In the year of the pandemic, reading has helped me stay focused, and most importantly stay home. Reading and creative writing as hobbies have given me much succor and the required mental boost. I have provided guidance to a few new authors, who reached out to me and at each step, it has been a learning experience and a cherished fellowship.
One of the best things that happened to me as a reader was when I started writing book reviews for Reedsy Discovery. I have read so many amazing new authors and indie writers in different genres, learned so much, and contributed in my way to spread the word about some brilliant self-publications. I have been on a reading spree in 2021 and am often featured as the Reedsy Discovery top reviewer. Read this blog post on how my Reedsy journey began in April 2021.
In the year of the pandemic, reading has helped me stay focused, and most importantly, stay home. Reading and creative writing as hobbies have given me much succor, and the required mental boost. I have provided guidance to a few new authors, who reached out to me and at each step, it has been a learning experience and a cherished fellowship.
Does a mysterious place with strange customs lift the weight of life and its worries off your shoulders? Do questions of the past become heavier with time? Do dreams spill over into the waking world? Are imaginary creatures more than real? Read a delightful collection by writer Ferran Plana that covers mystical and magical happenings in the lives of common people and uncommon creatures.
Simple stories, written with flair, offer some fodder for thought. The stories are brief. Not all of them are open-ended, but carry messages that will make you ponder. Stories like Lone or Hero will pull you back as you try to derive the background. Winter will keep you guessing and give you the shivers. The eclectic, the elusive, the unexplained, and even the apocalyptic fill pages of an exciting book. Suspense, humor, fear, sadness, loneliness – a gamut of emotions rush through the pages.
Plana has developed the characters with care and finesse. The stories play out in varied locations, from fantasy lands to a Brazilian parade. On this brilliant canvas, the writer’s imagination sketches wondrous tales. A couple of stories are a spin-off on popular fairytales. I liked the one about flying pigs, but the one with hunters did not appease me much.
The writing is rhythmic and even lyrical at places, akin to poetry. Sample this: “How deep do the teeth of human lust and greed bite that they can lose everything they have in the blink of an eye?” This book is a perfect collection for a quick weekend read or to have scary stories in your quiver to entertain around a bonfire. I always recommend quaint and quirky books like The Fabric Over the Moon. This one is a delight.
As a writer and reader, I often wonder if all the stories in the world have already been told. Then, I come across books like Midnight Tales by Raven Kamali and realize it is a storyteller that breathes life in a story. A story can be retold a million times if the storyteller offers it with elan and flair, and with a unique take. In one story, the character says, “ There are things in life that neither philosophy nor science can explain.” This is what Kamali attempts to bring to us in the Midnight Tales.
Raven has done a fantastic job of bringing to life ten stories, each with different flavors. She has used some old and new themes and opened portals to mythological worlds and spun unique tales around them. My favorite is The Butterfly Lane, but I also loved what she has done in the last story by telling a tale in verse. Don’t Scream has a neat little ending, and it almost seems like you are watching a movie or the beginning of a web series. Not all stories are scary; some are fantasy and mythology-based. Stories built around Atlantis and the Amazon women are lengthier than the others and build on her imagination.
This slim book is an enjoyable weekend read, especially on cold winter evenings when you want to be scared, a teeny-weeny bit. Written fluently, the stories spark interest and linger with you long after you have read them. I found some noteworthy lines, like, ” We never walk towards death, death walks towards us.” The book cover is interesting as it displays a raven and an open book. I think it references the author and her book of creepy stories. I would have liked all stories to be of similar length. However, I found Midnight Tales to be a satisfying reading with good writing and creativity.
Anu Kay’s novel, Like the Radiant Sun, is an engaging tale spanning a plethora of themes. It is a thriller full of suspense with the mild aroma of a romance playing out in the foreground of a mystical, mythological drama. It has the feel of a Bollywood movie and the enticement of a well-researched and rendered novel.
Is it destined or planned that a precious, ancient text lands in the hands of an archaeologist, Rohan Sharma? He is just the man to appreciate, interpret, and preserve the words, outlining a rare discipline of combat with esoteric origins. But is he also the man who embodies the physical and mental prowess to outsmart the baddies desperate to lay their hands on the Marma Kala, an ancient manuscript on martial arts?
In the background of this intellectual pursuit lurks a gruesome mystery of a dead priest and a woman in dreadlocks. On this premise, the writer builds a fascinating story oft intercepted by quotes and passages from ancient Indian texts. The book has a fast pace and yet finds space for some attractive imagery, such as, “With cracks of thunder, rain followed like a torrent, whipping up the angry waters of the river.”
Mysterious people across some significant places in India – Varanasi, New Delhi, Kerala, and the revered Mount Kailash – pursue the protagonist. The writer brings out the mesmerizing charm and history of these places. She calls Varanasi, “a magnificent amphitheater of a bygone era.” She draws up pictures with words. For example, there is a scene of a person draped in a red shawl, spurring his black horse through the hills of a spice plantation, as dark clouds loomed.
There is occult, bloodshed, suspicious characters, and a narrative that keeps you on the edge. References to mystical symbols, seals, ancient arts and medicine, and mythological tales embellish the story. When you are reading fiction but bookmark items for further research, the writer has successfully captured your attention.
The language is polished and carefully edited, which makes the reading smooth. The characters are well-fleshed out. Their backgrounds are well-enunciated to make it easier to grasp their intentions. The book cover art speaks to the theme of the book and outlines a significant character. I felt the book title could have been more imaginative and alluring. As a lover of historical and mystical stories, Anu Kay’s work provides me with a fine piece of fresh and engaging literature that truly brings out the charm of our Indian heritage.
The New Face of Grief is a relevant book because grief is omnipresent in human life. Through the global pandemic, grief is a prevailing emotion. This work aims to help us not to make grief omnipotent in our life.
The author, Katie Rössler, highlights important concepts that we relegate to the background. Grief is not always about death, illness, and separation. Grief abounds in more sub-categories than we realize and accept. For example, a change of location, getting married, or changing jobs may cause grief and it is not just a passing emotion. At the onset, she sets the pace, “The reality, dear reader, is that the journey of grief cannot be rushed.”
The book is full of wisdom, neatly laid down in concise chapters. Initially, I felt the author unnecessarily seemed to justify writing this book because of her personal traumatic experiences. Once you get past that there are real grief stories, too. You find a comprehensive yet deep inquiry into everything within and beyond grief. It touches on ignored topics like humor as a tool to tackle grief, or when grief becomes a family matter.
This book is relevant for those who want to understand and tackle their grief and for caretakers or loved ones to learn how to help a grieving person. While judging and shaming are not expected, telling someone to pull themselves out of “the pit” is also not acceptable. Grief-handling is a delicate and mostly long process that is shrouded in diverse social and emotional inhibitions. However, grief should not be hampered by guilt or the demands to spur back to normal. There are no rules of grief.
The author addresses important aspects of grief that may lead to addiction, depression, and physical and mental ailments. There is power in “ugly crying” and there are “deeper lessons” in the process of grieving. Part 3 of the book is engrossing as it highlights the manifestations of grief in both physical and mental terms. In the end, she talks about the tools of healing.
This book is a succinct treasure trove of all grief-related questions and challenges. I recommend this as a handbook for yourself and also your loved ones. We cannot face what we do not understand. When we find a simple guide, like in the pages of this book, the journey may feel less lonely and far less intimidating.