Tag Archives: #bookstagramindia

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

Title: Celtic Tales

Illustrated by: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Verdict:

A gem! 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

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

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

Title: The Shrike and the Shadows

Author: Chantal Gadoury and A. M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: Englsih

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

July 2019 Wrap-Up!

Hey guys! Hope you’re doing well.

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

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

Review Books

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

Reading Rush 2019

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

Personal Choices

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

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

My 21st Birthday Book Haul 2019!


💟💟💟
Thank you all so much for your wishes! I was blown away by all the messages you guys sent me! And well, now according to that poll, here i. With my #birthday #bookhaul . I didn’t buy many books this time because I’m out of space. So I bought 5 books I’ll be needing for uni classes and only 2 for … Umm recreation (?)
.
1. The African Trilogy by #chinuaachebe from @everymanslibrary
2. Leaves of Grass by #waltwhitman from @fingerprintpublishingbooks
3. A Streetcar Named Desire by #tennesseewilliams from @penguinindia @penguinclassics
4. Death of a Salesman by #arthurmiller
5. The Grapes of Wrath by #johnsteinbeck
.
6. A Gathering of Shadows by @veschwab from @titanbooks
7. A Conjuring of Light #ADSOM
.
I also got a #bulletjournal for the second half of the year. It’s a dotted one from @menorah.stationery and I’m loving it! I post my bulletjournal pics in @pretty_little_dilettante so you can check that out. I also got a @tombow_india black #brushpen and I’m loving it’s smoothness!
.
#qotd : when are your birthdays guys? And what was the most memorable birthday you had?

The Kosher Delhi, by Ivan Wainewright, 2019

Title: The Kosher Delhi

Author: Ivan Wainewright

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 320

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Right Time, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Right Time

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 325

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Still Loved… Still Missed! By Mridula, 2019

Title: Still Loved… Still Missed!

Author: Mridula

Publisher: Notionpress

Genre: Short-story

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 78

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Between You and These Bones

Author: F. D. Soul

Publisher: Andrews McMeel publishing

Releasing on: 14th May, 2019

Genre: Poetry

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 194

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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 Heist Artist, by Vish Dhamija, 2019

Title: The Heist Artist

Author: Vish Dhamija

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 272

Synopsis:

Vagh Pratap Singh aka the Captain is a conman extraordinaire. From transporting illegal merchandise and stealing cars to breaking safes, he’s done it all. But now, in his fortieth year, he’s ready to retire. So when Udham Kumar, a crooked politician from Uttar Pradesh, commissions the Captain to track down and steal Poppy Flowers, a Vincent van Gogh’s painting that has been smuggled into India after it went missing in a museum in Egypt in 2010, the Captain knows that he’s found his last, and biggest case. But the painting is now in possession of a dangerous gangster, and the Captain is being followed by Udham Kumar’s ruthless associates, greedy for both money and power. As the odds against him begin to stack up, the Captain realizes that his last heist might not be as easy as he’d imagined.

My review:

If you are a fan of Dan Brown and his Robert Langson series, then this is definitely for you. Oh and if you liked the Ocean’s movie series, then this might be the one for you. The Heist Artist is a story of a con man and it is truly a wild ride. Throw in some action and late night stealing into offices to spice up the narrative, along with car chases and blasts, and clever twists and turns. The writer has given it all to make this amazing book.

I have always enjoyed these sorts of stories, whether in books or in movies, they have been my absolute favourite. Something about the shrewdness and cleverness of these conmen always enrapture me and con me in the entire process. Well, not really, because I know what I am going into. I had high hope for the book originally. But then I know that disappointment would sting me too bad so I lowered the expectations. But it turns out, that in the end it was absolutely unnecessary of me to even think of lowering my expectations for this book because I needed up totally loving the book.

The entire book is a really amazing read – once you start reading this book, I promise you will not be able to stop yourselves – such is the power in this author’s writing style. It is lucid and easy to understand, so much so, that it flows gently and proves a wonderful read. The plot is well planned out, and the pacing is on point.

The themes of mystery, art and knowledge rum rampant throughout the book, while I absolutely love the overpowering theme of art. Reading the synopsis will give a clear idea of why I should think so. It was a really great read and I cannot emphasize enough on it. I would definitely recommend you all to pick up this read.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to more by the author. 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 .

Life is the Flower, Love is the Honey, Surabhi Sharma, 2018

1537692007826.jpg
Title: Life is the Flower, Love is the Honey
Author: Surabhi Sharma
Publisher: Self published
Format: EBook
Language: English
Synopsis:
‘You are so much more than what you think you are. You are infinite. You have the power to achieve bigger things.’
This is a story of a dream; a story of every dreamer.
Shubh is a dreamer. He wishes to become a nature photographer but submits to his parents’ wishes who want a secure future for him. He fears he will disappoint his parents and gives up on his dreams.
Monica is a dreamer. She is a painter who paints the canvas with the inspirational colors of life. She let go of her fears and inhibitions one day when someone helped give her paintings a purpose.
What happens when fate brings these two dreamers together?
A unique tale of love and life in the form of tiny tales about the dreams and challenges we face.
My review:
The concept that the author has used to go about the entire narrative is quite interesting. We have one or two chapters, followed by a sort of monologue or just some thought by the author. While reading the story, I think it really helps the reader think and introspect about themselves as well as the characters. I also think that using this formula of short chapters is really beneficial.
The characters are also well formed. Monica and Shubh are two very real and thus relatable individuals. We find so many such people in our everyday life, and so many of us will be able to find some of our own values and qualities in them. The other minor characters also reflect some very modern and individualistic traits.
The themes explored are mostly on human dreams and desires, hard work and love as well as friendship.
One thing that I think could have been more developed was the literary style. I found it very simple for my liking and would have preferred something of a more sophisticated and advanced style. The editing, I feel, was rushed through, as I came across quite a few grammatical errors.  There is a scope for improvement for the author, considering it is a debut book.
Recommendations:
This book was a really short and inspiring book. I recommend it to those looking for romance as well as inspiration. I rate the content a 3/5 stars!

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, 1818

2018-07-16 04.16.24 1.jpg
Often regarded as the mother of modern science fiction, Frankenstein is a chilling tale of man’s quest for dangerous knowledge and the wish to gain the power of the laws of nature. This novel is a compilation of Romantic and Gothic elements combined into a singular work with an unforgettable story. It follows Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural philosophy, as he creates his greatest creation- the Frankenstein monster, made from the part of 7 other male dead bodies. Just the thought of raising the dead is gruesome enough. Shelley takes full advantage of this literary device to enhance the strange feelings that Frankenstein generates in its readers.
The themes of dangerous knowledge, sublime nature, monstrosity and creation. An aspect of Gothic literature, the search for illicit truth and magical mysteries is seen in the character of Victor Frankenstein as well as Robert Walton. Victor Frankenstein, of course, engages in a quest to push the realms of science to their limits and even go beyond by his creation of the monster. Nature, on the other hand, is used to depict the moods and situations of the characters in the novel- as a mirror of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Particularly in Frankenstein’s narration, the description of scenery often reflects his mental state at the time of the scene. Nature as a force is often personified in the text.
Gothic novels also have multiple levels of narration, which is done by using a framing device. We see this in Frankenstein, where the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation is framed by the story of Walton. We hear Frankenstein’s story told Walton, who is narrating the story to his sister Mrs Margaret Saville and through these letters, to the readers. At times, the narration is even further removed, such as, when the monster tells Victor Frankenstein his story. Foreshadowing is ubiquitous and throughout his narrative, Victor uses words such as “fate” and “omen” to hint at the tragedy that has befallen him.
Also known as The Modern Prometheus, Frankenstein is a reference to the Promethean hubris. The story is true to this moniker: in Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity; he was subsequently bound and punished eternally for his crimes. Similarly, Frankenstein discovered how to give life to things — a power thought divine — and is subsequently punished by the endless tragedy delivered unto him by his creation.
I will end this long review by stating that I truly loved this book and grant it a 5/5 stars! Marvellous work!

7 Books in 7 days!

IMG-20180625-WA0042
So a while back, a group of my friends decided to do the #7days7books challenge. This is a 7-day long read-a-thon basically, where one tries to read and complete 7 books. This is also the first time that I have participated in a read-a-thon and I have been pretty excited about it as well! So, without further ado, let me list the books I have decided to read over this period.
Book 1- Finding your G-spot in Life
Author: Geetika Saigal
Publishers: Invincible Publishers, 2018
Synopsis:
The Probability of your parents’ meeting: one in a million. The Chance that they had you and not another genetic version of you: one in 4 million billion. (yeah, that’s a number too!) The Number of moments you have lived (knowing that any of us could pop-off any moment): ~9.4 million in our lifetime.
You, Yes YOU, are a miracle.
Do you not then deserve to lead a miraculous life?
A life that you know is meaningful to you, that doesn’t leave you feeling like you are simply running, not knowing where to and why so. So go on, give yourself and your life the best shot.
How?
By ceasing this race to ‘somewhere’ for just a few hours; Re-discovering Your Real Self, Re-aligning Your Thoughts, Revamping Your Life – All in (nothing worthwhile is simple!) 4 STEPS + 15 Do-it-for-Yourself EXERCISES.
This book is written for all of us, whether you’re just starting out your life or wishing to change it.
Book 2- Call Me By Your Name
Author: Andre Aciman
Publishers: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Synopsis:
Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.
Book 3- Not Exactly Love
Author: Anindita Sengupta
Publishers: Vishwakarma Publications, 2018
Synopsis:
Not every love is smooth sailing and not every love has a magical ending and yet, without a generous dose of ‘Love’, life would certainly be devoid of its most thrilling experience.
A tumultuous trip, an inevitable attraction, a passionate kiss, magical memories, beautiful chaos, taking a risk, giving a chance, holding on and letting go all define this strange animal we call love.
Everyone craves it but is the definition of love the same for all?
‘Not Exactly Love’ is about 10 different women navigating through the sea of love and attraction. Ten stories about adventures of the heart and the games that it plays with the mind! But still… should we give love a chance?
“NOT EXACTLY LOVE”
Book 4- In a Cult of Their Own
Author: Amborish Roychoudhury
Publishers: Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd. 2018
Synopsis:
‘Cults become cults, they are not made. It’s the becoming that is interesting, not the making.’
There are some films that sure fizzle out of the theatres in a heartbeat, but figure out a way to survive. Through a torrent leaked online, on an old bootlegged DVD or VHS, or YouTube upload and then in the hands of the omnipresent Twitterati—the films form a ‘cult’ of their own.
This book is a tongue-in-cheek ode to these cult movies of Hindi filmdom, ones that despite not having made moolah at the box office, still made it to viewers’ memories for reasons—good or bad. Drawing from his own reminiscences of growing up on these delectables and also face-to-face interviews with actors and directors such as Aamir Khan, Pankaj Kapur and Deepti Naval, the author celebrates these underdogs in a manner that is extremely readable and relatable.
Book 5- Flying Without Wings
Author: Rishabh Puri
Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers India and Black Ink, 2017
Synopsis:
For Milli Bajwa, life is at a stand-still. Grounded in the Chandigarh airport where she works day after day, she watches flights leaving for destinations she knows she will never visit. Loveless and luckless, she would rather bury her nose in a book than face her grim reality. And then, on a whim, she swipes right on a new dating app, and finds the man of her dreams- someone who can sweep her off her feet and teach her how to fly. But the mysterious and charming Karan Singhania has secrets of his own, and a heart damaged in more ways than one.
This is a story of two people about to find out how far they’re willing to go for the promise of true love. Will Karan take a chance and dive- blind-folded and headfirst- towards his dreams? Will Millie be willing to stand by Karan’s side in sickness and in health, just for a glimpse of his smile? This is a story of hope and joy in times of heartache and trial =. Of finding the perfect person in imperfect situations. And of love’s power to carry us through our darkest times.

Book 6- Till the End of Forever
Author: Vivaksh Singh
Publishers: Srihti Publishers & Distributors, 2018
Synopsis:
The past is always mysterious. It neither leaves completely, nor stays fully. Who would know it better than Ayaan. He was its victim. And so was Avani. When these two crumbled souls met, they realized in their togetherness that only a broken piece can complete another. Together, they start fighting the pain of their past, feeling the bliss of the present and appreciating their lives.
But just when they thought things were perfect, life played its cards.
Ayaan, who was trying to put life’s pieces together, broke down when he was held responsible for a closed one’s murder.
And Avani… well, her life was going to take such sharp turns that she would crave for death.
Alas, this was just the beginning of what destiny had planned for them!
Will Avani wait for the scars to heal or will she fight with her bruised soul? Why does the truth keep going deeper as she chases it?
Deeply sensitive and brutally thrilling, Till The End Of Forever is a romantic thriller that takes a dig in the dark sides of god, nature of human pain, power of selfless care, and proves how true love can make you live till the end of forever.
Book 7- A Cage of Desires
Author: Shuchi Singh Kalra
Publishers: Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd., 2018
Synopsis:
There’s a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there’s the kind that brings you down on both. You don’t need the latter, because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back.’
Renu had always craved for love and security, and her boring marriage, mundane existence somehow leads her to believe that, maybe, this is what love is all about. Maya, on the other hand, is a successful author who is infamous for her bold, erotic books.
What do these two women have in common? How are their lives intertwined?
Renu’s thirst for love and longing takes her on a poignant journey of self-exploration. The answers come to her when she finds the courage to stand up for herself, to fight her inner demons and free herself from the cage of desires . . .

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng, 2014

20180529_044155_0.jpg
Everything I Never Told You, is, without doubt, one of the best out of the 11 books I read in May. It’s an exquisite novel about the Lee family, in 1970s Ohio, and how the apparent suicide of their eldest daughter Lydia, affects the relations among the rest. It’s been a profound and revealing experience- reading this moving story of family, love, longing, and secrets, and how delicate the equilibrium that balances them are.
I finished this book within 3 days while I do believe that it would have taken me less than a day, should I have not been in the middle of my finals. This novel is not just revolving around the crime itself; in a way it follows the stream-of-consciousness method when it jumps back and forth in time giving us a view of the world through not only Lydia’s but also the other characters’ eyes as well, until it culminates in that one point where the story really ends.
The plotline was very well thought out- and the execution, flawless. This is my first Celeste Ng book and I am looking forward to reading the rest. Like I have stated before, the way of writing is beautiful and the magic she has woven in this tragic yet hopeful tale, is astounding. As I read and flipped the pages, I could almost sense the feelings Lydia was undergoing as if it was truly happening to me. The characters were very round and well-developed, in the sense that we were given an intimate view of their mental mechanisms and why they acted the way they did. It’s a harrowing experience and boggled my mind as I reached towards the end. Everybody has a story- this novel is not simply concerned with the suicide and the whys behind it. It also deals with the hows, whens and whys in the lives of the other characters as well- dissecting the events in their own life that had shaped them into their true selves.
I have truly enjoyed this piece of literature and I rate it a 5/5 stars for making not only me- laugh and cry, but my mother as well. When asked, her rating was also, not surprisingly, a 5/5 stars!

April Book Haul, 2018

20180510_021833_0
April was a month when I was pretty broke, and that’s why I got only two books for myself. These are both books that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, and I was ecstatic when I ordered them!
Firstly, I’ve got An Enchantment of Roses by Margaret Rogerson, which I loved and rated a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a book set in the Fae realms and fantasy as such is a personal favourite of mine. Readers of S.J.Maas, such as yours truly, would definitely love this book. See the review I wrote for this book here! An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson, 2017
Next, I got Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyami, which also belongs to the fantasy genre and is a bestseller too. I have come across raving reviews for this book and that was what made me but it. However, I have not yet read it; it’s placed in my June TBR. I’ll definitely be writing a review for it as well, and so, keep an eye out for that!
# qotd: how many and what books did you haul for April?