Remember how last year, a bunch of friends and I started a readathon solely for Indian books? Well, edition 2 is here and it’s so much bigger and better than the first time!
What is the Indian Lit Readathon?
The Indian Lit Readathon is a 48 hour readathon where participants read books written by Indian and Indian-origin authors. This amazing readathon is organized by Charvi at Not Just Fiction, Nandini at Unputdownable Books, and me.
This edition of the readathon is themed as Mahabharat. Read on to find out what prompts we’ve lined up for this epic-themed readathon!
When is the readathon?
It’s on the 6th and 7th of July, 2019. It starts at 12am IST.
Rules of the readathon
Only books written by Indian and Indian-origin authors are allowed.
You need to complete at least one line on the Bingo board to be a readathon finisher.
Books of any genre are allowed.
Indian Lit Readathon bingo
Arjuna: A book with the chosen one trope
Dhritarashtra: A book featuring a character with a disability
Ekalavya: A book about the Indian caste system
Karna: A book with less than 500 ratings on GR
Krishna: A book about or based on mythology
Shikhandi: A book with a trans character
Vyasa: A book written in verse/poetry book
Yudhishtira: A book with social justice themes
Indraprastha: A book set in a palace/about royalty
Kurukshetra: A book about a power struggle
Bhagavad Gita: A self-help/philosophical book
Chakravyuh: A book which promises plot twists
Adi Parva: The first book in a series
Aranya Parva: A book with trees on the cover
Bhishma Parva: A book about family dynamics
Stri Parva: A book with feminist themes
I don’t know which book I should read. What do I do?
Don’t worry! We’ll be giving you book recommendations for each of these prompts on Twitter. Follow us on Twitter if you aren’t already!
That’s all! Now all you have to do is plan your TBR for the readathon! Also, keep a close eye on our Twitter and Instagram handles, because we’ll be hosting a couple giveaways and posting recommendations for each prompt in the coming weeks.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
I love books about death. This is a random statement to make, but I’ve always loved reading about death and dying main characters in books. It’s always these books about death, the ones you’d think are all doom and gloom, that are the most life affirming.
Read on to find out if I enjoyed Death and Other Happy Endings as much as my other SickLit books.
There’s nothing like being told that in three months you’ll be dead to make you think about what you really want in life
Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disorder and has just three months to live–ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family, and to put her affairs in order. Ninety days to come to terms with a diagnosis that is unfair, unexpected, and completely unpronounceable. Focusing on the positives (she won’t have to go on in a world without Bowie or Maya Angelou; she won’t get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s like her parents, or have teeth that flop out at the mere mention of the word apple), Jennifer realizes she only has one real regret: the relationships she’s lost.
Rather than running off to complete a frantic bucket list, Jennifer chooses to stay put and write a letter to the three most significant people in her life, to say the things she wished she’d said before but never dared: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend–and finally tell them the truth.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. Her ex-boyfriend rushes to her side and she even starts to build bridges with her sister Isabelle (that is, once Isabelle’s confirmed that Jennifer’s condition isn’t genetic). But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And as Jennifer soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you.
Jennifer Cole is a 43-year-old divorced HR professional who’s told she has a rare blood disorder and only 90 days left to live. Needless to say, Jennifer is shocked. She went in with tiredness and was diagnosed with a ghastly “-osis”.
Discovering she only has 3 months of life left, having no bucket list to tick items off of, instead, she decides to confront three people. She writes them each a letter detailing all the things she wished she’d said to them but didn’t because of her own need to not ruffle feathers. She mails the cheating ex-husband who strayed instead of supporting her during her three miscarriages, the ex-boyfriend–a guy her friends thought was toxic–who she let go without a fight, and a sister who constantly put her down growing up and had no respect for her. How she then copes with the aftermath of the letters, the diagnosis, and suddenly speaking the truth forms the rest of the story.
Death and Other Happy Endings works because of how realistic it is. It has one of those premises where you wonder what you’d do if you were in a similar situation. I’m sure most of us would say we’d travel during our last months on Earth. But none of us are dying, are we? I always thought it was just something we say but would never do if the situation came to pass. Jennifer’s explanation on why she won’t do this is extremely realistic and practical–she may not have symptoms now but what if she gets very sick and needs a hospital?
The beauty of this book is in how it transforms the tragic into happiness, how it shows that the worst thing to happen to you can also be one of the best. This diagnosis makes Jennifer say all the things she was too afraid to say to people who hurt her, it makes her do things she never would have done in her pre-diagnosis life, and the best of all, it brings her much closer to her girlfriends and other unexpected people.
Books about death have a way of teaching you about life itself. Death and Other Happy Endings is a veritable potpourri of love, loss, friendship, and the little joys and sorrows that go with life.
With all its life lessons and signature dry British humour, this book is a dynamite debut by Melanie Cantor. I can’t wait to see what other feel-good, humorous books she comes up with next!
I received a copy of this book from its publicist in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
I had earlier worked Hannah Fielding to review her book, Indiscretion. As you’ll see in my review, it was an angsty story set in Spain which I enjoyed despite disliking the main character. The blurb of Concerto promised not just a lot of angst, but also the secret baby trope, a theme which I loved reading about in one too many fics on Fanfiction.net.
When Catriona Drouot, a young music therapist, honours an opera diva’s dying request to help her son, Umberto Monteverdi, recover his musical gift, she knows it will be a difficult assignment. She had shared a night of passion with the once-celebrated composer ten years before, with unexpected consequences.
The extent of her challenge becomes apparent when she arrives at her client’s estate on the glittering shores of Lake Como, Italy. Robbed of his sight by a nearfatal car accident, the man is arrogant, embittered and resistant to her every effort to help him. Still, Catriona sings a siren’s call within him that he cannot ignore.
Caught up in the tempestuous intrigues at Umberto’s Palladian mansion, Catriona discovers that her attraction to the blind musician is as powerful as ever. How can she share what she has hidden from him for the past decade? Soon she realises that hers is not the only secret that is rippling uneasily below the surface. Dark forces haunt the sightless composer, threatening his life – for the second time.
Concerto is a sensual and romantic story of lost love and forgiveness, destiny and difficult choices, and of a heroine determined to put things right at last.
Catriona is a music therapist who was once on the track to become an opera singer. That is, until she met the great composer Umberto Monteverdi. After a torrid night spent together, Umberto leaves her high and dry. 10 years later, he becomes blind and guess which music therapist is roped in to save the guy? Catriona, of course! But she’s carrying secrets, he’s carrying baggage–how the two process everything and get back together forms the rest of the story.
Concerto is another angsty page turner from Hannah Fielding. However, even I, the connoisseur of all things angsty, wasn’t able to tolerate some of the angst in this book. I just found it a little difficult to root for two characters who had supposedly fallen in love through a one night stand. But I am a cynic, so I know I don’t speak for all readers.
Once again, Fielding has proved how strong her knowledge of Italy and mythology is in this book. At 530 pages, at least 20% of this book is adjective-strewn descriptions of places in Italy and the stories and myths that surround them. Get your passports ready, folks, for these parts of the book will definitely have you checking flight prices to Italy. I don’t know if this geography and mythology is for everyone, however, so fair warning!
The downside to being a hardcore cynic who reads romance novels is I find it very hard to believe certain things in them. In this novel, it was all the grand declarations of love. I found them contrived.
Overall, Concerto is an engaging, angst-filled romance novel which you should definitely read if you like hell a lot of pining, music, and, the secret baby trope.
Off Tangent Thoughts (OTT) is a kickass meme my girl Charvi of Not Just Fiction fame started.
“Off Tangent Thoughts(OTT) is a bi-monthly meme that has a basic list-based format wherein bloggers express their points in the form of a short or long list with the points under the list being merely a couple lines or even complete paragraphs. Bloggers are also free to use headings or bring in other variations- put your own spin on it if you like. After all it’s just about letting your thoughts run wild!”
This week’s prompt is “Thoughts you have when someone interrupts your reading”.
I missed the first two tags because I’m the absolute worst but I’m here this time.
…mostly because C virtually dragged me kicking and screaming to my laptop to do this.
You see, if I write all my murderous plans here, people will be on guard, ya feel? Because, boy, do I have plans for people who interrupt my reading.
The 5 extremely specific ways in which I will kill you if you ever interrupt my reading
1. Have you heard of War and Peace, sweetheart? The 1392 page-long, life-affirming masterpiece?
Yup, I will take that beautiful novel and whack it on your head repeatedly until you die.
2. Do you know how books with mould and mildew smell? Aww, don’t worry if you don’t. You’re gonna get extremely familiar with it, ya know, as I slowly smother you to death with it.
3. The prettiest edition of Fahrenheit 451 is the one with the spine made of match striking paper. And I always have a matchbox on me.
Oh, you wanna know why I’m talking about this? I’m going set your head on fire, of course! Adios, baby!
4. Did you know I’m not a big fan of J.K. Rowling anymore? But that I own a shitload of Harry Potter merchandise that I have no idea how to use? Yeah, one of those pretty wands is going to shoved so far down your throat, you’ll be shitting jinxes for a month. If you don’t choke on it and die first, that is.
5. There may be no music playing but still, I had earphones on so nosy pricks like you would leave me alone. And yet, you chose to interrupt my reading anyway.
Do you know what happens to interrupters like your bony ass?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll definitely know I’m a sucker for stories about women’s role in the industrial workforce during the Second World War. So far, I’ve read amazing books about women working as candy stripers, lumberjills, and shipyard workers. This time, it was about women working in munitions factories.
Read on to find out what I thought of this book.
August 1941: As war sweeps across Britain and millions of men enlist to serve their country, it’s up to the women to fight the battle on the home front.
Fran always thought she would marry her childhood sweetheart and lead a simple life in Massingham, the beloved pit village she has always called home.
But with war taking so many men to the front line, the opening of a new factory in the north-east of England presents an opportunity for Fran to forge a new path.
Against her father’s wishes and with best friends Sarah and Beth by her side, Fran signs up to join the ranks of women at the factory. It’s dangerous work but as the three friends risk life and limb for their country, they will discover that their lives are only just beginning…
Can I take a step back from reviewing this book for a moment and gush about this entire sub-genre instead? Because I’d like to gush about this sub-genre.
Bless war-time economy in the ’40s, because it paved the way for women joining the workforce, for taking up space in industries that were previously assumed to be male preserves. Here were women, doing the highly skilled jobs men thought they couldn’t do and they even agitated for equal pay. These stories are inspiring to read and there can’t be enough books about these ladies, IMO.
Over to this book.
Girls at the Home Front is about women from the pit/colliery village of Massingham. The main character Fran decides to support her family, currently living on the wages of her pit man father, by becoming a munitionette along with her friends. How she navigates through a job that makes her risk her life and health every day and also deals with the problems of her family and friends forms the rest of the story.
Annie Clarke has written an excellent start to the Factory Girls saga, with characters who readers will be left thinking about days after finishing the novel. For these characters have been fleshed brilliantly and will have even the coldest of readers rooting for their happiness.
When I first started reading this novel, I found the writing a little difficult because it’s almost fully in the Newcastle (Geordie) dialect. But I’ve always loved hearing Geordie words (they sound sexy, don’t @ me), so I got used to reading them in no time.
I think the best novels are the ones that have me shaking my fist at antagonists, and this one went one up–I complained about one of the annoying characters, Ralph, to my mom. It was mostly because she got irritated by my constant tutting while reading this book, but complain I did. I was rooting for the main characters so bad, I wanted to kill this meddling rich boy who wouldn’t leave them alone.
Most WWII sagas fall into the trap of making their main characters too sanctimonious, but this one was a breath of fresh air. The characters are not all self-righteous, they do slip up and make mistakes, but overall, these are just everyday people trying to go about their own lives, looking for their own happily ever afters. And therein lies the beauty of this novel.
Another aspect that I loved about Girls at the Home Front was that it wasn’t just about the Canary Girls. There’s another group of badass women, the mothers of these girls, who start a rug-making co-op. I’d love a spinoff or novella dedicated to these housewives who were secretly business-savvy all along.
In all, Girls at the Home Front is a heartwarming story of a close-knit community trying to make it through a war, both at enemy lines and at the home front in terms of dealing with life, relationships, and death. This book is a fresh reminder about all the warrior women from the ’40s and it goes to show that females are strong as hell. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves their badass women, war novels, and stories of love and unity in the time of adversity.
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.
HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.
HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .
The first mistake could be her last.
I used to be a huge fan of thrillers and suspense novels for the longest time. But I read so much that I reached a point where it became easy for me to predict the ending, at least for most books. I still love the genre a lot but I usually go in with a lot of trepidation because I honestly don’t want to read yet another thriller just to see if I’m still good at sussing out the culprit.
I requested The First Mistake by chance on NetGalley. When I eventually started reading the book, I did make my usual guess. But you know what? I only got a little bit of it right. There are two major twists in the book and I only got one of them partially right. And this twist happens halfway through the book, which meant the suspense was still intact for the ending.
The First Mistake is the story of Alice, owner and designer of AT Designs, a company she started with her late first husband. She’s now living a happy life with her second husband and two children, has a kind and supportive best friend, and owns a company that’s fast growing. Things start going awry once she notices her husband behaving oddly. Alice figuring out if she’s trusted the right people in her life forms the rest of the story.
Sandie Jones has done a great job with sketching out the characters in this novel, especially Alice. This novel is the perfect mix of character-driven and plot-driven, making it a page turner, especially if you don’t read a lot of suspense novels.
I did have a problem with this book, but I can’t reveal it for fear of spoiling the ending. Let’s just leave it at the fact that I was a little unconvinced by the reason for the antagonist’s deceit.
In all, The First Mistake is an entertaining suspense novel I’d recommend to anyone looking for an easy page turner to read tonight.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
I’ve always been strict with my acceptance of review copies. I have a set limit and try not to accept more than I can read within a month of acceptance of the books. When Katie reached out to me about reviewing her books, I broke my own rule because the blurbs impressed me so.
Read on to find out if the books measured up to my expectations.
Synopsis (as sent by Katie):
Relegated to a life without hope for anything more than a squalid existence at the bottom of the pecking order, Petunia, a backyard chicken, lives out her days in a flock where gossip flows as currency, with malice at its heart and boredom by its side. Petunia’s plight seems insurmountable until a strange woman’s tears hurl her through a labyrinth that she never anticipated and into a friendship she might not survive.
As The Two Tails opens, the flock confronts a spiral of death and disappearance. Ensnared by a rapacious raccoon and desperate for a way out, Petunia must throw herself at the mercy of the dark, open road with little more than gumption, a pair of useless wings, and a dubious companion as her guide.
Let me say this right off the bat–I did not expect to fall this in love with a backyard chicken.
There, I said it.
Petunia, a backyard chicken at the bottom of the pecking order, sets off on an adventure the day the woman whose backyard she lives in notices her. What follows is Petunia’s journey into dealing with problems in her own flock and also setting off into the real world to rescue a friend from Animal Control.
Right from the first page, the author hooks you in with her dynamite writing voice. Despite being a book geared for children, I’m sure anyone would enjoy reading the stellar tale Katie has weaved. The books are also accompanied by Jonathan Edward’s incredible illustrations.
If you, like yours truly, are a sucker for unlikely animal friendships, you will love this duology. Every single animal in this book has been portrayed really well, be it the leader of the backyard chickens, the usurper, or the big dog in Animal Control who we only see in two chapters. In addition to being an excellent storyteller, Katie is also a master at character development, making every animal unique and well-portrayed in these books.
Impeccable Petunia works because despite being a book on animals, it includes several powerful themes such as bullying, a strained mother-daughter relationship, power hungry characters, loyalty, and going against the grain after overcoming being discriminated against. These are animals with human problems and is the perfect kind of children’s story.
Need more convincing? This story has:
A pecking order of chickens who get up to a LOT of drama.
A friendly dog who’s the goodest boy.
A scheming racoon who’s up to no good.
A friendship to root for between a chicken and a cat.
Animals going on an adventure.
A charmingly evil opossum.
Impeccable Petunia is the kind of story that would make an excellent animated movie. I can’t wait for my niece to become a little older so I can make her read these books!
Today, I have an awesome guest here on This is Lit–the founder of Beeja Meditation, Will Williams!
Will is a former music industry executive who then became a meditation teacher. He’s also the author of The Effortless Mind, released in May 2019.
Did you know that writers are eight times more likely to suffer from mental illness than those who don’t pursue writing as a career? Scary, I know.
I’ve always wondered how we as writers can nurture our own mental health. Will was kind enough to write an entire post about it for me.
Over to Will.
Being a writer is often a solitary business. The pressure to create is high, and this pressure may be a good way of getting us at our desk, ready to tap away. However, pressure also causes an inhibition of the pre-frontal cortex, which plays a critical role in creativity. And so there we are prepped and primed to let the words flow, and it feels a struggle. So we stimulate ourselves, with caffeine, sugar or whatever our fix of the day is, hoping that we can stimulate our way to literary genius. But still the flow feels constricted. But a stimulated nervous system is rarely conducive to creative flow. Perhaps now the bohemian imagery of yore comes to mind, necking whiskey or absinth until the wee hours of the morning, hoping our nocturnal subconscious will deliver. And perhaps we will get a few nuggets here and there. But yet again, this is rarely an unsustainable path, because our pre-frontal cortex tends to recharge itself when we sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am. It’s almost as if the romanticised view of what’s good for our creativity is the exact opposite of what our neurology and neurochemistry are asking for!
We may also find ourselves gravitating towards sugary and processed foods. This may be for convenience while we try and maintain the flow, or it may be because we’re feeling blocked and a little bit self destructive. As understandable as this is, our ‘second brain’ resides in our stomach, via something called our enteric nervous system, and when we cloud our second brain with junk items, it also clouds our main brain, and we are left feeling sluggish and under a cloud psychologically. We also have a 100 trillion bacterial network of microbes headquartered in our gut, and if we feed these microbes processed, sugary foods, then the bad bacteria will begin to dominate and it will effect the neuroplasticity of our brain, our neurochemical makeup, and the expression of our epigenetic switches, all of which will create a barrier between you and your creativity. Your gut is also where over 90% of your serotonin gets created, and this little endorphine always seems to correspond with a sense of joie de vie and inspiration, so it’s good to feed your belly the foods that will help get your juices flowing.
In terms of other tips, you cannot beat good, regular sleep – as the age old expression goes, an hour before midnight is worth two after. This is because our circadian rhythms are wired from 2.5 million years of human evolution to go to bed early so we can take advantage of melatonin secretion between 9pm and 1am, and liver detox processes between 10pm and 2am. These two processes are absolutely key to sustained good health – both physically and mentally. I would suggest it’s worth trying this out for a week, and maybe do a yoga nidra exercise before bed to help you nod off. If you’re anything like many of our students who tried this, you’ll find you’ll soon feel amazing.
Being surrounded by nature is another huge boon for your mental health, as well as your creativity – we evolved for millions of years in nature, and recent neuroscience shows that being in contact with nature puts our brain more in the alpha state range, from where anxiety decreases and creativity flows.
Meditation styles that have their emphasis on flow are also really good for mental health and creative output. Focuses based practises are quite hard when your mind is a bit zany, whereas flow based meditation such as Beeja, is SO much easier to do, and vastly more enjoyable. You can fit it in anytime, anywhere, and immediately get yourself in a positive mindset, from where it’s easy to be productive and creative. There are times when I find myself feeling a bit stuck, so I do a cheeky little meditation and then the words begin to endlessly flow and crucially, the quality tends to be super high. And even more crucially, I get to spend my days feeling good, and can go to bed smiling.
Another really good tip if you’re feeling stuck, is to write with your non-dominant hand for ten minutes to activate your right hemisphere so you can benefit from more globalised thinking, which is good for both mental health and creativity.
Some gentle exercise is also super useful when we are sat in our chair all day. It helps our lymphatic system begin to drain, and helps to get our blood flowing. However, as tempting as it is do high intensity workouts, the most sustainably enriching approach is to do low intensity workouts such as gentle forms of yoga, pilates, or swimming.
In conclusion, there are many ways we can amp up our wellbeing and simultaneously aid our creative process, and of them all, I would begin with meditation, as it acts as a cornerstone of wellbeing that gives you the energy and motivation to then make positive choices such as exercise and good diet, without even having to try!
About Will Williams
A former music industry executive and insomnia sufferer, Will discovered meditation after he used it to cure his own chronic insomnia. Will William’s meditation expertise is based on over 11 years’ experience training with renowned meditation masters across the globe. Will teaches classes and courses from his Beeja HQ in London and runs regular weekend retreats across the UK. Will leads a team of Beeja meditation teachers worldwide, and will be opening new centres in Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles this year. Will founded World Meditation Day which takes place on the 15th of May, and this year will be launching the new BEEJA meditation app. Will is also working with the OECD to introduce meditation to all primary and secondary schools globally by 2030, with a trial initiative rolling out in 2020, with 20 schools in the UK expected to take part.
Isn’t this great advice? I found it very helpful and I hope you do too!
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
When Jeanne first reached out to me about reviewing this book, I immediately jumped at the opportunity despite having a giant backlog of review copies to get to. This book, with the “same [length] as Tom Sawyer”, could be squeezed in somewhere, I thought.
And I actually managed to read it! Read on to find out what I thought of it.
“In Japan…everywhere…red strings tie all people we meet together. Some strings are weak. Some have tangles. Some strong.”
Meryl—Vietnam War widow—misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure—take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”
KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home is the story of Meryl, a Vietnam War widow, who sets off on a journey to return a WWII Japanese flag to surviving relatives of the fallen soldier it belonged to. Along the way, she meets a string of interesting characters and cultures, learning and developing along the way.
KA-E-RO-U is the kind of book I’d usually complain about. It has insta love (I HATE that trope, okay?), a main character I really didn’t want to root for in any way, and a list of American and British supporting characters who seemed unreal, like they were written for the sake of moving the plot along.
The first 50 pages were difficult to get into because there wasn’t a single character so far who didn’t seem like a “book character”, a character who only exists in books and doesn’t sound real. And then, with the introduction of one Mr. Ono, things picked up. That was when I realised that the author’s–and the book’s by extension–strongest suit was Japanese characters.
Being an Own Voice novel, it’s no wonder that the best characters and storylines were Japanese. It was these characters I eagerly waited for and the short chapters and paragraphs dedicated to them showed how strong Jeanne really is as an author.
One of the best characters in this book was one Ms. Kawanishi. If the entire book had been about her WWII story, it would have been a 5 star read. In one small chapter, this tiny lady managed to capture my heart as she will every reader’s.
KA-E-RO-U is a powerful story about the effects of war and how a beautiful country like Japan dealt with it. It’s also a story about love and loss in the time of war. Despite the lacklustre main characters, this book is totally worth a read for its Japanese cast.