Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

A smashing collection: What the Eyes See

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

What the eyes see
What the eyes see

Synopsis of this smashing collection:

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

A smashing anthology!

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

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

Themes, and styles

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

What if it's you?
What if it’s you?

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

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

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

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

Progress in this modern gender-swap fairytale

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

Themes, characters in this gender-swap tale

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

A fantastic modern-day gender-swap YA story!

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

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

An Interview with the author: Mitali Meelan

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

When did you realize you needed to write?

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

What would you say your writing process is like?

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

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

Any special quirks while you write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite books?

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

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

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

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

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

What if it’s you? synopsis

A retelling of Cinderella with role reversal set in contemporary India

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

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

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

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

Adulting, Neharika Gupta, 2019

Title: Adulting

Author: Nharika Gupta

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: Englsih

No. of pages: 216

Synopsis:

Social media manager and popular blogger Aisha is flirty and flamboyant … even as she battles personal demons that tell her she must stop eating if she wants to stay pretty.
Ruhi couldn’t be more different from her friend Aisha. Working at Litracy Publishing, she feels grossly underappreciated by the editor-in-chief, who happens to be her mother. What keeps her going are her own ambitions – and her handsome author Tejas.
Bestselling novelist Tejas has a bad case of writer’s block. He leans on Ruhi for emotional support before getting enamoured by Aisha as he struggles to live up to everyone’s expectations, including his own.
Bold and unapologetic, this is a story of love and self-discovery, heartache and book launches.

My review:

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

Adulting was a pretty quick read and I read it at one go under just a few hours. I have pretty mixed reviews about it though. The plot was okay an had a very realist touch to it which made it a book that is easy to get in touch with and which is believable. The use of other media like to-do lists etc makes it an interesting form.

About the characters – I found them faulty and immature but that is to say, they are also relatable. They are complaining half of the time or playing the blame game but in all that, they are real manifestations of some of our non-finer parts. Aisha is a fashion blogger and the interactions with her audience affect her a lot – whether positive or negative. Psychological problems, as well as eating disorders, are seen through her actions. In her, we see the dangers of addiction to social media – perhaps of what happens when we look to social media for validation.

Ruhi, on the other hand, is a complete contrast. In many ways, we see that she is lacking in the confidence that seems to be bountiful in Aisha. She is still dependent on her mother and this need for validation is what hampers her growth towards her individuality.

Then we also have Tejas who is looking for validation through his works and then through his relationships with Ruhi and Aisha.

What is common to all three of these is that they are all looking for validation in one way or another. There is a sense of discontentment and dissatisfaction among all three which may be a reflection of the lives of all the people today. In that, this novel may well be a physical representation of our modern lives.

Verdict:

I rate this 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Love in the Time of Affluenza, by Shunali Khullar Shroff, 2019

Title: Love in the Time of Affluenza

Author: Shunali Khullar Shroff

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 292

Synopsis:

A novel that probes the norms of marriage, love, and adultery among the urban super-wealthy, Love in the time of Affluenza is a hilarious social satire set in Mumbai. The story explores the lives of three women as understood from the eyes of its protagonist Natasha, a happily married mother of three. She begins to ask some difficult questions about her own life after she stumbles upon her closest friend Trisha’s affair.

‘Finally an immensely enjoyable story about Mumbai’s rich that, like all good stories, rings so true, with its adorable and suspiciously familiar characters.’ – Manu Joseph

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.

A book that provides a glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich in urban Mumbai, Love in the Time of Affluenza was a fun, and witty read. While most may simply categorize it into the light and frivolous, this book comes with its practical depth – one so many women across the country will find similar!

Natasha Singh is a woman who is very relatable. As a mother, she shows us (who are not mothers yet) the point of view from a mother’s side and it is definitely not so easy. Kids can be really annoying sometimes (I am definitely experienced as I have a younger brother) but most of all, placating the kids after a fight is the worst. I loved how the author has made the book so very relatable! When Ria puts on more waterworks as the father (Natasha’s husband, Prince Varun) arrives, it is a scene out of my everyday life. I am a daddy’s girl too and well, to b honest, for a daughter, fathers are way easier to manipulate, aren’t they?

We see Natasha grappling with the sudden scenario of cheating and infidelity when her friend Trisha’s affair is discovered by her. So many times in life, we find ourselves struggling between two rights – whether to respect the confidences of a friend or to tell the truth outright to the people they are hurting. Even without the exact same scenario, this is a dreadful situation we have found ourselves in time too many, to be honest!

 And then comes the mother-in-law! That is one serious Hiroshima-Nagasaki situation in itself. Natasha’s interactions with the Rani are funny, and sometimes really frustrating. It really makes us think about the age-old adage – a woman is another woman’s worst enemy. Is there any truth to it?

In the very beginning of the book itself, Natasha, as she is being ordered about by the cook, wonders if she is working for him or vice versa. Now that situation is one we all are suffering from! And well, men are such chauvinists sometimes! Even when they love you, that streak of caveman attitude seems to erupt and take over their otherwise oaky-ish thinking.

Being an avid fan of Sex and the City, I did find similarities between Carrie Bradshaw and our Natasha. The beginning of every chapter is a writeup by her, as she works as a columnist. These writeups are quite impactful and make us think these words over. The writing was full of humor and irony, and I for one (among many others) am a fan of Shroff’s writing. The literary (and other references) to Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina, Picasso, Lalu Prasad Yadav (you so need to read this book!), Uri Geller, etc. were on point! Shroff has masterfully blended the wit and philosophy, displayed them through various (almost) stereotyped characters and provided a work, which is light, and funny and relatable, but at the same time, full of deep and impactful thoughts.

Verdict:

It was a great read, and now my mum is reading it too! I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Give Your Heart A Break , by Anuj Tiwari, 2019

Title: Give Your Heart A Break

Author: Anuj Tiwari

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Published on: 15th May, 2019

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 208

Synopsis:

When is it enough, really enough? 
In love, never! In abuse, forever. 

Written flawlessly with tenderness and fury, heartbreak and acceptance, give your heart a break is the story of Addya, a flamboyant, confident woman, leading a carefree life. That is, until the day she gets married, and her life suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Caught in a steadily deteriorating relationship, Addya is stretched to her limits as she tries to cope. Through it all, she has her brother Agastya standing by her side like a rock, vowing to avenge his sister. Will Addya be able to survive unscathed? Will Agastya succeed in seeking justice? Or will he succumb to the wounds of his past? Can the love of his life, Tarjani, provide him succour? Inspired by a true story, this is an incredible tale of abuse and vulnerability, of the exhilaration of romance, of an unshakeable sibling bond that is at once unique and universal. Above all, this is Anuj Tiwari’s unsparing account of love and loss, capturing the grit and courage of a woman trapped in a loveless 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.

If I could use just one word to describe this book, it sure will be ‘inspiring’. Or ‘motivational’. And all the other synonyms that go with it.

Give You Heart A Break is a story of love, rather than a simple love story (although there is one such major romantic angle to it, it does not feature at the fore). Words of wisdom pepper throughout the narrative in the voices of Arjun, Agastya and Addya.

Through Addya’s story the author has shed light on the plight of many women in our society. A topic we do not talk about much – a topic considered too impossible a scenario crops up here. Marital tape is still not considered a crime in our country. After all, the husbands owns the wives, don’t they? It is their prerogative – how they treat them ; it is this business not to be poked into by others. Addya has to unfortunately undergo a lot in her married life, – be it sexual, mental or physical abuse .

After her escape from what seems to be horrifying fate, it is a shock to see the reactions of her parents who are archaic and old-fashioned in the truest sense. It is her brother Agastya who is a true savior. Their relation is sweet and so ideal – it is the way in which one would expect loved ones and family members to treat them. The book also deals a lot with people’s mentality- like how we care so much about societal expectations – about ‘what will the neighbours say?!’

Arjun is also a great brother to Addya. The author partially employs the story within a story format through the narrative – involving firstly Arjun and then through him, Addya and Agastya. I also interpreted this novel as a sort of bildungsroman as we see the growth of Agastya through the narrative.

However I did find the narrative confusing at times and the execution could have been a bit better. It also felt a bit stretched at times – the philosophical sequences to be exact.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading this book and I rate it a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Voice of Silence, by Rishaj Dubey, 2019

Title: The Voice of Silence

Author: Rishaj Dubey

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Contemporary/New Adult/Mental Health

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 284

Synopsis:

“Bestselling author and a ‘diagnosed psychopath’ Aarav Roy has gone missing”
Four years ago.
Aarav is not a normal college kid. From a blurry, abusive childhood, to his severe anxiety and the horrible voices in his head, he is fed up with life. Driven by the belief that his past is everything that defines him, he ended up posting his suicide note online. But, the kind of silence he fantasized never came true. Nikita, who suffered from PTSD and depression, sees her own tragic secrets reflected in him, and she is not going to let the past repeat itself—no matter the cost.
Where is the controversial writer? Who is she? Who does she remind Aarav so much of?
What are the voices in his head? And how much hate can love fuel?
In his debut novel, Rishaj Dubey explores the depths of trauma, corruption, loneliness and what is it like to suffocate in your own breath. 

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.

One of the books I read recently was The Voice of Silence and it was quite a surprising read. The beginning was a bit slow for my taste, but overall, it was a great build-up. Covering a myriad of human emotions, The Voice of Silence in a book that is necessary for us to read because of the important topic that the author has chosen.

The entire story felt like an interior monologue of Aarav and his story with relation to Nikita is gradual and very realistic. The book is a lot about mental health and reading such a book in the Indian context is great, and definitely a first for me. Trigger warning for PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder etc. This aspect of the human mind or psychology was a bonus and I found it refreshing to read about in the Indian context.

I think that the characterization is also on point – be it Aarav, Nikita and also Ashish, who is Aarav’s best friend. Their character arcs have developed throughout and it makes for real fleshed out characters.

The author has adopted a simple and easy to understand language, which is relatable and most importantly, very realistic. The way the narrative has been split, with breaks at suitable points, and the addition of the various quotes at the beginning of each chapter was also great. The author has also employed a sort of stream of consciousness method; it is non-linear and jumps back and forth across time.

However, it rather has a complex plot so it might get a bit too heavy at times, but it is an overall great read.

Verdict:

If you love reading psychological thrillers and also books on mental health, this might be the one for you. It is not like every other love story that floods our literature. It is very different from them all and I definitely recommend it. I rate it a 3.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Happily and Madly, by Alexis Bass

Title: Happily and Madly

Author: Alexis Bass

Publishing date: 21 May, 2019

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Genre: Teens and YA

Format: Netgalley e-arc

Synopsis:

Alexis Bass’ Happily and Madly is a mature, twisty, compulsively readable YA suspense novel about a young girl who embraces a fate bound in love and mystery. 

Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family–and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris’s new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval’s lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she’s given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she’s not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.

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 think that Happily and Madly was a great psychological novel. In one way it really reminded me of WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. I found the protagonist – Maris a very sharp girl with lots of potential. Like Sepp (another character that I absolutely loved) said, she does not ever “miss a thing”. The characters in this book all have their own secrets and the way the author goes about them is manifested in some very fluid writing. Chelsea is also a person I liked – she is so unlike what one would expect a stepsister to be… the author has made some really great female representations, where not everyone is trying to one-up the other and it is refreshing. George, Trisha, Pheobe, Edison,Oswald, Warren, Sepp, Karen as well as Michael and Katherine Ellis, Richard and Linda Ellis, and also Gloria and Renee, form the background feel. The backdrop of the  novel is very relaxing and juxtaposed with this thrumming mystery. I was so glad I read it when I did – in the beginning of summer. The book deals with many themes such as putting oneself out there, with the chance of being completely rejected, and to turn the vulnerability out on oneself. It also shows what it is like – the unexpected closeness we sometimes feel for people we have just met – like Maris and Finn, or even Maris and Chelsea. When Maris is once thinking in retrospection, of when she was in the fortune teller’s bathroom when the women client was afraid she was dying, the fortune teller had told her to do whatever was necessary for her to feel alive. Maybe that is why Maris takes risks – not only because she does not want to have regret but also because she wants to feel alive.

Although it was a really enjoyable read, I felt as if the ending was a bit rushed.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer, by Vikram Singh, 2018

Title: Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer

Author: Vikram Singh

Publisher: Partridge Publishing India

Genre: LGBTQ+ / Romance/ Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 200

Synopsis:

After Veer begs a handsome stranger to give him a lift to the Gateway of India in Mumbai on New Years Eve, he inadvertently leaves his cell phone in the mans car. Moments after the clock strikes midnight, Veer calls his phone and is relieved when the driver answers. After they agree to meet the next day, neither has any idea that fate has just intervened in both of their lives. Veer is a graduate student pursuing his MBA. Raj is a native of Amritsar. Although the two men are vastly different in terms of their family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, it is not long before they fall in love. Still, no matter how hard he tries, Veer cannot shrug the apprehension that haunts him from within. No one has a simple love story and neither do they. But when one of the men takes the other for granted, their bond is jeopardized. Will anything or anyone be able to save it before it is too late? In this romance, two Indians intertwined in a web of forbidden love must attempt to overcome several obstacles in order to move forward in their relationship. 

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.

Tied Hearts was an enjoyable read. With a gradual and steady buildup, the author is able to portray that love is love. Writing about a homosexual love story is not easy in India – after all, like the character Ranjit from Mahesh Dattani’s On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, it is impossible to be both “Indian and gay”. I applaud the author for daring to write on this still precarious topic.

The plot has been well constructed and the characterization on point. The romance between Veer and Raj is just like any other romance with a heterosexual couple and the author simply wants to say that it does not matter if a boy loves a girl or if he even loves another boy, but that their love is what matters. Love does not see any race, colour, creed or gender. A person’s sexuality is in no way a factor to determine who he/she falls in love with.

The social constructs surrounding the two men are very realistic thus making this story more relatable. With mentions of their differing family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, the author brings in various aspects of a person’s life that determine the way he acts in society and his personality.

The concept of the ‘forbidden’ is seen in this book as well as the concept of the ‘other’, and the poet does this through the two protagonists – Veer and Raj, who just because of their ‘not-normal’ lifestyle, normal implying the majority of the heterosexual subjects in the book. I think this work was really well done.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book. 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 .

Woman of the Hour, by Jane Lythell, 2016

Title: Woman of the Hour

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd.

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 351

Synopsis:

StoryWorld TV brings ‘real life stories’ to its viewers. But it’s at the station where the true dramas are played out…
Liz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act.
Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself? 
A twisty drama of secrets and lies in a London TV station, this is the first book in the StoryWorld series from the acclaimed author of The Lie Of You.

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.

Woman of the Hour was a very gripping tale once I started reading it. It has such realistic elements set in the world behind what we know as the TV world, that one cannot help but just flip the pages and devour the happenings – real ones which are worth the reality shows one might see on TV these days anyway.

The book also deals a lot with competition of the workplace and dealing with it. Liz Lyon is an admirable character and the way she deals with the pressure and the backstabbing etc is a motivational factor. However, the author has made sure that she has not placed Liz beyond our touch and on a pedestal; she is still human and we can mostly see it in her home persona. She is another person at home, or rather, she is her true self only at home. The dynamics of a person’s personality with its varied shades is prominent in the actions of all the characters in the book. Honestly, I still haven’t figured out Julius.

One thing that Fenton says in page 75, really stuck in my mind – “… God, we’re all expected to be perfect all the time” and I related that with a book that I had recently read, namely, Brave, Not Perfect, by Reshma Saujani, where the author argues that society has build this pressure on women to be ‘Perfect’ all the time!

Her relationships with the rest of the characters in the book like her coworkers, her friend, her daughter etc is really another factor that makes her humane and so much more relatable. Parent versus child issues are also shown here and the author has given us both the parent’s point of view as well as the child’s too. On one hand, the need to be free is profound in very teenager and it is indeed a driving force, and on the other hand, Liz’s need to protect her child and her love is an universal theme. Human inter-relationships, whether familial, platonic, formal, or even romantic are very complex and there is not stark line dividing the black from the white. It is blurred, the black shading away into the grey. Sexual harassment has also been portrayed in this book and in Liz’s thoughts, the author has brought in the guilt factor, which is very much common in all victims – “I must have been giving off mixed signals”. Of course, it does not help that that is what society implies as well. 

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed the book and I hope to get to the sequel soon! I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Killing Time in Delhi, by Ravi Shankar Etteth, 2019

Title: Killing Time in Delhi

Author: Ravi Shankar Etteth

Publisher: Westland

Genre: Contemporary Literature, Mystery

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 206

Synopsis:

Bon vivant Charlie Seth, a privileged denizen of Lutyens’ Delhi, leads a life of idle luxury fuelled by money, drugs, sex and parties. A cocaine overdose kills his ditzy girlfriend, thrusting him into a maelstrom of conspiracy, murder, blackmail and promiscuity. As the world of Crazy Rich Punjabis unravels, Charlie’s future is suddenly at the mercy of an enigmatic woman, an unscrupulous swami, a society-obsessed policeman, a slippery drug pusher and a disloyal valet. The only person who can help him is his missing aunt. Holed up in the country palace that his grandfather had won in a game of cards from a raja on Diwali, Charlie plots his revenge.

Killing Time in Delhi is a brutally funny look into the shenanigans of Delhi’s ultrarich who live in the fast lane and are high on hypocrisy, borrowed money and dubious deals.

My review:

Killing Time in Delhi was a really fun read for me. I wholeheartedly devoured this book and finished it in actually one sitting.

What I really loved about this book is that while it shows so much about the extravagant and decadent lives of the ultra-rich of Delhi, it is also, for me, a book of art. Because interspersed among all the events in this narrative, are also old tales of such beauty and splendor of times gone y that it was naturally a book that I was bound to enjoy every page of. This mixing of the old world charm and the contemporary Delhi is so subtle and not at all abrupt that I applaud the author for it.

The mystery element in the book, starting for the actual triggering event that seems to start the story, until the very end when the identities and buried secrets (comment if you can understand my meaning) are revealed, is on point. The other elements of the thriller genre are also present here, mixed with some bits of existentialism throughout the book. Again, this existential issue is an underlying theme throughout the entire narrative in my point of view and structurally, I think it plays an important role in defining the people by what they do and why they do what they do.

The characters especially were made in such a way that it felt like we are reading and seeing the world through their eyes. I was so very frustrated with the actions of some of the people that I was ready to bash their heads with the book (that is not to say that I did not like the book). The author has been truly successful in creating these real everyday heroes who are persons in their own rights.

As I reached the end, I was flabbergasted. I could not have guessed the actual story at all – the heart of the mystery – so to say. It was unexpected and I really loved the way the book ended.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I can only hope that I will be able to read something just as amazing by the author in the future. I heartily rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

One of India’s most famous cartoonists and journalists, Ravi Shankar Etteth published his first book of short stories The Scream of the Dragonflies in 1996. He then went on to write five novels, The Tiger by The River, The Village of Widows, The Gold of Their Regrets, The Book of Shiva and The Brahmin. They have been translated and published in eight international languages. His books cut across all genres like literary fiction, horror, crime and spirituality and periods like feudal Kerala, Nazi Germany and the Magadha Empire. He also collaborated with artist Paresh Maity on a coffee-table book on Kerala. Etteth is now working on his sixth title, Killing Time in Delhi, which he says is a “a novel on the shenanigans of Delhi’s super rich”. A Bollywood film on The Brahmin is also in the works.
Ravi Shankar worked for Indian Express in the 1980s, and later as the Creative Director of the Observer Group. He joined India Today as Art Editor and went on to become its Managing Editor and, later, Editor-at-Large. He also edited the India Today Group’s afternoon paper Today and launched the lifestyle magazine India Today Spice. He was briefly the CEO and Editor and Chief of Voice of India and Millionaire. He is now a columnist and Consulting Editor with The New Indian Express and is based in New Delhi. 

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 .

99 Nights in Logar, by Jamil Jan Kochai, 2019

Title: 99 Nights in Logar

Author: Jamil Jan Kochai

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Coming-of-age, bildungsroman

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 276

Synopsis:

A coming-of-age story about one boy’s journey across contemporary Afghanistan to find and bring home the family dog, blending the grit and immediacy of voice-driven fiction like We Need New Names with the mythmaking of One Thousand and One Nights.

Twelve-year-old Marwand’s memories from his previous visit to Afghanistan six years ago center on his contentious relationship with Budabash, the terrifying but beloved dog who guards his extended family’s compound in Logar. Eager to find an ally in this place that’s meant to be “home,” Marwand approaches Budabash the way he would any dog on his American suburban block—and the results are disastrous: Marwand loses a finger and Budabash escapes.

The resulting search for the family dog is an expertly told adventure, a ninety-nine-night quest that sends Marwand and his cousins across the landscape of Logar. Moving between celebrations and tragedies, deeply humorous and surprisingly tender, 99 Nights in Logar is a vibrant exploration of the power of stories—the ones we tell each other, and the ones we find ourselves in. 

My review:

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

Trigger warning for violence and animal abuse.

Set in contemporary Afghanistan, 99 Nights in Logar is a splendid coming-of-age novel which encapsulates elements of childhood innocence, curiosity and adventures worth remembering even after finishing the book.

Having grown in a well-connected and extremely large family myself, I love reading about Marwand and his relationship with his many cousins, the love and also the many fights they shared. In many ways, this book may prove to be a nostalgic read for many of the readers.

The narrative is written in this unique voice which had a very conversational style, and that is also seen in the story itself. The plot itself is very interesting to behold. What I loved is the literary device – the text within the text – the inclusion of the various stories within the story lends a certain originality to the voice. Moreover, the author has also included some very local words, as well as words which are essential to the Islam religion as a whole and that also gives another layer to this deep read. Inclusion of these various diverse elements makes this book a beautiful experience, authentic and real in its being.

The plot is also well made. The use of the flashback methods, and thus moving back and forth in time is crucial in providing both mystery and thus curiosity, and also, the moments of realization as we come to know various events.

While some may categorize it as a middle-grade book, I find that apart from that tone, it also has many different layers of meaning that will be clear to the reader in accordance to their understanding (and not necessarily just age).

The characters were all very well portrayed and really reflect characteristics we find in one or the other cousin in our own families. The familial bond is an important character in itself and we see it entwining all the different characters in the book. The author also delves into the political side of things but I shall not dwell on that. He has done well in trying to show a different point of view of things.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and felt like a real adventure I might have been going on with my cousisn, in fact. I rate it a 4/5 stars and commend the writer’s style. For a debut, this sure is a wonderful piee of work. I look forward to more of his works in the future.

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 .

Until Love Sets Us Apart, by Aditya Nighhot, 2018

Title: Until Love Sets Us Apart

Author: Aditya Nighhot

Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 232

Synopsis:

Aisha and Rohit are like chalk and cheese. While Rohit is completely aimless and imperfect, Aisha is focused and a perfectionist. Just two opposites. But don’t they say opposites attract?
He loves her . . . She loves him. Their wedding is on the cards but their love is put to the test when an unforeseen incident hits their lives. 
Can loving somebody immensely set you apart?
Can everything just change in the blink of an eye?
Inspired from real-life incidents, this ‘Best Romance Book of the Year’ award winning novel is a heart-wrenching tale of true love, friendship and destiny. And a young author’s quest to find out what exactly happened . . .

My review:

Until Love Sets Us Apart is a contemporary romance book with various shades of true love, friendship, destiny as well as darker shades of harassment, murders, rape etc.

While the book really begins on a light note – with a new life in a new college, it soon moves forward to more grisly situations. The author uses the flashback method to tell the journey and it provides an enrapturing story.

The cruel twist at the end really shocks the readers. It really explains why the story begins as it did with the just as cruel murders. While the author clearly states that he does not condone taking the law unto one’s hands, we cannot deny that there are many who do so. Again, there are many who would support this kind of thing and many others too who will not. Well, each to his own – but I believe that taking up the legal actions especially when one is not qualified to do so, is not justified.

The issue of rape is another significant theme in the novel and the way the author includes it in the story is heart-wrenching. Nonetheless, this sad and terrible thing is something quite common in our society despite the various measures taken up to stop it. I applaud the author for wrenching away the readers’ la vie en rose attitude and thus replacing the rose colored glasses with real ones that throw light on the much more darker and grim situations in life.

The plot is well planned out; the characters are also well rounded. However, what really challenged my reading is that I could predict what would happen and that, unfortunately dampened my reading experience.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable and a book with depth. I rate it a 3/5 stars.

About the author:

Aditya Nighhot is pursuing his MBBS degree from a renowned college in Pune. He is a professional photographer, an avid reader and fond of music. As a twenty-year-old student, he feels that he can connect to the emotions of the youth and express this through his books. With social messages being the crux of his books, his writing has proved to be a boon to his audience; as a result, he has been interviewed by various radio stations. 
Aditya’s debut novel U n Me . . . It’s Complicated!!! was originally written as a hobby with limited copies printed for friends, family and a few readers. But the positive reviews he received encouraged him to write another novel. His book Until Love Sets Us Apart, previously titled In the Blink of an Eye, won the “Best Romance Book of the Year” Award and has inspired him to write more. He is currently working on his next novel.
Aditya enjoys interacting with his readers via his book and social media and always responds promptly. Connect with him on social media. 

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 .

Right From the Start… She Stole His Heart, by Prachi Gupta and Sanchit Garg, 2018

Title: Right From the Start… She Stole His Heart

Author: Prachi Gupta and Sanchit Garg

Publisher: Finger Print Publishers

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 223

Synopsis:

Who says best friends can’t be cruel, they are angels with horns.
Radhika Gupta has always lived a peaceful life. Until she enters college and befriends a few crazy people. Nishi, the short and confident girl who soon becomes her best friend; Siddharth, the crazy, happy-go-lucky guy, always desperate for a girlfriend; Sameer, the college hunk and Manas, who is simple, shy and secretive.
While Siddharth has challenged Nishi that he would find a girlfriend for himself before she can find a boyfriend, Radhika’s life is turned upside down by Sameer’s proposal. For he is the guy she never wants to go out with, while he is determined to date her.
Following a series of amusing events, endless proposals and accidental cupids, who will end up with whom? Will the love stories have a happy ending or will they be doomed?
Witty and riveting, Right From the Start She Stole His Heart is a pacy romantic comedy. It will make you believe in the fact that opposites attract each other.

My review:

Right from the Start… She Stole his heart is a contemporary romance novel with elements of family, romance, comedy, and friendship as well as more serious shades of reality and its contrariness to hopes.  

When I first picked up this book, I did not expect to have the ending it did. In that, I really applaud the author for the unexpected ending. While a few may disagree, I am really satisfied with the ending. Are you intrigued to know what the ending is? In that case, do make sure to pick up the book.

The characters were well fleshed out and seemed very real. It is very easy to imagine that friends like them are ones we also have in college or school. Siddharth is the real fun element in the book and it was hilarious reading about him going about trying to get a girlfriend for himself. We all know a guy like that. Or a girl, even! Nonetheless, he is a truly good friend to her and I liked him. His bickering with Nishi in fact reminded me of the many fights I have with my own brother and made me laugh hard. Nishi is another well rounded character and seems quite mature except when she is in one of her fights with Siddharth. Sameer and Manas also provide a great background to this friendship and give depth to it as well.

The plot seemed a bit common to most contemporary romances. But nonetheless, it was entertaining to the reader. The cover is also pretty cool and goes along with the theme. The title of the book is a bit long and does also cover the essence of the book. It was a fun read overall. I finished the book in just one day and it was very entertaining.

Verdict:

I rate it 3/5 stars.

About the author:

She is a bestselling author of Novel, Accidentally Cupid. Written 3 novels in the span of 2 years, she left her job as a project manager to explore different career opportunities. It was the freedom of a freelance job which gave her the time to explore her talents and entered into writing. She now works as an editor and has started reviewing books on request. She is born and brought up in Ghaziabad

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 .

Ping, by Rashi Dubey, 2018

Title: Ping

Author: Rashi Dubey

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 146

Synopsis:

Fasten your seat belts, and get ready for a high voltage roller-coaster ride!!!

Era of Yahoo chats, 2004. Riddhi desires nothing more than an average life. but a ‘Ping’ from Aarush changes the course of her life. Although both are poles apart, yet unknowingly seeking one common thing – ‘their life path’. And the journey begins with falling in love.

But will they make it to the end? Are two highly incompatible individuals capable of filling the gaps in each other’s imperfect lives to make it perfect? Is being in love much more than ‘forever togetherness’? Can love help you realize and fulfil your innermost desires?

Begin your ride with ‘Ping!’ to know more.

My review:

I got a free review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review.

Like the name of the book suggests, a great portion of the book is shown through messages – after all, it is set in a time when there was no Whatsapp, or Snapchat. In this regard the book is very nostalgic for all the 80s and 90s kids. Being a 90s kid myself, it also induced nostalgia in me. But now, gone are the days when we had to wait for emails to contact people and some were still using letters as a means.

Set in those times, the book also perfectly portrays the problems Riddhi and Aarush have to face as they get tangled up in the crazy web of love. Ping is set in 2004, an era of Yahoo chats. Our protagonist Riddhi is a college going girl, who simply wants an average life. But a Ping from our male protagonist changes the course of their life. From being acquaintances to good friends, to falling in love, Riddhi and Aarush have a rollercoaster ride forward.

This book also addresses the issue of long-distance relationship and how to tackle it. It is inevitable that they get frustrated at times, but Riddhi and Aarush overcome that and their love only remains strong. When the time comes for them to get married, of course life interferes. Read the book is you would like to know what happens – will they make it to the end? Are two highly incompatible individuals capable of filling the gaps in each other’s imperfect lives to make it perfect? Is being in love much more than ‘forever togetherness’? Can love help you realize and fulfil your innermost desires?

The author uses a simple language and everyone can understand it. However I found that the beginning was a bit boring because it use the same concept that is also available in so many more books. Perhaps including a twist may have been helpful in capturing the reader’s attention. Some parts were also stretched thing and unnecessarily elongated the narrative. The story become predictable towards the middle and that really affected my reading. I think that the plot overall, is quite common.

Verdict:

It was a good read but there is scope for development. I rate it 2/5 stars.

About the author:

Rashi Dubey is a software engineer by qualification, but her heart lies in reading and writing. She was brought up in India, in the city of Uttar Pradesh known as Aligarh. Currently, she is residing in Gurgaon with her husband and a five-year-old son. 

Apart from being a passionate reader and writer, she also enjoys travelling to new places, enjoys solitude, and loves trying different cuisines. She loves listening to fast beats and grooving on them. 

She has following books in her name as follows:

‘What Will People Think?’
‘The Heart Affair: A short story’
‘Ping!’

You can contact her at rashi.dubey811@gmail.com

About the reviewer:

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

The Anonymous, by Nidhi Kukreja, 2019

Title: The Anonymous

Author: Nidhi Kukreja

Publisher: Blue Rose Publishers

Genre: Mystery/Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 180

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

“As I sat down, my eyes rested on the envelope lying on the doormat, For Natasha, the writing on it said. I panicked, this cant is him again! I hurriedly opened it and his words made me cry out loud.” 
The Anonymous is the story of Natasha, a victim of sexual violence, assault, harassment, and rape, who was a happy, cheerful girl, but she is now cold, heartbroken and weak! During her recovery, she was dragged into a vicious cycle of nightmares by the letters, that just wouldn’t let her move on. 
“Dreams are woven and seamed when the bloodsheds” 
But the path we move on is always not easy; Hurdles, difficulties, issues, problems bring you down, but the inspiration and spirit to go ahead keep you focused and determined. It is not easy, sometimes we get lost and trapped. 
Is she trapped by it? Or is she forced into a cycle of self-harm and depression? Is it a fight to survive? Is there really no escaping the past? 
“Hello. Don’t put the book down just yet, pick it. You are welcome to my world.” – The Anonymous 

My review:

I got a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

With such an exciting synopsis to the book, I was very much excited going into it and I can now say that I was certainly not disappointed.

The Anonymous is the story of Natasha, tortured and raped to the point of no return, and yet we commend her strong spirit for not bending and her enduring resilience in the face of such grotesque odds. The author has worked on Natasha’s character. From the beginning of the book, until the very end, we see her change and her evolution as a person of her own rights is gradual and startlingly, very real.

With a strong narration, and just as many twists and turns, this story only extends its strong base on the other characters, who are just as dynamic as the protagonist, and vary on the spectrum just as much when it comes to their characteristics. The way the author has depicted the different types of people in society, is amazing to see.

The chapters which spoke about the trauma that Natasha had to go through, as she recounted the incidents or even lived them, were utterly vivid and draws a picture in the reader’s inner eye. As such, in this respect, a little rigger warning for rape, torture, mental harassment etc.  It is not a pretty picture, but it is a real picture nonetheless. With a great narrative and a must as great, if not greater, narration, this book was one I really enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed the book and it left an indelible imprint on my mind for sure. 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 .

Honey and the Moon, by Samini Kusum, 2018

Title: Honey and the Moon

Author: Kamini Kusum

Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Contemporary/feminist

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 152

Recommended for: New Adult and above

Synopsis:

A novel to set your heart on fire! Love, lust, career, ambition, drive for success, failure, marriage, infidelity. Honey and the moon is the story of an ambitious career woman – Srishti. A woman who doesn’t blink to participate in a man’s world, but a woman who is also equally needy inside for a man to be there to support and love her. Conflicts of career success, relationship highs and lows and even infidelity enter Shrishti’s journey as she finds love, finds success, loses them and tries to find them again. Shrishti has courage to deal with life. But will she finally have it all drawn together in her maverick heart? Her story is a racy kaleidoscope of non-conformity and adventure. 

My review:

  1. Srishti, the protagonist is shown as a bold and self-assertive woman who is not afraid to live life on her own terms.
  2. Her characteristics were well pondered over by the author definitely and her journey throughout the book was interesting to read.
  3. The author has been able to include some very good and round characters in the book, albeit, her exploration of them is left wanting.
  4. Contrarily, some points have been elongated too much, and this stretching out has made the narrative seem boring at times.
  5. The pace at times, goes to fast and this makes the relativity quite less for the reader.
  6. The beginning was a bit slow but if you just go through with it, the pace picks up considerably.
  7. However, the book turned out not like I expected it. Where I was expecting a contemporary feminist story, the story turned out to be too mainstream for my taste.
  8. The protagonist’s search for love and a suitable man was not likeable for me. But I cannot disregard the societal norms and reasoning that the author has portrayed in the book – so realistically.
  9. The book definitely had a lot of potential but the execution has been left wanting.
  10. Certain mistakes can be corrected through a round of editing and grammar checks.
  11. The language overall is quite simply and can be understood by beginners.
  12. The cover, I feel, does not do justice to the book. It can be better. Also, the page quality can be so much better.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3.5/5 stars.

About the author:

Author of “Honey And The Moon”, “A New Dawn” and “Secrets,Sins and Struggles”. Loves food, travel and yoga!

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 .

It’s Official, Stupid, by Sid Baliga, 2018

Title: It’s Official, Stupid

Author: Sid Baliga

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: ContemporaryFiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 128

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

Join Sid, the author of the novella, as he narrates the chronicles of Ashitha’s journey, from a lower middle class family to a dazzling corporate life, and her struggles en route as she is torn between the emotional bliss of a college friend and the fantasy brush of a corporate boss. 

IT’S OFFICIAL, STUPID reflects on the need to differentiate official from unofficial, demarcate serious from casual and distinguish intent from motives.

My review:

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

It’s Official, Stupid is quite a short read and at 128 pages, it is engrossing and thought-invoking.

With the #MeToo movement making headlines in all newspaper around the world, in recent times, the author has penned a story revolving around this concept, and set in middle-class Indian society. Work place harassment is a real deal that we have not talked about as much as we should and the author has done a good job in binging this out of the closets.

The plot was well written- with good pacing set to the tunes of the story. However, the end felt a bit abrupt and thus quite shocking to the reader. I feel that he author should have expounded upon the nature of things and how things turned out the way they did, towards the end.

As for the characters, although I think that the author did a pretty good job on a debut novel, the characters needed a bit more depth, especially Ashitha. At times, her actions failed to make sense to me and I was left guessing. Sumanth however, was pretty well constructed and this struggle shown in a very realistic manner with all of his ups and downs. Nonetheless. I liked both of these characters, their qualities, and their ambitions and so on.

 The mystery angle to the story that came towards the end of the novel was interesting. And the twist, more so, regarding the real and dark sides of people is quite unexpected. I shall not say more, and thus avoid giving any spoilers.

The author’s story telling skills are quite good, and this novels only needs a bit more polish and editing. The compact nature is also enjoyable and makes it a quick and short read. The language used is pretty easy and lucid, understandable for all readers.

Verdict:

It was a good read, overall. I rate it 2.5/5 stars.

About the author:

The human brain is wired to learn through experiences and Sid shares some of them, gained by traveling, working on diverse assignments, and meeting different people, through the medium of books, blogs, publications, and guest talks. His tryst, with writing, started when his teachers at St. Aloysius School, Bandra, Mumbai noticed his skill.

Sid’s three sequels, on Colleges and Universities-Choosing the right fit, featured in Assam Tribune, North East’s highest circulated English daily. His articles, on Ethical Sales, Career Management, CAT Race, Sensory Marketing etc were published in business, management and academic periodicals.

Sid, who studied at MIT Manipal, IIM Kozhikode, is an educationist by heart and has deep interest in applications of experiential learning in school education. 

Donning multiple hats is typical of Sid. In 2016, he crowdfunded the Bihar Ki Beti campaign, on Milaap, in support of education for a girl child. His “Project Smile” event for underprivileged kids, at KFC was widely covered on electronic media in 2017.

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 .