Book Review — The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Madeline Miller has a way with words. Reading The Song of Achilles was like swaying with the waves, the ocean lapping at you and the peace making you one with the environment. It was soothing, inviting and towards the end, a surge of emotions. I hadn’t felt this connected to a book in the longest time and so, was more than eager to get swept up in Patroclus’ narration. Told from his point of view, the novel builds a timeline of events that have seen Patroclus and Achilles together, wrapped in a cocoon of love and support for one another. While we are introduced to Patroclus as a young boy of 9 years age, floundering under his father’s decision to present him as a suitor for Princess Helen, it is much later that he grows into an individual in his own right.

The author delivers the story of Patroclus and Achilles with such beauty, as to absorb us into the book, unable to set it down even for one moment. I was especially convinced of her genius when the scenes pertaining to war and politics, instead of diminishing my interest, furthered my desire to know more of what had transpired. In all its unabashed honesty, Miller depicts the foolishness of humans; the manner in which the pride and prejudice of kings have ushered in their downfall. Bound to the story with ropes of intrigue and awe, I kept wishing that Achilles had had more clarity of thought, allowing him to assess the situation better and take decisions that might have (sort of?) prevented a great deal of mishap. One thing you’re going to have to keep in mind is that this novel mentions a large number of mythological figures, which means atleast a hundred Greek names bouncing off your mind. They weren’t easy for me to remember, particularly the names of the secondary characters. But rest assured, the twenty or so important ones will remain in your memory.

It was a mesmerizing thing indeed to read about Patroclus and how he changes from an ordinary, under-confident lad to one who stands up for people, knows his worth in war and is incredibly courageous. Achilles’ character arc, on the other hand, takes a surprising dip. I like the inclusion of Briseis’ character. She plays a pivotal role in Achilles’ life and brings a new dynamic to Patroclus’ identity. The Song of Achilles is abundant with themes of love, politics, greed, slavery, monarchy to name a few. On the whole, it was such a pleasant experience reading about the eternal nature of Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship. I can’t believe that I put off reading it for so long. Now that I have, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that this has become one of my all time favourites. Highly recommend it to those who enjoy reading mythological fiction. PICK. IT. UP. NOW.

Rating – 5 out of 5 stars (and more!)

What do you get out of this book? An epic story about two epic characters from Greek mythology, with a dash of romance, politics and friendship.

Advertisements

Book Review — The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

It is 1785 and Mr. Jonah Hancock, a merchant trader from Deptford has chanced upon a miracle like no other. Having lost his prized ship Calliope and left with a mermaid, Hancock can barely contain his dejection. But much to his wonder and disbelief, he comes to realize what a jackpot he has struck upon when this mermaid launches him into a world of fame and wealth. It is there that he meets Angelica Neal, a renowned courtesan. Afraid that his reputation would take a nosedive, he tries to extricate himself from the company of those who engage in prostitution. Hence begins the story of a man and woman whose lives are propelled in different directions by the very creature that he has caged.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was equal parts enjoyable and overwhelming. Set in the 1780s London, we are privy to a society that is not only speckled with simplicity and sophistication but also far removed from other cultures in its mannerisms. Imogen Hermes Gowar’s writing is one with the times, ornate and flowery. Some of the phrases, although alien in today’s time, represent an era bygone. And it is because of that very reason that it took me a while to fully get accustomed to the writing style and thereby, the novel. At times I found the narration to be discursive, so focused on the descriptions of nature and setting that it drew away from the core of that scene.

The plot in itself is very rich, filled with all the likeliness of a classic novel. I particularly enjoyed reading about their avant-garde lifestyles; of gowns and social calls, marrying for stature and deriving at a sense of self through ostentation. The mermaid, while central to the progression of the story, takes a backseat and leaves the humans to their own devices. Of course there is a hint of the surreal, especially in the chapters that displayed the mermaid’s consciousness and when the mortals were within it’s vicinity. The ending wasn’t entirely clear to me, but I can guess.

Enveloped in a stunning velvety cover that has embossed oyster shells, this historical fiction displays an array of characters, some down to earth in their profession and others wanting of the highest glory. Mr. Hancock, in my mind, is a simple man, whose life becomes much more complicated than he’d like. Angelica Neal, on the other hand, is someone who doesn’t leave any leaf unturned in her attempt to be loved and come by a fortune. Apart from the storyline of the main characters, I was intrigued by that of Polly’s. What little I saw of her personality, I quite liked and I would have liked it even more if her story had been pursued to a proper end.

I also found it amusing that the mermaid captured by Mr. Hancock almost becomes their undoing. In trying to be masters of a foreign species, they themselves become puppets to its allure. This is an approx 500 paged novel, but it feels so much longer. I would suggest reading it at a comfortably slow pace and not in a hurried manner. If you’re looking to breeze through a historical fiction, then this is not the one. That said, it is beautifully written and will transport you to another world; so give it a try, if the synopsis sounds agreeable to you.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A surreal tale of 18th century London that has all the likeliness of a classic novel plus a hint of magic realism.

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

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.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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 — The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

King Bardaric of Calidon is on his death bed, dying from an unknown illness, when a stranger rides into their home and demands to see the king. Prince Aric, although unable to identify this fey stranger, knows that he’ll be of some help. But what the royal family doesn’t know is that Albaric is not a stranger to them. He brings with him a shocking revelation, that is bound to solve the mystery behind the king’s illness and also threatens to disrupt the family equation.

In comparison to how excited I was upon reading the synopsis, the actual experience of reading this novel sort of fell short. The plot is undoubtedly quite intriguing with its hint of mystery, promise for politically driven action and supernatural element. I even enjoyed reading in the tone that the author adopts, to sell the story based in a monarchical society in Scotland. Her writing style is very foreign and at times, I couldn’t wrap my mind around certain usages or terms which were probably meant to compliment the culture she is bringing to life. Nevertheless I really did like Nancy Springer’s style of storytelling.

So you must be wondering, what then didn’t work for me? When I take apart the book and consider individual aspects of it, I am able to appreciate all of it a lot more. But somehow, put together, it didn’t convince me entirely. There was no gripping-factor. I merely kept reading, because of the setting and the author’s writing. I have always wanted to read more books set in Scotland. This one with its descriptions and talk of royalty had me disappointed because of all the underutilized potential.

The characters do play their part sufficiently well, but not enough to have me swooning. My favourite character arc has to be that of King Bardaric, because of the understandably extreme tangents he goes through. I was often confused by the equation between Prince Aric and Albaric. At some point, I started thinking that theirs would be a romantic relationship. I just didn’t connect with anyone. And so, while I had a tolerable reading experience, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book. It’s not horrible, but there are way too many better fantasy fiction for you to peruse.

Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? An adventurous YA story set in Scotland that has tons of courtly drama and some supernatural elements too.

Thank you Tachyon Publications for giving me access to this eARC via Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review. 

Book Review — Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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?

OH GOOD LORD.

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?

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 — 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 — Secret Lives [Darke Academy #1] by Gabriella Poole

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

Cassandra Bell has been invited to study at the Darke Academy, an elite boarding school that shifts base every term. Initially she can’t believe her luck, but as time passes she realizes that the school is built on a foundation of deceit and danger. In the past, students have met with unfortunate “accidental” deaths and there is something extremely odd about the school’s chosen group, the Few. Cassie has never been one to play safe, not if it means being left in the dark about what’s happening around her. And so, she walks down a path from which there’s no return.

I gladly admit to loving Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. It was one of the first vampire fiction books that I’d read, which made me realize just how much I love paranormal and supernatural genres. I would still re-read it, despite all the hate that it has surprisingly garnered. Secret Lives being the first book in the Darke Academy trilogy has a very promising storyline. Boarding school on wheels + vampires = YES PLEASE! But it just didn’t work for me. Sure, the setting and the author’s writing style is enough to make you want to teleport to the Darke Academy. But there was quite a bit about the book that I couldn’t digest. Gabriella Poole’s writing is very colloquial, not wordy and moderately descriptive. Some of the plot points are in deed commendable and unique. Who’d EVER think of a boarding school that moves to a different city every term? It’s brilliant! Who’d think of vampires and not associate them with blood lust? The author of this book, that’s who.

Moving onto characters, themes and some half-baked cliches. Cassie is your average studious girl, who has been in foster care for very long. I found her personality to be confusing at times; her thoughts and actions were just all over the place throughout the novel. Isabella is the one character that I really liked in this book. She has her heart on her sleeve, is fiercely protective of Cassie and Jake and exhibits very real emotions and opinions. Usually in media representations of vampires, the vampire characters are ostracized in society. But it’s interesting to notice that here, they are placed on a pedestal. So much so that the Few are considered above authority at the academy. The use of cliches overwhelms this novel. The vampire male lead is mysterious and brooding, the rich people are shown to be brats, there’s a lot of jealousy at play in between the female characters because of certain attractive men etc. On the whole, it was an okay book. Parts of it were truly fun and others could have been better. Read it and see for yourself, if you’d like.

Ratings – 2.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A new perspective on vampires. Also, you begin to wish that you’d studied in a magnificent boarding school.

Book Review — Demigods and Magicians by Rick Riordan

All Images Courtesy – Goodreads

The three short stories that make up Demigods and Magicians bring together the characters of the Percy Jackson series and those of the Kane Chronicles series in a thrilling fashion. There’s a new baddie in town and for a change, his ambitions are a lot bigger than usual. Setne (or Prince Khaemwaset) is an evil magician who wishes to combine Egyptian and Greek magic to become more powerful than all the Gods. In doing so, he threatens the very foundation of the world.

Rick Riordan has, without a doubt, become one of my auto-buy authors. I will read anything and everything that he writes. Having loved the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, I wasn’t the least bit hesitant about picking up this collection which focused a tad bit more on Egyptian mythology. The stories were short, fast paced and an absolute treat! My favourite has to be The Crown of Ptolemy. Percy and Carter’s friendship is just as heartwarming and filled with funny moments as is Sadie and Annabeth’s. Both the duos couldn’t be more unlike each other. But when they all come together at the end, oh boy. And even with the others, the interaction between characters is sketched out so commendably.

I haven’t read the Kane Chronicles, but suffice it to say, Percy will always be my favourite character. He is hilarious and has a beautiful relationship going on with Annabeth. This book reminded me just how much I missed Percy’s sass and headstrong personality. Time for a re-read of the PJ series. I’ve come to realize that I love Riordan’s full fledged novels a lot more, even if they are as chunky as the Heroes of Olympus books. Because short stories don’t really do much justice to his writing style and the potential of the story. What prevents me from giving this book 5 stars is that even though I can’t pick a single fault with the stories themselves, I would have rather liked to see them interwoven into a novel than cut short abruptly. All in all, I would 100% recommend this fantastic book to everyone who is interested in mythology.

Ratings – 4 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? Three really incredible and exciting reads that introduce you to Egyptian mythology. And if you need more motivation, have you seen the covers?

Book Review — The House That Spoke by Zuni Chopra

The House That Spoke is a story of how darkness makes its way into Kashmir, in the form of a demon that haunts Zoon’s house as well as the growing socio-political tension in society courtesy of militants. At 14 years of age, Zoon is a very spirited young girl, unaware of the power her lineage has. But as her fifteenth birthday looms near, she begins to realize that the strange occurrences are tied to her father’s bloodline, generations of Guardians meant to protect Kashmir and all of its inhabitants.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

At this point, it’s no surprise that I enjoy reading peculiar books. And if the title wasn’t explanation enough, EVERYTHING in Zoon’s house “speaks”. Remember the enchanted household objects in Beauty and the Beast? Exactly like that! Although, the books flinging themselves off the shelves was always a cringe-worthy moment. I liked the plot, despite its very obvious tropes of “the chosen one” and darkness being equated to the villainous  component. I LOVED the setting and how the author weaves a tale around the realistic situation in Kashmir; bringing to light the troubled lifestyle of locals who have to be on guard, lest they get caught in the crossfire between governmental troops and rebel militants. Zuni Chopra’s writing style perfectly reflected the cold, hilly vibes which makes this an apt wintery read.

Most of the times, I enjoyed the conversation between the household objects because their personification was interesting to observe. But I found it quite surprising that Zoon’s mother never really caught on to that. And try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to connect with or remotely like the protagonist (Zoon!). She was unnecessarily rude. And even though the burden of protecting her hometown ultimately lands on her shoulders, I couldn’t digest her butting into matters that were beyond her maturity. As far as I’m aware, in a household, you wouldn’t see 14 year olds making life-changing decisions or even intervening in such conversations between the elders. Zoon’s mother and Tathi (grandmother) are the two supporting characters. They come across as very affectionate and lenient, but shockingly they weren’t involved in the life threatening situations, even a least bit. The cover of this book and the illustrations on some of the pages is absolutely gorgeous. All in all, I didn’t like this novel as much as I had hoped to. Nevertheless, I’d recommend it to younger audiences.

Ratings – 2 out of 5 stars.

What do you get out of it? Those in and around the age group of 14 years may enjoy this a lot more than I did. That aside, this book captures a realistic portrait of the social scenario in Kashmir and envelops you in the vivid imageries of a winter wonderland.