Book review, Received for Review

Petit a Petit: Litte by Litte by Ambica Uppal

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 134 pages

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Notion Press

Date of Publication: 17th March, 2020

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I had read and loved the author’s previous book Malhaar so when I was approached by the author about reading and reviewing her second book, I quickly accepted. Unfortunately for me, the book that I ordered over Amazon could not be delivered because of restrictions in courier services during the lockdown so I began reading the ebook that the author sent.


The Blurb

Petit à Petit is a collection of simple and inspiring poetry that motivates one to dream and change the narrative of their lives. It assures you that tomorrow will be a better day and encourages you to realise your potential and achieve your aspirations. Petit à Petit is centred on themes like self-love, self-confidence and taking life into your own hands.No matter how far-away and impossible your dreams seem, don’t be afraid to reach for them.

The Book

Ambica Uppal writes poetry that speaks to the modern woman. The emotions are what each of us has felt at least once in our lives but couldn’t put into words. She is the quintessential feminist. She talks about empowering the society and equality for everyone. She asks us to re-write stories that begin with “mirror mirror on the wall”. She asks us to enable girls to wear capes and fight rather than wonder ‘who is the fairest of them all’. A sentence that really hit me was “Don’t grow thorns just because you couldn’t grow flowers“. We often see ourselves hardening our heart because of a trauma that occurred years ago. We shut ourselves off to new experiences that would have healed us. She says that it doesn’t matter if we live when we don’t give any meaning to our lives.

The book is peppered with illustrations, some of it made by the author herself. My favorite was the one showing a young child looking into a mirror that shows her her grown-up self. It is important that we grow up to live a life that the younger version of ourselves would have been proud of.

She urges us to be unique and let our light shine through. She says that there will always be sunshine after the rain so we need to believe in the strength within ourselves. I loved it when she said, “don’t go searching outside for the magic that you so preciously hold“. In a race to fit in, we have all forgotten how unique we truly are. It is time we let our true selves shine through rather than make ourselves smaller and quieter.

I also liked the concept of the heart having loose hanging wires that we need to join to re-ignite dreams. My favorite poem of all was Don’t fear, go for it. Here the author says that we are afraid to fly because we see the ceiling before we see the sky and we are afraid to dream because we see no point in it. This reminded me of one of my favorite parts in A Court of Wings and Fury where Azriel says that the main reason for not being able to learn to fly as an adult is the fear of the fall. The author also talks about how we judge a person based solely on what we see but forget that the person is made up of many hidden parts that we know nothing about. We cannot decide that we know a person based on what we perceive at a particular time.

Reading the book during the time of lockdown for the Corona Virus, I saw a lot of poems resonating with what we have all been feeling. Everybody is trying to be productive every day and seems to think that it is a race to see who comes up with the most number of new artwork or new recipes. But Ambica says “Why is life not what we get but a bunch of wants and wishes? Why is it all about chasing and trying to catch the misses?“. Another poem that spoke to me during this time of crisis was title Slow Down. It asks us to look around us and appreciate the things that we have.

While this collection of poems did not have the same hair-raising response from me as her earlier work Malhaar did, I still found a lot of poems that spoke to me on a very personal level. It is something that everyone could find that they relate to at some point in their lives.

The Author

Ambica is an Indian Canadian writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. She was born in Aizawl, an eastern city in India. Today her writings are manifestations of what she feels while experiencing things around her and poetry is just one such form in which she likes to express herself.

You can find more details of the author in my review of her book Malhaar.

Her work include:

  1. Malhaar (2018)
  2. Petit a Petit (2020)

TL;DR: A book that will resonate with everyone


What have been some of your favorite contemporary poetry book?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 799 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date of Publication: 3rd March, 2020

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


The ACOTAR series is one of my favourite and most re-read series ever. So when I learnt that Sarah J. Maas is coming up with a new Urban Fantasy, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. When the publisher contacted me about participating in a blog tour for the newly released book, I was over the moon. This also meant that I didn’t have to pre-order the book and wait for it to be delivered. I could get reading right away!


The Blurb

Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. By day, she works for an antiquities dealer, selling barely legal magical artifacts, and by night, she parties with her friends, savouring every pleasure Lunathion—otherwise known as Crescent City— has to offer. But it all comes crumbling down when a ruthless murder shakes the very foundations of the city—and Bryce’s world.

Two years later, her job has become a dead end, and she now seeks only blissful oblivion in the city’s most notorious nightclubs. But when the murderer attacks again, Bryce finds herself dragged into the investigation and paired with an infamous Fallen angel whose own brutal past haunts his every step.

Hunt Athalar, personal assassin for the Archangels, wants nothing to do with Bryce Quinlan, despite being ordered to protect her. She stands for everything he once rebelled against and seems more interested in partying than solving the murder, no matter how close to home it might hit. But Hunt soon realizes there’s far more to Bryce than meets the eye—and that he’s going to have to find a way to work with her if they want to solve this case.

As Bryce and Hunt race to untangle the mystery, they have no way of knowing the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the darkest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir…

The Book

A fierce but sad girl who takes no nonsense from anyone, a traumatized man with a soft and gentle heart- if you thought these concepts make Crescent City similar to all the other fantasy books that you have read, think again! This book is so much more! Here you see fierce friendship, loyalty, and betrayal, you see families by blood abandoning their wards only for families by heart to adopt them. If there is any series that might tie with ACOTAR for a place in my heart, it is this one. Another thing that I loved was that the characters are not mere teens. They are capable of shouldering the responsibilities that the author throws their way and it made their decisions much more believable to me.

The story is told from a third person’s perspective which I found refreshing. You get an unbiased view of everyone’s thought process. The little creatures introduced in the story steal your heart and break it at their will. One of the scenes that gave me goosebumps was when one of the seemingly minor characters shows courage far beyond their ability and gains everyone’s respect. Another heartbreaking scene shows how misinformation and distrust can turn people who have been friends since childhood into bitter enemies. These scenes are so well written that you don’t even realise that you are shedding tears until its too late.

I loved how the family drama was interwoven seamlessly into the actual story. The love that the siblings show towards each other, the loyalty and sacrifice of friends and the unbelievable heartbreak at losing them was beautifully rendered. The descriptions of dealing with the death of a loved one with ‘the one step forward- two steps back’ reality of obtaining mental and emotional stability were very real.

My favorite character was Hunt. He was created to be loved and it underlines the author’s prowess that he is never obnoxious nor overbearing. He is flawed and is very real. He just warms your heart and makes you want to take him home with you forever. I cannot wait to read more of these characters in the next books in the series.

The Author

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. She lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

Her work include:

  1. The Assassin and The Pirate Lord (2012)
  2. The Assassin and The Healer (2012)
  3. The Assassin and The Desert (2012)
  4. The Assassin and The Underworld (2012)
  5. The Assassin and The Empire (2012)
  6. Throne of Glass (2012)
  7. Crown of Midnight (2013)
  8. Heir of Fire (2014)
  9. The Assassin’s Blade (2014)
  10. Queen of Shadowns (2015)
  11. A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015)
  12. A Court of Mist and Fury (2016)
  13. Empire of Storms (2016)
  14. A Court of Wings and Ruin (2017)
  15. Tower of Dawn (2017)
  16. Kingdom of Ash (2018)
  17. A Court of Frost and Starlight (2018)
  18. Catwoman: Soulstealer (2018)
  19. Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood (2020)

You can find more details about the author and her books in my review of ACOTAR.


TL;DR: A brilliant beginning to a series that I know will have my heart forever


Do you have a book from your favourite author that you are waiting for this year?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Post Millennial Tales by Bhavya Singh and Navya Singh

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 104 pages

Genre: Microtales, non-fiction

Publishers: Amaryllis Publishers

Date of Publication: 31st December, 2019

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


Navya Singh and Bhavya Singh are 12-year-old twins who run the bookstagram account @the_bookish_twins. Along with their mother Ruchi Singh, they also have a bookish merchandise shop Reading Magic where all proceeds go to charity.

I have always been awed by the talents of these young women so when Navya approached me about her first book, I knew that I wanted to read it and my instincts were spot-on this time!


The Blurb

Research has proved that the ‘Post-Millennial’ generation is unique in its social consciousness, and is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever.

These micro tales by a pair of 12-year-old twins, Bhavya and Navya Singh, are strikingly socially aware in their themes. Bhavya ‒ the artist, and Navya ‒ the illustrator, have put together a sensitive and relevant-to-the-times collection of tiny tales that demonstrate their mature outlook, given their age.

These young post-millennials represent dominant youth influencers of tomorrow and deserve to be heard.

The Book

The book is a collection of observations that the twins have seen in their seemingly vast experience even at their young age. Bhavya is the author while Navya is the illustrator of these microtales. The pages talk about everything from female empowerment to female infanticide, from gender gap in professional spaces to safety of women in public spaces.

I was impressed that the girls, at such a young age, have assimilated concepts that seem too big for them. The illustrations themselves tell a story of depth even with their simplicity. Each time you look at them, they show a different perspective. The book as a whole gives me hope for the next generation of thinkers and writers, dreamers and artists. This also goes to show that readers can and do experience life at a more heightened sense than do others. The fact that these two young women have managed to put those thoughts and experiences on paper is awe-inspiring.

The Authors

Bhavya Singh, the artist and Navya Singh, the writer are 12-year-old twins who study in DPS, Bhopal. They have a YouTube channel called The Inspirers and they run a small book merchandise business. All the earnings go to charity.

They are avid readers and write book reviews as well.


TL;DR: A wonderful compilation of observations that are mature considering the age of the author, the illustrations run deep with their simplicity and precision.


Do you like microtales?

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

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

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 368 pages

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Date of Publication: 14th January, 2020

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


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

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


The Blurb

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

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

The Author

Adam Silvera is the New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, and They Both Die at the End. His next book What If It’s Us is co-written by Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and releases on October 9th, 2018. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His work include:

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

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


What are your favorite trilogies?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Murder at Moonlight Cafe and Other Stories by Ishavasyam Dash

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 160 pages

Genre: Short Stories

Publisher: XPress Publishing (An imprint of Notion Press Publishers)

Date of Publication: 24th December, 2019

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


I’m not usually a fan of short stories but there was something about this one that called out to me. When the author reached out about the possibility of a review, I took it up on a whim. I was so glad to see that my instinct was right this time. I would have missed out on a really well written book.


The Blurb

Omprakash and Dilip, police officers and best buddies, are catching up at one of Manali’s poshest bars, when a most unsettling murder is committed right under their noses…

Called upon by the gods to aid them in a losing battle, Parvati creates the immensely powerful Kali—but can she save herself from the hell she has unleashed in her own marriage?

A strange spectral presence haunts a man day and night, eating away years from his life, until he takes part in an unorthodox ritual and comes face-to-face with his tormentor…

Meet Mariam—a gentle, unassuming woman in her late fifties with a strange hobby—gatecrashing funerals…

By turns delightful, morbid and whimsical, this is a collection of eleven tales that will transport you to the myriad worlds of magic realism and murder, mythology and horror, millennial mania and post-modern angst. Made-to-order for those with a taste for inventive idiosyncrasy, this book promises to provoke and entertain in equal measure.

The Book

I find that short stories are sometimes a hit and a miss. They sometimes seem too short to establish a story-line that grabs the reader’s hearts and minds. But with this collection, every story was brilliantly worded and everything was wrapped up perfectly to make each story complete in its own right. The amount of research that has gone into the book is incredible. It is wonderful to see a new author who takes so much care about getting their facts right and then showing the flair required to convert those facts into a beautiful story. The crisp editing makes it a joy to read.

We see characters who could be just about any one of us. Addicted to their social media, we see them worry about their posts and interaction, we see them create content and also get influenced by other influencers much as we all do in our daily lives. Next, we have a young professional who has done what all of us longed to do in our teens- follow our passion and work in a field that we love rather than get a ‘safe’ job like our parents told us to. We see the protagonist struggle while putting on a brave face for his family. I loved how realistic his letters home were.

We see a widow who deals with death in her own unique way. Mental health is described in a quirky way that makes us chuckle but also makes us think of ways of dealing with trauma. We also see a young YouTuber who has recently discovered her sexual identity. I loved how non-judgemental each story was. The research into various sexual identities and the way that the facts were made into a story was beautiful. I loved the story of the creation of Goddess Kali and how vices are described in the story. There are a couple of stories with relatively open endings that I enjoyed. The stories of the Monk who believes that he is the chosen one, the man who believes that there is a creature that watches him at all hours of the day, the boy who’s hair keeps growing, the young man addicted to demon blood could all be interpreted in multiple ways and I spent quite a lot of time over them. Although each story is just a few pages on its own, the depth of the matter in them makes it hard to read the entire book in one sitting. I absolutely loved the book and I’m glad that I trusted my instincts about reading it.

The Author

Ishavasyam took a sabbatical from her career in marketing to fulfil her childhood dream of writing a book. Besides weaving tall tales, she loves playing board games and belly dancing. She is a hoarder of art supplies, and has an alarming number of incomplete DIY projects. Ishavasyam lives with her husband, whom she adores to bits, to the point where she may soon give in to his incessant plea to get a dog. 


TL;DR: A brilliant collection of stories that are well researched and beautifully edited


What are some short story collections that you like?

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

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

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kimmerer

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 464 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date of Publication: 20th January, 2020

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


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


The Blurb

Find the heir, win the crown.

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

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

The Author

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


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


What was your first read of 2020?

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

Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 416 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Date of Publication: 3rd December, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I received a copy of the book from the publisher and began reading it immediately after I finished the first book in the series- Children of Blood and Bone. It was also my second book for the PanMacIndiaYAReadathon by Pan Macmillan India.


The Blurb

“After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.

Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath.

With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.

The Book

I began reading the book immediately after I finished the first book and I had all the details fresh in my mind. I was glad that the author developed each concept that was mentioned in the first book and cemented the rules of the world of Maji before introducing us to the new ways of acquiring magic.

The book begins where the first book ends. Magic has returned to the world but it has brought with it an entirely unexpected side to it. Not only the Maji but also the Nobles have some form of magic and everyone is unhappy about it- the Maji feel betrayed by the Gods while the Nobles want to squash the Maji using that very magic against them. In the midst of all of this, we have our main characters growing up and having to deal with emotions that they are not familiar with.

The plot twists were a bit predictable in this book as they were in the first book. However, I was pleased to find that the pace was much quicker than it was in its predecessor. We have Zel and Inan trying to figure out what they feel towards each other, we have Amari and Tzain assuming that things were safe and secure. We have an introduction of new relationships with cousins and mercenaries where you want to scream that they seem to have ulterior motives that our naive characters don’t seem to notice. I expected Roen to be my favorite character and I wasn’t disappointed. I wish we had seen more interaction between him and Zelie.

The growth of the characters of Amari and Inan was a pleasure to read. It was realistic in a way of ‘two steps forward, one step back’. Dealing with PTSD and propaganda that one has grown up with is never an easy process. I expected the betrayals that happened but I did not expect the reasons behind it. The descriptions of the Maji powers as well as the process of them working to strengthen it were my favorite things to read. I was glad to see that the author concentrated on action in this book and not just descriptions of estranged love and confused teenagers.

The Author

I’ve spoken about Tomi Adeyemi in my review of her debut novel- Children of Blood and Bone.


TL;DR: A fast paced sequel that again ends in a cliff hanger


What’s your favourite book with a cliff hanger ending?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Length: 320 pages

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Zubaan Books

Date of Publication: 15th November, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


It had been a while since I read contemporary fiction. When I saw that this was Pakistani contemporary fiction, I jumped at the chance of reading it since it was going to be my first.

Zubaan Books has such wonderful book choices that I was spoilt for choice. I can’t wait to read more from them.


The Blurb

In 1970s Karachi, where violence and political and social uncertainty are on the rise, a beautiful and talented artist, Tahira, tries to hold her life together as it shatters around her. Soon after her wedding, her marriage is revealed to be a trap from which there appears no escape. Accustomed to the company of her brother, Waseem, and friends, Andaleep and Safdar, who are activists, writers and thinkers, she struggles to adapt to her new world of stifling conformity.

Tragedy strikes when her brother and friends, are caught up in the cynically repressive regime. Faced with horror and injustice, she embarks upon a series of paintings entitled ‘The Empty Room’, filling the blank canvases with vivid colour and light.

Poetic, elegant, and powerful, The Empty Room is an important addition to contemporary Pakistani literature, a moving portrait of life in Karachi at a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and a powerful meditation on art and on the dilemmas faced by all women who must find their own creative path in hostile conditions. 

The Book

I had forgotten how wonderful it can be to read a story with family drama rather than the mystery thrillers and fantasies that I have been reading of late. The Empty Room reminds you of a time that was simpler in terms of what was expected of people but it was also a time where the society was undergoing radical changes. This makes it a time of turmoil and heartbreak for the people at the cusp of change.

Tahira is one such character who has grown up in a house that encouraged her talents and gave her the freedom needed to pursue her passion. But it was also a house that expected her to put all of it down and become a ‘good’ wife and mother the minute she got married. Her husband is the typical male who believes that a wife must be educated and talented so that she is fit to be paraded in front of society but she must submit to his will at all times. He and his family are hypocrites who refuse to give their daughter-in-law the same love and opportunities that are given to the daughters of the house. The entire book had me screaming on the inside at all the injustices that a woman is supposed to silently accept. What made it worse was the fact that although this was a book set in the 1970s, the situation is not much better after half a century!

I was enraged at Tahira’s parents’ inability or unwillingness to help her but was glad to see that her siblings and friends were a source of strength. The political aspect of the story motivated me to do a bit of research on it and I was appalled at how situations have been used for political gain while people that truly want to help the society are silenced by any means necessary. The descriptions of Tahira’s art were vivid and it was one of the things that I kept waiting to read more of. The only thing that I wish had been better was the pace of the book. Some areas seemed a bit too long and unnecessary but I chalked it up to the author’s creative process.

The Author

Sadia Abbas grew up in Pakistan and Singapore. She received her PhD in English literature from Brown University and she teaches in the English Department at Rutgers University-Newark. Sadia is Adjunct Professor at the Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University. She loves long walks, the Mediterranean and, indiscriminately, all sorts of films.


TL;DR: A beautiful book with descriptions of the everyday life of an average family abundant in drama and art


What are your favorite contemporary fiction?

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

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

Bone China by Laura Purcell

Statistics

Format: Paperback (ARC)

Length: 433 pages

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

Publisher: Raven Books (Bloomsbury)

Date of Publication: 19th September, 2019

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


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

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


The Blurb

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Author

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

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

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


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


Do you like Gothic stories?

What are your favourites?

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

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

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Statistics

Format: eBook (ARC)

Length: 416 pages

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House

Date of Publication: 29th October, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


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


The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Author

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


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


What is your favorite book that deals with ancient traditions?

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