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Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

So this amazing collection of beautiful letters was recently published on the 1st of October, 2019 and I am so happy to have been able to read it. I absolutely love it!

Dear Juliet

So basically this is a collection of only a few of the thousands of letters that people all over the earth write to Juliet.

Yes, the Juliet of Verona. Juliet Capulet. Romeo’s Juliet. Juliet by Shakespeare.

The Juliet Club

If you didn’t know, there is even today the famous Juliet Club, where Juliet’s secretaries reply to all the letters sent to her. It was first started by Giulio Tamassia and a group of artists and scholars in 1972. Today, Giovanna Tamassia directs the club and upholds her father’s legacy. I personally never knew about this club until I saw the 2010 movie Letters to Juliet.

My letter of love

As I read these heartfelt outpouring of love, I realized how many forms of it there are today, which is not to imply that anyone is better or more powerful than the other. This emotion is all-encompassing and kind and caring and love loves to give. As I leafed through the pages, I was touched by the beautiful words – which were spontaneous and intuitive and emotional and some unrefined, but all, beautiful and touching.

I think this is a wonderful book we need to read, especially in present times when we humans seem to have forgotten what it is to love others, and to be kind to others. We have almost relegated this feeling to simply a romantic one, forgetting all the other versions of love that exist, like the love for a sibling, the love for an aging parent and the love for friends.

A visual saga

With scans of original letters sent to the club, in so many different languages, I was blown away by the feeling that the one emotion that binds us all to one another and to life in general, is that of love. We all may have busy lives and be participants in a cut-throat world but to love and be loved is a privilege that we all yearn for, deep inside.

I was very emotional by the time I finished reading this book and I do not think I will really rate or review this book because it was so cavernous a topic. But If I absolutely have to rate it, it will be an astounding 5/5 stars.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43387390-dear-juliet

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Dear-Juliet-Lovestruck-Lovelorn-Shakespeares/dp/1452170568/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571491090&sr=8-4

Some other books you can check out if you liked this one:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
  2. Poets, Artists, Lovers by Mira Tudor
  3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A Review of Walk With Wings, by Tene Edwards

I read this poetry collection over the course of two weeks because I usually read poetry quite slowly so that I actually feel the words and can mull them over. Walk With Wings was an enjoyable read that I delved into. The poems were all divided into 5 sections: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing, and resilience. The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

The pieces here deal with hard work, discipline and the sacrifices we have to make in order to pursue our dreams. They have been so relatable to me and I was in love. It is always empowering in a way – to know that what we are feeling is not just us. So many people are suffering and knowing that gives a sort of strength – if so many others are dealing with these issues, and progressing, perhaps we can too?

A few of the pieces felt like quotes so irked me a bit, but then again, the content is something you can easily relate to and that makes it the best, I think. Self-love and empowerment are the two common threads that link all the different pieces in the book. I think that my personal favourite is Summer Freedom perhaps, because it is a process I am going through myself – I am healing myself by learning to accept my own self. I am de-stigmatizing the faults I had previously found in my skin which had once made me so very uncomfortable in this skin I wear. Very enjoyable read and i rate it 4/5 stars.

#qotd : Do you have certain books you go back to whenever you need some healing?

A suggestion I have is What Your Soul Already Knows by Salma Farook. It is another book that I loved and I keep going back to it. It is a self-help/motivational book. I am generally not much for this genre but this one book was amazing.

Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra, 2019

Title: Nasha: From the land of Kamasutra

Author: Maya Balsi

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this book  a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Reign of Mist and War of Mist reviews!

Hey guys ! So if you remember, sometime back I reviewed Heart of Mist, book 1 of the Oremere Chronicles. I had rated that book 5/5 stars, with opes to pick up the sequels ASAP! And today, here are the reviews for book 2 and 3 of one of my favourite fantasy series of all time now!

Reign of Mist, 2018

Title: Reign of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 441

Synopsis:

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

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

My love for this series seriously continues and it was proved by the fact that I finished book 2 in a day as well! Reign of Mist is the second instalment in the Oremere Chronicles and I picked up this book as soon as I had finished the first one – Heart of Mist. The mysteries continued to gnaw at me and the amazing world-building of the new setting was spellbinding.

We see themes of animal abuse, courage in the face of hardships (which is an admittedly a repeated theme throughout the series, I suppose), human fear, greed, torture etc. Sisterhood is another theme that runs throughout the novel and it is one I completely adored. This bond that is formed among many of the female characters in the novel was great to read and explore, as varying facets were revealed.

The truth about Dash’s heritage came as a shock. I had truly not expected it and was therefore hit by this barrelling force, right at the face. Swinton’s story is delved into in this novel and this aspect of his past really made me see him as a human and not just a killing machine of the king. His character has become so much more dynamic and I can only wait with baited breath as to what the author has got up her sleeves. Besides, his budding romance with Therese is beautiful and I hope to read more of it. On the other hand, we see some very twisted characters – Ines and Langdon, some sadistic ons, who relish hurting others. The plague can also be seen as another character in itself, which destroys so much more than it reveals the identity of the people.

Other characters such as Casimir and the Tailor of Heathton were well introduced and I hope to see more of their development in the next novel. I love the fun their banter provided. Casimir’s display of power was one that truly took my breath away and the writing felt real and exquisite. I felt as if I was truly in the room along with the characters.

Another thing that I love about this author’s writing was specially her ability to bring together various events whose significance had not been starkly clear earlier. For instance, when we realise it was Ethelda whom Bleak had met so long ago, it was a calming event – as if we are moving to a full circle. I also applaud the manner in which the author has been able to bring together and tie up all the loose ends to provide an explanation; it was really very welcome.

A lot of the portion in this book is about the preparation for war. Throughout the novel, we see the relationships form among all our different characters and I loved their interactions. I was so excited and anxious as everyone moved to Havenesse because their meet up was something that was completely unpredictable. And especially the long awaited meeting of the two sisters caused me quite an emotional upheaval.

Verdict:

My love for this series only seems to continue to grow. I rate this one a total 5/5 stars!

War of Mist, 2019

Title: War of Mist

Author: Helen Schuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fanatsy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 500

Synopsis:

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

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

War of Mist is the third and final installment in the Oremere Chronicles by Helen Scheuerer. I have loved and given 5 stars to the first book – Heart of Mist, as well as the second – Reign of Mist.

This book picks up from one month after Reign of Mist ends. The Prologue here itself gives us a glimpse into Ines. Her character is something very dynamic. And it is here that we are given such views of her past. As such, we see her varied personalities throughout the years and although it explains why she has become the way she is, it is never an excuse. However, it is also an unavoidable fact that trauma often shapes some of us into non desirable beings, I suppose. Ines is alluring, and that cannot be debated. Her power is like a flame that I as a reader, was utterly drawn towards.

A lot of the story in this book is told through somewhat of a treasure hunt, including Bleak, Ermias and Casimir as they put their wits together, face their monsters, share their fears and form better and deeper bonds for it. The revelation of Fi’s heritage was welcomed wholeheartedly by me. He deserves the world and I need to see more of him.

The everlasting war of morality – of good versus bad, is again portrayed here. Moreover, the theme of justice and duty is a continuing presence in this novel, as in the other ones, although nowhere has it been more pronounced. Someone rightly said that duty is the death of love. Every so often, we see the darkness take over Bleak. In my own interpretation, it is trauma and depression and I love how real it made these characters – having their own struggles. No one is perfect and yet they are all trying and not giving up. No truer words were said than when Henri had quietly claimed that life was not always black and white – so much of it is grey! No wonder we humans suffer so much and are confused at so many times!

One of the greatest character arcs in this novel is undoubtedly that of Swinton. I love him and his redemption was powerful to read about. We see him changing and growing throughout the series and in this last one, he is transformed into a wonderful man – flawed but real and accepting of these flaws, with the hope to become better. I also loved the final stand all the characters take together and the writing was great enough to give me goosebumps.

And oh my god! I did not see that coming with the ‘madwoman’!!! That was so very shocking.

PS. You just need to pick up this series!!!!!!!!!!!

With some shocking betrayals, War of Mist was a fast-paced final novel in a fantasy series that has made me a lifelong fan of the author. The suspense that the author flavours this book with, is perfect and the final result is an experience that will keep you reeling.

Verdict:

Needless to say, I loved this book too and just like the first two instalments in the Oremere Chronicles, I rate War of Mist 5/5 stars too!

Behind her Back, by Jane Lythell, 2017

Title: Behind her Back

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 368

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages:

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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 .

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 .

The Daevabad Trilogy Readalong!

ANNOUNCEMENT!!!
💥
So my #bookstagram bestie Gayatri @per_fictionist and I are holding a weekend #readalong for the amazing #cityofbrass #and #kingdomofcopper , book 1 and 2 respectively of the #thedaevabadtrilogy which is an epic fantasy set in the 18th century Middle East ! This is truly a fantasy book unlike any other!
We are absolutely very excited for this and we invite you all to join us! Tag me and Gayatri and we will share all of your favourite quotes, pictures and reviews!!
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1. The readalong spans from Friday, 15 to Sunday, 17 !
2. You can read the books in whatever format you have !
3. Gayatri and I will be giving regular shoutouts to the participants!
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#qotd : have you read this fantasy series? If not this one, then any other Middle East inspired ones?

Update:

I have finished reading both these books and I absolutely loved them both! Click on the links below to check out my reviews!

  1. The City of Brass REVIEW
  2. The Kingdom of Copper REVIEW

Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram www.instagram.com/pretty_little_bibliophile/ and share your thoughts and views about these two amazing books!

March 2019 TBR!

Having done extremely well with my reading the previous couple of months, I have become very much ambitious with my TBR for the month of March! This time around I am hoping to read a huge number of books:

  1. Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan (this is for my Indian Writings in English paper)
  2. The Reason is You by Nikita Singh
  3. Behind her Back by Jane Lythell
  4. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
  5. The Heist Artist by Vish Dhamija
  6. Something I never Told You by Shravya Binder
  7. 99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai
  8. Killing Time in Delhi by Ravi Shankar Etteth
  9. The True Lie by Vinod Bhardwaj
  10. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (as a part of my buddy read with @fannatality)
  11. The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, and
  12. The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty (as a part of the weekend readalong with @per_fictionist )

My hopes are undoubtedly very high. Nonetheless, I am currently reading 99 Nights in Logar and quite liking it so far. And I have also been able to read a total of 6 books this month.

February 2019 book haul part 1!

So how are you doing, guys? I haven’t been able to stay up to date because unfortunately, I was down again with my terrible allergy attacks. Nonetheless, I hope that it’s over for me. Anyway, I had such plans for the weekend – I hoped I would be able to do some study. But well, better luck next time to me!

So I got 44 new books in February! And here’s part 1! Not all of these books are ones I have bought – I got some second-hand, some in exchange of books I gave away, and some include review copies, etc.!

  1. Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
  2. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  3. Steampunk – An Anthology of FANTASTICALLY RICH and STRANGE STORIES, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
  4. How I Became a Tree by Sumana Roy
  5. By the Brahmaputra and other Poems by Srutimala Duara
  6. Wonderland by Stacey D’Erasmo
  7. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm: The Woman by Eric Wiggin
  8. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
  9. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
  10. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  11. Kanthapura by Raja Rao

How did your bookaholic February go?

February 2019 Wrap-up!

So back in February 2018, I read a only 4 books and so this time around, I knew I had to beat myself. I have an overall reading goal of at least around 10 books each month in 2019, and so with great gusto, I went it, with quite high hopes!

And I ended up reading 20 books and I was very happy about it. So without further ado, the books I read are:

  1. The Wake-Up Girl by Niharika Jindal (Click here to check out the review)
  2. The Stalker by Sandeep Sharma (Click here)
  3. The Lupanarium by Adele Leigh (Click here)
  4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Click here)
  5. Shadows of the Night by Priyanka Lal (Click here)
  6. Kaalkoot by S. Venkatesh (Click here)
  7. The Perfect Drug by Chaitanya Saini (Click here)
  8. The Anonymous by Nidhi Kukreja (Click here)
  9. The Poetics by Aristotle
  10. Honey and the Moon by Kamini Kusum (Click here)
  11. Blood and Beloved by Krimson Ravyn (Click here)
  12. The Vanishing of Subhas Bose by Rajesh Talwar (Click here)
  13. Smokes and Whiskey by Tejaswini Divya Nair (Click here)
  14. Unstoppable by Gayathri Ponvannan (Click here)
  15. The Glass House by Chanchal Sanyal (Click here)
  16. Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal (Click here)
  17. Between You and Me by Atul Khanna (Click here)
  18. The Husband Test by Helen Bianchin
  19. Moromor Deuta/Dear Father by Bhandra Nath Saikia (Click here)
  20. Finding Esme by Suzanne Crowley (Click here to check the Finding Esme Box post; click here to check the Finding Esme Unboxing post; click here to check the Finding Esme Review!)

I am really happy with my progress and hope to read some more good books in March as well!

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley, 2018

Title: Finding Esme

Author: Suzanne Crowley

Publisher: Greenwillow books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Reading level: Middle-grade

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas. Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor. Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away. From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

My review:

I had honestly no idea that I would come to love this book so much! Finding Esme is truly a one of a kind middle-grade novel that I enjoyed delving into, as did my brother!

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Esme is one I found to be utterly wonderful and dynamic in her own rights. She is so matured for a mere twelve-year old and while it awed me a lot, at times, I could not help but feel sad for she has lost quite a part of her childhood. As she so ardently asserts to her grandmother, she is after all a kid who has been force to grow up too early. It also does not help that Bee admittedly treats her like an adult.

Bee on the other hand, is a hard woman. She has faced a lot in her life and her great tragedy perhaps defines a lot of this novel – I believe this backstory is crucial in the way it has also defined the lives of Esme, her brother Bo, her mother June Rain and her father Harlan. (If you want to know what great tragedy I am talking about then you should surely read this book!) It is not a tragedy in as much as a terrific incident or something of catastrophic expanse, but the implications of that melancholy secret is utterly poignant and moving.

Speaking of Bo, I absolutely loved this cuteball! Having a brother myself really made it possible for me to relate to Esme on another level – the bond that one has with siblings is simply unbreakable. Bo is fun and offers the bit of humour in this story. One cannot help but fall in love with him. His understanding of the things around him is also utterly profound and I found him, in some amount, very enigmatic.

June Rain broke my heart. It is only towards the end that we know so much as to why she is what she is and behaves as she does. Sweetmaw, who is Bee’s sister is also another lovable character. I also quite liked Finch’s character and he truly is a good friend to Esme. We also see his story as the author really wraps around the lives of the people with each other. The end product is utterly magical.

The plot was also really enjoyable and while the overall pacing was good, I think that the beginning was a bit slow. Nonetheless, it wraps up the story perfectly.

The themes of family, friends, love, were well evolved in the story. We see so many shades of human emotions that it was an utter ride in itself. Love, hatred, jealousy, competition… everything was included and the result was something very real. The supernatural element was also what I think formed a lot of the backbone in this story, but of course that is a personal interpretation. I suppose I cannot stress enough on how deep and impactful this middle-grade novel turned out to be! And as such, I feel that this is a story people of all ages will enjoy – the kids for the mystery, and the adults for the various hidden layers of meaning and implications within the story.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this story and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

Selected among Book Sense and Indie Next top picks, and Amazon and Bookbub Editor’s Picks for Best Books, Suzanne writes novels that School Library Journal calls “amazing” and “poignant” and VOYA calls “heart-stirring” and “marvelous.” Suzanne, the author of both middle grade and young adult fiction, is a wife, mother, a crafter of dollhouse miniatures, an avid traveler, dog hugger, nap expert, and chocolate lover extraordinaire. Suzanne’s novels have received starred reviews in SLJ, KLIATT, VOYA and BCCB, and have been selected for state and national reading lists. After living all over the United States, Suzanne and her family now make their home back in her native state of Texas.
www.suzannecrowley.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 .

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley, Unboxing

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas.

Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous.

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away.

So the things I found in this amazing box were:

  1. A beautiful turquoise coloured black ball-point pen, with Finding Esme inscribed in orange.
  2. Two amazing badges with the illustration from the book cover.
  3. A cute pin of the book cover!
  4. A soy candle, scented Peach, from Minneapolis Chandlery.
  5. Another soy candle, scented Fresh Cut Grass, from Minneapolis Chandlery, as well.
  6. A card from the author!
  7. Candies of course! Of various flavours as well!
  8. And last, but not the least, a beautiful hardcover edition of the book Finding Esme. And it was a signed copy as well!

I was absolutely delighted to unearth each item, just as Esme was, unearthing the dinosaur! I also loved reading this book, and my review is scheduled to be uploaded tomorrow evening in fact! So do click the follow button and like, to stay in tune to all my book reviews! But I also hope that you all will order your own copies as well! I totally loved reading this book!

Moromor Deuta/Dear Father, by Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Title: Moromor Deuta / Dear Father

Author: Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Publisher: Nayantara Prakshan

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language:  Assamese

No. of pages: 95

Recommended for: All Ages!

My review:

Moromor Deuta is truly a book that I suppose almost every Assamese youth has read, and if not, then it is surely something that I would recommend them all to.

So this year, I have my very own reading challenge #readyourmothertongue wherein, I read at least 1 Assamese (I am from Assam, and my mother tongue is Assamese) book each month. Now I do not read as many Assamese novels as I do English ones and as such, my proficiency in considerably less in this language. I am trying to get better at it, however, and that is why I had picked up the famed Burhi Aair Sadhu by Lakshminath Bezbruah, for my beginner’s pace in January. In February, the book that I picked up – Moromor Deuta – is s story for kids, with its easy language, but the meaning is universal and it touches all of us.

I was first introduced to this story years ago when I was sick (I had the pox) and I had to rest and I was so bored that my mother bought me new books. One of them was ‘Dear Father’, a story which was originally written in Assamese, but Mom had got me an English version. I had loved the seemingly simple plot then and continued to pick it up again and again over the years. But this time around, as I read the real version in my mother tongue, it touched me deeply. This story will resonate within all the readers’ hearts.

The plot, while seemingly a simple one, encompasses a variety of morals and various themes. The family bonding, parents’ and siblings’ love is by far the focal one in my view and the author leaves with a bang. The reason why I read the English version, again and again, all those years back, is simply why this book, and this time in my mother tongue, did not fail to strike me – when I used to be angry with my parents, I inadvertently used to pick this one up and the message, which was loud and clear, continued to calm me down – it is simply that no matter how harsh one’s parents may seem at times, they never even once fail to think of the betterment of their children. And even if their rules and their authority may seem too much at times, we kids need to understand that they always have or good in mind.

The language used by the author is simple and easy to understand – I certainly did not find much difficulty in reading this book, considering that I haven’t read any ‘novel’ in Assamese before. I am truly enjoying this reading challenge and I hope it will be successful in bringing you closer to your roots as well.

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 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 .

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley Box-Set!

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas.

Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous.

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away.

From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

I am so very grateful to the author for sending me this box-set. I am currently reading this book and I am loving it. It is a middle-grade novel and as such, it was not a surprise that my younger brother loved reading it too. I would definitely recommend this book to all!

Stay tuned because the review will be up soon!

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 .

Smokes and Whiskey, by Tejaswini Divya Naik, 2018

Title: Smokes and Whiskey

Author: Tejaswini Divya Naik

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Poetry

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 150

Recommended for: Lovers of contemporary poetry

Synopsis:

Titled Smokes and Whiskey, the book is a collection of 42 poems on relationships, the ups and downs that come along with it, falling apart like rubble, but then finding oneself, gathering that strength back and building yourself up, back from that same rubble. I hope that this book makes everyone feel what I felt while writing it, and that love is a universal thing, and my story is not unique. And I hope that this makes them see that there is a beyond and that they can come out happy and clean. And, that this makes them braver than they already are, and gives them that little extra push and strength that they probably need

My review:

Armoured with just 42 poems, this book surprisingly launches a punch at the reader. The poems are written in the contemporary style, made popular by many poets such as Nikita Gill, Rupi Kaur, and Amanda Lovelace etc. Smokes and Whiskey was a quick yet impactful read and I loved going through the poems.

The reader should go in with a trigger warning however – there are mentions of rapes, domestic violence, abuse, mental harassment etc. all of these are so relevant and the way that the poet uses her words makes sure that the end product is raw and poignant, and still relatable. They touch the reader’s heart and makes for an impactful read.

There is a certain rawness in the poet’s words; certain tinge self-destructiveness that peeks through as the poet writes:

I give hearts out away for free

Maybe there’s something wrong in me.

Or maybe the way the poet states this bittersweet statement makes the reader feel so. I personally loved many of the individual poems and marked quite a few of them. I shall definitely be going back to reading these ones soon. They are so sad at times – leaving me utterly despondent, but the poet is successful in showing a ray of hope to the reader and this is perhaps what also makes this collection one worth remembering.

This is definitely one collection I won’t be forgetting anytime soon!

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Between You and Me, by Atul Khanna, 2018

Title: Between You and Me

Author: Atul Khanna

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 291

Recommended for: For people interested in reading about the political-social-economic scenarios of India.

Synopsis:

A young soul trapped in an old body. 

A ticking clock slower than time. 

Can this be the ironic destiny of 600 million bright and young Indians? Are we born free and yet trapped by our circumstances?

Between You and Me is a conversation that makes the reader ponder about the much-needed transformational changes for the twenty-first century. Why should we get up to act only when we are pushed to the corner? After all, a stitch in time saves nine. Could it be that the parameters of economics, administration, democracy, and social and political constitutions were all ideated and executed for another era? Will tinkering with these institutions help or are fresh ideas needed?

Encompassing an extensive discussion and analysis of what comprise our society-government, economy, education, healthcare, science, technology and so on-this book gives the reader a holistic view of India and helps in deriving solution-oriented ideas for a new societal design and structure which will ensure a thriving democracy. It presents the hope and aspiration of an ancient society that wants to break through the colonial legacy and land safely into the future. It is a gripping petition with operating models for redefining the citizen’s role-from the audience to the hero-which, if implemented, would bring societal moksha of peace, power and prosperity. 

My review:

My review:

Between You and Me is unlike any book I have come across in recent years. While strictly a non-fiction, the writing skill of the author is such that he makes the book read like a collection of stories at times. The cover does not reveal much I admit, but the book is a treasure trove on the inside.

I cannot stress enough on the importance of this book. Admittedly, it is not something that someone very young might understand; the concepts are explained in a simple way but still, the issues that the author deals with in the book, are enormous in size with just as much an enormous importance as well.

The author has an engaging style of writing that hook the reader from the very start. It happened to me – a person who really disliked non-fiction! The pacing is quite slow however, but that, I suppose, is really alright for something of this magnitude. The author has taken up a significant responsivity in writing about what he believes are wrongs done to us. The author delves in an India, encompassing every aspect of our society, be it government, economy, education, healthcare science etc. Of course, the addition of some story-like narrations of various leaders of India were a great addition to the book and really rounded it out well.

I cannot emphasize the importance of this book enough. This is undoubtedly an important book that I believe all students of the Humanities stream, as well as the Science stream too, should take up. This book is to be read in a slow manner. The various discussions and analysis that th author brings in are truly thought-inducing and forces one to ponder over them hours after being done with the day’s reading.

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in 

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book 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 .

Unstoppable: 75 Stories of Trailblazing Indian Women, by Gayathri Ponvannan, 2019

Title: Unstoppable: 75 Stories of Trailblazing Indian Women

Author: Gayathri Ponvannan

Illustrated by: Mithila Ananth

Publisher: Hachette India

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: Englsih

No. of pages: 272 pages

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Meet the wonder women of Indian history!

They flew planes, swam across oceans, led armies, performed stunts, built cities and captured historic moments on camera, despite being constantly told to stay home, because that’s what ‘good girls’ did. 

These were women who dared to dream and worked hard to turn their dreams into reality, who shaped their own destinies and refused to let anyone tell them what to do.

Featuring the amazing adventures of Janaki Ammal, Rani Abbakka, Nadia Wadia, Sarla Sharma Thakral, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and many others, Unstoppable is a collection of 75 power-packed stories of the extraordinary Indian women who broke the rules to change the world around them for the better. 

My review:

Unstoppable is truly an amazing read. I picked up this book and finished it in just one day – all the accounts of the women were so very inspiring and just made me keep on turning the pages continually. I also affirm that the author Gayathri Ponvannan and the illustrator Mithila Ananth, are two great women themselves and have made this project a wonderful gift for all youngsters.

Firstly, I would definitely recommend everyone to give their young relatives this books, both boys and girls, although I do believe that this would have a deeper impact on the girls. Reading this book at in impressionable age would be of the utmost benefit for the young minds. It is a compilation of some brave women, who braved all odds, and were willing to move against the tide, despite all odds, to achieve their dreams and for what they believed was right.

Apart from the struggle of realizing their dreams, it has so many accounts of women fighting for their country, that I admittedly got goosebumps – almost in every account. I simply loved reading this collection and cannot stress it enough. Moreover, it is so shameful that we hardly know all of these women – women because of whom we are where we are today. Had it not been for these kinds of people, maybe my girlfriends and I would have been long married, denied education or even living behind the purdah today! And while so many of us blame all the men, we cannot deny that there are some men who are so very progressive that they are also behind the position women have today. The accounts in this book feature some amazing and truly wonderful fathers, brothers and husbands, who were very supportive of their female relatives. This will definitely also inspire the boys growing up today.

I cannot assert how much I loved his book, enough. The language is easy, keeping in mind the young people who will read it. The writing style is engaging and the illustrations are fun to look at. I am sure it will inspire everyone, just as it inspired the 20-year-old me. I again would like to add that this book should be read by everyone, disregarding whether one is 12 or even 120 years old!

Verdict:

I absolutely loved reading this book and I rate this a 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 .

Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer, by Ryan Suvaal, 2019

Title: Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer

Author: Ryan Suvaal

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: Thriller/Psychological/novella

Format: E-Book

Language: English

No. of pages: 23

Recommended for: All psychological thriller buffs can go for this short novella.

Synopsis:

Seventeen gruesome killings across the United States, within a span of six months and there is one clear connection among victims. They were all writers. 
While media is decorating the murders with sensationalist stories, and law enforcement is playing catch-up, the homicidal maniac remains elusive and secretive. 
Things get very interesting, when one day she decides to appear on an internet talk show for an honest fireside chat. 

My review:

For such a short psychological thriller, this book was surely a page-turner. Despite its short length it is amazingly fantastic.

The idea that the author has taken up, is in itself very intriguing – for a person to turn a killer because of reading book which lacks the proper grammar! This idea itself of a ‘Grammar Nazi’ being a serial killer is enough to make you take a second look at the book.

What is also great is that this book seems like an aftermath of the killings, when the killer reveals what she does and why she does it. In this way, she too reveals information of the host of the show – which mind you, no one has been able to do so. In one way you cannot help but admire the acumen of this infamous lady killer. She is precise and definitely knows what she is doing – she knows her abilities and uses them to the full of her capability. The author has really carved out a character who seems very real – almost ass if she is one among us. The book reads smoothly as well. It genuinely feels like you’re listening to this show and not merely reading this in a book.


The pacing was kept on-point and the author has done a great job with this seemingly short read. The research shows through. The subtle imagery was also on point! With an amazing surprise at the end, this book comes like a punch, one that you can completely read through easily, under an hour. And a shout out to the author for the blatant message – readers absolutely do not enjoy reading books which have a ton of grammatical errors!

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book and I rate it a 4/5 stars. Definitely recommend it to all crime buffs!

About the author:

Ryan Suvaal is passionate about writing page-turner psychological thrillers. His favorite hangout is a coffee shop where he guzzles in tonnes of caffeine and weaves characters pumped up with deadly intentions and worlds full of thrill, suspense, and gore.
“Fireside Chat with a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer” is one of the first in a series of Psychological thrillers which he has penned down during past few months, which will now be sequentially released on Amazon.

“A deep-rooted question always keeps broiling inside of me. This question is whether I am writing the story or the story is forcing me to write it? Am I the actor and story is the art, or story is the actor and I am the medium?”

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 Vanishing of Subhash Bose, by Rajesh Talwar, 2019

Title: The Vanishing of Subhash Bose

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: E-Book

Language: English

No. of pages: 245

Recommended for: Ages 13 and above.

Synopsis:

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!! FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, CLEAR AND CONVINCING EXPLANATIONS….
Netaji Bose, who led the Indian National Army to wage battles against the British, allegedly died in an air crash in Taipei, Taiwan soon after the Second World War came to an end. Did he really die in the air crash or was it a fabrication? This question was considered by three inquiry commissions, the last of which came to the clear conclusion that there was in fact no air crash. Each report is carefully dissected by the author, a trained international lawyer and public intellectual.
If Bose did not in fact die in the air crash, where did he go, what happened to him, and when, where and how did he meet his end? Why did Prime Minister Nehru keep Bose-related files away from the first committee that conducted an enquiry? Why did India’s first prime minister order that surveillance be carried out on the Bose family for decades? Why did Prime Minister Morarji Desai speak of new evidence that challenged the conclusions of the first two inquiries that Bose had died in an air crash? Why did Desai subsequently fall silent? This book provides explanations on all the important questions that have plagued Indian minds for decades. The mystery behind the springing tiger’s disappearance is finally unlocked.
If Gandhi’s non-violent struggle represented the feminine spirit of ‘ahimsa’ Bose and the INA’s struggle represented Indian manhood in its fullest flowering. In freedom struggles across the world, some of those who fought the hardest are subsequently ignored. If we apply the necessary corrective to the history of Indian independence, the author argues, we will change India’s view of itself and its place in the world, past, present and future.

My review:

Having never come across a book on Subhash Bose exclusively, The Vanishing of Subhash Bose was a pleasant surprise and subsequently, a gripping read as well. The entire book, right from the very first page itself, could attract all of my attention and kept me sucked in until the very end.

The fact that the book is very much based on research and available information, and then only some conjecture, makes the reader all the more intrigue, while also realizing the importance and significance of the book. The author has obviously put in a lot of research into this book, which is full of fats and such details.

Now despite the fact that this book is so full of such details and facts, the author has been able to keep the reader occupied with a great interactive writing style that does not bore the reader. However, having said that, I do feel that this might be a bit of a polarizing book – for people who absolutely may hate history, this book may not be for them, but then again, the entire topic is so very intriguing and curious that I think that if the reader just keeps on reading the first few pages, he will certainly fly through the next.

Everybody has theories as to what might have happened, thus leading the reader to conjecture wildly. But this book does not depend merely on such things but real events corresponding and related to the entirety of this situation. 

The writing style of the author is easy to understand and also very engaging. Relating the simple, and “non-major” aspects of this enigmatic man’s life was also very interesting. The author has truly done justice to this non-fiction book, by adding true facts and details, without surprisingly making it boring.

I really do think that this book is worth giving a read.

Verdict:

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

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset  https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in

Blood and Beloved, by Krimson Ravyn, 2019

Title: Blood and Beloved

Author: Krimson Ravyn

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: Poetry/Gothic

Format: E-Book

Language: English

No. of pages: 88

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

Blood and Beloved, India’s first Gothic horror poetry collection, includes abstract, horror, and Gothic themes such as darkness, psychological horrors, child-rape, death, etc. Each poem from the book showcases elements of melancholy, depression, mania, occult, a darker philosophy of life, and the like. With a vivid, dark imagery, the book aims at being a fusion of the horror and poetry genres. 

My review:

This certainly was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. And like the synopsis asserts, this was my first Gothic horror poetry collection. Blood and Beloved has also been released just some time ago, on the 8th of February in fact.

The theme of this anthology of poems are a myriad of issues like darkness, psychological horrors, child-rape, death etc., and the author’s grasp over the English language is commendable. The utter visual imagery – stark and raw – that the words invoke are well written and resonate with the reader.

With great depth and meaning, the poems are truly one of a kind, and never have I read any such poems in the Indian context before. I personally think that the author has done a great job with the poems.

With a total of 45 poems in 88 page, the poems have a rhythm and song-like quality that I enjoyed. My very personal favourite was THE CURSE OF PERSEPHONE which I enjoyed reading multiple times, so far. There are also others in this collection that I enjoyed. I think that this is one collection that requires a reader’s patience to continue with. And while I love it, I do also feel that this is a polarizing book – while I may love it, someone may hate it too. But that cannot be much deliberated upon. I enjoyed the book in its entirety and I hope I can read more of the poet’s work in the future.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this collection. I rate it a 4/5 stars and would definitely recommend it.

About the author:

Krimson Ravyn, aka Kashish Kaur, is an award-winning short story writer, who writes in horror and fantasy genres. A gothic darkling deeply interested in the subculture, a poet by nature, and a writer by avocation, she loves fusing her two favorites together- horror and poetry. 
Blood and Beloved is her debut book. 

About the reviewer:

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

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo, 2013

Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Square Fish, an imprint of Macmillan

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 400

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My review:

I am very glad to say that Faguni from @fannatality , and I continued our tradition ad read the second book in the Grishaverse trilogy – Siege and Storm – in February. It truly was an amazing sequel to Shadow and Bone, which we had read in January. I really loved reading this book and Faguni and I are back with the schedule for buddy-reading Ruin and Rising, which is the last book in the series, in March.

Firstly, the author has done a great job with the continuation of the series. I loved the way the characters have developed throughout the series and seeing their actions, and another layer of depth in their beings was a great time. The introduction of the great Sturmhond was another much anticipated thing for me, and having read the Six of Crows duology earlier, I was very much in the know, regarding the truth about this character. I can only grow impatient as I wait for my copy of Ruin and Rising to arrive, so that I can finally delve again into this world.

The Darkling is another force to reckon with. He is cunning, but he is alluring. And the fact that I like him so much despite the bad boy characteristics, truly make me question myself. What Leigh Bardugo does is impeccably portray some very real characters in her stories, with real life greyness to them; they are not merely black and white, two-dimensional and limited in their beings. I am also hoping for a twist regarding his character in the last book.

Mal and Alina, and their relationship undergoes many different undulations throughout and at the end of this book I am sort of left at a cliffhanger. While one may love the boy-next-door quality of Mal, the bad boyish charm of the Darkling is just as fascinating.

The themes of war, love and friendship, loyalty and adventure are again portrayed in this book. While everything was on point, the adventure aspect was just as great- the hunt for Rusalye was magical. I am so excited for when they find the Firebird.

Overall, this was a thrilling sequel to Shadow and Bone. And I hope I will enjoy just as much when I finally pick up Ruin and Rising.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading Ruin and Rising. I rate this one a 4.5/5 stars.

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

The 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 .

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 .

The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, by Adele Leigh, 2018

Title: The Lupanarium

Author: Adele Leigh

Publisher: Crooked Berliner

Genre: Dystopian, Adult Literature, Satire

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 127

Recommended for: Warning: Graphic content; not for the light-hearted

Synopsis:

In a reimagined Ancient Rome, during the last days of the republic, enslaved prostitutes are brainwashed to eat and sleep only after sex. 

Matt-Lin—a surly teenage girl—is trafficked to the world’s preeminent brothel, the Lupanarium. 

She is tasked to perform a dangerous live sex-act in the arena with Jak—the Lupanarium’s most popular male prostitute and gladiator. 

Jak attempts to mentor Matt-Lin, but she proves unwilling to please her clients, and she vigilantly seeks a way to escape, putting her life, and his, in danger. 

The Lupanarium is the first book in The Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, a series about trauma survivors learning how to love. With the amount of sex in the series, it would be easy to categorize it “erotica” or “pornography.” However, this book’s primary function is not to titillate. Instead, it comments on, critiques, and satirizes these genres, which often serve to normalize rape culture.

This book comes with a graphic content warning for its depictions of sexual assault and child rape. Adult readers only, please.

My review:

The Lupanarium, Book 1 of The Mnay Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak, is not a light-hearted read at all. It has rape, child-rape, sex, and gore. What I would like to also add, is that despite the inclusion of all of these acts, it would not be right to simply categorize the book as erotica.

The author introduces us to an entirely different world. It a dystopian novel, with a world where rules are perversely made and followed. And at times, it was harrowing for me to read as well. The themes and plot, the events – the narrative in itself, is so raw and what scares one is that who knows if this might be true one day?

This is a world where rape is glorified. And people pay to watch these inhuman acts. The poet truly has written a satirical piece keeping in mind the degeneration spreading rife today. The corruption of power – we see officials use these ‘slaves’ rather, ‘sex slaves’ and in this world, it is ‘normal’, it is what is ‘expected’ of them. These slaves do not know the concept of love. They are made to think that they do not deserve love. Looking from a socialist viewpoint as well, we see the vast differences among the ‘elites’ and the ‘slaves’. Moreover, there are again so many layers to these social classes. 

I suppose I could go on and go about all of these issues which the author has successfully portrayed in mere 127 pages.

Matt-Lin is a what you would call a ‘prodigy’ in this world. Perversely, she is famous because she has survived the 9-layered heel to be known as the ‘niner girl’. As a survivor, we see her coping with the world doing what she is expected to do. However what the world does not know, is that, despite coming out alive of the tests, she still is left with her ‘fighting spirit’.  I am definitely looking forward to see her growth in the sequel. Jak is another character with depth. There is still the humanity left in him, which seems to have been lost and absent from the rest of the people in society. Joanna is another intriguing character whom I loved reading about and look forward to her appearance in the sequel.

Verdict:

This was a really through-provoking book and I look forward to the sequel. 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 .

Kaalkoot: The Lost Himalayan Secret, by S. Venkatesh, 2018

Title: Kaalkoot

Author: S. Venkatesh

Publisher: TreeShade Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 343

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up!

Synopsis:

January 1944 
Holed up in a Himalayan hideout, freedom fighter Manohar Rai has to take a chilling decision – one that could mean life or death for millions of people. His only hope is a mysterious young man, who goes into hiding hours before Manohar is shot dead in cold blood. 

June 2018 
A forgotten legend from the upper reaches of the Himalayas is rearing its ominous head. 
The world will be brought to its knees. KaalKoot will strike again. 
Only three people have a clue about the horrors that are about the unfold. The only hope for survival lies buried deep in the remotest corner of Himalayas. But a terrible fate awaits those who seek it. 
Is it already too late Is KaalKoot – the primordial plague – unstoppable?

My review:

I got the book as a part of the review program in Outset https://rakhijayashankar.blogspot.in

A sci-fi mixed with mythology and adventure – Kaalkoot was a perfect read for the cool nights to curl up with. Reading this book was an amazing experience and I absolutely loved every minute of the ride.

Firstly, being divided into the different parts proved invaluable in giving the reader a view into the minds of the different characters of the story. While Sameer may be the conventional protagonist, each of the characters made by the author were real in their own terms with various layers to their being. Thus in terms of character development, the author has excelled by far and beyond, for each one was round and whole.

The plot was unpredictable and one couldn’t think up on what happened next. The author continued taking the reader on the twists and turns and they were mind blowing. I have to say that the author did a really good job in keeping at least me, if not undoubtedly many more readers as well, hooked on until the very end.

The themes of deceit, the nature of man, good versus evil, are all undoubtedly very common but the author has given a twist on them, thus making the narrative very interesting. The inclusion of mythology mixed with science is also again, very innovative and made everything so much more real. Most importantly, the author made sure that all of these would remain and haunt the readers’ minds even after finishing the book.

The adventure aspect of this also was very well-written. The scenes which were worth all the nail-biting the reader goes through, are really well-planned and executed to perfection.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and rate it a 4.5/5 stars. I believe that if you are fan of Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer or Robert Galbraith, this book might also help you widen your scopes in the genre in India.

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 .

Bestseller, by Ahmed Faiyaz, 2018

Title: Bestseller

Author: Ahmed Faiyaz

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 190

Recommended for: For all booklovers; this is a sure hit.

Synopsis:

Akshay Saxena, an out of work editor of a defunct literary magazine in the UK, is told to move to India for a year to help shore up the value of Kalim, an ailing Indian publisher.
Akshay finds himself in a job where he has to do the impossible. Angus Lee, the new owner of Thomson Lee Books, wants at least five bestsellers in the coming year, failing which the business would be wound up.
He has to find a way of making a success out of books he would never publish or would never even read. To complicate things further, he has to contend with motley crew of has-beens and misfits working for the publishing house as well as wannabe writers, dealing with their follies and derisive tactics, and battle his own affections for Zorah Kalim, the impulsive daughter of his former boss.
Will he succeed in bringing out that one ‘bestseller’ from his publishing house? And what about his own life and love in office? Find out in this riveting read.

My review:

Bestseller was a great read. And that is the statement I shall begin with.

And the reason I recommend all book lovers to read this, is because this book provides an insight to the entire business that goes behind the publishing of the books.

The book is quite a humourous take on the book publishing industry and has been written in a light style. The author has been able to nicely weave together the intricacies that are wounded around the individuals. The writing style of the author is beautifully compelling and sucks you in, right from the very first page. The fast-paced storytelling, coupled with the almost life-like characters make for a very enjoyable read, one that I personally completed in one sitting.

The characters of Akshay Mathur, Zorah Kalim – the protagonists in this novel were two very well-rounded characters.  Moreover, Tarun was such an irritating person and I was so infuriated at times that he tried to one-up the rest. But then again, since I am assuming the author intended the reader to feel this way only; he has really succeeded in this. 

The themes of rivalry, ambition, the negative impact of success and power, etc., are also well explored in the events as well as the characters in the book. The love angle with Zoya and Akshay was also written in a very real way. In all, the characters and the events, all made the story seem very real and also relatable.

The writing style was also very easy to read and I think that everyone will easily understand this. It is very easy to read also, and actually reads like butter. The cover of the book is also amazing. The repetitive element in the books displayed in the cover as opposed to the actual cover of the book is great.

Bestseller was a great read. And that is the statement I shall also end with.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading the book. 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 .

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

Title: City of my Heart

Trnslated by: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson, 2018

Title: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 288

Synopsis:

Author Maureen Johnson weaves a tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a new series.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

My review:

Truly Devious is a new YA murder mystery, the first in an upcoming trilogy (I think!) and I am so very glad that I picked it up. After having read the book, I definitely think that I will continue with this series.

Going into this book I never knew it if a part of a series so I expected it to be precise in its own way and that is why I had the thought that perhaps the author has tried to pull the events a bit, and why the pacing felt a bit slow in the beginning and major plot points happened only after about halfway through the book.

Stevie as a character was well made and I am afraid that is something I can only say for her. Nate does require a bit more depth and I hope the author will bring him into the picture more in the sequels. David on the other hand, the love interest (?) was considerably well made. A refreshing change is that this book is not very romance heavy and has only explored a little bit of attraction so far. Although romance, in the long run will not be completely unwelcome.

The world building is truly fascinating. I loved reading about this new-age school with its eclectic students. The brilliance of these students is truly worth noticing. The themes of murder, mystery, thriller as well as the generic ones of familial as well as friendly bonding, personal space and such are well explored in the story.

The dual timeline in the novel is really enjoyable to read. The 1936 plotline read great and it felt like to mysteriesunveiling at the same time. It added a lot of depth to the narrative as a whole and while I was at the edge of my seat wondering who the murderer was, I was left crazy and mad when I ended the book and realized that there is to be a sequel.  There is a game-like feel to the entire novel and I read it in really less time when you consider the fact that my semester is almost ending and I am running pell-mell to keep up during these last few days.

I am very excited for the next book and it is bound to be one of my most anticipated books of 2019!

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed this book 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 .

Ashwatthama’a Redemption: The Rise of Dandak, Gunjan Porwal, 2018

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Title: Ashwatthama’s Redemption: The Rise of Dandak
Author: Gunjan Porwal
Publisher: Om Books International
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 263
Synopsis:
Over a hundred years after the Mahabharata War, an ancient power threatens to destroy the new Age of Men, by establishing the Age of Terror of the asuras, long believed to be extinct. The only hurdle in its path is Guru Dronacharya’s son, the mighty but accursed warrior Ashwatthama, who lost all his powers following Lord Krishna’s curse, and who unwittingly finds himself drawn into the quest of the lost bow of Lord Rama – the Kodanda.
As ghosts of the distant past return to haunt him, and the line between friends and enemies blurs, Ashwatthama must fight his inner demons to emerge victorious. He undertakes a perilous journey – across the vast plains of the gages, to the snow-capped peaks of the Himavant – where the price of failure is a fate worse than death, and death is a privilege not granted to Ashwatthama.
Is this all part of Lord Krishna’s great plan? Will Ashwatthama be able to regain his lost glory?
My review:
Ashwatthama’s Redemption is a mythological fiction book, and one of the best of its kind. I found in it, a perfect blend of all elements that have the capacity to thrust forward and make popular any book within the genre. Perhaps that explains the amazing ratings that this book has been gathering, and deservedly so.
The entire plot was well planned out and detailed – elaborate in its own scope and leaving the reader intrigued by the ending – there is undoubtedly a sequel coming out. The author has maintained the plot pace very well and it really becomes fast paced towards the end of the book, leading to a crescendo!
The themes again – war, politics, human spirit in the face of doom, friendship, kinship etc., are all very dynamic, as shown in the book and the fiction element with which the author has written this mythological tale is fluent and free-flowing. There were no jerks throughout. It all sounds like it happened, but the best part is that the reader feels like he or she is a part of the adventure. The world building was good, but I admit, could have been better. The inclusion of the map in the beginning was a great idea but perhaps it would have been preferable if the naming had been done in English and not Hindi. The mystery element is also one that needs special mention – the hermeneutic and pro-airetic codes used have truly helped in that regard.
The character created by the author are well made – they are round and multi-dimensional, except the side characters, of course. Their backstories have also been provided which truly adds great depth to any character – another good point that the author has kept in mind, clearly.
The stories and anecdotes that the author puts in, in the middle – the various references to the Mahabharata war and that world, basically, is intriguing and attracts the reader’s attention clearly, for so many of those facts and small details are unknown to the common reader and thus, interesting for them.
The editing and proof-corrections have been well done as well. The cover is nice to look at and really helps the reader to imagine how Ashwatthama may have looked like.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as I rate it a 4/5 stars, I wait eagerly for the sequel to come out!
 
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 Godkiller, Swayam Singh Aujla, 2018

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Title: The Godkiller
Author: Swayam Singh Aujla
Publisher: And All Publisher
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 338
 
Synopsis:
The struggle between Civilization, Nation and Tries is tearing the world apart. The Gods have gotten old; they cannot hold back the chaos any longer. The only hope for the people remains in founding a God of reason. And that requires the death of the old Gods of faith.
Who will kill the old Gods?
Who will stake the entire world in the pursuit of reason?
Who will be The Godkiller?
 
My review:
Prepare yourself for an epic journey! The Godkiller is undoubtedly a huge world of its own.
The Godkiller is the first in a series of books and with the first only being so full of events with a mind-blowing sequencing, one can only wonder how great the sequel will be.
The plot of this story, when taken into consideration, along with the protagonist, can be said to be a sort of bildungsroman. We see the hero of the story – Motherkiller, or rather, Stargazer, as he should be rightly called, grow from a baby unto his old age. This bildungsroman is not a traditional sense as we can say it covers his entire life story as opposed to only certain bits of it. Nonetheless, this use only enhances the entire story. The character development especially is something to be noted. We see Stargazer truly developing from a precocious child into an ambitious and clever young man. His love and sexual conquests are also worth reading about – each is a lesson on its own for him.
The author has also included dream-like sequences before the beginning of each chapter and from the reader’s perspective, this is quite enlightening. These sequences are also of significant importance because we see that these mark important moments is Stargazer’s life – these are important lessons that he learns.
The other characters are also well rounded and truly three-dimensional. The plot was compelling and truly addicting. Although I do think that this is a truly polarizing book – there will be many who will hate it, simply because it is no walk in the park; the author has kept it quite intellectual, but then again, there will be many who will love it. I personally loved it and look forward to the next book. I do think, however, that if one pulls through the first part, the rest will be a breeze; this is a story that ensnares one’s attention from the very beginning. The epic, although a low fantasy, has an amazing blend of politics and economics, governance and betrayals etc., in it that people are bound to love. It is an elaborate and an extensive world that is shown in the book, and the hierarchies are amazing to read about. A truly utopian dystopia has been presented.
The themes are really interesting too – we see war, friendships, the importance of kinship and so on. But most importantly, we see the reversal of science and religion into Civilization and Tribes respectively. It is very amazing to see how the author has actually used inspiration from the current times and situations into making this world where ‘Priests’ teach the Tribes about the wonders of science (and not religion!)
The writing style is good. The concepts are all well researched by the author. The editing has also been well done. But talking about the cover, it is simply W-O-W ! A truly aesthetic and appealing picture presented to the eye, The Godkiller is must-read.
 
Verdict:
This was a really enjoyable book. I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.
 

A chat with Chantal Gadoury, author of the bestselling Allerleirauh.

On occasion of the upcoming release of Winter Dream, I had the awesome opportunity of being able to chat with one of my favourite writers – Chantal Gadoury. It has been some time since I have read Between the Sea and Stars (a Little Mermaid retelling), Allerleirauh and Blinding Night (Hades and Persephone retelling), and since I have loved the stories, the author’s take on them, adding her own twists and turns, her writing style basically, I am naturally very excited to read her upcoming book as well, which is a Nutcracker retelling!
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Amazon Best Selling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published “The Songs in Our Hearts” and “The Songs We Remember,” with 48Fourteen Publishing, and “Allerleirauh,” “Between the Sea and Stars,” and “Blinding Night” with Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. Writing novels for Chantal has become a life-long dream come true! When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of DD Iced Coffee, and watching Disney classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, Sister and furry-’brother’ Taran.
Chantal Gadoury Author
 
Here’s the synopsis for Winter Dream, before we get on with the questions!
This Christmas Eve… no creature was stirring…
Except, maybe, a mouse.
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse?
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount.
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse?
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But what is it about him Clara finds so alluring?
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war, redemption, and Christmas magic.
Book Teaser Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMRGyNtnhZI
 

  1. What inspired you to write this exciting retelling of a widely famous tale?

It was actually the love I have for this tale that inspired me to write my own version. When I was a child, my Mom would take me to see the ballet, so I grew up completely loving the tale and the music. Last Christmas, I had just finished writing a novel, and was looking for another fairytale to write. And as I stared at the Christmas tree in our living room, it struck me – The Nutcracker.
 

  1. How long did the book take to write?

I started writing “Winter Dream” late November, early December. And I finished about mid-February. And that was just a rough draft. It’s taken up until recently – October – to finally have a finalized version of the story!
 

  1. Can you speak a bit more on the setting you have applied in the story?

Clara’s story in “WinterDream” takes place on Christmas Eve in St. Petersburg, Russia. I think many of us tend to associate the tale of the Nutcracker with Russia because of the historical connections they have together. The Nutcracker ballet debuted in Russia in the 1892 – though the story is more of a German tale, rather than heavily rooted in Russia. I had my story take place in Russia because of the original connection – and I had already had a story of mine (“Allerleirauh”) take place in a fictional village based in Germany.
 

  1. Can you perhaps tell us something more about any works in progress that we should keep an eye out for?

Well, after “WinterDream,” – I plan to keep my focus on a story that I’m writing with a talent debut author, Amanda Wright. We’re working on a Hansel and Gretel retelling called, “The Shrike & the Shadows.” Of course, I’ll be venturing back into the world of Lena and Soren with a sequel to the Lena Series, and also to the Underworld with Darce and Summer with a continuation to “Blinding Night.” But I also plan to take a bit of a break. After two years, I’ve published six books. I need a bit of time to relax and let my creative juices build back up again.
 

  1. When do you plan on releasing the next book?

Right now, I’m not really sure. You might see a book or two in 2019 – but I’m keeping myself without deadlines currently. I’m sure you’ll see something new from me within the next New Year!
 

  1. Do tell us about your favourite book; something that you go back to time and time again.

Lately, my favorite go-to books are the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series – at least the first two. I often find myself going back to them if I want to read something that I know I’ll enjoy.
 

  1. Can you please give us a short summary about other books of yours? For those of us who have loved your writing and are hungry for more. (I personally have read and loved Allerleirauh, Between the Sea and Stars and also Blinding Night!)

Well, “Allerleirauh” is a retelling of an old Germany fairytale, about a Princess who must flee from her insane father – who insists upon marrying her. In the original story, the princess finds herself working as a scullery maid for a prince – but in my story, the prince takes her in and treats her as a guest – an equal – and helps her in healing from her traumatic past.
“Between the Sea and Stars” is a story about a merrow (or mermaid) named Lena who lives under the sea with her brother and blind father. A twist of unexpected and tragic turns causes Lena to have to escape to the surface and remain there as a human (with the help of a magic shell, tied to an old legend.) Lena meets new friends, and interesting foes – while trying to unravel the truth behind the shell and what happened to a legendary Queen who had once been killed by her human lover.
“Blinding Night” is a modern paranormal romance, tied to the Greek Myth of Persephone and Hades. Summer goes to Greece with her family, only to be separated from them through a tragic car accident. She’s faced by a man named Darce – who claims to be the Lord of the Underworld – Hades. After he brings to her the Underworld, she must unravel to the truth to her past lives, and her connection to him – before the myth of Persephone and Hades happens again.
I also have a contemporary dulogy – “The Songs in Our Hearts,” and its sequel, “The Songs We Remember.” In TSIOH – Charlie Blake insists that she doesn’t like Micah Jacobs. There’s just no way. But then she’s assigned to work on an English project with him – and it might have to involve kissing. As Charlie and Micah grow closer, Charlie has to learn to not listen to the opinions around her – and listen to her heart. In TSWR – Charlie and Micah’s story continues, but Charlie is also faced with a tragic family event, that tests her relationships with her family, her friends, and herself.
 

  1. What is it about these fairytales that attract you so? Why do you write these retellings?

I don’t know what it is about fairytales that attract me to them so much. I grew up on Disney, and my mom reading me fairytales. So they’re familiar, safe and comforting. And they offer me messages of hope. I think sometimes in the darkest of times – it’s the message of hope that we all must remember, and fairytales provide that. I like to write retellings, because then I get to make them the way I wish they could be – or deliver a message that I might have received in reading or watching a certain fairytale.
 

  1. Also, did you always plan on being a writer?

No, I didn’t always plan on being a writer. My “dream” job growing up always ranged. At first, I wanted to be the President of the United States. Then, a weather forecaster. A tornado chaser. An English Teacher. A Lawyer. A makeup artist. I even wanted to go to college for Musical Theater originally to be a Broadway singer. Writing was more of a “hobby,” and I never really considered a job coming from it until much later. Even now, writing is just a side job for me. (I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up lol)
 

  1. What tips would you give to aspiring fantasy writers?

Write for no one but yourself. Try to always make time for writing, but also – make time for you-time. Your brain needs time to rest. Research what you’re writing – don’t think that just because it’s fantasy, anything goes. Learn what you can about world building. Learn about character development. Ask others to read your writing. Don’t expect everyone to love your work – welcome criticism – it’s the only way you’ll get better. Don’t be married to your writing – things will always change. Have fun. But really, most importantly – write for only yourself. You can’t write a book, if you don’t love what you’re writing.
 
You can reach her at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CGadouryAuthor
Blog: http://www.chantalgadoury.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chantalgadouryfans
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8059023.Chantal_Gadoury
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chantalgadouryauthor/
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Chantal-Gadoury/e/B00MTLD0P0/
Parliament House Press: http://www.parliamenthousepress.com/
Parliament House Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theparliamenthouse
 

Love is for life and beyond, Yashwant Kanodia, 2018

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Title: Love is for Life and Beyond
Author: Yashwant Kanodia
Publisher: Srishti Publishers and Distributors
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 212
Synopsis:
“Love is like a storm. It hits you without a warning and it affects you till your last breath.”
Nikhil is relishing a perfect life – a family that loves him beyond measure, a dream that he is sure to fulfill and the love of his life Shanaya. The day he thinks life couldn’t have been better, it unravels its plots one by one, cracking the very foundation of his perfect life and breaking his heart into a million pieces.
Just when he decides to give up, he crosses paths with Ridhima – a girl with a stained fate, who finds in him her fulfillment.
Will Nikhil forget his first love, whom he promised to love for life and beyond?
Love is for Life and Beyond is a story of love, destiny, and dreams, which will wobble your perceptions about love and will coax you to taste the holiness of love.
In an era where love can be just a swipe away, can true love find its way back?
 My review:
Shanaya as a character is very immature and irritating. And I found Nikhil to be a very immature person as well. And very impractical at some point because for instance, this guy refuses to go to a very good university since his mother is diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. She undergoes a successful operation for this though, mind you. And in the words of Nikhil, he would rather “spend the entire life with [his] family”. He is too dramatic at times, and although the plot was pretty good, these characters made it impossible to read through the story. I will not be wrong when I admit that these two characters literally spoiled the plot. Both of them were so illogical and impulsive at times, and super dramatic, I hated them.
The poems included in page 160 and 188, which Shanaya sends as a text message and then as an email to our male protagonist was actually nice. However, at a point I felt that Nikhil had a very fatalistic viewpoint and a stark either black-or-white view on life. He seems to not take into consideration at all, that life has unexpectedly multiple shades of grey at times as well.
Nonetheless, the themes explored on love, friendship, the betrayal aspect of a relationship as well as family dynamics. The pace was also well-adopted and carried the story forward without any jerks. The grammar and editing was also done well and it was good overall.
 Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book except that the protagonists made me want to tear out my hair at times. I rate this a 3/5 stars.

2 Day Down, Dr. Nikita Lalwani, 2018

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Title: 2 Day Down
Author: Dr. Nikita Lalwani
Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybooks
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 192
 
Synopsis:
2-day-down is a compilation of stories of 5 women from different walks of life. Each story digs into one of the five period related problems: Pain | Staining | Sexual Inhibition | PMS | Taboo, through each one’s journey. The title signifies the second day of a woman’s period, which is said to be the toughest of the five days. The stories are a reflection of the less acknowledged society around us. Through menstrual problems as a window, the book is an attempt to bring light to the intriguing yet briefly understood aspects of womanhood in different age groups.
 
My review:
With a well-planned story structure, 2 Day Down was a good read and something that I found was truly unique. The entire collection, as divided into 5 different stories on 5 different women proved to be a really good technique as it really separated out the different stories, while also laying them side by side, parallel to each other to compare and contrast them.
The stories individually however could have seen more development in terms of plot and character. I feel that the stories were not very well-paced or very lucid and coherent. It was not very easy to understand at some points.
In terms of the title, the subtitle to be specific, I did not see much of the ‘freedom’ aspect as written. Nonetheless, the author has really shed significant light on women health issues, especially pertaining to periods that are not very well known. In that effect, it proved quite enlightening. In this way, I think this book is perfect when it comes to gaining consciousness and awareness about women especially in regards to their monthly ‘womanly problems’. The society has reached a point where it is ready enough to acknowledge and pay attention to these issues and not just disregard them as something very frugal. The ways in which these stories are presented are also significant as they have been heavily influenced by a very realistic tone.
Overall a very much enjoyable and at times, a bit depressing (because of its realistic portrayal of these women)
 
Verdict:
I enjoyed this book and I rate it a 3.5/5 stars.

Minuscules, Priyanka Bhatt, 2018

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Title: Minuscules
Author: Priyanka Bhatt
Publisher: NotionPress Publishers
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 142
Synopsis:
When I asked him to be the poetry I could write about,
he kissed me softly and left.
Since then, my words have been oozing pain.
Today’s instant make-up, instant break-up generation have no time to spare time at all. They prefer enjoying eternity in moments to waiting eternally for that moment. Hence, these micro tales have become the latest fad.
Minuscule is a collection of unique micro tales and short stories that are spread over various themes. From horror to social issues to romance, these tales leave no topic unwritten about, no emotion unexplored. Though told with brevity, the impact of these stories can be more lingering than that of novels. To-the-point, poignant, relatable – this micro fiction book can be read by anyone in today’s time – a teenager and an adult alike. Its varied range of themes is the cherry on the cake.
Minuscule is a book that is sure to bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes – and stay with you for a very long time.
May the stories make a home in your heart!
Don’t leave me the way you leave others.
Some things are permanent indeed.
Like love, like regret.
And trust me honey,
I’ll be your both.
My review:
A collection of poetry that truly touched my heart, Minuscules was a grand piece. The pieces were all wonderful and I can only gush about the writing.
Bhatt has done an amazing job with the book. The blank verse seen in the pieces really relate to the modern individual with the fragmented state of mind, grasping from one idea to another. They are also very precise, and thus easy to relate to,  for the fast-paced current generation.
The most common themes seen here are that of love, and longing interspersed with some creepy pieces just as well. The author has done a good job with the collection.
Speaking about the cover – it is simplistic yet so very elegant and attractive. The colour theme also works wonders. Inside, it is just as nice. With the editing job well done, Minuscules is a perfect little book to gift to your loved ones.
The inclusion of short one-shots along with the poetry is also a welcome change I accepted as a reader as well as a reviewer. It binds the entire collection into one composed whole that is truly good enough to warrant quite a few dog-eared pages and flagged ones as well.
Verdict:
I loved this book and would definitely recommend all Rupi Kaur lovers to read this one. Well written, and poignant enough to induce emotions in the reader, I rate Minuscules a 4.5/5 stars!

The Sun and her Flowers, Rupi Kaur, 2017

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Title: The Sun and Her Flowers
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Andrews McNeel Publishing
Format: Ebook
Language: English
Pages: 256
 
Synopsis:
From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.
Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.
this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
fall
root
rise
in order to bloom
My review:
 
I have honestly come across so many reviews for this book stating that Milk and Honey was so much better, I digress after accepting the fact that Milk and Honey was really good, yes, but to compare two collections with entirely different themes, would be unjust.
 
I read Milk and Honey around a year ago, and I absolutely loved the writing. The best thing about Rupi Kaur’s writing is that the language is so simple yet the way she weaves the words is truly an art. I fell in love with her writing and picked up The Sun and her Flowers as soon as I was able to.
 
I like to think that since it was Milk and Honey that first introduced me to this writer, it shall always be close to my heart. But nonetheless, The Sun and her Flowers was just ass amazing, covering much more diversity than in the former one. One will find that there are many more long and descriptive pieces in the latter book. The themes of love, hatred, feminity, migration, evolution and well as the more painful ones of tragedy and loss, find their way to grip the readers’ hearts through the intricate magic in Kaur’s words. Truly a piece of art, I found The Sun and her Flowers very inspiring and moving.
 
Verdict:
I really enjoyed this collection and hope to re-read it soon. Considerably different than Milk and Honey but nonetheless just as amazing, I rate this a 4.5/5 stars.
 
 
 
 

My Lady Jane, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, 2016

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Title: My Lady Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Ebook
Language: English
Pages: 330
 
Synopsis:
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
My review:
A book that had been on my TBR for quite some time now, My Lady Jane turned out to be a really enjoyable read. I read this book as a part of a book club and I am so very happy that we chose this book.
I was actually dreading to read this book because even though I knew that artistic liberty had been taken with the actual story, I was dreading the death of the titled figure because as we all know, the actual Jane Grey was beheaded after simply 9 days of ruling. Nonetheless, I picked it up and I actually loved reading it. Gracie, Bess, even Jane are all really intricately made characters as well as Edward, and Gifford themselves.
The characters were really well made and with the introduction of the Eðian factor, they had a bit more depth than ever. Certain aspects of their characters were revealed in a much starker manner and I liked that.
The themes of war, friendship, self-development and growth, love etc., were really well placed and the events really did justice to them. The pacing is good and the twist in plot was expected and also delightfully welcome. The writing of these three authors weaved together into a really very well-read product in totality.
Verdict:
I really enjoyed reading this book and I am also looking forward to reading My Plain Jane, the sequel to My Lady Jane as well. I rate My Lady Jane a 4/5 stars!

Regular Porridge, Sukanya Basu Mallik, 2018

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Title: Regular Porridge
Author: Sukanya Basu Mallik
Publisher: Word Bite
Format: Ebook
Language: English
Pages: 45
Synopsis:
Regular porridge as a collection explores the meaning of life- success and failure and how they intertwine, as well as how a person may find it difficult to balance the two, confusing one for the other. This book contains tales of how people go about their lives and the extraordinary web each life can weave, using the appreciation of art to explore the human experience. Love and human relations have been depicted in some pieces too. Love is agony, ecstasy, unpredictable, testing and perfectly serene. It doesn’t always have to be something you feel but something you do. In this collection, fiction has been used to catalyze introspection in people and instead of setting out to solely entertain readers, this poetry collection certainly educates, too.
My review:
In a beautiful and eloquent voice, the poetess has described various real-life situations. The synopsis and the preface are the first things that really attracted me and I must give full marks to the poetess for that. Wonderfully written.
In the poems, we see the use of blank verse in some and the use of rhythm in rhyming as well. The meaning of life and loss along with the daily monotonous life, are explored in a very intricate yet contrastingly, a very simple manner which truly draws the reader in. The themes of war, faith, hope, lock, and so on are on what the poetess pours her heart out. Especially regarding the effect of war on children, there is one line that truly affected me-
“If need be, we’ll frighten them with our toy guns” in War Children’s Psychosocial sssions- Child of Syria.
This line in itself says so much. The children who have seen the ravages of war are willing to protect their people by fighting against the enemy- but fighting against the enemy, that too, with the help of their own albeit “toy”, “guns” itself. This again shows the layers of the mind, even in small children.
The poet also explores patriotism, the futility of war, poverty and child labour, along with sexual abuse on children. It’s scary at times because as a reader one realizes that these are so true and actually happening.
Verdict:
A really good read, I rate Regular Porridge a 4/5 stars.