Book Review — Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Just when Michael thought that they were done with the whole packing up and leaving, his parents announce otherwise. Now, he has to attend St. Clare’s Catholic School, which isn’t exactly the best place to be for an atheist like him. His presumptions of everyone being uptight and religious are flung out the window, when he gets initiated into a secret club called Heretics Anonymous. Even within the austere boundaries of this school, there exists a group of students who choose to have differing beliefs and aren’t ready to get brainwashed by the system. But when Michael takes it all a step too far, he jeopardizes everything he has worked to build.

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10 points for that cover!

What started out as a hilarious book soon turns into a bit of a serious read and rightly so. Michael’s wit and sarcasm will surely make you crack up at times. There’s such honesty in his thoughts. But underlying all that bravado you get the sense of boy flailing at his inability to stay rooted to a place, and therefore distraught by the constant disruption in his life. This is Katie Henry’s debut novel and I must admit that she has crafted a remarkable storyline. With everything that’s going on in our world, religious intolerance is something that has been cause for concern for a long time now. But do we ever stop to think how children perceive themselves through a religious angle, how do they fit into all this?

In this novel, it is very refreshing to see teenagers who are not only well informed about their choices but also standing up for their beliefs, however different they may be. When Michael joins Heretics Anonymous, he is met with a broad range of thought processes; those belonging to a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan, a Catholic Christian and others that I hadn’t even heard about. The author’s writing complements the story, in that, you feel like you’ve been taken back to your school days. It’s not wordy or hard to digest. It has everything a high-school fiction usually does – drama, betrayal, romance (puppy love?), rebelling. But on top of all that, it has some mature viewpoints too!

Michael’s relation with his father is strained but I couldn’t help feeling bad for them both. In my opinion, they are both right on their part. I just wish that they’d talked it out sooner, because it would’ve prevented a lot of negativity. I didn’t personally connect with any of the characters, but that didn’t deter me from being invested in their story. In conclusion, I did enjoy reading this book, even though I couldn’t understand the hype. If you are the kind of person who gets easily offended by religious and spiritual diversity, maybe this book is not for you. But I hope that’s not true. I hope you can pick up a book like this in good faith and just have fun reading it.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? New perspective on religious identities and all the excitement of attending high-school.

Thank you HarperCollins for this eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 


Book Review — A Murder on Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

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Sujata Massey’s historical fiction, A Murder on Malabar Hill takes us through pre-Independence India, positing Parveen Mistry as the first female solicitor in 1920’s Bombay. Working at her father’s law firm, Mistry Law, Perveen dives neck deep into the family matters of the Farid widows, who having lost their husband, Mr. Omar Farid know not what’s in store for them, financially and socially. But when secrets begin to threaten the foundation of this family, Perveen realizes that she will have to get to the root of the murder that occurs in Malabar Hill in order to protect the interests of the women and their children.

WOWOWOWOW. This is such a fast paced and wonderful read! It surpasses your expectations for a normal detective fiction, with its inclusion of cultural emblems and addressing of social issues. For what’s inherently typecasted as a murder mystery, there’s a second story that runs parallel to the main plot. That is of Perveen and a man she falls in love with. And for the longest time I wondered why it had been included, but soon you come to understand that the flashback chapters which are set in 1916-17 help give depth to Perveen’s character in a way you don’t, initially, see coming. This novel has been well written and saying that Sujata Massey has a brilliant grasp over the language would be an understatement in light of how masterfully she has given life to the book.

I didn’t find the mystery predictable and so I really enjoyed the long drawn process of discovering clues, unearthing suspects etc. The author does take her time in establishing the case, but it’s all worth the wait. There were many a times I got furious, because we are made privy to how women were treated in early 1900s. Themes of female seclusion, male dependence, domestic abuse are dealt with by the story and you can’t help but get angry at how easy it is for people to oppress women. Especially when Perveen’s desire to study law was met with such sexist criticism from her male classmates and professors. I was glad that Perveen’s parents were the supportive, understanding kind. One of things I loved about A Murder on Malabar Hill is that we are introduced to Parsi culture as well as personal laws. This helps shape our opinion about 1920s India. The suspense will keep you at the edge of your seat throughout. All in all, I really liked this book and I would recommend it to everyone who enjoys fiction.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A bewildering mystery and an inspirational female protagonist who stands for women’s rights at a time when they were considered inferior.

Thank you Penguin India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Book Review — Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Eden Rose McKinley and Bonnie Wiston-Stanley are bestfriends. Eden is as untameable as Bonnie is responsible and ambitious. They share all of their secrets with each other. Or so Eden thought. But one day, Bonnie just takes off, leaving Eden to deal with the repercussions of a world that comes crashing down around her. It soon comes out in the open that Bonnie has decided to flee with her music teacher, Mr. Cohn. While the police and Bonnie’s parents are chasing every clue to track them down, Eden can’t help but wonder who she is without Bonnie and if their friendship was even genuine.

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It was such a pleasant surprise to realize that this book is nothing like a typical YA contemporary. Sure it has its share of gossiping high schoolers and rebellious teenagers, but the entirety of Goodbye, Perfect focuses on what it feels like to be left behind by someone you loved and trusted the most. There are snippets of chats, newspaper articles that bind the story together. I liked the portions where Eden looks back on conversations she’s had with Bonnie, which under the present circumstances help us understand what nudged Bonnie into running away. Sara Barnard’s writing is neither over the top, nor too simple for the plot she is going after. It is her characterization and depiction of heartbreak that takes the cake!

The torrent of emotions that Eden goes through pulls at our heartstrings. On the one hand, she wants to support Bonnie when everyone is badmouthing her. But deep within, she harbors a sense of hurt and anger at Bonnie’s reckless actions. In a way, it shows that she’s gullible. Eden makes herself out to be the anti-hero, lashing out at her family and not caring about her academics, when she so clearly wants to belong somewhere, to someone. Her relationship with Connor was one of the cutest and refreshing things about this book. Some of the narrative showed just how mature Eden could be, then at other times she wouldn’t be able to think rationally. The stigma of adoption, labeling children based on their upbringing, academic pressure by society are some issues that have been addressed in this novel and I commend the author for doing that in a sensitive manner. I love how supportive and warm Eden’s family is, in comparison to that of Bonnie’s.

Final verdict – It’s a lovely book, that I would recommend to everyone who has ever felt misunderstood, or burdened or lost and to everyone who enjoys contemporary stories.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An epistolary novel that’s all about deconstructing labels and understanding the intricacies of friendship, expectations, society etc.

Review copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan India

Book Review — Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone glimmers with the magic that is at the core of its story.

It has been over a decade since Orïsha thrived with the magic of its 10 maji clans. The day that King Saran snipped their connection to the gods and doused out magic is all too clear in Zélie Adebola’s mind, for that’s the day they killed her mother and broke her family. Now, years of hating the monarchy has given rise to an unwavering flame of vengeance and desire for equality within her. But doubt in her capabilities soon creeps in when she’s presented with the golden opportunity to revive Orïshan magic. A royal fugitive holds the key to awakening their gods and imbuing the diviners with renewed purpose. But the path towards freedom is mired in sacrifices and trusting the unknown. Will Zélie, along with her brother and the runaway be able to lead her people, when she can’t fathom how to control her magic?


The rest of this year will be marked by my mind’s inability to grasp the gap between today and the day the next book releases.

For two whole days, I lived and breathed this story. But now, it’s etched in my mind with a passion I confine to very few books. Admittedly, the plot is quite like other fantasy adventures that we’ve read and heard about. But it is the African culture, the relentless journeys, the imperfect and so, believable characters, the magic system that goes back to the very origin of mankind and gods that makes Children of Blood and Bone an all too compelling read. The adeptness of Adeyemi’s writing is evidenced by the admirable plot execution and her ability to drown us in the fierce narrative. I was so drawn towards the happenings within the pages, that the rest of the world ceased to exist in those moments. It was just me and the book, enveloped in a bubble of the author’s making. Her descriptions are so beautifully vivid that I can still see the Lagose marketplace, the celebrations in the diviner settlement, the Gombe fortress and more every time I close my eyes.

Like each story that begins with loss and injustice, this one also wrecks havoc on your mind and heart. Some of the romance quotient is predictable. But it doesn’t take away from the excitement of reading those scenes. Amari’s characterization is my second favourite, after that of Zélie. They are both such powerful women with insecurities and burdens of their own but a stronger motive to save the maji that shines through their actions. As the children of King Saran, Amari and Inan were raised to believe the worst about magic and the maji. But as they get dragged into Zélie’s plans, they realize just how blindsided they’ve been their whole lives. And although I felt bad for them, Inan annoyed me a tad bit. At the root of it, this book clearly reflects the social and gender inequalities in our world, the bigotry and the cowardice that propels people of power to oppress others. Before I read this book, I knew I’d love it. Now having done so, I can’t convey the full extent of just how much I love it. I read more than 3/4th of this tome in one sitting, because there’s no other way to do it. I only hope that someday, I’ll be able to write like Tomi Adeyemi does, with all heart and soul.

We need this magic in our lives. SO DROP EVERYTHING YOU”RE DOING AND READ IT OKAY? Cool.

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars (and a million more!)

What do you get out of it? A timeless fantasy that gives voice to oppressed people, thrilling you and moving you every page till the end.

Book from Pan Macmillan India. 

I’ve been contemplating dying my hair platinum blond. Is it time yet?

Book Review — You Can’t Go Home Again by Sarvat Hasin

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You Can’t Go Home Again by Sarvat Hasin is a collection of interrelated stories that is bound to haunt you with its fluid narrative and ambiguous endings. Mostly set in Pakistan, it explores a thread of friendship and mysticism in the lives of a group of Pakistani men and women. Within the span of its 164 pages, it delves into the insecurities and desires of its diverse characters, painting an alluring picture with reality and surrealism.

When I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read the book! It spoke of a kind of mystery within a high school setting and promised stories of friends over the course of their lives. The first two stories, Dark Room and And You, the Sun were my absolute favourites. The sense of a mystery was palpable and kept you eagerly awaiting the end. But I soon realized that none of the conclusions were going to leave me at peace. They were the kind of ambiguous endings that teased you and refused to let you forget the story. One other thing that quickly piqued my interest is that one of the stories is in second person. The dialogues aren’t in quotation and so they fuse with the narration to form an intriguing style of story telling.

Sarvat Hasin’s writing style is graceful, peppered by cultural references (some of which I couldn’t grasp). It is not all that wordy and doesn’t follow a chronological structure of narration. You’ll be reading about instances in the lives of Shireen, Naila, Karim, Rehan, Sabah and Maliha from different timelines. Some of the stories were a bit lackluster and didn’t captivate me. So I found myself getting distracted. Although this book is a short read, the author brings out essential traits in all the characters, allowing you to form an opinion about them. Another brownie point for their characterization is that they are not burdened by stereotypes or cliches; are entirely realistic and relatable. Themes of witches, kidnapping, sexuality can be found in the book. Overall, I really enjoyed some of the stories, whereas some others were a little bland. I’m just very impressed with the way it’s written.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A set of stories featuring young Pakistani individuals as they grapple with the direction their lives are taking.

Thank you Penguin India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review — I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

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On the precipice of Clare’s wedding, Edith (a total stranger) helps her realize what a big mistake she is about to make. Gathering all her courage, Clare breaks off her engagement to kind yet temperamental Zach. Weeks of anguish later, she receives a letter that informs her of Edith’s demise and that Edith has bequeathed a vacation home to her – the Blue Sky House. When Clare moves into this scenic property, she finds two ledgers that hint at a bigger picture. In an attempt to understand who Edith was, Clare and her bestfriend, Dev embark on a journey, connecting the dots of Edith’s far and wide imprint on other’s lives; in doing so, Clare discovers more about herself than she’d ever hoped to know.

Now, the synopsis may appear to be ordinary, but PLEASE DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THIS BOOK. It is spellbinding, heartbreaking and basically, a huge warm hug! I am still hungover. The author’s writing style is poetic in bringing out the minute imageries of every scene. You get to read the chapters from Edith and Clare’s perspectives alternatively; which means you are shuffling between two time periods – the 1950s and the present. When you get to the end of the book, this structure will make perfect sense, as everything falls into place magically. Some of the initial chapters from Edith’s perspective were a little too slow paced which deterred me from really getting into her side of the story. But once you cross the first 20-30 pages, you can’t help but be in awe of Edith. The storyline is beautiful; it creates a tidy little package of what it means to be alive, paying tribute to seemingly all human experiences.

Some of the themes explored in this novel are that of mystery, domestic violence, mental health, self-discovery, familial bonds and unconditional love. But as you read I’ll Be Your Blue Sky, you begin to notice just how much more flavor has been infused into it. You’d think that nothing could top off the very plot and her writing style, but hands down, this has some of the best characters I’ve ever read! No fluff or 1 dimensional characters. Each and every person in this book has such a unique vibe. It seriously made me reconsider what kind of characters I have been reading about for so long. Zach, although not one of the main characters, is highly bipolar and affects the story on a different tangent. I truly appreciate how violent and abusive behavior is dealt with throughout this novel. Edith, a female character to look upto, is righteous and so full of love for everyone. She has this knowing persona that convinces you she is more than just-a-normal-lady.

Also, what a complex family unit! Thank you for making me love the idea of large families. I wouldn’t say that this book is heavy on romance, because it goes above and beyond the love between a couple. Especially with regards to Dev and Clare’s equation, I feel like the author has hit home run in conveying something precious and real. Having said all that (I still want to say more), I want you to understand that no review would ever do full justice to what this book presents to its reader. It fills my heart and soul to have immersed in the multi-tiered stories that Marisa de los Santos has penned down. If this book doesn’t win a Goodreads Choice Award in 2018, then I’d be so so disappointed! A MUST READ. Just please pick it up once it releases. Please.

Ratings – 4.5 out of 5 stars.

What do you get out of it? Life. This book breathes life into its audience as it unearths the life stories of several people bound by fate and blood. It stands for everything I love about writing and reading.

Thank you HarperCollins and Edelweiss for giving me access to an e-galley in exchange for a review. 

Book Review — Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam

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Snigdha Poonam’s Dreamers brings to light the struggles and aspirations of the Indian youth. In a society that is brimming with job seekers, the paucity of employment propels these young Indians into doing whatever it takes to make ends meet. Filled with political stances and the desire to break through the gateway of modernism, this book brings to us the stories of individuals who refuse to back down.

When I heard about this book, I had a slightly different picture in mind; one of a dramatized version of what the youth in India are upto, in order to achieve their dreams. As I began reading this book, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to finish it because of the overwhelmingly detailed content. But the more I read, the more I wanted to know about where India was headed, in terms of the mentality of its youth, their actions. The author’s writing style is commendable. She writes very eloquently, in a non-judgmental manner. Themes of religion, bigotry, woman empowerment, violence, technology and modernism are highlighted throughout this tome.

Something that irked me about this book was that I felt it was not really inclusive. In the sense that it doesn’t draw a fair picture of the youth of India. A majority of the stories were about men (I don’t have a problem with men and neither is this about feminism. So don’t misconstrue my words.) and then, none of the stories covered the southern states of India, or even the East. I agree that it must have been extremely difficult to seek out youngsters from different parts of India. But for equal representation, it would have been nice to know about individuals from different backgrounds. Some of the stories and morals that come to our attention when reading this book concerned me a great deal, because it unearthed the face of a highly intolerable and prejudiced future. While it’s important to be aware of that, it doesn’t color my opinion of everyone below the age of 25 years. This book has just equipped me with the affirmation that we are a fierce bunch, ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill our goals. All in all, I would recommend Dreamers to those who enjoy nonfiction and are interested in the subject matter.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An indepth glance at some of the mindsets that are the future of our country.

Thank you Penguin India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.