Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

The Speaking Stone by Ratnadip Acharya

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 294 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Indian Literature

Publisher: Akshora Publications

Date of Publication: 28th July, 2019

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to read. There aren’t many Indian authors who have written in this genre so I was really curious to see how this book would turn out.

The Blurb

Mumbai, December 2016: A young man found an ancient-looking piece of stone with strange images and Sanskrit inscriptions. A quest to know the origin of the stone brought him to the distant part of the country. Chandannagar, December 2016: A young vivacious historian woman read an old book on a century-old secret story about a little known part of the country. Her curiosity got the better of her as the book disappeared mysteriously before she could complete it. She reached a sleepy quaint state of the country to satiate her curiosity. Eventually they both met and their search began from the city museum to a far-flung rock mountain which revealed a century-old story of a seductive danseuse, her enigmatic lover, a string of her admirers, a painter with a photographic memory, a bird that could speak in many voices, a benevolent king and a gruesome conspiracy. And the most important clue to decode the final secret was with the missing part of “The Speaking Stone” But in the process of unearthing old secrets, their life was also in danger.

The Book

The book follows the recent trend of multiple timelines to tell the story. We are transported between the British colonised India of the 1900s and the 21st century India. The book also has multiple points of view, one of our present-day hero, Saikat and one of Indrajit, the villain in the past. We also have supporting characters that have similar-sounding names and similar characteristics both in the past and in the present. I did not think that this was a necessity but was curious to see how the author would tie everything together in the end.

The story begins with Shuvashini, an aspiring Ph.D. scholar getting her research proposal rejected and looking for a more interesting topic. Parallel to this, we have Saikat finding a mysterious stone and being intrigued by the images on it. They conveniently get together in their quest for knowledge and adventure. Unfortunately, Shuvashini now forgets that she is an intelligent, self-sufficient and strong young woman and is content to play second fiddle to the new and ‘amazing’ man in her life. Saikat insists on calling her “stupid girl” which I think the author meant as a term of endearment but did not read that way to me. Shuvashini willingly accompanies Saikat, a man who was practically a stranger until a few days ago, at any time of the day, even without knowing where he was taking her. Shuvashini, who is described as a girl who does not care for people’s opinions on subjects, suddenly needs Saikat to explain simple things to her and is okay with pretending to need a strong man to help her understand obvious clues. Meanwhile, the author is hellbent on telling readers that Saikat is essentially unemployed with the sole goal in life of ‘wasting his father’s money’. How a girl like Shuvashini who places knowledge and hard work over everything else falls in love with a man like Saikat is a mystery that one must solve on their own.

While the present-day story did not impress me, the story of the past was fun to read. The descriptions of the grandeur of the palace, the skills of the dancers and sculptures were a pleasure. I wish that the book had been edited to get a crisp reading experience and to avoid the multiple regressions in grammar and punctuation. Most of the sentences that were unnecessarily long. There were a lot of instances where multiple words that mean the same were used in succession making the page read like a thesaurus. I appreciate the author’s dedication to getting an illustrator to draw things that he describes in the story but it seemed a bit redundant. I wish he had spent a bit more time and effort on ensuring the scientific accuracy of hibernation patterns of reptiles and the fluorescent/phosphorescent nature of rocks instead.

The Author

Ratnadip Acharya is the author of two successful novels, Life is Always Aimless… Unless you love it and Paradise Lost & Regained. He is a columnist for the Speaking Tree in The Times of India. He contributed many write-ups in different collections of Chicken Soup for the Soul. He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Sophia and son, Akash. He is a voracious reader who felt a deep urge within his being to narrate his original thoughts

This work include:

  1. Life is Always Aimless (2013)
  2. Paradise Lost and Regained (2015)
  3. The Speaking Stone (2019)

TL;DR: A book with a good premise that would have done better with a crisp editing process

Have you come across any Indian historical fiction work. I’d love some recommendations

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

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Book club, Book review

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Statistics

The Handmaid's Tale.jpg

Format: eBook (Kindle) 

Length: 352 pages

Genre: Dystopian, Fiction, Feminism, Science Fiction, Classic

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Date of Publication: 17th February, 1986

Rating: 5/5 stars


I am a part of a book club where we read women-centric books every month or books by women authors. The book this month was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I had been wanting to read this book for a long time and was overjoyed by the choice.


The Blurb

Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

The Book

The book reads like a memoir of a Handmaid in the dystopian world of the Republic of Gilead which was earlier the United States of America. The protagonist has no name of her own and is only called Offred after the commander who is in possession of her. When she is moved to the house of another male, her name will change to take on his name. Like Offred notes in the latter half, this is a very effective way of erasing the identity of a woman since no one will know or remember her real name.

The book gives a sense that the events happened suddenly and without warning. The Handmaid is among the first generation of women who are subjected to the new rule. At the beginning of the book, I wondered how it was so easy to manipulate the entire population of a country to accept something as crazy as this new monotheocratic government. As I read more of the book, I realised that this is exactly what happened during Hitler’s governance and what is currently happening in North Korea and some of the Islamic countries. It does not take a century to turn the entire history of a country around. It only takes a person with extreme views and fanatics who follow.

The reading of the book was a very traumatic experience for me because I kept comparing the old life of Offred to my own life. I kept wondering what I would do if such a thing was to happen to me. Would I make the same choices? It was very scary to think that a country that was as focused on individuality as the United States was so easily turned around. What hope do the other more conservative country have?

What was great about the book was how much the author borrowed from the real experiences of citizen escaping from tyranny. The threatening of their loved ones, the physical abuse of those suspected of breaking the law, the absence of freedom of speech, the confiscation of property and identity were scarily accurate. I was moved to tears in a number of places and was paranoid about the news that I was seeing on television for quite a while after I finished this book. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I now understand why she won so many awards for her writing.

The Author

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College. She currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth ­ in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Margaret Atwood was President of the Writers’ Union of Canada from May 1981 to May 1982, and was President of International P.E.N., Canadian Centre (English Speaking) from 1984-1986. She and Graeme Gibson are the Joint Honourary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International. Ms. Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.


TL;DR: A moving tale that makes the reader wonder how easily it could be their own story and keeps them wondering if they would make the same choices


Do you like dystopian settings?

What is your favourite novel in this genre?

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

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review, Regional Language books

First There was Woman and Other Stories: Folktales of the Dungri Garasiya Bhils by Marija Sres

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 82 pages

Genre: Folktales, Indian Literature, Short Stories

Publisher: Zubaan

Date of Publication: 1st December, 2007

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


The month of August is dedicated to ‘Discovering India Readathon’ on Bookstagram. One of the prompts was to read folktales from any part of India which I thought was really interesting. Coincidentally, Zubaan contacted me to ask if I would like to review any of their books and when I saw that they had a collection of folktales, I knew I had to read it this month.


The Blurb

It was a time when girls were as desired as sons. A time when girls beat boys in games and races. A time when there was no gender divide. And so also in these stories it is the women who are stronger, wiser, faster, sharper, and certainly far more beautiful than their men. It is they who think out of the box, who are imaginative and creative and full of wise ideas.

From tales of ghostly possessions to magic mantras, from kings and queens full of passion to village youth bursting with sexual ardour there timeless folktales are full of the joy of being alive, of sensual enjoyment and pleasure. While Kudrat (God is imagined as being feminine) and Deva conspire and wreak havoc on their people, the dance of live continues with naked young maidens swimming in the streams or being courted by dark handsome youths amidst much laughter and teasing. The forests are full of birds and beasts and fish, and life for the tribals is for the most part simple and innocent, truth and right always prevail and defeat the forces of darkness- be it a scheming stepmother, a murderous wife or lover or a cruel and lustful kind.

The Book

The book is a collection of 14 tales of the Dungri Garasiya tribe. It begins with the author coming to India and studying Gujarati and later the dialect of the Tribal people. It talks of how she learnt the ways of rural India and how she worked at empowering these women. It was heartwarming to see her refer to the women as ‘my’ women. It is the selfless dedication of such people that helped the downtrodden women find a sense of independence and financial security.

During Marija Sres’ time, the women of the Dungri Garasiya tribe were not the strong women that their ancestors were. The tribe began from a single woman that Kudrat created to complement the beauty of the Earth. It was only from her need that she created man. The women then had autonomy in the selection of their mates and were considered equal to the men in all walks of life. Like the author describes, ‘they walked neither behind not in front of the men but alongside them as equals.’

Some of the stories are tales that the author heard from the tribal people and some of them are songs that have been passed on from one generation to the next, written down in the form of prose. The author’s picks are all centered around women and the tribe’s close connection with nature and animals. The people lived in harmony with nature, helping animals and birds, and the creatures helping the people in return. It was a time of abundance and love that was later destroyed due to commercialization and deforestation. After the insurgency of the British, the tribal people were taught to integrate themselves into mainstream life, taught to abhor their traditions and their language until they began to refer to their dialect as ‘kali boli‘. This was the perfect read for Indian Independence month.

The Author

Marija Sres (bn 1943) is a religious sister from Bratonci, Slovenia. For thirty years she has worked with the Dungri Garasiya Bhils of Gujarat. Marija’s previous books on Gujarati tribal women have been translated in English, Slovene, Spanish, Gujarati, and Marathi.


TL;DR: A well compiled collection of folktales from people that we hardly hear anything about


Do you have a favorite folktale based in the place that are from?

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

Book review, Readathon

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 227 pages

Genre: Classics, Science Fiction, Dystopian

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Date of Publication: 4th August, 2008 (First edition 19th October, 1953)

Rating: 3/5 stars


I bought this book on a trip exactly a year ago and finally managed to read it. I am not a fan of classics but am making a conscious effort to read more of it. This was unfortunately, a failed experiment. I would not have continued reading it had I not been buddy-reading it with Unnati and Sneha


The Blurb

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the source of all discord and unhappiness: the printed book. 

Montag never questions the destruction or his own bland life, until he is shown a past where people didn’t live in fear and a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

Montag begins to question everything he has ever known and starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

The classic novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

The Book

I love reading books with a dystopian setting. I love reading about how society changes and evolves according to what people perceive as the most important thing during that time. Having said that, I wish that this book had better world-building. The mechanics of the new world did not make sense even at the end of the book. I would have enjoyed the book more if the author had taken the time to explain the wall-TVs and the reason for the way the Government works. But keeping in mind that the book was first written in 1953, it would have probably been seen as futuristic and fantastical during the time where not every household had a TV, let alone a room made up of TVs for walls.

I would have been willing to overlook the lack in world building had the author managed to capture the protagonist’s emotions. His love for the written word seems abrupt in its beginning and has no rhyme or reason. People’s interactions with each other seem stilted but it remains clear if it was the author’s intention to do so to show how disengaged the society was. The conversations were stretched far too long for my comfort. The monologues seemed unnecessary. For a group of people who claim to not want to interact with each other, they sure seemed to love to hear themselves talk.

The book is divided into three parts with no conventional chapter divisions. I found that I liked the last part of the book the most. Just when I was beginning to like how the story was progressing, the book reached its end. It was not an enjoyable read but my only solace is that I can now say that I have read another classic.

The Author

Ray Douglas Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. Although his formal education ended there, he became a “student of life,” selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947. 

In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum “recommended reading” anthologies. 

Ray Bradbury’s work has been included in four Best American Short Story collections. He has been awarded the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the PEN Center USA West Lifetime Achievement Award, among others. In November 2000, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters was conferred upon Mr. Bradbury at the 2000 National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City. 

Ray Bradbury has never confined his vision to the purely literary. He has been nominated for an Academy Award (for his animated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright), and has won an Emmy Award (for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree). He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television’s Ray Bradbury Theater. He was the creative consultant on the United States Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In 1982 he created the interior metaphors for the Spaceship Earth display at Epcot Center, Disney World, and later contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro-Disney, France. 


TL;DR: A book that does not translate well to this time and age


Do you like to read classics?

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

Book review, Readathon, Wrap-up

Pride Readathon 2019 wrap-up

Statistics

Start Date: 1st June, 2019

End Date: 30th June, 2019

Total number of Books Read: 5

Highest rating: 5/5 stars

Lowest Rating: 3/5 stars

Best Book: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Soanz


Last year in June I discovered Pride Readathon on Instagram where a couple of boys organised a month-long readathon with the aim of reading books in the LGBTQ+ genre. I discovered a lot of amazing books and read 5.5 of them. Here is a wrap-up of my Pride Readathon 2018. Although this year did not have an official readathon, some of us still continued it as Pride Readathon 2019. I read a total of 5 books this year and discovered even more amazing books that will probably be featured next year.


Here is a wrap-up of all the books that I read for the readathon:

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Soanz (5/5 Stars): This was my favorite book of the entire month. It is a deeply moving story that is relatable to people no matter what their age. 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.
  2. Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Sanyal (5/5 Stars): A well written book that will have you wondering at the behaviour of the society even while chuckling at its eccentricities. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of poetry, I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction towards it. I also loved the illustrations at the beginning of each poem.
  3. The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli (5/5 Stars): A beautiful story with well developed characters that tug at your heart. I read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat for Pride Readathon 2018. When one of my bookstagram buddies sent this book to me, I knew I had to read it for Pride this year. 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.
  4. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell (3/5 Stars): A fast paced book with varied characters that makes for a light reading. 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. 
  5. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (4/5 Stars): I found some parts of the book a bit too slow and I wanted to shake the characters for their decisions but on the whole, it was a fun and light read.

Here is a list of books that I wanted to read for Pride:

  1. Maurice by E. M. Foster
  2. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  3. They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera
  4. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  5. Coffee Boy by Austin hant
  6. Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Although I only read a handful of books for the readathon, I now have a mighty TBR to tackle. I was glad that all of the books that I read were wonderful and I look forward to reading the others on the list.


What did you do for the Pride Month?

Did you read anything that was LGBT related?

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

Book review

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Statistics

Format: Hardcover (V&A Collector’s Edition)

Length: 352 pages

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Classic

Publisher: Puffin Books

Date of Publication: 4th May, 2017 (First published in August 1911)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars


I always lament to the Book Divas that I haven’t read many classics as a child so for my birthday, they sent this beautiful collector’s edition of The Secret Garden as a gift. I began reading it almost immediately because I had heard so many amazing things about the book.


The Blurb

After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.

The Book

The book tells the story of 10-year-old Mary, an unloved little girl who is raised in British colonised India and then moves to Yorkshire to live with her Uncle after her parents die in a cholera epidemic. Growing in a household that doesn’t seem to care about her, Mary turns surly and entitled. Although I knew that the book was written in 1911, I was enraged by the description of India and Indians throughout the book. They are heathens whose only purpose in life is to be subservient the Englishmen. It is no wonder that people of color are still seen with suspicion and disgust in some places of the world.

The book moves in a predictable trajectory. The spoilt brat meets an even bigger spoilt brat and they both discover the joys of the world together. The description of Dickon and his animal retinue was endearing. The miraculous ‘recovery’ of Collin was hard to believe especially since I’ve personally experienced the amount of muscular atrophy that occurs when you are laid up in bed, unable to use your legs even for a short while. 
I think I would have enjoyed the book if I had read it as a child. Reading it as an adult made me realise the amount of difference and intolerance that we feed kids unconsciously.

The Author

Frances Eliza Hodgson was the daughter of ironmonger Edwin Hodgson, who died three years after her birth, and his wife Eliza Boond. She was educated at The Select Seminary for Young Ladies and Gentleman until the age of fifteen, at which point the family ironmongery, then being run by her mother, failed, and the family emigrated to Knoxville, Tennessee. Here Hodgson began to write, in order to supplement the family income, assuming full responsibility for the family upon the death of her mother, in 1870. In 1872 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, with whom she had two sons, Lionel and Vivian. The marriage was dissolved in 1898. In 1900 Burnett married actor Stephen Townsend until 1902 when they got divorced. Following her great success as a novelist, playwright, and children’s author, Burnett maintained homes in both England and America, traveling back and forth quite frequently. She died in her Long Island, New York home, in 1924.

Primarily remembered today for her trio of classic children’s novels – Little Lord Fauntleroy(1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911) – Burnett was also a popular adult novelist, in her own day, publishing romantic stories such as The Making of a Marchioness(1901) for older readers.


TL;DR: A book that does not completely transfer to the present day


Is there a book that you wish you had read as a child rather than as an adult?

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

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 339 pages

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Fiction

Publisher: Hachette India/Orion

Date of Publication: 15th July, 2019

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book for a read-along from the publisher


Psychological thrillers are my favourite! It had been quite a while since I read any book in the genre so when I saw that Hachette India was publishing this book, I knew I wanted it. I was lucky to have been invited for the read-along that ran from the 17th to the 31st of July 2019 and I devoured the book in a record two days!


The Blurb

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.”

The Book

I started reading the book wondering if it was going to be something similar to Gone Girl. It was the mention of the diary at the beginning that led me in that direction. I had loved Gone Girl but what I found in The Silent Patient was something much better! I wouldn’t have believed that it was the author’s debut book unless I had heard his interview before-hand. The book is well researched, brilliantly written and crisply edited. There are no unnecessary details but the world-building is spot on. Although the timeline shifts constantly, the narration is so seamless that you do not get confused. You are strapped in for the ride and you don’t want it to end.

My biggest pet peeve is how writers take creative liberty a bit too far when it comes to the field of medicine. But in this book, I was pleasantly surprised that the author speaks from a position of knowledge when it comes to theories of psychoanalysis and treatment plans for mental illness. The characters were well developed with a bit of backstory for each of them so I could connect with them all. I was constantly trying to nab the suspect but my suspicion kept shifting all over the place. This was reminiscent of all the amazing Agatha Christie books that I devoured in my teens, trying to identify the suspect before the story revealed it. I was thrown by the twists that the author has incorporated in the story. I did not see it coming and I had to put down my book for a minute to let it sink in. I finished reading the entire book in a record 2 days and I was blown away by the author’s talent. If this was his first book, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the future.

The Author

Born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother, Alex Michaelides studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. The Silent Patient is his first novel.


TL;DR: A fast paced story that will have you suspecting every single person and turn of events till you won’t know which way is up


What are some books that have kept you up at night wondering about the story?

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

Book review

The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 83 pages

Genre: Children’s fiction, Indian Literature

Date of Publication: First edition 1980

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Rating: 5/5 stars


This year for my birthday I received a record number of books (more on that in a separate post). This is one of my birthday books and I was so happy to see it. About 2 months ago, I had been to Mussoorie on a holiday and had hoped to meet Ruskin Bond. Although I did have Rusty with me since I was a kid, I have never read it. Now that Samvedna sent over The Blue Umbrella, I knew this was where I wanted to begin.


The Blurb

In exchange for her lucky leopard’s claw pendant, Binya acquires a beautiful blue umbrella that makes her the envy of everyone in the village, especially Ram Bharosa, the shopkeeper. It is the prettiest umbrella in the whole village and she carries it everywhere she goes. The book captures life in a village – where ordinary characters become heroic, and others find opportunities to redeem themselves.

The Book

The book is a novella that is based in the mountains and the people who live there. The Gharwal people are sturdy and do not shy away from hard work. We see children like Bijju and Binya herding cows even while going to school like the children from the plains. They love the mountain air and embrace the forces of nature. Coming so soon after my visit to the region, the author’s writing made the place come alive for me again.

As a book first written in the 1980s, it captures the essence of the division of class as was prevalent then. The rich city folk who come to the mountains for recreation view the natives as nothing more than simple people that they can take advantage of. But unbeknownst to them, the people in the mountains are as smart as they are strong. When Binya saw the umbrella that she wanted to have, she knew she had something that the city folk would value. She did not hesitate to make the trade. I was glad that she was quick enough to not get swindled by the adults.

As a child that enjoys the simple pleasures of life, Binya is ecstatic at her new possession and can’t help but show it off. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy for her. I was enraged at the shopkeeper who could not let a child take pleasure in something that she clearly paid a fair price for. I was even more enraged at the lengths that he went to acquire the umbrella. As with all children’s stories, the book ends on a positive note and all is well with the world. It was a sweet story with well-defined rights and wrongs and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The Author

Ruskin Bond is an Indian author of British descent. He is considered to be an icon among Indian writers and children’s authors and a top novelist. He now lives with his adopted family in Landour near Mussoorie.

He wrote his first novel, The Room on the Roof, when he was seventeen which won John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957. Since then he has written several novellas, over 500 short stories, as well as various essays and poems, all of which have established him as one of the best-loved and most admired chroniclers of contemporary India. 

In 1992 he received the Sahitya Akademi award for English writing, for his short stories collection, “Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra”, by the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters in India. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1999 for contributions to children’s literature.


TL;DR: A sweet story with well defined rights and wrongs that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike


Have you met any author in real life?

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