Tag Archives: young adult

My experience with the graphic novel

With reference to Pumpkinheads and Vyasa

Vyasa and Pumpkinheads
Vyasa and Pumpkinheads

I finally started reading the graphic novel from 2019 and it honestly has been a great journey so far. In my 5th semester, I decided to pursue a Visual Studies elective. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher under whom I explored this genre and saw what fun it is!

Graphic novel: Pumpkinheads

I recently picked up Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks and it was my first graphic novel of the year. To be very honest, I was suffering from a terrible reading slump and so I wanted to read something fun and not very intense. That is the reason why I decided to pick up Pumpkinheads, about which my bestie Gayatri had been raving about from the time she read it. and I really enjoyed it. It certainly helped me get over my slump.

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

However, on that very note, it span over the time period of just a few hours. It is not a book with a lot of depth, so if that is what you are expecting it to be, you might be disappointed. I found it be a fun and flirty read. Moreover, it has great LGBT representation and it definitely broke free of the generic stereotypes of boys and girls. Lastly, I was blown away by the amazing art. The predominant colours were that of orange, burnt ochre, and all the autumn colours, which made the book an art piece to feast on. I certainly enjoyed every bit of it. It was a 3.75 star read for me.

Vyasa and Pumpkinheads: a glimpse
Vyasa and Pumpkinheads: a glimpse

Graphic novel: Vyasa

After that I was so in love with pictures that can take over your imagination, that I decided to go after another graphic novel and this time, I picked up Vyasa. This book is on the Indian epic Mahabharata, a personal favourite. The story is by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay and the art is by Sankha Banerjee. The way this book was written was amazing. I loved the recurrent jumps in time and the overall framing structure that combined the stories within the story. However, it was only the first part and I was left dangling.

Now I am eagerly waiting for the sequel to Vyasa: The Beginning. The art in this book is stunning as well and I was spellbound throughout. The fact that I finally have pictures that can accompany the stories I, and we all, grew up with, was a wonder in itself. I absolutely loved this book and I rated it 4.5 star read for me.

Check out the book on Goodreads and Amazon!

Check out similarly themed books: Upon a Burning Throne, What if it’s you?, etc.

A Cinderella gender-swap: What if it’s you? Review+Exclusive Interview!

What if it’s You? by Mitali Meelan was a gender-swap on the classic tale of Cinderella that we have all grown up with. It is set in contemporary India!

What if it's you?
What if it’s you?

Read till the end for the exclusive author’s interview!

I was a bit hesitant going into the book because retellings of fairytales, that I enjoyed as a kid, is kind of a make-it or a break-it situation. But I am so happy to state that this book flew past my expectations! I absolutely loved this story and simply devoured it.

Check out the book on Goodreads

Buy the book on Amazon

A gender-swap on Cinderella, set in contemporary India!

In this story the roles are reversed  – we have Vihang who has a cruel stepmother and Saira who is a famous movie star. Their love story is quite an unconventional one and their HEA too also seems to be likewise. I really liked that the author has included a very modern literary conclusion to the story – with an open and ambiguous end. I am also very eager to see what the future holds for these two characters.

Progress in this modern gender-swap fairytale

As such, this was a very plot-driven novel and I love the character transformations that occurred especially in regards to their relationship with one another and how it affected their emotional well-being.

Themes, characters in this gender-swap tale

The book also covered a lot of themes; some of the most important ones were that of illusions and image, friendship and self-discovery. Regarding the other characters, the stepmother was the epitome of the stereotypical stepmother. She was surely a cruel one who is so often found in fairytales, both classic or otherwise. As for the stepbrother Chetan –  I do believe that he could have been better. But he was really influenced by his mother. And on the same note, I think his mother’s behaviour towards Vihang, had his own basic understanding warped. But what can I say about the father! I absolutely hated how he treated his own blood and believed a woman he met later on in life, more than his own son. But on the other hand, I can understand this very human folly – his blind emotional attachment towards the new wife.

A fantastic modern-day gender-swap YA story!

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

Check out the review of the first book I read in 2020: Good Girls Lie!

An Interview with the author: Mitali Meelan

Mitali Meelan is the author of three novels – What if it’s you, A Long Way Home (published by HarperCollins India) and The Guest (published by Black Ink Books), as well as Coffee and Ordinary Life, a collection of poetry. Meelan also has an audiobook on Storytel titled And Then We Met Again, voiced by best-selling author Ravinder Singh. Today, we come to get another glimpse into her life! Read on to know more about the person behind this wonderful story!

When did you realize you needed to write?

In my second year, when I wrote my first novel, The Guest. I felt that if I don’t write the stories of these weird, loud voices in my head, I might go crazy.

What would you say your writing process is like?

I plot my entire novel before I start writing the book. However, my actual writing process is messy. I don’t write scenes sequentially. I write whichever scenes I feel the strongest about and dive in. And I almost always end up writing a different book than the one I intended to write or plotted at the beginning. Some elements, plotlines, even characters change altogether midway.

But in the end, I’m always happy with the result because the book I plan before I write the first draft doesn’t foresee all the loopholes I’ve missed and roadblocks I’ll hit later. And there’s a lot more fun in writing a book this way, than just writing a meticulously plotted story that doesn’t give me the liberty to stray.

Any special quirks while you write?

I can type without looking either at the screen or at the keyboard. This is told (and imitated) by my sister. When I’m deeply into a scene (typing it), I will sometimes look to the side or towards the sky with a possessed look on my face. I’ve also been told it’s kind of scary. You wouldn’t want to see it.

What was the weirdest thing you had to research for when writing the book?

For writing What if it’s you? I only researched the current retelling on Cinderella with gender-swap, to ensure I don’t write something that’s already been done. But for A Long Way Home, I had to do some weird searches, like:

  • The inside of a real dance bar with dancing girls and the kind of clothes they wear.
  • What happens when you shoplift in India and can you get away with it.
  • What’s the maximum punishment you can get if you shoplift in India, etc.
  • For another unpublished book of mine, I had to research the consequences of a homicide.

What inspired you to write this particular gender-swap story?

The lack of fairytale retellings in the Indian setting and in the Indian market. I love retellings but none of the contemporary Indian authors were doing it. So I decided I should.

What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?

If you could wait until the next and final book in this duology releases, you’ll find out.

(Yay!! So we have a sequel coming out!!!!!)

What are your favourite books?

  • The Palace of Illusions and The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho,
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini,
  • The Liberation of Sita by Volga,
  • Plays by Vijay Tendulkar and Mahesh Dattani,
  • Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.

If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria:

  • One fictional character from your book – Vihang, from ‘What if it’s you?’ He is a fun-loving, sarcastic guy who will do the cooking and find the best way to go about on the island while making the whole stay entertaining.
  • One fictional character from any other book – Othello, a past crush. The able-bodied war hero of Shakespeare, full of pride. He’s so opposite to Vihang that it would be fun to have them together on the island.
  • One famous person that is not a family member or friend – Ellen DeGeneres because I could take her along everywhere if I could.

What’s something you are really good at, that few people know about?

I’m somewhat good at playing the keyboard and finding notes on it by hearing a song. I don’t know what the notes or chords that I play are called because I’m not formally trained. But I can locate the notes once I hear the song, a thing I’ve inherited from my father who is much faster at it (although untrained). I do want to get formally trained in playing piano though.

What if it’s you? synopsis

A retelling of Cinderella with role reversal set in contemporary India

What if hearts met first
and then the faces?
Would love look different?

A 19-year-old movie-star returns to her hometown to finish her education. Having traded her childhood for fame and success, she now craves for a simpler college life and deeper friendships that go beyond flattery and fakeness. The town, however, gives her everything else but that.

So she hides a letter in a bookstore and asks the recipient to be her pen pal. Hoping to find one meaningful friendship in this old beach town of South Goa, she adds only one condition for her recipient to follow. They won’t reveal their identity until they form a strong bond of friendship first.

The letter is discovered by Vihang, a 20-year-old guy who gets bullied in college and bossed around at home by his stepmother and stepbrother. On a default flight mode, Vihang takes whatever life throws at him with a pinch of salt (and loads of sarcasm). As Vihang’s own life begins to fall apart, the girl starts becoming his escape from reality. And neither of them realises when the feeling of love begins to bloom.

Heart of Mist, by Helen Scheuerer, 2017

Title: Heart of Mist

Author: Helen Scheuerer

Publisher: Talem Press

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Format: Kindle ebook

Language: English

No. of pages: 487

Synopsis:

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

My review:

I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour organized by Shealea from ShutUpShealea . Thank you, Helen Scheuerer and Talem Press!

Heart of Mist is the first book in the Oremere Chronicles and I was so glad I picked it up. I read it in less than 6 hours I think, spread over two days. As soon as you pick up this book, I assure you that you will not be able to stop. The book is very fast-paced and thus, it is of no wonder that you are pulled in.  

The author has also brought in various themes such as addiction, alcoholism, human nature (which is so unreliable sometimes), the issue of identity etc. Bringing in such aspects within the lives of the characters has made it very relatable for the readers. Mental health is also another theme that is explored here. Sahara is one such character who suffered a lot (from what I have inferred so far). In one way or another, many other characters have also faced such issues that have affected their mental health in one way or another. Trauma is one such factor that has ssailed Bleak – her past is something she tries to run away from, and yet, she cannot let go completely. Oppression – the dominance over a people (the Ashai in this case) is also shown in the book and this is always a sad instance no matter where we read about these instances. Segregation of the Valians – into the kindred and the rest is also portrayed.

The world building is amazing – we see a lot of the Valian life in this book and their world really gave me James Cameron’s Avatar vibes. I would love to see more of the rest of this world. And I am so very excited to read about Oremere.

Bleak as a person is very complex. I love how by the end of this book she is strong enough to resist her temptations and her addiction. Her character arc has been slow and consistent and I hope to see more of her growth throughout the series. Bren is so supportive – I love how he is always there for Bleak and when the time comes, she is willing to do everything possible to save him as well. I would love to see more of Bren throughout the rest. The friendship he shares with Bleak is amazing and their friendly banter, full of humour and wit, is fun to read. There are so many instances in the book when you laugh out loud, and so many times when you feel like crying. It is an emotional ride. And the fact that Bren is such an honourable man is also another plus point for him. Olena and Dash’s friendship is beautiful. At first I was wondering what importance these characters might have in the books and now – oh my god, you need to pick up this series as soon as possible! Henri is also going on her own journey and I look forward to see where she ends up. I would also love to know more about Swinton – his history. He is a very dynamic character – and I admit I still have mixed feelings about him. The multiple points of views used throughout were also great as they focused on various characters and gave us a glimpse into their minds.

Full of political intrigue, adventure, magic and some amazing friendships, Heart of Mist was a really great start to the trilogy. I finished the book today and I am going to pick up the sequel Reign of Mist tonight!

Verdict:

Absolutely loved this book. I rate Heart of Mist a full 5/5 stars and look forward to the sequel.

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 Oremere Chronicles readathon!

Fantasy has always been a love of mine. In my own culture, we have the famous ‘Burhi Aair Sadhu’ by the great Lakshminath Bezbaruah. It is a collection of fantastical stories, full of adventure and romance, which are told to us all. I myself have various editions of the book. From my childhood itself, fantasy has been fed to me and today, I am an addicted soul. It is no wonder that even after the decades; fantasy has remained a favourite of mine and I am never late at grasping onto new series. With this, I want to introduce you all to The Oremere Chronicles, a trilogy which is bound to hook you into it.

There are amazing cliffhangers for the books and since all three books in the trilogy are out, I am so very excited to pick it up! There are heroes who are human and flawed and yet so very lovable. There are so many secrets to unravel as you keep on reading the books and I bet you will be at the edge of your seats, biting your nails off, throughout! And full points if you can make out the hints of the book covers of the next book in any one book.

I’ll be starting with this readathon from the 28th of July and you are welcome to join me!

Heart of Mist

In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.
Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerously self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King’s Army, and summoned to the capital.
But the king isn’t the only one interested in Bleak’s powers.
The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.
Heart of Mist is the gripping first book in The Oremere Chronicles, a fantasy series of epic proportions.

Reign of Mist

The realm’s darkest secret is out.
The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents.
On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it’s too late.
Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak’s friends are forced to decide where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust.
But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.
Intriguing and action-packed, Reign of Mist is the second instalment in Helen Scheuerer’s epic YA fantasy series, The Oremere Chronicles.

And the last book in this trilogy is finally out!

War of Mist

War is here.
Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conqueror queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm.
Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. 
But the search is a treacherous one – and it will push her to the very limits of endurance. 
Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they’ll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough?
As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.
Explosive revelations, heart-wrenching betrayals and breathtaking magic soar in the epic conclusion to Helen Scheuerer’s bestselling trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

About the author

Helen Scheuerer is the YA fantasy author of the bestselling novels, Heart of Mist (2017) and Reign of Mist (September 2018). Both books are part of the action-packed trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles.

Helen is the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.

Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. Helen also completed a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.

She has been previously shortlisted for Express Media’s Outstanding Achievement by a Young Person in the Literary Arts Award and the Young Writers Showcase. Helen has also run writing and editing workshops for the NSW Society of Women Writers. 

Her work has appeared in VoiceworksACTWrite Magazine, The UEA Creative Writing Anthology, Tertangala (UOW), Capital Letters and of course, on Writer’s Edit.

Happily and Madly, by Alexis Bass

Title: Happily and Madly

Author: Alexis Bass

Publishing date: 21 May, 2019

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Genre: Teens and YA

Format: Netgalley e-arc

Synopsis:

Alexis Bass’ Happily and Madly is a mature, twisty, compulsively readable YA suspense novel about a young girl who embraces a fate bound in love and mystery. 

Maris Brown has been told two things about her destiny:

1. She will fall happily and madly in love.
2. She could be dead before she turns eighteen.

The summer before that fateful birthday, Maris is in the wealthy beach town of Cross Cove with her estranged father and his new family–and the infamous Duvals. Since the youngest member of the Duval family, Edison, is back from college and back in the arms of Maris’s new stepsister, her summer looks to be a long string of lazy days on the Duval’s lush beach.

But Edison is hiding something. And the more Maris learns about him, the more she’s given signs that she should stay as far away from him as possible. As wrong as it is, Maris is drawn to him. Around Edison, she feels truly alive and she’s not willing to give that up. Even if it means a collision course with destiny.

My review:

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

I think that Happily and Madly was a great psychological novel. In one way it really reminded me of WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. I found the protagonist – Maris a very sharp girl with lots of potential. Like Sepp (another character that I absolutely loved) said, she does not ever “miss a thing”. The characters in this book all have their own secrets and the way the author goes about them is manifested in some very fluid writing. Chelsea is also a person I liked – she is so unlike what one would expect a stepsister to be… the author has made some really great female representations, where not everyone is trying to one-up the other and it is refreshing. George, Trisha, Pheobe, Edison,Oswald, Warren, Sepp, Karen as well as Michael and Katherine Ellis, Richard and Linda Ellis, and also Gloria and Renee, form the background feel. The backdrop of the  novel is very relaxing and juxtaposed with this thrumming mystery. I was so glad I read it when I did – in the beginning of summer. The book deals with many themes such as putting oneself out there, with the chance of being completely rejected, and to turn the vulnerability out on oneself. It also shows what it is like – the unexpected closeness we sometimes feel for people we have just met – like Maris and Finn, or even Maris and Chelsea. When Maris is once thinking in retrospection, of when she was in the fortune teller’s bathroom when the women client was afraid she was dying, the fortune teller had told her to do whatever was necessary for her to feel alive. Maybe that is why Maris takes risks – not only because she does not want to have regret but also because she wants to feel alive.

Although it was a really enjoyable read, I felt as if the ending was a bit rushed.

Verdict:

I rate this book 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 Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire, Reshma K. Barshikar, 2018

Title: The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire

Author: Reshma K. arshikar

Publisher: Two Ravens

Format: Paperback

Language: English

Pages: 420

Synopsis:

‘What price would you pay to be extraordinary? What would you do to speak to a butterfly? 

 Shayamukthy cruises through life: shooting hoops, daydreaming and listening to her favourite books. Even moving from the US to India, to a new school, a new culture, hasn’t really rattled her. But something isn’t right anymore and it begins when a New Girl joins the school. 

She pulls Shui into a world of magic and wonderment, a world she has been hidden from all her life. What starts as a quest to look for a lost book, hurtles Shui into a world where people live in trees, talk to the dead and speak to butterflies. 

But like all power, magic comes at a steep price, and under all things wondrous lie demons waiting to crawl out. The more Shui learns, the more she doubts everything and everyone around her.   

Will she be able to master her powers, or will they devour her and everyone she loves? 

About the author:

Travel writer and novelist Reshma K Barshikar is an erstwhile Investment Banker who, as she tells it, ‘fell down a rabbit hole and discovered a world outside a fluorescent cubicle.’ As a travel and features writer, she contributes to National Geographic Traveller, Harper’s Bazaar, Grazia, The Sunday Guardian, SilverKris, The Mint Lounge, and The Hindu. Fade Into Red, published by Random House India was her debut novel and featured in Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers. She also holds well-renowned workshops for young adults at both BDL Museum and Kala Ghoda and is keen to build a strong Young Adult reading and writing community to fill the desperate lack of young adult fiction in the Indian Market. Her new Young Adult novel, The Hidden Children, will be launching at the Vizag Junior Literary Festival. Reshma is from the ISB Class of 2003. She calls both Mumbai and the Nilgiris home. All her work can be found on www.reshmakrishnan.com 

My review:

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

Being an avid fantasy reader, I just had to pick up The Hidden Children: The Lost Grimoire. Ofcourse, Ashok K. Banker’s blur really helped as well, since I personally like his writing as well.

The hope for achieving something great, of ambition and success is something we see starkly portrayed in Shayamukthy or Shui. We see her growth throughout the novel – and I consider it a bildungsroman in this aspect.

One thing that really impressed me was the intertextual or rather cross-cultural references, more specifically references to various movies, and books. It really points to the fact that the author herself is well-versed in all of them, well enough to have mentioned them at the necessary places.

The language used is understandable and as such, pre-teens and teens can read this without any difficulty. This dos not limit the book to only the younger side of the age spectrum.  Every fantasy lover can pick this one up.

The pacing however is a bit slow and that is where I personally faltered, in the beginning. If one can overlook that aspect, then I do not think anyone might find any problem otherwise. The first person perspective works well in this case and the occasional flashbacks are quite refreshing while also adding depth to the characters as well as the story. The themes of memory, childhood, magic, righteousness or rather good versus evil etc. intertwined well with the symbolism applied by the author. The ‘chosen one’ concept is a common trope, however, the author has added her own twist to it and delivered to us an exciting dish.

The world building, especially the magic system was really well planned and intriguing. The author does not fail even with the character building. Soumi, Nallini, Jai, Aadyant and Anya were all well portrayed and seemed realistic in their beings.

Set in a high school world, this book is truly one of a kind- I admit that I have never read something like this set in India. The author has done well in intertwining the American/European elements into the Indian context, and The Hidden Children, somewhere midway between YA literature and fantasy, might just be the book to introduce this in our country.

The title of the story makes a lot of sense as we delve deeper into the story. It is quite unique in its originality. The cover is also nice although it could have been a bit better. However I do think that it captures the essence of the story.

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 .