Book review, Received for Review

Pimp in the Pulpit (Books 1 and 2) by Thomas Leslie McRae

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 35 pages (Book 1), 42 pages (Book 2)

Genre: Satire,

Publisher: Eber & Wein

Date of Publication: 2nd December 2016 (Book 1), 2017 (Book 2)

Rating: 3/5 stars

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


I am always on the look out for books that are unusual. When the author asked me if I was willing to review the book, I was intrigued by the blurb and decided to give it a read. The author warned me of the harsh language in the book and I was glad that he did.


The Blurb

Pimp in the Pulpit is a short story filled with unique characters. Each has a different outlook on life and how they treat family and friends. What is acceptable to some is nothing more than the devils work to the others. The large family has met on several occasions for gatherings, parties and reunions, some went OK but most didn’t. Nobody was sure what went wrong to cause such chaos when the family gathered. There was speculation that when Minister Tierra Joy become involved in any family event planning it quickly turned into a hot ghetto mess.

Well it’s time for another gathering. Lillian McBride, affectionately know as Lucifer is turning 95. Lillian has four children, a son, Tony McBride. She also has three daughters Viola McBride, Minister Tierra Joy and Cleopatra Jones. Will this special occasion bring the family closer or drive them further apart? How will they finance the gathering? How much money that is raised will be stolen or used for other means? Will the huge clan from Texas show up? What about the food, will they have enough? Will the relatives go nuts eating like they are on death row and this is their last meal, consuming it all in fifteen minutes or less? How much of the buffet will they steal and take home? Who will drink too much and act up? Has Cleopatra and her family learned from their previous gatherings? Will they even attend the bash?

Cleopatra is married to Marcus Jones Senior. They have two kids Marcus Junior and Edward (Eddie) Jones. Eddie is a hardworking man and is perplexed about his family’s actions towards his family, immediate and distant kin. He has trouble understanding even his Dad’s outlook on the birthday party. He begins questioning family loyalties, their love for one another while at the same time remembering the advice his Mom and Aunt Gladys told him several years ago. Will this gathering, compounded with the events of the other ones finally open Eddie’s eyes?

The Book

The book begins with a phone conversation between Eddie and his mother, Cleopatra that gives us clues to the state of dysfunction in the family. The author gives a detailed introduction to the various sisters, brothers, cousins and their extended family and friends throughout the book which got a bit tiring. We are then made privy to the various shenanigans of Lucifer a.k.a Lillian McBride who is the reining matriarch of the family. Lillian along with Minister Joy and her family look for ways to swindle the others for money and goods.

Through the entire length of the book, the author gives examples of various family gatherings and functions where the Joy family has invited itself over in order to sample free food. They never seem to bring anything but negativity to these events. They even plan and host events in the hopes of making some extra cash. The Jones family is their main target, owing to the forgiving nature of Marcus Senior. While Cleopatra is smart as tacks, she is helpless against the barrage of schemes that her sister and her family cook up.

While the various altercations were funny in the beginning of the book, I found them to be a tad repetitive in the second part. There was no lesson to be learnt, the nice guys were always suffering at the hands of the Joy family but never seemed to do anything about it. The foremost emotion that I felt was pity towards the Jones’ but I was also frustrated with the way that they let everyone walk all over them. I could connect with the character of Marcus Senior when he said that the family was just beginning to like him and he did not want to do anything to jeopardize it. This is something that all of us feel when we are a part of a new family. I liked the author’s style of writing, with each chapter describing a different incident or story. The fact that it was not chronological did not effect it in the least.

I was warned about the harsh language in the book before I received it. Once I began to read it, I realized that no amount of warning would have prepared me for the amount of profanity in the dialogues. I was surprised that families could talk to each other in such a way but if your family was anything like the Joy family, you would be reduced to such language too.

The Author

His work include

  1. Personal Financial Planning: An Introduction (1997)
  2. Poetry 4 the Soul (2009)
  3. The Soul of a Poet (2010)
  4. Pimp in the Pulpit (2016)
  5. Pimp in the Pulpit Volume II (2017)

TL;DR: A quick and humorous read that will make you feel grateful for the family that you have.


Do you like satire?

What is your favourite read in that genre?

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

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Book club, Book review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

eleanor oliphant is completely fine.jpeg

Length: 299 pages

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date of Publication: May 18th, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and All the Bright Places were the books of the month for a book club that I was a part of for the month of August. I love reading in book clubs because it guarantees discussions. I had been meaning to read this book for some time now and was glad to have got a push towards it.


The Blurb

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

The Book

There are some books that you grow to love as you continue to read and then there are some that grab you and pull you along right from the first sentence. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was the latter for me. I cannot explain what exactly it was about the beginning but I was hooked!

Eleanor is a thirty-year-old woman who has learnt to live alone and she loves it on most days. I instantly connected with her even though (or because?) she is a bit weird. She takes things literally and does not believe in small talk. I could totally understand where she was coming from and wondered what it said about me. Isn’t that one of the best things about reading though? You identify with characters and thereby manage to understand yourself a little better. What other form of entertainment lets you do that?

I loved the character of Raymond. He is non-judgmental and supportive even though Eleanor insinuates that he disgusts her on more than one occasion. He gets that she does not mean for it to be mean and that is just who she is. It is wonderful when you have someone like that in your life, someone that you can be yourself with. It was also nice to see that her co-workers mean her no harm even though she makes it perfectly clear that she thinks that they are all intellectually inferior. The scenes with the counselor felt a bit too fast to be believable but that is a creative liberty that the author is allowed. It was necessary to keep the story moving and it did not take anything away from the story. I really appreciated the way that mental health issues were portrayed in the book.

I was very moved by Eleanor’s backstory. I did predict the ending but that might just be a result of me having read a bit too many books in this genre. The book put me in a book hangover for an entire day and my emotions were in a turmoil all through its reading. That, in my opinion, is the proof of a well-written story by an accomplished writer.

The Author

Gail Honeyman lives in Glasgow and wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job. It was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.


TL;DR: A moving story that is sure to pull you along for the ride right from the very first page


What are some of the books that you have read which deal positively with mental health?

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

Book club, Book review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 322 pages

Genre: Historic Fiction

Publisher: Knopf publishers

Date of Publication: 7th June, 2016

Rating: 5/5 stars


I read homegoing as a part of a readalong on Instagram along with Nikhat, Nikita, Unnati, Orishtha, Vasudha, Geethika & Debbie, Aanvi, Miss Literateur and The Book Knight.

I love readalongs and book discussions because it opens your mind to other possibilities and interpretations of the same written words. It always amazes me that the same sentences could mean so many different things to different people.

Historic fiction is one of my favourite genres and the growth of a culture is always interesting to read. African history is steeped high with the intermingling of cultures and races and it is tragically beautiful while being infuriating at the same time. I have previously read books on the same subject and was curious to see what this book held and I was certainly not disappointed.


The Blurb

The book begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

The Book

A sentence that makes sense even now with all the oppressors and the religious wars-“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what?”

“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what?”

Homegoing covers the lives of eight generations of Gold Coast residents in West Africa. It begins with the arrival of the whites for trade in the form of barter of goods and continues to show the brutality of the slave trade, the atrocities of the whites over the blacks and finally the life of blacks in segregated cities after the Civil War. I had recently read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas where she shows how much of inequality still exists in the world based on skin color. To read about the reason for the development of that racial discrimination was enlightening. I had previously read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs and watched Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino, both with brutal visuals of the plight of slaves and this book reminded me of some of those scenes that I had trouble getting out of my head again.

The book is written from the points of view of various characters, some powerful men and women, others helpless slaves. I love books that discuss a situation through all the different characters who have been affected by it. I loved how the author linked every chapter to something that happened in one of the previous chapters. It gave the book a continuity that made reading it a treat. The brutality of the living conditions, the whippings, the burnings and the very concept of owning another human being were gut-wrenching. I had to stop reading a couple of times because the imagery was so powerful. It was great that I had the other girls reading along with me to discus what we felt and to just be there for each other.

The book is divided into exactly two halves though I do not see the necessity. The last quarter of the book was not as powerful as the rest of the book but I attributed it to the fact that it covered parts of history that I already had read about. It was a beautifully written story with complex characters and it is one of my favourite reads of this year.

The Author

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo.


TL;DR: A powerful book that takes the reader on a journey across generations and continents and challenges some of the pre-set notions in history.


What is your favourite book in the historic fiction genre?

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

Musings, Wrap-up

Book Haul

Statistics

Number of Books: 9 IMG_20180811_102028_844

Date of Acquisition: 4th August, 2018


I had a weekend trip to Bangalore last month and it was the perfect opportunity to meet some of my fellow bookstagrammers. We call ourselves the Bookdivas and have wonderful discussions on things both related and unrelated to books, authors and stories. I got to meet Anupama and Nisha and we had a great time catching up.

What is a bookstagrammer meet without book exchange and book shopping? I brought books for my buddies while they had done to same for me. I gave Anupama Agatha Christie’s The Murder on the Links to help her complete her Agatha Christie reading goals while she gave me quite a few of her review copies like Yoddha- The Dynasty of Samudragupta by Rajat Pillai, If I Had to Tell it Again by Gayathri Prabhu, Harappa Trilogy by Shankar Kashyap and When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith that she had received from another Bookdiva, Chitra. I had taken The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy for Nisha but she had already read it so I gave that to Anupama as well and bought Goad Days by Benyamin for Nisha since she wanted to read more books by Malayali authors while she gave me The Wizards of Once by Cressida Coswell because I love fantasy.

We next set out to raid Blossoms Book House for more book shopping. Blossoms has been the go-to destination for all books, new and old, for decades. No trip to Bangalore is complete without a trip to Blossoms. I bought three books for myself keeping in mind the space constraints of storing them all. I had always wanted to read Salman Rushdie so I bought Shalimar the Clown. Book Thief by Markus Zusak had been on my TBR since a long time so I bought that as well. I had been feeling that I should read more of classics so I also bought Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I thought I would be meeting another member of the Bookdivas group, Unnati while in Bangalore so I had bought for her Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman which I will now keep for myself because I love mythology.

I haven’t bought physical copies of books in a long time and it felt good lugging those books across town. I wish book sales come back to my city like they used to when I was young. But I now have a large number of physical book copies thanks review requests, my birthday book mails and books sent across by Chitra and I look forward to reading them all. I also look forward to meeting the other Bookdivas, the ones that I haven’t mentioned- Sneha and Jaanaki.


What was your recent book haul like?

How do you manage to find the space to store all of them?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Missing, Presumed Dead by Kiran Manral

Statistics

Format: Paperback IMG_20180904_195532_450.jpg

Length: 258 pages

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Amaryllis

Date of Publication: 15th July, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I was approached by the publishers for the review opportunity and I found the blurb very interesting. I am always searching for books on mental illness and thrillers and this seemed to combine them both. I was also excited to work with a new publisher who are the English imprint of Manjul Publishing House.


The Blurb

In a dysfunctional marriage, it may seem convenient when the wife commits suicide, but things aren’t always what they seem.
Battling both a fractured marriage and the monsters in her cranium, Aisha leads a sequestered life on the outskirts of a town in the hills of North India. She struggles to stay functional and tries to wean herself off the pills that keep her from tipping over the edge. Meanwhile, Prithvi, the husband she once loved, seems as eager to be rid of her, as she is to flee from him. Only her children keep her tethered to her hearth. 
One rainy afternoon, Heer, Aisha’s half-sister, her father’s illegitimate daughter from another woman, appears. Despite her misgivings, Aisha goes into town and never comes back. Seemingly unperturbed, Heer slips into her missing sister’s shoes effortlessly, taking charge of the house, the kids-even Prithvi, who responds to her overtures willingly. 
A note found in Aisha’s wallet states that she has killed herself, although strange happenings leave room for doubts. But, if she is not dead, where is Aisha? Did she really commit suicide? has she been abducted or is she hiding? Why does Prithvi not grieve for his deceased wife? And why does Heer vanish without a trace one day, leaving no forwarding address?
Examining the destruction a dystopian marriage and mental illness leave in their wake, ‘Missing Presumed Dead’ confronts the fragility of relationships, the ugly truths about love and death and the horrifying loss of everything we hold dear, including ourselves.

The Book

The book begins with Aisha being startled by the doorbell. She is isolated from the town and nobody drops in unannounced. She is surprised to find that her half-sister Heer is on the other side of the door asking to be let in and to be a family. Heer looks deceptively similar to Aisha and takes on the responsibility of her Niece and Nephew like it was second nature. It is only when Aisha goes into town leaving the kids under Heer’s jurisdiction, does she begin to suspect that Heer might not be as loving as she first appeared.

The story talks about Schizophrenia and depression in a very matter-of-fact way that is not usually found in books written by Indian authors. I appreciate the effort that the author put in to get the medical facts correct. The symptoms, the medication, and the behaviour were spot-on. However, I found that there were other inconsistencies in the story. It was very surprising to find that while everyone seemed to know the name of her half-sister, Aisha does not. I also wish that the author went back and forth between Prithvi’s and Aisha’s points of view in the latter half of the book like she did in the beginning. It was very disconcerting to not know what was happening with Aisha. It would have made for better reading had the author explored more the relationship between Heer, the mysterious man, Aisha, and Prithvi. I personally am not a fan of ambiguous endings and in this book too I found the lack of closure a tad bit upsetting. But I know of plenty of readers who love an ending left to the readers’ discretion.

The book was slow to begin, the story only picking up after the first half. The aptly named ‘Book 2’ is where I found most of the action. I loved the way that the kids were described. Their avoidance of their quarreling parents, the maternal instincts of the big sister towards her younger brother, the anguish at the death of their mother, the nonacceptance of a new lady in the house and the grief of being sent away were heartbreaking. I just wish that the book was better edited to avoid repetition of redundant sentences. The sentence that Aisha and Prithvi slept with their backs towards each other with a no man’s land in between was repeated thrice, almost word perfect and it was described again a couple of times. Similarly, the fact that Maya takes after Aisha and Aryan after Prithvi was repeated twice, again almost word perfect. The same case was seen in words like ‘lackadaisical’ also kept popping up in various places and made the reading a bit jarring.

However, I did like the concept of the book and the premise was interesting. It was indeed the thriller that it claimed to be albeit lacking a bit in execution. There were a couple of pages that gave me chills and had me staying up past my bedtime to know what was going to happen next.

The Author

Kiran Manral is a renowned Indian author, TEDx Speaker, columnist, mentor and feminist. She has written books across genres in both fiction and nonfiction. Manral currently resides in Mumbai.
An ex-journalist, she currently writes a column on feminism at SheThePeople.tv, and has been a columnist on sexuality at DNA, on gender issues with Tehelka and on parenting at yowoto.com. She was also on the planning board of the Kumaon Literary Festival, a mentor with Sheroes and an advisor on the Board of Literature Studio, Delhi. She has co-curated Festivelle 2016 and Women Writer’s Fest Mumbai by SheThePeople.tv 2017. She has been a speaker and a panelist at most of the leading literature festivals in India, as well as at educational institutions and conferences. She is also considered a social media influencer.
She was part of the core founding team of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month and Violence Against Women Awareness Month, two social media initiatives that ran for four years. She also initiated India Helps, a volunteer network to help disaster victims which worked on the rehabilitation of 26/11 attack victims. She is the anchor for the monthly talk series, Bombaywaali, from SheThePeople.tv and a mentor with Vital Voices Global Walk 2017.

Her work include:

  1. The Reluctant Detective (2011)
  2. Once Upon a Crush (2014)
  3. All Aboard (2015)
  4. Karmic Kids (2015)
  5. The Face at the Window (2016)
  6. Switcheroo (2016)
  7. A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up (2016)
  8. Have a Safe Journey (co-author, 2017)
  9. True Love Stories (2017)
  10. Saving Maya
  11. Missing, Presumed Dead (2018)

TL;DR: An interesting story that gives you chills and has you wondering what was going to happen next


Have you read books that deal brilliantly with mental health issues?

What would you recommend to me?

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

subscription box

Book Subscription Box- IAAK Harry’s Wondrous World July Box

Statistics

Curator: IAAK

Month: July

Theme: Harry’s Wondrous World

Price: Rs. 2799/-

IMG_20180730_195553-01-01-min
Harry’s Wondrous World IAAK July Box

As you know I started by Subscription box journey with Books N Beyond in September 2017. I then subscribed to the Aurora Box of Dreams October box, The IAAK December box and the Aurora Box of Dreams January box. I had decided that I would stop subscribing for a while because they don’t come cheap and I felt like I had spent a bit too much on merchandise ever since I started bookstagramming. But July being my birthday month, I wanted to gift something to myself. July is also Harry Potter month and I love that it coincides with my birthday. I wanted to combine the two and when I saw that IAAK had a Harry Potter themed box for July, I jumped at the chance… Or I should have because by the time I actually went on their website to order, the boxes had been sold out. But the birthday luck was with me and they reopened bookings due to popular demand and I made sure that I ordered mine in time and I just couldn’t wait to receive the box.

I ordered the premium box which promised to have a Five Star Funko, a Funko Plush and other officially licensed HP goodies while the Standard box did not have the Funko Plush. According to their sneak peaks, the Funko Plush were a choice between Hermione, Dumbledore, Dobby, Harry, Ron and Voldemort. IAAK was nice enough to ask us to comment on their post asking about our choices and I gave mine as Hermione, Dobby or Voldy.

For the Five Star Funko, the choices were Hermione with a book, wand, and feather; Harry with a Hogwarts letter, wand, and Hedwig; Dumbledore with Fawkes and a wand; Ron with Scabbers, a wand, and a chocolate frog; and Hagrid with a cake and his pink umbrella. I chose Hermione here. The boxes were to be shipped during the last week of July and I was to go on a holiday in the first week of August. So I was hoping against hope that I receive the box before I left and before my birthday month got over and I did! Ah the bliss when things work out for a change!

Here is what the box contained-

  1. A 5 Star Funko Hermione complete with a wand, a feather and a ‘Hogwarts: A History’ book. Typical Hermione!
  2. A Dobby Funko Plushie. He is cuter than what any of us imagined in the books and the Dobby from the movies! I love him.
    IMG_20180730_200908-01-min
    The Funko Products
  3. A blind Funko Keychain where mine had Hedwig. So tiny and cute!
  4. Stickers by @enchanted.marks in the shape of Hagrid, Hagrid’s famous cake and a baby Mandrake.
  5. Dumbledore’s Army sign-up sheet, group photographs, Daily Prophet and prints from @enchanted.marks again.
    IMG_20180730_200234-01-01-min
    Goodies from Enchanted Marks
  6. A hologram notebook with Harry Potter’s profile overlaid with symbolism from the Potter world.
  7. Cork coasters representing all four Hogwarts houses (I’m Gryffindor BTW).
  8. Harry Potter stationary kit that contained a pen, a pencil, an eraser, a sharpener and a scale. Where was this when I was in school?!
IMG_20180730_200556-01-min
Harry Potter Stationary and House Pride Coasters

I loved all of the goodies and as always, the customer service by IAAK was impeccable.

I had a great birthday month anticipating and then opening and reveling in all the Harry Potter-ness. IAAK is soon to turn one and I can’t wait to see what they have planned for us in the future.


Have you subscribed to boxes yet?

What are your favourites?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Pirate’s Stowaway Bride by Anne Stryker

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) Pirates Stowaway bride-min.JPG

Length: 49 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction

Date of Publication: 1st July, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


I was contacted by the author through my blog and asked if I wanted to review the book. I have stayed away from the romance genre after burning my hands (or my eyes and brain?) after a few abysmal reads but the blurb on this was interesting. I figured that it was a short book and took a risk and boy did it pay off! I don’t think I have liked a book in this genre as much as I liked The Pirate’s Stowaway Bride.


 The Blurb

Sit still. Be quiet. Obey.

Adora has lived her entire life under her mother’s strict rules, but when obedience means marrying a man twice her age, something deep within her snaps. Fleeing the night of her wedding, she boards what she assumes is a trade ship and hides among the cargo she hopes won’t be touched until she’s far away from the life she left behind.

She never anticipated being found.

Or finding Fenix.

Fenix believes in freedom, expression, and adventure. When a woman in a wedding gown is found in the belly of his ship with eyes like fire and the disposition of something almost broken, he wants nothing more than to release the flames and mend the cracks.

But with her past catching up to them, he may not have the chance.

The Book

The book begins with a runaway bride who hides away in what she thinks is a trader’s vessel. To her chagrin, she finds that she is surrounded by pirates and she seems to be the only female for miles. I connected with Adora with the way she was brought up, always behaving like a lady, always obeying, always having to prove her worth. My heart went out to her when she described talking herself into the marriage. But, as luck would have it, Adora not only finds female company on the ship, but she also discovers that not all pirates are savages. Some of them even have morals in-built in them.

Fenix is now my new book boyfriend, or he would have been had the story been more than its 49 pages. He is equal parts mischievous and stoic. He does his best to make Adora comfortable in the midst of his crude shipmates. He encourages her to discover herself and ‘let the fire burn’. Isn’t that what we all aim to do? Live life on our terms and be ourselves in all situations?

Although the story seemed too good to be true and lost half a star from me, I believe that the karma of Adora suffering all through her life with the shadow of her mother’s indiscretion and the lack of father’s love caught up with her and the Universe decided to reward her with a bit of luck. The action scenes were fascinating and the chemistry between the lady and the pirate was palpable. It was the perfect feel-good story and I would love to read more of the adventures of Adora, Fenix, and Seagull.

The Author

Anne Stryker is an animal lover, a romance writer and aook hugger. She is intent on creating HEA and inspirational stories, most focusing on fantastical romances of every degree.

Her work include:

  1. The Pirate’s Stowaway Bride (2018)
  2. The Moon Faerie’s Night Sky (2018)
  3. Hovering Above Chaos (2018)
  4. Escapism: A Novella Collection (2018)

TL;DR: A lovely short story that is fast paced and leaves you with a good feeling in your heart


Do you like the romance genre?

What is your favourite?

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

Book review

Circe by Madeline Miller

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Circe

Length: 333 pages

Genre: Mythology, Historic Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishers

Date of Publication: April 10th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


As you know by now, I am a huge fan of mythology. One of my favorite genres is historic fiction. I love Greek mythology and wanted to own this book ever since I set my eyes on it. The number of giveaways that I have entered for this book on Instagram is atrocious! Finally when my birthday month came by, my Bookdivas sent me Circe in a birthday book-mail and I was over the moon!

I had already read and loved The Song of Achilles by the same author so I had very high expectations from this book. It certainly did not disappoint. Mithila and I buddy read this book and had the best time ever! Click here to see what she thought of the book.


The Blurb

From the Orange Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author of The Song of Achilles comes the powerful story of the mythological witch Circe, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds. Named after a hawk for her yellow eyes and strange voice, she is mocked by her siblings – until her beloved brother Aeëtes is born.

Yet after her sister Pasiphae marries King Midas of Crete, Aeëtes is whisked away to rule his own island. More isolated than ever, Circe, who has never been divine enough for her family, becomes increasingly drawn to mortals – and when she meets Glaucus, a handsome young fisherman, she is captivated. Yet gods mingle with humans, and meddle with fate, at their peril.

In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.

The Book

For someone who claims to love mythology, I was ashamed to find that what I thought I knew about Greek mythology did not even scratch the surface. My knowledge was mostly from other books and movies but it was in no way comprehensive and how could it be with the countless Greek Gods, Goddesses, Demigods, heroes, and monsters? They are like Cerberus the multi-headed dog. You think you have a handle on one of them only to discover that there are a hundred more. Add to this, the innumerable centuries that the Gods have lived and you have a very complex history and genealogy to understand. I was glad that the book stayed true to its name and we were allowed to discover the secrets of Circe from the time before she was even born. The sentences were beautifully crafted with the classic Miller style that I have come to love. The descriptions of the island, the animals, the Gods, and the monsters were very vivid. I loved how every chapter effortlessly paved the way for the next.

Circe is my favorite kind of character. She is tormented and made miserable by her circumstances but has a strong will and proves herself time and again. I loved how even as a child, Circe did not just take things lying down. When nobody wanted her brother, Circe took him in. When nobody wanted to help a fallen God, Circe was there. When nobody dared to dream of the ancient power in the flowers, Circe did. The adult Circe went on to tame wild beats and triumph over wild men. She did not falter when she had to raise her child by herself no matter how difficult he was or how many Gods she had to defy.

It was sad to see how even so many centuries ago, even with all the powers in them, women were still seen only as commodities. The prettiest fetched the best alliance through marriage, the most powerful gained favors of Kings across the world and the ones who were not considered worthy were left to fend for themselves. I was glad that Circe was not one of those simpering women who were shaped in the courts of Helios and Oceanus; aiming only to hurt each other and to obtain another shiny trinket in order to lord over the other nymphs.

Circe is a study in work ethics. She worked hard for all the powers and knowledge that she gained and never took them for granted. She was powerful enough to stop the mighty Athena, to walk to the depths of the greatest oceans and come out with a prize, to survive Helios’ wrath and build a beautiful life for herself but she never forgot that without continued hard work all that she had achieved was for naught. It is a lesson for all of us who would rest on our laurels and decide that we have had enough. If Circe could endure for centuries, can we not endure for decades?

The Author

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes.

Her work include:

  1. The Song of Achilles (2011)
  2. Heracle’s Bow (2012)
  3. XO Orpheus: Fifty New Myths (2013)- Contributor
  4. The Brown Reader: 50 Writers Remember College Hill (2014)- Contributir
  5. Galatea (2013)
  6. Circe (2018)

TL;DR: A beautifully written and moving story that has parallels even in the modern day society


Do you read mythology?

What is your favourite?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Aaru by David Meredith

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

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Length: 296 pages

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Date of Publication: 9th July, 2017

Rating: 3/5 stars

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


It had been quite a long time since I read a Sci-Fi so when the author offered the book to me for review, I was very excited.


The Blurb

Rose is dying. Her body is wasted and skeletal. She is too sick and weak to move. Every day is an agony and her only hope is that death will find her swiftly before the pain grows too great to bear.

She is sixteen years old.

Rose has made peace with her fate, but her younger sister, Koren, certainly has not. Though all hope appears lost Koren convinces Rose to make one final attempt at saving her life after a mysterious man in a white lab coat approaches their family about an unorthodox and experimental procedure. A copy of Rose’s radiant mind is uploaded to a massive super computer called Aaru – a virtual paradise where the great and the righteous might live forever in an arcadian world free from pain, illness, and death. Elysian Industries is set to begin offering the service to those who can afford it and hires Koren to be their spokes-model.

Within a matter of weeks, the sisters’ faces are nationally ubiquitous, but they soon discover that neither celebrity nor immortality is as utopian as they think. Not everyone is pleased with the idea of life everlasting for sale.
What unfolds is a whirlwind of controversy, sabotage, obsession, and danger. Rose and Koren must struggle to find meaning in their chaotic new lives and at the same time hold true to each other as Aaru challenges all they ever knew about life, love, and death and everything they thought they really believed.

The Book

I loved how the author introduced a concept of two sisters who are torn from each other before their time. Add to this the tragedy of a young life snuffed out by cancer and the unrealised hopes of a brilliant and athletic girl who is ridden hopeless by the disease, we have a moving story on our hands. For a book that is only 296 pages long, there were quite a lot of pages that I had to gloss over. The descriptions felt a bit too long and winding to me, but that might very well be a very personal opinion.

The real story begins after Rose enters Aaru. Aaru is the make-believe equivalent of the heaven (or is the very concept of heaven of any kind make-believe? That’s a topic of discussion for another day) that we all crave to enter after our time on earth has come to a pass. The place is beautiful, the Vedas can manipulate their surroundings and their appearance at will and the people there are nice and helpful. Add to this the Harm Failsafe, and we practically have a place where misery and pain cannot exist.

The concept of Aaru was beautifully rendered. The creativity of the author was visible in the world that he had the characters create. The hierarchies and the ability of each person were very unique and deserved applause. However, I felt that the twist at the end was a bit too derivative and unnecessary. It could be the set-up for the next books in the series but it’s execution here felt hurried and half-hearted. After all the build-up that the author gave, the conclusion left a lot to be desired.

I, however liked the story for its unique concept if not for the execution.

The Author

David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts and then received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership. He spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.

His work include:

  1. The Reflections of Queen Snow White (2013)
  2. Aaru- The Aaru Cycle Book 1 (2017)
  3. Aaru- Halls of Hell Book 2 (2018)

TL;DR: A unique concept with a lot of creative thought that is sure to interest fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.


Do you read a lot of Sci-Fi?

What is your favourite book in the genre?

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

Book review

Beartown by Fredrik Bachman, translated by Neil Smith

Statistics

Format: Paperback

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Length: 414 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Sports, Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House, UK

First Publication: 2016; Present edition 25th January, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


I had my birthday in July and was very lucky this year to have found friends who sent book mails as birthday presents. It feels wonderful to think that they have curated these books specifically for me. Thank you #bookdivas Anupama, Chitra, Unnati, Sneha and Nisha for this truly #booksacrossgenres gift!

I buddy read Beartown with Sneha and was glad for her support through the emotional parts of this book.


The Blurb

‘Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.’

Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together – or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. A bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

With the town’s future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other.

Which side would you be on?

The Book

Beartown is a hockey town. It is on the verge of being something great, of being put on the map of ice hockey when its residents are hit by a tidal wave of tragedy. The golden child is targeted, the town is split down the middle deciding which of the children to believe. In a town as small and as secluded as Beartown, being alone is a death sentence. Everybody wants to make the popular choice even if it means turning a blind eye to the truth that is staring them in the face.

It speaks of a story that we are all familiar with. Children who have adult responsibilities and expectations thrust upon them with no support and are left to fend for themselves in an adult world grow up to realize that they have missed out on all sorts of childhood experiences and haven’t been able to educate themselves. They are bewildered when they come out into the real world and take refuge in various addictions as we see with a frightening number of grown child actors. Similarly, child prodigies who are made to grow up too quickly realize that they have not developed the tools required to survive in an adult world.

The blind loyalty that we see here is common in sports teams. The players are coached as a team and the team takes prominence over individuals. Professional players who spend most of their waking hours with their teammates develop close, bordering on unhealthy, relationships with each other as we see in this story. It might be a necessity for the coaches to build a team that moves and thinks as one but when it involves children, someone needs to take the responsibility of making sure that their moral compass is pointing due North.

I was unable to read more than a couple of chapters at a time in the beginning of the book because there was so much to take in. Each character in intricately created and the story progresses seamlessly to each character’s point of view. I loved how the narration did not lose its momentum even with the translation. The story kept me on my toes all through the book.

It is a story of love, of sacrifice, of parents’ helplessness in not being able to protect their children from the evil in the world. It is a story of growing up too fast, of misplaced loyalty, of stardom, of growth, of children not being taught right from wrong, of parental expectations and panic that accompanies the inability to fulfill them.

The Author

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.


TL;DR: A book that is sure to take you on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows


Do you like stories based on sports?

What are your favourite sport?

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