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 — Chanakya by Ashok K. Banker

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

STORY: Ashok K. Banker in the first installment of his historical fiction series, the Chanakya trilogy, introduces us to the legendary figure as a young boy of 7 years age, also called Vishnu Gupta. Far from his home, in the city of Pataliputra, there’s a minister (Maha-Amatya Kartikeya) who rules by brute force and evokes great terror in the minds of the citizens. When Vishnu and his family head to Pataliputra for a congregation, his life gets bound in the chains of wanting to protect his family and doing the right thing.

 

REVIEW: I’ve always been intrigued by Indian historical fictions related to characters from the epics. And this one was such a wonderful read! I finished reading it in one day. The plot presents certain broad themes of battle between good and evil, importance of knowledge, tradition, monarchy etc. But the narrative that fills in the blanks is so refreshing because it draws a profile of an individual we’ve come to see as a  master-thinker, a guide to Bindusara and Chandragupta Maurya. So to read about Chanakya as a 7 year old was so fulfilling.

He has been portrayed as a boy who was extremely intellectual and had great powers of logic, understanding, far superior than the gurus and adults of that time. At times the maturity he displays can stupefy you; after all how often do you find children or even teenagers nowadays with such clarity of thought. The pace of the novel is fast and gripping. There are a few Sanskrit terms used here and there, but they enrich your reading experience all the more. The language used in this novel is quite suitable for intermediate readers. If you are not very well versed in English, you might want to keep a dictionary at hand. That said, you must read Chanakya by Ashok K. Banker. It is a splendid read, one that I highly recommend! I simply CANNOT wait for the second book in this trilogy.

RATING: 4.25 out of 5 stars

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT: An engaging tale of how Chanakya’s intelligence held him in high stead and brought him face to face with corrupt leaders.

Thank you Writers Melon and Westland Books for sending me a copy of this book 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?

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

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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

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

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

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

Ratings – 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

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

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 — Small Acts of Freedom by Gurmehar Kaur

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

“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 — Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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. 

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.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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

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 🙂

Image courtesy – Goodreads

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