Henriette’s latest sculpture of pairs of breasts at different consecutive age decade, is one I found very bittersweet. How true it is that we are so much fixated on youth – we are so vain – I for one, despair that I am 20 now, when the heroines in all the fantasy books I love are not yet 20 and have still accomplished and gone through so much. 

“The point being that in this youth-fixated Western world we don’t realize how invisible the human body becomes after a certain age. When I first saw two naked seventy-five-year-olds making love in a movie, and enjoying their bodies together at the edge of the sea, I was shocked. And I had seen Alice Neel’s paintings and other images like that.”

Other body image issues also crop in, and Ela says –

“My mother says that young healthy women with strong willpower should make sure they’re slim, or else they send the message that they don’t have enough willpower, or that they’re not healthy.”

It leads to mental health issues as well.
Ela and her mental health issues; depression is truly an ugly viper-

“If only that pain and sinking feeling would disappear at all. It may take a while, though. It still takes me hours some mornings to get rid of them. I’m glad I have the books and my poems to give me a feeling of purpose strong enough to beat the ache out of my system. Or maybe it’s the concentration that does it. I’ve been able to concentrate better lately.”

Sibling tension is also portrayed well in this book.

Alice looked at her sister in silence, taking the latter’s acrimony in stride. “Sorry, Henriette, that I’m not more talented,” she spoke after a few beats. Her calm was that of someone who has felt and said that many times.

The utter clogging at my throat was real when I read these lines. To be second-best and that to against a sibling is truly a hard thing and for one to be so used to it to be able to simply admit it, is heart wrenching. Since I am currently taking a short story paper in university, I came across this story by Alice Walker, Everyday Use, where the younger daughter Maggie says – “She can have them, Mama”, she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. The despondency and the dejection that comes from reading these lines from two different texts is a bittersweet experience.

In chapter 10, when Alice and Anca are talking, and Alice points out that since Anca has so many problems with her boyfriend, Marcel, she could just leave him. But Anca says no

“Because it could turn out to be for good,” Anca said. “And I’ve invested too much in this relationship.” “Really?” Alice said, in mock surprise. “That’s your argument?” “I love him,” Anca said powerfully. “Not for what he is now, but for what he was and what I think he can be again. He’s not being himself these days. He’s either trying too hard or sabotaging any chance at happiness.”

This really made me think about our relationships – how sometimes, we try to settle down despite that prick in our minds, and because we are used to used and now comfortable. We would rather live with that ache on our sides forever, than to move and settle somewhere new.

The use of the stream of consciousness method is also clear. For instance, in the paragraph in chapter 8, as Ela keeps on speaking –

“Yes, at first I thought that was it, but in reality I was in shock,” Ela said, taking a gulp from her mug. “He turned my whole world upside down, and I was asking myself all these questions: what it means to live life with a passion, or with love, or with a mixture of the two, what it means to feel both passion and love for the same person, what it means to love someone and life and God, what kind of passion and love you need for that …” She picked up another brownie and bit into it. “These brownies are really different from how I usually make them. They’re very good, aren’t they? And the recipe was very similar to mine. Same ingredients, just different quantities.” She drank some more of her tea. “I don’t think he was in love with Ettie,” she said, her gaze meeting Alice’s.

There are significant other instances too-
Marcel’s mother says a very important thing to Maria, friend of Anca –

“We’re complex creatures, Maria. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one thing in this world for you. Be creative with your life. Learn many skills. Don’t ever get complacent or lazy. You never know what life may throw at you, and you have to be prepared. We don’t live under communism anymore. You have to be ready to change paths if one vocation doesn’t pan out. Or a certain job. Don’t wait too long, either. Life is so very short.”

The book also portrays the utter complexities of human emotions and human relationships, with so many shadows harrowing them. For instance, The Thinker and the Lover movie that Ela, Henriette and Pamfil saw and the resultant discussion that they had was very enlightening in itself. And then later, the sudden competitiveness that comes up between Henriette and Ela is noticeable. 

Other important motifs I saw throughout-out were – the non-linearity of time in the story as the author tells it (which is also so reflective of the non-linearity in one’s own life today), how one event can trigger another – for instance in Ela’s case, seeing Pamfil and Henriette together, leading to her leaving her job and becoming a book reviewer, or even the case of completely disregarding our sadness and overworking out body, as we try to replace the emotional or mental ache with the physical pain.

The author has brought in various modern instances – psychological, for instance, the things we do to alleviate anxiety, like online chatting, the need for real communication and the fact that what we get in lieu of that is an utter travesty, compartmentalization in regards to men and women, as explained by Pamfil, which I agree mostly with.

Characters

At some points, I felt sad for Pamfil – to live such a hollow life – maybe he never felt it and it is only I the reader who thinks as such.

“I think he’d never learned to love,” Ela said. “Love with a passion and tenderly and on a higher level. Just like me. I mean I hadn’t either. I only began to love this way after I methim.Only after he shook my whole way of looking at things.” “That doesn’t make much sense, his teaching you a kind of love he hasn’t grasped himself,” Alice said.

But then again, in chapter 14, when Marie asks him what his favourite pleasure was, Pamfil had replied as follows.
And I think that, really explains him and those few words are enough to tell us everything about him- why he does what he does and so on.

“The pleasure of being young,” Pamfil said, stretching his arms over the table for her hands.

The post-transformation Ela, if you could prefer to call that phase her transformatory years, is one I really liked. Her ideas for a book are also so magically spoken that I was enraptured.

“It starts with wandering around like Alice—not you,” she said with a smile as she read from a paper with put-on panache, “living a life of superimposed uncertainties—you know, uncertain about my purposes in life but no underlying tectonic plate motion to make me really seek a higher love—until they’re suddenly flung out… finding myself chained to barren solitude, and then slowly taking revolving steps to grind away my memories, feeling my way around them devoid of meaning, bereft of a soul, till, slowly, a zephyr drifts in, and I hear its call to make it beautiful, to make emptiness sing as I push it out, to wind through words as if it matters.” She took a deep breath. “And then I start the story. That was just the prologue.”

We find her this new person who is slowly learning herself and as she says, also learning to love George again. The character arc of Ela is really interesting. Although we do not see her much towards the beginning, after her transformation, this new Ela is at least superficially sure of what she feels and thinks. Her discussions with Henriette regarding happiness and health etc., although may not seem very significant, but the manner of her speaking is to be noted.

Henriette nodded, even though she had never been a big fan of his poetry, and accepted the printout, thinking how funny it was that he had just mentioned women trying to change him. Then her mood grew somber. Haralambie’s verse was now darker in his pronouncements. His poem, loosely inspired by Miguel Hernández’s “Después del amor” (“After the Love”), talked of solitudes so hard they were impossible to crush, firm obstacles in the path of happiness, boulders that not even time could erode much in the course of a lifetime.

– This of course made me check out the poem and I as was expected fell in love with it. I think that even though Haralambie or Har, might not show it overtly, the breakup with Henriette really affected him. His innate habits are so very different by the end of the novel. For instance, Henriette notices that unlike before, he smirks a lot now. And his entire demeanor is that of a very much cynical or disillusioned man. Moreover, he reminisces unconsciously again when they meet in chapter 15 –

I don’t think you did, because some people—and you are one of them—are not capable of wasting time. It’s part of what I liked so much about you,” he said.

As for George I found him a very sweet man, always being there for Ela despite the three years of chaos that was wrought upon their relationship.

But does Marcel really understand Anca? Years ago, at his 17th birthday party, when the utter chaos of the party had overwhelmed her, he did not even understand her feelings from her expression. So is his love, love, if he cannot truly understand her?

I found the ending a bit ambiguous. What did that enigmatic smile that Henriette let escape her lips mean?

There are also a few literary masterpieces of quotes that I took from the book:

“she felt life rippling softly through her body, slowing and quieting the rattle of her thoughts, her high hobbyhorses—being clever, being cultured, being creative—were swept by the immense relief and joy of riding, light and supple, the surf of the present, her mind, body, and soul in harmony.”

“There is no routine with a loved one. Lovers are supposed to change each other all the time” – Pamfil says.

“You know what I think? Some of us love some people once, and then we love them forever.” – Alice says to Anca.

And

“Later that week Anca sent a number of poems to the magazine Literary Romania. “Tell Me” was among them. It talked of roasted potatoes and onions, rooibos tea with honey, and perky sad music on the CD player. It considered whether life is ever more than swapping stories in a kitchen over a poor man’s meal shared threeways, each bite charmed with sunlight and music. It described an intoxicating scene with a long-haired woman in a vaporous dress, pirouetting on the kitchen table to humor her boyfriend, who then grabbed her by the thighs and hips and put her down in front of the piano, where she played God knows what, for she used no sheets, and she and her man were the only musicians in the room. Finally, it mentioned her bare foot pushing the brass pedal with conviction, her launching into Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, whirling its listeners like a tornado, and her cutting loose as more water for tea boiled on the stove, and the guests were invited to crack walnut shells for a makeshift dessert.”

Verdict:

I was exultant in blissful calm and contentment when I finished the book. Let me explain myself… You know how there are some books that give you a sense of peace after you finish reading them? It’s like you enjoy reading the book – annotate and underline a ton of lines and reread some parts again and again; and after finishing the book, you just hug it close to your heart because after this book – this experience, rather – you feel that you have changed? This is what I felt for this book. I do not know why. Maybe it is because it touched upon so many issues that we all relate to despite age/geographical differences, or because of the pure art that it is, or maybe even because as a literature student I was mesmerized by it… But nonetheless, I am sure that I shall surely be picking up this book soon. It has been one of the best books I have ever read!

About the reviewer:

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

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by samantha shannon, 2019

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

No. of pages: 825

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

Synopsis:

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


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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

It was an amazing book. I took exactly 5 days to complete it. With its beautiful and page-turning churn of action, high fantasy, romance, and politics, I rate this book a 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley, 2018

Title: Finding Esme

Author: Suzanne Crowley

Publisher: Greenwillow books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Reading level: Middle-grade

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas. Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor. Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away. From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

My review:

I had honestly no idea that I would come to love this book so much! Finding Esme is truly a one of a kind middle-grade novel that I enjoyed delving into, as did my brother!

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Esme is one I found to be utterly wonderful and dynamic in her own rights. She is so matured for a mere twelve-year old and while it awed me a lot, at times, I could not help but feel sad for she has lost quite a part of her childhood. As she so ardently asserts to her grandmother, she is after all a kid who has been force to grow up too early. It also does not help that Bee admittedly treats her like an adult.

Bee on the other hand, is a hard woman. She has faced a lot in her life and her great tragedy perhaps defines a lot of this novel – I believe this backstory is crucial in the way it has also defined the lives of Esme, her brother Bo, her mother June Rain and her father Harlan. (If you want to know what great tragedy I am talking about then you should surely read this book!) It is not a tragedy in as much as a terrific incident or something of catastrophic expanse, but the implications of that melancholy secret is utterly poignant and moving.

Speaking of Bo, I absolutely loved this cuteball! Having a brother myself really made it possible for me to relate to Esme on another level – the bond that one has with siblings is simply unbreakable. Bo is fun and offers the bit of humour in this story. One cannot help but fall in love with him. His understanding of the things around him is also utterly profound and I found him, in some amount, very enigmatic.

June Rain broke my heart. It is only towards the end that we know so much as to why she is what she is and behaves as she does. Sweetmaw, who is Bee’s sister is also another lovable character. I also quite liked Finch’s character and he truly is a good friend to Esme. We also see his story as the author really wraps around the lives of the people with each other. The end product is utterly magical.

The plot was also really enjoyable and while the overall pacing was good, I think that the beginning was a bit slow. Nonetheless, it wraps up the story perfectly.

The themes of family, friends, love, were well evolved in the story. We see so many shades of human emotions that it was an utter ride in itself. Love, hatred, jealousy, competition… everything was included and the result was something very real. The supernatural element was also what I think formed a lot of the backbone in this story, but of course that is a personal interpretation. I suppose I cannot stress enough on how deep and impactful this middle-grade novel turned out to be! And as such, I feel that this is a story people of all ages will enjoy – the kids for the mystery, and the adults for the various hidden layers of meaning and implications within the story.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this story and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

Selected among Book Sense and Indie Next top picks, and Amazon and Bookbub Editor’s Picks for Best Books, Suzanne writes novels that School Library Journal calls “amazing” and “poignant” and VOYA calls “heart-stirring” and “marvelous.” Suzanne, the author of both middle grade and young adult fiction, is a wife, mother, a crafter of dollhouse miniatures, an avid traveler, dog hugger, nap expert, and chocolate lover extraordinaire. Suzanne’s novels have received starred reviews in SLJ, KLIATT, VOYA and BCCB, and have been selected for state and national reading lists. After living all over the United States, Suzanne and her family now make their home back in her native state of Texas.
www.suzannecrowley.com 

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 .

Moromor Deuta/Dear Father, by Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Title: Moromor Deuta / Dear Father

Author: Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Publisher: Nayantara Prakshan

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language:  Assamese

No. of pages: 95

Recommended for: All Ages!

My review:

Moromor Deuta is truly a book that I suppose almost every Assamese youth has read, and if not, then it is surely something that I would recommend them all to.

So this year, I have my very own reading challenge #readyourmothertongue wherein, I read at least 1 Assamese (I am from Assam, and my mother tongue is Assamese) book each month. Now I do not read as many Assamese novels as I do English ones and as such, my proficiency in considerably less in this language. I am trying to get better at it, however, and that is why I had picked up the famed Burhi Aair Sadhu by Lakshminath Bezbruah, for my beginner’s pace in January. In February, the book that I picked up – Moromor Deuta – is s story for kids, with its easy language, but the meaning is universal and it touches all of us.

I was first introduced to this story years ago when I was sick (I had the pox) and I had to rest and I was so bored that my mother bought me new books. One of them was ‘Dear Father’, a story which was originally written in Assamese, but Mom had got me an English version. I had loved the seemingly simple plot then and continued to pick it up again and again over the years. But this time around, as I read the real version in my mother tongue, it touched me deeply. This story will resonate within all the readers’ hearts.

The plot, while seemingly a simple one, encompasses a variety of morals and various themes. The family bonding, parents’ and siblings’ love is by far the focal one in my view and the author leaves with a bang. The reason why I read the English version, again and again, all those years back, is simply why this book, and this time in my mother tongue, did not fail to strike me – when I used to be angry with my parents, I inadvertently used to pick this one up and the message, which was loud and clear, continued to calm me down – it is simply that no matter how harsh one’s parents may seem at times, they never even once fail to think of the betterment of their children. And even if their rules and their authority may seem too much at times, we kids need to understand that they always have or good in mind.

The language used by the author is simple and easy to understand – I certainly did not find much difficulty in reading this book, considering that I haven’t read any ‘novel’ in Assamese before. I am truly enjoying this reading challenge and I hope it will be successful in bringing you closer to your roots as well.

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, by Adele Leigh, 2018

Title: The Lupanarium

Author: Adele Leigh

Publisher: Crooked Berliner

Genre: Dystopian, Adult Literature, Satire

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 127

Recommended for: Warning: Graphic content; not for the light-hearted

Synopsis:

In a reimagined Ancient Rome, during the last days of the republic, enslaved prostitutes are brainwashed to eat and sleep only after sex. 

Matt-Lin—a surly teenage girl—is trafficked to the world’s preeminent brothel, the Lupanarium. 

She is tasked to perform a dangerous live sex-act in the arena with Jak—the Lupanarium’s most popular male prostitute and gladiator. 

Jak attempts to mentor Matt-Lin, but she proves unwilling to please her clients, and she vigilantly seeks a way to escape, putting her life, and his, in danger. 

The Lupanarium is the first book in The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, a series about trauma survivors learning how to love. With the amount of sex in the series, it would be easy to categorize it “erotica” or “pornography.” However, this book’s primary function is not to titillate. Instead, it comments on, critiques, and satirizes these genres, which often serve to normalize rape culture.

This book comes with a graphic content warning for its depictions of sexual assault and child rape. Adult readers only, please.

My review:

The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Mnay Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, is not a light-hearted read at all. It has rape, child-rape, sex, and gore. What I would like to also add, is that despite the inclusion of all of these acts, it would not be right to simply categorize the book as erotica.

The author introduces us to an entirely different world. It a dystopian novel, with a world where rules are perversely made and followed. And at times, it was harrowing for me to read as well. The themes and plot, the events – the narrative in itself, is so raw and what scares one is that who knows if this might be true one day?

This is a world where rape is glorified. And people pay to watch these inhuman acts. The poet truly has written a satirical piece keeping in mind the degeneration spreading rife today. The corruption of power – we see officials use these ‘slaves’ rather, ‘sex slaves’ and in this world, it is ‘normal’, it is what is ‘expected’ of them. These slaves do not know the concept of love. They are made to think that they do not deserve love. Looking from a socialist viewpoint as well, we see the vast differences among the ‘elites’ and the ‘slaves’. Moreover, there are again so many layers to these social classes. 

I suppose I could go on and go about all of these issues which the author has successfully portrayed in mere 127 pages.

Matt-Lin is a what you would call a ‘prodigy’ in this world. Perversely, she is famous because she has survived the 9-layered heel to be known as the ‘niner girl’. As a survivor, we see her coping with the world doing what she is expected to do. However what the world does not know, is that, despite coming out alive of the tests, she still is left with her ‘fighting spirit’.  I am definitely looking forward to see her growth in the sequel. Jak is another character with depth. There is still the humanity left in him, which seems to have been lost and absent from the rest of the people in society. Joanna is another intriguing character whom I loved reading about and look forward to her appearance in the sequel.

Verdict:

This was a really through-provoking book and I look forward to the sequel. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

City of my Heart
City of my Heart

Title: City of my Heart

Trnslated by: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

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

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

Blooming in the Snow, Sajid Iqbal, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang, 2018

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Publishers: Corvus
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
 
My review:
I literally finished reading this book in around 5 hours so that’s saying something. The Kiss Quotient is an amazing book- one that delivers to you some toe-curling romance, sweet family moments, and your everyday office tragedies. Seasoned with just the right amount of reality, The Kiss Quotient proved to be a really entertaining and fulfilling read.
The plot was really well planned and the pace throughout was wonderfully paced. I also do think that the third person narration worked great for the story.
The characters were the centre point of this story- Stella more so than Michael. It is a character driven novel so it’s not a surprise that they were both so powerful in themselves. I also liked the way they were caring for their family members in their own ways and how supportive they were for both of them. That #couplegoals right there! Their development throughout the story is also significant as they come to terms with themselves- both emotionally as well as mentally. It was truly inspiring and enjoyable and can be rightly called an exceptionally well-written modern day bildungsroman novel.
The aspect of a female Asperger’s person was also eye-opening and showed the various problems and issues these women face, afraid of being judged. And the way the author has voiced her opinions through our protagonist as she comes to terms with her uniqueness, is awe-inspiring. The other themes of family, friendship, love and hard work were also well explored. I could feel so many emotions coursing through me as I read the book and related with Stella on various levels as well as Michael too, as they both tried to maneuver their way through the world and society in general. And as a reader of this book and desperate fan of Pretty Woman, I can truly say the author did justice to her version with the gender-roles exchanged.
The writing style was also one I loved really a lot. It was exquisite and I laughed and cried and felt like I was a part of the events as they unfolded. I honestly haven’t read such a wonderful contemporary novel in a long time. The editing and punctuation were all beautifully done and I do not have a complaint. I gushed so much about the book that my mother is currently reading it and loving it so far.
 
Verdict:
I rate The Kiss Quotient a solid 5/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this contemporary novel that is just amazing and a must read. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

Some Very Dignified Disclosures, Anumita Sharma, 2018

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

Child of Paradise: Listen to your dreams, Pratibha R DH, 2017

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Publisher: Flugel Publishing House
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 340
Blurb:
Life takes an unexpected turn when Tia meets the boy whom she secretly had a crush on all through her school years. Not only does Ron steal her heart but he seems equally besotted in a true blue sense of the word. Tia’s friends who had always known about her infatuation are more than thrilled as Ron is absolutely a girl’s dream come true – a stunner with a heart of gold.
Everything seemed just so perfect and it looked like the universe finally heard her wishes…if not for one person who didn’t want her to be with Ron. And it was none other than the person Tia loved most in the world – Rianna, her sister. The bizzare part of it all was that Rianna was no longer alive! Tia was continuously haunted by dreams of her sister who kept warning her off Ron.
Her sister’s case being closed off by the police as suicide was something that had left Tia deeply perturbed even years after her passing away. As Tia follows her instincts and tries to solve the mystery surrounding her sister’s death she comes up with evidence that might just open up a can of worms and shatter her whole family.
Will she be able to fulfil her sister’s last wish? Will she make the right choice between love and justice? This story is a journey of corporate ambition, greed, lust and betrayal. A paranormal crime novel that will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and family drama while at the same time leave you twitching to unearth the mystery of a death, unresolved.
My Review:
Child of Paradise was quite an interesting read and I have never read a paranormal crime fiction of this type before. The author has obviously done quite a lot of research before writing this book and it is evident from the first chapter itself- from the medical stuff to the psychic/spiritual ones. That was commendable in itself.
The plot of the novel has been well laid out and it is clear from the different twists and turns we come across as we keep on flipping the pages. Different forms of the novel such as an epistolary, a bildungsroman, and also, of course, social novel, could be seen. The framing devices, though a few, used by the author through the use of the emails, text messages and letters, works really well and binds the story together. We also see the mental growth of not only the protagonist but also of the dead sister herself. The social aspects that the reader brought in through the different conversations, meetings in the story as well as the work lifestyle were very well portrayed, keeping in mind the real situation in India. The themes of love- familial, platonic as well as romantic; friendship, and mystery were very well planned out. The writing was beautiful and very well edited and I hardly found even a single grammar/editing error. The way of writing was also very relatable and the author could incite laughter from me as I read the funny interactions among the characters in the novel. The events are also very nostalgic at parts without being monotonous.
The characters were well formed and the author has taken pains to make them as believable as possible- they are round, displaying a number of emotions for a number of various situations around various people. The relatability that the reader can share with the characters in the book is very high as well. The author has also subtly invoked the image of the independent women, one that I love.
The one thing that I didn’t like was the introduction of so many characters because it made me very confused. Frankly, I was lucky since I always sort of take notes or make family trees when I read a book. The cover was nice in a simple sort of way, but there is much scope for it, especially the spine of the book. I honestly have no other issue beyond these.
Verdict:
This book was a great read, and I really enjoyed it a lot. Definitely recommend for fans of thrillers, mystery and romance books. Would rate it as a 13+ book and I personally shall be picking up again. I rate this a 5/5 stars.

Coffee Date, Saravana Kumar Murugan, 2017

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Publishers: indiaauthor.in
Genre: Romance
Synopsis:
Read and cherish this tale of love from the Undisputed King of Romance on Blog-o-Sphere. Coffee Date, the real taste of love!
❤ RATED FIVE-STAR BY VERIFIED PURCHASE READERS ❤
Siddhartha Abhimanyu… People call him Sid, a techie, a beard lover, an ardent reader and a big fan of Nicholas Sparks, loves reading stories with happy endings. And when he’s not reading he write poems; which helped him impress a long list of girls.
Isha Reddy, the queen of his little heart. The first time Sid saw Isha, he couldn’t blink even for a second. She, being a writer, director of three award winning short films, hates men with a stubble and, has a different opinion on life.
Sid falls in love with Isha. Isha could not escape from Mr. Charming. They date over a cup of coffee. Sid also acts as the male lead in Isha’s new short film.
Niharika, Sid’s direct report in office falls in love with Sid. He rejects her proposal, but destiny has different plans. They have to fly abroad to execute a project.
Shivani, Sid’s reel life heroine, is introduced to him by Isha. Shivani kisses him during a shoot. This along with a series of incidents hurt Isha.
Isha breaks up with Sid. Both Shivani and Niharika waiting for this opportunity, what will happen to Sid and Isha’s love? Will Sid and Isha reunite? Will Niharika get what she wants? Or will Shivani succeed in her masterplan?
My review:
Coffee Date is the second book I’ve read that has been written by Saravana Kumar Murugan.
The plot is very compelling and overall hooks the reader until the very end. I admit that I myself completed this in one seating. The themes of friendship, love, and jealousy etc., are very well explored. One thing that I have observed in the author’s book is the beautiful way in which he incorporates the family life within the personal-romantic relationship one. For instance, apart from the romantic love, the reader can also see the parental love coming into the picture. It’s a welcome recurring theme.
The protagonists Siddhartha and Isha are characters of the real world- with their heads revolving around their careers too and not just mere love life issues. The understanding that was displayed between them implies the depth of their characters. The friends involved are also well-plotted characters and the element of jealousy was brought in well through the actions of Niharika.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all. However, I do think that more time should have been spent on proof-reading the manuscript so that the errors in punctuation, grammatical issues etc., could have been avoided.
Verdict:
I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

Call me by your name, Andre Aciman, 2007

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Publishers: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Synopsis:
Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.

Character development:
When it comes to character development, I did not find it lacking in any manner. The gradual way in which the author inserts newer facts about the character is very sublime and makes the overall effect a thousand times thus. A lot of time has certainly been given to this masterpiece of a book and Aciman has done a spectacular job with the book.

Plot development:
Another aspect in which the author has given intimate attention would be undoubtedly the plot as a whole. The streaming of time from Elio’s perspective gave it a certain rustic and lazy view, all the more relatable and heart-warming. The gradual buildup is beautiful done and the compartmentalization into the 4 part by the author has in a very poignant way classified the different feelings Elio feels.
Quality of writing
Call me by your name is a masterpiece and it can be verified by the uncountable tears, readers, among which I too can be classified, have shed continuously. It can be verified by the galloping heartbeats that the author has rendered in us. The whole story was well paced and even though the first three parts are very close in terms of time, compared to the flashbacks in the fourth, the overall effect was very soothing and apt.
Thought provoking
The themes explored in this novel were also very thought provoking. We see the overall theme as love, along with homosexuality and friendship. Travel has also been included in the book along with the love for books/poetry and it excited the bibliophile in me as well.

Verdict
Call me by your name is the second ever LGBTQ+ book I have read and its left we shattered and in love, happy but forlorn and yet, with a certain unexplainable calmness in me. I rate this a 5/5 stars and will keep it close to my heart, to be revisited time and time again.

The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay, 2018

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The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay’s latest book, is a modern day interpretation of 90s magical punk and spiritual romance, a combination which I have never come across before. Sometime back, I reviewed the first chapter of the book, and I remember being very pleased and eager to read more. And so, when this book was released on the 1st of June, the author was kind enough to send me one too! Another disclaimer: although I was given this book by the author, my thoughts are entirely from a personal viewpoint and have in no way, been influenced.
One thing I would like to point out is that there is a lot of parallelism between the stream of consciousness method applied by Virginia Woolf and the similarities in our protagonist Carlie’s journey. Having said that, I propound that there has been no plagiarizing if you’re thinking in that line; I had meant the method itself.
We have our young protagonist, Carlie, a young woman living in the 90s, whose life changes after a life-altering accident. In the review I wrote for the first chapter, I was very much impressed with the way the author has beautifully portrayed the hollowness in the independence that people strive for. Carlie is a person facing a harsh reality- she does not really have any friends, and her parents are just people who gave her birth. They are just ‘family’ without the emotional connotations that otherwise come to mind when one talks of their families. It’s her husband who is her only ‘home’ in the world; someone others have not approved of, but in her defence- “She loved the fiery spark in his eyes, his sense of humour, and their common love for music. And his smile. His smile that showed his good heart. That was reason enough for her.”
The accident in itself is a great loss for her and almost a foreshadowing of the great change that is to come, as we see in the blurb! There is mention of a brother who lifts up her gloomy mood while she is recuperating in the hospital and I cannot help but be eager to know more.
It is June 1994, when “she climbed aboard the spaceship, as she kept calling it, and flew high above and away from Johnny’s game-board piece, wondering if his warm soul was enjoying a similar view.” Yes, that’s how the author had ended the first chapter and it had left me restless.
The journey in one sense is a journey of growth for Carlie- she’s broken and she heals with the help of her “Nirvana Threads” like she fondly calls them. She learns about acceptance and the meaning of selflessness and love, and it was a spiritual journey for me too. The book in its essence is a spiritual journey of a young woman, as she fights after a heart-wrenching loss and her subsequent healing. I myself was very moved with the story and I think that most will be too. I am a spiritual person as well, and that’s why I suppose I could connect with it the way I did. Having said that, I also feel that this book is a miss-or-hit because I feel that while many will love this, there will be a select few who won’t, and that would just mean that some people won’t be able to connect with it.
The plot was very well woven- I especially loved the intense episodes Carlie had- the author has described them beautifully and I was almost in tears during them. The characters were well planned out- I loved Damien! Leo, Hazel, Lucas were also very well planned out. I think that the author has done a great job in exploring the different facets of human life and jotting them down so well on paper. I personally would have loved a sequel to this- I would love to know more about Carlie’s story. The characters were magnificent and tangible and real for me, even though I truly felt that it was more of a plot-driven story.
I rate this a 5/5 stars and wish the author a hearty congratulations for this amazing, touching and beautiful book!