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

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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

Book club, Book review, Readathon

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 430 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historic Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Del Ray

Date of Publication: 5th October, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


I received this book as a part of the January 2018 Aurora Box of Dreams. I had in fact, requested this book in place of their BOTM but as happens with the best laid plans, I just didn’t seem to be able to begin reading this book for nearly a year. With the end of 2018 fast approaching, I had a few book blog goals to complete. One of them was to read books that were on my shelf for too long. First of such books was All the Bright Places which I received as a birthday present from my Bookstagram buddies and next was The Bear and the Nightingale.

Even with this goal in mind, I did not seem to find the inclination to start reading the book. I knew it received good reviews, I was sure that I would love it but I just did not seem to begin. Finally I saw that ecstatic yet chaotic had a readathon planned for this book and the next book in the series and I took it as an opportunity to begin reading. We also plan to read the next book in the series, The Girl in the Tower in time for the release of the last book of the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch.

The book is the first in the Winternight trilogy and has won several accolades like Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2018)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017)HWA Debut Crown Nominee for Longlist (2017)


The Blurb

“‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’ 

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods… “

The Book

The book begins with the description of little Vasya and her rebellious excursions to the forest. I didn’t like the heroine much in the beginning but she grew on me as the story progressed. The book is fast paced with plenty of fantasy creatures that delight the reader. The influence from Russia for the landscape, the names, and the culture was very intriguing. The monsters and the demons were quite different from what we usually find and I found some of them particularly cute.

I was very glad that the author included both strong and open-minded men as well as weak, power-hungry, and superstitious ones in the story. I was even more glad to see strong female characters for  the little girl to draw inspiration from. What I really loved though, was the world building. It made everything come alive, especially the Winter King and his treasure. I was also intrigued about the subtle message to the reader regarding the importance of tradition and the call to not discard the old ways in favour of the new but to integrate them both together.

The Author

Born in Texas, Katherine studied French and Russian at Middlebury College. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, among other places. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she wrote much of The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.

Her work include:

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale (2017)
  2. The Girl in the Tower (2017)
  3. The Winter of the Witch (2019)

TL;DR: A fast paced book with plenty of fantasy creatures that delight and a world building that makes everything come alive.


Have you completed your reading goals for 2018?

What were they?

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

Book review, Readathon

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180725_073854_175

Length: 320 pages

Genre: Classic, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Puffin Classics

First publication:  June 1908

Rating: 5/5 stars


I have only read classics in school. The ones that everybody reads- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, David Copperfield etc and the picture books of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. When the July Readathon prompt by Books N Beyond was ‘Read a Classic’, I wanted to try one of the books that have been popular on Instagram. I shortlisted Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden, finally settling on Anne.


The Blurb

Eleven-year-old orphan Anne Shirley has just arrived at Green Gables, and already her guardians want to send her back. First, she’s not the boy the Cuthberts expected. Second, she talks too much. And even with her generous spirit, the redhead’s a trouble magnet. She gets the neighbor drunk and nearly poisons the pastor!

Still, despite a rocky start, the fiery Anne wins over her guardians and her new community. She enjoys life at Green Gables, excels in school, and earns a coveted scholarship. But when tragedy hits, Anne must choose between her dreams and the only home she’s ever known.

In this beloved coming-of-age story, Lucy Maud Montgomery drew from her own experiences growing up in Canada during the nineteenth century to introduce generations of readers to one of literature’s most original and inspiring characters.

The Book

Anne Shirley is an 11-year-old orphan who has had a life experience that most of 20 year-olds wouldn’t have had. She has worked in farms, raised three sets of twins and has survived in a poor orphanage. She cannot believe her luck when she is adopted by the Cuthberts to live in a cozy house surrounded by beautiful nature in King Edward island. But tragedy strikes early to this quick-witted girl when she learns that her saviors wanted a boy to work in the farms and not a girl who is nothing but trouble. She, however wins people over with her big heart and her crazy antics.

I was not sure if I liked the book in the beginning. Anne seemed to talk a bit too much for my liking and there were parts of the first 3 chapters where I have skimmed through pages because it consisted only of the girl chattering away. Looking at it from the modern child psychologist’s point of view, it could be put down to her seeking the attention that she sorely lacked growing up as a second citizen in strangers’ houses and institutions. However, after she settles down at Green Gables, she begins to calm down and tries to behave so as to make her caregivers proud. She makes friends easily, impressing the other children with her imagination and wit. Similarly, she wins adults over with her earnest thoughts and helpful nature. She is brilliant at school and her stubbornness helps her work hard to catch up with all the lessons that she has missed over the years.

Anne is a scatterbrain and lives in her fantasy world. She loves people fiercely and hates others with the same vigor. I loved how she was given streaks of grey in her character unlike some children’s books written in the early 1900s. It made her much more relatable. The tragedy that strikes her at the end of the book was a little predictable but I was still reading a million words a minute to see what happens next. The characters of Marilla and Rachel can give modern day feminists a run for their money. Anne of Green Gables is a story published in 1908, read 110 years later and is still relevant. It can truly be called a classic. I would one day want to read the entire collection of the six Anne of Green Gables books with my daughter.

The Author

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author, best known for a series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

She was born at Clifton, Prince Edward Island in 1874. She came to live at Leaskdale in 1911 after her wedding. She wrote close to a dozen books.

Maud died in Toronto on April 24, 1942 and was buried at Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.


TL;DR: A book that leaves you with a heart filled to bursting, characters that you are sure to fall in love with


Do you read classics?

What is your favourite?

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

Book club, Book review, Readathon

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180714_140632880-01-01-01-min.jpeg

Length: 453 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins (Blazer+Bray)

Date of Publication: 28th February, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


I read The Hate U Give as a part of the book club hosted by Rashi. We read When I Hit You last month and had a great discussion on it. This month too we picked something with a social message and I loved it. This was also my read for the second prompt (A book received in a Books N Beyond Box) for the #bnbreadathon for the month of July. I had heard a lot of good things about the book and I was very excited to read it.

The book has won multpile awards and with good reason! For example- National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2017)Odyssey Award (2018)Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2017)Edgar Award Nominee for Best Young Adult (2018)Coretta Scott King Award Nominee for Author Honor (2018) Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2017)Lincoln Award Nominee (2019)Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers’ Literature (2017)Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017)Carnegie Medal Nominee (2018)NAACP Image Award Nominee for Youth/Teens (2018)Michael L. Printz Honor Award (2018)


The Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Book

Starr is an African American kid from a poor neighbourhood who goes to a predominantly white school in a white suburb. She has learnt to have two separate versions of herself- the Starr around the people of her school and the Starr around her family and neighbours. She works extra hard to not appear ‘Ghetto’ to the privileged kids in her school. She has been instructed on the correct way to act around cops when she was only 12. Even with all of this to keep in mind, she is a happy 16-year-old who spends her days doing school work and playing basketball. That is until she sees her best friend Khalil get killed by a cop over nothing.

The book deals with the difference in people’s behaviour to people of different races. Some people are watched more closely than others, some people are accused before acquiring proof, some people are expected to be subservient, some people are supposed to take what comes and keep mum about it. When they fight back, they are dealt with more severely than other people who have committed actual crimes.

The title of the book is drawn from the explanation by the rapper Tupac for THUG LIFE which is sometimes misinterpreted and taken as a philosophy to create trouble for the authorities. But as Khalil and Big Mav explain, it is actually about the marginalization and differentiation of the downtrodden that comes back to bite the society. The everyday fight against racial discrimination, the need to do things that are illegal just to survive even though they know better and the constant fear in the face of authority are realistically described. The first person narrative by Starr makes the book even more heartbreaking. The book had me reaching for the tissues from the very beginning, for instance when she sees Khalil being covered by a sheet she says, “he can’t breathe under it, I can’t breathe”. Her guilt over not being able to help Khalil and not being able to speak up enough for justice to be given to him was hard to read.

The adults explaining to the youngsters of the need to be better and to be careful reminded me of a dialogue in a movie where an immigrant parent tells the kid that they need to be twice as good at everything that they do since they are under scrutiny both by their motherland as well as their country of residence. The police brutality shown here, unfortunately, is much too common an occurrence to be shoved under the rug. When Starr decides to speak up, she has to deal with not only the backlash from the society in general but also from the drug lords who want nothing more than to keep their businesses safe. This is, unfortunately, a sad reality with most of the people who speak up against inequality or corruption. Living in such an environment cannot be healthy and I was glad to see that a lot of people like Big Mav work their hardest to help improve the conditions in the neighbourhood. Being a young-adult novel with such a heavy theme, the book was also peppered with humour, especially with Starr’s white boyfriend Chris trying to fit into her world. The book made me think, made me cry and also made me smile. I absolutely loved the book even though (or because?) it has left me in a two-day book-hangover.

The Author

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.


TL;DR: A beautifully written book that deals with many important social issues with a strong female lead. A must read for everyone


What are some of the books that have affected you a great deal?

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

Book review, Readathon, Wrap-up

Pride Readathon wrap-up

Statistics

Total number of books: 5.5 PhotoGrid_1531034901929-min.jpg

Start date: 1st June, 2018

End date: 31st June, 2018

Highest Rating: 5/5 stars

Lowest Rating: DNF

Best Book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


If you have been following my blog last month, you would have noticed that I took part in two readathons- The Pride Readathon hosted by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal and the Love is Love Readathon hosted by Books N Beyond. I wanted to do something special for the Pride Month in support of the LGBT community and being a bibliophile, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to popularize equal rights for them.

I had a wonderful time curating books for the readathon. I initially had 12 books on the list but I could only manage to complete five and a half because of other review deadlines. However, all the 5 reads were brilliant five star reads. I did not finish a book because it just did not do anything for me and I did not want to waste time with it.

Here is a wrap of the reads and the proposed reads for the Pride Readathon-

  1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (5/5 stars) This book has been receiving a lot of eyeballs due to the recent movie adaptation and is considered to be one of the key books in recent LGBT literature so  I decided to start with this and boy, was I glad I did! The book deals with the coming of age of high school students, the discovery of their sexual identity, bullying, acceptance and the need to fit in. It was a very sweet story that was funny and had a lot of lovable characters. It had great family values as  well. I cannot wait to watch the movie.
  2. Less by Andrew Sean Greer– (5/5 stars) This was a story of a gay author, Arthur who discovers that he is nearing his fiftieth birthday with nothing to show for it. He sets out on a tour around the world in order to find new material for his book. It was a very ‘grown-up’ book with complex characters and discussion of serious issues regarding the way that the LGBT community has been perceived from the 70s to the present day. I was saddened to learn that on top of everything else that an author has to deal with, a gay author also has to deal with how his book will make the world percieve the gay community.
  3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller– (5/5 stars) This was my favourite book of the readathon and one of my favourite books overall. I love historic fiction and a descriptive story and this book gave me both of those things. It is a story of Patroclus and Achilles where we seen them grow up from innocent children to capable young adults. The protagonist is the underdog Patroclus and not the GodChild Achilles. I loved how even though the boy is not considered worthy of being friends with the Prince, Achilles should him nothing but equality.
  4. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli– (5/5 stars) This was the second book in the Creekwood series after Simon. It concentrates on Leah, a lonely bisexual drummer who hasn’t come out to anyone other than her mother. She is tormented by longing and is confused by the attention that she receives from her supposed straight friend. The book deals with how straight people take it for granted to be handsy with gay people and don’t consider how it might come off as. It also deals with the feeling of being alone in a crowd and the loneliness that comes even when surrounded by a group of loving friends. This book spoke to me on levels that Simon did not reach.
  5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang–  (5/5 stars)This was my first graphic novel. I have never read much of comic books even as a kid and was apprehensive about how much I would really like this book. But I discovered that I loved the colorful images and the beautiful illustrations. The book tells a story of a Prince who likes to cross-dress. While cross-dressing is not purely inclusive in the LGBTQ+ genre, I considered the book since cross-dressing is identified as a type of transgender behaviour but does not necessarily indicate transgender identity.
  6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth- I had very high expectations for this book. It is the story of Cameron, a young teen who is just realising her sexuality and is (mis)educated about it by her Aunt in the hopes of bringing her close to God. I however found the writing too monotonous. I did read 50% of the book but could not bring myself to finish it. It is one of the few books that have gone into the DNF category for me.

Here is also a list of the books that were on my TBR list for the Pride Readathon but did not get read due to time constraints-

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  2. Maurice by E. M. Foster
  3. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  4. They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera
  5. History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  6. The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli

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, Readathon, Wrap-up

Mid-Year Wrap-up

Statistics

Total Number of Books: 62

Start date: 1st January, 2018

End Date: 30th June, 2018

5 star reads– 18 books

4 star reads– 16 books

3 star reads– 23 books

2 star reads– 5 books

1 star reads– 0 books


Best book so far– The Song of Achilles by Madelline Miller
Best sequel– A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Mass
Recent release I want to read– Homefire by Kamila Shamsie
Most anticipated release– The Good Fight by Danielle Steel
Biggest disappointment– The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Biggest surprise– Mango People in Banana Republic by Robert Vadra
Favorite new author– A. J. Finn
Book that made me cry– When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy
Most beautiful book that I acquired- Circe by Madelline Miller
A book that made me smile- Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Favorite review that I have written- When I Hit You, Between the Grooves
Books to read before the year ends– Beartown by Fredrik Backman, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I began blogging about books in the end of 2017. As 2018 began, I started to get a feel of what it was to be a book blogger, a book reviewer and a bookstagrammer. I started to make friends all over the community, I started to receive free review copies and I started to make connections with publication houses and distributors.

I had a great half year. I had some pretty awesome reads, I also had some abysmal reads. I lived, I learnt and now I am a bit wiser (maybe?) before I accept review copies. I became a part of the Brindi Quinn street team and got to read all of her amazing books, I also became a part of M.C. Frank’s team and got to read some of her books. I became a part of Kate Tilton’s team of book reviewers and also a part of M.C. Frank’s team of Book Robin Hoods.

I found my book divas, I had great buddy reads with b0rn_2_read, missreadsalottt, chitrahaanthem, inkless.sne, the_folded_page, fromthejournalofareader and celebrity.reads. I also discovered book clubs hosted by dr.snob and one by Rashi where I got to read a variety of books and discuss them with other book lovers. I also participated in four readathons- two hosted by Books N Beyond, One Pride Readathon hosted by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal and one Women centric March readathon, all of which were great experiences! To top everything off, I received books as giveaway wins and as birthday bookmails. This makes one happy bibliophile!

So here is a wrap-up of all of my reads for the first half of 2018-

5 star reads. Criteria- I loved the story and/or the style of writing, the story/concept was unique, the sentence structure, spelling, and grammar were perfect.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, When I Hit you by Meena Kandasamy, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, The Song of Achilles by Madelline Miller, Less by Andrew Sean Greer, Bill the Jungle Octopus by Angela Pink, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Mango People in Banana Republic by Vishak Shakti, Submit by Brady Bradford, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Mass, Atto’s Tale by Brindi Quinn, Malhaar by Ambica Uppal, Lose Me by M.C. Frank, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bathena, Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar, Sil in a Dark World by Brindi Quinn, Police Officer Penny by Claire Harrison

4 star reads. Criteria- I liked the story and/or the style of writing, the story/concept was reasonably unique, the sentence structure, spelling, and grammar were perfect.

Nightborne by Brindi Quinn, Flying Without Wings by Rishabh Puri, Magic ten and Beyond by Shanon Ganon, Operation Pied Piper by Jean Daish, Between the Grooves by Steve Dickinson, Nagin by Mayur Didolkar, No Ordinary Star by M.C. Frank, The Adventures of Tootsie Lama by Stuti Agarwal, The Fate of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Brahmin by Ravi Shankar Etteth, Hush a Bye Baby by Deepanjana Pal, The Moon of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, Heart of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, The Tree House by Glenn Haybittle, Great Grandma Joins the Circus by Lois Davis,

3 star reads. Criteria- The story/concept was not unique but was written well, the sentence structure, spelling, and grammar were good.

Love of My Life by Rohit Sharma, Trust Me Not by Ankita Verma Dutta, The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarrago, The White Room by C.M. Albert, Prodigy Prince by Natasha Sapienza, The Boy by Nrupal Das, Letters to my Ex by Nikita Singh, Operation Hailstorm by Brett Arquette, This Love of Mine by Soumi Dutta, The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night, Earth to Centauri by Kumar L, Start-up Fiance by Shilpa Mudiganti, Kansa by Prassanth Kevin, Twenty-nine Going on Thirty by Andaleeb Wajid, Surrealist Awakenings by Amanda Fleet, The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri, Seconds by Brindi Quinn, The Relic by Ashwin Sharma and Karthik, The Eternity Duet by Brindi Quinn, A Hundred Little Flames by Preeti Shenoy, The World Remains by Brindi Quinn, Ruined by M.C. Frank, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

2 star reads. Criteria- I did not like the story/concept, the sentence structure, spelling, and grammar were not good.

Till the End of Forever by Vivaksh Singh, Living on the Edge by Chanchal Jain, Chakravyuh- The Land of Paharias by Jitendra Attra, Something I Never Told You by Shravya Bhinder, Undelivered Letters by J. Alchem

Review Copies. Criteria- Physical copies or ebooks received from the author, publisher or distributor for the purpose of review.

Nightborne by Brindi Quinn, Till the End of Forever by Vivaksh Singh, Flying Without Wings by Rishab Puri, Magic ten and Beyond by Shanon Ganon, Operation Pied Piper by Jean Daish, Bill the Jungle Octopus by Angela Pink, Love of My Life by Rohit Sharma, Between the Grooves by Steve Dickinson, Trust Me Not by Ankita Verma Dutta, Nagin by Mayur Didolkar, Mango People in Banana Republic by Vishak Shakti, Submit by Brady Bradford, The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarrago, Living on the Edge by Chanchal Jain, No Ordinary Star by M.C. Frank, Atto’s Tale by Brindi Quinn, The White Room by C.M. Albert, The Fate of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, The Brahmin by Ravi Shankar Etteth, Chakravyuh- The Land of Paharias by Jitendra Attra, Malhaar by Ambica Uppal, Prodigy Prince by Natasha Sapienza, The Boy by Nrupal Das, The Moon of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, Letters to my Ex by Nikita Singh, Operation Hailstorm by Brett Arquette, This Love of Mine by Soumi Dutta, Lose Me by M.C. Frank, The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bathena, Something I Never Told You by Shravya Bhinder, Earth to Centauri by Kumar, Start-up Fiance by Shilpa Mudiganti, Heart of Farellah by Brindi Quinn, Kansa by Prassanth Kevin, Twenty-nine Going on Thirty by Andaleeb Wajid, Surrealist Awakenings by Amanda Fleet, The Fragile Thread of Hope by Pankaj Giri, Sil in a Dark World by Brindi Quinn, Seconds by Brindi Quinn, The Tree House by Glenn Haybittle, The Eternity Duet by Brindi Quinn, Great Grandma Joins the Circus by Lois Davis, Police Officer Penny by Claire Harrison, The Relic by Ashwin Sharma and Karthik, A Hundred Little Flames by Preeti Shenoy, The World Remains by Brindi Quinn, Ruined by M.C. Frank, Undelivered Letters by J. Alchem

Readathons

I participated in 4 readathons. The first was a Women Centric March Readathon in the month of March where I read books with a female author and/or a strong female character. The next was the Slay the TBR readathon hosted in May by Books N Beyond with three prompts- A book with less than 200 pages, A book that I had abandoned, A book included in a Books N Beyond box. The next was the Love is Love readathon hosted in June by Books N Beyond with three prompts- A book from the LGBT genre/ a genre that I had never tried before, A 2018 release, A book included in a Books N Beyond box. Along with this, I also participated in the Pride Readathon hosted by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal in June where I read books from the LGBTQ+ genre.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Pride Readathon & 2nd Books N Beyond readathon), Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (Pride Readathon & 2nd Books N Beyond readathon), The Song of Achilles by Madelline Miller (Pride Readathon & 2nd Books N Beyond readathon), Less by Andrew Sean Greer (Pride Readathon), Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Pride Readathon), The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (1st Books N Beyond Readathon), Living on the Edge by Chanchal Jain (1st Books N Beyond Readathon), No Ordinary Star by M.C. Frank (1st Books N Beyond Readathon), Kansa by Prassanth Kevin (Women centric March Readathon), Twenty-nine Going on Thirty by Andaleeb Wajid (Women centric March Readathon), Surrealist Awakenings by Amanda Fleet (Women centric March Readathon), Lose Me by M.C. Frank (Women centric March Readathon), The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night (Women centric March Readathon), A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bathena (Women centric March Readathon), Something I Never Told You by Shravya Bhinder (Women centric March Readathon), Earth to Centauri by Kumar (Women centric March Readathon), Start-up Fiance by Shilpa Mudiganti (Women centric March Readathon), Heart of Farellah by Brindi Quinn (Women centric March Readathon)

Book Clubs

I am a part of the book club hosted by Rashi where we read and discussed When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy. We are now reading The Hate You Give for the next discussion. I am also a part of the book club hosted by dr.snob where we read The Woman in The Window by A.J. Finn and will be discussing it in the middle of July.


How has your book blogging journey been?

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

Book review, Readathon

The Prince and The Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180624_172704-01-min

Length: 288 pages

Genre: Graphic novel, LGBTQ+, Young adult, Sequential art, Romance

Publisher: First Second

Date of Publication: 13th February 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


This was my third prompt (A book from LGBTQ genre or from a genre that you have never tried) for the #loveislove readathon hosted by BooksNBeyond and the fifth book for the #pridereadathon hosted by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal. I have never read graphic novels. Even as a kid I didn’t much like comics. I decided that this was the perfect time to step out of my comfort zone and discover new things.


The Blurb

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

The Book

The story begins with Frances, a down-on-her-luck seamstress designing a gown for a ball. Her employer fires her for her bold design choice but she is lucky to have caught the eye of a wealthy noble man/woman. When she discovers that the elegant Lady Crystallia is in fact, Prince Sebastian cross-dressing as a woman and has hired her to be his personal designer, she is happy to design edgy dresses for him.

With the Prince’s association, she meets powerful people who love her designs and offer her prestigious positions but the one person whom she really wants to show her work to is off limits in order to protect the Prince’s secret. This does not sit well with her and she leaves to make her own way through the world. Meanwhile, the King and the Queen are desperate to have the Prince married and he accepts the responsibility only to have his worse fears realised. How the kingdom and more importantly, his parents accept his lifestyle choices is what makes the crux of the story.

The ease with which Frances and Emile accept the cross-dressing Prince was heart warming. They see it as a perfectly normal lifestyle choice and go about their day as usual. The turn of the century society on the other hand is quick to judge and ridicule. The author captured emotions of each character perfectly. The pictures were beautiful and funny. At the end of the book she takes us along for a tour through her process to create this work of art. It takes so much work to create a graphic novel that we are quick to dismiss. I loved how the LGBTQ+ issue was normalised even in the era that the story was set in. The characters are young and innocent and are just beginning to discover their identity. This makes the story so much more sweet and you can’t help but fall in love with all of them.

The Author

Jen Wang is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator based in Los Angeles. She is also a co-founder and organizer for Los Angeles based comics festival Comic Arts LA.

Her work include:

  1. Koyo Be Good (2010)
  2. In Real Life (2014)
  3. The Prince and the Dressmaker (2018)

TL;DR: A sweet coming of age story where the characters are discovering their identity. The beautiful illustrations make the book a joy to read.


Do you read graphic novels?

Which is your favourite?

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

Book review, Readathon

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180624_183112_728-min.jpg

Length: 343 pages

Genre: LGBTQ+, Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult

Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray

Date of Publication: 24th April, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


Leah on the Offbeat in the second book in the Creekwood series, after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I had quite liked Simon and was curious about this. This was my second prompt (a 2018 release) for the #loveislove readathon hosted by BooksNBeyond and the fourth book for the #pridereadathon hosted by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal.


The Blurb

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

The Book

In Simon, I felt like Leah was a character who did not get enough space to develop. So I wondered if I would be able to connect with her in this book but I must say that I love Leah more than I loved Simon. I could really relate with a lot of things that she was going through and was gratified to see these emotions in words.

The story begins with Simon and the gang in their Senior Year. They are all nostalgic about High School ending and are frantically hoping that they are accepted into their  favourite Universities. Add to this the pressure of wanting to be close to their partner, and we have a recipe for drama. They are all excited for their Senior Prom but as always, prom ends in a disaster… or does it?

Leah is well loved by her mother and her gang of friends. She grew up with Simon and Nick and is the drummer in their all-girl band. She has boys who want to impress her and take her to the prom with a promposal. She is a talented artist. It looks like she lives a great life but she is lonely. She is secretly in love with Abby but cannot do anything about it because nobody knows that she is bisexual. She also cannot imagine doing anything that might upset Abby and Nick who are dealing with drama of their own. What confuses her is the attention that Abby seems to throw her way. She keeps souvenirs that remind her of Leah, she holds Leah’s hand, she gives Leah secret smiles that seem to convey more than they should. Is that just a ‘straight’ girl thing? Or does Abby like her back? Leah has lived with these questions for a year and a half.

I loved how the author made it perfectly OK to be lonely even when surrounded by people that love you. She gave the awkward nerds a voice. I was so pleased to see that not being straight was accepted so easily by everyone in this book as opposed to the previous one where it led to Simon’s blackmail. The issue of racism was also talked about and I was glad to see that Leah stood up to it even if it meant losing a friend. As someone who is shy and awkward and is not sure of how to go about getting what I most desire, I could relate to Leah on multiple levels. The scene where she considers spending the entire spring break at home, away from everyone else was something that I have considered numerous times.

The author had the high school jargon spot on without seeming to try too hard. The interaction between Leah and her mother warmed me up. It is so rare to see a healthy family in books these days. The way that every single person in Leah’s gang selflessly tried to make others feel better renewed my faith in the youth of today. The book is  sweet and funny. The uncertainty that comes with being bisexual was very well represented. The inherent teenage angst of crushes combined with emerging sexual identity is an undercurrent that is constantly present in the book. It is this subtle second layer that made me fall in  love with it.


TL;DR: A sweet story that deals with separation anxiety, young love and sexual identity that will have you chuckling with delight at plenty of places.


What have you been reading this Pride Month?

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

 

Book review, Readathon

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

IMG_20180610_110751-01-01-min

Length: 352 pages

Genre: Historic Fiction, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

First publication: 20th September, 2011

Rating: 5/5 stars


Last month BooksNBeyond had a #slaythetbr readathon that I participated in. Since June is Pride Month, the theme of their readathon is #loveislove. The Song of Achilles was the first book that I picked for their prompt “A book sent in a books n beyond box”. It is also the third book for the #pridereadathon organised by Sai Ram and Dhruv Singhal, the 1st being Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and next Less. Historic Fiction is my favourite genre and I absolutely loved this book right from the first chapter.


The Blurb

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

The Book

The Song of Achilles begins with the protagonist Patroclus, a young prince struggling with meeting the high and unrealistic expectations set for him by his father, King Menoitius. When he accidentally kills his bully and fails to lie his way out of it, he is exiled by his father. Fortunately for him, he is fostered by King Peleus of Phthia where he meets his beloved Achilles. The boys grow up in Phthia and in Mount Pelion under the guidance of Phoinix the councelor and Chiron the Centuar. How the love blossoms and how grownup responsibilities destroy everything that the boys hold dear is what makes up the story.

I love a book that is written from the point of view of the underdog. Patroclus, the unassuming sidekick to Achilles’ godlike divinity is given a voice of his own. His struggles are struggles that all of us face- to learn, to grow, to have his own identity. However, he understands that Achilles is destined for greatness and does not stand in his way nor demand anything in return for his undying devotion to his cause. The innocence of the love that grown between Patroclus and Achilles was beautiful to watch. Thetis’ treatment of Achilles and later of Pyrrhus was sad to observe. It seemed that all she cared about was their fame which would indirectly reflect on her. Her disapproval of Patroclus is something that we seen even in parents. However, she redeemed herself in my eyes in the last few pages.

I loved Achilles throughout the book. He was aware of his greatness but treated everyone with fairness, was not conceited nor was he entitled. However, he broke my heart with his treatment of the Greeks at the end of the book and I blamed him entirely for what happened to Partoclus. The interaction of the Kings and Princes reminded me of Game of Thrones but was more believable. Odysseus was one of my favourite characters and I wish he had more roles to play. I was picturing the movie Troy with Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana for the period costumes and landscapes.

I was glad for the Character Glossary at the end of the book. We have all heard of these Greek Gods, Goddesses and Heroes but the story that we know slightly differs from the author’s. This is explained at the end of the book and gave me closure. I was glad that the author stuck to the real story. That is, after all what historic fiction is all about. I was impressed with the handling of the LGBT theme in that era. It is very sad to see that what was considered normal in the 1st Century AD is considered by many as abnormal in the 21st. The book is fast-paced and difficult to put down and the story will stay with me for a long time.

The Author

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


TL;DR: A beautifully presented story of characters that we are all familiar with, shown in a new light.


Do you love historic fiction?

What is your favourite?

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