Book review

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography, Non-fiction, Memoir

Length: 426 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group- Penguin Random Publishing House

Date of Publication: 13th November, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


I have always admired the charm and restraint shown by the Obama family, not to mention their achievements. Ever since I discovered that Michelle Obama has written a memoir, I have wanted to read it. When my friend discovered that I wanted to read the book, she decided to surprise me with it and what a nice thing that was!


The Blurb

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Book

I read very less of fiction and even less of biographies and autobiographies. They always feel like the author wants the reader to know just how amazing they are or how much they have suffered. So, although I was excited to read more about the Obamas and I knew that almost everyone who read the book ended up liking it, I was a bit skeptical.

The book is divided into three parts- Beccoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. As you could probably guess, the 1st part deals with Michelle Obama as she grows from a young black child in South Chicago to a smart young woman educated in Harvard Law School. Her struggles are the struggles that every child who grows up in an impoverished neighbourhood faces. She describes herself as lucky for having parents who had high expectations of her and her brother which made them work hard and realise that the only way out of the stigma of South-side was to achieve something measurable in the eyes of the people who matter.

I was impressed at how much her mother supported her even at a young age where she gives an example of how her mother made sure that she was taken out of the class where a disinterested teacher was in charge. I was also surprised at how Michelle and her brother Craig did not resort to rowdiness despite the amount of freedom that they got from their parents. They were encouraged to handle things on their own and be their own person. May be the amount of trust that the parents placed on them, coupled with the lack of strict boundaries meant that the children did not feel the need to rebel. I was also surprised at the number of times Michelle changed her jobs, every time to do something for her community. It instilled in me the thought that everyone can contribute to the society and we can start small and one day become the first lady and reach millions of people.

In the second part, we see Barack Obama enter Michelle’s world like a hurricane. He brings with him his uncompromising ethics. His charm makes everyone gravitate towards him. I was a bit shocked at the way their relationship unfolded. Until then, it had not even occurred to me that we can build a relationship between two people who are so different. All that is needed is both parties understanding that this is how the other person is and not trying to change them. I was glad that Michelle stuck to her work ethics and stayed in Chicago with the children and did not become a mere Senator-Wife like many of her contemporaries. Her experience at the Senator-Wife lunch reminds me of all the army spouses whose sole purpose seems to be about supporting their partners. It is very rare that their needs are taken care of. It was heartening to see Barack Obama as a father, to see him put the little ones above all, even his political career. That sense of family was perhaps what served them all till the end.

While the second part of the book felt a little too long and slow to me, the third part was my favourite. Here we see both the adult Obamas in their stride. They know that they have an immense amount of responsibility thrust upon them and they cannot fail the millions of people who depend on them to be their voices. The little Obamas too handle the pressure and the media presence in their own way and begin to grow into strong little women. I wish that we got to read more of how things were with the children but I understand Michelle’s need to protect them from public scrutiny. For children who spent nearly their entire childhood in the media glare, they handled themselves brilliantly with not even a single awkward picture or story surfacing till date. This holds good for the entire Obama team right from the POTUS and FLOTUS to the grandmother, brother and every single staffer. The values and morals of the Obama team, their love for everyone, their need to create better opportunities for the underdogs, their focus on health and healthcare was motivating. I wish every aspiring politician would inculcate at least some of their values. It was a very moving and inspiring tale that had me in tears plenty of times.

The Author

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is the wife of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

She was born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. After completing her formal education, she returned to Chicago and accepted a position with the law firm Sidley Austin, and subsequently worked as part of the staff of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, and for the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Michelle Obama is the sister of Craig Robinson, men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University. She met Barack Obama when he joined Sidley Austin. After his election to the U.S. Senate, the Obama family continued to live on Chicago’s South Side, choosing to remain there rather than moving to Washington, D.C.


TL;DR: A moving and inspiring tale of two well brought up adults who raise well adjusted children while governing the entire nation brilliantly


Do you like memoirs?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

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Book review, Readathon

The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty by Kavita Kane

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 325 pages

Genre: Mythology

Publisher: Westland Books

Date of Publication: 15th December, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


I had won this book in one of the very first giveaways that I had entered on Instagram but I hadn’t been able to read it for more than a year. Finally this March, I wanted to read books by female authors depicting strong women and this seemed perfect. I buddy read it with Anupama and had a ice time discussing the book with her.


The Blurb

‘I learnt to love like a man—to love without feelings. And I shall never forget this lesson.’

Matsyagandha, Daseyi, Yojanagandha — the queen of Hastinapur, Satyavati. Abandoned as a baby, preyed on by a rishi, she hardens herself, determined that the next time she is with a man, she will be the one to win. And win she does: the throne of Hastinapur for herself, and the promise that her sons will be heirs to the kingdom. But at what cost?

In a palace where she is disdained and scorned, Satyavati must set aside her own loss and pain if she is to play the game of politics. She learns to be ruthless, unscrupulous — traits that estrange her from everyone around. Everyone, except the man she cheated of his birthright.

A piercing, insightful look at the grand matriarch of the Kuru family, the woman who set off the sequence of events that ended in the bloody battle of Kurukshetra, The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty will re-align your reading of the Mahabharata.

The Book

I love reading different views of a known story. The story of Bhishma has always been told from his perspective and rightly so, with him being a fierce warrior and a just administrator. However, for his life to play out the way that it did, a lot of people’s lives were also intermingled in the tragedy. I always knew the story of Satyavathi as a catty woman who only cared about power. I never once wondered why that might be so. It is rightly said that history (or in this case, mythology) is told according to the whims and fancies of the victor. The victors here are the spoilt and pampered males in Satyavathi’s life who found it convenient to blame the unfortunate woman whose only fault was her ambition.

Although Sathyavathi was not moral or even right in most situations, she was true to her goals and kept her eye on the prize. She remained loyal to the crown till the very end. I did not like the way she kept manipulating Bhishma at every turn but I understood where her fire was coming from. She was tired of being the victim of fate and wanted to take things into her own hands and be responsible for everything that happened in her life, be it good or bad.

I loved how she was one of the original feminists. She considered herself equal to any man and did not understand why she needed to be subservient to anyone. She was smart and wily and her will power ensured that she got what she wanted. I was dismayed at how Amba was a mere pawn in the game of politics even though she was a princess. The status of women was decided only based on their construed purity, beauty, and their father’s status. I was glad to have read the story from the point of view of a woman who till now was considered opportunistic and evil. The book is well written although I felt like it contained unnecessarily long conversation in some places.

The Author

A senior journalist with a career of over two decades, which includes working for Magna publication and DNA, Kavita Kane quit her job as Assistant Editor of Times of India to devote herself as a full time author. A self-styled aficionado of cinema and theatre and sufficiently armed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature and Mass Communication from the University of Pune, the only skill she knows, she candidly confesses, is writing.
Born in Mumbai, a childhood spent largely in Patna and Delhi , Kavita currently lives in Pune with her mariner husband Prakash and two daughters Kimaya and Amiya with Chic the black Cocker Spaniel and Cotton the white, curious cat. 

Her work include;

  1. Karna’s Wife- The Outcast’s Queen (2013)
  2. Sita’s Sister (2014)
  3. Menaka’s Choice (2015)
  4. Lanka’s Princess (2016)
  5. The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty (2017)

TL;DR: A different look at a popular mythology that makes you sympathetic towards characters that you hadn’t liker earlier.


What was your favourite mythology story growing up?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

subscription box

Art Subscription Box- The Duende Box

Statistics

Curator: The Duende Box

Month: December

Theme: Florals

Price: Rs. 930/-

I love subscription boxes. They feel like little gifts to myself. They often have products that I would not have splurged on myself and it feels good to receive some love. I have subscribed to plenty of book subscription boxes in the past. I was really intrigued when I discovered The Duende Box and their concept.



The Duende Box is a monthly art subscription box that collaborates with artists around the world and shares a box of art supplies. I loved their Instagram feed and saw that the December box was themed ‘florals’ and would be based around watercolor. I’m always trying my hardest to get back to art so watercolor seemed right up my alley and I wasted no time in subscribing to them.

The monthly boxes are curated with art and artists in mind. The featured artist of the month has their original art work in the box and also provides instructions on replicating the same. My December box with the theme ‘florals’ featured @that.crazy.doodler and here is what it contained-

  1. Original floral watercolor art work by Vinita, the artist of the month
  2. Instructions card on making watercolor florals
  3. Five different @camlin_official@kokuyocamlin watercolor tubes in pretty colors
  4. A mixing palette (I still haven’t dared to use it since that is not how I usually work. It feels more abstract and my art is usually more methodical. It will be a good push out of my comfort zone)
  5. A speciality floral paintbrush with an angled edge
  6. A palette knife that I have not yet dared to use
  7. Masking tape which I find it very helpful with the bookmarks that I make
  8. A floral badge designed by the artist of the month (I absolutely love collecting pin badges and this one is so pretty!!)
  9. A double sided magnetic bookmark featuring white cat cafe (I love magnets as you well know)
  10. Two sets of artist grade paper
  11. Floral art card

They have previously had a card making box and a calligraphy box which I missed ordering. This month they have a resin clock making kit which looks dreamy. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience with The Duende Box and can’t wait to see what they come up with next


Have you subscribed to subscription boxes?

What are your favourites?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 358 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Henry and Holt Company

Date of Publication: 5th June, 2012

Rating: 5/5 stars


Shadow and Bone is the first book in the Grishaverse Trilogy. I’ve been wanting to read the series ever since I read Six of Crows. Hearing that the book is going to be adapted into an 8-episode series by Netflix meant that I absolutely had to read the books before that.


The Blurb

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

The Book

The book begins with Alina, an orphan from Ravka describing her days in the First Army and reminiscing about her past spent with her best friend Mal. The Grishaverse universe with its vast open plains and severe tundra climates as well as the character names are influenced by Russia. Leigh admits that the Darkness/Darkling is a metaphor for the evil that lurks within all of us.

I had already seen so many memes on Alina, Mal and the Darkling that I had formed an opinion about each of them. However, the magic of Bardugo meant that all those opinions were shattered and I was left reeling with the amount of character development that was done for each character, no matter how small. The descriptions of Botkin and the other Grishas in the Small Palace or the descriptions of the grandeur of the King’s palace or the beauty of Morozova’s herd left me salivating for more.

Although the premise of a sickly orphan girl discovering a power within herself that she didn’t know she had, her best friend whom she is secretly in love with ignoring her for prettier women, a dark prince noticing the heroine and her blooming under his care seems to be the way that every other YA story goes, there was just something about the way that the story was woven together and the characters that were created made the story very gripping. I could not stop reading the book and I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series will reveal.

The Author

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come.

Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.


TL;DR: A fast paced book that is sure to make you want to try and complete the entire series in a single sitting


Do you like TV adaptations of your favourite books?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife

Book review, Received for Review

She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Genre: Feminism, Short Stories

Length: 70 pages

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 2013

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review


As a part of the review program by Book Pitaara, I received She Wants Out and Other Stories as a review copy along with Pride March. I like reading short stories as a break between heavy reads.


The Blurb

Being a woman at some stage or other you realize how you were coaxed and coerced to become a round peg to fit a round hole. You couldn’t be allowed to turn into a square peg because then you wouldn’t have fitted into the slot which the society allows you. Everyone embarks on a quest for happiness and harmony. One has to make choices, provided one views oneself as having choices. These stories are about women – some, who were content to drift and others who tried to usher in a change. They have an appeal for every reader. They can be read passively or actively – passively for entertainment or actively for reflection. They stress on the need of independence in a woman’s life – a freedom from stuck-up cultural norms because the old rules are not always right.

The Book

I loved how small each story was but how much emotion was packed into each of it. Most of the stories could be read on a short coffee break but you cannot read the entire book in one go because the stories make you think.

I find that short stories are a gamble. When they are well written, you don’t want them to end but with others, the lack of depth is glaringly obvious. I wasn’t sure what I would find with She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb but since it was women’s month and this was a book that dealt with women and the reality of their lives, I thought it would be appropriate to read it then. And boy, was I glad that I did!
The book describes the lives of women that we all know and commiserate with. The reason that I loved every story was that there are certain aspects in each female character that I am sure we could all identify with. I loved that the author provided a realistic and often humorous look at everyday situations and managed to weave intricate stories in just two or three pages. I enjoyed each perspective and was glad that there was a representation of women from every decade of life. We see women dealing with the loss of their freedom and their right to choose, having to put up with inequality and abuse because the perpetrators are ‘family’ and having to live up to other people’s expectations even though it might not be the right thing for them.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the book and would love to read more of the author’s work.

The Author

Dr. Kiran Jhamb is an Associate Professor and the Dead of the Department of English in JMT Arts and JJP Science College, Nagpur. She has more than a hundred stories, poems and articles to her credit which have been published in different newspapers and magazines. She has also written two books.

Her work include:

  1. Wise to be a Fool
  2. Family Dustbin
  3. She wants out and Other Stories

TL;DR: A book filled with interesting short stories that deal with important social issues in a concise manner and leave you with enough emotions to last the entire day


What are some of your favourite short story collections?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 435 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date of Publication: 4th June, 2013

Rating: 5/5 stars


The second of the Grishaverse series, I read this book immediately after the first. I found it even more riveting than Shadow and Bone and cannot wait to read the next book in the series


The Blurb

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

The Book

The book begins where the first book left off. We are treated to the Sun Summoner and her ilk injured and fleeing the Darkling and his army. They now need to find a safe haven to rest and recuperate. They are saved by the Apparat’s army and are led to the underground caves by them. It is now that the actual siege and actual storm begin.

I always find that I like the second book in a series better than any other. It happened with the ACOTAR series, the Winternight series and now with the Grisha series. This book lets us really get to know the characters. We learn why they behave the way they do and what makes them tick. Here the Darkling-Alina-Mal triangle gets complicated with Nikolai added to it but it gets more fun as well. We don’t see too much of moping from Alina which was very annoying in Shadow and Bone. I still wish that fantasy authors stayed away from the ordinary -girl-who-was-invisible-until-she-discovers-that-she has-powers-gets-an-army-of-suitors trope, I found that I quite liked reading this series. I honestly was rooting was Mal all through the series and he is my favourite tragic character.

The Author

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.


TL;DR: A fast paced and action filled book that will make you crave for the next book


What are your favourite fantasy series?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 848 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date of Publishing: 26th February, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars


With all the hype surrounding the book even before the ARC was distributed, I knew that I absolutely had to read it as soon as the book was out. With its 848 pages, it was going to be one of the largest books that I would have read in recent times and I was excited to see how I would rise to the challenge.


The Blurb

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

The Book

The book contains every element that makes a fantasy fiction a hit among readers. It has magic and mages, queens and dragons, complicated family tree and rules of magic. I loved the fact that the main kingdom is a Queendom. As I am typing this, the in-built grammar check is pointing out that ‘Queendom’ is not a word. This makes it even more important that we make matriarchy as common a subject as patriarchy. The book is also filled with more homosexual relationships than heterosexual relationships. Although I am a big supporter of having LGBT representation in books, here it felt like the author is forcing the characters into it because that is what will get the book more popularity. It did not feel like the natural progression for some of the characters to me. However, I was really glad that same-gender marriages and couplings were such a norm in the book’s world that they could be as openly discussed in public as opposite gender couplings.

The book describes each event from various points of views. The description of the two kinds of dragons was breathtaking however I wish that certain aspects of the world were explained better. How did it come about that the eastern dragons who are regarded as Gods by the people have riders? Was there an event in history that made this a necessity? I also found quite a lot of unnecessary deaths at the beginning of the book. The deaths of Sulyard and Susa did not seem to play any part in the story development. In fact, had Susa been alive, it might have served as better motivation for Tane. Kit died too abruptly for the readers to even realise that he was dead. Although the book is peppered with deaths, none of them felt devastating for me since I had not formed a bond with any of the characters. Tane felt too wishy-washy, Sabran felt too mollycoddled in her environment, Ead felt too unrealistic and Roos felt explainably unlovable. I liked some of the minor characters like Meg and Loth. The flow of the conversation seemed jilted and forced.

For a book as long as this, I was finally beginning to be interested in the story only after about 70% of the book was completed. The complication with the Priory was predictable, as was the final battle. For all the build-up given regarding the Nameless One, he did not feature enough to be memorable. The end was abrupt and the author has left enough unsaid to validate a future second novel if she feels like it.

The Author

Samantha Shannon lives in London. She studied English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. Her work has been translated into twenty-six languages. The Bone Season, the first in a seven-book series, was a New York Times bestseller and the inaugural Today Book Club selection. Film and TV rights were acquired by the Imaginarium Studios.

Her work include:

  1. The Bone Season (2013)
  2. The Mime Order (2015)
  3. The Song Rising (2017)
  4. On the Merits of Unnaturalness (2015)
  5. The Pale Dreamer (2016)
  6. The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019)

TL;DR: A book that disappointed my high expectations with its predictable and forced plot line


What are some of the books that you had been waiting to be published?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram at @the_food_and_book_life

Book review

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) 

Length: 288 pages

Genre: History, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Australia

Date of Publication: 27th January, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars


I love reading historic fiction. It is one of my favourite genres. I especially love books based on the World War and the Holocaust because they represent a period in history that we must never forget. I had heard a lot about this book and could not wait to get started.


The Blurb

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions. 

The Book

I love reading historical fiction. It is one of my favourite genres. I especially like reading books based on the World War and the Holocaust because they represent a period in history that we must never forget. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a memoir of Lale, a Holocaust survivor. It begins with Lale being herded into the infamous cattle wagons and takes us on an emotional journey through the three years of his survival in one of the most horrific concentration camps in history.

Due to the author’s style of writing, the first half of the book did not have the kind of effect on me that I thought that it would. I don’t mean to imply that the story isn’t powerful because it is. But it did not make me bawl. However, the second half of the book and the Afterword by the author felt more personal and broke my heart to a million pieces. Some of Lale’s story seemed to rely mostly on luck, especially towards the end but for someone who lived through the unluckiest part of history, Lale can have all the luck in the world and it would still seem inadequate in comparison.

The Author

Heather Morris is a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, she was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed her life, as their friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.


TL;DR: A moving tale which could have been written better but one that is important for the world to know


What are your favourite historic fiction reads?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book club, Book review, Readathon

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 430 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historic Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Del Ray

Date of Publication: 5th October, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


I received this book as a part of the January 2018 Aurora Box of Dreams. I had in fact, requested this book in place of their BOTM but as happens with the best laid plans, I just didn’t seem to be able to begin reading this book for nearly a year. With the end of 2018 fast approaching, I had a few book blog goals to complete. One of them was to read books that were on my shelf for too long. First of such books was All the Bright Places which I received as a birthday present from my Bookstagram buddies and next was The Bear and the Nightingale.

Even with this goal in mind, I did not seem to find the inclination to start reading the book. I knew it received good reviews, I was sure that I would love it but I just did not seem to begin. Finally I saw that ecstatic yet chaotic had a readathon planned for this book and the next book in the series and I took it as an opportunity to begin reading. We also plan to read the next book in the series, The Girl in the Tower in time for the release of the last book of the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch.

The book is the first in the Winternight trilogy and has won several accolades like Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2018)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017)HWA Debut Crown Nominee for Longlist (2017)


The Blurb

“‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’ 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods… “

The Book

The book begins with the description of little Vasya and her rebellious excursions to the forest. I didn’t like the heroine much in the beginning but she grew on me as the story progressed. The book is fast paced with plenty of fantasy creatures that delight the reader. The influence from Russia for the landscape, the names, and the culture was very intriguing. The monsters and the demons were quite different from what we usually find and I found some of them particularly cute.

I was very glad that the author included both strong and open-minded men as well as weak, power-hungry, and superstitious ones in the story. I was even more glad to see strong female characters for  the little girl to draw inspiration from. What I really loved though, was the world building. It made everything come alive, especially the Winter King and his treasure. I was also intrigued about the subtle message to the reader regarding the importance of tradition and the call to not discard the old ways in favour of the new but to integrate them both together.

The Author

Born in Texas, Katherine studied French and Russian at Middlebury College. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, among other places. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she wrote much of The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.

Her work include:

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale (2017)
  2. The Girl in the Tower (2017)
  3. The Winter of the Witch (2019)

TL;DR: A fast paced book with plenty of fantasy creatures that delight and a world building that makes everything come alive.


Have you completed your reading goals for 2018?

What were they?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife

Book review

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Statistics

Norse Mythology

Format: Paperback 

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Mythology, Fiction, Fantasy, Short stories

Publisher: Bloomsbury publishers

Date of Publication: 6th March, 2018

Rating: 3/5 stars


I kept hearing rave reviews of Norse Mythology everywhere and wanted to read it. I like reading mythology and historic fiction and had previously loved Circe and The Song of Achilles that deal with Greek mythology and plenty of Indian mythology so I was very excited to start this book.


The Blurb

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her.

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters, each describing a Norse legend. The stories of Loki’s children, of Sif’s golden hair, of Odin’s sacrifices, of Thor’s strength, and Loki’s cunning are something that we have heard of. It was good to know the real reasons and back-stories of each of them. But unfortunately, the stories seemed to bore me because of the style of writing. Almost everybody that has read Neil Gaiman’s writing raves about it so I think I must read another of his books before I boycott him completely but I did not expect this book to disappoint me so much.

The stories that really got to me all had to do with Loki and his children. The descriptions of Hel and of the wolf brother killing his younger sibling were very sad. I would begin to hate Loki for all the trouble that he causes in each story but also feel sympathetic to him when he tries to find a way out of it. As the author says, you can hate Loki but you can’t help but love him. My favourite line from the entire book is Thor saying “When something goes wrong, the first thing that I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” That sentence is so quintessential of both Thor and of Loki!

Some of the scenes of the Avengers movies made more sense to me after I read this book but I felt that it was a very cut-and-dry approach to storytelling. Sentences seemed to be repeating themselves and the stories skipped a bit in between and left things to the reader’s discretion. It may have been my high expectations that lead to the disappointment but I wish that the book had more to offer.

The Author

Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis. As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading.

Neil Gaiman is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages. He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama.


TL;DR: A quick read with multiple short stories that explain the Norse Gods and their myths


Do you like reading mythology?

What is your favourite?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life