Tag Archives: fiction

Mythological Fiction: Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Ravanputr Meghnad
Ravanputr Meghnad

Mythological Fiction in Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Get this book for yourself! Amazon Goodreads

Raavanputr Meghnad versus the Ramayana

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

Narrative style

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

What I did not like about this mythological fiction

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

Verdict:

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

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

Toni Morrison Readathon!

So recently, one of the famous novelists ever left the world. Toni Morrison is a famous name and although I have never read any of her works earlier, I was quite familiar with them – the names and the synopsis of the various books at least!

So when Vidya texted me saying that she wanted to sort of organize a readathon for Toni Morrison’s book, I was only too happy for it! She’s done brilliantly and we have the #tonimorrisonreadathon now! I am very happy to be a part of it and I encourage you all to join in and finally pick up her books if like me, you haven’t read any of her works yet, or if you want to go back and reread her books!

I have decided to pick up two books for this readathon – The Bluest Eye and Beloved. Here’s a bit about them both!

The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author’s girlhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigolds in the Breedloves’ garden do not bloom and Pecola’s life does change- in painful, devastating ways.
What its vivid evocation of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. The Bluest Eye remains one of Tony Morrisons’s most powerful, unforgettable novels- and a significant work of American fiction.

In Beloved, we meet Sethe, who was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.  Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison. 

Do join in and share the fun! You can all check out my bookstagram account Pretty_Little_Bibliophile where I keep giving regular updates!

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

Title: Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1

Author: Kevin Missal

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Genre: Mythology/Fantasy/Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 346

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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 .

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 .

They Go to Sleep, by Saugata Chakraborty, 2018

Title: They Go to Sleep

Author: Saugata Chakraborty

Publisher: Notion Press

Genre: Short Stories

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 102

Synopsis:

A young widow of a drug overdose victim disappears from Goa. Three years later, a British National claims to know her whereabouts minutes before departing for London Heathrow. The Police of two states is pressed into a joint manhunt. ‘They Go to Sleep’ is a racy thriller on police procedure and criminal psychology.

In the year 2043, when nobody sends a letter anymore, an unlikely candidate decides to write about his springtime memories that are soon going to be erased. When his identity gets revealed, the impact on several individuals and the society at large assumes epic proportions. ‘A Man of Letters’ is a science fiction with humane emotions at its core.

A promising poet meets his muse on board a train. They share a captivating conversation but forget to ask each other’s name. Will they be able to meet again in an Indian metro? ‘What’s In a Name?’ is a humorous look at everything Bengali: gossip, fish, cutlets and the Kolkata Book Fair.

These three stories are joined by nine equally exhilarating tales of ordinary people and the choices that they make under extraordinary circumstances. The compilation will surely compel the readers to keep their midnight lamps burning.

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset. (https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in) Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The cover of this book is a really intriguing one and with its dark colour scheme, it really goes well with the stories inside. Before reading the story, I was sure this was entirely something suspenseful and such, but it turns out, it was really a different kind of suspenseful and yet, I loved it. the title is actually from one of the various stories within the book and that specific story in itself is totally mindblowing.

Of all the 12 stories included within the collection (Thy go to sleep; Six days, seven lives; Blowing in the wind; A man of letters; P for payback; Rare; It was time; Aperture; The man who sold his gods; The other side; The short lives of Shazia Sultana; What’s in a name?) I really enjoyed reading Blowing in the wind, A man of letters, It was time, The other side and What’s in a name?

Short stories really need to b kept under a strict word limit and the author has followed that, without making the stories lose their shock or surprise inducing elements. The plotlines created by the author are made in a very planned way and once the reader reaches the end of the story, he is left wondering, ‘How the hell did I not see this coming?!’ the characters were all fleshed out and they seemed do very real, it was no wonder every reader got pulled in.

There however, needs to be a bit of editing and I think that would make the rest perfect for the readers. The language  and the writing is a bit complex however, and I am not sure of every person would understand it. Nonetheless, it is worth praising and done beautifully. The inclusion of the glossary was also a great addition that I liked. It was a very helpful thing for readers who are not very familiar with the words the author has used.

Verdict:

This was an enjoyable read and 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 .

Silent Defiance: An Open Refusal to Everything That Hurts the Soul, by Sonia Motwani

Title: Silent Defiance: An Open Refusal to Everything That Hurts the Soul

Author: Sonia Motwani

Genre: Poetry

Format: Ebook

No. of pages: 114

Language: English

My review:

Reading poetry is a very personal experience for me and as such, I hold it in very high regard. In the case of Silent Defiance, the poet has been able to retain my interest for the entirety of the book.

I enjoyed reading the poems very much – many were so very relatable on various levels that I was deeply touched and at times, after reading a few poems, I had to just stop, deliberate and think about it. These poems have been very thought-inducing as well.

I am very sure that a lot of the readers have been touched just as well. The delivery and the writing style of the poetry has been good but can be developed furthermore. The imagery produced at times was also beautiful in their entirety. The poems, all aroused emotions in the reader and I applaud the poet in this regard.

I do think that the poet should possibly publish another book and I shall be delighted to but that one too. The cover is dark and yet there is this certain elegance in it. The length of the book too is actually very short and thus proves quick to read. Again, although very short and would require very less net reading time, I cannot guarantee the thinking time the reader will probably use, poring over these works.

Verdict:

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

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 Glass House: A Year of our Days, by Chanchal Sanyal, 2019

Title: The Glass House: A Year of our Days

Author: Chanchal Sanyal

Publisher: Rupa Publictions

Genre: Fiction/Stream of Consciousness

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 184

Synopsis:

A darkly comic take on the monstrous megapolis of Delhi and its many moods and characters, The Glass House presents a look into the ideals of middle class urban happiness, its link to home ownership, and the pitfalls and prices that come along with its pursuit – a must read for anyone who’s ever lived in urban India.
College professor M.B. and his designer wife, Roshni, are a yuppie couple living in the ever-expanding, smog encrusted, roiling city of Delhi. They have finally achieved their dream of buying their own apartment—in an an up and coming builder complex in Gurgaon. The problem is, it looks like it’s going to be up and coming for a while.
Along with this woe come tumbling a hundred others. M.B. is sure his wife’s growing distance and disaffection from him has less to do with the stalling on the house front, and more because she is finding solace in the arms of Rocky, the stud son of their Punjabi landlord. The landlord, on his part, ‘Fatbum’ Khanna, is greasing his way further into his tenants’ lives, filling their ears with advice on how to navigate the growing mound of bank papers, loan agreements and, of course, building jargon. What is galling for M.B. to admit is that he may just need all the help this canny businessman can provide.
Further complicating things are his NRI brother, Tubluda, and his familial tiffs with an overstepping tenant, and M.B.’s growing fascination for the ‘resident bitch’ of the college staffroom, the glamorous South Delhi girl, Malati Patel. 
This is a story of a man and his search for a home. At its most obvious level it tracks the progress of the hero from the time he decides to buy the flat in the Gurgaon (New Delhi) high-rise to the conclusion of his dream. Obviously, it also lays bare his travails during this time. He gains the house, but does he lose the home? 
At a less obvious level, this is a commentary on the mad lemming like rush we all seem subject to – of building homes at great and often unforeseen costs. Costs that are always more than financial, especially in an economic landscape where the realty business is not only corruption laden but skewed more towards making the ‘quick and easy buck’ rather than creating the warm glow of solid achievement, of helping both the builder and the buyer bask in the legitimate pride of making a home, a castle, a hearth. 
It is titled ‘The Glass House’ because of the obvious fragility of the dream and also because like the Emperors New Clothes – everyone except the dweller can look inside and therefore be privy to the falseness and the frailty of the illusion.
Structurally, it follows a three week punctuation – at gaps of exactly 21 days, we track the progress of our hero and his dream. This process continues for 379 days.
The characters are the hero – a middle aged professor of history, variously Mr. B, Sir and EmBee (after his initials) – his is the voice of the narrative, his wife (who he loves but starts to suspect of having an affair with his landlords son), his landlord (an all knowing, forceful businessman who is very fond of this couple), his very attractive female colleague (who he almost has an affair with), an old soldier – a veteran of many wars – who changes his (and perhaps our) perspective on happiness, home ownership and the relationship between the two, his brother (a successful California based entrepreneur) and sundry others.
The cities of Delhi and Gurgaon play a major role in the narrative. They are characters as well rounded as any of the characters named above. As the year progresses, the march of the seasons plays a symphonic orchestra to EmBee’s moods and mental landscape. From the blasting heat of the summer, to the drumming wetness of the monsoon, from clammy autumn to smoggy winter – all asphyxiated under the blanket of pollution that the city struggles to breathe under – the seasons and the twin cities march to a drumbeat that is in lockstep with our Professors dream of staking his claim to the world in the shape of a home that is his own.

My review:

A very relatable book for so many millennials trying to pave the way to becoming landlords themselves, The Glass House is truly an example of just an extraordinarily told normal story. What makes it so very relatable again, is that the characters featured in the book seems to be so near to each one of s that at times, it is impossible to determine if one is just reading a story or living his day-to-day life.

We have our protagonist Mr. B or Embee, as his wife Roshni so fondly calls him. Theirs is a marital life that is blissful, but perhaps only in the beginning. As the story unfolds, we unfurl a myriad of human desires and wishes, so real that sometimes one might just see a reflection of themselves in our Bengali professor of History.

This book is reflective of the protagonist’s growth or change, as a year asses – a year which may seem calm from the surface, but with as many currents and ebbs within it. Roshni seems like a woman who has got everything – she is successful in her career, and at home, she is happy with her husband. The only problem might be that the couple do not have children but together they overcome even that. The comic elements are also brought in with the Khanna family – the landlords of our Mr. B, the protagonist.

In the middle of this narrative, the pacing seems to fall flat, and it is almost anticlimactic, but the author comes up with an unexpected twist at the end. Thus, in the end, we never know what we had wanted to know since from the very beginning. What is remarkable is the stream-of-conscious like manner in which the novel reads. We are offered glimpses into the protagonist’s mind and it is impactful. We see the protagonist as a person of his own as he holds his own against the world and goes his own way.

Overall, this book is a pretty ordinary tale but what makes it exciting is the crafty and extraordinary way in which it is told. 

Verdict:

This was a pretty interesting read and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Shadows of the Night, by Priyanka Lal, 2019

Title: Shadows of the Night

Author: Priyanka Lal

Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Short stories

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 160

Recommended for: YA and above

My review:

Shadows of the Night is a collection of short stories by Priyanka Lal, all of which has been inspired by someone or the other in the author’s life.

The stories are:

  1. Love at Sixteen
  2. The Goan Chase
  3. Twist of Fate
  4. Shadows of the Night
  5. Two can Play
  6. Things…. That Happen by Chance
  7. Celebration of Loss
  8. Language of Love
  9. Wishes and Sighs
  10. Life is to Live
  11. Death do us Part
  12. The Last Wish and a New Beginning
  13. Does Love Last Forever

The stories are a wild collection of horror, romance, first-love, new beginnings, human resilience etc. I really enjoyed reading them all but the first one was definitely my favourite.

The language used is very simple so even beginners can read it. The narration was easy-going as well. I could not put the book down once I started reading honestly.

However, the editing can be worked on. As well as the book cover, for I do not think this cover did the book justice.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable overall read. 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 .

The Stalker, by Sandeep Sharma, 2019

Title: The Stalker

Author: Sandeep Sharma

Publisher:  Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 135

Recommended for: 16+

Synopsis:

Randhir Kamat, a name famous for his regular mentions on page 3, was being stalked on social media by a girl named Deepali. He took it casually and enjoyed the attention from media but soon things went on to become ugly when his girlfriend, Rupali, started receiving death threats. 
Keeping everything on stake, Randhir chose to involve the police to catch the Stalker. Inspector Suraj, started digging in and soon found that ‘Here everyone’s a liar’. 
Whom to trust? 
Whom to blame? 
There were no answers, just one question. 
How far will you go for the sake of your dream?

My review:

  1. A psychological thriller that is full of various twists and turns.
  2. A short and engaging read.
  3. Can be finished in one sitting.
  4. Fast paced and quite a page-turner.
  5. The language is simple.
  6. However it needs work – there are a few grammatical mistakes.
  7. Editing can also be done on this book.
  8. It is also a typical movie-like story – and reads as such.
  9. The inclusion of modern entertainment media like web-series etc. makes it relatable.
  10. I haven’t seen the stalker concept in contemporary Indian works yet and this was a great surprise.
  11. The themes of power, popularity, jealousy, success, etc. are all well explored and well-portrayed.
  12. Rupali, Deepali, Randhir, Devendra, Inspector Suraj etc. were all multi-faceted with great depth, thus making them quite the round characters.
  13. Overall, it was a fast-paced read and was enjoyable.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Sandeep Sharma is an Amazon bestselling author of The Coin. He has also written Let the Game begin, Hey Dad! Meet my mom and Just a few lies that sold around 10000 copies collectively.

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 .

Evil Under the Sun, by Agatha Christie, 1941

Title: Evil Under the Sun

Author: Agatha Christie

Publisher: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins

Genre: Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 320

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Set at the Jolly Roger, a posh vacation resort for the rich and famous on the southern coast of England, Evil Under the Sun is one of Agatha Christie’s most intriguing mysteries. When a gorgeous young bride is brutally strangled to death on the beach, only Hercule Poirot can sift through the secrets that shroud each of the guests and unravel the macabre mystery at this playground by the sea. 

My review:

Any Agatha Christie book, is a treasure for me – I am biased, yes – and especially when it is a Hercule Poirot mystery. I simply adore this amazing Belgian gentleman with his twirling moustache.

I also read this book as a part of the #readyoshelf reading challenge hosted by my dear friend Gayatri (@per_fictionist).

Now having read And Then There Were None, I found the greatest similarity in the setting of the story in an island, but with much more complications. Christies never fails to provide great depth to all of the characters/suspects and just when you think you have figured it out, out comes another unexpected twists that puts the reader’s careful calculation to disarray. Just like every other time I read an Agatha Christie novel, I tried to figure out who the culprit is – even came to a conclusion. But was I right? Nope, never have and I doubt I ever will be when it comes to the Queen on crime mysteries.

There were quite a few modern elements that I saw in this book – the drug syndicate being the major one. Poirot’s mind is truly a jewel and I sometimes wonder what would happen if I placed him and Sherlock Holmes in a room together, locked. Wouldn’t it be absolute fun to see?

Aa usual, there is a murder here, that of the beautiful Arlena Stuart. However, what is significant is that apart from the actual crime etc., Christie always manages to layer manifold stratums of human behaviour and psychology within the plot, the characters and the entire narrative. And that is what perhaps keeps readers hooked on to her book even today.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time. She wrote eighty crime novels and story collections, fourteen plays, and several other books. Her books have sold roughly four billion copies and have been translated into 45 languages. She is the creator of two of the most enduring figures in crime literature-Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple-and author of The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the history of modern theatre. 

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 Knife Slipped, by Erle Stanley Gardner, 2016

Title: The Knife Slipped

Author: Erle Stanley Gardner

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Crime Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 240

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

THE LOST DETECTIVE NOVEL
BY THE CREATOR OF PERRY MASON!

At the time of his death, Erle Stanley Gardner was the best-selling American author of the 20th century, and world famous as the creator of crusading attorney Perry Mason. Gardner also created the hardboiled detective team of Cool and Lam, stars of 29 novels published between 1939 and 1970—and one that’s never been published until now.

Lost for more than 75 years, THE KNIFE SLIPPED was meant to be the second book in the series but got shelved when Gardner’s publisher objected to (among other things) Bertha Cool’s tendency to “talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people.” But this tale of adultery and corruption, of double-crosses and triple identities —however shocking for 1939—shines today as a glorious present from the past, a return to the heyday of private eyes and shady dames, of powerful criminals, crooked cops, blazing dialogue, and delicious plot twists.

Donald Lam has never been cooler—not even when played by Frank Sinatra on the U.S. Steel Hour of Mystery in 1946. Bertha Cool has never been tougher. And Erle Stanley Gardner has never been better.

First publication ever!
Erle Stanley Gardner is one of the most popular American authors of all time, with over 100 million books sold
Brand new cover painting by Robert McGinnis of modern-day pin-up icon Dita von Teese
Brand new afterword by former Ellery Queen editor Russell Atwood about Gardner, Cool & Lam, and THE KNIFE SLIPPED.

My review:

“I like loose clothes, loose company, and loose talk, and to hell with people who don’t,” declares Cool.

Being the long-lost second book in the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool series, The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner was much anticipated.

The fact that it was long lost was simply because the editor of Gardner refused it, because he considered this book too tawdry with its radical approach to adultery, sex and crime. So today, when this is totally not what we consider as “tawdry” it was interesting to read this book in present day context.

Gardner is known for chucking his works if they were rejected by the editor and instead writing entirely new works – including the twenty-nine books of this series itself. The character of Bertha Cool is really interesting. She is a no-nonsense penny pinching person who is really unscrupulous in reaching her goals. Donald Lam when placed against her, is totally a contrasting character in both size and character! Here again, we see the particular trait of Bertha Cool as she tries to wheedle out as much money as she can from the customer and is not repentant about it either. Nonetheless, these two characters, I found, were really progressive for their time.

In this book, the story opens with a new client coming in – and the story basically goes as – the woman suspected her husband was keeping a mistress and the woman is with her mother. They want the husband to be investigated and that is how we start on this journey. The infamous Bertha Cool remarks here that it is very normal for husbands to cheat on their wives, and moreover, her own experiences with it, which is perhaps another something that the late 30s/early 40s could not have dealt with.

The crime aspect of the book was interesting, however, it was not what I expected. The murder, corruption, fights etc., were also intriguing to read about. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

Verdict:

It was a very interesting read for sure. I rate it a 3.5/5 star.

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 .

Can You Die of a Broken Heart? , Dr. Nikki Stamp, 2018

Title: Can you die of a broken heart?

Author: Dr. Nikki Stamp

Publisher: Murdoch Books

Marketed and Distributed in India by: Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 223

Synopsis:

When actress Debbie Reynolds died a day after her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher, the world diagnosed it as ‘heartbreak’. But what’s the evidence? Does emotional upheaval affect the heart? Can love, or chocolate, really heal our heart problems? And why do we know so much about heart attacks in men, when they are more fatal in women? 

Heart and lung surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp takes us into the operating theatre, explaining what she sees in patients with heart complications and how a life-saving transplant works. Stamp fell in the love with the heart as a child and continues to be fascinated by its workings and the whole-of-life experiences that affect it. Rich with anecdotes, and insights for maintaining heart health, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? is a blockbuster from a uniquely positioned young specialist.

My review:

I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

For a non-fiction, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? came as a really surprising read. From reading the synopsis itself, to other reviews about this book, I was hooked on and picked it up as soon as I could. Being an erstwhile biology student, I loved it because of the scientific facts provided, however keeping in mind the fact that I haven’t really read any science for years now, this book was really well-written for the layman as well. Meaning, if you are afraid that it might be full of scientific and biological jargons, then rest assured, for it reads perfectly well. The first thing that really strikes the reader is the conversational style of writing that really piqued my interest and kept me committed till the very end of the book.

Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.

With this quote by the famous Mineko Iwasaki (Japanese businesswoman, author and former geiko; and a person who really intrigued me), the author starts to answer the eponymous question. In the same vein, I do think that everyone should read this book, specifically women, because as the author writes, “Women are much more likely to be affected by broken heart syndrome”. I sure am making my mother read this one.

What really is interesting is my acknowledgement (finally!) of the fact that hearts can get hurt because of emotions. I thoroughly refused to believe that once, but now, after reading of so many instances, and being given such great explanations by the author, I finally understand its truth. Emotions can hurt us, after all.

“… bereavement is as bad for your body as it is for your soul.”

So can you die of a broken heart?

In short, yes you can.

The relation of stress (the modus operandi, as the author says), genetics, lack of sleep, and hence the instability in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, sugar, depression, obesity, as well as mindfulness practices, yoga, destressing strategies, self-compassion, exercise, love (!), healthy food habits, proper sleep etc., are all well elucidated, making it easy to understand for all.

Chapter 4: The Medical Mysteries of a Woman’s Heart is the first chapter that I read after the Introduction, of course, following which, I went back to Chapter 1, and read it all serially (also read the 4th chapter again). The reason why I think that every woman should read this book is stated in the very first paragraph of this chapter – “Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women?”

Organ donation, the heart transplant process itself, and various other facts are all explored and explained by the author. The overall language used makes for a very fluid reading and the insertion of various anecdotes really increases the relatability for the reader.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

Fortune’s Soldier, Alex Rutherford, 2018

Title: Fortune’s Soldier

Written by: Alex Rutherford

Publisher: Hachette India

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 429

Synopsis:

It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.
Over the years that follow, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company’s forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan and eventually leading the company forces to victory at Plassey, the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.
Brilliantly crafted, and bringing to life the momentous events that shook India in the mid-eighteenth century, Fortune’s Soldier is an epic tale of a fascinating era by a master storyteller. 

My review:

If you are looking for some good recommendation for historical fiction, Alex Rutherford would be the perfect one to start with. It’s very clear from the very beginning that the author has done a lot of research for this book – and the writing is proof of that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Nicholas Ballantyne, the protagonist through whose eyes we see the story, is quite an admirable character. Although he is not really happy that he has basically been shipped by his uncle to India, he accepts this and the journey he then undertakes is one full of immense adventure and danger as well. I think that the character is really well-made – he is the epitome of goodness, and despite the fact that many people might disagree with me, I really liked that the author decided to portray a character who has an innate goodness in his heart. His boldness and daring, as well as his love and his dignity were good additions to his being. The author has made him a well-rounded person that could definitely hook on the reader until the very end.

Tuhin Singh was another character I loved reading about – his sense of friendship and loyalty were treasures and I only regret that he was not given as much appreciation as he might have deserved. The author has also made the character of Robert Clive as an enigmatic persona – despite the truth that we know of his end, the author’s portrayal of this infamous person was such that he really piques the reader’s interest with his enthusiasm and zeal. He was made much likeable.

The plot was also very interesting to me – being an Indian myself, I wanted to see how the author would entwine a fictitious narrative with actual historical events. It was so fast paced that there is never a dull moment. Moreover, there are so many battles fought as well as battles that were referred to, and the subsequent addition of the Historical Note at the end was well-thought and definitely welcomed with open arms by me. The detailing and the descriptions that the author has provided, as such, were delivered in such a writing style, that I as a reader, was never bored. The author has been able to keep me interested until the very end. The writing style is understandable and easy enough for even unseasoned readers to delve into.

Themes of friendship, the corrupting influence of ambition and power, thus leading to corruption; justice, political intricacies etc., also made the story have depth. The author has explored adventure, romance, political struggles, etc., and made an invaluable effect on the story. Religion also plays a significant role throughout the book.  

Verdict:

It was an immersive read in its entirety and I enjoyed this book a lot. 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 .

Gift of Confidence, Rohit Narang, 2018

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Title: Gift of Confidence
Author: Rohit Narang
Publisher: Partridge India
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 148
Synopsis:
Everyone, in a family of reputed professionals of the town, has been successful in cracking the World’s toughest exam in their first attempt but Pancham is unable to maintain the legacy. Father is furious at Pancham’s failure. Pancham thinks if he dies, the society won’t trouble his family. Before the thought could take the shape of reality, an affectionate mother calms him down and sends him to the Sikh temple, where he meets a weird looking stranger with whom he takes an emotional roller coaster of conversations. Based on actual events, the story is influenced by the author’s life who refused to believe the crowd and made his path for an unbelievable achievement.
 My review:
Gift of Confidence was an enjoyable read as it was so very realistic in its essence. The plot in itself is something that is common to every student’s life, be it in part or its entirety. The protagonist, along with his troubles was very relatable and his tribulations more so.
The themes of success and hard work resonate throughout the entire story and in its way this story proves to be a very inspiring read. There is however just one mention of suicide that may be a trigger warning for some. The character of Vandit ji was also a very inspiring one as he is the one who really made the difference in Pancham’s life. He is the one who basically lifted Pancham up and delivered him from the hole he had fallen into following his unwelcome result. In that I think it is really relatable- we all have someone who really builds us up and helps us move forward in life and that is really important.
Pancham’s mother was a very lovable and inspiring character too who always had the belief and trust in her son and never failed to make him feel supported. Pancham on the other hand, goes through a great transformation and his metamorphosis is eye-opening. With the right amount of will-power and determination, everything is possible. Pancham really shows that and epitomizes that. His character development is apt, where others’ is not really visible and lack depth.
The story was overall very enjoyable. However, the writing style is too simple and could do with a bit more refinement to it. It is a good work though for beginners to start with, and despite the simple writing style and plot, the story is worth reading.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as 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 .