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BHAIRAVI: The Runaway by Shivani

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

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

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

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

synopsis

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

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

my review

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

Narrative technique in Bhairavi

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

Mother-daughter dynamic in Bhairavi

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

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

Human prejudices in Bhairavi

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

Bhairavi in the end

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

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
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How to// Delving into Audiobooks! Tips & Tricks!

Audiobooks are one heck of a way to get into reading, to be honest! I love that they make me free to do other household chores. I am often listening to audiobooks while I wash the dishes, water the plants, or take a walk. However, I do understand that audiobooks can be daunting for many of us, especially non-native speakers of English. So today, I’ll be sharing a few tips and recommendations and I hope you will all find them beneficial!

Delving into audiobooks!

Here are the 8 tips which will probably help you all, just as they helped me when I was starting with audiobooks!!

Delving Into Audiobooks!
Audiobooks: How-to Pt. 1
  • Begin with a light read – like a poetry collection, or conversely, begin with a fast-paced thriller! For me, it was the fast-paced thriller/literary fiction that did the job – Long Bright River by Liz Moore.
  • Often as a beginner, listening to an audiobook can distract you if you are doing something that requires you to be actively focused on it, as opposed to doing the job by mere muscle memory. That is why I personally recommend you to first start with doing such muscle-memory jobs while listening to audiobooks.
  • This tip is especially for non-native English speakers, myself being one such example. Obviously it is difficult to understand someone who is speaking very fast. As such, I would recommend you to perhaps start with 1x and then increase the speed as you grow comfortable. I personally have become accustomed to 2x now.
  • The way a particular narrator narrates the tale, can make it or break it for the reader. Of course, this is subjective for every reader, and so if you have perhaps heard someone say that a particular audiobook (that you have been meaning to listen to) is not really great, don’t simply give up. Check it out! On the same note, always try to listen to the sample track before buying the audiobook for the same reason. Check it out before you commit to it or before you completely push it aside.
Audiobooks: How-to Pt. 2
  • If you are struggling to get into a physical book, then try to read it while also listening to the audiobook. This is a way of active learning, so perhaps you can also do it for college/school/work readings.
  • Always try to look at it in a positive manner. If you go in, thinking you won’t enjoy listening to audiobooks, chances are, you probably won’t. So keep an open mind!
  • Do not get discouraged. Since it is your first time delving into an audiobook, chances are there might be a couple of misses before the hook clicks in!
  • Lastly, check out my Audiobook Playlist on Youtube where there are quite a few audiobooks. Moreover, Librivox.org is a good source to get audiobooks!

Here I am also sharing recommendations of fabulous audiobooks (based on my personal experience, as well as recommendations I have come across!) I hope you all fall in love with audiobooks too! Here’s to a happy journey into a new world!

Audiobook recommendations!
Audiobook recommendations!

Check out my latest blog posts: How I read 250+ books a year! , How to Ace Online University! , Why you should NOT use Linktree! etc.

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!

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

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

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

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 .

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 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 .

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 .

The Stillwater Girls , by Minka Kent, 2019

Title: The Stillwater Girls

Author: Minka Kent

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Mystery and Thriller

Format: E-arc

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Mad Love, by Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan, 2019

Title: Mad Love, a DC Comics Novel

Author: Pat Cadigan and Paul Dini

Publisher: Titan Books

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 288

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

You Will be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, 2019

Title: You Will be Safe Here

Author: Damian Barr

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Advanced Reading Copy

Language: Language

No. of pages: 352

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Some lines I liked were –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Kingdom of Copper

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Adult fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 621

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The City of Brass

Author: S. A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: AdultFantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 530

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo, 2014

Title: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages:

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Poets, Artists, Lovers, by Mira Tudor, 2017

Title: Poets, Artists, Lovers

Author: Mira Tudor

Publisher: Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Literature

Format: Ebook

Language: Language

No. of pages: 166

Publication Date: August 4, 2017

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B074L8W7XS

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sibling tension is also portrayed well in this book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

No. of pages: 825

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

Synopsis:

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


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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

City of my Heart
City of my Heart

Title: City of my Heart

Trnslated by: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

First Came Forever (The Angelheart Saga I), Annie Woods, 2017


Title: First Came Forever (The Angelheart Saga I)
Author: Annie Woods
Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 322
Synopsis:
First love. A promise of forever. A lie that changes everything.
Backpacking with her high school friends, Erica Lindell’s life takes a thrilling new turn. Meeting the fascinating Sasha Ailes, she can’t help but fall completely and irrevocably in love with him. When he feels the same way about her, Erica finds herself drawn into a fairytale love story that will set her life on a new direction. But Sasha has kept his true identity a secret. Finding out who he really is, Erica must overcome the betrayal and make the hardest choice of her life. Can she give up her own dreams to live in his world, or leave and lose him forever?
First Came Forever is an enchanting, heart-wrenching story about finding true love and the devastating consequences it can lead to. What price is too high to pay, even for love?
My review:
Before I begin the actual review, let me state how much time it took me to literally finish reading the book – a day! And no, not even 24 hours; not even half of that. It took me around 4 hours! Once I started with it, I could not ear to keep it down!
First Came Forever was a hauntingly beautiful contemporary story – and that is not a word I generally use for contemporary novels. It has the perfect amount of seasonings of drama, romance, high school romance, and comes with the best imaginable Prince a girl could ever wish for.
One must assume that for a reader to not be able to put down a book, the beginning must be great! And it is. The early chapters are a treat for those who love to travel – it certainly was for me. The writing is so visual – the imagery vivid and so real. Our protagonists are also two very mature persons and I really like that. Especially considering the female protagonist Erica, she is not the damsel-in-distress; completely the opposite in fact. Their relationship is also basically a trope of the older guy-younger girl that I really love.
The family dynamics as well as the friendships are well explored here- the author has brought in a lot of variety. the relationships were also well explored – here again, the fact that the author has made it as realistic as possible without being cheesy and common, is what tends to grip the readers’ minds undoubtedly. Long distance relations, the problems that come with it, the good and the bad times, and the fact that it is not always a walk in the park is well portrayed.
Despite the fact that most of the story takes place in the high-school setting, the author has been successfully able to keep it realistic but also positive. Of course there is the obnoxious head cheerleader, along with the jocks. But they are not all shown as such. We see Tyler with his inner conflicted and vulnerable self, Miriam with her instability, the twins with their adorable-ness, as well as Danny, Ricky, Jordan with their complicated selves- the masks people wear as opposed to the actual selves that they hide… This book is a contemporary treat.
The character development was on point as you may have already learnt by now, reading the review. The plot was also well paced and interesting enough to make me finish this humongous book in literally one sitting. The writing style along with the world building blew my mind away. I definitely will be picking this up for a reread.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and it was not even a minute before I immediately picked up the sequel after finishing it. I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.

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

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

Time management and bullet journaling

It is not enough to be busy… the question is: what are we busy about?

-Henry David Thoreau

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Just like every other person, we too get a mere 24 hours a day. How is it then that some people can cover so much work and some just about get up from their bed and have some food? The answer lies in time management.

Being able to manage one’s time is, I think, one of the greatest abilities that a person can possibly cultivate. Time is of the essence, after all. Time is knowledge; knowledge is power. As such, being able to control oneself so as to make the greatest difference possible each day, is truly a wondrous thing. So let me tell you what my take on time management is.

As a student at The Assam Royal Global University, you could say that I already have a really hectic life. Throughout the week – Mondays to Fridays – I get up at 7 and get ready and get on the bus at 8 in the morning. I study and work as much as I can – cover as many things I need to do on the day – and then in the evening, I get off the bus at 6.45 pm and immediately head off to the gym. After an hour’s workout put into my daily schedule, I reach home at around 8.15 pm. This is followed by a bath, dinner and an episode of whatever Netflix show I am currently watching. At 9, I am promptly at my work table where I then start with my studying and assignments and so on. I always believe in doing things on the very day they are allotted and not procrastinating, and perhaps that is why I can currently juggle my academic work as well as my non-academic work. Apart from actually being a full-time university student, I also work in an NGO as a content creator, I have my own reviewing work for my award-winning bookstagram account (@pretty_little_bibliophile), and I also am an admin for the official India Bookstagram page on Instagram and I need to create regular content. So you can imagine how hectic it gets.

As such, I honestly really forget a lot of things, and that is why I maintain my bullet journal. It is the one thing that truly keeps me on track and reminds me of the things I need to do every day. It really helps me plan my days and the best thing is that it is customizable. There is no one way to do it because the aim of maintaining this sort of a journal is to simply make life easier. As such, I really am very dependent on my bullet journal and cannot imagine a life without it.

Lots of love,

Nika!

Please do like and comment and share your views. Also, if you want an in-depth how-to for Bullet journalling, you can check out my latest post by clicking on this link: How To: A Bullet Journalling Guide

Blooming in the Snow, Sajid Iqbal, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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