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

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

What if it's you?
What if it’s you?

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

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

Check out the book on Goodreads

Buy the book on Amazon

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

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

Progress in this modern gender-swap fairytale

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

Themes, characters in this gender-swap tale

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

A fantastic modern-day gender-swap YA story!

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

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

An Interview with the author: Mitali Meelan

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

When did you realize you needed to write?

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

What would you say your writing process is like?

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

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

Any special quirks while you write?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite books?

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

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

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

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

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

What if it’s you? synopsis

A retelling of Cinderella with role reversal set in contemporary India

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

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

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

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

Another Thriller: You Beneath Your Skin

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

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

Why pick up this thriller:

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

A slow beginning:

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

Plot and themes:

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

Writing style and title:

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

Verdict:

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

Links:

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

Similar reads:

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

NonFiction November Recommendations!

Nonfiction November is here and I have got some amazing nonfiction recommendations for you all! I hope you all have a blast reading these books!

nonfiction november
NonFiction November recommendations

Reading nonfiction is hard!

I feel like 2019 has gone by so fast. November is here; half of it is already gone and it is only now that I am making the #nonfictionnovember recommendations post! I know from personal experience that reading this genre can be quite intimidating for some of us. But for those of you who read non-fiction very often, I applaud you!

How to ease into this genre

Since easing into this genre may take some getting used to for many of us, I decided to compile a list of some non-fiction reads, which do not really read as such. So without further ado, here are some books I have read and some that are on my radar!

Craft!

Embroidered Life: The Art of Sarah K. Benning – a splendidly created coffee table book, Embroidered Life follows the work process of Benning. Benning is a self-taught embroidery artist nad this book is a wonderful book to leaf through. If you are looking for something creative to pick up to while the harsh winter months away, this might just be the book for you. I for one, am currently working on an embroidery project of my own, which I hope to complete and show you all soon! (Goodreads)

Sci-fi!

Lost Transmissions: Science Fiction and Fantasy’s Untold, Underground and Forgotten History – a book which I am absolutely thrilled to pick this month is this insightful behemoth. It is rightly regarded as the bible of science fiction and fantasy’s most interesting and least-known chapters.   I have very high hopes for this mixture of essays, interviews, and stunning visuals! (Goodreads)

Memoirs!

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay’s searingly honest memoir of food, weight, and self-image has been described as being intimate, vulnerable, and bracingly candour. Having read excerpts of Bad Feminist, I am pretty excited to see how this much-acclaimed memoir will be for me. (Goodreads)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. I decided that no matter what I write could trump this brilliant description of the King’s book. I have yet to read any of his books so I think I will change that situation by picking up this one. (Goodreads)

I’m Not Here to Give a Speech – Garcia Marquez is already a much well-acclaimed author. And I think it is an ironically named book! This is his collection of speeches span from his high school days to his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. If you have not yet read any of Marquez’s words, perhaps this could be great for you to start with. (Goodreads)

Important works!

City of my Heart – a 4 star read for me, this book is a translation of four texts that talk about Dilli (or Delhi, as it is now known), following the downfall and the fate of royalty following the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, with the capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar. (Goodreads)

I am Malala and We Are Displaced – Malala is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the fact that I have yet to read her books, meant I just had to get to them this month. Both of these two books are a conglomerate of the global issues of terrorism, the utter destruction it causes to the innocents of lives all around, immigration crisis, etc. It also speaks of the displacement issue that crops up with it,  war, the refugee situation, border conflict, etc.

Feminist works!

Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More and Live Bolder – a 5 star read that I’d recommend to all! It was a fundamental and impactful read that I loved. It talks about the unexplainable need for perfectionism (which is prevalent in all of us), albeit a bit more obsessively in girls. Please pick up this book! It would be a shame if we fail to read it and realize the way most of us limit ourselves. (Goodreads)

Feminist Rani – Can I brag that I have already met the author and got this signed? Shamefully, I haven’t read it yet! Perhaps there is no better time than this November! It shares the stories of 15 women – women who have strived to fight for their own rights to stand as equals to men. They talk of issues such as identity, the need for the realization of selfhood, etc. (Goodreads)

A few other recommendations!

Some other books I could recommend are Becoming (I personally think all schools should make this a compulsory read), Soliloquy of a Small-town Uncivil Servant, Girl Power, Between You And Me, etc. You can also check out Can You Die of a Broken Heart?, Kashmir’s Untold Story, The Case that Shook the Empire, The Intelligence Trap, etc.

Please don’t forget to comment below and recommend the nonfiction books that you have read as well.

Girl Power: A Volume of Female Empowerment

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

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

Female Empowerment and GIRL POWER

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

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

Female empowerment through a diverse bunch of women

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

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

Splendid illustrations

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

Click here to check out my review on Unstoppable!

Inspiring and phenomenal!

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

My verdict

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

Get the book on Amazon!

Update it on your Goodreads!

Mesmerizing poetry: The Octopus Curse

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

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

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

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

Through the vacuum.

Through the void.

Sometimes the words I write,

Fall over the heads of a heedless crowd.

But, I lay them clear,

And I ink them loud,

Because I don’t require being heard,

I only (desperately) need

To right.

-‘Catharsis’

Lyrical poetry

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

How stunted,

Limited,

This language is!

I have searched and searched

But, never found a word

For pain coming so surely,

That you feel it already,

Long before it

Even arrives.

-‘Visceral’

Aesthetic:

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

I pray that death be kind,

Not as much to the buried,

As to those left behind.

-‘Funerals are for the living’

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

You lift your chin up

Like the cocking of a gun

Your eyes flash the coldest fire,

Your words erupt,

The hottest ice.

I see you wear your anger

Like a bulletproof vest

Over your pain; I must say,

Even as you walk away,

It looks bloody glorious

On you

-‘Woman’

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

Dalal’s Street: A satirical extravaganza

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

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

Synopsis of this satirical read:

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

A satirical read

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

Plot:

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

The downfall

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

Writing Satire

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

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

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

Fantastic cover:

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

Pre-order goodies:

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

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

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

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

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

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

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

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

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

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

Indistractable : A disappointment!

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

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

Synopsis:

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

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

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

About the reviewer:

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

A beautiful Family saga: The Dutch House

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

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

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

The Dutch House

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

The Dutch House’s meaning

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

The characters of Sandy and Jocelyn

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

The bold and brave: Maeve

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

The indulged brother: Danny

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

The evil stepmother: Andrea

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

The Dutch House is a beautiful book

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

I rate it 4/5 stars!

Links: Amazon, Goodreads

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

Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified, A review

Title: Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified

Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate it book a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The 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 .

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 .

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.

Adity Kay's Emperor Chandragupta & Emperor Vikramaditya

Title: Emperor Chandragupta, Emperor Vikramaditya

Author: Adity Kay

Publisher: Hachette

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Paperback

Synopsis of Emperor Chandragupta, 2016:

Building an empire is not easy, especially when there are enemies everywhere and no one you can trust. India, 326 BCE. The world’s greatest conqueror, Alexander, the Greek emperor, is at its doorstep, having arrived at the Indus seeking to establish his dominion over the entire known world. In the east lies Magadha, ruled by the Nandas, a dynasty driven by greed, lust and hunger for power.  From the embers of that lust and avarice a boy has been born, raised by a tribe of peacock-tamers – a boy named Moriya forced by the Nanda clan to be on the run. Aided by Chanakya, a political strategist at odds with his former rulers, who trains him in the ways of the world and christens him Chandragupta, the young man ventures across the vast Magadhan empire to form an army of his own and seek out the foreign invader. But being a warrior prince, he finds, comes at a heavy price – assassins appointed by the Nanda kings will stop at nothing to eliminate him, a rival prince seeks revenge through cruelty and friends are no longer what they seem… 

This is the story of a youth who must fight against all odds – within and without – to become one of the greatest emperors ever known. This is the story of Chandragupta Maurya. 

Synopsis of Emperor Vikramaditya, 2019:

Love. Family. Home. Chandra has sacrificed it all at the altar of duty. now, he has to choose between duty and justice. India, fourth century CE. Peace reigns in the land of Magadha, under the rule of Emperor Samudragupta. New alliances are made every day, trade and the arts flourish, and Chandra ? the young prince ? leads his father?s horse across the length of Bharatvarsha as a part of the ashwamedha yagna, cementing the emperor?s influence. The kingdom is at its peak, but Chandra?s thoughts are clouded, his heart heavy. As his elder brother, Ramagupta, prepares to take their ageing father?s place on the throne, Chandra, bound as he is to obey the future king, wrestles constantly with his brother?s decisions ? decisions he believes are inimical to the stability of the empire. And so begins a tale of conflict between two brothers: one drunk on power, buoyed by the unmitigated support of the Pataliputra court, the other a seeming outsider in the palace, who yet commands the people?s loyalty and love. And when an enemy unlike any before rises to challenge the Guptas? might, Chandra must overcome his demons in order to protect his people and become a king in his own right ? he must become Vikramaditya. 

A brilliant new historical fiction series by Adity Kay, Emperor Chandragupta and Emperor Vikramaditya, is filled with action, adventure, battles, politics, and family drama! I had great fun curling up with these as the heavens poured outside, and even as the sun shined on. 

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

My review for Emperor Chandragupta:

In Emperor Chandragupta, we follow the young Moriya, as the eponymous  ruler was known back when he was a child, growing up in a tribe of peacock tamers, from his childhood to his mighty reign over the great kingdom of India. This journey from such obscurity is a long and arduous one and  the author has successfully touched upon most, if not all, of the important events from is life.

The atmospheric sense is amazing. The description of the world is enough to make you feel as if you are part of the India of those times, and the events are happening in your own lifetime. The ambience is glorious and encompasses the extravagant courts at Pataliputra and Alexander’s camp, as well as the natural scenes of the dry deserts of the west.

The characterization of Chandragupta and Chanakya was profound. Aided by his mentor, Chandragupta ultimately overpowers the great Magadhan Empire. The interrelationships among the various other characters were also well explored, although a few could have seen more depth. The political aspect, which is undoubtedly one of the most important in a novel of this type, was also well portrayed through the various glimpses into the administrative system, the perception of dharma and how it influences human actions, the search for allies etc was on point. There is adventure as well, and action, that is bound to keep you in the edge of your seats.

My review for Emperor Vikramaditya:

A prequel to Emperor Chandragupta, Adity Kay’s Emperor Vikramaditya was a well awaited book for me. I had picked up the first book and was mesmerized by it. So after finishing that one, I was absolutely very excited to pick up the sequel as well.

Vikramaditya is the younger son of King Samudragupta, he was also called the Chandragupta II. Throughout this book we see the constant struggles he faces – it is a lot about people facing their fears I suppose. Chandra does not at all agree with his elder brother Ramagupta’s viewpoints. Like Dumbledore once said, it is easy to rise up against one’s enemies, but the greatest courage lies in standing up against one’s friends. Likewise, as Ramagupta starts making decisions, which are harmful for the country in the long term, young Chandra has to plunge headfirst into trying to stand up against what he believes are wrong views of his profligate brother.

With a lucid writing style, Adity Kay has again managed to drown the readers into the story of this legendary figure in India’s history. The gripping narrative is supported by a great plotline, full of emotions that are real and so very relatable, with characters that feel so real you could probably touch them, and dialogues. Filled to the brim with action and adventure, Emperor Vikramaditya was a stunning sequel to the first book in the series – Emperor Chandragupta.

Verdict:

I had an amazing time, reading the books. I rate them both 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 .

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 .

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!

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 .

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 .

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 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?

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 Book-Haul, Part-1!

Hey guys!

It seems like it was only a few days ago that 2019 actually started but now we’re almost halfway into the year. Time does fly fast, I guess! I’m going to appear for my 3rd semester finals soon and I am kind of tensed (obviously!). Finals week is damn hectic. I’ve also been going to the gym regularly now and I feel great. It’s worked a lot on my health – my sleep pattern specifically, because I don’t like to sleep at all, but now I am so tired by the time it’s 11/12, I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow! I’ll continue with the health stuff in another post, but for todays #qotd , do tell – what are you doing for your physical health these days (I’m asking because resolutions mostly wear off by the time April rolls in!)

Moving on, here is #part1 of my #maybookhaul . I got a total of 14 new books in May (including review copies, books I bought for myself and also a couple for gifting purposes)

  1. The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve – thanks to Bloomsbury!
  2. Circus Folk and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal – thank you so much! And isn’t that a beautiful cover?!
  3. Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K Banker- thanks to Simon&Schuster! It is my current read and I am immensely enjoying it!
  4. The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph – Thanks to my friend to lending it to me!
  5. Womb of Butterflies by Ambika Barman – Thanks a lot for sending me this book! Eager to pick it up soon!
  6. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – I love this book and I already own a copy but I just had to buy this beautiful edition by FingerPrint Publications!
  7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  8. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – I bought these 2 ACs to gift them to my friends actually, and I’m happy to say that they both loved them!

So, I’ll share the other books day after tomorrow in another post! I love displaying the book cover instead of just the spines and so many of you seem to love it too!

Mehboob Murderer, by Nupur Anand, 2019

Title: Mehboob Murderer

Author: Nupur Anand

Publisher: Om Books International

Published on: 16th March 2019

Genre: Crime thriller/ adult fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 282

Synopsis:

On a rainy September night, six people are gunned down mercilessly in an old Parsi cafe in Mumbai. The mass murder at Cafe Mehboob, located barely a few hundred meters from the police station, and right next to one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai, jolts the city out of its complacence. The media immediately swings into action, while political pressure mounts on the police force to nab the murderer.

With everyone eager to place the blame of the murders on a madman in a bid to have the case dismissed swiftly, the headstrong inspector Intekhaab Abbas is determined to get to the bottom of the murders. On probing the lives of the victims, he stumbles upon a heady cocktail of love, lust, jealousy, betrayal, rage, longing, misery and ecstasy.

Mehboob Murderer, Nupur Anand’s debut novel, unravels a stunning truth neither the police nor the reader is prepared for.

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.

Mehboob Murderer was an exhilarating read. With a deadline looming over us all, the thriller goes on a pace, which seems nail-bitingly slow and yet we keep at the edge of our seats, expecting some revelation to jump up at us suddenly from around the corner.

Through the various characters that the author introduces to us, she also points out many issues and situations that prevail in the society – which are not necessarily good but rather, inhumane and evil.

Natasha seems like the perfect career-woman who has it all – she is successful and single and happy. However, after the mass murder as the police delve into the lives of all these people, we find murky realities behind them all. Natasha’s past throws light on abuse in a relationship – physical, mental and also sexual. The patriarchal expectations and such, set upon her by Aneesh were also disgusting. Moreover, the embezzling of her personal funds further degrade the personality of Aneesh and forms himself as the lowest of the scum.  

Alam is no better than Aneesh. Sexual harassment, rape and molestation also occurs within the home itself and the author has brought in this through the back story of Alam. How someone can abuse the women and children within their own family is stupefying to believe really.

 Mental health is another theme that the writer brings in through Sujata and her needs. Vikram has a creative streak in him that really helps and adds some joy and lightness to this otherwise heavy read.

Again, the story of a father whose daughter has been raped and then murdered is a cruel one and we see an old yet probably determined Praveen Bharadwaj. Then again, the realization of parents that their kids are not really kids anymore and have a secret and private life of their own is a bit heartbreaking.

The flesh trade or rather, prostitution is the oldest job in the world and we see the fate of a pair of brother and sister as it takes over their lives and they let it – because there is no other way in which they can possibly otherwise make enough money.

It is a heartbreaking novel for sure; as we read through and find out more about all the people murdered in the mass murder at Mehboob Café, we see different phases of life that different people face.

I love how the author has brought in so many aspects of society through all these different people and then tied them together in unity in a story of madness and rage and revenge. I did not at all expect the murderer to be who he was. Not even for a moment did I think that it could have been him. Kudos to the author for being able to keep the identity of the murderer under wraps, until the very end when she reveals it amidst one last drink all the police men have.  The characterization of the city Mumbai is also on point. With a simple and lucid writing style, and that dramatic ending, I think the book was awesome.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed it and I hope to pick up more of the author’s books.  

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 Anarchists’ Club, by Alex Reeve, 2019

Title: The Anarchists’ Club

Author: Alex Reeve

Publisher: Raven Books

Published on: 2nd May, 2019

Genre: Historical Crime

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 370 (in proof copy)

Synopsis:

It’s been a year since Leo Stanhope lost the woman he loved, and came closing to losing his own life. Now, more than ever, he is determined to keep his head down and stay safe, without risking those he holds dear. But Leo’s hopes for peace and security are shattered when the police unexpectedly arrive at his lodgings: a woman has been found murdered at a club for anarchists, and Leo’s address is in her purse. When Leo is taken to the club by the police, he is shocked to discover there a man from his past, a man who knows Leo’s birth identity. And if Leo does not provide him with an alibi for the night of the woman’s killing, he is going to share this information with the authorities.

If Leo’s true identity is unmasked, he will be thrown into an asylum, but if he lies… will he be protecting a murderer? 

My review:

I received an Uncorrected Proof copy from Bloomsbury in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Recently I have been watching crime thrillers on Netflix and I was only very delighted to pick up The Anarchists’ Club by Alex Reeve. I had not read the prequel to this – The House on Half Mon Street, and so I kind of went in pretty blind. This book has a really original voice, I feel, and it was so atmospheric that I felt as if I was with Leo in London, investigating this crime.

In the backdrop, we see a radical rising, what today we can call a Socialist uprising and having read Dickens, I guess I can say that Reeve might have made him make a run for his money!

Moreover, since I had not read the first book in this Leo Stanhope series, I was surprised when I realized the identity of the protagonist. I have never read of transgender people in those times and I’m sure that so many of have not either. I have always wondered and thus, reading this book made me realize what a serious ‘problem’ it might have been in those times – to be born as such. The author has also brought in another LGBTQ person in Peregrine Black, who is a bisexual an and it is interesting to read about him.

The author has also brought in the angle of family drama and it is just as interesting. The narrative is very gripping and as we rush along with Mr. Stanhope, we are compelled to turn the pages – ‘just on more chapter’ albeit the fact that its half past 2 at night!

The plot is well made and I was totally clueless until the very end. The narrative structure is very engaging as well – you cannot help but be a part of this mystery and have your heart thudding just like Mr. Stanhope, afraid that your hiding place may be discovered!
This was a greatly enjoyable read for me and I’m hoping to pick up the prequel soon!

Verdict:

I had no option but dived right in – such is this read. I really recommend it to all crime-thriller lovers and hope that you will enjoy it just as much as I did. 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 .

Every Ugly Word , by Aimee L. Slater, 2014

Title: Every Ugly Word

Author: Aimee L. Slater

Publisher: Alloy Entertainment

Genre: Contemporary/Mental-health/YA

Format: Kindle e-book

Language: English

No. of pages: 257

Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.

Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.

#1 Amazon Bestseller: Books for Teens (Oct 2015)

My review:

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

I read this book as a part of the Underrated Book Club by Kajree, for May 2019. #underratedreadsbookclub

I am happy I read this book myself. Being a high-schooler is really tough. I sometimes feel lucky that I never had to face it.

The protagonist Ashley is a really dynamic character – we see her facing a lot of issues that have led her to where she is presently, which is to say, when the book starts. In the beginning, we may infer that Ashley is really only wrapped around her own head but as the story progresses, we kind of see her as a victim and really feel bad for her. The themes of bullying, both at home and school, and consequently, mental health; of facing the consequences of one’s decisions etc. the constant bullying is heartbreaking to read about and not at all a pleasure. It really surprises me still, to see how people can be so unkind to others sometimes.

Mom twitched under my glare. “There are plenty of parents who wouldn’t allow you to go tonight, Ashley. And I’m sure they’d all mean well. But if a girl like you wants to keep a guy’s interest – “ “Are you seriously telling me to use sex to keep a guy interested?” Her lips thinned. “I’m telling you I would understand if you did.”

Can you imagine what it would feel like if someone’s mother says that to her? Would it not obviously affect the self-esteem of the person?

And thus, it is no wonder to me when the psychologist says this to Ashely,

“It concerns me, though, that you are willing to accept such a vaguely defined relationship. It says a lot about how you gauge your own value”.

I quite liked Matt although he really pissed me off at times. (Why is it that boys are so blind sometimes?) nonetheless, he is quite a really good friend and towards the end, we actually see that he has stayed true over the years. The author has portrayed him as a real fleshed out character with flaws of his own and that really gives a realistic nature to the narrative.

The element of the fantasy and the magical realism, through the use of the mirror selves, is great and adds another spatial depth to the book. Mostly, this book is hopeful and I love it for that.

Despite all the hate and the pain, Ashley emerges victorious and I don’t know what that can be called except hopeful for the rest of us readers as well as for herself. The author has also made Ashley so real, it is almost as if I can stretch and touch her.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Sleepless Beauty, by Rajesh Talwar

Title: The Sleepless Beauty

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Middle-grade

Format: Kindle

Language: English

Synopsis:

In a small kingdom somewhere in the Himalayas, the beautiful young Princess Ramya cannot sleep. It all started soon after her mother, the queen, passed away, when the princess was only twelve. Her father, the king, tries everything to make his little princess sleep, but nothing works. The princess develops such an inability to sleep that she becomes known in her kingdom and far beyond as the Sleepless Beauty.
The king wishes Princess Ramya to marry and take over the reins of government, but the princess is determined not to marry till such time as her sleep is restored. Eventually, the king announces a competition whereby whichever prince succeeds in getting Princess Ramya to sleep will win her hand. Meanwhile deadly foes of the kingdom wait and watch in the wings, planning to launch a surprise attack. This exciting, romantic tale, with comic interludes, will appeal to readers of all ages.

My review:

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

The Sleepless Beauty is quite a unique approach at a fairytale. The name itself is very interesting and when you delve into the read, you find that it is a cool mixture of the magical fairytale along with a serious modern day health issue that so many of us face. I think that it is this scenario which is so unlike any other that I wanted to read the book myself.

Understanding oneself is a theme that is seen here and again, this is something we all can perhaps relate to. Sometimes we are so confused with what we like, what we are, what we want that it gets us very confused at times but it is willpower and determination that makes us go on and on.

Ramya is a character I loved very much; she is relatable and I am sure you all will find a bit of yourselves in her. Her problem and how she deals with it, is the crux of the story and apart from the serious relatable themes and motifs, there were some hilarious scenes too. the princes are really funny and their attempts and tips to help Ramya are just as funny. Raja Bhoja is a great dad too and I loved their relationship with each other.

The fact that this fairytale is set in an Indian setting is a plus point. The writing style is good and understandable and you can surely gift this book to any kids you may know. The language is simple and fluidic and it’s a pleasure to read. The story captures you attention from the beginning until the very end and I was hooked. However, the book can do with a little bit of editing.

Verdict:

 I think it was a pretty interesting read. I rate it 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 .

Behind her Back, by Jane Lythell, 2017

Title: Behind her Back

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 368

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Elt-Duk and the Company of Gold Hunters, by Yash Sharma, 2018

Title: Elt-Duk and the Company of Gold Hunters

Author: Yash Sharma

Publisher: Invincible Publishers

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 150

Synopsis:

Tigun, Misarel, and O’blame decide to embark upon the biggest hunt of their age in Elt-duk (a mystical mountain) with Tigun’s son Asto. They start out bigger and stronger than ever before, but a chance encounter with a mysterious man on their journey reveals to them that something horrible is underway at Elt-duk. An unknown terror is spread all over the Earth, and all of humanity is unaware of it. Evil is growing, angels are falling, men are confused and scattered, decisions are tough to make and makes men cry, but the angels say, Let men try. With the agreement for the hunt survive? They only wished to hunt for gold, but this turn of events has brought them face to face with the biggest enemy himself, evil incarnate. How will they cope? Will help come in time? Elt-Duk wants its ruler and the evil is ready for It.

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.

Elt-Duk was an interesting fantasy read. I assume this is the first in a series the author intends to do. However, without giving a spoiler, I felt that the synopsis did not do justice to the story. I went in expecting a different pace, but while the story was good, it seemed only as a back-story to the events described in the synopsis.

The narrative was gripping and the mystery and adventure element was replete in the story. The author has done well in representing various types of behaviours and human values in the characters as we see such variety in their natures. For instance, the author shows the issue of friends fighting among themselves under pressure, albeit verbal. The blame game is common in our lives and the author uses it here too. Like, when O’blame and Misarel start to blame Tigun in the beginning, before the trip even starts. The themes of good over evil, bravery, war and universal and as such, I believe, easily relatable for the readers.

However, I think that perhaps the author needs to use more pronouns as the use of names for so many times makes it a bit cumbersome to read through. There are also a few grammatical errors…

Verdict:

I enjoyed reading this book and I rate it 3/5 stars.

About the author:

Yash Sharma was born in Kota, Rajasthan – the city renowned for its medical & engineering studies, but he didn’t follow suit. Instead, he choose commerce and carved out his path in this field, not wanting to continue with Maths and Science as his subjects of study. He has been working in the real-estate sector for the past five years, but has gained experience in various domains and areas of work before, not wanting to be tied down to just one.
He loves outdoor sports, football being his favourite. He holds a special interest for writing and has penned down multiple short stories and poems before.

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 .

Still Loved… Still Missed! By Mridula, 2019

Title: Still Loved… Still Missed!

Author: Mridula

Publisher: Notionpress

Genre: Short-story

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 78

Synopsis:

“Still loved…Still missed! The myriad hues of souls” is a collection of 14 short stories and a poem. These stories span characters and emotional states with canny details that touch the depths of your soul. Picturing the complexities of love, misery and mystery, the stories try to gnaw your heart like never before
• What does a flower teach us we often fail to see?
• “The belly is an ungrateful wretch.” Is it true?
• Ever wondered about the sparseness and illusions in life?
• Does death put an end to true love?
• Have all the ascetics won over their emotions?

With the power of simple language, this book transports the readers to a world scarcely thought of in our bustling lives. The allegories maintain an intense rhythm of life prompting the readers to perceive things from a unique angle.
“A whole bookful to make you think, cry, think again and move on.”

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.

Still Loved… Still Missed! was a quick read that I was done in about an hour. I liked the writing style of the author – it is flowing and easy to understand. I am sure that even beginners will be able to understand the book.

This book is a collection of 14 short stories and a poem. Despite what I said in the previous paragraph, it is also a complex work – the narrative may seen a bit easy-going, however, the undercurrents that the author has lent to the writing is transcendental. It is easy to relate to these works and thus makes the entire experience an enjoyable one.

The dread of loneliness is greater than the fear of bondage. 

This is one quote from the book that leaves an impression in one’s mind after reading…

The undercurrent of love, intertwined with loss, and the whimsical melancholy is prevalent in ach one of these stories. As you read you cannot help but contemplate and introspect within your own life.

Verdict:

It was really enjoyable and I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Rituals, by Lorcan Black

Title: Rituals

Author: Lorcan Black

Illustrated by: Tim Durham

Publisher: April Gloaming

Publishing date: 31 May, 2019

Genre: Poetry/Arts and Photography

Format: E-arc

Language: English

Synopsis:

In the search for truth, for meaning, for purpose, Black’s poetry illuminates the wonder in all of us. With petrifying portrayals of mental institutions, doctors, nurses, Egyptian mythos, all intertwined in a mixture of natural visions and harbors, this collection fortifies our nature to hunt for a life worth living.

The ritualistic aspects are dismal, at best, and speak to the monotony of the modern world and that hopeless feeling of being part of the herd. Readers will find themselves clawing their way through the muck and grime of the everyday, finding that maybe only love can save them, or at least, the hope for love.

My review:

I received a review copy from the Netgalley in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Please do keep an open mind while reading my review – everybody interprets different texts differently.

“Pale stars wink jealousies at my feet and I walk godly.” Lorcán Black’s Rituals is the restless, roaming lovechild of Neruda and Trakl, with some fiery genetic material borrowed from Plath, as well. These poems walk toward and through wreckage at once ordinary and surreal—a family, an asylum, a body learning fraught desires, the “eerie / whiteness” of Antarctica, and a “window suck[ing] its slice of moon / in the mirror of its mouth.” Piercing in its vulnerability, this book often achieves a magical authority at the same time. Black dares to speak in the voice of a sorcerer, an oracle, a god: “Watch: I shall the call the elements, / I shall cast sacrilegious circles in sand.” This is a collection of dark yet gleaming marvels. – Chen Chen.

I recently read Rituals by Lorcan Black and I was blown away by his writing. There is an ethereal undertone to all of the poems and it gives a magical effect to the entire narrative. The poet talks on various issues like innocence, religious supremacy, judgmental attitudes, forgiveness, of mental health and illness, suicide and self-harm, of being trapped inside one’s own mind, our changing personalities, war and its effects, gender roles, motherhood and parenthood as a whole, about the unknown, etc. Among all the poems, there is such a vast diversity in the themes that I believe each reader will take away something from reading them. There is a unique writing style and coupled with the unique lines, I think this is a beautiful collection – utterly profound and deep. I shall surely be returning to this one again.  And I recommend this one anyone – fans of Neruda, Trakl, Sylvia Plath, and Shirley Jackson definitely go for this one.

Verdict:

I rate this one 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 .

The Printed Letter Bookshop, Katherine Reay

Title: The Printed Letter Bookshop

Author: Katherine Reay

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing date: 14 May, 2019

Genre: Romance/Women’s fiction

Format: E-arc

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Synopsis:

“Powerful, enchanting, and spirited, this novel will delight.” —Patti Callahan, bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.” —Rachel McMillan, author of Murder in the City of Liberty

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 Printed Letter Bookshop is just as amazing a read as the title makes it sound. I am joyful that I could read it before it officially publishes. Katherine Reay has done a great job with all the aspects of the novel.

Firstly, talking about the characters – this is very much a novel of growth – a bildungsroman of sorts. We see the women emerging out at the end as totally different, albeit better versions of themselves by the end of the novel. I found it very inspirational to say the truth. The author portrays these women as persons of their own – faulty, yes, but human in their hearts. Each undergoes an odyssey (see what I did there?!) different from the others’ and it changes them for the better – as well as those around them, and their inter relationships. Thus, the character arcs were done in a very realistic manner and one could find traces of oneself in each of these three women. The character of Maddie is very significant. Like it is pointed out by the characters in the book itself, her presence permeates throughout the book and this influence is very much like that of the eponymous Rebecca from Daphne du Maurier’s classic.

The plot is well laid out, although this is very much a character driven novel. The themes of family, acceptance, friendships,  dealing with one’s own choices, literature (my favourite, I believe!) as well as love – both romantic and familial, understanding, forgiveness, guilty conscience etc. are very important ones that the author explores through all the characters in the book.

The narrative is entirely engrossing and I loved every bit of it. The allusions to the different books were also a plus point and the list at the end is one I am definitely going to cross every book off (I intend to read all of them)

Verdict:

I absolutely love this book and 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 .

Masquerade, by Cyrus Parker

Title: Masquerade

Author: Cyrus Parker

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publishing Date: 7 May, 2019

Genre: Poetry

Format: E-Arc

Language: English

No. of pages:  178

Synopsis:

Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”
Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masquerade grapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, and relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.

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 believe that including Poe’s lines in the very beginning is a brilliant stroke in itself. In hindsight, it really says a lot about the poetry the reader will be delving into as she flips the pages.

The poems deal with various topics such as abandonment, alcohol abuse, death, gender dysphoria, harassment, as well as intimate partner abuse, lost innocence, identity, chasing your dream, and the masks that people wear. Self-care also is explicitly stated by the poet to be practiced after reading the poems and it was real advice, because I did have to do it in the end. The reason behind this, I believe, is that the poems are so real and vivid and so reflective of our own lives that it is impossible for a reader not to find atleast a couple of poems with which she can absolutely relate. The poems are raw and poignant, and that furthers this cause.   Moreover, the illustrations also provide a nice yet related break.

Verdict:

I enjoyed the poems and I rate this collection a 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Daredreamers: A Start-up of Superheroes, by Kartik Sharma and Ravi Nirmal Sharma, 2018

Title: Dardreamers: A Start-up of Superheroes

Author: Kartik Sharma and Ravi Nirmal Sharma

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 296 pages

Synopsis:

India’s first start-up of superheroes with a mission of saving lives is here to kick ass. 
Rasiq is riding the highs of life thanks to his successes as an investment banker. But his arrogance soon gets the better of him and he ends up losing everything he holds dear. Managing to salvage only his grit from the wreckage, Rasiq reboots his life and teams up with five uniquely talented superheroes to start a rescue venture 
– DareDreamers. These superheroes Nick: a crazy inventor; Halka: an inhumanly strong man; Arjun: a champion shooter; Natasha: a Bollywood stunt-double; Dr. Vyom, a medical Sherlock Holmes; and, of course, Rasiq: the mastermind combine their unique talents to deliver spectacular rescue operations. Their skyrocketing success, however, comes at a price an enemy hell bent on tearing down their fame and reputation.
Will DareDreamers defeat its wily adversary? Or will it become yet another failed start-up?
Treachery, action and adventure come alive to make DareDreamers a page-turner.

My review:

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

Daredreamers was a really interesting book with a just an interesting start. Being such a workaholic myself, I could deeply relate with Rasiq. While it is harmful, yes, the sense of high one gets when one does the thing one loves, is incomparable. But in the case of Rasiq, we see how worthless it can be, when one is slogging day and night, doing something one does not enjoy at all.

The theme of hard work and passion reign supreme throughout the book and I really like that. I believe that the book was really inspiring, as will most other readers feel.

The plot is a really interesting one and the writing style is just as engaging. One might think, considering the fact that there are two authors, there might be clashes with the combination of both, but I could hardly differ the two authors’ style – such is the elegant mixture of the writing.

The start-up is a common enterprise we see in the modern world but the way in which it has been portrayed is a new concept. The characters show that with the zeal and hard work, along with smartness, one can achieve what people say is impossible. The characters are all also great ones – Rasiq, Halka, Vyom, Natasha, Arjun, Nick and later, Asylum, etc. are all the best ones in their field that this too is an inspiring fact. The strive for excellence is one we should never give up.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Mad Love, by Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan, 2019

Title: Mad Love, a DC Comics Novel

Author: Pat Cadigan and Paul Dini

Publisher: Titan Books

Format: Paperback

Language: Language

No. of pages: 288

Synopsis:

The definitive story of Harley Quinn by her co-creator, Paul Dini, and Pat Cadigan, revealing the secrets of her history even as she seeks to kill Batman. 

Dr. Harleen Quinzel grew up in an abusive household with a criminal and became a psychologist to deal with her own broken family. At Arkham Asylum, she attempted to treat the Joker and instead fell hopelessly in love with him, helping him escape and becoming a member of his organization. Quinzel became Harley Quinn, a bizarre contradiction of violence and mercy. She blames Batman for her inability to maintain a stable relationship with the arch-villain, and that causes her to have an abiding hatred for the hero, who she seeks to kill. Upon capture she becomes a violent inmate at Belle Reve Penitentiary, and is assigned to the group of government-maintained super villains known as the Suicide Squad. 

Copyright © 2017 DC Comics. BATMAN, THE JOKER, HARLEY QUINN, SUICIDE SQUAD and all related characters and elements © & TM DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 
Copyright © 2017 DC Comics. BATMAN, THE JOKER, HARLEY QUINN, SUICIDE SQUAD and all related characters and elements © & TM DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

My review:

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

Mad Love was a fun and truly mad read and I enjoyed every bit of it.

This book gave quite an insight to this infamous villain’s life – why she is how she is and what made her that way. The most major themes that I saw throughout the novel was the deceptiveness of appearances and how crucial it is to know the reality of things. On a deeper level, things are never as they appear to be on the surface. In the beginning the tone is in third person limited – Daddy this and Daddy that. It is as if Harleen cannot really make all of her own decisions and looks up to her Daddy for them. In retrospect, it is so much the situation that occurs when she is under the Joker’s spell. She looks up to him this time. I think, the underneath all of these,  Harleen does not lose her innocence and faith in these two authority figures. Is she naïve? Or dumb? I understand that this is a polarizing concept. But I believe that there is not always a good side and a bad side – we often forget about the grey areas and only look at the startling black and white.

Mad Love is a psychological novel to boot! There were so many nuances regarding human behavior – as Harleen grew up and studied psychology, and then started practicing it at Arkham Asylum. There is also a great play at words – both in the narrator’s case and the Joker’s as well. The manner of writing was just as enjoyable and easy to understand. The character arc of Harleen was a very dynamic one – I feel that she goes through a lot and her story is one that had needed to be told. The writers did justice to the character as well as the plotline.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Paul Dini is an American television producer of animated cartoons. He is best known as a producer and writer for several Warner Bros./DC Comics series, including Star Wars: Ewoks, Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman Beyond and Duck Dodgers. He also developed and scripted Krypto the Superdog and contributed scripts to Animaniacs (he created Minerva Mink), Freakazoid, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. After leaving Warner Bros. In early 2004, Dini went on to write and story edit the popular ABC adventure series Lost.

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 .

Never Again: Moving On From Narcissistic Abuse and Other Toxic Relationships, by Dr. Sarah Davis, 2019

Title: Never Again: Moving On From Narcissistic Abuse and Other Toxic Relationships

Author: Dr. Sarah Davis

Publisher: Troubadour Publishing Ltd.

Publishing Date: 16 March, 2019

Genre: Nonfiction/Self-help

Format: Ebook

Language: English

No. of pages:

Synopsis:

Dr. Sarah Davies draws from her clinical expertise, largely gained from working with individuals at her Harley Street practice in London, as well as from her personal experiences with narcissistic abuse, to put together this practical guide to understanding and moving on from toxic relationships.
If you have experienced narcissistic abuse and want to avoid a repeat experience, Never Again – moving on from narcissistic abuse and other toxic relationships can help you to:
• Learn about Narcissism & identify Narcissistic Abuse
• Develop tools and coping strategies including emotional regulation, mindfulness and grounding techniques
• Learn a range of practical tips and tools to break the cycle of abuse.
• Learn a 4-step refocus tool helping you to move on more quickly
• Work on your self-esteem, values, self-compassion and forgiveness
• Address any unhelpful thinking or beliefs that may be holding you back
• Learn about trauma and narcissistic abuse and how to manage emotional overwhelm or distress
• Learn about healthy boundaries and how to hold them
• Develop clearer, healthier communication
In this new book, Dr. Davies shows readers how to identify narcissistic abuse, but also the tools needed to move on and potentially end destructive relationship patterns once and for all.

My review:

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

I really like the systematic nature, which the author has undertaken to talk about this issue. As a reader I think it really helps in the healing process – apart from being a self-help book, it is also a practical guide as it takes the reader by the hand and help him or her to recover. In this, it has proved a very practical and useful tool.

Bringing in the abuse factor little by little and then relating it to a relationship (in the surprisingly quite a few cases that it appears in), makes it a smooth transition for the reader to understand. The author has kept the psychological well-being of the reader in mid, for she does not spring facts suddenly at the reader thus shocking him/her, but by slowly transitioning in a slow manner.

Acceptance is a significant phase in this situation and the author has done it in a good manner. She then leads the way to understanding and realizing if one’s partner is a narcissist, and then moving ahead. Her research is very fact based and as such, increases the dependability of the text. Lastly, she also talks about recovery, which is perhaps the most important post stage. The author also guides the reader in developing a new mindset – one that is supportive of the person’s own being and how compassion and forgiveness goes a long way. Apart from the ‘victims’, the author also addresses the friends and family, for which she scores one more amazing point!

On a personal front, I think the book has been useful. It made me realize that in the end, we really need to take care of our own selves.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed the book except where I felt that it was a bit too repetitive for my taste. Overall, helpful read. I rate it 4/5!

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 .

Poets, Artists, Lovers, by Mira Tudor, 2017

Title: Poets, Artists, Lovers

Author: Mira Tudor

Publisher: Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Literature

Format: Ebook

Language: Language

No. of pages: 166

Publication Date: August 4, 2017

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ASIN: B074L8W7XS

Synopsis:

PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel, written in a witty and bittersweet romantic key reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day), and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.

My review:

Poets, Artists, Lovers is a great book – it is deep and sentimental, funny at times, but engrossing and makes you sink dee into thought yourself. I tried to write a short review but I guess I have too many notes made from when I read it – such was its power over me.

The intertextual references are a nice inclusion and brings in many themes from different times and different minds to the instances in the novel. Moreover, the extensive talks on the works of various musical artists, sculptors like Rodin etc. in relation to life itself gave another layer to this story. Throughout the novel, music is also a key binding element. There is also a lot of philosophy in the book, and being a student of English literature, I quite enjoyed them as well. The author’s own proficiency in these fields can be seen through her characters.

There is a cinematographic aspect to the novel, maybe because of the gradual changes in the background that are not brought to the forefront – it is very much a character driven novel, after all – but also due to the whimsical quality that permeates throughout. Moreover, the inclusion of the visual arts, and also pop culture, make it an intriguing read.

This is truly an art book – much like the art movies that wonder us so. Maybe I am a melancholic reader myself but wouldn’t you agree that so much of the melancholy in the book is beautiful –

Yes. It actually talks of something that makes me think of solitude that grows and grows and is ever harder to take apart. Solitude that threatens to displace everything in its path.”

I found this part completely nostalgic and yet the delivery of the lines is so beautiful. The same can be said of the entire book. I now long for a hardcopy I can keep on my bedside table to read every now and then –

“I also rediscovered emails I saved,” Alice went on. “Reviewing some of them the other day felt like reading about a different person. If I had not recognized some terms of endearment, I would have thought someone else had written them. I was full of enthusiasm, all exclamation points and smiles. I didn’t recognize myself. I realized I had forgotten so much of myself, of my former self,” Alice added pensively.

Special mention for this poem that Ela wrote – it was so very beautiful, I think I may work my calligraphy magic on it and then frame it up-

She then got up and retrieved from her purse her most recent poem, which she had finished and printed out just before she left home that day. It was titled “After So Many Years,” and it went, when I cry, you cry inside me harder, when I stake out my spot in the wilderness I find you there, winding me, in the darkness, in the light, shaking my bed sheets, so I can’t sleep, or love another; I wonder who’s by your side now, in the darkness, in the light, if you’re crying, or if you’re lonely and silent, walking into the wilderness from an empty table and a floor littered with a handful of breadcrumbs you leave in your path for love to eventually find you and feed you, after all these years.

Sometimes the novel also felt like reading absurdist literature because sometimes the characters talk about such normal pointless things that it sort of seems absurd when seen in context of life in the book throughout. Of course, this is a very personal point of view. But this also brings in the debate over existentialism and the essence of being.

Themes

The part where Alice and Anca are discussing about Henriette’s latest sculpture of pairs of breasts at different consecutive age decade, is one I found very bittersweet. How true it is that we are so much fixated on youth – we are so vain – I for one, despair that I am 20 now, when the heroines in all the fantasy books I love are not yet 20 and have still accomplished and gone through so much. 

“The point being that in this youth-fixated Western world we don’t realize how invisible the human body becomes after a certain age. When I first saw two naked seventy-five-year-olds making love in a movie, and enjoying their bodies together at the edge of the sea, I was shocked. And I had seen Alice Neel’s paintings and other images like that.”

Other body image issues also crop in, and Ela says –

“My mother says that young healthy women with strong willpower should make sure they’re slim, or else they send the message that they don’t have enough willpower, or that they’re not healthy.”

It leads to mental health issues as well.
Ela and her mental health issues; depression is truly an ugly viper-

“If only that pain and sinking feeling would disappear at all. It may take a while, though. It still takes me hours some mornings to get rid of them. I’m glad I have the books and my poems to give me a feeling of purpose strong enough to beat the ache out of my system. Or maybe it’s the concentration that does it. I’ve been able to concentrate better lately.”

Sibling tension is also portrayed well in this book.

Alice looked at her sister in silence, taking the latter’s acrimony in stride. “Sorry, Henriette, that I’m not more talented,” she spoke after a few beats. Her calm was that of someone who has felt and said that many times.

The utter clogging at my throat was real when I read these lines. To be second-best and that to against a sibling is truly a hard thing and for one to be so used to it to be able to simply admit it, is heart wrenching. Since I am currently taking a short story paper in university, I came across this story by Alice Walker, Everyday Use, where the younger daughter Maggie says – “She can have them, Mama”, she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. The despondency and the dejection that comes from reading these lines from two different texts is a bittersweet experience.

In chapter 10, when Alice and Anca are talking, and Alice points out that since Anca has so many problems with her boyfriend, Marcel, she could just leave him. But Anca says no

“Because it could turn out to be for good,” Anca said. “And I’ve invested too much in this relationship.” “Really?” Alice said, in mock surprise. “That’s your argument?” “I love him,” Anca said powerfully. “Not for what he is now, but for what he was and what I think he can be again. He’s not being himself these days. He’s either trying too hard or sabotaging any chance at happiness.”

This really made me think about our relationships – how sometimes, we try to settle down despite that prick in our minds, and because we are used to used and now comfortable. We would rather live with that ache on our sides forever, than to move and settle somewhere new.

The use of the stream of consciousness method is also clear. For instance, in the paragraph in chapter 8, as Ela keeps on speaking –

“Yes, at first I thought that was it, but in reality I was in shock,” Ela said, taking a gulp from her mug. “He turned my whole world upside down, and I was asking myself all these questions: what it means to live life with a passion, or with love, or with a mixture of the two, what it means to feel both passion and love for the same person, what it means to love someone and life and God, what kind of passion and love you need for that …” She picked up another brownie and bit into it. “These brownies are really different from how I usually make them. They’re very good, aren’t they? And the recipe was very similar to mine. Same ingredients, just different quantities.” She drank some more of her tea. “I don’t think he was in love with Ettie,” she said, her gaze meeting Alice’s.

There are significant other instances too-
Marcel’s mother says a very important thing to Maria, friend of Anca –

“We’re complex creatures, Maria. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one thing in this world for you. Be creative with your life. Learn many skills. Don’t ever get complacent or lazy. You never know what life may throw at you, and you have to be prepared. We don’t live under communism anymore. You have to be ready to change paths if one vocation doesn’t pan out. Or a certain job. Don’t wait too long, either. Life is so very short.”

The book also portrays the utter complexities of human emotions and human relationships, with so many shadows harrowing them. For instance, The Thinker and the Lover movie that Ela, Henriette and Pamfil saw and the resultant discussion that they had was very enlightening in itself. And then later, the sudden competitiveness that comes up between Henriette and Ela is noticeable. 

Other important motifs I saw throughout-out were – the non-linearity of time in the story as the author tells it (which is also so reflective of the non-linearity in one’s own life today), how one event can trigger another – for instance in Ela’s case, seeing Pamfil and Henriette together, leading to her leaving her job and becoming a book reviewer, or even the case of completely disregarding our sadness and overworking out body, as we try to replace the emotional or mental ache with the physical pain.

The author has brought in various modern instances – psychological, for instance, the things we do to alleviate anxiety, like online chatting, the need for real communication and the fact that what we get in lieu of that is an utter travesty, compartmentalization in regards to men and women, as explained by Pamfil, which I agree mostly with.

Characters

At some points, I felt sad for Pamfil – to live such a hollow life – maybe he never felt it and it is only I the reader who thinks as such.

“I think he’d never learned to love,” Ela said. “Love with a passion and tenderly and on a higher level. Just like me. I mean I hadn’t either. I only began to love this way after I methim.Only after he shook my whole way of looking at things.” “That doesn’t make much sense, his teaching you a kind of love he hasn’t grasped himself,” Alice said.

But then again, in chapter 14, when Marie asks him what his favourite pleasure was, Pamfil had replied as follows.
And I think that, really explains him and those few words are enough to tell us everything about him- why he does what he does and so on.

“The pleasure of being young,” Pamfil said, stretching his arms over the table for her hands.

The post-transformation Ela, if you could prefer to call that phase her transformatory years, is one I really liked. Her ideas for a book are also so magically spoken that I was enraptured.

“It starts with wandering around like Alice—not you,” she said with a smile as she read from a paper with put-on panache, “living a life of superimposed uncertainties—you know, uncertain about my purposes in life but no underlying tectonic plate motion to make me really seek a higher love—until they’re suddenly flung out… finding myself chained to barren solitude, and then slowly taking revolving steps to grind away my memories, feeling my way around them devoid of meaning, bereft of a soul, till, slowly, a zephyr drifts in, and I hear its call to make it beautiful, to make emptiness sing as I push it out, to wind through words as if it matters.” She took a deep breath. “And then I start the story. That was just the prologue.”

We find her this new person who is slowly learning herself and as she says, also learning to love George again. The character arc of Ela is really interesting. Although we do not see her much towards the beginning, after her transformation, this new Ela is at least superficially sure of what she feels and thinks. Her discussions with Henriette regarding happiness and health etc., although may not seem very significant, but the manner of her speaking is to be noted.

Henriette nodded, even though she had never been a big fan of his poetry, and accepted the printout, thinking how funny it was that he had just mentioned women trying to change him. Then her mood grew somber. Haralambie’s verse was now darker in his pronouncements. His poem, loosely inspired by Miguel Hernández’s “Después del amor” (“After the Love”), talked of solitudes so hard they were impossible to crush, firm obstacles in the path of happiness, boulders that not even time could erode much in the course of a lifetime.

– This of course made me check out the poem and I as was expected fell in love with it. I think that even though Haralambie or Har, might not show it overtly, the breakup with Henriette really affected him. His innate habits are so very different by the end of the novel. For instance, Henriette notices that unlike before, he smirks a lot now. And his entire demeanor is that of a very much cynical or disillusioned man. Moreover, he reminisces unconsciously again when they meet in chapter 15 –

I don’t think you did, because some people—and you are one of them—are not capable of wasting time. It’s part of what I liked so much about you,” he said.

As for George I found him a very sweet man, always being there for Ela despite the three years of chaos that was wrought upon their relationship.

But does Marcel really understand Anca? Years ago, at his 17th birthday party, when the utter chaos of the party had overwhelmed her, he did not even understand her feelings from her expression. So is his love, love, if he cannot truly understand her?

I found the ending a bit ambiguous. What did that enigmatic smile that Henriette let escape her lips mean?

There are also a few literary masterpieces of quotes that I took from the book:

“she felt life rippling softly through her body, slowing and quieting the rattle of her thoughts, her high hobbyhorses—being clever, being cultured, being creative—were swept by the immense relief and joy of riding, light and supple, the surf of the present, her mind, body, and soul in harmony.”

“There is no routine with a loved one. Lovers are supposed to change each other all the time” – Pamfil says.

“You know what I think? Some of us love some people once, and then we love them forever.” – Alice says to Anca.

And

“Later that week Anca sent a number of poems to the magazine Literary Romania. “Tell Me” was among them. It talked of roasted potatoes and onions, rooibos tea with honey, and perky sad music on the CD player. It considered whether life is ever more than swapping stories in a kitchen over a poor man’s meal shared threeways, each bite charmed with sunlight and music. It described an intoxicating scene with a long-haired woman in a vaporous dress, pirouetting on the kitchen table to humor her boyfriend, who then grabbed her by the thighs and hips and put her down in front of the piano, where she played God knows what, for she used no sheets, and she and her man were the only musicians in the room. Finally, it mentioned her bare foot pushing the brass pedal with conviction, her launching into Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, whirling its listeners like a tornado, and her cutting loose as more water for tea boiled on the stove, and the guests were invited to crack walnut shells for a makeshift dessert.”

Verdict:

I was exultant in blissful calm and contentment when I finished the book. Let me explain myself… You know how there are some books that give you a sense of peace after you finish reading them? It’s like you enjoy reading the book – annotate and underline a ton of lines and reread some parts again and again; and after finishing the book, you just hug it close to your heart because after this book – this experience, rather – you feel that you have changed? This is what I felt for this book. I do not know why. Maybe it is because it touched upon so many issues that we all relate to despite age/geographical differences, or because of the pure art that it is, or maybe even because as a literature student I was mesmerized by it… But nonetheless, I am sure that I shall surely be picking up this book soon. It has been one of the best books I have ever 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 .

Ping, by Rashi Dubey, 2018

Title: Ping

Author: Rashi Dubey

Publisher: Half Baked Beans

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 146

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

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

She has following books in her name as follows:

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Priory of the Orange Tree, by samantha shannon, 2019

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

No. of pages: 825

Recommended for: Lovers of fantasy – especially if you want to start with adult fantasy.

Synopsis:

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.


The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep. 

My review:

I got an ARC of the book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The Priory of the Orange Tree is a massive book – with more than 800 pages, at first glance it tends to intimidate the reader, but once one starts reading it, there is nothing that can hold him back from flipping the pages.

I am absolutely happy that I read this book – it was a thrilling ride and I for one, loved every bit of it. I read The Priory of the Orange Tree along with my bestie @per_fictionist and you can see her review here: https://bewitchingwords.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/review-the-priory-of-the-orange-tree-by-samantha-shannon/

The world created by Shannon in this high-fantasy novel is as vast and powerful as that of any other ones every created. The author has painted a world with her own magical pen, and rendered the reader speechless. In this divided world, there are various people – those of the West hate all wyrms, not distinguishing the good ones from the bad ones, while the people in the East, worship them. it is from these two opposing sides that we see the protagonists – Tane is from the East, an aspiring dragon-rider, and Ead Duryan is from the West, tasked with protecting the Inysh Queen, Sabran, who is the last in her line. What makes the world so rich is the effort the author has put in, and given such depth – there are so many myths and legends among these people, that it is as if you as the reader are living it, and learning about their rules and customs.

The author has portrayed the female inter-relationships beautifully. It is nice to see these women, strong in their own rights, support and help each other. Everyone has a demon and everyone suffers alone, but again, each of them are string women who do not give up – they are selfless, young but idealistic. They make mistakes, but are not afraid to accept them and learn from them. Seeing as how fantasy is in such demand right now, I see this as something really powerful for the author to have done – women empowerment starts from among the women themselves.

Another amazing representation is the lesbian relationship which I perceived as the major romantic relationship among the various others.  This representation is impressive – from not knowing of one’s sexual orientation to realizing it and accepting it fully despite what society thinks, to being confused to following rules set by society, the novels covers a myriad of aspects.  

Speaking of characters, I have to admit that I also share Gayatri’s feelings regarding Sabran – at first I was just as different towards her, for she seemed like any other pampered royal, unknowing of the harsh reality of the world. But her character arc, as the novel goes on, is definitely very noticeable and all of this makes her human and thus, very much relatable to the reader. She suffers, both due to internal and external reasons, but it is all overshadowed by her truest desire to help her people and be a good queen to them.

Eadaz du Zala Uq Nara, or Ead Duryan as she is rather known, is a member of the Priory of the Orange Tree, assigned to protect the Berethnet queen, Sabran IX. Her relationship with the queen is dynamic and changes as the story progresses.  

Tane is also another woman who grows throughout. A Seiikinese from the East, her greatest desire is to be a dragon rider. It is also through her dragon Nayimathun, that we get the closest glimpse to these magical and awe-inspiringly majestic creatures.

Apart from these three women, Margaret Beck, sister to Arteloth Beck (who is friend to both Ead and Sabran), is a wonderful woman. Always supportive of her friends, she is not afraid to go into the midst of war to do her share in helping the wounded and also, for the betterment of the future of course. The male leads are also very modern – they are spportive and can accept these bold women as their equals without being intimidated. They also made me admire them. Loth and Kit were two amazing men. I will miss what Kate and Kit might have been. The author has truly done an amazing job with the characters and made the entire read an utter delight.

The fantasy element – with the Eastern dragons, the wyrms, Fyredel and his siblings and of course The Nameless one, the story reads like magic too. The issue of immortality, the three trees, and the unsettling yet amazing family histories are all crazy and yet make up the backbone of the story. The other theme of politics is also intriguing and absolutely captures the reader’s attention.

The altering narratives were not at all abrupt – the writing is done with fluidic grace and one just glides through. However, I felt that the end was rushed through – that the denouement was reached without much struggle.

Verdict:

It was an amazing book. I took exactly 5 days to complete it. With its beautiful and page-turning churn of action, high fantasy, romance, and politics, I rate this book 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 .

March 2019 TBR!

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

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

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

February 2019 book haul part 2!

Hey guys!
Hope you are doing well! I am currently reading #99nightsinlogar by @jamil_jan_kochai_author @bloomsburyindia and I am enjoying it quite a lot! I am currently 136/276 pages in and I hope to finish it by tomorrow night.

So anyway, here are the rest of the books I bought in February. I have already lent a few and so I couldn’t include them in the pics.

  1. Emma’s Secret by Barbara Taylor Bradford
  2. A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
  4. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  5. Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
  6. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  7. Norwegian Wood by Murakami
  8. Half Torn Hearts by Novoneel Chakraborty (a signed copy!)
  9. Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik
  10. Songs of the Cauvery by Kalyanaraman Durgadas
  11. Feminist Rani by Shaili CHopra & Meghna Pant (I also met Meghna Pant and got this signed!)
  12. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini (got this as a gift for my mom!)
  13. One Day by David Nicholls
  14. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

#qotd : What are you all currently reading? Are you enjoying it?

Moromor Deuta/Dear Father, by Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Title: Moromor Deuta / Dear Father

Author: Bhabendra Nath Saikia

Publisher: Nayantara Prakshan

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language:  Assamese

No. of pages: 95

Recommended for: All Ages!

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I rate this book a solid 5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Glass House: A Year of our Days

Author: Chanchal Sanyal

Publisher: Rupa Publictions

Genre: Fiction/Stream of Consciousness

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 184

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Smokes and Whiskey, by Tejaswini Divya Naik, 2018

Title: Smokes and Whiskey

Author: Tejaswini Divya Naik

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotech Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Poetry

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 150

Recommended for: Lovers of contemporary poetry

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

I give hearts out away for free

Maybe there’s something wrong in me.

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Shadows of the Night, by Priyanka Lal, 2019

Title: Shadows of the Night

Author: Priyanka Lal

Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Short stories

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 160

Recommended for: YA and above

My review:

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

The stories are:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Kaalkoot

Author: S. Venkatesh

Publisher: TreeShade Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 343

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up!

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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