Tag Archives: #guwahatibookstagrammers

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?

The Raven’s Tale, Cat Winters, 2019

Title: The Raven’s Tale

Author: Cat Winters

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family—the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”

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 Raven’s Tale is a fantastical retelling inspired by the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe. It was a truly atmospheric story, one that I read at one go and finished in a night. The physical manifestation of a muse is a truly unique idea that the author has used in the book. It is melancholic and whimsical and a possibly true account in an alternate universe! I like to think that it is.

The character of Edgar is a tragic, sad and yet beautiful rendering of an artist’s life that seemed real – the angst was portrayed well thorough the writing and the reader could relate to Edgar. His character arc was well planned and it seemed gradual and realistic.

In a way, this book also shows what it is like to have parents who have certain expectations for you – expectations that are rigid and more suited to their mentalist and wishes than that of the child. In doing this, the author has smoothly integrated an ever-relatable issue, no matter the times, and an amazing story.

I also liked Lenore although I thought of her to be a bit vengeful at times. On the other hand, Garland is a satirical and ironic part of him. These two personalities show the often contrasting natures we humans find on ourselves which so often confuses us.

The writing is captivating and sucks the reader right in. Cat Winters has done a really great job on this book and if you are a fan of the hauntingly beautiful works of Poe, this is a must-read for you!

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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!

Reign of Mist and War of Mist reviews!

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

Reign of Mist, 2018

Title: Reign of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 441

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

War of Mist, 2019

Title: War of Mist

Author: Helen Schuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fanatsy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 500

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

Happy Independence Day!

Hey guys! I wish you all a very Happy Independence Day! Let us all thank our ancestors for their belief, their struggle and strife that has led us to where we are today. It is truly historic and the TV news covering the celebrations across the country give me goosebumps. I have teared up so many times hearing the national anthem today!

How are you planning on celebrating today? I am going to spend the day with my family – we had a great lunch and caught up with our lives. Later on, we plan on watching Uri, and a few other movies like Lagaan, and perhaps Raazi too.

I’m also going to join the #BloomsburyReadalong today and start with THE CASE THAT SHOOK THE EMPIRE! Do join in!

The thrilling story of how one Indian fought for the rights of millions living under the British rule and gave crucial impetus to the Independence movement in India.

30 April 1924. At the Court of the King’s Bench in London, the highest court in the Empire, an English judge and jury heard the case that would change the course of India’s history: Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab – and architect of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre – had filed adefamation 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 horrors 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 ThatShook 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.

Join me in the #BloomsburyReadalong from August 15 to August 22. I sincerely hope you do and enjoy reading this book as much as I hope to!

The Broken Amoretti, by Sudipto Das and Aparajita Dutta, 2019

Title: The Broken Amoretti

Author: Sudipto Das, Aparajita Dutta

Publisher: Olive Turtle, in imprint of Niyogi Books

Genre: Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 296

Synopsis:

“Unusually bold narrative… Almost lyrical in nature” Times of India

To begin afresh, after her broken marriage, Saoli returns to India and starts living in Prembajar at the house her grandfather had bought from Bitasta’s father. While cleaning the house, Saoli comes across an old diary, perhaps belonging to Bitasta’s mother, Panchali. The diary has a very cryptic poem written in dactylic hexameter, the archaic meter of the ancient Greek epics. Aware of the fact that Sairandhri didn’t let her son, Parush, marry Bitasta, even though Sairandhri and Bitasta’s mother were the best of friends, Saoli gets in touch with the reckless Parush, recently accused in a high-profile IP theft case in the US. As Parush tells Saoli about his heedless and shattered life, his unrequited love affair with Bitasta, his lifelong hatred for his mother, and his topsy-turvy corporate career in the US, Saoli unearths the darkest secrets 
hidden in the cryptic poem for so long. 

Why didn’t Sairandhri want Parush to marry Bitasta? Why was Bitasta the only person she wished to see on her death-bed? Why had she been nothing more than a beautiful but lifeless mural at home? The cryptic poem has the answers. 

Join Saoli and Parush in their journey to decode the past and discover their real identities, where love can never be chained by stereotypes. It’s time to set love free!

My review:

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

So I had no idea this book would contain so many Greek references when I picked it up. Anyway, The Broke Amoretti is a story told through Saoli’s perspective, a woman who has recently separated from her husband and has settled as a lecturer at IIT Kharagpur. She meets Parushni in a seminar and the story begins from then on. Parush and Bitasta had a famous romance although Parush’s mother Sairandhri never let him marry the woman he loved, despite the fact that Bitasta’s mother Panchali was her bosom friend. It had always remained a mystery and as Saoli tries to decipher the meaning of the enigmatic poem she finds in Panchali’s diary, we come to know more about this story.

The character of Saoli was with multiple layers – she is suffering after that separation from her husband. She is a brilliant scholar, and she is also a kind friend. However, at times I found that her reactions to things that were not actually right (in terms of literature) was contemptuous and I am not sure that I something I appreciate in people, to be honest.

Moreover, Bitasta was not a likeable character for me. It seemed as if she had a chip on her shoulder and I did not like the way her behaved with Parush. It was just too complicated for me.

The most important themes shown here is the LGBTQ spectrum of love and relationship, especially in India. Parushni and Saoli in fact have a common theme in their papers – lesbianism, back when they first met. This theme itself runs and weaves so many events together in the story, it proves to be an important one not just in societal aspects but in terms to the story as well.

There is an inclusion of Greek mythology throughout the book. For instance, Rikshi and Kalyani are compared to Artemis and Callisto. The juxtaposition of Greek mythology against Tagore, Kalidasa’s stories and poems abounded the book. While I appreciate the authors’ attempts at this inclusion, I am not sure if they gelled well, although they did seem to, superficially. Another thing I did not like was that there were too many characters and their interrelationships were too complex for me to remember.

However, the writing style is lovely. Literary allusions are always welcome to read about and I enjoyed them very much. The inclusion of various subplots and doing away with the Unity of action was well done.

Verdict:

I rate this book 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 .

Silence Between The Spaces, by Abir Sinha, 2019

Title: Silence Between The Spaces

Author: Abir Sinha

Genre: Poetry and Prose

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

Recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year 2015 award, Abir Sinha is the best-selling poet of the book Noora- a collection of poems which was launched by the Commerce Minister Shri. Suresh Prabhu. Silence between the Spaces is the second collection of his poetry and prose which talks about taking that long arduous journey into yourself. Get comfortable with peeling the layers off to know who you really are.

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.

I read this book for the Reading Rush 2019 Challenge, for the prompt Read a book in the same spot the entire time.

The poet has divided all his poems into 4 sections and named them well as –

  1. ‘Ibtida’ The Beginning
  2. ‘Justuju’ The Quest
  3. ‘Muntazir’ Awaiting
  4. ‘Maktub’ It is Written

The pieces in Silence Between the Spaces are all very relatable for us. They deal with everyday things that as individuals w can all relate with in one way or the other. I love how these pieces do not conform to the contemporary poems that revolve so much around romantic love. This collection is a nice change from that.

The themes of the human struggle, our everyday grind, as well as self-love are very common here. I hope how the poet has included these important issues – literature has an immense power to influence the reader and as such, I do believe that the author/poet has great responsibility on him. In this collection, I applaud the poet for including these important topics within the poems.

The author also speaks of our constant dissatisfaction – our never ending wants; we, human beings have become so greedy that we are never satisfied or happy despite all our materialistic richness. The struggle in the cutthroat world that we all face – the immense tension and stress that we are all subjected to, is also explored here.

Glimpses of nostalgia, chaos, the concept of ‘home’, the inability to move on, mental health etc are also seen here. Some of my favourites from this collection are The Hardest Lesson, Workaholic, Magnitude of Pain, Put Yourself First, Bottled Up, What Balance?, The Real Competition, Stir, Exhale etc.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable and deep read. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

Also I’ve been continuously using this #readersjournal ‘Well-Read Women’ by Samantha Hahn from Abrams Chronicle Books! I have been using it to record all the books I’ve been reading recently and it has been a great help for me to record my immediate raw and unfiltered reactions!

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 .

My 21st Birthday Book Haul 2019!


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

The Kosher Delhi, by Ivan Wainewright, 2019

Title: The Kosher Delhi

Author: Ivan Wainewright

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 320

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

Heart of Mist, by Helen Scheuerer, 2017

Title: Heart of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 487

Synopsis:

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

My review:

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

Heart of Mist is the first book in the Oremere Chronicles and I was so glad I picked it up. I read it in less than 6 hours I think, spread over two days. As soon as you pick up this book, I assure you that you will not be able to stop. The book is very fast-paced and thus, it is of no wonder that you are pulled in.  

The author has also brought in various themes such as addiction, alcoholism, human nature (which is so unreliable sometimes), the issue of identity etc. Bringing in such aspects within the lives of the characters has made it very relatable for the readers. Mental health is also another theme that is explored here. Sahara is one such character who suffered a lot (from what I have inferred so far). In one way or another, many other characters have also faced such issues that have affected their mental health in one way or another. Trauma is one such factor that has ssailed Bleak – her past is something she tries to run away from, and yet, she cannot let go completely. Oppression – the dominance over a people (the Ashai in this case) is also shown in the book and this is always a sad instance no matter where we read about these instances. Segregation of the Valians – into the kindred and the rest is also portrayed.

The world building is amazing – we see a lot of the Valian life in this book and their world really gave me James Cameron’s Avatar vibes. I would love to see more of the rest of this world. And I am so very excited to read about Oremere.

Bleak as a person is very complex. I love how by the end of this book she is strong enough to resist her temptations and her addiction. Her character arc has been slow and consistent and I hope to see more of her growth throughout the series. Bren is so supportive – I love how he is always there for Bleak and when the time comes, she is willing to do everything possible to save him as well. I would love to see more of Bren throughout the rest. The friendship he shares with Bleak is amazing and their friendly banter, full of humour and wit, is fun to read. There are so many instances in the book when you laugh out loud, and so many times when you feel like crying. It is an emotional ride. And the fact that Bren is such an honourable man is also another plus point for him. Olena and Dash’s friendship is beautiful. At first I was wondering what importance these characters might have in the books and now – oh my god, you need to pick up this series as soon as possible! Henri is also going on her own journey and I look forward to see where she ends up. I would also love to know more about Swinton – his history. He is a very dynamic character – and I admit I still have mixed feelings about him. The multiple points of views used throughout were also great as they focused on various characters and gave us a glimpse into their minds.

Full of political intrigue, adventure, magic and some amazing friendships, Heart of Mist was a really great start to the trilogy. I finished the book today and I am going to pick up the sequel Reign of Mist tonight!

Verdict:

Absolutely loved this book. I rate Heart of Mist a full 5/5 stars and look forward to the sequel.

About the reviewer:

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

The Dark Side of the Moon: vOLUME 2, by Shubham Arora, 2019

Title: The Dark Side of the Moon Vol.2

Author: Shubham Arora

Genre: Short-Story, Horror

Format: Ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a collection of short stories that is dark, grim and flirts ambitiously with notions of the unexplained. 
Volume 2 marks the return of the series with another set of three thrilling, crisply narrated tales – 

DECEMBER

Cold. Rainy. Windy. A typical December night in Mussourie. The police receives a distress call. Typical for stormy nights, as they say. But this night will be different. This night will be longer. This night will remain unexplained.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – THE STORY
Humans haven’t been on the moon since 1972. They have decided to return – though this time to the dark side of the moon, where no human has ever set foot before. What does the unknown hold?

SEVENTY METERS
The swift morning breeze soothes her hair. The tinkling wind-chimes call her to the window. She looks at him smiling in his sleep. She smiles too. But that’s been a rarity for them. 
Does love, like time, wither away as it’s consumed?

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.

I have not been much of a horror fan but… Shubham Arora had me hooked with his first volume. And when he reached out to me for the second one, I was already jumping with joy. That is another story in itself so we’ll keep that aside for now.

In comparison to the first volume, I think the author’s writing has improved immensely. Most importantly, he knows how to deliver a punch at the end, just as succinctly.

In the first story, December, the writing is very atmospheric and is enough to give you the chills. When the story actually starts, and we venture into the mansion, I almost felt as if something is going to jump out of the shadows, at me. As a reader, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was a part of the story itself and the instances were happening to me too.

The stories have become creepier, with the eponymous The Dark Side of the Moon being the creepiest of them all. I loved how he has taken on this urban myth and given it his own twist. The idea itself, when you sit back and think about it – being stranded on a strange place (the dark side of the moon, for God’s sake!) The way this story is told – especially in day counts, is one that really makes you tensed up as if awaiting the climax, the twist you know is coming.

The last story is Seventy Meters, and from the name, I could guess what the ending would have been. Although the least favourite from all three, this was, a good story too, although I did not think it was scary. In a strange sort of way, it was actually sad.

Verdict:

It was an enjoyable read and I hope to read more of the author’s writing. I rate it 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Hunting Prince Dracula and Escaping From Houdini

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Hunting Prince Dracula was a great read. I rated it 4.5/5 stars. Escaping from Houdini was also a fun read, although I thought it was somewhat slow paced. I rated this one 4/5 stars. 

I loved how the romance between our two leads grew. Thomas Cresswell is such a dynamic person, I feel. He is intellectual, and is truly an understanding person as well. I love how he knows to respect Audrey Rose as her own person and does not think her any less for being unique and different from the rest of the girls they knew. Unlike so many other beaus, he is not unwilling to let Audrey Rose explore, and learn about herself. He does not curb her freedom and is an overall supportive person. It also helps that he has such a great sense of humour too.  

And oh my god, the twist regarding Thomas’s identity in Hunting Prince Dracula is just off the roof! I did not expect that at all, but to be honest, I think it was a great idea executed wonderfully by the author. And the murderous Prince Dracula himself could not have surprised me more. I honestly did not expect that twist in the book and I think Kerri Maniscalco is great at these historical mysteries.

In Escaping From Houdini, the author has brought in the Great Houdini. The Moonlit Carnival overall is an amazing experience. And oh my god, Mephistopheles is such a darling! I love him and I certainly hope we see more of him throughout the series! (Perhaps a spinoff for his own?)

The way the author brings in themes of good versus evil, human frailties and humanity itself at the face of temptation is commendable and worth lauding. I love that even though these characters are back in the past, these dilemmas are so much like our own and as such they are so relatable. I thoroughly enjoyed this series. And I sincerely hope to pick up Becoming the Dark Prince and Capturing the Devil as soon as possible!

Have you read this series? Did you like it? And well, if you haven’t picked it up yet, what are you waiting for?

The Third Mrs. Durst, by Ann Aguirre, 2019

Title: The Third Mrs. Durst

Author: Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Midnight Ink

Publishing date: August 8th, 2019

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

Some people just need killing.

Marlena Altizer Durst lives in her husband’s shadow. He controls her every move—what she wears, the food she eats, and the friends she’s allowed to make. If she disobeys, there are…consequences. And he has all the power.

To outsiders, it seems that she leads a fairy-tale life. But nobody ever wonders if Cinderella was happy after she married the prince. Marlena has traded freedom and safety for luxurious imprisonment, and most days, that seems like a bad bargain. Death may be the only exit she’s allowed. Just like his first wife. And his second. Unless she flips the script.

Some people just need killing.

Praise:

The Third Mrs. Durst is a slow, dark burn that leads to a fantastic explosion of an ending.”—Victoria Helen Stone, bestselling author of Jane Doe

My review:

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

The character of Marlena was a very dynamic one – I found her ingenious and very clever. She is unscrupulous in going after what she wants. This determination of hers is a defining trait of her character, I think. However, I did not find her character arc very significant. Yes, she meets with a catastrophe – a horrific climax, but despite the positions it puts her in, and the subsequent direction her actions take her, I did not find her growth to be very believable.

The plot however, was very original and unique. I have not come across something like this before, and it is fantastic, despite the slow pace it assumes. Although the real reason why Marlena does what she does is rather justified, it comes somewhat as a bland surprise, but fails to uplift the overall effect. The romance that takes place in the second half of the story is just too sudden, I feel, and it gave the disjointed effect throughout. I could not just sink into the story as there was something that seemed to always hold me back from truly enjoying it.

The character of Mr. Durst on the other hand is the hero that gives the enjoyment to the reader, however twisted. Although he is not essentially ‘the good guy’ in the story, his assertiveness makes the book a much more enjoyable ride as it had been a burden on his wife’s shoulders.

The themes of love, hate, revenge, mental dilemma and struggles were all quite well portrayed in the plot that made it stronger. The whole book seemed to read like a movie with a brilliant plot, but poor or somewhat nice acting by the actors.

I think that this book was overrated and could not enjoy it much. The cover was not that good either and this is not a book I would recommend to others, honestly.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Oremere Chronicles readathon!

Fantasy has always been a love of mine. In my own culture, we have the famous ‘Burhi Aair Sadhu’ by the great Lakshminath Bezbaruah. It is a collection of fantastical stories, full of adventure and romance, which are told to us all. I myself have various editions of the book. From my childhood itself, fantasy has been fed to me and today, I am an addicted soul. It is no wonder that even after the decades; fantasy has remained a favourite of mine and I am never late at grasping onto new series. With this, I want to introduce you all to The Oremere Chronicles, a trilogy which is bound to hook you into it.

There are amazing cliffhangers for the books and since all three books in the trilogy are out, I am so very excited to pick it up! There are heroes who are human and flawed and yet so very lovable. There are so many secrets to unravel as you keep on reading the books and I bet you will be at the edge of your seats, biting your nails off, throughout! And full points if you can make out the hints of the book covers of the next book in any one book.

I’ll be starting with this readathon from the 28th of July and you are welcome to join me!

Heart of Mist

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

Reign of Mist

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

And the last book in this trilogy is finally out!

War of Mist

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

About the author

Helen Scheuerer is the YA fantasy author of the bestselling novels, Heart of Mist (2017) and Reign of Mist (September 2018). Both books are part of the action-packed trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

Helen is the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.

Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. Helen also completed a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.

She has been previously shortlisted for Express Media’s Outstanding Achievement by a Young Person in the Literary Arts Award and the Young Writers Showcase. Helen has also run writing and editing workshops for the NSW Society of Women Writers. 

Her work has appeared in VoiceworksACTWrite Magazine, The UEA Creative Writing Anthology, Tertangala (UOW), Capital Letters and of course, on Writer’s Edit.

Readalong of THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

The Sunday Times and No.1 New York Times bestselling, record-breaking 2019 thriller that everyone is talking about, The Silent Patient has been the most awaited debut thriller of 2019! And now Hachette has brought it to India!

Released on 15th July, The Silent Patient has been in my ‘Want to read’ shelf in Goodreads for so long and I am super happy that Hachette sent me a copy! The readalong for this amazing book started on the 17th and although I am a bit late, I’ve been loving the read. @thebookelf_ and I have been buddyreading this book and we are really enjoying it! Read on to know more about this book, that you simply need to pick up!

(Also, make sure to read this one before the movie hits the screens!)

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

THE SILENT PATIENT is the gripping must-read debut thriller of 2019 – perfect for fans of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A.J. Finn and THE GIRL BEFORE by JP Delaney.

(DM if you want to join in the readalong!)

Let’s Hope for the Best, by Carolina Setterwall, 2019

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Title: Let’s Hope for the Best

Author: Carolina Setterwall

Translated by: Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Autobiography

Format: Paperback

Language: Original Swedish, translated to English

No. of pages: 400

Synopsis:

One day while nursing her young son, Carolina receives a strange email from her boyfriend Aksel, detailing computer passwords and other instructions in event of his death. She grows worried at first, then irritated – this is so typical of her unsentimental partner. Aksel ends the message: Let’s hope for the best! Five months later, he is dead. 
In her debut novel, Let’s Hope for the Best, Carolina Setterwall recounts the intensity of falling in love with her partner Aksel, and the shock of finding him dead in bed one morning. Carolina and Aksel meet at a party, and their passionate first encounter leads to months of courtship during which Carolina struggles to find her place. While Aksel prefers to take things slow, Carolina is eager to advance their relationship -moving in together, getting a cat, and finally having a child.

Perhaps to impose some order on the chaos, Carolina devotedly chronicles the months after Aksel’s passing like a ship’s log. She unpacks with forensic intensity the small details of life before tragedy, eager to find some explanation for the bad hand she’s been dealt. When new romance rushes in, Carolina finds herself assuming the reticent role Aksel once played. She’s been given the gift of love again. But can she make it work?

A striking feat of auto-fiction, written in direct address to Setterwall’s late partner, LET’S HOPE FOR THE BEST is a stylistic tour-de force..

My review:

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

When I was done reading this book I was so conflicted because how do I dare to review a book with a strong autobiographical theme? How do I dare to judge such a raw telling of the events that can break anyone? How do I judge a story, one which is so real and while it touched me so deeply, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for the people affected by this death?

But I told myself, I have read and studied various critical works like New Criticism, The Intentional Fallacy, Death of an Author, What is an Author etc. And as such I decided to write my review in middle ground.

At first glance, reading the synopsis made me realize that it was not going to be an easy read. And it was true. I took almost a week to read this one because I just could not bear to read it at one go, the way I do with most other books (also the fact that I was travelling played a major factor in this). I could only read this book in spurts because the emotions were too much to deal with. i was experiencing these second hand, mind you, but the writer was writing about real events. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been. The various rounds of edits etc that are to be done after writing the manuscript is another ordeal that I wondered how the author felt about. This book made me realize how very lucky I am today – I know it sounds so bad to someone who has lost a dear one – but it made me appreciate my family more, despite all the quarrels we have. I had to stop reading, go, and hug my mom and dad and my brother too.

This is truly a tour de force. In most translated works, the essence is lost but it si not so. The translator Elizabeth Clark Wessel has done an amazing job. The writing is in present continuous and I like it in autobiographies, I admit. The writing is poignant and raw – you feel so many emotions that sometimes you just have to sit back and let it all sink in. I cried and laughed along with the author. One thing that I liked best was that it is so real – you will love Carolina and hate her at times, even – while you realize that we all do the same things sometimes. We are humans and we are loving, kind and warm. But we are also cruel, selfish and angry at times, lashing out at the ones we love.

Aksel’s death and the aftermath make us question so many thing we do, so many people and things we take for granted. The way Carolina starts to resemble Aksel in her relationship is so parallel and well juxtaposed. The writing has not been sugarcoated and so you see the real aspects of life after the loss of a loved one. I loved the book – it was such a tumultuous ride.

Verdict:

I rate this a solid 5/5 stars. Will probably come back to it again.

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 .

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, 2019

Title: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle 0.1)

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications

Publication date: 6 June 2019

Genre: Science fiction/fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 470

Synopsis:

From the internationally bestselling authors of THE ILLUMINAE FILES comes an epic new science fiction adventure.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

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.

Superfluously saying, if the cover does not make you pick up the book itself, then I’m sure the synopsis will. Aurora Rising is an adventure story, set in space, one that is bound to keep you turning the pages on and on, eager to know what happens next. I was literally at the edge of my seat when I was sitting and reading, and had to actually sit up in attention, when I had been lazing on my bed while reading. Such is the writing of this powerful duo. I finished this book in like 5 hours and I went crazy throughout!

I’ve never been a fan of sci-fi, to be honest. So many of us are not. But Aurora Rising has completely made us switch sides! Although this book is so often described as a SIX OF CROWS set in space, the only similarity I found was the presence of this crew, where each one is so very different from the other. Through all the different characters in this bunch, we see similarities in what each of them faces. The leader of this team in known as the Alpha and he is Tyler, the golden-boy. He misses the Draft because he is rescuing a girl frozen in time. So basically instead of having his pick from the best, by the time he returns, the ceremony is over and the other Alphas have picked the cream. Throughout the story, we see the inner conflict in Tyler – he regrets that he was missing at the Draft but then again, he was rescuing this historically significant person in their universe. Later on, he is conflicted as to whether be the good pupil he has always been and follow the orders of his superiors, or to do what he believes is right.

There is also Scarlett, Tyler’s twin sister who is bold and flawed and yet is so very caring. The brother-sister bond that these two share is so much beautiful to see. Their love is always shining bright between them. And may I just say how wonderfully charming she is? Scarlett is the Face of the group, the diplomat basically and is an amazing people-person.

Then we have the Ace – Cat. She is a very passionate person I feel. She hates with all her might and she loves with all her might. Her love is real and made me choke so many times. Her character arc is very relatable – her feelings towards Aurora change from hate to respect and I love that the authors have made her so bold. Women are too often subdued anyway.  

Aurora is literally the girl out of time. She had been cryogenically sleeping, you could say, for 200 years, without ageing. And now, her dilemma and confusion as she comes to terms with her new surroundings and learns more about what happened to her that has led her here, is heartwarming. Her behaviour is funny and so very awkward at times with the rest of the team and I couldn’t help but laugh at so many parts. Her character arc is also significant in this story and although I think there could be more to it, I look forward to the rest of the books in this series. She is a person of our times and the references she makes were like Easter eggs to me. Especially Middle Earth!

Finnin, the alien (that rhymed!) is also another team member. He has always felt different all his life and his struggles with it – underneath all that sarcasm, is slowly revealed throughout the story. Zila is a character whose back story has still not been properly explained in the book and I am very curious about her, I admit. I look forward to reading more about her.

Lastly, Kal is oh0my-god hot! If you have a thing for the tall, dark and brooding, handsome kind. Especially, elfin-handsome kind! Aurora describing him as Middle-Earth is so relatable and that is how I imagine him too. And may I say that I am an absolute fan of the mate trope!

The writing felt very interactive in nature and the reading just flowed for me. I am absolutely in love with this duo’s writing and so I think that I am slowly going to pick up and read all of their books. The world-building was also very fascinating and made me stop and wonder myself, how it would feel like to stay there – after remembering that I was not actually in the story. There’s humour and the characters are so fierce in their natures, it was a fast-paced ride of a read! The plot was very strong and the inclusion of multiple POVs worked wonderfully with it. When there are so many characters, having multiple POVs often make the story lose its beauty but in this case, it only gave more depth to it.

Verdict:

I loved this book and I rate it a solid 5/5 stars! I know this review sounded more like an ode to these amazing complex but lovable characters, but god! You all need to pick it up ASAP!

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 .

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

Title: Narasimha: The Mahaavatar Trilogy Book 1

Author: Kevin Missal

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Genre: Mythology/Fantasy/Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 346

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Secret of the Palamu Fort, by Razi, 2019

Title:  Secret of the Palamu Fort

Author: Razi

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotch Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Mythology/Thriller

Format: paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

Someone has risen from the dead and is haunting the sinister ruins of the Palamu Fort, situated in the mystical land of Jharkhand.
A few hundred kilometers from the fort, in the capital city Ranchi, a History Professor of St. Xavier’s college is murdered at his home. The witnesses claim he was killed by a ghost! 
The police is clueless. Inspector Patrick Minj ropes in Detective Robin Horo, who unearths a clue which indicates that the murder has a bloody trail running as far as 350 years in the history of Jharkhand. A poisonous conspiracy was plotted centuries ago in the Kingdom of Palamu that designed the downfall of an empire and forced the king to hide his legacy in the unforgiving and indifferent womb of time. 
The ghost is leaving behind a trail of dead bodies and to solve the case Robin has nothing but an Artifact that is said to have an ancient curse over it and a centuries old riddle that if solved, could lead to an Elixir. 
Witness the conspiracy unfolding that spans 350 years in the making and takes Robin and his companions on a labyrinthine adventure involving deadly secrets, dangerous threats and a lethal encounter with a beast in the jungles of Palamu. 

My review:

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

A perfect blend of mystery and thriller, Secret of the Palamu Fort is centered around the actual site. The author has weaved a murder mystery (with secret cursed treasure and a whodunit scope as well) around these majestic forts from Jharkhand, India.

The story begins with the murder of a History professor by a supposed ghost and this is where it unravels. The police can obviously make no sense of it and so the ‘Honorary Consultant’, Dtective Robin Horo is brought in. Comment if it too reminds you of Lestrange and Holmes! Now it is up to Robin to solve the murders revolving around this curse! Other characters are Neil, the nephew, who gives us a neutral point of view to the whole process, considering he is just a teenager. There is also Babulaji who, you can say, provides comic relief. However, I myself found him quite irritating especially because of the jokes he cracks – most of which are lame. However, I found Babulaji inspired from Watson, as he is really keen on keeping a record and writing about all these events and the process, as he follows Robin around.

Overall, the plot was really well done. With simple and lucid language, the reader is kept hooked on until the end. I have found that there are many plot holes in these books which are a cross between mythology and thriller, but it was not so with this book and that was great. The only negative I found was that the tone gets a bit preachy sometimes (but that may be my personal estimate clouding over) and it becomes a classic scenario of TMI.

Nonetheless, this book has been kept really understandable for readers across the spectrum. The language is quite, what one can call, ‘Indianized’ and it would thus be very easy for all sorts of readers to enjoy this book. The narration is on point and really nice if you look at it from an all-encompassing point of view. The multiple timeline aspect has also been worked out well and does not clash with the readers’ perceptions. One interesting fact I noticed was the use of small chapters in between which simply made me read on, more. The twists and turns were unexpected and left me quite surprised. I had not really predicted the end.

I also love the cover, as I found it very aesthetic! Moreover, it is relevant to the story as you will find out. (Pick up the book soon!)

Verdict:

It was a really gripping and interesting read. 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 .

What Mina Did, by Geeta Menon, 2019

Title: What Mina Did

Author: Geeta Menon

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

A single betrayal can cost you everything…

1998. Twenty-two-year-old Mina is moving to the US from Bangalore to begin a new life with her
husband. Then there’s a horrific murder and her life is turned upside down. Mina’s best friend Neelu helps her out of the abyss. Mina gradually leaves her past behind and settles into a new life in the US.

Years later, she is forced to return to India and is confronted by the demons from her past. In her fragile mental state, she is unable to support Neelu in her time of need. Their friendship hits rock bottom.
Mina goes back to the US and faces further hurdles, this time on the work front. She tries to make
amends with Neelu, but their friendship ends with Neelu accusing Mina of something unimaginable related to the murder. Something, that deep down, Mina knows is true…
Will Mina redeem herself? Will the people she loves forgive her for what she did?
Alternating between flashbacks and the present day, What Mina Did explores how one betrayal
can have catastrophic consequences, while delving into the complex bonds that link mothers and
daughters, and best friends.

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.

From the title of the book, I was very sure that it was pure thriller/crime but WHAT MINA DID is much more than that. On the surface, it deals with various aspects of one’s life – like familial, personal, friendships we maintain etc.

One of the main issues we see Mina working through is the aftermath of losing one of the most important figures of her life. Knowing that your closed one has been murdered is never easy to move on from and I am saying this from personal experience. The trauma revolving around that one incident often puts a full stop in the lives of the relatives and others affected from it. moving on seems impossible and for a long time afterwards, these people’ lives revolve around that one trauma only. This trauma forms a significant reason why Mina dos things she does and the way she does. Sometimes, it is easy to blame her for the fall out with Neelu, but on a deeper level, how can she possibly help someone else when she needs great help herself? The characterization was good and the development of Mina’s character was slow yet steadily built.

This book throws light on various issues such as anxiety, dealing with one’s own demons, mental health, with shades of patriarchy, racism etc. The social issues as well as the expectations on women regarding marriage are on point. The narrative is compelling and makes the book an emotional read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Although the beginning is a bit slow paced, the story makes up for it. I liked that the author makes it so easy to empathize with the character. The separation of the story with regards to temporal context was a great addition. However, at times I did feel that the author has generalized a lot of the issues we Indians have to deal with, as well as the cultural and traditional variations. The cover is also intriguing and suits the theme of the book I feel.  

Verdict:

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

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

Mid Year Book Freak-Out Tag!

It is July and I know you have heard it everywhere, read it everywhere and felt it yourself too – but my god, the year has passed by in a flash! I mean it was just a few days back, it feel like, when I was preparing for the university fest in February and now, it’s the end of my 4th semester! From August onwards, I will be starting with my 5th semester and that would mean that I will have only a year left for the completion of my Bachelors degree! Whoa! I am feeling as if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed – I was in senior year just a few days ago and it does not feel like 2 years have gone by at all!

So since it is July, I thought why not jump the bandwagon and do the Mid year book freak-out tag myself! Everyone is doing well, and I think it is a great way also to come across new books that might interest you as well! As of June 30th, I have read 119 books in total.  

  1. Best book you have read so far in 2019 – Okay so I am going to cheat on this one and state the best books I read from various genres. I fell in love with LORD OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Andrea Gibson (Poetry), THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon (Fantasy), CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert (Historical Fiction), DARK TALES by Shirley Jackson (Horror), BRAVE, NOT PERFECT by Reshma Saujani (Non-Fiction), FINDING ESME by Suzanne Crowley (Middle-Grade), THE LUPANARIUM by Adele Leigh (Dystopian), and THE STILLWATER GIRLS by Minka Kent (Thriller/Mystery).
  2. Best sequel you have read so far in 2019 – for this I shall go with THE KINGDOM OF COPPER by S. A. Chakraborty. It is the sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS, from THE DAEVABAD TRILOGY, and I rated it 5/5 stars. I am very excited for the last book in this series to come out!
  3. New release you haven’t read but want to – Ah I am hoping to pick up AURORA RISING by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff this week! I have heard nothing but great reviews about this book and I am excited!
  4. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2019 – oh my god! I have a really long list for this one but I’ll include a few ones which I think not very many people are talking about:
    1. WAYWARD SON by Rainbow Rowell, September 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44017627-wayward-son?ac=1&from_search=true
    2. THE WATER DANCER by Ta-Nehisi Coates, September 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43982054-the-water-dancer?from_search=true
    3. NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo, October 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263680-ninth-house?from_search=true
    4. BLOOD HEIR by Amelia Wen Zhao, November 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38205707-blood-heir?from_search=true
    5. THE DEEP by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, November 2019 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42201962-the-deep?from_search=true
  5. Biggest disappointment – well, I cannot really say that there was any such big disappointment. Sure, there were some not great enough reads, but thankfully, I did not come across any book i hated.
  6. Biggest surprise – I will go with POETS, ARTISTS AND LOVERS by Mira Tudor for this. I rated it 5/5 stars and had not at all expected to be bombarded by its excellence. It was an amazing and welcome surprise.
  7. Favourite new author – I am really loving Kerri Maniscalco and Maureen Johnson and I’m slowly going through all their books.
  8. Newest fictional crush – might I say Thomas Cresswell? If you do not know who he is, well, please please please do pick up the STALKING JACK THE RIPPER quartet by Kerri Maniscalco. Its a mix of historical fiction , murder mystery and romance. Amazing series.
  9. Newest favourite character – I think this has to be Vivian Morris from CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert, Angelique from THE DUCHESS by Danielle Steel and Alexandra from THE RIGHT TIME, also by Danielle Steel. I have been loving these amazing women!
  10. Book that made you cry – this has to be YOU WILL BE SAFE HERE  by Damian Barr. It is a wonderfully tragic book and I rated it 5/5 stars. It was an emotional rollercoaster and I was full-on sobbing at some points in the story. If not for the story (which is impossible), you need to read it for the social and historical perspectives. It is so very important.
  11. Book that made you happy – for this, I am going to mention CIRCUS FOLK AND VILLAGE FREAKS by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal, a collection of absurd and weird poetry. So much so, that it is really funny and made me laugh a lot, and very happy at the end.
  12. Favourite book to movie adaptation you saw this year – I’m adding my own twist here. I don’t really watch that many movies and prefer series. So, I watched A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES,  based on the ALL SOULS TRILOGY by Deborah Harkness. Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer are amazing. Somehow, Diana Bishop’s character gives me Bella (from Twilight) vibes. But it was a great season 1 and I’m excited for the next season to come out in late 2019 or early 2020.
  13. Favourite review you have written this year – well, I have three reviews to share. I loved the books and I loved writing about them. And they are CITY OF GIRLS by Elizabeth Gilbert, CIRCUS FOLK AND VILLAGE FREAKS by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal and AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING by Anuradha Roy. (PS. I loved AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING so much that I even gave a class presntation on with. With reference to Indian Writings in English)
  14. Most beautiful book you bought so far this year – for this, I will go with the FingerPrint Classics edition of ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL. It is a beautiful hardcover edition with silver embossed cov er on blue, and silver edges! I simply love it.
  15. What books do you need to read by the end of 2019 – some books I hope to pick up by the end of 2019 are: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC trilogy by V. E. Schwab ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22055262-a-darker-shade-of-magic?from_search=true because I loved her writing in THE NEAR WITCH), THE THORNBIRDS by Colleen McCullough ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/830793.The_Thorn_Birds ), THE WAVES by Virginia Woolf ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/863768.The_Waves ), ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI by Kerri Maniscalco ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37539001-capturing-the-devil?ac=1&from_search=true ), and REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM: THE WOMAN ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17532.Rebecca_Of_Sunnybrook_Farm?from_search=true ) by Eric Wiggin.

I encourage you all to try out this tag!

PS. I am not the creator of the tag; I do not know who that is.

The Intelligence Trap, by David Robson, 2019

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Title: The Intelligence Trap

Author: David Robson

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 337

Synopsis:

‘As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better he is educated, the easier it has been to mystify him,’ Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else-they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the “intelligence trap,” the subject of David Robson’s fascinating and provocative debut.

Packed with cutting-edge research, historical case studies, entertaining stories, and practical advice, The Intelligence Trap explores the flaws in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, and reveals the ways that even the brightest minds and talented organizations can backfire – from some of Thomas Edison’s worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. With a knack for explaining complex ideas and featuring timeless lessons from Socrates to Benjamin Franklin to Richard Feynman and the latest behavioral science, Robson shows how to build a cognitive toolkit to avoid mistakes and protect ourselves from misinformation and fake news.

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 Intelligence Trap was quite the different sort of book I read recently. For one, it wasn’t at all like the self-help book I expected it to be. It was very informative and there were some nice laughs packed in there too. However, I was really discouraged by the beginning which I think was slow and kind of fell flat. On the other hand, the second part becomes more interesting in comparison with various examples put in.

This book basically talks about human stupidity – and how even the most seemingly intelligent people are prone to it. in a way it kind of made me feel that it’s like – common sense is not common, you know. That is to say, stupidity is not that uncommon. Although the informative bits were actually quite very informative in their essence, I think they broke the flow for me while reading and that rather miffed me. However, I do not deny that this was actually an essential read, which unfortunately had some dull bits for me. It talks about many important things such as the importance of the productive struggle, mindfulness, biases we have that influence us so much, self—distancing etc. there were a few concepts that really made me think as well as some that made me just skip those paragraphs.

However, I have no complaints about the writing style. I think that although some jargons were used, the overall language was quite easy to understand and flowed simply well.

I honestly do believe that although this wasn’t the very best read for me, my father might just love it so I’ll surely be giving this to him for reading now.  

Verdict:

I rate this book a 3/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Lost and Found, by Danielle Steel, 2019

Title:  Lost and Found

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 270

Synopsis:

What might have been? That tantalizing question propels a woman on a cross-country adventure to reunite with the men she loved and let go, in Danielle Steel’s exhilarating new novel.

It all starts with a fall from a ladder, in a firehouse in New York City. The firehouse has been converted into a unique Manhattan home and studio where renowned photographer Madison Allen works and lives after raising three children on her own. But the accident, which happens while Maddie is sorting through long-forgotten personal mementos and photos, results in more than a broken ankle. It changes her life.

Spurred by old memories, the forced pause in her demanding schedule, and an argument with her daughter that leads to a rare crisis of confidence, Maddie embarks on a road trip. She hopes to answer questions about the men she loved and might have married—but didn’t—in the years after she was left alone with three young children. Wearing a cast and driving a rented SUV, she sets off to reconnect with three very different men—one in Boston, one in Chicago, and another in Wyoming—to know once and for all if the decisions she made long ago were the right ones. Before moving forward into the future, she is compelled to confront the past.

As the miles and days pass, and with each new encounter, Maddie’s life comes into clearer focus and a new future takes shape. A deeply felt story about love, motherhood, family, and fate, Lost and Found is an irresistible new novel from America’s most dynamic storyteller.

My review:

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

Lost and Found by Danielle Steel is the latest new release from this loved and revered author. I picked it up and finished it under 12 hours, such was the appeal. This was essentially a book of growth and it touched me deeply. It revolves around Maddie and I love how Steel has an older woman as a protagonist (I hardly read much adult fiction and this was among the best ones I have ever read definitely). It taught me that age truly is just a number and unlike my shallow thinking that life gets boring when you hit middle age, it only depends on whether you give up or take life by the horns.

Maddie is an amazing woman with just an amazing story. The author deals with various themes here – familial love, romantic love being the most significant ones. I love how each of the characters and not just Maddie herself, goes through a transformation and ends up a better person than they were before. It shows that it is never too late to try to become a better version of oneself. Deanna’s transformation is the most significant and although I so wanted to bash her up in the beginning I have come to understand her better. I would also love to see Milagra’s own story too. This book just showed so many differences that occur among us and despite it all, it is our love and care for each other that bind us together. One more thing, it is so very important to be kind to others.

The language is easy and flowing as usual. What is important is that every Danielle Steel book has such important lessons, I feel. She never makes it didactic which could have repelled us. Instead, she weaves her words beautifully and relates it with true life. I feel like I always come away a bit wiser and more insightful after reading her books.

Verdict:

I really absolutely loved every bit of this book. I laughed and cried and was sobbing at many parts. I rate this 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Duchess, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Duchess

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan India

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

T he incomparable Danielle Steel breaks new ground as she takes us to nineteenth-century England, where a high-born young woman is forced out into the world–and begins a journey of survival, sensuality, and long-sought justice.

Angelique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angelique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources–and one bold stroke of fortune.

Unable to secure employment without references or connections, Angelique desperately makes her way to Paris, where she rescues a young woman fleeing an abusive madam–and suddenly sees a possibility: Open an elegant house of pleasure that will protect its women and serve only the best clients. With her upper-class breeding, her impeccable style, and her father’s bequest, Angelique creates Le Boudoir, soon a sensational establishment where powerful men, secret desires, and beautiful, sophisticated women come together. But living on the edge of scandal, can she ever make a life of her own–or regain her rightful place in the world?

From England to Paris to New York, Danielle Steel captures an age of upheaval and the struggles of women in a male-ruled society–and paints a captivating portrait of a woman of unquenchable spirit, who in houses great or humble is every ounce a duchess. (less)

My review:

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

The Duchess is one of the best Danielle Steel books I have ever read. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres, apart from women-centric fiction. The Duchess is an amazing combination of both and it kept me hooked in until the very end.

The Duchess is almost a chronicle of the life and times of Angelique, a wonderful woman who is displaced because of dire situations, namely the death of a father, with cruel brothers left behind. Her journey, as such, is made more profound because of this injustice done to her by the people meant to love and support her – her family (brother to be specific). It also sheds light on how vicious jealousy can be – her circumstances become such simply because her elder stepbrother is jealous of the love Angelique and her mother got from their father.

The character arc of Angelique is tremendous. From a meek and nice girl, she transforms into a force of nature, a force to be reckoned with. The makeover part, as she literally starts her new venture is France especially, is one that I loved. This book also shows that there is no pure white and black to things – life is often filled with shades of the colour in-between them.

Her journey is also beautiful. Although it is filled with ups and downs, it is a beautiful portrayal of a life full of adventure and daring. I was ensnared by Angelique and her grit and determination. I absolutely loved reading this book and will probably pick this one up again very soon!

Verdict:

I rate this read 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Dangerous Games, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: Dangerous Games

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Synopsis:

Television correspondent Alix Phillips dodges bullets and breaks rules to bring the most important news to the world. With her daughter in college, and working alongside cameraman Ben Chapman, an ex-Navy Seal, Alix exhilarates in the risks and whirlwind pace of her work. But her latest assignment puts her at the center of an explosive story that will reshape many lives, including her own: investigating damning allegations involving the vice president of the United States, Tony Clark.

Alix starts with a nationally revered woman who may be the key to exposing frightening secrets. Olympia Foster is the fragile, reclusive widow of America’s most admired senator, who had been destined for the presidency before an assassin’s bullet felled him. Since then, Olympia has found emotional support in Clark, who once wanted her as his wife and now stands as her protector and confidant. When Alix begins to dig deeper, federal agents pick up the trail. Then the threats begin.

As the stakes rise in this dangerous game, Alix needs Ben’s help as never before. Soon they realize they are grappling with an adversary far more sinister than they had imagined. 

My review:

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

Dangerous Games is unlike any other Danielle Steel book that I have ever read because this book has an almost thriller-like vibe to it which is quite fast-paced and interesting. As such, I think that thriller lovers would find this book to be a good start if they want to read reading Danielle Steel.

In Dangerous Games, we come across Alix Phillips who is a really genuine and brave news reporter on top of her game. She is really unlike any reporter we might envisage when it comes to the idea of one. She covers dangerous and daring events from around the world, along with her trusted cameraman Ben Chapman. Now Ben is another admirable figure. I love how he is dedicated to his job and respects and appreciates what Alix dos. He just gives off an amazing reliable vibe that I could get even from reading about it.

Olivia Foster is a woman in whom we see the after effects of a great tragedy. She is a kind and brave woman within her own and you cannot help but admire her optimistic and idealistic personality. I found her character very much based on Jackie Kennedy who was a formidable woman in her own rights as well. Danielle Steel has yet again portrayed the various problems people go through, with the help of these people and it is very interesting to see them conquer their inhibitions and come on top.

These characters really felt tangible to my reader senses and this realistic element needs to definitely be applauded. In the end, Danielle Steel has come through as usual with an admirable and strong protagonist, who is just as inspirational a heroine as any other. This is what keeps me coming back to Steel books, again and again (as well as the plot, of course!)

Dangerous Games is a rollercoaster of a ride, and although the beginning is just a teensy bit slow compared to the middle and the end, I quite liked sailing through it. The language was coherent and flowed easily. However, I just did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. There is just not enough conflict in this book, I feel. Something was missing for me.

Verdict:

I rate this book 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 .

The Good Fight, by Danielle Steel, 2018

Title: The Good Fight

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 287

Synopsis:

Against the electrifying backdrop of the 1960s, Danielle Steel unveils the gripping chronicle of a young woman discovering a passion for justice and of the unsung heroes she encounters on her quest to fight the good fight.

The daughter and granddaughter of prominent Manhattan lawyers, Meredith McKenzie is destined for the best of everything: top schools, elite social circles, the perfect marriage. Spending her childhood in Germany as her father prosecutes Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, Meredith soaks up the conflict between good and evil as it plays out in real time. When her family returns to the United States, she begins blazing her own trail, swimming against the tides, spurred on by her freethinking liberal grandfather, determined to become a lawyer despite her traditional, conservative father’s objections. She rebels against her parents’ expectations for her debutante ball and other conventions. She forges a lifelong friendship with a young German Jewish woman whose family died in the concentration camps. And while her grandfather rises to the Supreme Court, Meredith enlists in the most pressing causes of her time, fighting for civil rights and an end to the Vietnam War.

From the bright morning of JFK’s inauguration, through the tumultuous years that follow as America hurtles toward the twin assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Meredith joins the vanguard of a new generation of women, breaking boundaries socially, politically, and professionally. But when the violence of the era strikes too close to home, her once tightly knit family must survive a devastating loss and rethink their own values and traditions in light of the times.

Encompassing the remarkable people Meredith meets, the historic events she witnesses, and the sacrifices she must make, this is the story of a woman changing her world as she herself is changed by it. Beautifully told, brimming with unforgettable moments and characters, The Good Fight is an inspiring, uplifting novel with resonance for our own time.

My review:

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

Let’s talk about what an awesome woman Meredith is! She is determined, passionate, and not afraid to go after what she wants. Danielle Steel has again succeeded in providing us with an admirable young woman as a role model.

What is very important are the issues that we see mentioned in this book. Steel has picked up some very harrowing events in the history of humankind and it is not easy to read about them. The supporting female character of Claudia is a wonderful woman herself – she has been through so much and yet, remains resilient. It really shows how human nature can survive the worst of times and still stand strong and move on. It is poignant and her story is so raw and real.

It also shows how difficult it is for us when a close family member is not willing to let us do what we think is right. Meredith’s father, is one such person, who would rather she graduate and get married. His views are very limited and surprisingly so, considering his work during the Nuremberg trials, and it is too late for change for him. The family tragedy is sad for the reader even and I was affected.

I loved Meredith’s grandfather for being so supportive and encouraging, and being so modern and open-minded in his outlook. He played a very important role in helping Meredith turn out to be the woman she did. I truly admire him.

However, I did find the book repetitive at times and unfortunately, did not enjoy this book as much as I did The Right Time. This book did have many emotions involved and that was a redeeming point. It is also not a very common plotline that Steel generally takes up, I think. Nonetheless, this was a good read overall, but could have been better.

Verdict:

I rated this book 3.5/5 stars. If you love reading bildungsroman with a political bend, this might be the one for you.

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 .

My Danielle Steel COllection!

So I have told you all multiple times about how i inherited quite a few books from my mother’s side of the family. Among them were various editions of Danielle Steel. Now, I was very young back then and so my Mom would not let me read Steel. But now, after I appeared for my 10 Finals, I was basically given free reign to read whatever I wanted.

So here are the few Danielle Steel books I own today (1 to 6 are old old editions):

  1. Season of Passion, 1979
  2. A Perfect Stranger, 1982
  3. The Gift, 1994
  4. Special Delivery, 1997 (This book was tagged at just 60INR!)
  5. The Klone and I, 1998 ( This book was tagged at just 50INR!)
  6. Bittersweet, 1999
  7. Dangerous Games, 2017
  8. The Duchess, 2017
  9. The Right Time, 2017
  10. The Good Fight, 2018
  11. Lost and Found, 2019

So I have been reading the last 5 above mentioned books for the #lostandfoundreadathon and I have been loving it. Steel has a way of writing that just touches your heart and makes you relate so easily!

Have you read any of these? Do you enjoy reading Danielle Steel books as well?

The Right Time, by Danielle Steel, 2017

Title: The Right Time

Author: Danielle Steel

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: General Literature/ Women Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 325

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Danielle Steel Readathon!

✨🎇🎆🎉🎊
Annnndddd!
Are you ready to hear about an amazing readathon??
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@panmacmillanindia is hosting the #lostandfoundreadathon along with a few bookstagrammers, including yours truly!
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Did you know that @writer.daniellesteel ‘s new book LOST AND FOUND is coming out soon?
I bet so many of you all love her writing, and moreover, so many of our mothers love her too! My own mother’s and aunt’s collection of #daniellesteel books have been passed down to me and I have some great vintage copies! I’ll surely share them soon! (Click here to see my Danielle Steel book collection!)
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So, for this readathon, I’ll be picking up a total of 4 books, and they are-
1. The Right Time (see review)
2. The Good Fight (see review)
3. The Duchess (see review)
4. And ofcourse, Lost and Found! (see review)

I actually ended up reading one more book by Steel – Dangerous Games! (see review)

The readathon ends on 30th of June and I’m so excited to be picking up these books. The top 3 have a female protagonist is the stories are about their coming of age, you could say, whether physically, emotionally, or psychology! I love these kinds of stories!
PS. I’m actually planning on going into #lostandfound blind so no surprises please!!
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You just need to pick up any of the author’s book and tag me, @panmacmillanindia and @writer.daniellesteel in your posts! Don’t forget to use #lostandfoundreadathon !
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#qotd : are you planning on participating in any other readathons this year?

Womb of Fireflies , by Ambika Barman, 2019

Title: Womb of Fireflies

Author: Ambika Barman

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Genre: General fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 161

Synopsis:

There were no fireflies to belittle themselves in front of the morning sun all gone. After all, that’s what the sun promises, to hide the weakest under his light.” – (Womb of Fireflies) What is Sundarbans, and those scattered islands to you? Amidst all the known and unknown voices, the single sound came out to be that of a green, mysterious forest, grooming with Sundari trees, the roar of the Royal Bengal Tiger, noises of Pankouri, and the beautiful color of sun diving deep inside the waters. But this wasn’t my Sundarbans. My Sundarbans was all about those humans, the people living, surviving, bearing their pains, yet loving each other from their hearts. These 22 years of living, so far, yet so close to the heart of the Sundarbans, compelled me to write all about them. This is all they had, could have or could never have as I still take the shadow of my people, my roots and my Sundarbans to Delhi. Read the journey of Alok, his beloved Snehalata, the pains of his mother and tales of child-biases born out of marriage done at an age where what marriage meant didn’t make sense to her. 

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.

Womb of Fireflies was a quick albeit deep read. With brilliant imagery and a touch of magical realism, this book was a powerful debut definitely. For a first timer, this book was a great work and I enjoyed reading it although I hated what some of the characters had to go through – it was just so heartbreaking. On that note, the book lends an objective tone. What I have loved is that the author shows, rather than tells and it ensures that the emotions that the reader feels are raw and poignant.

The major themes that run throughout the book are the social evils of child marriage and inter-community mixing, the taboos related to it, etc. Through the characters of Alok, his beloved Snhehalata, as well as Hari and his wife Pranati, the author ropes in various sides to the story and gives and altogether fantastic arc to them all. The characterization is also on point.

This was an emotional and very good read. The author has been able to juxtapose the harsh realities of life quite well against the beautiful setting of the mysterious and beautiful Sunderbans.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading this book and I rate it 4/5 stars!

Book Recommendations for Father’s Day!

So tomorrow’s Father’s Day and I had compiled a list of books I could possibly gift him. I know it’s last minute, but here they are! (This article also got published in my State’s daily The Assam Tribune and my dad was very happy!)

I am not ashamed to say that no man I ever met was my father’s equal, and I never loved any other man as much. – Hedy Lamarr

Now that Father’s Day is just around the corner, I was wondering what book to give my dad (I honestly, personally, only give books as gifts to people). And so I thought why not compile a list to help you all as well. Very often we take our main man for granted and I know there are many people who say that we should love each other every day as opposed to showing it on special days only. Nevertheless, to be honest, even I do not show my love and gratitude everyday – human nature is fickle, and I am no exception. Therefore, without further ado, here is a list of books that I think would go well with our heroes.

Non-fiction

Can You Die of a Broken Heart? by Dr Nikki Stamp

I know it sounds sordid but this is one of the books I shall be gifting to mine. So very often, our fathers stress and work so much, they hardly give themselves time. Self-love sessions are rare in their schedules. So this book, which is focused on the human heart – what causes it harm and what heals it, sounds like the perfect one to gift.

Between You and Me: Flight to Societal Moksha by Atul Khanna

This book is a very nagging read and provides an insight into the political, social, educational, economic etc. spheres in today’s world. Whether you agree with the writer’s views or not, this is sure to spark questions and subsequent discussions.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

This book was  actually recommended to me by my grandfather and since he loved it and I enjoyed it too, I recommend this to you all as well. This is a wonderful read, full of stories from history regarding religion, culture, society etc.

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani

This is a book about women, but it is definitely a must-read for everyone. It speaks of the need that no many women have to be perfect and this prevents them from really succeeding or affects their self-esteem. I thought this was a great read and definitely recommend it to you all. Moreover, if you know any new dads, this is a definite recommendation for them as well. I think that basically all fathers with daughters should read this one.

Chicken… made simple by Love Food, an imprint of Paragon Books

If you dad is anything like mine, he will probably love this book. There are also various other cookbooks you can possibly gift your chef of a dad, but I personally have used and loved this one.

Fiction

Fortune’s Soldier by Alex Rutherford

Adventure set in Colonial India? Check. Some great bromance? Check. A quest for power? Check! Fortune’s Soldier is a great read following the events leading up to the British victory at Plassey – the prelude to a couple centuries of British rule in India.

The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

A murder mystery in the mountains with a professor running against time sounds interesting. Add to that a possible variable of a grizzly gone rogue and computational biology. The Naturalist is a gripping mystery thriller that is bound to keep your old man interested from the beginning till the end.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

If your father is a Dan Brown fan, or if you think he will enjoy that author, you might opt to pick up The Book of Fate too. It has a very Dan Brown vibe and  is also already a bestseller. Moreover, if you father loves conspiracies, how does the element of the Masons included in this book, sound?

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

A witty and darkly humourous journey of a man in new India is a must-read for everyone. It is funny, but so dark and I personally rather found it inspiring at parts. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable read with just the right amount of stark reality carved in.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

It is never too late to start with Murakami. Norwegian Wood is pretty short so it might be a good place to start with and to understand if you want to continue with Murakami or not.

The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.  Antoine- Francois Prevost

Circus Folk and Village Freaks, by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal, 2018

Title: Circus Folk and Village Freaks

Author: Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Genre: Poetry

Format:  Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 155

Recommended for: For mature readers

Synopsis:

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

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.

Sanyal has played with magic to deliver to us a tale of absurd and unbelievable men and women, monsters and pets. Transformation from man to animal, man to monster etc. run rife throughout the “18 twisted tales” and provides an enjoyable and funny read.

Under these trivial and funny stories though, lies witty undertones, which are deep and metaphorical in the essence. The various themes I interpreted in the book include, but are not limited to, capitalist nature or bend of mind, issues of abandonment and finding one’s true calling, homosexuality, society’s reaction against this ‘perversion’, and suicide, the issue of one’s identity, love, depression and mental illness, being oppressed by the desires of tour elders, ambition, substance abuse and abuse of various other kinds, emotional trauma, acceptance of oneself no matter how different from the general populace, Divine Providence, karma, revenge, passion, as well as, class/caste importance in society, and most importantly, funny ways of including the gastronomical tales of food.

I absolutely enjoyed the book. Sanyal’s writing is immersive and I finished this book in one sitting, such was my undivided attention. The topics chosen by the author are easy for the general reader to dive into. Moreover, especially since they are on the ones society calls the ‘freaks’, it is a powerful collection. The verse is lyrical and rhyming and thus, sounds so musical. I definitely recommend reciting these out loud. It’s a magical experience.

My absolute favorite poems from here are The Unlikely Love Story of Lingam, and Jeeva, The Elephant Man. From the name itself then, it is not curious enough?

Verdict:

I loved reading this book and I rated it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert, 2019

Title: City of Girls

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Published on: 4th June, 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages:  470

Synopsis:

From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Loveand The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.

“Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.”

Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. “At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

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.

City Of Girls is part memoir, and part coming-of-age. It is narrated by Vivian Louise Morris, who is now an old lady of 95. From the beginning itself, we see Vivian as a very practical, matter-of-fact woman, who accepts things as they are. Of course, it was not always so. However, she was always a confident woman with her self-esteem intact and on point. In the very first page itself, she says –

“I was always pretty Angela. What’s more, I always knew it.”

Of course that may come off as something a narcissistic person would say, but Vivian was a good person, essentially. And besides, it is nice to read about women who love themselves as they are – quite rare to find that kind today – we all have so many doubts about ourselves, with our looks and bodies, etc.

Easter eggs in the book were the mentions of Gone With The Wind as well as the people associated with it. In a way, Vivian is a foil, or rather somewhat of a modern-day version of Scarlett O’Hara herself.

Dealing with trauma is something that is shown multiple times in the book, although very subtly as undercurrents that determine the actions of the characters. Vivian herself never thought much of her grandmother’s death and how it affected her much – she herself says that it was only then as she narrated her life, that she understood how very sad and bereft she had felt and not even recognized (another effect of being brought up WASP style, I assume!). Later on, after that ‘bitterly regrettable’ mistake, and the comment of one silly boy, we see her suffer. Depression is not really mentioned here, but I do think that Vivian was very depressed for a time. It also shows how some careless words from the mouth of any careless person can affect people. Celia is a character who seems very shallow in the first few instances. But she has admittedly been through so much dark stuff as Vivian later realizes – her trauma is not much explored in the book but I’d love to read about her story. Addiction is another lesser theme I saw through Peg. Her addiction to alcohol is crippling.

Later on, when we see Vivian and Celia get punished for their actions, we confront the hypocrisy of the society, just as the character mentions, the women are always punished but the men get away scot-free with it. And that was so very relatable.

Marjorie is a character I absolutely loved. She is witty and wise and knows what she wants, most importantly, she never cows away from society and its expectations – she has never been afraid of being different even at the cost of being weird and alternate to society’s rules for women. Later on, she does what she wants with her baby and makes her own way despite the fact that society frowned upon it. She accepts herself and is not afraid of being alone – rather she is very comfortable with it. Vivian and Marjorie’s talks are really illuminating, I feel, especially the one they have on page 335.

Olive is another one of the powerful females who is not at all afraid of being herself. She is an admirable lady, responsible and completely different from the rest of the ‘theatre folk’ and I loved this juxtaposition the author played with. Billy is an irresponsible person, as Arthur an idiot and I just couldn’t help but laugh and get frustrated with them at times. Edna is charismatic and I understand that many may have a second thought, but I understand her actions later on in the story and where she comes from. The LGBTQ+ angle is well threaded into the narrative and it is a great addition in some of the characters’ arcs.

One of the most important lessons though is that some wounds simply never heal. They get old and we get used to the dull pain but the chafing, if we notice, never goes away completely. We may forget but that doesn’t mean they go away entirely.  

I had also been watching Sex and the City series simultaneously while I had been reading the book and it was a powerful combo. They reinforce the fact that it is very important for us women to just be ourselves and not be afraid of being alone. It was an illuminating experience for me overall and I shall definitely be returning to this book whenever I feel doubtful of myself and need some womanly inspiration!

Verdict:

I think this is one of the best books I have ever read in this genre. I rate it 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 .

Upon A Burning Throne (Part 1 of The Burnt Empire Saga), by Ashok K Banker, 2019

Title: Upon A Burning Throne (Part 1 of The Burnt Empire Saga)

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Historical fiction

Format: Papaerback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

Recommended for: If you are a fan of mythology and fantasy, as well as fiction, this is definitely a book you need to pick up ASAP!

Synopsis:

From international sensation Ashok K. Banker, pioneer of the fantasy genre in India, comes the first book in a ground-breaking, epic fantasy series inspired by the ancient Indian classic, The Mahabharata

In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the Emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without an emperor. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule, but birthright does not guarantee inheritance: For any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible—one that incinerates the unworthy.
 
Adri and Shvate pass The Test and are declared heirs to the empire… but there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives: a girl from an outlying kingdom. When this girl, whose father is the powerful demonlord Jarsun, is denied her claim by the interim leaders, Jarsun declares war, vowing to tear the Burnt Empire apart—leaving the young princes Adri and Shvate to rule a shattered realm embroiled in rebellion and chaos….  
 
Welcome to the Burnt Empire Saga.

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.

Let me begin by saying that this is a wonderful book inspired by just as wonderful an epic. Banker’s writing style is mesmerizing and having already read and loved a book of him, I was excited to see how this would turn out. And believe me, my expectations were set, but Bakeer flew way above those.

Let’s talk about the world-building first. Banker is meticulous with his description of the world in the book – Arthaloka. His attention to detail is uniquely reflected in the plotline and the reader’s imagination’s eye. I believe that in any fantasy, one of the most important things is the world building and Banker has done it exceptionally well. It ensnares you completely and without any possible exit. He makes sure that the reader is always intrigued and just cannot help but flip the page and continue reading, despite the fact that its way past their bedtime. The foreshadowing one understands when one finishes reading the book will definitely give you a huge realization moment – your own anagnorisis!

The characters again are all modeled after the famous mythical characters in the Mahabharata, but with their own special Banker seasoning. Throughout the novel, the character arc develop and at the end (which ends in a cliffhanger that has me kind of despondent until the next book comes out), these characters have gone on their journeys, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, and they reflect in them. We lose some dear characters but in fantasy, that is expected I suppose. I personally think that Jilana is a misunderstood character but that is a personal perception. Drawing parallels between Banker’s characters and the ones from the epic most of us already heard from our elders when we were children, was fascinating to say the least.

The themes of survival, war, human resilience in the face of decisions, the position of women, societal pressure, Divine Providence, etc are all covered and seen affecting the stories of all the characters. What I also love is that there is no longer any binary – a strict division between what is solely good and what is evil. Everyone is drawn to a point where they have to or have already made decisions that were not truly evil but not right, either. The moral conundrum that we humans face is on point in this book – it is dubious, the decisions we personally make sometimes as well as the ones made by the characters in this book.

There are so many storylines that are interconnected that it a veritable atlas of fascinating stories that will offer you a maelstrom of different emotions as you read through.

The cover is just as vivid and really emulates the story, I think.

Verdict:

I enjoyed reading this thrilling ride of a book and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Author. Over 70 books 3 million copies 21 languages 62 countries.

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 .

May 2019 Book-Haul, Part-2!

Hey guys!

Like I said in the earlier haul post, let’s continue with the health-chat. So currently, I’m working out everyday, and have a proper 8 hour sleep every night. I admit I have been seeing results – I do not feel lazy like I used to earlier and I am so happy that my productivity has risen. As for food, I have cut down a lot on sodium, fast food and thus totally removed MSG from my intake. As for drugs, I take Omega fatty acid pills and Vitamin-C supplements. I have also seen a great development in my skin and I’m ecstatic.

Moving on, here is #part2 of my #maybookhaul . Here are some of the books from the 14 that I acquired this month.

  1. Panir Majot Hema Malini by Ira Das
  2. Ananya by Tridip Goswami
  3. Wake Up, Life is Calling by Preeti Shenoy! (And it is signed!)
  4. 100 of the World’s Greatest Poems by FingerPrint Publications
  5. Mehboob Murderer by Nupur Anand (I really enjoyed reading this book!
  6. Give Your Heart a Break, by Anuj Tiwari

I am so happy these beautiful editions are mine now! Aren’t they a sight for sore eyes?!

May 2019 Wrap-Up!

Eid Mubarak guys! I wish you and all your families happiness and all the love and success in the world.

#qotd : How did you spend this beautiful day?

I am so grateful to have been able to spend the day with my dear friends. We had a great time eating, talking and basically catching up. It was also a sort of get-together after a long time and I am so very happy. I took a lot of pictures too for memories’ sake.

Moving on, here are the books I read in May. They were a total of 16 books and I think May went quite well in terms of reading, considering the fact that it was my last month of classes before finals and I had to run around writing and finishing essays and presentations and surveys and other assignments and so on…

  1. Happily and Madly by Alexix Bass(Review)
  2. They Go to Sleep by Saugata Chakraborty (Review)
  3. Sleepless Beauty by Rajesh Talwar (Review)
  4. Ambrosia Sides by Abhijita Kulshrestha (Review)
  5. The Women Who Ruled India by Archana Garodia Gupta(Review)
  6. Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Slater(Review)
  7. The Holy Shit Moment by James Fell (Review)
  8. Fluid by Ashish Jaiswal (Review)
  9. Behind Her Back by Jane Lythell (Review)
  10. Tied Hearts by Vikram Singh (Review)
  11. Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter by Debeshi Gooptu (Review)
  12. The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve (Review)
  13. Mehboob Murderer by Nupur Anand (Review)
  14. Give Your Heart a Break by Anuj Tiwari (Review)
  15. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln (Review)
  16. The Voice of Silence by Rishaj Dubey (Review)

I am really happy with my reading, and can only hope that I can read as many if not at least half of this number of books.