Book review, Readathon, Received for Review

Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal

Statistics

Length: 156 pages

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Poetry, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Vishwakarma Publications

Date of Publication: 20th September, 2018

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


When the author contacted me about reviewing the book, I was amazed at the beautiful cover. The concept was intriguing and it seemed like an interesting read. I usually research a book before accepting a review opportunity but something about this book had me saying yes almost immediately.

The Blurb

Meet the beautiful people of the Circus, and the freaks who live in the Village next to them. Mangled, jangled, misunderstood, all find place in the rich tapestry of this book.

Siamese twins separate to lose half a heart each, and find snake-man and tiger-taming lovers. A man bitten by a crocodile becomes a God, and a Devadasi woos the entire countryside with her culinary artistry.

Fates intertwined lead sometimes to tragedy, sometimes happy summits of fame. A clown finds his place in Hollywood and mute animals break unspeakable chains. A twisted man falls in love with a mirror and a white man is unmade by the Indian sun.

In this book are tales for every season and every reason. Tales of human depravity that take innocent lives, and of a murderers’ insanity that follows, a fitting revenge by nature, red in tooth and claw.

These stories are told in the form of narrative poems in rhyming couplets.

Look inside and you will find, you have been to this Village. Surely, you have been to this Circus too.

The Book

I always consider myself as a ‘prose over poetry’ sort of person. I was apprehensive about how I would react to this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author knew what she was doing. The lines were wonderfully symmetrical and lyrical and the icing on the cake was that they rhymed perfectly. 

I was glad that I read the book in June since it contributed towards my Pride Readathon. The book consists of short poems based on quirky characters. We see children born in affluent families who are discarded because they do not conform to society’s idea of perfection. We see husbands and wives come to terms with their differences. We see greedy landlords and circus masters get their comeuppance. We see individuals from the fringes of the society find acceptance and also individuals who are banished or killed for their difference in appearance, behaviour or sexual orientation.

Even though the book talks about freaks and oddities of nature, the general feeling is one of positivity and humor. The women in the stories are strong and independent and find their place in the world and enjoy what they are doing despite being despised by a select few. I enjoyed how the author connected a story towards the end of the book with one in the beginning. That goes to show how much planning actually went into writing and editing.

The Author

Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal holds an MA from Kings College, London. She is a recipient of the 14th Beullah Rose Poetry Prize by Smartish Pace. She was shortlisted for the Third Coast Fiction Prize, 2018. She is featured on the Masthead of the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review as a Frequent Contributor. A popular Spoken Word poet, she performs at events across venues in India. Her page poetry is featured in reputed international literary journals such as Smartish Pace, Dunes Review, Typehouse Literary Review, SOFTBLOW, Broad River Review, Gyroscope Review and many more. Her poetry will be anthologized alongside the work of renowned poets such as Gulzar and Piyush Mishra in 2019. She lives with her 4-year-old son, husband and two dog babies in Pune, India.


TL;DR: A well written book that will have you wondering at the behaviour of the society even while chuckling at its eccentricities


Do you like reading poetry?

What are your favourites?

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

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Book review, Received for Review

Lady Diana: The Queen of Hearts (A 03 part play) by Dr. Ramnath Sonawane

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 66 pages

Genre: Play

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 20th April, 2019

Rating: 3/5 stars

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


Since the time I can remember, my mother was a fan of Lady Diana. She collected pictures and postcards of her and watched her reverently on TV. The Princess passed away while I was still young and as I grew up, I started following the lives of her children and their family. Now with social media, gathering information has become a breeze and not a day goes by where I don’t see posts or news about the British Royals and I lap it all up.

When Dattsons Publishers approached me with a review request for a play set on Lady Diana, I knew I could not resist. Although I am not a big reader of plays or screenplays, I knew that it was story that I would enjoy. I was curious to see how the story that I have grown up reading would be interpreted by the author.


The Blurb

This play is about Lady Diana. It depicts some real life incidents and some imaginary scenes to sound it more dramatic. There are six main characters from the Royal Family. The fairytale marriage between Princess Diana and the Prince ends with divorce due to his affair with his first love Camilla. When Diana discovers this, feels distressed and betrayed, she tries to find solace in the charity, the purpose which was dear to her heart even before her marriage. The sub plot relates to the marriage and divorce between the Duke and the Duchess. It is a perfect foil to the main plot as it depicts the estranged Duchess seeking divorce from the Duke who is tolerant enough to accept her extra marital affair for the sake of Royalty. On the other hand, in the main plot, Diana takes a conscious decision of divorce, sacrificing her title and even the right to Queenship. The dictum of the Shakespearean tragedy, that “character is Destiny; that we are ourselves the makers or the destroyers of our own fortune” is thus proved through the personality traits of Lady Diana.

The Book

The story begins with the dream wedding of Diana and Prince Charles told from the point of view of a couple of stable hands. The public adoration of Lady Diana begins early in the relationship and continues even after its termination. We see how her beauty and charitable nature makes her a darling in peoples’ eyes. I could not help but draw parallels between Lady Diana and Princess Kate in the way the public loves them, their natural beauty and compassion, their love for their children, their need to create as ordinary a life for the children as possible and the importance that they give to charity work.

The unfortunate events that turn the tide in the marriage begins with Diana learning of the affair of Prince Charles and Lady Camilla. We have all seen this played out in the news. To read it from the point of view of the people involved in the scenario made it more personal. We can only assume that these were the kind of conversations that occurred based on the interviews that were given by everyone involved. I wasn’t sure how I felt about such assumptions but it can be chalked up to creative liberty that authors deserve.

I wish we got to read more on the relationship between Lady Diana and Prince Dodi and also Diana’s relationship with her children. With the famous interview by Prince William and Prince Harry on the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in 2017, there was a lot of personal stories that could have been used to spin this tale. I also wish that the author had avoided mistakes like referring to Prince William as ‘Williams’ everywhere in the book. For a true Royal fan, this slip up was not acceptable. The author tried to incorporate the British way of speech in some places like the use of ‘lad’ and ‘dear Sir’ but it wasn’t consistent throughout the story. Apart from minor transgressions of this sort, it was a nice and quick read of a story that we all know.

The Author

Dr. Ramnath Sonawane is well known for his administrative acumen. He is a result oriented individual with a strong analytical, communication, interpersonal and negotiation skills. His professional career as an administrator spans more than 30 years of experience in urban management. He served an a municipal commissioner for cities. He is currently working as chief executive officer in Nagpur and has published books, bhajans and a collection of poems.

His work include:

  1. Capsule- a collection of poems in Marathi
  2. Administrative Communication Strategies
  3. Bhajans in Hindi

TL;DR: A quick read of a story that we all know and love, written from the characters’ point of view


Do you read plays?

What are your favourites?

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

Book review, Received for Review

She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Genre: Feminism, Short Stories

Length: 70 pages

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 2013

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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


As a part of the review program by Book Pitaara, I received She Wants Out and Other Stories as a review copy along with Pride March. I like reading short stories as a break between heavy reads.


The Blurb

Being a woman at some stage or other you realize how you were coaxed and coerced to become a round peg to fit a round hole. You couldn’t be allowed to turn into a square peg because then you wouldn’t have fitted into the slot which the society allows you. Everyone embarks on a quest for happiness and harmony. One has to make choices, provided one views oneself as having choices. These stories are about women – some, who were content to drift and others who tried to usher in a change. They have an appeal for every reader. They can be read passively or actively – passively for entertainment or actively for reflection. They stress on the need of independence in a woman’s life – a freedom from stuck-up cultural norms because the old rules are not always right.

The Book

I loved how small each story was but how much emotion was packed into each of it. Most of the stories could be read on a short coffee break but you cannot read the entire book in one go because the stories make you think.

I find that short stories are a gamble. When they are well written, you don’t want them to end but with others, the lack of depth is glaringly obvious. I wasn’t sure what I would find with She Wants Out and Other Stories by Kiran Jhamb but since it was women’s month and this was a book that dealt with women and the reality of their lives, I thought it would be appropriate to read it then. And boy, was I glad that I did!
The book describes the lives of women that we all know and commiserate with. The reason that I loved every story was that there are certain aspects in each female character that I am sure we could all identify with. I loved that the author provided a realistic and often humorous look at everyday situations and managed to weave intricate stories in just two or three pages. I enjoyed each perspective and was glad that there was a representation of women from every decade of life. We see women dealing with the loss of their freedom and their right to choose, having to put up with inequality and abuse because the perpetrators are ‘family’ and having to live up to other people’s expectations even though it might not be the right thing for them.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the book and would love to read more of the author’s work.

The Author

Dr. Kiran Jhamb is an Associate Professor and the Dead of the Department of English in JMT Arts and JJP Science College, Nagpur. She has more than a hundred stories, poems and articles to her credit which have been published in different newspapers and magazines. She has also written two books.

Her work include:

  1. Wise to be a Fool
  2. Family Dustbin
  3. She wants out and Other Stories

TL;DR: A book filled with interesting short stories that deal with important social issues in a concise manner and leave you with enough emotions to last the entire day


What are some of your favourite short story collections?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Pride March by Dr. Efthikar Ahamed

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 40 pages

Genre: Drama, Play, LGBTQ+

Publisher: Dattsons Publishers

Date of Publication: 19th September, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


Book Pitaara began as a subscription box service but has now grown, acquired plenty of loyal subscribers and has branched itself to related business as well. I had a wonderful time representing them in the months of October, November and December 2018 and when I learnt that they had collaborated with publishers for book reviews, I knew I had to get myself associated with it.

The first review copies were from Dattsons Publishers and I received two books that dealt with LGBTQ+ issues. I first picked this book since I haven’t read much in the genre until now.


The Blurb

The Pride March is a drama about the plight of the transgender humans who are appallingly marginalized all over the world and about the social conditions prevailing in some parts of the globe which even lead them to get executed in the name of honour killing. Subtitled as “A Theatrical Journey into the Lives of LGBTs in 3 Scenes & 2 Verbatim” the play narrates various phases of Mohini, a young researcher who later becomes Mohan, the Transgender. A woman transforming into a man, after chasing her dream of becoming one and her espousal with the pain of wounds, the pleasures of pain, the pleasurable transformation, and the confrontation with the wrathful societal agencies form the plot of the play. It also discusses the issues of the lost honour – the anger of the patriarchal lost pride – through some memorable characters and incidents. The play sharply problematizes the honour killing committed by a father against his daughter which is a display of indignation by murder to protect one’s honour. The locale of The Pride March is anywhere in India and its time may be any year after 2015.

The Book

Although The Pride March is a book that is only 40 pages long, it tries to address a lot of important issues that are relevant in the society in the present day. The story follows Mohini, a transgender who aspires to complete his transformation to a man. He has a group of friends who understand the issue and are supportive to the point where they accompany him to the doctor for the gender reassignment surgery and the post-operative care. I was glad that he was surrounded by people who cared and who understood what he was going through especially since we later learn that his family was not supportive of the transformation.

However, certain parts of the story did not sit well with me. I did not support the way the medical issues were dealt with in the story. The depiction of a doctor who was openly smoking while consulting on a case as sensitive as gender reassignment and one who did not take care about the confidentiality of the patient was not believable now when the laws are strict about the patient being treated right and doctors being educated regarding these issues. I was also surprised with the way the post-operative instructions were supposedly told to the patient’s friends. But the book needs to be read, not as a medical novel, but as a slice of life in the LGBTQ+ community and these lapses may be forgiven by the casual reader.

The social issues were dealt with with a realism that is sometimes sorely missing in literature and I was glad for it. Although the end was predictable, it carried with it the anguish of two characters who failed to reconcile until it was too late and the verbatim at the end was moving. I found that while the author tried to maintain a certain level of believability with the characters, they were all dramatized to suit the theatre. I am not sure if I am a fan of the genre but it was an interesting literary adventure in the end.

The Author

Dr. Efthikar Ahamed currently works as an Assistant Professor in the department of English and Comprehensive Literature in Kerala. He was awarded PhD in English for his research work in the area of poetry and comparative study. He has presented various research articles in national and international seminars and conferences. His publications in different peer reviewed research journals and periodicals, both in English and Malayalam put him in the main list of much-sought-after academic creative thinker and writer in the region.

He has two books to his credit in Malayalam and two in English. The Pride March is his debut play in English.


TL;DR: A quick read that focuses on important social issues


Do you like reading plays?

What would you recommend to me in the genre?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Code of Manavas by Arpit Bakshi

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 280 pages

Genre: Indian Literature, Mythology, Science fiction

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Date of Publication: 10th July, 2018

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


The Code of Manavas is the first book in the Maha Vishnu Trilogy. It has been quite a while since I’ve read any sci-fi and Indian mythology is always fun to read so I was very excited to read the book.


The Blurb

Book one of the Maha Vishnu Trilogy, The Code of Manavas, is set some two million years past ad 2050, when earth as we know it ceased to exist and so did mankind. A new race, the Manavas, now exists on Bhoomi, the erstwhile Earth, which is divided into two cities—Madhavpur and Ayudhpur. In the quiet and peaceful city of Madhavpur, a reclusive Krishna is busy with an immense task. He has to prepare a new abode for the Manavas before an impending apocalypse destroys them. He knows something that nobody else does—the Manavas are running out of time faster than they can imagine and there are no inhabitable planets to escape to. To make matters worse, there is someone in Madhavpur who wants to destroy Krishna and subjugate each Manava. The Manavas, it seems, are doomed. Yet Krishna knows there is a slim chance of survival for the Manavas, although there is a huge price to be paid for it. Will the various factions of the Manavas unite for the greater good? Will Krishna, who saved them during the turn of the last Yuga, be able to save them now? What will be the price to pay? Enter the mythical world of Maha Vishnu and get swept up in a fast-paced suspenseful narrative.

The Book

The book is set in the future and begins with the description of an advanced group of people called Manavas who have evolved from humans with the help of a mysterious element, Bhoomodium. Bhoomodium increases the cognitive efficacy of the people and also renders them immortal but it has other consequences that they discover as time progresses. The author’s research on cosmic phenomenon and scientific facts regarding brain functioning is apparent throughout the book. The Krishna in the Swarnim Yuga and the Krishna that we all know from the Dwapara Yuga have been connected to each other in a variety of interesting angles but I wish that they had been explored more.

While the first couple of chapters were engaging, the book started to veer off into expected tangents as the story progressed. The introduction of a tragic love story and a partial love triangle seemed unnecessary seeing that it did not play any role in plot development. It seemed half-hearted with the introduction of the characters of Vallabha and Meera who was created just to satisfy the author’s need to introduce female characters into the story. The lack of representation of women as lead characters or even as council members irked me but what really upset me was how the other women were depicted. The so-called ‘guide’ who knows the lay of the land ends up twisting her ankle and having to be carried by the man, she does not notice that a Leopard is stalking her even though it is her job to collect samples and must always be aware of her surroundings. She is then again rescued by the ‘hero’ of the story. The woman who claims to be strong and is outdoorsy falls off the boat at the beginning of the journey and needs to doze and rest while the man who hardly ever ventures out of his lab gets them to their destination. A very obvious ‘damsel in distress rescued by the brilliant man’ theme was apparent throughout the book. The women were all portrayed as having only romance on their minds with both Vallabha and Radhika needing validation of their feelings from Krishna.

The book was slow in some parts but skipped over details in others. The sentence flow did not seem consistent, almost like it was edited by multiple people at multiple places and it was not brought together in the end. The plot was pretty much see-through throughout the book and none of the characters were particularly likable to me.

The Author

Arpit Bakshi studied electrical engineering and has an MBA in finance from the University of RPI, Troy, New York. He now works for a prominent Indian bank. Arpit initially wanted to pursue a career in theoretical physics, but ended up opting for engineering (as most students of science in India tend to do). Since his childhood, two things have never failed to amaze him—the vast expanse of the cosmos; and the unfathomable depth of Indian mythology and spirituality. He believes that one should never stop learning and it is his love for science that has gravitated him towards writing this mythology-inspired science fiction. Arpit is based in Gurgaon, India.


TL;DR: A book with a promising premise that unfortunately does not deliver on its promise


What is your favourite science fiction?

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

Book review, Received for Review

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance by Niranjan Navalgund

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 96

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Readomania

Date of Publication: June 2016

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


The author is a professional chess player which intrigued me since I played semi-professionally for about 7 years. The author also promised that I would love the smattering of words in my mother tongue, Kannada. I never find books with Kannada words in them so I was very excited to begin reading.
The book is curated and edited by Readomania, an independent publishing house who support new and up-coming authors.


The Blurb

Unknown to Nayan, the library he inherits from his deceased father, is a mysterious place. Hiriya Halepu, Pu.Nayaka, Kapshi and and many others live there. They have a secret world with celebrations, romances, pangs of separation and conflicts. This is the Book-World. As two souls in this world fall in love, they encounter a strange predicament that separates them from each other. Things go from bad to worse when an unknown enemy sends a threat of destruction to this whole mysterious world. They call their resolute protector, Helmine, who unravels many unknown facets of this world, in an attempt to save it from the danger. The lovers struggle to find each other, and Helmine tries hard to decipher the threat messages. But will she be able to save this world from destruction? Will the two souls in love be united? There are no easy answers. Because, this is no ordinary Library, this is the place where books come to life.

The Book

The Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance is a short read that started out promising. It is the story of a library that comes to life after sundown, something similar to The Night Museum movies. I was curious to see how the author would adapt the concept to a library. An unwitting son inherits a library full of very special books. They have leaders among themselves, they have books that are noble and books that are mischievous, they have a network similar to our internet, they have means of communication similar to our text messages. They form an entire community of their own.

Unfortunately, as the story progressed, I had to deal with quite a lot of disappointment. The characters that were introduced in the beginning were not developed later in the story. The owner of the library and the two young children who I thought would play a role in the story were only randomly seen. With a multitude of new concepts and characters, the book was too short to do any of them justice. The ‘unlikely romance’ also did not feature much in the story.

Another thing that irked me was that the author gave spoilers to a lot of books in the process of describing them. He even described how some books end which is just not cool. The entire story of Fahrenheit 451 was revealed. I bought the book just a couple of months ago and was excited to read it and felt betrayed by the author.

On the positive note, the book was excellently edited, had no grammatical inconsistencies and had no typographical errors.

The Author

Niranjan Navalgund is a young chess professional who derives great pleasure in learning about life through the game of chess. He is a former National U-17 Chess Champion and a Commonwealth Silver medalist in the U-18 Category. He has been conferred with ‘Indradhanushya’ (2007) ‘Giants International Award’ (2009), ‘Kreeda Ratna’ Award (2010) and ‘Belgaumite of the year’ Award (2012) for his achievements in the field of Chess. He is a lover of words and occasionally tries his hand at writing stories and poems. He believes that writing is a wonderful exercise for the soul. Being a bibliophile, he harbours a special interest in the New Age Philosophy. Unusual stories excite him. He hopes to visit the Panda Zoo, someday. Niranjan lives with his family in Belagavi.

His work include:

  1. Chronicles of Urban Nomads (2014)
  2. A Little Chorus of Love (2015)
  3. A Lively Library and an Unlikely Romance (2016)
  4. Over a Cup of Chai (2018)

TL;DR: A quick read that introduces quite a lot of interesting concepts but needed more pages to truly explore them


Do you like reading children’s fiction?

What do you most like about them?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Heirs of Power by Kay Macleod

Statistics

Format: Paperback 

Length: 362 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Date of Publication: 15th October, 2016

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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


I requested a copy of the book from the author as a part of the Indie Advent Calendar. Kay is the nicest person and I am having the best time interacting with her. She has a cool concept with the advent calendar where she provides opportunities for indie authors and bloggers to meet and collaborate.


The Blurb


After stumbling upon an otherworldly ritual, Kitty Fairlow discovers that her own incredible hunting skills are not merely due to a lifetime of training. She has been gifted powers from an ancient spirit, passed down by her father. She is a Constellation.
And she’s not the only one.
A new generation of heroes have each inherited unique abilities in order to prevent the corruption of their world by the Tenebri, a race that thrives on life energy. Kitty, along with a high-born Dancer and a snarky Juggler, must find their allies before the Tenebri army picks them off.
With the powerful enemy emerging, can the Constellations gather in time to put an end to the threat for good, or will their foe succeed and wreak the same destruction they have unleashed on their own world?

The Book

The book begins with the usual premise of a young, smart, and athletic girl discovering her hidden powers and ancestry. She is protected by her father but has her own set of family tragedies that put things in perspective for her when she is forced to make tough decisions. I was glad to see that the author did not make her inaccessible as most authors do. Kay shows that a female character can be tough and strong but at the same time, nurturing and sweet. I did feel that Kitty was a bit of a pushover in the first half of the book but as the story progressed, she started to stand up for herself and it made me respect her more.

What felt unbelievable to me was the fact that these were just second generation Constellations but none of the civilians seem to remember the war. A war, no matter how secret, would have affected the lives of hundreds of people and they would still be in the process of rebuilding. I surprised myself by being suspicious of every new character when they were introduced. I wonder when I got so cynical and I love the fact that books give us a peek into our very own souls.

The book has both action and humor. I enjoyed the banter between Kitty and Asher. But I felt that for a book that is 362 pages long, the story did not progress as much as I hoped it would. A couple of chapters very a tad bit slow but I attributed it to the need for the introduction of so many new characters. The author managed to flawlessly introduce concepts of energy beings and various powers without overwhelming the reader. The book is the perfect launchpad for the next book in the series and I hope that we get to see a meatier storyline in the sequel.

The next book in the series- The Mage-Lord’s Legacy is set to release on the 9th of December. The cover and blurb are available on the author’s Instagram here.

The Author

Kay Macleod is a fantasy addict who has always loved the concept of magical worlds.

She was the kid with dragons doodled around the edge of her school work, the one with her head constantly buried in a book. As a teen, she shunned partying to play Magic the Gathering and DM Dungeons and Dragons games.

Through the years, she always made up stories and took characters on amazing adventures, in the privacy of her own mind and later felt the need to share them with other people.

Kay lives with her husband and cat in Nottinghamshire in England. When she is not writing (or planning something  about writing) she is usually working, reading, playing bass for her church’s worship team, playing computer games (World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Pokemon, Minecraft) or drinking tea.


TL;DR: A book filled with witty characters that makes you want to read the next book in the series


What is your favourite fantasy series?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Horse Town by Moshank Relia

Statistics

Format: Paperback IMG_20181016_130023_580-min

Length: 74 pages

Genre: Children’s fiction

Publisher: Pigeon Post Literary Press

Date of Publication: 1st October, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars

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


I love reading children’s books. They have an innocence about them that is always missing in every other genre. I had heard good reviews for the author’s debut book so I jumped at the chance to read this one when the author offered a review copy.

The Blurb

Horse Town is a story of two boys who are brought together by chance and bound together by their willingness to make sacrifices to each other- and strangers. The young boys, Arjun and Maruthi, live together in a single room, scraping together a meagre living by doing odd jobs.
Beside their residence looms the mansion of the reclusive Uncle Grim, a mysterious man who inexplicably receives free food and services from the townspeople. Uncle Grim is even rumoured to practice magic!
When two other boys from the town go missing and Arjun’s hard-earned coins begin to disappear, Arjun and Maruthi search for answers. Something has to explain these strange events. Could it be the peculiar and private Uncle Grim?

The Book

Horse Town is a short but sweet read. The book has beautiful illustrations both on the cover and on the inside by the author. It is a story of trust, friendship, and bonding. The story revolves around two orphan boys who have only each other to rely upon. Arjun has been living on his own for three years and his heart goes out to Maruthi who seems abandoned on the streets. He takes on the responsibility of creating a respectable life for the younger boy even though his efforts seem to be in vain.

The character of Uncle Grim gives the story a much-needed oomph. What was a simple story until then, takes a turn towards a mystery. We find ourselves rooting for Arjun at every turn. I was heartbroken when he believes that his trust was misplaced.

The story has you on your toes right until the end wondering who the culprit really is. It has naivety, intrigue, mystery and lightheartedness that make it a very ‘feel good’ book. It highlights the human nature of suspicion and showcases how important it is to trust your gut.

The author kept in mind the age of the book’s audience. The font is comfortable to read and the illustrations are simple to understand. The book can also be used as a readalong in schools or for parents that want to introduce the concept of trust, hard work, and friendship to young readers.

The Author

Moshank Relia is a graduate in English literature and has earned certificates in creative writing, sketching and theatre. He also holds a diploma in photography and has worked as a fashion photographer. He has trekked a number of high-altitude ranges in the Himalayas, including the mighty Rupin Pass (15,250ft.), Kedarkantha (12,850ft.) and the Kuari Pass (12,516ft.). His love for adventure, his deep affection for kids and his wide-ranging creative experiences drove him to write children’s fiction. Even though he is based in New Delhi, he can often be found sauntering along Camel Back Road, Mussoorie, where he spent most of his teenage years.

His work include:

  1. Adventures in Farland (2017)
  2. Horse Town (2018)

TL;DR: A short but in no way simple read that introduces concepts of trust, friendship and hard work to young readers


What was your favourite book as a kid?

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

Book review, Received for Review

Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar by Kochery C. Shibu

Statistics

Format: Paperback

men and dreams in the dhauladhar

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Date of Publication: 3rd August, 2015

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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


I had seen this book doing the rounds on Bookstagram and was curious. When the author asked me if I would review the book, I was a bit apprehensive with all the warnings that I was given regarding the technical aspects in the book. But I was also curious since I have been known to end up liking technically sound books.


The Blurb

A hydro power project in the remote Himalayas.
Three people brought together by fate. Nanda, an engineer from Kerala at the dam construction site hiding from his past, from the law, torn between the love of his dear ones and the traditional kalari code of revenge.
Khusru, a boy displaced from his native village in Kashmir, a gambit in the terror plot threatening to blow up the dam, working as a labour at the site.
Rekha, a Kathak dancer in heart, a doctor by profession, arrives at the campsite as the consort of Khusru.
A village that accepts the dictates of modernity with a heavy heart, its population steeped in superstitions and religious beliefs.
All throng the camp site like moths to a flame. Some escape untouched,successful; some miss a step and perish.
Each has a story to tell and a dream to realize. The fury of nature and hardship of project life has no mercy for the weak and time for the dead.
Like an eternal spectator the Dhauladhar watches as men risk their limb and life in their quest to full fill their dreams.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters that describe the life of different characters and how the choices of each person lead them towards a common destiny. I love books that take what look like random strangers and build the story in a way that their life decisions interconnect them with each other to form a common story. It was nice to see the book achieve this goal towards the end. The beginning of the book was also intriguing where the author gives us backstory to each character. The middle of the book though felt a bit too long.

I always prefer dialogue and action over description. That being said, I have liked descriptive books when the descriptions help make the story. Unfortunately, in this book, I felt that the descriptions did not do much to further the story. Had all the part of dam building and interaction between the workers been removed, the story would not have really changed. It just felt like fluff that the author added to increase the number of pages of the book to an acceptable amount. Had he concentrated more on the military aspects of terrorism or just concentrated on the intricacies of each character like he did in the beginning, it would have made for a better reading. I was surprised to find that I almost liked the actual technical aspects of building of the dam. It was the frivolous conversations between the labourers and the mundane details of their lives that got to me. The random use of vernacular also felt unnecessary. The author may have tried to bring in authenticity to the story by incorporating slangs but it did not flow smoothly and made for a very jarring reading experience.

The descriptions of the mountains, the terrains, and snow-capped peaks reminded me of my own trip to Kashmir, Darjeeling, and Gangtok. The premise of the terrorist with good intentions, the brilliant girl with a wild heart, and the simple man forced into a family feud were believable having grown up watching Bollywood movies in the same vein. I would have loved to read more on each character in order to make them feel more real. I would also have liked to see what happened to the terrorists’ plan and to know the reason for them picking the Dhauladhar dams as their site of terror attacks. It felt like the book ended a tad too abruptly.

The Author

Kochery C Shibu graduated from the prestigious National Defence Academy in 1981. He has served in the Indian Navy and commanded two warships. Post his retirement he has executed hydroelectric projects in the Cauvery river basin in Karnataka, Beas river basin in Himachal and Teesta river basin in Sikkim. He holds a postgraduate degree in Defence Studies from Chennai University, and MA in English literature from Pune University.
Men and Dreams in the Dhauladhar is his debut novel. The technical content of the novel, namely the setting up of a hydro-project is drawn from his experience in these projects since 2005, as are many of the characters inspired from those whom he encountered on site.
Kochery C Shibu was born in Kochi and now lives in Bangalore with his wife and daughter.


TL;DR: A book with very detailed descriptions of events that is sure to be liked by people who like description over dialogue


What do you prefer?

Description, dialogue or action?

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

Book review, Received for Review

A Flight of Broken Wings by Nupur Chowdhury

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) IMG_20180928_131021_747.jpg

Length: 313 pages

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Self-published

Date of Publication: 18th August, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars

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


I enjoy reading fantasy and was pleased when the author asked me to review the book. It is the first book in the series- The Aeriel Chronicles and I look forward to reading more from the author.


The Blurb

Six hundred years ago, humanity rose up in revolt against the Aeriels, who were driven from earth and back into their homeland of Vaan after a bloody and glorious war.

Eight years ago, Ruban’s home was destroyed and his family murdered by an Aeriel. 

When a new Aeriel threat looms over Ragah, the capital city of Vandram, Ruban Kinoh must do everything in his power to avenge his family’s past and protect the future of his country. 

Which is hard enough without being saddled with a pretty and pompous aristocrat, who seems as useless as he is vain. Faced with a conspiracy that might cost humanity its hard-won freedom, and accompanied by the bejeweled and glitter-clad Ashwin Kwan, Ruban begins his journey into a land where the past and the future intertwine.

The Book

The book begins with the Emancipation Day celebrations where we are given a hint to the state of the Earth after being freed of the dreaded Aeriel rule. Ruban is the world’s best Hunter and is tasked with a mission to protect the reinforced weapons and to hunt rogue Aeriels but also to his chagrin, to babysitting the aristocrat Ashwin from Zain. Ashwin appears to be the typical royal with his charm and pampered upbringing. He does not seem to realise the importance of keeping state secrets and loves to be the center of attention, giving TV interviews without consulting anyone. While Ruban laments his bad luck, he finds that making new friends may not be as bad as he thought. It certainly has its advantages, like his life being saved by the naive Zainian.

The descriptions of the Aeriels reminded me of my favourite TV series- Supernatural, with their white feathers, energy blasts and their ability to appear almost human. The author is very descriptive which lead the first couple of chapters to feel a tad long and winding. However, when the action began in the third and fourth chapters, I couldn’t get enough of the book. The relationship between the Hunting partners Ruban and Simani was very balanced and friendly with mutual love and respect. It was great to see that the author did not feel the need to add a romantic angle to the relationship as most authors are wont to do. It reaffirmed my belief that a book with a platonic relationship between members of opposite genders works just as well, or better than a book with a romantic theme. I also enjoyed the witty banter between Ruban, Vikram, and Ashwin. The conversations throughout the book were light and breezy and felt very real.

I was happy to see that there were no technical loopholes in the story even though the author had the task of keeping all the abilities of the Aeriels and their history straight. The powers of the sif and the energy beings were satisfactorily explained although I did spend the best part of three chapters wondering what a sif was. The only problem that I faced with the book was the lengthy descriptions towards the beginning and the end.  That however, is a personal opinion since I prefer dialogue and action over description. I am sure that readers who love descriptive writing will love these parts of the book. The middle third of the book was fast paced and kept me on my toes guessing what was going to happen next. My favourite character was Ashwin and I would love to read more of him in the next books of the series. I pat myself on the back for correctly guessing the perpetrator but that might just be the result of me having read too many books in the genre.

The Author

Apart from novels, Nupur Chowdhury enjoys writing poetry and the occasional short story. She was four when she started writing. Now, some 20 years later, it’s more an addiction than a hobby.

Nupur likes coffee, street food, fanfiction, and sleep. She dislikes yogurt, slow internet, unnecessary cliffhangers, and being woken up in the morning. You can find her on Facebook, Wattpad, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Her work includes:

  1. The Classroom Effect (2015)
  2. A Flight of Broken Wings (2018)

TL;DR: A fun fantasy with lovable characters that will make you want to keep reading till the very end


What are some of your favourite fantasy series?

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