Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Book Review: Seven Days by Alex Lake

Book: Seven Days

Author: Alex Lake

Pages: 416

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 4 hours

Plot Summary: In seven days, Maggie’s son, Max, turns three. But she’s not planning a party or buying presents or updating his baby book. She’s dreading it. Because in her world, third birthdays are the days on which the unthinkable happens… she loses her child.

For the last twelve years Maggie has been imprisoned in a basement. Abducted at age fifteen, she gave birth to two sons before Max, and on their third birthdays her captor came and took them from her.

She cannot let it happen again. But she has no idea how to stop it. And the clock is ticking. 

Things I Liked: 

1. This book's premise (a girl being held in captivity, raped and impregnated several times over) is not easy to read. Maggie's abduction and her ordeal at the hands of her unknown kidnapper is ghastly and traumatic! Plus, she has lost two sons on each of their third birthdays and has seven days to save her surviving son- Max. It is this race against time with very high odds that I really enjoyed about this book. 

2. We get to see the present day events juxtaposed with those of the past, starting with the day when Maggie was abducted. We see the efforts of the local investigating team to find her over the years. We get to see Maggie's ordeal (but not in gory details- thank goodness!) at the hands of her abductor. We also get to see how her parents and younger brother coped with her disappearance. 

3. The book is very 'realistic'. In the sense that Maggie does not have much to work with when it comes to her escape plan. Her kidnapper was a very careful man, who left nothing sharp or weaponisable in her little basement prison. So, Maggie's plan to save her son had to be ingenious, which, spoiler alert, it was! 

4. Maggie was a well-crafted character. She was strong and pragmatic. She did her best to stay alive and to keep Max safe. She made the most out of an awful situation at such a young age! She was quite admirable in how she handled herself through the book. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. I didn't care too much about Maggie's brother (James') addiction issues. There were way too many chapters wasted on his addict friends and his addict lifestyle. I just skipped through those chapters. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Vignettes: Moon.


This was one of the prettiest pandals I saw this year during Pujo. 
The theme was Chandrayan. 
The Moon and and its many moods. 
It was blue and beautiful. 
It was like stepping inside a dream world. 

The moon. 
The sleepy moon. 


I can only imagine the work that must have gone into this pandal. 
Everything was handmade and gorgeous. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Book Review: The Daughter from the Wishing Tree Unusual Tales About Women in Mythology by Sudha Murty.

Book: The Daughter from the Wishing Tree

Author: Sudha Murty

Illustrator: Priyankar Gupta

Publisher: Puffin India

Pages: 180

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary: Did you know that the Trinity often turned to goddesses to defeat the asuras? 
Did you know that the first clone in the world was created by a woman?
The women in Indian mythology might be fewer in number, but their stories of strength and mystery in the pages of ancient texts and epics are many. They slayed demons and protected their devotees fiercely. From Parvati to Ashokasundari and from Bhamati to Mandodari, this collection features enchanting and fearless women who frequently led wars on behalf of the gods, were the backbone of their families and makers of their own destinies. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing as always was simple and straight forward and perfect for young readers to follow along and learn about Indian mythology.

2. I know a fair bit about Mythology, and know a lot of stories both big and small thanks to my beloved grandmother. Reading these stories takes me back to my childhood and those story telling sessions.

3. Inspite of knowing a lot of stories from mythology, I learnt so many new tales and about so many hidden figures I know nothing about. So this was a great learning experience.

4. The illustrations add a wonderful touch to the stories and I always love a book with illustrations. Here are some examples of the art...

5.  Apart from the well known Goddesses and figure from mythology this collection also includes some lesser known/ unknown (to me) women and it was so nice to learn new names and new stories.

6. I also loved that several mythological stories were connected to present day places and temples. It was nice to see a connection (even if supposedly) to a real life place and belief.

7. While written for younger readers this is a perfect book for those of us (grown-ups) who are interested in myths and mythology.

8. The common thread in most of these stories is the strong women portrayed in them. Incredible women who did and achieved amazing things, an inspiration for everyone of us.

9. I read this book during and after Diwali and honestly the festivity just added to my reading experience.

10. This is such a gorgeous book, both inside and out. I love the cover and the illustrations Plus I was lucky enough to be sent a signed copy which was such a nice surprise.

Rating: 4/5

Thank you Penguin India for my gifted copy. The review and thoughts are all my own. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Book Review: Haunted by Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva.

Book: Haunted

Author: Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva

Pages: 288

Publisher: Penguin India

Read On: Kindle

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: An entire town that was abandoned overnight
A fort that fell to ruins due to a curse
Mines where twenty thousand miners were trapped and perished
A village where black magic is a way of life
A fair where exorcisms are performed in public

Such are the locations dotting the colourful paranormal map of India. Intrepid adventurers and regular tourists alike have often dared to visit these places to experience for themselves their fascinating lure, and to see if ghosts truly haunt these regions. However, those who have ventured there have often returned with more questions than answers-if at all they have returned.
Haunted chronicles the real-life adventures of paranormal investigator Jay Alani in ten of the spookiest locations in India. 

Co-authored by Neil D'Silva, these exploits provide a ringside view of these hair-raising paranormal journeys for everyone who has an interest in exploring the dark side of the normal. 
Things I Liked: 

1. I am a big fan of all things scary and horror related. Films, stories and TV shows, everything and anything to do with the spooks has my interest. So this book was an easy purchase to make. I wanted to be scared and entertained and this book managed to do both.

2. If you are a horror fan these stories will keep you hooked, especially given that these are based on true instances and experiences. Even if you aren't a true blue horror fanatic give this a read...it's always good to keep an open mind. And while these are spooky enough, none of the stories will leave you scared shitless. They are pretty mild-ish.

3. I loved the sheer range of these 10 stories, you have the usual haunted fort and abandoned village but you also have exorcisms and mines and a village full of black magic. It was varied and interesting and a deep dive into all things supernatural.

4. I read this in the dark, cozy under the quilt and it was just the perfect book to lose myself in. It is honestly the perfect kind of book to read this winter. Ah!

5. The writing was good too, the authors did a good job of taking us to these sinister places and you could feel the fear and anxiety of being in the presence of a ghost. It was atmospheric and still fast paced.

6. The thing I really appreciated in this book were the two stories focussed on dispelling certain myths and superstitions and talking honestly about black magic and certain religious practices. It is so important to not confuse supernatural instances with a ton of blind superstitions and have them hurt people and take over your life. For instance, labelling mental illness as possession is just wrong and hurts so many innocent people in need of medical help.

7. There were some places that I knew of, like Bhangarh and Kuldhara but so many others were new to me and I learnt so much and it spewed my interest in knowing more about these places.

Rating: 4/5

Spooky, fun and atmospheric. I had such a good time reading this book and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Book Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

Book: The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman

Pages: 400

Publisher: Scribner

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Kindle

Plot Summary: In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she's destined to be.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

Things I Liked:

1. This book is a mix of all things that I love reading about- the people who helped Jewish children escape to Switzerland, the people who risked their own lives and well-being to provide sanctuary to their Jewish friends and neighbours in countries overrun by the Nazis, about the resilience of families, women and children and, unrelated to the horrors of World War II, magical realism and folk lore. So, it sounds like a lot and it is a lot, but it is to the author's credit that everything comes together in a beautiful story about resilience, kindness and love.

2. I loved the three girls in this book- Ava, Lea and Ettie. Each of them has their own struggles and journey and I loved how they were written and the courage and humanity each displayed as they navigated hellish circumstances.
                    - Ava, who is not even human, a golem fashioned out of clay and tears, turns out to be the most human of them all- the way she always looks out for those around her, her unique love story with the heron (yes, you read that right) and her discovery of what it is to be human make her a beautiful character to read about.
                   - Lea's evolution from an innocent, scared twelve year old to a strong, confident sixteen year old through the course of the War is tragic yet inspiring.
                   - Ettie's anger and pain is heartbreaking. I felt like giving her a huge hug and telling her that she should stop punishing herself for something that was not her fault!

3. The key male protagonists were also so beautifully written. Their courage, fear, love, hopes for the future, their big and small acts of resistance were all so well brought to life. I really loved Victor, Julien, Dr. Girard and Marianne's dad- the beekeeper.

4. What I think, however, that I loved the most about this book is that even in humanity's darkest hour, there were people, ordinary people, who went above and beyond to help Jewish families and children. Even churches that took in refugees and hid them from the Nazis did so at great personal risk. There is such an amazing interplay of love and hate in this book. When there is so much hateful rhetoric and hateful actions perpetuated by the Nazis, there are some sublime and glowing examples of love and service and sacrifice and that is really what keeps all of us- this human race- going, doesn't it?

5. The writing is beautiful! This is, I believe, only the second book that I've read by Alice Hoffman and I can't wait to find more of her work and read them!

6. There is an element of magical realism and the use of Jewish folk lore in this book, which I simply loved! Jewish magical/ mystical practices are something I had never read about before and so, getting to know a little about their folklores and mystical practices was something I deeply enjoyed.

Things I Didn't Like: Nothing! This is a great book!

Rating: 5/5 

Monday, 4 November 2019

Hello November + eBook Haul!

Hello November! 

Hello Winter! 

Hello Cozy Fall Vibes and Cozy Reading! 

November is one of my favourite months of the year, simply because it's my sister's birthday month. 
So it has always had an air of celebration and joy. 

I am so happy November is here. 

My Goals for November are fairly simple...

1. Read more...than I did in the last 2 months! 

2. Read some non-fiction for Non-Fiction November. 

3. Do a little bit of travelling. 

4. Go to the hills. 

5. Make sure my sister has a happy birthday!!! 

In a bid to read more, I started the month with adding some new ebooks to my Kindle. 

First up we have some Indian books: 

1. The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda 
I've read her work previously and enjoyed it, so I wanted to read her newest release.

2. Haunted by Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva 
Spooky books are perfect for winter nights and I have read some Neil D'silva before and enjoyed his writing so this book was an easy decision to get.

3. Darkenss by Ratnakar Matkari 
Translated by Vikrant Pande 
Spooky stories translated from Marathi that sound amazing. Plus, I am always happy to read more translated work. 

Next we have a whole plethora of books, mostly thrillers because it's a genre I am always in the mood for and with winter slowly coming over it's pretty much the perfect time to dive into some scary books. 

4. The Dollmaker by Dina Allan 

5. When She Returned by Lucinda Berry 

6. Bone China by Laura Purcell 

7. Come a Little Closer by Karen Perry 

8. The Woman Next Door by Sue Watson 

9. The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup 

Not photographed but I also bought these books..

10. Girl, Women, Other by Benardine Evaristo (this year's Man Booker Winner) 

11. 4321 by Paul Auster 

12. Grand Union Stories by Zadie Smith 

I hope you and me both have a wonderful month ahead. 

Happy Reading Folks!