Book review, Received for Review

The Code of Manavas by Arpit Bakshi

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 280 pages

Genre: Indian Literature, Mythology, Science fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Date of Publication: 10th July, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


The Code of Manavas is the first book in the Maha Vishnu Trilogy. It has been quite a while since I’ve read any sci-fi and Indian mythology is always fun to read so I was very excited to read the book.


The Blurb

Book one of the Maha Vishnu Trilogy, The Code of Manavas, is set some two million years past ad 2050, when earth as we know it ceased to exist and so did mankind. A new race, the Manavas, now exists on Bhoomi, the erstwhile Earth, which is divided into two cities—Madhavpur and Ayudhpur. In the quiet and peaceful city of Madhavpur, a reclusive Krishna is busy with an immense task. He has to prepare a new abode for the Manavas before an impending apocalypse destroys them. He knows something that nobody else does—the Manavas are running out of time faster than they can imagine and there are no inhabitable planets to escape to. To make matters worse, there is someone in Madhavpur who wants to destroy Krishna and subjugate each Manava. The Manavas, it seems, are doomed. Yet Krishna knows there is a slim chance of survival for the Manavas, although there is a huge price to be paid for it. Will the various factions of the Manavas unite for the greater good? Will Krishna, who saved them during the turn of the last Yuga, be able to save them now? What will be the price to pay? Enter the mythical world of Maha Vishnu and get swept up in a fast-paced suspenseful narrative.

The Book

The book is set in the future and begins with the description of an advanced group of people called Manavas who have evolved from humans with the help of a mysterious element, Bhoomodium. Bhoomodium increases the cognitive efficacy of the people and also renders them immortal but it has other consequences that they discover as time progresses. The author’s research on cosmic phenomenon and scientific facts regarding brain functioning is apparent throughout the book. The Krishna in the Swarnim Yuga and the Krishna that we all know from the Dwapara Yuga have been connected to each other in a variety of interesting angles but I wish that they had been explored more.

While the first couple of chapters were engaging, the book started to veer off into expected tangents as the story progressed. The introduction of a tragic love story and a partial love triangle seemed unnecessary seeing that it did not play any role in plot development. It seemed half-hearted with the introduction of the characters of Vallabha and Meera who was created just to satisfy the author’s need to introduce female characters into the story. The lack of representation of women as lead characters or even as council members irked me but what really upset me was how the other women were depicted. The so-called ‘guide’ who knows the lay of the land ends up twisting her ankle and having to be carried by the man, she does not notice that a Leopard is stalking her even though it is her job to collect samples and must always be aware of her surroundings. She is then again rescued by the ‘hero’ of the story. The woman who claims to be strong and is outdoorsy falls off the boat at the beginning of the journey and needs to doze and rest while the man who hardly ever ventures out of his lab gets them to their destination. A very obvious ‘damsel in distress rescued by the brilliant man’ theme was apparent throughout the book. The women were all portrayed as having only romance on their minds with both Vallabha and Radhika needing validation of their feelings from Krishna.

The book was slow in some parts but skipped over details in others. The sentence flow did not seem consistent, almost like it was edited by multiple people at multiple places and it was not brought together in the end. The plot was pretty much see-through throughout the book and none of the characters were particularly likable to me.

The Author

Arpit Bakshi studied electrical engineering and has an MBA in finance from the University of RPI, Troy, New York. He now works for a prominent Indian bank. Arpit initially wanted to pursue a career in theoretical physics, but ended up opting for engineering (as most students of science in India tend to do). Since his childhood, two things have never failed to amaze him—the vast expanse of the cosmos; and the unfathomable depth of Indian mythology and spirituality. He believes that one should never stop learning and it is his love for science that has gravitated him towards writing this mythology-inspired science fiction. Arpit is based in Gurgaon, India.


TL;DR: A book with a promising premise that unfortunately does not deliver on its promise


What is your favourite science fiction?

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

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Book Reveal, Promotion

Policy of Truth by Scarlett Holloway- Blog Tour

statistics

Genre: Mystery

Length: 278 pages

Date of Publication: 22nd February, 2019

Pre-order: 22nd January, 2019


The Blurb

After ending an abusive relationship, all Tamra ‘Durty’ Simons wanted was to reinvent herself and meeting Lace Beck gave her the opportunity to do just that.
However, a long journey of picking up the pieces didn’t prepare her for Sting’s appearance in her life.
Brett ‘Sting’ Jackson, was on a mission. Infiltrate the Death Angel MC and keep an eye on them. It was supposed to be simple─until Durty. Trying to gather intel was harder when falling for Durty seemed inevitable.
A foundation based on lies is sure to crumble, but when a rival club attacks the Angels, Sting and the Muerte Roja put their lives on the line to ensure Durty and the club is kept safe.
When the truth surfaces and passions ignite, will love be the only thing that survives?

The Author

Growing up on Central Coast, Scarlett Holloway always dreamed of seeibg her name on the cover of a book and on the NYTBS list. What better way than to bring a part of her past onto the pages of a novel, as well as writing about issues that women face on a daily basis? When she is not in her bunny hole writing, she is a massage therapist, trying to her people through therapeutic healing. Scarlett is hopelessly devoted to her husband, who she lovingly calls her plotbunny, and her teenage son.

You can contact Scarlett Holloway on her social media here-

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ascarlettssong/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScarlettsSong Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thescarlettholloway/


Author’s upcoming work

Scarlett Holloway also has a new book in the works- Texas Heat (Part I of the Double J Saga) to be released in April 2019.

If you wish to own a copy of policy of Truth, enter this giveaway by January 22nd. Click below to enter-

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/efe433001/?fbclid=IwAR3nvcwXrAjQpWvmlPRFycR8Zjp9nDEGjDnd8dDtZMddaGZXSOJXx1mVTXE


You can also follow the blog tour here-

Book review, Received for Review

Sophie Washington: Secret Santa by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Statistics

Format: Paperback 

Length: 120 pages

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Page Turner Publishing

Date of Publication: 9th September, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


Kay Macleod organised an Indie Advent Calendar like she has been doing for the last two years. Through the advent calendar I met several authors and Tonya was one of them. I love reading children’s fiction. This seemed to be the perfect read for the Christmas season and I was very excited to read it.


The Blurb

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Christmas is three weeks away and a mysterious “Santa” has been mailing presents to sixth grader Sophie Washington in this adorable, illustrated chapter book for middle grade readers. There is no secret Santa gift exchange going on at her school, so she can’t imagine who it could be. Sophie’s best friends, Chloe, Valentina, and Mariama guess the gift giver is either Nathan Jones or Toby Johnson, two boys in Sophie’s class who have liked her in the past, but she’s not so sure.

Sophie uncovers clues to find her secret Santa and the final reveal is bigger than any package she’s opened on Christmas morning. It’s a holiday surprise she’ll never forget!

The Book

The story revolves around sixth grader Sophie Washington, her family and friends, especially her little brother Cole with his corny jokes who was my favourite. It is almost time for christmas break when sophie begins to receive packages from her Secret Santa. In the boxes she finds her favourite candies, a gingerbread house, and jewelry. She racks her brain to figure out who could be sending things to her and how they know what her favourite things are.

Along with this vein of mystery, the book also has other important aspects like dealing with bullies, forgiveness, and the importance of friendship and which makes it a wholesome read. I was reminded of Enid Blyton books because of the very clear distinction between right and wrong, good family values, and kids who are still innocent and likable. I now desparately want to read all the books in the series for their feel good factor.

The Author

Tonya Duncan Ellis is the author of the Reader’s Favorite “Five Star” rated Sophie Washington children’s books series, geared toward readers ages 8 to 12 and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She has received awards for literary excellence and worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer.

Tonya was born and raised in Louisville, KY and has also lived in Michigan, South Carolina, Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana, London, England, and Strasbourg, France. She currently resides in Houston, TX. When she’s not writing, the author enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel and spending time with her husband and three children. 

Her work include:
1. Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee (2013)

2. Sophie Washington: Things you Didn’t Know About Sophie (2013)

3. Sophie Washington: The Snitch (2014)

4. Sophie Washington: The Gamer (2017)

5. Sophie Washington: Hurricane (2018)

6. Sophie Washington: Mission Costa Rica (2018)

7. Sophie Washington: Secret Santa (2018)


TL;DR: A feel good book with mystery, humor and wholesome values


What did you do this Christmas season?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 96

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Readomania

Date of Publication: June 2016

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


The author is a professional chess player which intrigued me since I played semi-professionally for about 7 years. The author also promised that I would love the smattering of words in my mother tongue, Kannada. I never find books with Kannada words in them so I was very excited to begin reading.
The book is curated and edited by Readomania, an independent publishing house who support new and up-coming authors.


The Blurb

Unknown to Nayan, the library he inherits from his deceased father, is a mysterious place. Hiriya Halepu, Pu.Nayaka, Kapshi and and many others live there. They have a secret world with celebrations, romances, pangs of separation and conflicts. This is the Book-World. As two souls in this world fall in love, they encounter a strange predicament that separates them from each other. Things go from bad to worse when an unknown enemy sends a threat of destruction to this whole mysterious world. They call their resolute protector, Helmine, who unravels many unknown facets of this world, in an attempt to save it from the danger. The lovers struggle to find each other, and Helmine tries hard to decipher the threat messages. But will she be able to save this world from destruction? Will the two souls in love be united? There are no easy answers. Because, this is no ordinary Library, this is the place where books come to life.

The Book

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance is a short read that started out promising. It is the story of a library that comes to life after sundown, something similar to The Night Museum movies. I was curious to see how the author would adapt the concept to a library. An unwitting son inherits a library full of very special books. They have leaders among themselves, they have books that are noble and books that are mischievous, they have a network similar to our internet, they have means of communication similar to our text messages. They form an entire community of their own.

Unfortunately, as the story progressed, I had to deal with quite a lot of disappointment. The characters that were introduced in the beginning were not developed later in the story. The owner of the library and the two young children who I thought would play a role in the story were only randomly seen. With a multitude of new concepts and characters, the book was too short to do any of them justice. The ‘unlikely romance’ also did not feature much in the story.

Another thing that irked me was that the author gave spoilers to a lot of books in the process of describing them. He even described how some books end which is just not cool. The entire story of Fahrenheit 451 was revealed. I bought the book just a couple of months ago and was excited to read it and felt betrayed by the author.

On the positive note, the book was excellently edited, had no grammatical inconsistencies and had no typographical errors.

The Author

Niranjan Navalgund is a young chess professional who derives great pleasure in learning about life through the game of chess. He is a former National U-17 Chess Champion and a Commonwealth Silver medalist in the U-18 Category. He has been conferred with ‘Indradhanushya’ (2007) ‘Giants International Award’ (2009), ‘Kreeda Ratna’ Award (2010) and ‘Belgaumite of the year’ Award (2012) for his achievements in the field of Chess. He is a lover of words and occasionally tries his hand at writing stories and poems. He believes that writing is a wonderful exercise for the soul. Being a bibliophile, he harbours a special interest in the New Age Philosophy. Unusual stories excite him. He hopes to visit the Panda Zoo, someday. Niranjan lives with his family in Belagavi.

His work include:

  1. Chronicles of Urban Nomads (2014)
  2. A Little Chorus of Love (2015)
  3. A Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance (2016)
  4. Over a Cup of Chai (2018)

TL;DR: A quick read that introduces quite a lot of interesting concepts but needed more pages to truly explore them


Do you like reading children’s fiction?

What do you most like about them?

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

Book review, Giveaway

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 126 pages

Genre: Poetry, Spirituality, Philosophy, Classics

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Date of Publication: 2017; First published in 1927

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


I received this book as a giveaway win from @reader_viddh. Everybody has been raving about the book and it seemed interesting to find an insight into another religion so I was very interested in reading it. I am not a big fan of poetry but I found that the book was beautifully written and I could handle it quite well.


The Blurb

A book of twenty-six poetic essays written in English, Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet is full of religious inspirations.

With the twelve illustrations drawn by the author himself, the book took more than eleven years to be formulated and perfected and is Gibran’s best-known work. It represents the height of his literary career as he came to be noted as ‘the Bard of Washington Street’.

The Prophet has chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

The Book

The book begins with the prophet lamenting about having to leave the place that he has come to love even though he is actually going back home. It describes a pain that all of us have felt when we have been used to living in a place that is home away from home. I found the first half of the book relatable but as the book progressed it seemed to incline more towards a fanatical approach towards life than practical. But seeing that the book was written a century ago, I think it was way ahead of its time.

In the first chapter ‘Coming of the Ship’, the author says “love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”. I found this to hold true even for non-romantic love. It is only when we lose something that we seem to realise its importance. Later in the chapter titled ‘Marriage’, he says “we shall be together […] but let there be spaces in our togetherness.” It amazed me to see that a book written in 1927 could place so much importance on individuality and space in a relationship. Compared to the relationship advice that we saw in the latter half of that century, I was sad that such thinking existed but we did not carry it forward.

About ‘Giving’, the author says “is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?”. He later gives more examples to show that greed is what consumes most people. This resonated with me because we now see countries that have an excess of resources being stingy and ‘saving up’ for a later date while in fact they would be more at peace and happier if they would just let people make use of everything that they have to offer. When asked about ‘Talking’, the author says “when you talk you cease to be at peace with your thoughts. And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.” I remember someone saying “when you talk you stop listening”. As an introvert who has trouble finding things to talk about in social situations, this made a lot of sense. I often find that people talk for the sake of talking and it does nothing to help the knowledge base of the talker nor the listener. This chapter validated a lot of thoughts that I had about talking and listening.

When asked about ‘Pleasure’, the author said: “your body is the harp of your soul and it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds”. Again, I was surprised by the amount of freedom that the author gives to the individual. Rather than telling the woman that she exists for the pleasure of the males, he tells her that she is in control of her body and her mind. Later in the last chapter, ‘Farewell’ the author says […] you are as weak as your strongest link. This is half the truth. You are as strong as your strongest link. To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam”. This is great advice even in the present day. We see so many interviewers asking the interviewee what his weakest skill is and instead of helping to work on it or on his strengths, he is not even given a job. Concentrating on the weakest link is a very negative approach to a situation and I believe that solving an issue using everybody’s strengths will be quicker than eliminating people based on their weaknesses.

The book is a quick read but has life lessons in every paragraph. It makes you think. As a person who does not read much of poetry, I must say that it managed to keep my attention throughout. I don’t read religious books so I was a bit apprehensive about what I would find in this book but I was pleasantly surprised that it did not allude to any religion even in a roundabout way. Although I did not agree with some of the chapters, I would recommend the book to everyone at least as a means of having a philosophical discussion if not a spiritual or a religious one.

The Author

Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer.

Born in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon (then part of Ottoman Mount Lebanon), as a young man he emigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career. In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, especially prose poetry, breaking away from the classical school. In Lebanon, he is still celebrated as a literary hero.

He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture.

Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.


TL;DR: A book written a century ago that still has lessons for us in the present day.


Do you read philosophical books?

What is your favourite?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Heirs of Power by Kay Macleod

Statistics

Format: Paperback 

Length: 362 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Date of Publication: 15th October, 2016

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I requested a copy of the book from the author as a part of the Indie Advent Calendar. Kay is the nicest person and I am having the best time interacting with her. She has a cool concept with the advent calendar where she provides opportunities for indie authors and bloggers to meet and collaborate.


The Blurb


After stumbling upon an otherworldly ritual, Kitty Fairlow discovers that her own incredible hunting skills are not merely due to a lifetime of training. She has been gifted powers from an ancient spirit, passed down by her father. She is a Constellation.
And she’s not the only one.
A new generation of heroes have each inherited unique abilities in order to prevent the corruption of their world by the Tenebri, a race that thrives on life energy. Kitty, along with a high-born Dancer and a snarky Juggler, must find their allies before the Tenebri army picks them off.
With the powerful enemy emerging, can the Constellations gather in time to put an end to the threat for good, or will their foe succeed and wreak the same destruction they have unleashed on their own world?

The Book

The book begins with the usual premise of a young, smart, and athletic girl discovering her hidden powers and ancestry. She is protected by her father but has her own set of family tragedies that put things in perspective for her when she is forced to make tough decisions. I was glad to see that the author did not make her inaccessible as most authors do. Kay shows that a female character can be tough and strong but at the same time, nurturing and sweet. I did feel that Kitty was a bit of a pushover in the first half of the book but as the story progressed, she started to stand up for herself and it made me respect her more.

What felt unbelievable to me was the fact that these were just second generation Constellations but none of the civilians seem to remember the war. A war, no matter how secret, would have affected the lives of hundreds of people and they would still be in the process of rebuilding. I surprised myself by being suspicious of every new character when they were introduced. I wonder when I got so cynical and I love the fact that books give us a peek into our very own souls.

The book has both action and humor. I enjoyed the banter between Kitty and Asher. But I felt that for a book that is 362 pages long, the story did not progress as much as I hoped it would. A couple of chapters very a tad bit slow but I attributed it to the need for the introduction of so many new characters. The author managed to flawlessly introduce concepts of energy beings and various powers without overwhelming the reader. The book is the perfect launchpad for the next book in the series and I hope that we get to see a meatier storyline in the sequel.

The next book in the series- The Mage-Lord’s Legacy is set to release on the 9th of December. The cover and blurb are available on the author’s Instagram here.

The Author

Kay Macleod is a fantasy addict who has always loved the concept of magical worlds.

She was the kid with dragons doodled around the edge of her school work, the one with her head constantly buried in a book. As a teen, she shunned partying to play Magic the Gathering and DM Dungeons and Dragons games.

Through the years, she always made up stories and took characters on amazing adventures, in the privacy of her own mind and later felt the need to share them with other people.

Kay lives with her husband and cat in Nottinghamshire in England. When she is not writing (or planning something  about writing) she is usually working, reading, playing bass for her church’s worship team, playing computer games (World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Pokemon, Minecraft) or drinking tea.


TL;DR: A book filled with witty characters that makes you want to read the next book in the series


What is your favourite fantasy series?

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

Book club, Book review

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) PicsArt_08-18-03.09.33-min

Length: 378 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Mental Health

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Date of Publication: 6th January, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars


All the Bright Places was one of the BOTM for the Book Club. I love reading for bookclubs and readlongs because it is an almost sure thing that the books are going to be great. WE also find a lot of different interpretations of a story which makes for interesting discussions.

The book is apparently also being adapted into a movie which will be interesting. I am always on the look out for more books that deal with mental health because it cannot be talked about enough so I was very excited about reading it.


The Blurb

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The Book

On the surface, All the Bright Places is a tried and tested story. A troubled boy and a sweet girl with a tragic past are brought together for a project and each one helps the other in ways that they do not understand and they fall hopelessly in love with each other. We have read hundreds of books and watched thousands of movies with the same plot. What makes this book different is the way each issue was handled. Mental health was not made trivial nor was it romanticized. It was reiterated that professional help is required and an individual cannot fight his way out without a strong support system.

I loved the character of Violet. She was not inherently good or bad. Her shades of gray made her endearing. Her struggles with guilt and trying to put on a brave face for her parents were moving. I did not take to Finch’s character so easily. I did not like the way that he expected the world to dance to his tunes while he did what he pleased. This issue cropped up again when Finch threw rocks at Violet’s window and threatened to wake up the whole neighbourhood if she didn’t go out in the middle of the night with him to god knows where. I wish authors would stop turning situations like this into something desirable. It sets a bad precedent when a girl who is clearly not comfortable with a situation is coerced into doing something because ‘it is good for her’.

I was glad that the author stayed true in descriptions of depression and manic. She did not try to miraculously find a cure for it nor suggest that falling in love with Violet and having those feelings reciprocated could cure Finch of his disease. I grew to like his character towards the middle of the book especially with the running for flowers scene. Having said that, I must applaud the author for painting this realistic picture and showing that dealing with mental illness is no joke.

The Author

All the Bright Places is Jennifer Niven’s first book for young adults. By the time she was ten, she had already written numerous songs, a poem, two autobiographies, a Christmas story, several picture books, a play, a series of prison mysteries, a collection of short stories and a partially finished novel.

In 2000 she started writing full-time, contributing to her web magazine and dabbling in TV. Although she grew up in Indiana, she now lives in Los Angeles.

Her work include:

  1. The Ice Master (2000)
  2. Ada Blackjack (2003)
  3. The Aqua Net Diaries (2009)
  4. Velva Jean Learns to Drive (2009)
  5. Velva Jean learns to Fly (2011)
  6. Becoming Clementine (2012)
  7. American Blonde (2014)
  8. All the Bright Places (2015)
  9. Holding up the Universe (2016)

TL;DR: A beautifully written book that made me cry and put me in a big time book-coma


What are some of the books that you liked that dealt with mental health?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Horse Town by Moshank Relia

Statistics

Format: Paperback IMG_20181016_130023_580-min

Length: 74 pages

Genre: Children’s fiction

Publisher: Pigeon Post Literary Press

Date of Publication: 1st October, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


I love reading children’s books. They have an innocence about them that is always missing in every other genre. I had heard good reviews for the author’s debut book so I jumped at the chance to read this one when the author offered a review copy.

The Blurb

Horse Town is a story of two boys who are brought together by chance and bound together by their willingness to make sacrifices to each other- and strangers. The young boys, Arjun and Maruthi, live together in a single room, scraping together a meagre living by doing odd jobs.
Beside their residence looms the mansion of the reclusive Uncle Grim, a mysterious man who inexplicably receives free food and services from the townspeople. Uncle Grim is even rumoured to practice magic!
When two other boys from the town go missing and Arjun’s hard-earned coins begin to disappear, Arjun and Maruthi search for answers. Something has to explain these strange events. Could it be the peculiar and private Uncle Grim?

The Book

Horse Town is a short but sweet read. The book has beautiful illustrations both on the cover and on the inside by the author. It is a story of trust, friendship, and bonding. The story revolves around two orphan boys who have only each other to rely upon. Arjun has been living on his own for three years and his heart goes out to Maruthi who seems abandoned on the streets. He takes on the responsibility of creating a respectable life for the younger boy even though his efforts seem to be in vain.

The character of Uncle Grim gives the story a much-needed oomph. What was a simple story until then, takes a turn towards a mystery. We find ourselves rooting for Arjun at every turn. I was heartbroken when he believes that his trust was misplaced.

The story has you on your toes right until the end wondering who the culprit really is. It has naivety, intrigue, mystery and lightheartedness that make it a very ‘feel good’ book. It highlights the human nature of suspicion and showcases how important it is to trust your gut.

The author kept in mind the age of the book’s audience. The font is comfortable to read and the illustrations are simple to understand. The book can also be used as a readalong in schools or for parents that want to introduce the concept of trust, hard work, and friendship to young readers.

The Author

Moshank Relia is a graduate in English literature and has earned certificates in creative writing, sketching and theatre. He also holds a diploma in photography and has worked as a fashion photographer. He has trekked a number of high-altitude ranges in the Himalayas, including the mighty Rupin Pass (15,250ft.), Kedarkantha (12,850ft.) and the Kuari Pass (12,516ft.). His love for adventure, his deep affection for kids and his wide-ranging creative experiences drove him to write children’s fiction. Even though he is based in New Delhi, he can often be found sauntering along Camel Back Road, Mussoorie, where he spent most of his teenage years.

His work include:

  1. Adventures in Farland (2017)
  2. Horse Town (2018)

TL;DR: A short but in no way simple read that introduces concepts of trust, friendship and hard work to young readers


What was your favourite book as a kid?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar by Kochery C. Shibu

Statistics

Format: Paperback

men and dreams in the dhauladhar

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Date of Publication: 3rd August, 2015

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


I had seen this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram and was curious. When the author asked me if I would review the book, I was a bit apprehensive with all the warnings that I was given regarding the technical aspects in the book. But I was also curious since I have been known to end up liking technically sound books.


The Blurb

A hydro power project in the remote Himalayas.
Three people brought together by fate. Nanda, an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love of his dear ones and the traditional kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a boy displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot threatening to blow up the dam, working as a labour at the site.
Rekha, a Kathak dancer in heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the camp site like moths to a flame. Some escape untouched,successful; some miss a step and perish.
Each has a story to tell and a dream to realize. The fury of nature and hardship of project life has no mercy for the weak and time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their limb and life in their quest to full fill their dreams.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters that describe the life of different characters and how the choices of each person lead them towards a common destiny. I love books that take what look like random strangers and build the story in a way that their life decisions interconnect them with each other to form a common story. It was nice to see the book achieve this goal towards the end. The beginning of the book was also intriguing where the author gives us backstory to each character. The middle of the book though felt a bit too long.

I always prefer dialogue and action over description. That being said, I have liked descriptive books when the descriptions help make the story. Unfortunately, in this book, I felt that the descriptions did not do much to further the story. Had all the part of dam building and interaction between the workers been removed, the story would not have really changed. It just felt like fluff that the author added to increase the number of pages of the book to an acceptable amount. Had he concentrated more on the military aspects of terrorism or just concentrated on the intricacies of each character like he did in the beginning, it would have made for a better reading. I was surprised to find that I almost liked the actual technical aspects of building of the dam. It was the frivolous conversations between the labourers and the mundane details of their lives that got to me. The random use of vernacular also felt unnecessary. The author may have tried to bring in authenticity to the story by incorporating slangs but it did not flow smoothly and made for a very jarring reading experience.

The descriptions of the mountains, the terrains, and snow-capped peaks reminded me of my own trip to Kashmir, Darjeeling, and Gangtok. The premise of the terrorist with good intentions, the brilliant girl with a wild heart, and the simple man forced into a family feud were believable having grown up watching Bollywood movies in the same vein. I would have loved to read more on each character in order to make them feel more real. I would also have liked to see what happened to the terrorists’ plan and to know the reason for them picking the Dhauladhar dams as their site of terror attacks. It felt like the book ended a tad too abruptly.

The Author

Kochery C Shibu graduated from the prestigious National Defence Academy in 1981. He has served in the Indian Navy and commanded two warships. Post his retirement he has executed hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka, Beas river basin in Himachal and Teesta river basin in Sikkim. He holds a postgraduate degree in Defence Studies from Chennai University, and MA in English literature from Pune University.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is his debut novel. The technical content of the novel, namely the setting up of a hydro-project is drawn from his experience in these projects since 2005, as are many of the characters inspired from those whom he encountered on site.
Kochery C Shibu was born in Kochi and now lives in Bangalore with his wife and daughter.


TL;DR: A book with very detailed descriptions of events that is sure to be liked by people who like description over dialogue


What do you prefer?

Description, dialogue or action?

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

Book club, Book review

All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) all about love-min.jpg

Length: 240 pages

Genre: Self-help, Non-fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: 30th January, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars


All About Love was the book of the month for September in the book club hosted by Rashi. We read woman-centric books and focus on non-fiction as much as fiction. In August we read THUG and in July, When I Hit You. As a person who needs an extra push towards the non-fiction genre, I was glad that I found it here.


The Blurb

“All About Love offers radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. In thirteen concise chapters, Hooks explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood. She offers a rethinking of self-love (without narcissism) that will bring peace and compassion to our personal and professional lives, and asserts the place of love to end struggles between individuals, in communities, and among societies. Moving from the cultural to the intimate, Hooks notes the ties between love and loss and challenges the prevailing notion that romantic love is the most important love of all.

Visionary and original, Hooks shows how love heals the wounds we bear as individuals and as a nation, for it is the cornerstone of compassion and forgiveness and holds the power to overcome shame.

The Book

I am not usually a fan of self-help books and non-fiction does not usually excite me. This book is a combination of both of those genres and reiterated to me why I prefer to stay away from them. The book is divided into thirteen chapters on different kinds of love and how they play a role in the growth of a person. While this concept seemed interesting to me, I was sorely disappointed in its execution. The author was repetitive and self-centered and I was tired of all the self-praise that I saw throughout the book. I do realise that the book is the manifestation of the author’s life experience but I would have loved to read more of the author’s loses and not just her triumphs. It would have definitely made the book more believable to me.

In the introduction, the author says “When a woman over 40 talks about love, the sexist thinking is that she is ‘desperate for a man'”. I see this in every walk of life. Any woman who does not have a man in her life after a particular age is dubbed ‘frustrated’ and her every action is linked to not being happily in love. When was it decided that a woman requires a man in her life for happiness? Not everyone’s goal in life is to snare a man. This kind of thinking needs to stop before the society can make any real progress.

Later, in the first chapter, the author says “learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving when we are older”. This is one of the chapters that I liked in the book. It opens a lot of dialogues like the counter-productiveness of teaching children that a boy who pulls a girl’s hair or pushes her down in the playground is only doing it because he likes her. Both boys and girls must be taught the right way to express their feelings and to stop the destructive behaviour before it becomes the norm. I liked how the author explains that when we invest feelings and emotions in a person, we form a cathexis which makes us believe that we love them even when they hurt or neglect us. The thought of ‘I have invested so much time and energy into this relationship to just give up on it’ is one of the reasons that many people stay in an unsatisfying relationship. The quicker the people realise that time is wasted in such relationships the better.

My favourite thing in this chapter was when the author said, “care is a dimension of love but simply giving care does not mean we are loving”. Care is just one of the properties of love and not love itself. It is very important to realise this especially when faced with a narcissist who appears to be caring but in reality, is only manipulating the expression of love.

What I did not agree with is the author’s claims that two parenting figures are necessary for the child to appeal to the second parent regarding any misunderstanding or miscommunication. But this goes against all the popular parenting theories which claim that the parents need to present a united front when making any decision for the child. If we are to use the author’s theory, how does one parent not undermine the other? I also did not like how the author gave an example of fixing the problem regarding a friend’s daughter’s allowance. It was an isolated and rare incident that not many others can emulate. Not every mother would allow a friend to determine things like giving an allowance to her child. This is another example of how the author used exemplary instances of her life to generalise rules for the readers.

I loved how the author pointed out that the power and privilage are accorded to men simply because they are males with a patriarchal culture. With the very essence of feminism being threatened every day, this is a very important statement that all of us would do well to remember. However, I certainly did not agree with the author when she claimed that women gossip more than men. Even with the reason that she gave, it does not give her the right to make such claims especially when surveys like the ones conducted by Telegraph and Daily Mail in the UK say the opposite.

The concept that most workers do not do the work that they love but we can all enhance our capacity to live purposely by learning how to experience satisfaction in whatever work we do was interesting. I will try to emulate it to my work but I think that it will be easier said than done in the present day work culture and the pressure that we are all under.

The Author

Bell Hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is an African-American author, feminist, and social activist. Her writing has focused on the interconnectivity of race, class, and gender and their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination. She has published over thirty books and numerous scholarly and mainstream articles, appeared in several documentary films and participated in various public lectures. Primarily through a postmodern female perspective, she has addressed race, class, and gender in education, art, history, sexuality, mass media and feminism.


TL;DR: A thought provoking read which you will need to take your time with


What are some of your favourite non-fiction reads?

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