Tag Archives: literature

Intertextual retelling: The Sleeper and The Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle is an intertextual retelling comprising both the tales of Sleeping Beauty as well as Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

An Intertextual Retelling

This is a new retelling, combining the fairytales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I did not really know that going into it; I just thought that it was a Sleeping beauty retelling. However, the author has given an entirely new spin to it!

Female empowerment in intertextual reads

However, sleeping beauty, as it turns out, is not actually who we think she is. This is where the author brings in a delicious and dark new twist and it is quite interesting to see the turn that this story takes. This story however, does establish the two women as independent women with their own rights, pursuing what they want to, whether good or bad. They do not depend or long for a prince to save them and are neither pawns at the hands of others. They are makers of their own destiny and that was a good point added to the story.

Illustrations

The Sleeper and the Spindle
The Sleeper and the Spindle

I think that this is a good fairytale on its own rights, to introduce kids to – not everything is as it appears and not everyone is as helpless as they might seem to be. The artwork was quite different from the one I am generally used to but I loved it. I came across Chris Riddell’s illustrations once before in Summer With Monica by Roger McGough.

What I did not like

However, I would have liked the book to be a bit longer than it was. Because of this reason also, I think that it was a bit overhyped. It could have definitely provided more and I just think like there was something missing.

Verdict:

Overall, a really interesting read and I rate it 4/5 stars.

Check it out on Goodreads and Amazon!

Recommended reads: The Near Witch, Crown of Oblivion, The Raven’s Tale, After the Flood, etc.

The Day That Nothing Happened, Sonal Sehgal, 2018

Title: The Day That Nothing Happened

Author: Sonal Sehgal

Publisher: Destiny Media

Genre: Sci-fi

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 148

Recommended for: All sci-fi lovers as well as those who would like to start with this genre

Synopsis:

To accommodate an “extra day” in our calendar a worldwide shut down of electromagnetic activity has been called for. Which means no use of electric or battery operated appliances, no internet, no vehicular movement and there will be no record of any activity on that day as well. After the midnight of 18th June 2019, there will be an undocumented period of 24 hours post which the calendar will roll over to the 19th June and we resume life as if nothing happened. Only Veer, an astrophysicist at the helm of managing this cosmic aberration knows of one thing that will happen as a direct consequence. A portal will open into a Parallel Universe. When the fated day arrives, Veer reaches out to Samara to make her see for herself that he did not sacrifice their relationship for ambition. In his theory of the Multiverse, you don’t choose one over the other. Both choices play out in different Universes. He implores her to travel with him through this portal and witness their “happily ever after”. But when the portal does open, it’s a Pandora’s box. There is not one, but many Parallel Universes. Dev and Desiree are another couple who explore astral projection to deal with complex human relationships. The day when the Universe is paused, they accidentally discover the Multiverse. The worlds of science (the Multiverse) and spirituality (the 4th dimension) collide as the story climaxes. 

My review:

For a debut novel, The Day That Nothing Happened sure packs a punch. Sonal Sehgal’s novel is a surefire and one which will undoubtedly spark quite a few discussions among the readers.

Although a sci-fi, it is not a very hardcore one and as such, I think this book can be understandable by everyone. The words used may seem pretty new to many but the author has not failed to describe and talk over all the concepts through her characters. Apart from usual sci-fi lovers, I think other who may want to dip a toe into the huge ocean of sci-fi can surely begin with this one – it is easy to understand for any newbie, does not use very many jargons etc. One other thing that I think will make it easy for new readers to ease into this genre through this book, is that it is not hardcore sci-fi like I have already said. As such, the author has included various perceptions and stories in it. The family, romance angles have also been shown which makes it a pretty smooth read.

The concepts of the multiverse, portals, parallel universes, astral projection, etc., are so very fascinating and keeps the reader hooked on. The length of the novel is not that huge either so it is a quick and understandable read too.

The characters of Samara, Veer, Dev, Desiree are well made and individualistic on their own. I would have loved a more of a backstory to Desiree because she is quite fascinating. Samara and Veer, and their character evolutions are also well plotted and very much relatable to us individuals as we work and sleep and work, and live our lives.

The research done by the author is quite evident in this work. I personally really liked the way the author ended the books on such a real note – and I shall leave it at that, and not give any spoilers. The cover of the book is also amazing and beautiful. Must read if you are a newbie and want to delve into this genre.

Verdict:

Quite an enjoyable read. I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Sonal Sehgal is an actor, screenwriter and copywriter. She is an English Hoours graduate from Delhi University and holds a Diploma in Filmmaking from New York Film Academy, New York. She has played the protagonist in critically acclaimed films such as “Aashayein” and “Mantostaan”.

She has co-written the screenplay for “Lihaaf” adapting Ismat Chugtai’s famous story for a feature film, where Sonal also plays one of the two lead characters.

About the reviewer:

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

An Atlas of Impossible Longing, by Anuradha Roy, 2008

Title: An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Author: Anuradha Roy

Publisher: Picador USA

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 336

Recommended for:  

Synopsis:

On the outskirts of a small town in Bengal, a family lives in solitude in their vast new house. Here, lives intertwine and unravel. A widower struggles with his love for an unmarried cousin. Bakul, a motherless daughter, runs wild with Mukunda, an orphan of unknown caste adopted by the family. Confined in a room at the top of the house, a matriarch goes slowly mad; her husband searches for its cause as he shapes and reshapes his garden.

As Mukunda and Bakul grow, their intense closeness matures into something else, and Mukunda is banished to Calcutta. He prospers in the turbulent years after Partition, but his thoughts stay with his home, with Bakul, with all that he has lost—and he knows that he must return.

My review:

Thanks to my professor for lending me this book.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

An Atlas of Impossible Longings is a story of loss, love, hope, longings and desires. This tapestry of human natures is so vivid and full of imagery that it takes one to the places and the people as the author describes them. The story is undoubtedly sad at times, but I personally applaud the author’s ability to write it without making the reader really depressed. There is a thread of old-world, pre-independence era nostalgia threading throughout the entire narrative.

It was only when the novel ended that I understood why the author started it as she had. She does not fail to give us a backstory to the major characters, across the various generations – Amulya, Kananbala, Manjula, Nirmal, Mukunda, Bakul, Suleiman Chacha, Bikash Babu etc.

One could say, that there are three stories – that of Amulya who had created his new home away from the hustle and bustle of Calcutta, in Songarh, with his wife who is very much resentful of this; then we see Suleiman Chacha’s house in Calcutta, in the midst of the chaotic Partition years, where Mukunda also stays; and lastly, we see the house of Bikash Babu, built on the banks of a river gone wild, which is very much related to Bakul, the female protagonist, also named after a tree that had been growing on a side of the mansion. Tying all three of these, is the undeniable bond of Mukunda and Bakul, as well as both of them independently.

Mukunda as a character is the only one who we see is undergoing social mobility. He is a casteless orphan firstly, in a time when caste consciousness reigned supreme. Then he is taken up by Nirmal and encouraged to study and move forward in life – in this we again see him as the gentleman’s son. But then, in Calcutta, he is like every other individual trying to make something for himself. He never fails to remember, however, his Bakul whom he has left behind in Songarh. Even after being married, we see that unbreakable thread of thought and emotion binding him to her.  It is this aspect that really makes me relate him to Heathcliff, from Emily Bronte’s classic – Wuthering Heights. I really do think of this story as a somewhat loosely written Indian version of Wuthering Heights. Mukunda and Bakul’s story is just as tumultuous and wrought with various troubles.

He wanted to tell her that his dreams took him far beyond Songarh, beyond Calcutta, across oceans, towards icebergs. What would she say? “Take me with you! I want to come too!” 

Hand in hand, they stood in the middle of the empty fields under the star-filled sky, their troubles, fear, and the long way they still had to go before reaching home, all forgotten.

The name of this novel is quite relatable to the characters to this book – “impossible longing” implying that the longings that these people might have, are not to be accepted by society, and obviously so – we see Nirmal in love with Meera, a widow, who is, because of her marital state, a figure on the lower rungs of societal hierarchy; Mukunda with his own share and Meera with her desire to be identified as a woman by her own rights and not by her marital state. These people are so real to the reader – we see them giving up on this desires as they let themselves be carried forward by estiny, but still, holding onto a tiny flicker of hope.

“A veritable atlas. What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition. Want, want, hope, hope, this is what your palm say, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” 

Displacement plays an important underlying theme in this novel- whether it is Amulya as he brings in his family to Songarh, Nirmal in the city, and most importantly with Suleiman Chacha.

Women and their position in society is also another interesting point. Considering the fact that the novel spans roughly 1920s to the 1950s, the expectations and rules set upon them were also very different. We see Kananbala, and as she grows older, the lack of knowledge that people have about speech impediments, leads her to being locked up in her room until her death. Manjula as a wife and daughter-in-law “fails” to do her duty, because she is unable to bear progeny. Then comes the Mrs. Barnum whose half-blood origins make her foreign to both the British as well as the locals. Then again, one rumor (in case of Bakul) is enough to stop a marriage from occuring. The pitiable condition of widows is seen through Meera and one line really touched me.

“Some day, she fantasised, I’ll again wear sunset orange, green the colour of a young mango, and rich semul red. Maybe just in secret, for myself, when nobody’s looking, but I will.
Unknown to her, Nirmal was watching from outside. It had brought him to a standstill, to see her doing something so ordinary, looking at a sari, the kind of sari that a widow could never wear.”

The author has not failed to cover many important aspects of India of those times – caste system, the pitiable condition of widows, the Hindu-Muslins rivalry and riots near the Partition years, social system etc. in her brutally elegant writing style, Roy has woven together a veritable mass of an entity that is relatable to the heart of India, and all things Indian. With brilliant characterization and world building, this is one of the best books I read in 2018!

Verdict:

I rate it a 5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Assamese Youth and Assamese Literature


As a person from Assam, a state in Northeast India, my mother-tongue is Assamese. I use it all the time to converse with my family, relatives, friends, and so on. The other languages I use verbally are just Hindi and English. That is it. But when it comes to reading and writing, I admit I am much more comfortable only in English. And that simply is because English was, after all, the first language I was taught to write while in school. I studied Assamese till class 10, and then continued to use it while reading and writing but only for my dance lessons. So that was until a couple years back.
Today, I am really trying to reverse that. I am going to make sure that I read more and more Assamese books this year- it is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I am going to make myself better versed in my mother-tongue. Because to call myself Assamese without knowing how to properly read the language is indeed shameful.

For this initiative, I have taken the help of this blog and my bookstagram account, and come up with the #readyourmothertongue reading challenge through which I will read at least one Assamese novel each month. And why only Assamese? Pick up books written in your language, if it is a different one!
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These books are ones I bought in December so I suppose this is your #decemberbookhaul2018 #part7 and the last too!
1. গল্প আৰু গল্প – দিলীপ বৰা দ্বাৰা সম্পাদিত
2. অসীমত যাৰ হেৰাল সীমা – কাঞ্চন বৰুৱা
3. বুঢ়ী আইৰ সাধু – লক্ষ্মীনাথ বেজবৰুৱা
4. মিৰি জীয়ৰী – ৰজনীকান্ত বৰদলৈ
5. জিগলো – ৰশ্মিৰেখা ভূঞা
6. মৰমৰ দেউতা – ভাবেন্দ্ৰনাথ শইকীয়া
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একেইখনৰ ভিতৰত কোনো এখন পঢ়িছে নেকি আপুন?
Have you read any among these?
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I will be picking up these books- one by one- in the #readyourmothertongue challenge!
Are you participating as well? Do join in! 😊

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

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Title: Ashwatthama’s Redemption: The Rise of Dandak
Author: Gunjan Porwal
Publisher: Om Books International
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 263
Synopsis:
Over a hundred years after the Mahabharata War, an ancient power threatens to destroy the new Age of Men, by establishing the Age of Terror of the asuras, long believed to be extinct. The only hurdle in its path is Guru Dronacharya’s son, the mighty but accursed warrior Ashwatthama, who lost all his powers following Lord Krishna’s curse, and who unwittingly finds himself drawn into the quest of the lost bow of Lord Rama – the Kodanda.
As ghosts of the distant past return to haunt him, and the line between friends and enemies blurs, Ashwatthama must fight his inner demons to emerge victorious. He undertakes a perilous journey – across the vast plains of the gages, to the snow-capped peaks of the Himavant – where the price of failure is a fate worse than death, and death is a privilege not granted to Ashwatthama.
Is this all part of Lord Krishna’s great plan? Will Ashwatthama be able to regain his lost glory?
My review:
Ashwatthama’s Redemption is a mythological fiction book, and one of the best of its kind. I found in it, a perfect blend of all elements that have the capacity to thrust forward and make popular any book within the genre. Perhaps that explains the amazing ratings that this book has been gathering, and deservedly so.
The entire plot was well planned out and detailed – elaborate in its own scope and leaving the reader intrigued by the ending – there is undoubtedly a sequel coming out. The author has maintained the plot pace very well and it really becomes fast paced towards the end of the book, leading to a crescendo!
The themes again – war, politics, human spirit in the face of doom, friendship, kinship etc., are all very dynamic, as shown in the book and the fiction element with which the author has written this mythological tale is fluent and free-flowing. There were no jerks throughout. It all sounds like it happened, but the best part is that the reader feels like he or she is a part of the adventure. The world building was good, but I admit, could have been better. The inclusion of the map in the beginning was a great idea but perhaps it would have been preferable if the naming had been done in English and not Hindi. The mystery element is also one that needs special mention – the hermeneutic and pro-airetic codes used have truly helped in that regard.
The character created by the author are well made – they are round and multi-dimensional, except the side characters, of course. Their backstories have also been provided which truly adds great depth to any character – another good point that the author has kept in mind, clearly.
The stories and anecdotes that the author puts in, in the middle – the various references to the Mahabharata war and that world, basically, is intriguing and attracts the reader’s attention clearly, for so many of those facts and small details are unknown to the common reader and thus, interesting for them.
The editing and proof-corrections have been well done as well. The cover is nice to look at and really helps the reader to imagine how Ashwatthama may have looked like.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as I rate it a 4/5 stars, I wait eagerly for the sequel to come out!
 
About the reviewer
Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .
 
 
 

The Way of the World, William Congreve, 1700

 
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Title: The Way of the World
Author: William Congreve
Publisher: Peacock Books
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 92
 
Synopsis:
The play is centered on the two lovers Mirabell and Millamant. In order for them to marry and receive Millamant’s full dowry, Mirabell must receive the blessing of Millamant’s aunt, Lady Wishfort. Unfortunately, Lady Wishfort is a very bitter lady who despises Mirabell and wants her own nephew, Sir Wilfull, to wed Millamant.
Another character, Fainall, is having a secret affair with Mrs. Marwood, a friend of Mrs. Fainall’s, who in turn once had an affair with Mirabell.
In the meantime, Mirabell’s servant is married to Foible, Lady Wishfort’s servant. Waitwell pretends to be Sir Rowland and, on Mirabell’s command, tries to trick Lady Wishfort into a false engagement. Above all, all the characters in the play are involved to each other in extra marital affairs in an affected way and pretentious way while Mirabell and Millamant go against the currents of the society.
 
My review:
I needed to read this play for a class in my university and even after reading it more than once, I am quite confused as to what I feel about this book. On the one hand, it is truly funny – the entanglements that all these characters get stuck in, but on the other hand, it is morally degrading – to see the reasons as to why these people get stuck in these dilemmas, more specifically, because of all the deceit, trickery, lying and cheating that they indulge in. So perhaps it is better to consider it a satire on the society of those times, as portrayed by William Congreve, and leave it at that. Or not.
 
If we see this as a love story, we can see that the love shared by the lead couple is not really based on the love they have for each other, but rather, the love for material gain. We can see how willing Millamant, the female lead, becomes to marry someone else other than her lover, since going against her aunt’s wishes and marrying Mirabell, the male lead, would mean that she would not get her inheritance. So basically we see her choosing her money over love. One can call her realistic and pragmatic, someone who understands the realities of life. But I find it debatable. Moreover, in the proviso scene, where these two ‘lovers’ are preparing a pre-nuptial agreement, one can get a definite whiff of how business-like they both treat this whole deal. Where is the love?
 
Mirabell is shown like the reformed womanizer – he has had an affair with Mrs. Fainall (who is Millamant’s cousin!) whom he later gets married to Mr. Fainall, afraid that he might have made her pregnant! Then again, we see Mr. Fainall having an extra-marital affair with a Mrs. Marwood, someone with whom, it has been implied, Mirabell too had an affair once. So it’s really very shady – on the one hand, we may consider Mirabell the refined rake who would make the best husband (don’t they say that refined rakes make the best husbands?) and on the other hand, we can see Mirabell as the incorrigible rake, whose temporary flavour of the month is Millamant. Millamant is also shown as a woman who is confident of the power she has over Mirabell but I honestly found her a total tease at times.
 
The trickery and the deceit and the cheating really made me have second thoughts about the play, but coming back to the point, maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
 
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 .
 
 
 

War in My Town, E. Graziani, 2014

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Title: War in my Town
Author: E. Graziani
Publishers: Second Story Press
Genre: Memoir/War literature
Format: EBook
 
Synopsis:
Teenaged Bruna’s life is turned upside down when her small Italian village becomes the centre of fighting in the last months of the Second World War.
Bruna is the youngest of seven children, living an idyllic life in a small village in Italy in the 1940s. As the Second World War unfolds Bruna’s life remains largely the same. By 1943, her biggest disappointment is that food rationing means there is no cake to celebrate her fourteenth birthday. The Italian leader Mussolini’s allegiance to Hitler and the distant reports of fighting seem far away from their lives.
But when the Italian people turn against their fascist regime, war comes to their region. Bruna struggles to cope as Nazi soldiers descend to occupy their village, and she must help her mother and sisters stand up to the occupying soldiers. Her peaceful life is turned upside down by the fact that her beloved little village is now the centre of the final stage of fighting between the Allies and the Germans, the only front left defended by the Nazis in Italy.
Including photographs and maps, War In My Town is a true story based on the experiences of author E. Graziani’s mother and her family.
 
My review:
 
I will begin by stating that I loved this book so much that I read it twice. Yes, twice! Over the course of a month.
War in my Town is a memoir. It is about the author’s mother, a then young girl, a mere teenager and her experience in the small village of Eglio, which was on the Gothic Line, which was again, one of the last Nazi strongholds towards the end of WWII. It was no surprise to me when I learnt that this book has been taught in schools as well. At a considerably short length, this book is a truly touching and harrowing read.
The themes of war and survival strike out the most from this piece of war literature about a certain chapter from the history of WWII that is not much known by all. Being an Italian household, we also see elements of friendship, the importance of family and love, sharing, human bonds that defy all odds as well as the human spirit that stands strong in the face of all adversity. War In My Town has beautifully combined these elements to provide an unforgettable experience for the reader. What keeps you aware throughout is that, the book is true in all its totality. Like the author says, it is 100% real. And knowing that, I couldn’t help but cry at so many points. This book has truly touched my heart.
The plot spans throughout the war years- and we see the household grow and support each other. The sisters and brothers of the protagonist are all loving and beautiful and the mother is such a strong and brave soul, truly.
Verdict:
War In My Town was a really wonderful read and I suppose y reading the first line in my review, you will clearly believe me. Nonetheless, I reiterate that I loved this book and shall recommend it to all. I rate this a total 5/5 stars!

Zidd, Hetansh Desai, 2018


Title: Zidd
Author: Hetansh Desai
Publisher: Half Baked Beans
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 162
Synopsis:
Vihaan looked at the skies, took a deep breath and shouted, ‘I want to be on the hoarding outside her flat!’
Parth did not react right away. After a few minutes, he asked, ‘Sorry? What is that?’
‘She said she doesn’t want to see my face. So, now I want to ensure she sees my face every day the first thing in the morning.’
Parth took a step towards Vihaan. He shrugged his shoulders, confusedly. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘There’s a hoarding outside her flat.’
‘And you want to be on it?’
‘Yes!’
Witness the roller coaster journey of Vihaan, a college dropout, and Parth, a tea vendor, as they strive to buy the most expensive hoarding space in Ahmedabad.
My review:
Zidd means Stubbornness. As such, I feel that the title is apt and to the point when it comes to the story. The author takes us on a fast paced ride with Vihaan and Parth and one cannot help but feel that the reader is actually watching a Bollywood movie. In Parth and Vihaan we find complete foils to each other- where Parth is the son of a tea vendor but want to start his own business, Vihaan is the son of a successful businessman who wants his son to follow in his footsteps, but Vihaan instead opts for a Liberal Arts course.
The whole story is quite interesting as we come across the different marketing adventures that both for these young man have individually. It is a nice and also a very intriguing subject to read about, as a person who is not from the commerce background. Their struggles and aspirations, are quite praiseworthy and nice to read about. And not to mention, very inspiring at times. Moreover, the author has spent quite some time on the character development and it clearly shines through.
The themes of love, betrayal, inspiration, ambitions, the struggle to reach them, are all well explored. The language used is simple and easy to understand. This is perhaps a good choice for any beginner as well as someone who would want to pick up something light, and not very intense.
Apart from these, two certain things did not sit well with me. Firstly, I feel that the author could have explained certain points a bit more eloquently. And secondly, there is multiple use of swear words which may not be suitable for a younger audience.
Recommendations:
This was a really surprisingly interesting read. I rate the content a 4/5 stars!

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847

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Publishers: Maple Press
Genre: Gothic fiction/Classic
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis:
 Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr. Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.
 
My review:
 I had Wuthering Heights assigned to me for my 3rd semester reading list, and I am so very glad that I could revisit this classic once again this year. The first time I read Wuthering Heights, was way back when I was in middle school, class 6 to be specific, since a favourite teacher was gushing about this, her favourite novel. Hungry for some romance, I picked it up, and I’ve been continuously picking this book up again and again.
The whole plot was confusing  to me the first time I read it, mind you- the English isn’t so very modern and hence it was quite difficult to a mere class 6 student, the entire background was gloomy and tragic and I felt the pervading sense of alienation in the windy moors of Yorkshire. Now, as an English major, I appreciate this literary work so much more and can understand the undertones better, of course. The themes of love, revenge, man versus nature, the Divine Providence, abound in this novel, and Emily Bronte, writing as Ellis Bell, masterfully carved a perfect plot, swathed with the events that eventually lead to the anticlimactic end.
The characters are well defined and I find the protagonists to be quite deserving of each other. While the romantic in me admires the ruggedly “tall, dark and handsome” Heathcliff, and his passionate love for his Cathy- so much so that he strives on and on for revenge, I cannot help but shirk away at his inhumanity at points. Cathy, misguided as she was in her hopes, which led to her disastrous actions, I found her a very impulsive and selfish as well as manipulative person, sweet enough not to make other realize her intents. Like was quoted, “It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.”
The writing is exquisite nonetheless, and although in Wuthering Heights we find one of the most dysfunctional couples of all time, there are also some of the best romantic quoted lines of all time. A masterpiece in its own, Wuthering Heights is a novel which at all persons interested in literature should definitely pick up at least once in their lifetime.
Verdict:
I rate Wuthering Heights a 4/5 stars, specifically because although I love the book, there are some points which don’t work for me at all.

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, 1837-1839

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Publishers: Maple Press
Genre: Satire/Classic
Format: Paperback
Synopsis:
Named a “national institution” by George Orwell, Dickens offers his most popular tale, of the orphan who is reared in a workhouse and runs away to London-a novel of social protest, a morality tale, and a detective story
My review:
Oliver Twist is a book I read for my course this semester. I really liked it and will definitely be picking it up once more this year. The points that really hold me to it are as follows:

  1. Dickens has realistically portrayed the realities of London during a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was growing day by day.
  2. It also marked the ongoing Industrial Revolution and as such depicted the effects among the middle class.
  3. The themes of poverty, class, charity etc. were also explored in a descriptive manner. The plight of the orphans in the baby farms and subsequently in the workhouses was really sad but enlightening. Friendship and kindness are also two very important themes we see in the novel.
  4. The author has also created some very interesting characters involved in various occupations, and through them, shed light on the conditions of these different people as well. Overall, the cast is a full-on funny and humourous collection of various people who represent the follies of the age. Oliver Twist abounds in all varieties of humour, farcical situation, verbal twist and mannerism of speech and above all, the sympathetic laughter that acts as a buffer in highlighting these characters.
  5. The plot is well created and the twists and turns all arrive at interesting points and give a good reading experience to the reader.

Verdict:
I rate Oliver Twist a solid 4/5 stars. I also definitely recommend everyone to read this Victorian social novel as it’s quite funny, and moreover, described the nitty-gritty underbelly of London’s crimes.

Super Women, 2016, Super Couples, 2017, and Super Siblings, 2018, Prachi Garg.

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Publishers: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Genre: Non-fiction
Format: Paperback
 
Synopsis for Super Women:
This book brings forth the stories of twenty women entrepreneurs who have struck a perfect personal-professional harmony, and a chord with their immediate consumers. Their innovative ventures encompass a varied range of services – from supporting victims of acid attacks, to providing free skin care solutions; from online retail of lingerie, handmade bags and fashion accessories, to eco-friendly products of everyday utility; from pet care products, to quirky merchandise; from empowering folk artists, to providing clinical assistance to those going through tough times; from image consulting to house hunting; from arty solutions, to innovative marketing and corporate communication; from creating happy readers to making religious ceremonies simpler – these entrepreneurs have opened avenues formerly unexplored. Superwomen is an interesting journey of how they played all their roles to perfection, aligning their families with their ambitions, showing the world their true mettle
Synopsis for Super Couples:
In an era booming with the ‘Startup’ trend and loving this new attitude of breaking boundaries and   conventions of a career, one also faces the challenge of being able to partner up with the right people. In lieu of reliable and trustworthy partners, real life couples in relationships have started exploring   the idea of partnering up in business too! Speaking to various couple-preneurs, one realizes that the myth about mixing work and home is just as misty as the one about needing a stable and conventional job for an ambitious career. These dynamic startups break stereotypes and cover a varied range of services: ecommerce, innovative gifts, eco-friendly products, health care solutions, social responsibility ventures, event management, digital solutions and many others. SuperCouples brings out such lovely stories of enterprising couples. After all, when great minds come together to produce something built on conjoined dreams, the result is eminently successful.
Synopsis for Super Siblings:
In a world where relationships make or break the deal for a lifetime, it is imperative to be able to have equations that are reliable, compatible and accessible. Luckily enough, sometimes it doesn’t take too much effort to find the right set of people, perhaps because nature has its own way of providing them. From childhood to adulthood, siblings share their environment, principles and interests and are naturally quite compatible. Gone are the days when siblings only gave the best ‘what car to buy’ advice or approved the guy you were dating. Today, brothers and sisters are travelling together, taking up hobbies together and to add to the latest trend, building enterprises together. Varying from tech start-ups to trendy fashion wear, from utility applications to artsy expressions, siblings seem to be partnering up with each other to break away from conventional career choices. SuperSiblings encapsulates the journeys of twenty siblings who have broken away from conventions and supported each other to start-up their dream ventures.
 
My review:
I really loved this series. Prachi Garg has done a great job with all three. Keeping this short and simple, I’ll state the things I really liked:

  1. All the different accounts were written like different short stories. And the brevity was always maintained.
  2. The author has been able to make each story very entertaining without the use of such statistics and numbers.
  3. As such, all three proved to be quick reads, which can be finished in one sitting.
  4. The most important thing, perhaps, is the fact that all of these were so very inspiring and motivating.
  5. Adding a face to each story was a good move- it made the accounts all the more personal and easy to relate to.
  6. Apart from all these, the paper quality was also really good and emitted a very nice smell. As a reader, I’m sure most of my followers will love that.
  7. The fact that these copies came signed was a great deal in itself.
  8. These are some books that I shall definitely be going back to every now and then when I feel the need to look for some motivation.
  9. The covers are also quite catchy although some more work can definitely be done on them.
  10. The themes are quite varied the most striking of which I think were those of perseverance and hard work. Apart from that, there was also love, friendship, trust and also teamwork.

Verdict:
These were really good books and I rate all of them 4 stars each!

Seductive Affair, Rishabh Puri, 2018

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Publishers: Srishti Publishers and Distributors
Genre: Romance
Synopsis:
Prisha Khatri is a regular college graduate, focused on her career, desperate to finally move out of her parents’ house… and freshly dumped by her successful fiancé. When she lands a job at a prestigious media house, she’s glad to have something to take her mind off her heartbreak.
What she doesn’t expect is to be landed on a business trip with a famously fiery reporter Rajesh Lagheri. He’s travelling to a business conference for a story, and doesn’t seem impressed by her involvement. But as soon as they’re out of the office, things change, and it becomes clear that there is more to Rajesh’s trip than meets the eye.
As Prisha is drawn into the story he’s trying to hide from their editor, their hunt for the story grows more intense, and she finds herself growing closer to Rajesh. As their chemistry threatens to overwhelm them and Prisha is pulled deeper into the Seductive Affair, she must decide what matters most to her – matters of the head, or of the heart.
My review:
Seductive Affairs was the second book I read in August and I have not been disappointed. Now there have been many negative reviews regarding this one, but I would like to point out that although it wasn’t a serious read, Seductive Affairs was a perfect romance book. I love the fact that it was kept short without any parts that dragged unnecessarily, and a very Mills and Boon-esque vibe.
The plot was pretty simple and the way the author went about it was great too. I found the pacing well-proportioned and subsequently, the flow of the whole story was very pleasant. It is to be noted however that Seductive Affair is quite literally a light read- a mindless one. It’s very easy-peasy and hardly evokes any strong emotions in the reader. This is the type of book that would do well as s slump-reliever.
The characters were also very well made; I found Prisha a true woman of the world- she’s not willing to be suppressed in the face of an ultimatum to either choose the guy or her dream. I found her to be an independent and amazing girl- worth being an idol. Rajesh was also worth admiring- his drive and determination show that hard work with passion truly leads you to the past of success. The cover was also very alluring and I do believe that it portrayed something very much related to the title of the book. The synopsis shown was also very good!
Verdict:
I rate this book 3/5 stars. It was a truly fun read.

When Broken Hearts Meet, Arushi Vats, 2018

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Publishers: Notion press
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Romance
Synopsis:
Avanti meets Suhaas. They become friends. Avanti is a conflicted girl, shattered in the tussle between her past and present and Suhaas is the typical prince charming who has two sides, one which he keeps to himself and the other which he shows to everyone. As their story proceeds ahead, both of them begin to feel affinity for each other. But deep in the realms of their hearts dwells chaos that occurs because of their past relationships. Avanti and Suhaas’s friends make efforts to unite them as they know that they love each other. Eventually, it’s up to Suhaas if he will confess his love or not but the important question arises here is, will Avanti find the courage to leave behind her tumultuous past and embrace her love story?
My review:
The story is basically of two people who try to overcome various hurdles in their love for each other. That being said, the plot was pretty well developed, however, the author’s approach to it can be changed. The twists and turns introduced were pretty fair although some bits were overly dramatized and the pace was abrupt all the while.
Now, I honestly didn’t like the protagonist- Avanti; she was just too weak and spineless and also too confused all the time. Moreover, she hardly takes a stand for herself. She is also too negative and stubborn, and that too not in a good way either. The pace of her budding relationship is also too fast with Suhaas, who for that matter, was a pretty petty and immature boy himself. The author would have done well to have invested some more time building the foundation of their relationship. The friends of Avanti as well seemed to be too interfering and considering their age, too inappropriate.
The editing could have gone better and I just had to drag myself in the second half of the book. But that’s a personal opinion. Although this is a book I won’t be picking up again, I would recommend light romance lovers to go for it.
Verdict:
I rate this a 2/5 stars for the plot, and the intricate twists and turns added by the author, especially the ending. The author definitely has the capacity to produce better works than this in the future.

In a cult of their own: Bollywood beyond box office, Amborish Roychoudhury, 2018

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Publishers: Rupa Publications
Synopsis:
‘Cults become cults, they are not made. It’s the becoming that is interesting, not the making.’
There are some films that sure fizzle out of the theatres in a heartbeat, but figure out a way to survive. Through a torrent leaked online, on an old bootlegged DVD or VHS, or YouTube upload and then in the hands of the omnipresent Twitterati—the films form a ‘cult’ of their own.
This book is a tongue-in-cheek ode to these cult movies of Hindi filmdom, ones that despite not having made moolah at the box office, still made it to viewers’ memories for reasons—good or bad. Drawing from his own reminiscences of growing up on these delectables and also face-to-face interviews with actors and directors such as Aamir Khan, Pankaj Kapur and Deepti Naval, the author celebrates these underdogs in a manner that is extremely readable and relatable.
My review:
I must first admit that I am not a fan of non-fiction. However this book gripped me like no other.
In a cult of their own: Bollywood beyond box office is a wonderful review of several Bollywood classics, 28 to be exact. The author is obviously a person who is a genuine fan of these movies and is very-well read about it all, like one can decipher from his words.
The movies that made it to this list are all cult movies- movies that may not have been blockbusters, and yet so famous that people from even Gen Z may be considered their fans. The synopsis states that “Cults become cults, they are not made”, and this pretty much sums up the relevance of the myriad of movies named in this book.
The content of the book was very enlightening as well as entertaining. The author has done quite the bit of research to deliver impeccable reviews on the storylines, acting roles, directorial roles, the dialogues with their English translations, the music and the songs etc. There are also a multitude of interviews shown, quotes quoted, and various interesting conversations as well.
Coming to the cover, I loved the concept of the faded movie posters in the background of a very colorful cover. If not for the content, this book can certainly be a cover-buy. It couldn’t have been more apt than it is.
Verdict:
In a cult of their own: Bollywood beyond box office, is a treat for cinephiles and I would definitely recommend it to all the Bollywood fanatics, and I rate this a 4/5 stars.

Lean Days, Manish Gaekwad, 2018


“I am okay sleeping with someone who does not read books as long as they are not defiant about it.”
– Manish Gaekwad, Lean Days

Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers
Synopsis:
Fed up with his tedious desk job, a young man decides to quit on an impulse. He wants to write a novel but doesn’t think he has a story to tell. So the would-be writer, who was raised in a kotha, sets out to travel, hoping to arrive somewhere: at a destination, at a story.
But it’s not just about arriving. What about the journey? The joy and pain of trudging through the country without a plan, or a map? If his aim is to write, who will document his search for inspiration, and for love?
Lean Days is the story of an artist’s voyage through the country, mixing history with imagination, and finding people and places whose stories he can tell along with his own. It is a book of journeys without an end in sight, about the yearning for romance and succumbing to the temptations of the flesh.
The plot
The story is about a gay man travelling across India with the aim to find inspiration for his novel. Can be classified as an autobiography, epistolary novel as well as a novel of manners. It’s a journey through multiple cities along with a myriad of cultures, customs, foods and religions of the people. It is an exceptional journey mostly as the character explores facets of his own individuality including his sexuality, of the fear of rejection, openness, trust etc.
Throughout this journey from one city to another, and through the haze of memories associated with that particular place, he not only gets closer to his inner desires but he also discovers his inner self.
It is a really inflective book in the sense that it forces us to introspect about our own views and expectations of love, sexuality etc. Being gay in India is not easy especially in the times the author portrayed. As the protagonist travels from one place to another, he also collects some souvenirs like a comb in Hampi, a book in Srinagar, and so on. His journey begins from Bangalore, where he relives his days spent in the old Indian Coffee House, now shifted to a more modern setting, and continues with Hyderabad, Delhi, Ajmer, Srinagar, then Ladakh, Chandigarh, Manali, Lucknow, Kathmandu, Lumbini, Banaras, Calcutta and finally, to where the writer actually belongs to, i.e., Bombay. The themes of sexuality, self-discovery, love, lust and also the whole concept of self was worth reading about and shed quite the light on matters that need to be discussed more.
The writing style
I am really impressed with the writing style of the author- Lean Days is truly an ongoing autobiography done right. He has beautifully captured the thoughts and fears of a regular Indian man who has to be defiantly secretive of his feelings in a mostly homophobic India. This is the sort of book that needs to be read more in the community and moreover, to be written about and I’m happy to see this ongoing change in the current generation- the willingness to be respecting of all people despite their varying sexualities and behaviours. The overall writing style is quite simple, albeit very realistic and to the point. The pace that the author has adopted for the book is also very great as the protagonist travels from one city to another- sometimes happily, sometimes not, and sometimes in between.

The characters
I could really relate to the nameless protagonist throughout the book. The other characters are well created with a believable as well as relatability. They are all flawed and display varying shades of grey- thus making them more human and real in a fictionalized story.

Cover
The cover was kept minimalistic and I admit I was truly very attracted to the cover in the beginning. The background to the neon pink “Lean Days” truly gave the kotha vibes.

Verdict
I rate this book a 4/5 stars keeping in mind the characters, the plotline as well as the themes covered. It was an exciting journey.
Note: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India and the author for giving me the opportunity to read and write an honest review in exchange for a copy of this book.
Amazon Link for the Book: https://www.amazon.in/Lean-Days-Manish-Gaekwad-ebook/dp/B079VY663G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1528966200&sr=1-1&keywords=lean+days

Ramayana: The great Indian epic, by Valmiki

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The Ramayana is one of the two most famous Sanskrit epics of India. It’s an affirmative epic and set in the Treta Yuga. It basically follows the eldest prince of Kosala kingdom- Rama, and his familial life. Other characters are Laxmana (brother), Sita (wife), Dasharatha (father), Kaikeyi(one of the three wives of the king), and also, Ravana (demon king of Lanka).
This is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Ascribed to the sage Valmiki, the Ramayana is also considered to be the AdiKavya or the first poem. As an Indian myself, I have grown up hearing stories of the Ramayana from my grandparents, parents and other elders in general. The story, apart from the usual entertainment aspect, also teaches life values etc. in Rama himself, we see an idealistic character, and while many people find faults within him, I for one, do not particularly hate him. His fault perhaps was placing his own countrymen above his own as well as his family members’ personal wants and choices.
There is also politics here- so much so that a crowned prince is sent to exile for 14 years. It has fantasy as well as mythological elements as well; demons, witches, divine weapons, giants etc. abound in this grand epic.
I have been reading the translated version of this epic for some time now, and I’ve been loving it. This Ramesh Menon translated version is as close as you can get to the original one. I would definitely recommend you all to give it a read before you pick up any retellings. And when you finally pick it up, do make sure to keep a pen and paper with you, so that you can write who the people are. There are just so many characters, that a person who has been newly introduced to it may be confused!
While writing this article, I was looking up some relevant facts about the epic and I came across this: “Sing his love, sing his praise, Rama set his wife ablaze. Got her home, kicked her out, to allay his people’s doubt. Rama’s wise, Rama’s just, Rama does what Rama must. Duty first, Sita last, Rama’s reign is unsurpassed,” – Luv & Kush, an excerpt of lyrics from Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues. 
 
If you finish it and like it, and are looking for something similar, I would definitely recommend you to give these books a read:

  1. The Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish Tripathi.
  2. Sita: The warrior of Mithila by Amish Tripathi.
  3. Asura: Tale of the vanquished by Anand Neelakantan.
  4. Sita: an illustrated retelling of Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik.
  5. Four brides for four brothers by Devdutt Pattanaik.
  6. Bhoomija: Sita by Anand Neelakantan.

At the moment, I can’t remember anything else but comment below if you do. Do tell me how you found reading that book.
 

  1. I shall be hosting a giveaway on my Instagram account soon, since I’m fast approaching my one year anniversary. Make sure you follow me @pretty_little_bibliophile on Instagram as well as this blog, to get a chance at winning some amazing things!

 
 
 

Scion of Ikshvaku, Amish Tripathi, 2015

So recently, I completed reading this book and I give it a solid 5/5 stars.

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It was so very realistic and corroborated by many believable facts, that at times I forgot that it was just a fiction. This is my first Amish Tripathi book and I must say that I have been enamoured by his style of writing. The narrative is compelling and just simply forces you to look deep into the recesses of your mind and soul. The attention he has given to detail is perfect and in the words of First City, ‘…one must congratulate Amish on reintroducing Hindu mythology to the youth of this country’.
The plot is exquisite and the characters are round and real in all aspects. I have never really liked Ram but despite that, I loved his character in this book. It is true that his law-abiding nature was perhaps his hamartia; although not quite, since he does go to heaven in the end, I suppose. This is a very close retelling of the Ramayana, fictionalized no doubt, but all the very more interesting for it.
It has given me a fresh perspective of the instances that might have been, apart from all the stories we have been told by our parents/grandparents. The women in this book are shown as very intelligent and self-dependent ones, which I see has become a trend in modern day retellings and all for the better I feel. Nonetheless, Sita being shown as the Prime Minister of her kingdom is quite an empowering fact in itself. She is not quite the damsel-in-distress we have often thought her to be. The bonding between the brothers is also beautifully shown with the occasional expected silly talks and jokes.
We also see the hatred that can arise in a person because of particular instances that may have happened in his past/childhood. For example, we have Ram who is blamed because he was born on the very day his father lost the battle (his first ever loss) at Karachapa to Ravan, the king of Lanka and also a very good trader.
The politics, I feel, is the most attractive feature in this book, apart from the Ram-Sita scenes, of course. Vishwamitra and Vashishtha are no doubt master players in this whole situation and the introduction of the Vayuputras and Malayaputras just adds more spice to the stew. I have not read the Shiva trilogy before this like I have already stated in the beginning, and as such, it was a bit difficult for me to catch hold of the histories and agendas of these two sections. For this matter though, I would definitely suggest reading that trilogy before reading the Ram Chandra series since that series comes chronologically before this one as well as being the first in publication orders as well.
If you want to gain a fresh new perspective on the Ramayana then I would definitely recommend you to read this amazing work and you will be delighted to know that the sequel follows Sita and also converges with this book towards the end. I have personally started reading the sequel and I’m loving it. Definitely, a must-read if you would like a new point of view for this great epic, keeping in mind that this is not the actual story but simply a fictionalized retelling to which the author has added a few of his own twists and turns.