Book Review — Goodbye Freddie Mercury by Nadia Akbar

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Nadia Akbar’s debut novel, set in Pakistan, narrates the stories of the youth, as they grow up in a society ripe with corruption, volatile politics and gender bias. Nida and Bugsy are two such teenagers whose lives get entangled when they meet at a party. After her brother’s death, Nida has grown estranged from her family and chooses to spend her days smoking one joint after another. Bugsy is an RJ trying to harmonize rock music into the music scene in Lahore, a place that is still clinging to the tunes from years gone by.


Other than its hypnotic cover, the title and the premise of Goodbye Freddie Mercury were what drew me to the book. As I kept reading, I began to realize that there wasn’t a specific plot governing the storytelling. There was no discernible start, mid and end to the narrative; no conflict or climax driving the novel forward. Instead, it flowed with the ease of a story gradually unraveling at the touch of a reader. The author’s writing style is very poised and at the same time, makes frequent use of Hindi and Punjabi slang; thus catering to the readers of our subcontinent. It is also observant in its descriptions and fills in necessary details of the surroundings during a scene.

On the surface, this is a typical youth drama fiction. There’s a whole lot of drug and alcohol use, sexual content, petty rivalry, stereotypical characters. The extent to which the characters in this book are shown to be inebriated is quite alarming, considering the fact that they are barely young adults. Nida is your quintessential new girl, who quickly gets assimilated into this group of friends when she starts dating Omer, the supposed leader of the pack. The impression I got from her character depiction is that she is often not mindful of her actions, she doesn’t really stop to think what’s good for her and make choices based on sound judgement. Omer is a rather distasteful spoilt character, objectifying others and paying no heed to consequences. I had placed all of my faith on Bugsy to be somewhat more mature than the others. He is a lot more approachable and considerate.

All throughout, I was wondering how the title connects to the novel. Towards the end, you begin to understand the deeper meaning and I was super impressed. I wished there weren’t as many stereotypes in the book. On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone solely on the basis of how different the style is. It is more realistic and raw than you’d expect it to be.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? A novel about teenagers from the upper echelons of Lahori society, where insobriety and abuse of power are the norm of the day.

Thank you Penguin 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.

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

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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 — Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Just when Michael thought that they were done with the whole packing up and leaving, his parents announce otherwise. Now, he has to attend St. Clare’s Catholic School, which isn’t exactly the best place to be for an atheist like him. His presumptions of everyone being uptight and religious are flung out the window, when he gets initiated into a secret club called Heretics Anonymous. Even within the austere boundaries of this school, there exists a group of students who choose to have differing beliefs and aren’t ready to get brainwashed by the system. But when Michael takes it all a step too far, he jeopardizes everything he has worked to build.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

10 points for that cover!

What started out as a hilarious book soon turns into a bit of a serious read and rightly so. Michael’s wit and sarcasm will surely make you crack up at times. There’s such honesty in his thoughts. But underlying all that bravado you get the sense of boy flailing at his inability to stay rooted to a place, and therefore distraught by the constant disruption in his life. This is Katie Henry’s debut novel and I must admit that she has crafted a remarkable storyline. With everything that’s going on in our world, religious intolerance is something that has been cause for concern for a long time now. But do we ever stop to think how children perceive themselves through a religious angle, how do they fit into all this?

In this novel, it is very refreshing to see teenagers who are not only well informed about their choices but also standing up for their beliefs, however different they may be. When Michael joins Heretics Anonymous, he is met with a broad range of thought processes; those belonging to a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan, a Catholic Christian and others that I hadn’t even heard about. The author’s writing complements the story, in that, you feel like you’ve been taken back to your school days. It’s not wordy or hard to digest. It has everything a high-school fiction usually does – drama, betrayal, romance (puppy love?), rebelling. But on top of all that, it has some mature viewpoints too!

Michael’s relation with his father is strained but I couldn’t help feeling bad for them both. In my opinion, they are both right on their part. I just wish that they’d talked it out sooner, because it would’ve prevented a lot of negativity. I didn’t personally connect with any of the characters, but that didn’t deter me from being invested in their story. In conclusion, I did enjoy reading this book, even though I couldn’t understand the hype. If you are the kind of person who gets easily offended by religious and spiritual diversity, maybe this book is not for you. But I hope that’s not true. I hope you can pick up a book like this in good faith and just have fun reading it.

Ratings – 3.5 out of 5 stars

What do you get out of it? New perspective on religious identities and all the excitement of attending high-school.

Thank you HarperCollins for this eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for 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.

Image Courtesy – Goodreads

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 — Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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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?