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 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, 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, Readathon

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

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 448 pages

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Contemporary

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date of Publication: 9th October, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

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

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

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

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

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

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

But what if it is? 

The Book

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

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

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

The Authors

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

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


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


Have you read anything written by two authors together?

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

Book review, Readathon

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 528 pages

Genre: LGBTQ+, Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: Macmillan

Date of Publication: 8th October, 2015

Rating: 3/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

The Author

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

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

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

Her work include:

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

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


Do you read fan fictions?

What are your favorites?

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

Book review, Readathon

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

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Fiction

Length: 359 pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Date of Publication: 21st February, 2012

Rating: 4.5/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Author

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

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

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

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


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

Are you reading anything special for Pride month?

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

Book review, Readathon

The Upside of Unrequitted by Becky Albertalli

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 336 pages

Genre: Young Adult, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK

Date of Publication: 11th April, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars


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

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

The Author

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

Her work include:

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

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


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

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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?

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