Cover Reveal & Spotlight – Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Every time I look at the cover of Tomi Adeyemi’s upcoming debut novel, I can’t help but squeal in joy! Some books, no matter the fact that you haven’t read them, have this innate tendency to capture your heart and mind so strongly that you can’t be at rest without having read them. Children of Blood and Bone is one such book. 6th March is not too far, but I have been itching to read this book since months of having heard about it.

LOOK AT THAT COVER! If that doesn’t shout fierce, glorious and absolutely compelling, I don’t know what does.

Five things you need to know about this book:

  1. A society that has Burners, Tiders and Reapers. (You may wonder what exactly those are. But let your imagination run wild!)
  2. The protagonist, Zélie’s mother is killed by the king.
  3. A rogue princess aids Zélie in restoring magic to their homeland.
  4. The novel draws its inspiration from West Africa.
  5. Possible fraternizing with the enemy.

Honestly, I didn’t even need to know all of that to realize that I HAD to read the book. The cover and the words “West African inspired fantasy” were enough to seal the deal, for me. But if the synopsis itself evokes such strong feelings from us readers, then I can’t imagine what the entirety of the book will do to us…

Are you going to be reading this book? What do you look forward to? Let me know 🙂


Book Review — Amla Mater by Devi Menon

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Amla Mater is a very short graphic novel in which the narrator recounts her childhood memories. The act of making gooseberry pickle reminds her of the times she had spent in Kerala with her childhood friend, Maya.

I was very intrigued by the title of the book and also the fact that it’s a graphic novel. However, I found it to be an okay read. For starters, the sketches weren’t all that captivating and in my opinion, didn’t add to the story. There was some kind of a formatting issue which disrupted my reading experience. There’d be text missing or aligned haphazardly. Moreover, this book was too short for me to actually connect with the story. On the other hand, reading this book reminded me of my grandmother because she too, like Maya’s grandmother, makes delicious gooseberry pickle. So that’s the one thing I liked – I could relate to the essential theme of being grounded to your roots. I wish this book had been written a bit more elaborately to allow us readers some more insight into the life of the narrator. That way the author’s intent would have been delivered with much more clarity.

Ratings – 2.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A quick read that’s filled with cultural emblems and transports the reader to their own childhood.

Thank you Yali Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review — Aqson Level 1 by Sreejib

Aqson Level 1 is an action packed Indian fantasy fiction that has so many layers to it, it’s a complete feast! God and Lucifer have started a new game, the goal of which is to make their weapon the Prime Minister of India. They launch their angels onto the battlefield to defeat one another and take control of all the weapons that Nature has endowed them with. Toya Mahapatra and her friends were only getting by with their college when an unforeseen incident pulls them into the student politics scene in Kolkata. They soon realize just how influential they have become on a national level. What they fail to realize is that governing humans is but a game to God & Lucifer; unfortunately for them, they’re neck deep in the mess.

FINALLY! An Indian fantasy fiction that has been done right. When I heard about this book, I was extremely enthused at the idea of a fantasy plot being based in India. But this book just blew my expectations away. There’s so much going for it:

  • For gamers – The surface level plot being a video game with maps, rules, opponents, weapons etc. 
  • For fantasy lovers – Mythology, elemental magic, angels.
  • For politically inclined – elections, youth politics, strategising. 

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

All of the above are masterfully woven into the multiple plot points that constitute the book. There’s so much more I could list, but I will leave it to you to discover. The author’s writing style is very descriptive, focusing on minute details to give you the complete picture. I liked the fact that some of the speech occurs in Bengali (there’s translation too! so don’t worry about that.) and cultural motifs have been generously sprinkled throughout the novel. In addition to being of fantasy genre, it is also laced with a certain kind of thrill and humor that makes it all the more enjoyable. There were so many mesmerizing moments where I couldn’t believe how intricate and genius the plot points were!! The world building is mind blowing. On the other hand, there were small instances that could have been more convincing. That’s something I felt could have been improved.

Speaking about characters, I downright detested Ollie a.k.a Niyol. He’s a sexist and wouldn’t stop ordering Toya around. The only time I felt remotely proud of him was during a debate (you’ll see what I’m talking about). I was also confused at times by Toya’s personality; she’d have these random outbursts. Arpita and Goenka are the two characters I liked. Arpita is dauntless, open-minded and considerate. Nevertheless, the bond that Toya, Goenka, AJ, Ollie, Rahul and Arpita share is heartwarming to say the least. They are all super protective of each other and find a sense of belonging in their tight knit group, even when things aren’t going right. I would have liked some more scenes with God and Lucifer, the little taste we get in the prologue is just not enough. Overall, I liked this book so so so much. I would recommend it to all of you fiction readers. Just give this one a try, you’ll be left speechless.

Is there a next book? Someone please tell me there’s a second book. I NEED IT ASAP.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A very unique outlook on mythology, astral travel and a refreshing glimpse of what youth could contribute to politics.

Thank you Sreejib for sending me a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review — Small Acts of Freedom by Gurmehar Kaur

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“I don’t fear this place that people go to and never come back. I fear this place where people have to survive each and every day on memories of two and half years, holding on to them for the rest of their lives, however long they live.”

Small Acts of Freedom is a testament to the strength that binds families together. Three generations of women who’ve had to fight their own battles resiliently display the very qualities in their roots and upbringing that makes them so. Dating back to 1947, Gurmehar recounts stories about her family, as they wade through the loss that follows war, Partition and the uncertainty of their future. This nonfiction narrative beautifully captures pain and the innocent musings of a child who is yet to come to terms with the reality of our world.

In the introduction to this novel, the author briefs us about the violent clashes that took place between students of Ramjas College, Delhi and an All-India student organization, ABVP. It is the sheer courage, the need for change that resonates in her writing that had me glued to the book from the start; it also provides context to this book. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but if they are anything like this one, sign me up! The timeline of the stories shuffles back and forth over the course of many years. A majority of the chapters are from the perspective of a three year old Gurmehar, so the writing style is very crisp, coloured by the curiosity and innocence of a child. Once you begin reading those chapters, you simply can’t look away because of the stark honesty and sometimes, astonishing clarity you’d find there. Some of the thoughts that take shape throughout this book are so raw that they pierce your heart.

This is in no way a depressing book. The reason why I found myself tearing up quite a bit was because of the pain and loneliness that permeates the writing. And it’s so much more impactful coming from the voices of little children. It addresses very important themes like communal animosity, war and freedom. It builds a story around these themes, urging you to reflect at the state of our world and not stay silent in the face of adversity. This had been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and I loved it so much! It spoke to my heart. I would recommend Small Acts of Freedom to everyone! It releases on Amazon India on 15th February, 2018, so keep an eye out for it.

If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought? 🙂

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A heart wrenching story about how families shape us and give us the very essence of life to keep persisting.

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

Book Review — From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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Sixteen-year-old Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker, looking for her big break. So when it comes in the form of her all-time crush, Neil Roy’s geeky brother, Sahil Roy, she decides to give it a go. Their school is hosting the Midsummer Night, an event that would present her with the golden opportunity to screen her film. All her life, Twinkle has felt sidelined and now, she is ready to be in the spotlight for a change. As Sahil and Twinkle work together, there builds an undeniable attraction between the two. But Twinkle is determined to not let go of her hopes of being Neil’s girlfriend; thereby putting her friendship with Sahil in jeopardy. With fame and authority clouding her mind, Twinkle risks losing herself entirely.

After having read and loved When Dimple Met Rishi, I was certain that I would love this book too. But that wasn’t the case. No doubt, it was a fun read; it’s just that I didn’t really like Twinkle. The author’s writing style is colloquial and fits so well with the tone of a sixteen year old that you won’t realize it hasn’t been written by a teenager. I find it really commendable when authors are able to adapt their writing style to the characters and cultures they are writing about. The plot explores several themes like social exclusion, familial discord, high school hierarchy etc. This is an epistolary novel, where the story is told through Twinkle’s diary entries addressed to female filmmakers who are her inspiration. That’s something I really liked. It was interesting to see what she took away from the works of a particular filmmaker.

The reason why I didn’t like Twinkle’s character as much is that she came off as a person who complained a lot. She’s either constantly whining about having lost her bestfriend or she’s swooning over Neil (even when things were happening between her and Sahil) and the fact that the popular kids don’t give her the time of the day. I understand where she’s coming from and I’m not being insensitive to her problems. But when there’s a 300 odd paged novel with a protagonist who is mature enough to want to make quality films, you’d expect the focus to be a little less on her complaints. Thankfully, Neil Roy – who is good looking, desirable, great at academics and athletic – isn’t our MC.  Sahil, who has been foreshadowed by his twin brother, Neil is a very supportive, patient and understanding character. He stood by Twinkle’s side even when I was (mentally) yelling at her. I also wasn’t particularly happy with Maddie. She simply doesn’t know the definition of being a bestfriend; abandoning Twinkle and not giving a damn about her feelings. On the whole, this book was moderately fun to read, if you don’t count the times I got annoyed with the characters. I hope Sandhya Menon’s next novel, When Ashish Met Sweetie is just as good as When Dimple Met Rishi. 

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An entertaining read about high schoolers and the things that drive them.

Thank you Sandhya Menon for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Let Art Speak For Itself

After the recurrent Padmavati (now Padmaavat) debacle, I was really intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Why were entire communities dead against its release?

And now, having seen the film, I am no closer to answering that question. For the life of me, I can’t fathom what the issue is. In a nutshell, for the uninitiated, the film Padmaavat is a historical fiction that captures the might of the Rajput clan – women and men alike – in the face of a foreign invasion. Alauddin Khilji, the mad king of the Khilji Dynasty threatens to declare war on Chittor, Rajasthan. The story that propels the movie has been drawn from actual historical events but the film goes the extra mile with its dramatic flair and fictionalization. Now, I’m in  no position to tell which parts of the movie are based on true happenings (and neither are a lot of people who have a problem with the legitimacy of this movie). But that’s the point! It’s a movie, people. Made for entertainment. If you’re looking to watch an account that is completely true, perhaps you should watch a documentary?

That being said, the story reached out of the big screen and spoke to me. It cradled my cynical self in an embrace of deep pride for a civilization that has fought to keep its ground. It affirmed my respect for kings, queens and warriors who have had to undergo a multitude of sacrifices to keep us going. And in my honest opinion, it did not glorify practices like Sati/ Jauhar. The last scene where countless women stride towards a fiery end was more about their dignity as Rajput women, refusing to be captured and enslaved by the Khiljis. It was about an astonishing strength that allowed them to welcome death; thereby taking control of their destiny. As I sat in that theater, rooted to the spot, I didn’t for once think “wow, we should bring back such ancient practices.” I felt emotional that these women had no other choice during that time. I felt angry at those invaders and on the whole, my nationalist sentiments were pretty high up.

Ranveer Singh lives and breathes his art. I’m sure donning the skin of a crazed emperor from the 13th century was no easy feat. But somehow, Ranveer makes it look effortless and all too convincing. When I think of the movie now, his performance as Alauddin Khilji is one of the things that stands out the most; his maniacal laughter, the grungy get up and the arrogance of a ruler who felt entitled to the best of the best. I had no doubts in my mind about Ranveer Singh being an exceptional actor (my all time favourite!), but in this movie, he surpasses expectations.

On the other hand, Deepika Padukone brings a grace and fierceness to her character, Maharani Padmavati, like no other could. Sometimes it bothered me that women of those times were reduced to being subservient to the man of the house. But that’s a commentary on societal and gender norms, not Bhansali’s film. The fleeting moments of romance between Maharawal Ratan Singh (enacted by Shahid Kapoor) and Padmavati helped glaze over a movie that otherwise, would have been just about politics and war. Shahid Kapoor brings so much power to the role of Ratan Singh. His acting coupled with the ornate dialogues packs a punch that is much needed in a historical narrative.

The cinematography is to-die-for! All those scenic shots of the palace, the aerial view of the armies and the incredible clips of the music-dance sequences made me love Padmaavat even more. I’m definitely going to be watching it again and again and again.

To conclude, this movie glorifies the Rajputs, imbuing them with such strength of character. It dissects the disposition and mindset of Alauddin Khilji, making you detest him and simultaneously be appalled by his conduct. I had been anticipating watching this film for so long and now that I have, I’m extremely happy. So I don’t understand the abhorrence and I don’t understand the harsh criticism. I just wish that it had gotten better reception and that the hard work that went into its making is fully appreciated.

We have a rich cultural heritage and a country filled with beyond talented artists. Can we not be toxic amongst ourselves and work to reach a point where we can once again be a glorified nation?

Let our art speak volumes about our traditions and values. Not about hate.

Book Review — Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

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Imogen Sokoloff and Jule West Williams studied in the same high school. Now, years later Jule finds her and they kindle a friendship unlike any other. Jule is a wanderer, trying to come to terms with a past that refuses to let her be. And Imogen is fed up with everyone’s expectations of her. She has a tendency to take off when things get too difficult to handle. With each other, they find the confidence to lower the facade and give in to their true selves. Until one of them goes missing.

The first thing I will tell you about this book is to not read too much about it. Just let the story sweep you away, okay? When I flipped open the first page and the chapter was numbered “19”, I already knew that E. Lockhart had once again nailed it. Upon flipping through, I realized that the story was being told in reverse, with the most recent happening being covered by the first chapter. You may think that in a murder mystery, that sort of spoils the whole climax. But no, dear friend. Almost every chapter unravels some part of the mystery, and yet there’s so much more to be known that you are fully invested in the novel. From the first paragraph, E. Lockhart digs her narrative talons deep into your mind, refusing to let go till the very end (and in my case, even after that). Her writing style, as usual, is crisp and tantalizing. She is not one for long sentences. Especially when she can deliver a punch with fewer words than most.

The plot of the novel asserts just how complex and sensitive the human mind is. While the storyline is similar to something I’ve read before, it is the structure of the book and its characters that steal the show. Imogen reminds me of Alison from the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. She puts on this artificial persona to draw people in. And when she’s bored of them, she doesn’t give two hoots. Jule has so many layers that, as we delve deeper into the book, become more clear. We come to understand her mindset as being rooted from her experiences of the past. What we see of the other characters is from the perspective of Jule and Immie. You reach a point in the novel where you don’t know what to believe, which is something I really like in psychological thrillers. Genuine Fraud is fast paced and makes for a killer book that is going to leave you screaming. E. Lockhart has now become one of my auto-buy authors. I will simply devour anything she writes. If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, don’t waste time. Just please pick it up. I urge you.

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A murder mystery that slowly backtracks over the astounding truths about family and friendship.

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