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The Great Godden, by Meg Rosoff: A Magnificent Tale

Today I am sharing my thoughts on THE GREAT GODDEN, by Meg Rosoff, a stunning story of family, love, and betrayal, set during one long summer.

A definite must-read for fans of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, and SWIMMING IN THE DARK!

The Great Godden, by Meg Rosoff

(This blog post may contain affiliate links. That means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links. It does NOT COST you EXTRA)

(This blog post also contains a review copthat was sent to me by publishers. However, all opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced by external parties)

synopsis

Everyone talks about falling in love like it’s the most miraculous, life-changing thing in the world. Something happens, they say, and you know.

That’s what happened when I met Kit Godden. I looked into his eyes and I knew. Only everyone else knew too. Everyone else felt exactly the same way.

This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer – the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things they shouldn’t, as their brother and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers – irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

From Meg Rosoff, bestselling author of the iconic novel How I Live Now, comes a lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale – a summer book that’s as heady, timeless and irresistible as Bonjour Tristesse and The Greengage Summer.

my review

One of the best new literary fiction of contemporary times, THE GREAT GODDEN is a beautiful story of a summer set by the sea, a summer that leaves devastating scars on the people of this family.

The Great Godden and The Great Gatsby

I loved how reminiscent it was of THE GREAT GATSBY. The title even, for that matter, felt like wordplay on this modern tale. Very much like how Jay Gatsby has put Daisy Buchanan on a pedestal and made this huge illusion of her, so much about the charming and enigmatic Kit Godden is all about illusions, all smokes and mirrors.

The characters

I loved the way the author let us know about the characters, all these players in the play, bit by bit. The relationships that bind them all are also explored in nuances. I believe that THE GREAT GODDEN is as much a study in human psychology as it was a tale of a family in the throes of summer before school starts again. While it wasn’t that strong on the psychology point, there were certain shades of it and I often wondered about why the characters did what they did. In the end, you are left to wonder, who is the ‘Great Godden’ – Kit or Hugo.

Verdict!

Overall, I loved this book and I definitely will be going back to it again! I recommend all to pick it up again and again! A definite 5/5 stars!

Check it out on:

Goodreads
Amazon
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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!

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

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.

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 .

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 .

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 .

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 .