Webcrawl Wednesday, 8.07.19

I’ve never read Toni Morrison, in part because finding her books was impossible in pre-Amazon India (and still is difficult today). This explainer of her literary oeuvre from the NYT is an excellent starting point from which to change that, though.

I’m always here for a good GRRM drag, and the others are pretty funny, too: Hemingway’s For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn, reimagined by other authors.

I recently finished Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism (full review coming soon!) and one of the key takeaways for me was how important cutting down and being intentional with my media consumption is in the age of the 24/7 disaster news cycle. Here are a few tips for creating a more balanced media diet of your own.

This is from 2013, but I still love this takedown of the American obsession with French beauty this and French lifestyle that, where for French read cis blonde skinny White upper-class woman with flawless skin and three outfits rather than, y’know, Josephine Baker or Miss Dominique. (I would totally be down for all the articles about how to be French like Josephine Baker, though.)

I just finished Isle of Blood And Stone by Makiia Lucier, a historical YA novel in whose world leprosy still exists. Imagine my surprise when the same week I ran across this NYT article explaining that the disease still exists in India, and this fascinating behind-the-scenes interview with Apoorva Mandavilli, the journalist who wrote it.

The world can be a scary place sometimes, so I’m going to wrap up with this classic Mr Rogers quote: Look for the helpers.

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Review: Gun Island

If you want a scathing indictment of the realities of climate change, read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. If you want excellent climate fiction, read Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, or Jemisin’s Hugo-winning Broken Earth trilogy. If you want magical realism done right, read Allende’s The House of the Sprits or Toni Morrison’s Beloved. 

If you want a confused mishmash of a book that could have been so much better, read Gun Island.

The premise of the book is interesting enough – a book dealer tries to get to the bottom of an old Bengali folk tale, and on the way finds his beliefs tested as the world goes to hell in a handbasket, thanks to what is either a series of increasingly unlikely climate-related coincidences or a vengeful Earth wreaking havoc on her tormentors. 

And truly, Gun Island is at its best when it talks about the legend of the Gun Merchant and his travels, and would have been a stellar work of creeping atmospheric horror and magical realism if only Mr Ghosh hadn’t felt the need to frequently bludgeon his audience with heavy-handed examples of the realities of climate change, the terrible fate of migrants to Europe, and the brutality of human smuggling and organ harvesting, to boot. Really, it’s a wonder that this book clocks in at 280 pages rather than thrice that. 

Although it may have been a better book if it had, because as it stands, the plot is paper thin and the characters flatter than the best crepes in Paris. The worst offender by far is the narrator, Deen, who can best be summed up by the fact that he thinks that the fact that he is a rare book dealer is why he is single. Sir. It’s not your job. It is 100% you, because you are a stodgy, stuck-up bloviating old fart who has no business helming a popsicle stand let alone a book. Really, I have no idea what either Cinta or Pia see in you except that you seem to be an authorial stand-in. 

And that is the fundamental problem with Gun Island. Mr Ghosh seems so hellbent on spreading the Gospel Of Climate Change that pretty much everything else – logic, continuity, believability – fly out the window. Add to that that Mr Ghosh seems to be under the mistaken impression that he needs to constantly prove his intelligence, his research chops, and the depth and breadth of his vocabulary, and I soon wished the snake that bit Tipu early on in the book had gotten Deen instead. 

Review: A Girl Like Her

(Amazon | Indiebound)

♥♥♥♥♥

This book. THIS BOOK, Y’ALL. Seriously. Why are you even still reading this review? Or really even thinking about buying this this book? Shoo. Scram. Go buy it. And the rest of the series, while you’re at it. They are THAT good. Which is not a surprise, considering who wrote it.

Talia Hibbert is a British author who writes scorchingly hot (and ridiculously good) romances with curvy Black heroines and wonderful men who love them exactly as they are. A Girl Like Her is the first full-length novel of hers I’ve read, and guys? I am KICKING myself for not having started it sooner, because it is amazing on so many levels. I sacrificed a badly-needed afternoon nap for it and I have no regrets. #BadDecisionsBookClub.

Here’s the blurb, from Talia’s website:

SHE’S THE TOWN PARIAH. HE DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN.

In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…

Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big, cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.

Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future, she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her heart safest alone?

Doesn’t that sound just absolutely amazing? And from Talia’s twitter (which is a hoot, you should follow her) I knew that Ruth was autistic, and I was excited to see #ActuallyAutistic rep, since I knew Talia would hit it out of the park. And I was right.

Honestly, I bought A Girl Like Her aaaages ago half because of the old cover – the heroine reminded me strongly of Kelly Rowland, who (no shade to Queen B) has always been my favourite Destiny’s Child, what with the short hair, gorgeous dark skin, and the not being married to Jay-Z. But the new cover? Is even better, even if Evan’s beard, is, sadly, nowhere to be found. (It’s a testament to Talia’s skill that she can make beards sexy to my vastly-clean-shave-preferring-self.)

But enough judging this book by its cover, let’s get to the story, which is an absolute delight, on so many levels.

SPOILER:

Ruth is in a secret (unhealthy, abusive) relationship with Daniel Burne, the aforementioned golden boy, for seven years. Not only does he tell her on the afternoon of his engagement party that he expects things to go on as they are even post his wedding, he lies to the town about what really happened, painting Ruth as a manipulative Jezebel and pretty much ruining her sister’s life for the completely deserved revenge she enacted.

Two years later, Evan moves to Ravenswood to work for Burne & Co. as a metalsmith, and runs – literally – into Ruth in a parking lot… and that’s when the book starts.

END SPOILER

We’re not told why Ruth is a pariah, just that she is – the story comes out in dribs and drabs, and I really liked how well it was paced. And having had experience of small, close-knit communities like Ravenswood… I can both believe that the townspeople rallied around the town’s golden boy (ugh!) and that Ruth had more friends than she believed she deserved. The little cameos from the townspeople, like the gossipy plumber and the town librarian, were delightful and really added to that authentic small-town vibe.

As for the characters… I legitimately cannot pick a favourite, because I adored every one. I love how complex they were, even the side characters, in just 300-odd pages.

Ruth. Oh, Ruth. I love that Talia allowed her heroine to be not just prickly but rude and unlikeable – how often do we see that, rather than a heroine who’s supposedly prickly but really doesn’t ask how high when the hero says jump? And I loved, loved, loved seeing how her mind worked – this is an #ownvoices book and it was a delight to see how beautifully Ruth’s autism was handled. And her growth over the course of her book as she moves from crushing guilt to acceptance of her own worth is just wonderful.

Another delightful thing about Ruth? While she does, like any good character in a book, have some growing to do, she’s already confident in her own body and sexuality. This bit made me laugh out loud, and then grin like a fool at Ruth.

She wondered if she should do this lying down, to minimise the roll situation, but then decided that rolls were fine. If they were going to do anything interesting, rolls would eventually occur. She couldn’t lie down constantly whenever they were naked.

Plus, Evan didn’t seem to have any complaints.

Usually, I read books for the heroines, but Evan stole my heart in this one, to the point where I’m really, really sad he’s neither real nor my next-door neighbour. More than his looks or his build (a bearded ex-military metalsmith… Talia knows her audience’s catnip) what made me fall in love with Ethan was his kindness. And how easily he accepts everything about Ruth, from her pyjamas to her prickliness. It’s no secret that I love beta heroes and emotionally fluent men, and Ethan scores on both counts. And he cooks!

Evan could have been a Nice Guy (ugh!) but it’s clear that he’s just a good egg period, the kind of guy who helps you with your groceries and walks little old ladies across the street and rescues treed kittens. He cooks for Ruth, yes, but it’s because he wants to take care of her and be her friend, independent of anything else. He’s committed to earning her trust and while he does misstep a couple of times, seeing their bond slowly deepen and blossom is just delightful.

Sometimes, with romance novels, although the main couple are superbly written, everyone else is a cardboard cut-out, a stereotype, or both. Not so with A Girl Like Her; even the minor characters in Ravenswood felt rich and real, from Ruth’s sister Hannah (who both loves and is deeply frustrated by her sister), to the town’s other inhabitants and Daniel’s father and his wife. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting either of them to have the complexity and depth they did and it made an already stellar book even better. Laura, especially, is the heroine of the next book and I can’t wait to see what Talia does with her story.

As for Ruth’s ex (and Laura’s current husband) Daniel? All I’ll say about him is that he deserves to die in a fire and not from smoke inhalation. I’m glad that he was only minimally in the book, which is centred on Ruth and Evan, as it should be.

Right, I’ve babbled on quite long enough. If you want to read a brilliantly written love story with hot-like-burning super-consensual sex, laugh-out-loud snark, and minor characters that leave you chomping at the bit for their stories even as you wouldn’t mind a further 300 pages of this one? A Girl Like Her is the book for you. 

Five hearts.

Webcrawl Wednesday: Happy May Day, everyone!

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While the United States celebrates Labor Day in September, for a good portion of the rest of the world, May 1 is when workers’ rights are honoured. To mark the occasion, here’s a photo essay from the BBC of May Day events around the world!

 

As someone who is not a fan of either Game of Thrones or the direction the MCU took post Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this New Yorker essay is hilarious and spot-on.

 

Always relevant, always super important: How To Help Someone With Depression.

 

Historically, we haven’t placed near the value we should on the actually important bits of our culture and heritage, so I’m delighted to hear of this NPR article on efforts to save heirloom Indian rice strains.

 

Got a budding scientist – male or female – in your life? Give them role models that aren’t Einstein or Newton with this free set of eight posters featuring women in science from A Mighty Girl.

 

Space travel means having to adapt quickly and efficiently to an often hostile environment – something people with disabilities are used to doing on Earth. Could this make them better suited for the rigours of space than traditional able-bodied astronauts?

 

Finally, from the Twitter, have a Mighty Hunter surprising her prey.

 

Review: Tempest

(Amazon | Indiebound)

♥♥♥♥

After slogging my way through the Tenderness of Wolves, I was in desperate need of the book equivalent of a chocolate milkshake – delicious, comforting, and just plain fun.

As I said to someone at my book club, I’m a simple woman with simple needs. All I want from a book is for the experience to be pleasant, the protagonists people I would like to spend time with, and for me to end the book happier than when I started.

Tempest delivers on all three counts – it’s a low-angst love story with fun characters, both main and side, and an ending that for the most part left me satisfied.

What kind of mail-order bride greets her intended with a bullet instead of a kiss? One like Regan Carmichael—an independent spirit equally at home in denims and dresses. Shooting Dr. Colton Lee in the shoulder is an honest error, but soon Regan wonders if her entire plan to marry a man she’s never met is a mistake. Colton, who buried his heart along with his first wife, insists he only wants someone to care for his daughter. Yet Regan is drawn to the unmistakable desire in his gaze.

Regan’s far from the docile bride Colton was expecting. Still, few women would brave the wilds of Wyoming Territory for an uncertain future with a widower and his child. The thought of having a bold, forthright woman like Regan in his life—and in his arms—begins to inspire a new dream. And despite his family’s disapproval and an unseen enemy, he’ll risk all to make this match a real union of body and soul.

I was pretty much guaranteed to love Regan right from that introductory line, and the book just deepened my affection. I love that Regan is feisty and independent, that she comes from money and doesn’t allow anyone to shame her for it, that she’s got an open, loving heart and a can-do attitude in addition to her steadfast refusal to take any shit whatsoever. In fact, reading Tempest left me with the burning desire for a YA series centred around Regan and her sister and all the awesome adventures they must have had.

Colton Lee isn’t quite as well developed as Regan is, but he’s a solidly written character and generally a good man, with only occasional bouts of masculine stupidity, to paraphrase a comment from Regan. I really appreciated that while he’s not sure what to make of Regan, especially with how different she is from his beloved first wife Adele, his comments and behaviour never veer into the misogynistic. In fact, once he’s had a bit to adjust, he’s quick to fall in love with her for who she is rather than in spite of it.

Anna, Colton’s daughter and the reason he advertised for a mail-order bride in the first place, was a pleasant surprise – she’s not a plot moppet, and how she blossoms under Regan’s care is a joy to read. I also loved that Ms. Jenkins portrayed Colton as a loving father determined to do what was best for his daughter, even if he was sometimes at a loss for how to do so.

Although Regan and Colton’s marriage begins as one of convenience, they quickly realise that their feelings run deeper than that. I loved that their relationship is founded on friendship and respect from the beginning, and that Regan is happy to call Colton on his bullshit, and that Colton – despite the occasional bouts of orneriness – doesn’t spend half the book getting his knickers in a twist about that he’s suddenly discovered he has Feelings.

While Colton and Regan’s romance is pretty smooth, that doesn’t mean there’s no conflict in the book. Among other things, Regan must deal with hostility from Minnie, Adele’s aunt, who is resentful of what she sees as Colton’s attempts to replace her and Adele. She also has to navigate town politics, and of course, prejudice. Regan isn’t allowed to testify at the trial of one of the men who attacked her coach because of her race, and the Rock Springs massacre (CW for violence and people being awful) is a minor plot point, as Colton is one of the doctors who goes to the aid of the Chinese mine workers.

I’m glad that while Ms. Jenkins doesn’t shy away from depicting the realities of racism, it’s never allowed to define her characters or their existence, or take away from the joy and hope and love that is also a part of their lives.

There’s just one thing I didn’t like about Tempest, and that’s the ending.

SPOILER:

The bad guy (the brother of the bandit Regan killed) is eaten by a leopard. While it was more than deserved, I couldn’t help but feel let down that it wasn’t Regan or Colt who got to put a bullet in him, or at least see him hauled off to jail for kidnapping and attempted murder.

END SPOILER

Recently, I’ve become more aware that wish fulfilment doesn’t look the same for Black women as it does for White women – Black women are so often cast as the strong ones, the caretakers, the people who give and give without a single word of complaint, that having them be delicate and fragile, the ones needing to be saved rather than the ones doing the saving, is ground-breaking, revolutionary, even. And while I would have loved to see that in this book, the bad guy eating the leopard didn’t feel like that. It felt like reading all the way to the end of a murder mystery only for Mr Poirot to conclude that the victim had expired of natural causes – a disappointing plot twist and one that took away from my enjoyment of the story a little.

That said, Tempest is still a wonderful book and one for the keeper shelf. I’ll be rereading it often, especially when I want a reminder that it’s possible to be both beautiful and bad-ass.

Four hearts.

Book Review: The Tenderness Of Wolves

(Amazon | Indiebound)

♥♥

This book should have been called ‘Death and Despair in the Frozen North.’ It’s definitely a more accurate title than the one the book actually has – for anyone thinking that this is A Dog’s Purpose: Historical Canada Edition, I’m sorry to say that wolfy content is practically non-existent, and we spend most of the book with vastly less tender, and infinitely more boring, humans.

Stef Penney’s 2006 novel is set in Canada, in 1857, in the tiny, isolated hamlet of Caulfield. When Laurent Jammet, a local fur trapper, is found murdered, suspicion falls on Francis, the seventeen-year-old son of the protagonist, Mrs Ross. The bulk of the book is her quest to find him, accompanied by Parker, a Native trapper and guide who was briefly detailed for Jammet’s murder. They’re not the only ones involved, however; Thomas Sturrock, an itinerant trader who is after a bone tablet purporting to be the key to the location of a lost Native American tribe that Jarret owned and that has now gone missing, Donald Moody, a well-intentioned but clumsy representative of the Hudson Bay Company, and Andrew Knox, Dove River’s magistrate and a man deeply out of his depth, all have their parts to play. As do the Seton sisters, two girls whose disappearance seventeen years previous remains a mystery, and – given their gender and race – a source of both horror stories and cautionary tales.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. It won the Costa Book of the Year in 2007, and it’s billed as a romance and a murder mystery, which are my two favourite genres. But the reality just didn’t live up to my very high expectations.

To be fair, there were some parts of the book I really liked – Penney’s writing is often absolutely exquisite, rich and lyrical and evocative.

We pass bushes whose branches contain cobwebs of spun snow, and nodules of ice that catch the sunlight and split it into rainbows. The sky is a burnished, metallic blue; there is not a breath of wind, and there is no noise at all, of any kind. The silence is crushing.

The problem is that none of the rest of the elements come anywhere close to matching the quality of the writing. This feels less like a book than a series of disconnected vignettes, not helped by the sheer number of characters – so many I actually lost count. In addition to all of the ones mentioned above, there’s the brutal,  the inhabitants of a Norwegian utopian religious community who find Francis, Maria and Susannah, the daughters of Mr Knox, the inhabitants (both White and Native) of a remote Hudson Bay Company outpost Moody, Mrs Ross and Parker head to as part of the search, and more I’m probably forgetting, even though I just read the book. The excessive amount of characters meant that we never spent much time in any of their heads – the book shifts between limited first person POV for Mrs Ross and limited third for the others, which I can appreciate as a unique literary device but was super confusing to me as a reader – and so I didn’t really feel connected to any of them.

Simon and Schuster (admittedly, not the most objective source) describe the book as “an exhilarating thriller; a panoramic historical romance; a gripping murder mystery; and, ultimately, with the sheer scope and quality of her storytelling, an epic for the ages.”

The book makes a brave attempt, but at less than 400 pages for the paperback version, it’s just not long enough to do justice to all the stories it contains. One subplot in particular mystifies me as to its inclusion – that of Line and Espen, two residents of Himmelhaven, the Norwegian settlement, and their extramarital relationship, attempt to flee to Caulfield, and Espen’s subsequent abandonment of Line and her children in the wilderness.  The only reasons to include it appear to be a scene where Line is protected by a wolf (hence the title) and another line where she comforts Angus Ross with the news that his wife and son – who up until this point he seems to be indifferent to – are alive. His “granite face” melts at the news – the only expression of emotion we see from him in pretty much the entire book.

Calling this book a “panoramic historical romance” makes it clear that whoever wrote this blurb has never read an actual romance novel in their life. There are three and a half romantic relationships in this book, all of which end terribly. Two (one of which is a queer relationship) end with one of the partners dead, the third doesn’t have a happy ending – which, as anyone even remotely familiar with the genre knows, is one of the basic tenets of a romance. As for the half? Perhaps all the romance novels I’ve read have given me unrealistic expectations of men, even 19th century Scotsmen, but I would like more than two sentences’ worth of feelings on the page before I consider him even remotely deserving of a happy ending.

Penney’s gift for making the reader almost feel frostbitten themselves is all the more remarkable when you consider that she has never set foot in Canada, instead doing all the research for this book at the British Library. While it is a praiseworthy achievement, I’m not convinced that that venerable institution is the best place to research First Nations people, several of whom have a role in the book. Nor is it, I imagine, the most objective source on the activities of the Hudson Bay Company, a Canadian analogue of the British East India Company and about as honourable in its dealings with the natives.

I will say to Penney’s credit that she does, over the course of the book, have a character come to realise that the Honourable Company may not, actually, be all that, especially when it comes to how it treats the people it deals with and in some cases employs, but again, it’s just too short a book to really give the storyline the depth it deserves.

As for the murder mystery aspect, that’s another case of what looks like a deep lake turning out to be little more than a puddle. We don’t meet the murderer until about halfway through the book – not a bad thing in itself. But in a good murder mystery, even if the victim isn’t interesting or sympathetic (and Jarret really isn’t, even with the snippets of his character we see from Francis – if anything, they only serve to make him even less likeable) at least the murderer or the motive is. Unfortunately, by the time we got around to the reveal, both turned out to be pedestrian in the extreme. Add that to the sheer amount of narrative balls the reader has to juggle at that point and it’s difficult to summon more than a disinterested ‘huh.’

In the end, that’s the fundamental problem with The Tenderness of Wolves – it tries to be five extraordinary books, and in the end, ends up being one very average one. There were too many characters, too many plot threads, for me to be fully invested in all of them, which meant that I found myself struggling to care about most of what was going on. Another issue was simply that I liked very few of these people, and therefore spending time reading about, variously, Mrs Ross’ time in an asylum, the struggle for better treatment of Native Americans, the mystery of the Seton girls (with additional handwringing about the horrors a pair of poor White girls would have been subjected to by savages, of course), or the hypocrisies of a group of Norwegian evangelicals – to name just some of the various and sundry subplots – was the last thing I wanted to be doing. In fact, if The Tenderness of Wolves hadn’t been my book club’s selection for the month, I would have happily tossed it into the DNF bin.

Penney’s beautiful writing does redeem this book some, but only enough to net it two hearts out of five. 

Webcrawl Wednesdays, 19.07.17

webcrawl2

Original image from pixabay.com. Used and modified under a CC0 license.

Hello hello! /shy wave/ It’s been a VERY long time, but I’m finally back in the saddle. Since this week is busy with moving prep (Paris, here I come) have a few links to what I’ve been reading over the past few months!

 

It’s a few weeks late, but in honour of Pride Month, here are six Indian LGBTQ-themed books. (I can feel my TBR pile growing as we speak…)

I ran screaming from maths after 10th standard (thank you, CBSE…) but this article on the history of the equals sign (and how maths became a layperson thing) is fascinating.

I’m as foul-mouthed as they come (although I’m trying to be better about gendered slurs) but I couldn’t agree more: There are far worse things to say in front of kids than the F-word.

As a writer, this post from Zoe Kazan about what she learned from her screenwriter parents was pretty cool.

Public libraries are AMAZING. As is what one in Brooklyn is doing to help the homeless people in its locality.

And finally, in honour of the fact that I’m going to be moving out soon (eep!) a list of nine essential tools for every apartment dweller.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! What are you all reading? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Hunting for Happily Ever After: a massive pile of romance novel recs

romanceheart.jpg

Image by Rowan Heuvel. Used under a CC0 license.

Yes, you read that right. Romance novels. I’m not going to defend my taste in reading material  when Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (check out the podcast!) does such an excellent job of it. There’s also Kelly Faircloth over at Jezebel with an examination of just why romance gets such an undeservedly terrible rap, not to mention this long (and eye-opening!) history of Harlequin. For a more intellectual perspective, here’s tenured academic Catherine M. Roach’s first experience at the Romance Writers’ of America’s annual convention.

While some people’s experience with romance might be limited to Georgette Heyer, or Mills and Boons with ridiculously over-the-top-titles (The Playboy Sheik’s Virgin Stable-Girl, anyone?) the genre is actually hugely diverse, with something for just about everyone. This post is just a small sampling of what’s out there, with the caveat that it’s pretty heavily influenced by what I like to read – in other words, Regency romances, and heroines with spine and spunk, and a little bit of action mixed in with the romance.

So, without further ado… a whole raft of dashing heroes, feisty heroines, and happily ever afters under the cut!

Continue reading

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

 

So I have a confession to make: I actually bought A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas on release day. Pre-ordered it, even. And then let it languish, sad and ignored, on my Kindle for a year and change between grad school and the fact that I’ve been leaning more and more towards non-fiction.

acotarAnd then I found the sequel (A Court of Mist And Fury) in the library, so of course I had to go back and finally read ACOTAR.

I have been a dingbat, y’all. An absolute dingbat, letting this absolute treasure of a book go unread so long. This book is if someone took about half a dozen things that make Poorva make happy seal noises (world-building! kick-ass women! beautiful imagery! fairytale retellings!), bundled them all up together, added in a spoonful of romance and a large dollop of gorgeous writing, and baked it all up into 474 pages of utter gorgeousness.

From Maas’ site:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it…or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
  
At its heart, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast… but Maas adds so much depth and richness to it that it took me a while to realise it. None of the characters, even the secondary ones, are quite what they seem and while I’ll hush now before I spoil anything, there were pages that made me tear up – and gasp in delighted glee.

One thing I’ve always loved about Maas’ writing is her heroines. Like Celaena from Throne of Glass, Feyre is complex, and flawed. She makes mistakes, she has shortcomings – real ones – due to her background that almost wreck the story, she’s not perfect… but she’s also brave, and loyal, and willing to do anything for the people she loves.

And then there’s Tamlin. Oh, Tamlin. I loved him in this book, loved that he’s Fae and therefore Not Human in some very important ways (leaving aside that he transforms into an actual beast) but (without spoiling ACOMAF) all I can say is that Maas is bloody brilliant at foreshadowing, and I’m going to be eagerly rereading ACOTAR to see if I can find the breadcrumb trails she left.

The thing with a romance – and this is a romance at heart, even with all the brewing war and political intrigue – is that it’s easy for secondary characters to get lost in the bargain. I loved Lucien’s slow warming up to Feyre, and Alis helping her even as she thought Feyre a stupid human… and Rheysand, oh, Rheysand… but to say anything more would be spoiling it, so… run, don’t walk, and pick up A Court of Thorns and Roses (and A Court of Mist and Fury!)

Available at: Amazon.in | Flipkart | (fingers crossed) your local bookstore/library.
 

Webcrawl Wednesday

 

Some stuff I’ve been reading this past week:

 

Sairee Chahal noticed that over half of India’s working women quit their jobs because they didn’t have enough flexibility to manage both work and home, and she’s started a platform to change that.

 

If you’re a writer (and even if you aren’t) go read this Storify on how to write disabled characters.

 

I LOVE 18-year-old Mumbai artist Priyanka Paul’s modern reimaginings of various goddesses.

 

The Intersectional Women’s Reading List. ‘Nuff said.

 

Fascinating look behind-the-scenes at Lucasfilm, specifically how tightly they control the story. (You’d think, with all that, they’d be better about not killing off female characters for no reason…)

 

File under Libraries Are Awesome: The Harvard Library That Protects The World’s Rarest Colours. So going on my list of places to visit!

 

Mostly I’m happy I left journalism. Then I remember that it’s not all Bollywood and muckraking: