The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

#BookReview
Fantasy | Fiction | Magic | Children
Rating: ***

Hello Dear Readers, Happy New Year!
The House in the Cerulean Sea, my first book of 2023, yay I guess! This one’s a fantasy fictional novel in which the protagonist, Linus Baker, is a caseworker working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). His job requires him to visit government-sanctioned orphanages to check on the well-being of the magical youth. Also, to recommend whether the orphanages should continue to remain operational or be shut.

DICOMY’s main purpose is to keep these magical children safe by making sure they aren’t harmed, mistreated, or abused. However, the children are not allowed to leave the orphanage, mingle with the rest of the world, or live alongside the so-called normal humans. DICOMY is more of a dichotomy! It’s a stern organization that expects its caseworkers to abide by the RULES AND REGULATIONS document when they’re on their rounds to investigate the orphanages. The caseworkers aren’t allowed to show any form of empathy, love, and care to these children. Mr. Baker, having worked for the DICOMY for seventeen years, tries to do his job by following all the rules to the T, but sometimes empathy takes over his better judgement.

Linus Baker has the personality of a simple man with low expectations in life. He lives a solitary life at the age of forty and allows people to antagonize him – his coworkers, superiors at work, his neighbor, and the rest of the world. His life is all about going to work, returning home to his cat, and listening to records all by himself while having dinner.

One day, Mr. Baker gets unexpectedly summoned by the EXTREMELY UPPER MANAGEMENT to work on a special case. This requires him to go to a magical island that holds children tagged as classified level four. As Mr. Baker approaches the Marsyas Island Orphanage, a site housing young individuals with extraordinary and potentially perilous abilities, he finds himself consumed by anxiety and apprehension over the classified mission at hand. Will he be able to push aside his fears and do what’s expected of him? To find out what happens next, you’ll have to read the book!

What can you expect from this book? Well, there is an entertaining story with layers of magic, discrimination, bureaucracy, mysterious secrets, love, and of course children. The dangerously adorable children – Talia, Theodore, Sal, Phee, Chauncey, and my dear lil Lucy. There is also the enigmatic Arthur Parnassus and sassy Zoe Chapelwhite who are the caretakers of these children. And of course, let’s not forget our good old man Mr. Baker.

What did I think about the book?

Mmm, mixed feelings! I like the fact that it was a fantasy book and the world-building was good! But it was overhyped, it got a bit too emotional and preachy, making me feel like I was watching a family drama movie. This book needs to be categorized in young adult fiction. Most people found the book to be a tear-jerker, but I’m sorry it didn’t do anything to me. See, I can be super emotional and I love emotional books but I don’t know, this one felt forced..? Well, the dramatic part just didn’t work for me. While reading this book, I also got reminded of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, which I like better than this one.

Anyway, moving past the lows! Let’s see what was good about the book: the story flowed well and it was pretty descriptive which made all the characters seem almost real. Some of the issues discussed in the book can also address real-life problems. Like, do we have to hate or judge things that we fear or don’t understand? Life is all about being more accepting of everyone and everything despite the differences. To make the world more colorful, peaceful, and beautiful we all need to be kind, accepting, and loving, right?

Lastly, cannot end the review without calling attention to Lucy’s dialogues, those were my favorite, I looked forward to them!! ❤

PS: The House in the Cerulean Sea is a good-read if you are looking for a sweet and comforting story. I would give it a 6.8/10 only because of the extra drama and also Brandon Sanderson has ruined me with his fantasy books!

Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam

#Book Review
Non-fiction | Aspirational | Political | Society |
Rating: ****

Dreamers: How Young Indians Are Changing the World is a non-fictional book that documents the aspirational dreams and challenges of the youth of India from rural villages. Snigdha Poonam, an Indian journalist, gives us a glimpse of what it feels like to be in the shoes of these young dreamers. Some of the main characters mentioned in the book include – Vinay Singhal (CEO of Wittyfeed), Richa Singh (former and first woman president of Allahabad University Students’ Union), Moin Khan (the English coach), Pankaj Prasad (the Jack of all trades), and Mohammad Azhar aka Azhar Khan (the struggling model). This book covers their successes, frustration, and disappointments. The dreams of these millennials are not ordinary, one wants to become a revolutionary politician to change the country, another wants to become a famous Bollywood star in the glamor industry, and another wishes to climb the success ladder to such an extent that his future goal is to rule on Mars.

Success is often determined by money and power to prove to themselves, their parents, extended family, and mohalla (society) their achievements. However, the sad plight of these millennials is that it is almost impossible for all to make their dreams come true. On one end, some young dreamers are not just making their life better but also aiming to improve society. On the other end, are dreamers who are scamming people by selling them fake dreams and hopes so as to make quick money.

There are also dreamers whose jobs are to harm people in the name of religion, and politics, and to spread hatred so they can get recognition and experience the much-needed power they crave. ABVP, Gau Rakshaks (Cow Protection), and RSS parties give these young dreamers a taste of that power. It’s like a never-ending loop of treachery, if one wins then someone needs to lose. Can you blame them for choosing these seedha and tedha paths (right and wrong) ? They are trying to accomplish their dreams, be it by any means, hook or crook; reaching for a power that can make them feel superior.

India is a country with a population of over 1.3 billion consisting of more than 40% young adults. These young adults need to face relentless competition at every step of their life – to excel, to be better than the rest, and nothing less than the best to succeed in life. What else can they do, there are more people in this country than jobs, resulting in a cutthroat race toward success.

Is it possible for all their dreams to come true? No. Should they stop dreaming? No. But you know what’s great about living in India? The country never stops selling hope and Indians never stop dreaming. What keeps us going is the eternal hope to get noticed and finally make it to the top. It’s the long and patient wait for the stroke of luck to strike at any moment. Till then our young dreamers with their never give up attitude will continue working hard towards achieving their goals. Now, let it please be by always choosing the right path and not a crooked shortcut towards success.

Snigdha Poonam has well-captured the lives and stories of the youth in her book, Dreamers. Her writing style is more like a long form investigative article that is honest, knowledgeable, and it clearly talks about the facts of rural India. Her commentary is rare but insightful. I recommend you read this book if you want to get a feel of the anger, aspirations, and disappointments of the invisible youth of India.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

#Book Review
Fiction| Diaspora| Family| Culture
Rating: 4.5

Sometimes I feel like the book chooses me rather me choosing it and The Namesake is one such book that precisely resonates with my current state of mind. A diasporic feeling of not belonging anywhere, a feeling of an identity crisis, and confused decisions. Jhumpa Lahiri in the Namesake perfectly captures the immigrant experiences and emotional turmoil of leaving behind your motherland, your families, and childhood friends to start a new life in a new country. 

This big move is a process of experiencing happy times, difficult times, and questionable times, which often involve uncertainty and fear. And of course, there’s always hope of things getting better as time passes. But there is never a time when we stop wondering “Was this the right decision?” 

Despite these numerous feelings, Ashima in the Namesake tries her best to adopt to the American lifestyle with her husband Ashoke. The Ganguli family makes new friends (Indian friends), spends weekends together and builds new bonds. They give birth to two kids, Gogol and Sonia. Ashima terribly misses her family when their son is born. She waits for years for her grandmother to send her a telegram naming the baby as it has been their age-old tradition. But when there’s no response, Gogol becomes the official name of their son.

The story progresses onto the lives of the kids and the vacations that they take – which is most of the time to India for festivals, for the loss of loved ones, for spending time with the family, or to stay connected to the familiarity of their culture and traditions. Gogol and Sonia find all of it hard to relate. But as they grow old, Gogol realizes the hardships that their parents had to face upon uprooting their life and leaving behind their family which he thinks is something that is impossible for him to do.

The Namesake is not story with a beginning or an end, it is an experience. A family that I got to know in a few pages of this book. I can see myself getting to know the Ganguli family if I ever lived on Pemberton Road, going through the same feelings of loneliness and trying to stay together and creating a mini India just to feel at home. Just to have that sense of familiarity and comfort. As I complete reading this book on my return flight from India to Pennsylvania, I fondly close the book and my eyes with a warm feeling, processing the emotions, and remembering all the times that I spent with my loved ones. I take these memories along to a new country that I now call my home. 

PS: The Namesake is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s very well-written and has an intriguing story that immigrants as well as non-immigrants will certainly find interesting to read. A definite must-read, I highly recommend!

Emotional Strength Explained By Alicia Pozsony

#BookReview

Self-help| Self-improvement| Life| Emotions

A quick, powerful, and effective self-improvement workbook – aimed to help us build emotional strength by practicing a healthy lifestyle.

Emotional Strength Explained by author, Alicia Pozson, is a quick, powerful, and effective workbook that is aimed to help us build emotional strength. In life, we often have ups and downs and we face challenging circumstances that can affect us in many ways. This book teaches us to acknowledge those emotions and weaknesses, accept them, and work towards becoming emotionally strong. 

Emotional Strength Explained is more than just a self-help or self-improvement guide, it is a workbook with a targeted approach. It asks you questions that we might often ignore, they are simple questions but important ones that we need to prioritize. It encourages you to self-analyze and write down your vulnerable emotions and deepest thoughts so you can face your fears. Healing always begins with self-awareness, self-talk, and self-love. It is a slow and step-by-step approach towards building emotional strength. The practice worksheets in this book will help you track your progress so you can emerge as a strong and confident person.

It is a wonderful book that shares the secrets of success and inner peace. It teaches you to find solutions, to face criticism or judgment, and self-reflect on your thoughts. The best part about this workbook is that you can always come back to it every year or whenever you find it necessary to continue making this journey stronger.

Once you have the strength and bravery to be open to see things you may not want to see, you are ready for the next thing.

– Alicia Pozsony

What are your thoughts on open-ended stories?

Dear reader, today I have a controversial topic to talk about – open ended novels. There was a time when I much appreciated open-ended stories. The mysterious cliffhangers would leave me wondering, “Oh what would have happened if he had chosen the easy path?” Or “Oh is she going to remain mysterious without revealing her true identity?” Or “Will she continue packing lunch for him as a mysterious stranger without meeting him?”

As I reader or an audience I have drawn my own conclusions feeling a sense of power. The unresolved narratives gave me a sense of liberty. I could use my imagination to give a unique ending to the story or sometimes I have left it unresolved too because not every story needs to have an ending. Some movies, books, podcasts, and paintings invited more ideas to be shared amongst friends and family for interesting conversations and perspectives.

HOWEVER, on the other hand this trend seems to have caught on a little too much, isn’t it? Many writers and storytellers seem to choose this path of ambiguous endings for their incomplete stories. Which I now find a little frustrating. Somehow all I am reading or watching or listening to lately are open-ended stories. “I need an ending, please!!”

There are too many stories with abrupt endings, it seems like the authors don’t really want to try and want the readers to do their job for them. I don’t find stories without an ending artful or intriguing anymore, it’s rather a lazy approach. What’s with the unnecessary tease? Why do we have to spend hours and not get answers to all the important plots? Some stories do not even require any layers of complexity.

“What really happened in this book?” “Why did I have to spend hours reading the damn book?” “The author might as well have ended it after the first chapter and called it a cliffhanger.” Why should the reader take the trouble of reading pages after pages and end up with nothing. Sometimes movies with abrupt endings are still fine as they’re over in a few hours. But with books, when there is no sequel, I am not really sure if randomly abrupt and ambiguous endings are fun or entertaining anymore.

Sorry, I’m done ranting. I just finished reading the book Paper Palace and I’m not very happy with the unresolved ending, hence this post. I know it’s not an easy job to write a book of hundreds of pages but as a reader, I’m requesting all the amazing writers to give their readers a good ending, open or closed as long it’s good. Thank you for reading till the end and if you’ve been on the same boat then I’m guessing you’ll share the same thoughts on this subject. If you do, then please do throw some light on your thoughts and share it with us.


The Witcher: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

#Book Review
High Fantasy| Fiction| Action| Magic

After watching the TV series, The Witcher on Netflix, I was enthralled by the story and decided to read the books. And boy, I’m glad I did! It has to be one of the most interesting fantasy books that I’ve read after Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive.

The Witcher – Geralt of Rivia, is the main protagonist who is a fearless monster hunter with impressive magical powers. Along with having incredible physical prowess, agility, and extraordinary fighting skills, Geralt also looks fantastic, at least in my mind this grumpy White Wolf looks gorgeous. Henry Cavil in the TV series does complete justice to this character and looks terrific. Anyway, coming back to the book review, the Witcher earns his living by getting hired to battle evil demons in exchange for money. Many find him dangerous, many hate him or are afraid of him, many are impressed by his mastery of destroying the evil, and many like me are just head over heels over this fictional character. In the Last Wish, there are multiple stories of Geralt hunting down different types of beasts. Then some chapters bring to light Geralt’s past and how he became a Witcher. What I absolutely enjoyed while reading the book is the unique style of writing, Geralt’s short and witty dialogues and how he likes to engage in cold conversations with the antagonists, the funny banter with his bard friend Dandelion, and the gripping conflicts of the Witcher with the monsters.

It is a super entertaining fantasy series that might take a while to get immersed into if you come expecting the same plot as the TV show since it is not narrated in the same order or fashion. I definitely recommend reading the books as it is an excellent treat for all fantasy book readers.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

#Book Review
Climate Change|Urgent|Solutions|Global Warming

As the title suggests, this book written by Bill Gates is about the actions humanity can take to avoid a climate disaster. We all know how global warming and the climate crisis is considered to be hot topic. While some of us believe global warming to be real, others don’t. Indeed, Earth’s climate has always changed but it is the rapidity at which it is changing that is of concern. The global temperatures are increasing with lots of places on the planet getting erratically warmer and colder, wetter and drier.

In this book, Bill Gates discusses the causes of climate change and the impact it can have on our future generation. He talks about the main reasons for global warming and explains the causes in a simple and easily understandable manner. As a learned authority on this subject, Bill Gates provides solutions and discusses what are the big steps to take towards eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

We are already aware of the catastrophic effects that climate change is causing on our lives. There are raging wildfires, destructive storms, severe floods, and devastating earthquakes that we have no control over. There are about 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions on Earth in a year. If we do not take action towards reducing these emissions, then the consequences they can have on human life are going to be dire. Bill Gates talks about plans of actions that we need to take to reduce these emissions from 51 billion tons to zero. While it sounds impossible, this book will tell us how to achieve this goal. It is possible, if we all work towards changing our way of life and transforming almost everything we do.

Bill Gates believes that innovation and invention can help in achieving a healthier future. Entrepreneurs and investors need to build new businesses that use clean, efficient appliances. They need to change their existing business processes to achieve rapid progress. The government needs to enact new policies to drive the market towards cleaner energy.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is not about fear-mongering. It is a book with solutions, breakthroughs, and a series of practical steps that we can take to avoid this biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. There are no jargon or difficult concepts in this book. Bill Gates takes this vast and complex topic of climate change and makes it accessible to all the readers and everyone interested to understand this topic. He mentions how each of us can do our part and help in reducing these emissions, be it entrepreneurs, politicians, industrialists, engineers, students, or just any individual who wants to help.

What can we do about the climate changes that are already happening? And, in particular, how can we help the world’s poorest, who have the most to lose but did the least to cause the problem?

– Bill Gates

Avoiding a climate disaster is going to be a huge challenge, but Bill Gates is still hopeful that cutting-edge technologies and innovative businesses can help us turn this into reality. If he believes, then I believe too. I love the way Bill Gates made such dry concepts so interesting to follow and understand. I am inspired and will do my bit by being more aware of energy use, protecting green spaces, and investing in environmentally-friendly alternatives to consumption. Global warming is happening right now, so let’s save ourselves and our future generation by being more responsible.

I highly recommend this book to everyone so you know what you can do to make a difference!

I’m an optimist because I know what technology can accomplish and because I know what people can accomplish. I’m profoundly inspired by all the passion I see, especially among young people, for solving this problem.

– Bill Gates

Books That I Read in 2021

I cannot accept that it’s already 2022, what happened to 2021? I guess most of us felt like 2021 was gone before it even began. Last year felt like a blur to me and in between those fleeting days I somehow managed to read twenty books. Before I start my journey with books in 2022, I am sharing the books that I read last year along with a brief summary for each of them (without any spoilers). I will also mention some of my most favorite books and I hope that this post helps you find interesting books to consider reading this year.

  1. Midnight Library by Matt Haig:
    The book is about a woman named Nora Seed who finds herself in a library lingering between life and death. There are innumerable books in the library that allow Nora to undo her regrets, explore parallel lives, and choose a life which she would love to be in. Will she give up her present life and choose one that she always dreamed of? Midnight library was one of the most read books in the year 2020. There were mixed reviews about this one, I cannot say I loved it but it wasn’t bad either.
    It’s a good book and you can read my full review here, Midnight Library.

  2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik:
    Uprooted is a fantasy novel that will take you on a magical journey through a homely village, a Dragon’s cold tower, warring kingdoms, and the corrupted Wood. I recommend that you definitely read, Uprooted, if you want to escape reality and enter into a realm of fantasy. Somehow, it even feels real and believable. It’s easy to get absorbed into the story. I loved the character growth of the protagonist, Agnieszka, and the fantastic world-building.
    Loved this book and you can read my full review here: Uprooted.

  3. Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas:
    This book was more like a rom-com movie. It’s a feel-good, emotional, and inspirational kinda dreamy love story which is centered around fate. The two protagonists in this book are Jonathan Grief and Hannah Marx. Hannah fills a New Year journal for her boyfriend with a list of things to do for every single day of the year. But Hannah’s boyfriend suddenly goes missing on New Year and her Filofax planner is found by Jonathan Grief on his bicycle handle.
    Not highly recommended but good read if you are in the mood for something light and easy. You can also find my full review here: Your Perfect Year.
  1.  The Girl in the Tree by Şebnem İşigüzel:
    A very uniquely powerful story of a girl who has given up on the world and decides to live in the trees. This book is an emotional tale of a teenage girl who talks about Gezi protests in Turkey, constant war in Istanbul, bombing attacks, political realities, and violence in society. The harsh realities and the tragic events leave her with no hope of a better world. So, she runs away and climbs one of the tallest trees in Istanbul’s Gülhane Park.
    I recommend this book if you are in the mood for a uniquely interesting story about war. You can read my full review here: The Girl in the Tree.
  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama:
    Becoming is a memoir about Michelle Obama’s personal experiences from childhood to becoming the former First Lady of the United States. It’s about her journey, her successful journey, that was not just rosy but also about taking the rough with the smooth. What makes this journey so amazing is that it’s relatable and at the same time inspiring. I absolutely enjoyed reading this autobiography because it was very inspiring and that’s what leaders are supposed to do.
    Highly recommend this one and you can read my full review here: Becoming.

  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:
    Loved this book, it’s a classic after all! The protagonist is Holden Caulfield and the book is narrated in the voice of this sixteen-year-old boy. The character of Holden is simple yet complex, it’s kind of hopelessly attractive. The Catcher in the Rye is a book about teenage angst, alienation, rebellion, and depression. The style of writing is extremely unique and the narration is in the form of a stream of consciousness. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this classic book of literary realism and definitely recommend the literary aficionados to give it a read, if you haven’t yet!
    You can read my full review and my personal thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye here. 

  3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
    An incredible novel that tells us about the Biafran civil war of Nigeria and how the lives of people are affected by the turbulence of war. It is a powerful and impactful story about Nigerian history that also discusses relationships and love. Half of a Yellow Sun is a book that highlights topics like postcolonial traditions, racism, and different ethnicities. Amongst all of this, love is also a prominent theme that remains in the book right till the end, even though it gets a little complicated and twisted due to the complexities of the characters and situations.
    It is a great book that I highly recommend you read if you are in the mood for a love story in a war background. You can read my full review here, Half of Yellow Sun.

  4. Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan:
    Phoenixville Rising is a novel written by local author Robb Cadigan who also resides in a town named Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It’s a fictionalized version of history that follows the story of Boo and Sketch, and the remnants of a once bustling steel town. In the absence of the steel mill jobs, the youth of the town are drawn towards petty crime and gang culture.
    You can read my full review here, Phoenixville Rising

Reedsy Books

I am super picky when it comes to books (otherwise too). Last year, I got the opportunity to write reviews for a website called Reedsy and it required me to read new books mostly by debut authors that haven’t been published yet. Some of the books that I had to review were selected not out of excitement but I did it anyway for the opportunity. I cannot say that all the books were great but some of them were good enough. Hopefully someday I will discover an excellent book on Reedsy that could become a bestseller and I would be the first one to have read it! A few of the books that I have reviewed below might not be popular at the moment but have the potential to become a best-seller with more recognition. You can also follow my links to read my full reviews on Reedsy.

9. Close Watch by Signe Christensen:

Nobody likes the feeling of being closely watched or followed but it’s terrifying to know when somebody actually breaks into your house! Close Watch is a fictional story about Amber who is constantly stalked and how she ends up feeling unsafe no matter where she goes. A good suspense novel written by Signe Christensen. You can read this book on one of those weekends when you are in a mood for some easy and quick to read thriller stories.
You can read my full review here Close Watch

10. A Season of Disruption by Jacqueline P Walker:
A Season of Disruption is a short yet impactful memoir written by Jacqueline P Walker. Life can present us with unpredictable situations for which we aren’t ready most of the time. One such event occurred in the life of an eight-year-old child and this story is about how the family faces this devastating loss. What makes this book so powerful is the determination and courage of the family during times of distress.
Read my full review here A Season of Disruption

11. Wanderer by Court Young:
This poetry book discusses the author’s journey of falling in love with a wrong guy, heartbreak, pain, hope, and finding forever love. Some of the poems are also about traveling and seasons which reflect the poet’s state of mind. There are some books that you read and then regret. This was one such poetry book that wasn’t my cup of tea. But if you are in your teens going through a breakup or if you are in a mood for something emotional, then this book is good enough. Read my full review here Wanderer

12. Midnight Light by Brian Paglinco:
This turned out to be a uniquely interesting book of poems that romanticizes the concept of death, nature, love, and redemption. Midnight Light is a combined passionate labor of love by two friends Michael Pace and Brian Paglinco. Michael weaves the rich and rhythmic poems through his writing and Brian has provided captivating photographs that frame the theme of this book. The poems are written artistically and without hesitation about certain themes that are difficult to discuss.
Read my full review here Midnight Light.

13. Happy Here and Now by Matt Tracy:
It is a self-help book that discusses situations and behaviors that we usually don’t pay attention to or tend to neglect. We are all happy in one moment and sad in the other. We are beings with so many emotions and feelings that sometimes we get carried away by them and end up losing ourselves. This book is like a guide that will train us to understand those emotions better, process them, and sometimes learn to let them go.
Read my full review here Happy Here and Now.

14. The Champion by Wayne Rajah:
The Champion is a fantasy fiction novel where the protagonist of this story is a twelve-year-old boy named Calvin with a superpower that allows him to fly. Calvin’s mother, Miss Khumalo is diagnosed with a terminal illness. When he finds out that his mother is suffering, Calvin uses his superpower and the help of his mentor, Athwall, to take his mother on a mythical journey in an attempt to save her life.
Read my full review here: The Champion.

15. Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores by Omar Gonzalez:
A heart wrenching and impactful story! When the innocence of a child is tainted by the gruesome realities of the world, then paradise becomes an unattainable dream. This book is a collection of true events about a girl named Eden Flores. The author, Omar Gonzalez, captures Eden’s life experiences remarkably in this book and shares them with us in the form of stories and poems. It’s a short book that you can finish in one sitting thereby making it an easy recommendation. You can find my full review of Paradise taken here.
Read my full review here: Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores.

16. Lighthouse by Christopher Parker:
This book is about a mysterious journey into a magical realm where there’s suspense, love, & of course the lighthouse. Struggling with the loss of her mother, Amy Tucker finds herself with her father following a case in the mysterious town of Seabrook. There, a chance encounter with Ryan sets in motion a chain of events. The long dormant lighthouse which is the centerpiece of the town comes alight much to the fascination and joy of the local townsfolk.
Read my full review here: Lighthouse.

17. Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel:
This is a picture book for children. It’s a fantasy story about a moon elf, Eli, who helps her friend Luna in solving a strange mystery of the enchanted forest. When Luna’s baby bunny transforms into hard rock candy, she runs to Eli for help. This transpires into a tale full of bravery, friendship, and the healing power of love. So if you want to read a story to your child, then pick this one! Kids will love the beautiful and attractive illustrations in this book. It’ll help in sparking their imagination and increasing their curiosity.
Read my full review here: Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon.

18. My Name is Wilma by Kirsten Bett:
My Name is Wilma is a quirky book that will take you on a journey of exploration of the world through the eyes of a cat. If you’re a cat lover, then cozy up and enjoy the ride. The story is narrated from the cat’s point of view. Wilma begins on the Dutch tulip fields where her life was rough and rugged. It is only after she meets her humans, Kirsten and Willem, does she realize how wonderfully sheltered a cat’s life can be. Sadly I was expecting the book to get better but I started losing interest and somehow managed to finish the book.
Read my full review here: My Name is Wilma

19. Eat Your Rice Cakes by Margaret Weiss:
Eat Your Rice Cakes is a self-help book for people suffering from celiac disease. Margaret Weiss takes us through her journey of diagnosis, struggles of living with the disease, and finally acceptance of her condition. This book is a great resource for other patients who have their own struggles with celiacs and also for readers who are curious about the disease.
Read my full review here: Eat Your Rice Cakes

20. Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest by Martin Boško:
This book is a collection of poems assembled by the author, Martin Boško, through one calendar year. The use of imagery, powerful expressions, and moving poems give us an insight into the inner workings of the poet’s mind. It takes you on a journey inspired by Greek mythology while also tugging on the heartstrings with feelings of love, betrayal, and longing.
Read my full review here: Myths, Doves, Tears, and the Rest.

Top 5 Favorites Books for 2021:

  1. Catcher in the Rye
  2. Becoming
  3. Uprooted
  4. Half of a Yellow Sun
  5. Paradise Taken the Diary of Eden Flores (Reedsy)

Happy Reading!

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan

#Book Review
Fiction|Love|Friendship|Redemption

Phoenixville Rising is a story that talks about how the shutting down of a steel mill affected the town and all of its people. It is a story that resonated across America before the turn of the century. Phoenixville Rising is written by local author Robb Cadigan who also resides in a town named Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It’s a fictionalized version of history that follows the story of Boo and Sketch, and the remnants of a once-bustling steel town. In the absence of the steel mill jobs, the youth of the town are drawn towards petty crime and gang culture. Interwoven within this story is also a fictionalized recollection of an era in Phoenixville’s history. The two narratives are separated by time but connected by the same human emotions.

I enjoy reading stories about small towns in an effort to get an insight into the town. I was disappointed to find out that a few of the places mentioned in the book were not present in the real world. It would have been great if I could visit the Wishing Manor which plays a central theme in the book. This book also has themes of friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, crime, and the everyday struggle of youth without a secure future.

If you like reading about small towns, then do give Phoenixville Rising a chance. However, if you are looking for a deep insightful story about a town on the brink of extinction, then you would be better off picking another book.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

#Book Review
Historical Fiction | War | Love | Politics

An incredible novel that tells us about the Biafran civil war of Nigeria and how the lives of people are affected by the turbulence of war. It is a powerful and impactful story about Nigerian history that also discusses relationships and love. 

The story begins with Ugwu, a simple Igbo village boy who goes to a town called Nsukka to work as a houseboy for Odenigbo. Odenigbo is a mathematics professor who can speak confidently about many intellectual topics. He is a socialist and loves discussing politics. Odenigbo is in love with a woman called Olanna who is often treated with love and respect by everyone because of her striking beauty and kindness. Olanna has a twin sister, Kaniene who is not as beautiful as Olanna but is super confident, sophisticated and handles her father’s businesses. There is another character called Richard who is from England. When he visits Nigeria as a journalist he falls in love with the country. He learns to speak the Igbo language and is so fascinated by their culture that he decides to write a book about Biafra.

The story revolves around these five characters, Ugwu, Odenigbo, Olanna, Kaniene, and Richard, and how their lives are affected due to the civil war. It discusses the characters on a deeply personal level and at the same time establishes the struggles of violence, politics, and war. Each of the characters evolves throughout the book after we get acquainted with them in the initial chapters. From vulnerability, poverty, and fear to accepting change, and being hopeful.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a story that paints a very realistic image of the Biafran civil war. As a reader I got pulled into the culture, language, and history of Biafra. It highlights topics like postcolonial traditions, racism, and different ethnicities. Amongst all of this, love is also a prominent theme that remains in the book right till the end, even though it gets a little complicated and twisted due to the complexities of the characters and situations. 

It is a remarkable book that I highly recommend you to read if you are in the mood for a love story in a war background.