Tag Archives: review copy

Blog Tour: Crescent City, House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J Maas

Today is my blog tour stop for the review of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood from Bloomsbury.

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 1
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood

I am absolutely honoured that Amrita from Bloomsbury sent me a copy of my most anticipated read fo 2020!

Buy the book on Amazon, or add it to your Goodreads!

Synopsis:

Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. Every night is a party and Bryce is going to savour all the pleasures Lunathion – also known as Crescent City – has to offer. But then a brutal murder shakes the very foundations of the city, and brings Bryce’s world crashing down.
Two years later, Bryce still haunts the city’s most notorious nightclubs – but seeking only oblivion now. Then the murderer attacks again. And when an infamous Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, is assigned to watch her every footstep, Bryce knows she can’t forget any longer.
As Bryce and Hunt fight to unravel the mystery, and their own dark pasts, the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the deepest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir …
With unforgettable characters and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom – and the power of love.

“LIGHT IT UP, BITCH!”

I was yelping at this point. This book gave me all the feels – I was cackling like a manic and my dad just popped in and asked what the hell I was laughing about at 2 am. I was also a sobbing mess, bawling my eyes out – somehow saying “I can’t do this anymore” to my sister, who just laughed her ass off. I was happy and ecstatic and sad and feeling all the in-betweens!

“It was joy and life and death and pain and song and silence.”

SJM is an auto-buy author for me and I have been trash for her ever since I first read ACOTAR and TOG. And so, knowing that she is coming up with this humongous tome had me on the edge of the seat. I thought I would be able to rest once I got the book in my hands. But did I? NUH UH!

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood 2
Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood artwork

“She was sea and sky and stone and blood and wings and earth and stars and darkness and light and bone and flame.”

The reading experience was sensational! I love the urban setting – with laptops and phones and internet, and cap-wearing angels, badass party princesses, and a swaggering Fae prince. The union of technology and magic, as well as the “in-between” (thumbs up in you know what I mean!), was on point.

The plot twists were unexpected and sudden and would make me put down the book and stare vacantly for a few moments. The politics among the different cliques (for lack of a better term) was intense but also peppered with witticism. The bonds that the characters shared were also so heartfelt and real that as a reader, I felt every bit of happiness radiating from them as well as every loss they were dealt with too. SJM is amazing at character development and the interpersonal drama aspects.

What is classic SJM is that her characters – both the males and the females – are fighting demons of their own. None of them have it easy and it is in their struggle that countless readers have found hope. I know I certainly have.   

However, I do think that certain characters were similar to the ones we have come across in the earlier books as well. I do think SJM pulls a Sam Cortland unfortunately. And I do believe that SJM hints at the fact that she will do what she does, further on in the sequels:

“If she’s smart, she’ll lie low and not attract the attention of any other powerful immortals for the rest of her life.”

(If you know, you know!) Also, that cover is smashing!

5/5 stars, without a doubt!

Thank you, Bloomsbury for sending across a copy of this riveting book!

The King of the Sea: A review

The King of the Sea
The King of the Sea

The King of the Sea was a very reflective read which often made me introspect and just stop and think of what the author has written. The writing is fu of musical cadences that are really soothing to the mind. There is a healthy union of poetry and spiritual tidbits that made a composite whole that I as a reader really liked.

Check it out on Goodreads!

Thought-provoking and novel, this book was quite different from most other works. Separate from the conventional manner of narration, this particular work of the author is all-encompassing both in regards to the story as well as the reader in his reading environment.

Check it out on Amazon!

What might pose a difficulty for most people is, I believe, the manner in which the characters speak. Keeping in mind that this is very much a metaphysical novel, the reader finds a lot of tangential and metaphorical phrases.

Towards the middle, I did think that it felt dragged but powering through those few pages, I once again reached the valley of introspection to read the book in.

The cover and title of the book is apt and I simply love how aesthetic this photo came out as! I definitely recommend this one to you all.

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars!

A coming-of-age: Suncatcher

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age,  Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!
Suncatcher by Romesh Gunesekera

An absolutely beautiful and poignant coming-of-age, Suncatcher is set against the political unrest in the 1960s Ceylon and it is a coming-of-age which I definitely recommend to you all!

A coming-of-age novel!

This was my first Gunesekera book and by god, am I a fan now! Suncatcher was a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age novel, or a bildungsroman, as we lit grads like to put it.

Setting and background:

The story is set in the 1960s Ceylon, erstwhile Sri Lanka, and it is a time of great political change all around; the reverberations of these political happenings resonate throughout the book and control how the adults act or what they say.

Themes of illusions and traps

One of the important themes that I could figure was that of illusion. Be it the adults or Jay himself, everyone seems to be deliberately altering the way he or she perceives reality and moreover, an entire section on the construction of the cage and the way how Jay perceives it towards the end is reminiscent of the way the system has caged the people. Society, class, economic situation, language, etc are all dividing lines.

Coming-of-age: The protagonist

At the center, we have the protagonist Kairo, a pretty much normal guy whose life takes for an exciting turn when he meets the worldly and confident Jay.

The similarity to The Great Gatsby

For all his dreams and hopes, Jay reminded me of Fitzgerald’s famous character Jay Gatsby. Jay is a boy whose personality greatly mesmerizes and influences Kairo and he comes off as an idealistic visionary, a talented naturalist and a rebel. There are many layers to his personality, however, and as the story progresses, we learn more about him.

A coming-of-age: Jay and Kairo

However, as Jay seems to be oblivious to the unstable situation all around him, Kairo seems to be a more emphatic and emotionally intelligent boy who takes stock of the things going on around him, although at the time he may not understand their significance. Jay and Kairo as a pair, seem to be a juxtaposition of two vastly different worlds; where Kairo belongs to the bourgeoisie, Jay can be said to belong to the ‘landed gentry’, for lack of a better term.

The similarity to Rhett Butler!!

Another character who was very interesting was Uncle Elvin. If Jay reminds me of Jay Gatsby because of his visionary ways, Elvin seems to embody Rhett Butler in his manner of living. I do not know why, but I somehow saw Clark Gable, more specifically his persona as Rhett Butler as Elvin, which is full of fast cars, girls and his extravagant ways.

A realistic writing style

As for the writing, the language is descriptive and so wholesome! The author has been able to well portray the thinking of youngsters burgeoning in their pre-adult years. There is a sense of rivalry that seems to be present, the need to be the leader and to dominate, etc. The use of the native words adds a very original flavor to the book.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book and I hope I can pick up more from the author’s milieu. I rate it 5/5 stars. Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of this book. Also, the postcard is so aesthetic!

Recommended reads:

  1. An Atlas of Impossible Longing
  2. City of Girls
  3. The Dutch House

Links:

  1. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48348802-suncatcher
  2. Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Suncatcher-Romesh-Gunesekera/dp/1526621584/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3U20JYQ6SXBVS&keywords=suncatcher+by+romesh+gunesekera&qid=1574268544&sprefix=suncatcher+by+romesh%2Caps%2C456&sr=8-1

A Ticklish Affair

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

A Ticklish Affair is a short story collection that revolves around quite a few different themes and is quite ticklish to read!

About A Ticklish Affair

A man is blackmailed for a past he never had, and an unrequited love story binds two lovers.
A man waits for his lover, only to be killed at her hands, and a girl takes back her life from her tormentor.
From the bestselling authors of The Peacock Feather comes another delightful offering, A Ticklish Affair, and Other Stories. This collection of short stories has all the ingredients of an unputdownable book. Taken from the daily rigmarole of ordinary life, the stories are given extraordinary twists and turns, leading to fascinating climaxes. The dark undertone of ‘Blackmail’, the power of belief in ‘Spark of the Divine’, the forbidden romance in ‘Ticklish Affair’ or the eternal power of love in ‘Rickshaw Faridabadi’, this collection of stories is sure to move readers to tears of sadness and joy at the same time.

A fabulous read!

A collection of ten short stories, A Ticklish Affair was quite an interesting read. I loved it for the variety it gave to me as a reader. All the various stories covered different themes and as such gave important life lessons through them. Despite the vibe that the title of the book gives it, that of a collection of love stories, the stories are all focusing on different main plots. However, what binds them all together is the conglomeration of basic and universal human emotions like love, faith, hope, self-respect, hatred, the thirst for revenge, etc.

The language was simple and yet very beautiful, and as such, it was easy to read. Moreover, the imagery present was realistic as well. The narrative style used by the author is great and the stories easily suck you in. I really enjoyed these stories and would definitely recommend you pick up this book.

A Ticklish Affair gets 4/5 stars from me!

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

Amazon Goodreads

Some other reviews you might like: Mr. Eashwar’s Daughter, The Broken Amoretti, The Printed Letter Bookshop etc.

A Magical New Fantasy Series!

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

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

Fantastic cover:

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

Pre-order goodies:

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

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

Synopsis of this fantasy book:

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

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

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

Guess who is loving this fantasy!

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

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

Amazon Goodreads

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

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

Indistractable : A disappointment!

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

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

Synopsis:

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

Why Indistractable was a disappointment

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

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

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

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

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

Links to buy the book

Amazon and Goodreads

Other Self-help book reviews

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

About the reviewer:

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

Dear Juliet… A beautiful glimpse into love

Dear Juliet... A Beautiful Glimpse into Love

So this amazing collection of beautiful letters was recently published on the 1st of October, 2019 and I am so happy to have been able to read it. I absolutely love it!

Dear Juliet

So basically this is a collection of only a few of the thousands of letters that people all over the earth write to Juliet.

Yes, the Juliet of Verona. Juliet Capulet. Romeo’s Juliet. Juliet by Shakespeare.

The Juliet Club

If you didn’t know, there is even today the famous Juliet Club, where Juliet’s secretaries reply to all the letters sent to her. It was first started by Giulio Tamassia and a group of artists and scholars in 1972. Today, Giovanna Tamassia directs the club and upholds her father’s legacy. I personally never knew about this club until I saw the 2010 movie Letters to Juliet.

My letter of love

As I read these heartfelt outpouring of love, I realized how many forms of it there are today, which is not to imply that anyone is better or more powerful than the other. This emotion is all-encompassing and kind and caring and love loves to give. As I leafed through the pages, I was touched by the beautiful words – which were spontaneous and intuitive and emotional and some unrefined, but all, beautiful and touching.

I think this is a wonderful book we need to read, especially in present times when we humans seem to have forgotten what it is to love others, and to be kind to others. We have almost relegated this feeling to simply a romantic one, forgetting all the other versions of love that exist, like the love for a sibling, the love for an aging parent and the love for friends.

A visual saga

With scans of original letters sent to the club, in so many different languages, I was blown away by the feeling that the one emotion that binds us all to one another and to life in general, is that of love. We all may have busy lives and be participants in a cut-throat world but to love and be loved is a privilege that we all yearn for, deep inside.

I was very emotional by the time I finished reading this book and I do not think I will really rate or review this book because it was so cavernous a topic. But If I absolutely have to rate it, it will be an astounding 5/5 stars.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43387390-dear-juliet

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Dear-Juliet-Lovestruck-Lovelorn-Shakespeares/dp/1452170568/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1571491090&sr=8-4

Some other books you can check out if you liked this one:

  1. Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson
  2. Poets, Artists, Lovers by Mira Tudor
  3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A Review of Walk With Wings, by Tene Edwards

I read this poetry collection over the course of two weeks because I usually read poetry quite slowly so that I actually feel the words and can mull them over. Walk With Wings was an enjoyable read that I delved into. The poems were all divided into 5 sections: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing, and resilience. The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

The pieces here deal with hard work, discipline and the sacrifices we have to make in order to pursue our dreams. They have been so relatable to me and I was in love. It is always empowering in a way – to know that what we are feeling is not just us. So many people are suffering and knowing that gives a sort of strength – if so many others are dealing with these issues, and progressing, perhaps we can too?

A few of the pieces felt like quotes so irked me a bit, but then again, the content is something you can easily relate to and that makes it the best, I think. Self-love and empowerment are the two common threads that link all the different pieces in the book. I think that my personal favourite is Summer Freedom perhaps, because it is a process I am going through myself – I am healing myself by learning to accept my own self. I am de-stigmatizing the faults I had previously found in my skin which had once made me so very uncomfortable in this skin I wear. Very enjoyable read and i rate it 4/5 stars.

#qotd : Do you have certain books you go back to whenever you need some healing?

A suggestion I have is What Your Soul Already Knows by Salma Farook. It is another book that I loved and I keep going back to it. It is a self-help/motivational book. I am generally not much for this genre but this one book was amazing.

Very Nice , by Marcy Dermansky, 2019

Title: Very Nice

Author: Marcy Dermansky

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

A brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, race, and bad behavior in the post-Obama era, featuring a wealthy Connecticut divorcée, her college-age daughter, and the famous American novelist who is seduced by them both.

Rachel Klein never meant to kiss her creative writing professor, but with his long eyelashes, his silky hair, and the sad, beautiful life he laid bare on Twitter, she does, and the kiss is very nice. Zahid Azzam never planned to become a houseguest in his student’s sprawling Connecticut home, but with the sparkling swimming pool, the endless supply of Whole Foods strawberries, and Rachel’s beautiful mother, he does, and the home is very nice. Becca Klein never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after her divorce, but when her daughter’s professor walks into her home, bringing with him an apricot standard poodle named Princess, she does, and the affair is…a very bad idea. In a darkly hilarious novel that zigzags between the rarified circles of Manhattan investment banking, the achingly self-serious MFA programs of the Midwest, and the private bedrooms of Connecticut, Marcy Dermansky has written an audacious, addictive, and wickedly smart take on the way we live now.

My review:

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

Very Nice was a fairly fast-paced novel – that read like a soap opera. It certainly was fun to read this book and I believe it was the perfect summer read, to be read by the pool. The story is told through various characters’ povs so we see varying perspectives in the alternating thread of storytelling. It is linear with a fluid writing that reads really well.

We have Rachel, a college student who has a crush on her creative writing professor – Zahid Azzam, who is also a well-renowned author. She seduces him, they have sex and Rachel starts thinking that he likes her for it. However, everything is not as it seems. For instance, the characters portray something else – a sense of individuality and accomplishment, you could say, but underneath it all, there are such conflicting emotions. By a chance of fate, Zahid ends up living in Rachel’s house and has an affair with her mother, Becca. However, Dermansky has played well with the creation of the interrelationships among the various characters in this book. It seems everyone is related to everyone in one way or the other. The way their threads are intertwined proves to be a very interesting read.

The book also has various themes peeking out through the various narratives. With Khloe, we see the misogynistic nature of the world that she has to face in her finance job. Becca deals with dissatisfaction and a sense of acute restlessness and incompleteness. Jonathan deals with the fleeting sense of joy as he leaves his wife Becca for the much younger Mandy, only to slowly realize that it is not how he wants to live. The inner monologues of the characters, especially that of Rachel, is very interesting. The idea of self-image and self-identity is very important here too. we see Zahid struggling with it, and we also see Rachel struggling with the idea or the image she has of Zahid. There is also inclusion of political themes such as gun laws (in relation to the incident faced by Becca once, as she was confronted by Amelia’s brother), varying political ideologies etc. the manner of writing is quite electric to be honest, and at first I was not sure of what I felt regarding the short sentences. I found it weird, but not bad though. After a while, I got used to it and quite enjoyed it, in fact. 

Despite all the differences in the characters’ personalities, and, they are human – and flawed in a way we all can also certainly relate to. It was very easy to relate to the characters. I felt so accomplished myself when Zahid’s writing was going well, for instance.

The writing continues to be witty, and although the author deals with some abject issues, it is still fun and a buoyant read overall.

Verdict:

An enjoyable read, I rated it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Silence Between The Spaces, by Abir Sinha, 2019

Title: Silence Between The Spaces

Author: Abir Sinha

Genre: Poetry and Prose

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

About the reviewer:

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

Love in the Time of Affluenza, by Shunali Khullar Shroff, 2019

Title: Love in the Time of Affluenza

Author: Shunali Khullar Shroff

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 292

Synopsis:

A novel that probes the norms of marriage, love, and adultery among the urban super-wealthy, Love in the time of Affluenza is a hilarious social satire set in Mumbai. The story explores the lives of three women as understood from the eyes of its protagonist Natasha, a happily married mother of three. She begins to ask some difficult questions about her own life after she stumbles upon her closest friend Trisha’s affair.

‘Finally an immensely enjoyable story about Mumbai’s rich that, like all good stories, rings so true, with its adorable and suspiciously familiar characters.’ – Manu Joseph

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.

A book that provides a glimpse into the lives of the ultra-rich in urban Mumbai, Love in the Time of Affluenza was a fun, and witty read. While most may simply categorize it into the light and frivolous, this book comes with its practical depth – one so many women across the country will find similar!

Natasha Singh is a woman who is very relatable. As a mother, she shows us (who are not mothers yet) the point of view from a mother’s side and it is definitely not so easy. Kids can be really annoying sometimes (I am definitely experienced as I have a younger brother) but most of all, placating the kids after a fight is the worst. I loved how the author has made the book so very relatable! When Ria puts on more waterworks as the father (Natasha’s husband, Prince Varun) arrives, it is a scene out of my everyday life. I am a daddy’s girl too and well, to b honest, for a daughter, fathers are way easier to manipulate, aren’t they?

We see Natasha grappling with the sudden scenario of cheating and infidelity when her friend Trisha’s affair is discovered by her. So many times in life, we find ourselves struggling between two rights – whether to respect the confidences of a friend or to tell the truth outright to the people they are hurting. Even without the exact same scenario, this is a dreadful situation we have found ourselves in time too many, to be honest!

 And then comes the mother-in-law! That is one serious Hiroshima-Nagasaki situation in itself. Natasha’s interactions with the Rani are funny, and sometimes really frustrating. It really makes us think about the age-old adage – a woman is another woman’s worst enemy. Is there any truth to it?

In the very beginning of the book itself, Natasha, as she is being ordered about by the cook, wonders if she is working for him or vice versa. Now that situation is one we all are suffering from! And well, men are such chauvinists sometimes! Even when they love you, that streak of caveman attitude seems to erupt and take over their otherwise oaky-ish thinking.

Being an avid fan of Sex and the City, I did find similarities between Carrie Bradshaw and our Natasha. The beginning of every chapter is a writeup by her, as she works as a columnist. These writeups are quite impactful and make us think these words over. The writing was full of humor and irony, and I for one (among many others) am a fan of Shroff’s writing. The literary (and other references) to Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Anna Karenina, Picasso, Lalu Prasad Yadav (you so need to read this book!), Uri Geller, etc. were on point! Shroff has masterfully blended the wit and philosophy, displayed them through various (almost) stereotyped characters and provided a work, which is light, and funny and relatable, but at the same time, full of deep and impactful thoughts.

Verdict:

It was a great read, and now my mum is reading it too! I rate it 4/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

After The Flood, coming out on 19.9.19!

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‘[A] brilliantly imagined novel about love and desperation, set in an astonishing new world … utterly gripping’ Karin Slaughter, International bestselling author of The Last Widow

This book just sounds smashing! It’s also coming out on September 19th and so I’ll be surely picking it up a week from then and will be sharing my views! One of my most anticipated book from the latter half of 2019 and I am pumped for it! The proof cover itself looks so very beautiful, so you should definitely check out the astonishing finished copy as well! I have it added to my ‘Want to Read’ shelf on Goodreads! It is amazing and I love that one too! I honestly cannot choose any one from between them both! Read on, to know more about this book!

Also thanks a lot to Natasha Bardon and Gayatri for this opportunity!

The world is mostly water when Pearl is born. The floods have left America a cluster of small islands with roving trade ships and raiders.

Pearl knows little of her father Jacob and elder sister Row, who left her mother Myra when she was pregnant with her. Between them they make do, with Myra fishing and trading to make ends meet, travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat Myra’s grandfather made before he died.

Whilst their life is a tranquil one, Myra still aches for the daughter she once lost. When a chance encounter reveals that Row might still be alive, Myra packs up six-year-old Pearl and together they begin a dangerous voyage to The Valley, where rumours of violence and breeding ships run rampant.

Along the way they encounter death and strangers, finally finding solace on board Sedna – full to the brim with supplies and an able crew – where Myra feels like she might be closer to finding Row than she has ever been. But to get to Row she will have to deceive everyone around her, betraying the trust of those she’s come to love, and ask herself if she’s willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for what might be nothing at all.

Secret of the Palamu Fort, by Razi, 2019

Title:  Secret of the Palamu Fort

Author: Razi

Publisher: StoryMirror Infotch Pvt. Ltd.

Genre: Mythology/Thriller

Format: paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 250

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

It was a really gripping and interesting read. I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

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

Author: Ashok K Banker

Publisher: Simon & Schuster India

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Historical fiction

Format: Papaerback

Language: English

No. of pages: 350

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

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

May 2019 Book-Haul, Part-1!

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

Give Your Heart A Break , by Anuj Tiwari, 2019

Title: Give Your Heart A Break

Author: Anuj Tiwari

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Published on: 15th May, 2019

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 208

Synopsis:

When is it enough, really enough? 
In love, never! In abuse, forever. 

Written flawlessly with tenderness and fury, heartbreak and acceptance, give your heart a break is the story of Addya, a flamboyant, confident woman, leading a carefree life. That is, until the day she gets married, and her life suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Caught in a steadily deteriorating relationship, Addya is stretched to her limits as she tries to cope. Through it all, she has her brother Agastya standing by her side like a rock, vowing to avenge his sister. Will Addya be able to survive unscathed? Will Agastya succeed in seeking justice? Or will he succumb to the wounds of his past? Can the love of his life, Tarjani, provide him succour? Inspired by a true story, this is an incredible tale of abuse and vulnerability, of the exhilaration of romance, of an unshakeable sibling bond that is at once unique and universal. Above all, this is Anuj Tiwari’s unsparing account of love and loss, capturing the grit and courage of a woman trapped in a loveless relationship.

My review:

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

If I could use just one word to describe this book, it sure will be ‘inspiring’. Or ‘motivational’. And all the other synonyms that go with it.

Give You Heart A Break is a story of love, rather than a simple love story (although there is one such major romantic angle to it, it does not feature at the fore). Words of wisdom pepper throughout the narrative in the voices of Arjun, Agastya and Addya.

Through Addya’s story the author has shed light on the plight of many women in our society. A topic we do not talk about much – a topic considered too impossible a scenario crops up here. Marital tape is still not considered a crime in our country. After all, the husbands owns the wives, don’t they? It is their prerogative – how they treat them ; it is this business not to be poked into by others. Addya has to unfortunately undergo a lot in her married life, – be it sexual, mental or physical abuse .

After her escape from what seems to be horrifying fate, it is a shock to see the reactions of her parents who are archaic and old-fashioned in the truest sense. It is her brother Agastya who is a true savior. Their relation is sweet and so ideal – it is the way in which one would expect loved ones and family members to treat them. The book also deals a lot with people’s mentality- like how we care so much about societal expectations – about ‘what will the neighbours say?!’

Arjun is also a great brother to Addya. The author partially employs the story within a story format through the narrative – involving firstly Arjun and then through him, Addya and Agastya. I also interpreted this novel as a sort of bildungsroman as we see the growth of Agastya through the narrative.

However I did find the narrative confusing at times and the execution could have been a bit better. It also felt a bit stretched at times – the philosophical sequences to be exact.

Verdict:

I quite enjoyed reading this book and I rate it a 3.75/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Anarchists’ Club, by Alex Reeve, 2019

Title: The Anarchists’ Club

Author: Alex Reeve

Publisher: Raven Books

Published on: 2nd May, 2019

Genre: Historical Crime

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 370 (in proof copy)

Synopsis:

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

I had no option but dived right in – such is this read. I really recommend it to all crime-thriller lovers and hope that you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Voice of Silence, by Rishaj Dubey, 2019

Title: The Voice of Silence

Author: Rishaj Dubey

Publisher: NotionPress

Genre: Contemporary/New Adult/Mental Health

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 284

Synopsis:

“Bestselling author and a ‘diagnosed psychopath’ Aarav Roy has gone missing”
Four years ago.
Aarav is not a normal college kid. From a blurry, abusive childhood, to his severe anxiety and the horrible voices in his head, he is fed up with life. Driven by the belief that his past is everything that defines him, he ended up posting his suicide note online. But, the kind of silence he fantasized never came true. Nikita, who suffered from PTSD and depression, sees her own tragic secrets reflected in him, and she is not going to let the past repeat itself—no matter the cost.
Where is the controversial writer? Who is she? Who does she remind Aarav so much of?
What are the voices in his head? And how much hate can love fuel?
In his debut novel, Rishaj Dubey explores the depths of trauma, corruption, loneliness and what is it like to suffocate in your own breath. 

My review:

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

One of the books I read recently was The Voice of Silence and it was quite a surprising read. The beginning was a bit slow for my taste, but overall, it was a great build-up. Covering a myriad of human emotions, The Voice of Silence in a book that is necessary for us to read because of the important topic that the author has chosen.

The entire story felt like an interior monologue of Aarav and his story with relation to Nikita is gradual and very realistic. The book is a lot about mental health and reading such a book in the Indian context is great, and definitely a first for me. Trigger warning for PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder etc. This aspect of the human mind or psychology was a bonus and I found it refreshing to read about in the Indian context.

I think that the characterization is also on point – be it Aarav, Nikita and also Ashish, who is Aarav’s best friend. Their character arcs have developed throughout and it makes for real fleshed out characters.

The author has adopted a simple and easy to understand language, which is relatable and most importantly, very realistic. The way the narrative has been split, with breaks at suitable points, and the addition of the various quotes at the beginning of each chapter was also great. The author has also employed a sort of stream of consciousness method; it is non-linear and jumps back and forth across time.

However, it rather has a complex plot so it might get a bit too heavy at times, but it is an overall great read.

Verdict:

If you love reading psychological thrillers and also books on mental health, this might be the one for you. It is not like every other love story that floods our literature. It is very different from them all and I definitely recommend it. I rate it a 3.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

The Sleepless Beauty, by Rajesh Talwar

Title: The Sleepless Beauty

Author: Rajesh Talwar

Genre: Middle-grade

Format: Kindle

Language: English

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

 I think it was a pretty interesting read. I rate it 3/5 stars.  

About the reviewer:

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

Behind her Back, by Jane Lythell, 2017

Title: Behind her Back

Author: Jane Lythell

Publisher: Head of Zeus Ltd

Genre: General Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 368

Synopsis:

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the author:

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

About the reviewer:

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

The Women who Ruled India: Leaders. Warriors. Icons. by Archana Garodia Gupta, 2019

Title: The Women Who Ruled India: Leaders. Warriors. Icons.

Author: Archana Garodia Gupta

Publisher: Hachette India

Genre: Historical

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 299

Synopsis:

The history of India, more often than not, is a history of the men who were in charge. Largely forgotten are the women who, even centuries earlier, shaped the fates of entire kingdoms.

In The Women Who Ruled India, writer and researcher Archana Garodia Gupta revives 20 such powerful figures from the archives, offering us a glimpse of their fascinating lives. Among them are Begum Samru, a courtesan who went on to become the head of a mercenary army and the ruler of Sardhana; Didda of Kashmir, known for her keen political instinct and a ruthlessness that spared no one; Rani Abbakka of Ullal, the fearless queen who took on Portuguese colonizers in their heyday; and Rani Mangammal of Madurai, the famed administrator who built alliances at a time when going to war was the order of the day.

These women and others like them built roads, instituted laws and were generous patrons of the arts and sciences. Their stories of valour and diplomacy, leadership and wit continue to inspire today. Peppered with anecdotes that showcase little-known facets of their personalities, the accounts in this book celebrate heroic rulers who – ‘quarrelsome’ though they might have been – were iconoclasts: unafraid to forge new paths.

My review:

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

The Women who Ruled India was a really inspiring read. I personally think that this is a great book to gift to the young women as well as men, in our lives. Reading this book at an impressionable age with be a great benefit.

The women here are brave and just, and that is a great lesson. It teaches us to understand that being brave and courageous does not necessarily mean that we do not fear anything, rather we overcome the fear. This book also shows so many instances when these wonderful, beautiful women always put their people and their subjects above their own lives. Being so selfless is another quality that is worth mentioning.

The manner that this book is written in – inclusion of the history first as an introduction, the woman’s general life span history and a short story or instance at the end. This makes sure that you are not bored as you move through the amazing stories of such inspiring women.

The language used is standard without being too complex so I think that it will be understandable for pretty much everyone.

Verdict:

I am rating this book a solid 4/5 for its amazing inspiring factor.

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 Near Witch, by V. E. Schwab, 2019

Title: The Near Witch

Author: V. E. Schwab

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 355

Recommended for: Fans of both adult and young-adult fantasy and of Neil Gaiman.  

Synopsis:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 
But when an actual stranger-a boy who seems to fade like smoke-appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know-about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

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.

Part fairy tale,
part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet
achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind,
and a dream you won't soon forget. 

I cannot assert how much I loved the narrative structure, enough. Schwab weaves a magical net of prose and fantasy that engulfs the reader into the story and makes it almost touchingly real. The imagery of the windy moors – the wind has been personified and it is an entity of its own and grips the reader’s attention. Environment, or nature, in itself is given great stature in the book, the wind especially, and this added element provides greater temporal and spatial depths of an already intriguing story. There is adventure, there is mystery and there is romance; although I love how the romance has not been given center stage. There is love yes, but the love Lexi shares with her sister is far greater and warming to read about. Lexi is brave, and like every other teenager, she too struggles at times and is made all the more humane, by it. I love how the female representation is done in today’s fantasy. This genre continues to give us strong heroines, who are not perfect, but they are brave (like Reshma Saujani says in her book – be Brave, Not Perfect). These heroines can do wrong yes, make mistakes, but they are never afraid to own up to them and thus, have the potentials to be such great idols for the young impressionable minds. The fight against stereotypical gender roles in this book is shown through Lexi and I enjoyed seeing her defy the expectations, time and time again! Trauma and its effects on people, dealing with it etc. is too portrayed in the book. Then ending however, was a bit rushed but then again considering it is a debut novel, I am not surprised. I am wondering of what differences I will find in her latest ADSOM trilogy…

This new edition by Titan books also has the short story The Ash-Born Boy which is basically the back-story of Cole. I think this is a magical short-story in itself too! I cannot again, stress enough on how much I love the prose writing of the author – this writing in itself is such wave-like, so fluidic that you just flow towards the story and become one with it. It is a powerhouse on its own.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved the story and fell in love with Schwab’s writing style (so much so that I will be picking up the ADSOM trilogy this upcoming weekend!). I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: Dardreamers: A Start-up of Superheroes

Author: Kartik Sharma and Ravi Nirmal Sharma

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Genre: Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 296 pages

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

You Will be Safe Here, by Damian Barr, 2019

Title: You Will be Safe Here

Author: Damian Barr

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical fiction

Format: Advanced Reading Copy

Language: Language

No. of pages: 352

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

An extraordinary debut that explores legacies of abuse, redemption, and the strength of the human spirit–from the Boer Wars in South Africa to brutal wilderness camps for teenage boys.

South Africa, 1901. It is the height of the second Boer War. Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred are forced from their home on Mulberry Farm. As the polite invaders welcome them to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp they promise Sarah and Fred that they will be safe there.

2014. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider. Hoping he will become the man she wants him to be, his Ma and her boyfriend force Willem to attend the New Dawn Safari Training Camp where they are proud to make men out of boys. They promise that he will be safe there.

You Will Be Safe Here is a powerful and urgent novel of two connected South African stories. Inspired by real events, it uncovers a hidden colonial history, reveals a dark contemporary secret, and explores the legacy of violence and our will to survive. 

My review:

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

I absolutely loved reading YOU WILL BE SAFE HERE. This is a poignant story that really touched my heart and I have changed after reading it. There are 4 parts in the story.

The first part is written in an epistolary format – in the form of a diary. The ton of Sarah van der Watt is so tragic. I found – not overtly so, but in its undercurrent – I could feel it as I read – Sarah’s knowledge that the need of her world as she knew it, was near. Things would greatly change and it is as if she is deliberately and often times forcefully trying to be cheerful – why not enjoy the last few days before all hell breaks loose?

Some lines I liked were –

“There is strangely little to do now but wait.”

During this period of the second Boer War, the Kaffirs were freed by the English. The resulting chaos was a great scar on the lives of so many people – both whites and blacks. I was also pleasantly surprised by the resilience of the people – specifically Sarah van der Watt and basically everyone else.  It also talks about the feminine issues – both social, and historical – the suppression of women and the masculine power play over them, their objectification, etc.  I also loved that Samuel, the husband had been such a supportive husband to Sarah, as we learn from the diary entries. Later on, the entries make you cry – just reading of the utter inhuman situations that they, along with so many other people were subjected to. The flashback method was also great and gives great depth to the story.

One thing that I really enjoyed was the inclusion of the literary references. It made the text very relatable to the reader, as it surely did for me! 

Throughout all the different parts, the Southern Cross is a recurring motif. I interpreted it as an objective correlative for the concepts of hope and strength that it bestowed on the different characters. The use of regional words at certain places give a certain authenticity to the text and a sense of reality.

In part 2, Willem says “They wouldn’t understand, they never understand” which I think resonates among so many teenagers, when thinking of adults and authority figures.

One of the major themes that I saw throughout Part 2 is that of toxic masculinity. For instance, seeing Willem cry in desperation once, Jan had turned away – after all, boys do not cry. We also see domestic abuse scenario in this part.

Later, when Willem is at the camp and Rayna misses him. She understands that at the camp he would be forced to do what they have wanted him to do always – things that other boys do generally. “It’s these markers of his willingness to try that break her heart”.

 I really loved Rayna’s character. She is the epitome of an independent and hardworking woman. When Irma accuses her saying she could never “keep a man” Rayna says, “I never needed one… Maybe I wanted one, sometimes but I never needed one. Not like you” and that is such a powerful sentiment. Rayna is an inspiring woman just as Sarah.

Verdict:

This is one of the best books I have read in my life, let alone in 2019. I rate it a 5/5 stars and will definitely be picking it up again.

About the author:

‘Maggie & Me’ is my memoir and ‘You Will Be Safe Here’ is my first novel (out in April 2019). You can follow me on twitter @damian_barr and insta @mrdamianbarr. I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy: www.theliterarysalon.co.uk

‘Maggie & Me’ is my memoir of surviving small-town Scotland in the Thatcher years. It won Sunday Times Memoir of the Year: “Full to the brim with poignancy, humour, brutality and energetic and sometimes shimmering prose, the book confounds one’s assumptions about those years and drenches the whole era in an emotionally charged comic grandeur. It is hugely affecting.” BBC Radio 4 made it a Book of the Week. Following Jeanette Winterson in 2012, Stonewall named me Writer of the Year 2013.

I host my own Literary Salon at the Savoy. Guests include: Jojo Moyes, Bret Easton Ellis, John Waters, Mary Beard, James Frey, David Nicholls, Colm Toibin, Taiye Selasi, Susan Calman, David Mitchell and Rose McGowan. Do enjoy our podcast!

Commended as Columnist of the Year, I’ve also been a journalist for over a decade writing mostly for The Times but also the Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Guardian, Evening Standard and Granta. I’m currently a columnist for the Big Issue and High Life. My first book, based on a Times column, was published by Hodder in 2005. ‘Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis’. I’ve also co-written two plays for Radio 4 and appeared on PM, Midweek, Broadcasting House and Today as well as The Verb and presented on Front Row. I live in Brighton with my partner and our intensely demanding chickens.

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 .

Silent Defiance: An Open Refusal to Everything That Hurts the Soul, by Sonia Motwani

Title: Silent Defiance: An Open Refusal to Everything That Hurts the Soul

Author: Sonia Motwani

Genre: Poetry

Format: Ebook

No. of pages: 114

Language: English

My review:

Reading poetry is a very personal experience for me and as such, I hold it in very high regard. In the case of Silent Defiance, the poet has been able to retain my interest for the entirety of the book.

I enjoyed reading the poems very much – many were so very relatable on various levels that I was deeply touched and at times, after reading a few poems, I had to just stop, deliberate and think about it. These poems have been very thought-inducing as well.

I am very sure that a lot of the readers have been touched just as well. The delivery and the writing style of the poetry has been good but can be developed furthermore. The imagery produced at times was also beautiful in their entirety. The poems, all aroused emotions in the reader and I applaud the poet in this regard.

I do think that the poet should possibly publish another book and I shall be delighted to but that one too. The cover is dark and yet there is this certain elegance in it. The length of the book too is actually very short and thus proves quick to read. Again, although very short and would require very less net reading time, I cannot guarantee the thinking time the reader will probably use, poring over these works.

Verdict:

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

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 .

Vivienne Westwood, by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, 2019

Title: Small People Big Dreams: Vivienne Westwood

Author: Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Genre: Children’s Non-fiction

Format: Ebook

Language: Language

No. of pages: 32

Synopsis:

New in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of Vivienne Westwood, the flame-haired fashion designer and impresario. 

When Vivienne was a young woman, she wasn’t sure how a working class girl from England could make a living in the art world. But after discovering her passion for design and jewelry making, she erupted onto the fashion scene with a bang. Vivienne’s designs became iconic, and she became famous for letting her clothes speak for themselves. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the designer’s life.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children.

Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

My review:

This book was a great read. Firstly because it was about THE Vivienne Westwood (one of the greatest fashion designers ever!) and that says a lot in itself. I love her designs, admittedly the less edgy ones. Nonetheless, she is an inspiration to so many people that when I got the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at it!

Westwood was born in 1941 and as such, she saw the war years. It was a tragic period but she survived and her optimism for life, shined through. In school, Westwood saw a classmate being bullied and while many just stood in the sidelines and watched, she stood up for him. For the reader, that is a very inspiring thing to read about – to stand up against injustice.

The book also talks about various other themes such as the importance of friendship and supporting one’s friends, while also, being independent and supporting oneself. This is a great necessity that we all need to understand and participate in today. Being able to stand on one’s feet is not some kindness we do to our parents, rather it is for our betterment only. In this case, being able to also know when it is time to move away from friends and family is important and I myself have gathered much strength from this – we all need to fly away from the nest sooner or later.

There is also a lot of importance give on self-acceptance, something that a majority of us today, sorely lack in. It is important too not let the naysayers get to us – as Westwood shows vibrantly throughout her life. It is of the utmost importance that we be or own persons and do what makes us happy and following our dreams, even if, at times, these dreams look far-fetched.

Moreover, we also see another important issue talked about in this book – that of environmental issue. Today, global warming and many other threats to the environment ae more common that perhaps the pins in Westwood’s pincushions.

I think that this book is surely a great gift for children – it has so many lessons to be learnt and most importantly, it is not done in a preachy manner at all. There are colourful illustrations that captured my attentions from the very beginning and I was totally invested in the book.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved the book and I think this is a great gift for all kids! I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the author:

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, born in Barcelona, Spain, is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

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 .

We Are the Gardeners, by Joanna Gaines, 2019

Title: We Are the Gardeners

Author: Joanna Gaines

Illustrated by: Julianna Swaney

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.

Publishing Date: 26th of March, 2019

Genre: Children’s nonfiction, Home and Gardening

Format: Ebook

Language: English

Synopsis:

In We Are the Gardeners, Joanna and the kids chronicle the adventures of starting their own family garden. From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (bunnies that eat everything!), and all the knowledge they’ve gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden. As it turns out, trying something new isn’t always easy, but the hardest work often yields the greatest reward. There are always new lessons to be learned in the garden!

You and your children can learn all about the Gaines family’s story of becoming gardeners in Joanna’s first children’s book—starting with the first little fern Chip bought for Jo. Over the years, the family’s love for gardening blossomed into what is now a beautiful, bustling garden.

Julianna Swaney’s illustrations bring the Gaines family garden to life with colorful, whimsical watercolors and invite you to enjoy the beauty of a thriving garden.

My review:

We Are the Gardeners was a quite short but interesting read. I think it will prove to be a really powerful and influential read for children. We often say that a child’s mind is like a blank space and so it is easy to influence them. This book, with its wonderful illustrations, is the perfect gift for the little eons in your life.

One of the most important things that it focuses upon is the necessity of hard work and perseverance and how significant they are – we need to inculcate them if we ever wish to do something successful. The author also insists on the necessity of going on and not giving up – “Every failure or setback teaches us something”.

It shows the beauty in simple and menial tasks and that will surely teach the reader to understand and enjoy the smaller joys of life – even the simplest things can offer one something. The childhood innocence in the kids is really very nice to read about – they have hope, something so many of us adults have left behind; these kids are taught not to give up – and I think that is the best advice a growing kid can ever get.

The book also focuses on the importance of knowing when enough is enough – on contentment, and respecting the limits. Reading as a whole is also portrayed and thus, the fact that one can learn so many things from doing so. Another most obvious and just as important motifs seen in this book is the presence of familial bonds and the importance of family – after all, the family is the first support system we get.

“Just because you can’t see the good things with your eyes doesn’t mean they’re not there!” This is an important line from the book and says multitudes in just a few words. It encourages the reader to look for the silver lining. With simple language, this is the perfect book to read for a quick yet meaning experience.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book very much and I rate it a 4/5 stars! It releases on 26th of March, 2019 and a must grab for all the tiny tots in your lives!

About the reviewer:

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

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

Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

No. of pages: 825

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

Synopsis:

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


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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

It was an amazing book. I took exactly 5 days to complete it. With its beautiful and page-turning churn of action, high fantasy, romance, and politics, I rate this book a 4.5/5 stars!

About the reviewer:

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

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley, 2018

Title: Finding Esme

Author: Suzanne Crowley

Publisher: Greenwillow books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Children’s literature

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

No. of pages: 352

Reading level: Middle-grade

Synopsis:

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas. Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor. Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away. From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

My review:

I had honestly no idea that I would come to love this book so much! Finding Esme is truly a one of a kind middle-grade novel that I enjoyed delving into, as did my brother!

Speaking about the characters, the protagonist Esme is one I found to be utterly wonderful and dynamic in her own rights. She is so matured for a mere twelve-year old and while it awed me a lot, at times, I could not help but feel sad for she has lost quite a part of her childhood. As she so ardently asserts to her grandmother, she is after all a kid who has been force to grow up too early. It also does not help that Bee admittedly treats her like an adult.

Bee on the other hand, is a hard woman. She has faced a lot in her life and her great tragedy perhaps defines a lot of this novel – I believe this backstory is crucial in the way it has also defined the lives of Esme, her brother Bo, her mother June Rain and her father Harlan. (If you want to know what great tragedy I am talking about then you should surely read this book!) It is not a tragedy in as much as a terrific incident or something of catastrophic expanse, but the implications of that melancholy secret is utterly poignant and moving.

Speaking of Bo, I absolutely loved this cuteball! Having a brother myself really made it possible for me to relate to Esme on another level – the bond that one has with siblings is simply unbreakable. Bo is fun and offers the bit of humour in this story. One cannot help but fall in love with him. His understanding of the things around him is also utterly profound and I found him, in some amount, very enigmatic.

June Rain broke my heart. It is only towards the end that we know so much as to why she is what she is and behaves as she does. Sweetmaw, who is Bee’s sister is also another lovable character. I also quite liked Finch’s character and he truly is a good friend to Esme. We also see his story as the author really wraps around the lives of the people with each other. The end product is utterly magical.

The plot was also really enjoyable and while the overall pacing was good, I think that the beginning was a bit slow. Nonetheless, it wraps up the story perfectly.

The themes of family, friends, love, were well evolved in the story. We see so many shades of human emotions that it was an utter ride in itself. Love, hatred, jealousy, competition… everything was included and the result was something very real. The supernatural element was also what I think formed a lot of the backbone in this story, but of course that is a personal interpretation. I suppose I cannot stress enough on how deep and impactful this middle-grade novel turned out to be! And as such, I feel that this is a story people of all ages will enjoy – the kids for the mystery, and the adults for the various hidden layers of meaning and implications within the story.

Verdict:

I absolutely enjoyed this story and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars!

About the author:

Selected among Book Sense and Indie Next top picks, and Amazon and Bookbub Editor’s Picks for Best Books, Suzanne writes novels that School Library Journal calls “amazing” and “poignant” and VOYA calls “heart-stirring” and “marvelous.” Suzanne, the author of both middle grade and young adult fiction, is a wife, mother, a crafter of dollhouse miniatures, an avid traveler, dog hugger, nap expert, and chocolate lover extraordinaire. Suzanne’s novels have received starred reviews in SLJ, KLIATT, VOYA and BCCB, and have been selected for state and national reading lists. After living all over the United States, Suzanne and her family now make their home back in her native state of Texas.
www.suzannecrowley.com 

About the reviewer:

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

Finding Esme, by Suzanne Crowley Box-Set!

Twelve-year-old Esme’s life changes when she discovers dinosaur bones on her family’s peach farm in Texas.

Fans of Wendy Maas and Lynda Mullaly Hunt will love this perfectly pitched story about friendship, family, and loss from Suzanne Crowley, the acclaimed author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous.

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor, Esme has avoided returning to the spot where he lost his life. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

Esme sees the bones as a message from her grandfather; a connection beyond the grave. But when word gets out that Peach Hollow Farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme must find a way to understand who has her best interests at heart—especially as the memories of her grandfather begin to slip away.

From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

I am so very grateful to the author for sending me this box-set. I am currently reading this book and I am loving it. It is a middle-grade novel and as such, it was not a surprise that my younger brother loved reading it too. I would definitely recommend this book to all!

Stay tuned because the review will be up soon!

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

Title: The Glass House: A Year of our Days

Author: Chanchal Sanyal

Publisher: Rupa Publictions

Genre: Fiction/Stream of Consciousness

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 184

Synopsis:

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer:

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

Between You and Me, by Atul Khanna, 2018

Title: Between You and Me

Author: Atul Khanna

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 291

Recommended for: For people interested in reading about the political-social-economic scenarios of India.

Synopsis:

A young soul trapped in an old body. 

A ticking clock slower than time. 

Can this be the ironic destiny of 600 million bright and young Indians? Are we born free and yet trapped by our circumstances?

Between You and Me is a conversation that makes the reader ponder about the much-needed transformational changes for the twenty-first century. Why should we get up to act only when we are pushed to the corner? After all, a stitch in time saves nine. Could it be that the parameters of economics, administration, democracy, and social and political constitutions were all ideated and executed for another era? Will tinkering with these institutions help or are fresh ideas needed?

Encompassing an extensive discussion and analysis of what comprise our society-government, economy, education, healthcare, science, technology and so on-this book gives the reader a holistic view of India and helps in deriving solution-oriented ideas for a new societal design and structure which will ensure a thriving democracy. It presents the hope and aspiration of an ancient society that wants to break through the colonial legacy and land safely into the future. It is a gripping petition with operating models for redefining the citizen’s role-from the audience to the hero-which, if implemented, would bring societal moksha of peace, power and prosperity. 

My review:

My review:

Between You and Me is unlike any book I have come across in recent years. While strictly a non-fiction, the writing skill of the author is such that he makes the book read like a collection of stories at times. The cover does not reveal much I admit, but the book is a treasure trove on the inside.

I cannot stress enough on the importance of this book. Admittedly, it is not something that someone very young might understand; the concepts are explained in a simple way but still, the issues that the author deals with in the book, are enormous in size with just as much an enormous importance as well.

The author has an engaging style of writing that hook the reader from the very start. It happened to me – a person who really disliked non-fiction! The pacing is quite slow however, but that, I suppose, is really alright for something of this magnitude. The author has taken up a significant responsivity in writing about what he believes are wrongs done to us. The author delves in an India, encompassing every aspect of our society, be it government, economy, education, healthcare science etc. Of course, the addition of some story-like narrations of various leaders of India were a great addition to the book and really rounded it out well.

I cannot emphasize the importance of this book enough. This is undoubtedly an important book that I believe all students of the Humanities stream, as well as the Science stream too, should take up. This book is to be read in a slow manner. The various discussions and analysis that th author brings in are truly thought-inducing and forces one to ponder over them hours after being done with the day’s reading.

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

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book and I rate it a 4.5/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

Unstoppable: 75 Stories of Trailblazing Indian Women, by Gayathri Ponvannan, 2019

Title: Unstoppable: 75 Stories of Trailblazing Indian Women

Author: Gayathri Ponvannan

Illustrated by: Mithila Ananth

Publisher: Hachette India

Genre: Non-fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: Englsih

No. of pages: 272 pages

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Meet the wonder women of Indian history!

They flew planes, swam across oceans, led armies, performed stunts, built cities and captured historic moments on camera, despite being constantly told to stay home, because that’s what ‘good girls’ did. 

These were women who dared to dream and worked hard to turn their dreams into reality, who shaped their own destinies and refused to let anyone tell them what to do.

Featuring the amazing adventures of Janaki Ammal, Rani Abbakka, Nadia Wadia, Sarla Sharma Thakral, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and many others, Unstoppable is a collection of 75 power-packed stories of the extraordinary Indian women who broke the rules to change the world around them for the better. 

My review:

Unstoppable is truly an amazing read. I picked up this book and finished it in just one day – all the accounts of the women were so very inspiring and just made me keep on turning the pages continually. I also affirm that the author Gayathri Ponvannan and the illustrator Mithila Ananth, are two great women themselves and have made this project a wonderful gift for all youngsters.

Firstly, I would definitely recommend everyone to give their young relatives this books, both boys and girls, although I do believe that this would have a deeper impact on the girls. Reading this book at in impressionable age would be of the utmost benefit for the young minds. It is a compilation of some brave women, who braved all odds, and were willing to move against the tide, despite all odds, to achieve their dreams and for what they believed was right.

Apart from the struggle of realizing their dreams, it has so many accounts of women fighting for their country, that I admittedly got goosebumps – almost in every account. I simply loved reading this collection and cannot stress it enough. Moreover, it is so shameful that we hardly know all of these women – women because of whom we are where we are today. Had it not been for these kinds of people, maybe my girlfriends and I would have been long married, denied education or even living behind the purdah today! And while so many of us blame all the men, we cannot deny that there are some men who are so very progressive that they are also behind the position women have today. The accounts in this book feature some amazing and truly wonderful fathers, brothers and husbands, who were very supportive of their female relatives. This will definitely also inspire the boys growing up today.

I cannot assert how much I loved his book, enough. The language is easy, keeping in mind the young people who will read it. The writing style is engaging and the illustrations are fun to look at. I am sure it will inspire everyone, just as it inspired the 20-year-old me. I again would like to add that this book should be read by everyone, disregarding whether one is 12 or even 120 years old!

Verdict:

I absolutely loved reading this book and I rate this 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 .

The Perfect Drug, by Chaitanya Saini, 2018

Title: The Perfect Drug

Author: Chaitanya Saini

Publisher: Pakshi Publication

Genre: Contemporary/Sci-fi/self-help

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 454

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Buddha meditated for six years, Shiva had his mountain, Could there be a drug that could induce enlightenment? A drug that could make you attain a heightened state of consciousness, gaining of a perspective that perforates through this veil of Maya, revealing the divine in you and others a well. Making you perceive that the problems of the world aren’t global warming, air pollution, overpopulation, it is this global demented state of consciousness, the demon of ignorance that has ingested this whole wide world.
Ananya synthesizes this divine drink with immense difficulty and tends it with great care but with the attainment of power brings its use and abuse. In an attempt to beat the demon outside, he mutes all the voices contrary to his ambition including his much revered intuition. He fails miserably but his torture endures. Does his indulgence keeps Ananya entangled in the web of illusion or he emerges a true conscious being devoid of all attachments?
He has to discover the answer for himself.

My review:

Revolving around Ananya, the protagonist, The Perfect Drug is a modern take on a sci-fi novel, with also interspersed themes of self-help, spirituality, motivation etc. It is very much of a character driven novel, with some great characters with depth and wholeness.

We follow Ananya as he grows – firstly as a student of chemistry in St. Stephen’s College, and then his journey as he passes through the highs and lows of life. We see Ananya as a person full of ambition (and not in a bad way, at all), wishing to do something that would mark his name in the annals of history. We see him fall deeply in love, and in due time too, get his heart broken. But instead of feeling low, what is worth applauding is that he takes himself up and tries to invest all of himself in work – to create the perfect drug.

The characters of the novel with their own appropriate backstories, also gave much insight to the way they were and their actions. However, the only problem I found was that it was a long novel and maybe the author could have cut out some bits – the beginning was a bit long and boring, but I think if one can power through that, it won’t be difficult in enjoying the read. Also, the author tried to show the family picture but I think the many portions on the three sisters especially Guddu was unnecessary and a bit too much.

Having various themes like that of motivation, self-help, sci-fi etc. one may find that certain qualities of this book may endear it to a wide variety of readers. Again, there are many paragraphs on self-introspection and thus, spirituality, which I was not a fan f und=fortunately. But that is only a personal estimate.

The epilogue was quite interesting and makes the reader excited to see the story of Anushree. The author has done quite a bit of research for this book and it clearly shows. The writing style is easy and engaging, and easy to understand.

Verdict:              

It was quite a good book and I rate it 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

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

The Stalker, by Sandeep Sharma, 2019

Title: The Stalker

Author: Sandeep Sharma

Publisher:  Redgrab Books & Anybook

Genre: Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 135

Recommended for: 16+

Synopsis:

Randhir Kamat, a name famous for his regular mentions on page 3, was being stalked on social media by a girl named Deepali. He took it casually and enjoyed the attention from media but soon things went on to become ugly when his girlfriend, Rupali, started receiving death threats. 
Keeping everything on stake, Randhir chose to involve the police to catch the Stalker. Inspector Suraj, started digging in and soon found that ‘Here everyone’s a liar’. 
Whom to trust? 
Whom to blame? 
There were no answers, just one question. 
How far will you go for the sake of your dream?

My review:

  1. A psychological thriller that is full of various twists and turns.
  2. A short and engaging read.
  3. Can be finished in one sitting.
  4. Fast paced and quite a page-turner.
  5. The language is simple.
  6. However it needs work – there are a few grammatical mistakes.
  7. Editing can also be done on this book.
  8. It is also a typical movie-like story – and reads as such.
  9. The inclusion of modern entertainment media like web-series etc. makes it relatable.
  10. I haven’t seen the stalker concept in contemporary Indian works yet and this was a great surprise.
  11. The themes of power, popularity, jealousy, success, etc. are all well explored and well-portrayed.
  12. Rupali, Deepali, Randhir, Devendra, Inspector Suraj etc. were all multi-faceted with great depth, thus making them quite the round characters.
  13. Overall, it was a fast-paced read and was enjoyable.

Verdict:

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

About the author:

Sandeep Sharma is an Amazon bestselling author of The Coin. He has also written Let the Game begin, Hey Dad! Meet my mom and Just a few lies that sold around 10000 copies collectively.

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 Knife Slipped, by Erle Stanley Gardner, 2016

Title: The Knife Slipped

Author: Erle Stanley Gardner

Publisher: Titan Books

Genre: Crime Mystery

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 240

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

THE LOST DETECTIVE NOVEL
BY THE CREATOR OF PERRY MASON!

At the time of his death, Erle Stanley Gardner was the best-selling American author of the 20th century, and world famous as the creator of crusading attorney Perry Mason. Gardner also created the hardboiled detective team of Cool and Lam, stars of 29 novels published between 1939 and 1970—and one that’s never been published until now.

Lost for more than 75 years, THE KNIFE SLIPPED was meant to be the second book in the series but got shelved when Gardner’s publisher objected to (among other things) Bertha Cool’s tendency to “talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people.” But this tale of adultery and corruption, of double-crosses and triple identities —however shocking for 1939—shines today as a glorious present from the past, a return to the heyday of private eyes and shady dames, of powerful criminals, crooked cops, blazing dialogue, and delicious plot twists.

Donald Lam has never been cooler—not even when played by Frank Sinatra on the U.S. Steel Hour of Mystery in 1946. Bertha Cool has never been tougher. And Erle Stanley Gardner has never been better.

First publication ever!
Erle Stanley Gardner is one of the most popular American authors of all time, with over 100 million books sold
Brand new cover painting by Robert McGinnis of modern-day pin-up icon Dita von Teese
Brand new afterword by former Ellery Queen editor Russell Atwood about Gardner, Cool & Lam, and THE KNIFE SLIPPED.

My review:

“I like loose clothes, loose company, and loose talk, and to hell with people who don’t,” declares Cool.

Being the long-lost second book in the Donald Lam-Bertha Cool series, The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner was much anticipated.

The fact that it was long lost was simply because the editor of Gardner refused it, because he considered this book too tawdry with its radical approach to adultery, sex and crime. So today, when this is totally not what we consider as “tawdry” it was interesting to read this book in present day context.

Gardner is known for chucking his works if they were rejected by the editor and instead writing entirely new works – including the twenty-nine books of this series itself. The character of Bertha Cool is really interesting. She is a no-nonsense penny pinching person who is really unscrupulous in reaching her goals. Donald Lam when placed against her, is totally a contrasting character in both size and character! Here again, we see the particular trait of Bertha Cool as she tries to wheedle out as much money as she can from the customer and is not repentant about it either. Nonetheless, these two characters, I found, were really progressive for their time.

In this book, the story opens with a new client coming in – and the story basically goes as – the woman suspected her husband was keeping a mistress and the woman is with her mother. They want the husband to be investigated and that is how we start on this journey. The infamous Bertha Cool remarks here that it is very normal for husbands to cheat on their wives, and moreover, her own experiences with it, which is perhaps another something that the late 30s/early 40s could not have dealt with.

The crime aspect of the book was interesting, however, it was not what I expected. The murder, corruption, fights etc., were also intriguing to read about. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

Verdict:

It was a very interesting read for sure. I rate it a 3.5/5 star.

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 .

It’s Official, Stupid, by Sid Baliga, 2018

Title: It’s Official, Stupid

Author: Sid Baliga

Publisher: Self-published

Genre: ContemporaryFiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 128

Recommended for: YA and above

Synopsis:

Join Sid, the author of the novella, as he narrates the chronicles of Ashitha’s journey, from a lower middle class family to a dazzling corporate life, and her struggles en route as she is torn between the emotional bliss of a college friend and the fantasy brush of a corporate boss. 

IT’S OFFICIAL, STUPID reflects on the need to differentiate official from unofficial, demarcate serious from casual and distinguish intent from motives.

My review:

I received a free copy in return for an honest review.

It’s Official, Stupid is quite a short read and at 128 pages, it is engrossing and thought-invoking.

With the #MeToo movement making headlines in all newspaper around the world, in recent times, the author has penned a story revolving around this concept, and set in middle-class Indian society. Work place harassment is a real deal that we have not talked about as much as we should and the author has done a good job in binging this out of the closets.

The plot was well written- with good pacing set to the tunes of the story. However, the end felt a bit abrupt and thus quite shocking to the reader. I feel that he author should have expounded upon the nature of things and how things turned out the way they did, towards the end.

As for the characters, although I think that the author did a pretty good job on a debut novel, the characters needed a bit more depth, especially Ashitha. At times, her actions failed to make sense to me and I was left guessing. Sumanth however, was pretty well constructed and this struggle shown in a very realistic manner with all of his ups and downs. Nonetheless. I liked both of these characters, their qualities, and their ambitions and so on.

 The mystery angle to the story that came towards the end of the novel was interesting. And the twist, more so, regarding the real and dark sides of people is quite unexpected. I shall not say more, and thus avoid giving any spoilers.

The author’s story telling skills are quite good, and this novels only needs a bit more polish and editing. The compact nature is also enjoyable and makes it a quick and short read. The language used is pretty easy and lucid, understandable for all readers.

Verdict:

It was a good read, overall. I rate it 2.5/5 stars.

About the author:

The human brain is wired to learn through experiences and Sid shares some of them, gained by traveling, working on diverse assignments, and meeting different people, through the medium of books, blogs, publications, and guest talks. His tryst, with writing, started when his teachers at St. Aloysius School, Bandra, Mumbai noticed his skill.

Sid’s three sequels, on Colleges and Universities-Choosing the right fit, featured in Assam Tribune, North East’s highest circulated English daily. His articles, on Ethical Sales, Career Management, CAT Race, Sensory Marketing etc were published in business, management and academic periodicals.

Sid, who studied at MIT Manipal, IIM Kozhikode, is an educationist by heart and has deep interest in applications of experiential learning in school education. 

Donning multiple hats is typical of Sid. In 2016, he crowdfunded the Bihar Ki Beti campaign, on Milaap, in support of education for a girl child. His “Project Smile” event for underprivileged kids, at KFC was widely covered on electronic media in 2017.

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 Peshwa: War of the Deceivers, by Ram Sivasankaran, 2018

Title: The Peshwa: War of the Deceivers

Author: Ram Sivasankaran

Publisher: Westland Publications

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 420

Recommended for: All ages

Synopsis:

Seven years have passed since Peshwa Bajirao Bhat annihilated the Nizam’s armies at Fort Mandu. The two forces have been engaged in attacks and skirmishes ever since. Acting on the advice of his right-hand man, the mysterious Anaamik Dabhade, the Peshwa now sets about laying a trap to truly ensnare the Mughals, and break their might.

The Empire, of course, has methods of its own. And Nizam Ul Mulk is itching for an opportunity to exact revenge of the formidable Bajirao. With assassins, saboteurs and criminals infiltrating the Maratha lands, the Mughal Empire scores as many victories in the night as the Peshwa does during the day. 

Meanwhile, in the far reaches of the country, set ablaze by the never-ending conflict between these major powers, a Sikh warlord, a Rajput king and a Bundela princess find themselves increasingly tangled up in the endgame that will determine the very course of history. It is a battle of wits and skill, and the greatest deceiver of them all will prevail. 

My review:

As one of the first few books I read this year, The Peshwa II was a great read. As a lover of historical fiction, especially Indian history, this book really satisfied the thirst in me. I admit the “Bundela princess” bit in the synopsis bit was big in attracting me – after the success of the Bajirao Mastani movie. I expected a lot of the book to cover the same bits as the movie did. However, it is only after reading it that I have realized that this book focuses more on the Peshwa Bajirao Bhat rather than the love story angle.

I felt that the plot was well planned out and the world-building on point. The entire narrative was tied together with a compelling storyline, well-developed characters and some amazing action sequences. The theme of war is big in this novel, and as can be expected from a novel on the famous man. And the corresponding war planning scenes were really cool and amazing to read about. The other themes of family, friendship and treachery etc., were also well explored in the novel.

The characters of Anaamik, and Rasool, apart from the Peshwa were really interesting and worth reading about. The twists that the author introduced again, in association with these two characters and their back stories were especially very interesting and shocking to read about. The Scorpions were also an intriguing organization.

However, I did feel that maybe at certain points, the writing dragged a bit and perhaps that is the reason why it took me as long to read and complete the book. Other than this fact – that the narrative dragged at some portions – the pacing of the book was alright and set a good enough speed.

The cover of the book is also very eye-catching and the title was apt. I would definitely recommend this book to all book lovers who have a liking for historical fiction – although this book is not totally fictional in its right. The historical aspect of this book was also great and in-depth and really sheds life on the major events of the Peshwa’s life.

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

Verdict:

I really 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 .

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 New Dewtas, by Suraj Kothiyal, 2018

Title: The New Dewtas

Author: Suraj Kothiyal

Publisher: Inkstate Books, imprint of Leadstart Publishing

Genre: Mythological fiction

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 222

Synopsis:

Neer, the head priest of the Himalayas, is troubled by the horrifying visions in his dream. On Ganga Maiyya’s behest, he embarks on a journey to the doomed island of Bali. The island, plagued with cyclic torments of Sekala and Neskala and suffering from constant rainfall, faces an imminent danger of drowning in sea. However, Neer’s power was no match for the strong evil forces that kidnapped the king and the queen, activating the volcano of Mt Agung. With the neighboring king of Java on his toes to attack and conquer the struggling island of Bali, will the gritty prince Erlangga, assisted by Neer, be able to save his kingdom? Read to find out how people turn towards the new dewtas introduced by Neer as the end becomes evident and how Eka-dasa-Rudra helps in arousing the most furious energy of this world, Rudra. 

My review:

The New Dewtas is a quite short read and does not take long for a reader to complete it.

The characters of Neer, and Erlangga are both what I considered the protagonists in the story and both of them were well made. I found their relationship very real and dynamic. The changes, the ups and downs were well explored.

The other characters were also great to read about, especially since so many of them are inspired from the Balinese culture. Talking in the same vein, the germ of this book comes from a popular folklore in Bali and I found that very unique. I certainly have not read such a mythological fiction before which was so much inspired from Hinduism, as well as Indian and Balinese cultures.

The themes of unity, good versus evil, war etc., are even relevant in modern times and the inclusion of these in the book’s context is great. The mystery, the action and the fantasy element were also on point. The romance angle was not kept as the focus and I think the author did well by that. It was an enjoyable read overall. The journeys were also symbolic as to changes in people’s understandings and expectations.

The pacing was alright and I have complaints with it, and although the plot too was quite good, the author could have added a few more twists and turns to it. I felt that at some point the story became quite predictable and that really affected my reading experience.

The cover is great and intriguing. The inclusion of Hindu elements was done skillfully and the end product was lucid and read smoothly. Moreover, the illustrations added give another dephtful layer to the narrative.

The language is easy to understand, the writing fluid. New readers in this genre might do well by starting with this book.

Verdict:

It was quite good and I rate it 3/5 stars.

About the author:

The author, Suraj Kothiyal, hails from the beautiful city of Dehradun with his family roots belonging to the Himalayan region. His parents are teacher by profession, brother works in a software firm and wife is a dance teacher. A mechanical engineer and an MBA in marketing, Suraj, had five years of corporate experience before he started his own entrepreneurial journey. 
Today Suraj’s construction firm develops beautiful living spaces for its customers in Dehradun. 
Apart from marketing and construction, Suraj has keen interest in writing. He has been writing since childhood. Initially the hobby started out as writing poems in Hindi for school magazine. His love of poetry continues, and his collection of Hindi poems can be seen on his personal blog that goes by “poems.surajkothiyal.com”. 
As a child, whenever Suraj went close to the mighty mountains of Himalayas, they whispered a story in his ears. These stories later ignited a passion in him to write historic fictions and it’s his endeavor to bring to light the highly diversified and rich culture across the world. This book is inspired by a popular folklore in Bali that talks of a Hindu saint namely, Maharishi Markandeya, who came to Bali from India and introduced Hinduism on the scenic island. 

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 .

Winterdream, Chantal Gadoury, 2018

Title: Winter Dream

Author: Chantal Gadoury

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Format: eBook

Language: English

Pages: 237

Synopsis:

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. 

My review:

I truly believe that I read Winter Dream at the best possible time of the year – its winter and Christmas is just a couple weeks away. This book really geared me up for the festive season ahead.

As is clear from the synopsis, Winterdream is a retelling of the original Nutcracker story and oh what a retelling! I really enjoyed reading this book and I love that Chantal has such a penchant for creating these amazing retellings of fairytales that we all know.

With her classic elegant style of writing, that is smooth and reads like the classic caramel custard my mother makes this time of the year, Chantal has infused the very spirit of Christmas into the book, or the book has infused the festive spirit into me. Words cannot do this justice. The beginning was a bit slow, I found, but only the pace picked up, I could not put it down. This book really took me very less amount of time to finish – I could hardly put it down once I started reading it, despite that fact that I am going through my last week of classes before winter break and we all know hoe very tiring and hectic that can be.

The world building was amazing – the lush and wonderfully evocative words made it all so very real. Chantal’s words have a vivid imagery that sucks the reader right in. The description of the magical Sugarland, and Winterdream as a whole was magical really – I cannot find enough words to describe it, except say that you should definitely pick it up this December. The character development – be it emotional or mental, was well written and explored, especially in Clara. Everything was natural and smooth flowing – the reader goes along and there are no abrupt jerks in the development of the characters and that really builds a strong structure for the story. The characters have depth to their beings and in this manner the author shows both strength and vulnerability in them.

I read to Tchaikovsky’s music while reading the book and I definitely recommend you all to do that too as it gives you a really magical feelings.

{I received a review without any guarantee of a favorable review. The opinions expressed herein are unbiased and my own.}

Verdict:

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

About the reviewer

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

The Sultanpur Chronicles, Achala Upendran, 2018

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Title: The Sultanpur Chronicles
Author: Achala Upendran
Publisher: Hachette India
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 360
Synopsis:
Darkness looms over the Sultanpuri Empire… From the freezing mountains of Firozia to the high waves that break on Karizen’s rocky cliffs; from the cities and souks of Dastakar to the djinn-filled Western Desert, the Sultanpuri Empire, a rich collection of kingdoms and states, has lived in peace for over 300 years.
Formed after the end of the Human–Rakshas wars and ruled with an iron hand by the Imperial family, it has reached the pinnacle of influence and prosperity. All of this, though, has come at a price: the restriction of magic among a chosen few, and the banishment of the powerful rakshasas. But when a forbidden spell releases a rakshasi in the empire’s capital city, Sultanpur, the darkness that has been lurking below the surface comes bubbling forth, threatening to plunge the empire into chaos and envelop everything in its murderous embrace…
My review:
The Sultanpur Chronicles opened to a wonderful new fantasy series that I look forward to reading. It is a great convergence of fantasy along with elements of romance, adventure and action, modernity, and so on.
The world building in this book was well done. It was easy for the reader to dive right in. however, personally, it took me some time to do so but I believe that after pulling through for a few chapters, it was really easy to do so. The multiple person point-of-view was welcome as it really gives a number of perspectives to the reader, in a fantasy story. The characters all have their own backstory, which really gives the reader a wider scope to understand the thoughts and actions of the characters. However, the characters require a bit more depth.
The themes of war, hate, friendship, politics as well as adventure and mystery was a good mix in the story and really entertaining. The presence of the multitude of characters does well to giving depth to the story and the magic system is great for the reader to explore. Flying carpets, djinns, magic lamps give a totally Arabian Night-esque vibe to the story, which is not unwelcome. It really makes one feel nostalgic about the story.
There were a few loop ends though throughout when the identity of the nameless characters in certain episodes could not be determined. It is clear that there is to be a sequel and I eagerly look forward to it.
Verdict:
I quite enjoyed this book and as I rate it a 3.5/5 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 .

Pi Agency, Neelabh Pratap Singh, 2018

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

My Love is Away From Mortality, Vansh Arora, 2018

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Publishers: Kalamos Literary Services
Synopsis:
What will you do if the love you nurtured with utmost care walks into the territory of evilness?
TheManav, an atypical sleepyhead cares about nothing but his sleep. Life is good for him as long as he is in the premises of his bedroom.
Aditi, a pro-level pessimist boasts her proficiency in envisioning worst possible consequences of every situation.
After bumping in to each other, the course on which their life was previously treading begins to witness a complete transformation. The tender age pushes them to believe what they shared was more than a mere comradeship. They try to repel the feeling at first, but it intensifies to such an extent that both of them end up getting swallowed by it.
However, they must keep an out for the lurking danger as there is a person who is on the quest to bereave them of something which will certainly put their and whole world’s fate in jeopardy.
How will their destiny unfold?
My Review:
The plot was pretty well prepared by the author even though I felt that it was being unnecessarily dragged at some points. The themes of friendship, love and other emotions such as apathy, anger, faith etc., showcased the humane factor and made the story more relatable as well as the characters themselves. The little snippets of the horror story also lent quite the mystery to the whole book, and I think we will only know more about the entire story in the sequel. The twist at the end was something I did not expect at all!
The characters were somehow very likable to me. To be truthful, I wasn’t entirely fond of either Manav or Aditi as I am completely opposite to what they are, but then as the story slowly progressed, I did start to accept them as human beings and like them too. The other characters were also complex in their own ways, especially Kusha. Without revealing much, I shall just say that you’re in for a ride! The blurb was also a plus point as it attracted me for sure. And that’s why I decided to give it a chance.
My verdict:
I rate this story a 3/5 stars and look forward to the sequel.

Agniputr, Vadhan, 2016

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Publishers: Bloomsbury
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Mythological
Synopsis:
When ace lawyer, Raghuram Surya, received an order of requisition from the Government of India for his ancestral castle, he was unaware of the Sutram beneath it or his own legacy.
He will have to choose between the world’s end or his own.
Before long, the lawyer takes on India’s most powerful politician, Kiromal, a man utterly obsessed with power. Kiromal and his sinister Tantric advisor intend to use the evil beneath the castle to play God.
Raghuram finds an ally in Sheila, a scientist who is tasked to investigate the Sutram. Using Quantum science to interpret a Vedic verse, they have to unravel the secrets of creation to stop the destruction. Through it all, they have to be one step ahead of Kiromal just to stay alive.
Now is the time of final reckoning. Will Kiromal harness the evil to rule the world?
Or will the Sutram break free to eradicate the planet?
Or, are Raghuram and Sheila merely pawns in an even deadlier game?
My review:
Agniputr was a completely riveting read, and I finished it in one day. The author has doen a great job with the book, beautifully combining the thriller as well as the fantasy/mythological elements. I read this book as a part of the #indiabookstagramreadathon under Prompt 1, where one has to read a fantasy/mythological book.
The plot was well planned and flowed beautifully, and although I found the first bit a little slow, I loved the overall effect. The themes of mythology, friendship, kinship etc. were well explored. The love angle was, however, a sore point for me. The romance between the two lovers seemed sudden with an abrupt beginning.
The characters were all also nicely portrayed—displaying all human emotions and feelings. The author has clearly given his time to the foundations of the various characters in here. I especially liked the cunning of Govind as well as Raghuram, and found both of them worth the awe.
The writing style was beautiful and cohesive and the tone was lilting and I personally found it gripping enough for me to finish it in one day itself. The editing was done well and I couldn’t find any grammatical errors.
Verdict:
I rate this book a 4/5 stars and will definitely recommend it to others.

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.

The Blue Umbrella, Ruskin Bond, 1974

(Previously published on indiabookstagram.com as ‘The Blue Umbrella, Ruskin Bond, 1974‘ )
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Blurb:
‘The umbrella was like a flower, a great blue flower that had sprung up on the dry brown hillside.’
In exchange for her lucky leopard’s claw pendant, Binya acquires a beautiful blue umbrella that makes her the envy of everyone in the village, especially Ram Bharosa, the shopkeeper. It is the prettiest umbrella in the whole village and she carries it everywhere she goes.
The Blue Umbrella is a short and humorous novella set in the hills of Garhwal. Written in simple yet witty language, it captures life in a village – where ordinary characters become heroic, and others find opportunities to redeem themselves.
My Review:
A delightful read, that can be finished in one seating, The Blue Umbrella is a must read in children’s literature. With great illustrations by Trevor Stubley, this book is entertaining while also educating as it tends to impart real-life lessons in a non-preachy way. The humane aspect was brought out vividly in this simple yet surprisingly beautiful and profound read.
The fact that this edition has beautiful illustrations, works wonders. And will especially be great since they will attract the children and in turn make them interested enough to read. The language used is really simple and easy to understand and I also really like the real life teachings of the importance of feelings and values and relationships that this book portrays. Moreover, since it is only of 83 pages and that too, including the illustrations, it was a really quick read and will definitely encourage children to pick it up.
Definitely for primary schools students as well as early middle-grade students as well. Can also be easily enjoyed by adults as well, wishing to reach back to the simplicity of childhood.
Verdict:
I rate it a 4.6/5 stars

The Blue Moon Day, Santhosh Sivaraj, 2017

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Publishers: Invincible Publishers
Genre: Short Story collection
Synopsis:
Things were never the same for five ordinary individuals who got struck at cross roads and there was no way they can run back. They had no other choice but to take a plunge into their deepest fear and leave the rest to destiny. Their characters was tested out of their comfort zone and it witnessed abstruse results; a PhD scholar fights to win a pizza making contest and a tennis prodigy running for his life in a war torn, bloodied Island. Extreme circumstances and their consequences made these ordinary individuals extraordinary . Was the test imposed on them by someone? Or did they invite it on themselves. The Blue Moon Day is that Once in a Blue Moon day story which questions an individual’s priorities, ridicules the worldly routines and finally redefines happiness.
My Review:
This book is basically a collection of 6 interrelated short stories and like many other reviewers have said before, it has been wonderfully executed. Considering the fact that it is the author’s debut novel, it is par excellence.
There are different plots in all these stories, exploring various aspects of human life. They are all very true and relatable- and makes one introspect at times. Other than that simple fact, there is the entertainment factor too, which the book fulfils very well. The characters are so real and almost tangible. As one reads, it feels as if one is truly living the experience. In short, I loved the character arcs.
The writing style is above average- it is not something very simple, but nonetheless, it is really good. The epistolary form – with the letters are always very revealing and adds the emotion to the work. And the mystery element makes you turn one page after another. The cover is beautiful and very much related to the stories in an abstract/metaphorical way. Despite the fact that it is purely fiction, in one way or another it is a self-help/motivational book for everyone. It teaches through the help of examples. However, at times there were excessive exclamation marks or the use of symbols to write profanities, which I think was absolutely unnecessary. The language was too simple at some points though.
This book really inspires and gives hope to the reader that it is never too late to turn your life around- you just have to find it in you to do so.

Verdict:
I rate this book a 4/5 stars and recommend it to those looking for a short but meaningful read.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. And with this, perhaps the most famous ironical sentence ever, begins Austen’s masterpiece. First published in 1813, it achieved instant success and its popularity has endured till this date. With a working title of First Impressions, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has remained an evergreen favorite among all in the literary world. Every English major has read it and moreover, there are so many others who aren’t majoring in English, but are still among this classic’s ardent lovers.
Pride and Prejudice follows the trials and tribulations of the five Bennet sisters- Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, with all their various quirks and mannerisms. It is a truly funny and satiric novel in the sense that it subtly pokes fun at the various stereotypes in Regency Era England.
We see the irony in appearance and character- for instance, in the fine-bred Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her condescending manners, Mrs. Bennet with her silly and loud ways as well as Mr. Collins who surely loves to hear his own voice. There is also a comparison made between simplicity and intricacy in between Jane and Mr. Charles Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The novel’s title may be a reference to Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him; however, it goes both ways.
Since Pride and Prejudice can be classified as a novel of manners, we can also see quite a few social themes that haunted every action and thought of people in 19th century England. Reputation is one major theme in this novel, but it comes into prominence with Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. At the base of the story, we can say that Pride and Prejudice is a story of two young people coming together, as love inexplicably binds them together. It is thus no wonder that love should be one of the major themes of this novel. Financial status or class is another recurring theme- it is what drives Mrs. Bennet with the threat of the entail hanging of her head, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh when she visits Elizabeth towards the end, and expresses how unfit any union of her and Mr. Darcy would be. In the same vein, social appearance, humility and prejudice are also among the few other themes.
Personal growth is quite a major theme throughout the novel- it takes place in the two major characters of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Taking this factor, Pride and Prejudice can also be classified as a bildungsroman. A lot of the storyline is also taken forward through the medium of letters- among Jane, Elizabeth, Caroline Bingley etc. thus we see an effective use of the epistolary form as well.
I remember that that first time I read this, was back in 2012 when I was perhaps in the eight standard. I had loved it then and I loved it as I possible read this for the hundredth time this semester. It truly is a wonderful experience every time I read it and one of the obvious choices when people ask me for classics recommendations. I rated it, as usual a 5/5 stars; I do not know anyone who would grant it any less!