Tag Archives: new release

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!)

Aurora Rising, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, 2019

Title: Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle 0.1)

Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Rock the Boat, an imprint of Oneworld Publications

Publication date: 6 June 2019

Genre: Science fiction/fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 470

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

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 .

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 .

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli, 22nd January 2019

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

Title: The Matchmaker’s List

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publisher: Berkley, imprint of Penguin Random House

Genre: Romantic comedy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 329

Recommended for: Romance genre lovers.

Synopsis:

One devoted modern girl + a meddlesome, traditional grandmother = a heartwarming multicultural romantic comedy about finding love where you least expect it.
Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it–or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina’s side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she’s ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn’t know won’t hurt her…
As Raina’s life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother’s dreams. 

My review:

ARC provided by the Berkley publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The Matchmaker’s List was my first read of 2019 and it proved to be a really enjoyable and short read. I finished it in one day itself, in just around a couple of sittings.

Considering the fact that The Matchmaker’s List is a debut for the author Sonya Lalli, it ended up being one of the most enjoyable reads I have had this month, and I have already read around 10 so far.

The romance in this novel was so very realistic and as an Indian I really could relate to it. Raina Anand is your everyday individual with Indian roots and seeing the familial aspect that comes with all Indian families, I really loved it. As a character, she was very relatable – she is your average late-twenties girl, with her career in focus and with no intention of getting hitched. However, the certain heartache that comes with a returning flame is something many of us can relate to again. Her relations with her friends and her grandmother were adorable to read through and moreover, the dynamics of the relationship (or rather, the “non-existential” one) with her mother again, is one that has been created with quite the bit of careful interweaving of emotions. The author has been able to make Raina a very round character in this regard – and that is why she is so relatable to the reader as well.

The grandmother (nani) was also a very interesting character. Although I was very pissed off with her at times, for her meddlesome behaviour as she tried to control one aspect of Raina’s life (what she considered the most important aspect, mind you), her ability to accept and be there or her granddaughter when the time came – is very important. She is shown as a very caring and reformative woman, especially, after what she considers her failure in raising Raina’s mother- Manavi. The other characters – Asher, Dev, Shay, Depesh, Serena, Manavi (of whom I would have loved to read more), etc., were also well made.

The themes of friendship, love and relationships, family, etc were again, very much intertwined, so much so that one thing easily led to the other. Everything was related and the flow was consistent throughout. Homosexuality and its understanding and acceptance is also a key theme in this novel. Talking about the flow, the pacing of the story was just as good. The narrative was kept interesting until the very end.

However, what I would like to highlight is that The Matchmaker’s List is not just a romance or a chick-lit novel. There is quite some angst and emotion involved which one might consider dark, if they go in thinking it a mere rom-com read.

The writing style is also very smooth and reads like butter. The romance element is one of my favourite in the book, apart from the relationship that Raina has with her own self. Her growth as an individual, especially as the story progresses is remarkable and worth reading about. In one way, it still is a coming-of-age story with self-acceptance an underlying but just as important, theme.

The author has done a great job with this debut. Entertaining, intense and a very fun to read story, overall.

Verdict:

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 .

Can You Die of a Broken Heart? , Dr. Nikki Stamp, 2018

Title: Can you die of a broken heart?

Author: Dr. Nikki Stamp

Publisher: Murdoch Books

Marketed and Distributed in India by: Bloomsbury

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 223

Synopsis:

When actress Debbie Reynolds died a day after her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher, the world diagnosed it as ‘heartbreak’. But what’s the evidence? Does emotional upheaval affect the heart? Can love, or chocolate, really heal our heart problems? And why do we know so much about heart attacks in men, when they are more fatal in women? 

Heart and lung surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp takes us into the operating theatre, explaining what she sees in patients with heart complications and how a life-saving transplant works. Stamp fell in the love with the heart as a child and continues to be fascinated by its workings and the whole-of-life experiences that affect it. Rich with anecdotes, and insights for maintaining heart health, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? is a blockbuster from a uniquely positioned young specialist.

My review:

I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

For a non-fiction, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? came as a really surprising read. From reading the synopsis itself, to other reviews about this book, I was hooked on and picked it up as soon as I could. Being an erstwhile biology student, I loved it because of the scientific facts provided, however keeping in mind the fact that I haven’t really read any science for years now, this book was really well-written for the layman as well. Meaning, if you are afraid that it might be full of scientific and biological jargons, then rest assured, for it reads perfectly well. The first thing that really strikes the reader is the conversational style of writing that really piqued my interest and kept me committed till the very end of the book.

Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.

With this quote by the famous Mineko Iwasaki (Japanese businesswoman, author and former geiko; and a person who really intrigued me), the author starts to answer the eponymous question. In the same vein, I do think that everyone should read this book, specifically women, because as the author writes, “Women are much more likely to be affected by broken heart syndrome”. I sure am making my mother read this one.

What really is interesting is my acknowledgement (finally!) of the fact that hearts can get hurt because of emotions. I thoroughly refused to believe that once, but now, after reading of so many instances, and being given such great explanations by the author, I finally understand its truth. Emotions can hurt us, after all.

“… bereavement is as bad for your body as it is for your soul.”

So can you die of a broken heart?

In short, yes you can.

The relation of stress (the modus operandi, as the author says), genetics, lack of sleep, and hence the instability in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, sugar, depression, obesity, as well as mindfulness practices, yoga, destressing strategies, self-compassion, exercise, love (!), healthy food habits, proper sleep etc., are all well elucidated, making it easy to understand for all.

Chapter 4: The Medical Mysteries of a Woman’s Heart is the first chapter that I read after the Introduction, of course, following which, I went back to Chapter 1, and read it all serially (also read the 4th chapter again). The reason why I think that every woman should read this book is stated in the very first paragraph of this chapter – “Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women?”

Organ donation, the heart transplant process itself, and various other facts are all explored and explained by the author. The overall language used makes for a very fluid reading and the insertion of various anecdotes really increases the relatability for the reader.

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 .

Amma and I, Trishna Damodar, 2018

Title: Amma and I

Author: Trishna Damodar

Publisher: Frog Books

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 204

Synopsis:

You are unique in your own existence Kripa and Maya live in a small town in Kerala. Surrounded by greenery, streams, a vast rubber estate and a palatial home, they had it all. Maya enjoys listening to the radio and reading books and magazines as it offers her a chance to connect to the world outside. She wanted to do so much more in her life, but a sudden marriage proposal from a man based in France gets her anxious at the possibility of her dreams fading away like smoke.

Kripa has been the dutiful daughter, wife and mother. All she knew was her life and family in Kuttiadi. But she wants more for her daughter, Maya. So, when a proposal from someone in France came along, she jumped at the opportunity, hoping that this would give her
daughter a chance at a bigger and better life.

Maya, so lost in her own world, was unaware of certain shadows that lurked in her own backyard. What hides behind the constant smile on Kripa’s face? Read the journey of Kripa and Maya, set in the 1970’s, as they struggle to be heard in a society that is fixed in its norms.

My review:

Amma and I proved to be a great read and I reveled in its beauty. At only 263 pages, this book was a beautiful one that may also be the perfect gift for your friends this new year.

Speaking of the cover, it is simple, but the elements have really been able to convey the meaning and the overall themes in the book.

The plot line is also well constructed, and the pacing well set. The flow is smooth and proves really natural as the reader reads on. The introduction of new topics into the main narrative was also done in a smooth manner without any abruptness and that is another plus point.

The themes seen in this book are quite a few- ambition, love, family, jealousy, friendship, and so on. The growth or development of the self is also another significant aspect that the author works upon in the book.


The language used is simple, but that in no way reduces the quality of the book. It is utterly pleasing and a great warming experience.

The language used is simple, but that in no way reduces the quality of the book. It is utterly pleasing and a great warming experience.

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Maya’s character grows throughout the book and towards the end we see her emerging as a confident and bold young woman, who knows what shew wants and will not let anyone convince her otherwise. One thing that I really liked was how Maya was someone who realized the importance of a career and ambition; I loved that she was practical and not at all stupid or restless like other female characters in love. The mother Kripa’s character is also one of much self-growth and we see her finally getting to live life on her own terms. Ashok was also a character of great understanding and he is every much the ideal boyfriend, I felt like.

The other characters also are well made with depth and round figures. What I also love about this book is that the author has not made this a simple love story. Every character is undergoing some thing or the other and develops themselves by the end. In this manner, it would not be wrong to say that in some manners, this book, while highly entertaining, is also didactic, without being boring and at the same time, an unconventional bildungsroman at times.

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

A chat with Chantal Gadoury, author of the bestselling Allerleirauh.

On occasion of the upcoming release of Winter Dream, I had the awesome opportunity of being able to chat with one of my favourite writers – Chantal Gadoury. It has been some time since I have read Between the Sea and Stars (a Little Mermaid retelling), Allerleirauh and Blinding Night (Hades and Persephone retelling), and since I have loved the stories, the author’s take on them, adding her own twists and turns, her writing style basically, I am naturally very excited to read her upcoming book as well, which is a Nutcracker retelling!
Winterdream fixed cover.jpg
Amazon Best Selling Author, Chantal Gadoury, is a 2011 graduate from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Since graduation, she has published “The Songs in Our Hearts” and “The Songs We Remember,” with 48Fourteen Publishing, and “Allerleirauh,” “Between the Sea and Stars,” and “Blinding Night” with Parliament House Press. Chantal first started writing stories at the age of seven and continues with that love of writing today. Writing novels for Chantal has become a life-long dream come true! When she’s not writing, she enjoys painting, drinking lots of DD Iced Coffee, and watching Disney classics. Chantal lives in Muncy, Pennsylvania with her Mom, Sister and furry-’brother’ Taran.
Chantal Gadoury Author
 
Here’s the synopsis for Winter Dream, before we get on with the questions!
This Christmas Eve… no creature was stirring…
Except, maybe, a mouse.
At long last, can true love break the Nutcracker’s curse?
For Clara Stahlbaum, this Christmas means the end of her youth. A daughter of the aristocracy, Clara is expected to give up her dreams of adventures and the extraordinary for more normal days as the wife of a cruel Viscount.
But when magical Uncle Drosselmeyer returns with his wondrous, dancing contraptions, and one…special gift for Clara, she is beckoned to the land of Winter Dream, where she is thrust into the greatest adventure of her wildest dreams. But will she be able to break the Nutcracker’s curse?
Uncle Drosselmeyer’s apprentice, Anton, is handsome as he is mysterious. But what is it about him Clara finds so alluring?
Winter Dream is a phenomenal retelling of The Nutcracker from the eyes of Clara Stahlbaum with all the magic of the Holiday season. If you loved S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong, you’ll fall in love with this stunning tale of love, war, redemption, and Christmas magic.
Book Teaser Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMRGyNtnhZI
 

  1. What inspired you to write this exciting retelling of a widely famous tale?

It was actually the love I have for this tale that inspired me to write my own version. When I was a child, my Mom would take me to see the ballet, so I grew up completely loving the tale and the music. Last Christmas, I had just finished writing a novel, and was looking for another fairytale to write. And as I stared at the Christmas tree in our living room, it struck me – The Nutcracker.
 

  1. How long did the book take to write?

I started writing “Winter Dream” late November, early December. And I finished about mid-February. And that was just a rough draft. It’s taken up until recently – October – to finally have a finalized version of the story!
 

  1. Can you speak a bit more on the setting you have applied in the story?

Clara’s story in “WinterDream” takes place on Christmas Eve in St. Petersburg, Russia. I think many of us tend to associate the tale of the Nutcracker with Russia because of the historical connections they have together. The Nutcracker ballet debuted in Russia in the 1892 – though the story is more of a German tale, rather than heavily rooted in Russia. I had my story take place in Russia because of the original connection – and I had already had a story of mine (“Allerleirauh”) take place in a fictional village based in Germany.
 

  1. Can you perhaps tell us something more about any works in progress that we should keep an eye out for?

Well, after “WinterDream,” – I plan to keep my focus on a story that I’m writing with a talent debut author, Amanda Wright. We’re working on a Hansel and Gretel retelling called, “The Shrike & the Shadows.” Of course, I’ll be venturing back into the world of Lena and Soren with a sequel to the Lena Series, and also to the Underworld with Darce and Summer with a continuation to “Blinding Night.” But I also plan to take a bit of a break. After two years, I’ve published six books. I need a bit of time to relax and let my creative juices build back up again.
 

  1. When do you plan on releasing the next book?

Right now, I’m not really sure. You might see a book or two in 2019 – but I’m keeping myself without deadlines currently. I’m sure you’ll see something new from me within the next New Year!
 

  1. Do tell us about your favourite book; something that you go back to time and time again.

Lately, my favorite go-to books are the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series – at least the first two. I often find myself going back to them if I want to read something that I know I’ll enjoy.
 

  1. Can you please give us a short summary about other books of yours? For those of us who have loved your writing and are hungry for more. (I personally have read and loved Allerleirauh, Between the Sea and Stars and also Blinding Night!)

Well, “Allerleirauh” is a retelling of an old Germany fairytale, about a Princess who must flee from her insane father – who insists upon marrying her. In the original story, the princess finds herself working as a scullery maid for a prince – but in my story, the prince takes her in and treats her as a guest – an equal – and helps her in healing from her traumatic past.
“Between the Sea and Stars” is a story about a merrow (or mermaid) named Lena who lives under the sea with her brother and blind father. A twist of unexpected and tragic turns causes Lena to have to escape to the surface and remain there as a human (with the help of a magic shell, tied to an old legend.) Lena meets new friends, and interesting foes – while trying to unravel the truth behind the shell and what happened to a legendary Queen who had once been killed by her human lover.
“Blinding Night” is a modern paranormal romance, tied to the Greek Myth of Persephone and Hades. Summer goes to Greece with her family, only to be separated from them through a tragic car accident. She’s faced by a man named Darce – who claims to be the Lord of the Underworld – Hades. After he brings to her the Underworld, she must unravel to the truth to her past lives, and her connection to him – before the myth of Persephone and Hades happens again.
I also have a contemporary dulogy – “The Songs in Our Hearts,” and its sequel, “The Songs We Remember.” In TSIOH – Charlie Blake insists that she doesn’t like Micah Jacobs. There’s just no way. But then she’s assigned to work on an English project with him – and it might have to involve kissing. As Charlie and Micah grow closer, Charlie has to learn to not listen to the opinions around her – and listen to her heart. In TSWR – Charlie and Micah’s story continues, but Charlie is also faced with a tragic family event, that tests her relationships with her family, her friends, and herself.
 

  1. What is it about these fairytales that attract you so? Why do you write these retellings?

I don’t know what it is about fairytales that attract me to them so much. I grew up on Disney, and my mom reading me fairytales. So they’re familiar, safe and comforting. And they offer me messages of hope. I think sometimes in the darkest of times – it’s the message of hope that we all must remember, and fairytales provide that. I like to write retellings, because then I get to make them the way I wish they could be – or deliver a message that I might have received in reading or watching a certain fairytale.
 

  1. Also, did you always plan on being a writer?

No, I didn’t always plan on being a writer. My “dream” job growing up always ranged. At first, I wanted to be the President of the United States. Then, a weather forecaster. A tornado chaser. An English Teacher. A Lawyer. A makeup artist. I even wanted to go to college for Musical Theater originally to be a Broadway singer. Writing was more of a “hobby,” and I never really considered a job coming from it until much later. Even now, writing is just a side job for me. (I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up lol)
 

  1. What tips would you give to aspiring fantasy writers?

Write for no one but yourself. Try to always make time for writing, but also – make time for you-time. Your brain needs time to rest. Research what you’re writing – don’t think that just because it’s fantasy, anything goes. Learn what you can about world building. Learn about character development. Ask others to read your writing. Don’t expect everyone to love your work – welcome criticism – it’s the only way you’ll get better. Don’t be married to your writing – things will always change. Have fun. But really, most importantly – write for only yourself. You can’t write a book, if you don’t love what you’re writing.
 
You can reach her at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CGadouryAuthor
Blog: http://www.chantalgadoury.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chantalgadouryfans
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8059023.Chantal_Gadoury
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chantalgadouryauthor/
Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Chantal-Gadoury/e/B00MTLD0P0/
Parliament House Press: http://www.parliamenthousepress.com/
Parliament House Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theparliamenthouse
 

Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar, Kochery C. Shibu, 2015


Publishers: Niyogi books
Synopsis:
A Hydel project in the remote HImalayas- three people brought together by fate.
Nanda an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site, hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love for his dear ones, and the kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a youth displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot that threatens to blow up the dam, working as a labourer at the site.
Rekha, a kathak dancer at heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the campsite like moths to a flame, some escape untouched,successful;some miss a step and perish. each has a story to tell and a dream to realise. Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is about the aspirations of these people, with their cares and worries woven to the site life. The fury of nature and hardships of project life have no mercy for the weak and no time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their lives and limb in the quest to fulfil their dreams.
My review:
The first thing to be noted and applauded, is the amount of research that has gone on for the construction of this book. It is clear that the author has done a lot of study and research data analysis for this. There are a lot of details regarding the construction process, the lives of the men associated with it as well.
The author has also beautifully brought in the natural aspect as well, offering soothing calm to the readers. It’s a travel book at times and I felt as if I myself was there amidst all the cool beauty.
The characters were well made as well. Nanda was a realistic and round figure portraying all the factors of his life, and of so many others- be it in his past trials and tribulations, or his present apprehension. When we see his journey throughout the novel it is clear that it is so much of a bildungsroman in one- his realization that in the end it I only love that is healthy for us- that vile ideas of revenge and such are not only repugnant but also harmful. His relations with his family was also beautiful. When it comes to Khusru however, I found his emotions all over the place. He was too flighty a character for me and definitely not a likeable one. Moreover, being very much career oriented myself, I did not like Rekha’s decision of leaving everything behind for her true love. Yes, it’s personal and that’s why perhaps, it irked me so much. Especially when the revelations were coming up. There were also a lot of characters overall, and the author’s introduction of them was too early and I was flitting back and forth, confused with who was who.
In terms of plot, I felt that it was a bit dragging in some places and some parts were very monotonous- when the author describes the machinery and the processes and such. It was too technical and too long at times. Without giving a spoiler, I personally felt that the end was not to my taste. Definitely was expecting something different. The language used was pretty easy and the jargons were explained which was a plus point. The narration was compelling as well, overall.
The cover was really great and apt- relating to the story and that in itself is great. I personally don’t see the point of having a cover that does not resonate with the story inside.
Many thanks to the author for providing me with the book in exchange of an honest review

Verdict:
I rate this a 4/5 stars. However seeing as to how it is quite an intense read, I would definitely recommend to pick it up at your own expense.

Looking Through a Telescope for Love, Himanshu Goel, 2018

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Publishers: Self-published
Genre: Poetry
Illustrated by: Arushi Gupta
Synopsis:
“I’m just
a little boy
looking through
a telescope
trying to find
love in the sky…..”
Looking through a telescope for love is the second in the poetry collection series A Rational Boy in Love. There is more than one path to love and the rational boy tries to use the tools of science to deal with questions of love he can’t understand.
My Review:
The book is a collection of 50 poems, all about love and its beauty. Divided into four sections- Looking through a telescope for love’, ‘For love’, ‘Daughter of the moon’ and “Runaway star’ this collection is a beautiful and calm read. These short poems are accompanied by some simple and minimalistic illustrations by Arushi Gupta.
The language used is pretty simple and I could hardly find any grammatical errors. Despite this, I found the overall subjects very simple. Written in the modern style of blank prose without rhyme, like Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav’s works, Looking Through a Telescope for Love is a decent read for any reader’s initial forays into modern poetry. The poems also revolved around women and I personally liked that.
Verdict:
I rate this book a 3/5 stars and shall definitely recommend it to others.

Not Worth Living For, Shreyan Laha, 2018

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Publishers: B!gfoot Publications
Synopsis:
Ishita Singh, a student of St. Pierce’s College, Mumbai was living a pretty normal life with her group of friends, a caring senior and scarily enough, a creep who followed her. Shweta wakes up in the unknown planet of Isthenope and sets out with Alexander Ishutin, a former spy of the RSV, to discover more about the unknown planet which was built for a future civilization. Underlying the lives of the two in completely different worlds, there lies a dark secret which was partially blacked out in some corner of Shweta’s memory and unknown to Ishita. Will they ever come to know about the secret or will it be so chilling that it won’t be worth living for?
My review:
I quite enjoyed this novel and would like to describe it as a utopian novel, along with elements of fantasy and adventure. It definitely keeps you hooked.
In terms of the plotline, the events were very well related to each other and one can see that the author has given a lot of attention to detail and planning. The outlandish elements as well as interesting to read and well-crafted. The space-time differences between the chapters were also very well maintained I feel like. Written in the third-person perspective, the language used is quite simple and easy to understand for non-native English speakers, even people not having English as their second language. The transitions in between the two worlds are amazing and gradual- not at all sudden and disjointed.
The characters were also very real and easy to connect to. You feel as if they are close to you as you read through. I found the flabbergasted Shweta a very interesting character- as she wakes up in Isthenope- a world far away from our solar system. Her romance with Alexander also blossoms beautifully and gradually. Ishita, on the other hand, tries to build her new life in Mumbai as she enrolls in an esteemed college. Her love story with Vivek, her classmate is also cute and wonderful to read- making one feel nostalgic about their own college days. Towards the end, you just cannot help but question Ishita’ sanity. And for the record, I hate Jay.
The themes of rape, the role of media in social life as well as of the police, were well explored. The overall story kept me hooked throughout, except for some parts in the middle. In terms of the cover, I think it could have been much better and I think that it matched with neither the story nor the title.
Verdict:
I enjoyed the book but I wouldn’t read it more than this once. I rate it a 3/5 stars.

A Cage of Desires, Shuchi Singh Kalra, 2018

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Publishers: Penguin Random House India
Synopsis:
There’s a kind of love that makes you go down on one knee, and there’s the kind that brings you down on both. You don’t need the latter, because no matter what you do, you cannot make anyone love you back.’
Renu had always craved for love and security, and her boring marriage, mundane existence somehow leads her to believe that, maybe, this is what love is all about. Maya, on the other hand, is a successful author who is infamous for her bold, erotic books.
What do these two women have in common? How are their lives intertwined?
Renu’s thirst for love and longing takes her on a poignant journey of self-exploration. The answers come to her when she finds the courage to stand up for herself, to fight her inner demons and free herself from the cage of desires . . .
My Review
A Cage of Desires was a welcome and very pleasant read for me. I didn’t expect much and I have been gladly proved wrong. Shuchi Singh Kalra has done an amazing job in writing this story of a typical Indian woman of a middle-class household, and her dreams and desires.
We follow Renu- our protagonist, as she meanders in her relatively boring life- full of duties and responsibilities towards a cranky father-in-law, an absentee husband, and her loving children- Aneisha and Avi. The author, through the character of Renu, explicitly portrays society’s expectation of women and how quickly it clusters to judge those who do not fit the mold. In Renu, we find a woman who is tired of all these expectations society places on her while snatching away her own dreams and desires. There is also her husband- Dev, and also a poor example of a man- quick to judge her for voicing her own opinions.
In terms of the plotline, the author has intricately plotted the events and the actions that all connect them and has left me, as a reader and a reviewer spellbound. The story of a woman as she breaks free of all the bonds that hold her and chain her down- is undoubtedly the type of book the Indian society needs today and this book will surely help in that reform.
Apart from the plot, the narration was interesting as well- we have strong characters- all round, showing myriads of emotions that make humans human. Although the pace seems a bit slow, I think it worked perfectly keeping the story in mind. The themes of freedom, writing, intimacy along with sensuality as well as sexual desires, love – both romantic and platonic, were beautifully depicted in various ways.
Verdict:
I loved this book and can certainly call it a women-centric masterpiece. Definitely, a 4/5 star read for me!

Till the end of forever, Vivaksh Singh, 2018

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Publishers: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Synopsis:
The past is always mysterious. It neither leaves completely, nor stays fully. Who would know it better than Ayaan. He was its victim. And so was Avani. When these two crumbled souls met, they realized in their togetherness that only a broken piece can complete another. Together, they start fighting the pain of their past, feeling the bliss of the present and appreciating their lives.
But just when they thought things were perfect, life played its cards.
Ayaan, who was trying to put life’s pieces together, broke down when he was held responsible for a closed one’s murder.
And Avani… well, her life was going to take such sharp turns that she would crave for death.
Alas, this was just the beginning of what destiny had planned for them!
Will Avani wait for the scars to heal or will she fight with her bruised soul? Why does the truth keep going deeper as she chases it?
Deeply sensitive and brutally thrilling, Till The End Of Forever is a romantic thriller that takes a dig in the dark sides of god, nature of human pain, power of selfless care, and proves how true love can make you live till the end of forever.
My Review:
Till the End of Forever was a read that I was very excited about. However, I have to say that it was too hyped.
It begins with a vacation when two girls- Luvleen and Avani plan to spend it with Luvleen’s family. We are also introduced to Livleen, who is Luvleen’s brother and also a friend of Ayaan, our male protagonist. Avani and Ayaan connect over the mutual feeling of pain and loss, finding friendship and solace in each other. Both of them have had various painful experiences in their past and it had greatly affected the way they were.
Ayaan as a character was quite likable in the beginning when he gives his speeches which are quite interesting, I have to admit. But later on, his whole aura seems to degenerate. The ending is left very unclear. Avani, on the other hand, seems like a very impulsive and irresponsible person- she decides to go to Venice with a person she has just literally met and then, later on, does not say anything even when she believes that her partner is a potential rapist. These sorts of shifts seem very sudden and unexpected.
One thing I did not like was how unspecific the writer was with the dialogues. I understand that the element of mystery was tried to be brought in through here, but it only results in confusion. I feel that the continuous change in the points-of-view was not only very sudden but also unexpected and unheralded and as a result greatly decreased the quality of the story.
The entire plotline, the first half specifically, was very rushed, I feel like, without giving any definite conclusions to the scenes. The editing and proofreading in this regard could have been done in a much better manner. There were also several grammatical mistakes and other inaccuracies that just didn’t add up.
My verdict:
With more proofreading and editing this could have been a good read, however, seeing how it is, I rate it a 2/5 stars.

Flying Without Wings, Rishabh Puri, 2017

Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers India and Black Ink

Synopsis:

For Milli Bajwa, life is at a stand-still. Grounded in the Chandigarh airport where she works day after day, she watches flights leaving for destinations she knows she’ll never visit. Loveless and luckless, she would rather bury her nose in a book than face her grim reality. And then, on a whim, she swipes right on a new dating app, and finds the man of her dreams – someone who can sweep her off her feet and teach her how to fly. But the mysterious and charming Karan Singhania has secrets of his own, and a heart damaged in more ways than one. This is the story of two people about to find out how far they’re willing to go for the promise of true love.

Review:

I’d like to begin by saying that most Indian romances are too stereotypical and too lovey-dovey for my taste. They have so far never been able to overcome the love I have for my Mills&Boons. However, Flying without Wings was an exquisite read and I truly loved it with all my heart.

In terms of the plotline, I found it truly very believable and the common trope of poor-girl-meets-rich-boy had its very own twist making it a very enjoyable read. It also explored the various other aspects of life apart from love- like addiction, loss, friendship, family etc. and these themes were well written and portrayed in the actions of the characters. Milli and Karan are the protagonists of this novel and as we see their evolutions throughout the story, we can understand the different needs and wishes that drive people. Both of them are so different from each other in terms of their job, their salaries, their familial backgrounds and their ways of life. And yet, the one thing that pulls them together is the realization that despite their busy schedules, they are such lonely souls. I must admit that Rahull was not a favourite of mine and yet I found him very relatable- he shows his own shades of grey as a human.

The characters, though few, were very believable in all their true colours- with their feelings of grief, love, etc. The fact that they were shown as all-round characters also help a lot in this sense. For instance, it’s not just the search for love that drives the people, unlike in so many Indian rom-coms; they have their own careers thus managing all the various facet of life. In terms of the editing and grammar, I was delighted not to have found any errors as they are so common in most Indian romance novels.

Some things that didn’t add up made me a bit discomfited, however. For instance, the fact that despite the lower-middle class household portrayed (or even third-class, one could say), Milli seems to have a sedan. It was a bit difficult to digest that considering the fact that they hardly had any money to repair the sink when it broke. Moreover, I was wondering if opiates aren’t costly since the mother seems to be popping them like candy, along with her alcohol addiction as well. These were a few inaccuracies that just didn’t add up at all.

Verdict:

I rate this book a 4/5 stars and recommend it to, all those who are ‘suckers’ for romance- a must read.

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.

Not Exactly Love, Anindita Sengupta, 2018

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Publishers: Vishwakarma Publications, 2018
Synopsis:
Not every love is smooth sailing and not every love has a magical ending and yet, without a generous dose of ‘Love’, life would certainly be devoid of its most thrilling experience.
A tumultuous trip, an inevitable attraction, a passionate kiss, magical memories, beautiful chaos, taking a risk, giving a chance, holding on and letting go all define this strange animal we call love.
Everyone craves it but is the definition of love the same for all?
‘Not Exactly Love’ is about 10 different women navigating through the sea of love and attraction. Ten stories about adventures of the heart and the games that it plays with the mind! But still… should we give love a chance?
My review:
I would first begin by speaking about the characters. I found them displaying various shades of gray- implying that life is not always stark black or white. They were round- and could display their emotions on a relatable level. I found that I personally loved all the ten short stories and the fact that they all belonged to common Indian people like us, made this experience much nicer.
The themes explored were also very apt- there’s love, loss, infidelity, friendship etc. – and once can realize that these are things that we work with every day. The way the author has built up this story is also very gradual and thus plays well with the reader. The length of the book isn’t that much either and at a mere 115 pages, prove to be a quick yet entertaining read.
The way the author has created these stories with such resonant themes in our lives is wonderful indeed. They have undoubtedly been thought-provoking as well- with the relevant themes and perhaps certain characteristics of the characters that we see in all of us.
I also loved the fact that the women portrayed here were all ‘power women’- they are independent, career-oriented, have a strong sense of self without paying attention to partners who cannot validate that, they are feisty and they are human. The author’s portrayal of these women lead us to believe that we are only human and as we try to live life day by day- we can oft stumble.
I did not find any grammatical errors, however, the editing was lacking- I found a few typos. Other than that, the writing style was fresh and contemporary- something we perhaps need in today’s world. My top 5 favourite stories were– Smells Like Custard, Weekend Dhamaka, Turbulence, Lets Do It Right Night, and Vanishing Act.

Verdict:
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

The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay, 2018

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The Nirvana Threads, Rachel Tremblay’s latest book, is a modern day interpretation of 90s magical punk and spiritual romance, a combination which I have never come across before. Sometime back, I reviewed the first chapter of the book, and I remember being very pleased and eager to read more. And so, when this book was released on the 1st of June, the author was kind enough to send me one too! Another disclaimer: although I was given this book by the author, my thoughts are entirely from a personal viewpoint and have in no way, been influenced.
One thing I would like to point out is that there is a lot of parallelism between the stream of consciousness method applied by Virginia Woolf and the similarities in our protagonist Carlie’s journey. Having said that, I propound that there has been no plagiarizing if you’re thinking in that line; I had meant the method itself.
We have our young protagonist, Carlie, a young woman living in the 90s, whose life changes after a life-altering accident. In the review I wrote for the first chapter, I was very much impressed with the way the author has beautifully portrayed the hollowness in the independence that people strive for. Carlie is a person facing a harsh reality- she does not really have any friends, and her parents are just people who gave her birth. They are just ‘family’ without the emotional connotations that otherwise come to mind when one talks of their families. It’s her husband who is her only ‘home’ in the world; someone others have not approved of, but in her defence- “She loved the fiery spark in his eyes, his sense of humour, and their common love for music. And his smile. His smile that showed his good heart. That was reason enough for her.”
The accident in itself is a great loss for her and almost a foreshadowing of the great change that is to come, as we see in the blurb! There is mention of a brother who lifts up her gloomy mood while she is recuperating in the hospital and I cannot help but be eager to know more.
It is June 1994, when “she climbed aboard the spaceship, as she kept calling it, and flew high above and away from Johnny’s game-board piece, wondering if his warm soul was enjoying a similar view.” Yes, that’s how the author had ended the first chapter and it had left me restless.
The journey in one sense is a journey of growth for Carlie- she’s broken and she heals with the help of her “Nirvana Threads” like she fondly calls them. She learns about acceptance and the meaning of selflessness and love, and it was a spiritual journey for me too. The book in its essence is a spiritual journey of a young woman, as she fights after a heart-wrenching loss and her subsequent healing. I myself was very moved with the story and I think that most will be too. I am a spiritual person as well, and that’s why I suppose I could connect with it the way I did. Having said that, I also feel that this book is a miss-or-hit because I feel that while many will love this, there will be a select few who won’t, and that would just mean that some people won’t be able to connect with it.
The plot was very well woven- I especially loved the intense episodes Carlie had- the author has described them beautifully and I was almost in tears during them. The characters were well planned out- I loved Damien! Leo, Hazel, Lucas were also very well planned out. I think that the author has done a great job in exploring the different facets of human life and jotting them down so well on paper. I personally would have loved a sequel to this- I would love to know more about Carlie’s story. The characters were magnificent and tangible and real for me, even though I truly felt that it was more of a plot-driven story.
I rate this a 5/5 stars and wish the author a hearty congratulations for this amazing, touching and beautiful book!

Unlocked Silences, Mukhpreet Khurana, 2018


Publisher: Notion Press
I have been on the lookout for poetry books for a while now and was glad when I got the chance to receive a review book for Unlocked Silences. This book is pretty new and came out only in 2018, and has been widely accepted.
I finished reading this in just one day, and if you can see the number of tags I’ve attached then you won’t be surprised when I say that I really liked it. Unlocked silences is a book of not only poetry, but also musings and abstracts that touch your heart. They are not however romance centric and I for one, was quite happy with the change in the scenery. There is also an air of spirituality in the write-ups in this book and they have truly touched me deeply.
Here I’ll add a few lines from Kindled, pg 103, and tell me if it doesn’t stir something in you:
Oblivion boils in me,
Burning the strongest of my desires;
Here I am, reborn in faith,
Kindling the fiercest of fires.
This is just one from among a multitude of beautiful thought-provoking abstracts that gave me goosebumps. It revolves around the themes of emotion, empathy, acceptance, healing as well as the deepest and innermost thoughts that haunt man.
I do believe that it can however do with a bit of proofreading and editing, in a manner that will further bring out the meaning of the words the author is trying to convey. This, in no way, means that I did not like the book- on the contrary, I truly loved reading it. It was a spiritual experience for me, as I am sure, it was for many people. There aren’t really optimum times to read a book; however I do think that reading a few pages from Unlocked Silences in the mornings will definitely give you a certain peace of mind that will surely help prevail your goodwill throughout the day.
I rate this book a 4/5 stars and definitely recommend it to those looking for non-romance centric poetry.

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.

Wedding Pickle, Neha Sharma, 2017

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Publisher: Grapevine India
So recently, I got this book from the author. Wedding Pickle has been pretty hyped and I was worried that the actual read may not be worth it. And so, I picked it up a bit apprehensively. However, the author has very beautifully weaved the tales of the typical Indian way of life. At the center, it is a story of emotional and mental growth and development as the protagonist learns to let go of her fears- mostly commitment issues, and grow to be her own happy and self-satisfied person.
The writing is very beautiful- the author has creatively mixed both the dialogue as well as descriptive forms in equal measure. It was a perfect blend. The third person limited narrative is used here and I do think that it has done justice to the story- preserving the necessary suspense as well as romance, wherever needed.
The plot is actually covering a very limited amount of time, despite what the size of the book may tell us. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read, never dragging or boring the readers, instead, it made me laugh out loud so many times, that my mom decided to give it a read as well after I finished. She is currently still reading it, about a half-way in, and so far she says it’s beautiful and nostalgic for her. I feel that this book is both, a character-driven as well as a plot-driven story as the ultimate goal is marriage. The story as a whole progressed very gradually and made it relatable for most of us, I’m sure.
As for the characters, Neha Sharma has taken the typical qualities and conjured up multiple characters who are so very relatable. In Avni, our protagonist, we see an independent and happy girl trying to safely navigate around her family as they try to get her married. Along with her troop of friends Roshni, Kitty and Ria, I was reminded of my own intimate girl gang and as such this proved relevant on a personal level as well. The parents and aunts are all the aunts and parents we meet every day- be they our neighbours or cousins even. In Ansh, I also found a very understandable and mature young man, successful and determined in his own rights.
Lastly, I would like to point out the cover- it is simple and yet it portrays the whole concept beautifully. Being wedded is truly a pickle-like situation! It’s funny at the same time while also giving to us a chance for introspection about the different roles women play in our lives.
In all, I really enjoyed this book and rate it a solid 5/5 stars. I would also definitely recommend it to everyone I know, who loves a bit of comedy, chick-lit, familial relations/drama, and romance. Wedding Pickle is a mélange of all those genres and more!

An interaction with Devika Das about the upcoming release of the revised edition of her bestseller The Mind Game: Master your emotions to achieve success

The Mind Game: Master your emotions to achieve success is a self-help book by author Devika Das. With emphasis on emotional intelligence, stress and other related mental health issues, it has been widely read and deeply loved by its audience. It also been sold out in many occasions, the most recent of which include the NBT Imphal Book Fair, 2018. So on the 14th of June, Thursday, I had the opportunity to talk with Devika Das about the upcoming release of the revised edition of this book, coming July.
NS: Good afternoon, ma’am. Hope you’re having a great day.
DD: Good afternoon, yes, thank you. How are you doing?
NS: I’m doing well, ma’am thank you very much. I would like to say how  grateful I am for this opportunity.
DD: Of course, you’re welcome.
NS: Ma’am since we’re talking about the The Mind Game today, can you please tell me a bit about it?
DD: The Mind Game: Master your emotions to achieve success is a self-help book, stressing basically on emotional intelligence, one’s awareness about it and how this can help in tackling different situations one faces on a daily basis.
 
NS: What inspired you to write this book?
DD: I have come across many instances where people end their lives because of trivial reasons. And it affected me deeply, because the thought itself of ending your own life is so harsh- it’s cruel to your own self. The important thing here, is the reason behind the actions – why are you feeling like that? What is making you feel so pressurized that you think that suicide in the only solution to get rid of your problem? Why are you in that state of mind? All these questions made me very curious and played a major role in making me write the book.
NS: I’m sure a lot of people will benefit from this book ma’am.
DD: Yes, I have got a lot of positive feedback; many of my readers have read the book twice or thrice and love the tips I’ve provided. All of these tips are based on my personal experiences, as well as the scientific research I have done- talked with various psychologists and general people as well.
NS: Of course, I have seen two of my cousins commit suicide, and it’s unfortunate-
DD: I’m sorry to hear that.
NS: Thank you. So yes, we cannot deny its presence in society today- there are many people who do it- who think that suicide is only way.
DD: Yes, and with that view you lose any interest in life and that is something which is either due to self-created pressure or external, and sometimes both. So it is very necessary that people become aware and realize, as well as face the challenge. Suicide can never be the way out. That nobody except you, yourself can help you in tackling such situations and dealing with pressure.
NS: Can you please tell me, when this book came out?
DD: The first edition came out in October 2016 and the revised edition is coming out next month, i.e., July.
NS: I hope my followers will also love to give your book a read. I myself, having been affected from the consequences of suicide, in the family, feel very personally about mental health issues. And I know that so many people have been affected by it as well- either indirectly or directly- and so, your book will be a great help.
DD: Thank you so much.
NS: Well, thank you ma’am for this wonderful opportunity. Best wishes for the upcoming release; I will keep an eye out, myself!
DD: Thank you. Have a great day
NS: Have a good day!
 

Between the Sea and Stars, Chantal Gadoury, 19 June 2018

Publishers: Parliament House Press
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I read this book in one day and let me tell you, I was left hungry for the next! Between the Sea and Stars, is a mermaid tale, a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid at bits- both have a strong and curious female protagonist.
The story revolves around Lena, who is a Merrow (a mermaid) living with her father and brother, on the outskirts of the capital city of Skagerrak. We see her as a feisty and curious young woman, deeply involved with the tragedy of their former queen who had been murdered by her human lover. As you might probably gather, she was very much interested in the life about the waters and would always imagine going up there. We see in her brother and father, Javelin and Carrick respectively, loving and supportive men, who teach her to depend on herself. And like the summary states- when Javelin is called to join a clan of Merrow soldiers bent on protecting their waters from human invasion, Lena resists Merrow law and ventures to the shore with no choice but to swim to land. With newfound legs, Lena is whisked away on a new adventure with new friends and new trouble. Everyone seems to want something from her as intrigue lurks around every corner.
Following her new life on land, we see her fumbling with the ways of the humans resulting in almost funny incidents. Chantal Gadoury has beautifully woven a tale of friendship, love, and fantasy with an exotic thread. The importance that was given to the world building specifically, was impeccable. I honestly wish to know more about the history and lives of the Merrows under the depths of the ocean. The plot in itself was medium-paced although there were certainly some very gripping fast-paced scenes; however, in consideration of the fact that there is definitely a sequel coming out, the scenes have been interspersed with perfect timing. The narration was in the third person limited and it made me so intrigued because I wanted to know everything- in this she has preserved quite the amount of mystery element as well.
I also liked the way she has worked on her characters- most of them are as real as can be. The character growth has been of a significant factor in this novel- gradual which made it very relatable as well as realistic. I definitely am looking forward to seeing Asger in the sequel! (Want to know who he is? Well, no better way than to read the book! And it’s coming out on 19th of June!!)
Moving on to the cover, I really love it and long to have a signed copy of this amazing first book in the Lena series. I rate this a 5/5 stars, with a promise to get my hands on the sequel as soon as it is out!