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

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date of Publication: 14th January, 2020

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I loved reading What If Its Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli so when I found out that Adam Silvera was coming up with a new book, I knew I had to read it. I was glad when the publishers sent an ARC of the book to me. The cover is beautiful and golden and I actually like it better than the final cover!

Infinity Son is the first book in the Trilogy Infinity Cycle, a series that promises to explore various types of Phoenixes and their powers.


The Blurb

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

The Book

The book begins with the twins Emil and Brighton counting down the minutes to their birthday. They expect their 18th birthday to convert them into Celestials with unique powers. While Brighton can’t wait to join the Spell Walkers and grow his YouTube channel, all Emil wants is some peace and quiet. But everything changes when Emil finds that he has mysterious powers of his own and no matter how much he wants to get out of the fight, he has an important part to play in history.

Just like with What If Its Us, Adam Silvera’s characters do not make a big deal of their sexual identity or about coming out in Infinity Son either. Everyone’s accepted for who they are and it is a welcome change to see the LGBTQ aspect as a background to another central story. I loved the brotherhood that Emil and Brighton shared till the end. Trust and friendship are given a very high priority and it is quite uplifting to read it.

I found the entire Celestial-Spell Walker-Specter dynamic to be made more complicated than it needed to be. The action sequences were wonderful to read but it felt like the scenes skipped a bit too much of details to be cohesive. The description of each celestial with their power was beautiful. I loved the family dynamics depicted in the book and I hope that we see more of that in the rest of the books in the series.

The Author

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. His next book What If It’s Us is co-written by Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and releases on October 9th, 2018. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His work include:

  1. More Happy Than Not (2015)
  2. They Both Die at the End (2017)
  3. History is All You Left Me (2017)
  4. What If Its Us (2018)
  5. Infinity Son (2020)

TL;DR: An interesting start to a trilogy that makes you wish you had more


What are your favorite trilogies?

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

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

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kimmerer

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 464 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date of Publication: 20th January, 2020

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


When I received an ARC of the book, I hadn’t read the first part of the CurseBreakers series yet. I was in a dilemma about reading this book directly or after reading the first book. I decided to read the first book and boy, was I glad that I did! The book was diverse and inclusive and all sorts of amazing! I was really excited to read this book immediately after completing the first one.


The Blurb

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

The Book

While the first book of the CurseBreakers series concentrated on action and world-building, we see more of character development and dialogue in this one. I cannot say if I prefer one over the other but I do know that I missed the quick pace of Book 1. I fell in love with Grey and his retinue of misfits as was intended but it never felt forced. We are allowed to leisurely stroll through the characters’ minds and hearts until they become endearing. Nolla Verin and Lia Mara did not have as much effect on me as I expected but maybe they will take a more firm hold of my heart as the series progresses.

We see that the story continues where the first book left us. The Kingdom is saved from the enchantment while it begins drowning in neglect of the last five years. The new Prince and Princess try to keep their heads above water but they are treading very dangerous waters indeed. While the twist with Grey and Lia Mara was expected, I did not expect to see so less of Rhen and Harper in this book. I was glad that seemingly lesser characters like Jake were allowed to grow into the story.

The book stays true to its intention of being inclusive both of people of color as well as people with disabilities. Although I was wishing for more action while reading the book, in hindsight I realise that I was glad of the slower pace that let me enjoy the character development. I wish that the author had not felt the need to end on another cliff-hanger because, just like with the first book, this one seemed to have reached its logical conclusion.

The Author

I’ve spoken about Brigid Kimmerer in my review of her book A Curse so Dark and Lonely.


TL;DR: A slower pace when compared to the first book, but one which has brilliant character development


What was your first read of 2020?

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

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

Bone China by Laura Purcell

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 433 pages

Genre: Thriller, Paranormal, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror

Publisher: Raven Books (Bloomsbury)

Date of Publication: 19th September, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I read the author’s second novel, The Corset last year and absolutely loved it! So when the publisher offered to send an ARC of her next book, I jumped at the chance. I knew it was going to have dark and scary elements so it was an added bonus that I got to read it close to Halloween.

It was an added bonus that I could read it as a part of the Books N’ Beyond Halloween readathon and also Aksreads OctSpookathon!


The Blurb

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

The Book

The book is divided into two main points of view spread at least 40 years apart. While the main protagonist, Hester Why is set in the Georgian period, the story of her Mistress, Louise Pinecroft is set during her youth. Miss Pinecroft and her father are eager to cure Consumption, both for different reasons. However, the disease has plans of its own. The common thread between the stories is Creeda, the heterochromia affected maid who claims to see Little People through her blue colored eye.

Miss Why, a nurse-maid who grew up with the need to have people trust her and depend on her is thrown with her history of bad luck. All of her charges seem to die on her. She vows to not let it happen this time but the fates have other plans. While she doesn’t believe in Fairies, Creeda shows her enough reasons to start doubting her self-assuredness.

I loved the part of the story that dealt with the Pinecrofts and tuberculosis. It was interesting to see how ancient medical knowledge and practices varied from what we now practice in modern-day medicine. I also loved the folklore of Fairies and Little People. It was different from the happy and helpful fairies and pixies that we come across in most stories. I would have loved to read in more detail about Creeda’s methods to protect the household.

The part of the story with Miss Why seemed to lack meat on its bones. I would have loved for the author to explore her past especially with her family and her need to have people dependent on her. The ending was quite abrupt. Just as the modern story began to connect to the past, the book ended like the author was trying to preserve some amount of mystery which the book could have done without.

The Author

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books The Silent Companions won the WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. Other Gothic novels include The Corset, Bone China and The Shape of Darkness(2020)

Laura’s historical fiction about the Hanoverian monarchs, Queen of Bedlam and Mistress of the Court, was published by Myrmidon.

I’ve written more about the author and her work in my review of The Corset


TL;DR: A book that had the potential to be a dark gothic novel but falls just short of it


Do you like Gothic stories?

What are your favourites?

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

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

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Statistics

Format: eBook (ARC)

Length: 416 pages

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House

Date of Publication: 29th October, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review


When I received an email from Penguin Random House about their recent releases pre-approved on NetGalley, Gravemaidens was the book that first caught my eye. As a dentist myself, I love stories with medicine and doctors in them so I knew I would definitely be reading the book as soon as possible.


The Blurb

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

The Book

I love reading about ancient practices and the logic of such traditions. If they involve doctors and medicine, you wouldn’t be able to pull me away. Gravemaidens promised to have all of this along with family drama and sisterly love and I was not disappointed.

The book is set in an ancient fictional city which seemed to me to be somewhere near Egypt because of the use of Olives and the way the people dressed and the descriptions of the Royal family and the traditions associated with them. The concept of having 3 beautiful young girls in the grave with the old King was morbid but the enthusiasm that the people showed and the desperation of the girls to get picked as the Maidens was just plain scary. It goes to show how easily people can be brainwashed with the promise of money and position.

I loved how resourceful Kammani was. She never gives up. But the book contained one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate it when characters don’t communicate and cause complications that could have been easily resolved if only they spoke what was in their hearts. I am a big believer in saying what I’m thinking and there were times where I wanted to jump into the book and shake Kammani hard and make her say the things that needed to be said!

I could not help but get annoyed at how Nanaea and their father let her Kammani do everything for the family after their mother’s death. It should not have been the responsibility of a 17-year-old who had dreams of her own. The talented young adult being thrust into the adult world and having to struggle to realise her dreams, the anguish at not being able to let her romance prosper, the inadequacy of everyone around her were all reminiscent of other Young Adult books that are popular now. But the descriptions of the palace and the traditions, as well as the attention to detail in getting all the old remedies and medical practices right are commendable!

The Author

YA author Kelly Coon is an editor for Blue Ocean Brain, a member of the Washington Post Talent Network, a former high school English teacher, ACT test prep book author, and a wicked karaoke singer in training. She adores giving female characters the chance to flex their muscles and use their brains, and wishes every story got the happy ending she’s living near Tampa with her three sons, brilliant husband, and a rescue pup who will steal your sandwich.


TL;DR: A well researched book that has a little bit of everything


What is your favorite book that deals with ancient traditions?

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

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

The Orange Grove by Kate Murdoch

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 245 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Date of Publication: 11th October, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


I have been following Kate Murdoch’s career ever since Stone Circle was published. I was in a review group where Kate’s book was much talked about so when she offered me the chance to read and review her second book- The Orange Grove, I jumped at the chance.


The Blurb

Blois, 1705. The château of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies. The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in love and domestic politics strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.”

The Book

The book is set in early 18th century France and follows the life of the people in d’Amboise household. The Duc and Duchesse and a retinue of Mistresses, their children and the servants are embroiled in power games and domestic politics. The everyday lives of the women of the house looks peaceful to an outsider but is filled with secrets, hidden loyalties, and deceit. As the characters say, the most important thing for a woman is her position and when that is threatened, they stoop to any level to hurt the ones who put them down.

I loved the descriptions of the Court, the French delicacies and the grandeur of the places that they live in. The characters were beautifully written. They are introduced at leisure and the reader is allowed to get themselves familiar with each of them. You cannot help but fall in love with Solange and Thomas, you cannot help but feel sorry for Isabelle, Amelia and Letitia, you cannot help but detest Charlotte. I was perplexed by some of the decisions of Henriette but she never deviated from her moral values.

I quite enjoyed the Tarot readings and the duels and wished for more of them. Although the book is peppered with sentences in French that I had to let Google translate for me, it did not make the reading experience any worse for wear. The story is fast-paced and the second half of the book is filled with dark mystery that made it perfect for October for a Halloween themed read.

The Author

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone Circle. She exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Kate has been awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel, The Glasshouse.

Her work include:

  1. The Stone Circle (2017)
  2. The Orange Grove (2019)
  3. The Glasshouse

TL;DR: A fast paced story with beautiful descriptions of the French way of life in early 18th Century and a bit of dark mystery


Do you like reading about the old bygone eras?

What book would you recommend that has such a story?

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

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

The Monster who Wasn’t by T.C. Shelley

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 271 pages

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishers

Date of Publication: 8th August, 2019

Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected copy of the book in return for an honest review


When Bloomsbury offered a choice of titles for review, I was drawn to this book. As an avid reader of Fantasy, I sometimes feel like I can predict the story when I read the blurb. This is one of the few books where I had no idea where the author would lead us to and that made me want to read the book at any cost.

I like reading uncorrected proofs sometimes. They give an insight to the author’s creative process as well as an idea of what goes into editing. But with this book, I have a feeling that the published book would have had a lot of cool artwork which was missing in my copy. I hope I get to see them some time in the future.


The Blurb

It is a well-known fact that fairies are born from a baby’s first laugh. What is not as well documented is how monsters come into being …

This is the story of a creature who is both strange and unique. When he hatches down in the vast underground lair where monsters dwell, he looks just like a human boy – much to the disgust of everyone watching. Even the grumpy gargoyles who adopt him and nickname him ‘Imp’ only want him to steal chocolate for them from the nearby shops. He’s a child with feet in both worlds, and he doesn’t know where he fits.

But little does Imp realise that Thunderguts, king of the ogres, has a great and dangerous destiny in mind for him, and he’ll stop at nothing to see it come to pass….

The Book

The book hooked me in right from the beginning. The technicalities of the birth of a monster had enough of realism mixed with the fantasy aspect to feel like its something that could possibly happen. I wasn’t sure if I liked the protagonist in the beginning but as the story progressed I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He is sweet, loving and innocent and all his decisions are based on what his heart tells is right.

As soon as the Gargoyles came into the story, I fell in love with them. I am a sucker for characters with a gruff exterior and molten chocolate insides. I kept waiting for one of the ‘good’ characters in the story to betray the Imp because they gave off that kind of vibes. It is a reflection on the author’s storytelling prowess that she kept me guessing who that character would be till the very end. I was curious to see how the author would handle introducing multiple fantasy creatures and if the story would get lost in the details but that was not the case.

I loved how unpredictable the story was. Although it has been categorised as ‘Middle Grade’ it could very easily sell as Young Adult and wow the target audience. The concepts of loss and guilt, of the need to belong and the camaraderie shown by the characters will definitely interest a wide age range. The book is equal parts funny and sad. The dialogues are witty and sassy. It was a brilliant read especially as a debut novel and I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with.

The Author

T.C. Shelley studied Creative Writing and Literature at University. She has been teaching English for over twenty years and her first school was classified as the most remote in Australia. She loves an audience and long before she took up teaching was writing and performing her poetry and short stories. 

Shelley began writing novels to entertain her daughter, who wisely suggested that she try to get them published.

She lives with her husband, her daughter and two dogs in Perth, Western Australia. She loves to travel and isn’t frightened of being lost. 


TL;DR: A brilliantly written debut that keeps you on your toes


Have you loved any grey character that can be classified as ‘the monster who wasn’t’?

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

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

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

Nagin by Mayur Didolkar

Statistics

Format: Paperback IMG_20180527_124537-01-min.jpeg

Length: 273 pages

Genre: Supernatural, Thriller, Mythological

Publisher: Juggernaut Books

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


I have read Hush A Bye Baby and Animal Farm online on the Juggernaut app. So when they offered to send a paperback to me I was pleasantly surprised. I like stories set in mythology and decided to give this a read.

The author also gives credit to local legends and stories that have been passed from generation to generation which is a rare thing to see. I was glad that he felt the need to give credit where credit was due.


The Author

Mayur Didolkar runs a financial services business in Pune. A fan of popular fiction, he has published two novels and several short stories. He writes for Swarajya and The Quint. Mayur tries his hand at stand-up comedy occasionally and has run two full-marathons.

A crime and horror writer, the possibility of things going dreadfully, irrevocably wrong in ordinary situations inspires his work.

His work include-

  1. The Dark Road (2017)
  2. Tears for Strangers

The Blurb

Loving wife, obedient daughter, loyal friend.
But if you provoke her, she will raise her hood and spit poison.

A woman is stalked by a man she had once rejected. A housewife discovers a plot to kill her husband. A blind young girl is chased by an underworld gang.

But these are no ordinary women.
Some of them aren’t even women.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The Book

Nagin consists of nine short stories (eight from the present book with a bonus from the author’s upcoming series) that revolve around Ichhadhari nags and nagins, Vidharbas, Bhinna Nishacharas and the monster hunters- wyadhas. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning since I am against all things superstitious but then I decided to keep an open mind about the book. If you read it at face value, without bringing science into it, it reads as a really good book. It is well written and you don’t see the twists coming even if you think you do.

There are plenty of occurrences that happen everyday that defy science and the stories here should be read as one of them. The stories manage to give you chills especially ‘Ranbhool’ and ‘Haka Mari’. The one titled ‘Laughing Hearts’ was very detailed regarding how the world of stand-up comedy works and that makes sense now that I know that the author has tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

The book reminded me of the TV series Supernatural that I used to follow very religiously until last year. The shape shifters, the monsters, the hunters, the wit, the planning and the execution were very Sam-and-Dean-ish and I loved it despite thinking to myself “Yeah, like that’s going to happen!”

I was glad that the author researched real legends and based his stories on them rather than reinventing the wheel. The fact that he gave credit to those old stories raised my opinion of him ten fold. In a day where people have stopped believing in the supernatural and where science has advanced enough to provide an answer to many of life’s mysteries, it is nice to be reminded of such stories that have been passed on from generation to generation.

It is a fun exercise to try to see what made the people of that era think up of such legends. The wasting of the body and extreme susceptibility to infections after exchange of bodily fluids with a Visha Kanya could very well be an example of people suffering from AIDS after unprotected sex. While it is easy for us to dismiss all stories of the old, it is interesting to see that some may have a bearing even in the present day and age.


TL;DR: A quick and fun read that deals with the supernatural and gives you chills along the way


Do you like stories steeped in superstition and legends of the olde?

What are some of the stories that you heard as a child that still give you chills?

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

Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review

Ruined by M. C. Frank

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 312 pages

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


Ruined is a tale set in the period of Regency and is a retelling of Jane Eyre. The story revolves around Beatrice Devon, a down on her luck young lady of nineteen who sets out to seek employment in London. Lady luck smiles down on her and she is employed by His Grace, Dominic Edward Halifax, the 9th Duke of Ashton to be the Governess of his ward, the spoilt Adelina Halifax. How Beatrice deals with the disciplining of the child and manages to form new relationships despite her past is what makes up the entirety of the book.


The author

M. C. Frank is an author, reader, teacher and physicist. She has always lived in the world of stories and began her writing career with a magazine. She is now a freelance editor-in-chief and her work include:

  1. No ordinary star series
    • No ordinary star
    • No plain rebel
    • No vain loss
  2. Lose me
  3. Ruined
  4. Everything I do
  5. Darcy and Elizabeth
  6. Ardently
  7. The light princess and other stories
  8. Persuasion (a coloring book)

The book

Most of the re-tellings that I have come across are written with a pompous hand. It was however, a pleasant surprise to find that Ruined managed to hold its own as a story while paying due diligence to the era that it was set in. The comparison with Jane Eyre is seen in the fact that the heroine of the story suffers through a not-so-ideal childhood to become a Governess and falls in love with her master. The language is believable, as are the scenes in the story which brings to notice the amount of research that the author must have done prior to writing the book.

I am a sucker for a strong female character and Miss Devon impressed me with her presence of mind and unfaltering belief in herself. While in the beginning it felt like she was a little too prone to fainting and crying fits, as the story progresses, it became clear that she is entitled to her occasional frailties. The darkness of her past is introduced without jarring the reader and the reason for people’s reactions are explained in terms of their past experiences without taking away from the main story. I especially loved the way the past and the present were interwoven without confusing the reader. Each scene was analysed from the point of view of everyone that was involved in it without being repetitive.

The strength and humor that Beatrice displays despite the horrors of her past are very inspiring but I wish that she was not so secretive about her past and hadn’t felt the need to sacrifice herself for it. I also did not love the character of Dominic. He was far too detached in the beginning to have undergone such a transformation by the end of the book. I did not enjoy the repeated use of the word ‘child’ when spoken to a lover although I took it in its stead as a colloquial use of the word. I enjoyed the tantrums of Adelina and the way it was dealt with. It was refreshing to come across the childishness amidst the dark undercurrents that ran through the story.

Favorite characters:

Beatrice: Her bravery was very inspiring and will resonate with a lot of people who have had to deal with similar issues.

Adelina: Although she was a spoilt little brat, she was very lovable.

Lady Augusta: A strong character with a kind heart. What’s not to love?

Characters that I did not like:

Dominic: The turn around time for his character’s change of heart was too short to be believable to me.

Characters that I wish were developed more:

Lord Burns: I wish he had played a bigger role throughout the book. The kindness that he shows was very endearing.

Adelina: All she was described as was a pretty little girl with dimples. I wish the story dealt with the loss of her parents and her own childhood that was sure to have been miserable.


TL;DR: A beautiful story with dark undercurrents that is sure to keep you glued to the pages


Have you read re-tellings of other books? What are your favorites? Suggest a few such books for me to read. Comment below or tell me on Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review

Undelivered Letters by J. Alchem

Statistics

Format: Kindle

Length: 70 pages

Time taken to read: 1 hour

Rating: 2/5 stars

Disclaimer: I won an Amazon giftcard to buy Undelivered Letters in an Instagram Giveaway.


The Author

J. Alchem has written for magazines and papers and his stories have been published in Anthologies like Blank Space, Love Bytes and Mighty Thoughts. He was the 2014 storyteller as well as the winner of 2015 and 2016 NaNoWriMo. He writes quotes and short write-ups and has also signed a contract for a short movie based on his short stories.


Blurb

“Aron, a postman with Marioson Postal Service, found an abandoned bag. It had a few letters that were supposed to be delivered – 20 years ago. He had a choice, either to deliver them now or abandon them forever. He chooses the former.

What were these letters all about? Who wrote them? Who are the recipients? Do these letters still carry a value, after 20 years?”

Published in October 2017, Undelivered Letters is available as a Kindle Edition and is soon to be published as a paperback. It has been nominated for “The Best eBook of the Year” by SMania and “The Best Concept of the Year” by LitOscar.


A short book that I finished in an hour or so, Undelivered Letters has the potential to be a great book. In it’s current state however, it leaves a lot to be desired. Grammatical inconsistencies aside, the story was over simplified and predictable.

I wish the story was developed more and the author had conducted some research. There was no reason to base it in America and then be inconsistent with things like a small town judge wearing the ‘rolled up wig of white hair‘ which American judges stopped wearing in the early 19th Century. A bit of hard-nosed research would have easily resolved this. This book brings home to me the saying “write what you know”. Inconsistencies such as Americans calling a ‘University’ as a ‘college’, while seemingly negligible, jars a serious reader and disrupts the flow. Attention to such detail would have made a lot of difference to the feel of this book. I am of the opinion that, had the story been played out in a setting that was more familiar to the author, it might have been easier to swallow.

At the end of the book, the author claims that the paperback version will have more letters and more backstory to each character which I think will greatly help its cause.


TL;DR: Not a great read but the potential of the story is apparent.


Have you found any good short stories? I don’t usually like short stories. Most of them leave far too many loose ends for my satisfaction.

Waiter There’s a Clue in my Soup by Camille LaGuire is one my favouite short story books. Do you have a favourite? Suggest some in the comments below for me to review or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life