“The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.”
January 2021 rolled in without much fanfare; almost an imperceptible slide into the New Year and life went on without any change. Of course the news of a new vaccine and it working/ not working has been the core of all headlines world over.
I decided to celebrate by shaking of my not-reading ennui, and lapped up 8 books in just first 4 weeks of the year. Hugely grateful to discovering and liking the audio book format via Audible. I have also discovered a very healthy love for Historical Fictions and now am reading them almost non-stop. So if you know of any great ones, please do recommend them to me!
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Lets take a quick rewind through the books I have read in January 2021 – hope you find some good ones here!
Author: Bernardine Evaristo
Title: Girl, Woman, Other
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
This has got to be the most spectacular reads of past few months and the first 5 star reads of 2021. Even though I had started reading this in late November, I just couldn’t help myself from savoring it via a slow read. A contemporary anthology of the lives of a dozen women of color of all ages, social status and thought process, this one shook me up like nothing I have ever read before it has. It feels raw and real and not at all like a fictional read. Its been written with great clarity of thoughts and personal experience and is one of my most recommended reads for today’s women. My rating 5/5 stars.
Author: Celeste Ng
Title: Everything I never told you
Genre: Family Drama/ Contemporary Fiction
I had begun reading it in December 2020 but didn’t quite finish it then. This one is quite the emotional roller coaster ride as most of the characters in it end up hiding their inner most feelings from the world, to appear normal and acceptable. There are feelings of inadequacy on account of race/skin color and trying to make up for it for their entire lives, without ever stopping to find out if anybody really ever cared about it.
The temporary abandonment by the mother had emotionally scarred her older daughter who changes her life to suit her mother now. The eldest of three siblings is chafing to get away from his family even as he tries to protect his sister’s emotional state as much as he can. Then there is the youngest of the three who is almost invisible in the family, an unwanted creature who longs to be loved and observes everyone and everything, unknown to them all. Amidst all this, the middle sibling drowns to death mysteriously, upturning their lives like Pandora’s box exploding with serious repercussions. My rating – 4/5 stars.
Author: Elif Shafak
Title: The Bastard of Istanbul
Genre: Family Drama/ Historical Fiction
This is actually a re-read for me though I dont remember much of it from before. As with most of her novels, this one is also women-centric and celebrates the city of Istanbul with much reverence. The Kazanci household is a beehive of four generations of women living under the same roof. Each generation carries forth their cultural beliefs, ideologies and cuisine to be handed over to the next one.
The only male in the family has been bundled off to the US to prevent him falling to the evil curse that precedes the male lineage of Kazanci family. He marries a divorced American woman who has a daughter from her previous marriage to an Armenian immigrant. This daughter unintentionally brings the two worlds and families together in a collision of sorts when she sneaks off to Istanbul to discover her culture. There she bonds with her step cousin Asya who has been chafing to get out of her stifling existence. Soon family secrets tumble out of the closets, threatening a collapse of the familial bonds. I rated this one – 4/5 stars.
⇐ You can read the full review here ⇒
Author: Yangze Choo
Title: The Night Tiger
Genre: Historical Fiction
A haunting and riveting read through folk lore, myths and cultural traditions of the Coffee and rubber plantations of the exotic Malay in the 1930s where the British ruled with an iron fist. There is an ancient belief about weretigers who wear the skin of a man to hunt down men and kill them.
11-years-old Ren is orphaned when his master Dr Macfarlane dies but not before entrusting him the crucial task of finding his missing finger to be buried with him before 49 days of his death are over. The Chinese believe that if the body is not buried whole, then the soul will roam the Earth forever without ever finding peace.
Nearby in Ipoh, Ji Ling works as an apprentice to a dressmaker. She moonlights as a dance school instructor to pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. One night she acquires a severed finger in a glass vial from one of her dance hall customers who dies in a freak accident a day later. She now tries to return to the severed finger to its rightful owner.
Ji Ling and Ren cross paths in the most unexpected manner in this tale riddled with the supernatural, myths and murders.
An absolutely delightful read peppered in large doses with ancient Chinese lore and the supernatural element. The writing is fresh and the setting is gorgeous. My rating is a 4/5 stars.
Author: Susan Cox
Title: The Man on the Washing Machine
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Crime & Mystery
A very refreshing and fast paced crime novel which I heartily recommend at 4/5 stars to anyone looking for a quick, light read. Set in modern day California, it stars Theophina Bogart who has traded her high flying glamorous life in England to settle as a building landlord cum store owner. Life turns upside down when she sees the local handyman fall off a building. This is just the beginning of bizarre events which include her finding a man standing on her washing machine one night. A consignment of illegal Rhino horns, a whack on her head, being shot at, and a growing attraction to her short stay tenant; all shake her life far more than the earthquakes. Then her business partner disappears to surface in their community compost pile, dead.
With the cops swarming around, Theophina fears far more than ending up dead. Winner of the St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America for First Crime Novel (2014), this is a fantastic read for sure.
⇐ You can read the full review here ⇒
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Title: With the Flame on High
Genre:YA/ Contemporary Fiction
Teen mother Emoni Santiago lives with her abuela (grandmother) who supports her to get through high school while also caring for her young daughter. An uncanny knack for cooking leads her to join the culinary arts class in her school which sees her jet off to Spain for an incredible cooking experience. But not before she faces plenty of trials in form of her teenage ex boyfriend, the new school transfer and the gruesome juggling of school work with a part time job. Maturing faster than she should, Emoni is on the verge of a breakdown and giving up several times but learns to find faith and trust. With Fire on the High deals with several key issues pertaining to teenagers and is a visual treat to read. I rated it a 4/5 stars and keenly recommend it to lovers of YA fiction.
Author: Stacey Halls
Title: The Foundling
Genre: Historical Fiction / Family Drama
Set in the harsh winter of 1830s England, The Foundling is an amazing tale of motherhood. On the outskirts of London is the Foundling hospital which takes in children no older than 6 months, usually from unwed mothers. Bess Bright too leaves her day old daughter Clara with a vow to return for her soon. She returns six years later and is stunned to discover that her daughter is no longer there. She is not dead, as she had been fearing, but been claimed back by her years ago. So begins her desperate search for her missing daughter which sees her gain employment as a nursemaid under false pretense. Convinced that the 6-year-old Charlotte is her Clara, Bess spirits her away one night only to be caught.
A heart wrenching and very believable tale of two mothers of two very different social class. The setting of grim gray London winters plays the perfect foil to the class division and heartbreak. I rated it a 4/5 stars and recommend it to fans of historical fiction.
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Title: The Girl of Ink & Stars
Genre: Young Adult
A bedtime story turned into a beautiful book for younger readers, this one was just too beautiful to put away. Set on a fictitious island of Joya with legends of a fire eating beast lurking in its depths, the tale is a skillful narration. The characters are etched out so well that one can’t help but be invested in their fates. Friendship, loyalty and bravery are the three keystones of this story which has been brilliantly woven by the author. The surprise element is the knowledge of map making which is sprinkled through out the story, making it almost one of the characters. There is myth, mystery, adventure and even political intrigue to set this book apart. For me this book was Alice in Wonderland meets Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass. I rated it a 4/5 stars and highly recommend it for my young readers.
So there you have it. I am just so happy to have read such diverse books which are not only set all over the world or through history but also written by women writers. Do tell me which one intrigued you the most out of my reading rewind please.
I will be doing a reading rewind every month of 2021 to summarize the books I read. Hope you will keep an eye out for that post every month!
If you like my book reviewing then perhaps you would like to check out another one here – The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary
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