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.

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. 

The Lighthouse by Christopher Parker

#BookReview
Fiction|Mystery|Love|

This interesting story will take you on 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. 

Ryan, a ranch owner who also takes care of his ailing father is on the verge of financial ruin. Fate unites Ryan and Amy who look to each other to forget their woes in the festivities of the town. Their intense relationship within a short period of time culminates in a meeting of the hearts where unrevealed secrets spill out of overflowing cups. 

A series of eerie events in Seabrook leads Amy to the lighthouse where she uncovers a truth that shakes the foundations of her reality. The plot gets increasingly more layered and nuanced, brushing with themes of love, betrayal, relationships, death, and the afterlife. The enduring figure of the lighthouse is used as a metaphor for the theme of this book. Beloved yet haunted for the townsfolk, the lighthouse serves as the center stage for many pivotal moments in the story. The Lighthouse is a thrilling page turner written by debut author Christopher Parker and will keep you interested until the end. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

#BookReview
Classic|Literary Fiction|Young Adult|Isolation

Everyone has heard about the book, The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a classic after all! I had heard about it too but never got the opportunity to read it. When I saw this book in the library last week, I grabbed it with both hands. It is a tiny little book with hardly 240 pages and it’s that kind of a book that seeks attention. You know that feeling where you can’t just walk past the book doing other chores without feeling guilty. It’s like the book was waiting for me to pick it up and start reading. I am not sure why I am saying all this, I guess I am still under Holden’s spell. But what I’m trying to say is I was tremendously excited to read this book and when I finally sat down to read it, I couldn’t stop. The Catcher in the Rye was all that was on my mind.

The protagonist is Holden Caulfield and the book is narrated in the voice of this sixteen-year-old boy. What can I say about him? When I first started reading it, I wondered why Holden is always angry and annoyed with everything and everybody. He hates his prep school Pencey because he finds it to be fake, he doesn’t understand the point of studying subjects with which he cannot relate, he hates his roommates and their nasty behavior, and he dislikes many other things which will go on right till the end of the book. After failing in all subjects except English, in which he is brilliant, Pencey Prep expels him. Holden is a teenager who is afraid like any other kid to go back home because he knows his parents are going to be super upset. The holidays are about to begin and Holden is expected to be home by Wednesday but he finds it difficult to spend another day in the school hostel so he decides to leave on Saturday and explore New York.

Holden is a restless kid who smokes like a chimney, he doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, and is constantly looking for companionship in everyone. Be it a cab driver, a person sitting next to him in a cafe, or a pub. He walks around the streets of New York late at night freezing his tail off wearing his red hunting hat trying to find a place where he can find someone to have an interesting conversation with. He thinks of all his friends that he can call and speak to but is afraid he might wake their parents. So he walks around like a madman smoking and striking up conversations with random people. But every time he does that he is either disappointed or he is asked to shut up and leave. He also meets his terrific ex-girlfriend Sally but is again disappointed after meeting her. Nobody gets him.

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. Many readers dislike the frank use of language, profanity, and use of sexuality but it didn’t bother me much. I felt the book was so expressive, fluid, and descriptive that by the end of it, it almost felt like I knew the character personally. Like Holden could be your friend or that weird guy that you would have been around at least once in your life. I have always been curious to know what goes on in the mind of these ‘weird fellas’. Holden is a good kid who had to deal with a lot of terrible things at a young age, like death and suicide. He is sensitive, has a reclusive nature, and acts like he hates the entire human race. But this is a thinly veiled cry for attention as we see Holden try to create connections throughout the book and he only wants the world to be a better place. When he comes across someone smart but not a good person he expects better from them. He has an extreme personality with extreme expectations from life where he wants to experience unconditional love, real honest people, and a better world.

The character of Holden is simple yet complex, it’s kind of hopelessly attractive. We’ve all had these feelings where we have been frustrated with things that happen around us. We curb those feelings, don’t act on them, build a wall around us and surround ourselves with people who understand us and our values but we don’t do anything about the horrible things that happen outside the wall. Because what can we do, we are only a minuscule unimportant part amongst billions of other people who have their own way of thinking. J.D. Salinger has expressed these raw feelings and emotions with so much honesty that you might feel disgusted to read certain lines but that’s the truth, and the truth is often disturbing.

The Catcher in the Rye is an interesting read for adults but could be misleading to a malleable teenage mind. Ahh, the review turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. If you managed to read the entire review, thank you, really! Apologies if the writing was erratic with too many opinions. But the book does that to you, 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!

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

#BookReview
Fiction|Fantasy|Graphic|Children

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon is 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.

What makes this book so fascinating to read is the interesting mystery tale accompanied by strikingly attractive illustrations in the background. The kids can enter into a magical world of imagination which is filled with beaming crystals, cozy treehouses, waterfalls, adorable animals, fairies, unicorns, rainbows and of course our beautiful moon elf. The art is exquisitely colorful and brings the book to life where it almost feels like the images are glowing and glittering. 

Eli And The Mystery Of The Hallowshine Dragon is a picture book written by Eve Cabanel and illustrated by Ekaterina Ilchenko. This wonderful book is suitable for kids of all ages because of its positive storyline. It also reinforces a good message about being courageous and believing in yourself. It introduces fantastical characters to young imaginative minds. This book is a perfect stocking stuffer during the holidays but would also make an excellent birthday present for a young child. 

Also find my review on Reedsy.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

#BookReview
Fantasy | Fiction | Life | Hope | Philosophical

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is one of the most popular books published in the year 2020 so I decided to give this one a read. Also, because the title sounded pretty interesting to me. Now, who wouldn’t love spending the night in a library reading books? Even though this book is nothing of that sort, I wasn’t disappointed. The story 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? 

“Minds can’t see what they can’t handle.”

Matt Haig

The Midnight Library is a book that opens up a passage for us to explore different lives, it answers the question which we often ask ourselves – What if? What if I had decided to become a sports player instead of becoming an engineer? What if I pursued my childhood dream then where would I be now? What if I listened to my parents and followed the path that they wanted me to be on, then what would I be doing now? Somehow this book feels personal, it’s more like a self-help book, where it answers those questions that we sometimes have about our unfulfilled dreams. Would life be better than it is now? 

“Because a pawn is never just a pawn. A pawn is a queen-in-waiting.”

Matt Haig

The year 2020 was a terrible year for all of us. I feel this book was released at the right time when most of us were lost and going through a difficult phase in life. Depression and grief were the two predominant emotions. This book was like a ray of hope for those who were leaning towards the red line where giving up on life seemed to be the easiest way out of problems. This book can pull you right back out of the darkness and show you that there’s more to life than you’ve already seen. When you are given the chance to change your life and make it better, would you take it or let it go? 

The Midnight Library has received mixed reviews where many immensely loved it and many were super disappointed. If you picked this book up solely on the basis of its rave reviews, remember that expectation is the thief of joy. I guess it also depends on the state of mind in which you are while reading the book. If your life is perfect and you don’t need a helping hand then give it a pass. But if you are feeling low or if you know somebody who is out of sorts then this book can be a great distraction to keep yourself busy and it might lift your spirits by the end of it. Who knows, this book can be a reason to get back on your feet and experience something that you’ve been putting off for a long time. Coz, why not? After all, books can be a guiding light at times when we cannot find our path. I enjoyed reading the book and would definitely recommend it. 

‘If one advances confidently’, Thoreau had written in Walden, ‘in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with unexpected success in common hours.’ He’d also observed that part of this success was the product of being alone. ‘I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.’

Matt Haig

Close Watch by Signe Christensen

#BookReview
Thriller|Fiction|Suspense

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 by Signe Christensen is a fictional story about Amber, a normal person trying to live a normal life. After her recent breakup with her boyfriend, Sam, she feels like she is constantly being followed to a point where she feels creeped out in her own house. When she reaches out to the police, it leads nowhere because of the lack of information. However her two friends, Karen and Maya, are a great support. Amber relies on them the most, they are always by her side and try to keep her safe. But after Amber’s several attempts to ignore the feeling of being stalked and being threatened, she decides to escape from the city for a while and spend a few days in her aunt’s cottage in Dorset. What happens if this turns out to be a wrong decision?

Close Watch is a entertaining thriller that is easy to read. The story is well narrated, the element of suspense and character building is strong. As a reader I felt dragged into the story right from the start. The book is lighthearted and not too intense. Even though, you might get the feeling that you know who the stalker is going to be, it is a nice read right till the end.

Also, find my review on this website: Reedsy

The Champion by Wayne Rajah

#BookReview
Fiction | Fantasy | Relationships |

A painfully sweet story of a mother and a child set in a fantasy world of monsters and magic

The Champion is a fantasy fiction novel written by author Wayne Rajah. 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, and decides to take his mother on a mythical journey in an attempt to save her life.

The story begins with Calvin waking up after seeing a dreadful nightmare. As we proceed further into the story, we realize that Calvin is haunted by a series of these disturbing nightmares and they have become a constant in his life. 

“The room shakes! Oscillates! Now a frenzy of seismic activity and an earthquake! It feels like the tremor is inside my head! My head hurts! My head always hurts! My body hurts! A flash of light in the distance, lightning! And then a thunderous roar! My skull splits open, the hemispheres of my brain part. My body was violently shaken, side to side, side to side! The earthquake continues!”

Wayne Rajah

Usually, after the nightmares, Calvin puts on his cape and flies out of the window of his room into the night sky. He enjoys flying high in the darkness of the night when the rest of the world is asleep. He recalls the vivid nightmares and often wonders if they could possibly be true. But, the cold breeze helps him calm down and he uses this time to observe the world below him by admiring the countryside, the Crown River, and the moon that he addresses as Cynthia. 

Calvin’s ancient protector, Athwall – who has lived a thousand years – is Calvin’s only friend and protector. According to Athwall, Calvin is the Chosen one and someday Athwall will reveal the special task that only Calvin can perform. 

“I start to fly, out of my control! Hurtling into the sinister abyss, not knowing where I am going or in what direction, just hurtling on ahead. There is space out there even if I cannot see it. What speed! Immense speed! My heart flutters, races!”

Calvin has looked at his mother as a hardworking and active woman who is always on her feet. But when he notices that lately, his mother has been looking weak and exhausted, he starts worrying. Until one day, his mother faints on the ground and he finds out that his mother only has a little time to survive. Will Calvin be able to save his mother? Will he complete the task that Athwall has set out for him?

This story is a journey of a young boy trying his best to save his mother from dying by seeking help from his mentor, Athwall. The story discusses all the struggles that Calvin, Athwall, and Miss Khumalo go through and the difficult choices that they need to make on this journey. This involves crossing treacherous paths and fighting tremendous monsters on the way to their destination. When they finally reach their destination, the story takes an unexpected twist.

“Athwall says that he will reveal everything to me in a good time. He tells me that I am special, that I am the Chosen. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy everything. Who else in this world can say they can fly? Athwall says it only happens once every hundred years. My ancient protector has lived long enough to see them all, over a thousand years. He says that there is always a special task for the Chosen.” 

The book started off on a good note and got me hooked into the storyline. The reason I found it interesting was that the story started with a letter that was addressed by a doctor to his patient. Personally, I love reading stories that have letter communications between the characters. However, I was quickly disappointed when the letters never made an appearance after the first chapter. I found the book needlessly long and felt like it could have dropped a few pages, especially the graphic description of the recurring nightmares. I also felt like the long journey was invalidated by the surprise reveal at the end which left me a disappointed. I was a little confused with the turn of events and I had to go through the entire story again in my head to understand what just happened.

The story is well-written by debut author Wayne Rajah, the message that the author is trying to share is noble. As a pediatrician, he has created a fictional story about parents and children that he sees on a daily basis. He is inspired by the struggles and sacrifices that are made by both parents and children and has captured this in an entirely fictional universe of his creation.

“Letting go takes courage. Their story is one of true struggle, courage, strength and overcoming adversity.”

Wayne Rajah

Also, find my review on the website: Reedsy