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

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 416 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction

Date of Publication: 9th July, 2019

Publisher: Knopf Books

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


I kept seeing cover reveals and other publicity for Spin the Dawn all over bookstagram and I really wanted to get my hands on it. Given my recent reading slump, I wasn’t sure if pre-ordering it would be such a good idea. So when I saw that Penguin Random House had sent a pre-approved Netgalley link to the book, I was over the moon. I was so ecstatic that I immediately started reading it and that was the end of my reading slump, at least for now.


The Blurb

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

The Book

The first of The Blood of Stars series, the book started off with a beautiful description of rural China and the rules that govern the people. I have recently been obsessed with reading Asian literature. The family values, the division of labour both at home and outside it, the simplicity of life, were all reminiscent of things that I love about it.

I was very excited to read about the tailor trials. As a crafter who works with yarn, I was intrigued by the things that Maia comes up with. I just wish that the trials were described in more detail but seeing that it wasn’t the main focus of the story, I think that part was reasonably well written. Edan was designed for readers to fall in love with. What’s not to love about the beautiful, powerful, mysterious young man who seems to have a heart of gold? He sees right through everything and makes sure that he protects those who need protecting. I just wish that Maia did not need to depend on Edan as much as she did in the beginning. But she redeemed herself in my eyes towards the latter half of the book.

Although the middle of the book was a tad predictable, I think it had more to do with the fact that I have read so many YA Fantasy over the last couple of years that I saw the plot unfold even before it did. I loved how the sun-moon-and-stars trials were described. The world building there was phenomenal. I was rooting for the couple till the very end and I cannot wait for the sequel to be published!

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.

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.

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 and she hasn’t looked back since. 


TL;DR: A fun and quick read that will make you wish that the sequel was already out


What’s your favorite YA trope?

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

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Book review, Readathon

What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 448 pages

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Contemporary

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: 9th October, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


I love Becky Albertalli’s writing and have heard so much about Adam Silvera so I was really excited to read this for Pride readathon 2019. I had just finished reading Carry On by Rainbow Rowell and The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli and this felt like natural progression.


The Blurb

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is? 

The Book

This was my last read for the Pride Readathon 2019 and what a brilliant way to end the readathon. Although the book began in a very ‘Young Adult’ manner with a meet-cute, it quickly made me sit up and take notice.

I was so happy to see that same-sex couples were so mainstream in the story setting. I was also glad that the author stayed true to reality and showed how something as simple as travelling with your partner could be an opportunity to garner hate from complete strangers. This is, unfortunately, a situation that happens more than is comfortable for my peace of mind.

I liked how the author kept things real even in small seemingly insignificant things like Arthur wanting to do touristy things in New York and wanting to experience everything that the city had to offer. He did not want to miss whatever opportunity that summer provided and I could not begrudge him for that. The Arthur-Ben equation was cute and I loved the do-overs. But I was pulling my hair at how complicated the exes were. I just wanted to push everyone together into a room, lock the door and say “no one gets out till you have figured things out” How ‘serial killer’ of me!

The Authors

Becky Albertalli is a former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta. 

Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and They Both Die at the End. He worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, community manager at a content development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He was born and raised in New York. He lives in Los Angeles and is tall for no reason. 


TL;DR: A fun and quick read that touches upon a lot of important issues


Have you read anything written by two authors together?

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

Book review, Readathon

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 528 pages

Genre: LGBTQ+, Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: Macmillan

Date of Publication: 8th October, 2015

Rating: 3/5 stars


I keep seeing memes and character drawings for Baz and Simon all over Instagram and I knew that I had to read this book because they seemed to be interesting. I researched on the book and found that it is based on the characters from an earlier book by the same author- Fangirl. What I did not expect is how similar the story was to Harry Potter.


The Blurb

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

Based on the characters Simon and Baz who featured in Rainbow Rowell’s bestselling novel Fangirl, Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

The Book

In the first 6 to 8% of the book, all I saw were parallels to Harry’s story. Here was an orphan who is suddenly made aware of his magical powers and the fact that there is a secret magical world the exists right under his nose. He is the ‘chosen one’ who is prophesied to end the evil that threatens to take over the world. He lives in a magical school castle that is more of a home to him than anything else in his 11 years of existence. His best friend is a smart girl who is powerful and can make any spell work to her advantage. There is a goatherd on the grounds who takes him under her wings and offers a grounded reality in a world where everything seems fantastical. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading something that was so blatantly copying one of my favorite works of fiction. A little bit of trolling on Instagram revealed that it is in fact supposed to be a sort of Harry Potter fanfic and I hate to DNF books so I decided to continue reading it. After I was about 15% into the book, it started getting interesting on its own merits and I couldn’t stop reading it.

I loved how the author included characters from various ethnicity. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many Indian names and food mentioned in the story. If they are as common as that, maybe the world really is shrinking into the so-called ‘Global Village’. I was also glad that the author wrote a character like Agatha who just wanted to be a normal girl going about her day unaffected by all the ‘chosen one’ drama. She did not ask for any of it and did not see why it should be thrust into her life. I enjoyed the Baz and Simon equation. They were the very essence of teenage relationship. While some parts of the story were predictable, it was fast paced enough that it keeps you on your toes.

The Author

Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults, sometimes she writes about teenagers. But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she’s not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

Her work include:

  1. Attachments (2011)
  2. Eleanor and Park (2012)
  3. Fangirl (2013)
  4. Landline (2014)
  5. Carry On (2015)
  6. Kindred Spirits (2016)
  7. Almost Midnight (2017)
  8. Runaways: Find Your Way Home (2018)
  9. Runaways: Best Friends Forever (2018)
  10. Wayward Son (2019)

TL;DR: A fast paced book with varied characters that makes for a light reading


Do you read fan fictions?

What are your favorites?

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

Book review, Readathon

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Fiction

Length: 359 pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Date of Publication: 21st February, 2012

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


I had come across this book last June during the Pride Readthon but hadn’t read it. Later in December, I received this book from Rugma in a Secret Santa and was ecstatic. However, half a year went by without me having read it. Suddenly it was Pride month again and it seemed to be the perfect time to start reading it.


The Blurb

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

The Book

As I approach my 30s, I get a bit skeptical about reading the Young Adult genre. It doesn’t help that I love reading fantasy and most of the fantasies are in the YA spectrum. I decided to give this book a go because I had been wanting to read it for a while and thought that I would stop if it got too ‘young adult-y’ in the middle. But to my surprise, the book hooked me right from the quote at the beginning, even before the first chapter began. After that, there was no turning back. I finished the book in a record two days which is saying something since I was juggling a full-time job and a crochet product to be made on order.

The characters were not wishy-washy and were very real and relatable. As opposed to all the bubbly and chirpy young characters or characters who didn’t know what was wrong with them, Ari was a much-needed change. He knew exactly what he was going through in terms of his state of mind. He knew that he was unhappy but wasn’t sure what was the cause, much like most of us. He knew that ‘normal’ people did not have so much of sadness in them but he also knew that there wasn’t anything inherently ‘bad’ about him just because he could not be obliviously happy. The book had a lot of positive mental health reaffirmations which I loved. There were many thought processes of Ari that had me thinking that this was exactly what was happening inside my head. I was surprised that I connected to him so much.

While Dante was a happy character, the author did not make it seem unreal. His life had given him skills to cope with his feelings better than Ari but he was also prone to melancholy just like everyone else. The mood swings while dealing with reciprocated love, the need to share his life with someone that he cares about, the love towards his parents and not wanting to disappoint them as an only child, all spoke to me on a personal level. As an only child myself I understand the need to be everything that your parents expect their child to be and satisfy their every wish just because you feel like there is nobody else to share the burden.

I wasn’t sure if I understood the obsession of Ari with his brother’s story but I think it is completely agreeable to want to know what your family has been hiding from you for so many years. I enjoyed how the author showed the boys as good and sensible people who wanted to let off steam every once in a while. It made them more real to me. I was a bit disappointed at how the characters were pushed towards a certain ‘ideal’ ending by others in the story (no names to avoid spoilers) but apart from that, this was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and connected with. An unexpectedly great start to the pride readathon!

The Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born on born 16 August 1954 at Old Picacho, New Mexico. He is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children’s books.

He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy in 1977. He studied Theology at the University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium from 1977 to 1981. He was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas before leaving the order.

In 1985, he returned to school, and studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned an M.A. degree in Creative Writing. He then spent a year at the University of Iowa as a PhD student in American Literature. A year later, he was awarded a Wallace E. Stegner fellowship. He entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford and continued his studies for two more years. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved back to the border and began teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso in the bilingual MFA program.

In 2005, he curated a show of photographs by Julian Cardona. He continues to teach in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso. 


TL;DR: A deeply moving story that is relatable to people no matter what their age.

Are you reading anything special for Pride month?

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

Book review, Readathon

The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 336 pages

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Date of Publication: 11th April, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


I read about six books related to LGBTQ+ in 2018 for Pride Month and when I received this book from one of my friends on Bookstagram, Sneha, I knew I had to read it for the Pride Readathon 2019. I had loved reading Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat and I had high expectations for this book. I sometimes love reading YA books and go on a binge but it had been a while since I read the genre and I was very excited to re-start with this.

The Blurb

I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. A perfect alignment of feelings and circumstances

Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly is always careful. Better to be careful than be hurt

But when Cassie gets a new girlfriend who comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick, everything changes. Will is funny, flirtatious, and basically the perfect first boyfriend. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid, the awkward Tolkien superfan, she could never fall for … right?

A heart-warming and hilarious story about growing up and learning to be comfortable in your own skin.

The Book

What’s not to love about a Pinterest loving, over thinking, angsty teen who happens to be a pro at finding the best possible props and arranging them in picture worthy settings? I wanted to rope in Molly to help me with my bookstagram pictures 😂
I had loved Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat when I read them last year for Pride Readathon. So when Sneha sent this book, I knew I had to read it for Pride this year. I love how the author captured the loneliness and the need to belong with people that we love.

At 17, everything feels like the end of the world. So when your twin suddenly appears to have less time for you and starts keeping secrets from you, it’s only natural that you are filled with boiling rage. As a grown-up, you think you are more comfortable in your own skin but the need to feel like you matter still persists. My favourite part was how the Peskin-Suso family looks so diverse from the outside but everyone is genuinely connected with each other and there is complete trust in their love for each other.

The Author

Becky Albertalli is the author of the acclaimed novels Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (film: Love, Simon), The Upside of Unrequited, and Leah on the Offbeat. She is also the co-author of What If It’s Us with Adam Silvera. A former clinical psychologist who specialized in working with children and teens, Becky lives with her family in Atlanta.

Her work include:

  1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015)
  2. The Upside of Unrequitted (2017)
  3. Leah on the Offbeat (2018)
  4. What if it’s Us (2018)

TL;DR: A beautiful story with well developed characters that tug at your heart


Do you write your reviews immediately after you finish reading the book or do you procrastinate like I do?

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

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Statistics

Length: 156 pages

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Poetry, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Date of Publication: 20th September, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


When the author contacted me about reviewing the book, I was amazed at the beautiful cover. The concept was intriguing and it seemed like an interesting read. I usually research a book before accepting a review opportunity but something about this book had me saying yes almost immediately.

The Blurb

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

The Book

I always consider myself as a ‘prose over poetry’ sort of person. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author knew what she was doing. The lines were wonderfully symmetrical and lyrical and the icing on the cake was that they rhymed perfectly. 

I was glad that I read the book in June since it contributed towards my Pride Readathon. The book consists of short poems based on quirky characters. We see children born in affluent families who are discarded because they do not conform to society’s idea of perfection. We see husbands and wives come to terms with their differences. We see greedy landlords and circus masters get their comeuppance. We see individuals from the fringes of the society find acceptance and also individuals who are banished or killed for their difference in appearance, behaviour or sexual orientation.

Even though the book talks about freaks and oddities of nature, the general feeling is one of positivity and humor. The women in the stories are strong and independent and find their place in the world and enjoy what they are doing despite being despised by a select few. I enjoyed how the author connected a story towards the end of the book with one in the beginning. That goes to show how much planning actually went into writing and editing.

The Author

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal holds an MA from Kings College, London. She is a recipient of the 14th Beullah Rose Poetry Prize by Smartish Pace. She was shortlisted for the Third Coast Fiction Prize, 2018. She is featured on the Masthead of the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review as a Frequent Contributor. A popular Spoken Word poet, she performs at events across venues in India. Her page poetry is featured in reputed international literary journals such as Smartish Pace, Dunes Review, Typehouse Literary Review, SOFTBLOW, Broad River Review, Gyroscope Review and many more. Her poetry will be anthologized alongside the work of renowned poets such as Gulzar and Piyush Mishra in 2019. She lives with her 4-year-old son, husband and two dog babies in Pune, India.


TL;DR: A well written book that will have you wondering at the behaviour of the society even while chuckling at its eccentricities


Do you like reading poetry?

What are your favourites?

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

Book review

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 451 pages

Genre: Historic Fiction

Publisher: Scribner

Date of Publication: 6th May, 2014

Rating: 5/5 stars


I received this book as a part of my birthday book mail from the #bookdivas and I absolutely loved it. However, I could not get to reading it for about 5 months! This was one book that I knew I had to read before the year ended and I’m glad that I did.

The book has won several accolades such as Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2015)Audie Award for Fiction (2015)ALA Alex Award (2015)Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction (Runner-Up) (2015)Ohioana Book Award for Fiction (2015)Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2015)Idaho Book of the Year Award (2014)National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2014)Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction (2014) and Nominee for Best of the Best (2018)International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee (2016)

The Blurb

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

The Book

The book hooked me from the very first page. The young life of Marie-Laure reminded me of a book that I read a long time ago where a grandfather trains his blind grandchild in puzzles and educates her by taking her around the museum, though I have forgotten the name of the book. (If any of you know it, please tell me!)

I loved reading both the points of view but I enjoyed Werner’s experiences and his way of looking at the world more than Marie-Laure’s. I was glad that the author did not turn her into a simpering little girl but showed that people who are sight impaired can play a pivotal role even in the times of war. I expected the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner to be interconnected much earlier in the book. Certain parts of the book seemed to be dragging on a bit too much and seemed unnecessary to the entire plot. The end left me dissatisfied. I had a higher expectation for the book but on the whole, it was an intriguing read. What really moved me was the part where Marie-Laure is haunted by her experiences when she re-visits the places of her childhood. War displaces the lives of everyone, but children have it worse than everyone else.

The Author

Anthony Doerr is the author of five books, The Shell Collector About Grace Memory Wall Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See . Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the Story Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award, and the Ohioana Book Award three times. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho. Become a fan on Facebook and stay up-to-date on his latest publications.

TL;DR: A moving story that surprises you and makes you realise that the repercussions of war reach far and wide.

What is your favorite genre?

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Book review, Received for Review

Lady Diana: The Queen of Hearts (A 03 part play) by Dr. Ramnath Sonawane

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 66 pages

Genre: Play

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 20th April, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars

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


Since the time I can remember, my mother was a fan of Lady Diana. She collected pictures and postcards of her and watched her reverently on TV. The Princess passed away while I was still young and as I grew up, I started following the lives of her children and their family. Now with social media, gathering information has become a breeze and not a day goes by where I don’t see posts or news about the British Royals and I lap it all up.

When Dattsons Publishers approached me with a review request for a play set on Lady Diana, I knew I could not resist. Although I am not a big reader of plays or screenplays, I knew that it was story that I would enjoy. I was curious to see how the story that I have grown up reading would be interpreted by the author.


The Blurb

This play is about Lady Diana. It depicts some real life incidents and some imaginary scenes to sound it more dramatic. There are six main characters from the Royal Family. The fairytale marriage between Princess Diana and the Prince ends with divorce due to his affair with his first love Camilla. When Diana discovers this, feels distressed and betrayed, she tries to find solace in the charity, the purpose which was dear to her heart even before her marriage. The sub plot relates to the marriage and divorce between the Duke and the Duchess. It is a perfect foil to the main plot as it depicts the estranged Duchess seeking divorce from the Duke who is tolerant enough to accept her extra marital affair for the sake of Royalty. On the other hand, in the main plot, Diana takes a conscious decision of divorce, sacrificing her title and even the right to Queenship. The dictum of the Shakespearean tragedy, that “character is Destiny; that we are ourselves the makers or the destroyers of our own fortune” is thus proved through the personality traits of Lady Diana.

The Book

The story begins with the dream wedding of Diana and Prince Charles told from the point of view of a couple of stable hands. The public adoration of Lady Diana begins early in the relationship and continues even after its termination. We see how her beauty and charitable nature makes her a darling in peoples’ eyes. I could not help but draw parallels between Lady Diana and Princess Kate in the way the public loves them, their natural beauty and compassion, their love for their children, their need to create as ordinary a life for the children as possible and the importance that they give to charity work.

The unfortunate events that turn the tide in the marriage begins with Diana learning of the affair of Prince Charles and Lady Camilla. We have all seen this played out in the news. To read it from the point of view of the people involved in the scenario made it more personal. We can only assume that these were the kind of conversations that occurred based on the interviews that were given by everyone involved. I wasn’t sure how I felt about such assumptions but it can be chalked up to creative liberty that authors deserve.

I wish we got to read more on the relationship between Lady Diana and Prince Dodi and also Diana’s relationship with her children. With the famous interview by Prince William and Prince Harry on the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in 2017, there was a lot of personal stories that could have been used to spin this tale. I also wish that the author had avoided mistakes like referring to Prince William as ‘Williams’ everywhere in the book. For a true Royal fan, this slip up was not acceptable. The author tried to incorporate the British way of speech in some places like the use of ‘lad’ and ‘dear Sir’ but it wasn’t consistent throughout the story. Apart from minor transgressions of this sort, it was a nice and quick read of a story that we all know.

The Author

Dr. Ramnath Sonawane is well known for his administrative acumen. He is a result oriented individual with a strong analytical, communication, interpersonal and negotiation skills. His professional career as an administrator spans more than 30 years of experience in urban management. He served an a municipal commissioner for cities. He is currently working as chief executive officer in Nagpur and has published books, bhajans and a collection of poems.

His work include:

  1. Capsule- a collection of poems in Marathi
  2. Administrative Communication Strategies
  3. Bhajans in Hindi

TL;DR: A quick read of a story that we all know and love, written from the characters’ point of view


Do you read plays?

What are your favourites?

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

Book review

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography, Non-fiction, Memoir

Length: 426 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group- Penguin Random Publishing House

Date of Publication: 13th November, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

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

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

The Author

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

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

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


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


Do you like memoirs?

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

Book review, Readathon

The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty by Kavita Kane

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 325 pages

Genre: Mythology

Publisher: Westland Books

Date of Publication: 15th December, 2017

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

The Author

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

Her work include;

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

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


What was your favourite mythology story growing up?

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