Hilarious, Satirical and Slightly Insane // REVIEW: The Bitter Pill Social Club by Rohan Dahiya

Title: The Bitter Pill Social Club
Author: Rohan Dahiya
Publication Date: April 2018 
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: Bloomsbury India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Flipkart || Infibeam || Google Books
Blurb Description: Witness the private life of the world’s most beautiful animals. 
You know exactly who they are. The ones who walk right past club lines, who get what they want before they ask for it. It’s a familiar cast: the centre of attention, the shameless flirt, the loudmouth, the narcissistic writer. You’ve seen them all. You’ve felt their Gucci-anointed aura. Laughing and dancing. Kissing the wrong people at the wrong time. Swaying to their own beat. Going out every night they’re sad. Finding solace in the crowd in a city paved with mildly good intentions and cocaine lines. A city of smooth talkers, armchair activists, and the rich brats of Instagram. A place to talk pop spirituality and purple prose in connoisseur-only jazz clubs.
The Bitter Pill Social Club takes a look at the lives of the Kochhar family, who find themselves drifting apart in the city of djinns, gins, and fake friends wrapped up in cigarette smoke. As one of their own gears up to tie the knot, three siblings come home to the neurotic parents who raised them. Meanwhile the parents face the family patriarch’s constant judgment. Divorce, disappointment, and disasters ensue as the entitled Kochhar brood dodges old lovers and marriage proposals.
 
It usually take a while for me to get into a book and then, as I move in further, start falling further and further in love. Or hate, depending on each individual book.  

Surprisingly, the opposite was the case for The Bitter Pill Social Club. All it took was the first of its many hilariously ludicrous chapters and I was laughing and basically HOOKED to the book. It was such a raw, riotous take on the lives of the rich and Instagram famous in the capital city and I loved it.
I did find the actual structure of the book lacking somewhere in the middle, which I will explain down later.

Let’s break it down:

Image from Bloomsbury India
PLOT:

I initially thought I knew what this book was about on a basic level, but there were so many twists and curveballs thrown at me that I was amazed. The story didn’t stay static but kept shifting between characters, places and time. I also liked that we had so many varying viewpoints in the Kocchar family and the messed up lives they lead.

STRUCTURE:

Honestly, here is where the story got dicey for me.


While it started off with a certain amount of flair and grounded-ness (girl gets dumped by ex, reunites with a former flame sort of basic storyline), the structure of the story completely disappeared somewhere in the middle. Months flew by in the blink of eye, a previously depressed girl was suddenly working at a hotel in the mountains and I was just CONFUSED. I love books that show you character growth over time, but I do need some structure inducing elements in the character growth. Even if there was a “three months later” or different chapters for different characters’ viewpoints, it would have felt SO MUCH BETTER STRUCTURED.

WRITING:

Rohan Dahiya’s writing was the essence of the story. It brought to life, and made believable all the insanity of the everyday lives of the Kocchar family. The story of three generations of this family were closely woven together in this 300 something page book, and filled with enough content to make you laugh and shake your head in adoration.

CHARACTERS:
Image from Bloomsbury India

Within the first few chapters, I was quite attached to the Kocchar family and all their, for lack of a better term, insane antics. Parties, flying away to Europe, car rides in the rain and shopping sprees were all an integral part of their daily lives amidst divorces, fake friends, being ghosted and the occasional stabbing of gold-diggers.

Sunaina and Surya were perhaps my favourite characters, though I also loved certain parts of Kama’s story and how it was all handled.
CONCLUSION:


I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Rohan Dahiya’s second novel. The Bitter Pill Social Club was a hilarious, satirical and slightly insane novel that made me laugh, and those are the best kind of books.

Rohan Dahiya

Rohan Dahiya is a writer/visual artist based in Delhi NCR shuffling between café desktops and foldable pool chairs. His first novel Grey Skies was published last year and was well received for its exploration of mental health. On most days he can be found at Chapter 101, an independent bookstore in the city with a coffee cup not too far from reach. He derives inspiration from music recommendations, bad dreams, and the people he meets while traveling through the country.

What are some of your favourite books set in India?
What are some of the most hilarious books you've ever read?

Breathtaking Writing in a Dark, Atmospheric World / Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Publication Date: February 8th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books UK
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1 on 2 of The Hazel Wood Duology
I Got A Copy Through: Penguin India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate - the Hazel Wood - Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. 
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began . . . 
Going into this book, I honestly did not know what to expect. I’m so much more of a fantasy fan than horror/ mystery (which I THOUGHT this book was about – it wasn’t.) Yet EVERYBODY I knew was RAVING about this book and I knew it would be one I’d read. Soon.

As I sit on the other end, having absolutely DEVOURED this phenomenal debut novel, I AM IN AWE. The hype, my fellow bookworms, IS REAL. Melissa Albert brought to LIFE the words ‘Dark Fairy Tale’ with stunning writing and a world filled with Stories, consequences, revelations, twists and it was a whole new experience, reading The Hazel Wood.

Let’s break it down:

1.       The Hazel Wood started off in the normal world, slowly introducing us to Alice, the protagonist and her life. We’re introduced to her mother, Ella, Finch, the boy who has everything but is battling his own loneliness and slowly, by the time we’re halfway through, we’re introduced properly to the insanity that is the Hinterland and every kind of Story and Creature that comes with it.

2.       The world building and the writing complemented each other SO WELL. It was this dark world, that had all kinds of fairy tale creatures coming out of the woodwork at all times and I LOVED THE ATMOSPHERE OF IT ALL SO MUCH.

3.       I absolutely loved Melissa Albert’s characters as well. Alice was headstrong, feminist and honest. Finch had a kind but broken heart and a head filled with fairy tales. I also loved Ella, Alice’s mother, and I love the to the ends of the earth for each other, whatever the consequences relationship they had and I WISH we had seen more of her throughout the book.

4.       CAN WE ALSO TALK ABOUT HOW ABSOLUTELY STUNNING BOTH THE U.S AND THE U.K COVERS ARE? It captures the delicious creepiness of this book and I love it so much.

This book was NOTHING like I expected it to be – it was so much more. It was flawless, in every sense of the word, dark but in a fairy tale kind of way and the characters were so realistic. I honestly cannot believe I EVER had doubts about this book and I NEED THE SEQUEL.


The Hazel Wood was, in all honesty, a perfect combination of dark fairy tales, impressive world building and breath-taking writing in a dark, atmospheric world and I was HOOKED on it. 

Melissa Albert
Melissa is the founding editor of the B&N Teen Blog and an editor at B&N Reads. She reads books, worries about strangers' dogs (they look thirsty), and gets mad at people who block the escalator. You can find her on Twitter @mimi_albert.


What are some of your favourite book inspired by fairytales?
Have you read The Hazel Wood? What do you think of it?
 

Adorably Illustrated // REVIEW: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Title: Pashmina
Author: Nidhi Chanani
Publication Date: April 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: HarperCollins India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Infibeam || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri's mom avoids these questions--the topic of India is permanently closed.
For Pri, her mother's homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she's ever dared and find the family she never knew.
In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.
A graphic novel about a magical Pashmina that takes an Indian American teenager home to the country she’s always wanted to see? HECK YES.

The fact that this was a graphic novel only made me want to read it more, and when a lovely book fairy from HarperCollins sent out an email asking if I would like to read it, I JUMPED. I LOVE diverse books, and I especially LOVE diverse books with brown protagonists. (and on the cover, no less!)

I read the entirety of Pashmina in under an hour and I quite loved it.

Let’s break it down:

IDEA:
Image result for pashmina nidhi chanani
I WAS SO SOLD ON WHAT THIS BOOK WAS BASED ON. I absolutely love travelling my own country and coming across these hidden jewels of places and the FOOD here is ABSOLUTELY delicious. This book combined the complicatedness of a mother-daughter relationship, with the understanding of one’s identity and home and all it the form of adorable graphics and I LOVED IT!

WRITING AND ILLUSTRATIONS:

Both of these were absolutely spectacular, the illustrations in particular. I feel like graphic novels are SO SO underrated and this book, with its adorable Indian food, the elephant, the peacock and the female power was all kinds of brilliant. There wasn’t much writing, and I focused more on the illustrations, though.

PLOT:

Image result for pashmina nidhi chananiHere’s where it got a little trick for me, and the reason I’m not rating this book with 5 stars: THE TIMELINES WERE VAGUE. I don’t mean that this book wasn’t told in a non-linear style, because it WAS, it’s just that things in the book kept JUMPING AHEAD WITH NO WARNING. Or flashing back with no warning.
    -          The novel, in the beginning kept jumping between days and occasions with NO WARNING. It would be the end of one day and with no “A few days later,” or “A few months later,” it jumped between Diwali, the birth of a baby, submitting and winning a contest and I WAS CONFUSED.

    -          I also feel like the conclusion about the Pashmina and the Goddess Shakthi were also vague (or too complicated) and it could definitely have been done in a better, clearer fashion.

CONCLUSION:

Pashmina, and especially the illustrations inside were ultra-cute (YES for diverse books with lots of food in them) and I would definitely recommend it. I just wish there were certain plot points that were explained in a clearer manner. 4 stars.

Image result for nidhi chananiNidhi Chanani is an artist and author and the owner of Everyday Love Art. Her debut graphic novel, Pashmina, releases in October 2017. She recently illustrated Misty – The Proud Cloud, a children’s book by Hugh Howey.

Nidhi was born in Calcutta and raised in suburban southern California. She creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too. In April of 2012 she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.

Her media appearances include CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and BBC Radio. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, My Modern Met, Bored Panda, and India Times. Nidhi has worked with Disney, Paramount Pictures, ABC, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance and a variety of other clients. Everyday Love Art products are sold in retail shops across the country, including the San Francisco International Airport, Books Inc., and Therapy stores.

Nidhi dreams and draws every day with her husband, daughter and their two cats in the San Francisco Bay Area.
What are some of your FAVOURITE Graphic novels? 
I don't read NEARLY enough of them and I'd love to change that!

A Rule-Defying Masterpiece // ARC Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Title: The Belles (The Belles #1)
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Publication Date: February 8th 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Part of a Series?: Yes, Book 1/2 of the Belles Duology
I Got A Copy Through: Hachette India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Barnes and Noble || Wordery || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Books A Million || Chapters Indigo || Google Books
Blurb Description: I am a Belle. I control Beauty. 
In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.
Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.
But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.
When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

The Belles is a BEAUTIFUL, rule-bending book that will leave you gasping for more, all while being astounded by Clayton’s writing and the powerful message this book holds.

If you didn’t already know, I have been waiting to read this book for FOREVER! This WONDERFUL and rule-defying book was first announced in 2016 and so I’ve been waiting over a year and a half to get my book dragon claws into it.

I stared reading it the DAY after I got a proof copy from Hachette India (which was six days ago?) I finished it just a few hours ago and I’m in shock and awe. Dhonielle Clayton managed to capture such an important message in an absolutely brilliant book and I cannot WAIT to see where the next book in the series takes me.

Let’s break it down:

1.       The world was INSANE. Set in the Kingdom of New Orleans, where all people except The Belles are born with grey skin, straw hair and blood red eyes, this book captures, at it’s very essence, everybody’s need to be beautiful. Belles can change the inward manner and outward appearance of anybody using their Arcana, for a prince of course, and you’re truly shown the lengths people will go to get to what they want to look like.

2.       This book begins when a new generation of Belles presents themselves to court, their relationship with each other and their gifts and most of all, the insanity and politics surrounding beauty.

3.       I REALLY liked a lot of the characters in the book, and I wished we saw more of others, but for some reason, I didn’t fall in love. I expected to be blown away like I was with Tiny Pretty Things, the last Dhonielle Clayton book I read, but that final element was just missing.
4.       I guess that (^) has something to do with THE SHEER AMOUNT OF QUESTIONS I HAD including: A) What is the birth process of a Belle like? WHAT DOES COMING FROM ROSES MEAN? B) How does the Arcana and “cutting and shaping with a knife” and “inserting metal rods” really work when a Belle is altering someone’s appearance? It was all so vague and I was left a little clueless. Also, C) HOW LONG IS A BELLE IN COURT FOR? When does the next generation come? HOW IN THE WORLD DO POST-BALLOONS WORK? What are tea-cup animals?

5.       While I did have a lot of questions, I also loved a lot of the characters. I ADORED Remy, especially with his gruff exterior and his heart of gold. He was a softball with his three sisters and I absolutely LOVED him. I also cannot WAIT to see more of him in the next book.

6.       I did like all of The Belles, but honestly, I’m so excited for the inevitable character growth that they’ll go through in the next book as they learn to deal with the fact that everything they’ve ever known is gone. They were sort of… plain characters and I didn’t really love or hate any of them.

7.       Surprisingly, I LOVED Dhonielle Clayton’s portrayal or Princess Sophia. It was intense, ingenious writing and really showed you the internal madness most woman go through (not to that extent, though) to be the “most beautiful.”

Honestly, you guys, THE HYPE IS REAL. This book will not be what you’re expecting it to be, nor is it like anything you’ve ever read before.

It is a masterpiece, in every sense of the word, and I can’t wait to see where Clayton takes us in the sequel! 4 stars.
Dhonielle ClaytonDhonielle Clayton is the co-author of the Tiny Pretty Things series. She grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs on the Maryland side and spent most of her time under her grandmother’s table with a stack of books. A former teacher and middle school librarian, Dhonielle is co-founder of CAKE Literary—a creative development company whipping up decidedly diverse books for a wide array of readers—and COO of the non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. She's got a serious travel bug and loves spending time outside of the USA, but makes her home in New York City, where she can most likely be found hunting for the best slice of pizza.

Have you read The Belles? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
What have some of your favourite reads of this year been? I'd absolutely love recommendations!

Witty, Sharp and Sassy - I NEED MORE // REVIEW: Swear You Won't Tell? by Vedashree Khambete Sharma

Title: Swear You Won't Tell?
Author: Vedashree Khambete Sharma
Publication Date: March 25th 2018
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: Harper Collins India (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon IN || Flipkart || Infibeam || Google Books
Blurb Description: When Mumbai Daily journalist Avantika Pandit is asked to interview her childhood nemesis Aisha Juneja, she knows it'll like an express bikini wax - painful, but quick. Then Laxmi, her former best friend, shows up dead. And suddenly Avantika finds herself turning into the reporter she used to be - a nosy little newshound with the self-preservation instincts of a dodo. Now, she has to meet old acquaintances she'd hoped never to run into again, try to unravel the puzzle of Laxmi's death, and ask the questions nobody seems to be asking: Who is the man Laxmi was in love with? Why hasn't anybody heard of him? What does he have to do with her death? The answers could get her killed. But if the choice is between churning out listicles on handbags and death, dying might not be that bad after all. 
Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars

THINGS Swear You Won’t Tell? Contained:

-          A SASSY PROTAGONIST (Yes for sassy people)

-          Who also tackled Indian Society and the Patriarchy on so many fronts

-          And was also fearlessly trying to solve a murder-mystery

-          Some ADORABLE chemistry (and awkward moments)

-          A GENUINE male and female friendship (how do we not see more of this in books?)

-          DID I ALSO MENTION THAT THIS LADY’S HUMOUR AND SASS WAS ON POINT?

If you can’t already tell, I kind of LOVED this book.

When I first read about this book on a Harper Collins press release, I knew I had to get my hands on it somehow. I LOVE the murder mystery genre, but for some reason don’t read nearly enough as much as I’d like. Combine the genre with that beautiful cover and the praise it’s been getting, I knew it was a must read. I waited a matter of DAYS before picking it up from my TBR and diving in (*looks apologetically at the books that have been there since 2014*)

Swear You Won’t Tell was, in a nutshell, SUCH a fun book to read. Each time I picked it up, I simply did NOT want to put it down – it was THAT good. There was always something happening, I was rooting for the protagonist from the very first chapter, I let out laugh after laugh at her snarky disposition and her misfortune and honestly, this book made me CARE. I cared about the whodunit and the why and I wished Avantika Pandit got her happy(ish) ending. I cared about the secondary characters, what happened to Swati, about Avantika’s boss and even Ganesh, the Gandhian. (You HAVE to read this book!)

The only thing that I didn’t like – and the thing that’s stopping me from giving this book a five star rating is the flashback scenes to Avantika’s childhood. I felt like the writing suddenly turned a little awkward, and I just didn’t enjoy the scenes as much as I did with the present day ones.


All in all, Swear You Won’t Tell? Is a rambunctious, snarky witty little book with a true whodunit element that will leave you craving more. 4.5 stars.
Vedashree Khambete-SharmaVedashree Khambete-Sharma is an award-winning copywriter in her mid-thirties. For the past twelve years, she has peddled everything from moisturisers to magazines, like some kind of a one-woman corner shop. 

She has contributed to several websites and blogs and is the author of the widely unrenowned novel There May Be An Asterisk Involved.

She lives in Mumbai with her husband, daughter and the niggling feeling that she should be writing more.

amazon.com/author/vedashreekhambete


What are some of your favourite murder mystery novels?
Whar are som eof your favourite novels with INDIAN characters/ by Indian Authors?
Which sassy literature character is your favourite?
 

ARC REVIEW: Along The Indigo by Elise Chapman

Title: Along The Indigo
Author: Elise Chapman
Publication Date: March 20th 2018
Publisher: Amulet Books
Part of a Series?: No, A Standalone
I Got A Copy Through: Abrams and Chronicle International (THANK YOU!)
Buy Links: Amazon UK || Wordery || Foyles || Waterstones || WHSmith || Google Books

Blurb Description: The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.


Actual Rating: 2.5 Stars

I AM HONESTLY SO CONFUSED ABOUT HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT HAD SO MANY DIFFERENT and CONFLICTING elements and I’m still unsure as to whether I even liked it or not.

Along The Indigo contained:

-          A brothel where the MC’s mother “works”
-          A “covert” (literally never heard this word in my life before this book) (but let’s just call it a creepy garden where people come to commit suicide)
-          Suicide
-          Skimming money off of dead bodies?
-          Lots of dead bodies/ suicide? (Okay, two, really, but there was TALKING about a lot more)
-          Talking to the dead/ ghosts
-          Chocolate chip waffles?

YEAH, IT WAS HIGHLY CONFUSING AND A MIX OF A LOT OF THINGS. I put the book down twice and picked it up again, because I didn’t not like it but it was just TOO MUCH CREEPINESS AND VERY CONFUSING?

For example, the MC’s (=main character’s, if you didn’t know) mother (whose name was SHINE?! WHAT?!) ENCOURAGED HER TEENAGE DAUGHTER TO GET INTO THE “PROFESSION” and was also totally ready for her NINE YEAR OLD DAUGHTER TO EVENTUALLY SELL HER BODY? Like how is this okay? I PRETTY MUCH FASTFORWARDED EVERY TIME “SHINE” CAME INTO THE BOOK because WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?

I did like Jude and Marsden’s relationship, and the way they got along with each other. I also really liked Marsden’s little sister, Wynn – she was all kinds of adorable.

ANOTHER THING I JUST DID NOT UNDERSTAND WAS AFTER ALL THE TALK OF HATING GLORY and STEALING MONEY OFF OF DEAD BODIES to get her and her sister out, Marsden, with thousands of dollars in hand… didn’t? It made ZERO SENSE TO ME, and I honestly wish it wasn’t because of a boy that she stayed in a town that ostracized her completely because of her mother’s profession. If the entire reasoning behind the book was to get her sister OUT of the town, WHY WAS SHE STILL THERE?

I guess I didn’t like the book too much – it didn’t make MUCH sense to me and at the same time, I’ve NEVER read anything like it before?

I wouldn’t say DON’T read it, I’d just say it’s not my favourite thing in the world and I won’t be picking it up a second time. 2.5 stars.

Elsie Chapman, YA Author
Born and raised in western Canada and a graduate of UBC with a degree in English Literature, Elsie Chapman currently lives in Tokyo with her family. She writes books for kids and teens. 


We Need Diverse Books Team Member


Have you read// heard of this book? What did you think?
What are some of the creepiest books you've read?
Do you ALSO have book you're not sure if you liked or didn't? I'd love LOVE to hear about them <3!