Book review

Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 512 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (PanMacmillan)

Date of Publication: 3rd September, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars


I always find that I love the second book in any series, no matter how many books there are in total. The same was true for the Nevernight Chronicles. I absolutely loved Godsgrave and could not wait to start reading the last book in the series. I buddy-read this book with Anupama which made the sheer length of the book seem manageable.


The Blurb

The Republic of Itreya is in chaos. Mia Corvere has assassinated Cardinal Duomo and rumors of Consul Scaeva’s death ripple through the street of Godsgrave like wildfire. But buried beneath those same streets, deep in the ancient city’s bones, lies a secret that will change the Republic forever.

Mia and her brother Jonnen must journey through the depths of the ancient metropolis. Their quest will take them through the Godsgrave underdark, across the Sea of Swords, back to the library of the Quiet Mountain and the poisoned blades of Mia’s old mentors, and at last the fabled Crown of the Moon. There, Mia will at last discover the origins of the darkin, and learn the destiny that lies in store for her and her world. But with the three suns now in descent, and Truedark on the horizon, will she survive?

The Book

I was not a huge fan of Nevernight but I absolutely loved Godsgrave. I often find that I like the second book in any series the best. The same holds good for The Nevernight Chronicles as well. While Godsgrave was fast paced, it also made sure that each character was given their due diligence. Characters were allowed to develop based on their backstories and the development was organic. However, in Darkdawn everything felt rushed and characters were given an ‘edge’ that was totally different from what we have come to expect of them. The author seemed to be consumed with a need to find closure for each character but also to shock the reader. Unfortunately, you could predict each of the twists about a mile away and all you wanted was for the story to reach an end so that you can start reading something else.

The Mia-Ashlinn-Tric equation was so wrought with teenage angst that you wanted to kill someone just to stop the bickering. It did not help that one of my favorite characters was absent from a major part of the story. I expected Jonnen to have been given a bigger role or to have made a more grown-up decision but in hindsight, he was only eight years old and behaved like an average eight-year-old. Mia’s interactions with the moon and the Goddesses felt forced as did her last two battles. The only saving grace for me were Mercurio and Sid whom I now love.

The Author

I have already spoken about Jay Kristoff in my review of Nevernight.


TL;DR: A disappointing end of a series that was off to a great start


Do you tend to complete a series that you start even if you are on the fence about liking it?

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

Book review, Regional Language books

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 144 pages

Genre: Short stories, Fiction

Publisher: Akshara Prakashana

Date of Publication: 2017, first published in 2013

Rating: 4/5 stars


It’s been one of my reading goals since last year to read more books in my native tongue. So the Book Divas sent me the original Kannada version of Ghachar Ghochar for my birthday last year. I finally got around to reading it now and I’m glad. The going was really slow in the beginning since I wasn’t used to reading much in Kannada in recent times but by the time I reached the middle of the book, I got into the groove and was enjoying the process.


The Blurb

A young man’s close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house on the other side of Bangalore, and try to adjust to a new way of life, the family dynamic begins to shift. Allegiances realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background. Things become “ghachar ghochar” — a nonsense phrase uttered by one meaning something tangled beyond repair, a knot that can’t be untied.

Elegantly written and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humor, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings–and consequences–of financial gain in contemporary India.

The Book

I haven’t been able to write a review for the book for months after I finished reading it. I wasn’t sure what I felt about it so I wasn’t comfortable committing to anything. As I begin to write now, I still find myself fluctuating between “I think I liked it” and “I think I didn’t enjoy it at all”. It probably has something to do with the struggle of reading in a language that I hadn’t read in for a long time and also my inherent dislike for short stories.

Ghachar Ghochar is a collection of short stories, the longest being the one with the same title as the book. The stories are all open-ended and are left to the reader’s imagination. I always find it interesting that as soon as I finish an open-ended story, I feel like I liked it but on reflection over the next couple of days, I find that I didn’t like it all that much. It was the same case with Ghachar Ghochar.

My favorite story by far was the one with the protagonist being given the news that he had only a couple of days left to live. He begins to be brutally honest with everyone and discovers that that is a sure-fire way of alienating people. It goes to show the fragile nature of human relationships and how important it is to exhibit socially acceptable behaviour. I also liked the story about a single mother who, despite having had to marry someone that she had no interest in, puts on a brave face and makes the best of the situation. She strives to be financially independent and to ensure that her son has all the opportunities in the world. It highlights the plight of women in the country very realistically.

I found the entire book to be a bit quirky. It talks about important social issues but also sees the humor in everyday situations. I think I need to read more books in Kannada in order to get used to the descriptive style that most authors seem to possess.

The Author

Vivek Shanbhag is an Indian story writer, novelist and playwright in Kannada. He is the author of eight works of fiction and two plays, all of which have been published in Kannada.[1] His works have been translated into English and several other Indian languages.[2] Vivek Shanbhag also worked as editor for the literary magazine “Desha Kaala” for 5 years. “Desha Kaala” was considered as one of the best literary magazines in Kannada.

Shanbhag was a Writer in Residence at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa during the fall of 2016.

His work include:

  1. Lamgaru (1992)
  2. Huli Savari (1995)
  3. Innu Ondu (2001)
  4. Mattobbana Samsara (2005)
  5. Ondu Badi Kadalu (2007)
  6. Bahumukhi (2008)
  7. Sirigannada (2009)
  8. Ghachar Ghochar (2013)
  9. Ooru Bhanga (2015)

TL;DR: A quirky book with a collection of stories that would interest anyone with an inquisitive mind


Do you read books in your native tongue?

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

Book club, Book review

The Bells by Dhonielle Clayton

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 464 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Date of Publication: 6th February, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars


I love books that are filled with weird traditions and strange cultures. I also love books that has a predominantly female cast. And I also love books that have magic in them. The Bells promised to have all 3 of these and I was glad when Bell’s Book Club picked it to be the Book of the Month for July, 2020. I started reading it just as the month began.


The Blurb

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever. Dhonielle Clayton creates a rich, detailed, decadent world of excess and privilege, where beauty is not only skin-deep, but a complete mirage. Weaving deeper questions about the commodification of women’s bodies, gender equality, racial identity, and vanity with high-stakes action and incredible imagery, The Belles is the must-read epic of the season.

The Book

The book began with great promise. We see a new generation of Bells finishing their training and competing to secure employment, with each of them vying to be the Palace Favorite. However, things begin to unravel soon. We are, almost immediately, introduced to the love interest, a cliched handsome young man who shows preferential treatment towards our protagonist even with the threat of death at interacting with a revered Bell. Next comes another cliche- a group of girls who consider themselves sisters, one of whom thinks she is better than everyone else and gets terribly upset when her supposed best friend looks like she will win the contest. As was to be expected, the contest creates a rift between them and continues an ‘on-again-off-again’ theme until the end of the book.

Then begins the author’s descriptions of the grandeur of the palace and delicious food which was fun to read for a couple of chapters. But it got monotonous and repetitive very fast. The author includes all the tried and tested tear-jerkers like the sheltered girls learning of the cruelties of the real world, the possible abuse that they suffer at the hands of their employers, their mysterious birth and love for their mothers who had tragically been cut from their lives at a very young age. However, they are all done with a heavy hand and the reader gets tired of it before it can even touch them.

The author spends the majority of the book describing all the ways that Princess Sophia tortures the Bells and her Ladies-in-Waiting. But instead of being horrified as the author intended, it just feels like she has collected all of the ways that a person can torture someone and has compiled them with no rhyme nor reason. The technicality of the magic of the Bells was not adequately explained, and I was left wondering why something was happening in a lot of places. It is very obvious that it was the author’s debut novel and it could have used a much more strict round of editing. The only positive thing that I could take away from the book was the positive body imagery. The author stresses that being beautiful on the inside is what matters and that we need to shun body modifications to attain popular beauty standards.

The Author

Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dhonielle spent much of her childhood hiding beneath her grandmother’s dining table with a stack of books. As an English teacher at a ballet academy, Clayton rediscovered her passion for children’s and young adult literature. To ground herself in the canon, she pursued her Masters in Children’s Literature from Hollins University before receiving her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School.

She is a former middle school librarian, where she pestered children to read and curated a diverse collection. An avid traveler, Dhonielle’s lived in several foreign countries, but she’s now settled in Harlem, where you’ll find her writing late into the night, lurking in libraries, and hunting for the best slice of New York pizza. She is the COO of We Need Diverse Books and the co-founder of Cake Literary.

Her work include:

  1. The Bells (2018)
  2. The Everlasting Rose (2019)

TL;DR: A book that began with great promise but failed to deliver


What book did you begin with great expectations but were disappointed after reading?

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

Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review, Received for Review

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Knopf Books (Penguin Random House)

Date of Publication: 7th July, 2020

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book from Penguin Random House Global via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


I had received a pre-approved Netgalley widget for the first book in The Blood of Stars series- Spin the Dawn last year and had loved the writing. So when I received the same for the second book, I was over the moon and I immediately began reading it.


The Blurb

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

The Book

As an ardent reader of fantasy ‘coming-of-age’ books, I sometimes find that new authors follow the tried and tested routes that best-sellers before them have followed. I was glad when Elizabeth Lim did not fall into this trap with The Blood of Stars series in the first book. I was even more glad that she carved a niche for herself with the sequel.

The book begins where the first book ended. Maia and Edan have made the three dresses of Amana and Maia is still discovering all of the dresses’ magic. She is now bound by a vow to Bandur and will soon forget all of her human memories and become the Guardian of the Isle. But given that her heart is good and full of love, Edan is convinced that they can stop the process. If this was not nearly impossible to accomplish, they must also stop the war that’s been plaguing their country for 5 years and save all of its people while remaining one step ahead of the demons at all times.

One of my biggest pet peeves for a lot of young adult fantasy novels is how awful the characters are at communication. Something that could have been prevented had they just spoken to each other is now a major source of contention for everyone. To me, it seemed to potentially propagate unhealthy relationships in young readers who wouldn’t know any better. However, to my pleasant surprise, Unravel the Dusk was the definition of good communication triumphing over everything. While Maia and Edan are both tormented by their own worries, they talk to each other about them and formulate a plan together. What is even better is that they actually stick to the plan. We don’t have a character thinking they know what’s best for the other and taking matters into their own hands. While Maia is slowly turning into a Demon and is haunted by violence, she makes a conscious effort to hold on to her humanity and come back to Edan to try and work things out.

Another thing that I loved about the book was how realistically the author portrayed Princess Sarnai and Lord Xina. They are traumatised and act like it. They are not miraculously cured by a single act of kindness. They take time to process what they have gone through and make decisions based on that. There was no part of the book that I did not like and can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next.

The Author

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Her work include:

  1. Reflection (2018)
  2. Spin the Dawn (2019)
  3. Unravel the Dusk (2020)
  4. So This is Love (2020)

TL;DR: A Brilliant continuation of a beloved series with themes that every fiction writer could do well to follow


What series are you definitely going to complete?

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

Book review, Readathon

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 336 pages

Genre: LGBTQ+, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Emblem Editions

Date of Publication: 29th January, 2013 (First published in 1994)

Rating: 5/5 stars


I’ve been taking part in Pride Readathon every June since 2018. (Click here for the wrap-up for Pride 2018 and here for the wrap-up for Pride 2019). Although I don’t shy away from books based on LGBTQ+ characters all through the year, I reserve all reading in June for books on Pride. This year I wanted to not just read books with LGBTQ+ characters but I also wanted to read books written by LGBTQ+ authors. I was well prepped with a Pride TBR list in May but by the last week of May, I was hit with a reading slump so bad that I just couldn’t read anything at all. I finally managed to read just one book in the month of June but it was totally worth it. It was written by an openly gay author and also was based on gay characters.


The Blurb

A boy’s bittersweet passage to maturity and sexual awakening is set against escalating political tensions in Sri Lanka, during the seven years leading up to the 1983 riots. Arjie Chelvaratnam is a Tamil boy growing up in an extended family in Colombo. It is through his eyes that the story unfolds and we meet a delightful, sometimes eccentric cast of characters. Arjie’s journey from the luminous simplicity of childhood days into the more intricately shaded world of adults – with its secrets, its injustices, and its capacity for violence – is a memorable one, as time and time again the true longings of the human heart are held against the way things are.


The Book

Based on the recommendation of Sai, I started reading Funny Boy with a lot of expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the book not only met every one of my expectations but also exceeded them. The book follows Arjun “Arjie” Chelvaratnam for seven years, a period of extreme changes for the boy. Seven-year-old Arije knows he is not like ‘normal’ boys who spend their Sundays in the sun playing cricket. He would much rather play open-ended world-building games with his girl cousins. This is the first clue that the family has about his sexual orientation, and they do everything in their power to change it. They label him ‘funny’, humiliate him, punish him, and give him extra chores. When he makes friends with another ‘funny’ boy, his father and brother are hostile towards them both. But Arije is a boy with resilience and an understanding of self that we would all envy at 14 years of age. While he is confused about the new changes in his body, the new feelings and thoughts, he is also sure about what he wants no matter what the society tells him.

The story is set against a background of turmoil in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. We see the issue first through the innocent eyes of the young boy when his favorite Aunt is hurt in a scrimmage. We later learn more details about the racist government and the Tamil Tigers as Arije grows up. This was the first book that I read that dealt with this issue and it was interesting to see how the knowledge that I had accumulated through new articles and history books correlated with these stories. It was scary to imagine being unwanted in your own house, losing family members to mob violence, and having to move to a different country as refugees after you lose your house and everything in it. The help that the Chelvaratnam family receive from their friends was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise disturbing story.

Arije’s friendship with Shehan was rendered with an innocence that every teenage relationship has. They are both experimenting with how much of themselves they want to give to their partners while trying to make sense of the new emotions in their hearts. The behaviour of their headmaster was reminiscent of stories set in the 1970s and 1980s where it was the stick that taught the students and not the carrot. I wanted to shake the teachers and parents to get them to realise the trauma that they were inflicting on young psyche but unfortunately, that seemed to be the norm of the day.

The struggle of acceptance of self so different from what is accepted by the society, the sorrow of growing up in a family that does not understand you, the terror of living in a place that is openly hostile make the reading quite emotional. The story is told with the help of chapters that could possibly be read independently as short stories. I found the shift in timeline a bit too abrupt and the chapters seem to end without an adequate conclusion. What happened to Radha Aunty? Why did the children stop going to spend-the-days? Was Jegan really involved in the murder and what happened to him? Did the family make a life for themselves as refugees? The reader will find themselves obsessing over these questions for a long time after reading the book.

The Author

Shyam Selvadurai is a Sri Lankan-Canadian novelist who currently lives in Toronto with his partner Andrew Champion. Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father- members of conflicting ethnic groups whose troubles form a major theme in his work. Ethnic riots in 1983 drove the family to emigrate to Canada when Selvadurai was nineteen. He studied creative and professional writing as part of a Bachelor of Fine Arts program at York University.

His work include:

  1. Funny Boy (1994)
  2. Cinnamon Gardens (1998)
  3. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea (2005)
  4. The Hungry Gods (2012)
  5. Write to Reconcile: An Anthology (2013)
  6. Many Roads Through Paradise: An Anthology of Sri Lankan Literature (2014)
  7. Write to Reconcile II (2015)

TL;DR: A heart-wrenching story of discovering one’s identity and accepting oneself in the midst of communal and racial differentiation


Have you read anything specific for Pride Month?

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

Book review

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 305 pages

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Date of Publication: 2003

Rating: 5/5 stars


I hadn’t read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri although I had always wanted to. I had watched the movie adaptation of The Namesake years ago but hadn’t connected with it at all. So I never thought of reading it. When the BookDivas decided to buddy-read it, I wasn’t sure that I would join but then decided to give it a go.


The Blurb

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as “a writer of uncommon elegance and poise.” The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.

The Book

The book begins with the birth of Gogol in an American hospital with just his parents for company. His mother’s laments about not being surrounded by family sets the tone for most of the book. The story moves through flashbacks that show us how Ashoke and Ashima got to be the people that they are and what drives them to make the decisions that they do. We see them struggle to make sense of a world that they have not heard much about. Their children, on the other hand, struggle to see their parents’ points of view, having grown up in the American society.

I could draw parallels between Ashoke and Ashima and my Uncles and Aunts who were immigrants during a time when the Western way of life was not well known in India. I cannot even begin to imagine the culture shock that they had to overcome. The immigrants now have a comparatively easier time, after being exposed to American television and books and also with the help of the internet.

The first generation Indian-Western children, Gogol and Sonia were similar to my cousins who grew up in a culture that they are warned against at home. Similar to Simran of DDLJ, they are urged to maintain their ‘Indian-ness’. However, they are still a fish out of water when they visit India with their parents. They don’t even get to see much of the country during their holidays expect to visit relatives.

With the possibility of a move to a different country looming in the horizon for me, I connected with Ashima and Ashoke quite a lot. I understood the sense of isolation that they faced and the need to befriend any Bengali that they met. Although I was not a fan of the author’s style of writing, I was moved to tears in a lot of places in the book. I was glad that I can now change my opinion about The Namesake and can only guess that I was probably too young to have appreciated the movie when I watched it. I was also glad that this was my first Jhumpa Lahiri book and I can’t wait to read more by the author.

The Author

Nilanjana Sudeshna “Jhumpa” Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

 Lahiri currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. She has been a Vice President of the PEN American Center since 2005. Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Much of her short fiction concerns the lives of Indian-Americans, particularly Bengalis.

Her work include:

  1. Interpreter of Maladies (1999)
  2. The Namesake (2003)
  3. Hell-Heaven (2004)
  4. Year’s End (2007)
  5. Unaccustomed Earth (2008)
  6. Brotherly Love (2010)
  7. The Lowlands (2013)
  8. The Clothing of Books (2016)

TL;DR: A beautiful story of a family that discovers who they are and what they mean to each other, while learning to accept their roots


What’s your favorite book by Jhumpa Lahiri?

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

Book club, Book review

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 320 pages

Genre: Non-fiction, Feminism, Essays, Memoir

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Date of Publication: 5th August, 2014

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


As a part of the book club organised by Rashi, I have been reading more of non-fiction that I would have ever thought of. I thought I wouldn’t like this book much but I surprised myself.


The Blurb

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.”

The Book

I don’t usually read non-fiction, memoirs or essays. I wasn’t sure if I would read the BOTM Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay . Then while in a reading slump, I thought I would give this a try and I am glad that I did.

The book is a collection of life experiences of the author as a WOC in the form of essays. It has a conversational feel to it. Although the individual essays are quite short, I couldn’t read a lot of them at one go. They each have multiple issues that make you think. The essays spoke to me especially when she described how the society perceives the word ‘feminist’. I have had similar experiences at work where women have said, “I am not a feminist because I have a son”. ‘Feminism’ is not a bad word and I wish people would stop seeing it as one.

The author describes how, although she is a strong, financially independent woman, she still feels the need for a male presence in her life, she listens to rap songs that don’t always have lyrics that are respectable to women, she doesn’t have a nun’s approach to sexuality nor does she always educate people when they make racist or sexist comments. This is true for all of us. Does this make us bad feminists? Or is being a bad feminist better than not being feminist at all?

The Author

Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy culture blog, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus. She teaches writing at Eastern Illinois University. Her first book, Ayiti, is a collection of fiction and nonfiction about the Haitian diaspora experience. Her novel, An Untamed State, will be published by Grove Atlantic and her essay collection, Bad Feminist, will be published by Harper Perennial, both in 2014. 


TL;DR: A book that gets you thinking but is humourous and moving at the same time


Do you like non-fiction?

What is your favourite in the genre?

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

Book review

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 512 pages

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Knof Books

Date of Publication: 5th May, 2020

Rating: 4/5 stars


The minute I finished reading Aurora Rising, I could not help but acquire book 2 of The Aurora Cycle. I was so in love with the characters and did not want the story to end. I was really glad that the ebook was available and set about devouring it immediately.


The Blurb

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.

The Book

When Book 1 ended, I could not wait to get my hands on Book 2. I wanted to know where each character was going and I wanted to see if Auri would finally rise to the challenge and do what’s best for everyone. I also wanted to see Auri and Kal’s relationship grow. But what I got in the book was so much more! We finally learn Zila’s back story and it was something that I did not expect at all! We also see the characters grow independent of each other and come out of their old relationships to form new ones.

The book is filled with twists that I didn’t see coming. We see unusual pairings which later seem natural when we see them playing out. I was glad that the authors did not stick to the tried and tested groupings of the first book and explored having different people working together. We see importance given to characters that we did not see much of in the first book so between books 1 and 2, we now have a comprehensive knowledge of the entire Squad 312.

The book started out with a really quick pace but the middle got a bit slow for me. The last 10% made up for it but the feeling stayed with me. I loved the conversations between Tyler and Saedii and by the end of the book, Tyler had become one of my favorite characters. I hope that the next book in the series gives us more insight into Saedii’s life because I have a feeling that it will be unexpected. The book ends in a huge cliffhanger that we need to wait for a year to resolve but that’s what’s fun about reading books in series as soon as they are published.

The Authors

The book is co-authored by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’ve written about both the authors in my review of Aurora Rising.


TL;DR: Mother of all cliffhangers! A brilliant book that will leave the fans waiting for more


What series are you following till the end?

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

Book club, Book review

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Statistics

Format: eBook

Length: 473 pages

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Knof Books

Date of Publication: 7th May, 2019

Rating: 5/5 stars


The first book in The Aurora Cycle, I missed reading it last year when it was all the rage. When I saw that the next book in the series was set to release this year I was wondering if I would be able to read the first book in time. It was fortuitous that Bells Bookclub decided to have Aurora Rising as the Book of the Month for May.


The Blurb

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch.

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm, a sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmate, a smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder, an alien warrior with anger-management issues, a tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering.

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

The Book

I was unsure about reading a book written by two separate authors. I wasn’t sure if their writing styles would transition smoothly enough for me to like it but as it turns out, I loved it! The book is everything that a YA book should be. It shows discrimination based on birth but also people who overcome it, it has sexism but also people who stand up against it, it has people who are amazing at their jobs despite their disability, it has forbidden romance and it has unrequited love. However, none of them are overdone to the extent that you grow tired of it.

The book is written in multiple points of view, with each character giving us their back story in snippets. All the characters are well-developed, each reacting to situations based on their past experiences. It was wonderful to see that the seemingly ‘weird’ characters are acknowledged as being weird but at the same time, they are accepted for who they are and are given the support that they need. Each of the squad members grows in their own way throughout the book. What I loved was that the entire book is filled with witty conversations and an undercurrent of humor that runs through even in the most serious situations.

Auri is a girl removed from time. She is thrust into a future that she knows nothing about and is given the responsibility of saving the entire galaxy. With a job as big as that, it’s no wonder that she balks at the pressure. Even though I understood all of this, I still found her a bit troublesome and I sometimes wanted to shake her to get her to do the right thing. She was my least favorite character of the lot.

Kal was a character that was designed to be loved. He is the perfect combination of looks and brains along with the depth that comes from years of childhood trauma. His past makes him endearing and the way that he tries to overcome his upbringing gets us rooting for him at all times. Surprisingly, Fin was one of my favorite characters but Zila was someone who I want to really get acquainted with. The book ended on a cliffhanger and I could not wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.

The Author

Amie Kaufman

Amie Kaufman is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of young adult fiction. Her multi-award winning work is slated for publication in over 30 countries, and is in development for film and TV. Raised in Australia and occasionally Ireland, Amie has degrees in history, literature, law and conflict resolution. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, their rescue dog, and an extremely large personal library.

Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is the #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Nevernight Chronicle, The Illuminae Files and The Lotus War. He is the winner of six Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live.

He does not believe in happy endings. I have written more about the author in my review of Nevernight.

Their other work together include

  1. Illuminae
  2. Gemina
  3. Obsidio

TL;DR: A fast-paced witty and sweet beginning to to a brilliant series


Do you like books written by multiple authors?

What’s your favorite?

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

Book review

Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Length: 369 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

Publisher: Redhook Books/Orbit Books

Date of Publication: 10th September, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


I was intrigued by this book ever since it was published. A book within a book, a book about stories and the power of words is a book lover’s dream! So when a friend gifted it to me unexpectedly, I was very excited! The lockdown gave me the perfect opportunity to binge read it.


The Blurb

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

The Book

The book is set in the early 1900s, a time, as the author describes it, at the cusp of change. Where the strife and revolutions of the previous century have calmed down and the great industrial revolution has just begun. People are getting used to the peace and will do anything to ensure that nothing disturbs it again. But how far is too far? January finds that there are people who would rip the world apart in order to maintain what they think is progress.

On the outside, January Scaller’s life is what young girls dream about. She lives in a big house with people to look after her every need, she goes on first-class travel to exotic places, she wears pretty dresses and attends fancy parties. But only January knows that she is a bird living in a gilded cage. She longs to fly away on adventures but most of all she wishes to have her father with her for more than a couple of days a year. She thinks that her wishes are partially fulfilled when she finds a book that describes adventures in parallel worlds and people writing words powerful enough to turn them into reality. What she doesn’t know is that her wish for gory adventures is too close for comfort. She is hunted by unknown assailants while she goes on a quest to find her missing father and to preserve the mysteries of the world.

The book could be read as a cautionary tale in the power of words. What is written cannot be unwritten and that we should believe what we put into words. I loved how the author described a child’s longing to belong to a place and to have a family of her own. The love-hate that she feels for Mr. Locke was very real. It underlines the fact that children inadvertently think that the person who feeds and clothes them is good. They don’t recognise abuse or neglect in the hands of their primary care-giver. The struggle of a wild and free soul trying to conform to society’s expectations of a demure young girl was sad to see while the love and camaraderie between January and Bad were beautiful. My favorites were the parts with Samuel in them. He turns into exactly the kind of friend that January needs at every stage in her life.

It was wonderful to see January grow from a protected little girl to a young woman who makes tough decisions and goes after what she wants no matter what the cost. I was glad that the author introduced strong female role models like Jane and Ade who follow their hearts. Although I did see the ending coming, I loved how the author connected all parts of the story to one another, weaving in different perspectives to give us the whole story. My only problem with the book was that it was a bit slow, especially the chapters written by Yule Ian. It had the potential of being an amazing fantasy adventure and given that it was the author’s first book, I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Author

Alix has been a student and a teacher, a farm-worker and a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. She has lived in tents and cars, cramped city apartments and lonely cabins, and spent a summer in a really sweet ’79 VW Vanagon. She has library cards in at least five states.

Now she is a full-time writer living in with her husband and two kids in Berea, Kentucky. Ten Thousand Doors of January is her debut novel


TL;DR: A book that had the potential to be amazing if it was a bit fast paced


Have you read books that are books within books or stories within stories?

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