Book Review — Written in Blood by Layton Green

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Written in Blood by Layton Green follows Detective Preach, as he attempts to wade through the murders cropping up in Creekville, North Carolina. The town, that was his home, beheld a devastating change after his departure. And now that he’s back, carrying his own nightmares of a time in Atlanta, he is forced to wonder what exactly went down during his absence. The serial killer is vengeful and won’t stop until he/she has recreated the murders that took place in the writings of Poe, Dostoevsky etc. Preach’s hands are tied and he has very less time to figure out who’s upto no good in the previously peaceful town of Creekville.

Literary references and a murder mystery, what an incredible combination! From the very beginning, this novel was unputdownable. The murders, the leads were all explored in due time, spaced out evenly throughout the book so that no part of it is draggy. Nothing about the plot is predictable and like any good murder mystery, you’re most probably going to bet on the wrong person as being the suspect. I did. And when the climax did roll around (almost at the end), I was completely bowled over!! Like *hyperventilating* bowled over. The author’s writing style is crisp, to the point, tinged by great imageries and analogies. As a reader slowly growing to love older and modern classics, the discussions and novels that are pivotal to the plot were my absolute favourite.

The manner in which themes such as rape, prostitution, child abuse and bullying are dealt with doesn’t make light of the situation. In fact, Preach’s sentiment or reaction towards these comes from a very real place. And alongside him, we can’t help but shed a tear for the hundreds and thousands of people who are undergoing such horrors. There are only a couple of characters who are regulars in the novel, so there isn’t much to detect in terms of a character arc. Sure, Preach and his partner, Kirby undergo some personality change. But that’s about it. I did not have a single complaint about this book and the whole reading experience was spotted with squeals of excitement. I’m still hungover and can barely contain myself at having read such a superb book. Highly highly highly recommend it to all those who enjoy murder mysteries!

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A mind blowing murder mystery that, in true meta fashion, is fueled by four timeless classic novels.

Thank you Pyr and Edelweiss for sending me this e-galley in exchange for a review. 

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Book Review — The Indian Spirit by Magandeep Singh

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The Indian Spirit captures the historic events and societal nuances that led to Indians embracing spirits  and alcoholic drinks like rum, vodka, whisky, wine, beer etc. It digs deep into the origin tales, bringing out the long processes of evolution in our drinking culture, some of which we imbibed from foreign forces. Equipped with years of experience in the field, the author throws light on the many brands that took root in India; some of which have inevitably soared to international standards and others that have been forgotten. Almost every kind of spirit has a deep rooted connection to the growth of the F&B industry in India. This book in its entirety is a delight for those who indulge in alcohol, heightening our experience of consuming the said liquor, with tips on how to best approach it and amazing anecdotes from the past.

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but some books (like this one) are simply splendid and the subject matter of The Indian Spirit appeals to me a great deal. The author’s writing style is quite conversational, flavored by quips and straightforward commentary on various products. Even though there’s a lot of factual information, it doesn’t feel textbook-ish because the narrative style is light and catchy. I often found myself cracking up at the humor wedged in between all that data. There are separate chapters on whisky, wine, beer and many more. The chapter on local alcohol variants was an eye-opener because if not for this book, I wouldn’t have even heard of many of the traditional alcoholic beverages. I like an occasional (read often) glass of wine, rum or vodka, but it wouldn’t be far fetched to say that my understanding of these drinks has been absolutely bleak, when compared to what I learned from the book. Thanks to the little guide at the end of certain chapters, I now know the correct way of tasting, judging and serving some liquors.

Since this book explores a rather wide variety of drinks, it is best read slowly, so you can grasp as much of the information as possible. Rush it, and you’ll risk not remembering more than half of it. Many of the anecdotes mentioned in this book were really intriguing. My favourite chapters (which I am going to re-read again and again) were the ones about wine, drinking etiquette and rum. Overall, this book makes for a great reading experience and I would recommend it to EVERYONE, whether you are a tippler or not. Also, regardless of the number of times I have tried beer and whisky, I strongly believe that they still taste like “something that could power space expeditions”!

What do you get out of it? Priceless knowledge about how alcohol was brought or came to be made in India. With the help of amusing stories and factual deductions, we are able to follow the changes that this market has gone through.

Ratings – 5 out of 5 stars

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

Book Review — Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6) by Sarah J. Maas

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

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Summary – When Captain Nesryn Faliq and Lord Chaol Westfall made their way to Antica, seeking the help of the Great Khagan Urus, they did not know the full extent of the trouble brewing in the horizon. In order to protect their people from demon kings, they must convince the royal family to join forces and employ their armies against the common threat. Unfortunately for them, persuading the royals to give up their resources for the protection of another kingdom proves to be a task; one that isn’t helped by Chaol being confined to the wheelchair. Nesryn takes it upon herself to find an alternative path, while Chaol receives the healing that only the healers of Torre Cesme in Antica can provide. In doing so, Nesryn embarks on an adventure of her own with an unforeseen ally to far away lands in search of other potential allies. Due to a traumatic childhood experience, Yrene Towers, Heir of the Healer on High, can’t ever fathom helping an Adarlanian soldier, let alone one that has a temper as Chaol does. Healing him goes beyond her sense of compassion. Whether she lets the festering bitterness break her oath as a healer is yet to be seen. But she is no less a formidable player in the war that threatens to submerge all the kingdoms.

Review – No part of this review will ever be able to encompass or properly convey just how exceptional this book is. No words of praise are truly sufficient for the magic that Sarah J. Maas creates. Tower of Dawn is a chunky book at 600+ pages, but not once did I get bored or feel like it was lacklustre. Even though there aren’t a lot of cliffhangers within the book, it had enough WOW moments that I found myself squealing with joy or gasping at the story progression. The author masterfully creates a web of anticipation that keeps us hooked till the very end. The writing style is idiomatic and picturesque. You can’t help but be transported to the archaic infrastructures described so vividly. I personally would love to live in the Torre. While the plot is interesting and basic, it is the mind-blowing characterizations and themes that make this novel a home run. Every once in awhile, Sarah J. Maas would incorporate idealistic themes of a utopian world that would strongly juxtapose the world we’re living in.

Matters of disability are dealt with carefully and in a manner that rightly exposes  the sentiments of a person who has to undergo such trauma. Chaol isn’t shown to be pitiful or whiny. Instead, he takes matters into his own hands, living his life in the best possible manner from the wheelchair. That was actually very refreshing to read.  Coming to characters, there wasn’t a single one that was flat or useless. They were all brilliant beyond means and each having powerful storylines. The representation of the royal family was one of my favourite aspects of this book. When it comes to cliches, I was glad to see that the princesses and other female characters were not shown to be shy or all that benevolent. Hasar’s character is unique because she is feisty, rude and yet selectively amicable. Each member of the royal family makes for an intriguing addition. There were just so so many fantastic relationship equations that had me grinning from ear to ear. I’d definitely love to read more about Borte and Yeran, not to forget Nesryn and Sartaq. This entire book is a rollercoaster ride, one that I’m going to re-visit several times in the future. It has become one of my top favourites of all time. There’s just so much more about this book that leaves me utterly speechless. Please, I URGE you ALL to READ Tower of Dawn; it’ll steal your heart and never give it back.

What do you get out of it? Major feels. This book is all smoke and cause for hyperventilation. It presents great, wholesome characters, commendable parallel storylines and majestic airborne creatures known as ruks. What more do you want?

Rating – 5 out of 5 stars

What We’ve Learned From 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why, a book to television adaptation of Jay Asher’s young adult fiction, posits the transience of life and growing insensitivity among millennials. It is abundantly interspersed with prevalent concerns pertaining to suicide, sexual abuse, slut shaming, social isolation, peer pressure and so much more. Hannah Baker’s narration, of the events in her life that led her to take the plunge, is gut-wrenching to say the least. All of what she experiences brings to light exactly what’s wrong with the human mentality. Our inability to empathize, to value another person as an equal, to look beyond materialism, to take responsibility for our actions is our one-way ticket to a devastating future. Here are some reasons, drawing from the TV series, that call for a drastic change in our perceptions and the way we interact with one another:

  1. Live and Let Live. You are the master of ONLY your life. You DO NOT get to enforce your opinions on another. This includes, but is not limited to, judging, commenting on and mocking another person for the way they choose to carry themselves. Slut shaming is a serious affront. Somebody else’s personal decisions are none of your business. We see first hand, in the TV show, how rumors can snowball into becoming the most fallacious statements about a person’s character. Alex’s list that objectifies women is in a way the kick-starter of Hannah’s depression. The aftermath is truly appalling.
  2. Suicide Should Not be an Option. You may be in the worst possible situation, but remember, the sun brings with it a new start every day. Press the Reset button and Do Over. There is so much to live for, the least of which is yourself and who you could be in 40 years. Hannah’s decision to end her life is fueled by many incidents which make her want “everything to stop”. But even in the harshest of storms, it is upto us to cling onto the last thread for however long it takes. We owe ourselves that.
  3. High School Hierarchies are Bullshit. No amount of wealth can make you personally inferior in comparison to another high school student. It is a place for character formation and identifying your passions. Do not let it be reduced to cringe-worthy memories of bullying and succumbing to peer standards. Stand up for yourself and for others. Justin, Bryce, Marcus, Zach and the others parade around Liberty High by terrorizing others. Evidently, school hierarchies tend to place athletes at a higher pedestal, allowing them to demean the rest of the student population. It begets the questions, What about the morals being preached in school? Why are the powerful not answerable to law? What can be done to change that?
  4. Convenience. The pain of being someone’s convenience is starkly reflected in the episodes. Ryan publishes Hannah’s poetry in his magazine, despite being told otherwise. Bryce is of the opinion that every woman is for the taking. Sheri tries to cover up her misdeed, simply because no one of authority witnesses the accident. All of their actions, not only points to the deficiency in their upbringing, but also the skewed world view that they’ve developed, which calls for some serious attention. Keep your ground, and do not let anyone take advantage of you. Your consent is not up for bargain.

The back and forth structuring of the plot keeps us glued to Hannah’s story; as with every tape she delicately delineates the turmoil of feeling like an outsider. It has all been so realistically portrayed and the soundtrack is the final straw that leads to a whole lot of tears. Undoubtedly, some of the characters don’t intend to harm Hannah, but it is their negligence that drives a wedge between her resilience and despondence.

One other thing that infuriated me the most is the lack of parental guidance. None of the parents in the show actually make a difference. Clay’s parents keep making futile attempts to resolve matters, but it’s no good. Even the teachers, principal and the counselor are totally useless. Their greed, thoughtlessness and refusal to take action paves the way for the continued corruption of the students. Between the poetry classes, helping out at home and visiting the school counselor, we see how much effort Hannah is putting in to hang on. But… I wish people had better morals. The story of Hannah Baker, although fictitious, could be the case with many other youngsters. No one should have to feel so utterly purposeless. No one.

Final Thoughts – The ending of the show is ambiguous. While the main theme is laid to rest, quite a few questions still remain. Nevertheless, it makes for a brilliant, thought provoking TV series. One that I binge-watched simply because of its quality execution.

Rating – 5 stars on 5.

Look Around, Pay More Attention. Every drop makes an ocean and each of us can contribute towards making this world a happier place!

Book Review — The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace

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The Princess Saves Herself in this One is a collection of moving poetry that, while experimenting with form and structure, conveys the very poetic sentiments of a woman who braves all of life’s experiences and hands it back to the haters. Split into four different chunks, the poems carry an assortment of themes such as acceptance, loneliness, rejection, motivation, resilience, love etc.

The title of the book was enough to draw me in. I haven’t read a lot of poetry, but something about the raw emotions and out of the box structuring in this one, made me read all of it at one go. Some of the poems barely have ten words and yet, they pack a punch. The poetess has played around with shapes, spacing, grammatical syntax and created a language of her own. A language she uses to her best and appeals to the audience. I believe there’s something in the collection for everyone. Her writing style is impactful and lyrical. You find yourself submerged in the world she creates.

The first section is titled “Princess” and features poetry that echoes a young voice, full of hope and affection seeking. It compels you to empathize with the narrator, as she grieves the loss of loved ones. Similar feelings surface in the next section, wherein, the narrator talks about heartbreak and lovers who never really understood her worth. But then she goes all guns blazing in the third section, which is all about empowerment and fighting back. Lastly, the “You” section showcases poetry that highlights others. What impresses me even more is the fact that Amanda Lovelace has taken the form of poetry and owned it. She has spun pure magic through her words, defying the necessity for stanzas or full stops. In a way, she has used the English language to do her bidding. The number of themes employed in this collection is just overwhelming. I would definitely recommend the book to all those who love poetry. It is definitely worth reading again and again.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — The Curse of Mohenjodaro by Maha Khan Phillips

Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂

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Maha Khan Phillips’ The Curse of Mohenjodaro is a sweeping narrative that shuffles between 3800 BC and the present; chronicling the dire consequences of corrupted leaders and subjugated populace, both, then and now. Nadia Osbourne had just about escaped the clutches of her maniacal father, when her sister, Layla, goes missing in Mohenjodaro, during an archaeological dig. What’s more, her frequent dreams about a girl, Jaya, grow to be more vivid and strangely connected to the Mohenjodaro mystery. There’s more than meets the eye with regard to the disappearance of the archaeologists group and so Nadia must look to historic events to protect thousands of people in the present. Full with magical realism, mobsters and rediscovery of a family’s powerful lineage, this novel is a brilliant addition to the thriller genre.

The cover design is an interplay of strong colours placed in the forefront of sharp structures that represent the Indus Valley civilization. It is alluring enough to draw one’s attention towards the book, from wherein, the story takes over and does its job wonderfully. Even though the format of the book is such that it goes back and forth between two time frames, it isn’t confusing or distracting in the least bit. In fact, the portions set in Jaya’s world are so strong that they transport you to the era. The author’s writing style supports her story very well and creates a captivating atmosphere throughout. It is fast paced and worthy of being finished in one sitting.

The characterization too, is up to the mark, and imbues many of the important characters with all the power they require to carry forward the story. As infuriating as Sohail (Nadia and Layla’s father) is, he plays an integral role in mirroring the greed and corruption of today’s time. Many women characters are made the focal point of the plot, and wield the driving force. I liked Aal the best – she is depicted to be this obedient daughter who becomes feisty because of circumstances. The whole system, in 3800 BC, that of the Goddess-Blessed, High One, Priests and Clans is allegorical of caste systems and social hierarchy as seen now. A disturbing theme at that. Some other themes that are explored in this novel are that of abuse, poverty, rebellion, good conquers bad etc. There isn’t really anything I can fault about the book. And so, everything considered, I loved this novel a great deal. I am very glad that it is my first book of 2017. It is a must read, so do pick it up, for sure!

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera

Book Review — Selfienomics by Revant

Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book for review 🙂

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Revant’s debut novel, Selfienomics, is a guide that attempts to enhance our quality of life by broadening our mental horizons. Through the span of these eleven chapters, he pays close attention to the various facets of our lives, drawing our attention towards how we could be living a more positive and healthy life. Interspersed with quotes and pop-culture references that back the various points made, Selfienomics induces a retrospective sphere wherein one is compelled to look at their perspective on matters of importance. It presents us with the information needed to make our own well-informed opinions.

Since I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, I wasn’t sure to what extent I’d enjoy this one. Any initial hesitation on my part, was wiped clean soon after. Revant’s witticism and flair for writing shines through from the beginning. He makes use of colloquial language, generously adding tons of hashtags and Hindi words. Fear not, for those who aren’t familiar with these non-English words and references, there’s a glossary of sorts at the back. What I found to be unique and surprisingly, very likable is the fact that he uses several business theories & principles to explain human sensibilities. And they made total sense!

Humor is definitely one of the author’s major strengths. Almost every five minutes, I was laughing out loud. While a majority of the instances delineated in the book were relatable, there were some that weren’t. At one point, I thought the finance aspect got a little too much, but then out of nowhere he’d drop a little joke and I’d be clutching my stomach with tears of laughter. I love how this book employs a great deal of positive psychology elements such as good life, health, ambition etc. Moreover, its informative, so you glean a lot from it. There’s a Dialogues and Discussion section at the end of a topic, which helps you get a better understanding of what has been spoken about and what your values are.

Revant makes a lot of realistic points, encouraging the readers to rethink their POV. He prods you to question everything you’ve learnt – be it about God, nutrition, time, jobs, society and much more. Like Derrida’s theory of Deconstruction, he systematically breaks down our thought process, highlighting how we get accustomed to think the way we do. Even though there are some things I don’t agree with, I believe that was the point of the book – to bring you clarity about where you stand. Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d read it again and again from time to time. I’ve probably said this multiple times before, but this book is HILARIOUS and yet it doesn’t take away from the seriousness of certain issues! It is a must read for everyone, no matter your tastes in books. I urge you to pick it up right away.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5

Meera