Wrap-Up: Books Read in February 2021

Hey guys! 

Here’s my wrap-up post for the Month of February!

I managed to read 5 books in the month which is quite quite slow compared to the first month.

But I am quite happy to have kept the reading streak going.

I thoroughly enjoyed the below books and as you can see, they span a whole lot of genres which kept me entertained.

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The Henna Artist by Alka JoshiCurse Breaker by Audrey Grey Oath Taker by Audrey GreyWe're Moving Where?! by Glen BlackwellThe Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

 

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Once again, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or book recommendations! You can also just stop by to chat, I’m almost always around! 🙂

WWW WEDNESDAY – 03/03/2021

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

All you need to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Also, do follow the host and other bloggers who participate!

It is wonderful to know what everyone is reading and recommendations are always welcome!

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What are you currently reading?

The Far Away Girl  Yearn to Fear: Australian Spy Thriller (The Lamarr Series Book 1)

What did you recently finish reading?

  The Watchmaker of Dachau

What do you think you’ll read next?

       There are too many books on the TBR. This is my usual statement, but I am planning to see where my mood takes me! I will pick my next reads based on that! 😀

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Do stop by to share your thoughts or posts!

Jaipur Lit Fest: MAHARANI JINDAN KAUR: THE REBEL QUEEN Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Priya Atwal and Navtej Sarna in conversation

Having read The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, I was intrigued and interested to know what went into writing her character and story.

As a part of the Jaipur Lit Fest (which is currently on-going virtually), we were treated to an interesting conversation among Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Priya Atwal and Navtej Sarna.

Each one of them have written books based on the Sikh Empire and thus have touched upon or focused on Maharani Jindan’s life as well.

Keeping this in mind, here are some interesting snippets from the conversation that stayed with me.

(The points have been reworded and are not told exactly as the authors said it)

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  • When asked about how Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Navtej Sarna chose to structure their respective books, here’s what they had to say:

Navtej ji says that he chose to stick to the facts. Having done his research, he wrote about Maharaja Dalip Singh (the son of Rani Jindan) with aa keen eye for detail and a choice to keep it as close to the facts as possible. He did not want to deviate much from this.

Author Chitra on the other hand chose to be a little more creative. Having done extensive research, she chose to focus more on the growth of her characters, their feelings, Maharani Jindan’s romance with the Maharaja and so on. She chose to be more creative about some aspects, breathing life into these complex characters, showing us how they came to be in the situations they were and how they dealt with it. Chitra mam chose to also bring in the interactions of the other Queens with Maharani Jindan and to showcase the ups and downs within the confines of the Zenana.

  • A question from Chitra mam to Navtej ji: How were the narrators chosen in his book?

Navtej ji explained that he chose to use characters for his narratives based on the timeline of the story. For the initial years, the story was told from Mangala’s point of view. He felt that she would be best suited to tell the story of Maharaja Dalip Singh’s early years. This is followed by the story being told from Dalip Sing’s point of view. After this we move on to the period when he spent time with the British and some of the story is then told from Logan’s point of view. Navtej ji also chose to add some points of view from Maharaj Dalip Singh’s valet, the British spy who kept an eye on Dalip Singh’s activities in Europe and so on.

For me, this sounds like a very interesting way to frame the basis of the a book/story and speaks to the planning that went into the writing of his book.

  • In conclusion, a common question that went out to both Chita mam and Priya Atwal was about the lasting image or impression that Rani Jindan has left on them. How they see her from their perspectives.

Chitra mam: According to her, in spite of everything she may have done, her greatest achievement was in turning things around for Dalip Singh when he seemed to have gone off course. Without knowing better and having embraced the British was of life, Dalip Singh was leading a rather happy life when his mother tried to remind him of his roots and his birthright.

Maharani Jindan was a complex and flawed human being. In the end, she loved Punjab and her son and she definitely chose to fight until the very end.

Priya Atwal: As a historian, she chose to take a more diplomatic stand. She agreed with Chita mam’s assessment of Rani Jindan’s character and called her inspiring.

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In all this 30 minute conversation was enlightening and inspiring. A good chance for readers to know what goes on in an author’s mind when they write and how they formulate their plots. I truly enjoyed the session and hope to attend more.

Book Review: The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski

About the Book:

The Watchmaker of Dachau

An unforgettable novel of human kindness, inspired by an incredible true story.

Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945. Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

 

My Thoughts:

The Watchmaker of Dachau is another WWII based novel that adds to my love for Historical Fiction. I requested for a copy of this book from NetGalley and I am ever grateful to the publisher and author for getting approved to read it!

The story is told from different points of view but caries on from where the previous chapter leaves off. Initially, we are introduced to Isaac, a Jewish watchmaker who has been taken to the concentration camp at Dachau. Having arrived without any belongings, he immediately surprises the Officers who are checking the prisoners. The only things he has with him are his tiny tools for fixing and making watches. This creates an interest in him that leads to his working for Senior Officer Becher at his house a little way off from the camp. Through this, we meet Anna, who is brought from the camp everyday to work at the house as a maid. Thirdly, we meet the Becher’s ever curious eleven year old son who does not understand why he was pulled away from school to come home and live in a confined manner.

With the ever growing horrors of the camp, Isaac and Anna try to find ways to cling to hope. The author focuses on the different perspectives to give us glimpses into how these characters think and react to their situations and surroundings. We observe the stark contrast between life in the camp and then at Officer Becher’s house just outside. Isaac forms a few bonds with people around him but also with Anna and Friedrich. Anna on the other hand meets Nina, her constant companion and support at the camp. Having to constantly fix things, Isaac works diligently in the shed in the garden, trying to keep his head down and not be thrown out. Through this, we follow him as he discovers letters from someone detailing their life before and during their time in the concentration camp. This is a story of love for another, love for family and of hope.

The beauty of this story lies in the hope of being saved and finding love in the midst of all the sadness and death. The story is heart wrenching and at times difficult to read, but it is definitely worth the read. The bonds formed and those which endure are amazing and borne out of shared experiences. These kinds of bonds do not break easily and in the end, the reader will be satisfied with the story. All the smaller story lines in the book come together in the end like a thread woven through fabric forming a tapestry of horrors lived and left behind. This is indeed a well-written tear-jerker of a book based on a true story that must be known to all! I highly recommend this read!

WWW WEDNESDAY – 17/02/2021

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

All you need to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Also, do follow the host and other bloggers who participate!

It is wonderful to know what everyone is reading and recommendations are always welcome!

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What are you currently reading?

The Watchmaker of Dachau

What did you recently finish reading?

  We're Moving Where?!

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Adventure

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Far Away Girl       Enchantée

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Do stop by to share your thoughts or posts!

Book Review: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

About the Book:

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

My Thoughts:

The Henna Artist is an interesting story that follows the life of Lakshmi as she navigates high society as a henna artist. Known for her unique designs, she is well-known in Jaipur and sought out quite often. The story pulls the reader into a world of gossip, scheming and wealth. We learn a lot about India in the time just after independence, the sights, the scenes. The author does a wonderful job describing this and pulls the reader in with her words.

As the story progresses, the author reveals tidbits of information about Lakshmi’s past, but everything starts to change when her husband, whom she after two years of marriage, turns up at her door-step with her sister. The shock of finding out about having a sister is enough to turn Lakshmi’s life up-side down. As time progresses, she tries to adapt and take care of her sister, giving her everything she can and did not have growing up. Forced into dealing with a young teenager and one who doesn’t know much of the world, Lakshmi’s work and reputation are under scrutiny and at risk.

The author brings out the feelings of the characters and everyone around them as the story unfolds. However, it felt as though some of the issues were dealt with from a surface level where more details could have been given. Radha’s thoughts and the reason behind some of her actions are never truly explained. But, inspite of this, the story flows very well and it both amazing and shocking all at once. I love how the author portrayed the interactions of the various characters and brought to us a vivid picture of the kind of life different people live, across castes and class.

A truly well-written novel, this book is definitely worth a read!

Book Review: Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

About the Book:

Meet Me in Bombay

United by love. Separated by war. Will they find their way back to each other? Find out in Jenny Ashcroft’s historical romance Meet Me in Bombay

Meet Me in Bombay is a powerful, poignant and deeply emotional tale of love, mystery, loss and joy.” –Kate Furnivall, New York Times bestselling author

It’s New Year’s Eve in Bombay, 1913, and Madeline Bright, new to the sweltering heat of colonial India, is yearning for all she has left behind in England. Then, at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux, and as the year changes so do both their lives.

Bold and charismatic, Luke opens her eyes to the wonders of Bombay, while Maddy’s beauty and vivacity captures his heart. Only her mother disapproves, preferring the devoted Guy Bowen as a match for her daughter.

But while Maddy and Luke are falling in love, the world is falling apart. World War I is on the horizon, and Luke will be given no choice but to fight. They will be continents apart, separated by danger and devastating loss, but bound by Luke’s promise that they will meet again in Bombay. His only wish is to return to her–but first he must remember who she is . . .

My Thoughts:

Meet Me in Bombay is a beautifully written story of love and loss in the time of WWI. Mostly set in Bombay, we are introduced to Maddy as she comes to visit her parents in Bombay after many years in England. We follow her as she discovers the sights and explores the city. The author has done a wonderful job in bringing the city to life and in describing it, making the reader yearn to visit.

This is a story poignant tale love so strong, it spans distance and time and still holds strong. The author describes the joys of falling in love, precious time spent and the heart break of the war and loss. The characters are well crafted and bring this story and the places to life. The war is described in detail and will bring tears to the eyes of the reader. Mixed with fiction and facts, this story is deeply emotional and will pull the reader in from the beginning. The friendships and relationships between the characters whether with friends, parents, partners is amazing and well portrayed. Even with secrets and scandal, nothing comes above love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this emotional rollercoaster and I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Book Review: An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham

A very Happy Publication Day to author Siobhan Curham for the release of An American In Paris today, 04.01.2021

About the Book:

An American in Paris

Walking through Montmartre that morning was like the eerie calm right before a storm. The roads were deserted. We carried on, arm in arm, and then finally, we saw them. Columns and columns of soldiers, spreading through the streets like a toxic grey vapour. ‘You must write about this,’ he whispered to me. ‘You must write about the day freedom left Paris.’

1937: Florence has dreamed her whole life of coming to Paris. She arrives on a sweltering summer day and, lost on the steep streets of Montmartre, asks for directions from Otto, a young artist with paint-spattered clothes and the most beautiful smile she has ever seen.

Otto becomes her guide to Paris, taking her to visit paintings in the Louvre and bookshops by the Seine. And when Otto returns home to finish his studies, they vow to reunite on the same spot they met, one year to the day.

Still dreaming of their parting kiss, Florence starts writing for an American newspaper and throws herself into becoming truly Parisian. All too soon, heady days of parties and champagne are replaced by rumours of war. When Otto finally returns to her, it is as an exile, fleeing Nazi persecution.

Soon, not even Paris is safe. Florence’s articles now document life under occupation and hide coded messages from the Resistance. But with the man she loves in terrible danger, her words feel hollow and powerless. If Florence risks everything by accepting a dangerous mission, can she rescue their dreams from that sunny day before the war?

A sweeping wartime story that will capture your heart and never let it go. Fans of The Alice NetworkThe Lost Girls of Paris and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped from the very first page.

My Thoughts:

Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

An American in Paris is a sweeping tale of love and loss, the impacts of WWII on people and the resilience of some to take a stand. The book is written from two perspectives, following dual timelines, on set in the time from 1937 – 1945 and the other in the present day which in the book is the year 2018.

In the present day part we are introduced to Sage who is on an emotional spiral and messes up her public persona while trying to deal with the grief of her mother’s passing. As she tries to deal with the aftermath of her scandalous viral videos, she receives an email that may just change her life and give her the answers that her mother may have once searched for.

As the story progresses, the reader is also introduced to Florence, an American dancer who comes to Paris in 1937. The author treats us to two different stories, one of Florence who finds love and laughter, a purpose in life until the war begins and starts to affect France, and that of Sage who embarks on a journey of discovery.

Though Sage is featured in the book, I feel that her character and that of Sam were just to provide perspective and a connection to the past. The main focus is on Florence and her story. It is one of strength, bravery and the will to fight back as well as of enduing love and faith. It is both heart warming and heart-breaking to read, but will draw the reader in completely until the very end. The author does a wonderful job in painting a picture of war torn France, the impact it had on the people and how they were treated. A lot of research has definitely gone into the historical facts as many of them could be verified as well.

The plot flows well starting from the beginning and going on until the end of the war and the aftermath. The characters are relatable and their experiences harrowing to say the least. Since I have visited Paris many times, it was wonderful for me to read about Florence’s emotions while discovering Montmartre and Musée du Louvre as well as my personal favourite, the bookstore Shakespeare and Company.

Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster and a story that will cause the reader to pause and think. This book is well worth the read and I highly recommend it!

Round-up 2020 – Books with a lasting impact!

Hey guys!

As you might have observed, I have been doing round-up posts with a focus on genres read this year.

However, in this post, I wanted to focus on books that left an impact on me that lasted well after finishing the book. This year, I discovered a lot of new books spread across various genres, but a few were just amazing! These books gave me something to think about, brought out a lot of emotions or just sent me on a wonderful adventure filled with fun and learning!

Click on the book image to read my review of the book

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Historical Fiction

The Violinist of Auschwitz The Lost Village

Fantasy Fiction

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (The Cursebreaker Series) Finale (Caraval, #3) A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Middle Grade Fiction

 Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra, #2)

General/Contemporary Fiction

337

 

Do share your thoughts in case you have read the above books. If you have recommendations for such reads, please leave a comment so that I can add the book to my ever growing TBR pile!

Book Review: The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti

About the Book:

The Lost Village

1945: Two sisters give birth to two little girls on the same night, huddled under blankets, deep in the black woods that surround their village. They hold their babies close as footsteps approach. If they make even the slightest sound, the German soldiers will find them…

2006: Luce Nardini clutches a plane ticket to Italy in her trembling hands. Since her only child left home, and with her estranged husband more distant than ever, she’s been overwhelmed with loneliness. She never knew her father, or the reason why her mother cut all contact with her family in the little village of Bosconero. Lost and unravelling fast, uncovering her roots feels like Luce’s last and only hope.

As Luce searches the maze of cobbled streets, a house with a faded blue door draped in perfect white roses stops her in her tracks. Inside is the grandmother she never knew, who – with a longing look at an ornate wooden box on her nightstand – begins to tell the heart-wrenching story of a little village ravaged by war, and why Luce’s mother fled home and swore never to return.

Surrounded by new friends and faded frescoes of saints, Luce is just starting to feel like she belongs when the unthinkable happens: an earth-shattering disaster that shakes the little village of Bosconero to its core. Could it be that the secrets of Luce’s past have been buried forever?

Frightened, hopeless and feeling more alone than ever before, will the surprise arrival of the husband she thought she’d lost help sew Luce’s family back together, or tear it apart for good? One thing is certain: she must find the little wooden box amongst the rubble of the village and return it to her grandmother. But nothing will have prepared Luce for the devastating betrayal she finds inside…

An unputdownable historical romance about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me. Perfect for anyone who loves Fiona Valpy, Lily Graham or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.

My Thoughts:

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and am truly happy that I found it!

The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti is a brilliant tale of love, loss, betrayal and the effect of secrets. Set in today’s world, we meet Luce Nardini who travels to Italy to find out more about her mother’s side of the family. Her mother refused to talk about her family and hints at secrets buried deep.

The author weaves a classic tale that is unputdownlable and gripping until the very end. Modern day is interspersed with the narration of times past. Luce’s grandmother talks of her life during WWII and the impact it had on their lives, on Italy and the people. She talks of finding love, marriage, children, her love and hate for her sister Nora and more. As secrets once buried come to the surface, Luce has the choice to stop or hear it all as she tries to find her place and bring her family together.

Dealing with her own problems, Luce seeks to immerse herself in finding out the truth behind her family and as the story unravels, the reader feels all the emotions along with the various characters. I loved reading about Luce’s cousin and her fiancé, Luce’s relationship with her son and the bonds she forms with the people she meets in Italy.

This story is mind-blowing and so well-written that all incidents that happen seem to be happening to the reader as well. There is not one moment when you will feel like stopping as the story flows seamlessly merging past with present and so on.

I truly loved this book and recommend this to all fans of historical fiction. This story is not just about the war, it is about the people who experienced it and the things they did to survive. But, secrets have a way of coming out in the end and the impacts are tremendous as can be seen from this book.