Tag Archives: books

Book Review: Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

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Book Cover

In the beginning, I had absolutely no idea what this book was supposed to be about. By the end of it, the purpose wasn’t clear as crystal, but I did have a slight idea as to what the aim of the book was.

The plot of Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera seems heavily based on Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale. It revolves around a certain supermarket, called Bains Stores, located in Wolverhampton and the family running it, taking us through two different decades. It was a bit confusing in the beginning, trying to connect the dots, shifting from the 1960’s to the 2010’s but after a few chapters, the reader gets used to it. Now, while this addition is rather intriguing, I found it a little hard to get into the book.

A lot of things in the book are stereotyped – Girls, Punjabis, Muslims, The British, etc. Basically, there might come a point where it might turn you off. Although some stereotypes literally went over my head, the book definitely did present me with staccato bursts of laughter; I laughed out real loud on a few parts. There was one quote that I liked in particular, enough to write it down – “Families are the last people who should be entrusted with the task of finding you a spouse, given that they are incapable of appreciating that you may have changed since the age of twelve.”

The content of the book reflected the extensive research done by the author, with him scouring through the archives of Wolverhampton, mentioned in the Acknowledgements section, which is commendable.  I didn’t learn anything significant from the book, but the sarcastic tone used for the present day storytelling and the ambitious, independent one used for the 1960s’ was what helped me survive the book. The ending felt rather disconnected, providing us with a suspense which didn’t really hit me hard because of the lack of an element of mystery in the entire book.
The characters I believe were realistic but not entirely likeable. Except for the character of Surinder, which saw a lot of improvement over the years, being present in both the decades the story focuses on.

Guest Review by Sherry Verma (Instagram | GoodReads | WordPress )

Sherry is a self proclaimed quintessential nomadic bookworm. She reads anything and everything and does not restrict herself to specific genres or authors. She loves how words have the ability to tell tales beautifully and is practitioner of the same. Currently, a Journalism and Mass Communication student, Sherry will be visible on this website frequently.

Note: The book, Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera, was provided for free by the kind people at Random House India.

If you want to review for this website, please get in touch with me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com.

Books and a lot more in Kolkata

Lot of things have changed in the last few months…I am coming out of my rut and learning some important truths, especially because of changes on the work front, among other things and not to forget, the presence of some people in my life who have helped me do so. It is time I took charge of some things. There’s an important person that needs my attention – and that person is ME.

In my attempt to do so, I am learning to give more time to myself. And that includes travelling to new places, meeting new people, and spending time with people I love, even if it means going out of my way to do so. Mostly, I have to learn to not be too hard on myself.

Last month, I went to my friend Eesha’s wedding in Kolkata. It was a lazy weekend, spending time at the wedding venue doing nothing but looking good. Eesha made a very pretty bride and she was especially in high spirits on the night of the wedding. Having never been to a Bong wedding before, it felt like an adventure of sorts – observing and participating in different rituals and eating food I have never had before ! The high point of the holiday has to be the food – I had fish, lots of it actually, each dish different from the other. Shaileja and I gorged on the food while Riddhika sat on the side with the vegetarian fare and Anant took selfies.

The next two days after the wedding were spent in lazing around and occasionally visiting places of note. 😛

We started with lunch at a place called Mocambo on Park Street, followed by a visit to the Presidency College area where we spent a major part of the afternoon looking for second hand books.

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I ended up buying two books (Russian and Soviet Story by Dostoyevsky and Penguin Modern Poetswith poems by Kingsley Amis, Dom Moraes and Peter Porter) while Shaileja browsed through the different books trying to find something she liked. Anant was heavily disappointed as he couldn’t find a particular book on sea diving that he wanted at a book store which claimed to have all the titles possible. Amit was too busy bouncing around, very happy with a book on cricket that we found. It was such a delight looking at him, browse through the photographs like a child who’d just been given a toy. I used the negotiation skills learnt in my sales job to maximum advantage and got the book seller to give away the book at Rs. 500. Amit owes me big, for that one ! 😛

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After spending so much time in the Kolkata humidity, we went to the Indian Coffee House for a quick cup of coffee. Some cities have a distinct identity. However, Kolkata seems to have a soul.

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The day ended with a quiet dinner at Flury’s and a drive to the Victoria Memorial. I was a little surprised how most restaurants in Park Street close at 10 pm. We got a cab who was enthusiastic enough to drive us to the Howrah Bridge. It was just touch and go, but I felt like my life’s purpose had been fulfilled. 😛

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The next day, after a hearty breakfast, I made the others go to the Indian Museum, which in hindsight was not a very good decision. Although the building is quite beautiful, architecturally, the museum is quite boring. The natural history section is quite creepy. Seeing an embryo of a human child preserved was quite chilling. Somehow, it gave me the creeps.

So, after that, nobody really listened to me as to what we should do next. And I followed good advice received from others by having lunch at this small place called The Blue Poppy at Sikkim House on Russel Street. We found it after a bit of an effort but having some thukpa there, made me feel so happy and contented, as if everything was quite alright. We spent the rest of the day, lazing around at Aqua, The Park, having bloody mary’s and enjoying the beautiful ambiance of the sitting space near the pool.

IMG_20150301_180553The next morning was hard. Taking that early morning flight back to Delhi seemed like such an impossible thing to do, especially the thought of going directly to work. It was only the promise of the next weekend made me take the flight (and the money spent in booking the return flight at the last minute along with the imagined look on my boss’s face if I didn’t turn up for work :-P).

Sigh, Life is beautiful, isn’t it, when you have the liberty to do the things you like doing, visit new places and the love and company of good people?

Bye Bye 2013, Welcome 2014 !

First of all, Happy New Year !

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(Image Source)

There’s something impossibly optimistic and happy about a new year coming your way. It fills you with hope and faith that things are going to be so much more better in the new year ! Not to forget, the pleasant surprises which may possibly hit you on the face in 2014. 😀

But before giving a proper welcome to 2014, it’s important to give a good farewell to 2013.

2013 started with a bang, with a job in hand, this time last January. Next followed the craziest last term at MICA and then convocation. Many things happened this year, most of which I am grateful for, even if I may crib about some things on those occasions when everything seems to start weighing down on you. I had some interesting experiences thanks to a sales job which is making me tougher day by day, made new friends, became more open to new possibilities and ended up spending the new year partying with completely unknown people, at a friend’s place (which is a first for me, considering my intrinsic shy nature). And I am happy I did that, it feels like growing up (And I don’t mean growing up in age).

2013 has also been an interesting year for this blog. It was started in the summer of 2012, largely because of a boring internship and nothing much to do. However, second year at MICA consumed me which led to a big lull and it wasn’t until the last term in MICA that I started being serious about this space of mine. 2013 was an active year with me updating quite regularly, with reviews of many new books (thanks to all the lovely publishers who keep sending me books and expecting nothing in return, except an honest review), interviews of interesting new authors in the literary scene and ‘literary’ spaces in the city.

Here are some stats:

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I always imagined that most of the readers would be from India, since I do not publicize this space too much, except sharing it on facebook. However, I was glad to find that there are people from all over the world, who checked out this blog in 2013.

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Also, here’s a roundup  of 2013:

Books I enjoyed the most:

My Favourite Review: The Competent Authority by Shovon Chowdhury

Most viewed Author Interview: Supriya Dravid (A cool dark place, Random House India)

Most Viewed Book Review: Hitched – The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage by Nandini Krishnan (Looks like today’s woman is really worried about marriage 😛 )

Most Popular Giveaway: Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker and The Hit by Frederick Forsyth (I am not surprised!)

Most viewed non-bookish post: Free – A Poem for Independence Day

The Most active commenter was Abhiroop Banerjee who also did a great guest post called Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania.

This year also saw me making plans for taking this website to a whole new level. With priorities and aspirations clashing with each other, I haven’t really been able to set the balls rolling for the same. However, this will always remain a dream.

I have to thank you all for all the love shown to this blog and do hope that you shall continue reading this blog. On a personal front, I have been a little lazy these past two months and lost out on the momentum. There are reviews promised which haven’t been done yet and I can see a big pile of books waiting on the table. I also finished reading only 4 books out of my bucket list and I have learnt that although, most of the books I got from publishers have been good reads, I lost out on reading those which I had wanted to read from a long time. Next year has to be all about balance, but at the same time not losing out on adding new stuff to this space and information about all the new books coming out.

So here’s to a great 2014 ! May 2014 bring good things and good books into our lives ! 🙂

Guest Post: The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania | In Public Interest by Abhiroop Banerjee

Biblio – of or that relating to books 

Maniac – A person who has an obsession with or excessive enthusiasm for something (Syn: lunatic, madman).

When my mother brought home a copy of Gulliver’s Travels one hot June evening many years ago, it was simply meant to keep me out of mischief during the summer holidays. Little did she realize then that she’d just doomed her 6 year old to lifelong lunacy of another kind, one that eventually turned him into an incorrigible bibliomaniac. Today, it seems to be a lost cause as he spends his afternoons drifting through time and space with the phantoms from his latest novel, looking up occasionally with glazed eyes at an unfamiliar world, his office work desk.

Deep introspection and careful scrutiny of individuals suffering from this insidious malaise has revealed some truly alarming symptoms. For the savvy readers of Books and a Lot More, I present an exclusive list of results from the ongoing studies for my research paper, The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania. Remember, even one of the following common symptoms is a sure sign of full blown BM!

  1. You may have turned into a crusty old book snob. “People who read Chetan Bhagat are absolute philistines. Second only to Dan Brown fanbois. Why, those clods are sub-human.”Cartoon 1
  2. You never have any extra cash/credit. This may result in you becoming a biblio-bandit. Ebooks are stupid, of course.
  3. You have those crummy, free bookmarks lying around everywhere.
  4. At some point in your life, you have been a Howard Roark wannabe.
  5. You waste 30 minutes on the potty every day, setting up your imaginary bathroom library.
  6. Being asked to lend a book can cause respiratory problems and, should you actually agree, cause you to lend grandiose sentiments of renouncement and detachment from worldly possessions to the simple act of lending a book to a friend.
  7. You’ve never quite forgiven your mother for giving away your almighty stash of Nagraj and Champak to the raddi walla when you were 13.
  8. You buy books from a bookshop 12 miles away because the one nearby puts a tiny rubber stamp on the flyleaf. You have no issue, however, buying cheap library discards with rubber stamps on every centimeter of the flyleaf.
  9. You’ve begun dreading the arrival of the Sunday paper because there’s just too much good stuff to read and you’re not even done with Saturday’s.
  10. You start carrying a book everywhere, including to your own birthday party. Which you’re hosting.  For your imaginary friends.  And the Flipkart delivery man. Cartoon 3
  11. You pause a movie just to make sure you get the name of the book which somebody in the scene is reading.
  12. Multitasking is being able to turn the pages with your chin while holding a book with one hand and hanging on to the Metro rod with the other.
  13. You start living as far away from your office as possible, just so you can read during the commute.
  14. The biggest fear in your life is breaking up because then they might want their books back. The rascals.
  15. Your steamiest fantasy is cuddling up with her and reading Dostoevsky. Together.
  16. You have a regularly updated list of fictional people you want to date. You have actually gone on dates with them. Fictional? Ha, why you can still smell the filter coffee from your last date at the coffee house, in Malgudi.
  17. You actually start believing that you are smarter than the guy on the street because you managed to finish Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.
  18. You have researched perfume that smells like old books.  And have prepared an ad for the matrimonial section seeking a girl who sleeps on a bookshelf and will fetch her grandfather’s collection of Jughead Double Digests as dowry.  That dowry is cool.
  19. Moving house is impossible because your book rack is heavier than the truck.  Actually, your book rack is your house. Cartoon 2
  20. You wish Indian Railways would add a Library Coach to their trains. You also wish for waterproof books that you can read in the rain and biscuit packets with tiny short stories printed on them because you read biscuit packets (and whatever looks like text on the last 10 Rupee note you have after the other day’s ruinous trip to the bookshop).

Intensive research into what is now a worldwide epidemic has failed to reveal a cure. Bibliomaniacs are a part of society. They could be anyone. They are everywhere. Some are known to be armed with paperbacks and camouflaged by spectacles. Or not. That is the most diabolical aspect of bibliomania. A regular guy walking down the street in front of you could suddenly bend down without warning, pick up a crumpled wrapper and start… reading. There is, simply, no way to know.

The list above is meant to be used as a quick check list to see if, holy printing mistakes batman, you too are a *shudder* bibliomaniac.

Are you one then?

Issued in public service.

About the author of this post: Abhiroop is an avid follower of current events and enjoys debating issues of such burning importance as to whether the graffiti on Delhi walls that forbid sundry passers-by from taking a casual leak on them should also be in Arabic, Gurumukhi and Roman scripts. He lives in New Delhi and has a not so secret affection for cows.

If you’d like to be featured on this website as a guest author, please write in to me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com. Your contributions should preferably be about books, although other topics are also welcome.

Cartoons courtesy jasonlove.com

Readers Recommend #1

Sometime last month, I put up a post on the facebook page (Yes, you need to go and ‘like‘ it otherwise you miss out on all the book related updates!) asking people for their recommendations. So here is the first ‘Readers Recommend’ post. Find below some of the books recommended by readers of this blog:

1. At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

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Abhiroop Banerjee, is reading  At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. He recommends this book and says, “This book is a rambling, indulgent look at the history of everyday domestic life that sheds brilliant new light on mundane things that we now take for granted, e.g. salt and ice, bathrooms and plumbing, privacy and soap, bedrooms and kitchens, cupboards and chairs, and so much more. While I don’t read much non-fiction, Bryson is a hot favorite because of his insatiable curiosity and the lengths he goes to feed it!”

Quotes from the book:

“I refer of course to the soaring wonder of the age known as the Eiffel Tower. Never in history has a structure been more technologically advanced, materially obsolescent, and gloriously pointless all at the same time.”

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea – or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.”

Abhiroop lives in New Delhi, loves books and harbors a secret affection for cows. 😛

Buy links for At Home: A Short History of Personal Life by Bill Bryson.

2. I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou is a wonderful poet and one of the greatest voices of contemporary literature. The book has been on my wish list since a long time and I am hoping to buy it soon when I finish with some of the books I have now.

Shreya liked it for the “author’s style of writing making it a great read for an autobiography and her vivid descriptions of her childhood struggle through racism and trauma.”

Quotes from the book:

“Ritie, don’t worry ’cause you ain’t pretty. Plenty pretty women I seen digging ditches or worse. You smart. I swear to God, I rather you have a good mind than a cute behind.”

“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.”

Shreya Thakur lives in Surat and is currently reading Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Buy links for I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou:

3. Oh, the Places you’ll go by Dr. Seuss

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Theodore Seuss Geizel was an American poet and cartoonist, widely known for his children’s picture books, written and illustrated under the name Dr. Seuss. ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ is the perfect philosophical book but at the same time amazingly simple.

Akshay Jain recommends this book, saying,”It’s an easy, fifteen minute read, which inspires us to explore the unknown and live at the edge !”

Quotes from the book:

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

Akshay Jain is an engineer by education, lives in Ahmedabad and is currently reading Games People Play : The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne.

Buy links for Oh, the places you’ll go by Dr. Seuss:

I aim to make Readers Recommend a permanent feature on the blog. So, all you need to do is LIKE the facebook page and post a book recommendation along with what you are currently reading on the timeline. If you have a blog too, please do not forget to include the link to your blog! You can also follow me on twitter and tweet your recommendation.

Giveaway: Lady, you’re not a man by Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radiocity

UPDATE: The Giveaway is now over. The lucky winner of the book is Ritu Jhajharia. Congratulations, Ritu !

I promised a giveaway of this book when the number of likes on the Facebook Page hit 300. And that’s happened ! 😀

And so, as promised, I am giving away a fresh, new copy of the book ‘Lady, you’re not a man’ by Apurva Purohit !

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Before participating, please read my discussion with Apurva Purohit on her book, if you haven’t already!

There are two ways to participate in the giveaway.

1. Enter the form below. The form tracks your responses and the more times you tweet or share on facebook, more the chances of you being chosen as the winner! There are also some mandatory options. Please do not try to cheat as this is not an exam but your entry will be disqualified. 😛

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OR

2. Like this Facebook post and leave a comment on it, tagging the name of a strong independent woman in your friend list.

 

Books releasing in August 2013

July’s gone and August has already started! It’s that time of the month when you are no longer broke. It’s that time of the month when you get that long awaited SMS on your mobile. It’s that time of the month for which you slog the whole month. Finally, you don’t need to gaze wistfully at the glass front of your favorite book store, which you pass by everyday while going to work. And of course, since it’s pay day, it’s time to BUY MORE BOOKS !

And here comes BOOKS AND A LOT MORE to the rescue ! Check out this list of books releasing in August !

1. THE WHITE PRINCESS by Phillipa Gregory, Simon & Schuster

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Phillipa Gregory is famous for historical fiction, especially ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ which also got adapted into a movie, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. ‘The White Princess’, the latest novel by Gregory is part of ‘Cousin’s War’ series. Philippa Gregory has a reputation of breathing life into female historical figures who would otherwise never get any space in popular media.

Buy The White Princess from Flipkart.com

2. THE CUCKOO’S CALLING by Robert Galbraith/J K Rowling, Hachette India

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J K Rowling, who needs no introduction, wrote this novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith to publish without hype or expectation, till the truth was inadvertently revealed, after which it topped the best seller lists. Having finished reading this book, I can say that this is a MUST READ (Full review here). I hope to read the next book in the series and wish it comes out soon. The book releases in India on 5th August, 2013 (Tentative).

Pre order The Cuckoo’s Calling on Flipkart | Amazon

3. THE BONE SEASON by Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury

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‘The Bone Season’ is a story set in 2059 with a female lead, Paige Mahoney. This is the debut novel of Samantha Shannon, who signed a six figure book deal with Bloomsbury, to publish the first three books in a seven book series. Film rights for this book have already been optioned by Imaginarium Studios.

Pre Order The Bone Season 1st Edition from Flipkart.com

4. CROWFALL by Shanta Gokhale, Penguin

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Shanta Gokhale, a novelist and an art critic, narrated the conflict between tradition and contemporaneity in her marathi novel ‘Tya Varshi’ (In That Year) published in 2008. Crowfall is the English translation of the same work. Steeped in sensuous detail, ‘Crowfall’ takes in art and identity, music and communal madness, and the clash of the old and the new to etch a finely nuanced portrait of contemporary Mumbai.

Pre-order Crowfall on Flipkart | Amazon

5. THE COMPETENT AUTHORITY by Shovon Chowdhury, Aleph Book Company

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The book is set in India, a few decades into the future, when all is not well. Mumbai does not exist on the map, Chinese have nuked large parts of the country, with Bengal being a protectorate of China, etc. The book is a funny satire on Indian Society and as per reports, it is “a superlative feat of the imagination that is unlike anything you have ever read before and will appeal to readers of literary fiction and avid fans of timeless, wildly satirical, comical masterworks such as Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut and Animal Farm by George Orwell.”

Pre-order on Amazon | Flipkart

6. THE ORCHARD OF LOST SOULS by Nadifa Mohamed, Simon & Schuster

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Mohamed’s debut Black Mamba Boy was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and many other awards back in 2010. Her latest is set against a backdrop of political upheaval in late 80’s Somalia and follows the stories of three different women, whose lives are thrown together as their country descends into a state of civil war.

Pre-order The Orchard of Lost Souls on Flipkart

7. A COOL DARK PLACE by Supriya Dravid, Random House

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This is Supriya Dravid’s first novel. A mother daughter bond formed in the afterlife, memories stored in Ziploc bags and the horrific struggle to piece together a past that’s been through the shredder, A Cool, Dark Place is all of these plus the unsettling realization that one’s life was ghost-written by two drunks.

Pre-order on Flipkart | Amazon

There are also other books that are expected to create some noise in literary circles being released in August, which aren’t going to be released in India as of now. Only imported editions will be available online and probably in certain book stores. They are as follows:

1. The Glass Ocean by Lori Baker, Penguin

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The Glass Ocean’ is Lori Baker’s first novel although she has three short story collections to her credit. In the novel, 18-year-old orphan Carlotta Dell’Oro imagines the story of her parents and her own existence. The writing has a dreamlike and lyrical quality and is expected to delight connoisseurs of literary fiction.

Check out the book on: Amazon | Flipkart | Goodreads

2. Necessary Errors by Caleb CrainPenguin

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Crain is a literary critic and journalist. ‘Necessary Errors’ is his debut novel. It is about the lives of 20 somethings living in Prague. In Harper’s Bazaar, Emily Cronin describes Necessary Errors as “a sparkling first novel by the literary critic Caleb Crain about youth, ambition, and self-invention in early-’90s Prague.”

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

3. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, Knopf Doubleday

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In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. This book is an anthropological adventure story and a thriller, all rolled into one.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

4. The Color Master by Aimee Bender, Hutchinson Press

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Aimee Bender is the author of the best selling book ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake‘ and she returns with this collection of short stories. She has proven herself to be among the most imaginative, exciting, and intelligent writers of our times and is known for her surreal plots.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

5. After Her by Joyce Maynard, Harper Collins

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‘After Her’ is a coming of age story of Rachel and her sister Patty along with being a thriller about a serial killer. Joyce Maynard is an American author best known for her memoir ‘At Home in the World’ and a short affair with J D Salinger. ‘To Die For’, a movie starring Nicole Kidman, is based on her novel with the same name.

Check out this book on: Amazon | GoodReads

6. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride, Penguin

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The book is about a slave boy who disguises himself as a girl to escape the pre-civil war unrest and joins John Brown‘s anti-slavery crusade. He is the author of the American Classic ‘The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother‘. James Mcbride is also a rockstar in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band consisted of acclaimed writers.

Check out the book on: Flipkart | Amazon | GoodReads

There are a lot many books releasing in August but mind you, only the books bound to be good have been mentioned here. Cool

This shall now become  a regular feature and other posts COMING SOON are:

1. Book Review of ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by J K Rowling/Robert Galbraith

2. Top Non Fiction Books releasing in August

3. Books with Indian Authors releasing in August

Expect a lot more in the coming weeks !

Note: All images in this article have been taken from different sources and none of them belong to me. Dates mentioned are tentative and may change.