Review: Kaikeyi

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Publisher: Redhook
Pub Date: 04/26/2022

Thank you to Hachette audio for the free audiobook copy on LibroFM in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: “I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions — much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak — and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

Review: Kaikeyi is told from the perspective of the villainous queen/second consort of King Dasharatha in the Hindu epic story, Ramayana. Kaikeyi explores themes of family, destiny, patriarchy, and courage. I really wanted to love this book, but ended up sorely disappointed. I appreciated the author’s note in the beginning where she explains that this story is more of a ‘what-if’ style alternative than the original story of Ramayana. When I began the book, I went in with an open mind and I was invested in the storyline. I liked the way the author gave us a glimpse of Kaikeyi’s childhood. About half way through was when I started to see issues and disengaged. I tried to keep in mind that this is not going to be close the original story, but I was annoyed with the way that Ram and Sita were portrayed. Both of these characters are well-liked and heroic in the original story, but in this one, the author made these characters the complete opposite. The author said countless times that Ram was arrogant, but it’s not really shown. As for Sita, she made her seem weak, but in the original story, Sita is resilient. In terms of the theme about equality and strong women, I’m all for that, but the way it was presented in the novel didn’t really fit that only Kaikeyi could have those qualities and no other woman could. I ended up rating this two stars and wouldn’t recommend it. I could see how people who are not familiar with the original story of Ramayana would love this story, but those who are familiar with the original story like me won’t enjoy it as much.

Review: Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pub Date: 4/6/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is authentic, funny, and smart. He just doesn’t share the same drive as everyone around him. His perfect older sister is headed to Duke. His parents’ expectations for him are just as high. He tries to want this version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.

But Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewelry’s original owner. Anjali’s own mother in Bombay didn’t waste the precious potion on her daughter, favoring her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. But when Neil–who needs a whole lot more–joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.

Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned Berkeley history grad student studying the California gold rush. His high school cohort has migrated to Silicon Valley, where he reunites with Anita and resurrects their old habit of gold theft–only now, the stakes are higher. Anita’s mother is in trouble, and only gold can save her. Anita and Neil must pull off one last heist.

Gold Diggers is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation in to questions of identity and coming of age–that tears down American shibboleths.

Review: I was initially intrigued by Gold Diggers by the vibrant cover and that Mindy Kaling is adapting this novel into a TV series which I’m sure will be amazing! This magical realism novel explores family pressure, mental health, finding your identity, and Indian culture. The writing style in this novel will capture you from page one especially with the complex flawed character and the intriguing backstory of the older generations. The audiobook narrator did an incredible job narrating this novel. The way he did the different characters voices made the story come alive. I loved the audiobook so much that I went out to buy a physical copy from Barnes & Noble to add to my bookshelf last night. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Publisher: Park Row
Pub Date: 3/2/2021

GoodReads Synopsis: A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive. 

Review: The Lost Apothecary was my March BOTM pick. The storyline and mystery intrigued me. I really loved Nella and Eliza’s historical perspectives which really got me hooked. I could care less about Caroline’s present day perspective which didn’t add any insight to the story. Despite this having a gorgeous cover, this book ended up being a solid three stars for me. If it didn’t have Caroline’s perspective in here, I would have rated it higher.

Review: The Neil Gaiman: Selected Fiction

The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub Date: 10/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from William Morrow in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: An outstanding array—52 pieces in all—of selected fiction from the multiple-award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, curated by his readers around the world, and introduced with a foreword by Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James

Spanning Gaiman’s career to date, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is a captivating collection from one of the world’s most beloved writers, chosen by those who know his work best: his devoted readers. 

A brilliant representation of Gaiman’s groundbreaking, entrancing, endlessly imaginative fiction, this captivating volume includes excerpts from each of his five novels for adults —Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—and nearly fifty of his short stories. 

Impressive in its depth and range, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is both an entryway to Gaiman’s oeuvre and a literary trove Gaiman fans old and new will return to many times over.

Review: Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction, is perfect for Neil Gaiman fans! It’s also a great first book to pick up for readers who never read his work, but are interested in reading fantasy and don’t know where to start. It’s amazing to see how his writing has changed through the years and that he truly can write anything from happy to shivers up your spine type stories. Though the book may seem intimidating by size, don’t let that stop you! There are quite a few stories in here are truly gems. I highly recommend picking this one up regardless of what you read. You won’t regret it!