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Sixteen Stormy Days by Tripurdaman Singh

Sixteen Stormy Days
Sixteen Stormy Days

Sixteen  Stormy Days is about the sixteen days of debate in 1951, which led to the controversial first Amendment of the Indian Constitution. This book was a truly well-researched treatise on the why and how behind the major change in Indian Constitutional history.

Check it out on Goodreads!

In eloquent prose, the book goes over the changes that were made in the Constitution, which had been worked on for three years prior to this abrupt and fast sixteen-day debate. With the passing of the Amendment as the Constitution (First Amendment) Act of June 1951, various changes were brought in – most of which cause heated debates even today. To name a few, the fundamental rights were qualified in favour of the State, enabled the caste-based reservation system, restricted the right to property, to name a few.

Most importantly, the book also sheds light on the support as well as the opposition that this Amendment garnered.  The author also sheds light on the various icons behind it – such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, etc. Most importantly, it depicts how the originally liberal Constitution was reconfigured in a way that would be favourable to India’s first government, which turned to be authoritarian. What started as a major move by Jawaharlal Nehru and the super-majoritarian government, radically led to a system of coercion and repression on a vast majority of the Indian people.

The narration is smooth, however, having never had political science or history as my subjects, I found it a bit exhausting to read. Perhaps that is something a few readers may face but let me tell you that the end is worth it. You will come out a bit wiser and also perhaps with more questions, which will lead you down on a path of learning. I think this was a really well-penned book by the author. It was informative and with the eloquent writing, the reader really captures the attention of the reader. It was also a really quick read once I got into it.

I rated this book 4/5 stars!

Check it out on Amazon!

Historical Fiction: The Orange Grove

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

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

Historical fiction

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

Synopsis

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

The setting

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

Characterization of Henriette

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

Characterization

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

Themes

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

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

Recommendations:

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

Greek Mythology: A Retelling

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

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

Greek Mythology: Stunning art pieces

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

A Wonder Books for Girls and Boys

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

Writing style

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

Add it on Goodreads!

Greek Mythology versus this retelling

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

Get it on Amazon!

Verdict:

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

Recommendations on Indian Mythology:

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

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.

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

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 .

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 Monsters Still Lurk, by Aruna Nambiar, 2019

Title: The Monsters Still Lurk

Author: Aruna Nambiar

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Published on:  20th July, 2019

Genre: Post-Independence

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 260

Synopsis:

We were an ordinary family, with conventional lives. We were mostly happy, but always cautious of too much happiness. We were hardly religious, just pious enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. We bickered a little but would never have thought to be estranged. We feared illness and anticipated eventual death, but we expected life to follow a certain path, a particular schedule. Until…

It is 1991. As Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated and a new government comes to power, setting in motion a process of economic reforms that will transform India, an ordinary family is about to experience detours from the traditional middle-class script of their lives. Over the next quarter century, as the world around them changes in ways unexpected, their lives too wind along uncharted trails, sometimes sunlit, sometimes shadowy and forbidding. 

Funny, perceptive and moving, The Monsters Still Lurk is a bittersweet saga of love, loss, ageing and shifting family dynamics, and a keenly observed portrait of post-liberalization India that captures the zeitgeist of a rapidly evolving society.

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 Monsters Still Lurk, although fiction, gives a great idea of how life had been post-independence, when India was just learning to function as a sovereign country of her own. Through the eyes of Vivek, we are taken on a journey across a quarter of a century as India changes and people have to change along with the times. It is not easy, rather very turbulent and filled with highs and lows.

The major themes covered in this book were family, the fear and acceptance of responsibility as we all grow up in the face of various events that happen around us, war, crisis, friendship, the sibling bond etc. The American Dream is also another theme – it is basically the dream that so many people belonging to the third-world countries have – that America is the land of dreams and opportunities. As such, so many people wanted to migrate there and it was a driving force behind the actions of many people, across various economic levels.  

The political scenario of this period was not a very calm one. As such, the book also portrays the major events in our history as perceived through the eyes of a normal middle class family. The Kargil War, the Babri masjid demolition, the Indian Depression, 9/11 etc are some of the periods the writer mentions in the book.

It was a great read overall. Although a bit bland at times due to the political aspects, the author has weaved together good writing, interesting characters and significant portions of inida’s history to make this a deep and insightful read.

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Readalong of THE SILENT PATIENT by Alex Michaelides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Mina Did, by Geeta Menon, 2019

Title: What Mina Did

Author: Geeta Menon

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

A single betrayal can cost you everything…

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

Mid Year Book Freak-Out Tag!

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

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

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

I encourage you all to try out this tag!

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

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 .

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 .

Shadows of the Night, by Priyanka Lal, 2019

Title: Shadows of the Night

Author: Priyanka Lal

Publisher: Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Short stories

Format: Paperback

Language:  English

No. of pages: 160

Recommended for: YA and above

My review:

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

The stories are:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Lupanarium

Author: Adele Leigh

Publisher: Crooked Berliner

Genre: Dystopian, Adult Literature, Satire

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 127

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

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

This was a really through-provoking book and I look forward to the sequel. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Kaalkoot

Author: S. Venkatesh

Publisher: TreeShade Books

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 343

Recommended for: Ages 13 and up!

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress, by Vicky Nolan, 2017

Title: Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress

Author: Vicky Nolan

Publisher: Self-published on Amazon

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 182

Synopsis:

You’re a 15-year-old schoolgirl who has big dreams of becoming a pop star, and then one day you get your lucky break. Polydor records sends you to Copenhagen to make pop music – to make you a recording artist. You get back home and your future is looking brighter than ever – until the High Court writ hits the door mat – you’ve fallen out with your management and they have decided to sue. No, this isn’t a dream, this is now Vicky Nolan’s reality and fast becoming a nightmare, and all while still at school at the sweet age of sixteen.

Read about the trial, the family, Hollywood, London town, the glamour, the dog (eh?) and most importantly, the music. Curiouser and curiouser?

We always talk about ‘making it’ and fulfilling your dreams. The question is, what if you don’t? What happens next? Ultimately, this book speaks about life and family; its hopes and disappointments, its ups and downs. Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress is in some way a story that speaks to us all, because in the end, the best stories are always true.

“I’m living my life as consequence of yesterday.
And all of my choices compliment my life today.
There may have been times I could have gone and lost my way, 
I could have, I would have, I should have, I don’t care – I’m here now.”


See the stories and hear the music
@YouTube ‘Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress’ 

My review:

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress was a beautiful read, and it read like the title suggests – like a memory through a mélange of various elements like prose, lyrics, email snippets and so on. All of these conspired to give the reader an intimate feel into the writer’s life as one reads on. And I have no doubt at all that anyone else aspiring to be a singer will relate to the writer easily. And will definitely also love the book.

Categorizing it as a non-fiction, more specifically as a semi-autobiographical novel, the novel has really given an insight into the world of the music industry. And obviously, it is not all smooth sailing. There are so many ups and downs that it really tells the reader that without a spine and tough skin, nothing is possible. Courage and one’s will is very important indeed.

I liked the alternate changes in time although it did get a bit confusing at times, so the author can probably work on the execution on this respect.

The narrative read smoothly, and the writer’s writing style, although amateur, is delightful to read. The Alice in Wonderland references are true Easter eggs if one knows and understands the said references. The parallels drawn are really dreamlike and truly reminiscent of the classic.

Considering that this is a debut novel, the writing is amateurish and the writer can work upon this. The cover of the book is also cool and I love it. Most importantly, I think it does reflect the writer’s life and as such, that is great.

Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress proved to be a quick and engrossing read, about chasing after one’s dreams. I enjoyed reading this book and shall definitely recommend it to all.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: City of my Heart

Trnslated by: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Format: Hardback

Language: English

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

The Full Circle, Namrata Gupta, 2018


Title: The Full Circle
Author: Namrata Gupta
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 122
About the author:
Namrata Gupta has a masters degree in management from LBSIM, Delhi. A literature graduate from Hans Raj College, her debut novel, A Silent Promise (2015), won many hearts. She writes content for websites and blogs regularly and wants to make an immutable influence on the minds of the readers through her writing. She loves traveling and exploring new things.
Synopsis:

“The mirage was broken. What she knew as the truth turned into a fiction to beguile her, the person she had been living with for so many years turned into someone she never knew until then”

Being a traveler, Aditya always took something from the places he visited and this somehow helped him give something to his next destination, which is now Darjeeling. His life revolves around meeting locals, exploring the world and helping people in any way possible. Aditya meets his contrast in Zinnia, who prefers stability in life, while staying as a tenant in her mother’s house. With his empathy and understanding nature, he wins the hearts of the locals. His adventurous way of living life is challenged when he develops strong feelings for Zinnia, who considers his way of life as a prolonged hobby.
While helping Jacqueline, an emotionally distraught girl, into shaping her life in a new way, he realizes he feels lost, for the first time in his life, without Zinnia. He stumbles upon a devastating secret about Zinnia’s past that will change her life completely, something he can’t let go of.
My review:
Replete with elements of mystery, thriller, adventure, as well as friendships, family drama, and a travelogue, The Full Circle packs a punch in mere 122 pages. From the very first page, we are given a scenic imagery through the author’s words through the experiences of the protagonist Aditya. For the most part of the novel, the reader gets to travel through reading. In the protagonist one defining characteristic we see is that of his empathizing nature- his humanity.
The characters we see in the novel are also very realistic in the fact that they are all individuals in their own ways and not merely sub-actors in this story. Each has a story and the author beautifully weaves them into the narrative. The character development was well-paced and seemed very apt and real to me.
The plot was also one interesting enough to grasp the reader’s interest. I felt that apart from the first couple of pages, the entire story is well-written. It’s just the small part of the beginning where you have to pull yourself through. Overall, the plot was well paced and good.
The mystery element brought in was a nice welcome and I think it is this element which really spiced up the story and stopped it from mellowing down. The run and the chase – the “action” scenes were also well written and one could, as a reader, really visualize those exciting and nail-biting scenes.
The grammar and editing were also done well. The language was lucid and easy to understand. The cover was also done well-enough but can be definitely better.
Verdict:
The author’s love for traveling and exploring shines through. It was a good book and I rate it 4/5 stars. I think the beginning was a bit slow-paced for my liking.

She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith, 1771

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Publishers: Peacock Books
Genre: Laughing Comedy/Drama
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 This comic masterpiece mocked the simple morality of sentimental comedies. Subtitled The Mistakes of a Night, the play is a lighthearted farce that derives its charm from the misunderstandings which entangle the well-drawn characters. Mr. Hardcastle plans to marry his forthright daughter Kate to bashful Marlow, the son of his friend Sir Charles Marlow. Mrs. Hardcastle wants her recalcitrant son Tony Lumpkin to marry her ward Constance Neville, who is in love with Marlow’s friend Hastings. Humorous mishaps occur when Tony dupes Marlow and Hastings into believing that Mr. Hardcastle’s home is an inn. By posing as a servant, Kate wins the heart of Marlow, who is uncomfortable in the company of wellborn women but is flirtatious with barmaids. A comedy in five acts by Oliver Goldsmith, produced and published in 1773 and 1771, respectively.
 
My review:
 She Stoops to Conquer is a really funny drama and I truly love it so. The points that really hold me to it are as follows:

  1. It is a really short play and thus is perfect for a single-seating read, and readathons.
  2. It marked a change in the dramas of that time because sentimental comedies had been preferred back in the day. However, it was Oliver Goldsmith who came up with this laughing comedy and revived the audience.
  3. The play also follows the three classical Unities perfectly.
  4. The cast is a full-on funny and humourous collection of various people who represent the follies of the age. As such, She Stoops to Conquer is also a comedy of manners.
  5. The plot is well created and spans only the duration of a single night, wherein the events take place.
  6. The subplot is also a romantic and funny one and is bound to incite laughter in the audience.

 
Verdict:
I rate She Stoops to Conquer a solid 4/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this drama as it’s a funny and short read, and moreover, marked a considerable revolution in the field of play at the time it first came out.

Pi Agency, Neelabh Pratap Singh, 2018

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Publisher: Self-published
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 313
Blurb:
Rashmi Purohit is a failed CBI aspirant. With no future in Indian law enforcement, she turned to working alongside the law. Now running her own agency out of her claustrophobic basement, Rashmi is dying for a notable case and a big break.
A wealthy entrepreneur with a troubled, drug-addicted son seems like the perfect client. But when Rashmi and her impetuous, barely-competent employees stumble into a Dark Web-based investment conspiracy, the detective knows she has kicked a hornet’s nest. Rashmi might just solve the case – but only if it doesn’t kill her, destroy her agency, or make her betray her father’s legacy one last time.
My Review:
The book was a gripping story, nail-biting and nerve-wrecking at multiple instances. The concept was really unique and the concept itself was not something that I have ever come across before. The gradual flow towards the climax and then the subsequent descent to the denouement was knee-jerking without being abrupt.
The characters were well—built too. We could see different aspects of their lives- Rashmi with her hidden and suppressed feelings of hatred and guilt, Diksha with her frustration, and Akshay with his resourcefulness. The bond of friendship which kept them together was also well shown, especially the dependence they had on each other.
I like the themes that are there in the book- the main among which is, addiction and its effects on our youth today. The other theme, of the ease, which the internet has provided us, is also a thought-invoking one.
The cover was something else that I liked as well. Faces on book covers is a personal preference and so it’s not surprising that I loved it. The dark and eeriness with the grain effect also gave a mysterious vibe and conveyed the utter essence of the story. However, at times, I felt like the author used too many technical and boring dialogues, including many jargons. Apart from this one point, I did not find any problems with this story.
Verdict:
Definitely a must-read for beginners in the mystery genre. I rate it a 4/5 stars. This is a book that will definitely entertain you!

The Secret of the Sculptures, Monika Thakur, 2017


Published by: Notion Press
I was very happy when I got the chance to review this book- I’d heard wonderful ravings about this novel and it had made my expectations very high. When I finally picked up the book, I was delighted from the very first page. The action is slow towards the beginning, but trust me, as it builds up it gains tremendous momentum.
Since I myself am enjoying my holidays, I was very much contented after I saw that our protagonist Maitreyi was, too! You could say, I bonded with her on some level. I found the character to be very realistic in this novel and as such relatable. I understand that in some books it is impossible to make very realistic characters, but having relatable characteristics- if only some, is a great way for the writer to garner points. I loved the wonderful camaraderie between these two girls, as they fight through the unfortunate circumstances that befall them. In Rakesh, and Siddharth, I found genuine gentlemanliness that almost restored my faith in males. Monika Thakur has very intricately weaved the plot around very complex characters; I still cannot make out of Mr. Seth is the antagonist or not. The thing that I really liked in the characters is that they all displayed various shades of gray in them- it’s a very post-modern way of making your characters as real as possible with their own faults.
As for the plot, I found a few loopholes that I hope the author will tie up in the next book- yes, I am wishing for a sequel. It would be lovely if we could see what happens to the characters next. The plot, although it was a tad bit slow in the beginning, I believe that it only worked well since the climax had to be reached a certain way and the author couldn’t have done any better. The thriller/crime aspect of the novel was great and I was very much mesmerized with the plot. The themes of friendship, the supernatural element, as well as the allegory was beautifully relayed in the plotline. The symbols were obviously also very well planned.
The editing was very well done in this novel and I could find very few grammatical/editing mistakes. However, I do feel that some parts of the story could have done with more description that was provided. Specially the intense almost-action scenes. In spite of it all, I honestly liked reading this book and only wish that the author soon releases a sequel. I would probably be the first to grab that copy. I rate this a 5/5 stars and look forward to the events that the future brings to these two girlfriends.