Book club, Book review

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Statistics

The Handmaid's Tale.jpg

Format: eBook (Kindle) 

Length: 352 pages

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

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Date of Publication: 17th February, 1986

Rating: 5/5 stars


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


The Blurb

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

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

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

The Author

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

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

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


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


Do you like dystopian settings?

What is your favourite novel in this genre?

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

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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

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

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 416 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction

Date of Publication: 9th July, 2019

Publisher: Knopf Books

Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book from Penguin Random House Global via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review


I kept seeing cover reveals and other publicity for Spin the Dawn all over bookstagram and I really wanted to get my hands on it. Given my recent reading slump, I wasn’t sure if pre-ordering it would be such a good idea. So when I saw that Penguin Random House had sent a pre-approved Netgalley link to the book, I was over the moon. I was so ecstatic that I immediately started reading it and that was the end of my reading slump, at least for now.


The Blurb

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

The Book

The first of The Blood of Stars series, the book started off with a beautiful description of rural China and the rules that govern the people. I have recently been obsessed with reading Asian literature. The family values, the division of labour both at home and outside it, the simplicity of life, were all reminiscent of things that I love about it.

I was very excited to read about the tailor trials. As a crafter who works with yarn, I was intrigued by the things that Maia comes up with. I just wish that the trials were described in more detail but seeing that it wasn’t the main focus of the story, I think that part was reasonably well written. Edan was designed for readers to fall in love with. What’s not to love about the beautiful, powerful, mysterious young man who seems to have a heart of gold? He sees right through everything and makes sure that he protects those who need protecting. I just wish that Maia did not need to depend on Edan as much as she did in the beginning. But she redeemed herself in my eyes towards the latter half of the book.

Although the middle of the book was a tad predictable, I think it had more to do with the fact that I have read so many YA Fantasy over the last couple of years that I saw the plot unfold even before it did. I loved how the sun-moon-and-stars trials were described. The world building there was phenomenal. I was rooting for the couple till the very end and I cannot wait for the sequel to be published!

The Author

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel and she hasn’t looked back since. 


TL;DR: A fun and quick read that will make you wish that the sequel was already out


What’s your favorite YA trope?

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

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

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 435 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date of Publication: 4th June, 2013

Rating: 5/5 stars


The second of the Grishaverse series, I read this book immediately after the first. I found it even more riveting than Shadow and Bone and cannot wait to read the next book in the series


The Blurb

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

The Book

The book begins where the first book left off. We are treated to the Sun Summoner and her ilk injured and fleeing the Darkling and his army. They now need to find a safe haven to rest and recuperate. They are saved by the Apparat’s army and are led to the underground caves by them. It is now that the actual siege and actual storm begin.

I always find that I like the second book in a series better than any other. It happened with the ACOTAR series, the Winternight series and now with the Grisha series. This book lets us really get to know the characters. We learn why they behave the way they do and what makes them tick. Here the Darkling-Alina-Mal triangle gets complicated with Nikolai added to it but it gets more fun as well. We don’t see too much of moping from Alina which was very annoying in Shadow and Bone. I still wish that fantasy authors stayed away from the ordinary -girl-who-was-invisible-until-she-discovers-that-she has-powers-gets-an-army-of-suitors trope, I found that I quite liked reading this series. I honestly was rooting was Mal all through the series and he is my favourite tragic character.

The Author

Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.


TL;DR: A fast paced and action filled book that will make you crave for the next book


What are your favourite fantasy series?

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

Book review

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 848 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Date of Publishing: 26th February, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars


With all the hype surrounding the book even before the ARC was distributed, I knew that I absolutely had to read it as soon as the book was out. With its 848 pages, it was going to be one of the largest books that I would have read in recent times and I was excited to see how I would rise to the challenge.


The Blurb

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

The Book

The book contains every element that makes a fantasy fiction a hit among readers. It has magic and mages, queens and dragons, complicated family tree and rules of magic. I loved the fact that the main kingdom is a Queendom. As I am typing this, the in-built grammar check is pointing out that ‘Queendom’ is not a word. This makes it even more important that we make matriarchy as common a subject as patriarchy. The book is also filled with more homosexual relationships than heterosexual relationships. Although I am a big supporter of having LGBT representation in books, here it felt like the author is forcing the characters into it because that is what will get the book more popularity. It did not feel like the natural progression for some of the characters to me. However, I was really glad that same-gender marriages and couplings were such a norm in the book’s world that they could be as openly discussed in public as opposite gender couplings.

The book describes each event from various points of views. The description of the two kinds of dragons was breathtaking however I wish that certain aspects of the world were explained better. How did it come about that the eastern dragons who are regarded as Gods by the people have riders? Was there an event in history that made this a necessity? I also found quite a lot of unnecessary deaths at the beginning of the book. The deaths of Sulyard and Susa did not seem to play any part in the story development. In fact, had Susa been alive, it might have served as better motivation for Tane. Kit died too abruptly for the readers to even realise that he was dead. Although the book is peppered with deaths, none of them felt devastating for me since I had not formed a bond with any of the characters. Tane felt too wishy-washy, Sabran felt too mollycoddled in her environment, Ead felt too unrealistic and Roos felt explainably unlovable. I liked some of the minor characters like Meg and Loth. The flow of the conversation seemed jilted and forced.

For a book as long as this, I was finally beginning to be interested in the story only after about 70% of the book was completed. The complication with the Priory was predictable, as was the final battle. For all the build-up given regarding the Nameless One, he did not feature enough to be memorable. The end was abrupt and the author has left enough unsaid to validate a future second novel if she feels like it.

The Author

Samantha Shannon lives in London. She studied English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. Her work has been translated into twenty-six languages. The Bone Season, the first in a seven-book series, was a New York Times bestseller and the inaugural Today Book Club selection. Film and TV rights were acquired by the Imaginarium Studios.

Her work include:

  1. The Bone Season (2013)
  2. The Mime Order (2015)
  3. The Song Rising (2017)
  4. On the Merits of Unnaturalness (2015)
  5. The Pale Dreamer (2016)
  6. The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019)

TL;DR: A book that disappointed my high expectations with its predictable and forced plot line


What are some of the books that you had been waiting to be published?

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

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Statistics

Norse Mythology

Format: Paperback 

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Mythology, Fiction, Fantasy, Short stories

Publisher: Bloomsbury publishers

Date of Publication: 6th March, 2018

Rating: 3/5 stars


I kept hearing rave reviews of Norse Mythology everywhere and wanted to read it. I like reading mythology and historic fiction and had previously loved Circe and The Song of Achilles that deal with Greek mythology and plenty of Indian mythology so I was very excited to start this book.


The Blurb

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her.

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters, each describing a Norse legend. The stories of Loki’s children, of Sif’s golden hair, of Odin’s sacrifices, of Thor’s strength, and Loki’s cunning are something that we have heard of. It was good to know the real reasons and back-stories of each of them. But unfortunately, the stories seemed to bore me because of the style of writing. Almost everybody that has read Neil Gaiman’s writing raves about it so I think I must read another of his books before I boycott him completely but I did not expect this book to disappoint me so much.

The stories that really got to me all had to do with Loki and his children. The descriptions of Hel and of the wolf brother killing his younger sibling were very sad. I would begin to hate Loki for all the trouble that he causes in each story but also feel sympathetic to him when he tries to find a way out of it. As the author says, you can hate Loki but you can’t help but love him. My favourite line from the entire book is Thor saying “When something goes wrong, the first thing that I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” That sentence is so quintessential of both Thor and of Loki!

Some of the scenes of the Avengers movies made more sense to me after I read this book but I felt that it was a very cut-and-dry approach to storytelling. Sentences seemed to be repeating themselves and the stories skipped a bit in between and left things to the reader’s discretion. It may have been my high expectations that lead to the disappointment but I wish that the book had more to offer.

The Author

Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis. As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading.

Neil Gaiman is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages. He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama.


TL;DR: A quick read with multiple short stories that explain the Norse Gods and their myths


Do you like reading mythology?

What is your favourite?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Sophie Washington: Secret Santa by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Statistics

Format: Paperback 

Length: 120 pages

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Page Turner Publishing

Date of Publication: 9th September, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


Kay Macleod organised an Indie Advent Calendar like she has been doing for the last two years. Through the advent calendar I met several authors and Tonya was one of them. I love reading children’s fiction. This seemed to be the perfect read for the Christmas season and I was very excited to read it.


The Blurb

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Christmas is three weeks away and a mysterious “Santa” has been mailing presents to sixth grader Sophie Washington in this adorable, illustrated chapter book for middle grade readers. There is no secret Santa gift exchange going on at her school, so she can’t imagine who it could be. Sophie’s best friends, Chloe, Valentina, and Mariama guess the gift giver is either Nathan Jones or Toby Johnson, two boys in Sophie’s class who have liked her in the past, but she’s not so sure.

Sophie uncovers clues to find her secret Santa and the final reveal is bigger than any package she’s opened on Christmas morning. It’s a holiday surprise she’ll never forget!

The Book

The story revolves around sixth grader Sophie Washington, her family and friends, especially her little brother Cole with his corny jokes who was my favourite. It is almost time for christmas break when sophie begins to receive packages from her Secret Santa. In the boxes she finds her favourite candies, a gingerbread house, and jewelry. She racks her brain to figure out who could be sending things to her and how they know what her favourite things are.

Along with this vein of mystery, the book also has other important aspects like dealing with bullies, forgiveness, and the importance of friendship and which makes it a wholesome read. I was reminded of Enid Blyton books because of the very clear distinction between right and wrong, good family values, and kids who are still innocent and likable. I now desparately want to read all the books in the series for their feel good factor.

The Author

Tonya Duncan Ellis is the author of the Reader’s Favorite “Five Star” rated Sophie Washington children’s books series, geared toward readers ages 8 to 12 and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She has received awards for literary excellence and worked as a journalist and freelance magazine writer.

Tonya was born and raised in Louisville, KY and has also lived in Michigan, South Carolina, Louisiana, Missouri, Indiana, London, England, and Strasbourg, France. She currently resides in Houston, TX. When she’s not writing, the author enjoys reading, biking, swimming, travel and spending time with her husband and three children. 

Her work include:
1. Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee (2013)

2. Sophie Washington: Things you Didn’t Know About Sophie (2013)

3. Sophie Washington: The Snitch (2014)

4. Sophie Washington: The Gamer (2017)

5. Sophie Washington: Hurricane (2018)

6. Sophie Washington: Mission Costa Rica (2018)

7. Sophie Washington: Secret Santa (2018)


TL;DR: A feel good book with mystery, humor and wholesome values


What did you do this Christmas season?

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