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Temporary Wife Temptation: A modern-day romance!

Temporary Wife Temptation
Temporary Wife Temptation

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

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

Check it out on Goodreads!

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

Check it out on Amazon!

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

Sixteen Stormy Days by Tripurdaman Singh

Sixteen Stormy Days
Sixteen Stormy Days

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

Check it out on Goodreads!

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

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

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

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Check it out on Amazon!

Mythological Fiction: Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Ravanputr Meghnad
Ravanputr Meghnad

Mythological Fiction in Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Get this book for yourself! Amazon Goodreads

Raavanputr Meghnad versus the Ramayana

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

Narrative style

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

What I did not like about this mythological fiction

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

Verdict:

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

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

An autobiographical travelogue: Dream Beyond Shadows

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

Dream Beyond Shadows
Dream Beyond Shadows

Synopsis:

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

Author: Kartikeya Ladha

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

Visually appealing!

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

Inclusion of Poetry!

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

Imagery in the travelogue!

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

An autobiographical travelogue

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

Verdict:

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

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

An atmospheric thriller: I Will Miss You Tomorrow

A truly atmospheric read, I Will Miss You Tomorrow by Heine Bakkeid, was a strange and compelling read. I quite enjoyed it!

I Will Miss You Tomorrow by Heine Bakkeid
I Will Miss You Tomorrow by Heine Bakkeid

A Stephen King heir?

Firstly, I have never read anything like this before. But seeing as to how the author has been called Stephen King’s Norwegian heir, I will take that as a sign to go pick up King’s book soon.

Unreliable narrator

Moving on, this book is also the epitome of a thriller with an unreliable narrator. Recently, ‘domestic thrillers’ seem to have taken the reading sphere by storm and something that is common to them all is the unreliable narrator trope. So perhaps if you have been a fan of Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train, Into The Water, The Woman in cabin 10, etc, this is the book for you. And another thing that I have not come across before is an unreliable male narrator. So it was quite a new angle.

An atmospheric and thrilling edge-of-the-seat plot!

The overall plot takes place roughly across two weeks but the terrible weather makes it feel much longer. The details are vividly written and in its realistic portrayal, this book was novel for me. I really enjoyed reading it a lot.

A realistic atmospheric sense

There were weird paranormal/supernatural segments which were another twist added to the tale. I think this has been the perfect book for me to read, in order to expand my reading in this genre.

Characterization and timelines

The character is one of real interest – Thornkild Aske has many dimensions and the way his mind works was unique. His experiences and the way they have shaped him into the person he is now is quite a journey. The shifts in timelines were also a great addition to the narrative style that the author has taken up.

Verdict

I rate this book 3.75/5 stars.

Check it out on Amazon and Goodreads

Thriller recommendations: Impossible Causes, You Beneath Your Skin, The Silent Patient, The Third Mrs. Durst

Classic poetry: Live Oak, With Moss

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

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

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

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

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

Links to Goodreads, and Amazon

Check out my review for Lord of the Butterflies

Poetry that rocks! Swallowtail and Atticus!

The Dark Between Stars, Swallowtail

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

Swallowtail by Brenna Twohy

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

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

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

Poetry by Atticus

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

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Recommended poetry reads:

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

An Atmospheric Thriller: Impossible Causes

Impossible Causes by Julie Mayhew
Impossible Causes by Julie Mayhew

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

Atmospheric setting

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

Check out my review for The Silent Patient

The atmospheric world-building

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

Check out the thrilling The Millenium Trilogy

Shifting timelines

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

Check out my review of The Third Mrs. Durst!

Pace

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

Themes

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

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

Links to get this book!

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

Uplifting Poetry: Ease by Mukhpreet Khurana

Why I picked up this poetry collection:

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

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

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

Check out my review of Unlocked Silences

The content matter

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

Themes in this poetry collection

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

The individuality of this work

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

  1. Amazon
  2. Goodreads

Collaborations

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

Check out Tahoora’s Instagram account here.

Verdict:

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

Girl Power: A Volume of Female Empowerment

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

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

Female Empowerment and GIRL POWER

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

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

Female empowerment through a diverse bunch of women

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

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

Splendid illustrations

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

Click here to check out my review on Unstoppable!

Inspiring and phenomenal!

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

My verdict

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

Get the book on Amazon!

Update it on your Goodreads!

Mesmerizing poetry: The Octopus Curse

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

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

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

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

Through the vacuum.

Through the void.

Sometimes the words I write,

Fall over the heads of a heedless crowd.

But, I lay them clear,

And I ink them loud,

Because I don’t require being heard,

I only (desperately) need

To right.

-‘Catharsis’

Lyrical poetry

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

How stunted,

Limited,

This language is!

I have searched and searched

But, never found a word

For pain coming so surely,

That you feel it already,

Long before it

Even arrives.

-‘Visceral’

Aesthetic:

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

I pray that death be kind,

Not as much to the buried,

As to those left behind.

-‘Funerals are for the living’

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

You lift your chin up

Like the cocking of a gun

Your eyes flash the coldest fire,

Your words erupt,

The hottest ice.

I see you wear your anger

Like a bulletproof vest

Over your pain; I must say,

Even as you walk away,

It looks bloody glorious

On you

-‘Woman’

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

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

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

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra, 2019

Title: Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra

Author: Maya Balsi

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this book  a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, 1970

Title: The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family – Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola – in post-Depression 1940s Ohio. Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.

My review:

I read The Bluest Eye for the #tonimorrisonreadathon organized by Vidya @letsdiscussourbooks. Thanks a lot for arranging this readathon!

The Bluest Eye was her first novel, published in 1970, and it is a controversial novel still, for showing themes of incest, child molestation, racism etc. By the time I had finished reading the last page, I was blown away by the lyrical quality of Morrison’s writing. The repetitions sometimes sound like a mantra that beats at your mind as you read of the terrible beauty that is this book.

The shifting narratives offer glimpses into the lives of the various characters – letting us understand how certain past events shaped them into what they were in the present. What is important, is the psychological implications the book also portrays throughout these shifting perspectives. It is a wonder, that Morrison wrote things that still affect the human race today – in that she is a writer on the human tragedies that are eternal and everlasting.

The mental space is a big motif in this book. Later on, when we see a life of Soaphead Church, we can infer from the writing that his disgust against the dog directly reflects his internal feelings toward himself. Much like Cholly, he uses Pecola for his own pleasure, although not in a similar manner.

The Bluest Eye was a beautifully terrible book – for its simplicity, and yet, the stark truth reflected within the pages. No matter what the era, one will always seem to relate on a micro level with the characters, their struggles and hopes and wishes. Replete with the truest essence of humanness, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the best books ever. I rate it 5/5 stars.

(Stay tuned for the full version of the review coming later this week at The North-Eastern Chronicle!)

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 .

WAlk With Wings, by Tene Edwards!

Hey guys! How’s it going? I have had quite a hectic week this week. We had the freshmen social on Thursday and after that it has just been very tiring. I hope to rest and recuperate on the weekend! Also,  I have got a ton of work to do…

Here’s a book that came in the mail a couple days ago. Tene Edwards was kind enough to send me her book and I am very excited to read it. I have already read a couple of pieces and I really connected with them. I hope to read some more on the weekend. Thanks a lot for the book!

Walk With Wings by Tene Edwards is a poetry collection split into five chapters: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing and resilience. The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

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What are your plans for this weekend? Any trips planned or is it dedicated to catching up with work?

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

Title: Celtic Tales

Illustrated by: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Verdict:

A gem! 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Shrike and the Shadows, by Chantal gadoury and A. M. Wright – Cover reveal and Review!

And I have an amazing new book for you today! Chantal Gadoury is one of my favourite authors to go to for some amazing fantasy retelling and this time, when she wrote a retelling of Hansel and Gretel (can you imagine?!) along with A. M. Wright, I could not stop still! So I am so happy to be doing a cover reveal for this amazing book! I am also so grateful to the authors for sending me an eARC! I loved every part of it!

Title: The Shrike and the Shadows

Author: Chantal Gadoury and A. M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: Englsih

Synopsis:

Men have gone missing before.
The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has.
When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night – their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps – the village falls into frenzied madness.
Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever. 
With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home.
As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.
The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods.

My review:

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

Having read Gadoury’s work before and being an avid lover of them, I was totally excited to pick up this Hansel and Gretel retelling! The Shrike and the Shadows is truly one of a kind, and I have never come across such a retelling before.

The book was really full of emotions and action throughout – there was never any boring part and each word weaved together with the other to fulfill the reader’s appetite and also kept him wanting for more. There is an amazing brother-sister bond and the world-building – the setting, to be precise – is eerie and whimsical and almost fantastical. We see various facets of human natures – the Reverend is a bad man who uses his power for all the wrong things and he is a vengeful person too. The same vengeance also shows itself through  Alda and her lies. There is darkness, yes, but there is also the infallible human goodness too – Barin is an excellent example of that.

Throughout the story, we see the characters growing – the character arc of Hans is especially significant to read.

The thrills throughout continue to send chills down your spine and the brilliant imagery rend The Shrike in the Shadows an awesome read.

Verdict:

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

I am also featuring this beautiful art piece done by my dear friend Subhalaxmi – this is just how I imagine the Shrike to be! (a more beautiful version, at least!)

Also, all credits go to Gayatri for this amazing edit! Thanks a lot darling! You are always there to help!

About the reviewer:

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

August 2019 wrap-up

Hi guys! Thank you for the love you shared in my last post. I have decided on a few changes I am going to make in my life. I have recently been taking in a lot of pressure – I am dealing with a lot of work right now and I let it overcome me. In addition, I have realized that it is so very unhealthy. So I hope to take it a bit slow and steady. The number of review projects, some other literary projects that I had been doing, my college work – all of it, coupled with my innate need for excellence just got a bit too much. This weekend I took a mental break from it all and I am feeling so very fresh to have left aside all the unnecessary pressure.

Moving on, here is my august wrap up for 2019. I read a total of 30 books and I am very happy with my progress. I’m sharing a few of these here, since i read most in the ebook format.

  1. Black Panther
  2. The Bluest Eye
  3. Emperor Chandragupta
  4. Emperor Vikramaditya
  5. Very Nice
  6. The Raven’s Tale
  7. The Case that Shook the Empire
  8. Delayed Rays of a Star
  9. Celtic Tales
  10. Nordic Tales

I also listened to the audiobook of BECOMING by Michelle Obama and I honestly love this book and I think that it should be made a compulsory read for school students and upwards.

Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them?

How many books did you read in august, and are you happy with your progress?

Black Panther, 2019

Title: Black Panther

Author: Jesse J. Holland

Publisher: Titan Books, Bloomsbury

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

July 2019 Wrap-Up!

Hey guys! Hope you’re doing well.

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

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

Review Books

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

Reading Rush 2019

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

Personal Choices

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

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

July Book Haul 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The Kosher Delhi, by Ivan Wainewright, 2019

Title: The Kosher Delhi

Author: Ivan Wainewright

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 320

Synopsis:

Vik is a twenty year old English boy of Jewish/Indian mixed heritage. He wants to become a chef, but his experiences of racism in restaurant kitchens hold him back.

Until he meets Yvonne: Scottish activist, hedonist, who strives vehemently for social justice. She shows Vik what he has been missing in life.

Vik is increasingly exposed to further bigotry, and witnesses homophobia in his community, with more violent and fatal outcomes. And as Yvonne ventures into the music scene, their relationship becomes increasingly strained. When Vik reaches a point where he can’t ignore his issues any further, will he stand up for what he believes in?

Set in the early 1990s, the novel follows Vik and Yvonne on their journey from Leeds to London to New York. A contemporary novel with a lot of food, plenty of music and the zeitgeist of the era. The issues and themes will strike a chord with anyone who is concerned with inequality or struggled in their own relationship.

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.

As the book opens, we are introduced to Vikram Cohen, aka Vik, who is an aspiring chef, with Jewish-Indian roots and Yvonne, a Scottish woman and a very politically conscious activist. In the first few pages we see how a small argument becomes something bigger, culminating in a sort of accident which makes them run away to London.

Vik seems like a person who is not as ambitious as we perceive Yvonne to be, and there were a few times when I was thinking that Yvonne held all the reins in this relationship – and not in a good way either. At times, I found her to be very aggressive and impractical, but she is also very passionate and it is something that you cannot help but be drawn to. Vikram is thus a foil to her in this matter- he is calm to her inflammable anger. Vik’s character growth – his arc is very significant and human development has been shown in a very real way through his story.

Throughout the next chapters we see how their relationship grows – there are certainly various ups and downs but Yvonne is a good girlfriend, always sticking up for Vik. Just as Vikram, I too was very curious and intrigued by the repeated mentions of Kirstine and the song named ‘K’. The issue of racism is very evident in the book – Vikram is a person who is always suffering for it, and it is truly eye-opining to see how his indifference is wrong. I loved how Yvonne brings in the example of Nelson Mandela to explain the importance to standing up against the wrong. The other issues we come across are homophobia, sexism, chauvinism, love, hate as well as bigotry. The book has tried to show that human nature is truly dynamic and everyone thinks differently.

I loved the easy flow of the narration – the author has done a great job in this and I hope that others will enjoy the writing just as much as I did. The reader is bound to fall into this land and read the events as if they were really happening to them.

Verdict:

This was a really enjoyable read and I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the author:

Ivan Wainewright lives in Kent (England) with his partner, Sarah and their slightly neurotic rescue dog, Remi. Before moving to Kent, he lived in North London, Leeds and Singapore.

When not writing, he can be found watching (and occasionally) playing football, running, listening to music from Chumbawamba to Led Zeppelin, arguing over politics and trying to cook. He has been an independent IT consultant for many years, working solely with charities and not-for-profit organisations.

The Kosher Delhi is his first novel, and he is currently working on his second book. 

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 .

The Oremere Chronicles readathon!

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

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

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

Heart of Mist

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

Reign of Mist

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

And the last book in this trilogy is finally out!

War of Mist

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

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

June Wrap-Up 2019

Hey guys! Hope you are doing well! I have been having terrifically hectic days at my new internship and although it gets cumbersome at times, I just tell myself that this will teach me a lot. Working in a private workspace has been an enlightening experience, as I have only ever worked from home and that has been much more liberal. Nonetheless, I have made some great friends and we have been having a blast.

Anyway, I am back with my June Wrap up! I could read 16 books in June and that was impressive I think, considering that my finals were going on throughout June. I am very proud of myself. Therefore, here are the books I read:

  1. Upon a Burning Throne
  2. Reunited with the Billionaire
  3. The Third Mrs Durst
  4. City of Girls
  5. Circus Folk and Village Freaks
  6. The Right Time
  7. The Good Fight
  8. Swami and Friends
  9. Mated to the Pride
  10. Womb of Fireflies
  11. The Duchess
  12. Dangerous Games
  13. Hunting Prince Dracula
  14. Lost and Found
  15. His Errant Ward
  16. The Intelligence Trap

This was a great month and thanks to all the publishers for sending me these amazing books! I never fail to thank God for these wonderful opportunities.

Also featuring the stone I painted at the Etsy session! Loved attending it and I believe it was the highlight of the month!

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, 2019

Title: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle 0.1)

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications

Publication date: 6 June 2019

Genre: Science fiction/fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 470

Synopsis:

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

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.

Superfluously saying, if the cover does not make you pick up the book itself, then I’m sure the synopsis will. Aurora Rising is an adventure story, set in space, one that is bound to keep you turning the pages on and on, eager to know what happens next. I was literally at the edge of my seat when I was sitting and reading, and had to actually sit up in attention, when I had been lazing on my bed while reading. Such is the writing of this powerful duo. I finished this book in like 5 hours and I went crazy throughout!

I’ve never been a fan of sci-fi, to be honest. So many of us are not. But Aurora Rising has completely made us switch sides! Although this book is so often described as a SIX OF CROWS set in space, the only similarity I found was the presence of this crew, where each one is so very different from the other. Through all the different characters in this bunch, we see similarities in what each of them faces. The leader of this team in known as the Alpha and he is Tyler, the golden-boy. He misses the Draft because he is rescuing a girl frozen in time. So basically instead of having his pick from the best, by the time he returns, the ceremony is over and the other Alphas have picked the cream. Throughout the story, we see the inner conflict in Tyler – he regrets that he was missing at the Draft but then again, he was rescuing this historically significant person in their universe. Later on, he is conflicted as to whether be the good pupil he has always been and follow the orders of his superiors, or to do what he believes is right.

There is also Scarlett, Tyler’s twin sister who is bold and flawed and yet is so very caring. The brother-sister bond that these two share is so much beautiful to see. Their love is always shining bright between them. And may I just say how wonderfully charming she is? Scarlett is the Face of the group, the diplomat basically and is an amazing people-person.

Then we have the Ace – Cat. She is a very passionate person I feel. She hates with all her might and she loves with all her might. Her love is real and made me choke so many times. Her character arc is very relatable – her feelings towards Aurora change from hate to respect and I love that the authors have made her so bold. Women are too often subdued anyway.  

Aurora is literally the girl out of time. She had been cryogenically sleeping, you could say, for 200 years, without ageing. And now, her dilemma and confusion as she comes to terms with her new surroundings and learns more about what happened to her that has led her here, is heartwarming. Her behaviour is funny and so very awkward at times with the rest of the team and I couldn’t help but laugh at so many parts. Her character arc is also significant in this story and although I think there could be more to it, I look forward to the rest of the books in this series. She is a person of our times and the references she makes were like Easter eggs to me. Especially Middle Earth!

Finnin, the alien (that rhymed!) is also another team member. He has always felt different all his life and his struggles with it – underneath all that sarcasm, is slowly revealed throughout the story. Zila is a character whose back story has still not been properly explained in the book and I am very curious about her, I admit. I look forward to reading more about her.

Lastly, Kal is oh0my-god hot! If you have a thing for the tall, dark and brooding, handsome kind. Especially, elfin-handsome kind! Aurora describing him as Middle-Earth is so relatable and that is how I imagine him too. And may I say that I am an absolute fan of the mate trope!

The writing felt very interactive in nature and the reading just flowed for me. I am absolutely in love with this duo’s writing and so I think that I am slowly going to pick up and read all of their books. The world-building was also very fascinating and made me stop and wonder myself, how it would feel like to stay there – after remembering that I was not actually in the story. There’s humour and the characters are so fierce in their natures, it was a fast-paced ride of a read! The plot was very strong and the inclusion of multiple POVs worked wonderfully with it. When there are so many characters, having multiple POVs often make the story lose its beauty but in this case, it only gave more depth to it.

Verdict:

I loved this book and I rate it a solid 5/5 stars! I know this review sounded more like an ode to these amazing complex but lovable characters, but god! You all need to pick it up ASAP!

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 .

Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1, by Kevin Missal, 2019

Title: Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1

Author: Kevin Missal

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Genre: Mythology/Fantasy/Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 346

Synopsis:

Narasimha, once a brave soldier, has left the war and lies low as a physician in a village. But a familiar face from his past seeks his help to stop the tyranny of the blind usurper Andhaka. If Narasimha refuses, the world might just end. What will he do? And why did he leave the war in the first place? Prahlad, the interim king of Kashyapuri, is torn between the ideals of his unrighteous father and his love for Lord Vishnu. Whom will he choose? Hiranyakashyap, the ruler of the Asura Empire, wants to avenge the death of his wife. To do that, he must go through the Trials and get the ultimate weapon – the Brahmastra. But the Trials have sent so many others to their death. Can Hiranyakashyap survive?

My review:

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

I picked up this book because I was in the mood for something like fantasy but with an Indian twist! And besides I have had this book in my TBR pile for so long, that when I remembered that this totally was a fit for my reading hunger pangs, I knew it was destiny!

Firstly, I really like the cover (Please don’t judge me; I’ve got a serious thing for covers!) and this interpretation that the author has regarding this famous character from our mythology is really refreshing. And I did not really notice his face but after I read how the author has portrayed the simha tribe, I could see the difference! Comment if you can understand my drift!

One of the most important yet underlying themes I saw was the background to Andhaka – his past basically, that has shaped him into the man he is. Child abuse is something not talked about as often in these books and I really applaud the author’s inclusion of it. it just is important in making us aware how such behaviour can scar a person for life.

Moreover, Narasimha’s character arc is very significant in this story I think and I enjoyed reading it. The other characters, although not all good, and some not very bad, are really fascinating nonetheless. There was depth to their thinking, their behaviour and their action and so I really enjoyed the web that he author has weaved around them all, to create a thrilling storyline.

The book was evenly paced, bordering on the faster side of the spectrum and it never let you get bored. The world building was also great. Also, the focus on relationships that these characters had with each other were also great for us to explore. Filled with vengeance, ambition, revenge, etc. this was a mythological thriller!

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I rate it 3.75/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Dangerous Games, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: Dangerous Games

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

Television correspondent Alix Phillips dodges bullets and breaks rules to bring the most important news to the world. With her daughter in college, and working alongside cameraman Ben Chapman, an ex-Navy Seal, Alix exhilarates in the risks and whirlwind pace of her work. But her latest assignment puts her at the center of an explosive story that will reshape many lives, including her own: investigating damning allegations involving the vice president of the United States, Tony Clark.

Alix starts with a nationally revered woman who may be the key to exposing frightening secrets. Olympia Foster is the fragile, reclusive widow of America’s most admired senator, who had been destined for the presidency before an assassin’s bullet felled him. Since then, Olympia has found emotional support in Clark, who once wanted her as his wife and now stands as her protector and confidant. When Alix begins to dig deeper, federal agents pick up the trail. Then the threats begin.

As the stakes rise in this dangerous game, Alix needs Ben’s help as never before. Soon they realize they are grappling with an adversary far more sinister than they had imagined. 

My review:

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

Dangerous Games is unlike any other Danielle Steel book that I have ever read because this book has an almost thriller-like vibe to it which is quite fast-paced and interesting. As such, I think that thriller lovers would find this book to be a good start if they want to read reading Danielle Steel.

In Dangerous Games, we come across Alix Phillips who is a really genuine and brave news reporter on top of her game. She is really unlike any reporter we might envisage when it comes to the idea of one. She covers dangerous and daring events from around the world, along with her trusted cameraman Ben Chapman. Now Ben is another admirable figure. I love how he is dedicated to his job and respects and appreciates what Alix dos. He just gives off an amazing reliable vibe that I could get even from reading about it.

Olivia Foster is a woman in whom we see the after effects of a great tragedy. She is a kind and brave woman within her own and you cannot help but admire her optimistic and idealistic personality. I found her character very much based on Jackie Kennedy who was a formidable woman in her own rights as well. Danielle Steel has yet again portrayed the various problems people go through, with the help of these people and it is very interesting to see them conquer their inhibitions and come on top.

These characters really felt tangible to my reader senses and this realistic element needs to definitely be applauded. In the end, Danielle Steel has come through as usual with an admirable and strong protagonist, who is just as inspirational a heroine as any other. This is what keeps me coming back to Steel books, again and again (as well as the plot, of course!)

Dangerous Games is a rollercoaster of a ride, and although the beginning is just a teensy bit slow compared to the middle and the end, I quite liked sailing through it. The language was coherent and flowed easily. However, I just did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. There is just not enough conflict in this book, I feel. Something was missing for me.

Verdict:

I rate this book 3.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Right Time, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Right Time

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 325

Synopsis:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – Filled with heartbreak and betrayal, triumph and fulfillment, The Right Time is an intimate, richly rewarding novel about pursuing one’s passion and succeeding beyond one’s wildest dreams.

Abandoned by her mother at age seven, Alexandra Winslow takes solace in the mysteries she reads with her devoted father–and soon she is writing them herself, slowly graduating to dark, complex crime stories that reflect skill, imagination, and talent far beyond her years. After her father’s untimely death, at fourteen Alex is taken in by the nuns of a local convent, where she finds twenty-six mothers to take the place of the one she lost, and the time and encouragement to pursue her gift.

Alex writes in every spare moment, gripped by the plots and themes and characters that fill her mind. Midway through college, she has finished a novel–and manages to find a seasoned agent, then a publisher. But as she climbs the ladder of publishing success, she resolutely adheres to her father’s admonition: Men read crime thrillers by men only–and so Alexandra Winslow publishes under the pseudonym Alexander Green, her true identity known only to those closest to her, creating a double life that isolates her.

Her secret life as the mysterious and brilliantly successful Alexander Green–and her own life as a talented young woman–expose her to the envious, the arrogant, and Hollywood players who have no idea who she really is. Always, the right time to open up seems just out of reach, and would cost her dearly. Once her double life and fame are established, the price of the truth is always too high.

My review:

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

The Right Time starts on a somewhat sad note. With a female protagonist, Steel has been able to capture my senses once again and I was diving headlong into the story from the first few pages onwards. Being an avid fan of literature, I really liked Alexandra and her passion for reading and writing. On some levels, I could really relate to her – like her passion for learning, keeping her work as her main priority etc. are some things that I share with her. Alexandra is like an almost real person and feel like I’ve known her for ages, seeing her grow up.

Going through what Alexandra did in her childhood, is never a happy thing for any child to have gone through. It is heart-wrenching and often leaves a child doubtful about himself, suspecting that it is a fault of his that led to the mother or the father leaving. Mother, in Alexandra’s case. And this effect stays in the psyche of the child for a long time.

One the one hand, we might hate Carmen for what she does to the family. On the other hand, we cannot help but feel sad.  She chose wrongly – she thought that she could be happy married and with a kid but it turns out she wasn’t. It was like life playing a sad joke on her – despite what we feel regarding her behaviour towards the family, we can understand that she is one of those women who are not made for marriage and motherhood perhaps. 

Also lets talk about one other thing that really pissed me off – the problem with the education system. When you do something exceptionally well for your age (something not as common as sports, say), the authorities, by default, think there is a problem with you. There was seriously a problem with the English teacher in the story who thought that a young girl writing a brilliant story, albeit a gruesome thriller, has some problem in her mindset.

Excellence makes me happy. Seeing someone do well makes me happy and gives me a sense of pride as if I’m the mother or something. But god, was I proud of Alexandra as a kid! She is driven and is an inspiration for any girl out there. I wish many more girls will read this book and be inspired by Alexandra. She is one amazing person.

 Moving to a new place and adjusting often seems difficult and painful. However, one as to really commend Alexandra’s bold nature and spirit. The nuns are really fun and totally different from the ones I knew, having studied in 2 convents for the 13 years of my education. The atmosphere is like a family in the story and I loved this big one full of so many sisters and the mother.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this book and I rate it 4/5 stars and I surely will pick up this one again soon.

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 .

Danielle Steel Readathon!

✨🎇🎆🎉🎊
Annnndddd!
Are you ready to hear about an amazing readathon??
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@panmacmillanindia is hosting the #lostandfoundreadathon along with a few bookstagrammers, including yours truly!
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Did you know that @writer.daniellesteel ‘s new book LOST AND FOUND is coming out soon?
I bet so many of you all love her writing, and moreover, so many of our mothers love her too! My own mother’s and aunt’s collection of #daniellesteel books have been passed down to me and I have some great vintage copies! I’ll surely share them soon! (Click here to see my Danielle Steel book collection!)
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So, for this readathon, I’ll be picking up a total of 4 books, and they are-
1. The Right Time (see review)
2. The Good Fight (see review)
3. The Duchess (see review)
4. And ofcourse, Lost and Found! (see review)

I actually ended up reading one more book by Steel – Dangerous Games! (see review)

The readathon ends on 30th of June and I’m so excited to be picking up these books. The top 3 have a female protagonist is the stories are about their coming of age, you could say, whether physically, emotionally, or psychology! I love these kinds of stories!
PS. I’m actually planning on going into #lostandfound blind so no surprises please!!
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You just need to pick up any of the author’s book and tag me, @panmacmillanindia and @writer.daniellesteel in your posts! Don’t forget to use #lostandfoundreadathon !
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#qotd : are you planning on participating in any other readathons this year?

May 2019 Book-Haul, Part-2!

Hey guys!

Like I said in the earlier haul post, let’s continue with the health-chat. So currently, I’m working out everyday, and have a proper 8 hour sleep every night. I admit I have been seeing results – I do not feel lazy like I used to earlier and I am so happy that my productivity has risen. As for food, I have cut down a lot on sodium, fast food and thus totally removed MSG from my intake. As for drugs, I take Omega fatty acid pills and Vitamin-C supplements. I have also seen a great development in my skin and I’m ecstatic.

Moving on, here is #part2 of my #maybookhaul . Here are some of the books from the 14 that I acquired this month.

  1. Panir Majot Hema Malini by Ira Das
  2. Ananya by Tridip Goswami
  3. Wake Up, Life is Calling by Preeti Shenoy! (And it is signed!)
  4. 100 of the World’s Greatest Poems by FingerPrint Publications
  5. Mehboob Murderer by Nupur Anand (I really enjoyed reading this book!
  6. Give Your Heart a Break, by Anuj Tiwari

I am so happy these beautiful editions are mine now! Aren’t they a sight for sore eyes?!

May 2019 Wrap-Up!

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

#qotd : How did you spend this beautiful day?

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

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

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

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

May 2019 Book-Haul, Part-1!

Hey guys!

It seems like it was only a few days ago that 2019 actually started but now we’re almost halfway into the year. Time does fly fast, I guess! I’m going to appear for my 3rd semester finals soon and I am kind of tensed (obviously!). Finals week is damn hectic. I’ve also been going to the gym regularly now and I feel great. It’s worked a lot on my health – my sleep pattern specifically, because I don’t like to sleep at all, but now I am so tired by the time it’s 11/12, I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow! I’ll continue with the health stuff in another post, but for todays #qotd , do tell – what are you doing for your physical health these days (I’m asking because resolutions mostly wear off by the time April rolls in!)

Moving on, here is #part1 of my #maybookhaul . I got a total of 14 new books in May (including review copies, books I bought for myself and also a couple for gifting purposes)

  1. The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve – thanks to Bloomsbury!
  2. Circus Folk and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal – thank you so much! And isn’t that a beautiful cover?!
  3. Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K Banker- thanks to Simon&Schuster! It is my current read and I am immensely enjoying it!
  4. The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph – Thanks to my friend to lending it to me!
  5. Womb of Butterflies by Ambika Barman – Thanks a lot for sending me this book! Eager to pick it up soon!
  6. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – I love this book and I already own a copy but I just had to buy this beautiful edition by FingerPrint Publications!
  7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – I bought these 2 ACs to gift them to my friends actually, and I’m happy to say that they both loved them!

So, I’ll share the other books day after tomorrow in another post! I love displaying the book cover instead of just the spines and so many of you seem to love it too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anarchists’ Club, by Alex Reeve, 2019

Title: The Anarchists’ Club

Author: Alex Reeve

Publisher: Raven Books

Published on: 2nd May, 2019

Genre: Historical Crime

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 370 (in proof copy)

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I had no option but dived right in – such is this read. I really recommend it to all crime-thriller lovers and hope that you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Every Ugly Word , by Aimee L. Slater, 2014

Title: Every Ugly Word

Author: Aimee L. Slater

Publisher: Alloy Entertainment

Genre: Contemporary/Mental-health/YA

Format: Kindle e-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 257

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Behind her Back, by Jane Lythell, 2017

Title: Behind her Back

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 368

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

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

Author:  James Fell

Publisher: Thorsons, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Genre: Self-help

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 278

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I think this is absolutely one of the best self-help books I have ever read. I rate it 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Elt-Duk and the Company of Gold Hunters

Author: Yash Sharma

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 150

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Still Loved… Still Missed! By Mridula, 2019

Title: Still Loved… Still Missed!

Author: Mridula

Publisher: Notionpress

Genre: Short-story

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 78

Synopsis:

“Still loved…Still missed! The myriad hues of souls” is a collection of 14 short stories and a poem. These stories span characters and emotional states with canny details that touch the depths of your soul. Picturing the complexities of love, misery and mystery, the stories try to gnaw your heart like never before
• What does a flower teach us we often fail to see?
• “The belly is an ungrateful wretch.” Is it true?
• Ever wondered about the sparseness and illusions in life?
• Does death put an end to true love?
• Have all the ascetics won over their emotions?

With the power of simple language, this book transports the readers to a world scarcely thought of in our bustling lives. The allegories maintain an intense rhythm of life prompting the readers to perceive things from a unique angle.
“A whole bookful to make you think, cry, think again and move on.”

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.

Still Loved… Still Missed! was a quick read that I was done in about an hour. I liked the writing style of the author – it is flowing and easy to understand. I am sure that even beginners will be able to understand the book.

This book is a collection of 14 short stories and a poem. Despite what I said in the previous paragraph, it is also a complex work – the narrative may seen a bit easy-going, however, the undercurrents that the author has lent to the writing is transcendental. It is easy to relate to these works and thus makes the entire experience an enjoyable one.

The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage. 

This is one quote from the book that leaves an impression in one’s mind after reading…

The undercurrent of love, intertwined with loss, and the whimsical melancholy is prevalent in ach one of these stories. As you read you cannot help but contemplate and introspect within your own life.

Verdict:

It was really enjoyable and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The 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 .

The Printed Letter Bookshop, Katherine Reay

Title: The Printed Letter Bookshop

Author: Katherine Reay

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing date: 14 May, 2019

Genre: Romance/Women’s fiction

Format: E-arc

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I absolutely love this book and I rate it 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Masquerade, by Cyrus Parker

Title: Masquerade

Author: Cyrus Parker

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publishing Date: 7 May, 2019

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-Arc

Language: English

No. of pages:  178

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

Verdict:

I enjoyed the poems and I rate this collection a 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Between You and these Bones, by F.D Soul, 14 May 2019

Title: Between You and These Bones

Author: F. D. Soul

Publisher: Andrews McMeel publishing

Releasing on: 14th May, 2019

Genre: Poetry

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 194

Synopsis:

Acclaimed Instagram poet F.D. Soul (@featherdownsoul) debuts a new poetry collection,telling her own invigorating, unapologetic narrative of love, loss, and adversity. Soul’s words pulse, they are alive on the page, attesting to the significance of Between You and These Bones in the modern world.

From celebrated New Zealand poetess F.D. Soul comes her highly anticipated second collection of poetry, prose, illustrations, and wisdom. Her messages grapple with relationships: interpersonal relationships, her relationship with herself, and the relationship between poetry and the world. Unchaptered and raw, Between You and These Bones reads much like a memoir or meditation yet maintains all the musicality of poetry. “This book is a garden, a hymn, a forgiveness. A falling back in love. It is all the pieces of light you forgot you held, remembered.”

My review:

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

This collection of poems was a welcome break to the otherwise fiction reading that I had been engrossed in for a long time now. The poems were beautiful and spoke on familial love, mental health and healing – and starting to open up about it, as well as about people who help us sope with their kindness and love; human vulnerability of opening up oneself to others; hope, prayer and faith; family and the “weight of generations”; the act of consent/societal pressure and why saying ‘no’ makes us feel guilty; the difference between living and being alive; the strength and power of a mother’s love; the understanding of one’s own qualities and accepting them and subsequently working on them; being human and dealing with loss and breakups and many others. The poet also talks about growing up, falling in love, the beauty in everyday objects, chasing and living your dreams, gratitude, fighting for your life, living one’s life, self-empowerment, memoris, the power of love, the act of giving; about when we want to give up, it is the human body that goes on, and how poetry is the poet’s prayer.

The poet’s writing style is also very novel and experiments with the format of the syntax etc. and complex lines are used. There are many layers to the meanings. Also, I feel that there was also a lot of repetition in the poems. The poet often uses “which is to say” and “but God”/”God!”/:and God”, which makes the words lose their evocative power at times.

Verdict:

This was a pretty good book and I rate it a 3/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

To Best the Boys, by Mary Weber, 2019

Title: To Best the Boys

Author: Mary Weber

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy/Teens and YA

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

Don a disguise.

Survive the labyrinth.

Best the boys.

In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see if their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.

Welcome to the labyrinth.

My review:

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

When I read the description of the book, I was mesmerized. To Best the Boys has all the elements that make an amazing fantasy read, replete with romance, adventure, a bit of family drama and friendship. With a dash of some je ne sais quoi, the author has created a veritable masterpiece.

Throughout the novel, we see a strong and dynamic female lead in Rhen Tellur, who pursues her passions without being afraid of what society will say. Her cousin, Seleni is placed against her, and oh! What an amazing contrast. We see Seleni as what you would call a ‘girly girl’, but the her own words when she says that there is the difference between them both – Rhen was more career-oriented, but Seleni would like to get married and have kids with her beau, is a joyful one. It speaks of the essence of feminism – a feminist does not have to be always a career oriented person or such as so many believe, but a woman in her own right – who knows herself and accepts herself as she is. Rhen and Seleni are great role-models. They do not take any nonsense from their male counterparts and dish out just as well as they get.

the plot actually spans just a few days – under a week, but the narrative is wrapped up in such a way that as a reader, as you start reading, you get sucked in and get absorbed with it. The sci-fi element in the book is also fantastic and curious. The twist regarding the identity of The Holm is also an unexpected one albeit happily welcome. 

And I do not think I shall elaborate much on the beautiful romance, which, although not placed at the center, is really inspiring. The respect and support these two lovers give each other is ideal. 

One problem that I found was that the sentences often tended to be long and rambling and I am not sure if I am a fan of that. But the overall effect was great and gelled well with the narrative.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Superhero Soul, by Dilip Bathija, 2015

Title: The Superhero Soul

Author: Dilip Bathija

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishers

Genre: Self-Help/Motivational

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 127

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Once upon a time, you believed anything was possible. You never got tired of being happy. Once, upon a time, you knew no fear. You never got tired of doing what you did. Once upon a time, all aspects of your life were perfect and blissful. Once upon a time, you were the source.

But over time, things around you didn’t seem to make sense. So you set yourself apart from the source trying to understand the world and how it works. Days, months, and yars passed by and the source was lost.

But that does not mean the source doesn’t exist. The Superhero Soul has been designed for a purpose – to take you back to being the source.

If there are closed doors in your life, this is the key. If it’s treasure you seek, this is the map.

Everything you once knew, the Superhero you once were… Re-Dsicover!

My review:

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

This is one of the best self-help books I have ever read. It was truly useful and actually works – and that is not something I would say for most other such books that I read.

The author has divided the whole topic into various other small units and thus made the whole process look very systematic and thus very achievable. The writing style of the author is very interactive in nature and it  increases the overall appeal of the book. It is an overall book that aims to help the reader in all spheres in their life. It is accurate and compact, and uses brevity. The end product is a book that actually helps one practically and not one that just preaches.

The units have also been divided by beautifully illustrated pages that are really pretty and it really ensures that a readers going into the chapter with a happy and eager minds. I also think that the cover of the book is very attractive.

The tips were increasingly useful and I think it would really help people would need this book.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book and found it very helpful. I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the author:

Dilip Bathija is the author of The Superhero Soul: Quest for Inspiration, Happiness, Success and Greatness, a human-artist, visionary entrepreneur, speaker and a humanitarian.
He believes every individual is capable of attaining personal and professional greatness. All relationships can be harmonious and all goals attainable, once we connect ourselves to the source of powers within. For then, the powers are ours to unleash, for mental, physical and spiritual joy and abundance. His programs are conducted across 40+ cities each year. When not reading, writing and contemplating, Dilip devotes his time as the co-founder and visionary at Dream Is Now, an integrative media/publishing brand.

Dilip can be reached at the following venues:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dilipbathija
Twitter: www.twitter.com/dilipbathija
Instagram: Author_Dilip_Bathija
Website: www.TheSuperheroSoul.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 .

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 .

Never Again: Moving On From Narcissistic Abuse and Other Toxic Relationships, by Dr. Sarah Davis, 2019

Title: Never Again: Moving On From Narcissistic Abuse and Other Toxic Relationships

Author: Dr. Sarah Davis

Publisher: Troubadour Publishing Ltd.

Publishing Date: 16 March, 2019

Genre: Nonfiction/Self-help

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages:

Synopsis:

Dr. Sarah Davies draws from her clinical expertise, largely gained from working with individuals at her Harley Street practice in London, as well as from her personal experiences with narcissistic abuse, to put together this practical guide to understanding and moving on from toxic relationships.
If you have experienced narcissistic abuse and want to avoid a repeat experience, Never Again – moving on from narcissistic abuse and other toxic relationships can help you to:
• Learn about Narcissism & identify Narcissistic Abuse
• Develop tools and coping strategies including emotional regulation, mindfulness and grounding techniques
• Learn a range of practical tips and tools to break the cycle of abuse.
• Learn a 4-step refocus tool helping you to move on more quickly
• Work on your self-esteem, values, self-compassion and forgiveness
• Address any unhelpful thinking or beliefs that may be holding you back
• Learn about trauma and narcissistic abuse and how to manage emotional overwhelm or distress
• Learn about healthy boundaries and how to hold them
• Develop clearer, healthier communication
In this new book, Dr. Davies shows readers how to identify narcissistic abuse, but also the tools needed to move on and potentially end destructive relationship patterns once and for all.

My review:

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

I really like the systematic nature, which the author has undertaken to talk about this issue. As a reader I think it really helps in the healing process – apart from being a self-help book, it is also a practical guide as it takes the reader by the hand and help him or her to recover. In this, it has proved a very practical and useful tool.

Bringing in the abuse factor little by little and then relating it to a relationship (in the surprisingly quite a few cases that it appears in), makes it a smooth transition for the reader to understand. The author has kept the psychological well-being of the reader in mid, for she does not spring facts suddenly at the reader thus shocking him/her, but by slowly transitioning in a slow manner.

Acceptance is a significant phase in this situation and the author has done it in a good manner. She then leads the way to understanding and realizing if one’s partner is a narcissist, and then moving ahead. Her research is very fact based and as such, increases the dependability of the text. Lastly, she also talks about recovery, which is perhaps the most important post stage. The author also guides the reader in developing a new mindset – one that is supportive of the person’s own being and how compassion and forgiveness goes a long way. Apart from the ‘victims’, the author also addresses the friends and family, for which she scores one more amazing point!

On a personal front, I think the book has been useful. It made me realize that in the end, we really need to take care of our own selves.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed the book except where I felt that it was a bit too repetitive for my taste. Overall, helpful read. I rate it 4/5!

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 .