Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Published by: Macmillan

Fiction: YA, Fantasy; 531p

Rating: 3 and a half/5 stars

Book summary:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy

*My Review:

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut Children of Blood and Bone, set in the fictional land of Orïsha is the first in a trilogy and has all the usual elements aimed at getting the attention of the YA reading crowd: fantasy, elements of magic, revenge, retribution, royal blood caught with conflicting emotions, situations fraught with danger and tension…and more. Juxtaposed with the familiar YA and fantasy elements are themes of torture in authoritarian regimes and heavy racial undertones. I found the differentiation of the colour tone of black skin quite overwhelming: copper black, mahogany…

At the center of all the action are three main characters: Zélie, Princess Amari and her brother Inan who is the Prince and then, to a lesser extent, there is Tzain the older brother of Zélie who is as all brothers are to their sisters: protective and teasing in equal parts. The tension between the four characters comes in due to the ruthlessness of King Saran who is Amari and Inan’s father and from the horrifying violence he has unleashed on the Majis who have access to magic.

Zélie’s anger is embedded in the memories of The Raid that was unleashed on King Saran’s orders in which her mother was cruelly snatched from her. What is left of the Majis after destruction has been wrought on them are mere lessons on fighting with the staff as a defense mechanism and never as a form of offence or attack. Circumstances bring a mysterious and magical scroll into the hands of Zélie courtesy a streak of rebellion by Princess Amari which is brought on by a reality check that makes her see the brute savagery of her father. An elder recognizes that the latent powers of not just Zélie but the entire Majis can be brought back when the scroll is aligned with two other elements even as King Saran sends Iman hot on the heels of Amara, Zélie and Tzain.

During the course for the quest for magic, bonds are formed and tested with Zélie distrusting Amara and the later getting close to Tzain. What I loved best about the character of Zélie in Children of Blood and Bone is that despite swearing retribution on King Saran and a quest for getting magic to the Majis, she recognizes that the power of magic can be useful but also be misused if unleashed over each and every Maji. When Zélie reaches out to Prince Iman who has forever lived under the control of his father, she does so first with insults, then taunts him but she recognizes the connection to him and then forges a strong connection through which she awakens his inherent goodness. But would this be enough? The sequence of events that play out is what constitutes part of the answer here.

I am doubly glad that even as the character of Iman is poignant and intense, it is another female character, that of Princess Amara who comes to her own. She starts off as spoilt and privileged and then her humane nature shines through as does her sheer courage and fortitude. Towards the last pages of the book, it was delicious to feel that the next instalment of Children of Blood and Bone is going to have more of Amara. Two strong women characters and a gripping story line should be enough to wait for the next part in the trilogy! And yet, I personally felt that there could have been more to Children of Blood and Bone even as I cannot zero in on where I feel something is missing…strange I know! But then, some books even as you enjoy reading them and feel for the characters still you with a sense of ‘there could have been more!’. This is that book for me.

Thank you Anupama aka @born_2_read for sending this e copy from your treasure chest!

 

 

 

 

 

The Bitter Pill Social Club by Rohan Dahiya

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The Bitter Social Club Ash by Rohan Dahiya

Published by: Bloomsbury India

Fiction: Fiction, 508p

Rating: 3 and a half/5 stars

Book summary:

Witness the private life of the world’s most beautiful animals.

You know exactly who they are. The ones who walk right past club lines, who get what they want before they ask for it. It’s a familiar cast: the centre of attention, the shameless flirt, the loudmouth, the narcissistic writer. You’ve seen them all. You’ve felt their Gucci-anointed aura. Laughing and dancing. Kissing the wrong people at the wrong time. Swaying to their own beat. Going out every night they’re sad. Finding solace in the crowd in a city paved with mildly good intentions and cocaine lines. A city of smooth talkers, armchair activists, and the rich brats of Instagram. A place to talk pop spirituality and purple prose in connoisseur-only jazz clubs.

The Bitter Pill Social Club takes a look at the lives of the Kochhar family, who find themselves drifting apart in the city of djinns, gins, and fake friends wrapped up in cigarette smoke. As one of their own gears up to tie the knot, three siblings come home to the neurotic parents who raised them. Meanwhile the parents face the family patriarch’s constant judgment. Divorce, disappointment, and disasters ensue as the entitled Kochhar brood dodges old lovers and marriage proposals.

*My Review:

The Bitter Pill Social Club by Rohan Dahiya is a downright crazy caper alright, a most entertaining account of the lives of the members of the Kocchar family who are wrapped in a haze of cigarette smoke, an array of pills, alcohol and drug lines. At one point in the story, a parent gets a high after using the stash that has been seized from the room of an offspring and wonders which drug/pill it could be and that tells you a lot of what The Bitter Pill Social Club would be all about. There is no backstory of just what the Kocchar clan is up to, to be able to live in luxury and own expensive yatches, apartments and penthouses abroad, for these details are never mentioned. Rather, the book takes the reader on a tour of how the filthy rich live and function with cat fights, affairs, hook ups and gossip being the order of the day as are mention of high end luxury brand names from watches to dresses to food.

Parties and social dos feature prominently as does cutting back biting sessions about others in the social circle of the Kocchar family. The only seemingly humane emotions that the Kocchars possess is to rush headlong into liaisons without pause and then react when things go awry and shift beneath their feet. There is mention of easting disorders, the race for social media feed updates and follower counts, an incident of sexual violence and therapy sessions but none of them are allowed to delve deeper. Does that mean the book has disappointment written all over it? The answer to this question is ‘No’ for the writing style, the characters and the situations they get in to stay true to the lives of the rich: all surface gloss and glitter that can scatter when things go off script.

The overtly dramatic scenes and language during family crisis and the expressions used in shredding the reputations of others are a great laugh. The downright spiral of certain characters are poignant: a protagonist who has been gang raped refuses to move outdoors but refuses to abort the child following the rape. The loneliness of the patriarch of the Kocchar family is familiar but rather than have him as the sane one in the family brood, he gets saddled with a woman who runs away with his money and who pops up in the last chapter as a mere mention. The book is a riot for sure!

If you are willing to read a fast faced no brainer read that you can laugh over while rolling your eyes, The Bitter Pill Social Club by Rohan Dahiya is just the thing for you!

 

*I received a review copy of this book from Blommsbury India and am a part of the #BitterPillSocialClub #blogtour

 

Reading the Kamasutra: The Mare’s Trap and Other Essays on Vatsayayana’s Masterpiece by Wendy Doniger

 

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Reading the Kamasutra: The Mare’s Trap and Other Essays on Vatsayayana’s Masterpiece by Wendy Doniger

Published by: Speaking Tiger

Fiction: Non Fiction, 182p

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary:

The Kamasutra, composed in the third century CE, is the world’s most famous textbook of erotic love. There is nothing remotely like it even today, and for its time it was astonishingly sophisticated. Yet, it is all but ignored as a serious work in its country of origin—sometimes taken as a matter of national shame rather than pride—and in the rest of the world it is a source of amused amazement.

In this scholarly and superbly readable book, one of the world’s foremost authorities on ancient Indian texts seeks to restore the Kamasutra to its proper place in the Sanskrit canon, as a landmark of India’s secular literature. She reveals to us fascinating aspects of the Kamasutra as a guide to the art of living for the cosmopolitan beau monde of ancient India: its emphasis on grooming and etiquette (including post-coital conversation), the study and practice of the arts (ranging from composing poetry to mixing perfumes), and discretion and patience in conducting affairs. She also shows us how the text displays surprisingly modern ideas about gender and role-playing, female sexuality and homosexual desire.

Even as she draws our attention to the many ways in which the Kamasutra challenges the conventions of its time (and, often, ours)—in dismissing fertility as the aim of sex, for instance—Doniger also shows us how it perpetuates attitudes that have continued to darken human intercourse: passages that twin passion with violence, for example, and those that explain away women’s protests and exclamations of pain as part of a ploy to excite their male partners. In these, as in its more enlightened observations on sexual love, we see the nearly two- thousand-year-old Kamasutra mirror twentieth-century realities. In helping us understand a celebrated but under-appreciated text, Doniger has produced a rich and compelling text of her own that will interest, delight and surprise scholars and lay readers alike.

*My Review:

Mention the word ‘Kamasutra’ and the response would either be a raised eyebrow or nervous titters. In recent memory, the word ‘Kamasutra’ brings memories of a badly made film and a condom brand but suffice to say that when one associates reading and Kamasutra, the impression is about flipping through positions and crazy posture names and not one of scholarly engagement. But Wendy Doniger’s book not only states strongly that the Kamasutra ‘was an occasion for national pride, not national shame, that it was a great and wise book and not a dirty book’ but points out too that it is closely based on Kautilya’s Arthashashtra. Doniger draws out the parallels and examples by way of direct quotes from both the Arthashastra and the Kamasutra and the Political Science and Sociology student in me was utterly fascinated with the points raised by her.

The seven chapters in the book deconstructs the Kamasutra as having to do only with sex but examines with great care in each part its ties to class and caste (or the lack of these); the connect with the fundamental basis as mentioned in the Arthashashtra; the mythological background of Kamasutra; Women in Kamasutra as players and agency; The third nature or gender inversions; the nature and culture of sex and the rise and fall of Kama and the Kamasutra.

Right in the first chapter, Doniger says, “The part of the Kamasutra describing the positions may have been the best thumbed passage in previous ages of sexual censorship, but nowadays, when sexually explicit novels, films and instruction manuals are widely available, that part is the least useful. The real Kamasutra is a book about the art of living – about finding a partner, maintaining power in a marriage, committing adultery, living as or with a courtesan, suing drugs and also, about the positions in sexual intercourse.” This pretty much sets the tone of this book that takes an objective look at this ancient text that has got its share of notoriety but never a serious examination of its scope and meaning. Doniger’s writing is to the point but also humorous in parts.

I first heard the name of Wendy Doniger when the brouhaha over her book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ made headlines for the various attacks that it was subjected to. But having read ‘Reading the Kamasutra: The Mare’s Trap and Other Essays on Vatsayayana’s Masterpiece’, all I know is that I would like to read ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. I would strongly recommend ‘Reading the Kamasutra: The Mare’s Trap and Other Essays on Vatsayayana’s Masterpiece’ to serious readers and to students of Gender studies and Sociology.

 

A Town Like Ours by Kavery Nambisan

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A Town Like Ours by Kavery Nambisan

Published by: Aleph Book Company

Fiction: Fiction, 242p

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book summary:

Pingakshipura-where the water runs a poisonous black and the hair on every child’s head is white. And yet, it is a village-turned-town like any other in India, where every life hides a story. Reclining on her thin mattress in a room at the corner of the temple, Rajakumari, retired whore and long-time resident of the town, shares with us some of these stories. Of Saroja and Sampathu, unlikely lovers and parents who have both fled scenes of murder. Of Kripa and Manohar, the childless couple discovering something new about each other after long years of marriage. Of Lectric Mamu, injured by the infidelity of the one woman who is immune to his charms. Of Gundumani, the boy with the crooked leg and his almost-sister, Rukmini. Of the temple priest, one-time servant of the red-eyed Pingakshi, who birthed the town’s new divinity-Sugandha Enterprises.

In her seventh novel, Kavery Nambisan takes us again, with great sensitivity and fierce clarity, into the heart of rural and small-town India, and into the lives of everyday people, where everything is extraordinary.

*My Review:

Right after reading the first few pages of Kavery Nambisan’s A Town like Ours, I dreaded having to read it further lest I finish it and step out from the magic of the world that the author so evocatively fleshes out. The first pages of the book and I knew it had me smitten and at pains to wonder why majority of Indian readers are not even aware of the real good Indian writing. Is it that too many readers are caught in the whirlwind of what is considered popular writing or is it because good authors are not being promoted? I don’t know but the fact is that I have never come across Kavery Nambisan earlier and feel like kicking myself for my ignorance about her writing.

To come back to the book: A Town like Ours is set in the fictional Pingakshipura and is narrated in the unique voice and tone of Rajakumari, a woman who has serviced a majority of the men in the town. Through Rajakumari’s voice and expressions, the author takes you to the dusty lanes and the warmth of a village before it became a town and situates the social cultural layers that exist there: how girls are married off, how the lack of virginity signs push girls into becoming rejected women that men go to for sexual favors. While the narrative focuses on a few main protagonists or rather, two couples and a few others that their lives intersect with; two establishments play an integral part in the scheme of things – Dignity Sweets, a small eatery selling sweetmeats and savouries that occupies an exalted status in the lives of the people and Sugandha Enterprises with its various products of aggarbattis, detergents and fertilizers.

The two couples that makes up as the main protagonists: the childless but loving pair of Kripa and Manohar and Saroja and Sampathu who become a couple after circumstances come to a head, stays with the reader. We first see Manohar living away from his wife after a fight over his wife’s pursuit of painting. They make up and in course of time, there is a delightful phase in the story where the couple has made their peace by not talking about the bone of contention (Kripa’s paintings) and then Manohar springs a surprise with his creative flair for writing. He starts narrating his stories to his wife who now struggles with her doubts over her creative instincts.

The second couple of Saroja and Sampathu are lovers and parents who have both fled scenes of murder with a child each. The domestic bliss they build in their Taxi is affected over time when Saroja’s son tries to retrace his ties to his father and Saroja’s own obsession over having a house to sleep in and lock the door on.

Kavery Nambisan’s writing is sheer poetry and yet, speckled with wry empathy. Sample this: ‘Is sorrow a crime one must conceal? At a moment of desolation, to sit in an unfamiliar café among strangers is in itself a remedy’ or ‘Marital hurt is like no other, it is a backwardly angled barb and it hurts more if you try pulling out.’ I would recommend this book to people who complain about the state of Indian writing today for here surely is a book that needs to be read and appreciated.

 

 

*Thank you Aleph Book Company for this review copy.