Book Review — Swear You Won’t Tell? by Vedashree Khambete-Sharma

It was supposed to be one press release. That’s all the tolerance Avantika Pandit, Bombay based journalist, had built up towards her school time archrival, Aisha Juneja. But that one event exposes her to the astounding news of her old bestfriend’s death. This discovery sends Avantika hurtling towards the people from her past, whom she had been glad to see the end of. And as she gets closer to understanding how Laxmi Swaminathan passed away, she begins to comprehend just how far from the truth she had been straying, inevitably placing herself in grave danger. Vedashree Khambete-Sharma has spun an engaging tale of women who still carry the scars from their younger days.

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With a protagonist as sarcastic and unapproachable as Avantika, this book could easily have been one of those cases where the plot is great but the main character spoils all the fun. However, that is totally not what happens. A couple of pages in, I was already inching towards disliking her for her callous behavior, when the author takes us back to the 1990s i.e. Avantika’s childhood. We come face to face with a character whose experience with bullies has compelled her to build an armor of steel as a defense mechanism. And all throughout the book, the narrative alternates between the present and the girls’ school years.

Being a media student and a 90s kid, everything about this book appealed to me. I could relate to the references made about campus culture, the lingo used in Indian English medium schools etc. Something I particularly loved about this book is its tone, that is the narrative through Avantika’s voice. It is colloquial and upfront, witty and attuned to Indianness. Undoubtedly, there will be moments when you can’t help but crack a smile at the humor imbued in the writing. I felt strongly about Avantika’s past, having had to deal with girls like Aisha who are drowning in their sense of entitlement and corrupt mind.

A couple of things I wasn’t a big fan of were Avantika’s possible chemistry with Aisha’s brother, the high school clique representation where one of the girls had to be shown as daft, gullible and Laxmi being given this clean chit for never standing up for her former bestfriend (Avantika). Of course, at the root of it, this book is a mystery fiction. And it’s no wonder that I finished it in a day. Fast paced, thrilling and finally, surprising, because that’s an ending I would never have thought of, even though it makes some sense. I really enjoyed reading Swear You Won’t Tell? and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss it! So pick it up now!

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A suspenseful story explored through the perspective of a snarky journalist.

Thank you Writers Melon and HarperCollins India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. 

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Rockstar Book Tours: Book Review & Giveaway — The She Wolf of Kanta by Marlena Frank

This is my review post for The She Wolf of Kanta Blog Tour organized by Rockstar Book Tours.

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Title: THE SHE-WOLF OF KANTA
Author: Marlena Frank
Pub. Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: Legion Imprint of Radiant Crown Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 256
Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksGoodreads

“A pair of yellow eyes caught the moonlight and locked onto hers.”
Mercy has always dreamed of becoming a werewolf trapper like her father. In Kanta, one must learn how to survive one way or another. A dark-skinned, blue-eyed young beauty, Mercy understands that she brings out the beast in monsters and men. When a routine werewolf delivery turns into a vicious assault from a pair of human traffickers, Mercy’s life changes forever. Somehow she must endure in a dangerous city where women and werewolves are hunted.

 


Mercy and her father are trappers. They rid the city of Kanta of the vicious beasts that prowl at night. For as long as she remembers, Mercy has only known these werewolves to be the monsters that her father convinced her they were. But a new revelation helps her understand just how wrong she has been.

This is a rather quick read, one that you’ll breeze through because of its crystal clear plot, action packed writing and characters with purpose. I really liked the touch of steampunk in it. The author’s writing style is not wordy or discursive, in fact you immediately get accustomed to. For a book that is so short in length, it develops Mercy’s character arc quite impressively. We initially see her as a girl afraid to disobey her father, but when calamity strikes, she is driven by her survival instincts and becomes this opportunistic individual. I didn’t really like her father’s character. He is violent and narrow minded.

When it comes to paranormal fiction that features werewolves, we usually read about pack politics or the protagonist transforming into one; but in this novella, I was very intrigued to realize that the author has spun a tale that ostracizes the werewolf species from society, so as to be able to build a kind of connection between them and Mercy. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I would surely recommend it to those looking for adventurous paranormal fiction.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A short paranormal adventure with elements of steampunk.

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours for giving me access to an eARC in exchange of an honest review. 


About Marlena:
I write about strange creatures. Typically they shouldn’t exist, or they have bled through from a different reality, or they’re pretending to be a crying baby in a crib. Sometimes that lands my stories in horror and other times in fantasy, but there’s always an air of strangeness to my tales. If you want to get a better feel for what I’m talking about, check out a few clips or read a few drabbles.

My work has appeared in a spattering of short story collections, but I do have a few novellas
and novels in the pipeline. Other than talking about writing, I also talk about cryptozoologywerewolveswildlife conservation, and of course kitties. I’ve also been known to nerd out about Batman and The Hobbit, and have recently discovered the cracktastic fun of Black Butler cosplay, so there will likely be more of these incidents.

By day I work as a web developer, so I’ll occasionally talk about web issues like finding the right theme.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International. To participate in this giveaway, click on this Rafflecopter link.

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

4/9/2018- BookHounds– Interview

4/10/2018- Twinning for Books– Review

4/11/2018- What A Nerd Girl Says– Guest Post

4/12/2018- The Life Stories– Review

4/13/2018- A Gingerly Review– Excerpt

Week Two:

4/16/2018- Jena Brown Writes– Review

4/17/2018- Confessions of a YA Reader– Excerpt

4/18/2018- Fantasy Book Critic– Interview

4/19/2018- Reese’s Reviews– Review

4/20/2018- Novel Novice– Guest Post

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 — 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. 

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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 — When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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When Dimple Met Rishi tells the story of two individuals brought together by the age-old Indian custom of arranged marriage. Rishi Patel’s parents set him up with Dimple Shah, and ever the dutiful son, he agrees to head to Insomnia Con to meet her. On the other hand, Dimple is the least bit interested in getting married. All that’s on her mind is to win the ultimate web development championship at Insomnia Con and meet her idol, Jenny Lindt. So when her parents agree to send her for the summer program, she can’t believe her luck! Little does she know her parents’ ulterior motive. As is bound to happen, when Dimple and Rishi meet, a whole lot of drama ensues.

This book is 40% cheesy and a 110% hilarious! I had such a good time reading it. There were a couple of instances when the narrative became a little too romanticized, and not very realistic. But it didn’t bother me enough to dislike the book. In all sincerity, I feel that the depiction of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) is not cliched or heavily influenced by Bollywood films. The fact that the author uses cultural motifs frequently made me like this book more (better rep and all). You can very well understand the mentality of an Indian who has grown up abroad, having to juggle between two cultures. The story is told from the perspective of the two characters in alternating chapters. Sandhya Menon’s writing style is casual and inviting, imbued with Hindi phrases for an authentic touch. She has nailed down the humour so much so that I couldn’t stop laughing/ grinning for a majority of the novel. It gives you all the feels.

This book could easily have been very stereotypical, but what I really liked is that the author starts out with certain stereotypes and over the course of the book, bulldozes through them; thereby sending across a different message. Rishi and Dimple’s characters are quite contrasting depending on the situation. She is always at loggerheads with her mother about what she wants out of life. And so I was surprised to see that she couldn’t hold her own in a social scenario. When she gets bullied, Rishi is the one who gets all riled up. Sometimes (especially towards the end) I found Dimple to be unreasonable. That said, their relationship is not one of insta-love. It goes through many phases. Since the setting of this book is a college, there’s a good deal of rivalry and tension. Dimple and Celia’s friendship was just as fun to read about as Rishi and his brother, Ashish’s equation. On the whole, I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more of Sandhya Menon’s works. If you’re in the mood for a YA romance, you should definitely pick it up.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A hilarious Indian chick lit, that explores stereotypes and then squashes them to give you the heartwarming story of two individuals fighting to achieve their dreams.

Book Review — Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum

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Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum is a nonfiction that explores the extent of Islamophobia in Indian society by bringing to light horrid instances of bullying and discrimination of Muslim children in schools. As a Muslim mother, Nazia gives voice to the woes of other Muslim women who are caught in the predicament of owning upto their religious identity or hiding it for fear of being considered to be extremists. She reaches out to children, teachers and parents alike, who have been impacted/ involved in the misleading stereotypes and negative bias associated with Muslims. Over the course of her book, the author draws from various sources the heartrending conclusion that even today, there’s a great deal of animosity surrounding religious communities and more often than not, innocent children are dragged into the aftermath of a verbal bloodbath.

This review will not be a comment on the superiority of any religion, rather it takes into consideration the effect that negative bias has on children. The author’s writing style is punctuated by her desire to get a point across to her readers. She writes in a very collected and matter-of-fact manner. It’s a short book, one that you can finish in less than half a day. Although Nazia incorporates the stories of many families in her narrative, on a molecular level, they are just that – individually recounted instances of bullying and prejudice. Sometimes I wished that they were more seamlessly embedded into a story format. But I understand why it’s important to point out facts pertaining to a prevalent issue in the way she has.

The people featured in this book come from all walks of life. The schools mentioned are a good mix of popular and less-heard-of institutions. All of what’s said in this book is very saddening. What bothers me the most is the fact that children, who don’t even understand the basics of politics and power play, get treated harshly by others; and that too on the basis of what they hear in their homes. Bullying is a very sensitive topic and we don’t get into the details as much, but it’s evident from the children’s inability to grasp the reality of their situation. All in all, it’s not a pleasant picture. But it’s one that must be acknowledged for sure, so that we as a society can come together and remedy the evils that threaten to disintegrate us. I would definitely recommend this book to others so that they can get an understanding of one side of the story.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? – A disheartening glance at the complexities of having an Muslim identity in today’s world.

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