Top Ten Favourite Books of 2019

To squeeze together everything about 2019 in a post is a herculean task. For I can never write in words how much books have changed me inside out, how every story has molded how I view the world and how every character taught me empathy, resilience and love.

I’m sitting in front of my bookshelf that’s messy and unstructured, quite like life itself. Some books are placed perfectly in their place,  others have toppled and reshaped themselves, trying to fit in, while some others are holding on to dear life. To squeeze together everything about 2019 in a post is a herculean task. For I can never write in words how much books have changed me inside out, how every story has molded how I view the world and how every character taught me empathy, resilience and love. I quit my job earlier this year to focus on working in the publishing industry. After interning for 3 months at BEE Books , I started working as an Editor which has been a lifelong dream. It was unnerving quitting a full time job to pursue a career in publishing knowing there aren’t many options where I live. I also travelled a lot this year, and spent quality time with family & friends. .
I didn’t write much at all considering it was supposed to be top priority. But hey, it’s never too late to start working on what you want.

In terms of reading, it has been quite a learning experience. I’ve read non-fiction & fiction, each widely contrasting to one another. I’ve had bouts of reading slumps, life getting in between everything, losing motivation et cetera. Through it all, I managed to read 42 books which I’m content with. The quantity doesn’t really matter at the end of the day, but if you want to read as many books as you can in a lifetime, such measures of counting and setting up reading challenges must be employed.

Here are the books I loved and recommended to everyone this year(in no particular order of publication):

  • Educated by Tara Westover: If there’s one book you can read this year, let it be this one.
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • My Sister,The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas
  • Small Days & Nights by Tishani Doshi
  • Eating Wasps by Anita Nair
  • A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Here’s hoping 2020 to be a blessed reading year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Murder In A Minute by Shouvik Bhattacharya

When a young girl is murdered in her house, everyone speculates it’s her college sweetheart, but the tale is more complicated. Is it an inside job, and if so, who’s the murderer?

Esha Arora, a dynamic, driven and ambitious girl is found dead in her cottage side apartment, lying in a pool of her own  blood. Present at the time of the murder are people she calls family including her boyfriend and a few colleagues. Each of them have an alibi. Yet the killer is mysteriously lurking around the house in broad daylight, deceiving everyone. It’s clear that this murder is an inside job. The question then arises; who killed Esha? And more importantly, WHY?

Murder in a Minute is Shouvik’s debut novel, and it hits all the right spots. Right from the start, you get an eerie sense of foul play, the tension starts building up, and when the story unfolds itself, you realize there is way more to the story than what meets the eye. After Esha is found dead, her step-brothers, Rishabh and Arya, are shattered. Having a fond relationship with their elder sister, this loss almost breaks them. With the help of the investigating officer, they set up on a journey to find out the truth and find the murderer. Slowly, the real characters of the family members is brought to light, and it’s understood that the holier than thou persona of the people present in the house is just a means to cover their doings. All evidence points towards Esha’s boyfriend. He is the lead suspect. But there are other family members who are equally guilty. Power, jealousy and greed are monsters that have the potential to wipe out relationships. Was Esha the victim of a family dispute?

We find out gradually that Esha was distressed, and unhappy. But again, we’re left with the haunting question; WHY? What was the cause of misery for her? She had taken Arora Cements to new heights, overtaking other companies, and at the same time giving her workers the wage they deserved. She was far ahead of her competitors, and yet somehow, her heart wasn’t in the right place.

There are several plot twists. The author has crafted the story rather creatively. Each chapter has a unique title, almost playing hide and seek with the readers. All throughout the reading of the novel, I kept placing bets on who the murderer could be, and every time I was proved wrong. And that’s exactly what I loved about the story. The unpredictability of what could happen next. The writing style of the author is simple and easy to read. You can flip through the pages and devour the book in one sitting.

I wish there was more backstory about the characters since it’s all about the psychological and mental attitude of the characters that were of main importance in the story. I wanted to read more about them, individually. I really enjoyed the ending, but it was a little far-fetched. Up to a certain point, everything was moving perfectly but then it took a different turn which didn’t appeal to me as a reader.

To be honest, I am quite impressed considering this is the author’s debut novel, and on top of that, he has managed to pull of a thriller so effortlessly and with the ability of an expert storyteller.

Murder In A Minute is engaging, fast-paced, and is sure to give you a satisfying reading experience.


Author: Shouvik Bhattacharya

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperback

Pages: 228

Blurb:

“People are essentially good, until they are caught.”

When a young woman is found lifeless in a pool of her own blood, everyone is convinced that it is her college sweetheart who murdered her.

The victim’s step-brothers, Rishabh and Arya aren’t so convinced. They embark on a journey to unearth the truth, a journey riddled with fallacies and conspiracies, planted intentionally to trap them.
Is there a connection between a missing blue envelope, a misplaced sweater and stray footprints in a room? Could those people they thought they knew so well be hiding dark secrets about their past? Or did their dead sister have more to hide than anyone involved?

With pressures mounting and suspicions looming, love will lose to ambition, greed will trump responsibility and deception would be common. Will the duo succeed in muddling through the convoluted clues on time, or will their first wrong step be their last?

Find out in the pulse-pounding suspense thriller. 

 

A big thanks to the publishers for sending a review copy. 

Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Story of a 15 year-old girl who writes letters to dead people.

Author: Ava Dellaira

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 327

Format: Paperback

Synopsis:

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

My review:

Letters. Dead people.

The above words were enough to drag my attention to this book. Love Letters to the Dead, is in its own way, intriguing. Several questions run through your mind, possible answers to what the book could be about. I was shaken a bit after I completed this novel and I have all the praises in store for the author, Ava Dellaira.

“I think a lot of people want to be someone, but we are scared that if we try, we won’t be as good as everyone imagines we could be.”

The story is about a teenage girl, Laurel, who started writing letters to dead people as part of her English assignment. This routine assessment turns into a heart-wrenching series of emotions that the protagonist goes through. Her daily struggles, her mindset and everything else that happens in her life. Laurel started writing letters everyday and soon found parts of herself that she never knew existed. Those letters gave her comfort and she could confide in them. She never turned in those assignments.

“I know I wrote letters to people with no address on this earth, I know that you are dead. But I hear you. I hear all of you. We were here. Our lives matter.”

The death of someone you love changes you. You suddenly become a different person. You outgrow people and things but most importantly you outgrow yourself. Through these letters, Laurel finds an outlet where she expresses her innermost feelings that have been bottled up for quiet sometime. We see how slowly the letters unravel parts of her life and bring us to a tear-jerking past.

Each chapter has been written as a form of letter. That in itself is great writing. Having the ability to keep the readers’ hooked is a talent very few have mastered and Ava Dellaira is one of them. The book is profound, contemplative and powerful. It is a sad story no doubt but also moving in several ways. It showcases the eternal sister-love, the intense need to protect each other against all odds and longing to be with one another. The story is narrated skillfully weaving different aspects of the human nature and the naivety of adolescence.

“You think you know someone, but that person always changes, and you keep changing, too. I understood it suddenly, how that’s what being alive means. Our own invisible plates shifting inside of our bodies, beginning to align into the people we are going to become.”

There are parts that are slow but even in those moments you’ll find a sense of anger, pain and abandonment that the protagonist undergoes. I was utterly upset with the ending but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The characters in the story seem real, each struggling differently, trying to figure out life.

“Sometimes when we say things, we hear silence. Or only echoes. Like screaming from inside. And that’s really lonely. But that only happens when we weren’t really listening. It means we weren’t ready to listen yet. Because every time we speak, there is a voice. There is the world that answers back.”

The coping mechanism one one uses after they lose someone they so dearly love is confusing and haunting. The ways in which they try to fill the void, to overcome the heart-break which ultimately leads to a sense of detachment from the world.  This aspect of bewilderment has been beautifully captured by the author.

“We do things sometimes because we feel so much inside of us, and we don’t notice how it affects somebody else.”

If you’re looking for a book that would stay with you for the years to come, I’d highly recommend reading this book.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira is worth a read. Painful yet beautiful.

“I think it’s like when you lose something so close to you, it’s like losing yourself. That’s why at the end, it’s hard for her to write even. She can hardly remember how. Because she barely knows what she is anymore.”

Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to.

Author: S.J Watson

Length: 372 pages

Publisher: Penguin India

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

 

Synopsis:  

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even people you love- all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life

My Review:

Welcome to Christine’s life. She wakes up every morning not knowing where she is or who she is next to. She believes herself to be a 20 year old but she isn’t. She is a 47 year old woman who has no idea of her past or present. The future at this point does not exist for her.

There has a been a lot of hype surrounding this debut novel by S.J Watson and it did live up to the expectations. The story revolves around a woman who suffers from amnesia due to an accident that took place years ago. She wakes up everyday unaware of her identity or the identity of the person she is living with. No matter how hard she tries, her mind is blank. It’s like her life never happened and she’s been reduced into the body of a stranger. The only person she can trust is her husband, Ben. But is Ben really speaking the truth?  As she begins to put together shattered pieces of her memory, she realises her life has been a lie.

Christine is helped by her psychologist Dr.Nash who advises her to maintain a journal where she can write down everything about her life and everything she does in a day. At this point, Christine cannot differentiate between black and white; her perception is distorted. Memories from the past hit her like a ton of bricks but she is unable to decipher whether it is a figment of her imagination or reality. She knows if she sleeps today, she will wake up tomorrow with no memory of what happened the day before. The journal is her only hope. The author takes you into the psyche of a person who remembers nothing. A person who has to start from scratch every single day.

The novel surely is a page turner although it gets a little dragging in the middle.

The writing style is impressive, simple and holds the readers’ attention. I had a lot of assumptions about the climax and had my own theories on how the novel would end. But the ending was unexpected and I didn’t see it coming.

Before I Go To Sleep is fast paced (something most mystery novels lack), it is gripping right from the start and raw. For readers who love psychological thrillers, this one is right up your alley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED

and-the-mountains-echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Rating: 4/5

“A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.” 

Reviewing a book written by an author as brilliant as Khaled Hosseini is nothing but narrowing down his hard work and his contributions to storytelling. I really do not intend on judging or giving my views on how he writes or what he should have written. I have been an ardent fan of his work ever since I read ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and no matter what happens I can never forget the experience it gave me. There is an extreme sadness in his work. Everything he writes has an emotional element strongly attached to it that is forever engraved in your heart and you can’t do anything about it. It decides to just stick with you throughout. You don’t read his books because you like to read. You read because you want to and the world will only seem less cruel after you have read his book. If you haven’t read his previous book ‘A thousand Splendid Suns’, I’d recommend you to read it first before you put your hands on his latest novel.

The minute I got hold of the book, I knew I was going to get addicted to it. The story starts with a story.  The tale of Abdullah and Pari who were caught in the web of unforeseen circumstances, forced to live their lives without each other. In this novel, the relationship of a brother and sister has been beautifully narrated. The world seems to crash for Abdullah when his little sister is adopted by a childless albeit wealthy couple. The fear, anguish and anger that Abdullah undergoes when he is separated by his sister will make you cringe. He cries but there isn’t anyone to hear him.  Pari was nurtured by him, brought up by him and had in the course of time become an inseparable part of his life. Fate, as you may say, had other plans (I somehow wanted to read more of Abdullah and Pari’s childhood).  The author has tried to merge in the stories of many other people who were associated with the main characters in different ways. The storyline seemed to go a little hay wire but then it regained its force. Since Khaled Hosseini is a wizard when it comes to writing, one realizes that the words have been written effortlessly. You traverse through different journeys, experience varying emotions and ponder and think and are finally left in awe.

“Gone.
Vanished.
Nothing left.
Nothing said.” 

Half way through the book, you forget about Abdullah and Pari. This doesn’t last much longer as Khaled Hosseini manages to grab your attention to a point where you are completely hooked to the book. The characters are many but their lifestyles are surprisingly very different. You wanderlust to various parts of the world; Afghanistan, Paris and the United States.  From my personal experience I can say that you will have to unwillingly do some other work to get your mind off this book for some time.  In contrast to the popular notion, this book was not as heart breaking as his earlier work but it did leave a very strong impact. It was more of a roller coaster journey having its ups and downs and finally reaching a static point. You are thrilled by the ride and yet you want to try it one more time. That’s Khaled Hosseini for you; He makes his readers hungry. His ingenuity and skill is what makes it worthy of being read.

 

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”
  • “The finger cut, to save the hand.”
  • “It was the kind of love that, sooner or later, cornered you into a choice: either you tore free or you stayed and withstood its rigor even as it squeezed you into something smaller than yourself.”
  • “You say you felt a presence, but I only sensed an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like a patient who cannot tell the doctor where it hurts; only that it does.”