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Blog Tour: Crescent City, House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J Maas

Today is my blog tour stop for the review of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood from Bloomsbury.

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 1
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood

I am absolutely honoured that Amrita from Bloomsbury sent me a copy of my most anticipated read fo 2020!

Buy the book on Amazon, or add it to your Goodreads!

Synopsis:

Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. Every night is a party and Bryce is going to savour all the pleasures Lunathion – also known as Crescent City – has to offer. But then a brutal murder shakes the very foundations of the city, and brings Bryce’s world crashing down.
Two years later, Bryce still haunts the city’s most notorious nightclubs – but seeking only oblivion now. Then the murderer attacks again. And when an infamous Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, is assigned to watch her every footstep, Bryce knows she can’t forget any longer.
As Bryce and Hunt fight to unravel the mystery, and their own dark pasts, the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the deepest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir …
With unforgettable characters and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom – and the power of love.

“LIGHT IT UP, BITCH!”

I was yelping at this point. This book gave me all the feels – I was cackling like a manic and my dad just popped in and asked what the hell I was laughing about at 2 am. I was also a sobbing mess, bawling my eyes out – somehow saying “I can’t do this anymore” to my sister, who just laughed her ass off. I was happy and ecstatic and sad and feeling all the in-betweens!

“It was joy and life and death and pain and song and silence.”

SJM is an auto-buy author for me and I have been trash for her ever since I first read ACOTAR and TOG. And so, knowing that she is coming up with this humongous tome had me on the edge of the seat. I thought I would be able to rest once I got the book in my hands. But did I? NUH UH!

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 2
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood artwork

“She was sea and sky and stone and blood and wings and earth and stars and darkness and light and bone and flame.”

The reading experience was sensational! I love the urban setting – with laptops and phones and internet, and cap-wearing angels, badass party princesses, and a swaggering Fae prince. The union of technology and magic, as well as the “in-between” (thumbs up in you know what I mean!), was on point.

The plot twists were unexpected and sudden and would make me put down the book and stare vacantly for a few moments. The politics among the different cliques (for lack of a better term) was intense but also peppered with witticism. The bonds that the characters shared were also so heartfelt and real that as a reader, I felt every bit of happiness radiating from them as well as every loss they were dealt with too. SJM is amazing at character development and the interpersonal drama aspects.

What is classic SJM is that her characters – both the males and the females – are fighting demons of their own. None of them have it easy and it is in their struggle that countless readers have found hope. I know I certainly have.   

However, I do think that certain characters were similar to the ones we have come across in the earlier books as well. I do think SJM pulls a Sam Cortland unfortunately. And I do believe that SJM hints at the fact that she will do what she does, further on in the sequels:

“If she’s smart, she’ll lie low and not attract the attention of any other powerful immortals for the rest of her life.”

(If you know, you know!) Also, that cover is smashing!

5/5 stars, without a doubt!

Thank you, Bloomsbury for sending across a copy of this riveting book!

Temporary Wife Temptation: A modern-day romance!

Temporary Wife Temptation
Temporary Wife Temptation

This was a modern-day marriage-of-convenience story that was a beautiful combination of tradition, romance and family values. I love how the author has given an Eastern twist to it – since most of the stories that follow this trope are set in the western world. I feel that when it comes to the Eastern side of the world, it just gets a lot more complicated. We have a family to deal with, we have extended family to deal with and so on.

I loved how these characters were well rounded. Apart from the budding romance, there are also the subplots – mostly the hurdles the two characters are trying to overcome. Garrett and Natalie are two people who are goal-oriented and know what they want. Garrett was the perfect alpha male – he was so encouraging and applauded Natalie’s business acumen.

Check it out on Goodreads!

I also loved that he was not the obsessive possessive lover that seems to be the equation nowadays. The way they blossomed was great – both as a couple as well as individually. The power imbalance, however, surprisingly was not much of a deterrent in their relationship and I huffed in satisfaction at that. Also, the sexual build-up was great although they did seem to have instant chemistry.

Check it out on Amazon!

However, one thing that I did not particularly like was how each chapter would begin suddenly. There was no thread of continuity there and I would have appreciated it if there were. However, it was a quick and interesting love story! I rated it  4/5 stars!

Mythological Fiction: Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Ravanputr Meghnad
Ravanputr Meghnad

Mythological Fiction in Raavanputr Meghnad

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

Get this book for yourself! Amazon Goodreads

Raavanputr Meghnad versus the Ramayana

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

Narrative style

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

What I did not like about this mythological fiction

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

Verdict:

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

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

A smashing collection: What the Eyes See

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

What the eyes see
What the eyes see

Synopsis of this smashing collection:

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

A smashing anthology!

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

Buy this book on Amazon! Mark this book on Goodreads!

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

Themes, and styles

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

Verdict:

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

Of Craft: Embroidered Life

Embroidered Life, by Sara Barnes, follows the craft of embroidery as practiced by Sarah K. Benning. And it is the ultimate craft inspo!

Embroidered Life
Embroidered Life

Craft of Sarah K. Benning

From beautiful botanicals to bold affirmations, the work of self-taught fiber artist Sarah K. Benning gives any embroidery enthusiast, art lover, or plant fanatic a new appreciation for the craft of needlework.

I absolutely loved the art that is this book in itself. It sheds light on Benning’s embroidery process and her successful business model, while also offering behind-the-scenes insights that really inspired me to pick up the needle and thread after almost a decade.

Aesthetics of this craft

There are also some amazing pictures of the various embroidery works done by Benning and they are so lush and beautiful! A lot of her works feature nature and plants and the colour green overall, and it was no wonder I was so very attracted to it. Following each picture, the author has also included notes to explain the meanings and processes behind the stitches.

How it inspired me

It also obviously pushed me to make my own embroidery piece and so I too ended up embroidering my personal logo. I had a great time making it and I realized that it is a kind of meditation. It just feels so good to sit down in the warm sunshine every morning and do the stitching. I really felt at peace doing it.

Craft for life!

Moreover, the book is so aesthetic, and the addition of the die-cut case with actual stitching on the front cover just amps up the aesthetics! Like the embroidery which is a very physical thing, the inclusion of this stitching on the front too is iconic for emulating that sense of touch.

A smashing book!

I think by now it’s obvious I think it is a 5/5 star book, don’t you?

Check out Embroidered Life on Amazon, and Goodreads !

You might also like: DIY reading nook !

A tale on Kashmir: The Tree of a Thousand Apples

The book The Tree of a Thousand Apples is set in the beautiful valley of Kashmir and it is a beautiful book diffusing the full Kashmir feel!!

The Tree of a Thousand Apples

The Tree of a Thousand Apples
The Tree of a Thousand Apples

‘A few white petals of Jasmine have found their way out amidst the bushes. Their narrow stems and delicate leaves grapple against the sputtering raindrops. The old gardener must have had an illicit affair with the flowers; their love refuses to die.’

-pg126

A tale on Kasmir

In The Tree With A Thousand Apples, we follow the three friends Safeena, Bilal and Deewan as they grow up in the beautiful land of Kashmir. It is all smooth sailing until the night of 20th January 1990, when everything changes. Militants start attacking the Kashmiri Pandits, in their convoluted plans and desire for ‘Azad Kashmir’. It is an intensely poignant story of love, revenge, insurgency and the way it shapes the lives of those affected, etc.  Based on true events, this book really makes you ponder on the lives of the people who have really been affected by the inhuman acts of the insurgents.

Vivid Imagery

The major highlight is definitely the amazing imagery because you can simply paint it in your mind’s eye! The author has been really able to bring out the essence of the Kashmiri life – with his description of the food, the culture, etc.

Narration and Language

With an awesome narration, the author has really been able to convey the feel of the book. The language of this book was so so poetic and good! The author has also used local Kashmiri words, which make the experience just more real. You feel as if you are living it yourself as you read it too.

The characters have also been shaped well. Their depth was explored throughout the book. It was a well-paced read overall.

Plus points:

The book cover is also very aesthetic and so very eye-catching! The poems inscribed in between, also touch your heart.

What I did not like

What I did not particularly like, was the repetitive lines – it is something that I do not like in books, myself. The sudden jumps in scenes also made it a bit difficult to grasp the tale.

Verdict:

The book was a great read overall. I rate it 4/5 stars.

Check out the book on Amazon and Goodreads!

You might also like 99 Nights in Logar, Suncatcher, An Atlas of Impossible Longing etc.

A Refreshing read: Ruskin Bond

This little book was a refreshing read. Despite its easy and seemingly normal subject matter, this book has the capacity to change your outlook.

Plants1 - Ruskin Bond
A Little Book of Magical Plants by Ruskin Bond

Synopsis:

In this little book full of whimsical illustrations and thoughtful quotations, Ruskin Bond introduces us to his favourite plants. Meet the resilient rubber, the tantalizing tomato, the generous grass, the dainty dahlia, the nifty neem and many others. Bond’s simple and descriptive prose brings these apparently inanimate beings alive—each with a distinct identity, a singular quirk. A Little Book of Magical Plants is a handy guide to discover more about this often ignored world of ‘green growing things’.

My review:

This little book was a refreshing read. Despite its easy and seemingly normal subject matter, this book has the capacity to change your outlook. I think I read it at the perfect time – just in time for the new year. Through the simple yet descriptive prose that Bond is so famous for, he introduces us to his favourite plants. What is magical is how he opens our eyes to make us see the qualities each of these plants possess. We too should be just as resilient and kind and accepting of our own quirks.

Plants2 - Ruskin Bond
A Little Book of Magical Plants by Ruskin Bond

At a time when we as Indians are getting shocked every day because of the gruesome crimes happening against women, let us all pledge to be kind and brave and always stand up against whatever is wrong. I loved how nostalgic the writing seemed to get at times. The author adds his own anecdotes and it just lends a special flavour to the writing.

There are also beautiful illustrations that are very soothing to the eye. Moreover, the quotes are presented in calligraphy adding another layer to beauty to this already adorable book.

4.5/5 stars to this gem!

Links to Amazon and Goodreads

Check out my review for Live Oak, With Moss, a collection of homoerotic poetry, by Walt Whitman

Classic poetry: Live Oak, With Moss

This classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men. 

Live Oak, with Moss
The classic poetry collection is an intensely private reflection on Walt Whitman’s attraction to and affection for other men.

One of the most beautiful books that I have ever owned, Live Oak, With Moss, is simply filled to the brim with the poet’s haunting love for the beloved. Whitman’s longing just soaks the page and flows to your heart. The way the poet has combined nature with these poems is stunning. It made these so much more potent, real and raw. Apart from this burgeoning sense of longing, these subtly erotic poems are filled with the hope for a distant time and place when there will be a wholesome space for all these men to gather and simply be themselves.

I am reading Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass, for a class this semester. So, reading Live Oak, With Moss was illuminating in a way I never thought possible. I was overwhelmed by the words and the emotions they swelled up in me.

Live Oak, With Moss, is without a doubt, one of the best collections I have ever read and felt.  

Links to Goodreads, and Amazon

Check out my review for Lord of the Butterflies

Historical Fiction: The Orange Grove

A consuming historical fiction novel, The Orange Grove is set in 18th century France. This historical fiction is full of suspense, rivalries, and secrets!

A consuming historical fiction novel, The Orange Grove is set in 18th century France. This historical fiction is full of suspense, rivalries, and secrets!
The Orange Grove, by Kate Murdoch

Historical fiction

A thoroughly entertaining and delicious read, The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch, is a historical fiction set in 18th century France. From the synopsis itself, I could imagine that it would be full of political rivalries, power plays, secrets, etc. So I had high hopes for the book. I am glad to say that it definitely exceeded my expectations.

Synopsis

With a glorious world-building, the plot largely takes place in Blois, in the chateau of Dux Hugo d’Amboise. Inhabited by the Duc, his wife the Duchesse, and five mistresses, it is a regal world. But this aspect itself was baffling for me – for a modern-day woman like myself, this is a curious living situation. As one would aspect, the women, although living in a more or less harmonious existence, often have certain insecurities brewing between them. The Duchesse is acquainted with the ways of her world – any respected nobleman could have mistresses. However, Charlotte is only okay as long as the Duc loves only her. But when the Duc takes on a new mistress, a young noblewoman. He seems thoroughly besotted with her and so, Charlotte feels threatened. And it is from this insecurity that rises, that the story really starts.

The setting

The author portrays the tense environment well. It is clear that the author has done extensive research on this subject and this historical era. The women resort to underhanded means and ways to gain favour at the Duc’s hand. There are various secrets which, if revealed, may shake the roots of the power relations. The setting and plot have been well constructed.

Characterization of Henriette

The character of the protagonist, Henriette, is a morally sound person, I feel. She too has secrets to keep, just like everyone else, but I admire her willingness to help and support another woman instead of viewing her as the enemy. I think this has been the root cause of disharmony among women throughout history. Women are raised to perceive one another as competitors. However, in recent times, this has definitely changed I believe.

Characterization

The characterization when it comes to the others too is well done. We see the characters escalating toward a certain point, the climax so to say, and then follows their rise or downfall. What is also commendable is how wonderfully the author has kept the reader engrossed throughout – whether it is in the case of Henriette, her daughter Solange, Solange’s cute friendship with Tomas, the other mistresses, the tarot reader Romain, etc.

Themes

The themes of friendship, enmity, status and power, morality, loyalty, etc. have been thoroughly played through the characters in the book. In the end, it was thrilling to see how these people support and hate or pull tricks on one another all for the sake of power. Fashion, culture, sexuality, entertainment, culture, etc have also been shown throughout the lives of these characters. It has been a consuming read and I enjoyed each and every page of this novel. I rate this 4.5/5 stars.

  1. Add it on Goodreads!
  2. Buy it on Amazon!

Recommendations:

  1. City of Girls
  2. The Duchess
  3. Emperor Chandragupta and Emperor Vikramaditya
  4. Delayed Rays of a Star
  5. Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping from Houdini

Greek Mythology: A Retelling

A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys is a retelling of 6 popular stories from Greek mythology. The author lends his humourous spirit to this collection!

Photo of A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys
A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys

Greek Mythology: Stunning art pieces

First off, I want to just spend a moment to rest my eyes on the stunning cover! I love the yellows and the browns and it is just so aesthetic! The warm tones provide the perfect spot of colour in this dismal weather.

A Wonder Books for Girls and Boys

A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys is basically a retelling of 6 popular Greek stories – The Gorgon’s Head, The Golden Touch, The Paradise of Children, The Three Golden Apples, The Miraculous Pitcher and The Chimaera. Most of us have already heard of Medusa and Midas in some morality play or moral stories, in one way or the other. This, Hawthorne’s method, too, proved to be a hearty experience.

Writing style

The stories are written in the story-within-a-story format and in this way, the author has involved a brilliant framing device. ‘Cousin Eustace’ a bright lad of 18, is telling these stories to his younger cousins, adding his own flavours to the curry, so to speak. Hawthorne’s blend of humour abounds this collection.

Add it on Goodreads!

Greek Mythology versus this retelling

The stories are not truly ‘faithful’ to the actual Greek legends, but instead, Hawthorne has added his own spirit and essence to these. He has rewritten these stories in a gothic or a romantic style. Although essentially the same, there are many funny instances that will make you laugh out loud at times. Each of these stories provides an exceptional experience to the reader and makes for one hell of a time!

Get it on Amazon!

Verdict:

Although there are also morals clearly thrust forward, it is not overbearingly so. Thus, it proved to be an interesting read and not preachy at all! I rate this book 4/5 stars and recommend it to you all. It is quite short and you can read it in an hour. You could also read it out to your children or siblings and I am sure that they will love them as well.

Recommendations on Indian Mythology:

  1. Narasimha
  2. Upon a Burning Throne I
  3. Upon a Burning Throne II
  4. Ashwatthama’s Redemption

Poetry that rocks! Swallowtail and Atticus!

The Dark Between Stars, Swallowtail

Hey guys! So today I have two poetry recommendations for you. I read both poetry collections recently and I adored them for their raw individuality.

Swallowtail by Brenna Twohy

Swallowtail: A deep dive into the dissection of popular culture, and how the brightness and horrors of it can be mirrors into the daily lived experiences of women in America.

Swallowtail by Brenna Twohy was a great read. The most prominent themes include loss, grief, and coping. The words penned by the author, though burgeoning with the grief of a broken heart, are poignant and resonates with the deepest sadness in the reader. Rape culture has also been addressed here and it is stark in its imagery and leaves the reader gasping. Pop Culture References from Survivor as well as Harry Potter have also been brought in.

I absolutely loved it and rated it 4/5 stars! Including here, links to Amazon, Goodreads

Poetry by Atticus

I admit I like THE DARK BETWEEN STARS much more than I did LOVE HER WILD. This one does not only revolve around love but also delves into the deeper themes of self-love, etc. There is a certain dichotomy and duality with both the happiness and the sadness that trouble us. In this collection, the poet writes about falling in love, being in a relationship with someone, and then the aftermath of a breakup as well. He includes scenes from Paris, Jazz clubs, wines, sunsets, etc. Thus the whole collection is a sensory experience that is experienced wholeheartedly by the reader. As such, it is as if the reader is in the moment, experiencing this whole slew of emotions and the beauty lives on.

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Recommended poetry reads:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies
  2. The Octopus Curse
  3. Walk With Wings
  4. Unlocked Silences, Ease

Another Thriller: You Beneath Your Skin

You Beneath Your Skin is an enjoyable thriller set in India and as a thriller, it sheds light on the rape culture, acid attacks, etc.

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

Why pick up this thriller:

With a thrilling premise, You Beneath Your Skin proved to be an important read. So if you wish to start with crime fiction, this might just be the one for you.

A slow beginning:

 The book started slow but did pick up the pace pretty soon. So I think that if you can just power through the first few pages, it will prove to be a pretty interesting read.

Plot and themes:

The plot was well developed and the book delves into important aspects of the female population, more specifically, the various things women have to face. Rape and acid attacks are horrible issues that are plaguing society today and the author has included this in the book. For me, it was bittersweet as reading about the suffering is never wholesome, but it is also necessary at the same time that we understand that this is a reality and acknowledge its presence and the injustice. Brushing it aside it a gross insult to survivors and through the book, the author has tried to address this situation.

Writing style and title:

With a crisp writing style, the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns and you just cannot put it down. Once a person delves into the read, the reader will understand how significant and meaningful the title is. Politics and the power that the higher-ups wield, and how they use it, also forms the backdrop of the political situation in the book.

Verdict:

It was an overall good read. I rate it 3.75/5 stars.

Links:

  1. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/BENEATH-YOUR-SKIN-DAMYANTI-BISWAS/dp/9386797623/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1574174641&refinements=p_27%3ADAMYANTI+BISWAS&s=books&sr=1-1
  2. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48080944-you-beneath-your-skin

Similar reads:

  1. The Silent Patient
  2. The Millenium Trilogy
  3. The Third Mrs. Durst
  4. Impossible Causes

Uplifting Poetry: Ease by Mukhpreet Khurana

Why I picked up this poetry collection:

I had read the poet’s previous work Unlocked Silences some time ago and had quite liked his writing style. It had come out in 2018 and was widely accepted. I remember finishing it in one day, as I devoured the words one by one. I put page flags on almost every page and it is only perhaps due to the absence of flags right now that I did not do the same thing to Ease.

Ease by Mukhpreet Khurana, 2019
Ease, by Mukhpreet Khurana, 2019

Ease: A Poetic Journey Within is a poetry collection that focuses on spirituality, self-love, healing, and gratitude. This poetry collection is a collection of raw, unfiltered and simple poems.

Check out my review of Unlocked Silences

The content matter

In Unlocked Silences, the author had focused a lot on spirituality and the individual. This has continued in Ease and being of a spiritual turn myself (as much as I am able to), I related with it a lot.

Themes in this poetry collection

Ease is a collection of ‘raw, unfiltered and simple poems’, poems that will touch you each time you read them. And no wonder I got so many queries asking me which book it was after I posted snippets on my stories. Many of the poems, abstracts, and musings revolve around the themes of self-love, individuality, healing, and gratitude. In today’s fast-paced world, it provided me relief.

The individuality of this work

The poems are all thought-provoking and especially because of its non-romance centric scenario, it was a panacea to me. I loved it too and look forward to more of the author’s works. Khurana’s rhythmic and lyrical tunes and spirituality permeate through the works and render a sensory experience to the reader.

  1. Amazon
  2. Goodreads

Collaborations

There are also collaborations with other writers and the end product is magical. It is always interesting to see how the voice of an artist comes out in case of collaborations. It was also a great pleasure and surprise when I found that one of my dearest friends Tahoora has also lent her talent to this collection. She is an amazing artist and I am so happy to see her work manifested into this book!

Check out Tahoora’s Instagram account here.

Verdict:

I rate this book 4/5 stars and wholeheartedly recommend it to all those who are looking for a dose for spirituality, self-love, and gratitude through non-romance centric poetry. 

A memoir: Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant is a non-fiction read, almost a memoir, by the author, in a manner not unlike that of Shashi Tharoor.

Soliloquy of a Small Town Uncivil Servant
Soliloquy of a Small Town Uncivil Servant

I received a review copy from the publishers in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own and are in no way influenced.

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant as a memoir

Written in the first-person narrative, Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant is a non-fiction read, that to be honest, reads more like fiction. It is almost a memoir of the author in a quite wordy manner.

Soliloquy of a Small-Town Uncivil Servant: In the likes of Shashi Tharoor

With an interesting plotline (if once can call it that), the words are interspersed with quite big and sophisticated words that may intimidate the occasional reader. That is not to say that the voice is not a refreshing one. It is rather frank and underlined with witticisms.

The content

The author has included many anecdotes from his life – what with it being named a soliloquy. He has also provided a long glimpse into his past. Including both the good and bad, the author has written how various incidences have shaped him and led him towards the path he ultimately chose. Relaying his thoughts on various social evils and such wrongs, the writing is also filled with certain life lessons, without being preachy.

Click here to check out my review for You Will Be Safe Here, a book that was inspired by true events.

The writing

With a steady pace and somewhat chronological period, the story-like writing follows the author from his childhood days up to his adulthood. However, I would not say that the narrative is completely linear and I personally liked that. Both humorous and funny at the same time, the book seems to be an intimate telling of this person’s life. It shows him as a man like us, with both his faults and strengths and in this way successfully portrays him as a man we can relate it.

Why it was only a 3.5 read for me

Something that changed for me towards the end – what I found refreshing at the beginning started to feel a bit forced towards the end. The use of superfluous words started to feel a bit irksome and I found myself skimming a bit towards the end. Nonetheless, it was an okay read overall. I rate this 3.5/5 stars.

Buy the book on Amazon

Update your reading on Goodreads

Girl Power: A Volume of Female Empowerment

Taking female empowerment up by a few theoretical notches, Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani is a visual treat, a collection of inspiring women.

Taking female empowerment up by a few theoretical notches, Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani is a visual treat on a collection of inspiring women.
Girl Power by Neha J Hiranandani

Female Empowerment and GIRL POWER

Girl Power is a powerful book, with an immense potential to influence many young girls. There are amalgamated some very powerful stories of ordinary girls who made it big through sheer hard work and conviction. They have transformed from rags to riches, but without a prince charming to help and protect these non-damsels in distress. In fact, these are no damsels-in-distress, rather, warrior princesses who dare to fight for their own rights and overcome and slay every dragon that stands in their way.

Click here to check out my review on Brave, Not Perfect!

Female empowerment through a diverse bunch of women

From doctors to space astronauts,  royal queens to radical writers, priests to boxers, there is nothing women cannot achieve if they set their minds on it. yes, it may take time, but through perseverance, everything is possible. After all, can you imagine that there was a time when a woman was not allowed to have a bank account of her own?  Or that, women could be dismissed from their jobs just for being pregnant?

Click here to check out my review on The Women Who Ruled India!

Splendid illustrations

With beautiful illustrations from the lives of these women, as well as their portraits, the book is a visual art. I love the bright and bombastic cover which is a foreshadowing of the power that will be emanating from the pages once we open the book. The author has also diversified the group, including women are various different fields of work and as such, revelations were made in this book. I for instance never knew about the presence of women priests! Likewise, there were many surprising stories.

Click here to check out my review on Unstoppable!

Inspiring and phenomenal!

How can I express the awe-inspiring feeling that I got as I read the book? Or the goosebumps that I got so often? Or how frequently my eyes would well up, learning about the triumphs and sheer determination of these women? They are a source of inspiration! And if these snippets could inspire m, imagine how much sway they could have over the impressionable minds of young girls. 

My verdict

I rate this book a solid 5/5 stars and recommend you all to read them yourselves and then gift them to the young girls in your lives.

Get the book on Amazon!

Update it on your Goodreads!

City of Screams: A Horror Anthology

City of Screams
City of Screams: A Horror Anthology

City of Screams was my first horror anthology in a long time. It was full with some amazing horror-filled stories that left me spooked!

A horror-filled experience

Reading it was a pleasure especially because it contains stories from various authors and as such with different writing styles included, the book was an amalgamating of some of the best horror stories in the Indian scene out there.

There are a  total of 15 different short stories in the book, all adding a fresh new take on the topic we all love. The synopsis was compelling enough to draw my attention to it when I was first approached to review this book. And it goes…

Horror genre:

Lonely mall corridors, stuffy hotel rooms, that always-locked apartment in your building—
Horror lurks in your city at every bend, and it is waiting to leap at you in your solitary unguarded moment. And when it does, all the commotion of the city wouldn’t be enough to stifle your screams. These 15 stories come from the grisly and ghastly underbellies of our cities. From a young man fighting his mortal fate to a foreigner encountering a ghost in a hotel room, from an urban legend that comes alive by repetition to an online game that seeks real blood, from a demon causing an infectious sleeping illness to a salon that pampers the living daylights out of its clients — these are stories that will make your skin crawl.
Dive into this horrific world then…
But know that your city isn’t the city of dreams that it is touted to be…
In truth, it is the City of Screams.

Themes and plots

With the supernatural theme underlying all these stories, the book proved to be an absorbing read. I was thrilled throughout. Being an Assamese I could also relate to the tale by Nilutpal Gohain ‘Namu Ne?’ on a personal level. It assured me that I wasn’t the only one with the fear of the false ceilings so often found in the Assam-type houses found in the region. The stories are also set in urban areas and as such, urbanity is a theme in itself as well. Perhaps, being a dweller of the urban region of Guwahati, and reading this book at night, made me a tad bit jumpy and easily spooked. Is it laughable if I tell you that I got scared a couple of times during the day when I was home alone?

My verdict

Nonetheless, this has been a great initiative by Half Baked Beans. I myself have not come across very many horror anthologies In India. It is less frequent although not completely rare. I hope they also come out with a second volume soon so that I can get spooked again. I rate this book 4/5 stars and look forward to a sequel. Fingers crossed!

Amazon Goodreads

Check out my review of another horror anthology: Shirley Jackson’s Dark Tales , Shubham Arora’s The Dark Side of the Moon Volume 1, and Volume 2 etc.

Mesmerizing poetry: The Octopus Curse

The Octopus Curse is a poetry collection by Dr. Salma Forook and I have yet to come across a more aesthetic anthology of poetry. Needless to say I loved it!

The Octopus Curse by Dr. Salma Farook is a poetry collection

The Octopus Curse by Salma Farook is a collection of powerful poems, focusing on love, heartbreak, resilience, travel, self-love, feminity and women’s issues, etc. I have read What Your Soul Already Knows by the author last year and I had found it to be the best motivational book there ever was, without sounding too preachy and such. As such, when the author approached me for her second book, of course, I had to say yes!

Click here to check out my review for What Your Soul Already Knows.

Through the vacuum.

Through the void.

Sometimes the words I write,

Fall over the heads of a heedless crowd.

But, I lay them clear,

And I ink them loud,

Because I don’t require being heard,

I only (desperately) need

To right.

-‘Catharsis’

Lyrical poetry

Like her previous book, the words in this book too continue to be just as meaningful and full of depth. I love how the execution has been made. The words are rhythmic and lyrical and thus very heart warming as well as soothing to the ears. Through these different pieces, the author has inspired the reader to confront their feelings and accept them and most importantly, to be at peace with themselves.

How stunted,

Limited,

This language is!

I have searched and searched

But, never found a word

For pain coming so surely,

That you feel it already,

Long before it

Even arrives.

-‘Visceral’

Aesthetic:

The book is a work of art and a more aesthetic poetry collection, I have yet to come across. I am so glad I got to read this book when I did because this was just the right time for me. Perhaps, if I had read it at some other moment of my life, it wouldn’t have touched me as much as it has. Many thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy.

I pray that death be kind,

Not as much to the buried,

As to those left behind.

-‘Funerals are for the living’

Here’s one poem that I absolutely loved. Check this one out!

You lift your chin up

Like the cocking of a gun

Your eyes flash the coldest fire,

Your words erupt,

The hottest ice.

I see you wear your anger

Like a bulletproof vest

Over your pain; I must say,

Even as you walk away,

It looks bloody glorious

On you

-‘Woman’

You can also check out the book here: Amazon (the ebook is free upto 5th of November), Goodreads

Dalal’s Street: A satirical extravaganza

Dalal’s Street is a satirical thriller of dark humour which explores the complex interplay of human relationships in the Indian scenario.

Dalal's Street is a satirical thriller of dark humour which explores the complex interplay of human relationships in the Indian scenario.

Synopsis of this satirical read:

A group of young Indian business school graduates are attracted to jobs in a high paying trading company. This batch of hardworking, intelligent and ambitious friends is focused on success in the fast paced, hyper competitive world of stockbroking where greed, use of cunning and wealth are the stepping stones to survival and success,. The survivors are the winners.
A satirical thriller of dark humour in which superfast action to tip the scales of finance and fortunes to one’s favour and achieve quick wins are the order of the day, Dalal’s Street explores the complex interplay of human relationships and etches out the rise of the protagonist through a test by fire.

A satirical read

Dalal’s Street was quite an interesting read in many ways. While I did like the overall aspect of the book, I have to admit that there were times when I felt a bit disconnected probably because it focuses so much on the financial sector, something which I admittedly do not know much about and am not very much interested in, to be honest.

Plot:

The book follows Varun Agarwal, the son of a man who had lost quite some money in the Harshad Mehta scam. As such, the father is strictly against the son entering into this world of finance. However, disregarding his father’s wishes, we see Varun jumping headlong into this and joining a company through the campus placement program. Varun has 3 other friends – Pooja, Devika, and Anil – who also join the business. The plot was unique and well-written. It was cohesive and included a good insight into the stock brokering world.

The downfall

Things only take a downward turn from this point. We see all of these people try to survive in an extremely competitive world, thus applying ways which they perhaps would not have, had they been in the right frame of mind. We see them lose their morals and step on others to try to be the best. This competition proves to be the thing that unspools the darkest sides of themselves.

Writing Satire

The author has also applied a humorous writing style to make the dark humor bearable. It is too dark otherwise. The degeneration of the human goodness and the innate humaneness is shocking but ye-opening at the same time. We as humans have become so materialistic today that it is not that shocking either, contrary to what I have just stated now. This book has left me with very mixed feelings. For now, I shall rate it 3/5 stars.

Amazon Goodreads

Check out my recent reviews: Kashmir’s Untold Story, The Dutch House

A Ticklish Affair

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

About A Ticklish Affair

A man is blackmailed for a past he never had, and an unrequited love story binds two lovers.
A man waits for his lover, only to be killed at her hands, and a girl takes back her life from her tormentor.
From the bestselling authors of The Peacock Feather comes another delightful offering, A Ticklish Affair, and Other Stories. This collection of short stories has all the ingredients of an unputdownable book. Taken from the daily rigmarole of ordinary life, the stories are given extraordinary twists and turns, leading to fascinating climaxes. The dark undertone of ‘Blackmail’, the power of belief in ‘Spark of the Divine’, the forbidden romance in ‘Ticklish Affair’ or the eternal power of love in ‘Rickshaw Faridabadi’, this collection of stories is sure to move readers to tears of sadness and joy at the same time.

A fabulous read!

A collection of ten short stories, A Ticklish Affair was quite an interesting read. I loved it for the variety it gave to me as a reader. All the various stories covered different themes and as such gave important life lessons through them. Despite the vibe that the title of the book gives it, that of a collection of love stories, the stories are all focusing on different main plots. However, what binds them all together is the conglomeration of basic and universal human emotions like love, faith, hope, self-respect, hatred, the thirst for revenge, etc.

The language was simple and yet very beautiful, and as such, it was easy to read. Moreover, the imagery present was realistic as well. The narrative style used by the author is great and the stories easily suck you in. I really enjoyed these stories and would definitely recommend you pick up this book.

A Ticklish Affair gets 4/5 stars from me!

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

Amazon Goodreads

Some other reviews you might like: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter, The Broken Amoretti, The Printed Letter Bookshop etc.

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one new fantasy series I’m very excited to read.

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.
Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I’m excited to read through.

Fantastic cover:

Can you imagine a bolder book cover than this? I personally love this cover for what it invokes in me – to go on despite whatever! I’ve also attached this picture of the wonderful merch that comes along with the preorder!

Pre-order goodies:

A signed bookplate, a beautiful enamel pin, an Astrid bookmark, and a quote graphic!

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.
Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

Astrid is the surrogate for Princess Renya, which means she bears the physical punishment if Renya steps out of line. Astrid has no choice—she and her family are Outsiders, the lower class of people without magic and without citizenship.

But there is a way out of this life—competing in the deadly Race of Oblivion. To enter the race, an Outsider is administered the drug Oblivion, which wipes their memory clear of their past as they enter a new world with nothing to help them but a slip of paper bearing their name and the first clue. It’s not as simple as solving a puzzle, however—for a majority of the contestants, the race ends in death. But winning would mean not only freedom for Astrid, but citizenship and health care for her entire family. With a dying father to think of, Astrid is desperate to prevail.

From the beginning, the race is filled with twists and turns. One of them is Darius, a fellow racer Astrid meets but isn’t sure she can trust. Though they team up in the race, as Astrid’s memories begin to resurface, she remembers just who he was to her—a scorned foe who may want revenge. Astrid also starts to notice she has powers no Outsider should—which could help her win the race, but also make her a target if anyone finds out. With stakes that couldn’t be higher, Astrid must decide what is more important: risking her life to remember the mysteries of the past, or playing a cutthroat game in order to win her—and her family’s—freedom.

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

So I am just a couple chapters in and I’m loving it. The beginning itself was so dramatic and wonderful, that I am curious to see how the story unfolds.

Crown of Oblivion is a brand new fantasy series set in a dystopian world! Also compared to The Hunger Games, this is one book I'm excited to read through.

Amazon Goodreads

Check out my other fantasy recommendations: The Raven’s Tale, The Shrike and the Shadows, After the Flood, Aurora Rising, etc

I have also uploaded a couple of YouTube videos and I’d love it if you could check those out: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-bW-YE_AC5r8voOIioyG3Q

Indistractable : A disappointment!

Indistractable is a self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships. It basically teaches you to be indistractable.

A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.
A self-help book on how to reframe and improve your focus, attention, and relationships.

Synopsis:

International best-selling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming. Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book.  In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.  Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.  

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

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

So I tried reading the book. The first few pages went well. However, it is definitive to say that Inditractabke was just not the book for me. I had put it down multiple times. I tried picking it up multiple times as well. But in the end, I think I only read about three-fourths of the total book, that too, with me skipping and skimming a few pages.

For the most part, I felt that towards the second half of the book, the author was simply putting in material to increase the volume of the book and as such the content started to drag, and it could not retain my attention.

For the most part, it felt like a series of anecdotes. I do not personally like that in self-help books and as such, this was again a disappointment.

As such, I have to rate it book a mere 1/5 stars. This book was just not it, for me. I could not relate to it much except for the first few pages.

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

What Your Soul Already Knows, The Intelligence Trap, Brave Not Perfect, The Holy Sh!t Moment, Never Again, The Superhero Soul, Fluid, The Mind Game, etc!

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 .

A beautiful Family saga: The Dutch House

The Dutch House is a hauntingly beautiful family saga following the lives of the inhabitants of the eponymous and magnificent Dutch House.

The Dutch House
The Dutch House is a hauntingly beautiful family saga following the lives of the inhabitants of the eponymous and magnificent Dutch House.

Synopsis : At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.
The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

The Dutch House

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a beautiful and haunting saga revolving around the characters, all stemming from the eponymous Dutch House. Throughout the novel, we see the house as a character in itself. It forms an intrinsic factor is affecting the lives of all the people involved. Because of the opulence, this house brings with it with its majestic architecture, it also brings with it a huge responsibility and the issue of image.

The Dutch House’s meaning

 On the one hand, we have Cyril Conroy who had bought this magnificent house as a gift for his wife; it is his pride and he loves it. His children Maeve, and her younger brother Danny love all its nooks and crannies. But on the other hand, to his wife, it is nothing more than a burden, one that intimidates her.

The characters of Sandy and Jocelyn

The house help Sandy and Jocelyn are also portrayed as characters who love the children, the lady of the house and are always permanent fixtures, who, although on the side, are unavoidable and welcome rather. They add the warm bits throughout, showering the children with love and care where there is a lack.

The bold and brave: Maeve

I simply loved Maeve’s character. She is shown as this hard-working and kind soul who just goes on and on even in the face of hardships. I love her role, especially as an elder sister. She is always there for her brother and never hesitates to give up so that he can achieve more.

The indulged brother: Danny

Danny, on the other hand, felt like a bit of a spoilt person to me. He is forever incapable of making mature decisions, I felt and was confused as to what decision to make. He seemed like a passive person most of the time and that makes him a bit unlikeable to me.

The evil stepmother: Andrea

Coming to Andrea, the ‘evil’ stepmother, I feel that she is sort of an enigma. The author has not really provided a solid back story to her and her two daughters which is why I think I have mixed feelings for her. On the one hand, I hate her for being the typical cruel stepmother and on the other hand, my mind is still holding on, unable to let go without knowing more about her.

The Dutch House is a beautiful book

Overall, I loved the way the author has written this beautiful book. It is a truly beautiful and nostalgia-inciting book, one that pulls you into the world. The way the house got back into the particular owner’s hands (I am not going to give you a spoiler), felt as if the story had come to a full circle. In a way, it was satisfying to behold. This has been one of the best books I have read this month, without a shadow of a doubt.

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Links: Amazon, Goodreads

You might also like to check out: Some Very Dignified Disclosures, Let’s Hope For The Best, An American Marriage

How to: Content that is Fast, Cheap and Viral!

fast, Cheap and Viral content!

Aashish Chopra in Fast, Cheap and Viral has tapped into the surprisingly simple but effective means to make viral content!

Synopsis:

In Fast, Cheap and Viral, the ace marketer shares the secrets behind his success – all of them learned and honed on his journey. This one-stop super-guide to viral video marketing gives you the low-down on:
HOW TO GRAB EYEBALLS in a sea of content.
HOW TO DRIVE ENGAGEMENT (because views can be bought, but engagement is earned).
WHY STORYTELLING BEATS PRODUCTION VALUE and behind-the-scenes tips and tricks.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR PERSONAL BRAND and kill job insecurity.

For every student, entrepreneur, blogger, marketing manager or leader who dreams of reaching millions on a shoestring budget, this book is the definitive manual on sustainable viral success.

Viral Content:

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

This is definitely a book that every content creator, blogger, and influencer must-read. It is an engaging masterclass where the author tells of the simple yet the most effective means to make sure that your content is great. Since the book is also written based on the author’s experience, these are all tried and true methods that will surely help if one puts them into use. The only way to find out is to do these things yourself!

Moreover, the author has included illustrations, or rather, infographics, that summarized the already concise and precise words. Each chapter focuses on one key aspect that you need to focus on and the sum total of all, is a book full of tips to make it to the top of the content creation ladder. The inclusion of examples as well as a great method as it made sure that the reader could relate it to real-life events and thus reality.

A content manifesto!

Definitely a very informative and functional read. I rate it 5/5 stars! Stay tuned because an elaborate post is coming up soon!

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47595555-fast-cheap-and-viral
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Fast-Cheap-Viral-Game-Changing-Shoestring/dp/9351952754/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ID0FGT3VEF81&keywords=fast%2C+cheap+and+viral&qid=1572016116&sprefix=fast%2C+cheap%2Caps%2C333&sr=8-1

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 .

AUTUMN BOOKSHELF and READING NOOK

AUTUMN-THEMED BOOKSHELF AND READING NOOK

So hey guys! How’s it going? A couple of days ago, I uploaded my second YouTube video and it was sort of a how-to. How to decorate an autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook? This is the most comfortable place for any book lover, and for that matter, anyone, to be honest. You can watch movies and listen to music and just chill with the homies. Autumn is the best time of the year when the world is just so photogenic and the temperature is great.

I had a ton of fun doing this. So without further ado, let me share the thoughts I kept in mind while creating this setup. I hope you guys try it out too.

Autumn colours

Since I was recreating a Fall look, the colours I focused on were yellows, browns, reds and dark browns and a bit of black as well.

I tried to organize them in an order of increasing saturation. So I went from yellow, orange, red to a bit of brown, dark brown and a few purple ones too.

Autumn decoration

For decoration, I focused on three things:

  1. A background – I used my DIY page-wallpaper for this. This adds depth and texture to the whole scene.
  2. A bit of green – Yes, this is very much contrary to the theme, but rules are meant to be broken yeah?
  3. Plaques – I put up my NorthEast creator Award plaque for display as well as this beautiful peacock one, which was my grandmother’s.

The autumn-y nook

In this area, I simply put down an old mattress, covered it with a white bedsheet and then strewed some brown cushions over it. You can also throw a shawl or a warm and soft blanket over it.

Candles and fairylights!

The most easy way to make something atmospheric? Candles all the way! I lighted up a few and put them all over the area. Fairylights are the other option. You can have both or you can have either. They also render a very photogenic effect to the place.

I would suggest putting a small table or stool nearby, for your ease and convenience, and where you can perhaps put your music player, or laptop or food.

Click here to check out my YouTube video : Autumn-themed Bookshelf and Reading Nook!

Check out my review for Dear Juliet , Nordic Tales , Celtic Tales – the best books to read this time of the year.

And so, here’s how you make the best autumn-themed bookshelf and reading nook! I hope you enjoyed this post and I have a few more ideas coming up for this DIY segment of my blog! I’m excited and I hope you are too!

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

2K giveaway!

Hey guys!

The much-awaited giveaway is here. I promised to do a giveaway when I reached 2K followers and now that all the books have arrived, here it is!

Firstly, I really want to thank you all for the love you have given me. It means a lot. And my YouTube channel has received so much support as well! Wow! I was flabbergasted. I will be shooting the next video this Sunday and I am very excited for it! I really think you will love it!

The books for the giveaway are:

  1. Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified
  2. Wonderland
  3. The Intelligence Trap
  4. Inferno
  5. Origin
  6. Yoddha: Dynasty of Samudragupta
  7. The Monsters Still Lurk
  8. Something I Never Told You

Rules:

  1. Follow me.
  2. A shoutout would be lovely and easy for me to add as entry.
  3. Most importantly, comment below which book you’d love to win!
  4. You can comment on my latest posts as I have included those as entries. This is optional.
  5. Tagging your friends is optional.

Just a few points to keep in mind:

  1. There will be 8 winners and each will get the book of their choice. (By order of winning)
  2. I will ship the books in my Flipkart boxes so as to reuse them.
  3. This giveaway is for the residents of India only.
  4. This giveaway is open to followers only.
  5. The giveaway closes on 9pm Saturday, 26th October and I will declare the winners on Sunday in a live session.
  6. This is not affiliated with Instagram or any book publishers.

And that’s it! I like to keep it pretty simple. Hope you all have a lovely time and may the luckiest people win!

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.

The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, 2019

The far Field

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay is a debut novel and it is included in the short-list of the prestigious JCB Literary Awards, 2019. It is a beautiful story from what I could make out from the synopsis.

Gorgeously tactile and sweeping in historical and socio-political scope, Pushcart Prize-winner Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent as she reckons with her past, her desires, and the tumultuous present. With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

The fact that it had a beautiful cover was a great attractor for me as well. I have been thoroughly loving the book so far. Although it begins on a note of grief, the writing is beautiful. There is a sort of whimsical and nostalgic about the book, from the very first pages itself and I am in love with the writing style. I hope the author brings out more books so that I can get my hands on it soon.

Many readers may argue that the protagonist is problematic – she comes off as self-centered and living in a bubble that essentially separates her from the world around her. Her actions seem immature and the fact that they are repeatedly done is a factor that irked me at times. The overall arch of the book, however, was worth enjoying and I loved every bit of it except the times I was frustrated because of the decisions Shalini took, which were her own. She has an individualistic streak and I am not sure if everyone will enjoy it. It certainly proved problematic for me at some points.  I rate this book a 3.75/5 stars.

Thanks a lot to Harpercollins for providing me with a copy of this amazing book. I am also hoping to pick up Milk Teeth and Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman followed by Trial by Silence and A Lonely Harvest. I have been following the Award this year and these are the books I intend to read from here.

Do you follow such literary awards? Are you picking up any award-winning books in the near future? If yes, which ones do you plan to?

A Bibliophile’s Dream!

The best books are the keys to life. Bibliophiles will delight in adding these tiny illustrated classic novels to their collection!

Isn’t this keychain the most cutest ever? I am so in love with it that I want to keep it swaddled up in cotton! Hah!

Illustrated by Jane Mount, this is basically an enamel keychain which I love with the entirety of my heart!

As for other updates, the giveaway books are all here! I have 3 hardcovers, 2 (quite thick) paperback novels, and 3 more regular-sized paperbacks! And I know I am being very cryptic here. There’s also a cute notebook to be won! I just have to click the pictures now and after that, I’ll formally announce the giveaway! And boy, there are already more than 100 entries so far!

In terms of reading, I finished The Catcher in the Rye and The Hate U Give – both for college. I have American literature and I am also doing a presentation on racism, hence these two books, respectively. Have you read either of these? What were your views on these books?

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

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

With that catchy title, the book sure did capture my attention from the very beginning. I was excited to pick up the book and although it was a good enough read for me, I think maybe my expectations were too high going in.

The book roughly covers the time period from the arrival of Alexander until the very recent headlines-making event of the 370 article ruling. For those who did not know, the argument of the secret of the Rozabal Line too will be one of a great shock perhaps.

For the most part, the book read like a cross, somewhere between a historical fiction tale, and a political and/or historical textbook. While it does give a solid base to the history of Kashmir’s ‘origin’, the book, I feel, pretty soon turns towards conspiracies and such theories. It is entertaining, yes, to humour them, but I felt that it moved away from the original course it was supposed to have taken. I also believe that this book has the power to capture the reader’s mind and turn it into the direction the authors want them to take – as a certain blurb says, this book is a pretty “forceful statement of the Indian case in Kashmir” and as such, it was not really very neutral. However, in the larger context, bringing in the relation of China is a pretty powerful move and sheds light on some important situations in the past, and hence, the present as well. 

The naming of the various chapters was also done in terms of water, such as Unfathomable Depths, Lashing Waves, Emerging Abyss, Rising Tsunami, etc., and in a way, I really liked that. I feel that these titles really justified the social and political scenario of the times that the chapters were focusing on.

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Conspiracy Unknown, Abishek Babu, 2019

Title: The Conspiracy Unknown Book I: The Vengeance of the Fallen

Author: Abishek Babu

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The story starts with the birth of a prince and the series of events that follow. Fifteen eons ago, the ‘Great War’ was fought between the Anndas and a group of revolutionaries, in which the revolutionaries came out victorious. The Anandas were chased out of the empire and were made to live in the forest like nomads. The revolutionaries named Ragupta Moriya as their king, and thus the Great Moriyan Empire was formed. Great songs and stories were written about Ragupta Moriya and his ten war generals who fought out the evil Ananda Empire. After fifteen years, a plot is made to overthrow the Moriyan Empire. And it all falls on the shoulders of Ragupta to win the battle.

After nearly 2300 eons, the life of Dr Sebastian Stein is under peril. A mysterious man in a black suit is in pursuit of capturing Dr Stein, but Sebastian is saved by his father’s old friend. When Sebastian starts to learn about the death of his father, he realizes there’s no other way to escape but to run for his life.

What exactly happened in Before Clearance Existence (BCE) for it to affect the life of Sebastian Stein in After Clearance Existence (ACE)?

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 Conspiracy Unknown: The Vengeance of the Fallen was quite a heavy read. With two different narratives, from two starkly different eras, weaving in and out, it was a story with a great plot, and great storytelling.

So basically, there are two different storylines – in an eon way back in the past, there is the majestic Moriyan Empire. The monarch is King Rasabind, who’s son Hisoka possesses the famed third eye! After he is attacked during his naming ceremony and the attackers surprisingly do not remember any of their action, the king goes on his own hunt to know the truth.

Eons later, in a future quite distant, we have Sebastian Stein who is trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his father’s death. And out of nowhere, he finds himself chased around with threats on his life.  these are two seemingly unrelated things and yet, w strive to understand the root relationship between these people from eons between them.

With this interesting premise, I jumped headlong into the book and it didn’t really disappoint me, but to be honest, I felt like there was a certain something missing. While it is well packed with wars, the thirst for vengeance (as the title suggests), conspiracies etc., I felt that the narrative lagged a bit in parts and may have simple been filler material. Apart from that, the presence of the multitude of characters confused me for a bit in the beginning but then they do not really have much presence later on, so that threw me off a bit. The overall effect could have been a bit more polished. 

Verdict:

It was a good read overall and I rate it 3.5/5 stars!

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

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 .

A Reading Update!

The grind is tough,

but worth every sweat.

I believe in the woman I am striving to become.

Tene Edwards, Walk With Wings

Hey guys!

Hope you all are doing well. I have been having a really hectic time this week and last weekend and I am trying to cope. Also, the temperatures have really cooled down so it’s been great.

I wanted to give you all a reading update of this amazing collection that I have been reading recently. So, Walk With Wings is a poetry collection by Tene Edwards. It has a total of 5 sections and recently I have been reading the one named SPRING RESILIENT. The pieces there 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. I have been reading this section slowly because I really wanted to savour the feeling.

I have also been watching Mindhunter on Netflix and I love this show. Holden is my golden boy, you know?

#qotd : Do share your current reads, or series that you are watching at the moment. Any games you like? I used to be a PUBG fanatic, that is until the classes for this semester started!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Readathon!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or more specifically, The Millennium Trilogy has been an international bestseller and very well renowned. I’ve had the first three books as hard copies for quite a few years now, although I have still not read them yet. However, the synopses of these books have been very intriguing to me.  Moreover, David Lagercrantz has done a continuation of the series, and after hearing all the amazing things about them as well, I decided to pick them up. Of course, the fact that Hachette was coming out with the sixth book The Girl Who Lived Twice, was another major force that pushed me towards this decision. I really am thankful to Hachette for sending me a copy of the latest book!
So without beating around the bush, let me announce that I will be doing a major month-long readathon (23rd September to 23rd October) of this series. You all are welcome to join me.

I have started reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I am really liking the story so far. I am intrigued to see how the author plans to intertwine all the various narratives. I am including the synopsis of all 6 books in this post so, do swipe down to check them out. As far as I know, they are all standalones as well so you can join in even if you have just one or two books from the series. 

#qotd : any specific thriller books you want to pick up next?

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption. An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.

The Girl Who Played With Fire: Part blistering P thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposé on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy. Lisbeth Salander – the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels – lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web: She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution. Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . . The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye: From the author of the #1 international bestseller The Girl in the Spider’s Web: the new book in the Millennium series, which began with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander – the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others – has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And nothing will stop her – not the anti-Muslim gang she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the deadly reach from inside the Russian mafia of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudo-scientific experiment known only as The Registry. Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

The Girl Who Lived Twice: The sixth in the Millennium series featuring THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

"What will you do now?"
"I shall be the hunter and not the hunted"

The girl with the dragon tattoo is finally ready to confront her nemesis, the only woman who is evidently and in many ways her match. Salander will not wait to be hunted. When she strikes it will be a double blow: vengeance for recent atrocities, and the settling of lifelong scores. For months now Salander has been closing in on her target. She has moved from Stockholm, her hair is newly styled, her piercings are gone. She could pass for any other businesswoman. But not all businesswomen have a Beretta Cheetah beneath their jacket. They do not wield the lethal power of a hacker’s genius. They do not carry scars and tattoos to remind them that they have survived the unsurvivable. The new episode in David Lagercrantz’s acclaimed, internationally bestselling continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo series is a thrilling ride that scales the heights of Everest and plunges the depths of Russian troll factories. It begins with the discovery of Mikael Blomkvist’s number at Millennium magazine in the pocket of an unidentified homeless man who died with the name of a government minister on his lips. Blomkvist, at extreme risk to himself, tracks down his old friend and will protect her as far as he can. But he is powerless to crush her enemies on his own. And for Lisbeth Salander, the personal is always political – and deadly.

After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag, 2019

Title: After the Flood

Author: Kassandra Montag

Published on: 19th September, 2019

Publisher: The Borough Press

Genre: Dystopian/Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

The world is mostly water when Pearl is born. The floods have left America a cluster of small islands with roving trade ships and raiders.

Pearl knows little of her father Jacob and elder sister Row, who left her mother Myra when she was pregnant with her. Between them they make do, with Myra fishing and trading to make ends meet, travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat Myra’s grandfather made before he died.

Whilst their life is a tranquil one, Myra still aches for the daughter she once lost. When a chance encounter reveals that Row might still be alive, Myra packs up six-year-old Pearl and together they begin a dangerous voyage to The Valley, where rumours of violence and breeding ships run rampant.

Along the way they encounter death and strangers, finally finding solace on board Sedna – full to the brim with supplies and an able crew – where Myra feels like she might be closer to finding Row than she has ever been. But to get to Row she will have to deceive everyone around her, betraying the trust of those she’s come to love, and ask herself if she’s willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for what might be nothing at all.

My review:

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

After the Flood was a very interesting read as well as scary to be honest. Scary in the sense that it deals with an issue which might eve turn real in a few years in our future. The dystopian genre is often an unsettling one because at the rate that we are going, the instances portrayed in the books seem very plausible.

After the Flood was one of my most anticipated new releases from the second half of 2019. I was pumped and the book did not disappoint. From the eco-critical point of view this book was a significant one that may well serve as a warning to the present generations. In a futuristic yet primeval world where everything has been submerged under water, Myra and Pearl are a mother-daughter duo who are doing their best to survive in the Westworld like world. Throughout the book we see them struggling with the scenario – they have to depend on fishing for their food and trade with these at ports which have not yet been submerged.

The theme of memory is quite significant here – Myra, for instance, deals with recurring ones of a time when things had been very different. Pearl is a gem and her bond with her mother is quite beautiful. For the most part, we see Myra dealing with her loss of her older daughter and then she keeps on wondering if in pursuing her, she will lose Pearl too?

The other characters were also well made – the unraveling of Abran is a significant one, especially as we see a person undoing their years of hard work because of the stress and pressure they are feeling at the moment.

The story was well-paced, the characters real and tortured in their own ways, and the world a scarily real portrait of what might be our own future one day. The language is easy to read and captivating as the reader grapples with the horrifying scenario that it has become. The adventure is nail-bitingly intriguing, and keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times!

Verdict:

 I really loved this book and it just might be the best book I have read so far in the second half of 2019! 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 .

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, 2019

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Publisher: OneWorld Publications

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-illusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.
Named an Oprah’s Book Club Selection. 

Won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

My review:

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

This book left me speechless. I am honestly shook after reading it. An American Marriage is riveting in its honest tone, the tangibility and the rawness was grating on my soul. It was sad, or rather, bittersweet, in a way that reality often is.

The author has made it a story which can be the story of someone we might know – Jones has a magical quality to her writing. The issue of race is an important one here – the one that makes fate take the turn it does. Celestial and Roy are husband and wife until he is wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, and sentenced to twelve years. It is at once, the most horrifying thing that can happen to a couple, one that either breaks them or only makes them stronger. These two individuals are bound together by their deep sense of love and yet, separated by the twisted hand fate had dealt.

Societal and familial expectations are often ones that can push a person to be better, or they can become unwelcome burdens on a person’s shoulders. Celestial is a person who has to deal with a lot of pressure – her life is not easy, and neither is Roy’s. As a reader, I could not help but be overwhelmed by the difficult choices these two had to made to just make it day by day.

Stories also play a key role here – many of them reveal details that define the characters and their beings. Often told through letters and flashbacks, An American Marriage was an astounding book, one that I shall be keeping close to my heart always. And thus, it is no surprise that my mother has also decided to pick up this book soon.  

Verdict:

This was devastating and yet utterly moving story, that touched my heart and shook me to the core. 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, 1970

Title: The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family – Pauline, Cholly, Sam and Pecola – in post-Depression 1940s Ohio. Unlovely and unloved, Pecola prays each night for blue eyes like those of her privileged white schoolfellows. At once intimate and expansive, unsparing in its truth-telling, The Bluest Eye shows how the past savagely defines the present.

My review:

I read The Bluest Eye for the #tonimorrisonreadathon organized by Vidya @letsdiscussourbooks. Thanks a lot for arranging this readathon!

The Bluest Eye was her first novel, published in 1970, and it is a controversial novel still, for showing themes of incest, child molestation, racism etc. By the time I had finished reading the last page, I was blown away by the lyrical quality of Morrison’s writing. The repetitions sometimes sound like a mantra that beats at your mind as you read of the terrible beauty that is this book.

The shifting narratives offer glimpses into the lives of the various characters – letting us understand how certain past events shaped them into what they were in the present. What is important, is the psychological implications the book also portrays throughout these shifting perspectives. It is a wonder, that Morrison wrote things that still affect the human race today – in that she is a writer on the human tragedies that are eternal and everlasting.

The mental space is a big motif in this book. Later on, when we see a life of Soaphead Church, we can infer from the writing that his disgust against the dog directly reflects his internal feelings toward himself. Much like Cholly, he uses Pecola for his own pleasure, although not in a similar manner.

The Bluest Eye was a beautifully terrible book – for its simplicity, and yet, the stark truth reflected within the pages. No matter what the era, one will always seem to relate on a micro level with the characters, their struggles and hopes and wishes. Replete with the truest essence of humanness, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the best books ever. I rate it 5/5 stars.

(Stay tuned for the full version of the review coming later this week at The North-Eastern Chronicle!)

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

WAlk With Wings, by Tene Edwards!

Hey guys! How’s it going? I have had quite a hectic week this week. We had the freshmen social on Thursday and after that it has just been very tiring. I hope to rest and recuperate on the weekend! Also,  I have got a ton of work to do…

Here’s a book that came in the mail a couple days ago. Tene Edwards was kind enough to send me her book and I am very excited to read it. I have already read a couple of pieces and I really connected with them. I hope to read some more on the weekend. Thanks a lot for the book!

Walk With Wings by Tene Edwards is a poetry collection split into five chapters: 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.

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What are your plans for this weekend? Any trips planned or is it dedicated to catching up with work?

Adulting, Neharika Gupta, 2019

Title: Adulting

Author: Nharika Gupta

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: Englsih

No. of pages: 216

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Celtic Tales

Illustrated by: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

Verdict:

A gem! 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

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

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

Title: The Shrike and the Shadows

Author: Chantal Gadoury and A. M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: Englsih

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

Nordic Tales: Folktales from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark, 2019

Title: Nordic Tales

Illustrated by: Ulla Thynell

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Short Stories/Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Trolls haunt the snowy forests, and terrifying monsters roam the open sea.
A young woman journeys to the end of the world, and a boy proves he knows no fear.
This collection of 16 traditional tales transports readers to the enchanting world of Nordic folklore. Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, and presented here unabridged, the stories are by turns magical, hilarious, cozy, and chilling. They offer a fascinating view into Nordic culture and a comforting wintertime read. Ulla Thynell’s glowing contemporary illustrations accompany each tale, conjuring dragons, princesses, and the northern lights. This special gift edition features an embossed, textured case and a ribbon marker.

My review:

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

I absolutely was in love with the illustrations in this book. I’m not much of an artist myself, but the chalk/wax crayon-like texture of the drawing was very pleasing to the eye. I read this collection of folktales along with my brother and we were so in love with these that they felt so magical and we longed to delve into these worlds.

Like all folktales and fairytales, these too have morals that are delivered on an entertaining note and are not simply boring and didactic. We could understand so many of the emotions and feelings behind this because I feel that despite the geographical differences and cultural differences etc., every culture has got certain morals etc that it teaches its people.

Nordic Tales is a collection of folktales for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark. Divided into different sections like Transformation, Wit, and Journeys, these stories have themes of human kindness and tolerance in general, bravery, honesty, love, perseverance etc.

I also love this beautiful bookmark. It is from Damyanti Gharge and she’s a gem!

Verdict:

Totally a 5 star read!

About the reviewer:

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

August 2019 book haul!

And the last in my series is here! Things have been going well this week.. I am in a better place mentally and I am waking up feeling hopeful. I think this is a very subjective thing – dealing with the occasional bouts of depression we all suffer from. An important thing I wish people would realize is that it is natural for us people (in this cut throat world) to feel depressed sometimes, but it does not mean that we are suffering from depression. We need to stop romanticizing mental illnesses. Anyway, enough of my rant.

Moving on, I got a total of 38 new books in August, including review copies, gifts from friends and book I ordered on my own. Some of the books I featured in my semester readings post are also new ones I got in August, but since I had already shown them, I thought I should show the rest. So here are the rest of the new books I got in August:

  1. Mary Barton
  2. Vanity Fair by Thackeray (this was a gift from a friend)
  3. The Bluest Eye
  4. The Wings of the Dove
  5. Madame Bovary
  6. An American Marriage
  7. Dark Blade
  8. The Shadow Lines
  9. Great Expectations (this was a gift from a friend)
  10. Sea Prayer
  11. Catwoman (this was a gift from a friend)
  12. Origin
  13. Black Leopard Red Wolf
  14. The Far Field
  15. The Forest of Enchantments
  16. The Interpreter of Maladies
  17. Upon a Burning Throne part 2
  18. Nahoror Niribili Saa (Assamese novel)
  19. Sanglat Fenla (Assamese novel)

Did you get any new book in August? Or were you really good at following the book ban (unlike yours truly)? Do share your views and drop a comment. I always reply to your comments and also drop one in your accounts or spam with likes. Have a great day ahead, guys!

August 2019 wrap-up

Hi guys! Thank you for the love you shared in my last post. I have decided on a few changes I am going to make in my life. I have recently been taking in a lot of pressure – I am dealing with a lot of work right now and I let it overcome me. In addition, I have realized that it is so very unhealthy. So I hope to take it a bit slow and steady. The number of review projects, some other literary projects that I had been doing, my college work – all of it, coupled with my innate need for excellence just got a bit too much. This weekend I took a mental break from it all and I am feeling so very fresh to have left aside all the unnecessary pressure.

Moving on, here is my august wrap up for 2019. I read a total of 30 books and I am very happy with my progress. I’m sharing a few of these here, since i read most in the ebook format.

  1. Black Panther
  2. The Bluest Eye
  3. Emperor Chandragupta
  4. Emperor Vikramaditya
  5. Very Nice
  6. The Raven’s Tale
  7. The Case that Shook the Empire
  8. Delayed Rays of a Star
  9. Celtic Tales
  10. Nordic Tales

I also listened to the audiobook of BECOMING by Michelle Obama and I honestly love this book and I think that it should be made a compulsory read for school students and upwards.

Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them?

How many books did you read in august, and are you happy with your progress?

Black Panther, 2019

Title: Black Panther

Author: Jesse J. Holland

Publisher: Titan Books, Bloomsbury

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

He’s known as the Black Panther. His home is Wakanda. Welcome to T’Challa’s world. During the last ten centuries, as European colonial powers spread their guns and armies throughout the continent, the African nation of Wakanda stood alone as an unconquerable land inhabited by undefeatable warriors and filled with incredible technological advancements. T’Challa – the latest in a lineage of warrior-kings – is Wakanda’s Black Panther, a hero endowed with enhanced speed, strength and agility – along with a suit made of the metal that secured his country’s future: the indestructible Vibranium. Now, outsiders have returned to plunder Wakanda’s riches, including its store of the rare metal. Leading this brutal assault is Klaw, an assassin with the blood of T’Challa’s father on his hands. Klaw brings with him a powerful army of super-powered mercenaries, all hell-bent on raining death and destruction on this pristine land. Even with Wakanda’s might and his own superhuman skills, can the Black Panther prevail against such a massive invading force?

My review:

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

I had very high expectations from this book honestly. And perhaps that is the reason why I was so very excited to pick it up. The book is very different from the movie and as such if you have watched the movie beforehand, it will probably also be a nice read.

We see T’Challa as having developed into this assertive man who is a just king. His relations with his mother and sister is amazing. Throughout the book, the author has placed in past events through reminiscences made by the characters and it is refreshing to get this perspective into the inner lives. Shuri’s story is especially an interesting one as we get her vies into various traditions of Wakanda and her feelings regarding them. It also portrays her brother as a real man and not just as a divine king. However, I did not particularly like the mother – I think sh way too obsessed with her son.

Klaw on the other hand was an interesting character – both as a villain and as a man with a vengeance. The glimpse offered into the ‘villains’s’ lives in this book was very interesting and their back stories and interrelationships were very interesting as well!

However I was not very interested in this book. I felt that it dragged for a bit to be honest and I am not sure if I will ever pick it up again, at this point. In the last bit especially, I had to drag myself to turn the pages one after the other. I just had no wish to continue reading this book. However, I do think that I will pick up this book and see if I will like it someday.

Verdict:

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

Are you Game?, by Sarav, 2019

Title: Are You Game?

Author: Saravana Kumar Murugan

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

The reality game show ‘Are you Game?’ is all set to be aired in the first week of August. The show is already an internet sensation due to the norms, and the selection process. It’s the first-of-its-kind-show to be broadcast live on YouTube. The game show has three rigorous challenges. Participants are to select one and live with the challenge for 30 days. Whoever makes it to the thirtieth day would be awarded One Crore Indian Rupees. No upper cap on winners.
The gorgeous Niharika and handsome Nirav are all set to host the show. Ms. Eye would play the invisible Boss. Simi, a reporter from lastpost.com, also Nirav’s ex-girlfriend, will cover the show offline. The three beautiful ladies, Sikha, Ragini and Sanju, opt for the sexiest challenge. The four machos, Akshay, Vinay, Vivek, and Raghav, along with Julie, opt for the simplest challenge. While Veer, a transgender, opts for the pill challenge. 
Can they do it for 30 days?
Simi calls Nirav a sex-animal while covering the show on day two. Can they mend things and fall in love again? Sikha and Akshay fall in love, too, but can they sustain the challenge?
Who will make it to the winning line to deliver the winning speech at the award ceremony?

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.

Are you Game? Was a brilliant concept of a novel. In a lot of ways, this book teaches us the perils with the various bad habits we humans cultivate, without thinking of our actions. ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ is a slogan seen everywhere. We scoff at it and says, “What’s one cigarette going to do? Kill me?” What we do not think about is that one by one this intake increases and by the time we’re in or mid 40s or 50s, the harm is already done. There are so many cases of lung cancer today, apart from a slew of other diseases that arise from this bad habit and yet, we are least bothered by it.

Through other characters too, the author tries to portray the thinking of a few people of the society – how the size of a girl’s clothing is directly indicative of her ‘character’. The smaller the pieces of fabric covering her body, the looser her morals will be. It is a degrading view on women as well as a mirror of the people’s thinking as well. The characters portray all these dilemmas very well.

The one thing I have issues with is the relationship between Nirav and Simi. I think their narrative, although intertwining with that of the participants’ in the show, could have been a bit more clearer. The suffocation bit at the end is one where I faltered especially.

Nonetheless, this was a good book and I hope it will help people understand the folly of their thinking, regarding themselves as well as others.

Verdict: I rate this book 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 .

Delayed Rays of a Star, by Amanda Lee Koe, 2019

Title: Delayed Rays of a Star

Author: Amanda Lee Koe

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publishing date: July 9, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 389

Synopsis:

A dazzling novel following the lives of three groundbreaking women–Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl–cinema legends who lit up the twentieth century

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star, playing for bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father’s modest laundry; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director would first make her famous–then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women’s lives. From Weimar Berlin to LA’s Chinatown, from a seaside resort in East Germany to a luxury apartment on the Champs-Élysées, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, muse, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. And in the orbit of each star live secondary players–a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director–whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours.
Amanda Lee Koe’s playful, wry prose guides the reader dexterously around murky questions of ego, persona, complicity, desire, and difference. Intimate and raw, Delayed Rays of a Star is a visceral depiction of womanhood–its particular hungers, its calculations, and its eventual betrayals–and announces a bold new literary voice. 

My review:

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

Delayed Rays of a Star is an exhilarating read delving into history and the lives of three women with an epic intensity. Spanning from the 1920s to the early 2000s, this novel tells a fictional story of real life actresses – Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl. Delayed Rays of a Star has been inspired from a photograph of these 3 women, that was clicked at a soiree in 1928 Berlin. Although these three women are the protagonists, you could say, there are a few more secondary characters in the book –  Marlene’s caretaker, the lighting staff on Leni’s team, the gay German soldier etc.

For the most part, this seemingly simple and ambiguous novel reads quite fluidly. There are so many issues that are discussed here. For instance, there is sexism – the most prevalent one, I think. As women, the three protagonists had to go through a lot to be where they are. It is in Leni’s story where it is the most prominent I think. As one of the three protagonists who gets a whole section for her own voice, Leni is a character who has often been judged and misunderstood often.

There is also racism – and no one perhaps experiences this more than Anna May. In all her movies, she is never cast as the lead, always being passed over to make way for white actresses – because she is ‘too’ Chinese.

Another theme is that of sexuality. Marlene was a woman who was famous in her heydays. It is unfathomable to understand how she slept with both men and women and got away with it. the instance in the book where Anna and Marlene are in the washroom, and the aftermath, is a clear indication that Marlene was very comfortable in her own skin. Nonetheless, it is impossible to imagine how she got away with it during those times.

Delayed Rays of a Star is also a very intense read if you truly understand the subtle themes spoken of, here. Divided into three main sections, followed by three sub-divisions each, where each section follows one of the three main characters. The character arcs of these women are commendable. However, I was disappointed that Leni was not very involved with the other two after the party. I had hoped to see more of an interrelationship among the 3 women, apart from their common instances in life.

The question of politics really comes into play with Leni. I did some research and she truly was a director of Nazi propaganda films. As such, a lot of her being is kind of complicated – how can you separate the art from politics and if it should or should not be done; if it was necessary to separate the artist’s political ideologies from his art.

Amanda Le Koe has truly written a definitive work on women’s lives and including these real life characters along with a few of their real life actions and beliefs, was a great culmination in Delayed Rays of a Star. Considering that this is her debut novel, I can only imagine the pressure that lies on her shoulders now for any future works.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars!

About the author:

Born in Singapore and currently based in New York, Amanda Lee Koe is the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her first short story collection Ministry of Moral Panic (Epigram Books, 2013), which was also shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s Internationaler Literaturpreis, and the Frankfurt Book Fair’s LiBeraturpreis.

The working manuscript for her first novel, Delayed Rays of a Star , won the Henfield prize, awarded to the best work of fiction by a graduating MFA candidate at Columbia University’s Writing Program; the book is forthcoming from Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (U.S.) and Bloomsbury (U.K.) in summer 2019. 

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 Case that Shook the Empire, 2019

Title: The Case that Shook the Empire

Author: Raghu Palat and Pushpa Palat

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 187

Synopsis:

30 April 1924.

At the Court of the King’s Bench in London, the highest court in the British Empire, an English judge and jury head the case that would change the course of India’s history: Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab – and the man whose policies led to the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre – had filed a defamation case against Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair for having published a book in which he referred to the ‘atrocities’ committed by the Raj in Punjab.

The widely-reported trial – one of the longest in history – stunned a world that finally recognized some of the horror being committed by the British in India.

Through reports of court proceedings along with a nuanced portrait of a complicated nationalist who believed in his principles above all else, The Case that Shook the Empire reveals,  for the very first time, the real details of the fateful case that marked the defining moment in India’s struggle for Independence.

My review:

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

The Case that Shook the Empire tells us of the real truth, we hardly find in our history books. I myself had been unknowing of so many facts surrounding the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and this book was critical in informing me of the great man who dared.

When it comes to the writing, the book reads like a story. Beginning with a section on Sir Nair’s life, we slowly are introduced to the Punjab section, where the authors tell us or rather show (such is the vivid imagery) the atrocities inflicted on the Indian people. Leading up to the massacre, and the aftermath as the court proceedings take place, this is without doubt one of the most important events that marked a defining moment in India’s struggle for independence. The court proceeding scenes were just as intriguing to witness as well. It is a horrific tale that details the facts we have never read in our history books. I love how the writing flows smoothly, making it a good read. The authors also ensure that the reader is not bored – not that the events covered will let anyone rest. It is a tumultuous read that left me teary-eyed at some points, while at others, with gooseflesh at the back of my neck. However, I did find the text a bit repetitive at times.

The authors have also pointed out the differences in opinion between Nair and Gandhi. Gandhi and Anarchy is a book I intend to pick up soon. One of the things that was shown was that Sir Nair was a real character – he was a bit flawed at times, if you have certain perspectives – but he was unapologetically loyal to the principles he had for himself. He always strived to live up to those standards and ensured that he did his best at all times. His character is truly an inspiration for so many of us.

Verdict:

This was an informative read that I really felt genuinely while reading. 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 .

Very Nice , by Marcy Dermansky, 2019

Title: Very Nice

Author: Marcy Dermansky

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

A brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, race, and bad behavior in the post-Obama era, featuring a wealthy Connecticut divorcée, her college-age daughter, and the famous American novelist who is seduced by them both.

Rachel Klein never meant to kiss her creative writing professor, but with his long eyelashes, his silky hair, and the sad, beautiful life he laid bare on Twitter, she does, and the kiss is very nice. Zahid Azzam never planned to become a houseguest in his student’s sprawling Connecticut home, but with the sparkling swimming pool, the endless supply of Whole Foods strawberries, and Rachel’s beautiful mother, he does, and the home is very nice. Becca Klein never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after her divorce, but when her daughter’s professor walks into her home, bringing with him an apricot standard poodle named Princess, she does, and the affair is…a very bad idea. In a darkly hilarious novel that zigzags between the rarified circles of Manhattan investment banking, the achingly self-serious MFA programs of the Midwest, and the private bedrooms of Connecticut, Marcy Dermansky has written an audacious, addictive, and wickedly smart take on the way we live now.

My review:

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

Very Nice was a fairly fast-paced novel – that read like a soap opera. It certainly was fun to read this book and I believe it was the perfect summer read, to be read by the pool. The story is told through various characters’ povs so we see varying perspectives in the alternating thread of storytelling. It is linear with a fluid writing that reads really well.

We have Rachel, a college student who has a crush on her creative writing professor – Zahid Azzam, who is also a well-renowned author. She seduces him, they have sex and Rachel starts thinking that he likes her for it. However, everything is not as it seems. For instance, the characters portray something else – a sense of individuality and accomplishment, you could say, but underneath it all, there are such conflicting emotions. By a chance of fate, Zahid ends up living in Rachel’s house and has an affair with her mother, Becca. However, Dermansky has played well with the creation of the interrelationships among the various characters in this book. It seems everyone is related to everyone in one way or the other. The way their threads are intertwined proves to be a very interesting read.

The book also has various themes peeking out through the various narratives. With Khloe, we see the misogynistic nature of the world that she has to face in her finance job. Becca deals with dissatisfaction and a sense of acute restlessness and incompleteness. Jonathan deals with the fleeting sense of joy as he leaves his wife Becca for the much younger Mandy, only to slowly realize that it is not how he wants to live. The inner monologues of the characters, especially that of Rachel, is very interesting. The idea of self-image and self-identity is very important here too. we see Zahid struggling with it, and we also see Rachel struggling with the idea or the image she has of Zahid. There is also inclusion of political themes such as gun laws (in relation to the incident faced by Becca once, as she was confronted by Amelia’s brother), varying political ideologies etc. the manner of writing is quite electric to be honest, and at first I was not sure of what I felt regarding the short sentences. I found it weird, but not bad though. After a while, I got used to it and quite enjoyed it, in fact. 

Despite all the differences in the characters’ personalities, and, they are human – and flawed in a way we all can also certainly relate to. It was very easy to relate to the characters. I felt so accomplished myself when Zahid’s writing was going well, for instance.

The writing continues to be witty, and although the author deals with some abject issues, it is still fun and a buoyant read overall.

Verdict:

An enjoyable read, I rated 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 .

Toni Morrison Readathon!

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

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

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

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

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

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